Monday, January 6, 2020
Award of the day

The Golden Globes are being doled out even as we publish. The highlights so far: Sam Mendes scored best director for ‘1917’; Brad Pitt landed best supporting actor for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood; ‘Succession’ won the best drama series; Phoebe Waller-Bridge also aced the comedy category. Watch Brad Pitt’s speech here. The speech everyone’s talking about: Tom Hank’s weeper. E Online has the best red carpet moments. The clear winner: Billy Porter. Track Guardian’s live blog here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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An evening of terror in JNU

A large mob stormed the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and brutally attacked teachers and students. In the aftermath of the shocking incident, there are competing claims on who is to blame—but the eyewitness testimonies are both consistent and damning.

What happened? Here’s a timeline of events:

  • Around 4:30 pm on Sunday, there was an initial confrontation between left-leaning student groups and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)—the student wing of the RSS. According to The Telegraph, a group of 40-50 ABVP members attacked boarders at a hostel, and were beaten back. Times of India says it was a minor skirmish during a peace march organised by the JNU Teachers’ Association.

  • But at 6:30 pm, a larger group of masked men entered JNU campus, armed with sticks, steel rods, large stones and hammers. Estimates range from 100-200. They went on a systematic rampage, entering the seven hostels where they smashed doors and windows. Both teachers and students were assaulted, and nearly 30 have been injured. Clips of the unrestrained mob here and here.

  • Among the injured was JNU Student Union president Aishe Ghosh who received a severe head injury. Watch her being escorted to the hospital.

  • According to news reports, the police arrived outside the campus gates by 7:30. And there were 700 police personnel inside by late Sunday night.

  • But what is clear is that the mob seems to have had a free run for hours before the police entered the campus. According to one JNU professor, “They (the police) are at the gate and they have not marched in. They have allowed this to happen. The mob has gone freely from hostel to hostel, they have gone to faculty housing.”

  • Peace was finally restored around 10:30 pm. 

So this was the ABVP, right? That’s where the competing claims kick in. The ABVP claims that the “masked goons” belong to leftwing student organisations, and they attacked its members: "Around 25 students have been seriously injured in this attack and there is no information as to the whereabouts of 11 students.”

Why would they do that? JNU recently hiked its tuition fees which sparked fierce protests—with many refusing to take semester exam in December. The administration has refused to dial back the increase even though the Union government has advised it to do so. Sunday was the last day of registration for the second semester. According to ABVP, these leftwing groups—who oppose the fee hike—assaulted ABVP members and others trying to register for classes. 

What about the university admin? Officials expressed “anguish” at the injuries suffered by students and staff, and condemned the violence. But a press note issued by the Registrar appeared to back ABVP’s claims, blaming “a group of students with their violent means of protests are preventing thousands of non-agitating students from pursuing their academic activities.”

Really? Sounds a bit far-fetched: Yes, it does and for several reasons. 

  • One: There have been ongoing scuffles between the ABVP and the leftie student groups, but they have never escalated to this kind of violence—even at the height of the anti-fee protests. 

  • Two: For hours, the police stood by while another armed mob of ABVP sympathisers blocked campus gates and attacked ambulances—while the violence was underway. The modus operandi was strikingly similar. See clip of the crowd chanting ‘desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’.

  • Three: All eyewitness accounts from students and faculty insist that these were ABVP members.

  • Most damningly: Chatter on WhatsApp rightwing groups before the attack shows that it was planned in advance. Indian Express traced numbers attached to those messages to at least one ABVP member—and five other students with extreme rightwing views.

What does the government say? For a change, all political parties were united in condemning the violence. Home Minister Amit Shah has ordered a high-level probe into the incident. Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and TK Jaishankar—both JNU alums—tweeted their outrage.

What’s next? While students and faculty are pointing their finger at outsiders, the police insist that the masked assailants “are all students. They are all from JNU. We have not yet identified them.” The police have also described the violence as “a clash” between “two groups of students.” Given early indications, the police seem unwilling to hold ABVP responsible. The silver lining: hundreds have already held protests to express solidarity with JNU. (See Mumbai here and Delhi here) Expect a lot more of the same in the days to come.

Learn more: Here’s the best of the reporting out there:

  • Both Times of India and Indian Express piece together the events of the night. 

  • Indian Express also has a disturbing photo gallery capturing the violence. 

  • The Telegraph paints a vivid picture of the mob scene outside JNU gates—the police looking on while the likes of Yogendra Yadav were manhandled by ABVP supporters. 

  • Quint has the most details on the lack of police action. 

