In Hot Pursuit Of Doordarshan
The self-appointed sentinels of secularism and the intellectuals who have self-arrogated the right to charge, judge and convict are after Doordarshan for telecasting the annual Vijayadasami address by the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Doordarshan justified with the plea that it was ‘news’. This did not wash with the secularists. They blame their pet aversion, Modi. He being the Prime Minister was influence enough for Doordarshan, the anti-Modi baiters allege.
The question to settle is “was the address ‘news’”?
Its blown into a major controversy. The known suspects, who are usually assumed to be intellectuals, the self-appointed chowkidars of secularism along with the known anti-Modi brigade have been spewing brimstone and lava protesting ‘gross misuse’ of the state-owned Doordarshan for telecasting the annual Vijayadashmi address by Mohan Bhagwat. They were so livid that even passing of a week did not defuse their ‘outrage’. They are still simmering.
This lot, claiming to be upholders of free speech, cried fascism. How paradoxical! But fury and logic never get along. The Doordarshan’s explanation that the speech was news was dismissed by one lady journalist terming it as a telecast of address by the leader of a sectarian organisation. She looked around expecting chorus of cheerios as if she had come out with a brilliant categorisation of the RSS. Another one said it was a Hindu propaganda, totally out of sync in a secular state. No one tried to analyse what ‘news’ is.
The write-up of Brinda Karat of CPM Polit bureau and former MP, possibly summed-up the ‘revulsion’ of all the critics of the telecast. It is “Reflection of dark times that the day after the country celebrated the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, an organisation which had been implicated in his assassination gets to have the speech of its leader broadcast, and that too, live, courtesy of the national broadcaster Doordarshan.
“This is a complete misuse of official machinery to promote the ideology and leadership of an organisation which has no constitutional status. It also signals an ominous development that under the Modi government, the RSS will have access to the institutions of the state.”
She said that the telecast was done because Modi is Prime Minister. Condemning the telecast she said that during the Congress regime, when Doordarshan was referred to as his/her master’s voice, the government and ruling party leaders got all the coverage, under the Modi dispensation, ‘DD has gone a step further, and given live coverage not to the government at the expense of the opposition, as it was earlier, but to an extra-constitutional authority’.
She too like critics of her ilk said, “The RSS is a self-proclaimed sectarian organisation which does not claim to represent all Indians but just one section—those who are Hindus. It is an organisation which has been banned twice…
“If the speech of such a leader is broadcast live, it is an assault on the constitutional values of secularism.”
The Sunday Mass address by the Pope is telecast to all Christian countries. Is it not sectarian? One irate intellectual shouted Vatican is a country, RSS is an organisation—never mind that it is the biggest organisation. So, it mattered to every Indian what Bhagwat had to say. Some liked it, some did not. They were free to express their objection as Karat did, unlike TV panellists who shouted and ranted, flailing their arms and appearing to be in danger of being subsumed by their own hysterical frenzy.
Well, these “facts” as stated by her need a few corrections. Nathuram Godse was not a member of the RSS when he committed his ghastly crime. Also it happened 66 years ago, since then much water has flown in the Nag river and Mohan Bhagwat is not the product of the time of Glowalkar and Savarkar. True Savarkar’s position in 1923 was surely exclusionary. Coining the term “Hindutva” in 1923 he explained what it meant to be Hindu, “Everyone who regards and claims this bharat bhoomi from the Indus to the seas as his motherland and holy land is a Hindu.”
The Sangh stood by this definition for a long time. Obviously, select groups in India were excluded. This was not right. But then MS Golwalkar, the second chief of the RSS, who is perhaps the most important figure in the history of Hindutva argued in his 1966 Bunch of Thoughts, that because “there is a misconception regarding that word (Bharatiya). It is commonly used as a translation of the word ‘India’ which includes all the various communities like the Muslim, Christian etc., residing in this land.
“So, the word ‘Bharatiya’ is likely to mislead us, when we want to denote our particular society. The word ‘Hindu’ alone connotes correctly and completely the meaning that we want to convey.” This concept again was meant to keep Muslims and Christians out of it.
