The Dangers of Biased Journalism
Absurdity seems to have a special place in contemporary Indian mainstream media (read as bourgeois-nationalist media). An excellent case of glorification of the absurd was Malini Parthasarathy’s article on ‘The Dangers of Tamil Chauvinism’ (14th October, 2008, The Hindu, Op-Ed page). In all her jingoistic fervor, Ms Parthasarathy has conveniently manufactured some bizarre interpretations of the situation of unrest in Tamil Nadu regarding the Eelam independence struggle.
For starters, her paranoid assumption that the LTTE has ‘game plans’ to ‘rally Tamil chauvinist sentiment and translate that into pressure on New Delhi.’ It makes one wonder though how leaders from across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu – DMK, MDMK, AIADMK, PMK, CPI, VCK, TMMK – could be pawns in the ‘strategic design’ of the LTTE. Her contempt for the independent decisions of senior political leaders like Karunanidhi, Vaiko and Ramadoss seems obvious through her desperate attempts to portray them as stooges of the Tigers.
What makes her article far fetched from ground realities is that by focusing exclusively on the political sphere, she has completely – in all probability, deliberately – ignored public sentiment in Tamil Nadu. She fails to recognize that democratic politics is after all a reflection of the society. That the average Tamil is aggrieved by the injustice being meted out to his brethren in Sri Lanka is of no value to the writer.
Even assuming her argument that political protests from Tamil Nadu were stage managed by Tiger sympathizers as true, which it is not, how would one explain the protests of students from colleges across the state? Or of the Tamil Nadu Advocates Association? Were they also a part of any complex ‘game plan’ of the LTTE?
Could the Tigers have any ‘strategic design’ behind the one day protest-fast of prisoners at the Salem Central prison on October 14th? Or maybe the Tamil Nadu Cine industry which has decided to express their solidarity with the Eelam Tamils through organized campaigns is rallying ‘Tamil Chauvinistic sentiments’ for the Tigers?
Ms Parthasarathy has a distorted understanding of the Eelam struggle and its relation to the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Firstly, expressing sympathy with the Eelam Tamils is not the same as supporting the LTTE. The Tigers are one of the organizations, undoubtedly the strongest, that represent the Eelam Tamils. Supporting them or not is a matter of individual preference and ideological affiliations. But anyone with a humanitarian outlook, particularly any Tamil, would express concern over the plight of the suffering Tamil masses in Sri Lanka.
Secondly, the argument that LTTE would ‘stimulate the secessionist sentiment in Tamil Nadu’ holds no ground. Never in the LTTE’s history, since its conception in 1976, has it expressed a desire for a greater Eelam. Is the writer so insecure about Indian democracy that she feels Tamil Nadu would want to break away? However, it is important to note that this is a common argument put forth by the coterie of bourgeois-nationalists in India.
Fortunately for the Tamils in India, democracy has given great opportunities for them to develop their economy, have equal rights to employment opportunities, preserve their indigenous culture, have adequate representation in the political process and above everything else, the right to live as a human being. For all its flaws, Indian Democracy has benefited Tamil Nadu.
Unfortunately for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, none of these, including the right to live as a human being, were guaranteed. It was the racist Sinhala regime that forced the peace loving Tamils to take arms. The discriminatory policies of the Sri Lankan state, the racist attitude of the Sinhalese rulers, and the frequent anti-Tamil riots – from the 50’s to the early 80’s – were the reasons that legitimized the genuine struggle for liberation.
Things are not so different today. General Sarath Fonseka of the SLAF claims that Sri Lanka is primarily a Sinhala Nation and hence, it ought to be ruled by the Sinhalese community. The actions of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are but reflections of such attitudes. Civilian buildings are bombed, innocent Tamils are killed, tortured and raped. Even children are not spared. The bloody war has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Tamils.
However, Ms Parthasarathy is oblivious to all of this. Defending the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka is her agenda and the sufferings of Tamils don’t count. In fact, her arguments in the article in favor of Sri Lanka are so ridiculous, they would have passed off for a good laugh hadn’t the issue involved been such a terrible humanitarian crisis. It is a pity that media freedom has largely benefited jingoists to market their prejudices.