Monday, 31 December 2012

What I Stand for?

I have been described variously as a megalomaniac, a crank, a maverick, a publicity seeker, a wild man, a loose cannon, and even a dog (by a Chief Minister), who 'comments on everything under the Sun'.

What am I really ? What do I stand for ? Since the new year is approaching I think a clarification of my views is in order.

I submit that my views are consistent, coherent, and directed to one single aim : To help my country become prosperous with its people having decent lives.

My views are already in my articles and videos on my blog and on the website, but let me summarize.

(1) Before the Industrial Revolution which began in Western Europe in the mid 18th Century there were feudal, agricultural societies everywhere. The feudal method of production was so backward and primitive (the bullock, buffalo, or horse were used for tilling the land, not tractors ) that very little wealth was generated by it, and hence only a handful of people (kings, aristocrats, zamindars, etc) could be rich, while the vast majority had to be poor. When the cake is small, very few people can eat it.

In sharp contrast, after the Industrial Revolution a unique situation has been created in world history. Modern industry is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can now be generated to meet the basic needs of everyone, and now no one need be poor, and every human being can get a decent life.

However, despite this unique historical situation, the reality is that 80% of the people of the world, including 80% Indians, are poor.

(2) The worst thing in life is poverty. In India there is massive poverty, malnutrition (every second Indian child suffers from malnutrition), unemployment, farmers suicides, skyrocketing prices, lack of healthcare and good education for the vast majority, etc

(3) Science is the only solution to these great social evils. By science I do not mean physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology alone. By science I mean the entire scientific outlook and scientific temper, which must be spread to every nook and corner of our country if we wish to abolish these social evils.

(4) The truth is that the vast majority of our people are intellectually very backward, their minds full of casteism, communalism, and superstitions (see on my blog my articles 'Reply to Young Students', 'The 90%', 'Ten ways of being foolish', and 'Rid our body politic of communal poison'.). And it is not just the uneducated people who are backward. Vast sections of the so called educated people in our society are also casteist, communal, and superstitious.

(5) Therefore my whole effort is to combat backward, feudal ideas and promote rational and scientific thinking among the Indian people so that India emerges as a modern, highly industrialized, prosperous country, in which all its people (and not just a handful) are prosperous. This requires long, steady effort of patiently explaining the truth to the people, which is precisely what I have been doing since long.

(6) We have all the potential of becoming a modern, highly industrialized, prosperous country. We have today (which we did not have in 1947) thousands of outstanding scientists, technicians, engineers, managers, doctors, etc and we also have immense natural wealth, raw materials, etc. We have therefore to convert this potential into a reality so that all our people (and not just a handful) get decent lives.

Is this the objective and thinking of a 'megalomaniac', a 'loose cannon', a 'crank', and a 'wild man' ?

(The Hindu: All eyes and ears : Justice Katju proved to be the most active public speaker of the year 2012 )

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Press Note : Regarding attack on journalists in Delhi

 I strongly condemn the recent attack on journalists by the police in Delhi during the recent protests against gangrape at India Gate and Rajpath. The journalists were only covering the events, which it is their fundamental right under the Constitution to do, and in fact that is their duty to the public. Many journalists were targeted by the police, their cameras broken, and many were physically assaulted. This a flagrant attack on democracy in the country, and it is not an isolated incident. Many such incidents are coming to my knowledge from different parts of the country.

Journalists act as agents of the people so that people get correct information about important events and thereby can form rational opinions, which is a sine qua non in a democracy. It is reported that some people in the crowds threw stones at the police, which was of course objectionable. But surely journalists did not throw stones. The police cannot take the plea that they could not distinguish between journalists and non journalists because the journalist were carrying cameras and other equipment which made them clearly distinguishable.

The governments of the Union and all states are therefore called upon to severely punish the police personnel involved in the attacks on journalists, and ensure that such  incidents do not recur in future, failing which it will be deemed that they are unable to run the government in accordance with the Constitution, and then the legal consequences in Articles 355 and 356 may follow. 

