The first article in the package by the Dalai Lama (Inner Peace Vital, Jan 8) set the tone for the rest. I must agree that any violence in the name of God is certainly against the wish of God. Truly, humans cannot represent God properly; it always leads to factionalism. In India, home to so many spiritual icons, none can stem the tide of religious and communal hatred. All the powerful citadels of popular godmen have started reeking of arrogance. The disappointing thing is to see these living gods living in luxury at the expense of their blind devotees. Why? They should come out of their cocoon, like the Buddha, and see how people actually live.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
While Upinder Singh’s article on the role of violence and religion in ancient India was a good read for neophytes (The Warlike Bodhisattvas, Jan 8), I didn’t like the lecturing tone of the piece. Everyone knows that not every Hindu, Buddhist or Jain in the last thousand years was a pacifist saint. But when you look at the overall record of Indian culture, it is quite good on the matter of inter-faith relations and acceptance of diverse doctrines.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
Refer to Man’s Ego is a Horse Without Reins. The answer to that age-old question, ‘What is God?’, has been given by Mata Amritanandamayi: “God is not an individual, a personality or a particular form that sits on a golden throne beyond the sky and passes judgment. God is pure consciousness.” Common believers are god-fearing, contented and satisfied with their own gods. For the poor, God is an invisible but omnipresent force which controls the universe and would provide them succour. It instils confidence in them and consoles them in grief. Those committing mindless murders in His name are not believers but betrayers of God and religion.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to your editorial comment The Good God (Jan 8). People’s ignorance is their God; the greater the ignorance, the larger God looms on their canvas. Those who believe the universe is orchestrated by a power beyond their comprehension see God as a mysteriously omnipotent and omnipresent force, but keep it a secret as their affair with God is private and sacred. The public manifestation of God through several religions is only for grooming the dominated sections of society and for making the oppressed sections accept their exploitation under a cover of holiness and spirituality. No wonder most people are gullible and remain mesmerised enough to happily suffer all the injustice heaped on them by the grossly unjust social order. Power-crazy politicians encourage supremacy competitions among different gods and their followers, divided into several religions and castes, pitting them against each other. May God save us from this opium of the masses!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The answer to your cover question in bold is yes. Bomb attacks, mass murders, wars or even individuals trying to drive cars into crowds, all are being done in the name of a loving, caring, merciful, father, mother, son or formless god”. This concept of God in the “collective ego” of tribes, nations, and religions always contains a strong element of paranoia: “us against the evil others “ This extreme collective paranoia is the main cause of much human suffering: the Spanish Inquisition, burning of heretics and witches , gau rakshaks’ killings of innocents in present times, fundamentalist killings in the Middle East. All these have come out of the ‘my God is better than your God’ logic. Nietzche said, “God is dead”. Not quite. There are frenzied attempts at killing gods everywhere. But the atma in me promises that the good God will survive.
Col (Retd.) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Kudos to your ‘God‘ edition. As a Hindu married to a Christian, I couldn’t agree more with the editorial. My husband and I do not subscribe to the idea of conversion under any circumstance. Religion should be a personal matter, and no authority should be allowed to interfere with it. I look forward to more such cover stories.
Anu Bangara D’Souza, On E-Mail
Isn’t the very notion believers hold—that their God/religion is better than another’s, the reason they follow that particular religion? Think about it, if you force everyone to say that every religion is as good as theirs, the religions are themselves bound to lose their value.
Jean Rogers, On E-Mail
“Well, all I know is that the poorer one is and the more unpredictable one’s life is, the more real God becomes and greater the need of a God, any God,” reads a line in your Comment. In case you haven’t checked, it so happens that most of the temples, mosques, churches and synagogues run not because of the prayers of the poor but because of the contributions from the rich.
Akash Verma, Chennai
I reckon that the writer of your story on caste riots in Tamil Nadu (Sectarian Fire Burns, Jan 8) is most likely a Brahmin with an RSS bent of mind. Why else would he try to portray fights among different sects of Hindus as well as those among Hindus, on one side, and Muslims or Christians, on the other, as authentic, but the ones instigated by Brahmins as frivolous. He also claims an RSS office was bombed by Muslims, even though the Supreme Court released all the accused in that case for lack of evidence. Repeating a lie until it becomes the truth is, after all, the RSS method of truth-telling.
