- NL Sena
NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!
Hi NL Team,
I've been gone for almost a month or so (as a subscriber) and for that I'm so very sorry, I was running a little low on cash. And also the fact that I am a final-year student who may or may not graduate this year does not help either, so I succumbed to my primal instinct and cheated on you with Netflix. For that I'm really sorry, and I want you guys to know it's not you, it's me.
Now that we have taken care of that, let me bring up the topic of the recent outrage surrounding Bloomsbury India's new book Delhi Riots: 2020. I was watching Shekhar Gupta's National Interest (do not roll your eyes, Abhinandan), where he was basically giving out the history of ban/cancel culture in our country and pointed out several books being the point of outrage of several communities, whether they were Muslims, Hindus, Christians, right-wing politicians or intellectuals, and even the Left liberals. He also went on to criticise the publishing industry in India and called it an incestuous bunch and pointed out how they are restricted to their small cocoon, i.e wine and cheese parties.
Now, I couldn't completely brush off what he said in that episode about our ban culture and how it has been in existence since pre-independence society and has continued to flourish under the leadership of various governments, whether Left or Right.
My point of contention is: Should a book which has not seen the light of day, which has not been read by most people, in spite of the fact that it has been authored by BJP sympathisers and right-wing intellectuals who have all the reason in the world to paint the events of the Delhi riots in a completely different colour as they already have tried to do in the past, be subjected to a ban? We have laws against hate speech and the law should be applied to this book as well if the same amounts to any such hate speech. But we don't know whether it actually applies or not, do we? I will not lie, even I was quite happy when I read about the news of Bloomsbury halting its publication of the book but in retrospect, I think we have committed the same mistake or taken the same path us liberals despise so often.
It is completely okay if you can't manage to read the full mail but do try to touch upon this subject if you can.
Also, Mehraj mentioned one document where it was mentioned about the RSS chief's involvement and his association with Nehru towards achieving the common goal of accession of Kasmir. If he could mention the name of that book or document again, that would be great.
Hi NL Team,
This mail is regarding a mail you received in the last Hafta. I apologise if it’s a long email but it was long due.
A fellow subscriber mentioned that the word "secularism" was not included in the original Constitution. However, if he digs deep into the Constituent Assembly debate, he will find the same panel had included Article 14 of the Constitution which states equality of every person under Indian territory. Even an alien will get equal treatment against any law within Indian territory. People forget the fact that the word "secularism" had a totally different meaning in that time as it was taken from Europe, where the state will be totally cut off from any religion. However, the Indian Constitution and context was different because it was based on Indian nationalism, where any Indian with their culture and religion will have the same rights. Almost all members of the Assembly agreed on a secular state but only didn’t add that word because of its European context.
Also, there are more than 100 amendments to the Constitution post 1950. So, according to the BJP/RSS, are all these amendments wrong? Many changes like Panchayati Raj, anti-defection, right to education, and fundamental duties came with amendments. Even the "integrity" word is included with an amendment. Will Article 370 be revoked because it was not part of the original Constitution?
Regarding the other point which the subscriber had raised, I beg to differ that it's the majority community which is the torchbearer of secularism. There is not a single Muslim leader whom Muslims of India have voted for since Independence. Muslims in India have always backed Hindu community leaders, whether it is Pt Nehru, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav or Sharad Pawar. Whereas it's the majority community which has time and again created leaders out of rioters; Bal Thackery, Advani, Murli Manohar, Modi, Yogi or Sadhvi Pragya, to name a few.
Also, the BJP/RSS has created so much victimisation under the majority community that they see everything with an appeasement lens. Even having a meal under Holi/Diwali/Iftaar banner becomes an appeasement to them. They can’t think how a Hindu or Muslim can have an inter-religious meal together. Even Haj houses are a necessity because each country has a fixed quota of pilgrims for Haj and that needs to be decided by some authority.
Kashmiri Pandits are probably the only Hindu community persecuted in India. Around 750 people were killed. But if even now people talk about their persecution, they have an ultra-solid edge. They get reservations in academics, jobs, etc. However, if you compare their case with similar cases in that time period and how far we have come to deliver justice to anyone of them, you will see how rotten this system is.
