How he is wrong on some fronts and yet right on some others
Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Indian Supreme Court who also served as Chief Justice of three high courts and who is currently chairman of India’s statutory media regulatory body, the Press Council of India, has lately been in the news for his outspoken ‘words of wisdom’ on almost everything from the state of media to the failures of governments in India. Recently, at a seminar in New Delhi, he shocked his own people by telling them that at least 90 percent of them were “idiots”. On the same occasion, Katju also took a freaky shot on Pakistan by distorting our history as a nation and questioning the very creation of Pakistan.
He called Pakistan a “fake” country which according to him was created artificially by the Britishers through their “bogus Two-Nation Theory”. Katju also predicted that “in the next 15-20 years India and Pakistan would reunite”. If this outlandish statement had come from a traditional fanatic Indian mindset, one could just ignore it. But coming from a retired judge of India’s superior judiciary with distinguished lineage and family history, who was known for his non-communal moderate outlook, this was nothing but a barefaced assault on Pakistan’s raison d’être. Obviously, it was for the Indians to take him to task for calling them “idiots” but for us in Pakistan, it surely was our challenge to prove him wrong and repudiate his aberrant ‘reunification’ theory.
Since Katju made his statement in his capacity as Chairman, Press Council of India, one expected our media to at least show some sensitivity to his remarks about Pakistan. In particular, those newspapers which have traditionally claimed ‘nationalist’ credentials should have editorially demolished Katju’s ‘reunification’ illusions by challenging him on what he thought of our nationhood and about our country’s future. This never happened. I could not resist responding to Katju’s slur and wrote an article giving a dispassionate account of history to establish why Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent, having lived together for centuries, remained poles apart eventually becoming two separate states in 1947.
Despite Jinnah’s efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity, the beginning of the 20th century saw a line being drawn, making it impossible for Hindus and Muslims to live together in India. What brought the simmering Muslim nationalism in the open was the character of the Congress rule in the Muslim minority provinces during 1937-39. The Congress policies in these provinces hurt Muslim susceptibilities leaving them with no doubt that in the Congress scheme of things, they could live only on sufferance of Hindus and as “second class” citizens. They were convinced that it was impossible to live in an undivided India after freedom from colonial rule because their interests would be completely suppressed.
In response to my article published in a major ultra-conservative newspaper, Katju sent me an e-mail message requesting for the e-mail address of that newspaper saying he wanted to respond to my article through a ‘rejoinder’. While sending him the requested e-mail address, I warned him that I was not sure if any newspaper in Pakistan, much less this particular one, will print anything questioning the very raison d’être of Pakistan. I was wrong. The esteemed paper published not only Katju’s bizarre “truth about Pakistan” devoting to it more than half of its op-ed page but also the text of my e-mail message that Katju had unethically and illegally shared with it in blatant breach of the privacy of the mail exchanged between two individuals. It was violation of the Code of Ethics followed by both the Press Councils of India and Pakistan.
In his article, Katju said that “Pakistan was doomed from its very inception”. According to him, “Created artificially by the British through their wicked policy of divide and rule and the bogus two-nation theory, Pakistan is bound to reunify with India.” He also distorted some of the historical facts. All said and done, Justice Katju’s article finding prominent space in a major Pakistani newspaper known for its ultra-conservative outlook and ideological ‘guardianship’ shocked the people of Pakistan. They couldn’t believe it. Even the Indians were surprised at this turn of the tide in Pakistan. The Indian Express (Pakistan all-praise for Markandey Katju, March 7) viewed this event worthy of special attention disclosing how the Pakistani “newspaper that had traditionally taken an anti-India stance surprisingly agreed to publish Katju’s article”.
According to The Indian Express, this decision came only because his daughter considered Katju’s article print worthy. She was quoted to have said: “I expected spirited feedback on it and haven’t been disappointed. My father knew I was publishing it and agreed. I’d be delighted to publish Katju again.” That sounded generous. One noted a dramatic change of direction in this paper’s known policy. Apparently, no one realised that there is one full clause in PCP’s Code of Ethics that forbids printing, publishing or disseminating any material, which may bring into contempt Pakistan or its people or tends to undermine its sovereignty or integrity as an independent country. It appeared to mark the end of an era. But the ‘Katju story’ did not end there.
My own read on the ‘feedback’ was disappointingly different. Pakistani readers paid no serious attention to Katju’s article. They just ignored it as yet another volley of a dogmatic if not rabid school of thought from across the border that never accepted Pakistan’s creation. From the Indian side, many knowledgeable comments were posted, mostly dismissive of Katju’s ‘reunification’ theory. One was, however, shocked at the unworthy and graceless language that some of the comments from across the border used for Pakistan and its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. They crossed all limits of civility. It was by no means a ‘spirited’ feedback. It was just filth and vulgarity. No newspaper in the world would allow abuse of its space for such trash. I am sure even Justice Katju must have been ashamed of the profanity heaped on our Quaid.
Katju presented his aberrant ‘reunification’ theory without being disrespectful to anyone. That is perhaps the spirit of his ‘satyam bruyat’. Jinnah is one of those rare leaders who received some of the greatest tributes paid to any one in modern times, some of them even from those who held a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Katju’s own illustrious grandfather, Dr Kailash Nath Katju, one of India’s leading lawyers who participated in the country’s freedom movement, then serving as Governor of West Bengal, also paid glowing tribute to our Quaid describing him as “an outstanding figure of this century not only in India, but in the whole world”.
Our Quaid did not live long to personally steer Pakistan to be what he thought would be “one of the greatest nations of the world”. No doubt, we have had a chequered history after independence. But it has been a failure of governance, not of the nationhood. A Hindu fanatic has every reason to challenge Pakistan’s nationhood. But if a man of Katju’s non-communal outlook is drawing negative conclusions on our future, there is cause for us to look at ourselves to find what after all is wrong with us. No matter what Katju’s motives are, he has indeed shown us a mirror.
What if Katju’s mirror shows us a hazy picture? We see a mutilated and disjointed nation debilitating itself physically as well as spiritually. We also see a country looted and plundered by its own rulers, and left with no dignity and sovereign independence. We are not even ashamed of what we are doing to ourselves. Isn’t it time for us to change and behave like a nation? Isn’t it also time, our increasingly family concentrated media owned its national responsibility and played its role in defending Pakistan’s independent statehood?
The writer is former foreign secretary, Pakistan.
The Article was Forwarded to Blog Moderator for publishing.