Where is the Nation Heading to?

Ongoing investigations related to the Gujarat riots have constantly brought forward evidences implicating the Gujarat government, its Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and state’s responsible officials. Testaments of ex-police officers as well as in-service personnel have also come to the fore. Apart from the political importance of these statements, the team probing the incidents of the Gujarat riots has also registered them. The issue of the lady minister Kodnani’s involvement has already gone far enough. In the same way evidences regarding the Malegaon bomb blasts are in government records now, they have been included in the charge-sheet being prepared and have acquired the status of a court document through which the world came to know about the plans of the revival of the Hindutva ideology and the people behind the movement.
The most dangerous aspect of this is the discovery about efforts to establish a parallel system in the country amounting to rebellion. The whole nation appears to be on the brink of an explosion. This seditious attitude has gone to the extent where the promoters of the ideology find their own people being obstacles in their way - who they feel are the cause of the delay in the realization of their dreams and wishes. Therefore they have decided to eliminate such people who according to them are hesitant in their stance and display cowardice by counselling them to act wisely.
These incidents have proved the prevalence of this thought process in different sectors. The army has denied the existence of such forces in its fold although it is a bit difficult to believe this in the light of the army officers arraigned in the wake of Malegaon blasts.
Various hues of this fascist thinking have been exposed which shows that apart from the known groups there are many others who are involved. These ‘others’ are not affiliated to any important groups and this is a cause of grave concern. Their non affiliation gives them license to do whatever they want at any time they choose.
Another dangerous aspect of this phenomenon is the spread of weapons in society. The culture of harassing and terrifying particular communities/sections through blatant display and use of arms initiated by the known groups has become a dangerous trend being followed by anyone who wishes to do so.
No doubt, the fault lies with the people who started this but the blame also goes to those who tolerated this drift giving it their tacit approval. They are now beginning to realize the downside of the gun culture.
Initially, it was embarked by people with a particular frame of mind and people with a specific mindset quietly accepted, rather spread it. But its dangerous implications were comprehended only when it became a much sought after way of attaining objectives.
It’s getting increasingly difficult, perhaps impossible to control this trend.

Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT, 28thFeb09 translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


These People’s Representatives!

Legislative, Judiciary and Executive are the three pillars of any state and on these depends its overall health. The working of the three pillars reflects the condition of a state. Those manning these three institutions will portray the conduct of the state and the government. If they are responsible and conscientious with a sense of service to the people the governmental machinery will resonate them. If they have shortcomings the working of the government cannot escape its consequences. The weaknesses can be in any person or he may catch these over time. But if he is aware of his weakness and has the will to overcome them, the weaknesses can not only be avoided but also be cured. And one can hope that the governmental machinery moves smoothly. But if the situation is just the opposite, there is little hope left for either avoiding the flaws or curing them. These will continue to spread and reach unimaginable proportions. Our country is unfortunately passing through this very state of affairs. All the three pillars of the state have become frail, some to the extent of beyond recovery. The legislative and the executive are in very bad state while the judiciary has also started decaying. The most dreadful aspect of this decadence is that citizens are increasingly losing hope of any improvement in the health of these institutions. The judiciary is though better than the other two, delay in getting justice greatly diminishes its very purpose. As such, this pillar has also started to lose its integrity and respect.

Legislative and Executive are in miserable shape. It can be noticed by its personnel sinking deeper and deeper in corruption. It has stripped them of whatever positive traits they might have possessed. They are credited with everything negative. Our heads bow in shame when we hear about their alleged misdeeds. According to a recent analysis released by National Election Watch (NEW) the image of the Legislative is dreadful and disgraceful. The NEW notes that 93 political parties are represented in the current parliament – some national and others regional and small. Eighteen of these parties have their MPs who bear a criminal look and are indicted for various criminal offences. For example, none of the five Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) members is free from an indictment. Seven out of twelve Shiv Sena members are facing criminal charges in courts. Five out of nine Nationalist Congress party members are tainted. Four out of eight Akali Dal party fall in the same category. So are eight out of nineteen belonging to Bahu Samaj party. Criminal proceedings are also in progress against three out of eight of JDU members, eleven out of twenty four of RJD, one out of three each of Forward Bloc and JD(S),eleven of thirty six of Samajwadi, three of ten of CPI, four of sixteen of DMK, one of four each of ADMK and Lok Jan Shakti, thirty nine out of one hundred and thirty eight from BJP, twenty six out of one hundred and forty five of Congress, seven of forty three of CPI(M) and one of eleven from Biju Janta Dal.

