Stories of Border, Monarch, and Corruption.

News Across Border.
India & Pakistan would report on the same event with strikingly conflicting positions is a given. After all both are sovereign nations with bitter history & contested borders. But what happens when the border is contested but the country, currency, culture is avowedly same, or is it? Comparative study of news gathered from different sources is a highly fascinating exercise any time. But I had never imagined that on “verifiable facts” the reporting could be so palpably partisan. Reorganization of states on linguistic basis had left many vexatious disputes unresolved. Even after 40 odd years these continue to rile sections of the population in different states so much so that politicians on either side are quick to stoke the flames of chauvinism for narrow personal gains. Belgaum and surrounding region (in Karnataka) is one such unsettled issue between Karnataka & Maharashtra. Karnataka Rakshana Vedike had burnt the effigy of Bal Thackeray and a Saffron flag on Saturday, 17th July, in protest of the assault by Shiv Sena on two of their activists in Kolhapur (Maharashtra) a day earlier. Next day, Sunday, Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), an outfit that as the name suggests is fighting for the amalgamation of Belgaum with Maharashtra, gave a call for Belgaum Bandh (shutter down strike).
 Sakal, a Marathi Newspaper head quartered in Pune, described the “Bandh” as 100% successful (बेळगाव बंदला शंभर टक्के प्रतिसाद)– markets were closed, roads were empty, & barring emergency services everything else was shuttered.

Belgaum ignores MES bandh call” was how Deccan Herald, published from Bangalore, described what happened. It says the day began with all shops and business establishments opening as usual, buses/ autos and other vehicles plied, & cinema theatres were open. It also has a photo to boot showing a road bustling with life as a proof.

Readers of Deccan Herald & Sakal will end up with strikingly different views on what transpired on that day in Belgaum. These two papers are not alone in this. Either one or both the papers are wrong in their reporting. Are their differing takes born out of perceptual filters or is it the case of editorial policy pre-deciding the news?
Imperial Ambitions.
Palaniappan Chidambaram (PC) went ballistic when talking about CPI(Maoists) with whom he had encouraged Swami Agnivesh to open channels for exploring possibilities of peace talks, which at the moment have ended in the “encounter” by special squad of AP police of Azad – 3rd ranking leader in Maoists hierarchy. He had responded once when asked about Maoist insurgency thus, “will they allow any human rights organizations to function in this country?, will they allow any NGOs to function in this country?, will there be a parliament?, will those who write 33 pages article be allowed to write those 33 pages article?, will there be a magazine to write those 33 pages article?”. His fulminations look like an outburst of a person who sees himself as a champion democrat.
Speaking at Virudhunagar in Tamilnadu on Sunday, 18th July, though, he was singing a different tune. He said that V Prabhakaran (VP), the slain supremo of the now decimated Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Elam (LTTE), was not “our” enemy.  LTTE had waged the most violent armed secessionist campaign for establishing a separate Tamil Elam state in Northern Sri Lanka. PC recalled his talks with VP that had lasted for hours. He then expansively added, “V Prabhakaran would have been Mudisooda Mannan (Uncrowned Monarch) of the Northern & Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka had he accepted the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan agreement as requested by Rajiv Gandhi”. He was speaking on the occasion of “the 108th birth anniversary celebrations of former chief minister Kamaraj and 125th anniversary of the Congress party”, and the place where this happened was particularly sensitive to Pan-Tamil identity, so PC’s eloquence may be read simply as an effort at assuaging Tamil hurt through a “figure of speech”. But even this charitable reading doesn’t hide a certain fondness for the idea of Monarch, an uncrowned Monarch, but still a Monarch. It is quite tempting to see his earlier haughtiness not as hurt of a slighted champion democrat, but springing from his own camouflaged imperial pretensions.
Mining Corruption.
 Karnataka has been in throes of a mining scandal of unimaginable magnitude; where mine layouts are brazenly altered, iron ore is illegally mined, is transported on forged permits, and then is exported out for mindboggling bumper profits. Recently there was a story of missing five lac tons of ore seized by Forest department and the office of the Lok Ayukta from Belikeri port. But on 11th July the real scale of staggering plunder came out in the open. No thanks need be given to any conscientious whistleblower here. The chief minister of Karnataka, Yeddyurappa, himself revealed in the Assembly the following figures.

The bumper harvest of this loot of national wealth was reaped in 2009-10, when over seven million tons of illegally mined ore was exported. Total size of the loot is put at a staggering Rs. 500 Billion (50,000 crores) in last seven years. When the Chief Executive of the State admits this on the floor of the house, are we still to believe that constitutional machinery is well oiled & working well? What is curious is that Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) are demanding a CBI probe, whereas BJP is willing to stick its neck out with the upright Lok Ayukta, Santosh Hegde, who has already uncovered specific instances of this scam. Indeed, by this curious twist hangs a sordid tale of political one-upmanship. Those clamoring for CBI probe want to save their backside while fixing BJP. CBI is known to do the bidding of its master, who at present is UPA led by Congress. BJP has no choice but to stick with Hegde, so that when the shit flies all political parties will be smeared at the fair hands of justice. Yes, it is the proverbial case of pot calling the kettle black.
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