CNN-IBN, Sanjeeb’s blog and racism

CNN-IBN journalist Sanjeeb Mukherjea has “written about” (since anything passes for writing, these days) Sivaji on his IBN Live blog. I was taken aback as soon as I read this:

We Aryan Indians are terribly clannish in our collective ignorance of Dravidian cinema and stars. Hence we are “kanstantly” overhyped about a certain tall dapper man in his 60’s who has a voice of an angel.

But I plunged ahead hoping that he was actually making some sort of satirical statement against racist/regional stereotyping and I would come to it in a minute. No such luck.

The pompous moron goes on to reinforce stereotypes about language and accent and throws in satirical gems like this one:

You Dravidians are really fast on the pickup. We are sooo lagging behind. “Khooool” you are.

Read the full post here.

Of course even members of the media are entitled to have personal opinions. But when these opinions are shallow, asinine and racist, they should not be given a public platform by one of the country’s largest media houses. It baffles me as to why CNN-IBN has decided that all its esteemed journos are wonderful writers who have useful (let’s not even go near ‘intelligent’) things to say. Why should a bunch of idiots be allowed to strut their inane, boring and, in this case, downright offensive stuff using the CNN banner? Is there a lack of good columnists in this country? Shouldn’t CNN-IBN have some standards, for god’s sake?

The point is not about whether or not I like Sivaji. I have not even seen the movie. The point is the totally unnecessary (and erroneous) references to racial history, the mocking accent simulation, and the ridiculing tone targeted at “Dravidians”. I’m disgusted. And worse, I am ashamed.

It’s the burden of collective guilt. When I first moved to Bangalore from Bombay, smug about my cosmopolitan credentials and largely ignorant of the real world, I was surprised at the skepticism and resentment towards “north Indians”. The backlash was just beginning to rear its head and I stumbled right into it sometimes.

But as I spent more time here, became more of a resident and less of an immigrant, the perspective changed. I began to notice the attitudes that northerners harbour towards southern customs, language, culture. For example, relatives are “concerned” when they hear that my mother eats sambhar rice for lunch at work. They would probably fall off their chairs if I told them I like rasam more than fish curry (though I love both). Recently, at a wedding in Bombay, I was horrified to find that the groom’s Malayali relatives were being called “Madrasis”. As a Bong brought up in Mumbai and married to a man who’s half Palghat Iyer-half Bong, I am privy to different sides of the story. (We?) “Aryan Indians” don’t look too good so far.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many people north of the Vindhyas have an unassailable conviction in their own superiority. This is largely based on no logical premise at all (unless you count the fact that some people’s ancestors were more blood-thirsty and barbaric than others’). At this point, I could quote statistics about Karnataka or Tamil Nadu’s economic prowess or human development index as many are wont to do. But I will desist because I have always opposed the north-south divide in the first place.

It’s attitudes like Mr Mukherjea’s that fuel a backlash, that make Kannadigas view “outsiders” with suspicion and make Tamilians protect their language more fiercely. This is the reason that people from the south pull out their trump cards whenever they can and thumb their noses and go “so there!”

In the end, nobody wins. What we get is a whirl of trump cards and a gaping chasm that splits the country in two.

Coming back to the post, there were about 105 comments when I checked, most of which protested against the inherent racism, made fun of Bengalis (predictably), and told Sanjeeb to get his perspectives in order. I liked this one from someone called Goodfellas:

Dear SanjeeV Saar,

I was tot-totally shacked reading your post saar. But I must congratulate saar, for such racial thinking. I, with all by “black” heart agree saar, that movies like JBJ, Tara-rum rum rum pum pum um (forgive for accent saar – small persons saar, make mistake saar) , dhoom-thwo arre saar, jewels saar! Shud be sent to Oscars saar. Saar, movies like AKS saar, come only once in a life time saar, what a movie saar!. Singing is fantastic saar! AR Rahaman, Hamsalekha, Manomurthy, Illayaraja all shud take lessons saar.

Yes saar, we kaanstantly make mistakes in English saar, what to do saar? We cannot say ‘V’ as ‘B’ saar! One doubt saar. Is it “we” or “be” saar? Is it “We Indians are not racist or Be Indians are not racist saar”?