All medical aid to the journalists should also be given immediately.

    Justice Katju
Chairman, Press Council of India

Thursday, 20 December 2012

On Gujarat's Development

I have been asked my opinion about Mr.Modi.Till now I avoided commenting on him since I thought that my views may be misconstrued as if I wish to influence the Gujarat elections. Now that the elections are over I may speak out.

The test of every system is whether the standard of living of the masses is rising or not. Modi was no doubt successful in projecting an image of 'Gujarat Shining' under him. But the stark reality is very different.

Apart from what was done to Muslims in 2002, let us consider a few facts.

(1) Child malnutrition at 48 % in Gujarat is higher than the national average, far higher than the poorest African sub Saharan countries of Somalia and Ethiopia where the rate is about 33%. When Modi was confronted with this he said that girls in Gujarat do not eat or drink milk for fear of becoming fat, the people are vegetarians, etc which is all nonsense. Should the Gujarati children eat the factories, roads and electricity Modi has created ?

(2) The infant mortality rate in Gujarat is 48 per thousand, which is the 10th worst in India.

(3) More than a third of Gujarat's adult men have a body mass index of less than 18.5, the 7th worst in India. 

(4) Gujarat has a high maternal mortality rate.

(5) Education, health and income levels in Gujarat place it after 8 other Indian states.

(6) rural poverty is 51% in Gujarat, 57% among STs, 49% among STs, and 42% among OBCs.

No doubt Modi has given huge concessions to big industrial houses, giving them cheap electricity, land, etc and has built roads, etc. But what about the standard of living of the masses ? The figures given above paint a totally different picture.

I am sure the people of Gujarat will one day learn the truth

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Delhi Gangrape Case

I have been asked my opinion by many people about the recent gangrape of a girl in a bus in Delhi. I strongly condemn this crime, and am of the opinion that those who are found guilty by a court of law should be given harsh punishment. 

At the same time, I would like to know whether the same hue and cry which has been raised about it in the media and in Parliament would have been raised had this incident happened in some other part of India, particularly in rural India. I am sure it would not. But surely Delhi is not the whole of India. 

There has been hardly any hue and cry to a similar extent about the 250,000 farmers suicide in Vidharbha , Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere over the last 10-15 years( an average of 47 farmers suicide per day, which is still continuing) which is a world record of farmers suicide. There has been very little hue and cry about the fact that 48% of Indian children are malnourished, which is a rate far higher than the Sub-Saharan African countries like Somalia and Ethiopia where the child malnourishment rate is about 33%.

There is very little hue and cry about the massive unemployment in India, the almost total lack of healthcare for our poor people who cannot afford the expenses of a doctor or medicines and have to go to quacks. Education in India is in shambles. Most of the money given by the govt goes to IITs and some other institutes of higher learning but hardly any money is given to primary schools ( particularly in rural areas) where the foundation of knowledge is laid. Prices are skyrocketing, and one wonders how our 80% poor people are surviving, but there is no such hue and cry about it in the media or even in Parliament. There are many others huge socio economic problems facing the nation but very little is discussed about them. 

I am not trying to justify rape but I only request people to maintain a balance and not hype the Delhi gangrape incident as if it is the only problem in the country. Section 376 Indian Penal Code already provides for a maximum of life sentence for rape, and I see no reason why capital punishment should also be provided for it.

Reply to an American NRI

Dear Mr. Munshi,
Thank you for your email.

You have written therein "it is unfortunate that you should feel dismayed at my comments". Let me tell you that I never mind people disagreeing with me, provided it is done in a courteous and gentlemanly manner. In a democracy two people often disagree, and a debate is healthy. But in your note you described me as a person with a "prowl for glory, and a place in history". Was that fair ? Should you not apologize for that remark ?

