Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
1. Out of My Mind: Full Speed
In his latest opinion piece for The Indian Express, Meghnad Desai says that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s rush to have the quota Bill (124th Constitution Amendment Bill) passed in Parliament stems from its desire to “regain lost ground”, following its loss at the five-state elections in December, last year. He also speaks about the Bill’s “conservative structure”.
“The irony of this final plank in the reservation architecture is that it points to the right way in which the structure should have been built. Instead of Mandal Commission’s recommendation of using jati status as the criterion for affirmative action, it should have been economic deprivation. By choosing jati status, Mandal solidified the caste structure and made low ritual status an heirloom to be prized and flaunted rather than abolished. The problem of the creamy layer shows that even in the case of SC/STs, there are anomalies in using ritual status rather than income as a criterion.”
2. Tragedy After Farce
The Supreme Court, in its judgment on the CBI vs CBI Row concerning the allegations against its former Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, has carried out one of its most “cringe-worthy” performances in recent memory, writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his column for The Indian Express. Detailing on this, Mehta claims that the way the court handled the controversial case, has led not to the “reinstatement of the rule of law” but the “extension of an arbitrary rule by law”.
“The biggest casualty of this affair has been the Supreme Court’s authority. The government, on the other hand, has done nothing to allay the suspicion that any independent officer or agency that stands in the way of the government will be unceremoniously mowed down. Its extraordinary haste and contempt for process, now with the prime minister’s imprimatur over it, raises many disturbing questions. And all the staples of law, natural justice, due process, transparency, separation of powers, distinctions between appointing and disciplinary authority stand blurred. There is one silver lining to all of this. The pretence of the judicial and technocratic fraternity that institutions of accountability can be insulated from politics has again been punctured. We have got into this mess because the courts made up institutional rules as we went along, without any internal coherence.”
3. No Freedom Without Equality at Sabarimala
Comparing the ‘purification ritual’ undertaken by the Sabarimala priests after two women entered the shrine earlier this month, to the one carried out at the Chavdar Tank at Mahad in 1927, after Ambedkar’s satyagraha for ‘Untouchables’ to drink water there, Ananya Vajpeyi in her opinion piece for The Hindu speaks about how unlike Ambedkar’s radical ‘Satyagraha’, women in Kerala do not have the option to carry out a protest movement against those denying them entry into the shrine, due to the existing patriarchal tradition – encouraged by political parties and protesting right-wing groups – in the country.
“In Sabarimala the Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh Parivar are stoking the fires of religious conservatism, and acting against the interests of women. This is only to be expected of the right-wing Hindu nationalist political platform that is thoroughly reactionary. What is so disappointing is that even the Congress has taken a regressive stand on this issue, with prominent leaders in Kerala claiming that they are torn between two equally strong constitutional principles — Article 14 guaranteeing equality and Article 25 guaranteeing freedom of religion. To make this argument is to display a basic misunderstanding equally of the Constitution and of Hinduism.”
4. Across the Aisle: Nearly All Indians Are Poor
Speaking about the urgency with which The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was drafted and passed by the Parliament, P Chidambaram in his column for The Indian Express, states that the entire process was all about “preservation” for the Modi government, instead of the “reservation” that it promised the economically weaker sections of society. Explaining that the Congress too had promised reservation earlier- thus ruling out a problem with the ‘principle’ behind the Bill – the former finance minister decoded the several deeper problems associated with it.
“The big question mark is about the supply side. More seats in schools and colleges can be sanctioned by the government without regard to the paucity of infrastructure or qualified teachers. But, in the case of posts in the government, where are the posts? Is it the intention of the government to vastly expand the government at all levels — central, state, municipal, panchayat, parastatal and public sector? The number of employees in central public sector enterprises actually declined from 16,90,741 in end March 2014 to 15,23,586 in end March 2017. The government’s bluff will be called if another slice of the cake will be reserved even while the size of the cake remained the same.”
