Old interview but good one. IMO a very fair assessment by Sri Harish Khare of Gujarat (a tad pro-Congress perhaps), Congress, BJP and Hindu-Muslim relationship. Audio is also there, listen to the interview in the page (unable to embed here for some reason). Gist - Congress with 145 seats out of 185 in Gujarat encouraged criminals and Muslim leadership in Gujarat was either goondas or mullahs. BJP and Hindutva rose in Gujarat as a reaction to Congress arrogance and hob nobbing with criminals. Media has become accomplice of the terrorists: Harish Khare 17 October 2008 - 12:12pm Harish Khare, the resident editor of the popular and prestigious English daily The Hindu, New Delhi was recently in Patna. TwoCircles.net (TCN) caught up with him. He spoke on issues ranging from the development of Hindutva in Gujarat where he spent nearly a decade as editor with Times of India, role of media in covering terrorism, the challenges thrown before the Indian secularism because of the increasing polarization of the communities, and lots more. His journalistic career He was with Hindustan Times from 1981 to 1985 as its Assistant Editor, then switched to Times of India in Ahmadabad where he worked as its Resident Editor from 1985 to 1992. A couple of years also worked with TOI Delhi and since 1994 he has been with The Hindu, Delhi. On the growth of Hindutva in Gujarat in the decade of 1980s. He has been a witness to the growth of Hindutva groups in Gujarat. He saw how people like Togadia and Narandra Modi who used to visit his office very regularly, evolved as being reasonably decent people to hard core unsentimental political calculators. Besides Gujarat has always had a very difficult history of Hindu-Muslim relationship. India's most serious riot after partition took place in 1969 which was unfortunately Gandhi's birth centenary. Then there was use of violence as a political tool. Prominent example of this in the state of Gujarat was in 1981 when there was anti-reservation agitation by the upper caste against the lower caste which was gradually allowed to become a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Same kind of thing happened in 1985 when the agitation against the high handedness of police degenerated into a Hindu-Muslim riot. Congress responsible for the growth of Hindutva in Gujarat Harish Khare pointed out that in the whole decade of 1980s the Congress dominated the political scenario. The party had 145 seats out of 185 assembly seats of the state. If Hindutva is so acceptable in Gujarat it is the direct outcome of the total mismanagement and completely irresponsible way in which the Congress party acted and in the 1980s. It was practicing the worst kind of politics, for instance that of vote banks. For the sake of vote banks it patronized the Muslim leadership which unfortunately went in to the hands of goons. These goons said to have controlled the government machinery like police. Latif, the infamous goon of that time used to decide who will be the Police Commissioner, he alleged. He terrorized the general people which made them actually go towards the BJP which offered them a good, efficient, and fearless governance. It also help the BJP portray itself as the protectors of the Hindu interests at that time. BJP propagated and offered to the Gujarati public its vision of Ram Rajya as opposed to the Congress's Latif Rajya. On the top of that the organizational structure of the party was dysfunctional as opposed to the BJP which was efficient. But how did the BJP sell the communal ideology to the people TCN asked Mr. Khare. He said that it didn't need to emphasize the communal spin of their outlook for two reasons. First of all the Gujarati Hindu society is essentially a religious society. Religion is an integral part of its societal ethos. Secondly, the ruling Congress had made such a mess of governance that BJP emerged as the only efficient and viable alternative to them. Congress was the first to exploit communal feelings for electoral gains Harish Khare further pointed out that the Congress was the first party in the political history of India which evoked the majority communal sentiments in order to win election. He argued that the 1984 win of the party was a Hindutva victory. He referred to a piece he wrote days after 1984 Congress landslide for the New York Times with the headline "Now a Hindu revolution in India". BJP learnt lessons in Communalism from the Congress. 1984 elections saw evocation of Bharat Mata, majority communal sentiments by the Congress party, which is exactly what BJP is doing these days. He remembered an argument with the late Comrade Surjit that that if some party finds it electorally possible to demonise one minority which is Sikhs at that time then it can also demonise the other minority. He pointed out that the Congress's invocation of the majority communal sentiments was so intense that the RSS didn't stand any where. He referred to the fact that even RSS abandoned its Hindutva ideology at that time and instead of supporting a candidate who was from RSS they supported Congress candidate for a seat in Delhi. "There is no debate in our political system, we only shout at each other" TCN asked whether there are any lessons for the Indian media to learn from the way Australian media treated the baseless and false case of terror against the NRI Dr. Haneef, because it was the Australian media which investigated and exposed the holes in the police version and the false proposition on which the whole case was built up. He said he wish it is here because Haneef got justice because Australia has a different political system from that of India. In Indian political system there is no debate. "We only shout slogans at each other." And every effort to debate is actually crying slogans. For instance, when some demands that bring POTA. In short what he is saying that beat up the minorities. POTA is not an advocacy of a law but it is advocacy of a mindset and an approach in dealing with the minority issue. And in the Indian political system there is no conviction but only calculation. No body will care to take a moral stand on any issue but will only think about what is the electoral