The Boiled Frog

Indian media and possible ways forward in a majoritarian state

A broadcast journalist (left) reports from a street vandalised during communal violence in Delhi, in February 2020. Several members of the press faced serious attacks while reporting the violence. Altaf Qadri/AP Photo
20 November, 2020

This essay has been adapted from a keynote address to young journalists and academics delivered for the 2020 Media Meet at Christ University, Bengaluru, on 27 August.

Early in 2019, the chief editor of a mainstream media house in Delhi took me out for a meal. Let’s call him “TK TK ji.” As many in the media would know, TK is an abbreviation used often in editing, which stands for “To Come.” TK remains as a placeholder, until additional material is added or the exact details placed at a later stage—the odd abbreviation a very uncommon occurrence in the English language, making it easy to spot while proofing. And “ji,” of course, is the gender-neutral honorific in Hindi and Punjabi. Now, TK TK ji told me about the pressure he regularly faces from the Narendra Modi government. He told me about a call he once received, incidentally after a story The Caravan had published.

Adhakyshji apse baat karenge”—The President will talk to you, the caller had said in an authoritative voice.

While the editor wondered who “Adhyakshji” was or whether it was a prank call, a different voice spoke at the other end.