The time when Hindi journalism turned into ‘Hindu’ journalism

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As many might recollect, the yatra with its rousing slogans such as ‘aage badho, zor se bolo, janmabhoomi ka tala kholo (step forward, speak out, open the janmabhoomi lock)’, went largely unheeded by ordinary people to eventually sink in the sea of sympathy that surged in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. It could not but sink, for Mrs Gandhi, when alive, had not reacted to the yatra even once. She knew any comment from her would only add stature to the yatra. The Sangh parivar was understandably dejected. The dejection increased as the Sangh’s political front, the BJP, almost committed hara-kiri with its Gandhian socialism misadventure.

As the Sangh and the BJP resorted to new farces for a fresh lease of life during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministerial tenure, an insecure prime minister and his band of Doon School advisors were so traumatised they saw only one way out – appropriate the Sangh parivar’s so-called Hindu card by themselves arranging to have the [Babri Masjid] locks opened, thus leaving the parivar ‘disarmed’. In a trice the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Vir Bahadur Singh offered his services for the needful. From the outset what was ignored was the fact that the opening of the locks would not solve the issue; if anything it would ignite the issue afresh, letting such genies out that could never be put back in the bottle.

In any case, the VHP and BJP were not going to be placated by a mere opening of the locks. As the lustre of the mandate won by Rajiv Gandhi gradually dimmed and he increasingly found himself entrapped in a political maze, the machinations for the so-called construction of a grand temple at the ‘ram janmabhoomi’ gathered pace.

Decoding what ‘ram janmabhoomi’ means

Here it is important to pause a bit and understand the meaning of ‘ram janmabhoomi’ as is known and understood in Ayodhya and Faizabad: on the night of December 22-23, 1949, in a mosque several hundred years old and known by the name of Babri, an idol of Lord Rama was secretly planted with the connivance of the then district magistrate of Faizabad, K.K. Nair, and members of Hindu communal organisations, and it was claimed that Lord Rama had manifested himself. The police FIR of December 23, 1949 named Abhiram Das as the prime accused and mentioned that the idol was planted there.

Thereafter, a line of ‘reasoning’ was provided by ‘logicians’ to state that what had happened was in no way improper, for the mosque stood on the very site of the temple which had been destroyed – therefore, the mosque was a symbol of enslavement.

Without a proper grasp of this meaning of ‘ram janmabhoomi’, the aberrations that cropped up among Hindi journalists who kept the company of such masterful ‘logicians’ will not be apparent. Take this meaning as the yardstick and all you will see is aberration upon aberration among journalists.

To cut a long story short, the locks were opened in 1986 and, in 1989, in yet another attempt to seize advantage by playing the ‘Hindu card’, Rajiv Gandhi enabled the shilanyas for the much propagated VHP’s temple construction – that too, ‘wahin’ (there), in the premises of the mosque which was a ‘symbol of enslavement’. As Rajiv and UP chief minister Narain Dutt Tiwari understood it, while the shilanyas would bring ecstatic Hindus into the Congress fold, by putting the ‘construction’ of the temple on hold they would be able to satisfy the Muslims as well. The Congress would be in a win-win situation. Then, despite being mired in the Shahbano and Bofors controversies, they wouldn’t face any difficulty in crossing the electoral Vaitarani.

The very opposite happened. Both the VHP and the BJP interpreted the shilanyas as a sign of retreat by an unnerved Congress government in the face of their rising strength. In that moment of elation they unleashed a volley of new manoeuvres. After that even Rajiv’s vow to start the election campaign from Ayodhya and restore Ram rajya did not have the desired impact – in 1989 the Congress failed to  win the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat.

Between 1990-1992, at the Centre and in UP, during the tenures of Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Mulayam Singh followed by Narasimha Rao and Kalyan Singh, the manner in which ‘Ayodhya was bathed in blood’, ‘the Sarayu’s waters turned red’ and the Babri Masjid disintegrated into the folds of the past, carries the feel of a history that, even after the passage of 25 years, is still very current.

As a witness to cynical politics, what is the duty of a journalist?

This history of attempts to appropriate the Hindu card was part of my journalistic present at the time. Being witness to that period has undoubtedly been the most traumatic experience of my professional life, one which almost pushed me to the brink of disillusionment.

