An Analysis of the Editors Guild
Fact Finding Report into the Gujarat violence
On February 27,
2002, the Sabarmati Express, a train which connects Ahmedabad in
Gujarat, with Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, was attacked by a mob of more than
2000 Muslims at Godhra in Gujarat. The target was the Ram Sevaks
who were returning from Ayodhya after taking part in a ceremony at the
Shri Rama Janmabhoomi. Fifty-eight of the Ram Sevaks were
incinerated in the incident. Most of them were women and children.
In the aftermath,
there was a major communal riot in parts of Gujarat, leading to the death
of nearly 1000 persons, and many injured. The Muslim casualties were
nearly three-quarters of the total.
Guild sent a team on 'a fact finding mission' into the riots in Gujarat,
post-Godhra, and the role of media in particular. The team consisted
of BG Verghese (a columnist), Dileep Padgaonkar (Executive Managing Editor,
The Times of India) and Aakar Patel (Editor, Mid-Day, Mumbai).
In setting out
in its task to report on the 'Ordeal by Fire in the Killing Fields of Gujarat',
the Editors Guild Team follow the standard Marxist methodology. As
Nikolay Valentinov (in "Encounters with Lenin") recounts Lenin telling
him, "Plekhanov (a Marxist theoretician) once said to me about a critic
of Marxism, 'First let us stick the convict's badge on him, and then after
that we will examine his case.' And I think that we must 'stick the convict's
badge' on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we
do not go on to examine his case. That's how every sound revolutionary
The Editors Guild
Team put the label of a convict on the Gujarati language media, and then
went about the task of evaluating their reporting. Therefore, in
analysing the report prepared by the Editors Guild Team, we should first
discuss the ideology of the English media in India to enable us to put
forward our analysis of the report. This is imperative since all
the three members are from the English media.
To do this, we
have to look at the way this media has treated issues relating to India
in general and Hindutva in particular, even prior to the events in Gujarat.
It is our contention that the English media seems to take a special delight
in perverting issues, which not only trivialises, but also enables them
to avoid dealing with the essence of the issues. In the process,
it ensures that sane debates do not take place, and the society does not
reach an enduring solution to the problem except in a muddled way.
In any case,
even if we are to assume that the Editors Guild Report is valid in its
damnation of the Gujarati language media, it was necessary for the Editors
Guild Team to clearly establish that the English media in India is unbiased,
instead of merely making an assumption that it is so. The Team did
not even make an attempt to do so.
Vivek Kendra has made an analysis of the Editors Guild Report and is
presenting the same here.
The English media in India
The English media
in India is a product of the Macaulay system of education, which seeks
to produce "a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English
in taste, in opinion, words and intellect." As the great philosopher,
Anand Coomarswamy, rightly said in 1924 that, "it is hard to realise how
completely the continuity of Indian life has been severed. A single generation
of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to
create a non-descript and superficial being deprived of all roots - a sort
of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the
past or future.. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult
and the most tragic." (The Dance of Shiva, 1924.)
The other feature
of the English media is that it is dominated by those who go under the
guise of left-liberal. For this class of people, there is nothing
in our civilisation that the people of India can legitimately be proud
of. In fact, this class will make a special effort of denigrating
the past, and it has done its best to ensure that the children of this
country are neither taught the essential features of our culture nor made
to respect them. At the same time, it will go out of the way to project
that the wisdom relevant for today lies outside the parameters of our civilisation.
With the coming
of Hindutva to the centre-stage, this class of left-liberals has changed
their stance, and is now saying that the Hinduism projected by Hindu organisations
such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) does not form the core of
our history. They will, however, not say what does form the core.
This negative projection leads to confusion in the society since the people
are told what is not but not what is.
from our cultural symbols is best expressed by Dileep Padgaonkar when he
wrote; "More than any other BJP leader, it is Murli Manohar Joshi who gets
the goat of secular intellectuals. The very appears of the HRD minister
- the dhoti, the angavastram, the prominent mark of the forehead
and the choti - irks them no end." (The Sunday Times of India,
April 15, 2001.) In the same way, Padgaonkar would consider Dr CV Raman
lacking in intellectual merit merely because of his attire.
of Padgaonkar is nothing new. In July 1993, when he interviewed Sir
Vidiadhar Naipaul in the aftermath of the events of December 6, 1992, he
said: "The people who climbed on top of these domes and broke them were
not bearded people wearing saffron robes and with ash on their foreheads.
They were young people clad in jeans and tee-shirts." (The Times of
India July 18, 1993)
was saying that anyone wears jeans and tee-shirts should think in the same
way as he does. Thus Padgaonkar was stunned that the Kar Sevaks behaved
in a manner he thinks as most inappropriate, even though they wore an attire
approved by him.
Here it would
not be out of place to record how Sir Vidiadhar responded to Padgaonkar's
question: "One needs to understand the passion that took them on top of
the domes. The jeans and the tee-shirts are superficial. The
passion alone is real. You can't dismiss it. You have to try to harness
In its editorial
"Political Aftershocks", commenting upon the earthquake relief work,
The Times of India said, "The RSS has been very active in relief
and rehabilitation work..." However, right in the next sentence it
said, "There are, however, unconfirmed reports from Gujarat that the ideological
bias of the RSS towards certain communities and castes is already evident
even in the task of providing relief." (Feb 6, 2001)
of RSS, through a letter printed on Feb 9 in the same newspaper sought
to know the necessary details of the 'ideological bias', so that they 'can
address these lapses' to be able to take the corrective actions for the
future. No response was forthcoming.
In order to nail
the lie spread by the editorial, the President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad
(VHP) for Maharashtra sent a picture to Padgaonkar which showed a Muslim
family taking shelter, along with other Hindu families, in a large tent
at a camp organised by the VHP. The picture was taken from the website
(www.indiatimes.com) of a group publication of The Times of India.
