Tuesday, November 15, 2016


If your thoughts aren't conflicting, you're doing it wrong.
From the recent US Presidential Elections, across Europe to back home in India, people are getting increasingly polarised. Positions are becoming ever more absolute and the common ground is fast disappearing. This break down is ironic in an age where advancements in science and technology have expanded the common grounds like never before. Political and societal discourse has never been accessible to so many people and amenities like health, education and transportation are reaching ever more people through revolutionary disruption. Yet the progressives and intellectual elite across borders with conviction their commitment to the bottom tier of society continue to entrench themselves into their bubbles, condescending upon the middle income masses which are increasingly turning right. On the other hand, the expanding wing of right leaning populations are willing to barter away the accountability of their leaders and the logical depth of their arguments in response to perceived alienation, driven by the hunger for expedient solutions.

GROUND ZERO: Bollywoodization Of The Mass Psyche

When I first took up Parliamentary Debating in 2009, I carried with me the tremendous baggage of hard opinions most people do by virtue of a lifetime spent absorbing the worldviews of those around us. It starts with our parents telling us right from wrong, which initially applies to useful life hacks like not putting your finger in a socket, but soon transcends to an indoctrination into their political framework and views on various societal issues. Similarly, as we go through life, our friends impart us with precious wisdom on the sexes, eventually piling us with further edicts on what is 'cool' and what isn't. Most of us just take this train ride through our years incrementally forming and entrenching our opinions as we traverse coffee breaks at work spaces and living rooms that resonate with the views we hold or attacking those that don't.

Those of us that do manage to deviate from our initial position, end up usually inverting to the converse extreme position as a result of a changed socio-political environment at our place of education or work. The casualties in this exercise of forming opinions are nuance, engagement and the middle ground. So immense is the desire in our minds to break things into right and wrong, that it becomes virtually impossible to analyse the inherent merits and demerits of a given situation and let it stand in a grey region somewhere between the absolutes. Unfortunately, this is the space occupied by most issues in life and the world.

This process of opinionation and the entrenched desire to see things as right and wrong has lead to the greater information and discourse brought along by this age of social networks and expanded media, turning into tools of polarisation rather than engagement and enlightenment. Instead of greater discourse elevating the societal understanding of matters, it is adopting a least common denominator approach, driving this race to the bottom. The result is evident. Demagogues that reduce protracted issues into over simplistic punchlines, with their promises of instant justice are taking over as the arbitrators of 'right' and 'wrong', and the representatives and executors of public will. We are fuelling the rise of the Arnabs and Trumps along with the fire that burns all semblance of logic and nuance.

As a fledgling debater, I was armed with my iron clad opinions on everything from reservation and Kashmir to the Israel-Palestine issue. When given a choice of topics to debate, I'd pick the motion and the side that coincided with my personal stance on the issue. Conviction is the battering ram of close mindedness and I was busy weaponising it as a debater.

STEP ONE: De-Opinionation 

The inflection point came at a debate, early in my debating career. I was teaming with a senior and we ended up in a debate proposing reservation. Watching me struggle, he asked me what was wrong. I told him I believed too strongly against reservation to be able to come up with a compelling argument for our case. He then said something, which in hindsight may seem obvious, but at the time had a profound effect on me. He told me that before entering a debate, I need to leave my baggage of opinions outside the room and start thinking with a clean slate.

In order to think like a debater, I needed to divorce myself from any and all notions and opinions I may have on a matter and set up a framework in my mind based on pure logic and whatever facts I may have at my disposal. Within this paradigm, I would find the arguments I needed to build my case. It worked! Once you strip an issue down to its logical underpinnings and bare facts, it becomes much easier to think analytically about it. Confirmation bias, sentiments, perceived proximity to a cause & relatability are factors that cloud the ability to think purely analytically about an issue and limit our intellectual horizon.

