Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
All the wrong priorities

All the wrong priorities

Arvind Lavakare
Rediff on Net
April 27, 2000
Title: All the wrong priorities
Author: Arvind Lavakare
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: April 27, 2000

The mature and sensitive ones have always known that our so-called national newspapers have a perverse perspective on what constitutes news and national affairs. Our media's total neglect of a report appearing on a BBC News Web site is one more proof of that indictment.

Below are excerpts of that report by one Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta, flashed on this columnist's e-mail inbox on April 19:

The government in India's northeastern state of Tripura says it has evidence that the state's Baptist Church is involved in backing separatist rebels.

"Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said state police had uncovered details of the alleged link after questioning a church leader.

"Nagmanlal Halam, secretary of the Noapara Baptist Church in Tripura, was arrested late on Monday with a large quantity of explosives."

Sarkar said allegations about the close links between the state's Baptist Church and the rebel National Liberation Front of Tripura have long been made by political parties and police.

Now for the first time, he said, hard evidence supporting the allegations has been found.

Sarkar told the BBC that Halam was found in possession of more than 50 gelatine sticks, 5kg of potassium and 2kg of sulphur and other ingredients for making explosives.

He said two other junior members of the same church, arrested last week, had tipped the police off about the explosives, which were meant for the NLFT rebels.

The chief minister said Halam confessed to buying and supplying explosives to the NLFT for the past two years.

Another church official, Jatna Koloi, was arrested in south Tripura last week.

Police say Koloi had received training in guerrilla warfare at an NLFT base last year.

The NLFT is accused of forcing Tripura's indigenous tribes to become Christians and give up Hindu forms of worship in areas under their control.

Last year, they issued a ban on the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja.

The NLFT manifesto says they want to expand what they describe as the kingdom of God and Christ in Tripura.

This is dynamite for those with a nose for news and a heart for India. It is dynamite because it catches the church with its pants down and has international ramifications on the role of Christian missionaries in India.

But none of the English-language national dailies even carried that easily available shocker, leave alone splashing it on the front page on April 20. Instead, they preferred to stay glued to that stupid stuff about match-fixing by Cronje & Co, some flannelled fools of India included.

Perhaps the most pathetic of the lot was that ad-heavy Mumbai daily established in 1838. Besides spotlighting the cricket peccadillo, its second lead that day was a correspondent's synthesis of views of some "intellectuals" on whether the ban should be lifted on Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. And as if to advertise its utterly absurd priorities, the newspaper's solus edit page article of the day was also about Rushdie -- in conversation with the paper's 'executive managing editor', which hilarious designation itself reveals so much about modern Indian journalism.

But what is happening in tiny Tripura is hardly hilarious. It is serious, sinister stuff which, alas, neither Parliament nor the press -- and therefore the public -- is taking note of.

One reason for this callous indifference is that Tripura is an unknown commodity to most Indians. Even during general elections, Tripura gets lost as an also-ran because, tucked away in some corner in the Northeast, it is bigger than only Sikkim and Goa among India's 25 states.

The truth is, Tripura is rich in natural gas, has tea and jute plantations and thus has the potential of being a flourishing industrial location which, along with a forest cover of more than 50 per cent, can also develop as a tourist attraction. A state of great antiquity, it was ruled by a maharaja for 1300 years before its accession to the Union of India in October 1949; it became a Union Territory in November 1957 and a full-fledged state in January 1972.

But like in the case of our other Northeastern states -- Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland -- Jawaharlal Nehru did not have adequate time or inclination to devote to the economic development and emotional integration of Tripura with the rest of India. The naïve man was more concerned about his foreign policy than about a truly national resurgence on our much-conquered, much-dismembered soil that was at last free to chart its own destiny.

That early neglect of these regions has allowed Christian missionaries to sow the seeds of conversion, insurgency and a yearning for secession. Successive Congress governments in New Delhi continued the legacy of neglect of these states where, today, there are signs of the deadly ISI too having got a toehold.

Today, the fact is that the educated Mumbai man who visits London and Paris to market his designer fabrics neither knows where Tripura is, nor cares. The corollary is the alienation of these states from the rest of the country, where executive managing editors go gaga over Rushdie, Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan, preferring to raise the alarm only if the Sangh Parivar, rather than a church, is caught with explosives. A Graham Staines killed by tribal wrath in remote Manoharpur village is earth-shaking news for them as well as for our President; the reverse is not good enough even as a filler in the inside pages. Meanwhile, unknown to the rest of India, the Baptist Church of Tripura -- set up by missionaries from New Zealand 60 years ago -- has successfully accelerated its conversions after 1980.

A particularly distressing feature of Bhaumik's report on BBC was that only a month ago the CPI-M government of Manik Sarkar had filed a report with the Union home ministry exonerating the church of all blame in abetting the tribal militancy in the state. Clearly, the 'secularist' commies did not want to give a handle to L K 'Rath yatra' Advani's so-called goons.

Nevertheless, that report -- sought by Delhi on the activities of the Christian missionaries in the context of aiding tribal militants -- had perforce noted the following telltale points:

1.1. It had expressed reservations over the role of the church, noting "certain disquieting facts regarding the activities of a certain section of missionaries".
2.2. It had referred to threats to and intimidation of Hindu tribals by      militants for practising their faith.

It is an abject commentary on the working of our Parliament that this foreboding report of the Tripura government is not demanded to be tabled whereas even the Chandrachud report on the Indian cricketers' alleged match-fixing was insisted upon the other day even though it has long been acknowledged as a whitewash job.

Since that Tripura report is couched in a fair amount of secrecy, one wonders whether it has conceded that, with 66 killed and over 200 persons abducted in the last six months, Tripura has become the most insurgency-ravaged state in the Northeast. It cannot but be that when, along with the NLFT, the All-Tripura Tiger Force also wants to drive away the non-tribals who have settled in the state after 1949.

One wonders, too, how Sarkar will justify his earlier report exonerating the church, now that, a month later, he has caught the church red-handed... for the BBC, no less.

One wonders, also, why the CPI-M in Calcutta is silent on the church playing with explosives whereas it forever finds the BJP so "barbaric and uncivilised".

One wonders, lastly, how the other "secularists" of our land would react if they were quizzed about the church's mission of converting tribals with gelatine sticks, potassium and sulphur.

Manik Sarkar, Harkishen Surjeet and Sonia Gandhi need not spend sleepless nights about formulating their answers to these knotty questions. The media, you see, is just not going to quiz them on this issue because they are cocooned in their belief that Tripura is far, far away, somewhere near Timbuktu, and where, in any case, no cricket is played.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements