Hafta Letters: On insurgencies, e-cigarettes, NL App and more
NL Dhulai

Hafta Letters: On insurgencies, e-cigarettes, NL App and more

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

“Why everything is seen through the lens of America?”

Hi NL team,

I have watched a few videos from The Media Rumble over the last couple of weeks. It was quite interesting to see that, irrespective of the topic, there were at least a couple of references to America in all of these discussions. I must say that the same thing is true for Hafta as well. Of course, we also get a Madhu Trehan bonus whenever she is on Hafta. Whether such references add depth to the discussion is debatable, I would like to raise a different point. Why are people viewing so many issues through the lens of America? Is it the sheer laziness where people consume the easiest available narrative from American media and regurgitate it? Or is it the glamour of Hollywood that defines the culture or is it the scholarship of American universities where many of these people in elite circles have studied? Would love to know the views of the panelists on the origins of this soft power of America in India.

I must add that it was refreshing to see Abhinandan raise countries such as Russia, Turkey and Venezuela to compare conditions in India in the last Hafta. Although his voice barely hid the fact that he thought such comparisons are provocative, they are quite apt. In the world press freedom index, India stands at 140th position, more than 90 positions below USA and within 10 spots of Russia and Venezuela and within 20 spots of Turkey. Given the direction where media freedom is headed, these countries are a good reference point of what we can expect over the next few years in India.

Mohit Singh


 On the fundamental difference between insurgencies in the Northeast and Kashmir  

Dear Hafta Team,

This is pertaining to the question raised by Mr Abhinanadan regarding the fundamental difference between insurgencies in the Northeast and Kashmir, and role of religious radicalisation. As per my readings, insurgency in Northeast India were either quelled or could not grow due to certain peculiar factors:

1. Firstly, society in Northeast Indian states like Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram are highly divided in terms of tribal affiliations. And this is one of the main causes of present-day corruption and nepotism in Nagaland and Manipur. Also, the same thing has led to a lot of infighting and exploitation by the centre to manipulate insurgent movements. This has led to creation of various insurgent factions there.

2. Credit must be given to the central government of the time and leaders in Mizoram who successfully managed insurgency in the state constructively and brought peace by bringing erstwhile insurgents into mainstream governance.

3. Insurgency in Kashmir was never due to religious affiliations but radicalisation has added fuel to fire and the Indian state has failed at political level to allow such radicalisation to take place.

All the best to Newslaundry for its future events.


Vikas Chahal


On e-cigarettes


I wanted to add my 2 cents about eCigarette ban. Please keep it anonymous. I had worked in the past for a cigarette manufacturer in India and have some understanding of the ecosystem.

Firstly, eCigarettes (and nicotine patches and gums) contain concentrated nicotine and no tar. Tar is a carcinogenic substance and is the most harmful aspect of cigarettes. Nicotine is addictive but is not a carcinogenic. So these alternate methods are definitely less harmful.

The deaths caused by e-cigarettes in USA need more research. But e-cigarettes are harmful in other ways because they market themselves as safe substitutes and do attract new customers who can be kids. There should have been regulation on their marketing but banning them while cigarettes and gutkha (which as rightly pointed out by Manisha are much, much more harmful).

Regarding the ownership of Tobacco companies, if the e-cigarette market exists then cigarette players would definitely want a part of it. But their distribution is separate from regular cigarettes and hence tobacco companies don’t have any inherent market advantages. So tobacco companies will be most happy if the e-cigarette market doesnt exist and is banned. This was reflected in the share price bump of ITC and GPI.

Prima facie it looks like a lobbying win by ITC which govt went along to boost LIC holdings. Any serious attempt at reducing tobacco usage in India has to start with cigarettes and gutkha market but that wont happen because govt holds ITC shares en masse and politicians are heavily involved in cigarette, bidi and gutkha distribution.




Feedback on the previous Hafta episode 

Dear NL team

This is regarding Hafta 242, particularly the discussion on vaping.  I don’t like it when Shekhar Gupta does a better job than Hafta. Buck up, people! The only thing that was clear to me after listening to you guys was that you didn’t know much about e-cigarettes. Was that your purpose?

I just googled for “vaping” and “e-cigarettes” and it gave me these articles from the very first page. Adding “India” provides a number of media reports: this, this or this. I’ve not checked the details on any one of these articles, except to make sure that they were all dated before the 18th of September when I presume your podcast was recorded. Although I can’t testify to the authoritativeness of these posts, I think any of these would have been more informative than your section. Or you could just watch this! :-/

IMO, you’d have done better to stick with the process questions you mentioned in passing, which are news

– Why ban, rather than regulate?

