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Year 2001, No 2
Hiroshima to New York:
ND Jayaprakash describes the most infamous terrorist crime in history
By ND Jayaprakash
From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan:
a century of US military interventions
By Zoltan Grossman
Fact Sheet on Afghanistan
Return of the Terrorist
Fact Sheet on Ariel Sharon
Falling Per Capita Availability of Foodgrains for Human Consumption in the Reform Period in India
By Utsa Patnaik
Vocabulary in Indian Arts
By KM Shrimali
Playing With Fire
Indian media in the wake of September 11
By Nalini Taneja
A Citizen's Voice
By Mohd. Anwarul Haque
The Indian State and the Madrasa
BJP's misplaced assault
By Yoginder Sikand
Naipaul & Co. and Quotes from the 'Civilised World'
Responding with Terror
By Aijaz Ahmad
A Hindutva Foreign Policy
By Prakash Karat
The Algebra of Infinite Justice
By Arundhati Roy
No Blood for Oil, Mr President!
By Sitaram Yechury
The Clash of Ignorance
By Edward W Said
Playing With Fire

the media eggs on

A student who pasted a picture of the Saudi terrorist, Osama bin Laden, on the notice board of Sayaji Gaekwad College in Malegaon town was beaten up by fellow students and handed over to the police.

In another incident, in West Bengal's Birbhum district a class five student had to be hospitalised after being severely beaten up by his Urdu teacher for making remarks against Osama.

Both actions were 'spontaneous', and neither took place in a BJP ruled state, which is an indication of how bad things are even without physical intervention by the Sangh Parivar goons, and what violence and 'vengeance' a sustained communalised campaign could unleash.

Mr. Vajpayee and his Parivar have already got their act together, and are literally playing with fire as new opportunities for war mongering and communal politics present themselves with the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre in the US. Beyond a few palliatives to the minorities that all Muslims need not be tarred with the same brush, the Indian media, following the foreign media which has picked up the hysterical and revengeful tone set by the American government, is playing the American government's and the Sangh Parivar's ball game. This is particularly true of the visual media.

Most shamefully, the overriding concern has been neither the American people nor the issues involved, but a gleeful anticipation of what could befall Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the process the Indian media have forgotten their own concerns of national sovereignty, national independence and dignity as people, as nation constituting the world's "largest democracy". Following Vajpayee's, Advani's and Jaswant Singh's statements, the media is as good as appealing to the most lawless state in the entire world to reorganise the entire south asian region according to their dreams, which are nothing but Sangh Parivar dreams in the present political juncture. They are happy to be the sidekicks of the American Rambo.

The Bombay bomb blasts have been resurrected, Dawood's presence in Pakistan has assumed a greater urgency in the last few days, and depictions of lifestyles of bin Laden and Dawood have been caricatured to suggest terrorism as intrinsic to a particular religion, despite some window-dressing in editorials. The tone is every Indian citizen should be available for the fight against terrorism even as communal harmony must be maintained. The two phrases, as part of one sentence can be devastating if one has to prove one's loyalty to India by endorsing Vajpayee's moves unquestioningly and the whole hog. Already those who are urging restraint against Afghanistan, or asking that some evidence be given before unilateral action are finding their motives questioned in the media, particularly if they are leftists or Muslims.

There is almost complete unanimity in the media, as much as in the bourgeois political spectrum, that India should use the occasion to cut down Pakistan to size on the matter of Kashmir; that our government should be one up and smart in offering the American government more than what Pakistan will dare offer, given its fundamentalists at home.

To quote a typical view, the Indian Express, not among the papers close to the Parivar these days, went so far as to say in an editorial: " Should India offer bases and other logistical assistance for military operations against terrorists in the neighbourhood? The answer is yes...When a CPI leader assails American imperialism in this context he proves only that he is out of touch with reality...as a partner India would be in a stronger position to ensure that its own specific aims are met"! (Sept. 17, 2001).

In addition, the Indian media has taken all propaganda and information emanating from the American government uncritically and, unforgivably, failed in distinguishing between the American government and the American people who have suffered a tragedy, and are martyrs of the American policies as much as of terrorists.

