Posts Tagged ‘Indian Media’

How many years before the secularists use the same yardstick?

March 29, 2009

In the past few weeks the mainstream and western media seem to have upped the ante by publishing articles which have a strong under-current of anti-Hindu bias. I will write about these in my next post but the current post is to specifically discuss about the article that appeared in the Hindu on 22nd March.

 

The article Forgetting Slaughter by Harsh Mander did not leave me amused at all.  The rancor with which Mr. Mander describes the current events in Gujarat shows the qualification required to be a “secularist” in India. How else can we describe:

a.)    “Seven years after the engineered communal hate and carnage” is clear how the truth is portrayed. For sure Gujarat communal clashes are one of the saddest events in the recent past, the way these activists describe the unfolding of events as if the Hindu goons woke up one fine morning and started killing Muslims. Why do we never mention about Godhra? Now that Justice Nanavati commission mentioned that the attack on Kar Sevaks was pre-planned how come the “secularists” not take up the issue with a more balanced view point or can we discard the commission report? The same mindset is reflected  in an article in the Atlantic (more about that in my next post)

 

b.)    When Harsh Mander talks about Muslim youth being picked up randomly is he speaking with facts or is there a pathological hatred towards parties like the BJP? While There are a lot of failings with BJP but shooting off the hip with such generalizations is repulsive and these are called the liberals – for me their refusal to see that there have been no more communal riots in Gujarat or the economic development in the state that is all inclusive cannot be a possibility is another pointer on how prejudiced they can be. These statements are similar to what Arundhathi Roy made up a nice little story for which JK has a very interesting analysis.

 

c.)    For me the best part of the article is when the author says: “many who argue that the efforts of human rights groups (including those that I am engaged with) which strive to secure justice for the survivors, are actually blocking efforts at reconciliation, or the spaces for forgiveness. Such enterprises are seen to be akin to scraping the scab off old wounds and not letting these heal naturally: they are seen as not letting the survivors forget their suffering. Those opposed to such efforts dispute: “What is achieved by reviving memories of what is done and over with? We should let the people affected by the admittedly unfortunate mass violence move on, without being constantly pulled into the quicksand of a painful past”

It is significant that rarely do such suggestions emanate from those affected by the violence themselves, or from those who belong to the Muslim community and suffer intensely even if only vicariously from the continuing injustice and persisting gruesome outrages like mass graves and evidence of killings in false encounters in Gujarat. There are some among the affected communities in Gujarat — usually traders or better-off victims and mostly men — who choose not to fight for legal justice, but this is not because they do not value justice or because they suffer no anguish for the injustice and betrayal of the past, but as a practical act of individual survival by surrender and compromise, in a climate of persisting hate and fear. The suggestions for hastily closing the past come mostly from people of the majority community who have not suffered directly or even vicariously the torment of the survivors of the carnage, or from persisting insecurity and contested citizenship rights, or indeed from the impact of a drift into a re-moulded majoritarian social and political order.

Of course as a nation and as a people, we need to move on, pushing decisively behind us chapters of collective shame and tribulation, such as what unfolded in the killing fields of Gujarat in 2002. But the decision to impatiently surge ahead without looking back cannot justly be imposed on women and men, boys and girls who live with not only with the memories of the trauma of unspeakable loss and violence, but the daily lived realities of continued persecution, boycott, expulsion, fear and hate. They should not feel coerced into a spurious amnesia, imposed on them by those who did not suffer and by their absence of remorse and compassion. It is only when the survivors are able to deal voluntarily with this painful past, and when they are assisted to rebuild their homes, livelihoods and social relations, that they will be able to look to the future with optimism and confidence. Traditions like the annual ritualised mourning of Moharram or the commemoration of the Holocaust in gut-wrenching museums acknowledge the importance of remembering, even while forgiving and letting go. Only when there is remorse and healing, it is possible that hand in hand, “they” and “we” will together be able to authentically “move on”. Else, as philosopher Santayana wisely prophesised, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We have repeated the history of communal violence and pogroms too many times already in India to risk its further repetition through forgetting the unhealed wounds of our recent history. “

