Columns

INDIA-POLITICS Dabang kaun: Being macho in UP (2/26/2017) - Machismo has always had political currency in UP, the original birthplace of terms like ‘dabang’, ‘bahubali’ and the utterly untranslatable ‘varchasv ki larhai’. It lies at the heart of Akhilesh Yadav’s 2017 makeover, as epitomised by his “let’s swap seats if you like UP so much” jibe at PM Narendra Modi this week as well [.....]
Mayawati1 Don’t under-estimate BSP 3.0 (2/23/2017) - The big elephant statues stand forlorn in the afternoon heat. It’s the height of the election campaign but there isn’t a soul out to see them or the huge four-sided Brahma-like statue of Mayawati that stands as the centerpiece of BSP’s imposing but deserted Dalit Prerna Sthal on Lucknow’s Mall Avenue. The predominantly Mayawati-focused imagery [.....]
UP’s firewall seats (2/20/2017) - 29 assembly constituencies have returned the same party to power through the 2002, 2007 and 2012. What is special about them is that they make up core party bastions that are yet to be breached and any change here in 2017 would reflect a wider shift. SP has retained the maximum of these bastions so [.....]
Budget session BJP can make Ram Temple if it wins UP: Katiyar (2/20/2017) - BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar is founder president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s youth wing, Bajrang Dal, and has been a long-time advocate of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. He spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh about BJP’s electoral prospects in UP and how it could impact the Ram temple dispute: What is [.....]
kalraj1 Muslims in quandary over SP, BSP (2/20/2017) - Kalraj Mishra is Union cabinet minister for micro, small and medium enterprises and BJP MP from Deoria, Uttar Pradesh. With UP’s voters set to cast their votes in the state’s fourth phase of voting on February 23, he spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh about his party’s campaign and its poll strategy: What is [.....]
chidambaram2 Modi govt has no overarching role: Chidambaram (2/14/2017) - P Chidambaram is Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra, former Union finance minister and the author of Fearless in Opposition. He spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh on the controversy over PM Narendra Modi’s ‘raincoat’ comment on Manmohan Singh in Parliament and the government’s economic policies: Your party and you have been quite vocal [.....]
Rajeev Chandrasekhar Parliament must declare Pakistan terrorist state (2/6/2017) - While Pakistan has put 26/11 mastermind, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest, the banned JuD used a familiar stratagem by remerging with a new name: Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK). Rajeev Chandrasekhar, independent Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka and NDA vice-chairman in Kerala, has moved a private member bill [.....]
edit-Yoginder-K-cutout-228x300 Jaitley scores 7 out of 10 on budget (2/2/2017) - Yoginder K Alagh is chancellor of Central University of Gujarat, former chairman Institute of Rural Management Anand and a former Union minister. He spoke to Sanjiv Shankaran and Nalin Mehta on why finance minister Arun Jaitley should have focussed much more on agriculture and infrastructure spending in his fourth budget: What’s your overall view of [.....]
army ‘Defence ministry has remained a labyrinth’ (11/4/2016) - With political parties trading charges on the suicide of ex-soldier Ram Kishan Grewal on OROP, emotions are running high on both sides. Major Navdeep Singh, advocate in Punjab and Haryana high court, who was a member of the defence minister’s committee of experts to review service and pension matters which submitted its report in 2015, [.....]
modi_parrikara Chest-thumping and military’s downgrading can’t go together (10/30/2016) - These are strange times for India’s armed forces. Our soldiers are caught in the middle of the biggest chestthumping and political messaging exercise since the Kargil war, which includes the PM’s laudable ‘Sandesh for Soldiers’ initiative with evocative Diwali photo-ops on the frontlines, rakhi-tying ministers in distant outposts and defence minister’s quixotic declaration that India’s [.....]
anurag-thakur Cosy Club’s Last Stand (10/19/2016) - Lord Harris, governor general of colonial Bombay in the 1890s and co-founder of what was then the Imperial Cricket Council, captured for posterity the special beauty of cricket when he declared that to play “cricket is more remote than anything sordid, anything dishonourable than (sic) any game in the world. To play it … is [.....]
modi 8 in 10 Indians have a favourable view of Modi: Pew Research (9/30/2016) - The Washington-based Pew Research Center recently released a new India survey that shows that over two years into his tenure as prime minister, most Indians remain upbeat about Narendra Modi even as they see India playing a larger role in the world. Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center, spoke to [.....]
rahul-gandhi Confusion And Rahul Gandhi: Gandhi scion’s UP campaign cannot resurrect party by harking back to older battles (9/15/2016) - He was photographed eating jalebis and samosas at a dusty roadside shop in Mau; ate roti-chokha for lunch with yet another Dalit couple, Rukmini Devi and Swaminath Ram, in the same district; and spouted a new poll slogan, “janta trast hai, Modiji mast hai” to follow up his trademark “suit-boot ki sarkar” jibe. Rahul Gandhi [.....]
rijiju Kiren Rijiju: It’s not a question of regret on pellet guns, it’s a reassessment and nothing definite till decision is taken (9/6/2016) - With fresh violence flaring up in the Kashmir Valley, which remains tense for the 66th consecutive day, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh about the government’s evolving Kashmir policies, the possible replacement of pellet guns, Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh and the controversy over FCRA [.....]
sujatha ‘Medical regulation needs urgent reform’ (9/5/2016) - The Niti Aayog has invited state health secretaries later this week to discuss its draft of a new Medical Commission of India Bill 2016, which seeks to reform medical regulation in India. K Sujatha Rao, former union health secretary and author of the forthcoming ‘Do We Care: India’s Health System’, talked to Nalin Mehta about [.....]
jitin Last Brahmin CM of Uttar Pradesh was 27 years ago: Jitin Prasad (9/2/2016) - After announcing Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial face for crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party in an attempt to revive itself in the state has begun patronising Brahmin sammelans. The party’s campaign committee vice-president for UP and former union minister Jitin Prasada spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh about the [.....]
mani2 ‘Kashmiris don’t want Pakistan but what’s Balochistan got to do with them’ (8/26/2016) - Parts of Srinagar and north Kashmir remain under curfew for the 48th consecutive day since violence first started in the Valley after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar was recently in Srinagar with a civil-society delegation that met various Kashmiri groups and talked to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev [.....]
PV singhu No rona about Rio. India’s done better than you think (8/21/2016) - When Usain Bolt was asked in Rio why his tiny Jamaica is such an athletics powerhouse, his answer was simple: the island’s unique sporting culture. The key, the greatest sprinter in history said, was Jamaica’s annual school sports competition, ‘Champs’, which puts kids into a hardcore competitive limelight early on, playing to packed stadiums and [.....]
MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar 1 Armed forces discriminated against, left out in the cold by IAS, IPS (8/17/2016) - Despite the 7th Pay Commission’s award which gave 33 lakh government servants and 14 lakh defence personnel (with 54 lakh retirees and 18 lakh veterans) salary and pension hikes from August 1, 2016, defence forces personnel and veterans have been angry. Independent Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on [.....]
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Glad NDA learnt democracy not about arrogance but about dialogue: Jyotiraditya Scindia (8/15/2016) - A thaw between government and opposition enabled 13 bills, including the constitutional amendment on GST, to be passed in Parliament’s monsoon session, the most productive since 2014. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha, spoke to Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh about changing government-opposition equations and concerns over the government’s handling of Kashmir and [.....]
Capture Rio gets taste of Delhi’s VIP culture with Vijay Goel (8/13/2016) - India’s athletes are yet to open their medals account in Rio but saddi Dilli has already left an unforgettable imprint on the XXXI Olympic Games. As many as 205 countries are competing in Rio but only officials accompanying India’s newly-minted sports minister Vijay Goel were found to be “aggressive and rude” enough to earn an [.....]
sania-mirza-poses-for-cameras-after-winning-the-trophy-201512-1456813017 Will hopefully return with a medal from Rio, says Sania Mirza (8/5/2016) - World no. 1 in tennis doubles, Sania Mirza will be leading the Indian tennis challenge at the Rio Olympics, with Rohan Bopanna in mixed doubles and Prarthana Thombare in women’s doubles. Rio 2016 starts from today and Sania, who recently published her autobiography ‘Ace against Odds’ (with Imran Mirza and Shivani Gupta), spoke to Nalin [.....]
CnSy8nnUkAAYqNS Akhilesh Yadav’s second coming (7/14/2016) - What’s in a tree? Can tree plantations symbolise a broader political message beyond safeguarding ecology? The answer is yes, if you are Akhilesh Yadav, UP chief minister and heir to the Yadav dynasty, now looking to reposition himself as a political entity in his right, not just a sapling withering under the shade of his [.....]
File photo of British Prime Minister Tony Blair meeting troops in Iraq Britain has had its Chilcot, India should have its Hendersoon-Brooks (7/7/2016) - Some British voters may already be having buyer’s remorse on voting to leave the EU, and British politicians have since made a mess of the post-Brexit confusion but there is one thing that Britain has done wonderfully well. The publication of its Chilcot report on its Iraq military misadventure, a damning and detailed report of [.....]
images (2) After Raghuram Rajan: Challenges for the Next RBI Governor (6/21/2016) - By now everything that had to be said about Rexit has been said. Now that RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has finally decided to return to his academic perch at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the big question to answer is not why the Modi government didn’t move the extra mile to retain him [.....]
France-football-team-topic France’s football challenge (6/10/2016) - When its France, the temptation to quote grand history can’t be too far behind. Even if its just football! As Romania’s prime minister Dacian Ciolos attended his national football team’s practise session at the Stade de Francia, before their Euro Cup opener against the France, a UEFA reporter quoted Napolean’s famous quip on underdogs: “”Every [.....]
maxresdefault If Punjab goes out of ‘Udta Punjab’ will India go out of ‘Mother India’? (6/8/2016) - Trust the Censor Board (technically the Central Board of Film Certification) to create yet another ridiculous controversy. Months after it tried to create a more sanskari James Bond through silly cuts of kissing scenes in the 007 film Spectre, the Pahlaj Nihalani-led Censor Board is now being absurd in its insistence on asking for the [.....]
IndusValleyMatriarch Before the pharaohs (6/6/2016) - It often takes outsiders to shake things up. Indian cricket’s first match-fixing scandal, which broke in 1997, was exposed not by sports reporters but by political journalists who wrote the first big cover story on crooked players. In much the same way, a new study funded by an IIT Kharagpur grant which brought together a [.....]
Ashraf-Ghani Modi’s whirlwind diplomacy and why his 41st foreign trip matters (6/4/2016) - A month after he inaugurated the Chabahar Port in Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is off to another whirlwind foreign tour, his 41st since taking office in May 2014. Starting today, where the Prime Minister’s day includes breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Herat and dinner in Doha, he will be visiting 5 countries in 6 [.....]
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan at an event on financial inclusion in Mumbai 5 reasons why Subramanian Swamy is wrong about Raghuram Rajan (6/1/2016) - So the prime minister is “proud” of Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan and it is “more likely” that his 3-year term will be renewed when it expires in September: if the high-level source who briefed Reuters for its interestingly timed story titled “Raghuram Rajan wins over PM trust despite broad mistrust” is correct. [.....]
harappa3 Indus Valley civilisation could be older than Egypt’s pharaohs, Mesopotamia (5/31/2016) - History is boring to many people, often eliciting long yawns. But a new development in Indian history should make everyone sit up and take notice. A new study by scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India which shows that the Indus Valley Civilization is at least 8,000 years old, and not approximately 5,000 years [.....]
Assembly Election Counting Rule of Right? Daal-chawal only ideology that matters (5/22/2016) - By now, enough has been said about how the state assembly elections have been a booster shot for BJP, how they have moved India closer to a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and how the results have been another kick in the guts for Rahul Gandhi. With over 35% of Indians now under the rule of BJP state [.....]
26-11-mumbai-terror 26/11: Why Pakistan ex-envoy’s explosive admission matters (5/14/2016) - Everyone knows that the 26/11 attackers in Mumbai came from Pakistan. The question has always been how deeply involved was the Pakistan’s establishment in the 26/11 attacks? Now we have a clear answer. “Log hamarey thhe, operation hamara nahin thha” [the people were ours, not the operation] — this is what Lt General Shuja Pasha, [.....]
david Will win back orange cap from Virat Kohli: David Warner (5/4/2016) - Cricketer David Warner is captain of Hyderabad Sunrisers, vice-captain of Australia and so far, the second highest run-getter in IPL 2016, hitting the greatest score after Virat Kohli. Speaking with Nalin Mehta, Warner discussed his text message duel with Kohli for the tournament’s coveted orange cap, Kohli’s own gruelling regimen and his inspirational leadership, Warner’s [.....]
amit shah Redefining ‘Azadi’ in India: the prose of anti-sedition (5/1/2016) - The political debate in India over Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and “anti-nationals” is part of a larger political narrative which seeks to substitute political Hindutva, which may not be accepted by all, with a simple nationalism, whose binaries few can say no to – while simultaneously shrinking the notion of what it means to be [.....]
ChIcqqzUcAIMvmz Missing a trick on Pakistan: how Islamabad can be made to change its game (4/28/2016) - With Pakistan foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry’s visit to Delhi achieving nothing except familiar restatements of old positions on terrorism and Kashmir, is New Delhi missing a trick on Pakistan? Back to a weary pattern of one step forward, two steps back with Pakistan the Modi government’s Islamabad policy, in that sense, seems struck in [.....]
panama papers Bigger than Panama: Clean up global tax havens but India’s deeper problems lie in domestic kala dhan (4/7/2016) - A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!” wrote the British playwright Leigh Mercer in 1948. Long before Project Prometheus made Panama synonymous with the biggest data leak in history, it was famous for the Panama palindrome: clever wordplay that reads the same backwards or forwards. Revelations from 11.5 million documents and 2.6 terabytes of [.....]
22 Watching, Streaming, and Other Things to Do with TV (4/1/2016) - In early- 2014, when India’s over 400 TV news channels were enmeshed in a bitter fight for ratings to cover the most significant election of their lifetimes – with then-challenger Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party taking on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in a presidential-style campaign – many experimented with political satire. [.....]
