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Experiments with Truth

MJ Akbar’s inconstant path through journalism and politics

santosh gupta / hindustan times

IN DECEMBER 2002, weeks before the announcement of state election results in Gujarat, MJ Akbar, then the editor-in-chief of the news daily the Asian Age, published a column. That July, Gujarat’s legislative assembly had been prematurely dissolved, and its chief minister, Narendra Modi, had resigned, following criticism of his Bharatiya Janata Party government for widespread anti-Muslim violence under its watch earlier in the year.

Akbar’s column, titled ‘Congress is BJP’s B-Team in Gujarat,’ chided the opposition party for a campaign strategy centred on “soft-Hindutva,” a watered-down version of the BJP’s Hindu nationalist ideology. “It is chicanery to claim outside Gujarat that you want to destroy the evil of communalism by defeating Narendra Modi,” he wrote, “and to indulge in a variation of his communalism inside Gujarat.” But he had sharp words for the BJP, too. A major victory for Modi should cause the party to worry, he said. The chief minister

is an ideologue, with a difference. The difference is hysteria. It is an edgy hysteria, which can mesmerise; and it easily melts into the kind of megalomania that makes a politician believe that he is serving the larger good through a destructive frenzy against a perceived enemy. In Hitler’s case, the enemy was the Jew; in Modi’s case the enemy is the Muslim. Such a politician is not a fool; in fact, he may have a high degree of intellect. But it is intellect unleavened by reason, and untempered by humanism.

Akbar continued,

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada. He was formerly the political editor at Open magazine.

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4 thoughts on “Experiments with Truth”

Hartosh Singh Bal is incisive in pointing out the contradictions in the curious life choices, dated character and highfalutin behavior of M. J. Akbar. The protagonist MJA has done great disservice to the domains of Journalism and Politics. In this Faustian bargain in reverse, India has lost the opportunity of celebrating the life and work of a great public intellectual.

The columnist MJA’s life reminds me of the Myth of Sisyphus. Its an exercise that begins in futility and ends in frustration. First, its an egregious mistake for a career Journalist to dabble in politics? What a ethical quagmire? Its an existential nightmare to say the least. How can anyone, for example, defend the Vyapam scam? How can one put a spin on Sushma, Vasu, Smrithi, Rijiju, Fadnavis, Match-box Raju et al? Not to mention the witch hunt going on against political opponents. Indians are mute witnesses to intolerance with Big Brother watching over what you speak, eat, hear or see. Sadly for the very idea of India, this has spawned into a murderous hate campaign. Its Vendetta First, Vikas Next and India Last.

All the contrarian voices of writers, historians, scientists, artists, intellectuals and corporate honchos are called anti-national and silenced. Isn’t there an undeclared emergency in this country, which is currently being run by two men?

The fact is, this present dispensation is full of under-qualified over-actors without substance. But the moral universe always finds a way of establishing the truth. Truth will prevail despite the M. J. Akbars of this world. And truth does not need a witness or spokesperson.

MJA has sold his soul to defend the indefensible. May his tribe decrease.

What exactly is the author trying to prove? Criticising a co-journalist comes across as “grapes are sour” or on a positive note “the grass is greener on the other side”!
Everyone is adaptable to change & to move on with the times, giving up what one may have perceived once as right, to accepting what is reality.
Just because the author (like several other Modi baiters), hasn’t been able to accept truth as it prevails today in India, with Modi doing his best for the entire country (despite & inspite of a destructive opposition), he has no business to write such a lengthy, boring & meaningless article ….
Accept & move on is what is required to be the policy instead sustaining an intolerant pessimist role!

Very cunning diatribe. Agenda is obvious. Cynical exposes are also a way to fame. Writer is not in the league of Akbar. Akbar is and will remain one of the best. He has courage to take stand.
And no journalist is an angel. All have their leanings, right or left.

Well, Hartosh might not be in the league of Akbar but that does not take away the facts put in the article. I had been a huge fan of Akbar’s writings. But, it does not take away the fact that M J Akbar has been an opportunist throughout his life and disregarded his own stance.