Hafta letters: Telangana state movement, defending JK Rowling, safetyism
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: Telangana state movement, defending JK Rowling, safetyism

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hello NL team,

I have some suggestions and comments.

1) Can you please add the time duration for all NL articles/reports/opeds (for example: five minute read time)?

2) Can you please inform on Hafta who you plan to invite the following week? Maybe subscribers can ask guest questions?

3) The latest Newsance episode was 10/10, at par with John Oliver. Keep it up. However, after 100 episodes, can it be conducted in a similar manner to John Oliver? That is, a 5-10 minute media rant, 15-20 minutes on on serious issues like medical, healthcare, education, etc. It could come as seasons, and Manisha might avoid going for Vipassana for her mental health.

(a) Education: I would prefer not to have any syllabus altered due to coronavirus. What's the problem with having tough papers? Also, the government can decrease the passing grade from 35/40 to 20 marks out of 100. Can Newslaundry cover the changes in syllabus by other governments?

(b) Judicial reforms: I am sure NL will discuss the killing (oh, encounter) of Vikas Dubey. However, most media (that I watch) has detailed discussions or interviews on police reforms. What I found missing was judicial reforms. Just to give broad strokes, India invests 0.08 percent of its GDP on the judiciary... Shortage of administrative staff is 50 percent and judges is 25 percent (see here, I highly recommend this podcast on judicial reforms).

Most of judges spend about 40 percent of their time on doing administrative stuff. Taking current case over-ambiguously positive, it would require at least 15 years for courts to give final verdict, if politicians don’t interfere. Isn’t it high time for courts to have some time frame, maybe three or five years? What extraordinary evidence will come up after five years?

Over 660,000 cases have remained pending for over 20 years and 131,000 for over three decades. It takes, on average, 18 years for a case to travel from district court to the Supreme Court. Delays in judiciary cost 1.5 percent of the GDP.

Could NL have some interviews/in-depth discussions with people working on judicial reforms or recommend, if any? (DAKSH institute in Bengaluru works on these issues, you could interview Harish Narasappa.)

(c) Changing history syllabus: Amish Tripathi (see here and here), Tripurdaman Singh, Sanjeev Sanyal, and Vikram Sampath — all at least by some observations seems to be sensible right-leaning individuals with interesting historical books. Major concerns by Amish or Sanjeev are that the current NCERT history is Delhi-centric and needs diversity. I take liberty to assume that like me, most of us have little idea of northeastern, western, southern, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands history. Will it be possible for NL team to interview these individuals on their books and on why it's necessary to alter the history syllabus?

I enjoy your work and appreciate all the efforts put in by you guys. Keep up the exemplary work.

Not Mufatkhor,

KA

***

The reason I wrote to NL on the linking of caste with names of villains in films was to emphasise that it's a frivolous issue presented as a commentary on casteism. Same goes for aesthetic sense and casteism, it's putting lipstick of serious critique on a trivial pig. Privileged Indians should do everything they can so that underprivileged Dalits have access to healthcare/education/opportunities/safety, like the panel and I do. In that distant future, when a Dalit does have all that, do you really think it would matter to him/her that I consider Nusrat more refined than Altaf Raja?

It can be argued racism is part of the American fabric; slavery/segregation abolished, Obama became president, there has been progress but racism is not dead. Snooty white people consider rap music as inferior, so what?

Growing up in Delhi, I heard often that eating with hands is an uncouth habit of South Indians, jokes that we lick dahi chawal from elbow to palm. Not a single Southie I know of, upper caste or not, cared about it, and Southies do happily eat with hands. I understand this urge to look at choice of music or food as if critiquing casteism. This is not new, the Left has been doing it for decades. What has that achieved apart from wah-wah in echo chamber?

Mehraj might be the latest entrant with the same commentary. I request him to consider assessing this approach (of looking at every issue as part of a casteist fabric) after a suitable period of time if it actually serves any purpose. To paraphrase Abhinandan, if everything is casteism, then nothing is casteism. I won't praise Altaf Raja the same as Nusrat, no matter how many eloquent lefties scream casteism/elitism. Just like I will continue licking sambhar off my hands in an orgasmic manner.

Prakash

***

Hi team,

I usually end up criticising NL but that's because I genuinely want to say something constructive. Keep up the good work. Few points I wanted to point out from the comedian scene in Mumbai.

1) First thing, the Agrima Joshua event was just terrible. As she was making a joke on the government and Modi, and not on Shivaji Maharaj.

