Barkha Dutt : Naivete or Partisanship ?

published on November 23, 2011
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

In the short period that the present writer has watched Barkha Dutt on NDTV, there have been some good programs. She appears to be competent, well informed and well prepared as an anchor,  the typical liberal biases notwithstanding. Every now and then there appears a program that is a mix of naivete and partisanship. This usually happens when the anchor is emotionally caught up with the subject of the program. This happened during her program on terrorism, the other day (We the People).

She opened up the program with an interview with one of the young men (Muslim) released on bail after 5 years spent in jail for the alleged complicity in the Malegaon blast case of 2006. Barkha was obviously caught up in the emotion of the moment as could be seen in the intensity of her language and expressions. The police case against the young man and some  eight others was that they were members of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The police had acted hastily and had been prejudiced against them, so the Muslim community felt , because they were from the minority population.

The fact that they were released on bail did not indicate that they were declared innocent by the courts. Neverthless, Barkha asked him some pointed questions about whether an apology was due to him from the government and police. The atmosphere was charged and it worsened when she  turned to one Pinto (who is this individual anyway ?) who gave a demented performance attacking the police in general. His theatrics were quite astounding ! And Barkha did nothing to intervene.

The stage was clearly set for a young audience. The fact that the police official on the panel soberly explained the sequence of events did not help matters. Lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani also provided a good context for the events and also pointed out that it was not the inefficiency or the prejudices of the police that was hampering serious investigation into the Malegaon blast, but the POLITICISATION and COMMUNALISATION by the government that was skewing the investigation. This is becoming increasingly clear as the days go by and as each case comes up.

The general public outside the NDTV studio seems to be catching up, however tardily, on the UPA government’s  ongoing wooing of the minority communities in anticipation of coming elections. The partisanship  is clear in that the Hindus accused in the Malegaon blast have not been given the same treatment as the Muslim accused. The moderate commentator and former government official B.Raman points out that the bungling by the police of the investigation applied to both communities. The evidence was inconclusive in both cases. However, the Hindu case has not been dealt with or advocated in the same manner. One should add, neither by the liberal press either. Here is Shri Raman’s telling observation :

“ In the case of the Hindus arrested in connection with some cases of reprisal terrorism, the facts and circumstances are exactly the same as in the case of the nine Muslims arrested in connection with the Malegaon 2006 blasts- that is, apart from the retracted confession of Swami Aseemanand, there is hardly any circumstantial and forensic evidence against them. And yet they have been treated as suspects as well as accused. The mitigatory yardstick followed in the case of the Muslims has not been followed in the case of the Hindu suspects, one of whom is a religious figure.In the eyes of the government of India, it is alright to be harsh with the Hindus, but not with the Muslims.Deplorable double standards adopted in the case of the two communities”

(B.Raman, ‘Communalising Investigations’, Outlookindia,Nov.16,2011)

The evidence against Sadhvi Pragya, the Hindu nun, was flimsy. The motorbike she sold to a fellow traveler and which was found near the site of the blast, was the sole evidence against her and so on. Neverthless she has been kept in jail and if her accounts can be believed this young woman in the prime of her youth has been subjected to torture, in addition to additional narco analysis. Her health has been shattered.

One wonders whether, if and when she is released on bail, Barkha will interview her.

This brings one to the liberal duplicity, not so much of the journalists themselves, who the present writer has previously remarked, are not always to blame(some even hold doctorates). Many are gifted, well trained individuals in their own right. The fault lies not in themselves but in their stars (!) the liberal academics and theorists who have firmly set their faces against what is mistakenly called the Hindu Right. If a label is to be applied, the better one would be Hindu Nationalists, which may or may not include some fringe groups. This Hindu Nationalism is the inheritor of the nationalism of the independence struggle, and the names are those of the patriots of the day and now: Balgangadhar Tilak, Shri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Subash Chandra Bose , to name the best known.

Take for instance the discussion on NDTV(Left, Right and Centre) on the question of the NDA alliance’s call for a debate on Home Minister Chidambaram, and should that fail ask for his resignation, and should that fail, walk out. This is very much within the democratic functioning of  parliament as Nirmala Sitaraman (BJP spokesperson) pointed out ,ably defending against the duplicitous onslaught of the 3 other discussants (one Congress spokesperson and  seemingly his two supporters !). More to the point, while the Congress spokesperson, Manish Tiwari did his bit, as expected of him, to fault the NDA for parliamentary misconduct, the other two, Professor Jyotirmaya Sharma of Hyderabad, and journalist Shoma Chowdhary of Tehelka magazine,brought up the rear. However,  not unsurprisingly they were  not too  strident, as yet. Their comments were somewhat muted. Their agenda would become clear shortly.

