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This refers to your September 4 cover, Speak Out, based on the award ceremony at the ‘Vinod Mehta memorial lecture’ held this year. It was so nice to learn that Patna-based mathematician Anand Kumar received the ‘Best Social Activist’ award from your magazine for setting up the remarkable Super 30 coaching institute and that Satyendra Dubey was posthumously given a special Whistleblower award. Both have served the society in very important ways. Kumar has groomed a generation of students from underprivileged sections for admission into the prestigious IITs. Dubey sacrificed his life for exposing corruption in high places. On a different note, it wasn’t surprising to see former president Pranab Mukherjee speaking with fondness and warmth about both Arun Jaitley and Naveen Patnaik. He is a follower of the Nehruvian tradition where persons on the opposite side of the political divide were not inimical but had cordial relations.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
There was a time when common people were afraid to express opinion in public. In those days, a journalist’s foremost duty was to help such people by bringing out the truth. The Outlook SpeakOut awards reminded one of those times. The speakers certainly impressed the audience with their ability to present their individual views on media and democracy. Nowadays we find journalists becoming scapegoats and, at times, even puppets in the hands of politicians. But, thankfully, there are still some journalists who are committed to the sincerity of their profession and have made their presence felt by doing exclusive stories and reports. In the days to come, journalists will have an even greater role in alerting people of hidden truths and safeguarding the sanctity of democracy. In times of multiple media, gone are the days when news could be easily suppressed to protect vested interests. Stories of corruption and crime are being reported every day from different parts of the country. The ravenous hunger for news compels a journalist to take risks and traverse rough terrains. But, they should also be cautious of the demands of the profession, which can take a toll on ethics.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha
The interview with Naveen Patnaik was long due as he, being a private person, rarely speaks to the media, though a large number of people wish to read about him and his views (‘I Had No Great Love for the Trappings of Power’, Sep 4). He is one of the few leaders in the country who can follow their scholarly pursuits while doing politics. That he is an author is a little-known fact. He has written a charming book on my beautiful city, Bikaner, which is a mine of information for everyone for whom the study of history is a passion. Son of former Orissa CM Biju Patnaik, Naveen was not groomed as his father’s political heir, for the senior Patnaik did not want to encourage dynastic politics. Neither was Naveen interested. So he stayed far from politics as long as his iconic father was around, but once he stepped into his shoes, he did not let down the proud Patnaik legacy. He knows the people shower special affection on him as he is seen as his father’s son. No wonder he takes extra care to keep his image spotless. And he does inspire confidence in the masses. Orissa no longer imports rice; it has, in fact, become the third largest exporter of the rice to other states. Naveen must be working really hard.
Samiul Hassan Quadri, Bikaner
This refers to A Cure for Sikka Finally Found (Sep 4). Infosys has been one of the most successful Indian IT stories. The founders of the tech giant, headquartered in Bangalore, have in their own way lent their support to the startup ecosystem. But now, Vishal Sikka, the beleaguered 50-year-old CEO and MD, has resigned amid a fresh outbreak of hostilities between the company’s board of directors and founder N.R. Narayana Murthy. His exit seems to have been accentuated by the streak of comments made by the founder. The comments bordered on complaints, raising issues of corporate governance, and, at times, accusations. Unfortunately, this episode, like a soap opera with significant twists and turns, has been played in full public glare over the past few months. One of the myriad tales in the Mahabharata is of a king named Yayati, who transferred 1,000 years of old age to his willing son and enjoyed 1,000 years of youth. The story now forms the template for recurring patterns where the older generation prevails over the younger generation, when the elders in the boardroom insist they know best. To let go and move on demands courage and faith.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Great, the triple talaq issue has been settled, let’s address the murderous beef ban law now.
Manas Raj, New Delhi
Apropos the Glitterati page in Outlook every week, which features at least one picture of a glamorous starlet in a teasing attitude. The sheer constancy of that one glamour photo through the years finally leads me to ask—does Outlook think that page and, especially that unshakable spot, increases its circulation? It would seem so! Of course, I have no reason to complain. Let the practice continue.
M. Kumar, Delhi
The split judgment of the Apex Court by a 3:2 majority holding triple talaq, a glaring example of misogyny, as invalid is most welcome (Liberte Egalite Sororite, Sep 4). It is a good beginning in the right direction in solving an old vexatious issue concerning Muslim women. It was an extension of the old 2002 ruling in the Shamim Ara case on the same lines—confirming, extending, reinforcing and authenticating the earlier judgment. Triple talaq has not been ordained or sanctioned by the Quran. Yet this ignoble practice was followed routinely and arbitrarily by a few Muslim men as it was the most convenient route available to them whereby they could reject a wife on even trivial grounds, with the support and connivance of religious scholars. It is incomprehensible why the All India Muslim Personal Law Board objected to the ruling as an interference by the SC, as if they wanted to legalise triple talaq. But it has to be said that triple talaq cases constitute only 0.3 per cent of all divorce cases among Muslims. The issue was blown out of proportion. Now, polygamy and the practice of Halala, which has psychologically and emotionally tormented Muslim women, are two other issues that need to be addressed.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
One of the most significant aspects of the Supreme Court’s recent verdict on triple talaq is that it seeks to ensure gender justice by reconciling theology and law. The judgment is historic, given that it puts an end to the inhuman practice that negates both equality and dignity of Muslim women. Further, such a divorce tactic is not protected by Article 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution; even Muslim scholars and personalities consider the practice un-Islamic. Even the Personal Law Board had reportedly admitted that triple talaq is a bad innovation in the Indian Muslim community.
