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The Sabarimala issue has refused to die out. At first glance, it seems that if someone takes an esoteric stand on a Muslim issue like triple talaq, it is welcomed by many, even in the electronic media (The Other Mandir, Dec 3). But when the same approach is employed to critique issues related to the Hindu community, like the Sabarimala issue or the Ram Mandir issue, one is easily branded ‘anti-Hindu’ and, consequently, anti-nationalist. Of course, this generalisation applies to only some groups and some sections of the media, but these groups are in the majority these days and hence what they say, and how they say it, is very important.
On the other hand, there is another vocal section of society, who are quick to weigh issues like Sabarimala without understanding the complexities associated with these issues. They should understand that matters of belief are sensitive and demand much more thought before rigid conclusions are drawn.
In India, women do not traditionally visit graveyards and cremation grounds. Women were not allowed to visit the Haji Ali Durgah in Mumbai before a PIL was filed by a group of nouveau-feminists in the Bombay High Court pleading that their fundamental rights were being violated through such a tradition. I believe that there is another logic or perspective that can be adopted here. The durgah trust, as a private entity is legally free to frame its own by-laws since it is not funded by public money.
Attukal Bhagyawathy temple is a famous shrine dedicated to goddess Badrakali, an incarnation of Mahakali.During the festival of Attukal Pongala, it draws millions of women. At this time, men are not allowed, their entry is banned by convention not by law. The Attukal temple is known as the women’s Sabarimala.
There are many traditional and cultural issues which cannot be sorted or untangled within a night. Intellectuals and educated masses should reach out to the general public to help them understand the nuances of gender equality before the law takes its own course to remove gender biases, if that is what they really are.
Khalid Alvi, On E-Mail
The Sabarimala issue cropped up soon after the resilience people in Kerala showed in the face of unprecedented floods. During both periods of crises, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan showed a steely resolve—first by taking adequate and timely measures to bring about stability in the flood-hit state and then by taking up a brave, rational stand on the ‘spiritual’ crisis gripping the state. The people of Kerala are all praise for Pinarayi and agree—irrespective of their political leanings, save a few top-level politicians and their agenda-driven cadre—that he is an able administrator. Those people who had been holding a negative image of him until now have undergone a metamorphosis in their views after witnessing the way he handled the flood crisis. The opposition parties, UDF and the BJP, had even tried to put spokes in the wheels of the administration by exhorting people not to donate money for the distress relief fund of the chief minister. It is not coincidental that these two parties are in the same side in the Sabarimala issue, even as saner minds among the Kerala public are wondering why the supposedly secular Congress should try to take mileage out of parochial Hindu sentiments, which is the wont of the BJP.
T.P. Sreedharan, Kannur
Can we really call ourselves secular when the courts of the country consider it okay to interfere in the internal workings of the institutions associated with the beliefs of the majority religion while they look the other way when it comes to the internal religious issues of the minorities? But then, the Constitution was designed by our leaders in such a way that this unbalanced administrative practice is accommodated. For reasons of theoretical fairness, this feature of the Constitution demands a revisit.
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
I am no supporter of the BJP, in fact, I am usually critical of it on many issues. But I have to agree with BJP president Amit Shah on his comments on the Sabarimala verdict—that the courts should not pass unimplementable orders. As Justice Indu Malhotra—the sole dissenting judge in the Supreme Court bench that passed the order of women’s entry to Sabarimala—wisely said, religion is a matter of faith, and the courts should not ordinarily intrude or intervene in it. To test religion on the anvil of reason is a gross mistake.
It is widely believed that the presiding deity of Sabarimala, Lord Ayappa, is a ‘naishthik brahmachari’, a celibate, and that is the reason women of the menstruating age are not allowed in his presence. Devotees (Ayappans) abstain from sex, partially fast, wear black clothes, and pray for 41 days before departing for the pilgrimage. All this may be questionable under multiple principles of rationality, but then, it is the belief of the people.
Sureshkumar Prabhakaran Nair, On E-Mail
Actually, the whole furore is nothing but a political agenda of Hindu right-wing groups. Both the BJP and the RSS initially welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, but soon saw a golden opportunity to polarise the Hindu community and firm up a votebank. Unfortunately, the so-called progressive nature of the state is slowly declining, in tandem with the slow entry of right-wing elements into Kerala politics. The state seems to be slowly moving towards a new dark age, a pre-renaissance period. This needs to be arrested. A society which sleeps ensconced with archaic rituals and customs will find it difficult to move forward and confront the challenges of the modern age.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
Sabarimala was a low-key, seasonal pilgrimage destination. Over the years it has gained immense popularity in the south and millions of devotees now prepare for the austere rituals. The political slugfest currently on is not in the interests of devotees. All devotees ask for a peaceful, safe and spiritually satisfying pilgrimage, instead of this scrimmage.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
It’s imperative to demolish the mandirs of misogyny on our minds if we desire any progress.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to the article on Flipkart co-founder’s unceremonious exit from the organisation after Walmart brought the company over (Press Walmart To Clear Cart, Dec 3). Indian start-up entrepreneurs were having a good run up till now by emulating global models in the e-commerce landscape. But the time has come for the globalisation harvest. After setting up online stores from scratch in the country, founders of Indian start-ups are being pushed out of the game by the corporate giants of the world. How convenient, the longterm post-liberalisation model is: get the local to painstakingly construct business on the ground and then swallow it whole once the crop is ready. Other Indian entrepreneurs should take lessons from this, but wait, it may already be too late to do that since the global godzillas have entered the city.
Anil S., Pune
The story on the Shri Ramayana Express was a winner (The Train To Hindusthan, Dec 3)! The launch of this, deploying almost discarded, junked coaches and traversing much of India is a clever entrepreneurial move by the railways. Apart from bringing in revenue, it heightens a thickening Hindu ambience (Ram-Siya chants, use of drummers, actors dressed as characters from the Ramayana) and ties in nicely with the Modi government’s mobilisation of Hindutva forces. This also would intimidate the Opposition—they can only accept such a thing. The 800 travellers on the train on their 16-day gruelling tour, fully lost in their Jai Shri Ram routine, are also happily putting up with glaring deficiencies in the ragged sleeper coaches. Such schemes indirectly, effectively, help right-wing forces to strengthen their fight against argumentative rationalists. For peddlers of Hindutva ideology, blind faith is essential. Kulbargi, Dabholkar, Pansare and Gauri Lankesh led a crusade against this, and so were martyred.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Cyclone Gaja made landfall near Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, ripped through other districts and claimed several lives (A Storm With Tusks, Dec 3). Though the government took measures to protect coastal districts, the severity of the cyclone, triggering landslides, was devastating. It remains to be seen if government machinery deployed in full strength can minimise the loss of property.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your article on the BJP’s name-changing spree (Welcome to Prayagraj…er Allahabad, Nov 26). In fact, this practice was started many years ago by other governments—for example, those that renamed Delhi’s Connaught Place as Rajiv Gandhi Chowk, Wellington Hospital as Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and metro cities across the city. These are done with an eye on political gain. The name-changing of cities is only a step further in this direction. It’s high time governments realise this is a useless activity. They should instead address unemployment, pollution, agrarian crisis and climate change.
Anand Malhotra, Delhi
Though the name-changing spree is primarily driven by Islamophobia, there are other motives too. The Sangh parivar is aware of the Modi dispensation’s utter bankruptcy on the governance front—skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, falling value of the rupee, failure in generating employment, agrarian distress, farmer suicides and so on. Name-changing may come in handy for the BJP in 2019. The absurdities are mindboggling nonetheless. For example, why are cities being renamed when the country continues to be called by names of Persian and Latin vintage? India is derived from the river Indus, for which the old Persian word was Hindu, which came from the Sanskrit name for that river—Sindhu. Who knows, the global community may take notice of this country as a superpower if it is renamed as Ayodhyastan? Willing to try? Bravo Sangh parivar, carry on!
M. Jameel Ahmed, Mysore
Your 26/11 cover story was a genuine update on our preparedness to foil another Kasabian terror attempt on the country’s soil (Is India Any Safer, Nov 26). Brigadier Sisodia’s word on the subject sum it up: “Security has to be invisible”. Terrorists know what they are at, therefore security personnel have to depend on deep intelligence networks. The 7,516 km of coast line is a new frontier. It is perhaps out of place to say, but the number of security personnel invested on the safety of politicians (read exhibition) could be a good topic for Outlook’s next special study.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharmshala
The 26/11 attacks were a rude awakening for the country’s security networks, who were caught napping when terrorists struck the financial capital of India. The only consolation is probably the apprehension of terrorist Ajmal Kasab, but that too was turned into a spectacle by the media and political parties for petty benefits.