There has been no independent questioning of facts of the events or the American reactions to it. The space to detailed stories shows that the Indian media has picked up all the dark prejudices and concealed hatred for the Islamic world, while pretending to condemn terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. They have, by and large, internalised Samuel Huntington's theories of 'clash of civilizations', and called the occasion as one of fight between democracy and terrorism, and with the no questions about who defends democracy and which states represent a terrain for terrorism.

There is no questioning, even for academic purpose, why some 18 people give up their lives and take those of other people, to attack America? We simply say, "The world changed last Tuesday", accepting that the enormity of this tragedy is greater than any other. We uncritically accept that this is the "worst act of terrorism in a century" as pronounced by Bush-discounting all the actions of the American government beginning with the nuclear bombing of fully populated cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by this very self righteous superpower. Not to speak of Vietnam, Sudan, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, every action of the American government involving a large scale targeting of civilian population.

While eating out of America's hands, the Indian media has failed in pointing out that the original source of funding and support of terrorism and creation of political instability in the South Asian region has been primarily American policy. Bin Laden and Taliban are creations of American policy. It is America that supports the most reactionary and dictatorial regimes in the Islamic world, while the Indian media follows in demonising states that are anti American. There have been suggestions that Iraq could be involved in it, which has not been said yet even by the American government.

For the Indian media, as much as for the American hawks, the entire Muslim world is homogeneous. They do not distinguish between countries, between the rulers and the ruled, one class from another, and picking up from American silences, have yet to question the Saudi government's role, despite the fact that everyone knows where so many reactionary movements and formations gets its finances from.

If one looks beyond the editorials, into the entire coverage, including commentaries, the space given to different stories, the silences, the questions asked and not asked, the general impression is that Indian media has been uncritically presenting the case of the American government and the Sangh Parivar's hawkish and pathologically anti-Muslim line to downgrade Pakistan.

The human stories are even more telling. We have numerous sketches of Americans looking for dear ones juxtaposed with individual stories of diabolical planning by suspected terrorists. We have interviews with the Gujaratis whose family members live in New York and of Sikhs reliving their 1984 experiences in the backlash on foreigners in America. But the entire Indian media has not discovered a single Muslim family, whose fear could not be less. It has not bothered to document attacks on Muslims as part of the backlash, to find out the fear that can get created here with the Sangh Parivar's campaign. In fact, through its reporting, it has contributed to creating a pressure on Muslims and Muslim organisations to not only condemn terrorism, but also unequivocally endorse American and Sangh Parivar's actions without any critical evaluation.

The visual media has been guiltier with regard to all this. It has simply remained hooked on to the fox channel for days, and picked up images and snippets of reports and interviews from the foreign media, which anyway were beaming full force with their propaganda into Indian homes. Thus we had former Secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, thundering into our homes, "There is only one way to begin to deal with people like these, and that is you have to kill some of them even if they are not immediately directly involved in this thing".

There were unsubstantiated information about suspects, unending snippets of Palestinians rejoicing (despite knowing the consequences from home ground in the1984 massacre of Sikhs following similar rumours), and complete black out of what was going on here. That seven more tribals had died of starvation in Orissa was covered only by one newspaper and that on page nine. Indian audiences were being lulled into endorsing unilateral American action supported by the Indian government should occasion arise sooner than later.

The Afghans as people were equally invisible on the television screens, although it is logical they must be living in terror of American retaliation, and there are bound to be more outflows of refugees from Afghanistan. Afghanisatn is Taliban for the Indian media, and no picture of poverty and suffering there has found space, cornered as it was by repeated visuals of Bin Laden with guns-not even new.

Most unfortunately, however, how our own political class has acted has remained unquestioned by media. Global terrorism must be fought. But this fight against global terrorism cannot be led by our own Hindu terrorist organisations. It has to be built as an alliance of third world countries, through strengthening the old linkages between non-aligned countries. It cannot be fought by passing the international mechanisms like the UN, at the behest of calls to NATO by the American government. The Indian media, following the lead given by the US propaganda and the Sangh Parivar's militaristic and communalistic designs, are cheering the march to war and a capitulation to American imperialism.

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