POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 24, 2015 AT 14:51 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 24, 2015 14:51 IST
The Supreme Court today struck down a provision in the cyber law which provides power to arrest a person for posting allegedly "offensive" content on websites.
 
Terming liberty of thought and expression as "cardinal", a bench of justices J Chelameswar and R F Nariman said, "The public's right to know is directly affected by section 66A of the Information Technology Act."
 
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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 24, 2015 AT 14:51 IST, Edited At: Mar 24, 2015 14:51 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 17, 2015 AT 23:22 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 17, 2015 23:22 IST

With BJP-ruled Maharashtra and Haryana banning the slaughter and consumption of cows and putting in place strict laws for those who kill the animal, one wonders if the reason is strictly based on religious reasons. 

Cows maybe referred to as 'Gaumata' by many in India, but it seems that even the RSS ideologue M S Golwalkar who led the movement against cow slaughter in the 1960s did not cite a religious reason for banning cow slaughter but a political one.  

'Amul-man' Verghese Kurien writes in his autobiography, I too had a dream

Golwalkar was a very small man — barely five feet — but when he got angry fire spewed out of his eyes. What impressed me most about him was that he was an intensely patriotic Indian. You could argue that he was going about preaching his brand of nationalism in a totally wrong way but nobody could question his sincerity. One day after one of our meetings when he had argued passionately for banning cow slaughter, he came to me and asked, 'Kurien, shall I tell you why I'm making an issue of this cow slaughter business?'

I said to him, 'Yes, please explain to me because otherwise you are a very intelligent man. Why are you doing this?'

'I started a petition to ban cow slaughter actually to embarrass the government,' he began explaining to me in private. 'I decided to collect a million signatures for this to submit to the Rashtrapati. In connection with this work I travelled across the country to see how the campaign was progressing. My travels once took me to a village in UP. There I saw in one house, a woman, who having fed and sent off her husband to work and her two children to school, took this petition and went from house to house to collect signatures in that blazing summer sun. I wondered to myself why this woman should take such pains. She was not crazy to be doing this. This is when I realized that the woman was actually doing it for her cow, which was her bread and butter, and I realized how much potential the cow has.

'Look at what our country has become. What is good is foreign: what is bad is Indian. Who is a good Indian? It's the fellow who wears a suit and a tie and puts on a hat. Who is a bad Indian? The fellow who wears a dhoti. If this nation does not take pride in what it is and merely imitates other nations, how can it amount to anything? Then I saw that the cow has potential to unify the country – she symbolizes the culture of Bharat. So I tell you what, Kurien, you agree with me to ban cow slaughter on this committee and I promise you, five years from that date, I will have united the country. What I'm trying to tell you is that I'm not a fool, I'm not a fanatic. I'm just cold-blooded about this. I want to use the cow to bring out our Indianness, So please cooperate with me on this.'

In the late 1960s, the Government of India had set up a committee to look into the banning of cow slaughter. It was chaired by a former chief justice of India, Justice A.K. Sarkar. Golwalkar, the Shankaracharya of Puri and Dr Verghese Kurien were members of the committee. Pushpa M. Bhargava, the former vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission had been summoned by this committee.

In an interview to Outlook in 2014, Bhargava, the founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad spoke about his experiences with this committee:

Golwalkar asked me how milk and meat were made in the body. I said that they were made by basically the same processes. He then asked me as to why, in that case, I ate meat and but did not drink milk. I answered that by the same logic I would like to ask him as to why he drank milk and did not eat meat. This made him extremely agitated and angry. It took quite a while for the chairman and the Shankaracharya to quieten him down. 

In the interview, he claimed that ban on cow slaughter based on religious grounds is illogical:

Incidentally, there's no ban on cow slaughter in our ancient religious texts, and eating beef is expressly permitted. So even a ban on cow slaughter on religious grounds is unreasonable. 