Maybe one should put it down to naïveté for thinking that that the job of a journalist, even in such dire times, was to be a ‘watchdog of the people’: to be an advocate of understanding an issue as it really is and presenting it as such; to cultivate a distance from the lure of gains and trickery; and with a habit of upholding moral and progressive values in life. It was painful to think that journalists, instead of giving a factual account of situations and events, could go to the extent of concocting them in the interest of an insular, communal group and be willing to work as their instrument.

To journalists like me, the very attraction of the world of journalism lay in the fact that one could constructively question the distortions abounding in the world – what makes the world such a heartless place; why, despite ceaseless efforts, is it not improving and, moreover, who are the people whose machinations are preventing it from straightening itself.

One witnessed journalists afflicted by communal and professional vested interests immersing themselves in the manoeuvres of the VHP and BJP, hawking their point of view as a ‘truth’ that was far more dangerous and toxic than any falsehood. Since I had no right over them to subject them to my questions, I would ask myself those very questions: in a pluralistic society such as in India, when some people gather belligerent crowds in the name of religion, use the very provisions of democracy to raze it, give it a bad name; spare neither the constitution nor its values; and are intent on dressing up animosity as consciousness and intolerance as a fundamental principle of life, what is the duty of journalists in such a situation? Should they break all professional limits to be tolerant towards such people, egg them on? If so, wouldn’t they themselves become participants in furthering the cynical game of intolerance?

Willing participants in the game of intolerance

It pains me to see that among the legatees of Hindi journalism, which has had a glorious history of opposition, many of my contemporaries have been willing participants in the game of intolerance in Ayodhya without pause – that too without the slightest pang of guilt.

From the early days of the movement, the mainstream in Hindi journalism has used it to further its commercial interests and in return showed utmost willingness to be used as well. In the period 1990-1992, their mutual dependence had increased to such an extent that people had started referring to Hindi journalism as ‘Hindu’ journalism.

As for the four standard bearers of Hindi journalism whose Hindu brand of journalism kept pace with the ‘Hindu brethren’, namely Aaj, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran and Swatantra Bharat, the Press Council of India had even rebuked them for the way in which they fuelled and instigated fear, confusion, terror, rumours and animosity. Those harsh words had no impact whatsoever on the publications.

A few sane voices and then the deluge: ‘if not real, fake will do’

It was not as if there were no voices of resistance against the prevailing state of affairs; just that they were confined to being voices in the wilderness.

I vividly recall one incident in 1990 when Vishwanath Pratap Singh was the prime minister and Mulayam Singh the UP chief minister. During a commotion masquerading as ‘kar seva’ on November 2, when as per the reports of Hindu journalism ‘Ayodhya was bathed in blood’, I was working in the editorial section of the daily Janmorcha, published from Faizabad. Several news agencies had set up temporary bureaus in the Janmorcha office located in the heart of the city.

Immediately after the police firing on the kar sevaks, one news agency started putting out inflated figures of casualties. When a correspondent of a rival news agency received a call from a flustered head office anxious not to be ‘left behind in the race’, he sarcastically replied, “I have given you the accurate figure of kar sevaks killed in police firing. As for the rest of the so-called casualties, you also know when and how the news agency in question killed them. But if you insist, I will try to find out once again. Although, if you wish to raise the number of casualties please send some guns. I myself will kill some to arrive at a figure that surpasses the rival news agency. But if an incident results in five casualties, don’t expect me to inflate the number to 15.” The phone conversation swiftly terminated on the other end.

The floodgates of self-control could not be maintained for long. In their rivalry to outdo the competition, the things journalists and newspapers did to sensationalise news by inflating the figure of kar sevaks killed in the firing is well-known. The conventional belief among ordinary people was that journalistic publications always underreported casualty figures, saying five had been killed when in fact the actual number would be 15. The police firing on the kar sevaks put paid to this innocent belief. Journalists busied themselves in cooking up ever more deaths adhering to the motto ‘if not real, fake will do’.

A daily newspaper published from Lucknow, which boasts of being the most read newspaper in the world, crossed all limits. Not only did it give a death toll many times in excess of the actual number in its afternoon supplement of November 2; it hawked the publication on vehicles fitted with loudspeakers lest somebody missed it. But its morning edition of November 3 in Ayodhya and Faizabad carried a vastly reduced number of casualties, namely 32 (which too was more than twice the actual figure). Those in the know jokingly asked if the rest of the dead kar sevaks had come alive the previous night! The newspaper did not even have the fig leaf of an excuse that Ayodhya was so far from Lucknow that it had to bank on unreliable reports.

