Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t watch Indian television news channels. Nor do Indians abroad, it seems. Perhaps they should because the India shining in their eyes, on their faces, is not the India we see on TV.
In his speech to Indians at an auditorium in Copenhagen, Denmark, the PM repeatedly hailed India’s ‘inclusiveness and cultural diversity …’ In Berlin, Germany, a day earlier, he had saluted India’s democracy, the ‘rule of law’ and the country’s confident march into the future.
Ecstatic Indians chanted, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai!’, ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’. TV news correspondents, who had travelled to cover the PM’s three-day visit to Europe, noted the ‘excitement’, the ‘utsah’, the ‘josh’, the electric atmosphere generated by the ‘Narendra Modi Show’ (TV9 Bharatvarsh) in Berlin and Copenhagen.
But TV news headlines in India spoke of a different India: ‘Communal clashes’ in Jodhpur (CNN News 18); ‘Rajasthan hate cauldron’; ‘India bleeds’ (India Today); ‘Mobs brandishing swords’ (Republic TV); ‘Large scale vandalism (Times Now) — that is how they described the violence in the city on the occasion of Eid.
It was a surreal experience: we watched NRIs wave miniature Indian flags alongside ‘My flag versus your flag’, in Jodhpur (NDTV India); and while a young man performed a pole dance in Berlin, dandas reigned down on the vandals on Jodhpur’s streets.
In Maharashtra, TV news found that rather than ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, ‘Azaan v/s Jai Hanuman’ (Zee News), ‘Azaan v/s Hanuman Chalisa’ (ABP News) rang out on the streets, after MNS leader Raj Thackeray delivered a ‘Loudspeaker ultimatum’ (Republic TV) to the Maharashtra government demanding the removal of the instrument from religious places across the state – or else.
The PM boasted about digital India, Startup India and advised Danish business to invest in India. But news channels don’t highlight these accomplishments. Instead, Danes watching these channels would have seen news of the coal crisis in the country and ‘India’s water woes’ in many parts, including Delhi (Mirror Now) during pitiless heat wave conditions.
They would have seen video after video of violence in Jodhpur and lathi charges by the police. An Indian woman in Berlin told DD News they were ‘so emotional’ to see the PM, it was difficult to control ‘our tears’. Back home, TV news said teargas shells were fired to control warring communities in Jodhpur. This comes after similar ‘communal fires’ (India Today) in Delhi, Bhopal and several other cities — all ‘burning news’ of television.
For two days, Indians in Germany and Denmark have been busy celebrating ‘Modi magic’ (TV9 Bharatvarsh). A Modi ‘fan’ in Berlin said ‘It was a dream come true’ (India TV). Another in Copenhagen was ‘in seventh heaven’ (Aaj Tak) — ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai!’
Back in Bharat, the news would have brought them crashing down to earth: apart from Jodhpur’s violence and loudspeaker politics in Maharashtra, a ‘demolition drive’ was planned for parts of Delhi warned CNN News 18. This, after bulldozers were used in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri to destroy alleged illegal construction, a few weeks following communal clashes there.
And did the Reserve Bank of India just raise the repo rate on Wednesday due to ‘soaring inflation’ (NDTV 24×7)? Was this the India Modi spoke of?
What would anyone abroad, watching Indian news channels, make of the obsession with ‘Rahul, party & politics’ (India Today) when a 12-second clip of the former Congress president at a nightclub in Kathmandu seemed to annoy politicians and TV news anchors, inordinately? ‘Rajasthan simmers, Rahul parties,’ said a hot and bothered Republic TV. ‘Rahul seen grooving in Kathmandu, Wayanad asks where is our MP’ was a debate on Times Now – really?
Indians abroad—wow, aren’t they something else? At one stage in his Copenhagen speech, Modi said that Indians at home would be filled with pride to see the auditorium, packed as it was with their compatriots.
They would be filled with envy, more likely, or bewilderment.
The scenes of joy and happiness in the Auditorium Bella Centre were unprecedented. You have never seen a happier bunch of Indians, anywhere – they danced, they smiled, whooping with joy – of course for the cameras. At the auditoriums in Berlin and Copenhagen, emcees orchestrated the slogan-shouting and chanting, but the unbridled response from Indians was sincere, real.
This ‘Mini India’, as reporters called it, repeatedly, swooned in ‘super duper’ excitement over Modi’s visit and news correspondents, spent much of their time transmitting their joy back home — ‘We love you, Modi, thank you for coming,’ said one woman in Copenhagen (Aaj Tak); ‘We can’t wait any longer – Modi, Modi, Modi’, exclaimed a man in impatience.
The PM’s visit is a ‘festival’ like Holi or Diwali’, explained a young man, dressed up as Chhatrapati Shivaji, in Berlin (News 18 India).
‘I have come just to capture a glimpse of Modi,’ said a woman in Berlin. ‘I have been here from 4 am,’ revealed one man. ‘This is a lifetime chance,’ stated another, ‘My life has changed forever.’
How so? Asked the Aaj Tak correspondent.
‘Whenever I am down….I will remember this moment…’ he explained, saying he was inspired by the PM’s ‘energy’. That ‘energy’ saw a man travel from Frankfurt to Berlin — 600 km, he said, just to meet the PM.
‘My heart is racing,’ admitted a young man as the anchor held the mike to his chest so that viewers could hear the ‘bumpety-bum’—would you believe it?
The News18 India correspondent was so-so impressed, he couldn’t stop praising the PM: ‘Earlier Indians were reluctant to say I am proud to be an Indian… Not any longer. The PM only works for India, he doesn’t have time to pause for breath…’
And so it went on and on—happy scenes of happy people. Such a contrast to the Indians we see on TV news who are either angry or angrier.
So, here’s the thing: the Prime Minister paints one picture of India — one of `a new resurgent India…’ — but for some reason, news TV doesn’t show us any good luck stories. Just gloom and doom, violence and discord.
Which picture is more accurate?
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)