I reproduced such a long part of the article as it has quite a significant point. Firstly when Harsh Mander talks about we should not accept or cover up what has happened in the past and usually this he hears not from the affected community why does the same yardstick not apply to the Hindus of J&K who were ethnically cleansed from their homeland. The number of people affected from J&K is much more than what happened in Gujarat but the same secularists do not even bother to talk about it forget helping these families come over the trauma. Going back a few centuries why do the secularists not  let us know how the Islamic invasions left millions of Hindus killed and temples looted; why are we not allowed to look at the past as it is and accept that the Muslim rulers  were responsible for the biggest ever genocide in the history of mankind. Why do people like him tell us not to open up the past while asking us to do so in the above case. I am all for what Mr. Mander says that we should look at history in its face and ensure such mistakes do not happen but the only problem is it seems to apply when Muslims are involved and not of other instances where Hindus were the victims. The rut is so evident that when Francois Gautier organised an exhibition on Aurangazeb and his misdeeds that it was vandalised by the police in Chennai – I am left amazed that none of the liberals ever raised a word against gagging of freedom of speech!

While Harsh Mander talks about the holocaust museum I am sure he is aware that negating the holocaust is a crime in Germany but we are grown up by being taught exactly the opposite in Indian history viz. there was no Islamic genocide and here the book by Koenraad Elst “Negationism in India: is a must read for people wanting to know about history as it was.

The biggest problem is these “liberals work overtime to stamp people who make such statements as fundamentalists and narrow-minded while it is they who are blinkered in their approach and never ready for a free and open debate. If we do not agree with their point of view then that is it we are fundamentalists and anti-minority. It has to be noted here that Hindus are the only race in the World that gave shelter to all persecuted groups including Jews, Syrian Christians and Parsis.

To extend the argument further, it is shocking to see “historians and liberals” go to the extent of saying that the Muslim rulers were benign and they never razed down temples. The two-part book by Sita Ram Goel “What Happened to Hindu Temples” that methodically captured the number of temples destroyed by Muslim rulers is a grim reminder of what our history which the same “;liberals” squirm to accept.

d.)    When Harsh Mander goes on to mention “saga of their lives seemed like the spaces between various communal riots, often starting with the cataclysmic upheavals of 1947”  I am keen to know whether we Hindus have no work but to keep attacking Muslims? To start with 1947 the Hindus did not ask for partition but the Muslims did and does Mr. Mander know how the Hindu population on the other divide – both the East and West – has dwindled and will I hear him say that these guys wilfully converted to Islam as Hinduism does not provide equality! And to single out Muslims as the victims is either being naïve or sinister the way he mentions about how these people will move to Muslim ghettos when a communal riot will break out only shows how uni-dimensional the thinking is. Why is the violence in Assam never talked about or the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in the North East: the simple fact is that Hindus are at the receiving end as in Kashmir. I really want facts to be spoken of and not such generalised statements made.  

 

As I mentioned above it is not to say that there are no Hindu elements that spoil the social fabric but the essence is to take a balanced view and put issues in context: can we expect this Mr. Harsh Mander or am I one more of the Hindu fundamentalists at work….

An Open Letter to N. Ram of The Hindu

February 11, 2009

The two articles on the Gopalaswami and Navin Chawla issue is deeply disturbing as you seem to have gone all out to rip apart Mr. Gopalaswami without for once getting into the merits of the case.

 

Right from the heading being so strongly anti Gopalaswami (Documentary record shows he hounded Navin Chawla and made light of constitutional considerations) to being ultra nice on Navin Chawla (he courteously acknowledged the letter).

