No Barkha Dutt, You Lost the Moral Authority to Criticise Kapil Sibal Long Ago

No Barkha Dutt, You Lost the Moral Authority to Criticise Kapil Sibal Long Ago

Barkha Dutt lost the moral authority to criticise Kapil Sibal long ago when she abandoned all journalistic norms.

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?

Remember this iconic line of etched infamy, which was first exposed to the public in the winter of 2010? To this day, it remains the epitome of the moral and ethical train-wreck called Lutyens Media. And the alleged journalist uttering that line equally remains the poster girl of Lutyens Media. Barkha Dutt has today exploded in fury on her Twitter timeline characterising former Union Minister, “zero loss” Kapil Sibal as another Vijay Mallya. Why? Because he has rudely yanked the rug from his ill-fated television media venture, Tiranga TV in which she holds a senior position.

This case of pervasive blackness, one is truly confounded as to who is the pot and who the kettle.

At any rate, the undisputed fact is that Barkha Dutt lost the moral authority to criticise Kapil Sibal long ago. At that precise moment she decided to utter the aforementioned line now part of the infamous annals of the Radia Tapes Scandal. Everyone had always known the ugly reality of the Lutyens Media but this singular case blew the lid off this toxic pit and revealed in naked glory the exact nature of and the humongous filth it contained. While the tapes also revealed other celebrity names like Vir Sanghvi, Barkha Dutt became its most infamous face.

In hindsight, the Radia Tapes Scandal was only the beginning. Worse followed. In passing, one can cite that other notorious episode involving the pony-tailed, finger-happy Lift Intellectual, Tarun Tejpal whose sleaze-ridden celebrity career plummeted straight into hell in proportion to the ascent and descent of that lift in Goa. And as we observe today, while the fortunes and fate of these profligate eminences have waned, they seem to have learned nothing.

Lutyens Media is truly the drug-immune syphilis of Indian public discourse. It has no known cure.

When viewed from a historical and civilisational perspective, Lutyens Delhi actually resembled a crowded court of a degenerate, seven-decade Sultanate where the celebrated denizens of Lutyens Media resemble a melange of hungry, petty courtiers feeding off the crumbs left over by the debauched and despotic Sultan in return for whitewashing his crimes against his own people, acting as gatekeepers of his regime’s ugly truths. Their hunger insatiable, it attaches a price tag to their conscience and loyalty and makes them plot against one another perpetually. It’s only when they sense an external threat that they close ranks.

Given this, Barkha Dutt now ranting against her employer, Kapil Sibal sounds hollow, hypocritical, self-righteous, and all the three. It is impossible to erase from public memory the long record of her deeds when she was the most celebrated face of former channel, NDTV.

But this seems to be a pattern.

In 2017, the selfsame Barkha Dutt wrote an extended rant of self-righteousness on her Facebook page (not to worry, I have taken screenshots of the post) accusing her other former employer, NDTV of axing her stories and in general, victimising her. At the very least, she should’ve maintained a dignified silence in support of the same den of sleaze, which enabled and facilitated her rise to media stardom. Gratitude?

But the most grating feature in her current rant against Kapil Sibal is her tweet claiming that

For fighting for rights of staff, I have been threatened with defamation and ordered to “withdraw my emails” comparing @KapilSibal to Mallya.

In other words, threat of censorship and stifling her voice. She should know a thing or two about this kind of threat by virtue of being one of its early practitioners.

Dear Barkha Dutt: remember Chyetanya Kunte? And how you had intimidated this little-known blogger who wrote a piece critical of her coverage of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Scared by the legal notice that she had sent him through a lawyer, the hapless blogger took down his post and then wrote a post apologising for critiquing her. One still remembers the extent to which she was panned and lampooned on the Internet for her high-handedness. It would also be of interest to note that Barkha’s bullying antics found its way to Wikileaks, which sums it up thus:

The post represents an important consensus in the minds of the Indian Public that some journalists are irresponsible while reporting…After the demands, the blogger posted the following…settlement. It is unlikely the blogger believes the statements made in the notice, rather they were strong-armed into making them.

And today, the selfsame Barkha Dutt talks being intimidated by Kapil Sibal and co? The basic point is this: given her long association with the Congress Party, are we to seriously believe her that she didn’t know what Sibal stood for? Actually, she herself gives it away in yet another tweet:

Worst of all, @KapilSibal & wife have referred to female staffers as “Kutiya”or Bitch.

So why reveal this now after Sibal pulled the plug on Tiranga TV, and not earlier? The answer is 303. Or Narendra Modi’s decisive re-election as Prime Minister. Tiranga TV, akin to the numerous moving parts of the hate-Modi media assembly line, was yet another belated and desperate attempt at bringing him down. Needless, it didn’t serve its purpose.

But again, from a historical perspective, there’s another factor underlying this phenomenon. Of the same hungry, petty Lutyens media courtiers whose skulduggeries have completely come undone because the reassuring hand of the Nehruvian Sultanate is fast becoming extinct. Forget protecting the Lutyens courtiers, the Sultanate is itself gasping for breath. So the question to ask is this: if Kapil Sibal commanded even a fraction of his former power, would Barkha Dutt even dream of even mildly criticising him?

Given this reality, nobody should harbour dangerous illusions that eminences like Barkha Dutt have turned a new leaf or she’s leading a courageous crusade against Sibal or whatever. The ship is sinking into a quicksand of its own making and the rats are scurrying for cover and gnawing at one another for the last few crumbs that might be left.

Postscript: Perhaps the best denouement of Barkha Dutt’s outburst against NDTV in 2017 comes from a comment on it. And it is eminently valid even in the context of her current rant against Kapil Sibal.

Chaitanya Kunte is having a quiet laugh somewhere in India, after reading this hypocritical, pompous, turncoat piece.

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