The Ideological Affiliations of The Caravan
This is the third part of the series on anti-Hinduism as an industry written by Pankaj Saxena.
The choice of the editorial team of The Caravan is interesting to say the least.
Anant Nath, the Editor belongs to the third generation of the owners of Delhi Press, the parent group of the magazine. He has an MBA from IIM (Lucknow) and an MA in politics from Columbia University. Inspired by the political climate in the university, he came home and took the decision of relaunching The Caravan. Outside his Editor’s Corner column at The Caravan, not much is known of his writing or editorial capabilities.
His columns are often not more than two or three para-long quips, revolving around the ideological pole of the magazine. Nath tries hard to prove himself as a liberated, westernized Indian, who has abandoned Hindu superstitions.
Thus, while talking about smallpox and its history in India, he inserts a line about how Hindu beliefs caused many deaths. (May 2015). He writes about how Israel destroys mosques and minarets in Palestine (September 2014), while making no comment on Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli citizens. While expressing concern over the BJP’s election in May 2014, he gushes with glee over Kejriwal’s election as Chief Minister of Delhi. (November, 2013)
He is allegedly inspired by long-form journalism of The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta and is said to have modelled The Caravan on them.
“The Caravan occupies a singular position among Indian magazines. Our stories present a unique mix of detailed reporting, lively and vivid writing, and a commitment to the art of storytelling whether the subject is politics, culture, travel or art.”[i]
The New Yorker is one of the pioneers of narrative style of non-fiction/journalism. John McPhee is said to be the father of narrative non-fiction. It is characterized by a narrative style reminiscent of story-telling. The New Yorker particularly refrains from commenting directly on politics. It engages in satire at best.
The articles of The Caravan, though long, obviously do not treat politics with any distance. The editors and the contributors of The Caravan are heavily invested in politics and take strong and extreme sides in political and social issues.
Vinod K Jose
Vinod K Jose is the Executive Editor of the magazine. Another alumni of Columbia University, he earned his PhD from Jamia Milia Islamia, one of the popular breeding grounds of anti-Hinduism. His claim to journalism comes from his previous stint at Free Press, a Malayali language long-form magazine founded by him, published between 2003 and 2006.
A vocal supporter of Islamic terrorists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mulakat Afzal Guru, the masterminds of 2001 Indian Parliament Attack,[ii] he has all but been their mouthpiece. He considered Afzal, his ‘fellow Indian’.[iii] Jose took an active part in their clemency campaign, being the Communications Secretary of SPDPR (Society for the Protection of Detainees’ and Prisoners’ Rights), a front for lobbying for Islamic terrorists.
On the other hand, Vinod Jose considers Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its affiliate organizations as the real culprits behind the disturbing of communal harmony in India. He has worked relentlessly to prove that these are no better than terrorist groups. Naturally enough, he is a vocal supporter of the Maoists too.[iv]
He established his anti-Hindu credentials well in Free Press. In 2009, he was handpicked by his Columbia University co-student Anant Nath for relaunching The Caravan. Since then, he is contributing his own share to the anti-Hindu propaganda churned out by the magazine. The Columbia University connection will pop-up again as we shall see.
Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor
Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of The Caravan is a well-known critic of Narendra Modi and the BJP, harping on Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, ignoring the decision of the Supreme Court, just like every secularist worth his salt. While taking the involvement of Bajrang Dal and VHP in Gujarat as absolutely certain, he considers the Godhra train massacre of Hindus, an ‘accident’.[v]
In his June 2012 Caravan article, he puts another Hindu matter into ‘perspective’. Proceeding to ‘set the record straight’ he tells his readers that Bhojshala is not actually a Hindu structure but a mosque and its full name is Bhojshala Kamal Maula Mosque. For Bal, the Islamic part of the name apparently confirms that it is indisputably a mosque. He even proceeds to call it just “Kamal Maula Mosque”. Apparently the Sanskritized prefix of the mosque is unpalatable to him.
