Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
An unparliamentary crackdown on wrestlers
The context: Top Indian wrestlers—Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik—have alleged widespread sexual abuse in the sport. And it starts at the top—with wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh—who is also a BJP MP. Dozens of wrestlers have camped out at Jantar Mantar—refusing to call off their protest until action is taken against him. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story.
What happened now: The protesters decided to hold a ‘Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat’ in front of the new parliament on Sunday—in defiance of police orders. They were stopped and dragged away by the officers:
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at Jantar Mantar as wrestlers and police officers shoved and pushed each other when Vinesh Phogat and her cousin sister Sangeeta Phogat tried to breach the barricades. Vinesh provided a strong resistance against her detention and Sangeeta clung to her cousin sister while lying on the road as the struggle continued for a few dramatic minutes.
In the end, 700 wrestlers were detained at various police stations—though the women were released by the evening. And all their belongings—including bedding etc—have been removed from Jantar Mantar. The police also stopped UP farmers from entering the city and joining the protest. They are now staging a sit-in at the border. See the chaotic scenes below:
What’s next: The police claim that the protest has now ended: “What the wrestlers did was highly irresponsible. We will not allow them to protest now.” But Malik and others insist that they will resume their “satyagraha” once all the wrestlers have been released.
A related thing to see: Every controversy generates a barrage of fake news—with the generous assistance of technology. Yesterday, a digitally altered selfie of the Phogat sisters went viral—changed to make it look as though they were just protesting for fun. It’s instructive to see how it was done:
Erdogan wins in Turkey
For months, it looked as though the twenty-plus year rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would finally come to an end. But it is not to be. Having come out ahead in the first round of voting—where he won 49.5% of the vote—the strongman scraped a decisive win in the second. He secured 52.1% of the vote—while his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu managed only 47.9%. Point to note: Kılıçdaroğlu called it "the most unfair election in years" but did not dispute the outcome. Our Big Story on the election explains why Erdoğan’s reelection matters—and why it bodes ill for Turkey and poses a giant headache for NATO. (Reuters)
IPL final: The great washout
The rain gods ruined Sunday night for millions of IPL fans. An unremitting downpour—accompanied at times by hail—ended any hopes of staging the final between the Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans. The match will be held today at 7:30 pm. Mercifully, the weather forecast is clear. You can see how bad things were below. On a related note: CSK star Ambati Rayudu announced his retirement from professional cricket. FYI: MS Dhoni has not said a word, as yet—though fans have treated this tournament as a farewell tour. (The Hindu)
And the winner of the Palme D’or is…
‘Anatomy of a Fall’ was awarded the highest honour at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. Directed by Justine Triet, the film follows the trial of a woman on trial for killing her husband. She is the third woman director to win the Palme D’or. The second highest honour—the Grand Prix—went to ‘The Zone of Interest’—which is based on a World War 2 novel by Martin Amis (who passed away during the festival). Variety has the other winners. We did a fun and eye-opening Big Story on the Cannes—which included its historical anti-Nazi roots. See a clip from ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ below.
A big problem with recycled plastics
A new study shows that recycled plastic that comes in contact with food releases dangerous toxins. This includes food packaging, utensils, plates and other items. Researchers reviewed hundreds of scientific publications and identified 461 such chemicals in virgin plastic—and 573 in recycled plastic.
[Lead authors] said it was difficult to say why that occurred, but it could stem from the addition of chemicals during the recycling process, the addition of chemicals from the contaminated recycling stream, reactions among chemicals, or from plastic taking up additional chemicals when used the first time.
But their conclusion is unambiguous: “Hazardous chemicals can accumulate in recycled material and then migrate into foodstuffs, leading to chronic human exposure.” This raises new worries about the big push toward recycling as a way to reduce plastic pollution. The Guardian has more details.
The arrogance of Indian babus: A dam story
A food inspector drained 2.1 million litres of water from a Chhattisgarh dam to retrieve his phone. Rajesh Vishwas dropped the brand-new Samsung S23 ultra while taking a selfie with buddies. He then got “oral permission” from local authorities to drain the dam—with a rented diesel pump—over two days. Vishwas insists he did nothing wrong–—claiming the water is only used by “picnickers for bathing.” But his senior officers disagreed—and suspended him saying the water was needed for irrigation. Yes, Vishwas was given back his phone—which is undoubtedly beyond redemption—much like its owner. (Indian Express)
Speaking of public menaces: A South Korean man opened the emergency window of an Asiana Airline plane while it was getting ready to land. The reason: he was "uncomfortable" and “wanted to get off the plane quickly.” The aircraft was 213 metres above the ground. Needless to say, his actions triggered widespread panic—and a number of passengers fainted. Happily, there were no casualties. The man has been arrested and faces up to ten years in prison. See an insane eyewitness vid below. (BBC News)
A ‘veer’ makeover for DU syllabus
The Delhi University council has added a first-ever module on Hindutva leader Veer Savarkar as part of the undergrad syllabus for political science. Also added: two centres of study on the Partition and ‘Hindu studies’. The module on Gandhi is no longer part of the three-year degree program—and has been relegated to the fourth year—which is optional. Ergo: “Many students might leave with a BA degree after three years, having studied Savarkar but not Gandhi.” Axed entirely: Muhammad Iqbal—both the poet who penned ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’ and the earliest proponent of Pakistan. According to the Vice Chancellor, a man “who laid the foundation to break India should not be in the syllabus.” (The Telegraph)
Two things to see
One: The government spent Rs 2 billion (200 crore) to decorate the interiors of the parliament building. This includes a mural supposedly of ancient India—whose borders extend past present-day Pakistan—and which was tweeted out by BJP leaders with the message: “Akhand Bharat” 🙄.
More interestingly, the artwork includes a Foucault pendulum suspended from the roof of the Constitutional Gallery. The device was invented by French physicist Léon Foucault (1819-1868) to illustrate how earth rotates. The Hindu has more nerdy details—but there is no photo available, sadly.
Two: A rare albino panda was spotted at a sanctuary in southwest China. We’re happy to note that it appears to be playing cheerfully with its black-and-white peers. This is the first albino giant panda recorded in the wild. Researchers don’t know if the albino gene will be passed along in the small panda population. FYI: Chinese researchers have also spotted ten rare brown giant pandas in the wild between 1985 and 2021. (South China Morning Post)