Hafta letters: Critiquing Islam, the TRP model, and the SSR-Rhea case

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

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Dear NL Team,

This is Shankar writing to you from Amsterdam. I'm writing to you NOT AS A FREELOADER, which I ashamedly was over the last few weeks (or even before that, where I was just listening to the Chota Hafta and raving about it but doing nothing to keep news free) but a subscriber to both the Disruptor and NL Sena Bishop options. I am incredibly thankful for the work all of you do. As someone who has been living abroad for a very long time, I found it increasingly difficult to find a constant source of sane and brilliant reporting. I finally stumbled upon you guys during March of this year, which, if you are reading this out loud, should definitely be to shame me for being this late to the game.

I do have one question: While I do love the fact that you read out the opinions of many of your subscribers —some of the most brilliantly articulated emails, have you considered dividing it into two segments? Perhaps one where the panelists/ guest journalists share their thoughts on the events of the past week and the second focusing on subscriber emails? I don't know if this question has been posed before but again, I have nothing to add but appreciative thoughts about the work that you guys do. Keep doing the great work and I'll do my best to spread your work to my Arnab-loving family.

P.S: Manisha is fantastic!




Hello NL team,

I'm a final year undergraduate student and I have been an on and off subscriber of Newslaundry. I've decided to support Newslaundry again with whatever resources I can. Abhinandan is my favorite. His views help me stretch beyond my own capacity to think and also ponder upon the complexity of an issue . I was listening to the old Haftas and found Manisha and Mehraj's views intriguing, which is what made me subscribe to NL, despite the paucity of resources currently.

I don't believe in monkey balancing. I've seen people in the comment section who abuse day in and day out when you talk in support of minorities or question Hindutvavadis. They damn all of you as a bunch of left liberals jabbering against the 'tolerant Hindus'. Pointing at the conditions of minorities in Islamic countries, they contend Hindus have been quite tolerant all these years as opposed to the Muslims, and that in turn gives them some sort of moral superiority. They are of the view that someday Muslims will take over the Hindu population which will lead to a disaster. It would be great if you bring in some more sane voices from the right on the panel like Anand Vardhan. His pieces have great insights.

Best wishes!



Dear NL team,

My name is Shivansh Singhal. I have been a Newslaundry subscriber since March 2020. I am a PhD student at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. I have some comments.

1) NL Hafta: I feel that the NL team is slightly biased against the right wing. I have been listening to some interviews that have intelligent opinions, but clearly leaning to the right. I don't see the NL panel bringing up these intelligent points that the right wing makes, as rare as they may be. For that reason, I feel that the NL panel leans towards the left. I have attached some links to these interviews to help make my point better. The man in these videos (J. Sai Deepak) is a lawyer. He is clearly biased. But he sets a historical context in a way that seems legit. I have not heard these arguments anywhere else, maybe because I am stuck in the social media bubble and my Youtube suggestions are skewed. I would have liked to see these arguments being brought up on NL hafta because I expect you guys to be truly neutral. I am sorry if I sound upset. I just mean this as food for thought. I love what Newslaundry does and I fully support you guys.


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2) NL Hafta: I would suggest that you call some people from academia, such as professors and researchers, to discuss the nitty gritties of some topics like Covid-19 or the New Environment Policy or floods, and to give a view on the bleeding edge of research on topics of public interest.

3) Newsance: Manisha's Newsance is my favorite NL product. I don't have a TV so I am safe from Arnab and other toxic anchors, but I like to get that weekly gist of the bullshit that appears on TV because it gives me things to talk about when I call my mother.

Thank you for what you guys do. You are my main source of real news. I listen to your podcasts all the time. Since I joined in March this year, I have a ton of content from earlier that I can access now. I am also saving up so that I can contribute to the next NL Sena project as well. Regardless of my financial contribution, I would like to offer my help to NL, in any way I can. Keep up the good work.


Shivansh Singhal


Hi Abhinandan.

While listening to the emails that you readout Hafta 292, I got a sense that many of your listeners / subscribers believe that issues related to Islam and Muslims don't get debated, discussed or criticised enough. I think these people should view YouTube videos by Abdullah Sameer or Abdullah Gondal. There are links to a few YouTube videos in this email which could help change that impression. One may not agree with the views in these videos but I want to make a point that Islam and Muslims do get criticised often on social media but we rarely notice.




I am a new subscriber and I wholeheartedly support independent media which is why I subscribed to Newslaundry.

Recently, you people were discussing a lot on various aspects of Islam, searching for rational voices who can pin point the problems. For this I would like to recommend two-three rational voices from Muslim community who called themselves ex-Muslims because they have left Islam to lead a free life.

