Hafta letters: Challenging UC Hindu privileges, walking on eggshells around Islamism, overcoming cynicism
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: Challenging UC Hindu privileges, walking on eggshells around Islamism, overcoming cynicism

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Hi NL,

Following you since 2014 and through you got introduced to the podcast world, especially on Indian news, media, politics and its critique. Apart from excellent reporting and other stuff, Atul’s NL Tippani is phenomenal, no offense to Manisha. And please invite Deepanjana on Hafta, it’s been a long time, I haven’t heard her voice here.

On Bengaluru violence, when Abhinandan talked about the UP minister and his bounty, in 2015, Azam Khan made some remarks about RSS members and, in retaliation, Kamlesh Tiwari said something about the Prophet. As emotional fools, most Muslims got irked. At that time, I asked the question to a lot of people in the community: why are we not putting any accountability on Azam Khan as his bad-mouthing started the whole issue?

So, yes, there is negligence to put one amongst ourselves in the box. From Rushdie to Charlie Hebdo and beyond, most of the time you will find that behind these incidents, there will be an amalgam of political force and uneducated, unemployed people. Look how the blasphemy law in Pakistan has become a fiasco. I disagree with Mehraj that Islam has borrowed the idea of blasphemy from Christian theology. I highly recommend the talk on YouTube "Cartoons and Lampoons: Defining the Boundaries of Political Satire and Prophetic Respect" for understanding blasphemy in Islam. And to dispel the notion that Islam doesn’t allow critique, people should read Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace.

On the Ayodhya verdict, people should watch Professor Faizan Mustafa’s Legal Awareness web series, where he critically examined the whole Ayodhya issue and the Supreme Court's verdict.

On Kamala Harris, whenever someone with Indian origin achieves something in Western countries, most Indian people always go gaga and think that all his/her achievement is only because of the Indian genes and it has nothing to do with the institutions of those countries. Instead of talking about the pathetic state of our institutions, we talk about the person. Put the same person here, God knows where he/she will end up.

For me, Bollywood biopic worth watching will be Bandit Queen and Paan Singh Tomer.

That’s all for now.

Thank you,

Sameer Hasan

***

Hey Hafta team,

Your team is doing a great service to the nation by showing a mirror to media and people (like us who consume the shit). I was an ardent TV news watcher. I stopped consuming TV news a couple of years ago when all the anchors started doing angry young wo/men façade. Also closed all my social media accounts around the same time.

Discovered Newslaundry on YouTube as recently as this year thanks to TV Newsance; Manisha, awesome job, by the way. Just wanted to say hello, and would like to engage with you awesome people sometime soon.

Eagerly waiting for next Hafta,

Thanks

Santosh

PS: Abhinandan repeatedly asking or shall I say demanding to pay for content actually works (even though it gets frustratingly repetitive). It forced me to come forward. Keep doing it, Abhinandan.

***

Hi NL team,

You just read my email on the last Hafta so I wouldn't be surprised if it is not possible to read this one as well on the podcast but it'd mean a lot if the Hafta team reads it.

I'm writing this email right after watching Abhinandan interview Gulzar and on the night before Prashant Bhusan's sentencing. By the time you read this, we all will know his fate and something tells me it is going to be ugly, so you can say I am a little inspired right now and hence this mail/rant.

I want to bring up an issue which you guys missed on last Hafta, which is the government's new diktat to the OTT platforms vis-a-vis content on the Indian army or the armed forces in general. It demands that the creators of any web series or films on the topic of the armed forces get prior approval of the forces.

This is the result of one OTT platform where the armed forces were shown in a poor manner which was obviously intimated by retired personals from the military to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. And the ministry, in its infinite wisdom, has done what they always do: they put more censorship in place.

And this is not the shocking part. The shocking part is that this diktat has existed for quite a few years now for the theatrical film releases, and not one news organisation thought it may be a direct attack on free speech. And even if they did, they simply put a 100-word piece about it on their websites and went on with their obsession with Sushant Singh Rajput and how horrible Rhea is.

From Punjab's sacrilege law (which the media also failed to focus on) to now the armed forces telling us what and how they should be portrayed on our screens. we really have come a long way within a span of six years.

The Indian Air Force was quite upset with its portrayal in the recent film Gunjan Saxena because "it was not factually accurate". Well, in that case, I guess Uri the Surgical Strike was a documentary and also in such a case, I would not be too wrong to assume that the army does have drones that look like birds, flap their wings like birds, which are not at all detected by any radar, and also peek into the terrorist hideouts across borders through windows?

