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.

7 min read
Hindi Female

Defaming Dissidents

Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, writes about the growing and dangerous trend of using social media to defame and malign those accused of crimes, regardless of whether the said crimes have been proven in the court of law or not. Singh argues that this is a weapon of harassment used to steal all credibility from the accused, as was recently done in the case of fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, where it was alleged that he was paid to tweet, or that he was an agent working for a foreign authority. The author writes that even though Zubair is a free man now, his career may have been impaired for good due to this mud-slinging.

“When BJP spokespersons are asked why these things are happening, they usually respond, with fixed smiles on their smug faces, that if someone has a complaint they should go to court and seek justice. They say this as if it is the easiest thing to do. Allow me a small personal note here. When a senior BJP spokesman tweeted that my son was “a paid ISI agent” it implied that I had bred and nurtured a Pakistani spy. I wanted to take the BJP’s star spokesman to court but my efforts were stymied at the first hurdle when I discovered that it would cost me more than I could afford to hire even an ordinary, unknown lawyer."
Tavleen Singh, The Indian Express

Double Whammy

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in a column for The Telegraph, examines just how catastrophic the mingling of two disasters that have befallen us at the same time can be. These are two Cs: climate change and coronavirus. Gandhi writes that despite warnings that have come our way, there is a certain complacency that can be noticed among most when it comes to the approach towards dealing with these urgencies.

"So, we have before us this phenomenon of bizarre weather patterns and the weird virus acting like allies in a war-game against us, the child-like authors and victims of our own ways, lifestyles. While the knowledgeable sensed the danger, knew the glaring truth, did anyone, anywhere in India, speak out about this situation, its portent? By ‘anyone’, I mean someone in a high seat in India. And by ‘anywhere’, I mean not in webinars organised by the earnest for the innocent but in national platforms addressed by the powerful for us, the peoplehood of India. Has anyone in authority said to fellow-Indians that this ‘double whammy’ of climate change and the pandemic holds danger, that we better do something about that danger, together, and fast?"
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, The Telegraph

The New President: Beyond the Tokenism

Suraj Yengde, in his column in The Indian Express, argues that the election of Droupadi Murmu as the 15th President of India is a significant and laudable move since no Adivasi voice has occupied the post ever before. However, the author adds that Murmu’s presidentship mustn’t be reduced to mere tokenism, and should register in ways greater than that. Yengde also dissects Ram Nath Kovind’s tenure as the previous president of the country, and examines to what extent the Dalit representation effected any tangible change.

“But he indirectly tried to speak to his constituency. One of the first issues he raised was hiring more judges and expanding the diversity in India’s courts. He asked to “select, nurture and promote the right talent from the lowest to the higher levels”. President Kovind’s order for judicial reforms boldly declared that nepotism had no way in the judicial system. At the same time, the President remained mum at the gruesome rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras in his home state. The BJP is perhaps trying to trump the RSS by giving two prominent quotas – the SCs and STs – symbolic representation. While at the same time the condition of the marginalised groups in India is worsening. Earlier this week, Dinesh Khatik, a Dalit minister in the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet, rebelled alleging discrimination and mistreatment in the Bisht government. Hope the fate of President Kovind is not repeated on President Murmu where their token face is substantiated with Brahminism as a benevolent hope.”
Suraj Yengde, The Indian Express

Five Months Into the War: Unprecedented Sanctions on Russia Cut Both Ways

TN Ninan, in his column in the Business Standard, writes of the economic costs and burden of the Russia-Ukraine war. It’s a cost that both Russia and Ukraine have had to pay, albeit the latter more than the former by a significant margin. While Russia’s economy is estimated to shrink by 10 percent this year, Ukraine’s is expected to shrink by 45 percent, as per the World Bank. But the large sanctions on Russia ought to take its toll on the country even further, Ninan writes.

“When one looks to the future, the question is whether the Western powers want to save a country still recognisably Ukraine though geographically shrunk, and whether Mr Putin’s aggression is merely a response to Western provocations. If so, the issue is the size and shape of the carrot that will bring Russia to the negotiating table and end the conflict. But if Mr Putin is over-reaching with revanchist goals, and if the West seeks to destroy the Russian threat once and for all (assuming that is a realistic objective, which it may not be), the war will continue and there will be no winners.”
TN Ninan, Business Standard

Supremacy Project

Asim Ali, in a column for The Telegraph, writes about the prevalent Islamophobia in Indian politics, and how anti-Muslim mobilisation is wrongly termed as a ‘Muslim problem’ by many commentators, and not a problem of Hindu political identity.

