Be aware of your roots

October 22, 2008

A Westerner’s perspective

As a Frenchman, I was coached right from childhood that logic, what we in France call Cartesianism, is the greatest gift given to man. Thus, I taught my students in a Bangalore school of journalism that the first tool of a good reporter is to go by his or her own judgment on the ground, with the help of one’s first-hand experience — and not by second hand information: what your parents thought, what you have read in the newspapers, what your caste, religion, culture pushes you into.

Yet in India, logic does not seem to apply to most of the media, especially when it touches anything Hindu. One cannot, for instance, equate Muslim terrorists who blow up innocent civilians in market places all over India, with angry ordinary Hindus who burn churches without killing anybody.

We know that most of these communal incidents often involve persons of the same caste, Dalits and tribals, some converted to Christianity and some not. Then, however reprehensible the destruction of the Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process.
Compare this with the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Mumbai, which killed hundreds of innocents, mostly Hindus. Yet Indian and western journalists keep matching up the two, or even showing the Babri Masjid destruction as the more horrible act of the two.

How can you compare the RSS, a bunch of harmless daddies, with the Indian Mujahideen, a terrorist organisation? How can you make of Narendra Modi a mass killer, when it was ordinary middle-class, or even Dalit Hindus, who went out on the streets in fury when 56 innocent people, many of them women and children, were burnt in a train? How can you lobby for the lifting of the ban on SIMI, an organisation which is suspected of having planted bombs in many Indian cities, killing hundreds of innocents, while advocating the ban of the Bajrang Dal, which burns churches when an 84-year-old Hindu swami and his Mataji are brutally murdered? There is no logic in the perspective of journalists in this country when it comes to minorities. Christians are supposed to make up two per cent of the population in India, but last Sunday many major television channels showed live the canonisation ceremonies of sister Alphonsa, an obscure nun from Kerala.

Union minister Oscar Fernandes led an entire Indian delegation to the Vatican ceremony along with the Indian ambassador. It would be impossible in England, for instance, which may have a 2 per cent Hindu minority, to have live coverage of a major Hindu ceremony, like the anointment of a new Shankaracharya.What was NDTV, which seems to have deliberately chosen to highlight this nonevent, trying to prove? That it is secular? But it is absolutely disproportionate.

Some might even call it antinational. The headline, ‘India gets its first woman saint’, in many newspapers, Indian and western, is misleading. India has never been short of saints. The woman sage from over 3,000 years ago — Maithreyi, Andal, the Tamil saint from early in the first Millennium CE and Akkamahadevi, the 15th century saint from modernday Karnataka, are but a few examples. What many publications fail to mention in this story is that this is the first woman Christian saint, not the first Indian woman saint. Such a statement is OK when it comes, for instance, from the BBC, which always looks at India through the Christian prism, but when it comes to the Indian media, it only shows their grave lack of grounding in Indian culture and history.

The same thing is true of Sonia Gandhi, who seemed, even though the Congress should by all means have already collapsed with 12 per cent inflation, scandal after scandal, a nuclear deal with the US that leaves India vulnerable to the Chinese and Pakistani nuclear threat, and bomb blast after bomb blast, still ruling India with an iron hand. Yet newspapers and TV channels keep praising Sonia Gandhi.

And the question must be asked: how is it possible that a nation of a billion people, with some of the best minds on this planet, allows itself to be governed by a non-Indian lady, who, however sincere she may be, is actively overseeing the dismantling of whatever is good and true in India? It would be impossible in France for a Hindu woman, or for that matter a non-Christian person, who is just an elected MP, to govern our country from behind the scenes like an empress. Why is it allowed in India and why is the Indian press so selfrighteous about it ? Finally, when will Indians start being proud of themselves and their own culture and stop looking down on their own society ? This inferiority complex, as expressed by NDTV’s live coverage of the canonisation of sister Alphonsa, is a legacy of the British, who strove to show themselves as superior and Indian culture as inferior (and inheritor of the ‘White Aryans’, a totally false theory). Is it not time to institute schools of journalism, both private and public, where not only a little bit of logic is taught, but where students are made aware of Indian history and the greatness of Indian culture, so that when they go out reporting, they use their own judgment and become Indian journalists, with a little bit of feeling, pride and love for their own country?

by Francois Gautier on Indian Express.

fgautier@rediffmail.com

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