Vishwas Krishna forwards a Twitter link of the number of times The Hindu looks forward to a “keen contest on the cards”.
For the record, a Google search for “hindu.com keen contest on the cards” generates 1,930 results in 0.05 seconds.
the news. the views. the juice.
As the 2G spectrum allocation scam hits the ceiling once again, the original gadfly of Indian politics, Subramanian Swamy, the Harvard-educated national president of the Janata Party, with a daughter in the TV business, sends a Twitter response to a follower on the media mavens whose names allegedly figure in tapped conversations of PR honcho Niira Radia.
For the record, Swamy’s bio reads: “I give as good as I get.”
sans serif records with a heavy heart the passing away of photojournalist Selvan Shiv Kumar in Bangalore today. He was in his early 40s and had been ailing for some time. He is survived by his wife and son.
Shiv Kumar had worked in The Times of India, Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times and DNA in Bangalore, Delhi and Bhopal, covering the hunt for Veerappan and the manhunt of Rajiv Gandhi‘s killers among other assignments.
In July 1997, Shiv became the first Indian photojournalist to be selected for the Reuters Foundation Willy Vicoy fellowship for the fall term at the University of Missouri, USA. As photo editor of the newly launched Bangalore edition of DNA in 2008, Shiva was responsible for a five-days-a-week picture page.
He was photo editor of Bangalore Mirror at the time of his demise.
Last active on his Twitter account in May, one of his tweets reads:
“Photojournalism has lost its sheen of spontaneous pictures to the present day of posing and the subject looking into the camera.”
Read his profile: Light Stalkers
Visit his blog: http://shivselvan.blogspot.com
View some of his pictures: Flickr
The background of all those who perished in Saturday’s air crash in Mangalore is still unclear. But among those killed are a staffer of the Dubai newspaper, Gulf News, and her husband and their daughter who was probably headed for a career in journalism.
Manirekha Poonja worked in the finance department of the newspaper, and her family was on a short visit to Mangalore for a wedding. None of the three survived, according to a report on the paper’s website.
Manirekha’s daughter, Harshini Poonja, was a student of media and communication. Harshini tweeted before she boarded the illfated Dubai-Mangalore plane last night.
The profile on her blog, last updated yesterday, reads:
“I am not done becoming me yet.“
Her location on Twitter reads, “Infinite Universe”.
The Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy‘s 31-page, 19,556-word essay “Walking with the comrades” in Outlook magazine*, has produced a fast and succinct response from the journalistic Twitterati after Tuesday’s dastardly ambush of paramilitary forces by said comrades.
From top, NDTV English group editor Barkha Dutt, Pioneer senior editor Kanchan Gupta, Indian Express columnist Tavleen Singh, former Stardust editor Shobhaa De, and London based freelance writer, Salil Tripathi. Tripathi also has a finely argued critique of Roy’s piece in The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, the adman turned magazine editor turned columnist Anil Thakraney offers this take on his Facebook status update.
* Disclosures apply
Screenshots: courtesy Twitter
SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Can a nearly spotless journalistic career of 45 years—30 of those for one of the most trusted broadcasters in the world—be tainted, tarbrushed and tarnished by a pathetic paperback written under a pseudonym?
And the book that is causing all the damage to the reputation of the man India knows as Mark Tully is the 166-page Hindutva, Sex and Adventure written under the nom de plume “John MacLithon“, and published by Roli books, whose promoter once published the Sunday Mail newspaper from Delhi.
For 30 years, the Calcutta-born Tully was the BBC’s voice of India; his classic, halting signoff “Mark Tully, BBC, Delhi” as much a reassurance that all was right with the world as a stamp of authority of what we had just heard. After retirement in 1994, he settled down to write columns and books, many of them on the land of his birth (No full stops in India, India in slow motion, India’s unending journey, et al).
So much did Tully sahib endear himself to the establishment that he was decorated with India’s third and fourth highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan and Padma Sri.
Now, a nice little question mark has been hung at his door at No. 1, Nizamuddin (East) by a cowardly, scurrilous and unimaginative roman à clef that makes no pretence of hiding who it is based on and worse, hangs the entire body of work of a 74-year-old on his alleged political leanings without giving him the chance to respond in public.
