Supreme Court Upholds Bail for Anand Teltumbde; In Polls, It’s Gujarati Pride Vs AAP’s Development Vs Cong’s Invisible Campaign
Bengaluru voter data theft suggests larger scam, Aadhaar must be verified before accepting, UGC and Culture Ministry promote Sri Sri meditation and in Mumbai, without a poster, you don’t exist
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Are you new to The India Cable or getting by with just the truncated newsletter? Once a week, we relax our paywall so non-subscribers can see for themselves the value of paying Rs 200/month (or Rs 2000/year) to get the most definitive daily picture of India in their inbox every day.
We are a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Snapshot of the day
November 25, 2022
The National Investigation Agency was rebuffed by the Supreme Court on Friday when it sought cancellation of the bail granted to Anand Teltumbde last week by the Bombay High Court. Teltumbde is the first of the Bhima-Koregaon accused to be given regular bail on merits. The High Court’s bail order was a major setback to the NIA because this meant the ‘evidence’ it had presented to justify the incarceration of the renowned academic (and by extension his other co-accused) was not enough to convince a discerning bench.
While uncertainty remains about the G7 countries capping the price of Russian crude, Indian refiners imported crude worth $720 million (Rs 5,800 crore) from Russia in the first half of November, the fourth-highest in the last nine months. The all-time high for a fortnight was in September 1-15, when India imported $1.35 billion worth. Russia’s share in Indian crude oil imports surged from 1% before February 2022 to 21% in October, and will be about that in November.
The rupee is likely to remain under pressure next year and could even touch 85 against the US dollar. It touched an all-time low of 83 on October 19. During a panel discussion at the SBI Banking & Economic Conclave, various economists said the rupee will remain hard-pressed, given the widening current account deficit of nearly 4% of GDP. Forex earnings are also falling since last month, and the rupee will remain in the 82-85 band in 2023.
In 2020, PM Modi suddenly announced one of the world’s harshest Covid lockdowns, marooning nearly 200 million migrant labourers. As workers’ rights were eroded, unionisation gathered momentum in the country. Filmed in Mumbai, a documentary by the Guardian reveals the deep divide between the haves and have-nots, and questions the actions of the PM.
About 2.5 million infants missed their first measles shots last year, and at least four states have reported a sharp surge in measles infections and deaths. In Mumbai, there have been at least 13 fatalities and 3,695 suspected infections, of which 252 are confirmed cases. According to WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control, India accounts for the second highest number of missed doses in 2021, with Nigeria recording the most at 3.1 million doses.
The UIDAI has said that entities should verify Aadhaar before accepting it as proof of identity.
Post-Covid recovery in air travel in India has stalled, while airline finances remain stretched. Passenger traffic handled by Indian airports in September 2022 was still nearly 22% lower than that in December 2019. Also, the monthly passenger movement at airports has moved in a narrow band since March, showing little sign of growth. The biggest decline is in foreign tourist arrivals.
The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the transfer of seven High Court judges but not that of Justice Nikhil S Kariel of the Gujarat High Court, whose proposed transfer was objected to by the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association (GHCAA). Justice A Abhishek Reddy is bound for the Patna High Court, though the Telangana High Court Bar Association has been protesting against it. Justice T Raja has been transferred to the Rajasthan High Court from Madras High Court, whose Advocates Association recently opposed the proposal.
Unidentified persons in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong torched a traffic police booth and attacked a city bus yesterday to protest the killing of five state residents in firing by Assam Police and forest guards on Tuesday at Mukroh village on the Assam-Meghalaya border. Police dispersed the mob with a lathi charge.
“The issue of Zakir Naik being wanted has been raised with Qatar,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, said at his weekly briefing, adding that “Qatar has told India that no invitation was extended to Zakir Naik to attend the FIFA World Cup 2022”. Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar attended the football event on November 30 in Qatar, even as the banned preacher was invited to that country. He said that the case of eight former naval officials imprisoned in Doha since August has been pursued diplomatically but not by Dhankar. The government has sought consular access to the retired officers in solitary confinement. Some of the detainees were able to meet family members.
