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This refers to your cover story How Just is Our Judiciary? (February 3). Delayed or not, justice is almost always denied to us, the people of India, and especially to Dalits, adivasis, Muslims and women. The Supreme Court has no time to hear petitions concerning the lives of millions—those challenging the constitutional validity of the abrogation of Article 370 and of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act—but it has time to award the Ram temple to culprits of the crime committed on December 6, 1992, despite accepting their roles and finding no historical proof of demolition of an ancient temple. Not to speak of the sexual harassment charges against a Chief Justice by an employee of the court in which he became investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one, punishing just not the complainant, but her entire family! Justice in India is horribly expensive and excruciatingly slow.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
India’s founding fathers who framed the Constitution had suffered so much during the British Raj that they thought only of rights and liberties that had been snatched away by colonial rulers. Now we go on strike for our right and liberties at the drop of a hat.
Rohan Pandey, Mumbai
Any controversy involving the judiciary is a potential threat to the institutional integrity of the judicial system of India and is totally undesirable. There has been a lot of talk about the slow delivery of justice. The final verdict in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case took more than seven years and even after the final verdict, its execution is still awaited. Pendency in courts is often attributed to inadequate infrastructure and lack of facilities for judicial functionaries. State and central governments are held responsible for insufficient budgetary provisioning. Courts cannot hold governments responsible for vacancies or delays in promotional appointments as the SC and the high courts now exercise full control over judicial appointments. It is time to dispassionately examine the functioning of the courts and signs of an increasing loss of public faith in the judiciary despite individual presiding judges setting occasional examples of completing even serious criminal cases in mere months. Perhaps it may sound futile to singularly blame judges for abnormal delays. At times, due to the prosecution’s failure to establish the charges beyond reasonable doubt, an alleged criminal of limited means gets acquitted, but only after suffering incarceration for a term that ends up being longer than the maximum permissible under law. But resourceful defendants are seen escaping culpability not necessarily on merit, but due to their ability to manage judicial processes to their advantage. Delays also occur when lawyers seek unnecessary processes and repeated adjournments. The judiciary needs to overhaul and regulate itself if nobody else is empowered to do this under the Constitution.
S.R. Gadicherla, Bangalore
It is really a shame that court cases take decades to resolve in the world’s largest democracy. It is the system that is at fault. Often, we find the apex court finding fault with the prosecution when the evidence is withheld, crucial witnesses are not cross-examined and dozens of witnesses turn hostile. Police and prosecution must be free from political pressure. The way ahead is to make the police simultaneously accountable to multiple committees of the legislature and human rights commissions. The need of the hour is to speed up the process of investigation and also fill vacancies of judges at various levels in order to ensure that cases do not pile up. Village-level panchayat courts should be revived and hearings must be done in the presence of the community.
G.S. Rao, Bangalore
Your cover story of the January 27 issue (Whose Police is It Anyway?) brought back memories of the time Outlook was helmed by the legendary Vinod Mehta. I have been an ardent reader of this magazine because of its truth-speaking boldness, but this had been missing in the past few years. This issue has partly rekindled the faith I always had in Outlook. Hope you and your team don’t lose track and reestablish the magazine as a bold, honest and truth-speaking one.
Amitabh Upadhyaya, On E-Mail
Police excesses witnessed in the streets and on campuses is manifestation of a ruling juggernaut being stopped in its tracks—something it is not accustomed to. The ruling dispensation is drunk on winning elections and forming governments, especially in the states, by hook or by crook, besides usurping important institutions such as the judiciary and clamping down on freedom of speech.
George Jacob, Kochi
It is obvious that India is moving from the rule of law to rule by the gun. When people protest against egregious violations of democracy, the police do not come as friends, or even as neutrals. They come as enemies. When the police act like a lynch mob, it is a travesty of law and erosion of truth in the justice system. The police need to work for the people, not for their political masters.
Uzair Ahmed, Muzaffarnagar
I have no grudge with the performance of the Indian police; I rather admire their loyalty and sincerity to their masters since their inception as an organised force for assisting in the governance of the country. The British rulers in India tactfully kept their constabulary of all faiths united and loyal to them. Our police continued to adhere to the same work culture over the past seven decades in the absence of any reforms for making them people-friendly and suitable for a liberal democracy. Failure to implement reforms ensures that politicians of all hues, when in power, misuse and abuse the police force to suppress their critics and opponents. The police, foundation of the edifice of our criminal justice system, have been groomed to scare the people and, if required, muzzle and eliminate them in ‘encounters’. In the process of proving their loyalty, they go to any extent of barbarity and falsehood, manipulating and fabricating evidence to fulfil the wishes of their masters. The real culprits responsible for police brutalities are the selfish politicians posing as nationalists. No wonder that in the decades since Independence, no party has bothered to change this convenient state of affairs.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
While dealing with the JNU, AMU and anti-CAA protestors, the police have been blatantly prejudiced. What is worse is that the police have taken pride in this, throwing all standard operating procedures to the wind. This unabashed and complete subservience to the dictates of their political masters has made a mockery of rule of law as enshrined in our Constitution. The story of police excesses to please the party in power has been repeated time and again everywhere. The long-pending reforms in the police force may be a way out of this scary situation, but the moot question remains: why would politicians let go of the police baton and forsake the power to terrorise their opponents?
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Love’s labour Not Lost Written in 1477, this is the oldest surviving Valentine’s Day letter in English
This refers to your cover story on the police (Might is Right, January 27). The armed, paramilitary and police forces are paid by the central or state governments, and are expected to act on their orders despite their oath to abide by the Constitution and protect the people. It is quite natural that they act brutally against protestors. The main fault is of the government. The police can enter the Jamia Millia Islamia campus and library without waiting for the orders of the head of the institution, and assault the students, but wait outside the JNU campus for hours for orders from the vice chancellor while masked men armed with iron rods and lathis wreck havoc and destroy infrastructure and beat up the students. The government’s ideology was manifested in all the recent incidents of police atrocity.
In the past, Indians in police uniform used to thrash protestors during the freedom struggle against Britain’s ruthless imperialist regime. Those uniforms are still donned by Indians who assault citizens protesting against the elected government.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
As we witness a cauldron of repressed anger in our student community and with all the outrage over the conduct of police in JNU, one small thing merits attention. Are policemen not one of us? Are they not part of a milieu that is not of their making or asking? I speak with decades of experience behind me, having had the proud privilege of working in Delhi Police all these years. Is a police force not only as good or as bad, as free or as servile, as any other limb of governance? Is it not that the police get extraordinary flak just because their uniform is seen as a symbol of oppression? The comment in your editorial note that conscience seems to be in short supply in the top rungs of the police sounds like a half-truth, the famous Ardh Satya of the iconic film by that name. Its hero Anant Welanker is the prototype of an average cop and his dilemma whether to listen to his conscience or bear the consequences of his action is the dilemma of every person and every cop. Notwithstanding the optics of power, the cop is as vulnerable as anyone else as he delves into treacherous administrative quicksands, where the choices he makes are fewer than one can imagine. Policemen, at best, are only cogs in the wheels of a system. It might be convenient to blame the police, but what ails us is far bigger, deeper and more profound. We have a long to-do list. It’s a good idea to begin with the police, but to single them out for lack of professionalism is dodging the whole truth.
Arun Kampani, New Delhi
The fact that none of the articles in the cover story is appreciative of the police tells all we need to know about the Indian police forces. They hold allegiance to the politicians in power, who use and abuse them as their private force to serve their personal and political interests. Those concerned with the sorry state of affairs in the policing system and the politicisation of police have been long demanding reforms to free the police from political control. In 1996, two former director generals of police approached the Supreme Court with the request that the court direct the central and state governments to address the bad practices of the police. The Supreme Court realised in 2006 that it could not wait any more for governments to take appropriate steps for police reforms and issued seven directions that were binding upon governments till they frame suitable legislation.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
India is fast becoming a police state, thanks to our inefficient, insensitive and anti-people police who could put the colonial police to shame. Never did they enter the library of an academic institution, create havoc there and force the students to come out with raised hands like a band of surrendered criminals. And never had they stopped an ambulance from entering a university. Instead of serving their political masters, the police must start serving their real masters—the people. Else it will remain what it is: an institution that perpetrates violence on unarmed citizens, including women and children.
Use of excessive force by a law enforcement officer is a violation of the victim’s rights. But what about the other side of the coin? The somber-looking men in uniform are mowed down by the pressures of ever-increasing crimes in this restive world coupled with political patronage enjoyed by the criminals. They are first to be blamed for every criminal activity and investigations initiated by them to book the criminals are mostly hampered due to political interference and criticism. The men in khaki are mercilessly dissected by the print and electronic media, which hold them responsible for every evil that exists in the society. The police have been reduced to mere slaves of their political masters, appointed and placed at various stations and designations just to carry out acts of vendetta against opponents of the ruling party. Political interference has to stop for efficient policing. The media needs to exercise restraint in blaming the police force for all acts and omissions. We need to evolve a strong support system for our police force. We need to adopt a system that enables the police to be able to work fearlessly.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
This refers to Afzal Blowback (January 27) by Naseer Ganai. It is unfortunate that J&K Police DSP Davinder Singh, who had received a gallantry award recently, was found with two most wanted militants in a car. He was the officer who was also named by Afzal Guru as the officer who tortured and forced him to make some arrangements in Delhi for one of the militants who attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001.
