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

We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.

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Bigotry Unlimited

Declaring that crony capitalism comes in second to religious supremacy for the right-wing majoritarian politicians in India, Mukul Kesavan, in his column for The Telegraph, highlights how India triumphed majoritarian populism.

Referring to PM Modi’s announcement in regard to the farm laws, Kesavan writes,

“Narendra Modi is willing to make a humiliating U-turn for the electoral success of an explicitly majoritarian monk because he sees Adityanath’s re-election as the chief minister of UP as a vindication of the BJP’s project. That project is the consolidation of the Hindu Nation across the divisions of language, region, and class through the public subordination of Muslims."
Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph

He adds,

"Adityanath embodies this project so completely that even his shambolic failure to cope with the second wave of the pandemic in UP can’t disqualify him. In 2014, Narendra Modi had to sugarcoat his majoritarianism with slogans like ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’; with Adityanath in 2021, the BJP has stopped pretending."
Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph

Kesavan concludes that for Modi and Adityanath, while the “comforts of crony capitalism” are a bonus, the religious supremacism is “their reason for being”.

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Big, Rich and Unaccountable

Speaking of PM Narendra Modi, P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, writes:

"Just as we will not endure a king as ruler, we ought not to endure a ruler who wants to be king”.

Highlighting the “hubris and arrogance” that were in full display in the passing of the three farm laws, Chidambaram writes,

"It is crystal clear that the Modi government fears only one thing — losing an election. Petrol and diesel prices were reduced within hours of the results of the by-elections to 30 Assembly seats, where the BJP won just seven. The sudden decision to withdraw the farm laws — taken by Mr Modi without Cabinet approval — was a clear indication that he feared massive losses in UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa (where his party rules today) and being blanked out in Punjab. The contrived praise for the PM’s ‘statesmanship’ by his ministers only exposed what a crowd of dumb cheerleaders they had become: Mr Modi was a statesman when he passed the law and Mr Modi was a bigger statesman when he repealed the law!"
P Chidambaram in The Indian Express
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Population Slowdown Is Triumph of India’s People

Meanwhile, amid reports of India’s population edging towards stabilisation, Poonam Muttreja in her column for The Indian Express, has questioned the trumpets blown over the recently released findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and expounds that “for India’s population to stabilise or decline, it would have to maintain a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) equal to or less than 2.1 for a sustained period of decades.”

Still, considering the current findings a feat, Muttreja credits the people of India for the change, especially the women, “who are seeing the wisdom of having fewer children.”

Muttreja writes,

“India’s large young population — about 30 percent is aged between 10 and 24 — is gearing for change. The government needs to play a pivotal role and invest in education, health and creating economic opportunities for young people. It needs to understand that there is no better contraceptive pill than education.”
Poonam Muttreja in The Indian Express

Further, Muttreja adds,

“Girls’ education has a direct co-relation with a decrease in fertility. According to NFHS data, women who had no schooling had the highest TFR of 3.06, as compared to women with 12 or more years of education who had a TFR of 1.71".
Poonam Muttreja in The Indian Express.

She concludes, “It (The government) must absolutely swear off coercive population control policies for good. The way forward requires less chest-thumping and more collaborative efforts if we are to sustain the trend towards population stabilisation."

The Power of Ridicule

Writing on Vir Das’ monologue of being from two Indias, Leher Kala, in her column for The Indian Express, explains how the offense that many took after Vir Das’ ‘Two Indias’ monologue is a result of Indians’ inability to laugh at their “depressing realities”.

"It’s not difficult to see why touchy politicians feel threatened by comedians. They instinctively understand humour packs in so much more than just frivolous entertainment; it provides clarity on bizarre situations that are otherwise impossible to comprehend."
Leher Kala in The Indian Express

Kala writes,

"The best jesters point out deficiencies in human nature and society by slyly revealing them to be absurd. Basically, turning the grim into grimly amusing. Ridiculousness is implied, never overtly stated. However, when a joke speaks truth to power, it can turn into a lethal tool for disruption."
Leher Kala in The Indian Express

Kala concludes, "It takes courage to make peace with our chaotic country and, occasionally, we are entitled to laugh at it. In any case, who are we kidding? The joke’s on us."

1971: Those Who Undermine Sam Manekshaw’s Role Are off the Mark

Calling the recent attempts to “undermine the contribution of Indian Army’s iconic army chief, General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw” as unfortunate, Arjun Subramaniam, in his column for The Times of India, examines the arguments presented by former union minister Jairam Ramesh and by Chandrashekhar Dasgupta.

Subramaniam writes,

"Dasgupta uses his superior linguistic skills to condescendingly portray Manekshaw as a raconteur. He also suggests rather sensationally in a recent interview that the idea of delaying India’s military campaign in East Pakistan was essentially Indira Gandhi’s idea and that she used her army chief to create the final narrative. Ramesh though gently calls this a ‘story bequeathed to us’."
Arjun Subramaniam in The Times of India

Contesting further, Subramaniam states,

"Every single military historian, including this author, have recognised PM Gandhi’s stellar role in orchestrating the 1971 victory, but surely, it was not a single-handed effort! Dasgupta’s lack of graciousness and the unwillingness of Ramesh to take into considerations any recollections of the time by Indian Army officers involved in the planning process, induce an unnecessarily condescending twist to what was merely an army chief doing his job and ‘speaking truth to power'."
Arjun Subramaniam in The Times of India.