The reply from Padgoankar was quite amazing. In his letter to the
President of VHP dated March 5, 2001, he said that he could not take cognisance
of this photo, because his responsibility was limited to The Times of
Given the organisational
resources available with The Times of India in Gujarat, resources
which were apparently fully used in preparing the Editors Guild Report,
and gratefully acknowledged by the Editors Guild Team, one expected that
Padgaonkar would have confirmed the unconfirmed reports on the basis of
which he made the allegations about the 'ideological bias'. It was
astounding that even when the photo clearly disproved the unconfirmed reports,
Padgaonkar refused to tender an apology for the malicious writings.
Thus, when Sandesh (the Gujarati language daily that receives the
harshest censure from the Editors Guild Team for inciting violence) is
following a policy of not carrying corrections and clarifications, it is
merely following in the distinguished footsteps set out by Padgaonkar himself.
In the news item
about the publication of the Editors Guild report, the Rediff on Net,
has reported Padgaonkar saying the following: "I think if secularism became
a selling proposition (the Gujarati) newspapers would become secular."
(May 3, 2002). The Times of India is the most profitable publication
in India, and is the largest circulating daily in the whole word.
Is Padgaonkar accusing his own publication of not being secular?
does is not an exception but a rule amongst all his colleagues who subscribe
to the same ideology that he does. The intention of stating the above two
cases is not to single him out, but to show the type of arrogance in the
Macaulay class of Indians.
A community which
has suffered the maximum due to Islamic terrorism is the Hindus of Kashmir
and the Pandits in particular. In 1989, a mass exodus took place
in the Kashmir Valley, due to relentless persecution by Islamic terrorism,
and 300,000 Pandits became refugees in their own homeland. The left-liberals
did not even shed crocodile tears on the plight of these unfortunate citizens
of our country. In fact, they have become the forgotten people for
the English media.
Even today, while
copious tears have flowed from the eyes of the English media in context
of the Muslim refugees in Gujarat, it has not found it necessary to deal
with the predicament of the Kashmiri Pandits. There has not been
any detailed reporting about the miserable conditions in the refugee camps,
which are in existence for more than 13 years. No one talks about
the trauma and the psychological scars borne by these Kashmiris, whose
only fault was that they were Hindus.
of the English media is appalling considering that all the publications
had letters printed, and also articles, written by respected journalists
and social personalities, which brought out this hypocrisy in a glaring
way. It seems that the English media has no concern for the views
expressed by the Hindu community, even when they are right. This
behaviour can only be explained in terms of the ideology that the English
The plight of
the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh is quite well-known. From more
than 20% in 1941, the Hindu population has become almost non-existent in
Pakistan, with the present share being around 1.5%. In Bangladesh,
the ethnic cleansing had not been as severe. However, the taking
over of Khaleeda Zia as Prime Minister of Bangladesh in October 2001 with
the active support of Islamic fundamentalists, has caused a qualitative
change in the situation in that country too. There has been a big
stream of Hindu refugees coming from Bangladesh to seek shelter in India.
For the English
media the desperate situation that exists in this neighbouring country
seems to be of little concern. Except for one or two perfunctory
editorials in each publication, the issue has been successfully down played
so that it does not form a part of the national consciousness. Taking
a clue, even the international media, and the various human rights organisations
who take special cudgels even when there are minor abuses against the religious
minorities in India, have had to be goaded to take the slightest of notice
of the tragedy.
lack of concern of the English media about the plight of the Hindus of
Bangladesh is due to the fact that it evaluates issues not on the basis
of the merit, but whether it will help or hinder Hindu organisations such
as the RSS. This is admitted by Professor Ratneswar Bhattacharya
who recently has authored a book on the cleansing of minorities in Bangladesh.
He said, "Our intellectuals were apprehensive that hue and cry over the
plight of Hindus in Bangladesh would only help the Sangh Parivar." (Times
News Network, May 6, 2002.)
role of the English media with respect to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines
plane to Kandahar in December 1999 was yet another example of journalism
being governed by an ideology rather than the principles of the profession.
Journalists were competing against each other to see who could most instigate
the families of the hijacked passengers to force the government to yield
to the demands of the Islamic terrorists. There were families of
many of the hijacked passengers who were beseeching the government not
to succumb to the pressure of the terrorists, knowing fully well that the
consequences (in case the government submit to the demands) for the nation
would be perilous. But these nationalistic views hardly came to be
reported by the English media in India.
on the government was so much that it finally surrendered to the terrorists.
What was worse was that the very people who were instigating the relatives
of the hostages to wave 'Release Maulana Azhar' placards before obliging
cameras were equally vocal in deploring the capitulation to terrorism.
A classic case of damn you do, and damn if you don't.
portrayal of the attacks on Christians was a deliberate attempt to damn
Hindu organisations. The two classic cases were those of the rape
of four nuns in Jhabua and the murder of Graham Staines. Within a
few hours of the events, the English media had already identified the perpetrators
of the crime - namely the Sangh Parivar. And a vicious campaign was let
loose all over the country. The correspondents of the foreign media in
India picked this up, apparently gleefully; enabling the enemies of our
country took maximum advantage of the opportunity provided to them.
When the facts
came out, the English media behaved in a churlish manner. The rape
in Jhabua was the handiwork of 24 tribal from the area, and half of whom
had been converted to Christianity. The Wadhwa Commission, set up
to inquire into the Staines case, has clearly stated that the alleged ring-leader
of the group that murdered Staines had nothing to do with the Sangh Parivar.
In following with its tradition, in neither case has the English media
apologised to the Sangh Parivar for its false and malicious campaign.
No corrections and clarifications were forthcoming.
