A review  of NL Hafta by Nirmal, Bhavesh, Arihant, Anonymous and Ujval
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A review of NL Hafta by Nirmal, Bhavesh, Arihant, Anonymous and Ujval

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hi NL team,

I will start with appreciating the fine work that the team is doing and I really enjoy listening to Hafta. I am happy to be a subscriber of your team’s work.

A few points I wanted to make are:

  1. Though I appreciate Abhinandan’s passion for the topics discussed, I would appreciate if you can keep the cussing out. As a father of a young child, I can’t always be alone or sit with an earphone listening to the podcasts. So this limits me to catching up with the podcasts while I am driving alone.
  2. I am one of the persons who took up the subscription once Hafta went behind the paywall. In my defence, I was still figuring out your work and wanted to have an idea about your team’s biases before paying up. I do find the Hafta team quite balanced. I pay because I believe my knowledge improves after listening to the Hafta and not for any other altruistic reasons.
  3. I would like to request Madhu Trehan to play moderator when some of the discussion goes on for too long (as she is the only person who everyone seems to listen to and seems capable of cracking a whip). This will allow more topics to be covered in the podcasts. Though it may be academic for your team, some of the discussions do go on for too long for the listeners’ liking.
  4. Why is the NL sena contribution restricted to a minimum of Rs 10,000? I may not be “Rs 10000” passionate on the topics pursued but may be “Rs 1000” interested. If the limit is brought down, there may be others like me who would be keen to contribute.

Little about me: I am in my 30s, living in Australia with a centre-left political leaning.

Best Regards,

Nirmal Nandakumar

Hi NL team,

I am Bhavesh from Australia. With a word count pressure, I will start straight away. I am writing today on few topics:

  • Arnab Goswami and Republic

He is everyone’s “favourite”. Most of you have analysed him from a different angle. But I am afraid no one has discussed on this aspect of his work. We all know that sometimes he appears to be anti-BJP on a few stories. Sometimes, he appears to be anti-right wing. And most of the times anti-Congress. Now here is the thing, it’s not about what stand he takes. It’s all about what story does he pick up for discussion. Because that will bring focus on the story and people will talk about it. It’s also about giving generous air time to BJP spokies during those debates, so that they can address their constituency even if Arnab seems anti-BJP during those debates.

And the most important and hidden aspect of Arnab’s work is not only what story he is attracting people towards but also what story he is distracting people from. Wink, wink.

Also I would love to hear from Anand Ranganathan’s view on this. What on this earth could have made a fantastic and seasoned journalist like Chitra Subramaniam join hands with Republic and Arnab. I am asking this as you are co-author and a friend of hers. You can avoid this question if you wish.

  • Sati vs Jauhar

During the last Hafta while discussing the Padmavati issue, Urmileshji started talking about sati pratha and went on how bad it and other rituals were. Of course, it was bad and the country is done with it. But somehow he was trying to link the Padmavati protest with it as if people who are protesting against Padmavati are the ones who favour Sati Pratha. If that’s what he thinks, then I don’t buy that. Perhaps, he thought Sati and Jauhar are the same. Anand Vardhan quickly tried to interject but Urmileshji might have ignored it. Madhuji also initially explained about modern-era jauhar like situations e.g. riots. People often commit suicide to avoid lifelong misery. I am not justifying it but we shouldn’t be too judgmental. He should have been more careful while discussing this topic. This is a clearly politically motivated protest, and using this to peddle individual cultural bias is a wrong choice. I have also noticed a few people in social media bashing Rajputs as a community on these issues like what have you done to your women, or what wars did you win etc. That is not correct. But surely one can say whatever one wants.

  • Anand Vardhan and Abhinandan

This is happening quite often now and becoming very predictable. When AV is asked to give his view on any topic, he will beautifully dissect the whole situation from the ground reality. His input will be mostly on why people do what. Now on most of the topics the ground reality is not nice. Now, Abhinandan will ignorantly consider AV’s observation as his views and start giving his views on AV’s observation and that leads nowhere. Perhaps, AV after explaining his ground observation should also share his personal opinion on the subject if he has one. That will avoid Abhinandan’s unnecessary rant.

Thanks and regards,

Bhavesh Bhatt

Dear Sir/Madam,

Your assurance that you would avoid indecent language and expletives (Refer NL Hafta episode 142 – October 13, 2017) has fallen flat as Mr Sekhri’s tongue seems too slippery. I had renewed my subscription just yesterday. We like your discussions but shall be compelled to stop listening if the use of expletives continues.  I shall not complain any further to you as I am getting a feeling that people like us are not your targeted audience.  I am sorry, but this is how we are.

