SC Pegasus Panel to Check Bhima Koregaon Detenus’ Phones; Online & Offline, How Muslim Women Became Hindutva Targets
Pharma to face global pressures, 90% rise in sedition cases in UP, mostly under Adityanath, EC missing in action again, Chinar Corps handles stay blocked and in Kashmir, Stop Press assumes new meaning
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
February 9, 2022
Schools and colleges will be closed in Karnataka for three days. With disturbing scenes from one of India’s most successful states of young girls being heckled and not allowed to enter college for wearing traditional garb, the BJP is on the back foot for pushing India’s Silicon Valley towards the saffron state ― with the world watching. Malala Yousafzai has slammed India: “Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women.” The higher education minister of Karnataka called an emergency meeting yesterday evening.
Privacy be damned: in colleges, in classrooms and sometimes even on the way to college in Karnataka, women students in hijabs have cameras thrust at them by news organisations and students opposed to the hijab. Their videos are being widely circulated, making them uncomfortable. Krishna Prasad reminds: “Once-progressive Kannada media is now an embedded wing. Seven out of nine dailies have sangh links, television is a barefoot soldier, and fake news enjoys deep political patronage. So the hijab row is just the latest manifestation of a state in deep rot.” The News Minute reminds us that many feminisms apply to the question of whether the hijab is patriarchal, which is not the issue here ― it is precisely the confusion that the right would like to exploit to divide opinion.
In Karnataka, as it did in the segregated US South, majoritarian bigotry will hurt the majority too, warns Raghu Kesavan. And South China Morning Post says: “The BJP’s stand on the hijab is difficult to fathom given that Indians in this massively diverse, heterogeneous, multi-faith and multi-ethnic land have generally dressed however they wish. Sikhs wear turbans to colleges and offices. Jains often wear masks covering their faces. Married Hindu women wear a particular necklace indicating their married status. Some Christians wear the crucifix. All manner of external religious symbols are on display. Indeed, traditionally the Indian model has been the antithesis of the French tradition of laïcité, in which no religious symbols are permitted in public places.”
Underlining the systematic suppression of media and its associations, especially in Kashmir, the government said in the House yesterday that there is no registered body called Kashmir Press Club in Jammu and Kashmir, since it failed to register under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said that the Estates Department has taken over the government building where the Kashmir Press Club was located, on January 17, and it is under guard. Stop Press assumes new meaning.
The External Affairs Ministry yesterday summoned the Ambassador of South Korea over social media posts on Kashmir put out by Pakistani branches of Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia. But as one perceptive journalist wondered, the charge d’affaires of the US in New Delhi was not summoned for similar posts by American firms Pizza Hut and KFC. And of course, the Chinese ambassador has never been summoned for anything Chinese state-owned companies put out. In his two speeches in Parliament, PM Modi completely ignored the 21-month-old border crisis, because of which India has 50,000 additional troops deployed in Ladakh to prevent further loss of territory to China.
Where exactly did Chinese soldiers unfurl the flag on New Year’s day? Geoint derived from combining ground and satellite images, says an analyst, shows that China held the ceremony at a new PLA post located just outside the buffer zone with India, only 1.2 km from the site of the deadly Galwan clash. There is no information about where Indians soldiers hoisted their national flag, seen in images belatedly put out by the Army in response.
Pending investment proposals from countries that share a land border with India have shrunk to a third over the past four months, though the government has expedited the approval process. It is also considering a 25% ‘beneficial ownership’ threshold for investments from these countries to determine if they need to go through an approval process at all. In April 2020, the government made prior approval mandatory for foreign investments from countries that share land borders with India to curb opportunistic takeovers of local companies amid a slump in equity valuations and rising tensions with China.
Meanwhile, imports of electrical machinery and equipment remain the largest imports from China at $17.8 billion in April-November 2021, 26.6% higher than in the same period in 2019. Personal computers are now the largest single item of import from China ― $3.6 billion worth were imported in in April-November 2021. The quantum in the first eight months of 2021-22 is nearly double that of 2019 figures.
The special NIA court has allowed the National Investigation Agency’s plea to submit mobile phones of seven accused in the Elgar Parishad case to the Supreme Court-appointed technical committee looking into Pegasus. The counsel of one said the panel had asked the NIA for them. The seven accused are Rona Wilson, Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, P Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Hany Babu and Shoma Sen. They had recently sent their representation to the committee, alleging that their phones were infected by Pegasus spyware. The three-member technical committee was set up by the apex court last October to look into allegations of the use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance.
Nationally, the stock of coal at power generation units is good for 9.8 days (38% of the normative 24 days stock), according to data on the National Power Portal. The critical threshold is seven days or less. The situation is especially precarious for power units situated away from mines but close to high consumption states in the north, west and south. Industrial states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the worst-hit. Their state-owned units have only four days’ stock.
According to Bizom, rural FMCG sales declined by 7% in January 2022 month-on-month, while urban sales of goods, from shampoos to soap bars, declined 18.3%. Overall FMCG sales declined by 10%.
In 2021, the CBI told the Supreme Court through the Solicitor-General that a stake worth Rs 39,000 crore in a PSU was sold for Rs 749 crore by the Vajpayee government. Come 2022, the Solicitor-General, now representing the Modi government, tells the same court that everything the CBI told it was false or wrong. The bench refused to entertain the Centre’s plea to recall the order for a CBI probe into the 2002 Hindustan Zinc Ltd disinvestment scam. The Centre is likely to file a review plea. Though the apex court ordered the CBI to register an FIR in November, it is yet to register the case.
Pakistani critics of the ISI in exile in the UK have been warned by police of a threat to their lives and asked to keep a low profile, a report in The Guardian this week revealed. Counter Terrorism Policing, which works