The condition of Executive is not much better from the Legislative because it is under direct control of the later. The image of the state and the government as a whole can easily be visualized from the whole picture.
Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT, 25th Feb09 translated by: M H Zulqarnain , Riyadh


The Local Hand in the Mumbai Attack

Mr L K Advani, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has demanded from the UPA government to conduct a judicial probe into the 26/11 Mumbai Attack. He pointed out that an operation of this scale could not be executed without the local support and hence it was only pertinent to make a detailed and impartial investigation into the whole incident so that all the aspect are sorted out and people are able to know the extent of the local links. He made this demand from the floor of the Parliament. Reacting on the Foreign Minister’s statement he recalled that a person called Fahim Ansari of Goregaon was detained in this connection who during the interrogation mentioned that the incident was well-planned in advance. One of his accomplices, Sabeehuddin Ahmad was also arrested in April 2008 which demonstrates that the planning for the operation had started almost a year ago. Mr Advani reiterated that such a sophisticated operation was not possible to be carried out with without local logistic support.

Mr Advani is the second person to raise the issue of ‘local link’. He was preceded by no less than a person than Mr Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister who spoke about it during the party convention in Nagpur also reiterated that such operations could not be executed without local support. He wondered why such an important matter was being ignored by the UPA government. Congress immediately rubbished Advani's demand as "absurd" saying it was a "dangerous proposition" certain to help Pakistan. "This is an irresponsible statement and will be fodder to the rumour machine in Pakistan," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told a media briefing. He also pointed that none of the two leaders were able to come up with any substantive proof to support their claims. Congress pointed out that the a judicial enquiry could not t be ordered in this case as another country which was involved in the incident was already conducting investigations and India’s stance could hamper those investigations.

The Congress spokesman on the one hand maintained that raising such issues could weaken the government’s hand which was fighting a ‘battle’ and BJP should instead support government’s efforts। On the other hand Mr Singhvi conceded that the possibility of the local link could not be ruled out and that the police was already looking into this aspect. It will also be recalled that Pakistani circles, both official and unofficial, had earlier raised the matter of local links into Mumbai attack wondering how Pakistani elements could penetrate the Indian territorial waters, bring in arms and explosives in such large quantities, get access to five-star hotels and books rooms there. All this was difficult to happen without local support.

Exactly on the day Mr Advani made his statement in the Parliament the crime branch of the Mumbai police filed a 1809-page charge-sheet against the Indian Mujahedeen (IM) before a special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (Mcoca) Court. It mentions that IM had hatched a detailed plan to create terror all over the country through its network. Twelve of its alleged members were already indicted. It also says that the IM had links with the now banned SIMI and with militant outfits like LeT. The charge-sheet further disclosed that IM was in the process of setting up its base in Maharashtra.

There appears to be a connection of sorts between the statements of the Congress, Mr Advani & Mr Modi and the Mumbai police charge-sheet. Is the whole exercise just an endeavor to actually establish the ‘local hand’ theory?

Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT, 22nd Feb09 translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


How Much More Evidence is Needed?

