Wednesday 27 February 2013

Even the Chairman has the Freedom of Speech

“Bol ki lab azaad hain terey
Bol zubaan ab tak teri hai”
(Speak out for your lips are free
Speak out for your tongue is still yours”)
 -Faiz Ahmed Faiz
I have been criticised by some politicians, lawyers and others for being outspoken on some issues unrelated to the press while being the Chairman of The Press Council of India (PCI). As a result, it is time now for my response.
The main attack on me is that since the PCI discharges quasi-judicial functions, its Chairman should not speak on non-media issues.
First of all, let me say that if a matter comes up before the PCI when it is exercising quasi-judicial functions involving an issue or a person about which or whom I have expressed my view, I will immediately recuse myself from the deliberations and decision on it. In quasi-judicial matters I do not make decisions on my own. Rather, it is the PCI which, by majority vote, makes decisions. There are 28 members of the PCI apart from the Chairman. If I recuse myself then the other members will deal with the matter as they deem fit. What then is all the hullabaloo about?
It is then said that a judge should not comment on public issues except when a case comes before him. I reply by saying that I am not a judge but a retired judge. It may be pointed out that the post and functions of the Chairman of the PCI are very different from that of a judge.
First, while a judge has only judicial functions (except the power given to High Courts under Article 235 of the Constitution of administrative control over the subordinate judiciary), the Press Council not only performs quasi-judicial functions under Section 14 of the PCI Act of adjudicating complaints by or against the press, but also preserves the freedom of the press and maintains high standards of journalism, vide Section 13. Second, the High Court and Supreme Court have powers which the PCI does not have. Example, the power to issue writs; punish for contempt of court; quash orders of administrative authorities; issue directions in a PIL, etc. There are several other differences between judges and the Chairman of the PCI. How then can the two posts be treated as equal?
I have repeatedly said that I am not only Chairman of the PCI but also a citizen of India. The PCI Act contains no provision prohibiting me from speaking on non-media issues (though, as I have already said, if a matter comes in quasi judicial proceedings of the PCI on which I have expressed my view I will recuse myself from the deliberations and decision). Hence, I will continue speaking on such issues, particularly when it is, in my opinion, a matter of grave importance for the nation, no matter what some people might say. I have a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution (which gives the freedom of speech to all citizens) to speak on such matters even while remaining the Chairman of the PCI.
A charge is made against me that I am a government servant and a government appointee and am therefore doing the bidding of the government. To this my reply is as follows: first, the Chairman of the PCI is not appointed by the government but selected under s.5(2) of the PCI Act by a selection committee comprising: 1. the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (the Vice-President of India) 2. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and 3. a representative of the PCI (who is not appointed by the government but chosen democratically by the members of the PCI). It was this body which unanimously selected me. 
Second, I am not a government servant but an independent statutory authority. It is true that s.7(1) describes me as an “officer,” but the word “officer” does not necessarily mean a government servant. One word can have several meanings, and it depends on the context in which the word has been used. The word “officer” in s.7(1) means a person holding an office. That the Chairman of the PCI is not a government employee is borne out by several features: 1. An employee is usually under the supervision and control of a superior, but the Chairman of the PCI has no superior 2. Employees have ACRs (annual confidential reports) but there is no ACR of the Chairman 3. An employee can be suspended and (if he is on a transferable job) transferred, but the Chairman can neither be suspended nor transferred 4. The Government Servants’ Conduct Rules do not apply to the Chairman of the PCI.
No doubt the salary of the Chairman is paid by the government (the appointment letter states that the Chairman will get the same salary, benefits and amenities as a sitting Supreme Court Judge), but then salaries of High Court and Supreme Court judges are also paid by the government. Does that make such judges government employees?
To those who said that I have only criticised non-Congress governments I have already given my answer in various TV discussions that I have frequently criticised Congress governments too, examples being of Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. I accuse such persons of twisting facts.
I would not have even bothered to give this explanation but for the misleading comments made by some persons which could have misguided the public.

