One of the early stories I reported was from panchayat polls in #Nandigram, soon after the farmers' rebellion, just as Mamata began to topple the CPIM edifice.
It was an illustration, and a caution, about interpreting images of violence during polls in West Bengal /n
The intimidation and violence, even sexual assault, mostly by the CPIM cadre, was serious. On polling day, the CRPF was heavily deployed, led by an admired DIG Alok Raj.

I was with a patrol when two TMC activists approached, asking for help at a village called Garupara /n
They said CPM men were obstructing the way there and scaring off voters.

We followed them. On the path we found a woman, so old her torso was lined like a leaf, knocked to the ground by goons. The local CPM candidate left the scene on a bike as we arrived, visibly sneering. /n
It seems that this candidate went straight to the CPM side of the village, and announced that TMC activists had gotten the CRPF to thrash him (the first manipulation in this story). As we reached Garupara, people were pouring over from the CPM side. A small riot began ... /n
Some eighty villagers — old women with coconut-scrapers, boys throwing stones — swept around us, and began bludgeoning the TMC men. It looked like they would be lynched, when an order was given and the CRPF jawans lathi-charged. /n
They broke up the mob, then jogged through the village whacking at anyone to send them indoors.
“They’re destroying their own villages,” the patrol leader told me afterwards, catching his breath, “Turning it into India and Pakistan...” / n
This is when it got ugly. I see local police arriving, led by a notorious OC, I won't share his name here. The EC had said he should be withdrawn from poll duty, yet here he is, in uniform and sunglasses, followed by armed retinue and men with handycams (not from the media) /n
He crossed to where the CRPF were recovering, and said, “Did you attack these people? Saale… give me your names. There will be a complaint.”
The CRPF men are enraged, “You’re using gaalis? This is what you do with your power?”
The OC was dead calm. “You'll see my power” /n
Suddenly, the two groups are literally at each others’ throats: the local OC and the CRPF officer grab each other by the neck.
Just before the two police forces attack each other, the officers draw apart.
Angry and bewildered, the CRPF skulk back to their post... /n
The OC now holds court over a village in uproar over the CRPF’s “brutal attack”. It is impossible to tell if any of the injuries on display are real. A woman, crying hysterically, describes how she was asleep when the CRPF burst into her house and began kicking her /n
Local TV crews are appearing. The CPIM candidate – the sneering one – re-appears, to display scrapes on his elbow and back.
I can swear that I saw the OC twist his ring, which has a pointed spur, into his own finger, until a drop of blood rises out. /n
The photographer and I are nervous now, and set off into the fields, aiming to get back to the District HQ. Faster than we can walk, the story travels, coming back to us in new shapes at every village ... / n
We hear: CRPF went through Garupara, asking for party affiliations, threatening villagers. The CRPF beat up the OC... The OC’s arm is broken.

Once the TV channels begins showing the soundbites, it is unstoppable. Two days later, an inquiry was ordered into the CRPF 'attack' /n
This report was published at the coverstory of Tehelka that week, with amazing photographs of the incident, and it won that year's Press Institute of India award for conflict reporting. I'm afraid it's gone missing along with all the rest of Tehelka's archives. /n
There was no single lesson to take away from it. We can't ever dismiss reports of police of cadre brutality, which were only too real.
But it's also a mistake to take images of violence at face value, in a context full of skilled, cynical manipulation (and this was before SM) /n
There is just no substitute for real, corroborated, professional reporting.

