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‘Nationalist’ TV channels battle over the Indo-Pak match

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the most patriotic of them all? “Should India play Pakistan”, is the question that is inevitably asked in the run up to every India Pakistan cricket match. With the recent escalation of the tensions between the two countries due to cross border strikes, terrorist incidents and Kulbhushan Jadhav case, the same question was asked with even more fervour before the India-Pakistan match at the Champions Trophy.

Nationalism being the new flavour, the ‘nationalist’ TV channels tried to outdo each other in their attempt to whip up mass hysteria against the match. The battle of the nationalists unfolded in a very predictable manner….

Times Now took up the cause very enthusiastically with the hashtags #BoycottPakMatch and #WhyPlayPak. The self-appointed custodians of the nation asked questions on behalf of the nation, “The nation wants to know: How can the country defend muscular policy, when it bats with Pakistan?” The channel relayed news about “massive outrage” among ex-servicemen, martyrs’ families who want India to boycott the match with Pakistan.

Continuing to whip up emotions, Times Now also ran a poll, “Can India play with a ‘terror state’?” The nation, it seems was divided on the issue and despite the best efforts of the channel to mould public opinion about it, 40% were still interested in watching the match.

Though the channel didn’t tweet on the scores or the result, it couldn’t keep itself away from the stadium for very long, particularly when Vijay Mallya was spotted there.

Republic, the new kid on the block was rather mute about the match. It tweeted statements of Major Gaurav Arya and Major General GD Bakshi, the two army men whose ‘nationalist’ views are considered a must whenever such topics are discussed. The statements were on expected lines that the BCCI should have avoided playing the match and let us call it off.

Seeing that its #NationFirstNoCompromise hashtag is not getting much traction, by the end of the day, Republic had abandoned any plans of not tweeting the results. India had won the match, and sulking about it had little value. So, Republic announced India’s victory with a tweet.

Zee clearly won the patriotism race, leaving the other two ‘nationalist’ TV channels behind. Most vocal in its protests, the self-appointed custodians of national interest wanted to know what is more important, cricket or national interest?

Subhash Chandra’s tweets to announce the boycott of the match by Zee media immediately took the group’s standing up by several notches in the eyes of the nationalists. “Zee News, Zee Hindustan, WION, DNA and all other news channels from Zee Media will not be covering any news about India Pak match”, tweeted Chandra. In his words, it was a way to “tell our Army that the people for whom they risk their life are more interested in supporting them than cheering for cricket match”.

Zee also put out videos with an emotional appeal to boycott cricket with Pakistan.

The featured hashtag, #SabseBadaDroh, was Zee’s way of declaring all those supporting the match as some kinds of “drohis (Traitors)”. “ZeeNews is boycotting #IndvPak match in respect of our soldiers. Are you?” was the question the channel asked its viewers, who by then had surfed on to another channel to watch the match.

They brought up a Pak Army video to rally support for the call to boycott but video or not, the match was going ahead.

Most of the nationalist supporters cheered the move of Zee Group and joined the call to boycott the match. But as the game got under way, they watched it on other channels, cheering loudly for India. A fine example of this were the two tweets of Babita Phogat.

The Zee group anchors were meanwhile brimming with nationalism. They had decided that they were the only ones worthy to be called genuine nationalists as Sudhir Chaudhary tweeted that ZeeNews was “exposing fake nationalists today both in media and politics”. “दुश्मन पाकिस्तान से क्रिकेट क्यों खेले हिंदुस्तान ?” was Rohit Sardana’s impassioned appeal. “Today is not the day! They would be playing with nation’s emotions”, tweeted Rubika Liyaquat in the same tone.

Zee News positioned itself on a pedestal as the only one willing to sacrifice TRPs for a nationalist cause.

Even though they were boycotting the match, they couldn’t keep away from the excitement for very long. While Sardana kept track of the trending position of their #SabseBadaDroh hashtag, Chaudhury continued to engage with twitter users, from a position of moral high ground. When someone tweeted about blocking Zee, his response was, “It’s sad Indian Army protects people like you who sell their nation for a cricket match. This is #SabseBadaDroh”.

Once India won the match, the “sacrifice” of Zee was forgotten and social media burst out in celebration. Chaudhary tweeted to remind everyone, “Cricket team won but India lost!“. The most retweeted response to Chaudhary was one that said, “Cricket team won, India won but Zee lost“.

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Thus ended the battle of the nationalist channels. Till the next India-Pakistan match…..

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