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Commentary/Varsha Bhosle

Dilip dear,

You're one devilish dude. With disarming stuff like "your fan" and "charmed" and "stimulating" thrown in, how can a girl summon up her bile? Naughty… naughty... Which is not to say I'm taking the easy way: Fact is, I guess I had it coming; and, better from you than some twit. But I'm sure you'll grant me this: 5 out of 8 isn't all bad, eh?

Perhaps, it's back to the drawing-board for re-evaluations: You raised some valid questions. Besides, caught between Thackeray and D'Souza, I'm rather apprehensive. I surely won't be able to strike in the vein of your characteristic anti-Sena aplomb – that's something you sharpen habitually. But don't get me wrong – it's something I also take great pleasure in absorbing. No, really, I'm an unabashed fan. And now that we've established our mutual admiration society – to work, then:

If you don't mind, I'll first tackle this point: "As for being 'blatantly partisan', I find it difficult to think of a phrase that applies more aptly to Saamna." Dilip, oh please say you don't really mean this. Haven't you heard of the term "party organ"? It doesn't connote a musical instrument played at weddings. Sometimes, it's also called "party mouthpiece" – which, again, is not a harmonica played at kiddy parties. Heavens, its job is to propagate the views and ideals of a political party! Therefore, it cannot be anything but partisan (OED: "loyal to a particular party or cause"), and neither can the staff that writes for it.

However, that does not apply to national newspapers… Let me rephrase that: ideally, it shouldn't apply, for non-party newspapers are supposed to be impartial in reportage and opinions. But we silly humans have a way of taking sides and sticking to our guns. For instance, every English-language paper has one token unashamed-of-Hinduism columnist among the plethora of assertive socialists/secularists (it's an amusing game, making such a list). And isn't it odd that even when a city votes heavily Sena, front pages should discuss the nefarious ways in which it won? That is "blatantly partisan" – with the negative tone.

Let's move on to: "If Mahanagar's detestability and lack of decorum offend, does Saamna's not?" Dilip, are you by any chance suggesting that since the goonda party-organ said all those awful things, the secular press is right in emulating/retaliating in the same manner? Left to me, I don't mind – I'm all for aggressive retaliation. But it's you secularists who lay such moment on media politics and ethics. Either both papers are wrong or both are right – which is it to be? But I don't hear anybody saying: Mahanagar shouldn't have highlighted Khairnar's speech where he said even maidservants aren't safe around Thackeray… We Marathi mansa obviously don't take well to conveniently smudged morality-boundaries.

But, to particulars: Since you mentioned the blackened face of the Haffkine Institute's director (Dr Yamul, incidentally, and sullied by union members of the institute after he repeatedly squeezed them on the issue of wages), do you also remember Mr Arun Shourie's face smeared with, not tar or ink, but cow-dung? Mr Shourie had written a rational and factually-supported piece on Babasaheb Ambedkar's relations with the British (something to do with how he continued to sit in the Privy Council). Where was your secular angst then? Did you feel indignant enough to attack the… Neo-Buddhists?

As for Husain and the nude Saraswati, did you know that the offensive article conjoining the Prophet with a pig was first published by a non-RSS/BJP/Sena Hindi magazine in Bhopal called Vichar Mimansa? After which, it was reprinted by scores of publications countrywide. The odd thing is that the artist's son lodged a police complaint when posters of a nude Husain turned up in Hyderabad (you see, it offended his sense of propriety). I'm wondering, what's with the double-standards – did you secularists notice the irony? Husain's just a man, while Saraswati is a Goddess (to only us, I admit). Perhaps, Hinduism isn't the Kleenex-soft target it's held to be.

And as for Anil Dharker's "mildly critical" article on Shivaji, who's to decide what's "mild"? You? Or are only minorities allowed to have those famous "hurt feelings"? Look at it this way: I think Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ was pretty mild: But did the whole of Italy? I think The Satanic Verses is a piece of art; but does any Muslim? So don't tell me that Marathis must take lily-livered stances. I say I have no decorum at all – now prove that you stick by your secular piety. But what was Dharker doing by adding to the surcharged milieu, anyway? What's he, the agent provocateur? Dilip, it's not editors, but the people who decide when Establishment-enforced sanctity ends: nobody dissuaded them from visiting Rajghat or raging at Thackeray's remarks. Whether the reverence for Shivaji has ended in Maharashtra or not – why don't you test it?

