THE WIRE
The Wire is a news website available in English and Hindi, was founded in 2015 in New Delhi. It is published by the Foundation for Independent Journalism (FIJ), a non-profit Indian company.
How Facebook Knowingly Undermines The World's Largest Democracy
Ideas
Sophie Zhang

How Facebook Knowingly Undermines The World's Largest Democracy

Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang says that the tech giant knowingly facilitates undermining democracy in India. Fair voting cannot be guaranteed if real people's voices are drowned out by armies of fake online commentators.

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — Earlier this month, The Wire published an exposé on Tek Fog, an app allegedly used by India's ruling, right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to make social engineering easier. The app is allegedly used by online operatives to hijack social media and amplify right-wing propaganda in the country.

The investigation immediately grabbed the attention of the Indian public. For the first time, everyday Indians were given insight into the inner workings of a major political party's Information Technology Cell (IT cell). Indians were forced to confront the possibility that their everyday reality was shaped not by the Indian public but the whims of shadowy political operatives.

They also discovered that their own ruling party would seek to phish their phones with spyware for the purpose of sending party-line propaganda impersonating them to friends and family. Such serious allegations more closely resemble an authoritarian dictatorship like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and their hired online commentators, the 50 Cent Army (五毛党), than the world’s largest democracy.

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A portrait of Muhammad Moiz
LGBTQ Plus
Haseeb Asif

Meet Muhammad Moiz, Pakistan's Very Political Answer To Ru Paul

Turning identity and language on its head, this unique drag queen performer and activist is challenging preconceptions — even within the LGBTQ

LAHORE — Muhammad Moiz has multiple personas: a brash, outspoken woman behind Snapchat filters called Shumaila Bhatti, ruminating on family, Rishta Aunties, lip fillers, wedding seasons and gossip; a drag queen who does dirty comedy all about sex and sexuality called Miss Phudina Chatni; and a podcast where Moiz and a friend are just being their introspective, irreverent selves.

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a woman in a red head scarf holds up her finger with ink on it
Ideas
Anushka Verma

India's Legal Age To Marry And Shackles Of The Patriarchy

As India debates raising the legal age of women to marry to match the age for men, one women writer asks what it means for her.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Growing up in an urban and (mostly) open-minded family, I often had a hard time comprehending the complexities involving women being married off as soon as they turned 18.

My grandmother had been married at the age of 17. My mother, at 21.

As I tried to contemplate the predicament of the women of my family for generations before me, I could feel myself gradually descending into madness — and brimming with questions.

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Anti-Modi Protests Turn Violent In Dhaka
Society
N.C. Asthana

Witness From The Inside: Finding The Source Of India's Police Violence

The Indian police force is built on a macho culture that promotes those who commit violence. Only the victims know the truth, and no one ever dares challenge the system.

Most Indians are familiar with heavy-handed police behavior in the form of the cops slapping people or, if they are pretending to manage law and order, beating them mercilessly with their sticks (lathis). However, the real face of police brutality often remains hidden, their notions about police torture derived largely from what they have seen in films. Only the victims know the truth.

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Copy RM- Draft Test
THE WIRE
Kavitha Muralidharan

Copy RM- Draft Test

From helping the homeless to investing in schools, the Anjali Thagana Medai dedicates its profits to ways to help the living of the whole community

MADURAI — Forty-seven-year-old Madhan Karuppaiah’s day typically starts at nine in the morning when he leaves his apartment at Andalpuram in Madurai to visit two temples and a railway junction. Strangely, the purpose is neither pray nor travel. Outside the temples and the junction, Madhan and a volunteer working with him distribute food pockets to 100-odd women and men.

“Today, the menu is sambhar rice, pickle and an appalam, we try to maintain some kind of variety,” says Madhan. He has been doing this since the lockdown was imposed during the first wave of COVID-19. “Few days into the lockdown, it struck some of us that there were people who had absolutely no one to turn to. So, we decided to give food to those living on the streets.”

His next stop is oddly an electric crematorium.

