Agra: Renowned veteran journalist Mark Tully today called the controversy over beef that has taken centrestage in the country a "manufactured" issue and an "artificial crisis", adding that very few Indian Muslims ate cow meat in any case.
Tully, who has covered major landmarks in Indian history during his stint with the BBC, from Indo-Pak conflicts to the Bhopal gas tragedy and Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi's assassination and its aftermath, said, "I have been living in the Nizamuddin area in Delhi for more than a decade, in what is the national capital's most densely populated Muslim area, but never came across any Muslim who preferred to eat cow meat."
Commenting on the peace-loving nature of Indians, Tully said, "There are communities who eat the flesh of canines, but they respect the sentiments of people like me, who are animal or dog lovers. Similarly, Muslims in India too respect the sentiments of other communities and avoid food cultures which may hurt others."
Condemning the Dadri lynching incident, Tully said, "The entire incident was based on a rumour and the Indian government should bring justice to the victims, while media should bring nothing more than truth."
Tully was in Agra for the SAARC Nations Summit organized by Folklore Research Academy (Amritsar) to give a lecture on challenges before South Asia and the role of India and Pakistan. Speaking to the audience of nearly 600 in which Steve Jacob, Pankaj Pachauri, Bangladeshi journalist Munni Shah, Suba Rao, Qamar Agha, Jatin Desai and many more writers, journalists and activists from SAARC nations were present, Tully said, "Conflicts between two nations can only be solved by public diplomacy, in which citizens are given the right to decide."
Responding to a question on the recent incident in Mumbai, in which members of the Shiv Sena attacked Sudheendra Kulkarni and smeared his face with black ink, Tully said, "It was a disgraceful act and brought shame to a country which is known for its tolerance and unity in diversity."
He added that the post-Emergency period, after the 1977 elections, was the best period for India and Morarji Desai was one of the many good prime ministers he had come across.