Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You 

The Quint’s compilation of the best op-eds for your Sunday reading.

7 min read

Fifth Column: A Media Lynching

Writing for her column in Indian Express, Tavleen Singh calls out Arnab Goswami and his new “independent channel”, Republic TV for their sting investigation last week into the death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife. Journalists cannot “set up kangaroo courts” and become judge, jury and executioner, warns Singh in a scathing critique of the first few weeks of Goswami’s comeback.

This is what Republic TV did last week with their ‘investigation’ into the death of Shashi Tharoor’s wife. The channel decided that Sunanda Pushkar was murdered and that her husband was complicit. It then tried to prove this through conspiracy theories, innuendoes and open threats to the Congress MP. We have you now, Arnab pronounced over and over again, my reporters have surrounded your house and you cannot go anywhere because we are an ‘independent channel’.

Demonetisation, Vyapam: Politicians, Media, Judiciary Must Not Let up so Easily

Mark Tully makes an appearance in Hindustan Times with a quick reminder about an event which a few months ago was all anyone cared about: demonetisation. Don’t believe the economists when they say the country is recovering well from the currency ban, says Tully. There’s a long way to fulfilling the promises made to the worst sufferers of demonetisation and neither the politicians, media or the judiciary can afford to forget.

But it’s not just the politicians who will have to accept greater accountability to create a shiny white India. We journalists need to raise our game as does the judiciary. We both fail to insure that the guilty are punished so fear of being found out, which should be a powerful disincentive, does not restrain the corrupt or stem the flow of black money. We the media fail in our duty because we suffer from amnesia, we forget about stories. We raise the temperature and the let the story go off the boil.

Across the Aisle: That Sinking Feeling

P Chidambaram has a sinking feeling about India and he shares his thoughts in his weekly column in Indian Express. “India has become a killing field,” he begins, going on to talk about recent events of vigilantism, communal and caste clashes, polarisation, intolerance and ideological profiling. Chidambaram clarifies that he does not mean to say these problems did not exist pre-2014, but there’s “absolutely no shame” now, he feels.

There is fear. Places of worship are desecrated. Religious minorities live in fear. Dalits live in fear. A Dalit is damned if he does (skins a carcass) and damned if he doesn’t (refuses to skin a carcass). Rohith Vemula wrote “My birth is my fatal accident”. Girls live in fear of harassment if they are seen with boys or wear jeans or have a drink at a bar. Tribals live in fear that they will be deprived of their land and forest rights.

In His Image

In an interesting take on why the sangh parivar is “obsessed with Shashi Tharoor”, Mukul Kesavan shines a light on Shashi Tharoor’s background, his rise to power and why it is understandable that he the subject of such envy and ire. Kesavan says in The Telegraph, Tharoor is the ideal Hindu middle-class dream come true. It’s ironic then that the sangh parivar continues to attack him every chance it gets, “even as it tries to build an India in his image.”

Tharoor once said that when he began his political career he was approached by the Congress, the Communists and the BJP. He chose the Congress because he felt ideologically comfortable with it. But it isn’t hard to see why the BJP was interested. To recruit this cosmopolitan civil servant plus writer plus Nehruvian to the BJP would have been something of a coup.  

The Maharaja’s Worse Than Mallya. Declare Indigo the National Carrier

S A Aiyar calls time of death on Air India in his column in The Times of India. In terms of competition, it is ranked third on the basis of market space (soon to be overtaken), there has been constant mismanagement and it is knee deep in debt after multiple write-offs by the government. Aiyar says the “tragi-comedy must end”; the airlines is too sick to save and PM Modi must quit this one while he’s ahead.

Vijay Mallya has been castigated for Kingfisher Airlines’ unpaid debts of Rs 9,000 crore. But Air India’s debts and losses over the years have been far higher. If it is a scam for banks to lend so much to a bust private company, how is it less scammy to fund Air India on an even larger scale? The losses are all being made good by taxpayer money diverted from other worthy purposes. Despite past write-offs, Air India has a debt of Rs 46,000 crore, which is larger than the entire government outlay for MNREGA, or child vaccination, or subsidised rural housing. To put it starkly, India is killing babies, worsening illiteracy and poverty.

