//When the intolerant saffron brigade begins to see red

When the intolerant saffron brigade begins to see red

Newsletter Gujarat Mahesh Trivedi, Khaleej Times, 22 April 2006

NARENDRA Modi hates journalists’ guts. At every public meeting, the chief minister pooh-poohs the Press, often pointing directly at the newshounds if they are present.

So, no wonder, he did not intervene when a television scribe covering his hunger strike over the Narmada dam issue was physically assaulted — right in front of his eyes — by BJP workers.

The saffronites lost their cool after the TV reporter during the live coverage compared Medha Patkar’s footpath fast in the scorching sun in New Delhi with Modi’s ‘five-star’ sit-in in the air-cooled pandal that had all the modern facilities, CCTVs, fans, sofa-adorned VIP room, Press room, control room with computers, fax machines and telephones, and what not.

Even top police officers present there did not stir a finger and a minister, instead of giving the scribe a patient hearing, asked him to leave the place.

Even when he was forcibly taken away in a police jeep, the BJP men stole his bag containing camera batteries, a mini-tape and cables, all worth Rs9,500. Next day, when Abhishek Upadhyaya of Channel 7 met Modi, he was insulted and driven out.

At the same venue, the chief minister rudely told a newsman that his TV channel was wasting its precious time by interviewing Aamir Khan who doesn’t know ABC of the Narmada river or dam.

BJP workers in the city who were tearing off and burning posters of the actor also roughed up a female TV reporter trying to capture them in the camera, and the next day, the unruly councillors of the party also broke open the iron grill to gatecrash into the Rajkot civic chief’s office and attacked him.

Gujaratis who have their heart in the right place are surely thunderstruck by the saffron brigade’s attacks on mediapersons and IAS officers.

Show-stealer

TRUST Machiavellian Modi to make capital out of bad times. When the review committee talks on the Narmada dam remained inconclusive earlier this week, he captured the limelight by dramatically announcing — without consulting even the high command — a 51-hour hunger strike in New Delhi itself.

Also, when the Gujarat delegation had a positive meeting with the prime minister, he did not cancel his fast programme but caught the nation’s attention by launching his agitation for ’50 million thirsty Gujaratis’ after taking religious leaders’ blessings and gathering 151 prominent supporters who also sat hungry with him.

The shrewd strategist was successful in diverting public attention from three bad signs for the party. First, the popularity of the BJP was on the wane due to many factors. It was also important to throw dust into the people’s eyes watching the failure of his mentor L.K. Advani’s yatra which was drawing fewer crowds.

And thirdly, the uproar over the dam also led to his own pictures being put up all over Gujarat and for this BJP men were forced to remove the banners and posters of Sanjay Joshi, Modi’s bete noire, pasted here, there and everywhere by the party general secretary’s confidants.

After all, Modi knows pretty well that the dam will not be completed for another five years and he can continue to mobilise public opinion in his favour by whipping up their sentiments in the name of ‘the pride of Gujarat’.

Death wish

PHILOSOPHERS say suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. But those frustrated souls desperate for death opt for this severest form of self-criticism. The world over, more women are taking this extreme step than men, but in Ahmedabad, it’s the other way round.

In the last three months, 88 males have taken the plunge compared to 58 female deaths through suicide. Even last year, as many as 292 men ended their life while the number of women hanging up was only 176. Again, 2004 witnessed 295 male suicides with just 164 females harbouring a death wish.

Interestingly, fewer Muslims seem to be preferring to hit themselves in the bonnet than Hindus.

By March-end this year, only three members of the minority community had committed suicide but Hindus numbered 146, and the percentage of Muslim suicides is certainly less even if one considers that the Hindu population is five million while the Muslims total no less than 700,000.

Psychiatrists say the teachings of Islam, regular namaaz (prayers) and unity dissuade a downcast Muslim from checking out hopelessly.

Tailpiece

YOU will find enterprising Gujaratis even in Iceland and Israel. The serpentine queue at the passport office in Ahmedabad is getting longer day in and day out. In the past 10 years, two million people have been issued this official document for travelling abroad.

Only a few years ago, the applicants numbered 100,000 annually but last year alone some 200,000 Gujaratis acquired the passport.

What’s more, the Ahmedabad international airport saw only 48,884 tourists arriving from foreign countries last year compared to 54,176 travellers boarding overseas flights.

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