By Vagraj Badarayan
The storm generated by the ouster of three high-ranking journalists from ABP News got a further boost with the explosive claims made by PunyaPrasunBajpai, one of the three journalists who were forced out.
Bajpayi has claimed that the ABP News management had asked him not to name the prime minister on his programme Master Stroke, while giving him a free hand to name other ministers.
It is increasingly clear now that the three journalists from ABP News were forced to quit because they had taken a stringent anti-Modi stance in their reporting and programmes.
The trigger for the chain of events was the Master Stroke episode in which Bajpai exposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dubious claim, made on his monthly radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat, regarding the doubling of income of a woman from Chhattisgarh.
At first, the television reception of Master Stroke started getting disrupted. It is understood that the management at ABP News itself engaged in this, to prevent people from watching the programme.
Milind Khandekar, the channel’s editor-in-chief, was forced to resign as the management was unhappy with him for allowing the programme to be telecast. ABP News reporter Abhisar Sharma, who took on the prime minister for his claim that law and order had improved in Uttar Pradesh, has been sent on forced leave.
Indeed this comes as no surprise. The Modi government’s deep antipathy for the media has been evident from the day it assumed office. The ABP episode comes in the long wake of similar instances where inconvenient and critical journalists were forced to quit, as soon as they had done a hard-hitting story or allowed their publications to criticise the government.
In 2016, Outlook magazine sacked its editor-in-chief, Krishna Prasad, upon the publication of an article exposing the involvement of people linked to the RSS in the trafficking of young girls in Assam. Bobby Ghosh had to quit as editor of the Hindustan Times last year after it ran a series of articles tracking incidents of lynching in the country.
Harish Khare, editor-in-chief of the Tribune, had to leave a few months before tenure’s end after the paper published an expose on the easy availability of Aadhar data, for sale for as little as Rs 500 through private operators.
In a similar manner, trustees of the Economic & Political Weekly asked its editor ParanjoyGuhaThakurta to resign because of the criminal defamation suit filed by industrialist Gautam Adani against an article published in the journal. Nitin Sethi had to resign from Scroll earlier this year, after he wrote a damning piece against Adani’s Mundhra port dealings.
Nikhil Wagle quit TV9 in 2017 after the channel’s management suddenly cancelled his show Sadetod which had taken a critical stance against the Maharashtra government on issues like farmers’ distress. The programme was highly popular but was dropped under pressure from the government, alleged Wagle, who had anchored it. He resigned in protest.
The list is indeed long.
The vindictiveness of PM Narendra Modi has also been brought out sharply by Karan Thapar in his latest book, where he claims that BJP functionaries were personally told by the prime minister not to appear on his programmes or give him interviews.
On the extreme side of the spectrum we see cases of murder and physical intimidation against journalists, Right to Information (RTI) activists, NGOs working among Dalits and Adivasis, and activists fighting against the destruction of the environment.
LankeshPatrike editor Gauri Lankesh was murdered; violence was threatened against authors such as PerumalMurugan in Tamil Nadu and more recently S. Hareesh in Kerala. In March this year, activist NanjibhaiSondavara was killed in Rajkot district after he filed an RTI request to know the details of a road being constructed in his village.
Similar incidents have occurred in Bihar, Meghalaya and other states. Thousands of NGOs have been shut down, many for political reasons as they were seen to be opposing the government on various fronts: such as nuclear power, or the setting up of industrial plants in tribal areas without regard to the environment, and without negotiations or discussions with the people living in those areas.
Overall a grim situation prevails so far as media independence and a democratic space for protest is concerned.
The deterioration in the status of the media profession as seen in murder, assault, threat of physical harm or job loss of journalists is also reflected in the World Press Freedom Index Report. According to the 2018 report India was ranked at 138 out of 180 countries, having slipped two places.
Looking at these issues as an outcome of the illiberal and authoritarian ideological moorings of the current ruling dispensation alone provides only a partial explanation for what we see happening today. It is true that the sheer magnitude and pervasiveness of the BJP government’s intolerant attitude towards the media, which dares criticise it, is astonishing. But it is also true that in the past the Congress and other political parties ruling in the states displayed a similar tendency or urge to control the media, by intimidation or allurement, whichever proved effective. This is why the issue needs a deeper, dispassionate analysis to pinpoint the trends reflected in such behaviour by the present government.
