Wednesday, May 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Image India: as French scribe sees it
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
Upset over the developments in Gujarat, a French journalist has blamed foreign media for India’s bad image in the West by describing as ‘nonsense’ propagation of India as an intolerant Hindu majority.

Mr Francois Gautier, Correspondent, South Asia for Quest of France, unhappy with the partisan coverage of communal violence in Gujarat where many of the journalists have been using words like ‘genocide’ or even making comparisons with the holocaust, has given vent to his spleen in a letter to the President of the Foreign Correspondents Club. He has offered to address the members of the Club on the “ambivalence of our standards when it comes to Hindus.”

His letter to the President of the Club reads : “As a foreigner having covered India for 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to Hindus. There were 400,000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947 — and only a few hundreds today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late 80s and early 90s. I remember when Muslim militants would stop buses all over Kashmir and kill all the Hindus — men, women and children — none of the foreign correspondents and diplomats protested about human rights the way they are doing now after the Gujarat riots. There are 400,000 Hindus who are refugees in their own land, an ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world. Why are none of us interested in highlighting this fact ?

“The problem is that if you say anything against Muslims in today’s politically correct world, you are immediately labelled as an anti-Muslim, or worse a pro-Hindu! But we should all open our eyes. Many of us are using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the riots in Gujarat, or even making comparisons with the holocaust. But do we know that Jews in India were never persecuted and lived and prospered in total freedom till most of them went back to Israel ? The same cannot be said about my country France, where even today they face problems. Do we know that Hindus themselves for centuries have been the target of a genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders and that today in Bangladesh or Pakistan they are still at risk ?

“The image of India in the West has never been so bad. We foreign correspondents are propagating a picture of an intolerant Hindu majority, hunting down ruthlessly the minorities. But those of us who have lived long enough in India, know it is a total nonsense: not only Hindus have historically been extremely tolerant accepting the fact that God manifests himself at different times under different forms, but even today, in spite of the bureaucratic hassles, the dirtiness and the heat, we Westerners are living in a paradise of freedom, compared to what would be our lot in China: we can criticise as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal.

“Whatever my views are right or wrong, nobody, especially a Westerner can claim to fully understand the complex diversity which is India. I have lived 33 years in India. I am married to an Indian, and, I have covered this subcontinent from Kanyakumari to Srinagar more extensively probably than any other foreign journalist, except Mark Tully. I know I face a lot of criticism amongst my peers for my views which differ from the mainstream opinions. I would thus be happy to give a talk to the FCC members and face their questions. We can only come to understand this country if we learn from each other,” he concluded.Back


Gujarat violence tarnished nation’s image: Chautala

Chennai, April 30
Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala today said the unabated violence in Gujarat had tarnished the nation’s image all over the world.

Expressing concern over the continuing violence in Gujarat, he reiterated that the INLD MPs would vote against the Opposition-sponsored censure motion since “there is no other alternative to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.”

Stating that there was no prospect of snap poll, he expressed confidence that the Vajpayee government would complete its full term.

Mr Chautala, who called on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at the Secretariat, described it as a “courtesy call” and denied that he had come on a political mission. PTIBack

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