Archive for April, 2010

Theirs is not to ask why, theirs is to just sigh

13 April 2010

“Development” of the sort mouthed by well-trained mouths, and announced in full-page advertisements, continues to deftly evade the people every summer. The evidence for the year of the lord 2010 is provided by children and women collecting drinking water from a pit on the banks of river Hagari at Uthanur village in Siruguppa taluk on Tuesday.

District? Bellary.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘BJP’s brand of Hindutva is counterfeit Hindutva’

12 April 2010

The noted jurist Ram Jethmalani in The Sunday Guardian:

“My complaint against the BJP has been that the Hindutva projected by it for electoral purposes is a counterfeit Hindutva. Its core has no resemblance to the real philosophy. Hindutva, properly understood, is neither the product nor the property of any political party, not even the Jana Sangh of old and the BJP of today. It was not manufactured at the Shiv Sena home in Bombay or at the RSS offices in Delhi….

“Hindutva is the core of the Indian Constitution to which all citizens of India swear allegiance and complete loyalty. ‘Hindutva,’ said the Supreme Court in a decision, ‘is a way of life or a state of mind and cannot be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism’ (paragraph 40 of JT 1995 (8) SC 407 p.637).” What is distinctive about this way of life is what Hindutva has imbibed from its root—the Hindu religion.

“Hindu thinkers realised almost from the very beginning of human thought that truth is many sided, that different views contain different aspects of truth, but which no one can express fully. They took it for granted that there is more than one valid approach to truth and salvation and that these are not only compatible but also complementary.

“This conviction inevitably bred a spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate every rival point of view. No wonder the Hindu religion did not and does not claim any one doctrine; it does not worship any one God; it does not adhere to one prophet; it does not subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophical concept; and it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances…

Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest exponent of Hindutva. He practised it in thought, word and deed. He found no conflict or obstacle in reading and reciting the religious scriptures of all diverse and supposedly discordant religions in his prayer meetings. To respect Gandhiji is to respect Hindutva….

“It is a pity that the BJP has not been able to explain to people that Hindutva and Indian secularism are practically synonyms.”

Also read: ‘BJP’s Hindutva has a pathetic inferiority complex’

‘Hindutva’s patriarchal attitude evident in Mangalore’

L.K. Advani‘s Hindutva vs Narendra Modi‘s Hindutva

Is Karnataka becoming a Hindutva laboratory?

Kannada nationalism = Hindutva + fascism?

For all the attention of the loonies on all sides

12 April 2010

Justifying the title of his new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, the author Philip Pullman rams into the “ban wagon”:

“No one has the right to live without being shocked.

“No one has the right to spend their lives without being offended.

“Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. If they have to open it and read it, they don’t have to like it. And if you read it and dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book, you can do all those things but there your rights stop.

“No one has the right to stop the writing of this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, sold or bought or read.”

Link via T.A. Abhinandan/ Nanopolitan

Everybody loves a good affair between celebs

12 April 2010

The cross-border love affair between Indian tennis star Sania Mirza and Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik that culiminated in marriage this afternoon has gobbled up more space and time than most issues bedevilling the two nations.

Outlook cartoonist Sandeep Adhwaryu looks at the priorities of the media in the two countries in The Sunday Guardian.

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Double fault by apna Sania?

11 reasons Right to Education isn’t what it seems

12 April 2010

Last week, KIRAN RAO BATNI wrote of how the UPA government’s much-vaunted Right to Education was anti-federal and anti-democratic, and was indeed a sign of India being pushed towards becoming a dictatorship.

“Any move which takes power away from the people is a move away from democracy. By moving the site of power from the States to the Centre, India has demonstrated its preference of dictatorship over democracy, of government over people, of centralism over federalism,” he wrote.

The article attracted a barrage of criticism. Click below to read his response.

