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Writer asks Editor to correct Varun copy

Writer asks Editor to correct Varun copy

Author: Meenakshi Rao
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 10, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/175159/Writer-asks-Editor-to-correct-Varun-copy.html

This election's poster boy of controversy and fodder for sensational reportage, Varun Gandhi, is once more a hot headline - and yet again for outrageous utterances he did not utter and misplaced reporting of which he is a victim.

The London-based Daily Telegraph has in its Saturday interview quoted the BJP's Pilibhit candidate as saying that he favours a revival of his father Sanjay Gandhi's controversial sterilisation policy and wants "compulsory military service" for all Indians. The report claims that Varun hopes to follow in his father's footsteps by offering strong leadership which, according to him, India has lacked for 20 years.

However, as it turned out later in the day, and amid the wires going haywire with leads on the story, DT's South Asia Editor Dean Nelson, who had done the story, issued a clarification saying Varun had, indeed, been misquoted by his paper. In a missive to his office, a copy of which is with Sunday Pioneer, he says: "You have made an error in your report on my interview with Varun Gandhi in today's Daily Telegraph.... You claim we report that Varun Gandhi wants to re-introduce forced sterilisation.

"As you can see from the link to my article, this is not true. I report that he wants to take up the issue of population control, but that he believes the earlier policy was implemented in a roughshod manner. He favours a softer approach of positive incentives, such as financial benefits for those who choose to have smaller families. Can you please correct your article as a matter of urgency? Many thanks, Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor."

The letter came as a shot in the arm for a beleaguered Varun who had been denying since morning that he had never said anything on forced sterilisation but with very few believing him, what with his earlier audio tapes filling up news space for the print and electronic media in the face of an otherwise dull election kick-off.

In a statement, Varun said: "I categorically deny having stated in an interview to Mr Dean Nelson of the Daily Telegraph that I am in favour of forced sterilisation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nor have I made any mention of reviving any previous sterilisation programme or policy.

"What I stated and which Mr Dean Nelson of the Daily Telegraph has confirmed is that I said that I was broadly in favour of a sensible family planning programme to be introduced through education, awareness and positive incentives.

"Mr Nelson has also issued a clarification in this matter which is attached herewith. I would appreciate that care be taken in the future so that my words are not misrepresented and taken out of context."

Varun's "strident" interview even managed to put the BJP on the backfoot with the party issuing a statement that Varun's reported sterilisation talk was his personal view. "What Varun has said on forced sterilisation may his personal views. The BJP promotes family planning but does not support any forced sterilisations," spokesperson S N Singh told PTI in a bid to distance his party from unsavoury controversy.

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