It would be a mistake to think that only threats and intimidation are responsible for the loss of freedom in the media industry. Perhaps the number of media houses willingly prostrating themselves before the government today raises far more difficult questions than the ones raised by the case of ABP News. After all, it is understandable that governments sit in a somewhat conflictual role in relation to the media, insofar as it is the job of the media to bring out their weaknesses and turn the searchlight towards them.
But the growing media corporatisation in India has changed the understanding about the role and position of media in the country. In 2014, Vineet Jain, managing director of the Times of India Group of publications said that their newspaper was in the business of advertising. This candid admission captures the unmistakable direction the Indian media is taking. Media is now seen essentially as a business. Quite naturally, the pursuit of profit becomes its prime objective, and no business house would be willing to lose out on the media business, or the other businesses in which it is involved, just to ‘speak truth to power’.
The growing corporatisation of the media has progressed hand in hand with a decline in editorial ethos, and the subservience of journalistic values to business imperatives.
We are witnessing a link between corporatisation and the media’s turning away from its role as the watchdog of democracy, to being a promoter of the government’s agenda no matter how reactionary and regressive it is. (Remember the Cobrapost sting earlier this year, where top bosses of media houses were shown to be willing and eager to promote the agenda of communal polarisation for financial gain.) However, the link between the two processes is neither one-to-one nor direct, and needs closer examination.
Two outlets of the same media group, for instance, may take very different, even opposite views on the same issue.
While ABP News may drive away journalists who oppose Modi, the Telegraph of the same group comes up with some of the most daring and hard-hitting headlines and reports. One can see Times Now engaged, day in day out, in pushing the ‘nationalistic’, government agenda while its sister organisation Mirror Now takes a fairly progressive and balanced view on issues.
A large proportion of NDTV shares are owned by Reliance through VSP Ltd, by some carefully crafted financial arrangement, and yet NDTV continues to maintain an editorial position critical of the government. The hedging of risks across channels and media is a strategy employed by the corporate media house in its long-term pursuit of profit, protecting the interests of the larger business group which is promoting the media outlet.
Another worrying dimension of the corporatisation of the media landscape is the growing concentration of ownership witnessed in India. According to a recent study published in EPW titled ‘Mapping the Power of Major Media Companies in India’, in 2011 the share of the top four companies in the total revenue of each sector — called the C4 share — was 75% for television, 96% for radio, 84% for Direct-to-Home, 77% for news websites, and 48% for the newspaper industry. With fewer firms controlling the media, it becomes far easier for the government to armtwist and manipulate them to push its own agenda.
The issue of media houses’ freedom from government power and corporate control is deeply linked with the work conditions of those involved in creating the content. Over a period of time, the majority of media houses have opted for the retrenchment of employees at various levels, replacing regular employees with contract workers with no job security. It is obvious that the threat of losing one’s job works as a big deterrent for anyone thinking to oppose management diktats. It has also become a common practice for media houses to pay a paltry sum to reporters and other professionals working in smaller cities and on the ground.
Journalists are given the duty to generate advertising revenue and improve subscription along with their journalistic work. It is tragic that the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board (2011), which was constituted to decide the basic wage and working conditions of the journalists, have been implemented by only a handful of media houses despite the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the recommendations.
In tandem with this, we see a trend where big names in the media are offered huge salaries, and sometimes become shareholders in the channel.
The impact of the entire process is that the media becomes weak and prone being manipulated by the management or the government.
Challenges to media freedom come from many quarters and involve both short- and longterm issues. In the immediate context, a government which is blatant in its pursuit to use all the powers at its command to gag the press and force it to follow its line needs to be held accountable by all those who value democracy and free expression.
It is dangerous when the work of journalists starts being benchmarked against its political desirability or the commercial imperatives of the media organisation. Indeed, in the longer run, the overall context of media ownership, journalists’ working conditions, institutional safeguards for free and fair reporting, and other such issues also need to be taken up for discussion within the media community.
As the Modi government enters its fifth year, the situation looks grim and intimidating not only for the media industry but for the democratic future of the country as a whole. When senior officials in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting call up media houses to threaten them, and the chief of the ruling party is reported to have echoed the threat to journalists for doing their job, it is time to sit up and take stock, and prepare for the long battle ahead.
