Posts Tagged ‘ RIL ’

The Goddess of Revolutionary Things

Her talk at St. Xavier’s, Mumbai last month wasn’t a table-thumping speech, but Arundhati Roy certainly knows how to arouse the ‘Call to Arms’ with a voice of reason.

Titled ‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’, and organized by the Arunadha Ghandy Memorial Trust, Arundhati flogged the foremost ghost of India’s crony capitalism, Mukesh Ambani, for a recent deal he made with Raghav Bahl, promoter of Network18. Arundhati urged citizens to oppose such policies and laws that allow big corporates to gain unethically from unbridled cross-ownership of businesses.

Arundhati Roy with Fr. Frazer, Principal, St. Xavier's College(Anuradha Ghandy in background)

What’s the big fuss about RIL’s deal with Network18?

Ambani will gain indirect control over Network18 and Raghav Bahl will in turn be shepherding RIL’s investment in the network of ETV channels, run by Ramoji Rao’s Ushodaya Enterprises. It calls into question the matter of editorial independence once RIL can control the formerly autonomous media houses.

One can certainly see Arundhati’s point when it comes to big corporate acquiring media houses. As journalist P. Sainath warned, “It only adds to the process of shrinkage of diversity and lends itself to increasing homogeneity in news and entertainment. The fourth estate is now about revenue streams and corporate profits – really just real estate”.

The deal received a lot of flattering coverage in the business media, but whatever critical analysis it was subjected to was reported in the Mumbai Mirror as part of covering Arundhati’s visit to St. Xavier’s. So basically the MM pulled off a “That’s what she said” on its readers. It’s easy to stifle debate by suggesting that it’s coming from a crazy bitch.

Political Prisoners Much?

One would think that Arun Ferreira would be much sought after at the event after having been released on bail from Nagpur Central Jail after 4 years of incarceration without trial. He was acquitted and released in 10 cases in September 2011 that alleged him to be the Chief Propagandist Officer of the CPI (Maoist) in Nagpur, and suddenly re-arrested the very same day. This galvanized his friends and supporters into organized campaigns by Fr. Frazer, Principal of St. Xavier’s College (from where Arun had graduated in Mathematics in 1990) and the Bombay Catholic Sabha, that finally lead to his release.

He didn’t turn up though, much to my disappointment, but the ghosts of his persecution left an impression on Arundhati. She spoke of how the State favours NGO-oriented kind of work in the tribal areas. As long as you distribute fruits and medicines to the tribals or the oppressed, the State is happy. But when you talk to them about why they’re poor, how they can change their situation, the State gets uncomfortable. Arundhati spoke at length about ‘think-tanks’ such as the Observation Research Foundation and NGOs like India Against Corruption, and expressed concerns over how powerful sponsors shape policy for ‘independent’ ground work. All suited for building consensus on the neo-liberal agenda for India’s ‘growth story’.

The Solution

R-E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N! If there was ever any doubt within the Arundhati-mania or the Arundhati-haters club about her position on the Naxalites’ ultimate goal of violent over-throw of the Indian State, she settled the matter right there…three times! The alternate solution of peace talks she’s been advocating for years has been muzzled by the State. Operation Green Hunt and the CRPF rendering the Maoist leadership ‘headless’ since 2010 certainly left no doubt about it. She went so far as to make an impassioned plea to urban citizens to support the tribals’ rights to live peacefully in their forests (read: join the struggle). Lots of hollering in the hall at this time.

Whether you hate her or disagree with her, it will do us all some good to bear the results of the State crushing the Naxalites, or of the impending revolution.

If the uprising is successful in overthrowing democracy, India as we know it might become a relic of history. Of course I would love to be optimistic about a classless and casteless society, a land of opportunity for all. But it’s hard to figure whether post-revolution India will turn out to be a Stalinist-Russia or go the Latin American way.

If however, the State pursues its current policy of wiping out the ‘Naxal-infested’ areas, a problem that is still regarded as a conflict arising out of a socio-economic imbalance from many within the Government, Democracy will survive to see the day…but at what cost? India will then go down in history as having betrayed its own people to the point of a most bloodiest-vendetta, more so terrible as they will have killed the very idea of India.

Notes

  1. Outlook’s article on the RIL-Network18 deal – http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?279466
  2. Arun Ferreira’s interview with Outlook – http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?279553