Lionel Shriver

Douglas Murray, Lionel Shriver, Mark Mason and Graeme Thomson

29 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: reporting from St Helena, Douglas Murray reflects on the inhabitants he has met and the history of the British Overseas Territory (1:12); Lionel Shriver opines on the debate around transgender care (9:08); following a boyhood dream to visit the country to watch cricket, Mark Mason reads his letter from India as he travels with his son (17:54); and, Graeme Thomson reviews Taylor Swift’s new album (22:41). Produced and presented by Patrick Gibbons.

The ludicrous saga of India’s butter chicken war

Butter chicken, one of India’s best-known dishes and a favourite all over the world, is at the centre of an extraordinary curry war in India. Two rival restaurant chains have asked the courts to rule over who invented the recipe for  the signature dish, made with tender pieces of chicken in a tandoor oven, mixed in a rich tomato, cream and butter sauce. It’s a dispute that has captured the attention of the nation, with television stations covering the story and widespread debate across social media. It amounts to a somewhat bizarre legal battle that’s piqued the interest of millions of ordinary Indians The 2,572-page lawsuit was brought by the Gujral family

How Modi is tearing up India’s secular state

The religious and political symbolism was unmistakable, as the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi led the consecration of a controversial new Hindu temple in Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh state, built on the ruins of a 16th century mosque. The Babri Masjid was torn down by Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992, sparking riots across the country that killed about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim. In 2019, India’s Supreme Court ruled that a temple could be built on the site, a decision that was roundly criticised by India’s Muslim minority. Modi spoke of India being at ‘the beginning of a new era’ The festering wounds from this long-running dispute reverberate to this day. The

Why China benefits from the Maldives’ spat with India

Think of the Maldives and you’re likely to conjure up images of expensive honeymoons and golden beaches, but the archipelago is also the focus of an extraordinary spat with India. The Maldives’ high commissioner was summoned by the Indian government last week after three Maldivian deputy ministers published derogatory posts on X/ Twitter, labelling Indian prime minister Narendra Modi a ‘terrorist’, ‘clown’ and ‘puppet of Israel’. One message even compared India to cow dung. The fallout from this imbroglio has been swift. The trio were suspended and the posts have now been deleted. But India is furious: the hashtags #BoycottMaldives and #ExploreIndianIslands have been trending and there have been reports

Why isn’t Canada cracking down on this Indian student visa scam?

Canada’s rift with India continues. It’s been almost two months since Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau accused ‘agents of the government of India’ of assassinating Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Nijjar. The two countries have been in a diplomatic stand-off ever since, with trade talks suspended and Ottawa failing to provide any concrete proof behind its claim that Nijjar was killed under direction from Modi. But the possibility that Nijjar’s death was a result of gang activity between warring factions of criminal Sikh gang members in Canada has put a spotlight on the country’s growing Punjabi community and highlighted questions over Canada’s international student visa and immigration fraud. It’s no secret

India vs Pakistan is the world’s greatest cricket game

An India-Pakistan cricket match is always about much more than just cricket. It is a sporting rivalry and grudge match like no other, a titanic clash in which it is almost impossible to separate sport from politics. That’s why hundreds of millions of fans will be glued to their television screens for this Saturday’s match at the Cricket World Cup tournament in India. The stadium itself will be packed to the rafters, with more than 130,000 spectators lucky enough to get tickets. Some reports suggest that tickets have been selling for as much as $300,000 (£250,000) on the black market. Security will be tight, with  thousands of extra police officers drafted

Did Indian agents kill a Sikh separatist leader in Canada?

Canada has accused India of being behind the assassination of a Sikh-Canadian citizen on its soil – an unprecedented charge to make against a democracy and fellow G7 nation. The Canadians claim to be investigating ‘credible allegations’ that Indian agents were behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was shot and killed in June outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. Nijjar was long wanted by the Indian authorities, who accused him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India and had offered a reward for information leading to his arrest. The manner of his death was bound to

Britain should not be nervous of India

For a disconcertingly large constituency in Britain, Indian history ends in 1947.The two centuries leading up to that bloody year – when British rule formally ended, India gained independence and Pakistan was conjured into existence – were replete with books, articles, pamphlets, lectures and debates on India. What unites this body of work, apart from colonial condescension, is an effort to comprehend India. That impulse faded once India attained freedom. After independence, India surged forward; Britain’s idea of India, however, remained captive to the past Britain’s sins in India – racism, carnage, plunder – are a matter for British consciences. But a more confident India will also one day acknowledge

James Heale

India’s century: Sunak’s plan for a new Indo-Pacific alliance

When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, India’s press was thrilled. ‘From Age of Empire to Rishi Raj’ declared the Times of India: another headline hailed the ‘Browning Street’ phenomenon. ‘Indian son rises over Empire’, proclaimed the New Delhi TV channel, a play on the colonial-era adage that the sun never sets on Britain’s empire. When Sunak visits New Delhi for the G20 next week, it will be quite a moment. Two Hindu heads of government will meet – the old power and the new. Sunak’s agenda is to bind Britain closer to a growing Asian economic powerhouse – which last week completed its first successful moon landing – while containing

Why India wants to conquer the moon

India – or, to be more precise, its leader Narendra Modi – wants to conquer space. That is why the success of the country’s latest moon mission matters so much. Only three countries – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China – have completed a successful landing on the lunar surface. No country has ever managed a landing near the moon’s south pole – a treacherous and freezing landscape, covered in darkness. India has long harboured the dream of being the first nation to do so, demolishing once and for all hurtful aspersions that it is a minnow in the space race. There is big money to be