Savarkar’s concept was written in the 1920s, when most of the states in Eastern Europe became independent countries because the communities therein were not able to co-exist owing to different languages, cultures, and even varieties of Christianity. Savarkar clearly wanted to avoid such a fate for the then Indian subcontinent, which had a more pronounced cultural unity, as stated by Dr. Ambedkar:
“…To a traveller from within the boundaries of India the East presents a marked contrast in physique and even in colour to the West, as does the South to the North. But amalgamation can never be the sole criterion of homogeneity as predicated of any people. Ethnically, all people are heterogeneous. It is the unity of culture that is the basis of homogeneity.
“Taking this for granted, I venture to say that there is no country that can rival the Indian Peninsula with respect to the unity of its culture. It has not only a geographic unity, but it has over and above all a deeper and a much more fundamental unity—the indubitable cultural unity that covers the land from end to end…”
But unlike the present Marxists, another term for intellectuals and liberals, Savarkar reinterpreted his concept of Hindutva in 1937. “Let the Indian state be purely Indian. Let it not recognise any invidious distinctions whatsoever as regards the franchise, public services, offices, taxation on the grounds of religion and race.
“Let no cognizance be taken whatsoever of man being Hindu or Mohammedan, Christian or Jew. Let all citizens of that Indian state
be treated according to their individual worth irrespective of their religious or racial percentage in the general population…”
In the manifesto of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, Savarkar said, “Religious minorities will have all the right to practice their religion in a Hindu Rashtra and the State will ensure that; but the Hindu Rashtra won’t allow creation of a nation within a nation in the name of religious minorityism,” which unfortunately happened in 1947. Today, the situation in most liberal democracies like the USA, Sweden, Australia, Holland and Germany is somewhat like what Golwalkar said in 1970: “The Muslims must realise that we are all one people and it is the same blood that courses in all our veins. They should experience the same ‘sense of belonging’, as the Hindus do, to this country, its people, its culture, tradition and history and also its past memories and future aspirations.
“If, after fulfilling all these, anybody says that he has studied the Koran or the Bible and that way of worship strikes a sympathetic chord in his heart, he is welcome to follow it…We want all people to come to the mainstream of national life but not to lose their identity.”
If this is what Bhagwat subscribes to where is fascism in his concept of the Indian society?
Even Nehru, considered Fountainhead of Secularism said addressing students of Aligarh University, “I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India…You are Muslims and I am a Hindu. We may adhere to different religious faiths or even to none; but that does not take away from us that cultural inheritance that is yours as well as mine…”
And Mohammed Ali Currim Chagla, the legal luminary said, “Anyone living in this country who loved and drew inspiration from the great heritage of India and was loyal to India was a Hindu.” This he said while paying his respects to Savarkar. Chagla, one of the most eminent and respected jurist was not worried about the exclusion of minorities. For it was not there.
We have come to 2014. An address by Bhagwat cannot disturb the unity that exists amongst the majority of every community. His address so far as mentioning issues confronting us or the record of the Modi government was listened to carefully. His talk about Hindutva or Hindu nationalism had, and could not have, any effect, especially on the young, who form 65 per cent of the population.
The memory of the statements of the likes of Nehru, Chagla, or Dr Ambedkar are too recent to have faded from memory. His statement during the discussions on the Hindu Code Bill in 1950 is a milestone in the community unity.
“The present bill is progressive. This is an effort to try to have one civil law for all the citizens under the Constitution of India. The law is based on the religious scriptures of the Hindus.
“This Code applies, (a) to all Hindus, that is to say, to all persons professing the Hindu religion in any of its forms or developments, including members of the Brahmo, the Prarthana or the Arya Samaj; (b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion; (c) (i) to any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus within the meaning of this section. (ii) to any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is a Hindu within the meaning of this section; provided that such child is brought up as a member of the community group or family to which such parent belongs or belonged; and (d) to a convert to the Hindu religion. […]
Application of Hindu code to the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains was a historical development. And Dr Ambedkar was not a Sangh sympathiser. But apart from all this polemics, one has to analyse whether Bhagwat’s address had news value, as claimed by Doordarshan? In fact, the best way to judge who are right is to find out whether the speech fulfils the criteria of what is news.
The five criteria according to the News Manual are; Is it new? Is it unusual? Is it interesting or significant? Is it about people?
