Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Indian Media & The Art of Grave Digging

"Anything written on paper can affect history, not life. Life is a different history."
Thus spake Don Corleone, to his youngest son and heir-apparent Michael, towards the end of the book The Sicilian, written by Mario Puzo, arguably the father of organised crime stories. The Sicilian covers the short period of time when Michael Corleone was hiding out in Sicily. The Godfather covers the reason why he was in exile, while The Sicilian is the story of his years in hiding. However, the chief protagonist of the novel is a Sicilian rebel named as Turi Gulliano, who posseses a sort of diary, referred to as 'The Testament'. As per the novel, The Testament is a who's who of Sicilian underworld, the possession of which is likely to give an edge to Corleone Family, over their rivals. The Sicilian is the story of Guilliano's crusades against tyranny, but the author also makes a passing mention of Michael's attempts to get The Testament. However, the story takes a tragic bend and in the turn of events Michael Corleone returns to USA empty handed. The above statement was his father's opinion on the document, when Michael's expresses regret over his inability to obtain Guilliano's Testament.

The whole point of the above paragraph is, how much does history really affect life? Should the human life, really revolve around the happenings in the past? The obvious answer would be a big NO. Apart from inspirational & learning purpose (for eg: not repeating the mistakes commited in the past), history should be allowed to rest in peace. If we pick random threads of history, find out past mistakes and allow them to interfere with the present life, the whole exercise would turn out to be as fruitful as digging ancient graves. And the perpetrators of such act would probably be just dinasours. Two of the events, that has recently been in the news, tell me that the Indian Media (both print & television) is headed the same way.

The first and foremost would be the Advani-Jinnah-Sangh Parivar controversy. A political leader (LK Advani) travels to a neighbouring country(Pakistan) and in his attempt to improve the bilateral relationship between the countries (India & Pakistan - who have already fought four wars in the last half-century), makes a statement praising the founder of the other country (MA Jinnah). The point here is not whether Jinnah was an atheist or secularist or whatever, the actual point is does it really matter? Jinnah could be devout or atheist, but does this piece of fact, in anyway change the life of an ordinary Indian or a Pakistani, in the current time? Then why raise a hue & cry over the whole issue? The Sangh Parivar thrives on its ideologies (?) and makes sure that they take all such issues to the masses. One can understand when they made it a big issue. But the so called Fourth Estate? What made them devote rims of news print and hours of TV prime time to this issue? One could see scores of 'experts' appearing in televisions and commenting on the controversy, the life of Jinnah & the turn of events during the partition. But what came out of the whole exercise, apart from the colossal wastage of resource & time? Why can't the past-obsessed media let the whole matter rest, accepting the whole episode as a simple good-will gesture?

The second issue is the unveiling of Nixon-Kissinger papers and the caustic remarks contained in those papers towards India and Indira Gandhi, during the period of the Bangladesh War. The papers, which were declassified recently as per US regulations, have already brewed a storm. All the leading newspapers have carried stories on this, followed by discussions & experts opinion. (Far too many experts are there in the Indian Media - Dont you agree?). There have been articles in magazines like The Outlook and India Today. Well, how does it matter what Nixon remarked about India three decades ago? Those who know their history, are well aware that Nixon never had any high opinions about India & Indira. Its also a known fact that the secession of Bangladesh was a master stroke & only those who did not understand South-East Asia or acted out of selfish interest, could have opposed such a move. Earlier Kissinger has apologised for the remarks attributed to him. Then, where is the controversy in here? This piece of news probably deserved half a coloumn in the middle pages in newspapers, but what it got was headlines and whole pages written for it. And again, the whole effort did not yield anything fruitfull at all. The media should understand that in the light of the improving relationship between India & USA and corporate America's recognition of India as an emerging economic superpower, what an ex-president remarked about an ex-prime minister a long time ago, does not carry any relevance anymore.

There are numerous other examples, where precious time is wasted by delving into the past. Political parties may resort to it for the purpose of cheap popularity, but it is sad to see the media of a progressive nation take the same course. Lets hope that someday, life, in its present and glorious form, would take precedence over history. Till then, we have no option but to tolerate the grave-digging operations of Indian Media.

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