MacLithon doesn’t, of course, take Tully’s name in the book, but in discussing the life and times and adventures of “Andrew Lyut, a radio journalist who is posted to India because he was born there and speaks a smattering of Hindu”, reviews and reviewers are doing the damage:
# In his India Today review, Dilip Bobb writes “the book is so obviously based on Mark Tully, the ex-BBC bureau chief and media star who spent almost his entire career in India, covering the region.”
# The Times of India‘s Crest edition says the “protagonist Andrew Luyt has plenty of similarities with Mark Tully. Luyt can be an anagram for Tuly. Like the famous BBC correspondent, he is born in India, works as radio journalist and quits his job over a disagreement with his boss.”
# The tabloid Mail Today newspaper remarks that “the author’s bio is both impressive and suspiciously familiar: he has interviewed six Indian prime ministers, dodged bullets on the India-Pakistan border and has covered the Mumbai riots (Is he Mark Tully? Or [former Fortune correspondent] John Elliot? The speculative list just gets bigger.)
# All three items in the gossip column of Outlook magazine’s books pages this week are devoted to the book with Mark Tully‘s name finding mention eight times, without a single mention of the name of the pseudonymous author.
So, who is causing the damage to Tully more—the book and its author and publisher, or the reviewers of newspapers and magazines, for most of whom Tully has written before—is a fair question to ask.
An equally good question to ask is which part of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure is causing discomfiture to Tully: the Hindutva part, the sex part or the adventure part?
It surely can’t be the sex. A 2001 profile of Tully on BBC reveals unabashedly that he “womanised and drank to excess” as an undergraduate at Cambridge. He considered becoming a priest at the Church of England but dropped out after two terms.
“I just knew I could not trust my sexuality to behave as a Christian priest should. And I didn’t want to be a cause of scandal.”
And then, there is the small matter of his girlfriend Gillian Wright, with whom he stays while in Delhi, and his wife and mother of his four children, Margaret, with whom he stays when in London.
It can’t also be the “adventure” part of the title. From the wars with Pakistan to the Bhopal gas tragedy, from the Emergency to Operation Bluestar, from the killing of Indira Gandhi to that of her son Rajiv Gandhi, Tully saw plenty of adventures, upclose and upfront.
What probably rankles Tully, or perhaps, what really the pseudonymous author wants to irritate Tully with, is the veiled accusation that he was a closet Hindutva supporter all along without letting the mask drop before his listeners, readers, employers and other benefactors.
Here are three of many quotes from the book that the author uses to underline Andrew Luyt’s veering towards a soft Hindutva vision:
# “I am an Anglican and some of my clergy think yoga is very un-Christian, but how can you dislike something born in your country, that has taken the world by storm.”
# “The first question he asked Benazir Bhutto was about Kashmir, since she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the valley of Kashmir.”
# “He had expected a rabid fundamentalist, a dangerous man. Actually, Andrew discovered over the years, L.K. Advani was a gentle soul, who would probably be unable to hurt a bird.”
If this is proof of Tully’s leanings, it is old hat.
In fact, in 2003, seven years before John MacLithon’s book was published, the political commentator Amulya Ganguli wrote this in the Hindustan Times:
“For several years now, the BBC’s Mark Tully has provided indirect support to the BJP’s Hindutva cause. His contention, as reiterated in a new TV documentary, Hindu Nation, is that secularism is unsuitable for India. The reason: it is a doctrine which keeps religion out of public life, an attempt which is bound to fail —and has failed—in a country as “deeply religious” as India. Hence, the Congress’s decline and the BJP’s rise.”
Much earlier, in 1997, the remarks reportedly made by Tully while addressing the National Hindu Students’ Forum in Britain had created a big buzz.
According to the Asian Age newspaper reporting it, Tully said:
“I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it.‘ And for Hindus to be able to say with pride that they are Hindus.”"
Stunningly, or perhaps not, the author introduction on the back cover of the book and on the website of the publisher has the exact same line as the Asian Age quote.
“Some of John MacLithon’s admirers were shocked when he declared a few years ago: ‘I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it’.”
So, in a sense, the book doesn’t tell us anything humanity didn’t know or had not suspected about Tully’s political leanings; it just packages it for posterity especially with two imputations: a) We should take Tully’s overall “objective” output with a pinch of salt, and/or b) that somehow he has done Hindutva some disservice by not aligning himself openly with the cause” (as perhaps the pseudonymous author has).
# In its short review of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure, The Times of India writes that the “Hindutva bits are quite forgettable”.
