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This refers to your cover story on the government’s change of stance on Kashmir (Talking About, Talking With, Nov 13). For decades now, there is a lot of talk about ongoing or anticipated ‘talks’ with Kashmiri separatists who are both overtly and covertly sponsored by the Pakistani government in J&K. I wonder what talks with those who are clear on their demand for a separate state can achieve. Has anyone at all managed to break away from a nation state in the history of modern democracies? Talks are just excuses to quell violent rebellion and eternally prolong the strife. Such is the nature of politics.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
The J&K imbroglio gets murkier with each passing day. The powers involved have done enough talking and strategising for about seven decades now without any tangible results. A desperate situation warrants desperate measures. Hopefully, the government of the day has the requisite foresight and wisdom to take some concrete measures. In this regard, I have a few suggestions of my own: Divide the state into three parts—Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh; Abrogate Article 370 in the divided states of Jammu & Ladakh to begin with and in time Kashmir too will fall in line; Withdraw all privileges given to Hurriyat leaders.
M. Ashok Raipet, Secunderabad
Although it took a long time coming, the prime minister seems to have taken a sincere step towards reconciliation in Kashmir. But his decision of appointing one more interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, an ex-bureaucrat like NN Vohra who is now the J&K governor, may not be the right choice. It appears that the Centre could not find a politician who could hold dialogue with all the stakeholders. In any case, Sharma’s appointment may fetch good results. Political skirmishes between the BJP and the Congress over P. Chidambaram’s “aazadi and autonomy” remark may make Sharma’s job more difficult. But whether some Hurriyat leaders, whose terror-backing activities are being probed by NIA, should be talked to, is debatable. A small dip in stone-pelting incidents can be attributed to the recent NIA investigations being carried out to unearth the roll of Pakistan-funded separatists. Though Kashmir hasn’t returned to normalcy yet, there appears to be some calm in the state which can be improved upon. Opposition leaders like Farooq Abdullah, who had compared stone-pelters with freedom fighters in the past, must try to introspect and make use of this opportunity to bring peace to the strife-torn state otherwise more lives will be lost.
P.S. Kaur, On E-mail
Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma’s appointment as special representative for a “sustained dialogue” with all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir is the Centre’s latest move to buy peace in the troubled state. Sharma is the fourth interlocutor appointed by the Centre since 2002. The first was former Union minister K.C. Pant, to whom the Hurriyat refused to talk; the second was N.N. Vohra, the present governor; and the last was a three-member panel comprising former bureaucrat M.M. Ansari, academician Radha Kumar and late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar. In between, a private effort was also made by an eight-member Kashmir Committee led by Ram Jethmalani formed in 2002 with Supreme Court advocate Ashok Bhan, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, journalists Padgaonkar and M.J. Akbar, retired Indian Foreign Service officer V.K. Grover and eminent jurist Fali Nariman as its members, but there was no headway. No wonder the former IB chief said before heading for Kashmir that he doesn’t have a magic wand. Obviously, no high hopes should be nurtured about resolution of the complex Kashmir problem.
The separatists have reportedly declared they will not meet Sharma. Farooq Abdullah has called it a “futile exercise” and advocated restoration of Kashmir’s pre-1953 status. Despite being CM thrice and also a minister at the Centre, Farooq defends the stone-pelters and agrees with the separatists that Pakistan should be included in the peace talks. His son Omar Abdullah, who is also a former CM and now in the Opposition, was concerned about the NIA probe into terror-funding against separatist leaders. Doesn’t he understand that the separatists are the biggest troublemakers in Kashmir?