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"Fed By The Dead" - India Crematorium Pours Profits Back Into Cycle Of Life
Society
Kavitha Muralidharan

"Fed By The Dead" - India Crematorium Pours Profits Back Into Cycle Of Life

From helping the homeless to investing in schools, the Anjali Thagana Medai dedicates its profits to ways to help the living of the whole community

MADURAI — Forty-seven-year-old Madhan Karuppaiah’s day typically starts at nine in the morning when he leaves his apartment at Andalpuram in Madurai to visit two temples and a railway junction. Strangely, the purpose is neither pray nor travel. Outside the temples and the junction, Madhan and a volunteer working with him distribute food pockets to 100-odd women and men.

“Today, the menu is sambhar rice, pickle and an appalam, we try to maintain some kind of variety,” says Madhan. He has been doing this since the lockdown was imposed during the first wave of COVID-19. “Few days into the lockdown, it struck some of us that there were people who had absolutely no one to turn to. So, we decided to give food to those living on the streets.”

His next stop is oddly an electric crematorium.

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Photo of ​cricket player Azeem Rafiq
Ideas
Shyam Bhatia*

A Journey Into The Dark Heart Of British Racism, Past And Present

For an Indian growing up in the UK in the 1960s, racism was an everyday experience ranging from schoolyard taunts to threats of violence and persecution. And with the recent revelations of abuse suffered by Pakistan-born cricket star Azeem Rafiq, overt racism is still very much alive. in British society.

-Essay-

LONDON — Azeem Rafiq’s recent disclosures about the racist taunts endured during his years as a first class English cricketer are as revealing about how some deeply ingrained prejudices still prevail as they are instructive about changing national attitudes of recent times.

Off spinner Rafiq is 30 year old, so may not appreciate the deeper and wider context of racism that has flourished for the past half century and more. Apologists would certainly argue that racism has abated in recent years and that many in the white majority are less willing to tolerate the questionable standards of earlier times. Certainly, Blacks and Asians today are present and more welcome than ever before in advertising, entertainment, the media and even front rank politics where an ethnic Indian, Rishi Sunak, is routinely touted as a possible future prime minister.

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Parag Agarwal & Co: Why India Should Stop Boasting About Twitter's New CEO
Economy
Seshadri Kumar

Parag Agarwal & Co: Why India Should Stop Boasting About Twitter's New CEO

So a dozen of the top CEOs in the world (including heads of Google, Microsoft, IBM and now Twitter) come from a country with 18% of the world's population. But there are other numbers our overly proud fellow Indians should be running.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — An Indian recently became CEO of Twitter. I forget his name. Hold on, let me Google… Yes, Parag Agarwal. I’m not saying this for effect. I actually didn’t remember, and had to Google. Because it isn’t very important to me. Yes, that’s right. And you can read on to know why.

Agarwal is an IITian (graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay), apparently. Of course.

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India's Farmers Finally Hand Modi A Major Political Defeat
Economy
Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta

India's Farmers Finally Hand Modi A Major Political Defeat

The year-long national movement of farmers challenged the government of Narendra Modi against all odds, and ultimately prevailed by focusing on unity across India's diverse ethnic, religious and geographic landscape.

NEW DELHI — In what will be hailed as a great victory for the year-long farmers' movement in the times to come, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced his government's decision to repeal the three controversial farm laws.

Modi's government until now had been unrelenting, with none other than the Prime Minister himself scornfully calling the protesting farmers "andolan jeevi (those who live off agitations)" on the floor of Parliament. The BJP machinery attempted to brand the farmers' agitation as a movement led by Khalistani Sikh separatists and funded by terrorist groups.

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Where Lockdowns For LGBTQ Meant Moving Back In With Homophobic Relatives
Coronavirus
Sreemanti Sengupta

Where Lockdowns For LGBTQ Meant Moving Back In With Homophobic Relatives

The confinement experience could turn brutal for those forced to live with relatives who would not tolerate a member of the family living their sexual orientation openly as a young adult. Here are stories from urban and rural India.

Abhijith had been working as a radio jockey in the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 2020. When the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, Abhijith returned to the rural Pathanamthitta district , where his parents live with an extended family, including uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Eighteen months later, he recalled that the experience was "unbearable" because he had to live with homophobic relatives. "Apart from the frequent reference to my sexual 'abnormality', they took me to a guruji to 'cure' me," Abhijith recalled. "He gave me something to eat, which made me throw up. The guru assured me that I was throwing up whatever 'demon' was possessing me and 'making' me gay."

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Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor
Green
Sukanya Shantha

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.

