Paranjoy Thakurta and the 3-M nexus
by Neeraj Atri on 31 Jul 2017 5 Comments
Over a decade ago, the results of India’s ideological battlefield were a foregone conclusion. The nationalists, pitted against the formidable Missionary-Mullah-Maoist (3-M) nexus, were bound to lose. The reason for this imminent loss was not lack of merit. It was the tilt in the battlefield itself. The flow of discourse was controlled by forces inimical to a unified and robust India. This control was achieved by systematically placing convenient individuals in key positions in media and the education system.


With every passing decade, the 3-M eco-system flourished due to the nourishment it received from the political establishment within the country and funds from foreign entities. On the other hand, intellectuals with a nationalistic bend of mind wilted due to lack of resources and outlets to let their voices be heard.


But the last decade has changed the complexion of the battlefield. Internet and the rise of social media have served as a game-changer and given individuals the power to change the discourse, and made it difficult to regulate (control) the discourse. This power in the hands of the common man has rattled the old guard establishment.


On one hand, years of monopoly has reduced the quality of 3-M intellectuals, perhaps due to smugness. On the other hand, the nationalists (called Patriotic Tweeples or PTs by Dr. Subramanian Swamy) have shone with brilliance. The blogs, vlogs and tweets of these PTs are witty, and yet, factual and hard-hitting.


But, there is more to it. The advantage which social media and internet platforms have provided to patriots is not a necessary and sufficient condition of a victory. So far, they have been able to score over the 3-M nexus due to the brilliance of some individuals who are passionate and intellectually well-equipped to take on the opposition. But, decentralized and informal structures have their demerits. Nothing illustrates this better than the events of the last week or so.


Briefly, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, editor of the Economic and Political Weekly along with three co-authors published two stories on the magazine’s website. These stories, touted as investigative stories, highlighted favours by the present government to a company of the Adani group. The group took umbrage at the charges and issued a legal notice to the magazine. Thakurta engaged a lawyer and replied to the notice.


The Sameeksha Trust, which ran the magazine, told Thakurta that he had committed an act of “grave impropriety” and imposed some conditions on him, which led to his resignation within minutes of his meeting with the trustees. Newspapers like The Hindu and websites like The Wire and Scroll were abuzz with articles highlighting Thakurta as an upright journalist and suggesting that the trustees of Sameeksha Trust handled the affair badly.


This elated many netizens as the trustees of Sameeksha Trust include the Who’s Who of the Left-Liberal pantheon viz. Deepak Nayyar (chairman), D.N. Ghosh (managing trustee), Andre Béteille, Romila Thapar, Deepak Parekh, Dipankar Gupta, Rajeev Bhargava and Shyam Menon. PTs tweeted and retweeted these articles as they provided ammunition to point fingers at this clique, particularly “eminent historian” Romila Thapar whom they regard as the prime villain in distorting Indian history.


But tweeting these articles, the nationalists played right into the hands of their opponents. When UPA-II began an elaborate charade about Hindu terror, it played out at various levels: in police stations, on political platforms and intellectual forums. An online petition (now defunct) was launched by “eminent citizens” and addressed to Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde. These “bleeding hearts” included the poster boys (and girls) of the 3-M nexus. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta was one of them.


Thakurta wanted Shinde to release Muslim youths arrested for various terror activities and pay them a compensation of Rs 20,00,000/- each. At the same time he wanted Hindutva groups to be investigated “for executing acts of terror”. This single fact should be sufficient to tell objective readers about Thakurta’s political inclinations.


An important point which we should keep in mind is that in the last three years there has been no scam which can be linked to the Modi government, a welcome change from the UPA era. The entire 3-M cabal is desperate to find a stick with which they can beat Prime Minister Modi.


So they are falling back on Plan B: to throw as much mud as possible, in the hope that some will stick. Or at least create some doubt in the minds of citizens. Under this plan, an alleged ‘Adani-Ambani-Modi nexus’ is being propagated through the same network of news outlets which are sympathetic to Thakurta. It is a desperate bid to create an impression that Modi is heading a ‘suit boot ki sarkar’.


This is despite the fact that the present regime has fined Reliance Industries to the tune of nearly Rs 27,000 crore. Most of the write-ups projecting Thakurta as a martyr seek to create a perception that the Modi government is doling out undue favors to corporates. The story in The Hoot, by Ajaz Ashraf, is a case in point.


These write-ups and “news” are not so much against Romila Thapar or her cronies as they are a hit job against the Modi government. Notice how cleverly the blame of firing Thakurta is shifted to the “existing culture”. How slyly NDTV, the channel which has been fined heavily for financial irregularities, is also being projected as a martyr of a vindictive government. Look at Thakurta’s own words here. His tirade is more aimed at the Government of India and Adani, instead of at the trustees of Sameeksha. According to him, India faces a “real danger to freedom of expression”.


How do the actions of a motley group of trustees endanger freedom of expression in the whole country is a mystery only he can solve. The “intolerance” gang is back with a bang. They are also blaming “Modi’s India for the internal actions of a magazine (a little read one at that).


Let us for a moment assume that Thakurta is really the kind of fearless journalist he is projected to be. It follows that he must have been equally fearless when a series of scams were tumbling out of the UPA closet. He would have written against the ruling dispensation of the time. Well, he did call the gigantic scams including 2G scam and Adarsh Housing Society Scam as “flip-flops on misallocation and undervaluation” (this was after the charge sheet had been filed for loss to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore) which were “damaging to the image of the government” (no reference to loss to the exchequer). But we do not find a single article in all those ten years by this “investigative journalist” which is critical of UPA corruption or of its chairperson, Sonia Gandhi. On the contrary, there are lots of words in her praise, as can be seen from his own website.


There is a famous term in Urdu called “Noora Kushti”, which means a fixed fight in which parties just pretend to fight to fool the audience. Can this phrase be applied to the tussle between Sameeksha Trust and Thakurta? Perhaps in their eagerness, they have bitten off more than they can chew. The spat could be a smokescreen to absolve both parties of an impending defamation case. Besides, it has served to divert public attention from the main issue of hit-job journalism.


This is enough to suggest that Thakurta is not the ideal candidate to be lionized by nationalist Indians. That would be playing right into the hands of 3-M.


This brings us back to the ideological battlefield. To win this battle decisively, nationalists need an institutional mechanism to back their individual brilliance. This is one area where the 3-M gang is miles ahead, with decades of experience and institutional mechanisms in their control, which give them access to information as and when they need it.


If nationalists had such access to speedy and reliable information, they would have known that Thakurta was party to one of the most fraudulent inventions, known as “Hindu Terror”. They would have known that the The Hoot, which claims to be “the only not-for-profit initiative in India which does independent media monitoring” is not only partly funded by Ford Foundation and Hivos, but also had Paranjoy Guha Thakurta as one of its members.


The 3-M nexus has an elaborate and intricate web of individuals and organizations which can confound an individual. It is impossible for one person to decipher this web. The sooner such mechanisms are erected, the better it would be for the nation.


Neeraj Atri is co-author of Brainwashed Republic; his email is

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