A new Opposition?

This week, Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked an existential question for Indian politics: “What is UPA?” The United Progressive Alliance, led by the Congress, has weathered several storms since it was formed in 2004. It had two terms in power at the Centre but is considerably battered by seven years in opposition, steered inadequately by a waning Congress.

Can it still be the fulcrum of the opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party? According to Banerjee, it cannot. “There is no UPA,” she said, answering her own question. As the Trinamool leader signals her ambition of leading a revamped Opposition, in the Indian Express, Manoj CG and Ravish Tiwari track the rise and fall of the United Progressive Alliance.

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On the banks of the Brahmaputra

It asylum started life on a picturesque bend of the Brahmaputra in 1876. It survived wars, partitions and epidemics. The Brahmaputra itself changed course. But it endured and exists today as the Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health. Alok Sarin and Sanjeev Jain trace a history of the asylum for fiftytwo.in and, through it, a history of how “madness” was perceived and managed.

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Stranger shores

Recently, 27 migrants washed up dead on English shores, leading to a furious blame game between Britain and France, and some largely futile handwringing in the Western press.

The migrants had crossed the English Channel from France in an inflatable boat that capsized before it could hit the shore. They are believed to be Iraqi Kurds, Afghans and Iranians, fleeing political persecution and poverty. More continue to make desperate Channel crossings, putting their lives in the hands of smugglers.

Lucy Williamson and William McLennon of the BBC explore the lethal trade on the Channel beaches: tactics to elude police patrols, boats that crumple like “child’s paddling pool” midwater, women forced to have sex to pay for their passage.

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Magical mystery tour

Reams have been written about Get Back, the mammoth Peter Jackson documentary that excavates hours of footage to piece together the Beatles’ last days. Beatlemaniacs have noted the miraculous moment when Paul McCartney is strumming his guitar and the notes of the song, “Get Back”, begin to form. Some have teared up at the friendship between John Lennon and McCartney, so poignantly visible as they sing “Two Of Us”.

Others have bridled at the way George Harrison was dismissed by Lennon-McCartney as a pesky younger brother. Some have found the entire documentary tedious, repetitive and self-indulgent but watched all of it nevertheless. Beatlemania is a vast and complex phenomenon.

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland focuses on footage of what turned out to be the Beatles’ last live performance in front of an audience: the impromptu terrace concert on a cold January afternoon in 1969. Freedland trains his gaze on the audience, to find a very different Britain than the one he sees today. In 1969, the Beatles’ audience is mostly white and English-born, with clearly visible class divides among them. “What’s missing is the group that would dominate now: everything in between,” writes Freedland.

Only the Beatles seem out of time in the footage:

“They look so current, so fresh – John wearing trainers, George in baseball boots – they seem like visitors from the future, emissaries from 2021 who have somehow landed in the world of Bedford vans, Charles Hawtrey and the Daily Sketch.”

Read the article here.