Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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The Low-Down on Narasimhan Ram, the Ignoramus

by Sachi Sri Kantha, December 27, 2005

Low-down: n. Slang, The truth. [Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, 1980, p.470].

When the year 2005 is winding down, it is time to offer my low-down on Narasimhan Ram (born 1945), the Ignoramus. His current official designation is Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu (newspaper) and Frontline (magazine). As per his profile, available in the internet, Ram grandiosely poses as a specialist on “The Sri Lanka ethnic crisis and the Tamil question,” among other themes. I deliver my verdict first; he is a goat, a semi-blind goat at that. Now, I should defend my verdict with supporting evidence.

My evidence is the 22 editorials which appeared in The Hindu (Chennai) newspaper in 2005 in which the editorial coterie led by Ram prominently – sometimes marginally – commented about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and/or its leadership. It is safe to assume that, though these editorials were anonymously published, that the scribe was none other than Ram. Internal evidence for this assumption is glaringly visible. The editorials have been filled with the same hackneyed cliches on the LTTE, the same vocabulary-challenged admonitions, the same laments and the same unsolicited advice to the Sri Lankans and Eelam Tamils. Here are the titles of these 22 editorials.

1. Sri Lanka and the Tsunami (January 5)
2. On with the relief (January 10)
3. Where is Prabhakaran? (January 11)
4. Tsunami’s Children (January 14)
5. Calamity and Conflict (January 25)
6. An awkward third anniversary (February 24)
7. LTTE and child soldiers (March 4)
8. IRA’s Reality Check, the LTTE’s too (March 23)
9. A tsunami and a reality check (June 17)
10. Sri Lanka and post-tsunami structure (June 25)
11. A balancing act in Sri Lanka (July 19)
12. Death of a master diplomat (August 15)
13. On to elections and uncertainties (August 29)
14. No double standards on terrorism (August 31)
15. Sri Lanka in muddier waters (September 13)
16. European Union and LTTE (September 29)
17. A bleak choice for Sri Lanka (October 17)
18. Games LTTE plays (November 11)
19. President Mahinda Rajapakse (November 19)
20. Decoding LTTE’s ‘final warning’ (November 30)
21. LTTE pushes the envelope (December 8)
22. Standing reality on its head (December 26)

Ram, The Blind Goat

Why do I mention that Ram is a goat? Like a goat which grazes its feedstuff superficially, Ram the journalist also has grazed the incidents, events and developments superficially. Like a goat which bleats when frightened, Ram also bleats when events and developments in Sri Lanka overwhelm him. This goat is also semi-blind. Here are the reasons for my assertion.

While showing skin-deep empathy and compassion for the plight of Eelam Tamils, Ram’s editorials turns a blind eye to the evil-doers working in the field and their puppets. In any one of these 22 editorials, would Ram mention a sentence or a phrase or a word on the deeds of the notorious RAW personnel in Sri Lanka? Never. He is blind to that. A couple of editorials have noted the “revolt by Karuna and the consequent emaciation of the LTTE cadre base in eastern Sri Lanka” (January 11th and February 24th). Is that so? When did Ram or his appointed Colombo reporter V.S.Sambandan carry out such an authentic survey to measure the ‘emaciation of LTTE cadre base’? In these editorials, Ram was coy and acted blind on where his ‘great hope’ Karuna was hiding.

In the Jan.5th editorial, mention was made that “New Delhi has pledged a generous Rs.100 crore ($25 million) as assistance.” to Sri Lanka. In any one of these 22 editorials, did Ram mention a sentence on how much the House of Hindu Publishers contributed to the Tsunami relief fund to Sri Lanka, though 9 editorials were focussed on the Big Tsunami of December 26, 2004? Not at all.