To apply this to life in general, we need to start with a small exercise in our heads. Every time you're contemplating an issue in your head, compel your mind to play the Devil's advocate. Feel like India should go to war with Pakistan over the most recent act of terror perpetrated on Indian soil? Clear out your mind and start thinking of arguments for not going to war. Initially, you'll face resistance in your head to develop a meaningful case that goes against the grain of your current thought process. However, you'll soon be able to overcome the gag reflex and think intuitively on both sides of an issue. Your mind responds to the challenge of presenting a defence for "the other side" by getting competitive with itself. It identifies the standing case in your mind as the standard to defeat and assumes an alter ego to defend the opposing case. You then feel a sense of ownership over the arguments born out of this exercise, thereby empowering you to weigh it equitably with you standing views on the matter. Over time, you'll develop an instinct to think analytically in the face of extreme polarisation.

STEP TWO: Overcoming The Binary

While deconstructing a polarised position on one side of a binary is an important first step, it's crucial to acknowledge that almost all issues we encounter in life are non-binary. Any decision we make, opinion we hold or question that needs answering has an underlying matter with numerous asymmetric layers. The attributes of the issue rarely resolve themselves into two distinct positions. Instead, they can be grouped in indefinite ways to form infinite perspectives. We must therefore strive to build on our ability to engage with the complexity of matters and engage with their layers without feeling compelled to fit them into silos of 'for' and 'against'. Absolute positions rarely make for effective solutions. Rather, a solution resulting from the study of the nuances of a situation, wherein it engages with those nuances, is more likely to be efficacious than the absolute. Take the example of affirmative action in the form of reservation. While most people fall into the boxes of absolutely for or against, the full scope of solutions range from 'no reservation whatsoever' to 'reservation excluding creamy layer', 'reservation excluding creamy layer and limited to one generation', 'reservation not based on caste but poverty metrics' and 'unconditional caste based reservation' (to name a few). Each of these positions respond to specific sets of variables and parameters that pertain to the issue. The more we engage the nuances, the more variables and parameters we discover pertaining to the issue. Engagement with these nuances leads to a layered understanding of the broader issue, rather than a polarized opinion backed by limited facts, incidental to your position. As we go deeper, each layer breaks into further layers and so on.

This doesn't mean we need to drive ourselves mad digging our way to oblivion on every issue we chance upon in the course of our lives. That is best left to doctoral candidates and academics. Rather, appreciating the kaleidoscopic nature of things serves as a strong counterweight against succumbing to over-simplistic thinking and superficial resolution of issues, decisions and questions. Furthermore, while we may not feel the necessity to dissect everything that comes in our path, we will posses the ability to do so when faced with taking a position on a matter of significance. While Step One teaches us to think like an average debater who is effective at defending either side of a binary, the defence will be superficial. Greatness in debating requires an appetite for nuance and logical thinking, and the ability to process objective facts analytically. With Step Two, we transcend the binary and learn to process situations as the sum of layers of nuance.

STEP THREE: Deploying The Debater Mind

Once we have learnt to deconstruct issues in our mind and process them at a nuanced level, with Step Three we will explore how to apply our enhanced understanding.

Our objective with every intellectual engagement in life, whether through reading, watching, listening, conversing, learning or decision-making, should be to build perspectives over opinions. Instead of lapping up or rejecting whatever we are presented with, we should deconstruct it into objective facts and logic, thereby discarding the bits that appeal to emotion or commonalities of cause and process it in a manner that engages the nuances of the matter and questions the pertaining assumptions or axioms that are taken for granted. Collating perspectives in this manner broadens our aggregate perspective on a matter and the resulting product is an amalgamation of facts and logical arguments representing various layers of the issue. These can then be processed as relative merits or demerits based on sub issues pertaining to the larger topic, instead of a blanket right or wrong applying to the topic itself.