The Wadhwa Commission
found it necessary to investigate the role of the media in the Staines
case. Its recommendation in this respect was: "Media, both print
and electronic, has also to exercise restraint. Screaming headlines should
be avoided which have the effect of misleading the public and creating
more tension and suspicion among different communities. News headlines
in the cases of rape of nun and murder of a Christian boy and girl after
rape have been noticed. One cannot imagine the damage that might have been
caused to the polity by such headlines and reporting. Reporting of communal
strife should not be done without proper verification or an ordinary crime
given a communal twist."
That the English
media in India is anti-RSS has to be accepted. We have no objection
for the media to take this position. What we object is that many
times it is economical with the truth in trying to take its agenda forward.
Another case in point is accusing the RSS of being involved in the murder
of Mahatma Gandhi. Even though there have been court judgements exonerating
the RSS in the case, this canard is carried on with impunity.
instance, The Statesman along with one of its columnist, AG Noorani,
had to apologise for making this allegation. The point here is to be noted
that Noorani refused to make even a single appearance in the court which
had heard the case. Eventually, the court had to issue a non-bailable
warrant against him.
The English media
refuse to do its homework in such respects. This is a deliberate
attempt of perversion, because it knows that a sincere inquiry would mean
that it will not be able to pursue its own ideological agenda.
mentioned above are only a tip of the iceberg, and they are the rule and
not exceptions. They are narrated here to establish our charge of
the ideological bias of the English media in India. If we are wrong,
we should not be merely dismissed but told the reasons thereof.
On two major negatives
The Editors Guild
Team noted with anguish the deafening silence with the respect to appeals
for funds for rehabilitating the riot affected persons. It acknowledged
that if an appeal was made, 'few contributions might be forthcoming'.
It further acknowledged that if this were to happen, it 'would send out
a wrong message.' In spite of this, the Team recommended 'that the
Guild issues an appeal for a Fund for Gujarat through its members.'
(p. 28, 29) The logic of the recommendations seem to bypass us.
An even more
intriguing aspect to this, is the behaviour of two of the members of the
team, Padgaonkar and Aakar Patel, who are themselves editors of The
Times of India and Mid-Day, respectively. The former is
a national paper, and the group has publications in languages other than
English. The latter is the leading English eveninger from Mumbai,
and has an Urdu daily which leads in Mumbai in terms of circulation.
It is indeed surprising that these two members of the team have not taken
a lead in implementing their own recommendation to the Guild. Did
they realise that few contributions would be forthcoming?
It would not
be out of place to inquire why. Indeed, if the editors had even a
modicum of sincerity, they should have already made a statement in this
respect. Perhaps the experience of Professor Kunal Chattopadhyay,
history professor and an activist of the Gujarat Solidarity Committee against
Communalism in Kolkatta, has warned them of the public reaction.
Those collecting relief for the victims of the Gujarat carnage in Kolkata
have been confronted with the question, often laced with anger and sarcasm,
why their conscience does not cry for the Hindus of Bangladesh who are
subjected to continuous communal atrocities. (Times News Network,
May 6, 2002.)
can be given by what was written in the Gujarati media from Mumbai.
A pertinent article is "Proved years before that secularists are anti-Hindus"
that appeared in the Gujarati Mid-Day, April 29, 2002, written by
its editor Saurabh Shah. This publication comes out of the same stable
as the one edited by Aakar Patel, a member of the Editors Guild Team.
Having said this,
we recognise that in the issue dated June 12, 2002, The Hindustan Times
has come out with a small announcement (8cms x 2 cols) on its Oped page
issuing an appeal to its readers to contribute to fund started by it to
help the victims of the violence in Gujarat. It is important to note
that there was no mention about the amount that the publication itself
was going to contribute as a starter to the fund.
Investigate why events keep on
Whenever a fire
takes place, the first thing to be done is to extinguish it, so that the
damage is minimised. However, if one were to stop at this stage,
and not inquire why the fire has taken place in the first instance, one
is laying the groundwork for repeated occurrences of the blaze, causing
greater damage in each subsequent happening. The inquiry into the
cause of fire can often lead to finding out other possible causes.
Thus for getting a long-term solution, the inquiry is essential.
Often the case
with the English media is that it has indulged in only dealing with the
immediate instances, without trying to find out the background of the same.
In this context, the question that the Prime Minister raised in Goa on
April 12, 2002, asking who lit the fire in Gujarat is most relevant.
Instead of heeding to this suggestion, the Prime Minister was criticised
for bringing up this valid point. It would seem to us that the English
media is happy to play a role of a fire-fighter rather than a fire-preventer.
Here it would
not be out of place to also inquire why the leaders and the cadre of the
Congress party did not play a role of physical guardians of the Muslims,
in attempting to prevent the riots that followed the Godhra massacre.
This issue was dealt thoroughly with by MV Kamath in his article in The
Times of India dated May 8, 2002. A similar point has been made
by Abdul Rahman Antulay, while resigning as chairman of the minorities
department the Congress Party. (The Indian Express, July 13, 2002.)
Concern of Businesses
The media has
highlighted the concern of some business leaders who have expressed anguish
about the post-Godhra events in Gujarat. However, the views expressed
by T Thomas, former Chairman of Hindustan Lever Ltd, do not form part of
the mainstream treatment of the causes behind the sad events. While
the anguish of people such as Deepak Parekh and Anu Aga have been widely
published, some of the important points they made are swept under the carpet.
For example, Parekh said that 'everyone knows Godhra is a volatile city'.
(The Indian Express, March 29, 2002) Why is it volatile?
This would have been apparent in a proper analysis of who lit the fire.
Aga said, "If
in the past the minority has been pampered and given concessions, it needs
to be looked at afresh. If in the past, practices went against the majority,
we need to have the guts to reverse them. Muslims will have to come out
of the clutches of fundamentalism. Let us have public debates on these
issues." (The Indian Express, April 8, 2002) Will the
English media in India take a lead in conducting these debates?
