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Your cover story Who were the Harrapans? (Aug 13) made for an interesting read, but I must confess that it was a difficult terrain to chart as a reader, with so much being intricately woven to the plot, a necessary measure perhaps, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue. Although there were a lot of insightful observations made, there was nothing particularly new. The only fresh element for me was the domestication of cattle and poultry and the agriculture aspect, which is suggested to have come with the Iranian farmer ancestry from the western side through inter-breeding. What also amazed me was the inroads quietly made by genetics using DNA samples to add a ‘scientific dimension’ to ancient history. Also, the distant roots of our own brick proportions 1:2:4 (width: breadth: length) are a fascinating discovery. I wish there was some ‘genetic feature’ to also trace the history of different faiths. On the plus side, why ancient cultures disappeared should guide modern cultures and our ‘IT’ civilisation, if possible, on how to slow down its inevitable slide vis-a-vis fast dwindling resources.
Mohan Singh, Amritsar
Our notions of history and prehistory shall undergo a sea change, now that experts are applying advanced techniques of genetics to the study of ancient civilisations. Now is officially a scientific age of history. The sequencing of genomes of the ancient DNA, which geneticists have gathered from several sites around the world, such as the ancient cave at Denisova in Germany, have revolutionised the study of prehistory. Geneticists like Savante Paabo have invented cutting-edge technologies to extract minute particles from available portions of ancient DNA, thus eliminating the possibilities of their contamination with foreign microbes infesting them in the course of time. David Reich, an American geneticist of Israeli origin, has published a book titled Who We Are And How We Got Here: Ancient DNA And The New Science Of The Ancient Past that lights a torch to the darkest areas of human prehistory. He, by way of genetic analysis, proves that we all are not the direct descendants of a common people (a claim made by some historians), rather, innumerable migrations make the history of our ancestors a very fluid thing.
The results of the present study in Rakhigarhi are difficult to digest for people who steadfastly believe in their old notions of the Indus Valley civilisation, a topic elaborately discussed by David Reich, who corroborates the results indicated to us by the team of professor V.S. Shinde. History is indeed a developing science.
T.P. Sreedharan, Thalassery
This refers to Deccan College VC V.S. Shinde’s interview (“Harappans United Regions Across 2 Million Sq Km”, Aug 13). Professor Shinde’s opening remark, that in the Harappan civilisation we can see the concept of “one nation” and that the concept was introduced by the people of this civilisation, is absurd to say the least. Ideas like nation and nationalism came into existence only in the 19th century as a result of socio-economic and political developments which were specific to Europe. The French Revolution followed by Napoleonic conquests led to a complete destruction of feudal institutions and relationships and created conditions which paved the way for such concepts to come into existence. So, just as Egyptian nationalism cannot be traced to the Egyptian civilisation or Arab nationalism to the Mesopotamian civilisation, so also Indian nationalism cannot be seen as a gift of the Harappan civilisation. Perhaps a reading of Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm, David Thomson, et al. might help the professor reformulate his ideas and broaden his understanding about this concept.
Amol Saghar, Delhi
If we take the root of your package, root being the ‘source’ that prompt’s magazine reporters to go for a bigger story, it would be Prof Shinde’s interviews given to a couple of newspapers and online publications recently. In those, he had stated that there was no Aryan invasion of any sort, hinting that ‘we: the Indian people’ are of a continuous, indigenous ancestry. That doesn’t really show in your package, even in his interview. It makes me wonder, does a story change according to who’s listening? If so, there should be a hundred interpretations of the Rakhigarhi findings, each with their own authenticity.
Udarana Sepala, On E-Mail
After the Aryan invasion, Harappa could have been renamed Har+Aryan=Haryan…later, ‘Haryana’!
Chamu Jegan, On E-Mail
Both the story on the bridge in a remote corner of Odisha (Out of the Red, Into the Open, Aug 13) and excerpts from Ruben Banerjee’s biography of Naveen Patnaik (A Meteor In Utkal, Aug 13) expanded the horizon of general awareness about Odisha, which is generally considered to be an extremely poor and backward state. The rest of modern India doesn’t care much about its rich natural and cultural resources. Only stories like the poor farmer walking miles with his dead wife on his shoulders in Kalahandi make national news. There is never any spotlight on Naveen being a CM with no greater ambition than serving his people with dedication. Naveen is slowly leading Odisha towards progress. The 900-metre span of the Gurupriya bridge ought to have been projected by the national media, it is quite a feat.