An effective tool I discovered to peel these layers is to ask 'How' & 'Why'. Everytime you're faced with a principle or doctrine, ask Why. Then ask why again and again till you feel like you have sufficient depth of understanding of the rationale. Similarly, when a statement proposes an action that leads to a predicted outcome, ask How. The action-consequence bridge is composed of a series of micro-outcomes. Exploring these micro-outcomes helps us evaluate the prospects of the proposed consequences and understand the impact of the proposed move.

Let's look at 'Freedom of Expression'. "It must be absolute". Why? Because any restriction to it will either be determined either by society or authorities and neither can be trusted with policing expression. Why? Society is often found to be wrong on crucial issues over a period of time, take how the majoritarian consensus was against the desegregation of schools in the era it was first initiated. Authorities on the other hand can act in a despotic or self interested manner and expression is the strongest check mechanism to it. Why? Because... Various answers to these whys can be found in the works of generations of philosophers and social commentators. The same applies in the converse direction. "It cannot be absolute". Why? Unmitigated expression can be detrimental to society. Why? Certain forms of expression can lead to negative consequences in society thus creating victims, like in the cases of slander, hate speech etc. Analysing the issue in such manner will probably lead you towards considering the position "Freedom of speech must be fundamental but with reasonable restrictions" and subsequently what comprises "reasonable restrictions". Thinking in this format not only builds depth in your understanding of issues but also prevents the sort of absolutist positions and beliefs that mire the discourse and politics surrounding issues like abortion, gun-ownership, religious rights and so on.

If you voted for Trump and strongly believed that giving tax breaks to big businesses or building a wall will improve things, maybe you should have deployed the How. "Well, big businesses will bring their money back home and the economy will thrive". We ask how again. "Because this money will be invested back into the economy". A majority in the electoral college bought this line of argumentation. However, thinking like a debaters requires you to critically analyse every layer of argumentation to make sure it holds up. What if like in the Bush era, the businesses do bring their profits back but continue to outsource jobs, meanwhile just parking their money in the US with the financial institutions? "Trickle down..." LOL.

Jokes apart, compelling arguments exist on all sides, even if not of comparable quality. Thinking and discoursing in this manner would bring greater depth to the proposals of the candidates and fostered a richer political process. This would lead to greater accountability and reduced vulnerability to emotionally exploitative proposals like 'building a wall'. But MOST importantly, this brings people closer together from their extreme polarities and compels them to reason with the perspective of the other side. Trying to argue from the perspective of the working class that voted for Trump, even if only within their minds, would have prevented the Democrats from drifting out into void from where they condescended on the 'simple folk'. The latter would have attempted to overcome fear based and emotive issues to demand a greater burden of proof from their politicians. Even if the outcome remained the same, the US would have gotten a better government and society out of the process.

LEVERAGE: The Debater Mind

I eventually realised, that thinking like a debater wasn't merely useful in parliamentary debates, but even more so in everyday life. Our intellectual engagements are greatly augmented by this process. These engagements span from work to conflict resolution in the personal interactions. We shall discuss this further in my next essay...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tournament Review - 7th NUJS PD 2014.

The NUJS PD has always been a highly rated event, with quality debating its USP, and a long list of stalwarts having won the prestigious tournament over the past few editions. A part of the Tier I PDs in India as per the INDC tournament rating system in 2013, lets analyse how the 2014 edition of the tournament fared.

(This review is written on the basis of the data collected via feedback forms given out to debaters after the tournament, and aims to reflect their opinions.)

Quality of Teams - 4.5 /5

The team quality seemed well above average, with multiple strong teams breaking to the out rounds, resulting in numerous brilliant match-ups. Being an open-tournament, the presence of multiple cross teams increased the average standard of debating by a mile, so much that three out of the four semi-finalist teams were non-institutional.

A separate novice break allowed freshers a chance to progress in the tournament, and get a taste of post break debating at high quality tournaments.

