The Big Story: Ask not
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give away the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, the most prestigious of journalism awards aimed at highlighting the best work by Indian media professionals over the previous year. The winners this year, said the five-member jury, showcase "excellence in journalism, ask questions and go below the surface for answers".
Even if Modi himself is willingly endorsing the sentiment that asking questions is a good thing, it's clear that some in his government feel otherwise. This point was made, rather vocally, by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, just the day before the Goenka awards ceremony.
“First of all we should stop this habit of raising doubt, questioning the authorities and the police,” Rijiju told journalists on Tuesday. “This is not a good culture. But what we have been observing in India that the people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions.”
Rijiju was referring to the scepticism surrounding an alleged encounter in Madhya Pradesh on Monday, when the police said they had shot and killed eight undertrials claimed to have been associated with the Students Islamic Movement of India. Since the jailbreak and shootings were announced, videos and reports have emerged suggesting gaping holes in the police's account of the events, leading many to ask if this was indeed an extrajudicial execution.
The minister, however, thinks these questions are "not a good culture". That bad culture he is referring to, of course, is democracy itself, a system in which the freedom of the press to ask questions is an essential ingredient. Having a Union minister, one that is responsible for home affairs, say that we should "stop this habit" of questioning the authorities is to effectively endorse an authoritarian state where what the government says becomes gospel truth.
Modi would do well to address this dissonance, between his choosing to give away journalism awards and his government's belief that raising doubts is wrong. Modi himself once used the phrase "news traders" to cast doubt on the workings of a free press, and other minsters have used even more derogatory language to refer to members of the media. The prime minister speaks frequently about Indian culture – does he think these insults are bad as well?
The Big Scroll
- Mridula Chari points out that Rijiju himself felt otherwise when he was in the Opposition, when he tabled pointed queries in the Lok Sabha about the authorities and the police.
- Shoaib Daniyal points to another purported video of the Bhopal jailbreak, which shows some men willing to surrender.
- And the Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association writes that the Bhopal killings must not be allowed to fall into a legal blackhole.
- Even if it exists on paper, there isn't much of a ceasefire anymore: Eight civilians were killed on Tuesday as more border posts were targeted by both India and Pakistan along the Line of Control.
- Times Now's Arnab Goswami reportedly announced his departure from the channel in an internal meeting on Tuesday. He also apparently said he would be setting up his own media venture.
- The US embassy in New Delhi, citing Indian media reports, has issued an advisory to its citizens about the dangers of the Islamic State targeting India.
- An ex-prison chief had warned the government of the lack of security at a Bhopal jail, where eight alleged SIMI militants escaped and were later shot dead in an alleged encounter with the police.
- Appu Esthose Suresh in the Hindustan Times explains why police theories about the SIMI jailbreak in Bhopal are full of holes.
- The Centre is using "constitutionally pernicious alternatives" to get around the Land Acquisition Law that it was unable to amend, write Jairam Ramesh and Muhammad A Khan in the Hindu.
- "Productivity enhancement through protective irrigation is the low-hanging fruit for the [Devendra] Fadanvis government" in handling the Maratha agitation, writes Milind Murugkar in Mint.
- KP Nayar, in the Telegraph, tells tales of returned Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata's involvement in Indian foreign policy, including setting up a key backchannel dialogue with the United States.
Arka Bhattacharya introduces you to Manikandan Kumar, India's champion paraclimber who is gunning for a medal in Tokyo 2020.
When I was in school, I went to camp to Ram Nagar. Then I went to the wall and started climbing there. Then I started participating in various local and national level meets. I took part in the 2003 nationals for the first time and was given the Nationals Best Climber Award at the age of 16 by the jury,” says “Mani” as he is also known. Mani was stricken by polio, leaving his right leg (the most crucial limb for sport climbing) with no power.
He struck gold in the first international competition the he participated in – the 2012 IFSC Paraclimbing World Championships in Paris – winning gold for India.
Asking him if he ever thought he would win a gold medal in his first ever try at a global level, Mani says, “For me, it was a dream come true. When I got into the finals, I kept thinking, ‘this is it. Maybe I can beat those guys.’ But I didn’t think I would become a world champion.”