Open letter to The Hindu

Dear Mr.Editor,

Just wanted to remind myself that I am writing
to the paper that is currently not under the editorship of either Shri.Kasturi
or Shri.Narasimhan. Having reminded myself of this, let me proceed further.


Having been hurt at the falling editorial
standards and the sad yet steady decline of editorial integrity, I am
pained to say that ‘The Hindu’ has stopped behaving as ‘India’s National News
Paper’ – that is how you call yourself in your by-line.

My thoughts and language were shaped by ‘The Hindu’ of the past – 1980 through
1994. That I am able to write something that conveys meaning is because of the “Know
Your English” section of Mr.Subramaniam of CIEFL, Hyderabad. My Sundays were
made by the articles of Mr.Gangadhar by his “Slice of Life” columns. There used
to be times when there was a rush in the family to read the editorial section first
– actually two families as we used to share the newspaper with our neighbour
for around 25 years. Sunday editions were usually preserved for posterity. And
your daily columns on “Religion” contained a recount of the different
discourses happening in the state. Friday features were often cherished.

The current editions are also good in terms of content excepting for the
Editorial piece and the Op-Ed columns that seem to signify and espouse only the
left leaning ideology. You might claim immunity declaring your ‘editorial
freedom’ ( euphemism for CPI-M membership ) but you have the overwhelming
responsibility of shaping the opinion of the reading class – especially the
middle class and the young readers that need un-biased opinion.
There used to be a time when the paper used to
be the benchmark against which decisions would be validated at home. It was a
belief that if that was not in The Hindu, then it probably wasn’t true. The
corollary was that if that had already come in The Hindu then why should we
argue about it. Those were the 80s and the 90s until 1997.Thereafter the scene
changed to,” if that is in The Hindu, then refer another paper to validate it
once”. That was probably the time when N.Ram took over.

So when the BJP govt was downed by Jayalalithaa
by one vote, The Hindu wrote a front page editorial on the lines of good
riddance and communalism defeated etc. The paper usually wrote front page
editorials only in the rarest of rare cases. And what a sense of relief the
editorial signified ?

When the nuclear test was conducted by India,
the paper opposed it . When China commissioned nuclear plants, there were
articles congratulating that.

When Sitaram Yechuri or Prakash Karat spoke in a
remote corner of India, you made them appear in the front page. But when Modi or
Advani spoke on an issue of national importance, they either got the 5th
page or none at all.

When Singur happened while the communists ruled
West Bengal, you painted a different picture even when the then governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi wondered if Singur was still a part of India.  The whole of
the country’s press criticized the WB govt while you stood out in painting a
picture of peace in Singur. There was a flurry of letters to you and then you
said that this was the editorial boards choice – freedom etc.


When the Buddhadeb won in
the last election, there was an one page interview and your compliments on land
reforms. But similar courtesy was not shown to Mamta Banerjee.



Despite the
communists becoming irrelevant, you cling on to them and impose their ideology
in the name of editorial freedom?


When Nakkeean published a
wholly unpalatable article about Jayalalitaa you translated the entire contents
into English so that the non Tamil people should read that and gain “knowledge”.

Recent spate of anti- Modi propaganda material –
no other paper would have published. You stood out in that too. You also said
that the prospect of Modis’ victory was scary. How could  a democratically elected persons’ victory be
scary?

When Modi won for the third time you wrote an
article that it was not a novelty and that Jyoti Basu and Navin Patnaik had
done before. Don’t these point to a deep sense of malaise in your team that
effectively makes it instantly and eminently biased ?


How is it that you never
spoke of the nepotism during the time of the DMK? When the 2G case emerged,
still you published an awkward interview with A. Raja.

Of late there have been these apologies that you
have had to make. The first ever first page apology in the 125 years that you
have been existing was on a matter relating to Gujarat. In your over enthusiasm
to project Modi in bad light you jumped at the first opportunity and published
a letter by a Gujarat cadre officer. When it was proved to be false you had to
apologize in the front page.

Then came this apology on swami Vivekananda. What a fall Mr.Editor ?

Being progressive does not mean always adopting
a contrarian view however wrong it might be. Your views on capital punishment
are of that category. When Kasab came to India to be martyred, why should he be
not hanged even after the SC had confirmed his sentence ?


Retd Justice Markdey Katju
nowadays writes in your paper about anything that would provide him a ‘progressive’
image. Why have you not commissioned him to write on the death sentence to
Kasab ?

Your editorials on   Pakistan and the need
for India to remain passive even under such conditions has become so repetitive
that we are able to predict the editorial them before they get written.



