Congratulations on the fine report on trafficking and prostitution (The Cruel Business of Brothels, Feb 6). The article offers an accurate description of the situation. Some time ago, I wrote a series of plays titled ‘Tales From the City’, which were based on case studies of the city experience and suitably fictionalised for the stage. One of them was on the business of human trafficking and prostitution. It came out of my past work with an NGO that was campaigning against human trafficking. Your story revived the memory of that play for me.
Vijay Padaki, Bangalore
Human life is valued very low in India. The exploding population and growing class disparity are responsible for this. We, as a country, and our courts need to see prostitution as a reality of society. We need to think about several questions: Who among the civil society are supporting brothels? What if a woman decides to become a prostitute out of her own will?
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
There are stringent laws for the safety of women and children but they are of no use as they are confined to the pages of statutes and are seldom implemented in letter and spirit. People have always known that every city has a brothel where the words ‘human rights’ and ‘women’s safety’ are other-worldly things. But even as debate around women’s issues is increasing, the ones concerning this area of the city are not considered fit for any discourse. The legislators who make the law, the police who are the custodians of law, the government machinery which is expected to enforce the law, all are insensitive to the plight of women. They either ignore or neglect their duty towards women’s safety or form part of the same machinery that perpetuates dangerous mindsets against women. The NGOs are working hard to help women who are forced into prostitution but unless the politicians and the law take initiative, little good will happen.
M.S., On E-Mail
The hooliganism Bangalore witnessed on the New Year-eve was a result of immorality in the drunken man’s mind—and has nothing to do with the attire of women (Malevolent: Badly Drawn Mama’s Boys, Jan 23). It can happen in any city or town, even the villages of today. Such episodes also mirror the police’s inefficiency, The force’s inadequate strength, after all, is showing: India’s figure on this is much below the UN-prescribed 222 cops for 100,000. Even among those in khaki, some at the lower level routinely function as cooks or personal guards for ministers and top bureaucrats. That being the case, it is better to depute special task-force personnel at trouble-prone areas or events.
Raj Mohan, Hyderabad
I vividly remember the talks my elders had over the 1966 Mariakutty murder case that the Malayalam Press widely reported (The Sins of Our Fathers, Jan 30). Perhaps it was the first example of the Catholic Church managing to free its priest accused of a heinous crime. Perhaps the missionaries had a hand in ensuring that two regional movies made out of this incident portrayed the priest as an innocent man. A quarter century later, the Abhaya murder case of 1992 gave us a sense of déjà vu. But for human-rights activist Joymon Puthepurackal’s intervention, the crime at the Kottayam convent would have remained reported as natural death.
Jawahar P. Sekhar, Kozhikode
Justice delayed is justice denied. The court of law must hand out punishments to the perpetrators of crime in the Church. That will only benefit the believers and sustain any religion’s basic character of piety. Those who lost their lives may rest in peace. While it is sad that women are being exploited by the clergy who they trust, I applaud Outlook for their investigation and for putting Up This Much Untold Story On The Magazine’s Cover.
Jayanta Topadar, Hatigarh (Assam)
This refers to your cover story The Sins of Our Fathers (January 30). One thing is unfortunately common to all religions—sexual predators preying on innocent devotees. Just like incest, this too is not talked about much. Many know about what’s happening but choose to just live in denial.
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
From Fauji to Raees, SRK has never lost the light in his eyes nor the fire in his belly!
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
This refers to Who Awaits the Native’s Return (February 6), your story on the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council’s resolution on the return of Kashmiri Pandits. This first-of-its-kind resolution comes on the 27th anniversary of the Pandit exodus from the Kashmir Valley. Tokenism is so much a part of the way politics is done in the state that no one is surprised that the legislators were unanimous on the issue. The only good thing to come out of this is the reiteration that Kashmiri society recognises Pandits as legitimate stakeholders in the Valley, as part of its social fabric. But can the rehabilitation of former militants happen alongside, as some of them could well have been involved in atrocities against Pandits? In any case, can any rehabilitation happen unless there are serious efforts to resolve the political conflict over Kashmir?
