Steep climb: On BJP and the Darjeeling hills

The three seats of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal may count for little numerically in the State Assembly of 294 members, but their political significance is a different story. The demand for a separate Gorkhaland State in the hills has singularly driven politics among the Gorkha population for more than three decades now. The agitation has been often violent. In 2017, during the last eruption of violence, the hills were in blockade for 104 days and several people were killed. The BJP’s close involvement with Gorkha politics suggests that it has certain plans for the region, which could have ripples in other parts of the country where demands for autonomy or separate States exist. It was in Darjeeling that the BJP got its foothold into West Bengal. From 2009 to 2019, the region sent a BJP member to the Lok Sabha. The BJP’s traditional position in favour of smaller States created an affinity for it, but more importantly, the fact that it had

Exiting Afghanistan: On U.S. troop pullout

By announcing that all U.S. troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan by September 11, President Joe Biden has effectively upheld the spirit of the Trump-Taliban deal, rather than defying it. In the agreement between the Trump administration and the insurgents in February 2020, U.S. troops were scheduled to pull back by May 1, in return for the Taliban’s assurance that they would not let terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State operate on Afghan soil. When Mr. Biden ordered a review of the U.S.’s Afghan strategy, there was speculation that he would delay the pullout at least until there was a political settlement. But he chose an orderly pullout — the remaining troops (officially 2,500) will start leaving Afghanistan on May 1, with a full withdrawal by September 11. Besides the U.S. troops, the thousands of coalition troops under the NATO’s command are also expected to pull back along with the Americans. Mr. Biden’s push to revive the peace talks between the Afghan

Probing the sleuths: On the ISRO spy case

The Supreme Court’s order tasking the CBI to look into the Justice D.K. Jain committee report on the action to be taken against those who implicated space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the ‘ISRO espionage case’ of 1994 is a logical and much-needed step forward in ensuring accountability for the suspected frame-up. Representing a dark, but brief, chapter in the annals of police investigation in the country, the case was based on unfounded suspicion sparked by the arrest of two Maldivian women and the claims they made in their statements to the police. The Kerala Police arrested Mr. Narayanan based on suspicion that he was among those sharing official secrets relating to space technology and missions to foreign agents. After the investigation was transferred to the CBI in a matter of weeks, the central probe agency recommended that the case be closed, highlighting grave lapses in the probe and the complete lack of evidence. When the Supreme Court awarded a compensation of ₹50 lakh to the


Loser Streak: On cricket, gambling and match-fixing

Sport rests on two pivots. The first is the athlete’s desire to win by putting in the greatest endeavour. The second attribute is the fans’ belief that what unfolds on the turf is based on sincere effort. Sport is real and its immediacy also invests it with long-lasting meaning. It is this enduring template that gets torn asunder when cricketers throw matches or athletes consume anabolic steroids and break records. Corruption that taints performance is a poisoned dagger which cleaves sport’s throbbing heart and the latest scandal involving Heath Streak, is a crushing blow to cricket. The former Zimbabwe captain admitted to sharing information with bookies while he was the coach of various teams ranging from Zimbabwe to Kolkata Knight Riders, and has also accepted bitcoins for favours rendered. This breach of trust occurred largely from 2016 to 2018 and on Wednesday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned Streak for eight years. It was a fall from grace for one of Zimbabwe’s


Examination priorities: On annual exams amid the pandemic

The decision to put off the CBSE Class 12 public examination and cancel the Class 10 examination at the end of a disrupted academic year brings much-needed relief to anxious students caught on the crest of the second COVID-19 wave. Unlike last year’s first phase of the pandemic, the ongoing wild spread covers young people as well. The age cohort of those infected now includes even 15-year-olds, according to the Health Ministry. It is a wise move on the Centre’s part to keep this risk group out of harm’s way, reducing the possibility of school-based clusters and onward spread to older age groups who have shielded themselves so far. The onus is now on State governments, some of which have already initiated the examination schedule, to similarly recognise the growing crisis and display flexibility in reconsidering dates. Kerala had, for instance, postponed its SSLC and higher secondary level examinations due to the State election, but these got under way immediately thereafter. Tamil

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Another beginning: On vaccine vigilance

A small step: On abortion law amendments

Wrong shots: On West Bengal poll violence

Enforcing claims: On U.S. challenging India’s maritime rights

A disturbing order: ASI survey in Gyanvapi mosque

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