# Dilip Bobb says in his review that after quitting his job, MacLithon’s protagonist Andrew Luyt settles down “with a ‘partner’ to write books which go soft on Hindutva and Hinduism.”
# An unnamed reviewer in the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle writes that Luyt’s “very protestant upbringing and secular outlook shapes the way he views the events around him and with every passing episode his stance on Hindutva softens.”
Whether Mark Tully dislikes the Hindutva hint no one knows for sure, although one editor who has known the BBC correspondent, says the Tully’s views on Hindutva and Hinduism “do not in any way reflect” Luyt’s; in fact, he says, he would “disagree with them profoundly”.
But it is quite clear that the pseudonymous foreign correspondent’s motive is to throw mud at Tully and to draw him into the debate on his “soft Hindutva leanings”, which Tully has resisted so far. At least in public.
So whodunit? Who could be behind the book on Tully?
According to the Outlook bibliophile, while signing the contract with Roli Books 18 months ago, the pseudonymous author took great pains to protect his identity, even inserting a clause that treated the “divulging of his real name as a breach of contract.”
But unnamed friends of Tully are quoted by the magazine as saying that the “strangely written” prose and the hero’s “unusual sex” antics are a giveway.
“Mark’s friends say the man behind the book is a French journalist and avid Hindutva supporter, who, like Tully, has been based in India for decades but unlike Tully, is married to an Indian. This journalist published an autobiographical novel in French in 2005.”
Mail Today, which has run two items on the book, claims that after the first piece appeared, the author got in touch with them.
“After we reported the guessing game set off by the soon-to-be launched book, the author chose to ‘come out’ in a manner of speaking and get in touch with us on email: ‘It should be absolutely normal to defend Hindus in a country where 80 per cent of the population comprises Hindus and which has shown throughout the ages that it is pluralist and tolerant. But unfortunately ‘ Hindu’ has become a dirty word in modern India.’
“The mysterious author says that he has spent many years working on the novel—which has lots on the sexual peccadilloes of a Hindutva-loving foreign correspondent in India—but had always known that his peers would brand him immediately after the publication of the book.”
If nothing else, the phraseology of the Mail Today-John MacLithon correspondence suggests that the pseudonymous is obsessed with two of the three elements in the title: Hindutva and sex.
One editor claims he received an email out of the blue from the suspected author asserting that Mark Tully was the author but that he had written it under a pseudonym “because he is scared of coming out openly…. But I have not and I am much more radical than Tully.”
But, surely, if Tully wanted to out himself, he would have chosen a more dignified way of doing so, at least by writing a book in better English with a better publisher?
On his Twitter account, the editor-in-chief of the Madras-based New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, asks this question:
As if on cue, the said French author, Francois Gautier, has a piece on the books’ pages of The New Indian Express on Sunday, in which he drags the names of other people—Bernard Imhsaly, David Housego, John Elliot and Gautier himself—who could have written the book under a pseudonym but zeroes in on Tully (click on the image for a larger frame).
Already, in its short life, the book has kept the gossip mills active, but in the long term, is it likely to end up besmirching the BBC and its voice in India?
Then again, the Hindutva herd, uncomfortable with the idea of independent journalism, is likely to ask another question: has it become a crime for a journalist or a journalism organisation to be associated with Hindutva?
Photograph: courtesy Outlook magazine
Far from being cowed down by N. Ram‘s threat to sue for the “demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions” in its report on “Ram’s role and actions in developments within the newspaper group and the company“, the Indian Express continues its coverage of the goings-on in the board room of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu” for the second day in a row.
For starters, Ram’s “decision” to sue to commence “civil and criminal defamatory proceedings” is a five-column story on the front page of all 13 editions of The Hindu. Just what was precisely false or defamatory in the Express story is not something Ram’s statement points out, but it makes transparent the decisions, reassigning duties within the undivided Hindu family, taken by the board on March 20.
To the extent of conveying who is still in charge of The Hindu, and of sending a signal to employees and other interested parties, the statement leaves no room for doubt.
However, the phraseology of the statement indicates that it, if the case goes ahead (and Ram says on his Twitter feed that it will), it is likely that it will be personal battle of Ram and not of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of the paper.
For its part, The Indian Express too carries Ram’s sue threat on page one, with as much prominence as it gave to the original report, but adds its own response:
“The report, ‘Battle for control breaks out in The Hindu very divided family’, (The Indian Express, The Financial Express, March 25, 2010) is based on information received from multiple and high-level credible sources.
