The Role of Media in National Integration

Lecture by:

  • U. Mahesh Prabhu,
  • Editor-In-Chief,
  • Aseemaa: Journal for National Resurgence,
  • At: SEMAA BHARATI – National Integration Camp on 23rd February 2008.

 

Distinguished dignitaries and my dear friends,

It is indeed my privilege and honor to have this opportunity to speak on the topic of ‘Role of Media in National Integration’.

Before I take you to the depth of the subject of media’s role in integrating this nation – India, We need to know what Nation is and why it is important. We also need to understand why ‘Internationalism’ one that is being propounded by the Capitalists, Communists and Wahhabi Islamists hasn’t hold good for the past, present and the future.

In the current context many people in our country hold the view that any venture that we undertake should be based on a grand world-thought capable of rendering good to the whole of humanity eschewing all narrow limitations of the country, community and religion. In support of this view, some proclaim that in this age of missiles, rockets and internet distance has vanished, boundaries of countries have become meaningless and the whole world has shrunk. They, therefore, feel that the very concept of country nation, etc., has become outdated, that the spirit of world unity alone should inspire all our activities. They conclude that the modern ‘isms’ which have taken up ‘internationalism’ as their watchword can alone lead us to that cherished goal.

At the very outset, let it be made clear that it is not the modern thinkers who are the first in the field to think in terms of world unity and universal welfare. Long, long ago, in fact, long before so-called modern age had set in, the seers and savants of this land had delved deep into this vital question. The ideal of human unity, of a world free from all traces of conflict and misery, has stirred our hearts since times immemorial. Our one constant prayer all thought the ages has been:

SARVEAPI SUKHINAHA SANTU SARVE SANTU NIRAMAYAAHA |

This means ‘Let everyone be happy, let everyone be free from all ills.’ While the present day West has not been able to go beyond the motto of ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’, we have never tolerated the idea of a single human being – why, of even a single living organism – being miserable. ‘Total good for all beings’ has always been our glorious ideal.

But coming to the plane of the present-day world, we are faced with the hard reality of the all-round discord and disruption ravaging human society. Today, humanity Is divided and subdivided into so many small exclusive groups called nations or states, each one of them devoted to its own narrow self interest. And it is a matter of common experience that whenever there groups inspired only e self-interest, there is bound to be mutual conflict. Obviously, human unity and welfare is impossible so long as this type of conflict continues. The present state of strife and wars resulting in human destruction and misery has led many thinkers to conclude that the sentiment of nationalism which nourishes exclusive self-interest is the major obstacle in the way of world unity and human welfare. They therefore declare that nationalism should be rooted out from the minds of men all over the world. The Communist, Capitalist and Wahhabi ideologies which claims ‘internationalism’ as its sheet-anchor often talks in this strain.

The Indian Communist, i.e. Communist Party of India (Marxist), has concluded recently that they are no more communist but ‘Capitalist’. The capitalists are the people for whom nothing comes first but the financial profits and the Wahhabi’s who say that theirs alone is the purest part of Islam and thereby dejecting the revered savants of India like that of Sant Kabir, Khwaja Mohinuddin Chisti and the like, are all demanding for a ‘internationalism’ of their own kind. Similarly if you go out and speak to a Naxalite he would say that he wants the whole world to be a part of his Naxal Movement.

Like Wahhabi Islam, Fanatic Christianity and the Communism, Internationalism is a bygone and lost cause. To testify let me take the following two cases:

·         Soviet Russia which sought to discard nationalism in a bid to take to international communism soon learnt by experience that destruction of this sentiment deprives the people of the incentive for dedicated effort. In the first flush of revolution, material progress was no doubt achieved in Russia in a certain measure. Their first few seven year plans were to an extent successful. But, by and by, the enthusiasm of the people began to wane; their incentive for work began to die away. Eventually labor in big factories had to be forced to work at the point of bayonet. And again during the Second World War, when Hitler’s tank were relentlessly pressing forward on the Russian soil, the slogan of ‘internationalism’ along with ‘Communism’ failed to enthuse the Russian people. This served as an eye opener to the Russian leaders who found it absolutely essential to rouse the dormant patriotic sentiments of the Russian people by invoking their age old loyalty to motherland their heroic ancestors. It is evident, therefore, that it is devotion to one’s motherland, society and tradition experienced under the concept of nation that inspires the spirit of real service and sacrifice in the individual.

