Apparently there’s a conspiracy afoot in the “international media” to defame the glorious land of India. Hacks in “elite English media” just want to talk about the rise of Hindu extremism and the increased number of murders being committed against people from the minority communities on the suspicion of beef eating and cow smuggling. Also, these foreigners seem to hate when we democratically elect Hindu hardliners to positions of authority, writing editorials about the “perilous embrace of Hindu extremists” like the New York Times did.
To rectify this mudslinging on the nation, the Prasar Bharati is considering establishing a Goebbelsian propaganda apparatus in the form of a digital channel to tell the “India story” to challenge “the anti-India narrative in foreign media”. This will presumably enable us to put out “alternative” narratives about the many great things that are happening in the country that are not about Hindu terrorists. It will not be, for instance, about racist attacks on black students living in Greater Noida or the fact that the voter turnout in a Kashmir by-election was only 6%.
An initial estimate puts the cost of this new digital channel at over Rs 75 crore, and it is pegged to be India’s “answer” to foreign news media channels such as the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera. Prasar Bharti chairman A Surya Prakash has been quoted as saying, “We must begin to see the world through an Indian lens. We need a digital platform that will help us find our place among major news channels of the world, which have their own agenda,” an agenda to malign us, obviously.
A different ‘answer’ to international criticism of the cow problem plaguing India at the moment could have been to actually do something about the spate of violence that we have seen in recent times by gau rakshaks; and invest a fraction of the Rs 75 crore earmarked for propaganda in enforcing the law and putting the fear of the Constitution into these violent mobs masquerading as protectors of Hinduism.
But the Prasar Bharati obviously believes that nothing is going to be done to assuage the increasing insecurity among minorities by the governments in the states or the Centre. Because if there could be stories of strong government action against Hindutva hooligans, there would be no need for pushing ‘alternative’ narratives.
This seeming need to be constantly patted on the head by the ‘international media’ betrays an insecurity that cannot be resolved by putting out propaganda. For a country plagued by fundamental problems such as poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, a terrible education system, deep rooted caste problems, and an increasingly communalised public discourse to invest a substantial amount of money to seek international media approval for being a “diverse and vibrant democracy” is a problematic move.
As the largest public broadcasting agency in India, the Prasar Bharti would do better to focus on awareness campaigns within India for better sanitation, healthcare, and rural issues; than as an Indian government propaganda machine for the English-speaking western world.