Hafta letters: Mispronunciations, the other side of Central Vista, clarifications on Jizyah

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Hello Abhinandan,

If you mispronounce "PINARAYI" one more time, I'm cancelling the Newslaundry subscription forever.

If that simple Malayalam name is too complicated for you (and you are claiming that you are half Tamilian, really!), try "Mr Vijayan", that's easy and that is his given name.

And for the history geeks in your audience, Pinarayi is a small village in North Malabar where Mr Vijayan was born. Also, it's the birthplace of the Indian Communist Party. In December 1939, the left wing of the then Congress party met in Pinarayi and formed the Communist Party

Thanks and best regards.

Farook Kalpana



How many hours in a day should a normal person spend on news consumption? How do you guys maintain sanity digesting so much information? Because I have lost it in the last 10 months.

I was living under a rock happily (ignorance is a bliss) until last year when I came across Hathras news. Then I entered the rabbit hole, catching up to the incidents since I left India, discovering you guys, Ravish Kumar et al.

On one hand, I'm shaking my head in disbelief about things that have happened in the last seven years, feeling guilty of being ignorant. And on the other hand, I'm losing my ability to focus on my day job.

By the way, you guys are doing a great job, keep it up!


Ramadhir Singh


Hi Team Hafta,

I’ve been a subscriber for a while now and absolutely love the work NL does. Mehraj is such a good addition to the podcast. Please try and get Hartosh Bal more often on Hafta.

I have a couple of points to make:

1) The NL App Sena project shows as completed. Do we have a timeline as to when the beta will be available to contributors?

2) Would be great if you can have audio read-outs of NL Sena articles, like Guardian Long Reads.

For my fellow football fan Abhinandan, I’d like to recommend Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper. It’s a book about how football, politics and culture influenced each other in different countries through history.


Prithvi Chandra


Dear Hafta team,

Thanks as always for a series of great discussions.

Please check this article out.

It is an intriguing look at how the messaging around Covid changed from droplet-based particles to an airborne infection.

The halls of science are clearly not above dogma, and everywhere there are lessons to the value of asking questions.

Just one thing at the end. Manisha and Atul are the Last Week Tonight guys of India. Newsance's no holds barred coverage and Tippani's beautiful reintroduction of grace to newsroom Hindi is beyond compare.

I hope you stay safe and keep going strong.




Hi Hafta panel,

I read few of the articles about the Central Vista project and I think all of them, if I am not mistaken, describe in great detail about how this project has side-stepped various agencies and laws to plough ahead with constructing the new structure.

I feel though that the viewpoint of the government of India is missing from these articles. I had to Google "advantages of Central Vista" to find out that because we don't have a central secretariat, various government ministries have to pay a lot of rent (I don't know to who), and basically this project saves a lot of money. What is the panel's opinion on this?

My request to you is that for Central Vista project, if possible, try to get opinion of people who think this is a good idea.


Sagar Sahay



I have been a subscriber since 2016. I rarely write letters but I felt I had to shed some light on a few points.

I am writing this response to point out that Mehraj was wrong and was misleading in his comments about Jizyah in Hafta 315 and subsequently in another Hafta episode.

(Disclaimer about my religion: I would say I subscribe to some mix of Advaita Vedanta/Buddhisim philosophy.)

I understood his main point based on what he says as follows: "Jizyah as it is understood (ie a punishment on non-Muslims for not converting to Islam) is incorrect. Jizyah is just a regular tax on non-Muslims levied to run a Muslim state, just as Zakat is an obligated tax on Muslims for the same purpose. It is needed since non-Muslims cannot be forced to pay Zakat as it will be a violation of their rights so they pay regular tax which is called Jizyah."

Subsequent points which can be interpreted/implied from what he said:

1) Purpose of Jizyah is same as purpose of Zakat, ie to run the state.

2) Rulers were sensitive to make sure the rights of non-Muslims were not violated. So Jizyah was the alternative.

Here are the reasons why I suggest he is wrong and, worse, misleading.

1) The intent behind Jizyah and Zakat are totally different. Just seeing them as a tax loses the nuance behind the intent of these. Jizyah is sanctioned in only one verse (chapter 9, verse 29) in the Quran. One of the translations is as follows:

"Fight those who believe not in God and in the Last Day, and who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, and who follow not the Religion of Truth among those who were given the Book, till they pay the Jizyah with a willing hand, being humbled ."

Here is a link to many English translations of the verse.

However you rationalise it (ie this was used for their protection, there were lots of exemptions, this was very less compared to Zakat etc etc), what cannot be avoided is that this verse sanctions animosity against non-Muslims until they willingly humble and submit themselves by paying Jizyah.

I leave it to your readers to interpret the intent of this verse as to (a) protect non-Muslims, (b) set up to fund a Muslim state, or (c) extort money from humble non-Muslims until they convert.

Zakat (or poor due) is mentioned in many verses in the Quran and can be safely interpreted as charity, alms-giving to the poor. It is an obligatory contribution for Muslims necessary for salvation. While it is considered as a tax, please note that the intent behind Zakat is not for running a Muslim state or protection of all subjects. It is primarily for running a charity state or protection of poor.

2) There also were other taxes like Kharaj (land tax), Ushr (import tax or tax on agricultural land), Ghanimah (war booty from conquered lands) which was levied on non-Muslims and Muslims. In fact, Kharaj was at first levied only on non-Muslims and only later it was extended to all subjects. It would make much sense that these were primarily used to run the Muslim state and used for protection of people.

I say Mehraj was misleading because he made it sound as if non-Muslims paid only Jizyah as a simple tax to help run the Muslim state, as an alternative to Zakat. Whereas clearly its intent in Quran was very different.

Keep up the good work.

Thanks and regards,

Jayanth Padmanabhan


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