Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It’s ok. Mistakes happen. No big deal about one of the 50 most wanted living in Mumbai

It’s embarrassing no doubt. It allows Pakistan to accuse us of blaming them every time an act of terrorism happens in India. But it’s not such a big deal really.....and it doesn’t take away from the fact that so many of our wanted are living in Pakistan under the protection of their government. It doesn’t also give Pakistan a clean chit.

Apart from a few blushes for the Indian government, how does it help Pakistan? Today, the world doesn’t need any more evidence of about Pakistan being the epicenter of global terror. The little goof-up does not take pressure away from it. India’s demand with respect to at least the remaining 49 most wanted is still legitimate. At worst, it is indicative of a communication gap between different government departments in India. It’s not like this man was living freely in Thane and we didn’t know about him. The man has been charged and is out of bail. He’s been charged for various acts of terrorism and he’s pretty much under police observation.

It’s not like it is inside Pakistan, where terrorists roam around freely without any fear of the law. Take the case of Dawood Ibrahim. Apparently, India has incontrovertible proof of where he lives in Karachi. Not only does he live there, he thoroughly basks in government and societal affection. He travels out of Pakistan as a normal Pakistani citizen would. His children are married into other prominent families there. So Pakistan’s involvement with terrorists is well established. One wrong entry in India’s list of fugitives does not make any material difference really.

What makes a difference is the BJP’s response to this situation. Before I comment on this, I would like to mention a wonderful piece that Aakar Patel wrote in Mint Lounge this last Saturday. He called Advani the worst kind of “extremist”. Not for what the word extremist means literally, but for the way in which Advani uses the extremist form of language on so many occasions. He quotes from scores of Advani’s statements where he has variously called the economy to be the “worst”, the state of terrorism to be the “worst”, the general situation in the country to be the “worst since independence”, the scams to be the “worst”, the government to be the “worst” and the many other cases where everything is the “worst”! It’s a hilarious piece really and I seriously advise you to read it. For a party whose tallest leader is such an “extremist”, it not difficult to understand why it jumps the way at every opportunity as it does.

The BJP is the one causing the embarrassment to India by calling it the “worst” home ministry ever. The “most monumental” error. The “most acute” embarrassment to the country etc. Give the BJP a little latitude....and they will ask for the PM’s resignation over this issue also! It’s like they believe that if they ask for the PM’s resignation a hundred times, he may oblige them once! Any other country would have closed ranks in a situation like this. The BJP should have thought of what the damage to India’s position.....and surely there would be damage.....would be in Pakistan. It would give them a fair bit to gloat about. Already,  the “Dawn” newspaper of Pakistan has carried the report in yesterday’s edition and added its own jingoistic spin to it. It does India no good that the BJP has decided to make political capital out of it.

I am going to suggest something that is so easy to do, but yet is almost never practiced by any political party in our country. Admitting a mistake and going forward. And then, never repeating it. Too much time is spent in defending even an obvious mistake....with the result that the same mistake or a similar one can recur. The focus shifts from learning from the mistake to defending it. Every one makes mistakes and there is nothing wrong in it. What is unpardonable is not learning from the mistake and repeating it again and again. In this case, the Home Ministry should accept the blame, learn a lesson from it. And move on. End of story. But will that happen? Well, GK Pillai surely did say something to that effect. He took the blame as the Secretary of the Home Ministry. But it would help if Chidambaram also did the same.

The real truth is that while it is a small embarrassment for India, it surely doesn’t deserve the front page prominence that the TOI gave it. Putting out your worst on the front page shouldn’t be called good journalism. Newspapers must learn to differentiate between “genuine mistakes” and “goof-ups”. They have to have a sense of judgment and balance. Sometimes, in the country’s interest, it’s better to skip that “scoop” that you have access to.....sometimes, it’s better to close ranks and act as one. Readership will not drop by a few thousands....it will increase. Newspapers are read at 7 am.....not the time when readers want criticism. If newspapers put more cheerful stories on their front pages, they would realize that it would do them a lot of good. They used to do this in the past; they have forgotten it now. This is the real reason why newspaper readership is falling in spite of such low penetration even in our biggest cities....

The real truth also is that the BJP still hasn’t learnt that embarrassing the country is a wholly different thing from embarrassing the ruling party and the government. This story amounts to an embarrassment of the country. The public are bound to see an agenda in this. The only goal of the BJP has been clear for some time now....discredit the government for everything. Never applaud it for anything at all. I doubt if this will take them past the victory post that they have been so wistfully eyeing.....

No comments:

Post a Comment