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This refers to your “issue of the year” on menstruation, I Bleed for Life (January 14, 2019). Without menstruation, there can be no motherhood—hence if menstruating women are impure, then so is all humanity. Kudos to Outlook for taking up this very pressing issue of the day. Our real national character is misogynistic, with valorisation of masculinity and patriarchy. Little wonder, women are treated as untouchables even in the 21st century in the name of protecting Indian culture, tradition and honour, and are routinely harassed, ridiculed, molested, raped and killed. The happenings at Sabarimala are just symptomatic of this all-pervasive misogyny cutting across the religious and cultural boundaries. That’s what makes India the most dangerous place for women in the world.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
With many well-researched and informative articles, your ‘issue of the year’ is an eye-opener, presenting the topic from various perspectives. Kudos to the Outlook team for bringing up a topic that is considered taboo in many societies, including ours. Here is a poem I wrote on the same theme.
Bleeding life, at times death Shakti retains her fertility When the earth bleeds Witnessed by literature and sculptures Bleeding liberates, does not confine Why not revamp our values and faith?
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
This refers to Profane Marks of Sacred Blood by Nalini Natarajan, who writes: “Grumbling about being excluded during the ‘curse’ is one of the staples of female bonding across castes and classes. This is more so in societies like India where this most normal higher-mammalian occurrence is treated as a polluted, untouchable, shameful state.” This generalisation cannot be justified with facts, at least in the context of Kerala, where Sabarimala is located. In almost all the Hindu communities in the state, the first menstruation of a girl, when she is hailed as “pushpini” or “rithumathi”, is celebrated not just by her family, but also by others in society. The girl is decked up in the fineries of an adult. There are special songs for the joyous occasion and the entire neighbourhood is invited. In Brahmin households, ukkarai, a typical Diwali sweet, is prepared. In the typically matrilineal community of Nairs, this event is even more elaborately celebrated. It is not embarrassing for the girl to be the focus of all attention, decked out beautifully as an adult, which gives her the proud feeling that she could from then on become a mother.
Even goddesses are worshipped because they menstruate. At the Ambubasi Mela during monsoons in Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, lakhs of devotees, almost all from the marginalised sections of Hindu society, gather to witness a phenomenon they consider sacred: The goddess bleeds! She undergoes ‘menses’ and rejuvenates her menstruation cycle. This period is considered auspicious for all those immersed in Shakti worship. What looks like a primitive ritual is actually a larger celebration of a profound concept in nature. The goddess is prayed to for her power of rejuvenation and revitalisation—the closest possible metaphor for nature being worshipped as mother. Menstruating women are potential mothers and are thus objects of worship.
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Yours was an exceedingly empathetic issue about the cause of poor and marginalised women, and their travails due to baseless traditions and dreadful customs on menstruation. It has broken the Gordian knot of prejudice by cogently arraying the scientific realities on physiological facts boldly and convincingly. It covered the whole gamut of mythological musings to negative mores, and underpinned the necessity for valiantly rising above the folly of ostracism. The corporal actuality, biological reality and medical verity of women make them the victims of temporary exile, exclusion in dwelling areas, negation on social occasions and banishment from partaking of growth in all avenues. As the majority of people live from hand to mouth, it makes the sanitary napkin seem like a luxury even though it is a necessity for women. The Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality of men and women, but all the governments so far have not taken the gender-related needs of women seriously. Policy-makers must walk the talk by crafting reoriented policies to lift women out of the quagmire of regressive social attitudes. Women demand freedom from norms and prejudices that hamper their functional liberty.
B. Rajasekaran, Bangalore
Sabarimala reminds us of absurd ideas of purity on which the caste system is based.
Samuel Joseph, Rayagada
This refers to your story Money Trail Gone Cold (January 14), which shows the extent to which our judiciary finds itself beleaguered when it comes to improving the abysmally low conviction rate in high-profile scams. The legal procedure before reaching the stage of conviction is so cumbersome, involving collection of evidence, submission of investigation reports and a series of court proceedings, that the gravity of the cases gets diluted with time and immunity is accorded to the accused. Sometimes, before the final judgment arrives, the influential criminals would have reached powerful positions where they make the rules and turn the tide in their favour. Courts, therefore, need to devise methods for reducing procedural delays in cases of national importance.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This refers to your story on loan waivers for farmers (Seeds of Politics in Debt-trap Farm, January 14). In the wake of victory in three heartland states, Congress president Rahul Gandhi coming out strongly in favour of farm loan waivers across the country is regressive. It’s an idea that penalises honest farmers, encourages defaulters and sets the country back in the development race. It does not benefit all farmers in distress as only a fourth or so get institutional credit, and tenant farmers, who form a sizable percentage, are outside the purview of the waivers. Pre-poll waivers are a means for political parties to score brownie points with farmers in election season rather than actually improve their lot. In contrast, schemes framed by the Telangana government to mitigate agrarian distress have benefited farmers in the state. It would have made sense if other state governments followed the Telangana model instead of announcing waivers.
