RESCUE FREE PRESS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

LOCK DOWN: It is now the turn of Goan Observer to lock down. We are not locking down voluntarily, we are being forced to lock down as we are unable to generate minimal resources to meet our modest monthly expenditure. We hope that before August 31 we will find someone who respects small independent media enough to rescue us!

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goa and the nation celebrated 73rd Independence Day. For a Saturday following the week when I along with all those born on or just before Independence Day were called “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie. For a Saturday following the week when the 29-year-old campaign of the first BJP president, LK Advani, bore fruit with the laying of the foundation stone of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. For a Saturday following the week when the hopes of young men and women who voted for Narendra Modi in the hope that the economy would boom and they would get jobs crashed, and not only because of Covid-19. For a Saturday following the week when it took me 50 years to realise that you cannot be both a good journalist and a good businessman!
And a few stray thoughts on the 73rd anniversary of Independent India. It is perhaps necessary to clarify the difference between Independence Day and the declaration that India is a full-fledged republic. August 15 marks the day that the British decided to leave India and Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of the country. Independence Day also marked the division of the sub-continent into two distinct countries separated on communal lines with the division between India and Pakistan.
It was sadly accompanied by the bloodiest riots which came ended only when Mahatma Gandhi went on an indefinite fast in then Calcutta (now Kolkatta) demanding the halt of the massacre of Muslims in India and equally ferocious murder of Hindus, particularly Sikhs in the newly-founded Pakistan. Till India became a republic on January 26,h 1950 head of the state was the governor- general and not the president. It is surprising that the then governor-general of India Lord Mountbatten, also continued for a year to be the last British Governor General. The difference between attaining Independence and becoming a republic is that India at least notionally continued to be part of the British Raj till it finally declared itself a republic.
Immediately after Independence the Constituent Assembly was founded to discuss what form of governance India should have. After three years of hectic debate it was decided that India would be a secular democratic republic. India wrote a Constitution for itself on the basis of which it would be governed. India is one of the few states in the world which has a written Constitution, unlike even in the United Kingdom where decisions are taken by precedent and not by any written document. The Preamble to the Constitution set the framework for distinguishing India from other countries, particularly its neighbour Pakistan.
The Preamble, incidentally, cannot be modified or changed by any elected government, and it declared unequivocally that India would be a secular democratic republic. The Constitution declared that all citizens irrespective of which community or caste they belonged would enjoy the basic freedoms. Like freedom of speech and movement. Freedom to worship any god that citizens may choose to or even remain atheist if they do not believe in or practice any religion. The Constitution also made it clear that there would be no difference between the gender identity. Men and women would enjoy equal rights in the new republic of India.

chogam road

Though India was persuaded by the UK to remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations this was purely voluntary thing. It did not imply that the UK had any rights over the government of India. The Commonwealth comprised all 52 former British colonies. Significantly, one of the earliest retreat for heads of state and governments of the countries of the Commonwealth was held in Goa in 1983. For many young Goans who may be wondering why the road from Porvorim to the Taj Aguada is called the CHOGAM road it is because it was built to commemorate the fact that 52 heads of government and state met for deliberations at the aj Aguada. A separate block was created in the Aguada Hermitage where exactly 52 rooms accommodated the leaders amongst whom were the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the president of Kenya Jomo Kenyetta, the prime ministers of Australia and Canada, the host being prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi.
Interestingly, the present prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is the son of the then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The CHOGAM retreat was an important event for Goa as it marked the discovery of Goa as an international beach resort by international media. It was immediately after CHOGAM that the first charter flights started coming out to Goa. The first charter contrary to the general impression was not a British charter but a German Condor charter.
To make a small clarification the difference between head of state and head of government is for example the same as the difference between President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The president reigns but does not rule and is the supreme authority under the Constitution and at least on paper the commander-in-chief of the defence forces of the country. The president can delay but he cannot overrule decisions taken by Parliament, except in the case of the Fundamental Principles of freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom of movement which is guaranteed to all citizens of India.

MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN

AND a few stray thoughts on midnight’s children which refers to the generation of Indians born on Independence Day or just before August 15, 1947. I narrowly miss the bus as I was born one month before Independence Day. It is important to stress that during the first three to four decades of independence India was a socialist republic. Which affectively meant that India believed in a classless society. That every Indian regardless of being a beggar or a crorepati was equal in the eyes of the law.
It is important to stress that it also means that all religions are equal and that freedom of worship a fundamental right. So just as the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, could not convert India into a religious state, Narendra Modi will never be able to convert India into a Hindutuva state! Or to be more specific India will remain an independent state without bearing allegiance to any religion. To dramatize this India cannot become an Islamic state like Pakistan, Iran and many other states which consider Islam the state religion. The only Hindu state in the world is/was Nepal which considered itself a theocratic state till recently.
The first two decades of Indian independence saw the dominance of the state in almost every sphere of life. The credit for creating the infrastructure for making India a modern state should undoubtedly go to Nehru. Nehru was inspired by the Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin and believed that the state should command the economy.
Curiously, Nehru and Modi had one thing in common despite their ideological differences. They both believed in Make in India! That India should be self-sufficient in its economy. It was during the tenure of Nehru that giant steel plants was set up by the public sector. It was during his tenure that the basis was laid for industrialisation with the setting up of a number of core companies like Hindustan Machine Tools (which still manufactures watches), the Indian telephone industries which created the base for the development of the smart phone you are using today. It was Nehru who built the giant dams across the country.
It was Nehru sowed the seeds of science and technology. It was Nehru who set up the Indian Institute of Science under the stewardship of PC Raman, India’s first Nobel awardee in physics. It was Nehru who encouraged the setting up of the Tata Institute of Technological Research and the Institute of
Fundamental Research and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. It was Nehru who initiated the attempt at self-sufficiency in defence by setting up Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd (HAL) and a string of ordinance factories all over the country. Unfortunately, he took his obsession for self-sufficiency too far. Nehru would not allow the import of any goods which he considered luxury good.
There were not even Gillette blades let alone all the imported cosmetics. And the long playing records of western classical music. Under Nehru’s prime ministership India got the reputation of being a license permit raj where you could not manufacture anything from a pin to an aeroplane without permission from the government of India. And so it was a great achievement for Goa when the CMM group company was the first to get permission to manufacture and market Old Spice shaving cream in India! During Nehru’s tenure Goa was like Dubai to Indians as customs duty were very low. You could buy the best of everything not available in India in Goa. Legend has it that the film stars of Bombay and Hindi film industry came to Goa to buy their stocks of imported cosmetics and costume jewellery.
The then managing director of Tata Steel had to come to Goa to buy his western music records. Goa was the only place in the country where the permit licence raj did not choke consumption as till 1961, Goa was under Portugal’s rule.

HINDU STATE

AND a few stray thoughts on the success of the 29 years old rath yatra mission of the first BJP president, LK Advani, to convert India into a Hindu state. Or at least demolish the Babri Masjid of Ayodhya which Advani and company believed was the birth place of Lord Ram. It will be recalled that 29 years ago on December 6, 1992 the Babri Masjid, reportedly build by Mughal emperor Babar was demolished by fanatics and lunatics of the BJP. It must however be placed on record that the Congress was equally guilty of the Babri Masjid demolition. Then Chief Minister of UP Kalyan Singh did not keep his promise that the masjid would not be damaged. Then Congress Prime Minister PVR Narasimha Rao despite being informed that the masjid was being demolished did not do anything to prevent the event from happening.
The laying of the foundation stone of the Ram temple on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 took place in the absence of LK Advani, who had initiated the movement for Babri Masjid demolition and construction of Ram temple in its place because Hindus believe it is the janmabhoomi of Lord Ram. It must be noted that the Supreme Court upheld the claim of the chief priest in permitting the construction of the Ram Mandir on the exact site of the demolished mosque.
But the SC also allotted five acres of land to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque at Ayodhya. The Sunni Waqf Board decided to avoid any more confrontations and build schools/hospitals in the land allotted to them. If the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi believe that the building of the Ram Mandir on the site of the demolished masjid will bring them back to power they are sadly mistaken.
The construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya will not make any difference to BJP fortunes in the next Parliamentary elections. If the youth of the country voted for Narendra Modi and the BJP it was because they were promised a revival of the economy and creation of jobs for the unemployed. It may be recalled that the economy was in very bad shape in 2014 in the wake of the various scams including the telecom and coal scams in which former Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was implicated. Instead of meeting the aspirations if the young people of this country Narendra Modi has ruined the economy with his demonetisation and GST follies. Covid-19 is the last nail in the coffin of Narendra Modi’s BJP.

MEDIA TRAGEDIES

AND a last stray thought on the realisation that you cannot be a successful media organisation unless you have deep pockets. I am grateful to one of our former directors, Aravind Bhatikar, for pointing out that I forgot my obligation to the owners of Goan Observer in my obsession with maintaining journalistic independence and integrity. You can antagonise some of the people some of the time. You can antagonise all the people some other time. But you cannot antagonise all the people all the time. We seem to have lost our industrialist friends because we refuse to be their slaves. We never had the support of the BJP government. Indeed, the late Manohar Parrikar, who took so much pride in starting IFFI in Goa, would have been ashamed that the ESG has not paid the dues for advertising released last IFFI 2019. The BJP both at the Centre and the State is determined to kill opposition media. Some of the best journalists in the country have been hounded out and their place taken by the likes of Arnab Goswami who is constantly screaming his support to the BJP. While independent media such as the NDTV are being harassed by the Income-Tax department, Enforcement Directorate, while supporters of BJP’s Shubhash Chandra of Zee TV are forgiven their debts to banks to the tune of thousands of crore.
But the wheel will turn again and history has proved you cannot suppress the freedom of speech permanently. We regret to inform you we may be forced to suspend publication of our weekly end-August due to now serious lockdown issues courtesy the BJP government and private parties who owe us payment for advertisements released. We cannot even blame the private parties because they themselves are having a tough time and are unable to generate enough resources for their survival!

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