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‘The National Project for Instilling Fear in the people has reached completion. Before the promised highways and jobs, everybody has been unfailingly given one thing—fear. For every individual, fear is now the daily bread. We are all experiencing fear; it comes to us in many different forms—from the moment we step out of our homes, with so many warnings ringing in our ears ‘The National Project for Instilling Fear in the people has reached completion. Before the promised highways and jobs, everybody has been unfailingly given one thing—fear. For every individual, fear is now the daily bread. We are all experiencing fear; it comes to us in many different forms—from the moment we step out of our homes, with so many warnings ringing in our ears... It is only the lapdog media which is safe in India today. Jump into and snuggle down in the lap of authority and nobody will dare say anything to you.’ At a time when free expression and individual liberty in India appear to be under serious threat, Ravish Kumar is one of our bravest and most mature public voices. Few journalists today have as keen an understanding of Indian society and politics and as strong a commitment to the truth. Fewer still can match him in eloquence and integrity. In this necessary book, he examines why debate and dialogue have given way to hate and intolerance in India, how elected representatives, the media and other institutions are failing us and looks at ways to repair the damage to our democracy.


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‘The National Project for Instilling Fear in the people has reached completion. Before the promised highways and jobs, everybody has been unfailingly given one thing—fear. For every individual, fear is now the daily bread. We are all experiencing fear; it comes to us in many different forms—from the moment we step out of our homes, with so many warnings ringing in our ears ‘The National Project for Instilling Fear in the people has reached completion. Before the promised highways and jobs, everybody has been unfailingly given one thing—fear. For every individual, fear is now the daily bread. We are all experiencing fear; it comes to us in many different forms—from the moment we step out of our homes, with so many warnings ringing in our ears... It is only the lapdog media which is safe in India today. Jump into and snuggle down in the lap of authority and nobody will dare say anything to you.’ At a time when free expression and individual liberty in India appear to be under serious threat, Ravish Kumar is one of our bravest and most mature public voices. Few journalists today have as keen an understanding of Indian society and politics and as strong a commitment to the truth. Fewer still can match him in eloquence and integrity. In this necessary book, he examines why debate and dialogue have given way to hate and intolerance in India, how elected representatives, the media and other institutions are failing us and looks at ways to repair the damage to our democracy.

30 review for The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Singh

    The book deserves to be made part of highschool curricula for it tells you more about the current state of affairs in the Indian polity and society than any other media would. It's safe to state that Ravish isn't the best television journalist going around. He's the only one. He's managed to carve a niche among a herd of chest thumping baboons with a rustic charm hitherto unforeseen in television journalism. Raising issues that are pertinent and raising them in a manner that is balanced and civi The book deserves to be made part of highschool curricula for it tells you more about the current state of affairs in the Indian polity and society than any other media would. It's safe to state that Ravish isn't the best television journalist going around. He's the only one. He's managed to carve a niche among a herd of chest thumping baboons with a rustic charm hitherto unforeseen in television journalism. Raising issues that are pertinent and raising them in a manner that is balanced and civilized makes him India's own Will McAvoy of Sorkin's Newsroom. The book is a collection of his thoughts: some written afresh, some compiled from earlier speeches and essays. While some rustic satire is definitely lost in translation to English, this book must be seen against the backdrop against which it is written. Ravish has gone where no other journalist, or for that matter no other citizen, would in his critique of the government and the political and social environment prevailing in the country. And this despite the man himself facing abuse and death threats day in and day out. So do a good deed today and read The Free Voice. Also, pass it on to your parents, siblings and friends who you had blocked on Social Media post May 2014.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ipsita

    I am scared whatever I say is going to be biased....as I love this guy so much. the book is written exactly in the manner he talks, raising very pertinent questions with his tongue in cheek humour. There is hardly anything he doesn't question caste, class, market economy, love, the way we consume news nowadays through whats app and Facebook. The fear he talks about is so real and close home now! I like the fact that the book doesn't end in despair and lists out reasons we still have for celebrat I am scared whatever I say is going to be biased....as I love this guy so much. the book is written exactly in the manner he talks, raising very pertinent questions with his tongue in cheek humour. There is hardly anything he doesn't question caste, class, market economy, love, the way we consume news nowadays through whats app and Facebook. The fear he talks about is so real and close home now! I like the fact that the book doesn't end in despair and lists out reasons we still have for celebrating the Independence day, and how as individuals we can question power, and walk our talk in our own lives! I absolutely loved the book!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ananya Ghosh