A former high ranking officer of the Gujarat Police Mr.R.B.Sreekumar in an affidavit submitted to the SIT(Special Investigation Team) appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate into the cases of the anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002, highlighted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s enmity towards Muslims.
A layman catching the disease of hatred towards others is in itself a highly dangerous thing as it is contagious, spreads fast, leaves deep wounds and spoils the environment. It becomes all the more hazardous if a person holding a responsible position is afflicted by it, and moreover if that person is Narendra Modi, then it amounts to contaminating the whole environment. This disease of such people often becomes a crime as a large section of society has to face its consequences.
In 2002, R.B.Sreekumar was in charge of the State Intelligence Bureau and had retired as the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP). After retirement, he started working for the oppressed and joined famous social worker Teesta Setalvad to further this cause. In his affidavit he mentions, ‘……on 7th May 2002, the Chief Minister summoned me to his chamber and asked me not to keep a check on the Sangh Parivar and its activities as they were not involved in anything illegal. On the contrary, I was ordered to observe the Muslim fighters and gather information about Aman Path which was alleged to be a Muslim group.’
According to reliable sources, another senior serving police officer Rahul Sharma has also submitted a similar affidavit to the SIT, which too brings to the fore the Gujarat government’s enmity towards Muslims. At that time Rahul Sharma was the SP of Bhavnagar and now he is the Deputy Inspector General of the CBI. He has stated in his affidavit, ‘The then Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Govardhan Zadafia contacted me and told me that the ratio of the deaths resulting from the police firing was not right, which I felt was a complaint that the number of Hindu deaths in Bhavnagar was more than the Muslims .
The Gujarat government has rejected the accusation of R.B.Sreekumar saying that he is a biased officer, which is proved by the fact that at present he is working with Teesta Setalvad and therefore what he says is not worth the attention and reply of the government.
Sources say this was done on the suggestion of the then security advisor to the Chief Minister K.P.S.Gill. He had reportedly suggested to the State Police Chief K. Chakravarthy that there was no need to reform the politicians. In other words proceeding against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal was unwarranted. He had further suggested that people affected by the communal riots living in the refugee camps should be moved from there. R.B.Sreekumar has included this in his affidavit. He says he can be questioned on this by people who are looking for the truth, but no one has queried him yet. He wondered why he was not being asked.
On the other hand, Sharma has said in his affidavit that the police records concerning the riots have been destroyed, a lot of evidence has been obliterated, but being conscientious he handed over all the evidence he possessed to the investigation team.
Sources say that the Modi government’s anger has resulted in both the officers being charge-sheeted in 2005 and declared guilty of disclosing confidential information. But last year the Ahmedabad Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal absolved them of the charge. On the other hand, Sharma was transferred from the post of SP of Bhavnagar and given an unimportant position in the Ahmedabad Control Room. SIT has submitted its repot to the Supreme Court which includes reinvestigations on 10 important instances of riots in the state.
There have been many such reports about the personal involvement of Narendra Modi, his ministers and the Gujarat government, but the criminals are still at large and nothing is being done to stop their activities.
After all this how much more evidence is needed ??

Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT, 19th Feb09 translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


Criminal In The Clutches Of Law

In connection with the anti Muslim terrorism in Gujarat in 2002, after Banjara etc, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court has now arrested the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Kirisitsinh Edra of Bulsar. The DSP is accused of negligence of his official duties as well as concealing evidence.

This is the first time a police officer has been arrested by a team appointed by the Supreme Court. In February 2002, during the anti Muslim Hindutva terrorist activities, Edra was stationed as an inspector in the Meghani Nagar police station. He has been arrested in connection with the attack by Hindutva activists on Gulbarg Society, in which a former Congress Member of Parliament Mr. Ehsan Jafri, together with 39 others were burnt alive. The SIT had questioned 6 police officers together with Edra regarding the mass killings of Muslims.

Confirming the arrest of Edra, SIT Chief R.K.Raghavan said, ‘’Before arresting him, we had gathered a list of evidence against him.’’

Indicating the arrest of other police officers in the near future, SIT Chief further stated that nothing can be ruled out and many others would soon be taken into custody. At the time when the FIR was lodged in Gulbarg Society, Edra himself was one of the complainants. As the police station in charge there, he had filed the FIR, but had not taken any steps to stop the mass killings.

On the contrary, reports from the residents of that area show that he was inciting the Hindutva activists to attack Gulbarg Society. It is a proven fact that he did not take any steps to disperse the activists and save the Muslims living in the society during the hours long siege, threats and chaos, perpetrated by the activists as he himself was a part of the Hindutva forces.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi together with other ministers, the BJP, RSS and especially leaders of the VHP were fully involved in this great act of ‘Ahimsa’ wherein they had high intentions of annihilating the 8% Muslims of the state. They had the government and its complete machinery at their back having no qualms about their duties nor any fear of the law. They didn’t have a streak of humanity in him.

