Posts Tagged ‘Sitaram Yechury’

Indian Express vs The Hindu, N. Ram vs N. Ravi

25 March 2010

***

The Indian Express, Delhi, has a front-page “exclusive” on the fracas in the family controlling The Hindu, Madras.

The main points the Express story (also simultaneouly carried in its sister-business daily Financial Express) by media correspondent Archna Shukla makes are:

a) disagreements over the “proposed retirement” of publisher and editor-in-chief N. Ram;

b) the stripping of powers of his brother N. Murali as managing director of the company; and

c) Ram’s recent appointment of family members to the paper allegedly without the board’s consent: his daughter Vidya Ram as the new European correspondent of The Hindu Business Line and Narayan Lakshman as the Hindu’s new Washington correspondent.

N. Ram hit back within hours of the Express story, stating that he would launch “civil and criminal” defamation proceedings against the Express reporter, editor-in-chief, editor and publisher.

“These reports are riddled with demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions, some of them attributed to unnamed sources, made with reckless and malicious disregard for the facts and the truth. And this despite the professional courtesy I extended to the journalist and the newspapers by responding precisely and factually to five specific questions emailed to me on March 24 by Ms Shukla.”

Ram also put out the news of his seeking legal recourse to his 6,562 followers on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

If rumours of the family rift are true, this is the second round in the battle for control of The Hindu.

N. Ram was at the centre of the first one, too. In the early 1990s, then editor G. Kasturi had made way for Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy at The Hindu, while Ram was shafted off to edit Frontline and Sportstar.

Ten years later, Ram later teamed up with Kasturi to stage a return.

It now looks like payback time with Kasturi’s son K. Balaji being made managing director of the company at the February 20 board meeting, sharing wideranging responsibilities and supervisory powers over several departments: accounts, production, industrial relations, EDP, purchase of newsprint and other raw materials.

The Express story says Ravi and Malini Parathasarathy have now objected to the manner in which…

“Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members”.

As if to underline the substance of the Express story, N. Ravi revived his Twitter acount after four months to say what he thought of N. Ram’s tweet on (and threat of) the defamation case against Express.

And as if to leave the world in no doubt about who stands where in the undivided Hindu family, Malini Parthasarathy retweeted N. Ravi’s tweet, with her own tweet on Twitter.

Internecine family battles are par for the course in the Indian media. The Deccan Herald group went through it in the mid-1990s, as has the Indian Express reporting The Hindu strife, though both have found ways and means of dividing labour within the family without further bloodshed.

More recently, the Amar Ujala group was also in the middle of a messy family battle, which hit the headlines after some worthies including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla‘s son were caught passing a bribe.

What lends The Hindu vs The Indian Express legal battle an added edge is the abrasive nature of the two people at the helm: Hindu editor-in-chief Ram and Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta. (Ram came in at No. 70 in the Express powerlist published in January this year.)

Secondly, The Indian Express and The Hindu are at opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum. While the former is a gung-ho supporter of all things America (nuclear deal, GM foods, etc), the latter, under the CPM card-carrying Ram, is decidedly less so.

If the defamation case goes ahead, it will be interesting for more reasons than one.

The resident editor of Express in Delhi (responsible for news selection under the law) is Seema Chishti, wife of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

N. Ram and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat have been bosom buddies since their days at Madras Christian Loyola College, where they were together with home minister P. Chidambaram, now ironically seen to be close to Shekhar Gupta.

Meanwhile, as rumours of a fresh board meeting gain ground, clearly the sudden turn of events is causing much mirth in rival publishing houses, too, even if they share the same name as the paper that broke the story.

Aditya Sinha, editor-in-chief of The New Indian Express—the new name given to the southern editions after the Indian Express split following the death of Ramnath Goenka—does his bit to fan the rumour mills through his Twitter account.

Can not reviewing a book become anti-national?

4 April 2008

The Indian English media’s relationship with the literary world is, at best, a tempestuous one. The country’s biggest newspaper, The Times of India, does not, as a matter of policy, carry reviews of books by Indians although Salman Rushdie‘s latest squeeze or V.S. Naipual‘s visits to prostitutes will get acres of coverage.

The English magazines at least have designated books’ editors but the range of books reviewed is limited. On television, the country’s most respected English language network, NDTV, has a dedicated weekly programme called Just Books (Saturdays, 12.30 pm) hosted by Sunil Sethi, formerly of India Today and Sunday Mail.

On top of that, there are all the usual questions: Do enough readers read books to merit dedicated coverage? Do book review-reading readers buy books? Should the media be bothered about who buys the books? Should books in the Indian languages get coverage in the English media? Who decides what books to review, what author to feature? Can an author demand coverage as a matter of right? Etcetera.

