Issue 13

Issue XIII: Editor’s Note

India’s 67th National Wildlife Week from 2– 8 October, 2021 is focusing on Forest & Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet, thematically. Through the 1950s, this commemoration went from a single day Wildlife Diwas to a whole week. Since then annually, Indians shine a torch on understanding what we have, what we are losing and what is shifting, in the life and times of our flora and fauna. What is shifting? This question, a classic axis which simply and directly makes news and animates the world of journalism.

Openaxis, as a student driven publication spearheaded by Ashoka University’s Media Studies Department, puts students in the editor’s hot seat, as well as experiencing what it takes to train as a journalist. Students often bring the academic lens of their Major-ing subject interest from the Social and Life Sciences and ask a timely question. The process of exploring the contours of the question is then answered through journalistic means. By thinking through practice, students get to reflect real-time on, elements of writing an analyses to commissioning stories on a deadline, from understanding copyright law through attribution and seeking permission for images and albums, to grasping balance and objectivity, from slicing through top-down view on issues to grappling with ground realities and trying to write like real people talk. Journalistic writing, meant to be easy to read for a general reader, makes students get to work on their vocabulary, grammar, interview questions, written or audio/video and get the difference between feature writing in print and online. Each class runs on this mix of thinking and doing, discussion and argument and produces issue after issue over a 13-14 week semester. Academic lens and journalistic values, that’s Open Axis in one line.

This is Issue 13. From this one to Issue 17, readers can expect a series of environmental features which grapple with the same question – what is shifting. Issue 13 focuses on ideas of the wild and captive and what it means for several different but uniquely Indian environmental contexts.

In the Openaxis focus on India’s National Wildlife Week, Derrida bumps into NDA’s National Education Policy, as Ishita Ahuja speaks to university students, teachers and employers in India’s wildlife sector, on whether the NEP is looking at the value of field experience in wildlife education

Aritro Sarkar takes us through a short history of zoos. His line of inquiry – in the middle of a generational pandemic, can India rethink its zoological park?

Devanshi Daga brings the findings of two recent global studies done on human attitude to bats and field-insights from an Indian bat-researcher. Can the combo of lab and field research communicate scientifically in a pandemic with the public?

Isha Pareek navigates the journey of two urban Indian eco-activists, as they champion causes and communities, contours and blind spots of environmental justice.

To avoid the trap of the National Wildlife Week being reduced to forced anniversary speeches or school quiz trivia around dates, Issue 13 slices through the perfunctory in the debates and celebrates the theme for 2021, as it is being lived. Each of the stories speaks up for the wild in relation to the people who sustain it. As an idea, as government policy, academic research, activist’s cause and as green humour!

A pandemic’s pause is a bit like the yellow traffic light, do stop by and think with us. Look forward to your feedback.

Issue 7

Issue VII: Editors’ Note

Straying from a long-standing tradition of burdening the New Year with all our hopes, dreams and expectations, with our first Issue of 2021, we bring you a newfound sense of cautious optimism. Aditya Burra revisits the recent test series between India and Australia to commemorate the heroics of Miya Bhai Mohammed Siraj whose grit paved the way for a historic triumph for India, raising our collective hopes. Nishant Chadha helps break down the Union Budget recently announced to drive Indian economic recovery, also enabling us to question the pitfalls of inequality in the hopeful discussions of a ‘V-shaped growth’. With our vaccination drive well-underway, Gautam Menon offers a much-needed perspective from the Indian scientific community on the controversial rollout of Covaxin. While we finally have reason to hope for a return to the ‘old’ normal with the vaccines, we also explore consent, choice and the state’s role in an ambitious yet rushed inoculation drive. 

As the initially peaceful farmers’ protests gradually erupted into violence, they urged us to not only critique the farmer bills in question as Karantaj Singh does but also reflect on India’s historic relation with non-violent movements and what it means to deviate from it. We also highlight how protests are different this year, with a fresh perspective on rappers that have used their vernacular to mobilise mass support around socio-political issues. This spirit of mobilisation has also translated into the Yugma Network’s Global Action Week which, as Anjali Dalmia describes, combines art and environmental activism to highlight on-ground realities. Moving to our swiftly increasing collective online presence, Debayan Gupta explains the insufficiency of individual-level policies in addressing privacy-related issues. We also raise important questions about creativity on social media, censorship that is slowly spreading its wings over Indian OTT platforms, and the business of news reporting; even analysing the recent TRP scandal through the Netflix show Bridgerton. 

Let us hope as the year goes on we continue in our efforts to heal and regrow, and never shy away from speaking out about what’s important, as we intend to do through our platform.

— Saaransh Mishra, Devika Goswami, Akanksha Mishra, Ridhima Manocha and Muskaan Kanodia


Issue VI: Editors’ Note

Come December, we always look back at the year gone by – introspecting, making resolutions for the coming year, and subconsciously accepting that these promises won’t be followed through. 2020 has been different. We have seen the repercussions of being lax with our concerns about safety. We have had a lot to think about, much of it being intense questions about the global systems, difficult realisations about failures and acknowledgement about the need to change old paradigms. In this issue, we reflect upon hopes and concerns, looking back at 2020 while also looking ahead to 2021.

We look at how the pandemic has changed us: we have been compelled to have certain conversations, and working from home has become the norm. To understand how our everyday struggles may have taught us more about ourselves than we realise, we explore humour as it creates a channel for a personal look at the lockdown. 

From the point of view of economics, where exactly does India stand in the world now? Domestically, what challenges does the future hold for India’s business families? Drawing the lens away, what is the history of the minimum support price in the Indian agro-market and what are the two sides that make it contentious now? How then, do we combat misinformation and ‘make the world add up’? 