 

·         League of Nations, formed after the First World War, was also an experiment in avoiding wars and achieving world unity. But within just two decades of its birth, the League of Nations was shattered into pieces on the rock of unbridled national ambitions and consequent conflicts. A more terrible war than all the previous ones besmirched the face of the earth with death and destruction. The UNO too, formed after the Second World War, is faring no better. Our own experience in the case of Kashmir issue tells us that it is incapable of meting out injustice, of pulling up the erring members and bringing about an honorable amity among nations.

We can thus conclude that nationalism cannot and should not be destroyed. Then the problem boils down to one of achieving a synthesis of national aspirations and world welfare. Synthesis lf various kinds have been, in fact, attempted from time to time in the past. Imperialism has sometimes been claimed to be one such large scale effort to eliminate conflicts between smaller nations by making them limbs of a single empire. But as it was basically motivated by self-aggrandizement, leading to revolts by the subject nations against their oppression and exploitation, imperialism failed to eliminate the international conflicts.

We can also understand from these cases that nations are not prepared to come together in a spirit of amity for the welfare of mankind. On the contrary, the national entities are getting more and more exclusive and their ambitions whetted day by day.

But it is sad that none have understood those lessons of history and the various kinds of ‘Internationalisms’ continue to exist.

The Solution of the Vedas & the land

However, we Hindus have a solution to offer. But our solution is not based on materialism. All attempts and experiments made so far were based on theories or ‘isms’ stemming from materialism. And materialism has no answer to the very salient and fundamental question: ‘Why at all should people aspire for world unity and human welfare? Why should they at all feel pained at the sight of man set against man? Why should we at all love each other?’ From the materialistic point of view we are all gross entities, each separate and exclusive in itself, who can have no bonds of mutual affinity or affection. There can also be no inner restraint in such beings which can make them control their selfishness from running amuck, in the interest of the humanity as a whole.

After all, any arrangement evolved for achieving world welfare can be fruitful only to the extent the men behind it are inspired by real love for mankind which will enable them to mould their individual and national conduct in tune with the welfare of humanity. Without that supreme urge, any scheme, however good its purpose may be, will only provide one more alluring mask for the aggrandizement of power-drunk stations. That has been the uniform verdict of history right up to the present times.

The Indian Media

Friends, India needs a free press, or media, in particular the poor of India need it. If public attention cannot be drawn to problems – such as deep alienation of our people in the North East or the plight of the tribal – the problems will not go away, in fact, they will fester and eventually blow up, blowing much of the country with them. Pakistan, Iran and other countries provide the examples.

Who needs a free media India?

The rich and the middle class are well organized and connected, they control and man the state; if the system is close tomorrow it will be closed on their behalf and to their advantage. They do not therefore need a free press as much as the poor do who though so numerous, are unorganized, divided and so manipulated.

The country and the people need a free press even more than they did decades ago – during independence struggle, as other institutions that could ensure accountability – the legislature, the judiciary and so on – have become progressively ineffective.

India is one of the free societies in which free expression and discussion have the opportunity to make a difference. There is scarcely a country outside North America and Western Europe that affords the media man the freedom we enjoy in India.

We often make much more noise about this restriction or that about, about this ‘pressure’ from the government or that but it is only when we encounter evidence of, say, psychiatric hospitals in the former soviet union or when we read Jacob Tiberman’s account of the conditions that an holiest pressman has to contend within Argentina that we get a glimpse of what real restrictions and real pressure mean.

In India by contrast ‘restrictions’ means laws that are in fact helpfully worded, that are in any case not enforced, ‘pressure’ means a telephone call from a more or less fraternal official.

