Letter to the Hoot—Not the whole truth?

BY sastry| IN Opinion | 31/01/2004
What happened in Gujarat in terms of human lives lost or property destroyed is terrible and no sane person can condone it. But equally terrible is the event that triggered it.
This refers to the article "Remember this?"  by Kalpana Sharma under the column  "The Other Half " of the magazine section of The Hindu dated December 28, 2003. With a two-line preamble that appears below the title, she confronts us with the question "Can we afford to bury and forget the terrifying messages that the massacres in Gujarat carry?" It is not clear why she wants the readers to remember it.

Quoting extensively from a report on what is variously called the massacre, pogrom, genocide etc, that has been prepared by a group of academics and activist from six countries, "to ensure that the memory of the Gujarat carnage is not erased", she narrates how the minority community continues to suffer from non-rehabilitation, economic and sexual violence. She further says, "fear is the dominant emotion in the lives of the Gujarati Muslims. They tread quietly and try to keep a low profile because even small altercations with members of the majority community can easily become serious". The author in conclusion makes a spirited plea to Indians to make a resolve not to allow such shameful events to be forgotten.

Looks sensible, as there is truth in it.  But the catch is that it is not the whole truth. What happened in Gujarat in terms of human lives lost or property destroyed is terrible and no sane person can condone it. Equally terrible is the event that triggered it. For an ordinary person like me, a victim is a victim whether he/she belonged to the majority or minority community. But the author doesn`t seem to think so. She grieves only for the minority lives. This is the whole crux of the problem and this is sufficient reason to put the author under a cloud.                                                                                                                                                                                         

In the entire article, nowhere was there any reference or sympathy to the 59 people including 14 children that were burnt alive by a gang of hooligans. What a way of analysing an event. Persons with such strong prejudices come to the same conclusions irrespective of the truth just as a stuck (rusted?) weathercock always points to the same direction.

Bleeding heart liberals may claim that the retaliation should have been in exact proportion to the crime. But this would be analogous to Shylock being permitted his pound of flesh provided he did not shed even a drop of blood in the process. Clever but impractical. At a time when even scientific findings are losing credibility because of the questionable ways the studies are carried out, to give the status of a scripture to a report made by a few individuals who studied the incidents from certain viewpoints is untenable.  Rape is a heinous crime deserving most stringent of the punishments. But what about rapes against women belonging to the majority community which is a phenomenon (rather than an event) that goes unlamented?

Making suggestions with dangerous implications amounts to encouraging strife. Is it our wish that India should turn into another Palestine? It is worth noting what Sajjad Lone of Peoples Conference had to say " both media and civil society had failed the Kashmir Pandits by not highlighting the atrocities against them" (Page 10, The Hindu, January 18, 2004).

In a country divided - although without basis - into secularists and communalists, there will always be two versions for any event. Which of them should be taken as true depends on to which faction you belong. As time passes on, reports become more and more apocryphal. This reminds me of a story I read some time ago. The event was "some one vomited". A person who was a witness to it reported it as such to another. That person added his/her mind and passed it on to a third person as "some one vomited dark matter". This changed further to "some one vomited black matter" that subsequently became "some one vomited crow like black matter" which ultimately became "some one vomited crows".

Should such provocative writings should find a place in a newspaper claiming "core values of truthful, fair and balanced journalism" (Page 1, The Hindu dated September 14,2003) and promising "it will always be our aim to promote harmony and union among our fellow countrymen and to interpret correctly the feelings of the natives and to create mutual confidence between the governed and the governors... In religion...we shall observe strict neutrality; sectarian disputes we shall never allow to appear in our column " ("Ourselves, Page 2, The Hindu, September 14, 2003). Speaking on the occasion of 125th anniversary celebrations, the Joint Managing Director wanted the readers of The Hindu "to feel free to interact with us on any important issue, and to call attention, admonish, or even correct us if ever they find us, wittingly or unwittingly swerving from our chosen path..." Sounds too liberal.

Hardly there are any letters that are critical of its reporting in the "Letters to the editor" column of this newspaper. It is not that informed and dissenting readers are not expressing their opinion through letters. But such letters don`t get published. This is from my personal experience.

Now it is for the readers to judge whether the newspaper adhered to its "core values" in publishing "Remember this?" and other writings with the more or less similar theme in the last so many years.

T Siva Rama Krishna Sastry
Hyderabad- 500 060

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