Amrit Hallan

The Nivedita Menon video, Zee TV and the journalistic ethics

This is a small post as I need to get back to work. In a post, the infamous JNU teacher Nivedita Menon defends her stand that is portrayed through the video that has gone viral on the Internet. For proper context, here is the video:

In the video she says that Hinduism is the most violent religion in the world and consequently, there were varied reactions on Facebook and Twitter. I myself posted the video on my timelinee with the following comment (somehow I’m unable to link to the actual Facebook post):

Yes, it seems like a knee-jerk reaction but that was instinctive. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, many people shared the video and expressed themselves in whichever manner they deemed fit.

Different emotions are attached to religion. You may not subscribe to these emotions, but some people do. Whatever may be the reason, some people do get infuriated when you insult their religion, when you call it the worst religion in the world. If you do so, you should be ready for the backlash. I’m not saying the backlash should happen, it just happens. If one day suddenly I say something crappy about Islam I should be ready to face the consequences because I know this is how they react. I don’t agree with the way they would react, but this is how things are. Anyway, this is not about criticising religion or facing the onslaught of fanatics.

This is about people like Nivedita Menon not having moral and intellectual depth while trying to justify their opinions. Here are a few of my observations…

She begins with saying that the video has been taken out of context although it hasn’t been doctored. I don’t see how the video has been taken out of context. There is a presentation going on on a particular topic. During the discussion she calls Hinduism the most violent religion in the world so what sort of context or what sort of out-of-contextness she is talking about I fail to understand. Did she say or didn’t she say that Hinduism is the most violent religion in the world? She said that. What was the context? Doesn’t really matter. It’s like, one day if I say that Nivedita Menon sleeps around with students just to make a political statement and then I say that my remark has been taken out of context, how silly would that be?

She says that Zee TV has been showing multiple doctored videos. So far there hasn’t been concrete evidence whether these videos are original or doctored. There was a conclusion from the Delhi government but who in his or her right mind believes in what the Kejriwal-led government has to say about these matters?

Every second day “actual” videos are appearing on social media. It has become an X’s word against Y’s word. Nivedita Menon’s word against Sudhir Chaudhary’s word. In fact, in that particular Zee TV program she is cribbing about, somewhere Sudhir says that she is welcome to contact the TV channel and say that the video is doctored and she will be given full access to the broadcasting facility to put her point across. She doesn’t mention that.

If you think the videos are doctored then file a police complaint. What purpose do allegations and counter allegations solve? Why hasn’t Kanhaiya so far filed an FIR as he seems to be the biggest target of the “doctored” videos? So, very weak argument.

She talks about violent Hindutvavadis targeting people like her. She uses this trait to further prove her point that Hinduism is the most violent religion in the world. People are not allowed to kiss openly. They are not allowed to wear what they want to wear. They are not allowed to say what they want to say. They are not allowed to celebrate alien events and festivals they would like to celebrate. People like Nivedita Menon are stopped by these Hindutvavadis and hence Hinduism, according to her convoluted logic, becomes the most violent religion in the world. No, I’m not using the expression “convoluted” just because I disagree with her. I’m using it because she and people like her use different yardsticks to decide who is violent and who is not.

I’m not writing this post to define Hinduism (because I’m not well-equipped) but how insane is it to call Hinduism the most violent religion in the world when every day you see images of people being slaughtered, maimed and set on fire in the ISIS-controlled regions of the world? Yes, she could have said that Hinduism is the most violent religion in the civilised world and the civilised world constitutes of the regions and countries where people like us can call the majority religion the most violent, the most hateful and the most despicable religion in the world and go on living our lives. Then, to an extent, I would see logic in her argument.

If she wants to stick to her statement in the video, I would dare her to go to even Pakistan (forget about ISIS-controlled region) and say that Islam is one of the most violent religions in the world if not THE MOST violent religion in the world. If she can do that, then I will have respect for her. But of course that would be asking too much from phony intellectuals.