“All facts were verified and cross-checked to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness that the Express Group holds itself to. We believe our report was neither malicious nor defamatory.
“We have great regard for The Hindu as an institution and for its editor-in-chief N. Ram as a journalist and editor for their commitment to principled journalism. We stand by our report and the reporter.”
In the process of defending itself, Express also makes public the purported transcript of the e-mail correspondence between reporter Archna Shukla and N. Ram before the story appeared.
However, The Indian Express doesn’t let matters rest at that.
On day two of its coverage, it quotes from an email sent by Ram’s aggrieved younger brother N. Murali (who has been kicked upstairs as “senior managing director”) to “colleagues”.
“At the Board meeting on 20th March, some directors subjected me to utter humiliation and attempted disempowerment. I will resist all attempts to deny me my rights, responsibilities and duties as the managing director,” Murali writes.
Murali has been stripped of his powers over the key departments of advertisements and purchase, and has now to share many of his duties (accounts, industrial relations) with newly appointed managing director K. Balaji, the well regarded son of former Hindu editor and Ram mentor, G. Kasturi.
More importantly, it is the letter written by Murali’s children Kanta and Krishna, along with youngest brother N. Ravi‘s daughter Aparna, quoted by Express on day two, that gives the clearest indication that this current round of the battle for control of 128-year-old Hindu is not just between M/s Ram, Murali and Ravi, but also about the generation that will inherit the paper from them.
“It is essential that the Board considers issues of corporate governance and the appointment of family members seriously,” write the three.
“To point out the obvious, the business cannot accommodate every member of the family, particularly when there are no institutional mechanisms in place to prevent the receipt of unjustifiably large entitlements over a long period of time.
“Each of us, whether in the previous, current or next generation, has received and continues to receive tremendous benefits from Kasturi and Sons, which far outweigh those received by non-family employees. It is high time that we recognize that our privileges are derived primarily from the contributions and loyalty of over 3500 non-family employees. Each one of us has, in some way or the other, abused their loyalty, trust and contribution.
“The inequitable and arbitrary system that currently exists is not only unfair to non-family employees but to shareholders as a class as well. If there is ever any intention of instituting sound and modern corporate governance practices and discontinuing the feudal system that exists, then issues such as the ones we have raised need to be addressed squarely, honestly and without fear or favour.”
Quite clearly, the recent appointment of children of various directors as foreign correspondents continues to rankle.
Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram (middle) was recently named as European correspondent of The Hindu‘s business paper Business Line; Nalini Krishnan‘s son Ananth Krishnan (right) replaced Pallavi Aiyar as The Hindu‘s Beijing correspondent; Nirmala Lakshman‘s son Narayan Lakshman (left) was hurriedly sent off as The Hindu‘s Washington correspondent filling a vacancy of nearly five years.
Speculation at The Hindu is that a couple of more “children” are also eyeing the exit sign at airports.
To be sure, both Ram and Ravi have done their stints as foreign correspondents, and sources say that one of the other directors (not N. Ram) was the prime mover behind the move to send Narayan Lakshman to Washington. So just what precisely the opposition to the recent appointments is, is unclear.
Express reporter Archna Shukla’s emailed questions to Ram mentions the “high very salaries” at which generation next had been hired which had apparently led to “unpleasantness among [board] members”. But in his reply Ram dismisses the complaint.
“To describe the relevant salaries as “very high” would be laughable; in fact, if the precise numbers were revealed, the salaries or renumerations would be characterised as “rather low”,” writes Ram.
While N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy have clamped up after their tweets yesterday, N. Ram continues to keep his 6,584 followers on Twitter posted with his version of the case.
He says he will do “exactly what I say”, which is sue The Indian Express for the “demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions” in its report, and even leans back on the Bard to back himself:
# “Is it not a reasonable proposition that in any democratic organisation, an isolated few must necessarily respect the will of the majority?”
# “Shakespeare (Othello, iii,3) is often cited on defamation: ‘Who steals my purse steals trash. But he that filches from me my good name….’”
# “There can be no defence, in law or intelligent discourse, for these demonstrable falsehoods that defame recklessly.”
While most other family owned English papers—The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Telegraph, et al—have understandably remained silent on the goings-on in South India’s largest English daily newspaper, only Mint, the business paper published by the listed HT Media, carries any mention of the Express-Hindu standoff.
