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Hate-mongers in our society

Hate-mongers in our society

Author: M.V. Kamath
Publication: Afternoon Despatch and Courier
Date: December 13, 2002

Introduction: Our columnists and editors, the know-alls of the English media, are doing more damage to the secularism of Hindu society than they realise.

So who's to be believed: India Today or Outlook? As is well-known, they are competitors for the middle-class English readership and have their own ideology - or whatever it is they profess - to sell. The former in its November 25 issue carried the results of an exclusive poll in Gujarat conducted by Aaj Tak-ORG-MARG on how the state was likely to vote at the forthcoming Assembly elections. "With Modi going the whole hog to set a populist but divisive political agenda, the BJP now seems headed for a two-thirds majority in the new Assembly," was the conclusion. Swapan Dasgupta who wrote the cover story added: "A dramatic conclusion is inescapable - Gujarat is revelling in its honeymoon with Modi. Four weeks to polling, the outcome seems foregone".

Foregone? Not so, says Outlook which has conducted its own survey in cooperation with an hitherto unknown outfit called Cfore. (sic). According to the Outlook-Cfore poll (December 9) Congress will get between 95 to 100 seats and BJP between 80 and 85 seats. Premchand Palety who wrote the cover story says that it's looking more and more like a two-horse race and that, contrary to popular notions, the Congress could well emerge a length ahead. Mark the word 'could'.

Religious lines
The poll does not swear by its findings. But the story says: "Polarisation of Hindus along religious lines was no longer as pronounced as it was immediately after the riots. The issue of governance and caste equations seem to have now overshadowed religious rage. And the merger of Shankarsinh Vaghela's All India Rashtriya Janata Party (AIRJP) with the Congress was working to the latter's advantage". If Outlook-Cfore is to be believed, there has been a swing of 12 per cent in favour of the Congress. Can such a thing occur within a fortnight? According to Palety, "as things stand, it's advantage Congress" but he adds, "One should not rule out the BJP, though. With two more weeks of campaigning to go, Modi could make some gains and the Congress could lose some ground. But whatever the final outcome, one thing is sure - the battle for Gujarat will be a keenly contested one." That is a nice way of hedging one's bet and questioning one's own credibility.

The language used by Palety suggests that he is personally against the BJP which, needless to say, he is entitled to be. But one wonders how much his views have coloured his findings. Only time alone can tell. And it is any day now. The tragedy is that polarisation has occurred not only among voters, but in the media - especially the English media - as well. Objectivity in the English media has flown out of the window. Not that the English media has been particularly famous for its objectivity.

During the pre-Independence days the media - barring the British- run The Times of India, The Statesman and the Madras Mail - largely pro-Congress but even The Statesman could be fair at times. In the immediate post-Independence years with no major party challenging the Congress, the media was generally balanced, considering that at the helm of affairs was Jawaharlal Nehru. Criticism when offered may sometimes have been harsh but it was never vicious. Indira Gandhi was criticised in the post-Emergency phase but over the 1971 Bangladesh War she had become an icon - Durga, no less. While in subsequent years the media kept a fairly even balance and criticism was issue-based, it is only after the BJP came into power that the media by and large turned venomous. The party has been at the receiving end of a hate-campaign the like of which has never been seen before.

Prem Shankar Jha's column in Outlook (December 2) is a case in point. Writes Jha: "Modi, in short, has metamorphosed into the precise Hindu counterpart of Osama bin Laden... If Modi and the BJP win the elections, as opinion polls suggest they are likely to do, it'll not be simply because of Hindu anger over Godhra, but because of the deeper and darker feelings of inferiority, provincialism and ethnic chauvinism that he will have succeeded in tapping. This sleeping serpent that Modi is trying to awaken is capable of swallowing the India that Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru tried to build, in a single gulp. It therefore poses a more deadly threat to the future of India than any that we have been able to imagine so far.

If the BJP wins in Gujarat, the stage will be set for a political battle that will dwarf the battle of Kurukshetra..." Strong words, these. It is difficult to say who propagates hate more: Narendra Modi or the English media. Hardly any newspaper has taken the trouble to understand Gujarat. Strangely enough the one English-language newspaper to make that effort is the NRI journal published from New York: India Abroad (May 17, 2002). Sheela Bhatt's article entitled Wounds of history should be made compulsory reading for our hate- filled columnists. Sheela Bhatt recounts how Gujarat's pride was broken and how "centuries of being under the exploiter's yoke has left deep scars" on the Gujarat psyche. The last Hindu to rule over Gujarat independently was Karan Vaghelo who fled his kingdom in 1298. "From then on" writes Sheela, "there have been small pockets under Hindu kings ruling as vassals of various conquerors but Gujarat was never independent from 1300 to 1947... The past is never, ever, far from the present...."

Our 'intellectual' columnists do not know history, much less Gujarati psychology. They only know hate. The truth is that in India Gujarat is a special case. Maharashtra can boast of a Shivaji who stood up to Muslim rule and bears no psychological wounds, Rajasthan has several Hindu heroes like Rana Pratap for one, South India had its great Vijayanagar Empire to be proud of but Gujarat with its open borders has been at the mercy of anyone who has chosen to come in with rape and plunder and pillage, if one does not understand that, one understands nothing either about Narendra Modi or about Gujarat.

Brazen attitude
Hate-mongers like Jha abound in our media and one has only to read papers like the Hindustan Times to realise that. Knowledge of history is obviously not their forte. Hate is. It has compelled M.K. Narayan, who has served as Chief of the Intelligence Bureau to say in Asian Age (December 2) that while "Narendra Modi's brazen attitude deserves to be condemned", "to assert that this amounts to a demise of democracy in the country would be nothing short of a canard".

Further, Narayanan ads: "Instead of putting together a viable coalition that can effectively oppose the BJP, the dividend Opposition is intent solely on venting its spleen on one individual - Narendra Modi. The danger is that given the prevailing atmosphere, this is precisely the kind of myopic strategy that could misfire". But tell that to our columnists and editors, the know-alls of the English media, who are doing more damage to the secularism of Hindu society than they realise. When intellectual arrogance and not knowledge of history prevails, that is all that we can expect. Which is a pity.

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