This refers to your cover story Shooting the Brother (Feb 20) on an army officer who was “shot at, jailed, assaulted and branded a deserter for exposing his seniors in a theft of seized gold.” For some reason, I am not convinced that such a huge quantity of gold was indeed seized. Reports by the police and narratives from locals seem to add to the confusion. Be that as it may, it is rather sad that you chose to put on your cover a faceless senior army officer as symbolic of the dark side of the Indian Army. While dealing with the army, especially in the context of volatile regions such as Kashmir, it is important to be doubly sure of all the facts. Though I cannot point out any discrepancy in the facts of your story myself, I have taken the liberty to assume that there is a huge possibility of the same in such cases.
Deepak Kher, Pune
This refers to Ayesha Siddiqa’s column Jehadis are Shared Assets (February 27). China’s reluctance to act against Pakistan-based jehadi organisations is only because it wants to protect the ambitious road to the Arabian Sea. The Chinese have no love lost either for Pakistan or the terrorist groups and only want an absolutely safe corridor where they have sunk millions.
Rathi Raj, Siliguri
This is about Ayesha Siddiqa’s column about the reasons why China is trading lightly on some of Pakistan’s jehadi assets (Jehadis Are Shared Assets, Feb 27). Both China and Pakistan are trying to put to use Masood Azhar’s advocacy of militancy. This way, the Chinese have also bought the security of their workers in Pakistan.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Pune
The story on China’s ever-closer ties with Pakistan at the expense of a satisfactory resolution of its ties with India (Xi Stoops To Conquer, Feb 27) can be read as a sagacious comment on Sino-Indian ties. We should really foster cordial relations in trade and investment in infrastructure. An occasional tug won’t escalate to war. The praxis of international balance of power among nations is a big deterrent to conflict. Pakistan is a rogue state with whom China would snap its ties in the future. India should look for more competitive collaboration with China. There might be a temporary lull in purchasing Chinese goods due to a sponsored aversion, but the ground rules of economics will undo it.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
This is reference to the review of the book Dragon On Our Doorstep by Maj Gen (retd) Ashok K. Mehta (A Spitfire For The Dragon’s Hiss, Feb 27). At the very end, Gen Mehta states, “PLA fought its last war in 1979, when Vietnam gave it a bloody nose”. This is incorrect, as even western websites and defence journals say that China had the better of the exchanges. In the battle of Lang Son in February 1979, the PLA routed the Vietnamese army and entered 20 km into Vietnam. The war lasted three weeks, when the UN stepped in and enforced a truce. Vietnam, which had invaded Cambodia, had to go out, while the PLA had to withdraw from Vietnam. Of course, it is also true that the Viet Cong gave the Americans a bloody nose not long before that.
J.K. Ahuja, Jabalpur
It’s not entirely true that the Chinese army got a bloody nose in Vietnam. It is true that China is no friend of ours, but that doesn’t mean that people should bend history to suit their purposes!
B.N. Roy, Nagpur
In an unprecedented horrible display of batting, Indian wickets fell like nine pins for the second consecutive day in the Pune Test. It was a familiar sight—we’re used to seeing the opposition crumble like this—only the side was different this time.
C.K. Subramaniam, Navi Mumbai
This is with reference to Shooting The Brother, your cover story on the vicious framing of an honest army officer (Feb 20). If whatever this article says is true, then I am shocked to the core. Is this the way the military works in? If such gross instances of corruption and injustice exist within the forces, then it is not surprising that people in Kashmir participate in protests for ‘azadi’. But why aren’t such actions punished and publicised? Any government is under obligation to support the army under the burden of the excuse of maintaining ‘national unity’. Therefore, the government doesn’t take strict action against the guilty army personnel. Furthermore, the army is its own police and judge. And it doesn’t enjoy being self-critical. The only consolation out of this story is that the framed officer has finally cleared his name in the case. But when will the perpetrators get punishment?
G.L. Karkal, Pune
It’s disheartening to see your cover story. I don’t know as to what the editorial intention would be regarding it, but I am sure that thousands of officers and army men would have been saddened by your article. Though this is an unfortunate incident, it is an exception. But your magazine cover, Officer And A Rogue, generalises it. It blames the entire army for the actions of a few. What does publicising the case achieve after all? It gives fodder, in the form of facts, for criticism to everyone—the ISI (to be specific), the separatists in J&K, Maoists, pseudo-intellectuals and human rights activists. My heart says that no less than 99 per cent of personnel in the armed forces are spotless, you can’t even touch them.
The army is an easy target to choose, since it cannot openly challenge your reportage out of fear of further publicising the matter. I have served in the forces for 17 years and have never encountered such an incident ever. I don’t say Lt SS Chauhan’s case is false, but the magazine should have taken care not to sensationalise the issue in order to attract wider viewership. Freedom of expression comes at a cost.
