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Your story, Last of the Nation’s First, on freedom fighters reminded me of my freedom fighter grandfather, Sachindra Pradhan, who passed away in 2001, at the age of 84, after a brief age-related illness (Feb 11). I cherish my childhood days when I was keen on listening to him as he narrated his experience as a young freedom fighter. At the age of 12-13, he joined a group of freedom fighters led by a fierce village leader, Pranabandhu Awasthi. They were arrested and jailed by the British government. The leaders were left on the trail of red ants in the scorching hot sun with all their limbs tied. They were beaten and tortured by the police. He used to show the scar he had below his nose—a cut mark from a hunter. Despite of all this, they used to meet in the dark of the night to discuss their plans, prepare pamphlets etc. Thanks Outlook for bringing out the stories of these people.
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
This refers to Heer, Ranjha and a Mom’s Hitman (Feb 11). The details of this murder were hair-raising. It’s the kind of thing that makes you lose your faith in humanity. But then, that wouldn’t have landed the survivor in this case—Jassi’s husband Mithu—anywhere. He fought a tough battle for justice and it’s heartening to see that Punjab cops have extradited the accused murderers to face trial. Hope justice is done swiftly now, after this long delay.
Milind Jaswal, ON E-MAIL
Every country has its own specific art forms and culture, but India is blessed with enviable and unmatched fountains of art, culture, heritage, rituals, music, dance, theatre and cinema (India: A Dance Penumbral Feb 4). Our diversity has been our biggest strength. Without it, India would have been a barren soil without soul and would have adopted western forms of arts and culture which do not at all suit our country.
Yusuf Shariff, ON E-MAIL
This refers to The Angry Citizens (Feb 11). The backlash after the BJP’s citizenship bill that the party is pushing in the Northeast is telling of the makeshift arrangement it had managed in the region devoid of any real influence. Mainstream political outfits have, at best, acted as brokers for the peculiar politics in the Northeast which is very region specific. BJP had won a great deal in the past few years. But they forget that they don’t have any real significance anywhere out of the cow belt. The Sangh tried to single out Muslims in the Assam, thinking that would be enough to appease the people facing a sustained demographic crisis. Some would say that it worked to some extent. However, when the BJP tried to bring in other identities in order to rejig the population equation with the ultimate aim of creating a vote bank from, literally, thin air, the locals saw through the cunning strategy immediately and are now up in protest. They are making Modi’s caravans realise that they are ultimately outsiders in the seven sister states who can be kicked out of the political equation if they try to play too smart. Also, the next time Modi visits a Northeast state, he should leave the traditional headgear alone. It’s obnoxious and is winning him no votes.
Bipin Ram, On E-Mail
This refers to the article We The People At The Crossroads (Feb 4). After the end of the monarchical system and freedom in 1947, the introduction of the Constitution in 1950 sought to make pluralism the cornerstone for democracy in India. All adults, irrespective of their properties, caste and creed or gender got the right to franchise. The rule of law’ and ‘principles of equity’ got supremacy in governance. It was once “assaulted” by Emergency during 1975 - 1977 by then PM Indira Gandhi to save her chair and save the country from internal anarchy. This was the turning point in the history of Indian polity. People proved worthy of democracy; it survived. But now, secularism is at stake. We already live under an undeclared emergency. The civil rights of citizens, pluralism, autonomous constitutional institutions, rationality and scientific tamper in public life are under seige. The lower middle and the weaker class are confused with various ambiguous tax concessions and grants declared in the latest budget. The Opposition too is acting most irresponsibly. They are not united—their selfish ambitions are getting an edge over saving the fibre of democracy. They are trapped in the tone and tenor of the agenda fixed by the government and Hindu organisations for electioneering debates.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Mahesh Rangarajan’s article on the current socio-political scenario of the Republic is in fact a call to the reason of the discerning. What happened in 2014 was inevitable. Such was the disillusion with the then ruling dispensation that Modi’s triumph was less of his own than of the failure of his adversaries. The perception about a Congress hollowed by corruption put paid to their fate. The present dispensation is on an overdrive to do the opposite. Their shrill, tall claims of social reforms (‘sabka saath-sabka vikas’), and the upliftment of the economy with ease of business and job creation have fallen flat with the BJP doing no better than their ‘paralysed’ predecessors. Yet the powers that be, and their crony officialdom, have been spinning spools of lies and myth to paint a rosy picture by debunking the standard methods of evaluation.
