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This refers to your cover story Kashmir Without 370 (August 19). ‘Mission Kashmir’ was straight out of the Modi-Shah playbook. The BJP is being faulted for lack of consultation, but it never made any secret of its views on Article 370, which have also featured in its election manifesto for long. It is curious that many in politics and media who are opposing the abrogation are criticising the manner and method in which it was carried out, rather than the act itself. The government is being accused of carrying out a clandestine coup without taking all stakeholders in Kashmir into confidence. Would they have agreed to the abrogation? Kashmiris have been pampered far too long by the government of India and their sense of entitlement has grown immeasurably. To expect the BJP to have gone slow on Article 370, its pet peeve of 70 years, shows political naïveté. The government has, no doubt, considered deeply the internal and external repercussions of its step. As Modi and Shah surely understand the consequences of a slideback, they would have certainly tied up the international ends diplomatically.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
I am really happy that the dream of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, precursor of the BJP, has finally come true with the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India. The Gordian knot has been cut by the Narendra Modi government and the good days the rest of India has been witnessing since 2014 can now reach the country’s crown as well.
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
Even if the majority of people in India have welcomed the historic division of Jammu and Kashmir, it was a decision taken against the wishes of Kashmiri Muslims. I fail to understand how becoming a Union territory would bring down the scope of militancy in the region, when Kashmiri hearts continue to beat more for Pakistan than for India. How would it make the Valley a safer place for its Pandits to return?
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
Vested interests do not want any permanent solution as they have much to gain from fishing in troubled waters. The home minister is a result-oriented doer, who refuses to get lost in legalities and people’s reactions against degradation of values and democratic ethics. His comprehensive micro-matrix of actions was well planned and put in place long before the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories. It was a loud and clear warning that state violence cannot be matched by indigenous or cross-border militants. I only wish the statement in the internal MHA document accessed by Outlook that the future ahead of Kashmir may be a “long and bloody struggle” does not come true.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The main purpose of Article 370 was to preserve the distinct identity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was introduced as a temporary provision to be removed in due course of time, but that never happened. Today, the general sentiment in the rest of the country is that Article 370 is not benefiting the people of J&K. It has become a barrier in the path of development, and benefiting only a section of self-serving people. All in all, the Modi government’s moves integrating J&K more firmly with the Indian Union is both courageous and timely.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
History was made on August 5 when a momentous decision was taken to fully integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union, put it on par with other states and make all the provisions of the Constitution of India applicable to J&K. Bifurcating the state into two Union territories, the Modi government assured Kashmiris that the new status was only “temporary”, drawing quiet parallels to the “temporary” nature of Article 370, which took 72 years to be junked. The twin moves constitute a clear signal that the government is willing to take legal, socio-political and geopolitical risks to end an unstable and uneasy stalemate that has lasted ever since the then Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, signed the instrument of accession with the Indian Union in 1947. Despite Article 370 having already been denuded over the decades, why is the average Kashmiri—as opposed to the average Jammu or Ladakh denizen—so emotionally attached to the provision that erected a psychological wall between India and Kashmir? The success of the Modi-Shah gambit depends, however, on how well or how quickly Kashmiris in the Valley accept the new reality of living without 370.
A. Meghana, Shell Cove
The government’s move has been hailed across the country. The challenge is to deliver on what PM Modi said in his address to the nation. Peace and normalcy will certainly return to Kashmir, but it will take a while. Let the people start getting the benefits of the new order and realise that whatever has happened has happened for their good. Meanwhile, government forces will have to be persistently on guard to foil all plans of the enemy across the border, and the one within, to create trouble. Curbs imposed to keep the situation under control will have to continue for some time and the troublemakers—the irresponsible politicians and separatists, who must be waiting for the opportunity to put Kashmir on fire—will have to be kept at bay.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
I turned to Basheer, a shawl-seller, who I know for years and who is my window to Kashmir. After all, nobody else has a more vested interest in peace and development there than an average Kashmiri. On being asked about the current situation in Kashmir, he replied cautiously that Kashmir is ailing from jaundice. In a metaphor that shall stay with me, he explained that the jaundice is so severe that the even the resplendent Chinar trees have turned pale yellow and sickly. A semi-literate man, he had not much idea about what Article 370 gave him in the first place, or what its revocation would entail now. But, in a prophetic manner, he said this is our last chance to attend to Kashmir’s pallor. It’s a time for healing, for outreach, for compassion, for damage control and peace. With or without Article 370, Basheer, the representative of an average Kashmiri, wanted a Kashmir where he could work in peace, where his fellow Kashmiris got the best economic opportunities, where people like him were not looked at with sullen mistrust, where he and his sons could give competition to the best outlets in Delhi by selling his exquisite stuff directly to the customer, where Kashmir and Kashmiris could thrive and outdo others. Right Basheer, we get you. That economics blunts passions is a well-known adage. And perhaps our only chance at enduring peace.
