Opinion

Ashish Khetan: Look beyond the CBI raids on NDTV. Indian democracy itself is under siege

The Narendra Modi regime is systematically weakening all opposition to build a dissent-free, one-party state.

I stand with Prannoy Roy and have plainly condemned the Central Bureau of Investigation raids on his home on June 5. Not only is the CBI case claiming corruption in a loan taken by NDTV extremely dubious, the high-handed manner in which the Roys were searched smacks of a witch-hunt.

However, I am disappointed with the speeches made at the Press Club, Delhi, on June 9 to express support for Roy.

Former Bharatiya Janata Party minister and journalist Arun Shourie, lawyer Fali S Nariman and Roy all spoke about the necessity of a free press. I wish they had also spoken about the unprecedented assault on the opposition, liberal student groups, the CBI raid on human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who is pursuing cases against senior BJP officials for their role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, police cases against MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (of which I happen to be a member) and the hounding of civil society groups such as Greenpeace and the Lawyers Collective.

This is not the first time a government has attempted to intimidate the Indian press. What happened during the Emergency was horrendous. But what we are witnessing today is unique. Earlier, abuse of power came with a political price. The Emergency of 1975 led to the ouster of Indira Gandhi two years later. The witch-hunt against Tehelka in the early 2000s earned Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was prime minister at the time, a great deal of public opprobrium. However, the present regime has been getting away scot-free. Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes that no wrongdoing by his regime will ever backfire on him. For the moment, it appears that he is right.

During the Emergency, the forced sterlisation programme made Indira Gandhi very unpopular. By contrast, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has become more highly regarded even as the so-called anti-Romeo squads established in his state to protect women have actually ended up attacking consenting couples. In 1974, student protests in Bihar and Gujarat culminated in the Sampoorna Kranti movement of Jayaprakash Narayan that rattled the Congress government. Today, the BJP has divided college campuses along communal lines. Student organisations that dare to question the BJP are dismissed as anti-national and pro-Pakistan. Questioning the Modi government or its initiatives such as demonetisation is considered treason. Indira Gandhi had state agencies at her disposal. Modi not only has the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department, he also has an army of online trolls. Over the past two years, Rs 1,100 crore has been paid to media houses for advertisements carrying Modi’s pictures.

Ideology of power

At the Press Club meeting on Friday, Shourie recited an Urdu couplet to make the point that powerful rulers of the past who believed they were God eventually fell. But that is not much of a consolation.

The present regime is supremely organised and extremely methodical. It has unmatched financial resources. It is backed by top corporations. Unlike previous regimes, it does not rely on the staid state-run Doordarshan to spread its message. The job is done by private TV news channels producing slick news shows – Zee TV, India News, India TV, Times Now and now Republic TV.

If some sections of the media are on the regime’s payroll, others have bought peace by refusing to ask tough questions. Some newspapers fill their pages with articles written by Union minister Venkaiah Naidu. Many editors had access to the Sahara-Birla diaries alleging corruption in the BJP government but not one had the courage to report on them. Even NDTV dropped Congress leader P Chidambram’s interview on the government’s surgical strikes in September because “our army cannot be doubted or questioned”.

Modi has a committed bureaucracy. The Union home secretary, Army chief and Mumbai Police commissioner appointed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime later joined the BJP and became Modi’s MPs and ministers. There are no leaks against the government, only against the Opposition. Officers manning key positions in the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the police are ideologically committed to the BJP.

Prannoy Roy is right. The raid on him carries a message for the press: crawl or we will come for you. Similarly, the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s principal secretary in July 2016 also had a message. It was for Delhi’s bureaucrats: if you work with Kejriwal, we will come for you. Even if you are innocent, we will fix you. With one raid the agency paralysed an entire government.

Today, there is no Vinod Rai holding the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General to calculate the loss caused by rigged coal auctions. There is no Justice SH Kapadia to stand up for institutional integrity and strike down the appointment of a Chief Vigilance Commissioner. If things work as per plan, there may soon be a committed judiciary to work in tandem with the committed bureaucracy and the committed press.

