In the 1950s, in the beginning of the Cold War, an American Senator called Joseph McCarthy became notorious for his public witch-hunt of suspected communists and other leftists in the US, who were accused by him of being unpatriotic and unAmerican on the basis of allegations of their communist sympathies.His witch-hunt, which came to be known as McCarthyism, was viewed by right-thinking people as nothing but a publicity-hungry campaign of "reckless, unsubstantiated accusations and demagogic attacks" on the reputation of many persons, who were subjected to Hyde Park style pubic hearings on the basis of flimsy evidence, before such evidence was evaluated by an investigation agency and a court of law.
2.Wikipedia writes of McCarthyism as follows: "Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence". It is this phenomenon of rousing public anger against persons on the basis of inconclusive or questionable evidence that came to be known as a witch-hunt.
3. In India, for the last one year, we are going through a period of a vicious McCarthyism by Arnab Goswami, a well-known TV anchor, who has been using his prime-time news programme every evening to level serious allegations of corruption, wrong-doing and sedition against Indian citizens on the basis of suspicions and evidence still under evaluation by the investigative agencies and on the basis of the public activities and statements of reputed persons such as Arudhati Roy, the Mirwaiz etc, who are accused by him of indulging in sedition for expressing their sympathy with the Maoists, the separatists in Kashmir and the insurgents in the North-East.
4. Many Government servants and retired Government servants let themselves be used by McCarthy in his Congressional hearings in order to demonise innocent persons and project them before the public as unAmerican and unpatriotic. Similarly, Arnab has been using some retired persons and others of dubious background to demonise dozens of people in his programme and to create an impression in the minds of the public that corruption is everywhere, that anti-nationalism and sedition are everywhere and that barring perhaps Arnab himself, most others are either corrupt or guilty of sedition. Anybody, who expresses his understanding of the anger of the Kashmiri youth, is projected as unIndian and unpatriotic.
5. Many persons, against whom McCarthy carried on his witch-hunt, were subsequently found to be innocent. The evidence on the basis of which McCarthy demonised them was subsequently found to have been unreliable. Unable to bear this demonisation campaign day in and day out, some of the persons accused by McCarthy of being unAmerican and unpatriotic committed suicide. It was only much later that the American public, which applauded the demagogic witch-hunt of McCarthy every day, realised how it had been misled by him. He was a hero to sections of the American public at the height of his witch-hunt----just as Arnab is now---- but when the real motive of his allegations and accusations came to be known, he became a hated figure in the US.
6. Noone can deny that there is widespread corruption in India. Noone can deny that people such as Arundhati Roy, the Mirwaiz etc are being unwise in unwittingly providing oxygen to those indulging in violence amounting to terrorism. To deal with this requires a mature, objective, non-hysterical approach based on constant evaluation and analysis of the evidence. It demands that our TV anchors observe self-restraint, fairness and decency in having these issues discussed. Demagogy and the reckless levelling of allegations in a hysterical, over-dramatised and over-sensationalised manner is not the way to do it. ( 27-11-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )