This is with reference to your cover story titled The Rising And The Anxious Male (April 16). A sexist attitude is something that has been an inherent part of the Indian problem when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment. In so many liberal colleges across India, stories of sexual abuse and harassment have done the rounds as hushed whispers between colleagues and students. That people are abused is routine. That nothing much is done about it is also routine. Only a part of the whole picture has now been revealed by students and others concerned. My question is: why, as a society, are we still making excuses for sexual predators and why are universities and college campuses, places which spearhead change, independent of thought and action, festering in this exploitative environment?
Padmini Raghavendra, On E-Mail
Sexuality is not something that can simply be hidden from the rest of the world, especially in our contemporary environment. We need to confront it, and deal with it. In the present-day context, the extensive use of electronic and social media has ensured that the dirt that was hiding behind veneers of public conduct has become known to everyone. Women have been mistreated for various reasons for years, decades and centuries. The times are changing. Women today are having none of it and are using tools at their disposal, like social media, to expose the misogynists. And the opposite gender cannot tolerate their growth in perception, leading to a huge gender conflict. But using social media as a weapon of change has its perils. The language used there is often extremely nasty. It’s quite surprising that educated people can be seen using filthy words and expressions in this platform to strike back even in sincere-sounding discussions. It seems that violence online has a way of possessing all sorts of people. Virtual harassment has become a commonplace thing. Unfortunately, no one is going to win this fight.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
Sexual abuse is a reality in not only Indian institutions and workplaces but in Indian society as a whole. It’s hardly a rare thing to learn of incidents of sexual abuse in families and households. Yet, the law against harassment is paradoxical in the sense that the one of the very basic principles of jurisprudence—“innocent till proven guilty”—is upturned to “guilty till proven innocent”, and this provides enough room for ‘using’ the law against males. For, the sole proof of the alleged offence accepted by the court is the version of the accusing women. Agreed, there is a legal process too, which will determine if the allegations are genuine or not—still, the law seems to suffer from a kind of asymmetry. There cannot be one law for victims of sexual harassment and another for the victims of other crimes, as is the case right now. The case of the poet-anthologist illustrates the cause for ambivalence: the complainant was herself not sure whether her case would stand legal scrutiny and resorted to talk about her alleged harassment through a Facebook post. Though disclosure was followed by no legal action, the damage was done—without the poet getting a chance to defend himself on the issue, many of his colleagues pronounced him guilty. That is why a number of poets pulled out of an anthology he was editing.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
History is a graveyard of several failed due processes, that is why the present is so turbulent.
Shishir Prabhu, Hyderabad
The Singapore Diary by Giridhar Jha (April 9) made for good reading. But justice cannot be done to Singapore without a mention of their MRT system—the cheapest and best mode of transport within the city state. You can never get lost within the maze, what with lucid signboards, crisp announcements and the ever-helpful people of the country.
Vasudha Saralaya, On E-Mail
This is with reference to the story on cricket’s periodic encounters with its non-gentlemanly side, in the light of the recent ball-tampering fiasco (Blongers Must Walk, Apr 9). Truth is, all cricketing nations now play the hard way. Moreover, crass commercialisation of the game has further made it extremely tempting for the unscrupulous. There is often more to the unexpected outcome of a match than meets the eye. Even before the recent incident smeared their image, Australians have been at the forefront of those who tarnished the game, introducing the world to terms like ‘sledging’. This ‘win at any cost’ attitude has now brought them to a pass where even its political establishment was left red-faced. Let us hope that the guilt-ridden, moist eyes of its erstwhile captain and vice-captain while facing the press will prove to be a point of catharsis which Australian cricket so badly needs. Only time will tell whether cricketers will turn a new leaf or continue tampering with the game.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
The article by sociologist Shiv Visvanathan, The Chilly justice of the Gulag, in Outlook’s issue on the ‘gender war’ is a revealing indictment of all that is wrong with the Indian academia. Throughout the article, the writer skilfully weaves the narrative of a nobler era, where issues were challenged “by weaving the personal and political into a tapestry of radicalism”. He romanticises some fantasy past filled with joy, freedom and an enlightened ability to talk and live with difference.
The current generation, however, is described with words like “essentialist”, seeking “instant resolution”, and “wanting justice as instant gratification” while offering “little proof because they think proof is unnecessary”. It is as though niceness and rationale froze to a halt with the author’s generation, and subsequently became filled with feminist landmines that ‘old-school’ men have to now tiptoe through. For a start, relationships in universities and academic spaces are not cosy little “man-woman relationship” spaces. They are spaces of extreme imbalance in power—of gender, of religion and caste and culture, to name a few.