People who were against killing animals and insects were involved in the mass murder of humans and moreover were happy that theirs was an act service to their religion, culture and ideology.

They talk about their belief in Hinduism, about heaven and hell and rebirth after death, but they did not even for a second think about their accountability to their Lord, Bhagwan or Ishwar, nor about the fact that God is Just and Fair.

They considered themselves to be above the law, because as uniformed personnel, they themselves were the custodians of law, responsible for its implementation.

They were confident of the fact that even if the law proved to be an obstacle in their path, they had the backing of the state government, the judiciary that was involved in the murder of justice, the Hindutva forces as well as judges who in a single verdict could set free 40 accused at a time.

For more than quarter a century this genocide of Muslims has continued without affecting the Hindutva terrorists in any way. After every riot, inquiry commissions and committees were set up, but rarely did any report come forward, and even if a report was submitted, never was it implemented. On the contrary, Muslims were searched, lathi charged, fired with live ammunition, arrested and charge-sheeted.

Muslims would do nothing except lament over their fate as usual since they lacked courage and confidence and had no one to turn to.

In such a situation, after taking the oath of allegiance to secularism, the constitution and law, why would the Hindutva forces fear anyone or anything in their march towards destruction? They were fearless and ruthless.

Investigations of the SIT also indicate involvement of ADGP M.K.Tandon, former DCP P.B. Gondlia, SP K.K. Mysorewala, V.S. Golhal and former Assistant Commissioner M.T. Rana together with K G Edra.

The outcome is awaited.

Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT, 13th Feb09 translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


A Dangerous Trend

Referring to the enquiry on the Malegaon blasts, the army chief, General Deepak Kapoor has denied the presence of a network of communal elements in the Indian Army.
This enquiry has resulted in the arrest of serving officer Colonel Purohit and other retired officers whose confessional statements have not only been recorded by the enquiry team but have also been included in the charge sheet submitted to the court. Investigations were based on these confessions and many former officers arrested on the statement of Colonel Purohit.
Questions are being raised in government as well as non-government circles and especially in the media about communal tendencies developing in the army. Such allegations have been vehemently denied earlier too and now government sources clearly state that Colonel Purohit’s is an exceptional case and that such a mentality is not found in the army. Therefore this particular case should not be taken as a basis to malign the army nor to demean its credibility, as this will have an adverse effect on the army.
Once again General Deepak Kapoor has reiterated the absence of communal forces in the army. He has also declared that the army itself would very soon start proceedings against Colonel Purohit so that the possibilities of growth of such communal tendencies can be nipped in the bud. During investigations in the Malegaon bomb blasts, for the first time, aspersions were cast on a top official and Colonel Purohit was taken into custody on charges of being involved in it.
Statements against the accused that have come to fore in this regard are really dangerous and give clear evidence that this is not an ordinary incident but a deep conspiracy. Testimonies bring to light a well laid out plan for mass scale killing and destruction as well as targeting the top brass, including leaders of the RSS and the BJP.
Surprisingly, the people who plotted the killings had notions about these leaders being a hindrance in the making of a Hindu Rashtra or responsible for the delay in the fulfillment of their dreams.
These arrests and confessions have all proved the involvement of people from different strata of society which include professional experts from the army as well as religious leaders.
Another point of concern is that these people do not belong to any one area or part of the country, but are spread out in different corners of the nation. This gives an idea of the intense penetration of this mentality. One aspect of this is their highly dangerous rebellious attitude which is clear from the fact that for them there is no place for people who are doubtful or complacent even though they believe in the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. This group believes in eliminating such people.
The question that arises is why did such a rebellious trend develop?
This in reality is the outcome of the politics based on hatred which is being propagated in the country for the past 20-25 years; one blatant expression of which was the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
This attitude is a byproduct of the Ram Janam Bhoomi movement which could not fulfill the promises made 20 years back and that has spread frustration among a large section of people who are now disillusioned by their leadership and have lost faith in them. Now, they seem to be taking things in their own hands.
Editor:Parvaz Rahmani, sehroza DAWAT,
10Feb09 translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


Focus on Afghanistans

The newly elected US president Barak Obama has retreated that the one lakh forty thousand American soldiers deployed in Iraq will return to the US within a year. In an interview given to the NBC channel Mr. Obama expressed his satisfaction over Iraq’s readiness to safeguard itself. The recently concluded elections in Iraq were the most peaceful since the commencement of the American campaign of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, hence, a large number of US soldiers will return from Iraq, he added. The American president also said that in the wake of the present situation in Afghanistan he would increase the number of US soldiers from thirty six thousand to sixty thousand in the next one and a half year.