(more…)

See you in my rear-view mirror, said the Maruti

11 April 2010

Twenty-seven is no age to go away, but the original people’s car, the Maruti 800, the car into which middle-class India squeezed in its aspirations has made its exit from 13 cities, just like another relic from the socialist past, the Bajaj Chetak, has.

E.P. Unny, India’s premier political cartoonist, zips down memory’s bylanes on the gaddi the Punjabis call ‘Mrutti’ and the Kashmiris call ‘Maarvati(click on the image for a larger frame).

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

***

Also read: Once upon a time, when Ideal Jawa was the Roadking

From Yadavagiri to every part of India i.e. Bharat

Behind two giants, Narendra ModiSanjay Gandhi, a small car

If wishes were horses, this jeep would be a BMW

11 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: How, just how, can we expect our police force to gather intelligence of an imminent terrorist attack and prevent it, or fight a Naxal attack like the one in Dantewada recently, when most times all they are equipped with are a lathi, a whistle and antique jeeps such as these?

Do we subject our future policemen to the rigours of a prolonged and intense recruitment test which the army and air force selection boards do to ‘get the best’ in to their fold ?

Do we have the likes of a national defence academy like in Khadakvasla, or a naval training centre like in Cochin, or an air force training centre scattered around the country, to train our police men and women?

Imagine our poorly selected, ill-trained, ill-motivated police trying to catch a terrorist like Kasab. The difference between them is appalling and as clear as cheese and chalk.

On the one hand is the archetypal terrorist: young, fit, brainwashed, computer-savvy, expert in handling machine guns, grenades, bombs, adept at setting off fires, and trained in modern methods of communication like voice, data and satellite (‘Chacha!  Hum CST mein hain? Ab kya karen?).

How do we expect our archetypal Sakharam—old, potbellied, uneducated, ignorant to the ways of the modern world—to even put up a fight with his outmoded weapons? In Bombay on 26/11 at VT, between two policemen, they had one rifle to stop two terrorists spraying bullets at will from their AK47s.

Even ATS boss Hemant Karkare wore a supposedly bullet proof as crisp and strong as a papad.

The point is, we treat our uniformed men like cattle, their living quarters worse than a cowshed, their working hours long and arduous, their work itself subject to political pressures and whims of all kind. They are more often depicted as buffoons in any of the Bollywood or regional cinemas.

Can we compare them to the respect and awe that we reserve for the personnel of, say, Scotland Yard, or the police force in other countries in terms of pay, training and general living and working standards?

And now, we expect them to fight the invisible menace of Naxals and restore the rule of law in nearly half the states of the country?

Naxals are a creation of wanton and deliberate neglect by our successive governments both at the Centre and in the States over a prolonged period.

We adopted a policy of ‘benign neglect’ of these sensitive, poor and god forsaken areas. We created a situation and an atmosphere which was akin to putting a ‘welcome’ carpet to countries like China to just walk in. These governments have armed our insurgents, militants and naxals to the teeth with equipment far superior than our police force.

Our insufficiently trained and inadequately equipped police are now expected to roam around the mine-infested terrains and fight heavily armed, armoured and unseen Maoists with lathis, whistles and rifles. No wonder Naxals made mincemeat of them in Dantewada and are promising more and worse.

Generally, “We, the People” believe the police force is corrupt from top to bottom and condemn them. To some extent this is true. But given such pathetic conditions of work and living, given most of the government departments (PWD, etc) and political system are corrupt, how do we expect our police to be paragons of virtue?

As long as we treat our police force like mules, subject them to all kinds of indignities, not encourage them with proper training, equipment and performance incentives, and provide a decent living, our country will suffer at the hands of terrorists, militants, insurgents and naxals.

Finally, the police themselves will perforce seek other avenues in search of a decent living.

‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

10 April 2010

Population of Uttar Pradesh: 166 million; No of teams in the Indian Premier League: 0

Population of Maharashtra: 97 million; No of IPL teams: 2

Population of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh: 1/3rd of India’s; No of IPL teams: 0

Population of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala: 1/4th of India’s; No of IPL teams: 4

***

The cricket writer and historian Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“This maldistribution of IPL franchises undermines its claim to be ‘Indian’, and is in defiance of sporting history and achievement as well. The truth is that citizenship and cricket have been comprehensively trumped by the claims of commerce….