It was good to have Urmileshji in discussion. He moderates The Wire‘s programme Media Bol which I usually watch. He and his panellists are invariably unduly critical of the government and the BJP.  I was not surprised when he gave a wrong information that India’s position in RSF ranking had worsened to 136 when compared to the earlier ranking of 132 in UPA time. I may correct him that in 2013 as well as in 2014 India’s ranking was at 140. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, it is a shade better at 136, 133 and 136 respectively.

Urmileshji’s ‘Media Bol’ is supposed to give a reflection on the media. Instead, the discussions are predictable as these are only to denounce rightly or wrongly the government and the BJP; and the funny thing is that there is hardly any counterview. I don’t know whether Urmileshji will appreciate the discussion in NL Hafta where all types of opinions are brought on board, issue by issue, without uniformly taking an anti or pro-establishment stance.

Thanks and regards,

Arihant Kumar Jain

Dear NL Team,

First of all, thank you for starting the trend of independent online news media. You’re one of the few that I know I can rely upon for real news.

Second, I have some suggestions that I think might help you. You wrote an article about how the media covered the Jay Shah story. It helped me a lot in deciding my news sources. I think you should write an article about which news organisations didn’t cover the Justice Loya story and which ones did (when and with what angle?).

When I was buying a second subscription, I found out that you guys actually have a paywall and call non-subscribers “Mufatkhors”. I think getting exclusive content cheapens my contribution to your cause. You should poll the subscribers and if they feel the same, then you should take down the paywall. Of course, if the paywall keeps you guys afloat then you should definitely keep it. I think you should definitely stop calling non-subscribers “Mufatkhors”. I think it might piss them off and reduce the chances of them subscribing. If these suggestions aren’t useful, feel free to flush them down the toilet. Keep doing what you’re doing and never give up.

Anonymous

Hi NL Team,

The anonymous South Indian subscriber is back with a rebuttal or clarification.

Reacting immediately after my usual Hafta dosage, the tone of my email was caustic.

I regret that but am I calling South Indians better?

I was just expecting clarity from you to mention about Kamal’s positioning as a centrist (he did mention that so many times) besides his personal left leanings. Either it was selective representation of his interviews or selective viewing of his interviews. Oh!! Am I saying that all South Indians are level-headed?

My previous mail was in the context of Madhu and Anand’s discussion about film stars and politics (especially in the south/Tamil Nadu) and the logic of people (especially those suffering) expecting a replica of the hero’s filmi antics in real life. I disagreed with that by saying Jayalalithaa’s onscreen persona was different (in hindsight, Karunanidhi would have been a better example as he was associated with films but as a screenwriter, not a hero to replicate onscreen magic).

So, am I thumping my chest over the superiority of South Indians?

All I meant was people are ready to listen to film personalities compared to a normal citizen but that doesn’t always translate into votes as there are a lot of other factors to it. Though MGR was an exception, he was in politics and films simultaneously and did not become an overnight politician.

So, am I claiming South Indians make better choices than North Indians?

Among the factors for electoral victory in South India (especially TN), I mentioned “caste politics” and “voter bribing” besides the politics around TN’s special interests. OMG!! Am I still talking of the “rationality” of South Indians??

The point I tried to highlight was the tendency in the Hafta panel to look down upon people when they choose a film personality as a CM. And TN, repeatedly making such a choice, is still a better governed state purely by human development indices and other numbers (Anand will help you find those statistics, like IMR). Does that mean, I am claiming Tamil/South Indian supremacy?

My previous mail or the above mentioned thoughts doesn’t deny deficiencies in their governance or the existence or problems around hero worship. But such choices are not always bad and hero worship doesn’t “solely” translate into electoral victory. “Blind” followers contribute to really a small percentage of votes. BTW, Anand, that 5 per cent statistic was a rough figure, but I can give you a taste of your own “data analysis” medicine.  Rajini’s Twitter followers = ~4million . Considering they are all from TN and all are “blind” followers.  40 lakh/7 crore (TN population) ~0.05. So you have 5 per cent now. This analysis has a lot of problems just like your usual tweet count analysis. Still, am i calling South Indians, an epitome of perfection?

Not once in my mail did I mention a word about my North Indian brothers and sisters. I welcome your criticism of choices we South Indians make, but do not reduce it to people believing entirely on onscreen personality. So, am i belittling my North Indian friends even now?

Just the way Madhu and Anand like Rajini’s off-screen persona, there are people who like that here too. But is that enough for his electoral victory? At least, the social media (this is no measure of electoral success) has different (a lot of negative) stories to tell you (due to his indecisiveness). Does it mean I am claiming South Indians are more sensible?

Sorry Abhinandan, if the tone of my previous email sounded in the affirmative for all the questions I posed above. But I hope you got the answers for all my questions clearly now. If not, let me reiterate, NO. SOUTH INDIANS ARE NOT SUPERIOR/INFERIOR TO NORTH INDIANS. But do not reduce “our” political/electoral choices to mere fan craze as that is completely unacceptable. AND kindly have South Indian political analysts/journalists when you discuss any South Indian issue in details (Dhanya, Sudhir, Ramanathan have added a lot of value to Hafta earlier). Simple!!!!