But saar, one thing perplexes me the most saar. If we are soo bad in English saar, how will the American universities give entry to us saar? 60% of Indians that go for America for higher studies saar, hail from Karnataka, TN and AP saar!! How is this possible saar? I know saar! The computer simbli loves the way we pronounce “Khooool” saar and gives us high scores in English proficiency tests saar!

Saar, if I make a list saar, list too big saar, IISc, IIM, IIT, DRDO, ISRO, BHEL, BEL, HAL, CARE – all defense companies saar, are in south saar. Very bad saar, they shud have been in kolkatta saar! “Be cud have locked them out decades ago saar”

One more thing saar, why is crime rate saar, very low in south and high in north saar? Statistics say saar, that every 4 mins, a crime gets reported in UP, Bihar, MP, Delhi, saar!no statistics are available from Bengal saar, they do not give reports at all saar!

Is it that you “Aryans” have a racial commitment to crime saar?

‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature’

Get a life dude

And this one from SM:

This is quite stunning…. I understand that the movie may not be to everybody’s liking but that doesn’t mean you insult a section of your countrymen. I am rather disappointed that a journalist can be this callous and can harbor such views. It is sad, that a journalist whose profession is revolutionizing the India that we know in more ways than one has such views. I was of the view that a journalist of today’s India knows how important a role he is playing in transforming the ills of the country. I can’t stop raving about the recent causes that the media has fought for and won. But this distinction made by a journalist certainly dampens my regard for you because I now realize that not all of you are ideal.

On another note, it was a good thing that the web site allowed your blog to be published. I know now that there are many self obsessed individuals like you who think on similar lines and were very happy to read your blog. An educated person in a responsible profession you are … doesn’t suit you.

Who would like to encourage a spineless organization that harbors people carrying racist views!? I am not being irrational. The very fact that a person like you is associated with the channel is enough for me to distance myself from it. I am a common man, who lives in the ideal world. The media I follow should be the ones who are high on moral values and practice what they preach. I am sick of hypocrites.

And this is how the media continues to build a special place in our hearts.

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24 Comments

Filed under Media

24 responses to “CNN-IBN, Sanjeeb’s blog and racism

  1. Pingback: DesiPundit » Archives » Offensive opinions

  2. Pingback: 'Racist CNN-IBN'? at Blogbharti

  3. Phoenix

    Hi Anindita just a few things.

    1) CNN is far from the epitome of good journalism. While it is very popular, I have always found that the channel is basically an American propoganda tool. It toes the current government’s line on all issues. This why you will find, that it covers Pakistan in minute detail, whereas India gets the occasional drunken-elephant-on-the-rampage type story.

    2)Here is another blog from the very same channel – only this time the bigotry is directed up North.

    http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/hindolsengupta/104/2172/mumbai-safe-city-l.html

  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » India: Film, stereotypes and the media

  5. Anu – I have decided first of all that to be in TV nowadays, being a conscientous journalist, or even an aware and perceptive one, is not necessary. The more inflammatory the better. Starting with skin colour, to pronunciation, to accent to our purported orthodoxy, everything is made fun of. Sure, the odd movie makes fun of a Punju or a Surd here and there but that’s always more “launghing with them, not at them”. I’m with you though – this need to establish superiority of one oer the other needs to die.

  6. Anindita Sengupta

    Phoenix: Yes. It doesn’t mean we have to keep quiet, does it? About your example, I don’t really see it as a parallel. The post about Mumbai is very different in tone:

    “Yes, it is better than Delhi and north India – but then even the jungle is much better than Delhi and north India. That is no comparison. Delhi and north India have animals roaming the streets. Nothing is worse than living in those cities. But Mumbai is certainly not safe.”

    This is very different from making fun of an entire community’s (race’s?) language and accent. It’s high time Mumbaikars realised their city is not perfect. Having been one for 21 years, I know that they tend to overreact as soon as anyone even hints at this.

