To mark the third anniversary of the BJP-led NDA government, India’s brain-dead TV channels will roll out debates and #hashtag wars tonight, barely distinguishable from government and party PR and propaganda.
While the social fabric lies in tatters; while anger, hatred and resentment become the bitcoins of bigotry; while our civil freedoms are crunched, we will hear endless paeans on the prime minister and his Sancho Panza.
Since the BJP is winning elections and the stock markets are soaring, it might appear that there is a good reason for these accolades, but India is too ancient a civilisation to be judged by ads, acronyms, alliterations, speeches, slogans and the Sensex.
The simple questions the TV channels, and hopefully tomorrow morning’s newspapers, really need to be asking, unblinded by the arclights of “access”, are:
# Is Indian democracy in a better shape in 2017 compared to 2014, or worse?
# Are the pillars—judiciary, executive, legislature—stronger today, or weaker?
# Is it good for the nation that the thrice-banned RSS controls the government?
# Have we become a more tolerant country in three years, or more combustible?
# Is our “secular republic” hurtling towards a Hindu ‘rashtra’, or is it an optical illusion?
# Are the minorities, the poor, and the marginalised feeling safer, or less secure?
# Is India a more inclusive nation today, or is exclusion and discrimination growing?
# Are we getting more transparent and accountable, or more opaque?
# Is there greater freedom to express your thoughts and views, or lesser?
# Are our colleges and Universities stronger today academically, or weaker?
# Do our institutions—RBI, Election Commission—enjoy greater freedom, or less?
# Are we placing the right people in our academic institutions, or jokers?
# Is the media doing its job as the voice of the people, or sleeping at the wheel?
# Can one-man rule be good for the country in the long run?
# Has the ‘Idea of India’ died?
If the media do not ask these questions, these are the questions you should be asking yourself: with your children and grandchildren in mind.
Meanwhile, ‘Happy anniversary’.