Secular Righteousness

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    Secular RighteousnessAn Analysis of the Editors Guild Fact Finding Report into the Gujarat violence

    Introduction

    On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati Express, a train which connects Ahmedabad inGujarat, with Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, was attacked by a mob of more than 2000Muslims at Godhra in Gujarat. The target was the Ram Sevakswho were returningfrom Ayodhya after taking part in a ceremony at the Shri Rama Janmabhoomi. Fifty-eight of the Ram Sevakswere incinerated in the incident. Most of them were womenand children.

    In the aftermath, there was a major communal riot in parts of Gujarat, leading to thedeath of nearly 1000 persons, and many injured. The Muslim casualties were nearly

    three-quarters of the total.

    The Editors Guild sent a team on a fact finding mission into the riots in Gujarat, post-Godhra, and the role of media in particular. The team consisted of BG Verghese (acolumnist), Dileep Padgaonkar (Executive Managing Editor, The Times of India) andAakar Patel (Editor,Mid-Day, Mumbai).In setting out in its task to report on the Ordeal by Fire in the Killing Fields ofGujarat, the Editors Guild Team follow the standard Marxist methodology. AsNikolay Valentinov (in Encounters with Lenin) recounts Lenin telling him, Plekhanov (a

    Marxist theoretician) once said to me about a critic of Marxism, First let us stick theconvicts badge on him, and then after that we will examine his case.? And I think thatwe must stick the convicts badge on anyone and everyone who tries to undermineMarxism, even if we do not go on to examine his case. Thats how every soundrevolutionary should react.The Editors Guild Team put the label of a convict on the Gujarati language media, andthen went about the task of evaluating their reporting. Therefore, in analysing thereport prepared by the Editors Guild Team, we should first discuss the ideology of theEnglish media in India to enable us to put forward our analysis of the report. This isimperative since all the three members are from the English media.To do this, we have to look at the way this media has treated issues relating to India ingeneral and Hindutva in particular, even prior to the events in Gujarat. It is ourcontention that the English media seems to take a special delight in perverting issues,which not only trivialises, but also enables them to avoid dealing with the essence ofthe issues. In the process, it ensures that sane debates do not take place, and thesociety does not reach an enduring solution to the problem except in a muddled way.

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    In any case, even if we are to assume that the Editors Guild Report is valid in itsdamnation of the Gujarati language media, it was necessary for the Editors Guild Teamto clearly establish that the English media in India is unbiased, instead of merelymaking an assumption that it is so. The Team did not even make an attempt to do so.The Hindu Vivek Kendra has made an analysis of the Editors Guild Report and ispresenting the same here.

    The English media in IndiaThe English media in India is a product of the Macaulay system of education, whichseeks to produce a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, inopinion, words and intellect. As the great philosopher, Anand Coomarswamy, rightlysaid in 1924 that, it is hard to realise how completely the continuity of Indian life hasbeen severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads oftradition and to create a non-descript and superficial being deprived of all roots - a sortof intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or future.

    Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and the most tragic.? (TheDance of Shiva, 1924.)The other feature of the English media is that it is dominated by those who go underthe guise of left-liberal. For this class of people, there is nothing in our civilisation thatthe people of India can legitimately be proud of. In fact, this class will make a specialeffort of denigrating the past, and it has done its best to ensure that the children of thiscountry are neither taught the essential features of our culture nor made to respectthem. At the same time, it will go out of the way to project that the wisdom relevantfor today lies outside the parameters of our civilisation.With the coming of Hindutva to the centre-stage, this class of left-liberals has changedtheir stance, and is now saying that the Hinduism projected by Hindu organisationssuch as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) does not form the core of our history.They will, however, not say what does form the core. This negative projection leads toconfusion in the society since the people are told what is not but not what is.

