An Action Replay of Vajpayee's Times
Arjun Sampath in Tamil Nadu must be the happiest man now. He would never have imagined his name in the front page of the largest English newspaper in India. But he has made to its front page with his one liner: “Those who eat beef should go to Pakistan”. Sampath heads a one-man outfit called Indu Makkal Katchi (Hindu people’s party) — a letterhead entity. Now, thanks to the leading English daily, he is one of the intolerant Hindu faces in India and outside. See how things have moved in the last few weeks to make non-entities the new and dark faces of India.
Dadri to Blackening
In a barbaric act, a Muslim in Dadri village in UP was lynched because he was believed to have slaughtered a cow. Look at the facts and how the discourse went. UP is ruled by the ‘secular’ Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav whose son Akhilesh Yadav is the Chief Minister. No one blames the UP government or questions Mulayam or Akhilesh. ‘India’s plurality in danger under Modi’, charge the media, opposition and scores of Sahitya Akademi award winning writers, whose target is Modi. A month before, in Karnataka ruled by the ‘secular’ Congress, someone, who the media regards as rationalist, was killed. No one blamed Siddaramaiah or Sonia. Hindu forces are responsible, said the very intellectuals, media and opposition again all pointing at Modi. Even earlier, a rationalist was killed in Maharashtra when Congress was in power in the State and also at the Centre. No one questioned the Maharashtra Chief Minister or the Congress president. But, by pre-written script, Hindu forces were held responsible. A few days back Sudheendra Kulkarni, a well-intentioned peace activist, who has found a new role as interlocutor between Pakistan and India, was blackened with ink by Shiv Sena. The whole ‘secular’ brigade began shouting ‘intolerance’ — read Modi — rules India. Couple of days back, two persons from some unknown ‘Hindu Sena’ blackened the face of a Kashmir MLA who hosted a beef party. On the very day, the Shiv Sena stormed into the BCCI office to scuttle Indo-Pak cricket series talk. The media screamed, ‘Hate squad attack blackens the face of Indian democracy’.
Imagine instead of spilling ink on beef party leaders, the Hindu Sena idiots had held a pork party. There would have been riots and slaughter in streets. Beef party only spills ink. Pork would spill blood. But in secular India’s grammar, spilling a bottle of ink is more violent now than spilling barrels of blood. Recall how, when Pakistani terrorists had spilled drums of Indian blood in railway stations, roads and hotels of Mumbai, the seculars, media, intellectuals appealed for calm and held candlelight processions to spread peace and harmony!
And what do these worthies do now? Spreading peace? Harmony? Their aim is not harmony. Their target is Modi. For that, they look for the most intolerant faces — however miniature — to lift them to the front pages. They yell, “Modi must speak.” “Why is he silent”, they ask. Did they ask Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh to speak on why the rationalist was killed in Karnataka and Maharashtra under the Congress? Did they question Mulayam or Akhilesh on Dadri? When did the Central government become responsible for individual incidents of law and order in states — a State subject?
Thanks to the media’s propensities for sensation and the exciting subject of cricket mixed with nation’s traditional rival Pakistan, the Shiv Sena got the high visibility it lacked for years, over the BJP and Modi. Anyone aspiring to be in headlines today has to speak against beef or throw ink on beef eaters or on their supporters. If a novice Arjun Sampath knows today how to make it to the front page of the largest English daily in India, why will not veteran Shiv Sena —seeking to regain relevance having lost the Hindu mind space to Modi? Why will not some Hindu Sena — an outfit existing only on letterhead? Why not others who would not see their outfit’s name in print or the idiot box otherwise? Are all of them Hindutva forces? With their potency limited to spilling ink, they crave to hit headlines. The media, short of news, sees them as resources. Poor things, how else to run 24x7 channels and fill news columns in-between ads in 60-page papers? The not-so-honest news is exported. On October 17, 2015, The New York Times carried a report titled “Indian Writers Return Awards to Protest Government Silence on Violence”. How else to undo the good work Modi has done to repair the image of India abroad?
Repeat of 1998-99?
Now it is time for some history. Cut back to 1998-99 when Vajpayee was the PM. ‘Christian nuns raped in MP and Orissa’. ‘Social worker Graham Staines burnt alive’. ‘Hindu pogrom against Christians’. What was the truth? The Wadhwa Commission, which inquired into the Staines murder, thrashed the secularists and the media for their lies. Arun Shourie has captured it brilliantly in his article on the Wadhwa report. Justice Wadhwa deals with some of these incidents. The first was the alleged rape of Sister Jacqueline Mary on February 3, 1999. Wadhwa cited the media reports like ‘Orissa nun raped in moveing car by men in saris’ and pointed out that relying on the words of a pastor of the Church, the media highlighted it ‘as a planned attack on the Church’ and saw the ‘role of communal forces’. Wadhwa also noted the media quoting teachers of a Christian convent as saying, “Do not treat this as an isolated incident”, “a communal conspiracy is suspected to be behind the rape.” Shourie says it was indeed a communal conspiracy not to rape but to fabricate to fix Hindu outfits. What was the judicial finding? Justice Wadhwa concluded: ‘Investigations revealed that what Sister Mary said in the FIR was not true’; that it was a ‘made up story’; that there was ‘in fact no rape of Sister Mary’. Wadhwa noted that B B Panda, Orissa’s Director General of Police stated under oath that the ‘rape of the nun’ case, projected and highlighted all over the world as an attack on Christians was not true — ‘the case turned out to be false.’ Within four days of the fabricated rape news, on Feb 7, 1999, another media report appeared. Two children, aged 10 and 19, were found murdered, a third had sustained injuries. Newspapers came up with the headings, ‘Two Christians killed, one injured in Orissa,’ ‘Two tribal Christians done to death in Kandhamal’. “This incident again attracted a great deal of publicity in the media, including electronic media,” writes Justice Wadhwa. He found that ultimately “investigation revealed that the crime was committed by a relative of the victims who was also a Christian”. On Graham Staines murder, Justice Wadhwa concluded that Staines was not just social worker, but, he was involved in illegal conversions of illiterate tribals, which they resisted and if the Orissa anti-conversion law had been enforced, Staines would never have indulged in conversions in tribal areas — which led to his killing by tribals. At about that time, news of rape of three Christian nuns in Jabhua in MP by Hindu outfits shook the nation and the entire world. The US ambassador even protested breaking all norms. Finally it turned out that the 24 persons who were involved in the rape were drunken dacoits who had set out to rob and 12 of them were Christians and the rest Bhil tribals. Space constraint draws the curtains on further expedition into other similar cases.
Is what is happening now when Modi is the PM not an action replay of what happened when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power? Are not the media, the seculars and opposition doing today against Modi what they were doing to Vajpayee 15 years back?
Postscript: The President’s statement that there is squeeze on dissent space is headlined by the media. But for the media headlining the likes of Arjun Sampath, Shiv Sena and Hindu Sena even the President’s statement itself will not be on the front page.
(To be concluded)
(The author is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues)