Category Archives: media

Sonia’s presence in Delhi is costing India dearly

by Francois Gautier
02 Dec 2008
Source: New Indian Express
In 1898, the French writer Emile Zola wrote an open letter to the then French president in the newspaper L’Aurore, titled j’accuse (‘I accuse’), where he accused the French government of anti- Semitism towards Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer unfairly condemned for treason.

Now it is time for the people of India to say openly that which many, including within the Congress, think secretly and may utter in the privacy of their chambers.It is not about Manmohan Singh, it is not even about Shivraj Patil, the fall guy; it is about that one person, the Eminence Grise of India. She who pulls all the strings, She whose shadow looms menacingly over so many, She who holds no portfolio, is just a simple elected MP, like 540 others, but rules like an empress.

Sometimes, one’s very physical presence at the top is enough to move things, to influence the course of events. One word from Her, a glance, a frown, are enough to put the whole heavy, inert, unwilling machinery of India’s bureaucracy and political system in full motion. Sometimes She need not say anything: in the true tradition of Bhakti, Her ministers, Her secretaries, interpret Her silences and rush to cater to Her western and Christian identity.

Nevertheless, she has said and acted enough so that one day she may stand accused on the pages of History for what she must have done to India.

I’accuse Sonia Gandhi as being responsible for the tragedy of Mumbai, having emasculated India’s intelligence agencies by stopping them from investigating terror attacks in the last four years, including the Mumbai train blasts. She has also neutralised the ATS by ordering them at all costs to ferret out ‘Hindu terrorism’, which if it exists, has wrought minuscule damage compared to what Islamic terror has done since 2004.

Did the US send a warning to India that there may be an attack on Mumbai and that the Taj would be one of the targets? Were these ignored because the ATS was too busy chasing Hindu ‘terrorists’ on Sonia’s orders? I accuse Sonia and her government of having made the NSG the laughing stock of the world. How many times did the NSG (who took ten hours to reach Mumbai) claim that it had “sanitised the Taj and that the operation was over” and how many times did a bomb go off immediately after? For the last 20 years, the NSG has guarded VIPs and has become soft. See the comments of Israeli terror specialists, who said the NSG should have first sanitised the immediate surroundings of the places of conflict, kept the bystanders and press (who gave terrorists watching TV in the Taj rooms a perfect report of the security forces’ whereabouts) out of the place, gathered enough information about the position of the terrorists and hostages before taking action, instead of immediately engaging the terrorists, and ensuring the deaths of so many hostages.

I accuse Sonia of having let her Christian and Western background, in four years, divide India on religious and caste lines in a cynical and methodical manner.

I accuse Sonia of weakening India’s spirit of sacrifice and courage, so that 20 terrorists (or less) held at ransom the financial capital of India for more than three days.

I accuse Sonia Gandhi of always pointing the finger at Pakistan, when terrorism in India is now mostly homegrown, even if it takes help, training, refuge and arms from Pakistan; of not warning Indians of the grave dangers of Islamic terror for cynical election purposes.

I accuse Sonia of being an enemy of the Hindus, who always gave refuge to persecuted minorities, and who are the only people in the world to accept that God may manifest under different names, in different epochs, using different scriptures.

I accuse Sonia Gandhi of taking advantage of India’s respect for women, its undue fascination with the Gandhi name, and its stupid mania for White Skin.

I’accuse Sonia of exploiting the Indian Press’ obsession with her. She hardly ever gave interview in 20 years, except scripted ones to NDTV, yet the Press always protects her, never blames her and keeps silent over her covert role.

I’accuse Sonia and her government of trying to make heroes of subservient and inefficient men to hide the humiliation of Mumbai 26/11. Before going to his death, Hemant Karkare, the ATS chief, was shown on television clumsily handling his helmet, as someone who uses it very rarely. Why did he die of bullet wounds in the chest when he was wearing a bullet-proof vest? Either Indian vests are inferior quality or he was not wearing one.

How did the terrorists who killed him and his fellow officer escape in the same vehicle used by the ATS chief ? Why did he and his officers go into Cama Hospital without ascertaining where the terrorists were? We honour his death, but these facts say a lot about the ATS’ battle-readiness.

Will someone in the Congress, someone who feels more Indian than faithful to Sonia, stand up and speak the truth? Who said, “Go after Hindu terrorists”? Who insisted on putting pressure on BJP governments in Karnataka or Orissa for so-called persecution of Christians, when Christians have always practised their faith in total freedom here, while their missionaries are converting hundreds of thousands of innocent tribals and Dalits with the billions of dollars given by gullible westerners? Who said, “Go soft on Islamic terrorism”? Who wants to do away with India’s nuclear deterrence in the face of Pakistani and Chinese nuclear threats, by pushing at all costs the one sided Indo-US nuclear deal, which makes no secret of its intention to denuclearise India militarily? I am sure Sonia Gandhi has good qualities: she probably was a good wife to Rajiv, a good daughter in law to Indira and by all accounts, she is a good mother to her children. One also hears first-hand reports about her concern for smaller people, her dignity in the suffering that befell her when her husband was blown to pieces, and her courtesy with visitors.

