'The Hindu' and its Muslim reader

--K• Vikram Rao,
President - Indian Federation of Working Journalists.

A newspaper-owner with leftist pretensions, N• Ram of the south Indian English daily the ‘Hindu’, had published a cartoon (26 March 2020, page 7, col. 3-5). This three-column cartoon, by Deepak Harichandan, showed two men in salwaar, kurta and sadari (waistcoat) with Corona-shaped skulls, injecting the infective agent into the planet-shaped Earth. Within a few hours, hardcore Muslim readers (I quote) “reached the Editor through Emails and social posts, taking serious exceptions to the cartoon.” And as a result the 118-year-old daily of costal Chennai modified its on-line edition with an apologetic note from the Editor. Still the Muslim readers persisted in arguing about symbols and representations.

The crux of the protest, if it was so, was that the two Corona-headed men wore Islamic attire. Obviously the interpretation of Corona was that it symbolised the Muslim-Arab world. The Tamil editor perhaps forgot that the salwar and kurta with sadari are also worn by Punjabi Hindus, including Sonia’s P.M. Sardar Manmohan Singh who was hunted out of Gah village in Chakwal district of north–west (Pakistani) Punjab in 1947. Bollywood actor Balraj Sahni (alias Yuddhister, born in Rawalpindi), also wore salwar and kurta. In fact sill many Hindus in north India, including this Telugu-speaking, Lucknow-based columnist, wear salwar and kurta.

The Editor could have escaped Muslim readers’ wrath if the bacterial men were shown wearing the characteristic Maoist-buttoned-up collared suit (symbolising China), though this egalitarian fashion had vanished with Mao’s death. But then perhaps Ram’s fellow-travellers, Yechury Sitaram, Prakash Karat and their ilk, would have objected due to their ideological affinity.

For us, journalists, this incident is very hard to condone or ignore. Should a handful diehard Islamists be allowed to scare and intimidate a cartoonist and his Editor to resort to self-censorship? These fanatics, can stop reading the “Hindu”, if they desire to protest. But for an Editor to be profusely apologetic is adding insult to journalists’ injury (see last para below).

Remember that bold editor Fleming Rose of the Danish daily, “Jyllands-Posten”, who was attacked for a cartoon on the Messenger of Islam (8 February 2017). Twelve were killed. And the other was the tragedy in that Paris media, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo) 7 January 2015 which resulted in the massacre of journalists by Mohammedan fanatics from the Arab-Africa. We, journalists, cannot submit to Islamic terror, as for us the country’s Constitution is supreme.

In this very context, on an identical topic, I may recall, how N• Ram’s staff had forced me some years ago to feel sorry when a Hyderabadi Muslim criticised my write-up in the ‘Hindu’ on the Jamia Millia Islamia. At that time fanatic Muslims were conspiring to reduce this noble Gandhian secular academic institution to a diehard Islamic Madarasa. I had written in my article: “Open Page” in the “Hindu” that in the British imperialist era Jamia had taught the Muslim-Indians about their duty of “Hubbul-vatani” (love for one’s country) as suggested in the Koran. Some Muslim reader had attacked me strongly, alleging that the Koran had never suggested “Hubbul Vatani”. I retorted saying that this Islamic direction was scribbled on the Jamia’s wall for students. But N• Ram had rejected my clarification and published the Muslim reader’s irrational, in fact very stupid, protest that the Koran does not suggest “love for one’s homeland.”

If that is so, Indians can now know why Mohammedans do not recite Vande Mataram (Hail the Mother). It was first protested to by Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, while presiding over the Congress session in Kakinada (1923) who tried to stop V• D• Paluskar from singing. When he refused, Mohammad Ali walked out. A university is named in Rampur (U•P•) after Jauhar, whose wife Amjadi Bano Begum was a member of Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League in Lahore (23 March 1940), where the Pakistan Resolution was first adopted.

So does N• Ram, an Iyyengar of Tamilnadu, need to prove that he is truer Indian than a Muslim of Hyderabad, which was sought by Nizam Mir Osman Ali to merge to with the new Islamic State of Pakistan in 1947?

And lastly, Lo and behold: The lame logic given by the heroic crusader for press freedom, the Editor, in the Hindu (30 March 2010: page 7, col. 6) is just an abject abdication. He says: “The idea of a political cartoon is to provoke readers to think and act, and not to be divisive. Hence, the act of modifying the cartoon is a result of editorial judgment.”

ताजा समाचार

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