112 Lessons in Apple nationalism: Not just angry nationals, but thinking nationals (3/4/2016) - Imagine if an Indian corporate bigwig – say Vishal Sikka of Infosys – was asked by NIA, investigating the Pathankot terror attacks, to get his company to write software hacking into a confirmed terrorist’s digital or financial transactions. Now imagine if he flatly refused, arguing that this would breach Infosys’s confidentiality agreements with clients, leave [.....]
1457089785164143854347 Explaining Trump, the “Frankenstein’s monster” (3/2/2016) - Two months ago, Strobe Talbott, President of Washington’s venerable Brookings Institution, told me that it was “extremely unlikely” that Donald Trump would get the nomination and if he did Strobe would “fly back to Delhi” and buy me “expensive dinner”. Now, few people know American politics better than Strobe Talbott, also a former Deputy Secretary [.....]
112 Budget a wasted opportunity … do structural reform of factor and product markets … I stand by Ishrat affidavit: P Chidambaram (3/2/2016) - P Chidambaram was finance and home minister in the UPA government and is the author of Standing Guard: A Year in Opposition. He spoke to TOI on Arun Jaitley’s budget, the NDA government and Ishrat Jahan. You have called the budget a wasted opportunity. Why? This government has a majority which no government has had [.....]
112 Why 5,000 cops cant do what 5,000 troops can? (2/29/2016) - Quiz question: how many police-wallas in Haryana? Answer: 56,979. Yet, when Jat agitators took over its streets, this large force seemed to just collapse in the face of real civic disorder from its own brethren. Much of the Army too comes from the same stock but when it was called in, roughly 5,000 of its [.....]
Jat community members protest at Rohtak Explaining BJP’s Jat problem and the reservation bogey (2/20/2016) - Haryana’s chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is not only a first time MLA, he is also a Punjabi khatri. Seven of Haryana’s chief ministers so far have been Jats and the former RSS pracharak from Rohtak, hand-picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the state’s BJP government in 2014, is struggling to deal with [.....]
INDIA-STUDENTS-PROTEST-RIGHTS-COURT Patriotism, not hooliganism (2/18/2016) - To be a patriot is not a license to be a goonda. To be a lawyer and “officer of the court” is not a license to beat up people. Just holding the tricolour and shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” does not confer immunity from punishment when you violently defy the express orders of the nation’s [.....]
Amit Shah in Jaipur Why Amit Shah is wrong on JNU ‘anti-nationalism’ and Rahul Gandhi (2/15/2016) - When BJP president Amit Shah launched his official website in August 2015, he dedicated his first blog to the founding father of Hindu nationalism, Veer Savarkar: the man who coined the term ‘Hindutva’ and whose 1920s book ‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu’ remains a guiding bible for the movement. Shah, in his blog, called Savarkar [.....]
img1 Why India has to fight the world’s most absurd war (2/14/2016) - The debate over the logic of occupying Siachen glacier is not new. But the recent death of 10 Indian soldiers is a reason to remind ourselves why it continues to be a painful necessity. Few individual military stories have galvanized India as the heroic battle fought by Lance Naik Hanumanthappa and his comrades against terrifying [.....]
800px-SabarimalaRush2010 Open up for women: In Sabarimala temple case, constitutional right to equality trumps other arguments (1/18/2016) - Should the 1,500 year old Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa temple be opened up to women? The temple authority, Travancore Devaswom Board, cites tradition to say no to women between the ages of 10 to 50 for its sanctum sanctorum. The Supreme Court has rightly cited constitutional guarantees of equality to question why. “Unless you have a [.....]
JFR Jacob passes away How ‘Jake sweetie’ conquered Dhaka for India (1/14/2016) - It must count as one of the most memorable messages ever to finish a war. As he entered Dhaka on the morning of 16 December 1971, Major General Gandharv Nagra sent his ADC with the adjutant of the 2nd Paras, the first Indian battalion to have reached the city, to the Cantonment with a truce [.....]
Raj relic: Security is not an electoral issue in India and few netas understand it Our security setup is stuck in Mountbatten-Ismay era (1/10/2016) - The NSG is not Rambo. If Pathankot proved anything, it was this. Unlike chest-thumping, Rambo-type films or what passes for fighting terror in Hindi films like Holiday, defence operations are extremely complex and, when they go wrong, highly emotive. By now, everything that needed to be said about the Pathankot attack has been said — [.....]
North-Korea- How President Obama indirectly helps North Korea’s nuclear rise with “ally” Pakistan (1/6/2016) - Kim Jon-Un’s advance birthday gift to himself of a hydrogen bomb test which North Korean TV announced as a “perfect success” has once again confirmed Pyongyang’s rogue instincts. With this explosion, North Korea is directly poking Washington in the eye and Americans should remember that all this is only possible because of help to North [.....]
img1 Questions from Pathankot (1/4/2016) - The government’s public handling of the Pathankot attack raises several serious questions which show that the lessons from 26/11 or other terror attacks haven’t been learnt. First, why was there no clear communications strategy and why did ministers prematurely rush into congratulatory mode? The primary aim of terror is to spread public panic and clear [.....]
Pathankot first big challenge to Modi’s new Pakistan policy (1/2/2016) - Exactly a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised India by dropping in on Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, comes the first big challenge to his new peace initiative with Pakistan. Imagine if the terrorists had succeeded in blowing up a Mig-21 or a Sukhoi at the Pathankot Indian Air Force base? They failed — the [.....]
Was London a flash in the pan? Rio will tell us (12/27/2015) - A couple of months ago, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor Eduardo Paes met a group of sports journalists about his preparations for the 2016 Olympics. “Things are fine,” he said. “Every day is a big problem.” You could say the same thing about India’s bid to ramp up its medal tally. The 31st Olympic Games loom [.....]
img Modi-Obama hit it off, India can be a Pacific power, Republicans may not even nominate Trump: Strobe Talbott (12/23/2015) - Strobe Talbott is President of the well-known Brookings Institution in Washington DC and former US Deputy Secretary of State. Speaking with Nalin Mehta, Talbott discussed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy moves, his personal bonding with President Barack Obama, the prospects of India-Pakistan peace developing today – and whether Donald Trump could be America’s next [.....]
Release the ‘caged parrot’ (12/15/2015) - Was the CBI’s raid on Delhi government principal secretary Rajendra Kumar an excuse for getting into chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s files? Is there a political witch-hunt against him or as Trinamool Congress claims an “undeclared emergency”? Or, is the central government right in claiming, as finance minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament, that the CBI raid [.....]
Paris is history (12/13/2015) - From US secretary of state John Kerry who called it “a tremendous victory” to China’s chief climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua, who hailed it as a “milestone in the global efforts to respond to climate change”, even if it needs “some areas in need of improvement” to India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who declared he [.....]
img Love in Tokyo, and Delhi (12/13/2015) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows only 11 people on Twitter. Two of them are Indian: Narendra Modi and, surprisingly, Rajnath Singh. Much as Modi is trying to steer Indian foreign policy out of the cobwebs of the past, Abe is also trying bring Japan out of its post-World War II-cocoon and reclaim its strategic [.....]
(Photo courtesy: AFP/ Sajjad Hussain) Five life lessons from Nadal (12/12/2015) - As Delhi prepares for the big Nadal- Federer showdown, Times of India met up with Rafael Nadal who also guest-edited the TOI’s sport pages today. Humble, gracious and down-to-earth in person, the free-wheeling chat with Nadal offered a rare window into his mind but also some wonderful life-lessons from the champion. Don’t waste time thinking [.....]
img1 Team Modi course-corrects with Sushma Swaraj’s Islamabad visit (12/8/2015) - External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s flight to Islamabad today for the evocatively named ‘Heart of Asia’ conference signals a major shift in the Narendra Modi government’s thinking on Pakistan. After all, just four months ago, the minister had categorically stated that “there will be no talks in a third country.” Yet, this week we had [.....]
Wendy Doniger Great Indian tradition of debate alive and well: Wendy Doniger (11/25/2015) - Indologist Wendy Doniger is the author of seminal books on Hinduism and mythology. She tells Nalin Mehta that protests by writers can be effective, book bans don’t work and that Hinduism’s great tradition of debate is alive and well. Do you agree with the writers and film-makers who returned their awards to protest against rising [.....]
What we can learn from Paris (11/15/2015) - There was something ethereal and heart-stopping about the mysterious musician who silently rolled up a grand piano outside the blood-soaked Bataclan Theatre in Paris to poignantly play the notes of John Lennon’s 1971 classic ‘Imagine’ (See here). In India, TV channels would have gone berserk screaming the usual clichéd nonsense – remember the “spirit of [.....]
Accusing veterans of insulting the nation sign of desperation (11/15/2015) - For the second time in a week Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has personally taken on military veterans who are returning their medals in organized agitations across the country over the one-rank-one-pay (OROP) standoff with the government. Speaking in Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu, he said, “burning and returning them [medals]is an insult to the nation and [.....]
France’s 26/11 will change Europe (11/14/2015) - Much like Mumbai on 26/11, the terrorists in Paris have attacked the heart of what it is to be a Parisian. Attacking cafes in a city of cafes, blowing up of the Bataclan Theatre in a city that is symptomatic of culture and bomb blasts that shook the Stade de France where the French football [.....]
Bihar’s egg on TV’s face (11/14/2015) - Remember Al Gore? There is a loose parallel between how some Indian TV channels mucked up the Bihar counting day coverage last Sunday with the embarrassing on-air calls that American TV networks made during the 2000 ‘Bush vs Gore’ presidential polls. Announcing the results on November 7, 2000, channels first called Florida in favour of [.....]
TV channels losing it on Bihar? (11/8/2015) - BJP may have lost its big gamble in Bihar, but many TV news channels may also be losers in the viewership stake of credibility. With different channels showing such widely divergent numbers on assembly seats through the morning, viewers were left floundering on what to believe and who to trust. Even the broad trend lines [.....]
img Why Chetan Bhagat is wrong about Indian liberals (11/6/2015) - India’s biggest-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat has taken a huge swipe at Indian liberals in the Times of India (November 2), arguing that they usually have “no clue” and “no solutions” about what India should be like. This is primarily because behind their modernist façade, liberals are just superior English-speaking children coming out of class privilege, [.....]
Modi, Moody’s and the changing mood (10/31/2015) - Is Moody’s also ‘sickular’? A research arm of one the world’s leading global ratings agencies has now said what many in India have long been warning the government about. In its report titled, ‘India Outlook: Searching for Potential’, Moody’s Analytics has rung three alarm bells. First, it says, there are “indications that investors have been [.....]
Is Pakistan ‘code-word’ for Muslims, Mr Shah? (10/30/2015) - There is something too clever-by-half about BJP president Amit Shah’s striking comment that “cracker will be burst in celebration in Pakistan” if BJP “by any chance” loses in Bihar. At a very basic level, by directly equating the nation with BJP, the party seems to be indicating that somehow a vote against it may be [.....]
img Did Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ diversity memo not reach Giriraj? (10/26/2015) - Invoking Sardar Patel, Prime Minister Modi has once again linked unity and harmony to development, arguing in his latest ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme that ‘peace, harmony and unity’ are the keys to progress (As it happened: PM Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’). It is a welcome message but once again, it seems to have little effect [.....]
img Amitabh Bachchan doesn’t need a sarkari pension (10/21/2015) - I am an out and out Amitabh Bachchan fan and he is probably the greatest film star of the last forty years but there is something ridiculous about the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to award him a life-pension of Rs 50,000 award. The pension has been granted under the Uttar Pradesh government’s new pension scheme [.....]
img1 Does Sakshi Maharaj know something about Bihar poll we don’t? (10/19/2015) - Shortly after he and other saffron hotheads were pulled up by BJP president Amit Shah for controversial statements on the Dadri killing and beef bans, Sakshi Maharaj again set the cat among the pigeons by saying that if BJP loses in Bihar it won’t be “Modi’s or Amit Shah’s loss.” There are layers within layers [.....]
Supreme Court draws ‘Laxman Rekha’ (10/17/2015) - Not since the Shah Bano case in the mid-1980s have the judiciary and executive faced the kind of stand-off that we are now seeing with a five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court declaring the National Judicial Appointments Commission and 99th Constitutional Amendment Act “unconstitutional and void”. The Shah Bano case was very different from [.....]
img Decoding the ‘message’ in Narendra Modi’s message (10/14/2015) - No one in contemporary Indian politics understands the significance of words, of messaging and of symbolism more than Narendra Modi. As someone who redefined the very idiom of Indian politics largely on the back of his oratory and adroit use of public messaging, what he says is as important as how he says it. Equally [.....]
Europe versus Facebook (10/7/2015) - It all started with an Austrian student studying in California. A few years ago, whenMax Schrems found that Facebook was simply ignoring European privacy laws for users, he started a group called Europe versus Facebook and the beginning of challenge that has now culminated in a landmark ruling by the EU’s top court The European [.....]
img Dadri lynching: Forget UN, just stop beef politics (10/5/2015) - Just when you think politicians have scrapped the bottom of the barrel in fanning the aftermath of the Dadri murder over beef and that the politics around the murder couldn’t get worse, it does. Yesterday it was BJP legislator Sangeet Som, accused of inciting violence in Muzaffarnagar, charging the UP government of “helping those had [.....]
Holy cow: Little remorse on Dadri beef killing (10/3/2015) - A man was bludgeoned to death in cold blood inside his own house. His son beaten to within an inch of his life. Yet, we see little remorse, shame or introspection. Only politics. India’s culture minister Mahesh Sharma has called the mob-murder an “accident”. Another former BJP MLA told TV cameras it happened in “excitement”. [.....]
img1 Modi and the art of political performance (9/28/2015) - The prime minister has been doing what he does best in Silicon Valley- rock-star style public meetings, sizzling town-hall meetings that bring back the best of his election campaigning in 2014 and acting as India’s salesman No. 1 to American businesses. It has already yielded big promises from several companies like Google (plans for 500 [.....]
img1 Your TV only on your mobile (9/26/2015) - It has finally happened. A big national channel has finally shifted a major programme totally online. Starting next week, Star Plus’ three-month old fiction show ‘Phir Bhi Na Mane… Badtameez Dil’ will move exclusively to its digital platform Hotstar. This is the first time ever that an Indian broadcaster has shifted a regular daily fiction [.....]
img1 Volkswagen: Sorry is not enough (9/23/2015) - Volkswagen once marketed itself with the slogan, “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen”. For years it has branded itself not just as an efficient car, but as an idea. That idea of perfection has been blown apart by its CEO Martin Winterkorn’s “I am endlessly sorry” acceptance of the environment [.....]
img1 Netaji and India’s dictatorship urge (9/19/2015) - Did Shah Jahan want to build a black Taj Mahal? Did Lal Bahadur Shastri really die of a heart attack in Tashkent in 1965? Does the yeti really exist? The mystery of Subhas Chandra Bose has been among great unsolved mysteries of India. Mamata Banerjee’s declassification of 64 Netaji files has just made it even [.....]
