Hafta letters: Why context matters, secularism in Turkey, RSS podcast

NL subscribers get back with brickbats and bouquets!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Hi Abhinandan,

I have been an avid follower of Newslaundry since I was an undergrad student. As an economics student, I understand how necessary it is to pay for the public good (news), especially in current times when news is made rather than reported. I always wanted to be your subscriber, not because I would read every story, listen to every podcast, or attend townhalls. I want to be your subscriber for the public interest journalism your organisation does.

Kudos to you!

I want to share my happiness over getting a job a month prior. People have plans to purchase this or that with the first salary of their career. I too have and your subscription is one of the things.

I am proud to invest in an organisation that raises matters of public interest.

I am writing this email to ask you to never stop programmes like Newsance and Tippani, as such programmes have helped me develop my perspective of the world and democracy in general. In case you want to inform your viewers about this mail, please do not reveal my identity. Rest is good!

Thank you for letting young heads like me understand democracy and independent journalism's role in a vibrant democracy.

Thanks and regards.


Hi NL team,

Kudos to Abhinandan for his Let's Talk About: RSS series. I am writing this letter in response to episode 4 of Ye Bhi Theek Hai.

First of all, huge respect for Kamra and Rajoura as they are questioning the establishment from within their respective fields and it takes guts to do that. I may not agree with their views but they are free to discuss whatever they can.

But in episode 4, Rajoura talks about Turkey being secular. In 2018, Erdogan converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque while in 1935 Ataturk had converted it into a museum from a mosque. So, it doesn't make sense to call Turkey secular, right?



Dear NL,

On Hafta 389 and a previous episode, one a subscriber wrote in about the VFS appointment racket which Abhinandan considered to be impossible. Since then, I have heard from three independent sources about people having to pay Rs 10,000-15,000 to middlemen in order to secure a visa appointment on the VFS site (at least for the US, I am not sure if this is happening with other embassies). Middlemen are creating a deficit of appointments and the demand for such middlemen (and, of course, their charges) is going up in order to secure a visa appointment by people desperately trying to get to their jobs or families in the US that should otherwise have been on first-come-first-serve basis.

I hope your team investigates this further or at least passes it on to someone who would be interested in looking deeper into this issue.

Keep up the good work!




Hello team,

Hafta and Charcha have become part of my daily routine. I enjoy almost all the conversations. But in last Hafta, when you guys discarded Manu Smriti, it felt odd. I know there are slokas in Manu Smriti that are problematic. But we don't know the context. And discarding any text without any objective and scientific study is pure stupidity which I didn't expect from your end.

Example 1: In Arthasastra, under the header "punishment", they talk about hitting women. If you take that paragraph out of context of the punishment and the reason for punishment, you will find it wrong because they say you can slap your wife twice. But if you read the entire context, it makes sense.

PS: I have not read the entire Arthasastra, nor am I an expert. But with all the reading I have done in my life, I understand the context.

Example 2: If Ravana kidnaps a woman it's not a wrong teaching because he is evil. But if Ram does the same, it's a wrong teaching. So, context matters.



Thanks, Abhinandan, for providing better context of the National Herald case. Now I can understand this better as I grew up watching the same kind of scammers in Ahmedabad. One was my languages teacher. The other, a family friend, still does the same: takes ad money, distributes some free copies to family and friends, claims expenses from the government, and almost reached a deal with a famous baba for Rs 7 crore.



Hi NL team,

This letter for you is an equivalent of Good News Today channel on TV.

Firstly, in the fourth episode of Ye Bhi Theek Hai, Kunal and Sanjay nailed the discussion. Looks like they have upped their game. It was an absolute pleasure to listen to their views.

Although I'm mostly a Hindi speaker, I like Jayashree's breakdown of the topics and then providing her opinion backed with facts.

Lately, the level of discussion has definitely improved on Hafta, so kudos to you, Manisha and Raman as well for the hard work!

Manisha is a legend in the making! :)

Best wishes to all!!!

Ayush Rana


I appreciate the wonderful work done by the team led by Shardool. I see new vitality in Newslaundry content. Obviously I don't agree with many but that's the good part!

I believe modern day priests are politicians. Religion and modern states have only one difference – that religion transcends boundaries and has lasted longer. When the two combine, we have theocratic states like Saudi Arabia and Israel. Ideologies are somewhere in between. Combination of ideology and modern state has resulted in the US and China.

India and South Africa were born with ideologies of non-violence and reconciliation. We are now experimenting with combining the RSS ideology with the Indian state. I don't believe in the least that it has anything to do with Hindus or Hindutva. For that, you can refer to Mohan Bhagwat's own definition of Hindu.

