Hafta letters: Centrism in a diagram, a lawyer's take on police brutality, jingoistic journalists

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Centrism in a diagram, a lawyer's take on police brutality, jingoistic journalists
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Hello Team NL,

This is Pratyay. I am writing this mail in reference to Hafta 282. Certain comments that were made in the Hafta — as to what has prompted China to flex its muscle amid a global pandemic — made a compelling case for me to share my views on this.

The argument that a statement made by Amit Shah in the Indian Parliament might have motivated Beijing to display its arrogance on India's northern border seems laughable. China, apart from being a major civilisational nation, is also a $14 trillion economy with almost every global supply chain emanating from their cities. Not to mention their powerful armed forces that they have developed over the past three decades. Attributing China's arrogance to Amit Shah's statement, no matter how powerful he might be in India, blesses him with too much importance in the global power game. Believe me, Beijing doesn't give a rat's fart as to what the home minister of India says.

The fact is that what India is witnessing today is the physical manifestation of the power differential that has grown several-fold between Delhi and Beijing over the past three decades. China was just biding its time and waiting for a chance to show the world what it is capable of. The growing warmth between Delhi and Washington, DC has just added fuel to the fire. China is not only harassing India but also engaging in aggressive posturing in many parts of the world. Countries like Australia, Canada, Japan and Vietnam are the other global players apart from India that are facing the brunt of a powerful Beijing.

So long as India doesn't invest money and thought to improve its infrastructure, education models, supply chains, ports, and domestic policy-making machinery, India will never be the global player it aspires to be. We can ban as many apps as we want, but nothing constructive is ever going to come out of all this unless we put our best minds to the above-mentioned points.

As usual, NL content is awesome. To understand Mehrajji's views on caste, I have now personally started reading Dalit literature available, starting with Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste.

Manishaji's Newsance is fun to watch. I sometimes wonder how much effort goes into making those crisp videos with authentic content and dark humour.

Keep up the good work, NL.


Pratyay Choudhury



There is no need to include this or name it in the Hafta. A small reply will suffice.

Some suggestions:

1) Please time-stamp the recording time on all videos and podcasts, and also on their description pages when you upload them.

2) Please include a tab on your website where everything uploaded on the website is sorted date-wise, and a user can search for specific dates to search for a article. It will also help you to quickly reference your articles in your podcasts. It will also give a daily newspaper-like feel to the NL website.

3) We miss the old Abhinandan interviews. Please start a specific fortnightly series for this.

4) Please call Professor Faizan Mustafa, the vice-chancellor of Nalsar, on NL Hafta or arange an NL interview with Meghnad. This is our long-pending request.

5) We sometimes feel that Hindi articles and videos/podcasts are given less priority on NL website. I think that the quality of articles and podcasts on NL Hindi are much better than its English counterpart. If Lallantop can make themselves famous in the Hindi belt with good journalism, NL Hindi can also help spread the name of NL. I sometimes feel that the Hindi version is given less priority as your team thinks that only the English elite will pay for the subscription. Sorry for sounding so harsh in the last line.

6) The timestamp of the article upload date should also include the information of its revision or updates, if any. It will help to ensure transparency.

7) I really liked the interviews with old Newstrack journalists who covered the Kashmir conflict in the 1990s. It will be great if the same can be arranged for other Newstrack videos, particularly for Ayodhya coverage.

8) Please invite Saurabh Dwiwedi, Lallantop, and Ravish Kumar, NDTV, together on the same stage. It will be great if Abhinandan can moderate them.

9) Please upload NL Chatbox Zoom sessions for subscribers.

Sorry for the long list of suggestions.




HI NL Team,

I have been a long-time subscriber and hope to continue being so. A big shout-out to Anand Vardhan. Although ideologically opposite to most of his views, I find his articulation brings intellectual heft to the otherwise nonchalant banter format of Hafta, and provides perspectives very different from other panelists on the podcast.

This email is in reference to the journalistic coverage of the India-China border dispute and will end up being another rant against Indian journalists, just like my previous one. We have gone past all levels of lunacy and buffoonery in the mainstream media and this is probably a lost cause, but I do have a couple of human interest questions.

How is it that journalists find it alright to exhibit their patriotism when reporting national security issues? Doesn't all this jingoism around valour and courage of the army take away from the objectivity of the story? I know some of them have to play to their galleries, but I am referring to the few sensible ones left. Isn't it deeply problematic for journalists to take sides (even if it's for national security issues) rather than report facts?

I believe good journalists should be open and free of notions around borders, nationalism and religion. Nation states are merely tools of pragmatism and convenience. Associating pride or otherwise on these imaginary borders just seems so trivial. But then again, that's just my opinion and don't want to digress.

