Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, will you allow dissent of employees at India Today?

Rajdeep Sardesai has written in his own website, a brief account of how he is proud to be an anti-national. If you can ignore the small banner on the right which serves as an advertisement for his ‘greatest book of the century’ and get to read the whole article, you can see how painstakingly Rajdeep had tried to prove he is an anti-national. It is purely his choice to be an anti-national, as long as he doesn’t end up in Times Now studio sitting next to his junior Arnab Goswami who had beat him in the race (not in the street) long back.

Filmmaker and columnist Vivek Agnihotri had already written an open letter to Rajdeep in his latest post. As there is already a point-by-point breakdown in that article, I have zeroed in on just two paragraphs in Rajdeep’s article. Those two paragraphs are:

Yes, I am anti-national because in a plural democracy I believe we must have a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists as we must with those in the North-East who seek autonomy. I will listen to student protestors in Srinagar or Imphal as I will to those in an FTII or a JNU.

Prosecute all those who break the law, incite violence, resort to terror but don’t lose the capacity to engage with those who dissent. The right to dissent is as fundamental as the right to free speech: shouting down alternative views, be they on prime time TV or on the street, is not my idea of India.

Mr. Rajdeep, I believe India Today is a workplace that encourages pluralism. Let us consider that there is a section of workers at India Today office who are not happy with the benefits that the management pays for it and stops working. Instead of you being a consulting editor, place yourself in the position of someone in the management. Being a responsible person for the happenings of the company, you call upon the workers and request them for a talk. Your management group and the worker’s group undergo various levels of talk and you either appease them with pay rise or they give up and get back to work. Extrapolating this situation to a national level, this is what happens whenever government employees protest for rise in benefits or people protest when they face some hurdle. The group of ministers meet protesting workers and the protest ends whenever the round of talks reach an end.

In the protest by your Digital section employees, one of them badmouths the management of India Today and threatens the management of dire consequences if you do not bend to their demands. High chances would be, you might end up terminating that employee. In a real situation, an ideal democratic nation aka India had not killed anyone who had badmouthed its government and had warned of voting for opposition parties en masse if they do not meet their demand. It had happened a lot of time and that is how governments had met its end in India. Exception was the Emergency period in 1975-77 where such activities ensured arrest. If India has to behave like you or your management, the person doing the activity of that Digital section employee must be sent to Pakistan or China or anywhere but India.

The above two scenarios are manageable. Now comes the freak scenario. What if a group of employees, say, the Web Content division, demand the breakup of India Today? You might wonder, break-ups and acquisitions are part and parcel of corporate industry. But the real twist here is, the dissenting workers demand that they want complete freedom along with the office-space that they hold. We can call them separatists. They will continue to destroy your computers within their cubicles, destroy your furnitures, kill their co-workers who try to jump to the management side and continue to throw hazardous materials into other sections too. They suddenly appears in other sections and shout their demand for freedom from your office. They demand that another competitor of India Today should interfere and they raise requests for their management to take over that block of office. Will you accept it merrily, Mr. Rajdeep? Will you request the top executives to give up those office space and continue working in whatever available space you have?

Meanwhile, another important group of workers, the ones who run the cleaning services of restrooms, starts demanding that they will take away restrooms. You cannot build yet another restrooms as there are another companies all around you and your employees would have to pee on the road, in case of bladder related emergencies.

A news company that points fingers at others while pluralism takes a hit might not be a hypocrite when it comes to dealing with dissent within. The Web Content separatists and restroom separatists are now dissenting. Will you call them and hold talks like how you would hold talks with Kashmiri and NE separatists or fire them and take control? What if few among them shouts in the middle of your office, “Break India Today into pieces. If you fire me, more workers will appear to destroy your office.”? Will you stand next to them and encourage them to shout that way, or call the police? If you call the police, you are a dictator and a fascist, Mr. Rajdeep. You are a real liberal and you stand for Freedom of Expression, only if you stand next to them and uphold their rights to shout that way. Not only that, you must call the rest of the management “a group of fascists” and ask them to give in to the demands of the dissenting workers. Will you hold a march from office gate to CEO cabin when security of your office tries to manhandle the dissenting workers?

The right to dissent in India Today is as fundamental as the right to free speech. Isn’t it Mr. Rajdeep? If you shout down such alternative views, it will not be your idea of India Today. Since I have built a scenario comparing your India Today with our India, now comes the question: Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, will you allow dissent of employees at India Today?

If you consider it unanswerable due to your current employment with that news company, just answer these simple questions instead: Will you allow another co-worker to write against India Today, if you happen to be its owner? When you were in CNN-IBN, did you allow your junior to air views against you in live news reports? If a junior worker assigned to you does not obey any of your command and is not willing to carry on any work, will you still allow that dissent or ask for an replacement?

Before ending the article, I’m re-quoting this particular line from your article:

“shouting down alternative views, be they on prime time TV or on the street, is not my idea of India.”

You appeared to have shouted down alternative view of two news channels in a sly tweet, just because they dissented from your gang. You had shouted down alternative view of NRIs, when you were involved in that legendary street fight outside Madison Square Garden. So, with yourself not standing up to your idea of India, how can you expect others to uphold it?

P.S.:  In Post Script of Rajdeep’s article, he has mentioned:

Post-script: Last week, at the Delhi Gymkhana litfest, I suggested that the right to free speech must include the right to offend so long as it doesn’t incite violence. A former army officer angrily got up and shouted, “You are an anti-national who should be lynched right here!” When even the genteel environs of the Gymkhana club echo to such strains, we should all be very worried.

Oh the super-intelligent Rajdeep uncle! That army officer was just exercising his right to free speech. After he spoke, you were not lynched. So he was just using his right to offend you without inciting violence in that stage. If you do not consider that a free speech, you should not be throwing that suggestion in that litfest. Or do you have an exception list of who must use right to offend and who must not?

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