[Reader-list] Gujarati 'pride' hurt once again

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Wed Jun 18 16:32:00 IST 2008

Dear Radhikarajen,

Thank you for your pertinent critique on the Sarai Reader List of the  
way in which the media represents issues, particularly with regard to  
the murder of Hemraj Banjade and Arushi Talwar in NOIDA. I think that  
your thoughts on 'media trials' are salutary. Had newspapers and TV  
channels been more restrained in the matter of the way in which they  
report 'sensational' crimes, then the grave and malicious harrassment  
that had been the fate of S.A.R.Geelani in the '13 December' case  
might not have taken place. And nor would there have been currency  
for the hysterical and blood-thirsty demand for the execution of  
Muhammad Afzal Guru, which continues to beseige our consciousness  
today. I do hope that you, in the spirit of your own argument, will  
join me in condemning the irresponsible behaviour of much of the  
media in these instances.

Having said that, I am a bit mystified by your anger against the  
condemnation of the strange attempt at filing a case on grounds of   
'promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion,  
race, place of birth and language' 'under Sections 153 A and B of the  
IPC against Ashis Nandy for his op-ed piece 'Blame the Middle Class'  
in the Times of India of January 8, 2008. Ashis Nandy is, in my  
opinion, one of the most acute analysts of political culture and  
modernity in South Asia. It is ironic that a person, who has  
maintained a life time of critique against the excesses of the state- 
secularist agenda in India, (for which he was at times unfairly and  
idiotically denounced as an apolgist of the hindu right by some un- 
intelligent so called 'left-liberal' critics) is someone you now are  
prepared to argue against, merely because he happens to have taken on  
the poster boy of hindutva hate-mongering, the chief minister of  
Gujarat, Narendra Damodarbhai Modi. To be fair to Nandy, there is no  
particular group that escapes the sharp edge of his sadness in his  
article on Gujarat. His words (in this particular article) criticize  
the actions done by people speaking in the name of Bengali Hindus,  
Kashmiri Muslims, Punjabi Sikhs, Non Resident Indians,  Dalits and  
Adivasis and most of all - the middle classes. If all these kinds of  
people were to be united because they were all attacked by Ashis  
Nandy, then, we would see a rare example of the promotion of  
conviviality between groups that are otherwise expected to be at each  
others throats. Unfortunately, for you, and for the petitioner  
belonging to the Ahmedabad based National Council for Civil  
Liberties, there is as yet no provision in the the Indian Penal Code  
for the offense of the promotion of conviviality on grounds of  
religion, race, place of birth and language.
I find it equally strange that you should impute the sentiments and  
the analysis contained in Nandy's trenchant criticque of Moditva, (or  
should it be Moditude, or Modismo) to the antipathy of the Bennet  
Coleman Group, who happen to own the majority shares of the Times of  
India newspaper, and their so called pro Congress bias. It is  
instructive to do a careful analysis of the press that Modi and  
Modismo get in the Times of India's sister publication, the Economic  
Times, (which for my money, is the more serious of the two  
publications, the one that actually gets read by captains of industry  
and politics, not one that teenagers decorate their lockers with  
because it has scantily clad men and women, the publication of images  
of which, you will no doubt agree, is the primary reason for the  
Times of India to exist.)

Now, were you to look at the Economic Times reportage of Modi,  
Modismo and Gujarat, you would find a glowing picture that would warm  
your hearts. All you (and everyone who is interested on this list)  
needs to do is to type Narendra Modi on the search bar of the  
Economic Times home page, and you will be showered by what looks like  
a public relations campaign for Gujarati Asmita and Modismo.

You will find articles such as -

Rajiv Gandhi Foundation finds Gujarat No 1 state

Chairman of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, today hailed Gujarat  
Chief Minister Narendra Modi saying that he has a "bias" for action.

And there are many more where these came from.

Even your own pet hate, the Times of India, has articles such as  
'Women Mesmerised by Narendra Modi'

What are we to make of this, other than that this is but an instance  
of the totally commonplace practice of a media group trying to  
placate all sides. So damn Modi in one article in one publication  
that you own, and then praise him to the skies in another. A detailed  
analysis of the politics of who reports what about whom, and when, in  
the Indian media can be an entertaining, and instructive diversion.

