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Tuesday, February 11, 2020
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Currency of the day

Nostalgic for the one-rupee note? Fear not! That kagaz ka phool is staging a comeback. The government plans to issue a new note very soon. It will be 9.7 x 6.3 cm in size, and carry a replica of the one-rupee coin with a ' ₹' symbol. The colour: pink-and-green. 😱

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The bizarre charges slapped on J&K netas

The government has filed charges against two ex Jammu & Kashmir Chief Ministers—Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti—under the Public Safety Act. The details of the police dossier justifying the action is filled with strange accusations.

 

Wait, weren’t they already in detention? Yes. Both Abdullah and Mufti have been held in preventive detention since August 5—the day the government revoked J&K’s special status, and demoted the state to a union territory. But according to the Indian Express, “Sources said the government decided to book the ex-CMs under PSA since it was becoming ‘legally untenable’ to keep them under preventive detention for longer.” Hence, the decision to book both of them under PSA on February 6.

 

What is the Public Safety Act? The PSA was introduced in 1978 by none other than Sheikh Abdullah (an irony not lost on anyone) to allegedly fight timber smuggling. Over the years, it has been used by various ruling parties in Kashmir to crack down on militants and separatists who might pose a political threat.  However, what makes the law notable is its arbitrary provisions:

 

  • One, the language is deliberately vague and allows the state to detain a person for up to two years if they act “in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State.” In Abdullah’s case, he can be detained for up to one year for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.”
  • Two, the detention order does not require the ruling of a judge—but can be issued by a divisional commissioner or district magistrate. 
  • Three, the authorities need not reveal any facts about the reasons for the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose.”
  • Four, the state or its officials also cannot be sued or be subject to any legal complaint as long as they act in “good faith.”
  • Finally, the PSA gives the state the freedom to make any rules that are “consistent” with the act or required to execute it. One example is the amendment that allows those arrested under the PSA to be held outside Kashmir.

 

Ok, tell me about this dossier: Let’s start with what it says about Omar Abdullah:

 

  • “Despite the fact that the subject has been a mainstream politician, he has been planning his activities against the Union of India under the guise of politics. And while enjoying the support of gullible masses, he has been successful in execution of such activities.”
  • “After revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A, in order to secure support of common people, the subject removed all covers/ curtains and while resorting to his dirty politics has adopted a radical methodology by way of instigating general masses against the policies of central government.”
  • The above appears to reference internal party meetings where Abdullah allegedly underlined the importance of mobilising support to oppose the revoking of Kashmir’s special status.
  • There are no other specifics on Abdullah’s “radical methodology,” but the dossier—very bizarrely—points to “the capacity of the subject to influence people for any cause can be gauged from the fact that he was able to convince his electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers even during the peak of militancy and poll boycotts.”

 

What about Mehbooba Mufti? Her dossier flags her “pro separatist” stance—which is a reference to her public statements challenging the accession of Kashmir if Article 370 was abrogated. But it is also filled with oddly personal attacks: “(The) subject is recognised as (a) hot-headed and scheming person, known for dangerous and insidious machinations… The subject is referred, for her dangerous and insidious machinations and usurping profile and nature, by the masses as ‘Daddy’s girl’ and ‘Kota Rani’, based on the profile of a medieval queen of Kashmir, who rose to power by virtue of undertaking intrigues ranging from poisoning of her opponents to ponyardings (sic).”

 

So what’s next? Omar Abdullah’s sister Sara Pilot has challenged the PSA charges in the Supreme Court, calling them “illusory, vague and irrelevant.” Point to note: Her father Farooq too has been detained under the PSA.

 

Will this work? Hard to say. The Supreme Court has dragged its feet on Kashmir-related petitions—often offering generous delays to the government. But it did take aim at the internet shutdown which was finally lifted on 26 January. And 26 such PSA-related charges were dropped last month after the Court cracked down. But the J&K High Court has recently been sending mixed signals—with one judge claiming that the court is not the “proper forum to scrutinise the merits of administrative decision to detain a person”.

 

Why does the High Court matter? The Supreme Court in the past has kicked PSA petitions back to the High Court—which is typically the first court of appeal in such cases. So it's a bit of a pass-the-ugly parcel situation.

 

Learn more: News 18 has details on the dossier. Indian Express has a front-page story on the mixed signals from the J&K High Court and a detailed explainer on the PSA. The Hindu reports on the lawsuit filed by Sara Pilot. Also read: our explainer on Farooq Abdullah’s arrest under the PSA. Plus: the explainer on the internet shutdown.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

looking hot and sweaty, with a book in hand

Your post-Oscar roundup is here: And it includes the following:

  • Time explains why Parasite's historic best picture win is the beginning of a new era in Hollywood.
  • The Cut has the funniest list of red carpet looks. For example, Best Lamp-Shade Impression: Laura Dern. 
  • Buzzfeed’s list of the 14 most awkward moments is worth your time. 
  • This straight out of a fantasy novel moment captured on the red carpet. 
  • Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab wore a lovely dress with an even lovelier meaning. It was embroidered with two phrases—“we dared to dream” and “we don’t regret asking for our dignity.” See it here.
  • Watch Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves shamelessly flirt on stage.
  • We forgot to put this one in yesterday: Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig singing on stage.

