February 19, 2019

What Ravish will not write in his Open Letters

Welcome to Ravishpur

I considered writing an open letter to Ravish Kumar but two things stopped me – who writes open letters! And, why take the one thing that he wants to excel at away from Ravish Kumar?

When Ravish Kumar interviewed the then BJP Delhi CM aspirant Kiran Bedi, the speed with which the former super cop answered his questions made the experienced journalist worried. He had prepped up for an hour-long interview for his show and at the eleventh hour, the show in-charge told him that he might get just half an hour with Ms. Bedi. In his own words, Ravish Kumar was worried for if he didn’t get enough material what would NDTV broadcast. Later when the interview where Ravish Kumar appeared unapologetically, and going by his much-celebrated public persona even uncharacteristically, harsh towards Ms. Bedi (more on this later) went viral he blogged about how he was “barely able to assimilate what was asked and what was answered” due to the great speed that the whole interview was done at. Moreover, he was worried that his cameraperson would trip and fall down because he was moving so quickly to keep pace. The interview went viral and in the same blog post, Ravish Kumar said that he was not a super-journalist and that he was trying to do his job.

Since then Ravish Kumar had gone from not being a super-journalist to a writer of open letters. From being someone with “no interest in power” he seems to have chosen the shortest way to wield it. The kind of things that he says in his open letters is so infantile that one actually starts questioning the rationale of people who hail Ravish Kumar as the one who is doomed to hold a mirror to society. Sample a bit of what he wrote in an open letter to Salman Khan –  “In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, when Aishwarya hit you with a lemon, you dramatised the moment as if you had been hit with a stone. It stuck out. Your films didn’t make an impact on me, but you always did.”  Or when he questioned what he felt an abject lack of conscience on the part of M.J. Akbar, a former journalist-editor and now a Minister in the PM Modi government – “Did you ever pass through a crisis of conscience? Even though there are no Gods in journalism, during these times, did you ever fear God?” In the same open letter to M.J. Akbar Ravish Kumar goes on to say –  “There is now a horde of people who try to find political leaning and meaning behind every news story. This horde is flagrantly abusive. They often use the photo of our Prime Minister on their profiles and use symbols of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Many of them follow ministers and many are followed by ministers. They identify some as against the BJP and heap praises on the rest.” Doesn’t Ravish Kumar seem angry that he has gotten to know about the existence of some who don’t share his ideology or points of view? The bigger question that someone needs to ask him is that as per him is there no space for anyone who comes from an opposing view?

Ravish Kumar’s antics such as running black screens or writing open letters are his reactions to a decline in journalism. He laments about the decline in the profession in his letter to M.J. Akbar and adds, “It wasn’t there at all when you fought an election, won, lost and came back to become an editor. That must have been the golden age of journalism.” Today, he feels that people calling a journalist ‘presstitute’ is hurtful and as he works for NDTV people replace the N with an R to call it Randi TV. And he simply attributes all this and everything that is wrong in the world to a certain change that took place approximately three years ago. “For the last three years I have been called a pimp on social media. The political change that veteran journalists like you call great for India has also forged the culture of shouts of “pimp” and “hustler” trailing news stories and news bringers.”

I have never seen Ravish Kumar anchor but I saw him, for the lack of a better expression, gun for Kiran Bedi. He attacked her on every single front in the garb of being a journalist who asked difficult questions and didn’t give her time to complete her answers (who knows perhaps he wanted a full bad interview to air rather than an unbiased one that fell short of duration?) This is the same Ravish Kumar who supports Kanhaiya Kumar’s right to freedom of speech but won’t bat an eyelid when it comes to a Kamlesh Tiwari and so, doesn’t it reek of being selective? A reply to one of his open letters asked what Ravish Kumar, the writer of open letters was not saying – it’s okay to chant pro-Pakistan slogans in a democratic India while you aren’t free to say anything about a specific community for it may be unpalatable for some?  Ravish freely becomes a voice of JNU students’ angst but he or even his organization, NDTV, will ignore Malda Riots where a mob in a reaction to Kamlesh Tiwari’s comment on the Prophet Mohammad attacked the local police, vandalized the police station and set fire to over 2 dozen police vehicles?

Ravish Kumar and the non-sense that he peddles in the name of journalism is more than visible. He calls himself an emotional person and is saddened by people on twitter and social media calling him names. He wrote to M.J. Akbar – “It has come so far that even my mother has been called a whore – a woman who could never go to school, who does not even know what an anchor is, or what is prime time. She has never seen the studios of NDTV. All she asks is if I am keeping well. But she does read the newspaper very closely. When she found out that I am abused like this, she could not sleep well for days.”