And he too admitted that the demand on cow slaughter was for political reasons:

Off the record, Golwalkar had told Kurien, who narrated it to me, that it was actually just politics. It is now a heady mix of politics and religion in the garb of Hindutva. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for it.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 17, 2015 AT 23:22 IST, Edited At: Mar 17, 2015 23:22 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 12, 2015 AT 22:21 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 12, 2015 22:21 IST

Truth is bitter and reality is a bitter pill to swallow, going by which one can say that anything that puts an end to delusions or puts something straight is never quite pleasant.

Funnily, medicines too have a reputation of being bitter and this time, we aren't just talking figuratively. It is but natural that one may therefore feel drawn to medicines that are nothing but little sugary pills, the one that your homeopath gives you, because who doesn't like sweets? But you can't simply be sweet with the bad guys, can you?

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a "memory" of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body.

Many studies have been conducted on these claims so far.

But the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement:

Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.

An independent company also reviewed the studies and appraised the evidence to prevent bias.

NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson said:

All medical treatments and interventions should be underpinned by reliable evidence. NHMRC's review shows that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy works better than a placebo.

Full text of NHMRC's statement:

NHMRC Statement Homeopathy

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 12, 2015 AT 22:21 IST, Edited At: Mar 12, 2015 22:21 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 12, 2015 AT 21:55 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 12, 2015 21:55 IST

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld fantasy series of novels died at the age of 66 "with his cat sleeping on his bed, surrounded by his family".

His publisher, Transworld, described him as one of the "brightest, sharpest minds" of the world.

20 quotable quotes from Sir Terry Pratchett on life, the universe and everything:

  1. In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.
  2. Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
  3. Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out til too late that he's been playing with two queens all along.
  4. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.
  5. Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.
  6. The ideal death, I think, is what was the ideal Victorian death, you know, with your grandchildren around you, a bit of sobbing. And you say goodbye to your loved ones, making certain that one of them has been left behind to look after the shop.
  7. Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.
  8. Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.
  9. Evolution was far more thrilling to me than the biblical account. Who would not rather be a rising ape than a falling angel? To my juvenile eyes, Darwin was proved true every day. It doesn't take much to make us flip back into monkeys again.
  10. If you are going to write, say, fantasy - stop reading fantasy. You've already read too much. Read other things; read westerns, read history, read anything that seems interesting, because if you only read fantasy and then you start to write fantasy, all you're going to do is recycle the same old stuff and move it around a bit.
  11. It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases - one was Alzheimer's, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer's.
  12. It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.
  13. Death isn't cruel - merely terribly, terribly good at his job.
  14. Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.
  15. I like the idea of democracy. You have to have someone everyone distrusts. That way everyone's happy.
  16. By the time you've reached your sixties, you do know that one day you will die, and knowing that is at least the beginning of wisdom.
  17. I didn't go to university. Didn't even finish A-levels. But I have sympathy for those who did.
  18. I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod. Oh, and since this is England, I had better add, 'If wet, in the library.' Who could say that this is bad?
  19. I believe in freedom. Not many people do, although they will of course protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.
  20. If cats looked like frogs we'd realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember.

Also see: Terry Pratchett on the need to talk about dementia

The last few tweets from Pratchett's Twitter account which he shared with his friend Rob Wilkins:

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 12, 2015 AT 21:55 IST, Edited At: Mar 12, 2015 21:55 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 09, 2015 AT 17:12 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 09, 2015 12:07 IST

Media houses paid their tributes to the last great editor, Vinod Mehta, who died on the morning of March 8.

Mr Mehta, the founding Editor-in-Chief of Outlook, left his indelible mark on journalism for his wit, freshness of approach and integrity.

Some obituaries from colleagues and fellow-journalists: 

 Chandan Mitra in his tribute in The Pioneer calls him "An Editor From Beginning to End"

 

"Vinod’s qualities as a writer are sufficiently well known to merit recall. But as an editor, he was universally applauded not for his scholastic understanding or linguistic flourish, but the sheer simplicity of prose. I always found him to be a man who knew his limits as a journalist.

