On the one hand we have riots in Vadodara because of the demolition of a dargah in the city to make way for the widening of street. Half a dozen people are killed. However, has anyone heard of a Hindu renovating and designing more than seventy?yes, seventy?mosques in Kerala? Yes, there is such a man and his name is G.Gopalakrishnan, a self-made architect to whose credit is not only the building of exotic mosques but churches and temples as well. And, one suspects, that is possibly only in Kerala where Hindus, Muslims and Christians live in comparative harmony. Gopalakrishnan'sstory is recorded in The Hindu who regularly publishes feature stories of ?the unusual, the exotic and the extraordinary?.
This one appeared in its May 7, issue and it is endlessly fascinating. Significantly Gopalakrishnan'swife is a Christian and the couple has given their children the freedom to pursue any religion of their choice. The St George Church at a place called Chandanapalli was modelled like the St Peter'sBasilica in Rome and Gopalakrishnan built the Alumkandathil Devi Temple like a chariot! Certainly this is an extraordinary man. Gopalakrishnan'smajor breakthrough was the construction of the Beema Palli, which is also a dargah, spread over three acres. It has huge domes, a massive facade and minars as tall as 132 feet and it took the builder 18 years to complete. And to think that Gopalakrishnan has never visited an Islamic construction outside Kerala! He designed the Sheikh Masjid in a place called Karunagapally like the Taj Mahal. He used the motif of lotus in designing Beema Palli.
How did a flower become a part of a religion, he was asked. Gopalakrishnan'sanswer was to the point. He replied: ?The lotus is a beautiful flower. It is our national flower. By designing lotus petals I was expressing my reverence to it?. Now isn'tthat a lovely answer? Early in May, addressing a meeting in Hyderabad, President A.P.J.Kalam raised an important point. The President felt that the points he had raised then are so important and relevant to our times that he got his speech put on the website. Among other things he asked: ?Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognise our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?? This is not a place to answer his query in any detail.
Day after day the freedom is abused to the detriment of peace and order in the country, with no one daring to raise their voice. There is a different kind of emergency in the land where character assassination is permitted.
But surely, the Gopalakrishnan story is a positive one? It is not that the entire media is negative. Hitavada (April 24) carried the story of Lahore, in Pakistan, witnessing ?its first traditional Hindu wedding after 18 years, complete with holy chants and prayers? A Hindu marriage in Lahore celebrated after eighteen years? That itself is news. But wait. There is something more that adds masala to the story, considering that if the bride was a Hindu, the groom was a Muslim! A little confused, the Hitavada story said: ?It is not clear as to why the couple and their families had opted for a Hindu wedding?. Surprising. There was no riot in Lahore. But what is a negative story? According to Dr Kalam a ?negative story? is one full of killings, bombardments, deaths, terrorism and crime?. So, should we not report them?
The Pioneer (May 8) carried a pathetic story of photo exhibition held in Delhi'sIndia Habitat Centre, full of gore and terror. Said the report: ?Rows of dead bodies?burning pyres, terrorised kids, their innocence lost, rape victims, their freedom crushed?tell more than the usual dramatic media reports. The houses which were once homes, have been turned into debris, the temples stand but with desecrated Gods. Sacred couplets on the temple walls have been replaced with obscene graffiti…? Shown is a picture of a beheaded statue of a God and the story speaks about two lakh pandits still living in ?abysmal conditions in Jammu with families of five to six people huddled into a small room,? their cries for better facilities having fallen on deaf ears. Is it right to publish a report on such an exhibition? Would it be damned as ?communal??
Should not the terrible conditions in which over two lakh Kashmiri Pandits live because of the ISI-led pogrom carried out in Jammu and Kashmir be reported at least in some detail? And think of some of the things broadcast by the television media. Writing in The Pioneer (May 7) Swapan Dasgupta speculated about ?the editorial rationale behind constant telecast of footage of young lumpens stoning policemen and frightened women mourning the tragic killing of a Muslim businessman in a burning car?. The commentary was equally inflammatory, with words like ?tandav lila? used to condemn ?animal-like brutality?. Worse, the most hate-full letters condemning Narendra Modi came as running scripts under the pictorials. Has anyone condemned ND-TV? Not one. Condemning Narendra Modi is the privilege of the press, no matter it only adds to the rage of the people. Indeed making fun of Modidom has become a sport in our English media.
Take the case of The Asian Age (May 8) which ran an attack on Modi by Deepal Trevedie. Deepal must have found Modi'saction in Vadodara as quite a problem. Unsure how to condemn him, wrote Deepal: ?In 2002, Modi was a perfect mob leader, an RSS Pracharak spreading venom. In 2006 he is trying to act the perfect Chief Minister?. Deepal accuses Modi of lighting the ?communal matchstick in Gujarat?. Did he set fire to the Sabarmati Express coach? Did he wait, as Rajiv Gandhi did following the assassination of Indira Gandhi for over 48 hours to summon the army? For our secularists, truth is of no importance. Condemning Modi is the done thing. Deepal exonerates Modi of stirring trouble in Vadodara and one guesses one must be thankful for such small mercies. It may make the editors of The Asian Age happy but how long has the country to keep tolerating the viciousness of the media in spreading hatred around? And all in the name of freedom of the press? Perhaps it is time for President Kalam to pull up our so-called secular press and more especially the electronic media which more than anything else was responsible for the spread of the Gujarat riots.
We need a strong government to put the media in its place. Day after day the freedom is abused to the detriment of peace and order in the country, with no one daring to raise their voice. There is a different kind of emergency in the land where character assassination is permitted as long as the targets are from the BJP and the RSS. Think this over, Shri President.