Quality of Adjudicators - 2.71 /5

Quality of judging seemed to be a spoil sport in an otherwise well run tournament. With over 70 teams, the tournament saw a lot of dependance on the internal judge pool, which was criticised openly. Debaters went on to term the same as “very very shady”, and accusations of adjudicators who were “unaware of the technicalities behind judging PDs” flew throughout the campus. Speaker score marking was another area where the judge pool was seen as incompetent, with no real uniformity.

Running of the Tournament - 3 /5

The OC was helpful and friendly across the “LONG” waits in the auditorium for tabs and matchups. The issue of not sticking to the pre mentioned schedule by quite a margin meant rounds stretching into the night, and most post debate plans had to take a backseat. The post breaks ran comparatively on schedule, with four rounds not extending beyond the 7 PM mark.

Accommodation and Hospitality - 3.2 / 5

The accommodation was a minor issue throughout the tournament - with certain contingents being put up in reception hallways, and other shady halls. The debate venues ranged from average to amazingly comfortable (Moot Court and Lecture Halls - Check), and the After Party was an absolute hit, with everything a debater needed post 4 days of endless debating. Minor issues like the availability of water bottles and chairs during prep time were reported, and could be looked into for future editions.

Prizes and Subsidies provided - 3.57 /5

The organisers paid the winners in cash at the end of the debate, a step much appreciated by the entire debating circuit. The awards seemed generally satisfactory, and were not an issue. There were suggestions of a better split of the amount used to subsidise adjudicators though, to accommodate numerically more adjudicators and help with the problem of judging in the preliminary rounds of such a big tournament.

To provide feedback for other tournaments, click here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

INDC 2014: The Indian National Debate Championship

Dear Debaters!

You are hereby formally invited to the 'The Indian National Debate Championship 2014'! The Championship will take place at IIT Delhi from the 1st to 4th of March, 2014.

The first edition of INDC was India's grandest ever parliamentary debating tournament with an adjudication core comprising of some of the biggest names (Prabhat Kiran Mukherjea, Pranay Bhatia, Yaman Verma, Uttara Gharpure, Pradyumna Jairam, Eashan Ghosh, Siddhartha Thyagarajan and Aashay Sahay) in the Indian debate circuit, all rounds held at the 'Taj Ambassador Delhi', zero reg, meals from Pind Baluchi, on the house beverages at the acco and much more.

This edition will up the ante to a whole new level. We are gunning to be India's largest 3on3 tournament ever by departing from the exclusive seeding format of the 1st INDC and opening up participation to debating institutions from across the nation. The Grand Finals of the 1st INDC was attended by Yashwant Sinha, ex Finance and Foreign minister of India. This year we plan to have a panel of eminent public personalities of similar stature from diverse fields along with broad media coverage to further discuss the issues raised by the Finalist teams. We hope to take a step towards bridging the gap between Parliamentary Debating and mainstream discourse while preserving its sanctity. Furthermore, we are tying up with Times of India to ensure extensive coverage of the event.

INDC 2014, What to Expect:

1.     A stellar debating experience.
[Impeccable adjudication pool backed by a posse of subsidized adjudicators and the best university debaters from across India with over 100 teams.]
2.     Obscene Prize Money.
[An unparalleled minimum assured prize money of INR 2,50,000 (subject to increase as the sponsorship rolls in). The first INDC paid all its prize winners on the very same day and we intend on doing the same this time around as well.]
3.     Lavish Hospitality.
[3 Star Hotel accommodation, insane break night party, 5 Star Hotel Championship Dinner ad Grand Finals and so on, INDC will be at par if not better than an Asians tournament in terms of hospitality and grandeur. We will work towards having all our break rounds at a hotel venue. The Grand Finals at any rate will be held at a prominent hotel venue with a lavish after party.]