As regards my comment that 90% Indians are fools, I have already clarified what I meant in my letter to the two students who threatened legal action against me (my letter is on my blog entitled 'Reply to young students Tanaya and Aditya), which you may read. ( )

However, I may again state my reasons why I called 90% Indians fools.

(1) In India when most people go to vote in an election they do not see the merit of the candidate but his caste or religion. What else is the meaning of vote bank politics in India ? And that is why we often get such rotten representatives in our legislatures, many of them having a criminal background. Does this not show the backwardness of most of us ? And it is not just illiterates who are casteist. I was a lawyer in the Allahabad High Court for 20 years and I saw that in the High Court Bar Association elections most Brahmin voters would vote for Brahmin candidates (for the posts of President, Vice President, Secretary,etc), the Kayasthas for Kayastha candidates, the Yadavs for Yadav candidates,etc. When even the so-called 'elite' in our society behave like this am I not justified in my remark ?

(2) 90% Indians believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. Even a little commonsense can tell us that the movement of stars and planets does not affect our lives , but most people in India (including much of our so-called educated class) believe in it. Before finalizing a marriage most parents consult the 'kundali' of the proposed boy or girl, and the poor 'mangali' girl is often rejected. 
When I went to take oath as Chief Justice of Madras High Court I was told not to take oath in 'rahukaalam ' i.e. the inauspicious time. Many Ministers, Judges, etc. consult astrologers to find out the 'auspicious' time to take oath. A very senior Tamilian lawyer practising in the Supreme Court told me that many of his clients tell him not to start reading their brief during 'rahukaalam' time. And his clients are all educated people, not illiterates.

(3) 'Honour' killing, that is killing of young people who have fallen in love and want to marry,by their relatives or caste or community members who disapprove of such marriage (because it is inter caste, inter religious, or for some other reason) is widespread in many parts of India, and so also are dowry deaths, casteism, communalism, etc. 

(4) Some years back it was announced in India that Lord Ganesh is drinking milk, and there was a rush of huge crowds in many cities of people who wanted to offer milk to Ganesh idols. Similarly, a 'miracle' chapati was announced some years back. Many of such 'miracles' keep recurring in India from time to time, and most people believe in them.

(5) Ours is a 'baba-bound' society. Consider the large number of 'Godmen' we have, and the huge properties they have amassed taking advantage of peoples' credulity. The latest one claimed to have a third eye, and he became very popular on T.V. channels. He advised people to eat kheer, samosas, pakoras, and golgappas for solving their problems, and all this was lapped up by his large followers who donated huge amounts to him.

(6) When I was a Judge in Allahabad High Court it was announced that someone in Tamilnadu had discovered a way of converting water into petrol (by putting some leaves into it). Some of my colleagues said that now we will get cheap petrol. I told them that this was a fraud, since in science there is a principle that everything moves from a higher energy level to a lower energy level. Petrol is at a higher energy level, while water is at a lower energy level. Water is really burnt hydrogen, it is like ash. You can convert wood or coal into ash, but how can you convert ash into wood or coal ? And later the 'discovery' was found to be a fraud. My point is that when many High Court Judges are so unscientific you can imagine the intellectual level of the Indian masses

(7) Once when I was a Judge of the Allahabad High Court I was having dinner with some colleagues of mine. Some of them said that in ancient India we had atom bombs, guided missiles, aeroplanes, etc I told them they were talking nonsense. Everyone in the world knows that the first aircraft was invented by the Wright brothers in America in 1903, and that the first atom bomb was exploded in Los Alamos in U.S.A. in 1945. We make ourselves a laughing stock before the whole world by talking like this. One of my colleagues said that there is mention of pushpak vimaan in the Ramayana, (on which Lord Rama is said to have brought Sita from Lanka to Ayodhya) and this prove that there were aircraft in ancient India. I replied that it is true that there is mention of pushpak vimaan in the Ramayana, but what is the Ramayana ? It is an epic poem (mahakaavya). Poets have what is known as 'poetic licence', that is, they can exaggerate. So one should not take mention of pushpak vimaan literally. It is a poet's imagination.

