Skip to main content

Tempest in a teapot: To publish or not to articles by likes of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah

Gujarati Sahitya Parishad building in Ahmedabad 
By Rajiv Shah
I was surprised over what they say in the US, a “tempest in a teapot”: Counterview published an article by Dankesh Oza, a Gujarat government official who took voluntary retirement about a decade ago, stating that two “oldies” (both octogenarians) were fighting Gujarat Sahitya Parishad polls, which has over 3,000 life-time members as voters. He appeared to support a relatively younger, though retired, person who was a key government official “looking after” Gujarati literature. 
The three are in fray for the post of Parishad presidentship. With members spread all over Gujarat, nay India and the world (especially US), the polling takes place via postal ballot sent via speedpost, the results would be out some time in late October. As I am no expert in Gujarati literature, my decision on what to publish Oza’s piece in Counterview depended on the campaign for and against each of the three candidates on social media, particularly Facebook.
As for “oldies” one of them is Prakash N Shah, a venerable human rights activist and editor of a Gujarati fortnightly “Nirikshak”, originally founded in late 1960s, among others, by one of the topmost Gujarati poets, Umashankar Joshi, apart from some reputed Gujarati writers and academics. Shah has been looking after the fortnightly for nearly two decades. The other is Harikrushna Pathak, a former senior Gujarat government official, who happens to be a poet, too, but I was told, he is a very low key person.
The “young” person in fray is Harshad Trivedi, who headed the state-controlled Gujarat Sahitya Adademi, whose autonomy was abrogated about four years ago, quite in like with the Narendra Modi thinking of taking under state (call it saffron) control on all institutions which, though funded by the government, have enjoyed some degree of independence in functioning.
While there seemed to me that that there were few controversial statements in Oza’s piece, including that Shah was “not a literary person”, I decided to publish it without indulging much in editing. The article was quite well written, despite its slant. Soon, I began getting reactions from various quarters. The first was Natubhai Parmar, a former Gujarat information department official, who ran a Dalit periodical edited by his wife.
Parmar sent a WhatApp message stating Oza’s article is “deliberately written” and is “not a balanced one”, adding it is being circulated by Harshad Trivedi “as an election campaign.” I told him to send in a rejoinder, which he faithfully did, and subsequently it was published in Counterview.
Then came a call from Martin Macwan, a well-known Dalit rights leader, whom I have known since mid-1990s as a rare human being. He said, there was “some flutter” over Oza’s article, but he had told those were objecting to it that Counterview was an open forum and “Rajiv will publish the other viewpoint as well”. I said, “Sure!”, but forgot to tell him that I had already promised this to Parmar.
Following this came the phone call from Achyut Yagnik, one of the foremost Gujarat intellectuals, who has written two excellent books published by Penguins, one on history of Gujarat, and the other on history of Ahmedabad, both of which I reviewed for the “Times of India.”
In fray: Two "oldies" and one "young"
A former journalist (he once worked in “Gujarat Samachar”), and long-time activist (a Rajni Kothari protege, who headed Gujarat wing of People’s Union for Civil Liberties), and also one-time mentor of top social activist Medha Patkar, Yagnik’s reaction, I felt, was a little surprising, and I must admit, I got a little irritated, which I shouldn’t have.
Yagnik, in his usual style, wondered why I published Oza’s article at all. I said, I published it because it was well written. Sounding as if it was a saffron conspiracy, and stating that I had been “used” against Prakash N Shah, “a simple man”, he went on, “So would you publish Amit Shah’s or Narendra Modi’s article as well?” My reply was: “Yes I will, if they write exclusively for me. I believe in taking all viewpoints. What’s wrong in that?”
I have known each of the persons mentioned here, except Pathak. Yagnik was the first major contact in Ahmedabad after I joined the “Times of India” in 1993, and ever since he has been, so to say, my friend, philosopher and guide, during my thick and thin. Ironically, it is he who introduced me to Oza when I was sent to Gandhinagar to cover Sachivalaya in 1997, telling me the latter one of the few “rational” government officials. As for Parmar, I initially knew him as an information department official whose job was a interact with journalists.
While I respect each of them, when it comes to Counterview, as a current affairs blog, its main focus is news, and viewpoints are secondary. As for whether I would publish articles of likes of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, I want to say this: Anything that they, or their aides (as they wouldn’t ever write for me), write or speak makes news, so why not?
Let me add: I have published Gujarat government viewpoints in Counterview. Reason: These made news and did create a ripple.

Comments

D.N.Rath said…
If you think about a Naom Chomsky of Gujarat It is Prakashb bhai Shah, a man who has the courage for Voice of Dissent.

TRENDING

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

Madhya Pradesh tops India's 145 instances of 'anti-Christian atrocities' this year

Counterview Desk  A report prepared by the Religious Liberty Commission the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), founded in 1951 as the national alliance of evangelical Christians of the Protestant denomination, in its just-released report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India: Half Yearly Report 2021”, has said that an analysis of 145 cases of violence it has documented against Christians, mainly by non-state actors, “stems from an environment of targeted hate.”

Pro-corporate? New GoI circular 'blatant attempt' to control Adivasi lives, livelihoods

By Hemant Das*  The Indian Community Activists Network (ICAN) condemns the anti-forest dwellers circular jointly issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the (Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India (GoI) on July 6. 

Demolition drive: Why aren't high-end hotels, farmhouses treated same way as Khorigaon?

By Our Representative A public hearing, sponsored by the civil rights group National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to hear the affected citizens of Khorigaon, off Faridabad, Delhi NCR, has seen local people complaining how their houses are being demolished even as the entire area was converted into a prison through heavy police deployment.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Meaningful? Punjab govt's debt waiver offer for agricultural workers, landless farmers

By Dr Gian Singh*    On July 14, 2021, the Punjab government announced that it would hold a state level function on August 20 to waive the debt of agricultural labourers and landless farmers(pure tenants) of Punjab to the tune of Rs 590 crore. Prior to the 2017 elections, the Congress party had promised in its election manifesto and public speeches that the Punjab government would waive all the institutional and non-institutional debt of farmers and agricultural labourers of Punjab.

Why no human rights mechanism in South Asia, but other regions in world have them?

Counteview Desk A civil rights group, Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), has floated an online petition  titled "Governments of South Asia: Time for the Establishment of a South Asian Human Rights Mechanism", stating that South Asian states should work towards the establishment of a regional mechanism for human rights at the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) SAARC level in order to create better conditions for peace in South Asia.

How BSF, police, court turned Bangladeshi woman slave victim into accused in crime

Counterview Desk  Civil rights leader Kirity Roy has strongly objected to the manner in which the Border Security Force (BSF) , the police and the judiciary in West Bengal have treated a 35 years old Bangladeshi woman victim of human trafficking, who was subjected to sexual exploitation for 15 long years, has been declared guilty of violating the Foreigners Act, violating all human rights norms.

Covid impact on menstrual cycles? Young girls 'relapsing' back to unhygienic old-cloth rags

By Dr Sudeshna Roy*  Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the world in health and economic shock. Combating this public health crisis has diverted development resources earmarked for adolescents and the youth. India; having world’s second largest population; 1.38 crores as per UN mid-year 2020 estimation, also shelters the largest adolescents and young adult population, which at 243 million constitute 20% of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescent population.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".