Posts Tagged ‘The New Indian Express’

How Sonia has taken Congress beyond sloganism

6 August 2012

Prabhu Chawla, editorial director of the New Indian Express, in the Sunday Standard:

“It’s a perfect picture of perfect politics—a Sikh Prime Minister accompanied by a Christian defence minister and a Dalit home minister.

“When the monsoon session of Parliament starts this week, an erudite Sikh economist and a former Dalit police inspector—the new home minister—would occupy the first two seats in the first row of the Treasury benches. It will also have Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

“The two Houses of Parliament are presided over by a Dalit—Meira Kumar (Lok Sabha)—and an articulate Muslim—Hamid Ansari (Rajya Sabha). Never since Independence have the top legislative and executive posts been held by a combination of minorities and socially backward leaders.

“It was not mere political accident that led to the creation of a hierarchy, which was heavily loaded against the upper classes who always claimed to be born rulers. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, the Gandhi parivar was the darling of the minorities and the Dalits. It lost most of this support after the 1984 Sikh massacre and the Babri Masjid demolition.

“Ever since Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the Congress in 1998, the party has been undergoing an invisible social transformation. Both Indira and Rajiv believed in sloganism. However, for the past 14 years, Sonia has been silently working according to plan to change the social character of the government and the party.

“She may have allowed the urban elite to dominate the Council of Ministers, but her long-term agenda to create and promote new leaders from the minorities and Dalits is finally acquiring shape.”

Read the full article: Sonia’s new umbrella

‘Linguistic states doing more harm than good’

12 December 2011

The Marathi-speaking councillors of Belgaum City corporation recently conspired to pass a resolution not to honour the Jnanpith Award winning Kannada author, Chandrasekhar Kambar. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have gone to virtual war over the Mulla(i)periyar dam.

The veteran editor, author and columnist T.J.S. George writes:

“It is becoming clearer by the day that the linguistic reorganisation of states has done more harm than good to our country. Instead of welding the nation into a functioning federalism like Canada or Switzerland, it is reminding us of the Austrian and Ottoman empires that came to grief because they could not turn their multicultural diversity into a viable unity….

Ambedkar was among those who warned of the dangers ahead. Nehru had his reservations too. Distinguished foreign pundits cautioned that linguistic division could encourage secessionist forces (See Selig Harrison, India, The Most Dangerous Decades, 1960). The chief argument was that India was different, from Canada and the Ottomans and every other case in history because in India “linguism was only another name for (caste) communalism,” as Ambedkar put it.

“Proving his point, new States became battlegrounds for Marathi Brahmins and Maratha peasant-proprietors, for Kammas and Reddis, for Lingayats and Vokkaligas. D.R. Mankekar, a prominent editor of the 1950s, said: “We find once again, on lifting the linguistic cloak, casteism and love of office grinning at us”.

Read the full column: Choices for linguistically warring India

Also read: Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith ahead of Bhyrappa?

Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

Vishweshwar Bhat, new editor of Kannada Prabha

7 February 2011

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of the mass-circulation Vijaya Karnataka belonging to The Times of India group, has joined the State’s fourth largest paper, Kannada Prabha, as editor-in-chief, in a move that is likely to shake up the Kannada newspaper market in more ways than one.

Bhat was introduced to the editorial staff and management team of Kannada Prabha by Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, chairman and managing director of The New Indian Express group which owns Kannada Prabha, in Bangalore this evening.

On his newly launched blog, Bhat called the shift to Kannada Prabha a “homecoming“, having served it for four years as sub-editor in the initial stages of his career and then having done another four years at the Asian Schoool of Journalism launched by the Express group.

Bhat confirmed the shift to churumuri.com.

The popular yet controversial Bhat quit Vijaya Karnataka on 8 December 2010, and the market had since been abuzz about his next port of call. Bhat himself wrote on his blog that he briefly considered launching a new newspaper but had to abandon the idea of a startup because of the constraints of printing presses.

There were also rumours that Bhat was headed towards Udayavani, the Kannada newspaper published by the Pais of Manipal, but clearly Kannada Prabha‘s reach and reputation—not to mention the deep pockets (and ambitions) of its owner in waiting, phone baron-turned-parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar—tilted the balance.

Both Bhat and Chandrasekhar appear to be similarly politically aligned.

Bhat served as an officer on special duty to the former Union minister Ananth Kumar of the BJP, and Chandrasekhar, an independent MP elected with BJP support, has been seen with both Ananth Kumar and the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on a “Friends of BJP” platform.

***

Bhat’s decision to join Kannada Prabha, however, shows that an official Times VPL internal circular, issued in the name of CEO Sunil Rajshekhar that said he was leaving Vijaya Karnataka to pursue “higher studies“, was merely for public consumption.

Kannada Prabha, which currently belongs to The New Indian Express group of Sonthalia, is set to come into the control of Rajeev Chandrasekhar by June this year.

Chandrasekhar had entered into a “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications in March 2009, and picked up a minority stake. His stake in Kannada Prabha Publications (valued at Rs 250 crore) currently stands at 48%. The grapevine has it that he will obtain a majority controlling stake of 76% by June.

So far, the fight for the Kannada advertising pie has been between Vijaya Karnataka (average issue readership 34.25 lakh readers, IRS round 3) and No.2 Praja Vani (29.10 lakh readers) belonging to the Deccan Herald group. But the Bhat-Chandrasekhar combination at Kannada Prabha (11.15 lakh readers) is likely to muddy the scene.

Vijaya Karnataka is said to be mulling the launch of a Bangalore Mirror-style Kannada tabloid to be issued free with Vijaya Karnataka to blunt the Bhat effect at Kannada Prabha, and also to overcome recent circulation and readership losses to Praja Vani.

***

Bhat’s entry into Kannada Prabha is also poised create a ripple in Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s media stable.