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
I once had the good fortune of enjoying the hospitality of a Kashmiri family. I have listened to the Dogri poems of a poet who lived in Kashmir. The film Arzoo, shot in Kashmir, filled my mind with sweet emotions. The songs of that film still linger as happy memories. What happened to Kashmir? Is Kashmir going to remain a perpetual battlefield? What kind of security can it offer to its citizens? Who is responsible for the miserable condition of the people who live in Kashmir? Does that heaven on earth deserve this? Can ‘talks’ bring peace and solace to the land of shikaras and snow-clad mountains? Many unanswered questions prop up when I hear the name of Kashmir these days. Only time will write its destiny and predict its future.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha
The appointment of an interlocutor for solving the Kashmir issue is going to be another lacklustre, fruitless exercise. Such steps were adopted in past too, but nothing came of them. Reports submitted by K.C. Pant, the erstwhile Kashmir interlocutor, are still biting dust. I strongly feel this issue can be best managed by the tripartisation of the state. Jammu and Ladakh have become cannon fodder, their aspirations need to be addressed too.
Kapil Sharma, Jammu
After Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi may be the first Indian Prime Minister who has brought a different style of leadership to the country. What the prime minister had said in his last Independence Day speech about Kashmir is absolutely right, as conflicts of any nature cannot be resolved with mere aggression but with personal intervention which can influence the core of the issues wherein community involvement is critical. Though there have been many rounds of dialogues aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue from the Indian side, the failure was mostly because of the lack of sincere initiatives on the part of the state government, which completely failed in understanding the pulse of the local population. If this current effort at dialogue is to succeed, the Kashmiri people’s mindset needs to be the focus. It is the responsibility of the government to talk to people, wherein the elected representatives’ roles are critically important. In this regard, Dineshwar Sharma’s appointment has to be received optimistically.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
For dialogue to be heard, the sound of gunshots will have to subside in the Valley.
Anil S., Pune
Though I received the October 30 Outlook issue a few weeks late, the cover story articles on football made me nostalgic, being a lover of the beautiful game. The article by Novy Kapadia—the country’s best football commentator—was superb too (Another 1983, For Football). During my college and Calcutta University days from 1959-67, I was a regular at the Mohun Bagan ground, and one of the club’s vociferous supporters. Interestingly, from 1959 to 1963, the ground was shared with East Bengal (Bagan got the National AC ground in 1915). The after-match conversations with football luminaries are fresh still. One of the greats was Gostho Pal, the defender known as the ‘Chinese wall’, whose East Bengal accent is still music in my ears. The other was the 1911 Shield winning Bagan team’s only booted footballer, Rev Sudhir Chatterjee, who also discovered future great Chuni Goswami; yet another was the iconic coach Balaidas Chatterjee. They and other fans from the political and film world, united in their enthusiasm for football and Mohun Bagan, I remember with fondness. I also recall how easily one could approach and talk to arch-rival East Bengal’s redoubtable secretary Jyotish Guha, or its erstwhile centre forward, Ahmed Khan, simply one of India’s greatest forwards. The football crazy film comedian of great talent, Bhanu Banerjee, would also be there. For football fans of that generation, the team’s creditable performance in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, 1960 Rome games and the Gold win in the 1962 Jakarta Asiad remain etched in gold. In 1983, underdogs India won the cricket World Cup, and it injected raw energy into the sport’s following. History was about to change, and it affected Indian football, which steadily lost its charisma when faced with the cricket onslaught. Now cricket is the preferred game of the businessman, earning him big bucks. I hope the successful hosting of the Under-17 World Cup will inject some fresh blood into enthusiasm for Indian football.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
This is about the review of Jeet Thayil’s novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints (Panjandrum In Disorder Central, Nov 13). Being a writer by profession I have decided to read this dark and impressive text about Francis Newton Xavier, poet and painter, and his career through this capacious novel. I will also share this excellent book review with ‘best assignment writers UK’, who provide assignment writing services at Quality Dissertation, and whose members would love to read books of this type.
