Kerala

Country going to a crisis, says Siddharth Varadarajan

Siddharth Varadarajan delivers the 21st N. Narendran Memorial Lecture ‘Reclaiming Truthful Media, Robust Institutions and Vibrant Democracy’, in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.

Siddharth Varadarajan delivers the 21st N. Narendran Memorial Lecture ‘Reclaiming Truthful Media, Robust Institutions and Vibrant Democracy’, in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

Attempts to demean, belittle and outlaw dissent and protest and the problem of growing communalisation are the principal challenges the country faces today, senior journalist and a founding editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, has said.

Mr. Varadarajan was delivering the 21st N. Narendran memorial lecture on Sunday on the theme ‘Reclaiming truthful media, robust institutions and vibrant democracy’.

Mr. Varadarajan said the country was going through a grave crisis that was ''accentuated and made almost insufferable'' by the fact that democracy as we know it, democracy as it should be, barely existed in this country anymore. The communalisation is not happening in a random manner, but is the product of a well-designed and well-planned top-down strategy.

Protests, discussion and debate had become more and more difficult, if not impossible, in many parts of the country, he said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, by criticising the Congress's 'black clothes' protest as indulging in ''appeasement politics'', was able, with one sentence, to devalue the importance of the protest and accomplish the task of vilifying Muslims, further polarising the country on the basis of religion, Mr. Varadarajan said.

In recent times, the Supreme Court had increasingly been acting as an ‘Executive court’, he alleged. There were many examples in the past of the Supreme Court going that extra mile to protect citizens in the face of Executive overreach. He cited the Zakia Jafri and Himanshu Kumar judgments and the verdict on the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as instances where the Court went out of its way to bat for the Executive.

The Constitution envisaged the judiciary as a robust, independent institution that stands as a check to the abuse of power by the Executive.

Mr. Varadarajan said journalists should have a commitment to telling the truth, taking note of the fact that many big media outlets today have completely switched over to the Central government camp. He also noted the emergence of small but credible independent media platforms that were doing the kind of work big media organisations should be doing, but were not.


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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 12:19:35 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/country-going-to-a-crisis-says-siddharth-varadarajan/article65743050.ece