Never an intrepid reporter running around to break news stories, Mehta came up trumps because of his uncanny ability to package a story. This set a trend at a time when Indian journalism was mostly glorified stenography, merely reporting which politician said what. He was less concerned about a paper’s lead story and more about whether the gossip items in the daily Diary column were juicy enough."

**

The Hindu in its article penned by Smita Gupta says that his demise marke the "End of an Era in Journalism".

"If he had an unerring instinct for a good story, he also knew precisely how to spin a done to death story to extend its shelf life. He revelled in controversies and scandals. At Outlook — where I worked for six years — editorial meetings were always brief: if you had not pitched your idea with almost headline-like brevity, you were in danger of losing his attention. When your story was written, he knew exactly what needed to be elaborated on, sometimes pushing you to say what you had hesitated to say. Always democratic, he never held a disagreement on a story anyone might have had with him against that person. He was never pompous. Mr. Mehta, of course, was not infallible; if he had dismissed a reporter’s assessment and then found later that he was wrong, he might not have apologised, but he would make it up to the reporter swiftly — for instance, by handing out a plum assignment."

**

The article in The Indian Express , written by Coomi Kapoor throws light on The Lucknow Boy's journalistic journey.

"Vinod was an iconoclast who brought a breath of fresh air into the fairly conservative world of journalism of the nineteen eighties. He had an unconventional approach towards editing newspapers, brimming with ideas he was shorn of any pomposity. He started out in the profession as editor of Debonair magazine, known then more for its steamy semi-nude centre spreads than its literary content. But Vinod introduced thought provoking articles to give the magazine a new character. From Debonair he went on to  launch a new Sunday tabloid , the Sunday Observer, whose chatty informal style and out-of-the-box approach to displaying stories, pioneered a new  form of Sunday reading. The political gossip column became a staple along with human interest pieces on the high and the mighty."

**

While Anjali Puri in her obituary in Business Standard  talks about his editorial finesse.

"At editorial meetings, his eyes lit up at the hint of  scandal and controversy, and he was deeply suspicious of  what he saw as preachiness or pretentiousness in a writer,  though sometimes respectful of genuine erudition and originality. The worst thing he could say about a prospective columnist or a book reviewer was “boring as hell”.  Stories are legion about Mehta’s knack of  packaging a story more boldly than a nervous reporter had intended, especially since he was never too  weighed down by political correctness. Once, in his Mumbai days, he famously gave a serious piece by a feminist writer on the pressures on women to conform to depilation and conventional norms of femininity, the headline: “ I love my hairy legs”."

**

Arnab Goswami pays his rich tribute in Times of India calling him a man of immense integrity but thoroughly unpredictable.

"In this complicated world where journalism has come to coexist with intrigue, agenda, lobbies and motive, Vinod was the one editor who wasn't looking over his shoulder to check what others thought of his news stories or his opinion. Vinod, I will miss you. You were the most straightforward man I have dealt with. The kindest human being I have known."

**

M J Akbar in Economic Times says Mehta always lived the life of an editor.

 

He talks about his honesty and fearless attitude and the decision-making capability as an editor.

"This much must be said of him, and for most of his contemporaries: they did not confuse integrity with heroism. It was simply a non-negotiable part of their job, an aspect of generational inheritance, for Indian journalism has great men and women of enormous honesty and brilliance in its hall of greats. Vinod Mehta wore his honesty lightly. That is why it looked so comfortable upon him."

**

Saika Datta, who was his previous colleague at Outlook, writes how Mehta always stood by him and other fellow journalists, in Hindustan Times.

"Early in my career with him, as I chased down a major arms deal and its attendant kickbacks, the arms dealers were trying their best to shut down the story. They were filing suits in courts, seeking injunctions to ensure that the next story could be killed before publication.

But Mr Mehta gently put an affectionate arm around my shoulder one evening, probably aware of the tension that had crept into my face. “Don’t worry my friend,” he said, “if we go down, we will go down together. Just do your story and I will handle the rest”. Then, he walked away."

