Year ends can get to be pretty hard on journalists, especially some editors. Some of them feel bound to discover the Man of the Year. The word ?man? presumably includes ?woman? as well. To end the confusion the Man of the Year has been transformed into Person of the Year to respect feminists.
Person of the Year? The word ?person? sounds so impersonal. In fact, this year, the US weekly Time did find the impersonal person?You. Yes, You, meaning presumably anybody including such distinguished persons like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Manu Sharma, now adjudged as murderer and that larger murderer who has gone unpunished, former US Defence Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld.
Time magazine probably never realised how confusing its choice of the Person of the Year can be. By choosing ?You? as the Person of the Year it is only showing that there is none in the entire world worthy of being honoured. Such a sad thing. But think of this: Justice K.G.Balakrishnan who succeeds Justice Y.K.Sabharwal as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, according to Hindustan Times (December 23) is a dalit, and obviously the first dalit to hold the post. Of course, he may not be able to hold a candle to Dr B.R.Ambedkar who is given credit for drafting the Indian Constitution, but his achievement surely is worthy of record even if no one had heard of him?outside Delhi'simmediate legal circles.
Time magazine, incidentally has named Vikram Chandra as author of one of the ten best books of 2006?a book titled Sacred Games. But no one seems to have heard of it either. No one seems to know what sacred games Vikram Chandra is referring to. Is it art that some artists play as games? Take Maqbool Fida Husain whose sacred games include drawing Hindu goddeses in the nude. It was left to Praful Goradia to draw attention to this in a painful article in The Pioneer (December 27).
India, of course, is a secular country and any one can take liberties with Indian (Hindu?) gods and goddesses. Thank God Maqbool Fida Husain has not painted Allah or the Prophet. There would then have been hell to pay. Husain can play sacred games only with Hindu gods and goddesses. India is secular. Just fancy the UPA government taking objection to Husain'swork! Somebody has sued Husain, but the man has escaped to London. What seems incredible is that Russy Mody, ?the iron and steel prince of yesterday? as Goradia describes him has ?sponsored a volume of pictures selected by? Husain. Shri Mody is reputed for his sense of humour. The leading defenders of Husain, needless to say, are Hindus themselves.
The Constitution bestows on citizens the right of free speech and expression, doesn'tit? So what'swrong if Husain exercises his right? One can'timagine any other newspaper highlighting Husain's artistic talents. It would be damned as ?communal?. The Pioneer isn'tscared of our secular intellectuals. It even took on the Prime Minister himself in a strong editorial (December 12) on Dr Manmohan Singh'sassertion that ?minorities, particularly the Muslim minority?must have the first claim on resources?. The paper said this is ?of a piece with the explicit purpose of convincing Muslims to vote for the Congress? and ?aggressively wooing Muslim votes?.
And for good measure the paper added: ?He (the Prime Minister) is not in office to promote one community over another and thus incite communal sentiments that debilitate the national spirit. The decision to appoint the Rajinder Sachar Committee was wrong; to accept its obnoxious proposals was worse. Now, by dropping all pretensions and demanding that Muslims must get precedence over others, Shri Singh has compounded his mistake. There is nothing sophisticated about his prescription to lessen the plight of poor Muslims. It is crude and communal. It militates against every principle of a secular state. And it aims to mislead Muslims into believing that which is preposterous.?
But The Hindu ( December 31) presented another point of view. In a full page article in its Sunday magazine section, Rajit Hoskote made the point that the Sachar Committee'srecommendations, if ignored, may be lethal, even as India seems to be allying itself more closely with the United States. According to him ?the frustration, resentment and anger of many young Indian Muslims at their utter marginalisation from the mainstream of national life may well prompt them to embrace the sense of mission and the belief in apocalyptic redemption that Salafism holds out to its adherents?. ?To put it bluntly? Hoskote wrote, ?India can ignore the travails of its Muslims citizens only at its own peril. It courts catastrophe by leaving its Muslims citizens out of the narrative of progress.?
This amount to blackmail. Everywhere in India, the poor need help, irrespective of to which class, creed or community they belong. They also need compassion, not as people belonging to a particular religion. Hoskote says that ?the tragedy with the modern nation-state'snotion of integration is that, while often disclaiming an official culture, it tends to adopt the majority culture as its standard and demands that every minority group should define itself accordingly.? That is utter nonsense. But it is a fact of life that India is a Hindu majority country.
May one inform Shri Hoskote that Indonesia is a Muslim majority country which is pround of its Hindu past. As a matter of fact one prominent Indonesian leader has been quoted as saying that Indonesians are Hindu in culture, Muslim in religion and Indonesian in nationality. Their airlines is called ?Garuda Airlines?. On their currency they have the figure of Ganesha. Muslims in India must be accommodative and they will then realise that they couldn'thave greater friends than their Hindu fellow citizens.
Fancy an Indian Muslim girl being called Meghavati and a Muslim male being called Sukarna. That would raise eyebrows among our mullahs. But in Indonesia it is quite common. Think it over, Shri Hoskote. Yes, Muslims in India MUST get succour, but not as Muslims but as poor. And that makes all the difference.