Mr. Obama who inherited two wars from his predecessor, has insisted up on troop pullout from Iraq earlier also. He had strongly criticized Georg W bush’s Iraq policy during his election campaign. President Obama had even promised that the army would return to US within sixteen months of his coming into power and in his the first presidential address he wanted the army to exit Iraq in a responsible manner. He had a time table prepared for the above said purpose to which Mr. Bush strongly disagreed and didn’t even care of further decrease in his popularity. Firstly, his Republican party lost the midterm congress election and later the presidential election.

Troop pullout has been among the priorities of Obama for which he had had meetings with the army generals. Iraqis are eagerly awaiting for that moment. But the question of Iraq’s security raises serious doubts because only a month ago the Bush administration was apprehensive about Iraq’s inability to take control of it and now out of the blue Obama exudes confidence over Iraq’s ability. Obama’s intention, it might be conjectured, is to wash his hands off Iraq and wishes to abate public anger. This sounds plausible since other countries have decided to withdraw the troops from Iraq and if US continues to retain its army the presence would be interpreted as unjust occupation. It’s true that Iraqi forces have gained controlled of many states but American soldiers shield these forces. In such critical circumstances it would be folly to think Iraqi forces are in a convincible position to control Iraq. However, it cant be denied that Iraqis want foreign military to leave Iraqi soil but it is unthinkable that the US will leave Iraq after losing its 4236 lives and several men injured, without having achieved the purpose of occupation.

Tough the newly elected US president has declared to free Iraq at the same time he has stressed the urgent need to pay attention to Afghanistan which seems to be going out of US control after its occupation. It has also been foretold that the American and NATO armies shall loose the ground in Afghanistan. America has lost 644 of its soldiers there. Afghanistan is in deeper crises than what it was in 2001. So, Obama might consider two wars at the same time could prove too costly to manage and may well want to concentrate on Afghanistan alone. America has set up permanent military bases and now Afghanistan is on the cards from where it would be easier to bring other targeted nations under control. Georg W Bush successfully accomplished the task of taking control of Iraqi region but his incomplete mission in Afghanistan would be carried further by Obama, it seems. That could be the point behind Obama’s concern towards Afghanistan but at least in near future this looks grim and beyond possible.

sehroza DAWAT urdu, Editor: parvaz rahmani, English Translation of Feb07 2009 editorial by:khaleelulla khan, mysore


On the Path of Mutual Understanding

Addressing the Muslim world for the first time after taking over the responsibilities of his position, American President Barack Obama has said that America is not an enemy of the Muslim World.

During his inaugural speech too, he had mentioned about improving relations with the Muslim world on the basis of ‘’understanding’’, but now he has addressed the Muslim world in particular and for this he has chosen the Arabic T.V. channel, through which he has tried to convince them that he wants to change the Muslim world’s perception of America.

He further said that due to some misunderstandings, the Muslims have a biased view of America which, though right to a certain extent has been aggravated because of the sorrow, anger and hatred that the Muslims feel.

This shows that he realizes that the anger and hatred of Muslims is not misplaced and their legitimate grievances must be done away with.

He also realizes that America cannot march forward by ignoring the Muslim world nor can it become a leader by alienating them. It is necessary to pay special attention to the Muslim world in order to relieve their anger and hatred and establish world peace.

He is also aware of the way Muslim world issues were handled by his predecessor and wants to undo the damage and improve relations.

During his interview with arabic T.V. channel, he mentioned that relations between America and the Muslim world can be established as well as maintained on the basis of equality.

