Hafta letters: Reporting on climate change, caste in Islam, pronunciations

NL subscribers get back with brickbats and bouquets!

WrittenBy:NL Team
Article image
  • Share this article on whatsapp

Two questions that I've been thinking about for the panel.

1) I listen to Lallantop's Netanagari immediately after Hafta. The contrast is stark, and I think it's because the Hafta team doesn't seem to like politicians or politics too much. The focus is mostly on public pronouncements over all venality. But isn't it as important to know what politicians say outside of the public eye? The same is true for journalists, especially the shouty ones on TV. Both these groups face enormous constraints that should be acknowledged, surely. Thoughts?

2. This one is mostly for Abhinandan. It is a constant surprise to me that NL does not do much work on RTI. Both as a subject (the attacks on RTI activists, the problems with the process, legitimate resistance from officials) and as a method to get information. Moneylife, by contrast, has a regular section on RTI, and highlights RTI based stories in a way that I would have thought was directly in your wheelhouse. Why is this?

Vijay Krishnan


In Hafta 395, Mehraj mentioned that the Delhi Sultanate was founded by slaves. He used this fact to argue for the lack of caste discrimination in Islamic societies. Krishna Deva Raya, the most celebrated emperor of the conspicuously Hindu Vijayanagara empire, was a Shudra. The Kakatiyas, an imperial Shaivite dynasty that ruled Andhra and Telangana, were Shudras. They mention it in their epigraphs. There are numerous other examples.

To use these arguments to deny caste discrimination in Hindu society would be delusional. You don’t need the Manusmriti for a caste system. In her book, Isabel Wilkerson explains how the racial hierarchy in the US is a caste system. If a Protestant Christian society can have it, so can an Islamic one. Mehraj’s arguments reminded me of how my “casteless” upper-caste Hindu friends deny casteism in Hindu society. Denying evidence of actual caste discrimination using religious arguments is, I think, a disservice to the sufferers of the brunt of the discrimination.

Anirudh Srivathsan


I loved the depth of the Pasmanda Muslim discussion in Hafta 395. Everybody's contribution on the podcast was valuable and Manisha's moderation was spot on! I also enjoyed the small disagreement between Ashutosh and Mehraj on the relative backwardness of the subgroup.

This episode fits very nicely in the context of BJP's current outreach to the OBC castes, which enabled the huge majorities they achieved so far. I recommend listeners to listen to episode 45 of Amit Verma’s The Seen and The Unseen podcast, titled "BJP's magic formula”, with Prashant Jha.



Hello NL team,

Casteism and racism is against Islam, the last Khutbah mentions it.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council, I have seen cleaners and watchmen of Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Bangladeshi, Filipino etc origin leading namaz and Arabs (rich/poor), non-Arabs (rich/poor) offering their namaz behind them. Never heard or seen a lower-caste Hindu leading a puja. The only thing that elevates the person in Islam is their Taqwa, thats it. Have you seen honour killing within Muslims because of caste? Or not allowing other Muslims to drive a car/ride a horse? Not allowing other Muslims to enter the masjid? The answer is NO. And the answer to the above is yes for Hindus.

The non-Muslims’ (everyone) problem is that they look at Islam from the same prism they look at their religion, which to start off with, is wrong in the first place. You have to look at Islam the way Islam is, the way Muslims believe in it.

Please invite Mr Adnan Rashid to shed light on similar issues with a backdrop of history and politics.

Love your work,

Saquib Shaikh


Again writing to counter Mehraj.

This report by the Human Rights Watch discusses caste discrimination in South Asia, Africa and Japan. Yes, Mehraj, they use the word ‘caste’ here. The link that I shared in the last mail is by the Global Dalit Solidarity Network. So I would trust them more to say which social hierarchy is a caste system and which is not and they mention practices of the African caste system that are similar to the Indian one – endogamy, notions of pollution, etc. There are a number of articles by anthropologists available on JSTOR explaining caste systems in Africa and Japan.

Also, one can find many articles on Muslim “castes” in Africa, like the Soninke, Jakhanke, etc. And yes, their system of hierarchy is termed as a caste system. Due to paucity of word limit, I am not providing a link for reference. So yes, Mehraj, there is caste in Muslims outside the subcontinent as well.




Hi Manisha, check Lallantop's Netanagri. I think it was the end of August episode, where they profiled chamchas of Rahul Gandhi mentioned by Azad. Suggesting cause you wanted to know who these mysterious people are that no one mentions names of.



Hello NL team,

In the wake of the recent Bangalore floods, I would like to comment on the kind of reporting that is usually done on environmental disasters in the Indian media. In none of the major dailies, the Bangalore flood has been reported from a wider perspective, ie the effect of climate change on the Indian subcontinent. Rather, the reports contain the usual script – record rainfall, worst affected regions, administration's apathy, etc.

As we move towards a more uncertain climate future, the Indian media needs to take a much wider and deeper look, and report them as a seemingly linked climate disaster happening across the country. We, in India, see climate change still as a very Western problem, created and to be solved by them; without realising that we will be the hardest hit in the times to come.

Why is there such an immaturity in media and public discourse when it comes to something of this magnitude? I would like to hear the opinion of the panel.

Big fan!



I had written about proper pronunciation in my earlier mail. AS asked me to write in with specifics. So here goes.

It is Nirmala Seetaaraaman (सीतारामन) not “Rum-un”. AdaaNi not aDaani (अदाणी), सलमान रुशदी not रश्दी.

In the last Hafta, each participant had a different pronunciation of Pasmanda. It is Pasmaandaa (पसमांदा). Only Mehraj got it right. Each of the other participants had a unique version. Manisha said Pasmandaa, Raman said Paasmandaa. The others who referred also used their own versions.

There are many more that I don't recall right away, but I will keep publishing such lists in future too. I can send it to you privately too if you wish. But please please correct it. A lot more people listen to it, than you estimate. Give them the gift of correct pronunciation.



Support Independent Media

The media must be free and fair, uninfluenced by corporate or state interests. That's why you, the public, need to pay to keep news free.


Power NL-TNM Election Fund

General elections are around the corner, and Newslaundry and The News Minute have ambitious plans together to focus on the issues that really matter to the voter. From political funding to battleground states, media coverage to 10 years of Modi, choose a project you would like to support and power our journalism.

Ground reportage is central to public interest journalism. Only readers like you can make it possible. Will you?

Support now

You may also like