Sunday View: The Best Opinion Pieces From Across Indian Media

Sunday View: enjoy the best opinion reads, curated just for you from newspapers. Don’t forget your morning cuppa!

7 min read
Keep the chai, forget the paper. Read the best opinion and editorial articles from across the print media on Sunday View. (Photo: iStock)

Decoding the Covert Message behind Nitish’s “Bihari vs Bahari” Slogan

Kanchan Gupta’s column ‘Coffee Break’ in The Pioneer is a bitter pill for those who believe in the “Idea of India”. The veteran journalist unearths the covert reference to the “Bihari versus Bahari” slogan espoused by Nitish Kumar and says the obvious reference to Modi and Amit Shah is unimportant . “What is important is the covert messaging aimed at latent Bihari parochialism”, he writes.

That they alone, more so Nitish Kumar, not only prescribe to and believe in the ‘son-of-the-soil’ principle of Bihar for Biharis, but also shall shut Bihar’s doors to non-Biharis. It would be silly to suggest that latent Bihari parochialism does not exist. It always did and has acquired a sharper edge as India moves on while Bihar lags behind.

Shrinking opportunities spur hatred for the outsider. Moreover, majoritarianism comes in many shades and flavours, of which religion is only one. The once prosperous Bengalis of Bihar who have moved out of the State, or their descendants now settled in West Bengal and elsewhere, will tell you that’s true. It’s not the ‘outsider’ alone who has left Bihar. Biharis have left Bihar too, seeking opportunities, jobs and homes in other States, which is perfectly fine.

Kanchan Gupta goes to refer to a similar political line adopted by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, DMK’s “Dravida Desam” dream in Tamil Nadu and Shibu and Hemant Soren’s “tribals, the real sons-of-soil” approach in Jharkhand.

Between 1938 and 2015, India has travelled a long distance and the national economy is now vastly different from what it was even 20 years ago. But provincialism — or call it what you may — remains as deeply ingrained as ever. ‘Cosmopolitan India’ is a figment of South Delhi’s imagination, as is the bogus ‘Idea of India’

Read more here.

“Media has dropped the mask of Neutrality”, claims Swapan Dasgupta

Swapan Dasgupta comes out with a stinging indictment of the media in his column ‘Usual Suspects’ in The Pioneer. He claims no stone was left unturned to tarnish Modi’s image since May 2014. “While this was done under the cover of professionalism earlier”, the senior journalist and BJP supporters says “with the induction of writers, intellectuals, socialites, NGOs and, above all, the discovery of a new leader in the form of Nitish Kumar — even the pretence of neutrality has been discarded”

Swapan Dasgupta does, however hold senior ministers in the government equally responsible for failing to handle the media effectively.

And yet, beginning from Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to General Singh, BJP functionaries have basically competed with each other to provide ammunition to the party’s opponents, particularly the media. The reasons for their apparent boo-boos are multiple. First, speaking to the media involves skill sets that many politicians, accustomed to speaking with fellow politicians and “normal” people, just don’t possess. Secondly, many politicians — like many in the media — live in echo chambers and are seemingly impervious to how their matter-of-fact utterances are likely to be interpreted, misinterpreted or even distorted in translation.

Thirdly, there is still insufficient awareness, on the Government side at least, that the media’s courtship of them isn’t necessarily a reflection of their importance in the political ecosystem.

Read more here.

Virender Sehwag, the Super Jat

India has played international cricket since 1932, but it wasn’t until Virender Sehwag came along — he of the cleft chin, the comfortable physique, and the lazy-lala walk — that the country could boast of a cricketer who instilled fear, real fear, in the hearts of the opposition. I’m talking here of a Viv Richards level of intimidation, of an opponent’s inner voice that goes “Oh s**t!” at the sight of an approaching player.

That’s how Tunku Vardarajan begins his ode to “The Great Deflator” Virender Sehwag in The Indian Express. “No modern batsman”, Vardarajan writes, “could take the wind out of an opening attack — deflate it, in other words — as adeptly as Sehwag.” He recalls how during England’s tour to India in 2008, which was scarred by the Pakistani terrorist assault on Mumbai, it was Sehwag, not Sachin who led India to victory with 83 off 68 balls.

There’s an instructive contrast here, a Tale of Two 190s. Recall Sachin’s reaction in Multan in 2004, when his captain, Rahul Dravid, declared India’s innings closed with the Mumbai Master not out on 194. Sachin was denied a double century, and to this day that statistical lost opportunity rankles with him. But he was dawdling at the crease, playing not for the team, but, like an accountant, for the record books.