Agra edition of Amar Ujala on December 8, 1992. Courtesy: Ashish Agarwal/ 

Agra edition of Amar Ujala on December 8, 1992. Courtesy: Ashish Agarwal/

A daily published from Gorakhpur by a spice merchant went one step further. Its sub-editors had initially given a page one heading putting the death toll in the November 2 firing at 150. The editor added one more zero to it, arriving at a death count of 1500 so that his paper would be the spiciest. Some gentleman called me from the office of a daily published from Varanasi. “Please tell me the truth, how many died in the police firing,” he asked. I replied that in total 16 people had been killed in the fracas of October 30 and November 2, which was very unfortunate. Pat came the rejoinder – “Come on, we are saying the Sarayu turned red with blood, thousands killed. I’m damned if I know!”

Despite my best efforts I was unable to convince him that objective reporting tied to facts, i.e. the actual death count, was essential if the government had to be put in the dock; rumours would not achieve anything.

“Are you asking as a Hindu or…?”

It was as if journalists no longer remembered their actual duty, which was to find out the actual number of kar sevaks killed in police firing. If someone asked, how many were killed, they would, in turn, want to know – are you asking as a Hindu or a Muslim, or…

For those who asked as Hindus the journalists had ‘additional information’ as well – “So many kar sevaks would not have been killed if the police alone had been firing. Truth be told, the police is silently with us. It was Munnan Khan’s men dressed up as policemen who were responsible for the firing, and they fired to their heart’s content. Afterwards they loaded the bodies in trucks and threw them into the Sarayu. They were helped all along by Muslim police officers and jawans.”

Munnan Khan was an upcoming Samajwadi leader close to Mulayam. Moreover, because of his reputation as a daredevil, the VHP and BJP found in him a suitable ‘Muslim villain’, and those engaged in Hindu journalism were going flat out to help them. They were least concerned about the fact that there were no Muslim police officers on duty on that day (November 2) to reportedly help Khan’s men. It is said that lies have short legs but they can certainly fly!

Even though the spokesperson for the kar seva committee, Vamdev, had stated that 12 kar sevaks had been killed in the police firing of November 2, newspapers had blithely raised the death toll to thousands. What a travesty that the body spearheading the kar seva movement was perceived to be ‘under-reporting’ the death toll and the journalists were adamant on raising the number of casualties.

Someone can even see it this way: the police administration with a Hindu mentality, which chose to ignore the government’s travel restrictions to enable  lakhs of kar sevaks to ‘materialise’  in Ayodhya for their shaurya pradarshan, scorched them with their bullets without any compunction when the opportunity presented itself. “It’s the police, after all. It was only for the sole purpose of killing them that they allowed them to gather.”

But if that were so, why was a particular official of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police running from the local office of one newspaper to another to see if they could publish just a line or two clarifying that his company was not involved in the firing incident so as to escape being slandered when he returned home. One doesn’t know if he managed to save his skin or not, but in the prevailing circumstances best described by the sentiment that ‘anybody who dares speak the truth will pay with his life’, the one newspaper that paid the biggest price was Janmorcha. When it published the actual number of kar sevaks killed in police firing, the belligerent kar sevaks were so enraged that they started plotting ways of targeting the paper’s editor and its office.

The ‘Hindu’ journalists were quite happy about this turn of events. They would often say, “Serves them right if these bas*ar*s are beaten up; they’re always trying to prove us wrong. The only problem is these wretches also happen to be Hindus.”

Enter the kar sevak journalist

Breaching all restrictions and going against the court’s directive to main status quo when lakhs of kar sevaks descended on Ayodhya all of a sudden that day,  it was a ‘miracle’ that had a great deal to do with Hindu journalists. They misused the individual and vehicle passes issued to them in their capacity as journalists by passing them on to kar sevaks. In the midst of strict checks when reaching Ayodhya seemed all but impossible for Ashok Singhal, the then editor of the daily Swatantra Bharat (Lucknow), Rajnath Singh, hid the VHP leader in his press car and smuggled him in.

