Two years after Nirbhaya, an ode to Delhi

First published in on 16 December 2014.

Every December 16 in Delhi is a gruesome reminder of how the city, and the world at large, is an unsafe place for women. Newer cases of rape continue to shock us, even as most don’t get noticed even if they get reported. Every December 16 is an anniversary of dismay. But for me it is also the anniversary of hope. Two years ago, so enormous was the public outcry over what came to be known as the “Nirbhaya case”, that it lasted a full month.

One had never thought Delhi could care, certainly not in the coldest time of the year, in the holiday season. Christmas and New Year, day and night, Jantar Mantar and Saket malls, camera phones and placards in hand, we made sure the world heard us. Continue reading “Two years after Nirbhaya, an ode to Delhi”

A brief history of the decade that saw social media redefine the ‘mainstream’ news outlets

First published in on 26 December 2014.

It is the biggest natural disaster in living memory. It killed 2,30,000 people in 14 countries. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck at a time when many were busy with Christmas holidays. It was exactly ten years ago.

There is a lot for the world to remember and learn, but for many of us it is also an anniversary of another kind. When the tsunami struck, bloggers Peter Griffin, Dina Mehta, Bala Pitchandi, Sunil Nair, Angelo Embuldeniya and others got the TsunamiHelp blog going. The TsunamiHelp blog became a global news story by itself. Large media organisations such as the Guardian, the BBC and CNN wondered how a bunch of bloggers were able to collect and disseminate information about the tsunami much faster and better than the mainstream media with all its resources. Media coverage of the tsunami was quite bad to begin with, because it was holiday season, nobody knew what the tsunami was, and the locations were remote and widely spread. Continue reading “A brief history of the decade that saw social media redefine the ‘mainstream’ news outlets”

2014, the year India became a Hindu state

First published in on 31 December 2014.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India describes the country as a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. Describing itself as socialist in the Constitution does not make India socialist, of course. What kind of a socialist country seeks Walmart? Similarly, secularism will soon be relegated to being a mere word in the pages of the Constitution.

Critics of socialism and secularism point out that these ideas were inserted in the Preamble not by the makers of India’s Constitution but by Indira Gandhi in 1976. They forget to read the rest of what the founding fathers wrote: Continue reading “2014, the year India became a Hindu state”

The 2015 question: will Modi finally deliver the good times?

First published in on 1 January 2015.

When he finished a month as India’s fifteenth prime minister, Narendra Modi said that he had been denied a “honeymoon period”. Truth is, Modi was given a very long honeymoon period of seven months. It was only in December that some of his own ardent supporters started asking tough questions of him.

2015 gives Narendra Modi a clean slate. Will he act decisively and deliver to India the good governance he had promised? Continue reading “The 2015 question: will Modi finally deliver the good times?”

Pakistan police finally admits: we got Mumbai Romeo who came looking for Pashtun girlfriend

First published in on 5 January 2015.

The police in Pakistan have told the Peshawar High Court that they had indeed detained Mumbai resident Hamid Nihal Ansari in 2012, and handed him over to intelligence officials. This is the first official word about what happened to Ansari, went from Mumbai to Kabul and illegally crossed over into Pakistan to look for a Pashtun woman he had fallen in love with through the internet.

Ansari had disappeared soon after he had checked in to a hotel in Kohat, a town near Peshawar, on November 14, 2012, and has since been missing.

But in an affidavit to the Peshawar High Court, made in September but released to Ansari’s parents only recently, the Kohat police has said that the young man was “netted down by local police” on the “information and pointation [sic] of Inspector Naeem Ullah of IB [Intelligence Bureau], Kohat”. Continue reading “Pakistan police finally admits: we got Mumbai Romeo who came looking for Pashtun girlfriend”

Swachh Internet: Why we must support Ravi Shankar Prasad in filtering internet porn

First published in on 9 January 2015.

I was initially opposed to the idea of India blocking all online porn, but I have changed my mind.

In 2013, a lawyer named Kamlesh Vaswani filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India demanding that all pornography on the internet should be blocked by the government of India. Vaswani argued, among other things, that seeing images of people having sex makes men want to commit rape and other crimes such as sex-trafficking. Continue reading “Swachh Internet: Why we must support Ravi Shankar Prasad in filtering internet porn”

A year later, why hasn’t the Tarun Tejpal trial begun? Who benefits from a delayed trial?

(First published in on 25 November 2014.)

It is unfair, some argue, that Tarun Jit Tejpal is being hounded like a criminal, and people are ganging up against him and not even letting him speak about literature on a stage. He is accused of rape, they point out, but not convicted of it, and is as such innocent until proven guilty. Continue reading “A year later, why hasn’t the Tarun Tejpal trial begun? Who benefits from a delayed trial?”

Rajdeep and Sagarika to resign as Reliance takes over Network 18

For on 30 May 2014

Celebrity TV journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose are likely to resign from CNN-IBN by end of June, as Reliance Industries Ltd is taking over the channel’s holding company, Network 18. They are likely to go on leave from June 1 and resign by June 30, Network 18 officials told In between, they will sell to Reliance Industries their minority shares in the company. Continue reading “Rajdeep and Sagarika to resign as Reliance takes over Network 18”

DNA’s explanation about its self-censorship is not convincing

For on 14 July 2014

During Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, articles censored by the government resulted in blank spaces in the papers. The equivalent of those blank spaces today is a link on a website where an article once existed but now says, “The requested page could not be found.” Continue reading “DNA’s explanation about its self-censorship is not convincing”

AK49: Arvind Kejriwal’s oddly-coloured socks and the 2014 general elections

For on 5 March 2014

A thirty-something architect sat next to me as we waited for the show to begin. This was to be the second edition of Facebook Talks Live, an interaction with several wannabe PMs. But the first guest, Narendra Modi, had cancelled his participation at the last minute.

Continue reading “AK49: Arvind Kejriwal’s oddly-coloured socks and the 2014 general elections”