A Letter to NDTV

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on March 16, 2010

Dr.Prannoy Roy

Dear Dr. Roy,

Re: The two programs on NDTV, ‘Being Muslim in India’ (March 3,2010) and ‘Gujarat riots come back to haunt Modi’ (March 14, 2010).

I started to watch NDTV more than a year ago, around the time of the Mumbai terrorist attack of 26/11. I am writing from Canada.The programs have been good, with some intelligent and competent anchors, and I want to comment on two of the recent ones,
mentioned above.

I found  ‘Being Muslim in India’ both topical and relevant. Shah Rukh Khan was present, looking quite chastened and sober, after his faux pas (Pakistan is a great neighbour !). Ofcourse, he is an actor and it is hard to say what he was really thinking. It was Talleyrand, I believe, who said that God gave a diplomat a tongue so that he could hide his thoughts.

Most likely true of actors also. Neverthless, I shall give him the benefit of the doubt. The most moving statement came from Mr.Padamsi (not quite sure who he is). He recalled what he had said after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the killing of the Sikhs that followed.

He had said this publicly, so he tells us: I may be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Sikh or any other, but I am an Indian. Because, if I am not an Indian, then who am I ?

This brings one to the question of Muslim identity in Hindu India.Mr.Padamsi’s statement is an emotional one born out of several ties,family, friendship, neighbourhood, the feeling of living in one country of which he is a citizen, with all democratic rights and then some (Muslims are allowed to practice sharia law in civil matters).

Religion wise, the monotheistic faiths have not been unwelcome to a pluralist tolerant Hinduism ( some would argue too tolerant!).

But does the Muslim in India have an Historical consciousness ? Political scientist Jyotirmaya Sharma is reported as saying that secularism does not provide an emotional dimension (by a columnist in Outlookindia).

He is right. Secular values of social justice, respect for law etc. are Dharmic values, moral ones, universal ones. They are not emotion based.Professor Sharma if he was seriously reflecting on the Indian polity,  should have added that secularism by itself does not provide an Historical imagination.

Hindu India goes back several millennium before either Islam or Christianity.And, except for the Jews and Zoroastrians, most Muslims and Christians in India are converts from Hinduism. Therefore, they may not find it difficult to associate with India’s Hindu past.

In any case, the historical imagination can be exercised intelligently.Can they exercise it, will they exercise it, is a question that Muslims only can answer. Individual Muslims, no doubt, can do it, have done it, but the community as a whole might integrate better into society
if they undertook that task.

The second program on Modi was a disaster.
It began quite well, and the Congress MP’s son who was present said something important.It is time for Muslims to put the Gujarat riot behind and move on. But then, with the debate becoming frenetic encouraged by liberal
supporters, he too became infected by the general atmosphere which can be summed up as a witch hunt. I think it was Swapan Das Gupta who said correctly( at the Times Now debate) that there have been many accusations against Narendra Modibut, but no charges, the latter
being court based. None of this was debated.

Instead, there were blanket generalizations and grandstanding.

One gentleman erroneously argued that Brand Modi had tainted Brand India internationally. On the contrary, the western world,recognises that Modi’s good governance had actually contributed to the development of Gujarat. No one takes seriously the accusation
that he was somehow involved in the killing of Muslims in Gujarat, post Godhra.

Then, there was a sociologist, who seemed to be quoting out of a textbook ! And he looked quite pleased with himself.

What was particularly sad was that Mr.Jaffri’s son and all the panelists except Dr.Chandan Mitra, editor of The Pioneer, did not once mention the tragedy of Godhra which precipitated the massacre of the Muslims as a revenge killing by the Hindus.

59 innocent Hindu pilgrims returning, as they usually do from pilgrimage, were roasted to death in a train compartment, in which they were sealed by the criminals who undertook this horrific act. The majority who were burnt alive were women and children. There was not a word of commiseration at this debate. If there is to be an apology, it should be a two way street.

In my opinion, the Muslim community should not only move forward, but they should seriously consider dropping Teesta Setalwad as their spokesperson. Since last year when the Special Investigative Team(SIT) charged her with tutoring witnesses and engaging in exaggerations
she has not been much in the public eye, at least not on NDTV.

Now, she has remerged and her style has not changed at all. As a woman, she makes me cringe. She shouts her opponents down and unfortunately, her voice is shrill and hard on the listener’s ear !

She does not have anything substantive to say either. And she seems to be changing her goal posts as she goes along.

Above all, she will not let the Muslim community heal and move forward, because she would then have lost her cause and the publicity it brings her. In my opinion, she has done more to damage communal relations, than help the two communities. Her argument that justice must be done, to help the victims, is beginning to sound hollow. The impression I got from that debate was that justice was not the goal, getting rid of Modi was. Hence, this was a political agenda.

Lastly, I would like to see NDTV do a program on the Kashmir Hindus who were driven out of their homeland ( 375,000 of them).Many who were killed,  were done to death with beheadings,sawing of bodies, gouging of eyes etc. NDTV may have done a program prior to my watching since November, 2008. If not, I would very much appreciate NDTV doing one.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

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