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A Tale Of Two Nights

by:Tharun

14th August 1947

Loud noises of the Gypsy Jeeps were echoing in every alleyway. Alleyways stuffed with people as far as the eye could see. While most of them were rushing to listen to The Man in White speak, a few seemed to be making their way out of the crowd, almost as if they were looking for something precious that they had just lost. Pandemonium. This was the only possible way to describe the night, right in the middle of which was a young girl. Orphaned at birth, she had never known a life of certainty. While many had tried to foster her through the years, none of them ended well. Yet again, she was back on the streets. Although this wasn’t unusual for her, she could sense something very different this time.

She looked weary of her journey. She lost count of the days for which she had been on the road in search of a home. At one point when she thought that she’d found one, she was told that they could only take her brother in. A brother whose existence she didn’t even know about till that moment, but the loss of whom felt as if she had lost a part of herself. Many miles and several horrifying visuals later, she had finally reached where she was now. She didn’t really know if she could call this place home, but she was too tired to go any further. 

The people here looked no different from what she’d seen. What was different about them was that they seemed to have a strange sense of hope. The kind which could be easily mistaken for unrest. She heard someone yell that all their troubles had come to an end. She scoffed at them. Although still a child, she knew not to fall for this illusion; she could see with her own eyes that nothing had changed. Buildings were being swallowed by flames and people were being slaughtered for fictitious reasons. What was funny was that everyone knew this, yet their desperation for hope superseded their ability to sense the horrors of reality.

Suddenly, everything went silent. People stopped right where they were and the Jeeps turned their engines off. The only thing that the girl could hear was the faint voice echoing from the loudspeakers. Someone said that The Man in White had started speaking. Everyone was listening to him as though he were instructing a new way of life. Though she had never believed in hope, the fact that everyone else did, comforted her in a way. Reassured by this, she shut her eyes with a feeling that things would change for her this time, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. 

14th August 2021 

It’s dinner time and everyone is glued to the television. With a plate in their hand, they’re listening to the interview of The Man in Blue, Olympian Neeraj Chopra talking about his historic win. As the interview finishes, everyone is forced to get off their seats by a lady, who just seventy-four years ago was a scared little girl. 

The same girl who once feared for her life now runs a proud household. She has children, friends and family whom she can confidently call her own. Truth be told, not much has changed for her. It’s just that the years have given her the strength to keep a straight face while dealing with troubles. One of her sons succumbed to Covid while gasping for breath. She listens to her friends talk about the way they are subjected to mental and physical trauma at their homes. A few years after that night of 1947, someone once told her that the brother whom she was separated from was actually two people… or something like that, she can’t recollect exactly. Every day she helplessly witnesses her children quarrel with each other for the same reasons that she had seen seventy-four years back. The only difference is that now they pin it on her honour rather than the other person’s cowardice. 

She feels the hope which people once shared is now transformed into something different. It has now changed into arrogance. The arrogance that breaks off a friendship. The arrogance that threatens others to prove its supremacy over them. What hurts her the most is when one of her own children is labeled an outsider. As someone who toiled for years to build this family from the ground up, she feels she let down that little girl who for once came close to believing in the concept of hope. 

Everyone in the household is excited for tomorrow. It’s one of the only days where all of her kids spend time at home together. She personally has mixed feelings about the day. On one hand, it reminds her of the story of a little girl who grew into a beautiful person against all odds. On the other, it reminds her of hope. The same hope which is now synonymous with unrest. She fears for the lives of her own. She wonders if the Man In White lied to the people that night. 

There is one thing that she is certain about. People are not evil, they are simply misguided and afraid. In 1947, her house didn’t have a head. Now, there are far too many, with all of them tugging about the roof in a separate direction. She knows the cost at which her freedom came. The tears, the bloodshed, the unbridled sacrifice that she had to witness to even think of a probable future, let alone a prosperous one. She only hopes that people realise the struggles of those who gave her and many others the chance to have a place to call home, rather than glorifying them mindlessly. But then again, she never fully believed in hope.

