The return of our triumphant Cricket team merited unprecedented celebration by both the public and the media. This is understandable. Cricket is emerging as the great unifier of India. There could not be a better catalyst for national integration. And the victory of the Cricket team was truly spectacular. Little wonder that both print media and TV went on and on about the victory.
“This is history” blared one major TV channel. Little wonder that thousands upon thousands thronged for the function to celebrate the team’s return in a stadium and later in a public parade through the streets of Mumbai. Little wonder that even after BCCI President Sharad Pawar pledged over 3 million US dollars as reward for the cricket players, chief ministers of various states vied with each other to pledge monetary rewards for the victorious cricketers. Little wonder that Sonia Gandhi invited the cricket team to meet her. Honouring the boys is honouring the nation. This makes the nation happy. This should make Sharad Pawar happy.
However, just one day earlier, on September 25th, there was a public meeting in Ambala, Haryana. Those who addressed the meeting included Om Prakash Chautala, Prakash Singh Badal, Mulayam Singh, Chandrababu Naidu, Madan Lal Khurana and peasant leader Mahindra Singh Tikait. Farooq Abdullah who arrived for the meeting could not reach the venue in time for him to catch an international flight later. So he left midway to the venue.
There were lakhs upon lakhs, not thousands, thronging the way and his car just could not proceed. On a most conservative estimate there were between half to one million people present at the public meeting. They were overwhelmingly farmers. All the speeches dwelt on the neglect of farmers and the spate of suicides by farmers across the nation. The mainline print media and TV channels virtually ignored the event. Even
The Tribune, which has an edition published in Haryana, carried a report only on page seven of the paper. Forgetting the farmers might make many people happy. It might make Sharad Pawar happy.
Today media is Emperor. It can make and unmake public opinion. A mid-term election could be on its way. It will tell us if the Emperor wears any clothes.
Rajinder Puri can be reachd at firstname.lastname@example.org