If tomorrow the same privilege is granted to parliamentarians and the police, will we buckle down as well? We are living in times when a lawyer may be sent behind bars for pointing out the flaws in the justice system and criticising the Supreme Court's newfound reliance, admiration, love, and faith in the executive.

The point is, people or institutions of power don't like to be held accountable but they have to be. That is what democracy is, and if we aspire to be a vibrant one as well, if we hope to speak truth to power, if we want people of this country to be more aware and mindful about their rights, we need a free press, and also a free flow of ideas and free medium of expression.

And that is, unfortunately, simply missing.

And with that, I just realised I have violated Abhinandan's 400-word rule so I am going to stop now and let you guys carry on my rant if you wish to. And I hope that Newslaundry doesn't miss out on these little things which may seem little but can take away our basic freedom, and will probably be used as an instrument to suppress those who dare to assume their right to free speech and expression. Don't believe me? Ask Dr Kafeel Khan.

Regards,

Kingshuk Dasgupta

***

Hello Newslaunderers 😂 (thank Arnab),

I had been following your channel and the free content you've uploaded for almost a year and on the occasion of Independence Day, I finally decided to free myself of the annoying conventional media and bought a subscription of NL :)

This mail is regarding the NL Hafta 289. Being a fairly new and relatively young subscriber, I don't think I have the credentials to put forth my arguments regarding most of what you've discussed. But being a menstruating woman, I feel I do have the necessary qualifications to present my POV on period leaves.

Here, I agree with what Abhinandan had to say and to a certain extent also with Barkha's tweets. Period leaves, although a great step forward, I think they might end up militating against women by dissuading employers from considering promotions and salary increments. Also in the matter of hiring professionals, one cannot argue against the fact that even today, in most of the cases, pregnancy still is a decisive factor.

I will give you a personal example. My mother works as a principal in a certain institution and being a woman herself, when she has to make a choice between hiring a newly-wed woman/unmarried woman and a woman who is probably in her early 40s/a man for a post, she invariably goes with the latter option because she feels that there are more chances of a young, newly married lady going ahead with pregnancy and taking a long leave, or a young unmarried one tying the knot and then leaving the job to take up domestic duties. (I don't agree with my mother here or am not trying to justify her, just letting you know.)

What I am trying to say is that period leaves would surely help women if we were a better-evolved society, where an employer overlooks such factors as periods/pregnancy/marriage and purely considers whether a woman does or does not meet the necessary qualifications. And the reality is that we have not yet reached that point of societal growth and until then, period leaves will only end up being a pyrrhic victory for women.

Having said that, if Zomato has decided to go ahead with period leaves, it probably also has mechanisms in place to ensure that the very same leave won't prove to be detrimental to its female employees wanting to rise through the ranks. Hence this might even end up becoming that watershed moment, we never know.

Also, I want to point out that Zomato has actually decided to grant leaves to transgender people and not just women, as you wrongly stated.

Love and regards,

Prerana

***

Hello everyone at Newslaundry,

I am from Bangalore. I kindly request you not to disclose my name/identity.

Maybe this letter is long, but I request you to read it so that no other subscriber should make the mistake that I made with Newslaundry as a subscriber.

I have been an on/off member since 2014 when I discovered Newslaundry. I watched many archived interviews and felt this kind of work must be supported and started my subscription. Depending on my financial conditions (I have quit my job to take care of my son) and my state of mind, there were days when I did not renew my subscription. I have bought and read most of the books reviewed by Newslaundry, including Anand Ranganathan's two books and also Madhu Trehan's Tehelka as a Metaphor.

This was from 2014-2017. I follow most of the Newslaundry staff on Twitter and always felt that Anand on Newslaundry and Anand on Twitter are two different people.

Things changed between 2018 and 2019. For the last three years, I have been teaching/guiding computer science engineering post-graduation students and got very busy with my work. During this time, I distanced myself from regular Twitter updates but realised that Anand had left Newslaundry and then came back to Twitter to understand what had happened.

At that time, I was busy and didn't have the time or the intention to understand the reasons for this change. I felt a difference in opinion is normal and felt maybe Anand has moved on for his own reasons. But there was a bitter feeling inside my mind to witness such a change in the person whom I had admired as a scientist/journalist.

