Friday, August 9, 2019

Lament of the day

Carnatic musician TM Krishna tweeted an elegy dedicated to Kashmir titled ‘Cutoff: Postcard to Kashmir’. It features a poem by Agha Shahid Ali and the sounds of phone calls that never go through. It is both lovely and inexpressibly sad. Watch it here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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What's next in Kashmir

PM Modi made a speech amid reports of scattered protests. The mood in the Valley remains silent and ominous. Here’s a quick roundup of the latest developments:


Modi’s speech: Last night, the Prime Minister addressed the nation—excluding Jammu and Kashmir which remains sealed in a communication lockdown. And here’s what he said:


  • “Article 370 and Article 35 (A) did not give anything except separatism, corruption, terrorism and family rule.”

  • “J&K labourers did not benefit from the laws. Laws for SC/ST did not apply there. J&K women did not have the same rights as others. All J&K workers will now get employment benefits. Over 1.5 crore people of J&K were being denied benefits of legislations meant for the entire country.”

  • “If things improve, J&K doesn’t have to be UT always. Ladakh will remain UT. There will be Assembly elections in J&K. People of J&K will choose their own representatives. Your representative will be elected by you and from among you.”

  • “People in Jammu and Kashmir will not face any difficulty in celebrating Eid. I assure you, things will return to normal.”


Arrests and protests: Around 560 people—including academics, business leaders and activists—have been arrested and taken to makeshift detention centres since the clampdown. Officials confirm that 25 separatists, including “potential stone-pelters”, have been airlifted to Agra from Srinagar. There have been reports of scattered protests in Jammu. There were also angry rallies in Kargil where the police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. And section 144 has since been imposed in three areas of Ladakh: Kargil, Drass and Sankoo. OTOH, the BJP MP from Ladakh is being inundated with Facebook friend requests. 


Mood on the ground: is very angry and very quiet. The inability to even make a phone call to reach relatives or call a doctor has left people feeling stranded and afraid. A number of media outlets have ground reports. We recommend checking out The Wire and The Telegraph—which suggest that the eerie calm is deceptive. Kashmiris haven’t given up. They just haven’t figured out their next move: “We should have all been on the roads protesting, but that is what we have been doing all our lives. They (New Delhi) have declared war on us and our reaction has to be calculated.”


A media blockade: The strict curfew combined with a total communications blackout has made it extraordinarily difficult to file reports. In many cases, the reporter has to fly back to Delhi, or send their stories on USB drives carried by passengers leaving the Valley. On the ground, movements are highly restricted and photos often forbidden. Even journalists are operating blind. “Kashmir has been turned invisible even inside Kashmir,” says this reporter in a haunting description of his efforts to file a story. Al Jazeera has more on this angle. Indian Journalism Review calls out the Press Council of India for its silence at the shuttering of Kashmir’s newspapers—none of which have published an edition since Monday.

Learn more: Some of the other stories worth checking out include: This first-person essay by a despairing Kashmiri Pandit on NewsClick. This Quint analysis looks at how Pakistan has been left isolated and powerless on Kashmir. Also in Quint: Punjab emerges as the most vociferous defender of Kashmiri rights. Ram Guha in Indian Express flags the response of industry titans in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition and their silence now. The Print uses data to counter the government’s argument that J&K is need of “development.” Caravan interviews historian Andrew Whitehead who argues that Article 370 has long been mostly symbolic—but its removal has given it great power and meaning.

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hailing the well-deserved rise of haldi

America’s heartless anti-immigration raids: US immigration agents arrested 680 migrant workers in one of the biggest raids in recent history. Their children were simply left stranded and unsupervised. And this is what it looked like. More on the children here.

Meat eaters, restrain yourselves! A UN panel released a landmark report warning that we have to drastically change the way we produce and consume our food. Massive deforestation caused by agriculture (especially pasture land for cattle) is accelerating the rate of climate change—which in turn will cause massive food shortages due to drought, floods, and storms. As one activist explains, “You’re sort of reaching a breaking point with land itself and its ability to grow food and sustain us.” One recommended solution: eating less meat to reduce land use—especially in the West. (BBC)

The government really, really wants you to spend: Yesterday’s RBI interest rate cut is the latest frantic effort to kickstart consumer spending. People are simply not shopping—be it for houses, cars, or even soaps and toothpaste—due to job losses and lower income growth. Diminishing demand in turn forces businesses to cut or halt production—which in turn leads to pay cuts and job losses. Hence, the desperate measures. Rumoured to be in the works: personal loans that will be approved in 59 minutes! (Times of India)