What, however, are we to make of your own pathological anxiety  
whenever Shri Narendra Damodarbhai Modi is criticised ? You have  
(again) neatly sidestepped the substance of Ashis Nandy's critique  
and taken us on the pursuit of the red herring of the Times of  
India's pro-Congress bias, which for you, explains everything that  
there is to understand about what Ashis Nandy has written. Take a  
break from the computer, and go take a long look at the mirror, and  
you will see the visage of that same middle class Indian, quick to  
fume, quick to claim an injury to your precious pride, quick to  
demand that the slate be cleaned of all 'others', and short,  
tragically, comically short on anything like the ability to reflect  
on the tightening limits of the sources of your self.

I sympathise with your predicament. It must be really hard, and sad,  
to be you.



media trials of this sort were
On 18-Jun-08, at 2:02 PM, radhikarajen at vsnl.net wrote:

> Hi all,
>  it is very nice to find flaws with BJP and gujarathis at the drop  
> of a hat even after Modi asserted time and again that he is  
> administrator and chief minister with the difference of of  
> governance of all in the same state without favour or fear as per  
> the oath he has taken to administer the state. Times of India and  
> its media group is owned by Bennet group which traditionally has  
> been political and supporting sycophants of Congress and media  
> generally feels if it has to be "secular" it has to bash hindu  
> sentiments and encash its trp and circulation, Times group is never  
> fair and free in its journalism and always favoured Congress and  
> its employees have to toe the line of media bosses and pritish is  
> no exception to the rules of survival of the fittest in journalism  
> by sycophancy.
>    The worst part of it is this "secular"media can not digest the  
> fact that hindu society is slowly and steadily getting out of caste  
> conundrums and beginning to gel as one homogeneous society, while  
> muslim community is being systematically divided by christian  
> missions to achieve its divide and rule game, into smaller forms of  
> shias, sunnis and other denominations with terror as subtextt  just  
> as the vote banks are getting divided between good governance and  
> sycophancy and secular media keeps on playing old footage of  
> "carnages so that they remain in the ghettos and wounds are never  
> allowed to heal.The ultimate goal of Sonia and her mafia is to  
> divided and rule with rome as its remote control which hindus have  
> understood except for a few handful of sycophants in Congress of  
> all faiths who have no mass base or electoral prospects and have to  
> live on doleouts of the mafia queen. These along with christian  
> mafia in the kitchen cabinet have used all those "journalists" and  
> "int
> ellectuals" of modern day to devise the spins to bring back the old  
> lost horse of Congress in new avtar as christian brigade for the  
> crusade, while in comity of nations it is seen that Bush uses- the  
> terror and weapons of mass destruction as excuses to bring in his  
> form of democracy in the nations of muslim faith, first by attack  
> of shia dominated Afghanistan and then on Iraq for the imaginary  
> weapons of mass destruction.?---- Original Message -----
> From: Shivam Vij शिवम् विज् <mail at shivamvij.com>
> Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 8:04 pm
> Subject: [Reader-list] Gujarati 'pride' hurt once again
> To: sarai list <reader-list at sarai.net>
>> An organisation in Ahemdabad called National Council for Civil
>> Liberties has filed a case against Ashis Nandy for his article in The
>> Times of India in January after Modi's election victory. The case has
>> been filed for for 'promoting enmity between different groups on
>> grounds of religion, race, place of birth and language' [Sections 153
>> (A) and (B) of IPC].
>> 178 academics and intellectuals have signed a statement in protest,
>> which is available at
>> http://www.sacw.net/FreeExpAndFundos/defendNandy16June08.html
>> Given below is the 'offending' article:
>> o o o
>> Blame The Middle Class
>> By Ashis Nandy
>> 8 Jan 2008
>> http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/ 
>> LEADER_ARTICLE_Blame_The_Middle_Class/rssarticleshow/2681517.cms
>> Now that the dust has settled over the Gujarat elections, we can
>> afford to defy the pundits and admit that, even if Narendra Modi had
>> lost the last elections, it would not have made much difference to  
>> the
>> culture of Gujarat politics. Modi had already done his job. Most of
>> the state's urban middle class would have remained mired in its inane
>> versions of communalism and parochialism and the VHP and the Bajrang
>> Dal would have continued to set the tone of state politics. Forty
>> years of dedicated propaganda does pay dividends, electorally and
>> socially.
>> The Hindus and the Muslims of the state — once bonded so  
>> conspicuously
>> by language, culture and commerce — have met the demands of both  
>> V D
>> Savarkar and M A Jinnah. They now face each other as two hostile
>> nations. The handful of Gujarati social and political activists who
>> resist the trend are seen not as dissenters but as treacherous