 

Both articles do not have much of a substance but pure subjectivity that it left me wondering if these actually were published in the Hindu and that too by you! How else can we explain:

  • Being so personal on Mr. Gopalaswami. Has any work been done to check the record of the CEC?
  • Not once getting into the merits of the case I.e. the complaint against Mr. Chawla.
  • Giving opinions from a set of legal counsel while not giving a counterpoint by equally distinguished experts
  • such biased opinions which tarnish the very ethic of journalistic reporting

 

 Let us analyse both the articles Gopalaswami claims on timing of missive are  seriously misleading   and How Chief Election Commissioner pursued BJP allegations. I have put the articles in TOTO below lest it be described as taking a few sentences out of context.

 

Gopalaswami claims on timing of missive are  seriously misleading   “Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami has been widely criticised, among others by top constitutional lawyers Fali Nariman, Shanti Bhushan, and K.K. Venugopal, for the timing of his missive to the President just three months ahead of the 15th general election and three months ahead of his own retirement as CEC. In response, Mr. Gopalaswami has gone on record essentially blaming Election Commissioner Navin Chawla for the timing, claiming that he sent his ‘final reply’ to the allegations made in the BJP’s petition only on December 10. “

A careful, item-by-item verification by HinduThe of the CEC’s claims on what happened within the Election Commission between January 30, 2008 and January 12, 2009 reveals that they are seriously misleading.

On January 30, 2008, Mr. Gopalaswami received in his chambers a Bharatiya Janata Party delegation led by Arun Jaitley. It submitted a petition making various allegations against Navin Chawla and demanding his removal as Election Commissioner. On January 12, 2009, the CEC sent his report to the President ‘recommending’ that Mr. Chawla be removed from office under Article 324(5) of the Constitution.

First of all, more than half the delay is explained by Mr. Gopalaswami’s keeping the BJP’s petition to himself between January 30 and July 20, 2008. He is now quoted in the press as attributing the delay on his part to a highly subjective factor, the differences he had developed with Mr. Chawla over the timing of the Karnataka election. (“I put the petition on hold till the Karnataka election was over, lest it be misunderstood.”)”

I am surprised at the beginning of the article Mr. Ram as you seem to have conveniently forgotten that the CEC  mentioned that Mr. Chawla took 6 months to respond and never attributed about the whole delay  to Mr. Chawla. Considering Mr. Gopalaswami sat on the file for over 6 months does it absolve Navin Chawla for the delay? Making a statement as seriously misleading by N Ram could be understood had there not been a delay from navin Chawla but only from Gopalaswami. More perplexing is the argument on differences between the two regarding Karnataka elections and you conveniently call it highly subjective: why for a moment could you not  believe the CEC on his reasons as there definitely were differences? If there was even one logical argument put forth by you it would have been interesting but such highly immature statements coming from such a senior journalist is sad.

 

“Secondly, the timing is to be explained by the CEC’s overbearing insistence, in tandem with the BJP’s strident stance, that he had the power under Article 324 (5) of the Constitution to conduct an inquiry against an Election Commissioner, and make a suo motu recommendation on his removal. This usurpation of authority flew in the face of the Supreme Court’s judgment in T.N. Seshan, Chief Election Commissioner v. Union of India (1995). It was a complete reversal of the stand taken in June 2006 by Mr. Gopalaswami’s predecessor, B. B. Tandon, and by the Election Commission itself in the Supreme Court. It also went against the legal opinion given to the Election Commission, on April 16, 2006, by Ashok H. Desai, senior advocate and former Attorney-General for India. What constitutional or legal sanction other than the BJP’s averments Mr. Gopalaswami had for his dogmatic claim of suo motu authority over a fellow member of the Election Commission remains to be inquired into and explained. “

Now what has the belief of the CEC that what he was doing was correct have any relation to the timing? Would your belief have changed had the CEC sent his opinion to the president sometime last year? If so then the above point of yours does not hold any ground that the CEC has no right to recommend about sacking of the EC. Also, not sure how BJP is related to the timing? On the contrary the BJP was pushing their case for a couple of years now and they did approach the Supreme Court as well!

