Two media takes on Kobad Ghandy

IN Media Practice | 27/09/2009
Two extracts from the same Sunday's papers makes an apt study in subjectivity.


From"Regular Rebels", Zahid Rafiq and Stuti Shukla, Indian Express, 27.9.09


From 'Absolving Maoists of their crimes', Swapan Dasgupta Pioneer, 27.9.09




Ghandy was born in 1947 to Nargis and Adi Ghandy, a rich Parsi couple. Adi was a top executive in a pharmaceutical company and an ice cream magnate. Ghandy had a comfortable childhoodâ€"from his Worli Sea Face bungalow to his education at Doon School, Mumbai's St Xavier's College and chartered accountancy in London.

It was 1970, and Ghandy was 23, already influenced by the idea of a revolution by the poor. Leaving his charted accountancy course midway, he returned to Bombay with a thirst to understand the Indian society's idea of justice. P.A. Sebastian, Ghandy's associate in the late 1970s, says,"London was one of the centres of the global protests against the Vietnam War. Kobad read mainstream literature and journalism and disagreed with it."

               *    *   *

After Ghandy and Anuradha went underground in the late-'80s, Kumud never saw them together. Ritu Diwan, a close friend of Ghandy, recalls the couple being called 'phatakdis' by friends."They were so dynamic and thoughtful and they were always doing something. So we called them phatakdis, small fire crackers that make little noise but shine bright."

Anuradha took up a job as a part-time lecturer at Nagpur University, commuting on an Avon bicycle till Kobad bought a TVS moped. She wrote and translated Naxal material and educated women. She secretly visited her mother and went to her brother Sunil's plays."My heart ached to see her getting weaker. I would apply oil in her hair," says Kumud. Sunil erased almost all pictures of his sister and Ghandy after they went underground.


"Ghandy never once used a mobile phone. His aides were trained to such perfection that they were the best couriers of information," says a senior official, who spent a decade trying to track Ghandy. He adds that Ghandy had sympathisers at government offices and had eight separate identity documents issued in Maharashtra. When a divisional commander surrendered and the police took him in for questioning, he did not know Ghandy by his name, the official adds."After much prodding, he talked about a long lecture Ghandy had delivered, nibbling dry cashewnuts while talking about revolution in France, China and Russia even as a huge classroom of cadre sat hungry and tired for hours. 'When it was over, we told him we were hungry and he looked angrily at us and left,' the commander said."




It is necessary to provide a background to the contrived tear-jerking that is being witnessed in the English-language media over the arrest of one Kobad Ghandhy, an ideologue and Politburo member of the outlawed CPI(Maoist). Normally, the arrest of a senior Maoist leader doesn't lead to every cub reporter shedding tears. But Ghandhy's advantage is that he came from a rich Bombay family, went to Doon School, bummed around London in the 1970s, was a leading light of the Human Rights industry and, finally, went"underground" to service a group of armed murderers. Of course, Ghandhy has probably never killed someone personally or planted one of those deadly mines that have led to the deaths of policemen and para-military forces in Chhattisgarh. For that matter, he was probably never personally around when his comrades turfed poor Adivasis out of their homes for the crime of refusing to acknowledge the power of the Red Flag. No, or so the argument goes, Ghandhy was a good man because he felt for the poor, spoke good English and had eschewed his inheritance. He was a good man because he cut a romantic figure.


The campaign to paint a halo around Ghandhy has begun in right earnest. In time, we may even witness countless intellectuals and even Nobel Prize winners sign petitions calling for his release, perhaps on medical grounds. It is even possible that an orchestrated campaign may lead to the courts ordering his release on bail on compassionate grounds â€" the paediatrician Binayak Sen was granted bail on grounds of ill health. But does a spirited campaign by bleeding hearts necessarily absolve Ghandhy?


A man who occupied a top leadership position of an outlawed organisation that has assaulted the sovereignty of the Indian state cannot claim with any degree of credibility that he was oblivious of the military wing of his party. The armed struggle is an integral part of the CPI(Maoist) and its military operations have been sanctioned by the political leadership. Obviously, Ghandhy may be unaware of the operational details of the arson, murder and extortion in the deep forests of central India. But these operations have been sanctioned by people like him. His supporters cannot whitewash his culpability.







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