Chandrasekhar already has a sizeable media presence in Karnataka through his Suvarna and Suvarna News channels. He had successfully wooed Kannada Prabha editor H.R. Ranganath to the Suvarna News camp at the expense of incumbent Shashidhar Bhat two years ago.

Ranganath came to Suvarna News with his band of print journalists under the belief that Rajeev Chandrasekhar would start his own newspaper. That plan first came unstuck with his purchase of a minority stake in KP.

Now, with the arrival of Vishweshwar Bhat and his own band of print journalists from VK, the former Kannada Prabha journalists in the Suvarna stable are in a dilemma about their future course of action. One of them, Ravi Hegde, is reported to have left Suvarna News and joined Udayavani as editor.

K. Shiva Subramanya, who took over from Ranganath as editor of Kannada Prabha, is reported to have indiciated his decision to leave Kannada Prabha, with the entry of Vishweshwar Bhat, even as Vijaya Karnataka looks around for a full-time Kannada editor.

Whether Bhat will also have a say in Suvarna News or not will be clear in June when both the channel and the newspaper come under a common owner, but it is more likely than not that Bhat will be projected as a face on Suvarna News, both to push Kannada Prabha as a paper and to lend the channel more journalistic gravitas.

The editorial-musical chairs in Bangalore had set the Kannada tabloids and blogs on fire over the last couple of months, with allegations, counter-allegations, innuendos and insinuations, all showing Kannada journalistic egos in very poor light.

Bhat’s resignation also resulted in an ugly war of words with his longtime friend, Ravi Belagere, editor of the popular Hi! Bangalore tabloid. Till recently fought from the shoulders of the former Vijaya Karnataka columnist Pratap Simha, the squabble has increasingly become personal, with Bhat reportedly even sending off a legal notice.

Pratap Simha welcomed Bhat’s decision on his blog thus:

“Our dear editor VISHWESHWAR BHAT has joined “KANNADA PRABHA” just now!! He is the man who gave different dimension to Kannada Journalism, he is the man who captured the imagination of us through his journalistic skills, he is the man who changed the way v all used to think, he is the man who made stars out of writers, he is the man who gave forum to nationalistic views which were unheard until his arrival. I have reason to believe that, his new innings will set new standards and new parameters in Kannada Journalism. Just WATCH OUT…”

Also read: ToI group editor in a flap over honorary doctorate

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

Is the management responsible for content too?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

Padma Bhushan for namma T.J.S. George

25 January 2011

churumuri.com is delighted to announce that a friend, philosopher, guide and well-wisher—Thayil Jacob Sony George better known to the world as T.J.S. George—has been decorated with the nation’s third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan.

Founder-editor of the now-defunct Asiaweek magazine and editorial advisor to The New Indian Express, Mr George is a genuine wordsmith, authoring several books including dictionaires, biographies and a critically acclaimed volume on M.S. Subbulakshmi.

To Mr George, we proudly say: “Well done, young man.”

***

Photograph: T.J.S. George after he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the Press Club of Bangalore on 31 December 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: Padma Awards: Homai Vyarawala, T.J.S. George

The T.J.S. George blog

Should Prabhu Chawla edit New Indian Express?

15 December 2010

Editors, anchors, columnists, correspondents… tens of media personnel have been badly mauled in the eyes of news consumers, in the Niira Radia scandal.

But do the proprietors and managers really care?

Vir Sanghvi has suspended his weekly column in the Hindustan Times while merrily writing on food. The buck still stops at Barkha Dutt‘s table at 10 pm on NDTV while she fights a lonely battle from the trenches of Twitter.

There’s nothing, it seems, like penance in the press.

Now, Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, grandson of the mighty Ramnath Goenka who is in charge of the southern editions of the paper, has reportedly decided to hire former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, as the new editor of  The New Indian Express (TNIE), despite the thick smog of scandal that has hung over the latter’s head, with or without Radia.

Chawla, who got a most perplexing certificate of merit from The Hindu‘s editor-in-chief N. Ram, on the India Today-owned TV station Headlines Today, however, has had a slightly inauspicious entry. The outgoing TNIE team of Aditya Sinha has carried this brief excerpt involving Chawla from the second tranche of the Radia tapes.

Listen: Prabhu Chawla in conversation with Niira Radia

Also read: Prabhu Chawla‘s son named in media bribery case

“Accused” Ankur Chawla is now “investigator” Chawla

In the New Indian Express, old hands get the sack

Who really named All India Radio as Akashvani?

15 November 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes: Mysore’s preminent position in the setting up and christening of All India Radio as “Akashvani” has gone uncontested for well over half a century. Now, in the 75th year of AIR, an unlikely challenger has emerged from 300 km away.

A 70-year-old woman has stood up in Udupi to assert that it was her late father, Hosbet Rama Rao, a former district education officer in Mangalore, was the man who first used—and thus gave the nation—the unquestionably evocative brand-name, “Akashvani“, for the radio.

In other words, the claim busts the belief widely held by Mysoreans that it was their townsman M.V. Gopalaswamy (in picture, above) who coined the word after setting up the nation’s first private radio station in his residence “Vittal Vihar” (in picture, below), about 200 yards from AIR’s current location.

***

Anuradhagiri Rao says her father, while serving as a teacher at the government college in Mangalore, anonymously published a booklet titled ‘”Akashvani” in 1932 on the phenomenon of the radio set. She says he drew inspiration from mythology in Kamsa‘s case when an ‘ashariravani‘ (voice without body) predicts his death.

Thus, voice from the akasha (sky) was ‘Akashvani‘, meaning celestial voice,” she has been quoted as saying in the New Indian Express. Her father, she adds, did not reveal his name fearing victimisation from the then British government, as he was then beginning to establish himself as a writer.

