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The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS - Jawed Naqvi

Every­onr has the right to change their opin­ions and to choose or dump their po­lit­i­cal be­liefs or al­le­giances. At an in­tel­lec­tual level, chang­ing or dis­card­ing an opin­ion is con­sid­ered a sign of a healthy mind.

A car­di­nal rule in academia is to keep ques­tion­ing the ax­iom un­re­lent­ingly. Pro­fes­sor Sarvepalli Gopal's mas­terly lec­tures (in gen­tle Oxbridge) on the kisan move­ment in Ut­tar Pradesh opened en­tire new per­spec­tives for his his­tory stu­dents. How­ever, when a stu­dent one day noted an anom­aly in what he was say­ing and what he had writ­ten in his book, the his­to­rian's re­join­der con­tained a world of wis­dom: "Is there any­thing wrong in chang­ing an opin­ion?"

Jour­nal­ists are a part of a so­ci­ety's in­tel­lec­tual sinews. As with any other pro­fes­sion, there are good jour­nal­ists and bad jour­nal­ists. Some jour­nal­ists, be it out of per­sonal am­bi­tion or mis­sion­ary zeal, cross over into the po­lit­i­cal arena.

Well-re­garded jour­nal­ists in In­dia have gone to the Congress, oth­ers have gone to the BJP. A few have be­come ac­tive mem­bers of the Aam Aadmi Party and so forth. Some jour­nal­ists end up be­com­ing pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cers for busi­ness houses they oth­er­wise served less hon­estly as hand­out hacks. There was a time when a fairly large num­ber of jour­nal­ists ac­tively be­longed to the left, some of them card-car­ry­ing mem­bers of this or that com­mu­nist party.

Well-re­garded jour­nal­ists in In­dia have gone to the Congress, oth­ers have gone to the BJP. Af­ter the re­cent bout of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence in Kas­ganj in Ut­tar Pradesh a few of my col­leagues rushed to the spot to in­ves­ti­gate the story. I picked up Riot Af­ter Riot, an in­sight­ful book by a jour­nal­ist-turned-politi- cian about re­li­gious vi­o­lence and other forms of con­flicts dog­ging In­dia. M.J. Ak­bar's book car­ries a word of praise from Khush­want Singh, an­other gi­ant of a jour­nal­ist.

The Congress party in­ducted both as MPs; Singh went to Ra­jya Sabha un­der Indira Gandhi and Ak­bar to the Lok Sabha to be part of Ra­jiv Gandhi's event­ful ten­ure. Khush­want Singh sup­ported Mrs Gandhi's emer­gency and later spon­sored the can­di­da­ture of BJP leader Lal Kis­han Ad­vani to Lok Sabha, a de­ci­sion he later re­gret­ted. Ak­bar went over to the Ra­jya Sabha as Prime Min­is­ter Modi's hand­picked man as­signed to an im­por­tant cab­i­net post at the for­eign min­istry.

We don't re­ally know what Ak­bar feels about the tran­si­tion from this to that party. I am not even aware if he has ever ex­plained the rea­sons for the tran­si­tion. But let us see what he wrote ear­lier and whether his po­lit­i­cal move to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, the po­lit­i­cal front of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­wak Sangh he once crit­i­cised, came with a change of opin­ion about his faith in In­dia's sec­u­lar tryst.

"Law and or­der have two en­e­mies: the Full Truth and the Com­plete Lie. When peo­ple re­alise the truth, they start rev­o­lu­tions. When they are fed lies they be­gin mean­ing­less riots." I am quot­ing from Riot Af­ter Riot.

"Lies are the sta­ple of ev­ery com­mu­nal dis­tur­bance. They are spread by peo­ple who have a stake in this stupid vi­o­lence, who have some­thing to gain out of im­pov­er­ished Hin­dus and Mus­lims fight­ing each other. Busi­ness­men, traders, politi­cians, goon­das, 'lead­ers of cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions' (like the Hindu Rashtriya Swayam­se­wak Sangh - RSS) feed the peo­ple with lies, watch th­ese lies be­come con­vic­tions in peo­ple's hearts, watch the pas­sions build up, and then th­ese lead- ers ac­tu­ally set up the events which will pro­voke a con­fla­gra­tion. They sim­ply stick a pin into the nerves of peo­ple, and it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the peo­ple ex­plode.

"Then, when the first round of vi­o­lence is over, when the ini­tial steam has been let off, the lies keep on cir­cu­lat­ing. The peo­ple must not re­alise that they have been fooled. Or they will tear down their false heroes. There is fuel ready in the murky events that make up com­mu­nal vi­o­lence, and upon this more lies are heaped and spread.

"Af­ter all, if the Hin­dus and Mus­lims live in peace, how will the RSS find an­other con­vert? How will the trader sell arms? How will a shop­keeper have the plea­sure see­ing a ri­val's shop burn down? How will the goon­das loot? How will the com­mu­nal­ist kill fel­low hu­man be­ings? Keep the life float­ing friends!"

In a chap­ter ti­tled 'Split-level war in Jamshed­pur', Ak­bar blended some se­ri­ous spot re­port­ing with use­ful in­sights into what can be dis­cerned as a pat­tern of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence gen­er­ally, and in Jamshed­pur specif­i­cally.

"The steel city of Jamshed­pur has wit­nessed com­mu­nal strife ever since the first steel mill was built. It is now a nou­veau riche city with dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties com­pet­ing for as much of trade and com­merce as they can.

"Wealth breeds crime as well as pros­per­ity; the city has its share of the un­der­world. Ten­sion has many causes, many faces. Re­li­gious fes­ti­vals and pro­ces­sions lead to ri­ot­ing which politi­cians are quick to ex­ploit to their ad­van­tage.

Early, in April 1979, Bala Sa­heb De­o­ras, head of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­wak Sangh, a Hindu fun­da­men­tal­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, vis­ited Jamshed­pur and ex­horted Hin­dus to as­sert their rights in a Hindu coun­try. Ten days later the city went up in flames, re­duc­ing en­tire lo­cal­i­ties to ashes and leav­ing scores of in­no­cent men, women and chil­dren dead."

Ak­bar's jour­nal­is­tic ex­posés were cel­e­brated as quiver to pro­tect the poor and the abused from their ex­ploiters.

Even the Maoists had a soft cor­ner for his work, as per­haps he had for them. "The threads by which the tribal has been trapped has taken a long time to weave.

To cre­ate a good slave you must first kill his pride, his sel­f­re­spect, his no­tion of him­self as an or­di­nary, equal hu­man be­ing. The slave's body is needed - the man's for labour, the woman's for labour and abuse; but to con­trol the body, the in­ner spark, which ig­nites anger must be crushed. There are many weapons in the spi­der's arse­nal, both psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal, but the chief one is dra­mat­i­cally sim­ple: hunger."

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