But most importantly, ‘news’ can change with time, context and geography. What is newsworthy in one location or in a given framework may not be in another. During Mrs Indira Gandhi’s time Dhirendra Brahm-achari, her yoga guru, was given a regular slot on Doordarshan. It was a big news. It was all over the front pages. Today, which paper or TV would mention him and more importantly who would want to know anything about him. News is also value-neutral and has not much to do with the morality or the stature of the person making news. Also it hardly matters whether one subscribes or not to his views. Sanjay Dutt or Salman Khan getting acquitted finally or sentenced to imprisonment would be as blockbuster news as much a blockbuster event involving Lalu Yadav having to return to jail. The fact is news hardly differentiates between a paragon of virtue or a terrorist and criminal like Dawood Ibrahim. The person or event has to have interest for people, at a given time..
According to this criteria, the Vijayadashami address of Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the RSS, was worthy of news coverage. As the head of a large social organisation, in fact the largest in the world according to reports, and which is presently associated with the BJP, the party in power, his address was of news interest. Would it give some insight into the future measures and policies of the Modi government, and such like?
His address would not be newsworthy as much as it is now if the BJP was not in power in New Delhi. This is why the interest in what he said now in 2014 would be worth telecasting. It would have hardly interested anyone in 2010 or 2006. Secondly, its news worthiness is not affected by whatever opinion one might have about the RSS or its Chief..
Some heard him to learn about the Modi government’s plans and policies and some watched it to pick faults. But, the kind of outrage and anger in certain section is hardly justified. The write-up by Brinda Karat, a cool appraisal was in contrast to the sound and fury of TV panellists, flailing their arms or spewing words like sectarian and then beaming as if they have won a gold medal at the Asiad was disgusting. Do the TV cameras emit bhang?
Quite a few privately run TV channels also telecast the speech this year—even earlier years. “So if these channels judged it newsworthy Doordarshan News, the state-run news channel, should not be crucified for judging Bhagwat’s speech worth telecasting.”
As such, the issue of Doordarshan News telecasting “Mr Bhagwat’s speech live is scarcely controversial or reflective of “naked state majoritarianism”, as an excitable intellectual put it.
Yes, the question could be raised as to whether Doordarshan News should have shown the entire speech live or should it have followed it with analyses? The content of the speech should have been vetted. If it had news value, it should have been judged by the contents in the address—were comments were made about measures, policies and plans of the Narendra Modi government? There was a surfeit of this.
Admittedly, there were a few sentences which could have been avoided. Like Hindu nationalism cannot supplant Indian nationalism. Some thought should have been given to this segment of the address.
Although one must reiterate that the exhortations about Hindu nationalism and such like could not, would not, impact on the young who comprise 65 per cent of population. And as for the seniors the uttering of Nehru, Ambedkar, Chagla and the later statement of Savarkar are still fresh in memory. The mukhiyas of secularism need not beat uproot their hair, nor cut into their fast receding relevance. If they are holding on to the values of old Lutyens’ denizens, they must know that today’s youth with global outlook is breaking their wall of intellectualism. They are slowly being exposed!
Today people are not willing to hear “judgements”, like Mani Shanker Aiyer’s famous quip which was somewhat on the following lines. “In this century Modi can never become prime minister…yes if he wants to sell tea, we might give him some place opposite 24, Akbar Road. He has never been able to live down this ridiculous comment.”
When these intellectuals and secularists are again on any TV panel they must remember that they and their outrages based on their judgements evoke utter disdain and scorn. Their views are of no consequence. Yet, they still swagger into India International Centre for Coffee, but the next time, try to hear and see the expressions on faces of other members there.
Shame most do not have so they won’t drown themselves in embarrassment but a few of them might keep their views between their ilk. And worry about their future—no influence over the government, so no free jaunts, free bungalows and free cases of alcohol. Or being included into some delegation or invited to a seminar. Such ‘fruits’ of their biased intellectualism and twisted interpretation of secularism have made them think they are the God’s chosen and their utterances are pearls of wisdom. But others sense some strains of egoistic insanity. To come back to Bhagwat’s address, it would be because of reflections of the policies, plans and measures, can be termed as a first rough draft of history, post-Modi.
So do not pass judgements. Leave it to the people to decide whether Doordarshan was right or wrong in telecasting Bhagwat’s Vijayad-ashmi address.
By Vijay Dutt