  • ICYMI, Indian Express has the must-read report on the WhatsApp chatter. 

  • Outlook Magazine has the viewpoint of JNU professor who claims the administration orchestrated the attack on resisting students. 

  • Hindustan Times explains the roots of the hostility between ABVP and leftwing groups. This older Quint piece tracks its history of on-campus violence.
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wondering WTF is happening in our country

Your US airstrike update is here: On Friday, the US assassinated Iranian general Qassim Suleimani in a targeted airstrike—on its ally Iraq! In response, the Iraqi parliament has voted in favour of expelling US troops on its soil. And now President Trump is threatening sanctions against Iraq—again, a US ally. Trump has also vowed to target 52 sites—"some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,"—if Iran takes revenge, as promised by its leaders. This, btw, would be considered a war crime. Meanwhile, Iran has lifted all restrictions on its nuclear program.


Your anti-CAA protest update is here: And it includes the following:

  • The ‘Million March’ in Hyderabad drew 100,000 protestors. The police insisted that permission had only been granted for a gathering of 1,000—and has now charged its organiser for violating its conditions. See impressive clips of the massive protest here, here and here. Also: the humble baingan (brinjal) played a starring role in tongue-in-cheek posters at the rally. 

  • Patriotism won the day in Defence Colony in Delhi, where a small gathering drew cops and angry hecklers—who were finally silenced by the national anthem. See clip here. Also: this image of Jamia students wielding the flag as a symbol of dissent won Twitter.

  • In other news about Jamia, an internal probe revealed thatat least three bullets were fired by the police during the protests last month. Why this matters: the Delhi police claimed, “We have not fired bullets at any student. Any foreign body like metal or plastic could have caused injury.”

  • Also: John Cusack is now fully trolling PM Modi. 

  • Remember the IIT-Kanpur committee set up to investigate whether a Faiz Ahmad Faiz poem ‘Hum Dekhenge’ is anti-Hindu? It was triggered by a complaint filed by a postdoctoral fellow at the university. Indian Express has since uncovered Vashi Mant Sharma’s colourful background and extremely Islamophobic views.

  • Going viral: a clip of students singing that dreadful ‘anti-Hindu’ poem in Kedarnath.

BJP’s missed call mishap: The party had urged supporters of the citizenship law to register a missed call at a toll-free number—because how better to express your passionate support for a cause. Unfortunately, the worthy exercise went all pear-shaped very quickly when some folks tweeted out the same number variously offering: free data, Netflix and watches—and the opportunity to meet singles “who want to have sex with you.” Boom Live has the story. Also: Netflix India’s priceless response.

In other CAA PR news: A number of A-list Bollywood stars received an invitation to attend an “interactive meeting”—plus fancy dinner—with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. The purpose: “A discussion on the myths and realities pertaining to the Citizenship Amendment Act.” The invitees include Karan Johar, Farhan Akhtar, Kabir Khan, Siddharth Roy Kapur etc. The dinner was slated for Sunday night, and  apparently none of the A-listers showed up. (Huffington Post)

Meanwhile in Australia…: The skies turned a deathly shade of orange in parts of the country thanks to ferocious dust storms. Watch the BBC clip here. Wall Street Journal reports that the wildfires are so hot that they’re generating their own thunderstorms and lightning—similar to a volcanic eruption or an atomic blast. This jaw-dropping map overlays the area devastated by the wildfires over that of Europe. And because you need it: heartwarming pictures of animals rescued from the blaze. And this storyof an Indian restaurant that is distributing free food to survivors.

Kiran Bedi’s moment in the sun: The Lt. Governor of Puducherry sparked great hilarity when she tweeted out a ‘NASA clip’ of the sun chanting ‘Om’. She was duly trolled. To which Bedi responded: “Even if it's fake. It’s rich in impact.”

Cyrus Mistry doesn’t want his job back: The former CEO was reinstated as chairman by a surprise tribunal ruling, but has decided to pass on the opportunity—but he still wants a seat on the board. Don’t know what this is about? Check out our explainer. (Livemint)

Louis Vuitton shuts shop in Hong Kong: making it the first luxury store to pull out in response to the Hong Kong protests. (South China Morning Post)

Things that make you go WTF: Wall Street Journal has managed to unearth this photo of the audio-equipment case Carlos Ghosn used to flee Japan. Of course, you want to check it out. Straits Times has more details on his cunning escape.

News you can feel good about: includes the following:

  • The story of 19-year-old Sweety Kumari who was named rugby’s 'international young player of the year'.

