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

Here is a compilation of the best opinion pieces across newspapers  

7 min read
Keep the chai, forget the paper. Read the best opinion and editorial articles from across the print media on Sunday View.

Amnesty’s Exit Erodes Indian Democracy

Amnesty has been the loudest voice to question our government’s respect for democracy, whether it was during the crackdown in Jammu and Kashmir, police handling of the Delhi riots, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Sikh massacre of 1984 or for freedom of speech. But forcing Amnesty to shut shop and leave “the world’s largest democracy” places India in the dubious company of countries where Amnesty cannot function like Pakistan and China, writes Karan Thapar in Hindustan Times.

Now that light is going out of our lives. The first time this happened was in 1948. Gandhi’s assassination deprived newly-independent India of its conscience. Amnesty’s departure would mean a voice that reminds us how frequently we fall short of our values will be silenced. It was often an irritating voice, but always a necessary one. The fact it could be heard was reassuring proof our democracy, though at times limping, was moving forward. If we no longer hear it, will the silence comfort “the world’s largest democracy”?

Fifth Column: India’s Illiberal Democracy

Tavleen Singh writes about how media channels that wept for the brutal Hathras rape case, have begun to raise questions about whether she had been raped at all. Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government is propagating a tale about jihadist conspiracies and an ‘international plot’ to malign the fair image of the state. She writes in The Indian Express that this similar game was used to crush dissident voices that rose against that discriminatory amendment to the citizenship law.

It does not matter if their fears were right or wrong, what matters is that they spoke in dissident voices and this is something that cannot be allowed in an illiberal democracy. In Uttar Pradesh, the protests were crushed under Yogi’s jackboot and in Delhi when riots happened between Hindus and Muslims (for the first time in decades), they were blamed on a jihadist plot by the Popular Front of India (PFI). This PFI is indeed a ghastly group of violent jihadists, but who allowed it to become so powerful?

What Paswan’s Exit Means for Politics

The death of Ram Vilas Paswan and the decision of the LJP to contest the Bihar elections separately, while being a part of the NDA at the centre will have implications for Bihar and Dalit politics in north India, writes Chanakya in Hindustan Times. Will the demise of Paswan, a Dalit mainstream political figure in active politics who had a loyal base in Bihar, erode the party’s ability to win or will it generate a sympathy factor? This polls will prove the mettle of his son, Chirag Paswan, who wants to position himself as a pan-Bihar leader.

But who will eventually fill this space is an open question and subject to a range of variables, including the larger trajectory of national politics, the interplay between the Hindutva project and Dalits, whether the vastly heterogeneous Dalit vote continues to fragment or consolidates behind select entities, and state-specific social dynamics. Paswan may have only been one actor in the crowded Indian political landscape. But his departure is actually a reflection of how the old is broken and the new is yet to take root, both in Bihar and within the broad domain of Dalit politics.

Indians Are Still Living in Denial About Mental Health Issues

Chetan Bhagat writes that the biggest problem with Indian mental health ambassadors is that they equate mental health disorders to ‘any other disease’ and this doesn’t resonate with an Indian audience for whom everyday life is a struggle. In a column in The Times of India, he writes that depression and other issues are very rampant in our society and COVID and the economic stress will only make the numbers shoot up further. The urgent need is to destigmatise mental health.

This is why despite Sushant Singh Rajput being on strong psychiatric medication, despite testimonies of multiple top mental health doctors about his disorders and despite multiple teams of doctors saying that his death is a case of suicide, we refuse to acknowledge or discuss his mental health issues. However, since SSR’s death has had national resonance, this is a good time to at least discuss the broader issues around mental health. First, mental health is important. According to a WHO report, 1 in 4 people globally have a mental health issue at some point in their life. Closer home, according to a govt-supported NIMHANS study, 1 in 10 Indians have a mental health condition and 1 in 20 Indians have depression.

Service Sector, Metros Dampen Growth Rebound

With lockdowns being eased and some economic sectors rebounding, industry and agriculture is booming again and even showing double-digit growth. S A Aiyar writes in The Times of India that though this is welcome news, industry and agriculture together contribute to less than half of GDP in a year. The service sector does not see a revival in the near future, as all passenger traffic, tourism, real estate, financing, trade, entertainment, and shopping have been halted due to the pandemic.

