Hafta letters: Democracy in poor countries, Shah Faesal, Newslaundry toolkit

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

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I have questions for Abhinandan. Do you think that large democratic countries, especially poor ones, can only ever experience slow incremental development? As they often fall into the hands of fascists because of the constant struggle for hegemony by a majoritarian party and a slightly less majoritarian party, do you think democracy in poor countries is largely ineffective without a core economic framework based on social welfare principles? I’m not trying not to say socialist, given your neo liberal tendencies. Assuming that a person who doesn't have to worry about empty bellies and other modern day lifestyle essentials, would they have a better mind to make an informed decision while voting or even while participating in any political discourse?

For example, BJP, an outspoken Hindu supremacist party vs Congress or any other party that needs the Hindu vote bank so won't take a clear ideological or practically reinforced stance against majoritarian politics.

Joey Kaushik


Hello all,

A quick question from the panel, especially Mehraj.

What do you make of the curious case of Shah Faesal? Faesal, a former IAS officer, was put under house arrest and then we did not hear of him. Of late, he has been using his Twitter account and he comes across as a changed man. He does not sound like himself. Can anyone of you please confirm if his twitter handle has been compromised or is he being made to tweet out all those things? Hard to believe this is the same Faesal. Also, any idea where he is these days?

Waqar Hussain


Dear Newslaundry,

I am a Newslaundry subscriber and I must say Manisha Pandey is the cutest anchor/journalist. Kudos to all the brave ground reporters. I would like to interact with them some day.

I am part of WhatsApp groups where some people believe in the information provided by godi media. They believe in their narratives and share BJP IT cell messages on WhatsApp groups, messages against Rakesh Tikait or farmers and others.

I really want them to open their eyes and see the other side. I want them to access Newslaundry and make them a subscriber. It seems very tough.

However I feel, if I share Newslaundry Newsance videos or NL Hafta, they would be in denial and it won't change their mindset

I think the conversion of these people from viewing godi media to Newslaundry has to be subtle.

In short, I am asking for a toolkit to convert a Modi bhakt to a Newslaundry subscriber.

Are there any subscribers who are converted that you guys know?


Vaibhav Jadhav



My apologies for wrongly attributing the suit-boot wali sarkar narrative. It was indeed by Congress against the BJP and not the other way around.

The Antilia bomb scare news is very interesting and I am looking forward to an article on it.

I watched Raman sir's recommendation, Trial of the Chicago 7 and god, it reminded me of police brutality during the anti-CAA/NRC protests, and what has been happening ever since.

By the way, if you all are interested in looking at the freshest lava coming from the depths of our planet, here's a live webcam link to one happening in Iceland.

More power to you.


Vaibhav Vernekar


Hi NL team,

I have been a subscriber for an year and love your podcast, Awful and Awesome even more so.

I have a recommendation for you.

I know you have mentioned the use of sedition charges, Freedom House rating downgrade and freedom of press and speech in recent podcasts and this article puts it together very well. I hope you continue to have the courage to speak out.

The state of Indian democracy can be a really good topic for one of your special topic podcasts.


Sonali Sangwan

PS: In case you are interested in profiling one more subscriber, I am an engineer at one of FAANG in Silicon Valley and have a masters from IIT.


Hi team Newslaundry,

Feedback on story by Ayan Sharma, "Upper Assam saw the most violent CAA protests. Why is BJP still leading the fray?"

This is a very well written article. Explains the political engineering, to not only manufacturing of consent, but basically to pocket the votes in, used by BJP.

Congratulations Ayan Sharma for this analytical report.

Thank you dear team NL.

Swati Vaidya


Fantastic job, Manisha and Team NL. Keep up the good work and the spirit of true journalism.

Best Wishes

Joydeep Bonik


Hi NL team,

I have stuck to the 200 word limit for my actual email, although would love to pass on the following compliments too.

In Hafta 297, Abhinandan appeared to have earnestly taken note of Kiruba’s answer to his question about caste inclusion in the media. Kiruba made it clear that it is problematic that she was only invited for discussions related to caste, and not otherwise, and how that gate keeps lower caste voices only on questions of caste but nothing else that is important to public life, mirroring exactly caste marginalisation for centuries. Inviting her on the one Hafta that discussed caste but on no other Hafta, like she hinted at, is a cleverly disguised but at the end of the day, a performative exercise in caste inclusion.

Despite this being such a clear answer to Abhinandan’s question about what NL could do better, none of the Haftas since, it’s been close to 20 weeks, have included a lower caste / or any other marginalised voice for any discussion. Happy to be corrected here. I give you the benefit of doubt assuming that perhaps you have chosen guests based on particular domain expertise and availability, but surely even then there could have been an effort to include perspectives from someone with lived experiences different from the upper caste upper class mainstream.

Other remarks: I eagerly look forward to Hafta and the main reason I subscribed. I don't always agree but, 100 percent of the time, enjoy the discussion.

Keep it up you guys!


Ujval Mohan


I am a passionate listener-cum-agent for NL, though in true sense I’m not sure if, so far, anyone has subscribed due to my persistence. Every time I listen to Hafta, there are so many opinions that come to my mind and somehow, I always fail to write. But do consider this as, so far, this is the second letter I've written to any show ever, the first being to Surabhi on DD.