There is the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act to fight corruption but there is no Lokpal to administer it. Anna Hazare is not threatening a hunger strike against the government on the issue of Lokpal as he did in 2011 but against Kejriwal. Spiritual entrepreneur Baba Ramdev is not in Ramlila Maidan as he was in June 2011 to demand that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress bring back the Rs 500 lakh crore allegedly stashed in foreign banks. He is organising yoga camps, giving tips to BJP ministers.

There is no Ramnath Goenka, doughty founder of The Indian Express, only business houses pretending to be news organisations. The wrong and the malevolent are the foundation of a new righteousness.

In March 2016, the Centre dismissed the duly elected Congress government of Uttarakhand but a year later, the state voted the BJP to power with two-thirds majority. Even as more than 100 people lost their lives because of the government’s decision in November to demonetise 86% of India’s currency and tens of thousands lost their livelihoods, the people of Uttar Pradesh gave the BJP three-fourths majority in state elections earlier this year. An easy explanation could be that the opposition is weak. The fact is that the regime is systematically weakening all opposition, FIR by FIR, case by case, raid by raid, to build an “opposition-free India”. A dissent-free India. A one-party state. A one-leader India.

The attack on NDTV is only a small part of a much larger assault on freedom and liberty. Indian democracy itself is under siege. It is time to take the debate beyond NDTV.

Ashish Khetan is chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government and a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Inspiration for the lazy, the casual and the gourmet home chefs alike

Discover, or rediscover the daily delight in food, one ingredient at a time.

It is known that home chefs can be arranged in a pyramid - the lazy ones at the bottom, the casual cooks in the middle and the gourmet experts at the top. While the challenges differ with each level, great solutions exist to make every meal an experience, regardless of the kind of cook you are. This guide to creating delightful food has something for everyone.

The lazy, hassled home chefs

You can ease into cooking by putting together meals that require minimal technique. Salads are a good place to start. Experiment with seasonal and exotic fruits and vegetables, tender vegetables and herbs, and artisanal breads as sides for a fresh, healthy and surprisingly gourmet experience.

Don’t be dismayed if you’re a non-vegetarian. There are still meals that require next-to-no prep. Think sausages that can easily be fried or grilled and cold cuts that pack a flavour punch. Health-conscious people can look for additive-free, preservative-free meat, bromate free bread and produce from free-range farms for assurance of quality. For variety, you can even put together a great Middle Eastern platter with fresh hummus and other dips.

For the casual cooks looking to impress

So, you can cook a decent meal but are looking to give your food that X-factor? To liven up regular dishes, experiment with superfoods which make your meals nutritious and novel. Try combinations like oats chila, quinoa or couscous upmas or a sprinkle of chia seeds in your breakfast pudding. Look for quality imports and efficient distribution for maximum retention of nutrients in superfoods.

Skilled enough to host people? An upgrade from basic ingredients is the most visible sign of your culinary progression. Experiment with exotic herbs like parsley, rosemary and sage as garnishing for intriguing flavours in your soups and salads. For lip-smacking desserts, use exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, acai berries and rambutan – your guests will be delighted.

For the perfectionist gourmet chefs

You’re quite the culinary expert in your circles, but want to leap to the next level? At the core of a successful gourmet creation lie the best ingredients. Seek a delicatessen which gives you only the freshest and most diverse range of ingredients. You’ll notice the difference in flavours as you move from garlic powder to actual garlic, and from chilli powder to real paprika in your preparations.

From the basic to the exotic, whatever ingredients you seek to implement the tips we just gave you are available at Godrej Nature’s Basket, the best store for fresh, quality ingredients. As the video below shows, their online and offline stores source and serves a wide variety of foods - fruits & vegetables, authentic delicatessen, the finest meats, irresistible bakery products, ready-to-cook sauces, healthy snacks and more.

Play

Health-conscious people can also be assured of unmatched quality. You can choose from pesticide free offerings, organic fruits and vegetables, steroid-free meats, first catch of the day fish and seafood, bromate free bread and the best dairy and cheese from all over the world.

With their collection of hors d’oeuvre, artisanal breads, confectionary and desserts, there’s really no limit to what you can achieve daily in your kitchen. What’s more, all these high-quality products come at great, affordable prices.

To elevate your cooking and discover a world where food is a delight every day, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Nature’s Basket and not by the Scroll editorial team.