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Is fake news an opportunity for Smriti Irani ?

Santosh Nair

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An order was issued on Monday (02/04/18) night which said that a journalist’s accreditation would be suspended once a complaint of fake news was registered against him/her which would be later determined by the Press Council of India (PCI) and News Broadcaster Association (NBA). If found that the news was indeed fake that he or she would lose their accreditation for a limited period or permanently depending on the gravity of the news and thus be denied access to government institutions as well.

The I&B ministry’s decision for stringent punishment for spreading fake news was not taken kindly by the media. Journalist and the opposition parties took a serious note of the order issued by the I&B ministry and described the guidelines as an attack on the freedom of press.

While Mr Rajdeep Sardesai insinuated that the government was itself into the business of false propaganda spreading which can be also termed as fake news, Mr Ravish Kumar opined that the journalists were not taken into confidence before the circular was issued and that the attack will not stop.

In a joint statement the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Club of India expressed their ‘’deep concern”. They felt that despite ample scope for introspection and reform of journalistic practices a government fiat restraining the fourth pillar of their democratic rights is not a solution.

The Press Council of India in its press release on the above stated that although there is nothing wrong or obnoxious if the government intends to take remedial measures to check fake news, an independent statutory authority should be constituted to decide on the veracity/authenticity of the news. No prudent person should or can justify the dissemination of fake news.

The Editors Guild echoed a similar sentiment which said that it is more often than not that the government at the centre and the parties in power in the states are charged with propagating fake news themselves. By notifying that the I & B ministry will initiate such proceedings the government was arrogating for itself the role of policing the media. It would only open the doors for frivolous complaints to harass journalists and organizations to fall in line.

The crack-down of fake news by the government around the world is underway. The governments in UK, France, Germany, Philippines, Malaysia are seeking ways and means to make a headway in resolving this issue. The fake news menace surfaces more towards election time and is at its bullying best at such times. The administration has their own agenda to protect and the onus would be to safeguard allegations that harm their interest. Fake news is a Trojan Horse that is deceptive and could mislead readers of its true intent.

With the potential ability to imprison, bankrupt or put journalist out of business for publishing poorly defined misinformation, there is enormous scope for abuse, of which the worst-case scenario would be outright government censorship impinging on human rights and make people’s lives worse.

Yet even without outright control of stories, there is also the risk of the chilling effect, where the press self-censorship to comply with the rules means that legitimate stories in public interest are left unpublished for the fear of potential consequences.

As Yin Yin Lu, a researcher at the Oxford internet institute describes “not reporting something is as dangerous as reporting something false”. She further says that this kind of legislation would restrain journalist from publishing the truth. Lu believes that the best choice is allowing normal people to deal with fake news themselves rather than letting the government take care of it for them.

The top-down approach disempowers users and empowers the high and mighty. The solution needs to be bottom up which is tied to the design of the social media platforms where a majority of the news today is consumed. It should be the responsibility of the platforms to implement a design solution that would indicate visually the quality of the news sources that were shared. This will allow the users themselves to determine whether-or-not they are trustworthy.

In the Indian context, all curbs on the freedom of expression is most uncalled for.

India being one of the world’s largest democracies needs to exercise considerable restraint when it comes to encroaching on fundamental rights viz the freedom of speech and expression!!

In India, fake news is shaped and modelled to meet the political interest of various political outfits. The news makes an impact not only on the public at large but also finds inroads into the history books of schools. The Trojan horse manifests itself in its most malicious form in the mindsets of several hundreds of readers and holds sway to incline/convert opinions.

Revered leaders of the past are portrayed in a poor light!! Pandit Nehru as a womanizer and Mahatma Gandhi a sexual pervert!! History books are distorted while its custodians change hands!! Political vendetta has taken an ugly form and will decay further in due course!!

Indians excel both in dispensing and receiving fictitious news as long as the same is aligned with their thought process. The inference is fore destined and hence news gains acceptance only if it meets the criteria.

News needs to be considered as a separate entity and opinions are to be derived from them. News in India undergoes various interpretations and is construed to suit different ideologies. When Modi did a U-turn immediately on sensing the undercurrents, it was reported that he was not informed of the I & B ministry’s notification.

However, it hardly calls for great manipulative skills to discover the truth behind the con game!!

