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This has reference to the lead article, Hindu, Hinduer, Hinduest (Dec 10). Until now, it was presumed that whipping up religious hysteria to further political ambitions is the exclusive domain of the BJP. Who can forget L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1990 that set the stage for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and subsequently consolidated votes for the BJP. The Sangh parivar has made no bones about its ideology. Now, the Congress party, which has always tried to put forth a secular image, has suddenly woken up to the expediency of pandering to Hindu sentiments before the general election. At a time when the country is facing problems of unemployment and agrarian distress, the Congress, led by party president Rahul Gandhi has suddenly discovered a rare virtue in the importance of religion. Rahul’s recent outings to numerous temples and his theatrical emphasis on his Brahminical roots smack of a desperation borne out of the party’s abject failure to create an alternative political agenda, which the country desperately cries out for. Perhaps the coming general election will go down in post-independent history as one fought on non-issues thanks to the dominance of religion-driven agenda.
Aditya Mukherjee, New Delhi
The Congress has always claimed to be a secular party but a section within the majority—Hindus —have been calling it pro-minority (read pro-Muslim) since a long time. They have also, by extension of this logic and their own ideological calculations, labelled the Congress an anti-Hindu party. The four-member panel, headed by former defence minister A.K. Antony, that was set up by Sonia Gandhi soon after the party’s worst-ever tally of 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, had, besides other reasons, pointed that fighting the polls on a ‘secularism versus communalism’ plank hurt the party. In a major track-change, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has now put the party on the Hindutva track. In Gujarat and Karnataka elections and the latest assembly elections, particularly in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, he has been visiting Hindu temples, claiming to be a Shiva-bhakt, janeudhari and “sagotra” Hindu. Only time can tell whether Rahul Gandhi’s religious excursions to Mansarovar and Hindu temples can woo Hindus to vote the Congress to power in 2019.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Soft Hindutva is an oxymoron. Hindutva is nothing but a political manifestation of right-wing ideology that hierarchises people according to religion. By toeing this line, the Congress, under Rahul, is falling into the trap set by the current ruling party, the BJP. Hence, instead of temple hopping and projecting himself as a ‘real Hindu’, Rahul should focus on issues that really matter to people. But, knowingly or unknowingly, he is just walking on the oft-trodden path, perfected by the Congress since Independence, as when Abhiram Das, a known RSS/VHP activist had smuggled the idol of lord Ram surreptitiously into Babri Masjid in December, 1949, and G.B. Pant, the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, conveniently overlooked it, ignoring the directions and order of Nehru, who was eager to undo the damage. This soft-Hindutva approach of the Congress, letting the ultra-right have its way, intensified later as Rajiv Gandhi, with a huge majority in Parliament unlocked the mosque in 1985, to counter-balance his decision of undoing the Supreme Court’s decision on the Shah Bano case. Also, it is said that Narasimha Rao played a tacit role in Babri Mosque’s destruction in 1992. This competitive Hindutva is nothing but competitive communalism: the Congress being programmatically communal, pitting against a party that is ideologically communal. And, in this contest of competitive Hindutva, the lesser mortal are destined to remain a lesser choice of the people!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to Ayodhya In The Time Of Jawaharlal. The Indian political spectrum revolves around a peculiar aim in that politicians do not possess any firm political stand as it is prone to change as per circumstance. As of Ayodhya, some of our leaders seem to believe that the “Ram Lalla” temple should be constructed on the Babri Masjid site, but they hesitate to take any drastic action because of fear coming on as ‘too’ communal. Right wing politicians from the early stage have shown this cautious tendency. The Ram temple issue has existed since the times of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi. But it has only become complicated through the decades. Now is the time to settle this long-pending issue in a way that our secular and democratic ideals do not get compromised. But behold, guess who’s in power!
Ranjit Sinha, Pune
Pseudo secular is passe, it’s time for the ‘pseudo Hindu’ phase of India’s grand old party.
