Sunday, September 16, 2012

Of Raja Muzaffer Bhat and lazy journalism

Naseer Ganai

Raja Muzaffer Bhat, former RTI activist and now a PDP leader is known to almost all journalists. All lazy journalists know him. Why? Because lazy journalists like me, who at times think about their profession more of a burden and less of a profession, prefer to have a working liaison with such people. You like such ‘activists’ because you get easy stories from them. Because during dry days they would provide you some story stuff which makes your day.

They also understand this compulsion of lazy journalists, and they provide them information that usually suits them. The day Raja Muzaffer started his activism as an RTI activist he also started having liaison with journalists. The activism of activists and NGOs is nothing as long as it is not reported by the press. Whether we understand it or not, Raja Sahab of Budgam understood it very well.

Initially, he would talk about RTIs and condemn the State Government for not coming up with the RTI Rules. He took all stakeholders along to motivate the State Government to come up with the Rules. That aspect of his activism cannot be ignored. Later, when the State Government came up with the Rules, he and other activists in his RTI movement started filing RTIs, mostly in Budgam district. All of us ignored it. Every second RTI was filed in the Budgam district.

However, one day RTI movement went out of Budgam and filed RTI regarding the Chief Minister and his chopper. The Chief Minister’s office responded that even for going to loo, Omar Sahab prefers to take State helicopter. We all filed stories about how Omar uses and abuses his chopper. But Raja Sahab was not satisfied with the reportage about his activities in Budgam district. He himself decided to write. And every other week he wrote articles about his activities. Every article carried his smart picture. Nothing wrong in it.

But then he started reporting for newspapers himself where R.M Bhat was quoting noted RTI activist and the Chairman of RTI movement Raja Muzaffer Bhat.  This too couldn’t satisfy him. Finally Raja Sahab felt that time has come when he should devote his energy and activities toward PDP. One day he announced his decision of joining the party. Good. Again nothing wrong with his decision. He has every right to choose any party or group he wishes to join. 

But his decision to join political party poses a larger question to journalism in Kashmir. Should we depend on the activists like Raja Muzaffer Bhat and others who have political ambitions? It was not that Raja Muzaffer suddenly woke up one day and decided to join a political party. He might have decided it long ago. You don’t take such decisions in a jiffy. He was waiting for the right moment to announce the decision. Doesn’t it indicate that all his activism about RTI and the RTI movement was focused? Focused towards developing and cultivating a vote bank? Focused to promote political ideology of the party he joined?  Focused to undermine his future political opponents through RTI activism? Was RTI activism used a political tool? Can’t we say that when his RTI movement filed RTI regarding Chief Minister’s chopper exercise, it was actually PDP trying to undermine the NC Chief Minister?

We wish good luck to Raja Muzaffer for his new voyage, in his new political avatar. But at the same time we should ask ourselves some hard questions. We have to give up this laziness, which allows others to use media for their self-promotion in the name of activism. It will not take any media organization in Kashmir more than ten minutes to file ten good RTIs every day. They have good, experienced reporters, they have computers, they have printers, and they have the staff which could post these RTIs. Despite having everything at our disposal, we still give good coverage to paper activities of activists having political ambitions and motives to settle their political scores. There are only two reasons for it, either we are lazy or we are devoid of ideas.  Let us come out of our laziness. Let us begin to think.

And let us change a bit.