Getting a peon’s job harder than getting into Harvard (9/18/2015) - It’s seems it is more difficult to get a job as a peon in Uttar Pradesh than it is to get into Harvard. Consider this: Harvard University admitted 2081 students this year, for its class of 2019. They were the ones who made it out of 37,707 students who applied. That’s an admission ratio of [.....]
Caste-ing Ashoka in Bihar (9/14/2015) - How caste politics is being resurrected with dubious history before polls What does an ancient emperor who died over 2,300 years ago have to do with the hurly-burly of Bihar elections in the present day? Everything, it seems, as politicians pull out all the stops to attract, make and remake caste formations. So in this [.....]
Modi aura or Nitish era? Pataliputra to decide (9/13/2015) - Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi calls it the “mother of all elections”. For once, the Bihar poll justifies the hyperbole. The road to Indraprastha passed through Pataliputra for Narendra Modi. This is why he devoted so much attention to Bihar (second only to UP) in 2014, with about 30 rallies, delivering 31 of its 40 [.....]
img1 Fadnavis and musical chairs in Mumbai (9/9/2015) - Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is away in Japan to inaugurate a memorial and statue of Ambedkar at Koyasan University and for courting investments from Japanese companies. He has left behind him in Mumbai a raging controversy over the abrupt transfer of Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria and the game of musical chairs being played [.....]
Narasimha Rao was magnificent, govt now too clever by half — Indians incapable of objectivity: Jairam Ramesh (9/7/2015) - Congress leader and former UPA minister Jairam Ramesh is author of To The Brink and Back: India’s 1991 Story. Speaking with Nalin Mehta, Ramesh discussed working in Narasimha Rao’s PMO, recounting how India started economic reforms, Rao’s historical legacy — and the lessons of 1991 for today: You say Narasimha Rao was magnificent — why? [.....]
img1 China’s rising military threat: Why India should worry (9/3/2015) - After a harrowing month in which China signaled new economic vulnerabilities and sent shock waves from Wall Street to Dalal Street by devaluing its yuan, the made-for-TV martial pictures of smartly dressed People’s Liberation Army soldiers marching in step on Tiananmen Square must have given a breather to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Make no mistake: [.....]
img1 Why housewives back One Rank One Pension (9/1/2015) - So, overheard a dark and disturbing joke from a veteran today. Pakistani soldiers on the border had unfurled a banner on their bunker saying “Jo ham se takraega, Jantar Mantar pe dande khaega” (Whoever clashes with us will get beaten up at Jantar Mantar). It shocked me out of my wits – it’s certainly not [.....]
BJP and the soldier (8/16/2015) - The Prime Minister’s second Independence Day speech from the Red Fort was received differently in different quarters but there is one political constituency where it got a clear thumbs down. A day after shocking images emerged of police action on protesting ex-soldiers agitating for one-rank-one-pension (OROP) at Jantar Mantar in the Capital, defence veterans reacted [.....]
Narendra Modi’s Red Fort fizzle (8/15/2015) - The colour of the Prime Minister’s turban at the Red Fort had changed — from red in 2014 to mustard-yellow in 2015. So had the context. In 2014, Narendra Modi was the grand new hope of India, speaking like an outsider bringing new energy to the decaying pillars of power. Now, after a year and [.....]
img How the burka became ‘cool’ (7/5/2015) - When your four-year-old boy starts thinking of the burka as cool, it is time to sit up and take notice. Especially, when the burka comes repackaged as ninja-all-black on a Pakistani superheroine, destroying Taliban-like goons while moving to background music that sounds like a cross between Spiderman and Mission Impossible. An iron lady who despite [.....]
INDIA-US-DIPLOMACY The soldier’s right: Why the arguments against one-rank-one-pension are misleading (6/16/2015) - Roman emperor Augustus started the tradition of military pensions in 13 BC by guaranteeing life pensions to every legionary who fought 20 years for Rome. It set the bar for all modern armies and Independent India continued the British tradition of financially privileging military service until 1973, when soldiers were paid more than civilian bureaucrats. [.....]
mumbai airport bestseller Behind a Billion Screens a national bestseller (6/1/2015) - Nalin Mehta’s book ‘Behind a Billion Screens: What Television Tells Us About Modern India’ has become a national non-fiction bestseller. The book, which systematically examines the problems with India’s television, and why it matters to all of us, has been flying off the bookshelves ever since its launch on 8 May 2015. Introducing the book [.....]
Mehta’s ‘Behind a Billion Screens’ features in New York Times (5/20/2015) - Nalin Mehta’s recently released book ‘Behind a Billion Screens: What Television Tells Us About Modern India’ is receiving rave reviews from around the world. The New York Times devoted an entire column to the book, where the novelist Manu Joseph noted that “Mr. Mehta’s book portrays a host of problems facing Indian television” and the [.....]
tv camermen at press conference Remote Control (5/13/2015) - It’s first fifteen years, the Indian private broadcasting industry expanded like the American Wild West. Canny local entrepreneurs rode into uncharted territories and planted their stakes in the ground. They then used their incumbent first-mover advantage to build turf walls and defended themselves against ambitious newcomers. The deep complexities of language and the unique challenge [.....]
How a book launch set the stage for a fight between private and public television (5/13/2015) - The release of senior journalist Nalin Mehta’s book and the discussions that followed have revealed the deep contradictions held by Indian journalists and also the crisis that engulfs the media profession. Mehta’s Behind a Million Billion Screens: What Television Tells Us About Modern India was launched at a special event in Delhi on May 8. [.....]
booklaunch panel MEDIA MATTERS (5/10/2015) - Social scientist Nalin Mehta examines the defective paver-blocks of regulations that line the pathways of Indian media, and suggests roadwork. One of the great risks of writing about television is that like cricket, everybody watches it, everybody has an opinion on it and everybody thinks they know exactly what the solution is,” writes Nalin Mehta [.....]
Has UGC run its course? (5/10/2015) - Writing at the turn of the last century on India’s education system, Swami Vivekanand forcefully argued that the “present system of education is all wrong.” The comment rings true even today. This is why HRD minister Smriti Irani announced in November last year that her ministry is reviewing most education-related regulatory bodies, including the gargantuan [.....]
scroll image Ramdev’s Television Curse: Life and death by TRPs and TAM (5/4/2015) - The one system that professedly measures the popularity of all TV programmes in India is terribly, terribly flawed. The much maligned and long-suffering head of India’s TV ratings agency TAM, L.V. Krishnan, has a telling story. A couple of years back he was called for a meeting with a channel and as he waited in [.....]
89e26ff0-ee45-11e4-bbf2-c1aae38355ef_29grist2 You’d probably make more money in a fixed deposit than a news channel (4/29/2015) - Wait. No one watches the news? Then why are there so many news channels. The writer of a new book on the industry explains the real reason these channels are launched. As a genre, news attracts just about 7 percent of viewership in India and one-fifth of television advertising.Yet, almost half of over 800 licensed [.....]
2AMCover What Congress can learn from the decline of British Liberals (3/31/2015) - In November 1947, Mahatma Gandhi told delegates of the All India Congress Committee that he had come to them because they were the ‘real Congress’. In his view it was AICC that held real power, as opposed to the party’s larger general body that met once a year. For the Mahatma, even in 1947, the [.....]
1AMCover Modi’s Media (2/27/2015) - “India is Modi. Modi is India” screamed the headline in India’s most popular pink paper, The Economic Times, the day after the new Prime Minister’s historic electoral victory, the greatest by the Indian Right and the first clear-cut majority mandate for a single party to rule India in thirty years. It was a smart inversion [.....]
Berlin 1936: An Indian athlete puts his turban with Italian athletes around him Revising history: how a new archive changes our understanding of the past and the present (2/23/2015) - Abstract This article outlines how fresh historical evidence recently made available in a new digital archive necessitates a nuanced rewriting of the complex linkages between colonial structures, early-Indian capitalism and the incipient nationalism that drove Indian sport and Olympism before independence. India became the first colony to take part in the Olympics, supremely dominating Olympics [.....]
Lloyd World Cup: What all has changed from 1975 to 2015 (2/8/2015) - Cricket’s showpiece event is set to kick off next week but it’s as much about business as it is about the romance of the game. Sunday Times looks at everything that’s different about this World Cup – from new balls to eyeballs. The first cricket World Cup in 1975 was not even called the World [.....]
For the past year, seven major roads in India’s IT capital have been dug-up for a makeover which, if successful, may hold the key not just to managing Bangalore’s urban sprawl but of other cities too. Bengaluru shows the way to better roads (2/3/2015) - When Baron Haussmann reshaped much of old Paris in the 1850s to turn its narrow by-lanes into broad boulevards or General Charles Napier obliterated much of nawabi Lucknow in 1858 to build wider roads for military policing they established a key principle of urban planning: cities and their roads are often a reflection of what [.....]
With just under three months to go for IPL 8, with uncertainty over the ownership of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, the question is if Brand IPL has taken a hit after the apex court’s verdict? IPL’s ‘mid-life’ crisis (1/25/2015) - India’s cricketing czars were still digesting the Supreme Court’s definitive judgment on the IPL betting and match-fixing scandal this week, when soccer fans around the world were jolted by news that three major FIFA sponsors — Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson — were joining Sony and Emirates in severing ties with world soccer’s governing body [.....]
Parliament in Session Missing in action: Parliament is logjammed but real democratic problem is in state legislatures which meet much less (1/8/2015) - Explaining the need for promulgating ordinances for reforms in insurance and coal block allocations, finance minister Arun Jaitley blamed the stand-off in Rajya Sabha, arguing that the country cannot wait if one of the houses of Parliament “waits indefinitely”. At a time when the opposition dominated Upper House has become a fail-safe vantage point for [.....]
Atletico de Kolkata pose for a picture as they celebrate after winning the Indian Super League final against Kerala Blaster FC in Mumbai. (PTI Photo) And we played cricket too (12/28/2014) - Leagues have given sports like kabaddi, football and tennis a leg up but that may not be enough to transform Indian sport. Japan was a nobody in global football when it started its professional J-League in 1993. It was packaged as much as a family entertainment event as the new Indian Super League (ISL), its [.....]
Put simply, OROP means that every pension-eligible soldier who retires in a particular rank deserves the same pension, irrespective of date of retirement. Pension promise in peril? (12/14/2014) - Military veterans claim babus are thwarting PM Modi’s poll pledge of one-rank-one-pension by inflating its cost estimates Roman emperor Augustus started the tradition of military pensions in 13 BC, when every legionary who had fought 20 years for Rome was guaranteed a pension for-life. It set the bar for modern armies, and independent India continued [.....]
Language of the gods needs revival but not by compulsory teaching of Sanskrit (12/2/2014) - Anxiety over Sanskrit’s slow death as a living language, which lies at the heart of the current language dispute over German, predates the cultural nationalism of BJP and RSS. As far back as 1857 Gujarati poet Dalpatram announced that the language of the gods had died. Bajirao II, the last Peshwa, had “performed its after-death [.....]
China doesn’t belong to south Asia (11/29/2014) - China has been a Saarc observer since 2005. But it has recently lobbied to be upgraded to full Saarc membership and thus push its way to a dominant position in all of Asia. Pakistan, China`s “all-weather friend”, has backed the Chinese. But it is not in India`s interest to facilitate this. Blocking China`s entry is [.....]
Stick Shift (11/16/2014) - After years of disappointments, Indian hockey is looking up again. So what’s the story behind the comeback? Sunday Times finds out struggling to raise funds to send Dhyan Chand’s team to the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928, when one of Indian hockey’s colonial administrators decided to approach Gandhi for help in fund-raising, the Mahatma famously responded [.....]
I wanted to play till 2014: Sachin Tendulkar (11/8/2014) - But the West Indies series made Sachin Tendulkar rethink his retirement plans, as Nalin Mehta found out in this exclusive interview. When did you first entertain thoughts of retirement? I was looking forward to the tours to South Africa in Dec 2013 and New Zealand in early 2014. But when the BCCI announced a two-Test [.....]
Sachin Tendulkar made ‘international’ debut for Pakistan! (11/8/2014) - Everyone knows that Sachin Tendulkar made his debut for India against Pakistan in 1989, but did you know that he actually got his first taste of international cricket two years earlier, not playing for India but for a Pakistan team – against India! During Pakistan’s tour of India in 1987, Sachin was sent in as [.....]
Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography 'Playing It My Way' released I didn’t watch 2011 World Cup final after getting out, nor did Viru: Sachin Tendulkar (11/6/2014) - They came dressed in formals, not in the familiar all-whites or the Men in Blue attire, etched indelibly in a generation’s memory as they scored a mind-boggling 88,218 runs in Tests and ODIs. But when they spoke, the Fab Four of Indian cricket – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman – rolled [.....]
45AMCover Modi was like Schwarzenegger to many looking for a muscular leader: Sardesai (11/5/2014) - Rajdeep Sardesai is a senior journalist and author of 2014: The Election That Changed India. Speaking with Nalin Mehta, Sardesai discussed how Narendra Modi reconfigured the election discourse, how he ran an Obama-like campaign — and how Rahul Gandhi got it so wrong: Analyse Modi’s transformation from Hriday Samrat to development icon? When you think [.....]
‘Ringmaster’ Greg asked me to help oust Dravid: Sachin (11/4/2014) - Across 24 years and dozens of landmarks, it was always the God of cricket’s bat that spoke, not the man himself. But that’s set to change. In his autobiography, ‘Playing It My Way’, co-written with sport historian Boria Majumdar, Sachin Tendulkar has likened former coach Greg Chappell to a ringmaster and sensationally revealed that Chappell [.....]