(Published in The Hindu on February 27, 2013 )

Friday 15 February 2013

All the perfumes of Arabia

All the Perfumes of Arabia
By Justice Markandey Katju

Narendra Modi is being projected by a large section of Indians as the modern Moses, the messiah who will lead the beleaguered and despondent Indian people into a land of milk and honey, the man who is best suited to be the next Indian Prime Minister. And it is not just the BJP and RSS who are saying this in the Kumbh Mela.  A large section of the Indian so called 'educated' class, including a section of our 'educated' youth, who have been carried away by Modi’s propaganda are saying this.

I was flying from Delhi to Bhopal recently. Sitting beside me was a Gujarati businessman. I asked him his opinion of Modi. He was all praise for him. I interjected and asked him about the killings of over 2000 Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. He replied that Muslims were always creating problems in Gujarat, but after 2002 they have been put in their place and there is peace since 2002 in Gujarat. I told him it was the peace of the graveyard, and peace can never last long unless it was coupled with justice. At this remark he took offence and changed his seat on the plane.

The truth today is that Muslims in Gujarat are terrorized and afraid that if they speak out against the horrors of 2002 they may be attacked and victimized. In the whole of India Muslims (who are over 200 million of the people of India) are solidly against Modi (though there are a handful of Muslims who for some reason disagree).

It is claimed by Modi supporters that what happened in Gujarat was only a 'spontaneous' reaction (pratikriya) of Hindus to the killings of 59 Hindus in a train in Godhra. I do not buy this story. Firstly, there is still a mystery as to what exactly happened in Godhra, and who was responsible for the killings. Secondly, the particular persons who were responsible for the Godhra killings should certainly be identified and given harsh punishment, but how does this justify the attack on the entire Muslim community in Gujarat. Muslims are only 9% of the total population of Gujarat, the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2002 Muslims were massacred, their homes burnt, and other horrible crimes committed on them.

To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 as a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht (see online) in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalized, etc after a German diplomat in Paris was shot by a Jewish youth whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazi Government that this was only a 'spontaneous' reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs.

I have said in my article 'What is India?' (see on my blog as well as on the video on the website that India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and consequently it is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence the only policy which can hold it together and take it on the path of progress is secularism and equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our Founding Fathers (Pandit Nehru and his colleagues) who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy our country cannot survive for one day, because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc.

India therefore does not belong to Hindus alone, it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains etc. Also, it is not that only Hindus can live in India as first rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first rate citizens here. The killings of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities on them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Modi in this connection.

 It is said by his supporters that Modi had no hand in the killings of Muslims in 2002, and it is also said that he has not been found guilty by any Court of Law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, and the horrible events happened on a large scale in Gujarat Can it be believed that he had no hand in the events of 2002? At least I find it impossible to believe it.

Let me give just one example. Ehsan Jafri was a respected, elderly former Member of the Indian Parliament living in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His house was in the Gulbarga Housing Society, where mostly Muslims lived. According to the recorded version of his elderly wife Zakia, on 28.2.2002 a mob of fanatics blew up the security wall of the housing society using gas cylinders, they dragged Ehsan Jafri out of his house, stripped him, chopped off his limbs with swords, etc and burnt him alive. Many other Muslim were also killed and their houses burnt. Chamanpura is barely a kilometer from the police station, and less than 2 kilometres from the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner's office. Is it conceivable that the Chief Minister did not know what was going on? Zakia Jafri since then has been running from pillar to post to get justice for her husband who was so brutally murdered. Her criminal case against Modi was thrown out by the district Court (since the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court found no evidence against Modi and filed a final report), and it is only now (after a gap of over 10 years since the incident) that the Supreme Court set aside the order of the trial Court and directed that her protest petition be considered.

I am not going into this matter any further since it is still sub judice.

Modi has claimed that he has developed Gujarat. It is therefore necessary to consider what is the meaning of 'development'. To my mind development can have only one meaning, and that is raising the standard of living of the masses. Giving concessions to big industrial houses, and offering them cheap land and cheap electricity can hardly be called development if it does not raise the standard of living of the masses.

