Being an enthusiast of English, I sat glued to my television screen as I listened to my somewhat favourite news anchor Arnab Goswami 'unravel' the 'heinous' plot by the 'anti-nationals' of JNU, back in 2016. Night on night, I'd hear how he believed that Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were the demons of India, gathering forces by evading taxes. Unfortunately, owing to that artful propaganda by almost everyone around me, I solemnly believed that these two lads are the root cause of everything wrong with our country. Back then, questioning a narrative set by a news channel or government official wasn't even an option in mind.
In 2017, a strange YouTube channel popped up, showcasing hypocrisy of governments and debunking shameless claims; it was (P)eeingHuman. Thanks to that, I spiralled down a journey of self correction and realization. It seemed haunting how a couple of men screeching on news channels had made me hate people about whom I hadn't even cared to research.
While some labelled them as anti-nationals, others broadcasted outright lies as truth, and didn't care to apologize later on. I realized I had been poisoned, but it wasn't easy to discredit something I had believed in since months. As soon as I decided that it's time to find out the crux, uncluttered, I stumbled upon a little report by The Quint on Umar Khalid.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. His story evoked a range of questions within me. How did I conclude that Umar Khalid was a terrorist, or that he was plotting against India? I didn't have any proof at hand, but only memories of howls of newscasters from the year 2016. Would that even be admissible in court? Who do I blame exactly now? The men I watched on televisions, or my irresponsible attitude? One thing I knew for sure was that before knowing what I knew now, I didn't know any better. There was power within me to change that now. That's when Ravish Kumar showed up.
Thanks to the recommendation systems of social networks, even though it seemed like I was entering an echo chamber, I was coming across legitimate facts and unnerving questions. That in itself meant nothing that I'm seeing is false, at the least. Ravish Kumar's interview with Kanhaiya was back from 2016, which I had discovered now in 2017. Tonality, matter of the subject, understanding and analysis in that interaction was far beyond the cacophony of mainstream news channels. I was startled. Pegging NDTV as some plain old Hindi channel, I had always skipped watching it and preferred the debates on Times Now, but this was different. This particular interview was destroying my outdated belief system, yet laying the foundation of something new. It was the quest for truth, and the very lesson that truth can be chased, not just spoon-fed. I forgot about Ravish Kumar soon.
Now that I had some truths, and ended up fatigued, I decided to synthesize them. On one such occasion, I came across some great content by TVF called Rabish Ki Report on YouTube. The man Shivankit Parihar was mimicking did seem to remind me of someone. Since I hadn't followed Ravish Kumar and NDTV long enough, I couldn't understand many subtle references embedded in their videos. To understand their references, I began digging out field reports on NDTV by Ravish Kumar as old as the time when Sarvapriya Sangwan used to work along with him. I discovered many forgotten reports, which brought me closer to the map of India. It was unbelievable how such great reporting from back in the day, along with many others, was now submerged somewhere under heaps of data. Surprisingly and alarmingly, some of them were still relatable.
As social media grew greater and voices of criticism began towering from unexpected places, Kunal Kamra came up with this interview series of his, which also included Kanhaiya Kumar & Umar Khalid, uncovering all aspects from their point of view. He'd invite people from various political parties and varying ideologies, with great insights of how they think. Yet, what actually shone like quartz was his video with Ravish Kumar. By the end of that video, a string of unverified beliefs within me was slain. What's more interesting is that I began respecting Ravish Kumar, but did not become his fan. Later on, I eventually started watching his Prime Time on NDTV, and realized that this channel is probably one of the few news sources left with sensibility. I've already written an article titled Saving India 101 on those 'few' news sources.
Loaded with my newly acquired knowledge, I went on to meet with my friends and guide them to personal liberation. Researching for facts, understanding things for what they really are and not falling prey to perfectly crafted lies, I wanted to them to achieve this, so that they in turn help me improve myself. Yet, things were too murky.
By now, the walls of looped propaganda around me had been demolished. All illusions had shattered, and they were trying their best to recover. Not only did I began seeing blind spots, but also started acknowledging them. To my surprise, not everybody was as readily willingly to rethink.
I saw how people, even those close to me, knew that things are wrong, but to make them acknowledge and accept that fact, I had to dive five layers deep within their psyche. It took hours and hours to reach that point. I fell prey to their conditioning many times, but eventually fought back to salvage my headspace.
Lies and unverified claims, which I had previously accepted as is to make me feel good, were now met with criticality and doubt. I couldn't gulp it down without researching things myself.
I saw Ravish Kumar's words wounding the intellect and conscience of loyalists. His sharp and bitter words sat well with none. Whereas, I couldn't ignore new information when someone spoke with clarity.
Soon enough, I realized that governments can paint false landscapes and data can lie. Even though what Ravish Kumar said was right, a big chunk of people felt that it must be wrong.
Poetically, I had given up my blindfolds of populism. I didn't even realise when I got those on. Now, I couldn't stay silent and wanted to speak up about everything that is India.
By projecting so, I raised a lot of eyebrows. Now, I began spotting fine divides of stereotypes, phobia, corruption and so on being overstepped in places I thought was normal. This aches you deeply. How powerful are you really, if everything else around you works actively to make you believe you're not drowning? That is what hits you.
To not be able to grin in the mirth of privilege, yet feel the gorging pains of India, as her land and a part of citizens suffer by those consumed by gluttony; that is the curse of Ravish Kumar.
Liked reading this article? You can explore more on my profile here at ScrollStack. I hope you'll enjoy reading them. I've got some more posts lined up; stay tuned. Stay awesome.
Abhinav ThakurFollow to receive updates for new posts