He accepted that America had committed grave mistakes as no one in this world is perfect, but it is time now to rectify the wrongs done. He expressed his wish to have friendly relations with the Muslim world based on equality and mutual respect.

He further stated that America is a well wisher of the Muslim world and does not want destruction and devastation but wishes to march forward together with them on the road to progress. He also emphasized his appreciation and respect for the Muslim world.

Giving his own example, he spoke specifically about his ties with his Muslim family and how he spent his childhood in Indonesia which is a Muslim country. He has travelled to many Muslim countries and found that every community has its own values and aspirations which need to be respected.

Through all this, he tried to give the impression that he is aware of the perceptions of the Muslim world and reiterated his point that America is not an enemy of the Muslim World but wishes to walk the path of understanding.

Now is the time for Mr. Obama to prove by his deeds that he really wishes to improve relations on the basis of equality and understanding.

Sehroza DAWAT, 01 feb 2009 Editorial Translated by: salma nazir, riyadh


A Constitutional Confusion

Chief Election Commissioner N.Gopalaswami has appealed to the President of India Mrs. Prathiba Devi Singh Patil to terminate the services of election commissioner Mr.Naveen Chawla.

In his letter he has stated that his colleague is not honest towards his position as well as responsibilities and because of his leanings towards the other side, and is responsible for the neglect of the proper performance of his constitutional duties. As he is not neutral in his stance, therefore is not fit to hold such an important and delicate position. It has been pointed out that Mr.Naveen Chawla has a pro Congress attitude which is reflected in the response of the Congress and the BJP to the appeal. The BJP has demanded the immediate termination of Mr. Naveen Chawla and said the government is obliged to accept the Chief Election Commissioner’s appeal. On the other hand, the Congress seems hesitant to accept it and has said that it will review the appeal and take the opinion of legal experts in this matter.

Mr. Naveen Chawla was appointed during the UPA government’s term and it has been observed that there have been many points of differences between the Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner Mr. Naveen Chawla. Last year in Karnataka, the Chief Election Commissioner wanted to end President’s rule before elections, to which Election Commissioner S.Y.Quraishi agreed but Mr.Naveen Chawla disagreed. He was in favour of accepting the dates that a ‘particular’ political party wanted. In the same way, Mr.Naveen Chawla disagreed on the aspect of supervision during elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2007.

During an election rally in Gujarat, when Mrs. Sonia Gandhi used the phrase ‘Merchants of Death’ in her speech, and was given a notice by the Election Commission, Mr.Naveen Chawla had protested.
At another time, when Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was honoured by Belgium and the Election Commission had issued a notice in her name, Mr.Naveen Chawla had differed in his opinion with the Chief Election Commissioner, which shows they’ve had this problem between them for the past two years.

External Affairs Minister, Mr.Pranab Mukherjee, who is also currently officiating the Prime Minister, responded by saying that this matter would be followed up, legal advice sought and the government’s decision announced at the proper time.

In the absence of the Prime Minister, who is undergoing treatment and will take time to recover completely and resume his duties, the cabinet may find itself unable to decide on this important matter. On the other hand, the legal and constitutional relevance of this appeal has been questioned. Is the government obliged to accept it or can reject it?

Government sources say that according to Article 1234 of the Constitution, all government matters as well as all appointments and terminations made by the President of India to important positions are basically based on proposition of the Central Cabinet.

As such, the decision lies not with the President, but with the Central Cabinet whose suggestions and recommendations are sent through the Prime Minister to the President and not vice versa.

Therefore, the decision in this matter rests with the Central Cabinet and not the President.

The government has tried to explain that the termination of duties of important officials of the Election Commission is not easy and can be done only after proper trial which is a long process.

This step by the Chief Election Commissioner has started a constitutional argument on the one hand and given rise to a political war on the other.

