By Anantha Krishnan M
Warning: This is a biased piece!
I am willfully breaking one of the thumb rules in Journalism, which says: never take any sides when you report. So you have a choice of not reading it, considering it is one-sided! I am frank. Honestly!
Straight to the point.
Why did the Indian media, politicians and the military minds sideline one of the historic events being scripted post-Independence? The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas flew for the first time outside Indian skies when it participated at the fourth edition of Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS-2016) from January 21-23, 2016.
It was eight minutes of history that was worth a live telecast, considering it was happening for the first time ever. After all, we are a nation that’s so obsessed with records. Considering that Tejas flew all the way from Bangalore to Jamnagar. Then to Muscat and finally to the Sakhir Airbase in Bahrain! It was an event worth chasing. Shocking that even Doordarshan too didn’t have any live shots. Not even borrowed.
This was for the first time that a home-grown Indian fighter jet flew at an international event, outside India. First time the largest military importer in the world exhibited a 4+something-fighter-jet on a foreign land alongside some of the best known names.
As a biased journalist, supporting India’s defence programmes, I woke up with great interest for almost a week, three days ahead of the show and on all three days during the show and the day after the show (3+3+1 = 7 days) hoping to read something in the newspapers. My heart would have skipped a beat if it was reported on the front pages, but even the left-side obituary pages too never had anything mentioned on Tejas.
Even news channels had bigger things to report. On the Day-1 of the show, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal grabbed all the prime time slots visiting Hyderabad’s Central University.
Day-2 Breaking News was the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arresting a number of terror suspects across India.
Day-3 was completely grabbed by Netaji files being declassified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
And as I write this piece, two days after the BIAS-2016, French President Hollande has already landed in India and he will be our guest during the Republic Day. But, with Hollande in India, it was but natural for the Rafales to make news.
So, media had other things to chase and a desi metal bird flying for eight minutes each on three days is not worth reporting. And, even if someone did report, they might have no news sense like me. Or they might be biased, like me.
And then, what about our Breaking News Mantris?
A tweet from PM Modi would have definitely lifted the spirits of Team Tejas. It would have cost the exchequer nothing. After all a tweet is a tweet is a tweet! And, it’s sweet when it comes from the handle of your PM.
If the PM was busy, even External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who visited BIAS-2016 on the last day, could have tweeted. The MEA handle did tweet a photo of Sushma watching the Sarangs fly. But Sarangs flying is no breaking news and they have been flying all over the world since 2004. But, Sushma can’t be blamed as Tejas might have finished its quota of flying by the time she reached the venue. Sorry Tejas; seeing is believing!
What about Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the man who was responsible to make Tejas cross the Indian border. One statement from Ministry of Defence, after the historic flight, would have been ideal. But it never came.
Why did the Indian Air Force (IAF) keep quiet? Well, what to say! Tejas is not yet IAF’s. They have just got one aircraft (SP-1) and they have been waiting. And, waiting. And, waiting… They have their share of concerns before Tejas Squadron takes shape. Still, one comment from the Chief: “Well done,” would have meant a lot.
Interestingly, DRDO tweeted quoting Parrikar on the last day of the show, which said: “RM (Raksha Mantri) at NCC Republic Day camp said, as per my primary reports #LCA Tejas has been appreciated by many other countries.”
There were press releases from IAF, MoD and HAL ahead of the show on India’s participation at BIAS-2016. Surprisingly, nothing after Tejas scripting history. What’s the big deal? After all it was a demonstration and not any war!
Fact is, 24-minutes of historic three-day Tejas’ demonstrations did not find many takers in India, barring some biased journalists making noise! These journalists must be crazy.
So, who is to be blamed? Well, who else now, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) which failed to send their JF-17 Thunders. As per the earlier plan they were to come, to be parked alongside Tejas and Typhoons on the same bay. The media was all warmed up for the Tejas-Thunder ‘duel.’
But, with Thunder missing what will the lightning bird Tejas do? Just not done, PAF! Be there, next time.
So, what would have made headlines and prime time news hour? A tyre burst of Tejas in Bahrain. May be mosquitoes inside the cockpit! Yes. I got it.
Sorry Tejas, you proved your mettle. But, we ignored you.
It was a treat watching you. We are proud of you.
Take a bow.
Welcome back home, heroes.
Blue Skies and Happy Landings!