Hajj and the Neglected Legacy of a Great Woman
By MOHAMMAD OMAR FAROOQ
Islam teaches us to submit completely and whole-heartedly. “O you who believe! Enter into Islam completely, whole-heartedly…” (Quran 2:208)
It also calls for a submission that is spontaneous and conscientious, without any hesitation or resistance against the will and guidance of God. “But no, by your Rabb, they can have no (real) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.” (Quran 4:65)
There is great – truly great – news from God. “Those who have faith and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures, their reward is with God: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein forever; God is well pleased with them, and they with Him: All this for such as fear their Rabb (the cherisher and sustainer).” (Quran 98:7-8)
Eid al-Adha is a great and unique occasion of joy and celebration. Ironically, this joy and celebration revolve around sacrifice. It would probably make sense to only those who understand that the joy of giving that touches others’ lives is far greater and deeper than the joy of receiving.
This great occasion of Eid al-Ad’ha is tied to a unique event, the Hajj; a unique city, Makkah; and a unique family, the family of Ibrahim. Indeed, what the Quran refers to the Milla of Ibrahim is essentially rooted in the legacy of a model family. Say: “God speaks the Truth: follow the Milla of Ibrahim, the True in Faith; he was not of the Pagans.” (Quran 3:95)
We cannot discuss Eid al-Ad’ha without remembering Ibrahim, who represents in the Quran an ideal submission. He never hesitated to respond to the call and command of his Rabb (the Creator, the Sustainer and the Evolver). He never considered anything too precious to be withheld when it came to fulfilling the wish of his Rabb. Everything he did was commanded by God, and was fulfilled by him conscientiously with honor and nobility. We are all too familiar with the story of his unwavering faith and conviction, and his supreme sacrifice as embodied in the event when he was ready to sacrifice his dear and only son to fulfill the wish of his Rabb. “Behold! hisRabb (Lord) said to him: “Bow (submit your will to Me): He said: “I bow (submit my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe.” (Quran 2:131) We know, of course, God didn’t really want him to slaughter his son, he just wanted to see if Ibrahim was ready to submit entirely and unconditionally. No loving God would have exacted such a sacrifice of one’s own child in reality.
Another member of this ideal family was the first son of Ibrahim, Ismail. The Quran presents him as like father like son. “… (Abraham) he said: ‘O my son! I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!’ (The son) said: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me, if God so wills, one practicing patience and constancy!” (Quran 19:102)
In his submission to the will of his Rabb, Ismail was no less ideal. He submitted to the will of God whole-heartedly and with a heart full of peace and tranquility. Once again, there are very few among us who are not already familiar with the role and position of Ismail in the heritage of Tawheed and the eternal truth.
Going beyond the customary commemoration of the stories of Ibrahim and Ismail, I want to focus here on the not-so-mentioned legacy of a great woman, Mother Hajar (Radhiallahu ‘anha, May Allah be pleased with her) the wife of Ibrahim and the mother of Ismail. Indeed, she is an integral and as important part of the legacy of Tawheed and the Milla (community) of Ibrahim. Her submission to the will of her Rabb and her sacrifice were as ideal as that of Ibrahim and Ismail. God has ennobled her in the Quran by making Safaa and Marwah integral to the performance of Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. These are the two hills between which she ran back and forth in search of water for her beloved infant son, while she was all alone according to the plan of God Himself. “Behold! Safaa and Marwah are among the symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to Good, be sure that God is He Who recognizes and knows.” (Quran 2:158)
If the readers have not read already, I invite them to read the Hadith containing details of her story in Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol. 4, #583, Book of Ambiya or Prophets).
Mother Hajar was not just a wife of Ibrahim, but she was deeply loved by him. But, once again, to fulfil the wish of God, he brought Mother Hajar and their beloved infant son, Ismail, to this abandoned, desolate, barren valley of Makkah. There was no such inhabited place called Makkah at that time.
As Ibrahim brought Mother Hajar and Ismail to that barren, rugged valley, she asks (as in the Hadith): ‘O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is neither any person nor anything else (to survive)?’ She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, ‘Has God instructed you to do so?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’…
That was enough for Mother Hajar. Now she knew that it was according to the Divine Will. With the same nobility and dignity of faith as it ran in that family, “She said, ‘Then God will not neglect us.’ (In another version): ‘I am pleased to be (left) with God.’
Then Ibrahim left and she was alone with her infant. Makkah was not an inhabited place yet. Food and water that Ibrahim provided them with were consumed by the mother and baby. Desperately, she started searching for water running back and forth through the valley between the hills of Safaa and Marwah. Surly Allah would not abandon the family of Ibrahim and so, she was visited by the arch-angel Jibril. This is an significant point to ponder: What kind of person is visited individually by Jibril?
