Discover more from The India Cable
Why Mamata’s Decision to Ban 'The Kerala Story' is Wrong; G7 Ban on Russian Diamonds May Render Lakhs Jobless in India
HC asks Sudarshan News to remove hate video, Modi govt drastically cuts ads to legacy media, don’t ban films, IIM to study Narendra Modi Thought, Why Mamata’s decision to ban The Kerala Story is wrong
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia, Tanweer Alam and Pratik Kanjilal | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Vinay Pandey
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.
The India Cable is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
We are a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Snapshot of the day
May 12, 2023
A division bench of the Islamabad high court on Friday granted former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan a two-week bail in the Al-Qadir Trust case, a day after the Supreme Court termed his arrest in the matter “invalid and unlawful” and ordered his release. Babar Awan, lawyer of Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), claimed on Friday that a police team from Lahore had left for Islamabad to arrest Khan in “new cases”.
During Thursday’s hearing in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said the former prime minister’s arrest from the premises of the high court was a “mighty disgrace to the country’s judicial establishment”. The chief justice told Khan, “It is good seeing you” and asked him to “condemn” the violent protests that had rocked the country since his arrest. Khan, through the media present in the courtroom, asked his supporters to “refrain from damaging public and private property”.
Shiv Sena UBT chief and former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday urged Prime Minister Modi to “tell your people to resign and ask them to face elections”, a day after the Supreme Court said that the-then governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to call for a floor test that ultimately toppled the MVA government was not in accordance with the law.
Legal scholar Gautam Bhatia tweeted on Thursday: “I will have to shut down my blog because this man does better analysis in 280 characters, as opposed to 5,000 words.” This is what he had in mind:
On a more serious note, Bhatia reminds us that the impugned floor test which the court now faults had been cleared by a two-judge vacation bench last year, a fact the constitution bench failed to mention in its judgment yesterday. He wrote: “We have heard of people being hoisted on their own petard, but Uddhav Thackeray here seems to have been hoisted on someone else’s – ie, the vacation bench’s – petard!”
A Nitish-Thackeray meeting in Mumbai on Thursday and the Supreme Court verdicts on Maharashtra and Delhi have bolstered the idea of opposition unity, reports Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta. Nitish Kumar by his side, Uddhav Thackeray said: “Our duty is to save democracy. … Although there are disagreements between different parties, both Kumar and I, along with many other leaders, have now resolved to save our democracy together. Such an effort is important as these people [BJP leaders] are trying to make our country a slave nation once again.”
Russia is the world’s largest diamond producer. Now G7 nations want to restrict the country’s export of diamonds to impede its ability to wage war on Ukraine. But they risk destabilising a global industry, reports the Financial Times. For India, which accounts for more than 90% of the world’s diamond manufacturing, removing Russian diamonds from circulation will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk – from diamantaires to small traders and polishers. Russian diamonds account for 60% of the job creation in the Indian diamond industry, which employs about a million people, the newspaper said, quoting a top industry official.
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Gujarat government’s decision to promote 68 judicial officers as district judges as it took umbrage to the state doing so while a plea challenging this was pending before the apex court. A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar, in an interim order, stayed the Gujarat high court recommendation to promote them and the state notification in pursuance of this. Among the 68 judicial officers is Harish Hasmukh Bhai Varma, who had convicted Rahul Gandhi in the Modi-name defamation case in March as a Surat magistrate. Varma had been promoted to the district judge cadre and his posting notified for Rajkot.
The Delhi high court on Friday took serious exception to a report carried by the Sudarshan News TV channel containing allegations of forceful conversion against a man named Azmat Ali Khan, and ordered the channel to immediately remove the video, reports Bar and Bench. The court expressed its displeasure at the report being carried on a matter that was under investigation by the Delhi police and the use of the words like “jihadi” in the programme. Justice Prathiba M Singh took note of the threatening comments made in the video and observed that it posed a danger to Khan’s safety and security.
The BBC argued on Thursday that a Delhi court does not have the jurisdiction to deal with the defamation case filed against it by a BJP leader for its two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Counsel for the BBC and Wikipedia also told the court of additional district judge Ruchika Singla that they are foreign entities who have not been served notice properly and are appearing under protest. Meanwhile, counsel appearing for US-based digital library Internet Archive said it has removed the documentary from its platform. The court adjourned the matter and fixed May 26 as the next date of hearing.
The Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution bench, on Thursday, reserved its verdict in the same-sex marriage rights case, which may be delivered after the court’s summer vacation ends.
