On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 11:12 PM, Sankara Narayanan <psn.1946> wrote:
An unpopular point of view
Tonella Coutinho, TNN | Mar 23, 2014, 01.09AM IST
PANAJI: Anand Patwardhan’s India is not one that many are comfortable facing. It does not shine or let you ‘feel good’; it does however show you a version of India that forces you to think. It’s no wonder then that the long tentacles of censorship and political clout have attempted to silence his films.
The national and international award winning documentary filmmaker was in the state to screen his film ‘Ram Ke Naam’ at a college in South Goa. The film on communal harmony was made a year before the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Anand points out that he makes films "only when something really upsets or moves me". With over 40 years experience as a documentary filmmaker there was a lot that upset him that found form in his documentaries.
Despite his investigative films bringing him national and international acclaim including the V Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2014, Patwardhan considers himself a failure, as the difference his films have made in furthering the cause of the people is in his own words, ‘marginal’.
In his acceptance speech at the festival’s award ceremony, he cited examples, film by film, of this failure. "Father, Son and Holy War was about our patriarchal system and the connection between religious violence and machismo… yet today we have a prime ministerial candidate who publicly boasts of his 56 inch chest size even as his crimes of omission and commission during the pogroms of 2002 are forgotten and forgiven by the entire corporate world and its embedded media."
With elections looming round the corner, Patwardhan shared his fears that BJP leader Narendra Modi might just become our next prime minister. "It is depressing. The fact that he is getting support from corporate India confirms that his dictatorial style of governance is seen as conducive to big business. Hitler and Mussolini also got full support from the business moguls of their time. But the Gujarat model is not sustainable. Land is being stolen from the poor and given virtually free to industrialists. Water from the Narmada dam instead of going to quench drought prone regions is pumped into the Sabarmati to grace the promenades of Ahmedabad. The Tata Nano loses money on every car but is subsidized by the state. With such sweetheart deals is it a wonder that the elite class is elated? "
The scenario is bad even if Modi doesn’t win says Patwardhan because this new ideology is not limited to those with anti-minority politics. "It has seeped into other parties, into the media, the military and the administration. Witness the way Muslims are generally treated by the police. See how top army and top police officers join the BJP immediately after resignation or retirement."
When told that his critics label him an impractical idealist he smiles and points out that this is the perhaps the politest thing he has been called. He does not shy away from expressing unpopular points of view as seen by his comments on the Tarun Tejpal case. "Without exonerating Tejpal, or doubting the word of the victim, what worries me is the uncanny timing of the event. The biggest story that was doing the rounds before the Tejpal case broke was one which involved Modi using vast resources of his administration including the ATS (anti-terrorism squad) to stalk one woman. Shockingly the personnel involved overlap with those accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Yet Snoopgate completely vanished once the Tejpal story came to the fore. And Tehelka, the one brave magazine, that consistently exposed the ideology, of religious hatred suddenly got silenced four months before elections," Patwardhan says.
Stressing that his problem is not with Hindu fundamentalism alone but with all kinds of fundamentalism, Patwardhan says, "If I were a Muslim in Pakistan I would have fought Islamic terror. But I am a Hindu living in a country where Hindus comprise an 80% majority and if inflamed and let loose, can commit genocide. Minorities can only commit suicide. Is it not my duty to see that they get protection and justice?"
Dismissed as an idealist in the world of real politik, Patwardhan has taken on the intimidating judicial system to win rights to air his film on Doordarshan and avoid the wrath of censorship. What keeps him going is his belief that people can change. "There are moments of affirmation. I have had Kar Sevaks who participated in demolishing the Babri Mosque tell me that once they saw the film, their perspective changed. Fundamentalists are not born evil. They too can change. It is because I believe this that I can carry on," he says with a hope that has driven his film making career.
Modi, Media and Terror Threats
Posted on : March 24, 2014 Updated on: March 24, 2014
A release by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
The reporting in the media following the arrest of four youths in Rajasthan, alleged to be Indian Mujahideen operatives, by the Delhi Police Special Cell fell even below the low standards the media has set for itself on terror reporting. Forget about the use of the mandatory ‘alleged’ before calling those arrested as terrorists – one would think it is no longer even on the curricula of media ethics. A large section of the media seemed convinced that it was Modi who was the target of these alleged terrorists. Indeed, there seemed to be an almost pathological desire to link these arrests to Modi. It is another matter that these claims were based on nothing.
Here are some samples:
- “NishanepeModi?” asked a news channel. Yes, but of course, it answers.
- One newspaper wrote confidently that the terror module “had plans to carry out terror attacks during the election rally of BJP prime ministerial candidate NarendraModi”
- Another newspaper quoted ‘sources’ to likewise declare that “that the terrorists had BJP’s PM nominee NarendraModi on their radar.” It got a little carried away and told us that the Delhi Police would “submit its report to MHA, requesting to beef up the security apparatus of Narendra Modi during campaigning”.
This must have been a secret that the Delhi police shared with this reporter alone, for in the held by the Special CP and in their press release, the Delhi Police indicated that the investigation was at a preliminary stage and still “in progress”, and in fact made no reference to Modi or any such recommendation.