Whether it is the Moradabad riots (1980) where 400 Muslims were killed, Nellie massacre (1983) where 2,000 Muslims were killed, Bhiwandi (1984) where 250 Muslims were killed, Bhagalpur (1989) where 1,000 Muslims were killed, Babri Masjid riots around India, Bombay (1993), and God knows how many are there which are totally forgotten from the conscience of this country.
It's time the majority community realises they can't live in a bubble that we are so persecuted in this country, whereas it's them who have suppressed every caste/creed/religion/linguistic/ethnic different person who don’t match their idea of Indian.
Dear Team Newslaundry,
I wanted to share my thoughts on the Bloomsbury India book withdrawal since it is likely to be discussed on the next Hafta. First of all, I am glad they withdrew the book, but it does raise questions about censorship and freedom of speech. I agreed with Meghnad when he said on Twitter that this was not a case of government censorship and not a free speech issue.
But at the same time, I do believe that there are cases where private parties refusing to publish something based on anticipated response of the government, or pressure to please the government, or anticipated public response can still qualify as censorship. Many events including TM Krishna were cancelled, including his book launch (you can still buy the book Sebastian and Sons, highly recommended) after persistent campaigns by the online right-wing. (Would it be possible to invite him on Hafta?) Is that not censorship? I would call it censorship. Sure, it was a private event being canceled, but there was public/government pressure.
I just wanted to correct something that I said, TM Krishna’s book launch was canceled by the first venue, but then happened at a different venue in Chennai and was very successful.
I believe that my point still stands.
One of the main appeals of Newslaundry for me is that it will never suppress news under government or corporate pressure due to its revenue model. And that is why I have been a happy subscriber for the last couple of years, and recently donated towards student subscriptions.
News channels not airing certain news due to financial pressure is still censorship in my opinion. Newspapers and news channels don't need to be censored by the government because they will gladly do it themselves for the advertising money. This is censorship, and it cannot be defended as a private platform taking a decision.
I want to reiterate that false and hateful content peddled by the book which was withdrawn by Bloomsbury India was a good decision, we should never give a platform to hate. And I think it is okay for the public to pressure corporations from funding and supporting such content. But I wouldn't quickly pass judgement on whether this is censorship or not, and if it is the good kind or bad kind.
Because the public pressure that led to the withdrawing this book can easily be weaponised by the online Right to withdraw historical books that don't repeat mythical heroic tales of their favorite historical figures and present reality, or an alternate point of view (see Audrey Truschke or Wendy Doniger).
Would love to hear everyone's views about this, apologies for the long rant, keep up the good work!
I have been a subscriber on and off with Newslaundry.
And mostly I have been off the subscription because it does not auto-renew and I often miss the time to go and renew the payment. I do think you may see a slight spike in subscription if you provide an auto-renew option.
I am a fan of NL Hafta, and the intellectual as well as balanced conversations. I understand that given the format it's not possible to cover a wider range of topics, but I wish you cover more of South India as well. The mainstream media doesn't do an even remotely decent job and it would be great if you could focus on NL Hafta/Sena etc in the south as well. Somehow, it feels like Hafta gets to news pretty late because it needs to wait for a week and then there appears to be a lag in time of upload and actual recording. So news feels a little outdated. But I enjoy hearing the perspectives
A few years back, I was so disappointed by the news media's sheer inability to report facts and present a neutral perspective, that I decided to stop watching TV news and started referring to digital news like yours. I hope you achieve the scale and breadth to be able to cover all news someday.
I boycotted Facebook when my conscience was deeply shaken by the New Zealand mosque massacre which was broadcasted live on Facebook. Since then, I decided I cannot be part of any platform which enables evil people of their evil agendas. Sadly, the larger society doesn't agree with me.
I still use other social media platforms given the professional expectations of employers in building their brand through leadership posts. I strictly decline anyone who sends me WhatsApp forwards which defy logic and sense.
At the end of this long email, I wanted to do my bit of contributing to your efforts by helping sponsor one month Disruptor subscription for 10 others. I had heard in one of your podcasts that there is an option to do that. I am hoping when more people get a taste of your content it will add to more renewals. Please let me know how I can go about doing that.
And finally, in your podcasts you also read out your subscriber emails. If you decide to read mine, I am going to ask that my anonymity be maintained. I have professional standards to maintain given the large team size I manage and cannot afford to be heard making a political point.
