(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?
Pavan Varma–his snobbery must never be mistaken for gravitas, never homespun but unmistakably Western—writes in Times of India that “fringe” and “mainstream” is one and the same thing when it comes to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He gives instances to imply that BJP is promoting sectarian violence, artistic intolerance, rewriting history and imposing public morality.
At the outset, Varma must decide whether he is a “fringe” or “mainstream” of BJP. After all Janata Dal (United) is in power in Bihar because of BJP’s support and Varma is its national general secretary. If BJP is anathema to him, why lounge with them? And conversely, by tolerating a “fringe” like him, doesn’t “mainstream” (BJP) show itself to be different and plural? How “fringe” and “mainstream” then is the same for BJP? Any idea, sirji?
A BJP MP from Maharashtra goes public in his criticism of Narendra Modi and paints the town red. Yet, this “fringe” is never pulled up by the “mainstream.” How would Varma describe this “fringe” and “mainstream” as the same?
Dr Subramaniam Swamy is a Rajya Sabha member because of thinly disguised support of the BJP. Yet, he loses no opportunity to lash out at arguably number two in the BJP government, Arun Jaitley. Why the “fringe” Swamy and the “mainstream” Jaitley aren’t the same in this instance?
In trying to impress his case, Varma treats the questioning on “Taj Mahal” as virtually blasphemy. If the spirit of questioning is met with the same “intolerance” that Varma exhibits then the world would still have been flat and earth still the centre of universe. He has objection to Islamic rule—around 800 years– being called a period of “extreme exploitation, insane barbarism, and unprecedented intolerance. “
Varma, a History student, probably hasn’t heard of Ibn Batuta who gives a contemporary account of 14th century Delhi where decapitated and mutilated bodies are strewn at the door of palace of Sultan, daily. Nor that Batuta was given scores of Hindu sex slave girls for his pleasure. Varma probably has also not heard of historian Will Durant who wrote in his Story of Civilization, “the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history.” Or more contemporary V.S. Naipaul who lamented that Hindu civilization was “mortally wounded” and “ancient Hindu India” was destroyed by these invasions.
Yet Varma wouldn’t allow us the blasphemy of questioning “Taj Mahal” or “Islamic rule.” He has problem with “fringe” Dina Nath Batra on his conviction of ancient India and the “mainstream” Narendra Modi sharing the belief. While modern giants of quantum physics today acknowledges the contribution of Vedas; if a Fields Medal (mathematics Nobel) winner concede that Sanskrit texts and ancient seventh century mathematician Brahmagupta helped his quest, Varma would like us to believe his bogus and compromised intellectualism and not these verified truth. Such moribund persons would still mock at Ram Setu even as modern science is beginning to accept its existence.
Varma would do well to examine the “fringe” and “mainstream” overlapping of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Pinaryi Vijayan in Kerala. We await his verdict on “fringe” Jignesh Mewani and “mainstream” Rahul Gandhi on caste polarization. He can enlighten us with his views on “fringe” abuses of our elected Prime Minister by “mainstream” AAP, SP and BSP leaders.
It’s time our myopic intellectuals get a ball transplant.
(Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Times of India in today’s edition has been found out in peddling a Fake News).
Times of India today published a Front Page anchor: “Controversy erupts over absence of Taj Mahal from UP tourism booklet.”
The news report, which stretched from Front Page to inside pages and had a few other screaming headlines in between the sheets, is so bogus that I wouldn’t have bothered to pick it up but for the propagandists running away with the Fake News and Social Media full of “communal” Yogi Adityanath and his nefarious designs to push the Hindutva agenda.
I won’t bore you much but here are the facts:
(a) UP government has published a tourism booklet, “Uttar Pradesh Paryatan Apar Sambhavnayen (Uttar Pradesh Tourism: It’s High Potential)” which has mentioned ongoing projects and Taj Mahal doesn’t find a mention in it.
(b) The booklet has mentioned ongoing toruism projects such as ones in Varanasi, Mathura, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Devipatan, Naimisharanya, Allahabad, Chitrakoot, Kushinagar, Bundelkhand, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra.
(c) The UP government has also added that indeed a World Bank-assisted Rs. 156-crore development project on Taj Mahal is due and would begin as soon as the Centre’s clearance is secured.
But the Fake News perpetrators and propagandists would have none of it. The fact that Taj Mahal doesn’t find a mention since the booklet is strictly about ongoing projects hasn’t cut any ice with them.
There is no gainsaying by Times of India that it has presented viewpoints of both sides. This story in itself is a non-starter. Tending a sick child in the family isn’t a neglect of the other child. If at all, the UP government deserves praise for maximizing the potential of tourism in the state. And reserving Rs 156 crores for Taj Mahal is better than all those secularist frauds could ever manage.
Thus you have all the jokers lining up and doing their acts. There is Brinda Karat, Raj Babbar, Abhishek Sanghvi and Rajeev Shukla, among others, who are horrified at this “communal” designs on Taj Mahal and how Hindutva is tearing the secular fabric of this country apart.
Times of India, for good measure, remembered Yogi Adityanath having said a few months ago that “foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of Taj Mahal, which did not reflect Indian culture.”
And frankly, why there shouldn’t be a word about Taj Mahal? A mausoleum created by an emperor who married his departed queen’s sister as soon as she was dead? I agree this is unrelated as is the fact that thousands of workers were dismembered once the mausoleum was done. There is little doubt that Taj Mahal is beautiful to behold at. But should it stop us from praising our magnificent temples? Does promoting our stunning heritage is a sign of communalism?
The propagandists don’t realize that running down India’s magnificent heritage isn’t palatable to majority in this country. Time is not far when this majority would come out and say; “To hell, with your secularism.”
Hindus have suffered for over a thousand years now. In the past they were ravaged by Muslim invaders and British imperialists. In independent India, it was the turn of modern rulers. Now Hindus are coming out of their slumber. All those who only wish ill of them would be chased down to the end of this world.