To bolster her claim, Anuradhagiri Rao adds her father’s book with the “Akashvani” title was acknowledged and adopted as a non-detailed text book for high school students by the text book committee of the Madras presidency. The book was printed twice in 1941 and 1945.

She also says an Indian Express editorial in February 1987 had doffed its hat to “an article from an unknown writer” for naming “Akashvani“. That unknown writer doubtless was her father.

Needless to say, she wants his name to the immortalised.

***

There are two problems with the claim. First, Anuradhagiri Rao bases her claims on an anonymous booklet published in 1932.  Although radio had been around for a while, sound broadcasting began in India in 1927 but All India Radio formally began operations only in 1936, according to AIR’s official website.

Second, there is the small matter of official history.

Akashvani Mysore has just brought out a 406-page souvenir to mark the platinum jubilee of the station.

In her editorial, Dr M.S. Vijaya Haran, station director, AIR Mysore, writes:

“Dr M.V. Gopalaswamy is the father of Mysore Akashvani. He served as the professor of psychology and the principal of the Maharaja’s college. The radio station that he started in 1935 in Mysore is his great contribution to the field of culture. This was the first private radio station in the whole of India and it speaks volumes of a person’s interest, passion, hard work and the instinct to do good to his fellow human beings….

“For six long years Dr Gopalaswamy ran AIR single-handedly spending money from his own pocket. Owing to financial constraint he handed over the administration to the Mysroe city municipality. Later from 1 January 1942, the provincial government of the Maharaja assumed the responsbility of running the organisation.

“Even then Dr M.V. Gopalaswamy continued to be director (till 2 August 1943). After that his colleague, Prof N. Kasturi was appointed full-time chief executive with the designation ‘assistant station superintendent.’ The radio station continued to function under the care of Kasturi, who was a thorough gentleman and a well-known humourist….

It was during that [Kasturi] period that All India Radio was baptised as ‘Akashvani‘ , a name that has been an appropriate metaphor for this wonderful organisation. The radio station flaunted with aplomb the title ‘Akashvani Mysore’ before its facade. It wafted on the waves and reached the hearts of listeners lending them undimmed pleasure. Later on, when All India Radio came under the administrative fold of the Indian government, the radio stations continued to use the name ‘Akashvani‘. The credit of lending this beautiful name ‘Akashvani‘ to all the radio stations of the country belongs to Mysore Akashvani.

Vijaya Haran’s editorial does not, of course,  say Gopalaswamy christened Akashvani, merely that he set it up.

So,while the parentage of Akashvani is not in question, it is Prof Gopalaswamy’s role in naming it that is clearly under question. Did he call it “Akashvani Broadcasting Station” when he started broadcasting as a hobby in 1935, as an earlier souvenir published in 1950 (and included in the platinum jubilee souvenir) avers?

If the name Akashvani evolved under N. Kasturi’s helmsmanship, did Kasturi himself think up the name? Did Prof Gopalaswamy, who was no longer its chief, have any role in it christening or, as a college principal himself, did Gopalaswamy draw his inspiration from an academic 300 km away?

Gouri Satya, the journalist who is a walking encyclopaedia on Mysore, wrote recently that “a few sat together and hit upon the name Akashvani for the toy broadcasting station“. Was Hosbet Rama Rao among the few?

In the evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, reader K. Radha Chengappa writes:

“The truth is revealed by late N. Kasturi in his book Loving God, page 76 (early 1920), where he refers to his colleague Dr. M.V. Gopalaswamy of Maharaja’s College, Psychology Department.

“He writes that Dr. MVG had bought a mini Philips transmitter and desired to use it to broadcast educational programmes for the common man an hour everyday. After some years, he managed to secure permission to use short wave transmission programmes.

“For this project, he had roped in Kasturi and when he wanted an Indian word for the broadcasting station, Kasturi’s choice was Akashvani and this word stuck for AIR (All India Radio).”

Or was it Rabindranath Tagore who is supposed to have done so “in the 1930s”?

***

Photographs: courtesy Akashavani Mysore platinum jubilee souvenir

High Court verdict or Panchayat pronouncement?

1 October 2010

The reliance of the Allahabad high court on the “faith and belief of Hindus”—that Lord Rama was born in the “area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure”—in trifurcating the Ayodhya title suit, has come in for sharp criticism across the English media.

***

The Hindu‘s deputy editor, Siddharth Varadarajan:

“The legal and political system in India stood silent witness to the crime of trespass, vandalism and expropriation [of the Babri masjid]. Eighteen years later, the country has compounded that sin by legitimising the “faith” and “belief” of those who took the law into their own hands.

“The “faith and belief” that the court speaks about today acquired salience only after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party launched a political campaign in the 1980s to “liberate” the “janmasthan.”

“Collectives in India have faith in all sorts of things but “faith” cannot become the arbiter of what is right and wrong in law. Nor can the righting of supposed historical wrongs become the basis for dispensing justice today.”

Former Delhi High Court judge Justice R.S. Sodhi in The Telegraph:

“I think this judgment is useless. It is a statuesque judgment. The court has gone into issues of belief, which it should not have. It has actually decided nothing.”

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan in The Telegraph:

“It is an absurd judgment. No legal right can be declared on the basis of people’s faith. They (the three judges) have decided on all kinds of irrelevant and emotional issues. There is no legal basis to the ruling that the disputed land should be divided into three parts.”

Jamia Milia Professor, Mukul Kesavan, in The Telegraph:
“The court also seemed to endorse the argument from faith in a way that is certain to be controversial. Both decisions, as they stand, might set precedents that could have worrying consequences for pluralism and the freedom of religious belief and practice, especially for disputes between a religious minority and a religious majority.”

Historian Irfan Habib in The Times of India:

“The compromise judgment has come at the cost of history and facts. It is improper (for the court) to accept the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) report on the historical fact. Weight has been given to belief. One should be careful in historical facts.”

