Sengol that Must Not Bend
In his weekly column for The Indian Express, P Chidambaram criticises the interpretation of the 'Sengol,' a historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu, and argues that it represents righteous governance, rather than mere temporal power, as depicted during the Parliament inauguration.
Referring to historical texts and poems that describe the 'Sengol' as a symbol of ethical governance, the former finance minister expresses concern over the "choreographed and ceremonial nature of recent political events" and emphasises that a sceptre that bends represents an unjust or cruel rule. He further underscores the importance of impartiality and the absence of bias.
"To give contemporary examples, there can be no place for hate speeches or vigilantism or love jihad or bulldozer justice. There can be no place for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that discriminates against Muslims of any neighbouring country, Christians and Buddhists of Nepal, and Tamils of Sri Lanka, There can be no place for ‘farm laws’ that put farmers at the mercy of traders and monopolists. There can be no place for snatching a project from Maharashtra and taking it to Gujarat. A righteous ruler's political party cannot refuse to field a candidate from the Muslim or Christian communities in a state election like the just-concluded election in Karnataka Nor can a righteous ruler's police break, by use of force, a peaceful protest by medal-winning sportspersons who sought justice... Let us hope the Sengol and what it stands for — Sengonmai (Righteous Rule) — will prevail."P Chidambaram for The Indian Express
Not Mendeleyev’s Dream
In her column for The Telegraph, Upala Sen reflects on the historical significance of the periodic table a few days after the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) shaved it off Class 10 science textbooks as part of a "rationalisation" exercise. Highlighting Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev's struggle and subsequent creation of the periodic table, Sen argues that it represents fundamental principles of scientific inquiry and the human imagination, further suggesting that its removal reveals a lack of understanding of the periodic table's importance.
"Mendeleyev came up with the periodic table on February 17, 1869. After many years of work and much thinking and that day’s game of patience, an exhausted Mendeleyev had fallen asleep. It has been chronicled how he slept and dreamt of a table where all the elements had fallen into place. He woke up and wrote it down. The paring down of NCERT textbooks has been called a 'rationalisation exercise.' Who knows the rationalists at NCERT may have come to the conclusion that Mendeleyev did not sweat enough to arrive at the periodic table, merely dreamt it, and such dreamings had no place in school texts?"Upala Sen for The Telegraph
India's Socialist Rut
In her weekly column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh reflects on Narendra Modi's nine-year tenure as prime minister of India and notes a shift in his policies, from advocating free-market policies to embracing a more statist approach.
Singh recalls her initial supporting PM Modi due to her belief that he would move away from socialism and privatise inefficient public sector companies, before going on to express her disappointment. However, she also hits out the Congress' approach of providing "freebies" to the poor during election time and laments the lack of distinction between Modi's economic ideas and those of Rahul Gandhi.
"I thought about the question and remembered that the real reason why I became a Modi Bhakt was because I hoped that he would move India away from the socialist economic policies that, in my view, are the main reason why we continue to be a poor country. I believed he would privatise the bottomless pits that our public sector companies have become because bureaucrats are hopeless businessmen and politicians are worse. I believed he had noticed that Indian voters had moved from being supplicants to becoming aspirational in their attitude. If Modi understood this, he has not done enough to withdraw the state from controlling the economy."Tavleen Singh for The Indian Express
Why South Asia in Dire Need of Statesmanship
In his column for The Asian Age, Manish Tewari reflects on the missed opportunities for regional integration in South Asia, emphasising that the region's shared colonial past could have facilitated cooperation despite some "manageable" differences. The former Union Minister questions South Asia's failure to overcome historical divisions and forge greater partnerships, and goes on to urge the region's stakeholders to transcend those differences and embrace a future of collaboration and prosperity.
"What India needs to understand and so do the other nations of South Asia is that the future lies in economic integration, customs union, free movement of goods, services, cultural influences and the rest across the region to do justice to the creative and economic potential of the generations to come. Already, social media and the Internet have made lines on the map redundant. What we need to get rid off are lines in the mind. South Asia, therefore, requires statespersons who can look beyond the horizon to the future that beckons rather than remain stuck in the ignoble wastebasket of history."Manish Tewari for The Asian Age
Two Sets of Optics From a Sunday Morning
In his column for The Economic Times, Indrajit Hazra discusses the recent upheaval during the removal of protesting wrestlers from New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, as they continued to demand the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for the alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers.
Noting that the incident took place on the same day as India's new parliament was inaugurated, he emphasises on the importance of optics during both celebrations and demonstrations, and further urges sportspersons to understand the differing optics and priorities in India.