K.S. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to The Loud Sound of Silence (January 14), your story on the arrest of Suman Chattopadhyay, editor of Ei Samay, a Bengali daily from the Times of India stable, by the CBI. After hearing the news on All India Radio’s Bengali news bulletin, I tried in vain to find details of the scam in which Chattopadhyay is allegedly involved. As a regular reader of Outlook, since its very first issue, and also of Ei Samay,
I was happy to see your story. But you too avoided mentioning the name of the correspondent. It was your only story without a byline.
Bipradip Bandyopadhyay, Delhi
Geopolitics is a strange game that is played on multiple levels by politicians. The less seen and heard part of it is the many interactions our bureaucrats and foreign ministry have with delegates of neighbouring countries. Only they hold the answer to key questions about policy and strategy. The other, deliberately visible level, of course, comes from our PM’s flamboyant visits and invitations. We see this everywhere: the colour photos in newspapers and magazines, on social media in the form of memes and on prime time television. There’s also a public debate/outcry level. Just look at the number of times people have talked of banning products from China, sending people to Pakistan and blaming our inherent demographic chaos to ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh.
Anil S., Pune
Apropos of Honour Thy Neighbours, this is exactly what India has not been doing. Almost all nations in the Himalayan region, with a possible exception of Bhutan, have long embraced China, our strongest and most dominating Himalayan neighbour, as a way of offsetting India’s overwhelmingly dominant position and its frequently high-handed attitude. New Delhi’s approach to its neighbours has increasingly been marked by muscularity, evident in India’s earlier attempts to browbeat Nepal into carrying out amendments to its Constitution. During his maiden visit to the smaller neighbour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi effectively laid stress on the region’s shared identity and promised “we would move forward together”. This didn’t happen, unfortunately. The promise has fast eroded with an evident lack of sensibility towards the aspirations of a sovereign, neighbouring nation like Nepal. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement, that “geography will ensure that countries like Bhutan and Nepal cannot delink themselves from India,” smacks of arrogance. Such lines are urgently avoidable. Nepal needs a friendly India, and not a powerful big brother (Nepal has one already up North—two would be too many!).
Once elected PM in 2014, Modi welcomed high-level Chinese visits to India. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014 turned out to be a bit unusual with China professing friendship and flexing its muscles simultaneously. China’s grand strategy puts a high premium on political and psychological victories rather than pure military triumph. Thus, China’s diplomacy has little difficulty in pursuing peace and hostility at the same time.
Under Modi , India has slowly but surely moved away from its traditional stand of non-alignment to multi-alignment. Modi has given a vigorous push to India’s ‘Look East’ policy which broadly aims at improving India’s ties with its neighbours in Southeast and East Asia. The Chinese have already weaned away Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar and are actively befriending Bhutan at India’s cost. China’s shrewd diplomacy has meant that India constantly stays on the backfoot in South Asia unable to assert itself in the manner in which its size would suggest.
It is time for India to do “smart balancing China”. Let us now create a “civilisation encounter”. It is time to break the grimness of China-watchers and celebrate China…into trade, technology and philosophy, and look at it more holistically—compare notes.
Col (retd) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
This refers to Yardsticks of Political Hate (Dec 31). Sajjan Kumar’s conviction has sent a strong message to politicians: that the long arm of the law eventually gets the culprit. In fact, the party backing him for so long should not only feel ashamed but also guilty for their actions. Kumar’s actions during the 1984 carnage deserve no mercy. Though there is a provision in law for appeals, the higher court must see that the accused is prosecuted without delay. At least now, the Congress must take a principled stand by dismissing other accused leaders who also played a direct role in the 1984 riots instead of remaining silent and allowing them to occupy coveted positions in the party and government.
Considering the gravity of the crime, the severest punishment should be given to Sajjan Kumar. Hopefully, the punishment is an eye-opener for politicians from the country’s political parties who are linked to riots and have been escaping the law till now. Even politicians supporting or instigating the spate of lynchings in the country for the past few years should be made examples of by the courts, otherwise, violence will continue to be an everyday reality in our society.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Hadaspar, Maharashtra
Here’s hoping we don’t all fall down in the subcontinental game of ring a ring a roses.
