#PrimetimeWatch: TV Spotlight on War of Words Around Jallianwala Bagh, Veterans’ Letter

A daily round-up of trends and patterns on news television.

New Delhi: The nation on Saturday paid homage to those gunned down by the British at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar exactly 100 years ago. British high commissioner to India Dominic Asquith described the killings as “a shameful act in British-Indian history”. Earlier, UK Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed “deep regret”.

Politicians from Punjab, however, traded barbs over the issue. As Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh demanded that the British issue an “apology” for the massacre, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal asked why he was not seeking an apology from the Gandhi family for Operation Blue Star in 1984. She also slammed him for taking Rahul Gandhi to the Golden Temple.

Singh retaliated by asking why Badal never apologised for her “great grandfather, Sardar Sunder Singh Majithia’s lavish dinner to General Dyer on the day of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre?”

How did the media report this story and more?

English channels

Times Now

With #JallianwalaBaghRedressal and headlines like “Cong-Akali-BJP face-off” and “Regret not enough, apologise”, the channel looked at the massacre, the mourning and the politics around it. The channel also played out the twitter war between Harsimrat and Amarinder on the issue.

Sukhwant Singh of the Akali Dal defended Harsimrat’s questioning Amarinder on Operation Blue Star. “By attacking a holy shrine, will you counter terrorism?” he asked.

Senior journalist Sanjeev Srivastava said the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Operation Blue Star are two different things for the latter was carried out to flush out terrorists from the temple complex. He charged that the Akalis were staring at defeat in Punjab and therefore raising nonsensical issues.

Advocate Aman Sinha of the BJP said, “Those who are responsible for Jallianwala incident owe an apology to India.” Likewise, he said, the Congress should apologise for the 1984 riots.

India Today TV

It too looked at the Jallianwala episode as “Akalis vs Cong war”. Recalling how over 1,600 bullets were fired on a crowd celebrating Baisakhi at Jallianwala Bagh, the channel said “British have apologised, but Congress has not for something as bad.”

It noted that “Akalis hit at Rahul after he pays homage at memorial, seek apology”.

The channel also reported Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party leader M. Chandrababu Naidu visiting the Election Commission to allege widespread misuse of EVMs in the elections.

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“Naidu – EC working for BJP”, read a headline, as the channel showed the TDP leader say: “The Centre is interfering through EC. Old institutions and democracy are being systematically destroyed.”

The channel also reported how French media have carried stories on Anil Ambani firms getting 143 million euro waiver in taxes after the Rafale deal was inked. It said the defence ministry has denied any link of this with the aircraft deal.

Republic TV

In its “Special Broadcast” on #May23WithArnab, a correspondent of the channel took a chopper ride with former Biju Janata Dal leader Baijayant Panda, who only last month joined the BJP. A professional pilot, who has flown in India and the US over a couple of decades, Panda spoke about how “flying is my yoga – I get my peace of mind through it.”


In “Row over Letter to President”, the channel looked at how over 150 retired defence officers wrote against the politicisation of armed forces. It also looked at the controversy surrounding some of the `signatories’, saying that they never endorsed the letter.

Speaking on behalf of those who wrote the letter, Major General Sudhir Vombatkere said: “I don’t think dissent of three senior officers diluted the message. The letter was written by officers who want to retain the secular nature of the armed forces”.

Former Air Marshal (Retd.) N.C. Suri, who distanced himself from the campaign, said “There was no final draft of this letter which was circulated. I just stated that I want the armed forces to be apolitical. It is only this that I support, nothing beyond.”

Asked by anchor Ankita Mukherji about the letter criticising the use of the phrase “Modi ji ki Sena” by Yogi Adityanath, he said: “Sena means those people who support you – as PM he is chief executive and therefore the nation supports him, the armed forces are no exception.”

Air-Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, who endorsed the letter, said: “The bigger issue is that the media is talking about three voices of dissent but not the other 153 officers or the issues they are raising.”

Hindi channels

India Today TV

“Not in our name – say veterans” was how the channel reported the former defence officers standing up against the politicisation of the forces. It also mentioned that some of the officers who were stated to have dissented have actually endorsed the letter to the president

One of them, it said, was General (Retd.) S.F. Rodrigues.

ABP News

A number of other leading stories of the day made it to primetime on the channel. These included Union minister Arun Jaitley’s attack on Rahul over his educational qualification. A headline “Arun Jaitley – Rahul has M.Phil without even a masters degree” described the allegation.

The channel also reported how BJP president Amit Shah told a rally in Shahjahanpur that people everywhere want Modi to be back.

It also reported how Mayawati’s nephew, Akash Anand, is now regularly seen in her rallies and is being groomed by her for a larger role.

Zee TV

In its ongoing coverage of the elections from Odisha, the channel spoke to some of the priests of Jagannath Temple to learn why it has still not opened out to non-Hindus. One of them said “due to the repeated attempts to loot the temple in the past, the entry of non-Hindus was debarred”.

“Local residents for ages fought to save the temple” from raiders and looters, the headline said.

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It also noted that “Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of the temple” and “Idols were kept outside the state to save them”.

Aaj Tak

The channel spoke to some of the MPs who made it to its two lists of “Top 10” for both the opposition and BJP parliamentarians. The 416 MPs were evaluated for performance in the parliament, expenditure incurred MPLADS, and public perception of governance in their respective constituencies. Janardan Singh Sigriwal of the BJP ranked number 1 on all parameters.

It said other MPs who have ranked high included Udit Raj of BJP, Supriya Sule of NCP, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Shashi Tharoor of Congress, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM, M.B. Ramesh of CPI, Dinesh Trivedi of TMC and Pinaki Misra of BJD.

The channel also looked at parties which had at least 10 MPs in the top rankings, and Shiv Sena followed by AIADMK topped the ratings.

NDTV India

The channel looked at the huge seizure of cash, drugs, precious metal and liquor in these elections. Till April 13, it said, Rs 2504.51 crore worth of seizure has been effected by the Election Commission. This included Rs 647.54 crore in cash, drugs and narcotics worth over Rs 11,00 crore, and precious metal like gold and silver worth over Rs 500 crore seized.

Anchor Kadambini Sharma asked founding member of Association for Democratic Rights, Jagdeep Chhokar, for the reason behind the huge haul, especially of drugs.

Chhokar said: “It is sad that these things are on the rise. Our society is changing and our political climate has also changed. Leader only criticise each other – so instead of a celebration it has become a demonstration of democracy.”

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