Today, 48% Guajarati children are malnourished, which is a higher rate of malnourishment than the national average. In Gujarat there is high infant mortality rate, high women's maternity death rate, and  57% poverty rate in tribal areas,  and among Scheduled Castes/Backward Castes. As stated by Ramchandra Guha in his article in 'The Hindu' today, (8.2.2013) in Gujarat environmental degradation is rising, educational standards are falling, and malnutrition among children abnormally high. More than a third of adult men in Gujarat have a body mass index of less than 18.5 – the 7th worst in the country. A UNDP report in 2010 has placed Gujarat after 8 other Indian States in multiple dimensions of development e.g. helath, education, income levels, etc. (see Hindustan Times, 16.12.2012 P.13) 

 Mr. Guha further states in his article: “As a sociologist who treats the aggregate data of economists with scepticism, I myself do not believe that Gujarat is the best developed State in the country. Shortly after Modi was sworn in for his third term, I travelled through Saurashtra, whose polluted and arid lands spoke of a hard grind for survival. In the towns, water, sewage, road and transport facilities were in a pathetic state; in the countryside, the scarcity of natural resources was apparent, as pastoralists walked miles and miles in search of stubble for their goats. In terms of social and economic development, Gujarat is better than average, but not among the best. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamilnadu are the three states which provide a dignified life to a decent percentage of their population”.

Business leaders no doubt claim that Modi has created a business friendly environment in Gujarat, but are businessmen the only people in India?

To those who talk of development of Gujarat under Modi I ask this question: Should the malnourished children of Gujarat eat the roads, electricity and factories which Modi has created?

I appeal to Indian people to consider all this if they are really concerned about the nation’s future, otherwise they may make the same mistake which Germans made in 1933.

(An edited version of this article  published in The Hindu on February 15,2013)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Situation of Press in Kashmir

Dear Omar, 
 I am forwarding the email I have received from Mr. G.M. Kaloo, President of the J&K Press Association, whom you had met several months back at my request. I have been receiving several such emails from various persons stating that newspapers are not being allowed to be published/distributed in Kashmir, cell phones and internet services have been disabled, and other restrictions placed after the hanging of Afzal Guru.

  My own thinking in the matter is this : no freedom can be absolute, and hence press freedom under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution can also not be absolute, but is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest vide Article 19(2).

 Kashmir has a law and order problem, and ordinarily it is the state government which is the best judge of the situation and the way to handle it. Hence we should ordinarily respect the decision of the state government. The state government may have thought that for some time there should be a restraint on press freedom, because while many newspapers are responsible, some are not, and may publish inflammatory material which may create a huge law and order problem by inciting people to violence. Hence for some time a restraint order may be justified.

 However, if the restraint is continued too long it may become unreasonable and unjustified. After all, there has to be a limit to the time duration of the restraint order, and it cannot continue indefinitely. People have to be allowed to let off steam and express their grievances peacefully,otherwise their grievances will erupt violently. There is a proverb "Words break no bones".

 I would therefore request that you consider the matter and discuss it with Mr. Kaloo and other respected and responsible journalists of J&K, and then pass appropriate orders.

  You know that I hold you in respect, and I know of the difficult situation you are facing, and so I hope you will not mind my expressing my view, which I think to be in your interest.
 Justice Katju

Subodh Mukoo wrote:

Publication of news paper has been stopped by the government and thus people deprived of information about day to day developments in Kashmir Valley .
G. H. Kaloo
Jammu Kashmir Press Association(JKPA)
(Subodh K Mukoo)
National Coordinator, JKPA

CM Omar Abdullah's Reply :

Dear Justice Katju,

With reference to your emails of today please find attached below my response which I hope you will take in to consideration while making any public statements regarding the media in Kashmir. 

Best regards

Omar Abdullah

With reference to your e-mails, I fully share your concern regarding continuation of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley.

The facts are under:-

·       The execution of Afzal Guru took place on Saturday (Feb 9). On Saturday night, some local newspapers like Kashmir Images and Kashmir Reader and a few local Urdu dailies did print and publish their newspapers.

·         Circulation of these papers by the vendors was not possible as there were severe restrictions on any kind of movement in Srinagar city, in particular, and all over Kashmir valley at large.

·         We have been given to understand that on Sunday newspapers have not printed their editions as restrictions were continuing in Kashmir valley and circulation of the same would not have been possible, even if they were to be printed.

·        It may be mentioned that Jammu editions of the Kashmir based papers did get circulated.