A breakdown of the Modi government’s heavy expenditure on advertisements by the Morning Context shows a clear shift away from newspapers and broadcasters since 2017 to social media and its own online publicity arm, MyGov. But it’s not all doom and gloom for print and television news media companies yet. Under “thematic advertising”, newspapers and news broadcasters continue to get a significant volume of government ads, especially around big-ticket events like India taking on the G20 presidency.
Vedanta’s $19 billion project in Gujarat for making chips has not gone anywhere. Rules are being tweaked to attract others. This time, the process is being kept open-ended, doing away with the previous 45-day requirement for submission.
Three Adani Group companies – the flagship Adani Enterprises Ltd, Adani Green Energy Ltd and Adani Transmission Ltd – are considering a fundraising that may draw as much as $5 billion, in a pivotal test of investor confidence in Gautam Adani’s empire less than four months after a scathing report from the US short seller Hindenburg Research plunged it into crisis, Bloomberg reported on Friday, quoting “people familiar with the matter”. The Hindenburg report had wiped out more than $100 billion of Adani Group’s market value. The news agency also reported that global index manager MSCI will, at the end of May, drop Adani Transmission Ltd and Adani Total Gas Ltd from its India gauge, potentially dealing a blow to their stocks that are trying to recover from the rout triggered by the short seller’s report.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to give a three-month extension to SEBI to probe the allegations made in the Hindenburg report. SEBI had asked for a six-month extension.
Pointing out that India’s once-troubled banks are now among the world’s most profitable, the Economist credits the reforms initiated by former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan for the turnaround. Narendra Modi’s government also deserves credit for bankruptcy reforms and consolidation of state-owned banks, it says. However, it sounds a note of caution: “India has made similar steps before, notably in 1993, when other bankruptcy reforms passed, and in 2002, when a law made it easier for banks to go after deadbeats. Both instances, ultimately, proved to be blips in longer-term decline.”
In an obituary of the historian Ranajit Guha, the Economist says he revolutionised the study of India’s past. “Through the six volumes of ‘Subaltern Studies’ that he edited between 1982 and 1989, he showed over and over how change in India had not been, as many historians would have you believe, a case of elites acting first, with the peasantry always following obediently behind. The poor and marginalised had their own ideas about the change they wanted and had always been prepared to fight for it, whether it was the indigo revolt of 1859 or the many Dalit movements of the mid-20th century.” Also, Shahid Amin reminisces about Ranajit Guha in this fascinating piece.
The Congress alleged on Thursday that organisations on the lines of the RSS and Bajrang Dal have been formed in Manipur. Bhakta Charan Das, AICC’s Manipur minder, called for President’s rule in the state in light of the recent ethnic violence.
In this chilling report, journalists recount how difficult the situation has been to report from Manipur. “We got picked by both sides,” says one of the journalists.
In an interview on the “81 All Out” podcast, veteran journalist and author Pradeep Magazine tells Siddhartha Vaidyanathan that it has become hard for journalists today to probe serious issues in cricket.
Tomorrow, beginning at 0800, five independent news organisations, including The Wire, will cover the Karnataka election results live:
Indian among Top 5 countries where babies are born preterm
India is among the top five countries where babies were born too soon, or preterm – babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy (as opposed to full-term pregnancy that runs to at least 39 weeks), according to a United Nations-backed report. India witnessed the highest estimated preterm birth numbers during 2020, at 30.16 lakh, said the report Born Too Soon: Decade of Action on Preterm Birth. Findings and Actions, produced by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund with Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
India was followed by Pakistan (far behind at 9.14 lakh), Nigeria (7.74 lakh), China (7.52 lakh) and Ethiopia (4.95 lakh).
IIM Ranchi to analyse ‘Mann ki Baat’ episodes to help policymakers
Days after the Indian Institute of Management, Rohtak, published a study asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mann ki Baat” has reached 100 crore people over the last eight years and that almost 96% of the country’s population is aware of it, another IIM will analyse all of the episodes of the monthly radio programme and make the data available with the “aim to help policymakers and researchers”. The study aims to delve into the collective consciousness of the audience, identifying the most frequently used words and their contextual associations.
Flawed attendance app a nightmare for NREGA workers
A flawed attendance app used in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is causing significant issues, leading to financial hardships for workers in the world’s largest rural jobs programme. The app, designed to track worker attendance and calculate wages accurately, is reportedly malfunctioning, resulting in discrepancies in payment disbursement.
According to reports, the faulty app has been causing delays, misrecording attendance, and generating incorrect wage calculations, affecting the livelihood of thousands of workers who rely on the programme for income support. These errors have resulted in underpayment or non-payment of wages, causing distress and financial instability among the workforce. Speaking to India Spend, experts suggest scrapping the app. They argue that technology must be appropriate for workers and not cause them more pain.