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Crack of Dawn

by:Siddaarth

National Anti-Terrorism Day is remembered on the 21st of May and gives us all a chance to stand together as one united front against the evil force of terrorism and tells us to salute every single life. It is also a day where we remember all those soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the protection of the Nation. 

The message of humanity and harmony must be spread widely and the Indian Government took this initiative to spread these messages across the people to emphasize the importance of combating terrorist activities. The objective of the  National Anti-Terrorism Day is to help spread the feeling of harmony, peace and unity amongst the people.

The National Anti-Terrorism Day is remembered on the 21st of May to commemorate the assassination of India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi that occurred on the 21st of May 1991 at an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. During the campaign, a lady who was a suicide bomber and was a part of the terrorist organization Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), had approached him. The lady had explosives under her clothes and approached Rajiv Gandhi with a garland and then touched his feet. She denoted the bomb as soon as she approached him and touched his feet. Around 25 people were killed along with the youngest Prime Minister in Indian history was assassinated on this day. Ever since then, the National Anti-Terrorism Day is commemorated every year to ensure that no innocent soul would be killed from any sort of terrorist activities. 

Even after the tragic assassination of Mr Rajiv Gandhi, many terrorists have tried to attack India, its various sights and its people. But we as Indians have always shown a sense of pride, belonging and a feeling of bouncing back from any sort of difficult situation. After the 1991 assassination, India faced many such acts of terrorism on its soil like the 1993 blasts in Bombay in which 13 locations across Bombay were bombed and around 260 people were killed. The terrorist groups known as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Indian Parliament building on the 13th of November 2001 in which many police officers and parliament workers were killed. Three other terrorist attacks have occurred after these, namely the blasts on the Mumbai suburban railways, the 26/11 attacks and the Pulwama attack. 

Even after this, India has truly bounced back from these heavy scars on our nation. Though India follows the policy of forgiving but not forgetting, though in the case of terrorism India would never forgive the perpetrators and would never forget about the wounds. To conclude, I would want to quote the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi who stated the following: 

So many nations have suffered due to terrorism. Terrorism is not a challenge to a nation, it’s a challenge to humanity.

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The Black bird of social media

by:Anshuman

Now this is going to be a long one, bear with me. Twitter, one of the most popular social media sites out there, having an enormous user base, has its fair share of problems. It’s often regarded these days as a “toxic” place and such a label isn’t unwarranted in the slightest, in my opinion of course. 

Let’s go right to the root of the problem, it’s character limit. With 280 being the maximum character limit, there isn’t much scope for an actual substantial discussion in the first place. Twitter is at its best when the user base makes use of the character limit to come up with creative jokes, sharing stories or thoughts that may cross their mind, with people responding to it in a fun healthy discourse. The main problem arises when people use the site to address significant and debatable issues because usually the character limit isn’t enough to give it justice or credence, especially when in a discourse with someone else. The ideals behind the original point become muddied when you don’t have enough space to actually explain the nuances of your statements and put it forward in a more precise and detailed manner. Such an issue becomes abhorrent when combined with the major issue that is performative activism and virtue signalling, which Twitter loves to participate in. 

Sharing posts about issues going around in the world isn’t wrong in the slightest, it helps bring attention to them and could actually cause pressure for the concerned authorities to take action and rectify the issues to the best of their capabilities. The problem is when it’s used as a tool to promote themselves. In many instances you see internet celebrities dodging criticism by putting out a tweet speaking vaguely about how they respect and support oppressed communities and see them as equals, literally the bare minimum, to earn praise and virtue points. They don’t care about hopefully bringing attention to the issue at hand. They do it to save face, earn praise for doing the bare minimum, increase their following and earn more clout and internet points. It becomes a selfish desire rather than a selfless act. These people use the plight of oppressed communites such as other races, people of different sexualities, transgender and non binary people, people with disabilities etc. for their own gain and clout by treating them with the barest minimum of respect. These less privileged people’s lives aren’t made for one’s own inspiration story!  They are normal people as well! One isn’t a superhero for treating them as such and shouldn’t be rewarded with undying love and loyalty for doing the bare minimum. You might be wondering that even though one may have scummy ideals, atleast they are doing a good act and inadvertently helping, so why do I care so much. The reason I do ties into the next problem I have which is the “Stan” culture. 

