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

We sifted through the papers and found that best opinion reads, so that you wouldn’t have to.

8 min read
Keep the <i>chai</i>, forget the paper. Read the best Sunday opinion pieces and editorials from various newspapers.

Inside Track: Up And Down In 2019

It’s the first Sunday View of 2020, and how can we start it without a round-up of all the political gossip of the year gone by, courtesy, Coomi Kapoor?

In her column for The Indian Express, Kapoor talks about how, in 2019, veteran leaders have bested their younger counterparts in the battle for political sweepstakes, how the youth in the Congress have lost out because their “young leader” is not-so-young anymore, the meteoric rise (and imminent fall?) of Jodi No. 1 aka Shah and Modi, and the impact of “quickie legislations”.

The laid-back royal, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, demonstrated that he was supreme in Punjab and not dependent on his party, which was keen to rein him in. The Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray took a big gamble and won the chief ministership of Maharashtra, but his future depends on how long he can steer his boat with three oarsmen not in sync. The savvy old-timer Kamal Nath outsmarted a predatory BJP, holding on to the CM’s chair in Madhya Pradesh. Another from the old guard who bested the youth was Sharad Pawar. During the Maharashtra campaign, most in the Opposition,including Rahul Gandhi, thought it was a lost cause. Pawar seethed silently when some of his lieutenants were targeted by the government and others crossed over to the BJP. But he fought back heroically, delivering a hefty punch for the NCP. His post-result role was more spectacular. He played the wily kingmaker, who would determine whether the BJP or Sena ruled Maharashtra. Many reckon he is now a potential leader for any anti-BJP national-level alliance.
Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express

In The Land Of The Thin-Skinned, Even Classical Poets Offend

In this piece for The Times Of India, Malini Nair talks about how trying to interpret the ‘biases’ of classical poets in the context of present times is problematic. Taking Baba Nagarjun, one of the greatest Hindi poets of the 20th century, as an example, Nair says that a simple Google search is enough to figure out whether “four words used in conjunction” by a poet was actually meant to hurt the sensibilities of a religion or a social group as a whole.

There is not a strand of our cultural life that is not upsetting touchy folks today. From cinema to music, theatre to dance, anything that doesn’t stick to the formulaic or questions the existing order is up for instant, uninformed offence taking. A quick Google search should be enough today to fact-check the story behind a song/poem/play that is making you bristle with righteous indignation. Who wrote it? Why? Do four words used in conjunction necessarily add up to an insult against a religion? Could you be wrong?It is almost as if it is more important to be offended than to be informed.“Who knows Faiz Ahmed Faiz?” asks IIT Kanpur’s deputy director on the institute’s surreal inquiry into whether Hum Dekhenge, Faiz’s epic poem on resisting tyranny sung by student protestors, is “anti-Hindu”. Well, how difficult is it to find out who Faiz is, and if his exhortation to his compatriots to remember that Allah’s name will survive all brutal military regimes had anything to do with his views on Hinduism?  
Malini Nair in The Times Of India

Celebrating Faiz Ahmad Faiz And The Spirit Of Hum Dekhenge In Today’s Times

Continuing his criticism of those calling Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poetry ‘anti-national’, Javed Akhtar, in this guest piece for Hindustan Times says that those criticising Faiz’s poetry do not understand Urdu, or poetry, or the circumstances under which Faiz wrote ‘Hum Dekhenge’.

Zia ul Haq, after a coup against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977, was ruling Pakistan. He was a religious fundamentalist, ruling the country with an iron-fist. The poem was an act of resistance against the fundamentalist and Talibanised regime of Zia ul Haq. He had banned the sari, and in defiance, Iqbal Bano wore black sari and sang the anti-Zia regime poem to a crowd of perhaps a lakh, shouting Inquilab Zindabad. To say that this poem is anti-Hindu is like saying the man who banned the poem, Zia ul Haq — a hardcore anti-Indian, fundamentalist, and with a Talibani mindset — was pro-Hindu.  
Javed Akhtar in The Hindustan Times

A Real Leader Needed

“If not Modi, then who?”

Well, Tavleen Singh thinks the answer to that question is still not “Rahul Gandhi”. In her column for The Indian Express, Singh says that the Congress leader’s response to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests have been less than satisfactory, ensuring that Modi remains the most credible leader in India, in spite of the outrage against the CAA.

He has been missing in action for a while but returned recently to declare that the new citizenship law was going to be worse than demonetisation because the ‘money that will be made will go to Modi’s fifteen friends’. It was only a snippet of a video that circulated virally on social media, but it was long enough to remind every viewer of an important reason why Modi won a second term. I watched the video more than once to try and understand why the heir to our most powerful political dynasty believes that this is ‘note bandi number 2’, but was utterly mystified by his analysis. Neither have I managed to fathom why his political advisors have not told the former (and probably future) president of the Congress party that, in this case, it is the people’s money being squandered on a terrible idea that is the problem. Rahul also needs to be urgently told that he has to stop repeating the tired old charges of corruption that he has been flinging at Modi and ‘his fifteen friends’ for more than six years.
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

Wanted: A ‘Museum Of Tolerance’ To Remember Intolerance In India

In this guest piece for The Times Of India, lawyer Gautam Bhatia, talks about the need to have an institution (like a museum) to remember incidents of “intolerance” in India’s past that have played a great role in shaping the ethos of the country today. Inspired by the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Bhatia says that such an institution will draw an agitated population into the framework that built the country’s (now half-forgotten) ideals and beliefs.