M.N. Bhariya, Goa
This is about Dalit leaders in the NDA feeling the pressure of their brethren on the ground being disillusioned by the BJP government (The Unquiet Dalit Street, Aug 13). It is regrettable that the Modi government has succumbed to the compulsions of votebank politics by clearing the bill to restore the provisions of the SC/ST Act. The old law provides that no preliminary inquiry will be required for registering criminal cases and an arrest under the law would not be subject to any approval. The Supreme Court had, in making amendments to the law which led to Dalit protests, presented reliable data to highlight the law’s lapses. There was logic too—the basic objective of common law in the West is that it’s better 100 guilty people escape the law than that one innocent person should be held wrongly guilty. Harmony between communities in a democracy can’t be enforced through iniquitous laws that overly protect one community against others. Now, the demand for quota in promotions adds insult to injury. It means a large segment of the population may have to carry the burden of historical wrongs suffered by the Dalits.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai Kangayam
The caste divide frittering away national unity has now been given more fillip by the government reverting to the original SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. National unity is of no concern to those focusing on personal prosperity. Acting against a person on a mere complaint is denial of natural justice. The BJP thus stands exposed as a player of filthy politics. Non-Dalits should get together and demand action, but should avoid violence.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
Apropos of We, the Readers! (Letters, Aug. 13), it was consoling that in these times when advertisement-revenue, not readers, have become more important for newspapers and journals, with the top national English dailies of the capital having scrapped the letters to the editor section, Outlook still maintained its founding editor, the late Vinod Mehta’s legacy, of a 4-page letters column, a most sought after and popular column. The August 13 issue again carries a pruned 2-page letters column with a discomforting glue-fixed glazed paper advertisement in between the pages, which took away part of the column-content with it as well. Outlook is becoming heavier for the ordinary readers, with stories of little common interest such as the 12-page cover story We are all Harappans. Historians and researchers may get their fodder in it; what is there for an ordinary reader like me, who’s interested in more contemporary issues than the origins of civilisation?
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This is about the story on north Karnataka lagging behind in development, leading to demands of a separate state (This Leg Drags Behind, Aug 13). Much of south Karnataka, which was part of the Mysore state, was well developed due to the kings of Mysore, who appointed able administrators like Sheshadri Iyer, Sir M. Vishveshwarayya and Mirza Ismail, who were given full autonomy. Iyer was the man behind one of India’s oldest hydro-electric power stations at Shivanasamudram in 1905, leading to Bangalore getting electricity even before Mumbai and Delhi. Sir M.V. was behind the construction of a dam across the Cauvery at Kannambadi, which played a role in irrigating Mandya and other regions. In the north, except for the TB dam across the Tungabhadra, no great work took place. People there have a justified grouse against the state.
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
Apropos of Self Care In A Blinding State (Aug 13), even the most shocking of things from Kashmir fail to generate any kind of surprise for a mainland reader such as myself, such has become the norm of the day. The distance between the people and the government in this blinding situation is starkly visible. Pellets fired by the security forces have blinded hundreds. They have been left to such a fate that the only option for them is to form their own organisation for rehabilitation. What is the State’s biggest fear? That Kashmiris want to break away. Well, they are pushed to form their own social relief organisations. By providing them no relief but only pain, you are helping them form their own systems. Why will they not want to form a separate state?
Akhil Kumar, Bangalore
The final NRC draft of Assam was made public on July 30 amid apprehensions of law and order problems. But the mood in the entire state was largely peaceful, though sombre as around four million people have lost their right to being Indian citizens. Certain political parties are trying to poke this looming yet hung tension with the intent of exploiting the situation to their benefit. The Congress and the TMC are leading this brigade. The Congress in Assam is speaking in different tongues: while some seem to welcome the process, others in the party appear to protect the ‘illegal immigrants’. Three-time CM of Assam Tarun Gogoi has gone on record stating that the number of illegal immigrants is miniscule. But the NRC process was being monitored by the Supreme Court. Is Mr Gogoi casting aspersion on the workings of the SC then?
The TMC is leading the charge in Parliament with party leader Mamata Banerjee predicting a civil war in India on the issue. What lengths leaders can go to for political mileage!