Hope you read this because you claimed in the Hafta that I was speaking of South Indians rationality/superiority with respect to North Indians’ sensibilities which is not true.

Regards,

Anonymous

Hi NL Team,

In addition to what I wrote earlier regarding Abhinandan’s reaction to a letter from Anonymous, I would like to share a few other things that I wanted to mention about this Hafta. I’ll keep this as bullet points as I don’t want this to be too long:

1) Padmavati issue: A good amount of time was spent in discussing this issue on Hafta this week. The discussion was good indeed, with various points of view, yet I found that this took too much time. It’s become a pattern for the past few years where every time there is an election close by or when there are serious issues to be discussed, we have issues like Padmavati, which occupies all the news space as if there is nothing else happening. Examples being the JNU row, followed by Kanhaiya Kumar and his associates appearing on the news all the time. The Dadri Lynching followed by the Award Wapsi debate. What relevance does this movie have to any commoner? I guess every time such silly issues become headlines on national media, the real question we should be asking is “what news is being sidelined?” Faye D’Souza in her show discussed farmer protests in Delhi which had over three lakh farmers participating not sure if anyone else covered this. At times, I feel that NL too kind of gets thrown off the track as they discuss more about what made news rather than what did not. Again, NL does discuss about a lot on what did not make the news but I feel that has to be highlighted more.

I’d like to see two podcasts per week. One being the usual NL Hafta which should be more of a critique of items that made news. In addition, another podcast consisting of important items that did not make headlines or was discussed less.

2) Abhinandan’s comment regarding Kevin Spacey sexual harassment:  Madhu ma’am summed up this discussion really well and made such valid and relevant points. Our perspective is often defined by our upbringing, the environment that one grows up in and the value system. At first my reaction to Abhinandan’s comments where he says something like you have to man up (paraphrasing) was very similar to how Manisha reacted on the podcast. Abhinandan, I guess went to a boarding school where one would be exposed to a certain kind of bullying or ragging which is at times sexual in nature. However, for someone who has had no exposure to such an environment would have a tough time processing the incident. I have a friend, a national-level karate champion who said she completely froze when she faced an incident of harassment on the road just because she was not mentally prepared for a situation like that. Trauma and the cause for trauma is not an easy thing to understand and I don’t think we can generalise. What I find traumatic need not and may not be traumatic for someone else. I can draw a parallel to Tisca Chopra’s comment, where she said something like, “Why did girls go to Harvey Weinstein’s room and put themselves in a vulnerable position?”  Her comments may seem insensitive if you aren’t aware that she herself had to face a similar situation. I guess she was tactful/lucky enough to get out of that situation. Therefore, I guess it’s easy to have a view but not a complete perspective.  Glad that this was discussed in the way it was discussed as this discussion led to lots of thoughts regarding dealing with victims of harassment and trauma.

3) What actually should have made news: We have had multiple instances here where people have made various threats. Bounty on Bhansali’s head, another threat to break/chop off Ranveer’s legs and then to chop off Deepika’s nose. There have been so many instances earlier where death threats and bounties have been issued against Kanhaiya, Prakash Raj and so many others for speaking against religion or political leaders or parties etc. These people are never shamed or charged/arrested and roam around scotfree. Ironically, people like Kanhaiya, Prakash Raj etc. have been charged and even arrested for just speaking out against something immoral or unethical. Even media houses have faced the wrath of the administration and fringe elements for doing their job. Cartoonists and writers have been jailed under sedition charges. Even a like on a Facebook post regarding Bal Thackeray’s funeral got a girl arrested. What should have made news is that government, irrespective of which party is in power, has never acted against these fringe elements. As a result, we have a situation where we are unable bifurcate the fringe out of the government. I have not gone on to say that, the fringe is the government as we are yet to get there.  We see videos of kids being beaten up for stealing bread, Northeastern Indians/Africans being beaten up for no logical reasons by mobs being circulated on WhatsApp. We as a society are slowly developing an attitude to disregard the law of the land. Our first reaction to offensive content is not to reason with it or discuss it but to retaliate in an aggressive manner. This, I believe, is a side-effect of sensationalising irrelevant news. I don’t give a rat’s ass about whether Padmavati is offending people or not. It’s a goddamn movie which has no implication on my life. But a ban on the movie infringes on my freedom of expression. Letting people who rant about chopping off heads go scotfree undermines my belief in the justice and political system of this country. It curtails my civic rights.

I’m sure that there are social implications how our media reports a news. It’s just that there are no studies yet regarding this. I have a lot more thoughts that I’d like to share but the letter is getting too long so I’d probably write more letters in the future.

Regards,

Ujval

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