Hafta letters: Khalistan agenda, media bias, Israel-Palestine violence

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
A quote from one of the letters: "Hafta lacks diversity in gender, caste views".
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Letter on September 28: In Hafta’s episode 451, the panel had no reaction to Sajjan Kumar getting acquitted. Not blaming anyone, just highlighting how something that might not seem significant in other parts of the country is a major development for the Sikhs. Tytler and Sajjan were the biggest names in the anti-Sikh riots and they have not been brought to justice. 

40 years later, the impact of those riots and the wounds are still fresh in Punjab. Many lost their family members, some were forced to cut their hair just to save themselves.

An educated Sikh with a job will not waste his time on all of this because, well, no time for that. There is the other section though, the one that has been forced to move to Canada. This section is neither that literate nor intellectually sound.

If someone like Pannu brainwashes them with 1984 and the aftermath, or recent anti-Sikh sentiments spread by Kangana and the likes asking Sikhs to prove their allegiance to India, it only leads to this. This is what gives rise to radicalism but it goes unnoticed.

Adding to the Sikh radicalism part that rises because of this. The epicentre lies in many Sikhs feeling neglected and the inherent perceived lack of justice. Why a Khalistan movement gains strength in other countries is because they’ve been forced to leave their homes in Punjab and go to foreign land, a land where people like Pannu brainwashes them with examples of ‘injustice’. 

If Indian politicians are serious about finding a solution to this (which of course they are not) then it is perceived injustice that needs to be resolved. Unfortunately though, with no strong leader from the region and Bhagwant Mann proving to be a major failure (following BJP’s footsteps by controlling the police and sending them after his political enemies), the situation won’t improve.

I just worry that with the BJP’s inherent tendency of divide and rule, Sikhs are not the next in line after Muslims, to get ostracised.

Letter on October 3: This a follow up to a long mail I wrote last week about Sajjan Kumar's release and lack of conversation about why the plight of Sikhs don't get covered. Surprisingly or bang on cue you guys had covered it which was nice to see!

Great job guys, thanks for giving the news its due importance unlike the TV media that is peddling the Khalistan agenda non stop these days.

Anonymous 

***

Hello, I’m Sandeep, and like many Bangaloreans, I’m stuck in traffic. I’ve been a longtime listener of Hafta, from its early days. And I’m amazed by how it has evolved while maintaining its original charm. Kudos to all of you!

I have a couple of requests:

- Can you make it easier to access your podcast archives? The current endless scroll makes it challenging to share earlier episodes. They’re like time capsules, and I believe newer listeners would enjoy the consistent observations. Perhaps consider releasing multi-part discs as merch.

 - As the year ends, it would be fantastic to have a Hafta episode dedicated to the news coverage of 2023. I know there are enough bad examples to fill the other extreme, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the ones that made the most significant impact.

-  Videos; Subjective, But I do feel video podcasts take away the charm from audio only where you can focus on voices solely. Do you guys place video podcasts as an upgrade over audio-only podcasts?

Sandeep Sekhar

***

Hello there, I’d like to respectfully disagree with Bhavesh’s feedback to the podcast panellists to be not ranty and that NL’s growth lies in appearing neutral. 

When there are people, there are going to be biases, audiences may connect with some and not with others and the point of it all should be to stir a discussion, self-reflection sometimes and a push back other times. It is your opinions on the podcasts that are engaging to me. If being neutral or the appearance of it is not sharing your views then neutrality shouldn’t be your aspiration. And you are a mix bag, while Manisha and Raman may appear neutral most times and do have nuanced opinions, Jayashree and Abhinandan may have a pessimistic view of somethings, sometimes more critical than others that I seem to more often than not share or agree with. In my opinion, what Hafta is lacking is diversity in gender and caste views. 

What is neutral anyway! Until one nails it down and can really measure its success, just stay as you are.