A. Bhuyan, Nagaon, Assam
At last, the much awaited and contested NRC exercise is over. And it is nice to see the people of Assam not behaving in an irresponsible manner. The watchful eye of almost three lakh paramilitary troops deployed in not only sensitive areas, but every nook and cranny of the state has surely helped in keeping radical sentiments in check. The Supreme Court and the whole NRC team deserve praise for pulling off this Herculean task of separating the citizens from the non-citizens. I would like to share my own experience and knowledge regarding the recently conducted NRC upgradation process and the sincerity of the workers of NRC Seva Kendras. In the first draft of NRC published on December 31, 2017, eight members of my family were left out. But, after state and central governments’ clarification, and after a second time verification of documents, now we all have been successful in including our names in the final draft of the NRC. We feel much better, and safe. Though the CM of Assam has categorically denied reports that people left out by the charter will have more chances to prove their claim for citizenship, it remains to be seen what fate awaits them. Politicians like Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee are castigating the NRC process saying that it is going to displace Bengalis and Biharis in the state. Such criticisms are nothing but vote-bank politics. A citizen survey was a must for Assam. It is also a must for Bengal which has reported similar problems of illegal immigration, but Mamata seems to be least bothered about this real problem. During years of Congress rule in Assam, the issue of immigration wasn’t taken up seriously. They never paid heed to people’s grievances and resentment and never tried to resolve the ‘foreigner’ issue. The NRC survey could have been done long ago, when things were less complicated. But if the BJP thinks that the NRC will get them more votes in the coming election, it would be a wrong presumption. People are also aware of RSS tactics and the BJP government’s divisive strategy.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
Apropos of The Ra Mo Superbowl? (August 6), as an opposition party it is Congress’s basic right to oppose the Modi government’s anti-people policies. But to present their case and ask for votes, Rahul Gandhi and his party need to provide a clear narrative of what he intends to do that is different from what the Modi government is doing. This is all the more applicable to him since he does not have a major win under his belt and still has the image of a non-serious political leader. His wink after surprising Modi with a hug is the most recent example. Yes, Modi and the BJP will face anti-incumbency sentiment in 2019, but that alone will not make Rahul a winner. He needs to clearly spell out his vision for India and tell the people how his government will be different from the UPA II regime.
Bal Govind, Noida
You introduce your diarist who wrote Tarragona Diary (Aug 13) thus: “The author is a playwright, journalist, comic strip artist and writer.” I wonder whether omitting the hyphen between comic and strip might give your readers the impression that the author is a strip artist with a talent for comedy?
Geeta Doctor, On E-Mail
Coming up post-2019 polls, National Nationalists Register—to smell out the anti-nationals.
Arif P.K, Bangalore
This is about the story on the renewed demand for job and educational quotas by the Marathas (The Quota Ransom, Aug 6). V.P. Singh, former PM and the architect of the Mandal Commission, once described reservation as a “transitory demand till we achieve the objective of education and employment for all”. But some of the violent agitations for reservation based on caste, which began with Mandal, have moved from being affirmative action to entitlement for many castes, including for the Marathas, whose protests are rocking Maharashtra. The Marathas are by no means a poor or oppressed caste, but the agitation was clearly because they have not been able to come to grips with the fact that the so-called lower castes have bypassed them in terms of jobs and education at a time when landholdings are dwindling and an agrarian crisis is upon them. They are resentful that the state had granted them reservation, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. The Marathas in Maharashtra, Patidars in Gujarat, Gujjars in Rajasthan, Jats in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and Kapus in Andhra are bound to cause disruption and disrupt the economic life of the country. Yet, let us not avoid the new quota demands; let us resolve them in a sensible manner, accommodating all interests, without creating periodic states of dysfunction in our cities and towns.