- Regardless of the fact that Modi was not as much as mentioned, the Modi angle was attributed to the Delhi police in a daily’s headline: “Indian Mujahideen terrorists could attack Modi: Delhi Police” The story inside however has no such quote from the Delhi Police.
- Similarly, a news portal reported, “The police claim that their main target was Modi who has several rallies lined up in Rajasthan” despite the fact thatpolice clearly had made no such claim.
But it gets even better.
- “Modi par Hamle ki saazish Nakaam” (Conspiracy to attack Modi foiled) is the headline of a Hindi daily. This newspaper drops even the pretense of being informed by undisclosed and ‘highly placed’ sources to spin a story full of vivid details: according to this news item, the attack was to take place during the filing of nominations in Benaras and that the terrorists had even conducted a ‘reccee’ (reconnaissance) of the district headquarters.
- A Hindi daily’s bold headline was “Engineering students nikle aatankvadi; makaan malik ke saamne padte the Quran” (Engineering students turned out to be terrorists; used to read Quran in front of the landlord). Following online outrage against this blatantly communal headline, it was changed to a more sober: “Pradesh mai Indian Mujahideen se jude 6 aatankvadi giraftaar” (Six terrorists affiliated to IM arrested from the state). It is a measure of our times that we have come to see this headline, which already declares the arrested men as terrorists to be sober.
Yesterday’s reporting was thus more pernicious and dangerous than what reporting on terror cases is usually – a deliberate attempt at polarizing along communal lines.
The Special Cell must also answer why it felt the need to hold this press conference in the middle of election season. And why it didn’t deem necessary to hold a similar press conference or even issue a press release when it released three people it had detained in the same case.
The last time Modi was said to be under direct threat from terrorists was between 2002 and 2007, when his supercop D.G. Vanzara eliminated a series of ‘terrorists’ on mission to Gujarat to assassinate Modi. Sadiq Jamal (2003), Ishrat Jahan (2004), Sohrabuddin Shaikh (2005), Tulsiram Prajapati (2006). Years later it has emerged that these were cold-blooded executions following illegal detention and possibly torture in private farmhouses. Vanzara and his gang of men are since then in jail (and Gujarat didn’t see any more attempts on the life of its Chief Minister). These fake encounters however helped Modi build his image as the Hindu Hridaysamrat – forever in the firing line of ‘Islamic terrorists’. Who can forget his chilling call to an exultant crowd: “what should have been done to Sohrabuddin?” with the crowd screaming back: He should have been killed.”
It’s hardly a surprise that the BJP is keen to make terror threat to Modi a poll issue. Just last week, on 20th March, the BJP citing media reports of IB alerts regarding the threat to senior leaders (a euphemism for Modi now)held a press conference. Its spokesperson, Ms. NiramalaSitharaman asked if “the Home Ministry has taken cognizance of these reports and if they are taking any measures to ensure safety of our leaders.”
The following day, a delegation of BJP leaders met with the Home Minister to submit a memorandum, which read: “It has come to our notice that several sections of the media have reported, based on IB sources, that there is a threat to our leaders and this threat could even lead to kidnapping. It was suggested in these media reports that the motive behind such a heinous act could be to obtain the release of the terrorist YasinBhatkal.”
Interestingly though, the news reports which had triggered the news conference on 20th March and this urgent memorandum to the Home Ministry on 21st March are nowhere to be found. The only report in fact appears on Niticentral, a BJP mouthpiece. The Home Ministry also denied the generation of any such intelligence alert. Nirmala Sitharaman’s press conference and Ravi Shankar Prasad’s interview to the press after submitting the memorandum were carried prominently but no channel or newspaper bothered to dig up the media reports which had indicated the existence of any new IB alerts and threats.
(There were indeed some media reports in late February and early March, after the NIA filed its supplementary chargesheet against Yaseen ‘Bhatkal’. These reproduced the bizarre claims made therein, including the IM’s purported ambition of ‘nuking’ Surat. The only story that called the bluff of this bombastic chargesheet, based on little evidence except unsubstantiated chat mails, was this:
[http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/nias-touching-faith-in-internet-downloads-and-bizarre-bluster/]. But this still doesn’t explain the sudden volubility of the BJP over these threats on 22nd March.)
The BJP may have thought that it could dust and polish its old strategy that had reaped political dividends in Gujarat. However, the media should have learnt from the mistakes it committed in the past. On 22nd March, an English daily reporting the alleged increased threat to Modi cited an unnamed source saying: “IM wants to expand terrorist activities in north and some communally sensitive parts of India. But if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister, its activities will not run for long. So, they don’t want Modi as prime minister.”
The constant appearance of ‘IB alerts’ in the media thus serves as excellent device to pump the image of the man who simply can’t wait to be PM.
So here it is again, the project of crafting the tough, muscular, macho Hindutva icon who will reign in ‘Islamic terrorism’. Every potential and foiled attack burnishes his image. Very useful in election season. And very reminiscent of the encounter years of Gujarat. Let us be vigilant against this propaganda to stoke communal tensions in the name of terrorism and national security.