Hot Head

Bad times

It really cannot get more bizarre. The day US President Donald Trump ordered his bombers to drop the “mother of all bombs” (MOAB) on the impoverished district of Nangarhar in Afghanistan to smoke out the Islamic State (IS), there was perceptible glee amongst many of those who have no qualms in recommending firing of machine guns at Kashmiri stone pelters.

Swept under the Carpet

On January 11 this year, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy dismissed the public interest litigation by Common Cause that demanded the constitution of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to look into what is now known as ‘Birla-Sahara papers’. These papers contain an assorted set of spreadsheets, emails, diaries and notebooks that provide detailed accounts of the payments made to people holding public offices. This is perhaps the first case in which allegations of kickbacks have been made against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Reporting in a post-truth world

Ever since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, those aligned with his ideology have been openly derisive of journalists they say oppose the BJP. All kinds of invectives have been hurled at journalists, including the coinage of “presstitutes”. Journalists’ credibility was damaged methodically by alleging lack of objectivity in their writing.

Persia Reawakens

When Iranian President Hasan Rouhani began to speak at the media summit in Tehran where I was invited to speak, I pleasantly realized that I could get a drift of his speech. There were so many words like “hefazat” ( protection) and “Vajood” ( existence), “ Nizamay Islamiya” ( Islamic paramountcy), “azaadi”  and many more such words that flowed so effortlessly from him in his long speech that I understood due to my understanding of Urdu- which is almost 80 percent Persian. He spoke on why freedom of the press had to be protected and the importance for job security for journalists.

Faking it with impunity

At the site of the encounter in Bhopal where eight alleged SIMI terrorists were killed in cold blood, there were scores of people with smartphones recording the grisly happenings. The images, accompanied by the frenetic voices, establish to ordinary senses the crime of a fake encounter or extra-judicial killings. Interestingly, there was not just one but different videos shot from all kinds of angles. And all of them told the same story. Why does it not worry the perpetrators – the police – that for this crime they could be punished?

Biryani in the time of Fafdas

My recent trip to Gujarat was largely uneventful except for all the fafdas (some crazy shaped puffs made of gram flour) that I had during my road journey to Surat from Ahmedabad. Every time I would tell my driver Ratanbhai that I wanted to have tea and a little bite - he would park the car at the nearest fafda place. I wanted to have an omelette and told him so, but I could not have committed a bigger blasphemy in his eyes. He made a dirty face and told me that it was not available on this highway and its consumption was generally not encouraged!

Paradigm Shift Needed

For many years, the Indian economy has been called a ‘gamble with the monsoon’. This means that if the monsoon fails then with it the Indian economy tanks as well.  For the past two years, precipitation has been precariously low in many parts of the country; reservoirs have dried up, and images of parched and cracked lands have been flooding TV screens. Just before this year's monsoons lived up to the Indian Metrological Department (IMD) prediction of more than normal rain, there was a long list of people who had committed suicide in different parts of the country.