Hafta 264: Amulya Leona, Trump’s visit, AAP’s Hanuman politics, and more


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In this episode of NL Hafta, Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone, and Anand Vardhan of Newslaundry are joined by Shelly Walia, senior editor at the Quint. Rather surprisingly, this episode kicks off with a healthy debate on whether litti chokha belongs to Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. The panellists then engage in an extended discussion on their favourite regional delicacies. Mehraj finally ends the discussion with a tongue-in-cheek remark: “Vegetarian and delicacy don’t go together in the same sentence.” Shelly then turns to the subject of Amulya Leona, a young woman from Karnataka, being slapped with a sedition case for saying “Pakistan Zindabad” at an AIMIM rally in Hyderabad. Mehraj explains how this issue pertains to which side of the free speech debate one stands on. Shelly argues that the BJP latches onto such statements to divert attention from real problems. “Just think of the things that you got to hear before the Delhi election when it was constantly, like, India, Pakistan, Muslim, Hindu, current puhuch jayega and goli maaro. The kind of shit that is being said by our ministers...and here is a 20-year-old ‘woke’ woman who says something like that and we call her idiotic. I don’t think that’s a fair thing because I just feel things are going off track.” Abhinandan disagrees, arguing that every protest can’t be about everything. “If every protest becomes bhadaas nikalna, then the repercussions will also be bhadaas nikalne wala,” he says. While Mehraj bats for absolute freedom to say whatever one wants, Abhinandan puts the AIMIM at fault for not vetting what was to be spoken from their stage. “I think it is a dumb thing to give platform to someone like that to make a fool of themselves. Of course, the person has the right to make a fool of themselves, but is that good for the movement I am fighting for?” On Donald Trump’s visit and the possibility that there won’t be a trade agreement, Anand opines that the fact the US president is visiting India alone is a symbolic step towards de-hyphenating India-Pakistan. “We are in a phase where the big power and the emerging power equations would be more guarded by complex interdependence rather than clear takeaways from each other.” Bringing in a less discussed nuance, Abhinandan argues that Trump’s visit will refuel the BJP’s discourse which has been dulled by its electoral loss in Delhi. The panellists also talk about AAP legislator Saurabh Bharadwaj organising monthly Hanuman Chalisa prayers in his constituency, and his demand for erecting a Hanuman statue at the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya; the Supreme Court’s order granting women permanent commission in the Army; the importance of formal education; the New York Times publishing an article by Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani; and much more. Tune in!

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