• Middling Truth
    Nov 13, 2017

    I don’t think that Sangeet Som and Azam Khan ­deserved any space at all in the magazine, leave alone an editorial comment. It is the 24x7 TV channels, and also the print media to some extent, which give totally undeserved publicity to such controversial entities always on the lookout to cause nuisance. Whatever anybody says at a small gathering or in front of TV cameras is instantly spread all over the country, which would otherwise have gone unheard outside the immediate circle and context. Excited TV anchors conducting senseless debates with politicians and other panelists trigger one national controversy or the other. The Taj Mahal is what it is—the glory and identity of India—and the Rashtrapati Bhavan is what it is—residence of the Head of State. This needed no discussion and explanation. Why discuss and respond to the absurd utterings of publicity-hungry politicians and give them what they seek on a platter? The media should desist from picking up and spreading controversial and undesirable utterings of petty politicians. But then...who’s listening?


    M.C. Joshi, Lucknow


    This refers to your editorial comment Som and Khan (October 30). I doubt if the writer has read all that V.D. Savarkar wrote about his rigorous life imprisonment and, if he has, then this is plain villainy. Savarkar was kept in a tiny, dark cell in the Andamans. He was there for more than a decade, which is perhaps longer than Jawaharlal Nehru’s imprisonments. At least, Nehru was allowed to read literature and write letters. Savarkar chose a more innovative way to serve his motherland, by putting all his energies to fight social evils in Hindu society. He got the Patit Pavan temple in Ratnagiri to open its doors to people from all castes. You can’t find fault with him if he thought he could serve the country better by being with the people rather than decaying silently in jail.


    Abhay Kher, On E-Mail


    “They came here, fell in love with this land, married into local ruling families and built beautiful, breathtaking monuments to love, stuff Khan or Som don’t understand.” Forget the hyperbole about falling in love with this land and other things. Let us talk about breathtaking monuments. What is breathtaking for one may be garbage for someone else. There are people who think carnatic music is the highest form of music—and others who cannot stand the sound of it. Who is right and who is wrong? Bharathiyar is considered to be the greatest Tamil poet in the modern era—and there are others who have ­serious disagreements on this. It’s the same with Tagore and Satyajit Ray. I could not sit through his movie for more than 10 minutes. It was horrible. That is my opinion and I am entitled to it. Similarly, Som is entitled to his opinion that the Taj is garbage. And you are free to think his opinion is garbage. Why be so angry about it?


    Akash Verma, Chennai


    Controversial BJP MLA Sangeet Som has once again ignited a fire storm of controversy. The likes of Som are nonchalant about polarising the soc­iety on communal lines for political gains. Som has been booked for using social media to disseminate hate speeches and videos in the past. Yogi Adityanath is fast losing credibility as a leader and it is high time top leaders from the BJP intervened and told him to keep people like Som in check. But so far, the party has failed to rein in its aggressive leaders. Perhaps, it doesn’t want to do so at all.


    K.S. Jayatheertha, Bengaluru


    The decades-old ploy of portraying Muslims as anti-Indians stems from the RSS’s Hindutva agenda. It is no wonder that an org­anisation servile to the Queen of England, which distanced itself from the freedom struggle all the way and did not unfurl the tricolour until the 1980s at their headquarters could leave only the sediment of hatred against Muslim kings who dared to fight the British. It is reassuring that President Ramnath Kovind has heaped praises on Tipu Sultan who fought uncompromisingly against the British. The right wing in Karnataka is hell bent on portraying him as a villain in history, just like the saffron brigade in UP paints the Mughals as in order to foment comm­unal tension for political gains.


    Chandrasekaran C., On E-Mail


    The writer is burdened with V.D. Savarkar’s infamous apology just as BJP’s Sangeet Som carries the Mughal baggage. Savarkar, who wrote The First War of Independence, also served time in Kala Paani under the same British regime whom Azam Khan chooses to castigate. Contradictions coexist in men like Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru too. But unfortunately, whatever suits an opinion-holder is said in loud words, while the truth often lies between two extreme perspectives.


    Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala

  • Nov 13, 2017

    This is in reference to ‘What He Said Was In the Past” (Oct 30). Flip-flops and reckless statements have become US President Donald Trump’s trademark; what he says today can be withdrawn the very next day, there is no sense of accountability in his twitter comments as well as his speeches. The secretary of state’s visit to Pakistan shows that hyphenating India-Pakistan has always been the US’s policy, to humour their strategic ally. However, our Ministry of External Affairs is gloating over Rex W. Tillerson’s hop, stop and jump safari. Following the rescue, with the help of the Pakistani army, of a Canad­ian-American couple who were being held by jehadis, Trump seems to have been won over by the baubles offered by Pakistan’s generals. In what is being perceived as a change of heart, he has even declared that the US is starting to develop much better relations with Pakistan’s leaders.


