Saturday, November 17, 2012

Satyamev Jayate: Hey Ram, Indian leadership in Auckland shot the messenger this Independence Day

Satyamev Jayate: Hey Ram, Indian leadership in Auckland shot the messenger this Independence Day

 Thakur Ranjit Singh

[This article was given to Indian Newslink newspaper in Auckland, which had incorrectly quoted Thakur Ranjit Singh and led a lynch mob against Thakur for saying some home truths about India on his Facebook posting. This was Thakurs correction which Indian Newslink and its editor, Venkat Raman did not publish for obvious reasons.]

This episode opens with the Indian lynch mob after head of an Auckland journalist. He is purported to have posted comments on Facebook, deemed offensive by Indian politicians and some leaders. This makes a good script for a Bollywood movie. Here is an honest-speaking journalist, who speaks some home truths about his grandfather’s country. Indian leadership in Auckland, with a media and some political opportunism, makes a villain of him. He is chased out of his muhalla - his street, the house is burnt and emotionally-charged people, prompted by media, stone this “villain” to death. Truth should never interrupt a good script. And that is where the film ends with everybody dancing around his dead body and chanting “bharat mata ki jay, mera bharat mahaan…”

Thank God I am not in India, or by now, I would have been that dead body. That is the advantage all NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) have in this civilised democracy - where we still (supposedly) have freedom of speech. That journalist is none other than yours truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh.

What were the truths that Thakur said in his Facebook posting? [Please see link (s) under each heading to substantiate what I said]

1) India has been judged the worst country for a woman to live (by G 20 survey).

2) Indians have hoarded the largest amount of black money in Swiss Banks

3) India has one of the most corrupt politicians in the world.

4) India has done very well economically, but this wealth has failed to reach many of the needy, with very heavy unequal distribution of wealth.

5) In the Olympics India failed miserably.

Things that Thakur said you should do during Independence Day in front of Indian Flag:

1) Bow your heads and pray for a miracle to salvage the name of a once proud country, so once again we can say we are proud to be an Indian

2) Pray for a prosperous, honest conscientious and caring nation where all have equality and share in the economic cake.

What Thakur said about Fiji?

1) I am proud to be Fijian, and thank my grandfather for running away from India in 1915 for a new home in Fiji.

What Thakur did not say, but was misrepresented by media, Indian Newslink:

1) I never said I am NOT proud to be an Indian.

2) I never said ‘bow your head in shame” I said bow your heads in prayers.

3) I never said India is economically backward – I praised its economic development, but criticised its distribution.

This is what the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said on the eve on India’s Independence Day: Anger against the bitter pandemic of corruption is legitimate, as is the protest against this plague that is eroding the capability and potential of our nation. There are times when people lose their patience...” It was one such time for me.

India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said the following in his Independence Day speech: “We will continue our efforts to bring more transparency and accountability in the work of public servants and to reduce corruption...” So I wonder what different I said that riled these distant NRIs?

Indians can say things because of blind nationalism and misplaced patriotism.  What I am perturbed by is comments by former Fijians in Indian Newslink of 1 September, 2012. In what I said above, what did Sunil Chandra, President of Waitakere Indian Association, find “unacceptable”? What were “derogatory”, Ahmed Bhamji? And Vinod Patel, who heads Mega Mitre 10 and is President of Hindu Council of New Zealand (HCNZ), surprised me most with his boorish, blinkered and vitriolic statement that borders on defamation of character. He calls me a “failed journalist?” Last year I graduated with Masters in Communication Studies with Honours from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) after doing a 300 page research thesis on media and politics in Fiji. Does he question the standard of AUT? Since when did he become a media commentator and analyst? He blames me for writing without base and research and having hatred in my writings. I had earlier worked at HCNZ and at one time had been president of Hindu Elders Foundation and Chaired media section of their Hindu Conference earlier this year. I still remain Media Officer for Waitakere Indian Association and Waitakere Ethnic Board and head Sanatan Media Watch. I can also question his suitability to head HCNZ with such non-substantiated and divisive views, but I will not, but vote with my feet. HCNZ has strenuously attracted only a handful Fijians, they will have one less now.

And Venkat Raman, editor of Indian Newslink has been using my free services, feature journalism articles and opinions for some 8 years and had occasionally praised me for this.  And he publishes this defamatory and unsubstantiated diatribe of Vinod Patel in his paper which any respected editor would question, especially against a person he knows personally. I find this strange. I appreciate that as a journalist and media commentator, I have been thorn to some people. Writing honestly about vice in society has been my trait and for that I make no apologies, and even had tussles with the way HCNZ operates. I believe that if you are a popular and likeable journalist, you are not doing your job; if you rile or annoy people, and they hate you, you must have done something right. I have been fired by two diametrically opposed Fijian Prime Ministers for speaking truth. One is Qarase (serving jail term) and another one is Mahendra Chaudhry, now in courts for abusing his position. Compared to these, my suspension as Vice President of WIA due to pressure from Indian leadership is like a Sunday picnic.

The instigator of this, Sunny Kaushal is a Labour politician who can now proudly tell his son in Labour Party youth that he should never be truthful and fearless like Thakur, team up with the right influential people and politicians, hide truths, curtail free speech that offends your mother country, befriend media-wallahs and you will become a successful Indian politician in NZ.

No Indian leader or politician can teach me the history of Girmit of my grandfather. He ran away to escape poverty and atrocities back home, seeking better life elsewhere. I grew up listening to Bhagat Singh’s revolution from my grandfathers’ 78 RPM HMV wind-up gramophone. That is why my heart bleeds when it appears the sacrifices of these revolutionaries-“saheeds” went in vain, with the current situation in India.

People are completely wrong in comparing this episode to Paul Henry saga. I am a Fijian of Indian descent and judged things from my knowledge of India and have substantiated each allegation with media link, in many cases, written by Indians themselves. All those slating me are well-off NRIs, majority from one or two particular prosperous states, very few migrants are from downtrodden states, and hence they have little overseas voice. I chose to speak bluntly on behalf of my downtrodden cousins in Karauli, Rajasthan in India where I went in 2003 to trace my roots and was shocked to see how the Maharaja still rules, Mandirs are his commercial arms and religion is for sale. Independence has yet to reach Indians almost the population size of USA.

Perhaps my only crime is to have used English idiom that perhaps many Indians do not properly understand. Calling “every Englishmen and his dog” does not mean I am calling or comparing England to a dog. It is just a way of emphasising “all’ or ‘everybody” Similarly; I have said nothing about dog and India. I hope Indian community leaders understand this.

Nobody to date can honestly say what I have said wrong or untruthful, they just merely appeared to have joined the lynch-mob started by a labour politician, seeking my scalp, hiding behind generalisations like “unacceptable”, “derogatory”, “bad attitude”, ‘deplorable,” “very disturbing” and so on. Only one person agreed with my right to free speech.  Contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, it may now be an Indian sin to speak the truth. However, I feel it is still not a Kiwi sin to do so.

What an irony that on the Independence Day of the largest democracy on earth, Indian leadership in New Zealand shot down few of the strongest pillars of free world, democracy and principles of Independence - free speech, media freedom and - truth. Together with it, they have shot the messenger as well. Hey Ram!