Jack Ponting, London
This is in reference to the story on Tamil Christian identity (A Rosary Of Rudraksha Beads, Nov 13). Life in south India follows a multi-cultural path. Deeper bonds than that of religion are shared by Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and all co-exist peacefully. Yet it has not been untouched by wider Indian politics. After Babri Masjid, many Muslims turned visibly religious and along with it came a distinctive whifff of ‘we and they’ in that society. As for Christians, many of their rituals echo those of Hindus. Yet, overall, all religions and rituals are respected by all.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Hats off to Kavitha Lankesh for the beautiful ode to the memory of her sister Gauri (Gauri Diary, Nov 13). We are all Gauri and, as such, we must protect the freedom guaranteed by our democracy from rabid right-wingers, who have been growing over the past couple of years like a virus for which there seems to be no cure. But there will indeed be a cure if we all stand up for the freedom that Gauri defended in her lifetime and in her writings. We can ill afford to allow such people to threaten our liberty. Long live Gauri. We are all Gauri.
Nelson Petrie, Siliguri, West Bengal
This refers to The Cash Demonetisation Economy (Nov 13). The withdrawal of high-denomination currency was ill-planned and poorly executed. The poor and middle classes were left stranded, forced to wait in long queues to draw their money. It not only battered India’s currency-reliant majority, it also left the adept tax-evaders unscathed. Economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman told an Indian newspaper that the gains from demonetisation were “uncertain” and the move was “highly disruptive”. As many as 60 notifications were issued and the rules often tweaked. A similar exercise in GST rates has upset many businesses and states. The marked slowdown in economic growth, alarming drop in GDP numbers and staggering unemployment contradict all the hefty claims of demonetisation’s success.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
While economists and politicians have been explaining the two sides of the demonetisation coin on its first anniversary, what is still green in my mind are the serpentine queues of people—desperation, dejection and despondency writ on their weary faces—at ATMs, many of them finding no cash in the end, and at cash counters in banks, often for just one Rs 2,000 note, armed with ID proofs. Had the government promised immediate benefits and hassle-free transition, perhaps the people would not have been so much agitated at having their cash snatched by the note bandi(t).
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Demonetisation was a misadventure that pushed millions of people into untold hardships by wiping out 86 per cent of a cash-dependent country’s cash, while the real black marketeers escaped, black money was not eradicated and tax evasion did not stop. According to the Reserve Bank of India, nearly 99 per cent of the currency taken out by demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes returned to the banks. So where did the allegedly hoarded black money go? Most certainly, it is back in the banks and earning interest. November 8 was a black day for our country. Following in demonetisation’s wake, the much-hyped GST has ended up creating a regime of tax terrorism, which has eroded the confidence of small businesses.
P. Lal Singh, On E-Mail
As we all know, mersal is a slang word mostly used by Chennai youths to mean ‘shocked’ or ‘amazed’. The state—oh sorry! country—was also stunned when the BJP’s Tamil Nadu state president Tamilisai Soundararajan hit out at actor Vijay for the lines in (the film) Mersal attacking GST and Digital India. The BJP, which has been working hard to build up a base in Tamil Nadu, ended up shooting itself in the foot. By upping the ante against the movie’s criticism of government policies, the party ended up embarrassing its national leadership and providing the film the sort of nationwide publicity that its producers could never have dreamed of. When politicians take potshots at each other every day, there is no credible reason to make unreasonable demands on the film fraternity. By no stretch of the imagination is cinema the mouthpiece of governmental authorities. That happens only in authoritarian regimes.
What is unclear to most of us is whether Tamilisai raked up the issue with or without the permission of the central leadership. Even if there was a political agenda, it looks like it has backfired considering that it’s not just the movie, but also Vijay himself who has made everyone say “mersalayeeten” (I am stunned).
K.S. Padmanabha, Secunderabad
An honest answer to a few questions can convince us about the result of demonetisation. Has your lot improved in the past one year? Has any of your friends or relatives got a good job? Has your own job bettered? Have prices of fuel or cooking gas come down? Has the law and order improved...or at least the state of government-run hospitals?