Sangeeta Kampani, Delhi
The masterstroke by PM Modi and Amit Shah in abrogating Article 370, which only served to entrench separatism in J&K and stopped it from becoming part of the national mainstream in the past 70 years, gave India a red-letter day in its history since independence. For too long, feelings of deprivation and injustice have been leading youth in the Valley to take to street violence. In this context, the Centre’s decision to rectify past blunders by taking proactive measures to tap the energy of the youth for the socio-economic development of J&K is a step in the right direction. Pakistan had been misusing Article 370 to sow the seeds of separation and terrorism, keeping the Valley on the boil. What should have been done decades ago has finally been done. Even though Pakistan is upset and taking steps to intimidate India, what brings cheer is that the majority of Indians welcome the move as it puts an end to various impediments to the integration of J&K with the rest of the country, and will act as a catalyst for bringing lasting peace and tranquility to the Valley.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Now that Modi and Amit Shah have changed the Kashmir narrative, let us pray for peace.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
Even before Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy completed 100 days as Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Outlook has come out with two stories on Amaravati (the latest being Fundless in Amaravati, August 12), the new capital city and dream project of ousted CM Chandrababu Naidu. Both articles ignored the core issues in building a new capital. Whose responsibility is the development of a capital of a new state created by an act of Parliament? The Union government is duty bound to financially assist the state, but Naidu never cared to demand Andhra’s due. As per some estimation, Rs 26,000 crore is due as Andhra’s share from Telangana vis-a-vis Hyderabad. Without demanding that, Naidu went for loans from World Bank, etc. Why should the state be burdened with loans? The new CM should approach the Centre for funds to build Amaravati, for which PM Modi had laid the foundation. Second, extract money due from Telangana as part of the bifurcation settlement. People of Andhra Pradesh don’t want a graphic city that Naidu tried to sell, but realistic structures.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
With reference to Pawan Bansal’s obituary on Sushma Swaraj ji (Thousand Splendid Suns, August 10), the two were in rival parties, but they had mutual respect. This aspect comes out well in the article. Perhaps Sushmaji acquired a Vajpayeesque stature when she was handling external affairs, where she rushed to rescue all Indians in distress in foreign shores.
Hemanth Pai, Bangalore
Sheila Dikshit, boldly courting the Nirbhaya blame at a juncture when even the Union government was running away from the battleground, spontaneously rose to the occasion in December 2012 and addressed the hard times that followed for many days. Her yet another trait of empathising with the womenfolk and identifying with them as her own daughter, mother, granddaughter, sister, granny or aunt, in whatsoever had been the crime perpetuated against them, was well known, while she was in the office of the chief minister or out.
K.B. Sanjayan, Thiruvananthapuram
This refers to your cover story on Kashmir (The Dilli Wazwan, August 12). Anyone who has been to Kashmir would recall the awesome beauty of the region with tender nostalgia. Once known for its syncretic religious traditions, its art and handicrafts, its intricate carpets, its luscious apples and its aromatic food, Kashmir is now known for the vast human tragedy it constitutes. Its background score, for many decades now, is the cries of widows, the wails of orphans, the frustration of youth, the despair of elders and the haunting lullabies of mothers comforting their frightened young ones to sleep. Commenting on the all-pervading uncertainty in Kashmir, Ramachandra Guha aptly describes Kashmir as “the apple that stayed perilously placed on the rim of the (Indian) basket, never in it, but never out of it either”.
