How Hindi newspapers in the “cow belt”, force-multipliers of the BJP in the North, lent wholesale legitimacy to Narendra Modi’s cringe-worthy #9pm9minutes photo-op

Media scholars believe that the rise of newspaper circulation in the “Hindi heartland”, disparagingly known as the cow belt, is concomitant with the rise and growth of the BJP on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement leading to the demolition of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya.

Certainly, the reforms of 1991 helped in making printing technology easier to access for proprietors and entrepreneurs. And certainly, liberalisation put more money in the pockets of literate Hindi readers, thus enhancing purchasing power and advertiser appeal.

But there can little doubt that the BJP and the Hindi newspapers in the heartland have marched hand in hand, both feeding into (and feeding off) the loud and noisy assertion of majoritarian communalism in the North, and impacting national politics way beyond their little kens.

The coverage of the latest photo-op promoted by prime minister Narendra Modi—the lighting of lamps for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday to express “solidarity” with god knows what—provides testimony to the role Hindi newspapers play in mainstreaming BJP-style superstition and obscurantism.

English newspapers are generally sober in their coverage of this cringe-worthy method of combatting the global #CoronaVirus pandemic, but for the Hindi newspapers it is Diwali come six months early with blazing photographs and a triumphalist tone.

Words straight out of the PM’s lexicon—sankalp, samarpan, samarthan etc—leap out of the headlines removing the distinction between journalism and propaganda. Ummeed is all over the place. And the stupid figure of “130 crore” is bandied about without nuance, balance, or critical examination.


As if to prove the point that Indian politics (and BJP reach) is neatly divided north and south of the proverbial Vindhyas, the coverage of #9pm9minutes gets progressively subdued as you move southwards but it is easy to spot the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil publications which BJP is trying to cultivate as part of its growth strategy.

Little wonder, then, that many of the regional newspaper owners were falling over each other to “advise” the PM on how to deal with #COVID-19 during their video interaction with him on March 25.Also read: How language newspaper owners “advised” Narendra Modi on how to shape his response to COVID, six hours before he announced a 21-day lockdown


  1. Cringeworthy why? Because it riled you up?

  2. sahil

    cringeworthy because it supports upper caste hate and fascist propaganda

    1. Mahajan

      Grow up man. Suggest something at this hour what can unite us. Having suspicion on every act will lead us no where.
      No one takes media line that Tablighis did this intentionally , almost everyone says it was stupidity and not intentional. You also need to become mature and rise above religion and cast mindset.

  3. Ravi

    I don’t know whether you observed it or not – your own article has examples of various languages newspapers – not just Hindi newspapers. Fact is – whole of India has lapped up that idea by Mr Modi and participated in it wholeheartedly.

  4. Madhu

    Look at what a Harvard study says about the power of rituals; But then, you will surely question the legitimacy of Harvard now.

  5. M.R. Dua

    it’s indeed funny to relate language with hindus. some of best scholars of the language are in u s , uk , german , etc., universities. the intro of this piece betrays ignorance of the author who thinks media scholars will give this the so-called scholarly research sensible notice. only frog-in-the well minded people may do.

  6. Satish PV

    Why do you cry for everything Modi does? Did he tell you that this action will wipe off the virus? He just wanted to do it to show our unity n keep people engaged. And then to say that Hindi language newspapers are supporting him and others may not.. this is all B**l S**t. Rediff is so senseless and allows all these senseless articles.

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