Lok Satta

Saturday, 04 April 2009 18:57

Dr. JP's letter to The Times of India

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Apr. 3,2009

To,

Mr. Kingshuk Nag,
Editor, The Times of India,
Hyderabad.

 

Dear Mr. Kingshuk Nag:

 

My colleagues have drawn my attention to two reports the Times of India, Hyderabad, carried in its editions dated March 26 and April 3, 2009.

 

Let me make it abundantly clear right at the outset that the Lok Satta movement and the Lok Satta Party have had the fortune of attracting thousands of women all over the State into their fold for more than 12 years now. Given their concerns, we show them enormous respect and go out of our way to place them on a higher pedestal. Against such a backdrop, the Lok Satta regards the outrage of the modesty of any woman as totally unacceptable and reprehensible. The Lok Satta views such behavior on the part of anybody as highly unpardonable and more so when a party functionary is involved.


The moment I came to know of the allegation, I summoned my party functionary, C. Purnachandra Rao, and grilled him to ascertain the facts. Mr. Purnachandra Rao categorically asserted that he was not guilty of any alleged obscene behavior or outraging the modesty of any girl or woman. He also sent you a written apology for the inconvenience your reporter had to experience on account of bus travel at short notice. The Lok Satta, however, takes the allegation seriously since it has been made by a newspaper of standing like The Times of India. There are two options open to us. The first option is for The Times of India choosing an individual of standing to inquire into the alleged wrong-doing on the part of a Lok Satta functionary. The other option is for me as the Lok Satta Party President to constitute a two-member committee comprising Mr. K. Srinivasa Reddy, Member, Press Council of India, and Secretary General, Indian Journalists’ Union, and a senior woman journalist. If the allegation is proved, we will take the sternest action against our party functionary.


I am deeply distressed that a reputed newspaper like The Times of India has chosen to tarnish the image of the Lok Satta which has become a byword and universally acknowledged for its ethical values and exemplary conduct. You chose to publish the report titled “Is JP learning tricks of the trade?” after our functionary had expressed his regret and tendered apology if he had caused any inconvenience to your reporter unwittingly. He was acknowledging the fact that he could not procure her a rail ticket at short notice for returning to Hyderabad the same night. I do understand the problems of journalists who undertake grueling journeys and race against time to file their reports. Common courtesy demands that the organizers make comfortable travel and accommodation arrangements for journalists on such assignments. This is especially important when women journalists are involved. In the particular case, I understand that all the journalists made it clear that they were keen on returning that very night as soon as they boarded the train at Secunderabad. So, our party functionaries had to abandon their plans to reserve accommodation in a good hotel at Nellore. And none of them objected to returning to Hyderabad by an air-conditioned Volvo bus that night. Your reporter, Mrs. Nikhila Henry, wanted to travel by train that night. When our functionary Purnachandra Rao told her that reservation by train at short notice was not possible, she too agreed to board the bus.

 

What is galling to me is that a reputed paper like The Times of India has blown the trivial issue out of proportion and deliberately and maliciously attempted to besmirch Lok Satta’s image. I have the highest regard for the media, and the Lok Satta recognizes the vital role of the press in a free society. Civil society, media and political parties are partners in the transformation of our society. Good will, mutual respect, tolerance and empathy among these groups is vital for harmonious functioning of a democratic society. We have always acted in that spirit, and will continue to do so in future. I hope you will publish my letter in full in your esteemed columns as per journalistic norms and make amends for your unwarranted and scurrilous diatribe. I also hope you will constitute the independent inquiry committee, failing which the Lok Satta will constitute such a committee for facts to be ascertained and appropriate action to be taken.

 

Yours sincerely

(Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan)