My Experience At ‘The Democracy Wall Organized By The Print
On 27th September 2019, The Print, which is a well-known media house, organised an event which is popularly known as “The Democracy Wall” at Amity University, Mumbai. Imminent personalities such as Shekhar Gupta, a well-known journalist as well editor-in-chief of The Print, Priyanka Chaturvedi, a former Congress national spokesperson and currently a deputy leader of Shiv-Sena, and known Bollywood actress, Tisca Chopra attended this event. This event was organised not in a seminar format, but a conversation between the speaker and the audience.
The program started with Yatin Shah, the executive of IIFL wealth and asset management. He started the program by sharing his academic and professional experiences in the financial corporate world, his technique of surviving the 2008 financial crisis and his technique of investing in the stock market, which many students found beneficial, especially those who were pursuing a business degree.
It then progressed to the performance of a stand-up comedian, Srijan Kaushik, who entertained the audience with his acts. After the brilliant performance, Shekhar Gupta took charge of the event and stated that he will be directly taking questions from the audience instead. The floor was opened for the audience to ask questions. I took this opportunity to ask Shekhar Gupta how the media channels can protect their freedom to practice their profession. He replied, that it is better not to confuse media channels with journalism; media channels are there to do business. He also used a specific term “Raavan channels” for the media and, also acknowledged the fact that the media is going through a crisis because nowadays, people watch news channels for entertainment and not to gather information. He further stated how there are still some media channels that are committed to honest journalism and bringing the true picture in front of people.
Some Mass Communication students asked questions regarding a recent case in Uttar Pradesh, where a journalist was jailed for exposing irregularities. Shekhar Gupta replied saying, “It is true that the government at present is autocratic, but the journalists are skilled enough to not succumb to the pressure from government”. On being asked whether India is still democratic, he said that “although the democracy has not been perfect, and there are many challenges, but the corrective measures will come from within the democracy”. He also stated that “the fact that we are able to talk about these things here indicates that everything is still not over.”
Following the session with Shekhar Gupta, the program continued with Priyanka Chaturvedi taking the stage. In her opening remarks, she stated that it is very important to have a strong opposition and, unfortunately, Congress has surrendered. When the floor was open for questions, I again took the opportunity to raise a question regarding the reasons for the Congress rout during the 2014 National elections, followed by the 2015 Delhi elections (where Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party came in power). I also asked, after seeing the performance of a third party like AAP, is it possible that the people might want to see a non-BJP, non-Congress led Government at the centre? To this, she replied, “The main reasons for the Congress rout was the communication process, where Congress could not connect with the voters, as opposed to candidates from BJP and even AAP”. To my second question, she said that “It is quite a possibility that a non-Congress or non-BJP led government may come at the centre, but, in the current horizon, I do not see that happening”.
Following this, an interesting question was raised, where one of the students asked whether the government should interfere in religion. Priyanka remarked that “politics is also a religion in India, so it would be immature to say that the two fronts cannot be reconciled”. On being asked about her views on the recent situation in Kashmir, she stated that she stands in solidarity with the people of Kashmir and it would be resolved in a peaceful manner.
The program also consisted of a session with the well known Bollywood personality Tisca Chopra, where she discussed her experiences in the film industry and topics of present relevance. She also discussed her recent projects and was also being praised by the students for her role in the web series Hostage. A topic of relevance that was also discussed was the MeToo movement that brought a lot of Bollywood in the spotlight. One student said that although we can criticise scenes where the male character slaps the female character, (referring to a scene in Kabir Singh), it can also be said that the filmmaker intended to show the reality persisting in our society, because we cannot deny the fact that such people are present in our civil society. To this, Tisca Chopra replied that “if we want to see the reality on screen, then it is better to know that the reality is way harsher, darker as well as terrible”.
Following these sessions, the program was concluded by a brilliant performance by the rapper Slowcheeta.