EXCUSE: Vineet Jain, managing director and one of the main shareholders in the TOI group, claims that the TOI was doing a counter sting on Cobrapost
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
It’s not only Facebook which sells space to the highest bidder — whether for rigging or funding elections, or even mundane marketing activities. A sting operation carried out by Cobrapost revealed that even the Times Of India allegedly agreed to promote Hindutva for `500 crore. Of the 36 media organisations and TV channels stung by Cobrapost, only two refused the bribe offered
A sting operation conducted by the investigative digital website Cobrapost has shockingly revealed that even mainline papers, which claim the largest circulation in the country take money to promote Hindutva. We are not talking about small regional chillar papers like the local Navhind Times, Herald, not to mention the Goan Everyday. Or the TV channels Prudent Media and Goa 365 owned by Fomento and the Dempos, which gave more publicity to the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and the Sanatan Sanstha who are implicated in the murder of Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists. The sting operation carried out by Cobrapost reveals senior managers, if not the owners of the TOI group, are willing to accept money to promote Hindutva. This is more shocking because the TOI in its logo in very small print above its mast head, has the words ‘Let truth prevail’. Obviously for TOI and other major newspapers in the country, with honourable exceptions, the truth is to chamchafy the party in power and make even more money in the bargain.
For those of you who do not know what a sting operation is, it is a form of investigative journalism where the journalist pretends to be someone else and seeks to catch someone doing something illegal or immoral. For instance, asking politicians about their willingness to engage in corruption for a price by misusing their position, or, as in this case, trying to purchase editorial space in the media to promote one’s own agenda.
One of the most famous sting operations in the country was the one carried out by Tehelka to trap leading cricket players who were involved in match fixing. Match fixing is wide spread in cricket where the bowler can be paid by the bookie to bowl badly or the batsman can be bribe to get run out. In a recent sting operation by the Gulf channel Alzera it is alleged that the cricket pitch was fixed to ensure the victory of Sri Lanka over India in Lucknow. In another sting operation Tehelka showed members of parliament asking for a commission to release funds from the funds allotted to them developing their costumes. The sting also showed the companion of the then Defence Minister George Fernandes willing to recommend one arms supplier over another for a bribe. The biggest casualty of the sting operations was the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman who was filmed accepting a bribe in the fictitious arms deal and who was eventually sentenced to four years in jail.
In November 2013, Tejpal stepped aside as the editor with an apology after a woman colleague accused him of sexual assault, and the case is ongoing, but that does not take away from the validity of their investigative reporting.
Among others caught asking for commissions for projects, specifically a mobile Konkani library in Goa, was none other than Churchill Alemao, member of the Lok Sabha at the time.
It is now an open secret that all political parties all over the world are using social media, particularly Facebook to fix elections. A probe is going on into the charge that a firm called Cambridge Analytica misused the data of hundreds of millions of American voters to influence the elections in favour of Donald Trump. Russian president Vladimir Putin allegedly provided funds to anti-Hillary groups. There also allegations that all the major political parties in India, where Cambridge Analytica has a branch, have used Facebook to ‘fix’ elections.
The fixing of elections on Facebook does not involved in promoting the candidate that the person who advertises favours. Facebook has directly or indirectly also profits from the spread of hate and distribution of fake news against rivals. Facebook itself has admitted that the data of billions of Facebook users has been misused by even radical Islamic groups and terrorist organisations including Hindu organisations.
For Amit Shah, the Hitler of India, social media is a major means of promoting his agenda of dividing the country and instigating violence against the minority communities, particularly the Muslims who constitute 20% of the country’s population. The paranoia of Amit Shah and company, particularly after they lost Banaglore and the bye-elections in UP is dramatised by the fact that Hindu Janajagruti Samiti accused Bishop Couto and Bishop Neri of dancing to the tune of Pope Francis and the Vatican and spreading unrest. Which is absurd as no other pope has condemned hate and worked to promote peace more than Pope Francis, and all that Bishop Couto and Bishop Neri have said is that the Constitution is in danger and people should pray that the 2019 parliamentary elections are free and fair.
It is surprising that while people are willing to pay money to promote Hindutva, people are not willing to pay money to promote secularism. Forget about paying huge amounts of money to papers like TOI, they are not even willing, or are too scared, to give ads to small independent papers like Lankesh Patrika and Goan Observer. Surely big industrialists in the country who benefit by their sales to all communities, including Muslims and Hindus, should not encourage Hindutva and contribute to the process of converting Hindustan into Pakistan.
Times are changing. The first people to suffer when there is a communal riot or the caste riot is the business community. By its ban of cow slaughter the Modi government destroyed one of the largest industries, which exported thousands of crores of goods to the world. From footballs to leather shoes to jackets and suitcases, it is the leather industry which is the backbone. The raw materials for the leather industry are skins of buffaloes, bulls and yes cows which are discarded by farmers after they stop giving milk. As far as ploughing the field is concerned bullocks are not used as tractors do the job faster and better. Similarly demonetisation and GST have destroyed small businesses. How can you expect small traders to file dozens of GST returns every month depending on which product they are selling? Indeed, the trading class who were the backbone of BJP, have turned against them.
People are disillusioned. The young who voted for Modi irrespective of caste or community did not vote for the BJP for building the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya as they did last time when Vajpayee became the prime minister. Indeed Modi did not even campaign on basis of Hindutva. People voted for Modi because he promised to generate jobs. Modi promised to get all the black money back and deposit `10 lakhs in the bank account of every Indian. Modi promised that he would adopt a policy of ‘make in India’ to create more jobs. Which meant that even multinational companies like Microsoft or Google or Apple should make in India instead of China so that jobs are created. People voted for Modi by a huge majority to become the prime minister because he became the symbol of acche din. But there is no sign of acche din. There is only Nirav Modi and dozens of crooks stealing from the banks. Instead of taking action against them, the proof against them which was, very conveniently, kept in an old building in the Ballard estate in Mumbai, caught fire destroying all the evidence.
The hopes of acche din have gone up in flames with the petrol price rising towards a century. Present indications are that Modi will not come into power in 2019 and the BJP will not be the single largest party any more. And if you want to be on a right side of those who will be in power, even if only for selfish reasons, support publications like the Goan Observer which are trying to liberate you from ‘Modutva’.