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Clubhouse Caste: How Silicon Valley Insiders Look In India
Society
Prasangana Paul

Clubhouse Caste: How Silicon Valley Insiders Look In India

"Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of existence."
Babasaheb Ambedkar.

-Essay-

NEW DELHI — The latest entrant in the world of social media has been Clubhouse. While the audio-based platform boasts of providing a 'room' for free-wheeling discussions on anything and everything, it is imperative that it take note and address the casteism being blatantly practiced in these rooms.

I stumbled upon the casteist side of Clubhouse when I came across a room with a clickbait topic: "Should reservation be constitutional?" In that room, the savarna hosts gave each other plenty of time to speak, but did not pass the mic to those debating the very idea of hosting such a discussion in the first place.

Hijacking our life experiences

The topic was triggering for many like me, who come from marginalised communities. Instead of letting us put our points across, we were repeatedly relegated to the audience section.

Over time, I've been witness to numerous rooms like this where elite upper-caste speakers invalidate your trauma – and in a way, your very existence – by using all sorts of hurtful words to add to the generational oppression. They keep hijacking our life experiences while blowing horns of their merit.

They don't hear us at all.

Upper castes define merit in their own ways

To those even remotely wondering as to why such talks are allowed to exist in the first place, one must remember that there are many in the audience – typically belonging to the same caste as the speakers – who not only support these casteist beliefs but also feel the need to highlight these rooms and hype the speakers, or so-called icons, who are mostly self-proclaimed intellectuals.

This is simply the age-old practice savarna gatekeeping at work.

In the room on reservation, the speakers cribbed about how seats are snatched away by Dalit students and how only those who apply through the general categories are meritorious. Such arguments are hardly limited to Clubhouse. With all their generational wealth and caste privileges, the upper castes try to define merit in their own ways.

But what many fail to understand is that we are not here to prove anything to them. We are fighting our own battles everyday and struggling to live a life in a caste-centric society where casteist comments are casually passed, where Dalits are beaten for hoisting the national flag and even murdered for riding a horse at their own wedding. Dalit women are raped and killed in the hundreds yearly, and justice is rarely done. There are countless examples of real-life violence caused by upper castes against the Bahujan community. And the vicious loop never ends.

Dalits in India live in constant fear. So how are there people who want to host Clubhouse rooms to debate if reservation should exist or not?


Photo of people protesting against increasing atrocities on Dalit community Demonstrators protesting against increasing atrocities on Dalit community, October 2020Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto/ZUMA

It is so daunting to notice how not just Clubhouse, but almost every platform is dominated by savarnas who claim to be progressive on the outside but wouldn't bat an eyelid while discussing the merits and demerits of reservation. They would rather pat their own back and say "I have a Dalit friend", but would never hold their favorite influencer accountable if they are caught using casteist slurs.

The day I encountered the Clubhouse room on reservation, I also came across a group chat where many privileged men wrote to me, asking, "So we can't even have a discussion on reservation and talk about what is right and wrong about it?"

I responded, asserting that it isn't a matter of right or wrong – it is about representation. Instead of paying attention to what I had to say, they mocked me, calling me 'too sensitive' as I was being unable to explain the facts to them calmly. How could they expect me to stay calm when the DBA samaj was being insulted in front of me, and my own voice was being invalidated? They humiliated me, even as many others stood by quietly and let it happen.

You shrink yourself in a room that is entirely yours.

DBA artists who have been hosting anti-caste rooms are barely noticed. On the other hand, savarna speakers who moderate discussions on clickbait topics by appropriating our voices have a considerable number of followers. You may have also noticed how very few artists from the DBA community are verified on Instagram or other platforms. On the other hand, savarnas are kept on a high pedestal for doing the bare minimum.

Among the words I absolutely detest is 'merit' – I simply can't stand the ridiculous nature of the word and how it forms the very grounds of discrimination. Growing up, my mother used to say, "Don't let the world dictate you, you deserve to go anywhere and everywhere". But how do I tell her that I am scared of this savarna supremacist society playing their savarnatokenism everywhere?

In a world that keeps questioning your existence, you get tired of seeking space for yourself. You shrink yourself in a room that is entirely yours.

The time has come to create our own spaces.

Prasangana Paul is an International Relations student at Jadavpur University.