In 2012 before everything changed in Ravish Kumar’s world he had appeared on NewsLaundry’s ‘Can You Take It’ and in an interview with Madhu Trehan, he spoke at length about Lutyen’s Journalism and social media’s role in empowering women. Among other things he spoke with great passion about how during the time he started his career journalists were loved by people and listening to him talk about how in the past people would feed reporters/ journalists food and water for they were doing a good deed, one couldn’t help but get moved. He continued to say that today people don’t respect journalists and many a time scribes would choose not to tell people what they did for a living. Yet in the whole thing never once did he stop to think what caused the people to change. Today, he tells M.J. Akbar that things have changed in the last three years but this interview was before that, so did his world change before PM Modi or the one who changed everything arrived? He mocks people whom he doesn’t manage to charm or question him on social media and yet through his black screen shows and open letters prays that they listened to the better angels of their nature when it comes political ideology? Has Ravish Kumar not heard of an expose called the Radia Tapes? Does he know which super-journalist was happily brokering deals, passing information between parties and when caught with the hand in the cookie-jar said this was all playing along a source for a story? No one but Ravish Kumar believed it.

In the film Scarface Al Pacino is an illegal immigrant from Cuba becomes Miami’s drug lord and lashes out at the fancy people in a restaurant who scoff at his presence by saying, ‘You need people like me so you can point your f*&^#’g fingers and say that’s the bad guy.’ Ravish Kumar is the guy mainstream English media needs to feel good about themselves. In the same NewsLaundry interview Madhu Trehan says that once people who didn’t know English were mocked and now it’s their turn to mock them. Perhaps that’s why Ravish Kumar has become omnipresent is mainstream media’s vile attempt to wash away sins of being snobbism? He is peddled at all occasions and platforms and suddenly became a visible face the moment the possibility of a ‘chaiwala’ becoming our Prime Minister became a reality. The mainstream English media of India that believes it controls the narrative of a billion people and the politicians that felt out of sorts when a Hindi speaking three-time CM of a state that has never been a game changer at the national level, and one that whom it vehemently opposed, became the PM. It needed to have someone from the same, dare I say, segment of society on their side and that makes someone like Ravish Kumar enticing. The way Ravish proudly told Ms. Trehan that he isn’t comfortable speaking in English, or in spite of being a graduate didn’t know much and learned everything on the job is similar to a sentiment that millions of India, including the present PM, echo.

Ravish Kumar is a shining example of Indian journalism for many; in fact, he is the hero whom many in the trade and public look up to. But he doesn’t shy away from wearing his biases on his sleeve. Has he considered asking Shahid Siddiqui, an Urdu journalist officially associated with Congress (1997-99), Samajwadi Party (2002-08), Bahujan Samaj Party (2008-09), Rashtriya Lok Dal (2010-12) and Samajwadi Party (January 2012-July 2012) the same question he asked of M.J. Akbar? Has he ever spared a thought for Kamlesh Tiwari’s mother or the mother of the NRI that his eminent fellow journalist got into a scuffle in New York while he feels that the whole world should understand his mother’s trauma? He doesn’t mind showing disdain for Kiran Bedi’s decision to join the BJP while questioning her but with Kanhaiya Kumar he won’t suggest giving up subsidized education that the government and taxpayer pay for before attacking the state’s education policies. And, no, Ravish will never ask Kanhaiya Kumar his views on Africa, the subject of his Ph.D. even when a few days ago common opponent PM Modi was visiting the continent. Or address queries that common folk have about the uncanny timing of him taking time off from twitter (while he was still there) during the Bihar elections where his brother, Brijesh Kumar Pandey, was fighting on a Congress ticket and Ravish Kumar was allegedly campaigning for Mahagathbandhand of Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar.

The sad truth that greets the eye when one sees Ravish Kumar is how like many in mainstream media, he too, somewhere can’t handle common people on twitter and social media. Used to a one-way communication, the likes of Ravish Kumar can’t deal with people who have an opposing thought and while they disregard the voice of a certain kind of a common man on twitter and yet , they appeal to others on the very same platform! And, when nothing makes sense they run black screens or write open letters.


PS: Anyone thinking of a remake of Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein or Welcome to Sajjanpur with a twist – Ravish Kumar’s open letters are returned unread and he has to read themselves…?

Pic Credit: Wiki

Amrita BhinderArticle By: Ms Amrita Bhinder

Tax Lawyer. Prefer to see world through lens of my NikonD7000. Active Bullshit Detector! ‘Never Give In’

Formerly Legal head for an MNC. Currently on a health spree. Alma Mater- Punjab University and IIM-Ahmedabad.

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