“The Indian Premier League may be more appropriately renamed the League of Privileged Indians. For this tournament both reflects and further intensifies a deep divide between the India of wealth and entitlement and the India—or Bharat—of poverty and disenfranchisement….

“The promoters of the IPL claim to be speaking on behalf of Indian cricket. However, the polarizing instincts of their tournament run counter to—and threaten to defeat—the inclusive and democratizing trends that were inaugurated by the victory of the Indian cricket team in the 1983 World Cup and the boom in satellite television that followed….

“Whether by chance or design, the IPL shall establish a new hierarchy between the centres and cities it favours and those that it doesn’t, a hierarchy that has all to do with economic privilege and nothing to do with sport…. To be sure, the IPL has not created or constructed these inequalities—but it has certainly confirmed and consolidated them.”

Read the full article: The party of privilege

Photograph: courtesy Businessweek

CHURUMURI POLL: Dinakaran, fit for Sikkim HC?

9 April 2010

After months of dithering, l’affaire Justice P.D. Dinakaran has suddenly gained steam. First, The Hindu reported that the Supreme Court collegium had decided to ask the tainted chief justice of the Karnataka high court to go on leave as he was not performing any judicial work since December, hampering the court’s activities.

Then, after “reports” that Dinakaran was going slow, giving the impression that he was defying the collegium’s advice, the law minister Veerappa Moily has made bold to remind him that “the hand of law is long enough to catch anyone” and that Dinakaran is “neither above or beyond the reach of law”.

Meaning: Justice Dinakaran will have to go on leave as advised pending the completion of an inquiry as part of the impeachment proceedings launched by the Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari “on charges of land-grabbing, corruption and abuse of judicial office”.

Now, Dinakaran has been transferred to Sikkim High Court. This is apparently being done so that the chief justice slated to replace him in Karnataka (Justice Madan B. Lokur) is not placed in a piquant situation should Justice Dinakaran cancel his leave and return before the inquiry is complete, etc.

Questions: If Justice Dinkaran is unfit for the Supreme Court, can he be fit for Karnataka? If Justice Dinakaran is unfit for Karnataka, can he be fit for Sikkim or any other State? Is north-east India justified in seeing this posting as yet another sign of apathy shown by mainland India?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinakaran be impeached?

Is CJI K.G. Balakrishnan right about P.D. Dinakaran?

Finally, a Nike ad that doesn’t say ‘Just Do It’

8 April 2010

On the day The Great Golfer returns to less controversial holes, the father asks a question.

Also view: The greatest chip ever—at the 2005 Augusta Masters

Surely, all that glitters is more than just gold?

8 April 2010

The actress Aindrita Ray, who was recently in the news for all the wrong reasons with the film maker Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, at the inauguration of a jewellery shop in Bangalore on Thursday.

Just.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: One more example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of examinations

Like, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

Now, what will those fools do with these kids?

The media, the message, and the messengers

8 April 2010

The Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy‘s 31-page, 19,556-word essay “Walking with the comrades” in Outlook magazine*, has produced a fast and succinct response from the journalistic Twitterati after Tuesday’s dastardly ambush of 76 CRPF jawans by said comrades in the jungles of Dantewada.

From top, NDTV English group editor Barkha Dutt, Pioneer senior editor Kanchan Gupta, Indian Express columnist Tavleen Singh, former Stardust editor Shobhaa De, and London based freelance writer, Salil Tripathi.  Tripathi also has a finely argued critique of Roy’s piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the adman turned magazine editor turned columnist Anil Thakraney offers this take on his Facebook status update.