5. India Has an Obligation to Those Left on the ‘Wrong’ Side After Partition
A member of the joint committee which examined the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, that was passed in the Lok Sabha recently, Swapan Dasgupta in his opinion piece for The Times of India writes that while there is a need to address Assam’s fear of an increased influx of illegal migrants, it is also the moral responsibility of Indians to accommodate these migrants, who he calls the “victims of Partition”, who are only fleeing Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh due to religious persecution.
“The bill, in effect, institutionalises the ‘right of return’ principle for religious minorities who were left on the ‘wrong’ side after Partition. The move, while not contesting the secular character of the Indian republic, establishes India’s obligation towards those excluded from the religious underpinning of Pakistan — either as a Muslim homeland or an Islamic state. In effect, the bill legitimises what is a de facto reality. The principle is not dissimilar to Germany’s obligations towards all ethnic Germans in eastern Europe and Britain’s towards those who can establish British-born grandparents.”
6. Cong Does Better Job of Attacking BJP Than Proving Itself
While the Congress’ current performance – especially after the 2018 state elections – is possibly better than it’s been in the past five years, the problem remains that the party still finds it easier to focus on selling the shortcomings of the Modi-led BJP government, instead of providing a credible promise of its own, writes Sadanand Dhume in his column for The Times of India.
“Congress has taken advantage of these missteps by Modi. It has also exploited the prime minister’s preference for one-way communication – and his aversion to any kind of public cross-examination – to present Rahul Gandhi as an open and accessible leader. On social media, BJP’s permanently angry mode drives away moderates and fence sitters. As often as not, Congress sets the agenda on Twitter and in TV studio debates these days. Will all this be enough to unseat the BJP? The trouble for Congress is that its appeal rests more on what Modi did wrong than on what Gandhi promises to do right.”
7. Why SAARC Is Still Relevant
Other than the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara by Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s interest in trade and investment with India requires the two countries to hold “normalisation talks” instead of those around Kashmir, writes Khaled Ahmed in his opinion piece for The Indian Express. Quoting economic strategist Bharat Karnad, he adds that India should understand that crafting good relations with Pakistan is fundamental for building an economically integrated sub-region.
“Imran Khan is talking of trade and investment with India. Everybody knows it means free trade, free movement and Indian investments in Pakistan. Who else but post-Nehruvian capitalist Narendra Modi would comprehend the significance of this kind of thinking? Khan is religious like Modi but is hounded by the mullahs. Modi too is letting the BJP-RSS combine spread Hindutva that frightens non-Hindus and secularists in India and delays his economic agenda.”
8. Feminism Versus Faith: Both Have a Case, but We Need a Middle Ground
Referring to the current stand-off between women wishing to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple and those protesting against just this, Amulya Gopalakrishnan in her piece for The Times of India, speaks about how instead of being at loggerheads, the two sides need to negotiate a settlement and find a middle ground of sorts to not offend the beliefs of either party.
“Can beliefs and practices of a place change with external pressure? They seem to have, in the similar standoff at Maharashtra’s Shani Shingnapur, with some skilful negotiation and soothing. But both sides need to feel acknowledged, rather than invalidated by the other. The good-faith defenders of the Sabarimala tradition must accept that while Hinduism is spiritually heterodox, it is also socially rigid and hierarchical.”
9. What If Rahul Gandhi Is for China What Trump Was for Russia?
With social media playing an important role in all major elections of the past few years and in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Samir Shukla in his opinion piece for The Times of India mentions that technological superpower China may have an avid interest in the outcome of the general elections in India, much like Russia was alleged to have had in the 2016 US Elections which witnessed Donald Trump coming to power.
“A strong India isn’t exactly a Chinese dream. They will want India to be unstable and confused. They will want Indian growth to slow down, especially in industrial sector, and they will surely love to see Indian military power to become weak. It is easy to see that a weak government at helm in India would serve Chinese agenda wonderfully well, so it would be stupid of us if we are not going to consider a possibility that somewhere in China there is a large establishment working right now with a clear agenda of using whatever options they have to influence Indian elections.”
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