T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue X

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

February 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Comment     

Balraj Puri

 

Column     

Sunita Vakil                          

View Point      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K Watt 

                  

Opinion

Sushil Vakil

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Perspective

T R Jawahar

 

Last Word

Sunita Vakil 

 

                            


 

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P E R S P E C T I V E

Defending offenders

T R Jawahar


With national dailies sticking up unabashedly for illegal aliens for the simple reason that they happen to be 'secular missionaries', the communal outfield in the country does seem totally queer. So, asking an inveterate overstayer, a tout of a faith masquerading as a tourist, to get out tantamounts to impingement of religious freedom, or so say the screaming edits. Pity such concessions are rarely forthcoming for legitimate 'stayers' of the land whose only crime is that they happen to be of a majority religion and are ignorant of viles like conversions. It's a saving grace that the marching orders have been issued by the Congress government in Kerala, or otherwise the entire country would have been painted black. Still there are shrill cries of majoritarianism gaining ascendency and pluralism getting dumped by the 'saffron Sangh'.

 

But with the US administration itself condemning the 'assault' on the missionary and rising to his defence, aided ably by sympathetic editorials here, it's actually the Hindus who are a minority in this fast shrinking global village of a world with nary a voice being raised even in their own land. And again the missionary was not exactly promoting pluralism either by denigrating Hindu religion and preaching his 'only true faith' but it is the truly tolerant Hindus who are branded as communal. That's the fallout when devils quote the scriptures!

 

The Cooper saga has undoubtedly been overplayed and taken up as a private agenda by a section of the media. No problems with that, but are there not such things as professional caution and journalistic ethics? The fact of the matter is that the said missionary and his band were one of the most indefensible characters in that part of the world with his activities and utterances breaking all norms of public decency and communal harmony.

 

There are enough reports which suggest that the missionaries were not exactly behaving like a lamb. On the contrary there were already police cases against some of them for many 'unholy' activities that cannot truly be called religious for them to be impinged. For instance, I am sure even hard-nosed secularists would agree that misbehaving with woman cannot be deemed as the work of a pious man or be covered under religious freedom. There are several such credits to the 'secular missionary' and it would suffice to say that he was going overboard with his derision of the Hindu faith and thereby begged 'communal attention'.

 

Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) the victims of the man's excesses are not editorial writers in national dailies, but sensitive sons of the soil who not only love their land and religion but were also concerned that patience should not degenerate into cowardice and righteous indignation does not get deluded by phony secular courtesies. And some had reacted as they are wont to under such dire provocations and the law, needless to say, would have to take over. But should not the law also be fair and pay attention to the agent provacateur, who in the first place had no business being around, let alone provoking?

 

But by making this episode seem as an extension of the majoritarian agenda and raising bogeys of fundamentalism is actually a self-goal. If this is the kind of secularism that the so-called liberal torch bearers are seeking to protect, then it deserves to be booted out along with the overstaying missionary. To be seen as shielding him would be repulsive even to jaundiced yellow journals but apparently not so for the enlightened eminents of the high profile media who all seen to see saffron everywhere. So blinded are they that even the obvious skips their mind's eye and sense of reason. Now, are foreigners entitled to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution? This aspect was conveniently buried during the Staines issue as well. Religious freedom, whatever it means, is a constitutional gift for Indian Citizens, not for aliens.

 

Non-citizens have no business purveying their faith here. And to extend sacrosanct constitutional tenet to aliens who clearly pervert the country's hospitality by unilaterally staying put beyond the sanctioned time limit is a flagrant violation of the Constitution itself. The crime gets starker owing to the self-righteous manner of the errant evangelists and their patrons as well who ironically parade as sticklers for constitutional propriety. To continually harp on human rights and religious freedom of such wilful offenders is a sick charade.

 

Pray, what would the US, that reacted to the screaming edits here in Godspeed, do if someone happened to overstay and then overindulge in provocative rhetoric? One look at the post-Sept 11 America, where national security and people's peace are now deemed paramount with secularism getting dumped in the Atlantic, will provide the answer. Doubting Thomases can check with the bearded Asians in the US who often hit the streets now in protest against violation of their self-respect and human rights by stringent, paranoic US measures.

 

In the Gulf, such abominable adventurists get officially stoned in public. In the progressive Orient, east of India, the name of the game is whipping. In the jittery West it's sophisticated ostracisation riding on the back of unabashed pursuit of self-interest. But secular India is expendable. Here, it is fawning editorials oozing with concern for undeserving pranksters even if it be so at the cost of national interest and honour. But what can you say when an enemy Musharaff is deemed more newsworthy and his utterances print worthy compared to those of a 'saffron-tainted' Vajpayee, despite he being the country's duly elected PM? Indeed, cross-border terrorism would pale before this cross-border journalism!  

       Author is Editor, News Today, Chennai

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