New Indian Express editor Aditya Sinha‘s tweet on day one that Deccan Chronicle was rumoured to be working on a story turns out to be just that: a rumour. There is no story in the Hyderabad paper, which has an edition in Madras, at least not today.
Nevertheless, Sinha tweets:
There are various theories doing the rounds on why the Indian Express has taken on The Hindu so openly and so aggressively on what is clearly an internal matter of a family-owned newspaper.
# Is this a legitimate news story without a “backstory”, an honest journalistic attempt to throw light on the opaque goings-on in “public institutions”?
# Is this a proxy battle between the left and the right in Indian politics?
# Is this an attempt to pave the way for a more investor-friendly management which might be amenable to foreign investment?
For a couple of years now, there have been rumours that The Hindu was seeking infusion of funds to expand its footprint in the face of competition. Kalanidhi (and Dayanidhi) Maran‘s Sun TV group was mentioned initially. Later, the Fairfax group of Australia came into the picture.
But those in the know point out that the Express story is a post-facto account of the March 20 board meeting.
All indications are that wicket-keeper Narasimhan Ram, who played one first-class cricket match for Madras in the 1965-66 season, is on a strong wicket. For the moment.
The tone and display of his statement in the paper make that quite clear. Also, in the middle of the melee, word is that Ram found the time to fly to Delhi and sup with Bill Gates‘ wife, Melinda Gates, on Thursday night.
Moreover, although a board meeting is said to be around the corner, a couple of key board members (both women) are said to be conveniently away from Madras, strengthening Ram’s hands, if push comes to shove.
Newspaper image: courtesy The Indian Express
Photographs: courtesy Twitter
The film critic turned film maker Khalid Mohamed throws light on some unsavoury developments involving a member of his fraternity in the Bombay newspaper, DNA:
“The last review she did for DNA, the daily newspaper, was for Kurbaan.
“This is not to suggest that the less-than-enthusiastic review of Kurbaan had anything to do with the exit of Udita from DNA. The reasons can only be explained by the newspaper. The upright, well-reasoned Udita has in the last seven years I have known her done her job with more than diligence. Before that she was with Hindustan Times and earlier at Mid-Day where she first made her mark as a forthright reviewer.
“Last week, she had phoned up the DNA desk to inform them of the number of reviews she would be mailing in. She was merely told her that her services were no longer needed. In her place Taran Adarsh would be doing the Hindi film reviews, presumably because he also does the TV shows for ETC channel, a subsidiary of Zee which has major stakes in the DNA newspaper.”
For the record, Khalid Mohamed, longtime film critic of The Times of India, was a member of the editorial board of DNA before leaving it to join Hindustan Times.
Photograph: courtesy Screen Daily
Read the full post: Praise or be damned
Follow Udita Jhunjhunwala on Twitter
The Great Wall between India and China is not made of bricks and mortar; it is made of freedom and liberty. Any debate, any discussion, anywhere, on the superpowers-to-be is sealed, signed and delivered by the roaring presence of those essential ingredients in plentiful on our soil, and the utter lack of it in our great neighbour.
China notoriously detests dissent—and democracy.
It bars foreign media from freely moving inside its boundaries; Tibet is off-limits to them as is Tiananmen Square. BBC was famously taken off Rupert Murdoch‘s Star Network at the behest of the comrades. Google and Yahoo effortlessly dance to the tunes of the Chinese dictators. Chinese citizens routinely can’t log into YouTube, Facebook and other media. And so on.
But has difference between “us” and “them” been erased by the Congress-led UPA government?
In barring foreign journalists from going to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to report the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama‘s week-long visit to the northeastern State which China off and on claims as its own, has the Manmohan Singh government thumbed its nose at India’s great democratic traditions?
Has India missed a trick in showing its inviolable sovereignty before a global audience? In behaving much like China would, has the Congress-led regime obliterated the difference between democracy and dictatorship? Or was the government right given the war-mongering that has recently been on display?
Via Twitter, CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai, names the “most outstanding election analysts across channels” on counting day, October 22. His verdict: Kumar Ketkar, editor of the Marathi daily Loksatta, and Palagummi Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu, both of whom were on CNN-IBN.
“Wiser than all Delhi editors put together,” says Sardesai, whose own election show had the usual sprinkling of said “Delhi editors”, who also appeared on CNN-IBN.
Also read: Don’t ask me, ask her. Don’t ask me, ask him