calculation, it's plus and minus. POTA no solution to terrorism Mr. Khare pointed out that there are people who say bring POTA, but the point is that it will give only the license to arrest people but does not make them a better investigator. Our investigative and intelligence system is so incompetent that the police men who can not even investigate simple cases of theft and arson, how do you expect that suddenly in the matter of terror cases they will become the most disinterested expert investigators? Use of violence in generating polarization of the communities During the NDA government L.K. Advani's strategy was to keep every body in tension. If every body is kept in tension then every thing was blown out of proportion the way Bush did post 9/11 in order to create an atmosphere of panic and take US to war against Iraq and Afghanistan. In that comparison Dr. Manmohan Singh has calmed down our collective nerves, and there hasn't been any over reaction. The problem is that now every section is using violence including the political parties to create polarization across the communities for their electoral benefits. Indian Media creating mob psychology Media today suffers from credibility crisis. All it can do is to create and generate the mob psychology. "Media today has become an unpaid accomplice of the terrorist, an unpaid accomplice of arsonist, and an unpaid accomplice of disruptionist." He further explains that when a terrorist plants a bomb which explodes, he has done the 10 % of the job rest as he knows well will be done by the media by creating an atmosphere of panic, terror, fear, insecurity and resentment. Electronic media greatest menace to Indian democratic system "Electronic media in my view is the greatest menace to the Indian democratic system. The power has gone to their heads." they reflect the institutional arrogance. They think that they are very powerful so much so that they are the active players in arbitrating political battles, in determining who will become the Prime Minister and who will become the Chief Minister. Besides "the whole art of electronic media is culture of controversy". It believes that it must controversialise every thing, he pointed out. He explained his point saying that in order to catch eyeballs they make arguments after arguments without going in to the authenticity, legitimacy and morality of either of the arguments. It is a beast that needs to be fed 24 hours. Role of media in covering terrorism "Media should be a distanced and disinterested party. It is easy to say but difficult to achieve. You don't become an active participants" he said. Professionally involved but disinterested. He further said that if a police officer briefs the media about the terror cases he won't accept his version completely but would take it with a pinch of salt. Although he doesn't cover terrorism but had he been doing that he would have tried to know what are the possible holes in the story, faults of the police, what might be the political and bureaucratic interests and intellectual make up of the officer involved in an encounter for instance. He would have also liked to highlight the human interests of that encounter and also the various aspects of that story because essentially any case is not one-dimensional but multi dimensional. When asked how he would have covered the Batla House encounter, he said it is hard to enter into the mind set of a thirty year old chap but it at all he would have covered encounter or terror cases, once an incident stakes place he would report all the voices; if there are any doubts, if people are questioning whether this was a genuine affair or not. He would give the doubts and questions raised by the civil society space in his reporting, he said. He also pointed out "thirty year old kid is not a wise man" means his human experience is very limited". Besides violence creates its own intoxication whether it is state sponsored or violence of other kind. When it comes to the electronic media, the Hindi language channels become much more bizzare in its reporting of terror cases than English channels. Muslim's resentment is understandable When TCN asked that the community feels that most of the terror cases against the Muslim accused are being built up on not the hard facts and evidences but on mere suspicions, and till now the police has not come up with evidences. He pointed out that this is how the Indian police system has functioned for the last sixty years. For instance, if a case of theft comes what the police does? It arrests five Dalits, and four Yadavas, and some one confesses just to get out of that. What needs to be done is that a more reasonable and justified criminal justice system needs to be put in place. He further said that he endorses the resentment of the community that asks why there seems to be two laws in this country, one for the Muslims and other for the majority community. For instance the justice delivery percentage in the 1993 Mumbai blast is more than 95 % but when it comes to the Bombay riot not even 5 % of the accused have been punished instead most of the police officers complicit in the riot were promoted. He said that the same kind of story is in the case of other marginalised groups. With Muslims it is much more painful because it gets manifested for the whole community. Muslim Leadership either Mullahs or goondas He said that he should not be speaking on the behalf of the Muslim community but the truth is that since last few decades the people who spoke on the behalf of the community have either been clergy or goons. It is only recently that the Muslim middle class has started speaking up and hopefully over the years it will emerge strongly to represent the saner voices of the community. Any way to stop the increasing polarization of communities He says that there is a political party which thinks it is electorally gainful to create and generate polarization of Hindu verses others. In 2004 they were defeated; if the people of India have a similar wisdom this time then "we" will get time to think on how to work out. He believes that there are communalists on each side who are in league with each other and feed each other.