– Why now?

– Why an ordinance? BTW, while I agree that parliament’s authority to legislate should remain sacred, I’d be very keen on hearing why the right to effect a ban isn’t well within executive powers. Why would a government order not suffice? That seems to be how the gutka ban is effected. What’s the difference here?

So I’m hoping to provoke a do-over, minus moral outrage, with some more background reading – I think 5-minute backgrounders would have been enough for this one?

Vijay Krishnan


On democracy and Hindutva 

Hi NL team,

My name is Dushyant. I am a regular IT guy from Pune hooked on your podcast since Episode 98 and I have been an on and off subscriber ever since.

First off, let me begin by congratulating Abhinandan and team for being able to sustain this subscriber driven news model. I’ll admit I did not think it was possible but kudos to you for being persistent and making it happen (Your scolding works!),

Now that we have niceties out of the way, here are a few thoughts of mine on recently discussed topics:

1) Abhinandan, I have heard you complain on many occasions of our nation turning away from the ideals of democracy. Democracy is rule by people/majority and hence if a larger section of society tomorrow approves of beheadings, is that not a democracy anymore? You might not agree with some of what has been happening, but it doesn’t make it undemocratic. Plato’s “Republic” warned us about this flaw of democracy which ends up rewarding not a capable governor but a capable vote-getter.

2) Coming to “Hindutva”, a word demonized by the same people who would never add the word  “Islamic” to “Terrorism”. I might be way off but I believe that the hyper-wokeness of past two decades in protecting minority rights and being politically correct has created the space which BJP has occupied now. Even in Hafta discussions, I find that sometimes the panel goes bit too far to speak for the minorities and while that is admirable, it alienates the majority and shames them for no reason. Just like all Muslims are not terrorists, all Hindus are not bhakts. I hope in future you guys do not hesitate to call a spade a spade.

I really love your work and admire your panel. Anand and Manisha are my favorites and I love their varied perspectives. Abhinandan I wish you all the best with Newslaundry and hope the venture all the successes.

Ps: As a paying subscriber, I demand an ETA for NL app to return to function. 🙂

Thanks and regards,




About NL App – Subscriber 

Hi Team,

I’ve been a subscriber for many years now. I won’t repeat the usual good stuff which most listeners begin an email with about the great work you’re doing and why I enjoy listening to you – Indian parenting upbringing always makes me cautious while praising anyone. Also I put my money where my mouth is which counts for more no? Anyway, I digress…

Just wanted to call out that your App STILL sucks. I’ve been hearing Abhinandan say it’s going to be fixed/overhauled/made makkhan jaise for the longest period of time – this is as big a jumla as Achhe Din now. I understand issues with budgets, technology etc. But still – just to put it in perspective I’m someone who’s grown up with computers and smartphones but even I at times struggle to download an episode before getting on to a flight etc. I won’t say something dismissive like you’re taking your subscribers for granted – I trust you to think you won’t do that – but I’ll give you an example of how it is hurting you. There’re many episodes which I would particularly like family members and friends to listen to – even considered gifting a subscription to my parents – but I truly can not expect them to struggle with actually getting it to work, so eventually let it pass. This, in turn, affects your reach beyond the millennial liberals from metros and of course the stereotypical NL subscriber like the foreign PhD student – you get the drift of what I’m saying…

Anyway rant over, please make it easier for your subscribers to access your content. Maybe stop the paywall till you get it works better, or just email it to all subscribers separately. I don’t know, just fix it, please.

Lots of love,



What changing the gaze means?

Hi NL team,

I am a subscriber since Hafta 78. I live in Pune, working in an IT company.

I like the work you guys do. I haven’t missed a single episode since Hafta 78. I am a huge fan of Abhinandan and Manisha. I look up to Anand Vardhan and Madhu.

I watched The Media Rumble debate on the issue of castes with Anubhav Sinha. Could you explain what ‘changing the gaze’ means? Criticism for Article 15 was that he should have changed the gaze. Recently I watched an argument between Dilip Mandal and Arundhati Roy where same criticism was directed at her on her book Doctor and Saint (since the book introduced me to Dalit politics, fact that it could have a criticism from Dalit scholars confused me). Please discuss this if this doesn’t digress the Hafta discussion. Also, I found this essay on how to recognise privileges interesting.

Keep up the good work. All the best.


Bhushan Sawant

📢 Newslaundry