(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Millions of Indians mourn such tragedies. But those vocal, be it on print, web or TV, view it from religious prisms: The divide is between Muslims-unsafe vs. Hindus- wronged. Politicians and media profit, not the nation.
The question today is: Can India afford to be divided along the communal lines? If it comes to pass, who should be held responsible? Could India as a nation then survive?
We have a prototype answer to all these questions. India was divided along the communal lines in 1947; Those who created divisions, in this case British, were responsible; India lost its’ eastern and western limbs in its quest for survival.
Do we want a repeat of it in the near future? If not, how this slide need be stopped? Should another round of Partition, at the cost of millions killed, raped and displaced, must happen again?
It all begins from those who set the narrative. British did it in decades leading to the independence: Assembly elections were held along the communal lines: Muslim candidate for Muslim constituency. Then began the chorus: what would happen to minority Muslims once we leave the Indian shores. Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were thus armed to severe India of its limbs. The resultant tragedy of Partition has few parallels in human history.
India has survived another Partition thus far. But the same narrative is reappearing: Muslims are insecure; their culture, language and religion is in danger; majority Hindus would be the oppressors.
If it were the British who fed this narrative in pre-independence era, its media and break-India forces which is fanning the fire in our times. As oppressor Hindus was the theme before the Partition, so is the theme in our times.
Occasionally, the likes of Sadhvi Pragya and Giriraj Singh play into the hands of such forces. At times, “saffron terror” is cooked up like it nearly did in the tragic 26/11 in Mumbai. Lynchings become part of leitmotif to stoke fears of oppressive Hindu majority.
Celebrities and cinestars jump in to serve their eternal desire of being in news. Writers and scientists sign petitions in orchestrated campaigns. Data, like Lokniti-CSDN, survey how many Muslims and Christians have voted for BJP; Castes are divided into sub-castes and further sub-castes as Mayawatis, Akhilesh Yadavs and Lallu Prasads feed themselves fat on its harvests. Important magnets, like Western media and prized economists, all are part of the ecosystem which want India to go up in flames.
Hindus and Muslims do have different language and culture. But both are Indians. And a majority do see themselves as Indians. The minority are Asaduddin Owaisi who incites with the call of Karbala or Niranjan Jyoti who divides with “ramzada” vs “haramzada” quip. Hang them out to dry. As you do with the despicable dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies who are at the beck and call of divisive forces (read casteist, Left and dynastic parties); and foreign-funded NGOs
Let this be a checklist for Muslims:
- We have always been made to feel insecure even as more people greet us on Eid than those who abuse us; (b) That there is no word as “minority” in Indian constitution, all are Indians; (c) That if “secularism” means denying a Muslim destitute woman (Shah Bano) her rights and reversing the judgment of Supreme Court, then such secularism must be exposed; (d) That if Hindu consolidation has happened around emotive Ram Temple issue, it was stoked by Congress and not BJP/RSS; (e) That for every Akhlaq, Pehlu and Junaid, there are tens and dozens of Hindu victims at the hands of Muslims which go unreported; (f) That if BJP doesn’t opt for a Muslim candidate, it doesn’t matter as long as the elected representative is fair to everyone in his constituency: be it roads, electricity, toilets, gas, health, education, all is available to Muslims as it is to Hindus; (g) That if Muslims are economically backward, it’s not because of Hindus but perhaps the reason lies in lack of scientific temper in Madarsa education; and less than fair freedom to women.
Let this be a checklist for Hindus:
- Indian constitution doesn’t favour Muslims; it allows them to run their institutions THEMSELVES not by the government; (b) If Muslims are subsidized for Haj, so are Hindu pilgrims provided for in magical Kumbh melas; (c) True, Indian history is distorted and neither Congress nor Left intellectuals have been fair to Hindus but it’s no excuse to substitute that anger against a common Muslim; (d) True, a dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies only report crimes against Muslims, often hoax, but they have been left thoroughly exposed in the last five years; their credibility in tatters thanks to a vigorous social media; (e) Congress and Left, two parties who stoked fears in Muslims and Dalits, are today the outcasts of Indian political system; (f) That Hindu consolidation must not happen at the cost of Muslim alienation: that we don’t want new nations in Bengal or Kerala or Tamil Nadu and its’ attendant costs; (g) That for every Zakir Naik and Burhan Wani, there is also a Muslim boatman who gives up his life but saves tourists from drowning in Jhelum in Srinagar.
We have a choice to make if want to be Hindus or Muslims or Indians. We ought to ask ourselves if we don’t mind another Partition and its horrific cost. We ought to boycott a Naseeruddin Shah or a Kamal Haasan; A Javed Akhtar or a Shabana Azmi; A Swara Bhaskar or a Prakash Raj who are selective in their outrage. The same ought to happen to a Niranjan Jyoti or Asaduddin Owaisi. We ought to outcast a Shekhar Gupta or a Rajdeep Sardesai; a Sagarika Ghose or a Barkha Dutt if the only crime they see is against Muslims; We need to stop an Indian Express or The Hindu from entering into our drawing rooms if all they can see is crime against a Dalit or a Muslim.
