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Dedicating an issue of a popular magazine like Outlook to a talented, contemporary writer like Ramachandra Guha is a welcome gesture (Unleashing A Storm Even At 60, April 9). Guha has often been labelled by some historians as a ‘pop historian’. But his India After Gandhi is the best book I have read on the father and his nation. His other book, The States of Indian Cricket: Anecdotal Histories, is also a delightful read. It recreates several fond memories of Indian cricket in the sixties and seventies and vividly brings to life incidents involving players like Budhi Kundaran, Bedi, Borde, Sardesai, Vishy, Durrani, Abid Ali and Kirmani.
However, two problems that I found with Guha, and I have known him for a while now, are: One, as a historian, he is blind when it comes to writing about Nehru; two, he thinks that he can claim to be a “proud Kannadiga” without knowing a word of Kannada. It’s sad that he has not realised how disastrous the latter assertion is for his reputation as a public intellectual.
As for Shajahan Madampat‘s objection to Guha’s comment comparing the burqa with the trishul, I think Guha meant only to highlight that just as the trishul is ominous for the Hindus—since it has become a symbol of aggression—so too is the burqa for Muslims, it being a symbol of patriarchy. On Shajahan’s other criticism, that Guha should not have included Arif Mohammed Khan in the trio of modern model Muslim leaders because Khan eventually joined the BJP, I want to say that Khan cannot be entirely blamed for that. The so-called secular space in contemporary Indian politics has become so limited and suffocating that, for politicians like Arif Khan, the BJP has become a tactical option as they do not want to commit political suicide.
D.S. Nagabhushana, Shimoga
The outstanding intellectual Guha’s very first book, The Unquiet Woods, has been a pathfinder for people like us who have been invested in addressing the issues facing marginalised forest-dependents in Uttarakhand and elsewhere (Scholar, Sui Generis). But, the comparison he recently made in a newspaper article between the burqa and the trishul was rather unfortunate, as pointed out by my friend, Shajahan Madampat, in the same issue. Guha’s comments after Lenin’s statute was toppled by a mob in Tripura after the BJP’s victory there (he said that the Left should have installed Bhagat Singh’s statue instead of Lenin’s) reveals another side of the intellectual, a side cleverly hidden by the eulogies thrown on him in your cover story. It shows that the author is not free from prejudice and has a curiously anti-Left attitude. It’s unbelievable that a scholar of his stature didn’t know that Bhagat Singh was also an intellectual par excellence who had made Lahore’s Dwarkadas Library virtually his home. He was well-versed with the writings of Marx and Lenin. Even on death row, he was reading the writings of Lenin and the Communist Manifesto.
Finally, as far as comparing the burqa with the trishul is concerned, it is like comparing tomatoes with apples.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The recent debate about Guha’s adverse comments on political activist Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express exposes Guha’s limited grasp of present day identity politics in the context of Indian feudalism. It also confirms the unimaginable complexities created by our leaders to confuse people, even highly qualified ones like Guha. Today’s politics mixes narratives of the state with the media to produce a dangerous cocktail fatal for democratic values. Progressive liberalism, which includes upholding basic fundamental rights of equality in public affairs, is at stake, threatening the irredeemable ruin of our polity. When progressive people like Guha make such sweeping, unfounded statements, consider the situation to have become alarming.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The next step in evolution is us becoming digital beings, and data is our new genetic code.
Anil S., Pune
There is something fishy about the entire drama around a ‘sudden spurt’ in non-performing assets (Rs 90,00,00,00,00,000, Apr 9). For, stressed assets had been mounting for a long time under the nose of the finance ministry, the RBI, regulating agencies, audit machinery and public sector banks—without any tangible action to arrest the trend. Given the indiscipline in the banking system, the rot could not have happened without a nexus among politicians, bankers and corporate houses. Now a blame game has started and people are aghast at the ‘climax’ of the drama. The Supreme Court recently observed that the linking of Aadhaar cards with bank accounts failed to serve the purpose of preventing banking fraud. This happened due to compromising bankers, but there is more to the corporates-banker nexus than meets the eye. Who emboldened the bankers to appease the big fish to alarming levels and allow them to escape out of the country?
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
New RBI rules on handling bad loans are indeed welcome—they can bring much-needed discipline with regard to NPAs. But this will surely lead to a spike in the disclosures of NPAs. Under the new guidelines, if an account is categorised as bad, it will be categorised identically for all the other lenders, so that it exerts a direct pressure on the company’s promoters to be on top of their game at all times. External factors like the market or the economy may not be directly in the hands of promoters, but they will have to be proactive. With 180 days to resolve NPAs worth Rs 2,000 crore and more, banks will be on their toes to expedite the amount at the earliest. Had the rules been framed earlier, much damage could have been avoided.
Bal Govind, Noida
Guha sparked a relevant debate in his response to Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express recently. One stands with Guha in appreciating the efforts of every Hamid Dalwai or Arif Mohammad Khan, but the comparison of the burqa with the trishul doesn’t make much sense. One needs to understand the objective situation in which the Muslim community finds itself. It is being pushed into the corner under the current atmosphere of majoritarian assertion. For over a decade, Muslim friends, who one never perceived in terms of their religious identity, have started raising the question: “What does it mean to be a Muslim in India today?” The whole liberal traditions of Muslims from Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Zakir Hussain to Ustad Bismillah Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azami and Javed Akhtar, are very much a part of the Indian Muslim community. The point is: why is their acceptability limited within the community?
