02, Dec 1993
And, the ugly
Death threats, obscene calls and physical attacks on journalists, among others, gave a foretaste of what Hindu Rashtra will mean
How members of the national and the international press covering the spectacle in Ayodhya were mercilessly thrashed by the kar sevaks, and photographers’ equipment snatched away or damaged is too well-known to need recounting. It would be grossly unfair to the mainline press to say it turned hostile to the Sangh Parivar only after getting a stiff dose of its medicine. But for those who felt reassured by the presence of the Vajpayees and the Advanis in the saffron camp, December 6 was an eye-opener.
Press persons were a vulnerable lot both during the December and the January riots. During the anti-Muslim pogrom in Bombay last January, the homes of a number of Muslim journalists, including the editor of Urdu Blitz, Haroon Rashid, were looted and/or torched. Some reporters, including one from the Marathi daily, Apla Mahanagar, were lucky to have gotten away with only a bit of roughing up. (In Bombay, Muslim mobs on the rampage had targeted a few scribes in a similar fashion in December).
Around the same time, journalists and other “pseudo-secularists” from Delhi and elsewhere were being openly threatened by the saffron brigade: We’ll do to you in the next round what we did to Muslims in December and January.
It has not been possible, so far, for the saffron brigade to launch a proper pogrom against “pseudo-intellectuals” as they did against Muslims in Bombay. Nonetheless, they have given adequate indication of their intentions.
As India Today pointed out in a special report (September 15):
“In a disturbing trend, the harbingers of Hindutva have been unleashing forces that threaten to stifle debate. Across the country, secularists, academics, activists, journalists, writers, in short all those who differ with the Hindutva brigade’s agenda for the country, have been finding themselves beleaguered in a crass war of psychological intimidation.
“They have been attacked not with the weapons of history and logic, but with obscene letters, death threats and physical assaults of a kind similar to the ways of the terrorists in Punjab, Kashmir and the north-east.”
According to the fortnightly, Prabhash Joshi, editor of Jansatta, received hundreds of threatening letters over his stand on Ayodhya, while his wife received innuendo-loaded calls. Writer, O.V. Vijayan found the crank calls to his Chanakyapuri residence in New Delhi so disturbing that he has moved to Kerala. The examples could be multiplied.
The Shiv Sena in Bombay does not stop at threats; Thackeray’s sainiks act. As reported earlier by Combat, in two separate incidents on August18, 1993, the office of the Marathi eveninger, Aaj Dinank was attacked by sainiks (who were angered by an unfavourable report regarding Dattaji Salvi, a leader of the trade union wing of the party) and Nikhil Wagle, the editor of Apla Mahanagar, was physically attacked for having stated at a seminar on communalism that he does not consider Saamna, the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, a newspaper.
As if that was not enough, Sena’s hoodlums attacked journalists and others who participated in subsequent meetings held to protest against Thackeray’s dahshatvad (terrorism). That the Sena’s aggression united journalists across the country and the party boss had finally to eat humble pie is a different matter.
Of course, the votaries of Hindutva are not against freedom of expression per se. In fact, they fully support it in case of every individual-Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasreen included – who shows Muslims and Islam in a poor light and portrays a positive picture of Hindutva.