You are regularly alarmed at the prospect of India, Japan, US and Australia forging a quadrilateral alliance thus singling out China. You were opposing this alliance in 2007 as much as you do now soon after Shinzo Abe took over as the PM of Japan. How does your editorial board come to the conclusion that India’s national interests are not worthy of consideration everytime China is sought to be alienated ? Not a word about China’s hegemonic intentions in the South China sea area. China has problem with every country in the region yet India should not align with the other democratic countries because China would be isolated ! What nationalism this ?

How is it that Ms. Arundati Roy and the group of
left oriented authors appear with articles when there is an operation in
progress on the Naxals and go underground once the headlines die down ?



How is it that M.F.Hussain required his ‘freedom’ of expression to paint the Hindu Goddesses naked while he never required that ‘freedom’ to paint the Islamic saints ( and you never took it upon yourself to fight for his Islamic right as much as you fought for his right to insult Hindu Goddesses ? ). And you want us to believe that that to be a progressive thought ?

How is it that there were a series of articles opposing Modi and
debunking Gujarat’s economic and social development from JNU type ‘scholars’
just prior to Gujarat elections and nothing is seen now-a-days? Have the social
and economic development happened in Gujarat after the elections so that the
paper is satisfied with the progress in the state?
Here is a small
compilation of the some letters that I had written to you, having been
hurt at the fantastically biased nature of your editorials and articles. These are not necessarily in any order. 

—————————————————————————–
Dear Sir,
This has refererence to the editorial condemning
Sarah Palin of her opposition to a mosque at ground zero.
This editorial is a perfect example of ‘stockholm
syndrome’ and nothing more than that. Any sane thinking person would naturally
ask what was the need to build a mosque on the very site that reminds one of
the atrocious act of the practitioners of Islam in the name of Islam.
If a mosque would indeed be
built, it would serve as a long standing reminder, for times to come, of the
heinous crime that the followers of that particular religion committed at that
particular site. That would indeed alienate the American public and people at
large from the Islamic faith and induce them to view Islam and its
practitioners with suspicion.
It would be tantamount to building
a mosque at the railway station in Godra where many hindu pilgrims were burnt
alive by Muslim mobs and also a hindu temple in the place where Best Bakery
once stood.


Acts such as these that are
meant to appease one community smack of a complete lack of logical reasoning to
resolve problems by meeting them head on.
If at all Sarah
Palin has said something meaningful in her life time so far, then this is the
one.



———————————————-
This has reference to the editorial
“Competitive Intolerance” dated 05-Dec-2007, lambasting the
curtailment of freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right enshrined
in the preamble of the constitution.
The editorial contained the right message that has
long been invisible in the mainstream media.
But there were some factually incorrect information
as well as ‘intentional’ omission of certain facts.
Firstly, the protests against Mr.Karunanidhi were
not because he disputed the existence of the bridge between India and Srilanka.
The protests were because he denied the existence of Lord Ram and then
progressively tried to denigrate the personality of Lord Ram with incremental
verbal insinuations. The moot question here is whether the Chief Minister would
choose to mount such verbal assaults on the leading deities of other religions
as well ? He resorted to typical character assassination of one of the foremost
dieties of India. For that he chose to mis-interpret ‘Valmiki Ramayana’ and the
like. This does not constitute the right to freedom of expression at all. Hence
this reference to Mr.Karunanidhi does not appear to be in sync with the spirit
of the editorial.
Surprisingly the editorial has also chosen to keep
mum on the subsequent violence unleashed by the cadre of the DMK on the offices
of the BJP. Does that violence constitute freedom of expression as well ? ‘The
Hindu’ did not mention about the violence even during an earlier editorial as
well. Is this ‘considered’ omission part of a greater design ?
Secondly, the issue pertaining to M.F.Hussein. Let
us look at some of the paintings of M.F.Hussein . I have attached a file
containing some of the paintings of M.F.Hussein.
  1. Sita, who is naked, sits on the tail of Hanuman. She
    has her legs spread. Sita is shown holding the tail of Hanuman close to
    her breasts.
  2. Lord Hanuman in meditation with his private part in
    erection, and naked Sita held by some one naked from behind
  3. Naked Parvati mixed up with Nandi, with Shiva
    watching
  4. Shiva and Parvati with Shiva holding her breast
  5. Ganga and Yamuna both naked
  6. Goddess Durga sitting naked
  7. Bharat Mata also naked
( Ref : An earlier article by S.Gurumurthy from
‘The Indian Express’, dated 01-June-2007)
If these depictions should have to be treated as
‘freedom of expression’ then there is nothing that restrains one from painting
ones’s spouses and siblings naked and conduct exhibitions of the same, in the
name of freedom of expression.
The question is also sa to why does Mr.Hussein not
paint the Prophet Mohammad leave alone, in the nude ? Why should the freedom of
expression be restricted to Hindu deities alone ?
Lastly, the West Bengal Government had only made Taslima move out of West
Bengal, with the CPI(M) Leader Biman Bose making flip flops regarding the
writer. While it is understandable that the ‘good samaritan’ role played by the
Rajasthan Government in lodging Taslima has not been mentioned in the
editorial, it is surprising that there is no reference to the ‘excellent’
treatment meted out by the West Bengal government.