An entirely new category of journalists emerged in those days – ‘kar sevak journalists’; kar sevaks first and journalists later. For a long time Jansatta’s consulting editor Prabhash Joshi, in his column for the paper (Kagadkare), described the paper’s Lucknow correspondent Hemant Sharma as a ‘kar sevak journalist’, lending credence to the term. In the same mould as kar sevak journalists were kar sevak officials and employees all of whom were in perfect sync with regard to the question of dealing with ‘anti-Rama’ journalists and politicians.

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<p id=A screenshot from the film Ram ke Naam

Very few are in the know that the people who prepared the ground for the annual ‘Prakatsyotsav’ celebrating the planting of the idol in the Babri Masjid on that very day, were the then editors of a local daily Naye Log, Dr. Radheyshyam Shukl and Dinesh Maheshwari. While the former now edits the Bhaswar Bharat, published from Hyderabad, nothing is known about the latter’s whereabouts. It is held that the Hindi journalists’ promotion of the Prakatyotsav broadly laid the ground for the temple construction movement.

It would be naïve to think that the fraternity of kar sevak journalists came out of nowhere in 1990-1992 to assume the ‘mantle’ with much fanfare. It is said that when L.K. Advani was made the minister for information and broadcasting in 1977 when the Janata Party formed the government, he obliged many recipients of his kindness by finding placements for them in various newspapers so that they would be of use at the appropriate time.

The woes of the other side

Those who speak for the Babri Masjid side have had a long-standing grievance that the Hindi media which has maintained friendly relations with the VHP has played its part in obstructing their path to justice. They say the following:

1) This is one issue on which the Hindi media broke with the tradition of giving a sympathetic hearing to the aggrieved party on December 22-23, 1949, when the idol was forcibly placed in the mosque. We are the aggrieved party but the Hindi media sides with the perpetrators.

2) When the VHP organised a rath yatra in 1984 to exert pressure on the Congress government to open the locks of the mosque, the Hindi media portrayed it as a ‘genuine’ movement for people’s rights. Further, the Hindi press did its utmost to mask the fact that the rath yatra was an inappropriate move to influence a matter that had two sides to it and, moreover, was still being heard in court.

3) When the locks were opened on February 1, 1986, then too the Hindi media spread confusion by writing that the gates of the  ramjanmabhoomi had been unlocked. But in fact it was the gate to the disputed mosque that had been locked. Later, in its usual manner of making mischief, the Hindi media started referring to the mosque  as the ‘disputed Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid’, and now has moved on to just ‘Ram janmabhoomi’.

4) The conspiracy behind the move to open the locks has never been a subject of interest for the Hindi media. The locks were opened without hearing the other side’s argument, going against the high court order. The Hindi media either did not present this fact or gave it a favourable spin.

5) When the VHP started building up what was in effect a minor title suit over a piece of land into a clash of faiths, the Hindi media did not see it as a matter of concern.

6) More than the VHP or BJP, it was the media that virtually presided over the shilanyas of the Ram temple in 1989 and the kar seva movement of 1990. Prior to this such was the state of VHP’s mass base that ordinary people never evinced any interest in their agenda; the organisation had to piggyback on the crowds that gathered for Ayodhya’s fairs and festivals.

The VHP built a prototype of the Ram temple and carried it to various parts of India. Seen here with Ashok Singhal. Credit: Reuters 

The VHP built a prototype of the Ram temple and carried it to various parts of India. Seen here with Ashok Singhal. Credit: Reuters

7) In 1990 the Hindi media instigated anger among people by faulting the then chief minister Mulayam’s government for putting a stop to the Ayodhya parikrama and the fairs held in the month of Kartik (November/December). Not once did the media question the VHP for repeatedly using the timing of fairs for furthering its audacious agenda, which went against the grain of the constitution and the law of the land.

8) The same media drummed up a campaign of ruinous proportions against Mulayam for flouting the court’s directive by stating that “he would not allow even a bird to flap its wings in the Babri Masjid premises.” On October 30, when some kar sevaks succeeded in clambering atop the domes of the mosque to plant saffron flags, an ecstatic kar sevak editor, Rajnath Singh of Swatantra Bharat, crowed, “The bird succeeded in flapping its wings, the bird succeeded in flapping its wings.”

