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'Unfortunately, people believe in WhatsApp forwards'

Last updated on: August 07, 2017 09:41 IST

'Everything they read on social media, they believe, is the truth.'
'One of the biggest challenges in the country today is how to counter fake news and propaganda.'

IMAGE: Nidhi Razdan presents her book to then President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi. Photograph: Kind courtesy @RazdanNidhi/Twitter

'Today, you have to wear your patriotism on your sleeve... To question the government, the courts, the army, is to be anti-national,' NDTV Executive Editor Nidhi Razdan writes in Left, Right and Centre The Idea of India, the book she has edited.

The book, derived from Razdan's popular show on the NDTV television channel, features articles by 12 personalities -- former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist Rahul Pandita, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor among others -- on how they perceive India.

Nidhi Razdan spoke to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the book.

How did you select these 12 people for the book?

The idea of the book came from my publisher in Penguin, Meru Gokhale, and Premanka Goswami, my editor.

I was thinking of people who could articulate their thoughts well, people who were ideologically very different from each other on how they saw things.

It was important for me to get a healthy mix of people with different viewpoints and could write well.

I finally chose those contributors who were the best at articulation.

You write that your father was stopped from visiting the Hazratbal shrine for being a Kashmiri Pandit in 1989. You realised your idea of India till then was flawed.
What was your idea of India till then?

I have written about what my parents taught me about Kashmiriyat while I was growing up.

Hindus and Muslims living together side by side, which sounds very clichéd for people today, but that was what we grew up believing and knowing.

I was always told that this is what made India a great country.

When this happened with my father, it was for the first time I realised that the idea was not as perfect as it seemed.

It is still very much there, but it can be bumpy and it is more complex.

Do you feel your idea of India is being suppressed by trolls every day?

I don't let trolls define me, certainly, and I don't let trolls decide my idea of India. I will not give them so much importance.

As a journalist, can you tell us how India has reached a stage where 'alternative facts' have become a reality?

I think one of the biggest challenges in the country today is how to counter fake news and propaganda.

Unfortunately, you have people who believe in WhatsApp forwards.

Everything they read on social media, they believe, is the truth.

Web sites like SM Hoax Slayer or Prateek Sinha's AltNews are doing a big service to the country.

They are busting these lies. They are putting out the truth there.

It also shows that mainstream media has failed to do their job, because if other sites can do this, so can we.

It shows that they have filled a vacuum created by us and we need to counter those lies and propaganda which deal with plain and simple facts.

Shashi Tharoor writes that India is a secular pluralist State that is home to every religion known to mankind, with the possible exception of Shintoism.
Do you believe all religions can co-exist in India because of the tolerance found in the Hindu religion?

I believe all religions co-exist in India and they have been doing that for many decades for a reason.

I am not an expert on religion, but I do see that all religions co-exist. It is not always easy, but that is what makes India a unique and vibrant country.

In your book, there's no contributor with a strong Leftist background like, say, a Communist ideologue. Do you feel the absence of such a writer?

Not really. I do not categorise people in boxes.

The book is called Left, Right and Centre, which is taking out from my show, but it should not be taken literally.

I don't even care to categorise people into Left, Right or anything.

I myself don't know what I am. I am left of centre on some issues and right of centre on others.

So, I don't like people being boxed into a defined category.

You quote Rabindranath Tagore in the introduction. How do you feel Tagore would feel on seeing today's India?

These days we are having a daily debate on nationalism in our country.

We are seeing a very strident kind of nationalism being propagated by certain quarters.

I, therefore, went back to the words of Tagore as he, despite being the one who wrote the national anthem, was so cautious about this whole issue of nationalism and the dangers that it brought.

Therefore, I quoted him in the book.

Rahul Pandita writes, quoting V S Naipaul, that, 'India will somehow look after itself, the individual is free of responsibility'.
Do you feel this has become the attitude of Indians today, where they do not want to get into any trouble even if some injustice happens in front of their eyes?

I don't want to generalise. I don't think I can speak for all Indians. I have not done a study on that to make a comment. So, I will skip that one.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf