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Our latest video explainer unpacks the big question of the day: will the Ram Mandir help BJP win a staggering 400-seat majority in the 2024 elections? Or will that pesky ‘North/South divide’ come in the way?
Check it out below. Stay tuned for more such explainers on the big fat election coming soon, and be sure to hit the notification button.
There are two versions of what happened in Haldwani—a district in Uttarakhand. Both involve the demolition of Mariyam mosque and the Abdul Razzaq Zakariya madrasa.
Version 1: Local authorities destroyed what they describe as “illegal structures” on Thursday. They say these were built on “nazul land — government land meant for public utilities.” The municipal corporation had given notice for the demolition at the end of January. Even so, the police were attacked by locals—which in turn led to an escalation of violence:
A senior municipal officer who was present at the site told ThePrint, not wanting to be named, that demolition concluded at around 5.30 pm despite protests and mild stone-pelting which were restricted to a “safe distance” from the site of the demolition. But it was at around 5.30 pm, when the civic officials and police and auxiliary forces personnel were returning from the site, that “all hell broke loose” and stones and bricks came flying from all corners of the neighbourhood.
Version 2: However, according to residents, this is what happened:
Locals said that the officials refused to show the documents of the demolition order for the Madarsa. “Our women were beaten with lathis by male police officers, and at least four men were injured by bullets in the area,” an eyewitness told The Wire… Locals said that there was police firing at night too. “When we were inside our homes, police even fired at our doors. We’re living in fear, this should stop,” an eyewitness said.
The fallout: According to the Uttarakhand Police, 30 people have been arrested. According to Hindustan Times, “Six rioters were killed and more than a hundred, including police personnel and mediapersons, were injured.” All those killed appear to be Muslims.
In October, a Qatar court sentenced eight former Indian navy personnel to death on charges of spying for Israel (See: this Big Story). The government made frantic diplomatic efforts to save their lives—which succeeded in December when the court of appeals commuted the death sentence. Now, all eight men have been released! But the actual charges against the men remain a mystery. FYI: The decision was made a day prior to PM Modi’s two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates. (The Hindu)
The death toll: 117 Palestinians were killed and 152 have been wounded in the last 24 hours in Gaza. In total, 28,064 Palestinians have been killed—and 67,611 wounded. According to a recent UN report, the Gaza war saw the deadliest 100 Days in the 21st Century. One out of every 100 people in Gaza has been killed in just 100 days—that’s 240 deaths every single day. (The Wire)
Up next, the ‘bloodbath’ in Rafah: There are 1.5 million Gazans huddled in the border town of Rafah. It is the last refuge of residents who have been bombed out of the rest of the territory. The town is also the last refuge for Hamas. Israel is poised to launch a military assault that even aid agencies and Americans predict will be a “bloodbath”:
In a call Sunday with Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden told the Israeli prime minister that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah “without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there”.
Speaking of the Americans: One of Biden’s top aides privately told Democratic donors that the White House has committed “missteps” in its handling of Israel. He also admitted the administration did not have “any confidence” that Israel’s government was willing to take “meaningful steps” toward Palestinian statehood. Also this:
We have left a very damaging impression based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration and the country values the lives of Palestinians. And that began, frankly, pretty early in the conflict.
Moody’s downgrades Israel: There may be no diplomatic consequences for Israel—but the war on Gaza is likely to take a toll on its economy. That’s why financial ratings agency Moody’s downgraded its credit rating—which prompted protests from Tel Aviv. The finance minister said the announcement is a “political manifesto” that “did not include serious economic claims.” (Quartz)
Meanwhile in the Middle East: The US decision to go after Iran-backed militias is taking a toll on its relations in the region. Iraq’s prime minister claimed US forces “jeopardise civil peace, violate Iraqi sovereignty, and disregard the safety and lives of our citizens.” Public anger is putting pressure on the government to confront Washington and to “accelerate negotiations” to end US military presence in Iraq. That’s not good news since Iraq is a key regional partner and the administration “cannot be seen to be withdrawing and retreating at a moment of weakness.” (Washington Post)
Meanwhile, on social media: Meta has cancelled the Facebook and Insta accounts of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The reason offered by the company is quite vague.
