Over twenty Shiv Sena ‘workers’ ransack the lobby of The Times of India building in protest against an article in The Maharashtra Times on senior Shiv Sena leader Anandrao Adsul, an MP from Amravati. The article, according to The Hindu (29 January) speculated that Adsul was on his way to joining the Nationalist Congress Party. The Hindu reported that the police have arrested 17 Sena activists involved in the attack. According to eyewitnesses more than fifty Sena activists protested before The Times of India building, burning copies of Maharashtra Times, waving black flags. The goons apparenty went about breaking window panes, pots and pans and damaging the lobby. Maharashtra Times editor Ashok Panvalkar is reported to have said that all that his paper carried was “speculative news about possible defections” and had not personally targeted Adsul or anyone.
Had Adsul sent a clarification, Panvalkar said, it would have been printed. One might ask whether it was necessary to publish “speculative” news. That can be damaging. But even if it was so, should the Sena workers have indulged in violence? This, interestingly enough, was taken note of by the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, who is becoming very pro-active. The Hindu published a letter Katju had written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan. Katju said: “I may mention that this is not the first time that such an incident has happened in Maharashtra. I had written to you earlier also about such assaults and harassment of journalists. I therefore must tell you now that the Press Council may now have to take a serious view of the matter and take suitable action if such incidents are not curbed in your state”.
Reminding the Chief Minister that what happened is “totally unacceptable in a democracy”, Katju pointed out that under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, the media enjoys freedom and, under Section 13 of the Press Council of India Act, “it is the duty of the Press Council to maintain the freedom of the press”. So, he said, “If media persons or the media offices are physically attacked, it is gross violation of the media’s Constitutional right. Your government’s duty is to maintain law and order and also uphold the Constitution. Please therefore let me know at the earliest what action you have taken against the hooligans who committed this outrage. In particular, please inform me whether the delinquents have been arrested and any criminal proceedings launched against them”. At this point one may add: “Congrats, Justice Katju. It is time some one has bothered to take notice of goondaism”. Meanwhile may one ask whatever happened to the crime reporter who was murdered in Mumbai in open daylight? One read that a colleague of his is implicated, but suddenly the news has disappeared from the pages. What is the truth? Are some facts being deliberately pushed under the carpet? Katju continues to be in the news. The New Indian Express (31 January) carried a report that Katju has warned “all media persons, candidates and election authorities of strong action, if they were found indulging in the malpractice (of paid news)”. In a statement he issued in New Delhi Katju said that he has been receiving complaints from several quarters that in the ongoing elections in five states, the malpractice of paid news is widespread. That, he said, is “a threat to free and fair elections and it undermines the foundation of democracy and shakes the peoples’ faith in the media” and can subvert parliamentary democracy “unless ruthlessly stamped out”. One only hopes he does just that: stamp our ruthlessly any example of paid news. On the issue of Salman Rushdie, Katju felt that the author has “deeply hurt Muslim feelings” and there was no need to focus on him at the Jaipur Literary Festival. The Justice questioned the “social relevance” of Rushdie’s writings.
Interestingly, Hindustan Times, in what seems to be a tongue-in-the-cheek editorial, said that had Rushdie come to Jaipur and ‘opened his mouth and spoken’, “hundreds of ears would have started bleeding”, “thousands of riots would have broken out” which “would have snowballed into a full-blown civil war along communal lines”. “Who knows? It could have even precipitated a nuclear war with Pakistan”, the paper said. By way of teasing the Rajasthan Government, the paper said: “We can only wildly conjecture the following scenario that wasn’t allowed to happen by the ruling government whose paramount concern isn’t only for peace in the country but your safety”.
But the strongest and most powerful attack against our so-called liberal intellectuals was mounted by S. Gurumurthy in the New Indian Express (31 January). Said Gurumurthy: “See how the secular media, parties, leaders and state glorified MF Hussain’s right to abuse Hindu gods and goddesses to wound Hindus and how the same secular actors repeatedly decried Rushdie’s similar right to hurt Muslims. Now (there is) something even more shameful. The ‘seculars’, including the media, had ceaselessly condemned the normal protests against shows displaying Hussain’s painting and pontificated to Hindus about the need for tolerance. But they wouldn’t utter a word against the violence by Muslims nor ask them to be tolerant. The reason is obvious: they are dishonest”. Gurumurthy added: “Instead of holding both Rushdie and Husain wrong, the seculars faulted Rushdie and praised Husain. Why? Because, being insensitive to Hindus and pretending to be sensitive to Muslims is enough to make one secular. QED: such secularism is perversion – and a dangerous one”.
Gurumurthy should know that for our ‘intellectual’ Hindus, damning Hinduism is fun. They have to defend minorities, haven’t they? How can Muslim fundamentalists ever be wrong? Hasn’t Husain got every right for freedom of expression? What if he hurts Hindu feelings and paints Hindus goddesses in the nude? What if Babar, or one of his generals, knocks down a temple to Sri Ram in Ayodhya and builds a masjid in its place? Can Hindus produce a magistrate’s birth certificate showing that Ram was born in Ayodhya? And isn’t Ram really a myth? And that is our Hindu secular intellectual for you. How else can one explain a century and half of Mughal rule in India?