Hafta Letters: On wage slavery, cancel culture, Kashmir, and more
NL Dhulai

Hafta Letters: On wage slavery, cancel culture, Kashmir, and more

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hello Team,

You guys are doing a great job all round. I was wrong about Newsance. I felt it would lose its relevance soon, but the news discourse has degenerated to a level that necessitates a Newsance. Sympathies to the team for having to suffer mainstream media's drivel to do the show. The first thing I did with some of the Covid money I got was an annual subscription to Newslaundry. And the pieces by Vivek Kaul, the reports on Central Vista and the Delhi riots have justified my decision and then some!

But the primary reason I am writing to you is to point out the absence of a comprehensive discussion on Varavara Rao and the Bhima Koregaon case. It is appalling how the agencies in the country are treating and using taxpayer's money to fabricate cases against activists. The discussion has been muted. This is the same investigative agency that let terrorists go who have now become representatives of the people. This really breaks my heart as this is happening across the country. Dr Kafeel Khan is also being persecuted and it seems India is close on the heels of Putin's Russia. I hope this will be an NL Sena project or at least a well-researched discussion about the merits of the case against these aged activists.

You do not need to read out the email as such but please do discuss this topic as it is gut-wrenching to standby and watch when innocent people languish in jail during a pandemic.

Thanks,

Ayush

***

Dear NL Hafta Team,

Warmest regards. I have a habit of writing long mails to you, a majority of which you have graciously read out aloud in your episodes and I sincerely hope that this one gets that attention too. But I will try to keep it short.

I initially thought to write something about Mehraj's continuous whining on almost all the episodes but ignored it as the rest of the team is so good. But then almost at the last moment during the current episode, I heard him saying something about the settler colonisation of Kashmir and I felt that it was not in good taste.

I will request to be anonymous.

I am laying out my arguments in a point format:-

1. In his speech to the Constituent Assembly on 05 Nov 1951 Sheikh Abdullah affirmed the erstwhile Maharaja's accession to India in three fields, as per the provisions of the GoI Act of 1935 since that was the available template at the moment.

2. The 'special' status of the state was due to the fact that it was currently embroiled in a dispute between India and Pakistan, as Pakistani tribals had invaded and occupied a significant amount of territory. As a result, Mr Abdullah acknowledged that he had accepted the Indian government's offer of ceding to the people's will whenever the state was free of invaders. Here and elsewhere in the entire speech, he refers repeatedly to the Pakistanis as the 'enemy' or 'invader'.

3. Unfortunately, over a period of time, this 'special' status - of the political and territorial entity of J&K has somehow shifted onto the people occupying that land. Now the people are 'special'. Please don't get me wrong. All people are special and unique. But this tag of being special has been appropriated by the Kashmiris.

4. This does not mean that I endorse the actions of the governments at the Centre. But if you look at it holistically, isn't every state undergoing the same amount of repression and lawlessness that J&K is going through? Can you really tell me that the conditions in Uttar Pradesh are better than J&K? It's a matter of perspective.

5. J&K has always been looked at from a security-based lens, that of competition between India and Pakistan. As a result, a number of international agencies have been involved. When the father-son duo was murdered by the police in TN, do you think that crime was less heinous? But since it was 'local', it did not get any limelight outside.

6. VS Naipaul in one of his books has described India as 'a million mutinies'. I think India is a conglomerate of a million dictatorships, their constituents ranging from one to a million each. Everyone is out to get someone else. And I may sound a little callous but J&K is still better than a lot of states.

7. In all this, we forget that today the state has been trifurcated between India, China and Pakistan: please remember PoK and Gilgit Baltistan are with Pak and Shaksgam and Aksai Chin with China. Why is there no hue and cry about those areas? Don't they form part of the state?

8. Arundhati Roy in her introduction to 'The Doctor and the Saint' mentions Nehru's frustration with what he felt was too legalistic a constitution. He felt that by making so many rules and procedures, they had killed the spirit of the Constitution. As a result, most of the negotiations even over sovereign Indian territory had been held in abeyance due to legalese. All the lands now under the direct or nominal rule of India are its part, as given in the Constitution. The end game of this jigsaw puzzle like mergers and acquisitions into what we know as India is the unfortunate manifestation of colonialism. The rest of Indian people are no aliens that they cannot settle in a place like Kashmir. You also have to understand that Kashmir, the valley, has hardly any natural resources or facilities to boast of.