Thank you, keep up the great work!
Dear NL Team,
The Caravan reporters story was one of the key discussion points during Hafta 289. While secular values were never the strength of BJP, Modi government 2.0 has taken off the fig leaf of balance that was attempted in the beginning by earlier BJP governments. The boundary of acceptable civil behaviour has been pushed in the last seven years, so much that even a pandemic took an Islamic overtone. It is truly a difficult time for the Muslim liberal that believes in secular principals of the India Constitution.
In Hafta 289, the discussion on the Caravan report was followed by discussion on the Bengaluru violence. And that discussion lays bare the convenient positions that many liberals take which lead the right-wing to accuse them of being biased. Note how the caste of the victim suddenly became irrelevant and was mentioned only once or twice during the entire discussion. Had this been a Hindu mob, the entire Hafta discussion would have centred around the caste. There are times when caste is a relevant angle but it isn't the case always, like it wasn't relevant in the Bengaluru case. And a truly unbiased analysis of the past year of Hafta discussions would also highlight multiple other times when caste and religion was emphasised but was not dismissed by other panelists as being irrelevant. That, in some sense, is the outcome of a Hafta panel which comprises largely upper caste Hindus. One more reason why diversity is necessary!!
Hafta has had multiple discussions on Delhi riots. Not once do I recall any of the panelists feeling the need to emphasise the peaceful origins of Hinduism or talk about how Bhagwan Ram was a symbol of peace. That, in my view, would be irrelevant and frankly dishonest. To claim that a religion is peaceful and the violent acts of its followers are somehow an anomaly, not true to the religion, is frankly a convenient excuse.
One that, unfortunately, Mehraj indulged in Hafta 289. And I expected the other panelist to call out what it was — a humbug. The argument conveniently glossed over the fact that Islamic countries have a high share of violence and the worst record on minority rights, whether religion, gender or sexual orientation. To a society that is increasingly disturbed by Islamophobia, the prejudiced and often unjust behaviour of large segments of its followers should be a matter of equal if not bigger concern. That even the last of secular Islamic majority countries are tuning fundamentalist should be a focal point of discussion for the liberals amongst the community. Religion is what its followers observe. To claim that the Original Concept is of peace is frankly disingenuous and needs to be called out so. And all religions have had their fair share and monopoly over violence at different points of time. Lest anyone claims otherwise.
To that extent Abhinandan was an exception and might I say a true liberal.. To the other Hafta panelists, my advice: Please don't try to monkey balance. Call a spade a spade, irrespective of its gender, caste or religion.
Dear Hafta Team,
After being a long time "mufatkhor", I have been a proud subscriber for over six months. I suppose what tipped me to the subscriber side of the wall was increasing falsehoods and post truths we see on mainstream media, especially TV and I naturally felt obliged to do my bit to save the world.
Manisha, Mehraj, Raman Sir, and Abhinandan are a treat to listen to and I eagerly await the surprise guests every week. This is my first letter to NL and I hope to hear it being read on air :)
In Hafta 288, Manisha said something that really hit home with me as an Indian Muslim. She said that she wondered how Indian Muslims actually watch TV news with the kind of hatred spewed against them on almost all channels. In Episode 289, Raman Sir rightly said that there is a systematic and concerted violence against Indian Muslims engineered by the state machinery and this has become the new definition of nationalism as defined by the "new India". While I am an Indian Muslim, I do not to measure every situation from the lens of religion and religious bias. However, I find friends who I have grown up with, colleagues who I have known for over a decade, have transformed into these Islamophobic, venom spewing, "nationalists". It scares me to think of how a huge majority cannot see how obviously every democratic institution being dismantled to align it to a scary political agenda, which aims to change the very fabric of Indian pluralism that we were so proud of and were known the world over for.
Indian Muslims in general are largely pluralistic, culturally well integrated into Indian society and not extremists as is apparent from the percentage of people from India who ended up joining extremist organisations like ISIS. As a country, we need to reflect on whether normalising this hate mongering will push Muslims towards more extremist tendencies.
Seeing initiatives like Newslaundry and listening to your panel and guests is what keeps the hope alive for me. More power to you and your team, you will always have my support.