Prominent Indologist and scholar Koenraad Elst, in his book, Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid: A Case Study in Hindu Muslim Conflict, explains that communities do not forget their holy places. They do not assign holiness to random places and start worshipping them on a whim. If Hindus remember Bhojshala as a centre for studies, it must be for a reason. The site may or not may not have been the particular institution started by legendary King Bhoja, but it did have some connection to it. Let us see what ASI says about Bhojshala:
“It is believed that it was originally a temple of goddess Sarasvati built by Parawara King Bhoja in circa 11th Century AD. The mosque is built using structural members of the temple. The monument also retains some slabs inscribed with Sanskrit and Prakrit literary works. Noted as a great patron of art and literature, Bhoja is said to have established a school, now known as Bhojashala.”[vi]
Even this candid explanation is not enough for the secular logic of Hartosh Singh Bal. There is ample visual evidence at Bhojshala that it was a Hindu temple: the pillared mandapa with characteristics carvings of Hindu temples; defaced statues of Hindu deities; just besides the minbar, there is the doorjam of the garbh-griha, with Ganga and Yamuna and other deities on either sides of the gate in the characteristic Paramara style of Central Indian Hindu architecture.
Apparently, all of this is still not sufficient to prove that the structure was once a Hindu temple. According to Bal, the fact that it is now called Kamal Mauala mosque somehow proves that it must always have been a mosque. If the political editor of The Caravan is so ideologically motivated, one can imagine the level of anti-Hinduism that the magazine enshrines in its founding principles.
The Associate Editors
The Columbia University connection pops up once again, when we turn to Sonal Shah, an Associate Editor at The Caravan. She is a self-styled journalist and editor, based in New Delhi. Her twitter handle shows why she qualified for The Caravan magazine elite group of editors, besides her Columbia connection.
Sonal Shah is terrified over the BJP MP’s efforts to get the Aurangzeb Road renamed to Dr. Abdul Kalam Road. She fails to understand the cultural value of Shri Rama Setu to Hindus in tweets like “Disbelievers beware… A Russian engineer broke his leg inspecting the Ram Setu!” and “Combining such scientific methods as oceanography and mythology!”, referring to Lalit Kala Akademi’s post on Ram Setu and its mythical connections.
Ajay Krishnan is one of the youngest Associate Editors in any magazine in India. He is basically a playwright who also comments on political and cultural matters. His anti-Hinduism is evident from his twitter handle. He is shocked at Modi’s ‘subservience’ to the RSS.
He makes fun of the fact that some Sanskrit scriptures suggest using cannabis in the month of Bhadrapada, and that a Hindu prisoner has demanded that.
He retweets the Caravan’s lies on how Modi praised Swami Aseemanand and his work. Ajay is shocked at how Aseemanand is out on bail. However, at the same time, he campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty when the issue of hanging Islamic terrorists comes up.
Given this background, it seems apparent that anti-Hinduism is the mandatory qualification to work for The Caravan. Ajay Krishnan’s eligibility is proved just by the playwrights he publicly admires and follows: Girish Karnad, Vijay Tendulkar and Badal Sircar.[vii]
All three have pedaled leftist anti-Hindu propaganda as art in their plays, which requires another full-length article on its own. Suffice to say that Ajay Krishnan is a model of the anti-Hindu journalism that The Caravan espouses.
Supriya Nair, who has penned just one article so far on The Caravan, is also an Associate Editor. For her, the BJP at best follows the ‘old-fashioned Hindu patriarchy’. Apart from repeating Soviet-era slogans about Hindu society, she has not much to her credit except her anti-Hindu credentials.
Chandrahas Choudhary is the Fiction and Poetry Editor at The Caravan. He started off his career as an art critic, frequenting literary festivals managed and regulated by the New Delhi left-liberals of India. A fawning devotee of William Dalrymple, he is a regular presence at the Jaipur Literature Festival organized yearly.
His most serious claim to journalistic excellence, are his columns in The Dawn, the Pakistani newspaper. One wonders why an Indian journalist would regularly write for a Pakistani newspaper, while he is almost completely absent from all mainstream Indian newspapers, even though Indian newspapers are not averse to printing anti-Indian propaganda. The Dawn was started by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and the Muslim League. It was started as a mouthpiece of Muslims and Islamist voices. It still serves anti-Indian propaganda to its audience, a must to survive in the journalistic space of Pakistan.