The columnist Amulya Ganguli in DNA:

“The claim was based purely on a myth. Lord Ram is not a historical figure. He is a deity in the eyes of only a section of Hindus. All Hindus do not regard him with reverence. In south India, for instance, Ravan, another mythical figure who is Ram’s adversary, is more popular. In Bengal, Michael Madhusudan Dutt‘s Meghnad Badh Kavya is a literary classic extolling one of Ravan’s sons at Ram’s expense.

“Whether a plot of land can be legally awarded to a community on the basis of mere religious belief. The answer will also have to include the fact that claims on behalf of Hindus are being advanced by fundamentalists, not liberals. In fact, the latter regard the movement, which was carried on with two others asserting similar rights on two mosques in Varanasi and Mathura, as a distortion of Hinduism.”

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan in The Hindu:

“If this panchayati solution is to be endured, the degree of Muslim entitlement should have been left intact so that the site belonged to them. The destruction of the masjid was akin to the demolition of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, and people would say that India’s secular justice was majoritarian in nature without lending dignity to India’s minority.”

Constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court advocate P.P. Rao in The New Indian Express:

“It is more like a panchayat justice dividing the disputed property among the three contenders. And it is not clear how after dismissing the suit of the Sunni wakf board, one-third of the property is given to Muslims.”

Former Supreme Court chief justice A.H. Ahmadi in The Indian Express:

“There is no running away from the centrality of answering who has the title. I am not sure on what basis the Sunni waqf suit has been time-barred. But if the title is not theirs, how can one-third be a masjid now, and if the title is theirs, how can two-thirds be divided? There certainly can be a compromise but that should have happened after the verdict. The verdict should not appear like a decision of a panchayat foisted forcibly on all parties.”

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Chidambaram a saboteur?

17 July 2010

Of all the millions of words that have been expended since Thursday night to examine and re-examine the collapse of the Indo-Pak talks into a slugfest between the two subcontinental S.M.s—Krishna and Qureshithe most incisive 1,042 words come from the editor of the Madras-headquartered New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, who lobs the grenade the Delhi media cannot fine the ball bearings to: did Union home minister P. Chidambaram sabotage the dialogue?

How?

Even as Krishna is flying into Islamabad, Chidambaram’s top bureaucrat, home secretary G.K. Pillai, accuses the ISI of being behind the 26/11 attack in an interview with the Chidambaram-friendly Indian Express. Predictably, at the mention of ISI, Qureshi flies off the handle and accuses Krishna of taking orders on his cellphone, etc, and soon enough taglines like “Big Chill”, “Tu-tu-main-main“, “Aman ki Ashes” start crawling on TV screens.

Sinha’s entirely plausible theory sparks a bigger question: is the veshti-wearing, Harvard-accented Chidambaram what he is cracked up to be—a high IQ dude competently running his ministry unlike the bandgala-worshipping Shivraj Patil? Or is he just pursuing an agenda all his own that is often at odds with the weltanschaaung of the Congress and is perhaps even deliberately intended at causing discomfort to prime minister Manmohan Singh who has made foreign policy the signature tune of his second term?

The suggestion could have been dismissed off-hand if only if were the first such indiscretion. It isn’t.

# Witness the Telangana tamasha, manufactured mostly by Chidambaram’s breakneck speed in announcing the formation of a new State after TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao‘s fast-unto-death, that has turned Congress’ most profitable state into a liability.

# Witness the  operation against Naxals that has turned vast swathes of the hinterland into a graveyard posting for CRPF jawans. (Arundhati Roy has called him “CEO of the war” because he appears to be furthering the cause of his former clients by using State power to clear tribal land for their mining and business interests.)

# Witness the upsurge in violence in Kashmir after the CRPF, which is getting slaughtered in the Naxal badlands, opens fire on teenagers throwing stones and plunges the State into the kind of chaos not since the militancy began in 1989.

# Witness the Afzal Guru issue which again gained traction following a report (obviously in Indian Express) that the Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit is sitting on it that causes further embarrassment to a party bending backwards to avoid it.

Chidambaram has, for long, been a slightly distrusted individual in the Congress. Partymen salute his obvious brilliance in dealing with complex issues like the Bhopal gas compensation, but he is seen as a bit of an upstart who left the party and became finance minister in non-Congress Third Front and United Front governments. There are some who whisper that the careerist very nearly joined the BJP.

Even if you put all that down to professional jealousy, it cannot be denied that he enjoys a fair degree of middle-class sympathy, especially among the NDTV viewing sections of it, especially for his muscular stance against Naxals and his “proactive” approach to policing by mouthing hollow American tripe like the “Buck Stops Here”. He is, in a manner of speaking, the English-speaking Narendra Modi, without evoking the same visceral venom.

Nevertheless, the Indo-Pak kerfuffle is a good time to ask if Chidambaram is playing his own tune in the government, (which is why he routinely runs afoul of party loyalists like Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar). Is he doing it on his own volition or to some higher power’s script? On the other hand, if Chidambaram is eyeing the “7, Race Course Road” address on his visiting card should such an eventuality arise, will such antics necessary earn points on the Congress high command’s scorecard?

Did Manmohan Singh miss a golden opportunity by not accepting Chidambaram’s resignation (not since offered) after the first Dantewada massacre of CRPF jawans?

Or is there something here that falls short of logic?

Also read: Is Chidambaram positioning himself for PM role?

‘Is this what journalism has been reduced to?’

5 July 2010

Be it the Jessica Lal murder case or the Aarushi Talwar murder case, be it the November 26 siege of Bombay or fill-your-favourite-story-here, it has now become a ritual for the media to get properly roasted for overkill, trivialisation, titillation and worse in the race for circulation and ABC, eyeballs and TRP.