* Disclosures apply

Screenshots: courtesy Twitter

Check out more Twitter comments on the Arundhati Roy essay here

***

Also read: ARUNDHATI ROY: India is not a democracy

ARUNDHATI ROY: Election is not democracy

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

7 April 2010

Operation Greenhunt, the UPA government’s branded effort to quell the challenge posed by “the gravest internal security threat”, i.e. the Maoists, has suffered its biggest humiliation, yet, with the dastardly slaying of 74 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a lone head constable of the Chhatisgarh police.

The attack came just days after the Harvard-educated lawyer-home minister P. Chidamabaram called the Naxals “cowards” and reminded the West Bengal government about where the “buck” stops. And it comes a couple of months after he and the naxals had publicly exchanged phone and fax numbers.

The attack takes the sheen off Chidambaram’s aggressive, “hot-pursuit” approach that has come in for much praise from the urban media (and the BJP), as opposed to a slow, measured, all-things-considered approach, and it poses a big question mark on the man many believe is positioning himself to replace Manmohan Singh if push comes to shove.

The high price paid by the jawans implementing Chidambaram’s act-first-think-later approach, which also triggered off  the Telegana mess, also raises questions about the “CEO of the war”, as author Arundhati Roy has dubbed him, because he is alleged to be fighting a proxy war for his former corporate clients.

What is the one question you’re dying to ask Thiru Palaniappan Chidambaram?

Please keep your enquiries smooth, well oiled and civil.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Naxals are to Congress’

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the ‘State’ beat the Naxals?

When Priyanka meets Nalini, she’s a messiah. When…?

Aloo mirch, tandoori chicken and globalisation

6 April 2010

At the annual convocation of Mangalore University in the land of Diana ice-creams, minister of State for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, flogs an old horse on the real Diana.

Link via Ramesh Perla

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on globalisation

Shashi Tharoor on saving the saree

Is India moving towards becoming a dictatorship?

6 April 2010

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: It’s the talk of the town these days: “right to education”.

From television channels to newspapers, websites to blogs, everyone is busy contemplating the consequences of the Right to Education bill.

The contemplation—be it about the intent of the bill or its implementation or its implications—is primarily centered around the poor versus rich question and the effective-implementation question which manifest themselves in questions such as: “Will the poor be really benefited by this?”, “Will the rich object to the poor flooding their children’s schools?”, “Can private schools which provide premium education at premium prices just remain out of this whole thing?”, “Can this bill actually improve the quality of education in India?”, etc.

However, much to the disappointment of anybody who upholds democracy and federalism, all the discussions about the bill have missed the single most important facet of this whole thing: the complete usurping of power by the central government and the complete neglect of state governments in the matter of education.

I haven’t seen a single voice raised against this decadence of India, and must do my part.

While the people of India are busy discussing trivial details of the bill, they’ve forgotten that it is none of the central government’s business to assume the exclusive ‘right to education’ (as in the right to the portfolio of education) in the first place.

Even in the centre-heavy Constitution of India, education is a concurrent-list subject, but this bill makes it clear that the central government would rather have it all for itself —be it however anti-federal, be it however anti-democracy.

While India discusses the bill in letter, it misses the spirit of the bill which is simply designed to help the central government at New Delhi move one stealthy step closer to becoming a total dictatorship, with state-governments being moved one stealthy step towards becoming dispatch clerks.

The bill delivers a deadly blow to the future of India as a truly federal polity.

State governments, which actually run most of the schools in India, are now being told to act as dry implementers of dubious (nay, outright fatal) diktat flowing in from New Delhi.

The power to decide the constitution of the education system, all research, and indeed everything related to the quality of education is now unilaterally assumed by the central government.

The states now have no say in what constitutes a good education of their people. They’re just being asked to be clerks who shell out money for programmes decided by Kapil Sibals sitting in New Delhi.

Who is Kapil Sibal, and what  does he know about what constitutes a good education for Kannadigas, for Tamils, for Marathis, for Oriyas, for Malayalis, for Telugus? Can he even enumerate all these languages?

