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.
Go back, Viceroy of Delhi
Maintaining that the controversial amendments to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, are an instance of “the tail wagging the dog,” P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, opines that by making the Lieutenant Governor’s consent mandatory, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre has “installed its Viceroy in Delhi.”
“By legislative legerdemain, the Modi government has installed its Viceroy in Delhi! Mr Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers have been reduced to footmen to fetch and carry for the Viceroy. Mr Kejriwal should have known that this day was coming when, in another constitutional coup, Jammu & Kashmir was dismembered and reduced to two Union Territories. Yet, Mr Kejriwal supported that assault on democracy in the name of ‘nationalism’. Today, it is his day of reckoning and humiliation. Nevertheless, my sympathies are with him if he chooses to fight the Modi government.”P Chidambaram in The Indian Express.
In his column for The Telegraph, Mukul Kesavan notes that the exit of noted political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta from Ashoka University – supposedly out of his writings in favour of constitutional rights – cannot be in the interest of an academic space that champions itself on liberal thought and education.
Referring to Mehta’s resignation letter, Kesavan maintains that “material interest of the university administration,” as opposed to academic ones, could have led to the former’s exit.
“That last sentence is curious because Ashoka’s reason for being is that it’s modelled on the best liberal arts colleges and universities elsewhere. It cannot be in the interest of such a university to have one of its most distinguished professors resign because his public writings vigorously defend constitutional values and freedoms. If a professor of evolutionary biology were made to resign from a university because her robust critique of Creationism had annoyed powerful people (or annoyed wealthy donors acting as proxies for powerful people), would she declare that she was resigning in the best interest of the university? I don’t think so.”Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph.
Bengal Has an Impossible Choice To Make This Election
Writing for The Indian Express, Sayandeb Chowdhury states that assembly elections in Bengal have turned the state into a ‘material object’ and carries a great symbolic value for the BJP’s Hindutva pitch.
Chowdhury maintains that Left’s decision to paint Mamata and the BJP in the same colour has proven that the party, now on a steady decline, hasn’t learnt from its previous mistakes.
“Rather, standing firm on their epic distaste for TMC, the Left has fallen into the predictable template of blurring Mamata with the BJP, trying to flog the much-maligned monster of her monocracy. The Left’s unwillingness to see the difference between the fatuous personality cult of Mamata and the diabolic nature of BJP’s takeover is a sign of it having learnt nothing from its own past as a party with similar authoritarian tendencies. It has also inducted, as an empowered ally, a local cleric to win away Muslim votes from the TMC. Entrenched realities? Certainly of the kind that would make the BJP cheerful and Marx shift in his grave.”Sayandeb Chowdhury in The Indian Express.
Who Holds Key To Bengal? the Former Left and Now Non-Committed Voter
In his piece for The Times of India, Rahul Verma maintains that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s many attempts at completely eliminating the Left from Bengal, coupled with her party’s own record in the 2018 Panchayat elections, has slowly but surely led to the BJP’s rise in the state.
“Mamata Banerjee’s deep desire to decimate the Left and her attempts to appropriate the Front’s support base (Muslims and poor) though brought her short-term benefits, but also created the conditions for the BJP’s rise in Bengal. The TMC government made every effort to wean away the Left’s base — through welfare schemes, co-opting the Left’s machine in rural Bengal and the syndicate operating in the Greater Kolkata region, and using various identity appeals (caste, sect, region and religion) to mobilise voters. This helped the TMC to increase its vote and seat share in the last two elections. But the cracks that were appearing in the party’s social base got masked under the thumping victories of 2016 and 2018.”Rahul Verma in The Times of India.
The Man Who Promised the Moon
Writing for The Telegraph, Upala Sen wonders what Thulam Saravanan, an independent candidate from Madurai – who, among other things, has promised a helicopter, a car, a robot domestic help, 100 gold sovereigns for women – really has in mind.
“Does he merely want to draw attention to himself or is he critiquing a high-pitched no-holds-barred poll battle?” Sen asks.
“It might be difficult to believe now, but only a decade ago, in the 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, it was Jayalalithaa who shouted the loudest against freebies. She said, “The chief minister [Karunanidhi] is trying to make the people a society of parasites, dependent on freebies, doles and sops.” The DMK went ahead and promised either a mixie or a grinder to women. Not to be outdone, the AIADMK announced a mixer, a grinder and a table fan. “It is not ‘either/ or’; a beneficiary will get all the three,” the AIADMK general secretary, Jayalalithaa, clarified after releasing her party’s manifesto. She also promised milch cattle and gold for marriage thalis. In the years that followed, laptops were issued to students, and goats and sheep were given away. Except for the animals, all gift items came with Amma’s face emblazoned, as did subsidised drinking water bottles.”Upala Sen in The Telegraph.
