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

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

7 min read
Nothing like your morning cuppa and a newspaper on a Sunday. 

Solidarity That Keeps Farm Protests Going

Ravinder Kaur explores the anti-caste, egalitarianism discourse that the farmers’ protests draws upon, and writes in her column for The Indian Express, “These anti-caste ideas were translated into the practice of langar – that invites everyone to eat together; seva (service) and keerat (work/deed) that dignify labour, all of which weaken caste/class hierarchies.”

Kaur opines how those who witness the protest remark on how men and women participate in cooking and cleaning together, how manual labor is performed by many across social hierarchies, and adds,”What is on display are centuries-old ideas which are resonating once again among a people engaged in a contemporary struggle against market deregulations.”

“The solidarity between different caste and occupational groups is still fragile but for now the protest has opened new space for workers and farmers to forge solidarity in their struggle”, writes Kaur.

“We might ask: what does solidarity even mean in a political landscape in which caste stratifications, religious frictions, and varied class interests have not yet disappeared? Any bid to forge a common identity, then, inevitably means not airbrushing out social divisions along the intersections of class, caste, and gender that shape the agrarian economy. The landless Dalit workers form the backbone of the agricultural sector but own barely three per cent of land in Punjab”.
Ravinder Kaur for The Indian Express,

What ‘Secular’ Rejigging In Bengal Means For National Politics

Swapan Dasgupta writes about the Abbas Siddiqui’s alliance with the Congress and Left in his column for Times of India, and how this alliance could eat into TMC’s Muslim support base and make it a triangular contest ahead of the assembly polls in the state.

Dasgupta notes that the basis of ‘secular politics’ in Bengal is being rejigged and writes, “Muslim politicians had tried to make their mark within parties that claimed to rise above religion. The new trend suggests that with a rising share of the population, the thrust is towards putting the Muslim religious identity in the forefront, with both the Left and Congress also succumbing to the assertiveness of Abbas’ show of Muslim strength”.

“Finally, it would seem that Muslim politics in India is following a definite trajectory. Apart from the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, there are three states where Muslims comprise over a quarter of the population: Assam (34.2%), Kerala (26.6%) and West Bengal (27%). In Kerala, the Muslim League has been a partner of the Congress for long; in Assam, Badruddin Ajmal’s AIDUF has teamed up with the Congress for the Assembly election; and in West Bengal, a new Muslim party is being legitimised by the Congress and Left. In Muslim-dominated zones of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Bihar, Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has bared its muscle”.
Swapan Dasgupta for Times of India

Besides Economy, Freedom Is Sliding

P. Chidambaram’s column for The Indian Express talks about the recent US non-profit, Freedom House Report that downgraded India’s democracy from free to ‘partly free’, in the backdrop of what he calls “India’s declining economy”.

Chidambaram opines, “A declining economy and diminishing freedom make for an explosive combination. The slide must be arrested. The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have chosen one path of resistance. The voters of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu have another path before them”.

“Can it be denied that crimes against women, Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Scheduled Tribes are on the rise (NCRB data) and that such crimes are being committed with impunity? Can it be denied that Muslims are being scapegoated for everything from terrorism to the spread of coronavirus? Can it be denied that the Central government has become more authoritarian, criminal laws more repressive, tax laws and tax administration more intrusive, the police and investigating agencies more oppressive, and economic policies more biased towards the rich and potential monopolies? Can it be denied that the pervasive sentiment is fear? ”
P. Chidambaram for The Indian Express.

Toolkits? We Need To Worry About Chinese Hackers

SA Aiyar raises the issue of the recent alleged hacks in Mumbai and Telangana by the Chinese causing electric blackouts in his column for Times of India and writes that it, “highlights the need to cleanse India’s thoroughly infiltrated system. It must jail the guilty, sending a lesson to all others. That is a far greater national threat than the farm agitation.”

“The power minister denies a Chinese hand. But a US company, Recorded Future, claimed that Chinese hackers had targeted 10 entities of India’s power grid plus two maritime ports when the company first notified the Computer Emergency Response Team on February 10 of the hacking. India is hardly alone: even the US accuses China of hacking into commercial and national secrets”, notes Aiyar.

Many countries blame protests on foreigners or extremists to divert attention from their own failings. In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi repeatedly warned of a “foreign hand” supporting Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Congress agitation. She gave herself dictatorial powers by proclaiming an Emergency in 1975 to quash the agitation.All countries use money and other inducements to promote their agendas in other countries. Indian intelligence officials describe their agents abroad as “assets.” The tentacles of espionage go way above farm agitations.
SA Aiyar for Times of India

Why Countries Succeed

Tavleen Singh in her weekly column for The Indian Express writes that countries fare better under liberal democracies, whose economic idea of free market and free enterprise works better than government planning. She adds, “If only PM would learn from the major western countries that liberal democracy and free markets are the two main reasons why they have been role models for half-developed countries like ours.”

