‘Public didn’t like the show. Channel did nothing’


ABVP national president Milind Marathe tells Kunal Majumder that MTV is at fault for broadcasting ‘vulgar’ programmes

Why did the ABVP activists blacken the faces of anchors of the MTV show Roadies?
We had received complaints that a lot of vulgar words and insults are exchanged in this show. Our functionaries watched some of the episodes to verify and found it to be true. Therefore, our activists went and demonstrated. It was an agitation in which there was some slogan–shouting.

Was blackening faces part of the demonstration?
We never planned to blacken the faces beforehand. It just happened in the heat of the moment. It is just another method of demonstration like a gherao or a dharna.

Are you saying that a channel has to take permission from the ABVP before deciding its shows?
Yes, they have to take permission from us because we belong to the masses. If the masses demand the programme to be stopped, it has to be stopped. We have always advocated that if private channels want to show such programmes, please show it in private, not in public. We have always said that there is a need for a broadcasting regulatory authority. Now, the Centre has set up the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI). Just like the Censor Board gives certificates to films, the BRAI should certify television shows. Right now, there is no regulation. It’s free for all. In the absence of such authorities, ultimately it is for the people to decide. Public authority is the final authority.

But there are more civilised ways of protesting than blackening someone’s face.
In an online survey done by MTV, 90 percent of the people opposed two shows (Splitsvilla and Roadies). What action did MTV take? You can’t put a question mark on our agitation method and ignore the root cause. I feel that the attention is being diverted. You might feel our method of agitation is wrong. But we feel that it is right.

Why is the ABVP’s protest method often rowdy and violent?
It’s never violent. I feel bad that the media never speaks about the causes but concentrates on the protest methods. The media is biased against the ABVP. I don’t know why.

Your activists have allegedly thrashed professors. In one case, a professor even died. Do you support violent acts?
This is absolutely incorrect. How can you claim that the professor died because of the ABVP agitation? The court has already cleared the ABVP activists of the charges, yet you are still accusing us. Because of intense media pressure, the case was transferred from Bhopal to Nagpur, yet we got a clean chit. How can you still accuse us?

Then why is there a perception that the ABVP has been getting more violent in the past few years?
You are wrong. That is absolutely not the perception. If that was true then we would have received lesser support for our activities. For the past two years, our membership has increased manifold. Our activities have increased. We have started a movement against the commercialisation of education, which has attracted a lot of support. People are also joining our movement against corruption. The public does not have a negative image of the ABVP. Only a few do. Every unit’s president is a teacher. If the ABVP was perceived in a negative light, why would so many teachers join us?

Is this perception created by the media?
It is a media trial. The media feels whatever it says is correct and decides who is guilty even before the courts can step in. The media has the right to raise an issue but pronouncing someone guilty is the job of the court.

Kunal Majumder is a Correspondent with Tehelka
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