Ramya Kannan

We have to make compromises: author

  • "We are on the defensive"
  • Technological change in media "phenomenal"

    CHENNAI: Now that India is on a peace track with Pakistan, it must speak from a position of strength, derived from a knowledge of the facts of the situation, said B.G. Verghese, columnist and author and visiting professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.

    "Kashmir is one of the issues we say is on a warfooting, but we have been shooting ourselves because we have forgotten the facts," Mr. Verghese told The Hindu here on Friday. "For years, we have not talked about it. But Pakistan has talked about it." As a result, he said, India had merely begun to react to what Pakistan says, just as the world was reacting to what Pakistan says. "We are on the defensive, we do not explain ourselves, because we ourselves do not know. The books written then, the maps of the age, are no longer available. There are only the rare copies in libraries, others have been stolen or not reprinted."

    The Magsaysay Award-winning journalist (in 1975) is also clear: "If we want to negotiate, let us learn the facts. As a bigger country, we have to make compromises, give concessions." However, for this idea to be applauded in India, one would have to speak strongly, and this could be done only if one knows the facts. His latest publication A J&K Primer - From Myth to Reality contains snapshots of different landmarks in the Kashmir issue, and attempts to "educate ordinary people everywhere about the basics of the Jammu and Kashmir question and to put various events in context."

    Mr. Verghese was here to participate in a two-day seminar organised by the Centre for Security Analysis and spoke on, among other things, the Uniform Civil Code. "I am mystified by the fact that it has become a subject we cannot even talk about." The whole thing was based on the myth that everyone had combined to create. He explained, "the myth being, if you want a Uniform Civil Code, then you have to abrogate personal law. This is constitutionally and legally, untrue."

    For instance, the Special Marriages Act, was an example of a Uniform Civil Code. If someone wanted to get married within their faith, there was nothing to stop them; however, they could also opt to have a civil marriage. Mr. Verghese, who served as the Editor of the Hindustan Times and Indian Express, also shared his views about the evolving media. "The great change has been in the growth and reach, particularly of the Indian language press," he said. Technological change over the years had also been "phenomenal." While acknowledging that a large number of women had entered the field; helped redefine news; and reached top positions in news organisations, Mr. Verghese criticised "24-hour TV channels" for trivialising, sensationalising news and diffusing the focus and sharp quality of reporting.