Everybody from the prime minister to the defence minister have dismissed the Indian Express front-page story on the coup that wasn’t in Delhi on the night of January 16-17. Now, the paper has published a formal statement standing by the story on its website.
Below is the full text:
“The Indian Express report “The January night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt” has, as expected, prompted widespread reaction.
“The report is a meticulous reconstruction and a very sober interpretation of the movement of two key Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16-17.
“Investigated over six weeks and written by editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta; chief of investigative bureau Ritu Sarin and deputy editor and chief of the national bureau Pranab Dhal Samanta (with help from assistant editor in the investigative bureau Ajmer Singh), the report draws on highly credible sources.
“They have chosen to be anonymous and the newspaper is committed to protecting their identity.
“The Indian Express sent a detailed questionnaire to the army and the ministry of defence and accurately reported their responses in the report. These responses were reiterated by them on Wednesday.
“Neither side explained why the Ministry of Defence wasn’t notified, why the troops were suddenly asked to go back and what explanation was offered, if any, by the army to the Government.
“There are some in the government and outside who have questioned the report, even calling it “disturbing” and “baseless”. All this, even those comments that attribute false motives, are, we believe, part of a necessary debate.
“The Indian Express stands by the report.
“And in the tradition of its commitment to journalism of courage and the readers’ right to know, it will continue its investigation into the events of January 16-17 and the questions these raise.”
Without any representative status, the press claims freedom to publish without discretion. I am reminded of the title of a Goldstein book News At Any Cost. Every fact, every truth need not be published. The journalism of courage did not tell us what happened when Sonia Gandhi met Abdul Kalam and soon announced she was not in the race, nor did it tell us how Sonia Gandhi travelled to New York and why. We also know the record of the press during the emergency that made heroes of media buffoons.
What Shekhar Gupta did is not journalism. It is an anti-patriotic act committed in the assurance that there is no government in the country. If the Manmohan Singh team calls itself a government it should boldly denounce the Indian Express crime. It is not necessary that any legal action should be taken because that will confer martyrdom on a pretender.
It is completely irresponsible for senior journalists to publish a story with such outrageous implications based on anonymous sources.
Is there a Keralaslantic twist to the episode as in 1962 too and reverberations of defense vehicles being inferior all ring a kind of intolerance in the background.
For over sixty years the Indian army silently suffered for the follies of the political establishment. It put up with faulty political decisions, fought wars with substandard arms and equipment, fought against impossible odds and sacrificed thousands of its soldiers. But to its credit, it never allowed itself to be tempted by the spoils of power. It should be praised for its extraordinary reticence considering that all nations that surround India were ruled by their armies, at one time or the other. In view of all this ‘The Indian Express’ must be said to have done great disservice to a great institution. Even granting the paper the benefit of the doubt and concede that it did see some conspiracy where there was none – it could have been an error of judgement – it should have withheld the story rather than going to town with it. There would be other opportunities and other stories to bolster its circulation and commercial interests. As many commentators pointed out in television debates, how did ‘investigative journalism’ miss the point that when there were already twenty-five thousand soldiers present on the scene, the army would not require another one thousand to pursue some wildly mischievous goal.