Hafta letters: Feminism and casteism, discovering history on social media, opinions on religion

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Feminism and casteism, discovering history on social media, opinions on religion
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Hi Team Newslaundry,

I’ve started following your medium from the middle of last year and I must say that your content is definitely a sight for sore eyes (also music for sore, bleeding ears, so to speak). And now, I always look forward to the next Saturday and Tuesday for Newsance and Tippani. Your combined work has been the reason for me to get back to checking out what’s actually happening back home, and clearing out some things with my non-Indian colleagues at work. The way in which your medium is improving in content and increasing in size prompted me to subscribe to you, and I definitely agree that in this day and age, we should pay to keep news free.

Please continue doing the outstanding work. I hope that someday very soon, you would continue in the present format, alongside a full-fledged broadcast channel on national TV (if you think that’s a good idea, of course!).

Loads of love from The Netherlands!

Kind regards,

Anirudh Gottimukkala

PS: I take this opportunity in this mail to ask what Carnatic music is sometimes played in the Tippani episodes. Is it something out there already or was it composed in the studio (in which case, kudos!!!)? I listen to Carnatic music often and I just wanted to know what gets played in the episodes.


Hello team,

This is Mibin. I liked the previous episode of NL Hafta which was done in collaboration with Dhanya Ma'am and also Jayashree. I liked how civil and detailed the arguments were. I have one suggestion: In the episodes, please, if possible, include more recommendations podcasts. The other suggestion is to please include details on the Myanmar coup in the next episode of Hafta, along with a discussion on the Legislative Assembly election with Dhanya, if possible, as it can be helpful as I am from Kerala.

Keep up the excellent work.


Mibin Mammen


Hey NL team,

A long-time supporter here. Love your work and always feel so proud of the growth NL is and has been showing.

This letter is regarding the discussion on Koo that the panel had on last week's Hafta. I think or fear that what will happen is that Koo might expose APIs (especially to the government of India), which basically means that something that initially needed a human to be executed will now be easily automated by a computer. What this can lead to is a much more effective way of spreading misinformation, especially because Koo is available in many local languages. The need of being on WhatsApp groups can also be eliminated by this. If this happens, I fear we don't have enough tools that can counter it.

Another point I would like to add is the way they handled the data security issues tells a lot about them. An ethical hacker on Twitter had found that they were openly giving out email, gender and date of birth. While they fixed it when called out, they entirely denied it being a security loophole, saying that the said data was anyway openly available on the profile, so it's not a security lapse. I doubt they are going to have any second thoughts in sharing this data with the government.

There is a parallel to this: an app called Parler in the US. The only reason it was controlled was because the Democrats came to power and added some regulations for the same.

Please feel free to correct me if my concerns are too far-fetched.

Lots of love and support to all of you.


Aakash Aggarwal


Hello Team NL,

I am a satisfied subscriber for the last six months and will be renewing my subscription annually now onwards. Love Manisha and Atul.

Question for Abhinandan: Do you ever regret being part of the IAC movement?

One request: Deploy some of your resources to Gujarat and cover some stories here.

Eagerly waiting for a dedicated Hafta episode on religion. In my opinion, long back when religion was serving as a body of "learned" people, it had some usefulness. For example, the Gregorian calendar we use was developed by the church. Islam was making huge leaps in algebra and astronomy while rising. Even Hinduism was progressive.

But ever since modern science emerged as an independent field, religion has lost its relevance. All of them have constantly been at war against rationality and scientific advancement after medieval times. The petty charitable work that they show off can never justify the amount of wealth and power they possess. Plus, the nexus with politics, increasing hatred and intolerance is destructive. Try having a right-winger on the panel for this episode.

Jahanvi Thacker


Dear NL team,

This is my first Hafta email and I appreciate what you all are doing.