Thomas, in his
article "Can Muslims become secular?" said, "The antipathy towards
Muslim is shared even by other minorities, like Christians and Sikhs. Secondly
the Gujarat incidents and the reactions to them show how isolated the Muslim
community has become." He then went on to make some important suggestions
on how to retrieve the situation saying that 'the purpose of (his) article
is to examine with sympathy the steps the Muslim community can take to
change the national perception about itself.' (Business Standard,
April 26, 2002)
The manner in
which the English media reported about EM Forster's quote in the English
language question paper for the Gujarat Secondary Education Board for the
12th class shows its ideological inclination. The impression given by the
English media in India was that this was a deliberate attempt on part of
the Bharatiya Janata Party government to rub salt in the wounds of the
Muslims in Gujarat. This particular exam was conducted on March 22, 2002,
while the riots started about three weeks prior to this. Thus, if the accusation
was correct, then it would mean that the question paper was set during
the intervening periods of riots.
The Editors Guild
Report labels the question as 'singularly insensitive', clearly implying
that it was deliberately included in the test. (p. 24)
One has to wonder
if the English media know anything about the manner in which question papers
are set, and the time process involved. The examination board chairman
was forced to come out with a statement that the papers were set in September
2001, and the particular question was formulated by a member of one of
the minority communities.
The Editors Guild
Report compounds its ridiculousness by calling the official explanation
as an attempt to 'assuage' (sic) the feelings of hurt.
When the facts
came out, did the English media admit that its treatment in this particular
issue was wrong? But then admission of such a blunder does not form
part of the journalistic practice of the English media in India.
(Is it any wonder, then, that Sandesh follows such august tradition?)
The exams in Gujarat
The exams in
Gujarat to be held in early March were postponed, due to the riots in the
state. When the Gujarat government decided to hold the exams according
to a revised schedule, the English media termed it as irresponsible, claiming
that the situation was still not normal. As an intention of its sincerity,
the government made special transport arrangements for the students, especially
those living in the refugee camps and from the sensitive areas of the cities.
A concerted effort
was made by various Muslim leaders and 'secularists' to create a sense
of insecurity amongst the students. However, most of the students
wanted to appear for the exam, and decided to use the transport provided
by the government. The English media reported instances of some of
the local Muslim leaders in Ahmedabad forcibly taking the children out
of the buses.
a report in The Indian Express (March 19, 2002) at some points,
from where Muslim students were to be bussed under police guard to centres
in the city's riot-free western parts, some Muslim leaders stood by trying
to coerce candidates to boycott the exams. Some of the students who
were already in the bus, were forced to get off. The newspaper report
says that the family members had to make their own private arrangements
for transporting their wards to the examination centres.
Indian Express reported that 9,000 out of 14,000 Muslim students attended
the exams on the first day of the revised schedule, The Times of India
said that only 10% did so. The latter in its editorial dated April
20 termed the 10% figure as 'predictable'. Would it not be pertinent
to ask who predicted it?
It appears to
us that The Times of India in particular seems to have made special
efforts at creating tension in the minds of the Muslim students, so that
their 'prediction' would come true. The English media in India found
no reason to castigate the Muslims leaders who coerced the students of
their community to boycott the exams. In fact, we get the impression
that it was supporting such a blatantly anti-social activity.
has been a report in The Hindu (May 13, 2002) that a politician
from Kerala flew in Ahmedabad especially to scuttle a meeting of 35 imams
called to discuss relief measures with the Chief Minister. This is another
example of keeping the Muslim community away from the mainstream.
This too did not receive any adverse comment from the English media.
The Gujarat Stated
Education Department had asked the schools to conduct Dharti Puja
in context of the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January
26, 2001. The Editors Guild Report uses this as an example of a 'warped
mindset' being created, and implies that such a move will prevent India
from going into the 21st century. (p. 25)
exposes the cultural alienation of the Editors Guild Team as it uses a
western idiom to explain issues to the people of this land. A puja
for a Hindu has a cultural significance when used in the context it is
being done. A temple is not just a religious structure, but also
has social significance. It is no wonder that in the movie Kabhi
Khushi Kabhi Ghum, in a song with the same name, we have the following
Yeh ghar nahi hai, mandir tera.......
(This is not just your home, but
also your temple..)
Loaded questions by the English
political editor of NDTV, seems to know what Justice KG Shah, appointed
by the state government to inquire in the riots, will report even before
the Shah commission has started its work. In the interview of Justice
Shah, Sardesai asks how the report will differ from the one made by National
Human Rights Commission, and 'given' that 'the government's link with the
riots' will 'emerge'. This is reported on the NDTV website
on April 3, 2002.
in an interview of William H Lash III, Assistant Secretary of Commerce,
USA, makes a special effort of trying to get Lash to say that investment
in India will be affected by the riots in Gujarat. He asks, "Hypothetically,
wouldn't someone thinking of investing in India have second thoughts now?"
Lash gives a brilliant reply: "I never discuss hypothetical questions.
I never give hypothetical answers. I never engage in economic discussion
of a human tragedy." (The Times of India, May 10, 2002)
In a signed editorial
"Is India Rwanda?" in Outlook, Vinod Mehta wrote: ".... Are
we equating state terrorism with an act of terrorism committed by a group
of crazy, bigoted individuals? ... When law-abiding citizens are being
burnt alive by mobs, objective journalism needs to be jettisoned; the media
has no option but to tell the story from the side of the victims so that
the country can see the grisly events." (Outlook, March 18, 2002)
However, Mehta would not apply these standards in case of the victims of
the Godhra massacre or of the Islamic fundamentalists in Kashmir and other
parts of India.
In an article
in The Times of India, Vidya Subramaniam said, "Godhra was an attack
on Hindus that Mr Modi didn't prevent." What is implied here is that
Modi KNEW an attack on the Hindus was going to take place, and that he
deliberately did not take any action. (The Times of India, May 6,
2002) We wonder if it is at all possible to even come close to discussing
These four examples
are not exceptions, but the rule. It would seem that the various
correspondents in the English media are competing with each other as to
who can situate the events in a manner that would do maximum harm to the
image of the country.
