Reuters’ Modi interview: “Sensational tokenism”

13 July 2013

Reuters‘ scoop interview with Narendra Modi published yesterday by the news agency, but apparently given 17 days ago on June 25, has created headlines for the Gujarat chief minister’s continuing lack of contrition for what happened under his watch in 2002.

And for his faux pas of comparing the victims to “kutte ka bachcha” (puppies).

On Twitter, Sruthi Gottipati, one of the two Reuters‘ journalists who sat down for the powwow has complained of the manner in which the interview has played out on Indian TV and in the newspapers.

But those who have been fighting Modi on the courts of Gujarat and Delhi have bigger problems with Reuters‘ interview than the “kutte ke bachcha” gaffe. They say Reuters “failed to, conspicuously, persist with any accurate, difficult or pinching questions.”

Here, below, is the full text of the press release emailed by the Business India journalist turned activist Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace.

***

PRESS RELEASE: Seven days before Reuters published its [Narendra Modi] exclusive, a privilege denied by the PM-aspirant to an Indian news agency or channel, we [Citizens for Justice and Peace] had been contacted persistently by a Reuters correspondent.

Not Ross Colvin or Sruthi Gottipati who now carry the journalistic honour of grabbing moments with a man who rarely likes to be questioned, especially if the questions are persistent like say those of Karan Thapar in 2007.

Thapar keen to get to the bottom of what Modi actually felt about 2002, did not  simply casually record – as Reuters has done – Modi’s response but asked, insistently, whether Modi actually regretted the mass reprisal killings that had taken place, post-Godhra, on his watch.

Modi simpered, dithered, glared and admonished…when none of that worked, and Thapar persisted, Modi did what he does best.

He walked out.

Not so with Reuters, that managed its exclusive but failed to, conspicuously, persist with any accurate, difficult or pinching questions.

***

The young man from Reuters who finally tracked me down in the Sahmat office at 29 Ferozeshah Road last week was clueless, he said, about Gujarat 2002. Apologetic about this ineptness, he kept saying that his bosses had asked him to track down the SIT report.

They had not bothered to contact us directly.

We insisted that he, read Reuters, do what fair journalism demands: look at the SIT clean chit in context; examine also the amicus curaie Raju Ramachandran’s report that conflicted seriously with the SIT closure and clean chit (opining that there was material to prosecute Narendra Modi on serious charges).

Both the SIT and the amicus were appointed by the same Supreme Court.

We insisted that Reuters examine the Supreme Court Order of 12.9.2011 that gave us the inalienable right to file a Protest Petition; we pointed out that Reuters must read the Protest Petition itself that we filed in pursuance of this order on 15.4.2013, peruse the arguments that we have been making before the Magistrate since June 25, 2013.

***

We tried, as best as we could,  to communicate that Reuters should read the SIT clean chit in the context of these overall developments.

No, No, said Reuters that had possibly already bagged the interview by then.

Who says a politically important interview should address all developments and facts, in a nutshell, tell the whole and complete story?

Much better to perform a tokenism, throw in a few questions about 2002, not persist with questioning the man charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder and subvert criminal justice with the complexities and gravity of charges and legal procedures that he currently faces – and which are being argued in Open Court in Ahmedabad.

Easier to be glib, grab headlines in all national dailies including by the way the one in Telegraph which is the only newspaper to report that Modi used “kutte ke bacche” not puppy as an analogy for which creatures may inadvertently get crushed when a “road accident happens.”

Never mind that many have been convicted for criminal negligence when they drive and kill.

On business and development, too, while Reuters plugs the man themselves in the first paragraph of the interview, there are no real probing questions on foreign direct investment, the Gujarat government’s back out to solar power companies (reported two days ago in the Economic Times) and so on….

So, quite apart from the more than despicable “kutte ke bacche” comment that Modi reportedly made, quite apart from the fact that he chose Reuters for his debutante mutterings not a national agency or channel, what is truly tragic about the whole exercise is the compliant journalism that it reflects.

The Reuters interview is not a dispassionate or thorough exercise that attempts to genuinely probe opinions and views. It is a sensational tokenism.

Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace

13 Responses to “Reuters’ Modi interview: “Sensational tokenism””

  1. Melanie Says:

    It is shameful that Reuters could have done an interview with Modi, without doing their homework. It is a sad reflection on the journalism of today.

    • chandrasekar Says:

      You have only Teesta Setalvad’s words to believe that Reuters did not do its homework. How gullible one can get, judging from the various (adverse) reports on the way “Citizens for Justice and Peace” has been functioning.