Arthi 

***

For people struggling with Newslaundry app, please use the following steps to fix the issue:

1. Place the phone in condition on a flat surface.

2. Deploy a hammer or a heavy object with an appropriate handle at 50m/s from 90deg to 0deg. Perform thrice and pause for effect.

3. Dip device in water for absolution.

4. Purchase a new phone.

5. Download the Newslaundry App.

Bottom line : App is fine. Your phone is fucked.  

Somsubhro

***

Jayashree doesn’t need to stop her ranting. Please rant as much as you want. Just enough with all the tch tch tch please Jayashree. That's too disturbing, especially while cooking. Thanks.

Priyank 

***

Feedback on Hafta 452: Love your work. Agree with Abhinandan, One just can’t help and lean one way in an environment. Journalists should always be critical of people in power.

Also, on the point that there are so many people who think Bhindranwale was a martyr and do not want Khalistan. I did a small research myself and was able to find out that he did not ask for Khalistan but was demanding for the Anandpur Matta and once said that “We don’t want Khalistan but if they will give it to us we won’t refuse”. I hope one day, someone would do unbiased research based on talking to general people along with history books. 

I recommend this interview with Gen SK Sinha. Khalistan is a cry for justice.

 Also, I hate how the Indian media has so much hate towards Pakistan, while living in Australia, people from Pakistan here have nothing but love for us.  

Manisha, love your TV Newsance. Please keep it up.

Thanks team

Ravinder Singh

***

My last letter critiqued Abhinandan. This time, dost, I come in support. Specifically, of your appraisal of Ranveer Alhabadia.

Ranveer repeatedly peddles pseudoscience on his podcast. Stuff like karma, the law of attraction, and - my personal favourite - “kya aapne kabhi aliens ko dekha hai? kaisa tha apka experience?”.

It’s ironic. Since he used to start his initial fitness videos with “Let’s Science the shit out of it”. Surely when he lets politicians speak on his podcast, doesn’t question them, and waxes lyrical about them (grizzly mom, WTF?!?). He’s doing it only for the views. The responsibility that comes with being a person of influence clearly doesn’t matter to him.

In short, if anything, Abhinandan wasn’t nasty enough. Ranveer is not a bigot, but the Ranveer Show, “India’s smartest podcast”, promotes being irrational and unquestioning. As long as your arguments are robust, keep calling that out please. Rant or no rant.

Aniruddha Wattal 

***

Hello NL Team,

Few Haftas back, I remember Abhinandan mentioned that if the current government loses the election 2024 then they would burn down the country. I believe this statement was made before the INDIA bloc came into the picture. Then Modi seemed unbeatable, but now?

The idea that except Gujarat and UP, the BJP has reached their peak and there is no way they are getting back makes sense arithmetically. But I believe we are underestimating Modi-Shah by thinking that. The way they used Pulawama in the last election, my fear is not what they would do after losing the election but what they would do to win it.

One can see opposition is coming together, but that’s just photo op? Recently, we celebrated Gandhi Jayanti and thought if he would be alive right now, he would go to Manipur, Ram-leela and everywhere required and protest against the government. But what is the opposition fearful of? They could take to the road and protest on all the fronts, they literally have nothing to lose as of now?

Aman 

***

Hi NL team,

This is with regards to this week’s Hafta. I agree with Abhinandan that there’s no way to look unbiased in today’s India. 

RSS-BJP politics of hatred and creating divisions has been hurting the society for years. We can see its ill-effects in Manipur, Meitei-Kuki violence wouldn’t have been bad if RSS had not been propagating hatred for BJP’s electoral gains. They divide society by their anti-Muslim and anti- Christian narratives, and wherever possible, they had been using Khalistan as a tool to propagate hatred against Sikhs. 

