No criticism please, we’re Indian
Suddenly, it is not cool to be against the scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games.
The CWG was meant to be Delhi’s big coming-out party, India’s assertion that it is a global powerhouse capable of doing what China did with the Beijing Summer Olympics two years ago.
Instead, the Games, scheduled for October, are turning out to be a costly embarrassment, with daily revelations of corruption, fraud and political wrongdoing that has triggered big headlines and much hand wringing by outraged citizens, sportsmen and even politicians.
But suddenly, being against the CWG is almost unpatriotic.
In an “emotional appeal” with a visual of the Indian tricolour published in all leading newspapers on the weekend, industrialist Subrata Roy flayed the “recent continuous and negative media coverage” that has left organisers and volunteers feeling “totally demoralised and dejected”.
The media, Roy said, has overdone it, “causing very big damage in maligning the image of our country”.
The media should now postpone its campaign until after the Games, Roy exhorted, and an audit of the culprits and their punishment must be done “after our country’s greatest ever sporting event is over”.
Another well known voice, editor Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express paper, eerily echoing George Bush’s infamous line, asked: Are you for the Commonwealth Games, or against?
Demonising the Games just because some people made some money is “colossal stupidity” and highlights the “worrying twitterisation of journalism”, Gupta wrote on the weekend.
Despite its many faults, one of the things that India has going for it is its vibrant media, which citizens and investors alike look on as a watchdog.
Yes, it’s shrill, amateurish and given to exaggeration at times. But it does its job and has triggered action from citizens and the government many times.
So why is the CWG being seen as a nationalistic holy cow beyond reproach?
Admittedly, the media has already moved on to other things, but this is a good time as any to sort out our feelings of nationalism and media responsibility.
What would you rather have, a mouthpiece for the state that toes the line tamely or a vigilant enterprise that does not hesitate to probe, expose or criticise?