IIT Delhi boasts of colossal infrastructure to back the massive championship we have planned for you and a history of hosting great PD Tournaments. They bring with them the organizational experience they have gained over years of hosting their own Parliamentary Debate and a well located campus in the heart of Delhi from where one can swiftly get to Hauz Khas Village or DLF Promenade/Emporio/Ambience in Vasant Kunj post rounds to unwind. 
The first four members of the Judge Core for INDC 2014 are Aashay Sahay, Vipul Nanda, Siddhartha Thyagarajan and Souradip Sen. 3 more members will be added to the core based on an application process in addition to 2 Assistant Chief Adjudicators from IIT Delhi.

3 on 3 Asians Inter Varsity (No Open/Cross/School Teams). Judges can be non institutional.

The registration will be conducted in 3 phases. We are following a very strict N1 policy, i.e. each team has to come along with a judge of its institution.

Phase 1: [22/01/2014 TO 27/01/2014]
Institutions and Judges will register for the Championship by filling out the registration form.
Up to 3 teams are allowed per institution with no initial cap on the total number of teams.
On the basis of the number of teams registered in Phase 1, we shall review the policy on a total team cap and apply it only if the total number of teams logistically impossible. As of now we are geared to handle over 100 teams.

Team Registration:

Independent Judge Registration:

Phase 2: [27/01/2014 TO 03/02/2014]
At the end of Phase 1, we will release the list of confirmed teams. These teams will then proceed to Phase 2 wherein they will have to wire transfer the pre registration fee of INR 1,000 per participant to secure their slots.
At the end of Phase 2, we will reveal the final list of participants at INDC 2014.

Phase 3: [28/02/2014, 01/03/2014]
This will take place once the teams turn up at INDC. Here the remaining amount of the registration fee will be paid and accreditation collected.
The total Registration Fee is INR 2,000 per participant for those requiring accommodation and INR 1,000 for others. This includes 3 Star Hotel accommodation, meals, transportation to and fro between the accommodation and the venue, break night party access, 5 Star Hotel Grand Finals and Championship Dinner access and lots more.


INDC 2014 will set new standards for transparency by adopting the ‘Best Practices Code’ which is presently being drafted and will be revealed shortly after discussion within the council.

The Championship will have an Octos break subject to expansion based on participation. Furthermore, there will be a separate novice break.


1. The process for applying to be a part of the organizing committee is now open. The final cut of OC members will be entitled to travel subsidies for the Championship along with (but not limited to) the street cred of being the person behind India's largest tournament in 2014.
Apply by filling up this form:

2. We have set up an online forum for the Indian National Debate Council. Herein, we shall have one representative from each debating institution. In the run up to the Championship, The Council will discuss matters of relevance to the Championship and Indian Debating in General. The council shall work towards formalizing its nature and drafting a charter in due course of time.
Fill in this form to register your institution on the council (please ensure there aren’t multiple entries from your institution):

For further details contact:
Call: +91-9810307000
The Organizing Committee
Indian National Debate Championship 2014

IIT Delhi & DebatersDiary.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tournament Review - IIT Bombay Mood Indigo Intervarsity 2014.

Touted as the warm-up to the WUDCs in Chennai, the IIT Bombay Parliamentary Debate turned out to be a mixed experience for most participants. This review is written on the basis of the data collected via feedback forms given out to debaters after the tournament, and aims to reflect their opinions.

Quality of Teams - 5/5
This was a no brainer. With quality participation from most debating institutions in the country, competition in the tournament was excellent. The presence of multiple international participants as competitive debaters added to the “Pre-WUDC” image of the tournament, and ensured the out rounds were high quality match ups.

Quality of Adjudicators - 4.3 /5
Multiple subsidised adjudicators from across the world ensured good decision making in most rounds. A high quality core meant debaters were largely satisfied with the feedback and constructive, and had lots to learn.
The internal adj pool however, did not match the tournament standards. Some debaters believed they were unfortunate to have internal adjudicators in preliminary matchups, and such rounds were accused of bad decision making.

