A French journalist’s view on India and its media

27th March 2002

Source: PRdomain

India is a country of wonderful people — warm, hospitable, tolerant. Its intellectual elite — in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore — are good friends to have: fun-loving and always cordial with westerners.

gujararIntellectually, the journalists and writers of this country are often witty, brilliant, speak good English, and write even better. In fact, quite a few of them — Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Upamanyu Chatterjee and others — have become households names in the English literary world and have brought a good name to India. Roy has even shown us that one can be a successful writer and also work for a social cause — even going to the extent of going to jail for that.

Yet, there is something that I have never understood. Although most of India’s intellectual elite is Hindu, the great majority of them are Hindu haters — and it even seems sometimes that they are ashamed to be Hindus.

They always come out with the same clichés on Hindutva, the saffron brigade, the Hindu ‘fundamentalists,’ and if you listen to them you get the impression that India is in the hands of dangerous Hindu fundamentalists and that the Christian and Muslim minorities of India are being cruelly persecuted.

Recently, Courier International, a very prestigious French magazine, which is read by diplomats and politicians, published a special issue on ‘Hindu fundamentalism’ with a cover photo of RSS members doing their lathi drill. The ignorant westerner who read it must have had the impression that India indeed is in the grip of fascist, Nazi-like Hindu groups and that civil liberties are curtailed here. When the editor-in-chief of that magazine was contacted, he pointed out that all the pieces had been translated from articles written in the Indian press by Indian journalists.

If I did not know India, I would tend also to believe what I read about India in the western press: a nation torn by caste discrimination, poverty, corruption, Hindu extremism and natural calamities. But after living more than 30 years in this country, my experience is totally different: Hindus are probably the most tolerant people in the world — they accept that God manifests Himself under different forms, at different times, according to the needs and mentality of each epoch: Krishna, Christ, Mohammed, Buddha…

gujararThus they always allowed throughout the centuries religious minorities who were victimised in their own countries to settle in India and to prosper and practice their religion: the Syrian Christians, in fact the first Christian community in the world; the Jews, who have been persecuted all over the world (including in my own country, France), but were left in peace in India; the Armenians; the Parsis; and today the Tibetans…

As a westerner, living in India, apart from the obvious bureaucratic hassles, the slowness of everything and the dirt, being here has also been a dream: I have never been mugged in 33 years, no policeman has ever asked me my papers in the street (see what happens to you if you are dark-skinned and without a tie in the metro in Paris) and I have always been made welcome even in the remotest villages of India.

As a journalist, it is even better: I do not have to ask permission to go out of Delhi and submit the subject and route of the features I propose to do outside the capital; and I do not get kicked out of India, even if I criticise its government — all this contrary to China, which even then remains a more coveted post for a foreign correspondent than India.

It is true that for a western journalist, coming to India can be a baffling experience. The diversity (going from one state to the next is like passing from one country to another); the language is different, so is the food, the habits, the political set-up; the complexity of India’s political life, its heavy subtleties; the incredible religious, social and ethnic diversity…

So what does the new correspondent do, when often he has at heart to do justice to the country he has been asked to report about? He turns to his Indian fellow journalists for enlightenment. Regrettably, the f

irst input he is given by his Indian colleagues is very negative: the black mark of Ayodhya on India’s secular fabric; the heavy hand of the army in Kashmir; the terrible caste abuses in Bihar; or the Taliban-like Bajrang Dal.

And this is why if you read the western reports on India, however good their style is, however well-meaning they are, they all say the same thing with infinite monotony and often nastiness). Again, it is absolutely factual that there are unforgivable things done in India in the name of caste; that the disparity between rich and poor is shocking; that affluent Hindus have very little concern about their less fortunate brethrens, or else have no respect for their environment.

But it is also true that there is so much positive things to be written about India: so many great people, so much tolerance, so much talent, so many fascinating subjects. Nevertheless, western journalists seem only to concentrate on the negative. His is the vicious circle of journalism and India: the negative goes from the Indian journalist to the western journalist… and comes back to India under the form of unfriendly reporting.

The recent Sabarmati burning followed by the rioting in Gujarat showed again the veracity of that phenomenon. Here you had 58 innocent Hindus, the majority of them being women and children, burnt in the most horrible manner, for no other crime but the fact that they want to build a temple dedicated to the most cherished of Hindu Gods, Ram, on a site which has been held sacred by Hindus for thousands of years.

