Sunday, June 22, 2014

Research Paper: - A Comparative Analysis of Western and Indian Theories of Communication-

Research Paper: - A Comparative Analysis  of Western and Indian Theories of Communication -



Communication as such has traveled a long journey, from Johannes Gutenberg (1468), who invented the first printing press, to Steve Jobs (2011), who pioneered personal computers and smartphones.
The origin of the modern communication studies can be traced to the invention of telephone, with sender, message, channel receiver, for the first time came into existence. Since then the uses and understanding of communication has come a long way. In the current context, communication is labeled as cyber age, information age, networking age, 3G, 4G age etc.

It was the studies of propaganda warfare during World War II, that the power of communication strategies first gained importance. Since then governments have started taking keen interest in the communication studies. Besides, business and industry too acknowledged its value and started providing support to communication studies for the development of their advertising, marketing strategies.
The rapid growth of the mass media has also influenced the communication studies. In fact, print media, broadcast media i.e. radio and television, and the Internet, all has contributed towards the field  of communication studies.

In India the discipline of communication is being developed since independence with the government support for the need of propagating family planning, social development, and national integration messages. In India, the application of communication is mostly in the areas of advertising and mass communication.
In terms of theoretical understanding, Indian communication study is still grounded in the ancient literature, fine arts, custom and traditions and the freedom struggle discourses.

Indian communication study is heavily dependent on the western model of communication theories, and as such is in an infant stage of development. There is a huge scope for theoretician to research on communication studies and come up with Indian communication theories to set new bench mark in the field of communication studies.  It is widely believed that Indian theories of communication can help strengthen the foundations of building the modern India.

This paper; “A comparative analysis of Western and Indian Theories of Communication” intends to draw a summary of arguments to further develop the Indian theories of communication.

What is Communication? 

The English word communication is derived from the Latin noun communis, and the Latin verb communicare means to make common. In an attempt to define the term communication the ideas that crop up are; interaction, interchange, transaction, dialogue, sharing, communion and commonness. (1)
Communication in its simplest sense is a human relationship involving two or more persons who come together to share, to dialogue, and to commune, or just be together. Communication thus is an act of social and cultural togetherness. (2)

A common language is prerequisite for Communication but that necessarily do not bring people together. Other factors like shared culture and a common interest which brings about a sense of communality are important for communication. (3)

Communication therefore is not isolated entities sending discrete messages back and forth, but encompasses a multitude of experiences, action and events, as well as a whole variety of happenings. (4)

The study of communication, in its multitudinous forms, whether it’s human or technological, has now taken the characteristics of an inter-disciplinary and multi disciplinary subject and therefore needs a close scrutiny. (5)

Western Theories of Communication 

According to western communication theory, the primary goal of communication is to influence through persuasion. Greek philosopher Aristotle's ‘Rhetoric,’ dating 4th century BC, is a treatise on the art of persuasion and perhaps the first book that deals with the subject of communication.  According to ‘Rhetoric,’ communication is made up of three elements- the speaker- the speech and the listener. The aim of the communication is the search of all possible means of persuasion.

Harrold D Lasswell- This American political scientist stated that the convenient way to describe the act of communication is to answer the following question. Who – communicator – Says what- message- in which channel – medium – to whom- receiver- with what effect?

The Lasswell model of communication process is mechanistic and effects approach to communication. It sees communication performing three functions; 1- Surveillance of the environment, 2- co relationship of components of society, 3- cultural transmission between generations. So it is essential to understand the notions of transfer of information for its intended effects. (6)

Berelson and Steiner: They see communication as an act or process of transformation of information ideas, emotions, skills etc by the use of symbols, words, pictures figures, graphs etc. (7)
Charles Osgood’s definition of communication is; we communicate whenever one, (the system), (the source) influences another, (the destination) by manipulation of alternative signals which can be transferred over the channel connecting them. (8)