Uday Nayak, On E-mail
I find it both sad and amusing at the same time that your magazine was carefree enough to use words like ‘go berserk’ and ‘the rot within’ while referring to the armed forces on your front page. There is no doubt that the army has certain bad apples within, but I feel confident for some reason that this percentage of bad apples is much lesser than the ones in other institutions. The media, I am sure, has a far greater number of corrupt individuals; that is why, it should think twice before criticising our prestigious armed forces.
Vivek S. Kale, Pune
I do not dispute the judgment given by the Armed Forces Tribunal in the case mentioned. But, before criticising the armed forces, the media should keep a few things in mind. Your cover boldly states “army men go berserk in Kashmir”. I would like to ask how many times has a reporter accompanied the army in operations? Too few times to make a generalisation about what really happens on ground. What was the thought behind putting a general’s uniform on the cover when the article relates to the alleged wrongdoings of a colonel? I do not remember Outlook ever profiling an officer or a soldier on its cover, apart from this dark, sinister general of course.
Brig Prakash Ghogale, On E-Mail
Hats off to Shatrughan Singh Chauhan for relentlessly fighting against the odds. It is unfortunate that a senior army officer ignored the revelations and allegations made by Chauhan and failed to look into the matter. Cases like this require thorough investigation and vigilance as they may just be the tip of the iceberg. M.Y. Shariff, Chennai This report is heart-rending. The government and the defence administration should see to it that Mr Chauhan gets back his lost respect and the promotion and pension he is entitled to. The erring officers and officials should be brought to book. They should be made an example of so that others are deterred to do such a thing again.
Parshuram Gautampur, Sawai Madhopur
Those who invoke soldiers in all their patriotic speeches, are not interested in their plight.
Kamal S., On E-Mail
This is in response to Outlook’s cover story on the yearly Union Budget (Hinterland in Sight, Feb 13). As a veteran soldier I expected a better deal for the armed forces in the budget. The total allocation for defence this year is Rs 2,74,114 crore, including Rs 86,488 crore as capital spending (for purchase of equipment, arms and ammunition etc). Add to it about Rs 90,000 crore towards pension. Compared to last year’s allocation, it’s an increase of seven per cent. But seeing the annual inflation of about 12 to 15 per cent in defence equipment, and fall in the value of rupee against the dollar, the present defence allotment, in real terms, actually means a drop (2.14 per cent of GDP compared to 2.29 per cent last year). Some argue that we don’t spend this much money and surrender defence funds each year. That’s because purchase of defence equipment is controlled by the finance ministry, and they routinely stall defence acquisitions. The reason is that they use such funds to cater for revenue shortfalls in planned expenditure. This directly impacts our operational preparedness. The solution is to have a non-collapsible modernisation fund, which should be allowed to roll over. Its amount should be at least Rs 1 lakh crore to begin with.
Col R.D. Singh (retd), Ambala
Heavy taxation in a poor country is legalised robbery. It’s the indirect taxation that’s the bane of the masses. It’s wrong to say that only three per cent of Indians pay tax. Even a beggar has to pay, for he too is a consumer. The latest trend of giving doles to the poor before elections shows that politicians want a majority of Indians to remain poor, and hence saleable. The jargon of economics and doctored stats may be flaunted by ‘experts’, but people need a more robust approach than verbose speeches and freebies.
Though the salaried class expected a lot from the budget, it was attacked in three ways by it—from direct, indirect taxes, rising inflation and reducing rates of interest on fixed deposits. Not increasing Section 80C investment options or not providing relief in slab rates has hit us all hard. With increments in single digits, salaried employees are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
The 2017-18 budget banked less on populism and was more focused on giving a tax rebate to persons in the slab of Rs 2.5-5 lakh per annum in the hope of bringing more people under the tax net and making amends for the blunders committed by the NDA government, such as the ill-conceived demonetisation. The budget also doesn’t take any risks—the generation of new jobs is abysmally low, and no initiative has been taken to support priority sectors such as health, education and social security, something successive governments ignore year after year.
M.S., On E-Mail
There are some errors in your cover story dated February 20 pertaining to my interview. They are as follows:
a.) Pg 38, reply to first question: “One officer had picked up Rs 150…”, I has said “someone” and not “one officer”.
b.) In the same reply: “Intelligence officers brought Chauhan to me…”, I did not say what has been published.
c.) Reply to second-last question: I did not say “advisors”, I said officers.
d.) In the same reply, last line: “Requested the PM to “excuse me”, I did not say this, I said “relieve me”.
e.) In the reply to the last question: “Theft by an officer during the search…by the 6th Rajput” is completely incorrect. I said “theft by someone”.
