Hafta letters: Shaming sponsors of hate TV, campus politics, and podcast ideas

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Hi Team NL,

This is solely in praise of Madhu Trehan for supporting the sit-in at Shaheen Bagh and calling out those asking why aren’t people protesting in “designated areas” like Jantar Mantar etc. Because I clearly remember the absolute apathy and ignorance with which the entire Godi Media treated the protest of Trichy farmers a couple of years ago who had to walk naked and eat a freaking rat just to make sure their voice fell on the ears of the fudgin government because people were literally dying because of drought there and the government wouldn’t declare that.


Sagar Patwal



I wanted to give my two cents on the discussion about shaming companies to stop sponsoring channels like Republic TV when they spread hate and misinformation. Even though it’s a good tactic, it could be easily misused in a country like India. Today, one can shame a brand and stop it from advertising on Republic TV. But tomorrow the rightwing troll army can do the same and shame or pressure companies to stop advertising on Ravish Kumar’s show, for example, because it is anti-national, Urban Naxal or whatever trash labels they come up with. This happened with Aamir Khan and Snapdeal.

In my opinion, this tactic was effective in the US because the key demographic is 18-35, which is largely liberal, so it’s easy to shame the advertisers as they run the risk of losing the key demographic. A related anecdote: when Nike released an ad supporting Colin Kaepernick, rightwingers started posting videos of them burning Nike shoes. But it didn’t really affect the sales or finances because white folks burning shoes are probably not their target demographic.

If you read this email on the Hafta, you can use this cue to plug NL, because only someone like NL can call shit like this out without fear of repercussions.


Jesal Parekh


Dear Hafta Team,

I have been your subscriber for the past three years and would like to thank you guys, first for introducing me to the world of podcasts – yes, yours was the first podcast that I started listening to – and secondly for sparing me the torture of watching TV news where only one programme is played on every channel, called Will be India’s Next Screamer.

Madhu, please keep dropping in at least once every month. I am big fan from Newstrack time. I was in my first year of college when the Mandal Commission happened. You were the only one with reach when it came to unbiased media even then.

Note for Abhinandan. You keep discrediting millennials. My daughter Ashima subscribed to NL when she was a student, and she is the one who introduced me to you guys. And, yes, I want Anand to be more regular on Hafta. His insights are always a thinking point for me.

You guys are doing good work, keep rocking.

Best regards,

Shalini Prakash


Dear Newslaundry,

A warm hello with a lot of love from the frozen Newfoundland in Canada.

I had been following your work for five years as a muft khor (as Abhinandan would fondly call me) but just subscribed to support good journalism in the time of crisis.

I agree with Manisha that it was extremely disappointing that Delhi’s air pollution didn’t make it to the election issues, just like India’s climate and water crisis were missing from the Lok Sabha election 2019. It was exciting to hear that you were considering doing new podcasts on economy and science in collaboration with subscribers. If the plan goes ahead, I would love to voluntarily contribute with my knowledge to bring more exciting climate science and environmental information to your listeners. Not sure if there exists a podcast that actually shares knowledge about science and climate.

As for me, I’m a graduate student in Atmospheric Science and Oceanography at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, currently working on North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean and Climate Change and its implications. Previously, I was in India at the University of Pune and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, where I studied Indian monsoons and got to contribute a bit to the Centre for Science and Environment.

Also, I lead the board of directors at the Indian Youth Climate Network who have significantly contributed to climate change mobilisation among youth in the past. Currently, we are rediscovering ourselves. I’m a seasoned storyteller in my free time, which mostly is done from the stage at storytelling festivals.

I look forward to hearing from you about whether we could collaborate and bring something new to the table.

Best regards,

Gaurav Madan


Some suggestions.

1) Now seems the right time to have a Let’s Talk About on campus politics. Given how things are playing out and how some of it has echoes of what’s happened before, if you choose to do it, I have a wishlist.

