opinion piece


The following piece attempts to examine the roots of Hindutva ideology in India as well as the caste-class mobilisation on which it grows. In doing so, it will also look at the role of apolitical-centrist folks in fuelling fascism.

Fascism, as Time magazine describes it, is “a movement that promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of an autocratic ruler.” Its origins can be traced to Europe in the early twentieth century, with Germany seeing one of the worst faces of that movement. However, after World War II, in 1945, fascism began to lose ground before resurfacing in the form of neo-fascism. However, fascism, unlike in the West, rose to prominence in India in the 1990s. Since then, fascism in India has grown to its worst, steadily choking the world’s greatest democracy to death.

In his paper titled ‘Neoliberalism and Fascism’, Prabhat Patnaik writes, “They (fascists leaders) invariably invoke acute hatred against some hapless minority groups, treating them as the ‘enemy within’ in a narrative of aggressive hyper nationalism, and attribute all the existing social ills of the ‘nation’ to the presence of such groups.” He goes on to explain in his research how these movements’ fundamental characteristics go beyond mere prejudice. It highlights the movement’s adherence to irrational viewpoints, desire for societal domination, and readiness to use violence openly—even in positions of governmental authority—in order to accomplish its goals. He describes the totalitarian tendencies of fascist governments as they attempt to dominate the social, political, and economic facets of society. This eventually leads to a highly controlled society in which the government has a significant influence over every element of an individual’s personal life.

Hindutva, also known as Hindu nationalism, is a fascist movement in India that advocates Hindu supremacy and the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. This movement began in India in 1925, amid the fascist surge in the West, but received little attention from the public until the 1990s due to the dominance of a left-centrist political party in government. However, after the 1990s, the movement began to expand quickly, with the ‘Babri Masjid’ as the centre of the politicisation. The movement gained political traction with the formation of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980, which was backed by the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Dr Muhammad Gumnāmi for The Muslim 500 notes, “From the 1990s onwards, the slow poisoning of Hindu minds against Indian Muslims was carried out by the RSS and BJP. However, their progress to a majority with complete control did not occur immediately. The BJP passed through a stage where they had to form a coalition government under the ‘moderate’ Vajpayee, who was also an RSS member. The Vajpayee coalition government ran between 1998 and 2004, and while it was BJP-led, it did not have the majority to lay the foundations of a Hindu Hitlerian state.”

In a country where caste is severely established, Hindu unity was a challenging feat. At the same time, in the 1990s, the then-V.P. Singh’s government implemented the Mandal Commission, which granted 27% reservation to the OBCs. This policy was a political manoeuvre intended to harm the BJP’s electoral base by creating inter-caste divides. While most political parties stayed mute on the commission since any favour may result in them losing a specific caste vote, the RSS officially called on the BJP to reject the Mandal Commission. But the party used a different strategy to mobilise people and secure voter support. A month later, L.K. Advani, the then-BJP President, began the ‘Rath Yatra’ to promote the agenda of a temple under the Babri Masjid and deflect attention away from the Mandal Commission. From the start, the Yatra provoked sectarian tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

On 6 December, 1992, members of Hindutva organisations razed the centuries-old mosque, sparking one of the bloodiest communal clashes in the country. While the Hindu-Muslim gap was gradually deepening following the demolition, a train accident made it worse. In 2002, a train coming from Ayodhya caught fire, killing 58 Hindu pilgrims. This prompted violent riots in Gujarat, killing over 1,000 individuals, the majority of whom were Muslims. Many international organisations criticised the BJP administration, stating evidence that the violence had been planned and designed in advance. The inability of the state to control violence, acts of silencing journalists and critics, and banning documentaries make further cause for concern and question. From then until now, the BJP has been successful in uniting Hindus on the basis of hatred against Muslims.

A PhD candidate from the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra writes, “In India, fascism is reinventing itself. It has crept through Hindu nationalism—Hindutva—and now poses a serious threat to Indian democracy.” For the BJP, mobilising UC Hindus was an easy task. A fairly easy equation: Hindu Raj means Hindu domination, which means upper caste dominance. Along with that equation came the Mandal Commission, which eventually helped them acquire UC voter support due to open criticism from the RSS, the parent wing. In a poll analysis by Lokniti-CSDS, they reported that as many as 89% of Brahmins, 87% of Rajputs, and 83% of Baniyas voted for the BJP in the 2022 elections. The percentage was 66 for OBCs and 41 for SCs.