I think India is quite capable of thwarting terror attempts, but there has to be a strong will on the part of intelligence agencies and there should be no political influence on them. Your story mentions the improvements in weapons and strategies by the security forces to better the security of the State. Apart from these material aspects, better coordination is required between all the security organisations concerned. The number of NSG security personnel should also be increased as should their areas of operation. Last but not the least, security organisations need to be able to deliver fast executive orders. The delay in executive orders can render an entire operation ineffective.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Pune
Vijay’s films Mersal and Sarkar are merely ordinary, and would have bombed at the box office but for the enormous publicity they received from Tamil Nadu politicians (Alms and the Superman, Nov 26). The AIADMK’s outcry over objectionable scenes in Sarkar are what one would normally expect from a democratic dispensation. While the film spares the DMK and its freebie culture, it is most vociferous in its denunciation of the AIADMK’s freebie economics and its lack of governance. It portrays many ruling ministers as jesters and takes vicarious pleasure in denigrating Jayalalitha through a negative female character. It is plain that the intention of the filmmakers was to malign the AIADMK government and its policies, and Jaya, their most respected leader. It is surprising how the censors were indiscreet in certifying many objectionable scenes in the film. As to Vijay, he goes overboard to cause maximum offence to the AIADMK. But, at the end of the day, the producers of Sarkar agreed to make the necessary cuts demanded by the AIADMK to be able to make the maximum money at the box office. After all, money is more important for the motion picture industry than artistic freedom!
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This is in reference to Modi, Minus 10, Can Still Win (Nov 19). Sanjay Kumar’s analysis lacks the depth and rigour a researcher of his calibre is generally expected to have. He has not followed a basic principle of research: the currency and integrity of data. So much water has flowed after the 2014 general elections. Assembly polls were held in several states—but instead of using the latest vote shares of each of the major parties, as reflected in the assembly elections, Kumar chose to rely totally on 2014 data. A serious flaw. The charisma and credibility of Narendra Modi and the alliance he leads have taken a severe beating in the past two years, about which a couple of good stories were published in the issue under reference. The Congress almost toppled the BJP in Gujarat, and retained power in Karnataka by joining hands with the JD(S). And more importantly, the Congress, NCP, JD(S), TDP and other like-minded parties are coming together to fight the 2019 general elections as a united front . It is preposterous on the part of Kumar to assume that the BJP/NDA’s 2014 vote bank remains intact, and to do his arithmetic solely on this basis, without factoring in the gradual denting of their credibility and the depleting loyalty of voters. His chutzpah is admirable, but he would do well to revisit his predictions and make a credible forecast after the results of the assembly elections in the five states have been announced. He should also take cognizance of the fact that the NDA was able to win comfortably in 2014 because of a major swing in the vote share in their favour, and in 2019 the swing could take a different direction, to beat his pedestrian calculations.
Dr Shailendra Dasari, Ballary
Great job on revealing counter-terror strategies of the security forces for everyone’s benefit.
Govindan T., On E-Mail
This refers to the article on M.S. Dhoni’s future in the Indian team (Straps on Those Daredevil Pads, Nov 26). It goes without saying that Dhoni remains one of the finest wicketkeepers the country has ever seen. Even at 37, his skills remain undimmed. Of late, his occasional failure with the bat seems to have called into question his calibre as a batsman. Truly, we don’t get to see very often those towering sixes and jaw-dropping helicopter shot. At times, he looks a shadow of his earlier self. His inability to accelerate in crucial stages of the game has given his critics a stick to beat him with. However, all is not lost. Dhoni has a golden chance to prove everyone wrong in the one-day series in Australia. Every cricketer, even great ones, goes through a lean patch at some point in their career, and Dhoni is no exception. And lest we forget, Dhoni is known to eat pressure for breakfast and is still considered to be one of the finest finishers of the game. He can be a bowler’s nightmare, many will agree. There is no question of leaving Dhoni out of the World Cup in England next year. He’s an asset to the team whose valuable advice is sought be everyone.
Aditya Mukherjee, New Delhi
This is about the article on the spate of changes in place names under the Modi government and BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh (Welcome to Prayagraj…er Allahabad, Nov 26). It’s true that we changed Bombay to Mumbai, a city where many names of roads have also been changed. But go out in the street, keep an ear out for conversation in the streets, and you hear people referring to roads and places by their old names. All cab drivers and bus conductors—living enforcers of names—predominantly use old names. So, why change names for political reasons and make things difficult for common people and confuse tourists? Looking at the pace with which this is going, even residents of a city are confused about various locations in their backyard. But then, changing names is a cheap way to score political points. Working hard to improve infrastructure and quality of living—education, healthcare, connectivity, sanitation…the old bogeys—is not as easy any longer.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, On E-Mail
Only time will tell whether this name-changing spree will bring any political benefit to the BJP. And while I agree with historian Irfan Habib’s remark that “Hinduism is vast. You can go to a Dargah and still be a Hindu”, I do not agree this liberty is not allowed in other religions. It is very much in practice when followers of all faiths visit any Sikh shrine. And no one is expected to convert to the religion associated with a shrine one visits.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
Maybe the decision by the Uttar Pradesh government to change the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj seemed unreasonable. But then, why was it necessary for Mughal emperor Akbar to rename Prayag 444 years ago? If he needed a city named Ilahabad to go with his Deen-e-Ilahi, Yogi needs the renaming for his own convictions? Why all this hue and cry when elected representatives of the state try to undo this early act of renaming? Surely, Yogi is a CM, but he’s a Hindu monk too, isn’t renaming his ‘dharma’ or something? I remember wondering when there were so many paeans and songs to Prayag, there was no town by that name. If the name of an ancient Hindu pilgrimage town is restored, it should not be construed as an attack on Muslims. If Akbar is right, then, ipso facto, Yogi is right too, for different yardsticks cannot be used for the same act. It’s a completely different matter that Akbar lived in times of monarchy, where a king could take any decision, while Yogi lives in the age of democracy, where a leader should ideally take the people’s will into consideration.