When a Graham Staines is burnt alive, all of India’s English press goes overboard in condemning his killers. But when 58 Graham Staines are murdered, they report it without comment. No doubt, the revenge that followed is equally unpardonable. No doubt, Indian and foreign journalists who rushed to Gujarat, wrote sincerely: after all they saw innocent women, children and men being burnt, killed, raped.

Which decent journalist, who has at heart of reporting truth, would not cry out against such a shame? But then history has shown us that no event should be taken out of context, and that there is in India, among the Hindu majority, a simmering anger against Muslims, who have terribly persecuted the Hindus and yet manage to make it look as if they are the persecuted.

And once again, the western press coverage of the Gujarat rioting comes back to haunt India: Hindus targeting Muslims; fundamentalism against innocence; minority being persecuted by majority… But when will the true India be sincerely portrayed by its own journalists, so that the western press be positively influenced?

(Gautier is the correspondent in India and South Asia of Ouest-France, the biggest circulation French daily [1 million copies], and for LCI, a 24-hour TV news channel. He is also the author of Arise O India and A Western Journalist on India)

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15 responses to “A French journalist’s view on India and its media

  1. Thanks for stating it the way you see it, from first hand experience and not getting carried over by the bogus hindu and saffron bashing my the pesudo-secular media.

    thanks a lot to saying the truth

  2. I would like to comment that, most of the Indian Media is politically biased and immature, especially when it comes to BJP rules states they are surprisingly misleading the readers and viewers in this country. Infact, in my true knowledge BJP ruled states are doing well in all aspects compare to other states.We know that there is not a single news paper or visual media which is not run by a family in this country.If you consider CNN-IBN it is the most visibly biased visual media channel ever India have seen, so obsessed with Gandhi dynasty,Rajdeep and his Wife Sagarika is totally after Narendra Modi and BJP. If Modi sneezes it is a headline story in CNN-IBN!.if you consider NDTV PRANNOY ROY is trying his best to be a pseudo-secularist. But if we closely watch each of their programs it is increasingly getting biased and a person with common sense can understand what is going on behind the scene.Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutta believes they are the only intellectuals left in this country!.If you look at the news papers, we know the history of Indian express. What role Goenka played in Indian politics utilizing his family run news paper business.Vir Sanghvi of Hindustantimes ( Late KK Birla is a staunch congressman) is all the way praising Sonia as if his career itself is pledged for that cause. A fair exemption can be made for Times of India ,I don’t know If I am correct.Otherwise there is a serious conspiracy going on this country by these new founded intellectual Pseudo Secularists.We must be able to differentiate what is right and what is wrong as these channels are targeting young urban population mixing news with bit of masalas and Tabloid especially the Hip-hop culture. They are not aware that their credibility and neutrality is being lost infront of the masses.In India Media ethics is a neglected truth.It is the era of family run businesses for personal and political gains.In the name of freedom of speech they are misleading the people to make thier own profit and gains.Who care where this will lead the country to?????

    I may be dubbed as a fundamentalist because of my comments,that is the new trend prevail in India.But reality bites and people should analyze the news particles coming to them before believing in it.Because for many ,it affects thier intellectual behaviour. There should be some accountability of the Media institutions in this country and we the Citizens are responsible for that.Please Beware.

  3. I was very happy to read this report. Until a couple of years ago, I was very much anti-RSS, anti-BJP etc. I was totally aginst the Bajrang Dal thinking it is not promoting right Hindu principles.
    Suddenly I was awakened. I run a Cancer Charitable Trust. We help many poor patients free of cost in cancer hospitals mainly through yoga, nutrition control, and of course, where needed through modern medical treatment. I was shocked to see how Christianity is permitted to be propagated openly in the Government hospitals asking the patients and their relatives to change their religion. Also money is offered. many Hindus who think they are giving support for a social cause are not aware that their money is being used to destroy their religion. My own house maid whose son was having cancer and whom I helped with about Rs. 20,000 for treatment plus my intervention in hospitals to get the best treatment at low cost, was found one day to have removed the picture of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati and replaced it with that of Jesus. I asked her why. She informed that the Christians have visited her house and promised monetary support plus that Jesus will cure the boy if she removes all pictures of Hindu Gods and makes her children and herself accept Christianity. Similar stories I am ready to narrate if it is of any value to the misguided Hindu secularists. They are not aware they are killing the most secualr relgion in the world by promoting the most anti-secular religion to replace it. I do not believe Jesus was a bad person. He was a great soul. I used to visit many churches and pray. But this does not mean that they are pemitted to destroy other great religions.
    Thanks for your views which are really the true exposition of what is happening here in India.
    K S Madhavan

  4. i feel so relieved…thakyou for telling the truth…please educate the pseudo secular media before its too late.they are aiding to ruin a great culture.please do more .unweil the truth to the masses for a great cause.