Lt Gen (retd) M.A. Zaki, Hyderabad
I write in response to Outlook’s story on the J&K Council resolution vis-a-vis Hari Singh’s anniversary (A Monarch in Praise and Loathing, Feb 13). Abdul Qadir was not a “Kashmiri leader” but a cook of a European vacationing in Kashmir. He just disappeared after the said incident. It is believed that he was an agent provocateur of the British, who wanted to get back at Hari Singh for his speech at the 1931 Round Table Conference, where he talked about freedom from the British. With all its faults, I feel, Dogra rule was a shade better for Kashmir than the previous Afghan and Sikh rule.
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu,
Apropos Outlook’s article on Trump’s anti-immigration rant and his special venom for would-be immigrants from some Muslim majority countries (Pasture Less Green, Feb 13). Glaringly though, he hasn’t penalised Pakistan, the nucleus of world terror. Maybe, the reason lies in the fact that acting against Pakistan would have driven it further into the arms of an expanding China. It would also have meant for the US virtually little control over Afghanistan.
J.B., On E-Mail
As a reader and subscriber of Outlook for the last 15 years, I wish to bring to your notice the extremely embarrassing typos that are creeping in with regularity in your magazine. Some examples: Issue dated Jan 16, Page 45, last line of second column: “Indian and Chinese migration to Southeast Asia reached both reached....” Issue dated Jan 30, Page 46, box on Sister Abhaya:“All of them said...homicide, but could nothing”. In the issue dated Feb 6, on page 59, work is misspelt as ‘worsk’ and in the second column the word ‘met’ is missing. These are particularly galling for a magazine of international repute.
Manoj Mohan, On E-Mail
Ideally, one has to cross lower hierarchical levels and gain experience to eventually become a top administrator, but it doesn’t always apply to politics (Caretaker Chief Minister, Feb 20). It comes through sponsorship of sorts—as it almost happened with V.K. Sasikala. Tamil Nadu looked set to see a rerun of 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi was anointed the prime minister after the assassination of his mother, Indira. In 1997, Bihar got Rabri Devi as its CM after the exit of her husband Lalu Prasad following an arrest warrant against him in corruption cases. In 2012, Uttar Pradesh got a young CM when Akhilesh Yadav was given the charge by his father Mulayam Singh, the patriarch of the Samajwadi Party. Chennai nearly earned that ignominy of a novice taking over as its satrap.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
It’s indeed strange that the world’s largest democracy simply loves authoritarian personalities even after their death. Be it the late J. Jayalalitha or Indira Gandhi, people still look up to them with awe. Their power to crush any sort of opposition and minimum concern for individual freedom only add to their charisma! Whether Jayalalitha was right or wrong, she was largely revered. Surely, Amma is not going to be the last such public leader.
N. Gautam, Bangalore
The adage “As you sow so you reap” has come true in the case of V.K. Sasikala and two of her accomplices for laundering the ill-gotten wealth without the fear of law (Catharsis, Conspiracy and More Puppetry, Feb 27). The recent two-judge SC verdict serves as a reminder to all corrupt politicians that truth will ultimately prevail, however hard you try to hide it. It is reassuring to learn that the lady had to surrender, but only after having detained more than a hundred of her party’s legislators in a bid to capture power in Chennai.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The Marina is slowly becoming a place for political battles with a Jayalalitha memorial coming up on the beach. Even after Sasikala going to jail, the drama has only gained momentum. The weekend floor test in the Tamil Nadu assembly was a mockery of democracy. A still ridiculous scene was DMK leader M.K. Stalin coming out of the session with his shirt torn. The state may have got a new CM, but one is not sure about the longevity of the E. Palanisami government.
C.K. Subramaniam, Navi Mumbai
Sasikala has managed to appoint a proxy to take care of ‘her’ CM’s chair before going to jail. It’s a convict’s writ that will run in Tamil Nadu, courtesy her proxy CM. Even so, Sasikala has left a lesson for family fiefdoms like the Badals, Yadavs and Chautalas.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
You could bring out the spectrum of various political parties and the prominent candidates of the SAD in alliance with the BJP, Congress and AAP for contesting the Punjab assembly elections (Broom With A View Along Five Rivers, Feb 13). Going by your take on poll-bound constituencies such as Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Firospur, Fazilka, Patiala and Sangrur, SAD has lost credibility due to a flooding of drugs as well as demonetisation that has left the traders, farmers and labourers cashless. Even so, AAP may not perform well going by the below-par performance of it’s government led by Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi.
A.S. Malhotra, New Delhi
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