The power of a Journalist a.k.a. Media-man

Journalists or media people have far more power than individuals, far more power to influence events than any other profession.

It is easy to show how powerful the media is:

The Washington Post brought down President Richard Nixon; Indira Gandhi convinced the world’s press to support against Pakistan – in 1971 struggle to free Bangladesh. And it was newspaper coverage of the Bofors Gun Scandal that cost Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, then, his job. Blanket News coverage and, for the first time, graphic color Television pictures of the horrors and cruelty of the war in Vietnam helped bring that to an end – and it was partly West German’s television portrayal of life beyond the communist world – (its broadcast could receive in large parts of the soviet empire) – that caused people of eastern Europe to rise up and end the cold war.

Challenges in National Integration

National Integration remains a crucial issue in India not withstanding the fact that we boast of a civilization, which is nearly 5,000 years old. True, some of these diverse factors may be inherent in the history geography and culture of our country, but there are also forces that accentuate these factors. Religious fundamentalism is one such force while linguistics diversities constitute another. There are people in this country who hold an exclusive view of religion which drives them into sectarian frenzy that does not admit tolerance of other. Despite a shared culture of so many years, linguistics diversities have often generated tensions and conflicts among different communities threatening the fabric of national unity. The same holds good for regionalism exacerbated no doubt by inequitable development amongst different region of this country. All the above forces and factors do pose a challenge to India’s unity and integrity and therefore conscious efforts will have to be made by all concerned to preserve the same.

Press History in India

The printing press arrived in India at Goa by default. It was on its way from Africa, and since missionaries carrying the equipment fell sick the printing press stayed on in Goa.

The launch of James Augustus Hickey’s Bengal Gazette on 29 January 1780 is considered the founding date of newspapers in India.

After the first newspaper was published, many other journals – all British owned – were produced, many of them with official patronage. Some had missionary orientation and were addressed to Indians, thus included publication in Indian languages. Among the missionaries who initiated newspaper publishing, Serampore journals are significant. ‘Dig Darshan’, a monthly Bengali magazine for youth, ‘Samachar Darpan’, a weekly Bengali, and ‘Friend of India’, a monthly in English, have been noted. The missionary character of these magazines is said to have prompted a response and to ‘assert national self-respect’, a few newspapers were published, a move initiated by Raja Ram Mohunroy.

The launch of three journals around 1821, ‘Sambad Kaumudi’ (Bengali), ‘Mirat-Ul-Akbar’ (Persian) and ‘Brahmunical Magazine’ (English) and the context in which they were launched, have earned him the credit of being the ‘Father of Indian Press’. The publications endeavored to counter the tirades of the missionaries and to educate the population about social reforms. There is a consensus that Raja Ram Mohunroy’s publications marked the beginning of Indian Journalism.

  According to Rev. J Long cited in Natarajan, the ‘Kaumudi’ saw the abolition of Sati by Lord Bentik.

The first newspaper, however, ‘Bengal Hurukaru’ which was started in 1836, under the editorship of James Sutherland, is considered as India’s first daily newspaper.

The Death of an Ideology

The question that is raised at the end of almost every seminar, convention or meeting about journalism is: why journalism becomes so insane and ineffectual?

In a scenario where the state has ceased to acquit its bounder duty, where corruption has permeated to every levels and governance has collapsed, where the Legislature is divorced from its basic role and judiciary bursting at the seams with a back log of cases, where Executive is burden on the system, why do topics pertaining to the frivolities of societies take center stage? And when journalism manages somehow or other, to do its job, why is it that its intervention does not bear any fruit?’

Juxtapose scenarios from the years 1947 and 2005, a number of secrets start unfolding. Until 1947, the mere allegation of a MP taking even a modest bribe would swell into a national issue. In 2004-05, the bureaucracy of India is alleged to take astronomical bribes: not a single question is heard in the parliament! How has corruption become so common place, how such a sea-change in the space of decades?