    P.L. Singh, On E-Mail

  • In the Same Breath
    Nov 13, 2017

    Sahar is not just a 14-year-old studying in Noida, she is a gifted writer too and a sensitive and perceptive human being. Sahar, you are as beautiful as your name. And yes, I too do not enjoy the smoke and smell of ­firecrackers. I have to remain indoors during the festival of light for although my heart is strong, my lungs are very weak.


    Mallika Chandrasekhar, On E-Mail


    This is so much the story of my daughters too, Sahar, and my dad. When we anticipate a festival not with joy, but with anxiety due to human practices, there is something very, very wrong about it. You have written an excellent piece highlighting the issue.


    Madhavi Chandra, On E-Mail


    I am ­suffering from a respiratory tract infection and I know what you are talking about Sahar. Being breathless is very lonely. India will have to decide whether we want people coming home or breathing heavily in solitude.


    Rukmini Sen, On E-Mail

  • State of Gender
    Nov 06, 2017

    The police, the university administration and state ministers—all government bodies—are responsible for drawing the Ravana rekhas of patriarchy in BHU (Crossing the Ravana Rekha, Oct 23). It is a reflection of the deep-seated mis­ogyny prevailing in the DNA of our public institutions. And this is the situation inside a university space which is thought of as being more progressive than other spaces. The irony is that even though educational institutions are seen as spaces which will rid us of gender bias, it is these spaces which are curtailing the basic rights of women. Let’s talk about the skewed state of gender ratio. Data shows that both Dalits and Adivasis, seemingly ‘non-­educated’ and ‘backward’ communities, have better gender ratios whereas the non-scheduled caste, non-tribal pop­ulations in the same areas are much worse off.  What happened in BHU and also in other universities is a clear message by the authorities to women who challenge the stereotyped notions of gender roles and envisioned a better future for themselves through education. In these times, Beti bachao, beti padhao (save the girl child and educate her) is a laughable catchphrase indeed!


    Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun


    Your cover story exposes the unending atrocities women in India suffer at homes and even on so-called ‘progressive’ university campuses. The inherent patria­rchal system of society, feeling insecure and flustered in the face of women ­attempting to speak for themselves, is now reacting in violent ways to suppress them. The BHU incident is a clear example of this violence. Men in India may land on the Moon but an educated woman who speaks her mind is still an eyesore for them.  


    P.A. Jacob, Muscat


    The police’s conduct in BHU was disgraceful. But such actions have now become par for the course in the country. Thanks to weak and politicised university administrations—JNU, HCU, Jadavpur University, and now BHU, policemen now have a free hand to act against students who are perceived to have overstepped the limits set by the authorities. And politicians have found the perfect catchphrase to shift blame for all res­po­­nsibility in the case of such incidents—that any unrest which results in police brutality is the work of “anti-national elements”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ­efforts to make the ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ campaign a success took a beating in his own parliamentary constituency—Varanasi—at the hands of the local adm­inistration. When Uttar Pradesh went to polls, the buzzword was women’s safety. Issuing lathi-charge orders against the girl students of BHU, who were peacefully protesting against the alleged molestation of a fellow student, is an abuse of power that is unpardonable and speaks volumes about the ­insensitivity and tone-deafness of the UP police. By doing so, the UP police have only dented their image further.


    Padmini Raghavendra, Mettuguda


    The whole BHU issue was ineptly handled by the university administration and the UP police alike with partisanship to ­enlist loyalty to the ruling party. As happened in Hyderabad Central University more than a year back, the police ent­ered the campus and inflicted violence on peacefully protesting students. That it happened in and around the women’s hostel in BHU without any women ­police present is horrible. The BHU V-C’s reactions on the issue show that he has no problem with such acts of ­police brutality. It is important that university vice-chancellors are ­selected from among those who have excelled ­academically and not those who are ­affiliated to parties or ideologies.


