The excitement over the Section 377 verdict, one of the rare issues on which almost the entire media stands united, has blown away the excitement over “Urban Naxals”. But until Thursday, while the usual suspects were banging away at lawyers, poets and activists arrested on the charge of sympathising with Maoists and allegedly instigating rioting, Srinivasan Jain of NDTV was one of the few who offered the context, with footage — sometimes from a shaky smartphone camera — from the gathering which resulted in arrests months after the event. Exhibit A is a pledge read to the audience at the Elgaar Conference on December 31 by Harshali Potdar, who was arrested in June, swearing allegiance to the Constitution and promising opposition to those who do not respect it. Exhibit B is a clip of Jignesh Mewani’s speech, in which he said that he does not care who wins the forthcoming state elections, so long as it is not the BJP. Exhibit C is simply extraordinary: the Mumbai activist Sudhir Dhawale reading a poem which could be paraphrased as, “If the revolution does not come, it would be better for the city to be in flames.” He has been jailed for his pains.
And certainly, had he been on the beat in another age, chief inspector Dharpakad Kathale (substitute your favourite comic cop’s name) of the Mumbai police would have jugged Pablo Neruda for just one immortal line of verse: “Come and see the blood in the streets.”
And there was blood on the NDTV studio floor, as one of the guests committed intellectual hara-kiri. Why is it that the RSS has such poor apologists? Its political arm, the BJP, flourishes on the strength of its outspoken spokespersons. Why does the parent organisation suffer so? On the show, Sandeep Singh, who wears many hats off-camera, protested that Harshali Potdar’s pledge meant nothing. “Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi can also claim to support the Constitution, and look what they are up to.” Good heavens, an advocate must never draw a parallel that leaves his own client open to unfriendly fire.
Stuff is going on in New York. While the world watches Donald Trump going ballistic over an unsigned oped by his own staffer in The New York Times, which he regards as the fount of iniquity, The New Yorker has just weathered the most withering blast of friendly fire ever. Maybe not the mostest, which had broken out over a cover showing Barack and Michelle Obama bumping fists, in Islamic vestments and dressed to kill with an assault rifle, respectively. But most is bad enough, when the magazine appears to fear its readers and Steve Bannon in equal measure.
New Yorker editor David Remnick invited white supremacist Trumpism architect Bannon to headline the magazine’s annual festival, but backed off when his staff, and Hollywood celebrities like Jim Carrey who were also featured, raised a storm. But in a note that he shared with his staff, Remnick explained precisely why he had chosen to interview Bannon before an audience, and why he had changed his mind. The latter is fairly obvious: an editor cannot destroy an event under his banner by being pig-headed about one person. But perfectly reasonable people have agreed with Bannon and attributed the change of heart to cowardice.
Why Remnick had chosen to interview Bannon, however, is interesting: because an interview before a live audience would have denied him the freedom to flit off and on the record. Remnick clarified that it would not have been a friendly interview, and that the criticism that Bannon had left the White House did not matter, because his influence was pervasive. Personally, one would have liked to see how Bannon would have fared against the plain-dealing Remnick.
Doctors recommend a morning walk to recover from the excesses of the night before, but they never prescribe a morning walk at night. “I am on morning walk and I am OK. Sacked person who was handling my tweets,” tweeted Tarun Vijay after a harrowing spell in the middle of the night, in which his Twitter handler turned rogue and pushed out extraordinary messages in Vijay’s name. Vijay returned to Twitter after sacking him or her. We must thank our stars that our morning walks are more salubrious, and not a dramatic montage of the French Revolution and Stalin’s purges. Meanwhile, unburdened by the cares of state, Rocky and Mayur, who have made a living out of eating their way across India, are perfectly light of heart: “We are Khaurakshaks — hum khaenge aur khane denge.” It was the duo themselves, not some deranged handler
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