BJPs Final Pincer Strategy

General V.K. Singh has certainly had the last laugh on this one. Remember how we all bristled when he called journalists "presstitutes"? Turns out he was dead right, as the latest multiple stings by Cobrapost reveals.

“Pincer movement”: a movement by two wings of an army converging on the enemy. (Concise Oxford Dictionary)
[In the India of 2018 – The “army” is the BJP-RSS combine and the “enemy” is the country’s own citizens.]

So you thought it’s all about Aadhaar? That if we stop Mr. Modi’s UIDAI led incursion into our private lives all will be well? Well, think again. Aadhaar isn’t going away- the manner in which the Chief Justice of India has conducted himself so far indicates that the expected Supreme Court judgement will be in the government’s favour. Oh, there will be a few caveats, crumbs for the civil libertarians, but rest assured: by this time next year they’ll have you by the short and curly.

But there’s a greater danger emerging, which makes Aadhaar just a side show, like the clown in the circus. The govt. appears to have planned a much bigger surgical strike on its own citizens in order to ensure its return in 2019 and a lifetime lease of the nation thereafter. It has set in motion a pincer movement, the two claws being Disinformation and Surveillance. If the govt. has its way on this one, then the whole country will be on an Irom Sharmila kind of drip, being force fed on disinformation designed, manufactured and shaped by the govt. itself. There will be no other information available .Over the last couple of years the more discerning among us had been suspecting that all was not well with the news business, that mainstream media (including television channels) were doctoring news in favour of the govt., that prime time was being dominated by fake and paid news, that a lot of unfavourable news was being blanked out, that it was only the opposition parties who were generally the object of sting operations, that opinion polls (especially election related ones) were slanted : in short, that the media had become the govt’s and the BJP’s megaphone. We were right. General V.K. Singh has certainly had the last laugh on this one. Remember how we all bristled when he called journalists ” presstitutes”? Turns out he was dead right, as the latest multiple stings by Cobrapost reveals. Actually, they are a couple of notches below even prostitutes: the latter only sell their bodies, the media has sold its soul too. This is not a pact with the devil, it’s an unholy miscegenation.

The investigative portal Cobrapost has just released a series of sting videos in which just about every major print and electronic news group has agreed to prostitute itself for fat payments from a purported Hindu organisation to promote the BJP/Hindutva cause. The list includes the TIMES group, Hindustan Times, TV18, India Today group, Zee group, Jagran Star India, ABP, Sun group, Jupiter, Big FM, Open magazine, The New Indian Express, Lokmat, TV5, Bharat Samachar, ABM, Dinemani. Out of 27 news organisations approached, 25 agreed to be part of this illegal deal; only two flatly refused, both from Bengal: Dainik Sambad and Bartaman Patrika. The contract was in three stages: first promote soft Hindutva by showing/ featuring programmes on Krishna and Bhagvadgita, then malign opposition leaders through lampooning, character assassination, satire, and finally play the minority card and create polarisation by inserting fake news. The idea, clearly stated in the videos, is to give political benefit to the BJP ahead of the 2019 elections. The TIMES group even reportedly offered to develop a full campaign for Rs. 500 crores. Most of them even agreed to accept part payment in cash ( without any documentation) and even suggested how this money could be laundered to make it legit! Not even one organisation has denied that these conversations took place, and have only offered feeble alibis that test one’s credulity. So much for our ” free” media, that fourth pillar of democracy that has turned out be the fifth column.

The second pincer is a vast improvement on Aadhaar, and perhaps even on China- 24×7 surveillance on every tweet, post or e-mail that you send. This will not be done surreptitiously, as in Russia or China, but openly, as part of declared state policy! Believe it. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has just floated a tender inviting offers from IT companies to trawl social media, catalogue what people are saying, identify patterns and develop ideas to motivate more “nationalistic” feelings among the public. We know full well which party claims a monopoly on nationalism, and what this word connotes. With this Big Data the govt. can now target anyone who is critical of it or the BJP-RSS combine, using the coercive good offices of its various agencies. Not only does this move by the I+B Ministry violate the recent Supreme Court judgement on right to privacy and Sec. 165 of the IT Act, it comes at a time when the whole world is tightening up privacy laws after the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook revelations. Quite clearly, however, Mr. Modi and his cohorts cannot be bothered by such niceties on their march to a police state. In fact, in another sting released by Cobrapost on 18th May, a Sr. Vice President of PayTm has revealed that he was approached by the PMO recently to give them all the data on Kashmiri users of their app. so that possible and potential stone pelters could be identified! This was a blatant breach of privacy agreements between PayTm and its 200 million users, since the former is legally bound not to share its customer data with any third party. This one example ( I’m sure there would be many more we are not aware of) only underlines the complete amorality and ruthlessness of the central govt.. its contempt for the courts and international opinion, and exposes the lengths it will go to to retain power. It also demonstrates how all our institutions have caved in, one by one.The chaotic and vibrant social media is the one universe the govt. is mortally scared of but could not control. It has now found a way.

Mainstream media has, as expected, completely blanked out these stories. But one is entitled to ask: what are our vasectomised Regulators doing- the Press Council of India, TRAI, RBI ( about PayTm), the Enforcement Directorate, the Editors’ Guild ? No one’s talking about this latest strategy, and even social media is muted. Have we just given up? Is Leonard Cohen’s counsel of despair right after all?-

“Everybody knows
That the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed…
That’s how it goes….
Everybody knows
That the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied…
Everybody knows.”

Everybody knows, but no one cares.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at

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