Even if the government lifts all curbs, people will still be afraid to travel, shop, go to theatres or do anything that might infect them. So, services will pull down the economy until fear of the virus finally abates. That may not happen till 2022 even if a vaccine becomes available in 2021. The Google mobility index, the most quickly available indicator of human activity, is still 27% below the pre-Covid level. This is, however, an improvement on declines of 41% in April-May and 34% between mid-May and July. It is still tragically slow.

Impunity, Thy Name Is Uttar Pradesh

Injustice prevails because impunity triumphs over justice. P Chidambaram writes in The Indian Express that the Hathras case is an example that the sense of impunity is entrenched in the system --- with many who have wronged trusting their authority, position of power, caste, community, the ruling party -- to overlook their lapses and cut them loose.

In a state where the administration is tightly controlled by the Chief Minister, Shri Adityanath, is it possible that each of the above actions (with the exception of the SHO’s) was not within the knowledge of the CM at that time or soon thereafter? The assault was on 14 September; the first statement of the CM was on September 30 after he had constituted an SIT. Meanwhile, the key players continued to strut on the stage as though nothing untoward had occurred.

Constant Company

Ramachandra Guha writes a heart warming piece on the famous Koshy’s Parade Cafe in Bengaluru, which has been keeping him company for 25 years of living in the city. A childhood weekend spot, that has grown up to be a ritual, Guha writes in The Telegraph that he could even live without music, cricket and books, but life without Parade’s is impossible to contemplate. The coronavirus pandemic has hit their business hard, even while the owners strive to make it a welcoming space in a chaotic city.

The attractions of Koshy’s are various: the light, the ambience, the food, the location and, not least, the more visible of the two owners. Prem is stocky in build, clad often in jeans, and always with a large ring of keys around his waist. He is infinitely kind with customers; first-timers can stay hours with a single cup of coffee, while old-timers can go on a riotous binge if they so choose. I have never seen him raise his voice, or wear a grumpy face, not even when an ill-considered Supreme Court ruling got him to stop serving liquor, on the grounds that the place was too close to M.G. Road, allegedly a ‘national highway’. (It was months before this ruling was overturned — the financial losses suffered by Koshy’s in this period must have been immense.)

Three Horror Stories, and a Really Hairy One

Twinkle Khanna narrates a few stories from around the world and tells how real life is definitely more terrifying than horror stories. In a column in The Times of India, she quotes NCRB data that almost 1,900 women were slaughtered in India after being branded witches from 2005 to 2015 and how most often women are shamed and blamed for faults that are not their own.

Three women in Gujarat were beaten up in June this year because a few animals got sick. In the same month, a man who lost his son, chopped off his aunt’s head, suspecting her of witchcraft in Odisha. If a cricketer plays badly, then his successful wife is to be blamed. A man takes his life, find a girlfriend to take the rap. In different ways, women are transformed into witches across the country. Some are beaten. Some killed. Some have their land snatched, others their dignity stripped.

Inside Track: Dangerous Liaisons

Coomi Kapoor writes in a column in The Indian Express that the BJP believes Nitish Kumar’s popularity has plummeted after the migrant crisis but he is still needed for the backward caste vote, just as the JD(U) relies on the BJP’s forward caste support. She also writes about how Ram Vilas Paswan’s death adds to the list of ministers in Modi’s cabinet who’ve passed away, how Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Awanish Kumar Awasthi will soon be under the radar for his poor handling of the Hathras rape case and how it was Muhammad Ali Jinnah who first planted seeds for the authoritarian rule in Pakistan.

The SP and four police officers handling the Hathras case have been suspended and if the fall-out continues the next casualty could be UP DGP Hitesh Awasthi. But there’s another Awasthi whose role warrants scrutiny. The all-powerful UP’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Awanish Kumar Awasthi, whose orders are followed blindly. During Awasthi’s tenure of little over a year, the UP police has been regularly in the news, whether it is the follow-up of the rape cases in Shahjahanpur and Unnao or Vikas Dubey’s gang gunning down eight policemen. The police subsequently “eliminated” Dubey and his men. No one has questioned Awasthi (IAS) as to why a Dubey gang member was at the wedding of his daughter last November.
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