(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The vandalizing of a Hindu temple in the Walled City of the Capital on Sunday night is being watched closely, and not by the local police alone.
The site is teeming with iconic religious buildings, no better than Jama Masjid, built in 1650 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan though Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib is no less holy for the Sikhs, built in the memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur, their ninth guru, whose head was severed by Aurangzeb, a quarter century later.
With elections due in the Capital in over six months’ time, political mis-adventurism is as much feared as the simmering anger of local Hindus for the Durga temple vandalized was over 100 years old and a daily fixture for hundreds of devotees.
There is already evidence that emotions were fuelled by spreading the fake news of a Muslim’s death through mass WhatsApp forwards which led to the violence and broken idols in the vandalized temple. OpIndia has run a story where it has alleged that AAP MLA Imran Hussain had joined the mob which attacked the temple.
Indeed a trend has emerged where a Muslim mob gather within no time in the name of a stray incident and the violence spreads beyond the local limits.
The matter would not be helped by the mainstream media who would keep a lid on the incident as they usually do when Hindus are at the receiving end. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal would hold his silence as would Rajiv Gandhi or Mehbooba Mufti or Omar Abdullah and we haven’t come to Mamata Banerjee or Asaduddin Owaisi yet.
Cine celebrities – the husband-wife duo of Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, Aamir Khan or Kamal Haasan, Swara Bhaskar or Prakash Raj, Naseeruddin Shah or Anurag Kashyap—would have their timelines in twitter under the gaze of millions who are convinced their heart beats only for Muslims.
Nobody expects a Romilla Thapar or a Nayantara Sehgal to educate us on the combustible historical confluence of religious identities of the area which is overlooked by the iconic Red Fort (Lal Qila). There is also little chance that the erudition of a William Dalrymple—who has written more than one book on Delhi—or sophistry of a Ramachandra Guha making even a passing reference.
Millions of Hindus are unlikely to hit the streets across the country since their faith is intensely a personal quest and outward symbols at best are worth reverence but never violence.
This claim is not made in a flourish, as writers are wont to do, but by the evidence of hundreds of such incidents which have happened in the country in the last 30 years.
Yes, Hindu temples have been vandalized or destroyed in varying degrees around the country and if it’s a news to you, you have to blame your newspapers.
No less than Jammu & Kashmir government, much before the imposition of President’s Rule, admitted in the state assembly that “of the 438 temples in the Valley, 208 have been damaged over the years.”
In the past, during its years under the yoke of Muslim rulers, many of the historic Hindu holy sites in Ayodhya, Kannauj, Mathura, Multan, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Thanesar and Prayag were destroyed. Somnath Temple in Gujarat was sacked many a times. Kashi Vishwanath Temple was demolished on Auragzeb’s orders in 1669 and a mosque built in its place.
The ruling dispensation at the Centre is unlikely to inflame the passion even though Union Minister and Chandni Chowk MP Dr. Harsh Vardhan has paid a visit to the venue. The law would take its’ course which could even secure life imprisonment for the guilty under the prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. The accused could also be charged under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for inciting communal violence.
Three have been arrested; more would soon be nabbed as the CCTV footage clearly establishes their profiles. But as said, the incident is extremely combustible and politicians, as we know, are unlikely to let go of such an opportunity.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Indian Express can’t expect its readers—and I am one—to be polite any longer. The newspaper is telling lies, promoting communal divide and Hinduphobia for years now. And it’s happening because they are unaccountable to readers, appeased by Press bodies and handled with kid gloves by the executive and judiciary of this country.
Indian Express has published a front page screamer today in which they inform the readers that the “dairy farmer” Pehlu Khan who was “lynched” by “gau rakshaks” in Alwar two years ago has been charge-sheeted by the Police as “cow-smuggler.”
