Friday, May 17, 2019

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Pragya Thakur’s praise of Nathuram Godse

In a toxic election season marked by new lows in rhetoric, the BJP candidate from Bhopal managed to shock even jaded political observers by praising Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.


Wait, who is this Pragya Thakur? The BJP faced a firestorm of criticism when they picked Thakur to run against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The reason: she is currently on trial for committing acts of terrorism, and is out on bail. It is the first time that a person accused of terrorism has received a party ticket.


Whoa, tell me more, please! Back in 2008, an explosive-laden motorcycle killed six people, and injured more than 100 in Muslim-dominated Malegaon, Maharashtra. The investigation traced the bike to Thakur. She was allegedly part of a radical group led by former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi which executed a number of terrorist attacks on Muslims as revenge for jihadi terrorism. Thakur remained behind bars until the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency. In 2016, the NIA filed a diluted chargesheet that seemed to exonerate Thakur. The NIA special court, however, insisted she and six others face charges of committing a terrorist act, conspiring to commit terrorist act, murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between communities. Thakur was then released on bail.


Ok, got it! So what happened now? In the midst of campaigning in MP, Thakur was asked about Actor Kamal Hassan’s remarks describing Nathuram Godse as the first extremist of free India. She responded: “Nathuram Godseji deshbhakt the, hai, aur rahenge… unko aatankwadi kahne wale log swayam ki gireban me jhaank kar dekhe… chunav mein aise logon ko jawab de diya jayega” (Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot… those who call him a terrorist should look within… they will get a reply in this election). (clip here)


Wow, that’s really bad right? Yup. It marks yet another first for Thakur. She is now the first political candidate of a mainstream party who has praised Gandhi-ji’s assassin—in the midst of an election! To be fair, another BJP MP, Sakshi Maharaj said something similar back in 2015: “I believe Nathuram Godse was also a nationalist and Mahatma Gandhiji also did a lot for the nation. Godse was an aggrieved person. He may have done something by mistake but was not an anti-national. He was a patriot.” He was forced to tender a public apology.


What happened next? Thakur was widely and severely criticised, of course, but former J&K CM Omar Abdullah posed the most pointed question: “If the killer of the father of the nation is a patriot does that make Mahatma Gandhi anti-national?”


What about the BJP? There has been no comment from senior BJP leaders, including Modi, Shah et al. But the party spokesperson hastily said, “BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement.” Here’s the irony: just days earlier, there were news reports that Thakur had been ordered by the party leadership not to talk to the media until the end of the elections. Guess that didn’t work.


Did she apologise? Yes, eventually. First, she said, “Apne sangathan BJP mein nishtha rakhti hoon, uski karyakarta hoon, aur party ki line meri line hai.” (I have faith in the BJP, I am a party worker, the party line is my line) But she later offered this video statement: “It was my personal opinion. My intention was not to hurt anyone's sentiments. If I've hurt anyone I do apologise. What Gandhi has done for the country cannot be forgotten. I have great respect for him. My statement has been twisted by the media.”


Our bottomline: It is hardly news that certain elements in the BJP party are hostile to Gandhi and his brand of religious tolerance, or that they empathise with Godse’s rage at him. But by rewarding those ‘elements’—be it Thakur or Maharaj (who is again up for election)—with Lok Sabha tickets, the BJP leadership under Modi has legitimised, even normalised, their point of view. And that is shameful.  


Learn more: Watch Thakur’s original remark here, and her apology here. Telegraph rounds up the reporting on Thakur’s remarks. Indian Express analyses why Godse is such a hot potato for the BJP and the RSS. It also has an excellent explainer on Thakur’s role in the Malegaon case. Ajaz Ashraf offers a unique but sharply critical take on Nathuram Godse as a “misguided patriot” in Scroll. Also from Scroll: An analysis of the Bhopal election, and Thakur’s prospects of victory.

