Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Rahul Gandhi gets a reprieve
The context: Back in March, the Congress MP was sentenced by a Surat court to two years in jail for criminal defamation. The length of exactly two years ensured that Gandhi was immediately disqualified from being a member of Parliament—and was banned from running for office for the next eight years—since he was found guilty of a serious crime. In order to regain his MP status, Gandhi needed a higher court to stay the conviction—not just the prison sentence. The Gujarat High Court refused to oblige—and so he appealed the Supreme Court.
What happened now: The highest court in the land did indeed stay Gandhi’s conviction—which reverses his disqualification. The reason: neither the Surat court nor the High Court established any reason for imposing the maximum possible sentence on Gandhi. In fact, the judges implied that the lower courts had done so precisely to disqualify him. They also noted, however, that Gandhi’s statement was not in “good taste.” Reminder: this is what he said:
I have a question. Why do all thieves have Modi in their names whether it is Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi? We don’t know how many more such Modis will come out.
What’s next: He should be able participate in the ongoing monsoon session—but the Lok Sabha Secretariat has to first restore his membership. It doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to do so. OTOH, no one can stop him from contesting the Lok Sabha election next year—which seems to be good/bad news for the opposition. The reason: it revives the old drama over Gandhi becoming a PM candidate—although party president Kharge has promised other opposition leaders that he has no interest in becoming one. The Hindu has more on what the Supreme Court said while Indian Express looks at what this order means for Gandhi.
Haryana violence: The latest update
The context: Six people were killed during a yatra taken out by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The trigger appears to have been reports of the presence of Monu Manesar. He is the prime suspect in the horrific killings of two Muslim men—who were kidnapped on suspicion of cow smuggling in February. The Bajrang Dal activist had posted a video on social media boasting of his plans to participate in the yatra. A handful of teenagers pelted stones on the vehicles participating in the yatra—which was followed by rioting in the Muslim-dominated district of Nuh.
What happened now: Authorities razed at least 45 buildings and 15 temporary structures in Nuh—in an “anti-encroachment” drive. Victims claim that only Muslims were targeted—and they were given no warning (which is against the law). Meanwhile, armed mobs vandalised Muslim-owned shops in Panipat—and forced the men to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Happier point to note: according to Indian Express, most parts of Haryana have remained peaceful due to farmer groups and khap panchayats—who are determined not to let communal violence spread. See an example of ‘bulldozer justice’ below.
Saved: Laptop licence rules delayed
The context: Last week, the government announced a new rule requiring companies like Apple, Dell, Lenovo and HP to get a special licence to import laptops, tablets and personal computers. The aim: to push these companies to assemble their products in India. All experts warned that the immediate effect is likely to be shortages—or sharp price hikes.
What happened now: Apple, Samsung and HP immediately froze all imports of their products. And they scrambled into talks with the government—since the greatly lucrative festival season is round the corner. These account for one-fifth of their annual sales. As a result, the government has offered them three months to get the required licence. It has also promised that licences will be issued within two days—and be obtained online. In other words, you don’t need to worry about shortages or spiking prices for now. (Reuters)
Were the ‘elephant whisperers’ exploited?
The context: Bellie and her husband Bomman were stars of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’—which spotlighted their tender care of two abandoned elephant calves Raghu and Amu. In recognition of her service, the Tamil Nadu government appointed her as the first permanent woman elephant caretaker at the Theppakadu elephant camp in the Nilgiris.
What happened now: The couple have accused the director of ‘The Elephant Whisperers’—Kartiki Gonsalves—and the production company Sikhya Entertainment of exploiting them. The couple alleged that while they have been trotted out to award ceremonies—they have not been paid for any of the expenses related to the film. This includes flights to attend these functions. What’s interesting is that the filmmakers do not mention compensation at all in their response to the allegations:
Since its launch, the documentary has raised awareness for the cause and had a real impact on the Mahouts and Cavadis community. Our honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, has made donations towards assisting the 91 Mahouts and Cavadis who look after the state's elephants, constructing eco-friendly houses for the caretakers and developing an Elephant Camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
Nice for the elephants. Not so much for the tribals who were caring for them even before a camera came along? (The News Minute)
The Pakistan-India faceoff is on!
The highly anticipated contest at the upcoming ODI World Cup just became real. The Pakistani team was cleared by the government to travel to India—after months of anxiety. Islamabad has been furious that India refused to play any matches in Pakistan during the Asia Cup, which will begin later this month—which is why that tournament is now being co-hosted by Sri Lanka. Despite threats of a tit-for-tat retaliation, Pakistani authorities say they believe that “the state of bilateral relations with India should not stand in the way of fulfilling its international sports-related obligations."
But Pakistan board chief Najam Sethi claims that the BCCI’s choice of venue—Ahmedabad—was provocative:
I smiled and said to myself – ‘this is one way to make sure we don’t come to India’ … I don’t want to go into the politics of it but certainly there seems to be a political angle to this because if there’s one city where we might have security issues, it is Ahmedabad… This is a red herring being thrown in our way to tell us – ‘hey, we are going to play you in Ahmedabad and you watch out’.
An AI tool to ace Tinder
Tinder is testing an AI tool that allows you to select your best photos for your DP—so you’ll be more likely to attract lots of wannabe baes or hookups. The tool will look at your photo album and pick five best candidates—saving you time and heartache. But this is just the beginning:
Mark Van Ryswyk, Tinder’s chief product officer, also hinted last month that the app may adopt generative AI — tools that produce convincing text and image on command — to help users write their bios. The bio feature is still in its early stages and only available in test markets, but it uses an AI system that suggests a personalised text tailored to the “interests” and “relationship goals” sections of users’ profiles.
Ah well, we can now be catfished by a machine. (The Guardian)
Greta Gerwig makes history
‘Barbie’ has made more than $1 billion at the global box office—including $459 million in North America and $572 million overseas. This makes Gerwig the first-ever solo female filmmaker with a billion-dollar film. Three other billion-dollar blockbusters were co-directed by women—including ‘Frozen’, ‘Frozen 2’ and ‘Captain Marvel’. (Variety)
Nobody wants the Commonwealth Games
Last month, the state of Victoria in Australia ditched its plans to host the 2026 games—after winning the bid. Now, the Canadian province of Alberta has withdrawn its support for a bid to host the edition in Calgary/Edmonton in 2030. The reason: it’s way too expensive—and doesn’t have an upside for taxpayers—be it in terms of tourism or infrastructure. TIME explains why governments are reluctant to host expensive games. (BBC News)
Three things to see
One: There are riots over religion, race, class or caste. And then you have people rioting over their love for a discount. This one topped all previous Thanksgiving/Christmas sales mayhem. Folks beat the crap out of each other—and the police—because some Twitch influencer declared he will give away freebies—as in, computers, Play Stations, webcams, gaming chairs etc from a truck in Union Square. Quote of the day:
“You don’t come to get free GameBoys and bring smoke bombs and bring M-80s [powerful firecrackers],” [Mayor Eric] Adams said. The mayor said the gathering, which “could have turned really ugly,” is not a policing issue. “This is a parenting issue,” he said.
Two: Phenomenal gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics citing mental health issues. She’s now made a big comeback by winning a major US competition. She later said: "Did it look like I was having fun? Oh thank God," Biles said afterward. "I thought I was going to (expletive) bricks, but that's good." (USA Today)