News Digest: Mixed & Overlapped!

The 74th Independence Day of India was celebrated on 15th August at the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving his customary address to the nation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was sans the usual grandiosity with limited invitees and restricted public attendance, use of masks, social distancing and other norms being maintained very strictly. Celebrations were also simple and muted in all the state capitals, district headquarters, offices and other public places. ***

Independence Day seemed to have inspired Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the most successful captain of Indian cricket, to finally call it quits and thereby attain full freedom from the remaining departments of international cricket, that is say, from ODIs and T20Is, as Captain Cool announced his retirement by evening of 15th August on social media; he retired suddenly and abruptly from Test cricket in the midst of an on-going series against Australia in Australia during 2013-14. Dhoni’s decision had been expected since his subdued performance and his run-out in the semi-final against New Zealand in the ICC World Cup Cricket-2019. That semi-final was the last international match played by him, which was in July, 2019 in England and since then he was not considered for selection in the Indian cricket team. Obviously, he must have planned to test himself in the IPL, originally scheduled in April-May this year, and perhaps take his chances for a comeback in the ICC World Cup T20, originally scheduled in October this year in Australia. But the pandemic ultimately seems to have sealed his fate, marking the end of a glorious chapter of Indian cricket. Suresh Raina, a cricketer groomed mostly by Dhoni, also took the decision to retire with his guru the same day. However, both of them are set to play in the IPL, rescheduled in September 2020 in UAE, in their franchise, the Chennai Super Kings. ***

Next day, that is 16th of August, veteran cricketer Chetan Chauhan succumbed to COVID-19 infection after a fortnight-long fight, at 73 years of age. Chauhan made his Test debut in 1969 and then had been in and out of the team till around 1976 when he staged a strong comeback in the India away Series against Australia, and became a regular opening partner with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, till his retirement in 1981. Chetan Chauhan played 40 Test matches, scored 2008 runs and did not score a single century, his highest individual score being 97. He also played a few one-day international matches. He joined politics after his cricket career and was a minister in Uttar Pradesh cabinet for the last two years. ***

Next day, that is 17th of August, two more unfortunate celebrity deaths took place. Legendary Hindustani Classical Vocalist of the Mewati Gharana, Pt. Jasraj passed away in the US, at 90, due to age-related illness. His musical career spanned nearly 80 years earning him national and international fame including numerous prestigious awards and accolades. Pt. Jasraj was conferred Padmashri and Padma Vibhushan in India.
Nishikant Kamat, a noted film actor-director of Bollywood, died in Hyderabad following a liver disease, prematurely at just 50 years of age. He hailed from the state of Maharashtra, and made a name in Marathi cinema with his national-award winning debut film Dombivali Fast in 2005 which became the biggest Marathi movie of the year. Nishikant is known for his movies, Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008), Force (2011) and Drishyam (2015) in particular. ***

And today, the 19th of August, the Supreme Court of India delivered its verdict directing Mumbai Police to hand over the all evidence in the case and the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, a rising star of Bollywood who committed an allegedly depression-driven suicide on 14th June 2020 in Mumbai, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and that henceforth the probe would be fully handled by CBI. Sushant’s family came to Mumbai for the last rites in June and reportedly did not report any suspicion about foul play to the police. A few days after, sections of the Bollywood fraternity started a campaign against alleged workings of a mafia and nepotism in Bollywood. Acting on these complaints Mumbai Police interrogated a few actors and frontline producers from a possible abetment-to-suicide angle. Since there was no criminal complaint no FIR was registered.
After more than a month the family of Sushant Singh Rajput lodged a FIR with Bihar Police alleging criminal conspiracy against an actress girlfriend of Sushant: that the girlfriend cheated Sushant by way of financial transactions and bank transfers, abandoned him a few days before the suicide, changed all members of his house-staff and that of  even murdering him by strangulation. The family further alleged that Mumbai Police had been trying to protect the vested interests by procrastinating on the case. They also rubbished the depression theory. Bihar Police, with apparent approval of the Bihar government, started investigating the case landing up in Mumbai. The Mumbai Police held the view that Bihar Police had no jurisdiction to investigate the case, because the victim and the accused lived in Mumbai. Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (nobody would know at whose call) also came into the picture investigating the financial angle. As conspiracy theories and rampant politicking took over multiple pleas and representations were put up in the Supreme Court: from Bihar Government for CBI take-over; from Mumbai Police and Government of Maharashtra for the jurisdiction matters and that Mumbai Police has been investigating the case in the most proper way; and from the actress-girlfriend for transferring the case from Patna in Bihar to Mumbai. The Court delivered the verdict based mainly on the facts that no FIR was registered in Mumbai and that justice must be done to the bereaved family’s concerns.
This case marks the beginning of a new trend in Indian politics: in matters relating to political convenience. With elections due in Bihar this year, Bihar government being formed with BJP tie-up, the state of Maharashtra becomes an ideal political target because of the fact that after the Assembly Elections in 2019 the ruling Shiv Sena deserted its traditional ally BJP despite a clear BJP-Shiv Sena majority, and formed the government with the support from the NCP and the Congress, leaving the single largest party of BJP seething in anger and frustration, and donning the opposition role in the assembly. Whatever be the political rivalries and attempts of capitalizing, justice must prevail at the end; else, belief in the judiciary will be a thing of the past. A huge concern remains and beckons ominously: a single family (not even a dynastic one) could influence and almost rule the country just because it is politically convenient…***


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