THERE is nothing more shocking than the behaviour of some of our pseudo-secularists. Take, for example, a writer like Girish Karnad whose recent attacks on V.S. Naipaul made big news. The media did not provide the full text of Karnadas vituperation which is perhaps, just as well; personal attacks on an individual at a public meeting are not, to say the least, in good taste.
In his works Naipaul had been very critical of Islamic invaders, like Ghazni Mahmud, who were responsible for just not looting temples but destroying them wholesale. Anybody who had read the history of India in the post-1,000 AD years surely would appreciate Naipaul’s line of reasoning, but not Karnad who felt aggrieved that Naipaul had not taken account of Islamic contribution to the rich culture of India. Karnad dismissed Naipaul as anti-Muslim who depicted Indian Muslims as “raiders and marauders”, in effect criminalizing “a whole section of the Indian population as rapists and murderers”. Karnad’s attack on Naipaul was vicious. Naipaul’s book on Islam, Among the Believers was first published in 1981 in which he warned of fundamentalism rising in the Islamic world. in an earlier book, India: A Wounded civilization published in 1977, Naipaul was critical of Hinduism. It would therefore seem, wrote The Asian Age(5 Nov.) “that Naipaul has criticized humbug wherever he found it”. and it added: “And even if Karnad feels differently, he should have spoken out 30 years ago, rather than wait for a relatively minor award ceremony towards the sunset of the author’s lifetime”.
But it is Anil Dharkar who made the right point in his column in The Times of India (11 Nov.). Going back into history, Dharker recounted what Afghan and Central Asian invaders had done from the 12th to the 15th century in looting and burning Hindu temple and libaries. Among other events Dharker recalled the sacking and burning in 1193 by the Turk Bhaktiyar Khilji of the Nalanda Library, one of the “greatest places of learning and whose collection of boks was so extensive that it took three months to be gutted”, of the burning down of Hampi by the Bahamanis, in an act of vandalism which took days” and other similar acts. Girish Karnad, said Dharker was bending backwards “to gloss over the negative aspects of Islam in our history because of the harm this reiteration can cause to present day history” but then, he asked: “should that blind me to our history?” What is sad, Dharker went on, was to see in the “laudable wish to ensure today’s Muslims are not victimized any more than they are” was the secularists’ reluctance to lash out “at the pronouncements and actions of the ultra-orthodox” in the Muslim community. That, he added is “something we need to face squarely, as squarely as we need to face our history”. That is pretty plain speaking.
Sadly it seems Dharker is about the only one to dare to speak that way, and take on Karnad. A story that exposes our secularists is one that Garga Chatterjee recounted in DNA (15 Oct.) Chatterjee is a post-doctoral scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and it is about a large crowd of Muslims destroying twenty four Buddhist and Hindu temples in Bangladesh. Not one or two or six but twenty four temples. As he put it, “the crowd (in Bangladesh) included many functionaries of three major political groups – Awami League, BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami” and the event took place in the Ramu area of Bangladesh. And the event took place in September 2012, not very long ago. how many newspapers covered the wanton destruction? Hardly any. And when did it happen? Barely two months away. There has been not a word of protest from anyone in India, not in the media, not from our secularists, nor from any Muslim organization one knows of. How come? Hindus in Bangladesh have been constantly terrorized. Writes Chatterjee: “Pain-staking research by Prof. Abu Barkat of Dhaka University has dhown that, as of 1997, through various versions of the Enemy Property Act, 53% of the land owned by Hindus has been forcibly taken over. This has affected four out of every ten Hindu households. The largest beneficiary of these illegally disposed land were those affiliated to the ‘secular’ party Awami League, followed by DNP and Jamaat-e-Islami”. And the Karnads in India looked the other way.
Chatterjee reminds us of how in the 1970s the famous Ramna Kali temple that dominated the skyline of Dhaka then was bull-dozed to the ground by the Pakistan Army. “Lamentations notwithstanding, successive governments of Bangladesh secular or not, elected or dictatorial, have not rebuilt it.” One is forced to recall these stories because of the way in which our secularists day in and day out run down their own fellow-citizens. As Chatterjee sadly notes: “This silence needs to be exposed and broken”. Unlikely with the likes of Karnads around. It is the Hindus who are always wrong. Interestingly, for all its blindness, the Indian media is expected to grow at a robust pace of 17.1% over the next four years to top Rs 1.75 trillion ($ 33 billion) with however “reduced dominance of print and television media”. It is the internet segments that will actually grow and have the potential to outshine the print sector by 2014.
In 2011 the overall entertainment and media industry was estimated at Rs 80,000 crore ($ 15.4 billion), an increase of 17.5% over the previous year. TV and print media were the largest contributors accounting for 66% of total revenues, but Internet access and gaming have been the fastest growing segments into an annual growth rate of 57% and 35% respectively. The reason given is that “the gaming segment has been growing due to the rising popularity of mobile and online and social gaming”. One has to look at any issue of the Delhi edition of Hindustan Times, for instance, to know what growth means. Pages after pages of advertisements feature in the paper with colour splashed all over. Were old-time editors to come alive they would not be able to recognize the very journal they so nobly edited. We live in a different world today where it is sometimes difficult to differentiate news from ads and regular news from paid news. And let no one raise any questions or doubts. How can the freedom of the press be challenged by a mere reader? The approach is one of: Take it or Leave it.