1. Haris Sultan: An ex-muslim from Pakistan currently residing in Australia. His command over science and religion will make discussion more interesting.Here is his Youtube channel link:


2. Galib Kamal: One of the great minds from Pakistan. He has great authority over science and Islamic texts. Here is his channel:


3. Ex-Muslim spartakus: We not know his actual name for security reasons. He has been persecuted in the name of blasphemy law.

He also has great command on Islamic texts. Here’s his channel:


Hope you find it interesting,




I object to Anand's judgemental take on the whole Sushant Singh Rajput issue. To call a person "debauched" just because he smoked some weed is evidence of prudery on the level of Puritans. Alcoholism or substance abuse is an illness and not a moral failing, Mr. Vardhan. Sushant clearly had some serious mental health issues as attested by his psychiatrist. And we don't even know whether Sushant struggled with substance abuse or just occasionally smoked a joint. Cannabis is less harmful than tobacco and does not deserve the ostracism and illegality that has been imposed on it in the name of war on drugs. We know very little about either Sushant or Rhea Chakraborty and must not judge them or use loaded words like debauchery. They did not cause harm to anybody else and should not be judged for what they did in their private lives.

Coming to the issue of the arrest of Rhea and the demolition of Kangana's house, the thing that binds the two acts together is selective application of law. Anand was being quite myopic when he said that the arrest of Rhea was good in law. But does the Narcotics Control Bureau investigate every petty drug offence? The NCB spokesman himself said that this case was unusual for them and they don't normally investigate such petty offences as the NCB was formed to investigate international drug smuggling and large drug rackets. Had there not been political pressure on NCB, they would not have investigated this. Same goes for the BMC, had Kangana not criticized the Shiv Sena, the BMC would not have bothered to look into whether her office was violating construction norms. Instead of applying the law uniformly to all, the application of law is selective, arbitrary and politically motivated. This poses a threat to the rule of law in India and this issue goes beyond political parties as all political parties have indulged in such biased enforcement. Though the BJP has taken it to another level whatsoever since 2014 as the panellists correctly pointed out. The erosion of respect for the rule of law and democratic norms in our political class has had a corrosive effect on Indian democracy and society.


Shreyas Pathak

P.S. I am a teacher of social sciences on an e-learning platform. This information is for Manisha's research into the professions of subscribers.


Hi All,

I'm a subscriber because I like what you people do. But, I don't know the reason for avoiding the answer to the person who writes again and again about how 'Islamic' rulers treat minorities.

One point people do not see or do not want to see is that there is a big difference between an Islamic ruler and a ruler who is a Muslim. It is a consensus amongst all the islamic scholars that there were only five Islamic rulers (Abu-Bakr, Omar, Osman, Ali, and Hasan) and the rule ended in 661 AD. Any rule after that is not an Islamic rule.

There are undoubtedly rulers who are Muslims. And, Muslims like other human beings are good and bad. So, there are good rulers and bad rulers. One of those bad rulers killed Hussain, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and people expect those type of rulers to care for minorities? It is impossible.

However, there is an attempt made by a great Islamic scholar, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and 250 other Muslim scholars, to remind the so-called Muslim rulers about the rights of minorities. It's The Marrakech Declaration in Jan 2016.

People don't blame Christians for what Hitler did and they should not. Hitler was a horrible person. Just think in the same manner when it comes to 'Muslim' rulers who violate rights of any human being.

I hope this brings some closure.

Continue to be awesome.




Hello Team,

I have been a subscriber for about two years and for the last six months, Newslaundry has been my only source of news.

All of you are amazing.

I have a (probably silly) question. Would the pandemic impact the black money that people get or hold? Because new businesses would not be set up, there's not much interaction with bureaucracy ? Also considering there are elections next year, it would be interesting to see how the pandemic impacts it.




Dear Hafta Team,

I have been a subscriber for a few months but have been consuming NL for free for a few years. Though I have participated in one Chatbox session before, this is the first time I am writing in.

I begin with a complaint. I was disappointed when your sports podcast disappeared and continue to remain disappointed that NL content has, ever since, broadly ignored sports as a topic. Given that sports coverage may not be what your target audience demands (apart from me) I am still going to make a case for increased coverage on sports related issues across NL on the basis that I am now a subscriber and “when the public pays the public is served”.

The first reason I would ask for increased coverage on sports-related issues is because of the undoubted effect sports play in society and the demand for sports coverage, especially live events. Just have a look at the list of most watched television broadcasts to understand how important it is for the media and society at a global level. Another possible indicator of its importance are the stupendous broadcast fees paid for IPL/EPL/La Liga etc.

Secondly, with the IPL about to start, I think there is a lot that can be said (and critiqued) for the way in which sports is covered by the media in India. Most news channels have dedicated shows for the IPL as well as some dedicated shows for sports in general. NDTV even has (had?) people like Amitoj Singh as anchors dedicated to sports coverage. But what is the quality of these shows? My impression is that it’s below even the poor level of financial reporting on TV Media.

