Priest-King Stages Pre-Election Event; No Compensation Unless AFSPA Scrapped Say Nagas
Indians just aren’t looking for work, Karnataka girl eggs on seers for healthier midday meals, PLA ‘overcoat man’ on nationalist state TV, UID for postal addresses ahead, Papa is still boss for CBSE
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
December 13, 2021
Banks have written off Rs 10.72 lakh crore since 2014-15, when the Modi government assumed power, of which Rs 2,02,781 crore of bad loans were written off in the last fiscal to help banks whitewash their papers. The names of the borrowers have not been disclosed. The writeoff in the past decade is 10.54% of non-food loans of Rs 110.79 lakh crore.
RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das yesterday indicated sweeping regulatory changes ahead to reform urban co-operative banks, which have been failing. He also warned against putting savings in banks offering high returns. PM Narendra Modi, who personally handed over deposit insurance cheques to a few bank customers, also strongly hinted at changes. The Financial Times warns that soaring stock prices raise concerns of a downturn that could “burn new investors” in India ― the millions who have joined the “pandemic-fuelled rush into retail investing”.
Digital Hindutva thugs viciously attacked the 16-year-old daughter of Brigadier LS Lidder who died in the chopper crash in Coonoor, on the day of his cremation, for being ‘opinionated’ and ‘woke’. The harassment forced her to deactivate her Twitter account. As a retired Air Vice Marshal noted, one day they will come for you.
A senior editor writes that “Gen Rawat never claimed disability pension despite having a steel rod fitted in his ankle due to a serious injury during an operation on the LoC in Kashmir”. Pension? For the longest-serving four-star military officer who died in harness?
The mobile phone of a photographer who had videographed the helicopter carrying the ill-fated chopper moments before it crashed has been sent for forensic examination. Joe, a wedding photographer from Coimbatore, had trekked to the Katteri area in the Nilgiris on December 8.
Even as Modi sang paeans to Indian democracy at the Democracy summit organised by the US President, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that namaz in the open “will not be tolerated”. Some sites had been reserved for the purpose earlier, but not any more. The Hindu reports that Muslims in Gurgaon have repeatedly applied for land to build a mosque, to no avail.
The Prime Minister’s personal Twitter handle was hacked, claims the PMO. It announced that Bitcoin is legal tender and promised to distribute 500 BTC among all citizens. This is much less than the Rs 15 lakh offered earlier in a political hack. Modi’s Twitter account was also hacked a year ago.
Hindutva groups in Karnataka attacked four Christians and set their holy books on fire, alleging forced religious conversion. The incident at Srinivasapura in Kolar district on Saturday, the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in the state, came just a day before commencement of the Winter Session of the Karnataka Assembly, where an anti-conversion Bill is expected to be tabled. In Belagavi, a man armed with a machete barged into a church on Saturday evening and chased the priest in charge. He is yet to be nabbed.
VHP president Rabindra Narain Singh yesterday said the Ram Janmabhoomi teerth kshetra in Ayodhya would be developed like the Vatican City and Mecca, and be a symbol of Hindutva. Envy for the Abrahamic faiths with one holy book and one holy land?
Civil society organisations in Nagaland’s Mon district have asked the Centre to apologise for the killing of 14 civilians on December 4 and repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. Led by the Konyak Union, hundreds protested at Tizit. Villagers will not accept government compensation until Army personnel involved in last week’s firing are “brought to justice” and AFSPA is removed. The Hindu reveals that four years ago, the Home Ministry had wanted to remove AFSPA from some areas but this was resisted by Assam and Manipur, both ruled by the BJP.
The Haryana Pollution Control Board has shut down Hindustan Syringes and Medical Devices, the world’s largest manufacturer of syringes, needed for vaccination. A need for a booster dose would deepen the crisis.
Ration items bearing pictures of UP CM Yogi Adityanath and PM Narendra Modi are being distributed in an ‘Ann Utsav’ (Food Fest). The Opposition has denounced it as poll campaigning on state funds.
The government has told a parliamentary panel that it will amend the electoral law to fix four cut-off dates every year for people to enrol as voters. The move would lead to a common list of voters for Lok Sabha, Assembly and local body polls.
A new biography of HD Deve Gowda claims that the BJP had offered to run a coalition government in Karnataka in 2019 with his son HD Kumaraswamy. He refused, and the government fell.
In his Saamna column, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut detailed his recent meetings with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi: Rahul apparently said that Ghulam Nabi Azad had refused to go to J&K as PCC chief, and Amarinder Singh’s popularity was down to 6% in Punjab. He also said that the Congress has given a lot to senior leaders, who are now abandoning it.
The farmers’ protest may have been suspended, but Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait has said that he and others will visit Wardha district in Maharashtra on December 19 and Tamil Nadu on December 17: “We organise meetings wherever people call us.”
Days after reports that leaders of all BIMSTEC nations (including Myanmar) had been invited for Republic Day, the Indian Express says that the heads of government of all five Central Asian nations are being invited. With no firm acceptance by a chief guest yet, Republic Day 2022 threatens to become a bigger embarrassment than the 2018 edition, when US President Trump declined, say analysts. This year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulled out as Covid cases rose back home.
Indian-origin professor Neeli Bendapudi is the first woman and person of colour to be named president of Pennsylvania State University. Bendapudi was born in Visakhapatnam and went to the US in 1986. And after 21 years, an Indian has got the Miss Universe crown ― Harnaaz Sandhu.
Controversial former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi may be in trouble at the Rajya Sabha, where he is now an MP courtesy the Modi government. “I go there when I feel like,” he told NDTV in an interview when pressed about his poor attendance. Trinamool MPs have moved a privilege notice against him.
UP elections around corner, Modi stages Kashi temple media event
Assembly elections are barely two months away but the hurried staging of the Kashi Vishvanath temple corridor inauguration as a mega media event by Narendra Modi is a reminder of the crucial role that religion will play in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign. Breathless television commentary about the controversial project began from Sunday itself while Monday’s national news was dominated by Modi bathing in the Ganges, walking up the new corridor that was built after demolishing built heritage, conducting a puja in the temple and then giving a speech showcasing himself and his government for working to revive various places of worship around the country, all of them Hindu.
His remarks played on the usual Aurangzeb vs Shivaji narration of history but the political lesson was for the present.
The corridor will allow unimpeded access to the temple for large numbers from Ganga, something not possible earlier (and perhaps not even envisaged given the way the holy town developed over hundreds of years).
“One imagined that Benares would pave the way as a heritage city but none of the best practices were adopted on how to preserve buildings and remove encroachments,” Divay Gupta of INTACH had said when the project was underway in 2019. “There were ways to repurpose many of them, none of which has happened... Turning the space into a European plaza is so alien to the idea of Benares. The complete erasure of one of the oldest parts of the town has also ruined its archaeological hope.”