WTF Just Happened: November 10

#1. Pune University just announced that gold medals will be given only to those students who are completely vegetarian. How do you even comment? What do you say?

#2. In Kerala, an RSS worker inadvertently blew up the roof of his home — one of those innocent accidents that happen when you are trying to make bombs, presumably for purely peaceful purposes. Remember this post?

$3. One of the benefits of Twitter is that you will find expert voices talking, at length, on issues the average journalist is not able to wrap his head around. Here are two such recent instances: One, Anand Ranganathan breaks down the problem of pollution, and the smog in Delhi, and traces it to its roots; elsewhere, Kabir Taneja looks at the question of demonetization and its impact on terror funding.

#4. Earlier this month the Faridabad Sessions Judge asked that action is taken against Haryana’s Additional Advocate General Naveen Kaushik for helping the defense in the case of the lynching of Junaid Khan in June this year. Kaushik, who has since resigned, is a lifelong RSS member and functionary who was appointed to the panel of government lawyers when the BJP won the state elections in 2014.

The case has taken many twists and turns since. The concerned village panchayat reportedly asked Junaid’s father to settle the matter out of court, an offer that was refused. The state government then claimed in court that Junaid’s father had asked for Rs 2 crore and three acres of land to settle the case.

Elsewhere, the media reported that the ML Khattar government in Haryana had aided members of the Dera Sacha Sauda to smuggle out vital documents following the conviction of Ram Rahim on rape charges.

Then there is the case of the 18-year-old who was gang-raped in Bhopal on October 31. It turns out that the medical report initially called it consensual sex. When asked to explain, the concerned medical officer changed it to rape and said it was “human error”. When you next read about some case where the culprits were let off because of a botched investigation, think about this: was the investigation botched because of incompetence, or was it done deliberately? (Ironically, the girl’s parents are the also part of the law and order machinery — the father works with the railway protection force and the mother is a member of the state police).

And speaking of botched investigations: In September, the media reported that Ashok Kumar, a conductor on the school bus, had killed a seven-year-old student of Ryan International School in Gurugram (Haryana, again) who had resisted an attempt at sexual assault. The police claimed to have cracked the case “within 24 hours” based on CCTV evidence; to have recovered the murder weapon from Kumar’s possession; they leaked vivid details of how the crime was committed to the media and said Kumar had confessed to the crime. The district Bar Association, in a fit of moral indignation, said its members would not defend the accused.

It now turns out that the investigation was “botched up”. The investigation had not yet been completed when the CBI took over, the Gurugram Police Commissioner explained. Chief Minister ML Khattar amplified the “explanation”. Neither the top cop nor the CM bothered to explain how the police had supposedly recovered the murder weapon from Ashok Kumar’s possession, or how the innocent bus conductor had signed a confession.

The CBI, analyzing the same CCTV evidence, has arrested a senior student of the same school for the crime. The student is reported to have confessed in the presence of his father and other witnesses. (The father is an influential member of the same bar association that had refused to fight for the accused, Ashok Kumar.) The CBI is currently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in its bid to build the case. The bus conductor’s family is now planning to sue the state government.

No one — not the school, not the police, not the lawyers, not the government, and certainly not a media always eager to “solve” crimes on prime time — comes out of the incident with honor intact.

I’ll leave you with those stories, and those thoughts. And I’ll leave you with this must-read piece by Meghnad, where he argues that the four pillars on which our democracy rests is crumbling, and the fault is ours. He sets up his piece with a telling analogy:

Imagine a building. A towering glass-fronted skyscraper, supported by four pillars.

The occupants of the building want it to constantly keep getting taller and shinier; they want it filled with fancy apartments, express elevators, shopping malls, offices, parking lots, and perhaps even a golf course or two. “Keep going,” they say. “We, the residents of this grand building, will only be happy if there is constant development.”

But a look downwards, towards the bottom of the glistening tower, reveals that the four pillars on which it stands are riddled with cracks. It seems scarcely believable that they support the weight they do, and it’s almost certain that any more additions will bring the entire 70-year-old structure crashing down.

Meghnad makes a compelling argument, which you should read in its entirety.


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