The RSS affiliated overseas Hindu groups are spreading hatred against Sikhs, and scuffle among the two communities are becoming a common thing overseas. If a small number of Khalistan supporters gather, we see rising gatherings of Hindus carrying Indian flags to oppose them. Which gives a very wrong narrative of all Sikhs being anti-India. The biased Godi Media in India and large force of IT cell use such optics and small scuffles  as propaganda. It’s so brazen, how can we be unbiased?

In response to the question you asked about Indian society being so cool with looking the other way on the suffering of people, I believe our indifference to others misery and suffering is deep-rooted in our religious practices, religious texts and deep-rooted caste system, and on top of that the patriarchal society.

Harnek Kang 

***

I only recall one instance of Hafta where the panellists expressed pleasant surprise that there was no Hindu-Muslim in the news that week. 

In a country where every week marks a new low in the lives of Indian Muslims, it is hard to remain neutral. The most popular concept of what neutral means in India sounds something like “Why don’t you say something about Muslims or Owaisi? Why always target Hindus?”

This kind of comment can be found beneath every video of lynching or hate speech. Neutrality in India now means whataboutery. Rajdeep Sardesai tries so hard at it and appears like a buffoon trying to monkey balance the communal question. Hate speech is now being bellowed from the Parliament, and our country is pursuing a new low every single week. 

Abhinandan, please do not stop your ranting because for so many of us, we find our voice echoed in the conviction of what you say. For a lot of Muslims, it gives hope that people with Hindu names feel so strongly against the hate.

Atheist Liberal 

***

I would like to commend you for inviting Amandeep for a second time to talk about Punjab. After his first appearance on Hafta a few months ago, I purchased his book, “Panjab, Journey Through Fault Lines” and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

He opened my eyes to the intricacies of Punjab and its troubled history with his sensitive and honest prose. So I couldn’t think of anyone better to discuss today’s tangle with Trudeau, etc. than Amandeep and then he shows up again on Hafta! A real treat indeed.

I would also like to recommend to listeners, Manisha’s interview on the August 28 episode of the The Seen And The Unseen podcast. I have always appreciated her work and it was a pleasure to get to know the person behind the work in greater detail.

And, finally to all those who are unhappy over the (much deserved) criticism of this government from NL and other sources, I would like them to think deeply about this quote from Pierre Beaumarchais, “Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise”. 

Keep up the good work guys!
Shantanu Sharma

***

An observation on the reactions to the caste census - no one has attempted to refute the numbers. Even the privileged class, while arguing against the census, has an intrinsic acceptance that they only are a small proportion with a stupid amount of power.

Karan

***

Hi NL Team! I just wanted to write to say how much I appreciate Manisha’s inputs in Hafta, week after week. Her analysis is always supported by facts and she almost always quotes her sources. In addition to that, her takes are never overtly-emotional or biased. Keep it up Manisha!

Also, Abhinandan you’ve been getting a lot of emails recently about you sounding overtly biased. So a word of support to you. As long as NL reporting and coverage is honest and unbiased you’re entitled to voicing your opinion like any other person.

Finally, Thanks to each and every NL contributor and all the guests as well. We see and appreciate all the hard work you put in! Thank you!

Divya Makkar 

***

What does the job of a managing editor entail?

Priyank 

***

I have to sadly tell you that your Android app is basically unusable for listening to podcasts - which is the only thing I want to use it for. Sometimes the playback stops because the app stops and needs to be reloaded, and other times the app just thinks that there is no internet (there always is). I feel that, in order to incentivise more people to subscribe by putting Hafta behind paywall, you’re disincentivising your existing subscribers by giving them a bad experience.

Saahil

***

The Bihar census results are really not surprising at all.  It has always been a known fact that the upper caste minority in India enjoyed most privileges and power dynamics.  My issue has always been the projection of India as a vegetarian country, when in fact just 20 percent of the population are vegetarian.  

The term NON-vegetarian itself is a term unique to India, where it's implied that being a vegetarian is the norm and the “NON vegetarians” are the outliers.  Anywhere else in the world, a vegan (although they are not exactly the same as Indian vegetarians), are considered the outlier.  