9. The movement of people, if ever it happens, will be of business people, which the state itself is desperate for. Clearly, the state's politicians have never shown any interest in their welfare, again a pan Indian tendency so Mehraj must not lose heart. Abrogation was a well-intentioned but badly executed step. It had to happen someday.

10. Mehraj in his recommendation mentioned that the apple industry faced a loss of Rs 22000 crores. Why doesn't he also delve into more reasons other than the lockdown? Are you guys aware that there was a concerted attempt to target non-Kashmiris working in the orchard industry? Migrant labour from Bihar, UP, Jharkhand were killed in cold blood, shot in broad daylight. That stopped the industry right in its tracks and this was during the lockdown. The Kashmiri apple industry is built on the back of migrant labour. Once they stopped coming, the industry went into a loss. I suppose that these reasons are not glamorous enough or activist-y enough. So again I will reiterate, no one is dying to colonise Kashmir as a settler, though they are dying by staying there are trying to make a living.

11. I can go on and on about a number of things. The problem is that most of our media has painted the entire Kashmir issue as a one-sided, good vs evil story, with the innocent Kashmiris being crushed in between. The Indian army occupiers versus the evil Pakistani terrorists. Like the Cold War hid the many minor wars and insurgencies raging across the world, similarly, this good vs evil narrative has hidden the grey shade of Kashmiris too. Just food for thought.

I am posting links of certain articles for the panel to have a look.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/migrant-labourer-apple-trader-shot-dead-in-kashmir/articleshow/71623888.cms

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/world/asia/kashmir-militants.html

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-jk-militants-kill-apple-loader-from-punjab-kiln-worker-from-chhattisgarh-6072665/

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/two-apple-truck-drivers-shot-dead-by-militants-in-kashmir/article29794424.ece

P.S Mehraj needs to liven up a bit more. Dude is too depressing.

Thanks and regards,

A

***

Hello!

In the past couple of Haftas, there have been conversations about acceptable reasons for taking leave. I have nothing to contribute on the main issues (mental health, etc) except I continue to be entertained or informed, and therefore subscribe.

I love it when people indulge in virtue signalling while behaving like the zamindars in the worst sense of the word (zamindars at least owned the capital, however ill-gotten; supervisors in an organisation are just employees, who get a few rupees more because their skills/experience is in less supply than demand).

Leave is a legal entitlement for an individual when selling one’s time under an employment contract, verbal or written. When one takes it is governed by operational rules and has some window for negotiation. And most employees in most companies don’t have to address life-and-death situations at work. Then why is “Sushant Singh’s death disturbs me” or “I want to go for a jazz concert” or “makkhiyaan marni hai” is less acceptable than “child/father/mother is ill” (generally said in a grave tone)? Behenji/Bhaiyya - kaam hai toh batao ya leave balance nahin hai toh batao. Why is there moral policing of my vacation time, especially by other employees?

Wage slavery is truly a thing.

Best,

Sonali

***

Hi NL Hafta panel+crew,

Apologies for writing another nitpicky email, for the second week in a row, on the same subject. Being on summer break gives me time to flog the occasional dead horse. I'm conscious of hogging air time, so I'll leave it to you to decide if this is worth discussing.

In Ep. 286, Abhinandan compared a working professional's request for a mental health day off, with a child's excuse to skip school. He seems convinced that such requests are motivated by mischief, a lack of discipline, or a weakness of resolve. This is disappointing.

Moreover, I don't see why it is so alarming if a teacher reaches out for clarification about a students' religious practices. Particularly, if the student is from a minority community. Before painting something you disapprove of with the broad brush of "over-wokeness", it might be worth considering the context in which this practice has emerged. A failure to honour the cultural resources of minority students potentially alienates these children, impedes their academic achievement, well-being and prospects of school completion. Urban public schools in the US have historically been very hostile toward Black, Latinx and Asian children. There are a number of studies that describe how schools force compliance with White ways of being and doing. Researchers and practitioners have spent decades pushing for schools to become more culturally responsive. Does this more liberal approach place higher demands on teachers? Yes, and I am sympathetic to this. Might some teachers be over-correcting? Possibly. Can precocious kids take advantage of this? For sure. However, there is no evidence that suggests a systematic pattern of over-correction and mischief. I haven't seen any signs of this in my first-hand exposure to urban schools in the US (I do research on education in a university in the US).

Given the history of urban education in the US, entertaining a request for a holiday to observe a religious festival is not simply a reflection of faddish wokeness. If you want to make the case that "over-wokeness" is pervasive, please cite better, more thoughtful examples.