    "As long as you consider yourself a citizen of the country, your conduct should be that of a citizen's. The task of demanding answers, with impartiality and without prejudice, is yours, and overrides any obligation to an organization. If you behave like the agent of a political party or a religious or cultural organization, you will destroy this democracy. It is your responsibility that after you vote a party into power, you step back and become impartial once more. If you think something is rig "As long as you consider yourself a citizen of the country, your conduct should be that of a citizen's. The task of demanding answers, with impartiality and without prejudice, is yours, and overrides any obligation to an organization. If you behave like the agent of a political party or a religious or cultural organization, you will destroy this democracy. It is your responsibility that after you vote a party into power, you step back and become impartial once more. If you think something is right, and good, call it so; and if something is wrong, call it wrong, too." When I started reading this book, I got two kinds of reactions from people: 1) Ravish is a leftist, Modi-Hater, Pro-Congress. NDTV is paid media. Don't want to read this book. 2) Huge fan of Ravish. Only journalist in Indian television who has the courage to speak against the government. I wanted to dive in and figure it out by myself. What I found out instead is that, this book, if anything, raises pertinent questions and if you are a person who values logic and reason and has been following what is going around in the society, then it will give you some food for thought.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gaurav Shukla

    Very boring book, not even single facts are given there in the book which he has talked about, only his opinion. Every time he talks about something newin the book like- that this is happening or can happen in india; is only based on rumours which he himself says what if these things will start happening we will become banana republic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Avdhesh Anand

    In short – Ravish is right and everyone else is either Godi media or ignorant!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Imagined

    This book offers nothing new in terms of new ideas. The points which are being addressed are pretty basic and arguments given in support of them are pretty shallow. It is true that fake news and mob lynching became part of indian society but this book offers no new insight on any of these phenomenons. Book touched topics which are both controversial and needed much more attention and discussion. No references were provided for the claims made in the book which even though can be true but diminis This book offers nothing new in terms of new ideas. The points which are being addressed are pretty basic and arguments given in support of them are pretty shallow. It is true that fake news and mob lynching became part of indian society but this book offers no new insight on any of these phenomenons. Book touched topics which are both controversial and needed much more attention and discussion. No references were provided for the claims made in the book which even though can be true but diminishes the reliability aspect of the book. Although, author himself warns against the side effects of fake news on society but himself believes in conspiracy theory propagated by western liberal society like American election were totally regulated by the Russian forces and Trump win only by Russian propaganda. Needless to say no references were provided in this regard as well. Also, although you will find examples of bashing out right wing hindutva fundamentalist but no criticism was provided for Islamist extremist. Deliberate ignorance and appeasment of fundamentalism of Islamist is responsible for the emergence of right wing extremism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dheeraj Pandey

    Ravish Kumar hates everyone except poor people specially of lower caste. For example: in chapter 6 he was defending poor and illiterate followers of Ram Rahim. Since critics were calling them superstitious. Our superhero ravish Kumar came to rescue arguing that if poor people go to a Baba they are called superstitious but if rich people go to Baba it is for stress management. And here I was thinking it was a common knowledge that religiosity decreases with the increase of household income. But t Ravish Kumar hates everyone except poor people specially of lower caste. For example: in chapter 6 he was defending poor and illiterate followers of Ram Rahim. Since critics were calling them superstitious. Our superhero ravish Kumar came to rescue arguing that if poor people go to a Baba they are called superstitious but if rich people go to Baba it is for stress management. And here I was thinking it was a common knowledge that religiosity decreases with the increase of household income. But this genius possess the thought process of a cockroach. Well at the end of the day if you enjoy this kind of content then go for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amarkant Shiva

    If self-delusion had to have a face, it'd be Ravish Kumar. He thinks that only he is right and all others in the country are mad or biased. Come on man! You call yourself a journalist and you don't even know that people born in a democracy are bound to be biased because they have to vote one candidate. The book is a reflection of the rants that he makes day and night on a channel with no viewers. Waste. If self-delusion had to have a face, it'd be Ravish Kumar. He thinks that only he is right and all others in the country are mad or biased. Come on man! You call yourself a journalist and you don't even know that people born in a democracy are bound to be biased because they have to vote one candidate. The book is a reflection of the rants that he makes day and night on a channel with no viewers. Waste.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Radhika N

    Ravish has gone totally paranoid! The book does not make any sense other than the author's widowed howl which becomes monotonous and ridiculous getting deeper into the text. Avoidable. Ravish has gone totally paranoid! The book does not make any sense other than the author's widowed howl which becomes monotonous and ridiculous getting deeper into the text. Avoidable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shivanshu Singh