High-end restaurant buffets are keen to offer separate Jain meals when in fact Jains are only 0.4 percent of the total population. The uneven power dynamics among communities in India will be an interesting study in itself. I’ve been a long-time subscriber, living here in Qatar.  I’m hoping you could have a subscriber meet up in the Middle East.  Keep up the good work.

Najeem 

***

Hi NL team, 

It is unfortunate that I have decided to unsubscribe merely seeing the attitude of Abhinandan. I hear him in multiple podcasts and do not think he takes anyone seriously. Just the last time he picked Ravi Shastri talking to Siraj on Biryani and trying to find something in it. As Manish finally pointed out, it was more of him coming from Hyderabad. But Abhinandan sounded like “I am the boss, so I am right”. Sorry boss, I am out.

Jeeth 

***

Hey NL team, 

My question to the panel is while Newslaundry and other such news portals with integrity do their part while being on the watch of the government. Does the vile reporting of pages like Op India, Ajeet Bharti have more of an effect on the masses rather than that of yours, because these reels and YouTube shorts have majorly been occupied by these channels with hyper religious-nationalistic videos without any facts, and are thus consumed more by everyone. These kinds of videos are surely a sort of source of dopamine for a person who is not inclined towards politics and thus attracts their attention towards the establishment or how proud they should be for their leader etc thus creating a sheep effect.

Divgunn 

***

While Anand reduced the Israel killings by Hamas as a state vs terrorist organisation issue. Thanks for bringing in Stanly who laid the facts down and gave us a more holistic point of view of the issue. How the media always fails to recognise what Israel does to Palestine with full support from the West, while Israel still enjoys the riches, the land, with its people mostly living without fear and sense of security for the current and the future when Palestine has none of that. No one speaks for Palestine in the media. Killings must be condemned but how can you not recognise the miserable lives that Palestinian’s live because of Israel.

Arthi 

***

Hello NL team,

Long-term subscriber and admirer of your work. As a long-term Hafta listener, I was disappointed with the cynicism of the guest on Hafta 453. A lot of his arguments lacked nuance and felt stale.

I hope we can have guests who can contribute meaningfully to a discourse rather than easily succumbing to despondency, for that we have X.

Anoop 

***

During Hafta 454, Anand linked “state vs non-state actor” as a basic differentiator to define terrorist organisations. In my mind, this definition is about western interest, largely to retain control of Muslim world through the use of various dictators and violent organisations. Here are few facts:

-Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas and many more are western inventions through sponsorship and training. They were created to stop/delay pro-democracy movements in Muslim nations.

-State actors from Iran, Libya, Iran, Egypt (elected Islamic brotherhood) are/were somehow terror states

-Hamas was actually elected by Palestinian people. Besides, armed resistance against foreign occupation in certain situations is considered legitimate by UN laws.

Language chosen by the powerful and media is largely propaganda. Definitions conveniently change! I prefer Gandhi, for whom all blood is red!

Asgar Shaikh 

***

Could you do a video on the International Democrat Union (BJP is in it) or talk about it in the podcast. The public info says it is a group to discuss ideas for rw parties but that seems too simple.


Vishnu

***

Hello NL team,

Few suggestions:

In the last few days, I followed Mojo Story covering the Palestine issue, and it was very impressive. The video reports every few hours and the live discussion is very informative.

Hope NL can also come up with something like this. A separate fund to cover international events, and more video reports. Video formats really help in spreading and exchanging info quickly. And in today’s age, it is more engaging.

Special mention for Anand. His history lessons could be a new show or short series on NL. His very calm demeanour helps understand issues without getting too emotional or biased.

Good luck NL🙂
Ankita Pareek 

***

Hi, your discussion on the Israel and Palestine issue was way better and informative than Charcha. In your discussion, Anand defined terrorist as per the UN and termed Hamas a terrorist organisation. Then according to the same definition Bajrang Dal and the so-called cow vigilantes should also be called terrorist organisations. I want to know Anand’s view on it. Thanks.

