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  India Abroad and IDRF Coverage  



By: Gopal Alankar, Ph.D., USA
February 05, 2003

A cursory review of the letters published in India Abroad (IA) columns since December 6, 2002 up until January 17, 2003 reveals that there were eleven scanty prosaic anti-IDRF letters as opposed to two but well written pro-IDRF letters. It's beyond one's imagination why a good newspaper has chosen such a disproportionate representation. One possible answer is that those letters represented all that they received. One other plausible argument is that IA skewed it to portray a scenario that all is not well with IDRF and the majority of Indian Americans is in concurrence with the report "The Foreign Exchange of Hate, IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva" prepared by Sabrang publications. (I assume that Bijju Mathew and his 10 associates hold the ownership of this report and therefore for the purpose of discussion herein I will refer it as Mathew's report.) An intelligent mind is apt to dismiss the former possibility as an unlikely scenario since many pro-IDRF letters sent to IA, as alleged by some readers, have gone into the can. The latter then is a probable scenario. How come? My discussion hereunder will bring home this deduction.

Of the eleven anti-IDRF letters three were tagged as "via email" without revealing the place of the writer while all other letters had the places clearly affixed. This does not jive with the past practice of IA. From my personal experience I can vouch that email letters printed in IA had indeed identified the place of the writer. Then it raises a credibility issue. Are these emails fake?

The anti-IDRF letters hum the same tune and pitch, and follow the same style. They are full of mundane repetitive phrases like "thank you for your coverage", "kudos on your revealing reportage", "congratulations on your honest coverage" and "keep up good work". Why thank IA if the writer is not a direct beneficiary in the issue? The stereotype style suggests that the letters may be all orchestrated and catapulted from one source, perhaps the source that funded the report. They all seem to parakeet one theme: "IDRF has not disproved that it is involved in a campaign of violence and hate" as if the accuser has nothing to prove but the accused has to prove every thing lest he be done to death. Shouldn't it be the other way around! Nonetheless, Sanjay Achharya's letter (IA January 3) and Mukund Kute's letter (IA January 24) have provided some clarity on this aspect.

The picture displayed in Josy Joseph's article "Report says NRI donations funding Hindu right" (IA December 6) has no connectivity to the allegation that IDRF funds are being used for hate. Then why display it? An isolated bad picture showing a burning effigy after the terrorist attack on a Hindu temple should not be used as a yardstick for Hindu violence. What is the intent in reproducing the same picture later under a different caption "Prejudiced Campaign" (IA January 3)? To an unsuspecting reader the picture projects Hindus as a violent race and IDRF as funding the violence. Such portrayal defies the ethical norms of a good newspaper.

Yet another instance - what does the picture of "water tap" in Sheshu Sarma's letter (IA January 17) supposed to imply? Is it to imply that dollar flow into the IDRF bucket is now reduced to drops as a result of Mathew's report? How callous!

The Managing Editor's (Prem Panicker) question to Rohit Vyasmaan whether he is a regular subscriber to India Abroad should not be construed (IA January 24) as a slap on a reader. It is perfectly valid. But it is also valid to ask the anti-IDRF writers whether any one of them ever contributed to IDRF. If the answer is no, then they have no moral right to question IDRF on its Modus Operandi.

Based on the above facts, India Abroad's tilt is obvious and that tilt is anti-IDRF. Let's not any more polarize the Indian American community on religious lines.

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