Reinstate Sarita Devi (10/25/2014) - Instead of turning the lens on itself and the flawed system of scoring it presides over, International Boxing Federation (AIBA) has punished Indian boxer Sarita Devi for her protest in Incheon after a surprise loss to her South Korean semi-final opponent. Letting her emotions get the better of her, Devi refused to accept the bronze [.....]
46AMCover I don’t visit temples — i worship children, true faces of God: Kailash Satyarthi (10/13/2014) - Kailash Satyarthi has won 2014′s Nobel peace prize with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai. He discusses his spiritual motivation, his mother’s fears, his expectations from PM Modi — and how he was almost murdered by Pakistani soldiers with Nalin Mehta: Congratulations on this honour — but in India, do we only recognise people after they’re honoured overseas? [.....]
Modi knows it all: NaMo wows Madison Square, NRIs and corporate India but sports ministry shows challenge ahead (9/30/2014) - Modiji is a master of many things. A manly chappan-chati-ed deliverer of soaring words, a conductor of non-stop action, a magic weaver of consummate dreams and now also an international rock star whose name, like Mohammad Ali’s, will forever be conjoined with Madison Square Garden. Achhe din may not be here yet but they are [.....]
Churning’s discussed in every galli, home and tea stall: Sanjay Sinh (9/29/2014) - Sanjay Sinh is Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Assam and scion of Amethi’s former ruling family. Sinh spoke with Nalin Mehta on his property dispute with son Anant Vikram Sinh, the violent clash over Amethi’s palace recently claiming a policeman’s life, demands for a new probe into Syed Modi’s murder — and churning within the [.....]
Bindra: He shot for India (9/24/2014) - Just before the London Olympics, he forced himself to jump off a plane: hoping to train his mind to work under extreme conditions, attempting somehow to simulate the pressures of the shooting range and the way his instincts would react under duress. Before the Beijing Olympics, where he won India’s first gold, he forced himself [.....]
Soft power, hard battles: Inventing the Asian Games is a forgotten facet of the Nehruvian idea of India (9/19/2014) - As Indian athletes get ready to compete in Incheon today few remember how the modern Asian Games themselves were virtually invented by India, how central these Games were for the hopes, aspirations and ideals of Nehruvian India and the role they played in soft power diplomacy in the early years after independence. “You have certainly [.....]
Why Ban wants Modi (9/17/2014) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s first overseas posting as a South Korean diplomat was to Delhi, his son-law is a former Indian Army officer but as Secretary General he has rarely put out a personal appeal to an Indian prime minister as he has done now. His latest appeal to Modi to attend next week’s [.....]
Memo to BJP: Keep the Yogi and India’s ‘greatest sensuous acharya’ in closet (9/16/2014) - Yogi Adityanath must have been hoping that his recent anointment as the new Mahant of Gorakshpeeth would coincide with a celebratory victory run in the UP byelection, which he spearheaded. That other relic from the Ramjnmabhoomi movement, Unnao MP, Sakshi Maharaj, was upping the ante too by putting out an alleged Muslim rate card for [.....]
Oh Nalanda! We need a thousand Nalandas, but if Rajgir’s current experiment is a trailer then God save us (9/15/2014) - Aspiring students at the ancient Nalanda Mahavihar could only enter by answering tough questions from the ‘dwara pandit’, guardian of the entrance gate. Only one in 10 passed satisfactorily to join this Oxford of India which was already a few centuries old before even the idea of Oxford became a glimmer in the eyes of [.....]
cover14am You can’t build a sport without putting it on TV – we don’t have to be a one-sport nation: Uday Shankar (9/10/2014) - Uday Shankar is CEO of Star TV India, which broadcast and backed the Pro-Kabaddi League. Kabaddi surprised India, garnered 2.5 times more viewers in its first week than the FIFA World Cup and became the most-watched Indian live sports event after IPL. He discusses India’s prospects as a sporting nation, the role of TV as [.....]
cover73am The story of how an Asiad remade a city (9/8/2014) - India may not be a major sporting power, but as Indian athletes get ready for the Incheon Asian Games, few remember the central role the Asian Games have played in the remaking of Delhi. The Asian Games themselves were virtually invented by India as part of Nehru’s attempt to forge a new Asian solidarity and [.....]
cover15am Focus on cricket, not players’ private lives (8/23/2014) - Following the debacle of Dhoni’s team in England, the BCCI has not only brought in Ravi Shastri to mount a rescue operation, there is also a purported move to ban girlfriends and restrict access to wives during tours. The argument is that they were an unnecessary distraction for players, who ended up focussing more on [.....]
cover16am Keep the booze flowing, Mr Chandy (8/22/2014) - Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is known to be a teetotaller but his short sighted decision to move his state towards prohibition seems to be born less from his own predilection and more from an internal factional fight with the Congress party. Ever since anti-liquor campaigner VM Sudheeran took over the reins of the Kerala [.....]
cover17am Leela Samson criticises I&B ministry for censor board problems including bribery allegations: Free board from ministry control (8/21/2014) - The arrest of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) CEO Rakesh Kumar on charges of bribery is at one level a case of alleged personal dishonesty. But at a deeper level, as chairperson Leela Samson has argued, it is another reminder of India’s flawed system of film censorship. This must now end. CBFC is a [.....]
Pakistan’s political marches show Modi got it right (8/20/2014) - The liberal criticism of Narendra Modi’s move to call off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan may have completely missed the point. With the ‘Azadi’ and ‘Inqalabi’ marchers, owing allegiance to Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, sitting in outside Parliament House in Islamabad and Nawaz Sharif increasingly looking like a prisoner in his own capital, [.....]
After India’s dismal Test performance in England, should Dhoni be replaced as captain?: Yes, his time is up (8/19/2014) - Mahendra Singh Dhoni told reporters to “wait and watch” when asked whether he would quit as India’s Test captain after the debacle at the Oval. Despite his fighting 82 in the first innings of India’s worst Test defeat in England in 40 years, he has well and truly outlived his usefulness as a captain in [.....]
body221 Modi-fied India: PM Narendra Modi scores from Red Fort (8/15/2014) - It was a different Independence Day for most journalists who cover the PMO, used as they were to getting previously written speeches by the Prime Minister ahead of his Red Fort performance. Mr Modi broke convention by speaking extempore for 65 minutes, by dispensing with the customary bullet-proof screen and by turning his speech into [.....]
41AMCover China wants to jointly build new Silk Route in inner Asia and sea lanes: India should partner China (8/14/2014) - Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to New Delhi next month there is considerable debate on whether India should accept Chinese proposals to jointly rebuild a new version of the Silk Route, the ancient trade and cultural route between India, central Asia and China. China`s economic diplomacy around the new ‘Silk Route economic belt’ [.....]
The BJP’s new shah: Amit Shah’s ascent and appointment as party president signifies a new wave of social engineering (8/11/2014) - The last time a newly appointed BJP president alluded to his humble origins before the party’s national council was on August 3, 2002. An emotional Venkaiah Naidu broke down at the Talkatora Stadium while talking about being born to ‘‘a farmer’s family in a remote village far down in the south’’ and declared that ‘‘this [.....]
Phoolan Devi: The righteous daku (8/9/2014) - India has always been fascinated by the figure of the righteous daku, and never more so than with Phoolan Devi. From Sunil Dutt’s brooding Birju in Mother India who is driven to becoming an outlaw by a rapacious village moneylender to the countless Dharmendra films of the 1980s, popular culture has always been saturated by [.....]
Who cares if Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t talk (8/8/2014) - The last time a government was really worried about the attendance of a nominated Rajya Sabha MP was when Pramod Mahajan as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs pulled out all stops to get Lata Mangeshkar to fly down from Mumbai and cast her vote during the special combined sitting of Parliament convened by the Vajpayee government [.....]
cover18am Glasgow shows Delhi’s false dawn (8/4/2014) - How does one benchmark a nation’s performance in an event that was never really meant to be super-competitive anyway? Most athletes in Glasgow who gave it their all to stand on the medals podium would disagree with any value judgments about the seriousness of the Commonwealth Games and they would be right. But they would [.....]
23LACover When Live News was Too Dangerous: The Early History of Satellite TV in India (4/6/2014) - ABSTRACT Satellite TV has been the greatest social development of the past thirty years in India. With over 800 TV channels in 11 languages, the emergence of live TV news significantly changed politics, culture and society. How did this massive transformation unfold? The first part of this essay sketches the early histories of the first [.....]
Report of the Expert Committee on Prasar Bharti, 2014 (3/26/2014) - I was invited by Sam Pitroda, then advisor to the Prime Minister of India, who headed the Prasar Bharti reform committee to create a roadmap for revamping public broadcasting, as an advisor and permanent invitee. Between 2012 and 2014, headed the group on international benchmarking and convened special report on comparative analysis of public broadcasters. [.....]
Ravana’s airforce: a report on the state of Indian television (9/20/2012) - Abstract With over 800 television channels, India is not only the world’s third largest television market but also its most varied. Indian television for the past decade has been defined by an upward trend of continuous growth – in viewership numbers, revenues and advertising – and equally with a severe crisis of content across genres. [.....]
Rings around India (8/26/2012) - He forced himself to jump off a plane: hoping to train his mind to work under extreme conditions, attempting somehow to simulate the pressures of the shooting range and the way his instincts would react under duress. If he had actually gone on to win in London, we would all have been going gaga about [.....]
Contradictory trends in Indian television (8/25/2012) - In early 2008, India’s Zee News broadcast a ‘special investigation’. With a loud, red banner labelling the inquiry an ‘exclusive’, the program made two claims: first, it professed to have found definitive proof that Ravana, the mythical villain of the Ramayana, had maintained an air force. And second, the program revealed that it had found [.....]
Discontent in green (8/13/2012) - The last time Samba was in the national headlines was when the Delhi High Court acquitted some of the accused officers from the infamous Samba spy case of the 1970s with full honours. That case is still being fought in the Supreme Court but for no fault of its own, this cantonment town near Jammu [.....]
Beijing 2008: A Watershed for Indian Sport (8/7/2012) - Extracts from Olympics: The India Story, rev. and updated 2012 edition
The Games Politicians Play (8/1/2012) - The world turns on its axis, night comes after day, the Olympic Games are held every four years. The Olympics are so ubiquitous, so much a predictable, fixed feature of the rhythms of the world that it is easy to forget that they essentially began as a private initiative by a French aristocrat. In the [.....]
Once there was a GANEFO (7/22/2012) - The world turns on its axis, night comes after day, the Olympic Games are held every four years. The Olympics are so ubiquitous, so much a predictable, fixed feature of the rhythms of the world that it is easy to forget that they essentially began as a private initiative by a French aristocrat. Amid the [.....]
Old wine, old bottle (7/16/2012) - For a party where access and the good graces of the leader is everything, two leaders speaking critically and out of turn in the same month is more than just unusual. First it was Salman Khurshid’s much denied critique of Rahul Gandhi’s halfhearted attempts at reviving the Congress and then came Shankersinh Vaghela’s sudden distress [.....]
Money Maya (7/9/2012) - It is the first good cheer she has had since the debacle in the UP election but amid the familiar self-congratulatory posturing by the BSP’s spokespersons it is important to remember that the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the disproportionate assets case against Mayawati is purely a let-off on technical grounds. The court’s judgement that the [.....]
Chasing A Dream (7/3/2012) - Is a successful London 2012 possible for India? Or will a sports culture remain an illusion with India not bothering to look beyond cricket and turning into a multi sporting nation? [Edited extracts from Nalin Mehta, Boria Majumdar, Olympics: The India Story, HarperCollins, 2012, 3rd edition, first published 2008] The foundation was laid at the [.....]
Unsporting fights (7/2/2012) - Now that Sania Mirza has added her own bizarre twist to the already strange lovehate relationship between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, it is perhaps useful to take a historical lens and see how this unsavoury squabbling measures up in the long history of Indian sport. By invoking the misplaced argument of insulted Indian womanhood [.....]
cover57 London calling (6/30/2012) - The foundation was laid at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October 2010. With 101 medals, 38 of which were gold, and second place on the medals table displacing England for the first time in history, Indian Olympic sports made a statement to the world. Critics, however, attributed this to the relatively lower level of [.....]
When Olympic Sports Lost Out (6/26/2012) - Until the early 1980s, cricket was not the most pre-eminent Indian game. It was popular but hockey was the ‘national game’ and soccer was equally popular in large parts of the country. What happened? [Edited exclusive extracts from Nalin Mehta, Boria Majumdar, Olympics: The India Story, HarperCollins, 2012, 3rd edition, first published 2008] Cricket, Television [.....]
Sibal is right, almost (6/25/2012) - Kapil Sibal has always been an opinionated and combative minister. Perhaps this is why the rather simplistic caricature of an overbearing central ministry trying to somehow tinker with and fix the hard-working old IITs turned into the dominant narrative of the controversy around the common engineering entrance exam. Yet, this is far too important a [.....]
Colonial India’s Olympic encounter: a photo essay (6/20/2012) - ABSTRACT India’s Olympic encounter has been a battle ground where an emerging nation’s internal dissensions were given full play: issues of national representation, colonial and postcolonial resistance, sports diffusion and participation at the global stage. This photo essay, with hitherto unseen photographs, seeks to detail some moments from colonial and early post-colonial India’s encounter of [.....]
11LACover Hybridity and subversion: the Olympic flame in India (6/20/2012) - Abstract This article presents the results of a field study of the 2008 Olympic Flame Relay in Delhi, India, where Tibetan and pro-Tibetan protests against the Chinese Olympic hosts generated a state security transformation of Olympic ritual and a parallel Tibetan counter-performance. These events are placed in the context of earlier Indian practices of indigenization [.....]
Back to the 1990s (6/18/2012) - Not since V.V. Giri’s election in 1969 has a Presidential election become such a game of smoke and mirrors. Giri’s narrow defeat of the official Congress candidate Neelam Sanjiva Reddy heralded the phase of Indira Gandhi’s dominance over the polity. The thrusts and parries that have preceded the current election may well signify the return [.....]
Mr Modi, we presume? (6/11/2012) - There is something particularly intriguing about the drama surrounding Narendra Modi’s intense tussle with Sanjay Joshi which has culminated in the latter’s resignation from the BJP. The cloak-and-dagger atmospherics of the battle between the charismatic chief minister and the relatively faceless RSS man has been a local sideshow within the BJP for years but its [.....]
