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Angry Janes, Mad Toms and Internet hindus - Part II

By: U. Narayana Das
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MSM in India, the self-professed champion of free speech turns vehemently intolerant when it is confronted by participants of the new medium, the Internet. Is it Orwellian paranoia, the philosophy behind NEWSPEAK of the Oceania in "Nineteen Eighty-Four"? This is the second part of a series that examines the issue.

"Now this is what I call workmanship. There is nothing on earth more exquisite than a bonny book, with well-placed columns of rich black writing in beautiful borders, and illuminated pictures cunningly inset. But nowadays, instead of looking at books, people read them. A book might as well be one of those orders for bacon and bran that you are scribbling." ["The Nobleman" to "The Chaplain" in Scene IV, Saint Joan, 1924. Shaw, George Bernard]


Shaw"s Nobleman seems to have summed up the thinking of the angry Janes and mad Toms of our mainstream media. Instead of accepting as gospel every word that they spew and admiring them for what they are - the demigods of secular wisdom - people began questioning them on the new and open medium, the internet. Why, isn"t it "thoughtcrime" for the laity to question anything that they - the demigods of secular wisdom - utter or write? 

This is the reason why, annoyed by the impudence of a questioner who asked her why certain communal riots were not reported while others were highlighted a "Shrieking Shrew" called him a moron. Another "Kashmir Siren" was so angered that she is reported to have called all Internet Hindus gutter-snipes. Who"s to say there is no freedom of expression in India that is Bharat ruled and managed by these secular intelligentsia?

Hasn"t Shakespeare summed up their attitude as purpose dressed up in an opinion of profound conceit?

There are a sort of men, whose visages

Do cream and mantle like a standing pond;

And do a willful stillness entertain,

With purpose to be dress"d in an opinion

Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;

As who should say, I am Sir Oracle,

And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark! 

[Gratiano, Act I, scene i, The Merchant of Venice]


This was the caption of an e-mail that was in circulation about two years ago. The first impulse on seeing the mail was that it was undoubtedly spam; a prank played by someone who was aggrieved by the blatant and relentless anti-Hindu stance of Indian English media. It would have evoked a little laugh before being deleted.

Except that OUTLOOK felt compelled to make it the subject of a cover story and offer it as an Independence Day gift to readers in 2008! The magazine published "India on the Net - You"ve Got Mail, & It"s Fictional" as a companion piece to its cover story "The New And Uplifting History Of An Indian PI", (OUTLOOK, August 18, 2008). The magazine did not disclose who the "PI" was. In British slang, "pi" is an adjective, short for pious. Or did the magazine mean private investigator? In any case the "chain-mail" article was written by Debarshi Dasgupta with inputs from the usual suspects: its stock-in-trade social scientist, Ashish Nandy, artiste for all political seasons, Mallika Sarabhai, sociologist, Dipankar Gupta and media expert Sevanti Ninan. 

There must be some difference between a "social scientist" and a "sociologist", like Rotary Club "classifications"! How else could the magazine accommodate the "two minds but with one thought"! By the by, the "You"ve Got Mail" part of the title appears to be a take-off from e-mail announcements on AOL.  

The objective of the main article was to rebut claims of India"s glory presumably made by NRIs in chain-mails and that of the companion piece was to deconstruct why the chain-mails were written and circulated. The convoluted logic of the rebuttals varies from the comic to the preposterous. See these samples:

["Claim: India never invaded any country in her last 10,000 years of history.

Fact: This is not fully true, as the Cholas conquered Sri Lanka and took its ruler prisoner. In AD 1025 the Chola navy of Rajendrachola I (r.1012-1044) conquered Sri Vijaya in the Malayan archipelago. - Pius Malekandathil, Maritime History Specialist at JNU, Delhi"]

Even assuming that the author of the chain-mail was exaggerating, the magazine"s "Maritime History Specialist" could find only one example - in ten thousand years - to rebut it! 

[Claim: The world"s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects.

Fact: Takshila happens to be in present-day Pakistan. Why should only India claim credit for it? Such e-mails only skew a matter of serious debate such as the shared legacy of India and Pakistan and humanity at large. In any case, we can"t call it a university in the modern sense. - Gauhar Raza, a specialist of science in the public sphere at National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in Delhi.]

Did anybody prevent Pakistanis from claiming credit for this "common legacy" as presumed by this "Specialist of Science in the Public Sphere" at the "National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in Delhi"? 

[Claim: There are 3.22 million Indians in the US (1.5% of the population). But 38 per cent of US doctors are of Indian origin. Also, 36 per cent of NASA scientists are Indians.