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while searching for Modilie in your dictionary

A Bizarre insurance scam in Haryana: This is probably the most bizarre scam you have ever seen where scamsters got cancer-stricken poor farmers in Haryana to sign up for an accidental death policy. Then when they died, they staged an “accident”, often crushing the corpse under a car, bribed everyone from cops to doctors to insurance agents to collect on the claim. Eventually, insurance companies started getting a little suspicious because too many farmers were suddenly getting policies and “dying” while riding pillion on a motorcycle that had hit a bull or a cow. There’s a Netflix series here somewhere in this twisted saga of conmen, poverty and cancer. (Hindustan Times)


Vidyasagar was spotted on the campaign trail in Kolkata: The violence that led to the destruction of a bust of Bengali social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar has caused Bengal’s election campaign to be stopped a day early. But while Trinamool accuses BJP “goons” of breaking the statue, it hasn’t stopped a BJP candidate from campaigning with a man dressed as Vidyasagar. The man says he was paid Rs 150 for a day’s work. Meanwhile, Narendra Modi after a 40-hour silence on Vidyasagar has promised to build a “grand” panchdhatu statue of the polymath which Didi has rejected. And some are huffily asking Modi why Vidyasagar is not good enough for the pricier ashtadhatu!  (News 18)


What exactly is going on with Britney Spears? A #FreeBritney movement started when there was much talk that her father was controlling her life. She cancelled her Las Vegas residency to focus on her mental well-being. Now her long-time manager Larry Rudolph says she might never perform on stage again. (Vogue)


GoT fans need a Hell hath no fury like a Game of Thrones fan disappointed. So many people are upset about Episode 5 of Season 8 when Daenerys burned down the city of Kings Landing (Oops, were we supposed to give a spoiler alert? Sorrrrrrry) they have started a petition for all of Season 8 to be rewritten by “competent writers”. It’s got over 680,000 signatories as of now and growing by the minute. IMDB data shows the series has taken a critical nosedive showing the second worst decline among 82 shows that lasted 5 seasons. Still, isn’t it a little weird to have something as genteel and civilized as a petition for something as full of blood and gore as GoT? Just burn down the house, guys.  (BuzzFeed)


Move over Virushka, there’s a bromance brewing: Have you had it with all those cutesy Virushka ads selling us everything from steel to sherwanis? Well, it can get worse. Like Virat and Rishabh Pant spinning a musical bromance around a pimple! Yas Rana, host of Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast is absolutely right—“12 month bans for both of them please.” Also please note, poor Rishabh is the one with the pimple. King Virat is obviously way too perfect for such unsightly blemishes.


Modilie “lie” exposed: Our indefatigable fact-checkers, working overtime during election season, have busted another important hoax. Rahul Gandhi had tweeted what appeared to be a screenshot of an online dictionary with a snapshot of Modilies, an apparent new word in the English language. Modi fans will be relieved to know the Oxford English Dictionary, no less, has confirmed that the entry Modilie is fake. Maybe it was under sarcasm? (Firstpost)


RIP Y chromosome? Ladies night out could soon become ladies day-and-night out. Well, in just about 4.6 million years. Turns out the Y-chromosome is degenerating, or as this article puts it rather uncharitably, it’s getting a tad shrivelled. Ouch. The scientific community is divided into whether it will actually disappear. But genetic engineering could replace the gene function of the Y-chromosome meaning same-sex couples or infertile men could conceive. Anyway guys, make the most of the next 4.6 million years because Y not? (Inverse)


Girls have higher college cutoffs because they are too smart: The Y chromosome is getting a helping hand in some colleges in Bengaluru already. A few colleges are setting higher cut-off marks for girls for pre-university courses because otherwise there would be a problem of “too many girls”. So boys opting for science in MES PU College have a cut-off of 92% while girls have to make 95%. Apparently this is called gender balancing! (NewsMinute)


One bunny for $9.1 million: This ain’t no Bugs Bunny. The US pop artist Jeff Koons’ stainless steel sculpture of an inflatable rabbit has sold for $9.1 million setting a new record for work by a living artist. This is clearly an all-carrot-and-no stick bunny. (BBC)


One turban for $790: Luxury department store Nordstrom which has stores in the US and Canada has hastily removed a “gorgeously crafted” Gucci Indy full turban from its website after being slammed by the Sikh Coalition for cultural appropriation and trying to monetize an article of faith. But the real questions should be asked of Gucci. Also is there an Indy half turban somewhere? (SkyNews)


