Hafta letters: Celebrities and solidarity, reopening places of worship, communism in India

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Celebrities and solidarity, reopening places of worship, communism in India
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Hello Abhinandan, Manisha, Mehraj, and the whole NL team.

I am an avid listener of Hafta and Awful and Awesome, and have been following Newslaundry for a year now. My friend gifted me a subscription of Newslaundry on my birthday last month and thanks to him, during this time of panic and lockdown, it has been my constant source of information/entertainment.

I love the work done by your team to provide content which is a value for money. I really appreciate your work of asking the hard questions that need answers and would like to thank you for existing as an independent media house. Earned a sub!

Arnab Nandi


Hi Team,

Big fan as always. I am finally a subscriber now. It was the first thing I did when I got my credit card. I was fortunate that when I started listening to Hafta, your tech went berserk and I got to listen to most of the Hafta episodes for free. I guess I felt guilty and finally subscribed.

In a previous Hafta episode, someone mentioned the lack of conservative voices in our country. I recently read Jaithirth Rao's The Indian Conservative. He puts out the history of conservative thought in India and its current situation. I disagreed on a lot of his points, but at least what he wrote was lucid and well-put. I would love to know your thoughts on him and his book and would love if you could invite him on Hafta.

Amit Varma interviewed him for an episode.

Also, I listen to Hafta and Charcha both and I cannot help but feel that Charcha is treated like a step-child While I love Atul and Meghnad on Charcha, it would help a lot if you get more guests on the show and make it on par as Hafta.

Sameer Kolpekwar


Dear NL Team,

This is my third email to the NL Team in a month and I apologise for annoying you with my mails every week. I promise I'll try to minimise the number of emails; it gets annoying after one point to receive emails from the same the person too often.

I came across something that just made me want to write this email to you and seek your opinion on it .Or maybe I just wanted to rant about it, so here it is:

This morning when I was going through my Instagram stories and I saw an Instagram influencer/model and an e-sport company not only raising their voice against the recent murder of George Floyd but also actively participating in the protest against the establishment and donating resources to various institutions to help the cause respectively. In a country where the Covid-19 situation was handled so poorly and the number of people who got infected and died because of it was so high, the last thing I'd have imagined them to do right now was to come out on the streets across the country in large numbers and raise their voice against their government, and force the same to start prosecuting the police officers in question for third-degree murder.

But that's exactly what they did. All of this happened because ONE MAN lost his life and that was enough for them to show solidarity and collectively form a movement to ensure that the law takes its course and the accused faces the law. Maybe that is not enough, but that just shows how matured their democracy is and, most importantly, how matured their people are.

An Instagram model and an e-sport company, not so powerful in their own right, but had the moral fibre to spread the message and actively participate in the movement. The moral fibre which probably many of our lords in many of our courts lack these days.

Abhinandan said on a Roli Books panel discussion wiht Nidhi Razdan that it was also partly their fault to not name and shame the people carrying fake stories in the name of journalism, and had they called out such people in the beginning, the situation then wouldn't have snowballed into what it is today. Don't you think that by reporting the lynchings in our country as just another law and order situation, or as "isolated incidents", we have done the same thing?

A migrant worker gets burned alive because he committed the cardinal sin of following a religion which was different than that of the majority. A priest while addressing a gathering promises that one Hindu getting killed will be retaliated by killing 100 Muslims and we reward him with the chief ministership of the largest state in the country. A 16-year-old boy on a train gets stabbed and killed, for doing what? For being a Muslim, and nothing but that.

Victims of riots are being labelled as the perpetrators of the same and the court allows such bogus investigations to continue as well, with maybe just a warning and that too very rarely? I was told by a former judge that a judge has only his conscience to answer to and nothing else and if their conscience is telling them to do what they are doing now, then I have nothing but fear for the future.

Did we not allow these "isolated incidents" to happen too often by restricting our voice to only social media? Maybe if we did do something we wouldn't have had the learned member of the bar, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, referring to journalists, intellectuals and senior members of the bar as "vultures" and "prophets of doom" in our society.

