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

The Quint
·9-min read

An Alternative R-Day Parade Next Week Could Be Beginning Of Something That Bodes Ill For PM Modi

“For the first time since India first celebrated Republic Day on January 26, 1950, there will be two parades in Delhi next week”, writes Tavleen Singh for the Indian Express. Speaking about the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day, Singh says “it seeks not to disrupt the official parade but to make the point that the government has stopped listening to the people”.

In her column, she questions why the Modi government is insisting on farm reforms that have been deeply resented and resisted by farmers who have lodged their protest by camping on Delhi borders for more than two months.

So then why do we have this second parade taking place at all? Why have angry farmers been protesting on the borders of Delhi for more than two months? Why is the government unable to persuade them that the farm laws it has brought will be good for them? Why with even the media firmly on his side has the Prime Minister not been able to convince the protesting farmers that their protest is wrong?

Going Bananas Over Fruit

The dragon fruit has been renamed as ‘Kamalam’ by Gujarat Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani who -- according to the The Editorial board at The Telegraph -- did this move “in the hope “that this sleight of hand would purge this fruit of its symbolic connection with China — the fire-breathing mythical creature has had, in the public eye, the ‘Made in China’ tag embossed on it for ages”.

However, the article quips that “the disdain of Mr Rupani’s party for history is well-documented. There is now evidence that the BJP scoffs at geography too”.

The dragon fruit originated in Mexico, not China; the alteration of geographical borders by China could not be prevented under the BJP’s watch either. The failure, so far, to re-establish the status quo has forced the BJP — none should doubt its muscle-flexing or patriotism — to do the next best thing: indulge in futile, comical efforts to erase Chinese imprints, real or imagined, from India. Having run out of Chinese apps to ban, the party has now taken upon itself the formidable task of purifying the world of fruit. The party must march on undeterred, ridding other species of the purported Chinese signature. Why not rechristen the dragonfly next? Bengal, which is in the BJP’s political radar, could well figure in the scheme of things. Would Calcutta’s Chinatown be renamed Kamalnagar in the future?

‘Exact Words’ Is A Betrayal

Amid controversy over the purported WhatsApp chats of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, P Chidambaram in his Indian Express article questions who provided the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief high-level confidential information about ‘Balakot strikes’ and other matters of political and great national interest.

Chidambaram writes that his intention is not to malign anyone, or name anyone, however, he finds it pertinent whether “sensitive and protected decisions of the government shared with anyone who was not a part of the decision-making process? A supplementary question is, would some of those decisions fall under ‘official secrets’?”

I am pretty certain that the decision-making process as well as the decision involved only the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the NSA, the Army and Air Force Chiefs and the Commander of the Western Air Command. Even the strike pilots would have been briefed only hours before the strike, and quarantined until the launch. You may draw your conclusions on who used the “exact words” and shared the protected information.

How The Tyranny Of Distance Amplifies Some Protests, Ignores Others

“Equitable federalism doesn’t come from the Constitution alone. It is made by acquiring the right to have an equal voice, distance being no bar”, writes Swapan Dasgupta for the Times of India.

Speaking about the indifference that “greeted a humanitarian disaster in North-east India with the fulsome coverage of the farmer’s agitation on the outskirts of Delhi”, Dasgupta points out the glaring difference of media coverage in issues that happen in the capital city versus issues in parts away from the Centre, such as Meghalaya or West Bengal.

The disquiet of the farmers of Punjab and Haryana over the modifications in agricultural marketing was undeniably important. The agitation warranted serious coverage and there was a ‘human interest’ angle too. However, some questions arise. Would the agitation that threatened the Republic Day celebrations in the capital have been in the spotlight had the participants been, say, potato farmers in Bardhaman district of West Bengal or chili growers in some corner of Meghalaya? More to the point, would the Supreme Court have devoted so much time and energy to the agitation had it taken place in a corner of India far away from Delhi? If the Kokrajhar disturbances were blacked out by the ‘tyranny of distance’, did the Punjab-Haryana farmers benefit from the romance of proximity?