  2. Sam Says:

    The tweet that is attributed to Sruthi Gottipati seems to have been deleted by her. I guess she didn’t want to be seen as defending and supporting him …

  3. mysore peshva Says:

    i suggest you actually read the reuters interview instead of sporting your ignorance

    ***

    teesta setalvad, as usual, is trying hard to sound intellectual while spouting activist rhetoric. her questions are vacuous, jaded and banal. ms. setalvad would do well to get a life.

    get a move on, lady!

    many english-language news media, notorious for the personal bias against narendra modi, have understandably failed to snag an interview with mr. modi. that speaks less to mr. modi’s discretion than to the media’s incompetence.

    my respect for mr. modi the administrator was always much higher than for him as a sensitive politician. but that has changed, in his favor, with his puppy remark. if the man can, in the face of a fake-secular barrage of insults, still claim stand up for a little puppy (which some of the peaceful religion seem to hate, just as they hate the pig), he has stood up for liberal ideals like nobody else.

    classical liberals have always stood up for individual dignity and individual rights as the end-all of society, but, further, in the critical-cultural tradition, liberals have also spoken up for groups that are historically vulnerable, such as minorities, women, children and animals. unfortunately, the discourse of liberalism has of late been hijacked by those exclusively supporting religious-minority interests — often at the expense of speaking up for the environment, for animals, and for children. i am glad mr. modi has attempted a course correction by speaking up for a puppy. his remark reveals the well known respect hindu dharma prescribes for not only multiple paths of worship but also for perceiving divinity in every soul. in that hindu tradition of love for all, mr. modi has demonstrated his compassion for a puppy. it may be a metaphorical example but i salute him for it!

    • Mohan Menon Says:

      I agree with Mysore peshva fully. A puppy is one of the most innocent and adorable creations of God. But mad dogs do not understand that.What Modi meant was that even if a puppy comes under the wheels of a car not driven by him he would be sad. So he would be sad if any innocent men get hurt anywhere whether he was a CM or not. For the ilks of teestas, the hindus who died in the Gujarat riots 2002 do not matter because their is no foreign funding for them. If Modi is to feel sorry for the muslims who died under his watch, as CM, he should feel sorry for the hindus who died there too. So the “puppy” remark if it is considered to be offensive,which itis not, applies to both Hindus & Muslims. So, where is the cause for ruckus, write ups,editorials ,newshours etc

      • Sam Says:

        It’s really entertaining to see the BJP’s propaganda team fumbling so badly, spouting creative nonsense while trying to keep a straight face! From how the puppy is the “most adorable creature” to how “it shows modi’s deep compassion … sensitivity”. I haven’t laughed out so hard in my life in recent times!

        Yes, the puppy may be the God’s most adorable creature to you, but the phrasing used by Narendra Modi was not only crass but lacked in culture.

        If you know Hindi, the term “Kutte Ka Baccha” is often used derogatorily as an insult. Dogs are also considered as unsanitary by many Muslims.

        And for someone who is supposed to be a “master of words” whose “speeches spellbound his audience”, all he had to say was –
        “Yes, I am sorry that many Gujarati Muslims and Hindus died in the riots.”

        I guess we should all be thankful that his Sangh mindset and narcissistic ego still keeps him imbalanced enough to sputter out nonsense and turn off a large number of voters.

        Standing up for adorable puppies indeed!
        Signing off with chuckle and a smile …😉

  4. rita vora Says:

    I simply fail to understand why a simple comment can not be taken in the right sense.All human being feel bed if any one is being killed , specially we indians and vegitarians feel bed if any living creature ,however tiny it may be gets killed. So who think that this remark is for any perticular community, the problem is with the person thinking of such dirty meaning dont blame a simple comment of pain on death of any living crature.

  5. Akash Sagar Says:

    Any text taken out of context becomes a pretext. The “kutte ka baccha” comment was made in the context of Muslims killed in the 2002 riots. It is a mischievous statement deliberately made to woo the Hindu majority. There is no virtue in being a vegetarian. Even Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. Are innocent Muslims considered living creatures when Hindus kill them in orchestrated riots?

    • Sam Says:

      I agree with you.

      And as you mentioned context, we need to keep it in mind too – “Hindus” and “Muslims” are not killing each other.

      It is the fundamentalists who have perverted their religion to brand it as “Hindutva” or “Jihadi” that are involved in these senseless acts of violence for political mileage. It doesn’t matter to them how many innocent die or what their religion are.

      A recent example –
      Tamil Nadu has a history of of Jihadis (Al-Umma etc.) and Sangh (RSS, Hanuman Sena etc.) fighting and killing each other from the 80’s. Recently, some Sangh / BJP leaders have been attacked and murdered there. The police are investigating all angles and have not yet completed the investigation. But the Sangh has already declared them as “Hindu martyrs” murdered by “Muslim terrorists” and are trying their best to escalate and cause communal tension using these deaths (in Coimbatore).

      (It is also not a surprise that they chose Coimbatore – it witnessed communal riots, caused by the the Sangh and Jihadis, a decade ago and it was the only time a BJP MP was elected from Coimbatore).


  6. Speaking of the so called ‘Hindutva’ with jehadi terrorism in the same breath is a specious attempt to balance them with each other. A politician might resort to it to pander to the Muslim vote bank but in fact it is like comparing a Diwali cracker with a nuclear bomb.

    In providing the Tamil Nadu example, @Sam has deliberately perverted the truth. Four activists of the ‘Sangh Parivar’ were brutally killed in the last one year. Yes, the police are investigating the case but the suspects are from a particular religion. If they were murdered for being Hindu activists, what is wrong in describing them as Hindu martyrs?