It would not
be out of place to mention that the journalistic unprofessional views expressed
by Vinod Mehta, though quoted in the Editors Guild Report (p. 15) have
not received any adverse comments from the Editors Guild Team.
The Editors Guild
Report frequently uses words like pogrom, massacre, ethnic cleansing, and
genocide, in describing the post-Godhra events in Gujarat. If these
terms are valid for Gujarat, would it not be fair to say that it has an
even greater validity in Kashmir, where the scale of deaths and refugees
is much higher? However, the English media in India refuses to use
the terms for Jammu & Kashmir.
This habit is
nothing new. In March 1998, in context of the alleged attacks on
Christians on a communal basis, Arun Shourie had narrated the following
dialogue between him and an American journalist.
"And what about
the pogroms that go on from time to time?," the caller asked. Late at night,
an editorial writer with one of the world's best-known papers was calling
from the USA. It was becoming evident that the BJP would form the Government,
he was gathering background information. "What did you say?," I asked.
Even though I had heard the word clearly enough, I wanted to see if he
would repeat it. "Pogroms," he repeated.
"What do you
mean, 'pogroms'?" "It is an East-European term....," he began. Now, even
a brown Asiatic like me knows the meaning of the word. The person had lived
in India for some time, as the India correspondent of this important paper
-- enough years to know that even we know that it is a term which is used
to describe the massacre of millions of white Europeans by white Europeans."
(India Connect, March 23, 1998)
In an article
in the Mid-Day, KR Sundar Rajan, wrote: "After (December 6,
1992), many (foreign) journalist flew down to report ... India's impending
collapse. But newsmen back home were disappointed. One told me he expected
a Bosnian-type civil war between Hindus and Muslims. 'We were influenced
by what your own government and newspapers said, (who) painted a very depressing
and unbalanced picture of India,' he said." (July 13, 1993)
It would seem
to us that hysterical writings are a special feature of the English media
Perverting the Prime Minister's
The English media
make much of the report that the Prime Minister asked the Chief Minister
of Gujarat to follow the principles of Raj Dharma in administering
the affairs of the state. It was implied that it was the opinion of the
Prime Minister that the Chief Minister had failed in his duty. However,
this was completely contrary to what the Prime Minister had said.
When a reporter asked if he had any message for the Chief Minister, the
Prime Minister said: "I have only this message for the Chief Minister -
that he follow Raj Dharma (The Duty of the Ruler). Raj
Dharma. This phrase is sufficiently meaningful. I have been following
it, I have been trying to follow it. For a ruler, for the Government, there
cannot be any distinction and discrimination between one citizen and another.
Neither on the basis of birth, nor on the basis of caste or religion.
I believe that Narendra Modi is following it." (Emphasis added)
(P. 21, Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Communal Violence
in Gujarat, DAVP, April 2002)
context of his speech at a public meeting coinciding with the Bharatiya
Janata Party National Executive in Goa on April 12, 2002, the Editors Guild
Report accuses the Prime Minister of speaking in terms of 'we' and 'they'.
(p. 29, 30) In this context, we would like to quote what Sajid Bhombal
had to say in his column on Rediff on Net: "In my previous article,
I had accused the prime minister of speaking in a 'we and them' language.
That was based on media reports. Going by the actual speech he delivered,
made available very late, it seems he did not use that language. I apologise
to the prime minister and the readers on that point, though I stand by
my criticism of him on other points." (May 11, 2002)
of Bhombal is reinforced by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian
Express, in his article "Desi Punch, Italian Judy". He says:
"I finally heard the prime minister's Goa speech and one has to concede
that he has a right to complain over the way most of the media reported
it and what are now popularly believed to be his sweeping remarks against
all Muslims. He did use the expression "wherever Muslims live... there
is discord... etc". But if you heard the passage in its entirety, he was
talking of militant Muslims. The offending sentence flowed from the main
argument and his not qualifying the Muslims he was talking about once again
as the jehadi/militant types. This was, at best, a sin of absent-mindedness.
Though one might still question the prudence of raising the issue of militant
Islam while Gujarat was still burning, and where more than 90 per cent
of the victims were Muslim, you have to accept that on this particular
remark Vajpayee had been condemned unfairly." (May 4, 2002)
The English media
is very selective in using the words of people to project its ideology.
This, we think, is bad journalism.
The case of the Newton's Theory
The English media
in India gives an impression to be particularly upset with the Gujarat
Chief Minister for his alleged use of Newton in explaining the Hindu reaction
to the massacre at Godhra. The Newton analogy seems now to be part
of the mainstream parlance in the English media when talking about the
Gujarat Chief Minister and the violence.
It is important
to take note of the news item entitled "'Newton' Modi has a lot of explaining
to do", in which it would seem that the CM has specifically used the Newton's
third law (quoted in the publication as 'Every action has an equal and
opposite reaction') to 'virtually justify what is happening'. It
is also pertinent to note the first sentence of the item - "Fish rots from
the top, and if the ugly event unfolding in Gujarat over the past four
days are any indication, the same holds true of governance too."
(The Times of India, March 3, 2002)
of Gujarat, on the very day of the item having appeared, sent a letter
to Dileep Padgaonkar, about the content and the tone of the news item.
(The letter was published in the Guild report, P. 73, 74). This denial
was not published by the newspaper even to this day. However, the Newton
analogy is now being used freely all over the English media. Once again,
it is clear that Sandesh is following the tradition of its national
4A of the Editors Guild Report in which a transcript of the interview of
The Gujarat Chief Minister by Zee TV is given, the CM has said that
though there is an action followed by a reaction, he wants neither the
action nor the reaction to take place. He has not used neither the
name of Newton to explain the situation, nor provided any justification
for the riots that followed.