    "Where one leader dwarfs the landscape, there will be no lok, only tantra, no people, only a hollowed system, and the only thing standing will be a temple of falsehood.", observes author. These essays, written in the form of a book, are incisive, compelling, absorbing and, most importantly, immensely relevant in our present political landscape. Known for his brutal, yet accurate, criticism of the government, Ravish Kumar is one of the very few journalists who dare to question the social and poli "Where one leader dwarfs the landscape, there will be no lok, only tantra, no people, only a hollowed system, and the only thing standing will be a temple of falsehood.", observes author. These essays, written in the form of a book, are incisive, compelling, absorbing and, most importantly, immensely relevant in our present political landscape. Known for his brutal, yet accurate, criticism of the government, Ravish Kumar is one of the very few journalists who dare to question the social and political insanity happening around us. Nationalism is a hot topic nowadays. Anyone who disagrees with the current government, its policies, or its philosophy is branded "anti-national". Campaigns are unleashed against him/her on social media, and the person is virtually encircled and trolled. We don't need nationalism. What we need is an overarching humanism. Election season is upon us, the ubiquitous presence of the Internet and social media has given rise to a surge of fake news. IT cells of various political parties along with 'Whatsapp University' and 'godi media' are furthering their interest using them. Who is the frontrunner in this is self-evident. Fake news and propaganda provide a weapon with which to transform supporters into 'bhakts', the public into a mob and their behavior like that of a robot, thus giving rise to 'robo-public'. After all, what is power? The act of coloring this world with your favorites shades. Mr. Kumar follows a logical approach, supplemented by facts and his signature blend of sarcasm, to illustrate his points. The relevance of the book in the current political scenario cannot be overstated. So, if you are a person who values logic and reason and has been following what is going around in society, then this read will give you some food for thought. PS: This book bags the 100th position in my 'read' shelf which makes it special for me :)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Apratim Mukherjee

    Ravish has been a staunch critic of India's prime minister Narendra Modi,but he one of those who ask the Indian government "questions".This fearless journalism has also won him a Magasaysay Award.But can he write a book in English? My answer is no.His content is good(eventhough I don't agree with a lot of stuff) but everything is cluttered.The chapter "Being the people" seems a bit bogus due to the writing style.The problem is that although Ravish is trying to comment on flaws of Indian democracy Ravish has been a staunch critic of India's prime minister Narendra Modi,but he one of those who ask the Indian government "questions".This fearless journalism has also won him a Magasaysay Award.But can he write a book in English? My answer is no.His content is good(eventhough I don't agree with a lot of stuff) but everything is cluttered.The chapter "Being the people" seems a bit bogus due to the writing style.The problem is that although Ravish is trying to comment on flaws of Indian democracy but what comes out is criticism of democracy which seems fake(this is probably due to translation). I would suggest, listen to Ravish on NDTV but read the Hindi version of his books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    S

    Ravish should stick to TV. Absolutely boring and worthless views in writing

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bhavesh Mehta

    A book that has to read by each and everyone who has ever been manipulated by the rhetoric of our Media. At present, Ravish isn't just another news Anchor who hosts his prime time show. He is the only one we have who has not succumbed to the cajolery of the ruling government. He talks about his life experiences, caste, economy, class, and the future of news. The warns us of a monster that is slithering towards us at a pace faster than we can run. But the book also gives hope that this monster ca A book that has to read by each and everyone who has ever been manipulated by the rhetoric of our Media. At present, Ravish isn't just another news Anchor who hosts his prime time show. He is the only one we have who has not succumbed to the cajolery of the ruling government. He talks about his life experiences, caste, economy, class, and the future of news. The warns us of a monster that is slithering towards us at a pace faster than we can run. But the book also gives hope that this monster can be overpowered and there are reasons to not be afraid in these times of testing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lalan Jha

    A very poorly reflecting book. The author should come into direct party politics and fight an election instead of sermonising as if he is the only one who can get over all these issues.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shrey Kapoor

    This book would have deserved a better rating, had ravish written this book in Hindi. It was difficult for me to correlate Ravish's personality and views with the language of the book. However, the book is no surprise, it delves upon issues Ravish frequently raises in his facebook posts and prime time. For people who follow him regularly, the book fails to communicate any new point of view or opinion. It is a great summary of the last 4 years of the journalistic life of Ravish though. The Whatsa This book would have deserved a better rating, had ravish written this book in Hindi. It was difficult for me to correlate Ravish's personality and views with the language of the book. However, the book is no surprise, it delves upon issues Ravish frequently raises in his facebook posts and prime time. For people who follow him regularly, the book fails to communicate any new point of view or opinion. It is a great summary of the last 4 years of the journalistic life of Ravish though. The Whatsapp University, trolls, and encroachment of democratic institutions are the central tenets of this book. The book does not have a smooth flow, the tempo dips and rises between chapters, and frankly, I was surprised when the book ended. It is a good refresher for someone not familiar with Ravish and his brand of journalism. However, for his regular viewers, this book disappoints.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Taanya