It has to be noted that the same Fali Nariman quoted by you has also mentioned that the recommendation by the CEC falls into the grey area of the constitution and hence such one sided speak by you is not correct.

 

“The documentary record shows that he relentlessly hounded an Election Commissioner, who was supposed to be his equal, after demanding his “comments on the issues raised” in the BJP’s petition so that he could “consider the matter for further appropriate action.” He peremptorily ruled out challenges to his locus standi and jurisdiction. He insisted, in his written communication with Mr. Chawla, that the matter was solely “between the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioner” and had “nothing to do with the Central Government,” the appointing authority for the CEC as well as ECs.”

From when is a follow-up called hounding?  If the Hindu pursues a news item it believes is correct and follows up logically will it be tantamount to hounding Mr. Ram? Can you give us readers some instances of the “hounding”. I do not understand what peremptorily rejecting means as the CEC  did act based on interpretations which cannot be called wrong.  What you suggest is that if Navin Chawla questioned the authority of Mr. Gopalaswami then the latter ought to have agreed with him and not moved on the accusations even if they could have been true. Sorry Mr. Ram to take this logic  further we should free all criminals in the country if they claim to be innocent!

 

“The CEC rejected the constitutional contentions in Mr. Chawla’s elaborate reply of September 12 and demanded a response on “the merits of the petition” as early as possible. Even Law Secretary T.K. Viswanathan’s vitally important letter of clarification, dated November 7, 2008, which Mr. Chawla forwarded to Mr. Gopalaswami, was dismissed as irrelevant in the cat and mouse game the CEC seemed to be playing.

Mr. Chawla’s ‘final reply’ of December 10 was only a reiteration of the important constitutional points he made in his reply of September 12 plus a rejection of the BJP’s allegations as “motivated and entirely baseless.” “

Mr. Ram the same points as above the CEC interpreted the constitution in a certain manner – and there are legal experts apart from the ones mentioned in your article  who agreed with the CEC –  and for  this it is unfair on your part to put Mr. Gopalaswami in such a bad light while not for a moment getting into the accusations attributed to Mr. Chawla. Also, have you gone into the detailed and meticulous (I am deliberately putting in the nice adjectives) work of the CEC?  Are we saying that the accusations against Navin Chawla need not be probed?? Can we expect the Hindu to bring the truth to light for us please.

 

How Chief Election Commissioner pursued BJP allegations

 “The factual record shows that on July 21, 2008 — six months after he received a petition from a BJP delegation in his chambers — Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami forwarded the allegations to Election Commissioner Navin Chawla in an officious letter. He asked him to offer his comments on “the issues raised in the said petition at your earlier convenience to enable me to consider the matter for further appropriate action.” Ten days later, Mr. Chawla courteously acknowledged the CEC’s July 21, 2008 missive, saying that he would revert to him. “

Now this is interesting is it not, the CEC’s letter is officious and hence he is the villain but inspite of the villain’s letter the victim still responded in such a courteous manner.  Now I am to believe that you do not know that all Government letters are formal and they are responded to in a certain courteous manner. Can you Mr. Ram show us if this communication is divergent from the usual governmental communication?

 

“The CEC did not have to wait for long because on September 12, 2008 the EC sent his detailed and constitutionally substantive reply. In this, he questioned the locus standi of the CEC in this matter and called attention to “the variance in the extant constitutional position qua Article 324(5) and your interpretation of the same.” He said that by way of abundant caution he had written to the Union Law Secretary, T.K. Viswanathan, to seek information on whether the President or the government had been apprised of the representation in the first place and also to ascertain the stand of the Central government. Pointing out that he had set out his response to the allegations in a detailed June 2006 affidavit in the Supreme Court, the Election Commissioner backed up his stand by enclosing along with his affidavit the affidavits of former CEC B.B. Tandon and the Election Commission’s Secretary, K.F. Wilfred, and also Ashok Desai’s legal opinion. Mr. Chawla added that his response was without prejudice and should not be considered to be his reply on “the merits” of the petition signed by Mr. Advani and others.”

