Editor's Note

Sound and fury

Print edition : April 12, 2019

Over seven decades of their experiments with parliamentary democracy have taught Indians to see a jumla as a jumla (a statement that is just an assemblage of words signifying nothing) and continue to vote in elections in large numbers without any illusions about electoral promises. Jumla was the term used by BJP president Amit Shah in response to a question on Narendra Modi’s election promise of bringing black money from illegal accounts abroad and depositing Rs.15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account. That was perhaps for the first time in independent India’s political history that a high-profile politician brazenly called a jumla a jumla. Intelligent Indian voters were indeed not expecting a few lakhs to land in their bank accounts. Tragically, nor did they expect the black money hunter to snatch away their hard-earned 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, and along with them, their sources of livelihood with the help of a demon called demonetisation.

For the poor and downtrodden sections, it was demonetisation, an aborted land acquisition law, labour law reforms, cuts in social sector spendings, dismantling of the MGNREGS, and a public distribution system that was tampered with. On the other side was the largesse lavished on mitron-businessmen and the flight of fraudster-businessmen under the watchful eyes of a self-proclaimed chowkidar. It was clear on which side the government was. It was achhe din for corporate buddies and communal bigots in saffron and not for workers, peasants, agricultural workers, small and medium industries; not even for chaiwalas (tea sellers) and chowkidars (security guards). Any protest by discontented sections of people was an act of sedition and the organisers of the protests were “urban naxals”. Criticism of Modi’s policies and practices was anti-national and anti-Hindu in the language of trolls who were taking care of digital heretics. Exposure of highly placed officials’ secret acts was violation of the Official Secrets Act. And the war on corruption ended up with allegations of corruption of the warriors. The need of the hour was to turn people’s attention away from the planks of development and anti-corruption crusade that brought them to power in 2014. In the process, the Gujarat model was replaced with nationalism in the script. Eating beef was the ultimate act of sacrilege and attracted death as punishment under the Hindutva Penal Code. Tanks were sought to be deployed on university campuses to save them from red terror even as the Sangh generals took charge of other institutions. When it came to political rhetoric, the line between fringe and centre blurred.

In the meantime, the feel-good factory was working overtime as a section of the media’s eyes was filled with patriotism potion in the midsummer night’s dream that began in May 2014. And unsuspecting viewers were made to believe that Don Quixote was indeed fighting the giants, and not tilting at windmills. And biopics came as the summum bonum of seemingly unending real-time trailers of a development man metamorphosing into a knight in shining armour out to protect his people from cross-border enemies.

In this make-believe post-truth world, Frontline was among the few in the media landscape that kept its critical eyes and ears open—a normal media function that looked like an act of bravery. Right from its first cover story after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister (“Right at the Centre”, June 13, 2014), our writers, true to style, captured vividly through innumerable articles the political, social, economic and cultural impact of the rule of a right-wing government with fascistic tendencies. It was only in the fitness of things to dedicate a special issue to an objective assessment of the Modi government’s performance as it seeks another term in office. Here it is, with best wishes for real achhe din for our readers and voters.


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