    The author's story is much more powerful in his typical style, in Hindi. A book lost in translation despite being a really brave one. The author's story is much more powerful in his typical style, in Hindi. A book lost in translation despite being a really brave one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ipsa

    3.5 To say that India's democracy is going through a 'tough time' today is a meek euphemism. Ravish Kumar is the one man standing amidst the frothing vampires that Indian mainstream media corporations have turned into lately. Many a times I felt that the author has not risen above the hollow liberal verbiage of "reformation", reducing unique identity signifiers to mere citizenry, washing over the many monstrous socio-economic inequalities breathing in stark daylight, neglecting the fact that th 3.5 To say that India's democracy is going through a 'tough time' today is a meek euphemism. Ravish Kumar is the one man standing amidst the frothing vampires that Indian mainstream media corporations have turned into lately. Many a times I felt that the author has not risen above the hollow liberal verbiage of "reformation", reducing unique identity signifiers to mere citizenry, washing over the many monstrous socio-economic inequalities breathing in stark daylight, neglecting the fact that the content of these "citizens" are structured around and by these inequalities. But for all its weaknesses, one must acknowledge that the book isn't meant to provide a keen structural analysis of the Indian society today; but instead it presents a very coherent and structured elaboration of the state of things today. It's a call to shake off this drugged numbness that envelops us all, notice the sorry state of journalism in India today, where major media corporations have openly turned into state lapdogs; like Ravish Kumar repeatedly says, media from the fourth estate of democracy has become the first estate of the state. This book merely nudges you to look, forge your own critical dialogues and paths; in that he does a brilliant job. Yes, yes, it's "nothing new", we've all heard this before, but what exactly is the point of demanding novel critiques,when the ones we are already aware of are rotting in paper for a lack of fervent action? --- while we sit smugly in our privileged bubbles stroking our privileged intellectuals. The goal is to reduce the gap between manual and mental labour. This book, for all its weaknesses, is incredibly relevant and an important primer in awakening a very needed political consciousness. Anuradha Raman from The Hindu called this book a "mirror of our times." So it is. Solidarity and compassion is what it calls for, and in that it's an absolutely essential reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Naman Muley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "Life and Freedom have not been bestowed on us by the Constitution, they have always existed; the Constitution only protects them." Ravish Kumar writes from the heart. I doubt he knows any other way of writing. His plea, in The Free Voice, is to the Indian populace to look within ourselves and recognize what it means to be in a democracy and act like it. His attempt is that of a grassroots NGO worker to sit with you and help you be a better version of yourself. The Free Voice is less of a book and "Life and Freedom have not been bestowed on us by the Constitution, they have always existed; the Constitution only protects them." Ravish Kumar writes from the heart. I doubt he knows any other way of writing. His plea, in The Free Voice, is to the Indian populace to look within ourselves and recognize what it means to be in a democracy and act like it. His attempt is that of a grassroots NGO worker to sit with you and help you be a better version of yourself. The Free Voice is less of a book and more like an extended Prime Time show on NDTV India. It's almost as if he was talking to you with the familiar red mike in hand. Even through the translations, you can feel the ever present wry sarcasm in his writing. "If we are not vigilant about our rights in a democracy, it does not matter how much Bournvita and Chyavanprash we consume." Ravish starts off from a vulnerable position, admitting to crippling fear and self doubt, empathizing with those who live in fear of retribution from the powers that are. Through current events like killing of journalists and fake news, he presents a case for how an unempowered citizen's opinion is being swayed where it's loose and silenced where it's loud. Ravish is honest in his writing as he is in his reporting. He gave me my next new years resolution - to speak out where I can so that I don't let echo chambers form around me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Parvin Sultana

