As a Youtube video which has gone viral testifies, Mehdi Hasan is a brilliant intellectual and while several versions of his scintillating delivery in the Oxford Debate are extant on Youtube, that the following has a mere 1.75 million hits (as of late December 2015) is rather surprising:

That said, I believe Mehdi Hasan, who obviously did much homework and gathered a massive amount of facts regarding his latest interlocutor and the latter’s poisonous ideology, perhaps prepared too many questions and was over-anxious to run through them.

For instance, Ram Madhav claimed “36,000 intellectuals” said the return of awards was “wrong”. Making generous allowance for the obvious exaggeration, it ought to have been challenged. Incidentally, hundreds of prominent intellectuals and thousands of those not so prominent, have protested and been protesting against the anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-Dalit statements from members of what is known as the “Sangh Parivar”.

Madhav refers to “(awards) given by the people of India”. No way. The awards were given by entities such as the Sahitya (Literature) Academy, the Government of India (ex-Congress-led now BJP-led, which are but Tweedledum and Tweedledee) and other entities functioning entirely oblivious to the real concerns of the blessed – or should I say – accursed people of the subcontinent.

When Madhav is asked about government data showing a 25% rise in the incidents of communal violence, he counters that over the past 18 months, the incidents have come down. Hasan notes that the NCRB disputes that but does not press the point.

Hasan agrees with Madhav re the bizarre rationale behind beef ban in India. Err… Might Hasan explain what compelled him to do so?

“Many Muslims in Kashmir don’t eat beef” OK. Quite possibly many people of all faiths and no faith in Kashmir eat or do not eat paneer/tofu/tempe/whatever. So?

Credit where due: Good that Hasan brought up the issue of BJP ministers and MPs and the Haryana CM making bizarre anti-minority statements but, alas left Madhav largely unchallenged.

And he let Madhav off lightly over the official figures of the UPA government regarding the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat of 2002. In actuality the number of 2,000 Muslims killed that is widely quoted is possibly an understatement.

After a brilliant intervention by Dr Nitasha Kaul, Hasan instead of calling on Madhav, calls on someone who – as anyone with a modicum of brain cells can see – is a sold out Modi-toady to respond.

Madhav, who had clearly been expecting to have Golwalkar’s hateful writings quoted back to him, had come prepared with one of those anodyne paragraphs where the Hitler-admiring second Sarsanghchalak had said something contradictory to most of his anti-Muslim and anti-minority writings. Hasan did challenge that with a very short quote but wish he had quoted back to Madhav this from Golwalkar:

“The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizens’ rights.”

These are widely quoted sentences and a mouth-piece of the Hindu chauvinist groups, Organiser, has defended the formulation.[1]

Hasan asks, “If David Cameron were to say let British Hindus understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority…” But alas, being too Brit and too subtle, Hasan fails to let the bigot Madhav understand what he was getting at and respond.

Madhav says (regarding the state’s responsibility), “you say, protecting me is your responsibility. That’s not the way we look at it…” Good grief. Madhav needs to read the UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD, CAT, CEDAW…

Again when Dr Nitasha Kaul is called on to comment and she makes valuable points, she is not allowed to persist with them and given short shrift.

And where are the people of Kashmir in the following several minutes re Kashmir?

Brilliant catch by Hasan re “your ISIS”, which has gone viral! Bravo! But wish he had pressed the point.

Again brilliant questions by Hasan re the human rights groups’ allegations! Bravo!

But alas, after Dr Kaul’s all too brief expose on the human rights violations in her native Kashmir, wish Hasan had not cut her short and more importantly, instead of asking Ram Madhav to respond, not turned to that silly Modi-toady on her left.

Some excellent questions from the floor and Hasan moderated well but could have persisted rather than letting Madhav off by saying “you didn’t answer…”

Mehdi Hasan has since noted that Hindutva trolls have reacted more virulently (my term, not his) than any others regarding his Head to Head programmes.

Next time he interviews any Indians, he might be better advised to not be too anxious to run through his laundry list of questions and issues, can his subtlety and humour and go hammer and tongs.


About walkerjay

The author, N. Jayaram, a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi, was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions.
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  1. Please write more often in 2016. 🙂

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