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Playing fair


Truth can be hard to reach. Photo: radworld, reproduced under a CC license.

A recent letter to the editor in The Hindu newspaper complained that ‘Modi-baiting’ has become the favourite pastime of the media. The writer said words to the effect that you can condemn Narendra Modi for the 2002 Gujarat genocide, but don’t misquote him or demonize his strengths. I support that fully.

I find my liberal, leftist, activist friends are liable to suppress the truth or give it that tiny twist necessary to distort it enough to suit their mission. All in the name of a good cause. This is the same as right wing think tanks, ready to distort facts to spread hate about minorities throughout India.

I once wrote an article about Dalit kids being forced by principals and teachers to sweep their classrooms and clean toilets in Gujarat. I reiterated that although I uncovered this story in Gujarat, the situation is worse in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa or Rajasthan. A sub-editor removed the last sentence, turning my article into an anti-Modi tirade, which was not my intention at all. What’s more, that kind of unintelligent, unfair writing takes away credibility from newspapers, magazines and the journalists involved.

Take another example: I am sympathetic to the cause of both Israelis and Palestinians. That sounds like a diplomat, sitting on the fence. I’m not. It’s a terrible, complicated problem. There are no easy, simplistic solutions. But pretending that atrocities don’t happen on both sides does not help.

I was horrified by the mowing down of Rachel Corrie. And I don’t support Brooklyn Jews squatting on Palestinian land. But I see that Israel is surrounded by hate-groups who want to wipe it off the face of the earth, and so Israelis have to be ready to defend themselves.

I think the verdict of the Israeli Supreme Court to evict illegal settlers from the West Bank should be hailed as a ‘Daniel come to judgment’ moment. It should be celebrated globally, the way secular India celebrated the Gujarat verdict indicting the perpetrators of genocide after a long ten-year legal battle. But there’s relatively little press coverage on this exceedingly important Israeli judgment – I wonder why.

I've written reams about the Gujarat genocide against Muslims but I am equally aghast at the recent butchering of Muslims in Assam by Bodo tribals. I will desist from holding forth on Assam without going there to investigate the carnage.

Secular Indians dismiss rightwing proponents of Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism, for their habit of seeing the Pakistani hand everywhere. For their part, the Bodos in Assam claim their land is being taken over by illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. I sympathize with these immigrants. Much of Bangladesh is predicted to go under water because of global warming. Where else will the people come except India?

Viable solutions must be found. But a section of political parties have looked the other way, pretending the problem of illegal Bangladeshis doesn’t exist. On the one hand, we have a venomous, hate-spewing politician, Raj Thackeray of Mumbai, threatening wars against illegal Bangladeshis as well as all north Indian migrant workers. On the other, we have vested interests who will welcome in illegal immigrants, no matter how volatile the situation is, because they are a potential vote bank.

We see an identical situation in the US in the way Democrats and Republicans play the immigration card. It’s the vote bank which decides many crucial policies.

I grew up in Marxist Calcutta, now Kolkata. My teachers infused a critical element into everything we read, born of Marxian analysis. Even now, in Kolkata or Kerala where Marxism is strongest, ordinary people are aware of their rights, better informed and more political than anywhere else in India. Yet when I write, I cannot ignore the dismal performance of the West Bengal Marxist government who enjoyed over 30 years of uninterrupted misrule in West Bengal. Nor can I wave the flag for the Chinese occupation of Tibet as many Marxist friends do. Or glorify the feudal fiefdom that was Tibet before the Chinese, as supporters of Free Tibet insist on doing. It’s hard to be fair and unbiased.

As these examples show, we need journalists and a media which is unbiased, rational and incorruptible. We need thinkers, intellectuals and policy makers who will work for the common good using truth, justice and commonsense to bring about a world with a modicum of decency, fairness, justice. Sounds like heaven on earth. Which brings us back to Lennon - Imagine.

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