Nupur Sharma Fiasco Reveals Party, State, Society Numb to Hate; Government Widens CDS Gene Pool
Embassies serving as BJP press offices, spooked Karnataka defers textbook update, Todar Mal to blame for wheat crisis, African cheetahs in MP soon, Prithviraj loses again eight centuries after death
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
June 8, 2022
The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has been vacant for seven months, ever since a helicopter carrying Gen Bipin Rawat crashed in the Nilgiris in December. Now, by an important amendment to service rules made by the Union government, any serving or retired Lt General, Air Marshal or Vice Admiral under the age of 62 will be eligible for the post. They can be considered along with serving chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, according to the amended rules, apparently intended to widen the pool from which the CDS can be appointed. Earlier, the post was only open to four-star generals. The dilution has triggered some misgivings: the possibility of there being less brass on the retiree CDS’s shoulders than the serving chiefs is almost certain to be problematic.
The Indian government is close to resuming a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, though it will not amount to recognition of the Taliban government, reports The Hindustan Times. The issue figured at a meeting on June 2 between Joint Secretary JP Singh, the External Affairs Ministry’s point person on Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. A team from Indian security agencies had made an unannounced visit to Kabul in February to assess the security situation with a view to resuming a diplomatic presence, the report says.
And going by the conduct of the Indian embassy in Muscat, Indian diplomats are now an extended arm of the BJP. It was emailing the ruling party’s statements on the crisis triggered by BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar to local media houses as a statement from India.
The government frowned upon the statement of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), but it subsequently ensured that Indian ambassadors based in all OIC countries were briefed with “talking points” to deal with the situation on June 5. Officials say that the brief from the Ministry of External Affairs did not refer to the BJP leaders as “fringe elements”. That may have emerged from a telephone conversation and was used “mistakenly” in press statements issued by Indian embassies in Doha and Kuwait, they say. The phrase had caused some consternation, since Sharma and Kumar were prominent BJP functionaries. The six-point memo was sent to all heads of mission in OIC countries on Sunday, hours after Indian ambassadors in Qatar and Kuwait were summoned.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has been silent on the embarrassment caused by two national spokespersons of the BJP – one former Indian ambassador has suggested he lacks the political pay grade to comment on a matter that is the product of the party’s ideology – but in first remarks by a Union minister, Piyush Goyal has said the objectionable utterances about Prophet Mohammad made by Nupur Sharma will have no impact on the ruling NDA as she was not a government functionary. He said that good relations will continue with the Gulf countries that have reacted sharply to the issue. Referring to Sharma’s suspension, he said that necessary action has been taken against her. The BBC highlights how Islamophobia under Modi is hurting India’s foreign policy.
Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus demand postings in Jammu due to targeted killings in the Valley, but the BJP asserts that they should be posted in secure areas within Kashmir. J&K BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta said that the party does not favour relocation of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. About 5,500 Kashmiri Pandit employees recruited under the PM’s job package and about 2,000 Hindus from Jammu are serving in the Valley. In fear after the killing of five non-Muslims by militants, they demand relocation to safer areas outside Kashmir. About 70% of them have already left for Jammu.
Rattled by ceaseless controversy and criticism from educationists, seers and writers, as well as several key resignations over plans to revise school textbooks, the Karnataka government has dropped its update to the Pre-University (PU) course material. The project was assigned to the Rohith Chakratirtha committee, whose work on school textbooks has come under strong criticism. Primary & Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh told the press: “We are not revising the Pre-University course textbooks now.”
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In its ‘Global Economic Prospects’ document, the World Bank has cut India’s economic growth forecast for the next year.
Delay in conducting the 2021 census is impacting government schemes and programmes, and unreliable estimates are cropping up in other surveys on consumption, health and employment, which depend on census data to determine policy and welfare measures, say experts. About 10 crore people are likely to be excluded from the Public Distribution System, because the population figures used to calculate the number of beneficiaries are from the 2011 census. IndiaSpend reports that as economic and government activities, including elections, have re-started across India, there is no reason for delaying the launch of census-related work.
India is ready to introduce South African cheetahs into a wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by August. The species had become extinct in the country. A top Environment Ministry official has said that a special 10 sq km enclosure for cheetahs has been readied at the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh, which would soon be home to at least six cheetahs that would be brought here from South Africa.
And despite the promotional support of the ruling party and tax cuts from its government in UP, Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj, which tried to channel the inner Hindu of the masses, is heading for a record-breaking flop, as The India Cable had foretold.