Enter, Amaresh Misra (in picture), film critic turned columnist turned war analyst.

Author of Mangal Pandey: The true story of an Indian revolutionary (Rupa) and the biography Lucknow: Fire of grace (HarperCollins), the Allahabad-born Misra wrote his magnum opus War of Civilizations: India, South Asia, Europe and the World, to mark the sesquicentenary year of the Indian war of independence last year.

But, Misra claims that NDTV’s Sethi refused to feature the book or the author on his programme. Worse, Misra alleges that Sethi made “racist remarks” over the phone. That exchange has led to a fullblown war of words between the author and the channel.

Misra has dashed off an angry, invective-laden letter to the channel’s compliance officer, Rajiv Mathur, alleging, among other things, an “anti-India attitude” and a bias against “secular authors from the Hindi-Urdu belt”.

Dear Mr Rajiv Mathur,

At the outset let me explain some things to you. I have not written War of Civilisations “allegedly”; it has been published by Rupa in January 2008. It has been reviewed in The Hindu, The Indian Express, Financial Express, Hindustan Times, and other Hindi, Urdu, Marathi and Gujarati journals and magazines.

It seems you are too ignorant a person, you do not read newspapers, and you do not care to check facts. You look down upon Hindi, the regional language and the Urdu press. Obviously, Sunil Sethi has fooled you.

You lie when you say “we neither appreciate nor entertain any requests, influence” in Just Books or any other program. You do not give enough space to secular views especially if they come from the Hindi-Urdu belt. In 2004, your channel too succumbed to portraying that BJP is going to win. All you English speaking ignorant people got that one wrong.

You have a prejudice against the Hindi-Urdu belt and Muslims; because that is the land and those are the people who gave India freedom, something which you anti-national people do not like; the Hindi belt also, does not speak in your wimpish language.

I am writing a letter to all leading secular politicians from Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sonia Gandhi, to V.P. Singh, and Sitaram Yechury, and all other intellectuals who respect me as a writer.

This is now war.

I was in a mood to compromise but you guys are too smug. It would be interesting to see how even the BJP will react to the fact of Prannoy Roy‘s British ancestry and how that has translated into an anti-India attitude in NDTV English.

I have no quarrel with NDTV Hindi.

The letter I am writing will explain how the only detailed book written by an Indian on the 150th anniversary of 1857 was ignored by NDTV. Sunil Sethi personally told me that he has time for Salman Rushdie and not for me. You first review William Dalrymple‘s book (The Last Mughal) and then you ignore mine, which is a bigger work on 1857 and which has created waves in London as you can see from the Guardian article attached with this mail.

Tell me if you were in my place, what would you have construed? Isn’t this racism? Dalrymple is white, so he is reviewed but not Amaresh Misra because he is dark?

Now you will say that you have reviewed other Indian writers. Let us make a list of those writers. And let us see who they are. They are people who are anti-small town India. Barring exceptions, they are people who cannot digest the fact that a dark skinned man like me someone who is rugged, capable of taking on all you guys single-handedly in intellect, use of English language and physical strength, who laughs at the pathetic pretensions of Delhi’s English pseudo-elite wimpish culture and their kowtowing to “C” grade foreigners roaming in Delhi—has written a book which can be compared to likes of Kay, Malleson and Eric Stokes. It would be too much, of course, to expect that you have even heard of these names.

As it is Sunil Sethi knows nothing and even your English speaking Delhi intelligentsia laughs at him. Charlie Chaplin would have made a film called The Small Book Buffoon on him. If you had ignored my any other book (which you have) I might not have complained. But this is a book on 1857—it is about Indian nationalism.

You cannot, I repeat, cannot ignore it, whatever happens.

A thousand NDTVs can be closed down, a thousand Prannoy Roys, Rajiv Mathurs and Sunil Sethis of the world can be grinded into dust on the issue of Indian nationalism. The British killed 10 million Indians; Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life; what are you in front of them—not even a speck in the dust.

The issue is too large. You guys take direct orders from foreign embassies and on the nuclear deal your views are pro-American. 1857 goes against pro-Americanism. That is why you do not want to publicise the book.

You guys are racists—you portray UP and Bihar as a land of darkness; you do not want to give a chance to a man from that region, even though he is far more accomplished than all of you put together. I will charge you formally with the criminal charge of racism and anti-national activities.

Let hell reign.

Amaresh Misra

Photograph: courtesy Kedar Nene/Fotocorp, The Hindu

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