Whose Dishonesty? Arundhati’s or Media’s?: Mahtab Alam

Guest post by MAHTAB ALAM

‘Vicharon ki Be-imani (Dis-honesty of thought) cries the heading of the lead article of Dainik Bhaskar’s editorial page on 1st November 2010. The article is written by Venkateshan Vembu, foreign correspondent of DNA English daily, a newspaper published by the same group of publications. It was originally published on 27th October with the headline reading ‘Arundhati Roy is dangerously wrong on Kashmir’. The writer of the article claims that whatever Arundhati has said is not only dangerously wrong and beyond the tolerance level of any law-abiding citizen but, it also has the potential to arouse feelings of anger and violence among the masses. “Yeh kuch is tarah ki beimani hai, jo janmanas me krodh aur aakrosh ki bhawna upjati hai (This is a kind of dishonesty which generates feelings of anger and violence among the people”). Ironically, this turned out to be a ‘prophetic’ disclosure, as right after four days of publication of the original version in DNA, Arundhati’s house in Delhi was attacked by the writer’s ‘Janmanas’, the BJP’s women wing ‘Mahila Morcha’.

On the same date(1st November), another Hindi daily by the name of Hindustan, published two articles on its editorial page relating to Arundhati’s recent public statements on the issue of Kashmir. While the heading of the lead article by Vir Sanghvi, editorial consultant of HT Media Private Ltd says, ‘Arundhati ke khel me na phasen (Don’t fall in Arundhati’s trap), the heading of a small write-up on the same page by Gopal Chaturvedi reads, ‘Lekhak ki Aazadi (Freedom of a Writer)’. Sanghvi’s article was originally  written in English and published with the heading ‘No damage to India from Arundhati Roy’s remarks’ on 31st October 2010 in Hindustan Times, an English daily published by the same group which owns Hindustan. In his article, he concludes, “Hamein Arundhati ke bayano se naraaz hone ka poora haq hai, lekin jis chann humane un sidhaanton se samjhauta kiya, jo humein ek udaar samaaj banate hain, toh hum Arundhati ka khel khelne lagenge. Hum ek damankari, varchasav-vadi samaaj ban jayenge, jaisa ki unhone kaha hai (We have every right to be angered by Arundhati’s statements. But the moment that we compromise with the principles that make us a liberal society, we start playing Arundhati’s game. And then we’ll become a repressive and totalitarian society as she has said)”.

But if one tallies the original articles with their translations in Hindi published by the respective dailies, one finds the real dishonesty — the Dishonesty of translation and commission, as well as omission. Like in Sanghvi’s translated article in Hindi, one would not find an important paragraph which reads, “There is no reason to believe that these statements will have consequences that are any more serious. In fact, they would have faded from the news in hours had the TV channels not continued fuelling public outrage.”  Likewise, Vembu’s article has also been mistranslated. The sentence, “…Kashmir finally stands exposed before the world as having been propelled all along by Pakistan-backed jihadis who are playing for much larger stakes: the disintegration of secular India”, has been translated as “Duniya janti hai ki Azadi ki is awaaz ko Pakistan-samarthit jihadiyon dwaara badhaawa diya jaa raha hai, jinke mansoobaun ko mamooli nahi kaha ja sakta (The world knows that the voice of freedom has been encouraged by  Pakistan-backed jihadis, whose plans are not considered to be ordinary )”.

What is more interesting is that both Vembu and Chaturvedi could not hide their jealously and envy in regard to Arundhati Roy. Vembu writes, “There’s a mesmeric seductive quality to Arundhati Roy’s prose. For all its verbiage, it teases, tempts and torments the mind and lures it into the parlour of a contrarian world; it then persuades it, with the sheer power of its eloquence that the natural order of things in the ‘real’ world as we know it is wholly unnatural and completely flawed.” Chaturvedi in his column, while commenting on Arundhati’s statement about a writer’s freedom says, “Lekhakiye swatrantay ke vishav me yeh maulik aur nayab khayalat kamtar, adane hindi ke nahi ek mahan lekhak ke hain. Wah do karano se mahan hai. Ek to isliye ki wah angrezi me likhta hai, dusare is liye ki wah England ke booker puruskar ka vijeta hai (Regarding writer’s freedom, these original and unique views are not of any Hindi writer but a great writer, great because of two reasons. One,that he writes in English. And the other that he is the winner of England’s Booker Prize).” In fact, the above views by the said writers indicate that they suffer from acute inferiority complex. Moreover in their respective articles, the writers hardly have any valid point to make except celebrating their ‘victimhood’ of being lesser ‘men’ and acting as spokespersons of Hindutva Nationalism.