Being a fan of something/someone is completely normal and human. When I talk about Stan culture, I talk about the obsessive fan culture that not only significantly harms the mental health of the person who they are obsessing over, but even themselves. To get too obsessed towards a certain thing is never healthy, especially when the Stan culture is over a person. This leads to the dangerous phenomena of parasocial relationships as well where the fan convinces themself they actually have a relationship with this person who they know nothing about, all they know is the online persona a person has created. This can severely impact the mental health of both parties involved. The major problem with this is that most of the time it’s minors who get involved in such stuff. This leads to predators with a significant fan following having a platform to be able to groom their minor fans thanks to parasocial relationships, preying on them and taking advantage of them in disgusting ways. Stan culture is an obsessive thing that is very prevalent on Twitter, trending everyday in some sort of hashtag. Such fan culture shouldn’t be promoted. By allowing stans of a person to exist, who elevate a person to such a superior status for doing the bare minimum, we strip away the concept of accountability from them. 

On the other end of the spectrum however, is the issue of “cancel” culture. The funniest thing to me about this is that people in fiction love redemption stories, stories where people realize their mistakes and improve on them slowly and gradually to become a better version of themselves. However when it comes to real life, Twitter for some reason forgoes the concept of redemption. Any mistake a person has ever made is held against them throughout their lives, even when they have shown regret for that mistake, apologized for it and have improved themselves and changed their behaviour. It’s good to hold people accountable for bad stuff they might do, but it’s obnoxious to never give them an opportunity to change, to approach them with hate instead of trying to educate them. No one is perfect, all of us have made mistakes we regret in our lifespan. Not everyone should be “cancelled” and have everything taken away from them for a mistake they made in the past, especially when they have shown progress and change. Forgiveness is a trait that’s completely forgotten when it comes to Twitter. 

Another major issue is that dissenting opinions are seen distastefully. It’s like people there want a collective hivemind of thoughts and emotions and any differing opinion must be silenced and banished. People there have a problem of treating their opinions as facts and facts as opinions. Differing views and ideals should be encouraged to force an open dialogue and discussions. People with differing opinions are just blocked. For the record, blocking someone isn’t a sign of weakness or something you should avoid if they are actually troubling you and spamming you. But when you start blocking people with a differing opinion than you, even on harmless topics, you’re just creating an echo chamber for yourself which is detrimental to discussions and debates as a whole. To combat bigotry, there needs to be a dialogue. To reconcile and unite, there needs to be an acceptance of differing thoughts and ideals and finding a common ground should be encouraged. Battling hate with hate is a recipe for disaster. Being mean and rude for no reason shouldn’t be celebrated as a positive trait. Some people would prefer to be praised as a villain rather than be obscure. This is just harmful and detrimental on every front.

To conclude, I do not in any way mean to generalise every user there as having these problems. But there is a big audience which causes these issues. A large part of Twitter has these problems which makes the atmosphere overall “toxic”. This piece is for addressing those parts of Twitter.

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World Press Freedom Day

by:Vrushali

It is World Press Freedom Day and what better country to talk about it than India? Instead of how we usually talk about what Indian journalism is (and the degrading quality), let’s talk about what Indian journalism is allowed to be. India has managed to remain at the 142nd position out of 180 countries in terms of the Press Index by being one of the highest scorers in terms of press abuse. It reflects the degree of freedom that Indian journalists, print media and news channels, and netizens on social media have. This rhetoric compels me to imagine the rank of India if the index accounted for human rights violations and the quality of our journalism. I’d rather refrain from thinking anymore. 

