Perhaps, as Chairperson of Prasar Bharati, Mrinal Pande has not read the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990. Section 12 under “Functions and Powers of Corporation” states: “safeguarding the citizen’s right to be informed freely, truthfully and objectively on all matters of public interest, national or international, and presenting a fair and balanced flow of information including contrasting views without advocating any opinion or ideology of its own.” Ms Pande’s tirade against Narendra Modi, in her article in The Hindu (Op-Ed, “Rambogiri in the year of the flood,” July 11, 2013) is neither balanced nor fair, let alone it being a truthful and honest assessment of Mr. Modi. When the chairperson of Prasar Bharati is unable to present a fair and balanced view without advocating an ideology of hatred towards a person or an entity then how does one trust the institution that she represents and leads as chairperson?
Perhaps, Mrinal Pande has not heard of guilt by association. Ira Pande, Mrinal’s sister and daughter of Gaura Pant — popularly known as Shivani, in a tribute to her Padma Shri awardee mother remembers her as follows: “Ama always referred to husbands as ‘malik’ (owner) for that is how she perceived the man-woman relationship in an ideal marriage.” Does that make Gaura Pant a patriarchal bigot? As Gaura Pant’s daughter, does that make Mrinal Pande, the author of the tirade against Mr. Modi, a bigot? Similarly, it is unfair for a statement that was not even attributed to Narendra Modi to be used to define him as a liar and paint him as parochial and immoral of wanting to save only Gujarati lives.
Perhaps, Mrinal Pande does not even see hypocrisy where it lies. She accuses Mr. Modi of having this remarkable gift for spin doctoring and dodging the real facts with disarming sincerity, while pouring scorn over his opponents and dodging Q&A sessions. It is unfair to portray Mr. Modi talking about his achievements as spin doctoring, while the inability of the political establishment in power to communicate is somehow portrayed as dignified silence. It is a different matter that the dispensation in power has not much to showcase as achievements in the last four years and thus no reason to communicate. Would Ms Pande tell us how many times the Prime Minister, with a responsibility to engage with the people, was involved in a Q&A? How many times has the Chairman of the National Advisory Council been involved in a Q&A? Surely, we can’t have different set of rules for different people. Also, why does appearing only in Q&As of select media sanction it as being a genuine Q&A?
Perhaps, Mrinal Pande has not heard of the term sub-judice. If the highest court of our land finds Mr. Modi guilty of abetting violence, against a particular community, then he will be punished. If the highest court of our land finds laxities in Mr. Modi’s government for handling the riots then Mr. Modi must take responsibility and face the consequences. However, Ms Pande should remember that the Indian government, by not protesting against the United States’s refusal to grant Mr. Modi a visa, has not only undermined the judicial process in our own land and weakened our judicial institutions but also weakened our democracy. Should we not trust our own institutions to stand-up to the challenge rather than let another country prejudge the issue? Ms Pande should remember that the communal violence of 2002 was a tragedy that led to the loss of both Hindu and Muslim lives. Mr. Modi did not start these unfortunate riots. It is therefore irresponsible for her to claim Mr. Modi to have given birth to the parochially divisive frenzy of 2002.
Perhaps, Mrinal Pande has never watched “Rambo.” Inspite of it being a mindless action movie, it has some memorable lines. One memorable exchange from “Rambo III,” set in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, is between the local arms supplier Mousa Ghani and the protagonist John Rambo, as he prepares to play the Afghan game of ‘Buzkashi’:
Mousa: God must love crazy people.
Rambo: [getting on to the horse] why?
Mousa: He make so many of them!
Leaders in the political spectrum, just as leaders in all walks of life, come in packages. They’re often looked upon as crazy or eccentric in their own right and that doesn’t make them lesser leaders. In fact, successful leaders are the ones who are able to harness these personal traits in a constructive manner apart from their ability to continuously recalibrate and reinvent themselves. Rank authoritarianism to one can be construed as decisive by another. Appearing paranoid to one set of people can be construed as being perfectly sane, confident and well-prepared by a different set. Ultimately, in a land of such varied opinions, the majority opinion will have the most sanctity.
Ms Pande is definitely entitled to her own opinion — after all this is a free country. Certainly, she can’t be entitled to her own facts. John Rambo isn’t entitled to his own facts either.
(Venkat Goli is the founder of Yudofud, a conservative public strategy think tank. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mrinal Pande responds:
I am not surprised by the indignation of the protectors of brand NaMo, who skip the questions raised and move neatly towards raising doubts about this writer’s credentials, even pulling out in the process, irrelevant family connections from the last century. India has seen great generational changes in its women, and our family was no exception. My grandmother, born in the last decade of the 19th century, naturally reflected the ideas and beliefs of most grandmothers (and grandfathers) raised during the period but she was a wonderful human being and we remained close. My writer mother’s independent life and career as an eminent writer, and my own as a journalist, calmly proceeded to be shaped differently by democracy and the liberal education we were both fortunate enough to receive. And Amma was inordinately proud of the achievements of the succeeding generations.
The same anxiety when failing to defend the indefensible propels a deliberate misreading of my criticism of brand NaMo as a defence of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Goli is at pains to point out that the 2002 riots are sub judice. Do we take it, then, that all Indians must be guided by the vows of “omertà,” and refuse to speak on the subject till the final verdict is delivered? The fact of the matter is that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report and the description of the gruesome riots by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a black mark on the nation’s forehead, and his advice to the Chief Minister to observe his raj dharma, are clear indicators of the dubious role of the then government and its head.
The fanatical defenders of any carnage finally come to exist in a different dimension, a twilight zone of half-truths and lies, while those of us who try to defend the people’s right to know the whole painful truth must continue mucking about in the dimension of facts.
(Mrinal Pande, a veteran journalist and writer, is Chairperson, Prasar Bharati.)