In Kerala, media lies are helping RSS spread propaganda

Every murder of an RSS/BJP worker gets amplified in the news while the CPM casualties are conveniently played down or plainly ignored.

 |  6-minute read |   06-08-2017
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During the Zero hour in the Lok Sabha on August 2, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi went hammer and tongs at the CPM, accusing the party of transforming God’s own country into God’s “forsaken” country. As if that didn’t suffice, fellow MP from Karnataka, Prahlad Joshi followed it up and claimed 17 BJP/RSS workers had been killed in Kerala since 2017 (without any mention of the corresponding figure for CPM cadre deaths) and demanded a probe by the CBI or the NIA.

Despite both BJP MPs managing to speak largely uninterrupted for almost 30 minutes, CPM’s response got shouted down by the BJP within a couple of minutes of CPM leader P Karunakaran’s speech.

Cut to Friday, addressing a press conference in the national capital, RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale went one step further. He called for a judicial enquiry either by a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. He just stopped short of demanding the imposition of President’s rule. While taking a question on the imposition of Article 356, he evaded a direct response saying, “People of Kerala feel law and order has broken down and we would support if there is such a demand from the people.” Kerala CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan responded to Hosabale at the end of the state committee meeting the same evening where he virtually dared the BJP to impose central rule.

cpm-rss-kerala-pti-6_080617031158.jpgCPM cadre deaths are brushed aside by mainstream media. Photo: PTI

It is learnt that Hosabale, along with top RSS leaders Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi and Krishn Gopal had met BJP president Amit Shah before holding the press conference. Finance minister (and part-time defence minister) Arun Jaitley has been nominated to travel to Kerala to visit the home of slain RSS karyavah Rajesh (even as the border stand-off at Doklam is nowhere close to a resolution).

It is part of the broad BJP strategy to counter the narrative on lynchings and Gauraksha Dals on the rampage in the cow belt with “What about Kerala?”

Rajesh was hacked to death by suspected CPM workers on July 30 and the police have been swift in nabbing the main accused Manikanthan along with 10 other suspects. While the CPM claims Manikanthan is not one of their own and the murder is the result of personal enmity, the remand report prepared by the investigation officer belies it. Rajesh’s death was followed by a state-wide harthal next day and the matter has since hogged headlines in the national media.

The hacking of Rajesh followed a couple of days of unprecedented political violence in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram that saw section 144 being imposed in parts of the city. On the night of July 27, the BJP state committee office was attacked by a group of six men comprising the local CPM councillor IP Binu and SFI (Students Federation of India) district secretary Prathin Saj Krishna; both have since been arrested. This was followed by a spate of attacks on the homes and offices of people from both parties, including the home of CPM state secretary in the capital.

Binu claimed his home was attacked before he targeted the BJP office while local media reported that the latest spiral followed an incident at Iranimuttam where students belonging to ABVP vandalised an SFI flag at the Government Homeopathic Medical College. There were also reports that it was in some way a continuum of the events at MG College that preceded it. Mahatma Gandhi College is an ABVP fort in Thiruvananthapuram that saw clashes between BJP and CPM student bodies after the SFI tried to establish a unit there.

On July 24, SFI marched to the college and erected flag poles outside its premises.

I spoke to Inspector General Manoj Abraham over the phone to enquire if both these incidents were interlinked. He, however, ruled it out and said the incidents in MG College had no bearing on what transpired a week later.

On June 30, governor P Sadasivam took to Twitter to announce he had “summoned” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state police chief DGP Loknath Behra to take stock of the situation in the capital after the hacking of Rajesh. He went on to inform through the same platform that the CM would be meeting the BJP state president to find a solution.

The CM met the BJP representatives the next day and scheduled “peace meetings” in Kottayam and Kannur districts between the CPM and BJP apart from an all-party meeting in the capital.

Not surprisingly, Thiruvananthapuram didn’t see any clashes thereafter and the matter would have ended there.

But post the BJP MPs raking up the issue in the Lok Sabha, a section of the national media has been running a vilification campaign against Kerala in general and the CPM in particular. While the political violence in Kannur is not a recent phenomenon (it might need a whole essay to put things in context), the national media has been misreporting facts with abandon; egged on by vicious social media campaigns.

If one were to read only the Hindi press and WhatsApp forwards, it would seem what’s going on is a one-sided annihilation of the BJP/RSS cadre by the CPM. Even the news channels have been wittingly or unwittingly perpetuating the same myth though figures show an equal number of casualties on both sides.

What is basically happening is every murder of an RSS/BJP worker gets amplified in the national media while the CPM casualties are conveniently played down or plainly ignored.

What has been worse is the unfair portrayal of Kerala as the murder capital of India when law and order in the state stands out among the rest of the country. One has to only check the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to figure out the states with poor law and order indicators and how Kerala compares with states in the cow belt.

The other day, an acquaintance in Delhi who is a working professional stunned me when he demanded to know why Hindus were under attack in Kerala. Though I tried explaining to him it was pure propaganda, his facial expression suggested he didn’t buy my explanation.

The day might not be far when Keralites come under attack from motivated Hindutva lynch mobs in certain parts of the country. Hindu victimhood has been a perpetual trump card for the BJP and that has once again been employed here, albeit for consumption outside the state.

Kerala has a Left psyche and even Congress operates by that rulebook in the state. Among a people who largely identify with their language, food and ideology more than their faith, BJP has tried virtually every trick to alter status quo without any success.

Though the Marxists seem to be falling into the BJP’s trap by failing to put an end to the cycle of political violence, BJP hasn’t endeared themselves to Keralites who are immensely proud of their culture and state.

To quote the great Malayalam poet Vallathol Narayana Menon, “When you hear the name India, your hearts must swell with pride; when you hear the name Kerala, blood must throb in your veins.”

Also read: A Mother’s Day gone wrong

Writer

Anand Kochukudy Anand Kochukudy @anandkochukudy

The writer is a political journalist and lapsed academic.

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