  • Marvel’s newest hero is Arab American. Fadi Fadlalah, aka the Amulet, will appear in a new Ms. Marvel comic alongside Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teen.

  • A mosque in Kerala will host a Hindu wedding, and offer gifts and jewellery to the couple—to help a local impoverished family. Next on the mosque secretary’s list: “launching ‘communal amity homes’ with blocks of three houses, one each for a poor family from the Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities.”

Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following:

  • This must-read New York Times investigation into the toxic work culture and practices of OYO.

  • News Laundry takes a closer look at the “harrowing world” of the rightwing website OpIndia. 

  • The Guardian has a provocative essay on the “empty promise” of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism.

  • In These Times looks at the “grooming gap”—how much working women are forced to spend to “look the part.” 

  • Broadsheet ambassador Shrabonti Bagchi has an excellent guide in Mint on how to stay human on social media 

  • The Print on the transformation of the idea of secularism from being a top-down decree by the government to a street slogan of protest.

  • Also in Mint: Sandip Roy explains why he is far happier taking a yoga class in Kolkata than San Francisco.

  • BBC News on the cultural code of ‘Jantelagen’ that prevents Swedes from talking about money. 

  • The Conversation has a ground report on the solidarity network that has emerged to help residents at risk of becoming stateless.

  • This essay in Long Reads deconstructs the gayness of Frozen’s Elsa.

  • Indian Express traces the journey of Arvind Kejriwal from the perpetual protester to the affable family man. 

  • Inverse explains why Star Wars is the least woke franchise ever.


Your daily quota of sunshine: includes the following:

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The best place for the best advice

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How to keep your New Year's resolutions 

Even if we haven’t made a proper list, the start of a new year inspires most of us to want to do ‘better’—more of the good, less of the bad. And the vast majority of us are doomed to fail. Here is a distillation of the best advice out there to help you beat the odds.

Schedule it. Don’t vow to ‘read more’ or spend ‘more time with family’. Decide instead: I will read a book instead of Netflixing at bedtime at least two times a week. Or this: I will not schedule any work-related tasks on Saturday. Bonus tip: the best way to start a new habit is to attach it to an existing one. Let’s say you want to drink more water—schedule a glass at each meal or snack time, just before going to bed etc. 

Keep it real. Know your weaknesses. You will never be able to give up Instagram or sugar if you’re addicted to either—at least not at first. Instead, set modest, concrete limits on your daily consumption (only so much daily, for the first month), and then work your way downwards.  Also, recognise the very real limitations on your time. Don’t vow not to work on Saturdays if you know it’s impossible given your upcoming project schedule. Maybe you can instead spend a couple of hours every evening with the fam. 

It’s always a trade-off. If you go to the gym three times a week, what will you give up in order to do that—time spent unwinding after work? Hanging with your bae? Everything is a trade-off. Make sure you commit to one that you can live with. Maybe a better solution is to work out over the weekend, and do only one day during the week. Also: If your resolution is to do less of something—say scrolling for hours through Insta at bedtime—do more of something you enjoy in that time instead. See? Trade offs can be fun too!

Choose your carrot and stick. The best way to motivate yourself to do something your brain considers unpleasant is to dial up both the pleasure and the pain. Hate the gym? Download a series you like to watch while working out—so ‘workout time’ becomes ‘Friends time’, as well.  Also, the stick: pay for a year in gym fees in advance… so you can feel truly awful each time you fail to make it there. The silver lining: not every new habit has to be daily—for example, running or meditation or yoga—but it must be regular. This is how it becomes part of your life and who you are.

Avoid sameness. One of the biggest reasons we give up on a new habit is simple: we get bored. No, you won’t be able to stick to salads all year long. And yes, you will likely get bored of keeping a daily gratitude journal. You can vary your diet and still stick to the overall resolution to eat healthy. Or you can find different ways to express gratitude over the course of the year, A different approach is to pick an annual theme. Let’s say it’s ‘restraint’. Over the year—perhaps for a month—choose different ways to exercise restraint with your diet, anger, stress, clutter etc. The end result may be far more satisfying than aiming to lose those pesky 15 pounds. 

Learn more: Here’s more wisdom on new year’s resolutions if you need it.

  • Daily Beast looks at the behavioural economics of your resolutions.

  • If you are looking to lose weight, GQ offers healthy advice based on many of the above principles. 

  • Shine has more on the ‘theme’ approach to resolutions, and very insightful tips based on the relationship between Present You and Future You (that perfect being who keeps all her resolutions).

  • Forbes rounds up the best suggestions from its panel of life coaches.
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