The Times of India made it. Its correspondent in Washington, Chidananda Rajghatta was received by President George Bush for an (almost) exclusive interview, the first of its kind ever given by any US President to an Indian correspondent. This columnist had the privilege of being given an exclusive interview by Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State way back in 1978. From that day to 2006 is a long time.
May it be said that Rajghatta did the profession proud. He asked just the right kind of questions, without flinching. Samples: ?How and why has India come front and centre to US strategic thinking now, after being on the margins for so long?? ?If India'scredentials are so good, why isn'tthe US backing it for the UN Security Council?? ?Do you consider India a responsible N-nation?? ?Why has the US not questioned A.Q.Khan?.? ?Is the US more comfortable dealing with dictators and monarchs?? ?In this era of free capital flows, why is inflow of human capital to the US restricted??
And to lighten the mood there were a couple of silly questions as well, like: ?Between a cricket match and a Bollywood movie, what would you like watching?? Bush came out reasonably well. But Rajghatta deserves congratulations. The Times of India played up the interview for what it was worth. Deservedly.
But Bush has many more questions to answer. According to Deccan Herald (February 24) three Indian scientists have been denied US visa and the reasons given are ridiculous. Prof P.C.Kesavan, holder of the Department of Atomic Energy Chair on Nuclear Science and Rural Society at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation has felt so outraged that he is reported to swear that he will neve again apply for a US visa. That is a right decision. The Government of India takes these insults to Indian citizens lightly. Delhi did not seem particularly disturbed even when a Chief Minister?Narendra Modi, in this case? was denied a visa. How much national insult will India tolerate in order to stay in the good books of the United States?
The Hindu, in many ways, is usually ahead of times, always willing and ready to upgrade its services and the services of its associate journals. Thus, it has made a special effort to brighten up The Hindu Business Line which has a new look from February 25, onward. At the launch of the new, redesigned daily, K.Venugopal, the paper'sJoint Editor said: ?You will see new content.?
Quite right. Meanwhile, the whole country has been shocked by the manner in which those charged with the murder of Jessica Lal have been acquitted for want of evidence. Writing in the The New Indian Express the distinguished lawyer Fail S.Nariman (February 24) has made the point that ?Justice is the victim in Jessica murder case?. As he put it, ?the proverbial Eleventh Commandment (thou shall not be found out) has wormed its way into criminal justice administration?and truth is now the biggest casualty.?
On the same day the The Indian Express carried an article by Suhel Seth, CEO of Equss Redcell Advertising who said that Jessica'sfather is not the only man who weeps today, ?all of India must?. Jessica was shot dead seven years ago ?in front of 400 people? but the claim is made that evidence is not available. As Suhel Seth put it: ?The acquittal of her murderers is a sin against humanity: The judge who delivered the verdict, the police force which could not prove the crime, the public prosecutor who could not get a conviction and, more important, each one of us will sleep a little less lightly. The acquittal is a testimony of the fact that in this country, the rich and the powerful get away with anything they wish to.?
A day earlier, The Indian Express carried an article by a former Chief Justice of India, V.N.Khare suggested five changes in the legal system that would prevent future misuse of the law suggesting that if this is not done ?disturbing occurrences such as the acquittal of the accused in the Jessica Lal murder case will keep repeating themselves?.
The Hindu (February 24) also reminded the nation that it is the long delay in meting out criminal justice should also be held responsible for some witnesses turning hostile. The paper has a point. It must be grating on the nerves of a witness to attend court sessions over seven years, often to the told that the case has been adjourned. Wouldn'tit exacerbate anybody to be told to be present in court again and again over several years? The point has been well made by The Hindu. As matters stand; The nation should hang its head in shame. And those acquitted should be boycotted by all decent people who have the good of the country at heart. It is time for the Parliament to accept the advice of Justice Khare. He knows what he is writing about.