    The alienation from our cultural symbols is best expressed by Dileep Padgaonkar whenhe wrote; More than any other BJP leader, it is Murli Manohar Joshi who gets the goatof secular intellectuals. The very appears of the HRD minister - the dhoti, theangavastram, the prominent mark of the forehead and the choti - irks them no end. (TheSunday Times of India, April 15, 2001.) In the same way, Padgaonkar would consider DrCV Raman lacking in intellectual merit merely because of his attire. This approach of Padgaonkar is nothing new. In July 1993, when he interviewed SirVidiadhar Naipaul in the aftermath of the events of December 6, 1992, he said: Thepeople who climbed on top of these domes and broke them were not bearded peoplewearing saffron robes and with ash on their foreheads. They were young people clad injeans and tee-shirts. (The Times of IndiaJuly 18, 1993)

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    What Padgaonkar was saying that anyone wears jeans and tee-shirts should think in thesame way as he does. Thus Padgaonkar was stunned that the Kar Sevaks behaved in amanner he thinks as most inappropriate, even though they wore an attire approved byhim.

    Here it would not be out of place to record how Sir Vidiadhar responded toPadgaonkars question: One needs to understand the passion that took them on top of

    the domes. The jeans and the tee-shirts are superficial. The passion alone is real. Youcant dismiss it. You have to try to harness it. In its editorial Political Aftershocks, commenting upon the earthquake relief work, TheTimes of Indiasaid, The RSS has been very active in relief and rehabilitation work..?However, right in the next sentence it said, There are, however, unconfirmed reportsfrom Gujarat that the ideological bias of the RSS towards certain communities andcastes is already evident even in the task of providing relief. (Feb 6, 2001) The spokesperson of RSS, through a letter printed on Feb 9 in the same newspapersought to know the necessary details of the ideological bias, so that they can address

    these lapses to be able to take the corrective actions for the future. No response wasforthcoming.In order to nail the lie spread by the editorial, the President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) for Maharashtra sent a picture to Padgaonkar which showed a Muslim familytaking shelter, along with other Hindu families, in a large tent at a camp organised bythe VHP. The picture was taken from the website (www.indiatimes.com) of a grouppublication ofThe Times of India. The reply from Padgoankar was quite amazing. In hisletter to the President of VHP dated March 5, 2001, he said that he could not takecognisance of this photo, because his responsibility was limited to The Times of India.Given the organisational resources available with The Times of Indiain Gujarat, resourceswhich were apparently fully used in preparing the Editors Guild Report, and gratefullyacknowledged by the Editors Guild Team, one expected that Padgaonkar would haveconfirmed the unconfirmed reports on the basis of which he made the allegationsabout the ideological bias. It was astounding that even when the photo clearlydisproved the unconfirmed reports, Padgaonkar refused to tender an apology for themalicious writings. Thus, when Sandesh(the Gujarati language daily that receives theharshest censure from the Editors Guild Team for inciting violence) is following apolicy of not carrying corrections and clarifications, it is merely following in thedistinguished footsteps set out by Padgaonkar himself.In the news item about the publication of the Editors Guild report, the Rediff on Net,has reported Padgaonkar saying the following: I think if secularism became a sellingproposition (the Gujarati) newspapers would become secular. (May 3, 2002). The Timesof Indiais the most profitable publication in India, and is the largest circulating daily inthe whole word. Is Padgaonkar accusing his own publication of not being secularWhat Padgaonkar does is not an exception but a rule amongst all his colleagues whosubscribe to the same ideology that he does. The intention of stating the above two

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    cases is not to single him out, but to show the type of arrogance in the Macaulay classof Indians.A community which has suffered the maximum due to Islamic terrorism is the Hindusof Kashmir and the Pandits in particular. In 1989, a mass exodus took place in theKashmir Valley, due to relentless persecution by Islamic terrorism, and 300,000 Panditsbecame refugees in their own homeland. The left-liberals did not even shed crocodile

    tears on the plight of these unfortunate citizens of our country. In fact, they havebecome the forgotten people for the English media.Even today, while copious tears have flowed from the eyes of the English media incontext of the Muslim refugees in Gujarat, it has not found it necessary to deal with thepredicament of the Kashmiri Pandits. There has not been any detailed reporting aboutthe miserable conditions in the refugee camps, which are in exist