Afzal was hanged in 2013 to “satisfy the collective conscience” of Indian society, but this officer continued to be a favourite of the security establishment. All this is highly suspicious and a huge embarrassment for our intelligence agencies.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to Nivedita Menon’s column Dangerous Minds (January 20). The events leading to the bloody Sunday of January 5 at JNU leaves no doubts about the central government’s intentions. The BJP, whose political mission is to establish a Hindu Rashtra, wants to change the ethos and character of those educational institutions where free flow of ideas is not just valued, but encouraged. It’s not surprising that the liberal Hindu feels as much hurt, psychologically, as the bleeding students who received blows from masked goons. The Centre has yet again failed in providing security and equality to all its citizens.
This refers to When the States Push Back (January 27). The stand taken by the Opposition is nothing but to appease the minorities even after the prime minister made it clear that CAA will not affect Indian Muslims. Therefore, the contention that it polarises communities is incorrect and the needless exercise is only an attempt to mislead the nation. The prime minister must call for a meeting of chief ministers and explain the salient features of CAA to prevent the impending implosion.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Waving of the national flag in anti-CAA protests is not a spontaneous outburst of pluralist sentiment, but a belated attempt to blunt the perception that opposition to the new law is a front for spewing hatred against the elected government. The attempt to depict the protests as the fight between a community and the government is a dangerous narrative that upset those who seem willing to accept the articulation of CAA as positive discrimination in favour of persecuted people who have cultural links with the nation.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
Subhas Chandra Bose resigns from the ICS, 1921
This refers to your cover story on “men and women making a difference in the battle against hunger” (Nutrition Warriors, January 20). We owe you thanks for raising this rather ugly issue of hunger and deprivation because, as a society, we seem to care only for beautiful things. In a country where healthcare is dreadfully inadequate and superstition spreads faster than a rumour, it is good to know that some people are genuinely concerned. The story of the young IAS officer Somavanshi and his struggle to fight the scourge of ‘daagna’ was particularly inspiring as were many others. Here is a quote from John Conrad’s iconic novel Heart of Darkness that explains hunger like nothing else: “No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply doesn’t exist where hunger is and as to superstition, beliefs and what may you call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze.”
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
The cover photo as also the stories inside touched my heart. Ask the children who are starving how they value a full meal. We overeat and waste food, throwing it in the garbage bin. We rarely share our blessings with the underprivileged. This issue of Outlook should at least tug at the conscience of some of us. As a 66-year-old veteran soldier, one of my important sources of happiness is in sharing our blessings with the poor. We make it a point to look after our service providers like the postman, safai karamchari and domestic help.
R.D. Singh, Ambala Cantt
There is an urgent need to include millets in the diet for many reasons. A beginning has been made by the NGO EcoSikh by introducing items made from millets. These grains are eco-friendly, rich in fibre content, nutritious and easy to cook.
Prithipal Singh, New Delhi
I sincerely congratulate you and the Outlook staff for your cover story on malnutrition prevailing in our country, especially among the children who are our national wealth and future ambassadors. Kudos to Chandra Shekhar Kundu and his tribe for taking care of these children. I wish the government enacts a law making it mandatory for people who spend lakhs on weddings to voluntarily part with a portion of the food directly to dedicated child centres, instead of volunteers collecting the leftovers.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, as confirmed by the stories of the few obstinate ones. Because of their grit and determination, India may now climb a few notches up the World Hunger Index.
