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My Take on Arun Shourie’s Interview to Swati Chaturvedi

Intellectuals and scholars like the leaders, at times hold a place of such high reverence in one’s mind that any minor slip, any pettiness on their part, breaks the heart of those who had at one point of time, admired them. I was like most of the Nineties youth was always charmed by Arun Shourie, the Journalist-turned-politician. He, with over-sized half-shirts with pens prominently parked in his pocket was probably the first common man politicians in the post-emergency era, much before Kejriwal turned that uniform into a political attire of Twenty-first century. I was quite young when Shourie came into the political arena and like all young men was quite a fool and romantic. Like Arvind Kejriwal, Shourie moved about with the air of middle-class men, hiding carefully and successfully his background of affluence- like his having been schooled in the elite Modern School and St. Stephen’s in Delhi, and his stint in the world bank, much like Arvind Kejriwal who almost made one believe as if the Deputy Commissioner in IRS is as poor a man as a teacher in a municipal school. But I am not angry with him for that. Those days what he wrote was strong, sturdy and substantive. Even his today cannot negate his yesterday. It is more of a disappointment when you find what negativity and unfulfilled ambition does to an illuminated soul especially when accompanied and nudged by someone who has built her own reputation out of bitterness.

For someone who had fiercely fought emergency, when it was imposed in real terms, with thousands jailed, censorship on free speech clamped down with a heavy hand, it is pitiable to come down to what can be only construed as rhetoric and unfounded allegation. If it were only a person record of lamentation confided to Swati Chaturvedi and not meant for public consumption, one can live with it. But with the reputation of the interviewing Journalist regarding the interviews, fake and real one, we might never know.

There is an interesting quote by JRR Tolkien, where he writes in one of his letters, “Criticism- however valid or intellectually engaging- tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say.” And in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, “Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.” This interview illustrates both the points. It leans on lies and struggles to stand on its feet. The slip begins showing from the very start. The cunning craftiness of the interviewer shows in the first sentence where she, inaccurately, begins the interview with a contention that Modi is only one among with leaders who follow abusive handles. The lady has been herself a most abusive troll and has been thoroughly exposed on the internet for being that. There is no evidence that none of the millions who follow the so-called world leaders are abusive, but that when the idea is to build a rhetoric, who cares about fact. Talking in absolutes, to exaggerate on extremes, is good politics, it sways people. It is poor journalism. But then what our journalists do is barely journalism; it is more of politics. So she falsely positions a lie and to a great disappointment, Shourie meekly surrenders to her propaganda. He quotes Modi calling for his Social media volunteers meet, some of abusive trolls might or might not have been a part of it. But by quoting the even Arun Shourie legitimizes Swati’s inaccurate assertion.

Swati then quotes emergency, which by her own admission, she did not witness. I believe the only truth I discover in this interview is that Ms. Chaturvedi, like many others who loosely quote Emergency without knowing what it meant, have not seen it first-hand and that she is many years younger than me. Mr. Shourie again goes with the flow with vague, obtuse “feels like emergency” statements, made loosely by haters of the government, while they throw choicest abuses at the elected head of government with complete impunity. Shourie even claiming that unlike today, Emergency imposed by Mrs. Gandhi, which had the entire opposition imprisoned, was legal and in some sense, legitimate. He largely ignores the state excesses of those time, in his urge to attack Modi, legitimizes the darkest era of Indian democracy. Swati then quotes Ashish Nandy’s statement, calling Narendra Modi a “textbook fascist’ and seeks Arun Shourie’s views. As with most questions, much like most journalists these days, unlike treating Interviews as an opportunity to bring out the views of the guest, she uses it to substantiate her own views. His worse is however, yet to come, Shourie’s that is, when he refers to Kashmir and in some roundabout way tries to link vigilantism of cow-protection groups elsewhere with the violence in Kashmir. He says that people who get into such skirmishes elsewhere in the country should beware of the reactions it will cause in Kashmir. But the same logic, reversed, never deterred the terrorists in Kashmir. The fear of how will mainland Hindus respond if we murder one Hindu in Kashmir, as a complete genocide was effected in the valley. Thus in his zeal to attack Modi, prodded sufficiently by Ms. Chaturvedi, he ends of legitimizing not only Emergency, but also the unpardonable terrorism in Kashmir. Swati then refers to some morphed pictures about Dadri, as if entire set of handles which she marks as Right-wing trolls were responsible for it. She never discusses it as an internet phenomena, but takes a one-sided view, exonerating Left-winger journalist friends like Rana Ayyub and Aditya Menon who had shared fake pictures from Palestine of decade back to fuel the unrest in Kashmir. She ignores the fact that the fake news shared by unknown handle will cause much less damage than the fake news shared by those who proudly write Journalist on their bio.


Swati in the end asks Shourie if his hatred of Modi emanates from the fact that he did not get the finance portfolio in the cabinet post elections (in which he had campaigned for Modi). Some pangs of old conscience probably does not allow Arun Shourie to deny that and he answers in some roundabout way. If one could use mumble unintelligibly in print interview that is what he does. He quotes as per his version, Vajpayee weeping after Gujarat riot, much like Salman Khurshid’s claim that Sonia Gandhi wept after Batla house encounter in which terrorists were killed, and one seriously feels sorry for how low this man has fallen that he looks more like a failed Congressi today. I would agree with Chaucer, with sadness and great disappointment, that, “the greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people.” 

(To read the interview of Arun Shourie on Wire, Click here)
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