Wilbur Schramm defined communication as sharing of information, ideas or attitudes. He endorsed the idea that communication always requires the three elements- source, message, and destination.  He stressed on encoding and decoding and explained microphone for encoder and earphone for decoder. Wilbur Schramm suggests that communication is circular in nature, where both sender and receiver are equal partners in the exchange of ideas. (9)

Shannon and Weaver model developed in 1949 conceive communication as a system that comprises of five essential parts, plus Noise. 1- Information source 2 – a transmitter 3- a channel – 4- the receiver 5 destination. (10)

David Berlo in 1960 created the SMCR Model of Communication. The Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver Model of communication separated the model into clear parts. Berlo, saw communication as a process and the events and relationship of this process as dynamic on going, ever changing and continuous. He termed it as the bucket theory of communication. In this, the ideas are dumped from a source into a bucket and the reciver picks them up through such mediums. According to him buckets are newspaper, radio, television, Internet etc.  (11)  

Semiotic Models of Communication 

In recent years there is shift witnessed in the western communication theories. It has move to those with communication relationship and the communication experience and is called Semiotic Models of Communication.

Semiotic models look at communication as social interaction through messages. The focus of attention in these models language (both verbal and non verbal) as a sign system, how meaning is generated and understood, it is central to this approach.

The crucial questions the semiotic model try to address is; what is sign? What is the meaning of sign? What is the relationship between, signs, users and external reality?

The users are seen as active, as creator of meaning, as one who makes his or her own meaning. Meaning is thus not so much in the words, gestures or symbols, (the text) but in cultural interpretation of the participants (the readers) of the communication experience. (12)

Indian Theories of Communication 

Indian communication theories are rooted in Indian religious literature, Indian philosophy and fine arts.  It was first used in the 10th century commentary called “Natyashastra” by Bharata, the principle source of information for the Indian theory of communication.

The closet word to communication in Indian classical literature is “Sadhranikaran.”  This Sanskrit term comes closet to the sense of common or commonness usually associated with communication.

The most important assumption in the process of “Sadhranikaran” is, it can only be understood by the ‘Sahridayas’, literally means one heart, or those who has the capacity to receive the message.

Communication according to “Sadhranikaran” is a relationship based on common and mutual understanding and feeling for Sahridaya. This innate ability is acquired through culture, adaptation and learning. (13)

The primary focus in the Indian tradition of communication is an inward search for meaning, a process leading to self awareness, then to freedom and finally to truth. Thus it transcends language and meaning and is interpretation or reception oriented. The intra-personal communication is of greater importance then inter-personal communication.

The goal of “Sadhranikaran” is not persuasion but the very enjoyment of disseminating and receiving the message. Here the source is perceived as having the higher status, and the relationship is hierarchical of domination and subordination. The source is held in high esteem by the receiver of the information, a relationship that is idealized and romanticized. (14)

Some argue that the asymmetrical aspect of “Sadhranikaran” helped the blooming of Indian civilization in earlier times through efficient communication. However, other argues that it has resulted in highly rigid and hierarchal closed social structure. The debate continues.

Apart from literature, Indian communication theories are also grounded in fine art traditions. It is composed of permanent mood called “bhava” and illustrated through the dance form. The essence of communication lay in achieving commonness and oneness as stressed in Bharata’s Natyashastra. (15)

These moods are capable of arousing corresponding sate of feelings. There are nine permanent moods that give rise to nine forms of aesthetic pleasure. For example; ‘harsha’ joy, ‘hasya’ laughter, ‘irsha,’ jealousy, ‘Karuna’, compassion etc.

The entire range of human emotions is compressed in this categorization.  The nine permanent moods are accompanied by any feelings and are secondary moods that are common to several dominant moods. It serves the purpose of completely manifesting the permanent mood and make the communication process complete. (16)

Indian communication theories are also identified through mass communication. It is synonymous with the simplification and illustration. Saints and Sufi's propagated their message of peace and harmony through simplification and illustration of their messages.