Disclaimer:

Santosh Nair is a columnist writing for HW News Network.  The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of HW News Network or any employee thereof. HW News Network makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

 

 

Santosh Nair

Spreading hate!

Santosh Nair

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A hate speech can be defined as statements that are communal, casteist and/or gender-based that could potentially invoke violence, riots and arson. India is a nation which has a long and troubled history of communal violence. In the past, it could be attributed to a communal divide among the masses that did not have the support of the leadership then. This has later metamorphosed into polarisation politics aided and abetted by the political leadership.

Hate speech does come under the purview of the law like section 295A (outraging religious feelings), section 153 (promoting enmity between groups) or section 505 (making statements conducive to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. However, experience shows that these laws are infrequently used especially when it comes to political arrests.

The Law Commission defines hate speech as an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and the likes. Thus hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representation within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention of causing fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.

It needs to be however emphasized that the hate speeches rose by a whopping 490% during the four years of the NDA rule. There were 124 instances of VIP hate speeches by 45 politicians as compared to 21 under UPA 2. Moreover, during the UPA 2, the Congress accounted for just 14% of the hate speeches, while the rest contributed (!!) to 86% of them.  The BJP was associated with the bulk (90%) of the hate.

Shockingly only an infinitesimal amount of the cases (5%) were confronted with a reprimand or cautioned against or asked to issue a public apology. A massive group of 95% faced no consequence whatsoever. Cases were registered against only eleven of the forty-five politicians.

Suraj Pal Amu the BJP’s chief media coordinator offered a bounty for beheading actor Deepika Padukone. A video of Amu’s statement had gone viral on media – social and mainstream. Subsequently, the leader had repeatedly defended his comment in front of the television cameras. No action was supposedly taken, nevertheless, the police had driven 360 km to arrest a 19-year old Shaqib, for posting an offensive image of PM Modi!!

Leave alone reprimanding there are at least two cases of hate speeches that have paid off handsomely!!!

Yogi Adityanath, a member of Parliament from UP had in November 2015 said: “There is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and that of Hafiz Saeed”.

In September 2014 he ascribed the rise in riots in Western UP to the population growth of the minority community. “In places where there are 10 to 20% minorities, stray communal incidents take place,” he said. “When there are 20% to 35% of them serious communal riots take place and when there are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims”.

Despite having six cases of hate speeches against him he was catapulted to the position of the CM of the state.

Anant Kumar Hegde was a BJP member of Parliament from Karnataka when in March 2016 he said: ”As long as we have Islam in this world, there will be no end to terrorism, if we are unable to end Islam, we won’t be able to end terrorism”.

On September 2017, he was promoted as Union minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship!!

Pratap Simha, another member of Parliament from Karnataka, has also posted hateful tweets since September last year.

 

Mr Simha has since been appointed as a member of the press council of India.

Mr Vinay Katiyar who completed his Rajya Sabha term just this month is a notable critic of the minorities and have been vitriolic as far as criticism of them is concerned.

“Muslims have no business being in India and should go to Pakistan or Bangladesh. The cremation ground inside the Taj will be destroyed, only our temple will exist and only the pillars around it will stand”.

Mr Katiyar is looking for greener pastures or at least another term in the Rajya Sabha!!

Mr Tathagata Roy, Governor of TN, was a passionate Modi fan who took pride in the Hindu led assault of Gujarat in 2002. He had asked for the intelligence agencies to keep a close watch on the people assembled before Yakub Memon’s corpse as many of them could be potential terrorists. The Governors, per se are the custodians of the constitution and not appointed to look after their constituencies. They are required to safeguard the constitution and not nurse their constituencies!!!

Mr Roy seems to be more inclined to further boost the sunset years of his career!!!

The rhetoric on cow protection, a subject that has gained currency under this government is being widely circulated.

“We will hang those who kill cows”. Raman Singh, CM of Chattisgarh in April 2017.

“I had promised that I will break the hands and legs of those who do not consider cows their mother and kill them” says Vikram Saini, a BJP MLA from UP.

“I will say it straight out, if you smuggle and slaughter cows, then you will be killed. The cow is our mother” Gyan Dev Ahuja, a BJP MLA from Rajasthan said in December last year.

The country’s PM who is considered an apostle of peace has displayed his share of hatred as well. “If there is a cemetery in the village there should be a crematorium as well: if there is electricity on Ramzan, it should be there on Diwali as well” Mr Modi proclaimed in February 2017.