 

Donald Trump is coming to town! The president and wife Melania will be in town on their first official visit later this month. The exact dates: February 24 and 25. We can all look forward to breathless 24/7 Trump coverage. (Mint)

 

Supreme Court wades into Shaheen Bagh: A four-month-old child of a protester died due to the severe cold Delhi weather in Shaheen Bagh. Many questioned her mother’s decision to put her baby at risk. Others defended her as just another underprivileged mother who takes her child everywhere—be it to a protest or a construction site. The Supreme Court finally waded into the debate thanks to a plea submitted by a 12-year old, no less. And it appears to be taking an unsympathetic line: “A four-month-old child is going there [Shaheen Bagh] to protest? Are you saying a four-month-old can protest?” Hearing another Shaheen Bagh-related petition, the Court also signalled that it takes a dim view of the blockade: “You cannot block a public road indefinitely. If everybody starts protesting everywhere, then what will happen.” In a seemingly unrelated report from Scroll: A newborn died in a detention centre in Assam. A tribunal had declared his mother a foreigner—which turned out to be untrue.

 

Your viral outbreak update is here: Here’s the latest on the coronavirus that is sweeping around the world:

 

  • The latest tally: 1016 dead, 42,638 cases. World Health Organisation chief says that the number of reported cases is “the tip of the iceberg”—and that the disease’s spread will likely accelerate.
  • China continues to take extreme and risky measures to stop the spread—and identify new cases. The latest: stopping fever and cough medicine sales to force citizens to go to the hospital to seek treatment. 
  • In other unwelcome news, scientists say that the disease can likely spread through feces, as well. 
  • The Indian crew trapped on a cruise ship that is under a two-week quarantine has sent an SOS video to PM Modi. 

 

Uber v Ola wars: Uber’s latest plan to outdo Ola in India: self-driving car rentals and shuttle bus services. Ola’s latest plan to outdo Uber in London: high quality customer service, better qualified drivers and an AI-driven safety feature called the ‘Guardian’.

 

Spotify’s so-called ad-free experience: Subscribers of Spotify Premium pay extra bucks to be rid of pesky ads. But ad agencies are now finding sneaky ways to insert pitches for brands—for example, KFC—into your playlist. And what’s worse, ad execs are bragging about it: “Through the first-ever ad on Spotify Premium we are proving that ads can coexist with the user experience without interrupting them. The idea is a bit polarizing, but that’s what gives it traction.” Fast Company explains why this is a “middle finger” to all of us. And Karthik Srinivasan looks at other instances of ‘fooled you’ arrogance.

 

The ‘Bolly Babes’ Pop Up: Here are two excellent reads on the ‘unreality’ of our leading ladies: 

 

  • No sheen on her face or damp patches under her arms. Tanushree Bhasin in The Wire asks: Does the Bollywood heroine ever sweat? 
  • Sohini Chattopadhyay in Film Companion explores a rarely seen kind of heroine: “a woman who reads for pleasure or in solitude, where reading is a part of her identity to say that she can think, reflect, maintain an inner life.” 

 

Things that make you go WTF: include the following:

 

  • The Bombay High Court has declared that astrology is indeed a science. 
  • The very mean Daily Mail claims Prince Harry underwent a hair 'thickening treatment' to treat his spreading bald patch. 
  • Lyon’s Fernando Marcal who scored the most WTF self-goal ever. 
  • A British Airways flight flew from New York to London in four hours and 56 minutes—reaching a top speed of 825 miles per hour due to a storm. And that’s a new world record! The flight typically takes 6-plus hours. 

 

Cool stuff we learned on the internet: includes the following:

 

  • Indian Express takes a look at the world’s largest Harry Potter store that’s coming soon to New York City 
  • The New York Times profiles the ‘bird medics of India’: two brothers in Wazirabad who have dedicated their lives to saving black kites.
  • Times of India interviews American archaeologist Sarah Parcak who is using ‘space archaeology’ to uncover ancient sites in India.

 

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

 

  • The American moon moth, which is simply gorgeous and has no mouth. 
  • The perfect dance instructor for your next Bollywood-themed sangeet. Let’s all change the light bulb! 
  • This very polite and adorable squirrel that “pays” for its supper. 
  • The heart-warming BBC video story of a 68-year old literally running to save her husband’s life. 
  • The Mumbai class seven kid who became the youngest to climb South America’s highest peak, Mt Aconcagua in Argentina. And yay, it’s a girl!
  • A 200-year-old diary written by a Brit farmer that's rewriting gay history 
  • This happy Golden trying out its prosthetic legs for the first time.
  • Last but not least, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your ex—courtesy the San Antonio zoo. Note, we said ‘ex’.
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