First thing first. Pehlu Khan was a “cow-smuggler” first and a “dairy farmer” later. Dairy farmers don’t buy non-milch cows and move in pitched darkness through a forest. You don’t expect readers to believe you and not the Police that he was a cow-smuggler. It was convenient for you to paint Rajasthan Police as compromised since the BJP was in power in the state in 2017. Now Congress rules the state. The bias factor is flushed down the drain.
Your harping on “gau-rakshaks” too need a firm rebuttal. Alwar is the den of cow-smugglers who number in excess of 500. Cattles are picked from the streets and homes, stuffed into vehicles and mostly slaughtered in Mewat (Haryana) which comprises mostly Meo Muslims. “Gau-Rakshaks” are activists who, police acknowledges, tip them off against cow-smugglers. Indeed, police asks “gau-rakshaks” to accompany them in raids against the cow-smugglers.
Last year, police caught three women packing 60 kilos of beef in packets in Gobindgarh, Alwar. It allegedly was of a cow slaughtered in the jungle by the owner of the house, Sakeel. Police raided two more godowns in the same area: They were stocked with 221 cowhides, not more than a month old.
In the inside pages, Indian Express has another story which details the Pehlu Khan trial in progress. It mentions the accused who have been given “clean-chit” by the police and which has “resulted in widespread criticism for the then BJP government in Rajasthan.” It mentions the case has been transferred from “Behror” to “Alwar” since the witnesses alleged they had been “fired at.”
One of the witnesses was Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad. The police later found out that the “firing” episode was fake. “No firing on the witnesses took place and the complaint was fake. There was no circumstantial evidence of firing and no such vehicle, as described by the complainant is seen in CCTV footage,” said the police.
Yet the Indian Express is on its own trip. It quotes “fake” Irshad at length in its front page story, as outraged perhaps as Pehlu’s son is. “We lost our fathers in the attack by cow-vigilantes and now we have been charged as cow-smugglers. We had hoped that the new Congress government in Rajasthan will review and withdraw the case against us.” Could you believe it! A fake narrator is being given a platform, never put to searching questions by the “Journalism of Courage.” A crime is viewed from political lenses.
Indian Express has headlined its Front Page story: “Pehlu Khan was lynched; now charge-sheeted by Congress government.” It’s inside story also has “lynching” in the headlines. Clearly, the newspaper is loathe to let go on the word “lynching.”
So let’s look at this lynching bit. For over a decade now, Alwar residents are keeping vigil on their livestock in the night given the region being a beehive of cow-smugglers. Yet there are instances of farmers who had 10 cows once are now left with none, all stolen. Says son of one such robbed farmer: “We lost our cattle and learnt a new word—mob lynching. So if you resist a thief, they will say mob lynching happened.”
Cow-owners are terrorized, fired at, killed by cow-smugglers in Alwar. Yet, a Pehlu Khan is “awarded with a flat in Greater Noida and lakh of rupees.” Another (Rakbar) was given a grant of Rs 8 lakhs. What do those who lose their cattles and lives get in return, the activists ask? The tag of cow vigilantes/”gau-rakshaks and lynchers.
There is little doubt in my mind that Indian Express has written more on Pehlu Khan than the entire media put together in the last two years. It has beefed up the story on false, motivated reporting. There is also little doubt Pehlu Khan wouldn’t have merited such a sustained coverage if he was not a Muslim. This is treating crime along the religious lines: Gau-rakshaks killing Muslim dairy farmers. “Saffron terror” against helpless minority. Hindutva brigade brutalizing peaceful Muslims. A criminal’s son, who himself has been shown to be fake by the police, is being quoted at length. Nobody condones Pehlu’s killing but he was a cow-smuggler, not an innocent.
And just imagine the incalculable harm this biased, condemnable reporting does. An Asaduddin Owaisi builds on the narrative to whip up fears of millions of Muslims. Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti chime in rhyme. Shabana Azmi descends on streets with placards. A Naseeruddin Shah buys the lie without a question. Javed Akhar, Kamal Haasan, Aamir Khan, Swara Bhaskar, Prakash Raj all rustic to nuances of agenda, if not Hinduphobic, add their bit. It shapes the “Report of Religious Persecution” in India by the United States. New York Times, Time and other beacons of Western press have pieces on intolerance in Modi’s India. And yet, merrily chugs the Hinduphobic train on the steam of an agenda.