Running of the Tournament - 3.67 /5
Day one of the tournament was a sham in terms of the schedule. The adjudication test in particular proved to be a disaster, with multiple technical glitches that led to innumerable delays, and even a shift of the room for the debate. This meant shifted the entire tournament off schedule, and only one round could be organised, in place of the two rounds scheduled for the day.
The subsequent days showed a marked improvement. The Adj core became strict on timelines, and teams were thrown off tabs for turning up late. This led to a much smoother tournament, and up to 4 rounds were comfortably conducted on day 2.

Accommodation and Hospitality - 1.3 / 5
This was the bummer in what could have been one of the best tournaments in the recent past. The accommodation was way below acceptable standards, especially in light of the steep registration fee charged. The fact that the tournament provided only one meal per day, and the absence of a break night meant the debaters expected their registration fee to be utilised for a good accommodation.
The experience in campus was particularly sour. Debaters were made to wait for even upto 4-5 hours before rooms were given to them, and accommodation was shabby - with 5 people in a room meant for one, and only 2 mattresses. The Organising Committee was accused of being “completely apathetic” to such complains, and the organisers “ran out of accommodation”. Debaters were not allotted rooms for the entire stay of the tournament, even after constant nagging on the part of the participants. The unsatisfied Indian debater turned even angrier when reminded of the hotel accommodation provided to international participants for the same event.

Prizes and Subsidies provided - 3 /5
The prizes and subsidies provided seemed adequate on most counts. Given the scale of the tournament, expectations were a tad higher, but the amounts were satisfactory nonetheless. What determines this rating is the delivery of the prize money, but we’ll have to wait for updates on the same.

To provide feedback for other tournaments, click here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Whole Truth Behind The Devyani Khobragade Row


When the first news of Devyani Khobragade’s arrest in the US began coming in, it just seemed to be a straight forward case of a domestic help arrangement gone wrong. However, once details of her being strip searched and cavity searched surfaced, it seemed like there was more than meets the eye. The first thing that became apparent and was widely agreed upon was that she had been treated highly inappropriately. There are three modes of arrest prevalent in the US, the first involves the DA calling the defense counsel and setting up a date and time for surrender and thereafter the arrestee shows up and is taken in discreetly and respectfully. This is the usual procedure for crimes that aren’t of a serious nature and should have been the logical choice in this case too, even more so given that the person in question was a foreign diplomat. The second option involves the police showing up at the person’s house and making the arrest. The element of shock and awe exists, but at least the arrest is made discreetly and doesn’t involve excess trauma or public humiliation. However in Devyani’s case, the third option was exercised. She was picked up on a cold winter morning while she was dropping her child at school and handcuffed in full public view. Thereafter, she was dumped in a cell with sex workers, drug addicts and petty criminals. This was followed by repeated strip searches and cavity searches. Not only is this entire process deployed in the case of hardened criminals and Devyani clearly wasn’t one; on a logical level, what were the searches conducted for? Such intrusive searches are usually required in the cases of drug dealers and violent criminals to detect concealed drugs or weapons. Given that Devyani was arrested for a domestic help wage dispute, what were they looking for in her cavities? The maid?

But all this is assuming that the arrest needed to have been made in the first place. The arrest comes inspite of an existing injunction handed out by the Delhi High Court on the same issue in September, that bars any other Court abroad from taking up this issue. There is also a warrant in the name of the maid, due to allegations that she attempted to blackmail Devyani. Furthermore, the maid’s family was flown in to the US on a T visa, a special category document that is used to evacuate people on an emergency basis. This was done without notifying the Indian authorities and is even more problematic given that the matter was subjudice in the Indian courts. The US has clearly meddled to unjustifiable extents.

The US asserting that domestic laws must take precedence over immunity is the equivalent of Karan Johar campaigning for the preservation of section 377. The US has over the years used diplomatic immunity as a stick to fend off all sorts of actions against its operatives in foreign nations even in cases where its operatives didn’t formally have immunity and had committed crimes that involved the death of local citizens. In fact, the whole idea of diplomatic immunity and its sanctity was concocted by the western nations to enable their envoys to operate globally without the fear of persecution.