I can give several other examples of the foolishness of the vast majority of us. But I want to make it clear that I made that statement not to harm, humiliate or demoralize Indians but to make them conscious of the present backwarness of most (not all) of us. I love my people, and so I do not want them to remain backward. I want to see India in the front ranks of the most highly industrialized countries in the world, and its people happy and prosperous.

There was a time in the past when we were leading the whole world in science and technology, as I have mentioned in my letter to the two young students (see my blog ), but today we are indeed largely backward compared to Western countries. There is massive poverty in India, and over 75 % of our people are surviving on 25 rupees a day in these days of skyrocketing prices. There is massive unemployment in India. 48% of our children are malnourished, which is a rate far higher than the sub Saharan countries like Somalia and Ethiopia, where the child nourishment rate is about 33%, and The Indian Prime Minister admitted in a speech that this is a matter of shame.

There have been 250,000 farmers suicides in india (47 per day which is still continuing) , which is a world record of farmers suicides. Healthcare for the masses in India is almost non existent (there are of course very good hospitals for the rich and powerful) because doctors and medicines are too expensive for them. Consequently most of them go to quacks having no proper medical qualification.

Education in India is in shambles. The Government no doubt gives a lot of money for I.I.Ts and some other institutions of higher learning, but hardly any money is given to primary schools (particularly in rural areas) where the foundation of knowledge is to be laid. And of course most of these I.I.T. products migrate to the West, which means we Indians pay for their education, but Western countries (not Indians) benefit from it
It is only when we get rid of our mental and social backwardness and spread science and the scientific temper to every nook and corner of our country that our people can progress and become truly prosperous. At present the prosperity in India is of only a tiny section of our people, while the rest are poor. The 'India Shining' slogan is a myth for our vast majority.

As regards my statement that India and Pakistan should reunite (and I should have said Bangladesh too) I have already given my view on my blog in the article 'India and Pakistan--The case for Reunification'

Justice Katju

Monday, 17 December 2012

Press Note : Paid News in Gujarat Elections

December 17, 2012

            I have been informed today by Shri Rajeev Ranjan Nag, Member, Press Council of India and Convener of the team I appointed for looking into complaints of paid news and violation of Press freedom in the Gujarat election, that large scale practice of paid news in the recent Gujarat elections has come to the notice of the fact finding team.

            The full report about this is still being prepared and shall be submitted to me shortly, but I am informed that not only the print media but even the visual media (TV Channels) indulged in large scale practice of paid news in the Gujarat elections.

            This is indeed shocking and very disturbing as it is a heavy blow to democracy in the country. Certain politicians seem to be making a mockery of the purity of elections, and in their desire to get elected are prepared to go to any extent.

            After I receive the full report of the fact finding team I shall inform the Election Commission of India about it (as well as the general public and concerned authorities)  and request that elections of candidates who indulged in paid news and violation of press freedom in the recent election should be cancelled, as was done in the case of an elected candidate in the recent U.P Legislative Assembly Elections.  

            This also vindicates my plea for effective media regulation and punitive powers in the proposed Media Council for taking action against the delinquent media. ‘Self regulation’ has proved to be ineffective, and the recent Gujarat elections is the latest example of the malaise in a large section of the media, and it is not just an aberration.

                                                                                                (Justice Markandey Katju)
                                                                                                Chairman, Press Council of India


India and Pakistan : The Case for Reunification

In a function held recently in Delhi I said that the only solution to the Kashmir issue was reunification of India and Pakistan under a strong, secular, modern minded government which does not tolerate religious fanaticism or bigotry and suppresses it with an iron hand.

In response 'The Pakistan Observer' said that I had gone mad and become a lunatic. Well, everyone is entitled to his opinions, but is my view really so bizarre ?

