Mountain out of a Molehill – Indian Speciality

Some may deny it, others conform to it, but it is certainly true that Indians love drama. The bigger (and more controversial), the better. Especially the Indian media, which often loves to bring to spotlight trivial issues. The media is able to do this because intolerance levels among Indians are sky-high. Simple figures of speech or analogies are considered blasphemous and hate speeches. While the media is least interested in reporting what someone actually commented, the most controversial statement is hammered into our minds over and over again as if that’s what a person actually meant. All of us realise that what we speak in common parlance can never be taken literally as that’s not what we ever meant. Do you ever take metaphors or idioms literally?

The first example would be of Kejriwal, when he said that once he came to power, he would imprison corrupt media. Apparently this is considered as a violation of the media’s freedom. Here’s what he actually said, “The whole media is sold out this time, it is a big conspiracy, it is a huge political controversy. If our government comes to power then we will set up an inquiry into this. And along with the media people, all will be sent to jail”. Here’s how the media projected it, “Kejriwal threatens to jail media”. No one cares to look beyond this or to certify that what he meant was actually what he spoke. Kejriwal talked about punishing paid media and this point is absolutely valid and worth imposing. How dare someone threaten freedom of the media? It cost Kejriwal in terms of media coverage for AAP.

Second instance is a more recent one. We can all agree that election campaigning turns personal swiftly and everyone takes jabs at each other (oh did I mean that they actually punch each other?). A Congress candidate from Saharanpur said, “UP is not Gujarat. There is only 4% Muslim population in Gujarat but in UP there are 22% Muslims here. I will fight against Narendra Modi because I know how to give a fitting reply to him. We will cut him into pieces.” What the media understood, “We will literally use swords and knives and chop a 3-time Chief Minister and a Prime Ministerial candidate into pieces despite the fact that he has Z+ security”. Did he really mean that he would kill Modi or was it just a figure of speech? No doubt what he said was aggressive but then that’s what all politicians have been saying including Modi. According to this logic, if you’ve “made a killing on the stock market”, you murdered a bunch of people on Dalal Street. No one is interested to know that he actually spoke in Hindi, wherein one uses a greater quantity of comparisons than English and it hardly means what is actually said. The BJP lapped up on an opportunity to criticise Congress, while their leaders are no different. It was the media who had a field day and generated TRPs.

Let’s then look at Amit Shah’s comments some days back, “This is the question of honour of Western UP. It is time for revenge now… batons, guns and swords belong to a bygone era. These days you take revenge by pressing the button (on the EVM).” But to the media, what it means is, “Amit Shah promotes communalism and wants to take revenge for the riots”. He specifically said that weapons belong to a bygone era, how much more clarity do you require? What he simply meant was that the people should take revenge against the parties which promoted such communal hatred and violence and instead vote for BJP. Congress jumped on this opportunity to nail him.

Finally, the most controversial twist presented by media was last year’s rape analogy made by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, “”It is very easy to say that if you can’t enforce it (ban on betting), it’s like saying if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.” Sinha was speaking on corruption in sports in a conference. He talked about how enforcement agencies find it tough to ban betting. There was widespread call to legalise betting and Sinha said that the fact that we cannot control it doesn’t mean we mustn’t make laws against it. No doubt he used a controversial and somewhat insensitive analogy to underline his statement but it was blown out of proportion. The media presented it this way, “CBI Director says that if you can’t prevent rape enjoy it”. Sinha never endorsed such a practice. If anything, he was actually talking about the absurdity of legalising betting because you can’t enforce laws against and to make his point more clear supported it with a very absurd and impossible analogy of rape. Thus, he actually suggested that enjoying rape because you can’t stop it is absurd and illogical (insensitive as well). All the pseudo-feminists and political parties called for apologies and resignation, some even going as far as prosecuting him. Where were all these people when the topic of rape was presented in a comical manner in the movie 3 Idiots (speech given by Chatur on Teacher’s Day when the word Chamatkaar was replaced by Balaatkar). Even in this instance, the dialogues were intended for comical purposes but it had the potential of becoming a lot more controversial. Only because of the recent spotlight on rape, people get so offended by a simple analogy. We simply fail to look at the larger picture and the context in which the statements were made while believing the media blindly.

All this said, a politician or any other speaker must, after years of experience of such behavior of the media, realise that you need to be careful while speaking publicly. Analogies and figures of speech may sound funny and may prove a point more clearly but in a country like ours where intolerance levels run high, thinking twice before speaking is not such a bad idea. It is only because people are insensitive; the media finds it profitable to twist statements and present people in a bad light.



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