After years of overtures from the central government, years of adventure, hopelessness and despair, we see a new wind blowing. Yes, a Dilli wazwan seems to be in the offing for Kashmir. Wazwan, the resplendent Kashmiri multi-course feast, is being prepared by the waza (cook) in Delhi, in an attempt to restore health to the troubled land. The Dilli wazwan, hopefully, would be a healthy, organic, wholesome spread for Kashmir, concentrating on its health quotient rather than churning out only some visually appealing quick-fix junk food just to please and appease the local people.
The traditional finale to a good Kashmiri meal is kehwa, a kind of a green tea, with green cardamom seeds and slivers of almonds. One does hope that the Dilli wazwan on offer is followed by an invigorating kehwa, making the meal easy to digest for Kashmiris, ending their complex long-standing ailments as well as healing their battered souls.
Delhi should also remember that Kashmir is a land of many cuisines. The diversity of the land ranging from verdant meadows past the Shivaliks to the icy desert in Ladakh has resulted in the evolution of multiple cuisines, each with a distinct identity. All these regional cuisines will have to be accommodated and given due respect. Secondly, Delhi needs to remember Kashmir’s absolute aversion for stale food. The planned wazwan should be fresh and delectable, and appealing enough to untangle the Kashmir web to get us our paradise back.
“With an elaborate spread of several well-crafted measures on the table, the Modi government is rustling up a plan for Kashmir,” said your cover story. The turn of event since the Outlook issue hit the stands has been unimaginably swift, drastically changing the Kashmir story. The Modi government got the Jammu & Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019, passed in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Article 370, which had been blocking the complete integration of J&K with India, has also been abrogated. All the past governments at the Centre were scared of doing this. Addressing a function in Srinagar on July 28 to celebrate the 20th foundation day of the PDP, former CM Mehbooba Mufti had asked her party workers to get ready for a big fight to protect Article 35A, which gives special rights and privileges to the state’s permanent residents. “We want to tell the central government that tinkering with Article 35A will be akin to setting a powder keg on fire,” Mufti said. “If any hand tries to touch Article 35A, not only that hand, but the whole body will be burnt to ashes.” This situation was unacceptable and must not have been allowed to continue for so long.
In one stroke, the Modi government has set right a historic wrong committed by the Nehru government under the pressure of Sheikh Abdullah 70 years ago, and demolished the walls between Kashmir and the rest of India. After the separatists, the divisive politicians of Kashmir have also been shown their place. Such a bold step was much needed. The Abdullahs and Muftis considered Kashmir their fiefdom, and their politics was aimed at serving their own interest rather than that of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir needs a new generation of leaders who may lead Kashmir and its people to development and prosperity, a new door for which has now been opened by India.
Kashmir is the paradise India has lost forever, in its desperation to “fully integrate” it.
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
Your article (Winning on Points, August 12) mentions that the BJP has been steadily increasing its vote-share in the Karnataka assembly polls over the past decade. But a careful analysis shows that this is incorrect. In 2008 and 2018, the BJP got around 33 per cent votes. It was the same in 2013, although the break-up is 20 per cent BJP, Yediyurappa 10 per cent and three per cent of Sriramulu’s BSR Congress. As far as the Lok Sabha elections are concerned, the BJP got 19, 17 and 25 seats in 2009, 2014 and 2019 out of the 28 in the state. The vote-share has been much higher than what the BJP gets in the assembly polls.
H. Pai, Bangalore
The Congress-JD(S ) marriage was an opportunistic arrangement without conviction. We all know that it was done to ensure the largest party in terms of assembly seats in the state—the BJP—could not form the government. The Congress went out of the way to allow the JD(S) to take the chief minister’s chair, just for the sake of forming the government. And as expected, leaders of both parties continued to pull down each other and their government fell. Now that the BJP is at the helm, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has a lot of promises to keep, and ensure good governance and instability.