    Vimal Kumar, Hyderabad


    Reports on atrocities against women appear on a daily basis in ­newspapers in Kerala (Pluck Egos, Not just Tea Oct 23). Domestic violence, though, is a relatively unreported but common issue because of the ‘private’ nature of this offence. Drinking, which is eulogised by the men of the state, has destroyed the lives of many women in rural Kerala and women workers in tea estates as well as in offices are discr­iminated against and harassed. Of late, the sizeable nurse population of the state has become a victim of economic exploitation because they had dema­nded a raise in salaries. The decision of owners of private hospitals not to ­follow the guidelines of the government in fixing the minimum wages of nurses has compelled them to organise even hunger strikes.


    M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha

  • One-Liner
    Nov 06, 2017

    For women, our universities are prisons and the police is a barbaric institution.


    Anil S., Pune

  • Battlefield Gujarat
    Nov 06, 2017

    This is with reference to the article on Rahul Gandhi’s jibes at the BJP in his election campaign in Gujarat (RaGa Road To Gujarat Navsurgence, Oct 23). The ‘grand old party’ of India is in a ‘do or die’ situation, and can scarcely afford to let itself be thrashed electorally yet ­another time like in Uttar Pradesh election earlier this year. Since 2014, it has only been a downward slide for the party, which has almost been struggling to fight for relevance! Yet Rahul Gandhi’s various exertions more rec­ently give the impression that the Congress is not yet out of reckoning—his speech at the University of California, Berkeley, his connection with potential voters in Gujarat and his Navsarjan yatra, all prove that he means business this time and is not a part-time politician any longer. Like the BJP highlighted corruption in the UPA-II during the 2014 poll campaign, the Congress now has sufficient ammunition to challenge BJP rule. Many things under the BJP administration can now be criticised—snail-like progress in industry and trade, joblessness the slowing down of the economy, the reverse effects of demonetisation, a poorly implemented GST and the alle­ged 16,000 times rise in profit in the firm of Amit Shah’s son since the BJP came to  power. Gujarat may have been a long-standing BJP bastion, but things can change course rather quickly now. Yet, Shankersinh Vaghela’s exit may not mean a big loss for the Congress, because the party gained nothing from his presence. It’s simply that many in the party like him left a sinking ship to join the BJP. What will be left behind is a brigade of loyal Congressmen, with which the Congress can breach the BJP’s formidable defe­nces in Gujarat, now that they are bolstered by the support of the young Patidar and Dalit leaders.


    M.Y. Shariff, Chennai


    Rahul’s recent ­anti-BJP jousting, garnished with witty sound bytes that attracted large crowds, reassures many about the survival of not only the Congress, but also the health of Indian democracy. But I think it’s no match for the BJP’s personality-centric focus on the cult of Modi. This is an irony, for people have to be made to see what Modi is—an ­expert in hoaxes, dual politics and broken promises. Under him, primary health and education have taken a back seat and the saffron style of development is dominating. Further­more, his regime is systematically dev­aluing civil liberties and transparency by sidelining the RTI Act and delaying the Lokpal. The NDA leaders sing praises of the Consti­tu­tion and parrot the virtues of a heal­thy democracy and yet ­violate its sacred tenets while pandering  to the demands of majoritarianism. Regional parties are fiefdoms of local kings and queens, ­myopically undemocratic. But the Congress, the only nati­onal party which is an ­alternative to the BJP’s poisonous presence, must first admit its own blunders like repudiating the SC judgment in the Shah Bano case, opening the temple doors at Ayodhya and failing to weed out people tainted with corruption charges. Only then can the Congress be ready for a­nother bout of power at the Centre.


    M.N. Bhartiya, Goa


    Apropos ‘Congress Rev-up” (October 23). Without effective opposition there is no democracy, and it is now becoming more vibrant. When a man is overcharged with power, pelf and prestige, he inevitably develops faith in God. This explains Modi’s numerous visits to shrines, apart from slyly flaunting the Hindu card. He is entitled to bolster his faith, but the people are not impressed. They want personal ease of living, whereas Modi is making life difficult. Riding upon the backs of the masses with a carrot dangling before them to deliver an El Dorado post-2019 is a pol­itical prank. The masses who vote for a party and make the prime minister get no opportunity to voice their opinion in the media, but that’s what matters. The crucial need is to ensure fair elections, preferably by ballot paper.


