Tag Archives: journalism

PRINCE OF ISLAM

Dear friends, I have often been accused of being an anti-Muslim, but the fact is that I am a brought-up catholic and that before coming to India, I could not make the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. I guess reporting in Kashmir opened my eyes. Yet I saw in Kashmir what remained of Sufism, before it was snuffed out by the militants.

Great souls, vibuthis, avatars, come and go, but something of their influence & message remains. Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and preferred son, should have become emperor of India – and then the whole history of Islam – in India and may be in the world – would have changed. But he was beheaded by his brother Aurangzeb, and the more intolerant, violent side of Islam took over. Yet, Muslims in India still have it in them to go back to the Sufi, poetic, mystic, tolerant Islam that Dara had preached and which would usher a UNITED INDIA, where Muslims feel Indians first, while keeping true to their faith.

 

Hence FACT’s latest exhibition, honors this prince of Islam.

We plan to erect a special building for it. As you know, my foundation is always struggling for funds. Thus I appeal to you again to donate generously. FACT is a registered Trust with tax exemption. You can make a donation to: FACT, Account No: 04071450000237, IFCS code: HDFC0000407. We will mail you back your tax exemption certificate. For those of you who wish to donate in Euros, Pounds or Dollars, you can make a direct transfer to: Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) Account No: 04071170000016, Swift code:  HDFCINBB

Thanking you

#francoisgautier

http://dara-shikoh.blogspot.in/

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?

Francois gautier’s Interview with Tribune

Meet the author
“Content-wise, Indian fiction writers have
little to offer”
Source: Tribune India

Francois Gautier
Francois Gautier

RECIPIENT of this year’s Nachiketa Award for Excellence in Journalism, Francois Gautier is one of those rare writers who mince no words when it comes to telling the truth. Although French by birth, his knowledge of contemporary and historical Indian affairs gives him an unparalleled position among the major writers of non-fiction. He came to India when he was barely 19, an age, in his own words, when the mind has not yet settled into hard and frozen patterns. It was during his stint as a journalist that he discovered the real India while traversing its length and breadth. Unlike most foreign journalist who usually highlight the negative aspects of the Indian society, Francois Gautier talked about the positive aspects as well.

He has been lambasted by his critics for his rather unorthodox writings and applauded by his admirers for acquainting them with the rich legacy of India. His works, spanning over two decades, have been condensed into two books, Arise O India and A Western Journalist’s View on India, brought out by Har Anand Publishers. Not only is the content of his books unusually striking but their spontaneity and lyrical rhythm are also enthralling. The thorough research that has gone into his writings adds a compelling tone to his essays. Aditya Sharma met him for an interview. Excerpts:

When did you come to India for the first time and what was it that held you back ?

I visited India in 1969 with a friend of mine whose father was the last French Governor of Pondicherry. Although India was just another stopover in my journey around the world at that time, but it turned out to be the final destination for me. In Pondicherry I came to know about the Aurobindo Ashram where I got to learn a lot through Sri Aurobindo’s writings. Slowly I found myself so besotted with Indian culture and its pioneering philosophies on spiritualism that I decided to make this country my home.

What were your early experiences in the Aurobindo Ashram like?

When I first went there I discovered an entirely new approach of looking at life. It was as if I had sudden awakened from deep slumber. And later when I met Mother personally, I was left with an ethereal sensation of existence. Her gaze transfixed me and it didn’t take me long to realise that there was more to life than a wholehearted participation in the blind race for material gains.

At what stage of your life did writing begin to interest you?

Prior to coming to India I used to write for a national daily based in Paris. Thereafter after living for a few years in the ashram at Pondicherry, I resumed writing for various national and international papers but this time about Indian affairs.

Did freelancing for various newspapers pay enough for you to be able to support yourself?

It is rather difficult to make one’s ends meet merely through freelancing. The payments made by our various national dailies to such writers are rather nominal, no matter how well they write. I was, however, fortunate enough to write columns for various newspapers based in the West, which fetched me enough to keep myself going.

Some people say that your writings are political, while others feel that you also blend spiritualism into them. In what category would you place yourself as a columnist?

Both politics and spiritualism are inherent parts of our lives. There is actually no distinction between the two. In ancient India it was a rishi who advised the king on the political and other affairs of the country. I only try to combine relevant topics in my columns, be it politics, literature, spirituality, economics or any other subject of significance.

You are quite critical of Gandhi’s policies in your writings and also accuse him of precipitating the process of Partition.

Leaving aside his saintliness, I believe his extreme and somewhat rigid romanticism did enormous harm to India. Right from the beginning he adopted a policy of appeasement towards the Muslim fundamentalists in the hope of making them see light. It, however, never really worked. On the contrary, it led to further demands from them until finally they asked for the partition of the country. History has shown time and again that the policy of appeasement has never worked against bullies. Another classic example of this is Nehru’s policy of pacifism towards China. Did it ever work?

What does India need to do to make all-round development possible?

I believe for that our government needs to drastically revamp its systems.

Besides non-fiction, do you also plan to write a novel or short stories?

I have just finished a novel in French. It is at present with a prominent publisher in France awaiting publication at the earliest. I hope to provide its English translation within a year or so.