She doesn’t attribute the same traits to the AAPians who can say the vilest things if you don’t agree with them. Take this for example:

Want more? This is the singer Mika, an ardent AAP supporter:

I apologise for displaying such vulgar language in my post, but this is just a small sample of the language non-Hindutvavadis use on Twitter. It doesn’t mean that we declare a party like AAP a terrorist organisation.

Congress supporters issue open death threats. There are Islamic cyber cells who regularly warn people of various ways they would be killed and destroyed. But who gets to be the most violent side? Of course Hindutvavadis.

In an intellectual world where it is normally very difficult to decide what is terrorism and who actually is a terrorist, suddenly there is complete clarity on the oldest, one of the biggest and one of the most complex religions of the world inherently being the most violent. Wah ri duniya aur wah re duniya ke logo.

She is big on quoting Ambedkar and Periyar about what they thought of Hinduism. Again, the problem with history is that everybody can say every sort of thing and get away with that because of the “interpretation” conundrum. Anyway, according to the information I have, this is what Ambedkar had to say about Hindus converting to Islam and Christianity:

It’s not about whether you believe what Swamy has to say or not, there are as many opinions as there are people to express them. Why should I believe what Nivedita Menon says and why shouldn’t I believe what Subramanian Swamy says?

I’ll be frank here, I’m open to grasping all opinions. Sometimes I do react irrationally and suddenly (within limits) but most of the time I try to follow a sane approach which means I try to understand the other’s opinion. This is why, if I read Rajiv Malhotra I also read Ram Guha. I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s just the way I am.

So when I started reading Nivedita Menon’s article in — no matter what my attitude was when I came across the link — my first intention was to see how she presents her side of the story. The moment someone says “down with India” or “down with Hinduism” or “let’s slaughter and eat all the cows in the world just because Hindus revere them” I don’t paint that person with a black hue. Whatever might be my initial reaction, sooner or later, I try to understand his or her point of view.

I must say I was totally disappointed, and not just disappointed, my impression that these are fake, “motivated” intellectuals got confirmed all over again.

After trying to prove that the video has been taken out of context, that Zee TV has been broadcasting doctored videos and Amedkar and Periyar said this and that, she comes to the main point, raking up Sudhir Chaudhary’s past to establish that when he says something it isn’t to be trusted. She gives the example of the case when he and one of his colleagues were sent to jail by the Jindals, after accusing them of trying to exhort money. Those who follow the channel closely know that these journalists were investigating the CoalGate scam and due to the political muscle that the Jindals could flex during the Congress rule they were put behind bars.

Since I don’t personally know Sudhir Chaudhary I cannot vouch for his character, but we all know what games the Congress people play. Take for example the ongoing Ishrat Jahan controversy. If a party can stoop so low as to prove terrorists as innocent people killed by the police just in order to be able to frame political opponents like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, framing two journalists investigating the coal scam is child’s play. Just like Sudhir Chaudhary should be discredited for his arrest, shouldn’t the party or the politicians responsible for his arrest be doubted knowing their political antecedents. World’s biggest scams happened during the Congress rule and the journalists investigating one of those scams got arrested. How coincidental!

And what about the Barkha Dutt-Radia-tapes controversy? Can Nivedita Menon say that whatever Barkha Dutt says shouldn’t be trusted because she was caught red-handed? Her case was so irrepressible that it couldn’t be contained even while the Congress, her patron party, was in power. Even if Nivedita Menon personally believes that Barkha Dutt shouldn’t be trusted as a person, since these people are comrades-“in arms” (ideologically hugging each other) she is never going to say that.

The problem is not that people like Nivedita Menon say uncomfortable things. The problem is, they say uncomfortable things not because their conscience and their sense of right and wrong compels them to say uncomfortable things. They say uncomfortable things because they are running an agenda against a particular community, that is, people who believe that Hinduism is not as bad as it is made out to be although it has its own baggage, as is the case with every religion in the world.

Since there is no sincerity, their arguments are not sincere; they are half baked. They are unconvincing. But you will find them unconvincing only when you want to embrace the truth, not carry out a propaganda.

Image source.

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?