—————————

That the President has not accepted the
recommendations of the CEC and has enabled Mr.Chawla to become the CEC later,
does not have any element of suspense or surprise. It was on expected lines.
What is also not surprising is the fact that the
President has, without any compunctions, accepted the ‘recommendation’ of the
cabinet and has resorted to this decision to reward ‘loyalty’.
But the President’s action leaves some questions
un-answered. Prior to taking oath as the President, she had declared and was
also reported with much fanfare that she would not be a ‘rubber-stamp’
President. But what is seen in this action of the President is that she has
just proved to be one, by rejecting a well-meaning recommendation of the CEC.
Let us look at this issue rather objectively. Let
us for a moment forget the CECs’ recommendation too. Does the President also
reject the other circumstantial evidences ( the whole lots of minutes of
meetings appended by the CEC to his recommendation) as also Mr.Chawla’s
connection with the MPs from the Congress party by way of accepting donations
for his NGO ? Does she also reject the other recommendations such as making it
not possible for Election Commissioners to assume political offices for a
period of 10 years post retirement from the Commission ?
As the saying goes,
‘Caesar’s wife should not only be above suspicion but should also appear to be
so’. Even a small element of doubt, that could erode the respectability of such
sacrosanct institutions as the Election Commission, should be erased and the
same conveyed to the general public at large, more so because one of the
greatest democratic processes in the world is about to begin in a few weeks
from now. Whichever political formation gets to power in Delhi has the onerous
responsibility of taking the country forward in such troubled times. Hence, for
international respectability for India’s stand in the comity of nations and for
her voice to be heard, the next government should be elected in a free and fair
manner without any element of suspicion. For that to happen, a free and fair
Election Commission is the need of the hour. It is a matter of great sorrow
that the President has failed to act with this end in mind.

—————————————

This has reference to your
editorial ‘Israeli aggression against Gaza’ dtd 30-Dec-2008.
While the editorial make the
politically correct statements in line with the editorial policy of the paper,
what has conveniently been forgotten is the unrelenting rocket attacks by Hamas
on Israel that has provoked Israel into this action.


Whether this action by Israel
could be termed an act of aggression is itself a question that needs to be
introspected. Israel has not tried to attack the Hamas stronghold on its own
but it was compelled to act, in its own defence, when the Hamas backed militia
started firing rockets into Israel. Whether there has been any human casualty
in Israel due to this attack or not is a not a point to be discussed. Any
sovereign nation has the right to defend itself against external attack.
Whether the act of defence is proportionate or disproportionate to the
provoking action is a judgement that the victim of attack needs to make and not
unconcerned parties like India.
Does the editorial board
believe that Israel and other countries who are victims of terror should keep
quiet and watch in a state of disbelief and in-action like India when its state
and people are attacked time and again with impunity by terrorist elements ?
What is the message that would go to the terrorists once a state keeps quiet
when attacked ?
The recent speech by Arun Shourie,
in the Indian Parliament, that ‘a jaw for a tooth and both the eyes for one
eye’ should be the response of sovereign states in defence of its people and
statehood should be followed by any welfare state that cares for its citizens.
The only message that the
terrorists understand is the message that they themselves espouse – terror.
Ideals such as “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha” would have worked in
Mahatma’s Gandhi’s times probably because it was directed against a more
civilized group of colonisers called the British. But the current situation is
not the same as the one during the Mahatma’s times.
Thanks and
Regards

