Comrade Ram

The Hindu is arguably the most credible Indian daily. Such is the fetish the management makes of authenticity, those reporting on some death might be pardoned if they seek to confirm from the dead themselves they have indeed breathed their last. Erring on the side of caution, fine, it has its virtues, problems like confirming deaths notwithstanding!

Let’s not go into it much here. The Hindu has earned its credibility over a long period. Hats off.

And Mr. N. Ram is, again arguably, the most progressive intellectual among Indian editors.

Whereas I consider Times of India an evil, in every sense of the term. Exemplifying the hegemony concept of Gramsci. Professing to cater to the middle class tastes, pandering to jingoism and the most disgusting of middle class prejudices, not to mention that its staff at every level are treated like dirt.

But such is the western liberal ethos that it can rise to the occasion when it so chooses. Like Times did during the abominable pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. It was the conservative Telegraph that broke the story of the massacre of Tamil civilians in the last days of the war with LTTE. Any number of such instances can be cited in favour of the bourgeoise press.

Times of India indeed comes out with flying colours in the Basu coverage, leaving the venerable The Hindu, edited by a self-proclaimed comrade, far behind.

Certainly Jyoti Basu was a great leader, a simple, humble man, he implemented far-reaching land reforms and kept the communal elements at bay.

That’s all fine. But what about the poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy, why the Lalgarh war, why the Maoists, and how come tub-thumping Mamata and the discredited Congress seem poised to romp home in the next elections, why are people disenchanted, what went wrong, where, when?  Questions, questions, a whole lot of them.  But not a word in the Hindu.

Basu played a key role in putting down the original Naxal rising.  How heart-wrenching it was for him then? Or it wasn’t?

More than anything else he is associated with that ‘historic blunder.’ Was it or not? Except for a passing mention, it’s not analyzed at all in The Hindu.

The issue reporting Basu’s death reads more like People’s Democracy and not a so-called independent newspaper. On the other hand look up the TOI. They too are awash with stories on Basu, but some of them really insightful and relatively balanced, and not hallelujahs.

M.J.Akbar’s is quite good. Why did you come to see a dead man is a touching quote – never mind it almost sounds made up, or even a clichéd ending. Sometimes clichés can touch you after all.

Don’t speak ill of the dead doesn’t apply to political commentaries, even if it’s on the day of reporting the death. The Times has indeed done a commendable job, no shrill anti-Communist offensive there. Can’t Ram, with his army of reporters and contacts, manage something half decent?

Whether it is West Bengal or Kerala, one can find Hindu reporters huffing and puffing, almost despairing, how to report what is happening on the ground without offending the boss. The same goes for foreign correspondents. After all comrades are nothing if not internationalists.

Forget Ram’s nostril-flaring opposition to Dalai Lama. How is the Hindu coverage  of Han-Muslim tensions or the repeated adulteration scandal or the misery of the rural folk in the great country?

Such is his loyalty to the erstwhile Mecca that his correspondent in Moscow now rarely reports anything unflattering to Putin. Even during the horrendous bombing of Grozny, we didn’t get to read anything on what was happening there.

Look at Frontline you wont get a word against that monster of a ruler Robert Mugabe, for he is supposed to be anti-West.

In the case of Lanka, Ram’s stance has been widely panned. If they extended unstinted support for President Mahinda Rajapakse and campaigned against any cease-fire, it all could perhaps be attributed to their understandable distrust  of the LTTE, but how would one justify Ram’s clean chit to the detention camps after the war? How could they be silent on the terrible misery faced by the civilians? Even messages condoling the death of Prabhakaran’s father are scrupulously ignored.  The list is endless.

It is indeed a tragedy The Times of India, with all its despicable values, should be the largest selling newspaper in the country.  But perhaps a greater tragedy is a ‘committed’ commie like Ram should come to head a newspaper like The Hindu.

Good literature or reportage was never produced in the Stalinist era, barring very few exceptions. Whatever was, was a dissident outpouring. Even after the disgraceful fall, few comrades ever learnt anything or drew the right lessons.

Certainly not comrade Ram.