    Ravish Kumar’s book gives voice to the many fears that we have in our hearts. His book from the very beginning hints at the extraordinary time that we are living in, when speaking out is no more a normal activity but an act of bravery. Ravish Kumar talks about his own journey from being fearful to giving up that fear. From myriad examples in his life, he states how he came to terms with his own fears. The very first chapter titled “Speaking Out” drives home the fact that there is a need to take Ravish Kumar’s book gives voice to the many fears that we have in our hearts. His book from the very beginning hints at the extraordinary time that we are living in, when speaking out is no more a normal activity but an act of bravery. Ravish Kumar talks about his own journey from being fearful to giving up that fear. From myriad examples in his life, he states how he came to terms with his own fears. The very first chapter titled “Speaking Out” drives home the fact that there is a need to take silence head on. As a journalist, he wages a daily war to be true to his profession and speak the truth. Even if speaking out means facing the wrath of trolls. He recounts how he has faced harassment for speaking out and questioning those at the helm of power. Starting from death threats, to fake propaganda, to threat about harming his family, he has faced it all. Read the entire review at: https://parvinsultana.blogspot.com/20...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Conrad Barwa

    Important contribution by a Hindi journalist on the increasing levels of abuse and the manufacturing of fear to suppress dissent that is going on in Modi's India. Though too diplomatic to attack the present PM directly, Kumar, nonetheless eloquently describes the climate of intimidation and harassment faced by journalists who seek to question the current regime and the levels of online and personal abuse, as well as threats both to their jobs and their physical safety that the face as a conseque Important contribution by a Hindi journalist on the increasing levels of abuse and the manufacturing of fear to suppress dissent that is going on in Modi's India. Though too diplomatic to attack the present PM directly, Kumar, nonetheless eloquently describes the climate of intimidation and harassment faced by journalists who seek to question the current regime and the levels of online and personal abuse, as well as threats both to their jobs and their physical safety that the face as a consequence. Not a naturally brave man, Kumar has taken a brave stance in difficult times and become a marked man as a result; unlike what Advani said of journalists during the Emergency, when asked to bend, not only did he not crawl but stood up straighter.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vinayak Hegde

    Ravish Kumar has written a polemic on those undermining the indian political system and their methods. This book is a call to arms for Indian citizens to partcipate vigourosly in the democracy - not only voting in elections but holding those in power responsible for their actions even if they have voted for them. He attacks the purveyors of fake news and those who are actively promoting fear and xenophobia for different sections of soceity. This collection of essays is good but the last third fe Ravish Kumar has written a polemic on those undermining the indian political system and their methods. This book is a call to arms for Indian citizens to partcipate vigourosly in the democracy - not only voting in elections but holding those in power responsible for their actions even if they have voted for them. He attacks the purveyors of fake news and those who are actively promoting fear and xenophobia for different sections of soceity. This collection of essays is good but the last third feels a little repeitiitve. Also I would have liked a deeper dive into Aadhaar and the right to privacy, but the author just skims the surface here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aviral

    I don't understand what this book is about. The greatness of Ravish? Fear? Hindus and Muslims? Trolling? Collection of unrelated essays? Ravish's magical oratory in Hindi is absent in this English book. Surprisingly, the word Fascist doesn't appear till a third of the book is over. It is a biased narrative but that's expected and fine by me. But 176 pages and not one insight? Not fine. I don't understand what this book is about. The greatness of Ravish? Fear? Hindus and Muslims? Trolling? Collection of unrelated essays? Ravish's magical oratory in Hindi is absent in this English book. Surprisingly, the word Fascist doesn't appear till a third of the book is over. It is a biased narrative but that's expected and fine by me. But 176 pages and not one insight? Not fine.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darsh Nathawani

    Very insightful about the current situation between the Indian politics and people.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sahil Pradhan