So a month plus is not long and you actually know what is long and short  in Governmental communication.

 

“In a letter dated September 17, the CEC peremptorily rejected the constitutional contentions in Mr. Chawla’s elaborate reply and demanded a response on “the merits of the petition” as early as possible. “

Finally we are down to that nebulous article in our constitution and as Mr. Gopalaswami believed he was in his limits to probe the accusations against Mr. Chawla we should have got a reply against the same is it not Mr. Ram?

 

“Even Law Secretary T.K. Viswanathan’s letter of clarification, dated November 7, 2008, which Mr. Chawla forwarded to Mr. Gopalaswami was given short shrift. In his letter to Mr. Chawla, the Law Secretary confirmed that a copy of the petition signed by Mr. Advani and other MPs had not been forwarded either by the petitioners or by the CEC to the President or the Ministry of Law and Justice. Neither had the Central government been consulted by the CEC before seeking Mr. Chawla’s reply to the allegations. Most importantly, the letter put on record the government’s considered view that “the removal of an Election Commissioner under the second proviso to Article 324(5) of the Constitution cannot be initiated by the Chief Election Commissioner except upon a reference or with the concurrence of the Central Government.”

 

Treating all this as irrelevant, the CEC sent two more reminders to Mr. Chawla asking for a reply on “the merits of the petition” and even prescribing deadlines. Finally, on December 10, Mr. Chawla gave his reply, questioning the CEC’s locus standi in detail and rejecting the allegations as baseless, devoid of evidence or “any material to even warrant a suggestion of impropriety on my part as an Election Commissioner,” and made for “extraneous considerations.”

Mr. Ram why have you not questioned the evasive replies of Navin Chawla? Why could not Mr. Chawla come clean on the allegations, if he were clean that is, rather than questioning the authority of the CEC? Are the allegations made by BJP not serious enough or is it that anything the BJP asks is worth rubbishing.

 

“The wonder is that as this unseemly drama was progressing and the internal blood-letting getting worse, the three-member Election Commission managed to conduct Assembly elections in six States. For five States, election announcements were made on October 14 and the poll completed on December 5. For Jammu & Kashmir, the announcement was made on October 19 and the poll completed on December 28.

Soon after this, Mr. Gopalaswami, who will retire on April 20, fired what he thought was his Brahmastra. It seems to have backfired. “

Sad is it not Mr. Ram that an officer like Mr. Gopalaswami whose career  has an unblemished record has been castigated by you without giving much of proper reasoning and at the same time totally ignoring the allegations as well as the chequered career Mr. Chawla has had (Mr. Raghavan’s article on how Navin Chawla was indicted for his role  during the emergency is something that cannot be ignored).

 

We leave it to you if you would want to continue with such opinionated reporting while at the same time making speeches for journalists to maintain objectivity.  It reminds me of Mr. Ramalinga Raju accepting corporate governance awards while doing the exact opposite all along.

Post the Mumbai attacks: What about Media Introspection?

December 7, 2008
I have had a blog ID for a couple of years and though wanting to write on my favourite topics never, for various reasons including plain lethargy, not done so. The happenings in India over the past few months culminating in the Mumbai attacks has finally made me pen my thoughts.

All of us watched the terror attack with concern and anger. While we and the media have, And rightly so, shown utter disgust regarding politicians and the soft stand taken against the perpetrators of crime there is an equal blame our beloved media needs to take. Just a few pointers in this direction:
A.) News channels are not entertainment channels: while this is relatively a minor issue I do hope all channels are sensitive that they are there to report. I do not understand what “exclusive” means while interviewing the NSG chief or the president of Pakistan! Exclusive with a Barkha Dutt or Arnab Goswami or Rajdeep Sardesai on that channel? For sure they work with that respective channel.
What was the purpose of breathtakingly counting the number of commandos getting off a helicopter and Why do we get such brilliant background music while reporting. I want plain news and not masala. Why do they not invest that money in equipping their journalists with better skills?

