Hardnews turns 7: Full moon at noon
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
When we began Hardnews magazine in 2003, India was still a country where being small was still beautiful - and viable. The big glitzy malls that overwhelm and threaten the mom-and-pop stores, old-fashioned markets, familiar street vendors and hawkers, had not shown up in the country's urban landscape. Maruti Suzuki and small cars were still the preferred personal transport for the middle class - a very small section owned cars anyway. Housing was still affordable as real estate prices had not zoomed through the ceiling.
Year 2003 was also different in another sense. Those days, the BJP-led government was desperately trying to shoehorn a society around their fanatic ideology of Hindutva, and that meant shifting the locus from secularism to majoritarianism. The Gujarat pogrom against the minorities had exposed its communal fangs. Fascist trends were gaining momentum and society was methodically being depoliticised to ensure that ideological and media dissent had little currency. So we decided to bring out a publication against the dumbing down of the media, where entertainment and trivia was being palmed off as 'hardnews'. Modest, affordable office space coupled with advancement in communication and production technologies, and a certain inherent humility, allowed us to bring out a top class magazine on a shoestring budget.
The endeavour of Hardnews has been to journalistically intervene through quality reporting, exposes and analysis, well-researched articles by veteran journalists, academics and experts, as well as fresh, young voices, especially women, to be the harbinger of innovative change in our society. For us, this deep-rooted desire for change had little to do with merely a change in government, but to work towards building an information base and knowledge system that transcends the dominant doctrines and discourse of the ruling classes, increasingly trapped in the tyranny of mediocrity. The search was for a new space for negotiating change influenced by public interest journalism, great leaps of imagination, and critical political intervention at the right time. Change also meant improving the terms of discourse between the voiceless and those who control the print and sound waves. For us it meant justice, fair play, freedom of speech, real democracy, and the creation of a caring, egalitarian State. True to our predictions, the 'India Shining' BJP-led coalition (with Narendra Modi as mascot) was voted out in 2004 and the Congress-led 'secular' Left-backed alliance came to power in Delhi.
Superficially, things may have changed, but our society continues to be unjust, exploitative and inherently nasty, brutish, cruel. Despite having a humane Constitution, successive governments routinely forgot their responsibility towards the aam admi. Congress-led UPA government tried to improve the lot of the poor through rural guarantee scheme, loan waiver etc, but its land acquisition policies to help industrialists warped the very relations between ordinary people and the State. The rage in the countryside has mutated into an armed insurrection by Maoists, as much as a flood of non-violent movements, as in Niyamgiri or against Posco. A major paradigm shift dictated by new wealth is rapidly taking place around us. The small is being jettisoned for the big: tiny Marutis for Mercs/SUVs, small apartments for real estate mafia villas. Unimaginable amount of money is floating everywhere, and even editors seem compromised. It's a public spectacle of wallowing in infinite dirty money and degraded ethics. Indeed, the creative and journalistic freedom of a small publication like ours is being challenged by the bully economics of the obscene kingsize. Surely, this is not the change we had hoped for. Hardnews, in this seventh year annual, reaffirms the core values behind our publication and also shares with its readers its insatiable itch to change the world that we live in. It might be darkness at noon, but we are still chasing the full moon.