The shocking aspect is that this wasn’t done by some extremist far-right outfit but by the authorities.
Two disquieting events have attended the celebration of the 70th anniversary of our independence. It is a disturbing thought that after as long as seven decades of attempted democratic practice, the Indian State can exhibit regressive tendencies that may potentially undermine democracy itself and place us in peril as a people in search of equality, prosperity and at peace with ourselves.
In Tripura, All India Radio and Doordarshan blacked out the speech of chief minister Manik Sarkar addressed to the state’s people, which the broadcasters had recorded. And, in Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government instructed madrasas (Islamic seminaries) to videograph the observance of Independence Day and send the tapes to the authorities, leading to the inference that Muslims were required to establish their credentials as patriotic Indians. The shocking aspect is that this wasn’t done by some extremist far-right outfit but by the authorities.On the face of it, Prasar Bharti, which was created by an Act of Parliament in 1997 to be a public broadcaster and runs AIR and DD, as well as the UP government, can be taken to court for actions that impair and threaten our constitutional order. The Tripura CM is no rookie, irresponsible politician. He also has a reputation to be a man of uncommon rectitude. It is unthinkable he would have said anything in his speech that should not to be said in public or that would not enhance the quality of understanding of the present to his viewers and listeners. In any case, it’s not Prasar Bharti’s place to black out a state’s elected leader. The public broadcaster has long ceased to be an arm of the government. Indeed, it was taken out of government control precisely in order to stop officialdom from exerting pernicious pressures of the kind brought to bear on the Tripura CM - in short, to stop India becoming an authoritarian single-party state-type system.
Under the Prasar Bharti Act, the Centre may issue directions to the corporation if the sovereignty, unity or integrity of India are involved, or in the interests of the preservation of public order. All India Radio and DD haven’t made out any such case. Reportedly, they just asked the chief minister to have his speech “reshaped”. As Mr Sarkar has noted, the broadcasters’ action was “unprecedented, undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant”. The Uttar Pradesh matter is particularly reprehensible as it seeks to extend the politics inherent in cow vigilantism by other means - in short, to demonise the minorities as anti-national elements on the anniversary of our independence. Some madrasas did fall in line and some didn’t, but what’s questionable is the issuing of instructions that potentially create disaffection among a section of society.