2018 Highlights

A selection from The Caravan's coverage of politics and society in 2018

27 December, 2018

The Caravan presents a selection of some of our top stories from the last year, on politics, business and society. Subscribe here to support another year of bold, committed journalism.

1. Coalgate 2.0: The Adani Group reaps benefits worth thousands of crores of rupees as the coal scam continues under the Modi government

Nileena MS in March.


In a landmark judgment in September 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled nearly all existing permissions for the captive mining of coal blocks. State-owned enterprises and private companies across the country were compelled to dissolve partnerships that most often favoured the corporate purse over the public good. Nileena MS’s March cover story reports on a joint venture formed between the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited, a power corporation of the Rajasthan government, and Adani Enterprises Limited, the flagship company of the Adani Group, which continues on the basis of agreements that pre-date the Supreme Court ruling. Despite the clear breach of law and contempt for the Supreme Court decision, there has been no action or complaint against these arrangements from either the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments or the central government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

2. Son of The Sangh: Nitin Gadkari’s heritage as the RSS’s man in reserve

Praveen Donthi in April.


Donthi’s profile of India’s union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, traces Gadkari’s close relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Gadkari catapulted into the mainstream in 2014, when he was voted into the Lok Sabha from Nagpur despite a lack of prior electoral success. People in Nagpur told Donthi that if the RSS decided to replace Modi as the prime minister for any reason, it would choose Gadkari to take his place.

3. Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin: Queer love in Mizoram under the shadow of the church

Makepeace Sitlhou in April, with illustrations by Jasjyot Singh Hans.


Sitlhou’s reported story explores the struggles of queer people in Mizoram, compounded by their fear of the church. When Sitlhou brought up a recent Supreme Court judgment giving transgender people legal rights, a transperson she was speaking to said, “I don’t care about the government or the court. My problem is I don’t know if god will allow me to be a man or not. No government can overrule him.”

4. Hide and Seek: A psychological exploration of the LGBT community in eastern India

A photo-essay by Soumya Sankar Bose, with text by Tanvi Mishra.


Through the portraits in her project, the “Full moon on a Dark Night,” Bose conducts a psychological exploration of a community of individuals who have been relentlessly persecuted by society because of their identities and their gender or sexual orientations. The work looks closely at the LGBT community in eastern India, often projecting a world devoid of restrictive laws and social taboos that the community regularly comes up against.

5. Post-mortem examination was manipulated under directions of doctor related to Maharashtra cabinet minister

Nikita Saxena in April.


Saxena’s chilling report was the result of a two-month investigation into the circumstances surrounding the post-mortem examination of the judge BH Loya. At the time of his death, Loya was hearing the case concerning the alleged encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, the prime accused in which was the BJP national president Amit Shah. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Loya’s death were first reported by The Caravan, in late 2017. Saxena’s April 2018 report found that Loya’s post-mortem examination was directed by Dr Makarand Vyawahare, who dictated what details were included in and excluded from the judge’s post-mortem report. Vyawahare, who was later accused of manipulating numerous post-mortems, kept his name from appearing in any medical documents related to Loya’s post-mortem, or any court documents in the case. He is known in his professional circles primarily for the power he wields as a result of his political connections—Vyawahare is the brother-in-law of Sudhir Mungantiwar, the finance minister in Maharashtra’s BJP-ruled government.

6. Swami Shashi: The political Hinduism of Shashi Tharoor

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd in May.


In this scathing review of Why I Am a Hindu, a book penned by the politician and writer Shashi Tharoor, Shepherd writes that Tharoor makes it seem as if caste can be shrugged off, where for the vast majority of Indians the attempt to break free of it has been, and is, a bloody struggle.

7. The Darkest Hour: Dipak Misra’s shadow over the Supreme Court

Atul Dev in July.


Dipak Misra was not the first chief justice of India, or the first Supreme Court justice, to face allegations of wrongdoing. But the gravity of Misra’s situation was of a different order altogether—no other CJI or Supreme Court justice has ever been indicted for fraud in a judicial order. In this profile of the former Chief Justice of India, Dev finds that Misra’s rise in the court despite his record was a frightening omen; much of what it portended came to pass once he secured the highest judicial office in the republic.

8. How Assam’s Supreme Court-mandated NRC project is targeting and detaining Bengali Muslims, breaking families

Praveen Donthi in July.


Donthi’s in-depth report makes it evident that the National Register of Citizens in Assam is a direct outcome of formalised targeting and persecution of the weakest members of religious and linguistic minorities. What is happening in Assam is strikingly similar to American President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policy, which targets minorities and separates children from their parents. In this, as in others, the Bengali Muslims, disparagingly called Miyas, are the most vulnerable.

9. “He was cruel, like a mad dog”: Survivors speak about forced sodomy by members of the security forces in Kashmir

Qadri Inzamam and Haziq Qadri in July.


Sexual violence by the security forces in Kashmir has received little judicial and public scrutiny. Among the few cases that have received public attention, accounts of male survivors and forced sodomy are rare. While forced sodomy has been used as a way of punishing protestors in Kashmir—sometimes to crush dissent—it has also been a form of rape, unconnected to any incident of protest. Inzamam and Qadri report on several grave incidents of sexual violence by way of forced sodomy.