Quoting from known anti-RSS organisations
The Editors Guild
Report quotes favourably from the various reports of organisations like
Sahamat and Communalism Combat. These organisations have
the same ideological base as the English media, and therefore it is like
patting oneself on one's own back. Here we would like to specifically
mention what Teesta Setalvad had to say on the massacre at Godhra.
In a report in
The Washington Post she opined on the Godhra incident that she condemns
today's gruesome attack but "you cannot pick up an incident in isolation.
Let us not forget the provocation. These people were not going for a benign
assembly. They were indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilization to build
a temple and deliberately provoke the Muslims in India." (February 28,
The Editors Guild
Report talks about the report "Genocide, Gujarat 2002", from the
March-April issue of Communalism Combat. (p. 13) What is not
mentioned is that this report talks about the Godhra massacre in terms
of a reaction to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and that there are
no photos of even the burning train, let alone the charred bodies of women
Temptation of the lucre
Express and The Times of India and other newspapers have condemned
the Narendra Modi government on many aspects related to the riots.
They have alleged that not only did it not do anything to prevent the riots
that took place after the massacre in Godhra but that it connived with
the rioters in indulging in the vandalism. This was done not only
in terms of the reporting made and the columns (by guests and staff writers)
written, but also in harsh editorials, making a whole range of serious
Yet, they accepted
large advertisements from the Narendra Modi government purporting to show
that it did fulfil its Raj Dharma and the economy of the state was
hardly impacted by the riots. Does the lure of advertisement revenue
so enamour them that they shamefacedly abdicate their alleged moral stand?
Projecting that the Godhra killing
was due to provocation
The Editors Guild
Report refers to a news item in a Hindi daily Jan Morcha from Ayodhya,
dated February 25, 2002. The news talks about letting loose 'a reign
of terror upon dozens of helpless Muslim passengers, burqa clad
women and innocent children' by Bajrang Dal activists going to Ayodhya
on Sabarmati Express. (p. 4)
There have also
been reports of alleged misbehaviour of the Ram Sevaks on the Sabarmati
Express which was torched at Godhra, prior to its arrival at this station.
The news of this alleged misconduct had reached Godhra and it was this
that motivated 2000 Muslims to gather to undertake the dastardly act.
In fact, there
have been multiple stories of 'provocations', and not just a single one.
It would seem that the English media had gone on a competitive splurge
of narrating all types of possible 'provocations'.
The classic case
was that of the anonymous email which was circulated all over the world,
and which was supposed to have quoted two Godhra based reporters, Anil
Soni and his wife Neelam. Their report, according to the email, talked
about the Ram Sevaks kidnapping a 16-year Muslim girl from Godhra
station and later raping her in the S-6 compartment. The Editors Guild
Report mentions this email and also the comments of Prem Shankar Jha in
Outlook dated March 25, 2002, which rubbishes it. However,
Editors Guild Team seems to be discounting Jha's comments by saying that
'nevertheless' there have been other reports talking about 'provocation'
by the Ram Sevaks. (p. 3, 4)
It seems to us
that the Editors Guild Team accepts that there was a 'provocation' by the
Ram Sevaks. It will have to explain how this 'provocation'
encourages 2000 Muslims in Godhra to gather to undertake the massacre of
the Hindus on the train. While some of the 'provocations' are supposed
to have happened a few hours before the arrival of the train at Godhra
(incidents that would have happened, if true, around 4:00 am when the day
had not yet dawned), others are supposed to have happened a few minutes
before the gathering of the 2000 Muslims.
Why does the
English media find it necessary to undertake such a convoluted exercise?
Projecting that the Godhra killing
was not pre-planned
After the known
failure of trying to justify the massacre of the Hindus in Godhra, the
English media has undertaken a programme to say that the Godhra massacre
was not pre-planned. The perverted height was reached by an 'investigative
report' made by Rajdeep Sardesai which was posted on the NDTV website
posted on May 3, 2002. The various issues like the gathering of 2000
Muslims, use of kerosene, etc., had been raised earlier in various publications.
Sardesai found it necessary to ignore these points; otherwise he would
have had to accept that this 'investigation' was patently false.
In terms of using
information selectively, the English media make no mention of a letter
by George Joseph, a resident of Godhra, in Mathrubhumi, (a leading
Malayalam daily) dated 20th April 2002. The Editors Guild Team had
the necessary resources to access and translates an item in a small Hindi
daily, Jan Morcha, to justify their theory of provocation of the
Muslims in Godhra; they seem to be unaware of reports that would repudiate
their theory. Interestingly, the present Chairperson of the Editor's
Guild hails from the very state where Mathrubhumi is published.
Projecting that post-Godhra violence
Even as the above
two projects were going on, the English media went in top gear to project
that the post-Godhra violence was pre-planned. It would then follow
that the 'provocation' of the Ram Sevaks on the Sabarmati Express
was also part of this planning, since there was a need to have an excuse
to indulge in the rioting. Again, one sees a fertile convoluted mind
in the English media.
While not related
to the English media, it needs to mention that the supposedly leaked report
prepared by the British High Commission 'found' that this violence was
six months in planning. (The Hindustan Times, April 15, 2002)
If the leaked report is true, we find it amazing that the team from the
British High Commission has come to this startling conclusion in a matter
of two/three days of visit to Gujarat. We find it even more amazing
that the English media has lapped up the findings. Perhaps, given
their ideological inclination, one should not be amazed.
The Editors Guild
Report says: "A Muslim liberal in Ahmedabad complained, more in sorrow
than in anger, that many contemporary and contextual articles he had sent
in recent times to the local English newspapers were never used. He pleaded
that the media, especially the English language press with its national
reach, should find space for local liberal, modern Muslim voices and enables
them to network." (p. 16) Is this not a condemnation of the English media
in India? And is this not the practice of the English media in India
in all aspects relating to Islam and Muslim?
