Monday, August 5, 2019
Quiz of the day

Assam is updating its National Register of Citizens in order to separate its Indian residents from undocumented migrants. Over the last four years, 3.29 crore people have had to prove their citizenship. But can you prove you are an Indian citizen according to its criteria? Take the NRC test over at Scroll and find out.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The terrifying situation in Kashmir

Over the past week, the government has taken a series of extraordinary measures in Jammu & Kashmir—the latest being the house arrest of the state’s political leadership. But no one knows why.


A timeline of the escalation: Here’s how the events unfolded over the past two weeks:


  • July 25: The government sends 10,000 troops to the Valley without explanation. It sparks panic and speculation that New Delhi is planning to amend Kashmir’s special status. 

  • July 28: reports emerge of an imminent threat of a massive terrorist attack by Pakistan-supported groups.

  • August 1: There are reports of 25000-28000 additional troops being deployed to the Valley. Again, there is no official statement, but government sources offer wildly varying reasons to media outlets.

  • August 2: Amarnath Yatra is cancelled and all tourists are asked to leave the Valley immediately. The J&K government directive cites “latest intelligence inputs of terror threats with specific targeting of the Amarnath yatra.”

  • August 3: students empty out of hostels, and tourists begin a frenzied exodus. Rumours swirl and the Valley is in a state of panic.


Ok, what happened yesterday? Late last night, the government took a series of even more extreme measures:

  • The imposition of Section 144: "As per the order, there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed. There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order. Identity cards of essential services officials will be treated as movement passes wherever required.” However, no official curfew is in place—even though all movement has been banned (?!).

  • The arrest of prominent Kashmiri leaders including Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others. In one of his last tweets, Abdullah said: ”I believe I’m being placed under house arrest from midnight tonight & the process has already started for other mainstream leaders. No way of knowing if this is true but if it is then I’ll see all of you on the other side of whatever is in store. Allah save us 🙏🏼” He asked everyone to stay calm—as did Mufti. 

  • All communications were shut down, including internet services, effectively cutting the state off from the rest of the country.

  • The Hindu notably reports: “Meanwhile the security build-up took a final shape on Sunday, a top police official said on the condition of anonymity. Several colleges, factories and hostels were vacated and occupied by additional troops in the Valley. Hospitals were put in emergency mode, said a senior official on the condition of anonymity. Dozens of mobile bullet-proof bunkers were installed across the Valley.”


Also, the Pakistan angle: India claims that highly trained commando forces staged five attacks on Indian targets over the past few days. India retaliated with the use of heavy artillery weapons which is unusual. Cross-border fire is typically limited to small calibre weapons. Meanwhile, Pakistan has accused India of using cluster bombs to target civilians—which it denies. And PM Imran Khan held an emergency security meeting, and he later declared that his nation was "ready to defend itself against any Indian misadventure or aggression." And he called again on Trump to mediate between the two countries.


So WTF is going on? There are no clear answers from the government. All we have is a lot of speculation. One rumour claims that the government is readying to abrogate Article 35A that gives the government of Jammu & Kashmir unrestrained power to define who is a ‘permanent resident’ of the state (see our explainer here). Another rumour claims that it plans to carve the state into three entities: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. 


What has the government said? The unprecedented order to shut down the Amarnath Yatra cited “latest intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra” and the “prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley.” But we don’t have much more than that on record. There are, however, lots of quotes from anonymous sources. For example: military sources told Quint of a troop build up of 180,000 troops, and preparations for “a turmoil of high intensity.”


It is especially unclear: why a terror threat would require arresting the state’s leaders. Unless it has something to do with a meeting of Kashmiri leaders which passed a resolution declaring, “All the parties would unite in their resolve to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever.”


What’s next? There is a cabinet meeting scheduled for today. And as Shashi Tharoor points out, the Parliament is in session. So the government will have to offer some answers—however unsatisfactory—and soon.


The bottomline: for us is this line from this Indian Express editorial: “Through a series of orders, some of them half-denied, and some implemented despite denials… the government has contributed to the spread of panic and uncertainty in the Valley and in the minds of other Indians, almost as if this was the intention. [Emphasis added]” Extreme situations may call for extreme measures—but none can be taken without clear communication of intent and purpose in a democracy.