Thirdly, there is an interesting study to be done comparing viewership rates and advertising fees paid on news broadcasts (e.g. the daily 9pm shows) vis-à-vis sports broadcasts. The new EPL season has already started and IPL will also start shortly. I wonder if they will move eyeballs away from the 9pm shows?

Mehraj might also find sports interesting as a topic. Just look at the role that caste and gender has played, and continues to play, in issues relating to access to sports and selection for competitive teams. He may want to look at the case of Dutee Chand (as an Indian case at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation and Olympic sports). Alternatively, the discussion of caste in the history and development of cricket in Ramachandra Guha’s book “A Corner of a Foreign Field” might interest Mehraj.

Lastly, my recommendations to showcase just how important sport is to society and the effect it can have on and within society:

1. “Beyond a Boundary” written by CLR James (recommend as much for its sociological analysis as its analysis of Cricket in the West Indies): https://www.amazon.in/Beyond-Boundary-Cyril-Lionel-Robert/dp/022407427X

2. “Death of a Gentleman” directed by Sam Collins, Jarrod Kimber and Johnny Blank (for its insights in to Cricket Governance): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4746370/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

3. “Fire in Babylon” directed by Steven Riley (recommended for being the modern update on the issues raised in Beyond a Boundary and otherwise for being a very good film - irrespective of whether you like cricket): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1727790/

Warm regards,


P.S For Manisha’s interest in the occupation of NL subscribers I must confess to being a lawyer.


Hello Team,

Kudos to the concept of paying to keep news free! Appreciate the clean content you guys bring.

But one thing I would like you guys to address on the NL podcast is:

Mainstream TV media works on a simple demand-supply relationship. The fact that they are delivering hate is because there is a demand which they are catering to (TRP numbers show it). Is it not necessary then, for us as consumers, to change the level of maturity in our content consumption?

Also, politicians too deliver hate speech because they know it will be consumed with equal seriousness. This raises a question of whether the Indian audience needs to mature the manner in which they demand news consumption?

Thanks and best wishes to you,



Hello NL team,

I am a software engineer in Boston and have been an NL subscriber for the last four years. I convinced my parents back home, in their sixties, to become subscribers this summer. While they thoroughly enjoy the NL interviews, they don’t seem to be that fond of the Hafta (much to my dismay). They are still not used to podcasts and find it cumbersome to go to the NL website and simply ‘listen’ to Hafta. The concept of voice without video isn’t that appealing to them. This sentiment might be harbored by a lot of people their age. If it’s not too difficult, do consider taking a video of your discussions to appeal to all generations. When you put a face to the voice, you might make more of an impact.

My parents also had an opinion that most people on the panel have similar anti-BJP views. They suggested a few names of pro-BJP people who are not very aggressive and hence can contribute to a decent discussion, for example, Geeta Bhatt, Seshadri Chari, Advocate Kohli etc. This is not a definitive list. When talking to them, they just named a few people on the fly who have a different point of view and who they have probably seen argue on TV debates.

I agree with their view that the NL panel lacks a variety of opinions. I am sure there will be other people not affiliated to any political party, but believe in the incumbent government policies and can add more variety to your discussions.

My husband has made a small request – can you please change the comical squeaky noise in Daily Dose podcasts that signals moving from one story segment to another? The news of a gruesome death followed by that squeaky noise takes the sombreness out of it.

I love everyone on the panel, but my favorite is Abhinandan :) Please do get Madhu back as well once in a while.




Hi All,

Thanks for doing a great job in creating wonderful content on NL.

I am writing this after reading that Umar Khalid was arrested. I've always felt threatened by this present regime, but haven't felt this low. I would like to ask the panel, what is in store for the country? Where are we progressing? I read a book on the Rwandan genocide and the present situation looks very much like we are inching towards a genocide. Call me pessimistic, but the way minorities are treated doesn't look promising. The entire set up is so reminiscent of the Radio Rwanda radio that made constant effort to spread hatred against the Tutsi tribe. The way the I&B ministry allowed Sudarshan TV to go ahead with the 'UPSC Jihad' show and the way our media is trying hard with every single incident to target the minorities, do you think we are seeing a Radio Rwanda kind of a setup here? Or do you think, we are a much more mature society to see a genocide of that sort in India?

Also, I was a regular consumer of Newslaundry and bam, the mobile app disappeared on iOS. It is too difficult to listen to podcasts and read articles when a news portal like Newslaundry doesn't have a mobile app.


Manoj Durairaj


Dear NL Hafta Team,

On your last episode, I heard ‘the law will take its course’ regarding Rhea Chakrobarty from one of your panelists. As though deciding which law will take its course when is not completely the choice of the police. This contrary to glaring evidence available today. This patriarchal display of judgmentalism towards a 28-year-old girl is truly depressing, coming as it is from within so liberal an enclave such as Newslaundry. But completely expected. In the last two years, independent women in this country have been hemorrhaging allies. I hope and pray that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.