During the freedom struggle, India's political leaders such as Gandhji used the similar communication methods for mass communication. Use of social religious symbols was made to connect with the masses. The utter simplicity of such messages charged the masses and they came out in hordes because of the effectiveness of the communication that made great impact on them. Such practice continues even today and can be found in the modern discourse of communication being made through mass media.

Communication in India’s Freedom Struggle  

Communication might appear to be a well-studied subject, but its role in India’s Freedom Struggle remains unexplored. There are verbal and non verbal communication methods used by the freedom fighters during the freedom struggle, and it in this aspect communication as a subject is rich in content.

The person who has a towering influence over India’s freedom struggle is undoubtedly M.K Gandhi, who earned the title of Mahatma only because of his able communication skills.  It’s is being observed Gandhiji stands out among the pack of freedom fighters only due to various strategies he adopted to communicate with the masses. (17)

So the idiom of communication adopted by Gandhiji needs a careful study. It is said that Gandiji left an impact on the people he met and spoke was simply electrifying. He attracted crowd who come to hear him and some merely watch his presence amongst them. All those who came for him were not band of educated people but ordinary folks who were magnetized by his persona. This affirms the theory that Gandhiji was as a communicator par excellence. (18)

There are two facets of Gandhiji’s personality. More than the leader of a freedom movement; he was a social reformer. In course of communication he crossed over the two roles with great felicity. In both the roles he assigned the greatest value to asceticism and spiritualism that had great psychological and socio-cultural appeal on the masses. (19)

It is often observed that Gandhiji had developed an idiom with which the common man could identify easily. He made use of the idioms drawn from Indian’s belief system and his strong religious orientation. (20)
As a social reformer he asked the masses to wear khadi, eschew alcohol, not to practice untouchability etc. His term Harijan referred to one belonging to an oppressed caste.

On political side, he talked about non-violence, togetherness, and harmony. He used the idiom Raam Raajya to denote an ideal state. Swaraj meant self rule. Ahimsa meant non-violence, Satyaagraha denoted non-cooperation with the oppressor and Sarvodaya, meant “rise of all”.  (21)

Gandhiji’s verbal message was simple. There was no ambiguity in his language, no hedging behind words. He spoke directly what he thought about some issues. In fact, it is this directness that made his communication forceful.

Even when Gandhi interacted with educated and the sophisticated class, he used simple, direct language and was clear in his mode of communication. He eschewed rhetoric and harshness and his words were polite that reflected the sincerity and genuineness of purpose. The simplicity of his language, the balanced structure of his words made his communication very effective. (22)

If we apply Gandhijis methods of communication on the western model of communication, the credibility of the source (of the message) is very high; the message is reduced to a great extent to the source. In case of Gandhiji, the source “communicates” by mere presence, rather than by language or any other communicative mode. It is more semiotic in western sense. (23)

Communication theorists in their attempt to build communication models, often neglect the interest value of what is being communicated. The Indian model of communication as espoused by Gandhiji, suggests, it’s the content element that have a more abiding impact on the people than some things else.

The communication theorists should consider that the successful of communication can only be possible through the content of the message being communicated and not by some mechanical indicators.


Western theories of communication have been largely linear, a mechanical notion of communication as transmission of information from active source to passive receivers. The individual based model assumes that communication is an act, a static phenomenon, privileging the source and not a dynamic process, involving all elements of social relationship. (24)

Indian communication theories are more grounded in Hindu philosophical perception that is governed by the law of Dharma. The universal law of Dharma regulates human existence and governs relations of individual. (25)

The western theories of communication are confined to the study of surface structures with features such as verbal language, body language, non verbal gestures facial expression etc. (26)

Where as it is the deep structure features that make a critical difference to the understanding of Indian theories of communication. The deep structure is shaped by the cultural and metaphysical assumptions.  (27)