J. Akshay, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story Will Modi Win? (November 19). Prime Minister Narendra Modi certainly deserves a second term as it is difficult to judge a new PM and his policies in just five years. In 1996, too, the voters needlessly rejected a reformist prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and then by voting out the A.B. Vajpayee government in 2004, the voters did the wrong thing again. Both the PMs had done a wonderful job by keeping the nation’s interest above their party’s. And, though UPA didn’t deserve a second term, the people gave it to Dr Manmohan Singh and the entire nation suffered under the massive corruption of the Congress. Modi, by contrast, is doing a wonderful job in setting the systems right by plugging all the loopholes and killing the parallel economy that has been there since Independence. India’s image on the international scene is at its zenith and Indians are proud of their position in the international community. Modi is achieving many things that were unthinkable even a few years ago. When Modi took over as PM in 2014, he had promised to come back with his progress report and ask for votes. I am sure he will do that and convince the voters of the need to give him a second term.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
The more relevant question is not whether “will Modi win” but should Modi win at all. India has had enough of him already with demonetisation, GST, the arm-twisting of citizens over Aadhaar, mob lynchings, and ultimately, the unnecessarily, and expensively, bloated Statue of Unity!
George Jacob, Kochi
Though all other articles under your cover story meticulously encompass the pros and cons of the BJP’s performance (or non-performance) and their ostentatious arrogance after getting power, these lead us nowhere as to say what will happen to the BJP’s maha mascot, Modi, in 2019 (Will Modi Win? Nov 19). Even astrologers have not dared to make any predictions yet. The five state assembly elections will be fought on local issues whereas parliamentary elections have become more and more Modi-centric for the BJP. So, there’s no saying what impact the results of these state elections will have on 2019’s big electoral match. This time around, most voters are flummoxed, as never before. They have had to deal with a lot of Modi ‘hot stuff’—demonetisation, GST etc. Only the results will prove as to whether voters are actually concerned about corruption-free good governance or they are again wanting to be swayed by saffron politics and empty, divisive rhetoric. People blame politicians for the existing socio-economic chaos and completely absolve themselves of their utter-bitter irresponsible role in electoral democracy. I’m desperately hoping this changes next year.
Modi will be in power for a long time to come. However, the ensuing assembly elections will decide his and the BJP’s modus operandi this time. If the ‘vikas purush’ card doesn’t work, the party’s plan B will be put in operation: there will be large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots and animated calls for ‘temple building’ and a war with Pakistan. All this conspired chaos may well be used as ammunition to declare emergency. Then, they will want to change the Constitution. Hence, Modi and RSS forever! Think about that when you go to vote.
Outlook’s front page photograph morphing Modi’s head on the Patel statue indicates Modi is still the tallest leader in the country. While Modi’s schemes for the poor and his development agenda will stand him in good stead, a five-year stint is too short for any leader to right all the wrongs in an economy that has been facing headwinds from both global and country-specific factors. The common man does not understand the complexities of the rise and fall of the country’s GDP and has no way of knowing the behind-the-scenes from the Rafale deal, but he is angry over the cascading effect of increasing oil prices on prices of essential commodities and services and the high cost of healthcare and education. However, public perception is that unlike the UPA administration, the Modi administration is scam-free and is well poised to deliver on the promise of ‘achhe din’. Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Modi hatao’ campaign may be suffused with the agenda of dividing for political gain. But will it work? It’s doubtful if Rahul can match Modi’s high-voltage electoral campaign. Overall, the electoral scales seem tilted in Modi’s favour.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
The PM’s craze to erect statues may well stun him and make him a statue in 2019!
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
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