A quick look at the timeline of events leading up to Devyani’s arrest, makes the foul play even more evident.

If this issue was indeed as big as the above evidence suggests, there are two possible explanations to why is descended to such levels. The first is that the prosecuting attorney got a bit overzealous and went to town on Khobragade to prove a point. This is unlikely as the US government has intervened on several occasions to block legal action against diplomats as in the case of the Russian diplomats involved in insurance fraud in the US. Given, the nascent strategic courtship between the US and India, it would be reasonable to expect the US to have extended basic courtesies to the Indian diplomat in so much as ensuring she didn’t get arrested or treated the way she did. It would in fact not be wild to have expected the US to take steps in the direction of not pursuing this matter the way they did given the nature of this case and the Delhi High Court order. The other explanation and the more likely one involves Devyani Khobragade being collateral damage in a larger turf war between the US and India.

India and the US have been embroiled in a tussle over the situation in Bangladesh. With an onslaught of sporadic violence gripping Bangladesh, India and the US have been sharing concerns over its stability. The US’ stance on this issue has put it at odds with India with the US in favor of the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Indian highly suspicious of it.

As per an article in The Times of India, “The US appears much more comfortable with the BNP-Jamaat combine, who have made no secret of their radicalized politics. India believes if this succeeds, Bangladesh would be very different as a nation. The politics of BNP and Jamaat have become more radicalized in the past couple of years. Indian intelligence has detected influences of both Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and al-Qaida. There is a lot of funding available to these groups from West Asian countries, and some from Pakistan. The US is less comfortable with Sheikh Hasina's government, especially after the PM's confrontation with Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank — the fracas over funding for the Padma bridge project — and also the war crimes tribunal. There appears to be a part of official thinking in the US that believes, according to sources here, BNP-Jamaat have better free market credentials, and that they would move away from radical Islam once they are in power. India is haunted by the 2001 Pyrdiwah massacre, when 15 BSF personnel were massacred by BDR troops in an ugly confrontation. BNP had explained Jamaat's place in government thus: it would be better to have them in than out. But once in government, Jamaat occupied the ministries crucial to furthering their radical agenda. Those years saw the flowering of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other terror groups like HuJI. India is opposed to a return to those days. An added regional vulnerability is the Rohingya problem in Myanmar. With heightened communal tensions in Myanmar along with considerable Rohingya population in Bangladesh, New Delhi believes that the situation is ripe for disaster. The implications of increased radicalized politics in Bangladesh would have terrible implications for Myanmar's stability. Again, reports of LeT and al-Qaida infiltration among Rohingyas are popping up frequently. The instability as a result of radical politics could spread to India's north-east and even China's Yunnan province."

Given this context, we must now look at a few curious facts. Sujata Singh, India’s foreign secretary was in Washington while the US state department cleared Devyani’s arrest. As per a senior official of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Bangladesh was at the top of the contentious issues Sujata had raised with her US counterparts while there. Sujata Singh made India’s position explicit and clear in the course of her interaction and this is what is likely to have spurred the US to take measures they did to send India a strong message.

However what they probably didn't count on was India’s reaction. Used to a submissive India, they had their socks stuffed down their throats when India retaliated with the following measures:

1. All US diplomats were mandated to submit details of salaries paid to their servants, maids, gardeners and other domestic servants to the Indian authorities.

2. All American Schools were mandated to submit details of salaries paid to teachers and their bank account details, to be forwarded to Income Tax department for tax compliance.

3. All security barriers allowed to be erected on Nyaya Marg in the diplomatic enclave Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, for security purposes for the US embassy, were dismantled.

4. All import clearances given to US diplomats for importing fine food, wine and other costly items, as exemptions under customs duty rules, stood revoked.

5. All US diplomats working in consulates across India were asked to return their IDs and airport passes to Indian authorities.

