Monday, 19 October 2015



Returning of Award by awardees in recent times has raised few questions in my mind and I wish to share it with you, maybe I will be able to find the answers with your help.

The Sahitya Akademy was formally inaugurated on 12th March 1954. Though the Akademi was set up by the Government, it functions as an autonomous organization. It is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The Akademi gives 24 awards annually to literary works in the languages it has recognized. It also gives 24 awards to literary translations from and into the languages of India. As per the information provided by the Akademi, these Awards are given after a year-long process of scrutiny, discussion and selection.[i]

Before discussing the subject we must understand that an award is a prize or other reward that is given to someone who has achieved something.[ii] In a layman’s language, an award is something given to a person to recognize his/her excellence in a certain field; it is a certificate of excellence.

The Sahitya Akademi Award (hereinafter referred to as ‘Award’) is a prestigious national award having its own popularity & stature in the field of literature. Writers from different languages, regions and economic backgrounds put in their days & nights to carve out a niche for themselves in the field of literature, in their respective languages, to achieve this prestigious Award. This Award has been the source of motivation for people involved in literary activities since its inception. When we say ‘motivation’, people try to achieve the standard which qualifies them for this Award.

This sudden wave of returning the Award arose after an inhuman incidence which took place in Dadri, U.P. wherein a man from Muslim community was lynched to death by an unruly mob. There is no doubt that the incidence was unacceptable and that the people involved in the crime should be severely punished. There have been protests across the country regarding the incidence in different manners but the mode of protest chosen by these writers is strange. The primary reason given by these writers for returning the Awards has been to protest against the Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under whom they believe that an atmosphere of intolerance has been created within the country. Alternatively in their views, it can be said that PM Narendra Modi is solely responsible for Dadri and likewise incidences throughout the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kutch to Anjaw in Arunachal.

On the other hand, fingers have been raised upon these writers by Mr. Arun Jaitley. According to him large number of these writers have inclination towards Left or Nehruvian thinking who have been recognized by the previous Governments and have enjoyed their patronage. Such writers are now uncomfortable with the present government. Hence, these writers are the part of ‘a manufactured revolt’ against the Central Government. He further alleges that this manufactured revolt is a case of an ideological intolerance towards BJP. In his words –

“With Congress showing no signs of revival and an insignificant Left lacking legislative relevance, the recipients of past patronage are now resorting to “politics by other means”. The manufactured protest of the writers is one such case.”

If the writers want me to pay attention to their cause, as a neutral party I must also heed what Mr. Arun Jaitley is saying. If I am being compelled to believe, by the whole episode, that there is indeed an atmosphere of intolerance in the country induced by PM Modi, I must also hear what the accused has to say on the issue.  By his allegations Mr. Arun Jaitley clearly means that Awards are being returned with mala fide intention, in favor of Congress and Left parties. He also means in my view that the Awards were conferred upon these writers as a consequence of their lobbying and due to their loyalty towards the previous governments.

The timing and mode of protest of these writers make their conduct questionable and indeed it seems to be inclined towards a specific political ideology with so many unanswered questions floating in public domain.

There’s an old saying - ‘PEN is mightier than Sword’. The best way to protest against the Dadri Lynching would have been to protest by “Writing”, but they chose to ignore their own core competency. Whatsoever be the outcome and consequence of this entire episode, it is only ‘Literature’ which will bear the brunt of this irresponsible behavior of these writers in the long run.

Having discussed the issue at length, here are my 25 QUESTIONS to the writers who have returned their Award:-

