Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
Kashmir Handled Well so Far, but Return of Normalcy Depends on Pakistan
The immediate fallout of the changes in Jammu and Kashmir have been managed but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any hiccups in the future. Swapan Dasgupta writes in The Times Of India about how it won’t be long before the Kashmiri leaders who are under preventive detention will have to be set free to resume their political life.
The crux of his argument is that it is naive to believe that the separatists will suddenly be cowed as there is impending support from Pakistan, and so the government needs to be on its guard.
Beyond supporting self-determination in J&K, Imran didn’t spell out Pakistan’s other options. However, certain key strands are apparent from his speech. First, there was a significant shift from stressing Kashmir’s cultural autonomy to emphasising the importance of a Muslim upsurge — in alliance with all those whose who wanted to restore the secular state in India — against Hindu racism. This was elaborated by other speakers who argued that the insurgency in J&K had to be joined by Muslims in other parts of India. Second, Imran advocated a massive outreach programme in the West to show up India as a pariah regime, in the same way as Israel is in Left-liberal circles.
Language No Bar: Anupama Chopra on Non-Hindi Blockbusters
Famed film critic Anupama Chopra contemplates whether Malayalam and Tamil cinema are far ahead of Bollywood today. She points out some of the factors behind this in a column in Hindustan Times, including how too much money chasing too little talent, and how artists from Mumbai often refer to themselves as brands and other artists speak of themselves as storytellers.
Social media and the paparazzi have fanned the delusion, she believes, because the chart of the top Indian box-office grossers includes just one Hindi film.
In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a slew of strong Hindi films — Gully Boy, Article 15, Andhadhun, Stree, Mulk and Badhaai Ho are just a few. Exciting new directorial voices like Aditya Dhar, Amit Sharma and Amar Kaushik have emerged. It’s heartening that Bollywood writers are being empowered — from being showcased on posters to becoming creative producers to getting better paychecks. And it’s good to hear that at least a few stars, the most powerful players in the system, are actively looking to break free of stereotypes. And yet, the truly innovative cinema like Virus or Village Rockstars, Super Deluxe, Sairat, Kumbalangi Nights or the Baahubali franchise, is emerging from outside Mumbai.
Victims of an Evil System
Tavleen Singh believes that the manner in which P Chidambaram was publicly humiliated was wrong, and that the whole drama of officers jumping over walls and having journalists reporting live was unnecessary. Nevertheless, in her column in The Indian Express, she writes that it is difficult to feel sympathy for the former Union Minister, given his role in the creation of a system where anyone trying to run a business is constantly at the mercy of officials who handle economic offences.
She goes on to note that had he tried curbing the powers of agencies like the Enforcement Directorate when he was the Finance Minister, Chidambaram wouldn’t have been rendered victim by the system.
Criminals and terrorists are treated as innocent till proven guilty, but with supposed economic offenders, this basic principle of justice is usually reversed. Anyone who thinks that the platoon of TV reporters who covered Chidambaram’s arrest were there by accident needs to think again. Live television has emboldened officials to make the most of their 15 minutes of fame, so media trials of ‘celebrity offenders’ are now the norm.
Arun Jaitley’s Death Marks End of an Era of a Reporter’s Politician
Arun Jaitley’s death marks the end of an era where reporters and politicians had a relationship of mutual respect, writes Sunetra Choudhury, recalling memories from her reporting days.
In a column in Hindustan Times, she writes about how the man was always keen to answer questions, frequently chatted with journalists and would always provide the context or behind-the-scenes explanation of any developing story and the party’s thinking behind whatever decision it was making.
I remember when I went to cover the 2007 Gujarat elections. We were travelling all over but landed at the BJP office one day. There we bumped into then spokesperson and now UP Minister Siddharth Nath Singh. “Arun ji is here, do you want to say hi?’’ he asked. Of course, but would he agree to see us? He didn’t just meet me and a couple of other reporters and gave us the sound bites we needed but also told us exactly how BJP was viewing the election. I remember my channel being on in the background while he was speaking and a particular anchor on air. “Arrey, he’s now anchoring?’’ he asked of my colleague who covered BJP for a while. I was a bit surprised that Mr Jaitley even knew his name and his beat. “He has quite a sense of style, doesn’t he?’’ he said and I was quite surprised at how much attention he paid to each and every reporter.
The Netaji That Hindutva Wants You to Forget
Ramachandra Guha muses over what things would have been like in India if Subhas Chandra Bose had been India’s first prime minister instead of Jawaharlal Nehru – and believes that things wouldn’t have been particularly different.
In a column in Hindustan Times, he draws on testimonies of former Indian National Army officers in the book ‘Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: A Malaysian Perspective’ to highlight the similarities between the two of them, including the interfaith solidarity Bose always nurtured in his team. He also draws on the historical record to demonstrate that the supposed bad blood between them never existed.