These counter-measures were followed by the refusal of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to meet a top-level bipartisan US Congressional delegation in New Delhi.

In response to the unprecedented retaliation from the Indian side, the US began to re-evaluate its stance and slowly backtrack on its actions with Kerry even offering an apology. The United States is accustomed to raising the stakes and pushing other countries with an arrogant brinkmanship that has characterized their dealing with nations such as India that they expect to have their way with. The maelstrom of a furious Indian public as well as a body politic has come as a surprise.

The ethics of defending a woman who was allegedly extorting a maid or defending the maid who was attempting to blackmail her employer is being debated endlessly on the Facebook page of our social media dilettantes, and simultaneously an attack on a Domino’s outlet (I guess Red, White and Blue aren't good colours for your logo anymore) is being undertaken by the more reactionary elements of our society. All told, the US aren't quite certain why or how, but they pushed too far - and the Indian political class, the Indian public, and the Indian media have shown that they are made of sterner stuff.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tournament Feedback

Click here to review a tournament. 

"We are overhauling our Tournament Evaluation system with a participant based feedback mechanism. It's quite simple, fill out a form based on objective parameters and a separate segment for subjective assessment; and we will aggregate your feedback and post it right her on 'The Tournament Observer. Furthermore, you get to chose if your feedback is revealed with due credit to the reviewer or if you'd like to do it with anonymity.

Finally, we are glad to introduce Manav Garg, who will be taking over the Tournament Observer Initiative as the latest addition to the DebatersDiary editorial team."

~The Editor.

"The Indian Debating circuit has been growing over the past few years, with a major surge in the number of colleges hosting Debate Tournaments.

With the increase in tournaments has come the question of picking the right tournaments with regard to hectic academic schedules, specially considering that an increasing number of new tournaments seem to be promising.

Keeping in mind all this, we present to you our Tournament Feedback form. Tell us what you liked and disliked about a tournament you attended, and we'll aggregate these reviews, helping you choose the right places to debate in the future, and offering the Organising Committees of different tournaments the opportunity to get some honest feedback."

~Manav Garg

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Motions from The RV Debating Tournament 2013

Round 1: THBT the government should encourage the creation of unions for sex workers.

Round 2: THBT the state should actively investigate the supernatural.

Round 3: THW have the free movement of labor as a requisite to Free Trade Agreements.

Round 4: Hypothetical


-It is a week before the 2013 Delhi State Vidhan Sabha Elections. The Aam Aadmi Party has gone from scratch to being a serious contender to the Congress and BJP in the matter of months, with Arvind Kejriwal as the party's face.
-The Core Committee of the AAP discovers evidence of Kejriwal's involvement in an act of corruption during while he was serving as an IRS officer. They know for a fact that this was a singular act and he hadn't indulged in corruption before and hasn't ever since.
-The Core Committee realizes that if they were to suppress the evidence, it would be unlikely to surface.

Motion: TH being the AAP core committee will suppress the evidence against Arvind Kejriwal.

Round 5:


-In the year 2011, RVDT was India's largest tournament. It was held in the Asians (3 on 3) format.
-In 2012, Chennai won the bid to host Worlds, which follows the BP format.
-RVDT 2012 and its subsequent editions were held in the BP format.

Motion: TH being the RVCE Debating Society will revert RVDT to the Asians format.

Quarter Finals: Hypothetical


In the X-Men universe, a permanent and irreversible cure has been discovered to rid mutants of their special abilities. This cure has no side effects.

Motion: THW mandate the cure for mutants.

Semi Finals: Hypothetical


What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Postman added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.


The house is a totalitarian regime in a post apocalyptic society. It is deliberating on the best system to rule over the survivors.

Gov: THW create an Orwelian state (ruled by fear).
Opp: THW create a Huxleyian state (ruled by pleasure).

Grand Finals: THBT the World Bank should not have structural adjustments as a condition for its loans to Nations.