Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just for You

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Mindset That Harms Human Rights

Agreeing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech where he calls "harmful" the mindset of “some people” who “see human rights violation in one incident but cannot see it in another incident of a similar nature”, P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, points out Modi’s own silence at the violation of human rights in Lakhimpur Kheri and the violations of law against the Bhima Koregaon accused.

Stating Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that were violated in the Lakhimpur Kheri unrest, Chidambaram lists the “egregious excesses” in the Bhima Koregaon case such as:

"“Refusal to give medical reports to a prisoner; refusal of a commode chair to a prisoner suffering from arthritis; refusal of a full-sleeve sweater; refusal of books by Swami Vivekananda; arbitrary withdrawal of the case from the Maharashtra Police and its transfer to the National Investigation Agency (under the Central government, tasked with investigating terrorist acts and crimes) two days after a new government replaced the BJP government in Maharashtra; refusal of parole to a prisoner to attend his mother’s funeral; and so on."" - P Chidambaram in The Indian Express

Chidambaram adds:

""To the best of my knowledge, in the last over three years, the Prime Minister has not uttered a word on the human rights of the prisoners in the Bhima Koregaon case nor on the prolonged delay in even framing the charges, in a case prosecuted by the agency under his charge, the NIA. Needless to say, the trial has not started... I entirely agree with the Prime Minister when he said 'Such mindset harms human rights a lot'."" - P Chidambaram in The Indian Express

Human Rights Are Sacred

In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh scrutinises Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hesitations when it comes to human rights and explains that “if Mr Modi is angry about the ‘bad image’ that India has got, he has himself to blame."

""Human rights may not matter to the average Chinese because China has never been a democratic country. They matter very much in India because the roots of democracy have deep roots and if Mr Modi is angry about the ‘bad image’ that India has got, he has himself to blame. Since he became Prime Minister, he has shown that his government has no qualms about keeping students, dissidents, comedians and journalists in jail simply because they disagreed with his policies. When a judge in a Delhi court released some young people who have been in jail for more than a year without charges or a trial, he passed strictures against the Delhi Police for not doing their job well. Last week he was transferred to a lower court."" - Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express ""If the Prime Minister is truly concerned about India’s image in the world, he needs to be seen as a leader who cares about the protection of human rights, not as someone who sees them as an excuse to malign him. Human rights are more important in democratic countries than almost anything else for the simple reason that without sacrosanct human rights, there is no democracy."" - Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

Silent Spectators No Less Complicit in Crimes Against Humanity

Writing about how ‘shocking the conscience of the nation’ has become a cliché, Pushpesh Pant, in his column for The New Indian Express writes, “Tears have dried in millions of eyes that have impotently witnessed corpses of COVID victims being disposed of with no regard for dignity in death".

""Wails of lament are stifled by brute force deployed by arrogant rulers who now think that horns blaring out classical ragas, instrumental rendering of film, or folk music will help drown the distressing cries. But, all of us who remain silent are complicit in crimes against humanity no less. Lakhimpur Kheri leaves us with no choice."" - Pushpesh Pant in The New Indian Express

Recording the details of the incident, Pant asks, “How can the helpless victims and their families believe that the investigations will be free and fair?”

Further declaring that “the clouds are too dark for the sliver of the silver lining to survive”, Pant says:

"“The investigating agencies - the police, CBI, Enforcement Directorate, the raiding squads of NDPS, NIA - all have lost credibility as supine officers have allowed themselves to become tools of persecution. No longer Caged Parrots, these are Birds of Prey, red in tooth and claw, trained to swoop and maim opponents of those in power."" - Pushpesh Pant in The New Indian Express

Why People Hate Celebrities They Love

Commenting on the spotlight Aryan Khan finds himself under, Ravi Shankar, in his column for The New Indian Express, explains how people take it personally when celebrities fail to live up to people’s expectations.

""Fame is fickle, infamy is everlasting. The reason why the public hate a celebrity who slipped is that he or she has shattered their dream of perfection. Celebrities offer people escape from the daily burdens of their humdrum lives of packed lunches, dreary commutes, office politics, mundane sex lives, vegetable shopping, EMIs and failed affairs by showing them a taste of what can be. Actors, rock stars, sportsmen and race car drivers lead glamorous lives on fabulous earnings."" - Ravi Shankar in The New Indian Express

He adds,

""As much as stars love fame, living up to the ever-ascending expectations of the adoring public can be exhausting. Enshrined and glorified in popular imagination, many celebrities lose sight of what they are - humans with talent who made it big with lots of hard work and a little bit of luck. Genius is a merciless master. Public adulation is a punisher. Kurt Cobain shot himself. Parveen Babi died a gruesome death. Sanjay Dutt was jailed as a terrorist."" - Ravi Shankar in The New Indian Express

What the Aryan Khan Episode Tells Us

Acknowledging the “mundane reality of illicit substances in all our midst”, Leher Kala, in her column for The Indian Express, addresses the arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son, to talk about the “usually fraught topic - smoking up”.

