Monday, August 12, 2019
Number of the day: 4

That's how many women are raped every day in Bihar—where there have been more than 6,200 rapes reported over the past five years. But most of them go unnoticed, as did the brutal gang rape and murder of a teenager whose breasts and genitalia were mutilated—and her body doused with acid—in a village near Patna. There were no candlelight vigils for this Nirbhaya.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The debate over media coverage of Kashmir

Is the situation on the ground ‘calm’ even as restrictions have been ‘slowly eased’? Or was there a massive protest and a harsh security crackdown? With varying media reports—and government denials—the truth has once again been taken hostage by politics. 


First, some background: The government eased some restrictions for Friday prayers to test the mood on the ground. What happened next became the subject of great controversy.


Version #1: was offered by four foreign media outlets:

  • Reuters reported that at least 10,000 people in Srinagar marched in protest after the prayers. They were repelled with tear gas and pellets by security forces. This was followed by a second smaller protest in the same area on Sunday.

  • Washington Post filed a ground report on the protest confirming the numbers and use of force.

  • BBC circulated footage showing both the scale of the protest and the use of force.

  • New York Times splashed Kashmir on its front page alongside a ground report on a “living hell” of anger and fear—plus photos which show a state under lockdown.


Version #2: was offered by the government and its supporters:

  • Union home ministry spokesperson Vasudha Gupta tweeted, “A news report originally published in Reuters and appeared in Dawn claims there was a protest involving 10,000 people in Srinagar. This is completely fabricated & incorrect. There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl.”

  • J&K police tweeted out this statement: “Chief Secretary and DGP Jammu & Kashmir request people not to believe fabricated and motivated news. No firing incident has taken place in Kashmir over 6 days…. The police have not fired a single bullet so far in 6 days. The situation is calm, people are cooperative and restrictions are being relaxed to ease the situation. Srinagar and other towns were full of traffic and people busy with Eid shopping today.”

  • BBC was widely reviled by government supporters—including a leading Aaj Tak news anchor who declared in a viral tweet, “I have unfollowed @BBCWorld at all platforms.. Wish they showed the complete truth and not selective content #UnfollowedBBC #Kashmir #KashmirIssue.”


What about the Indian media? To be fair—apart from TV channels which heavily self-censor—most ground reports confirm the rage and the misery. And it depends which report you read. 

  • For example, the Indian Express lead story today doesn’t touch the prickly subject of the Srinagar protest—brushing it off as “some incidents of stone-pelting”—and its reporting relies entirely on official sources. But… its ground report from Sopore makes clear the mood of anger and defiance. 

  • Another example: ANI has been tweeting out footage to indicate the return of normalcy—including long lines outside ATMs. But The Wire reports that there is no money in these ATMs, and people are desperate and broke. 

  • There’s also been indirect reporting on the Srinagar protest such as this Telegraph story on the faceoff between the foreign media and the government. And this Quint report on pellet injuries.


So who do I believe? Setting aside conspiracy theories, the truth is that no respected media organisation fakes photos, footage or reporting. But editors and reporters can pick and choose which aspects to highlight. As Quint points out: “It is crucial which area a media organisation chooses to report from. Those who seek to show normalcy, are most likely to be found clicking pictures and shooting videos in Dalgate, Boulevard Road and the area near the Srinagar Airport and least likely to venture into Downtown, unless it is under the protection of security forces.” 


The bottomline: Yes, hundreds of angry residents came out in protest in Kashmir. Yes, the security forces retaliated with tear gas and pellets—maybe it was the CRPF and not the Kashmir police (which would make its statement technically accurate). But deciding what it means—or whether it is a big deal—is a matter of interpretation. As with journalists and media outlets, we each choose what Kashmir stories to value and focus on—typically those which confirm our own beliefs. What is undeniable is the great human misery caused by the lockdown. No one ought to look away from that.


Learn more: Here’s a quick roundup of the other key Kashmir stories:

  • The Telegraph did an interesting piece on the Kashmir police and how they’ve been disarmed and left isolated. 

