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The Appendix

A warped Indian media! Francois Gautier
The Hindustan Times, February 1, 1999

While there is no doubt that the ghastly murder of Graham Stewart Staines, the Australian missionary, and his two innocent sons, should be universally condemned and that the culprits should be severely punished, the massive outcry it has evoked in the Indian Press raises several important questions, which can only be answered by a Westerner, as any Indian who would dare utter the following statements would immediately be identified with the Sangh parivar:

1) Is the life of a white man more important and dear to the Indian media than the lives of a hundred Indians? Or to put it differently: Is the life of a Christian more sacred than the lives of many Hindus? It would seem so. Because we all remember not so long ago, whether in Punjab or in Kashmir, how militants would stop buses and kill all the Hindus - men, women and children. It even happened recently, when a few of the last courageous Hindus to dare remain in Kashmir were savagely slaughtered in a village, as were the labourers in Himachal Pradesh. Yet, very few voices were raised in the Indian Press condemning it; at least there never was such an outrage as provoked by the murder of Staines. When Hindus are killed in pogroms in Pakistan or Bangladesh, we never witness in the Indian media the like of the tear jerking, posthumous 'interview' of Staines in Star News.
2) This massive outcry on the 'atrocities against the minorities' raises also doubts about the quality and integrity of Indian journalism. Take for instance the rape of the four nuns in Jhabua. Today the Indian Press (and the foreign correspondents - witness Tony Clifton's piece in the last issue of Newsweek) are still reporting that it was a 'religious' rape. Yet I went to Jhabua and met the four adorable nuns, who themselves admitted, along with their bishop George Anatil, that it had nothing to do with religion. It was the doing of a gang of Bhil tribals, known to perpetrate this kind of hateful acts on their own women. Yet today, the Indian Press, the Christian hierarchy and the politicians continue to include the Jhabua rape in the list of the atrocities against the Christians.

In Wyanad in northern Kerala, it was reported that a priest and four women were beaten up and a Bible was stolen by 'fanatical' Hindus. An FIR was lodged, the communists took out processions all over Kerala to protest against the 'atrocities' and the Press went gaga. Yet as an intrepid reporter from the Calicut office of The Indian Express found out, nobody was beaten up and the Bible was safe. Too late: the damage was done and it still is being made use of by the enemies of India.

Finally, even if Dara Singh does belong to the Bajrang Dal, it is doubtful if the 100 others accused do. What is more probable is that like in Wyanad, it is a case of converted tribals versus non-converted tribals, of pent-up jealousies, of old village feuds and land disputes. It is also an outcome of what - it should be said - are the aggressive methods of the Pentecost and seventh Adventists missionaries, known for their muscular ways of converting.

Why does the Indian Press always reflect a Westernised point of view? Why does India's intellectual 'elite', the majority of which happens to be Hindu, always come down so hard on their own culture, their own religion, their own brothers and sisters? Is it because of an eternal feeling of inferiority, which itself is a legacy of British colonisation? Is it because they consider Hindus to be inferior beings - remember the words of Claudius Bucchanan, a chaplain attached to the East India Company: '...Neither truth, nor honesty, honour, gratitude, nor charity, is to be found in the breast of a Hindoo'! Is it because the Indian Press is still deeply influenced by Marxist and communist thoughts like it is in Kerala, where the communists have shamelessly and dangerously exploited the Christians issue for their own selfish purpose?

Whatever it is, the harm is done. Because, even though it is not the truth which has been reported from Jhabua, from Wyanad or from the Keonjhar district in Orissa, it has been passed off as the truth and it has been believed to be so by the masses. And the result is that it has split India a little more along religious and castes lines.And finally, Christianity has always striven on martyrdom, on being persecuted. Before the murder of Staines, the Christian story was slowly dying; the culprits of the Jhabua rape would have been condemned and the Wyanad fraud exposed. In one stroke the burning of Staines has insured that it does not die for a long time. Was the joy of martyrdom for the cause he fought for 34 years his last thought before dying?

(The author is the correspondent in South Asia for Le Figaro, France's largest circulation newspaper.)

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