Thursday, February 6, 2020

Man of the day

Comedian Varun Grover posted an Insta photo with his cat… and a very pretty shade of nail polish. Women loved it. A number of men were horrified. So Grover posted a follow-up story taking on the trolls—and “one of the final frontiers of masculinity.” And why did he paint his nails: “Nail paint makes my hand look beautiful and colourful with minimum of effort.” We agree! Check out his Insta story here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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An intruder in Shaheen Bagh

The neighbourhood in Delhi is now a national symbol of the anti-citizenship law protests. But it has also become a lightning rod for misogyny, anti-Muslim bigotry and political dirty tricks. (Here are our explainers on the protests and the CAA law)


Wait, first tell me about Shaheen Bagh: Also called Abul Fazal Enclave Part II, it is the southernmost neighbourhood in Okhla. And its residents are overwhelmingly Muslim. The Shaheen Bagh protest started with just 10-15 women in mid-December who staged a 24/7 sit-in blocking a stretch of a key highway. The numbers have since grown to around 1,000 during the day, which swells to nearly 20,000 at night.  


Point to note: The protest is led by hijab and burqa-clad Muslim women, many with children. But Sikhs have played a key role in supporting the protest—and their presence also drives home the bigger message: This is about all Indians, and not just Muslims. And Shaheen Bagh is notable for wearing its patriotism on its sleeve, transforming the flag and the constitution into symbols of protest.


What happened? A burqa-clad woman was caught trying to covertly videotape the protests. Here’s how it went down, according to news reports:

  • The woman aroused suspicion when she started asking questions such as: “Don’t you think you are wasting your time here?”
  • When questioned by protesters, she claimed to be from Lucknow. Then they asked her to show videos of the protests she attended there on her phone. She refused—but finally gave in to demands for her identity card. 
  • And when she was searched by protesters, they allegedly found a “spy camera.” Asked by reporters why she was carrying a camera, Kapoor bizarrely retorted, "This is not media's hot moment. Go!"
  • Watch her being questioned by the women.


And who is this woman? Gunja Kapoor. She has a YouTube channel called ‘Right Narrative’, and has over 31,000 followers on Twitter—including none other than PM Modi himself. And as her pinned tweet makes clear, the admiration is mutual. Kapoor has also written op-eds to various news sites such as The Print, Firstpost and Daily O—and they are all highly supportive of the government, the CAA, and the National Register of Citizens. Point to note: While Kapoor likes to call herself a member of the media, she certainly isn’t—not by any traditional definition.


What happened to her? Kapoor was finally taken away by the police who held her for half an hour and let her go. And she later thanked the police for “saving her life.” (Watch that clip here.) Meanwhile, one of the protesters told The Telegraph: “Trying to impersonate and spy is not reporting. We don’t want to be the victim of fake news and that’s why we insisted that she first be recorded by news channels before being taken away.”


Doesn’t sound like a big deal: No, it isn’t a serious incident in itself. But it comes in the midst of a smear campaign targeting the protesters. For example, the BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya shared a ‘sting video’ that the women at Shaheen Bagh were paid Rs 500-1,200 a day to stage the ongoing protest. A joint Alt News-Newslaundry investigation proved that the clip was staged in an entirely different location. Also: Shaheen Bagh has been directly targeted by PM Modi: “There is a design of politics behind it, which is going to ruin the harmony of the nation.” 


Also, the threats of violence: In late January, a man threatened the protesters with a gun—telling them to disperse or else "lashe girenge.” Three days later, a man identified as Kapil Baisala fired shots in the air while shouting, “Hamaare desh mein kisi ki nahi chalegi, sirf Hinduon ki chalegi” (No one except Hindus will have their way in our country). On Sunday, two unidentified men on a scooter, opened fire near the protest site before running away.


Also, the party politics: Let’s not forget, the Delhi elections are right around the corner. The BJP has variously accused the protesters of being stooges of Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party. A Delhi police official claimed that Baisala is, in fact, an AAP member. He has since been issued a warning from the Election Commission—which noted that “referring to a political party at this stage even as the investigation is still going on has the effect of adversely impacting the elections.”


The bottomline: Shaheen Bagh helped transform how the nation views Indian women—specifically, Muslim women who have been stereotyped as submissive, repressed and in need of rescue. So it is all the more ironic that Kapoor chose to hide behind a burqa as part of her plan to make them “trust” her, and “speak openly.”


Learn more: There’s a ton of reporting on Shaheen Bagh. These are worth your time:


  • The Telegraph has the most details on the story.
  • Watch Gunja Kapoor explain why she wore a burqa.  
  • If you want a quick sense of Kapoor’s politics, watch this CNN-News18 clip
  • BBC News profiles the women of Shaheen Bagh—and their determination to keep the protest non-violent and keep political parties at bay. 
  • Also worth checking out: Washington Post on “the new generation of Muslim women who speak boldly without an iota of fear.” 
  • Caravan has an excellent piece on Shaheen Bagh, the locality. 
  • Yogendra Yadav in The Print argues that women make better leaders. 
  • Last but not least, watch the legendary Shubha Mudgal singing at Shaheen Bagh. 
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shopping for nail polish for your bae

Trump goes scot-free: The US prez was acquitted of all charges yesterday. Senate voted 52-48 in his favour on the first charge of abuse of power, and 53-47 on the second charge of obstructing Congress. A two-third majority is required for a guilty verdict. Only one Republican—Mitt Romney—broke ranks. He choked up during the speech, saying “the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.” Watch the clip here. Trump called it “our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax.” Icing on this cake: Trump’s popularity is at an all-time high of 49%. Forgotten what this is about? Read our explainer.


