WTFJH: The October 13 edition

#1. Here is a news story:

On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.

Alimuddin was lynched on 29 June. Jaleel was the first person to alert the residents of Manua village, where he and Alimuddin lived, of the murder. According to the Jharkhand police, Alimuddin died after being beaten by the members of the Gau Raksha Dal—a local cow-protection group—and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The members of the extremist Hindu groups had attacked Alimuddin in the middle of Bazar Tand, a market in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his tempo.

And thus witnesses in cases involving the RSS, the BJP and its feeder groups keep dying. All purely coincidental.

Continue reading

On Modi, the Mahabharata, and hubris

The man and the mask

Image courtesy Tehelka

(This is a mildly edited version of a BuzzFeed column published on October 11.)

“Just landed in Delhi,” a Bollywood starlet tweeted on May 26, 1914, “and even the air feels cleaner. #AccheDin”

The crowds that thronged Delhi to celebrate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in breathed that purified air through Modi masks that had, during the election cycle, been elevated to a fashion statement. And in response to Modi’s triumphant speech, they responded to his call of ‘Achche Din’ with chants of ‘aa gaye’ in a symphonic chorus of sycophantic adoration. 

Continue reading

On parsing stories

One of the conversations on the sidelines of a recent interaction with college students in Chennai was about reporting, and how to filter out the noise and focus on the facts when reading a news story. You can demonstrate the point with almost any story from the mainstream press; here is a benign instance relating to the just completed Nanded municipal elections:

In a significant morale-booster ahead of the crucial assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress Thursday swept the municipal polls in Maharashtra’s Nanded, defeating the ruling BJP in a keenly contested battle. While the Congress has been in power in the civic body for nearly two decades now, and Nanded had remained loyal to the Congress even during the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the shot in the arm for the party came from the magnitude of Thursday’s win.

Continue reading