9) Many Hindi newspapers knowingly published a higher count of the kar sevaks who died in the police firing of November 2 to outdo the others. When proved wrong they went so far as to publish fake names and addresses, pronounced dead even those who had not ventured anywhere near Ayodhya and remained alive for a long time thereafter. For these newspapers, news was what was contained in the VHP’s press releases in return for which they hoped and expected to be obliged by the BJP. With time many such faces were duly spotted in the Rajya Sabha.

10) In 1992 when the then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh’s assurance to the VHP and the kar sevaks that they would not be fired at, made them completely fearless, they did not confine themselves to destroying the Babri Masjid. In addition they vandalised 24 mosques that were not embroiled in any dispute, desecrated graves and burnt down more than 400 Muslim homes and shops. They took 18 lives as well. In the locality of Kajiana, they bundled up an ailing Muslim woman in her quilt, tied her to her string bed and set her on fire, not caring a whit about the faith she had placed in them. When many Muslims were fleeing Ayodhya she refused to go with them saying, why would they come to kill me? I am not stopping them from building a temple, am I?

At the time the violence unleashed was such that 4,500 Muslims out of the 6,000 Muslims in Ayodhya fled the city. Apart from a few exceptions, none of the Hindi newspapers took note of the kar sevaks’ misdeeds. Till date nobody has been punished for these crimes for the simple reason that the government of the day saw no reason to initiate any criminal proceedings. Even today, no Hindi journalist or newspaper sees it fit to include this issue as a subject of concern for them.

11) The Hindi media does not lose a single opportunity to tar the Muslims as arch villains on this issue. It also never outlines the fact that from the start of the dispute till now, there has never been any attempt from the Muslim side to pursue a solution that goes against the law.

The bandwagon rolls on

After December 6, 1992, many had hoped that after getting their cameras and limbs smashed, journalists would feel a twinge of guilt and come to their senses, adopt a more objective attitude. However, during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure the way VHP’s shiladaan (March 2002) was reported put paid to that hope too. While the VHP may not have been able to replicate the scenario of 1992, the media certainly replicated the scenario for itself. Instead of putting out bona fide news, publications once again tried to outdo the other in propagating the kind of stories that would make the VHP’s job easier; like before, trampling all yardsticks of journalism.

This time, however, the kar sevaks were transformed into ‘ramsevaks’. As they started coming by train, certain incidents became routine, such as the forcible occupation of rail berths; communal targeting of passengers by making them chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, roughing up and even throwing off the train those who refused to do so (which resulted in deaths). At several places they subjected women to abusive behaviour. But none of these incidents ever made it to the news.

The same Sabarmati Express which was linked to the Godhra incident when two coaches carrying ramsevaks were burnt down leading to loss of lives was witness to the havoc created by unruly ramsevaks from the time they boarded the train at Rudauli station in Faizabad district. But the media which did not bat an eyelid before dubbing the Godhra incident as a case of ‘Muslim reaction’, scrupulously refrained from expressing any reaction on the mischief committed by the ramsevaks. News pertaining to these incidents was not carried in any newspaper other than the daily Janmorcha. Who is not aware of the extent to which all this facilitated the efforts of the champions of Hindu reaction in Gujarat? They even brought Newton into the debate to legitimise bloodshed.

Even after the government had managed to slow down the influx of ramsevaks by putting a curb on train and bus travel and maintaining strict checks, Hindi newspapers and TV channels (the latter had entered the arena by then) continued with headlines such as ‘Likelihood of more clashes’ and ‘Ramsevaks continue to pour in’. The irony was that while they kept publishing photographs of a deserted karsevakpuram, describing the eerie silence shrouding it, they could not muster up a single photograph of the thousands they claimed were pouring into Ayodhya. The intent behind this duplicity was to somehow ensure the minimum crowds necessary for the VHP to make claims about its mass base. One newspaper went so far as to say, ‘There should be no mistaking VHP’s mass base’.

There was another side to the picture as well – the travails of the ordinary residents of Ayodhya and Faizabad living under curfew, whose lives were caught between the ramsevaks and the ‘sarkari sevaks’. But the media had no time for them. Some journalists were in favour of seeing the residents freed of curfew restrictions, but it was more a Machiavellian move to enable ramsevaks to enter Ayodhya.

Perfecting the art of being uncritical

What was baffling was that till as late as 2002, these journalists were portraying the VHP as the duly ‘validated’, or legitimate, representative of the Hindus. The mere thought of pointing out that the VHP had a history of arriving at an agreement only to renege on it, was unpalatable to these scribes.

