It has been a month of Indian media houses organising big jamborees. The Hindustan Times Summit saw Delhi's power elite, a galaxy of political leaders from across the region and film celebrities rubbing shoulders with each other. But the star treatment seemed to be reserved for the region's own revolutionary-turned-politician from Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ('Prachanda'). Newspapers gave his speech the front-page spread and welcomed his "debut on the Subcontinent's political stage". Political reporters couldn't stop raving about his straightforward and frank style. Dahal played his part by turning nostalgic about his underground life, spent in large parts in Noida and R K Puram in Delhi. He shed all anti-India rhetoric and, to please the security hawks, added for good measure that he had refused help from ISI in the past. Oh yes – there was that small matter of the killings and misery for thousands unleashed by his revolution. When Dahal said violence was relative, scribes asked no tough questions, and the land of Gandhi remained mum. The welcome accorded the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) seemed to be generally aimed at letting the Indian Naxalites know the bouquets that awaited them if they came aboveground. All very opportunistic, and the reality that till a year ago the Maoists were diehard anti-Indians, who were digging trenches to counter an Indian invasion, be damned!       While the HT Summit took pride in having the high and mighty, Tehelka, the investigative website-turned-newsweekly, organised a 'Summit of the Powerless'. Forget for a while the pejorative inherent in the very title of the conference; the objective was to get political power, money power, and people's power all onto one platform and discuss grassroots issues. Laudable indeed. But hold on. Isn't political power in a democracy really people's power? No, the paper decided that this honour went to representatives of 'people's movements' rather than to elected political leaders. And if the focus was on the 'powerless', what explains the emphasis on the inaugural speech by bomb-maker President Abdul Kalam, where only special invitees had access? The 'powerless' meanwhile looked on as images pasted on banners and posters outside the venue. Postscript – the latest edition of Tehelka, with reports on the plight of the 'powerless' – is now being sold by ill-clad and hungry kids at Delhi traffic crossings. Speaking of problematic events, the First South Asia Film Festival, organised by the South Asia Foundation in Delhi, was an unmitigated disaster. Sri Lankan and Pakistani filmmakers boycotted the event due to 'mismanagement'. The opening, in the capital's premier Siri Fort auditorium, with seating capacity of more than 2000, had no more than 50 in the audience. The Hindu reported Satyajit Maitipe, a leading Sri Lankan director, as saying, "Sri Lanka was the focus country of this event, but only two Sri Lankan movies have been screened so far. It is an insult; we have been exploited by the organisation." At the opening, the organisers had to look for another venue because they did not have a permit to continue screening at Siri Fort. As a result, no one had a clue as to which movie was being shown and where, and the filmmakers were shifted from one seedy hotel to another. The organisers refused to comment on the fiasco. Pervez Musharraf's smooth talk about his liberalism is gradually coming apart. He has consistently claimed that press freedom in Pakistan is healthier than in most democracies. The International Federation of Journalists reports otherwise. During the last six months, four journalists have been killed after filing stories that the government did not want reported. The latest victim of 'enforced disappearances' is Dilawar Khan Wazir, a BBC Urdu service reporter in South Waziristan. Hussain Haqqani, an analyst in Islamabad, writes that key issues have been kept out of bounds for journalists, including the role of Pakistan's intelligence services, and corruption of senior military regime figures. Human rights and sovereignty violations in the 'war against terrorism' are strict no-no areas. Opinions critical of the military regime are allowed, but not facts that back up these opinions. General Sahib, who is in the line of fire here? Chhetria Patrakar cannot vouch for the accuracy of this snippet. But there is a high possibility that, run by a credible business journalist, has got it right. The blog reports that the Hindustan Times came out with a survey finding that 59 percent of Delhi citizens were against sealings – the drive by local authorities, on the orders of the judiciary, to shut all illegal constructions. From a paper that has been fairly positive about the sealing drive till now, this was a surprise. It so happens that the illegal residence of a top executive of the media group was sealed a day before the survey was published. Hmm. The blog does not spare HT's rival either. The Times of India has been consistently reporting on the traffic mess in Delhi over the past few days. It now appears these reports came in the wake of a case filed by the group's number two honcho against the Delhi Traffic Police because he couldn't leave his house due to Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit. The things you can do if you own a newspaper. The Indian Cabinet has finally approved a long-standing demand of civil-society organisations to allow NGOs to initiate community-radio broadcasting. The new policy says that the license will be given only to a "non-profit" organisation with at least three years social service to local communities, and the community radio station should serve specific local communities. As one broadcaster put it, the policy has been cleared 80 years after broadcasting began in India, and 11 years after the Supreme Court declared airwaves public property. But certainly better late than never. Nonetheless, there are voices of dissent. Some point to the fact that hard news is still not allowed to be broadcasted, while others claim that besides political and electoral news, people can decide what to air. Many are now keenly awaiting detailed guidelines being prepared by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to understand the fine print.  It has long been a fact that the Delhi media is capital-centric. At best, it is willing to peep into developments in neighbouring North Indian states. That is why CNN-IBN's "Golden South" series is refreshing. Pegging the stories on the golden jubilee of the creation of the southern states of India, the channel has been carrying daily reports on various facets of life from the south of Vindhyas. These range from human-interest pieces to stories on social trends and economic changes. The North India obsession of the English-language channels is surprising, actually, because the bulk of the English-watching audience is in the south. Chhetria Patrakar hopes that the coverage of South India continues on a sustained basis, and other channels pick up the thread as well. After that, the North India channels can focus on the Northeast, Kashmir, and finally the neighbourhood of Southasia. – Chhetria Patrakar

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