Portrait of Young angry men isolated on red wall. Photo: iStock

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, the use of the word “intolerant” has increased dramatically. The word should express special thanks to Modi for making it extremely popular; the Left and the so-called liberals launch scathing attacks on his government almost on a daily basis, accusing it of being “the most intolerant government in the history of independent India.” In a democracy, everyone has the right to criticize, so the Left and the liberals obviously have a right to take aim at the Modi government, but they should practice what they preach.

There’s an old saying: People living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Here’s the problem with the Left and the so-called liberals. They accuse the Modi government of being intolerant, but what about themselves? Are they really the champions of tolerance? No. Let me talk about recent developments without delving too much into the past. Recently, a well-known historian who claims to be a liberal posted a tweet asking Vineet Jain to shut down Times Now, a popular English TV news channel. Vineet Jain is the marketing director of the Times Group, which runs many media outlets, including the Times of India, the most widely read English daily in the country. 

A liberal calling for a popular channel to be shut down because it expresses political views that conflict with his own shows that  liberals are abandoning the path of liberalism

Times Now is often labeled as pro-Modi by the Left and the liberals. However, a liberal calling for a popular channel to be shut down because it expresses political views that conflict with his own shows that liberals are abandoning the path of liberalism. In a democracy, people have the right to decide which channel they watch. In a later tweet, the historian clarified that it is fine for an editor to support or oppose a party or a government, but then accused Times Now of “spreading hatred against minorities, intellectuals, social workers and Kashmiris.” On the one hand, he is saying that it is fine for an editor to support or oppose a party or a government, but on the other, he is criticizing Times Now for expressing views that conflict with his own.

I have watched many debates on Times Now and other news channels where many self-styled Kashmiri activists have openly criticized the Indian security forces and hailed terrorists as “mass leaders” and “freedom fighters.” These so-called Kashmiri activists often sprew venom against India. So, obviously, the news anchors and the other panelists counter them. But is it right to call a channel anti-Kashmir just because it disapproves of these so-called Kashmiri activists?

The historian’s argument that the channel is against minorities, social workers and intellectuals is clearly biased. I myself have seen in TV debates many so-called social workers, intellectuals and minority rights activists speaking in a political tone and batting only for a particular agenda. Let me clarify – it is okay for the intellectuals, social workers and minority rights activists in a democracy to voice their own views, including biased opinions. So it is also obviously okay for the channel to disagree with their views. That is what democracy is – everyone has the right to agree or disagree.

There are many English news channels other than Times Now — NDTV 24×7, India Today, Republic TV, CNN News 18, News X and Mirror Now, a sister channel of Times Now. So viewers always have other outlets to turn to if they don’t like the opinions being expressed. I often browse all the above-mentioned channels until I find an interesting story to watch.

The phrase “shut down” really shouldn’t be uttered by a liberal just because they are offended by an opinion expressed by a news channel. If one doesn’t like Times Now, one can switch to NDTV 24×7 or India Today or CNN News 18 or Mirror Now. That’s not a big problem. It seems like liberals who regularly criticize Modi’s intolerance are themselves becoming intolerant and therefore moving away from the very path of “liberalism” that they often use as a yardstick.

The historian’s tweet raises an important question: If the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) loses the elections and the loose opposition coalition fails to find a politician for the post of prime minister, will the liberal intellectual opposition member who becomes the prime minister order news channels to be shut down because of the political  views they express?

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Sagarneel Sinha

The writer is an India-based commentator on politics, religion, culture and philosophy and tweets @sagarneelsinha.

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