  • This Quint video cleverly uses tweets to outline the two very different narratives around Kashmir.

  • Indian Express reports on the desperate measures used by Kashmiris to get news out to their families.

  • The Print offers an overview of Kashmir’s 5000-year history to show that its sense of grievance is ancient and well-earned.

  • Caravan has a fascinating interview with former RAW chief AS Dulat who offers a different perspective. Another unique view: this Indian Express interview with Shah Faesal, the IAS topper who left the service to join mainstream politics. It sums up the dilemma of Kashmiris who had reposed their faith in the Constitution.

  • ICYMI: The Taliban urged both Pakistan and India to exercise restraint on Kashmir 🙄

  • The Leaflet reports on Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey and his wife Arundhati Dhuru who were put under house arrest in Lucknow. The reason: they planned to protest the revocation of Article 370. So not just Kashmir then.

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wishing each other ‘Eid Mubarak’ (and saying a prayer for Kashmir)

Kerala floods devastate the state, again: Torrential rainfall has displaced 2.2 lakh residents and killed more than 60 in the state. Indian Express offers an overview while BBC has a video report.


Sonia is baaaack! Seventy-seven days after Rahul resigned from the post of president, the Congress Working Committee met yesterday to pick his replacement. Their solution: Hit rewind! Yup, we’re back to Sonia—now as interim prez until the party holds elections to pick the official one. This is like when Steve Jobs came back to head to Apple, right? Yeah, right! Quint has the best take on this return to the status quo.


Jeffrey Epstein is dead: The pedophile billionaire was facing fresh charges of trafficking underage girls. He committed suicide in prison… we think. The conveniently timed death of a man connected to a vast number of powerful men—including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton—has already spawned conspiracy theories. The investigation will now turn to the circumstances of his death and his co-conspirators. Also likely to face heat: Prince Andrew who has been named in a newly released batch of victim testimonies. The Sun has the “toe licking” details.


Zomato workers are on strike: in Bengal. The reason: Hindu and Muslim employees say they shouldn’t be forced to deliver pork and beef items. But why strike? Surely, the more sensible solution is to find a job that doesn’t entail close encounters with such hazardous substances. Then again, why be sensible? So much more fun to be entitled and create a pointless religious controversy. Some Twitter detectives point out that there are no pork or beef dishes available on Zomato in the Howrah area—which is where the strike is focused. (India Today)


Anurag Kashyap deleted his Twitter account: due to threats aimed at him and his family. His last tweet: “When your parents start to get calls and your daughter gets online threats you know that no one wants to talk. There isn't going to be reason or rationale. Thugs will rule and thuggery will be the new way of life. Congratulations everyone on this new India & hope you all thrive. Wish you all the happiness and success. This would be my last tweet as I leave Twitter. When I won't be allowed to speak my mind without fear then I would rather not speak at all. Good bye." (NDTV)


Deepfaked Tom Cruise is very, very creepy: A Youtube channel that makes celebrity deepfakes replaced Christian Bale with Tom Cruise in a VERY NSFW clip from ‘American Psycho’. It genuinely freaked us out. Watch it here


Priyanka Chopra heckled at beauty event: A Pakistani member of the audience interrupted Chopra, yelling: “It was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity because as your neighbour, a Pakistani, I know you're a bit of a hypocrite! You are a UNICEF ambassador for peace and you’re encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan, there’s no winner in this! As a Pakistani, millions of people like me have supported you in your business…” The sore point: PC’s tweet supporting the Indian Armed Forces after the Balakot strike. (Daily Mail)


Celebs accused of bad behaviour: A songwriter has accused Lady Gaga of stealing a part of his melody and using it in the Oscar-winning ‘Shallow’ in ‘A Star Is Born’.  Also: The former headmaster of a school co-founded by Nicholas Sparks (of ‘The Notebook fame) is suing him for discriminatory behaviour: “In reality, the non-fiction version of Defendant Sparks feels free, away from public view, to profess and endorse vulgar and discriminatory views about African-Americans, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) individuals, and individuals of non-Christian faiths.”