While the existence of the UC voter base is self-explanatory, the question arises: how did the BJP succeed in mobilising the lower caste? Their first card featured Narendra Modi. Modi has been quite aggressive about his caste identity since the beginning. The Press Trust of India reported, “Addressing a press conference at the JD(U) headquarters here, the party’s MLC and chief spokesperson, Neeraj Kumar, pointed out that Modi has been accused of getting his caste, ‘Modh Ghanchi’, included in the OBC list in 2002, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. ‘Modi sought to deny the allegation by claiming it was done way back in 1994, when the Congress ruled Gujarat as well as the Centre’, added the JD(U) leader. Kumar showed a sheet of paper claiming it was the Gazette of India of that year, mentioning the casts that were included among Other Backward Classes (OBC).” A few other political groups also questioned his caste status, but the BJP successfully defended it by labelling the claims “casteist”.

Now the question remains: even after an increase in crime rates against Dalits since 2013, why are Dalits voting for the BJP? The answer lies in the class development of this caste. In the book ‘Maya Modi Azad: Dalit Politics in the Time of Hindutva,’ scholars Sudha Pai and Sajjan Kumar find out the reason behind this shift. The book explains how class upliftment is one of the reasons behind the shift in political support. Vikas Patnaik notes in his review of the book for The Hindu, “Indeed, this is one of the finest insights of the book. One sign of self-confidence is always fragmentation, as an individual or a sub-group agency begins to question the need for a larger ‘authentic’ self. Just as a Brahmin can be a supporter of the BJP, the Congress, or even a socialist, it goes without saying that a confident Dalit middle class will also articulate itself in fragments. In other words, the electoral debacle of the BSP also reflects the success of the BSP in providing ‘aatma-samman’ (self-respect) to Dalits who grew up seeing Kanshi Ram and Mayawati as their natural leaders.”

Another reason is the hierarchy within castes. An excerpt from Pai and Kumar’s book argues, “It is also because the objective has been two-fold: to obtain the electoral support required in a key state like UP and include them within the saffron fold in order to build a Hindu Rashtra. Feeling neglected within the BSP vis-à-vis the dominant Jatavs, the smaller Dalit sub-castes have been attracted to the BJP and thus rendered vulnerable to its mobilizational strategies.”

The BJP’s silence on the Mandal Commission, the addition of EWS reservation, RSS’ criticism of the Mandal Commission, weakening opposition, intra-caste dominance, and Modi’s identity were all enough to mobilise the communities and bring them under the banner of “Hindu,” with a common slogan, “Not a ‘Brahmin’, Not a ‘Kshatriya’, Not a ‘Vaishya’, Not a ‘Shudra’: We are Hindus.”

While the underprivileged lack access to proper education and information about issues, they vote with the hope that this can probably uplift their financial status, while the rich ensure that they stay ignorant and vote with hatred. As economist Prabhat Patnaik states, “Fascism has been thriving on weakening the working class across the world,” and indeed the present construction workers deal between India and Israel exemplifies that. In India, the BJP government’s control over media and internet platforms aids in mobilising the middle and upper classes. According to a recent World Economic Forum survey, India is the most vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation in the world, posing the greatest threat to the 2024 elections. The reason a lie becomes a fact in India is because the privileged either benefit from it or turn a blind eye to it.

Fascism thrives on the politicisation of religion, and misinformation to blur the distinction between political and religious events aids in the cultivation of an apolitical voter base that ignores socio-political issues. Such a voter base indirectly aids in mobilising the working class. A recent illustration of this is the violence that erupted in the country following the Ram Temple’s inauguration. While this voting base had the resources and access to education, they chose to remain in their bubble of privilege, thereby supporting the authoritarian regime and creating a religious gap in their personal relationships.

Furthermore, an analysis of how apolitical-centrist individuals unknowingly support fascism emphasises the importance of a nuanced understanding of political apathy and the potential consequences of being untouched by ideological shifts. The development of fascism highlights the importance of ideological neutrality in deciding a country’s political direction.

So, while we sit in our bubble of privilege, continue to preach hatred, directly or indirectly, and refuse to question the hatred, the regime will continue to divide everyone, incite riots, and fan the flame of hatred towards our doors.

Read also: “I am a Brahmin” The Casteism of Baba Ramdev and Shankaracharya

Featured Image Credits: Hindustan Times

Dhruv Bhati
[email protected]

“Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” When the young resist and “rebel,” people in positions of power often try to “deal” with them in their own way. Why is resistance often regarded as a menace?