Fact: Only about 10 per cent of physicians in the US are of Indian origin and that includes Indian-Americans. As for NASA, it doesn"t keep an ethnic headcount. But five per cent at the most. - Chidanand Rajghatta, TOI"s Foreign Editor in Washington DC]

Admiring Indian technological and entrepreneurial achievements, President Bill Clinton was reported to have said during his state visit to India, "why, you guys own half the silicon valley!" In the recent past, President Obama was reported to have advised American children to study like Indian students. If OUTLOOK had had its way, either of the presidents should not have made the remarks or the statements should have been censored out in Indian media! 

Secondly if Chidanad Rajghatta is so sure NASA does not keep an ethnic headcount how did he hazard the 5% estimate? Similarly if an Indian Scientist working in NASA hazarded a 36% estimate why should he be faulted? Both of them could equally be wrong either way.

OUTLOOK"s penchant for such analyses is too well known. The sinecures of JNU and the likes of Ashish Nandy, who in one sweeping brush branded all Gujaratis as having "disowned the Indian Constitution", come in handy.

In an earlier - hilarious - story it cited one or two examples, including that of the son of a former chief minister to conclude that bigamy is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh. Why then did it not extend the theory to Tamil Nadu where the chief minister openly parades his two wives? 

In another "analytical story" the magazine concluded that the prices of meat in Chennai skyrocketed because Brahmins have taken to meat-eating after conducting a survey in a few Mylapore hotels. 

Doesn"t it make one wonder whether the population of Brahmins  in Chennai has gone up from 2% - 3% (being the national average) to 80% - 90% in Chennai, with the Brahmins moving there in large numbers, allured by the love and affection being showered on them by the DMK?

[Claim: Times Group is owned by Bennett &Coleman. "World Christian Council" does 8- per cent of the funding, and an Englishman and an Italian equally share the balance 20 per cent.

Fact: Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) is largely owned by the Jain family and some subsidiaries, such as ENIL are listed. All details of the holding company, BCCL, are available in ENIL"s prospectus at the time of listing. - Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, author of The Indian Media Business]

There was no rebuttal about similar charges regarding other popular media houses. There was also no rebuttal about the charge of some electronic media journalists skewing the Gujarat riots coverage at the behest of Saudi Arabia. If OUTLOOK has chosen  to dissect the chain-mails so intensely why were these left out?


What, as a modern Jane would ask, is OUTLOOK"s problem if a few patriotic Indians sing paeans to her glory in what the magazine calls chain-mails? 

This is what our government tells the American public in the science and technology section of its Washington embassy website: "The tradition of Science and Technology (S & T) in India is over 5000 years old." (http://www.indianembassy.org/dydemo/science.htm). 

And this is what the Indian government advises visitors in its science and technology section: "India has a long and distinguished tradition in science and technology, from the ancient times to great achievements during this century." (http://india.gov.in/sectors/science/index.php)

Our friend Ashish Nandy has not noticed these websites else he would have, as Shakespeare so aptly put it "dressed his purpose in an opinion of profound conceit" to say of the babus of the Indian government (or whoever approved copy for the websites), what he said of the writers of the chain-mails:  "If the writers of these e-mails were to be examined at a clinic, they"d be diagnosed as mentally ill."

Mushirul Hasan, another of OUTLOOK"s panel of "experts" and secular India"s moderate Muslim face lets the cat out of the bag. For him the problem with such claims as Takshila being the oldest university in the world is not so much about its veracity but that it "comes from a "dangerous mindset" that "seeks to present a one-sided picture by listing the achievements of Hindu India and ignoring other periods." 

Should we then rewrite Indian history to "accommodate" what secularists like to call "composite culture"? Unfortunately for Hassan, Nalanda predates Islam - let alone Mohammedan rule in India - by almost 1400 years!


Here is a joke from the Speaker"s Encyclopaedia of Humor compiled by Judge Jacob M Braude, retold, suitably modified to cleanse it of a possible gender bias:

A man who reached - man"s final destination - wished to look up his wife who predeceased him. He accosted St. Peter (the biblical equivalent of our Chitragupta) at the Pearly Gates and asked him about his wife Jane. St. Peter explained that he would have to come up with some form of personal identification as there were hundreds of Janes. The man explained that at their last meeting she cautioned him that if he were ever unfaithful to her after her death she would turn in her grave. St. Peter exclaimed, "Oh, you mean pinwheel Jane!"

Well, looking at the proclivities and commitment to truth of our present day media persons, the legendary media figures of the past who used media as a tool to educate the masses, fight oppression, fight anti-democratic forces and  fight anti-national forces must be spinning like wheels - in their graves

U. Narayana Das

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