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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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India Must Choose

India made a mistake by not condemning Vladimir Putin strongly for his war against Ukraine, opines Tavleen Singh in her column for The Indian Express.

At Davos there was speculation that this is the start of a new Cold War between the United States and China, not Russia, she writes. According to her, India is being pushed into a formation that will be led by China "who has shown us many times that it will never be our friend."

"We can either choose to stand with other democracies and say loudly and clearly that Ukraine is suffering only because it demanded the right to be free and democratic. It was Ukraine’s right to choose not to be crushed under the jackboot of a brutal dictator who does not allow his own people democracy and freedom. Or we can choose to continue standing with Russia who in the changed circumstances of the world is the junior partner of our worst enemy. In the new Cold War, the side that China leads represents autocracy and brute force. Is that the side that India should be on?"
Tavleen Singh
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Doing No Justice to a Vision of Democracy

Parties, organisations and individuals are misappropriating Ambedkar for their own interests without making any effort to embody his principles of socio-cultural justice and economic fairness, write C Lakshmanan and Aparajay in their piece for The Hindu.

Ambedkar’s 131st birthday was celebrated by state governments and public insitutions mainly keeping electoral gains in mind, they add.

"Most of these celebrations have not only been oblivious of Ambedkar’s anti-caste and anti-patriarchal vision but also seem to be deliberately ignoring his world-view on economic equality, fairness and justice. The existing economic system pursued by the political parties at the Centre and State levels is mostly antagonistic to the model envisioned by Ambedkar."
C Lakshmanan and Aparajay in The Hindu
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Rob Peter More, Pay Peter Less

In his column for The Indian Express, P Chidambaram writes that after reducing “excise duties” by Rs 8 per litre on petrol and Rs 6 per litre on diesel, the Centre tried to shame the states, asking them to reduce VAT.

In his opinion, the Centre had no right to do so, since all the states together get a pittance from petroleum products.

"It is obvious that the states get practically nothing from the revenues raised by the Centre from petrol and diesel. Their main source of revenue is VAT on petrol and diesel (the other source being taxes on liquor). It is noteworthy that the states’ own resources as a proportion of total revenues is dwindling. Exhorting the states to cut VAT on petrol and diesel is akin to asking the states to beggar themselves: they will go broke and be obliged to borrow more (with the permission of the Central government) or carry a begging bowl to the Centre for more grants-in-aid."
P Chidambaram in The Indian Express
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Rip Secularism. Let’s Try a Hindu Democratic Republic of India

Indian secularism was well intentioned but was derailed by misguided practices, opines Hasan Suroor in his piece for The Times of India.

He writes that the idea that Hindus have a first claim over India has become deeply ingrained, even among liberals and any sustainable solution to communal tensions will need to recognise this reality.

"There’s a mistaken notion that the only alternative to a secular state is a theocracy. It is not. A state can have an officially recognised religion – in India’s case, it will be Hinduism – and yet remain secular in practice by treating all citizens as equal and making sure that their religious and civil rights are protected by law – as in many western liberal democracies including Britain where the State is Christian, but government practices are secular."
Hasan Suroor in The Times of India
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Weaponising Memory

In his piece for The Telegraph, Asim Ali explores French historian Joseph Ernest Renan's theory that the unity of a nation depended on keeping shared myths and struggles alive in memory, while collectively forgetting the darker chapters of history.

"This is the context in which we must understand the Hindutva politics of avenging history that has presently gripped the country. The project of ‘recovering’ demolished temples in Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi from Muslims and ‘correcting historical wrongs’ has little to do with Rama, Krishna or Shiva. It is concerned with another kind of demolition and reconstruction on the site of our collective memory — the demolition of the basis of the old, secular Indian nation and building in its place a new Hindu nation."
Asim Ali in The Telegraph
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Hindus and Muslims Must Give Up Rigid Positions on Contested Places of Worship

In his opinion piece for The Indian Express, Tahir Mahmood writes that if the Kashi-Mathura disputes are finally settled by the Supreme Court, whatever decision it gives in the interest of peace and harmony should not raise eyebrows.

He says that the constitution can no longer be seen as a sacrosanct rulebook and the solution to communal disputes lies in the thinking and conduct of the people of India.

"Obstinacy and fanaticism on either side will lead us nowhere. If a minority rigidly sticks to its demands on religious grounds, the dominant majority cannot be expected to be lagging behind. Both have to find together a viable roadmap to nationwide peace. On the holy soil of India, there are millions of old and new temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras. In such a country, perennial fighting over a few chosen shrines situated in each other’s vicinity is irrational and indefensible."
Tahir Mahmood in The Indian Express
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What Was the Rationale for the Wheat Export Ban?

Karan Thapar, in his piece for The Hindustan Times questions the government's decision to ban wheat exports. He writes that India's grain reserves stocks are overflowing and all the ban has done is infuriate farmers and worsen India's impression abroad.

"Does this suggest a well-thought-out decision? Or a populist measure? I can’t help feeling that the real intention was to send a message to the Indian people of the government’s concern and ability to act fast, even if both are mistaken. “Look what we’re prepared to do to help you?” is what the government seems to say, rather than what it should have said, “don’t worry about the exports, we’ve more than enough for India’s needs. This is a chance to help the world and show that India is there at its time of need.”
Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times
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How Shah Rukh Khan Can Help With India’s ‘Act East’ Policy

In her opinion piece for The Times of India, Teesta Prakash writes that while India's diplomatic and economic ties with Southeast Asia remain lukewarm, our pop culture has significant influence in the region and can be used to better engage with it.

She points to a recent poll conducted by the Lowy Institute which revealed that a significant number enjoyed Indian pop culture the most, while only about 40 percent reported trust in India and its government.

"The appeal of Indian pop culture revealed in the Lowy poll suggests a manner in which India can better engage with the region — perhaps a visit by Shah Rukh Khan could reinvigorate the sluggish relations between India and Indonesia? Soft power should not be underestimated. Many countries use it effectively. South Korea sent K-Pop music stars BTS as a part of their delegation to the United Nations."
Teesta Prakash in The Times of India
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India Has Shown Resilience but Jury Still Out on the Economy

The BJP's overwhelming political success has been accompanied by a "sorry slump" in international indicators of political, civil and economic freedoms, writes SA Iyer in The Times of India.

However, even though the initial spurt of economic growth under the Modi government was undercut by demonetisation and COVID-19, India is showing resilience in the current climate, he adds.

"Pessimists claim GDP growth will average only 5 percent in years to come, and the miracle growth era of 7 percent is gone. However, India is showing much resilience in difficult times. Covid was in some ways mishandled, yet India did well to produce enough vaccines to inoculate all adults so quickly. The free-feeding programme was efficient and greatly reduced distress, an important reason for the BJP election victory in UP. Exports stagnated along with global trends between 2014 and 2020. But in 2021-22 exports shot up by 44 percent, and in the first month of the current year rose 30.7 percent."
SA Iyer in The Times of India
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