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It’s value neutral

The hue and cry over Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagavat’s Vijay Dashami address and its being live telecast on Doordarshan is really misplaced. Not only is the question if it was ‘newsworthy’ utterly pointless – of course it’s news just as Al-Qaeda chief’s video address is news – the hysteria that followed and the belligerence that was displayed by sections of political and media fraternities are equally misleading. Bhagwat, being the head of an ideological thinktank that feeds the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the centre, certainly merits a platform when he takes to the dais and tries to send across a message. In this case, he stressed on the connections that ‘Hindu’ NRIs felt with their ‘Hindu’ homeland, India, when the Prime Minister delivered his power-punched speeches at the UN General Assembly and Madison Square Garden in New York. That Bhagwat’s message was heavily dipped in communally charged and bigoted sentiments is without a straw of doubt: but why should that stop him from reaching out to those he wants to connect with? Hallmark of a democracy is a free and fair media, and even though ours can be hardly deemed one, it’s still freer than many in other countries. News should be value-neutral and we must let the decisions and interpretations rest with the people at large. Opinion page writers, editorials, columnists and talk-circuit regulars can only debate the merits and demerits of that message, but there’s hardly anything ethically wrong in broadcasting a speech that is bound to incite curiosity among many. Let’s say it is as newsworthy as a particularly rabid comment on women’s attire from a musician or politician, or a religious ideologue like Hafiz Saeed trying to enflame sectarian passions amongst our vulnerable. Despite the overly commercial compulsions, censoring the speech would have been a still more unwise decision. While the RSS chief’s Vijaya Dashami speech is indeed an annual feature, live telecasting it on DD is obviously driven by the fact that BJP is at the helm of affairs. But that’s an inescapable fact, and combating Bhagwat’s definite communal arsenal can only be achieved by scathing critique of the message, not the medium.
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