Former Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi writes in the New Indian Express that the Delhi-Bombay media coverage of the death of “super model” Viveka Babajee, who committed suicide last week, is another indication of tabloid excess showing up in the mainstream media.

Although with her family releasing pictures of the model with her boyfriend to prove that she was in love with  businessman Gautam Vora, you ought to wonder if we are once again just shooting the messenger.

“When Viveka Babajee was alive, the media ignored her…. It is ironic, then, that she had to die to make the front page. She became famous once again only because of the manner of her passing. Suddenly, we were all vultures picking at the carrion of her life, going over the details of her romances, and discussing whether she had hoped to marry her boyfriend. In death, she went from being a once famous model to becoming fodder for celebrity gossip.

“That we in the media should be so obsessed with her suicide tells us something about how the values of tabloid journalism and page three have taken over quality papers and page one. It is absurd that the details of her love life and the culpability of her boyfriend should be a lead headline on news broadcasts and it would be comical if it were not so tragic that respectable news channels should devote their air time to debates about whether the boyfriend was responsible.

“Is this what journalism has been reduced to?

“Do not be fooled by the claims of journalists that we are acting out of concern for Viveka or Nafisa Joseph and their families. Hundreds of women commit suicide every year. Ordinary people suffer terrible heartache. Farmers kill their children and then commit suicide because they know that they will never be able to feed their families. These tragedies, these heartbreaks, and these suicides get very little space in the media.

“Nobody cares for ordinary people and their stories. We don’t give a damn about poor farmers destroyed by the crushing weight of debt. We never focus on young women — of the same age as Nafisa or Viveka — who take their lives in similar circumstances. When an ordinary person commits suicide, it is not even a footnote. When a model, no matter how faded, kills herself, it is breaking news on some television channels….

“We are not acting out of grief or out of some sense of compulsion. We are merely pandering to the lowest common denominator for commercial considerations. We know that stories that combine sex, glamour and death find a ready market. And so, tossing aside all our normal standards of newsworthiness, we plunge headlong into the cesspool of tabloid sensation.

“I make no distinction between print and TV. Some TV channels have been more responsible than others. Some newspapers have behaved better than others. The worrying thing is that the journalists and editors don’t even realise that they are doing something wrong. The new credo is: if it sells, let’s do it. Journalists spend a lot of time diagnosing society’s ills. But sometimes, we should look at the state of our own health.”

Read the full column: Didn’t we kill Nafisa?

CHURUMURI POLL: Target Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?

31 May 2010

The future Nobel laureate of India, Sri Sri Ravishankar (SSRS) of the Art of Living, is in the news.

According to a PTI report, the 54-year-old spiritual guru escaped unhurt when an unidentified gunman shot at his car shortly after he left his evening discourse on Sunday. According to the Economic Times, a man fired a shot at the car in which he was travelling. According to The Hindu, the target was SSRS himself, but the bullet fired from a .22 revolver missed him and hit somebody standing near him.

DNA calls it an assassination attempt. The New Indian Express reports that SSRS said the gunman could not fire a second shot because of the “positve energy” in the ashram. IANS says the incident was not a result of any enemity between devotees; CNN-IBN says it was not an “inside job“. SSRS himself says he has forgiven the attacker and appealed for peace. ANI quotes him as saying he fears a threat to his life and the Karnataka government has scaled up his security after BJP president Nitin Gadkari stepped in.

But did SSRS really have a narrow escape? The DGP Ajai Kumar Singh says it was not an attack on him, it was just an “incident”. The bullet was fired from more than 700 feet. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The incident appears to have taken place five minutes after Mr Shankar left the place where it happened.” Home minister P. Chidambaram says “it may not be correct, I underline, may not be correct to say the firing was aiming at him.”

Questions: Was there an attempt on SSRS’ life or not? What could be the reason for such a dastardly attack on a man of god? Is this all a publicity stunt to cover up something else?

Also read: The the great great Sri Sri NGO NGO scam scam

Anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine…

18 April 2010

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t have to go for the Bofors scandal.

A. Raja wasn’t asked to go for the spectrum scam. Kamal Nath stays despite the rice export scam. P. Chidambaram stays after presiding over the biggest mass murder of his own men. Neither the relentless suicides in Vidarbha nor the rise in food prices or a multitude of scandals, said and unsaid, can dislodge Sharad Pawar. His crony Praful Patel stays despite running Air-India into the ground.

Shashi Tharoor?

The New Indian Express goes to 523 Thiruvananthapuramkarans to get a feel of what the people in his constituency think of the IPL hungamam.

The answer? “Verum anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine ozhivakkanamennu aagrahikkunnulloo.”

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Watch the video: Stephen Cobert with Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

Has Twitter found Mark Tully character assassin?

2 April 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Can a nearly spotless journalistic career of 45 years—30 of those for one of the most trusted broadcasters in the world—be tainted, tarbrushed and tarnished by a pathetic paperback written under a pseudonym?

If your name is Sir William Mark Tully, OBE, the answer has to seem, yes.

And the book that is causing all the damage to the reputation of the man India knows as Mark Tully is the 166-page Hindutva, Sex and Adventure written under the nom de plumeJohn MacLithon“, and published by Roli books, whose promoter once published the Sunday Mail newspaper from Delhi.

For 30 years, the Calcutta-born Tully was the BBC’s voice of India; his classic, halting signoff “Mark Tully, BBC, Delhi” as much a reassurance that all was right with the world as a stamp of authority of what we had just heard. After retirement in 1994, he settled down to write columns and books, many of them on the land of his birth (No full stops in India, India in slow motion, India’s unending journey, et al).

So much did Tully sahib endear himself to the establishment that he was decorated with India’s third and fourth highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan and Padma Sri.

