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This is with reference to your cover story Down But Not Out (Jan 12), which characterises the politics of the veteran Laloo Prasad Yadav with much precision. Such leaders are the product of our typical socio-economically disparate society which is communal and has a multi-layered caste system at its core. This clash and struggle of identities provides ample space for leaders like Laloo to capitalise on electoral opportunities. That said, it wouldn’t be fair to make Laloo an exception as there are several such leaders in our country’s political landscape. History is witness, political leaders who were almost paupers at the time of the JP (Jaiprakash) movement in 1977—the Emergency years—have since gone on to amass a fortune after getting into power with various portfolios in the ministry. Leaders like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav , Ram Vilas, Paswan , the late Charan Singh, to name a few, who once were severe critics of the dynastic rule of the Congress have emerged as cult figures and built empires and dynasties of their own. Laloo’s legacy may enable his party to get an edge over other contesting parties this time, but just how long can the winning streak created by one man continue?
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
Laloo Prasad Yadav was elected as the first president of RJD and remained so till his final conviction in the fodder scam case and life-time imprisonment which forced him out of active politics. He ruled Bihar for three consecutive terms leading his party to victory in elections by his caste (Yadavs) and community (Muslim) equation and the alleged game of booth-manipulation. With regular incidents of crime including kidnapping and murders, his rule was generally termed as ‘jungle-raj’. He joined the Congress-led UPA and became the railway minister. His tenure was known for experiments like serving tea in kulhars in trains and for setting up a one-man commission to virtually give a twist to the case of the burning alive of 59 karsevaks in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra.
His party remained a regional entity with no presence outside Bihar. He was not a kingmaker but himself the king of Bihar in his heydays. However, he can no more become king, and probably even kingmaker, irrespective of whether he is present or absent. If your question—will Laloo be the absentee Kingmaker of 2019?—relates to the national elections, he was never kingmaker at the national level anyway. By the way, Laloo got invited to the IIM talks, even film shoots, for his jokes, jibes and comic timing rather than his intellect.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The scope of Laloo’s legacy can be seen in him being politically relavant even in prison.
Sushant Vishnu, On E-Mail
Politicians in Tamil Nadu have no interest in solving the deep mystery surrounding Jayalalitha’s death (Death Be Not Silent, Jan 21). They would want to keep the pot boiling to be able to maintain Jaya’s votebank intact. The inquiry commission appointed by the ruling elite has also tied itself in knots, trying to fathom the circumstances leading to Jaya’s death. Medical experts, however, would unanimously agree that the quality of treatment received by the former CM in Chennai was excellent. Justice Arumugaswamy will have to go by doctors’ reports in the end. However, the medical treatment received by Jaya inside her Poes Garden residence is a mystery to most people. The CBI can alone probe the allegedly dire events that took place there before she was hospitalised. Security guards, cooks, nurses and attendants present during those crucial days in the house must be closely investigated. What’s also shady and mysterious is that her own blood relations were not allowed to see her during her 75-day stay at the hospital. Besides, the CBI must also probe why CCTV cameras were switched off in her hospital ward as well as in her residence.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This is about the article on the BJP, which is supposedly soul-searching after their defeat in three assembly polls and trying to win the confidence of voters (A Tide To Be Fixed, Dec 31). But soul-searching? Really? We thought such people only had hard soles. But then, a soul is largely foreign to politicians, and history is replete with innumerable caste, communal and ethnic pogroms done at the instigation of ruthless, soul-less politicians. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat pogrom are cases in point. In recent days, the cold-blooded killing of rationalists like Pansare and Dabholkar and the outspoken journalist Gauri Lankesh again show the hatred fostered and disseminated by political forces.
And failure in governance, as the public is aware, is sought to be covered up by a cynical programme of cosmetic changes—mischievously renaming cities and roads, rewinding history books, building giant statues…. But Modi may not succeed in fooling all people, though the 2019 polls are not connected at all to the December assembly polls. That way, 2019 will be an epic political slugfest—a tale of many regional chieftains trying to sew up various caste equations, while keeping an eye out for their progenies. Party manifestos are a big joke too—they promise to disburse alms to the common public using their own money, degrading them in the process.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
I want to request Outlook to reintroduce the editorial column in my favourite news weekly. It does look positively orphaned without one! Furthermore, I urge you to award at least three outstanding letters in every issue.
Jyotiranjan Biswal, Durgapur
This refers to your cover story Shoot Madi (Jan 12) about the aggressive ‘shoot at stumps’ strategy of the Bangalore police for crime control in the IT city. It’s not even close to being as bad as the chilling police encounter drive in Uttar Pradesh, where the cops have gone on a killing spree, but it is certainly a matter of concern. We cannot be supportive of such measures as they give the cops the licence to violence against citizens, even if they are criminals. There can, of course, be exceptional situations where the police have to take the gun into their hands for self-defence, but making shootings a regular policy is not the way. Do we know that in all the instances mentioned in your story, the criminals shot by the police were carrying weapons and threatening the cops with fire? No. Then it’s impossible to say that each one of these encounters were justified. Vigilante culture is already a menace that the country is dealing with. The cops can’t be allowed to spill their better judgement into that domain. Movie culture valourises the vigilante cop, making him palatable for the audiences. But our fantasies should remain in the realm of fiction.
Anil S., Pune
Now, 34 years after the incidents, a retired police chief writes that more than 2,733 innocent people of a particular community were brutally murdered in New Delhi alone (Still Loading...Police Reforms, Jan 21). Did any newspaper of the time report these facts and figures objectivly? If yes, then how did the accused, some of them political leaders and even some police officers, manage to go scott free? Police reforms are urgently required indeed.
V.N. Ramaswamy, Hyderabad
A grand gala has just finished and what a buzz it created (Theory Of Chaos, Jan 21)! I hope it happens with the same regularity every year so that we can spend a good moment thinking about how far we have come since our ancient golden age in terms of science and technology. Actually, the progress can’t be scaled in a linear manner, since the claims and references dropped in the Indian Science Congress follow no chronology. It’s as if we are living in times at once ancient and modern. Aviation in Rig Veda, sugar syrup as the adhesive for Ganesha’s plastic surgery, battery drawings found in ancient texts, test-tube babies and many other such illustrious examples keep the scientific arena charged up. But, of course, a self-righteous brigade of people has to always spoil the fun with their limiting ideas of rationality. Let’s give them a learning next time, accompany the lectures with models. At a personal level, if I may, I would like to see some of these scientific treasures in practice. Let’s build a plane, we can call the airline managing it ‘Rig Air’, and the batteries can be taken from the Agastya Samhita. If we need finances, that is if the present government is unable to digest such lofty ideas, we can feed some cows that bacteria that turns into 24-carat gold in its body.
Vivek Agarwal, New Delhi
This refers to Not A Place To Breathe, the piece on ‘non lethal’ crowd-control weapons in Kashmir (Jan 21). First, it was the pellets that hurt and blinded many people, even kids, in the Valley, now it’s the tear gas that poses other kinds of health hazards. From an ethical standpoint, can one argue to say that tear gas is better than pellets? Tough choice? Let’s just say that anything harmful thrown at the children, teenagers and youth of Kashmir will inevitable worsen the crisis and make more and more people from the mainland comlicit in such crimes since, after all, it is in our name that the security forces are instructed to do these things.
Anshu Sharma, New Delhi
In a story about breathing problems due to tear-gassing in the Valley, you have ignored the hardships of our soldiers.
Vishvanath Dhotre, On E-Mail