    Nithya: Yes, I agree with you about the “laughing with” versus “laughing at”. There is a sharp sense of otherness perpetrated about people from the south through multiple stereotypes (insidious and otherwise). Now that the south has grabbed attention by dint of economics (since the world understands money), it may be a good time to start yelling. Look how Britain kow-towed on the Shilpa Shetty matter when just 50 years back, they were calling us wogs. Same logic.

  7. Well, if you feel strongly about it, write to the editor at editor@ibnlive.com or leave a comment on her blog.
    Heck, you can even write or call them at

    Global Broadcast News, Express Trade Tower,
    Plot No. 15-16, Sector-16A, Noida, Uttar Pradesh,

    India – 201301

    Phone: +91-120-4341818, 3987777
    Fax: 0120-4324106

  8. VC

    And this is their comment policy… 🙂 Wonder what rules they have for their blogs..
    Do not be rude to other users/authors or disrupt an ongoing conversation/debate.
    ==>Do not use ethnic slurs, engage in personal insults or use objectionable language.<==
    Criticism, when constructive and non-disruptive is always welcome.
    Comments with links in them won’t be published other than in cases of rare exceptions.
    Comments that include personal details such as postal addresses and telephone numbers will not be published.
    Keep the comments relevant to the topic as much as possible.
    Do not impersonate another reader or a public figure.
    Do try to use English to write your comments.

  9. Anindita Sengupta

    Umesh: I have already done that. Thanks. I am not very hopeful that anything will come of it, however.

    VC: Interesting point 😀

  10. Amazing! However, I wouldn’t fight to pull the post off that blog. If not anything, it does show something we all know: racism, jingoism, and hypocracy are all alive and kicking in India too. We can’t wish it away.

  11. suresh

    Yes, totally stupid. But, as a tamilian myself, I would urge some introspection on all our parts. A very long time back, I came across an article by someone called Mari Marcel Thekaekara (not sure of spelling) in the Economic and Political Weekly documenting the troubles faced by the “tribals” (the Todas, Badagas and other groups) in the Ooty area. One thing I remember from the article is how the Toda and Badaga children would be made fun of in school – by all people, the teacher! – for not having proper “Tamil” names. Just goes to show that we from the South are not immune to such failings.

    And spare a thought for the “Chinkies” from the north-east (as they are referred to in Delhi University circles). Not only are they made fun of, but very rarely do their troubles even get noticed. As it is, the north-east is almost totally absent in our national discourse. Even the recent ceasefire extended by the Naga groups on the tenth anniversary of talks between the NSCN and the Government of India has mostly gone unobserved in the Indian media and blogosphere – more important things like Sanjay Dutt’s incarceration to worry about, I presume.

  12. sri

    Anindita,

    As a tamilian, I am not in the least offended by the clown’s post. First of all , you clearly point out the fallacy of the north indian’s assumption of superiority. But I guess its fine becasue south indians believe the exact opposite, as strange as u may find this we think we’re superior. I am not saying this for the sake of argument but this is the general consensus. We think of northies as hindi speaking (totally lacking in english), unsophisticated, goondaish, uneducated brutes. And frankly if the 4 southern states were a country that would be a pretty fine economy would’nt it. Essentially the whole ITES industry. Truth be told we really would’nt mind not being in the same country as UP, Bihar, MP etc and other such lunatic asylums. You get my idea I guess. The real sad story is the North East, who get called chinkies in their own country and completely ignored by the so called mainstream media and the central government. I would’nt be surpised (and actually might support) if they joined China.

  13. suresh

    Following up Sri’s and my own observations about the North-East, check out the following article by Kalpana Sharma on the Delhi Police’s booklet titled “Security tips for Northeast students/visitors in Delhi”:

    http://indiatogether.com/2007/aug/ksh-dont.htm

    It’s remarkable for how insensitive it is, even though it comes with an introduction by an IPS officer from the Northeast, Robin Hibu.

  14. Anindita Sengupta

    sri: I’m afraid I cannot agree with your sentiments about wanting to split the country.

    suresh: Yes, the north-east is severely ignored and marginalized by the media. I know about the booklet. In fact, Anjulika who is a journalist there brought it to our notice on a common media network, which triggered this post.

    I also saw similar issues in when I visited Jaigaon in north Bengal on the Bhutan border. The people there seem stuck in a no man’s land.

