Readers of 'The Hindu' cannot remain silent at attempts to divert it to a wrong alley
Even as The Hindu is caught in a maelstrom, the Group chairman Ms Malini Parthasarathi's move to endorse a PM who favours suppression of freedom has not gone down well with the readers
The Hindu was launched in the year 1889 as a definite voice of the freedom movement against British imperialism. Today it is making a triumphant march, being brought out from 21 cities in 11 States, reaching 15 lakh readers daily.
Though many newspapers are published in India now, few of them enjoy readers’ trust and are endowed with as rich a historical legacy, as The Hindu. Readers still believe in what is published by The Hindu. It is therefore a tragedy indeed that such a credible newspaper has been caught in a maelstrom.
The chairperson of The Hindu Publishing Group, Ms. Malini Parthasarathy, called on Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi recently and proudly uploaded the photograph taken with him on Twitter, along with her comments. Ms. Parthasarathy, in that tweet, said that she had a constructive interaction with the Prime Minister and that she discussed the present day people’s problems with him.
Reacting to that tweet, Mr. N Ram, a director of The Hindu Publishing Group, said the legacy of The Hindu, earned through a hard fight, had been compromised. Also replying to another Twitter user’s query, Mr. Ram said that he had nothing to do with the meeting. Mr. Ram also agreed with the view expressed in that tweet that through the meeting with Prime Minister, Ms. Parthasarathy’s had squandered the reputation and legacy of The Hindu. Mr. Ram categorically asserted: ‘What I can assure you is that we will do our best to prevent The Hindu’s ‘hard-earned’ reputation and legacy of 142+ years being squandered away.’
Ms. Parthasarathy, in her reply, said that the greatness of the 142-year-old newspaper would not go away that easily as Mr. Ram feared and added that the 142-year's hard-earned reputation was built by writing the truth and not by being partial or taking slanted political positions.
She could have stopped with that but went on to level serious allegations against Mr. Ram, who was instrumental in taking the newspaper to great heights and earning accolades at the global level. Besides, Ms. Parthasarathy alleged that The Hindu, while functioning under the leadership of Mr. Ram, had actually ruined the legacy and reputation of the newspaper. She said that she was striving hard to recover the reputation and legacy that were lost during Mr. Ram’s tenure. That statement enraged a large number of The Hindu's readers.
Already Ms. Parthasarathy had shocked readers with her remark in the past that the Prime Minister’s integrity was beyond question as he was undeniably being honest on the Rafale deal, adding that we should accept the Supreme Court order ruling out irregularities. As we know now, the French government itself has launched a probe based on documentary evidence of irregularities in the deal.
Now that the cat is out of the bag after Ms. Parthasarathy met the Prime Minister and expressed her views on Twitter, there are serious concerns that need to be raised. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the meeting but if that leads The Hindu, known and respected for raising its voice against corruption and injustice, to compromise and mortgage its basic principles, it will not augur well for the newspaper.
Even now India ranks 142 among 188 nations on the Freedom of Media Index. The Modi government has filed cases against around 55 journalists and unleashed attacks, intimidation and coercion on the media. Journalists have been arrested for writing on even the Coronavirus pandemic, for writing on the infection rates, deaths and vaccination scarcity. Many senior journalists like Siddarth Varadharajan have been implicated in seemingly frivolous police cases. Agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax and CBI have been let loose on the media.
On July 22, Income Tax raids were conducted at the premises of Dainik Bhaskar group that brings out 65 newspaper editions in a wide range of languages like Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi. The publications had carried reports on the cover up of deaths due to Coronavirus in states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh and also on the prevalent shortage of vaccines. Newspapers of the group also reported the news of the burning of bodies of those who died due to Coronavirus on the banks of River Ganges. The BJP rulers, who could not stomach this kind of truth coming to the light, unleashed Income Tax officials on them with a view to throttling them.
Surprisingly, it is with a Prime Minister who is presiding over the attacks on media freedom that Ms. Parthasarathy is making compromises on matters of principle.
The Hindu Publishing Group does not belong only to the shareholders of the company. It is a public institution. The publications brought out by the group enjoy readership of lakhs of people all over the country, nay around the world. So, an individual like Ms. Parthasarathy cannot suddenly change the time tested policies and principles of the publishing house. In the event of Ms. Parthasarathy attempting to deviate from the Group's principles, she is certain to face resistance from not just readers but also from the Group's staff.
Mr. Ram has played a significant role in fashioning The Hindu Publishing Group’s policies and shaping its principles. No one can deny the impact of his nonpareil contribution that guided the Group towards acquiring a democratically acceptable ideological face.
Mr. Ram and The Hindu newspaper are inseparable and no force on earth can tear them apart.
(The author is the editor of the online Tamil publication Desiya Murasu. Views are personal)