(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If I was the editor of London Times, god forbids, and had sought out my New Delhi correspondent Hugh Tomlinson in my cabin, it would cross my mind how he would make a living outside the News Building in London.
I am afraid I don’t know how good he is with his arms or legs, for as far as his mind is concerned, there is enough in his latest piece to suggest it’s in need of attention.
He has chosen to write about the proposed “Central Vista” in India’s Capital which would be at least six years in the making and would house India’s parliamentarians besides carving out a new residence for its prime minister.
Somehow, he has quoted £2.4 billion as the cost of new Central Vista which is nearly three times the proposed expenditure. I mean I distinctly remember the concerned Indian minister to have pegged the figure at £800 million. Who is Hugh’s source? I need to ask for he hasn’t bothered with his source in the piece. Not even “according to a tea-seller outside the ministry who refused to be named.” I know pen-pushers are grumpy on their salary; and pissed at any penny the government spends. But even lies need be palatable. You can’t describe the fly-in-your-tea as a new delicacy.
Then Hugh shouts out that the expense involves the one on Indian prime minister Mr Modi’s new residence. I mean it would only be ready after 2024 when Modi would’ve finished his second term. Who knows the people’s choice thereafter? Unless of course a bird has hummed the future in Hugh’s ears. And if indeed it’s a prediction, how would he approach Rahul Gandhi after dooming his prospects? Burning bridges from both ends, I say.
By now, I know figures are not Hugh’s strong points. To his eyes, India’s parliament is almost a century old. It’s actually seven years outside since it began functioning in 1927. As a Briton, he ought to remember that all it took was seven years of World War II to terminate the British Empire of centuries. It was enough to move the nerve centre of world from London to Washington.
Hugh, I would tell him, do work on your history. I mean you find the Parliament House most viewed structure after Taj Mahal. It can’t be that you haven’t been to Gateway of India. Or the magnificent view of Rashtrapati Bhavan from India Gate has escaped you. You also declare with flourish that the new Central Vista would “consign to history” the Parliament House. The latter in fact would only be turned into a museum.
A few visits to library—I mean not the one of our own in The Times which hides more than it reveals– would let you know that in today’s free world, words such as imperialism and slavery are cussed terms.
When this new city we call New Delhi came up, built by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, and which led to creation of the Parliament and the Viceroy’s House (Rashtrapati Bhavan) among others, India’s native leaders, later its founding fathers, viewed it as permanent edifice of colonialism. Nehru had mocked it as the “chief temple where the High Priest officiated” while Mahatma Gandhi is rumoured to have wanted to turn the Viceroy’s House into a hospital.
Baker was the disciple of arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Baker’s words “…People must raise themselves to liberty, it is a blessing that must be earned…” are still engraved outside New Delhi’s secretariats. This view was the guiding public face of colonialism, propounded by men such as John Ruskin which justified centuries of genocide and pillage by the British around the world. Lutyens had viewed the Taj Mahal, which Hugh so admires, as “small but very costly beer.” It can’t be that it has escaped Hugh’s attention the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were attacked in Portland recently . Today’s US is hell-bent on discarding racists and slavery-champions, what if they were its founding fathers.
Hugh clearly suffers from Hinduphobia. I squirmed in my seat at his words that the present move is “desecration of India’s heritage” amidst the growing fears that “Modi aims to sweep away India’s secular foundations and establish a Hindu theocracy.” I mean even by prejudicial yardstick of The Times, this was too far out.
For India to establish a Hindu theocracy, it would have to drive 200 Indian Muslims into Indian Ocean. It would have to deny voting rights to millions; dump periodic elections and burn up the Indian Constitution. Modi could perhaps all do this if he could transport a billion Hindus to some other planet which is habitable but has not a single other soul.
Who gave Hugh this idea? I hope not one among the 100 “historians” and “architects” who have written a letter to Delhi’s planners recently. How do you bring people into decision-making? By referendum? And keep the voters-in-favour waiting for four years. a la Brexit?
The official word to me seems pretty sound. The 500-odd member of parliaments (MPs) don’t have their own chambers to meet or attend a stream of visitors. Where do they handle secret documents that the MPs are required to read and refer? Where do they peer through volume of committees-related work? Is the present Parliament safe on hazards such as “fire” and “earthquake-resistant”? Does it have basic public facilities and ample parking? Do we want people to take call on such specialized matters? Don’t elections in democracy mean that the work of people has ended and the job of government has begun?
It is India’s money and India’s choice. They have every right to vision an India of tomorrow. If it feels the new Central Vista would lead to better coordination among parliamentarians, cabinet, the President and their attendant staff for efficient running of the country, who is me or Hugh to knit the dog’s hair?
The one thing I would grant Hugh is that he didn’t give the headline. Next in my chamber is the sub-editor who put “vanity scheme” in the headline. Who’s vanity? Modi’s? Where’s such a reference in the text?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
There is little gain-saying that Dalits have not suffered in India. They have been raped, murdered, discriminated against, distanced from wells and temples and that’s largely because upper-castes kept up the social barriers against them. The same utensils or glasses for both were out of question.