There’s a Confederate flag: hanging from a balcony somewhere in… Kolkata 😳

Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • A BBC report on the latest trend on Tik Tok: very cool climate change videos.

  • This delightful read in Columbia Journalism Review that explains how posters and trailers for awful movies get such upbeat blurbs from critics.

  • Quartz on the new generation of Indian craft gin distillers.

  • National Geographic on how our genes control our tastes and preferences—including in romantic partners and brand of politics.

  • This long gossipy Page Six read that takes aim at Taylor Swift.

  • Huffington Post on a California cannabis startup with a connection to Kerala and cats.

  • New Indian Express on the lone and lonely male tiger in Bannerghatta park.

  • These very handy charts from The Week capturing the best restaurants in all the big Indian cities.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

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The best place for the best advice

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How to handle your work friendships

Making friends at work is a great blessing. Nothing makes office more fun than a few good pals to share the daily drudgery. But work friendships also come with a downside if you don’t take care to manage them. Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate work buddies.


Making work friends: For some it comes very easy, but others struggle in a new workplace. To stave off loneliness, here are some simple tips:

  1. Socialise: how much ever you may hate work events. Make an effort to head out for happy hour, show up at the office birthday party, accept any invites you get from colleagues in the first couple of months.

  2. Don’t eat lunch at your desk: It’s an easy way to avoid sitting alone at the cafeteria or at the local cafe. But don’t: ask to join your colleagues or invite them to head out with you.

  3. Find common ground: Our instinct is to only talk shop with new colleagues, but you should instead be using those initial conversations to discover similar interests. The three ingredients of friendship are physical proximity, familiarity, and similarity. The office takes care of the first two, and you can nail the third.

  4. Don’t overshare: at the outset. Getting personal is the fastest road to intimacy, but you don’t want to take that shortcut at the workplace. You have nowhere to run to if s/he proves to be less than trustworthy.

Recognise the downside: Office friends may be essential to your everyday happiness, but these are the built-in dangers of mixing the personal with the professional:

  1. There will always be an inherent tension between ‘Work’ and ‘friendship’. Where one demands you act according to your professional role, the latter requires you to offer unconditional support. There will always be uncomfortable situations to deal with: example, your office bestie screws up a project, and it’s your job to tell him.

  2. Work friends fall in the grey zone between friendly acquaintances and BFFs. In most cases, working together means there is only so much you can share, be it about your personal life or that raise you just got. And nurturing trust, openness and intimacy in this in-between zone will always be tricky.

  3. Closer you get to your colleagues, the more likely you will blur the line between your private and professional persona. So getting super-drunk with them is likely to be far more embarrassing—and potentially have greater consequences—than if it was just you and your mates. More so, if one of your workmates is your boss or subordinate.

Manage accordingly: All that’s required is a little common sense of the following kind:

  1. Set clear boundaries: between your personal time together and your interactions around work. And say it out loud when needed. Example: Yes, we’re great friends, but it doesn’t mean you get to tease me in the middle of team meetings or in front of the boss. Make sure you do the same.

  2. Don’t talk shop all the time: A close friendship that is built on genuine connection, and is independent of work is more likely to survive the rigours of office life. So don’t make your friendship just about office gossip or whining about the job.

  3. Don’t be exclusive: Sure, you and your ‘work spouse’ may be long-lost soulmates. But friendships that makes others feel excluded, or create mini-cliques is no good for the workplace. And the resentment it creates will inevitably come to roost. Hint: hanging with one or two members of the team while ignoring others is one surefire sign that you’ll be a lousy team manager.

Learn more: Here’s a reading list to help you make and be a great work buddy:


  • The Muse has a long list of tips on how to make work friends. Many apply just as well to making friends, in general.

  • New York Times and Forbes have more on the dark side of work friendships.

  • Business Insider focuses on the tricky balance between sharing and oversharing. 

  • Quartz gets a psychotherapist to offer advice on building healthy work friendships.

  • Finally, the Harvard Business Review on why making friends at work is great for you and your career.

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