This Independence Day, the Modi government made it clear yet again, that in our country, no one except one person has the independence of speaking their ‘Mann ki Baat’. Not even the democratically elected chief minister of a state.
Before Independence Day, DD Tripura had recorded a speech by Manik Sarkar, the Cheif Minister of the state, which was to be telecast on August 15. But a day prior to the scheduled telecast, Prasar Bharti sent a letter to Agartala AIR, stating that the speech was not in keeping with the “sanctity and solemnity attached with the occasion” and that they would be showing the speech only if the CM agrees to reshape it to suit their line.
Before coming to the question as to whether this can be done or not, let’s ask if this is the ‘co-operative federalism’ that our Prime Minister refers to every time he speaks? Because what we see here is not cooperation but an untoward competition taking place.
If anyone would have felt that Manik Sarkar has made any provocative or unconstitutional statement in his speech which infringes upon the Indian Penal Code, then one could have used constitutional provision to take action against him. But what right do the Sarkari Babus, including the CEO of the Prasar Bharti have, to take policy decisions to the extent of trying to censor the head of an elected government?
After this issue emerged in the public domain and questions started to get raised, the government’s first reaction was to deny that any such event has taken place. DD’s Agartala centre station director, Shankar Prasad Mondal, said the Chief Minister’s programme was aired Tuesday evening at 6.15 pm.
Prasar Bharti allegedly had a problem in broadcasting the Tripura CM’s speech, as it contained certain statements which, they felt, were not in keeping with their ideas. The Supreme Court judgement on basis of which the Prasad Bharti was formed clearly read, “It should be operated by a public statutory corporation or corporations, as the case may be, whose constitution and composition must be such as to ensure its/their impartiality in political, economic and social matters and on all other public issues.” So what we see here is not only a violation of that judgement but also a major departure from the basic idea of having a free broadcasting media like the Prasar Bharati. Is it that any voice not falling in line with the dominant narrative will not be allowed to use the common broadcasting infrastructure of this country?
Manik Sarkar is one of the longest-serving chief ministers of India and is accepted across political lines as someone who indubitably epitomizes sense, sanity and honesty in Indian politics. If forces desiring hegemonic control stifles this voice of sanity, then along with it, the silent majority who strive for peace, national unity and harmony in this country are also momentarily stifled. And if they become convinced that the democratic system has become non-functional in this country, that does not bode well for the development of our nation.
There is not much disagreement on the fact that Prasar Bharti’s actions reflect the Central Government’s intentions. So if they cannot accept some of the statements of Manik Sarkar, it means that the government at the centre finds them unacceptable. And what exactly are those statements? They are the ones in which the CM of Tripura had asserted the need to protect the idea of India.
It is outrageous that a bunch of bureaucrats are trying to teach an elected chief minister what is to be said. But what is more alarming is the fact that Prasar Bharti found the CM’s address ‘unacceptable’ which spoke of combating the politics of communal genocide and upholding the secular values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The Modi government not being comfortable with Manik Sarkar’s speech yet again asserts the fact that at present, the Indian Constitution is not in safe hands.
After all, why does the CM of Tripura have to be censored if he speaks of India being a pluralistic and diverse society? What is wrong if a chief minister urges the people of his state to unite and safeguard the secular fabric of the society? Why should a chief minister not say that killing human beings in the name of protecting cows is unacceptable? So if the Central Government thinks that something is wrong in these statements, then it yet again tells the people of India that something is seriously wrong with the Central Government.