Western model of communication theories are reflective of western thought and culture. The distinctive mark of this philosophy is categorization, classification liner sequencing and rational logic. (28)

Indian model of communication on the other hand is characteristically complex and plural. It is holistic and intuitive, and believes that reality is one. Individualism and manipulation have no place in Indian communication tradition that is marked by asceticism and spiritualism.  (29)

The New Visual World 

Communication studies today are dominated by a new phenomenon called the new visual world. It has added another dimension to the conventional theories of communication studies.  (30)

The new visual world actually shaped up when the internet opened the gates of communication highway and e-mails and voice-mails dominated the cyber space. Today this communication over taken by the images beamed through webcams whose application is found in an array of activities. Further, the technologies like 3G and 4G has enhanced the speed of such communication methods. (31)

In the new visual world communication is happening face-to-face through touch screens and the keyboards, bridging the time and space. This is definitely a sign of change that has come to stay as a new mode of communication strategy.

The new visual world has thrown open a window of opportunities but it’s filled with challenges. It requires the basic skills of visual communication to adept to the art of effective communication. What are these skills is the new theme of communication studies. (32)

The communication in new visual world is catapulting a global society, bringing the world closer to each other. In such case, the space for nationalism is shrinking and the mantra ‘globalization’ is surging ahead. This is another theme for exploration in the field of communication studies. (33)

All this explains that communication studies are providing vistas of knowledge waiting to be explored. There is vast scope for researchers to make forays in this field of knowledge.


 In the comparative study between western and Indian theories of communication, it is found that Indian communication theories is dominated by the content and emotions, where as the western communication theories are more mechanical in nature with some consideration to semiotics. It is this aspect of communication that separates the two theories.

However, in the new age of communication that is increasingly driven by information technology the comparison between Western and India Communication theories has become redundant.  Now the communication theorists have to give priority to the IT aspect of communication and the phenomenon called the new visual world.

 It is assumed that based on such experiences new theories of communication are going to be developed and that will be universal in nature. The future is going to be dominated by this aspect of communication studies.


1- Fiske, John (1990). Introduction to Communication Studies. Routledge, London.
2- Denis Mac quail- Towards a Sociology of Communication – London, collier Macmillan 1975
3- Ibid
4- Ashley Montague and Floyd Maston, “The Human Connection” New York, McGraw Hill, 1979 – Also see James A Cary - Communication as Culture
5- David Crowley and David Mitchell (Eds) Communication Today, Cambridge; Polity Press 1994
5 - Robert A White – The significance of recent developments in the field of mass communication, paper presented at the 1985 meeting of the foundation for mass communication research in the Netherlands, March 1985
6- - Ibid
7- - Ibid
8- 6-Ibid
9- Wilbur Schramm – Mass Media and National Development, Stanford University Press, 1964
10- Robert A White – The significance of recent developments in the field of mass communication, paper presented at the 1985 meeting of the foundation for mass communication research in the Netherlands, March 1985
11- Ibid
12- The semiotic approaches to communication are based on the works of C.S Pierce, who established the American tradition of semiotics, C.K Ogden and I.A Richards of Britain, and Ferinand de Saussure, the Swiss linguist.
13- I.P Tewari - Sadharanikaran  Indian Communication Theory, India Foreign Review, June 1980
14- I.P Tewari -Towards an Indian Communication  Theory, Communicator, New Delhi  March 1992, pp 35-38
15- JS Yadav, - Trends in Communication Research- Paper presented at the national seminar on communication research: Trends and Priorities, New Delhi, Indian institute of Mass Communication research 1984
16- Ibid
17- Rudolph, S.H. and L.I. Rudolph. Gandhi. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
18- Chakravarty, Nikhil (1995). “Mahatma Gandhi: The Great Communicator”, Gandhi
19- MacArthur, Brian (1996). The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches. Penguin Books, London.
20- Mukherjee, Rudrangshu (ed.)(1993). The Penguin Gandhi Reader. Penguin Books India
21- Publication Division, Government of India (1994).All Are Equal in the Eyes of God (Selections from Mahatma Gandhi’s Writings). Publications Division, New Delhi. (Second Reprint) (First Published: 1964).
22- Gandhi, Rajmohan (1995). The Good Boatman. Viking, Penguin books India, New Delhi.
23- Parekh, Bhikhu (2001). Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, New York.
24- Achal  Mehra-  Western  Communication theory An Asian Critique – paper presented at the IAMCR
25- T.B Saral - Hindu Philosophy of Communication pp  47-58
26- Achal  Mehra-  Western  Communication theory An Asian Critique – paper presented at the IAMCR
27- T.B Saral - Hindu Philosophy of Communication  pp  47-58
28- Achal  Mehra-  Western  Communication theory An Asian Critique – paper presented at the IAMCR
29- T.B Saral - Hindu Philosophy of Communication pp  47-58
30- Rothwell, J. Dan (2010). In the company of others: an introduction to communication (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533630-6.
31- Kenneth Louis Smith (2005). Handbook of visual communication: theory, methods, and media. Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-8058-4178-7
33- Jamieson, G. H. Visual Communication: More Than Meets the Eye. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84150-141-3. p.16.