Ahead of the Bihar elections in 2015 at a speech in Buxar in October that year, Modi said “Nitish and Lalu have conspired to take away the 5% reservation for OBCs, EBCs and Dalits and give it to the minorities. I swear I will die protecting their rights…” roared the PM.

Amit Shah, the President of the BJP sparked controversy with his acerbic comment “If by any mistake, BJP loses the election, the victory and defeat may be in Bihar but firecrackers may go off in Pakistan”.

Sanjay Patil is among the contemporary BJP politicians to engage in a disgusting rivalry with the minority community when he declared openly that a vote for BJP will usher in the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya while a vote for Congress, the Babri Masjid (sic!!). The Congress has filed a complaint with the election commission, nevertheless the outcome will be decided depending on the election results!!

Undaunted by the smear campaign of the Southern states Mr Dinesh Gundu Rao, a Congress MLA from Karnataka, declared the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath unfit to step into the state. “If he comes to Karnataka, we should throw chappals at him and make sure he is sent back,” said Mr. Rao.

The hate campaign provided extra stimulus to the otherwise reticent Rahul Gandhi as well. “If BJP comes to power, 22000 people will be killed, thundered the youthful Congress leader. Congress candidate Imran Masood said, ”If Modi tries to turn UP into Gujarat, then we will chop him into tiny pieces”.

Akbaruddin Owasi, the leader of All India Majlis – e – Ittehadul Musalmeen and then an MLA in Andhra Pradesh, takes the cake when he said in December 2012 “Remove the police for 15 minutes, we will finish off 100 crore Hindus” he had said during a speech. He spent 40 days in jail on charges of hate speech before getting bail.

It is apparent that with the involvement of the entire polity the views expressing hate becomes part of the mainstream rather than the fringe. The secular credential of the nation is endangered, peace and harmony make way for distress and discord.

Forging a religious divide is like clinging on to the low hanging fruits!! Easily achievable through crafty methods.

Building a nation requires gigantic efforts, aspiration, ambition, arduous challenges and fervent hopes to meet them!!

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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Time for the liberals to unite