Exploring the derelictions of both the Gandhi led Congress party and the BJP-Modi government, Singh writes,“The world has changed. But it seems that it is not just Modi but all our politicians and political parties that have remained stuck in that old time warp”.

“It is election season again, so we are being treated to more than our usual sightings of the Gandhi siblings. Every sighting reminds me why Modi continues to have high approval ratings despite his failure to create the jobs he promised and despite middle-class families being currently crushed under the weight of the price of petrol and diesel”.
Tavleen Singh for The Indian Express

When The Two Houses Came Home

Ankita Dwivedi Johri, in her column for The Indian Express writes about the forming of LSTV and RSTV over the years, and recalls the various controversies and challenges that the channels have faced including allegations of censorship. Johri draws from experts who have worked and run the channels to understand the reason behind the merge.

“For over a decade now, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha television channels have been a window into the workings of Parliament. Last week, LSTV and RSTV merged into ‘Sansad TV’, amid criticism from the Opposition”, writes Johri

She writes, “But it is these efforts to be on a par with the private news industry that may have led to the merger of the two channels”.

“In 2007, on the one-year anniversary of LSTV, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee pitched the idea of a 24×7 channel for the Upper House. While the proposal was cleared by a General Purpose Committee, the idea was to have two channels under one network — a suggestion not acceptable to the Lok Sabha Secretariat which runs LSTV. The differences led to more delays and RSTV finally went on air in January 2011”. 
Ankita Dwivedi Johri for The Indian Express

How Drunk-On-Power Housing Societies Flex Their Muscles

Amrit Dhillon raises pertinent questions involving the Resident Welfare Associations’s and its rules around staff from marginalised backgrounds, and opines in her article for Times of India that the strict rules are to harass them.

“The real pools of pure concentrated class hatred are the middle class and nothing embodies this hatred, the desire to make the poor invisible, to airbrush them out of the landscape, than Resident Welfare Associations”, she writes.

Dhillon writes that the rules are to “Harass the poor and deny them access to public places. When RWAs see part-time domestic help sitting in the local park, enjoying the winter sunshine and chatting with each other after they finish cleaning someone’s home, the blood bubbles in the brains of these burghers. Some parks have been sealed off totally with locked gates because it offended their sensibilities to see public spaces being enjoyed by the poor.”

“The abiding principle is segregation. In many apartment complexes, domestic staff has to use a separate lift. At children’s birthday parties, instead of being served the same food, the drivers are sent off with separate ‘driver boxes’ containing stale pakoras. Some housing complexes have laid on outdoor gyms during the pandemic but maids and drivers are banned”
Amrit Dhillon for Times of India

Injured Democracy

Larry Jaggan writes about the Myanmar conflict for The Telegraph noting that the country “remains in the midst of a pro-democracy uprising that continues to challenge the country’s generals more than a month after the military coup.

Jaggan writes about the devastating consequences of the conflict, as well as the arrest of pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and what it would mean for the movement. “While the protesters and the civil disobedience movement are using various tactics on the street to maintain momentum, the strikes are continuing and wreaking havoc on the economy”, notes Jaggan.

“The current intense struggle is between the democratic aspirations of the majority — including those of ethnic minorities — and the army that is desperate to regain its shrinking authority and control over the country’s transition to democracy, which it defines as ‘guided democracy’ with the army in a supervisory role. These competing visions of democracy are currently being played out on the streets of Myanmar. Both sides are preparing for a long battle”.
Larry Jaggan for The Telegraph

Syrian Quagmire: How Long And For What?

Makhan Saikia writes about the Syrian conflict for The Pioneer, and the life-threatening challenges civilians face as they fight for their survival and basic amenities such as food and medicines.

Saikia opines that the failure of “UN-led efforts to bring the warring parties to the negotiation table last month in Geneva has once again brought war clouds over Syria”, and noted that the situation in Syria demands for a new approach with humanitarian concern.

“However, the last year saw the discernible decrease in violent conflicts across the country. But this does not mean that warring groups are retreating. No single rebel group is considering withdrawing from the war zones. The reason behind is that all these groups are backed by strong allies and they want to pursue the war till the fall of the Assad Government”, writes Saikia.

In fact, the Syria Constitutional Committee that demands a political process would be useless if the UN does not stop the upcoming presidential poll for Assad. This election would offer full immunity and legitimacy to the torturous and autocratic regime in Damascus. It’s time to act. Ensure that no more civilians die.
Makhan Saikia for The Pioneer
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