When I meet Pakistanis (and I have many Pakistani friends ) I feel no different from them. We talk in Hindustani and feel one. Recently I had a long meeting at my residence with Dr. Khalil Chishty and his wife and son soon after the Supreme Court judgment in his case.In foreign countries Indians and Pakistanis mix up as if Partition has not taken place. And what is the basis of Partition ? It is the bogus two nation theory, that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations. I submit that this theory was only a product of the British policy of divide and rule to make Hindus and Muslims fight with each other. 

If this theory, that religion is the basis of a nation, is accepted then logically England should be partitioned into at least 6 states. The majority in England are Anglican Protestant Christians, but there are many Scottish Presbyterians, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, etc. Similarly, France has a sizeable Muslim population (descendants of North African Arabs belonging to the former French colonies in North Africa). The French Muslims too should be given a separate state (if the two nation theory is accepted as valid ). 

Anyone can see that this will create chaos. Hardly any country can survive if this theory is accepted because in almost every country there are people of different religions. And in the Indian subcontinent secularism is all the more vital in view of the tremendous diversity here (because the Indian subcontinent is broadly a country of immigrants, as I have pointed out in my article 'What is India' on my blog and in the video on the website ). 

We can see the result of creating a theocratic state (Pakistan) in which chaos and religious extremism is prevailing so that people cannot lead normal lives. Apart from the minorities (Hindus, Christians, Sikhs,etc), Ahmadis, Shias, etc are also persecuted, and intolerance and terrorism is the order of the day. So secularism is the only policy which is suitable to our subcontinent. 

Secularism does not mean that one cannot practice his religion. Secularism means that religion is a private affair unconnected with the state, which will have no religion. 

Some people asked me whether my idea of a united India and Pakistan is feasible. I replied that I know this unity will not be achieved in a short time. However, I am planting a seed. No doubt it will take 10 or 15 years for the seed to become a tree, but if the seed is not planted today there will be no fruit bearing tree in 10 or 15 years. I am confident that a united, secular, modern minded, India will come into existence one day, but whether I will live to see that day is doubtful (I am 67 years old, though mentally still young )

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

With Dr.Khalil Chishty after his aquittal by the Supreme Court.

With Dr. Khalil Chisty and his wife and son at my Residence after his aquittal by the Supreme Court. 

Dr. Khalil Chishty reminded me of Dr. Manette in Charles Dicken's novel 'A Tale of Two Cities' who was incarcerated in the Bastille for 18 years although he had committed no crime. Of course Dr. Chishty did not spend 18 years in jail, but his bail condition required him to remain in jail throughout his trial which took about 20 years, with the result that during this period he could not go to his home town Karachi and so he could not attend the weddings and other social functions in his family and could not meet many of his family members (many of whom were born after the incident of 1991 in which he was implicated) during this long period. I believe he and Sarabjit Singh and many others were victims of the mindset which makes both Indians and Pakistanis to regard people of the other country as devils instead of as humans. Great injustice was done to Dr. Chishty, but when he came to meet me with his wife and son after the Supreme Court verdict I found him cheerful. He is truly a great man. I told him that India and Pakistan were divided because of the mischievous British policy of divide and rule and the bogus two nation theory, and now we should reunite under a strong secular government, to which he wholeheartedly agreed.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Reply to Young Students Tanaya and Aditya

Dear Tanaya and Aditya,
            I have received your email, and am giving my reply, but before doing so in detail I wish to make some preliminary remarks:

1. I have been misquoted in the press reports, but it is true that I have said that 90% Indians (not all) are fools. My intention in saying so was not to hurt anyone but to awaken people to the realities, that is, the widespread casteism, communalism, superstitions, and other backward traits in the mindset of a large section of our people which is blocking our progress and keeping us poor.

2. The figure 90% is not a mathematical figure, it simply means that in my opinion a large proportion of Indians (and again I repeat, not all) are fools.

3. I never named you, nor any community, caste, or sect, and I never said that you are in the category of 90%. Hence I do not see how you are defamed.