At no point does the writer stand in solidarity with any woman on the list, as though it is a given that they are untruthful. It is also curious that he takes great care to mention that the academics mentioned in the list were ‘outstanding’—it somehow implies that being outstanding carries with it some intrinsic impunity against ordinary laws and rules.
The institution can be a sacred space to many, a key to escape from generations of poverty and oppression. To reduce those to spaces of man-woman relationships and upholding that as its primary value is trivialising the aspirations of thousands of women.
(PS: This comes from a doctor and researcher who neither identifies as older or younger generation and who, incidentally, also put a name on the Raya Sarkar list following total failure of ‘due process’ over a twenty-year period.)
Dr Sylvia Karpagam, On E-Mail
This is about the article on the communal clashes in Bengal’s Ranigunj and Asansol areas around the Ram Navami celebrations and the politics the BJP and the Trinamool are playing over them (At The Fire Ceremonies, April 16). The political kerfuffle in West Bengal over the BJP’s observance of Ram Navami and the TMC’s equally spirited celebration of Annapurna Puja would not have taken this ugly form had both parties proceeded with circumspection. Religious fervour was reduced to a malodorous thing. As an astute leader, Mamata Banerjee would surely have noted last year’s tensions around Ram Navami and didn’t want to miss out on this year’s. No wonder, the RSS is happy with what has transpired in Bengal.
J.S. Acharya, On E-Mail
Amidst the NPA problems in the banking sector, precipitated by the Nirav Modi scam, the issue of corporate governance has hit the country’s private banks, which once used to be the darlings of investors (Grease Is Best Kept Private, April 16). As for the ICICI issue over Videocon-NuPower, that bank’s board has defended its head Chanda Kochhar, but its investors are naturally becoming restless as days pass. Axis Bank, under Shikha Sharma, too has been hit by some bad news or the other in the last few months. From money-laundering charges during demonetisation in November 2016 to under-reporting bad loans and insider trading charges, things have worsened during her tenure. The gross NPAs of Axis Bank have increased from Rs 915 crore to Rs 25,000 crore from 2009 to 2017. If that is not a strong enough reason for a change at the top, I don’t know what is.
Bal Govind, Noida
From the deplorable events unfolding before the nation—the colossal frauds being committed by the so-called “efficient” private sector banks like ICICI, Axis and Yes Bank—one can very well come to the conclusion that audit/vigilance departments in banks, including those in the RBI, the regulator of banks and financial institutions in the country, have been in hibernation for a very long time. The RBI should be held wholly responsible for the ever-increasing NPAs, running into thousands of crores in private as well as public sector banks since it failed to check the mounting loans. Customer confidence in banks is at a nadir in the country right now. As a retired senior citizen, I don’t think I see a ray of hope for the future of banking.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
With reference to A Very Blue Tangle (April 16), the Supreme Court’s observation that no automatic arrests should be made under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act before a mandatory probe is carried out is appropriate and only serves the interests of justice. But what is shocking is the aftermath: the protests and the crackdown on them, which has resulted in the death of nine people as well as large-scale violence and destruction of property across the country, with north Indian states bearing the brunt. In this context, Dalit anger is justifiable because, even with the strict provisions in the SC/ST Act already in force, the community is vulnerable to frequent attacks by caste Hindus. Further, the fear that any dilution of the provisions of the Act will only result in more attacks and suppression of their rights is not unfounded. Therefore, the protests are justifiable, but not the violence. Violence only breeds hatred and makes the situation go from bad to worse. With all that said, it is baffling that the opposition is targeting the Centre, knowing full well that the observation that the Act needs to be amended was made by the court to prevent its misuse. As usual, politicians are fishing in troubled waters to consolidate Dalit votes by creating a Dalit–upper caste divide, rather than ensuring that Dalits get social justice. Only time will tell whether the observations made by the apex court are correct or an overreach.