    J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad

  • Recipes for Disaster
    Nov 06, 2017

    I write in response to Outlook’s cover story on the deplorable state of Indian Railways, which has recently been magnified by a spate of that Indian staple—horrible train disasters (Signal Is Green For The Guilty, Oct 16). The rec­ent train mishaps are terrible, but it’s the stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone station that I can’t get over. It’s no sec­ret that we as a society have little civic sense, and it further deteriorates when it’s time to board buses and trains. Indians lose all sense of decency when it comes to public transport—look how they plunge and tear at each other just to get a vacant seat. At the general populace’s mercy are disabled people, senior citizens, pregnant women, children and anyone else for that matter. With good sense, patience and civility, the Mumbai stampede could have been avoided. As the tragedy unfolded, some observers, instead of helping in some way, were busy clicking pictures and taking videos of this ‘spectacle’. How low have we stooped !


    Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai

  • Revolutionary mantras
    Nov 06, 2017

    Kerala society has made a historic stride by recruiting Dalit priests in a set of temples administered by the government’s devaswom board (Fresh Trickle Of Teertham, Oct 23). The state has had great social ­reformists like Narayana Guru and Sahodaran Ayyappan who fought against casteism all their lives. The neighbouring Tamil Nadu too has had  strong Dalit movements, but it has still not succeeding in doing what the devaswom board in Kerala has done ­despite a 2006 government order that allowed any trained Hindu to be a ­temple pujari.


    C. Chandrasekaran, On Email


    Your columnist B.R.P. Bhaskar wasn’t entirely right in his history of non-Brahmins in south Indian temples. Several famous temples of Tamil Nadu had non-Brahmins as archakas not just during the Sangam era, but as late as the 1500s when priesthood was snatched away from them during the reign of Naicker from Andhra. The hill shrine of Palani is one instance of this.


    Natarajan R, On Email


    Devotees throng temples to ­experience God. The priest’s caste or creed are of no consideration. Yadhu  Krishna P.R. is an uttama Brahmanan having studied Vedanta and been trained in temple rituals. I am looking forward to that day I will pray at the temple where he is the pujari and receive the holy prasadam from the youngster.


    Col C.V. Venugopalan (retd), Palakkad


    While it’s heart-warming that a Dalit has found his way into the sanctum sanctorum of a Kerala temple, not all utterances from the head of the body administering it sound positive. Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan sings a regressive tune when it comes to the question of women entering the famed hill-shrine of Sabarimala under it. “If women are allowed in Sabarimala, we can’t ensure their security,” he has reportedly said.  He is also known to have said that women are not allowed into the temple because “we wouldn’t like to convert it into a sex tourism spot like Thailand.” In one stroke, he has insulted various kinds of sensibilities!


    K.P. Rajan, Mumbai

  • Nov 06, 2017

    In Tamil Nadu, bigamy is pretty much ­institutionalised, and particularly common in the districts of Krishnagiri and Salem (Many Quarters of the Patriarch, Oct 23). The social sanction for two wives is abundant in the mythology of the region. Lord Muruga, for instance, had two wives. In the undivided Andhra Pradesh too, bigamy is widespread among the powerful and is even considered a status symbol.


    J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad

  • Nov 06, 2017

    This refers to the interview with Kalki Koechlin (‘Deepika and Priyanka are ­exceptions, otherwise gender balance in terms of pay is skewed’, October 23). Last year, Amitabh Bacchan said that he had been paid far less for a film than the film’s female protagonist had been. Even decades ago, Mala Sinha was ­rep­ortedly being paid more than many of the leading men of the era. If such cases are aberrations, and female ­actors ­indeed receive less remuneration in general, this can only be ascribed to the nature of the market. The vast majority of commercially successful Bollywood masala films are hero-centric, and their success is dependent on the hero. That is why many female leads are still treated as mere sex symbols or mute showpieces, while a heroine carrying a film on her shoulders is a rare phenomenon. Bollywood has simply catered to the demand and produced films in which not much is expected of the ­female lead, who thus receives lower compensation for their work.


    Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi

  • Nov 06, 2017

    Apropos Depressing Window to Middle Class (Oct 23), the government must take note of this rise in unemployment, and of the criticism that has begun to come from its own backyard, and critically examine its own economic policies. Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha lashing out at the NDA for the plummeting of economic growth is timely and cannot be ignored, and others such as Subr­amanian Swamy and even RSS ideologue Gurumurthy have expressed concern over this issue and the Centre’s approach to it. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley must take this criticism in his stride and work out what needs to be done, instead of ­attempting to counter it by painting a rosy picture of the current situation. It is time for the prime minister to start working towards achieving a turnaround in the economy in the coming months by taking all concerned into his confidence instead of ­relying on the ­finance minister’s statements and statistics, which do not ref­lect real GDP due to inflation (which has been rising together with unemployment—stagflation). His failure to do so thus far has created fear and restlessness in the minds of ordinary people, ­especially traders and the youth, about what the future has in store for them.