This one again late by a Hafta, but I would request you to do discuss the growth of BJP in states using the regional cinema. BJP is a party that believes in unity, of nation, religion and language. It has been able to attract the biggest stars across regional cinema — Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan in Tamil Nadu are comrades, Mohanlal is a fan, the Bhojpuri trio of Manoj Tiwari, Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Lal Yadav are members, Mithun joined the party and Prosenjit is rumored to do so. That this is a planned move by the party is obvious, but why are the vernacular stars joining a political outfit that is a far bigger threat to their language and culture than Bollywood ever was?

More power to Team NL — If I was Ambani, I would have still bought your subscription and gifted it to many students, so please tell all your richer subscribers to pay to keep news free and accessible to all!


Kumud Shankar


Hello Hafta team,

Sorry this is a long email.

As always great work is going on at Newslaundry and I thoroughly enjoy your discussions. Thanks for including my questions last week. There was a slight remark by Abhinandan where he called RSS a "Maratha organisation". I am assuming it is a slip of tongue by Abhinandan. But if it is not, and since I have seen quite a few people confuse the Peshwa empire as Maratha empire, here is the correction. I welcome any correction to my corrections as my correction is in good faith.

RSS was started off by Marathi Chitpawan Brahmins, colloquially called Kokansatha Brahmins - from Konkan as they probably came from or settled near the coast, the same lot who were Peshwas and handled bureaucracy for the Maratha regents in Satara, descendants of Shivaji. Chitpawan means "Pure as the ash on a burning pyre”. By some records, these people are said to be one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel and are said to be of Jewish origins themselves, as per the Bene Israeli people in India. Here is the Wikipedia link. Savarkar, Godse, Tilak, Golwalkar, Tendulkar, Gokhale, Agarkar, Ranade are some surnames.

Before Shivaji rose, the 96 clans of Marathas were backward classes, called Shyannau Kuli — ask Meghnad for pronunciations — who were either vassals of Nizamshahi or Adilshahi or peasants. When Shivaji rose, he abolished caste practice to a large extent, much to the chagrin of many Maratha landlords and, especially, the people who were to become Peshwas. When he died, the landlords and the Peshwas came to an understanding and thus started the so called Maratha empire where the Maratha regent remained a titular head and battles plus administration was managed by Peshwas. A friend of mine of the erstwhile cobbler community tells how his ancestors suffered untouchability in Peshwai Pune. Pune continues to be a fairly casteist society in the older parts of the city.

Today the Maratha presence in RSS is very miniscule. Also the Maratha community on the whole is less likely to vote for BJP, it never has. It prefers NCP and Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena's Hindutva is less varna based than RSS. It is also less communal than the traditional upper castes. It's socially if not economically backward, hence the OBC reservation demand. As per Kancha Ilaiah himself, the community comes under Shudra varna as per the Manusmriti just like Patels, Gujjars, Jats and others. So their inclination towards the RSS is pretty limited and that is a good thing.

If you do read this correction on the podcast, I do not wish for people to think that I am targeting any specific community. I am of Bania origins, my girlfriend is Chitpawan Brahmin and I am equally disliked by my and her family when I raise these issues. If anyone wants to know how the Bania community fueled and fuels RSS-VHP-BJP - I recommend Akshaya Mukul's Gita Press and Making of Hindu India. I can verify from my childhood that whatever Mukul writes is fairly accurate. My awakening also came through this book.

Also, most media is owned by the Bania community like Ambani, Subhash Agarwal and others.

Warm Regards,

Keyshav Mor


Dear NL Team,

I am a recent subscriber writing to thank you for the brilliant work you do.

In the years I lived as a student in a different city, I had no TV and had no idea of the toxicity and sensationalism on TV news. Post 2018, at my new workplace cafeteria which had a TV always tuned to news channels, I realized this with complete bafflement and growing horror. Last year, I came across Newslaundry through the brilliance that is Newsance, amazing work, Manisha, and I finally decided to subscribe because I felt so thankful that at least someone was calling out the bullshit on mainstream TV news.

In the pandemic of right-wing authoritarianism around the world, you as journalists are in the first line of defence. I don’t know what the average lay person can do apart from paying to keep news free. Going to protests is not always possible and even more difficult in these Covid times.

Since the second term of this government began and they started bulldozing their wish list through, I’ve felt that my mental health is being disturbed by the happenings around the country and I haven't known what to do about it. Talking to like-minded liberal friends helped only a little, as it seemed that these things affected them less than they did me.

To be honest, subscribing to Newslaundry has been the biggest help — it might be the bare minimum that I am doing but it makes me feel better that I am at least doing something.

I really enjoy listening to Hafta and all your views on varied topics — it’s somehow very intimate and it almost feels like I am a part of the conversation. As someone who once wished to be a journalist — and even now feels a stab of regret that I can’t also do that along with my current job — listening to Hafta feels really good.

Much love and respect to the entire Newslaundry team.

Adithya Dushyanth



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