It was the summer of 2015 when I first discovered the world of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as a pre-teen in 6th grade. The Hunger Games introduced me to the world of dystopian fantasy and were as culturally impactful as they were personally influential. In the past couple of months, I have fully regressed back into my 11-year-old self and re-entered my Hunger Games era. Although I had read and watched each installation of the series multiple times, they felt different when I jumped into that world once again after the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

I experienced something more as someone on the cusp of adulthood than I did the first time around. It isn’t that the politics of the Hunger Games universe are subtle, because they just aren’t. It’s impossible to describe the plot without discussing authoritarian regimes and, in response, political revolutions.

People recognise that the whole idea of the Hunger Games is a commentary on authoritarian regimes, specifically the non-democratic ones. But in the contemporary political landscape, we can all agree that democratic regimes, although not as blatantly authoritarian as the Capitol, are still effectively restraining freedom and cracking down on dissent, our country being not so distant from it.

Re-reading the books as a young adult who, like many others my age, is becoming more disillusioned with the entirety of the Indian political system with each passing news headline led me to inevitably draw some comparisons. Before anyone locks horns with me and argues that drawing comparisons between the Indian political system, specifically its manifestation in Delhi University, and the Hunger Games is ridiculous, yes, I know that we do not have a reality television show being run by power-hungry adults where children kill each other for entertainment.

I also know that the Indian government’s power, whether past regimes or the current one, does not flow from one individual, that it does not have two opposing political parties willing to abandon morality for power, and that its force doesn’t track down and kill dissenters, stripping them of a livelihood—well, actually…

The last few pages of Mockingjay called into question all sorts of philosophical tenets and how they unfortunately manifest in our lived reality. Particularly moving is Katniss’ realisation that the leader of the revolution, President Coin, is as morally deplorable as the fallen dictator, President Snow. She realises that, although Coin’s initial intentions may have been pure, her desire for power and revenge corrupted her, replacing one oppressive regime with another. Katniss is suspicious of her from the start, often drawing parallels between the way Coin runs District 13 and how Snow controls the Capitol.

Try not to look down on people who had to choose between death and disgrace.

Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games are an annual tradition instituted by the Capitol in order to suppress the districts and remind them of the Capitol’s absolute power. The districts must each send one female and one male tribute to fight to the death as a form of entertainment for Capitol audiences, highlighting how the oppressed are just disposable to the oppressors.

The author introduces a patronising and oppressive fictional government, one that only retains control through fear-mongering. She describes a class divide that is undeniably perverse: some are forced to hunt illegally for survival, while others drink vomit-inducing poison just so they can eat again. Panem’s government and class divisions are not as alien as we are initially led to believe. In our world, we have witnessed such abuse of power, corruption, and controlling people’s voices. To draw parallels with the government’s actions or the university administration or not to draw any, I leave that task to you, the reader.

What is Democracy when the Choices are Bad and Worse?

The main difference between Panem and modern-day India is democracy. Although the leader of Panem uses the title of President, he rules as an absolute dictator. President Snow manipulates allies, kills enemies, and terrorises his citizens in order to keep power. The story warns us of the danger of leaving too much power in the hands of the few. I believe it was the sacred nature of democracy that Collins really wanted to leave the reader with. If we take it for granted, our own Hunger Games may soon be upon us—or are we too late?

The key idea in The Hunger Games trilogy and its prequel is how violence can be used to control a nation. President Snow uses the Hunger Games as a way to remind the districts of their helplessness while also feeding his constituents’ unceasing appetite for entertainment. The story sheds light on oppression and resistance, how the youth of a nation are controlled, and the way the people in positions of power “deal” with them when they “rebel.”.

Class division, inequality between citizens, governmental oppression, human suffering, corruption, destruction of buildings, and revolution—all of these issues raised in the Hunger Games universe serve as bridges between today’s “modern” India or even the world and the fictional nation of Panem.

Democracy is certainly backsliding at our university, which was once known to lead the students’ resistance against the authoritarian British colonial government. In the institution where popular protests against authoritarian regimes in an independent India were led, be it participating in the Jayaprakash Narayan Movement or resisting the National Emergency of 1975, we are now in a time when even documentary screenings are banned, because dare we question the government in a democracy?

In August this year, Sabyasachi Das, a member of the faculty of the Economics Department at Ashoka University, resigned following a controversy over his research paper, ‘Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy’. I believe the fact of this incident itself affirms the title of the research paper.

The one unfortunate point of commonality between dystopian literature and the real world is how we are desensitised to the extent that we become silent spectators to atrocities being committed in front of us, just like the Capitol citizens.

The Mockingjay Sings

The allegory of the Mockingjays of District 12 is the inability of the government to control these creatures, making them an inspiration and a symbol for the rebellion. Though these are fictional species, they do represent revolution and rebellion and can be associated with the current political landscape. Because the youth will certainly rise when the old are busy in a tussle of proving why the other person is worse, instead of actually working for the people, as “stupid people are dangerous.”