Rejecting comments by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on India’s human rights record, the spokesperson said that the US Congressional body has a “motivated agenda”. He took exception to the US government’s comparison of immunity to the Saudi PM for the murder of a journalist with the immunity to PM Modi for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and said that the American comments were not “relevant, necessary or contextual”.
“This American reluctance to criticise India [over Ukraine] presented Mr Modi with opportunities both to maintain economic ties to Russia, and to win praise for chiding it even slightly,” says The Economist. “Thus the plaudits he won after his gnomic semi-rebuke to Mr Putin —“today’s era is not an era of war”— was paraphrased in the Bali declaration. None of his predecessors would have been so praised for so pathetically little.”
The Gujarat High Court yesterday said that the compensation announced for victims of the Morbi bridge collapse on October 30 must be increased. The authorities have announced Rs 4 lakh as compensation to the families of the dead, Rs 50,000 to the injured and Rs 3,000 per month to children who lost their parents. “A family [of the deceased] should at least get Rs 10 lakhs as compensation,” the High Court said. “…The compensation… is abysmally on the lower side..” It added that compensation for children would only cover school books and uniforms. Seven children became orphans and 12 lost one parent in the tragedy.
Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, initially scheduled to enter UP on December 24, is likely to take a detour to spend more time in the state. The yatra is likely to enter UP from Bulandshahr in Western UP in early January. The UP Congress Committee (UPCC) has proposed a nearly 16-day route from Mathura to Saharanpur. The yatra was originally scheduled to spend just four days in UP, covering a couple of western districts after entering on December 4. There may be a break during the New Year.
BJP leader Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has alleged that Patanjali founder Ramdev has set up a business empire by cashing in on the name of Maharishi Patanjali, the father of modern yoga. “Stop using this name in your brand. Build your brand with your own name," the Kaiserganj MP said, adding that the Baba had nothing for the maharishi’s birthplace in Gonda district, UP.
A transgender couple was disappointed by the authorities of Kollengode Kachamkurissi temple, where they wished to tie the knot, denied permission. Nilan Krishna and Advaika, who both work in a local firm in Palakkad, Kerala, then married at a nearby marriage hall. Their colleagues and the owner of the firm where they work solemnised the wedding.
The Supreme Court today sought a response from the central government and the Attorney General on a plea by gay couples to recognise same sex marriage.
The UGC has told universities to hold meditation classes by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and appoint “Meditation Ambassadors” as contact persons for the Art of Living Foundation, which developed the programme in collaboration with the Culture Ministry.
The New York Times analyses why a decade ago, “the capitals of Asia’s two largest countries both had some of the dirtiest skies in the world.” But only Beijing seemed to sort out its air crisis, not Delhi. The reasons, it finds, are largely political. “After the Chinese government declared a war against pollution in 2013, Beijing pressed ahead with a multiyear, $100 billion effort to clean its air. The authorities clamped down on factories, forced old vehicles off the road and shifted from coal to natural gas. While more still needs to be done, Beijing officials say the city now has over 100 more days of clear skies each year than when the campaign began. But in the other city, New Delhi, the air this autumn has been as foul as ever.”
An interactive Washington Post feature on how climate change in Ladakh is forcing the migration of nomads away from their traditional areas and jobs.
Mirza Yaseen Beg (90), who founded the Midland bookstores in Delhi’s Chawri Bazar and then Janpath, died yesterday.
Bengaluru voter data theft indicates larger scam
At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, a group of farmers in the remote village of Kallanayakanahalli on the outskirts of Bengaluru received a windfall from a mysterious source. Dumps of money which landed in three tranches in their bank accounts had to be cashed out to a powerful resident of the village, who is now in police custody in Bengaluru as the kingpin of the biggest voter data theft in the history of Karnataka: Ravikumar Krishnappa, founder of the Chilume Trust. The News Minute reports on a suspicious money trail indicating the possibility of an even bigger scam. Documents show a series of dubious bank transactions, seemingly using a company incorporated by the Government of India, to several farmers in Krishnappa’s village.
At least 100 residents of Kallanayakanahalli had each received lakhs through NEFT in 2020 from an account named “CSC e-Governance services IN”. This is a Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) incorporated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, to monitor the implementation of Common Services Centers Scheme (CSCs). It is a company in which the Government of India has a ‘golden share’, and is therefore treated as a ‘government company’ under the provisions of the Companies Act of 2013 and other laws.