Yes, India is a Democracy But It’s Not Really a Republic

Aakar Patel investigates two claims made in the first line of the preamble to the Indian Constitution: India is a republic and a democracy. Writing for TheTimes of India, Patel argues that while we do democratically elect our leaders, the state and its interests are always above the citizens’. A republic implies the power rests with the people and from where he stands, we’re dealing with a state that isn’t even afraid to use lethal force on citizens if it feels threatened.

It is obvious that we are a democracy, because our leaders are chosen by voters. But are we a republic? Does real power rest with the citizens of India? The outside observer will notice that this is not the case. The interest of the state and its organs is put above the interest of India’s people. There is a background to this: Nehru inherited an aggressively expansionist imperial state with tentative borders. Its relationship with the citizen focused on taxation and law and order. This continued after 1947. Even today, where the State feels threatened by citizens demanding rights, it will not hesitate to put them down with lethal force.

In the Wake of the Spring Thunder

Civic Chandran talks of a different time in his article in Indian Express. A time where the streets beckoned the youth to raise the Red Star and join the Naxalite movement because they believed true liberation was just around the corner. Chandran revisits that period in his life and in the world and asks why all the creative people are leaving the movement. If the revolution has to survive, he says, the Maoists need to reassess their ideologies in the face of a highly globalised India “swinging to the Right.”

The Seventies were not just about Naxalbari. It was a time when American campuses called out “Not Guns But Flowers” to soldiers leaving for the war in Vietnam. There was revolution in the Parisian Spring; Sartre was selling banned publications standing atop barrels. Liberation theology was gaining ground in Latin America. The Black Panthers were on the prowl. It was a time when Castro and Che rested guns under the nose of Uncle Sam, and Vietnam was forcing America to fall on its knees. A time when the global youth roared “Vive la Vietnam”, and chanted “Free Free Mandela”. A time when we all truly believed that the world will be liberated, and now. Which young man with his heart on the left side would not have become a Naxalite?

Inside Track: Cinematic Licence

Coomi Kapoor dishes out the latest gupshup from the hallowed halls of the Parliament in her column in Indian Express. From an international relations faux pas, to whispers about the next RJD chief, with a sprinkle of AAP and Karan Johar drama– Kapoor is here with the latest.

Prime Minister Modi is to visit Amarkantak, the source of the Narmada river that lies between the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in Madhya Pradesh, on Monday. Modi’s visit coincides with the conclusion of MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s 100-day Narmada conservation yatra. But Modi will not fly directly to Amarkantak, instead doing the last lap of 100 km by road. Locals claim that whoever flies over Amarkantak loses power shortly. They cite the examples of Indira Gandhi, Moraji Desai and Uma Bharti. Clearly, the organisers of Modi’s travel plans kept in mind the Amarkantak superstition. 

How a Real Hero Lost Out to a Lip-Syncing Star

Shobhaa De has a question or two about Justin Bieber’s "khichdi” concert in Mumbai. One of them is why did the country care more about Bieber’s Rs 3-crores worth security and less about the murder of late Lt. Ummer Fayaz of the Rajputana Rifles regiment? Venting in The Times of India, she asks how did we get to a place as a society where parents overindulge kids and mass media makes heroes of all the wrong people.“[And] why should anybody care what Justin Bieber ate for breakfast?”

So what does the Justin nightmare tell us about ourselves? A lot! And it is pretty revolting. I think of over-indulgent (or over-bullied) parents who thought nothing of shelling out Rs 36,000 for a ticket, so that their brats wouldn’t feel ‘left out’. 36k is one hell of a lot of money! Imagine those 10 -year-old Beliebers bragging about the concert to other kids with far more sensible parents who had not fallen for the emotional blackmail. Imagine the psychological ‘haalat’ of parents who simply could not afford to spend a large chunk of their salary to please their demanding children. This is getting so ridiculous, one wonders where and how it will stop.
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