These are small forces. Pygmies in front of a nation of 1.30 billion. Should these handful be allowed to decide if we stay together or apart? Would you blame them if tens and thousands of us are butchered and raped in Partition 2.0?
Muslims need be confident this is their India too. Before you blame others, you must ask if your education and matter of equality to women etc need a relook. As Maulana Azad once addressed them: You can’t be drowned and defeated by anyone else but yourself. Don’t hide behind the cloak of “minority” and “secularism”. Don’t seek privileges; you are no different than any other Indian. Rely on self. Those who speak for your safety and stoke your fears, couldn’t care less for you.
Take time out to read the Indian Express and The Hindu of this morning (December 28, 2018). Instead of disgust and horror for the 10 accused arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges of an imminent Islamic State-module inspired operation, the report in these two national dailies could make you cry and hug them in sympathy.
Indian Express, in its second lead on front page, shows NIA as nothing better than bumbling idiots—a la Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther movies –through the reactions it managed from the relatives of the accused. So the main accused, Mufti Suhail, in the words of his relatives, was “unlikely” to teach in a madrasa as NIA made him out to be. In the same breath, the newspaper claims that none of Suhail’s relatives and neighbours in Amroha knew much about him since he shifted from Delhi only a month ago. Why quote someone who knows nothing about the subject? Why go to a Doctor of Literature (DLit) when you are suffering from a rectum disorder?
The newspaper then quotes the elder brother of an “accomplice” of Suhail who has also been arrested. The elder brother of Mohammad Irshad says the latter has been arrested just because Suhail’s number was in his mobile. So NIA, for god’s sake, shut up your assertion that Irshad, an autorickshaw driver, was helping Suhail in hideouts to keep the explosives and bomb materials. The man (Suhail) about whom nobody in Amroha knows a thing, has his number with a local autorickshaw-driver but that doesn’t get the newspaper’s antennea up.
And by the way, did the newspaper stop to question itself why a man who had nothing to do with Amroha, who had lived all his adult life in Delhi, was doing in the small town? Why he had rented a house? If he didn’t teach in a madrasa, what really he wanted to do in Amroha where he interacted with no one? Express could’ve asked NIA to name the specific madrasa where Suhail was teaching on the Hakim Mahtabuddin Hashmi Road in Amroha. It could’ve said that NIA hasn’t replied to its question. But no, Sohail and Irshad are given a “clean chit” in the eyes of the readers, through their relatives.
The newspaper supplies the same “whitewash” to most other accused courtesy their relatives. Some were “god-fearing”; some “scared even of monkeys”; some were just working in mosques and not “Imam” of a Jama Masjid in Baksar, Hapur as NIA claimed accused Saqib Iftekhar to be.
The biggest outrage the newspaper has reserved is for NIA’s claim to have recovered rocket-launcher in its mop-up operations. It quotes the father of Raees Ahmed who’s been arrested on the charges for keeping explosives and rocket-launchers in his welding shop: “It’s nothing but a hydraulic jack used in trolleys…The NIA has confused it for rocket launcher.”
Thus the reputation of NIA, India’s foremost Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency, lies tattered in the eyes of the newspaper’s readers. Never mind that NIA has an enviable conviction percentage of 94.4% in trials. Never mind the extensive swoop which NIA enacted in one go on 17 locations, making 10 arrests related to terrorism planned against political leaders, security and government installations. Or that the raids yielded a dozen pistols, 150 rounds of ammunition, 112 alarm clocks, 91 mobile phones and 134 SIM cards and lakhs of cash. About 25 kg of bomb-making materials for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) has been seized from the operations. All the readers are left with is an eye-watering account on the innocent, falsely-accused, scared-to-the-bones youths who are now under arrest on terrorism charges.
Let’s turn our attention now to The Hindu which has multiple stories on arrested accused running beyond its front page. Just take a note on these mutli-column headlines before we delve into its’ contents: “I believe my son is innocent”; “Sleuths took away inverter batteries, circuits”; “Have more Hindus as friends than Muslims.” Have more Hindu friends than Muslims? I mean what this communal headline has to do with charges of terrorism? So a thousand Hindu followers on Facebook is good enough a character certificate if you’re an accused terrorist?
You have just been told through Indian Express that the “rocket-launchers” were actually “hydraulic jacks” ( in the words of father of accused Raees Ahmed). The Hindu has another take on it. The counsel for the accused, M.S. Khan says the supposed “rocket-launchers” were actually a tractor’s power nozzles. (Come on, you father and the counsel. Please be on the same page. Could it be that the bottle through which we launch “rocket fire-cracker” during Deepawali is the one NIA is mistaking for “rocket-launchers?”).
