Hafta letters: Social justice and NRIs, France and Islam, free speech

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Social justice and NRIs, France and Islam, free speech
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Hi Abhinandan,

I have recently subscribed to NL, but I have been following NL's work for last eight months now and I wish to congratulate you and the team. I am working in the news industry as media executive, living in New Delhi.

First of all, really a shout-out to Madhu Ma'am, Manisha, Atul, Raman Sir and others. Thank you all of you for bringing some light in the darkest time of news industry.

I just have few queries:

1) Does NL ever thinks of entering the TV news genre? I know what your answer might be; if it's a no, then why not? Why don't you guys bring revolution in this area?

2) I want to know the benefits of subscribing to NL. As I could not find too much difference besides getting complete access to some interviews which were otherwise only partly available on YouTube.

3) Atul in NL Tippani Ep 35 said Tanishq and Tata Group should be ashamed that they withdrew their ad. But as a business house, what else could they do? Any sane businessman would not want to go up against any establishment or public sentiment. Even though I realised that in this particular case, the fight might be with a particular section of society, ie some extremists, etc. Is it really wrong for such brands to do this? What do you think should they do?

PS: Moved your interview with Deepak Chaurasia, "aap chronology samajhiye". Also, big fan of your moustache. To quote Ravish Kumar from NDTV, at the time when Abhinandan came back to India, "mooche ho toh Abhinandan jaisi".

Thanks,

Manpreet Singh

***

Dear Abhinandan,

Hope you're well and doing something to keep yourself from going insane, considering what all is happening right now.

The reason I asked you to identify me as "rant woman" is because I need to get this off my chest so badly, and I can't reveal the whole drama if my name is disclosed for various reasons.

The FKN NRIs in the UK are the worst humans really! 😑

After that "Justice for SSR" nautanki, the other "centrist" kind of species got hot and bothered to collect money for a billboard, this time to talk about Hathras, and approached me for advice as I'm a feminist author and blogger in this area for quite some time.

When NRIs make a hobby out of activism with performative gestures, social media campaigns, and fail to educate themselves about power dynamics, gender relations, and make actual social change, this is how they react.

The failure to learn about politics and pick a side is their worst feature.

They won’t mention the words Hathras, or caste, or India, or put up that picture ofthe burning pyre of the victim...

So, I asked, what is the purpose? She says, we can’t look like we are shaming India and we can’t link this to the Hathras victim.

I asked again and proposed: If you’re really pumped up about doing something, let’s write to the Parliament in Westminster and ask the MPs to put pressure on the Indian government to take action. Or write to media houses to give international attention to the Hathras case. Or raise this money for victims of rape or abuse.

They rejected it all.

Guess what they want to do?

Rich NRI people want to take photos with some hashtag and post on social media. When none of the hashtags even mention anything regarding the incident. They are sooooo afraid of BJP bhakts questioning them, they literally asked not to talk to NDTV or Left-leaning media so that they don’t get accused of doing politics!! What the hell kind of mindset is that?

These idiots think social justice is a hobby for ignorant rich Indians, bored at home due to the second lockdown in the UK, so why not collect some money for a billboard like bhakts did for Sushant?

I repeatedly said that the reason why you’re doing this can’t be "if they can do for Sushant why can’t we do for rape victims". You have to have a goal; you want MPs to take notice, media to take notice, or even ordinary citizens to spread awareness???

But the MPs thing is too political. Media thing is too full of accusations and fears of being called anti-national. Citizens awareness will mean people in the UK would know how pathetic India is, so it’s "India-shaming" and we can’t show India in bad light!

I asked, so what the heck is this drama for?

The answer wasn't direct but it’s along the lines of bored privileged women trying to gain some social brownie points for their "activism" and get publicity in the Indian diaspora.

My goodness, the sheer blind privilege, the absolute refusal to learn about power dynamics, rape culture, the disregard for the caste angle, the whole pomp and show, the fake and vague performances these people put on... OMG, my blood just boils.

I wanted to get this off so badly.

Just saw the news that the accused are now saying that the victim's family killed her as an act of honour killing. How deeply unjust is our society, yaar??? How do you people cover these inhumane injustices and tolerate the privileged and blind idiots in the middle and upper classes around you?

My heart breaks into a million pieces.

Thanks team.

