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Media on trial: India's love affair with trivia is dangerous

Bikram Vohra
Filed on September 9, 2020

(Reuters)

In later years social anthropologists will speak of an India whose intellectual synapses were singed to a crisp by a cacophony of noise in a script dictated by the lowest common denominator

India's current affection for trivia is best expressed in its morbid fascination with the film actor Sushant Singh's murder oblique suicide. This unhealthy trend emphasised by a lower and lower middle class society being allowed entry via cheap and affordable audio-visual options into high society has now reached a pathetic crescendo. In later years social anthropologists will liken it to Nero fiddling while Rome burned. They will speak of an India whose intellectual synapses were singed to a crisp by a cacophony of noise in a script dictated by the lowest common denominator. It will also speak of how a nation of 1.3 billion people in which the majority have been sidelined by poverty and denial for centuries are now easy prey for a brainwashing by liquid sleaze.

How else will you explain that the screaming madness over this case totally eclipses the 90,000-odd cases of Covid every day and the act that India is fast tracking to become the worst-hit nation in the world. The caring has slipped greasily and there is no pressure from the public to do anything about it. As social distancing and the wearing of the mask become a laughable addiction more to be mocked at than taken seriously, the numbers cross four million and at this rate should double by the end of next month.

As popular media's banshee call for revenge and retribution make a large swathe of society feel good about their grey lives (nice to see someone else being railroaded), the sponsorship of such drivel rises like a toxic tide thereby ensuring that even the commercial world has no qualms about endorsing cerebral sludge so far as the TRPs stay buoyant.

The Indian economy is dropping like a stone from a cliff, over 120 million have lost their jobs this year, the professional cadres are frosted, the medical frontliners are hugely stretched, and yet these issues are not put on the front burner.

On this canvas there is an even more searing dragon breathing fire. The fact that India could well be facing something more dire than a skirmish with China is given short shrift and still responded to as a threat by flinging self-serving clichés. That think tanks have even indicated to make itself relevant once again and sidetrack the convulsions within her borders, it suits China to engage in a protracted conflict with India. At least three weeks. As the political firmament attempts to plug the leaks in this not so happy relationship the chest thumping bravado is not a defence. While India might be strong on supply lines and a road network that is a construction miracle and her soldiers sculpted in unalloyed courage years of neglect have left her armament and her gunnery weak and suspect. Yes, India's weaponry and her arsenal are not enough to take on an army of 2.8 million soldiers serving the state.

Much the same bravura marked the 1962 war where misplaced jingoism, a false premise of abundance as against the reality where troops in T-shirts and vests with .303 obsolete weapons that froze in the icy temperatures were literally drowned in wave after wave of Chinese foot soldiers.
It all began in a military garrison town called Ambala when India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's favourite son and fellow Kashmiri, Lt Gen BM Kaul, then commanding the legendary 4 Infantry Division invited Chinese premier Chou En Lai to inaugurate a military housing project called Amar. At the railway station that morning in 1958, the slogan Hindi-Chini bhai bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers) was given birth and shouted out lustily by schoolchildren.

As the friendship grew Kaul had the ambitious overreach to take over from an agreeable Nehru and run the country. His idea mushroomed into a decision to engage in conflict with China in the Jalep La and Nathu La areas as well as Aksai Chin and come out heroic. Somewhere along the way things got snarled up and Indian troops went a bridge too far. Brigadier Jai Dalvi called it the Himalayan Blunder. With India on the back foot and her troops still bravely fighting rearguard against fearful odds, Kaul's gambit failed.

Has a lesson been learnt from that six-decade-old blood-soaked escapade? Of course Indian troops are way better inoculated against the cold and relatively better armed. But there is little refuge in repeating the mantra that this is not 1962.

India has to wake up and get ready for any eventuality and her media if it must engage in trials must now try itself for a dereliction of duty. -bikram@khaleejtimes.com 

 


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