A lot has been said about the role of the media in covering the Mumbai terror attacks. And the government has often been criticised for colossal failure. But, we need to take a step back from the blame game and think. Who is responsible for the current state of affairs?
First, the government. Over the past few days, I have heard many people tell me, time and again, that we need a strong government that will impose emergency. We need someone like Indira Gandhi. Do we really? Think about it? Many of us were not even born at the time of the Emergency in 1977. But, ask your parents and grandparents. Would they like to go back to a time when banks were nationalised, IBM and Coca-Cola were thrown out, and unmarried young men were forcibly sterilised to meet some quota? Are we, as a people, willing to give up our liberty and right to free speech in exchange for security? Let me tell you. I am not. I would rather die free than live a long and bonded life. Yes, everything is not right in India. Yes, the government is weak. Yes, we have a lame-duck Prime Minister who listen to high command at 10, Janpath. But, at least he is an elected representative. Let us not forget that his faults are not his alone. Who is responsible? We. We elected him right? We elected the government. We are responsible for the government we have. In a democracy, people get the government they deserve. And we are a democracy. I would rather India remain that way.
Next, the media. The way the media behaved was unpardonable. This article by Barkha Dutt hits the nail on the head. In trying to justify the media’s actions, she actually exposes the real motives behind their actions. The viewer is king, she says. So, what the public wants they will give. This is pure and simple commerce. With no sense of responsibility, they cater to the whims of the market. For all they want are TRPs. The coverage of the attacks were simply irresponsible and reprehensible. There are no two ways about it. Whether the likes of rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt accept it or not, the media has lost its credibility and given in to sensationalism of the worst kind.
That said, I still stand by the right to free speech. However much we may want to censor and control, it is not the way to go. We need to give space to differing opinions. We need to encourage free thinking. And most of all, we need to stand by our democracy in the worst of times. Only then, will we survive the threat.