Regards

Rant Woman

PS Much love and admiration to Atul Chaurasiaji. I don’t think he gets enough mentions and compliments, not as much as he deserves.

***

Hi all,

I have been a long-time watcher/listener and I am finally a subscriber now that I am earning enough to afford a basic subscription. Not going to lie, a large reason for me subscribing was my undying crush for Mr Sekhri.

That aside, in one of the previous NL Haftas, there was a mention of Etrugul and that not being proof of Turkish influence (and it was implied that it didn't count for much). However, I'll quote a really interesting Caravan article entitled "The Inheritance of Loss Progression."

The article says:

"A Turkish drama titled Ertugrul, which traces the trials, tribulations and conquests of the emperor that lead to the foundation of the Ottoman empire, has become extremely popular among the youth. Even among the intellectuals in Kashmir, opinions are divided on the historic authenticity of the story, which resonates with Kashmir’s despair and imbues hopes of assertion against the existing impotence. Some observers, however, are worried that such romanticism and symbolism may end up glamourising violence in the name of religion. Whatever be the case, a section of youth seeking liberation from an oppressive climate appears ready to toy with drastic adventurism."

When I read this to a close Kashmiri friend, he said that this was absolutely spot on. How true do you think this is, what with you or your colleagues having some contact with a larger section of the Kashmiri media (at least greater than my sample size of 1)?

I believe there was a Guardian article which said that Microsoft research found that BJP trolls were the ones also making Arnab-style Twitter posts on the SSR case. How true do you think this is on the ground and will Bollywood grow some cojones to make something that rouses the public?

Please keep up the good reportage.

Thanks,

Kabir

***

Hi guys,

Continue your great work to keep journalism alive. Would like to hear Mehraj's analysis and his view on change of land laws in the UT of J&K. Would love to see interviews of intellectuals like Arundhati, P Sainath, Yogendra, Amartya, Jean Dreze, and Anand on NL.

Can I recommend a book to your listeners? Buffalo Nationalism, it's an interesting read.

Thanks,

Aman

***

Hi Abhinandan,

This is my first letter so you are going to read all of it. Don't call out my name. Just call me J. PS: I am a she.

This is in reference to last week's Hafta, specifically about the kid who wrote in. I think it's cool that a boy so young is displaying the capacity to think. This boy saw an issue with enforced groupthink and took action (however little it may seem). There should be a detailed discussion about the right-wing trying to politicise the classrooms. Classrooms mass-manufacture hyper-normative citizens and the BJP has understood that with some changes in the assembly line, it can create the ultra (pardon my French) dick-biscuits. Imagine a whole generation taught hatred in classrooms blatantly.

About Chetan Bhagat, it's not his books, Abhinandan, it's his unidimensional attitude towards all kinds of problems, his typical IIT-IIM behaviour, his bootlicking of the western elites, his refusal to even consider that social problems spread beyond economical lines, and that not all problems can be solved by money. You can be a Dalit in India with a lot of money, and guess what? You can be a girl born in a rich upper caste family, and guess what? He does not understand that humans are more than just what they can afford.

- Manisha, you are amazing. You are staring into the abyss too much, take a break!

- Meg, I love your explainers.

- Abhinandan, I will only ever express my disagreement with you, but that doesn't mean I don't ever agree with you.

J

***

Quick comment inspired by your discussion of the professor beheading.

Time and again, your majority upper caste Hindu (including your guests, most of the time) panel talks about jihad. But in that particular discussion, your guest Rohini defended the RSS based on her father's membership, and none of you challenged her with the established fact that the RSS has, from its genesis, been a hateful, segregationist organisation in a secular country.

Saying the RSS was good based on one member reading Vivekananda is like defending the British East India Company by saying one of the officers took an interest in the local cuisine.

Generally, I find you tend to gang up on Mehraj, asking him to defend Islam based on the simple fact of jihad in the Quran, but rarely do you name radical Hindutva extremism for that. This is not to say that you don't criticise the BJP or members of the RSS, but that you don't recognise their ideologies to be as part of Hinduism as jihad is to Islam.

Tanvi

***

New subscriber. Drafted this mail two weeks ago and needed to add a few more things, hence the delay. Sorry about it.

Love Newsance and Tippani apart from the weekly podcast (Hindi and English). In fact, I believe the NL team should teach students (budding journalists) how truth can be used to create quality content.