Nevertheless, she is a danger to India.

Her very presence, both physical and occult, open the doors to forces inimical to India. Even Indian Christians should understand that she is not a gift to them: her presence at the top has emboldened fanatics like John Dayal or Valson Thampu, who practise an orthodox Christianity prevalent in the West in the early 20th century, but no longer, to radicalise their flock. Indian Christians should recognise that they have a much better deal here than Christians or Hindus have in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Saudi Arabia.

Under Sonia’s rule, Indian Muslims, too, have been used as electoral pawns. They have been encouraged to shun the Sufi streak, a blend of the best of Islam and Vedanta, for a hard-line Sunni brand imported from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

For the good of India, her civilisation, her immense spirituality and culture, Sonia Gandhi has to go and a government that thinks Indian, breathes nationalism and will protect its citizens must be voted to power.

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Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

UNPUBLISHED

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic Circle … I spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”.  Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?).

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in  Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at  best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic CircleI spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”. Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?). <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Be aware of your roots

First Published : 21 Oct 2008 12:40:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 21 Oct 2008 10:40:51 AM IST

 

Francois Gautier

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? fgautier@rediffmail.com

Not India’s first woman saint

Francois Gautier, Pioneer

Indian media went into a tizzy while covering the canonisation of Sister Alphonsa, an obscure nun, to prove its secular credentials! Indian journalists forget that this country has had other women saints too.

As a Frenchman, I was coached right from childhood that logic, what we in France call cartesianism, is the greatest gift given to man and that one should use one’s reason to tread in life. Thus, I taught to my students in a Bangalore school of journalism, the SSCMS, that the first tool of a good reporter is to go by his or her own judgement on the ground, with the help of one’s first-hand experience — and not go 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 is anything related to Hindus and Hinduism. One cannot, for instance, equate Muslim terrorists who blow up innocent civilians in market places all over India to angry ordinary Hindus who attack churches without killing anybody. We know that most of these communal incidents often involve persons of the same caste — Dalits and tribals — some of them converted to Christianity and some not.

However reprehensible was the destruction of the Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process. Compare that with the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Mumbai, which killed hundreds of innocent people, mostly Hindus. Yet Indian and Western journalists keep equating the two, or even showing the Babri Masjid destruction as the most horrible act of the two.

How can you compare the Sangh Parivar with the Indian Mujahideen, a deadly terrorist organisation? How can you label Mr Narendra Modi a mass killer when actually it was ordinary middle class, or even Dalit Hindus, who went out into 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 innocent people, while advocating a ban on the Bajrang Dal, which attacked some churches after an 84-year-old swami and his followers were brutally murdered?

There is no logic in journalism in this country when it applies itself to minorities. Christians are supposedly only two per cent of the population in India, but look how last Sunday many major television channels showed live the canonisation ceremony of Sister Alphonsa, an obscure nun from Kerala and see how Union Minister Oscar Fernandes led an entire Indian delegation to the Vatican along with the Indian Ambassador. It would be impossible in England, for instance, which may have a two per cent Hindu minority, to have live coverage of a major Hindu ceremony, like the anointment of a new Shankaracharya. What were the 24×7 news channels, which seem to have deliberately chosen to highlight this non-event, trying to prove? That they are secular? Is this secularism?

The headline of the story “India gets its first woman saint”, run by many newspapers, both Indian and Western, is very misleading.

For 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 modern-day Karnataka, are but a few examples of women saints in India.

What many publications failed to mention in the story is that this is the first woman Christian saint — not the first Indian woman saint.

This statement is ok, when it comes, for instance, from the BBC, which always looks at India through the Christian prism (BBC ran a few months back an untrue and slanderous documentary on Auroville), but when it comes to the Indian media, it only shows the grave lack of grounding in Indian culture and history of most Indian journalists.

As a result, they suffer from an inferiority complex.

This inferiority complex, as expressed by television’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 logic will be taught, but where students shall be made aware of Indian history and of the greatness of Indian culture, so that when they go out to report, they will use their own judgement and become Indian journalists, with a little bit of feeling, pride and love for their own country?

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)

Redefining India

Francois Gautier

This is an article meant for my friends, the "fringe Hindus"; those who have
either espoused a Marxist outlook, or are, for their own good reasons,
strongly anti-Hindutva, or are neutral; as well as for the Muslim and
Christian minorities of India. 

When Jawaharlal Nehru came to power in 1947, he sincerely thought that some
of Marx's ideas could be put to use in India and help level the terrible
inequalities that existed within between the very rich and the poor, the
high castes and the low castes, the mighty and the helpless. The motive was
noble but, unfortunately, Indian socialism often made the rich richer and
the poor poorer and created a massive, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy,
that any government today in power finds difficult to dismantle. Everywhere
in the world, communism and Marxism are defunct - even China has more or
less done away with it.	 