10. Race to the top: The racial opportunism of a rising political star in Trump’s America

Shaan Amin in August.


Amin traces how Nikki Haley, who stepped down as the US’s ambassador to the United Nations earlier this year, converted her ethnic identity from an electoral liability into an asset. She passes as white both in name and appearance, and yet she can make a credible claim to being a loyal Indian-American. As Republicans try to embrace minorities at arms’ length, Amin writes, Haley is the ideal evangelist of conservative gospel.

11. Omit Shah: Amit Shah’s electoral affidavit fails to disclose his liability for mortgages that secured dramatic increase in credit for son’s firm

Kaushal Shroff in August.


Shroff’s report reveals that Amit Shah, a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha and the BJP’s national president, mortgaged two of his properties for his son Jay Shah’s business venture Kusum Finserve LLP, which recorded dramatic increase in credit facilities in recent years despite its poor finances. Shah’s contingent liability with respect to this credit facility is, however, missing from his 2017 electoral affidavit. Under the Representation of People’s Act, filing false information in an electoral affidavit is liable to be punished with rejection of the nomination.

12. On a Wing and a Prayer: India gambles its defence interests on Reliance Group

Sagar in September.


Sagar’s investigative cover story shines a light on Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group and the much-disputed Rafale deal. After nearly a decade of cautious planning, field trials and rigorous evaluation of bids, India was on the brink of completing a long-awaited order for 126 fighter jets. Then in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced a deal with the French government that reduced the number of aircrafts to 36. It soon became clear that the selected manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, would collaborate with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to fulfil its offset obligations, despite Ambani’s lack of aerospace experience, poor reputation for wealth management and project delivery, as well as accumulated debt amounting to around a trillion rupees. This deal not only appears to gamble with the country’s security interests, it also undermines the government’s own “Make in India” campaign.

13. Striking similarities to Rohith Vemula’s case at the Central University of Kerala

Aathira Konikkara in October.


On the morning of 9 October, Akhil Thazhath, a former student of the Central University of Kerala, in the state’s northernmost district of Kasaragod, cut his wrists at the institute’s helipad grounds. Thazath’s friends told Konikkara that he had attempted suicide after facing constant harassment from the university’s administration. Since 2016, multiple allegations against the CUK administration have surfaced—of caste discrimination, corruption, inaction on sexual harassment complaints and stifling dissent. This period also witnessed a corresponding increase in the frequency of student protests and the severity of subsequent disciplinary actions. Konikkara’s in-depth report traces the impact of these actions, which reached a crescendo with Thazhath’s suicide attempt.

14. Vital Statistics: How the Spanish flu of 1918 changed India

Laura Spinney in October.


The continent that the 1918 flu pandemic affected the most seems to have forgotten it most thoroughly. Spinney writes that there is a good case to be made that the devastation wrought by the disease exacerbated social tensions in India, contributing to an eruption of violence and significantly strengthening the Independence movement.

15. For The Record: Journalist accuses primetime anchor Gaurav Sawant of sexual assault

Nikita Saxena in November.


In the early 2000s, Gaurav Sawant, one of the most recognisable faces of Indian television news, was one of the guest lecturers at Amity University. Among the students who attended his lectures was a 20-year-old Vidya Krishnan. In 2003, during Krishnan’s first reporting trip out of the city, Sawant allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted her. In this investigative report, Saxena reports on Krishnan’s allegations. The report was part of a special issue of The Caravan, which included reported stories on sexual harassment in arts, entertainment and the media.

16. Breaking the Cycle: A Nepali photographer’s attempt to engage with taboo aspects of womanhood

A photo-essay by Bunu Dhungana, with text by Tanvi Mishra, in November.


Using herself as the subject, in her photographic work, “Confrontations,” Dhungana reflects on her experiences of growing up in a traditional Nepali-Hindu community between the ages of six and 36. Using her body as the trope for discourse, her work comments on society’s role in shaping the reality of women, and the effect it has on their psyche and sense of self.

17. Son of a Gun: Bharat Bandh shooter says union minister Narendra Tomar protected him from arrest

Sagar in November.


In videos of the protests by Dalits across the country in April, Raja Singh Chauhan—a Rajput—could be seen clearly, firing dispassionately at the crowds. Chauhan admitted to Sagar that he shot at protesting Dalits, adding that he was proud of his actions. He claimed that Narendra Singh Tomar, a union minister, helped him evade arrest. Sagar found in his reporting that Chauhan’s caste background worked in his favour, and the power and influence of upper-caste men helped him get away with his crimes.

18. Worried about the “Muslim party” tag, Congress ignores Meo Muslims in Rajasthan polls

Tushar Dhara in December.


Through his travels across Alwar and Bharatpur regions in Rajasthan, Dhara found that the Meos, a Muslim community traditionally based in Mewat, have accepted that the BJP is apathetic to issues impacting Muslims. But the Congress’s silence on issues impacting the security and livelihoods of Meos has puzzled and upset them as well.

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