I found Mahua Moitra's recent speech in the Parliament laudable. Her mention of former CJI Gogoi's case was particularly significant. Last year in March, when quite a few were celebrating the hanging of Nirbhaya's rapists, Gogoi was being sworn in as an MP in the Rajya Sabha. The fact that both these things were happening around the same time speaks volumes about the prevailing hypocrisy in society. While it may seem odd that I am comparing the two cases, aren’t both symptomatic of the same mindset? That it is okay to use power to force women into submission? Gogoi not only abused his power and position to preside over the proceedings of his own case but further went on to harass the woman and her family – all this while occupying the office that requires the highest levels of integrity. These actions aren’t those of an innocent man. And then the ruling party rewards him. Can it get any worse? One is forced to ask if anything will ever change for women in the world?

I feel every woman in this country needs to listen to the MP’s speech. Imagine if 50 percent of the citizens unite and make informed voting choices, would any party afford to ignore them? She did the right thing in bringing it up. I had often wondered why nobody talks about it.


Rakhi Agarwal


Hafta team,

One comment to add to the discussion spurred by Sandeep Ghatikar's letter: The Indian education system produces people with blind faith in the written word. What is written is taken as gospel and is unquestioned. This is why so many believe the myth of the "wisdom of the ancients". In the modern world, video has become the equivalent of the written word. What can be seen must be true.

To Sandeep's question: education is not a mark of intelligence, least of all "education" in India which does all it can to discourage dissent at all levels. Someone with a degree is in possession of a piece of paper after having passed an exam. Neither critical thought nor understanding are required. India puts too much trust in those occupying positions of power, those who are old, those who have degrees. The media reported something; it must therefore be true. If you raise your voice, even to ask a question, conformist India will shut you up very quickly. Once a society is trained into unquestioning faith, that society doesn't question its beliefs, doesn't test them, doesn't challenge authority, and ultimately decays.

This is why I support Newslaundry. I support people asking questions, even if those questions will one day be posed to me and my beliefs.


Eldrich Rebello


Hi NL team,

Thank you for all your work, I recently became a paid subscriber and had been a mufatkhor for the longest time. Firstly, I want to congratulate Meghnad and Shambhavi on their work on the hate factory article. This report has been extremely helpful to share with family and friends to highlight how systematic the hate ecosystem is.

I consume a lot of different podcasts, and would like to share one episode recommendation which talked about the role of media in a well functioning capitalist democracy. It's the episode called "Manufacturing dissent with Matt Taibbi" from the Capital'isnt podcast.

It talks about the problem with the media advertising model (which the NL team has discussed multiple times), how news initially was treated as a public good where profit making wasn't the priority, role of Big Tech. And then also looks to the future of media, Substack culture, and consumer preferences. I would love to hear your thoughts if you do end up listening.

Thank you for all the good work. Cheers.





I am writing this in response to the recent opinion piece by Aarushi Punia.

Firstly, I fully support her on the level of ignorance and apathy among the woke dominant class millennial self-proclaimed social media feminists. Her utterances give voice to the unease many of us, a fraction of that group, as mentioned earlier, felt at their core after seeing Dia Mirza's wedding post.

We continuously fight with our families to have a non-religious wedding or go for higher education when they can only care about "settling us down". We incessantly grapple with our lack of knowledge about the millions of years of injustices in our society. We fail to become an ally of the Dalit feminist movement, not because we are born with some blinkering gene, but because of the Brahminical-capitalist education system we have been exposed to in India. For many of us who studied science subjects, "history" ends with Indian independence (borrowing from Ramachandra Guha here). Oh, you know us! We annually graduate from those thousands of engineer-making-factories and land up jobs irrelevant to our education or go abroad and make passing comments on Indian affairs. Whatever happened after 1947 only concerns those current-affairs mugging aspiring civil servants or those "arts" students.

That's what most of us seemingly think. But the onus cannot be only on us.

We are the product of our education system. I know, from personal experience, that not all of us are vile and closeted bigots. People like Aarushi Punia can help us to be an ally. Of course, we first need to do our part" educate ourselves. In their right mind, no parent raises their kid to be a patriarch, a racist, or a casteist. Yet, they don't raise their kids to be anti-patriarchy, anti-racist, anti-casteist either.