Now, a nice little question mark has been hung at his door at No. 1, Nizamuddin (East) by a cowardly, scurrilous and unimaginative roman à clef that makes no pretence of hiding who it is based on and worse, hangs the entire body of work of a 74-year-old on his alleged political leanings without giving him the chance to respond in public.

MacLithon doesn’t, of course, take Tully’s name in the book, but in discussing the life and times and adventures of “Andrew Lyut, a radio journalist who is posted to India because he was born there and speaks a smattering of Hindu”, reviews and reviewers are doing the damage:

# In his India Today review, Dilip Bobb writes “the book is so obviously based on Mark Tully, the ex-BBC bureau chief and media star who spent almost his entire career in India, covering the region.”

# The Times of India‘s Crest edition says the “protagonist Andrew Luyt has plenty of similarities with Mark Tully. Luyt can be an anagram for Tuly. Like the famous BBC correspondent, he is born in India, works as radio journalist and quits his job over a disagreement with his boss.”

# The tabloid Mail Today newspaper remarks that “the author’s bio is both impressive and suspiciously familiar: he has interviewed six Indian prime ministers, dodged bullets on the India-Pakistan border and has covered the Mumbai riots (Is he Mark Tully? Or [former Fortune correspondent] John Elliot? The speculative list just gets bigger.)

# All three items in the gossip column of Outlook magazine’s books pages this week are devoted to the book with Mark Tully‘s name finding mention eight times, without a single mention of the name of the pseudonymous author.

So, who is causing the damage to Tully more—the book and its author and publisher, or the reviewers of newspapers and magazines, for most of whom Tully has written before—is a fair question to ask.

***

An equally good question to ask is which part of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure is causing discomfiture to Tully: the Hindutva part, the sex part or the adventure part?

It surely can’t be the sex. A 2001 profile of Tully on BBC reveals unabashedly that he “womanised and drank to excess” as an undergraduate at Cambridge. He considered becoming a priest at the Church of England but dropped out after two terms.

Reason?

“I just knew I could not trust my sexuality to behave as a Christian priest should. And I didn’t want to be a cause of scandal.”

And then, there is the small matter of his girlfriend Gillian Wright, with whom he stays while in Delhi, and his wife and mother of his four children, Margaret, with whom he stays when in London.

It can’t also be the “adventure” part of the title. From the wars with Pakistan to the Bhopal gas tragedy, from the Emergency to Operation Bluestar, from the killing of Indira Gandhi to that of her son Rajiv Gandhi, Tully saw plenty of adventures, upclose and upfront.

What probably rankles Tully, or perhaps, what really the pseudonymous author wants to irritate Tully with, is the veiled accusation that he was a closet Hindutva supporter all along without letting the mask drop before his listeners, readers, employers and other benefactors.

Here are three of many quotes from the book that the author uses to underline Andrew Luyt’s veering towards a soft Hindutva vision:

# “I am an Anglican and some of my clergy think yoga is very un-Christian, but how can you dislike something born in your country, that has taken the world by storm.”

# “The first question he asked Benazir Bhutto was about Kashmir, since she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the valley of Kashmir.”

# “He had expected a rabid fundamentalist, a dangerous man. Actually, Andrew discovered over the years, L.K. Advani was a gentle soul, who would probably be unable to hurt a bird.”

If this is proof of Tully’s leanings, it is old hat.

In fact, in 2003, seven years before John MacLithon’s book was published, the political commentator Amulya Ganguli wrote this in the Hindustan Times:

“For several years now, the BBC’s Mark Tully has provided indirect support to the BJP’s Hindutva cause. His contention, as reiterated in a new TV documentary, Hindu Nation, is that secularism is unsuitable for India. The reason: it is a doctrine which keeps religion out of public life, an attempt which is bound to fail —and has failed—in a country as “deeply religious” as India. Hence, the Congress’s decline and the BJP’s rise.”

Much earlier, in 1997, the remarks reportedly made by Tully while addressing the National Hindu Students’ Forum in Britain had created a big buzz.

According to the Asian Age newspaper reporting it, Tully said:

I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it.‘ And for Hindus to be able to say with pride that they are Hindus.””

Stunningly, or perhaps not, the author introduction on the back cover of the book and on the website of the publisher has the exact same line as the Asian Age quote.

“Some of John MacLithon’s admirers were shocked when he declared a few years ago: ‘I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it’.”

So, in a sense, the book doesn’t tell us anything humanity didn’t know or had not suspected about Tully’s political leanings; it just packages it for posterity especially with two imputations: a) We should take Tully’s overall “objective” output with a pinch of salt, and/or b) that somehow he has done Hindutva some disservice by not aligning himself openly with the cause” (as perhaps the pseudonymous author has).

# In its short review of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure, The Times of India writes that the “Hindutva bits are quite forgettable”.

# Dilip Bobb says in his review that after quitting his job, MacLithon’s protagonist Andrew Luyt settles down “with a ‘partner’ to write books which go soft on Hindutva and Hinduism.”

# An unnamed reviewer in the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle writes that Luyt’s “very protestant upbringing and secular outlook shapes the way he views the events around him and with every passing episode his stance on Hindutva softens.”

Whether Mark Tully dislikes the Hindutva hint no one knows for sure, although one editor who has known the BBC correspondent, says the Tully’s views on Hindutva and Hinduism “do not in any way reflect” Luyt’s; in fact, he says, he would “disagree with them profoundly”.

But it is quite clear that the pseudonymous foreign correspondent’s motive is to throw mud at Tully and to draw him into the debate on his “soft Hindutva leanings”, which Tully has resisted so far. At least in public.

***

So whodunit? Who could be behind the book on Tully?

According to the Outlook bibliophile, while signing the contract with Roli Books 18 months ago, the pseudonymous author took great pains to protect his identity, even inserting a clause that treated the “divulging of his real name as a breach of contract.”

