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Ayodhya issue is part of India’s growing up process, says journalist B.G. Verghese

New Delhi, Oct 1 (Calcutta Tube) The Ayodhya issue is a growing-up pang India is battling with in its process of growth as a mature democracy, says veteran journalist B.G. Verghese whose book, ‘First Draft: Witness to Making of Modern India’, was released here.

‘India is growing up and changing. An underlying transformation is taking place and Ayodhya is a phase in this change,’ Verghese, who has spent 60 years as a journalist watching the country evolve as a politically vibrant democracy since Independence, told IANS.

‘Ayodhya will remain a part of India and the controversy over the Babri Mosque and Ram temple should be seen from the perspective of vote bank politics, reflecting the great diversity of the country that is striving to build a new society,’ he added.

‘First Draft…’, which was released Wednesday at the lawns of the India International Centre crammed with the political and the journalistic who’s who, ‘is a reporter’s chronicle of Indian history since 1947’, according to the writer.

‘Most history books do not venture beyond 1947. Very few have been written post-Independence. Certain episodes, personal stories and all that I have written about add to the contemporary history. I have perceived history as a reporter,’ he said.

Its first few chapters are about him, his family and childhood, while the rest is about India, Verghese said. ‘I have seen India unfold, fall apart and return from the brink,’ he said.

The book is a ‘worm’s eyeview of India’ from the context of the author’s childhood that he puts down as ‘the roots of belonging and the golden era of growing up’ that leads to ‘the Nehru era, to work, to work’.

Enters ‘Mrs G, Madame Prime Minister, Sir’ bringing with her the mandate for change, he said.

Verghese subsequently looks at all watersheds of modern India, including the wars, emergency, terror, reforms, Mandal, the dawn of India’s nuclear age and the advent of saffron lobby.

‘There were times when I thought this is the end of India and almost gave up. One such instance was in 1962, during the India-China war,’ he said.

‘I was a member of a press team that went to the border front. The government had to evacuate people from the area and in the end, only 11 journalists were left behind. I was one of the two Indian journalists. We were ready to withdraw and I thought China will gobble up India – but we managed to come through it,’ he recalled.

‘India is a resilient country,’ said the journalist who was a close confidant of late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Referring to the northeast and other troubled areas in the country, Verghese said ‘development and peace go hand-in-hand’.

‘Nearly one-third of the country’s water resources and hydro-power are locked in the northeast. But the region is also known for its insurgency. The challenge is how to translate these natural potential – coupled with the human potential – into goods and services.’

If the country is able to maintain 9 to 10 percent growth rate and the poverty drops in the next 15 years and it can address ‘need versus greed’, it can hold on to the pace of progress, he said.

‘Think in terms of lifestyles. The global recession and warming have been brought about by greed. The future generations need to change their lifestyles to live well and in harmony,’ he said.

Born in Maymyo (erstwhile Burma, now Myanmar) in 1927, Verghese was educated in Delhi and Cambridge universities. He began his career as a journalist in the Times of India in 1949. He was member of the National Security Advisory Board and the Kargil Review Committee.

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