the fully loaded magazine
This refers to your cover on Pakistan’s ostensible change of heart regarding Kashmir (General Peacenik? Sept 25). It is of no little significance that for the first time a Pakistani general, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, has called for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute through political and diplomatic means. Indian hawks may not attach any importance to Bajwa’s remarks, seeing them as aimed not so much at India as at the US and China, since both countries have in recent days been publicly critical of Pakistan on the issue of terrorist groups operating on its soil. But Bajwa is definitely singing a new tune from that sung by any Pakistani general so far. He seems earnest when he says that the army should have no place in politics. Islamabad may have succeeded in getting support from the US in the past but times have changed. Trump is not Obama or Bush. In the BRICS summit, Indian diplomacy ensured that even China became a party to the Xiamen declaration criticising Pakistan-based terror groups Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pak foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif admitted for the first time that internationally proscribed terrorist organisations were operating from within the country. Those studying Bajwa’s remarks objectively and not dismissing them in a Pavlovian manner have a point.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
In the last 70 years, no Pakistani general has ever countenanced even the possibility of a political settlement with India except probably during the presidency of General Pervez Musharraf. In that context, the recent remark of the present army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is significant. It looked like both countries were reaching a settlement during the Vajpayee-Musharraf era, but all those efforts went up in smoke rather too literally. You can use cold journalistic acumen to suspect this new positive tone from the Pak general but his comment is welcome as it is a start, even if only a faintly promising one.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (Retd), Calcutta
The potential seemed enormous when Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in-ceremony in 2014 and followed it up with talks with Sharif on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Change Summit. But Modi’s calibrated diplomacy was scuttled by terror attacks in Pathankot and Uri. Decades of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan have never been helpful in pushing the peace process forward. But well-meaning people on both sides feel that cessation of hostilities between the two neighbours would save a huge amount of spending on military hardware which could instead be used for improving welfare systems. It is a good sign that there has not been a major terror attack in Indian cities since 26/11 and I think there is no need to black-line the silver cloud that comes in the shape of Gen Bajwa’s reconciliatory statement that he is looking at “political and diplomatic solutions” to Kashmir. He also stated that he is an ardent supporter of democracy. But in order to be a force for peace, the general should try and put an end to the asymmetric war his country wages against India. Such reconciliatory moves by Islamabad will certainly push the peace process forward and result in serious, sustained dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
The UN’s inability to do anything about a bilateral issue like Kashmir is well known. Judging from contemporary conditions, the territory of Kashmir, which joined the Indian Union with special conditions, will remain an integral part of India. Pakistan can do little about it except to sponsor terror in the Valley. US President Donald Trump’s pronouncements and his outright condemnation of Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists is noteworthy in this respect.
C. Koshy John, Pune
Apropos Into The Vale Ride Three Players, does Shahbaz Sharif have the popularity of Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan? Can the PML win national polls with Nawaz Sharif out of contention for the next election? Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because a conciliatory Pakistani army won’t let non-state actors take advantage of the situation even if there is a political vacuum in Pakistan.
Terror groups like JeM and LeT exercise considerable power. They are not merely fringe groups. Will these groups accept the peace which the ruling Pakistani establishment may want to pursue with India, if at all? Maybe the army in Pakistan and the political class broadly want peace with India, including with respect to Kashmir. They may want India to resolve the situation up to a point, before they engage. Now seems the right time to reciprocate as the security forces are taking a toll on the militants there and there is no major civilian unrest at the moment.
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
It’s always a good time to start a meaningful dialogue for the cause of peace.
Ashok Lal, Mumbai
This refers to your Comment (Mea Culpa, Sept 25). There is no doubt that the school and its management are to blame for the Ryan International School tragedy for their gross negligence in providing a safe campus for children. However, just as in the case of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim, outrage happens only once a tragedy unfolds. Now, the state government is after the lives of all those even remotely associated with the Gurgaon school. Why have the authorities woken up only now when the damage has already been done? Why couldn’t the CBSE or the education department of the Haryana government find anything amiss when they supposedly conducted yearly audits for gauging school safety? Sadly, we know why. Such things were in ‘control’, with a cup of coffee and some palm grease at the school principal or owner’s office to assure the auditors that things are alright. Nobody pointed to the missing grill and the broken security wall of the school during these security checks. In my opinion, these people should also be added to the guilty parties for not doing their job properly, thereby ending an innocent life and destroying a family.
Lt Col Sarabjit Khosla, On E-Mail
This is about Gautam Mukhopadhyaya’s column on the worsening Rohingya crisis (They Who Belong To The Earth, Sep 25). The decision of the Modi government to deport a few thousand Rohingyas back to Myanmar is against all humanitarian and moral values. This is when countries like Germany, Sweden and Canada are accepting and aiding Syrian refugees in spite of differences of race and religion. Here, we are insisting on sending them back even though they are hardly different from Bengalis, and knowing their likely fate back in Myanmar. Significantly, while the name ‘Rohingya’ is commonly used, the Modi government affidavit to the Supreme Court describes them as ‘Rohingya Muslims’. It is further alleged that some are ISI-backed terrorists. Even if that were true, it can’t be the justification of deporting all.