[Meta] removed the accounts “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy”. “We do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on our platforms,” the policy states. That includes those designated as terrorists by the US government.
But, but, but: Khamenei has always been loudly pro-Hamas. In fact, when Hamas attacked Israel, Khamenei said in a speech: “We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.” The Guardian has lots more.
The context: For nearly a year, New Delhi and London have been negotiating a free trade agreement—widely expected to loosen visa restrictions on Indians. The warm relationship between the government and PM Rishi Sunak—was expected to speed things along.
What happened now: The deal appears to be in serious trouble. The Brits are complaining that the Indian government is pushing to seal something purely for PR purposes:
“They want a paper deal to wave and say look what we have achieved,” a Whitehall source said. “But we are not prepared to sign up to something that is basically worthless.”... They added that briefings from the Indian side had also repeatedly suggested that a deal was close, which they see as an effort to put pressure on the UK to agree. One government source said that there had been “no meaningful progress” despite continuous talks between British and Indian teams since the new year.
Also this: According to the Financial Times (paywall), one sticking point is social security payments. New Delhi wants London to return the welfare payments that Indian workers make when they are on temporary visas in the UK—which is as much as £500 million. And as always, there is an Infosys angle:
The idea is also politically sensitive, since a UK social security deal would benefit Infosys, the IT company founded by Sunak’s father-in-law, Narayana Murthy, and its workers. Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, has shares in the company worth an estimated £700mn.
Why any of this matters: “The trade pact, if reached, would be India’s deepest FTA yet and one of the most significant for the UK since it left the EU.” (Times UK, paywall)
Also creating diplomatic waves: Donald Trump—who made unprecedented remarks that threatened NATO allies with a Russian attack:
But he took it to a whole new level over the weekend, declaring at a rally in South Carolina that not only would he not defend European countries he deemed to be in arrears from an attack by Russia, but that he would go so far as to “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” against them. Never before has a president of the United States — even a former one aspiring to reclaim the office — suggested that he would incite an enemy to attack American allies.
Whether he is serious or not, expect diplomatic chaos if Trump wins the presidential election in November. (New York Times)
Sony closed a blockbuster music deal with the Michael Jackson estate and now owns the rights to half of the pop star's music and songwriting rights—valued at $600 million. This is likely the most expensive transaction ever made for a single musician’s work.
The deal, which has been gossiped about in the music industry for months, is said to involve Sony purchasing a 50 percent stake in Jackson’s recorded music and songwriting catalogs. That includes not only the estate’s share of megahits like “Beat It” and “Bad,” but also the music publishing assets that are part of Jackson’s Mijac catalog, among them songs written by Sly Stone and tracks made famous by artists like Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Even though Michael Jackson died back in 2008, he continues to be an extremely bankable artist—with almost 40 million monthly listeners on Spotify. (Billboard)
One: Senior journalist Nikhil Wagle and women workers of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition were attacked by BJP workers in Pune on Friday. They were on their way to an event in the city:
Wagle’s car was attacked at least at four locations… The attackers, who came on two-wheelers and rained stones and poured ink on Nikhil Wagle’s car… The attackers completely smashed the front and rear side windshield of the car.
Two: Last week, Tesla drivers were caught driving around while wearing Apple’s VR headset. Now, we have a pilot (yes, the kind that flies a plane) doing the same. He posted the video below with this ridiculous caption: “The apple vision pro has made my job exponentially more productive.” It has since been deleted. (Gizmodo)
Three: Edward Enninful—the first Black editor-in-chief for British Vogue—dropped an epic cover for the latest edition of the fashion magazine—which is also his last as EIC. The ultimate ‘group photo’ included 40 famous women—from supermodels, actors to athletes. You can check out the cover and a gallery. Our favourite is this photo of the OG maharanis: Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey. (CNN)
Four: We love this pic of twins from another mother—German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his doppelganger US Senator Chris Coons. The latter posted the photo with the question "Wer ist wer?" (who is who?). Now that’s what they call an ‘uncanny resemblance’. (BBC News)
A Trinamool Congress strongman is accused of sexually exploiting an entire village in Bengal.Read More