·      The Information Department has not issued any directive to the publishers by putting any restrictions.

·         It is true that the internet facilities on GPRS enabled phones  have suffered, but Broadband  Desktop internet facilities are available and the newspapers are updating their editions online.

·        With the Government proposing to ease restrictions in Kashmir valley as the situation improves, movement of vehicles would also be getting facilitated and we are sure that the media publications would also get circulated.

·        The security/ law and order concerns and the restrictions in Kashmir Valley has well been appreciated by you and we acknowledge it with all humility. 

Monday 11 February 2013

Iftikhar Gilani's Complaint

Justice Markandey Katju
Hon’ble Chairman
Press Council of India
New Delhi

At 10:30 a.m on February 9 (Saturday) I was just putting my bag in my car to leave for office, I saw two persons in the compound who enquired about the house of Geelani saab. I asked them which Geelani saab are you searching for, making out they could be from some courier agency to deliver some mail for me? They replied that they are searching for a Kashmiri leader, who lives somewhere in the colony. I told them he lives in the opposite block and tried to give them directions. One of them requested, if I can accompany them. 

So I did. On the way, they told me they are from Delhi Special Cell. When we reached at JD18 E block of Khirki Ext. I saw a crowd of plain clothesmen in the gulley. I just pointed out to first floor and told them there lives Geelani saab, you are searching for. As I started to withdraw, they grabbed my hand and said they need few minutes to talk to me. And virtually dragged me to first floor flat, taking away my purse, identity card, keys etc. They could not trace my phone till then, though they were insisting to hand over phone to them. Upon reaching the flat, I saw many more people inside. As they got busy with conversation to some other person, I managed to go to bathroom and sent SMS to my office and some friends. When I was back, they noticed the phone and took it away. 

After 15 minutes, I saw my wife also arriving at this house, escorted by two male plain cloth police wala.. My children were alone at my house. I repeatedly asked them to explain reasons behind my detention. All the time, they were very rude, threatening and warning me of dire consequences. I also pleaded with them, even if they want to detain me, why at the house of Syed Ali Geelani and not at my own home or a police station? And why had they kept children away from us? 

After five hours, I heard many voices from outside. One officer type person came and shouted that I am free and can leave this house. In the by-lane I saw my office people including bureau chief Saikat Dutta and some other friends including, Aurangzeb Naqashbadni of Hindustan Times. They had used every available contact in home ministry and Delhi police to make them see reason. When I reached my home, some 7-8 strangers were occupying drawing room and living room and they had locked up my children in a bed room that does not have even bathroom facility.

When I reached there with friend, the strangers started leaving one by one. Saying that my children were terrified would be an understatement. They recalled how these people in our absence banged the door and asked them to confine themselves in bed room. They were also shouting at neighbours why they allow person like me to live there. 

I have no issue with what government wanted to do to maintain law and order in Delhi or elsewhere. Repeatedly in public domains, I have affirmed that I have nothing to do with the politics of my father-in-law Syed Ali Geelani. 

I owe my living to journalism for over past two decades in Delhi. I feel totally distraught with the behaviour of security agencies, particularly special cell of Delhi police. I feel so scared. I try my best to raise my children in an atmosphere of peace and compassion. I have no idea, what should I do to prove myself to be a peace loving and a law abiding citizen. 

As Frederick Douglass says, the life of the nation is secure only when the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous. I may add, the subjugation, harassment, and trampling on rights only makes the nation weak and insecure in the long run, though it may address to the rhetorical class and accrue short term gains.

I have a bad experience of the same Special Cell of Delhi Police putting me in Tihar Jails in 2002 on false charges and forging documents of the Defence Ministry to convince the court that I am a Pakistani agent supplying sensitive information to its High Commission. The officials who then raided my house even cooked up my bank accounts to claim I was sending Hawala money to Kashmiri terrorists. Many fictitious stories were also planted by them in media tarnishing my reputation. The cooked-up charges under the Official Secrets Act were withdrawn and I was honourably acquitted by the court, but only after eight months of harrowing custody. At the time of my then arrest in 2002, the Intelligence Bureau also made the Income Tax Department fabricate tax charges against me. I am continuously harassed by the Income Tax Department with recovery notices from time to time despite I moving the Delhi High Court to end my harassment as it keeps on adding penalty and fine for not paying dues that now total up to over Rs 60 lakhs that I just cannot afford to pay with my present salary. 