Dharmesh Paul, On E-Mail
Aakar Patel, in his review of the book Manto Saheb (Hall of Refracted Truths, Dec 31), remarks that none of Manto’s contemporaries, including the biggest of them all, Munshi Premchand, is read anymore. Now, that is an erroneous idea. His story Godan, for example, is a testimony to the almost feminist courage of Dhania, the infringement of human spirit at the altar of religious rituals and the contrast between rural and urban social structures. A story like Kafan is no less powerful than a Manto story, and Shatranj ke Khiladi inspired no less an artist than Satyajit Ray. Even Premchand’s novel Nirmala was adapted by Doordarshan in the 1980s. In short, someone like Premchand will be relevant forever.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, On E-Mail
It’s true that the #MeToo movement has seen some repercussions, and this will impact all workplaces, especially the Indian newsrooms (Blowback From The Battlefield, Dec 31). Similarly, individuals who had followed the movement would take more care in workplaces to behave in a correct manner. So, certain jokes will have to be curtailed, however funny they were considered before and social media posts will have to be looked over a second time to weed out any inappropriate material. Also, CCTVs have become a must in all offices—an intrusive thing, no doubt, but essential to resolve cases of harassment brought before a committee. However, for all its beneficial effects vis-à-vis safety for women and bringing known crooks under the spotlight, #MeToo has taken something away from the warm, good cheer and an atmosphere of carefree banter most of us have enjoyed for years in workplaces. This is the era of caution.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
My interview published in your issue Reclaiming The Neighbourhood (Dec 31) carries the headline “The big shift is the attention our PM gives to South Asia”. This is incorrect and misleading. I did not make the statement which you put in quotes. I had spoken of the focus given by the PM to building closer relations with the leaders of our neighbouring countries. And I referred to the inaugural invitation to Mauritius, as well as getting the BIMSTEC leaders for the BRICS outreach in Goa, to signify that a broader conception of the neighbourhood is being brought to bear. I had also clarified the origin of the term South Asia. By editing out these points the interview has been unfairly limited and conveys the wrong impression.
This is with reference to your coverage of the death of three militants and seven civilians (Vale of the Grim Reaper, Dec 31). There has been a systematic undermining of democratic polity in the state of J&K through political capitalisation of emotional issues by the government of India and the state’s political parties. The result is in front of the whole world: Kashmir is the most militarised region in the world, and the situation is only going from bad to worse. None other than the Centre has to plan and take the required initiatives in the interests of the people of J&K in particular and the country in general.
This refers to the lead article, Palm D’OR’ (December 24). The recent results of assembly elections have made it clear that PM Narendra Modi’s leadership is already a busted flush. The victory of Congress in the Hindi heartland has definitely knocked the wind out of the BJP’s sails. On the other hand, the main reason why the Congress managed to upset the political applecart of the BJP was the inspiring role played by Rahul Gandhi who led from the front and took on the Modi government on various issues staring the country in the face. In his rallies, he spoke convincingly about the need for change while holding the BJP responsible for reneging on its promises. It struck a chord with the people who have now seen through Modi’s hollow rhetoric. It was clear that the BJP, which has always dismissed Rahul as a political greenhorn, paid the price for its misplaced complacency.
Modi and Amit Shah, in order to draw fire away from its multiple failures on the governance front, have preferred to go off half-cocked with conspiracy theories just to discredit the opposition parties. No wonder, such ploys blew up in the party’s face. An energised and upbeat Congress is not good news for an enervated BJP which must get its act together for the general elections next year. It cannot bank upon Modi’s charisma and his gift of the gab any more as his novelty is wearing off rapidly.
Aditya Mukherjee, New Delhi
In an otherwise fine and professional election overview of Madhya Pradesh, I felt that some important aspects were not included that made the contest extraordinally nail-biting (Benefit Of Doubts, Dec 24). I was in Bhopal for three weeks before the elections when I noticed that the Savarna public was palpably angry about the SC/ST ordinance passed by the Modi government overturning a Supreme Court verdict. Here Modiji lost an ‘Atal’ moment of his life, which he must have used to show statesmanship like Vajpayeeji. The Reservation Policy is overdue to have a relook and whosoever does that will make history in the future. Secondly, the loan waiver speech by Rahul Gandhi was the clincher which has been underplayed in this article. In a way, the nice analysis supported by data of the Lokniti-CSDS survey proves beyond doubt that anti-incumbency was the important factor in MP and Chhattisgarh as people were fed up of the BJP with voter fatigue in the face of the same faces and policies all these years. This point has been amply explained. The NOTA factor influenced results of at least 15 constituencies up to the last, which refreshed my memories of the three weeks I spent in Bhopal.
