India Insight

India takes calm approach to Arundhati Roy’s Kashmir remarks

Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy gestures during an interview with Reuters in New Delhi. REUTERS/B Mathur

After initial signs that India’s government might move to censure controversial remarks by novelist and activist Arundhati Roy, it appears New Delhi has sidestepped a potential political minefield with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country only a week away.

On Sunday, Roy told a conference in New Delhi that Kashmir has “never been an integral part of India”, sparking a strong backlash.

Opposition politicians called for “the strongest possible action” against her “seditious” remarks and Law Minister Veerappa Moily declared the comments “most unfortunate”.

Responding to the charges against her, Roy countered: “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds.”

With its recent election to the United Nations Security Council with a view to making it permanent and Obama’s arrival next Saturday, India appears to have concluded — as influential Indian newspaper The Hindu wrote on Tuesday — that the media furore over Roy’s remarks is “essentially much ado about nothing”.

Back to the Lalit Modi saga

Lalit ModiIn India, a thin line separates bravado from infamy. In a country that swears by its Bollywood potboilers, it does not take long to turn a one-time hero into a villain.

And the perfect example is Lalit Modi — once head of India’s $4 billion cricket premier league, he was first removed from his post after a tax scandal and later booted out of the cash-rich Indian cricket board.

Media reports on Thursday say the Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a ‘blue alert’ against Modi, after he failed to make himself available for interrogation in the corruption allegations.

Has Shashi Tharoor dug his own political grave?

Is it too early to write the political obituary of Shashi Tharoor, who over the weekend resigned from the post of junior foreign minister not even a year into holding the post?

Shashi TharoorSome commentators have already written him off. Others, including a report in the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, cite Congress party sources to say Tharoor has not lost all the goodwill of the leadership and could one day make a comeback.

His resignation, so they say, had more to do with Congress not wanting to be seen to let Tharoor get away with it.

Amitabh Bachchan and politics of celebrity

Amitabh Bachchan is caught in a political controversy yet again. The 67-year old-actor finds himself in the middle of a row over his presence at government functions in Mumbai and Pune.

Amitabh BachchanWhile no official reason has been given, Bachchan’s presence at a government function in Mumbai last week has raised hackles in the Congress party, ostensibly because of Bachchan’s bitter relationship with the Gandhi family.

Later the same week, his son Abhishek’s posters were removed from an Earth Day function for which he had earlier been declared ambassador, organised by the Congress-run Delhi state government.

Applaud and preserve Sachin-like champions — can we?

Tendulkar’s batting magnificence has been chronicled so much over the years that anything written about him generates as much passion as he does on any cricket field.

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his double century during the second one-day international cricket match against South Africa in Gwalior February 24, 2010.  REUTERS/Punit ParanjpeHis 200-run spectacle against South Africa was another opportunity for his fans to erupt, cheer, sing and write praises.

But with such performances come expectations. So much that almost every time this champion comes in to bat, high expectations generate a sort of fear — in the stadium, homes, TV stations, internet and wherever he is revered.

Much ado in Kashmir over Padma Shri for Mir

It has come as a surprise to many that Ghulam Mohammad Mir, often described as Kashmir’s first counter-insurgent, has been honoured with the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards.

Mir alias Momma Kana, 60, who was awarded for public service, has been accused of involvement in cases of extortion and attempted murder.

A man walks past closed shops during a strike in Srinagar June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesA police official told ‘The Telegraph’ that Mir’s name sent shivers down the spine of people across Kashmir — he is said to have run a private militia and helped Indian troops combat insurgency.

Himalayan glacier meltdown: gospel truth?

Kashmiri horsemen walk over a glacier near Sheshnag, 130 km southeast of Srinagar, June 12, 2006. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/FilesTwenty-five years from now, the Himalayan glaciers would have almost disappeared. Almost.

Perhaps that foreboding has been stifled. The U.N. body which issued an alarmist warning that the Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035 due to climate change is re-examining its report.

Some experts say the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led by Rajendra Pachauri based the conclusion on the findings of one report.

Can Indian hockey be given its due credit?

The year was 2007. Cheerleaders danced to the beats of a Bollywood song as India was about to script a nail-biting finish against Pakistan in the cricket Twenty20 World Cup final.

With tricolour flags in hand, almost every Indian spectator was gripped with the spirit of patriotism. The impact on TV viewers couldn’t have been less.

And all this while, little did cricket fans realise that intensity was coming from a song ‘Chak De India‘ filmed on a sport so different in its administration, handling and following.

The media and paid news: Who shall guard the guardians?

INDIA-MEDIA/The media watches everyone but itself, commented an argumentative friend the other day.

How many ‘sting operations’ has the media done on any of its own, say on the ‘Paid News’ controversy?

I was at a loss.

The morality of sting operations is a debatable topic but the larger point demanded a response.

Much ado over Indian Summer?

Universal Studios has shelved plans to shoot “Indian Summer”, a film based on the lives of Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.(UPDATE: On Friday, a studio spokesman was quoted as saying “Indian Summer” is continuing to be developed but will not go into production until the script, budget and cast are all in place)Filmmaker Joe Wright, who was slated to direct the project, was quoted as saying there were creative differences between the studio and the Indian government.Many people are not comfortable with national leaders being portrayed on celluloid in any way other than flattering.Most leaders are interpreted by their followers in a particular manner. Any alternative recounting especially on celluloid runs into controversy.Biopics of leaders are few and far between in Bollywood in spite of it being a vibrantly political and prolific film industry.Some say the Indian masses tend to deify their leaders and hence are less receptive to anything critical.And celluloid is a mass medium more than any book on history ever can be.In Pakistan, the movie “Jinnah” starring Christopher Lee and sanctioned by the Pakistan government had also run into controversy.But does public policy also contribute to this state of affairs?The Indian Express says in a report that ministries don’t transfer records to National Archives “which leaves modern, democratic India’s history shrouded in secrecy”.Does this contribute to a lack of public discussion on various facets of our leaders’ lives and policies and therefore an intolerance of alternative readings?As for the movie “Indian Summer”, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was to appoint a liaison officer to ensure the movie did not deviate from the approved script.Is imposing a government-sanctioned memory of events on people any different from Mayawati’s efforts to erect statues to herself?

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