Hafta Letters: Women doctors in the services, religion and politics, changing people's minds
NL Dhulai

Hafta Letters: Women doctors in the services, religion and politics, changing people's minds

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :


This is just a Mehraj appreciation email. I have been a subscriber of NL for a while now and have been following NL since at least 2013. I think adding Mehraj in the team was honestly one of the best decisions you ever made.

I would basically pay money to have Mehraj have his own pod where he picks a specific socio-political idea like free speech and goes into detail and explain it. He is a great mind and personally if he is not concurrently writing a book on his political essays it is a travesty. Apart from that, keep up the good work.

Happy Newsing.


Raj Shekhar Sen

San Jose, California


Hi everyone.

Women doctors in the three services -- army, navy and air force -- are not only given permanent commision but are also given appointments as commanding officers of hospitals and medical units since time immemorial. In their command tenures, they have also done stellar work even in field postings and have risen to the ranks of three star generals, admirals and air marshals.

In these hospitals as is true for the rest of the army, men are drawn from all parts of the country and all socio-economic backgrounds and they do listen to the commanding officer, be it a lady or a gentleman.


Hi NL Team,

Apart from my study or work, this is first time in my life I am keen enough to write something. Please keep my name anonymous (don’t ask why as I don’t know why myself). If you are selecting my letter to read it on Hafta, then you can skip whichever parts of my letter which you want to except the part in bold letter.

I am giving little of my background so that you understand my thought process and question. I am 37 years old, working as a software engineer, stayed at many places in India and abroad over the last 15 years. I am from a middle/lower middle-class farmer family from a small town.

Though I was very good at studies from childhood (good but not good enough with English speaking still like you guys, mainly because of my background/upbringing in small town, uneducated farmer family), I find myself lucky that I managed to study engineering and get a job (though there are many like me) and explore enough of the world. I have seen many things which changed me slowly a lot over years and now I find differences in opinion between me and the people who stayed back in the town (or moved away from town but not far) or the people who moved around the world but have not experienced things which I experienced, read, listened or watched. In most of the cases, I find the reason for the difference of opinion is differences in experiences (accumulated since childhood/birth).

I have been consuming NL videos for 6-7 years (most of them). I have been listening to podcasts (Hafta and A&A) for around three years and really like them. I stopped listening to other podcasts after listening them for a while and I don’t read much of the NL articles as other more interesting or important things are taking up the rest of my time.

Though I can afford it, I subscribed to NL only a year back because of the paywall, otherwise I would have continued listening to it for free irrespective of multiple appeals from Abhinandan (may be because of my middle-class mindset towards free stuff, “Jaha fukat vaha hum prakat”). Now somehow, I made myself determined enough to keep renewing my subscription till I find value in it.

I really admire Abhinandan and Madhuji in all content and Abhinandan and Rajyasree on A&A (except on rare occasions when they farfetch things/opinions to make them appear speculative) and are the reasons for my subscription. On next level, I like Raman Kirpal sir and Atul Chaurasia. Next, I like Manisha and Meghnad but I feel they need more experience to generate same appeal like others, in me, at least.

Coming to Anand Vardhan, I find him right-wing intellectual (“right” which he may or may not like to be identified as) who brings good points to table with a dull delivery. I used to like Anand Ranganathan when he used to come on hafta but nowadays I find him bizarre when he appears on news shows which I rarely see.

I feel NL should research more on what makes people (like Anand, Arnab, etc) change their views 180 degree in news business (is it just money/power or something else, because I believe people change their views 180 degree without money/power the way I have changed mine since my childhood. But I changed mine slowly and not suddenly like these people).

Now coming to my naive question which I had in mind for long.

Madhu Trehanji is editor-in-chief of Newslaundry and her brother Aroon Purieji is editor-in-chief of India Today. Madhuji interviewed Aroon Purieji some time back and I can see that they share close bonds as brother and sister, and she admires him a lot.

Coming to news business, you guys know better than me what kind of journalism India Today and Aaj Tak do and you made fun of them or exposed them several times in your videos, podcasts (though I find them a little better than Republic, Times Now, etc). They sometimes criticise the government and the next moment, they start praising them unnecessarily, maybe to survive or make profits in business. Or on one channel, portal, or show, they criticise the government and on other the channel, portal, or show, they praise them.

I can understand that Madhuji and Aroonji have their separate businesses and do not interfere with each other’s. But for me, who is a common middle-class person coming from very humble background, trying to elevate mine, my family’s and near one's life by working hard, it is very difficult to understand why she can’t tell him to lead the business in righteous ways.

I have seen many common middle-class mothers/sisters/wives telling their sons/brothers/husbands not to do bad things even if they earn less money. If their businesses are different. then why did she not grill him in the interview over the kind of shows/news/agenda the India Today group is showing (basically doing journalism of telling truth to power and asking questions on their wrongdoings and not praising them on good things)?

As per NL, if it is common citizen’s responsibility to keep news independent (by paying for it or by not watching bad journalism, etc) or keep politicians in check (by voting or agitating, questioning, etc) then why can’t Madhuji help by convincing Aroonji to improve the quality of journalism on the channels which he controls instead of (along with) making funny videos or criticising them on Newslaundry?