"Firstly, the framing of the anti-Muslim mobilisation as religious polarisation or religious conflict. In reality, Muslims have little role to play in the design, articulation, or propagation of these manufactured ‘conflicts’. Muslims are not making any specific demands or clamouring for a change in the political status quo. They are not asking for temples to be converted into mosques, or for Hindus to be deprived of their religious clothing, or for the restriction of the religious practices of Hindus. This is the season of the kanwariyas in Uttar Pradesh, when devotees of Shiva throng public highways bearing pots of holy water. Alongside their route, meat shops and restaurants selling non-vegetarian food remain closed to protect the sensibilities of the pilgrims, and traffic is diverted to alternative avenues to ensure their safety. We do not see Muslims protesting against this display of public religiosity even when it impedes their livelihoods. At the same time, the biggest political controversy in the state is a bunch of Muslim men (now arrested) ‘caught’ on camera praying in a corner of a newly opened mall, sparking demonstrations from Hindu groups. To call this state of affairs religious polarisation is an assault on the common sense."
Asim Ali, The Telegraph

Why Indian Leaders Must Learn To Face Criticism

In the Times of India, Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar writes about the increased prickliness of politicians in dealing with insults, which he deems to be incompatible with a democracy. He describes the case of a government sweeper in Mathura terminated from his employment because his garbage cart was found to contain posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He also mentions the arrest of filmmaker Avinash Das for allegedly slandering Home Minister Amit Shah.

"If anybody putting a poster in a cart is at risk of dismissal, who will clear up the mess after election meetings? Can posters just be left on the ground for fear of arrest or sacking? Is it okay for posters to be trampled on by people but not okay for the same posters to be removed by sweepers in carts?"
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, Times Of India

The Party Loyalist

For The Hindu, Shiv Sahay Singh, writes about the BJP’s Vice Presidential nominee, Jagdeep Dhankar. The author traces the journey of the leader, from his humble beginnings to his controversial tenure as the governor of West Bengal and now set to be elected as the vice president – Dhankar has seen it all.

"Mr Dhankhar had repeated almost at every occasion that he did not want to fiddle around in Raj Bhavan and his allegiance was only to the Constitution. He has fancied calling himself the first governor of West Bengal born in independent India. With numbers stacked in his favour, Mr Dhankhar is likely to assume the responsibility of vice­ president at the time when the country is celebrating 75 years of the republic. As vice­ president, he will also serve as chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. He will require something more than his legal skills to win the faith of the Opposition and strike the right balance in running the Upper House of Parliament which looks after the welfare of states."
Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu

For Lanka, a Long Road to Democratic reform awaits

For The Hindustan Times, Alan Keenan writes about the need for Ranil Wickremesinghe, the new president of Sri Lanka, to actively work to increase his legitimacy – an uphill task in a country where citizens are reeling with enormous trust deficit for its leadership.

"With Wickremesinghe relying on pro-Rajapaksa parliamentarians for his victory, and denounced by protesters for working with the Rajapaksas and for being the kind of deal-making politician seen responsible for Lanka’s troubles, doubts linger about the new president’s ability to be an agent of democratic change. Wickremesinghe’s use of the army and police commandos to violently clear out Colombo’s main protest camp and his appointment of several Rajapaksa loyalists to the cabinet have confirmed those doubts, raised tensions and appear to have quashed hopes of political reforms and accountability."
Alan Keenan, Hindustan Times

How effectively Are India’s Legislatures Functioning?

Karan Thapar writes in The Hindustan Times, how political parties aren’t serious about the functioning and productivity of the Indian parliament. He analyses statistics of the working hours of the parliament and how poorly it reflects on the MPs of various political parties.

"As the Monsoon Session of Parliament gets underway, and we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Independence, it’s worth asking how effectively Parliament is functioning. Is it meeting our expectations or letting us down? Statistics gleaned from PRS Legislative Research raise disturbing questions and suggest worrying conclusions. Let’s start with the Lok Sabha (LS). The 16th, which was the last full LS, worked for 1,615 hours, 40% lower than the average for all full-term LSs. In the 1950s and 1960s, LSs almost touched 4,000 hours. Clearly, the amount of time it now spends at work is shrinking. "
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times

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