The present dispensation’s interference with institutional autonomy is increasing with every passing day. But what threatens to devastate the fabric of the country is the agenda of majoritarian writ on life of the citizen. The whole discourse on social, political, religious, even scientific, matters is so dramatically and emphatically driven towards a thinking that not only militates rational thinking but runs counter to the centuries old ethos of Indian life. And that plague, one fears, will become an epidemic if not turned around immediately. The next election, therefore is indeed a watershed election where choices are limited but they need to be made, and decisively. I am reminded of a famous mastline of earlier years that once adorned the top of a newspaper, “Freedom is in peril, defend it with all your might”.
R. Raman, Varanasi
I’m in agreement with the idea that the nation’s building blocks are truly its dance, music, art, fabrics, architecture, food and films (The Invention of India, Feb 4). But this plural, composite and all-accepting culture, the essence of India is threatened today, so is our Constitution as most of its institutions are under attack and this treatise of governance, amended 124 times so far, in its short existence of 69 years.
The very invention of India and the Republic of India are both being attacked today, and If not addressed immediately, it will be too late.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to the article The Expired Lightness of Being. It’s an eye opener how institutionalisation for the new republic changed intangible heritage forever for the citizens. So, what we know of our dance forms and other arts has been carefully filtered and moderated to suit complexes of nationalists arising from Victorian morality! How different things would have been before these interventions, I wonder. The article firmly illustrates how the sanitisation of India’s dance cultures had an impact on our essential way of thinking itself—a way that came out of generations of imbibed spontaneity. It’s come to a point where we can never go back to that time. And most of us know nothing of that time. The writer has exposed a big sham for this reader.
Anil S., Pune
Presently, our leaders are trying hard to carve a newer idea of India, one that’s intolerant.
Vijay Prakash, On E-Mail
This refers to Didi’s March to Dilli (Feb 4). What Mamata Banerjee has achieved in her show of strength in Kolkata by having as many as 20-odd opposition leaders on a single platform is to send a clear-cut message that she could be the one unifying force against the BJP. But the million-dollar question is whether just standing together on a podium and joining hands with each other will suffice. Just by criticising Modi left, right and centre will not fetch opposition leaders desired results. They need to come out with a clear alternate narrative and also declare a PM candidate for the public to be able to put in trust in them. But Rahul and Sonia Gandhi were not present at the rally, which leaves questions about a united opposition alliance unanswered. The next few months will tell what equations get formed but one thing is for sure—we are heading into very interesting and intensely fought elections.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to Price Of The Moon in In & Around (Feb 4). I have read the English and Bengali editions of Chandamama regularly for ten years: from 1975 to 1986, my childhood and teens. I followed the magazine in later years as well. In 2008, I subscribed to Junior Chandamama (English) for my daughter. But since the end of 2012, the delivery of the copies had been erratic. Later, they’d send copies only after repeated requests from our side. Finally, from mid-2013, we stopped getting the magazines altogether. I sent many e-mails to their circulation/subscription department and also sent many letters by post, but did not receive any reply. While reading the magazines (which were actually meant for my daughter) during 2008-2012, I used to cherish the memories of my childhood. Now, I wish to thank you for the update on this renowned publication house. We are happy that its owners are now in jail because they took our money.