But unnamed friends of Tully are quoted by the magazine as saying that the “strangely written” prose and the hero’s “unusual sex” antics are a giveway.

“Mark’s friends say the man behind the book is a French journalist and avid Hindutva supporter, who, like Tully, has been based in India for decades but unlike Tully, is married to an Indian. This journalist published an autobiographical novel in French in 2005.”

Mail Today, which has run two items on the book, claims that after the first piece appeared, the author got in touch with them.

“After we reported the guessing game set off by the soon-to-be launched book, the author chose to ‘come out’ in a manner of speaking and get in touch with us on email: ‘It should be absolutely normal to defend Hindus in a country where 80 per cent of the population comprises Hindus and which has shown throughout the ages that it is pluralist and tolerant. But unfortunately ‘ Hindu’ has become a dirty word in modern India.’

“The mysterious author says that he has spent many years working on the novel—which has lots on the sexual peccadilloes of a Hindutva-loving foreign correspondent in India—but had always known that his peers would brand him immediately after the publication of the book.”

If nothing else, the phraseology of the Mail Today-John MacLithon correspondence suggests that the pseudonymous is obsessed with two of the three elements in the title: Hindutva and sex.

One editor claims he received an email out of the blue from the suspected author asserting that Mark Tully was the author but that he had written it under a pseudonym “because he is scared of coming out openly…. But I have not and I am much more radical than Tully.”

But, surely, if Tully wanted to out himself, he would have chosen a more dignified way of doing so, at least by writing a book in better English with a better publisher?

On his Twitter account, the editor-in-chief of the Madras-based New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, asks this question:

Already, in its short life, the book has kept the gossip mills active, but in the long term, is it likely to end up besmirching the BBC and its voice in India?

Then again, the Hindutva herd, uncomfortable with the idea of independent journalism, is likely to ask another question: has it become a crime for a journalist or a journalism organisation to be associated with Hindutva?

Photograph: courtesy Outlook magazine

Also read: MARK TULLY: The 7 habits of highly effective journalists

‘In India, we realise nothing ever dies finally’

‘Learn to take the rough with the smooth’

When my price hike is better than your price hike

4 March 2010

One week ago, Pranab Mukherjee‘s first full budget in the UPA’s second innings, with the proposal to increase duty on petroleum products, sparked the first ever walkout by a combined opposition in the name of the aam admi and aurat.

The move has been variously interpreted as a sign of a pumped-up Congress ditching the common man; as a triumph of IMF-driven neoliberalist policies; even as the return of anti-Congress politics. Some commentators have even pulled out their calculators to do the numbers.

Well, The Telegraph, Calcutta, has some news for all those frothing at the mouth.

Using government data, the paper exposes the “economic amnesia and political compulsions” behind the breast-beating over rising prices. The price of the “fuel of the poor” went up by 258% during the eight-year non-Congress period from 1996 as against 2% in the last six years and so on.

Also read: From: Signora Sonia. To: Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi

At last, a ‘different’ film that is actually different

29 September 2009

RAJEEV A. RAO writes from Bangalore: After watching Gaalipata, I had mentioned that Yogaraj Bhat had a challenge upfront for his next venture—“to take the road not taken, to tread on uncharted territory and to significantly exceed expectations”.

22 months later, it gives me great pleasure to report that Bhat scores a neat hat-trick with Manasaare. It has all the elements from his earlier celluloid successes while at the same time being a refreshingly fresh movie —a “statement movie” in the garb of a love story.

The whole storyline has been woven to make one statement: don’t worry about this world, this world is a huchchara santhe (mad world).  Starting with that surmise, Bhat builds up his pieces to make a bold/ unconventional film that might, however, leave many viewers (and reviewers) wondering.

Comparisons may be odious, even inevitable, if a director is following up on Mungaaru Male and Gaalipata.  But Bhat makes sure that such comparisons are also redundant.

One could say that the film has an even thinner storyline compared to his earlier two films. He has let go of his favorite actors (Ganesh, Anant Nag), his favourite animals (the rabbit and the pig), and his favourite element (the rain.)  Instead, he relies on a stronger script (newcomer Pawan Kumar) and witty dialogues bordering on the ironical  as main spine of the movie.

Lilting music by Mano Murthy that grows upon you, impeccable photography by Sathya Hegde and the word wizardry of Jayant Kaikini and Bhat himself complement this unusual fare.

Faith in a fairly new cast (at least for a commercial film) has paid off.  While Digant and Aindrita Ray prove to be a candy-floss on-screen couple (with fairly creditable performance to boot by each), Raju Thaalikoti steals the show with his Dhaarawaadi dialect and dialogue delivery: gems like “temporary huchcharu oLage and permanent huchcharu Horage” (temporary mad men inside, permanent mad men outside) abound.

The technical crew has delivered a top-notch performance—the picturisation of the song “Naa naguva modalene” sums up the crew’s performance, elevating the song to a visual treat. Bhat and team drive home the point that concept and script are the pillars of their movies, with a simple but brilliantly executed climax.

The reviewers are a flummoxed lot. The New Indian Express and DNA largely hail the movie. Deccan Herald hints cruelly at “inspirations” when there are none, and The Times of India childishly labels the movie “a romance”. Vijaya Karnataka has an honestly positive review at the same time wondering how reviewers can assign “stars” to such an unusual movie.

And like the reviewers, one would expect that the movie, given its concept and execution, would garner mixed feelings from its viewers.  But, coming at a time when there is such a lack of fresh ideas and execution in Kannada filmdom, this is a movie to be watched by all and judged by each.

Bhattare, we are eagerly waiting for your next one.

Also read: Jayant Kaikini: Means are as vital as the end

Jayant Kaikini: The wrath of the sambar-lover

Can these venomous buffoons spell Bharatiyata?