In dreary times, many of us have taken to the online space to find corners of entertainment. In the move towards more diverse and accessible content, we bring Indie film recommendations, the five you must watch. Has our patriotism evolved with our films? What can we learn about the different literary prizes? These are all extremely important questions to take into the next year as we consume an ever-increasing plethora of content. What we must also keep in mind are the impact of social media, and technology on the ethics surrounding journalism.

2020 has also faced us with intense climate change calamities and it has become more important than ever to look at 2021 with hope for genuine action, but is the world up for it? Despite the pandemic, we have seen environmental protests sustain, but what does it take for environmental movements to truly work?

Bringing our gaze back to the personal, we look at how masks have been incorporated into fashion, while our daily fashion itself seems to have been metamorphosed by the culture of work-from-home.

2020 has been bizarre and intense. This issue looks at transformation, what can this year tell us about what’s to come? Is it possible for the transition to 2021 to be seamless?

–Aradhya Sharma, Mansi Ranka, and Sanya Chandra

Picture Credit: Getty Images

Issue 3

Issue III: Editors’ Note

What did coronavirus, the border clashes and the ban of many apps do for the Indian people? They made discussions surrounding China everyday and commonplace. And yet, we still approach the topic in a myopic manner. The mainstream gaze refracts China under the lens of war, economics, diplomatic relations, concerns about democracy among others. Is there, however, a more nuanced way to understand what the rise of China means for South Asia and the world at large. The need is to explore everyday cultures in border areas and identity formation, regional influence from the perspective of different states, and the impact of Artificial Intelligence on diplomacy and ultimately us. Can India surpass China as a global production centre? Does China’s influence in South Asia eclipse India’s?

In this issue, we will talk about China with an equal focus on exploring different questions relevant to the regular lives of people, that which is conventionally dubbed ‘mundane’. Have the Nobel prizes changed our everyday lives? Can documentaries help us develop a collective consciousness about the environment? Can we remember rock music virtuoso Eddie Van Halen a month after his passing? In the context of the pandemic, how does one succeed in protesting online? What do the newly enacted regulations mean for civil society efforts in the area of human rights in India? What does author Jyotsna Mohan say about technology and the lives of Indian teenagers? In this issue, we are trying to bring to light concepts we don’t necessarily engage with even though we are engulfed by them constantly. For instance, what is the Disinformation Ecosystem and why are we all vulnerable to it? We consume advertisements by the minute, what does the recent Tanishq ad controversy reveal about the trickling down of hatred from our TV screens to real life outcomes?

There is a lot going on in the world. Every other day seems like a barrage of new information– coronavirus numbers, climate change, elections in different contexts and affected by different issues. It is very easy to be consumed by anxiety in this situation of information overload. Hence, we might become short-sighted and lose perspective of the larger context that events play into. Our issue aims to convey the importance of engaging with these issues patiently; unpacking how they affect us. We place them in history and attempt to provide clarity.

–Mansi Ranka, Aradhya Sharma and Sanya Chandra

“File:Kunming Yunnan China Monument-to-Policemen-01.jpg” by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Issue 2

Issue II: Editor’s Note

As we continue living our lives online, we are forced to confront and challenge our world through our screens. We debate and deliberate over real-world politics and elections, moderated and manoeuvred by the rules of the internet. With the potential to consume the content of the world, and the ability to have the world as your audience, we have a platform like never before. With this however, come important questions about how to control and carry out conversations online, and the extent of its real-world impacts.

In this edition, we attempt to start a conversation around precisely these topics. We start with the notion of privacy online, as Debayan Gupta explores the importance of software encryption and discusses whether governments should be given a secret key to decrypt citizens’ conversations. Aradhya Sharma looks at privacy in the context of health data, in light of India’s recent attempt to digitise healthcare through the National Digital Health Mission. In Deep Vakil’s piece, we deepdive into a real-life case study of online privacy—an instance of doxxing of university students and how it is situated in the context of ‘culture wars’ between ideological oppositions online.  When our online lives get too much, we try to get away from it—but can we really resist the allure of our devices? By understanding human psychology and its interaction with online media, Simantini Ghosh suggests practical ways to escape the trap of the ‘black mirror’.

But is life beyond technospace any better? With the unlawful investigation of Manisha Valmiki’s rape and murder, there has been polemical uproar against the police, media and the judicial system. Mansi Ranka’s piece tells us why caste is central to the Hathras case and touches upon how activists are carrying out related protests during the pandemic. With COVID infections still steadily increasing, many other people prefer to voice their criticism of the investigation online. Social media has been rife with polarizing opinions. 

But then again there is no dearth of people for whom the pandemic has not been a deterrent to assert their ‘invincibility’. These people, most of whom are on the conservative side, have flouted health advisories and social distancing guidelines. Isha Deshmukh examines the nuance between one’s political leaning and their proclivity (or lack thereof) towards science in her article. 

As similar political criticism continues online, engaging the voices of millions globally, it takes on various forms apart from 280-character opinions. Karantaj Singh explores one such instance in Amazon’s hit show The Boys, which stars an anti-superhero protagonist eerily similar to Donald Trump. Speaking of the current President of the United States, Aditya Burra takes us through a journey of Trump’s America over the past four years, reminding us of the high-stakes game that is November’s Presidential elections. We also take a look at the state of democracy in today’s world, and the role of American government and aid agencies in promoting it, in Bann Seng Tan’s exploration of American foreign policy.

It is thus important to remind ourselves that the world goes on, despite the pandemic and our lives online. In no way are we immune to being scrutinized by various actors digitally. In no way can our society easily get rid of structures it is entrenched in. But also in no way can we ignore the ability to collectively amplify the voices of those who haven’t been passed the mic, for the greater good.

– Nirvik Thapa, Pravish Agnihotri and Samyukta Prabhu