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Caste-based politics

Caste-based politics

Author: M.V. Kamath
Publication: Afternoon Despatch & Courier
Date: February 9, 2007
URL: http://cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?section=fromthepress&subsection=editorials&xfile=February2007_mediawatch_standard179&child=mediawatch

Introduction: The Indian people seem to be comfortable with dynastic rule - and that is one subject that needs to be deeply analysed

First it was ideology that separated Indians. The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru wanted "a socialist pattern of society" whatever that meant. That the socialist pattern turned out to be a pattern for bureaucratic corruption is another matter. At least Nehru was sincere and whatever errors and mistakes he might have made he still deserves our respect for giving a lead to the setting up of Non-Alignment Movement and at home the Indian Institutes of Technology and Management. But Nehru had no use for caste and he made it clear enough. He should have dissolved the Congress as Gandhiji wanted it to be, as its main function - fighting for freedom - had been accomplished. That suggestion was ignored.

Caste issues

Over the years our politics has been caste-based and increasingly inter-caste hatred is becoming noticeably apparent. The latest to add to the fire is Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson, Tushar A. Gandhi who has apparently written a book entitled 'Let's Kill Gandhi'. The Times of India (31 January) reported him as saying that "Brahmins made several bids on Mahatma's life". Deccan Herald (31 Jan) similarly carried a headline: "Gandhi Was Targeted by Brahmins: Tushar". Nothing more stupid could have been said, least of all by Gandhi's great grandson.

One Monindra Singh Pandher at Noida in Uttar Pradesh has been arrested for killing in cold blood over thirty children in the most brutal manner possible. Are we to attribute those killings to the community to which Pandher belongs? Tushar Gandhi damns the entire "Brahmin community" as wishing to kill Gandhi. Yes, a grenade was hurled at Gandhi's car in Pune when he visited the city during the Harijan Tour in 1935. But millions of Brahmins had supported Gandhi's reformatory movement. It was a revolutionary movement, and not just Brahmins, but many other castes were also opposed to what Gandhi was preaching.

The violence against dalits frequently reported is not the work of Brahmins but of other castes. Tushar Gandhi should have his head examined. There is trouble enough in this country on caste issues.

The Hindu (Jan. 31) carried a story that carried the headline: "Deve Gowda blamed for the growth of communal forces" in Karnatak. Janata Dal (S) rebel leaders P.G.R. Sindhia and H. Ekanthaiah were reported as saying that Deve Gowda "was responsible for the growth of Hindutva forces and the recent communal incidents in the state".

We have a highly illiterate media in India which uses language carelessly. Words like 'fundamentalism' - a charge made by the Pope, for instance against Hindus - 'fascism' etc. are freely used and many who use such terms had never heard of Mussolini or the time in which he lived. Many of our media men are blissfully ignorant of history. Writing in 'Vidura' (Oct-Dec. 2006) the journal of the prestigious Press Council of India, Maya Ranganathan laid stress on the fact that journalism education cannot remain just skill based considering that journalists are called upon "to deal with a range of issues that cover anything under the sun".

Under the circumstances, she said, "students need to be provided with a strong academic base to facilitate this understanding". It is not just students who need to be educated. One is afraid even some editors too need to be educated in history, especially social history.

Amartya Sen is quite correct when he says that Indians are "argumentative". Truth becomes the victim. Events take place because of a whole range of reasons that need to be carefully studied. Why have we turned casteist? It is not Deve Gowda alone who can be charged with communalism, or with a desire to "take the party and the coalition government (in Karnataka) under the control of his family". That charge can be made against leaders of some other parties as well.

Need we name them? Doesn't anyone know? It is not just under the Mughals that we had dynastic rule. The Indian people seem to be comfortable with dynastic rule - and that is one subject that needs to be deeply analysed. Our media has no time for such serious journalism.

The Janata Dal (S) leaders also complained that the H.D. Kumaraswamy government was silent on the issue of the Sangh Parivar conducting Viraat Hindu Samajotsava. Where was the necessity for holding such a Samajotsava? Would the RSS have gone for it if the Prime Minister had not made very provocative statements concerning aid to Muslims on a priority basis? God knows all people in India who are poor need desperate help though a recent issue of 'Hindustan Times' noted that a majority of the people feel that their lives are better today than they were a couple of decades ago. There were riots in Mangalore over the brutal murder of a BJP leader, by a couple of Muslims.

The Muslim community understood what happened and when a Virat Hindu Samajotsava was held in the city, the Muslim leadership volunteered to provide sugar for free distribution of lime juice for the thousands who attended the Utsav. That was not only generous, but indicative of Muslim understanding. Our secularists are as much responsible for communal riots as the so-called 'communalists' are.

The trouble is that our leading political parties have no vision except that of capturing power. And the media has come to be vulgarised to such an extent that one is almost ashamed to pick up a paper.

Profound crisis

The duty of a paper is constantly to analyse events as objectively as possible, to pull up politicians who cross the Laxman Rekha and to ignore the likes of Tushar Gandhi. 'Vidura' quotes the International Federation of Journalists as wanting the Indian Government to provide a "strategic vision of the future of the country's media" in the face of what it describes as "a growing and profound crisis within Indian journalism".

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the IFJ's General Secretary Aidan White is reported to have written that "the information landscape in India is changing dramatically, but not all of these changes will benefit Indian values of press freedom, social justice, democracy and diversity unless regulators properly manage the process". Do we need a foreigner to give advice to our Prime Minister? Or to our editors? It only shows the degree to which our media has degenerated. There is need for a great deal of self-examination within the media, even if it is market-oriented. To publish provocative rubbish - and there are enough agent provocateurs in the country - may make saleable copy but it is poor journalism. There is such a thing as discriminative reporting that should not be forgotten.

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