This refers to ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ in Poliglot (January 20). As poor healthcare has once again let down the poor with the deaths of infants at a government hospital in Kota, Rajasthan, crossing the 100 mark in a month, it exposes shortage of doctors, inadequate supply of medicines and poor availability of hospital beds. It is unfortunate that this happened despite the outrage caused by news of the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome in Bihar last year, which took the lives of a large number of children, and the deaths of children in Gorakhpur in 2017 due to the hospital running out of oxygen cylinders.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Indian diplomacy faces a litmus test as it tries to balance its relations with Iran and the US in the aftermath of General Qassem Soleimani’s assassination (Trumpets: Twitching the Tail of a Serpent, January 20). Exercising caution, India has appealed to both countries to refrain from going to war. With both Iran and the US eyeing de-escalation, the war clouds over West Asia seem to have drifted away for now. India’s stakes in the region are high. Iran is a major supplier of oil to India and India is developing the Chabahar seaport there at a great cost. Moreover, millions of Indians live and work in the region. While France, the UK and the European Union want that the existing nuclear deal with Iran to continue, Japan and China would want a peaceful region to get regular supplies of energy. It is gratifying that Trump, who threatened to unleash overwhelming military strikes, including against cultural sites in Iran, is now clearly intent on de-escalating the crisis. The pressure from the US Congress that the president should seek its approval before conducting any military campaign against Iran has obviously put paid to Trump’s reckless bid to heighten the conflict. But Trump will certainly impose massive sanctions on Iran to thwart its nuclear weapons programme.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
I feel sorry to say Banaras Diary by Rituparna Kakoty (January 20) is unkind on the common reader. One would need a dedicated dictionary for many words and phrases. Quoting them would make a long list. Talking about a multifaceted city like Benares could be much smoother, more informative and enjoyable. What has been dished out is stylistically objectionable.
L.V. Shastri, Bangalore
This refers to your story about “rods and stones greet JNUites protesting fee hike, following crackdowns on anti-CAA protests at many other places” (Campus Rising’s Bloody Sunday (January 20). The mayhem let loose in JNU is a typical symptom of the ailment the ruling dispensation suffers from—unbridled mania for monologue and malignant phobia for dialogue.
At the outset, I wish to frankly admit that we, a circle of four-five friends, all in their 70s and 80s, were getting a little disappointed with the last few issues of your magazine because current events and burning topics were not getting due importance. The January 20 issue has made us rethink. Nivedita Menon’s column on the violence unleashed on JNUites (Dangerous Minds, January 20) is full of facts, calls a spade a spade and sets Outlook’s coverage apart from much of the print media. British-era traditions and customs of the police playing loyalties to “His Master’s Voice” have become more brazen in the form of atrocities on the people in the absence of any reforms worth the name. The police care only about being faithful to the powers that be, whether Modi-Shah now or Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. The police comprise the foundation of the criminal justice system. They would definitely be doing ‘right’ as per the culture and ideology of their masters judging their performance. Who said and did what, when and where, and how many lives get sacrificed, are immaterial in the bid to achieve the regime’s target of saffronising everything. The agitation of students and academics supported by all and sundry irrespective of their religion, region and learning are bound to ultimately peter out in the face of the lathis and guns of the uniformed forces fully supported by RSS footsoldiers.
The reluctance of the police to act, the politics of what makes JNU, the fight between Left and Right have all dominated the national discourse. There is an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from across the country. Bollywood celebrities, activists and others seem to be coming together to stand up for the students and support their struggle for democracy and justice. As our liberals side with separatists and infiltrators, but are vocal against nationalist and Hindu concerns, those who propelled Narendra Modi to fight a civilisational war on their behalf are silently watching. No wonder the grimmest war between the old Nehruvian establishment and the new nationalism under Modi is being fought on campuses. That’s because the Left, almost wiped off India’s face electorally, has invested so heavily on its last bastion—a handful of campuses such as JNU in Delhi and Jadavpur in Calcutta.
J. Akshobhya, On E-Mail
Snoopspeak A letter sent anonymously by the FBI to Martin Luther King Jr in 1964
This refers to your issue of the year Faith or its Absence (January 13). I am an old reader of Outlook and may be one of the first to have subscribed when Vinod Mehta started this magazine. But during the past year, I found Outlook quite boring. Many issues lay on my table untouched and I had almost decided not to renew my subscription. Then this issue landed and I read it from cover to cover. After a very long time, you have come out with a readable issue. I am again thinking of renewing my subscription for another five years. Congratulations! Keep publishing such readable issues.
Krishnachandra Govil, Lucknow
Outlook’s year-end issue once again didn’t disappoint—its subject, faith, was well-chosen and the essays are wonderful reads. However, as usual, not all faiths were subjected to the critical lens equally. In India, we see expressions of Hinduism and statements of Hindus being targeted openly—claims at science congresses, a scientific paper presented by a vice chancellor, and statements from BJP leaders on cow urine and cow dung. Sadhus and mystics who claim to wield miracles are regularly exposed and ridiculed by rationalists and the media. Surprisingly, when the Pope canonised a nun only because a string of miracles was attributed to her, no questions were raised.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijaywada
Outlook’s special issue on faith presents some very insightful views. Indeed, there is nothing more intricate and intriguing than the weave of faith. It flows free of knots and joints…a seamless arrangement of thought processes. Be it throwing furniture out of a window as in South Africa to usher in the new year or discarding the extra crockery accumulated through the past 12 months in Denmark—a faith in this symbolic act of discarding past worries and starting on a clean slate, with new hopes and dreams, unites many cultures. A member of Jehovah’s Witness might refuse to sing the national anthem because of his faith or an ardent chanter of the Hanuman Chalisa might ignore doctors’ advice. Faith is the touchstone that makes such leaps—often into the unknown—possible.