I wanted to share my thoughts on the following.

The Tanishq ad: I know the entire panel might disagree with me, but the fact is whether it's allowed in Islam to have a Hindu spouse without converting to Islam. The answer is NO. You might argue that there are some interfaith marriages happening which are working fine. There are many Muslims who practise many things against the tenets of Islam since it suits their desires and helps them benefit immediately. They do it and start defending their choice (for example, interest loans from banks is one amongst many). Any Muslim doing anything which pleases him cannot be attributed to Islam.

Similarly, if news channels show (SSR) things which they feel will fetch them TRPs, thus more ad revenue, it does not mean that's news or journalism. If the create ad agency is using Islam, it should strive to know whether interfaith marriages are allowed in Islam. They cannot make anything and attribute it to Islam, which in fact is contrary to Islam, just because they feel it looks inclusive or whatever. There are many creative ways to make ads depicting love, respect, tolerance and harmony between communities.

I have a Maharashtrian Brahmin Hindu friend, obviously vegetarian. When I am in Pune, I stay at his place. His mother serves us delicious food based on my demand. I request she makes kothmir ki sabzi and batata vada and she does that. In between, she comes and pours asli ghee on my dal and rice. She loves me like a son, and I love and respect her like my mother.

I believe that Muslims should raise their voices against such advertisements and let everyone know what Islam allows/disallows. Islam strictly prohibits being a hypocrite. No one can project any religion based on their whims and fancies.

I heard during previous podcast that you guys wish to have...

Tons of love and respect to everyone at NL, especially Abhinandan and Minakshi.

Saquib Shaikh

***

Dear Abhinandan and Manisha,

I am a relatively new subscriber to your excellent media outlet and I am writing to make a request for content I would like to see you produce. In the interest of being succinct (and in case you are not inspired to read any further), I will bypass pleasantries to ask if you could do a feature on the uncanny similarities between a Modi bhakt and a Trump supporter, both in terms of their promotion of nationalist rhetoric and their debasement of media to one's lowest instincts.

While a lot has been written about both independently, I think there is a fascinating parallel to be drawn between the two entities, especially when considering their persistent proliferation of alternative facts and the complete denial of systemic racism/casteism.

I can elaborate further on my interest in the issues around this, but as we enter the final week of the US election, I thought this suggestion would be timely and serve as an opportunity to say that I think Newslaundry possesses the editorial rigour to do an informed analysis of the aforementioned subject. I hope you will consider it.

Thanks,

Apexa Patel

PS: As Abhinandan recommended that brilliant Rough Translation episode on caste, I was wondering if either of you had read Anand Giridharadas' piece on Kamala Harris or, more recently, Amartya Sen's piece?

***

Hello NL Team!

I hope you all are doing well. I love listening to you guys. I had some views regarding the discussion on France and freedom of expression, which explains my mail.

I study Sociology in LSR and we have a paper called Sociology of Religion. After studying the paper for about four months, one thing that we have learnt is that every religion goes through its own evolutions. I agree with Manisha when she says that the situation in France is complex and that they have failed to integrate the French Arabs into society. However, when one delves deeper into the reasons for the problem, we might find that there is a strong sense of ethnocentrism within the French. I am personally sympathetic towards Macron, however, even he is a product of his conditioning. This got projected when he said that Islam should adapt itself to French enlightenment. Perhaps this was an articulation problem or deep-rooted ethnocentrism but this does not help his case. Islam has also gone through the enlightenment of its own. For instance, the Sufi interpretation of Islam is one of the many. There are Muslim poets like Abu Nuwas who worshipped alcohol during the early age of Islam. It was only in the 10th century that orthodoxy began to seep in.

I have a problem with the wordings Macron used. French as a civilisation or a culture, not the only ones who went through revolution and reformations. These ideas are embedded somewhere in the past of Islam as well, and if one has to bring constructive changes, then it is best to look at these versions of Islam or the voices of dissent which Islam accommodated during its time.

I have mentioned this before and I will say it once again, you all are the shimmer of light in bleak times.

Love,

Shruti Chakraborty

***

Regarding the discussion on the college student's murder discussed during the episode...

Anand's point was that "the very phrase 'love jihad' is coined in a way that elicits some ridicule. But actually, in India, if I remember correctly, I first came across this term NOT from the Hindu community but the Christian community in Kerala. So, Christians in Kerala were accusing it (sic) if I remember correctly."

So, Anand Sir: I love the way you bring to light these nuggets of information that prove the innocence of Bharat.

Manisha wanted to know the history of the term "eve-teasing". She wanted to know if the term was Indian because it didn't sound like one. I was hoping for Anand to tell us how the Christians of Kerala must have brought it. It is, after all, in the First Book (Genesis) of the Bible!

Now, I would also like to add to Abhinandan's recommendation of Stephen Sachur's Hard Talk interview on BBC of Rev. Rob Schenck. The link shared on the Hafta page won't work unless you're in the UK. I am sharing a link for those interested in the "podcast" version of the interview. I highly recommend it for the reasons brought out by Abhinandan.

Thank you guys for the great work. Cheers. Careful of the Christians.

Last recommendation: Abhinandan, please stop promoting Chetan Bhagat.

Anonymous

***

Hi to all in the NL Hafta team,

I would like to be anonymous in case you read this letter aloud. I am 63 years old so rather ancient in comparison to your viewers who I think are in the 20-40 age bracket. I live and work in Mumbai in the handicraft business.

I used to watch Newsance on YouTube and watched Hafta and decided I should subscribe to keep news free. I found Arnab's shows abhorrent and Rajdeep too much of a monkey balancer. NDTV did give a balanced view but was still a dignified version of the shouting panels. After watching the Big Fight and We The People, I realised that it was an exercise in futility with two BJP and two Congress supporters just faffing around with really no meaningful discussion happening.

I have come to these realisations:

Unless you have an insider within a government department, you have no clue as to how things function in our country. I remember a friend in government telling me that some laws are passed not with the good of the people in mind but to facilitate someone in the ruling party.

We Indians are very devious with the truth. I had a journalist friend who wrote about the street dwellers of Mumbai who said that it took him months and several changing stories to actually get the true story of their lives.

We Indians do not trust our local, state or central governments at all. We read news and watch TV with great scepticism and are very quick to believe outrageous stories about these reports.

We are very transactional in our support to the government. If parties are paying for votes with money, liquor, freebies, it means they have this figured out. I would like you all to do a story on the money or other support given to Republic, OpIndia, Anupam Kher, Vivek Agnihotri, Paresh Rawal, Kangana Rawat, Anand Ranganathan, etc. I seriously doubt these people are ideologically supporting the current dispensation.

***

HI NL Team,

This email is in regard to the Hafta panel's discussion on the French beheading episode. It was unsettling to hear some of the opinions expressed. Anand's argument of disapproving the cartoons attributing them to be just an attempt to "prove a point" because they challenge the beliefs of millions of people was rather tame. Also found Jayashree's contention of ascribing the French government's response to Islamophobia more than anything else simplistic. The incident did stem out of intolerance from extremism in a religion and it's only right that it's called out that way.

Being a free speech absolutist, I find it deeply problematic that journalists/news professionals don't subscribe to the idea. It's interesting how journalists tread that thin line between personal faith and bias with matters of religion. Probably something you won't find on, let's say, a story on competitive sport.

I couldn't but overlook the offence Anand took at Abhinandan's "Hindu nut" jibe. Hafta's "no holds barred" banter format is what makes it worthwhile and I believe everyone should be allowed to express their opinions, however offensive one may sound. Being a person of faith myself, I find it funny how fragile some of our beliefs are that a cartoon here or an internet meme there makes us insecure. Sums up religion and its fallacy, alas!

Journalists should strive to be open and free of notions around borders, nationalism and religion, but that's just too much to ask for. Thanks and keep up the good work!

Thanks

Sandeep Ghatikar

***

Hi NL crew,

OG subscriber for 4+ years here. Request you all to touch upon the Glenn Greenwald story, as he quit The Intercept due to his own repression and censorship in an independent media outlet he himself co-founded. Further, please get into NL's own editorial policy and how they would have dealt with a situation like this.

Also, bring back the old T-shirts, mugs, comic books and introduce some new ones. Had copped all the old merch during Ep 100 Hafta recording, as I came down to your office. Hope you all are safe and doing well.

Cheers

Barun Chanda

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