Why Sangma is no Obama (5/28/2012) - Ambition is no mean thing. It is the elixir that drives all politics and most creative impulses but there is a difference in wearing your ambition on your sleeve and spouting it like a megaphone. What does one make of P.A. Sangma’s rediscovery of himself as a tribal and the pointed comparison with Barack Obama? [.....]
Politics of the Indian Presidency (5/23/2012) - Debating the role of the President in the Constituent Assembly on 21 July 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru articulated some of the dominant political expectations of the time, arguing that even though ‘we did not give him any real powers’ in the proposed Constitution, ‘we have made his position one of great authority and dignity’.2 As the [.....]
Understanding Chinese whispers (5/21/2012) - Ten months ago, the Indian and Chinese navies were muscling up to each other in the South China Sea. But last week a Chinese training ship docked at Kochi as part of a round-the-world voyage. It had an Indian cadet on board. Later this month, four Indian ships will call at Shanghai. India and China [.....]
China-India Media Mediation, Singapore, and India-China Dialogue (5/18/2012) - The India-China relationship is one of the most significant bilateral relationships of the 21st century. While the economic and strategic aspects of this equation have long been debated, the role of the media on both sides is much less understood. Together, the two countries constitute the world’s largest media market and the day-to-day concerns of [.....]
Once there was a cartoon (5/14/2012) - Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill in 2009, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal forcefully argued that education was the key to India’s future, that “it is intellectual assets that form the wealth of the country”, and that “any impediment” in the [.....]
The do-good show (5/9/2012) - Has public service broadcasting returned to Indian television? When Ashok Kumar began appearing with his public service messages at the end of every Hum Log episode in 1984, he was adapting the model of Mexican telenovellas that couched family-planning messages within entertainment. No one paid much attention to the preachy messages but the elder statesman [.....]
Politics and the presidency (5/7/2012) - Debating the role of the President in the Constituent Assembly on 21 July 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru summed up the consensus view, saying, “We did not give him any real powers but we have made his position one of great authority and dignity.” He is first and foremost, a “symbol” of the country, one who, despite [.....]
Less Bofors hypocrisy please (4/30/2012) - The Bofors case has been compared to Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth, a symbolic returning embodiment of downfall and guilt, and also to the Terminator series, with its ability to constantly startle even when you think the tale has ended. If it is a returning ghost, it actually seems more akin to the pantomimic creatures of [.....]
Capital Loss for Congress in India (4/25/2012) - The fog of war is confusing. The fog of defeat can be even more debilitating: the comfort of denial and post-defeat rationalization are its natural offspring. The Indian National Congress Party’s comprehensive defeat in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections in April 2012 has added to its growing list of recent electoral setbacks and [.....]
Capital loss (4/23/2012) - The fog of war is confusing. The fog of defeat can be even more debilitating: the comfort of denial and convoluted post-rationalisation are its natural offsprings. The Congress response to its stinging defeat in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections has followed a time-worn typescript. Swinging between defensiveness and despair, its official statements have ranged [.....]
Lessons in self-destruction (4/16/2012) - Mamata Bannerjee’s official biography on the West Bengal government’s website describes her as the author of no fewer than thirty books, one of which is called ‘Slaughter of Democracy’. No prizes for guessing who the ‘slaughterer’ was in this 2006 polemic against the Left Front. Now, less than a year into a government that was [.....]
17LACover The Amar Chitra Katha of 1857: The Nation in the Comic (4/7/2012) - EXTRACT I am a child of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK hereafter). Growing up in the 1980s, poring over the ACK comics on history and mythology was one of the greatest delights of my childhood. The comics opened up a world of wonder from the past that first ignited my interest in history. My first mental [.....]
14LACover For a Monsoon Wedding: Delhi and the Commonwealth Games (4/7/2012) - INTRODUCTION EXTRACT Delhi’s Tihar Jail is reputed to be the largest prison in South Asia. Among its more famous inmates, at the time of writing, is Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) of the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010, Member of Parliament from Pune and head of the Indian Olympic Association. He is being [.....]
24LACover Satellites, Politics and India’s TV News Revolution: Challenges and Prospects (4/6/2012) - Abstract This article explores two themes. First, it looks closely at the profusion of regional language news television in India, the patterns in its growth, its politics and its social impact. In particular, it looks at how political parties and politicians appropriated satellite news channels and cable networks in various states (Punjab, Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu), [.....]
GENERAL OPPORTUNITY (4/2/2012) - Much has been written about the Shakespearian pantomime of the honest general seething with petty resentments and the honest minister, redolent in repose; both seemingly self-obsessed with their own imagery even as their institutions drift into dangerous waters. Despite recent efforts to cool tempers a little, the byzantine intrigue, the calculated media leaks, the bruising [.....]
WHY WE ALSO NEED AN MEA 2.0 (3/26/2012) - Speaking on India’s strategic culture at a public seminar earlier this year, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon pointed out that given the current unpredictability and flux in the international system “it is essential that we further elaborate our own culture and tradition of strategic thought.” An uncertain world where alignments change all the time is [.....]
MAMATA’S RUNAWAY TRAIN (3/19/2012) - Back when she was Railways Minister under Prime Minister Vajpayee, Mamata Banerjee used to insist on driving into Parliament every day in a battered, old Fiat. The paraphernalia of ministerhood in Lutyen’s Delhi, with its bulletproof cars and gun-toting securitymen, was always an anathema for a politician whose entire imagery has been built on the [.....]
Dynasty is not enough (3/12/2012) - When Jahangir was crowned as Mughal emperor in 1605, his first act was to cut down to size his uncle and his father’s closest confidante, Raja Man Singh, who was packed off from court to take over the governorship of Bengal. Uttar Pradesh is not the Mughal empire and Akhilesh, whose boldness and fresh approach [.....]
THE IDES OF MODI (3/5/2012) - Reading the BJP’s defence of Narendra Modi 10 years after the Gujarat riots, it is difficult not to think of the proverbial line from the 1950s novel ‘Go-Between’ about the past being a foreign country. A decade is a long time, especially in the age of tweets and status updates, but can the seductive, shining [.....]
TO SLEEP OR NOT TO SLEEP (2/27/2012) - Eight months after all of India saw the ugly spectacle of the Delhi Police enforcing the full power of the state on Baba Ramdev’s supporters in the capital’s Ramlila Maidan, there is little to quibble with the Supreme Court’s primary finding that the police went overboard with “uncontrolled force”, that some of its teargas-shooting stick-wielding [.....]
CONGRESS IN A CASTE (2/13/2012) - Back in 1990, when the Mandal Commission’s acceptance by the V P Singh government was redrawing the political constellation of Uttar Pradesh and much of North India, Rajiv Gandhi gave an important speech in the Lok Sabha. Constantly interrupted and marked by some of the most barbed exchanges between a Prime Minister and a Leader [.....]
WHY WE NEED A LINDBERGH MOMENT (2/2/2012) - There is a poignant scene in Clint Eastwood’s ‘J Edgar’, where Leonardo di Caprio, playing the young FBI Director J Edgar Hoover, turns up at the aviator Charles Lindbergh’s house to investigate the kidnapping of his baby son, only to be told by a clearly inept but resentful sheriff that the local cops are more [.....]
cover50 SEEDS OF DYSTOPIA (1/30/2012) - It has not snowed like this in Davos for sixty years. As the world’s business and political royalty descended on the Swiss Alpine ski resort for their annual pilgrimage last week, they could have been forgiven for being lulled into a relaxing turpor by the pristine white blanket and the sheer natural beauty surrounding them. [.....]
GENERAL DISARRAY (1/23/2012) - Honour is a funny word, an abstract concept that can mean anything based on the context. Old soldiers will tell you that when it really comes down to it, they fight and die more for the honour of their regiment or unit than for other highfalutin ideals such as mere patriotism. Other men also kill [.....]
DYNASTIES APART (1/16/2012) - For generations of Indians used to bemoaning the dynastic culture in our politics, this year’s Republican primaries in the United States are eye-opening in more ways than one. In an election where every candidate seems to be vying with each other to look crazier than the other, for the Tea Party vote, one rather under-reported [.....]
Manmohan Singh RIDGING THE KNOWLEDGE GAP (1/9/2012) - As the political season in Delhi shifts focus from Anna Hazare to the assembly elections, the Prime Minister’s traditional speech at the Indian Science Congress last week was more revealing than most on the underlying reasons for the real disappointment with the Manmohan Singh-era. Lauding the best and brightest of Indian science, the Prime Minister [.....]
2012 AND ITS QUESTIONS (1/2/2012) - Will 2012 be a better year for India than 2011? As the new year dawns, the big question, in political terms for us as a nation, is whether the next twelve months will bring with them a refreshing change of turn from the depressing year of drift, indecision and dissatisfaction that 2011 turned into? Predicting [.....]
Clockwise from left: A group of believers remembering a fallen comrade at Tahrir Square; The wall of infamy: cataloguing police brutality; Iced drinks NO MOUSTACHES IN TAHRIR SQUARE (12/26/2011) - No one predicted in 1989 that when a large East German crowd would turn up at the Berlin Wall, nervous border guards, who would have shot them a week ago, would instead open the gates. In 2011, no one predicted when the year began, that the story that would change the world would be Tahrir [.....]
Bangladeshis celebrate their 40th Victory Day anniversary in Dhaka BANGLADESH AND THE ’71 END-GAME (12/19/2011) - It must count as one of the most memorable messages ever to finish a war. As he entered Dhaka on the morning of 16 December 1971, Major General Gandharv Nagra sent his ADC with the adjutant of the 2nd Paras, the first Indian battalion to have reached the city, to the Cantonment with a truce [.....]
sonia-mms-pranab CAN’T BAT, CAN’T BOWL, CAN’T FIELD (12/12/2011) - The best way to describe the current state of the Manmohan Singh government is the way the journalist Martin Johnson analysed the England cricket team of 1986, as it headed into a gruelling Ashes series after straight losses to India, New Zealand and the West Indies. “There are only three things wrong with the English [.....]
Mamata Bannerjee BACK TO THE 1990s (12/5/2011) - In 1996, when there were still considerable fears about the future of economic reform and western investors were flocking to management gurus to brush up on the basics of India, the Wall Street Journal quoted an Indian marketing expert instructing potential investors with a simple dictum. “Repeat after me,” he would go. “India is different, [.....]
THE DIMINISHING OF RAHUL GANDHI (8/29/2011) - In October 2009, Open magazine ran a cover story with the title ‘Will the Congress rule for the next 20 years?’ The Congress had just won three state elections soon after its Lok Sabha triumph, the Opposition was still in disarray, Manmohan Singh seemed like a man in charge, Sonia Gandhi confident and Rahul Gandhi [.....]
THE MOB AND THE CAMERA (8/22/2011) - A couple of days ago, a prominent TV anchor, not associated with the Anna protest coverage, posted sardonically on his Facebook wall that he wanted to go on a fast against TV. He may have been only half-serious but his page was quickly flooded with ‘likes’ and supportive messages, most of them from cynical TV [.....]
THE GAMES OF GLOATING (8/15/2011) - Back in the 1970s, Willie Whitelow, who later became Margaret Thatcher’s deputy prime minister, famously responded to a crisis in the then Labour government by tut-tutting to reporters: “Mustn’t gloat, wrong to gloat, mustn’t do it, no, no, no. Well, I can tell you, I am gloating like hell.” The parliamentary debate on the Commonwealth [.....]
Television: The daily theatre in our lives (8/12/2011) - For television, the 1990s began with a worried bureaucrat in the ministry of information and broadcasting submitting a file to his minister on how to stop what was then still called the “satellite invasion”. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s 1945 vision of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit solving the global broadcast distribution problem suddenly [.....]
THE FALL OF ROME (8/1/2011) - In the foyer of the magnificent Musee D’Orsay in Paris hangs a telling painting by the nineteenth century French artist Thomas Couture. Titled ‘The Romans during the decadence’, the canvass depicts a mass orgy in a guilded Roman assembly hall, its citizens sprawled all over in various stages of drunkenness and post-coital repose as the [.....]
THE GENERAL’S BIRTHDAY (7/25/2011) - Absurdness comes in various forms. In the stratified levels of the uniformed bureaucracy it seems to come in the form of a birth day, or more accurately, birth year. Decorated soldiers are usually expected to know when they were born so when the Army Chief thought his real birth day was on 10 May 1951, [.....]
WHY THERE ISN’T AN INDIAN MURDOCH (7/18/2011) - As British Members of Parliament united against Rupert Murdoch last week, the most revealing quote came from one of his advisors who ruefully said, “Not even Saddam Hussein managed to unite the Commons like he did. Talk about revenge being served cold.” Faced with such unanimous and unprecedented political opposition, Mr Murdoch has retreated but [.....]
MURDOCH AND THE END OF NEWS (7/11/2011) - Rupert Murdoch has always had two fascinations: the first is what he calls ‘a spiritual calling towards journalism’; the second, the vision of science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke who, in 1945, imagined that a satellite placed in geosynchronous orbit would solve the ‘global broadcast distribution problem.’ Both of these primal impulses – the business [.....]
TELEVISION OF PASSION (7/4/2011) - As one legal case in Mumbai sets aflame India’s TV screens, another one that is collapsing in New York offers interesting comparisons. The case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn virtually disintegrated, for all practical purposes, on the same day as the decision by Mumbai Sessions Court judge N W Chandwani to rule Maria Susairaj [.....]
KALMADIS OF THE BEAUTIFUL GAME (6/27/2011) - For those of us who are pained by the terrible politicisation of Indian sport, it’s lack of professional management and its permanent strangulation by power-brokers of the Kalmadi kind, recent events at FIFA, football’s governing body, are instructive. FIFA has been engulfed by two kinds of allegations: alleged bribery by Qatar in its successful winning [.....]
MUM’S THE WORD FOR CONGRESS (6/20/2011) - Among the litany of mistakes that have littered the Congress’ path around the crisis it finds itself in now, two structural ones stand out for special mention. The first was an inexplicable strategic call early on that it could somehow pretend that the party was in some way separate from the government, that the sins [.....]
WHY BJP SHOULD BE WARY OF R-WORD (6/13/2011) - Whatever Baba Ramdev’s faults, his unrelenting desire for publicity has turned out to be a lightening rod that has exposed in sharper relief some of the fault-lines in our polity: between an unresponsive, arrogant government, out of touch with a changing India, and a shape-shifting, rudderless-looking Opposition looking for the next big idea. The BJP [.....]