Thus you can’t quarrel with an Arundhati Roy (minorities-Dalits-living-in-fear); Shekhar Gupta (Dalits must suffer as they have over the millenniums and keep mouth shut); Rajdeep Sardesai (Access is not for Dalits); Barkha Dutt (the plight of Dalit women) or Sagarika Ghose (Upper-castes were bigger oppressors than the British) for they can back their claim with evidence. You also can’t pick a quarrel with the BBC (Dalit killed for eating in front of upper-castes); New York Times (Dalits scalped); Washington Post (Lower caste chamar slur); or The London Times (Dalits and discrimination on horse-riding) for highlighting the divide. You also can’t fault with politicians like Sonia Gandhi (horrified on Dalit atrocities); Rahul Gandhi (Dalits are beaten and crushed); Priyanka Gandhi (Dalits insult can’t be tolerated); Mamata Banerjee (Organized crime against Dalits); Akhilesh Yadav (Dalits suppressed); Arvind Kejriwal (BJP has insulted Dalits); Asaduddin Owaisi (I ask Dalits to stop suffering) or Pinaryi Vijayan (Anti-Dalit politics by BJP) for they arguably are worried about the society. The angst of Dalit leaders like Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar and Chandrashekhar Azad could also be understood. They are pained at the wrongs against their brothers and sisters. I may be missing the instances of Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, The Wire, The Scroll, The Quint, The Print, The Squint, The Caravan, The Huffington Post etc but you get the drift.
Now let me narrate a couple of instances of this week. Both instances occurred in Uttar Pradesh. In Jaunpur, houses of Dalit families were set ablaze by Muslims in Batheti village on Tuesday. According to police, the clashes erupted after two groups of Dalits and Muslim boys fought over cattle grazing. The village head tried to intervene but to no effect. Muslim boys returned with a bigger force, stones were pelted and these Muslims indulged in arson and set fire to Dalit huts.
The second incident happened in Azamgarh on Friday. Sixteen Muslim youths attacked a group of Dalit men under Maharajganj police station. Twelve Dalit men were seriously injured. It occurred after Dalits objected to Muslim boys harassing some girls. One 22-year-old Sudhir was slashed with a sharp-edged weapon. Eleven others were badly beaten with sticks and stones.
A rabid Muslim, anti-Hindu or anti-BJP person would claim that this is a manufactured narrative. That this Muslim violence wasn’t because of caste-divide, never mind a few upper-caste violent acts against Dalits could similarly be over petty matters. Or they could ramble on what do you expect in a state of Yogi Adityanath. Or that these innocent Muslims have been framed by partisan police. Or that the state government has got another stick to beat the innocent, hapless Muslims with. That Hindu elements might have spread rumours for Dalits to confront Muslims and in consequence suffered physical and material losses. Or that this piece by me is a whataboutery to hide what regularly happens against Dalits by upper-caste Hindus. You could also cite the recent US State Department Report to shame present India. You could work out a few more excuses I might have missed out.
Let’s say I don’t contest such an argument. Let’s for a moment concede them the point. That these two specific incidents of Muslims against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh defy credulity. That Muslims can never beat Dalits.
But the thrust of this piece is above this narrow binary. It is addressed to millions of Indians in this country, who are more than a Hindu or a Muslim, more than a BJP or a Congress, more than an Indian Express/The Hindu or a Republic TV which represent the two opposite sides of the spectrum. These Indians who hold the future of India in their neutrality.
And the thrust is: Have you heard a Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, the Gandhis, Yadavs, Mamatas, Owaisis, Kejriwals and Vijayans say a word in condemnation against these two horrific incidents against Dalits? Or even from Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar or Chandrashekhar Azad, the latter who often threatens to fast-unto-death in the cause of his Dalit community? Or Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who wipe the tears of Dalits and photo-op with lunch on the same plate? The Wire, The Scroll, The Print, The Quint, Caravan or Huffington Post outraged? And if not, next time you quote them would you be honest and accept that these illustrious could be prejudiced and don’t mind the ill of our beloved country? Or that you are prepared to sacrifice your next generation as long as you score a point on a Facebook debate?
If these icons in media and politics fail this neutrality test, would you confess that they could be biased. That they are not neutral. That they could be propagandists. That they could be dangerous for society. For unity of India. Maybe paid for by forces which want India broken. For “Jewel of India” which is still lusted for by foreign cabals. Those who thought India would break up in pieces and are distressed that it has survived 70-odd years and practices the best of democratic traditions?
I don’t suggest you believe me. It doesn’t matter if I find currency with your or not. All I suggest is that next time you read these sources, pause. PAUSE AND REFLECT. Notice if you see any bias or prejudice. Hold them under microscope and see if you still find them neutral. If they fail the test, don’t quote them next time. Make them honest; and not clink glasses on your back for having once against fooled you.