Unfortunately, the media in our country has over the years taken so much hammerings, silently, that at the moment it finds itself in a deep crisis.
New Delhi: To have democracy as an article of faith and to provide spaces for its practice has been historically contradictory to each other.
There is almost consensus among both political scientists and leaders over the superiority of democracy as the best form of governance over all other polities.
Though it is also a reality that democracy has barely been able to bridge the gap between the haves and have nots, particularly in the developing and the underdeveloped countries; though adult franchise has ensured peaceful transfer of power despite its weaknesses, distortions and biases, the real recurring worries have been its practice.
The first vow every institution and individual takes is to uphold the democratic norms in its functioning and avoidance of violence, mental or physical, in its behaviour. But the history of functioning of democracy is full of instances where intolerance and coercion were resorted to protect one’s powers when challenged by the masses who felt short-changed on the promised made to them.
Though violence and coercion has been accepted as a sine qua non of the ruling establishment to deal with threats to states by foreign powers and native vested interests, it is more often used as weapon to secure power at any cost.
A liberal definition of state must also include those entities which enjoy powers for the welfare of people who have vested faith in them.
We all have the constitutional rights to show mirror to the power, and have been doing it successfully to a great extent though movements, judicial mechanism and legislative participation. And the state has been restrained from turning into a dictatorship in several countries.
We have just only one instance of autocracy in India in the mid-seventies and also it was not a classical dictatorship as Parliament and judiciary were functional.
But the real worrisome issue which a sensitive democratic individual must feel concerned with is the deep erosion of democratic spaces in autonomous institutions functional under the watch of a national government. There is no dearth of their pious commitments to internal as well as external democracy in running their affairs.
But instances are not lacking of throwing their oaths to the wind, ironically, to preserve democracy, with brazenness exuding confidence in their vulgarity of incivility.
If the term electoral autocracy applies suitably to any institution in this country, it is these autonomous organisations.
Obviously, there are shining exceptions to it but they are buried under the weight of the dictatorial vulgarities which bedevil these institutions.
The media has been defined as the fourth estate of democracy, definitely it is. But unfortunately, the media in our country has over the years taken so much hammerings, silently, that at the moment it finds itself in a deep crisis.
Part of the blame lies at the journalists’ doors as well. Either out of selfishness or timidity, they have kept mum over the curtailment of their rights and financial security. Their plight is so pathetic that they have been pushed to a condition of beck and call of the powers.
Almost all the institutions run by the journalists show no difference with the conventional powers in their functioning.
Almost all the institutions run by the journalists show no difference with the conventional powers in their functioning. Transparency, equity and courage are missing among them. Rather, quite often it borders on cowardice, dictatorship and sycophancy.
The question is who will rein the waywardness in the institution which has been assigned the duty to remain 24×7 watchdog to guarantee the political, economic and social rights of citizens.
Obviously, not any external agency. It has to have come from among them. One hopes, the Indian media will have a second Renaissance when they will stand up and say, come what may, there would be no succumbing to wrongdoings by their brethren or any external power centres.
(Nirnimesh Kumar is a retired journalist of The Hindu. He worked there for 25 years and covered courts)
(Views expressed are personal)