(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).
This is a poser for you, readers. Please tell us what’s common amongst Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, Pritish Nandy, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Raveesh Kumar, Rana Ayoob, Saba Naqvi, Ramachandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Faizan Mustafa, Siddharth Vardharajan, Sadanand Dhume, Christophe Jaffrelot etc. Stumped?
Ok, let me try to suggest a few alternatives to you: (a) They all are anti-Modi; (b) They all stand for “freedom of speech”; (c) They all are for democratic, secular values; (d) they all are against totalitarianism; (e) They all are for feminism and stand for equality and dignity of women; (f) for freedom of press; (g) they are all of the above.
One option which you all must have missed and I would name now is that they all are SILENT on arrest of BJP’s young leader Priyanka Sharma by the totalitarian government of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Like they were silent when CBI officers were held as hostages; police officers under probe being shielded; violence in elections; opposition candidates unable to file their nomination papers; TMC goons forcing voters favourably in polling booths; arrests on mere chants of “Jai Shri Ram”; scuttling of Ayushman Bharat only because it’s BJP’s scheme; Refusing to pick up Modi’s phone on Fani cyclone because she doesn’t consider PM a PM; refusing to let BJP land helicopters for scheduled rally; preferring Ramzan over Durga Puja; custom officials harassed only because they found 2kg gold in the bags of wife of Mamata’s nephew; number of alleged scams etc.
I cite these instances to show how fake are these forces and the ethical and moral cloak they use to hide their agenda. But at a more urgent level, this has probably encouraged Mamata Banerjee to go berserk. Look at the issue of Priyanka Sharma. She circulates a photo-shopped image of Mamata Banerjee, imposed over a latest picture of actress Priyanka Chopra. A complaint is filed and she is sent to 14-day judicial remedy. Mind you, Priyanka Sharma hasn’t created the image, only shared it. Yet amongst thousands of such shares, she alone has been made to bear the brunt of suppression. The clear corollary is that she is made to suffer because of her political affiliation which Mamata can’t stand.
Yet these forces are silent. Even as the hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma on twitter is building up a considerable steam. Twitteratis are so upset that they are changing profile picture with the one which has landed Priyanka Sharma in trouble. “Arrest me, if you must,” is an assertion by many twitter-users under the above hashtag. Yet none of these forces are taking note. A BJP worker is jailed for sharing photo yet it’s Modi who’s a “Hitler.”
Newspapers are wrongly defined as a bridge between people and the government. In Lutyens Media, people don’t matter. Or only a certain kind matter. A Modi is hauled for uttering “Bhrashtachari No.1” while a Mamata Banerjee can get away literally with murder. Remember, she recently said she would put pebbles in soil and present it as rasogoolas so it breaks Modi’s teeth? How did these forces react? Silence.
I remember an instance when RSS ideologue Prof. Rakesh Sinha had a non-bailable warrant issued against him by West Bengal police for posting a picture of his with his mother in Mahakal temple in Ujjain. The West Bengal police acted on the complaint of an individual who felt Sinha’s “provocative” picture spoilt the communal harmony in the state! An aghast Sinha didn’t know what hit him. “I haven’t even visited West Bengal in the last two years,” a baffled Prof. Sinha had said. Where was the outrage from these soldiers of “democracy”?
The sixth phase of 2019 General Elections would be over on Sunday. Election Commission, worried over history of violence in West Bengal during elections, spread the one in the state to all seven phases. Yet, even the cover of central armed forces haven’t been much of a help. In each of the six phases so far, violence has happened; cases of rigging have been reported. Yet the names mentioned above haven’t bat even an eyelid. Shekhar Gupta, head of Editors’ Guild, instead is drooling over Mamata “fighting fire with fire, venom with venom.” A Rajdeep Sardesai is gushing and asking Mamata Banerjee the secret of her energy. (Boost, of course, you terrible).