Ideologues have spread lies that Nehru and his Congress government did nothing to honour Bose or his memory. In fact, as the declassified records of the National Archives show, after Bose’s death, Nehru’s government financially supported his widow for many years. In this book that I found in Bengaluru, there is a charming essay on the visit to India of Netaji’s daughter. It begins: “In February 1961, an 18-year-old of Indo-German parentage was accorded a VIP treatment by India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, although the girl was considered to be on a private visit. During her tour of many Indian States she was the guest of the respective Governors. Many receptions were held in her honour …. She was Anita Bose, daughter of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Emile Schenkl”.
Kashmir: New Delhi Would like Trump to Stay Away
Mark Tully wants to tell Trump that his plan on being the mediator between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, isn’t going to be enthusiastically received in India.
In a column in Hindustan Times, he writes about how India has resisted Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the situation, but Trump’s tweets are complicating the US-India relationship. He also notes with concern that India’s attempts to show Pakistan to be the bellicose party in all this while India has peaceful intentions, have not been helped by statements from the army chief and the home minister.
He also maintained that Modi had asked him to mediate, which was denied by India. After the abrogation of Article 370, Trump took a call from Khan during which Pakistan’s PM complained about the constitutional changes, and the security clampdown in Kashmir. Then Khan accused the Modi government of being “fascist and a threat to Pakistani and Indian minorities”. The doubt as to whether India sought Trump’s mediation arises because Modi, then, spoke to the US president and complained about this outburst. That prompted Trump to ask Khan to “moderate his rhetoric”. Trump summed up his interventions in a tweet, saying, “Spoke to my two good friends Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan and urged them to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir, a tough situation but good conversation.”
Bhagwat’s Quota Poser Needs a Debate
Meghnad Desai dwells upon a question raised by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat: How long should the SC/ST reservations last? In a column in The Indian Express, he writes about how though these reservations were put in the Constitution for a 15-year period initially, independent India has not achieved enough economic miracles to get rid of them altogether.
He goes on to raise questions about whether a Hindu society as desired by Bhagwat and the RSS could ever be compatible with caste equality, and suggests there needs to be a debate on this issue to answer Bhagwat’s question properly.
Bhagwat’s dream for the ideal Hindu Rashtra wishes to treat all those who reside in the land of the Indus — call them Hindis (defined as including Muslims, unlike V D Savarkar’s definition) — as equal. Leaving Muslims aside, the basic contradiction is between the ideal of equality among Hindus and the facts of the hierarchical social structure of Hindu society. To make matters worse, since the Mandal Report commissioned by the Janata government of 1977-80 (which included the Jana Sangh), these hierarchical inequalities have been valorised by OBC reservations. It is not just the SC/STs but the 7,000 jaatis who claim inequality and want to preserve reservations.
Sister Nivedita and Her Tamil Dedicator
AR Venkatachalapathy traces the great Tamil poet Subramania Bharati’s unparalleled love and respect for Swami Vivekananda’s most devoted protégé, Margaret Noble aka Nivedita.
He writes in The Telegraph, that though there was little written about their encounters, based on Bharati’s wife’s accounts and several comments, it was well known how he looked at her as “a gem among Vivekananda’s disciples” and dedicated almost every piece to her, especially in his last decade.
About two years later, there is a reference to Nivedita’s comments on Ashwini Kumar Dutta’s charity to the poor (India, December 19, 1908). A more substantive reference (India, May 15, 1909) was on the premature death of Mandayam Alasinga Perumal, Vivekananda’s propagator and Bharati’s benefactor. As Bharati recalled, to his remark that there was no senior patriot in the south to provide guidance to youth like him, Nivedita had replied: “Why? Isn’t there Alagiya Singaperumal? If you have doubts regarding public matters you may seek his advice.” Soon after this the swadeshi movement collapsed, crushed by brutal colonial repression.
Inside Track: Social Faux Pas at Rashtrapati Bhavan
In her column in The Indian Express, Coomi Kapoor writes about how President Ram Nath Kovind left his own party before the dinner even began, contrasts P Chidambaram’s way of dealing with an arrest as against Indira Gandhi’s, reveals that it’s not just opposition parties but the RSS as well that isn’t happy with the ‘sympathisers’ that supposedly represent them on TV debates and claims that the Gandhi family does not intend to give up leadership of the Congress party.
Ambassadors and other important guests felt slighted at the cavalier treatment meted out to them and many left without even a cup of tea. This was after, setting a new precedent, the host, President Ram Nath Kovind, left his own party before the guests could even partake a morsel. That the President was leaving was amply clear since the military band played the national anthem, which is done only after the event winds up. To add insult to injury, guests were asked to reach the venue at 4.30 pm when the function started only at 6 pm and continued till around 7.15 pm. Not even water was offered in the reception hall. In contrast, during the first two years of Kovind’s tenure many had appreciated the effort to make the function more informal and friendly by permitting guests to mix with the VVIPs, after the walkway greetings with the president, prime minister and vice- president were over.
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