Best,

Swati

***

Hi Mr Sekhri,

I just want to bring to light, one major point that you all missed in the last couple of Haftas regarding the specific topic about one of the employees asking for a day off after Mr Sushant Singh Rajput's suicide.

The point here is Social Media. With the social media being so out and open and readily available for people across the globe, all celebrities from all kinds of media platforms are so "available" to regular junta like myself, that we often (or at least myself) find ourselves deeply connected to these celebrities. As, popular and famous people like yourself and your panel at Hafta, you guys might not see this, but whenever one of you re-tweets a tweet from a commoner like myself or comments or likes our tweets, we feel a deep sense of connection with you guys. When NL team does an NL Chatroom session, where, technically they are only seeing their own colleagues on camera and screen, but there are other subscribers in the shadows looking at you, listening to you, asking you questions, and getting their questions answered, it kind of creates a sense of importance amongst us. I can't speak for everyone, but last weekend was my first NL Chatroom session, and when Mr Meghnad addressed my question, even though none of the team or subscribers could see me, or know me, I felt good about it.

Now, coming back to social media, when a celebrity looks directly into a camera and "talks to you" regarding political issues (like Ms. Bhaskar) or about promoting their movies, an aam aadmi like myself gets a sense that they are addressing me. And one feels a sense of personal connection with that celebrity.

And when this celebrity dies an unnatural death (like Mr Irrfan Khan or Mr Rajput), it simply shakes our world. I myself was very much shaken by Mr Khan's death. I had just watched his movie, Maqbool a night before, and I woke up to the news of his untimely demise. And I couldn't get anything done that day. He didn’t even know that I existed. I didn’t know him any better than his movies. But when you see an actor in their deep personal being, like being in their pajamas in their bedroom talking to you about anything, you feel like you are listening to your friend. And when your “friend” passes away, it affects you. No matter what.

And that’s why it cannot be compared to the same thing as seeing someone run-over at Connaught Place (not saying that your experience was any less traumatic. I myself had seen a person run over when I was in 9th standard).

And that is why the whole culture of safetyism and cancel culture is so deeply rooted in today’s day and age and so personal to each individual (just like Mr Mehraj pointed out) and cannot be snickered or ridiculed at.

With best regards,

Pruthul

***

Hi Team NL,

I am writing this in utter despair while listening to your appalling banter on COVID-19 in Episode 286 of Hafta. It's unbelievable to see you guys conduct such a nice conversation of Assam floods just minutes before entering into this mindless frenzy. Daily Dose does a much better job of giving the facts on the COVID-19. But when it comes to Hafta, it's a disaster, not just on this episode, but over several previous ones. I am baffled to hear the in-house panel's utter confusion and lack of understanding on the matter. It's alright. Not all of us has to be an expert in everything. Before recording the podcast, please get your thoughts together. Spare the listeners from the pain of hearing a half-baked argument on COVID-19 numbers and an obnoxious segue to hair-transplant of celebrities. I am sure the falling number of subscribers is not only caused by Hafta not being behind the paywall.

There's an easy fix. Just bring an expert on the panel or even better, for an NL interview. For some clarity, I humbly request you to listen to some of the interviews Karan Thapar conducted on the matter. The best is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKvSDYJbNQg&list=PLzia1qLN9v2Abtxt-_mFc9_38ia0mdkfM&index=15

You don't need to read this mail on Hafta. But I urge you to take this criticism constructively.

Good job on the NL Sena projects!

Best,

Sudarshana

***

Hello all,

I love Newslaundry, but this is a stern, maybe even a rude email regarding NL Hafta. Specifically, this is about Abhinandan giving his views on deaths during Covid-19. He said so many wrong things within a span of one minute, that I was forced out of my laziness into writing this email immediately. Abhinandan's main point was that the number of deaths in this quarter is the same as last quarter, so this virus is not causing a surge in deaths. Okay, fair enough. But the problem here is that you are looking at just one data point. That is insane. If you want to think about deaths due to Covid, you have to look at other data points too.

First off, studies are showing that there are going to be increased deaths in developing countries as interventions to tackle diseases like TB are not going to reach people, thanks to the lockdown.

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.16.20104075v1

Second, the economic cost of the virus or the lockdown is going to cause many deaths. It's not going to all happen today, and we may miss it from our privileged viewpoint, but a country where people are always so close to the brink cannot come out of this disaster unscathed.