About the Author - 

Dr Syed Ali Mujtaba is a media trainer, journalist, author and documentary film maker. He is currently working as Principal National College of Design, Chennai. He has worked for over fifteen years in several media organizations and taught media courses as full time faculty for more than eight years. He holds masters degrees in History and Journalism and Mass Communication. He has taken M.Phil and PhD degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has qualified National Education Test (NET). He was in UK on Indian government’s grant to pursue doctoral research. He has authored two books and contributed a chapter each to four edited volumes.He is prolific writer and political commentator. His writing appears in various newspapers and websites. His research papers have appeared in several reputed journals in India and abroad. He has made two documentary films; “Beyond Empires,” and “Making a Difference.” He is a Jefferson Fellow at the East West Center Hawaii. Under this media programme he visited several cities in the US, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. He has been twice to Thailand to present papers at the Media conferences. He also had been to present a paper at the Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu Nepal. He was Chennai Correspondent of CVC Radio Australia. He is a member of International Federation of Environmental Journalist Association (IFEJA). He is also member of Association of British Scholars and East West Center Hawaii, Chennai Chapters. He is the founder and moderator of South Asia Contact Group.  He was in the Aligarh Muslim University’s Football team, from where he has taken his bachelors and masters degree.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

India a moving anarchy stands vindicated

India a moving anarchy stands vindicated 
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The recent developments in the country are quite appalling. There are two powerful events that has shaken the nation. One is the heinous crime of rape and murder in UP and other the gruesome killing of an innocent Muslim youth in Pune. Both the events vindicates the idea that India is a moving anarchy.

On 27 May two girls aged 12 and 14 from an oppressed caste family of Katra Sadatganj in Badaun district of UP were sexually assaulted and killed when out to answer the call of the nature. The rapists, belonging to the local dominant caste, hung their bodies from a tree in a public display of their power.

In the Badaun rape and murder case the accused includes two police men. The police station in charge refused to file an FIR when informed about the missing girls by the father of one of them, a casual wage-labourer. The accused belong to the core caste base of the ruling party in UP.This reported case of rape and murder in UP has shamed the nation.

There are reports of rape from Rajasthan coming as well. Earlier in March four minor Dalit girls were raped in Bhagana village of Haryana. It seems that the season of rape has begun once again in the country.

Even though the United Nations has taken cognizance of the developments in India and has issued statement against this alarming trend, the country seems to have accepted it as a moving anarchy syndrome.
Even media in the country is quite mellowed in reporting these events. If we compare the reportage of December 2012 rape incident in New Delhi, there is little anger in media regarding such heinous crime. Even the response of the Civil Society to these cases is very meek. It seems every one has accepted it as a fait accompli.

