NewsCentral24x7 Edit: Hold The Government Accountable
Five years is a long time, a full tenure, in fact, to give Narendra Modi a free pass as if he is still learning on the job.
Three days after the ghastly terror attack on CRPF soldiers in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, with the official period of mourning over, it is now time to take stock of the situation and ask serious questions about the incident which led to the loss of more than 40 lives. It is sad that this needs to be said in so many words but the Indian media — television and print, both English and in regional languages — has become a ventriloquist and amplifier for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, furthering its partisan agenda and acting as its handmaiden in covering its failures.
The role of the media is to question the government and hold it accountable — by fixing responsibility for its actions. Five years is a long time, a full tenure, in fact, to give Narendra Modi a free pass as if he is still learning on the job. As we head into the general elections, it is of greater importance that he is not allowed to hide behind the dead bodies of our troopers. The media owes it to the people of the country as the fourth pillar of democracy.
There are some specific domains in which the Pulwama incident can be analysed, that will raise questions about Modi’s performance. The top national czar of national and internal security in the country is Ajit Doval, who has expanded his empire vastly under Modi. He rules over the intelligence agencies, the foreign, home and defence ministries and the armed forces. Pulwama was clearly a security failure, and the only man responsible for India’s security apparatus has to be held responsible. It is not some CPRF jawans standing by the side of that road in Pulwama as sentries who should lose their job. It is Doval who should have resigned by now if he had any shame, or sacked. After all, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has taken responsibility for the attack, and Doval was the one man who went to Kandahar to respectfully hand JeM founder Maulana Masood Azhar over to the Taliban. In how many media houses have you seen this picture of Doval handing Azhar at Kandahar? Why not?
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The incident at Pulwama has occurred in a particular political environment in Kashmir. For the past five years, BJP has been ruling both at the centre and the state — either in a coalition government or as a direct central rule — and has created an environment which has only alienated the Kashmiris. Any signs of the return of normalcy to Kashmir, which were witnessed in a decade preceding Modi’s prime-ministership, have been reversed. It is in this political climate that we have had more local recruits than foreign militants die in Kashmir for the first time after 2000. The deliberate mishandling of Kashmir, borne out of an RSS ideological project, has created a fertile ground that led to the security failure. There is no one else, not Ram Madhav and not Jitendra Singh, responsible for it except Modi himself. He is responsible and must be held accountable for the loss of these lives of CRPF troopers.
Modi also made a lot of hue and cry about his tamasha-PR type of personalised diplomacy. Failure to deal with Pakistan — in a series of flip-flops: no other government invited ISI to Pathankot air base or visited Lahore to attend a wedding — at a diplomatic level, with no clear direction or purpose other than fanning up emotions, has been the defining characteristic of the past five years. With China, the country which has saved Azhar from UNSC sanctions so far, Modi has succumbed fully after the informal summit at Wuhan. We have not seen a word about China and its perfidious ways from the government after the Pulwama attack. A half-decent media would have pinned the government on this aspect instead of running the handouts provided by its spokesperson on the front-pages.
Finally, the likely response to the attack. Other than the jingoistic hyperbole about military options, we are yet to come across a rational analysis of diplomatic and military options that India can exercise, and the risks involved in any military adventure in a nuclear neighbourhood. Any such analysis would show that Modi has boxed India into a corner, with all his vacuous talk of “revenge” and “surgical strikes”, when the real question is of “compellence” to alter Pakistan’s behaviour or “deterrence” by prevention. Revenge can never be a policy of the State; it has to be to safeguard the lives of its citizens. A failure to do so must make the government accountable to its people, and the media should be the one holding Modi responsible. If “Journalism of Courage” remains only a line on the masthead, then surely the words “democracy dies in darkness” will come true.