Not that it concerns anyone anymore but let’s talk about the Indian Press and freedom of speech and expression. 

With the insurmountable Covid-19 crisis in India, the Indian government has been widely criticized for its desperate attempts in trying to filter India’s global image. It is more concerned about what the world hears about the Covid-19 outbreak anywhere across the 7 continents than actually looking out for its citizens. Well, people shall come and go, the government remains stable!?

Last week, the Modi government sent notices to take down around 100 “misleading” posts and block the accounts of people who were discussing the second outbreak of the pandemic and the mismanagement from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On April 23, at the behest of the Indian government, Twitter acted on the protocol and blocked over 50 tweets from celebrities, MPs, MLAs of opposition parties, journalists, and others criticizing the mishandling of the pandemic by the government. The tweets that were taken down simply mentioned the upsurge in cases and deaths, the shortage of medicines and medical equipment, accompanied by photos of Modi’s election rallies even as the Covid wave became uncontrollable. The posts also mentioned undercounting of cases, images of mass funeral pyres, patients struggling outside hospitals, and basically criticized Mr. Prime Minister. And one cannot deny that all these claims are accurate (speaking from personal experience).

Facebook restored the  #ResignModi hashtag after blocking it for several hours and stated that it was a “slip-up and “not because the Indian government asked to block it.” The error was apparently caused by an algorithm or a human. It is only fair for people to not buy the story. 

While the possibility of such slip-ups cannot be entirely ruled out, the Modi government has a history of shutting down critics. In my opinion, this is truly worrisome. 

The government’s explanation for removing these posts is that it is controlling the spread of misinformation to curb panic while in the eyes of people it seems to be suppression and intimidation.

In the face of failures and criticism, a leader can deal with them in two ways- either by taking down the failure or taking down the criticism. Modi government is adept at doing the latter. Instructing Twitter to remove tweets that are against the government is easier than ensuring oxygen supply throughout the country, right?

Even in the past, the government was seen tightening its grips on social media by clamping down on criticism about the farmers’ protest, the Citizen Amendment Act, the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and more. Not to forget, the internet was down in Kashmir for several months to contain information which also made ground reporting extremely difficult. It has also threatened social media platforms by stating the IT laws and policies, leaving no options for them.

Although Twitter has given certain clarification, a glance at Twitter’s relationship with the Modi government proves the two are constantly in a tug of war.

In February, Twitter’s officials faced the threat of jail time for not taking down specific tweets and handles related to the farmer’s protest. Several prominent leaders endorsed Koo app—India’s Parler— in protest. Perhaps fearing loss of business, Twitter later restricted the visibility of some hashtags and penalized 500 accounts. Similarly, In 2019, Twitter faced similar threats for objectionable content but the definition of this “objectionable” content….who knows?

Facebook has earlier been accused of pandering to the Modi government, followed by the stepping down of the public policy head Ankhi Das and the allegations of being biased for BJP. Forget Press freedom, do we even have the freedom of speech?

The goal here, I suppose, is to take control of the public narrative, and consequentially, the quality of Indian journalism is dying because it is scared of being advertised as anti-national. 

Indian Press has failed/ is scared to report other observations too.

For instance, in the US, the Biden government set targets, met the targets, and still stated that it is not enough. In India, the message has always been that we have constrained the virus, be it the second wave or be it the shortage of medical equipment, medical and paramedical staff, drugs, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, or vaccines. Earlier this year, the Indian government spread the message that it had beaten the virus. New cases dropped to 11,000 by mid-February, vaccines were being exported and in March the health minister said India was “in the endgame” of the pandemic. How are you contradicting yourself so audaciously, dear sir?