It’s scary the support and whitewashing the dangers to our society receive from those who have access to our ears and mind. So Burhan Wani was the son of a school-teacher; the Bhima-Koregaon activists arrested were not urban-naxals but actually the voice of freedom, equality and dignity in society (never mind the honourable courts keep siding with the police and investigating agencies on the matter). While these propagandists deny the evidence in plain eyesight, they lose little time in dubbing an unfortunate murder—like the one of Gauri Lankesh—as the work of right-wingers even before the agencies have got down to work.
What’s the message that’s being conveyed to Muslims of this country: Before you start feeling guilty and sheepish about the act a few men within your own community, you could flash these newspapers to your detractors about the “frame-up” that’s being perpetrated by the Indian state through its agencies against Muslims. Feel self-justified and triumphant. Or carry a sense of perpetual victimization. Wouldn’t it make Muslims feel alien and hostile? Isn’t it a recipe for widening gulf which could keep India torn and on the edge of a Civil War?
It definitely raises questions why our newspapers are evoking sympathy when the issue is as grave as the advent of Islamic State-like activity on our land which could cause mayhem. What else are family and relatives supposed to say about those arrested on charges of terrorism? Do give space to them but the humane touch must be balanced with sobering reality. Why seek out their vomits without logical counter questions? Who gains if India loses is a logical puzzle a reader is left with.
Indian Express is letting itself down so badly on the ethics of journalism that it’s a cause for concern for its loyal readers, more so since the Press Council of India (PCI) and Editors’ Guild appears an acquiescing party due to its silence.
Indian Express has a bottom-spread on its Monday’s Delhi edition where excerpts of film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj’s comments at Express Adda are quoted. The headline states: “TV News comedy circus…maybe Cinema must tell truth” (attributed to Bhardwaj).
However, Bharadwaj’s quote in the text-copy of the story states: “…present-day journalism…feels like a comedy show, it’s like a comedy circus.” Nowhere, Bhardwaj mentions TV news. He mentions present-day journalism. The readers have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj didn’t have Indian Express itself in mind, for all you know.
I suggest readers to read the full story. Real quotes are added and subtracted to expand or reduce the newspaper’s own agenda/interpretation. For example, see this para below:
That was one of Bollywood’s most political filmmakers, Vishal Bhardwaj, opening up at the Express Adda Friday on why the industry hesitates to speak up when political controversies impact mainstream films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil, which faced calls for bans due to the casting of a Pakistani actor, and Padmavat, which withstood protests for its portrayal of Rajput queen Padmavati.
I have no way of knowing if Bhardwaj did take the name of films such as Ae Dil E Mushkil or Padmavat to make his point (for the full interview would only appear later this week) or whether the newspaper is adding this name to buttress its point/agenda. The above para of the newspaper insinuates he did though I seriously doubt so.
Same is the case in another front page story Indian Express has on Monday, headlined: Godhra line in book: FIR against four for “misleading students on beloved PM.” This is on an academic book in circulation in Assam.
Just looking at this headline, it would appear the state is trying to muzzle the freedom of speech, neutrality of academic-text books, all because PM Narendra Modi has been portrayed in poor light.
Indian Express, in its report, doesn’t touch the concerned “line in book” till they are in the second-half of the story. The first half is all about a “well-known…90-year-old renowned publisher” and a description of three authors who have been “heads of political science department” of established colleges in Assam. (Shades of a certain retired son of a headmaster in the Valley by the name of Burhan Wani).
So here comes the relevant para on Godhra in the book which offended a couple of citizens enough to file an FIR against the authors and publishers:
“In this incident (burning of coach) 57 persons died including women and children. On the suspicion that Muslims were behind the incident, next day Muslims were mercilessly attacked in different parts of Gujarat. This violence continued for over a month and over a thousand people were killed. Most of those killed were Muslims. Significantly at the time of the violence, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was a silent spectator. Morever, there were allegations that the state administration helped the Hindus.”
Now let’s look at the FIR which states: “It’s well-known to you that Special Investigation Team (Sit) under the supervision of Supreme Court gave clean-sheet on PM Narendra Modi (sic) dated September 12, 2011, on the issue.”
Aren’t the complainants appear rightful on all counts to go ahead and file the FIR? By terming Modi government as silent spectator, aren’t authors suggesting complicity even as the Supreme Court gave a verdict to the contrary, giving clean chit to Modi, no less than seven years back? Doesn’t such mis-representation would only potentially lead to Hindu-Muslims tensions, may be communal clash and certainly a polarization between the two largest religious groups in the country? And what about the innocent children who are thus poisoned by half-truths? In a state, as sensitive to Hindu-Muslim polarization as Assam is?
Not a day passes by when I don’t read such reports in Indian Express which makes me squirm in my chair. As a practicing journalist, I see one guiding hand behind the reporters, sub-editors, headline-givers and positioning of stories on front-pages making them work in sync in antipathy to BJP/RSS. Whosoever this hand is: An activist editor, his employer and his leanings, or the forces keeping the newspaper in an ideological bind or otherwise, the fact is, it is anything but journalism. And that’s a betrayal most heinous to its readers by any newspaper in circulation.