'Indian media has been beyond shameful...'
Srijana Mitra Das | November 6, 2010
Your journey, from an artist who acted, designed and writes, to
someone who engages with violence and destruction, is remarkable. Have
you changed along the way?
Of course. I'd be a ghoul if I hadn't. The journey itself has been
profound. It's been painful to see people live in a system that seems
designed to pulverize them. It's been exhilarating to stand with those
who fight back.
Has the journey changed your writing?
It must have though it intrigues me that even when I wrote The God of
Small Things, I was politically in the same place, dealing with the
same themes;the orthodox left, Naxalites, caste. In my last essay, The
Trickledown Revolution, I borrowed a sentence from my architecture
thesis on postcolonial Delhi! My instincts are the same but I've
delved deeper into those political fault-lines over the years.
Does India offer sufficient space for its artists to comment on public
affairs? Or is there an attempt to 'box' people into predictable
It's natural for society to box people into roles. It's up to the
writers, artistes and filmmakers to un-box themselves. But that might
make them un-viable in the 'market'. That keeps most on a leash. Of
course, when moving into genuinely radical politics, it's hard to
predict what they'll throw at you - the law, the godsquadders,
book-burners or a speeding truck.
How do you deal with people focusing on your personal life instead of
what you say?
It comes with the territory. I cannot expect to write what I write and
have everybody stand up and applaud. What's dissent without a few good
insults? Gandhi set impossible standards. Now, unless you're celibate,
wear a loin cloth and eat goats' curd, you've had it with the critics
- unless you agree with them about everything. I cannot complain about
what happens to me - see what people go through in Kashmir, Manipur,
Nagaland, Chhattisgarh - tortured, raped, summarily killed. It's
chilling what's going on and how the upper classes look away.
Does the Indian media offer sufficient space for dissenting voices?
Much of the mainstream media has been captured by a small clique of
columnists, editors and TV anchors, an incestuous little coterie with
shows on each others' channels and interviews in each others'
newspapers. Even the guests on the TV shows are the same old people.
Day in and day out, they chatter away, saying things that comfort each
other even when they appear to be shouting at one another. It's
amusing and grim at the same time. Sometimes, it's like watching an
interminable cocktail party. But all is not lost. There are good
editors, good journalists, people who are very uncomfortable with
what's going on.
Can something positive be gleaned from hostile media reactions?
Yes. It's great entertainment once you've decoded it and don't take it
Does the Indian media have ideological or class interests? Is it a
The mainstream media is the lynchpin of the corporate project, how can
it not have ideological and class interests? It's not apparently
gendered but if the person refusing to toe the line is a woman, heaven
help her. . . they will drum up a lynch mob.
How does the Indian media compare to other societies?
How many countries have as many 24-hour news channels as India does?
It's viral here. Completely out of proportion.
Does the Indian media want to understand dissent? Has it even explored
the Kashmir 'freedom' argument without bias?
The Indian media has been beyond shameful about Kashmir.
Does the Indian public really know what's happening on the other side
of our screens?
The general public knows a lot. It doesn't come from the media
necessarily but from the difficulty ordinary people encounter in their
daily life. The middle-class does not really want to know. But TV is
making zombies out of everybody. A police SP in Dantewada seriously
told me the solution to the uprising in the forests was to put a TV in
every adivasi home. It would turn them into slugs, with no sense of
community. Once they were addicted, they could just be rolled out and
herded away before they knew what had happened. TV hypnotises people,
making them easier to control. It is the government's most potent
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