Farqul Raizee

***

Hi team,

I’ve been an NL subscriber for over 10 years now and often enjoy the discussion. I was a bit pissed off over the Shashtri/ Siraj discussion. It felt to me that the panel was reading a bit too much into the discussion.

Abhinandan said something on the lines of “I started thinking more” and my immediate reaction was “Bhai mat socho yaar itna. Kya jaroorat hai? Kyun kar rahe ho ye?” The discussion revealed prejudices of the panel more than Shastri’s supposed tone deafness.

Keep up the good work.
Best, Chaitanya

***

Dear NL team, great job and loved Hafta as usual. I want to quickly point out, Abhinandan couldn’t be more wrong when he says that in countries like the USA people would not let others die on the street. The statistics for drug abuse (especially fentanyl), across urban North America, and absolute abandonment of the population is now well-documented. Indian cities should pay close attention, and actually have an opportunity to think about a different model of living and housing, as cities grow enormously over the years.

All my best
Aditya 

***

Hi Hafta team,

Wanted to know if you are sending your team to Manipur again to cover the poppy harvest which is expected in Oct/Nov. It is very important to understand who benefits from the poppy plantation in Manipur. Is it only the Kuku tribe as suggested by the Meitis and the Biren Singh government? Or is there a larger cartel involved? Godi Media will not tell us and neither will the government. It is important for civil society and independent news agencies to expose the true story behind the so-called ‘drug money’.

Also, I agree with Abhinandan about being biased or leaning towards only one side. As long as personal biases are kept out of the actual reporting/news, it is acceptable. However, I do agree with the other subscriber about the rant bit. Choose somebody your own size when you pick fights. BeerBiceps or the likes of him are way too low for us, NL subscribers. I am sure most of your subscribers didn’t even know who he was till you guys did the story. Don’t give “bhav”. As for Vivek Agnihotri, he will just die his own death (metaphorically). I hope it is slow and painful though. But again no need to bring him up in every Hafta.

Thanks,

Bandana

***

Hi,

I am an active subscriber of Newslaundry and this is my second email. I have carefully listened to your podcast about India Canada tension, but nobody talked about any narrative in the light of the election of 2024.

Before the election, if any “MOCK” assassination attempt would be made by the “hated” Khalistanis against our “beloved” PM, it could draw the nation’s sympathy (vote) to the BJP once again.

In that way, all Sikhs can be marked again as “Khalistanis'' which was tried already at the time of farmer’s agitations. Thus, not only the BJP could win once again but also the revenge could be taken against Sikhs and Punjab who have thrown out the BJP in the first place.

Note: This narrative should be broadcasted as much as possible so if it would happen in future, BJP should not get any political advantage using this “MOCK” incident.

Hope everyone can remember Pulwama.

Regards,

Chiradeep

***

Enjoyed listening to Hafta 452 (last week). Manisha Pande’s podcast on Amit Verma - Seen and Unseen is no less than Abhinandan on the same show. Include it as a recommendation from a regular listener.

Shikhar 

***

Hello NL team,

I’d like to discuss a topic that has recently surfaced in the Hafta discussions: India - Pak cricket. India’s long standing policy is to avoid bilateral series with Pakistan; the last one took place in 2012/13. The rationale behind this decision appears to be both symbolic and economic, as Pakistani players are also barred from playing in the IPL. Nevertheless, the government allows encounters with Pakistan in multinational tournaments like the Asia Cup and the World Cup, where forfeiting could harm our chances of winning these prestigious trophies. 

India-Pakistan matches in such tournaments also generate immense viewership for the organisers. Since 2013, we’ve seen 14 such tournaments (2 Champions Trophies, 5 Asia Cups, 4 T20 World Cups and 3 ODI World Cups including the current one) and all of them featured an India-Pakistan clash in the group stage. You might remember the Mauka-Mauka campaign by Star Sports during the 2015 ODI World Cup clash.

