Weekend Reads

  1. Hartosh Singh Bal writes about the Group of Ministers report on government communication in which ministers speak of wanting to “neutralise” independent media. Read also Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprastha’s report on how pro-government analysts allegedly recommended colour-coding journalists based on whether they are supportive of propaganda.
  2. “This week, a Muslim journalist in India will complete 150 days in jail after he was arrested on his way to report on the death of a Dalit teenager days after she was gang-raped,” writes Furquan Ameen. “Siddique Kappan, 41, was arrested in October while attempting to reach Hathras, a small town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, about 200km (124 miles) from the capital New Delhi.”
  3. “In January, as the New Delhi winter set in, the Chief Justice of India asked lawyers to persuade elderly people and women to leave the protests,” reports Nilanjana Bhomwick, in a cover story for Time magazine. “In response, women farmers – mostly from the rural states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – scrambled onto stages, took hold of microphones and roared back a unanimous “No!”
  4. “India, the world’s most populous democracy, dropped from Free to Partly Free status in Freedom in the World 2021,” write Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz. “Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, [Narendra] Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”
  5. “Control-oriented regimes tend to adhere to strikingly similar playbooks. Xi Jinping, for instance, has said that ‘East, west, south, north and the centre, the party rules over all’,” writes TN Ninan. “That echoes Mussolini’s sharper formulation: ‘Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.’ India is not where those regimes are or were, being “partly free”, as a US-based NGO (non-government organisation) describes it. But the Narendra Modi government’s desire for steadily greater control of so far autonomous centres of influence and activity makes clear the direction in which the country is headed.”
  6. “By telling you my experience, I am not just telling you about what happened to me, I am also telling you about what happens to a lot of innocent persons,” says Nodeep Kaur, a Dalit labour rights activist, in an interview to Mandeep Punia. “I was arrested because I raised the voice of other people. A lot of farmers activists, labour activists, women who have been jailed for becoming the voice of people. I demand their release...You can protest if you do not agree in a democracy. We will keep working in the future and raise the voices of workers, farmers and women.”
  7. Jeff Horwitz and Newley Purnell report on how India has threatened to jail employees of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter “as it seeks to quash political protests and gain far-reaching powers over discourse on foreign-owned tech platforms, people familiar with the warnings say.”
  8. “Early last summer, Chinese and Indian troops clashed in a surprise border battle in the remote Galwan Valley, bashing each other to death with rocks and clubs. Four months later and more than 1,500 miles away in Mumbai, India, trains shut down and the stock market closed as the power went out in a city of 20 million people. Hospitals had to switch to emergency generators to keep ventilators running amid a coronavirus outbreak that was among India’s worst. Now, a new study lends weight to the idea that those two events may well have been connected – as part of a broad Chinese cybercampaign against India’s power grid, timed to send a message that if India pressed its claims too hard, the lights could go out across the country,” report David E Sanger and Emily Schmall in the New York Times.
  9. One in three Americans lost someone to the Covid-19 pandemic. Julie Bosman, Alexandra Eaton, Aidan Gardiner and Gabriel Gianordoli spoke to some of those who had to contend with loss and grief over the past year.
  10. David Martin speaks to American troops about the Iranian missile attack on an Iraqi airbase that took place as the US and Iran were on the brink of war.