  5. thanks man…hindus owe u big time…thanks foe calling a spade a spade…thanks for telling the truth..read ur article in big b’s blog.he even posted the letter to the editors..in outlook magzine there…did u read them?c how frustrated hindus have become of the anti hindu intellectuals…..we need the truth out…am fed up…of these media people that can be bought….at any cost…books in school that are written to pay respect to the political elite..
    hindus need help…india needs help….we need people to tell the truth..i hope other indians learn from you…

  6. It’s pathetic that we need a foreigner to tell us how great we are.And even then it falls into deaf ears.Our media consist of pseudo- modern intellectuals who are nothing but a bunch of sheep bleating to the dictates of their political masters.But while the sheep is considered to be mild & harmless,this bunch pose a great threat to the country by way of influencing a whole generation of youngsters who lap up innocently all the untruths that are forced down their throat.

  7. Throughout History, wherever Christians went they have only wiped out the LOCALS totally, annhilated races and have prospered and plundered the LAND and have taken over the LAND and are masquerading as Champions of DEmocrcy, Free speech, all that is NOBLE etc., NORTH AMERICA, SOUTH AMERICA, AUSTRALIA are examples where CHRISTIANS HAVE TOTALLY ANNHILATED THE EXISTING RACE.

    It is a tragedy that the socalled Intellectual well read Indians are singing THE GLORY OF THE VERY SAME PEOPLE who are OUTRAGING their own MOTHER-this Land of ours with RICH TRADITIONS, RICH VALUE, RICH CULTURE AND A RICH PHILOSOPHY FOR THE LIVING TO LIVE.

    r.srinivasan

  8. Cant say much about others. What happened to me is what i can surely share.
    I used to read a lot of Amar Chitra Kathas+Jatakas+Panchtantras during Schools days. The moral stories there made me somewhat of a misfit in the corporate world that i later joined. But since I was never taught by Amar Chitra Kathas to see in black and white so I could still manage in whatever way i could to take care of both my career needs and my moral needs.
    Much before the Amar Chitra Kathas I came across a photograph showing all people/souls rising up towards the clouds (End of days etc.). That one photograph stuck around in my mind. On the one hand the imagery was fantastic, enough to force you to suspend any judgement. On the other hand it carried no special meaning, since it carried no continuity. It was a picture of just one event (non-event!!!). It carried no moral process, just one scenario. The concept!!! picturised was so authoratarian. Later on I learnt of the bravery of the Jesus and was filled with the same respect for him that i bore for Karna or Ekalavya. Still later when I was much older I came to understand about the difference between Christ and Jesus (even though all through my childhood I referred to Jesus as Jesus Christ). Today independent of FG and RSS and Passion of Christ and Dan Brown and discovery channel, I just took up to refering to Jesus as just Jesus instead of all the adjectives.

    It is easy to destroy and difficult to build, that does not mean that that which is difficult is building and that which is easy is destroying.

    Just protect the supple child’s mind from authoritarianism and help him discover strong moral codes. The child may not grow up to be a morally very upright man and he may not become very successful careerwise, but the man will remain honest enough and discerning enough to lead a normal life.

  9. PS:
    And a large number of such normal people over a very long period of time will yield a civilization for sure.

  10. I agree with Rinjith Nair . Its very true. Indian Media is very immature.

  11. shame on a person like u, who are self style journalist.

  12. journalism is taken as a profession in india to make money no moral just TRP ,and many big news networks in india are foregin invested….

  13. I guess you have mixed up Hindus and Hindutva – Hindus are the regular people you find on the street (minus the non-Hindus obviously). Hindutva is an ideology practised by a certain set of right wing elements like RSS, VHP, SS, etc. These people give speeches on how India is a Hindu country where muslims must either accept Hindu superiority and live or should go away to Pakistan. As a normal peace loving Hindu, I do not hate ‘Hindus’ but these nutjobs who are ruin the reputation and credibility of my religion.

  14. Thanks for sharing such a good opinion, piece of writing
    is pleasant, thats why i have read it entirely

  15. Wonderful job Mr. Gautier you have done. You have correctly understood
    westernised Indians of today who have no knowledge of their own highly impressive cultural heritage of ancient India.
    Prakash

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