    When U.S. President Donald Trump began crying “fake news,” and prime time news slots in India began to hold debates on photoshopped WhatsApp forwards, we knew post-truth times had truly arrived. But as is the nature of governments, it took some time for the arrival of fake news to register with the government of India. On April 2, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) woke up to the “increasing instances of fake news in electronic and print media” in the country, and released a c When U.S. President Donald Trump began crying “fake news,” and prime time news slots in India began to hold debates on photoshopped WhatsApp forwards, we knew post-truth times had truly arrived. But as is the nature of governments, it took some time for the arrival of fake news to register with the government of India. On April 2, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) woke up to the “increasing instances of fake news in electronic and print media” in the country, and released a circular announcing amendments to guidelines that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) follows while granting accreditation to journalists. In less than a day’s time, the circular was withdrawn at the direction of Narendra Modi’s Prime Minister’s Office. During the 15 hours between the circular’s issuance and its withdrawal, the discussion around fake news in India kick-started to a frenzy — beginning with criticisms of the circular itself. For a government that has its own legacy of fake news, the circular fired on all the wrong cylinders. It issued an authoritarian threat to journalists, ordering suspension of their accreditation for 15 days as soon as a complaint accusing them of creating or propagating fake news was registered, without even first determining its legitimacy. For a journalist, to lose their accreditation means losing access to government buildings, archives, and important decision-makers. While the Indian Constitution guarantees its citizens the fundamental right to speech and expression (Article 19), it does not explicitly provide for the freedom of the press, unlike in other mature democracies of the world, where press freedom is a constitutionally protected right. The First and Fourth Amendments in the United States, for example, protect the rights of journalists to write, probe, criticize, debate, and contest freely the head of the state — who currently happens to be the very man who’s brought fake news to the limelight it enjoys today. On the World Press Freedom Index of May 2017, India ranked 136th on a list of 180 countries. The South Asian nation was placed even lower than the conflict-struck Palestine. According to the report, journalists in the subcontinent were less free than 135 other countries because of the rising nationalism under the National Democratic Alliance government, and the fear of “online smear campaigns” launched by radical nationalists, who also turn out, in many instances, to be internet trolls. The circular’s misgivings didn’t end there. In addition to policing journalists who already self-censor due to fears of the state, it also targeted the wrong people. In the evolution of fake news since November of 2016 when the United States picked Donald Trump as president, these two words — fake news — have come to encompass many ends: propaganda tool, self-defense mechanism, or money making scheme. Fake news is, in effect, the offspring of an unholy marriage between propaganda and advertising money. How? Fake news is a bit of a misleading term, believes Pankaj Jain, one of India’s most active fake news slayers: “Fake news can mean many things – a mistake, intentional misleading, twisting a news story, or fabricating a complete lie.” “In the past while media houses and credible journalists have been found to put out misleading stories and/or mistakes, the most damage is done by people, fake social media profiles, polarizing websites and pages which spread fake news intentionally for garnering votes and spreading hate,” Jain says. Out of all the channels through which fake news spreads, Jain, whose initiative, Social Media Hoax Slayer, blows the lid off of false information being passed around social media platforms, feels the biggest culprit is the instant messaging app, WhatsApp. Fake news going around in WhatsApp circles is most likely to spread and affect people, as Jain explains: “Most of our population from the villages, or with access to cheap data but no formal education, are users of WhatsApp, not Facebook or Twitter.” SM Hoax Slayer joins other media watchdogs in India, like The Hoot, Alt News and Newslaundry, that keep a close watch on mainstream media’s coverage of news events and expose their biases, motivations, and affiliations. Fake videos circulated on WhatsApp have snowballed into riots (the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, for example, actually began with a fake video which was floated by a member of the Legislative Assembly from the then-opposition and now ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or the BJP), mass actions, and in some instances, prime time debates on television, and anchor stories in daily newspapers. So much so, that “WhatsApp journalism” has taken off as a category in itself. A deeper concern here, however, is who manufactures news that can potentially be picked up as clickbait-y headlines, and why do they do it? Sensational headlines, which scream at the audience to get viewers and entice readers to click through to dubious websites, are a money-making tool. The same people who tirelessly forward “Good Morning” messages to their WhatsApp circles and clog up the internet are the same people who, mostly innocuously, also help to peddle fake news. However, there are noninnocuous characters, too, in this tale. An editor of the news website Postcard News was recently arrested in the south Indian city of Bengaluru for promoting hatred between religious groups by carrying the picture of a monk injured in an accident, and passing it off as the result of an attack by a Muslim youth. The editor, interestingly, is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, even though Postcard News has been repeatedly called out as a hoax-generating portal, frequently used by BJP ministers and supporters to strike up communal tensions. The I&B ministry’s circular, had it stood unrevoked, would have been powerless against these hate-mongers, since they’re not accredited journalists. In fact, only journalists who are assigned by their media houses to cover parliament generally go for accreditation by the government body. If Not Accredited Journalists, Where Does Fake News Come From? The I&B Ministry failed to recognize that fake news isn’t the work of an accredited journalist as much as it is a function of WhatsApp forwards and Facebook posts. Fake news is more likely to stem from a Photoshop artist; a politician who goes into the hinterlands and makes speeches without fact-checking them; and the intermingling of a public relations group, market strategists, and often a dire step toward damage control (or damage creation). Even so, fake news isn’t at its most potent when it shows Narendra Modi working as a floor sweeper. The bigger danger is when, for example, fake news wrongly attributes statements calling for Azaadi (freedom) for Kashmir to someone like Arundhati Roy. Critics of the government thus often find themselves becoming targets for trolls, fake news, and misguided social media outrage. The task before policymakers now is to draw up legislation to clamp down on the fake news that is funded by the government itself and its affiliates for electoral currency. In a democracy, where the media plays the role of the proverbial fourth pillar — a conscience keeper, as it were — in addition to the institutions of the executive, legislative, and judiciary, it is also strong enough to hold its own and engender a discourse against fake news from within itself. Rejecting silence Review of The Free Voice Ravish’s ruminations about the nature of our fear in The Free Voice, released in April 2018, makes it required reading for every Indian who looks the other way or stays silent when faced with bigotry and hatred. It’s a how-to-rediscover-your-courage-guide for media organisations that self-censor any criticism of the government, mostly for commercial reasons. It is also an important record of how India and Indians changed before our eyes. Ravish riffs about everything from privacy to love to the way holy men manipulate us (in New India they spread their pearls of wisdom via television) and how Narendra Modi’s India has eerie similarities to Adolf Hitler’s Germany. But the book’s first three chapters – “Speaking Out”, “The Robo-Public and the Building of a New Democracy” and “The National Project for Instilling Fear” – are a searing take on modern-day politics and the state of our nation. The first chapter, which I’ve discussed here, made the deepest impact on me. Ravish knows speaking out is not easy; in New India it is construed as an act of bravery. He compares the act of voicing an unpopular truth to straining one’s entire body in a race to the finish, leaning in to breast the tape like athlete Usain Bolt, with one key difference: While a ribbon awaits Bolt, those who speak out slam into a concrete wall. “When you reach the finishing line, you run straight into that wall. Everything, your job, your credibility, your life itself, is at stake.” Each time he writes or says something, people introduce him to new and different varieties of fear. “Aren’t you afraid? Take care of yourself,” they tell him. “These exhortations to keep safe have made people cowards. Because they are not warnings to speak carefully, but warnings to not speak at all,” he adds. His father’s words, spoken before a board examination many years ago, help to counter some of his fears: “You shouldn’t be so afraid. Why do you have such fear within you? You’ve prepared well, haven’t you?” Ravish also raises his voice against the IT cell of India’s ruling party and the army of “experts” that have emerged from the “WhatsApp University” of fake news forwards. “Every day I’m stalked by a new lie. Every day I fight a new lie. It would be exhausting, but for the occasional sign that the fight is not in vain,” he writes. In nine different chapters, Kumar analyses the various aspects of India’s polity and society. The abusive trolling, fake news, fear-mongering as well as instilling fear, violent mobs on a rampage, right of privacy intruded by dubious digital projects — all are talked about in the pages of The Free Voice. Referencing Hitler’s Germany, he tells us, “We must also strive to understand the nature of mobs. A mob has its own constitution. It has its own country. It drafts its own orders and directives, and identifies its own prey.” Ravish cautions, “To become a mob, at any place, at any time, is to become Hitler’s Germany.” He wrote this essay on the day, Modi visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. It is really interesting to note here that the RSS idolises Hitler’s Germany, copies the dress and mannerism from Mussolini’s Italy and, lo and behold, eulogises Israel too. The chapters on ‘Love, Independence day and the Babas’ are tremendous, and apart from telling a bit or two about the topics, also poke our mental and psychological temperament. And those numerous beautifully expressed lines here, there and everywhere in the collection– immense. Some of my favourite lines: ‘I keep my pen straight, and I keep my tongue clean.’ ‘Things aren’t so bad yet that no one can speak out.’ ‘Fake news engenders fake debates, and fake debates result in fake politics.’ ‘Fake news is the coded language which can be used to control and use the robo-public.’ ‘The people who make up a genuine democracy are not an inert, lifeless unit. They constantly pulse and transform on the basis of information.’ ‘We should all, as citizens of this country, ask the following questions of our Prime Minister: ‘Why do you follow Dadhich?” ‘The moment we start wondering what is going on, pat comes a mention of Chanakya on WhatsApp.’ ‘In our country, most people only love in their imagination.’ The Free Voice is a telling commentary on, aptly subtitled, democracy, culture and the nation. This collection is published by Speaking Tiger and translated by Chitra Padmanabhan, Anurag Basnet and Ravi Singh. The trio has done their job too well, and we must be thankful to them for the book is going to stay with us for really long. Mathili Doshi Apale’s minimalist, but impressive design, is tremendous, and the photo of an intense Ravish Kumar on the back cover by Bharat Tiwari enhances the impact of the text. When we, the people, cross this dark chilling night of fear, lies and bullying, and touch the morning’s warmth, this book will be an honest reminder and a reportage of these times. At times, the words of Kumar may sound pessimistic or cynical or you can term them a result of frustration, but, in fact, the wholesome impact of the book is positive. It ignites the sparks of hope, solidarity, and compassion. It is a promise from one of the most important voices in India today… a promise which is a resolution too. India ranked 138 in the World Press Freedom Index released last week. “In India, hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay,” Reporters Sans Frontières said in its 2018 report, adding that “self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.” Ravish exhorts his readers to fight against this atmosphere of silence. When the mob wants to terrify you, he writes, you need to decide whether you want to be terrified. He’s weary of that by-now commonplace statement in Delhi’s power circle: “We should not talk about this on the phone”. People often ask if he’s afraid of speaking out, and then they look at him expectantly. “Everyone…feels that Ravish will give a fitting reply: he will say that he drinks a glass of Bournvita before leaving home. Or that he offers a laddoo to Hanuman. I have no magical mantra as far as the act of speaking out is concerned.” In New India, he writes, the minority is not just those who feel that they are judged by the way they look or the way they dress. “The status of second-class citizenry has fallen not just to the minority community, but also to people from the majority community,” Ravish argues. “…the act of questioning the government too can transform you into a minority.” It’s not too late to speak up, the journalist urges, recommending you start with your friends. “If you have friends whose devotion is to something you think to be wrong, tell them that…You will have to start practising speaking up somewhere. Things aren’t so bad yet that no one can speak up.” Amen.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vikas