——————————————

This has reference to the editorial ‘Election
Commission at 60’ dtd 29-jan-2010.
While the editorial is right in congratulating the
commission on the establishing the model conduct rules that resulted in making
the most difficult democratic process in the world as fair and transparent
 as is practically possible, it is not right to condemn
the recommendation of the previous CEC to remove Mr.Navin Chawla as the
Election commissioner as ‘baseless’ and ‘subjective’.
It is a matter of surprise to me to as to how the
recommendation could be termed as ‘baseless’. Let us not sidestep the fact that
the former CEC had added annexures that detailed the Minutes of Meetings of the
various election commisison meetings in which Mr.Chawla had taken part apart
from the other documentary logs.
It is rather amusing to note that your editorial
has termed the very act of sending the recommendation as wrong. Does the editor
think that the former CEC does not have the basic right to send in his
recommendation if it is not in line with dominant political line of thought at
that time ? Does it mean that such recommendations should always be politically
correct and in line with the expectations of the government ?
Let us not forget the fact that the Shah Commission
that had inquired into the excesses during the time of emergency had this to
say about Mr.Navin Chawla-” “He is unfit to hold any public office
which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others”
.
Hence shall we discard the Shah Commission report as yet another ‘
baseless and subjective‘ recommendation as well ?
As the saying goes, ‘Caesar’s wife should not only
be above suspicion but should also appear to be so’. Even a small element of
doubt, that could erode the respectability of such sacrosanct institutions as
the Election Commission, should be erased and the same conveyed to the general
public at large. Therefore the former CEC’s recommendation regarding Mr.Chawla
in addition to the other recommendations such as prohibitting the CECs from
occupying political offices for a period of 10 years after retirement should
have been accepted by the President who had proclaimed ceremoniously that she
would not be a ‘rubber-stamp’ president while assuming office.
Additionally
there is this very important aspect of the election process that has been
missed in the editorial- that is the adaptaion of the electronic Voting
Machines and the Voter ID Cards. But for the EVMs the once famous act of ‘Booth
Capturing’ would have continued even now.

——————————-

The article “The humbug called Gujarat model
statecraft” dtd 02-Feb-2008 by Harish Khare should deserve a point by
point rebuttal had it contained some points on which the author has sought to
portray, in bad light, the Gujarat model of governance. As there are no points
elaborated on in the article, it would be a waste of effort to ‘excavate’ some
points on which the rebuttal could be based.
Nevertheless, I would like to center my rebuttal on
the one and only phrase that has been used many a time in the article –
“The Gujarat Model”.
The author seems to be rattled to the core that the
Gujarat model has resulted in landslide victories to the BJP and hence if they
continue the winning streak in the imminent Lok Sabha elections, then that
would result in the BJP’s returning to power. The author has taken great pains
to cast he Gujarat model in great disrepute so that the same does not enthuse
the BJP to emulate the same in the other states.
Let us briefly look at what this ‘Gujarat-model’
is:
The Gujarat model of governance comprises mainly of
the following schemes enacted by the Modi government. They are :
  1. Swagat Online Program :
    An innovative program in which the ordinary citizen of the state could
    seek the interference of the Chief Minister for issue resolution in case
    the same doesn’t get resolved through normal channels. The Chief Minister
    directly interacts with the public and the government officials concerned
    via video conferencing and ensures that the issues logged as addressed.
  2. Jyoti Gram Schema : An innovative
    scheme that separates the agricultural feeders from consumer feeders thus
    ensuring 24 hours of high quality uninterrupted electricity to the 18,065
    villages of Gujarat. It is a record that 100% of the villages of Gujarat
    have been provided electricity connection – a never before feat in the
    history of Indian democracy.
  3. Chiranjeevi Yojana Scheme: An
    innovative scheme that was conceived and implemented with public-private
    participation wherein private hospitals were enlisted to provide free
    treatment to poor pregnant women with the government compensating the
    private hospitals for the services rendered.
  4. Maatru Vandana Scheme :
    Yet another innovative scheme where the antenatal women from the poorer
    sections of the people were taken care of by private gynaecologists. The
    government took care of the private gynaecologists and currently 1000 such
    doctors are part of the Maatru Vandana scheme.
  5. Evening Courts : For the first
    time in the history of the nation, a state government chose to increase
    the working time of the courts in the state and also initiated action to
    have courts in the evening hours for speedy disposal of cases.
The ‘Vibrant Gujarat ‘ summits held have generated
investments to the tune of USD 102 billion. Speaker after speaker in the said
summit have praised the governance model with Ratan Tata saying that it would
be stupid if one is not present in Gujarat.
All the above initiatives coupled with impeccable
implementation have resulted in praises for the government from all un-expected
quarters.
The Wall Street Journal and the Singapore Economic
Board have awarded the “Asian Innovation Award” to the “Chiranjeevi
Scheme” saying that “
the
scheme  has drastically reduced maternal and infant deaths through a
partnership with private gynaecologists
.”.
– Ref: The Buisness Line, Nov 06, 2006.
Even the Union Health Minister Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss
had appreciated this scheme and had said that the same could be implemented in
other states as well.
– Ref: Gujarat Government Website
The Planning Commission of India ( a non-saffron
organization, as the author might have known ) had appreciated the Gujarat
government for its revenue surplus budget despite the government giving tax
concession to the people of Gujarat to the tune of INR 400 crores.
– Ref : The Hindustan Times, April 02, 2007.
The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation ( the foundation that
is chaired by Smt. Sonia Gandhi )had conducted a study on “The Economic
Freedom of States in India”. It defined a KPI ( Key Performance Indicator)
called Economic Freedom Index and defined it thus : “absence of
government coercion or constraint in the production, distribution or
consumption of goods and services beyond the extent necessary for citizens to
protect and maintain liberty by itself
“. On this basis and study on
the same, the Foundation has declared Gujarat, under Modi, to be the number one
state as far as Economic Freedom Index is concerned.  That meant that
individual liberty to perform a manufacturing function, a business function or
any other economic activity was not at stake in the state of Gujarat – contrary
to what the English media has often tried to portray the government under Modi
to be.
The report further states that “In Gujarat,
the least number of mandays are lost as a result of strikes and lockouts as a
ratio of total industrial workers in the state.” The report also says that
Gujarat has performed very well in the field of economic management and
disinvestment.