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
One isn’t sure if political parties and film celebrities were trying to preserve any Tamil culture or just making the most of a volatile situation (Cat-and-mouse Over The Bull Game, Feb 6). Whatever, we saw the state try to wriggle out of a tricky situation. The Modi government wilting under pressure from a potential southern ally is inexcusable. The argument that the ‘Marina Revolution’ is a reflection of popular sentiment is specious: not because it is suspected that it was covertly fuelled by political elements, but because of the pressure on the law to bow to a display of mass emotion, that can be replicated anywhere. Note that the demands have already been made for reviving buffalo and bullock-cart races in Karnataka as well as Maharashtra. Come to think of it, there’s a very thin line dividing mass protest and mob rule.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Sad the Centre budged under protests in a state and cleared an ordinance to allow the conduct of Jallikattu. True, the administrators did stop the issue from going out of hand, but at the end the government has sent a very wrong signal to the country. The decision has purely been taken keeping political interests in mind in a situation that warranted a stern stance from the rulers. How can an animal be subjected to cruelty in the name of keeping traditions alive!
Bal Govind, Noida
The human angle involved in Jallikettu is nothing short of gory. Polytrauma inflicted on the ‘participants’ by a raging bull is a medical challenge, according to hospitals near these killing fields. If pride overrides health, one can only say, “So be it.”
Dr George Jacob, Kochi
Students across colleges and schools in Tamil Nadu deserve special thanks for coming out voluntarily and participating in protests against the move to stop Jallikattu. Let us hope bull-taming happens in the right spirit to uphold the Tamil pride, while ensuring the protection of the animal and humans from injury during the sport.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The Marina seems to be a meeting point of strange minds. Wonder why the law-abiding should wade into the beach seeking something that is essentially sub-judice even if they feel it’s a matter of securing Tamil culture? From Viswanathan Anand to A.R. Rahman to R. Ashwin, anybody we thought were rational, expressed solidarity with the protesters. None should forget that the Supreme Court’s ire wasn’t particularly against Jallikattu. The top judicial arbiter has banned similar events in Punjab Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
After the entire saga around Jallikattu, the message is that the Supreme Court should know its limits and not interfere in everything. If the judiciary is going to decide on anything, we may not need any government at any level.
Akash Verma, Chennai
The ban on Jallikattu had a snowballing effect: a small stir set off a chain reaction and led to a colossal protest. The sport is rural, but the protesters, we saw, were largely urban. A chunk of them never even saw the bull-taming sport. Politicians began getting worried about their vote-bank, while celebrities found in Jallikattu an occasion to add to their fame. The cardinal principle of any sport is fair play, but Jallikattu turns all the odds against a voiceless animal. The talk about tradition is irrelevant.
Ashok Rajpet, On E-Mail
This refers to President Provocateur (February 6). The woman who picked up a handful of dark soil and vowed she would cultivate the land and earn her livelihood in the movie Gone with the Wind represents the spirit of millions of Americans who rebuilt a nation and turned it into a rich country. Can Donald Trump’s “buy American” and “hire American” work any wonders? The suppressed feelings of US patriotism have now burst out like the effervescent liquid shooting out of a beer bottle. Should we ignore such feelings? The new President represents those who have been experiencing the pressure of the suppressed nationalist sentiment. What Trump voices is not the true American spirit depicted by Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, but the anger of frustrated young, largely white citizens of America, who have been silently watching immigrants take the jobs that they sorely need. Who can offer succour to the millions of jobless Americans but Trump, who considers himself their true representative?
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Manappuram (Alapuzza)
Americans have elected a man with no record of holding an elected office or doing public service as their 45th president. Donald Trump is already being serenaded as a worthy successor to Barack Obama, whose officials had pinpointed China as the reason India was denied entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last year. This is no surprise as India had also blamed China for the failed NSG bid. Despite the apparent determination in the Trump camp to overturn everything Obama had done, let us hope there will be continuity in America’s hard line on China and Pakistan. Will the needs of diplomacy eventually tone down Trump’s bluster and dilute his stated intentions? Who knows, Trump may turn out to be better for Indian than Obama had been! Or he could well end up where he started—a political novice and just another loud-mouth megalomaniac.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
This refers to your story, Pastures Less Green (February 13), on how the ‘Islamophobia’ that had dominated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign got translated into the US government’s policy on January 27, sadly, coinciding with a day observed in large parts of the world—including America—as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of the millions of Jews who were exterminated during Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic pogrom”. However, with protests across the country against Trump’s travel ban taking place in almost every big city in the US, there is now more pro-Muslim sympathy among a large section of people in the country than ever before, since 9/11. Newspaper editorials and columnists too have largely rejected Trump’s rushing through with half-baked ideas to please his core constituency. We should remember that Catholic and Jewish immigrants went through tough times from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, but were eventually well-integrated in American society. Muslim integration may take longer, though, if terrorist attacks in the US and Western Europe do not stop.