Babai Banerjee, Durgapur
This is with reference to Come All Who Tilled Land (Feb 4). Political parties are wooing distraught farmers through loan waiver schemes, which have proved a most viable political instrument. But they have been subjected to severe criticism because of the adverse impact on the government exchequer. Now, political parties are in fierce competition with each other to evolve inventive schemes. The KALIA Yojna of the Odisha government is a scheme launched in this sequence, to check-mate the generalised loan waiver schemes already prevalent in several states. New in concept and a lesser burden on the state treasury, the scheme is designed to be criticism-proof. The existing loan waiver scheme incentivises the defaulters even if they are in a position to repay the loan, sending a wrong signal to borrowers in general. Such trends have cumulatively resulted in a sharp increase in the volumes of NPAs for the banks causing constant erosion in capital of base, requiring frequent recapitalisation of these banks. There has been a constant decline in the image of PSBs for which all parties in or out of power are responsible. The pertinent question is whether political parties are empowered to publicly announce & commit such concessions or reliefs for farmers which have direct bearing on depletion of capital of the banks.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This refers to your story on the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as general secretary in charge of the Congress campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh (The Queen Gambit, February 4). Priyanka is not only charismatic, but also has a natural connect with ordinary people. Her fluency in Hindi and the unmistakable resemblance with her illustrious grandmother Indira Gandhi would be her strengths in UP. This is bound to enthuse Congress workers across the country and dampen the enthusiasm of BJP cadre. JD(U) vice-president Prashant Kishor aptly described her appointment as “one of the most awaited entries in Indian politics”. Perhaps, she could have made a difference in the 2017 UP elections if she had decided to take the plunge three years ago. Her path won’t be smooth as she has been given charge of a region that has not been a Congress bastion of late, and she would have to take on the BJP’s star campaigner, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, on his home turf.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
To be or not to be—that’s the question on the mind of the aging Rajnikanth (Rajni can, Rajni can’t, Deep Throat, January 28). The huge box-office success of his film Petta, instead of egging him on to politics, has pushed him deeper into filmdom. But, for the first time, Rajni faces a tough challenge from another superstar, Ajith, whose film Viswasam has done equally well at the box-office. I think Rajni must quit films now, at the height of his popularity, as cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had done. If Rajni bides his time until the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, his stock among voters and his fan clubs could go down. It is unclear, however, whether Rajni is simply hoodwinking Tamils by promoting his films in the guise of entering politics. On the flip side, Tamil movie-addicts could be getting more mature and may no longer be enamoured of celluloid heroes desperate to make it to Fort St. George.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai Kangayam
This refers to Prakash Singh’s column Still Loading…Police Reforms (January 21). The British founded India’s police system to keep a tight surveillance over the natives and nip in the bud any opposition to the Raj, and for enforcing the law and maintaining order by regulating the community to strengthen colonial rule. The police continue to have the same attitude. They continue to be loyal to the politicians in power, while doing little to earn people’s trust. Many committees and commissions have been appointed in the past 70 years to study and make recommendations for police reforms, but their reports are always put in cold storage. Their political bosses don’t want to make them a professional force by modernising their functioning and insulating them from extraneous influences. The police are also understaffed, with service conditions not commensurate to the workload. Everybody wants to misuse them to keep opponents subdued. It’s also well-known that the police manipulate evidence, which brings disgrace upon the entire criminal justice system and makes a mockery of democracy and rule of law, putting the life, liberty and other human rights of citizens at risk. No one except us, the people are responsible for such a pitiable condition of the largest democracy.
This refers to Shoot Madi (Jan 28) on shootouts in Bangalore. The pictures shown in the magazine are only of smaller incidents which can happen in other cities of the world too. Bangalore cops have made it a point not to injure criminals fatally. Cops have only shot at the criminals’ legs. You can’t even remotely compare this to the police encounters in UP, which is a chilling bloodbath. I think you have made a mountain out of a molehill.
N. Sridhar, Bangalore
This refers to Not a Place to Breathe (January 21), your story on the use of tear-gas in Kashmir. Kashmir is witnessing the extremes of police atrocity, more ruthless than the British were with Indians during the Raj. It goes without saying that Kashmir has been mishandled for quite a while now, devastating the lives of large numbers of Kashmiris. Kashmiri people want to live in peace without having to face police atrocities and torture on a daily basis. Every problem has a solution, but it cannot be known through the same method of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. Trying to silencing protests by using tear-gas and other repressive methods cannot be part of the solution—we have seen enough of how this is only exacerbating the problem. The imbroglio can be solved only through inclusive dialogue and debate, which must be done before more innocent Kashmiris fall prey to the government’s attempts to curb the protests.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
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