Kumar Ketkar

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In most former socialist and also in liberal-welfarist countries in Europe there appears to be a massive swing towards Right and xenophobic mood. The latest example is that of Hungary. Viktor Orban who won by two-third majority for the third consecutive term as the Prime Minister, belongs to the Right Wing Fidesz Party. He is not a new convert to the Right. But does he really represent the Hungarian people? Already protest marches have begun, accusing his party of rigging the election or results.
In the election campaign, Orban’s Party projected the “Islamic” threat, by hyping on Muslim migration. He used to say that soon Islam will take over Europe! The Christians must fight for their “sons of soil” rights, for their religion and for Hungarian Nationalism ! (Doesn’t this sound familiar? Narendra Modi and the RSS and the VHP had raised similar slogans in Gujarat elections. The policy of polarisation continues even today.) Because of this Right Wing fundamentalist and neo-liberal onslaught on the inclusive welfarism, not only the Left, but also Liberals are alarmed.
The world over the Liberals are defensive.  In the last thirty years they have lost their political space to all kinds of extremists, fundamentalists and egotists. They have surrendered their intellectual space technocrats, bureaucrats and corporates. They have allowed the discourse to be conducted on TV debates not like “argumentative Indians should” but more in the jingoistic manner. or in the Think Tanks mostly work on a brief handed to them and not on options available. The anchors want to win the argument rather allow debate.
Those liberals who do not want to get trapped in such predicaments are afraid that if they take a position on any issue, they will cease to be liberals! Many of them have defined liberalismas being totally open ended. Some others think that everybody is right from his/her own points of views or their personal or social situation. And there are those who have “philosophically”  concluded that there is nothing like “correct” or “morally right” position and hence it is free for all. Some of them are post-modernists who have brought liberalism close to opportunism or to philosophical anarchy.
This was not so in the turbulent Sixties and early seventies. All liberals, irrespective of their political hue, cultural background, religious persuasion or profession were against the war in Vietnam, for withdrawal of the US forces from the Southeast Asia, were critical of an oppressive state as well as dominating corporates. Nobody  felt that there was a case for President Nixon. Nobody among them wanted or defended communism as an ideology. Yet they were opposed to the US involvement in a war.
Neither The New York Times nor the students or teachers on the university campuses were against the free market economy. From Jean Paul Sartre to Bertrand Russell, from Osho Rajanish to the Beatles and hundreds of rock music groups, from Steve Jobs to astrophysicist writer Carl Sagan all were anti-war. None of them was Socialist or thought that Vietnamese communism was better than American capitalism. In every respect they were different from each other and yet they took a firm position against war and against US involvement.
They were the liberals in true sense. They belonged to the philosophical tradition of liberalism which had its roots in the Enlightenment. And also European philosophical trend in the 17th and 18th century which emphasised reason and individualism, life and liberty. Indeed, the American war of Independence in 1776 and also the French Revolution in 1789 were the expression of that Enlightenment.
The baton of that liberalism was passed on to the Indian resurrection. In fact, just when the Europe was witnessing the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, Indian Freedom Struggle was giving rise to Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. They differed with each other, sometimes strongly, but never gave up their true liberal values. They could distance themselves from the regressive Indian tradition and yet could integrate progressive Eastern values with the Western Enlightenment thought.
Mahatma Gandhi described himself as a proud Hindu and yet could assimilate not only Christian thought of the Bible but also the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. He evolved a philosophy of Pacifism and global humanism at the time when many ideologies, from communism to fascism and from aggressive nationalism to expansionist capitalism were advocating and practicing violence to achieve their objectives.
Reviled and ridiculed initially, Gandhiji soon became a symbol of the Enlightened Liberalism who advocated the right to life, liberty and fraternity among all religions, nations and societies. Without giving up the “religious” foundation of his philosophy, he could bring together people of all religions. He emphasized that the Freedom Movement was not against the British people but only against the British Raj, their Rule and their laws.
The hallmark of the Liberal value is tolerance. Gandhiji personified that value. Pandit Nehru,  was committed to the ideas of science, secularism and liberal democracy— an ideological residue of the Enlightenment. He always said that to his Western friends, he appeared completely Indian and to his followers in India, he was regarded as a thoroughbred Westerner. To him, that was a badge of Liberalism.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, one of the architects of the liberal Indian Constituion, was in the forefront to implement the truly liberal programme–not only in the political sphere but also in social and personal life.  He founded the Republican Party of India. He believed in the Republican values which were the product of the Liberal traditions of the West. Dr Ambedkar could integrate Mahatma Phule, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Abraham Lincoln.
Panditji could bring together the reformist tradition of our own past. Gandhiji could be philosophically at home with both Tolstoy and Tagore. The Indian Liberalism has been truly global in its content.  The regions of Bengal and Maharashtra had the glorious traditions of the social reform movement. So it was not difficult for the Mahatma to weave in the freedom struggle both the social reform movement and the idea of renunciation of the material riches.
The liberal, secular, democratic and federal Indian Union is based on this Indian liberalism, and not only on the foundation of the European tradition of the Enlightenment. But in the past thirty years, slowly but surely, the Indian liberals have begun to shed their values of tolerance, reason and dialogue.
The rise of Hindu Fundamentalism in the eighties, and growing global Muslim identitarianism, stridency in socio-political discourse and taking recourse to Post-modernist individualism are indications of the decline of Liberal ethos in India. In fact, the rise of caste identity in the name of Mandalisation, The Whipped up pride in the linguistic chauvinism and provincial consciousness have begun to influence media so much that it has ceased to remain an independent voice.
Now the liberals are either Left Liberals or the Right Liberals, the Hindu Liberals or the Muslim Liberals, Global Liberals or the Patriotic Liberals. Their position is determined not by values and reason but by exigencies.This is not only a threat to India’s secular democracy, it is a threat to the Argumentative Indian who kept the intellectual and philosophical vibrant liberal tradition. It is time for the Liberals to unite, because they have nothing to lose but their freedom!
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Santosh Nair

Who is letting our “Betis” down?

Santosh Nair

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On January 10, 2018, the little girl of eight years in a purple dress was grazing her horses near her one-room home when one of the accused, a 19-year old, called her into the forest pretending to look for her missing horse.

The man dragged her to a small village temple, reportedly and drugged her. With two of his accomplices, he repeatedly raped her for three long days keeping her sedated without any food intake. Before she was strangled and hit twice with a heavy rock for good measure, one of the men expressed his desire to rape her one last time.

The horse in the meanwhile returned without her!!!