I am bringing this fact to your knowledge, just to draw your attention to various ways I am continuously hounded and harassed.

With thanks,

Iftikhar Gilani
10 February 2013

Sunday 10 February 2013

Letter to Home Secretary regarding detention of Iftikhar Gilani

The Home Secretary,
Government of India.
New Delhi

Dear Sir,

I am forwarding to you an email I have received from Mr. Iftikhar Gilani, Asst. Editor DNA, who is a Government of India accredited journalist and former Vice President of the Press Association.

I have carefully perused the email he has sent me and I have also read the news item in the front page of today's The Hindu newspaper. They reveal great high handedness and outrageous behaviour by the Delhi policemen concerned in harrassing and tormenting Mr. Gilani and his family, including his small children. These were the undemocratic and abhorrent methods of the Gestapo during Nazi rule.

 If these allegations are correct, the concerned police officers, who committed these high-handed illegal acts, as well as those higher ups who were instrumental in ordering these shameful and odious acts are prime facie guilty of serious crimes under sections 341/342, as well as other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and are also guilty of gross and blatant abuse of their powers.

Hence, if the allegations in the email of Mr Gilani are correct, I call upon you to do the following acts within 48 hours :

(i) immediately charge sheet and place under suspension all police officers responsible for these high handed and illegal acts including those higher ups who gave the orders for them

(ii) immediately institute criminal proceedings against such officers under the relevant provisions of IPC and other statutes.

(iii) immediately sanction adequate and suitable compensation to Mr Gilani and his family and convey an apology to him

(iv) I am informed that Mr. Gilani is still being harassed and surveillance is being done on him and his family. This is a clear violation of the decision of the Supreme Court in Kharak Singh Vs State of UP and other  AIR 1963 S.C.1295,1964 SCR (1) 332, as well as violation of the right to privacy , which has been held to be part of Art 21 of the Constitution of India. Police surveillance seriously encroaches upon privacy of the petitioner and his fundamental rights under Art 21 vide 1999 (24) All Cr. R. 815 (817): 1999 (11).

 I may mention that in the Nuremburg Trials held in after the Second World War the Nazi War Criminals took the plea that orders are orders, and that they were only obeying the orders of their superior Hitler. This plea was rejected by the International Tribunal which held that those orders were illegal orders and hence should have been disobeyed. Consequently many of the accused were hanged.

 Hence all policemen in India are hereby warned that they should not carry out illegal orders of their superiors otherwise they will be charged for serious crimes, and if found guilty, severely punished.

   Justice Markandey Katju
Chairman, Press Council of India

Iftikhar Gilani's Email:
Kindly peruse details of my case, as attached. 

Thanks and Regards
Iftikhar Gilani

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Press Note

                                                                                      February 4, 2013

         I have been receiving several complaints from several newspapers/journals that the advertisements which were being issued to them by the Central/State Governments or Statutory bodies/Public Sector Undertakings have suddenly been stopped or drastically reduced without issuing show cause notice and without assigning any reason.  Sometimes, this is done because of the newspapers/journals publishing material critical of a government or some of its Ministers/Officials.

            In my opinion in a democracy the people, including the Press, have a right to criticise the government, and this is a part of the freedom of the speech under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India.  Governments, Ministers and Officials must develop tolerance and must have the strength to stand up to criticism.  Stopping advertisements or drastically reducing them merely because a critical article has been published, is totally undemocratic and shows pettiness of mind, and is totally unacceptable in a democracy. Revenue from advertisements is the main financial resource of a newspaper/journal, and hence such action can do great harm to it and thus violate press freedom. The Press Council of India will not tolerate any further this kind of behaviour on the part of any government, its Ministers or Officials, and shall take suitable legal action in the matter.