    K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad


    The BJP rose to power with the support of the middle class by promising that two crore jobs would be created every year. On the contrary, 1.5 million jobs were lost during January-April 2017. Thanks to demonetisation and GST, there have been considerable job losses in the informal sector and a sharp decline in job growth in the formal sector. While Modi exhorts job seekers to become job creators even as self-employment comprises only about 15 per cent of total employment in the OECD (Organisation for Economic ­Co-operation and Development) countries. Weighed down with high taxes, inflation and high fuel prices, more than 90 per cent of the taxpayers in India, who are salaried employees ­belonging to the middle class, have every reason to feel they have been ­betrayed by the BJP.


    Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai


    The start-up or Make in India movement can succeed only if Prime Minister Narendra Modi monitors government officers for acco­untability. It is essential that employees in the Income Tax department, nationalised banks and so on are able to disc­harge their duties efficiently and without succumbing to corruption. The PM and his team must take suitable ­action against those who fail to discharge their duties within a reasonable time.


    M. Kumar, New Delhi


    Today’s graduates are indeed caught ­between the devil and the deep blue sea—unemployability, due to studying useless syllabuses, on the one hand, and the threat of automation-induced ­redundancy, on the other. While automation spells efficiency and cost-cutting to many a business, it also portends the bleak dehumanised ­mechanical age we are heading for. Software companies are tackling the problem through re-training. Also, now that labour unions have been allowed to operate in the IT industry in some states such as Tamil Nadu, they have to play a constructive role in redressing these issues.


    C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad


    Jobs are directly related to the health of the economy, of course. Recently, apart from the Opposition, leading economists of the country and the public at large, even those from within the BJP have been criticising the one-man-led party for losing control over the economy by issuing myopic diktats like demonetisation and the GST reforms. Contrary to what the government says, commodities are now priced at an all-time high and common people are struggling to eke out a living The thing about jobs is not just about getting employment but those jobs have to be progressively sustainable by growth being proportional to the rise in the costs of living.  


    Rahul Mishra, New Delhi

  • Nov 06, 2017

    This refers to your article on Mamata Banerjee’s ­political strategies in Bengal (The High Way, Yes, But Not Her Way! Oct 30). Mamata, that ferocious politician, is certainly keeping a close watch on the BJP’s strategy in her fortress. She is not someone who should be underestimated, having founded the Trinamool Congress in 1998 and having led it to become a national party—indeed, the fourth-largest party in the Lok Sabha—in such a short span of years. ‘Didi’ capitalised on her fight against the then ruling government for allowing Ratan Tata to set up his Nano Car project on poor people’s land at Singur, and also became the guardian angel for a majority of Bengalis. However, her reputation suffered due to the involvement of her colleagues in scandals such as the Narada sting operation scam, the dubious chit fund companies case, the Saradha Group financial scandal and the Rose Valley financial scandal. She was attacked on social media for her controversial observation, “Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and be reprimanded, but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.” Despite such issues, it cannot be denied that Mamata Benarjee has a tough mind and the ­determination to vault over seemingly insurmountable odds.


    Telangana Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda

  • Nov 06, 2017

    This is with reference to your book ­review Development at extreme close up (Oct 23). The learned Jean Dreze has sparkling ideas. He does not hesitate to point his finger at a loophole and is not hesitant to appreciate what is right. It is ­unfortunate that in today’s India, men like him have no place, since politics and economics are driven by divisive forces based on religion. However, such men do India proud by questioning the auth­ority and helping the rest understand their compatriots and ­people at large.


    Rabindra Nath Roy, On E-Mail

  • Nov 06, 2017

    This refers to your editorial comment Asthma and Mutton Fry (October 23). The court has banned the sale of crackers due to environmental and not religious concerns. It is wrong to try giving this a communal colour. Religion has been and will be a theatre of trauma. And politicians of all hues love drama. One pulp fiction writer also asked why rituals of the festivals of other religions are not banned. He should remember that when somebody brings some concern before the court, the court does not look at the colour of the shirt he wears, but only merit of the case.


    V.N.K.Murti Pattambi, Pattambi

  • Invitation To Trouble
    Nov 06, 2017

    This refers to A Prayer Sent Out Loudly (Oct 16). Like the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre, the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal is perceived to be pro-Muslim. This bias and appeasement, while being useless for Muslims, will only consolidate the Hindu vote against her party.


    Rajiv Chopra, Jammu

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