Hafta 262: PSA slapped on Kashmiri leaders, Delhi election, and more

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In this episode of NL Hafta, Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone, and Anand Vardhan of Newslaundry are joined by journalist Faye D’souza

They discuss the issue of Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah being slapped with the Public Safety Act. Mehraj gives the historical context of the draconian law and what its application entails.

Faye says laws like the PSA are emergency laws and "we are obviously no longer in an emergency". “If you join all of these dots, the suggestion that because people are making statements in your opposition you’re going to keep them in detention is actually very worrying for a democracy,” she adds.

Abhinandan expresses his concern over Prime Minister Narendra Modi using a quote from a satirical website to denounce Abdullah. "When the PM says something that's a headline on a satire website, it shows the level of politics we have gone into now,” he remarks.

Faye points out that the government has not provided any evidence that the Kashmiri leaders intended to incite violence. Even if they wanted to mobilise people to protest in case they were released, it would be their democratic right.

Abhinandan then discusses comedian Kunal Kamra’s ambush of Republic TV boss Arnab Goswami with Prateek Goyal, Newslaundry's correspondent based in Pune. Prateek argues that by tweeting a mildly abusive rant against Goswami, Kamra did what he accuses Goswami of. Abhinandan, on the other hand, sticks to his argument that people in positions of power need to be held accountable for their conduct.

Anand adds to the discussion saying one should stick to more formal language in such instances, especially in public. “The language of his heckling, in my view, was in poor taste," he says, referring to Kamra. Faye chimes in, “Apart from the legal aspect, there’s the ethical grey that our country seems to have discarded.”

Manisha says people need to file civil defamation suits against mediapersons who daily demonise them. “If you are going to keep saying something that puts lives in jeopardy, it’s no joke anymore,” she says. “And you can't keep appealing to their good sense.”

Moving on to the next big news, Manisha expresses sadness that the Delhi election discourse does not include pollution as a major issue. On the TV coverage of the election, she says, “I don't think anywhere in the world it is possible for people – and blame for this is on the media – to be so careless about something so important.”

The panellists also discuss Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's singing of Hanuman Chalisa. Faye articulates her displeasure at the fact that it was a journalist who asked Kejriwal to recite the prayer. “The credibility of that news network and the journalist went completely down the drain,” she says.

In the context of the Aam Aadmi Party's campaign rhetoric, Mehraj argues, "If you’re competing for the hardcore Hindu vote with the BJP, you are not going to get that. Because the BJP has a monopoly on that.”

Reflecting the panel's collective displeasure at the Delhi election discourse, Anand opines, “Speaking from a distance of approximately a thousand kilometres in Bihar, I think the election’s coverage has been quite disproportionate to its importance in national politics.”

The panellists also talk about how religion has long played a role in India’s electoral politics, the Shiv Sena's shifting ideological positions, and much more.

To listen to the full podcast, subscribe to Newslaundry.

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