Hi NL Team,
I would prefer to remain anonymous and I must at outset apologise for a rather inarticulate email, unlike the ones that you get from your other subscribers.
I am of course a subscriber and used to be an ardent follower of your work and podcasts, but lately, I have been very disappointed with the quality of the podcasts, especially, Hafta. My disappointment stems from the fact that the divergence of views which I believed was one of the hallmarks of the podcast is now absent. By this, I don't mean to say that you need to indulge in "monkey balancing", but it would be good if maybe Madhu could be a part of the Hafta more regularly, as I do believe that she did at times at least provide a counter to a view of all the other panelists. Right now, it looks like people are speaking in an echo chamber, with people not only echoing the views, but also the factual inaccuracies, which I believe is even more worrying! I have often heard Abhinandan say that there are a lot of conflicting views in the editorial team, so maybe you could get the other members of the editorial/news team to be a part of the Hafta, so more diverse views are represented on Hafta.
Actually, my main reason to write the mail is the discussion that you had on "period leave" in the last Hafta (Hafta 289) and the rather appalling views presented on the subject and also on maternity leave. Btw as a correction, in India the maternity leave is six months and not three months! The law was amended sometime in 2017-18 to extend it from three months to six months. The argument against the extending the leave was similar to the ones being proposed against period leave (I don't have a very strict view on the same, but as someone who has seen friends suffer from debilitating pain and nausea during their periods, I do believe that it is something which companies and employers should have a conversation on); that it will deter employers from hiring women.
I am sorry, but this argument is specious and against the evidence clearly established by the maternity leave policies of several European countries, where maternity leave extends up to one year. Employers in India are also slowly beginning to realise the importance and need to provide women with adequate maternity leave. This is not to say that there is no pushback from employers, but change is a slow process and is always incremental.
So, we do need to keep pushing the envelope and not just be comfortable with the status quo because employers (a majority of whom are men!) will resent it and not employ women.
Another important factor to take into account is that very few women take all six months off; most of them continue to do some work as and when possible. I do have a lot more to say on this subject, but I have rambled on for too long, so maybe I will write a better articulated piece on this subject later.
In the meanwhile I would recommend you to read this piece on period pain and the need for leave.
I am a recent subscriber.
Hope you are all safe and healthy as you are reading this, considering the fact that these are difficult times both in health and economical aspects.
I am Ali.
I am not a holder of any big titles or high degrees as your usual subscribers write for your for Hafta podcast, so I apologise if it might seem simple and less informative in manner.
I really enjoy TV Newsance in order to see what a debacle our current news media stature is in the name of journalism. I love Manisha for her satirical, comical and witty way of reporting. I also enjoy Abhinandan with regards to NL Interview which I haven't heard many give you much praise for it, though I am sure there is a group of researchers who are responsible for you achieving it.
In a broad sense, I am what you could consider an average person with some knowledge of what is happening in the country. As a baseline, I do use Newslaundry for indulging with what is happening around the country.
I would like to keep things short though there are several things which I would like your view on. Perhaps I would write a long list of things about it in future if given a chance. For now, I would only wish to bring your attention to the issue of expat unemployment as well. We all know the current situation of unemployment within the country, but this is only the tip of the iceberg considering the fact that even in other countries Indian citizens have faced layoffs and are being sent back to India due to the pandemic.
Sources for reference:
I would request you to at least look into this matter and tell us how it would really impact this country.
In any case, you guys are awesome. I hope you guys keep doing what you are doing and remain a news media platform.
A quick thing, I have subconsciously memorised Newslaundry's slogan "When the public pays, the public is served and when advertisers pay advertisers are served".
Have fun all and stay healthy, which is more than anyone can ask for at this situation.
With regards and wishes
I love your work, have been busy and ignored for quite some time but your email about the current major media houses priority moved me to subscribe to your channel again.
I suggest no national media have interest in South Indian states, once in a while major issues are being discussed. There are major activities going on, from the Andhra Pradesh capital shift, a Scheduled Caste youth's head being shaved at a police station, KCR behaving like a monarch, phone-tapping, much more.
I know you have a lot of budget issues but do some shows in second-grade cities to enlighten the educated. I feel now the major threat is educated, biased people, not uneducated rural people. Touch to perform a full show but need to focus on some South India issues for a few minutes, will pull the crowd.