""It’s too easy to subscribe to the lazy stereotype, and dismiss weed and other party drugs as a problem of dissolute, aimless kids. Marijuana, especially, is everywhere, across strata, the familiar, acrid aroma floating in the air in gatherings of old and young alike, whether the outdoors of a Delhi mall or on Holi (the slang for it is Shivji ka prasad). References to marijuana in popular culture are impossible to miss; on That ’70s Show or the news recently, that a state in the US incentivised college students to take Covid vaccine by handing out free joints. Tech icon Elon Musk unwittingly legitimised pot by smoking during a press conference, upending stoner cliches of users being chronic underachievers. However, social sanction from peers is meaningless while the law criminalises usage."" - Leher Kala in The Indian Express

Is It Yet an Era for Dalit Leadership?

Suraj Yengde, in his column for The Indian Express, writes about the possible reasons behind “a major political shift” in Punjab, with the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief minister and reflects on the potential of its impact.

Yengde explains that since the appointment of the last non-Jat chief minister of Punjab (Giani Zail Singh) in 1977, “landed Jats under the garb of their Sikh identity have been promoting a neo-Brahminical model, subverting the egalitarianism of the Guru Granth Sahib.”

"“However, Brahminical parties, from the right, centre and left, tend to see Dalits as subcategories and not as a unified whole. That is why sub-castes of popular Dalit leaders are repeated in loop. This treatment is not given to any other non-Dalit political persona.”" - Suraj Yengde in The Indian Express

He further explains:

"“Channi’s elevation as CM may be no more than an act of symbolism and charity, but there is also hope that it can throw up a challenge to the caste dominance in politics. The BSP is the elephant in the room, having created a politics around representation and fair share. The Congress, BJP and the likes have to join the queue. Is it yet an era for Dalit leadership?"" - Suraj Yengde in The Indian Express

A Farm Agitation, Once Upon a Time in Kheri

Coming back to Lakhimpur Kheri and how it had become the centre of a people’s agitation in the 1970s, BN Uniyal, in his column for The Indian Express, writes about the struggle launched by the Communist Party of India (CPI) of the “landless agricultural labourers to occupy surplus land of large farmers.”

Specifically referring to the Independence Day in 1970, Uniyal writes about the then CPI chairman SA Dange who was himself to “lead a jattha of landless labourers to occupy Birla Farm.”

""On August 14, Dange — a veteran of many a trade union battle in then Bombay city — reached Lucknow to address a rally. But the local administration promulgated Section 144. Dange decided to hold a press conference instead in a room at the CPI office, but that too was not acceptable to police. He was taken into custody and whisked away to Sitapur jail. The CPI announced that despite Dange’s detention, thousands of Communist workers would converge at Birla Farm the next day. The CPI call aroused interest not only in the country but in the West too because many saw it as Indira Gandhi’s test balloon to see if she would move further towards a Soviet Union-style authoritarian socialist regime."" - BN Uniyal in The Indian Express

He concludes, "Though the CPI’s land grab agitation aroused much worldwide interest in the plight of the landless labourers, it fizzled out soon, at least, in UP where the landowner kisans unleashed a wave of reprisal against the landless who had joined the agitation."

Democratising Art Through Technology

Speaking on what makes the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) so attractive, Aparajita Jain, in her column for The New Indian Express writes about the “gatekeepers of high art”, and how they are being challenged by tech in art.

""My children live in the metaverse, once in a while gracing our physical world with their mind space. Their demands, needs and ideas of what they want surrounding them and where, are fairly different from ours. They live in the digital realm and want most of their transcendence and beauty in there. Ask my 16-year-old Minecraft- and Fortnite-loving son to choose between a crypto punk and a traditional sculpture, he will probably choose the former."" - Aparajita Jain in The New Indian Express

Stating that the NFT sales for the third quarter were at $10.7 billion, in comparison to the world art market at around $50 billion, Jain explains:

""Which means the NFT market is already inching very close to the size of the global art market. But its buoyancy and growth is not because of the ultra rich, but because of the average salaried person, or teenager who saved up money and decided to buy their cool quotient."" - Aparajita Jain in The New Indian Express

Why Rice Fortification Is Not Just Unnecessary but Potentially Risky

Writing about India’s plans to “universally fortify its rice supply for the food subsidy programs by 2024”, Anura Kurpad and Harshpal Singh Sachdev, in their column for The Times of India, question the motivation for such a move, which defines the “combinations of normal foods in the Indian diet” as “inadequate to meet the daily iron requirement".

""It is an oxymoron that fortification will complement and co-exist with dietary diversification. The NIN food plate for Indians stipulates that a diverse and healthy plate of food contain no more than 40% of the total calories from cereals, of which only a fraction should be rice. Yet, the rice fortification is likely to instruct people to eat 250-350 gm fortified rice/day: whither dietary diversity?"" - Anura Kurpad and Harshpal Singh Sachdev in The Times of India

Arguing that “there is no case for universal rice fortification”, Kurpad and Sachdev add:

"“We need gentler, safer, long-term and sustainable solutions, that involve the community, and stimulate diet diversification, especially with simultaneously ongoing initiatives to increase iron intakes. Sustainability comes from cost: the rice fortification expense alone is Rs. 2600 Crores/annum– disputably a redundant and wasteful expenditure with potential risks…We must resist the fascination with technology and universality and go local (solutions) for global (problems).”" - Anura Kurpad and Harshpal Singh Sachdev in The Times of India

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