On to Behrampada: You want to "let" my "largely unlettered" pass. However, I do not. Let me see, wasn't it your father, Mr J B D'Souza, who, when interrogated by advocate Adhik Shirodkar for the Srikrishna Commission, said that he didn't know where Jogeshwari was and had never been to Behrampada? That wouldn't have been funny – had he not wanted to carry the case of the genocide of Behrampada's Muslims to the UN. Therefore, I'd like to ask you: Did you conduct a survey? I got my information from, where else, the working party.

"The Samajwadi Party, largely a nonentity in Bombay… was hardly an option." Dilip, do you stand by that? Then, tell me, how does the SP miraculously become an option in Muslim-dominated areas such as Imamwada (SP 2, SS 0); Zaveri Bazaar (SP 2, SS 1); and Saki Naka (SP 4, SS 5)? Clearly, the point of virtue raises its consecrated head only in egg-on-the-secular-face Behrampada, isn't it? Like, insinuate that the Sena victory is nothing but a protection racket, and all's well in the secularist world.

Ah! Miss Anita Pratap and the famous Time magazine. Actually, I don't lay much stock in either – since Time's anti-India reportage on the Bangladesh War, and Miss Pratap's obvious anti-Hindu bias. (BTW, did you know that she's a Christian?) Did you also know that a journalist is considered to be unethical if s/he should publish an off-the-record? No matter. But let me ask you this: Just because a journo from this middle-brow, semi-establishment US rag says that Thackeray said this-this – and then cannot, will not produce the evidence – it's to be assumed that she's honest and upright, isn't it? Not only will the publication not produce the transcripts, it won't produce even the tape! Can I not assume Miss Pratap made it up? But the Hindutvawadi is always lying, right?

"Maybe forthrightness is why hundreds of court cases against Balasaheb are never pursued and eventually withdrawn." Hello? What "hundreds of cases", Dilip dear? Why don't you rattle off, say, 10% of them? I still don't understand how one can make charges without backing them up. (BTW, are you due for another visit to the Srikrishna Commission on the question of some unsettled source naming Madhukar Sarpotdar with Dawood Ibrahim and guns which you publicised in your column?)

You said, "'Farce' was the word you used about the Srikrishna Commission, and rightly so…" Tch, tch, tch… in your haste, you missed the crucial word between my "keeping the farce of the Srikrishna Commission" and "for another day": That word was "coverage" – as in how the secular press distorts reportage. You see, I'm a coward and will not enter that area called "contempt of the court". It's all sub-judice now, isn't it? Quite right: we'll talk about farces another day.

The responsibility/accountability of Thackeray: Do you honestly think the Sena wins on the strength of Uddhav or Raj or Joshi or whoever? And when it gets egg, on whose face do you think it lands? But look at it this way: while the Congress flaunts what's accepted as its High Command, the Sena has a Remote Control. You see, it's a dynamic party and keeps up with modern technology.

Delivery problems, specifically, 5,000 houses for slum dwellers: May I ask that in the last, secular 40 years, how many had been built? Oh, but you doubt their existence, in any case. Therefore, the telecast rally, with the house-keys being given away to the new owners, must also be figments of our imaginations. However, since you are the intrepid journalist making the charges, isn't it your job to disprove their existence? Failing which, you are always at liberty to take the Sena's word for it, or, zip it.

You do yourself a disservice, Dilip, when you interpret that electoral success as evidence of anything but that Mumbaikars voted positively. The usual establishmentarian political games have simply stopped working (witness the Congress). It reminds me of your tear-jerking report ruing Mrs Ramdas Naik's victory over Eustace D'Souza, a democratic verdict given by what we must assume to be the ignorant electorate of Bandra (West).

Finally, your remark, "rioters, looters and murderers are running around freely on our streets" – how could I dignify with a response, this indicting of people with labels? Naaaah.

Questions, answers, is there a point? It all comes down to closed minds.

As always, your fan,


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Varsha Bhosle

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