Seeing VHP members attired in saffron robes and sporting dreadlocks like sadhus, many journalists addressed them as ‘saints’, unconcerned by the fact that many of these ‘saints’ were rolling stones, saying something and going back on it. For instance, the head of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, Ramchandradas Paramhans, declared that on March 15, 2002, he would take the carved stones for the temple from the VHP office to the site acquired by the government without caring about any lathi or bullet that might come his way. Later he backtracked.

When a journalist asked him why he had made such a dramatic statement, he replied – had I not done so, would you have gathered around me? None of the journalists called into question his hunger for publicity. VHP leaders were known for accepting the court’s directive one instant and refusing to obey it the next moment, but nowhere in the media did journalists take a critical view of their acts.

No space for people’s spontaneous peace march in Ayodhya

In 2002 the people of Ayodhya, exhausted and frustrated by the VHP’s antics, were simmering with anger and not bothering to hide it either, but the media sure did. It had no words to spare for the spontaneous and apolitical peace march organised by the residents of Ayodhya.

The VHP was not patient and restrained even towards those in the  media who had hitched their wagon to it once again; when it came to media like foreign news agencies, the intolerance increased – one Associated Press journalist was severely beaten up by VHP members. Even so, the journalists who had attached themselves to the organisation for communal reasons kept making up stories which gave them a reason to stay on in Ayodhya. They had employed the same tactics in 1990-1992 too.

The art of doublespeak

To state all this without paying attention to the language employed by the Hindi media gives only half the picture. The VHP was intent on flouting the apex court’s directives, but the media added a glamorous sheen to its stance by describing it as ‘unshakeable’. As if its bull-headedness was linked to a worthy cause which, if accomplished, would solve all the problems of at least the Hindus in the country in one stroke. If the VHP reneged on its stated position, the media would describe it as a change of strategy. If the opponents of VHP, dubbed as ‘anti-Ram’, stuck to their stand, the media painted them as obdurate.

In October 2003 when the VHP gave its supporters a call to set out for Ayodhya amidst a theory doing the rounds that it had done so after “joining hands” with chief minister Mulayalam Singh. Even then the media continued in the same old vein. Later, the journalists who had busied themselves with giving a communal colour to the so-called matter of al-Qaeda’s threatening letters to Ayodhya’s senior priests were stunned when it came to light that the letters were, in fact, the handiwork of a disgruntled disciple of Mahant Nrityagopal Das.

A ‘tradition’ of support and a heady drug called fascism

This ‘tradition’ continues unbroken. No wonder it is said that in Ayodhya and Faizabad, the VHP is not bothered whether the government supports it or not for the simple reason that the administration and journalists, for the most part, eat out of its hands.  The extent of their regressive attitude can be gleaned by the fact that they don’t feel the slightest urge to be logical, to reason. The fascism propagated by the VHP may or may not have made inroads in places; it may even be less pervasive among those who belong to the ‘whatever the court order, the temple must be built there’ school of thought; but clearly on journalists it has worked like a heady drug that shows no signs of wearing off.

If only!

Had the intoxication worn off, journalists would have understood that communalism is a byproduct of economic and social tensions which is counterproductive. Then, in the course of their personal quest, they would not have been intent on bringing shame upon Hindi journalism with its proud tradition of progressivism and opposition; nor would they be happy or unhappy on knowing the religion of one who died. Nor would falsehood and deceit have connived to get this ‘news’ published that a police officer who had subjected the kar sevaks to his wrath in 1990, invited the wrath of god on himself and lost his eyesight.

Had the intoxication worn off, there would not have been the deafening silence that exists on the biggest con trick — ‘the construction of the Ram temple’. At least someone would have wanted to know the whereabouts of the jewel-encrusted bricks that made their way to Ayodhya for the shila pujan (consecration of bricks) in 1989. Today no one has any questions about the ‘martyrs’ fund’ started by the VHP to aid the families of kar sevaks killed in the firing of November 2, 1990? Similarly, no one has any idea about the amount of money that has flowed into the fund or if any family has received assistance.

Nobody in the world of mainstream Hindi journalism is asking either.

Krishna Pratap Singh is a senior journalist based in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Translated from the Hindi original by Chitra Padmanabhan. You can read the Hindi version here.

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