Up to 30 sports bodies, including WFI, lack mandatory complaint panels
The Wrestling Federation of India is required by the 2013 Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act to have an internal complaints committee, which the National Human Rights Commission took suo motu notice of on Thursday. The action coincides with wrestlers’ continuing protest against the alleged sexual harassment by the federation president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestling organisation is not the only one that lacks a properly established ICC, according to the NHRC. Also, up to 30 national sports federations do not comply with this mandatory condition.
The Long Cable
Why Mamata Banerjee’s decision to ban The Kerala Story is wrong
Should a film or a book be banned? Should the wider public be prevented from seeing or reading it, simply because the authorities decree so? This is a question that keeps coming up every now and then and is once again being discussed after the release of The Kerala Story, a film that by all accounts is little more than hateful propaganda, full of factual errors, all deliberately distorted to present a particular point of view and, as was the case with the The Kashmir Files, to demolish a community.
The Kerala Story is just one more film that purports to tell the ‘truth’ but has little time for facts. It’s plot revolves around innocent Hindu girls from Kerala – 32,000 of them – being recruited by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) after being converted to Islam. This supposed operation was carried out by Muslim boys who seduced these women – another example of the so-called nefarious ‘love jihad’ by Muslims.
The trailer, which was released a few days ago, kept on hammering these points, including the claim of 32,000, even while questions were raised about the accuracy of the figures. That such a large number had disappeared from one state without anyone noticing it seemed implausible – and it was. No such figure existed, it was all a figment of the filmmaker’s imagination. There had been reports of three Kerala women joining ISIS; the 32,000 figure is a gross exaggeration, and plain wrong.
When challenged by the courts, the director, Sudipto Sen, quietly dropped the number from his trailer. Why did he use it in the first place? No answer. Incidentally, Sen was the only member who had not supported filmmaker Nadav Lapid, chairman of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) jury, who had called The Kashmir Files a ‘vulgar propaganda film’.
After the trailer, people in Kerala offered a tidy sum of money to the filmmaker or anyone to prove the 32,000 number but there was no response. Social media was full of angry comments against Sen’s claims and it was pointed out that the ‘real’ Kerala story was the state’s contribution to the economy, its excellent human development indicators and its long tradition of harmony. The historian Manu Pillai wrote that the Kerala story was about a syncretic culture that celebrated love, tolerance and respect embedded in every Malayali. What the film purported to show was simply untrue. The chief minister of the state called it “hateful propaganda”.
Then, the film’s tall and wild claims were mentioned by no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had, in the past, also endorsed The Kashmir Files and one after another, BJP chief ministers had followed, allowing government employees to take a day off to see it. The film was a box office hit.
This time too, Madhya Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh, declared it tax-free, which will undoubtedly help its box office takings. Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, has banned it in her state and the exhibitors and cinema houses of Tamil Nadu, citing possible law and order problems and damage to theatres, have decided not to show it. Both states have been issued a notice by the Supreme Court for interfering with the film’s screening. In Gujarat, Parzania, a searing film about the Gujarat riots was not banned – theatres there simply chose not to show it. The same happened with Nandita Das’s Firaq on the 2002 riots, and Fanaa, starring Aamir Khan and Kajol, which theatre owners in Gujarat boycotted because of his statements about the Narmada dam.
Kerala – like Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh – has refused steadfastly to succumb to the efforts by the BJP to give it much political space. Karnataka remains the sole point of the BJP’s entry into the south. Kerala particularly is a target for the BJP because it is administered by the CPI (M).
With Muslims making up over a quarter of Kerala’s population , the BJP sees an opportunity, especially among the Christians, to polarise the population. For this, it will use every trick, including pushing films filled with hate and lies.
Given this background, shouldn’t a film like The Kerala Story be disallowed from being screened, not just in the state but also elsewhere in the country?
Shabana Azmi, Anuraag Kashyap and Shashi Tharoor, who is an MP from Kerala, have all said it should not be banned. The censors have passed it, and banning in any case is not the answer. Let the people decide. It is the liberal position of not banning films which has come in for criticism by others who would count as liberals.
But this is not just an ordinary film; it is a film filled with hate and venom with an obvious divisive agenda, to spread further polarisation. In the run-up to the next elections, more such films may come.
The right wing, and that includes the government, does not show the same courtesy to others when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. People are routinely shut down for their views, if not thrown into jail.
