I don’t talk much in my interviews; I just let people speak their minds. On Discovery Channel, there is a guy who catches snakes and draws venom from them. Similarly, I take my mic and people just spew their venom for everyone to see. I don’t need to do much! Frankly, journalism is not about being neutral. Every person has an opinion. For e.g.:, when there is a rape, why do people write headlines like ‘gruesome rape’? Using an adjective like gruesome means you have an opinion. Likewise, I have my own opinions against communalism, regressive thinking and chauvinism.
One of my videos on rape got many views. What happened was, I was travelling and saw “Mai mahilaon ki izzat karat hun” (I respect women) written on an auto rickshaw. There are many such autos in Delhi. So, I decided to ask the autowallah about it; you know, questions like who asks them to write it etc. Sitting in the auto, I asked the driver if he respects women and he proudly said he does.
Then I asked him “if your daughter wants to wear clothes of her choice, will you respect her choice”? He said no.
So I then asked him “will you allow her to marry someone from a different religion?” He again said no.
I then asked him if he would respect her wish to have consensual pre-marital sex. When he again said no, I got angry. How could he possibly respect women if he didn’t respect their agency or rights? Such men don’t actually respect women. For them, ‘respect’ is giving a woman goddess status and then forcing them into the kitchen or imposing the burden of upholding their ‘honour’ on their shoulders.
But having an opinion doesn’t mean veering away from truth. If two people are arguing over whether it is raining or not, a journalist’s job is not to fuel that argument into a fight but to open a window and check if it’s raining or not. In India, no one is reporting on facts. And this really affects the conscience of people. This is worsened by the unbelievable government interference. Journalists are getting fired for speaking against the government. People don’t speak out about this because their livelihoods are at stake. Journalism is in shambles right now.
Even though editors face pressure, thankfully I’m not directly pressurised by the government. But I often get threats. Once someone sent me a screenshot of my house on Google maps and threatened me. He warned me to be cautious since he knew where I lived. I was quite scared for a few days. Normally I take the metro to work but I was compelled to take cabs for a few days just to be safe.
I don’t face threats only because of journalism. Even though I’m an atheist, my identity to the world is that of a Muslim and my name is enough to get me lynched. This is directly because of the Govt. and it’s big leaders, who give indirect communal messages and demonise Muslims and liberals and other imaginary enemies. Their foot soldiers and the media convey these messages to the public. This has many ramifications, one of which is the breaking of our social fabric.