And one Prime Minister, priceless: Narendra Modi loves to talk about his humble roots which is 100% true. And in an election season the humble roots get some extra love. But Mr. Modi is currently quite a long way away from those hardscrabble days. The perks of being the pradhan sevak include a 12-acre Lutyens mansion, on-call tailors and hairdressers, 5 bullet-proof BMW sedans (or Range Rovers), Bvlgari glasses, Movado watches and Mont Blanc pens and reports of “diamond facials” and expensive mushrooms. And that’s not including the Rs 4,400 crore publicity bill run up in four years to tout his schemes. (Newslaundry)


The worst Airbnb in the world: Here’s your holiday nightmare. Everyone has a bad hotel room story but you can’t beat British tourist Ben Speller who arrived in Amsterdam to find his £100-a-night Airbnb deal was no Dutch treat. It was a shipping container with three mattresses and a toilet. Speller drove past the container thrice before figuring out that it was their vacation home. They got their money back and the container was towed away, but the moral is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. (DailyMail)


The £4500 wine accident that's your new dining fantasy:  A diner at an upscale steakhouse in Manchester accidentally got a £4500 pound bottle of wine. The server picked up a Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001 instead of a Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2001 that was a mere £260. Happily, the server is not losing her job and the customer didn’t have to foot the bill. But really, couldn’t these wine connoisseurs tell that instead of “plenty of tobacco, berry and cedar aromas” they were getting an “extraordinary perfume of creme de cassis, cherry liqueur, plums, licorice, caramel, and sweet toast”? (Guardian)


Bollywood spotting at Cannes: She’s there representing Loreal and not a film but Deepika Padukone made the most of her red carpet moment in a plunging neckline ivory gown and giant bow. OTOH Bill Murray was spotted on the same red carpet in sneakers. Yup, sneakers. Comfy Allbirds sneakers. Once cast members of Carol were reportedly turned away for wearing flats to the red carpet. Oh, how times have changed. Or maybe not. The women in the picture, Chloë Sevigny, Selena Gomez, and Tilda Swinton, are all in high heels. (Indian Express)

So long and thanks IM Pei: The man who designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre has died. IM Pei, the Chinese-born architect is the man behind some of the most modernist buildings in the world. They include the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and much more. Pei was 102. (New York Times)

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Stuff we buy, use or love

What to watch on a girls’ night in
Yay, it’s movie night with your besties! But what are you going to watch? Here are some excellent GF-bonding options for your viewing pleasure.
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When you’re looking for wicked ‘bad girl’ humour… 

Head over to Amazon Prime for ‘Fleabag’. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is electrifyingly funny as the anti-heroine, a walking human disaster who flashes her bra at the bank manager to get a loan and gets off on watching Obama make a speech on democracy. The script’s searingly black humour is penned by and for women—hey, we’re the only ones who get to make rape jokes! If you need more persuasion: Waller-Bridge went on to develop the award-winning ‘Killing Eve’ and is working on the next James Bond flick—on the personal request of Daniel Craig. Trust us, she’s funny. 

Watch: Fleabag | Amazon Prime

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When you’re in the mood for a ‘Mad Men’ rebellion…

Check out ‘Good Girls Revolt’. It’s set in the same testosterone-fuelled late 60s era, except the setting here is a magazine. Inspired by a real-life lawsuit against Newsweek, it charts the uprising of a group of smart, talented women in a newsroom dominated by alpha male journalists. Yes, there was only one season, and the series’ cancellation led to an uproar. But 10-episodes make for an excellent all-night binge. Also: it’s perfect if you are missing either ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Newsroom’, or both. 

Watch: Good Girls Revolt | Amazon Prime

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When you want to relive those crazy teenage years…

Click on 'Derry Girls'. Take all the pressing Big Issues of that age—boys, clothes, school, parents—and place it in Ireland back in the conflict-ridden 90s. The result is an exuberantly funny comedy with a pitch-perfect cast. The Guardian describes it best: “Derry Girls is reckless, joyful and celebratory, whether they’re explaining why they almost burned down a chip shop, or why they definitely did not kill a nun.” Our advice: Turn on the subtitles. The Irish are always funny, but not always comprehensible.

Watch: Derry Girls | Netflix

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