Moreover this matter has come to light at a very crucial and delicate point of time. General elections, if held according to schedule will be conducted after two months. But the Chief Election Commissioner Mr. N.Gopalaswami will be retiring from his position on the 20th of April when preparations for the General elections will be in full swing and Mr. Naveen Chawla will be a part of all those proceedings.
Sehroza DAWAT, 04 feb09 Editorial Translated by: Salma Nazir, Riyadh


Shrinking Space of Mainstream Media

SOROOR AHMED discusses the new dimensions of modern tools of information available to ever expanding circle of creative readers and viewers and offers a word or two of advice for mainstream media to know its limitations and take corrective steps to conform to the highest standards of honest, sincere and truthful journalism.
Journalists are supposed to write for readers, but very often many of them, one way or the other, end up becoming the pleaders of political and business leaders. Yet they would pose themselves as independent champions of democracy. This phenomenon is not only confined to India, but is found elsewhere too.

Journalism has undergone a sea change in the last couple of decades. Now it does not just mean 8, 12 or 16-pages poorly printed newspapers. Dailies are there but they have gone too thick, too glossy and full of advertisements as well as ‘advertorials’. They are no more just morningers; in metros eveningers have hewed out their own market so have the magazines and tabloids.?

The revolutionary change in the print-media went along with the advent of the television channels, which too have their impact on the society. They do shape––or mar––the public opinion. They have played a big role in changing the life-style of the common man. So far political seriousness is concerned the Indian TV channels are still considered as spicy or masala journalism, which has little or sometimes even nothing to do with the truth. It is just the camera, which plays wonders.

Web journalism is the latest form. It came in a big way at the turn of the century. But within a decade it has gradually made its mark. Internet journalism has one great advantage over other forms. It has helped the growth of a large number of citizen journalists. One just does not need huge investment to spread one’s own view all over the globe. In India websites, blogs, portals etc are often ignored and their importance underplayed though the truth is that, of late, they are making a big impact, especially on the educated sections of the society.

One example will help understand the impact of the internet revolution. When General Musharraf decided to have a crackdown on the mainstream media in 2007 it was the citizen journalists who took the challenge with the help of internet to spread the views all over the world. It played no less role than the mainstream journalism in moulding the public-opinion. It is a bit difficult to censor the transmission of information, news and views through e-mails. This is not an isolated case confined to Pakistan.

Two or three decades back journalists were few and far between. They were more a revered lot, but today this tribe of pen-pushers has multiplied manifold. Besides, the society has much larger number of citizen journalists and free lancers having no background of traditional journalism. Even normal readers and TV viewers can read, write and understand not only vernacular but even the English Papers. A huge group of alternative public opinion-makers has emerged in the last few years and sometimes their views are rotated through net to much larger readers than old and reputed columnists and writers like Vir Sanghvi, Dileep Padgoankar, Prabhu Chawla, Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra, M J Akbar, Vinod Mehta, Pravin Swamy, Shekhar Gupta or much younger lot of Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh etc.??

But most people have perhaps not understood the real impact of the internet media. They refuse to accept that what is being written and circulated through internet by these citizen journalists or free lancers is, to much extent, neutralizing the impact created by the mainstream journalists. Now even many average readers have access to the international newspapers, magazines, websites, TV channels etc and are more influenced by them than the home-grown scribes.

Yes the mainstream media persons are making the public opinion but not among the intellectuals, who now suspect them more than ever before. One can say they are succeeding in befooling the fools. Anyone with slightest intellectual sense is now increasingly relying on the alternative media, which was not possible some two or three decades back.

In late 1970s and 1980s M J Akbar used to be respected as a great Muslim journalist. Those were the days when the number of Muslim in this field was very limited. Thus notwithstanding serious differences with him many members of the community––not to speak of others––used to admire him. And to increase his readership among the secular and Muslim society he would write more on communal riots, Shah Bano case, Ram Janambhoomi movement etc. He is still writing, now in largely circulated the Times of India, yet most of his writings are rebuffed and snubbed by the new generation Muslim as well as the general readers.

The more he writes the more he gets exposed. Similarly ladies and gentlemen like Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh and her husband Rajdeep Sardesai have developed ‘knack’ for writing edit page articles.?Compare most of their pieces with many freelance blog writers or internet journalists, you will come to know how shallow and less knowledgeable these big names are. Very often they try to thrust their fantastic views on the edit page thinking that they are writing script for their respective television channels. Dreaming in English is not a sign of intellectualism. A fool living in Britain or US will dream in that language, because it is his/her mother tongue. But the mainstream mediamen and women are not yet realizing it.