Somehow the military is a holy cow! Not that these things have to be taught in journalistic schools, shouldn't this be some of the vital tenets of journalism? It's bothersome to see these journalists with zero conception of constitutional democracy overlook human rights abuse, but find every opportunity up their sleeves to exhibit patriotism.

Would love to hear the panel's thoughts!


Sandeep Ghatikar


Hi NL,

Lots of love and best wishes for each of you as well as the organisation. I am an engineer turned writer exploring the digital marketing domain, and a freelance educator at Unacademy (for SSC and UPSC). I have been an NL subscriber for more than three years now and I am sure that the way things are going ahead at your end, I will continue to be one.

This is my fourth email, which I am writing after a gap of one year. I would be glad if you could pick it up for the coming Hafta. The letter is 884 words, which means it has exceeded the stipulated word-count limit, but I will try to keep it short so that you can read it out in the Hafta or even present the gist of it.

I primarily love NL because of its ad-free model as well as its core competency as a media critic. Ground reporting is essential for any media house, so is with you. But the media critic aspect is gold, keep doing that with full vigour and enthusiasm. I must emphasise that the pandemic has also taken a hit on some of my income sources, which is why I had to cut down on other expenses. Still, I did not stop the NL subscription.

I am saying this not to put myself on some pedestal, but to highlight how indispensable independent media is, in general, and more so in times like this when a myriad of fake news and paid propaganda is going around on all digital and TV platforms.

Your NL Hafta discussion on various topics are very fascinating and enlightening. Being a UPSC aspirant for more than three years, I could not let go of the habit of reading the Hindu and Indian Express, especially the opeds. However, I still depend on NL Haftas to frame a large portion of my opinion pertaining to public issues. Furthermore, the banter on the panel is surreal and acts as a cherry on the top, which no other media outlet can ever provide.

I have observed that the discussion on centrism always crops after every second or third Hafta, so I am putting an honest effort to settle it for once and for all with the help of a simple diagram.

The first circle is a utopian division of Left and Right issues (not proportional to population) with a diameter (thick black vertical line) and centre (yellow colour). The people on the diameter claim to be centrist (read: fence-sitters).

In a utopian world, the first circle would contain political views of people on various issues (including the six issues in the diagram) from both sides of the spectrum. If we take the example of any of these six issues, the centrists in the first circle would be weighing in on both pro- and anti- views which would be surrounded on the economic and human values of all these issues. But, in all probability, give the primacy to the human values rather than that economic aspect.

However, it is an irony that in 2020 India, even these centrists' opinions of the utopian circle (the first circle) will also be labelled as leftist. Even those who were slightly right of centre are labelled today as leftist because of the second circle.

The new centrists’ opinion (of the second circle) actually would be usually considered a right-wing opinion in the first circle. These would generally be surrounded by arguments such as “economic benefits” and “for the greater good”, etc etc Further, if we go by the rule of mathematics, the new line is also not a diameter but actually a chord*. This chord also makes the arc of political discussion among bhakts very narrow. So, this eventually explains why bhakts and extreme RW agree on almost every social and economic issue.

Moreover, the pliant media houses and WhatsApp University have managed to create a perception among the masses that the new line (chord*) is the diameter of the second circle. Therefore, today, even those issues that are related to basic human values and were part of the so-called centrists’ discussion are now labelled as LW propaganda or a communist conspiracy. The biggest examples are such RW opinions on cow-related mob lynchings, the issue of Kashmiris, and Delhi riots.

However, in the post-ideological world, it is important to call out governments irrespective of which ideology they belong to. Furthermore, I feel that all ideologies seem somewhat rational and logical until they come to power, be it the Left in Bengal, Samajwadi (socialism) in Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar, RW in today’s India, so on and so forth.

I hope the explanation was not too complex to understand. My apologies if this does not explain the issue at hand. If required, I can try and explain it better in a subsequent letter with a better diagram.

Once again, love for all and critiquing the media. Apart from the stand-up artists, two or three newspapers, and some online news portals, not many have the spine and resources to do this task as fearlessly as it is required to be done. Wish you all the best.

*Chord: The chord is a line segment that joins two points on the circumference of the circle. A chord only covers the part inside the circle.

Rohit Vishal Pandey


A brief mail on the latest NL Hafta.

While ending the segment on the police in Tamil Nadu murdering two people, Abhinandan tried to articulate an important point: at what point should it be considered legitimate for a person to beat up an attacking police officer? I agree with him that the question is non-trivial and in a proper legal setting, the courts could resolve them. After all, the court and the police belong to different pillars of our government and should be able to function independently of each other.

