By Ram Madhav
It all started with an indirect mention in a national daily?that the Bhopal meet was responsible for the statements of Shri Sudarshanji in his NDTV interview. ?It was the singularly puerile snub the BJP representatives delivered in Bhopal that he was hitting back?, said that article after deliberating at length about the proceedings at the Bhopal meet.
One after the other several papers started picking up the same line. ?Was RSS Sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan provoked by remarks made by certain BJP leaders at a close group meet of pro-Hindu thinkers in Bhopal last month where he was himself present?? speculated another prominent daily, which is considered close to the Parivar.
Magazines too chipped in with graphic descriptions about the individuals who attended the meet and what they spoke. Names were called of those who attended. Individuals were specifically targeted without credible information about what they spoke.
Also none of the reporters bothered to verify if there was really any relation between the Bhopal meet and Shri Sudarshanji'sinterview. And worse, none bothered to find out what is Bhopal meet all about, after all!!
None of the reporters bothered to verify if there was really any relation between the Bhopal meet and Shri Sudarshanji'sinterview. And worse, none bothered to find out what is Bhopal meet all about, after all!!
The Bhopal meet took place on March 23-24, 2005. Recording of the interview took place on April 7, full two weeks after the meet. In between, Shri Sudarshanji had attended a three-day conference on national security at Mumbai. He addressed several other meetings as well.
Coming back to the Bhopal meet, it is an annual event hosted by Swami Dayananda Saraswati Maharaj of Arsha Vidya Gurukul, Coimbatore. Pujya Swamiji is himself a great thinker and scholar. More importantly, he is greatly concerned about the welfare and well-being of Hinduism and Hindu society.
He keeps organising several conferences and meets for different groups. He holds ?Acharya Sabha? every year, where several prominent heads of religious sects come together and discuss issues like temple management, endowment affairs, Hindu almanac, etc. Similarly he holds ?Dharma Samstha Pramukh Sabha? once in every couple of years where heads of several religious missions and pravachanakars are invited to discuss Hindu civilisational issues.
The Bhopal meet is also one such event where eminent journalists, writers and scholars who have the welfare of the Hindu society at heart are invited. It is called ?Chintak Sabha??Thinkers Meet. The Bhopal meet is the fourth one in the sequence. Previously these meets were held at Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.
Swamiji has special love and goodwill for the Sangh Parivar and hence the invitation goes to several Sangh and Parivar elders too.
Issues discussed at Bhopal included status and role of Hindu movement in India today, the Left aggression, etc.
We live in a democracy and the deliberations in Bhopal were most democratic and open. As is the case always in Thinkers Meets, participants expressed their views freely and exchanged notes. Views ranging from extreme hardline?extreme nationalism?to extreme liberal?Nehru-and-Nehruvianism-are-role-models?were freely articulated.
It was supposed to be a free and open-ended discussion which it truly was. It was not supposed to have any conclusion which it didn?t. Everyone who spoke did so in his individual capacity as a thinker, although some of those present were representing organisations.
This has been the tradition and direction of the Thinkers Meet from the beginning. It has helped every participant enormously. People representing the same ideological family got an opportunity to know each other better, exchange notes on issues, agree to disagree yet continue to progress together.
It is this spirit that every participant is expected to internalise. Most did. But the graphic details that have appeared in a section of the media suggest to the fact that some didn?t.
Yet the real issue is not the references to the Bhopal meet in the media. It is rather the interpretations that followed, the insinuations that were hurled. It is ridiculous to suggest that the RSS leadership would formulate its position based on the inputs received from just one conference, although such conferences do play a very crucial role in the overall scheme of things. It is all the more preposterous to suggest that it was the Bhopal meet that had triggered off Shri Sudarshanji'sstatements. (I am not going in to the debate of the merits or otherwise of Shri Sudarshanji'sinterview contents. I am restricting myself to the question as to whether Bhopal meet had anything to do with that interview.)
We are living in a democracy which ensures several freedoms, most important being the freedom of expression used by the media freely and quite liberally. This freedom, which should end where my nose begins, doesn'tend. It rather thrives on punches on my nose.
That is why Fareed Zakaria in his book The Future of Freedom commented: ?Eighty years ago, Woodrow Wilson took America into the 20th century with a challenge to make the world safe for democracy. As we enter the 21st, our task is to make democracy safe for the world.?
Can we make media safe for the world?