Let’s be honest. India is a country vulnerable of getting obsessed at the drop of a hat. Before falling for newness, we ignore the downsides. Following the same pattern of obsession, certain sections of the country fell for a ‘firebrand dalit leader’ in 2016. Jignesh Mewani –‘breath of fresh air’ he was! Right? Doing things we had never heard of, aspirations of the downtrodden resonated in his public speeches. His ‘unusual approach’ of bashing the majority, abusing the incumbents, avoiding basic decorum while trying to mock the head of the state was what caught the eye of the media. Delhi, not very long ago, had fallen for such an anarchist former-bureaucrat who promised politics of change, and as things turned out, the state is still reeling from the self-inflicted blow. But Gujarat managed to steer clear of the obsession and the incumbents managed to retain the state. Thank heavens for that!
Jignesh Mewani’s rise through the political ranks of Gujarat cannot be purely attributed to the fact that he followed the stale route of mobilizing the opinion by cunningly following the divide and rule principle. Kanhaiya’s effervescence had fizzed out, Gujarat elections were near, hopes of beating the BJP in its den had faded into oblivion, ‘they’ needed someone. A semi-privileged guy who had gone through the pains that millions go through. Kanhaiyya was now attending shows with comedians, enjoying five-star meals. He did not fit the bill now. Tejashwi Yadav lacked the honesty because wherever you go, or whatever you do, deeds of your kith and kin haunt you.
So Jignesh Mewani was created. Out of nowhere. He led protests and as was evident from the way this entire plan was chalked out, media’s portrayal of him as the messiah that Gujarat needed to help them get rid of the decades of ‘dictatorship’ helped him win an assembly seat. Wow, what a champion of democracy!
After winning a seat in Gujarat, Jignesh Mewani tried to press on the pedal and spread his clout. During one such attempt the other day, after having participated in an interaction with academics, activists and students in Qaid-E-millat International Academy of Media Studies in Chennai, a press briefing was organized.
Even before the Chennai Press Conference session began, Jignesh Mewani, spotted the Republic TV’s mic, and it irked him. Because freedom of speech is a one way street only a select few among the media should walk on. “Who is the Republic TV’s reporter? I won’t talk to Republic,” Jignesh reportedly said. Naturally, the scribes tried to pacify him, clearly mentioning that it was a general PC and not an exclusive one. But the air that he has around him, Jignesh Mewani did not budge. “I won’t answer questions. Remove the mic,” Jignesh commanded the journalists in the room.
And then something happened that has almost gone extinct in the recent times. In a profession where jobs are under scrutiny and pressure of exclusives make you go bald in no time, the journalists present in the Chennai Presser stood in unison for the integrity and ethics that the media is expected to adhere to.
Shabbir Ahmed, a reporter from Times Now responded, “You can’t demand that (which mic should be there, and which should not). We don’t want this press conference, you can go.”
TN media asks @jigneshmevani80 to leave…as he wanted a particular channel's mic to be removed from a press conference. Chennai media says 'No need for your Press conference' you can't dictate terms to us.
— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) January 16, 2018
The other journalists followed the suit and press briefing ended without Jignesh Mewani taking any questions.
The Chennai episode was certainly a welcome departure from what we saw last year. Once again it was a Republic TV reporter who was at the centre of attraction. Apparently in the aftermath of his ‘neech aadmi’ remark for Narendra Modi, Mani Shankar Aiyar was being cornered. When he was surrounded by the reporters of various media houses, he snatched away the mic of Republic TV’s Piyush Mishra and played the cry baby. Some of the other reporters, particularly one from India TV, fell for the drama and shielded the Congress veteran, eventually demanding that the said reporter be thrown out. That was Lutyen’s journalism, where watchdogs become lapdogs as per their convenience.
Journalists of Delhi must learn something from what Journalists of Chennai did yesterday
But the way Chennai journalists showed Jignesh Mewani what true journalism actually looks like, it’s the kind of breath of fresh air we want in a growing India.
As for Jignesh Mewani, it’s time he realizes that once you are a public servant, it’s your responsibility to act as one. Face those who irk you, answer the unsavoury questions, and be prepared for filth that might get thrown at you. Smile for the camera and do the work that is expected of you. Cry baby days are over. World outside the boardroom full of leftist so-called intellectuals are tough. Here questions are real and challenges real.
And here’s a tip, he might as well learn something from a fellow Gujarati who too happens to be a Dalit leader in his own ways because in his eyes – every individual, including those from the media, is equal.