"So, what if Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia are World Championship and Olympic medal winners for India? They had called for a women's mahapanchayat on Sunday, crossed over police barricades, which were later reportedly broken by other protestors. In the land of the new Parliament Building no one is above the law. The optics, however, were there for all to see - or, at least those who chose to see (or show) it...Less than three kilometres away, WFI chief and the man who may not be considered antinational, but is certainly being identified as being anti-women, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, waving into the camera with a smile and with the new Parliament Building about to be inaugurated behind him. The words 'Satyamev Jayate' inscribed above the entrance seem to have been chosen as a caption to his photo."Indrajit Hazra for The Economic Times
In Manipur, Shadow of an Earlier Ethnic Clash
In her piece for The Indian Express, Esha Roy traces the history of violent clashes in Moreh, one of several towns in Manipur witnessing severe unrest, back to the 1992-93 Naga-Kuki clashes which originated in Moreh and spread across Manipur.
Roy says that the clashes were triggered by land disputes and an alleged influx of Kuki-Zomi refugees on Naga land, and further claims that the recent ethnic clashes between the Kuki-Zomi and Meitei communities share similar underlying issues but differ in scale, intensity, and involvement of the dominant Meitei community.
"In a pre-communications era, the killings that took place in the 90s were often sporadic incidents spread over a five-year period. The clashes then did not match either the scale or the intensity of the present unrest in Manipur, spurred by social media and fast-paced rumours. Similarly, the displacement of communities also took place over years, and not over a period of days. Besides, the two warring communities at loggerheads in the ’90s did not belong to the dominant Meitei community. This time around, the year-long run-up to the violence in Manipur saw the state government and the Chief Minister being accused of bias towards one community — giving an entirely different and far more dangerous colour to the violence than what occurred in 1993."Esha Roy for The Indian Express
Why the Wrestlers’ Protest Matters So Much to the Sisterhood of Working Women
In her piece for The Times of India, author Shrayana Bhattacharya highlights the significance of private conversations and personal histories within families in driving social change, particularly in the context of Indian women wrestlers protesting against alleged sexual assault. Referring to inter-generational social change brought about by fathers supporting their daughters' involvement in wrestling, Bhattacharya discusses the connection between the wrestlers' protest and working women across India, expressing a sense of solidarity and concern for the challenges faced by "independent women" in society.
"We are no medalists or sportswomen, but working women who feel a sense of sisterhood with others who face the harsh brunt of a masculine economy, where safety, housing, or a steady income often depends on the good opinion of a powerful male. The fate of the ongoing conversation between protesting wrestlers and various organs of our state, police and media will signal the value Indian public life places on the everyday professional struggles, pains and precarity of India’s working women and the men and families that encourage girls to break norms... Watching such role-models being treated with indignity certainly won’t encourage conservative families to defy gender norms. In fact, we could expect them to double down on restricting female mobility."Shrayana Bhattacharya for The Times of India
A Big Step Forward in US-India Defence Ties
In their piece for Hindustan Times, Sameer P Lalwani and Vikram J Singh attempt to establish the significance of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to India, emphasising on India's ability to leverage advanced US defense acquisitions to counter Chinese assertiveness.
The pair argue that that deterrence against foreign aggression requires more than India's existing power and is dependent on how India operationalises its power, asserting that the US's focus is not solely on defense sales but on operational cooperation to share the burden of deterring aggression, particularly from China.
"Of course, the US is not doing this out of altruism; it is operating from a theory of 'integrated deterrence' where India’s enhanced ability to defend itself and deter aggression and coercion will contribute to regional peace and stability. Deterrence will not stem simply from India’s existence or expansion of its latent power. If that was enough, India’s rapid rise over the past two decades should have deterred Chinese aggression along LAC and the Indian Ocean, which it clearly has not. Deterrence will depend on what India does, how it operationalises and postures its power, and who it cooperates or at least synchronises with. These are the most important issues for US and Indian leaders to discuss, if only in private."Sameer P Lalwani and Vikram J Singh for Hindustan Times
Succession and Maisel: The Savage vs the Sunshiny
In her column for The Times of India, Novelist Rehana Munir reflects on the aftermath of the finale of the TV series "Succession," which focusses on money and power but ultimately delves into deeper themes of love, trust, and forgiveness.
Drawing a stark contrast, Munir writes of "The Marvelous Mrs Maisel," a TV series that is starkly different to the dark world of "Succession" and highlights the struggles of independent women in patriarchal society.
Moreover, she provides a comprehensive analysis of the themes, character dynamics, and contrasting tones of both series and acknowledges their impact and ability to captivate audiences and exploration of complex human relationships
"Coloured exclusively using the dark side of the crayon box, it (Succession) has drawn laughter that comes from a place I personally never want to visit in daylight. It has shocked us in ways borrowed from Greek tragedy...Maisel, on the other hand, is perky and plucky, but no Mary Poppins. There’s enough depth and daring in her to reckon with the other side of fame. The season, and the show, ends in 2005, with the heavily wrinkled but still fast-talking Maisel and her manager, Susie, on the phone, enjoying their weekly ritual of watching a recorded episode of the iconic game show ‘Jeopardy!’ “together”. Two spirited elderly women, having fulfilled their shared ambitions against the odds, have even managed to repair a huge breakdown in their relationship. Now geographically separated, they bond over a TV show. This is what a happy ending looks like, you want the unpleasable Roys of Succession to know."Rehana Munir for The Times of India