Currently, many ‘moderate Muslim’ groups are raising their voices against the ‘mullah’ version of Islam. The question which should come to the fore is why these voices of sanity are not able to make the necessary dent in the broader sections of society gripped by conservatism? This is a time when faith-based knowledge and the most retrograde values are being encouraged by the dominant political tendency. In these times, to work for progressive reforms among Muslims becomes much more difficult. One hopes a combination of Hamid Dalwai’s passion for reform and Asghar Ali Engineer’s humane interpretation of Islam carries the day from within the community. Outside, Hindu nationalism is creating hate and causing ghettoisation and further marginalisation of the community.
Ram Puniyani, On E-Mail
This refers to your editorial comment (Zucker & Sucker, April 9). Much noise was being made about the danger to the individual’s privacy in the context of Aadhaar. I guess the Facebook data leakage should tell us the worry was pointless as we willingly part with so much of our data by using Facebook, while Aadhaar is just a one-time thing.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Apropos of Tip of the Suckerberg (April 9), no link based on an internet application is ever safe, as it is impossible to fully secure any data or information put on the internet. As such, anything on Facebook, and even Aadhaar, becomes public information. The Congress is being blamed for data misuse by the BJP and vice versa. In reality, no political parties or politicians can be trusted when it comes to such matters.
M. Kumar, On E-Mail
For India, the big message from all this is the need for a comprehensive data protection law. Data is the new oil, but emergent digital business can do without robber barons sucking up this resource.
J. Akshay, On E-Mail
The past two weeks have been so full of data talk that it almost makes me want to dismiss the hue and cry around it. To think that data harvesting directly led to Trump’s appointment to the White House is a wee bit delusional. Yes, data harvesting has its impacts, particularly in identifying and predicting voting patterns, but they can only work to an extent. Media outlets have spent hours analysing how Cambridge Analytica stole people’s data, but there was nothing about how exactly they used it to make people vote for the Republicans. They mention that customised campaigning did the job for Trump. Can we have a look at these campaigns? It’s funny to see our own TV channels harp about this ‘grave’ theft with a #Datagate flashing on the screen. The anchors seem to have gobbled up the op-eds without much clue. An Arnab Goswami data debate should be fun. It may just predict the next apocalypse at the hands of Zuckerberg and co.
Harsh Chatterjee, Bangalore
It has always dumbfounded me to see the sort of information people post on Facebook before complaining of privacy breaches when they are taken advantage of. People sync their contacts, tag themselves on photos, add their phone number, tell Facebook who their relatives are, where they were educated, where they work etc. Some people have even turned on facial recognition. Facebook is not a charity organisation; it is there to make money and its founder is one of the richest people in the world. They have built sophisticated mechanisms for extracting users’ personal information and refining them for sale to advertisers. But for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, none of this would be known. People need to grow up and take control of their own data from now on.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Michigan
This is about Outlook’s article on the scandals that plague cricket and how to combat the same (Blongers Must Walk, Apr 9). We are almost getting used to seeing the spirit of sportsmanship absent from cricket and other sports in recent years. Doping scandals plague the landscape of sports today, giving rise to unhealthy scepticism among viewers. Then there is an increase in instances of ball-tampering. The gentleman’s game has already been polluted by multiple match-fixing exposes. Smith and his partners in crime have let down their fans. Modern sport exemplifies the ethos of a maddeningly competitive society in which ends hold sway over means. Alas, the logic of the free market has drowned the most honourable of things.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
Weren’t Steve Smith and David Warner aware of the patent reality that there were as many as 30 cameras on the ground, which ‘follow the ball’ at all times? In that light, their ball tampering attempt was stupidly brazen; what world are these players living in! Cricket Australia’s punishment of one year handed to the disgraced players was too mild a punishment in my opinion. I don’t think it will prove to be a deterrent to others. The BCCI banning both Smith and Warner from captaining the Rajasthan Royals and the Sun Risers was laudable.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The exile award-winning ball-tampering burlesque was brilliantly scripted by David Warner, skilfully directed by Smith, but poorly enacted by Cameron Bancroft. The one-year ban on Smith and Warner and the nine-month suspension of Bancroft may not mean much. They can bounce back again. But the IPL ban on Smith and Warner will pinch them badly. Smith loses Rs 23 crore and Warner Rs 19.5 crore. This should surely keep them from planning such a thing again. Still, the noblest part of the punishment is the direction that “all three players will be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket”. No scope for ball-tampering there!
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Since he became Congress president, Rahul Gandhi suddenly seems to have matured, understanding full well the demands of the times. He now projects himself as a serious politician who is more than willing to take everybody along with him (Raga Darbari on High Notes, Apr 2). It’s essential too, for he takes over the command of the party at a time when it has virtually been reduced to an ‘also ran’ election after election. If the Congress manages to retain Karnataka, which is going to polls next month, both the party and its president will get a huge fillip.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Apropos Digital Falsities To Prime Likes (April 2), Facebook owns the digital versions of our real-life relationships, whether with family or friends. The internet permits theoretically infinite replicas of such relationships, but only a few, such as the versions on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, have significant monetary value—as can be seen from these companies’ billion-plus-dollar market capitalisations. It is being argued that users willingly traded away these assets for the derived value; that is, connecting with any friend around the world. A tiny number of professionals in Silicon Valley have captured these assets. The 2016 US Presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook fracas should serve as a flashing red light, even in India. It seems that people have rightly begun to feel a sense of disquiet about these media platforms. Facebook is not a harmless platform anymore, we know that it has consequences.
Prakash Hanspaul, On E-Mail