Pakistan has new army chief
Pakistan yesterday appointed General Asim Munir its new army chief after President Arif Alvi approved the summary sent by PM Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment, ending days of speculation. Munir was chief of the country’s two most influential intelligence agencies, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI). He was prematurely removed as ISI chief at the request of then PM Imran Khan and is currently serving as the army’s quartermaster general. As the ISI chief, he threatened to launch missiles against India in retaliation to an Indian threat after Wing Commander Abhinandan was taken captive by the Pakistan army, following the Balakot strike in 2019. Shuja Nawaz has called him “a tough officer rooted in Islamic traditions”. Hear one of India’s top intelligence analysts on Pakistan, Rana Banerjee discuss this appointment with Karan Thapar.
Chidambaram tells SC demonetisation done in darkness
Neither the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India, nor the Union Cabinet had full information of the monumental consequences of demonetisation, Senior Advocate and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram told the Supreme Court on Thursday. “No one was told that 86% of the total currency would be withdrawn. This is not a guess, but an informed guess,” he submitted before the Constitution Bench hearing a batch of 58 petitions challenging the Union government’s decision to demonetise currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in November 2016. The senior counsel, while arguing that the decision-making was “deeply flawed”, informed the Bench that the central government was still “holding back” four crucial documents it was directed to furnish. On October 12, the bench had asked the Centre and the RBI to produce the documents. “You cannot keep them away from us. We want to see them,” Justice Nazeer, the presiding judge, had commanded.
“We still do not have the November 7 letter from the Union government to the RBI, the agenda note placed before the Central Board of the Reserve Bank, the minutes of the Central Board meeting and their recommendations, and the actual Cabinet decision on November 8. These documents have not yet been placed in the public domain, despite the passage of six years,” the senior counsel submitted. He told the Bench that the government had shied away from disclosing details such as who attended the critical November 8 meeting of the Central Board, whether the minimum number of directors legally required were present, and whether advance notice was given. Here are the six main arguments.
Samir Jain does akhand path of Amit Chalisa
As the Times Now Summit kicked off in Delhi, Times Group vice chairman Samir Jain presented a flattering account of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was on stage next to Vineet Jain, the group’s managing director and the former’s brother. “Andhera chhatega, sooraj niklega, kamal khilega,” said Jain, in the words of “great poet” and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At the time, Jain said, “honourable Amit Shah ji was beginning his contribution to political life. And our energetic Amit bhai ji, full of energy, has bloomed many lotuses. In 2,800 subdivisions, the lotus has bloomed.” Delivered in heavily Sanskritised Hindi, Jain’s welcome note was replete with alliterations and fawning literary devices – sample the words utsah, umang and ullaas, or pratibha, prabhaav and pratibaddhta.
The group’s vice chairman then talked about Akhand Bharat and wished for a “maha” Akhand Bharat to be constructed under the leadership of Shah and PM Modi. “Just like Akhand Bharat’s borders stretched beyond Bali to Afghanistan. If you go to Bali, like me, you can ask which place I must visit. They will send you only to temples. They have a temple for each deity, and because they look a bit different, their appearance and some rituals are also slightly different as compared to ours. This is such an astonishing story. And you all are aware how the Bamiyan Buddhas existed in Afghanistan, just like how Akhand Bharat became history.”
The Long Cable
BJP may score on Gujarati pride, but it won’t be an easy victory
Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta
Given that PM Narendra Modi has already addressed 16 election rallies and inaugurated development projects worth thousands of crores in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly poll, it is more than evident that the ruling BJP learned its lesson in 2017. Although it won the last election to continue over 20 years of uninterrupted rule, it was hit hard by multiple agitations, including the Patidar movement and a state-wide agrarian crisis, and hit an all-time low of 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly.
Now, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned. It changed the entire cabinet and replaced Vijay Rupani with the trusted but inexperienced Bhupendra Patel as chief minister a year ago. From 2017 to 2022, it also poached influential Opposition leaders, including some adivasi and Patidar legislators who had whipped up sentiment against the BJP. The party also dropped several veteran legislators and nominated fresh faces for elections. The PM, whose presence was restricted in the 2017 campaign ― the last-minute callisthenics of taking off on a seaplane from the Sabarmati waterfront and a flashy roadshow notwithstanding ― is the primary anchor for his party in 2022.
