In Karan Thapar’s interview, Arun Shourie looked grim, upset, even angry.
That is unusual. It is said that if you have facts on your side, you don’t need to be angry and if facts are not on your side, you have no right to be angry. So why should Shourie be angry? Shourie’s methodology is not the usual left-wing, high-on-rhetoric-low-on-fact moral-shmoral gasbaggery. His method is one of arriving at conclusions based on examination of facts. He may also deliver sermons, but they are not the story. They bring up the “lessons-of-the-story” section, drawing on the weight of facts discussed in earlier chapters, which are the real story. This is a scientific method. If the facts are incontrovertible, the conclusion should be unassailable. Shourie could therefore afford a stock response when people questioned him on motives: “but what about the facts?”. No need at all to get angry!
It is generally out of character for Shourie to insert himself into controversies in the middle of their raging fury. He’d publish analyses only after full facts emerge and the outrage in media runs its course. Indeed, I remember that one of his columns started off with (not exact words, but close): “now that the cacophony has subsided, we are in a position to examine facts dispassionately”. So it was with his handling of the Graham Staines murder case.
When Staines, a Christian proselytizer from Australia operating in tribal areas of Orissa, was burned to death by Dara Singh’s gang, the exact same crusade launched against Modi today was waged then against Vajpayee. Even the terminology was the same. “Rising levels of intolerance” and “minorities living in fear”. A “communal” government whose ministers were “loose cannons” and who “silently” encouraged a “lunatic fringe”. And the ever-green scarecrow, “Fascism.” Look up newspaper archives of the period for a validation of Santayana.
Shourie did not girdle up loins and jump right into the hoopla at the zenith of the orchestrated rage-mongering. He waited till Justice Wadhwa Commission, which investigated the incident, published its report. Then he went hammer and tongs at the crusaders.
He found that Staines operated with impunity against Indian law, proselytizing tribals and creating rift among them. He also went a step ahead and found that the whole “attacks on Christians” shebang was secularist hot air. He sifted facts from fiction and formulated lessons for everybody. The very first lesson was for the media. It said: “The press should be wary of going by allegations of communalism-mongers”.
Let me repeat that. Shourie’s lesson to the media in the wake of the “Rising Levels Of Intolerance Crusade, Release 1.0” in late 90’s was:
Be wary of the claims of communalism-mongers
Startled? That what he rattles off as “facts” in the TV interview are but just a regurgitation of the sensationalist claims in media headlines? Wait yet. If his first lesson was on the errant ways of the media, the last, and the most important, was on the errant ways of the state. And what was the error the state was committing? The error of disregarding the Hindu’s reverence for the cow!!! Yes! The cow! Cow slaughter! Beef!
I should repeat that as well, but let me quote Mr Shourie himself:
Cows are revered by Hindus. The man trying to save them becomes an outlaw in the eyes of the police, and a hero in the eyes of the people.
What is the context? Shourie reports what a witness told Wadhwa Commission: “Dara Singh is a very popular figure in the village as he forcibly frees cows from the people who take them for selling. After freeing the cows, Dara Singh distributes the cows among the villagers….”
And from that observation, Shourie draws the key lesson:
“If the State is going to persist with double-standards in regard to the sentiments of Hindus and non-Hindus on the one hand, and with a deliberate shutting of eyes on the other, it is paving the way for such crimes (as Graham Staines’ killing)”
You must be rubbing your eyes in disbelief.
A man suspected of cow slaughter was killed in Dadri. It is the sort of crime that Shourie prophesied would occur if the state exhibited double-standards in regard to Hindu sentiment. And he goes on to exhibit the same double-standard! He makes no attempt to justify why one particular murder in Dadri among the hundreds that occur daily in India should be a rallying point for a crusade; while another one in Moodbidri around the same time, equally symptomatic of intolerance, should be callously and unconscionably turned a blind eye to.
Have some new facts emerged since the times of Wadhwa Commission that warrant a reworking of Shourie’s Key Lesson? We get no clue. I think hard and can see only the following difference.
Fact #1. In 2000, Mr Shourie was with the government.
Fact #2. In 2015, he has no hope of being in the government.
Could it be therefore that Mr Shourie is angry with himself? For having to enact a ridiculous drama of a worse-than-scripted interview with Karan Thapar against his own better judgment? One that viewers can see through? For having to enact it knowing fully well that for once, “but what about the facts?” counter is going to sound defensive and dubious?
Alas, all we know is that Mr Shourie is angry, but we don’t know why exactly is he.