People are impatient now. They cannot read or listen to entire shows. So I suggest being active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with short, crisp videos, like BBC. Need to follow the trend even if you don't like it.
Thanks for understanding.
Hi NL team,
In the last few Haftas and before as well, there has been some Right-leaning commentary on secularism and/or the coverage of Muslim issues from subscribers. The panel has responded, and I feel it's going nowhere. NL just seems to dig in its heels. So let me try to phrase it a different way, as NL started with critiquing the media.
What are the panel's thoughts on the coverage of Islamism in India and abroad by the Indian Left-leaning/English media prior to 2014? Say, from 1990 onwards, as some of you are from that time. Does the panel feel there were significant mistakes by the media then? If none, nothing to debate. If yes, what were they? Does the panel think the Left media still commits those mistakes? What does NL do to consciously avoid making those mistakes?
For what it's worth, I definitely do feel the Left, including NL, is squeamish about calling a spade a spade about Islamism. But when it comes to casteism, they're like Sunny Deol in Gaddar, for the Left. This can be an NL vs NL topic, but not sure what to call it.
Specifically about the onus on the majority for being secular, Abhinandan is slightly incorrect in comparing men and sexism in the office or anywhere. Women never ruled and oppressed men, Muslims historically did oppress Hindus (and still do in Bangladesh and Pakistan). The Hindu/bhakt angst is driven from that. So in India, it's a tricky case of the current oppressed minority being historical oppressors. Not sure how that can be resolved because usually oppressors (in terms of historical identity) have to extend the olive branch, just like men have to be careful and make woman feel comfortable in that environment even if they were never sexist.
We should be secular and there should be truth and reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims with respect to history, just like there should be between UCs and Dalits.
As always, a big fan of NL Hafta and Charcha. Both of them are part of my weekend podcast binge.
I feel podcasts are a better way to get information because you don't have to dedicate time to it but you can listen to them while engaging in other activities. Watching a two-hour movie seems tiring yet I easily listen to a two-hour long NL Hafta.
I'm not as smart as some of the other subscribers so I wrote this mail to ask all the panelists about their favourite podcasts or the genres they like. Also, how did you all discover podcasts and when do you listen to them, if you do? I actively push podcasts on my friends and so far managed to convert 2-3 of them but not NL Hafta (still trying to push them).
Also, a small request: If it is possible, I would really love if you can invest into tech so that there is a subscriber-only feed of NL Hafta. While I don't mind manually uploading the episodes on my phone's app I'd really appreciate if you make my life a bit easier.
Thanks and regards,
Dear Ed Team,
I am a retired schoolteacher and have been a monthly subscriber for the past three months.
I must say I am quite hooked on to your platform and thoroughly enjoy the way in which you present your podcasts and reports. I have been very impressed by the way you have presented and discussed news. While there is deadly seriousness in the discussions and reports, I have been particularly impressed by the way you take in criticism and deal with humdrum (as well as deadly serious) news events with a touch of humour and wit.
I have been following NL Hafta religiously for the last 12 or so weeks to get a balanced view of what’s happening around us in these strangely dark and puzzling times. I find Manisha’s take on Newsance absolutely mad and thoroughly enjoyable. I also enjoy all the ribbing that takes place on HOMP (by the way, I think I should tell you that on my latest highway adventure I did a 7,600-km road trip in January-February of this year, travelling from Darjeeling, where I live, down the east coast to Kanyakumari, and came up the west coast to Pune before driving across central India to come back home).
I must admit that though my knowledge of Hindi is just about passable, I enjoy the discussions with Atul Chaurasia on NL Charcha, as much as I find it completely engrossing listening to the views of Raman, Mehraj, Anand and Meghnad on your podcasts. (Meghnad’s comment on Arnab’s high energy levels on NL Charcha had me laughing my guts out.) Thank goodness I discovered you guys which has meant that I have completely given up on mainstream TV news channels.
I think you folks are doing a great job of disseminating news and so in order to support you folks, I bought a year-long subscription for my son last week, who is a student at university, and today I upgraded my own monthly subscription into an annual one, too. More power to you folks!
PS: You need not bother with the correct pronunciation of my name, if, in case, you do read this e-mail.
