October, 2017, was probably the month of nightmare for the 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 gun shots from the controversial law maker of ruling PMLN, CaptSafdarAwan-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 CaptSafdarAwan. Various PML(N) leaders including ousted Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharief distanced himself from the Safdar`s remarks. The sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan ShahidKhaqanAbbasi not only distanced himself and his entire cabinet from the vitriol of Capt Safdar Awan but also also sought explanation from him. The Pakistaniprint media gave due coverage to the incident andcolumns / 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, TajMahal 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 tomention 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 Modi who often beats the drum of ‘Sab kaSaath Sab KaVikaas” 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 Mandir but there can`t be a debate on those who think TajMahal 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 arrests (KamranYousuf), attacks and killings of some noted journalists like GauriLankesh has not only exposed those journalists and politicians who stood by the government of India during the wave of intolerance in 2015 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. And 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.
Sofi Zahoor can be reached at email@example.com