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Idiot Box To ‘Fascist’ Box: Mainstream Media’s Progression Over The Years

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Television has often been christened as the “idiot box” due to its ability to destroy creativity, suspend critical thinking, and alienating human beings from their material conditions and their social, interpersonal relationships. However, from what has been collectively witnessed for the past month or so, television (and mass media in general) has become what we can only call the “fascist box”.

However, contrary to what some people believe, this is no sudden change or a change as a result of the BJP being in power for the past six years. No development or change happens suddenly, they do not fall out of the sky. In reality, the basis for the Indian media acting as a distractor serves a very distinct and definitive purpose: to make us forget the sorry state in which our country is in and prevent us from asking the right kind of questions that may jeopardise BJP’s grip on power and the ruling class’ ability to hold on to its political power.

a camera recording in a tv studio
Representational image.

Communist revolutionaries throughout history have always characterized the State as an instrument of class rule. This essentially means that a social class in control of the state and its machinery is able to suppress and repress members of the social class that stand in its direct antagonism. Such acts of suppression and repression could be violent and could be ideological.

While the police and Army have been historically responsible for violently repressing the working class and peasantry, it is the media that usually does the job of ideologically restricting our thoughts and intellects into believing that there is no possible alternative to the status quo.

In India, media ownership is of two types. The first types are those media houses that are owned by the Indian State and its government. The second type is those media houses that are owned and operated by corporates that are also owned by members of the Indian State’s ruling class. Although they usually operate separately to give an illusion of being different from each other in their operations and interests, in reality, they act and cooperate closely together to ensure that the masses always remain within the ideological orbit of the ruling classes.

remote pointing to the tv screen
Representational image.

The only change that has come to this seven-decade-old arrangement is that now there remains no superficial difference between the media outlets of the Indian State and the media outlets belonging to corporates since the policy of the BJP has ensured that both bleed into each other.

However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in India and the disastrous response by the BJP government at the Centre has made the position of the Indian ruling classes untenable. Considering that the anger and opposition towards the Citizenship Amendment Act have not yet dissipated, which was followed by the unplanned series of responses to the pandemic that cost us the economy and more than 70,000 deaths, it is sufficiently inevitable for people to get angry and wonder about their relationship to the State.

Fortunately for the ruling classes and the BJP, the very sudden suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput became an opportunity to divert attention away from the fragile condition of our country and its people. Such techniques often have a high degree of success as now Indians are more worried about Rhea Chakraborty getting bail than worrying about the certain recession and impending depression of the Indian economy. All of a sudden, Indians have become vocal champions of mental health issues even though workers, peasants and students continue to take their own lives.

Without warning, Indians have become vocal about justice for the alleged murder of a single Bollywood star while no demands for justice are heard for the Dalits and Muslims that are being lynched and murdered with increasing impunity. So ‘considerate’ have Indians become that they wonder about the pressure that Sushant Singh Rajput might have faced leading up to this death, but they miraculously forget about the pressure that Rhea Chakraborty might be going through for a crime that she (in all likelihood) didn’t commit.

Representational image.

Normally, this instance of the suicide of a Bollywood star from a privileged background and the accusations levelled against his partner would not have been covered in so much detail, even though it would still have been equally problematic. However, when the Indian State has failed to even fulfil the minimum responsibilities that a government is obligated to undertake, it is not impossible to understand as to why the SSR and Rhea Chakraborty fiasco got the coverage that it did.

And then there are the usual suspects that have been at play for some time now. I feel everyone is aware of the significant role that channels like Republic TV, Aaj Tak, Times Now and Zee News have played in making Hindutva fascism a palatable dish for most of the Indian middle class, before and after last year’s general elections. I strongly feel that these four channels have been instrumental in transforming the television in the Indian middle-class living room from being the “idiot box” to being the “fascist box”.

Today, a television in this country has become synonymous with the propagation of unreliable, fallacious, and misleading news as journalism that serves the interests of the ruling classes and their fascist henchmen currently sitting in Parliament.

The possible solution to this problem is the popularization and practice of citizen journalism and the practice of revolutionary journalism. The former allows people to contribute stories and opinions that this country’s mainstream media can’t and won’t cover, while the latter involves the use of journalism as a tool to raise the consciousness of the masses that would enable them to understand the need and necessity of waging a revolution for liberation, by anchoring the focus of revolutionary journalism on critical issues that matter and how people’s movements respond to such issues.

We cannot undo or reclaim mainstream media for ourselves, because the mainstream media in India was never ours to begin with. However, what we can do is continue to raise our voices on the issues that affect the lives of millions and keep on dissenting with our pens and keyboards—even if the Indian State is eliminating supposed democratic spaces for expressing dissent, even when that dissent isn’t radical or revolutionary.

The correct and collective answer to the Fascist Box, therefore, lies in presenting a united voice of the people speaking up on the disasters that have befallen on our country.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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