2) Comedians said sorry because MNS thugs were damaging comedy clubs which impacts them economically, and not cause they buckled. Also, Sahil Shah's joke was kind of offensive so he might have buckled out of fear.

3) One major point you missed in all this is that the guys who were giving rape threats in the video were not really giving it out of anger. Those videos were just publicity stunts. These boys are practically a copycat of Hindustani Bhau and it's a new subculture that is popping up in India. These rape threas videos are coming up as a form of entertainment, just to get subscribers and to be popular, and not because they were angry.

4) It's a new thing but probably accepted by everyone from the Right and the Left in Maharashtra: it's no longer just Shivaji. You will have to use the title along with it. It has to be Shivaji Maharaj or Chhatrapati Shivaji which probably shall be considered as a new norm for the future. This was one of the core reasons for the outrage which everyone missed.

5) Since Maharaj has been appropriated by both the Right as well as by Dalits and also by the local Muslims, there isn't any question about his legacy in Maharashtra. In today's Maharashtra, Shivaji Maharaj is considered as a deity and any disrespect to him or around him shall not be tolerated. It's just how it is :(

6) To be honest, even for me who considers myself to be liberal, agnostic, and hate "every" religion's existence, even I won't be able to accept a joke on Maharaj. It's just how we Maharashtrians are brainwashed.

7. if you got time please read the book written by Govind Panasare, Who Was Shivaji? I think the book simply shows how Shivaji Maharaj was/is a strong inspiration for the Dalit cause.

Keep up the good work.

Thank you,

Shridhar Pendse

PS: While replying, please don't disrespect Shivaji Maharaj.

***

Hello NL Hafta panel,

Lal Salaam to Comrade Abhinandan. Namaste to Raman Sir (love the way he pronounces Atmanirbhar), hello to Manisha and Mehraj, and salutations to Anand.

Also greetings to the producers and team behind NL Hafta.

What “triggered” me to write this email is the ongoing trend of debating with subscribers who write their opinions on email. The case with most debates on NL Hafta: they lack nuance.

On a side note: Recent email on "safeism" lumped everything from slave ownership to rape to talking about rape in one group.

I would like to say to the writer, mere Faazil dost, actions do not equal thoughts. You can’t “cancel” someone just because they don’t think the same way as you do. Or because they don’t feel exactly in the amount as you do

Of course people are not free to say anything they want. There are universally accepted limitations to freedom of speech. You can't yell "Bomb!" in a crowded space, you [can't use] hate speech and, of course, you can’t give someone maa-behen ki gaalis and say that’s your freedom of expression. But you can't punish someone for their thoughts, barring these limitations.

Also, definitions and meanings change with time. Yesterday’s modern is today’s classic.

Given the word limit on emails and communication being the way it is, there's no space for nuance. Please limit these kinds of debates on NL Hafta, you can always call these well-articulated writers for NL vs NL, where you can have a much healthier and nuanced debate/discussion. I am not saying don’t engage with your subscribers, but Hafta is becoming more and more of only these debates.

Long-time subscriber,

Pranay

***

Hi NL Team,

I am Jay, a huge content consumer. I thought I was the only one who got confused with OBOR (One Belt One Road) and OROP (One Rank One Pension), the panel discussion proved me wrong. I think this is because they were in great discussion in 2016-17 at the same time (OROP mostly in news channels and OBOR in for print media). A discussion should have been done on OBOR to get some more context of the topic.

The site has improved a lot. I would like to see an increase in science-related articles. I know it's not easy but its always good to ask some of your subscribers for that. (Not me. I am not good at articulation.)

Friendly neighbourhood citizen

JIM

***

Dear Hafta panel + crew,

A brief comment in relation to the "safetyism" discussion in episode 285. You needn't read this out, publish, or respond to this. But I do hope you will read it, if only to roll your eyes and call me a precious little snowflake.

With reference to an anecdote shared in the podcast, I don't see why it is so wrong for someone to ask for a day off from work to grieve Sushant Singh Rajput's death. I think you'd agree that grief is rarely invited, and that it works in unexpected ways. Earlier this year, I gave myself a day off because of the violence in Northeast Delhi. Though I have some past work-related connection to that part of the city, I don't currently know anyone who lives there. What happened in February had no impact on the material conditions of my life. It did, however, make me profoundly sad. I have the luxury and autonomy to take a day off and the decision to just stop and grieve did me a great deal of good.