K.R. Srinivasan, On E-Mail
The nationwide protest by Dalits signals a degree of collective assertion by one of the most oppressed groups in the country. But why have they mobilised on this scale only for the SC/ ST Act? Why not also for incidents such as when ‘gau rakshaks’ thrashed several Dalit men for allegedly skinning a dead cow, and even filmed the atrocity? In October 2017, Gujarat saw the ‘moustache protest’ after two Dalit men were beaten up for sporting moustaches, the symbol of ‘upper-caste’ masculinity, and shortly after the incidents, a Dalit man was lynched for watching a garba event. There has been no action so far against the leaders accused of inciting violence when Hindutva forces decided to attack Dalits gathering in Maharashtra to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon. The Maratha protests organised across the state, which saw the government agreeing to look into their grievances, also had a strong anti-Dalit undercurrent, with one of their main demands being the scrapping of the Atrocities Act.
K.S. Jayatheertha, On E-Mail
This refers to The Old Sport Of Goodwill Hunting, your story analysing the recent meeting between the premières of India and Nepal (April 16). It will be in India’s interest to build good relations with Nepal. Even though India views Nepal PM Oli as pro-China, his visit is an opportunity for India to mend relations which have gone awry in the last half-decade. India should also keep in mind that China is eyeing Nepal as a potential investment zone and it is inevitable that the Chinese will start some projects there, the dragon is, after all, Nepal’s other big neighbour. So if China builds a hydropower project in Nepal,India should be offering to buy the power the project generates instead of sulking with envy. If there are lessons from India’s engagement with Nepal over the last four years, it is not to make crude demands on loyalty based on the size of the neighbour, but to acknowledge the agency of the other and offer a fair friendship deal.
M.S. Khokhar, On E-Mail
Fake news laws in our post-truth world, a convenient oxymoron indeed (Fake News Busters, April 16). But you have to give credit to the I&B minister for bringing in the short-lived rule as it would have been the ultimate weapon to seek and destroy the remaining journalists and media organisations in the country not influenced or ‘inspired’ by the current government. Alas, this is technically a democracy, so the prudent prime minister got the order retracted swiftly. Someone should tell minister Irani that you don’t use a nuke until you are absolutely losing the war. But I do wonder if an even hand were to back this rule, even if it would have lasted for a week, the number of journos—‘well-connected’ editors, maverick TV anchors, new media moguls—to lose their accreditation would be stupendous.
Anil S., Pune
The attempt of the I&B minister was to fetter the press and harass journalists by means of the fake news order (Fake News Busters, April 16). The objective of this government is to make the media of a country its caged bird. As it is, parrots abound in its landscape.
Raj Mohan, Secunderabad
Dedicating an issue of a popular magazine like Outlook to a talented, contemporary writer like Ramachandra Guha is a welcome gesture (Unleashing A Storm Even At 60, April 9). Guha has often been labelled by some historians as a ‘pop historian’. But his India After Gandhi is the best book I have read on the father and his nation. His other book, The States of Indian Cricket: Anecdotal Histories, is also a delightful read. It recreates several fond memories of Indian cricket in the sixties and seventies and vividly brings to life incidents involving players like Budhi Kundaran, Bedi, Borde, Sardesai, Vishy, Durrani, Abid Ali and Kirmani.
However, two problems that I found with Guha, and I have known him for a while now, are: One, as a historian, he is blind when it comes to writing about Nehru; two, he thinks that he can claim to be a “proud Kannadiga” without knowing a word of Kannada. It’s sad that he has not realised how disastrous the latter assertion is for his reputation as a public intellectual.
As for Shajahan Madampat‘s objection to Guha’s comment comparing the burqa with the trishul, I think Guha meant only to highlight that just as the trishul is ominous for the Hindus—since it has become a symbol of aggression—so too is the burqa for Muslims, it being a symbol of patriarchy. On Shajahan’s other criticism, that Guha should not have included Arif Mohammed Khan in the trio of modern model Muslim leaders because Khan eventually joined the BJP, I want to say that Khan cannot be entirely blamed for that. The so-called secular space in contemporary Indian politics has become so limited and suffocating that, for politicians like Arif Khan, the BJP has become a tactical option as they do not want to commit political suicide.