Nasar Ahmed, On E-Mail
The writer says, “ That even the Jain sources do not speak about the event or that the Jains were thriving long after the supposed mass impalements do not seem to deter them.” Well, Jain monks, just as Buddhist monks, are not allowed to point fingers, or go to court. That’s the reason why they remain silent.
Ratana Sifu, On E-Mail
Rakshanda Jalil’s piece (‘Oh, But You Don’t Look Like a Muslim!’, Jan 8) explains many misgivings, stereotyping and idiocies that plague perceptions about Muslims in India since Partition. That historic event seems to have kept alive the stark division of our society into two communities, and recent events have exacerbated these perceptions. I grew up in Lucknow, hence I celebrate our Ganga-Jamuna culture in the cocktail that was India. I hope the sectarian poison that seems to have been mixed into it by political and fundamentalist forces will lose its potency as the more powerful elements of mutual love and recognition dominate once more.
Veena Talwar, Oldenburg (Germany)
Rakshanda Jalil’s experiences are raw and heartfelt. I was brought up in a remote Bengal village where the majority were Muslims; some of them looked after our farmland. There were Maulvis also. Life was full of compassion and understanding. Ever since the communal politicisation of the land, such fellow feeling has disappeared. We need a civil society movement to fight this evil before it destroys the country.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Calcutta
This is in reference to Man’s Ego is a Horse Without Reins, your interview with Mata Amritanandamayi. Meeting Amma and keeping in touch with her has been the most wonderful experience of my life. I have been with her for 17 years, and yet I am filled with surprise every time I see her. It is amazing that she can constantly interact with so many people without tiring. Showering love and compassion, she greets the last person with as much zeal and enthusiasm as she showed the first, without sparing a thought for her own hunger or need to rest, and never losing her patience. She is my guru and my God. If you were not with me, Amma, I would not have survived and travelled so far. You have given meaning to my life and I have no words with which to thank you. I know, I am merely one among a million children of Amma who have had such an experience.
Akanksha Jain, On E-Mail
Your interview emphasised the importance of spiritual culture in contemporary times. I appreciated both the inquisitive questions and the thoughtful answers that can be actualised in our daily lives. It’s inspiring and encouraging to have teachers such as Amma around us.
Nathan Garnett, On E-Mail
Your question-answer session with Amritanandamayi was so philosophical that it’s impossible to believe it could come from an uneducated person, howsoever a genius she might be. As it is, you have not given the name of the interviewer, though credit is given to the photographs. I wonder if the Amma would be able to answer the questions if she were examined in a class room-like environment.
N. Kunju, Delhi
Amma tells us “the path to God is only meant for people with tremendous mental strength”. Not quite right! I would be the first to argue that reason is vital to faith. But I would never make a statement like the above. Some aren’t smart enough to know, and therefore belong to, God? I don’t think so. God’s love is agape (which is Greek), which is love based on reason. God doesn’t disapprove of other forms of love, but the important aspect of his love, which we should try and imitate, is reason.
This has reference to Hand-Choppers of Kerala (Dec 25, 2017). It has been published with mis-quotation in the disguise of my name and defamatory news about my organisation, the Popular Front of India.
Your reporter came to my home on December 1, 2017 for an interview about the National Register of Citizens in Assam. In the report subsequently published in the magazine, your reporter falsely scribed in the disguise of my name as follows:
“This is not Islam,” says Baseer, speaking on madrasas—lines that would go down well with most people suspicious of radical Islam. “Our internal agenda is to shut down madrassas because they are un-Islamic, very orthodox. It’s difficult and I might even lose my head for saying so. But for now, one of our foremost activities is the ‘school chalo’ programme to ensure that all attend school.”
I never told the above-mentioned words about Madrasas. We don’t have any such agenda to shut down madrassas. First of all, my organisation never has any “internal” agenda, as you published. We are working in the limelight within the periphery of the Constitution, not behind any curtain. So, we don’t need to have different types of agenda. Our agenda is very open that is to strive for the empowerment of marginalised sections of society with the special focus on the backward minority Muslim community in India. We believe that you have published wrong information with the mis-quotation in my name with ill intention to create an internal clash among the Muslim community.