Another funny thing (and believe me it really is funny) that happened was Kareena Kapoor Khan showing solidarity to George Floyd by posting a picture on Instagram that said "Black Lives Matter" as she rightly should, but I guess a child trying to wake her mother up from what she thinks is "sleep" was not important enough for her to show solidarity to. A doctor being stripped off his clothes for demanding PPE kits, 80 migrant workers dying on the so-called "Shramik Special" trains, a four-month-old dying of hunger — all of this is not important enough for our "heroes" to show solidarity to.

Every time Abhinandan criticised the Khans and Kapoors or Johar for whatever reason it might be, I never really paid any attention to it and thought that was unnecessary. But after what has followed in the country, I don't even have an iota of respect for these so-called stars, barring a few. And may they stay as easy targets of politicians for eternity and suffer the way the neglected ones have suffered and probably, one may hope in due course, will learn some humility as well.

In the end, I would just like to say that I am tired and angry and very much aware of the fact that WE ALL failed our working class and for that, we deserve to be called out (more than that even), you and me both.

I do have one request: Would it be possible for you to tell us on Hafta or any other podcast who will be your guest in the next episode, if you have any, and that way we can write some specific questions to your guest about their field?

And another thing I would like to add is it would be better if you can focus your attention a little bit more on our eastern neighbour. The coverage it received on Hafta 278 was not adequate and since everybody is focused on Covid right now, maybe you guys can bring some other guests who are expert in foreign policy or defense, and have a detailed discussion and do something different?

Apart from all this, just wanted to let you guys know — as most of your subscribers let you know every week, and rightly so — that you guys are great and Manisha is even greater. Abhinandan is lit. Mehraj is every leftist father's dream child. Stay safe, stay healthy, and as Ragnar Lothbrok said to his son Ivar the Boneless: "Be ruthless".

Kingshuk Dasgupta



I have been an on-off subscriber for three to four years now.

I will not get in too deep as to why I unsubscribed; maybe that is for another mail. I re-subscribed when I saw an email from Abhinandan last week calling for support amidst these tough times. I hope this email by me is read, as previous 3-4 haven't been read or even replied to.

I enjoy your coverage a lot, with Abhinandan Sekhri being my favoirite. I really enjoy Manisha’s Newsance too.

In previous years, I have subscribed most consistently to NL but i have also paid for subscription to the Wire and Swarajya.

I stopped subscribing to all three last year as I found these outlets, including NL, becoming increasingly ideologically one sided. Even though both these outlets provide much less nuance than NL, the quality of their websites and apps exceeds NL considerably.

I have three points. Please do not take the following comments as arrogant or ungrateful.

Please do not take the following comments as arrogant or ungrateful.

1) For the past year, I have been following Lallantop and the Print, and I find their coverage much less ideological and much more extensive. I do not know their financing, but I and many of my friends tend to be very happy with their coverage. The depth and width of their coverage is enough to want to shell out Rs 200-300 a month for these outlets.

But even though I plan on continuing my NL subscription for the foreseeable near future, I do not feel I get enough from it. Especially given the poor app and website. Additionally, I want to keep supporting independent journalism but financially, I can't support all the independent outlets — Print, Lallantop, NL — for Rs 200-300 each.

Could there be a pooling of online money which goes to support all these outlets? Especially since I heard other journalists also plan to go behind the paywall.

2) While I totally agree that newsrooms in general need caste and religious representation, equally, or more importantly, it needs ideologically diverse representation. A calm, un-vociferous, and apparently docile Anand Vardhan is not enough. A bellicose and hyperventilating Anand Ranganathan-like figure is missed in NL from my point of view (THOUGH I DON'T AGREE WITH THESE TWO GUYS ON MOST STUFF).

I feel NL should strongly find representation from the other side of the aisle, especially as I understand Madhu Trehan is no longer at NL full-time.

3) I tend to be more disappointed with NL's science coverage. Maybe you can try and work on that.