In related Trump news: He delivered a bitterly partisan State of the Union speech. But it was overshadowed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi literally ripping up his speech right after. Later she said, “[I}t was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative." Watch the viral moment here.


Yet another airline tragedy: A Turkish airliner skidded off a runway and crashed into a ditch—and literally broke into three pieces. Number of dead: 3. Number of injured: 179. Officials described it as a “rough landing” in very bad weather. AP News has the story. See a shocking clip of the plane here and here. It's truly a miracle that anyone survived.


A ‘significant breakthrough’ in viral outbreak? UK scientists say they may have developed a potential vaccine—and are ready to start testing it on animals asap. But human trials will have to wait until the summer. Also reporting a possible cure: researchers at a Chinese university. All of which caused an immediate jump in US stock exchanges. However, the World Health Organisation remains sceptical, and insists that there is no known cure as of now. The latest tally: 565 dead; 28,264 cases worldwide. (Washington Post)


A big cancer breakthrough: New research will help doctors detect the earliest signs of cancer—years, even decades before the patient shows the first symptoms. How? By detecting genetic mutations in cancerous cells in people who are most at risk. A lead researcher says, “One could try and identify these [early mutations] and do some kind of very sensitive imaging on patients that were positive… Or even further into the future, one could conceive of methods that really targeted these cells and made them light up in an imaging approach or just kill them in one go. That’s a bit science fiction at the moment.” (The Guardian)


Twitter cracks down on fake content: The platform will delete doctored videos and photos that “threaten people’s safety, risks mass violence, or could cause people to not vote.” And if it isn’t as serious, then Twitter will label the tweet as misleading, reduce its visibility, and show a warning before people retweet it. (BuzzFeed News)


Ram Mandir trust is in operation: Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust—created to build the mandir—will have 15 trustees, including one from the Dalit community. (Hindustan Times)


A stay on ‘Shikara’? A petition in the J&K court is seeking a stay on Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s upcoming film on the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989. The reason: We are asking for stalling the release and deleting a few scenes that portray the valley’s Muslims in a bad light.” Chopra plans to fight it. (Hindustan Times)


Stuff that makes you go WTF: includes the following:


  • Residents in a Kerala building got a boozy surprise—liquor flowing from the taps in their building. The reason: A botched attempt by cops to get rid of 6000 litres of illegal alcohol.
  • Architectural Digest did a spread on the home of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s very minimalist and very cream-coloured home—self-described as “futuristic Belgian monastery.” It is very WTF.
  • Former UK PM David Cameron's bodyguard left a loaded gun—and Cameron’s passport!—in a plane toilet. 
  • Air India canceled a passenger’s ticket without notifying him. The reason: his name is also Kunal Kamra. 
  • Jurors in the sexual harassment trial of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein were shown naked photos of him. Yes, there are ‘court sketches’ of that instantly blinding moment. 


Cool stuff we learned online: includes the following: 


  • Economic & Political Weekly has a must-read on period trackers and the shockingly intimate information they pry from Indian women.
  • Scientists claim humans have infinite emotions as long as we name them. So The Cut asked writers to do so. Say hello to liegasm, jealoushy, and feminamity. 
  • Did you know the sperm whale is named the sperm whale because it has an enormous fluid-filled organ in its head? And it’s white and globby? We do now thanks to this excellent thread.
  • The Guardian explains the new fad of setting seriously expensive merch on fire on Instagram. 
  • This clip captures a 3rd century BCE Buddhist stupa in Kanaganahalli, Karnataka. It looked lovely so we did some digging and discovered that the murals include a sculpture-portrait of Emperor Ashoka—the only available image of the Mauryan emperor. And these treasures are being destroyed due to criminal neglect. So it kinda started out cool and then went downhill 🤷🏽‍♀️
  • Shape Magazine explains how intermittent fasting can affect your mind.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • Brit MP Tracy Brabin was relentlessly trolled because her dress slipped while speaking in Parliament, and her shoulder became exposed. This was her priceless response
  • As per the plans to revamp the heart of Delhi, the Prime Minister will get his very own house—and a special tunnel road that will connect it to the Parliament. Why is this good news? No more traffic jams caused by sarkaari motorcades.
  • This funny dubbed edition of a glitzy Bollywood wedding attended by the likes of Kareena Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.
  • Our new #LifeGoals: This woman celebrating her 102nd birthday.
  • Our new #FitnessGoals: working out to the Shakira-JLo playlist.
  • Dhoni’s new incarnation as a paani puri-wala
  • Not exactly sunshine, but lots of folks are super-excited about Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra’s latest fiery speech.
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