Dhana Lakshmi, Bangalore
India needs time to recover from the major surgery called demonetisation, which was really needed for an economy long hobbled by the twin evils of black money and multiple tax rate structure. The coming years will see the economy growing; already its signals are visible on the horizon. There is increase in tax compliance as is evidenced by an increase in personal income tax returns and the GST collection. On the flip side, the government’s war on black money has only trimmed its branches, while its roots continue to flourish in foreign tax havens. The informal sector that subsists mostly on cash has been hit hard.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This is in reference to Flotsam in the Fog of Denial (Nov 13). The Khalistani elements behind the bombing of the Air India flight have escaped punishment, while their sympathisers have attained high positions in the Canadian government. Some time ago, Captain Amarinder Singh had advised the Canadian PM Trudeau to keep an eye on disruptive Khalistani forces in his country, and the Punjab CM’s stand has now been justified by the “self-determination” statement of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Trudeau would do well to pay heed to the CM’s advice. A poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, a research foundation in Canada, has found that nearly two-thirds of Canadians are open to the idea of a Sikh PM. Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh member of Ontario’s provincial assembly, has emerged as a viable leader of a national party. His statement that self-determination is a basic right of the people of the Punjab, the Canadian state of Quebec and the Spanish region of Catalonia, reminds us of the black days of the Khalistan movement’s apogee in the 1980s. Despite the movement’s failure in India, a Khalistani Canadian PM is not an unimaginable prospect, and the Canadian people must remain on guard to keep such a disruptive force at bay for the sake of their own country’s peace as well as that of the Punjab.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
This refers to your editorial comment Khichdi of Pulkistan (Nov 13). We cannot have a national dish for the very simple reason that every region has its own preferences, and I see no reason why there should be any effort to identify such a thing. While heated arguments about which dish is best are always welcome and enjoyable, and have indeed always taken place, the regimented and self-righteous opinions that we are now hearing are a new trend. I would not be surprised if all those who disagree that khichdi is the national dish are declared anti-nationals!
S. Ravindran, On E-Mail
Hey, it is not Coorg, but Kodagu. Further, akki rotti; not akki roti. The spellings of places and dishes are sacred, aren’t they?
N. Gurudatha, Bangalore
Your lead comment amounted to imposing dosa (“being a Malayali” as the writer says) on people in place of Khichdi. That defeats the apparent purpose: highlighting India’s culinary diversity. Also, a glorified meal on banana leaf with whatever number of accessories may not appeal to all—you can get this confirmed from a Kashmiri. Tucking paneer into dosa roll doesn’t make it Punjabi. Dosa is universal? Come on!
Sonia Kaul Takoo, On E-Mail
In a way, one has to appreciate the so-called protectors of Indian culture for selecting khichdi as the national food. After all, our country has hundreds of food varieties, and naming one as “national” is not easy. There will now be more ‘sanskriti’ symbols imposed on us; khichdi won’t be the last. It is unfortunate that Bharat Mata is ruled by those who do not believe in India’s pluralism.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
The interview with Javed Akhtar concerning Mother India and its legacy (Nov 6) was a pleasant read. It created the nostalgic feeling of a trip down memory lane. I would like to point out that Mehboob Khan was not from the Kathiawad (Saurashtra) region of Gujarat but was a resident of a small village near Bilimora town in the Bulsar-Navsari region of South Gujarat. It is also worth noting that Wajahat Mirza was not the sole dialogue writer of Mughal-e-Azam; there were several others with him, including Kamal Amrohi. Faredoon Irani was the cinematographer for both Aurat and Mother India, just as Kanhaiyalal played the villain in both films. Javed saheb could have recalled the final dialogue between mother and son, when Birju is shot and, instead of collapsing immediately, walks up to his mother and takes his last breath in her arms.
G.G. Oza, Ahmedabad
I remember reading your inaugural issue in 1995, when I was in Delhi. As for the Nov 6 edition, Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary was a brilliant opener. Her novels still entertain millions; I am just one among them. Also, your satire on politics and netas is always biting, though you are at times capable of carrying macabre pictures. Two-and-a-half years have passed since the death of your founder editor Vinod Mehta, but I still miss the ‘Punjabi boy from Lucknow’ and his pet dog, who had been a familiar character for us readers.
C.V. Venugopalan (retd), Palakkad
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