4. I made this comment not to humiliate or harm anyone but because I love the Indian people, they are my people, and I wish them to prosper and have decent lives, which is only possible if the Indian masses develop the scientific outlook and scientific temper and give up casteism, communalism, superstitions and other mental attitudes which a large part (not all) of them presently suffer from. I wish to see India in the front ranks of the advanced industrialized nations of the world, with our people having a high standard of living, instead of suffering from the present evils of massive poverty, unemployment, price rise, corruption, farmer’s suicides, child malnutrition, absence of health care and good education, casteism etc. So you see I made that statement not to harm the Indian people, whom I love, but to benefit them. The truth is sometimes bitter, but sometimes bitter medicine has to be given to an ailing person.
Having said this, I may proceed to give a more elaborate explanation.
 I wish to first of all clarify that I do not regard Indians as inherently stupid or foolish. It is only at present that large parts of our people are foolish. But there was a time when we were leading the whole world in science and technology, and India was perhaps the most prosperous country in the world. It is now that we are having bad times, but we had a glorious past and shall have a glorious future too, but for that we have to get rid of casteism, communalism, superstitions and other backward traits in the mentality of a large part of our people (because of which I call them fools).

India’s Past
With the aid of science we had built mighty civilizations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe( except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries e.g. decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc (see in this connection my article ‘Sanskrit as a Language of Science' ). However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster. The way out of the present morass is to go back again to the path shown by our scientific ancestors, the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Panini and Patanjali, Ramanujan and Raman.

It is not necessary to mention here all the great achievements of our ancestors, but I may just mention a few.

      1.  The decimal system in mathematics was the most remarkable and revolutionary invention in the past, and it was created by Indians. To understand its significance, one must know that the ancient Romans, who built a great civilization (The civilization of Caesar and Augustus), felt very uncomfortable with numbers above 1000. This was because they expressed their numbers in alphabets, I standing for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50, C for 100, D for 500, and M for 1000. There was no single alphabet expressing a number above 1000. Hence to write 2000 an ancient Roman had to write MM, to write 3000 he had to write MMM, and to write 1 million he had to write M one thousand times, which would drive him crazy.  
     On the other hand, our ancestors discovered the number 0, and hence to write 1 million they had simply to put 6 zeros after 1.
     2.  Plastic surgery was invented by Sushrut 2000 years ago, whereas Europeans invented it only about 100 or 200 years back.

      3.   The English alphabets are all arranged haphazardly, there is no reason why D is followed by E, or E by F, or F by G, etc. On the other hand Panini in the first 14 sutras of his Ashtadhyayi arranged the alphabets in Sanskrit scientifically. Thus , the first sequence of 5 consonants (the  ka varga i.e. ka, kha, ga, gha, na ) are all sounds which emanate from the throat, the second sequence from the middle of the tongue, the third from the roof of the mouth, the fourth from the tip of the tongue, and the fifth from the lips. The second and fourth consonants in each sequence are aspirants in which the sound ‘ha’ is combined with the previous consonant e.g. ka+ha =kha.
     4.  5000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization the system of town planning was created with straight streets, covered drains, water and sewage system, etc

5.  Before the coming of the British India was a prosperous country. Its share in world trade in    1700 was about 30%, which fell to 2% by the end of British rule and is still not more than 3%. 
  India’s Present

Today there is no doubt that India is a poor country. While there are some pockets of affluence, about 80% of our people are afflicted with poverty, unemployment and other evils, and one major cause of this is the mental backwardness of a large part of our people.
(though there are also brilliant people like the Indian scientists and engineers in Silicon Valley)

 Consider the following:

1. When most of our people go to vote they cast their votes on the basis of caste or religion, not the merit of the candidate. What else is the meaning of vote banks? And this is exploited by some unscrupulous politicians who know how to manipulate and manage these vote banks. That is why many persons with criminal backgrounds get elected.