Learn more: The Hindu has the best overview. Indian Express reports on secret plans to dilute Article 35A, and its editorial cited above is a must read. Times of India reports on troop movements. The Telegraph has a scathing take on the ‘no answers’ policy of the government. Quint offers a detailed summary of the various theories swirling around the latest developments—including interviews with anonymous bureaucratic and military sources. Also read: Broadsheet’s explainer on Article 35A.

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offering a silent prayer for peace

Mass shootings in America: Over the weekend, two separate gunmen opened fire in two separate locations: El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 

  • In El Paso, Patrick Crusius killed 20 people at a shopping centre, and injured 26 others. His motivation to fight: “the Hispanic invasion of Texas." The regional US attorney general said, “We are treating this as a domestic terrorism case, and we're going to do what we do to terrorists in this country which is to deliver swift and certain justice" 

  • In Dayton, the shooter used a high-capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines, killing nine and injuring 27 others at a nightlife district. The reason for this killing spree remains unknown as of now.

  • People are talking about: this picture from Crusius’ Facebook page which pays tribute to his hero; the role of the notorious 8chan message board as an incubator for white extremist hate; and this statistic: there have now been 251 mass shootings in the US in 216 days—that’s more shootings than days in the year.


Your gloomy economic data is here: Auto sales are plummeting, and car factories are cutting back on production. OTOH, the Jharkhand state government has hiked the power tariff by 38% since April. The result: 25-30 steel sector companies in Jamshedpur have shut down their businesses. Meanwhile in the rest of India: household savings have plummeted to a decade low—even as personal debt has experienced double-digit growth, year after year. Why is this bad? Household savings are the largest source of funds for investment in an economy. Household debt has increased 200% over the past ten years thanks to spending on various goods and services, from electronic gadgets to holidays. 


Warned against talking about ‘Tax terrorism’: Since the death of Cafe Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha, a number India Inc leaders have been calling out income tax officials who misuse their powers. The foremost among them: Mohandas Pai and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. Guess who got a call from “a government official” offering unsolicited advice? “He just said that ‘please don’t make such statements. Even Mohandas Pai should not. I am telling you as a friend’,” revealed Mazumdar Shaw. Asked if it was just advice or a warning, she responded, “You can call it both ways.” Pai added, “Lots of people get such threats.” (The Telegraph)


Great news for adult Saudi women: They no longer need male approval from their male guardians in order to work or travel. That’s definitely a huge step forward but it will do little for the many young Saudi women who flee the country seeking freedom. The reason: most of them are under 21 and not covered by this new law. (Business Insider)


Rape survivor’s outrage goes viral: Back in 2013, Rajeev Panwar entered the flat of an American woman and sexually assaulted her (by inserting his fingers which is considered rape under Indian law). He was finally found guilty and received a seven-year sentence earlier this year. However, he appealed the verdict and a higher court let him out on bail in the meanwhile (asking only for a personal bond of Rs 25000). The enraged survivor went to the Indian consulate in San Francisco to get a number of legal documents notarised—and was given the usual red tape runaround. She then posted a video documenting her outrage. It went viral, received support from various Bollywood actors, and the consulate pointed out that her paperwork has already been processed. Now, various 'nationalists' are defending our screwed up legal system which lets a convicted rapist out on bail. Watch her video here. Mint has the story.


In related outrage-inducing news: Here’s what a Station House Officer in Uttar Pradesh said to a father worried about his missing daughter.


Karan Johar ignites drug drama: KJo threw a party. Kjo took a video of his guests chilling at the party. KJo posted it on Instagram (see it here). So far, so good. Then all hell broke loose when a Punjab politician claimed that his guests were “flaunting their drugged state.” The guests, btw, included Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor et al. The politician also wrote an open letter asking really important questions like: “If it was not a drug party, then why were there no food or drink glasses? If it wasn't a powder-impacted state, why did you all appear stoned and shamelessly out of your senses?” Also read: Hindustan Times on the Bollywood drug scene. Our favourite quote: “Drugs at Bollywood parties have been going on for ages. Roll it, snort it, do it and forget it that’s the mantra.” 


Lena Dunham tried to kiss Brad Pitt: and the photograph of that awkward moment is raising a lot of questions about double standards. We’d say more but you really have to see the photo to get why some people are “grossed out.” (NME


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:


  • New York Times on the relaunch of the ‘woke’ version of Playboy 

  • The Telegraph on why some tiger reserves in India don’t have tigers. 