    2nd year in a row the first book I finished in the year is getting 5 stars and it deserves all the stars. This is an important book and I knew that I had to get and read the book as soon as I saw it. And now slowly and steadily I have finished the book. This book and the topics are of my own heart. I know how much things are messed up and how much we are in the need to change and that is never easy and not going to be easy. It's true that there is an atmosphere of fear and people are afraid to e 2nd year in a row the first book I finished in the year is getting 5 stars and it deserves all the stars. This is an important book and I knew that I had to get and read the book as soon as I saw it. And now slowly and steadily I have finished the book. This book and the topics are of my own heart. I know how much things are messed up and how much we are in the need to change and that is never easy and not going to be easy. It's true that there is an atmosphere of fear and people are afraid to express their views I know because I have stopped myself from writing a blog post or sharing something just because I don't want to end up in jail or with a police case. But I can maybe write a book but that would be ways later right now I am working on other ideas and they would be written first. Till then I will have to enjoy the works of other brave souls who are at least braver than I. People who don't read generally ask me my reasons for reading. Simply put I just love reading and so to that end I have made it my motto to just Keep on Reading. I love to read everything except for Self Help books but even those once in a while. I read almost all the genres but YA, Fantasy, Biographies are the most. My favorite series is, of course, Harry Potter but then there are many more books that I just adore. I have bookcases filled with books which are waiting to be read so can't stay and spend more time in this review, so remember I loved reading this and love reading more, you should also read what you love and then just Keep on Reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kshitij Chaurel