Also, you have introduced my organisation with wrong information and mis-quotation as follows: “….With its roots in Kerala, the 2006-formed PFI’s antecedents go back to the strident qrhetoric of the Islamic Sevak Sangh and NDF of Abdul Nasar Madani, the one-time cult hero of radical-Islamist politics. With links to the proscribed SIMI, and after mergers with similar outfits in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bengal and elsewhere, the PFI has become the chief mainstream voice of a fundamentalist stream…” Also, “…though the Talibanesque violence on a professor called T.J. Joseph in Kerala….”
The very heading shows the depth of prejudice your article carried against our organisation, which strives for people’s rights and justice through democratic, constitutional and legal means. It is undoubtedly a clear case of defamation. We are not a fundamentalist organisation, whatever you mean by calling PFI so. NDF, the first predecessor organisation of Popular Front, was not connected to Abdul Nasar Madani and to his organisation Islamic Sevak Sangh. NDF started in Kerala many years before the ban of SIMI.
I would like to make it clear that I am not linked to any extremist or terrorist organisation. Your wrong references, along with misquotations in my name, have damaged my image in society. All your allegations against Popular Front also are false and defamatory. Such activity is nothing but misuse of public space and damaging our image among fellow citizens. It is against journalistic standards. I never expected such unethical and malicious lines to be published in a magazine like Outlook.
Hence, I request you to withdraw the allegations and publish the full text of my rejoinder in the next immediate issue, both in your magazine and website.
Basir Ahmed, Goalpara
This is about the cover story, Sorting the Ethnic Mess (Dec 25). The government of Assam acted too late in updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It might be replete with errors, omissions, irregularities and inconsistencies, and affect those who might have been living in Assam through two or three generations. The governments of the past have to be blamed for not periodically updating the NRC. The government failed to update the citizenship status even in 1978, when the electorate had spiked by about 40,000 voters within a single year, when by-elections were held. March 25, 1971 is the cut-off date for derecognising illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants have to be necessarily deported back to Bangladesh, which will be hard-pressed to accept them. The country is facing a huge influx of refugees from Myanmar. The government needs to tread cautiously and impartially in identifying genuine settlers from illegal immigrants and should not deprive those who are genuinely citizens of Assam by the yardsticks prescribed to prove their identity.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
The Supreme Court-monitored updating process of National Citizen Registry (NRC) in Assam is a gigantic exercise. It is cumbersome, strenuous, time-consuming and expensive. But it will be fruitful, as the whole confusion around citizenship in Assam will get resolved. If it is not possible to ‘deport’ non-citizens, India should appeal to neighbouring countries (namely Bangladesh) to help rehabilitate these people, as the burden of populations in that part of the sub-continent is a shared one.
Mani Sankar Bardoloi, Calcutta
Same languages, same looks and similar cultures; how can artificial borders keep a check?
Ramesh Jain, On E-Mail
Apropos In a migratory state, I would like to say that Outlook has brought out a most relevant issue on the development of the Malda district of West Bengal. In fact, most of the Indo-Bangladesh border areas in Bengal face similar developmental problems. Murshidabad is an example. These areas lack industrial development and subsist mostly on agriculture. Though these areas produce huge amounts of jute, they don’t have a single jute processing mill. Other factors for the underdevelopment of these districts are activities like smuggling and human trafficking. Frequent community clashes have also given them a bad reputation. As a result there is lack of industrial growth which results in unemployment and eventually, the emigration of people to other states. Even in far-off states like J&K and Punjab, you can find people from West Bengal engaged in various jobs.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (Retd), Calcutta
This is with reference to your chart of comments made by the warring politicians of India (Hot Poll Head Snubs, Dec 25). The hot heads floating around on your magazine-spread also float around in the collective conscience of the people of this country. It is thanks to these politicians that we get such an insight into the glorious legacy of India—Aurangzeb is the most talked about emperor of Hindustan and there’s no chance that Babar can be forgotten. The Congress ‘heads’ are unrelenting too. They have an issue with the prime minister’s tea-soaked past. Perhaps coffee is the preferred beverage in INC karyalayas, or maybe it’s just class...or better yet—caste, since now Rahul Gandhi is a “Janeudhaari” Brahmin. Whatever the Congress’s preferences might be, Narendra Modi always manages to get the last word by dropping the ‘P’ bomb, a rhetorical weapon of mass destruction in its own right. Pakistan is the go-to troubleshooter in the BJP system, it’s effect visible within days of the launch. These gems, whether uttered over a microphone in a rally, on twitter or in a press conference, travel in lightning speed and soon loom over the political landscape of India, capturing and defining it. Thanks, of course, to our over-efficient, ‘4G’ media houses.