The case of the foetus
There have been
reports about a pregnant Muslim woman whose stomach was allegedly ripped
open, and her foetus was taken out, and both were burnt. To the best
of our knowledge the first mention about this was in a report on the BBC
around March 6. The reporter, however, said that this is uncorroborated,
but he felt 'duty bound' to mention it. The next reference comes
in an article by Harsh Mander in The Times of India dated March
Then there seems
to be a pause, except for others using the Mander article as an 'authentic'
source. Then we have a report dated April 16, and published on the
Tehelka website posted on April 19. This report was prepared
by six women and was sponsored by the Citizens' Initiative of Ahmedabad.
The Tehelka report
has recorded a statement on March 27 by one Saira Banu, who talked about
her 'sister-in-law's sister' (sic), Kausar Banu, as being the victim of
the above related incident. The narration gives an indication that
Saira Banu was the witness to the happening.
In the very next
paragraph, the report acknowledges that this story was heard from many
others, but that 'the details would vary - the foetus was dashed to the
ground, the foetus was slaughtered with a sword, the foetus was swung on
the point of the sword and then thrown into a fire.'
In the same report
there was a recorded statement of one Jannat Bibi (along with Kulsum Bibi)
both of Jawan Nagar, Naroda Patia, Ahmedabad. They talked about February
28, 2002, and the statement was recorded on March 27, 2002. They
talked about being 'confronted by a crowd of several thousands, armed
with trishuls and swords', that at least some of the crowd were wearing
'khakhi shorts', and that the police had suddenly opened fire in which
Muslim men (no women) were killed. There is no mention about any
rape or any foetus being taken out of a woman's womb.
There is also
a testimony of one Jannat Sheikh of Kumbhaji Ni Chali, Naroda patiya, Ahmedabad.
The event of 28th February 2002 is titled "Rape of a Family". It
talks about two of the female members of her family being raped, and she
witnessed to 'unmarried girls from my street (being) stripped, raped and
There is no indication
whether either of these two Jannats have become the person who has petitioned
the President of India and Sonia Gandhi, the President of Congress Party,
or the one who has filed the FIR in the alleged case of the killing of
the foetus along with its mother, Kausar Banu.
(It needs to
be mentioned that in an article in by Javed Akhtar in The Indian Express
dated May 6, 2002, he says that the witness to the crime is one Amina of
It is only in
the month of May, 2002, that there are flurry of articles about the alleged
foetus case, with some of them converting this one crime into a number
- vide Arundhati Roy, Gail Omvedt, Praful Bidwai, and Darryl d'Monte.
We find all this very strange.
Spit and run
One of the features
of the English media in India is to make some wild allegations, and then
ask the opponent to prove it otherwise. In the process, the opponent
has to spend a large amount of time and other resources to establish that
the allegations are bogus. This ties up the opponent into an unproductive
In her article
"Democracy: Who's She When She's at Home?", Arundhati Roy begins
with the following: "Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It
took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn't very
complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a
mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning
rags. Only that after she died, someone carved 'OM' on her forehead."
And then she asks: "Precisely which Hindu scripture preaches this?" (Outlook,
May 6, 2002)
Fine words indeed.
Also very moving. But what is the truth in this incident? Balbir
Punj, a journalist and presently a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP, wanted
to find it out. In his article "Dissimulation in Words", he
writes: "Shocked by this despicable "incident", I got in touch with
the Gujarat government. The police investigations revealed that no such
case, involving someone called Sayeeda, had been reported either in urban
or rural Baroda. Subsequently, the police sought Roy's help to identify
the victim and seek access to witnesses who could lead them to those guilty
of this crime. But the police got no cooperation. Instead, Roy, through
her lawyer, replied that the police had no power to issue summons. Why
is she hedging behind technical excuses?" (Outlook, July 8, 2002)
writes: "But this sort of sophism is not new for Gujarat. The people decrying
Gujarat as a "fascist state in the making" are the ones who spun stories
about alleged attacks on Christians in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra."
In the subsequent
issue of Outlook (July 15, 2002) Roy has responded to Punj's article
in her usual flippant manner. However, all that she needed to do
was give the name and address of the friend in Vadodara who was weeping
on the phone for fifteen minutes, and also the full name of the victim
identified by only the first name as Sayeeda, as well as the address.
There the matter would have rested as far as Roy was concerned.
In the May 6
essay, Roy reports about the daughters of Ehsan Jaffri, the ex-Member of
Parliament from the Congress Party, being killed along with him in Ahmedabad.
The Jaffri family wrote saying that his children were not in the city at
the time, and in fact one of them is living in the USA.
When the discrepancy
was pointed out she says that she got the information from two other sources
- one a report in the Time magazine of the USA, and another an 'independent
fact-finding mission' which consisted of a former Inspector General of
Police of Tripura and a former Finance Secretary, Government of India.
Roy admitted her mistake in a letter to Outlook dated May 27, 2002.
The amazing part of the apology letter is as follows: "This and other
genuine errors in recounting the details of the violence in Gujarat in
no way alters the substance of what journalists, fact-finding missions,
or writers like myself are saying."
Which means that
one can have the facts wrong, but still hold on to the conclusion that
is arrived at on the basis of the wrong facts. Or is it a case that
one arrives at a conclusion and then find the facts that would fit the
conclusion? This is a standard practice for the English media in
Middle class participation in
the Gujarat riots
A feature of
the riots after the massacre of Hindus in Godhra, is the large participation
of the Hindu middle class, women, dalits and vanvasis. In some ways
it has mirrored what happened in Mumbai in January 1993, after the burning
of the Bane family in Jogeshwari.
of the middle class and women surprised the police, as has been acknowledged
by the Police Commissioner when he said: "Surprisingly, these mobs were
being led by educated people - advocates, doctors, and the rich." (The
Times of India, March 15, 2002.)