K.S. Padmanabhan, On E-Mail
The violent agitation for Maratha reservation even after the Supreme Court rejected outright reservation in 2014 is a sad reflection of the status quo. Further, with Marathas comprising 16 per cent of the state’s population, every party is bent on wooing them. This, in spite of knowing that they are fishing in troubled waters. Arson and vandalism to get attention and blackmail the state not only undermines their cause, but any move to mollify the Marathas is sure to ignite Jats, Gujjars and Patidars. One wonders why these dominant, landowning castes are demanding quotas? The government also cannot just keep on deferring a decision on this and adding to the list of OBC castes enjoying reservation. The need of the hour is political will to create more jobs rather than giving the false promise of reservation.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The demand for reservation by more sections in more spheres of public life is growing by the day. There have been demands for reservation in the higher judiciary as well. If these demands are conceded, we’ll even have the chief justices appointed on caste reservation one day. The next frontier might be the army I guess. It’s not easy to defuse the reservation bomb. Neither in Maharashtra, nor elsewhere. Like the proverbial genie let out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
Quota politics has become a norm in each state, aided and abetted by powerful community politicians. Like the Patidar agitation, which was forgotten as soon as the Gujarat polls got over. Similarly, the Congress government took up the issue of a separate religion tag for the Veerashaiva community before the Karnataka polls, but now that the result is out, the issue seems to have diassappeared. Similarly, there are quota demands by the Kapu community in Andhra and by Muslims in Telangana. Both demands are humoured to a degree by politicians—a trick to stoke sentiments, blame rivals and win votes. The Gujjar agitation will again rear its head in Rajasthan before the assembly polls, so will the Jat quota issue in Uttar Pradesh before 2019. Again, gullible people will fall prey to it—deaths in police firings and suicides will occur. Have we ever seen a politician risk his life in police firing?
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Viajaywada
In his hurry to capitalise on the citizenship issue in Assam ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, a top BJP leader used the term ‘illegal infiltrator’ for all the 40 lakh residents of Assam excluded from the NRC, and called for follow-up action “without full stops and commas”. A BJP lawmaker suggested they should be shot if they did not flee to Bangladesh. The ‘nationalist’ narrative has gained so much acceptance over the decades that all Opposition parties, barring a few like TMC, do not feel compelled to take a humanitarian approach to the citizenship issue. Most media outlets have joined the political establishment to sing the same hymn of nationalism. The clash between ‘nationalism’ and ‘humanism’ is stark for us not to notice. The predicament of people rendered ‘stateless’ by the NRC is too poignant for words. It is no more enough to be Indians; it has become necessary to be “genuine Indians”. The NRI exercise created panic and instilled a sense of fear in people. Whose turn is next? Who has to prove their citizenship? How far back should they trace the family tree to establish their status as “sons and daughters of the soil”?
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
I read with interest Mr Rakesh Agrawal’s ‘indie’ solution for the Kashmir valley featured on the letters page (Letters, July 30). I think he fails to mention one important aspect: as to how the Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of their homes and forced to live in miserable conditions elsewhere, are proposed to be included in this plan. Are they to be just forgotten and abandoned?
R.N. Bhat, Ghaziabad
Unlike Pervez Musharaff, who remained exiled in the United Arab Emirates and repeatedly spurned summons from Pakistani courts, Nawaz Sharif has returned from abroad to boldly face the prison bars (The Pathan Suits, July 30). The election was indeed Sharif’s final political litmus test. And he positively lost. The triumphant Imran Khan built Sharif’s downfall bit by bit. It was Imran who brought the Panama Papers case against Sharif. All said, the economy performed well during Sharif’s tenure. The country’s GDP rose to 5.7 percent in 2017, the highest in 10 years. As for new skipper Imran, it’s unclear how he plans to lead. Dub-bed ‘Taliban Khan’, he has pilloried India for its “anti-Pakistan policy” and pooh-poohed Sharif’s fence-mending with India. A confused Islamist, Imr-an’s soft approach to religion could embolden radical Islamists to unleash violent terrorism in Pakistan as well as across its borders.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
If a veteran subscriber is to receive Outlook’s thoughtfully designed (I’m sure) recent cover on the Pakistan elections in a torn condition, with the a sticker of the subscriber’s name pasted on the face of Imran Khan, peeling it out would take Pakistan’s new PM’s face off too, what good is the copy? It gives you no joy. Need I say anything more?
Brig. N.M. Paul, On E-Mail
Times have changed for Pakistan and so has the international outlook about the once-unstable state. But the ‘terrorist hub’ tag stays. The new regime must change this perception. No doubt that a democratic and stable Pakistan will be of enormous benefit to the neighbourhood too. The new captain shall be deemed efficient to the world at large, if he is able to displace power from the ISI and the army.
The late Benazir Bhutto believed in democracy in Pakistan, which is a must for economic growth and welfare of the public. But it is a difficult task to build a growth-oriented economy in modern Pakistan, which will be on a par or competitive with the rest of the world. In the globalised world, each country must be modernised.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
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