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A tale of two city newspapers

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By Ghulam Muhammed

As it is, to judge the pulse of the people is a hazardous venture, even with all the high degree of sophistication sold to the gullible by the discredited polling peddlers, the state of editorial confusion in the writers of Mumbai’s two main opinion maker English media, The Times of India and The Indian Express, shows how media uses its power in questionable arbitrary manner, when it comes to Muslim mind. The anniversary of December 6, which is marked by Indian Muslim all over the country as a Black Day; a day when India’s most celebrated secular Constitution was systematically subverted by the two main political parties, joining hands in collusion to demolish the 400 year old historic Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.

Those who had witnessed the event on live telecast cannot forget what role BBC and its local correspondent Mark Tally played in spreading the panic all over the country, by their minute by minute reporting. For all practical purposes, the international media with BBC practically representing western interests in Indian affairs, was seen to be hand in glove with anti-Muslim elements in the Hindutva rabble-rousers as well as the pseudo-secular Brahmins of Indian National Congress that was ruling the country. It is therefore not surprising that Mumbai’s two English newspapers have come out with reports on the mood of Indian Muslims with two entirely divergent versions. Times of India report headlined: Looking Beyond Babri carried the theme, paraphrasing a Leftist poet Faiz’s famous line: Aur bhi gham hain Babri ke siva. Indian Express headline: ‘Muslim leaders seek stern action’, on the other hand gave the other side where Muslims are reported as enraged as ever; more so especially after Government’s tabling in Lok Sabha of the Justice Liberhan’s Report on Babri Masjid Demolition, that took 17 years to charge 68 persons, all from the BJP and other member of Hindutva Sangh Parivar. Muslims are reportedly demanding all of them to be brought to justice. The Times of India, in a report meticulously written by its confirmed Leftist liberal, Mohammed Wajihuddin stuck to his usual suspects in his progressive backyard, to paint a picture of ‘liberal’ Muslims, trying to monopolize the debate by burying their heads in sand, pretending Babri is dead. He should have added: Long Live Babri. For Times of India, to promote the notion that Babri is a non-issue is not only audacious, but dangerous, as it is underestimating the rage that is simmering in the Muslim milieu. Wajihuddin completely ignores the majority of Muslims in the city who by no means can be calculated as following Left liberal creed of making all religious issues irrelevant. Not a single of his quote is from mainstream Muslim citizens. His observations are therefore based on faulty and arbitrarily biased polling of the people. That does not reflect the fact. As it is when Muslim masses have spoken in united terms? Wajihuddin’s report therefore is a propaganda report. Much that liberals would like religion to be out of national debate, religion in India, in all its variations is the very soul of the people. Times of India’s attempt to sooth the nerves of the majority of its non-Muslim readership, is understandable; but it can make people and government complacent and take them with surprise when even small matters could trigger the simmering rage to the surface. It would therefore be better to err on the side of caution. ‘The Indian Express’ has picked up its line from politicians of the two different political parties, without bothering to go deeper into the subject of how mainstream Muslim feels about the Babri Masjid demolition and what are its aspiration over justice and restitution of Babri at its original site. Congress Party spokesperson, Hussain Dalwai, again a left liberal, dutifully followed the party line. Congress by releasing the Liberhan report is into political maneuvering as how to exploit Liberahan Commission’s findings to rouse sentiments in Uttar Pradesh and regain Muslim trust to once again secure a dominant political space for Congress in the pivotal state. A sizeable percentage of Mumbai population has live links with people back home in Uttar Pradesh. As earning members contributing to the family budget, they are susceptible to maneuverings by political parties in Mumbai. In this context, Samajwadi Party leader, Abu Asim Azmi, as quoted by Indian Express, follows the Muslim mainstream sentiments and demands the whole works. None of the two Media reports go deeper into the possibility that Babri sentiments could last for another 500 years or more than its old historical structure survived. With Muslims feeling under siege all over the globe, Babri demolition is India’s contribution to Muslim rage, that better be tackled by Congress government as soon as possible.