Water, in the form of an ever flowing spring, the Zamzam, was made available to them by direct intervention of God. Right during that time, the tribe of Jurhum, passing by the valley saw birds flying. Realizing that water must be available, they searched and discovered Mother Hajar and Ismail. They sought permission to settle there. Thus, the desolate valley of Makkah became an inhabited area. Ibrahim returned there much later and laid the foundation of Ka’ba. Makkah ultimately was to emerge as a city and as the perennial heartland of Tawheed, the belief in oneness of God.
Subhanallah, God is glorified. He took such a significant and noble service from a woman. But consider another aspect. What kind of situation Mother Hajar was placed into? In that desolate, uninhabited valley, what might have been going on in her mind?
While unconditionally committed to her Lord, she was constantly searching, moving and struggling not thinking about herself any longer, but to find some water and save her child. What could she think about herself? Dr. Ali Shariati, in his well known book Hajj, attempts to provide a glimpse. Once she was slave only to be given away by her Master, a king representing the owning class; now a victim and a stranger, exiled and abandoned by her family all alone with her child in her arms! She hardly ever had a dignified identity. Had she not been the mother of Ismail, who would have given her any recognition and worth? There, in that barren place, her identity did not matter any further. Yet, she reposed her complete trust in her true Lord (Rabb) and was determined to pursue whatever she could in the Way of God.
Now ask yourself. If any human being needs to be identified, whom would you consider the foremost as far as founding of Makkah as a city?* Is there any other civilization, or even a city of this stature, that has been brought about by such primary contribution and sacrifice of a woman? How ironical, unfortunate, insulting and utterly unacceptable that the city that came into existence through the sacrifice and struggle of a lone woman now does not allow a woman to drive a car by herself. Nor does it allow a woman to travel to hajj by herself, even though the Prophet Muhammad himself had the vision that woman would travel someday alone to perform hajj and indeed, the vision did materialize. (Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibnHanbal, Vol. 4, #19397, 19400; Also Sahih al-Bukhari: Vol. 4, #793)
It is so unfortunate that so little about her is talked about even on such pertinent occasion of which she is an integral part. I don’t recall myself listening to any Khutbah that highlighted her faith, sacrifice, and contribution that were second to none; yes, second to none. Indeed, I have read Sahih al-Bukhari before too, until the work of a Muslim intellectual of our time, whose mind is keen about women’s contribution in the heritage of Tawheed, drew my attention to this.*
What men and women can learn from a woman, whose service and contribution ennobled the Hills of Safaa and Marwah to the status of “among the Sign of God,” which must be visited, and whose quest for saving the object of her love must be re-enacted?
From far away as the pilgrims perform this re-enactment, we also want to be like Ismail and have a share of this noble woman’s affection. But there is a greater symbolic implication!
This community of believers follow the Way of Prophet Muhammad, a way that primarily was designed after the Way of Ibrahim and his family. The role that was played primarily by the family of Ibrahim, was broadly assumed by the Prophet Muhammad but now involving not just his family, but the larger community of believers. This community (Ummah) is created for mankind! (Quran 3:110)
As it was true then, it is also true now, the humanity is in pursuit of doom and destruction. Should we not, think of the humanity as Ismail destined for death, to save which love, affection, and restless passion of Mother Hajar are needed again and again? Did not the Prophet Muhammad carry on that mission of mercy and affection, and thus he was the RahmatullilAlamin (mercy for the universe), according to the Quran? Did not his loyal companions fulfil the same mission? Then, does not this community (Ummah) need to be conscious of the trust God has given to them, for which the community will be accountable? What could be a better occasion for us to remind ourselves of that trust and invite ourselves to reflect on this and respond accordingly?
In conclusion, what is there, then, to celebrate?
“Our Lord! Grant us what you did promise to us through your Prophets, and save us from the shame on the Day of Judgment: for you never break Your promise.” And their Rabb (Lord) has accepted of them, and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another; those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain; Verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; A reward from the Presence of God, and from His Presence is the best of rewards. (Quran 3:194-195)
For all the toil and struggle, the hardship and sacrifice, the efforts and pursuits, is it not truly deserving of celebration that our works will not be in vain, will not suffer any loss? This is a guarantee from none other than God.
For me, that is more than good enough. With all the worldly promises, guarantees, and warranties that give us a sense of security, one tends to forget that there is also a vast world of deceptions. If we cannot have peace of mind with the promise from God, we have nowhere to turn to. Thus, what could be more worthy of our celebration than the invitation of God to an eternal life of peace, happiness, and prosperity, an invitation that comes with the unfailing promise of God. This, of course, requires that we commit ourselves to the positive and constructive pursuit of bringing peace, happiness and prosperity to the humanity.