2.  ‘Honour’ killings are common in many parts of the country. This is a barbaric practice, and shows how backward many of us still are.

3. Dowry deaths are common in India, and as a former Judge I can tell you that our courts have a large number of cases of young married women who are murdered in a barbaric manner by their in laws for not getting dowry e.g. by pouring petrol on them and setting them on fire.

4. Scheduled castes are still often treated inhumanly, and an example is the recent attack on dalits in  Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu.

5. Female foeticide is common in many parts of India. Often when a male child is born the relatives are happy and distribute sweets, but when a female child is born often relatives get dejected. This is also a sign of backwardness among many of us.

6. Communalism, which was almost non-existent in 1857, is widespread in our society today. Muslims often face discrimination in getting jobs, houses on rent, etc, as the Justice Sachar Committee report has highlighted.  Muslims are often falsely implicated in bomb blasts and they have to spend years in jail though ultimately found innocent.

As I mentioned, upto 1857 communalism was almost non-existent in India. There were no doubt differences between Hindu and Muslims, but there was no enmity between them. In the Mutiny of 1857 Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After crushing the Mutiny the British decided that the only way to control India was divide and rule. Consequently, the policy came from London to create hatred between Hindus and Muslims. The British Collector used to secretly call the Panditji and gave him money to speak against the Muslims, and similarly he gave money to the Maulvi Saheb to speak against Hindus. All communal riots began after 1857. The communal award in the Minto-Morley ‘Reforms’ of 1909 introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. Year after year, decade after decade, the communal poison was injected by the British into our body politic, and even after 1947 there are elements which continue this (see online ‘History in the Service of Imperialism’ and my article ‘What is India’ on my blog

            Certain agent provocateurs take advantage of our backwardness to incite communal riots, and unfortunately many people fall prey to these evil designs and get emotionally carried away by communal propaganda and fight with each other.

5. Superstition is rampant in India. Most people believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. And it is not just the illiterates who believe in it, it is also most of the so called educated people in India. Many Ministers and Judges prefer to take oath of office at the ‘auspicious’ time.
            A few years back it was announced that Lord Ganesh is drinking milk, and there was a rush of people to offer milk to Ganesh. Earlier, a ‘miracle’ chapati was circulating.

6. A large section of the media, taking advantage of the backwardness of a large section of our people, dishes out lives of filmstars, cricket, etc as if these are the real issues before the people, when the real issues are socio-economic.

            As I said above, when I called most people(not all)  fools I did not wish to harm them, rather it was just the contrary. I want India to become a prosperous country, but this is possible only when the mindset of a large number of people changes, and their minds are rid of casteism, communalism, superstitions, and other backward ideas and they become scientific and modern.

            By being modern I do not mean wearing a nice suit or a beautiful sari or skirt. By being modern I mean developing a modern mind, which means a rational mind, a scientific mind, and a questioning mind. As already stated above, at one time we led the whole world in science and technology, but today we are undoubtedly far behind the West and even China. How did this happen? Why were we left behind, why did we not have an Industrial Revolution like Europe? This is known as ‘Needham’s Question’ or ‘Needham’s Grand Question’, named after Prof. Joseph Needham of Cambridge University (1900-1995). It is high time Indians try to answer this question, instead of trying to evade the reality of the backwardness of most of us.

            The worst thing in life is poverty, and 80% of our people are poor, which is largely because of the mental backwardness of most (not all) of us. To abolish poverty we need to spread the scientific outlook to every nook and corner of our country. It is only then that India will shine. And until that happens the vast majority of our people will continue to be taken for a ride.

