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Meet the Journos Who Rebuffed Modi at the Ramnath Goenka Awards

These two journalists skipped the Awards in boycott of PM Modi. Who are they and why the strong stance?

Updated
India
4 min read
Meet the Journos Who Rebuffed Modi at the Ramnath Goenka Awards

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The Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards instituted by the Express Group were organised on Wednesday.

The awards that were started in 2005 in the honour of Ramnath Goenka, the founder of The Indian Express, are given out to journalists for their exceptional contribution in the field of print and broadcast media.

However, this year veteran journalists and reporters for over 20 years Akshaya Mukul and Anna Vetticad gave the ceremony a miss, in protest against their respective awards being presented to them by Prime Minister Modi.

Both accepted their awards through proxy, but Anna Vetticad steered clear of the event, while Akshaya Mukul had his award accepted on his behalf by Krishan Chopra, publisher and Chief Editor at HarperCollins India, which published his book Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India.

So who are these two senior journalists, and what’s the boycott about?

I Cannot Live With the Idea of Modi and Me in the Same Frame: Akshaya Mukul

Mukul, who is a senior journalist from The Times of India, said that he was honoured to receive the award but he couldn’t receive it from the Prime Minister. He said, “I cannot live with the idea of Modi and me in the same frame, smiling at the camera even as he hands over the award to me”, The Caravan reported.

Akshaya Mukul expressed his discomfort in receiving the award from PM Modi. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @Akshayamukul)
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Akshaya Mukul has been conferred the award in the category of Books (non-fiction) for his book Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India released in 2015.

The cover of Akshaya Mukul’s book Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. (Photo Courtesy: Screengrab/Kindle Edition of the book)

The book delves into the rise of Hindu militant and nationalist right wing and has been garnering critical acclaim and rave reviews since its release in 2015.

The book has, in the past, won literary awards such as the “Tata Literature Live Book of the Year Award”, and the “Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize” for the category of best non-fiction work in English.

File photo of Akshaya signing copies of his book. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@Akshayamukul)

Akshaya Mukul’s book catalogues the ideological underpinning of the extreme right and rising Hindutva nationalism, something synonymous with Modi’s politics, according to a report published in The Caravan.

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The report also mentions that not just Mukul but some of the other journalists with The Indian Express are also irked with the decision to have Modi give away the coveted awards.

According to the report:

The fundamental contradiction between Modi and The Indian Express lies in the positions that they occupy on the free-speech spectrum. One is a publication that has built itself on a legacy of unrelenting journalism. The other is a politician who wears his contempt for the media – which is bazaaru, or for sale, as far as he is concerned – on his sleeve.
The Caravan report
Narendra Modi presided over the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards on Wednesday. (Photo: IANS)
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Anna MM Vetticad Evidently Not a Modi Fan

Senior journalist Anna MM Vetticad, who has worked with both print and broadcast media for nearly twenty years, conspicuously gave the awards a miss on Wednesday.

She was awarded in the Commentary and Interpretative Writing category for her report on the stereotypical portrayal of women in TV and films.

Anna Vetticad another winner of the Ramnath Goenka Award also gave the ceremony a miss. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/@AnnaMMVetticadOfficial)

Vetticad is a noted film critic and has also penned The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic, which is an overview of the Hindi film industry.

She has worked with India Today, Headlines Today and The Indian Express. She is also a visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, Delhi and a columnist with BLink.

She writes extensively on myriad issues related to cinema, usually focusing on issues like sexism and gender bias in the industry.

Anna is known for her sharp, crisp writing on a number of issues centering on indian cinema. With reference to the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversy, she wrote for Firstpost:

In reality, the open threats and illegal demand for a donation by Johar to the Army is just another headline-grabbing show of muscle power by the organisation...The outrage caused by such open declarations of the intent to commit violence served to divert considerable media attention away from question marks over the Uri attack itself and other equally pressing, related problems.
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Anna Vetticad writes extensively on cinema realted issues. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@annavetticad)

Ms Vetticad has also been forthright on social media with her criticism of the Prime Minister, so perhaps her boycott is no surprise.

The Quint tried to contact Anna for this piece, but was informed that she was unavailable for comment.

(With inputs from The Caravan and Firstpost)

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