Akshaya Mukul's boycott of RNG awards over Modi was cowardly
Does being captured in the same frame as someone you have deep problems with relieve you of your core beliefs?
- Total Shares
It first occurred to me that Akshay Mukul's gesture of boycotting the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards was one of strength and worthy of admiration.
He is a senior journalist, a role model in many ways and a solid figure in the industry. It can't have been easy. But then it occurred to me that that we're presented with a controversy riddled with neat little hypocrisies.Senior journalist and author Akshaya Mukul. (Photo: Twitter)
Three points, and I'll be as brief as possible:
1. If I had a problem with the award ceremony, I would say no to the award. Boycotting an award ceremony while accepting the award through your publisher is flamboyantly hypocritical (not to mention a slight to the RNG Award itself, but that's less important).
If I felt as strongly as the journalist who professes to - well strongly enough to stay away from a prestigious award he has won once before - my "No" would be unconditional.
Opening a side door to the award is a cop out. Period.
2. If I had written a book about the rise of the militant Right, I wouldn't consider being captured in the same frame with the chief guest at the award ceremony, Narendra Modi, as a conflict, or a sell-out. I'd see the supposed irony of that frame as an affirmation of the award itself.
That irony, to me, is precisely what the texture of journalism is about.
Where you frequently face what you don't like or personally have a problem with. But you do. Choosing not to do so shows a lack of self-belief and integrity.
Does being captured in the same frame as someone you have deep problems with relieve you of your core beliefs? If it does, you clearly don't think much of yourself.
3. If I really wanted to make a statement about the conflict of receiving such an award from Modi, I would have chosen a path less cowardly than a boycott, especially since I clearly have no problem with the award itself.
I would attend, and I would address the PM directly on stage when I received my award from him.
As a PM accused of never engaging with the press, I'd see irony, but I'd see opportunity in having the chance to address him directly and in front of an audience.
Choosing the easier path, of boycotting the ceremony, confirms that the impulse to showboat is probably stronger than any real conviction in the matter.
Legitimate, strong grievances against this government and the prime minister exist. And they ought to. May they never dwindle or weaken.
May they be sure and strong. Just not convenient theatrics.
(A version of this post first appeared on the author's Facebook page.)