Hafta 275: Pulitzer Prize, Karnataka’s migrant workers, liquor stores reopening, and more

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In this episode of NL Hafta, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Raman Kirpal, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone, and Anand Vardhan are joined by Yogita Limaye, the India correspondent for the BBC. The conversation begins with the gas leak in Visakhapatnam and how the BBC, which has a Telugu language service, is covering it. Abhinandan asks Yogita about how the BBC has been criticised for not serving Indian interests. Yogita says she hasn’t been accused of anti-India bias by anyone she knows in the Indian newspace, though the organisation is attacked at a personal and organisational level on television and social media. She adds, “That entire thing about toeing a foreign line: I’m not entirely sure where that comes in.”Moving on to the three photojournalists in Kashmir who won the Pulitzer, and the controversy that followed in India, Anand points out that the award citation says India revoked “Kashmir’s independence” which he finds misleading, since Kashmir never had any sovereignty even when Article 370 was in place.Raman says he feels a “sense of pride” that an Indian won. While he doesn’t want to make it political, he says, what was in the photos was “absolutely real”. Mehraj says the government can be critical of the photos since they do not reflect the government in a good light, but “what is more distressing” is the criticism of the award by “so-called journalists who should be celebrating it”, even if they don’t agree with what the photos represent.Manisha says the biggest problem with people’s dislike for the award is their “refusal to accept that Kashmir is a conflict zone”. She adds that it’s scary how the Indian media has influenced people in such a way that “the tolerance to see what is happening in Kashmir has been reduced to zero”. Talking about liquor stores being opened, Manisha says the moralistic argument of closing them during the lockdown in the first place is wrong. “The judgement of people standing outside thekas is classist,” she says. Raman says there’s a history to the moral judgement attached to alcohol, bringing up how alcohol is sold in black polythene bags to “hide” it. Anand says it boils down to the question of what is essential and what isn’t. “Given it’s very low space in the priority list that people should have, I think it was not a well thought-out idea,” he says. Abhinandan moves on to the Karnataka government’s decision to not send its migrant workers back home. Anand says that restricting movement is a violation of the migrants’ fundamental rights. “The charm of cheap labour and the fear of losing that is always there,” he says, which explains the builders’ lobby urging that the migrant workers stay behind. Raman calls it a “state-sponsored kidnapping” that amounts to slavery.Mehraj digresses into how the lockdown was intended to give the government time to prepare for a surge in the number of positive cases, but this hasn’t happened. “By the end of this, God forbid, we’ll see more people have died from the fallout of this, rather than from the disease itself,” he says. The panel also discusses the Aarogya Setu app, militancy in Kashmir, bias in the media, and much more. Tune in!

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