H.C. Pandey,New Delhi
The assembly elections verdict clearly shows that the Hindutva card of Modi, Shah and party is outdated now. The BJP president has been worthless at his post. He needs to be sent off, somewhere far from the Centre. The BJP needs new blood, new thoughts and new economic plans. The Ram Mandir issue is also dead and needs to be forever buried, allowing the locals of Ayodhya to search for an amicable resolution. It is warning bell for Modi, the BJP and the friends of the BJP and the RSS in India and abroad. The usual tactics won’t work.
Zen S. Bhatia; On E-Mail
It’s not hard to gauge the change in direction of political winds. Obviously the election results in the so-called Hindi heartland represent a shot in the arm for the Congress and a setback for the BJP. Evidently, the impoverished masses, including the distressed farmers and the unemployed youth, have turned their back on the BJP for which they voted overwhelmingly in 2014 and demonstrated their strength to redraw the political landscape when pushed to the limit.
It should be sobering for BJP to realise mere promises cannot keep a party on top for long support base for long. It is encouraging that the election results have now opened up the possibility of fighting the 2019 general election on issues relevant to people’s lives relegating ‘divisive issues’ to the background.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
The critical assessment made in your cover story has made it worth going through and preserving. Farmers had viewed Modi as the messiah who would save them from the scourging curse of poverty, paving their way towards a better life. Before becoming prime minister, Modi himself had led them to believe in him through lofty and flamboyant speeches. But the farmers have continued to suffer in miserable conditions despite highly publicised welfare schemes, which yielded only a few pockets of development owing to a highly politicised bureaucracy known for its selfish and lackadaisical style of delivery system. Therefore, nothing changed at the ground level, and hard realities remained so, trampling expectations. This, inevitably, has resulted in the sowing of seeds of insurmountable anger and anguish among the rural masses, which in all likelihood will erupt—giving a lethal blow to the electoral prospects of the ruling party. It is imperative for the government, therefore, to galvanise its booth-level workers, making them instrumental in the remaining period of its tenure, in order to ensure the end use of its welfare schemes and restore confidence among the masses.
A politician would have thought many times and consulted many economists before taking such a drastic step as demonetisation, but Modi—more messiah than statesman—acted on his own. His move did great harm to the economy, while hardly any of the elusive black money was obtained. Big businesses were able to survive, but small businesses were so badly hurt by the twin shocks of notebandi and Jaitley’s baby, GST, that they were forced to close down. If Modi had stepped off his messiah pulpit and looked at the ground realities with a politician’s eye, he would have realised that things were not going all that well for the BJP. His dream of Congress-mukt India stands shattered, and the Congress comeback has nearly become a reality after the BJP’s loss in the Hindi belt states. If Congress president Rahul Gandhi has now emerged as the only viable political leader to stand up to Modi, it is thanks to the BJP misreading ground realities in the Hindutva heartland. The BJP is staring at a similar defeat in the face in UP, where the waning of Modi magic is evident. PM Modi has been able to deliver only rhetoric, and has failed in his messiah’s mission of delivering any real goodies.
Lal Singh Amritsar
These are times for urgent fixes, Modiji should finally call in Yogiji for an emergency havan.
This is about Outlook’s cover story on the decidedly rightward turn political rhetoric has taken, months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls (Hindu, Hinduer, Hinduest, Dec 10). Gandhiji said he is a Hindu, but at the same time also said religion is a private matter for him. Nehru was a rational agnostic who laid the foundations of secular India. Nearly six decades after his death, matters have drifted beyond imagination. Nehru’s great-grandson, who began his career with no signs of public display of religion, today makes clear references to religion. From stating that he is a ‘janeudhari’ Shiv Bhakt to visiting temples by the dozen and making the Mansarovar pilgrimage, he is making a strenuous point! With him as Congress president, Congress in MP planned a Ram van gaman padyatra and promises a gaushala in each panchayat. As a result, critics label Congress politics as soft Hindutva, and it is disturbing at a level. But does that mean, along with this, the Congress is abandoning the path of secularism enshrined in our Constitution? Petrified BJP spokespersons certainly are questioning all of Rahul’s moves, as if their monopoly in such matters is under threat!
Ram Puniyani, On E-Mail
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