They were, ofcourse, aware that defending Chidambaram was indefensible. They made a few  inconsequential noises about allowing Parliament to function etc. Ofcourse, they were withholding their fire for the next part of the program : the topic of the SIT report that the Ishran Jahan killing was a fake encounter ( It was not pointed out in the program that Ishran has not been declared innocent of terrorist wrong doing). This was the signal for Jyotirmaya Sharma to pontificate about the people of Gujarat and Shri Narendra Modi and how history would judge the people of Gujarat for their fondness for Narendra Modi. And Shoma Chowdhary lost no time in sanctimoniously pointing out that it was not just the 2002 riots only but also the building of a propagandist narrative which made out all Muslims to be potential terrorists. Since Sharma had indicted all the people of Gujarat there was no reason why Shoma should not have thrown in her two cents worth also and indict all the people of Gujarat, who had in evil fashion constructed a narrative against  all Muslims, so Shoma’s own narrative went !

Shoma came close to parodying Teesta Setalwad ( a dubious character who has been indicted by the SIT for fabricating evidence, suborning of witnesses, and by the Gujarat government even of digging up the graves of the departed !).

Nirmala Sitaraman who did an excellent job of defending against the mud that was thrown at her by the other three, pointed out something that was obvious to any impartial viewer of the program, that every single hostile charge was always directed towards  Shri Narendra Modi who to this day has not been found guilty of any of the charges the liberal elite ( and their allies among the NGOs) have thrown at him. None of the allegations have stuck.

In the opinion of this writer this is not surprising. Shri Narendra Modi, whatever his forthright manner and  style  of functioning, came up from the ranks of the RSS  and it is inconceivable that such a person would be guilty of any of the misdeeds that he has been accused of. Jyotirmaya Sharma was even quick to call for his resignation. The liberal elite have not even for a moment suspended their attacks against him.

The liberal hostility towards Hindus and Hinduism, has manifested in many ways and one of them currently is to try to bring down a successful BJP government, that of Gujarat. Fortunately, Shri Modi will not fall for the devious plan behind the call  for his resignation.

The NDTV program ended on a bizarre note. The anchor Niti Razdan asked the panelists for their views on  Anna Hazare who  had pronounced that people who consumed alchohol should be publicly flogged for their own good. When asked for her opinion Nirmala Sitaraman replied that the BJP supported all individuals who worked against corruption, but on this issue she had nothing to say, it was Shri Hazare’s private view. Jyotirmaya wasted no time in solemnly affirming that all this showed that Anna Hazare was not a Gandhian. Ofcourse, our readers should be reminded that the Mahatma was strongly opposed to alchohol, although he did not go as afar as to say that people should be flogged. Shoma Chowdary muddied the waters  by loftily pronouncing that it was a complex issue with Gandhiji, for whom it was always a dialogic process and so on and so forth ! In reality one should point out that the Gandhian followers of the day, especially the women, vigorously picketed the liquor stores. This was no case of dialogue. This was vigorous action and the Mahatma lost no time in berating the owners of these shops and vigorously condemning the consumers of this alchohol ! One gets the impression that if he could have his way, the Mahatma would have taken the broom to them , exactly as Anna Hazare advocated !

The issue of flogging aside, the liberal elite do not like Anna because of his class background. Mahatma Gandhi may have worn a loin cloth, but he was clearly of the upper class, a British educated lawyer and one who hobnobbed with Viceroys and such like.Anna, on the other hand was from the village. Did not Digvijay Singh call him a former truck driver ? Did not Digvijay refer to him as a simpleton ?

Hence, complicating the liberal dislike of Hindus and Hinduism, is the fact that it is the aam admi Hindu who has always carried the banner and continues to do so. Indian liberals therefore, cannot identify with this hoi polloi. Fortunately for Hindus and Hinduism the aam admi Hindu will continue to uphold the banner. This is one obstacle the liberal elite of India will not be able to overcome.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

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