Anil S., Pune
This is about Talmiz Ahmed’s long article on Jerusalem in the light of President Trump’s declaration (Jerusalem: the Judeo-Christian Project, Dec 25). Racism is satanic and whoever thinks their race is the chosen one and that others should be subservient to them are dwelling in a dangerous delusion. Israelites were chosen at a point when they were humiliated and enslaved in pharaonic Egypt. God sent Moses to rescue them and bring them to Palestine. These descendants of prophets Abraham and Isaac look like Arabs. But the majority of Jews on occupied Palestine are not the same Israelites; they are people from Europe and had their own cultural specificities before coming to Israel. The ‘promised land’ concept in a time when modern-day nation-states were being formed, during the time the Balfour declaration was signed, was severely anachronistic. Nevertheless, the population of Jews persecuted in Europe started flowing into Israel and soon took over that land from the Palestinians.
Lamaluddin Rawther, On E-Mail
India has taken the right stand for the cause of Palestine. Practically the whole world with all its wisdom has rejected Trump’s call to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the UN General Assembly vote on December 22. Trump should know that wealth and power can’t buy out a compromise on the just cause for peace in the Middle East.
S.R. Devaprakash, Tumakuru
(Lighting A Fire) America’s unwise decision of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel can have tragic consequences though President Trump claims that he is simply acknowledging the reality. Every couple of years, the conflict, which has the Palestinians cornered, blows up violently and results in lost lives, mostly of the innocent. Trump, in his characteristically insensitive way, has attempted to add fuel to fire. If he wants to shake things up, he should open not one but two embassies in Jerusalem, one for managing ties with Israel and the other to deal with the Palestinian State.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
This refers to the article by B.R.P. Bhaskar, about how the Congress needs the dynasty more than vice versa (From Cradle To Saddle, Dec 25). I fully agree. The dynasty is essential not only for Congress’s survival, but also for the sake of India’s secular values. As the 2019 polls draw nearer, there aren’t other competitive leaders to challenge Modi. The Congress has capable leaders, but only Rahul seems to be acceptable to the rank and file.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
Well, the reluctant prince may be brimming over with confidence after getting elected unopposed as Congress president. But whether his elevation will change the fortunes of the party is still unclear. There are glimpses of promise in the new Rahul—notably, his taking into account views of old Congressmen, unlike in the past, when he seemed to heed the advice of only his young team. To work towards ensuring a BJP-mukt Bharat, it is imperative that Rahul Gandhi lives up to his promise and weeds out corrupt and criminal elements from the Congress.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Rahul Gandhi has matured rapidly. The way he handled the Congress campaign in Gujarat was impressive. For the first time, Rahul’s sharp rhetoric had some in the BJP running for cover. One expects Rahul to play a major role in unifying the opposition to stop the Modi juggernaut in forthcoming polls.
Shailendra Dasari, Bellary
The recently concluded Gujarat polls have envisaged a high pitched political drama between the BJP and the Congress. Mani Shankar Iyer’s tweet, which described Narendra Modi as a “neech (lowly)” man was scurrilous. And the Congress had to pay the price for the derogatory remark. Then came the spitfire from the other side, with the PM himself using rhetoric of the lowest kind to get back at the Congress—he accused former PM Manmohan Singh of conspiring with Pakistan to sabotage the poll process in Gujarat. But Rahul continued to emphasise Gujarat’s development. To his credit, he put up a good show in Gujarat, a heartening change from his earlier image of a flakey dynast.
Ashim Chakraborty, Guwahati
The excerpt from Nadia Murad’s autobiography was a disturbing, gripping read (Fearless Nadia, The Yazidi, Dec 25). There are milllions of lost girls all over the world, including in India. Every civilisation is patriarchal and thrives on misogynistic notions that keep women manacled behind the bars of medieval, sub-human customs. It takes grit and determination from bravehearts like Nadia to break these shackles.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Your comment (Two Elections, Dec 25) concluded with a nice punch to former PM Manmohan Singh when you said, “nobody was sure which state he represented, Punjab or Assam or just 10 Janpath.” It is gravely funny that a person who ruled world’s largest democracy for two consecutive terms never won an election.
B.D. Trivedi, Ahmedabad
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