  15. What you eat in bengaluru is “saaru” not “rasam”(sic) dammit!! It is “saaru” regardless of what fanatic kongas shout from rooftops.

    for all your rant against the moron, your impertinent stereotyping everything that is “south” as “tamil” shows. shame on you!!

  16. Anindita Sengupta

    anon: Actually, what I have eaten in Bangalore (at Andhra restaurants and at Tamilian friend’s houses) is, in fact, referred to as rasam. Surely, there is no rule against me liking “rasam” even if I am in Bangalore? The example was merely meant to demonstrate the way my Bengali relatives would view likes and dislikes that are not parochial/Bengali.

    By the way, anonymity smacks of cowardice. Why don’t you leave a name next time?

  17. noooo!!!! how can they possibly leave a name? that would mean standing by their beliefs.. and we all know anonymity is the only thing that gives them the courage.

  18. Souvik

    Hi,

    I heard the exact same sentiments from a good friend of mine as what Sri had to say. So I went & dug up wikipedia for the whole Hindi imposition thing that happened. There is plenty of angst there. Also, the whole division of the country thing is rather far-fetched, in my view, & I really wonder, even if it’s a rhetoric, just for the sake of an argument, if the whole division proposition is felt equally strongly across all the southern states.

    It is interesting how all Hindi-speaking states are equally the subject of scorn, no matter how marginalized these states themselves are in national politics.

    All this is very sad.

    S!

  19. Christina

    Great blog… And as the responses reveal, it has evidently touched a chord… Even when that blog is another person’s prejudice.

    BTW, I really, really enjoyed Goodfellas’ post 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

  20. Corey Minor

    People in our world today say that racism is ok, but I am sick of all of this racist crap polluting our society. I understand that most people don’t like racism and say that it can be eliminated, but what people in our world don’t realize is that racism is, has, and will always be a part of the world. No matter how hard we try to get rid of it, it never really goes away. Most people believe all that we need to get rid of racism is for everyone in the world to start getting along. The thing is though that not everyone in the world can’t get along. As long as we continue to have wars or political arguments among countries, we will always have racism. Basically what im trying to say is that racism is in our world and will always be in it whether we like it or not racism is and always will be a part of our world so no matter how much we dislike it, it is always be here and there’s nothing we can do about it.

  21. Hi,

    I am a Novelist, Activist & Journalist. I have received National Award in Journalism and Best Story Writer’s Trophy. The attached book is written on a social issue of Delhi where people are being killed everyday under the wheels of the blue line buses. Delhi High Court ordered to phase out these dilapidated killer buses, a year ago but they are still plying WHY? because these buses belong to the Ministers, MLA’s and MP’s. How people of Delhi fought against the Mafia, Hooligans and the administration in Vain…….I have written this book through an amazing triangle Love Story.

    I live in Mumbai but I have spent enough time & money to bring out this book for Delhi people which I am also distributing free. I wish people of India should know the facts and they raise their voices to remove these “Killer Buses” and stop further killing. It is only possible if we all raise our voice together and a few newspapers cover our grievances. I have high-lighted most of the burning issues of our country like religious intolerance and riots, Marathi manoos and outsiders, dirty politics, division of states, Mumbai local train problem and so on. The book is yet to be released and I am looking for an honest and renowned person to release this book in a press conference (First Edition – January 2010). I need your support and suggestions.
    Regards

    Satyabrata Biswas (Author & Activist)
    President Elect, Rotary Club, Mumbai
    Mobile-9820117180
    Email:author.sb@gmail.com
    website:www.satyabratabiswas.in
    NB: I have attached chapter No-17…I.A.S / I.P.S Officers)…..please read the chapter….I am sure, you will not be disappointed.

  22. Corrupt IAS / IPS officers
    According to my friend Ambalal, I.A.S means Indian Amichand service and not Indian Administrative Service. Similarly I.P.S means Indian Polish service and not Indian Police Service. These Amichands (bureaucrats) were responsible for the ruins of our country. When they come to power and occupy positions, politicians did not know anything.