And also remember: this was during the last part of 2018 and early 2019, the way the whole environment around us was charged due to elections and probably it made me feel too cynical. I was like, why should I listen to anybody, people change, and what is the guarantee that Newslaundry will nor change in the future? Why should I waste my money, time, emotions, anyway nothing good is going to happen, etc.

The post-grad students (one of the top engineering colleges in Bangalore) whom I was guiding for their project work and were all big fans of Anand's Twitter handle! This was during March to May 2019, and I was shocked at the influence that RSS/Modi/BJPand these intellectuals had on all these college students, especially engineers. The data for all their whataboutery and justifications were coming from Anand's Twitter, and the way the right-wing and RSS has corrupted the education institutes is beyond our imagination.

I guess you understand my situation. I clearly remember in one of the Haftas, Madhu Trehan had confronted Anand's whataboutery.

It took some time for me to come out of my cynicism and I realised the only solution is to do the right things and support the people who are doing the right things. Due to Covid, my small-scale tech training centre is closed and for the time being, I will limit to monthly or quarterly subscriptions, and when the situation permits, I will buy higher options and also will try to sponsor subscriptions for few students. Currently, I am trying to take up a mainstream corporate job.

I realised that there is a mistake from my end also, that I did not provide my feedback in time, and just distanced myself because of one person's attitude and Newslaundry does not mean just Anand Ranganathan.

I admire each and everyone's work and I listen to all the podcasts, interviews, and reports, and follow everyone on Twitter.

In fact, I am writing this letter to exchange my ideas with Newslaundry, in the context of the recent two months of developments in the media due to coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput's death. I do not have any stance on this and my opinions are purely based on facts.

In the absence of a suicide note, shouldn't Mumbai police have registered a case of suspicion and started their investigation? Why was it declared that it is a case of suicide immediately? For all you know, SSR might have had depression/bipolar issues, I am not denying that fact. But a person like SSR, who had seen reasonable success in Bollywood, committing suicide without a note should at least raise an alarm. If you remember Rohit Vemula's death, there was no way people could cast any doubt regarding the cause of his death due to his suicide note which laid bare his state of mind and situations that drove him to make such a tragic decision.

While I do not support all that is going through in mainstream media and appreciate articles on Newslaundry in condemning the drama, the truth is that Sushant's family is supporting all that is going through in Republic/Times Now.

If you see any of their profiles on Twitter, they are appreciating Arnab, Navika, Kangana. And in fact, Navika got the images of SSR's body from his sister, as she declared on the show. Doesn't this highlight something missing from the Mumbai police part? I am not trying to justify SSR's family here, but if they are supporting this, what for?

I have very closely observed the Aarushi murder case and Avirook Sen's work records all the misdeeds by the UP police/CBI. The family shared a lot of details with the friendly media and NDTV was their biggest support. As journalist Mihir Srivastava said in the documentary Behind Closed Doors, Aarushi's parents/family participated in the media trial.

I agree with what Manisha said in one of the Haftas: SSR's death and its aftermath is an interesting sociological case study.

But I feel how much ever you try to distance and try to be objective, it is not easy. After Rajdeep's interview with Rhea, I saw a few tweets from Manisha and Rajyasree Sen in which they commented about Sushant not talking to his father for five years, and Ankita who was not in touch with SSR for four years, and commenting about his state of mind, etc. In fact, Rajyasree Sen tweeted that it's good that Rhea gave an interview, etc.

So, while criticising the media trial that Republic/Times Now conducted, you also started getting affected based on what Rhea said in the interview. While Manisha/Rajyasreeor anyone is right in supporting Rhea for all the vile stuff that is thrown on her, I feel it is not correct to make any assumption about SSR, purely based on what Rhea is saying.

So that is it for now. Keep up the good work coming on. More interviews, more podcasts.

***

Mehraj is cutting a sorry figure with each passing Hafta. Any slight prodding on Islamism results in weak defenses which are countered, if at all, with utmost caution by the panel. So the Islamic world is illiberal towards minorities because of war-ravaged recent history, as if prior to those wars that region was leading the world in liberal values and religious freedom. Not to mention other ravaged countries like Vietnam which don't have such issues.

In the context of the Bengaluru riots, there are positive parts of the Quran to be shared, while the rest of panel apparently is totally unaware of any deep-rooted issues in the Quran. Though if someone had ever quoted anything positive from Manusmriti, no need to guess how that would have been pounced upon. Or for commenting against Islam, the panel can always hide behind the fig leaf of "depends on interpretation", or "we are not theologians".