  1. If PM is solely responsible for all the incidences that take place anywhere in India then why PM Modi should be blamed for Gujarat riots that took place when he was CM of the State? If Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Congress CM of Karnataka is exempted from ownership of what happens in their State, why differential treatment with CM hailing from BJP ruled States by these writers? 
  1. I wish to understand the reason why these writers chose not to return the Award during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime when Gujarat riots took place. Was situation in Gujarat (in 2002) WITHIN the PERMISSIBLE LIMIT of tolerance for these Sahitya Akademi Awardees?
  1. Why didn’t these writers return the Award after the Muzaffarnagar riots? Congress led UPA Government was at the Center and the same Akhilesh Yadav Government was ruling State. Did these writers feel that the law and order was a STATE SUBJECT during the Muzaffarnagar riots and NOW it is the responsibility of the Center? 
  1. Why awards were NOT returned when Babri masjid was demolished or when FATWA curtailing the freedom of writers were issued by clerics from time to time?
  1. Killing is killing but when the writers feel that religion specific killing is more horrific, were Hindus and Jews not purposefully targeted in 26/11, in this country itself? Why didn’t these writers return their awards protesting against Maharashtra government as well as the Central Government? Wasn’t it the failure of the State and the Central Governments, both led by the Congress Party? Do they place one religion above another?
  1. Why didn’t their conscious wake up when Mr. N. Dabholkar, a rationalist was murdered in the Congress ruled Government of Maharashtra?
  1. Why didn’t they protest when a Hindu journalist was burnt to death in UP wherein a minister from the ruling party of the State was accused for the incidence? Where these writers were when the family of the deceased was running from pillars to post demanding CBI enquiry and the same UP government did nothing, leave alone compensating with flats and 4.5 million rupees?
  1. How many of these writers have protested against Mr. Azam Khan’s communal statements which was even opposed by politicians like Owaisi? Is Mr. Azam Khan’s statements in view of these writers creating an environment of communal harmony? I hope they do not hold PM Modi responsible for what Azam Khan speaks and does.
  1. What is the criteria of assessing the involvement of a Prime Minister in local incidences that happen in a remote village somewhere in India? Only because I feel warm in winters doesn’t mean the season has changed its pattern?
  1. What have these writers achieved by returning the Award? They must give a clear answer!
  1. Do these writers consider themselves above the Award conferred to them?
  1. Should not there be a punishment for insulting an Award in larger interest of development in the field of literature, as such acts erode the respect of the acknowledgment someone else works, dreams and longs for?
  1. Do these writers have a grudge against the Sahitya Akademi Society and Dadri and likewise incidences are just an excuse? Why these writers are focusing on Sahitya Akademi Awards only?
  1. How do these writers expect us to appreciate the credibility of the Award which is being returned by them? In other words, if the writers themselves don’t have respect for the Award then why should we give respect to the same?
  1. Will these writers take back their Awards after the tenure of the Modi Government is over at the Center?
  1. How do these writers think that by returning the Award given to them by the previous governments will impact the credibility of Modi government?
  1. Do these writers realize that the consequence of ridiculing the Award will deeply affect the dignity of the writers who have earned these Awards on merits?
  1. Do these writers want that no Award shall be given for literary work during the tenure of the Modi Government or do these writers want the Sahitya Akademi to close forever?
  1. Even if we agree for a moment that an atmosphere of intolerance has been created by the Modi government, then isn’t the returning of the Awards by the writers reflecting the level of intolerance on their part?
  1. Shouldn’t these writers be non-aligned with political parties and use their skills for the betterment of the society? Have they lost faith in their Pen?
  1. If Anna Hazare can peacefully protest for a cause and create a mass movement of ‘India Against Corruption’ then why couldn’t these writers come together and protest by means of ‘Dharna’ for their cause rather than by returning the Award? This would have reflected their tolerance & patience and would encourage the democratic method of protesting within the country.
  1. What made these writers believe that the only method for protesting available to them was to return the Award, that too partially?
  1. Will the Award equally motivate people in years to come?
  1. Has the Award not lost its charm and credibility? I ask so because now this can be compared to the situation wherein people’s interest in watching cricket matches took a nose dive after knowing about ‘Match-Fixing’ incidences. We all are aware of the Indian Premier League (IPL) scam and how IPL has lost its credentials in recent times, evident by withdrawal of sponsorship by Pepsi. Similarly, it can also be compared to the recent ‘Vyapam Scam’ wherein even the students selected on merits are looked upon suspiciously.
  1. Since an Award is recognition of merit, honoring an award is no different than respecting oneself. Should not these writers respect at least their own dignity?
If the abovementioned questions go unanswered, we should have no hesitation in saying that writers who have returned the Award have set a new benchmark of HYPOCRISY.