The report further states that Gujarat is where there has been minimum
corruption, small in terms of size of the government and the like.

– Ref:  The Economic Times, May 21, 2005
In terms of Agriculture, eminent Agricultural
Scientist M.S.Swaminathan has praised the Modi government for implementing
innovative schemes for the development of agriculture like Soil Report Card,
Krishi Mahotsave etc and thus save the farmers of Gujarat from suicides (
famous in Maharashtra, a Congress ruled state). I hope the author would not
mean to say that Dr.M.S.Swaminathan is a ‘saffron’ figure though.
– Ref  Rediff Money Special, June 07,
2007.
Now that the ‘gujarat-model’ has been the centre of
attraction in the article, let us see what the ‘Gujarat-Model’ has achieved.
When the whole of India had attracted an investment
of USD 69 billion in the year 2006-2007, Gujarat alone had accounted for an
investment of USD 17.8 billion – that is 25.5% of the total investment made in
India has been made in Gujarat.
When India’s GDP was 9%, that of the state of
Gujarat has been 13 %. This is no mean feat, as people who are numerate enough
could understand.
The people of any state expect some basic
attributes from its leader : personal integrity, honesty and transparency and a
will to work in the genuine interest of the people.
If this is the ‘Gujarat-Model’ that the BJP wants
to emulate in all parts of India, as a true Indian, we should welcome this
model.
Who would not want the TN CM to hold such Swagat
Online meetings with the people of the state of Tamil Nadu ? Don’t the villages
of Tamil Nadu or UP need 3 phase electrical power that is reliable and
available 100% of the time ? Don’t the people of the state of Tamil Nadu in
particular and all states in general need good primary health care centers on
the lines of the Chiranjeevi Scheme or Maatru Vandana Scheme ( for the sake of
‘rationalism’ we could even call the same ‘Anna Scheme’ or ‘Periyar Scheme’,
who bothers )? Don’t the girl children of Tamil Nadu deserve the kind of
attention the Gujarat government gives to its girl children in terms of
education ? In Tamil Nadu, the politicians talk of free Television schemes where
as the primary schools are in a continuous state of disrepair.
If this is the ‘Gujarat-model’ that has resulted in
all round growth of the state, then what is wrong in emulating the said model
not only when the BJP comes to power but also at the present juncture ?
We have seen the Tamil Nadu legislature that
discussed the minimum attire for female actors ( probably that is what is
called ‘Common Minimum Program’). When questions are not raised as to why the
legislative time should be spent discussing the inner wear of female lead
actors, it is a pity that the Gujarat model is being scorned at by
‘elite-secular’ authors.
I have a simple question : Would The Hindu publish
a comparative report on the Gujarat Model of Governance and the Tamil Nadu Model
of Governance with comparative revenue, performance and
social  metrics side by side ?  This would probably
enlighten the general populace on the ‘model’ to follow.
Your Readers’ Editor mentioned me in an article when Singur
happened. I had sent a rather longish letter on your Singur reporting.
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