Reading List

No long post till Monday. In the interim, a running list of good reads salvaged from the net, which I will keep updating over the weekend. First up, Sharda Ugra on the smoke-and-mirrors show at the Motera stadium in Ahmedabad (it was “Motera” to cricket fans when it was actually the Vallabhbhai Patel stadium, and I see no reason to change now).

You know the Ahmedabad summer has turned brutal when mirages begin to pop up on city roads. Horizons shimmer seductively, tricking the mind and the eye, sending them stumbling around trying to separate illusion from what is real. Somewhat like what was built around the first day of the India v Australia Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday. It’s not peak summer yet, but the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) and the Star Sports network worked diligently to ensure that a series of mirages danced before our eyes around this Test.

Sharda Ugra for The Mojo Story

As the protests against the new law escalated, members of Narendra Modi’s party did nothing to calm tensions. On 3 January, a member of the government warned Muslims that Hindus made up 80% of India’s population, while they were only 20%. Two weeks after that, government minister Anurag Thakur roused crowds at an election rally in Delhi with the slogan: “
Shoot the traitors.” And on 23 February, the day before Ahmed heard the chanting men passing his house, Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader from east Delhi, told police that if they failed to remove anti-CAA protesters from Jafrabad, a neighbourhood not far from Bhagirathi Vihar, he and his supporters would take to the streets and do it themselves. Standing next to Mishra, 
like a bodyguard, was the deputy commissioner of police for north-east Delhi. To observers familiar with India’s grim history of communal violence, it was clear what would come next.

Rahul Bhatia for The Guardian

The Delhi riots, which followed in the wake of the anti-CAA riots, is an episode the current regime would like to put behind it — mainly because the multitude of cases filed by the Delhi police against students and activists (while ignoring the hate speech that triggered violence) is unraveling in the courts. Against that background, read Rahul Bhatia’s beautifully reported piece, linked above, on the travails of a Muslim who became a witness against the alleged perpetrators of the violence.

Item: Former Australian PM Tony Abbott balances out Gideon Haigh’s scathing piece in The Australian the other day, with this panegyric to Modi. Was waiting for this, actually, ever since I heard that when Haigh’s piece was published, the upper reaches of The Australian’s management went into a tizzy and began discussing damage control measures.

Speaking of Gideon Haigh, the writer seems hell-bent on ensuring that he is black-listed when it comes to visas to visit India, going forward. (I’d mailed him this thought a few days back; his response was “I was surprised they gave me a visa this time”).

Here is a clip from his piece on the first day of the fourth Test:

In the presence of Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese, the day did not start out that way. Modi Stadium, the world’s largest cricket ground, is very much in Modi’s spirit: stern, joyless, heavy on the saffron.

Like the measurements of Modi’s Putinesque chest, reports of its capacity vary. Is it 110,000? Is it 130,000? In India’s Hindu triumphalist press it’s probably a million, and anyone saying otherwise is guilty of treason. The views are excellent, except in the press box, distant and obstructed — the view from which Modi looks best too.

The ground was about half-full at 8.37am as festivities began, with Ravi Shastri booming greeting from the microphone he arguably hardly needs. As the teams had been confined to the nets for their warm-ups so the prime ministers could be entertained by dancers and felicitated by minions, the cricket presently went out of focus.

Gideon Haigh, in The Australian

More as we go along…