Compare this with Sehwag in Melbourne in 2003. He was on 195, having just hit a six off Simon Katich, a harmless part-timer brought on in desperation by the Australian captain. A double-century there for the taking, Sehwag attempted to hit yet another six off Katich, only to hole out to a fielder in the deep. He missed his 200, but walked off without giving it a thought. He was the anti-Sachin. I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t remember how much he scored that day. He’s likely to say “190-odd”.

Read the full tribute here.

Across the Aisle: Paradise Lost or Will it be Regained?

The former Finance Minister P Chidambaram believes there cannot be a better moment for Sri Lanka with all the planets smiling in the right houses. In his weekly column in The Indian Express , Across the Aisle, he traces Sri Lanka’s political history – from a period of peace and inclusiveness after Independence from the British, to a 30-year-long trial by fire marked by a divisive “Sinhala only” policy. But, 2015, Chidambaram writes, has been a particularly momentous year for the country for three main reasons :

1. Political opponents have come together to form a Grand Coalition.

2. The conflict has finally ended and the Tamils can look forward to living in peace in a united Sri Lanka.

3. Tamil-speaking people would have moderate leaders as the heads of the two totally legitimate provincial governments.

So what should India do?

The housing programme is the flagship of India. India should offer to build more houses for the displaced and affected people as well as for the plantation workers who have suffered for decades.

India should allow the Sri Lankan Parliament and Government to find a way to implement the UNHCR resolution.

Above all, India must remain in close contact with Sri Lanka. The only minister who has visited Sri Lanka since May 2014 is the Prime Minister! The UPA government was equally remiss. The Prime Minister should despatch one minister every month to Sri Lanka with strict instructions to travel, listen and report (and not to say anything out of turn or tune).

For more on how Chidambaram thinks India should press on, click here.

Halla bol! Pen proves mightier than ‘bomm-maroing’ netas

Author-columnist Shobhaa De is ‘Politically Incorrect’ in the Times of India about “political stooges” who’ve deciphered a political conspiracy in the returning of Sahitya Akademi awards by noted writers. She answers the question being asked of these writers on why the Dadri lynching and the shocking murders of three respected thinkers (Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi) proved to be the last straw for several writers.

Isn’t it paradoxical, it’s been argued, that the same writers didn’t return awards earlier, when thousands of innocents were also killed in cold blood? Hello! Can there be a rational ‘explanation’ for a tipping point? It’s like asking, ‘Why did the Arab Spring happen when it did?’ Or, ‘In what way was Nirbhaya’s brutal rape more shocking than the daily rapes we read about?’ And, ‘Why isn’t there mass outrage against the recent burning of two Dalit kids?’

Her column, however begins with a colouful Mumbai slang which she says perfectly captures the zeitgeist: “Tum kai ku bomm marta hai?” (Why the hell are you yelling?).

Mumbai has many ‘award-winning’ politicians whose main contribution to society has been their ability to ‘bomm maro’. For decades they have ‘bomm maro-ed’, and done zero for the city or the state. Their ‘bomms’ achieved nothing. And fooled nobody. Something similar is taking place across the country right now. The loudest ‘bomms’ against writers are coming from political stooges. They too will achieve nothing. The only ‘conspiracy’ one can discern is a pretty shabby one, cobbled together by those who may never have read a book in their lives, but are experts at ‘bomm maro-ing’.

Shobhaa De tells Sahitya Akademi to keep its awards and “wait for the ho halla to subside...if it ever does” because the “truth is readers alone can make or break writers”.

Read more here.

Hindutva, Whose Fault is it Anyway?

In her weekly ‘Fifth Column’, author-columnist Tavleen Singh demands the Prime Minister break his silence on the growing number of incidents of intolerance, because it has only given an opportunity to Congress leaders to give “pious lectures” and allowed the President to speak on his behalf. In one sweep, Tavleen Singh, castigates the Opposition, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State VK Singh, BJP Chief Minsters and television journalists and implores Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do his own talking.

Meanwhile, on prime time chat shows, television journalists who have long predicted that Modi as prime minister would be a disaster, now take obvious glee in pointing out that they were right. BJP spokesmen have been completely hopeless in defending the government. Every new atrocity causes them to race off to TV studios to declare that worse atrocities occurred in secular Congress times. We know this.

And everyone also knows that the Congress now has only 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. The reason why Modi (not the BJP) was given a full mandate was because of the hope that he would be a strong new kind of leader who would bring about the ‘parivartan’ that India so desperately needs. He needs to remember that it is when times are fraught with tension that leaders need to show leadership.

Read more here.

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