Opinion-based tweets are being withheld. As a matter of fact, BJP Government’s grip on the mainstream media has always been this tight. Social media was acting like a boon in these times of crisis where individuals and volunteers were putting up their needs and available items for those in need, to access info and express their opinions and concerns which is dead in the mainstream mass media. When it couldn’t get any worse, UP CM Yogi Adityanath went on to say that hospitals are spreading fake info about the unavailability of hospital beds and cylinders and action must be taken against them. In an interview, Home Minister Amit Shah said that we have produced enough medical equipment, completely ignoring the shortages.  It is important to know that Mr. Shah dodged the question of Kumbh Mela and election rallies running in a full-fledged manner despite skyrocketing cases.

What happens when the journalists questioning the central government leaders remind them that they are not only contesting for power in the states but also represent the centre? They are dumbed down or tagged anti-national.

Let me take a moment to put forward my rant about the government here.  Let me exercise my right to speech in the face of dying media and journalism. The central government has had a series of distractions that a normal or rather a sensible government would not have had while they were facing multiple warnings of such a major calamity possibility in the country. From January last year, they were warned about the pandemic coming in, and even by the end of January and mid-February, they were too concerned about Delhi elections and riots. Where Mr. Prime Minister was busy in Namaste Trump rallies welcoming Trump and toppling the Madhya Pradesh government, the government also delayed the lockdowns without preparing for the consequences or impacts on the migrant labourers. Despite this, they had enough time after the first wave but the farmers’ bill proved to be a better distraction instead of preparing for the much expected second wave and improving the healthcare. Holding onto power has always been more important than their primary duty of protecting citizens’ lives. The first mutant was first discovered in October 2020. Britain set up genome sequencing labs in April 2020 while India set up these labs in January 2021 and the funding came in March 2021. This is not a scientifically rational response and we are paying a really cruel price for this. The response seems like an Ostrich’s head in the sand with no respect for science. A majority of statistical models predict that the peak would arrive during mid-May but we cannot even trust the data that is being allegedly underreported by at least 15 times in terms of cases and deaths. Is this the failure of democratic institutions or the populism or knee-jerk reactions?

The Election commission is equally to be blamed for this outbreak. EC is supposed to be neutral but was seen siding with BJP this time. All the parties except BJP pleaded to scrunch the elections in 1 day instead of 7 days and multiple phases and to stop campaigning but it refused to do so.  Even Madras High Court last week remarked that the EC should be “booked for murder” for continuing with the political rallies during the Covid emergency. 

I can still go on if allowed to. But the crux of the matter is that the media has every right to report the facts in the public interest. We need criticism in good faith, opinions, true data, contents of court hearings and to stop dramatizing and politicizing social issues.

It is the fourth pillar of democracy. A morally obligated free-flowing dialogue is what India needs. The media is responsible for formulating and expressing a collective opinion of the public and so restricting it simply means not caring about the public at all.

This world press freedom day, we don’t need anything more than FREEDOM.

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A dream on line

by:Rithika

I will let you know in the starting itself that this piece isn’t going to be a professional writing about the World Press Day, neither is it well researched. It’s just going to be about what I think the press is and how it affected me. 

Not being much of a newspaper enthusiast, I’ve never watched or read about politics. But the idea of journalism always piqued me. Even when I was little, sometimes glancing accidentally at the TV when news was on, I very much stared at the people who were in the scene, holding a camera or a microphone. But later on, I knew what drew me were their words. The actual journalists who were behind the picture. 

I used to make up scenarios of accidents or robberies and used to report those incidents to my family. My Dad seemed very impressed, just like any other father. But I did not know that he would take it for real and ask me to take up journalism in later years. I didn’t hash out the idea, nope. I started reading much about how the press works and what exactly journalism meant. 