P.S Manisha I am a copywriter. Now I await your judgement :p


Hi y'all,

Just a quick word to say that while I appreciate the variant opinions of NL regulars. I do think that Anand can sometimes be extremely dismissive and rude, especially towards Manisha — one doesn't have to wander too far to discover why that is. While I have my opinions on the value or necessity of a conservative voice, you all know best what you want for your platform. However, since your entire debate rests on 'civil' discussion, it might be worth your time to check your colleague. You do not have to read this mail out loud since my intent is not to embarrass anyone.

A proud subscriber,



Dear NL team,

A bit of criticism and some support directed at Anand Vardhan. Anand's views on debauchery deserve criticism as they reflect an anachronistic view. I understand where he's coming from but who are he and I to decide what constitutes debauchery and why should we impose our views on others? This is personal for me as Indian Catholics are stereotyped as a hedonistic and debauched people. We smoke, drink, party, interact across genders and generally enjoy life. A regressive, strait-jacketed, conformist society like India sees us as debauchers. Am I committing debauchery for smoking marijuana in Canada, a country with the wisdom to legalise the plant instead of wasting state resources on potheads? Also, the people whom Anand was accusing of debauchery, were they alcoholics? What constitutes excessive alcohol consumption? Anand, no role model should be emulated in their entirety.

I also dislike Anand's tendency to not take a stand and simply claim to put his faith in the law. Anand should be intimately familiar with how Indian law enforcement works. You simply cannot put your faith in a "system" that puts murderers and rapists in positions of power and one where evidence has a tendency to vanish. I am also disappointed that he refused to empathise with Rhea Chakraborty's witch-hunt and his failure to simply acknowledge that the Rhea-Kangana issue is political vendetta and a clear misuse of state machinery.

In defence of Anand, however, let him speak. His cadence is slower than most and although I sometimes struggle to follow Anand's ideas, let him finish. Don't pounce on him with counter-questions.

Criticism of Abhinandan - the Hafta really needs someone to keep track of what the question asked was and whether or not it was answered. The idea of Hafta as a free-flowing discussion is well and good but a basic structure where Q&A is completed would make it better.




Hi Abhinandan Sir,

I Have been a subscriber since March and the work you guys do is inspiring to say the least (as per your request will keep my thoughts within 400 words).

I am a mass communication student (technically should have graduated by May 2020 but Covid had other plans).

My question to your panel: How is a budding journalist supposed to navigate his or her way through an industry without selling their soul in the process?

Sorry for the filmy expression but seriously, most organisations have a pro- government agenda (Godi Media) and that betrays the very essence of the fourth estate. Theory paper mein toh hum likh kar aate hai "keeping our government in check...blah blah blah,” but how often does that practically happen?

P.S I know The Newsroom type idealistic scenario toh sirf HBO ke serial mein hoga but I am certainly interested in the advice you would have for someone who intends to put his socio- political biases aside when it comes to the profession.

Any and all advice is appreciated.


Yours Sincerely,

Shubang Gautam


Dear Abhinandan,

Hope you're well.

I am super happy with the reaction to Ravish Kumar’s mental health article published yesterday.

In your last week's episode, a subscriber called Mohit raised a point about Zomato's period leave policy as 'complete bullshit' etc etc. And again someone asked 'how many women do they employ in the first place so we can understand how far-reaching their 'benefits' will be.

In my original article on Period Leave, I had included a small section about this so as to keep your readers informed of the full picture but Mehraj skipped the whole section saying the article would be too long otherwise.

I am copy-pasting the section below so you can either read it out loud or add to the piece on the blog, whatever seems appropriate.

Kind Regards,


Is Zomato really that progressive, asked Mehraj (I think)?


In NL Hafta, Mehraj was interested in knowing how many female employees do they have, to begin with?’

Let’s begin with Zomato’s gender ratio. As per the last available data, out of Zomato’s 700 employees, almost half are women. That sounds good on paper and on social media progressive campaigns but it doesn’t take long to get disappointed when you find out that their Human Resources department has 100% women and Technology & Innovation has barely a measly 5%.

It is fair to mention that the IIT’s in India have a 10:1 male to female ratio but that cannot be used to justify 5% women in the Technology department.

Overall, the participation of women in the Indian labour workforce is plummeting between ‘that’s shameful’ to ‘oh-hell-no’. Women's participation in 2004/5 was about 42.7% and just within a matter of a decade, in 2017/18 it has fallen to 23..3%. And this is despite the rise in the education of women and falling fertility rates. No matter how progressive companies are, if society disregards women’s agency over choosing careers, no real change would happen. We can question Zomato’s pathetic hiring of women in the Technology department but the overall picture at the macroeconomic level is also worrying.


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