Bal Govind, Noida
Everybody can see through Donald Trump’s wicked offer to mediate on Kashmir (Feeling Beyond That Crack, August 12) as it is linked to American troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, a promise he had made to his war-weary people. Obama initiated the process of withdrawing troops from what is now being touted as America’s longest war. He had partly succeeded. Now, more than two years into his term, Trump is under pressure to keep his promise of returning home every American soldier in Afghanistan. Americans are fast losing their patience and Trump is beating about the bush to garner public sympathy for a second term. Thus, we can expect more such cavalier comments from the US President till his nomination in October. Trump has played his card, India played its. Let us see how the game unfolds.
H.C. Pandey, Delhi
This refers to your cover story (Water of India, August 5). No short-term solution exists to address the water crisis, a clear and present danger. There is an urgent need to stop pursuing the so-called development at all costs, stop building dams and hydro-electricity projects, at least in eco-sensitive zones like in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats as they only aggravate disasters (recall Uttarakhand 2013 and Kerala 2018. It is important to conserve traditional water-harvesting structures like naulas, dharas and guls of Uttarakhand and jauhars, kund and kuis of Rajasthan. Collect every drop. Else, yesterday it was Cape Town, today it is Chennai, tomorrow it could be the whole of India.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Your cover story (Water of India, August 5) is timely. In his second term, PM Narendra Modi promised piped water to every Indian by 2024, although a government-backed report says the nation is reeling from the worst water crisis in its history. It may be another vote-catching promise Experts predict that 21 cities will run out of groundwater by 2020—that includes Delhi and its nearly 20 million people. Modi’s voice echoed when water minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, in a press conference months ago, asserted that the reports of the water crisis are exaggerated. Now, he admits that “the situation is challenging, but we can get over it”. My question is if the Modi government wants to create awareness on water conservation, why two decades of carefully crafted policies was replaced with a focus on farm irrigation, called the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. It’s time India learns from countries like Israel that recycles 90 per cent of its wastewater.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
This is about the story on the Centre’s pushing through bills in both Houses of Parliament, through brute force, without due process (Numbers Win the Battle of the Bills, August 12). It is very intriguing that people who are questioning why Muslim men should be punished (vis-à-vis the bill that outlaws triple talaq) are silent on the Hindu Code Bill, 1955, where while multiple marriages/polygamy was struck down. Yet Muslim men could practice polygamy. This raises a very valid question—if only Muslims are entitled to ‘religious freedom’. By passing this bill, the government, I think, has done away with a clear case of discrimination.
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
Narendra Modi needs to be complimented for introducing the ban on triple talaq. Thus the rights of Muslim women are protected—ringing in joy for many Muslim women’s rights organisations. Many women who were economically dependent on their husbands had earlier been living a life of serfdom, with the sword of talaq always hanging on them. In a male-dominated society like ours, this was a bane—many women, like livestock, were cast aside by husbands according to their whim or convenienc. The practice of triple talaq is against Islam, but received male-ordained religious sanction. We are reminded of a Pakistani professor who claimed that nowhere in Islamic scriptures was it mentioned that a man can take four wives. The new law should be welcomed by all Indians; indeed, triple talaq is also banned in several Muslim countries.
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
This refers to your cover story Water of India (August 5). With our cities turning into concrete jungles where mega flats and apartment complexes sprout like mushrooms after summer rain, to cater to a fast-growing population’s demand for living spaces, and our crack-dry farmlands unable to feed a hungry nation, the entire country is badly in need of precious water. If we religiously take to water harvesting in a big way, it could go a long way to at least meet the demand of water for domestic needs of a burgeoning urban population. Rainwater must be harvested in dedicated structures, without which no new building should be permitted.
George Jacob, Kochi
There is no life without water. Man’s inter-planetary missions so far could not find water on any other planet. Earth is the solitary planet where water, and hence life, exists. In 2015, American space agency NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of our planet’s 37 large aquifers are severely water-stressed. With growing populations and rising demand, this crisis can only get worse. “The third world war is at our gate, and it will be about water, if we don’t do something about this crisis,” said Rajendra Singh, “water man of India”, in an interview three years ago. “So many people in the Middle East and African countries are moving to places like Europe, in part because of water scarcity—after forced migration comes tension, conflict and terrorism. Where terrorism is active, there is usually a scarcity of water. Look at Syria—a long time ago, it had very good agriculture, but then Turkey built a dam that changed things. It’s a similar story with Libya. If we want a safe future, we need to start conserving water.” There is an urgent need to curb abuse of groundwater and adopt measures for water conservation such as recycling of used water and making rainwater harvesting mandatory in all buildings.