In addition to this, on 2nd November, Dainik Bhaskar published another editorial page column, ‘News Analysis’ by Satyendra Ranjan with the heading ‘Do charam-panthi chor aamne samane (Two extremist forces face to face) ’. Following the lines of its precedent, the writer claims that, “Arundhati Kashmir ki ‘Azadi’ ki baat karte samay yeh sawal kabhi nahi uthayengi ki kya kattar-panthi sangthan, jinki bunyad me vyakti ki nizi azadi aur aadhunik mulyon ka hanan shamil hai, ve hi wahan ‘Azadi’ ke vahak honge? (While speaking about ‘Azadi’ of Kashmir, Arundhati would never raise the question that can the radical organisation, which is based on the curtailment of personal liberty and involved in violation of modern values, be the bearers of ‘Azadi’ over there?”

Is this so, one would want to ask. Has she never spoken or questioned the notion of Azadi of the separatist organisations? She has. Time and time again. In August 2008, in her famous article tilted ‘Azadi’ published in Outlook and in a recent interview to Tehelka, she has raised many questions concerning the nature of the Azadi of Kashmir. Referring to her Kashmir visit in August 2008 and recalling her thoughts while attending a rally, she writes in Outlook, “Briefly, I had another thought. I imagined myself standing in the heart of an RSS or VHP rally being addressed by L.K. Advani. Replace the word Islam with the word Hindutva’ replace the word Pakistan with Hindustan’ replace the sea of green flags with saffron ones’ and we would have the BJP’s nightmare vision of an ideal India.”

She further wonders, “Is that what we should accept as our future? Monolithic religious states handing down a complete social and moral code’ “a complete way of life”? Millions of us in India reject the Hindutva project. Our rejection springs from love’ from passion’ from a kind of idealism’ from having enormous emotional stakes in the society in which we live. What our neighbours do’ how they choose to handle their affairs does not affect our argument’ it only strengthens it.”

“Arguments that spring from love are also fraught with danger. It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamic project (which is as contested’ in equally complex ways’ all over the world by Muslims as Hindutva is contested by Hindus). Perhaps now that the threat of violence has receded and there is some space in which to debate views and air ideas’ it is time for those who are part of the struggle to outline a vision for what kind of society they are fighting for. Perhaps it is time to offer people something more than martyrs’ slogans and vague generalisations. Those who wish to turn to the Quran for guidance will no doubt find guidance there. But what of those who do not wish to do that’ or for whom the Quran does not make place? Do the Hindus of Jammu and other minorities also have the right to self-determination? Will the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile’ many of them in terrible poverty’ have the right to return? Will they be paid reparations for the terrible losses they have suffered? Or will a free Kashmir do to its minorities what India has done to Kashmiris for 61 years? What will happen to homosexuals and adulterers and blasphemers? What of thieves and lafangas and writers who do not agree with the “complete social and moral code”? Will we be put to death as we are in Saudi Arabia? Will the cycle of death’ repression and bloodshed continue? History offers many models for Kashmir’s thinkers and intellectuals and politicians to study. What will the Kashmir of their dreams look like? Algeria? Iran? South Africa? Switzerland? Pakistan?” she asks.

Is this not more than enough from Arundhati’s side? What more would one want in clarification of ones stand on being a supporter of Azadi? Here, it is also noteworthy that she does not only say Kashmir needs Azadi rather, “India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much, if not more’ than Kashmir needs azadi from India.”

Above all, what is the most startling is that the news of attack on Arundhati’s house hasn’t made it to the pages of either Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan or Prabhat Khabar. The last Hindi daily had also published a balanced lead editorial on Roy’s stand on Kashmir. One wonders what could have been the reason behind the black out of news of the attack. Was it a mere mistake or a deliberate attempt? One would not be sure about the answer but at the same time, what can be said is that it is nothing but the Dishonesty of media, not only to Arundhati, but its readers as well.

Note: The articles cited here are published in the Ranchi edition of the respective dailies.

(Mahtab Alam is a civil rights’ activist and freelance journalist. He can be reached at activist dot journalist at gmail dot com.)

One thought on “Whose Dishonesty? Arundhati’s or Media’s?: Mahtab Alam”

  1. “Is it not more than enough from Arundhati’s side?” Yes, it is more than enough, for me, and I am sure, for many who are committed to all freedoms, and to justice. And in that context, the GoI should listen more seriously about the work of IPT for example. Every life counts, and there should be a project for fixing the U.I.D. for the missing persons buried in anonymous graves in Kashmir.
    One can hardly bear to think about the numbers involved. But an beginning has to be made somewhere.
    Same principle should apply, even to situations in Gujarat, Kandhamal in Orissa, where people are still unable to go back their destroyed homes. They too live in camps, and see no prospects of peaceful return, like the Kashmiri Pundits.


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