Invisibility of Caste in Environmental Studies

Questioning why the field of Environmental Humanities fails to include caste, Ambika Aiyadurai and Prashant Ingole, in their column for The Indian Express, write on ‘Environmental Casteism’ and state their belief that “an anti-caste approach and perspective from the margins will make this field more inclusive and diverse in terms of adding more critical reflections from a Phule-Ambedkarite point of view.”

"Way back in 1997, the late Gail Omvedt had drawn our attention to the question ‘Why Dalits dislike environmentalists?’. Preservation of resources, protection of species, setting up of protected areas and campaigns for environment often do not acknowledge the role of as well as impact of these initiatives on the marginalised, mainly Dalits."
Ambika Aiyadurai and Prashant Ingole in The Indian Express.

Aiyadurai and Ingole add,

"Why are the issues of Dalits and their relation with land, water and food seldom highlighted in environmental academic discussions? In the field of environmental humanities, the emphasis is on “interconnectedness”, between humans, nonhumans; nature, culture; and people, environment. This appears an antithesis to the Indian social system that is deeply and rigidly hierarchical, with unequal access to resources, along the gradient of caste."
Ambika Aiyadurai and Prashant Ingole in The Indian Express

Mamata Isn’t Yet an Alternative to Modi

While the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has projected West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prabhu Chawla, in his column for The New Indian Express, explains why Banerjee “has many miles to go before she even makes it to the borders of Lutyen’s New Delhi.”

"The tea leaves do not say whether Mamata’s attempt to establish pan-India credibility would fructify. With national politics becoming mainly personally driven, India is looking for an alternative leader who can provide a better model of politics and governance than Modified BJP, whose ‘One Leader, One Slogan, One Agenda’ aims to make India ‘Congress Mukt Bharat.’ Modi has broken all community and caste affiliations in large parts of India and has established himself a messiah of all castes, communities and a man for all causes. No leader other than Indira Gandhi has acquired such a national stature. She was defeated just once, only because of her arrogance, corruption and the Emergency. This was possible because the Opposition had ace anchor Jayprakash Narayan who brought all anti-Congress formations from the extreme Right to the extreme Left and RSS together."
Prabhu Chawla in The New Indian Express

In contrast, Chawla adds, “Mamata is not JP or VP, or Atal or even Sonia Gandhi who emerged as a political fulcrum around whom a national alternative narrative was formed in 2004. Her marketing team is still hawking her as a leader who is looking for followers and not co-travellers to unseat Modi."

We Must Never Forget 26/11

Puzzled at the current Prime Minister’s oversight in not building a memorial to those who died in the 26/11 terror attacks, Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, writes, “The government led by Manmohan Singh, and controlled by Sonia Gandhi, behaved disgracefully and had no reason to attend remembrance ceremonies or build a memorial. It is much harder to understand why Modi has done so little."

She adds,

"Since Modi became Prime Minister, what has changed is that his spokesmen and supporters have no compunction in using the word Pakistani as a term of abuse. They appear with relentless regularity on primetime TV shows to rant and rave against Pakistanis, Islam, and Muslims in general, but as that old cliché says, they sound exactly like empty vessels making a lot of noise. Instead of helping India’s case, they end up wrecking it with their venom and childish hostility."
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

Stating that “India needs to show that it has the capability to deal” with “Hafiz Saeed and his gang of killers” as “Israel deals with its enemies”, Singh adds,

"Instead of the Prime Minister complaining at international forums about terrorism, he needs to show that India can and will deal with those who attack us. Only then will the shame of India having done nothing after the 26/11 attack be erased. A memorial to those who died for no reason is necessary because it will serve to remind everyone that India does not forget or forgive her enemies."
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

Is Crypto Mania More a Symptom Than a Cause?

Writing on the draft legislation on cryptocurrency being introduced in Parliament, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in his column for The Indian Express, explains that “money is not just a technical subject."

He writes,

“It is at the confluence of faith, politics, and psychological mania. It is about faith in that value is largely a matter of belief; about politics because money is always about the allocation of power; and mania because the alchemy of conjuring something out of nothing is always deeply alluring. The fascination with crypto is what it reveals about our society, more than about what it can achieve.”
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express.

Mehta adds,

"Faced with the inflation of the 1970s, thinkers like Friedrich Hayek theorised about reasserting the dominance of private currencies, protected from the state. But this project crucially depended on solving the problem of “trust” on which every currency depends. Crypto seemed to solve that problem, with its decentralised architecture and community and self-verification protocols. Perhaps a libertarian utopia could be created."
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express.

However, saying that “this was a fantasy”, Mehta writes, “No state was going to let go of its power to assert control over the monetary system.”

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Topics:  Narendra Modi   BJP   Congress 

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