D.S. Nagabhushana, Shimoga
The outstanding intellectual Guha’s very first book, The Unquiet Woods, has been a pathfinder for people like us who have been invested in addressing the issues facing marginalised forest-dependents in Uttarakhand and elsewhere (Scholar, Sui Generis). But, the comparison he recently made in a newspaper article between the burqa and the trishul was rather unfortunate, as pointed out by my friend, Shajahan Madampat, in the same issue. Guha’s comments after Lenin’s statute was toppled by a mob in Tripura after the BJP’s victory there (he said that the Left should have installed Bhagat Singh’s statue instead of Lenin’s) reveals another side of the intellectual, a side cleverly hidden by the eulogies thrown on him in your cover story. It shows that the author is not free from prejudice and has a curiously anti-Left attitude. It’s unbelievable that a scholar of his stature didn’t know that Bhagat Singh was also an intellectual par excellence who had made Lahore’s Dwarkadas Library virtually his home. He was well-versed with the writings of Marx and Lenin. Even on death row, he was reading the writings of Lenin and the Communist Manifesto.
Finally, as far as comparing the burqa with the trishul is concerned, it is like comparing tomatoes with apples.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The recent debate about Guha’s adverse comments on political activist Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express exposes Guha’s limited grasp of present day identity politics in the context of Indian feudalism. It also confirms the unimaginable complexities created by our leaders to confuse people, even highly qualified ones like Guha. Today’s politics mixes narratives of the state with the media to produce a dangerous cocktail fatal for democratic values. Progressive liberalism, which includes upholding basic fundamental rights of equality in public affairs, is at stake, threatening the irredeemable ruin of our polity. When progressive people like Guha make such sweeping, unfounded statements, consider the situation to have become alarming.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The next step in evolution is us becoming digital beings, and data is our new genetic code.
There is something fishy about the entire drama around a ‘sudden spurt’ in non-performing assets (Rs 90,00,00,00,00,000, Apr 9). For, stressed assets had been mounting for a long time under the nose of the finance ministry, the RBI, regulating agencies, audit machinery and public sector banks—without any tangible action to arrest the trend. Given the indiscipline in the banking system, the rot could not have happened without a nexus among politicians, bankers and corporate houses. Now a blame game has started and people are aghast at the ‘climax’ of the drama. The Supreme Court recently observed that the linking of Aadhaar cards with bank accounts failed to serve the purpose of preventing banking fraud. This happened due to compromising bankers, but there is more to the corporates-banker nexus than meets the eye. Who emboldened the bankers to appease the big fish to alarming levels and allow them to escape out of the country?
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
New RBI rules on handling bad loans are indeed welcome—they can bring much-needed discipline with regard to NPAs. But this will surely lead to a spike in the disclosures of NPAs. Under the new guidelines, if an account is categorised as bad, it will be categorised identically for all the other lenders, so that it exerts a direct pressure on the company’s promoters to be on top of their game at all times. External factors like the market or the economy may not be directly in the hands of promoters, but they will have to be proactive. With 180 days to resolve NPAs worth Rs 2,000 crore and more, banks will be on their toes to expedite the amount at the earliest. Had the rules been framed earlier, much damage could have been avoided.
Guha sparked a relevant debate in his response to Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express recently. One stands with Guha in appreciating the efforts of every Hamid Dalwai or Arif Mohammad Khan, but the comparison of the burqa with the trishul doesn’t make much sense. One needs to understand the objective situation in which the Muslim community finds itself. It is being pushed into the corner under the current atmosphere of majoritarian assertion. For over a decade, Muslim friends, who one never perceived in terms of their religious identity, have started raising the question: “What does it mean to be a Muslim in India today?” The whole liberal traditions of Muslims from Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Zakir Hussain to Ustad Bismillah Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azami and Javed Akhtar, are very much a part of the Indian Muslim community. The point is: why is their acceptability limited within the community?
Currently, many ‘moderate Muslim’ groups are raising their voices against the ‘mullah’ version of Islam. The question which should come to the fore is why these voices of sanity are not able to make the necessary dent in the broader sections of society gripped by conservatism? This is a time when faith-based knowledge and the most retrograde values are being encouraged by the dominant political tendency. In these times, to work for progressive reforms among Muslims becomes much more difficult. One hopes a combination of Hamid Dalwai’s passion for reform and Asghar Ali Engineer’s humane interpretation of Islam carries the day from within the community. Outside, Hindu nationalism is creating hate and causing ghettoisation and further marginalisation of the community.
Ram Puniyani, On E-Mail
This refers to your editorial comment (Zucker & Sucker, April 9). Much noise was being made about the danger to the individual’s privacy in the context of Aadhaar. I guess the Facebook data leakage should tell us the worry was pointless as we willingly part with so much of our data by using Facebook, while Aadhaar is just a one-time thing.
OUTLOOK TOPICS :
or just type initial letters