History teaches us that societies that last the longest are those that treat water with respect. Water is the source of all life—and also one of the most threatened commodities. Our ancients were aware of this and adept at conserving water, and we seem to ignore this to our peril.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
We are besieged by the worst water crisis ever. Gandhiji’s famous ‘do or die’ slogan stands a little twisted today. Now, it’s ‘do or dry’. Some enduring visuals of this season have been of a tiger sitting on a bed amid floodwaters and of the earth cracking up enough elsewhere to devour us, signifying a deluge here and a drought there, and a water crisis just about everywhere. Today, as we stand at the brink of a water emergency, it could be of some relevance to revisit our ancient history and mythology. Tales abound of the importance given to trees and mountains and streams long ago so as to ensure the rhythm of natural cycles and rainfall. There are some particularly telling tales in the Bhagvada Purana containing chapters on Govardhan Puja practised in Gokul during Lord Krishna’s childhood. This was an agrarian community where farming was the main activity. Naturally rainfall was as important as it is now—both as the harbinger of hope and cause of much despair. Once, when preparations were afoot for a special yajna to propitiate Lord Indra, the one who controlled rain, Lord Krishna questioned the village elders on the purpose of doing so. When he was told the reason for performing the yajna, he did not agree with them at all. He argued that Indra would act only according to the rules of nature and that scanty rainfall, if it happened, was the result of man’s own violation of nature. An environmental activist couldn’t have summarised it better. Krishna’s cause-and-effect theory is a call for us to understand the inevitability of the consequences of our action and inaction. Our water woes show interconnectedness of all things in the environment. Once that harmony is observed, the cloud messenger is likely to be more benign.
We’ll all die from lack of water unless our economy is remodelled along ecological lines.
Santosh Samuel, Nagpur
This refers to An Invisible Third Eye (August 5). The entire nation has reproached the White House for US President Donald Trump’s controversial reference to Kashmir. This is like a referendum on the Kashmir issue, giving a taste of what the public reaction in India would be if the hostility in Kashmir developed into hostilities on the border. The nation is ready to sacrifice everything for every inch of its territory. Trump acted like a two-year-old who would say a naughty word to get attention.
C.K. Subramaniamm Mumbai
Mediation efforts in the past have been grossly unfair to India. Hence it looks improbable that PM Narendra Modi requested Trump for mediation. Pre-Modi India had a shaky Jammu and Kashmir policy from which Pakistan gained a lot. Precisely for that reason Modi adopted a different stance, which has gone down well with the people of India, who want a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem. Mediation is ruled out under the circumstances, so any out-of-the-box step may only help both the neighbours when a sportsman-politician is at the helm in Pakistan. Of course, he is guided by the army, but sometimes the unexpected also happens. They say hope is life.
Harish Pandey, Delhi
Trump is desperate to pull out his troops from the Afghan quagmire. For this, he needs Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s good offices to broker peace with an intransigent Taliban. Talks with Taliban are moving in the right direction and Trump is hopeful of an American withdrawal by September. Trump called Modi a “beautiful man”, but with the Afghan problem staring him in the face, he now thinks Imran is a shade more beautiful! For a leader making his maiden visit to Washington, Imran has not been found wanting in diplomacy. Taking advantage of Trump’s boundless vanity, he dragged him into the Kashmir imbroglio and got his own poor counter-terrorism record glossed over. Trump’s lie that Modi asked him to mediate on Kashmir shows that the US is tilting in Pakistan’s favour. But Trump’s warmth towards Pakistan could diminish once the troop withdrawal is done, and India has made it clear that no further engagement would be possible with Pakistan until the end of cross-border terrorism.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
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