Posts Tagged ‘LTTE’

Express declares ceasefire; brothers declare war

29 March 2010

The tussle between The Indian Express and The Hindu following the former’s reports (Part I and Part II) on the boardroom happenings in the latter has predictably and understandably gone cold after N. Ram‘s belligerent announcement of “criminal and civil defamation proceedings”.

Express bossman Shekhar Gupta is said to have instructed staff to go easy but the Hindu‘s editor-in-chief delivers a sucker punch by way of a tweet, on the Express‘s widely speculated motive/s for doing the stories.

However, the tussle within The Hindu boardroom—chiefly among three brothers—shows little signs of abating and two business papers, Mint owned by the Hindustan Times group and Business Standard, feast on it in today’s editions, even hinting that it could result in a corporate legal wrangle.

After telephone conversations with the two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram—managing director N. Murali who has been stripped of his powers and kicked upstairs as the senior managing director, and N. Ravi, who is smarting at not getting to be editor-in-chief had Ram retired in May 2010 as per a previously agreed plan—Mint lays out the three key issues facing the family-owned paper.

1) Retirement norms for family member-directors

2) Entry norms into the business for younger members of the family

3) Overall corporate governance issues

Ravi is quoted as saying that discussions on corporate governance norms had been going on for a couple of years now and that he, along with Murali, had prepared a document on it to be circulated among board members in the February 2010 meeting.

By far, though, the Business Standard story throws more light.

Murali is quoted as saying that he…

“…has been ‘singularly targeted, utterly humiliated and sought to be disempowered by being divested of all substantial powers and responsibilities’.”

BS also quotes Murali on record as saying that the proposal for retirement of directors on reaching the age of 65 was moved by him at a September 2009 meeting, as per which Ram as to have remited office this May, Murali next year, and Ravi in 2011.

However, Ram is quoted as saying there was no written record on retirement age.

In an accompanying story, the paper quotes an unnamed member of the board of Kasturi & Sons as saying that moving the company law board (CLB) over issues about running the group was an option.

It reveals that there was a concerted move within the board to confine Murali’s powers to circulation, till the opposition of other members resulted in his getting to share two other responsibilities (accounts and industrial relations) with newly appointed MD, K. Balaji, son of Ram’s mentor and former editor, G. Kasturi.

However, BS quotes Ram as saying that key decisions at the March 20 board meeting, which resulted in the news breaking into the open, were either taken by a majority of 9-3 or unanimously. (The third dissent vote is likely to have come from former executive editor Malini Parthasarathy who stands to lose the most.)

Ram also tells BS that Murali had been redesignated as senior managing director “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

However, the real juice is in the issue of the appointments of Generation Next: Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman as the new correspondent of The Hindu in Washington DC, and Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram as the European correspondent based in London for The Hindu Business Line.

According to this version of the BS story, available on rediff.com:

“Under central government rules, a decision to include a family member in the organisation with a remuneration of more than Rs 50,000 a month requires the clearance of the central government. There are charges that Lakshman and Vidya were sent to their locations before the clearances came.

“Lakshman was sanctioned $10,000 and Vidya 5,000 pounds as advances from the company. However the central government sent some queries to the company asking for details on the procedures followed or whether a selection committee was set up to appoint them.

“In order to reply to these questions a board resolution was initiated by Ram which was opposed by some members on the ground that he was an interested party.

“Ram has a different version. ‘The two appointments of relatives of directors have been done meticulously in accordance with the requirements of law: Approval by the board, approval by the shareholders, and central government approval. There was no violation of any kind.’

“He says it is elementary that advances for travel expenses on editorial or business assignments are completely different from remuneration or salaries, which are contingent on employment. ‘I declared an interest in my daughter’s appointment and did not participate in any matter in which I should not have.’

Meanwhile, the fracas within The Hindu has become easy meat for those wanting to get their fork (and knife) into the paper.

The security analyst, B. Raman, former additional secretary, in his widely emailed “thoughts for the day”, poses these questions:

(a) Has the time not come for greater transparency in The Hindu group?

(b) Has the time not come for the Government to introduce, in consultation with the media houses, a right to information act relating to media houses?

(c) Is it not in public interest  for the rest of the media to have a debate through their columns on the issues raised by the controversy between The Hindu and The Indian Express?

(d) Are the media houses and journalists holy cows beyond criticism or spotlight?

Raman makes one good point though.

The inadequate information over ownership and editorial control, which the current controversy highlights, he writes, results in…

“the reading public patronising the “Hindu” not being aware of the fact that a small group of members of the same family decide what should be reported to the public and what views and opinions should be disseminated through the columns of the paper. The reading public has difficulty in knowing who is a relative and who is an independent member of the staff capable of providing an objective point of view uninfluenced by the interests of the family.”

A pro-LTTE website also sees in the tussle the premature comeuppance of an editor who dragged The Hindu into adopting an anti-Tamil Eelam line.

Writes TamilNet.com:

“Ram’s Hindu played a major role in translating the desertion of “Colonel” Karuna from the LTTE into a politico-military machination beneficial to Colombo and New Delhi.

“Even after the war ended in Vanni, Ram’s continued support to genocidal Colombo and opposition to Tamil independence signify larger agenda, commented academic circles in Chennai. Some academics have now stopped writing in The Hindu.

“Ram was also accused of playing China’s agent in India by Tibetan organizations.”