And there's a difference between being not-racist vs anti-racist, not-casteist vs anti-casteist, and not-sexist vs feminist (aka anti-patriarchy), as Ibram X Kendi explains in his book How to be an anti-racist. It's an eye-opener. Kendi's writing transcends geographical and cultural boundaries and speaks for (and speaks to) every section of society. It holds a mirror in front of us. This book helps us realise our own internalised biases with empathy and solidarity. In this book, Kendi tears down his prejudices and reinvents himself in his journey to becoming an "anti-racist".

If my longish mail resonates with any of the listeners, I will urge them to read Kendi's book and Suraj Yengde's Caste Matters urgently. That's the least we can do to support Dalit feminism in India. There's no way one can become a feminist without being anti-casteist. Period.


Sudarshana Mukhopadhyay


Hello Hafta team,

Please refrain from naming me, I don't want a mark on my name for and when I go to get my passport renewed.

I hope you all are doing well. I have two thoughts about last week's Hafta discussion on social media platforms.

The main reason why the Koo app would not be successful is because on that platform the Sangh doesn't have anyone to impose their ideology on. That's their only reason for existence on Twitter, to just vehemently oppose anyone who is not on their side. On the Koo app, they'd just be like "mandir vahi banaye?" and the rest would be like "haa" and they'd all just feel frustrated.

On the point that social media doesn't have anything to offer these days except hate and abuse, I would like to introduce all of you guys to this amazing world I stumbled upon last year. I'm quite interested in Indian history and because I had liked maybe a page or two that share posts of paintings or photos from the 1800s, I was recommended a few more pages with similar posts. And now, I'm proud to say this, my Facebook and Instagram are mostly posts consisting of some historical monument, a painting, or a story. And once their algorithm understands you are looking at only these kinds of posts, it would only show such posts.

I've joined groups on Facebook where (this is my prejudice speaking) people from remote villages are posting photos of some haveli's archway or jharokha because it was some special engraving on it. Something I wouldn't expect from someone who is hailing from a village (sorry again if I sound prejudiced). Honestly, it's one of the most amazing things I've found on Facebook.

I'm attaching links to groups and pages to start with if someone is interested in following such pages. I can't link all since I don't remember the names.

Sorry for going over the word limit but this was the only reason for me to stay on Instagram and Facebook.

Facebook pages and groups:

https://www.facebook.com/RoyalArchives - posts about people of royal lineage

https://www.facebook.com/ashokatheemperor/ - posts about Ashoka the great and monuments from his era

https://www.facebook.com/aneesuas - this historian is based in Bijapur and posts about moments from his city

https://www.facebook.com/MughalSaltanat0/ - a very dedicated poster of Mughal history

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2976328375814407/ - I think it is about monuments in Maharashtra (couldn't make out what it says in the post title)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1562474290646745/ - as the name says, Indian historical monuments

https://www.facebook.com/groups/807732239414501/ - another page about Indian monuments

Instagram pages:

https://www.instagram.com/mughal_imperial_archives/ - excerpts from Mughal history

https://www.instagram.com/livehistoryindia/ - posts from Indian history

https://www.instagram.com/itihassnama/ - posts from Indo-Islamic history

https://www.instagram.com/desiartaesthetic/ - posts about paintings from India

Aside from the above mentioned pages, there are many heritage hotels in Rajasthan which have their own pages which post from time to time. Then there are historians like Ira Mukhoty and Rana Safvi to name a few who are also on Instagram and are quite active.

Twitter also boasts of many pages. My favourite is of this person called Sharad Mohan who would put out two or three posts daily about Indian History - https://twitter.com/ssharadmohhan



I hope I helped make a good enough case for social media in today's world.


Hello NL Hafta team,

I am a recent subscriber and wish to renew my subscription in the coming months. Please, Manisha, don't leave NL even for a few days. We all love you loads.

I disagree with a few things related to Islam on NL Hafta. However, I believe that lack of knowledge and sources of information on Islam are the root cause. I heard last week's Hafta and anticipated a lot of reactions when your panelist spoke about Islam. Especially the Jaziya part.

