Tuesday, February 10, 2009

(Non) Reporting on Sri Lanka

என்னுடைய நண்பர் ஸ்ரீனிவாசன் ரமனி EPW வில் எழுதிய இந்த எடிட்டோரியலுக்கு ,S.V. ராஜதுரை அவர்கள் எழுதிய பதில் கடிதம்தான் இங்கே
நான் பதிந்துள்ளது.

Your editorial “The Pyrrhic Victory” (EPW, 24 January 2009) could not
have been more timely, particularly in the context of three sorts of reporting on Sri Lanka in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu – the first kind comprises reports and articles, which appear in certain Tamil magazines. These are generally supportive of the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka and most of them specifically endorse the struggle for a separate Eelam being waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This sort of writing derives from a long tradition of Tamil nationalism and reflects a set of persistent political and cultural concerns: the idea of a common Tamil identity that owes nothing to a Hindu-Brahmin civilisation but which possesses
its own cultural and social coordinates and which therefore deserves its own political expression.

Much of this writing is more expressive and symbolic than concretely political and enjoys a consistent and sizeable constituency, which is blissfully ignorant of the fact that the LTTE think tanks in the Tamil diaspora are now seriously admitting that the LTTE have committed the blunder of getting embroiled with the political undercurrents of TamilNadu, especially with the anti-Brahmin strands, thus alienating the influential brahminical elites of the country. This partly explains the sudden enthusiasm the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has found for the Tamil cause and the utmost importance given to it by certain pro- Hindutva editors and journalists.

The second kind of reporting is indifferent, disinterested and apathetic in its response to the events in Sri Lanka and picks up news, as and when these happen. Occasionally, if a dominant political partly lends its voice to the Tamil cause, they report it and perhaps follow it up with anarticle or two.

The third kind of reporting is informed by a deep prejudice and even antipathy to Tamil needs and concerns, an antipathy masquerading itself as a principled and courageous opposition to the “Pol-Potist”, “fascist”, “semi-fascist”, “anti-India” LTTE which, according to its wisdom, is out to destabilise all of south Asia besides liquidating the very same Eelam Tamils in whose name it is waging a war against the legitimate, democratic government successively led by either the Sri Lanka Freedom Party or the United National Party. It supports the hard line opinion in both sides of the Palk Straits that the only solution for the ethnic problem is the complete annihilation of the LTTE.

This kind of reporting is so convinced of its own claims to objectivity and truth and does not examine its premises, and whether its arguments are balanced. Politically, it is against what it terms separatism, whether in India or elsewhere; culturally it is disdainful of claims to specificity and uniqueness and convinced of the unitary nature of civilisation and culture in India. Its points of view are not expounded in the contexts of debates and dialogues or against the background of founded empirical research. Instead they are stated as universal truths. The chief aim of this kind of journalism is to function as a cautionary voice against whatever dormant strains of Tamil nationalism may be found in Tamil political culture in India.

The core of its patriotism is its insistence on the pre-eminence of India in south Asia and its demand that all other things be subordinated to the interests of “Bharat”. Once the analysis of hard facts is replaced by demonology, such things as the mass support base the LTTE enjoys not only in the ever-expanding diaspora of Eelam Tamils, particularly in western Europe, north America and Australia but also in the Tamil communities of Indian origin in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and South Africa become immaterial. The support base includes not just ordinary Tamils but also the creamy layers amongst them.

It is this constituency, which claims for itself, a strong Hindu- Tamil identity, that ensures a regular and quite substantial flow of funds to the LTTE. It may be remembered that this constituency contributes to the economies of the host countries. This may be unpalatable for many of us but is indisputable to grasp the ground reality. As far as events in Sri Lanka are concerned, this sort of reporting relies largely on information provided by the states – both Sri Lankan and Indian – or by their various appendages including Tamil parties and politicians.

Reading reports filed from Sri Lanka or listening to special reporters of the TV channels, one has to search in vain for other sorts of opinion, whether from Tamils or Sinhalese, for that whiff of authenticity which makes a story real. The most important consequence of this sort of unfounded and partisan reporting is that every piece that is published is written with an eye on influencing public opinion, particularly in Tamil Nadu in an insistent, particular way. Neither the journalist nor the press that publishes her/him seems to have the courage and honesty to place all the information before the public, publish several points of view and argue out their cases cogently.

Rank prejudice reigns instead, and the Rajapaksa government is spared all the righteous secular ire that is reserved for the BJP here. Perhaps the hypocrisy and the lack of honesty in the reporting on Sri Lanka are only matched by our media’s silent culpability with respect to the events in Kashmir. But at least Kashmir has its spokespersons, in the form of human rights activists and members of the Hurriyat Conference. The LTTE has its partisan supporters and their equally partisan opponents, but the Tamils of Sri Lanka or even the Sinhalese for that matter, do not have the endorsement of honest, humane reporting in the Indian press.


And now, as regards the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Confucius has said something
of value:In passing the side of Mount Thai, Confucius came on a woman who was weeping bitterly by a grave. The Master pressed forward and drove quickly to her. ‘Your wailing’, said he, ‘is that of the one who has suffered sorrow on sorrow’. She replied, ‘That is so. Once my husband’s father was killed by a tiger. My husband was also killed, and my son has died in the same way’. The Master said, ‘Why do you not leave this place?’ The answer was, ‘There is no oppressive government here’. The Master then said ‘Remember this, my children: oppressive government is more terrible than tigers’ (quoted by Bertrand Russell in Power (London: George Allen &Unwin), 1938).

1 comments:

Valaipookkal said...

Hi

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