On this point,
an avowed secularist wrote as follows: "Over the following weeks, the same
people who denounced the backlash against minority communities in America
following September 11 made statements like "the Muslims should be driven
out of town" and "the VHP should burn down two or three more mosques".
The people behind these words are not hooligans but kind, educated and
generally reasonable people. And yet during these moments their eyes gloss
over and create a thin film that separates them from reality." (Reena Shah
in Hyphenated homelands, The Week, April 7, 2002.)
The English media
has tried to give its own perverted spin to the participation of the dalits
and the vanvasis in the riots, as being yet another example of the exploitation
by the upper castes to do their bidding. They have said that there
has been a deliberate attempt by the Sangh Parivar to indoctrinate these
groups into hating the Muslims. They do not think that these have
a legitimate reason for feeling antagonised by the actions of at least
some of the Muslims that they have dealt with.
The English media
has found it inconvenient to make a proper inquiry into all these aspects.
And in the process has ensured that it will refuse to do proper analysis
into the causes, which in fact is the only way to prevent violence from
taking place in the future.
Biases in the report
We have indicated
in elsewhere in the analysis the manner in which the Editors Guild Team
has dealt with various issues relating to the subject of the Report.
For example, the Team does not accept that the Godhra massacre was pre-planned.
The narration of the exam question relating to the Forster's quote and
of the conduct of the exams in general, would clearly indicate that there
is a huge prejudice on part of the Team.
begins with the manner in which the Editors Guild Team set out in its task.
The tactics used was similar to first call a dog mad, and then shoot it.
The Section "The Fuse is Lit" in the Editors Guild Report begins with the
following: "Meanwhile, on February 27 itself, subsequent incidents of violence
in Godhra town were brought under control but trouble erupted elsewhere
in the district and other parts of the State. The torched carriage No.
S-6 was detached and the Sabarmati Express continued its journey, disgorging
traumatised passengers en route at Vadodara, Anand and Ahmedabad. Word
spread. The return of badly charred bodies to, grieving families stirred
passions. The VHP sounded a call for a Gujarat bandh on February 28 which
was endorsed by the ruling party. An "ashti yatra" was mooted but
fortunately called off in time. However, Gujarat was already in flames."
The manner in
which the ashti yatra is mentioned would give an idea that it was
part of a programme of February 28, the day after the massacre in Godhra.
It is well known that this programme of the VHP was announced around mid-March
and scheduled for March 20.
elsewhere in the analysis, the Editors Guild Report gives an indication
that the team does not accept that the Godhra massacre was pre-planned.
In the Editors
Guild Report, it is said: "In Ahmedabad, the National Medicos Organisation
on April 2 gave the Guild Team a 'provocative' Hindi leaflet ending with
the slogan 'Pakistan Zindabad'." (p. 20) We do not understand the need
to use the word provocative in inverted commas. This has given us
an impression that the Editors Guild Team does not accept that the leaflet
is provocative. However, when a blatantly false leaflet allegedly
authored by the RSS, the Team does not use any inverted commas or any other
sign, clearly indicates that the Team accepts the authenticity of such
The Editors Guild
Report says: "The same 'medico' representation was strongly critical of
the English press." Here too the use of inverted commas for the word
medico would clearly indicate the mindset of the authors of the report.
to the meeting with the editor of the Gujarati daily, Sandesh, the
Report says: "We met this press baron on one of the higher floors of his
plush and gleaming new office in Ahmedabad, far above the dust and din
of the city sprawled below." (p. 6) The objective of this was to
create an image of one who is not in touch with what is happening at the
street level. It is also designed to give an image of arrogance on
part of the editor of Sandesh.
In case of those
whom the Editors Guild Team would call secular, we do not see any inelegant
imagery being created of the person. For example, in case of publications
to which the Team has given a certificate of being 'moderate and balanced
in approach', the Report merely says: "In Ahmedabad we, met editors of
three other dailies, Sambhav (four editions), Prabhat (Ahmedabad,
Mehsana) and Gujarat Today (which has a Muslim ownership)." (p.
The Editors Guild
Team calls Professor JS Bandukwala, of Vadodara, as 'a man whose secular
ethos continues to burn bright even after going through a terrible ordeal.'
(p. 17) In a letter to the editor of The Times of India, the same
professor has this to say: "Muslims are desperate for socio-economic change,
for good education and for economic development. The only condition which
Muslims impose on a reformer is that he operates within the parameters
of Islam." (June 10, 1994) It is thus clear that the professor can see
Muslims only in terms of Islam, even on issues which are clearly of secular
A constant lament
of the so-called secularists has been that whenever they talked about the
post-Godhra events in Gujarat, they were asked about their views on the
plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, 300,000 of whom have become refugees in
their own country, and living in temporary camps for the last thirteen
years. Instead of dealing with the issue, they merely mention their
lament, as if the other person has no right of questioning them on the
issue. We are amazed to find out that even as they have printed numerous
letters on the apathy of the English media in India on the desperate state
of the Pandits, no coverage has been afforded to this hapless section of
our society. We have found no editorials, no analysis of the plight
of the community and the hardships suffered by them, no picture stories
of the wretched conditions of the camps, etc. We find this disregard
We feel that
the members of the Team have an agenda in which truth has a very small
role to play. It is indeed a reflection of the bankruptcy of intellectualism
in India that the Editors Guild finds it necessary to have to publish such
a document in the name of secularism.
A feature in
the Hindu-Muslim relationship in India is the occurrence of riots at regular
intervals over the last at least hundred years. That such events
keep recurring is a clear indication of what we have said that the analysis
of why a fire takes place is rarely made. This confirms our claim
that the English media in India is only interested in undertaking a role
of a fire-fighter rather than a fire-preventer. The Editors Guild
Report is yet another example of not doing the necessary analysis of what
is happening. Furthermore, it seems to make a special effort of demonising
the Hindu organisations and their supporters. And this is why we
find the righteousness of Editors Guild Team to be phoney.