  • One, could you make sure Anand tells us why he is so angry about this? I often wonder if he’s only upset that the students come out with maximalist demands and the media sings their praises without asking questions? Or whether it’s the one-sidedness of a narrative that celebrates chants of “freedom”? In any case, I would request you to ask him for his analysis of the current system and then, when he is done, pin him down and ask him what he actually thinks. :p

  • Please talk about the Left and how they have organized unions on campus. I mostly agree with Abhinandan on how the young naturally lean Left, and that's fine. However, being young is also about seeking belonging. And right now students seem to have choices: the hard nationalist one which lets you group with "all of the country", the proletarian group that connects you with the downtrodden of the world, and the clientelistic wheely-dealy ones. I think a thoughtful analysis of reasons and prognosis would be interesting.

  • Please mind that some of us have only watched campus politics from afar. I went to a medical school where the entire undergraduate student body was 500 people. We held “deep” political discussions about the meaning of liberalism, but never really organized (because we were mostly elites who mostly hadn’t fought for anything before, and didn't know how. I now wonder at the ways we probably silenced people who held other views).

  • In the interest of balance this must have non-leftist voices, preferably from Kerala or Bengal. My parents taught medical students in Kerala, and I grew up hearing about campus boycotts and violence by the Congress and the Left. Their “youth wings” would routinely beat up students of opposing political views in the streets just outside the college or supply weapons, resources or manpower to campus politicians. I’m not saying this justifies the most recent ABVP nonsense. What I am saying is that this is also part of being a student – overreactions and end-justifies-the-means approaches to whatever you think is the right way to deal with “oppression”. Some of this plays out in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and, this may be a big ask, you could talk to Sudhir Mishra or some of the other writers about their research.

  • I’d also be keen to hear Sudipto Mandal on this, and his take on violence as a legitimate mode of getting things done on campus when he was a Hafta guest.

  • Could you please also look at the trajectories of union politicians: how many JNUSU leftists end up joining the Congress or even the BJP after fighting with NSUI/ABVP on campus? Interesting cases are those of Nirmala Sitharaman and her husband.

2) This is a great time to put out a survey of what subscribers might want from the app. May I request a podcast player that allows background play?

3) I think a weekly or monthly format doesn’t work for your features. Why not commission Let’s Talk About season-wise? Like you’ve done for Consti-tuition? Have four episodes, say and put up NL Sena projects for them if you need to.

Vijay Krishnan


Hello Newslaundry Team,

My name is Indraneel and I’m a longtime subscriber. I’ve decided to write this letter after listening to your latest Hafta 262. But first, the customary “Y’all are doing a great job and keep it up!”

So, in Hafta 262, Abhinandan talked about how people are more gravitated towards paying for news than paying for views, and it immediately resonated with me so much. To give you the background, I am a supporter of the BJP and the Modi government. I have been an RSS swayamsevak since the age of six, have held positions in RSS shakhas and been trained in RSS camps. (We call it in the RSS pratham, dwitiya or tritiya varsh shikshit, tritiya varsh being the highest level of training after which you usually go out as a fulltime worker). Despite this, I am an NL subscriber and plan to be one for a long time despite my ideological differences with most of the NL team.

You know the reason? The reason is the quality of the content NL produces. I used to wonder why I am happy paying NL and not platforms like Swarajya when the latter are more towards my ideological inclination, and I kind of agreed with Abhinandan’s view on this. It is the news that you are more likely to pay for rather than views, because views are, well, just views.

That also shows on my social media behaviour. I follow most of the rightwing (albeit sane) people on Twitter, but when it comes to news I do usually prefer to visit sources that can challenge my views and enhance my understanding, instead of just confirming my biases.

So yeah, thanks for validating my behaviour with your analysis, Abhinandan. Next time any of you are in Germany, do give me a chance to host you. Also, I would love to contribute to anything NL does in the field of Science and Technology. I write regularly in this domain for Marathi daily and magazines.

Till then :)

Warm regards,

Indraneel Pole


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