It was on 16 March 2015 that TheQuint.com went live. To mark our fourth birthday, here is a diverse selection of some of our strongest stories from the last year.
• The Making of Lynchistan: Inside India’s Deadly Gau Raksha Network
“If someone is taking a cow to be slaughtered, kill him then and there. We can worry about the law later.”Lakhan Yadav, Gau Rakshak, VHP
Since the lynching of Mohd Akhlaq in September 2015, there have more than 35 cases of lynching related to cattle vigilantism in 11 states across India. But why is it that mob lynchings have become the new normal in the country? And how exactly does ‘Lynchistan’ operate?
Watch the full documentary here.
In a major exposé, an investigation by The Quint revealed that electoral bonds have hidden alphanumeric numbers printed on them to track down the link between donors and political parties.
This apparent outmaneuvering by the government poses a critical question – in the name of more ‘transparency’ in political funding, following the introduction of electoral bonds, are we being subjected to an unprecedented secret surveillance?
Read the full report here.
• Bollywood Backstage: A Glimpse Into Bollywood’s Paparazzi Culture
Nothing sells like Bollywood. You might love it or hate it but you surely can’t ignore it. Not just the big screen but now our stars are accessible in their daily lives. In restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, airports, you name it. But who are these people that are facilitating this peek into the real life of your favourite Bollywood stars? It’s the paparazzi.
• Exclusive: Conflict of Interest in MoD Over Rafale Offsets?
On 9 June 2016, Prashant Narain Sukul was appointed the Additional Controller General of Defence Accounts (Addl CGDA). The appointment didn’t make news, quite understandably, since it relates to a fairly obscure position in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that involves auditing and making payments for defence contracts.
When Prashant’s wife Madhulika Sukul was appointed to head the office as CGDA from 1 February 2018, this was also routine enough. They had both served in the Indian Defence Accounts Service since 1982, including postings in junior positions in the CGDA.
So there was no reason to bring to light the fact that the wife-husband duo now occupied the two most senior positions in that office. Prashant’s specific portfolio covering the Air Force raised no eyebrows, and Madhulika Sukul’s appointment as Financial Adviser (Defence Services) raised no concerns either.
But in the midst of all these routine Defence Ministry appointments, something else also flew under the radar – which perhaps should not have.
Over a decade ago, Prashant’s brother, Shantanu Sukul, had retired from the Navy and become a defence sector lobbyist, who happens to have been working for Anil Ambani’s Reliance defence group since 2015.
• 300 Active Phones at Balakot JeM Camp: How Credible is NTRO Claim?
On 4 March, the Asian News International (ANI) published an article which was based on an NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation) source saying:
“Just before the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot on 26 February, technical surveillance had found 300 mobile phones active at the facility, giving clear indication of the total number of inmates housed there.”
The report was immediately picked up by every media house. We too reported the news. We believe that NTRO could have intercepted 300 active mobile phones. But the information that has come out in the public domain is insufficient.
Is this technologically possible? Is it even possible to collect such specific information from a distance of at least 80 kilometres?
• Last Letters From Kargil
This was a tribute to commemorate heroes of the Indian Army who sacrificed their lives during the 1999 Kargil War, through letters written by them to their loved ones – often with last words.
Watch the interactive here.
• My Sleep Diary: How I Trained Myself to Go to Bed on Time
Quint Fit’s Rosheena Zehra turned lab rat to look at the importance of sleep, and that’s how she finally learnt to pay attention to a previously ignored aspect of her health. Lack of sleep can be the reason behind problems like depression, hypertension, heart issues, loss of appetite, weight gain, ageing, loss of memory, skin problems – to name only a few.
Watch her experience here.
• ‘Hindus Can’t Do This’: Farmers Blame Bakarwals for Kathua Rape
“Sanji Ram has not committed any crime. Our villagers have not done anything. The rape and murder of the 8-year-old Kathua girl was orchestrated by them (the Gujjar Bakarwals) themselves,” 60-year-old Kanta Kumar who lives in Kathua’s Rasana village says with authority.
She is referring to the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Gujjar Bakarwal girl, whose dead body was found dumped in the Rasana forest on 17 January 2018. She was abducted on 10 January, heavily sedated, raped, held captive in a Hindu prayer hall and eventually choked to death. The police charge sheet claims the main conspirator, Sanji Ram, whom Kanta uninhibitedly defends, orchestrated this crime to get the Gujjar Bakarwals out of the region.
The Quint traveled to Rasana village in Kathua to understand the escalating tension between the Hindus and the Gujjar Bakarwals.
Watch the report here.
• BCCI Player Contracts: Glaring Misses, Women Still Shortchanged
Just like every year, before the end of the financial year, the BCCI’s bosses get together to hand out the player contracts for the October-September window. Same as last year, the CoA made the decision on the salaries this time around as well, and while there are some glaring misses in the men’s list, the highest salary slab among the women has seen no change this year.