I was disappointed by the sense of entitlement that Abhinandan (and Manisha, to a lesser extent) demonstrated in questioning a person's reasons for being upset. Their demand for evidence that the grief was "real". The arbitrary metrics that distinguish "legitimate" grief from the alleged despondency and perpetual melancholia of self-indulgent millennials, e.g., how many degrees of separation from the subject of grief, whether or not the grieving person suffers from depression, etc. All this over one measly day of work. This is all the more troubling because the request for leave was intended for the employer, not for public consumption, speculation, and derision.

I haven't read the Harper's Magazine letter. I am in equal parts too tired and bored to participate in that debate. My point is fairly limited: please trust people when they say that they are upset, honour the courage shown in being vulnerable, act responsibly with their stories, and bravely extend support that is motivated by concern rather than fear. We're in the middle of a global pandemic ffs. Let's cut each other some slack.

Best,

Swati

***

Hi people,

Thanks for reading my letter last Hafta. Some brief points on which I wanted to respond about the cancel culture discussion, after what the panels and the letters said. I also think you should have an NL vs NL on this topic since you had many reactions, in which case, I'd be excited to hear, or maybe even participate. Please feel free to pass on this and not read it aloud, if you think this debate has already been discussed too much, but I'd be grateful if you will read it:

1) One letter (Vaibhav's) implied that losing jobs and platforms are okay as long as the state is not penalising speech. I think it's pretty obvious that state censorship is not the only form of clamping speech. Going by this logic, half of Stalinist Russia or Shiv Sena threats won't be considered censorship since there was no official order/bureaucratic document banning speech. Not all who lost their jobs had comfy jobs, there were many underprivileged as well. Of course, organisations can ban or de-platform whoever they like over innocent things, but then they can't claim to be liberal or in favour of free discussion, that's all.

2) Another letter doubted if there were enough cases to make this a culture. In US/UK there definitely are. This link lists many. Plus recently there have been cases like that of Bret Weinstein, Bari Weiss, Lee Fang, and other journalists/academics (not all of whom I agree with). It's not a minority either in the US, it's the neoliberal establishment's view, even though numbers might not always reflect a mood or a scenario.

3) JK Rowling's case is pretty peripheral to the letter, she is just one of them. The point is not whether critiquing her views qualifies as free speech or not, of course it does (free speech also covers immature discourse and ad hominems), and I'm no fan of JK Rowling.The point is, is criticism coming in a nuanced way, are we really arguing maturely, is the discourse progressing? Going by her version, where she says she's getting rape threats and violent messages, I'm guessing not. I don't agree with her either, but the point of the letter still stands and covers everyone, not just Rowling. We shouldn't drop our liberal ideals just in case Rowling also believes in them.

4) Even though the term "cancel culture" is western, this West/East, or US/India binary is superficial. Isn't what happened to Agrima Joshua or Aadar Malik a form of cancel culture? In India, the Right does it. In the US, it's the neoliberal establishment. Free speech is not something that should be rationed out to people according to whether they are privileged/underprivileged. It's a universal value. Otherwise, what's the difference between us and Amit Shah, who once said that human rights is a western thing and doesn't apply in India?

Again, I go by Chomsky's mantra: You defend freedom of speech precisely for the views you despise, because even dictators were for freedom of speech for the views they liked.

Best,

Uday

***

Hello Hafta team,

I have been a subscriber for more than three years and have really liked NL Hafta and the other work that you guys are doing. This is the first time I am writing to NL, so hope you include it in Hafta.

The reason I write this email is that the part of the discussion around the cancel culture really angered me (NOT triggered). Abhinandan read out a subscriber email where the lady or the woman mentioned that she was not able to say no to her employee or reportee who had requested leave because she was affected by Sushant's passing. At this point, both Manisha and Abhinandan started giggling. Then Abhinandan went on to say, "This is the thing I have a problem dealing with, I don't understand it". At a later point in the discussion, Manisha says, "I don't need a holiday for it", giggling again, in response to Raman saying that he knows there are people who got affected and his own son was watching Sushant's interviews for two weeks.

Now, my problem with Abhinandan is that he cannot get away with saying he doesn't understand it. Bhai, nahi samajh aata or if you don't relate to it, then read articles about it. If after that you still don't understand or relate to it, then you don't have to. All you have to do is not be insensitive towards the subject. First of all, you don't know if that girl really suffered from depression or not. Until you know for sure, the least you could do is not to joke about it or you can't just laugh it off saying, haha I don't understand this.

