Why we published the student piece on the Rahul Gandhi event

A reader wrote to us: “This article clearly violates the principle of Oorvani foundation (of non-partisan reporting)… this article from Mount Carmel event is clearly to support Rahul Gandhi as a politician.”

No. First, the article was not a staff report. It was the ‘voice’ of a student who reacted to media reports, basing her judgement on what she observed. It’s the voice of a Bengalurean, and we believe every one of us has a right to express that, as long as it is articulated and reasoned.

Read: Did the Mount Carmel students really stump Rahul Gandhi?

Citizen Matters does not normally publish articles on national or regional political debates. Why then, did we publish something on Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with students?

It was not about a national level politician, or to support Rahul Gandhi, or the Congress Party – for us it was about the students attending an event where a political leader spoke, and their reaction to what happened there, and later in the media.

And we would have done this regardless of who the political leader is – whether the prime minister, opposition leader or some state level politician. We would done it regardless of the opinion of the young reporter – whether she had approved of the speech or criticised it.

Any issue will have multiple perspectives. In this case, national news channels chose to highlight the disagreement between Rahul and a section of the audience. Almost all mainstream media followed suit, with hashtags, WhatsApp videos and memes.

We strongly believe in the importance of the first person report – especially when it is about providing a voice for young people. And in this case, the full video of the event tells us a different story that goes beyond the headlines, about the reaction of the crowd in its entirety, about the many aspects of the speech that mainstream media did not highlight, about the way the speaker interacted with the young crowd. And there was none to tell that story.

Notwithstanding the fact that the event was political in nature, was there a better way to report this event? Elixir Nahar, a student, expressed her shock about the way entire event was reported. This, for us, is not about the politician, his speech and the reaction of the audience, but about the credibility of media. For it is a simple event reported sensationally.

Watch the videos fully, you will know what we mean. A two-hour interaction cannot be condensed into a single 20-second window to arrive at a judgement, without knowing what went on before and after those 20 seconds. Typical knee-jerk reaction to any event is not the symptom of a matured civilisation.

We are living in the era of hashtags and ​instant two-minute edited videos that ask us to make our opinions based on them. The practice of looking at an issue as a whole has diminished. Be it a speech, or a news item – it seems many of us don’t like to spend too much time before making up our mind about it. Should we comment without knowing the entire issue?

In this light, we thought it was apt to republish this Mount Carmel student’s open letter along with the full videos of the speech. We haven’t made any judgements on the event—it is for the interested to watch, read and decide.

There were comments on the article as well as on social media, by many readers. We must note in some of the comments, the tenor and criticisms are worrisome. Personal allegations or impugning motives against any individual writers usually do not add to useful public debate, they drive people away.

Citizens are welcome to debate on the point of view about the speech or on the media coverage, expressed in the article. Feel free to counter – you can substantiate your argument in an article too.

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Did the Mount Carmel students really stump Rahul Gandhi?

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