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  • A little self-indulgence

    Posted On February 14, 2000

    By Karan Thapar

    I wonder, dear reader, if this week you will permit me a little self-indulgence? Not simply an opportunity to inflict upon you my usual eccentric if not idiosyncratic views but perhaps to go a shade further and use your attention to make a point or two in honourable self-defence. My reasons are simple. Whilst criticism should always be accepted and taken in good faith, viciousness and foolishness should be countered lest they be assumed to be correct. The viciousness is personal and I will come to it later. The foolishness is more serious. In fact, if I am successful in making my point, you might even feel that it’s more than foolishness. You might come to view it as dangerous, damaging, discreditable opinion.

    On the 8th (and again on the 9th) The Times of India lambasted Doordarshan (and presumably the Government that owns the channel) for allowing an interview with General Musharraf to be broadcast. On the 8th it claimed that “Doordarshan, unwittingly perhaps, gave the General a platform to air his propaganda.” On the 9th it went further and asked : “Why should General Musharraf be handed this propaganda opportunity by Doordarshan?"

    The Times of India’s position is crystal clear. Interviews with Pakistani dictators, who are our enemy, should not be broadcast by Doordarshan. To do so is to undermine India and give Pakistan an advantage.

    Really? Is that actually the case? Or is the paper making a terrible mistake? Ask yourself two simple questions and then reconsider what The Times of India has written. Is it not in our interest to know our enemy? And is it not our democracy that makes us a better state than Pakistan?

    The interview is the answer to both. It gives us the first opportunity to not just hear the Pakistani dictator but to judge him as he speaks. And in doing so it proves that our democracy and our freedoms thrive. The opposite could never happen in Pakistan. That’s the difference between us.

    However The Times of India is also wrong in a deeper and I might add a far more worrying sense. Its views are extremely peculiar for a newspaper. The world over the media believes it’s the upholder of freedom of expression. Not The Times of India. In questioning Doordarshan’s right to broadcast the interview it has put itself in the uncomfortable position of advocating a policy which justifies control – if not censorship – of expression.

    What a strange position for a paper that claims it’s the nation’s premier daily. The caption in its emblem on the front page reads “Let Truth Prevail”. It would appear that the paper disagrees.

    The problem with emotion

    Much like jealousy, dislike is a self-defeating emotion. It can blind and mislead. It can also turn upon itself and hurt the bearer rather than the intended victim. That’s the other thing that went wrong with The Times of India’s criticism of the Musharraf interview. I don’t wish to bang on and on and neither do I not want to be boring. Which is why I shall make my point simply and, I hope, tellingly.

    Let me quote two sentences from the front-page article in The Times of India on the 8th. They are barely two paragraphs apart. The first reads : “Thapar was ... unwilling to let go an opportunity to place the Pak chief executive firmly in the dock”. (Incidentally, that’s not such a bad thing for an Indian interviewer to do!). The second claims that “... the interview will be regarded as a lost opportunity to pin down the General for his various acts of omission and commission against this country”.

    Honestly, you can’t have it both ways. If the General was put firmly in the dock then presumably this is because his acts of omission and commission were put to him. On the other hand if these acts were glossed over then it follows that the General was not in the dock. This is so obvious that I might even add QED!

    Only a person blinded by his or her own emotions would have failed to spot this inconsistency.

    Postscript

    By the way, I wonder if the writer of the front-page piece in the TOI on the 8th knows the full meaning of the phrase “to be got by the short and curlies”? He or she writes that “Musharraf got him (Thapar) by the short and curlies”.

    To begin with it’s slang and you won’t find the explanation in the Oxford dictionary. But I also suspect that the author thinks it’s a rather smart way of using the english language. In a bar or in the barracks it might be. But on the front page of a paper that believes it’s the nation’s premier daily?


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