[ii] MacMillan Dictionary

Monday, 12 October 2015

The falling fourth pillar of Indian Democracy

The falling fourth pillar of Indian Democracy

While browsing through the social media sites, I came across a trend #iStandWithRavishKumar  which made me curious to know as to what happened that people had to rise up for Mr. Ravish Kumar, a media personality currently associated with one of the leading media company of our country. What took me by surprise is that Mr. Ravish Kumar had informed his followers that he will be away from the social media sites for a while & the innocent followers were of the view that he is taking a sabbatical because of the trolls who might be abusing him or questioning him on his posts and views. However, the reason as per my understanding is different and more alarming.

Before going into the depth of the reason I would like to mention that there is a huge responsibility upon the media personalities as they are the torch bearers of the fourth pillar of Indian Democracy and the harbingers of the freedom of speech and expression. A time comes when such media personalities become so popular that people look forward to imitate, follow and believe in what they say and present. Hence, it is of utmost importance for such people to be crystal clear in their day to day life and practice what they preach. 

“Freedom of Speech & Expression” is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a)[i] bestowed upon every citizen of our country by the Constitution of India and in present scenario, electronic media is the most important harbour of this fundamental right. Freedom of press has always been a priced possession of democracy across the world. Talking about the freedom of press, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once stated that "I would rather have a completely free press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated press"[ii]. Even the Hon’ble Supreme Court through its judgments from time to time has reinstated the freedom of press and affirmed its view that there could not be any kind of restriction on the freedom of speech and expression other than those mentioned in Article 19(2)[iii].

All of you will agree that with every right comes a responsibility. Rights and responsibilities are inseparable. If there is freedom without responsibility then that’s anarchy and anarchy is intolerable to democracy.

Talking about democracy, it has always been heard from political scientists, social activists, leaders and political experts that there are four pillars of democracy viz. Judiciary, Executive, Legislative and the Media. While the first three pillars functioning on their assigned objectives can be biased on one occasion or the other, the media is expected to be neutral and without any influence of the other three pillars. It’s the media which is the mouth, ear and eye of democracy which keeps a vigilance on the first three pillars and also becomes the voice of the people when required. In other words, media acts as a watchdog for democracy. I think that’s how people perceive and expect the media to be. Isn’t it?

Though ‘Media’ is either associated with the communication media or the specialized communication businesses such as print media and the press, photography, advertising, cinema, broadcasting (radio & television) and/or publishing but the point of focus by the word ‘Media’ has always been related to the ‘News Channels’ in common parlance. The reason being that it’s the most important medium of communication and tool for dissemination of information. With the advent of electronic media, information is transferred across the globe within seconds. Hence, the responsibility of media & associated personalities increases manifold.

The media not only provides facts but also gives interpretations to facts, statements and opinions. It is the media which proliferates ideas and ideologies. Media plays a vital role in shaping the opinion of the society and is capable of changing the whole viewpoint through which people perceive various issues. A recent example of changing the viewpoint can be taken from the movie “Talvar” directed by Meghana Gulzar. We all had followed the infamous “Arushi murder case” and prior to the movie, people were of the view that the Talwar couple had murdered their child but the movie portrays otherwise. The consequence is that the people who have watched the movie now believe that the parents of Arushi Talwar are innocent and are wrongly put behind bars. Consequently, an online petition has been making the rounds on social media for a signature campaign to fast-track the Arushi-Hemraj double murder case. This is the power of the media. Literally speaking, media governs the direction of our society today. Opinions can change overnight and iconic figures can be ridiculed and infamous with just a single wave of the media. Off late, media trial has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons such as the Delhi’s Jasleen Kaur-Sarvjeet Singh case and the Rohtak Sisters case.

In the words of Malcolm X, an American Muslim leader & a renowned human rights activist –

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

I would like to take his quote a step ahead and say that in recent times media personalities & specially the electronic media personalities have become the most powerful persons because they are the ones who can affect the thinking process of individuals and mould them as per their wishes because they have the power to present the facts or hide the same, whichever is most suitable to them. They can portray and present an ordinary incidence in such a manner that can force people to think in an adverse manner & hence, riots can be instigated. On the other hand, if they want they can manage to hide or keep under covers the most heinous crimes and incidences to which the people will never come to know publicly as the same will never be broadcasted or printed.