A real Mamata Banerjee is very different from the Mother Teresa-like sari she wears. Her autobiography conveys the image of a woman who likes to play the victim card. She is deeply insecure about losing control. She is also extremely star-struck. Just look at the number of MPs, MLAs and ministers who are stars and starlets in West Bengal. A whole lot of them were recruited in 2014 General Elections. Many more have been made candidates for the 2019 General Polls. Why, she even got a few from across the border to do her bidding.
This piece is just not about naming game. The most troubling is the intimidation which any Indian citizen in any state could be subjected to by the longest arm of law in West Bengal. Judiciary hasn’t been much of a help. Nor the Centre who many believe should’ve imposed President’s Rule in West Bengal seasons ago. Even Islamic State declaring they have an emir in West Bengal hasn’t brought home the horrible truth that West Bengal could be a beehive of Islamic/Jihadists designs today.
West Bengal is slipping out of Union. All the ideals enshrined in our holy book, the Constitution, are being butchered today. The worry is, we are all being reduced to spectators. Some by design, some by helplessness. Time for a saviour. Maybe, May 23 could throw up light.
Hindus need to look at how they address the forces against them in India.
It’s alright to be outraged that a Kathua has politicians, actors and presstitutes creating a sustained surround sound while reducing a similar rape in a madarsa akin to a weather bulletin.
You see a Shekhar Gupta plaster his twitter’s wall page with the image of Kathua lawyer; Bollywood bimbos hold placards in protest; Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose convulse through dozens of tweets on Kathua but the Madarsa rape doesn’t interest these clergies of morality.
The same on Biplab Das. The cabal has woken up to Tripura and are hounding a young politician who was central to a tectonic shift in North East in a truly historic election of independent India. Das is used as an excuse to parody the Hindu gods; there is a silent acquiescing to a profane Western historian calling Rama a “pig”. Neither “Janeudhari” Rahul Gandhi nor “Why-I-Am-A-Hindu” Shashi Tharoor are offended.
This cabal would hammer away at a Biplab Das but the constant blabbering and lies of a Rahul Gandhi is met with “his-speech-is-improving” innuendo.
There is a forceful counterpoint—I would term them as “Lone Rangers” henceforth–from OpIndia and SwarajyaMag; Postcard News and PGurus; a few TV news networks stand up to the shameless; erudite voices such as David Frawley, Rakesh Sinha and firebrand Shefali Vaidya rip open this Zanus-faced cabal. Yet it all appears a mine-blast compared to the guided munitions which rain from the sky.
What’s the trick outraged Hindus are missing?
Social Media: The Left-Liberal cabal has only 8-10 voices which it has created and promoted into brands (It has to be a “creation” for they never ever take a critical look as Christo-Islamic forces). The “nexus” works with everyone promoting and shielding each other. Those voices are picked by a similar network abroad. Stray voices, similar themes and a lie is easily brushed into a truth.
Our “Lone Rangers” on the other hand rarely form a formation. At the most a retweet and a shelf-life of a few hours. Mostly, each to his own. There is no method. There is no understanding that a sum is bigger than the parts.
Television: Most of us remember a harebrained Saba Naqvi; a mangy John Dayal or a scruffy Kumar Ketkar from TV debates on Prime Time. Could you name any independent neutral voice you remember? There are dime-a-dozen forceful presences on twitter (What the heck, let me bite my own bullet and name my favourite Dirty Dozen: @mediacrooks, @nesenag, @shefvaidya @unsubtledesi @rahulroushan, @rajivmessage, @davidfrawleyved, @madhukishwar, @mvmeet, @SreeIyer1 @thejaggi and @ARanganathan72). Not all are right-wing voices; some could be overtly critical too of NDA government (like @mediacrooks, @ARanganathan and @thejaggi). Yet, either they shy away or TV networks keep them out. This must change. TV news are very stale and badly needs fresh voices. Social Media must bring out a sustained pressure on them to “open up” TV studios.