Modi’s cheetah rewilding project is coming unstuck

Political vanity projects come in all shapes and forms but invariably turn out badly. One such is India’s ‘Project Cheetah’, a madcap scheme to reintroduce cheetahs to the country after an absence of just over 70 years. It has the personal backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made it an issue of national prestige, which means it is all but impossible for anyone in authority to acknowledge that things are not quite going to plan. So far, eight cheetahs have died out of a total of 20 imported from Africa and questions are growing about the reasons behind the deaths. There are even claims of an official cover

Sunak’s mother-in-law has divided India with her views on spoons

Sudha Murty, the Indian billionaire and philanthropist, who also happens to be Rishi Sunak’s mother-in-law, has something of a fixation with the cleanliness of spoons. Speaking on a popular food show, Murty revealed herself to be quite the tyrant in the kitchen: ‘I am a pure vegetarian, I don’t even eat eggs or garlic. What I am scared of is that the same spoon will be used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. It weighs on my mind a lot!’ The sensible reaction to these somewhat innocuous comments might be to think Murty a touch obsessional, and wonder at the impractical and time-consuming nature of her kitchen habits. Instead her

India’s war on Charles Darwin is a step too far

What is it that India’s rulers find so objectionable about Charles Darwin and his evolutionary theory that they’ve banned his work from some school classrooms? Firstly, Darwin is not a Hindu and in India’s ruling circles that appears sufficient to cast doubt on his merits as a scientist. Secondly, his cause is not helped by the fact that he is an English scientist. This makes him part of a wider western scientific conspiracy that belittles what the Indian authorities see as the historic scientific triumphs of ancient India. These paranoid fantasies are the reason why Indian children under 16 will no longer be taught about evolution or even who Darwin

Why are so many Indian migrants crossing the Channel?

Indians now make up the second-biggest cohort of Channel migrants: 675 Indians arrived in small boats in the first three months of this year, according to Home Office figures. This amounts to almost a fifth of the total 3,793 crossings made in the first quarter of this year. The number represents a stark rise: only 683 Indians made the journey in the whole of last year. Albanians, yes, Afghans and Iraqis possibly – but the revelation that so many from India are making the dangerous crossing to England has taken many by surprise. The Indian government insists that the growth in emigration is linked to a rise in Sikhs fleeing

Is Elon Musk really a ‘free speech absolutist’?

Elon Musk, the Twitter owner, is in his own words a ‘free speech absolutist’. He promised to combat censorship and allow a broader range of voices on the social media platform as part of his pitch for acquiring the company last October. It is, then, hard to square his free speech bombast with recent events in India where the social media giant is playing corporate lackey to a government hooked on using censorship as a way of silencing political dissent and debate.  Twitter is facing a growing backlash after bowing to the latest official demands by prime minister Narendra Modi’s government to block the accounts of government critics, including more than

What the conviction of Rahul Gandhi means for India

The conviction of Rahul Gandhi – an opposition politician and dynastic heir to three of India’s past prime ministers – has raised questions in India about both a colonial-era defamation law and Gandhi’s own political judgement. Rahul is currently an MP in the Indian parliament, but has taken on the role of crown-prince-in-waiting for the Congress party as a potential rival to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  His conviction, by a court in Modi’s BJP-ruled Gujarat state, is for a public comment Rahul made some years ago, asking rhetorically why so many thieves had Modi as their surname. This was a jibe at the PM, Rahul’s bête noire. What might have

India’s war on the BBC

BBC documentary India: The Modi Question, the second part of which airs tonight, has had a muted reaction in Britain. But the same cannot be said for India, where the country’s government has invoked emergency laws to block the broadcast of the programme. The Modi Question focuses on the trouble that broke out in the western Indian state of Gujarat back in early 2002: at least 1,000 people, many of them Muslim, died during the riots. The violence erupted after 59 Hindu pilgrims, including women and children, died on a train that had been set on fire. The incident was blamed on members of the Muslim community – and the

The Raj revision: why historians are thinking again about British rule in India

Is there anything good to be said of British rule over India? The verdict of many politicians, museum curators, TV presenters and even journalists in India is clear: the Raj existed only to exploit and oppress. It caused poverty and famine in the east, and made the western world richer. The writer and politician Shashi Tharoor in a best-selling book Inglorious Empire blames the Raj for ‘depredation’, ‘loot’, ‘rapaciousness’, ‘brutality’, and ‘plunder’. He is far from alone in that withering verdict: social media posts spread similar messages with religious zeal. Oddly though historians have moved away from similar damning verdicts on the Raj. Over the last 40 years, more evidence

India’s war on Christians

Christmas is usually Nayomi Gracy’s favourite time of year. But this year, Gracy is feeling more fearful than cheerful. Right-wing Hindu groups have recently led a succession of violent attacks against her Christian community in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. When she attends church in her home city of Bangalore on Christmas Day, the congregation will be guarded by armed police. ‘It is a mental torture. They say we cannot go to church or they will kill us but the police have promised to protect us and to help us,’ said Gracy. India’s historic Christian community dates back to 52AD. It is believed the Apostle Thomas, better known as Doubting

Why is India covering up clashes with China in the Himalayas?

For more than 20 years the West ignored China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. Until, that is, it was too late. Now, after being artificially expanded and built out with sand, the islands of this crucial maritime space are dotted with Chinese missile systems and runways. The region’s smaller nations, who also lay claim to sections of this sea, can only protest in vain.  Will the Free World learn from the mistakes of history? Beijing is now trying to redraw the map across the Himalayas, most recently in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory in North-eastern India that China claims as ‘South Tibet’.  Last week, Chinese and Indian troops clashed in the