Monday Musings: SPPU journalism lecture: What is wrong in visiting the RSS?
The recent hullabaloo over a scheduled visit to an RSS office by journalism students of the Savitribai Phule Pune University was completely uncalled for. Students of journalism should have an open mind and be able to decide for themselves
Students of journalism, and journalists themselves, should have an open mind. They should be able to decide for themselves and not be influenced by strong biases. Since journalists do the job of holding a mirror to society, they should themselves be well-informed and be open to new experiences.
Therefore, the recent hullabaloo in Pune over a scheduled visit by students of the Savitribai Phule Pune University’s (SPPU) Department of Communication and Journalism to the Vishwa Samwad Kendra at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) office in Pune on February 15, was completely uncalled for.
A lecture on ‘Knowing RSS’ by Aniruddha Deshpande, the national ‘Sampark Pramukh’ (public relations head) had been organised under the department’s World View series. This is one of the excellent initiatives of the department under which the students have interacted with politicians and activists of various ideologies, hues and colours.
The RSS is one of the most important socio-political organisations in the country, more so in contemporary times. No journalist worth his salt can afford to be ignorant about the RSS. As journalists we visit various places and organisations, and meet people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies and have tea with them or discuss issues over lunch or dinner.
This is only to understand them, their organisations and ideologies better; establish a working relationship, and be able to report accurately. As professional journalists, we don’t close our minds to people and organisations simply because they belong to a certain colour, caste, religion, nationality or political ideology. We are willing to listen and be accessible to one and all. That is what constitutes the letter and spirit of journalism in a democracy.
Two instances are worth recalling here. Once, while working on a story for a national daily about Osho’s Samadhi located at the Osho Commune in Koregaon Park, I had approached the commune spokesperson for permission to visit the samadhi. She tried to discourage me by saying that to do so I would have to undergo a blood test for AIDS (Acquired immune-deficiency syndrome); wear a maroon robe, and participate in the ‘orientation programme’ which gave an introduction to Osho’s meditations. Only after this would I be allowed to enter the samadhi, she said.
To her surprise, I readily agreed. Next, I purchased a maroon robe from a street vendor in Koregaon Park, insisted on paying the Rs 700 fees for the orientation programme and went through the entire exercise which was quite insightful. The end result was that I got an excellent story on the samadhi.
The second occasion was when I was invited to a demonstration of one of Osho’s meditations- of all the places, in the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC. I thought that was unusual and participated in that event.
If someone has lost out in the SPPU-RSS episode, it is sadly, the students of journalism of SPPU. They have lost an opportunity to interact with a national functionary of the RSS and see for themselves what an RSS establishment looks like. Hopefully, better sense will prevail in the future at this journalism institute, of which I am a proud alumnus.