The other trend that is growing momentum is the perpetration of hate crime in the country. On 2 June in Pune, twenty-eight year old Mohsin Shaikh, an information technology professional was beaten to death by a Hindu mob for alleged morphing of pictures of some Maratha icons. The mob belonged to a group of men of an outfit called Hindu Rashtra Sena.

The killers even celebrated their cruelty in messages declaring that the ‘the first wicket is down’.  This is the most sordid saga of hate crime.

In Pune the political context of the murder cannot be discounted. The state assembly elections in Maharashtra are a few months away, and the hyper activity of extremist groups is an attempt to polarize voters on religious grounds. Hatred of religious minorities has always been the ideological core of the BJP’s politics.

It is not long ago that the media reported the lynching of Nido Tania, a northeast student in New Delhi. The response was mute whimper in the media about this racial crime, but soon the voices of sanity got drowned in the crescendo of moving anarchy.

The stoke silence of Prime Minister Narender Modi on string of rape incidents in the country and on the killing of Pune’s technique’s killing is puzzling. At least Manmohan Singh raised concern over the murder of northeast boy Nido Taniam’s murder. The new PM’s silence is giving impression that he is sympathizing with the killers. It’s the same impression he gave to the post Godhara killings of the Muslims in Gujarat.

If this is the case is there any moral consciousness left in the country, or every one likes to brush these events under the carpet saying, India is a moving anarchy and such things are part and parcel of the country. India has never been close to moving anarchy that as it is now. Certainly, the adage stands vindicated in its letters and spirits.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

International Relations Shifting Sands – A Review

International Relations Shifting Sands – A Review
Syed Ali Mujtaba

International relations are like shifting sands and change is the order of the way global players behave with each other. The Gregorian calendar year 2014 has witnessed some interesting developments on global political front and points to the nature of the direction of the change.

The first is Crimea going to Russia, second Russia-Ukraine conflict, interference of Pax America in support of Ukraine against Russia, third growing influence of China in south china sea, increasing rivalry between Vietnam and China,  US pulling out from Afghanistan, Iran‘s nuclear dilemma, growing instability in Pakistan, the unanswered questions of Palestine and Kashmir.

Even though most of these developments are taking place in different regions of the world and may look like local bushfires, but if seen collectively, show an emergence of a new world order that is different from the one we all lived since the end of cold war in 1990.

Russia takes over Crimea

An interesting event took place in the then Soviet Union in 1954. Crimea that had been part of Russia historically was one fine day was handed over to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev, who had come to power after death of Joseph Stalin. Historians do not provide any reasonable explanation of Nikita Khrushchev’s generosity of handing over Crimea to Ukraine.

The agenda of the session of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which took place on 25 January 1954, contained a question about the delivery of the Crimean region to the structure of the Ukrainian SSR. The discussion of the question took only 15 minutes. The participants of the meeting approved the decree, and the region was given away to Ukraine for free.

Not a single protest was made; no one had any doubts about the decision. No one wondered how the population (presumably the Russian-speaking population) of Crimea would treat the decision.
It turned out that such important issues as the territorial movement of regions could be solved without any difficulties at all.

Since then Russia didn't accept the legitimacy of this decision; it held the view that the Crimean region had been delivered to Ukraine illegitimately. In the 2014, when the Ukraine- Crimea conflict flared up, secessionism gained ground and Crimea opted for  Russia. Russia intervened and conducted a referendum after which the 1954 decision was undone by the Russian President Vladimir Putin who took over Crimea, caring too hoots about the international relations.

This reminds about the first gulf war, when then Iraqi ruler Sadam Hussein took over Kuwait, and international forces was mustered by the US to undo the unjust occupation.
There seems to be no such move to undo the Crimea occupation by Russia.  This is significant development and can set a dangerous precedent elsewhere.

These ideas have to be developed further into a full length paper further for some suitable purpose.  Any takers of it please write to