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NC Top Opinions: In the Republic of Lynching, There Is No Us And Them; Punishing The Powerless And More

Here's a curation of the opinion pieces that caught our attention today

  • The BJP has a real fight on its hands

Vir Sanghvi writes in his column for Hindustan Times that for several months after the BJP won its landslide victory in 2014, the Congress appeared to be in a state of shock. The party had expected to lose — privately, top leaders had predicted that the BJP would get an overall majority — but it had not believed it would do so badly.

The Congress’s traditional position has been that it is India’s only national party and that, therefore, it must be at the centre of any non-BJP alliance. In 1999, when the Vajpayee government lost a no-confidence vote, the Congress refused to become part of an opposition alliance unless it led the new government.

That position now seems to have been abandoned. The Congress’s view is that its major priority is to ensure that the BJP does not get a second term. It believes that India cannot afford five more years of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah rule because this would destroy Indian secularism, damage institutions, increase social tensions and finish off the India that Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned.

The BJP has spent at least two years trying to portray the next election as a presidential contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Such is the party’s obsession with Rahul that the PM spent a large part of his speech during the TDP-sponsored no confidence motion attacking Rahul. Other ministers have followed his lead.

The constant attacks on Twitter and by the media are now beginning to smack of desperation. If he is such a useless Pappu, then why waste so much time obsessively abusing him? The BJP is still the favourite to win the next election. But at least now, it might have a fight on its hands.

  • Punishing the powerless

In his column for Mumbai MirrorDushyant writes that the Lok Sabha has passed a bill amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It contains a draconian provision and our lawmakers appear to be keen to describe it as an achievement in the fight against graft. The amended law stipulates an artificial and meaningless distinction between the two types of bribe-givers, stating that any person who is pressured to pay up must report the matter to authorities within a period of seven days from the date of the payment. This is not really a distinction. The law fails to acknowledge the nature of corruption and the imbalance of power between bribe seekers and givers.

The modified law has instead made it virtually impossible for the poor and marginalised to raise their voice against corruption in a reasonable time. (Seven days is not a reasonable time.)

Under the law, prior approval and sanction is needed before initiating an inquiry against a government officer. Backers of the immunity say it is needed to prevent honest officials from being harassed and governments from being paralysed by the fear of prosecution. The only problem with this argument is that it contradicts the narrative put forth by many parties that have vowed to eliminate corruption. The main question here is what is the biggest problem in India: rampant corruption or scores of upright officers being unable to work because of frivolous cases?

Finally, it’s well established that the fight against corruption cannot succeed by focusing only on the bribe-giver and bribe-taker. For it to be effective, journalists should have the freedom to report freely. But the RTI Act is now under threat. Governments come and go, but it seems we are nowhere near rooting out corruption in India.

  • Cow trumps woman and Muslim man

Mitali Saran writes an open letter to ‘sansakari terrorists’ in her column for Business Standard. She says that she is writing to express her contempt for the religious sentiments you (sanskari terrorists) act out on and/or justify. You know the ones—cow trading, cow smuggling, cow transporting, cow rearing, cow slaughtering, and cow eating, all of which affect you so deeply that you thrash and kill people right there, on the roadside.

And the ones where women are such sacred goddesses and mothers that you don’t think a little rape could possibly take away from their magnificence. What do terrorists do? Unleash death and destruction on random people in random places, so that the public never knows who’s going to get it in the neck next, so the public is constantly terrified. That’s you, sanskari terrorists! (Moo.)

See, I couldn’t care less about how you feel about cows. Go ahead and revere cows until you’re blue in the face, or eat them with a good sauce, whatever. There are laws in place which you are free to invoke with due legal process, or not. I’m merely pointing out that you are loathsome hypocrites filled with a bloodlust that has little to do with piety, since piety is a bouquet of peace, compassion, and love.

In your beautiful new dawn, cow trumps woman. At least that’s the only explanation I can come up with for why cow-related lynchings are rising with grotesque righteousness, at the same time as we discover more and more instances of women being treated like sex toys to be used and thrown in the trash, or proxy bodies to be destroyed in your war against other men. And cow trumps Muslim man.

  • TRAI’s privacy recommendations are a reminder that there is no shortcut to a comprehensive law

Passing a strong privacy law must be a national policy priority in India, writes Amba Kak in her column for Scroll.in. She says that TRAI is not the first sectoral regulator to prematurely put forth its views – already the Reserve Bank of India made the controversial announcement that all payments data be localized in India, and the Health Ministry has proposed its own health data privacy bill, the Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act. Despite a curious shared enthusiasm for a digital consent architecture for data sharing

These broadly worded license conditions arguably stand on a shaky constitutional footing. There are other mixed signals. On the one hand, TRAI makes clear that it has “decided not to make recommendations” on cross-border data flows, pending the Justice Srikrishna Committee report. Yet, since it recommends the telecom license conditions wholesale, we might in fact glean from this TRAI’s tacit approval of the mandate to store certain kinds of data exclusively in servers in India.

All of this is only the latest reminder that there are no quick substitutes to a comprehensive privacy framework. As Mozilla has long argued, passing a strong privacy law must be a national policy priority and TRAI’s recommendations are a clarion call for action. Patchwork sectoral laws, in the absence of unified principled foundations, leave privacy in India on shaky footing. The government must stop dragging its feet.

  • In the Republic of Lynchings, There Is No Us and Them

Monobina Gupta writes in her column for The Wire that as the bloodshed across India shows no signs of abating, politicians, opinion makers and writers are at pains to prove that the images of the spectacular violence we are encountering everyday do not convey the spirit of ‘real’ India. That the ‘real’ India is the land of Gandhi’s non-violence and Nehru’s secularism. That our land is the land of compassionate, tolerant Hinduism.

Under these nightmarish conditions, many of us are comforting ourselves by scripting a narrative of ‘us’ – the real, genuine, ethical Indians – and ‘them,’ the bloodthirsty lynch mob, encouraged by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological mentors in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In this narrative, people transforming themselves into a murderous mob in the blink of an eye are presented as betraying the true spirit of India. The renegades of a secular, liberal India ‘we’ are trying to safeguard.

Yet, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative wears thin in the absence of any kind of spontaneous societal outrage on the ground. The narrative starts to fray in the presence of the equanimity with which we daily absorb such images and stories of violence. All around us, it’s business as usual.

The present dance of violence we are witnessing, however, has another layer to it. One that not only encompasses but transgresses as well the violence generated by religion, caste and class. The violence of lynchings knows no boundaries. Anyone can be a target just as anyone from any community can become a voluntary member of a mob. This is what happens when neither law nor social mores serve as a restraint.

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