  • A delightful piece in The Hindu chronicling the anecdotes of a lion pride researcher in India. 

  • This excellent Mint column skewering the ‘make-believe monsoon’ underway in Kolkata. 

  • Also from Mint: An in-depth report on the fast-approaching Day Zero in Bangalore’s water crisis.  

  • Vox on why everyone on Instagram is filming their workouts 

  • This Print video report on the Kanwariyas who fear the pollution of menstruating women and Muslims 

  • An excerpt from an upcoming book on Sunanda Pushkar and her last days. 

  • News 18’s fascinating report that explains how drugs are smuggled from Afghanistan into India. 

  • New York Times on why Japanese women opt out of marriage 

  • Huffington Post on the class privilege of super mean Indian beauty bloggers 


Your Monday morning pick me up: includes the following:


  • The ‘badhaai ho’ video report on the birth of a baby white rhino via artificial insemination—which gives enormous hope for the future of the northern white rhino (there are only two left in the world). 

  • The equally brilliant news that Ethiopia broke the world record by planting 350 million trees in 12 hours. 

  • This first-ever footage of a baby whale who has been adopted by a mama dolphin—this is very, very rare in the wild, btw. 

  • This ‘arm-bumping’ photo of a 22-month old boy who was born without a hand meeting his football hero—who also doesn’t have a hand. The sheer joy captured in the shot is an instant mood-booster.

  • Cadbury’s BTS-inspired ‘Friendship Day’ campaign. See the video here, and read about the BTS angle on this Twitter thread

  • These stunning winners of the Audubon Society’s annual bird photography contest

  • Donkey love. Honestly, we had no idea that they loved their humans this much. 

  • The happy news that a Bengali immigrant is now Miss England.  

  • A doggie bath starring… umm, two chimps? Plus: this lovely story about a langur who is a ‘student’ in an Andhra school.  

  • Sachin Tendulkar and his driverless car. His boyish enthusiasm is entirely disarming. 

  • This clip of ‘The Great Escape’ starring a wily cat and two crated puppies.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to master the keto diet

 Editor’s note: Over at Broadsheet, we’re all for loving your body exactly the way it is. That said, almost all of us have been on one kind of diet or another. And the keto diet is among the most popular. But it can be a struggle to figure out how to embrace a near zero-carb regimen given our cuisine and palate. Broadsheet Ambassador Jyotsna Sharma explains how. 


Why I keto: My first experience with the keto diet was back in 2016. I had gained a ton of weight thanks to the bad eating habits I’d acquired in a job where I travelled constantly. I was cycling through fad diets and struggling to lose weight. Then I stumbled upon an article which said Rihanna lost weight on keto—so I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ As far as I was concerned, it was one more fad diet to try and fail at. But within a week, I lost three kilos (mostly in the form of water) but it was motivation enough to stay the course. Over the next four months, I lost nearly ten kilos—which was more than the weight I had gained. More importantly, I just felt better in every sense of the word. My skin was clearer, and my mind was sharper. I felt less anxious and I was sleeping a lot better (I’ve had insomnia for as long as I can remember). 


What is the keto diet? Keto is shorthand for ketogenic, Usually, the human body uses glucose (as in carbs from sugary or starchy foods) as its primary source of energy. However, when you eliminate carbs, our bodies switch to burning fat. This is when the liver starts to break down fat—both from food and from the reserves stored in our fat tissue—into triglycerides to create glucose. Ketones are a byproduct of this process. And their presence in your urine indicates that the body is burning fat instead of glucose. Once ketogenesis kicks in and ketone levels go up, the body is said to be in ketosis. 


What’s a-okay on a keto diet? To create a state of ketosis, you have to eat high-fat food along with moderate to low protein and less than 50 grams of carbs a day. The proportion is typically 75:20:5. So your everyday meals ought to contain more of the below:


  • Seafood. All seafood is very keto-friendly. Salmon and other fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium, yet carb-free.

  • Low-carb vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and carbs, but high in many nutrients, including vitamin C and several minerals. You should opt for veggies that are low in digestible carbs and high in fibre—which the body doesn’t absorb. That list includes okra, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, all leafy greens, cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, brinjal, avocado, olives, bell peppers, broccoli, radish and bottle gourd. The vegetables to avoid: potatoes, yams or beets. Just one serving of these "starchy" vegetables can put you over your entire carb limit for the day. 

