BENGALURU: In a freewheeling chat with TNSE, former BBC journalist William Mark Tully, who was in the city for the Bangalore Literature Festival, voices his concern about religious nationalism. He’s more desi than true-blue Indians. Having made Delhi his home in the past several years, William Mark Tully, who has travelled the length and breadth of the country to report landmark issues, was also one of the first journalists to report the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992.
From Ground Zero: Ayodhya stands up for communal amity after Supreme Court verdict
On the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Ayodhya issue on Saturday, the veteran British journalist said he hopes the judgment will lead to a reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims, and that the former will assist the latter accept the decision. “It is a very important for the temple to stand for traditional Indian culture,” he said.In the city for the Bangalore Literature Festival, Tully (84) spoke about the changing media landscape, his desire to improve his Hindi, and writing a book on what he thinks should be the place of Hinduism in India. Excerpts.
Do you think the Ayodhya judgment will open a Pandora’s box? Could there be possible political repercussions?
The initial reaction of politicians has been right, with both Mohan Bhagwat and Narendra Modi having mentioned that there must not be any triumph derived from it. Let’s hope that works in the immediate times because Hindu politicians and the RSS are very fond of saying that their community will be hurt. I hope every effort is made to help Muslims build the mosque in the allotted land with equal respect, and that the temple in every way is made as one of reconciliation rather than a temple of difference. I’m hoping the verdict doesn’t open a Pandora’s box. The political atmosphere in India would be much better if there was a debate between Congress and BJP on what Hinduism is, and what part it has played in Indian culture.
You covered the 1990 unrest in Jammu & Kashmir. What do you feel the path for Jammu & Kashmir at this point is?
I have never seen a situation like this in Kashmir, and it is depressing. What Kashmir needs now is a party of reconciliation because in a country like India, with multiple faiths, to have even one community alienated is like having a poisoned wound. Every effort has to be made to try and win the hearts of Kashmiris. It’s no good having forced propaganda. There is a big job to be done, and sadly, I don’t see it happening.
In your book, Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, you mention “There is no more fertile ground for revolution than the educated unemployed”. How relevant is this statement in these times of economic slowdown?
This is a serious problem. We are getting to a stage with automation where you can have investments in this country. But if you are going to expect the traditional form of job-creating investments with the likes of factories, you’re going to be disappointed. We have to think of a new way of doing economics.
How do you perceive the current times we live in?
I view it with concern...As far as religious nationalism is concerned, I don’t like it because I believe in religion and I think it brings religion a bad name.