All this while, the entire panel agrees passionately on casteist fabric of Hindu society but Islamism of course is not a fabric of any region. And this attitude is not just in discussing specific events recently. Over a long period of time of listening to Hafta, it's too clear how the panel walks on eggshells when it comes to discussing issues/events of Islamism. While talking about casteism, panel's freedom is too evident, jokes/anger/mocking/modulation of tone all are there, but with Islamism, it's a limited stiff commentary, which comes off as tokenism.

Hard to write this off as bias, this attitude is something weirder, don't know what to call it, but its not just bias. I am glad you guys at least discuss caste freely, and interviews like TM Krishna on his book are also excellent, at least that part you are doing right.

Prakash Iyer

***

A rebuttal to Prakash Iyer's letter

Hello NL Team,

Hafta letters over the past few weeks show a clear discomfort in the subscriber base whenever the privileges of the UC Hindu get challenged. In particular, I would like to respond to a letter by Prakash Iyer last week where the subscriber equates Dalit oppression by UC Hindus to Hindus being oppressed by Muslims in the past (a questionable claim). The letter goes on to cite Bangladesh and Pakistan, two sovereign nations that have nothing to do with the Indian Muslims, as sources of Hindu angst. Holding an Indian Muslim constantly answerable for problems faced by minorities in other Muslim countries is appalling and akin to insinuating that their natural homeland isn't India.

To compare atrocities on Dalits to cherry-picked instances of violence by Muslim rulers in medieval India is an attempt to falsely paint all sides as equally disadvantaged. Subjugation of Dalits isn't a thing of the past. It is very much a reality in today’s India. The truth is that, be it medieval India or today, the UC Hindu has always been a privileged group, regardless of the identity of those in power.

That Muslims historically oppressed Hindus is a selective argument that the RW uses to demonise the Muslims living in India today (conveniently ignoring equally violent non-Muslim rulers). The letter goes on to put the onus of extending the olive branch on a community that has been abused and humiliated on a daily basis (based on notional medieval wrong-doings)! As privileged UC Hindus living overseas, it is hard for us to fathom the humiliation and otherisation felt by minority groups in India today. To put the onus of reconciliation on the minorities is arrogant and fails to acknowledge the power asymmetry (historically and today).

The Indian Muslim today is the oppressed class, and so is a Dalit living in current-day India. There is no real equivalence between Dalit groups asking for reservations and a Hindu UC vandalising a mosque. One is a long-oppressed (also currently) group fighting for a more equitable society while the other is driven by the bloodlust of a historically privileged majority (fueled by propaganda). The art of premeditated centrism lies in constructing such false equivalences where both sides are assumed to be equally powerful (or disadvantaged) in order to appear balanced.

Till we wholeheartedly acknowledge these power asymmetries, we continue fueling bigotry and violence intellectually.

Aditya

***

Hi there,

I was quite intrigued by Mehraj’s defence of Islamic countries with bad human rights records.

It was quite fascinating to hear that some of the countries that he mentioned were democracies that became autocracies. Fair point.

My assumption is that he was alluding to the fact that they are autocracies; it is a non-argument if we compare India to these countries because it’s obvious that the moral authority of a democracy and the standard you would keep a democracy is way higher than an autocratic state. Fair game. If this is the case, then my view below is really irrelevant.

But If he was using the wars in these countries to justify atrocities against minorities as an act of war...Then I am afraid I am finding it difficult to digest what you were saying! Because the most significant of the Islamic countries was not at war for more than 100 years. (Gulf War affected Iraq and Kuwait, not much of the rest of GCC. None of the rest of the GCC were never really bombed.)

Saudi Arabia, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1919, thanks to its oil money managed to take its place (in the Sunni world). And this country is regressive and is followed by a lot of Islamic countries. There is enough evidence on the support of mujahideen all over the world, not just Pakistan and Afghanistan. So I am not sure how Mehraj will defend Saudi, UAE and Qatar. If you even think that you would want to defend these countries, just remember how they are bombing the SHIT out of Yemen. Anybody who knows the Gulf knows Yemen, despite being an Arab state, is different from its neighbours.

I do hope it’s the first case and not the second. If it is the second, then I am sorry, Mehraj. You are no different from a Hindu apologist, an Islamic apologist!

Best regards,

Dhiraj

Newslaundry
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