By Dinkar Kamani
The Indian media ignored the boycott faced by India’s Transport Minister in Canada recently. Why?
It is funny that my last two blog posts should feature Kamal Nath back-to-back. Anyway…
The Union minister for Road Transport and Highways, Kamal Nath, visited Canada in the last week of March to woo Canadian investment for Indian infrastructure. During his visit, Nath was scheduled to meet Canadian trade and transport ministers and other high-ranking Canadian officials and business people. It’s nice to see that India is looking at countries far better than China in terms of quality, for infrastructure development.
This visit may not have been very significant — just another offical visit by an Indian minister to a foreign country — but the matter is more pointed than what appears on the surface. Kamal Nath faced a boycott by none other than Robert Oliphant, Canadian MP and co-chair of the Canada-India forum of MPs. He was quoted saying that he did not choose to attend a reception for the Indian minister the moment he learnt about Nath’s involvement in the anti-Sikh violence in 1984 — citing the man’s questionable character. This is noteworthy because Canada has a large Sikh diaspora.
Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, which controls two provinces in the country, issued a press release: ‘The New Democratic Party of Canada is concerned that a divisive and controversial Indian politician, Kamal Nath, has been invited to Canada… Out of respect for the Canadian Sikh community, I am urging my caucus not to attend events featuring Kamal Nath’.
What is also significant is the fact that this boycott of a high-ranking senior member of the Congress party went completely unreported in the Indian media save the exception of one weekly publication — Open Magazine which carried an extensive report in its 3-9 April issue.
How come the usually frenzied and sensation-hungry electronic media never carried even a fleeting report about this incident? The answer is quite simple. Obviously, the Congress party is keeping it’s media poodles well greased and happy so that they conveniently ignore stories about their mentors, but when someone like Narendra Modi so much as twitches, his spasms create ripples throughout the very same media circles — Modi is likened to Hitler, but Congressmen are not labelled the SS — it’s clear which side they’re on.
There is no doubt that the reporting would lead to questions about the ruling Congress party which wouldn’t want it’s name dragged in the mire for being communal, an allegation which it is quick to point at other parties. The secular trumpet-blowing would naturally be seen as contradictory to it’s image as a profane and unifying national party.
The Gujarat Chief Minister has gone through a much hyped SIT gruelling, but why is there no action on Kamal Nath? The inference is simple — he is a member of the so-called ’secular’ Congress party — the self-proclaimed flag-bearers of the new and young India.
Owing to a large and growing Muslim vote bank, we constantly hear the hypocritical rhetoric of the Congress and its media clowns about ‘justice for Muslims’ — “the minority community” — but what about justice for the angst suffered by the Sikh community?
What is poignant and ironic though, is the fact that this county has a Sikh Prime Minister heading a cabinet which has a senior member who was part of a mob that set ablaze two Sikhs at the Rakabganj Gurudwara in New Delhi during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.
(Based on: The Media That Looks Away by Hartosh Singh Bal, Open Magazine, print edition 3-9 April 2010).
8.4.2010 Just in: Kamal Nath to be tried in a US court.
“In the civil claim filed under the Alien Torts Claim Act, the petitioners sought compensatory and punitive damages for several allegations including crimes against humanity, degrading treatment and wrongful killing.”
Addendum: For Kamal Nath’s role in the ‘84 riots, the Congress might well say ‘it was way back in ‘84… why dig up old issues now?’, yes, as long as a Congressman is involved it’s all fine, but Modi’s alleged role in the Gujarat riots will become an election issue with the Congress for time immemorial.
Kamal Nath has already gone into defensive mode as he says: “I really have no clue about it… Nobody has ever charged me in India. But if the US charges me 25 years later for something that has happened in India… it just reflects on the authenticity.”
There’s a lot to be read between the lines.