B.) The problem of self-denial: The new phrase from CNN-IBN was “Urban Terror” but I thought the other side of “Hindu/Hindutva Terror” was “Islamic Terror”. Similarly we hear about “Terror having no Religion”, why is this double speak? We do know there is a problem of Islamic extremism and we will never be able to find a solution if we do not accept the problem.
Whenever there is an attack by Islamic extremists or a demand for action to be taken against any outfit did the media probe the issues at hand or did they get into an overdrive that there is a problem with Hindus and their outfits. Please go ahead and report on the Hindu outfits but not by subverting the other issue.
How many times did we see our media – both the print and electronic – try with all sincerity to uncover and report objectively? What is the media scared of? This is true even to the Hindu-Christian violence that the country has seen.
There was a furore over the attacks on churches in Karnataka. But did any newspaper or News channel even bother to get down to the reason for such actions? (or is it that these Hindu goons woke up one day and went on an attacking spree) Why was the publication of “Satyadarshini” that defamed Hindu gods and was distributed freely by a church body not highlighted? Was it not a big issue? Is such defamation acceptable? If Hindus did such an act against other gods or their beliefs would the media have kept such a low profile – while the attacks on churches was reported with such intensity that anyone I spoke to thought over 20 Christians were killed when the fact was that not a single person was killed!)Why does the media not accept there is a problem on the conversion front and if they believe otherwise can they show statistics to this effect: I can show enough numbers and real-life cases to show the scourge of conversion (one tidbit being the number of churches being nearly equal to the number of temples in Andhra Pradesh as was published by the Endowments Department. It has to be noted that there are only 3% Christians in the state).
For sure the majority of Christians and Muslims are good but is it not everyone’s duty to check the weaknesses in their system, Hindus included.

C.) Different yardsticks for different people: whenever there is an attack by Muslims the media immediately talks about Godhra and its revenge. By the same logic there should have been a response from Hindus when a few hundred thousand Kashmiri pandits were driven out of their homeland. Also, history is replete with plunder due to religious zeal of the Islamic kings and how many times did we see revenge.

When the Sadhvi and other suspects in the Malegaon blasts accused the ATS of torture was there any investigation by the media? An oh not to forget our human rights brigade: where was the NCW/NHRC/Teesta/Arundathi Roy? Have these accused been pronounced guilty? (Here is a critique from Shantanu on a report by NDTV) In the case of Afzal Guru even after conviction there is so much breast beating and not to forget all media questioning the Battla house encounter! Talking of Batla House the Delhi Union of Journalists came out with a report giving details of coverage by various newspapers – both English and Hindi – and no two newspaper facts matched, is this not a joke when all of them used the same source to get information?! Further on, CNN-IBN while describing “Hindu Terror” used “OM” juxtaposed with a photo of a violent scene: is this not crass insensitivity to the millions of Hindus and would a similar action been taken when reporting anything involving Muslims or Christians?
Similarly The Hindu in one of its editorials on the Christian-Hindu violence dismissed Hindu religion as having inherent weaknesses. Is such a statement without getting into details not bound to mislead readers? Does this mean people have the right to force conversions because of these inherent weaknesses? I hope people understand that religion is a conception of humans and hence will have weaknesses and is it not our duty to look at the good and take off the bad?

As a final point, Seema Chisti in the Indian Express while mentioning about Narendra Modi used the word “Sanskritised : as an extremist term. Is this the way to deal with one of the oldest and technically perfect languages in the World. Is learning Sanskrit equal to being fundamentalist. Is this objectivity?

I am an educated Indian who is demanding news without jaundicing it with so much subjectivity. This only encourages terrorists and their ilk as there is enough sympathy from both politicians and media and the human rights brigade.
Will the media, apart from asking politicians to change, change itself for the better of our country please…