Paper Priests

The battle for the soul of The Hindu

30 November 2021
Illustration by Jignesh Chavda
Illustration by Jignesh Chavda

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“SUNDAY WAS A DARK DAY for India,” The Hindu’s editorial read on 7 December 1992. “The Hindu shares the nation’s sense of deep anguish at this painful moment.”

The previous day, a mob of Hindutva activists had razed the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, convinced that the sixteenth-century mosque stood over the birthplace of the deity Ram. The editorial delivered searing judgment. It spoke of “religious fanaticism at its ugliest” and “a barbaric savagery reminiscent of the crude traditions of settling scores in medieval history.” It declared that the mosque’s destruction had “delivered a lethal blow to the image of a secular and democratic India.” As redress, it argued for the mosque to be rebuilt. The editorial was titled “Unforgivable.”

In November 2019, the Supreme Court pronounced a long-awaited verdict on the ownership of the disputed site. It ruled that the mosque had been demolished illegally, yet controversially awarded the land to a trust for the construction of a Ram temple. Muslim claimants were given an alternative site for the construction of a mosque. In an editorial titled “Peace and justice,” The Hindu declared, “There comes a time when the need for peace and closure is greater than the need for undoing an injustice.” It praised the court for upholding “the faith of millions of Hindus” and saw the verdict as a “great relief to all peace-loving people” because of “the bitter truth that the fear of a Hindu backlash if there was an adverse verdict was genuine.”

After almost three decades of the “unrelenting pursuit of communal polarisation,” The Hindu said, “the majoritarian, revanchist forces in the country have fatigued their secular adversaries into passive acquiescence.” It was hard to tell whether this was an explanation or an excuse.

Aathira Konikkara is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Nileena MS is a staff writer at The Caravan. She can be reached at nileenams@protonmail.com.

Keywords: The Hindu Caste in media Tamil media newspapers Times of India Hindustan Times
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