BANGALORE: On the last day of the Bangalore Literature Festival — his first lit fest, he says — Shekhar Gupta chatted about his latest book, Anticipating India and his takeaway from decades in the Indian media:
The book contains a selection of my political columns between 1987 and now, when politics has changed greatly. It’s not merely a compilation because I realised how much I overwrite, and have cut everything by about 30 per cent. I have added a long, autobiographical introduction.
The next in this series will be out next year, and I think I’ll call it Securing India. It will be a selection of my columns on defence, security, foreign affairs. Now that I have given myself a little more time and mindspace, I will do some real books also.
What media can do under the Modi govt
During the Emergency, we dealt with fear. There’s a financial crisis today, and the problem faced by media owners as well as journalists is greed rather than fear. Perhaps, it’s less difficult for people to deal with fear than it is to deal with greed. But journalists today are better than they were in the past and have better access to information with the RTI and the Internet.
Speaking out against the establishment
I think this 'shoutrage' is a passing stage. There was all this shouting earlier because people were unhappy with the UPA. Soon people will find it difficult to shout at the NDA.
Even with the UPA, nobody shouted at Chidambaram, nobody screamed at Kapil Sibal or even Kamalnath. These were ministers you stayed away from. Anyone could scream at Sushil Kumar Shinde.
The Deepika Padukone incident
When it comes to entertainment news, whether on TV or in city supplements that often do paid news, pictures like this are used. People claim that they have to be celebrated because young people like them, but I say it’s the middle-aged men who like them. Young people have fun in their own lives.
But I think media is a very gender equal profession; it has a lot of women. It’s also a profession where women have really grown, and that too purely on merit. So, by and large, mainstream media is very politically correct.
Things always turn out less worse than they look at first glance — even natural calamities and wars. And that’s what makes me optimistic about the future. No matter how bad something seems today, tomorrow you’ll look back on them as your ‘good old days’.
Indians have a lot of resilience. During the massacre of Sikhs, I wondered how Punjab could ever stay a part of India. Just before the recent elections, Prannoy Roy and I went to the Golden Temple. This was the first time that I had gone there at a time of peace, when the region was not under the shadow of guns. Now people are free to drive around Punjab without having to pay taxes to terrorists at night.
Those days are over and nobody wants to be reminded of them. So things change dramatically and democracies have their own correctives.