Newslaundry's work helps us understand the subject better and hopefully it becomes part of significant historical archives!

Keep kicking!

Asgar Shaikh


Hi NL team,

You people are doing a wonderful job. I have no complaints about anything. I love Abhinandan's out-of-the-world theories and love them even more when they fall flat. I love Manisha's interruptions. I love Jayashree's rants. You should invite her on more often. Also it's good to see Mehraj back.

One thing about the app, though. It will be good if the user can get a notification when a new post is uploaded. I saw this feature on the BBC Hindi app. You should check that out for a day or two and you will know how useful that is.

Keep up the good work.



Hi there,

I'm not going to counter Mehraj's opinion that science leaves the question of death alone. Instead, I would suggest the book below to you all, Mehraj in particular.

The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

The core of science is from a gentleman called Ernest Becker.

The Denial of Death

Unfortunately I have not got around to reading his books. I would love to know your views after you have read the book.




Hello Abhinandan,

I wrote this for the LTA podcast letters but no letters were read.

At the 13.30 mark of Let's Talk About: RSS, Part 2, you mentioned that the RSS was banned with the Hindu Mahasabha on February 4, 1948.

However, that is not the case. Vinay Sitapati in his book Jugalbandi writes that the Hindu Mahasabha was not banned as Syama Prasad Mukherjee was one of the cabinet members belonging to it.

By not banning the Mahasabha, Golwalkar decided that he needed political insurance of some sort and hence created the Jan Sangh.

Also, I have some feedback on the app. In the Android version, whenever one wants to open a webpage or some recommendation, it opens within the app. I don't have the option to open it on Chrome or any other browser. I can't even copy the link and paste it in Chrome. Please solve this.

The podcast player has become much better. Overall, it is a good app except for a few minor glitches.

Soham J


Hello NL team,

There have been recent attacks on the Hindu community in Bangladesh. And also, given the conditions of minorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, do you guys think this will only increase the sentiment among Indians to make India an Israel-like place for Indic/Dharmic religions?




I noticed at the beginning of every episode Abhinandan has a go at the panel members, asking where they were or when they would be in office. (Smiling.) Can someone other than Abhinandan please tell me if he is like those mid-century bosses who gets a fit when his staff works remotely?

Abhinandan, can you please truly answer if you feel insecure when you hear your team is WFH?

On a side note, I am loving the Ye Bhi Theek Hai podcast. This is exactly what I wanted from Newslaundry other than the continuous political banter. However, that doesn’t mean I agree with their views when they pelo. A request: could there be a section after that podcast where they answer subscriber letters?

One last question. I was in India recently after a few years and saw Times Now being played consistently at various airports. Does AAI earn money from the channel? Is there a formal order to play only particular channels? Wondering if you can dig out a particular order, where a babu has said sirf Republic hi chalega!

Satwik Banerjee


Hafta's quality is in the gutter, thanks to Abhinandan. I feel the same about the quality of your company too. Your interruptions are dumbing the conversation down. I can draw up instances but for the word limit.

Now to specifics. The analyst in this Hafta episode said simply, "I don't see any election link to expanding 5G coverage." You effectively said, "Bhai, tereko kya pata, they toppled one government for four-digit crore figures." How is this a counter to the slow pace of 5G adoption? Also, you have given no explanation for the four-digit crore figure. Where did you get it from? What does that constitute? And how can you narrow down the use of those funds to topple MH? Aren't you beholden to stating facts and backing it up as a journalist?

Now your app. It sucks. It's unoptimised. It takes minutes to open the app, minutes to then open the podcast you want to listen to, and then minutes for it to reload after rewinding/gf.



Hi NL Hafta team,

The reason I love Hafta is because the people in the discussion use data and evidence to justify their positions/opinions. Unfortunately, episode 4 of Ye Bhi Theek Hai lacked any nuance or understanding of the topic. Sanjay Rajoura made outlandish statements, like Turkey is a model secular state where Erdogan is weaponising religion currently; or stating SRK and Karan Johar are responsible for destroying multiculturalism; or concluding Bollywood is responsible for making India illiberal; or taking visceral pleasure like Dhakkad flopped.

I admire Mr Rajoura and Mr Kamra for their comedy and courage. But I felt issues they discuss require deeper and nuanced discussions – and some pushback when they make overarching conclusions. The show could be improved if it was hosted by Abhinandan or Manisha, but I understand you can't change the format.



Hi, can you please do a podcast on the 1971 Bangladesh war in Let's Talk About? I'm a regular listener and really interested to know the details of that historical period which is related to both India and Bangladesh.



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