India Insight

Jyoti Basu – poster boy of Indian communism

(UPDATE: Communist patriarch Jyoti Basu died on Sunday)

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rushed to Kolkata on Thursday just to pay a 22-minute visit to the hospital where 95-year-old Jyoti Basu is battling for life, the trip spoke volumes about the communist patriarch’s relevance in Indian politics.

Veteran communist leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, is seen during his 95th birthday celebrations in Kolkata July 8, 2008. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/FilesIndia’s longest serving chief minister is on ventilator support but the throngs of teary-eyed followers outside the hospital, the 24×7 mediapersons camping outside and the steady stream of political dignitaries indicate the respect Basu commands across the political spectrum.

The Prime Minister offered to fly in experts from anywhere in India to treat Basu.

A day later, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda also visited the ailing leader in Kolkata.

“I remember what Jyoti Basu has sacrificed. He made me the prime minister of this country,” Gowda told reporters recalling the political stalemate in 1996.

Should K.P.S. Gill be stripped of his medals?

Media reports saying that the central government may take away the medals of police officers convicted of crimes have had an unexpected impact.

A policeman holds a submachine gun during a function in Mumbai August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Arko DattaThis puts former Punjab DGP and “super cop” Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (better known as K.P.S. Gill) in the same dock as S.P.S. Rathore, the former Haryana police chief convicted of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra.

Is such a step justified?

Gill, convicted in 1996 for misbehaving with an IAS officer, has said it is not right to strip officers of medals with retrospective effect. The former DGP also said he won’t be bothered if his medals are taken away.

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.

Kevin Rudd: Re-reassuring Indians?

The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, currently in India, is expected to address concerns in India over attacks on Indian students.The issue blew up in May this year after a spate of attacks on Indian students amid allegations of racism.The Australian leaders have been defending the safeguards and measures taken since then, but every time there is a fresh attack the media goes to town with the issue.With over 80,000 students enrolling in Australian every year the attacks, whatever their nature, have hardly dampened the outflow of students.Rudd won’t be the first to offer a reassurance and given the regularity with which incidents are reported it doesn’t look like he would be the last.Indian students continue to be interested in Australian education.Is this because they can sense that the issue is has been blown out of proportion?Or are they voting with their feet on the state of Indian education system?Are we still sold out over the lure of a ‘foreign degree’ and willing to run the risks for it?

Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

Guess what is not on Thursday’s front pages in India?

It’s actually on page 17 of the Hindustan Times. The Mail Today, which leads on liquor being allowed for sale in shopping malls, puts it on page 16. The Hindu, which also finds space for liquor sales liberalization on its front page, puts it on page 20.

What is it? News of the Indonesia quake and the Samoan tsunami. Last night, when these papers were being put to bed, we knew that hundreds (now probably thousands) of people had died.

Why is such major news in Asia relegated to back pages of Indian newspapers (there are some exceptions, of course) ?

After the headline, the hysteria

The toll in India from the H1N1 pandemic rose this week, but a look at the screaming TV headlines and graphic visuals in newspapers would suggest a country under siege from something akin to the bubonic plague.

Dramatic headlines and graphic visuals in the media; reporters looking alarmed behind their masks; commuters with handkerchiefs and scarves around their mouths; and long lines of people outside screening centres, imagining the worst.

Even as the health minister and state officials appealed for calm and warned against hoarding masks and flu drug Tamiflu, the red splashes of breaking news and the tone verging on hysteria were unabated.

from FaithWorld:

Could gagged Mumbai confession do more good than harm?

hindux1A crucial part of gunman Mohammad Ajmal Kasab's hindu-articleconfession at the Mumbai attack trial has been censored by the judge on the grounds that it could inflame religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India. After stunning the court on Monday by admitting guilt in the the three-day rampage that killed 166 people, Kasab gave further testimony on Tuesday that included details about his training by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based militant group on U.S. and Indian terrorist lists.

The front-page report in today's The Hindu, which noted the judge's gag order in its sub-header, put it this way:

Ajmal made some crucial statements on Tuesday as part of his confession. They pertained to the purpose of the attack as indicated by the perpetrators and masterminds and the message they wanted to send to the government of India. Ajmal also wanted to convey a message to his handlers. However, this part of his confession faces a court ban on publication.

Indian PM’s media coup at Yekaterinburg

“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.” This was how Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his crucial meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia’s Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.

The comment, made in the full glare of the media, hit Zardari like a well-aimed arrow as the embarrassed Pakistani leader quickly interrupted to ensure the reporters were asked to leave the room.

Those few dramatic moments may have served Singh two crucial purposes: Pakistan could not showcase the meeting as proof that it was again business as usual between the two countries. Second, Singh managed to preclude any criticism back home that India had capitulated before Pakistan.

Is ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ poverty porn?

“As the film revels in the violence, degradation and horror, it invites you, the Westerner, to enjoy it, too…Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn,” wrote London Times’ columnist Alice Miles.

The phrase “poverty porn” spread across the Indian media as commentators nodded in agreement or shook their heads even before the film premiered in its native Mumbai and India could (legally) watch it.

A group of the city’s slum dwellers, including children, protested against the word “dog”. A social activist filed a defamation case in Patna. And this week, hundreds of slum dwellers in Bihar’s capital ransacked a movie theatre demanding the title be changed.

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