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu. N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

When an Indian journo shouted at Prabhakaran

20 May 2009

Dozens of journalists have written on the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose death was announced to the world by Sri Lanka on Tuesday, May 18.

On rediff.com, Athimuthu Ganesh Nadar writes of his encounter with Prabhakaran seven years ago when he was among 350 international journalists who attended a press conference in Killinochi.

“I and several others had their hands raised for the entire hour. Nothing happened! Only the BBC, CNN, and The New York Times took turns asking questions.

“”I lost my head, I jumped up and screamed in Tamil, “Ungalukku vellaikaran rombu pedichirndal engalaya yen kuptinga, nangallum kadalay thandi, naady thandi vandu erukkirom. (You like only white people, why did you invite us? We too have crossed the ocean, crossed borders to meet you).”

“Luckily I screamed in Tamil. I believe that is the only reason the LTTE did not shoot me.

“Prabhakaran did not react. [LTTE ideologue] Anton Balasingham came to his feet, “Sorry, sorry please don’t be upset, please ask your question.”

“I forgot to introduce myself, I forgot to tell them my organisation’s name. I managed to ask in a faltering voice, “There are 240 countries in the world, why Norway?””

Read the full article: The day I met Prabhakaran

‘An unruly and illegal expression of intolerance’

17 October 2008

Shooting the media has become an acceptable bloodsport in India, especially if the message is contrary to the closely held views and beliefs of linguistic, parochial, chauvinistic, political, fundamentalist, extremist, militant, communal and casteist groups. And that’s not the full, unabridged list.

The Hindu, the 138-year-old Madras newspaper with editions in all the four southern States, has become the target of pro-Tamil LTTE groups which do not share the paper’s stand on the military action that the Sri Lankan government has taken in the north of the island republic, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) hold sway. The paper’s offices have been attacked in Coimbatore and Erode.

Below is the full text of the statement issued by N. Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, condemning the attacks:

***

“On behalf of our 130-year-old newspaper, its 3,528 employees, and four million readers, I wish to strongly condemn the illegal acts of mischief and violence in Coimbatore and Erode by activists of the pro-LTTE fringe group calling itself the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) along with a handful of anti-social elements.

“These unruly and illegal acts were an expression of intolerance of the newspaper’s criticism of pro-LTTE and pro-Eelam chauvinism in the Tamil Nadu political arena. In our considered editorial assessment, these chauvinistic, pro-separatist tendencies are deeply inimical to the interests of the Indian people.

“Hearteningly, the overwhelming majority of the people of Tamil Nadu, who do not want a replay of the propaganda campaigns and violent activities of the terrorist Tamil Tigers in one of India’s most peaceful States, firmly oppose these chauvinistic tendencies. This is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that, post-1991, even the small pro-LTTE parties have not dared campaign on a pro-LTTE platform in any State or general election.

“The latest act of mischief and violence against our newspaper occurred around 5 a.m. on Thursday, October 16 at the Erode Bus Stand. A group of about half a dozen persons raising pro-LTTE slogans invaded the point of distribution, assaulted the person in charge of this distribution point, indulged in filthy slogans and threats, distributed hand bills extolling the LTTE, snatched 2400 copies of The Hindu and 390 copies of Business Line, doused them with petrol, and set them on fire. Thanks to the vigilance of our staff and the outrage of hawkers, two of the culprits were apprehended on the spot.

“The police have registered a case at the Erode Town Police Station under Sections 147, 323, 294(b), 285, 427, 506, and 506(i) of the IPC and arrested the leaders of the group, Kumaragurubaran, 42, district organiser of the PDK, and M. Jayakumar, 30, of the ‘Tamil Desiya Podhu Udaimai Katchi.’ The police are on the look-out for the other culprits.

“Earlier, on Tuesday, October 14, there were two incidents targeting our Coimbatore office on LIC Road. Some activists of the lawyers’ group of the PDK demanded that The Hindu reverse its editorial stand against pro-LTTE and pro-Eelam chauvinism, burnt some copies of the newspaper, and attempted to march to our office.

“The police effectively prevented them from doing so, thus preventing possible violence, and registered a case under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 285 (negligent conduct with regard to fire or combustible matter) of the Indian Penal Code. The second incident, involving about ten persons, including PDK activists and law college students, was more serious. The group marched towards The Hindu office in Coimbatore, two persons sneaked through the police cordon, and tried to scale the iron gate and force their way past our staff and security personnel. One of them hurled a stone, which fortunately caused no injury or damage. The police arrested ten persons, who were later released on bail, and registered a case against this group under Sections 147 (unlawful assembly), 285, 447 (criminal trespass), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), and 506 (i) (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.

“While we are satisfied with the response of the police in Coimbatore and Erode to these criminal acts — which constituted a threat to the physical safety of our journalists, non-journalistic staff, and others working for us, and to freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution — we would like the police as well as the Tamil Nadu Government to take stronger action under the law of the land against the extremist fringe outfits and the individuals, including lawyers, behind these illegal acts.

“We expect the police and the State government to monitor and pursue seriously the prosecution of these cases, so that exemplary punishment under the law of the land is meted out to those who menace freedom of expression in the cause of a banned terrorist organisation.”

Photograph: Copies of The Hindu and Business Line set on fire at the Erode bus stand on Thursday morning. At right, a pro-LTTE handbill found at the site warned The Hindu against publishing ‘anti-Tamil’ reports and accused it of ‘betraying’ Tamils’ interests (courtesy M. Govarthan/ The Hindu)

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