Pratap Bhanu Mehta is Contributing Editor at the Indian Express. He has been vice-chancellor of Ashoka University and president, Centre Policy Research, New Delhi, one of India's top think tanks. Before he started engaging with contemporary affairs, he taught political theory at Harvard, and briefly at JNU. He has written extensively on intellectual history, political theory, law, India's social transformation and world affairs. He is the recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.
They will say Ram is a national symbol, a symbol of Hindu pride. But did Ram consent to being converted to something as banal and nasty as the symbol of an ethnic nationalism? Ayodhya's Ram temple is a monument to exclusion, a brute majoritarianism subordinating others.
This government’s record on regulation is not inspiring. So the critical question will, less, be: Does one agree with the document?
It is actually the state, whom the temple rescue brigade reviles, that created a national Hindu legal identity, and perhaps unwittingly abetted Hindutva in its political form.
PB Mehta writes: Teltumbde was insightful in thinking that once you had been labelled Left in India, it was easy to secure a diminution in your legal and cultural standing. Even the Courts will turn off their thinking cap. It is in this that the genuine intellectual enterprise is a lonely one, whose disastrous political consequences Teltumbde is facing.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: Unleashing strong arm tactics by state stands in for creating law and order. No one wants police reform.
P B Mehta writes: Don’t count on the fact that the world will support an Indian escalation beyond a point. The efforts of the international community, in the final analysis, will be to try and throw cold water on the conflict; no one has a serious stake in the fate of the terrain India and China are disputing.
The prime minister evokes a deep adulation in his supporters. But it should be clear by now that whatever that adulation is, it is not on account of his leadership. His leadership has been totally missing. Covid to China, economy to society, there’s a politics of illusion and evasive silence
The explosion of protest, violence, rioting, curfews and brutal police crackdowns in the wake of George Floyd’s suffocation by police in Minneapolis is another chapter in the long history of a democracy whose self-image often cloaks its more sordid realities.
PB Mehta writes: Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Hansa Mehta, Rabindranath Tagore, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sri Aurobindo, Sarojini Naidu, Jayaprakash Narayan, Deendayal Upadhyaya are milling around. Narada shows up to needle them.
It is also imprisoned in intellectual, political, constitutional, strategic and moral lockdowns.
Indian labour laws had the unique distinction of representing the state’s war on both capital and labour.
PB Mehta writes: There is very little worry about the forms of dependence on alcohol that, in crucial moments, take away our ability to exercise or recognise consent, exercise good choice or act like an agent. The liberal case for encouraging moderation is actually stronger than the conservative case.
But what is the loss we mourn, especially in the case of a brilliant genius like Irrfan, who attained the pinnacle of what art could achieve? He leaves a void in this world. In part, the sense of loss that accompanies every artiste is the sense of their irreplaceability.
In the incandescent conclusion to her Tudor trilogy, The Mirror and The Light, Hilary Mantel charts the peak and fall of Thomas Cromwell and the struggle of man against the opacity of others
The challenges of dealing with the pandemic or existing interdependencies may yet impose a degree of sobriety on both superpowers. But the demands on internal legitimation are increasingly pointing in a direction where both countries will not find it easy to dial back from ratcheting up tensions, in ways that might make delicate diplomacy more difficult.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: There is something deeply morally odd in using the language of compassion in relation to the state. What we need from the state is not compassion, it is a minimum sense of justice.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: It is the quality of governance that will mediate the path to opening up, not just the economics versus life debate. The government will have to inspire total confidence in the robustness of the information it is putting out, whether on testing or supplies.
PB Mehta writes: India has never understood that health expenditure is not expenditure; it is investment. The success of the lockdown strategy is premised on an unprecedentedly vigorous building up of health infrastructure to fight the pandemic.
Justice Gogoi’s actions are not simply a case of one bad apple. His actions will now cast doubt on the Court as a whole; every judgment will now be attributed to political motives.
The coronavirus pandemic has confronted us with the contingency of so much of what we take for granted. It refocuses us on fighting something very elemental, in ways that will require a new politics. But two aspects of politics as usual continue.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: There are reasons why the foisting of the communal narrative around the anti-CAA protests has gained the upper hand. Communal propaganda now so seamlessly works within democratic institutions, mass media and social media. It has become so second nature and ubiquitous...
It is too easy to dismiss reformers like Montek as elitist. They may make errors of judgment, but they often had more faith in Indians than many of those who yelped loudly in the name of the poor.
India is descending into a night of dread and despair. The ongoing riots in Delhi are not a tactical aberration, some absent-minded lapse of attention. They have been in the making for a while, and represent the future that our ruling classes have imagined for us.
In some ways, a potential contest between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump will turn out to be a more interesting contest because it is the one contest that makes these stakes totally clear.
The things that it will take to fix the economy cannot be done in the Budget. The Budget can be criticised for its lack of boldness. But in a way, that is the most honest thing about it. It is an admission of defeat