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  • The most difficult thing

    Posted On April 1, 2003

    By Karan Thapar

    “What’s the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced?” I was asked the other day. I was waiting outside Priya Cinema when someone popped the question. I struggled to think of an answer but was unable to come up with one. Yet at that very moment – although I did not realise it – I was facing a situation similar to what the enquiry envisaged. It’s just that it hadn’t occurred to me. Wisdom takes a while to dawn.

    Now, albeit a little late, I know the answer. The most difficult situation is deciding how to defend oneself against a scurrilous and malicious attack. It’s the sort of thing that could happen to any of us. Should you dismiss it with the contempt it deserves but run the risk that some, may be even a few, will believe it if only because of your high-minded silence? Or should you rebut it vigorously and thus appear, although mistakenly, to have been riled or to have given it substance by your response? Either way you could suffer because neither way is a guarantee of sure-fire success.

    This academic dilemma became a personal predicament when last saturday a friendly minister in the government rang on my mobile phone.

    “Karan” said the voice I shall deliberately not identify. “Are you aware of the campaign that’s going on?”

    “Campaign?” I repeated a bit bewildered. “What campaign?”

    “You know the letter and tapes that have been sent out?”

    “No” I said. “What are they about?”

    “Well you, actually.”

    To be honest the penny still did not drop. I don’t expect people to take me so seriously that they organise a defamatory campaign. The effort is hardly worth it.

    “What do they say?”

    But if my voice sounded enthusiastic I soon realised my mistake. The minister was ringing to forewarn me. The previous evening he had received a package of documents and tapes designed to prove I was anti-national. It was delivered anonymously to his residence. No doubt similar packages had been sent to others as well.

    This was deliberate, well-planned hate mail. The aim was to use my television programmes and previous Sunday Sentiments to prove I was pro-Pakstani, anti-Indian and a fifth columnist who ordinary innocent people should beware of. The only thing is that everything had been deliberately and blatantly distorted. Quotations were made up, situations concocted, omissions claimed, events or statements falsely described – and all of this conveyed with a pernicious interpretation calculated to make me look reprehensible.

    The rum thing is that to target me the letter had to pick on two of my journalist colleagues as well : Dileep Padgaonkar and Seema Mustafa. They were guests on an episode of my programme Court Martial where, together, we questioned the Pakistani High Commissioner. Since this episode was part of the ‘proof’ against me it had to include them as well. Thus they became “pro-Muslim” and co-conspirators in defaming India.

    “It was clearly visible that Karan Thapar and his colleagues – Dileep Padgaonkar and Seema Mustafa – allowed the Pakistani High Commissioner a free run and they carried his blatant lies in the programme” the letter reads. “Why was there not a single question in favour of India? Why was there not a single question against Pakistan?” the carefully printed blurb on the tape asks.

    The allegation is that through silence, improper questioning, subtle connivance and even a failure to rebut or interrupt we conspired to promote Pakistan’s interests and put down India’s. At first sight the letter seems plausible. Except the details aren’t true. They are totally false.

    So now do you see my dilemma? Should I respond to the charges and end up taking them seriously or should I ignore them and thus permit a few to believe them? It’s an impossible choice but until I faced it I had no idea how difficult it could be. The questioner outside Priya might not believe my answer when I tell him that the most difficult thing in the world is deciding how to respond to an unfair and unjustified attack but I truly mean it.

    I do, however, have a small consolation. I think I know who is responsible. In this case their sheer ‘efficiency’ has given them away. Long before the ‘package’ was sent to assorted ministers, emails saying precisely the same thing were sent

    to Markand Adhikari, who owns SABTV, where my programme Court Martial is shown. The emails match these anonymous documents almost word for word. More importantly, they were signed. The names were Mrs. Manjari Desai and Mr. Sanjay Singh. I am not sure if they are pseudonyms but I do have their email address. Mrs. Desai can be contacted at manjaridesai2000@yahoo.com. Mr. Singh at delhi_2000in@yahoo.com.

    If you should write to them give them my love!

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