Who said that secularism marks the distinction between one Indian political party and another? ?Secularism? is the most prostituted word in India and it has been most shamelessly exploited by many parties, most notably by the Indian National Congress. The word lost its meaning and significance a long time ago. What prevails in India is casteism, pure and simple. The Congress is casteist and it should be said so in its face. It has been cheating the public for far too long. Parties in India?barring, perhaps, the Bharatiya Janata Party?depend upon caste votes. In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati depends upon the dalit vote. Yadavs determine who should be in power in Bihar. In Karnataka much depends upon whether one is a Lingayat or a Vokkaligagowda?and ideology be blowed.
In Tamil Nadu, as The Hindu (March 28) has noticed it, it is caste that prevails over political chemistry in the building of alliances. Consider the role of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which has now opted out of the UPA alliance. It has now joined hands with Jayalalithaa'sAIADMK. Says The Hindu: ?Ideological affinity did not turn out to be a decisive factor in alliance-formation.? Ha, ha! Ideology? What is that? According to the paper, ?As a party enjoying support among sections of the Vanniyar community, a most backward class in Tamil Nadu, the PMK has managed to be on the winning side in every general elections.? PMK founder, S Ramadoss is reportedly keen to ensure that there will be no blemish on his track record of winning in every general elections. Blessed be his caste!
If it is not caste, it is language that influences people. In Mumbai, the Shiv Sena wants the ?Marathi manoos? to be made the Prime Minister following the elections. The Shiv Sena threw all ideologies to the wind to vote for another Marathi manoos as President of India. If it had the power, it will, no doubt, appoint only Marathi manoos as Chief Justice of India, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and every other top post available.
Tamil Nadu has not two but several political parties fighting for power. The Tamil chauvinist Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi is one of them. It was once part of the anti-Brahmin DMK-led alliance. According to The Hindu, ?The only significant party still out of the two alliances is the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by actor Vijayakant, which secured 8.38 per cent of the votes in the 2006 Assembly elections?. How powerful is DMDK? The Hindu should know. But it says: ?Unlike caste-based parties, the DMDK might not be able to transfer its entire vote share to an ally and therefore its value as an alliance partner remains unproven.?
One suspects that one must re-define ?minorities? not in terms of religion but more accurately in terms of caste. That would be more honest. The Congress, no matter how brave a face it puts up, is now in real trouble. As The Time of India (March 27) noted, ?With many UPA constituents breaking away from the Congress on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, this is going to be a make-or-break election.? Judging from the newest developments, the elections will probably make the NDA and break the UPA?and just as well. The Congress has no friends. We hardly hear of any top Congress leader doing the election rounds in the country. In Tamil Nadu, according to The Times of India, ?The ground is shifting from under Congress feet?, and ?The only significant friends the Congress has left appear to be the NCP in Maharashtra, the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal?. Some friends, these.
Only those who have served abroad as foreign correspondents know how tough it is to be one, especially in countries like Pakistan where the murder of journalists is now becoming commonplace. That is why all admiration goes to Nirupama Subramaniam, Islamabad correspondent of The Hindu who, along with Vinita Deshmukh of Intelligent Pune, won the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Mediaperson for 2008. Nirupama has been doing a splendid job in a country that is rapidly going to the dogs. She has a tough job to do. She is probably under around-the-clock surveillance and her telephones must be similarly tapped by the minute. Not even her mobile would be spared. She must be in a constant danger and one only hopes that tight security surrounds her and she is well-guarded. That a woman correspondent has dared to take up the assignment calls for high praise. The jury that gave the award comprised of Prof. Nirija Gopal Jayal of the Centre for Law and Governance at Jawaharlal University, Bhaskar Ghose, former CEO of Lok Sabha TV and Raj Chengappa, associate editor of India Today. Of the several entries Nirupama was selected for her dedication to responsible journalism ?in complex and delicate environments?. Well said. Equally praiseworthy is the citation. It says: ?Nirupama'sreporting has been consistently first-rate, analytical and offering balanced perspectives. Her coverage has ranged from reclaiming the Pushtun love for music to oppressive blasphemy laws, trade, the sliding economy and PoK's interest in cross-border trade to stimulate economic progress on its side.? In her acceptance speech read out at the ceremony in absentia by her sister Vasudha Sondhi, Nirupama reminded everyone that on the very day the award was announced, the editor of Aaj newspaper was shot dead. As she put it: ?In Pakistan, where I am based, a number of journalists have lost their lives in recent months?I believe there is only one way for journalists to look at India-Pakistan relations, and that is through the prism of peace?.?
There are so many journals in India that do good work but largely go unnoticed like Vinita Deshmukh'sIntelligent Pune. Ms Deshmukh was given the award for ?her campaigns that have been marked by grit and perseverance in the pursuit of truth and public welfare?. The journal must certainly be an outstanding one for its worth to be recognised. What is significant is that the journal is edited by a woman, one, to be honest, one has never in the past heard of. Which only shows the tremendous number of people who go about their work silently, but hopefully very effectively, for there is so much to achieve in India by way of social and political reform. In the past editors were largely men. The times, obviously are changing and for the better.