The Jan.11th editorial entitled, “Where is Prabakaran?” began with a dubious concern (most likely masked glee, from digesting the erroneous newsreports emanating from Colombo and Bangkok), “Even if one were to discount reports that the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Prabakaran, is among the thousands dead or missing in Sri Lanka after the December 26 tsunami, his absence at a time of unprecedented crisis for the people in the LTTE-controlled North-East is passing strange.” This time, Ram had to exercise caution, since on July 29, 1989, The Hindu published a premature obituary of the LTTE leader and later had to eat crow. Like an ignoramus, Ram questioned in this Jan.11th editorial, “Where is Mr.Prabakaran at this hour of grief and distress for a people he claims only he and his group can lead?” Of course, Prabhakaran was in Eelam, and Eelam Tamils knew and experienced first hand how he demonstrated leadership in the post-Tsunami weeks. Only Ram, the goat, was blind.

One of Ram’s hobby horses about the LTTE is the child soldiers. Thus, in the March 4th editorial he regurgitated a statistic that “A report by Mr.Otunnu, presented by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council where it was discussed recently, documents the fact that during 2004 alone the LTTE recruited or re-recruited 1,000 children. The report notes that girls accounted for a high percentage of these recruits. The organisation clearly has an insatiable appetite for children.” That the verifiability of the number quoted is suspect is another story.

If Ram is so concerned about child exploitation, I can provide another child abuse-related statistic originating from his own backyard, which is obscene and outrageous. Around 400,000 – 575,000 children are exploited through prostitution in India and around 300,000 children suffer the same fate in the USA [source: B.M.Willis and B.S.Levy, ‘Child prostitution – global health burden, research needs and interventions. Lancet, April 20, 2002, vol.359, pp.1417-1422]. So, is not it true that contemporary Indian society per se “clearly has an insatiable appetite for chidren” for sex needs? Has Ram, the blind goat, repeatedly expressed his outrage at this sordid situation in his editorials this year? Not in one’s dreams. Furthermore, it is an open secret that the current Sinhala regions of the Sri Lankan island are a paradise for pedophiles. Has Ram written anything on this issue? Not at all. News reports have appeared in Colombo dailies that even some depraved Buddhist monks have abused children sexually. Is Ram aware of this? Sure, he is literate enough to read the stories. But, he is acting blind.

Ram, the snake oil salesman of soiled goods

In my low-down, Ram is neither a quality English journalist, nor a lucid commentator. There are quality journalists [such as William Safire and George Will] whom I love to hate. But reading their columns have been educational for me in that their command of English usage is exemplary. What does Ram offer? Nothing but hackneyed cliches like ‘Pol Potists,’‘abominable practices’ and ‘brutal assassination.’ Is Ram a lucid commentator on Tamil affairs? Not by my critical scale. He repeatedly fails to read the pulse of Eelam Tamils, let alone the LTTE or Pirabhakaran. Here is one of his utterly erroneous pontifications, delivered in the November 11th editorial – merely six days before the last Presidential election: “It is quite possible that the LTTE, under the garb of indifference, continues to support Mr.Wickremesinghe, but does not want to make that obvious for fear of eroding his Sinhala vote base.” Phew!

So, what is Ram’s special talent, if he has one? It is that of a slick salesman of soiled goods. In his jaundiced world-view, the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is a Mother Teresa equivalent. In the January 14th editorial, there appeared a sentence; “The President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga, has shown the way by her inspiring decision to adopt a Tamil child from the country’s badly affected North-East.” Has anyone heard any follow-up on that sound-bite story during the past 11 months? What was the name of that Tamil child? Where is that Tamil child living [in Horagolla estate with Madam Chandrika!]? Did Ram, the investigative journalist of Bofors arm scandal fame, follow up on this story? Nah! He is just a blind goat.

Ram also possesses a snake oil salesman’s glib delivery. In the August 15th editorial following the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination, it was stated, “There is not the slightest doubt that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam planned and executed this fiendish crime.” Some nerve for Ram, the blind goat, to pronounce outlandishly - merely two days after the assassination - that it was an LTTE job. The only probable excuse for this chintzy sound-bite is that the House of Hindu publishers unexpectedly lost a tale-teller on whom they could trust for diplomatic leaks from the Presidential Mansion in Colombo. That is why that particular editorial was entitled, ‘Death of a master diplomat.’ Four months have passed since that August 12th assassination in Colombo and an indictment has yet to be served on anyone. Typical to fashion, the overburdened and overtly politicized Sri Lankan police is still working on the leads at a leisurely snail's pace.