Since you plan to have a 90-minute discussion on religion, I would like you to invite Mr Adnan Rashid (historian, author, and scholar on Islam and comparative religion) from London. If I am not mistaken, he is of Pakistani origin. Apart from his credentials, there's a strong reason I advocate his presence because he will make NL Hafta listeners understand Islam in the way Islam is supposed to be understood and at least he would iron out misconceptions about Islam.

The reason there's so much outpouring against Islam and Muslims by Hafta listeners is because Islam has not been presented on Hafta in the way it is supposed to be presented. The Quran and Sahi Hadees is the source which is to be interpreted at times with some background of history as well. Islam has to be see the way Islam demands, not by the way a non-Muslim wishes to see it.

Mr Adnan Rashid will tremendously help in extinguishing some hatred within some people. I have seen his videos of debates and dialogues on the streets of London. He puts across his point with fact, figures, reasoning and logic. Muslim representation on every platform by wrong representatives have hurt Muslim more than anything else. I strongly urge you to consider my suggestion.

I know Mehraj is knowledgeable but Mr Adnan Rashid will add value and meaning to your podcast on religion.

Thank you. Great work, guys. Keep it going. More paid subscription power to Newslaundry.com and lessons of MUFATKHORS.

Love you all,

Saquib Shaikh


Hi magnificent NL Hafta team,

Fascinating discussion on religion, I feel that at the birth of every religion, there was a man who went into deep meditation, had a rendezvous with consciousness, got enlightened, and paved the way for a less violent society and a better standard of living.

I recommend David Whytes' poem "The Bell and The Black Bird" rendered in his own voice. It's very soothing and helps in understanding that any kind of worshipping is nothing but a formal practice of meditation and with that practice under your belt, you can go in the world with renewed vigour and a compassionate heart.

I started off as a god-fearing, almost frightened individual for whom God was someone whose job was to draw sadistic pleasure by punishing people. A chance reading of a book given by a friend made me an overnight atheist (the book, Double Your Dating by David DeAngelo, was meant to fetch me girlfriends). For a while, I felt sorry for believers and there was superiority complex that came upon me.

The overnight change in perspective also had a severe effect emotionally and I slipped into a nine-month-long clinical depression (feeling suicidal, doing Google searches on how to end life were the low points in my struggle).

Somehow, with the help of family, I came out of it and can appreciate life and today, I am an agnostic multitheist. Religion – as long as it pushes you towards a formal meditation practice which made me come out of depression, made me less anxious, less angry, more patient, less egoistic, more loving, more objective – is a good thing. Religion which makes you feel superior, creates divide, feeds your ego is to be done away with. We need the right kind of people from every religion to take centerstage to spread the right message across.

Much love,

Nitesh Pandey


Dear Team Hafta,

After being a freeloader for about a year and a half, I finally decided to take the plunge and become a paid subscriber of Newslaundry.

As it was part of my new year resolution, therefore, I thought that what better day to start than the first day of the year itself. And hence, on January 1, 2021, I acted on my resolution and took the six-month subscription (to save the trouble of making payments every month and to provide a lump sum corpus to Newslaundry).

Over the last few months, I have noticed there has been a consistent appeal from your side to contribute to the NL Legal Fund to help you guys effectively defend and contest the legal cases that have been slapped by the likes of Times Now, etc. Though I myself haven't made any contribution towards the NL Legal Fund, I have some suggestions (which you might consider relevant to act upon).

(1) Complete details of litigation, legal notices, along with a copy of court petitions, replies, etc should be made accessible on the NL website (under the Legal Fund tab) so as to enable subscribers to access documents and make informed decisions regarding contributions.

(2) Apart from indicating the amount collected or topped up, the fund should also provide details of lawyers engaged, payments made towards legal fees, the total amount agreed with the lawyers and disbursed, court fees paid, miscellaneous expenses incurred, etc.

(3) Contributors and subscribers should also be informed about steps taken to mitigate litigation.

(4) In case you don't want to display the above information on the website, then the details can be emailed to the NL subscribers with an appeal to contribute.

Hope the above suggestions will be read and considered in good faith.

Wish you all the best and keep up the good work.

Vaibhav Dang

Some letters have been deleted since they were read out during the podcast in the following week. They have been added to the Hafta letters for the next episode.

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