Any move which takes power away from the people is a move away from democracy. By moving the site of power from the states to the centre, India has demonstrated its preference of dictatorship over democracy, of government over people, of centralism over federalism.

The people of India have lost the power to have any say in the education of children around them. The real educationists and social reformers of India have suddenly become objects of neglect, and now have an infinite disincentive to advise the governmental machinery on matters of education – simply because they now have to travel to New Delhi to even look at that machinery. Earlier, it was at least to the state-capital.

I urge India to look at this bill from this perspective—the perspective that India is slowly moving towards a dictatorial form of government. And that is not good. Period.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Yella not OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Don’t gift them fish. Teach them how to fish

Can Azim Premji do what the government can’t/ won’t?

Yedi is fiddling when namma naadu is burning

Do our netas, parties really care about education?

When will our kids start questioning? Don’t ask

If you are of the sort who looks for symbols…

5 April 2010

A commercial on Pakistani television featuring Shahid Afridi, and the man hoping, praying to be Mr Sania Mirza soon, Shoaib Malik.

CHURUMURI POLL: Double fault by apna Sania?*

5 April 2010

Indian tennis’s glam-puss Sania Mirza‘s surprise announcement that she would tie the knot with former Pakistani cricket captain, Shoaib Malik, is getting curiouser by the second.

She met him six months ago in Australia. No, wait, she was already engaged to Sohrab Mirza at that time. He is already married. No, wait, he married somebody on the phone. He had never met her. No, wait, he was fooled into it, but, hey, she says she had a miscarriage. That’s his first wife in the photograph. No, wait, that’s his first wife’s elder sister.

The first wife, Ayesha Siddiqui, says she has nothing against Sania; she only wants a public divorce from Shoaib. No, wait, she has filed a police complaint of cheating, criminal intimidation, and subjecting a woman to cruelty. Sania and Shoaib insist the marriage will take place as schedled. No, wait, it will be advanced. They will have a reception in Pakistan. No, wait, the immigration authorities have seized his passport and can’t leave India.

Question: Notwithstanding that it is a matter of the heart and a persoal matter, did Sania think through all this before taking the plunge*? Is Shoaib really so naive as his interview makes him out to be*? Will the marriage the take place as scheduled*? Will a proud daughter of Hyderabad attain lasting peace and happiness*? Is this all a publicity gimmick to make The Times of India‘s Aman ki Asha campaign a success*?

******* Tongue firmly in cheek

Where there’s a Gill, there’s no way for our sport

4 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I spotted the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS) at Gangothri Glades, answering questions from enthusiastic kids about the Davanagere lad, R. Vinay Kumar, who has just made it to the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup.

I thought this was an opportune moment to get ASS’s views on ‘What Ails Other Sports’ in our country.

We sat on a bench at the Kukkarahalli kere not far from where a crocodile made its majestic appearance recently before going back into the lake after laying eggs.

“Why is the Commonwealth boxing champion Vijender Singh so disgusted with the boxing federation that he calls it a “hell”? Other sportsmen too have voiced similar opinion about their federations.”

“Most sane people will agree with that. Sports minister Manohar Singh Gill finds time to only criticise cricket which is not his business anyway. He hardly has time to run his own business, sports, but he has plenty of time to write the last-page diary for Outlook magazine now and then.”

“Vijender says his federation is always crammed with busybodies who have nothing to do with boxing and wonders who these people are and what they have to do with boxing!”

“Come on, Ramu, you know better. Isn’t this quite common with most federations headed by politicians? Their chamchas just hang around to pass time. They are only answerable to their political sugar daddies, not just of the Sharad Pawar kind.”

“Let me be specific. What is our sports minister doing to lift the hockey team from the 8th or 9th position to the second or third position? Is there a plan? Why aren’t we being told what that plan is? Why did coach Ric Charlesworth go back without taking the assignment as hockey coach?” I asked.

“May be the minister doesn’t have the time.”

“Or, for that matter, why doesn’t Gill do something about football in which India is languishing at the 3rd or 4th position—from the bottom,” I persisted.