The less said about Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra and Prabhu Chawla the better. Even their handful of admirers know what and for whom are they writing––leaders of a particular party, not readers of India.

It is not that these ladies and gentlemen always write shits or speak nonsense on TV channels. Sometimes they do make sense, but then that is no big deal. Readers expect far more depth and sincerity from them.?

The greatest problem with these established journalists is that they are both blind to reality as well as purblind. Though many of them are armed with degrees from White-skinned countries they do not understand that today they can not contradict their own view as they used to do in the past. Now readers will go to search engine and take out their own old article to write back: “Look a certain gentleman wrote such a balanced piece during the Gujarat riots days, but is now writing or propagating through television channels just the opposite as Narendra Modi has won over him by giving huge advertisement to his TV channel.”?

Twenty years back these gentlemen might have gone unchecked. But today if they take a different stand on A R Antulay they are questioned as to why they supported Arif Mohammad Khan in mid-1980s, when he pilloried the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and went against his cabinet decision.

Many of the mainstream journalists suffer from amnesia. They are still living in fool’s paradise thinking that they are the real public opinion-makers. But the truth is that more than making the public opinions they are confusing a large number of citizens of the country. In the recent assembly elections most of them have written off the Congress. After the results they have eggs all over their face as the Congress managed to win in three out of five seats. This is not the first instance of misjudgment by the mainstream media.

Take the example of a young woman free lancer, who was asked by India Today to write a piece after the killing of two youths in Batla House last September. When the piece finally appeared in that magazine she was shocked to see that her write up was so badly edited that it had lost its real essence. The lady was smarter than those running India Today. She circulated the original unedited piece to thousands, may be lakhs of readers and wrote that this original article would certainly be read by more people than what had appeared in India Today.?

Most of those who are emerging in the alternative media are those who did not get space in the mainstream journalism because of their views or because they are intellectually too sound to fit themselves in the run-of-the-mill newspaper or television jobs. They might not have got a break because they can not bow before the media barons and political bosses at the drop of a hat––for jobs or advertisements. Many of those who have emerged in the alternative media are professionally engaged elsewhere yet were forced by the mainstream journalism to take up this occupation. For example a gentleman doing research in some science subject in the United States is running a very successful news portal. It has a much larger hit in India than many newspapers.

As the mainstream media, especially in India, have not even been allowing ‘letters to editor’ written on different lines published, the growth of alternative media was quite natural. Now that a large number of committed readers are not accepting the views presented by the mainstream media-persons, the latter are saying that these people are living in the state of denial. The truth is that it is these journalists who are living in Ivory Tower and are not knowing that the ground reality is changing fast.

It is not on any one or two issues that the mainstream media is repeatedly getting caught off guard. The alternative views are available much more easily now. Of late many newspapers, most of them regional vernacular dailies, have started giving space to the alternative views, which first appear on certain websites.

Transmitting information through internet is much easier and cheaper. One can spread truth with much less or no money in the pocket. This is the marvel of the technological advancement and it depends on how you utilize it.

One of the Orientalists while writing in 1920s wrote something unique which can be cited here just to understand the subject under discussion. He wrote that European imperialists in Africa laid down roads and railway lines and set up post offices to expand their colonial interest. But, according to him, more?than colonists these facilities helped the growth of Islam in that continent. Through these roads and railway networks this faith spread much faster in Africa in 19th century than never before.

The issue here is not the spread of Islam. It is just an example to explain as to how sometimes things do not go according to the plan. Time has come for the established journalists to understand that they have their own limitations. Now average readers and television viewers are more well informed and have much larger access.?Unlike in the past when they were forced to read a particular newspaper today there is a wide range of papers before them. They have much larger exposure to foreign channels and newspapers through internet. If you go on writing or showing something unacceptable the socially and politically aware readers or viewers are not going to get convinced.

Apparently the mainstream media, with huge money and machine power, may be influencing a large section of people. But the truth is that unlike in the past a sizeable section of enlightened readers and viewers have started suspecting them and their intention.

You can fool some people some time, but not all the people all the time.
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