Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Hindu's howler ! And how!

Or is it K. Natwar Singh's? I suspect it's a bit of both but before you figure out what I am talking about, you need to read this Opinion piece by a member of the Hindu's stable of writers, K. Natwar Singh.

Natwar Singh talks of Ayatollah Khomeini in the present tense, suggesting that he is still the Supreme Leader (and with his inveterate habit of name dropping, how he met the 'great man' in New Delhi and Harare). Last I heard, Ayatollah (Ruhollah) Khomeini the leader of the famous Islamic Revolution of 1979 has been consorting with the houris for quite some time now. Presumably therefore (and in view of the persistent present tense) Mr Singh is talking of the present Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei whom he could well have met in Delhi and Harare as leader of the Iran delegation.

To compound the confusion the picture accompanying the article is that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the original, so to speak), presumably placed there by the Hindu's sub-editors. When incompetence meets the bush-league, the results are obviously disastrous.

I only hope that our Government is better informed about Supreme Leaders than former members of our foreign service.

Update: The Hindu has provided a correction today (and sent me a letter yesterday pointng to this). But it has a mysterious statement which says "The third, 16th and 17th paragraphs also referred to the Ayatollah in the present tense, leaving many readers confused." Excuse me but the readers were not confused, it was their distinguished columnist who was. In fact it could well have been the present Supreme Leader Khamenei, see Rahul Siddharthan's update. Most confusing...why doesn't Natwar Singh just retire gracefully?


Rahul Siddharthan said...

We knew Natwar Singh was mired in the 1980s, but to not realise that Khomeini passed on years ago? Unbelievable.

Soon after he became foreign minister in 2004, The Guardian ran this article about him, and how right they were.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

PS - as you say, there isn't and never was such a person as "Ayatollah Ali Khomeini". If the man Natwar Singh met in 1982 was the Supreme Leader, it was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and poor Mr Singh was never told that the gentleman had passed away.

It's the Iranians' fault -- why do they have such confusingly similar names? Almost like confusing Natwar Singh and his predecessor Jaswant Singh (not to mention Manmohan Singh).

Rahul Basu said...

Nice article on him in the Guardian.

I wouldn't give the Hindu sub-editors a clean chit though. Presumably one of them decided to put the wrong photo in the article (or is that the right photo - one has no way of knowing whom NS met) but they also forgot to check facts - so bowled over were they by Mr Singh's intellectual and other achievements.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

I think it's the right photo. He refers to the "Supreme Leader", and Indira Gandhi wouldn't be corresponding with the lower-level people (nor would they be making impossible demands of her). Also, he says "The Ayatollah is still the Supreme Leader..." which makes no sense unless he thinks Khomeini == Khamenei.

Rahul Basu said...

Ah well!! As I said at the end -- one hopes the present foreign service bureaucrats are somewhat better informed about Supreme Leaders. It strains credulity to think that with his command over facts, he actually then chooses to give gratuitous advice to the present set about how to deal with the present crisis in Iran.

Anant said...

Khomeini <-> Khamenei ... the Hamming distance is not so great, no?!
Off topic perhaps, but here is juicy one: Many years ago I read as story of a visit of the then PM, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao (in the 1990's) walking through an important building in Washington DC. The delegation was stopped by some security guards who demanded to know who they were. Someone in the delegation said that this was the delegation of the PM of India. The guard is supposed to have said, ``No way, Mrs. Gaandi is the PM of India!'' (who was killed in 1984!).

அகிலன்(Akilan) said...

I stopped reading Hindu long long ago.. :)