Through Katniss and Lucy, we see two distinct representations of society (with Lucy Gray being an “alleged” ancestor of Katniss). Sometimes soldiers are forced to be artists, and artists are forced to be soldiers, as Lucy Gray Baird was forced to fight in the Hunger Games as a mockingjay whose voice was taken away from her. Katniss Everdeen, on the other hand, was made into a spectacle when she was actually a soldier, willing to fight for her district and its people, but reduced to a set piece for entertainment.

Delving into the world of the Hunger Games from the perspective of Snow, we explore the human side of a villain. I believe that from the author’s perspective, she tries to showcase that people like Snow are not necessarily ‘monsters’ to their core, but rather real human beings who are willing to choose greed and power for their own self-interest. This is certainly representative of the larger political system in most modern-day democracies, including India, where it’s just people in positions of power constantly choosing to exploit their power and suppressing voices of revolt. But as is illustrated in the world of the Hunger Games, irrespective of the restrictive boundaries of any cage, the Mockingjay sings.

When Katniss sings “The Hanging Tree” to Pollux and the Mockingjays, she points out that she hasn’t sung it “out loud for ten years because it’s forbidden,” implying that it’s not only banned in the Everdeen house but essentially in Panem. Perhaps her father sang it around town to subtly alert the residents of District 12 that he was revolutionary, willing to do whatever it took to stand up to the Capitol.

“They say he murdered three,” the song chants, its words asserting the often-manipulative accusations of the Capitol. This song was a voice of rebellion, concocted not about a desperate lover but about a revolutionary whose plea was for his neighbours to follow him towards a fight for freedom, no matter the cost. Even if it meant they might end up hanging by his side.

Read also: Saffronisation out in the Open, Finally!

Featured Image Credits: CBS News

Gauri Garg
[email protected] 

From small-business owners to regular students and teachers, the diverse Delhi diaspora is split on opinions related to the G20 ‘Lockdown’.

While newspaper, TV, and social media headlines have branded the G20 Summit in Delhi a “huge success” for India and the Modi government, the story of Delhi says quite the contrary. With universities, offices, and other institutions shut down for a 5-day period while we were solving problems at the global level within the sanctum of ‘Bharat Mandapam’, the city of Delhi had come to a standstill, claiming several victims of this global show of power.

The University of Delhi was shut down for a period of five days, from October 6th to October 10th, 2023, on the occasion of the G20 summit. In conversation with several students regarding this frequent shutting down of the university on several occasions, an ‘apolitical diaspora’ of students reacted with, “We were more than happy to get such a long weekend.” However, another section of students also say that these continuous holidays ‘hamper their academic schedules’ considering the already shortened semesters—thanks to the newly introduced Four-Year-Undergraduate Program (FYUP)—due to which both teachers and students struggle to catch up with the course syllabus later.

In conversation with an assistant professor from the University of Delhi, quite a different perspective can be gauged.

India taking over the G20 Presidency is a matter of pride for every Indian. Closure of educational institutions in the capital for the preparation of G20 Summit may have caused a little inconvenience to some but it was a great opportunity for India as it was attended by world leaders. In such a situation, teachers usually give students assignments, readings or activities that can be done during the break and then plan catch up/review sessions. Teachers always put in that extra effort to work towards the welfare of the students’ community.

Contrary to this, another assistant professor claims the following,

 The dispersal of classes a few days before the actual event (G20 Summit) was wholly unnecessary. The lockdown in general felt excessive, we’ve held such events before, and telling citizens not to step out was very inconvenient. The blocking of roads for instance caused unnecessary stress. DU is anyway suffering because of NEP, in terms of truncated syllabi and less number of lectures, and on top of that such unscheduled holidays make a mockery of education.

A simple stroll through Purani Dilli during the G20 weekend brought us into contact with several daily-wage workers like rickshaw-pullers who mentioned,

The road blocking has caused us to take longer routes that take much more time than usual. In order to get to Nizamuddin from Chandni Chowk, one has to make a detour through Mandi House which can take nearly an hour. Because of the lockdown, customers are few and we compensate by charging extra for the longer route from the handful of customers.

While green curtains and G20 banners veiled the tragic truth of the Delhi diaspora, stray dogs, local shops, and even sex workers were ‘hidden from sight’. On this note, a DU student residing near Vasant Vihar claimed that,

I’ve noticed several sex workers near Munirka who usually do their business under the Munirka flyover. However, 2-3 days before G20, ITBP soldiers were seen clearing the area who hauled all the 10-12 sex-workers into their jeeps and they were never seen since then.

A sanitation worker and caretaker at one of the reputed student PGs, Stanza Living, had the following to share,

The army stationed at every corner of the road put too many restrictions for me to reach my workplace. They would ask me, “Kaha jaa rahe ho? ID dikhao” (Where are you going? Show me your ID) at every 10-minute interval. Mai kya inke liye kaam na karke ghar pe baithi rahu? (Should I stop working for their sake and rather sit at home?)

While heartbreaking videos regarding stray dogs being violently dragged to unknown hiding places have made the rounds on the internet, the irony lies in the fact that such a large-scale global event aimed at solving global issues was conducted while millions were suffering at home. Local shops being covered with G20 banners caused a drop in the incomes of those business owners, while several daily-wage workers suffered economically too, thanks to the lockdown.

With massive investments of nearly 4000 crores being made towards the G20 for ‘Delhi Beautification’ and the ‘Bharat’ renaming rumours doing the rounds, which could cost an additional 14,000 crores, the scary question then arises: how long will this government turn a blind eye to the sufferers at home? How many more victims will this ‘unchecked’ power claim before the actual ‘achche-din’? What does the G20 bring in return for all these ‘hidden’ victims?  Will it all be worth it after all?

Read Also: The Green Curtains of G20: Solution to All of Bharat’s Woes

Featured Image Credits: Down To Earth

At the heart of the academic freedom debate at Ashoka University is the tension between an open and liberal campus and a management that is trying to run it like a corporation.

A well-respected professor at Ashoka University resigns from his position. The reason? Alleged interference by the University’s management in their extra-curricular work, which stood in opposition to the current dominant political ideology and which the university viewed as getting inextricably linked to its own public image. This is followed by the resignation of another faculty member as a form of solidarity.

If you thought I was talking about the recent resignation of the Assistant Professor of Economics, Sabyasachi Das, you’d only be half right. In 2021, another imminent intellectual and professor of political science at the university, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, resigned from his position. In his resignation letter, he wrote,

My association with the university may be considered a political liability.

Founded in 2014, Ashoka University is, in its own words, “committed to maintaining the highest intellectual and academic standards” as a “private non-profit university, an unprecedented example of public philanthropy in India”. Yet over the years, the University has shown a lack of moral fortitude to uphold these commitments whenever challenged by the dominant political forces.

On July 20, 2016, an open letter titled “Open Letter condemning State Violence in Kashmir, was floated by six Young India Fellowship (YIP) students. It was signed by 88 signatories. The following day, the University released a statement condemning the letter as well as the petitioners and effectively distancing itself from it. On October 7, Saurav Goswami, Deputy Manager of Academic Affairs, and Adil Mushtaq Shah, Programme Manager of Academic Affairs, who were among the signatories, resigned from their positions.

In December 2016, Rajendran Narayanan, a mathematics professor and the lone member of the faculty among the signatories, resigned as well. Although the Univeristy claimed that they resigned of their own volition, according to an Indian Express report, emails sent by the Univerisity’s Faculty Council showed a different picture. Prior to an email sent on October 16 which alleged Goswami and Shah being “asked to resign by the founders”, another email was sent on October 8 by the Council resisting this plan to fire Narayanan. It stated,

The Faculty Council feels that Rajendran’s dismissal would deal a death-blow to Ashoka’s vision. It will be difficult to make a case of personal or professional misconduct against Rajendran as his colleagues will vouch for his integrity, or of having violated University guidelines because there were none at the time he signed the petition. Therefore, notwithstanding the Founders’ track record in upholding freedom of speech, for which we are extremely grateful, this would very much be seen as a case of faculty dismissal consequent on exercise of free speech.

On March 17, 2021, came the news of the resignation of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the professor of political science. He said,

My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honour constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the university, I resign.

A report in The Edict (which was supported by Time Magazine), Ashoka’s student newspaper, claimed that Mehta’s resignation had paved the way for the University’s expansion and was related to funding regulation. The University denied such a claim. However, during a discussion between the Founders and the Student Government on March 21, the former claimed that they had met Mehta on March 9 and informed him that some of the Founders believed that his “political opinions often get conflated with the university’s stance and that they were simply relaying feedback”. The incident laid bare the tension between the management, responsible for the administration and funding of the University and the faculty and students, which make up the soul and the ethos of a liberal arts university.

