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Two Statements, But Two Different Political and Media Reactions

Sofi Zahoor

October, 2017, was probably the month of nightmare for two -different communities of India and Pakistan as both the communities faced a verbal venom by two controversial lawmakers from the respective countries .The Ahmadi community in Pakistan faced the verbal guns from the controversial law maker of ruling PMLN, Capt Safdar Awan-son in law of former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharief. While   in India, a pejorative   statement regarding Muslims  was given  by the ruling  BJP`s  controversial  lawmaker Sangeet Som. The vitriol expressed by two lawmakers evoked sharp criticism and outrage from both the communities. But the reaction from mainstream media and Political leadership of both the countries was  attention-grabbing and that compelled  me to pen down my thoughts. As the matter is diversified   to two different countries, here I am expressing my separate deliberations about Pakistan and India respectively.


On 10th October, 2017, Capt Safdar Awan  expressed his vitriol in National Assembly of Pakistan  against the Ahmadi community by saying that these people are  traitors and a real threat to the  Pakistan, its ideology and its constitution. He went further by saying that he wanted to bring a resolution in National Assembly calling for a “ ban on recruitment of Ahmadi`s in the armed forces”. Soon after this, Capt Safdar   came under severe criticism as social media erupt over his hate speech in the National Assembly. The Facebook and twitter  users  showed clear  resentment  and outrage over  the remarks made by the Capt Safdar Awan. Various PML(N) leaders including ousted Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharief  distanced himself  from the  Safdar`s  remarks. The sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi not only distanced himself and   his entire  cabinet from the vitriol of  Capt Safdar Awan but also also  sought explanation from him. The Pakistani print media gave due coverage to the incident and columns / articles by several journalists  were published in different newspapers of Pakistan ( DAWN NEWS,THE NEWS,JANG), etc .The electronic  media too showed its  maturity and objectivity by organizing different prime time   talk shows/ debates on various  news channels like GEO, ARY,ABBTAK, SAMAA, AAJ TV, etc.  Unlike   India, these debates/ talk shows were quite soft, constructive and  free from noise.


While in India on October 15 2017, controversial BJP Lawmaker Sangeet Som targeted the Muslim Community by saying that the world monument, Taj Mahal was built by traitors and  is a blot on Indian culture. Surprisingly, there was a deliberate silence both  in  right wing & the  ruling camp as no one from them  condemned the statement given by the law maker. It is worth to mention here that since the right wing BJP acquired power  in general elections, 2014, the minorities especially Muslims and dalits  have been targeted by these right wing politicians/activists from time to time either  by their actions or their  statements . The controversial statement by the BJP leader showed genuine criticism and outrage on social networking sites   in India but unfortunately it was ignored by the mainstream Media. The ruling party BJP`s core leadership including Prime Minister Narender Modi who often beats the drum of  ‘Sab ka Saath Sab Ka Vikaas” too seemed reluctant in condemning the statement of the controversial lawmaker. Though some Indian newspapers mostly Urdu   did stories on the issue but no debate was seen during the prime time shows of various Indian News channels. For various news channels like Zee News, Aajtak, IBN7, India TV, TIMES NOW, REPUBLIC TV, etc , the controversial  statement had no worth as it only made space either  in bulletins like  Speed News, Fatafat, Sau Minute Mai Sau Khabrein, etc .  or it was just  flashed on the TV screens.


By ignoring such critical issues, once again these news channels  not only got exposed  but showed  their hypocrisy  and  bias on these vital issues and topics. There can be a debate on Love Jihad but there can`t be debate on mob lynching. There could be a debate on Akbar Owaisi`s  speech but there can`t be a debate on Yogi Adityanath`s  hate speech against Muslims. There could be a debate on building Ram Temple but there can`t be a debate on those who think Taj Mahal is a blot on Indian Culture. There could be debate on Hadiya`s case but there can`t be a debate on insulting remarks made by Rohit Sardana against Bibi Fatima  and last  there could  be a weeklong  debate on Daminis`s rape incident but there can`t be a single debate on double rape and murder case of Asiya and Neelofer by the Men in Khaki.

Moreover the recent  arrest of journalist Kamran Yousuf, attacks and killings of some noted journalists like Gauri Lankesh has not only exposed those journalists and politicians who stood by the government of the time and those  who  often say  that Pakistan is a dangerous country for journalists. The increasing   issue of political interference in Indian media has raised certain questions and concerns on the fairness of Indian Media. There is a dearth of objectivity, fairness and ethical standards in Indian media particularly in electronic media. Moreover   one fails to differentiate these media channels from the government  owned  Doordarshan as they  hardly give place to  those who could criticize them and government as well. One may conclude that in both of the countries, minorities were targeted by the ruling class but there were two different notable political and media  reactions from both the countries. The way the Pakistani political leadership, civil society and Pakistani media (print and electronic)  reacted to the Capt  Safdar Awan`s    vitriol in National Assembly of Pakistan, needs an applause. While the way Indian leadership, civil society and Indian media reacted to the Sangeet Som`s controversial statement is a clear blot on Indian democracy, secularism, and Indian media.

Ideas expressed by the author are his own. (Author is Media Student from Bandipora)