All the same, the ruling BJP’s celebration over the verdict as “a resolute steps towards a new India” looks only like an attempt to reap good harvest in the next Lok Sabha elections. The government’s intention was clear when Union law minister Ravishankar Prasad said the “India of 2017 is not that of 1987”, alluding to the Rajiv Gandhi government’s legislation that overturned an apex court ruling about alimony to divorced Muslim women in the Shah Bano case.
Buddhadev Nandi, On E-Mail
If triple talaq has managed to continue in India despite the Quran not preaching in its favour, the reason can only be minority appeasement by political parties that have traditionally treated the country’s Muslims as a vote-bank. Now, since the judiciary has given its verdict against the practice, one only hopes that the present government will convert the spirit of the judgement into law. Let the ruling dispensation also be vigilant against child marriage and other gender atrocities in the name of superstition prevalent across communities, including the majority.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (Retd), Calcutta
The misogyny prevalent in Indian society found reflection even in the SC verdict against triple talaq when two of the five judges still didn’t find the practice inhuman or un-Islamic. Anyway, the judgement has brought a huge relief to Muslim women, who are now entitled to live with better dignity as wives.
K.R. Srinivasan, Hyderabad
With the recent SC judgement, India now joins mainstream Muslim nations, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, in making triple talaq unconstitutional. For long, eminent Muslim intellectuals and journalists of our country have disapproved misrepresentation of Islamic teachings. In its golden age, Islamic scholarship used to be a universal celebration of curiosity and unrelenting pursuit of knowledge. It’s such a paradox that certain current strains of Islamic thought have ended up embracing obscurantism.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Radhakanta Barik, New Delhi: This is with reference to Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik getting awarded ‘Best Administrator’ by Outlook magazine in its ‘SpeakOut’ awards held this year. Let us examine the journey of this accomplished statesman. Naveen had not originally intended to join politics, but his father and BJD chief Biju Patnaik’s death left a void in the party. At the time, four BJD leaders close to his father persuaded a young Naveen to take over the BJD. He accepted and after that, there has been no looking back for him.
As Orissa CM, Naveen inherited a typically dull bureaucracy, but he managed to spark it up by motivating some of the promising civil servants and made them work towards his vision for the state. As for the corrupt among IAS officials, he once sent nine of them behind bars to set an example for the rest. He also went on to take control from the notorious power brokers of Orissa. Being a mineral-rich state, Orissa had its share of contractors and the trading community, who had amassed great wealth and power emerging from nepotism and corruption. He checked the power of the contractor mafia by putting some of them in jail too.
Naveen had come to power in 2000 in the backdrop of the devastating cyclone of 1999 and its rehabilitation phase. He took the initiative to build houses for the poor under the Indira Awas Yojana. I presented a paper on the rehabilitation project at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, once. People present out there were amazed to learn that a disaster of this magnitude was managed with such low levels of corruption. Furthermore, in Orissa, food under PDS was being siphoned off by big traders in every district. Naveen stopped this and made food available to every village in the districts, including the tribal hamlets.
His efforts got him elected for a second term as CM. In this term, with the help of teachers and NGOs, he saw to it that the state of education improved in the state. This led to his win for a third term. This time, with the help of the National Rural Health Mission of the central government and ASHA workers at the grassroots level, he managed to improve the PHC (Public health care) infrastructure of Orissa. In the meantime, he had also taken steps for ‘public procurement’ despite the central government led by Vajpayee denying to give grant for building a food corporation network for procuring rice. A lot of distress sale of rice by farmers got stopped because of the state procurement system.
Naveen also had to deal with a plotting BJP coalition. A political ploy could be read into the riots in Kandhamal, which were possibly created to weaken his hold over the affairs of the state. The conspiring ally also wanted to show the CM in poor light, labelling him incapable of doing politics. But Naveen, in his understated style, subtly showed them the door.
(The writer is senior fellow, ICSSR)
This refers to The Old Boys Stalked By Modern Times (Aug 28), your story on Haryana’s Kundu khap coming out in support of a stalking victim, a Chandigarh-based DJ from the same sub-caste. Young people, both men and women, are getting exposed to modern mores and it is influencing their way of life and choice of partner. This episode shows how even the khaps are trying to accommodate modernity when it comes with clearly elite connotations. Education and inter-caste marriage play key roles in ridding any society of the traditional bias against women.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
A letter by L.J. Singh from Amritsar (Fall Guy, Letters, Sep 4) leads me to take up my pen. I was 16 in 1947 and have read most well-known books on Partition and the freedom struggle. At the outset, I respond to Mr Singh’s statement, “we would have been better off had we not been...” But in life, as in the life of a new nation, you don’t always have choices. It’s as meaningless if I had said, “If the BJP hadn’t come to power....” Mr Singh talks about the leadership of C. Rajagopalachari and Sardar Patel. Without a question, Rajaji was a great statesman. But before that, he opposed the timing of the Quit India and counselled talks with Jinnah and his demand for Partition. All this led to his parting ways with the Congress. Again, if Maharaja Hari Singh had not wasted precious time in deciding to accede to India, there would have been no Kashmir problem at that time. Pakistan would just have no occasion to foment trouble. I fail to see how, instead of him, fingers are pointed at Nehru. Again, Nehru didn’t take the Kashmir problem to the UN on his own; he was pressured by Britain when Pakistani army units and their irregulars were on the run. As the old British Indian army, also partitioned into two, was served still by many British officers on both sides, Britain didn’t just want a war to be widespread. How it put the screws on India is a story in itself.
Mani Seshadri, Chennai
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