>> troublemakers who should be silenced by any means, including
>> surveillance, censorship and direct violence. As a result, Gujarati
>> cities, particularly its educational institutions are turning  
>> cultural
>> deserts. Gujarat has already disowned the Indian Constitution and the
>> state apparatus has adjusted to the change.
>> The Congress, the main opposition party, has no effective leader. Nor
>> does it represent any threat to the mainstream politics of Gujarat.
>> The days of grass-roots leaders like Jhinabhai Darji are past and a
>> large section of the party now consists of Hindu nationalists. The
>> national leadership of the party does not have the courage to  
>> confront
>> Modi over 2002, given its abominable record of 1984.
>> The Left is virtually non-existent in Gujarat. Whatever minor  
>> presence
>> it once had among intellectuals and trade unionists is now a vague
>> memory. The state has disowned Gandhi, too; Gandhian politics arouses
>> derision in middle-class Gujarat. Except for a few valiant old- 
>> timers,
>> Gandhians have made peace with their conscience by withdrawing from
>> the public domain. Gandhi himself has been given a saintly, Hindu
>> nationalist status and shelved. Even the Gujarati translations of his
>> Complete Works have been stealthily distorted to conform to the Hindu
>> nationalist agenda.
>> Gujarati Muslims too are "adjusting" to their new station. Denied
>> justice and proper compensation, and as second-class citizens in  
>> their
>> home state, they have to depend on voluntary efforts and donor
>> agencies. The state's refusal to provide relief has been partly
>> met by
>> voluntary groups having fundamentalist sympathies. They supply aid  
>> but
>> insist that the beneficiaries give up Gujarati and take to Urdu,  
>> adopt
>> veil, and send their children to madrassas. Events like the
>> desecration of Wali Gujarati's grave have pushed one of India's
>> culturally richest, most diverse, vernacular Islamic traditions to  
>> the
>> wall. Future generations will as gratefully acknowledge the sangh
>> parivar's contribution to the growth of radical Islam in India as  
>> this
>> generation remembers with gratitude the handsome contribution of  
>> Rajiv
>> Gandhi and his cohorts to Sikh militancy.
>> The secularist dogma of many fighting the sangh parivar has not  
>> helped
>> matters. Even those who have benefited from secular lawyers and
>> activists relate to secular ideologies instrumentally. They neither
>> understand them nor respect them. The victims still derive solace  
>> from
>> their religions and, when under attack, they cling more passionately
>> to faith. Indeed, shallow ideologies of secularism have  
>> simultaneously
>> broken the back of Gandhism and discouraged the emergence of figures
>> like Ali Shariatis, Desmond Tutus and the Dalai Lama — persons  
>> who can
>> give suffering a new voice audible to the poor and the powerless and
>> make a creative intervention possible from within worldviews
>> accessible to the people.
>> Finally, Gujarat's spectacular development has underwritten the
>> de-civilising process. One of the worst-kept secrets of our times is
>> that dramatic development almost always has an authoritarian tail.
>> Post-World War II Asia too has had its love affair with developmental
>> despotism and the censorship, surveillance and thought control
>> that go
>> with it. The East Asian tigers have all been maneaters most of the
>> time. Gujarat has now chosen to join the pack. Development in the
>> state now justifies amorality, abridgement of freedom, and
>> collapse of
>> social ethics.
>> Is there life after Modi? Is it possible to look beyond the 35 years
>> of rioting that began in 1969 and ended in 2002? Prima facie, the
>> answer is "no". We can only wait for a new generation that will, out
>> of sheer self-interest and tiredness, learn to live with each other.
>> In the meanwhile, we have to wait patiently but not passively to keep
>> values alive, hoping that at some point will come a modicum of  
>> remorse
>> and a search for atonement and that ultimately Gujarati traditions
>> will triumph over the culture of the state's urban middle class.
>> Recovering Gujarat from its urban middle class will not be easy. The
>> class has found in militant religious nationalism a new self- respect
>> and a new virtual identity as a martial community, the way Bengali
>> babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims at different times
>> have sought salvation in violence. In Gujarat this class has smelt
>> blood, for it does not have to do the killings but can plan, finance
>> and coordinate them with impunity. The actual killers are the lowest
>> of the low, mostly tribals and Dalits. The middle class controls the
>> media and education, which have become hate factories in recent  
>> times.
>> And they receive spirited support from most non-resident Indians who,
>> at a safe distance from India, can afford to be more nationalist,
>> bloodthirsty, and irresponsible.
>> [The writer is a political psychologist.]
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Shuddhabrata Sengupta
The Sarai Programme at CSDS
Raqs Media Collective
shuddha at sarai.net

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