Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be doing great when it comes to elections. Ever since the BJP's sweeping the general elections of 2014, he and his lieutenant Amit Shah have played their cards smartly to fool the opponents in most state elections that followed. As Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said recently, the BJP is working more on improving its own strength but not that of the nation. Thackeray was spot on [though his advice to tear Pakistan into pieces is always fraught with danger]. Are we seeing enough initiative today to back the process of national integration in ways that don't involve the military?
Even a few decades ago, the Indian media used to play a big role towards the cause of national integration or what was known as the nation-building. During the days of Doordarshan, programmes like 'Bharat Ek Khoj', 'Tamas', 'Surabhi', 'Malgudi Days' besides the never-to-be-forgotten duo – 'Humlog' and 'Buniyad' fed our sense of Indianness. While some threw light on the pains caused by the Partition and families' braving the test of time, others highlighted the cultural richness of the country.
Not another 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' today?
These programmes also took pot shots at the economic ills that India had faced in the days of its state-centric functioning. 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara', which became immensely popular in the late 1980s, is still seen as an iconic attempt to champion the integrity of the country. The soldiers were not ignored wither. There were shows like 'Param Vir Chakra' that depicted the gallantry of the country's defence forces.
Today, after completing quarter of a century into liberalisation, nothing of those sorts is visible in the popular media. The TV space has expanded thousand times more than it was during the era of state-controlled television but not thinking has gone into using the powerful medium to address problems that are threatening the country's fabric. From Kashmir to Chhattisgarh to the northeast, India's unity is under more threat than ever before but those in control are not feeling enough to utilise the media to soothe the ignited sentiments.
Instead, we are only seeing deification of the army as the ultimate saviour. India has always known to be a soft power and its extreme diversities have co-existed throughout the centuries not because of any reason of force but a mutual bond.
India's diversity is its strength; we are forgetting that today
India's strength lies in its diverse culture unlike what is being projected explicitly or implicitly today. It is very very important today to dig into the past and bring out examples of how Indians – despite the countless differences between them – have survived together. And none other than the media can do it better. In the 1980s and early 1990s, we saw the television being used to do the vital work even if there were issues that threatened the national unity.
News media or creative media -- none feel the importance of nurturing sensitivity
But no more today. A section of the news media is instead using its democratic freedom to threaten its own country's unity. It is busy highlighting Jawaharlal Nehru's failure on Kashmir to fuel more jingoist feelings and create an ambience of negativity in the country and not using his prized 'Discovery of India' to heal bruised feelings. The thrust today is on polarisation caused by party politics. The idea of India is not just about politics. It is much more than that.
As like the rulers of the day, these media channels are backing hard army solutions to the Kashmir problem. There is no mention of 'Insaniyat' anywhere but only mindless jingoism. By not educating the children of today about principles that India stand for, we are paving the way for generations that will not just be insensitive but also prone to self-destruction.
The world of the creative media is no less guilty. We have so many film directors and actors of reputation and also advanced technology. Yet, at the end of the day, we don't see stuff like 'Tamas' or 'Buniyaad' anymore. If sensitivity is no longer the forte of creative minds, then what is? The creative world has been eclipsed by the glamour factor which is not a good news either.
India has survived without media's 'favour' for centuries
It is not difficult to understand that the ruthless competition in the media has seen sense and logic getting sacrificed at the altar of commercial and vested interests but could those greedy showman who masquerade themselves as "nationalists", "nation's voice" and "keepers of democracy" take a pause for a moment and think what harm they are doing to the country in reality?
The noisy and chaotic media of today consist of inefficient people who do not understand what India actually means. The inferior work they put up shows their quality. But why will we not control these mindless thugs before they take the Indian civilisation, which has endured over centuries without their help, to a breaking point?