Print media: This is the difficult part. Mainstream media, especially English, is already controlled by Left-Liberal cabal. Regional media have a huge role as a counteracting force. They must seek out above independent voices and give them space.
A tactics which we could learn from Lutyens Media is how they create a narrative and then sustain it. They pick up a subject, sustain it with old and new information, new angles, helpful interviews, columns in edits and even anniversaries! And what “Lone Rangers” have done with Madarsa Rape? A customary objection and little else. Haven’t we shifted our focus away from Audrey Truschke too soon? (And don’t give me the BS that it would only make her a star).
It’s all about rallying to a cause. It alone sustains passion and reverses the narrative.
Bollywood: It has long been controlled by dubious funds and Muslim-centric ethos. A “pujari” is always shown lecherous (e.g Kanhaiya Lal or a Shakti Kapoor) while a “Muslim” character is invariably depicted as paanch-time namazi (viz a A.K. Hangal). All the right-minded Indians could do is to expose their duplicity–regularly.
The above four forces–to go with the fifth of school texts and academia–control the narrative. “Lone Rangers” need to grow muscles to counter it. Own ivory towers won’t help. As long as heart is in the right place, differences in IQs, fan-following, language quality, status must not matter. IT MUST NOT MATTER.
“Lone Rangers” clearly suffer from resources. But for their toil and time, sweat and passion, there is little in support. Most of them sacrifice their working hours or leisure time with family to do what they feel is necessary for India’s future. They need be supported, not judged through prejudicial, hierarchical lenses.
These voices need be sustained; be called over to seminars and panel discussions; be invited to educational institutions for lectures; be part of alternative litfests. I have been a journalist all my life and trust me, voices mentioned about talk more sense than my own discredited professional community.
Lack of time ought not to be any excuse. Hit the road in protests on your temples, education and religion. Don’t back off. Only those who assert their identity, retain their identity.
A call must go out to corporate houses. Look at how The Wire gets its funds. They are given funds by a foundation which has trustees such as Aamir Khan, Azim Premji, Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, TN Ninan. If you can’t spare time to write or debate, at least spare change from your pockets, big or small, and make a difference. Or remain deluded with the story that a hard-working tortoise wins race in the end.
(This piece can also be read in NewsBred)
Indian Express of February 25, 2016 is a collector’s item. It’s imaginative, creative and like all such things it takes great liberty in dispensing with facts.
It’s imaginative for it gives a screaming full-page bottom-spread headline: “Quoting wisdom from 40 BC, misquoting Kashmiri poet (see the image),” even though there was no misquote from the person in question, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Union Urban Development Minister. (More on it later).
It’s creative for it picks an exhortation for nationalism from ex-serviceman into a misleading headline: “Latest Wisdom: Bring a tank on JNU campus to instil nationalism in students.” (More on it later).
It’s factually wrong for it it splashes a three-decker headline: “Prof. shares piece on Khalid, ABVP burns effigy, blocks class” even as there is no mention in the report how ABVP “blocked” any student or students from attending one or any class (More on it later).
There is also the lead headline: “Smriti shines the light of treason” which could make a professor of English opt for a new paper roll in his toilet. But when agenda is an issue, language is a minor indiscretion.
All these are front-page headlines. None of them is in single column. Indeed, if there is any story other than concerning JNU row on front page, it’s a single column four paragraphs on forthcoming budget. The newspaper didn’t have space for rail budget due next day; the water crisis which has left the Capital parched or even the jat agitation where casualty is 28 by now.
What chance then there is for you to read about the unfortunate plane crash in Nepal which killed all 23 passengers aboard? The newspaper in its wisdom apparently believes that a “babu” unable to sleep at night because of worrying “mahaul”: (“Minister watching, Minority panel official says: Can’t sleep at night, mahaul -climate- worrying”) is worthy of a four-column display. Or that a retired octogenarian Supreme Court judge’s opinion on “sedition” is worth a second lead story.