Third, when you say Covid is not causing a surge of deaths I ask you to think again. The virus is going to go through our entire population, I am sure of it. Lockdown has failed, systems are overwhelmed, sooner or later everyone will get Covid. In such a case, a mortality of 1% is one crore people. Again, they won't all die tomorrow, we may never get the government data accepting they did die, but that is the number, one crore. It will take a while, but the damage by Covid is going to be massive. Lastly, a special mention of other factors that you should keep in mind, which was noted by the other panelists. There is a lot of undercounting as people die at home, lag in data updation due to system failures and underreporting because of a corrupt system. All in all, Covid is going to cause a surge of deaths, one way or the other.

Newslaundry does very good work and it is admirable how you have become more informed and made your readers informed about Covid-19 over the past few months. I expect very high standards for all of you, and I will be the angry school teacher if the discussion falls below a certain level. As always, please let me know if I can contribute in any way.

Best,

Goonj

***

Hi there,

Short email.

Vivek Kaul and Amit Verma are doing a podcast called Econ Central. Why not collaborate and get that podcast to be on Newslaundry too.

Best Regards,

Dhiraj

***

Dear Haftawallahs,

Please accept my warmest regards and congratulations for an excellent Hafta. Despite the gloom of Covid, yours is one of the very few podcasts that keep me informed and elicits a few laughs as well.

My two cents on the discussions that took place.

Iran-China deal

1. I'm not commenting on the India angle but the nature of the China- Iran relationship. Iran requires legitimacy and money, China requires oil so that makes for a good bilateral relationship, one may think. But that's hardly the case. China is wading into one of the more serious geopolitical issues of our times ie the US Iran confrontation.

2. Any overture towards Iran will have to be tempered by some sweet deals with the Saudis too. This may prove to be complicated given the sectarian rivalry within West Asia. China has generally stayed away from intervening into politics too much however this may see a change. If it does, it is bound to lose clients, as the Saudis too import lots of weaponry and other equipment from China and are a big source of oil for them.

3. A similar ambitious deal was signed with Pakistan called the CPEC, part of BRI worth around $62 billion. That project itself has kind of fizzled out with only the will and greed of Pak army sustaining it. Remember it was the Imran Khan government that had promised to have a relook at the entire thing but as soon as they announced it in public, then (and now) Pak Army Chief Bajwa rushed to Beijing to reassure the Chinese that nothing will derail CPEC.

4. Pakistan is now paying for its loyalty, taking loans from one institution to repay loans taken from another. Additionally, China can easily take over the prime estate in lieu of non-payment of loans like what it did in Sri Lanka. Iran currently doesn't have the capacity to repay the $400 bn that China will invest in it, even over a period of 25 years. Like Venezuela which has pumped itself dry to repay China, Iran is looking at a similarly bleak future.

5. There is also the issue of cultural clashes. Almost 600 women from Pakistan have been made 'lost brides'. Married to Chinese men, they were molested and made to work as housemaids once in China. Iran can face something similar too. Plus there has been a lot of pushback from several countries over the nature of Chinese loans and their actual payback values. A lot of big Chinese projects have been cancelled so I'm not very sure how this thing can be successful in the long run.

Cancel Culture.

1. I think it is we who are perpetuating this phenomenon called 'cancel culture'. For some minor incidents where some people lost their jobs because of their statements on social media, it is hardly justified to call it a 'culture'. Maybe it alludes to alliteration and like Marvel comic characters we like terms with the same alphabets in both words, this term has continued. It is hardly a culture.

2. In your discussions, no one sought to clarify the difference between cancel culture and trolling. You haven't cancelled anyone till the time you haven't put him/her out of his/her job, otherwise, it is just trolling or plain digital activism.

3. Try as hard as anyone might, the stark truth is major celebrities can hardly be cancelled. Yes, people are trolling JK Rowling for her transphobic posts but do you think that will stop them from salivating at her next book release. It is the acolytes that may have to self censor their public persona if they want to make it big, which is again not a given.

4. And yes, opinions are omnipresent. It is what makes us alive, no? And what really is this cancel culture doing? Apart from self-censorship, it is just pushing overt opinions deep underground that they are not visible in the public domain but may manifest themselves somewhere else in some other form.

5. Coming to freedom of speech, pure freedom of speech is such an abstraction that no one believes it is feasible. As a result, many countries have already put in caveats within their constitutions as India has done too.

6. When the Internet was being designed, the aim was for the uninterrupted flow of information and ideas across the world. But what people did not realise in their idealism was that even assholes would be able to speak to their community and get an equal platform to air their views. Free flow of ideas has now become a clarion call for every type of vile idea to be floated around. Richard Rorty, a famous American philosopher said that the idea of the arc of history moving towards progress was not inevitable and it is up to us, the flagbearers, to act as gatekeepers to ensure that 'good' ideas filter down.