The girl’s body was found in the forest on the 17th of January!!

Investigations led the police to the 19-year-old school dropout who had often seen the girl grazing horses and then to his uncle Sanji Ram, who was in-charge of the temple where police found forensic evidence.

The teen who claimed to be 15-year-old and who was later testified to have reached adulthood has confessed, reportedly by the police that his DNA matches with a strand of hair found on the child’s body. Sanji Ram, the accused no 2, a former government official who allegedly planned the depraved crime had kept aside a huge amount of money for bribes. He was arrested based on the teen’s confession and forensic test reports. The man who wanted to rape her one last time before she was killed was Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria. The fourth accused was Special Police Officer, Surinder Kumar. The teen named his friend Parvesh Kumar as the fifth accused and Sanji Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra as the sixth for having taken pains to travel all the way from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”.

The charge sheet records the involvement of SI Anand Dutta and head constable Tilak Raj for failing to collect vital evidence and aiding the accused by cleaning her dress.

However, the 17-year-old girl from Unnao survived the alleged rape by Kuldeep Singh Senger on June 4, 2017. Her father relocated to Delhi to escape further humiliation but had to yield to his children after they coerced him to file an FIR with the Unnao police.

That was the last they saw of their father!!!

Over 30,000 rape cases are registered; only 1 in 4 convicted!! While the conviction rate for rape cases in India was 44.3% in 1973, 37.7% in 1983, 26.9% in 2009, 26.6% in 2010, 26.4% in 2011, 24.2% in 2012 and 27.1% in 2013. The percentage of conviction has taken a huge beating undeterred by the legislation that is reportedly more women-centric!!  The conviction rate is however much lower in developed countries like UK (7%), Sweden (10%) and France (25%).

The road to justice is full of barriers and obstacles!!

Nearly 30% of all legislatures have a criminal background. 1581 sitting legislatures have criminal records, 51 are involved in crime against women of which 4 of them have rape cases against them. Parties with most MPs / MLAs that have cases of crime against women are as follows:

BJP: 14; Shiv Sena: 7; TMC: 6.

It is indeed bewildering to note that despite a dismal personal record these men are offered tickets to contest election without even batting an eyelid.  Their only merit being their vote-catching ability!!!  The voters include folks like us!! Sadly!!

States with the most rape cases: Rajasthan: 4816; UP: 4818; MP: 4882; Maharashtra: 4821.

An estimated 7200 minors get raped each year which roughly amounts to 1.6 in a lac. They are trafficked into prostitution later which induces a lifetime of sufferings. Along with their virginity, they stand to lose their honour and dignity. In a survey on sex trafficking and crime against minors, India ranks 7th worst!!

Most rapes in the country go unreported primarily because the victim fears retaliation and humiliation from related quarters. A minimal of 5-6% cases are reported to the police. This is essentially a worldwide phenomenon. A UN study of 57 countries estimates just 11% of sexual assault cases are ever reported!! However, it is uncertain whether minors are subjected to such dire conditions in the western world.

In a country that ensures empowerment to women through a network of programmes and policies and lays emphasis on gender equality, it is appalling to notice a trend that is not in alignment with its vision. It is also a matter of deep concern to attribute such barbarous act to bear religious overtones.

It is hugely detrimental to associate this dreadful act as that of Hindu or Muslim vengeance as is apparent in the social media. This is a consequence of the failure of our law and order machinery that is currently in unsafe hands.

The piece of legislation protecting children from any harm, abuse or exploitation is losing credibility when politicians tend to communalize rape and murder of a minor girl taking advantage of the religious leanings of the victim and accused into consideration. The politicized aftermath would also lead to the travesty of justice.

The eight- year- old girl from Bakerwal, Asifa Bano’s ordeal should be seen through the prism of a juvenile justice system than through the prism of religion, caste, colour and politics!! Political affiliations should not influence legitimacy rights. BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Senger who is accused of rape of the 17-year-old should have been in custody long ago, his closeness with Yogi Adityanath notwithstanding!!

This diverse nation with its plurality in beliefs would reflect extreme sensitivity on matters related to religion and caste. An accountable media needs to exercise utmost caution while reporting such cases or else it may boomerang into a major catastrophe.

The world is eyeing us closely!!!

Disclaimer:

Santosh Nair is a columnist writing for HW News Network.  The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of HW News Network or any employee thereof. HW News Network makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

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