In August this year, after Das’ working paper, titled ‘Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy’, created much furore online, the University immediately moved to distance itself from it. The Wire reported that the university’s investors had received angry calls from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Union Education Minister. In an unprecedented move, the university set up an ad hoc committee to examine the ‘political context’ behind the research paper. In a further concerning development, The Tribune reported that officials from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) visited the campus to probe the paper and Das. The University’s brazen timidity in the face of the pressure from powers that be was reputationally damaging, to say the least.

With each blow to its liberal credentials that Ashoka has seen, it has run into the same problem: the promise of a liberal and open campus, which by its very nature is supposed to be noisy, a fertile ground for dissent and debate, and which cannot, in any feasible manner, run like a corporation. A corporation, which, to ensure efficiency, demands obedience and purges anything that it deems a liability.

There is no denying that the GB is facing tremendous pressures from the political climate but it is this very tryst between the Board and the politically tied capital that stands starkly in contrast to the liberal spirit.

– wrote an undergraduate in The Edict.

If Ashoka University wants to deliver on the promises that it made at its conception—that of a liberal and open campus—it needs to stop trying to run a university like a corporate firm. The irony of this whole ordeal is that the strongest backlash towards the University’s actions every time has come from the very people it demanded obedience from—the students and the faculty, who at this point seem more committed to the University’s purported ideals than those who promised them do.

Read Also: The Sheer Obliteration of Transparency in DU PG Admissions

Featured Image Source: The Wire

Vanshika Ahuja
[email protected]

In a world of rising 24 hour news cycles, online media and the fall of the printing press, what exactly happened to the news?

The Fourth Estate is the moniker attributed to the press and general news media in modern times. The title carries with it a sense of respectability and power as it sees the news media take its place alongside the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility and the commoners.

A weighty term for sure – and for the times that saw its popularity rise, it was appropriate as well. The news media has been an institution originally designed to inform the public and perform the duty of the people’s watchdog. In such a duty, it gains its importance as it protects the interests of a functioning democracy and holds the public’s trust.

The advancements of the internet, however, have caused a decline in the traditional press. Being connected to the global world all the time means learning about news events around the world a day later in a newspaper isn’t enough. Therefore, people rarely buy newspapers when the information is readily available at their fingertips. Advertisers, thus, prefer online advertisements that are cheaper, more targeted and – most importantly – get in front of more people, taking away a major revenue source for the print media. The obvious proposition is that the general public cannot let go of something as important as the “Fourth Estate” without a suitable alternative. This suitable alternative is the grand world of social media and online news.

The explosion of the internet has shaken the news media. Every article retains a reading time that’s less than 10 minutes, there must be a 24 hour news feed and most media houses have embraced online advertisements as their main sources of revenue. Online advertisements, however, are simply not enough to sustain the giants of news media though, and many have also flocked to subscription based models to generate additional sources of revenue. Only a few of these, like The New York Times have actually been successful at creating a large subscriber base and thus a respectable income.

Journalism has seen its importance grow throughout history largely due to its contribution in the political atmosphere – especially in democracies. Political journalism – as documented by various scholars – is an institution that has the self appointed duty of looking after the people’s interests. In that sort of self importance, it has, according to most experts, treated lifestyle journalism with disrespect. Lifestyle journalism deals with a number of topics ranging from food and culture to travel and film. Political journalism deals with what is called “hard news” – important economic and political events that are quick, to the point and serious and that people ought to know. Lifestyle journalism or “soft news” is more entertaining, slow paced and deals with more emotional and relatively less important topics.

The 21st century has seen a cultural reform in the field of media which in turn has led to an explosion of this “soft news”. With so many people able and willing to talk to others with the same interests instantly, there has been a huge rise in the number of cultural platforms coming up for specific niches. There are technology related media companies such as The Verge, automobile related media publications such as Top Gear, travel related platforms such as Travel XP and more.

Despite its rising popularity and obvious readership appeal, this cultural journalism still receives its fair share of disrespect from the hard news camp. Case in point: Vir Sanghvi is one of India’s most famous journalists with a long, accomplished career encompassing fields like film, music, food, politics and more. Having been the editor of publications such as Sunday and the Hindustan Times, he has, of course, a good case to make for himself when it comes to dealing with heavier topics such as politics. Try telling that to Twitter, though, where there are always people trying to undersell his political pieces due to his experience as a food blogger. Never mind that the man interviewed political figures like Rajiv Gandhi in his career, he’s got a food column in the Hindustan Times and “what does a food blogger know about this stuff?”.