However, in India, not only does communism remain alive in West Bengal and
Kerala, it also remains firmly entrenched as a powerful idealism in the
minds of much of India's intelligentsia. Most of India's English language
mediapersons and journalists, many of the writers, historians and thinkers,
are sympathetic towards communist thought. Once again, there is nothing
wrong with that: Indians show, in a world racked with materialism and
cynicism, that they remain idealists, loyal and dedicated to selflessness
and seva, as the thousands of Indian NGO's still prove today.

Nevertheless, the world is changing, Asia is changing, and even India is
changing. We have to live with our times, especially after September 11,
2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, which radically altered the
outlook of most Western nations. What is going to happen in Gujarat on
December 12 is equally of paramount importance to the 850 million Hindus in
India, the nearly 1 billion Hindus worldwide, and the Christian and Muslim
Indian communities, as it might redefine their own outlook. Indeed, if the
BJP and Mr Narendra Modi win with a handsome margin, an intense intellectual
debate will be triggered in the country. We will hear cries of alarm,
disgust or worry on the part of the Western press, the Indian English
language Media and the intelligentsia, about "Hindu fanaticism taking over
India", or "the terrible direction that the results of this election seem to
portend for India".

But, once again my "fringe" Hindu brothers and sisters, as well as the
Christian and Muslim communities of India, should remind themselves than in
the entire Indian history, Hinduism has always shown that it is not
fundamentalist, that it accepts the others with their religions and customs
as long as they do not try to impose these beliefs on the majority
community. Indeed, in a recent report, UNESCO pointed out that out of 128
countries where Jews lived before Israel was created, only one, India, did
not persecute them and allowed them to prosper and practice Judaism in
peace.

Moreover, if under the intense and often bloody onslaught of Muslim
invasions and later of European colonialism, such as the Portuguese - which
committed untold atrocities in Goa - the Hindus did not lose their peace and
tolerance, why should they do so now? Also, Hinduism is probably the only
religion in the world which has never tried to convert others, or conquer
other countries to propagate itself as a new religion. The same is not true
of Islam and Christianity.

Thus, it would be good if the "fringe" Hindus and Indian Christian and
Muslims do some introspection and look into the real causes of the Gujarat
riots which followed the burning of the 58 kar-sevaks on the Sabarmati
Express. If Mr Modi wins, instead of accusing the BJP of fanaticism, or even
"Nazism", a people which gave to India and to the world Mahatma Gandhi,
unique textiles and a solid peaceful culture, it may indeed be time to call
a spade a spade and to stop burying one's head in the sand like an ostrich.

We see the Gujarat riots through the eyes of the Western press and the
Indian Media: "Hindu fundamentalists who went on the rampage", etc. But what
if Gujarat was the first sign that good, peaceful, non-violent, middle-class
and even lower-class Hindus have had it and that they are tired of being
made fun of, attacked, bombed, burnt, killed, their women raped, their
temples destroyed? What if, rightly or wrongly, it is the portent of things
to come, that the next time innocent Hindu women and children are targeted,
Hindus might be tempted to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the
way Israel does at the official level? You may argue that it is a hateful,
mad and blind violence, but it is also true that Hindus have been at the
receiving end of Christians and Muslims attacks for centuries, that even
today 400,000 of them have been made to flee from their ancestral homes in
the valley of Kashmir.

Thus, our bother of sisters of Islam, most of whom are peaceful and
good-willing, have also to do a little bit of introspection. Every time
there is an attack on a Hindu temple, or a bombing, we accuse Pakistan or
the Al Qaeda. But none of these attacks could happen without the active
support of groups of Indian Muslims, as the Bombay blasts or Coimbatore
bombings have shown. In the same way, our Christian brothers and sisters
should think about this: The first community in the world, the Syrian
Christians, established themselves in Kerala in the first century and
prospered there in peace. At no time did the Hindus of Kerala try to impose
their own religious beliefs upon them, either by force or by allurements.

Is it right that the Indian Christian community today not only allows, but
often actively collaborates with, the foreign missionaries who are bent upon
making India a Christian kingdom, and are often using dubious economic
incentives to do so? Do not our brothers and sisters think that it is bound
to provoke sooner or later some kind of backlash and that the murder of
Graham Staines, however reprehensible, may have been a warning to
missionaries who convert by devious means, in the same way Gujarat riots
were a warning to the Muslims?

It may be true that the overwhelming majority of this country, which has
often been in minority morally, is waking up and trying to assert itself,
sometimes in an excessive and unforgivable manner. Yet, the fringe Hindus
and the Indian Muslims and Christians should not worry: India is a composite
society and it is a settled fact. Hindus, Christians, Muslims and other
minorities have to learn how to live together peacefully. There is no other
choice. And it will be done.

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