  • Cheese. All cheese varieties are very low in carbs and high in fat, which makes them a great fit for a ketogenic diet. Cheese is also rich in protein, calcium and beneficial fatty acids.

  • Meat and Poultry. Meat and poultry are staple foods on a ketogenic diet. Grass-fed meat is the healthier choice when available. 

  • Eggs. Eggs are a great protein option for those of us who do not eat meat. One large egg contains less than a gram of carbs, six grams of protein, and around five grams of fat.

  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil has an unusually high amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are harder for the body to turn into stored fat, and easier to burn than long-chain fats. However, coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. And as most heart doctors would agree, cautious consumption is key. You do not want to exchange one kind of problem for another. 

  • Hung curd and cottage cheese. Overnight hung curd and cottage cheese are healthy, high-protein foods. 

  • Olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It's ideal for salad dressings, mayonnaise and drizzling on top of cooked foods.

  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are healthy, high-fat and low-carb foods but only if they are the right kind. Examples: almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, and walnuts. Stay far away from high carb nuts like cashews and pistachios. 

  • Berries. Most fruits are too sugary to include on a ketogenic diet, but berries are an exception. The reason: they are low in digestible carbs and high in fibre.

  • Butter and cream. Butter and cream are good fats to include on a ketogenic diet. Each contains only trace amounts of carbs per serving. Nut-based butter is also a great addition to the ketogenic menu.

  • Coffee and tea. Just be sure to skip the sugar and milk. And if you’re feeling truly committed, try adding bulletproof coffee to your diet.

  • Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder. Dark chocolate and cocoa are delicious sources of antioxidants. While picking dark chocolate, make sure it is 90% cocoa or upwards. Also be sure to check carb content on the pack of cocoa powder.

  • Sugar Substitutes. Stevia is a great and inexpensive substitute but has a rather unforgiving aftertaste. My sweetener of choice is Erythritol. Natural sweeteners to avoid because of high carb and sugar content: honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, dates. Artificial sweeteners to avoid due to health concerns: Splenda, Equal, Sucralose and Aspartame.

  • Alcohol. Yes, you can drink on keto but what can you drink? Hard liquors such as gin, vodka, whiskey and white rum are lower on carbs. Avoid beer and wine which have a high carb count. However, any kind of alcohol hinders fat burning for 24 hours after consumption. During that time, your body will focus on burning alcohol rather than burning fat. So drink wisely.


What are the big no-nos? Pretty much anything that’s not listed above is not keto-approved. Simply put, you cannot have: any sugar (in any form), any kind of grains (no bread, no rice, no quinoa, no oats), any variety of legume (i.e. no dal), no dried beans (no rajma or chana), any fruit other than berries. The hardest one: no milk. A single cup of whole milk has almost 12 grams of carbohydrates.  But you can opt for other kinds such as almond milk.


A list of essential keto resources: Here’s what you need to get started:


The keto calculator: All diets can be as strict or permissive as you need. A keto calculator helps you figure out your ideal daily calorie intake split up into fats, net carbs and protein—based on your goals: lose weight, gain muscle or maintain. Here’s the one I use over at


Shopping List: Here are my essentials with links to brands I buy.


Sample meal plans and recipes: I recommend Keto For India, Headbanger’s Kitchen and Keto Tadka. For more visual guidance, check out Youtube channels for Headbanger’s Kitchen and Sonal’s Kitchen


Special note for vegetarians: I eat meat and eggs. And yes, getting on a keto diet is a lot more challenging for folks who don’t eat either—but it is entirely doable. Vegetatio offers a comprehensive guide for vegetarians. For Western recipes, we recommend these lists from Shape and Ruled. NDTV has five Indian veg staples like saag paneer, sarson ka saag, baingan bhartha etc. Keto For India has a number of recipes including a seven-day Navratri special menu. If you’re vegan, then head over to PETA

Special note for pregnant or new moms: When I became pregnant, I went off the diet and stayed off until I stopped breastfeeding my daughter. I’ve since restarted my keto journey and am still in the process of losing my pregnancy weight. But it feels a lot easier and doable with keto.

Note: As with all diets, moderation is key. As research has proven over and again, the best diets are healthy, balanced and sustainable in the long-term. Extreme dieting only leads to weight-cycling. As with any regimen, you should adapt keto’s strict requirements to your personal needs and goals.

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