Smriti Mandhana, the highest-ranked women’s ODI cricketer in the world, Mithali Raj, the world’s highest-scoring women’s cricketer in the history of the sport, and Harmanpreet Kaur, India’s T20 captain all get a yearly retainer of Rs 50 lakh, which is half of what the lowest grade of the men’s cricket team make.
• The 1975 Emergency Retold in 180 Seconds
Vaqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam…Tum rahe na tum, hum rahe na hum.
The good folks at All India Radio had some sense of timing, playing this song from Guru Dutt’s 1959 classic ‘Kagaz ke Phool’, right after the announcing that Indira and her son Sanjay Gandhi had lost the election from their respective constituencies.
This was in 1977.
The general election was delayed by a year, thanks to Prime Minister Indira extending the life of the Lok Sabha by a year. The Emergency allowed her to do just about anything without being questioned.
Read and watch the Emergency explainer here.
• What It Takes to Be a Human Alarm Clock During Ramzan
Seheriwalas – or Seherkhan – are human alarms who go house to house and wake people up. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact date when the tradition started, but some say it dates back to the Mughal era.
One such Seherkhan is Mohammad Irfan – a clip seller by day and a parking attendant in the evening. He lives in old Delhi near Jama Masjid’s gate no 1. He finishes his work by 9 pm. However, exactly at 2:45 am he’s up. It’s time for his duty for Allah.
• Mewat’s Meo Muslims Turn the Scars of Lynching into Haunting Songs
Pehla dukh Dingerheri
Duja Pehlu maar diya
Junaid Khan chalti gaadi mein
Kuch gundon ne maar diya
Ghar se college gaya tha padhne
Aaj talak nahin aaya
Maa ki akhiyan taras gayi
Najeeb laal nahi aaya
(First, the horror in Dingerheri
Second, the killing of Pehlu
Junaid Khan while on a moving train
Was lynched by a raging mob
He went to college
And what transpired is unknown
His mother’s still waiting
but Najeeb never came home)
Watch the documentary on Mewat’s Meo Muslims and their song on mob lynchings here.
• Assam NRC: ‘A Journey to Find Out if I am an Indian’
The Quint’s Tridip Mandal writes, “This was the only question on my mind when I flew out of New Delhi airport on 29 July 2018. And I was not alone, 3.29 crore people of in the Indian state of Assam, who had applied for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) had the same question.
The NRC aims to detect illegal foreigners living in Assam. Like me every applicant has to prove that they or their ancestors (father, mother, grandfather), were living in Assam on 24 March 1971. To prove our family tree we submitted documents like legacy record from 1951, electoral rolls from 1965, birth certificates, school mark sheets.”
Watch Tridip’s journey and that of the NRC, in this documentary here.
• Crushed by the Wait, Chhutki’s Parents Want Her Rapist Punished
Until a year and a month ago, Suresh and Geeta trusted their kids with someone else, but never after the fateful morning of 28 January 2018.
Geeta returned from her chores to the anguished cries of her 8-month-old baby in bed – when she ran in, she found her lying in a pool of blood and stool. Her heart stopped. “I felt faint,” she told me later. She called out to Suraj, her husband’s 28-year-old nephew who lived in a room above the couple’s, and whom she’d seen earlier, loitering shiftily.
Read the story here.
• Indira (1971) or Vajpayee (2004) – Which Way Will Modi Go in 2019?
Prime Minister Modi, the mighty incumbent, is up against a largely united opposition challenge in 2019. A similar political circumstance has occurred twice before: first in 1971, when in an “Indira Gandhi vs everybody else” poll, she trounced a hasty opposition alliance; and then again in 2004, when the “invincible” Vajpayee crumbled before a seemingly weak, incoherent patchwork of parties.
So will Modi pull off an Indira-like victory, or fall like Vajpayee? Here’s the ‘how, what, why’ of the landmark general elections of 1971 and 2004.
Watch this episode of Raghav’s Take here.
• Sadda Haq: All You Need to Know About the Model Code of Conduct
Elections in India invariably mean a lot of noise, traffic jams and the same old, unfulfilled promises. But are our politicians and their election campaigns subjected to any rules? In this episode of Sadda Haq, The Quint explains how the Model Code of Conduct is applied and what it means for you.
Watch the explainer here.
• Meet the Women Leading the Dhol Pathaks in Mumbai
Dhol Pathak groups play a major role in lending the famous 11-day Ganpati festival in India a festive fervour. Most Ganpati Pandals boast of a different group of Dhol Pathak representing them. The sound of the Dhol and Tasha reverberates through the city.
Dhol Pathak groups, till about 10 years ago were predominantly associated with men. All the performers in the groups were commonly men, until recently. Women have now even started leading these processions.
The Quint hung out with a Dhol Pathak group in Mumbai which is made up of 60 women, and profiled three of their performers, ranging from the age of twelve to fifty.
• Graphic Novel: The Dalai Lama’s Escape to India
China cornered Tibet in 1959, ready to take it over. How did His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama escape to India, from Tibet in 1959?
Read our graphic novel on the exodus that changed Tibet.