After talking about that, you went into a listener email about Shajeel Usmani and his comments about Shahrukh Pathan. One by one, the panelists insisted that if he were part of the Newslaundry team, he would have to disown his tweet as it was too controversial. But I was puzzled that no one brought back Abhinandan's comment on police brutality and self-defense. The conditions surrounding Shahrukh Pathan are not completely clear and murky. It happened in the middle of the riots where, if you remember, the police were, at best, passively observing the violence and, at worst, actively facilitating. Would it be reasonable for a defendant to expect some sympathy from the people in such a situation?

I would not like to butt in with my thoughts on the matter, but I would like to know your views on the question presented.


Vaibhav Dwivedi


Hello Newslaundry team,

I am a regular listener of NL Hafta and I noticed Abhinandan was asking whether we can beat the police back if they beat you and as an armchair lawyer, I would like to pitch in.

Can I beat the police back?

Short answer: Yes, but they can get back at you. So it is advisable to not beat them back.

Long answer:

Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code says, "if a police officer tries to lawfully arrest you, they can use all means to arrest you if you are resisting arrest", and Section 99 of the Indian Penal code says, "a person doesn't have the right to self-defense against an action of a public servant, as long as the act is done good faith and it doesn't cause grievous hurt or death."

But the problem is Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which says: "the police can lawfully arrest you, without a warrant, if they suspect you of committing a cognizable (serious in nature) offense". So at any instance, the police can cook up offences like criminal intimidation or attempt to murder which are serious offences and they can beat you saying you have resisted arrest.

But don't lose hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Supreme Court is aware of the police atrocities and it has ordered the state government to set up a PCA (police complaints authority) which is supposed to be headed by a retired Supreme/High Court judge and its sole purpose is to look into the abuse of power by the police. Lot of states haven't set up a PCA properly but things are changing for the better. Respective high courts are questioning why state governments haven't set up PCAs properly and it is inevitable that states will fall in line since the public pressure is mounting too.

So until then, whenever a police threatens you, make sure you record it and publish it in social media. Currently the Indian police are more scared of social media than of the Indian judiciary.

Sridhar Periasami


Hi all,

Before you read, please don’t give me the context blah blah after you read this email. Give me some more nuance.

Recently I was talking to friends on our own ways of ingrained racism: the kalus (I have been called that), the motus , nafisis , chinkys, the latest "snowflakes" (as if gender and colour ones were not enough), so on. When pointing out that these are slurs to my friends, I got the most Indian reply: "Arey yaar, why do you want to stretch all this, he/she did not mean that and at the end, let’s talk something else." That is, let’s brush it under the carpet like it does not exist!

I felt the same when I heard Abhinandan saying, "I don’t want my kids and nephews to read the papers today." Dunno how it will affect their minds ! Like you, I am also a hostel boy (me in the 1990s , you probably in the 1980s), actually not sure if you are — presuming here. But current affairs, reading Frontline, Outlook, the Week, India Today — that was my favourite pastime. And that was the basis of the formation of my world views.

Kids today have to read, have to see, and have to make up their minds on how they see these things. The post millennials like Greta and Emma Gonzalves have the spine to do things that your generation or mine are more happy to forget.

The point is, don’t teach the younger generation what our parents taught us, which is "let’s just brush the inconvenience under the carpet". Let the kids see everything and decide for themselves and at the end of the day if they blame millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, baby boomers for all the rot and for doing nothing, get us have the SPINE to accept it.

Rant over. Mike dropped.




Hi team,

I have been a subscriber since January 2020 and look forward to paying to keep news free. Newslaundry is a major source from which I consume news.

This is with reference to the last Hafta where a subscriber had asked regarding Sharjeel Usmani's tweet on Sharukh, the one who pointed the gun at the police in the Delhi riots. Don't know if it would make it to the Hafta as this is not related to any current news. I had thought of writing a letter regarding this back then when you guys were discussing the Delhi riots in February, but couldn't.

Not calling Sharukh a hero or defending him for his action for whatever reason he did what he did. As I myself believe that violence is not an option one can take and there should be an alternative.

I wanted to know the panel's perspective of what one is supposed to do when a riot breaks out which is targeting a particular community and when the police is also assisting them, as it happened in Delhi, so you have no one to go back to. With what I had heard from the people who were present there, that many lives were saved by such an action by Shahrukh. Also people had guarded communities, colonies by blocking the entries by guys guarding it with whatever weapon they could get (bat, hockey stick, knives), in order to fight if rioters tried to enter the colony.

As Abhinandan had asked the panel in the last two Haftas regarding what one has to do when the police is torturing a person. As the rising cases of lynching in India, I had the question as to what one has to do, god forbid, if one is in a situation of a deadly riot or being lynched. How far should one go in self defense to protect himself, his family, his community?

Sorry for being naive as this is the first mail I am writing to you guys and couldn't have written it better. Do let me know if my thoughts are bad and also if I need some learning of basic human values. I am here to learn. :)

Anyways you guys are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

Looking forward to your NL Sena project on the Delhi riots.

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