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Anil Dharker is being economical with the truth and more

Author: Ashok Chowgule
Date: February 16, 2012

In an article titled “Why write Satanic stuff when it’s not reallymaterial?”, available at:

http://www.firstpost.com/blogs/why-write-satanic-stuff-when-its-not-really-material-212426.html

Anil Dharker contends that the objectionable portion of the book “Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie should have been edited out, either by the author or the publisher. Dharker’s contention is that the rest of the book stands on its own, and would still be a wonderful piece of literature.

I have not read the book, nor do I intend to do so, primarily because the content does not interest me. So, I cannot comment on the contention of Dharker as far as the merit of the book is concerned, with our without the offending portion. As far as editing out is concerned, I do see some merit in it, since it is my opinion that freedom does carry with it certain responsibilities.

But that is not the purpose of what I wish to convey in the headline that I have chosen. In the course of the article, Dharker chose to give a personal example to indicate how one could handle situations which could create a problem. In this context, he writes as follows:

QUOTE
When I was Editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, we carried an article on how myth-making actually diminishes the achievements of historical figures: by making them super-heroes, their feats become ordinary, whereas, if you see them as human, their achievements seem remarkable.

In the course of the article, the author – a scholar on the subject – stated a historical fact about Chattrapati Shivaji which became such a political hot potato that the Maharashtra state assembly proceedings resulted in pandemonium. Riots – fanned by politicians of course – were foreseen, all police leave was cancelled, etc.

Sharad Pawar, who was then the CM, rang to request an apology that would defuse the tension. The situation was, on the face of it, absurd because none of us saw a problem in the offending passage, but did I want blood on the streets to uphold the principle of freedom of speech? Especially when the ‘offending’ passage was in no way central to the argument?

A carefully worded apology – absolutely truthful, but not retracting the article – was issued. (‘The writer holds Shivaji in great esteem…Did not mean to hurt people’s feelings etc.’) Things calmed down quickly.

UNQUOTE

This is a remarkable piece of chicanery, meaning the use of deception or subterfuge to achieve one’s purpose.

The article in question was titled Myths and Supermyths, and published in the Illustrated Weekly of India, April 10-16, 1993. Dharker would like the readers of the First Post article to believe that he was actually trying to place Shivaji in a light where his true value to the society would be better appreciated. He had no such intention, since he was actually trying to minimize the importance of Shivaji, and belittling the latter’s achievements.

The primary purpose of the 1993 article can be summarized in the following paragraph from it: “History is a luxury that a colonised population on the threshold of freedom cannot afford. It thus becomes imperative for a nascent nation to produce a costume drama for itself, in lieu of the past. The nation’s origins and antecedents are explained away by means of a series of tableaux vivants, splendidly mounted by adept ideologues within the proscenium of mythology. The first function of this nationalist mythology is the creation of exemplars, role models. For this purpose, cultural heroes and heroines are abstracted from the intricate cross-weave of their original context. Deprived of the po¬litical and cultural specificities of which they were actually the creatures, they are converted into larger-than-life figures.”

Dharker says that the author of the 1993 article, Nancy Adjania, is a scholar on Shivaji. This is not just being economical with the truth, but an outright lie. Adjania, at the time, was a 21-year old college student, studying English. She had not written about Shivaji before, nor has she written anything later. And the subject of her study in college would have kept her away from Shivaji, and the others mentioned in the article.

Dharker says that the ‘offending’ portion of the article was not central to the main theme, and so he had no problem with offering an apology. Clearly, Dharker thinks that none of his readers would remember what the article was all about, and so indulging in chicanery would allow him to use a supposedly balancing incident to justify what he is saying about Rushdie. The central theme of the 1993 article was the paragraph I have quote above. And, incidentally, to justify this theme, not only Shivaji was demonized, but also two other heroes of our history, the Rani of Jhansi and Rana Prithviraj Chavan.

To get a then current view of what the article by Adjania was all about, kindly visit

http://archive.cscs.res.in/MediaArchive/audience.nsf/b1bc9409c64d85a06525698d0025dc3c/
7f3927c7203163806525725d003e9323/$FILE/A0100290.pdf

This is a photocopy of an article “Hero Worship” with a subtitle as “Discrediting Shivaji lands The Illustrated Weekly in trouble in Maharashtra”. The author is V Gangadhar, one who would consider himself as a secularist, and would not have any ideological differences with Dharkar. It was published in the now defunct weekly magazine “Sunday”, dated May 2, 1993.

Dharker is a person who, I understand, is a window to what is happening in India to people who are not well versed in any language other than English. I also understand that his views are sought by people from outside the country to help them understand the present day India. He seems to have a poor opinion of the people of India, and thus he is bound to present the country in a negative manner.

Dharker is not the only one who is indulging in this programme. The tragedy is that as they are doing it, they are making a living from the very people whom they are demonizing. They seem to get some sort of perverse pleasure in this effort.

It is necessary for Dharker, and others like him, to abandon their evil programme, and make an honest effort to make their material ends meet.
 
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