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The Curious Case Of Varun Gandhi, IPL And The Media: A Tale Of Corruption And Negligence

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By Riya Rana:

May 16 must have been a lucky day for the BJP, and its young leader Varun Gandhi. The IPL spot fixing scandal had just broken loose. All the media channels had promptly forgotten events of the day before, with Sreesanth and two other players of the Rajasthan Royals getting arrested. What followed was a circus, going on even now. Mainstream media has been relaying IPL-related news for hours and hours, with each headline trying to beat the other in terms of ‘sensationalism’. The IPL fiasco further revealed many more arrests, accusations and investigations- keenly shown by the media, down to the minute details. Cricket fans have been betrayed and don’t mind the amount of attention given to it.

varun gandhiIPL is a game for the rich, and comes under the category of pure entertainment. It is a huge rainbow of players, cheerleaders, partying, exuberance, leisure and scandals. It has been highlighted way due its prominence. One thinks- What about issues more relevant to the country? IPL, no matter what, is still sport-based. Solely focusing on money-games played by the upper class and neglecting graver issues haunting our country is a clear indication of our misplaced priorities. You might wonder where Varun Gandhi comes into the equation. Here is a little background on his case:

In 2009, Varun Gandhi was contesting an election in the Pilibhit district. He already had a criminal case filed against him. He had believed that his mother Maneka Gandhi had strong influence and hence people would vote for him, trusting his dynasty. But that was not the case. Three of the five Assembly seats of Pilibhit had Muslim MLAs whereas the population of Muslims in the region was only 35%. Considering this, Varun grabbed the opportunity to hit gold by inciting communal hatred. He made hate speeches against the Muslims- by spreading rumours amongst the Hindus. His actions were recorded and watched later on TV by millions. He was charged for rioting, damaging public property, attempt to murder and even jailed for 20 days.

Fast forward to 2013.

Varun Gandhi was recently promoted to General Secretary of BJP, the youngest ever to achieve so. Also he had been exonerated of all charges, on the grounds of ‘insufficient evidence’. Two months later, Tehelka runs a sting and exposes shocking facts. All of the 88 witnesses were forced to turn hostile (anyone having Jessica Lal murder- déjà vu?). Tehelka has alleged Gandhi had “indulged in anti-party activities, deliberately making his own party candidate lose an Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, so that a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader sympathetic to him could win and help him fix the cases against him”.

May 15 was the day of ‘Varun Gandhi expose’ but on May 16 it was dethroned by the IPL case. The media had found fodder but swiftly moved to greener pastures. Not even 24 hours was dedicated to its coverage. Is mainstream media only dedicated to stings and breaking news? Are ethics forgotten in the light of success? Does getting higher TRP mean losing out on professionalism? What should have been a 5-minute segment is turned into an hour’s replay of a match. But important cases are ignored- A case where justice is screwed according to a politician’s will, our justice providers become negligent, politicians go to any immoral lengths to save themselves, politicians who form policies for the junta refuse to follow it themselves cause it’s an inconvenience, and the welfare of people is forgotten for the benefit of a single politician.

One could go even deeper and claim that Varun Gandhi silenced the system. Mainstream media might have been pressurised (or even bribed) to save his name, in light of the coming general elections in 2014. Public memory tends to fade fast. And with hardly any focus on him, Gandhi might be able to elevate himself as he previously did (despite of the charges, he won the parliamentary seat for Pilibhit). With such disregard shown, it’s not hard to imagine a corrupt criminal running the country eventually, all order turning into chaos.

We rely on the media for providing us with unaltered news (and entertainment). We don’t watch the news just to be sensationalised. We already have our TV serials for that. Our legal system is getting worse, and so are the politicians. The media could be our saviour, because without them we would always be ignorant of the wrongdoings in the world. They need to pull up their socks and act responsibly, show resistance to corruption, stop focusing on rubbish and remember their true reasons for existence.

You must be to comment.
  1. M.K.baxi

    Shall appreciate neutral reporting. Your sole intention seems to run down BJP. Write about how muslim leaders in kashmir are blantantly anti-Indian or about that chap in Hyderabad promising to annihilate all hindus in 15 minutes then only one shall believe your credentials.

    1. riya rana

      Thank you for the feedback. But no, my intention was not to run down BJP (or any other political party for that matter). Facts about the Varun Gandhi case and its repercussions were reported. How BJP’s image is affected, kashmir’s muslim leaders etc are different topics altogether. You seem to have misconstrued the focus of the article- which was on how such a huge issue was ignored, in the light of the IPL fiasco.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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