Surveillance is power

A detailed article by the New York Times published on Friday claimed to confirm what many Indians have alleged for months: that the Narendra Modi government bought Pegasus spyware that allowed it to snoop opposition politicians, journalists and others critical of their policies.

But the details about India are only a small part of the publication’s year-long investigation into the NSO Group, manufacturers of the “world’s most powerful cyberweapon”. Reporters Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti show how Israel made “NSO a central component of its national-security strategy for years, using it and similar firms to advance the country’s interests around the world”.

Read the article here.

A Modi report card

When Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he asked for a decade in which to transform India’s economic fortunes, notes TN Ninan in a sweeping evaluation in The India Forum. But as the Bharatiya Janata Party government has “mainstreamed majoritarianism”, the economy has sputtered.

“You could argue on the one hand that what Modi has pulled off is what in the financial world is called a ‘bait and switch’: beguile the buyer (voter) with one kind of offer or promise (jobs, incomes, etc) but deliver something else in the end,” Ninan suggests.

Read the article here.

An imaginary Savarkar

Vikram Sampath’s two-volume biography of Hindutva icon VD Savarkar has come under intense scrutiny ever since the second volume was published a few months ago. In a clinical dissection in the latest issue of Liberation, Akash Bhattacharya examines Sampath’s methodology and finds it wanting.

“Unlike a serious biographer, Sampath has over-relied on Savarkar’s self-narratives and on previously written contentious biographies/hagiographies,” he writes. “Besides, a considerable number of crucial claims in both volumes remain inadequately substantiated. Sampath has also read vital texts and historical contexts rather selectively and sidestepped important evidence that contradicts his narrative.”

The biographer, Bhattacharya says, “manipulates the sources to produce Savarkar as a champion of Hindu interests who was ahead of his times”.

Read the essay here.

A purple, crying child

“One of the reasons I began thinking about IVF was that I was overflowing with love for my wife and wanted a place to put that love.” In a rollercoaster of an essay in The New Yorker, Akhil Sharma writes about how he and his wife in middle age entered “A Passage to Parenthood”.

Read it here.

The world’s greatest jazz photographer

Between 1938 and 1948, a period many describe as the Golden Age of Jazz, William P Gottleib “indelibly defined what jazz looked like”, the New York Times said when the photographer died in 2006 at the age of 89. A lavishly illustrated article this week on UDiscoverMusic elaborated on what made his pictures special: “He captured people with a truth that almost no one else managed to achieve. His photographs capture the essence of the performers – which words alone cannot convey.”

Read it here.