A brief glance at Chandrahas’ articles in The Dawn will tell us the reason why he is prized so much in Pakistan: “Modi’s Rise: A Defeat for Freedom in India”, “The fable of ‘India First’”, “A New Vision of India: 100% Hindu”, “The Campaign to Glorify Gandhi’s Assassin”, “Modi’s Convenient New Religious Tolerance”.
Here is an Indian journalist writing for a Pakistani newspaper, and not one of these articles talk about the religious intolerance in Pakistan, about the ceaseless attacks on Hindus, Christians, Shias, about Islamic terrorism or about suppression of freedom of expression. Apparently his anti-Hindu colours, evident from his articles at livemint.com too, are so immaculate that he is singled out to be one of the few Indian journalists writing almost exclusively for a Pakistani newspaper.
The Contributing Editors
The Caravan’s anti-Hindu and anti-Indian credentials become even more evident as we check out their contributing editors.
Fatima Bhutto is the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto, and obviously not a friend of India.
Siddhartha Deb, another Columbia University connection – he was the recipient of a University fellowship – talks about the discrimination against north-eastern Indians in Delhi, as racism in his book, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India.
Siddharth Dube is an activist for the rights of Maoists in Central India.
Christophe Jaffrelot, Caravan’s star contributing editor is known for his antagonism towards Hindu nationalism. Regarding his book, Religion, Caste & Politics in India, Koenraad Elst comments:
“Jaffrelot emulates the secularists in getting his facts plainly wrong. Thus, he complains of RSS killings of Marxist Communist Party activists (p.312), yet usually the killing is in the other direction. Like the secularists, he falsely presents the Muslims as a poor and vulnerable minority, rather than as the local arm of a worldwide movement flush with money and military resources. He always minimizes Muslim rioting, only starts describing it when Hindus start retaliating (as if they started it), and hastens to call it “retaliatory” (e.g. p.639).”[viii]
Jaffrelot considers everything with the Hindu tag as something to be suspicious about. He calls Swami Ramdev a “political animal”, (July 2011) while making no attempt to understand the dubious character of Mother Teresa. The anti-Hindu bias of this French contributing editor of The Caravan is palpable.
Mira Kamdar, another contributing editor, is analyzed in detail by Koenraad Elst.[ix] On issues like Islam, Pakistan, Gujarat riots, Godhra carnage, Hindutva, Aryan Invasion Theory, she just parrots the secular lies without taking pains to analyze the truth in them.
The most pressing concern of Samanth Subramaniam, contributing editor at The Caravan is the persecution of Muslims in Sri Lanka (June 2013) and Myanmar (July 2014). The suffering of Tamil Sri Lankans is not a major concern for him, nor is the plight of Buddhist monks in Myanmar. However, he plays his audience on the ‘Muslims-are-victims’ card.
Amitava Kumar is a supporter of 9/11 deniers, an admirer of Arundhati Roy and everything that entails her work.
This in short is a peek at the ideological leanings of the editors of The Caravan. They are all staunch leftists, determined anti-Hindus and have an animus against Hindu civilization.
The Caravan has not employed even a single editor of a different political or ideological orientation. There is no one at the magazine to represent the other side of the story.
Can such a magazine claim to be objective?
The next part of this series will analyse The Caravan’s take on major issues concerning India, such as Kashmir, Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi, the Congress and the BJP.
[ii] Jose, Vinod K. “Mulakat Afzal – The first interview Mohammad Afzal gave from inside Tihar jail, in 2006.” Caravan Magazine. February 2006.
[iii] Jose, Vinod K. “‘I don’t want a fellow Indian to get the death penalty’.” Rediff.com. November 07, 2006.
[iv]Documentary on Indian Maoists. Radio Pacifica. 2009.
[v]Bal, Hartosh Singh. “A New Awkward Ally: Why Washington shouldn’t be so quick to embrace India’s new prime minister.” Politico Magazine. September 28, 2014.
[vii]<www.unboxedwriters.com> June, 2011.
[viii] Elst, Koenraad. “Views on Hindu Contemporary Activism”. Indiafacts.co.in. Februray, 2015.
[ix] Elst, Koenraad. “TheStruggle for India’s Soul A reply to Mira Kamdar.” bharatvani.org/