Slammed for being diligent
The controversy over the CD involving former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan and his advocate-son Prashant Bhushan has raised many questions, one among them being whether due diligence by a journalist before using material received anonymously could be made the basis of a campaign of calumny.
Among the various TV channels and newspapers that used the CD’s contents—that clearly are scurrilous if established as manipulated — HT alone got the conversation examined by a specialized organization before publishing the gist of it. Ironically it was on this count that Prashant Bhushan chose to engage in personal slander — suggesting on my part a pro-government bias for the fact of I being a member of the national commission of minorities.
I take no salary and have availed of no perks including even a telephone —leave alone a government house to which NCM members are entitled. The facility I avail is of an official car. That too when I have to attend meetings at the commission or my personal driver is on leave.
I was appointed a member of the NCM vide a gazette notification— exactly the way Prashant Bhushan and other civil society members were put on the joint panel to draft the Lok Pal bill. Does that make them an appendage or a willing extension of the government? I don’t think so and would never make such insinuations. Their purpose is laudable and must be supported.
But in his self-righteous arrogance Prashant Bhushan engaged in personal slander against me at a press conference he held to discredit the CD on the basis of forensic analyses by private entities he approached at home and abroad. In failing to look beyond his nose, he forgot that NCM was a body created to secure the interests of minorities by performing the role of a watchdog.
I consented to be on NCM because I believe passionately in giving the minorities a sense of participation and belonging befitting a secular country. It was this very sentiment that had me disagreeing strongly with Anna Hazare when he praised Narendra Modi and the impeccably secular Nitish Kumar in the same breath. I did so without meaning any disrespect to Anna or to the cause he’s so gallantly espousing.
To avoid being personal — or behave the way Prashant Bhushan did — I desisted from reproducing in my original story his father’s threat to have me “sent to jail” if I wrote that the CD wasn’t tampered with. I reminded Bhushan senior the comment did not befit his stature; if that were my destiny, I would be locked up even if he were my lawyer.
Rather than using this bit of the conversation, I used, immediately after reproducing excerpts of the forensic report that declared the CD as not tampered, the rebuttal of Bhushan senior. What more professionalism did the father-son duo expect from a journalist who— unlike others who wrote on the subject — published everything under his name?
About time the Bhushans junked the approach that “if you aren’t with them, you are against them.” Democracy is about exploring meeting grounds, about agreeing to disagree.
The jury’s still out on the CD issue. I’d certainly say sorry if (repeat if) the report on which I placed reliance proves wrong. But I aren’t sure whether Prashant Bhushan will even then have the magnanimity to regret the slander he deployed to discredit the messenger who brought him some adverse news.