Hi Team NL,
It was a bit disappointing to listen to Mehraj's points on the Bangalore agitation. You can skip reading the part written in blue, don't want Newslaundry team in any trouble.
1. Islamophobia is not an India specific issue
I live in Antwerp in a Muslim migrant dominated area in Belgium, I feel how Mumbai-Delhi thinks of UP Biharis is similar to what Europeans think of Moroccans, Arabs, or in general Muslims. My Croatian roommate had once shown me a video of how Muslims are going to dominate the European population in the next 50-100 years. I felt similar Islamophobia while interacting with my Italian colleagues. I have heard many areas in Sweden and Germany where Muslim refugee dominate are not safe anymore, typical xenophobic points which we already have heard in India.
2. Islam is not a religion of peace.
No religion probably other than Jains can claim that their religion is a religion of peace. (Mohammad himself ordered killing of 800 Jews in Madina when Jews started a mutiny against him and supported Quraysh.) Even in many Jain-Gujarati dominated buildings in Mumbai, Jain people behave radically and don't allow Muslims and Maharashtrians to rent or buy an apartment just cause they eat meat or fish. This argument that religion teaches peace is stupid. The destruction and massacre of war teach us peace.
3. Reforms in Islam based on the Quran are not reforms (Hafta 290)
While replying to Yusuf, Mehraj pointed out that there have been many reforms in Islam in South Asia which are better interpretations of the Quran. Any liberal interpretation of the Quran is not a reform. Calling out the stupidity in the religious text is a reform. Calling out the caste system is a reform, calling out homophobia and anti-science values of the Quran/ Bible would be reform.
While pursuing my masters in the Netherlands, I had a diverse Muslim friends group, those guys were from Egypt, Somalia, Azerbaijan, and even from Pakistan. I used to go for iftar dinner at their house. Post iftar, we used to have tea and discuss religion, politics, etc. These guys were one of the sweetest people I know but even after pursuing a master of science from the Netherlands, they still believed that evolution is fake propaganda, and Earth was created 5,000 years back, and all this cause that's how they interpret Quran.
We need Muslim voices that shall update or revise the Quran and not just interpret it in a liberal way.
And my rant is over. Sorry for the harsh words.
Thank you NL Team,
Hi Abhinandan and Manisha, Mr. PSU here again
I think you took my email on Hafta 290 out of context, quoting certain parts of it to reinforce your views(SSR part). I know the email is long, but feel free to paraphrase without omitting any of the arguments (that's if you've not dismissed me as an impressionable nutcase already).
I really hate Salman Khan and his enterprise and I just really want to see him rot in jail. So I MAY be biased in that way.
I am no fan of mainstream Bollywood or SSR, the only movies of SSR I have watched are PK and Sonchiriya.
Frankly I couldn't give a shit about what mainstream Bollywood actor killed himself.
I am a Bengali and seeing how SSR fans are going after Bengali women in general is quite painful for me. There are abusive memes about Bengali women out there (especially from the Rajput community and cow belt in general) saying they're gold diggers, sluts, prostitutes and what not.
I am rather distressed by how Godi Media is going after Rhea Chakraborty in particular and how she abetted SSR's suicide or did Kaala Jaadu on him. I find this absolutely ridiculous.
That being said, what I had hoped you'd take away from my piece is that even if there is an iota of doubt on the conflict of interest of the Mumbai police, even merely for optics and their own reputation, other investigative agencies should be involved in the case.
And I hope you'd agree that Mumbai police's handling of the case has been less than ideal (eg. news media trampling inside the room on the same day).
And I really hate Salman Khan 😅. I mean if I were the chief of Mumbai police, I might plant evidence to convict him.
Also, I understand that if the CBI is involved, BJP will try to use it for playing politics in Maharashtra.
Thanks for discussing most of the points that I had made, and I would really appreciate if you'd discuss the part about the UNSC because I feel that is a matter of gravest concern in the larger scheme of things in the long term. Maybe the more scholarly in your panel can shed some light on it and the relevance of it in general.
P.S. Also, saying that there should be an independent investigation doesn't mean I presume guilt on the basis of rumour-mongering, rather for the truth to come out, there needs to be confidence that the investigation is impartial.