Raising the Bar
Among the many colourful characters I have met, Justice Markandey Katju must occupy a prominent place. To describe the judge merely as a ‘maverick’ would be an injustice to him. He is much more than a contrarian with an eye on the nine o’clock news. Judges in India are tight-lipped, staying within well-defined boundaries. Their verbal observations may occasionally break the rule, but they err on the side of caution. Katju has broken this mould; he is fast becoming a national treasure. He has a view on everything under the cosmos, from Urdu poetry to Pakistan, from the IQ of the aam admi to the Renaissance. I suspect he must be a menace in the kitchen, probably instructing Mrs Katju on how to prepare dal properly!
This time the chairman of the Press Council has taken on the big boys, or to be precise, the big boy. In a signed article in The Hindu, he has compared Narendra Modi to Adolf Hitler and warned the country not to make such a man prime minister. Enter Arun Jaitley, who believes the judge has crossed the red line in taking on friend Modi. Yet the question Justice Katju raises will not so easily go away: is Modi ready to be PM? Make no mistake, that’s the real issue; not Katju’s selective criticism of non-Congress governments. It’s a question still unanswered. Many months before the 1996 election, L.K. Advani wisely ruled out contending for the top job because he recognised his candidature violated the idea of India.
I know that, in certain quarters, the idea of India has become a mocking phrase. We’re told that there are several ideas of India and only pseudo-secularists like me insist there is only one. Well, not just pseudo-secularists but most of the BJP leadership supports my contention. That is why we see a frantic search to find an Atal Behari Vajpayee-type figure to carry all sections of the population. I am certain as 2014 approaches efforts will be made to dress up Modi in Vajpayee’s clothes. Oh, coming back to Katju. Should he have said what he did? Of course not.
Swear Jars Needed
“A bloody shame that an otherwise fine journalist like Vinod Mehta pushes for restrictions on freedom of expression in the name of not offending sentiments of myriad groups in our county,” Kumar Rakesh from Chandigarh writes in. Despite Mr Rakesh’s rebuke, I stand by my story. Indeed, while I support the right to offend theory and agree that art, even any kind of meaningful journalism, would be impossible if causing offence becomes the rationale for censorship. The right to offend, like the right to free speech, has “reasonable restrictions”. If it was an absolute right, the Owaisis and Togadias would be able to spread their poison with constitutional sanction.
Certainly, we have the right to offend, but we have no right to offend with impunity. There is a Laxman-rekha when we exercise this right. Once we cross it, society is perfectly justified in putting reasonable restrictions on those who violate the principle. The difficulty arises with deciding who draws the Laxman-rekha and precisely where the lines are to be drawn. However, that does not invalidate my argument.
On the Last Pages
I recently visited some leading bookshops in South Delhi, signing copies of my Sanjay biography. It wasn’t a happy experience. Though The Sanjay Story was selling reasonably well, the tales of woe I heard at all the shops had me close to tears. Business was really bad. In the sluggish economy, people had stopped buying books. Many iconic bookshops had closed down. To make matters worse, internet retailers like Flipkart and Amazon were offering mighty discounts, up to 45 per cent on hardbacks, next day delivery and no advance payment.
A proprietor recounted confronting a customer who spent hours browsing in the shop but never made a single purchase. “Are you going to buy anything or just keep looking?” he asked. With disarming honesty, the person answered that he came to the shop only to check out new arrivals. The actual buying he did was on Flipkart!
People often ask me how the old generation of editors—of the ’60s and ’70s vintage—were different from those manning the barricades now. I’ll try and answer the question with an incident I witnessed last week. One of India’s most distinguished editors, now in his mid-’80s, stumbled and fell down not once but twice at a Valentine’s Day party, having perhaps consumed an extra glass of wine. He was made vertical by friends and dusted up. Ten minutes later, the fearless editor was on the dance floor jiving away. That’s the difference!
On a bitterly cold day last week, Editor slept for nearly 20 hours. Should I take him to the vet? Or is he just being lazy?
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com
While I agree Justice Katju is anti-BJP (Delhi Diary, Mar 4), and that his pro-Congress statements may be gratitude to the government that gave him a post-retirement position as Press Council chairman, I can’t understand why the BJP does not measure CAG Vinod Rai by the same yardstick when he avidly shows up inconsistencies in the upa’s policies and actions.
Rajiv B. Jain, Delhi
Justice Katju may have broken the mould, as Mr Mehta puts it, but he’s also broken a cardinal rule: when in public office, restrict your activities to the areas connected to the work you have been assigned.
Manish Anand, Delhi
Vinod Mehta is a master of the doublespeak. How well he shows his mastery by referring to Justice Katju as a national treasure.
M. Ratan, Delhi
Dress up Modi in Vajpayee’s clothes? I am sure Mr Mehta will be proved wrong once again. Modi will remain Modi—a headstrong, practical politician. Take it or leave it.
Lata Mehta, On E-mail
Putting on my Katju hat, I can confidently say there is a 10 per cent chance that he will become a national treasure and a 90 per cent chance that he will end up as a national joke.
Rajeev, On e-mail
Mr Mehta mentions a gentleman who told a bookstore owner that he had come to browse but would buy online from Flipkart. With 30-40 per cent discounts, free home delivery and an option for cash-on-delivery, why should buyers patronise bookstores that mostly offer no discounts?
K. Bhaskar, Thiruvananthapuram
like most of your ilk, you lose your objectivity, when you talk or write about L.K.Advani. You have said,"Many months before the 1996 election, L.K. Advani wisely ruled out contending for the top job because he recognised his candidature violated the idea of India.", without trying to explain how. You got carried away by your hatred for him, all the while knowing that he didn't pose as a candidate for the job of PM because he knew that Vajapayee was a far better candidate than himself.
And you said 'Kaat-ju is a national tresure. He is actually a national trash.
>>> apanaa cheharaa na badalaa gayaa
aa_iine se Khafaa ho gaye
>>> Aadamii bananaa aasaan na thaa
Toh Shekh jii ??? ho gaye
Wah ..hope a taiban or a jihadi can appreciate this ...
''Tum ye kaise judaa ho gaye
har taraf har jagah ho gaye
apanaa cheharaa na badalaa gayaa
aa_iine se Khafaa ho gaye
jaane vaale gaye bhii kahaan
chaand suuraj ghataa ho gaye
bevafaa to na voh the na ham
yuun huaa bas judaa ho gaye
Aadamii bananaa aasaan na thaa
Toh Shekh jii ??? ho gaye'
Nida Fazli the Urdu poet is residing in Mumbai and writes Gazals ,Songs .
I agree .Unfortunately hardly any Muslim or Hindu now understands Urdu .
Another most beautiful and soul invigorating and stirring songs are the Sufi songs which can shake the very inner core of any human being.
And the Quawalies or the Mersias ? All are Soul awakening .There are so much in Urdu Poetry and Sufi Poetry that one requires many many lives to have one's fulfillment.
Thx.Urdu poetry has such an amorous passionate intonation of underlying human sensibilities and profound philosophical envision that few languages can match ... like the Persian poet Umar Khayyam, and our own Ghalib ... pity it was communalised to the extent to become the language of Muslims in India ...
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