                                                                                               - Justice Markandey Katju


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Leveson Enquiry Report and the Indian Media


The Leveson report on the British press should jolt the Indian media into acting against ills such as paid news, and focus on being an agent of progressive social change
After an inquiry lasting a year, Lord Justice Leveson has delivered a damning verdict on the decades of “outrageous” behaviour by the media. If anything, this verdict would apply in even greater force to a large section (not all) of the Indian media which has since long been shamelessly indulging in malpractices — paid news, the Radia tapes, and even blackmail and extortion.
The Zee exposure is only the tip of an iceberg. Lord Justice Leveson in his report has said that malpractices in the media are not aberrations but common practices. This comment applies equally to a large section of the Indian media, though it must also be said that there are many upright and excellent journalists in India.
Lord Justice Leveson has said that: a section of the media acted as if its own ethical code simply did not exist; it “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”; there has been “reckless disregard for accuracy.”


Everyone knows that paid news is rampant in India, but when the two-member committee (of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K. Sreenivas Reddy) set up by the Press Council submitted a damning 72-page report, it was shamelessly sought to be suppressed at the instance of some members of the Press Council (before I became its Chairman). The first thing I did on becoming Chairman was to place the report on the Press Council’s website.
Madhu Kishwar, a senior journalist, said on Rajya Sabha TV that many media people can be bribed and manipulated. The huge salaries which many top media people get (some are said to get packages worth several crores annually, often linked with TRP ratings) enable such media people to lead fancy lifestyles with huge cars, houses and bank balances, thereby making many of them (not all) docile hirelings of their corporate masters.


Lord Justice Leveson has called for the setting up of an independent statutory regulator of the media, which is precisely what I have been pleading for since long. However I have clarified that: 

1. I want regulation, not control, of the media, the difference between the two being that whereas in control there is no freedom, in regulation there is freedom but subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. 

2. This regulation should not be by the government or any individual but by an independent statutory authority (which can be called the Media Council) and 

3. Most of the members of the proposed Media Council (which should have representatives from the broadcast media also on it) should be mediapersons, not appointed by the government but elected by media organisations.
This media council should have punitive powers including the power to suspend licences and impose fines, but such punishment should be given by the majority decision of the Media Council, and not by the chairman alone. This is really a form of self-regulation and judgment by one’s peers (as is done by the Bar Council).
Some mediapersons have quoted Jefferson who said that if he had to choose between a government without a free press or a free press without a government, he would choose the latter. While I have great respect for Jefferson, I regret I cannot accept this statement, for two reasons. First, if there is no government there would be anarchy, and a free press cannot exist in an anarchy.
Second, in a democracy, the media must help people in their struggle for a better life. Therefore, freedom of the media by itself has no value. It has value if it helps people secure better lives. If the media uses its freedom to perpetuate poverty and other social evils like casteism, communalism and superstitions by propagating backward ideas, should we permit such freedom? Certainly not. Therefore, freedom of the media is a good thing only if it helps to raise the standard of living of the masses, and this it can do by spreading rational and scientific ideas and combating backward and feudal ideas like casteism and communalism.


Historically, the media arose in western Europe as an organ of the people against feudal oppression in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, all the organs of power were in the hands of feudal authorities (kings, aristocrats, etc). Hence the people had to create new organs which could represent their interests. The media (which was then only the print media) was a powerful organ created by the people. In Europe and America it represented the voice of the future, in contrast to the feudal organs which wanted to preserve the status quo. Everyone knows of the great role played by Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, John Wilkes and Junius who fought against feudal oppression, and helped greatly in the transformation of feudal Europe to modern Europe.
In my opinion, the Indian media should also play such a role. Today the Indian people are suffering terribly from massive poverty, unemployment, skyrocketing prices, an absence of health care and good education for the masses. The Indian media should help our country abolish these great evils, the way the European media did. Only then will it win the respect of the people.
Some people have misunderstood me and thought that I wish to gag or muzzle the media at the behest of the government. The truth is that I have always been fighting for media freedom, as my track record shows. However, I have also been saying that the media must act responsibly, particularly in a poor country like India.
No freedom can be absolute. Man is a social being, as Aristotle said. Hence freedom cannot go to the extent of damaging society, because in turn, we will be damaging ourselves.