The Taste by Vir Sanghvi: Seven Things We Forget About the Bangladesh Crisis
Yearning for the “different India” of his early years, Vir Sanghvi notes how the 1971 Bangladesh crisis was seen as a humanitarian one in which both the government and the opposition refrained from pandering to jingoism, welcomed those fleeing conflicted lands and refrained from turning the tragedy into a communal narrative.
“We know now that a large population of the refugees were Hindus who had been driven out. Apparently, all top politicians (across parties) and civil servants knew this. But a decision was taken not to make this fact public. You can understand Indira Gandhi’s interest in not creating a communally volatile situation in India. But the opposition (even the Jan Sangh of AB Vajpayee) went along with this. Everyone recognised that when a human tragedy of this magnitude was unfolding on our doorstep, it would be madness to provoke communal tensions in India. Would that happen today? I wonder. At a time when the Bengal election campaign has become so communally polarised, we tend to forget how all Bengalis --- Hindus and Muslim – reacted as one during the massacres in Bangladesh.”Vir Sanghvi in Hindustan Times.
In Great Indian Election, ‘Homemakers’
As one political party after another doles out promises after promises for women they broadly categorise as ‘homemakers’, Shalini Langer, in her column for The Indian Express, wonders what exactly is the worth of work done by women in their respective households.
But, what if cooking – an aspect central to this idea of a ‘homemaker’ – is something that the recipient of the said title doesn’t like?
“There is actually just one word that would suffice for all of us. The right for women to say “no” — not clean up, put clothes in, take them out, monitor the pantry, plan the menu, watch the children, and do this keeping to everyone’s schedule. The Great Indian Kitchen does us all a great service. We may adore our families — at home now for the past year, breakfast, lunch, dinner — but we can never look at chores the same way again. Or a clogged sink, or waste left in dishes. Or a male relative’s smirk, “We have done the cooking, what else is there to do (that, especially, hits close to home)?” Or wonder how women after women (in the film and the real world) keep getting caught in the same cycle.”Shalini Langer in The Indian Express.
A Shrinking Space
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “foreign destructive ideology remark,” Ramchandra Guha, in his piece for The Telegraph, cites how visionaries like Rammohan Roy and Tagore were not ignorant, but only aware of the flaws of the then Hindu society.
Contrasting early thinkers with the RSS, Guha argues that throughout the 19th and 20th century, Hindu leaders were open to critical voices, both internal and external, in their bid to rid the society of its shortcomings.
“Over the decades, as the sangh parivar has grown in power and influence, the Hindu mind has shrunk — shrunk in its capacity for free thought, for self-critique and for self-reflection. Now, with the BJP and the RSS so dominant in our political and institutional life, this closing of the Hindu mind is manifest at the highest levels of government, as Union ministers and chief ministers exalt superstition over science, disparage the independence of women and issue periodic rants against the West. Lower down the sanghi hierarchy, this closing of the Hindu mind is displayed through the thuggish attacks on journalists, artists, writers and film-makers who dare present the truth about the continuing injustices in our society.”Ramchandra Guha in The Telegraph.
Trying Young Offenders as Adults Won’t Fix India’s Child Sexual Abuse Problem
Writing for the Times of India, Neetika Vishwanath opines that the proposal to treat offenders above 16 years under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences may be ‘counter-intuitive’ as it is at odds with the realities of child sexual abuse in India.
“In my ethnographic research of rape trials in Lucknow’s Fast Track Court in 2015 (published in the Indian Journal of Gender Studies), I found that nearly 50% of the trials I observed involved runaway marriages of minors. In these cases, the girl’s family is opposed to the marriage and lodges a complaint of kidnapping against the male partner stating that their daughter is a minor. A kidnapping case converts into one of kidnapping and rape when the police hunt down the couple and the girl is sent for medical examination. Since the consent of a minor to a sexual act is immaterial in law, charges of rape are included at the stage of the charge sheet based on the doctor’s remarks about the condition of the girl’s hymen in the medico-legal certificate.”Neetika Vishwanath in The Times of India.
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