    Must read one.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Piyusha Vir

    An extremely relevant and meaningful read, especially in today's times when everything and everyone is only waiting to erupt. What he shares about being fearful and how the few journalists doing their job are threatened is so saddening to read. This book is bold and fearless - much like the journalist Kumar is. An extremely relevant and meaningful read, especially in today's times when everything and everyone is only waiting to erupt. What he shares about being fearful and how the few journalists doing their job are threatened is so saddening to read. This book is bold and fearless - much like the journalist Kumar is.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Goutam Malviya

    It was an amazing read, to be honest, this book has everything fear, privacy, love, hate, fake news, political agendas, democracy this book gives you an idea of how these mobs work role of social media in spreading fake news how news channels in India are biased ravish's thoughts on privacy and much more It was an amazing read, to be honest, this book has everything fear, privacy, love, hate, fake news, political agendas, democracy this book gives you an idea of how these mobs work role of social media in spreading fake news how news channels in India are biased ravish's thoughts on privacy and much more

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pooja

    I have memories of me writing a review here but now I can't seem to remember what I wrote. However, I do remember finding the book insightful and worth-a-read. The writing is gripping and the message goes straight to the heart. I have memories of me writing a review here but now I can't seem to remember what I wrote. However, I do remember finding the book insightful and worth-a-read. The writing is gripping and the message goes straight to the heart.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ankita Goswami

    An essential read for EVERY Indian. Ravish Kumar beautifully tackles fake news and fear politics. The writing is extremely lucid and engaging. I enjoyed and learnt from every essay in the book.

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