Saral Jhingran, New Delhi
For decades, the Rohingyas have been facing stark discrimination, marginalisation, denial of human rights and forced displacement. Worse, they are unwanted by all of their neighbours, with Muslim countries oblivious to or unfeeling towards their plight. Because of the racial origins, it’s convenient for Buddhists in Myanmar to term them Bangladeshis. The intent of the government there seems not to be dealing with the alleged terror by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army alone but, on this pretext, resort to total ethnic cleansing. No country can be defined in terms of religious purity; each contains people from different faiths. Thus, Myanmar’s desire to project itself as a fully Buddhist country doesn’t hold water.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Like most European countries trying to deny entry to Syrian refugees on the pretext of terror threats and threat to their social fabric, India and Bangladesh were also inimical to the Rohingyas. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is being handled inappropriately due to the lack of cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders and human rights campaigners. Modi’s visit to Myanmar, his support to the regime’s position on the events in Rakhine state and Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the crisis are disappointing to say the least. This ethnic cleansing can perhaps be compared to the sufferings of Bosnian Muslims in erstwhile Yugoslavia by the Christian Serbs.
Prof S.R. Devaprakash, Tumkur, Karnataka
India’s ruling party is trapped between humanitarian considerations and political compulsions. By declaring that the Rohingyas have connections with terrorists and therefore pose a security threat, they reinforce their ‘strong’ image, enhancing the political fortunes of the BJP, yet don’t care for the ill feeling this action might cause among religious minorities. And this, shamefully, from a nation that has historically sheltered people through the ages.
Shailendra Dasari, Bellary
It’s deplorable that none of the killers of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare or M.M. Kalburgi has been nabbed by the Maharashtra or Karnataka cops, despite the huge rewards on their heads (Path Yet To Take A Turn, Sept 25). It’s also common knowledge by now that the same weapon was used to kill Gauri Lankesh as well as Kalburgi. Had any of the previous killers been caught, perhaps the 55-year-old Kannada journalist would have been alive today. But since that’s not the case, the surviving Dabholkars, Pansares, Kalburgis, Lankeshs et al must be living in fear as they wield their pens. God save them!
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Gurmeet Ram Rahim being sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment marks the end of a perverse, whimsical sinner who had for long been exerting sway over millions of ignorant people (Goddamn, Sep 11). His Dera Sacha Sauda had institutionalised evil, exploiting followers both in the country and abroad while luring them with an imitation welfare state. Even today, the Dera owns and funds many centres of education and remains a source of power. What’s the alternative for these followers, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee? Not really, as the Sikh body is wholly under the clutches of the Badal clan. What’s worse is that almost all its elected members share affiliations to Deras in Malwa.
Mohan Singh, Amritsar
Your write-up on Nithyananda (Tantric Rites In The Bed) was simply the abuse of Hindu sentiments in the name of freedom of expression. Given the tremendous contribution of the guru to bringing back the Vedic tradition in Tamil Nadu, I doubt if the writer ever did any research about the guru.
Manju M., On E-Mail
This refers to your interview with Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson (The Tech’s There, Not the Political Will, September 25), in the wake of Ghazipur landfill tragedy in Delhi. “Who will clean the toilets?” That remains the main challenge for the Clean India mission. It is horrifying and heart-rending to see manual scavengers immerse themselves in sewage and clean the mess, with some among them dying due to asphyxiation. The demeaning practice of manual scavenging persists, despite squat latrines and flush toilets having taken over. At the same time, the latter not only waste (and pollute) water but also the valuable resources of excreta and urine that can replenish soil nutrients. One solution is switching to UDDT (Urine-Diverting Dry Toilets) and bio-toilets, which save water as well as help separate, sanitise and compost or recycle the human wastes without the need for manual scavenging. Such toilets are already in use in several districts, with some places having a ‘Use and Get Paid’ incentive! Likewise, the eco-friendly alternative of bio-remediation (of sewers) through the medium of ‘activated effective microorganisms’ should be adopted.
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
This refers to your photofeature Vicky: The Manual Scavenger (Sept 25) on a day in the life of a sanitation worker. The deaths of more than 100 sanitation workers every year expose the hollow Clean India mission, which is basically a photo-op for the broom-wielding netas even as Dalits like Vicky are singularly condemned to clean our shit. Many Vickys die in the process, but nobody gives a damn. Clearly, caste hasn’t been annihilated yet.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This is an eye-opener of a story. The reality is what none of us really cared to know. Vicky and others like him are the true Swachh Bharat heroes, and victims. Please follow up with more stories on how their lives can be changed for the better and what the government and the better-off people can do to enable it.
Gita Am, On E-Mail
The way civic authorities treat people like Vicky is inhuman. Are the lives of these workers so cheap? Why can’t they be provided with the necessary safety gear? Civic authorities should allocate funds.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
It’s really sad to note that the life of a scavenger in India remains the same, despite our progress in science and technology. It is every citizen’s duty to treat them with respect. Instead of showing gratitude, we treat them as untouchables. I had hired a sanitation worker as my house maid, going against the opinion of my neighbours. After a couple of months, when I lost my husband to cancer, the neighbours began gossiping that she had brought ill omen. But I stuck to my belief in humanity and equality and I have continued with her.
Dr Charu Shah, Surendranagar (Gujarat)
Previously, Outlook used to carry reviews of films from across India. For reasons unknown, we are now deprived of knowing about good films in regional languages and English too. The state of our current national cinematic imagination is such that a loud and flaky film like Baahubali gets all-India fame, a good film like Arjun Reddy doesn’t even get a mention.
M. Stanes, New Delhi
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