Having discussed about the power of media and its personalities at length, I would now come straight to the point which propelled me to write this article.

We have been watching Mr. Ravish Kumar for long and I have no hesitation in saying that he has a soft corner for the Congress party and its spokespersons on his primetime shows. I do not have any issues with his penchant for Congress party but the problem arises when he uses the electronic media to propagate or impose his views on the viewers and simultaneously emulates himself to be a saint who is unbiased & neutral towards political parties who is presenting the truth to the viewers of his show.

The reason behind the so called sabbatical of Mr. Ravish Kumar from the social media sites is that his own brother Mr. Brajesh Kumar Pandey is contesting the Bihar Elections from Govindganj Constituency of East Champaran on the Congress Party ticket and in the garb of journalism he is campaigning for Mahagathbandhan of Mr. Lalu Prasad and Mr. Nitish kumar, which is in alliance with INC.

Surprised! Aren’t you?

Yes! You have read it correctly. Mr. Brajesh Kumar Pandey is the real brother of Mr. Ravish Kumar who does not use Pandey but “Kumar” as his last name. Now, the question arising in your mind is – “What’s the big deal? Everybody has a right to contest elections? Why can’t his brother?” I totally agree with you but the issue arises when you come to know that his brother is unknown in field of politics or even in the field of social work in the constituency. Mr. Jai Prakash Pandey has been the veteran Congress Party candidate for that constituency and has devoted his whole life holding the flag of the Congress party through thick and thin. However, he was deprived of the party ticket and the Congress Party gave the ticket to a person who is known in the local area only as the “brother” of Mr. Ravish Kumar, that too these days.

What was the reason for the Congress party to giveg Mr. Brajesh Kumar Pandey the ticket by surpassing the candidature of a veteran congress leader of the constituency? Will Mr. Ravish Kumar answer? No, because he doesn’t have any answer to this question. The truth is bitter for him to swallow and so he thought it better to leave the social media for a short time, until the Bihar Assembly Elections are over. A very smart move by a man in disguise and then you have his innocent followers taking a stand and abusing the so called manipulated trolls which is just an hallucination created by his silence over the comments of his followers.

After revelation of the facts, one can easily correlate how Mr. Ravish Kumar has been preparing himself since years by favouring the Congress Party to obtain the party ticket for his brother. I know, many of you will be thinking that why didn’t he plunge in himself on the party ticket? Let us guess. May be he learnt this lesson from his media colleague, Mr. Ashutosh who is now jobless after losing the Lok Sabha elections or maybe he is eying for a Rajya Sabha seat in the near future with his complete dedication to the Congress Party or may be his interests will be served if his brother wins the Assembly election from Govindganj. However, these are just guesses. Mr. Ravish Kumar will be the best person to answer these questions and through my article I ask him to reply and answer these questions directly to his followers. If he is so innocent that his followers are trending #iStandWithRavishKumar on social media sites then it is his duty to answer these questions at the earliest and before the Govindganj constituency elections which are scheduled to be held on 1st November, 2015.

This reminds me of another infamous “Krantikari…bahut krantikari” incidence of Mr. Punya Prasoon Bajpayee wherein he was caught red handed discussing how the interview would be used to benefit Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, at fag end of the interview on AAJTAK news channel before the Delhi elections.

What is alarming is the fact that such media personalities are misusing the power of media for their personal gains and thereby damaging the fourth pillar of democracy. Due to such incidences being revealed on regular intervals, it is getting difficult day by day to believe the news being broadcast on the news channels. There is always a doubt that there is another side of the story being presented which might get revealed after such a long time that the truth becomes toothless and the irreversible gains already made by the media personalities.

Since, News channels and associated media personalities have immense influence on the masses, there should be transparency in their conduct. It’s time that either these media personalities representing various news channels take the responsibility of protecting the fourth pillar of democracy or leave this pious profession and give way to the people who are willing to take this responsibility on their shoulders. Also, now it’s imperative that there should be a code of professional ethics to keep a check on the News channels and associated media personalities/houses so that they are accountable to the people.


[i] Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution states that ‘all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
[ii] (See D.R. Mankekar: The Press under Pressure (1973) p. 25)
[iii] Article 19(2) - Nothing in sub clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) of Article 19 shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.