Why A Comic In Jail Should Have Us Worried About Justice System

Raising the issue of the arrest of Munawar Faruqui -- a Muslim faith comedian who got pre-emptively arrested before cracking any jokes that may ‘allegedly hurt religious sentiments’ -- Amulya Gopalakrishnan, in her article for the Times of India finds that nothing justifies his incarceration.

“Saying ‘goli maaro saalon ko’ and inciting angry crowds is a majoritarian prerogative. So we have free speech for some, and jail, harassment and violence for others”, questions Gopalakrishnan, asking why there is only a selective application of ‘free speech principles.

Today, the mob and the state act in tandem, to enforce their monoculture. Mob violence is obviously not new — India has long seen crowds turn upon unlucky others, enact their horrid justice on Muslims, Sikhs, people from the north or south or northeast, Dalits, women, moral deviants, whatever the out-group in that context. Mobs draw the lines, they demonstrate who securely ‘belongs’, and who is a lesser human. Our police forces, with their colonial roots, have never been on the side of the marginalised either.

Modi, Public Will and Intellectuals’ Club

Unpacking the reasons behind reverence for India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, KK Srivastava, in his article for The Pioneer finds issue with intellectuals who don’t accept PM Modi despite him being democratically elected.

Srivastava notes that “Trust implies the voters believe that the leader and party they voted to power will treat them well and fairly, look after their welfare and let them live and function with dignity. Indian society that is governed by democracy moves by and large on the principles of trust. Voting system implies trust and reciprocal faith”.

Modi has given people a sense of identity. He has been extraordinarily influential in spreading globally the ideas of equality, human dignity, market, transparency, democracy, self and collective discipline and national glory. It is because of these and his popularity and connectivity with common people that Narendra Modi has acquired a clean, respectable international image and the world sees him and his vision of new India as a new hope for the world

Focusing On Women With Disabilities

“The Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened the focus on the vulnerabilities faced by many sections of the population, especially the women living with disabilities” writes Lalita Panicker for Hindustan Times.

There are 11.8 million women with disabilities who “ have to face poverty, poor health conditions, little or no income, lower education levels and isolation. With resources being scarce, women usually get the short end of the stick, more so if they suffer from some form of disability”.

Many with sight disabilities were not able to access the Aarogya Setu app as it does not factor in their requirements. Those with locomotor disabilities were not able to visit stores to access food and the virus acted as an impediment to getting delivery of essential services. Many payment apps are not accessible to the visually challenged and many online courses too are not tailored to their needs.

Democracy Wins In The US, But...

Speaking about US President Joe Biden’s win in the US elections, Pramod Pathak, in his article for The Pioneer writes that “Democracies are fragile systems that can easily become totalitarian. Strengthening the institutions makes Democracy survive and thrive”.

He adds that “Democracy is a workable system that rests on the principle of maximum good to maximum number. But there is an inherent weakness. Sometimes majoritarianism becomes the norm”. He says if an incident like the Capitol Hill violence can happen in the US -- the world’s greatest democracy -- what about other countries?

Systemic checks and balances are very important. The strength and independence of various institutions determine the success of a democracy. Fortunately in the US there were those institutions that did not succumb to whims and fancies of one person. The judiciary and the media remained largely objective and even the sections of legislature, the republicans, refused to act like apparatchiks. Democracy is not leader driven. It is institution driven. The integrity of such institutions depends on values of individuals manning them.

What Leaked Chats Reveal About The Cult Of Celebrity TV Anchors

“If there’s a single word to describe the leaked WhatsApp conversations between Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta, it is hubris.”, writes Sagarika Ghose in her column for Times of India.

She writes about how “the chats reveal a shocking collusion between a channel head and a TV ratings agency and how the entire system of rating TV news is seriously compromised. Yet the nub of the issue is more than collusion, it is the journalist’s notion of his invincibility.”

Goswami’s template is the journalist equating his own opinion with that of “the nation”. In this situation, the commitment is not to the truth but to the desire to always be right. All contrarian opinions are targeted as “anti-national” because if one always has to be right, then there is a daily need to find someone who is always wrong and conduct a noisy, one sided media trial in the studio. An infallible god cult means dispensing with the pursuit of truth.

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