It wasn’t that complicated, at least to me. But is the job difficult? Incredibly. I didn’t know that before. Being emotionally stable and summoning all your strength not to be shook because of the events you would be reporting, or clicking pictures of, is physically and mentally challenging and tiring. It isn’t as simple as we think it is. Mustering up words uses up a lot of brain juice. 

Is the press all about talking on TV? Not at all. From reaching the scene of coverage on time to be able to portray everything perfectly to the public, there is sweat and blood. But I was unsure. Still am. Because fame doesn’t fuel me, respect does. And the press members, taken from the directors to the people who cover the scene of crime nowadays are very rarely respected or in fact, are acutely safe. 

I’ve read so many times that any member from the whole of the press family who has taken up a serious issue and has written/covered/reported about it, their story hasn’t ended well. I hated the fact that they’re asked to mask the specifics most of the time. If the press is about showing the truth, then what’s happening? I hoped that what I’d read about the murders, killings, kidnappings, holding ransom, and whatnot of the journalists, reporters who’ve exposed the truth and nothing else to be my nightmares, but life was cruel. My interest in the press area descended into fear and I tried to stop giving a second, third or even the thousandth thought about it.

But one choice which I so strongly loved didn’t fade away that easily. I’ve always known that the press is very powerful. That it’s the thing which keeps us on par and in tune with the world. But when the society can’t support their freedom, I hadn’t wanted to be a part of that community where I have to worry about death with every article I’ve written, with every crime I’ve covered, with every report I’ve ead out to the public, and with any work I’d contributed to the world of press. My dream ultimately shattered. I didn’t fight with my parents that I’d still wanted to do some good through the camera. BBut what defense did I have to prove my point? 

I rested my case because the one question that ate at me is that: Is my passion worth my life? 

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Lady Justice

by: Tharun Jayaprasad

*Knock knock*, who’s at the door?

You do look familiar, have we met before?

Oh yes, how can I forget you!

You are just the person I was looking for.

Boy! how different you seem from what I had heard and seen.

Gleaming with honesty and those eyes draped in the fabric of impartiality,

Lady Justice, that’s how I hoped that you would have been.

Why is that now, the satin on your eyes lies tilted?

The eye covered, is turned away from the helpless cries,

The one peeking ensures the creatures who play you and wreck you, 

Stay untouched, undisputed.

Why is that now, the balance leans more to a side?

While one of them is empty, unsatisfied,

The other is well looked after, though lacking any rationale,

That makes you, for them, fight.

Why is that now, the sword which you once yielded to fight for the deserving,

Being used relentlessly by your namesake preachers,

To slash through the deprived to whom they say,

 “Preserving our faith is all that we’re doing.”

I’d heard that you bore no feelings for either.

Facts and proofs were the only tools which you used.

How I used to look up to you and admire,

But now I know,

Even a symbol like you can be tampered with and can be misused.

I’ve just realized how rude I’ve been,

Just like one of them,

Without even listening to your cause,

Tireless bashing I’ve been engaging in.

I ask you this with mighty astonishment,

What is it that has made you present?

Your reply compels me to think,

If not you then who is the one donning your stature!

Who is the one making the mighty ship democracy sink?

How is it that your power was stripped,

And who is the one that pushed you off the brink?

Sympathy is what I feel for your plight.

The horrors every day that catches your sight.

Rapes, murders, brutality and extremism,

All of which you could’ve plucked out.

Now all you can do is sit back,

With your long arms tied and your mouth shut tight.

Although, it does relieve me that you remain pure and just.

Bringing you back to authority is undoubtedly a must.

I hope that a Dawn will soon come,

When these wrongdoings come undone.

A time when the ones like me and you won’t have to keep mum.

When the lesser privileged will find a voice 

And the dish named Justice will once again be served hot, barring none.

Saying so, it’s time for me to bid you adieu,

Now that I know that still on our side is you.

Until the day of salvation,

I’m forced to write and not act,

Because nowadays, demanding for the truth,

Makes you an enemy of the fluttering saffron, green and in the middle, blue.