Everything looks strange when I give it a thought.
I never thought that I would be on the hit-list of terrorists, not even in my dreams. As of now, I have been saved. For a time being, at least. Because I believe in the saying that ‘there will be many killers but the saviour is only one.’ Had Bangalore police failed to sniff off the terrorists’ plan, I would have been ‘Breaking News’ on television; on the front pages of newspapers.
Death is as natural as birth, and it walks along with us in this lengthy journey called life. Moreover, death is as inevitable as birth. The strange thing about death is that it looks like a terrorist: it stalks its victims all the time and waits for the right time to kill. And, interestingly, everyone is on its hit-list, not even god can save us from death.
Such a thought makes the entire plot of the terrorists look like a cheap wrapper on the surface of an onion. Of course, that’s the kind of thought that has made me feel free and remain in doing what I have been doing. I love life and that cannot be killed by anyone, though they can kill me physically.
On hearing the news about the terrorist plot, I jokingly told my colleagues that only cockroaches can be on the ‘hit-list’ (Hit is the name of an insecticide used to kill cockroach.) But you know, these days, even cockroaches have learnt how to escape ‘Hit’. If you develop such an ‘immunity’, you can face just about anyone in this world. And the cockroach is a live example.
It all began last week. I was preparing to visit an engagement function of a friend of mine. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar, was going to the same function. I don’t know how he learnt about my plan, he invited me to accompany him. I drove to his residence and there I joined him in the back of his car.
At the function, there were many VVIPs including former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and H.N. Ananth Kumar. When I was about to sit down for the meal, the State’s home minister R. Ashok came over to me and said that he wanted to share some information related to ‘my office’. I asked him to share it right away. He refused. Instead, he said he would reveal everything in a few days. “What could be the information the Home Minister wants to share with me?” I started to wonder.
At around ten o’clock that night, we reached chief minister’s house, and from there I drove alone to my office. A furlong before my office, I received a phone call. On the other end of the line was a senior police officer. He wanted an appointment to meet me the following morning. I asked him the reason, but he refused to talk in detail over the phone. Before hanging up, he reminded me to bring along our columnist Pratap Simha. Being asked to drag Pratap along was like a ‘bombshell’ in newspaper parlance.
I began wondering what this was all about: the Home Minister wants to share secret information and so too the police. What might be the issue that is related to our office? What does Pratap have to do with it? The tension had, in fact, intensified at the mention of Pratap’s name. All these questions started invading my mind all at once. I even thought about calling Pratap at that unholy hour, but dropped the idea at the last moment.
With all the thoughts ringing in my ear, I went home and slept. Then the phone started ringing again. I woke up and put on the light. It was 3.30 early in the morning, not an ideal time to receive a phone call. The phone displayed the name of the caller, it was ‘Vijay Sankeshwar’ (founder of the Vijaya Karnataka newspaper). Mr. Sankeshwar had a somber tone as he spoke: ‘You might know it already. I am also on the hit-list.’
Now I had woken up fully, and asked him “What did you say, Sir?”
“I came to know that I am on the terrorists’ hit-list along with Prahlad Joshi (member of Parliament), you and Pratap Simha. They are said to be plotting our assassination, and police have busted it.”
It was a shocking piece of news and I had received it before the morning newspapers had arrived. Why did the terrorists target us? What was our ‘achievement’ to earn this recognition? What have we done to attract the attention of the terrorists? What earns a name on their hit list? And how did the four of us end up on their list?
Each question was giving birth to the another.
By afternoon, home minister Ashok explained everything in detail. He had not spoken clearly until all the suspected terrorists had been arrested. Even the chief minister knew everything when I was travelling with him in the car. But he did not tell me anything until all the terrorists had been taken into custody.
The terror suspects, according to police, have two reasons to have me and Pratap on the hit list. First: both of us are in contact with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Second: we are anti-Muslim. They said that Pratap writes against Muslims and I am backing him.
I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh, bang my head against the wall, or just ignore them. Neither I nor Pratap have met Narendra Modi more than four times in our lifetime. Pratap has written Modi’s biography. Several days after its publication, he handed a copy to Modi when he had come to Bangalore. I met Modi for some official reasons and took a photo. We have uploaded them in our Facebook and Twitter pages and hence they have been floating around in the internet. These extremists have seen these pictures and therefore they have concluded that we have deep links with Modi.
Well, what can I say?
Let’s assume that I have contacts with Modi as imagined by extremists. Is that a crime? Is Modi a traitor? A terrorist? A smuggler? AIDS- infected? What? What’s wrong in a journalist meeting the chief minister of a state? Does no other journalist meet him? What is wrong with it?
Now, let us talk about the stories related to Muslims. I have been in journalism for the past 23 years and have been editing daily newspapers for the past 12 years. I have written 48 books and write four columns a week. On top of it all, I have the responsibility of running a 24x7 new channel, Suvarna News, for the last 14 months. Let anybody show me a single sentence I have written against Muslims.
Now let's discuss about Pratap. He will not write anything without facts and figures. Fiction is not his writing. He wouldn’t write ambiguously without expressing his views accurately. He is brutally frank and calls a spade a spade. He doesn’t know how to beat around the bush. He is often harsh and the truth is sometimes bitter. Not everybody likes bitter truth. Our editorial stands by the love for the nation. How can the nationalistic ideology go against Muslims? Nonsense!
We have reserved space in our newspaper if somebody does not agree with whatever we write. There is no rule that everybody should agree with everything one writes. How can anyone answer with the gun to something that is written with the pen? If anyone has a counter article to Pratap’s stories, they are free to give it to us. We have never thrown that to the dustbin and will never do so in future either. Our columns like Tappaytu Tidkotivi (sorry, we correct our mistakes) and GodeBaraha (Wall Writing) are examples for these.
Those who oppose should come with a pen and love: not with the gun and hatred.
Vishweshwar Bhat is editor-in-chief, Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News 24x7.
A shorter version of this column appears in print. The writer is editor-in-chief, Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News 24x7; E-mail your columnist: vbhat AT me.com