Sorry for being messy. It is such an emotive topic and I had so many ideas and opinions that I felt I would forget half of the things if I didn't type them out.

Regards,

Akshat Upadhyay

***

Hello everyone,

I have been a follower of your work on YouTube for long and have recently subscribed in my search for true journalism.

I have been trying to get a truer picture of the impact locust swarms will have on India as

a) They have not left yet

b) More are coming at Indo-Pakistan border

c) We have monsoons.

The last report you did on it was on May 29, and I believe in the mean time they have visited all of India and returned to Rajasthan. Though it is covered by the international press, there is no clarity on what the loss bass been. Were the farmers insured against such disaster? And what are we to expect in the near future?

I'd be glad if you could discuss and share views

Best Regards,

Arpit Agarwal

***

Please clarify this.

In NL Hafta, I heard about the naming and shaming of companies that sponsor channels like Arnab's. In an ideal universe the companies would withdraw their sponsorship to the programme, and hence, some one like Arnab will be forced to self-censor or his boss might look for some one else to run the show. Isn’t this same as “cancel culture”? Now you don’t have any proven criminal nexus between Arnab and incitement of communal hatred in the country. There’s no concrete objective evidence for this in your hand . But you strongly “ feel “ deep within yourself that what Arnab is doing is making our society more unsafe for us and our fellow citizens.

The only difference between the NL line of thought and the “woke sensitive youngsters of West“ is that they are taking their actions to their logistic conclusion. In the US, Arnab would have been forced to self-censor by such actions of an American Newslaundry..

So how’s that they who are getting things done are labelled as “ squishy & hypersensitive , immature youngsters “ who don’t fully get concepts of FOE and liberty and people like NL team who are failing in getting same things done are “ battle hardened, realistic, mature” folks?

Regards,

Bimal

***

Hi there NL Team,

I’m sure you’re receiving a lot of emails from people regarding their take on the Safetyism culture also, their critique on yours. But here I am with a rather bland view on this whole thing. After reading a few articles on the same, I acknowledge two things:

1. As it is widely known and accepted by many, objectivity is not a way to deal with sociopolitical issues and

2. Political correctness is far from being a sacred virtue.

There was an email you guys received in the last Hafta which criticised Abhinandan’s and Manisha’s laughing on these examples that were being cited. All I have to say is that, you can’t take a person’s humorous reaction on anything as their insensitivity towards a certain issue! For all you know, it could be one of their coping mechanisms.

Having said that, the examples Abhinandan gave after reading this guy’s email seemed a bit messed up to me. Moreover, Abhinandan, your views on Safetyism are sort of “basic”. I totally agree that it could very well be taken advantage of, but there are discrepancies almost everywhere. Safetyism in it’s entirety may not be the way to go for creating a mentally stable and safe environment, however, as Manisha mentioned there’s still a lot of stigma attached to mental health and therefore, when it comes to judging the legitimacy of an individual’s mental health problems, we must first be conditioned in a way that favours being kind and considerate first. For that, a rule of thumb could, in my opinion be, giving the concerned person a benefit of doubt. Now, I have a problem with the Safetyism culture being portrayed as a catch 22 kinda thing. That’s because we must first strive to have conducive workplace environments where expressing one’s issues must be an easy task, no matter the subject of it. I know this might be an idealistic approach to a somewhat complex concept but I can vouch for this remedy as it works exceptionally well in Universities, where the students studying together and their faculty have a brief but accurate knowledge about each other’s backgrounds, enough to understand their stance on a variety of topics. If you’re about to say that, there are a lot of differences in a workplace and an University I’d humbly request you to imagine my response as the famous ‘Munnabhai MBBS meme‘ where Sanjay Dutt says “Nahi”. What I basically want to say is, “Increase transparency, to avoid discrepancy!”

Kind regards,

Mithila

***

Hello,

I came across your video on Delhi's Anna nagar. The situation is far less gruesome than Assam floods but their agony is surely the same.

It is extremely disheartening to see people lose their lives to natural calamities and the government's negligence.

I would like to extend my gratitude to you for being unbiased, something that mainstream media has completely abandoned.

There is a question that strikes me every time I come across something like this: What can we as an individual do apart from donations to help make things better for them?

I am a teacher and I make sure I spread awareness among my students and their parents, but what more can be done? I can barely take these issues to 100-150 people. That doesn't make much of a difference.

Kindly guide me and many others like me.

Thank you,

Kinjal Jain

Newslaundry
www.newslaundry.com