Girish Prabhakar, On E-Mail
This is with reference to The People vs. a Fax Machine (Dec 10). If the Jammu and Kashmir governor would have allowed the formation of a government in Kashmir, it wouldn’t have been right since that government wouldn’t have been elected by the people directly. It would also have led to horse trading by both the sides trying to claim majority. NC chief Omar Abdullah aptly said that politics is a strange world, because if arch rivals like the PDP and the NC can come together, anything can happen. Now, when it’s decided that fresh elections should be held so that a fresh mandate from the voters can be sought, it will be interesting to see what stand these parties will take. Will they still want to join hands? It would be in the larger interest of the state if both regions’ (Kashmir and Jammu) voters can vote for a party or alliance which can provide stable and good governance.
Bal Govind, Noida
Your report on a possible epidemic awaiting my favourite fruit, the banana, is very unsettling indeed (They Call It Bananageddon, Dec 10). The authorities must act quick to contain the disease lest we lose out on a strain of this relatively affordable, supremely nutritional, beautiful fruit.
Vimal Gupta, Lucknow
The curious case of right-wing trolls supposedly influencing the Airport Authority of India to shake off maverick Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna’s performance in central Delhi has thrown open the most interesting debates surrounding artistes and politics (Art For Art’s Sake Is An Elite Lie, Dec 10). Dancer and Rajya Sabha MP Sonal Mansingh, who was also on the line-up for AAI’s concert, got so riled up about the controversy that she wrote in an editorial in a leading daily that Krishna should not expect the privileges of an artiste when he acts like a ‘social activist’. Sonal ji would have liked it best for artistes to keep to the stage and stay mum about the politics of the day, that shape the lives of all citizens. Thankfully, T.M. saved good humour by openly thanking Mansingh for her comments. “I must thank Sonal ji,” he said, that her words “further solidified why the concert had been postponed.” What’s the lesson in all of this? All of us are political beings. So, don’t let the powers be, opine.
Anil S., Pune
The revival of agitational movement in Assam, with the joining of youths in the ULFA (The Bill Pecks A Raw Wound, December 3) reminds us of the horrifying days of the statewide movement led by Prafulla Mahanta and Bhrigu Phukan of the AGP which, with the support of the AASU, led to the former come to power with a thumping majority in 1984-85. The AGP had whipped up linguistic, communal passion, asking people to identify and throw out ‘foreigners and illegal immigrants’ as a cheap plank to get to power. That issue remains unresolved and slippery as ever, giving a new generation of leaders the same issue to use. In the meantime, the common man still faces hunger, illiteracy and natural calamities, as defenceless as ever. Alas, the trend of dividing society on the basis of linguistic, religious and ethnic differences continues to act as a common formula for success in polls. Politicians have done enough in these decades to sow the seeds of hatred among citizens. The Election Commission must take heed of such provocations and devise some method to restrain parties from making hate speeches.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This is about Outlook’s wonderfully vivid report on the Ramayana Express (The Train To Hindusthan, Dec 3). I have been reading Outlook for a decade now, and I shared this story, much of it about the horrific conditions on board, with a friend, a former member of the Railway Board. His response was shocking. “Fake or sponsored news,” he said. “It could have been true two/three decades ago, not now.” I should like to believe Outlook. Actually, a leading newspaper carried a story on the train one recent Sunday, and it resembled yours, which is understandable—after all, there’s only one such train out there.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
This is about the item in In & Around (Tail of a Tale…, December 3), about the biopic of Sheikh Hasina (Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale) and the funny controversy surrounding it. But it wasn’t the first time a typo created havoc. When Giani Zail Singh was scheduled to address the nation a day before Republic Day in the early ’80s, Doordarshan announced ‘The President’s massage’ on black and white screens. The director-general had to bear the brunt of that. Similarly, Khushwant Singh recalled somewhere that when he was the PRO in the Indian high commission in London, PM Nehru had made a visit, and Khushwant had made a report of his interaction with dignitaries. When the report was about to be teleprinted, the letter ‘p’ was erroneously printed as ‘b’, making a ‘bandit’ of ‘pandit’ Nehru. However, the situation was saved in advance.
Mohan Singh, Amritsar