“Look! He is otherwise busy. First he was busy wondering if he would  be nominated to the Rajya Sabha again. Now he is busy wondering whether Amitabh Bachchan should be the brand ambassador for the Commonwealth Games when namma Udupi boy Suresh Kalmadi has already made it clear he will not, probably because amma is keeping a tab. I understand the Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan is so scared he goes to sachivalaya climbing the water pipes behind his office because of the fear he might bump into the Bachchans.”

It was time to change the topic.

“Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approached his Brazilian counterpart once to help us out in football.”

“I know. Had Gill had followed it up, Brazil’s coach Dunga would have landed here along with Pele to teach ‘bicycle kicks’ to our boys. Instead he is just happy criticising the IPL commissioner Lalit  Modi and predicting that IPL is doomed to fail one day!” ASS wailed.

“Such a pity! What is his routine in the sports ministry?”

“Who knows? Kee farak painda? When DDCA was criticized for ‘under preparing’ the Feroze Shah Kotla cricket pitch Gill pounced on it forgetting the CWG was heading towards its own disaster. Gill, if anything, should be more concerned what’s happening in his own backyard, i.e. the various federations.”

“What exactly can he do?”

“To start with he can shake up a couple of sports federations which have drug addicts as athletes on their rolls and the federations  just sleepwalk when WADA catches our athletes time and again. Next, find out what ails the badminton federation which cannot arrange shuttlecocks for camps before an international event! Or the winter Olympics team which landed up in cold Canada without warm clothing.”

“Ha ha.”

Naga-beda kannaiah, it’s not a joke. These things have happened. And nobody knows why our shooters cannot get bullets and other gear earlier but only while driving to the airport before a competition!”

“Elementary, as Sherlock Homes would say.”

“I hope you know Holmes never said that in any of Arthur Conan Doyle‘s books, but you’re right. We have many Watsons  holding important positions. Dr Gill should do the elementary things first for sports and not bother about how many Bollywood stars should dance, if Amitabh should be there or not. We seem to think cultural shows are the main thing in sports and athletic meets,” ASS interrupted me.

“That’s terrible.”

“Finally he could make sure deserving sportspersons are not left out of national awards. He could tie up with industry to ensure other sports are also encouraged by business houses. There is no use blaming cricket has become commercial; at least the players are looked after very well. When will we realise other sportspersons too need to be properly looked after?”

“So true,” I concurred.

Anda haage, Ramu, don’t be so harsh on Gill. He has a Mysore connection. His younger daughter was born here. In fact, her name is Kaveri,” ASS said as he departed with a wink.

Photograph: courtesy Commonwealth Youth Games

Also read: With sports ministers like Gill, God tussi great ho!

Aal iz naat well; sport needs a jaado ki thappad

Two days later, a mute animal pulls a fast one

3 April 2010

A gardener blissfully at work at the Cubbon Park in Bangalore as a hippopotamus (?) shouts silently on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A spectacle straight out of a Mani Ratnam film

At least the children are having some fun playing mar kothi

Roses are red, violets are blue, and there’s wow

Lotus is a-wilting, other flowers are a-blooming

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’

‘Mass doesn’t like truth; it likes masala + truth’

1 April 2010

The self-proclaimed paramahamsa, Swami Nithyananda, puts his spin on why people love scandals of the sort he has provided over the last month.

“People enjoy rumours, lies, news added with spice, masala about others’ lives. Very sensationalistic, it should be, then they enjoy.

“People are deeply interested in sex, some idea, some rumour, some twisted thing about others’ sex lives, they enjoy deeply. That is the human mind. That is why we have so much media to talk somebody else’s life, just to talk about some scandal. Unconscious mass enjoys this kind of scandals.”

You are never too late to learn or to try to learn

1 April 2010

On the first day of the SSLC examinations in Karnataka, 59-year-old Umesh Angadi tackles the question paper at a centre in Bagalkot on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


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