Dear Indian masses,
I am your journalism. The so-called ‘good journalism’. Not the ‘bad’ one because only ‘good journalism’ exists. The rest is rhetoric, lies, propaganda and jingoism but not journalism. Although it is a little shameful that I have to prove something that I had never imagined in the remotest of my dreams, I would like to draw your attention to a few things where I have expressed why I am not anti-national. Some lines will be sarcastic, some serious, some sad but not hegemonic. You read, analyse, appreciate and criticise, I won’t mind and detain you. Let me remind you, I am journalism and not your government to do so.
The era of censorship and ban that was associated with me was really disturbing. The day of freedom in India was also my day of liberty from all such hegemonic checks but it took only a few decades for the Indian state to impose a ban on me through the Kashmir Reader, the reason being that I was becoming a force “that could incite violence and disturb public tranquillity.” Trust me, in all these 69 years, I have never seen ‘tranquillity’ among the public of Kashmir. They were always stern on their demand for absolute freedom and the Indian state was always stubborn in repressing their demands. Then the usual curfew, tear gasses, stone pelting, ‘azaadi’ chants, bullet sounds and dead bodies wet with blood. Even if I want to disturb the ‘peace’ of the region, could I even get a little space to do so whose responsibility has been taken by the Indian state and the separatist elements ? What I can do is to broadcast the voices of Kashmiris of all categories: accused, convicted and victimised Kashmiris so that it can reach a broader mass. If truth disturbs the tranquillity, let it be. Today I was exempted from speaking with an excuse of ‘breach of tranqulity’ but in the coming darker days, it might get expanded to ‘trouble to international relations’ and ‘defamation of Ambani’! How can I be an anti-national if I am so concerned about my fellow citizens’ life and rights?
I have been witnessing the birth, growth and struggle of Naxalites. I have seen circumstances that make one a ‘Naxalite’ and the responses of state mechanisms to it in various times. Wherever I have praised the state’s effort to bring back the Naxalites into the mainstream and rehabilitate them, I have also raised bold questions of state butchering innocent tribal boys and girls in the name of ‘Naxalites’. My habit of demonstrating the truth has forced me to capture the injustice prevailing in remote tribal lands with my camera and pen down innumerable stories of tribesmen suffering. There were instances in recent past where policeman were accused of burning around 160 homes, destroying effigies and reports gathered by activists working for the tribals. I reported as it’s my duty to do so but an entire nation held me ‘ignorant’ about the national interest of the country and hence termed me an ‘anti-national’, ‘Naxalite sympathiser’, ‘presstitute’ and what not! This is while tribals have been thrashed out of their lands and work as labourers in their own natural resources. More than a hundred kids in Malkangiri have lost their life to Japanese encephalitis in the last two months. 17000 people from different tribal communities have lost their life due to malnutrition in Maharashtra and again a handful of industrialists with records of exploiting natural resources have made it to many lists of worlds’ wealthiest personalities. Now tell me, what is our ‘national interest’; clapping and welcoming these industrialists or at least showing a little concern to the interests of the tribesman? I fearlessly say that I stand with the latter and that doesn’t make me an anti-national. Just like interviewing the prime minister doesn’t make me the head of the government, similarly questioning the atrocities of security personnel and police against tribals doesn’t make me a Naxalite.
Let me remind you that I am proud of our brave army personnel who didn’t hesitate to be posted in areas such as Siachen but I have raised questions against the policies of the government which award babus working in Guwahati with a special ‘hardship allowance’ of Rs. 71,000 against a mere Rs. 31,000 which our soldiers get when posted in Siachen in the name of the same ‘hardship allowance’. I have raised the slogans with you of ‘jai jawan’ when our soldiers turn into ‘martyrs’ but I have not forgotten to raise the same slogans as vociferously as earlier when an ex-army man took his own life for the delay committed by the government to implement OROP. Similarly, from my newsroom debates and columns, I have not alienated the voices of families of farmers who committed suicide in the past just for a minimal amount of money. I confess that I have participated in rallies organised by political parties in different maidans against some of the draconian policies of the government but have also criticised the opposition for becoming an unwanted barrier against the developmental agenda of the government. How have I become an ‘anti-national pressitute’ in doing so?
Finally, let me confess fearlessly that I have covered the atrocities against Dalits on a day to day basis; be it rapes, molestation, forced labour, castrations, murders or stories of manual scavenging. I have held several saffron groups responsible for taking the form of ‘gau rakshaks’ in midnight and ‘cow suppliers’ in broad daylight. I have uncovered the hidden political agenda of all the communal forces and I will continue to do so that in future despite getting an ‘anti-national’ tag. I am democratic in spirit and I celebrate it because that’s what has been taught to us.
My name is journalism and I am not anti-national.