Most journalism scholars seem to agree that lifestyle journalism merely does away with the self important and serious demeanor of hard news, drawing a boundary between politics and everyday life. After all, there is a reason that there is such a huge demand for soft news – largely owing to people preferring some lighthearted pieces to balance the stuffy hard news. The giants of the industry seem to acknowledge this demand and have shown that they are willing to dive into the field. Forbes, the world renowned business magazine, has a section dedicated to topics like art, dining, travel, etc. Today, 13th October 2022, the New York Times has pieces on Bob Dylan and smartwatches alongside pieces on the US economy, inflation and Donald Trump.

We have to cover the hard news always, but we have to cover the soft news to meet demand, clients are evolving. They need more lifestyle news, more entertainment and more pictures. Newsrooms are evolving and Reuters is evolving with our clients” – Monique Villa, managing director at Reuters Media

However, this is not quite a free, breath-of-fresh-air-from-all-the-seriousness kind of journalistic utopia though. This explosion of online news and lifestyle journalism has also hurt the industry. With online news and social media, there has been a rise in “citizen journalists” and armchair writers. The most glaring example of this situation? Twitter is the #1 downloaded app under the news category of the app store. With so many publications springing up across the internet and the rise of culture specific social media pages, the barriers to entry have never been lower. Almost anyone with a decent enough grasp over language can find a position to write for some kind of online publication. Such low barriers to entry completely do away with the need for experience and qualities such as unbiased reporting, research and journalistic integrity that have been the hallmarks of the press. There has thus been a huge influx of fake news, badly researched articles or simply biased pieces.

This lack of unbiased reporting and reliable journalists has affected the industry almost as harshly as it has affected its readership. The lower barriers to entry mean that journalists getting into the field are either underpaid or unpaid interns with compensation that’s measured in bylines instead of a paycheck. Globally, the trust in mass media has been in free fall for years now thanks to unreliable reporting or private interests taking hold of the hallowed Fourth Estate. In 2022, according to a study by Reuters, only 41% of news consumers in India said they trusted the media – a figure that is actually a positive when you compare it to the rest of the world.

This lack of trust in modern news is an issue with further consequences. It is hard to break into an industry like journalism when readers’ distrust is at an all time high. In fact, with so many people from all sides of every argument ever talking about their perspectives, there is a greater chance of people falling into echo chambers and listening to “journalists” that tend to agree with them. Especially in cultural journalism concerning the fields of food, art, music, film or others, it is hard to fight for the credibility that grabs ears. For a budding Indian film critic, there is no reason why someone should listen to you over Anupama Chopra. For a budding food critic, there is no reason someone should listen to you over Marryam H. Reshii. This is where the catch-22 of credibility begins: nobody trusts you because you do not have the reputation yet, which means finding an opportunity to credibly put your thoughts to the public is difficult. Since you cannot find the opportunity to talk about your reviews of a film, album, food, etc. you cannot gain the credibility and reputation that you need for readers to pay attention.

That isn’t to say there are no ways to build such credibility of course. Social media here is a double edged sword. You can easily get lost in the sea of people droning on about Laal Singh Chaddha’s faults like the rest of Twitter. However, there is also a chance you can create an online following for yourself like the Instagram page @humansofcinema that has 245k followers.

In the end, the news media does not quite hold the same respect that it earned for itself throughout history. The giants are falling over themselves in its pursuit of adapting to the current times, while social media has made credibility easier to build but reliability hard to find. The Estate is in ruin and disrepair – and it is time to fix it before it falls on the people it serves.

Read Also: Fake News Shall Only Worsen the Crisis

Siddharth Kumar

[email protected]

Open either Instagram or Twitter, one thing that remains constant is the running commentary on the Russia- Ukraine war; and more than words, it is memes that are speaking.

Dark humour or dark comedy is a style of comedy that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. In this modern age where social media occupies our every living and breathing moment, it would be completely absurd to think that dark humour doesn’t leave its footprints in the social media world. Every time the world is going through a crisis or a tragedy, it feels like someone goes ahead and shouts “Social media assemble”, flooding everything— from Instagram to TikTok (or its counterparts in the case of India), Facebook to Twitter— with tweets, posts, and stories.


Everyone, ranging from the common people to official accounts of nations, end up jumping on this bandwagon, trying to put forward their own point of views and critiques. But more often than not, this ends up taking the form of internet’s most common currency of conversation, memes. Memes about World War 3, about being drafted for the war, about the inaction on the part of NATO and the UN, all ended up making rounds in the recent past. Some of them are still being reshared, while new memes keep coming up every hour of every day.



These memes tend to usually (always) carry an underlying tone of humour— a sort of romanticisation of tragedy and misery, maybe even a humanisation of these atrocities.

But does this joke-making and meme-sharing indicate a general apathy amongst the people of the world? Or does it only point towards a “Gen-Z urge” to use humour as a coping mechanism?


