First, here’s something to ponder: “Vir Sanghvi refers to the Congress as "we". He is not being disingenuous. Perhaps he should admit his preferences openly. It wouldn't be misconstrued”. And another one: “Barkha Dutt too has her political leanings. I have often jokingly taunted her as the "voice of the Hurriyat”. These are a few lines buried in history that should be recalled often and quite frequently. Why? Because it explains a lot of journalistic pursuits that are claimed under “independent and honest” as many do. Those lines aren’t mine. They come from a man who should know. That is Swapan Dasgupta writing about these characters from Radiagate. If one could go back to Kargil, Kandahar, Gujarat and the two subsequent general elections (and many others) it would explain a lot about the reporting of Barkha and Sanghvi. By now everyone knows they are practically Congress mouthpieces except they won’t be honest enough to admit it openly. It is not wrong to have political affiliations, after all journalists too are voters. But when it starts influencing your programmes and shows it should carry a disclaimer stating: “NDTV as a policy supports Congress”.
So Kargil happened under the BJP/NDA govt, stands to reason why Rahul Gandhi feels his party obliged the nation by supporting the then govt on Kargil. Barkha Dutt wasn’t the only one to report about beheadings of Pak soldiers in Kargil. Someone else has written on it before her. So the so-called Kargil-heroine wasn’t the only reporting from Kargil. Shammy Baweja who was working with IndiaToday narrates the same incident in her book about Kargil. But before we get to Shammy let’s read the Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton type description by BD again:
“I had to look three times to make sure I was seeing right. Balanced on one knee, in a tiny alley behind the army’s administrative offices, I was peering through a hole in a corrugated tin sheet. At first glance, all I could see were some leaves. I looked harder and amidst all the green, there was a hint of black—it looked like a moustache. “Look again,” said the army colonel, in a tone that betrayed suppressed excitement. This time, I finally saw. It was a head, the disembodied face of a slain soldier nailed onto a tree. “The boys got it as a gift for the brigade,” said the colonel, softly, but proudly”.
She was on one knee in a tiny alley and peeping through a hole. That does sound very dramatic doesn’t it? Here’s what I call it: Absolute balderdash. If there indeed was a head pinned to a tree it doesn’t seem like a big secret that BD discovered all of a sudden. It seems like journos were being given a guided tour if you go by what Shammy Baweja (SB) writes (again from Kafila):
“We have their dead. And a head. The experiences of 18 Garhwal also show another side of the war. The frustration that has built up among our jawans and the thirst for revenge. Having captured Point 4700, not without significant casualties, their jawans went berserk. One of them took out his knife and slit the head of a Pakistani soldier in one stroke. The head was sent to the Brigade Headquarters at Drass and pinned to a tree trunk…. Maj Gen Puri came down from Mughalpura to see it. Other officers dropped in to Brigade Headquarters to take a look. So did some of the journalists who have been routinely visiting the Brigade Headquarters. It was there, pinned on the tree, for anyone who could bear to look at it. In fact, the reporters were shown the head with the warning they they won’t be able to sleep for the next three nights….”
SB’s story was published in 2000 and Barkha’s article in 2001. So even after SB published the story why was Barkha being so theatrical about it when many journos were allowed to see the head. I have only one explanation: Too much of “Alice in Wonderland”. Now, SB interestingly says the soldier slit the head of a soldier in one stroke. Amazing! From what I read, SB’s story doesn’t appear to be ‘first-hand’ but narrated by some soldiers. But she confirms she has seen it herself and was shown the head by army officers. If you read the excerpt from her book it doesn’t say she saw it as confidently as her tweet does. Maybe she would like to recheck whether she herself saw it or others saw it. And it’s even possible to believe BD picked up her story from SB’s version published earlier rather than her secretive ‘peeping-Tom’ account in 2001.
So when General V.P. Malik rejected Admiral Ramdas’ claim about beheadings why didn’t Barkha confirm the story instead of interrupting and distracting the discussion to arts and sports? I am fine with keeping discussions on a show focused on the chosen topic but surely such a serious issue can’t be brushed aside. So who do we trust Admiral Ramdas or Gen VP Malik? Who do Barkha and NDTV trust? For that we have to go back to a presser by Admiral Sureesh Mehta who again repeated the charge of a female reporter causing damage in Kargil. The reference was obviously to BD. Here are responses to that charge made by Admiral Mehta.
NDTV responds to a charge by Admiral Sureesh Mehta repeated during his presser after 26/11: In this context, there has also been an allegation that NDTV coverage during the Kargil conflict involved asking a Colonel to trigger a Bofors gun for the camera. NDTV wants to emphatically state that the allegation is a falsehood and no such incident ever occurred. It would be extraordinary to even presume that a senior army officer would commit such an act in a conflict situation at the behest of the media! There is an official acknowledgment of this motivated falsehood from those who supervised the 1999 conflict. NDTV has formally complained about and asked for an immediate retraction of comments that we believe amount to defamation.
BD‘s response to Admiral Mehta’s Kargil allegation was: “I would urge Admiral Mehta to read General V.P Malik's book on Kargil for further clarity. General Malik was the Army Chief during the operations and puts to rest any such controversy in his book. In a formal letter, NDTV has also asked for an immediate retraction from the Navy and officially complained that the comments amount to defamation”.
To my knowledge, there is no defamation case filed and no retraction by Admiral Mehta has been published so far. In which case we should rely on his story, right? NDTV says there is official acknowledgement from those who supervised the 1999 conflict and BD asks to refer to General VP Malik’s book. So when NDTV relies on the account of Gen Malik why shouldn’t we? If General Malik, who was the Army chief then, rejects the beheadings, we should take his word for it rather than Barkha’s or NDTV’s. In any case, BD was a rookie then and the people concerned in the Army and govt (BJP) should be questioned on why this rookie was allowed into a conflict zone in the first place.
Certain journalists, candle-light diners and arty-farty types from Bollywood seem hell-bent on muddying the waters in our relationship with a troubled and blood-thirsty enemy. This is not like boycotting French fries. The “useful idiots” in India who long for Pakistani artists or cricketers are no different from fringe elements or extremists who constantly create hurdles in dealing with an enemy. All this people-to-people nonsense can wait till Pakistan stabilises itself to a decent level of peace within. For that matter, even India isn’t at peace within. We have extremists in Kashmir, Maoists elsewhere so why spend so much time in building a bridge with a country that has sworn a thousand year jihad on us? Remember the post about Roman Agent? Seems there are many such agents in India who wish to keep Indians in constant conflict and division.
As for the beheading and the head on the tree during Kargil, the answer is neither difficult nor impossible. The only person, other than BD, to have mentioned it is SB. A third journalist, Sankarshan Thakur, has reported butchery and ill-treatment of Pak captives but doesn’t mention any head pinned to a tree. The answers are not hard to get. SB clearly mentions a Major General Puri who saw it. All that the govt, if it is honest, is question Maj Gen Puri and established the truth. A lot happens during a war and the truth about wars never really comes out. The recent beheadings of Indian soldiers hasn’t happened during war time. If a Pakistan soldier was beheaded or butchered that country would have screamed all the way to the UN. There is no such record or report of them complaining. Only those amongst us who root for the enemy can hand them stories to defend their butchery. Unless there is confirmation from a reliable Army source, like Maj Gen Puri himself, both Shammy’s and Barkha’s stories have to be dismissed as unreliable. They have written it and the onus is on them to prove their story is factual.