CALLING RAMDEV’S BLUFF (6/6/2011) - When the French writer Andre Malraux asked Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958 about his greatest difficulty since Independence, Nehru is said to have replied, “Creating a just state by just means”. He then added: “Perhaps, too, creating a secular state in a religious country.” The supposed religiosity of voters is one reason why governments are almost [.....]
CONSPIRACY-STAN AND SEA OF STORIES (5/30/2011) - By now it is clear who attacked Mumbai on 26/11. Contrary to general opinion, it was a wily plot by India itself to malign the good name of Pakistan. 9/11: it was a Jewish conspiracy, didn’t you know? Use the Roman principle of cui bono who benefits and the truth is self-evident. Didn’t the Americans [.....]
THE IN-BETWEEN MOVEMENT (5/25/2011) - By now it is fair to characterise the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption campaign as the ‘in-between’ movement. In-between because of its curious timing between the World Cup and the IPL, because the particular version of the Lokpal Bill it is rooting for has led to discord even among its most ardent supporters, because the wide coalition [.....]
OF ISLANDS AND POLICEMEN (5/23/2011) - In December 2009, soon after completing his first year as Home Minister, P Chidambaram gave an important speech to Intelligence Bureau officials where he proposed radical changes to India’s internal security structures and identified the key weaknesses as he saw them. As he put it, the first big problem was that “the police stations in [.....]
THE LEFT IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE LEFT (5/16/2011) - Just before the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Prakash Karat, still strutting with the swagger of the Left’s largest ever contingent in Parliament, declared before an election rally in Agartala that it was a “thousand per cent confirmed” that the Third Front would form the next government in Delhi. The Left was promptly reduced to a [.....]
India-China Media Relations: Panda and Elephant at Cross-purposes (5/15/2011) - India and China are doing better at reaching understanding on the ocean waves than the air waves. While their navies are talking to each other, their media organisations encounter each other’s country with the astonishment of a panda bumping into an elephant on a dark night. Ten months ago, Indian and Chinese navies were muscling [.....]
ERILS OF RAMBO-NATIONALISM (5/9/2011) - One of the more interesting and revealing comments about the Osama killing this week came from a gushing academic at the French Institute of Foreign Relations who took the debate into the realms of psychology and gender impulses. What was great about the raid on Abbotabad for American voters, in this view, was that it [.....]
ROBBER BARONS OF YAMUNA (5/2/2011) - When the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III died in 1250 without an agreed successor, his empire went into turmoil. Among the first administrative casualties of the flux were the toll collectors on the river Rhine, which for a thousand years had been the commercial heart of Europe and its principal economic highway. With the government [.....]
FIVE ELECTIONS AND A VERDICT (4/18/2011) - South American poet Jorges Luis Borges writes in his poem ‘Happiness’ (La Dicha) that “everything happens for the first time”. “Whosoever embraces a woman is Adam,” he muses. Just as “whosoever lights a match in the dark is inventing fire”. It is a feeling that may well describe some Bengali voters as they participate today [.....]
REVOLUTION? THINK AGAIN (4/11/2011) - Revolution is always an easy word to bandy around. Sometimes too easy, and when it suits your ratings, it is easier still. The tricolour is flying high again on news television and the people have registered a great triumph, we are told. Anna Hazare is the new middle-class icon and Gandhi is back in fashion. [.....]
CUP TO CUP, AND THE NATION WITHIN (4/4/2011) - Six years after India first won the cricket World Cup in 1983, the sociologist Ashis Nandy famously wrote, “Cricket is an Indian game, accidentally invented by the British.” With the euphoria over Dhoni’s triumph still washing over us, those words spring back. Cricket has long had a social and political dimension in this country and [.....]
THE MYTH OF AMERICAN DISPENSABILITY (3/28/2011) - The last time the British and French indulged together in a military adventure in the Middle East, they were humiliated and their noses rubbed in the dust by the Americans. In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower was so incensed at the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt over Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal that he threatened economic [.....]
CONFLICTS IN THE PARTY WITH A DIFFERENCE (3/14/2011) - It is in the nature of Opposition parties to be agitational, to be constantly in campaign mode. The pursuit of power demands it but there is a fine line between keeping the government on its toes by demanding accountability and being churlish. The BJP’s summersaults after the sacking of CVC PJ Thomas are a case [.....]
IF GI JANE CAN, WHY NOT MAJOR SEEMA? (3/7/2011) - At a time when the Army is being accused of a gender bias in denying permanent commissions to women officers, two stories have symbolised the debate this week: Major Mitali Madhusmita becoming the first Indian woman soldier awarded a gallantry award (Sena Medal) for saving lives after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul [.....]
Late Gyani Zail Singh, then President of India releasing Mahamati Prannath in 1983 (Photo courtesy, Anant Pai) THE COMIC MAKER OF INDIA (2/28/2011) - I am a child of Amar Chitra Katha. Poring over the comics was one of the greatest delights of my childhood and Ananth Pai, who died last week, gave millions of us who grew up in the 1980s our first imaginaries of the past, our first mental maps of history and mythology. Despite the disdain [.....]
OUR CELLPHONES AND US RAILROADS (2/21/2011) - What does our current telecom muddle have in common with the US railroad industry? Much like the Indian phone industry in the past two decades, American railroads expanded at an astonishing rate in the 19th century, especially after the Civil War. Like our current telecom barons, American railroad construction was also undertaken by private companies [.....]
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GINI STUPID (2/14/2011) - The Supreme Court’s direction to the CBI to treat the big fish among the corporate beneficiaries of the telecom scandal exactly the same as the nameless middle-level pawns has hit the nail upon the heart of the matter. At one level, this is about following the simple logic of the law. At a deeper level [.....]
OF CAMELS, A YOUTH BULGE AND US (2/7/2011) - With Hosni Mubarak still trying desperately to somehow hang on to the last dregs of power, the quote of the week comes from the Egyptian novelist Dr Alaa Al Asany. “The Egyptian people are very close to a camel,” he said in an interview to a foreign journalist. “The camel can really accept a lot [.....]
DOUBTING THOMAS (1/31/2011) - Writing on corruption and probity in public life, ancient political theorist Chanakya started with a slightly banal observation in the Arthashastra: “Just as a fish moving deep under water cannot be possibly found out either as drinking or not drinking water, Then, reflecting darkly on the mysterious opaqueness of the inner wheels of governance, he [.....]
LIP SERVICE JUST WON’T DO (1/24/2011) - In March 1938, when confronted with rising reports of corruption in the Congress provincial ministries that had come into being a year earlier under the Government of India Act, Gandhi issued a press statement from Rajkot. “The one and only task before the Congress,” he said, “is to make supreme efforts to clean the Congress [.....]
CLUELESS IN SOUTH BLOCK (1/17/2011) - Beijing passed a message last week when it tested the J-20, its new generation locally produced stealth fighter, from an airbase in Sichuan on the day US Defence Secretary Robert Gates landed in China to discuss resumption of defence ties. Intended as a direct threat to US carrier fleets in the region, the J-20 is [.....]
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1/10/2011) - Trivia question for the new-year: who started the first ever global jihad? Answer: Sultan-Caliph Mehmed Reshad in November 1914, when he symbolically took the sword of the Prophet at Constantinople’s Fatih Sultan Mehmed mosque to sanctify the Ottoman empire’s war on Britain, France and Russia. The Ottoman Caliph joined with the Germans in World War [.....]
AFTER OBSTRUCTION, TIME FOR SOLUTIONS (12/27/2010) - In the mid-1970s, just when national disenchantment with the opaque and corrupt polity that Congress-raj had turned into was hitting its peak, Anand Bakshi caught the popular mood with his prescient ‘Yeh public hai, yeh sab jaantee hai’ number in the Rajesh Khanna starrer ‘Roti’. Coming right before the Emergency when Navnirman politics was still [.....]
CONGRESS CHITRA KATHA (12/20/2010) - In November 1947, speaking to the All India Congress Committee on the biggest issue of the time – Hindu-Muslim relations – Mahatma Gandhi told the delegates that he had come to them because they were the “real Congress.” It was the AICC, in his view, that held real power, as opposed to the party’s larger [.....]
DIGVIJAY’S CYNICAL WRONG TURN (12/13/2010) - Whatever one’s views about Julian Assange and the damage done to international diplomacy through his mega-anarchist notion of a boundary-less world, the Wikileaks disclosures have done one thing: they have broken the myth about the clue-less American diplomat. Cables like the one about American diplomats being asked to spy on credit card numbers of fellow [.....]
LESSONS FROM PATALIPUTRA (11/29/2010) - In the late 1990s, when Nitish Kumar was still seen as having more influence in Delhi than in Patna, there was a golden rule about Bihar that every rookie political journalist had to learn by heart. This was the M-Y or Muslim-Yadav combination, that we were taught was impregnable. Add Dalits and Lalu would always [.....]
NEEDED: A RAKHI SAWANT LAW (11/22/2010) - Manmohan Singh is too occupied with the telecom scandal at the moment to worry about the shenanigans of Rakhi Sawant and company but perhaps he should, once the current logjam over the telecom licenses is resolved. It sounds flippant perhaps but bear with me a moment The Rakhi Sawant show on Imagine is now officially [.....]
G20 OR G-NOWHERE? (11/15/2010) - Other countries host the G20 as a closed-door confabulation of leaders, wrapped up in a cocoon of water-tight security lest the usual legions of protesters outside spoil the party. South Korea has treated the latest Seoul meeting of the G20 as a coming-out party of sorts to showcase its own journey from poor East Asian [.....]
MEMO TO BJP: RELAX ON OBAMA (11/8/2010) - The nineteenth century Prussian strategic thinker Carl von Clausewitz propounded an influential thesis on the dialectics of warfare writing that ‘˜war is politics by another means’. The BJP’s spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy may or may not have read Clausewitz but his premature criticism of Obama for not mentioning the P-word at the Taj on Saturday [.....]
STAIN ON THE OLIVE GREEN (11/1/2010) - The first thing every cadet passing through the hallowed portals of the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla learns is its motto: ‘˜Service before self’. If the goings-on at Mumbai’s ironically mis-named Adarsh Society have even a kernel of truth in them, today’s cadets now know that at least some of their senior-most officers apparently couldn’t [.....]
SUCH A LONG DOUBLE-SPEAK (10/25/2010) - Talking about the wrong turn on Rohinton Mistry’s book this week, India’s most irreverent sociologist had this gem to offer: “The quality of Vice-Chancellors in this country can be written on the back of a postage stamp, with space to spare,” snorts Ashis Nandy. This paper has spearheaded the pushback against the Mumbai Vice Chancellor’s [.....]
GAMES OVER, LET THE PROBE BEGIN (10/18/2010) - The Games are over, they have been declared a success, our athletes have done us proud and all is well. If you were only reading the Indian press this week then you could be pardoned for thinking that India has just delivered the greatest event in the world. The despair and hand-wringing that we saw [.....]
Gujarat beyond Gandhi: notes on identity, conflict and society (10/15/2010) - The bureaucrat in Ahmedabad was sitting across the table, discussing relief camps, rehabilitation and the elections. It was mid-2002, the drumbeats of Narendra Modi’s election campaign were just becoming audible and the talk was about the discourse of action and reaction, violence and identity, rhetoric and reality. Personally appalled by the violence, she was musing [.....]
Ashis Nandy vs. the state of Gujarat: authoritarian developmentalism, democracy and the politics of Narendra Modi (10/15/2010) - ABSTRACT: This article aims to unravel the rise of Gujarat’s current Chief Minister Narendra Modi . and his brand of personality politics that has dominated Gujarati politics in the past decade. It uses the legal battle between the eminent sociologist Ashis Nandy and the Government of Gujarat, that unfolded in 2008, as a case study [.....]
LIP-READING A GENERAL (10/11/2010) - Ever wondered why Pakistani politicians always seem to launch or run political parties from plush foreign locations? Pervez Musharraf has just launched his All Pakistan Muslim League at a gentleman’s club in Whitehall, Benazir Bhutto ran the PPP for years from Dubai and London, Nawaz Sharif ran his PML (N) from a luxurious palace in [.....]
SANCTIONING BELIEF IN LAW (10/4/2010) - When the Ayodhya dispute first came up before a modern court in 1886, FEA Charmier, the district judge of Faizabad, disposed it off with a sagacious observation. “It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus,” he argued, “but as that event occurred 356 years [.....]
A tale of two Indias (9/28/2010) - Shortly before India began its economic reforms in the early-1990s, Shashi Tharoor, a former junior foreign minister, published The Great Indian Novel, a somewhat immodestly named but sharply written allegory on modern Indian politics and the ancient Mahabharat, where he famously argued that India is not “an underdeveloped country” but “a highly developed one in [.....]
COUNTING THE COST OF PM’S GAMES (9/27/2010) - The comment of the week: Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Secretary General Lalit Bhanot saying in all seriousness that foreign standards of cleanliness may be different from ours, when accosted by the filth of the Games Village. If this had come from a Westerner we would have pilloried him for racism and for besmirching the name [.....]
A BRIDE AND TWO HUSBANDS (9/20/2010) - As the all-party delegation heads to Srinagar today to try and find a meeting ground for dialogue, they will be mindful of an old aphorism of the Chief Minister’s grandfather Sheikh Abdullah, who in his speeches in the mid-1960s often described Kashmir as a bride cherished by two husbands, India and Pakistan. Then, as now, [.....]
MANMOHAN’S ‘DISMAL SCIENCE’ (9/13/2010) - Responding to Malthusian theories about population growth, the Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle coined the term ‘the dismal science’ to denote the newly emerging discipline of economists. It’s a different matter, of course, that Carlyle himself thought that slavery was morally superior to the laws of demand and supply. The term has long since gained currency [.....]
PAKISTAN’S RAW OBSESSION (9/6/2010) - There is a curious phenomenon that has taken shape in sections of the Pakistani press in the past 3-4 days. At least two TV networks, Express TV and Aaj, reportedly went big with the news that the match-fixing scandal engulfing the Pakistani team was a conspiracy hatched by RAW, the Indian intelligence agency. According to [.....]