22 March 2009

pramod_muthalik_20090209 2_279373_1_2481

A distressing feature of Indian public life today is the ease with which “hate” has become an integral, almost acceptable, part of the discourse. A thick cloud of hate—on the basis of region and religion, caste, culture and creed, language and sex—now hangs heavy.

In this churumuri.com exclusive, T.J.S. GEORGE, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, editorial advisor of The New Indian Express, and the author of the acclaimed biography of M.S. Subbulakshmi, writes on the ground that is shifting beneath our feet.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

In one respect this election season differs from previous ones: Incitement of religious hatred has become cruder and more reckless than before. Perhaps politicians see this as an easy way to win populist votes.

It certainly helps some pygmies to appear like giants.

Remember, till yesterday Pramod Mutalik (in picture, left) was an unknown frog in an unknown well. Today, he is a national figure, his face gracing every front page and every channel. That is the power of vulgar religious politics.

Similar is the case of Varun Gandhi (right), the spoilt son of a spoilt father.

When the boy was enrolled in the Rishi Valley School in Madanapalli, he wouldn’t eat for three days because neither the food nor the atmosphere suited the privileges he was accustomed to. Only because the staff and fellow students ignored his tantrums, and because hunger has a logic of its own, the privileged Gandhi reconciled to the culture of Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Kids born with a proprietorial attitude to everything around them rarely shed their air of superiority. Even his mentors in the BJP found Varun Gandhi to be egoistic and lightweight; his only “merit” was his surname. Then he came up with this new message of venomous religious hatred. Suddenly, the immature bambino was on every front page and every channel. Another Nobody turned into Somebody.

This is a political game where the players do not lose because they have protectors behind them. The citizen loses because he was no recourse when laws are broken at his cost.

Mutalik’s thugs could beat up citizens and walk proudly away because those who were supposed to protect citizens were inclined to protect the thugs instead. The court has banned this illegal moralist from entering certain areas. What if the police does not stop him? The system collapses when the state is party to evil.

The game, as played, is full of humbug and internal contradictions. Varun Gandhi announces that Pilibhit is a “violence-prone” constituency where Hindus are subjected to injustices. This is a serious charge against his mother, Maneka Gandhi, who has so far been representing Pilibhit in the Lok Sabha.

Clearly, the son is looking for what the original Gandhi, the Mahatma, called “the hasty applause of an unthinking public”.

He will not succeed, for never in history have hatemongers won the day. Three centuries of religious crusades by European Christianity gained nothing despite all the bloodletting, murders and cruelties. Hatred between Palestinians and Israelis continues to sacrifice generations without helping the cause of either. The mutual antipathies of Shias and Sunnis hold back the progress of all Arabs. Nazi Germany’s pogrom against Jews eventually destroyed the Nazis, not the Jews. Even the bond of Islam could not unite the Sindhi-Punjabis of West Pakistan with the Bengalis of East Pakistan.

Those who spew venom in the name of Bharatiyata are unworthy to speak of India’s civilisational greatness, let alone defend it. They take Rama as their mascot without knowing that Ramayana begins with a call by Valmiki in defence of two love birds.

When a hunter shot down one of the birds, the poet cried out Ma nishada. Brahma himself then appeared and urged the Adi Kavi to compose the story of Rama in the same poetic form.

Who represents Bharatiyata‘s beauty and greatness: Valmiki, who was outraged by the tragedy that struck two birds in love, or today’s petty men who hate love itself in the name of morality?

Ma nishada!

Photographs: courtesy Outlook (left), The Hindu

Also read: ‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

How Karnataka is becoming the Gujarat of the South

How girls pissing in their pants protect Hinduism

How come media did not spot the Satyam fraud?

8 January 2009

A requiem for Indian business journalism, in the delightfully breathless style of Juan Antonio Giner, founder-director, Innovation International Media:

‘Satyam’, meaning truth.

India’s fourth largest software services provider. The darling of Hyderabad.

An outsourcing company with 53,000 employees that serviced 185 of the Fortune 500 companies in 66 countries.

A company which now says 50.4 billion rupees of the 53.6 billion rupees in cash and bank loans that it listed in assets for its second quarter, which ended in September, were nonexistent.

India’s biggest corporate fraud ever.

Hell, India’s biggest fraud ever: customers, clients, shareholders, employees, families down in the dumps.

India’s Enron.

We have heard all the big questions being asked. So far.

How come the analysts did not know?

How come the auditors did not know?

How come the regulators did not know?

How come the directors did not know?

How come the bankers did not know?

Yes. But where is the other question?

How come the media did not know?

Yes.

How come the English newspapers did not know?

# Not Deccan Chronicle, not The Hindu, not The New Indian Express, not The Times of India.

# Not The Economic Times, not Business Line, not Financial Chronicle, not Business Standard, not Financial Express.

How come the foreign newspapers did not know?

# Not New York Times, not Wall Street Journal, not Financial Times.

How come the Telugu dailies did not know?

# Not Eenadu, not Andhra Jyoti, not Andhra Prabha, not Saakshi.

How come the general interest magazines did not know?

# Not India Today, not Outlook, not The Week.

How come the business magazines did not know?

# Not Business Today, not Business World, not Outlook Business.

How come the English news channels did not know?

# Not NDTV, not CNN-IBN, not Times Now, not Doordarshan News.

How come the business channels did not know?

# Not CNBC, not NDTV Profit, not UTVi.

How come the Telugu channels did not know?

# Not ETV, not ETV2, Not Gemini, not Maa TV, not TV9, not TV5, not Doordarshan

So many media vehicles, but so little light on the infotech highway yet so much noise.

But who is asking the questions?

Is journalism that doesn’t shed light journalism?

Or puff?

Or PR?

Or Advertising?

Also read: Is this what they really teach at Harvard Business School?

Is Satyam alone in creative accounting scam?

New Year card Ramalinga Raju did not respond to


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,703 other followers