His rallies and speeches have tactically targeted the tribal belt and Saurashtra, where the BJP took a massive hit in 2017. The Congress and its ally the Bharatiya Tribal Party won 18 of the 27 seats in the tribal belt stretching from the northern fringes of the state to the southern peripheries bordering Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Similarly, the BJP had taken a massive hit in the 54 constituencies in its traditional strongholds of Saurashtra and Kutch.
The PM has a special interest not only because Gujarat is his home state and a prestige issue for his party, but also because of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, the new entrant in the state. AAP has pried open the traditionally bipolar political equations of the state, and has emerged as the primary challenger to not only the Congress but also the BJP.
Although a new player, AAP is no pushover. It has pooled all its resources in the state and has been running a spirited campaign in the face of a multi-pronged attack by the ruling party, including the targeting of its top Delhi-based leaders Satyendra Jain, Manish Sisodia and Rajendra Pal Gautam. Its appeal among the urban youth is up.
Modi’s revdi culture jibe at the AAP two months ago was evidence of the threat that Kejriwal’s party posed to the BJP. Baiting Rahul Gandhi for the Congress declining support to the first-ever adivasi President Droupadi Murmu or the anti-Narmada dam activist Medha Patkar’s support to the Bharat Jodo Yatra, or deriding the Congress as Muslim-appeasers, have been central in BJP leaders’ speeches. However, brushing aside AAP has been difficult, forcing the BJP to rely on a high-pitched fake news campaign against Kejriwal and others. On Gujarat’s roads, one hears BJP workers talking about how Kejriwal has Islamic roots, or is pushing an anti-Hindu agenda, or is corrupt.
AAP has pushed the BJP to pivot its campaign from Hindutva towards development, as is evident from its poll talk. In a recent speech, Modi said that the poll was not about choosing a legislator but deciding the future of Gujarat. While claiming credit for present-day Gujarat, he said that it was time for Gujarat to take “a giant leap” to decide how it would be in the next 25 years. In attempts to take on AAP’s welfare model, his speeches have focussed on the BJP governments’ achievements in education and the social sector.
Most surveys have predicted yet another BJP win, but it won’t be easy. Although it has placated the influential Patidar community, which was up in arms in 2017, by allowing 10% EWS reservation and appointing a Patel leader as CM, it will still have to deal with the impact of at least 32 recent agitations, all led by different caste and communities, across the state.
A recent pre-poll survey by CSDS-Lokniti showed that AAP may help the BJP bag more seats than in 2017, though its vote share may drop, via an almost equal division of Opposition votes between Congress and AAP. However, many AAP leaders find the analysis too simplistic as they believe that their party will damage BJP’s prospects in 48 urban seats, which the Congress has never won. AAP may not be in a position to win but can take away a significant chunk of BJP’s traditional votes, and the Congress is likely to increase its urban presence.
Going by the CSDS-Lokniti survey, AAP is likely to get over 20% of votes, consolidate its strength and will pose a greater challenge to the BJP in future.
The Congress started off well with a massive Rahul Gandhi rally in which he made crucial promises, but has faded out. Its leaders said that the party has focussed more on door-to-door campaigning over the last year and may be in a much stronger position than it looks. The Congress campaign has focussed on consolidating its base comprising a section of OBCs, Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis.
A combination of economic and social concerns raised by the Opposition parties has forced the BJP to bank on its “Gujarati pride” campaign. It has emphasised that the top two leaders of India are from Gujarat, and that they have helped Gujaratis (and Indians) walk with their heads held high internationally. For the 46% urban middle classes in the state, this appears to be the most significant driving factor.
The premature repatriation of P Amudha from the PMO to her parent Tamil Nadu cadre last month went relatively unnoticed despite her high profile as additional secretary. One of the brightest IAS officers from the South, she was selected for the PMO in July 2020 and was poised to become a high-flyer. However, barely 14 months later she seems to be out of favour. A few months after her repatriation, talk began circulating that her husband, 1991-batch IAS officer Shambhu Kallolikar, was seeking to quit the civil service and join a political party. That is now confirmed, with Kallolikar applying for voluntary retirement. He is likely to join the Congress and contest the Assembly elections in Karnataka, his home state. Those in power felt that Kallolikar’s political aspirations of joining “the enemy” while his wife was serving in the PMO would be awkward and embarrassing for the government. Is the wife being made to pay for her husband’s political affiliations?