    The babus (Amichands) polluted them and made them corrupt. They showed them the tricks and they also took their share. Politicians come and go but these Amichands are there forever. Every Amichand of our country has his son or daughter settled in America, England or another prosperous country.

    These Amichands became teachers. Everywhere in the government, all offices were headed by these Amichands, including police commissionarates and courts. Even the Police Commissioner had to work under Home Ministry and the Home Secretary was an Amichand.

    The Home Secretary reports to the Chief Secretary who was the biggest Amichand. The legal department, which was headed by the Legal Secretary, controlled judges and the Legal Secretary reported to the Chief Secretary. Everything started and ended in the same place, travelling a big circle.

    Indian polish service officers were also helpless in the hand of Amichands. They were forced to polish the shoes of politicians and the Amichands. Thus, Amichands and politicians become millionaires very soon. You can see how politicians declare their assets in crores – though many of them, were no better than a beggar or a poor man before entering politics.

    A prime example is that of Jharkhand’s ex-Chief Minister Madhu Koda who was originally a labourer who worked in the mines till the early 1990’s. He now had assets estimated at more than 200 crores. There are many Amichands like him – so, he should not feel alone.

    When the babus were in trouble, the highest courts give stay against the enquiry and when the cases again come up, the court keeps on adjourning the case. This is called cleverness, maneuvering. Amichands are cleverer than Chanakya, one of the wisest persons in Ancient India.

    So shake hands with Amichands or beware of them, they may bite you any time like stray dogs. Best to stay 1000 feet away – for they are very contagious; they attract you – lure you – pollute you and finally, destroy you, becoming richer in the process.

    The IAS / IPS officers get government quarters in the form of say, a three bedroom bungalow with a lot of space around it. There was a servant quarter, and of course a garage too. These facilities, plus a chauffeur-driven Ambassador car, and two orderlies were some of the luxuries provided to them.

    In return, the officers had to say ‘Yes Sir’ and carry out the orders of the Government. They had to dance to the tunes of their higher ups – which was nothing but another form of slavery.

    I ask, why the parliament cannot pass a few rules for politicians like – old men should retire from politics and take care of their health instead of taking care of the nation, like a minimum educational criterion of graduation for filing nomination, and for criminals to be put into jail permanently or transferred to the zoo – since there was a shortage of animals. The rules should be applicable for all categories of elected representatives.

    By this, we can have 80% pollution free atmosphere and I guarantee, no nose mask would be necessary even during bird flu, swine flu or Amichand flu. We can build a new India with the help of the youth, if you remember Rahul Gandhi who was risking his life to implement below 35 principle.

    There also should be an ordinance banning all the political parties in India and recognizing only a few. And then see the Magic! Hello, one more vital question – I do not know to whom should I ask? Once I already raised this issue in my earlier book, a year ago. Well, let me come to the point. Was there any point in splitting the states into small – smaller and smallest parts?

    There were no need for Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh. Again, the same mistakes have been made by the Central Government by declaring Telangana as a separate state (please Tel-Lagana naa)

    I would like to ask, “What next, Manmohanji?” Please be ready with the axe as you have to cut into pieces so many states that are lined up – Mithilanchal – Coorg – Saurashtra – Gorkhaland – Bundelkhand – Bhojpur – Cooch Behar – Vidharba – Harit Pradesh – Bodoland and more and more proposals would reach Delhi to divide many other states in the near future.

    I ask, is it possible for our government to abolish all the states in India and give birth to only five states (region wise)…………..like East – West – North – South and Central. I think, this would solve all the Lafdas.

    Otherwise, one day would come when each district would have to be made a state of India – and there would be hundreds of thousands chief ministers – Rama – Shyama – Jadu – Mahhu (not Madhu Koda – another Madhu). Should I call it progressive India or an India going back to a feudalistic Kingdom and Zamindari pratha?

    NB: This is a chapter from my 2nd Novel “Blueline Blues”
    Author – Satyabrata Biswas, Mumbai……Email:author.sb@gmail.com….website:satyabratabiswas.in

  23. My latest Novel “Blueline Blues” based on Delhi’s Killer Blueline buses. I wish to release this book in Delhi and looking for volunteers to highlight this social issue.

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