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Vir Sanghvi chat on August 23

Vir Sanghvi has been the editor of three magazines prior to his current editorship ? Sunday, Imprint and Bombay. A political commentator par excellence he brings fresh insights into national and international happenings. Read transcript of the chat on August 23

india Updated: Sep 10, 2002 17:59 IST

Indu: What inspired you to take to journalism as a career? What kind of a student were you in school and college?
Vir_Sanghvi: I am not one of those people who plan things out in advance. In the case of my career choice, it was simply a matter of being at the right place at the right time. The magazine boom was starting in India and they were looking for young people who knew how to write. I slid into journalism almost by accident, and not as a result of any great inspiration.

Loveleen: Despite so much being written about the government's persecution of Tehelka journalists the harassment continues. Why is the media so powerless?
Vir_Sanghvi: This is a government that is convinced that anybody who opposes it is doing so because of ulterior motives. For instance, if the Chief Election Commissioner feels that elections in Gujarat should be delayed, then the BJP concludes that he is responding as a Christian or that he plotted the delay with Sonia Gandhi when they met in Church.

You have to see the BJP's persecution of the media in the same light. People in power are convinced that anybody who opposes them must have some vested interests. What makes it worse is that these people have no commitment to freedom of speech and subscribe to an ideology that is intolerant of any difference of any kind.

I would not mind their attitude so much if they weren't so self-righteous about it. To see a lout like Venkaiah Naidu holding forth on values is to fight the urge to vomit.

Laughingbuddha: Sevanti Ninan of The Hindu (dated Aug 18, 2002) writes that reporters and media men are under attack everywhere. Even the country of the First Amendment (the US) they are constantly under Govt./legal scrutiny. The means employed are questionable. In countries which have a longer legacy of democratic institutions, the media has developed more seasoned and solid responses. Just meetings, protest rallies and wearing black bands wont help.
Vir_Sanghvi: What do you suggest we do? We can protest peacefully, we can write editorials and we can stand by our colleagues. Would you rather let we resort to violence or pelted rotten eggs at Venkaiah Naidu?

Lordbond: Why has the format of your show on Star talk changed?
Vir_Sanghvi: Star Talk is now 160 episodes old and I am always worried that it will become dull. The idea behind the format changes is to keep surprising the viewer. Once every 4-5 episodes, we'll do one with an audience. Sometimes we will do two people rather than one. But most of the time we will stick to one and one.

Mayandi: Secularists' hearts bleed for a few hundred Muslims living in refugee camps in Gujarat. But why is it that no body applies the same yardstick to Kashmiri Hindus? Is it because they do not make substantial vote bank?
Vir_Sanghvi: Firstly, there are a more than a few hundred Muslims living in the refugee camps. Thousands of them have lost everything or have been thrown out of their homes. Our hearts bleed for them not because we are secularists but because we are human beings.

I was one of the first people who wrote about the tragic plight of Kashmiri Pandits. I urged, again and again, that politicians do something for them and not just use them to whip-up Hindu sentiment. Sadly, politicians don't care about them.

The BJP has been in power for nearly five years. It has done nothing for them. In fact, their lot has got worse. If you care about the Kashmiri Pandits - as I think all Indians should - the answer is to not to justify the massacre of Gujarati Muslims but to hold the government responsible.

Bennybabu: What is your height? You look very tall on TV.
Vir_Sanghvi: In real life, I am short, fat and bald. You shouldn't believe everything you see on TV.

First Published: Aug 24, 2002 13:44 IST