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Reading the Pakistan Diary (Dec 24), it’s interesting to see how Pakistan PM Imran Khan served us our own pudding back. It was Vajpayee who, in 1999, first mooted the idea of opening the Kartarpur corridor for pilgrims, and it was cold-shouldered by Pakistan. India and Pakistan have an intriguing relationship—each side takes the initiative to seduce the other, but backs off when it comes to a truly meaningful step towards permanently good ties.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Even as the governor’s decision to dissolve the J&K assembly was taken with a pinch of salt by all political parties in the state, the latest decision by Satya Pal Malik to accept a recommendation by the State Advisory Council to treat the J&K Bank as a PSU has roused great anger and suspicion (Banking on Tight Control, Dec 24). As a banner of revolt was raised by principal parties in the state as well as the bank’s employees, governor Malik has put the matter on hold. He would do well not to meddle in policy matters till a new, elected government takes charge of the state.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your cover story The Modino Effect (Dec 17). Among the decisions made by the Modi government, demonetisation and GST have been criticised the most by Opposition politicians and many commentators in India. However, in November 2017 the international credit rating giant Moody’s upgraded India’s credit ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 after a gap of around 14 years. The agency claimed that initiatives like demonetisation and GST would strengthen India’s credit powers, boost growth prospects and global competitiveness. The agency was criticised by several quarters on the basis that while India is lacking on the economic growth front and its debt-to-GDP ratio is on the rise, the agency gave thumbs up to the economic initiatives taken up by the government. Moody’s explained that current slowdown in the economic growth was why it lowered India’s growth forecast to 6.7 per cent in 2017-18. But, the agency said, the structural reforms make the country’s growth potential strong, “stronger than most peers”, and combined with a large and diversified economy and improving global competitiveness, this boosts economic strength. In October this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has acknowledged the economic reforms carried out under Modi and projected India to be the world’s fastest growing major economy this year and next. The World Economic Outlook (WEO) released ahead of the IMF annual meeting in Bali said, “In India, important reforms have been implemented in recent years, including the Goods and Services Tax, the inflation-targeting framework, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and steps to liberalise foreign investment and make it easier to do business.” Updated World Bank figures for 2017 showed that India was now the world’s sixth-biggest economy pushing France to the seventh spot. An earlier issue of Outlook carried the question on the cover page: Will Modi win? It is in the national interest that he wins, but the Indian electorate has its own interests and preferences which often jeopardise national interest. Many believe that had Atal Bihari Vajpayee been given a second term in 2004, the Kashmir problem would have been solved. Had the UPA government not been given a second term in 2009, so many mega scams would have been averted.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The nation has completed seventy-plus years of Independence. Modi has lamented that even after so many decades, open defecation was prevalent. The NDA government in the Past 54 months has tried to solve this problem. Gas connections, electrification and road connectivity to near towns from distant villages were other initiatives which the present government has taken and succeeded to some extent. Today the requirement is good people (officers) both at the Centre and states to complete the basic infrastructure and facilities for the common man. Other nations, which also started at around the same time when we won our Independence, are way ahead in terms of basic infrastructure.
Gush over the goodies Saffron Santa brought: killer vigilantism and cash drought.
Anil S., Pune
This refers to your cover story published a few weeks ago, Hindu, Hinduer, Hinduest (Dec 10]. No doubt, religious issues along with caste, language and identity, are twisted by political parties and their leaders, not only in India, but in other countries as well, including those socalled developed nations. The citizens are confused and distracted by these manipulations and the focus is effectively shifted from governance.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
Your cover story on competitive Hindutva reminded me of a story from Panchatantra. An ill-treated donkey disguises himself by wearing lion skin and scares people away. He brazenly enjoys his new found identity until he instinctually reciprocates a female donkey’s bray in the vicinity. Thus, his masquerade ends with disastrous consequences. There is a moral for Rahul Gandhi in the story. Rahul has achieved little through his Hindutva posturing: the BJP supporters haven’t bought it since they have already been wooed by the original skins of saffron in the many subsidiaries of the Sangh, and Rahul has only scared his few supporters away—some of the supposedly secular liberals.