If she is already doing it, then why has the quality of journalism on India Today/AajTak deteriorated over the last seven years (since NL came to existence)?

I am a slave to my habit of finding contradictions in the things which look normal to others, and that habit raises doubt in my mind about the belief that it is my (common man collectively) responsibility to contribute to betterment of the society (like good politics, good journalism, stopping climate change, helping poor, etc) when uncommon people (who keeps claiming that they are also common) don’t do the bare minimum which a common sister would do without a second thought. If she convinces Aroonji to help good journalism, the impact is very big and quick which cannot be achieved by the contribution of thousands of common citizens like me.

To be very honest, if your answer is she is afraid to lose the good relationship with a brother, or she is afraid of government pressure/action against her brother/family, then I don’t have any complaint/grievance as that’s what any common/uncommon sister would do. My intention is not to offend anyone and I can feel the good intention in the work you do but my honest intention is to get the answer to a question which I had in my mind for long.



Hi Newslaundry Team,

I hope you guys are doing well. I was just listening to Hafta 264 and heard an email from a subscriber who talked about my letter from last week, and also the suggestion from Manisha that I could join you guys for Hafta. I would be glad to have this opportunity to interact with Hafta team. I am currently based in Germany but can join through Skype/Google Hangouts/WhatsApp voice/video (Or any other service you guys prefer). Germany is just 4.5 hours behind the Indian timezone so it shouldn't be a big problem to join provided you give me the heads up 2-3 days before.

I know you guys only usually get journalists or columnists for Hafta, I am neither but I do write quite regularly for RSS affiliated newspapers and magazines, as well as for leading Marathi newspapers and Portals such as लोकसत्ता and अक्षरनामा.. So yeah, in case my views on RSS and other things are of any value to NL subscribers, please feel free to reach out. :)

Have a nice (remaining) week.

Warm Regards,

Indraneel Pole



Dear NL Team,

I really enjoyed some of the discussions last week and am fascinated by the debates Kejriwal's Hanuman Chalisa recitation has evoked, partly because I can see why people argue it IS soft Hindutva and why people argue it isn't.

I think it was Manisha who said that Gandhi too was religious and used religion to mobilise people - European style of secularism isn't possible in India. I am wondering if Abhinandan and Manisha can elaborate on this a little because while Gandhi was crucial to the freedom movement and the INC, he did not contest election himself. Is it fair to then compare Kejriwal's evocation of Hanuman bhakti during a crucial election to Gandhi's Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram?

Also, can we also take into account the fact Ambedkar had to sign the Poona pact and align with the upper castes and give up the possibility of separate electoral seats for the depressed classes? The question of separate electoral seats for Muslims is also a crucial component of politics leading up to Partition. Ambedkar, of course, eventually converted to Buddhism. When we discuss mass mobilisation, religion and politics we keep coming back to Gandhi -- because he was a mass leader, I get that. But can we also address the absence of Ambedkar from these discussions?

Ordinary Indians being religious is not something I necessarily have a problem with -- it's the assumption this sometimes leads to that upsets me. For instance, if you are Bengali, it is assumed you are Hindu, even though the state has a large number of Muslims, and even Christians. This is reflected in language. Such and such a person is Bengali, but that person is Muslim. Secondly, the privileges that accrue to one belonging to a dominant religious group mean those who are different are not called upon to define mainstream culture. Yes, you are okay with your politicians reciting Hanuman Chalisa but is it really okay these days for mainstream leaders to be seen at Iftar parties today? The fact is, I think that it is no longer acceptable.

I don't think it is a coincidence that recently Shashi Tharoor equated the La ila il allah chants with Islamism. It is not a coincidence that Sharjeel Imam's speech tests the limits of Indian liberalism and the support it will and will not offer. The space offered to upper caste Hindus to wear their religion on their sleeve is simply not the same or equal to the space offered to minorities.

I appreciate the discussions you guys have and really value your honesty in discussing your views, but I always feel we need more diverse news rooms, panel discussions, with views of different castes, classes, religions, etc. Most of you guys are upper-caste Hindus talking to other upper-caste Hindus. My own view these days is to simply accept the majoritarianism and make peace with it.

I know Abhbinandan said that RSS-BJP has taken nearly 100 years to achieve this kind of power -- yes, that is true, but one might argue that, in one way or another, this has always been the country where upper caste Hindus, especially men, have wielded disproportionate power. Please don't let your personal faith blind you to your naivete.

Thanks and Best,




I am a big fan and a great admirer of the work you do. I have been a freeloader for quite a while but eventually decided to donate to your NL Sena project. Thanks for the free 1-month subscription and the coffee mug (I'm sad that I got the Bhakt one though).

The greatest motivation to subscribe is the NL Hafta podcast. However, the fact that NL Hafta isnt available on other podcast apps immediately disheartens me. Is it possible to add authenticated or premium RSS/Podcast feeds so that other apps get the podcast as well? Something like the below -



Also, while I understand the reasons for putting NL Hafta behind the paywall, is it possible to atleast put the recommendations by the panellists on the Chhota Hafta? Or in the show notes? So that the freeloaders don't miss the books, articles or shows that might be interesting to them.

Sameer Kolpekwar