Turkey’s insane campaign against books: The government has destroyed more than 300,000 books since 2016. The reason: they contain “offending references” to a Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gülen who was behind a failed coup attempt. How insane is this campaign? Behold: “[I]n 2016 a maths book was banned for featuring Gülen’s initials in a question reading “from point F to point G”. In December 2016… 1.8m textbooks had been destroyed and reprinted for containing the ‘objectionable’ word Pennsylvania, which is where Gülen lives in a guarded compound.” (The Guardian)


Apple serves up ASMR: Its latest ads are designed to send tingles through your brain, and they range from six to eleven minutes. Here’s a handy roundup of all four for you to sample. Remember to wear your headphones. (Time


JioPhone sales are falling: The company witnessed a 56% drop in shipments of its feature phone in the April-June quarter compared to the same period in 2018. One reason: “The user-base of feature phones has been shifting to brands like Samsung, iTel, and Lava, among others. There is a pricing shift, with rural customers upgrading in the Rs 6,000-Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 range as demand for premium specification grows.” But Jio doesn’t care. It’s already planning its next big launch: Jio Phone 3 with a 5-inch touch screen display, 2GB RAM, and 64GB of internal expandable storage. (Quartz)


Mary Kom plays unfair: There will be no trials to decide who will represent India in the 51 kg category at the World Championships. Kom asked for and received a pass from the Boxing Federation of India (BFI)—which is very unfair to the other two boxers in her category who deserve at least a shot at taking her slot. (Hindustan Times)


This is the phishing capital of India: For reasons no one can explain, Jamtara, Jharkhand, is a teeming hub of cyber scams. And it’s now in the spotlight because one of its conmen managed to cheat Preneet Kaur of Rs 23 lakh. Who is she? The erstwhile Maharani of Patiala, Punjab MLA and wife of CM Amarinder Singh. Huffington Post has more on that particular scam. We also greatly enjoyed reading Indian Express’ excellent ground report from Jamtara—which is booming btw.


Turmeric is officially ‘in’: Apparently, it is the “hue of the moment,” and here’s a pretty photo gallery showcasing the many ways it’s popping up in fashion and design. (Architectural Digest)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • This brilliant reminder of the immense sweep of Indian history from 886 CE to 1912.

  • This sweet clip of Chetan Bhagat buying an illegal version of his own book from a roadside vendor. 

  • McDonald’s in Japan came up with cool McFizz cups—clear cups with a boy on one side and a girl on the other. Except once they are empty, they have an unforeseen NSFW problem.

  • This cat is everyone at the doctor’s office.

  • Sumo wrestlers frolicking in a field of sunflowers. Yes, you read that right.

  • This scene from Baahubali which is going viral around the world.

  • This heartwarming story of a chapathi stall owner who is standing up for her transgender staff in Thiruvananthapuram.

  • Kane Williamson jogging off to the boundary to eat some birthday cake.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A Guide for the Wannabe Urban Farmer
Many of us love the idea of growing our own food—be it on our rooftop, or as a weekend farmer. Some of us even want a tiny bit of farmland to call our own. Here are some good options in the major metros. (Have a recommendation in your city? Email it to us and we’ll publish a longer list next week)
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When you want to grow food in Mumbai…

We have two options for you. Green Souls offers a brilliant ‘volunteer farmer’ program run out of their community farms—which feed children in need. They also hold regular workshops to help you set up your own urban farms in your community or your home. Option number two: Rujuta Diwekar offers a ‘lifestyle experience’ version at her ancestral farm in Sonave—but you gotta pay.

Price: Free for volunteers; cost varies per workshop | Green Souls
Price: Rs 34,000/year | Sonave Community Farming

The informer 2

When you want to grow food in Bangalore...

Farmizen is an excellent choice. The startup’s aim is to nurture chemical-free farming that supports local farmers. You download their app, and lease a 600-foot mini-farm for a monthly fee. Then choose what vegetables you want to grow on your piece of land. Farmizen will deliver them each week at your doorstep. Or you can harvest them yourselves in up to 8 farm visits a month. You can be a virtual farmer or the weekend kind. (They also operate in Hyderabad, FYI.)

Price: Varies, but averagely Rs 2500/month | Farmizen

The informer 3

When you want to grow food in Delhi…

Opt for Kosara which offers two models. In the DIY version, 700 square feet at their farm near Damdama lake in Gurgaon. They give you everything you need to start farming—including machinery and a support team of experts. And their app notifications keep you in the loop so you can plan your visits. The ‘Click and Grow’ package works like Farmizen (see above)—but as of now there’s no weekend farming option. (Want to start a kitchen garden at home? Edible Routes is a great choice.)

Price: Rs 3000/month | Kosara

Note: If you’re not in any of these cities and want to do kheti at home, Living Greens, Jaipur, and Homecrop, Hyderabad, offer online shopping plus virtual support (or in person if you are in their city). 


Also Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the recommended brands.

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