Constructive Criticism is need of the hour! – dr. james kottoor (Chicago)

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Censorship is slur on Indian democracy! – Voice of dissent & constructive Crititicism is need of the hour! – dr. james kottoor (Chicago)

 James kottoor If the CCV publishes Kuldip Nayar, again and again, it is because his type of frankly speaking journalists are hard to find – nay they are going extinct in India these days – which is all too dangerous for the health of India, the largest democracy in the world. 

Voltaire principle

Like Kuldip this writer often used to think of Arun Showry in the Indian Express during Indira Gandhi’s time, who used to keep us all entertained and informed. For us the principle is, that of Voltaire – to defend to death the right of the  critic to say what he/she has even when one doesn’t agree one bit with what he/she says and that without fear, favour or ill-will. That culture – to disagree without becoming disagreeable – has to be  brought back to India at the earliest, if Indian democracy is to prosper and not perish.

Where has gone outspoken critics like Arnab Gosami and Rajdeep Sardesai? Not that we agree with all that they say. We don’t on many counts! The acid test of an all absorbing discussion and debate is the courage and conviction exhibited by the participants to speak out one’s views, even hurting ones, without the least intention of hurting, but for provoking the opponent to think differently, without any love lost on both sides.

Embedded Journalism?

The American brand of ‘embedded journaism’ seems to be infecting and invading many Indian writers.  One should not hurt or offend those whom he/she is “sleeping with” (embedded) seems to have become the attitude of many Indian writers and TV anchors. Of course autocratic and dictatorial powers that be, can tolerate only caged parrots that repeat the master’s voice. They cannot tolerate  anything discordant in their eye sight. That is the rason d’etre at the bottom of the fight between Qatar and Abudabi, UAE etc. Regarding shutting down “Aljezeera”. Qatar should never succom to such pressure!

Neither bend nor crawl

During Emergency the press was asked to bend, to play fiddle with the government, but it willingly crawled, as the BJP veteran Advani said once. For the honour of Indian democracy Modi has not explicitly told anyone to bend or crawl. All what he does is encouraging his blind, unthinking fans to shout at the top of their voice 24 hours so that no other voice is heard in the land except his “Maan Ki Bhaat”.

The shame and the pity is that critics of BJP administration do not have the wisdom or the stamina to use the social media, as effectively as the Saffron group does, to highlight the truth about the untruths they are spreading to keep the people entertained in a ‘fool’s paradise.’ To bring some change in that situation we need more Kuleep Nairs and Manish Tiweris. May their generation multiply and prosper in India. james kottoor, editor, ccv.


Please read below Kuldip Nair’s column on Freedom

Why freedom must survive – Kuldip Nayar, in The Statesman, August 3, 2017

I vainly search for my favourite television anchors like Karan Thapar and Barkha Dutt. I am told that they have been taken off.

Who has done this is a matter of conjecture. Some say that it is the pressure of the Narendra Modi government while a few others lament that it was the doing of the owners of the channel. Whoever has done it has acted as the censor.

What surprises me is the absence of protests. In my time, there would be noise or meetings to point out that the press has been muzzled or that critics have been silenced.

Of course, it was a different story when the emergency was imposed, but before that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would not dare move against the press. She would look for supporters – and there were quite a few – but the number of critics was also large. I recall that after imposing censorship in 1975-77, she triumphantly said that not a dog had barked! This hurt me as much as other journalists.

We gathered at the Press Club – the number was 103 – and passed a resolution to criticize censorship. Information Minister V.C. Shukla, who knew me well, rang up to warn that “each one of you” would be put behind bars. This actually happened and I, too, was detained for three months.

That period surfaced once again before my eyes when Taslima Nasreen remarked the other day that “very few opposition voices are heard in the world’s largest democracy.”She had been confined to Aurangabad after leaving Kolkata. She is from Bangladesh and the fundamentalists there drove her out because she wrote the book, Lajja (Shame), narrating the plight of Hindu women at the hands of fundamentalists in her country.

It is a slur on Indian democracy that she cannot live in a city of her choosing. I am told that a few days ago she left for Aurangabad but was sent back. I do not want to dwell any further on this incident but what I have in mind is the danger to our democracy. An emergency-like situation can prevail without actually being imposed.

The RSS has been successful in removing the liberal heads of various educational institutions. I followed the case of Nehru Memorial Centre and found to my horror the disappearance of familiar liberal people. Still the case of Taslima Nasreen is there, unexplained.

This looks like the fatwa against Salman Rushdie by Iran for having written the book, Satanic Verses, which raised questions against Islam. The Indian nation has to be vigilant all the time because it has gone through a period of 19 months of censorship.

The press overdid it because as BJP leader, L.K. Advani, said: "You were asked to bend but began to crawl." To a large extent, Advani was right. Journalists were afraid of being arraigned by the Indira Gandhi government. Today, it is the other way round.

The press has been saffronised and except the odd voices in print and electronic media, it is at the beck and call of the people in power. There is very little difference between then and now because survival is the uppermost in the minds of newspapers or television channel owners and journalists.

NDTV is under pressure because its owner Pronnoy Roy had taken a loan. But the CBI registered a case against RRPR Holding Private Limited, Pranoy Roy, his wife Radhika and unidentified officials of ICICI Bank of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption.

The government may find some ways to harass Karan Thapar and Barkha Dutt because of their long association with television. They had been the most vociferous anchors taking up the cause of aggrieved people. Obviously, it was not to the liking of the establishment.

The pressure must have been enormous on the channels to drop both. How do we bring back the environment of freedom?

That is the question facing the nation today. Journalists are afraid to speak up lest they should annoy the owners. What happened during the Emergency should not happen now. Then the Press had failed miserably. (The writer is a noted journalist, columnist and commentator)

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1 Response

  1. almayasabdam says:

    Varghese Pamplanil. replies to Dr Kottoor

    I have just gone through Dr. Kotoor’s comments on Kuldeep Nayer’s column in The Statesman.

    If I remember correctly Voltaire has said “I totally disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” Louis XVI, seeing in his Temple prison, the works of Voltaire and Rousseau said “Those two men have destroyed France” meaning despotism. Just as physiological decay leads to inaction and intellectual decay leading to economic and political corruption and utter national disintegration. The influence of radical thoughts of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Montesquieu, Marquis de Condocet, Bayle, Spinoza and the eighteenth-century French materialists on the Enlightenment and on the emergence of modern ideas of democracy, equality, toleration, freedom of the press and individual freedom is immense. What we need is men of wisdom and ideas coming into the open forum.

    Early in the French Revolution, in his memoir on press freedom, submitted to the Estates-General in June, 1789, Jean – Perre Brissot, later a prominent  evolutionary  leader, proclaimed liberty of press  “undroit naturel a l’homme“. The ensuing debate rapidly revealed the complexity of full freedom of expression.

    Thank you Dr. Kottoor, for the courage of conviction, for highlighting the issues germane to the impinging of our freedom of expression and inalienable right of liberty and bringing them up into public domain, in an atmosphere, to borrow Tagore’s immortal words ( with  slight changes) “where the world has been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,” “where words do not come out from the depth of truth, “where the clear stream of reason has

    lost its way in the dreary dessert of dead habit” and “where the mind is (constrained)from ever widening thought and action” and not  allowing “my country to awake.”

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