And Abhinandan is a repeat offender. I remember during one of the Haftas, there was a discussion around #MeToo specific to men, specifically the Kevin Spacey case if I am not wrong. Even at that time, Abhinandan had said something on the lines of, "How can a man get traumatised by a Kevin Spacey exposing himself or something?" His point was that he failed to understand how such things could impact men also.

The point that I am trying to make is to be considerate or sensitive about a topic especially if you don't relate to it. And for god's sake, don't laugh when discussing such topics (which Manisha and Abhinandan did clearly during the conversation about that leave thing. This is a public forum; you can joke all you want privately) which made you both look rather insensitive. Note that other panel members were sensitive and did not giggle or joke about it.

And what are you even saying about anyone getting affected by Sushant's passing? There has been news of multiple suicides after the Sushant's incident. Expected better from you guys especially when you just had a guest columnist/reporter in one of the recent podcasts discussing about suicides and triggers.

I really liked the way Suhasini put out her points across on all the topics of discussion. I would also like to add that Mehraj is a wonderful addition to NL. That is not to say I don't like others. Having said that, I will be taking a break from listening to Hafta. Hafta needs to have different guests, otherwise it's getting mundane.

I would still be supporting NL in other ways such as NL projects.

Best wishes,

Piyush

***

Hi Newslaundry,

I avoided writing in about Rowling and the cancel culture because of what Abhinandan had said about inviting me in some future Hafta.

But hearing reading some of the mails — especially one which was highly critical of Rowling — I have to jump in to defend a lady who has been a great hero of mine for 18 years.

In defence of Rowling:

1) Firstly, it's Harry Potter that has introduced me to the written world and it would be not an exaggeration to say that she has probably impacted me more than any other distant famous person (maybe with exception of Sachin). So it wouldn't be a stretch to say that had it not been for Harry Potter, I wouldn't have taken to devouring English content: politics, journalism, etc leading to subscription of Newslaundry (laughter at this statement).

2) JKR is a rare breed of public individuals who have called out the anti-Semitism of the Left as well as anti-Muslim bigotry of the Right (I don't like using the word used often on Hafta, Islamophobia, for a plethora of reasons). Her anti-bigotry stance has also helped me personally keep my bigotry in check.

3) Her defense of gays with writing a beloved character (Dumbledore) as gay has done so much for gay rights and image worldwide.

Raised in an extreme gay-phobic atmosphere where the exposure to Homosexuality was through movies like Girlfriend and Kal Ho Naa Ho. it was Rowling who slowly set me on the path of accepting homosexuality from 2008.

4) JKR has donated money for wide causes: Lumos that stops the institutionalisation of orphans; she funds a charity on multiple sclerosis; she's donated a million pounds for Covid care.

I am calling this a virtue that puts her on some pedestal where she should not be criticised. But to call for her boycott because she might fund research which proves her stand on trans issues is the DUMBEST I have heard in a while. Even if one assumes that JKR funds such research, wouldn't defunding her also adversely impact her funding of n other good causes in the wokesphere? And how is any such research bad if we assume that it follows the rigours of science?

JKR plans on publishing a children's book, The Ickabog, which will feature drawings of hundreds of children who sent them on Twitter. Most of Rowling's earnings from the book are pledged for fighting Covid.

5) Liberals must decide which TRENCH they are willing to die in. When most polls show that overwhelming public is not comfortable with trans women using women bathrooms, taking a radical stance will only result in more Trumps and Bolsonaros in my view. Most small "l" Liberals are getting increasingly frustrated with this woke witch hunt.

If a person with as liberal credentials as JKR can be hounded or cancelled like this, then I shudder to think what conservatives must be thinking in the West.

6) Another question I would like to pose is: Let's say the lead scientists of Oxford working on the Covid vaccine have some views which are anathema in the wokesphere. Would their research be cancelled? Would he be hounded out of his job and would Oxford keep looking for candidates who dot all the liberal "i"s and cross all the conservative "t"s?

7) Most of the criticism of JKR is a classic strawman in my view. She is vilified just because she has dared to question some of the 9 and 3/4 Commandments of the wokesphere.

All biological interventions like breast enlargements, Botox, or transitioning sex are not interventions anyone should rush into. Isn't it fair to raise the point that the ease with which sex change is offered to impressionable teenagers is risky? Are these activists sure these teenagers won't regret these changes which in many cases have a long term effect on one's body?