All this concerned the Page One or Front Page. Let’s now move on to other pages:
Page 2: All stories barring two again concern the issues surrounding the JNU affair.
Page 3: Just one neutral story manages to find space on again a JNU-dominated page.
Page 4: By far the most neutral page in that just about half the page is on JNU affair. Things possibly are looking up.
Page 5: Darkness again. The entire page is devoted to JNU
Page 6: Not a single JNU story. Possibly the agenda is exhausted after all.
Page 7: Not a chance. The Jat agitation is blamed on—you guessed it right—JNU. This story takes up more than half the page.
Page 8: Again a page where you find JNU, along with Rohith’s death, filling up all corners.
Page 9: It’s again JNU and students all over.
Page 10: The entire page is advertisements and it apparently has broken the spell.
You can’t be serious that there is no JNU representation in the hollowed edit-oped spread (Page 14-15).
In case, by now, you are wondering whether I am mistaking any JNU Express newspaper with our “Journalism of Courage,” I can only disappoint you. It is indeed your revered newspaper. I can assure you though that you would only find business, arts and sports in their designated pages. There is no Mahesh Bhatt vowing the make his next movie on JNU affair or Indian cricket refusing to play for they are upset with JNU affair. (Oh my god, I might just have given them an idea!).
There is a saying: If your head is in the sand, your butt is in the air.
But let’s return to the unfinished “more-on-it-later” theme which I have mentioned at the start of the column.
Quoting wisdom from 40 BC, misquoting Kashmiri poet: The story begin with scarcely concealed contempt for Smriti Irani for having invoked a quote from 40 BC (they call it BCE now, you silly, unless you feel all your readers are Christians) to justify something in 2016.
(Ms Irani: you said you didn’t want to quote any Hindu sage lest be mistaken for a communal leaning. But quote you might anyone, you would still be up for ridicule).
But our real thrust is “Misquoting Kashmiri poet.” For the life of me, I couldn’t see how Naidu has misquoted this poet. The news item itself says that Naidu mistook it for a criticism of Modi government.
So the newspaper doesn’t see any difference between “misquote” and “mistook.” Quote comes with quotation marks. Mistook is a matter of interpretation. To replace one with another is mischievous.
Ironically, the newspaper itself misquotes on just the story above this one. It quotes a disgruntled minority commission additional secretary for saying “situation in the country is not allowing him to sleep peacefully,” even though newspaper admits that the official “reportedly” said it. The reporter’s source must be more than impeccable for a description from a third party he has deemed fit to put in quotes.
Latest wisdom: Bring a tank on JNU campus to instill nationalism in students: The story says a delegation of ex-servicemen met the JNU vice-chancellor and suggested ways to have a memorial on martyred soldiers inside the campus. Among the ways to make it happen, “the university is considering a wall of fame, showcasing a military tank or artillery…”
The import of this statement is laudatory. Still the newspaper’s headline makes it sound as if live tanks would roll down inside the JNU campus (a la Tiananmen Square in China in 1989).
The newspaper also buries in the end a reaction to US envoy Richard Verma’s comment on the “freedom of speech”. “(We) Challenge Verma to allow celebration of Osama (bin Laden) in any university in the US,,.”
Prof shares piece on Khalid, ABVP burns effigy, blocks class: The piece begins with the sentence that ABVP disrupted classes at the Lucknow University.
The story doesn’t have any mention of which classes were disrupted. It just mentions that students protested outside the sociology department. So, how and which class was “blocked ?”
It’s such an in-your-face Indian Express edition that the readers must brace themselves for more of it in days, months and years to come. (God helps the rail budge tomorrow). If it is not Dadri killing or “intolerance debate” or Aamir Khan’s concern or JNU, it would be something else it would pick up to raise the hackles on communalism and intolerance under the Modi government.
We would be watching. We would urge the newspaper to be its own conscience and live up to its reputation of “journalism of courage.”