On this Independence Day, the ModiGovernment has yet again made it clear that in our country, none except one person, has the independence of speaking one’s ‘Mann kiBaat’. Not even the democratically elected chief-minister of a state.
Before the Independence Day, the DD Tripura had recorded a speech ofManikSarkar, the CM of the state, which was to be telecasted on 15th August in their channel. But a day prior to the scheduled telecast, the PrasarBharti sent a letter to the CMO Tripura, saying that the speech was not in keeping with the “sanctity and solemnity attached with the occasion” and that they will be showing the speech only if the CM agrees to reshape it to suite their line.
Before coming to the question as to whether this can be done or not, let’s ask if this the ‘co-operative federalism’ that our Prime Minister refers to every time he speaks? Because what we see here is not co-operation but an untowardcompetition taking place. A communal outfit like the RSS is trying to compete with democratically elected governments to curb the constitutional provisions and make the country run in their terms. And what is even more horrifying is that some of the central governmental agencies and autonomous organizations, running out of tax-payers’ money are brazenly siding with the RSS, in this ‘competition’.
If anyone would have felt that ManikSarkar has made any provocative or unconstitutional statement in his speech, which infringes upon the Indian Penal Code, then one could have used the constitutional provision to take action against him. But what right do the sarkaribabus, including the CEO of the PrasarBharti have, to take policy decisions to the extent of trying to censor the head of an elected government?
After this issue emerged in the public domain and questions started to get raised, apologists of the government tried to put up a feeble defense saying that it might have been an act done by one or few ‘over enthusiastic staffs’ working for DD Tripura, and that the central government cannot be blamed for this. However had that been the case, then as one would expect, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry would have come up with a clarification statement, apologizing for the incident and condemning the so-called ‘over enthusiastic employees’ for showing this unconstitutional audacity of trying to censor an elected Chief Minister.
This time the PrasarBharti had a problem in broadcasting the Tripura C.M.’s speech as it contained certain statements which, they felt, were not in keeping with their ideas. But as one would remember, in 2014, soon after NarendraModi assumed office, this same PrasarBharti went out of its way to broadcast the VijayaDashami speech of the RSS chief Mohan Bhawat. And Mohan Bhagwat clung to the opportunity to do what he does the best. He propagated hatred. Throughout his speech he went on from spewing venom against the Minorities and Dalits to giving lessons to women living in this country as to how to live a ‘sanskari’ life. Clearly, the present policy makers of the PrasarBhartifind communal bashings and hate speeches more worthy of being givena platform to than voices advocating plurality, inclusivity and human rights in this country.
The Supreme Court judgement on basis of which the PrasarBharti was formed clearly read, “It should be operated by a public statutory corporation or corporations, as the case may be, whose constitution and composition must be such as to ensure its/their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on all other public issues. It/they must be required by law to present news, views and opinions in a balanced way ensuring pluralism and diversity of opinions and views.” So what we see here is not only a violation of that judgement but also a major departure from the basic idea of having a free broadcasting media like the PrasarBharati. Now we know that any voice not falling in line with the dominant narrative will not be allowed to use the common broadcasting infrastructure of this country.
ManikSarkar, one of the longest-serving Chief Ministers of India is accepted across political lines as someone who indubitably epitomizes sense, sanity and honesty in Indian politics. If this voice of sanity is stifled by forces desiring hegemonic control, thenalong with it, the silent majority who strive for peace, national unity and harmony in this country are momentarily stifled. And if they become convinced that the democratic system has become non-functional in this country that does not augur well for the development of motherland.
And finally, there’s not much disagreement on the fact that PrasarBharti’s actions reflect the Central Government’s intentions. So if they cannot accept some of the statements of ManikSarkar, it means that the government at the center is finding them unacceptable. And what exactly are those statements? They are the ones in which the CM of Tripura had asserted the need to protect the Idea of India. A bunch of bureaucrats trying to teach an elected Chief Minister what is to be said is outrageous. But what is more alarming is the fact that PrasarBharti found those parts of the CM’s address ‘unacceptable’ which spoke of combating the politics of communal genocide and upholding the secular values enshrined in the Indian constitution. The Modi government not being comfortable with ManikSarkar’s speech yet again asserts the fact that at present the Indian Constitution is not in safe hands. After all, why does the CM of Tripura have to be censored if he speaks of India being a pluralistic and diverse society? What is wrong if a chief-minister urges upon the people of his state to unite and safeguard the secular fabric of the society? Why should a Chief Minister not say that killing human beings in the name of protecting cows is unacceptable? So if the Central Government thinks that something is wrong in these statements, then it yet again tells the people of India that something is seriously wrong with the Central Government.
(The author is MemberDYFI, West Bengal State Committee)