Ashok Raipet, Secunderabad
In his column titled The Hinduness Of Indian Pluralism, Seshadri Chari has tried to build a case for the uniquely pluralist nature of the concept of Hinduness, although he admits it’s hard to define (Dec 10 ). But who doubts it in the first place? The whole world appreciates the pluralistic nature of our culture.
India became a democracy post Partition, embracing a secular perspective through the prism of equality, liberty and brotherhood. The upshot is that it is precisely what is at stake following the Modi government’s defence of communal vigilantism and its efforts at the fractional distillation of Hindu votes, forgetting that Indian Muslims are now comparatively more democratised than their co-religionists in other countries. Modi’s brand of nationalism has torn asunder the very fabric of Hinduness which his party is apparently spearheading so aggressively. And I am reminded of the most inspiring and energising slogan (in Milton’s Paradise Lost): “Arise, awake or be forever fallen’, which was blared aloud by none other than Satan himself, who advised his legions to distil ‘evil even out of goodness’. However, Irfan Habib in the same issue, hits the nail on the head when he says that it’s now a battle between communal forces and the Nehru-Gandhi founded secular state.
Prof. Mohan Singh, Amritsar
This refers to you’re the article ‘Ayodhya In The Time of Jawaharlal’ by Gyanesh Kudaisya (Dec 10). No doubt, the piece is well written and chronicles the details of how a deity of Ram was installed inside the Babri Masjid and how both the then UP CM Govind Ballabh Pant and the deputy prime minister Sardar Patel ignored to pleadings of Nehru to rectify the situation. The author suggests that Nehru’s pleas were ignored by the officials at the location and also by Pant and Patel. But his own query remains unanswered: “It’s still a puzzle why India’s first Prime Minister failed to act decisively when the Babri Masjid was effectively converted into temple in 1949”. Could it be that Nehru, himself, being a Kashmiri pandit, wanted the idol installed? Can someone give the answer to the question posed above?
Jatinder Sethi, Gurgaon
I read your story Cats’ Rocked Cradles (Nov 26] with interest. The Killing of tigress Avni was a dastardly act on the part of the perpetrators. The guilty should be punished at all costs, otherwise we will end up losing more of our precious wildlife. Even though the population of big cats has been on the rise, we have to keep in mind that the tiger is an endangered species. Our ecosystems are fragile and if we aren’t careful and the authorities aren’t strict enough, it won’t take much time for tiger territory to shrink and for their population to go back on the declining slope. Man-animal conflicts are increasing every day, causing loss on both sides.
We must restrict over-urbanisation and deforestation at all costs. Elephant and tiger corridors have to be monitored by the authority regularly to avoid man-animal conflicts. Also, some of our wildlife areas are near urban areas, like Mumbai, we shouldn’t allow a city to gobble up those precious ecosystems.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
All those years in the past, we had been putting our trust in print media, i.e., newspapers and periodicals (Fake in India, Dec 17). There was reason to believe that they were reporting only authentic, unadulterated and verified news and working with a certain ethics with utmost discipline and decorum. Sometimes, this credibility would be brought under question, but majority of people trusted print as authentic news source overall. But today, it feels that we have left that time far behind. The scenario has changed drastically, phenomenally, radically and permanently.
Let me give you a brief viewer’s history: It began with TV, with exclusive news channels soon giving in to the TRP pressure and increasing their ‘entertainment quotient’ rather than concentrating on substantial stuff. Then, along the way, news anchors became celebrities and news debates became ego matches. Then came the initially innocuous looking social media: Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. These were meant to help and support people in communicating with others with ease. Today, they are the fake news factories where just about anything can be passed off as news.
As your story suggests, social media platforms have been made tools by political parties to spread fake news and rumours in an attempt to influence people, mislead them and divide them for electoral gains.
The venom of hate spread by fake news has created anarchy in the country today, leaving little room for dialogue between groups of people. People are so lost in the echo chambers of social media these days with unverified news that they can hardly focus on the real issues. But, for how long will fake news have a field day? Those who were glued to the news channels previously have now shifted back to serials on TV. Those engrossed with fake or useless news will also get tired of wandering in that domain soon and return to print one day.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
In the issue dated November 29, 2010, Outlook had carried a cover story titled The 2G Scam Tapes. It was never the intention of the article to suggest that Mr Vir Sanghvi had any role in the 2G scam or the events surrounding it. Any impression to the contrary in the article is regretted.
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.
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.
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
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