Anwaar, Dallas (US)
Apropos Time Again To Turn The Cycle (Jan 30), it is expected that the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh will resort to tactical voting to stop the BJP from coming to power in the state. The SP-Congress alliance should prevent the splitting of the Muslim vote as it is being viewed as a formidable force that can take on a resurgent BJP. The BSP, despite fielding a large number of Muslim candidates, will not be able to get many Muslim votes due to its dubious record of partnering with the BJP for power in the past. Akhilesh Yadav’s development plank appeals to young Muslim voters and this, coupled with Mulayam’s strong image, should swing the election results in SP’s favour.
Vijai Pant, On E-mail
This is a wake-up call to all voters in the forthcoming Assembly elections in five states to not vote for the BJP. After taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hardly done anything for the democracy. Instead, he has weakened it by behaving in autocratic ways.
Aires Rodrigues, Goa
This is with reference to your January 30 cover story, The Sins Of Our Fathers. I am a survivor of childhood rape by a Catholic priest and native of India, Father Joseph Jeyapaul. I want to thank Outlook for publishing stories on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and for sharing part of my personal story. By doing so, you are helping create a place where a much-needed dialogue on this issue can be started and continued so that Catholic officials and offenders are held accountable. It is incredibly painful to endure something as heinous as child rape. It’s also extremely difficult to deal with the aftermath of the traumatic experiences. I hope that all individuals reading these words, especially survivors, know that they are not alone, and that help and healing are obtainable.
Megan Peterson, United States
The problem the Vatican is facing is nothing new. In the seventh century, Mahendra Pallava wrote a humorous treatise depicting the degradation of the Buddhist monks of his day. All sorts of scandals were mentioned. How many priests submit their ‘personal’ details before they enter priesthood?
Your magazine deserves compliments for this comprehensive cover story on an issue that has been largely ignored by the rest of the media. A few rotten apples exist in all religious bodies who use their influence and position to exploit devotees. But the most shocking and unfortunate aspect has to be when the superiors of these religious bodies do their best to shield the culprits instead of condemning them and handing them over to the law enforcement authorities.
Pramod Srivastava, New Delhi
Priestly Predators is a daring cover by Outlook. The subject is and has always been a controversial one. There has been a history of sexual exploitation, especially of children, associated with the clergy since time immemorial. In my opinion, the practice of forced celibacy also has a role to play in these atrocities committed by a few priests. Unfortunately, the Church has not been vocally remorseful enough for these unpardonable sins. In most cases, the sinners are protected by the Church. Let’s hope the compassionate plea Pope Francis made recently to Catholic bishops will help curtail these acts of depravity by some in the clergy.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
It was an interesting coincidence that your cover story Malevolent: Badly Drawn Mama’s Boys was followed by the story about the Church’s badly drawn Fathers. Why only churches! There have always been black sheep among the priests of all religions. Reading about the incidents of sexual abuse by clergy members was not surprising for me. Since there is little room for ‘divine intervention’ in these matters, the laws of the land must certainly punish the culprits. The churches should call out these Fathers, disown them, and let the law take its own course.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Being a Keralite myself and having heard about the incidents mentioned in your cover story from the local print media of the state, I can say that I fully endorse your story. Such incidents rarely get coverage in national/mainstream media. Religious leaders hold great influence in society. This means they hold great power too, to do both good and bad. And no religion is without such black sheep. Constant media exposure seems to be the only cure.
American writer Mark Twain said that religion began when the world’s first fool met the world’s first conman. One thread that runs uniformly in your narrative is that all the girls exploited by the clergy members of the Roman Catholic Church come from poor families. The article also mentioned an effort by the Catholic laity to bring about a law regulating civil matters, including those of property connected with the Church. That could be a beginning for reform, if formulated and pressed adequately in Kerala, where, at present, a Left government is in power, which may not be as beholden to the Catholic church as the previous Congress-led government. In the US, Mexico and Ireland, incidents of sexual exploitation and paedophilia by the clergy have been reported in recent years. A number of Catholic priests in some of these countries have also been convicted for the crimes and sent to prison to serve long sentences.
