The enormity of the raids and arrests in six states is such that even Times Now, while reporting the charges made or alleged to be made with its familiar vigour, felt impelled to cover the other side of the story and interviewed Susan Abraham, wife of Vernon Golsalves. But amidst loud debates over “Urban Naxals” — the new catch-phrase which has come to the rescue of the tired old “anti-national” —
the larger questions have gone largely unaddressed.
In the first place, a Pune court has stated that those arrested stood accused of forming an anti-fascist front. Does it follow that it is now illegal to oppose fascism? Is Deutsche Welle alert to this breaking story? The German people, who have very strong views on the subject, having been singed by history in the making, would find this story fascinating.
In the second place, those supporting the arrests have put up a spirited defence, pointing out that some of the people targeted, like Gonsalves, had also been put behind bars by the UPA government, under some of the most draconian laws in the statute books. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra has been pursuing this line with indefatigable zeal, and he is right. But the real point at debate is how easy it is to wield state power arbitrarily against the people, irrespective of who has the sword hand. It is as if the state exists outside the realm of the rule of law which it is supposed to enforce. Surely that’s a more serious matter than who misbehaved first, and who emulated whom, a debate without end in which even Kiren Rijiju has pitched in to widen the canvas, saying that it was Manmohan Singh, then prime
minister, who had declared Maoists to be public enemy No 1.
The bitter truth about demonetisation is out, now that the Reserve Bank of India reports that 99.3 per cent of the notes snuffed out have returned to it. But curiously, this admission of profitless pain has sparked off another round of argument, for and against the motion. The tremendous fiscal and human cost of the dud experiment, which is the only question worth discussing, stands settled. But then, it’s the era of ill-advised obsessions. Far, far away, Donald Trump’s staff have grown used to looking gloomily at presidential obsessions until they go away, to be replaced by the next obsession. “We’re taking a look at it,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, when he was asked if Google searches should be brought under regulatory supervision.
POTUS has observed that most of the news about him come from unreliable liberal media, and he believes that there is a dark, algorithmic plot to deny the people access to good, wholesome conservative news.
And meanwhile Trump’s nemesis Stormy Daniels is on a roll. Along with her attorney Michael Avenatti, she has been photographed for the current issue of Vogue by Annie Leibovitz, no less. The attorney now seeks to question POTUS under oath as soon as possible, and
accelerate the case.
In neighbouring Pakistan, the new information minister Fawad Chaudhry has announced the end of Pemra, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, and the setting-up of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority, which will have oversight over print, electronic and social media. He stressed that the days of censorship were over and PTV would soon begin to operate in a visibly different manner. The national broadcaster has begun to cover the activities of the Opposition. The early signs are good.
In recent months, there were instances reported of Dawn and Geo TV being unavailable at some locations, and of pressure put on cable operators and hawkers. These were confirmed on Wednesday by a Human rights Commission of Pakistan team. The harassment of journalists on social media — a familiar phenomenon to us, across the border — has also increased. It remains to be seen how effective the new regulator will be, but given the pressures under which Pakistani media has been operating, it couldn’t possibly get worse.
Finally, some fake news that’s really a joking matter. If you’ve been seeing reports that the Egyptian electricity ministry cut off power to the water ministry on account of unpaid bills, and the water ministry retaliated by cutting off the electricity ministry’s water supply, it’s not news. This ridiculous intra-governmental outrage did happen, but over two years ago. It’s being repeddled as breaking news, just for the hell of it.