Ghost Train of Our Memories by Rajat Mitra is written in a masterly lucid style with meticulous historical details. Congrats to the author for educating the present generation, which is unfamiliar with the history of our repressive past.
Harish Pandey, On E-Mail
That the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act continue to mount is a classic instance of faith in our institutions, with the Constitution serving as the leitmotif of this agitation. It is faith that gives us the gall, the spirit and the confidence to take the next step even when we can’t see the entire staircase. Faith is what spurs us on.
Abhimanyu K, New Delhi
This refers to your cover story Winter of Unrest (December 30). Whether this winter of unrest transforms into a spring of hope, only time will tell. I have a Muslim neighbour, a lovely lady with whom I share sun, rain and life. With all that is going on, this strange alchemy of votes and opportunism, would my relationship with her take a beating? The answer is a resounding no—the same no that India’s streets are screaming. This drives home the point that no matter who pits you against whom, no matter which political party is at the helm, ultimately, it is we the people who constitute the nation. We count. Our no to narrow divisions, our yes to pluralism, both work.
Sangeeta K., New Delhi
Leave aside intruders from Bangladesh in India—more than one million Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, have infiltrated Bangladesh as its growth rate is higher than ours and its economy might even surpass ours! Little wonder that when Sheikh Hasina came to Delhi in October 2019, Modi didn’t even mention this issue as he knows he can’t discuss it with her, but can sell this barrage of lies to the ignorant masses in India to buy their votes.
Anti-CAA and NRC protests by the Opposition are unjustified. The linking of NRC with CAA and NPR is unfounded. The core issue is the votebank politics of the Opposition.
The reactions to CAA show the government’s failure in assessing the act’s repercussions. The unruly, ugly agitation could have been avoided with timely administrative preparedness. There was no single statement from the PM, home minister or any other leader of the government before the bill became an act to reassure the minority community. The fear among Muslims that they will be subjected to detailed verification of their identity carries weight at a time when CAA clearly states that if people of other religions fail to produce the required documents, they will be given citizenship. The Modi government must introspect before going ahead with a country-wide NRC.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
The Birth of Politics, The Politics of Birth is quite informative—the problem of infiltration has been explained clearly. However, it seems to have been left to the wild imagination of readers to guess a possible solution. Does it mean that the writer is clueless? I wish the writer had stated his solution. This would have enhanced the prestige of Outlook, but clearly, you are playing it safe and leaving things irresolute.
Thousands of young students—overwhelmingly Hindu by faith—have felt sufficiently motivated to come out on the streets and join demonstrations with Muslims against CAA. Their participation is strategically significant. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that CAA is the first step in the disenfranchisement of Muslims in India.
This refers to the interview of the West Bengal governor (‘I am a friend of the Bengal govt’, January 13). At the outset, we need the version of Mamata also for a balanced appreciation of the governor’s version. The level of public discourse has become deplorably low in the past decade. The discourteous treatment of the governor by the state government is in reaction to the attempts of the Union government to undermine the federal character of our Constitution. The intention of the makers of our Constitution was to make states equal partners in governance, except in national defence and external affairs. States deserve to be treated with respect in a democratic setup and not as mere sultanates of an empire.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto Porvorim
This refers to Justice League (December 23). The staged encounters of the four accused of rape-murder and the jubilation following it portend a lawless future for the country. Inept policing, clumsy investigations and a slow judicial system have brought us to a point where people have more faith in extrajudicial killings rather than the courts. The craving for instant justice reeks of an uncivilised mindset. It’s often said that the law takes its own course, but what happens when it takes aeons for justice to be delivered? It’s time to transform the legal process.
Vijai Pant, Hempur
The letter from the editor in the anniversary issue should have spoken about Vinod Mehta. He wasn’t just any other editor—Outlook is what it is largely because of him. It’s like Dravid’s declaration in the Multan Test when Sachin was on 194, which has haunted Dravid since. I hope Ruben makes up for it in the silver jubilee year and publishes this letter because Vinod would have!
Naveen Rao, On E-Mail
Green day Amid the Watergate scandal, President Nixon received a letter from an 8-year-old