How does the Indian present measure up to the country’s glorious — and often inglorious — past? Merely a recall of India’s great ancient civilisation is not enough to assuage the guilt of difficult current and recent events — the Partition, Emergency, Sikh riots, Mandal Commission, Babri Masjid demolition, citizenship law, etc. Political and social events of such magnitude have shaped today’s society and require to be played over and over in the subconscious. Without their reminder the county’s institutions can never be fully tested; without their constant recall, democracy becomes a work in regress, not progress.The culture of intolerance, communal unrest and other significant actions can be used to enlarge on available histories to enlighten and caution the public. An Indian museum of tolerance will doubtless present facts, but also provoke and engage citizens with the all-important question: what has happened to the country’s inclusiveness?  
Gautam Bhatia in The Times Of India

Now Is The Moment For Sabka Vishwas

In his column for The Indian Express, Lord Meghnad Desai feels that the new year is when Prime Minister Modi should live up to his “Sabka Vishwas” promise that he’d made during his re-election bid.

Desai says that while Modi was riding the waves of his electoral popularity in the first half of 2019, the events of the second half have ensured that the wave is now forgotten. If the BJP wants to salvage the situation, now is a good time to win everyone’s “vishwas”.

The Home Ministry may have felt the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was a routine legislation affecting maybe half a million individuals whose life could be improved by getting proper status. It would be helpful to see how over the years refugees’ recognition issue has been tackled and how many cases remain to be settled.How did this routine issue come to incite such a big fire and wreck India’s reputation abroad? Make no mistake. The opposition to Article 370 abrogation was nothing like this at home or abroad. It was just J&K partisans across the world who were pointing a finger. Now the charge is that the Modi government is against all Indian Muslims. In the Article 370 debate, the battleground was the UN Security Council and the likely critic Pakistan itself not morally strong. But here are the citizens of India, mostly young, convinced that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a threat to their citizenship.  
Lord Meghnad Desai in The Indian Express

Charitable Trusts Must Not Exert Corporate Control

Should a charitable trust be able to use its tax-exempt status to control corporations? In his weekly column for The Times Of India, Swaminathan Aiyar addresses the Ratan Tata-Cyrus Mistry tussle and says that the debate around it has remained silent on this key question.

Anybody setting up a tax-exempt charitable trust today, be it NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys fame or myself, is forbidden to invest the trust’s money in shares. But that privilege continues for the Tatas and Birlas. Whatever the original grounds for exemption to avoid market disruption were, they cannot hold decades later. All tax-exempt trusts should be obliged to sell all share in companies they control, leaving them free to focus on socially useful work alone.Charitable trusts can argue that there is indeed a case for allowing them to hold equity shares. If trusts invest only in interest-earning securities like bonds, the real value of these will erode over time with inflation, making it difficult to expand or even sustain charitable activities. In the long run, equities give far better returns than bonds or fixed deposits. So, the solution could be to allow charitable trusts to invest a maximum of 30% of their corpus in equities, and the rest in interest-bearing securities.  
Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of India

The Battle For The Crown In Delhi

With the Delhi election scheduled for next month, Chanakya, in their column for Hindustan Times, discusses why these elections, in spite of their small scale, are politically and symbolically significant. Despite the Aam Aadmi Party’s record, this election might be fought on a bit more than just developmental indicators, s/he analyses.

To understand the fluidity of the political landscape in Delhi, just go back eight months. The BJP won over 50% of the vote share in Lok Sabha polls in 2019, comfortably bagging all seven seats. Despite much hype, prominent AAP candidates lost, with the party coming third in five of the seven seats. The buzz was that this would get replicated in the assembly polls, for even a united AAP-Congress coalition would not be able to defeat the BJP. But within months, the narrative changed. Kejriwal decided to adopt a new strategy. He toned down his criticism of Narendra Modi for he did not want the Delhi polls to be a Kejriwal versus Modi contest. He stayed away from national issues. On themes which he thought could alienate Hindu voters — from Kashmir to Ayodhya — he decided to be supportive of the government. And instead, he made the election as local as possibly, focusing only on two questions — local leadership in Delhi and the local governance record of the AAP.  
Chanakya in The Hindustan Times

What Tidy And Messy Desks Say About You

Taking a departure from his usual commentary on politics and society, Karan Thapar, in his column for Hindustan Times tries to analyse what an organised or a messy desk says about its owner.

Are you the messy desk owner or an organised, clutter-free person? Let us know in the comments!

Believe it or not, the Americans have started to study this. It’s called Mess Analysis. Irwin Kulla, the author of Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, claims that “order can be profane and life-diminishing”. In other words, the less you are like me, the more you’re bound to have spark and spirit! Two gentlemen called Freedman and Abrahamson have published a book called A Perfect Mess : The Hidden Benefits of Disorder where they claim that “mess has a resonance … it can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world.” Proof, it seems, comes from Alexander Fleming who only discovered penicillin because of the mess — actually filth — in his laboratory: “It was the overall scumminess … that led to his discovery of penicillin, from a mouldy bloom in a petri dish he had forgotten on his desk”!  
Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times

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