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May 23, 2000


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E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

A fundamental dilemma

What is one to do with the country's celebrated fabricators of falsehoods and designers of distortions? What is one to do with the likes of Khushwant Singh, the columnist, and John Dayal, national spokesman for the All India Christian Council?

What is one to do with the nation's famous fanatical 'pseudo-secularists'? What is one to do with the likes of Rajinder Sachhar, an ex-chief justice, and Sonia Gandhi or Somnath Chatterjee, the politicians?

Readers' ideas/suggestions to resolve this fundamental dilemma are welcome on the basis of what follows.

In his weekly column published under the title 'Pilgrimage to Pakistan' in the Sunday Free Press Journal of April 9, 2000, Khushwant Singh said the particular piece was being written before he was off to Karachi to address a Rotary International conference. His column discussed what he proposed to say in Karachi and below are a few sentences of that intention:

'Almost certainly they will put the blame for the cold war between us on India for dragging its feet in resolving the problem of Kashmir. I will put the blame on them by telling them that sending around infiltrators who kill innocent Indians on our territory is no means of arriving at a peaceful settlement. They will ask me why India is reluctant to have a plebiscite to which it committed itself in the United Nations. I will admit that we have been unable to have a plebiscite because conditions in the state have changed so radically since we gave that undertaking that a plebiscite would have unforeseen consequences spelling disaster...

'Without doubt those living in Pak-held Kashmir would like to stay where they are; those of Ladakh and Jammu, save perhaps one district, would opt for India.'

However, in the report of Karachi's Dawn newspaper dated March 31, 2000, Khushwant Singh would seem to have sung a different tune when in Karachi. Below, for ready reference are relevant quotes from that report:

'India was dragging its feet over the question of Kashmir,' said Khushwant Singh. 'Pakistan is right. India is dragging its feet,' he said.

Addressing a conference by Rotary International, he stated that India would never hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. 'You are right. India would never allow a plebiscite in Kashmir even though it had made a promise in the United Nations,' he said.

Khushwant Singh thought that if a plebiscite was held and the people of Kashmir were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, they would vote for Pakistan.'

Well, over a month has elapsed since Dawn disposed what Khushwant proposed in the FPJ. And the sardar has not yet told us whether the Pak paper misquoted him on a very delicate issue of critical national importance. Why?

What the flippant columnist -- who could have become the celebrity that he is only in unthinking urban India -- did tell us the other day was that 'not a day goes by without news of some violence perpetrated by some members of the Sangh Parivar: nuns assaulted, Bibles burnt, churches desecrated. And needless to say, Muslims and Islamic institutions victimised in many parts of the country'. One or the other of all this almost every day, be it noted.

This, ironically, brings us to the Christian Church and its cleric named John Dayal. Reacting to the national dailies' headline 'Attack on Rewari nuns' appearing on April 23, Dayal condemned that incident in Haryana as the fifth attack on Christians in the state. That accusation turned out to be a total fabrication. Investigating reporters of some reputed Hindi newspapers, including one from The Times group and another from India Today, ruled out the incident as an act of the Sangh Parivar.

What is more, a local priest and a Mother Superior of the Ashram to which the nuns belonged issued a signed statement expressing regret at the way the vested interests were unnecessarily spreading venom of hatred and added that "the misinformation campaign appears to be a part of a conspiracy". Is John Dayal one of the conspirators? How does one deal with him?

Then there's Rajinder Sachhar's perversity on recent media reports relating to Christians in certain educational institutions at Kosi, Mathura and Agra in Uttar Pradesh. Though an on-the-spot survey by the National Minorities Commission led it to the publicly announced conclusion that the incidents were ordinary law and order events with no communal colour whatsoever, Sachhar has called for a journalistic team to ascertain facts.

It is clear he's pitching and itching for a team of 'committed' journalists like Seema Mustafa and A J Philip to give a report castigating the Sangh Parivar in the manner of a recent editorial of The Asian Age proclaiming that "those who seek to divide the country through communal hate" have brought about events wherein "Christian nuns have been raped, priests attacked and killed, Bibles burnt, churches and educational institutions looted." As for proof, journalists of secular India don't need it, didn't you know?

No proof is needed either for fundamentalist 'pseudo-secular' politicians like Sonia Gandhi and Somnath Chatterjee. Relying entirely on media reports, Madam made a passionate speech in the Lok Sabha the other day, denouncing the government's failure to protect the minorities. The Communist Chatterjee described the recent events as not being isolated ones but as a jihad unleashed against the minorities. These were the same frauds who had maintained a deathly silence when newspapers recently reported the declaration by Imam Bukhari of Delhi's Jama Masjid that he was an agent of Pakistan's ISI.

It is this kind of deathly silence which the 'oh so tolerant' Hindus are expected to maintain when columnists and clerics and human rights activists and ex-judges and edit writers and politicians happily hang the Sangh Parivar without so much as a mock trial. Why, Khushwant Singh even quoted the other day a Frenchman's book of 1864 to prove how tolerant Hinduism was then and what its 'vagabonds' have made it today.

What the sardar reads and reviews, what he drinks and with whom he sleeps, what lies he tells in Karachi and whether he would be willing to suck up to the Pope provided he got a free, five-star joint for Rome -- all this is his business, of course. But here's something that one of his fans should bring to the old man's notice in the context of his expectation that even after 136 years of assault on their faith the Hindus should continue to be the docile, impotent beings they were in circa 1864.

The event the raunchy writer should note is a debate in our Constituent Assembly. And the remark he must bookmark for his remaining life is the one made by a Muslim member of that elite and erudite assembly. The member's name was Syed Karimuddin. It was he who, during the debate on reservations, warned the minorities that if they wanted to continue the communal approach and activities, they should be aware that it would not be possible to prevent the majority from propagating majority communalism.

Another Muslim member of the Constituent Assembly had another message that should be highly educative to those of our politicians and commentators who debunk and deride the 'saffron' concept as frequently as the birth of an Indian baby. Mohammed Saadulla, who was later a member of the Constitution drafting committee, is on record as having said in the Assembly over 50 years ago that "the saffron, as is well known, is the colour of all those people who live the spiritual life not only among Hindus but also among Muslims. Therefore, the saffron colour should remind us that we should keep ourselves on that high place of renunciation which has been the realm of sadhus and saints, pirs and pandits."

This article's fundamental dilemma therefore warrants restatement: What do we do with them all who rape some basics of their vocation's dharma? Any suggestions please?

Arvind Lavakare

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