Prime Number: -75%
With 75% of its market value erased, One 97 Communications, the operator of the country’s largest digital payments provider Paytm, has capped the worst first-year share plunge among large IPOs over the past decade.
Nidheesh MK attempts to make sense of Kerala’s Brazil-Argentina football frenzy.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
Nilanjan Mukhopdhayay writes that it is time that critics of Hindutva politics shift their attacks on Savarkar from his mercy petitions, to what he wrote and preached. Savarkar was a complete contrast to Gandhi and all adherents of inclusive nationalism.
Assamese historians and writers are protesting against the BJP’s celebration of Lachit Borphukan because the Ahom general is increasingly being projected as a Hindu nationalist hero, writes Rokibuz Zaman.
Why hasn’t the BJP sub-categorised the upper castes for EWS reservation, as the two committees did for OBCs and Dalits? This is just the question the Pasmandas should ponder, writes Ajaz Ashraf, instead of being spellbound by the BJP’s magic show.
Anirudh Kanisetti writes that we are taught a history of near-constant religious enmity, persecution and resistance. But all the evidence — from art history to numismatics to literature — points to a much more complex mediaeval world.
Drawing energy from his defeat in the Congress presidential elections, Shashi Tharoor has embarked on a tour of Kerala’s northern districts to become powerful in the state’s politics, writes Saritha S Balan.
Maj Gen SG Vombatkere (retd) writes that the development asymmetry between states is a reality, with some states in southern and western India having improved their performance relatively more than some states in northern and eastern India.
Theories of discrimination and empirical facts do not warrant the replacement of caste by economic criteria. Caste discrimination is undeterred by improvement in economic status, writes Sukhadeo Thorat.
Yogendra Yadav writes that the Bharat Jodo Yatra has become a confluence of all forms of disquiet, a walking classroom on public policy, and a floating lighthouse of hope ― dard ka rishta (a bond of pain) is deeper than any other bond.
When political leaders try to reap electoral benefits through divisive agendas, there is little possibility that they will act against hate speeches and disparaging utterances by public functionaries. Even elections are fought on religious labels, clearly violating the Representation of People Act, writes Kaleeswaram Raj.
Jinee Lokaneeta writes that narco-analysis recreates the logic of the physical “third degree” in the name of replacing it.
Vir Sanghvi writes: “Always be suspicious of people who try and keep sport and politics separate. Invariably, they turn out to be on the side of the racists, the bigots and the Nazis. Listen to the sportsmen themselves.”
“The disappearance of the princely states cannot be comprehended without understanding their relationship with the British crown. This relationship speaks to the complex ramshackle structure of the empire that thrived not only on direct rule but also by treaty relationships with the native states,” writes Sarath Pillai.
The final episode of Empire features Satnam Sanghera and discusses how the British Empire imploded after India’s Partition in 1947.
The New York Times has this 20 minute video on the way laundrymen in Mumbai use posters, like political candidates, to advertise their businesses. Rishi Chandna’s film is a wry exploration of the ways religion, politics and science intersect in a ubiquitous poster culture. “No matter how much of a big shot you are, or how much clout you wield, without a poster, you don’t exist,” one man said.
Over and Out
The rise of the Darbhanga Wave: three independent filmmakers, Achal Mishra, Parth Saurabh and Shishir Jha, stories of home and Bihari cinema. They are fostering an ecosystem.
The poor tribal residents of Ghantraguda in Koraput may not have heard of ‘Mountain Man’ Dashrath Manjhi, but like him took up the work of building a road cutting through the hills on their own. Men and women cut through a hill and cleared scrub for a 6 km kuchha road connecting Ghantraguda with Puki Chhack in the district.
“I severed what was left of it,” said an Army officer who amputated his own leg after a landmine blast. Read an excerpt from ‘Cartoos Saab’, by Major General Ian Cardozo, who was deployed in present-day Bangladesh during the 1971 war.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.