A VILLAGE BUILT ON FALLACIES (8/30/2010) - As the Prime Minister inspected Commonwealth Games sites on Sunday and Sheila Dixit extended the deadline for the venues yet another time, the last-gasp dash to the finish line has overtaken the deeper questions at the heart of these Games. There are structural reasons for the quagmire Delhi finds itself in. The story of the [.....]
PAISA OVER PARLIAMENT (8/23/2010) - “If I were a man of money, I would be in a different profession.” This was French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a TV interview last month on allegations of being too close to the high life and the wealthy. The jury is still out on charges of illegal political donations that have beset the French [.....]
IS KALMADI THE ONLY ONE AT FAULT? (8/9/2010) - In 1991, jewellery tycoon Gerald Ratner, who successfully turned his family jewellery business into billion-dollar public enterprise, made a speech where he called his products “total crap” and boasted that some of his earrings were “cheaper than a prawn sandwich”. It immediately wiped off much of his fortune and Ratner lost his job. It was [.....]
CAN PAKISTAN GET OFF THE TIGER? (8/2/2010) - A year or so ago a respected social scientist told me a telling account of his meeting with a Pakistani general and his wife at a reception in a foreign capital. They were being asked worried questions about the deteriorating security situation in their country but cheerily swatted away all such queries — ‘what the [.....]
MISSING OUT ON A COMMON GOAL (7/26/2010) - Long before he became a politician, Suresh Kalmadi was an Air Force pilot. Among his favourite memories, he has said in the past, was landing planes in Leh when there were no proper runways. The big question now is can he deliver the Commonwealth Games with what looks like poorly finished stadiums? Responding to such [.....]
A GROWING POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE (7/19/2010) - It has not been a good week for liberal India. The Headlines Today office was brutally attacked by goons in Delhi; Zee 24’s studio was raided in Kohlapur, pro-Kannada activists being roughed up for expressing their views on a live show; and the political melodrama over the James Laine book has now gone to absurd [.....]
MOVING BEYOND THE BANDH (7/12/2010) - Enunciating his political ideas for India in 1908, Gandhi wrote a book called Hind Swaraj, that among other things, distilled his ideas about non-violent resistance, bandhs and hartal. In a week when several political parties seem to have rediscovered the bandh as a political tool, it is useful to go back to the original master [.....]
COLOUR THE OLIVE GREEN INTO KHAKHI (7/5/2010) - Can there be anything more symptomatic of the current malaise in the police than the caustic retort by the Chattisgarh police DG that his forces can’t “teach the CRPF how to walk”? Coming in the wake of yet another massacre of CRPF jawans in Bastar, the comment is not only in poor taste, it also [.....]
A Question Of Honor (6/28/2010) - Writing to a minister at the height of the contentious debate over the Hindu Code Bill debate in the 1950s, Jawaharlal Nehru characteristically pointed out, “We have to remember that in the acknowledged social code and practice in India, as it has existed, thus far, there was no lack of moral delinquency as well as [.....]
Making Ravans on TV (6/21/2010) - What is wrong with Indian television? The day before the India-Pakistan game, one news channel ran a blaring day-long promo with the headline, ‘Lanka mein Ravan vadh’ with Dhoni being depicted as Ram and Shahid Afridi as a ten-headed Pakistani monster. All right, George Orwell once argued that sport is ‘war minus the shooting’ but [.....]
More than just a picture (6/14/2010) - They whisper in Gandhinagar’s corridors that Narendra Modi is an early riser. Those who know him say the first thing he does before starting work is to update himself on all the news online. If this is true then Mr. Modi would by now have probably seen Shahla Muzaffar’s telling retort that finding her picture [.....]
A Council of Aspiration (6/7/2010) - When Manmohan Singh assessed his first government after one year in power, he gave it a modest 6 out of 10. This time, there were no such headline-making quantitative attributions by the Prime Minister but he clearly takes UPA-II’s first anniversary seriously. The past fortnight saw three important signifiers. First, in a country where Prime [.....]
Sorry! All Off the Record (5/31/2010) - The Army chopper was circling over Bhuj. It was 2001, beneath us was an entire city flattened as if with a sledgehammer and the words had dried up over the helicopter’s headphones. We were filming the first pictures after the deadly earthquake and sitting next to us, the general stuck up a conversation. Pointing to [.....]
Tiptoeing Through Landmines (5/24/2010) - In 1967, three months before Naxalbari first burst upon the collective consciousness of India, the London Times published a series of articles painting the picture of a general “deep sense of defeat”, and fraying of the Indian nation so acute that only the army could be an alternative source of civil authority and social order [.....]
Raising the Mandal ghosts (5/17/2010) - Ramesh Sippy knew the menace of numbers when he made Gabbar Singh intone his immortal “kitne aadmi they” line in Sholay. The silky rough voice of Amjad Khan is a world away from the earthy tones of Lalu Yadav but make no mistake, his winning argument in the Lok Sabha for an OBC Census carries [.....]
Feudal Sports, Feudal Politics (5/9/2010) - By moving against the permanent heads of Indian sport, M.S. Gill has revived a forgotten 2004 initiative by the late Sunil Dutt who as Sport Minister quietly tried and failed in a similar move. In the ongoing battle over Indian sport, there is a deeper question that needs to be asked: why are politicians or [.....]
Soren’s last gamble (5/2/2010) - So, did Guruji really press the red button by mistake? Does he really have Alzheimer’s disease? Does he not understand parliamentary procedures? These are the excuses the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has been trotting out for Shibu Soren’s extraordinary volte-face in Parliament last week. Lest anyone forget, the man they call Guruji is a sitting Chief [.....]
Pawar gets powerplay wrong (4/25/2010) - There was a time in 1991 when Sharad Pawar was the frontrunner to take over the Congress mantel after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Candidate Pawar came down to Delhi as the race for prime ministership reached a climax and when it was over, the Times of India splashed across its front page a cartoon that summed [.....]
28LACover India as a New Media Capital: The Political Impact of India’s Satellite TV News Revolution (4/6/2010) - This article appeared in a ground-breaking book edited by two eminent media academics from Cardiffe School of Journalism. With leading international media scholars from around the world, it explored the diverse ways in which round-the-clock news channels have reshaped the genre of news and, in a broader sense, the impact they have had on democracy [.....]
HIV and the gurus: religiosity, plurality and the challenge of a ‘Hindu’ response (3/19/2010) - ABSTRACT The response to HIV is more dependent on the support of social leaders than most other diseases. Over the past decade, involving faith-based leaders in prevention programmes has become a cornerstone of the response in many regions, particularly in Africa. Until now, this has largely involved the mobilization of Christian faith-based leaders or the [.....]
It is Our Turn (10/4/2009) - Eighty eight years after India first participated at the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, shooting prodigy Abhinav Bindra finally found the Holy Grail in the 2008 Beijing Games. As the Indian tricolour was hoisted in Beijing, the poise and pride on the bespectacled shooter’s visage spoke to a billion Indians, becoming a leit motif [.....]
Eye on India (5/10/2009) - The BBC’s John Simpson once wrote deprecatingly about the worst kept secret in foreign reporting: the propensity of some overseas correspondents to read the local newspapers and then to pass off the second-hand news as their own to unsuspecting editors back home. The omnipotent tentacles of the internet have put paid to such lazy luxuries. [.....]
Batting for the flag: cricket, television and globalization in India (5/8/2009) - Abstract Much of the existing literature on Indian cricket identifies the game’s inherently political dimension and attributes the pre-eminence of cricket in the Indian imagination to a set of complex and contradictory processes that parallel the emergence of an ‘Indian’ nation. Yet until the early 1980s, while cricket was popular, hockey was the ‘national game’ [.....]
Bombay Sport Exchange: cricket, globalization and the future (5/8/2009) - Abstract Cricket’s imperial lineage continues to define its meaning in parts of the erstwhile British Empire. Simultaneously, the game is now a metaphor for the forces of globalization and a vehicle for asserting new post-colonial identities. The creation of the lucrative Indian Premier League and India’s rise as the financial epicentre of the game is [.....]
Washed out (4/23/2009) - It is official. Initial reports indicate that IPL 2 is not as hot as the first edition. The television rating meters have spoken and the first day ratings are down by nearly 30 per cent from last year. Now, television ratings are the fuzziest of categories, but in an industry which lives and dies by [.....]
Cricket and modernity: international and interdisciplinary perspectives on the study of the Imperial Game (4/6/2009) - Abstract This introductory essay seeks to contextualize the contributions in this journal special issue on cricket by comparing and contrasting cricket with other sports. Though not wishing to portray cricket in essentialist terms, or as temporally fixed or uncontested, the essay suggests that cricket has certain peculiar features which are not only celebrated by cricket [.....]
Cricket can’t exist in la-la land (3/24/2009) - Lord Harris, governor general of colonial Bombay (1890-1895) and co-founder of what was then the Imperial Cricket Council, captured for posterity the centrality of cricket in the British Empire when he declared that to play “cricket is more remote than anything sordid, anything dishonourable than any game in the world. To play it… is a [.....]
The Full Story of the State Vs Sting (2/22/2009) - Book review of Madhu Trehan, Tehelka As Metaphor: Prism Me a Lie, Tell Me a Truth (New Delhi, Lotus/Roli, 2009). Madhu Trehan’s account of how Tehelka was victimized is also a cautionary tale on new India download original print version
I Witness: Partial Observations by Kapil Sibal (1/1/2009) - The abstractions of poetry and the hustle bustle of contemporary politics seldom go together. Indian political elites, particularly in the early period, however, have had a long tradition of respect for the literary form. Ramachandra Guha once documented a beautiful encounter between Nehru and the legendary poet, Suryakant Nirala. Soon after a visit to China, [.....]
You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war’ (12/25/2008) - What is the connection between a long forgotten US naval battleship that was blown up in the Havana Harbour in 1898 and the state of the post-Mumbai television discourse? Actually, quite a lot. When the USS Maine inexplicably blew up at the height of tensions between Washington and the then Spanish colony of Cuba, the [.....]
Eyes on terror (11/29/2008) - Just after the attack on Gandhinagar’s Akshardham temple six years ago, a senior general with the NSG told me quite candidly that live television coverage of the attack proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to coordinate the rescue attempts better while sitting on his desk in Delhi. The NSG commandoes could not [.....]
Barack Singh Dhoni (11/13/2008) - When George W. Bush barely scraped through in Florida in 2000, many Indian observers rightly pointed in glee to the successes of our own Election Commission and the inherent checks and balances in Indian democracy. At a time when America was turning red-necked, the seeming superiority of Indian democracy was underlined in 2004 with the [.....]
13LACover It’s Not Just Sport: Delhi and the Olympic Torch Relay (11/7/2008) - Abstract: This paper literally follows the Indian leg of the Olympic flame relay in Delhi and focuses on how the relay personifies intercultural encounters, conflict, and negotiation. Focusing on the harmonious, sometimes perilous encounters with the officials, protesters, and discourses, a context is created for understanding the significance for the Olympic movement and what it [.....]
Give them their due (11/5/2008) - The hero of the Bangladesh war, Lt Gen J F R Jacob, once commented, only partly in jest, that today’s generals do not even enjoy half the authority that he had once enjoyed as a major. The general should know, having served as an army commander and much later as a governor of Punjab and [.....]
Narendra Modi 2.0 (10/21/2008) - On the morning of December 23, 2007, as Narendra Modi celebrated his second triumph in Gujarat, the street outside the BJP’s Ahmedabad office overflowed with delirious supporters wearing the now ubiquitous Modi masks. As the masked men pranced before the TV cameras in a surreal celebration of Moditva, the obvious question was — when would [.....]
We were hand in glove (8/26/2008) - When K.D. Jadhav won India’s last wrestling medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 the celebrations at home were extremely muted, restricted to the sports pages of newspapers unlike the megahype now around Sushil Kumar and the new phalanx of Indian boxers. To compound Jadhav’s agony, the political class gave the victorious hockey team of [.....]
Smile, Sir Dorabji (8/12/2008) - When Sir Dorabji Tata organised the first modern meet of Indian athletes with an eye to the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games, he found that despite running barefoot their performance compared “well with the times done in Europe or elsewhere”. Suitably impressed, Tata personally financed three of the best runners for Antwerp, a move that in [.....]
‘The World’s Best Centre-Forward’ (7/21/2008) - Dhyan Chand scored 14 of India’s 29 goals in Amsterdam. *** Exclusive Extracts from Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta The World’s Best Centre-Forward': Amsterdam 1928 At Amsterdam the onus was on the hockey team to lead the Indian challenge. The athletes, Chawan in the 10,000 metres, Hamid in the 400 [.....]
When The Spokes Came Off (7/21/2008) - Nothing epitomizes the early battles between Indian sport administrators better than the case of Indian cycling in the 1950s. Exclusive Extracts from Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta *** ‘How To Make Cycling Pay in Six Easy Lessons': ‘Beating Up’ Sohrab Bhoot Nothing epitomizes the early battles between Indian sport administrators [.....]
‘A Continent As Big As Europe’ (7/21/2008) - The YMCA’s early role in the Indian Olympic movement cannot be emphasized enough. Its national network provided a lifeline for those who wanted to set up a national sporting movement. [Edited exclusive extracts from Nalin Mehta, Boria Majumdar, Olympics: The India Story, HarperCollins, 2012, 3rd edition, first published 2008] The YMCA, India And The Global [.....]
London 1948 - Opening ceremony at the stadium of Wembley: March-in of the Indian delegation. Peasants On The Athletics Track (7/21/2008) - To Sir Dorab Tata goes the credit of starting systematic Olympic activity on Indian soil in 1920 [Edited exclusive extracts from Nalin Mehta, Boria Majumdar, Olympics: The India Story, HarperCollins, 2012, 3rd edition, first published 2008]. ‘100 Yards Round A Bend’ To Antwerp: Peasants On The Athletics Track To Sir Dorab Tata goes the credit [.....]
The Golden Years (7/21/2008) - Between 1928 and 1956, India won six straight Olympic gold medals and 24 consecutive matches, a record likely to stand for the foreseeable future *** Exclusive Extracts from Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta India claims to be the foremost in many things in the world. The world admits that she [.....]