There has been a lot of research that can make a lot of woke activists uncomfortable. Should we just sweep that under the rug or make it the elephant in the room? There have been dozens of instances of de-transitioning and a lot more where people continue to regret transition.

Nowhere are people like JKR (and, by implication, me) implying that transitioning should not be allowed or not respected, but shouldn't the society view it not as something that we do as easily as eye laser surgery or a nose job?

The only websites where one finds pieces against these woke dogmas are RW or new anti-Left platforms like Quillete (which are often dismissed as racist, transphobic, or Islamophobic by the likes of writers in Vox, NYT, etc.)

Some links: Link1, Link2, Link3, Link4, Link5

I am not saying everything written against the dogma of trans activists is valid, but it can't be dismissed as transphobic. It can be wrong without being transphobic

8) For long I have loudly wondered whether it's Islam that's the rock that has broken liberalism. Now it seems the trans debate and other woke dogmas have surpassed the challenge to liberalism posed by Islam.

That's my rant.

Thanks,

Gaurav

(Even if you don't read it on the podcast please consider the suggestions.)

***

Hello,

Firstly, thank you for finally glancing down south, and publishing an article on Telangana. I myself previously wrote to Hafta on how affairs here are bad and how there is literally no transparency. The article by Revathi might have got almost all it's facts right but the way she wrote it clearly shows how it's not from a concerned point of view. It's as though: "Yes! Telangana is failing, haven't we said that you will fail when you asked for a separate state?"

After treading the article, I thought maybe it's my personal bias for my state. But in the recent Reporters Without Orders podcast, it has become clear how biased she is.

Let me put a few things out there at the cost of digressing from the pandemic.

The Telangana state movement was not an "event", as she said. It continued for over 60 years. Yes, after KCR started his hunger strike, the movement got acceleration and all of Telangana joined the fight (November 2009 - June 2014), including students, employees, journalists and everyone.

Over 700 people gave their lives in the fight and about the media coverage she spoke of? There was no media coverage showing the struggle. If there was, it was to show how the Telangana fight was nothing but a fight for political mileage. Also not to forget how TV9 and Andhra Jyoti worked as tools in the hands of political capitalists like Lagadapati Rajagopal.

T News was formed then so at least there was some news channel to show the fight, to put our point across in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Which has now become a mouthpiece of the TRS, which is indeed sad.

Talking about Revanth Reddy, he has been caught in the "note for vote" scandal. Yes, there is no opposition and only Revanth Reddy is able to question the government now, but why not state the facts about him also?

Also, in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, there were three (four terms) chief ministers from Telangana among 16 18-20 terms) chief ministers in total, contrary to what Revathi said that the maximum were from Telangana.

About the banning of TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothi, as she said it was banned voluntarily by the cable TV union asking for them to apologise, and it was not "satire gone wrong". The anchor actually said, "What will these Telangana MLAs do with the laptops being given to them, put them in their gochi (lungi)." Implying that Telangana people are uneducated and fools who won't even know to use a laptop. It was almost like how Nepal has now banned Indian channels owing to derogatory remarks made on them. Which is not democratic, but why not state the facts as they are?

Also, why can't journalists of Telangana stand in the statehood struggle?

The protests of CAA-NRC and the vilifying of students might be new for North India now, but we have seen it all during the movement, including the political leaders and media crying on the broken statues rather than on students who died of suicide, lighting themselves in front of the state Assembly.

There are a lot of things going wrong in Telangana, about the TIMS Gachibowli, about Osmania hospital, about the workload on Gandhi hospital. But taking this as a chance to demean the Telangana statehood struggle is not right.

It seems like more than being concerned, Revathi Pogadadanda is feeling vindicated that Telangana as a state has failed.

Also, the team of Newslaundry seems to know nothing about the affairs in Telangana. Also, there is a lot of caste politics among the Velma (KCR caste) and Reddys (both upper castes in Telangana).

Being a regular reader, listener and subscriber, this is my suggestion and request: Get someone who is actually from Telangana to write about Telangana. Also, know their biases before.

Few links to understand the Telangana movement:

https://www.firstpost.com/politics/from-1948-to-2013-a-brief-history-of-the-telangana-movement-998093.html/amp

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20787475?read-now=1&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

https://youtu.be/RE1CsalglFg

Sumavarsha Kandula

Newslaundry
www.newslaundry.com