Surely India is truly a democracy. Just read some of the newspapers and you will know why, even if you do not already know. The Chandigarh Tribune (November 11) carried a full page ad damning Punjab'sChief Minister, Amarindra Singh, a former prince. The top headline said: ?This is Raja'sfive years ?Vinaash? ?. A central box, right in the middle of the page said: ?Story of Amarindra'satrocities?. At the bottom, a two line eight-column spread said: ?Has the Chief Minister ever visited your locality, village, town or city in the last five years??
There were fourteen pictures showing police beating up people. One picture carried the headline: ?Punjab cops ?misbehave? with Vets?. Another picture carried the line: ?Cops cane protesting jobless youth?. Still another heading said: ?Now, Pharmacists manhandled?. One would imagine that Punjab has a dictatorial government and the full page advertisement condemning the government and, more specifically, the Chief Minister, was paid for by SAD.
Then take another paper, Hindustan Times (November 12). This paper also carried a full page ad, paid for by the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd and Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd. A two-line eight column 60 point headline screamed: ?Uttar Pradesh Takes a Big Leap Towards Self-Sufficiency in Power?. A one-line headline said: ?Achievements of 3 years?New Power Policy Yields Dividends?. Still another headline towards the end of the page said: ?A Success Story of Public-Private Partnership?.
Gujarat State, not to be left out paid for a full page ad also in Hindustan Times (November 11). The top headline said: ?The Power of Prosperity with Gram Swaraj?. ?Gujarat is the first state in India to provide 24 hours 3-phase uninterrupted power supply to all its villages.? As ads go?it was put out by the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd?it was splendid. It told the story of ?Jyotigram Yojana at a Glance? with great flourish. For sheer publicity, there is no state, which can beat Gujarat.
But Hindustan Times?can one believe it??is beginning to change. It seems willing to let a Hindu give expression to religious thought. To understand what that means one has to read Renuka Narayan'sexcellent column Faithscape (November 11). Writes Renuka: ?India is (was?) essentially Shiv-Bhumi if you consider that Kashmir had its own Shaiva darshan and the Dwadasha Jyotirlinga are scattered from Kedarnath to Rameshwaram. So how did Rama and Krishna develop as such strong cult figures? Nor do the Puranas and epics mention Radha to my knowledge except as a fond aunt. How did she become a big deal??
To that question Renuka gives her own answer: ?Given the chronology it seems likely that this was Hinduism'sdeeply internalised response to Islam?It seems the Hindu mind turned its back, retreating into a deep protective silence?Since independence, secular constraints have perhaps inhibited a free and open discourse on this topic, given the trauma of Partition and the unease that has prevailed ever since, not forgetting the Left strangle-hold on media and academia for decades between?(when) everything Hindu was perforce seen through a class filter and automatically trashed as ?Brahmanical? .?
So, writes Renuka, ?a crown lay in the gutter that was inevitably picked up and misused by politicians? and adds how ?it was in at Maihar, in the heart of Madhya Pradesh, that I got a glimmer of what happened to Sanatana Dharma'sinner life.?
The entire column, in sequence, is worth reading. And widely publicised. It shows in its own quiet way the damage done to India by our secular academicians and politicians and, if one might sadly add, my fellow journalists.
But can you believe that a home remedy has made front page news in Hindustan Times (November 11). A 5-column wide story says: ?Your daily dahi is your best defence against diabetes.? According to the story, ?Granny was right. Eating home-made curd every day is good for you. It slows down the progression of diabetes, lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.? And who certified to that? The latest issue of an international journal, Nutrition. Not bad for a front page story.
And while one is at it, one might as well give credit to Karan Thapar who defends Ram Jethmalani'sright to argue the case of Manu Sharma. It is nice to see that there still are a few columnists who have the courage to speak up for what they consider right. Karan Thapar strongly criticises those journalists who have struck postures against Jethmalani'sdecision. As Thapar sees it, ?who a lawyer defends is a matter to be determined by his conscience.? Also, argues Thapar: ?The law permits Jethmalani to try every legitimate tactic to defend his client?and if he succeeds, so be it. That is the law and you can'tcomplain just because the verdict doesn'tsuit you. It may prove that there are infirmities that need to be plugged, that the system has holes, that justice is less than perfect, but you can'tmake it an excuse for short-circuiting procedure. Without due process the trial would be lynching.?
And let this be said right here. It is not that Thapar is saying that Sharma is not guilty. What he is arguing is that Sharma has a right to be heard. That is democracy. Again it is not that Thapar believes that Sharma is innocent. What is at stake is the right of an individual to have access to due process of Law. It takes some courage to stand up for Jethmalani. But that is what democracy is all about. In India we have a powerful media. And it knows how to scream. And does it do that?
The Indian Express has won the prestigious IPI India Award for Excellence in Journalism?the second time it has done so. The first time it was in 2003 for reporting the Gujarat riots. The Indian chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) had appointed a jury headed by former Chief Justice of India A.S.Anand which noted that Indian Express has continuously investigated issues of high public importance, exposed the guilty and helped victims by its reportage. Journalism is not just page three. It requires a lot of courage to dig out facts or even stand up to criticism or go against popular sentiment. Indian Express was also responsible for reporting on missing tigers from the Indian wild life sanctuaries.
So, congrats, gentlemen and may you live long and prosper in the service of India.