Hitler’s Games (7/21/2008) - Berlin Olympics of 1936 finally put to rest the question mark against India’s hockey supremacy. Exclusive extracts from this meticulously researched book show the role of Captain Dhyan Chand and Indian Nationalism in the Third Reich… Exclusive Extracts from Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta *** Nowadays I hear of the [.....]
12LACover Games of Self-Respect: A Colony at the Olympics (4/7/2008) - EXTRACT India was the first colonised Asian nation to take part in the Olympic Games. Its embrace of the Olympic movement, while still a British colony, was no mere coincidence. It was intricately linked to the forces of nationalism, the politics of self-respect and indeed the inculcation of what has been called the British ‘Games [.....]
27LACover Breaking News, Indian Style: Politics, Democracy and Indian News Television (4/6/2008) - This article outlined the wider historical and political themes around Indian television and its political impact. Some reviews of this book …an imposing effort to combine scholarship with new perspectives on the changing landscape of the popular modes of self-expression in the region. It is bound to attract the attention of both academics and general [.....]
25LACover Negotiating 24-Hour News: Satellite Television, Democratic Politics and Globalization in Contemporary India (4/6/2008) - For full article click: http://www.amazon.com/Asia-Annual-2008-Understanding-Popular/dp/8173048444
Leading the HIV Response (3/26/2008) - This is a UNAIDS-produced toolkit for parliamentarians and state legislators on HIV and AIDS and sexual health issues, produced in partnerships with the Parliamentary Forum on AIDS and Legislators Forums on AIDS in several states in 2007. See full PDF:
The great Indian Willow Trick: Cricket, nationalism and India’s TV news revolution, 1998–2005 (8/10/2007) - Abstract The emergence of India as the financial and spiritual heart of world cricket in the 1990s is intrinsically linked to India’s satellite TV revolution in the same period. The 1990s began with just one Indian television channel – the state owned Doordarshan – but by 2006, Indian viewers were remote-controlling their way through more [.....]
Modi and the Camera: The Politics of Television in the 2002 Gujarat Riots (12/1/2006) - Abstract The Gujarat Hindu–Muslim clashes of 2002 were the first major Indian riots of the 24-hour television age—and television became central to the politics of the violence. This paper examines the role of television in the shaping of the riots and its impact on the subsequent election campaign in Gujarat. It seeks, thereby, to demonstrate [.....]
Archive of Imagination: Chanakya on Camera: History, Television and Indian Nationalism (10/27/2006) - Played on Doordarshan in 1991-92, Chanakya, a 48-episode series, was one of Indian television’s first serious attempts at dramatizing any event or period from recorded history after its highly successful foray into religious and mythological themes in the 1980s. Televised at a time when the State had a complete monopoly over broadcasting, the series credited [.....]
Whose Champions? (10/6/2006) - It is the ICC’s mini-World Cup but there is no enthusiasm for it in the country of the current World Champions, Australia. Cricket fans in Australia are focused entirely on the “revenge” Ashes series that will follow the Champions Trophy. A survey of sports pages across Melbourne’s two biggest newspapers—The Age and The Australian—over the [.....]
A Metaphor For Life (9/8/2006) - Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a striking film partly because it resurrects the Mahatma as a popular icon – not just as a distant nationalist figure, but as the personal Mahatma that he always was in the sense that Shahid Amin has documented in his classic study on Chauri Chaura. The second striking feature about [.....]
Walking on history’s pitch (10/1/2005) - “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” Ever since CLR James wrote these lines in Beyond a Boundary (1963) cricket has come to be understood as a sophisticated cultural lens to view the sociological development of colonial and post-colonial societies. Presaging the rise of modern Sport History and Sociology, Beyond a Boundary [.....]
47AMCover The discovery of India (1/26/2005) - A group of cadets of the National Cadet Corps began their journey in Kolkata a few weeks ago. Next month, Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, will receive them here. This is a story of how a group of young men and women are fighting to slow down the spread of AIDS. Nalin Mehta reports.  
44AMCover Modi, the mobs and the camera (8/12/2004) - What was it like to cover the post-Godhra riots and the subsequent Gujarat assembly elections, when you were one of the state government’s targets? Nalin Mehta, who worked for a 24-hour TV news channel, writes about his experiences.  
From Arkansas to Ahmedabad: Situating the Politics of Television in the 2002 Gujarat riots (7/29/2004) - Introduction On 15 December, 2002, a few hours after sweeping back to power with a massive victory in the Gujarat assembly elections, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was questioned in an interview with the Star News channel about the feeling of insecurity and anxiety that still prevailed among Gujarat’s minorities. Basking in the triumph, the chief [.....]
Sharad Pawar for alliance with Congress (7/31/2003) - Four years after breaking away from the Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins, the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar has now gone further than ever before on forging an alliance with the Congress. “We are ready for an alliance outside Maharashtra and the leadership issue can be decided after the elections,” said Pawar. Pawar’s remarks [.....]
Low pension makes soldiers rue their fate (7/1/2003) - How much do we really value our jawans? Very little, in terms of the pensions paid to them. The claims of those who say that they care for the Indian soldier would ring hollow if they stopped to consider the miserly pensions paid to retired soldiers. Naik Dharam Sharma, who was employed in the elite [.....]
431 Cadets Commissioned in IMA (6/14/2003) - Dehradun: Four hundred and thirty one cadets graduated today at the 71st passing-out parade of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. Defence Minister George Fernandes presided over the function. Lt Antony Joseph, who won the sword of honour, was beaming with pride. He is one of the cadets who symbolize the changing face of the [.....]
NCC Spreads AIDS Awareness (6/11/2003) - Kolkata: Thousands of National Cadet Corps (NCC) members in Kolkata are at the forefront of West Bengal’s AIDS control programme. Roughly one lakh cadets have been mobilized for this unique initiative, and distribute special audio cassettes and textbooks to spread awareness. Seeing their success, even UNICEF, for the first time, has decided to tie up [.....]
Hill Kaka Operation Sparks Row (5/29/2003) - Spelling out a new, more aggressive strategy to deal with terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the army says it will fence large tracts of the Line of Control. This was said at an informal press briefing held to clear the air on the army’s recent operations against a major terrorist base in Hill Kaka near [.....]
Army destroys terror base in Jammu (5/24/2003) - In an operation code named Sarp Vinash, the Army has destroyed a huge terrorist training and support base at Hill Kaka, south of the Pir Panjal range in Jammu. The heavily fortified terrorist base, built about 35 km inside Indian territory, was used by at least 20 terrorist groups for joint training and coordinating activities [.....]
Parliamentarians stall delimitation process (5/11/2003) - If the Delimitation Commission had been allowed to complete its work, Union Minister Vijay Goel’s Chandni Chowk constituency would have been merged with the constituency of Sadar by the end of the year, forcing him to nurse a much larger constituency just before the next general election. It’s a prospect that clearly scares most politicians. [.....]
Govt Mulls Flexibility in Army Structure (4/29/2003) - The government has confirmed that it is now examining a radical proposal to directly transfer Army officers to para-military organisations like the BSF and the CRPF after five to seven years of service. The proposal aims at reducing the age profile of the Indian Army and giving and alternate career option to Army officers. If [.....]
Lok Sabha MPs Irked Over Laptop Issue (3/7/2003) - Parliament is getting ready to cruise the information superhighway. Whether it’s surfing the internet or staying online with their constituencies, MPs can now do all that with their brand new laptops. Some Members of Parliament have no problems admitting that they may need a lot more training before becoming citizens of the electronic age. “What [.....]
Modi Sworn In, Congress Boycotts Ceremony (12/22/2002) - Ahmedabad: Narendra Modi has been sworn in as the Chief Minister of Gujarat for the second time today. Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari administered the oath of office. In a departure from protocol, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani attended the function in Ahmedabad. Nine cabinet ministers and six ministers of [.....]
Muslim Hope: Salvaging Lost Pride in Gujarat (12/22/2002) - A week after the Gujarat election verdict, the overwhelming mood in the Muslim community is one of insecurity. But there are also strong signs of hope. Vadodara’s Chhota Udepur region witnessed some of the worst communal violence earlier this year. Now, many Muslim families have returned to their homes. They say they have put the [.....]
PM Defends Modi, Godhra Rhetoric Dominates Campaign (12/7/2002) - Ahmedabad: Hitting the election tracks towards the fag end of the campaign in Gujarat, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today came out in full support of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing his first election meeting in Vadodara, Vajpayee asserted that there should be no dispute over religion. Though he avoided making any direct references to [.....]
Politics of religion masks poverty in Dangs (12/5/2002) - Dangs: There is an uneasy calm in Dangs ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections. As saffron motifs have begun dotting the landscape, tension in the communally sensitive region is palpable. But the issue remains of religion, politics and extreme poverty. Religious Divisiveness Two years ago, the town was the epicenter of violent clashes between Hindu [.....]
Tribal equations fuel dissent in Gujarat Congress (12/5/2002) - Vyara: Internal dissension in the Congress party could be a major setback for the party in the upcoming Gujarat elections. Several Congress leaders are contesting these elections as independents, in the process hurting the chances of the party in cashing in on the anti-incumbency factor in the state. Former Congress chief minister Amarsinh Chowdhary made [.....]
Survey Projects Swing for Congress in Gujarat (11/30/2002) - With less than two weeks to go for the crucial assembly elections in Gujarat, an opinion poll survey carried out by the weekly newsmagazine Outlook along with C-Fore suggests that the Congress has an edge over the BJP with a 12 per cent swing in its favour. The survey projects that the Congress would win [.....]
BJP, Cong Field Dubious Candidates in Gujarat (11/30/2002) - Ahmedabad: Both the BJP and the Congress have fielded a number of candidates with criminal records in Gujarat. NDTV looks at these campaigns and their campaigns. BJP’s Jeetu Vaghela is campaigning in Sheherkotda – one of the most communally sensitive constituencies in Ahmedabad. He is accused of participating in a communal riot that resulted in [.....]
Political Battle Over Gujarat’s Banking Crisis (11/28/2002) - Ahmedabad: More than 10 lakh people across Gujarat have been affected by the collapse of the cooperative banking sector. It’s been a year since SC Nayak, a retired government officer, started doing the rounds of the Visnagar Co-operative Bank in Ahmedabad to recover his life savings. But with the bank having gone bust from the [.....]
Gujarat riots victims committing suicide (11/21/2002) - For thousands of people in Gujarat, the process of adjusting to life after the devastating riots has been an enormous challenge. Many who have lost everything – their families, homes and jobs – have been driven to a state of desperation. At least 100 people have committed suicide in the last 8 months. Life has [.....]
Tension in Mehsana After Communal Clash (11/12/2002) - Mehsana: There is tension in Mehsana district of Gujarat after two people were killed and over 20 injured in communal violence. A mob, which had assembled at a temple for a festival, burnt down 12 houses forcing the police to open fire. Communal ire spreads About 25,000 people had gathered for a religious ceremony to [.....]
NSG in Spotlight After Temple Attack (9/29/2002) - The terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar led to the death of 30 innocent people, but also brought the nation’s focus back on the Black Cats – the country’s elite National Security Guard – who ended the siege. While the skills of the elite NSG were on display in Gujarat, also on display [.....]
Government approves plan for compulsory military service (8/23/2002) - The government has approved a proposal for compulsory part-time military service for all government servants for a minimum of five years in the Territorial Army (TA). In a letter dated May 23, 2002, a copy of which is with NDTV, the defense ministry informed the Army Chief that the proposal is to be implemented on [.....]
Who is responsible for Gujarat carnage? (5/10/2002) - Barring a stabbing incident in Rajpipla town of the Narmada district, the situation was today normal in other parts of strife-torn Gujarat. Indefinite curfew was imposed in the Rajpipla town following a tense situation after a man was stabbed to death by a group of people. ‘ Life in parts of the state was fast [.....]
Ahmedabad Doctors Feel Insecure Post-Riots (5/7/2002) - After two months of violence in Ahmedabad, even the city’s doctors seem divided. Such is the fear and insecurity that doctors often feel too frightened to go to areas dominated by other communities. Patients queue up at the Al Amein hospital in the Muslim dominated area of Rakhiyal in Ahmedabad. They have a long wait [.....]
Ahmedabad on the Edge (4/25/2002) - “The local residents immediately surround us as we entered a small mohalla in Dariapur in Ahmedabad’s walled area. No strangers venture here and all newcomers are looked at with suspicion. In such an atmosphere, it doesn’t take much for a crowd to materialize and even a small incident can ignite passions and convert the crowd [.....]
Monuments in Gujarat Bear the Brunt of Communal Hatred (4/25/2002) - An estimated 300 monuments in Gujarat have been completely destroyed or defiled in the recent communal riots and conservationists warn that unless restoration work on these sites starts soon, they may be lost forever. Although the Gujarat government has said it will act upon the NHRC’s recommendations to restore these monuments, no work has yet [.....]
NRIs Campaign Extensively in Punjab (2/11/2002) - Qila Raipur: In Punjab, NRI candidates are clearly a valuable asset for political parties. Not only are they financially viable, bringing in large amounts of foreign currency to fuel their election campaign, they also have a certain novelty value that may impress voters. It’s a far cry from California where he owns two gas stations. [.....]
Trishul Unacceptable to Armed Forces in Present Form (9/4/2001) - In a serious setback to India’s missile programme, the defence services have told the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) – the organization that oversees all weapons being developed in India that the Trishul missile does not meet its requirements and is unacceptable in its current form. This is a missile project that has taken [.....]
Nalin Mehta reports from Bhuj (1/28/2000) - Bhuj city is fast turning into a ghost town as people are beginning to give up hope of finding their relatives in the rubble. They are beginning to migrate out of the city. In fact we have seen truckloads of people moving out, gathering whatever they can and getting out of the city. The worst [.....]
Respite long way away for survivors in Bhuj (1/27/2000) - Bhuj: Twenty four hours after the quake ripped through the town, the people of Bhuj woke up to aftershocks of the quake. Bhuj has been virtually razed to the ground. All the buildings have been flattened out. There are no longer any schools, colleges or even hospitals in the town. The devastation is complete. For [.....]
43AMCover Major Restructuring of Army is Need of the Hour (10/20/1997) - There is more to the manpower shortage in the Army than meets the eye. The current shortage of 12,586 officers is among the lower ranks of the Captain and Major, which form the backbone and first line of defence of the Army.