PS: I wasn't a fan of Shekhar Gupta, but his corona videos along with Sandhya Ramesh's science videos are exceptionally good in an otherwise illogical and, at times, stupid corona coverage in the Indian media space.

Gaurav Lele



Continuing on the question I asked on NL Chatbox last week.

Mehraj said that basically communism does what religions, Constitution and the writings of Friedrich Hayek do; they lay down principles for man. How an individual SHOULD be.

That’s exactly what I meant: communism as a set of ideals in a democracy and not the form that it has taken in China and Russia.

My problem is that in India, if I see anyone standing up for ideals and principles, it is the Left. Countless times I have seen Hanhaiya, Umar or Kavita arguing on the basis of the Constitution, Marxist literature, or basically a book. I don’t remember any BJP leader in the recent past quoting from a book or standing up from the marginalised.

I am constantly inspired by Indian communists because they take principled positions and stand with the marginalised. In a country like ours, with inequality like no other place, isn’t that something we need? The Congress’s liberal types seem to do it sometimes but it is unlikely that they will actually come out on the streets and become one with the people.

Sure, all -isms are dogmatic, as Raman said, but we could really use some idealism from Indian communists because thanks to the current dispensation, people seem to have forgotten Gandhi, Ambedkar and the like. Your thoughts?

Also, have you guys checked out the Instagram Live conversations between Kavita Krishnan and Raghu Karnad? They are very insightful.

Rohan Wadhwa


Hello Newslaundry team! This is Vikhyath.

I understand the barrage of emails you get these days so I will try to keep this short.

On the previous Hafta (278), there was the discussion on opening up of religious places of worship in Karnataka. The discussion mostly revolved around the necessity of it based on us as worshippers. I think the scope of this discussion could have been broadened to include all the various entities involved Vikhyath right from the flower shops outside these religious spots, to the local factories making all the pooja ingredients and selling them. Like for many people, even their livelihood has been severely affected due to the lockdown, and if there is any respite that can be provided to them at this point, I think it should be seriously considered.

And while I agree that worship needs no place and gatherings in these places can be avoided, it also needs to be understood that it is not as easy for those who have been visiting these places regularly to pray for their well-being. Especially in these unprecedented times, when scores of people are probably going through the toughest phase in their lives, they would wish to turn to their beliefs in the hope for some respite.

Of course, this should be subject to strict adherence to all health and hygiene measures. But the proposal for their opening should not be dismissed easily.

Stay safe!



Dear Abhinandan and the Newslaundry team,

I hope all of you are doing alright in times of Covid and keeping safe.

I have been a Newslaundry content consumer for a long time. I am really glad that I finally managed to subscribe (Abhinandan's email last week gave me the final push). I have a long commute of about 2.5 hours everyday to work and back. My favourite thing to do during this time is to listen to A& A and NL Hafta ( so happy that I will be able to access full Hafta now). My drive is so much better with Abhinandan and Rajyasree's banter and takes on pop culture for the week. I go back to watching many of the recommendations.

Since I don't reside in India anymore, NL Hafta is a great and concise source of content on what has happened within a week in India. After all this times, it has been my go-to source of news for the week. It refreshing to hear different takes by the panel and have a discussion around them.

It is so important for media to have an independent voice of its own, to criticise and praise without obvious political/corporate bias. I am so glad Newslaundry is doing that and we as subscribers can contribute to it in some way.

I look forward to consuming more content now that I am not a muftakhor!

Neesha Parikh


Hey team,

You guys are doing a great job and have kept me quite busy and thoroughly amused in this lockdown, so a heartfelt thanks!

I had a question and haven’t reached a conclusion yet. I wish Yoda was real, but you’re as awesome so: Should our “influencers” — namely Priyanka Chopra, Disha Patani, and the like — be called out for their hypocrisy and their selective outrage?’

I have read both sides and both seem to make sense but nothing conclusive.

All my love and admiration.

Shweta Hiya

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