    • Sam Says:

      @Sam has deliberately perverted the truth. … Yes, the police are investigating the case but the suspects are from a particular religion.

      Actually no. While Jihadis are being suspected, the police are also investigating the “murder for profit” angle and “rivalry” angle.

      In his statement on the recent murders, the state DGP K Ramanujam said –
      … some were due to personal motive. In some cases, the accused belonged to the same religion as the victim. Statements seeking to create an impression that a large number of targeted attacks have gone unchecked or undetected or that the police have failed to take action are misleading and contrary to the truth”.

      Some examples he listed –

      * Murder of BJP medical wing secretary Dr Aravinda Reddy in Vellore last year, a total of seven persons were arrested and the motive was a dispute over money transaction.

      * BJP general council member, Pugazhenthi (who was a person categorized as a “rowdy” by the police), was murdered in Nagapattinam last year and five people were arrested and this was a case of dispute over money transaction and land.

      * BJP functionary, ‘Thengaikadai’ Murugan, was murdered in Paramakudi over land dispute, and four men were arrested.

      * RSS Taluk secretary Anandan was assaulted last November which was “retaliatory in nature,” and the accused Syed Abudhagir had been arrested

      As the elections approach, the TN BJP is desperate as Jayalalitha has indicated that she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Hence the propaganda that they are being targeted by “muslims” to create communal tension.

      Of course they are very much mistaken if they think they can get away with it in Tamil Nadu. It has one of the finest police forces in India (they created police history when they caught, and more importantly got a conviction, against all the Jihadis involved in the Coimbatore blast in the shortest time possible).

      n fact, keeping the trends of the RSS / BJP in Karnataka in mind one of the first things that the CM Jayalalitha did when the BJP / RSS started their propaganda was to assign “police protection” to all of them. This was actually more to spy on the activities of these Hindu fundamentalist leaders so that they could be thwarted if they went beyond propaganda to create communal tension .

  7. Sam Says:

    Yes. I didn’t want your misconceptions that caused you to politely call me a liar (for not accepting the “sacrifice” of the 100’s of “Hindutva martyrs” in Tamil Nadu) to confuse the other readers.

    I also did realize that you were not trying to pervert the truth, but actually believed all of them had been killed by non-Hindus while “defending” other like-minded Hindus.

    As for “Hindutva” vs Hinduism and “Jihad” vs Islam –

    Unlike you, I find it very hard to truly feel sorry for any “Hindu” or “Muslim” who meets a violent death because he / she chose the path of violence.

    Even if I were to try and rationalize their death through religion, I still wouldn’t focus on their “martyrdom”.

    In the specific context of the death a fundamentalist, someone who really understood Hinduism would instead say, “I pity him that he wasn’t freed and had to endure suffering in this life too – first through the cycle of emotional insecurity, hatred and anger that he lived with and then the violent death he met. I pity him more that he is still condemned to further suffering in the next life too for the misdeeds of his present life.”, and then offer a prayer for his salvation (i.e. a spiritual Hindu would think in terms of Karma and Moksha).

    Someone who really understood Islam would perhaps reflect on this death and be reminded of how difficult the “personal Jihad” (struggle) is and pray to God for strength and clarity so that he / she can succeed. (In Islam, the “personal Jihad” is taught as an intimate struggle to purify one’s soul of evil influences – both subtle and overt – and a continuous struggle to cleanse one’s spirit of sin. It is considered as the most important Jihad for a muslim, as per the teachings of the prophet (e.g. “The best jihad [struggle] is (by) the one who strives against his own self for God, The Mighty and Majestic.”; after returning from a battle – “We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad, the more difficult and crucial effort to conquer the forces of evil in oneself and and in one’s own society in all the details of daily life.” – Muhammad (PBUH)).

    The point being that for ignorant people religion is just a crutch in the form of a social or political identity, and they just immerse themselves in its daily ritual to feel a part of it. For spiritual people however, it is about defeating ones ignorance to become one with God.

  8. Tejas Says:

    @Sam – Your comments are starting to make sense based on my experience too.

    While in the US, I joined an indian cultural organization which is a part of the Sangh’s overseas outreach programs. (It was more out of loneliness and curiosity than any ideological reasons).

    In some ways it was a good experience – learned a lot about Hinduism (more than I ever did when I was in India most of my life!). But there was always an undercurrent of what you described – insecurity, hate and anger against christians and muslims and even Sikhs and some political leaders and political organizations. Every literature or even a conversation with a member would start with Hinduism (the good aspect of it), but then go on about the weakness of indian culture and how it allowed the exploitation of Hindus by its many enemies.

    I also realized that they actually don’t practice Hinduism, except for the rituals, but talk about Hinduism to just feel good; and since they temporarily feel good, they think their ‘religion’ is working for them and they are being ‘religious.

    Since coming back to India, and interacting with a more diverse culture, I’ve become more relaxed. I still communicate with the other members to continue to learn about Hinduism, but I’ve also learnt to ignore their rants …!


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