Even so, banning something opens the door for more bans. That is the crux of the issue. That is not something a democratic country should do. In fact this tendency should be resisted. The Kashmir Files was not banned and made a lot of money for the filmmaker, but he never acquired legitimacy, as the strong statements by the Israeli jury head of IFFI showed. The same will happen with The Kerala Story. Yes, more such films will be made, but if public response and box office returns dwindle, future filmmakers will be discouraged. How many people remember Vivek Oberoi’s PM Narendra Modi? Or The Accidental Prime Minister? Propaganda and malice never win. Ultimately, fans still want a Pathan and a Shah Rukh Khan with his message of harmony. The makers of The Kashmir Files, The Kerala Story and such films, will make money, but never get respect.
Much has been made by the Union government on Prime Minister Modi’s invite for Bastille Day in July. Plenty is done to massage the PM as some sort of world statesman. But word on the street has it that the much-touted Paris trip may have a link – certainly something to do – with the Indian Navy’s proposed Rafale-M deal. France had similarly invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009 to the same event, at a time when the IAF’s tender for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft was under process, and one in which Rafale eventually emerged the winner. Vive le 14 juillet, or Long Live the 14th of July, is all we can say.
Prime Number: 15,000
Farooq Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, said on Thursday that 15,000 youths in Jammu & Kashmir were working for the Intelligence Bureau to spy on the people.
Indian diplomacy took birth between the two world wars primarily to articulate the political and civic rights of the new, seemingly upper-caste Indian, in contrast to the lower-caste “coolie” of the past. Diplomacy became a practice through which this difference between the upper-caste Indian migrant as a rights-bearing individual and the lower-caste Indian migrant as a non-rights bearing individual was enacted. Vineet Thakur explores the phenomenon.
Op Eds you don’t want to miss
It is surprising that teachers of science in schools and lecturers in science colleges have not tendered resignations in protest against the NCERT deciding to keep Darwin out of Indian school texts, writes GN Devy.
Climate Change could lead to a 15% decline in “outdoor working capacity”, reduce the quality of life of up to 48 crore people and cost 2.8% of GDP by 2050, writes Shailendra Yashwant.
If public discourse is weaponised for political gain with incendiary rhetoric that dehumanises any so-called “other”, limits should be placed on freedom of expression. No value is greater than the dignity of vulnerable people, says Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee.
Karan Thapar explains what Prime Minister Modi’s loud silence on attacks on Muslims says.
We need to once again challenge AFSPA in the Supreme Court, says Alok Asthana.
Within the BJP or with the opposition, the room for meaningful conversation or consultation on issues with far-reaching consequences has shrunk, says Jaideep Hardikar.
In an editorial on the Supreme Court verdict on the political imbroglio in Maharashtra, the Hindu says: “It is true that it cannot quash a voluntary resignation [by Uddhav Thackeray], but the court fails to acknowledge that his resignation was forced by circumstances to which the court itself was a party.”
The SC has done well to underline the power of the elected government in Delhi. Now, the Kejriwal government must reframe its engagement with bureaucrats, writes Shailaja Chandra.
The SC verdict on Maharashtra’s political crisis makes a hostile takeover of state governments with active gubernatorial support more difficult, says Girish Kuber.
From Vinesh Phogat to Poulomi Adhikari, there are many examples of sportspersons who ended up in penury, writes Derek O’Brien.
A journalist’s job – to present the first draft of history – is incomplete if he or she only presents one state-approved view, writes Suhasini Haidar.
Is the monarchy still relevant in the 21st century? asks Narayan Lakshman.
Vinay Kaura points to the problem with India’s multi-alignment stand.
Mohan Maharishi was an experimental director who helped build an audience for new ideas in Hindi theatre, Ram Gopal Bajaj.
In a conversation with Joe Wallen and Tushar Shetty, Sushant Singh and Suhasini Haider delve into the far-reaching consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war on South Asian nations. Explore the diverse viewpoints, intriguing takeaways, and an intricate web of strategic, economic and geopolitical factors entwined in the conflict.
Karnataka votes will be counted in just a few hours now. So beyond the exit polls, what do voter trends suggest? South First elaborates.
Over and out
Ayahs and Amahs were the empire’s care workers, charged with its most precious commodity: children. Julia Laite writes how their transcolonial journeys and emotional labour can be traced in colonial storybooks, postcards and photographs.
Bollywood star Deepika Padukone is on the cover of TIME magazine. The influential American magazine describes Padukone as a “global star” bringing “the world to Bollywood”. “It’s these two Indias coming together,” says the actor, “that I find really fascinating at this moment.”
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.