**

Anil Dharker in Hindustan Times  talks about the journey with the 'Editor Unplugged'.

"What distinguished Vinod from his contemporaries was that he was no respecter of reputations, and politicians particularly were the objects of his mockery.  That’s why when he moved to Delhi, he never developed a cosy relationship with ministers and politicians. His run-ins with proprietors was partly a result of this at-arms-length attitude.  His falling out with Vijaypat Singhania at The Indian Post and LM Thapar’s Pioneer were spectacular in their suddenness, but he was stubborn in not following any diktats.  In the battle that ensued someone had to go. Obviously that was the Editor."

**

Tarun Tejpal who worked as the managing editor of Outlook writes in the Mumbai Mirror:

One of the first impressions that formed was that of the two great editors with whom I worked - Aroon Purie [of India Today] and Vinod - the first was good with the solid story while the other had a thing for the hot story.

It became amply evident to the reporters who worked at Outlook that, unlike Purie, Vinod would not plunge into the minutiae of their workday lives. No one had to hew to a prescribed editorial line and the Editor-in-Chief would allow each one of us enough room to do our job unimpeded.

Principally, these were the gifts that remained with Vinod wherever he went and whatever he helmed - the Sunday Observer, Indian Post, The Independent, Pioneer Debonair and Outlook - openness, the pattern of seeking the gossipy side to a story, of being vivacious in his approach to the piece and, always, having a great big adventure. 

**

Ajaz Asharf writes in the Firstpost:

But for all those who had worked under his helm, Vinod’s most exemplary and endearing quality was the democratic spirit he spawned in the organization he led. Editors are mostly authoritarian, inspiring fear and silence and revolting obsequiousness. Vinod chose to create a relatively flat world, where there were designations symbolizing responsibilities more than degrees of power. Even the most junior staffer could swing into his office; he wasn’t “Sir” but Vinod; you could toss four-letter words at him as frequently as he did at you.

**

Smruti Koppikar, his previous colleague at Outlook, writes in Scroll

He belonged to the rare and diminishing breed of editors who did not court people in high offices or flaunt his friendships with the mighty names of our times. He lived, ate, drank, drove, worked and worried about old age in a commonplace manner that many of us do.

It was his voice that stood out. Over the 40-odd years of his journalism, through the years in Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer and Outlook, his voice came to stand for some of the most cherished values in journalism and public affairs: integrity, independence, irreverence and impartiality. He was the liberal iconoclast in the true sense, with slices of scathing wit and rare humility.

**

Ajith Pillai, another former colleague, writes in Scroll:

At one point, rather early in his career, it had become fashionable to say that Vinod Mehta knows nothing but his paper has credibility. So one must use the space he provides. A rather skewed logic, which did not bother him one bit. I worked with him for over 25 years and I can say that he simply judged stories on their merit and not because of their ideological tilt. This is perhaps why so many left- inclined journalists, human-rights activists and feminists were keen to write for him. At the same time, he accommodated right-wing views and stories provided they stood the test of reason.

**

The Editor's Guild issued a statement on Vinod Mehta's death, which they called 'a grievous loss to the media world':

In the passing of Vinod Mehta, the media world has lost a liberal, independent voice and the world  of public discourse in India a reflective contributor who spoke his mind without rancour or fear. The  veteran journalist who build up several publications, including Outlook in his last innings, was of an  exceedingly generous spirit and has been a mentor and guide to scores of journalists. Gentle in  manner and speech, yet firm in his views, he maintained a scrupulous distance and independence  from political leaders and parties and was held in great respect by all in media, politics, industry and  academia.  

The Editors Guild of India of which he had been president will miss his wise counsel and guiding  hand, and the media and the public policy worlds his thoughtful and perceptive observations.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Mar 09, 2015 AT 17:12 IST, Edited At: Mar 09, 2015 12:07 IST
     
 
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