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More from @rkarnad

14 Apr
On the 130th #AmbedkarJayanti, a short thread on a milestone in his life, described as the "Beginning of a New Era" – when he was appointed to the Viceroy's Executive Council at the height of the WW2...
2. In July 1941, to win support for the war-effort, the Viceroy of India agreed to expand his Executive Council, the cabinet in charge of the Central government. He would appoint eight ‘representative Indians’ -- all of course, from the social elite.
3. With his appointments, he had left out the Indian politician most staunchly supportive of the war – and a leader with a mass following – BR Ambedkar of the Independent Labour Party.
Read 15 tweets
11 Feb
A @YouTube video, trending on Twitter this morning, called for Indian journalists - including my friends and colleagues - to be 'hanged to death' for treason. It had half a million views before it was taken down just now. (1/3)
Alongside threats, the video explicitly named @BDUTT @zoo_bear @dhruv_rathee @khanumarfa @TheDeshBhakt @SaketGokhale @RanaAyyub @missanabeem @fayedsouza & websites like @thenewsminute as conspirators; it also implied that the journalists aim to assassinate the video-creator (2/3)
The video claimed to 'prove' that these orgs were conspiring to 'destroy India'. It said said the news sites mentioned in the farmers' protest #toolkit were also endorsed in a thread by @missanabeem, and also formed the DIGIPUB News Foundation in Oct 2020. That's it. (3/3)
Read 4 tweets
3 Feb
Since tweets by @rihanna and @miakhalifa are now considered 'external forces' and 'foreign interference', a small reminder... During the first Emergency, the Sangh's main line of dissent was through foreign press, governments, activists, and funding.
A short thread.
(2) The RSS has a fanciful mythology of its resistance within India, but there's not much evidence of it. @Swamy39 wrote in the year 2000 that ‘most of the leaders of the BJP/RSS had betrayed the struggle against the Emergency,’ offering ‘to work for the nation’s tormentors’...
(3) Instead it was overseas intelligentsia (from the Left) who gave the anti-Emergency movement early moral support. But Sangh leaders like Makarand Desai also lobbied @nytimes & other Western papers to editorialise on the silencing of dissent & capture of the judiciary in India.
Read 10 tweets
8 Jan
Why don't we stop describing the violent arrest of #MunawarFaruqui as a case of free speech vs religious sentiments. That's already false.

It's a case-study of the new political entrepreneurship: find ways to criminalise Muslims... advance in The Party. Zero sentiments involved.
(2) Just consider the bare facts: After he's beaten, arrested and denied bail, police say there is "no evidence against him".
But the vigilante who went for him, the son of an MLA (classic), is being paraded on @zeenews shows tagged "हिंदू का अपमान सबसे आसान
(3) And even been graciously, patiently interviewed by @BDUTT on @themojostory and given space to flaunt his wounded 'religious sentiments'. Recognition and a platform from a central figure of the liberal press.
That interview is now his pinned tweet, of course.
Read 9 tweets
14 Dec 20
[Thought experiment]

Like him or hate him, the Prime Minister comands wide support - having won the last election with well over 300 seats. Yet a protest movement has now openly declared that it will remove him from office through non-electoral means.

(2) Protesters are gathering in New Delhi with plans to besiege the Prime Minister's house. ‘We intend to overthrow him,’ an opposition leader tells the media. ‘Thousands of us will surround his house to prevent her from going out or receiving visitors.'
(3) This follows over a year of student-protests involving extreme disruption and frequent bloodshed.
A Union minster has been assassinated.
And the figurehead of the protest movement has called on police Army personnel to disregard orders they consider 'illegal'.

Read 12 tweets
15 Oct 20
Even after its recent stand, the Hindi film industry needs to keep watching the channels that have attacked it & persecuted its women actors.
Not to see what the channels are saying, but to see a clear picture of what #Bollywood itself is expected to become. (1/7)
(2) Basic principle: The new extremist movement first asks for compromises from industry players. Then it coerces / co-opts them. But the endgame is to destroy existing players & rebuild the industry from its cadre.

Why coerce the film industry, when you could possess it?
(3) This endgame is close for India's 'news' TV. You can see the English broadcasters strung down a gradient: From accommodation, to compromises, to co-option, to full possession (you-know-who at each position.) The game is rigged so they keep moving, or come under fire.
Read 9 tweets

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