            In my opinion, once it has been decided to give advertisements to a newspaper/journal, stopping or reducing it thereafter without giving it an opportunity of hearing amounts to violation of the principle of legitimate expectation and natural justice, and thus violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

              I therefore, direct all   Central/State governments including Ministers or Officials and Statutory bodies/Public Sector Undertakings that if it is proposed to stop the advertisements of some newspapers/journals, or curtail them, then a prior show cause
notice must be issued to that newspaper/journals mentioning the charges against it and giving it opportunity of hearing.  Thereafter a reasoned order must be passed giving the reasons of such decision, and this must be communicated to the concerned newspaper/journal.

           In addition to the above, in the case of advertisements, by the Central Government, Clause 18 of the New Advertisement Policy of the DAVP of 2007 shall be followed in letter and spirit.

                                                                                         (Justice Markandey Katju)
                                                                                          Press Council of India 

Copy to:

1)     Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
2)     Chief Ministers of all the states
3)     All State Governments through their Secretary, Information departments
4)     All the members of the Press Council of India
          5)  All the news agencies
          6)  All the press bodies

Friday 1 February 2013

Only Sound and Fury in Jaipur

In India, art for art's sake amounts to escapism. Art should serve a social purpose
The Jaipur Literature Festival, which is regularly held in our country, appears to me to be nothing but a big tamaasha, in Shakespeare's words, "full of sound and fury signifying nothing". There is hardly any worthwhile literature to be seen nowadays and there was certainly none at the festival. Everything has become commercialised. Writers often write only to earn some money, and there is hardly any artistic value in what they produce.
There are broadly two theories of art and literature. The first is called art for art's sake, and the second is called art for social purpose. According to the first theory, art and literature are only meant to create beautiful or entertaining works to please and entertain people, and they are not meant to propagate social ideas. If art is used for propagating social ideas it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda. Proponents of this view are Keats, Tennyson, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Agyeya, the "Reetikal" and "Chayavadi" poets, etc.
The second theory is that art and literature should serve the people and help them in their struggle for a better life, by highlighting the socio-economic problems in society and inspiring people in their struggle. Proponents of this view are Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Walt Whitman, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Victor Hugo, Maxim Gorky, Balzac, Stendhal, Schiller, Goethe, Cervantes, Pablo Neruda, Kabir, Premchand, Sarat Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Faiz, Josh, Manto, etc.
Which of these two schools should the Indian writers follow?
In my opinion, in a poor country like India, it is only the theory of art for social purpose which is acceptable. Today, our country is facing gigantic problems of poverty, malnutrition, price rise, lack of healthcare and good education, casteism, communalism, superstitions, etc. Hence writers must join the ranks of those who are struggling to make India free from these great socio-economic evils, they must inspire people by their writings, and write against oppression, injustice and backward mentality which are widespread in India.
However, what is the scenario in India today? The truth is that there is hardly any great art and literature in our country today. Where is the Sarat Chandra or Premchand or Faiz of today? Where is the Kabir or Dickens of today?
Today, the people of India are thirsty for good literature which will help them improve their wretched lives (for 80 per cent of our people). If someone writes about people's real problems it will spread like wildfire. But are our writers doing this? Art and literature must serve the people. Writers and artists must have genuine sympathy for the people and depict their sufferings. And not only that, like Dickens and Shaw in England, Rousseau and Voltaire in France, Thomas Paine and Walt Whitman in America, Pushkin, Chernyshevsky and Gorky in Russia, and Sarat Chandra, Nazrul Islam and Subramania Bharati in India, they should inspire people to struggle for a better life, a life which can really be called a decent human existence, and to create a better world, free from injustice, social and economic. Only then will people respect them. In my respectful opinion, art for arts' sake in today's historical context in India only amounts to escapism.
In Jaipur, there was a discussion on Kamasutra and sex, as if this is a pressing economic problem in India today. Ashis Nandy's remark on corruption created a furore, just as the Salman Rushdie episode did last year. Some panellists in a discussion said that China is unlikely to be the next superpower (which is of course an important matter in literature). A lot of journalists narrated their experiences. There was a discussion on the rise and fall of empires. The Indian "elite" descended on Diggi Palace from far and wide, along with filmstars, musicians, and of course foreigners who taught us about literature when there is hardly any great literature today in their own countries, the Dalai Lama (who is no doubt a great authority on literature), etc. And all this was dished out in the name of literature and faithfully lapped up by the 90 per cent!
(Published in The Indian Express on 2nd  Feb, 2013)