I do not appreciate the lament of the judge when he says that the accused in the Abaya case does not appear for trial. Surely, the courts can demand for the accused to be present in court so that the trial for such a grave crime is concluded swiftly and justice delivered. In 1936, in Catholic Spain, there was a popular revolt against the then fascist government of Franco. The first thing that happened in the revolt was the killing of hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and bishops. I would wonder how such a thing can happen in a Roman Catholic country. But, by and by, I have come to understand that religious bodies are also seats of power.
Hilary Pais, Bangalore
Clinically speaking, celibacy could be done away with so that the priests can ease out.
George Jacob, On E-Mail
When human-rights activists are least keen to get dangerous sports like mud bike racing or F1 races banned (despite their competitors dying or suffering injuries while competing), why should animal lovers go up in arms against a traditional sport in Tamil Nadu (‘Jallikattu is just a sport’, Feb 6). When Indians are poor in sports and games at international levels, let the country have at least its village games flourishing. It’s wrong to ask for a ban on such a tradition that finds mention even in Sangam texts.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Congress veteran N.D. Tiwari, who hoped to be come the prime minister after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in the summer of 1991 ahead of national polls, has now joined the BJP at age 91 after perceived threats from Congress bosses Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul (Deep Throat, Jan 30). The Uttarakhand leader’s surprise comes after decades of being a Congressman, minister, governor and squeezing in a short but scintillating interval of heading his own little party. Seven years ago, in end-2009, he landed in a sex scandal after a CD featuring him showed the octogenarian governor in compromising position with women in the Raj Bhavan of Andhra Pradesh. The colourful man now gravitates to the BJP with his son, Rohit Shekar, who has been eagerly looking to establishment himself politically after a long paternity battle. We might feel exhausted just watching Tiwari’s hectic record. For the BJP’s rangeela recruit, though, age is just another number.
Jayatheertha S.A., Hyderabad
As an Indian, I am astonished that Outlook would like the US president’s foreign policy to be dictated by that country’s intelligence agencies (The House of Flying Daggers, Jan 30). You seem to be telling Donald Trump that his success will flow from the collective wisdom of the CIA, NSA, FBI, et al. Apparently, the writer is ignorant about what the US agencies did to several countries in Latin America, the Gulf and others. Anyone keen to know what the US agencies are doing to India need only read the contract between the Aadhar card authority and its contractors.
Mathew Thomas, Bangalore
Who’d think that the resident of the White House could be afflicted by the Orwellian fear of big brother watching you! But maybe that was the norm. No more...the new prez is a big guy who came to power unruffled by universal ridicule from the media, the liberal establishment, even the Republican old guard—audio leaks notwithstanding. He may well have given foreign agencies a chance to test their influence on international politics. But the man can tear off many masks of pretension—the way he managed to hold off Hillary during the televised debates, attacking her on own trail of leaks. Expect significant changes in the way the chain of command runs. Ultimately, it may only serve to strengthen America’s otherwise discredited intelligence wings.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Cherthala
With Trump at the helm, it seems the US will now get to learn the vitality of India’s role in the subcontinent so that the smaller powers do not become Sino-centric. Beijing should not be allowed to foster the growth of Pakistani terror or continue to stop the increase of free-market growth in SAARC nations, lord over the South China Sea, stop Afghanistan from being a gateway for trade and investment in Central Asia and use Nepal as another pawn in its ‘string of pearls’ policy. Washington needs to solidly support New Delhi in becoming a superpower in the region. That alone can recast the global balance of power and values in ways that will make the two countries—more than China—the leaders of the 21st century.
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, New Delhi
Government hospitals do provide free primary and second healthcare, but they are overcrowded and ill-equipped, thus prompting many people to opt for private hospitals (No heart in this Mart, Feb 6). However, any institution that supplies high-end medical equipment, including the stent, must have government control on its pricing. Patients are being charged extraordinarily high, giving the cartels huge profits at the expense of people whose desperation leaves them no choice. This should end.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
The dragon does breathe heavily over the necks of Vietnam and Cambodia (Viet-Cam Diary, Jan 30). The Chinese patronisingly call Vietnam ‘Yue Nan’, meaning south of Yue—an erstwhile Chinese kingdom. The Chinese invaded Vietnam on a massive scale in February 1979 and called it “a punitive war” to teach the Southeast Asian country a “lesson”. This animosity between the two countries goes back centuries, and is likely to continue. Beijing’s dominance in trade in the region had made Cambodia sometimes use renminbi as a de facto reserve currency instead of the US dollar. China’s aid and assistance to Cambodia far outsteps that of the US.
C.V., On E-Mail
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