The Observance of Eid ulAdha
By Rida Ghaffar
Eid ulAdha is the second largest religious festival for Muslims worldwide. This occasion is also referred to as the “Festival of Sacrifice”. It is fervently celebrated and marks the remembrance of Hazrat Ibrahim’s (AS) willingness to sacrifice Hazrat Ismail (AS) as an act of obedience to the command that had been made by Allah (SWT). As Eid ulAdha falls on the 10th of DhulHijjah, this year the tentative dates are accounted as the 21st or the 22nd of August 2018, depending on the region.
That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor. (22:28)
Eid is just around the corner and the shopping sprees for its preparations have begun by fellow Muslims across the globe. From the purchase of sacrificial animals such as goats, cows, lambs and camels to new outfits for this happy occasion. Apart from the embarkment of several Eid preparations, the extensive Ibadaah by Muslims is not behind at all. Muslims all over the world drape this cape of protection around themselves by immersing themselves into constant dhikr around this time.
And do not eat of that upon which the name of Allah has not been mentioned, for indeed, it is grave disobedience. And indeed do the devils inspire their allies [among men] to dispute with you. And if you were to obey them, indeed, you would be associators [of others with Him]. (6:121)
The day of Eid begins with the Eid prayer, offered on the morning of 10th DhulHijjah after the sun rises completely; before the time for the Zuhr prayer starts. This prayer consists of two rakats and is performed with complete devotion worldwide.
After offering the Eid prayer, Muslims are meant to sacrifice the animals and divide out the meat amongst people. As far as the meat distribution of the slaughtered animals is concerned; the meat division is split into three parts; poor, relatives and friends, and family respectively.
In regards to the sacrifices offered, the term Dhabiha is used to reflect the act of slaughtering the animals in the Halal way; pronouncing Tasmiyah (The name of Allah (SWT)) and Takbir; “BismillahAllahu Akbar”. The knife to be used in the slaughter must be razor sharp; straight and smooth. Moreover, the blood should be drained completely before the removal of the animal’s head. In Islam, flowing blood is considered to be impure and highly prohibited for food consumption. The reason behind this is that blood is a good medium for germs, bacteria, toxins, etc. Therefore, Dhabiha is to be done such that the meat is purified and suitable for consumption. Furthermore, the blood should ideally be drained in the corner area of the garden, so that the blood is absorbed by the land rather than being drained directly in gutters. For instance, a devastating sight of blood flooded across the streets of Dhaka was witnessed back in 2016.
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said: “Whoever slaughtered the sacrifice before the prayer, he just slaughtered it for himself, and whoever slaughtered it after the prayer, he slaughtered it at the right time and followed the tradition of the Muslims.”
We hope that this Eid will bring immense joy for each Muslim individual and confer ease as they carry out their respective sacrifices. We wholeheartedly wish our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters a very happy Eid!
The Hajj ending in Eid-ul-Adha
By Ashfaq Hussain
Eid-ul-Adha (‘Celebration of Sacrifice’), also known as the Greater Eid, is the second most important festival in the Muslim calendar. It marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). It takes place on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Although only pilgrims to Makkah can celebrate it fully, Muslims elsewhere also mark the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha.
The Hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam and therefore a very important part of the Islamic faith. All physically fit Muslims who can afford it should make the visit to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in their lives. Every year around 2 million Muslims converge on Makkah. They visit a shrine in the city known as the Ka’bah, built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma’il (Ishmael) at the command of Allah (God). It is a place for all who want to reaffirm their faith.
Eid-ul-Adha celebrates the occasion when Allah appeared to Ibrahim in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Isma’il as an act of obedience to God. The devil tempted Ibrahim by saying he should disobey Allah and spare his son. As Ibrahim was about to kill his son, Allah intervened: instead Allah provided a lamb as the sacrifice. This is why today all over the world Muslims who have the means to, sacrifice a sheep (alternatively a goat or cow can be used), as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah. They usually share out the meat with family and friends, as well as the poorer members of the community. In Britain, the animal has to be killed at a slaughterhouse.
Eid-ul-Adha is a 1-3 day celebration and in Muslim countries is a public holiday. It starts with Muslims going to the Mosque for prayers, dressed in their best clothes, and thanking Allah for all the blessings they have received. It is also a time when they visit family and friends as well as offering presents. At Eid it is obligatory to give a set amount of money to charity to be used to help poor people buy new clothes and food so they too can celebrate.
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