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Queer silence on the Bofors boom
December 10, 2002
"Rajiv stage-managed purchase of Bofors gun: court." That was the two-lined and four-column headline on an inside page of The Hindu newspaper, dated November 20, 2002. Four days earlier, the same newspaper had, on an inside page again, carried only a slightly less provocative three-column headline that said "Bofors deal: 'Abuse of official position'/Massive cover-up: judge"
Considering that Bofors was the single biggest political scam in free India until the Tehelka allegations came along, and considering that the nation's prime minister was (unlike in Tehelka) the hottest suspect, the above two headlines should have been screaming across the full width of all our newspapers without exception, and formed a subject for television debates. That it didn't happen that way is queer, a mystery that can be resolved only by surmise than by professional ratiocination.
Why, even The Indian Express which, after a long lapse, has delivered several sordid exposures in recent weeks, chose to stay muted on the first-ever judicial indictment of the Bofors deal although it had, along with The Hindu, done considerable illuminating work on the subject during the time Arun Shourie was at its editorial helm.
For that matter, the numerous web sites in cyberspace -- that usually bombard a columnists' inbox with news and views on everything under the sun -- were strangely silent on the explosive Bofors development.
That the definitive movement ahead on the 16-year scam was truly explosive is clear from the following excerpts of The Hindu reports based on the 176-page order of the presiding judge, Prem Kumar, of the Central Bureau of Investigation's special court:
Let it be noted that the above are not intellectual interpretations of facts by journalists like Shourie, N Ram and Chitra Subramaniam -- the three musketeers who did so much work on the subject -- but recorded findings by a responsible judge on the basis of documents laid before him by the CBI.
Why then, despite the severity of the above indictment, did our newspapers and web users hardly take any notice of it? Was it because Bofors had become such a dragging bore over the years with a hundred legalities but not a single notable verdict? That's difficult to accept because these very newspapers so loudly splash, on the front page at that, orders of our Supreme Court and the Malaysian courts that have stalled the CBI. Maybe, just maybe, the media has now become so fed up with the BJP-led NDA government, and so eager to have the "secular" Congress back in power that they are keen to ensure that nothing is done to hamper that desire of theirs.
There is a much simpler reason as to why the BJP's campaign in Gujarat hasn't used the god-sent Prem Kumar's order. The reason, one is almost sure, is that Narendra Modi and Company are so deeply immersed in Godhra and Hindutva that they haven't read The Hindu of November 16 and November 20. Such indeed can be the danger of religious fervour.