On Monday evening, Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar said this about Sunday bloody Sunday at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi: “I can certainly tell you that when I studied in JNU… we didn’t see any ‘tukde-tudke gang’.”
There is a compelling explanation, Mr Jaishankar, as to why you didn’t see the ‘tukde-tukde gang’ at JNU in the mid-1970s – it’s because there was no Sudhir Chaudhary (Zee News) or Arnab Goswami (Republic TV) to invent it.
There was no Facebook or Twitter, either, to launch the ‘tukde tukde’ into the stratosphere of social media and make them national celebrities.
In fact, there was not even 24×7 television back then, just an intermittent Doordarshan, and the only net Indians knew was the mosquito net.
There was no ‘Khan Market gang’, no Left-liberals; there was Lutyens’ Delhi of course, but it wasn’t a bad word, just a location; there were no ‘Urban Naxals’ either (although plenty of Naxals at Delhi University as everyone who has watched Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi knows); and while there was always a pro-Pakistani lobby, there were no ‘anti-nationals’.
Creations of ‘New India’
All these terms – people, places, gangs – have entered the dictionary of daily speech thanks to round-the-clock TV news channels and prime time debate that, in turn, fuelled social media.
Some TV anchors positively delight in these terms, using them to describe the ‘termites’ (not the Home Minister’s) who, they claim, are eating away at the very bedrock of Bharat Mata.
The joke is that TV news channels treat these as synonyms: if you are a paid-up, card-holding member of the ‘tukde tukde gang’, you will be an ‘Urban Naxal’, a Left liberal who visits Khan Market, belongs to the Lutyens’ Delhi elite, holds pro-Pakistan views and is, consequently, ‘anti-national’.
Why, just Monday, Arnab Goswami spoke of the Left in JNU and Jadavpur University and those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), in the same breath, as “the pro-Pakistan groups in Mumbai” who were protesting at the Gateway of India where the “tukde gang” was “spotted” (Republic TV Monday 9pm-10pm debate).
The latter was represented by a solitary woman holding a “Free Kashmir” poster — Zee News called her “deshdrohi” while Republic TV’s outraged reporter described it as “an act of treachery”.
The ‘tukde tukde gang’ surfaced in Sudhir Chaudhary’s Zee News monologue, Monday night on Sunday’s JNU violence, in which he alleged that the gang had turned “the temple of learning” into a political place since 2016 – a reference to the controversy surrounding then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and others for chanting what Choudhary alleged were pro-Afzal Guru and pro-Pakistan slogans, claims that were later found to be based on doctored videos.
But on Monday night, Chaudhary warned his audience that the students of JNU wanted to break India into ‘tukde tukde’.
JNU video war
Videos are once again part of this story.
As is always the case, TV anchors provide `proof’ of the ‘tukde tukde gang’s’ crimes. In the case of JNU, the “evidence” took the form of video grabs from many unknown sources at the campus.
Republic TV with Arnab aired seven videos on Monday, Times Now 10, NewsX 5-7, India TV ditto.
A ‘war of versions’ (Times Now) broke out, which saw “allegation versus allegation” (Republic TV). Most channels stepped gingerly around the “blame game” between the Left and the ABVP. “Both sides are guilty,” pronounced Navika Kumar (Times Now).
Video grabs are misleading — it is impossible to establish “who are the goons” in them (CNN News18). There is no date, timeline or clear location evident in them, and since so many attackers were masked, their identity was deliberately hidden.
On Wednesday, we saw just how misleading a video grab can be: Mirror Now showed a widely circulated video — Prasar Bharati put it out Sunday, so did JNU Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar — that allegedly showed a Left student beating up an ABVP student. But as AltNews reported and Mirror Now broadcast, it was exactly the opposite: the ABVP student had attacked the Left student.
And yet, some channels attributed blame to one side or the other on the basis of these videos.
On India TV, Rajat Sharma used them to suggest the Left was as much to blame as the ABVP, and to identify the “mystery lady” in one of them as JNUSU president Aishe Ghose.
On Republic TV, Goswami used them as “proof… of the extreme brutality of the Left… on students who wished to register…’’ Clearly confused, he went on to add that it would be a “terrible mistake” to blame one side – “both sides are equally wrong…” Huh?
NDTV 24×7 swung the other way: it used stills of WhatsApp groups to establish “ABVP role in the attack” by calling in “the outsiders”.
However, all news channels agreed that JNU’s administration and the Delhi Police were at fault – “where is the police in all this?” asked Times Now.
Deepika takes centre stage
None of them could resist live coverage of actor Deepika Padukone’s Tuesday evening visit to JNU. “This is one of the main actors at JNU… this is a very big step…” gushed Vishnu Som (NDTV 24×7). Shiv Aroor was equally impressed: “By far the biggest star to come out in open support of JNU students…” he said (India Today).
Republic TV, of course, made a `tukde tudke gang’ connection: “Deepika Padukone with Kanhaiya Kumar”.
PS: Wednesday saw some channels take a break from gang warfare to the prospect of real war: “Mega escalation WWIII alarm”, noted Times Now after Iran attacked US bases in Iraq.
Republic TV had extensive coverage too, but made one alarming error: “US forces to pull out of US in 3 days” it headlined late afternoon, something viewers might even have believed for a second – with President Donald Trump, you never know what might happen next.