Is the story autobiographical?

If the French title is translated into English it will read The Last Caravan to India. It is the story of a Westerner who comes to India and of his impressions of Indian life. It is not strictly autobiographical, although I have, like all novelists, liberally drawn material from my own experiences.

What do you think about the many Indian fiction writers winning laurels outside the country?

Its nice to see Indian fiction writers making their presence feel in international circles. Judging from their style and command over the language, they are evidently quite talented, but content-wise, I think they have little to offer. Most of them end up in catering to western tastes. Unfortunately, many of them have drawn a very dismal and backward picture of India in their stories, which is exactly what the West likes to read.

Besides reading and writing, what other interests occupy you?

I am quite interested in sports and play basketball and go swimming. I also practice yoga regularly. Other than that I enjoy my teaching assignment in a school of journalism at Bangalore where I am a visiting faculty member.

You donated the entire Nachiketa prize money.

Yes I gave away the award money to FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism). Its an organisation which is genuinely involved in helping and highlighting the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits who have ironically become homeless in their own country.


A convenient forgetfulness

Thursday July 31 2008 07:58

Source: The NewIndPress

I HAVE a friend, who happens to be the editor of a large circulation Indian newspaper, who advised me that the best way to write an article was to start with something positive, so as to make people feel happy.

It is good advice, and I have tried to stick to it, because not only are there so many negative events happening in the world, but also the media, both in India and abroad, thrives on sensationalism, on negativity, on falsehood even.

This week, however, it is going to be difficult to start this article on a positive note, as my heart — and the heart of so many ordinary Indians, who are not politicians, who are not journalists, who are not part of the Intelligentsia — is heavy and sad.

Let us say then, that I did start positively by mentioning my friend’s advice, which I still deem as the right one — and that I will speak of silence, rather than of noises and fury. There was a deafening silence, after the UPA won the vote of confidence in Parliament, on the part of the Press and Indian politicians, on the ways and means used to secure that vote. In the flush of victory, everything was forgotten on how MPs were bought right and left through a certain party, with money from a certain business house that needs favours; everything was forgotten on the extremely sad and debasing spectacle of the Parliament which is worse than a fish market.

There was a deafening silence on the role of Rajdeep Sardesai and his channel CNN-IBN’s role in helping the Congress win the vote. Sardesai sat on a sting tape which clearly showed someone who was close to Amar Singh handing over a crore to BJP MPs. If the tape had been aired it would have immediately led to the postponement of the trust vote and the UPA would have ultimately lost it. Instead, he handed it over to the Speaker only at 5 pm, knowing that it would be too late and that most likely Somnath Chatterjee would avoid taking immediate action.

There was deafening silence on the role of the Speaker as well. Should he not have satisfied himself on the veracity of the allegations before allowing further proceedings in Parliament? Should he not have deferred the trust vote?

Posterity will also judge him on the ‘History’ museum he built in the Parliament annexe which shows Indian history starting with Asoka, continuing with Akbar, and more or less jumping to Subhas Chandra Bose and Nehru, without any mention of the great political and spiritual leaders, from Kalidasa to Sri Aurobindo, from Sri Krishnadevaraya, the last king of the last great Hindu empire, that of Vijaynagar, to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a true nationalist. So much for the communists’ view of Indian history.

There was a deafening silence on the part of the business community on the ethics of what has happened in the last two weeks. One can understand the silence of an Anil Ambani, who stands to directly benefit from the deals made by Amar Singh with the UPA. But what about others who may be swayed by the prospect of doing big business with the Americans, or by the possibility of the government going for last minute liberalisations, after it got rid of the communists’ hurdle.

There has been a deafening silence on the part of the government and the press after the Bangalore blasts and then the 17 horrible Ahmedabad blasts. Does the UPA think that the common citizen of India does not understand that on the one hand, if the Government of India keeps pointing the finger at Pakistan’s ISI, or at some Bangladesh outfit, it is to deflect the fact that most of the recent terror attacks have been perpetrated by Indian Muslims, with or without Pakistani or Bangladeshi (or al-Qaida) help?

It is not only a matter of vote banks in times of coming elections, but also the fact that politicians in India want to keep a blindfold on their citizens and pretend that nothing is happening.

Does not the government, on the other hand, understand that we have all become cynical about its usual conduct on these occasions :

a) condemn ‘in the strongest terms’ this ‘barbarous act’;

b) appeal for calm and ‘communal harmony’;

c) give a few lakh each to the families of the deceased or injured, so that they shutup; and

d) never catch the culprits and go on as before till the next terrorist act.

But look at America. It has not suffered a single terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Which Indian politician wil have the courage to call a spade a spade and tackle terrorism with determination?

The scriptures tell us that we are in Kali Yuga, the ‘Dark Age’, the time where people are the furthest possible from God. Can India even go lower than what we have just witnessed in the past two weeks? Yes it can! Yet we need all to hope and pray, for if the Light in India dies, if this country sinks deepest in debasement, corruption, cynicism, if India becomes totally Americanised at the hands of the so-called nuclear deal,then many of us love will be doomed in the long run.

( Francois Gautier is Editor in Chief, La Revue de l’Inde) fgautier26@gmail.com