(Part of the meme response is about) glorifying the war for sure, but also not realising what war really is and what it means. So, dealing with in a laissez-faire kind of way.”

Says Dr. Saleem Alhabash, a professor at the media psychology department, Michigan State University.


The world of social media comes with pros of its own, one of the most obvious being that there is barely any consequence to your actions. This means that people from around the world get a green card to give out their opinions (and not necessarily opinions that are empathetic or even sympathetic, or opinions that are put forward in an acceptable way), leaving social media to become a space that is shadowed and claw-marked by a general dehumanisation of humanity, something that rarely gets appreciated by those living the reality you end up making jokes about.


In all this conversation about making dark humour and using humour as a coping mechanism okay, there is one clear unsaid understanding, a clear demarcation, that making jokes on a tragedy is only acceptable when these jokes are made by someone who actually has the right and authority to do so (morally-speaking). Thus, the so-called “gallows humour” only works if you are the person facing the gallows; otherwise, it is just a callous and pathetic attempt to infringe and capitalise (in the form of fame) on someone else’s misery.


But maybe this indifference is not even indifference in its truest form; maybe it is just an outcome of the constant influx of information on social media and our constant scrolling, that we never get the chance to sit, stop, and actually listen. To pull at our heartstrings, anything needs a moment; social media just doesn’t let it have one.

So, does that mean that “crisis meme-making” is an embodiment of all things evil? Not really. Although these memes are a creation of the people, they are also just a reflection of reality (to some extent atleast). 

So, when we look at how ubiquitous these memes are in the modern world, we also need to consider how they might just be the reflection of a common identity, fear, or anxiety; how they might just be creating a world community; how they might just be threading together all these numerous different lives, leaving none of us to feel alone.


Read also ‘Doomscrolling: The Addiction of the 2020s


Feature Image Credits: Digital TV Europe


Manasvi Kadian

[email protected]

“Misogynism isn’t something that we will take forward. We won’t be passing the trauma of this sexist culture to the next generation.” But are you sure about that?

TW: Mentions of r*pe, s*xualisation and obj*ctification.

I come from two Indias. One where we believe that our generation will be the end of misogyny and sexism, and bring a new age of real equality; and another where we are scared of even posting pictures online because we might be scrutinised and objectified by people we know, where we are scared of stalker exes, and where rape culture is normalised and rape cases are nothing of a novelty.

I belong to both of them, and I belong to none of them.

I believe that we are trying and that we are changing but I also know that we call this a culture of toxicity for a reason—it is a poison that breeds itself, perpetuating through the generations, changing in proportion and manifestation but never really disappearing. After all, it says “survival of the fittest”, not “survival of the best” and your misogyny slips into its place in this world as easily as that missing last piece of a thousand-piece puzzle.

Human beings are social animals, but we are also hopeful creatures. We would rather believe that the next generation won’t have to live with the fears we lived in or face the trauma that we carry with us every day, than open our eyes to the reality which surrounds us. The Bois locker room case which targeted underage girls was not made by old, bored men sitting in the dark corners of their houses, but by school and college students, people we could very well have personally known. A 9-year-old was raped in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, not by grown men with twisted minds, but by boys aged 10 and 14. The Bulli Bai app wasn’t just made by a group of radicalists living many decades in the past, who wanted to silence and suppress women by fueling fears and age-old repressive methods, but by a group that also included a Delhi University student, someone belonging to one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

When we hear of these incidents, we try to separate our world from theirs. We try to build them up in our heads as monsters who exist as an anomaly. But does the world create monsters, or do the monsters just belong in the world? Are we grasping at straws, trying to be optimistic, trying to find a new explanation for these horrors every day? Are we deliberately looking for factors and reasons that are solvable, so that we can glaze over the rotten foundation we, as a society, are standing on?

Our generation talks about the end of an era of doing things wrong, but we don’t realise that the fight isn’t about the few people around us, but about the thousands upon thousands of others who aren’t. We keep hiding behind our curtains of doe-eyed beliefs that people are changing, while in reality, we are only creating walls between these different mentalities. The fact that we don’t see it every day, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist anymore. 

If you are still itching to give an argument against this, itching to add a dash of optimistic rant and talk about all the “good” people around you, think about this: If I ask you to count on your fingers the number of people you know who have never made a misogynistic comment, who have never objectified or sexualised someone, who have never made a problematic joke, wouldn’t your ten fingers end up being too many?


Read also “Why Is Gen-Z So Pessimistic?” https://dubeat.com/2022/01/why-is-gen-z-so-pessimistic/ 


Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives


Manasvi Kadian

[email protected]