The root cause of change is that ideology has deserted politics completely. When thinking idealism and dreams vanish from politics, it becomes infertile. Indian politics is going through this phase of lack of thought, of sterility, hence is bereft of any initiatives towards change. By itself journalism – or any other profession for that matter – is not powerful enough to re-mould a society. Journalism, at best, can act as a watch dog. But power to bring about a change in society rests only with politics inspired by thinking and principles.

If we want to see how ideology and principles can change a society, we need to go back to the annals of Indian Struggle. The rise of Gandhi metamorphosed an enslaved and illiterate India. Gandhi epitomized a lifestyle, an ideology and a value based political culture. This influence created social servants, each one excelling the other. Gandhian values injected a new strength, aura and energy into all walks of life, be it law, education or journalism.

The period of the freedom struggle is regarded as the golden period of Journalism. The contribution and the sacrifice of the newspaper and magazines of that time are still quoted. A newspaper called ‘Swarajya’ was published at the time. When post of the Editor was advertised, it came with the corollary that only those who were ready to go to the Andaman Jail should apply: Editors of Newspapers were routinely deported to Kalapani. Even so the editors queued up for the job, Ready to go for jail for the sake of their principles and idealism – ready to face the suffering! They were not the ones who wanted to jump on the bandwagon or become MLAs, MPs or Ministers, unlike today.

Gandhian thoughts remained an inspiration long after freedom. But in the 1980s leaders bereft of principles started gaining a foothold. That was a time when Indira Gandhi dismissed corruption as ‘International Tendency’, when the tyranny of the Congress High Command increased and the internal democracy of the party was eclipsed. Institutions suffered a body blow. The tribe of flatterers, brokers and rank opportunists for whom principles and values were mere means to grab power – increased. When such people assumed power, they brought an end to the value based politics. Politics devoid of ideology and leaders switching parties overnight became the order of the day.

It makes me to remember the great words of Benjamin Franklin, who once said:

‘The darkest period in life of a young man comes when he wants to get money without earning it.’

The Current Trend

As of now, the center of attraction is the market and its management philosophers though whose perspectives the world is being explained afresh. Markets, however, take profits as the over-riding factor and this is indifferent to the human needs. What is foremost is the profit or loss of corporate houses because the market is in the grip. Where is common man in such thing?

Today in general the English language press represents the interests of the upper middle class, the ruling elite, the ‘global village’ of the wealthy class. It is the same press that has entrenched the new culture of Page 3 journalism. Fashion, sex, spicy gossip from elite parties, food, entertainment, pictures of half-clad people, the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and these forms the contents of Page 3 – a celebration of the hedonism of the few, which ignores the cruel reality of the deprivation of the many.

Those who sit in the government have either brought or terrorized journalists and newspaper owners into aligning with the system. In his previous term, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav made journalist beholden to him through valuable plots of land and large amounts of cash. This entire list has been made public. Former Supreme Court Judge P. V. Savant did many important things as President of the Press Council. It was during his term that a list was made public of major journalists of the country who for decades have illegally occupied government housing in Delhi. Some even had government residences in their name and rented them out. In the world of journalism there has been no discussion on such serious issues. If journalists and journalism are so open to the influences of money, alcohol and land, how can they possible work for the good of the Nation or National Integration?

This is a major drawback that has to be tackled for the media to be active participants in the National Integration process. Should we fail we might just see that same India which exist when the British East India Company step in this land.

 

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5 thoughts on “The Role of Media in National Integration

  1. Mahesh,
    Very good article as usual Mahesh.
    As Modiji described Cho Ramaswamy as a real writer because he criticizes his own people in case they were wrong. I like the way you have put forward the drawbacks on Indian Journalism plaguing Indian today although you are a part of it. I do agree with you when you say that, it is the middle class and the poor citizens of India who need free press today and not the elite ones.

  2. its stupendous . It wud be more profound if it was critical in its approach to the system of indian i mean hindu knowledge system. Great work :-)

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