Archive for June 5th, 2008

Not the land of the cow, the land of holy cows

5 June 2008

The “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic” of India is fast becoming, if it has not already become, the “notionally sovereign, chauvinistic, parochial, intolerant republic”.

Especially from a media point of view.

On Sunday, political psychologist Ashis Nandy came under attack from the BJP government of Gujarat for an “opinion” piece blaming the middle class for the thumping return to power of Narendra Modi in the assembly elections last December.

On Thurday, Lok Satta editor Kumar Ketkar (in picture) came under attack from the Nationalist Congress Party for an “opinion” piece criticising the Congress-NCP government for a planned move to install a 309-feet-tall statue of Chatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, off Marine Drive, a la the Statue of Liberty.

In his piece, published yesterday in the Marathi language paper owned by the Indian Express group, Ketkar had questioned the priorities of the government in erecting the statue at such great expense at a time when debt-ridden farmers were killing themselves and when children were dying due to malnutrition.

In the editorial, Ketkar also opined that the Maharashtra government was trying to gain political mileage by misusing the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji and making it their copyright.

This morning, incensed activists of an organisation headed by an NCP member of the legislative council barged into Ketkar’s house in Thane, broke windows with stones and spears, and attempted to ransack the house. CNN-IBN says that there are reports that there were attempts to burn down the house with petrol and kerosene. And all this while Ketkar and his wife were inside.

But Ketkar stood by his editorial.

“The people who attacked me must not have read the editorial. I never said anything denigrating to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and I stand by my opinion on the proposed statue. I have merely questioned the importance being given to the statue of Shivaji while the state has other problems to tackle,” Ketkar said.

NCP was founded by Union minister Sharad Pawar, who played a lead role in the protests that resulted in the resignation of Vinod Mehta as editor of the Bombay newspaper, The Independent, in the early 1990s for a story that said the late Y.B. Chavan was a CIA spy in the Morarji Desai ministry.

But in a state where Shiv Sena activists ransacked the Bhandarkar Institute in Poona for “helping” American author James Laine who allegedly made some derogatory remarks against Shivaji in a scholarly book, Ketkar and Mehta are small fry as the list of holy cows grows longer.

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Cross-posted on churumuri

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