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Talent graveyard elegy

EducationWorld August 2020 | Postscript

A riveting history of the final years before the independence and partition of India titled Gandhi’s Hinduism — The Struggle Against Jinnah’s Islam (Bloomsbury 2020) which documents the rise of Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) from an effete epicurean, agnostic barrister of the Bombay high court into the leader of India’s then 50 million-strong Muslim community and founding father of Pakistan, has been comprehensively ignored by Indian media. Presumably because it is written by M.J. Akbar, founding editor of Sunday, The Telegraph (Kolkata) and Asian Age. Akbar is currently in the national doghouse following charges of sexual harassment by several women journalists who worked with him during his four decades-plus career in mainstream media.

The media blackout of this excellent book is totally unwarranted because Akbar has not been convicted by any court of law. On the contrary, he has courageously filed a suit against one of his alleged victims for character defamation. Inevitably, in our fractured democracy ruined by the infamous neta-babu brotherhood, the legal process is punishment, and Akbar’s defamation plaint has disappeared within the mountainous load of 30 million cases pending in the courts. Meanwhile the crab culture of the media world has pilloried and cast this accomplished writer with extraordinary clarity of mind and trenchant turn of phrase, into the outer darkness and blacked out his compelling new book. Although Akbar undoubtedly had a reputation, the general perception is that he was a successful — and much-envied — Don Juan with a high strike ratio, rather than an aggressor who forced his attentions.

Unfortunately, in recent years a whole new monstrous regiment of women warriors whose preoccupation is to wind up ‘wronged women’ to expose alpha males for trial by sensations-hungry media, has sprung up on Indian terra firma. Tarun Tejpal, former publisher-editor of Tehelka, is another talented writer-journalist — already pronounced guilty by frothing television anchors — who has been contesting an improbable sexual misconduct case for over five years, his finances and promising career as a man of letters buried deep in our national graveyard of talent.

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