Now, onto the controversies surrounding the recently concluded Asia Cup. Originally, Pakistan was set to host the 2023 tournament, but the BCCI expressed security concerns over sending the team to Pakistan. Negotiations went on between Asian Cricket Council (ACC), which organises the Asia Cup and is also led by Jay Shah, and the PCB for weeks. 

Pakistan’s sports minister even threatened to withdraw from the ODI World Cup if the BCCI refused to play in Pakistan. However, even Pakistan knew this was a hollow threat. The ACC is like the SAARC of cricket - it doesn’t have much real power and can be easily arm twisted by its members. But the ODI World Cup is organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the authority with real power which could penalise member associations in case they refuse to play its tournaments. 

The final outcome was a peculiar hybrid model of Asia Cup: Pakistan hosted four matches, while Sri Lanka hosted the remaining nine, with India playing exclusively in Sri Lanka. The Pakistan team extensively travelled back and forth between Sri Lanka and Pakistan during the tournament, which contributed to their subpar performance and injury concerns.

Talking about the ODI World Cup (which would have started by the time you read this), the BCCI could have definitely managed better preparations. The schedule was announced late, just three months before the tournament. Then there were reports about reservations from Ahmedabad and Kolkata police regarding the two matches in their cities. The India-Pak match on October 15 in Ahmedabad was clashing with the first day of Navratri, while the Pak- England match scheduled for November 12 in Kolkata was clashing with Kali Puja and Diwali. The revised schedule, with multiple changes, was released on August 9, less than two months before the event. Even with regard to the semi-finals, Pakistan had legitimate concerns about playing in Mumbai. There are two semi-finals on the schedule, one in Kolkata and the other in Mumbai. 

The understanding is, if Pakistan were to reach the semi-finals, their match would be in Kolkata. Pakistan initially expressed reservations about playing in Ahmedabad as well, but it seems the BCCI was able to draw the line there.

This brings the intriguing question - what if Pakistan was to host an ICC tournament? Will then India travel to Pakistan? We will get the answer soon, as Pakistan is set to host the ICC Champions Trophy in 2025. I am curious what will the BCCI pull out from the hat this time? Or will we see King Kohli hitting sixes in Pakistan for the first time?

Love your work and fully support your belief.

Best regards,

Abhishek Kumar

***

Hello team,

Khushwant here. I wrote to you back in 2016  when I was working as a junior doctor in the far flung villages of Uttarakhand (when I was really angry with Madhu). Today, I am working as a neurosurgeon in a big hospital. 

I have lived and worked, as I progressed through my career, in all of the states in north India. And just like any other north Indian Sikh, I also have a bunch of friends and relatives who are sympathetic towards Bhindranwale and Khalistan. And everytime we have discussions over this topic, in the drawing rooms or while having a beer, I confidently point out how I have lived in the villages, the towns and the cities in every north Indian state and have never felt any discrimination owing to me being a Sikh. On the contrary, I have probably been given special treatment and attention, at times even respect and affection (for which I did nothing personally to deserve), owing to the turban on my head. Nor has me being a Sikh led to any hurdles in my career path. At least 99 percent of the Sikhs I know do not support the idea of Khalistan, and the other 1 percent, who also are doing well, at least agree to have never been personally discriminated against or even hated. That usually ends our discussion.

But with the narrative going on, I absolutely agree with Amandeep and Abhinandan that you are only going to give these 1 percent their first genuine reasons to point out marginalisation and discrimination. These young people have only heard about 1984 and the news bulletins will only affirm their ideas. Add to that the threat of some untoward incident actually happening.

Also, I believe that as Sikhs, we need to come out and publicly shun and distance ourselves from lunatics like Pannu. Probably something like a ‘Not in my name’.

Take care guys.

Khushwant Singh

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