the fully loaded magazine
The cover question merits another question: Is anyone even interested in solving Kashmir?
Anil S., Pune
The backlash on Kashmiris after the Pulwama attack is most unfortunate (No Rules In War-mongering, March 4). In this context, I had a personal experience recently. A Kashmiri gentleman, who comes to my home from year to year, with his exquisite range of shawls, visited me. On being asked how he was, his eyes welled up with tears. His family was the target of the brutality that was unleashed by right-wing goons in Dehradun. His silent gaze shamed me deeply. It is for all of us to realise that such incidents only alienate a community further and spur radicalisation. The need of the hour is empathy, not muscle; compassion, not brute force. And above all, it cannot be forgotten that the perpetrator of Pulwama was an Indian, a Kashmiri. Kashmir is a festering wound. Mere Pakistan bashing is not going to lead us anywhere. Nothing probably can be more obsolete than violence as a means to achieve peace. Any solution to the Kashmir conflict can happen only in partnership with the people of Kashmir, not against them. The buck doesn’t stop at Pakistan. The buck stops with us.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K. Palaniswamy has stolen a march over well-entrenched dynast and DMK president M.K. Stalin by forging a mega alliance with the BJP and the PMK (Silently With A Smile, Mar 4). The DMDK, Vasan’s Tamil Manila Congress and a few smaller parties will likely join the coalition. Thus, EPS has adumbrated a canny coalition formula for the Lok Sabha polls: if coalition partners demand constituencies of their choice, they will have to accept the number of seats offered. If they don’t, AIADMK will be generous in allotting them an adequate number of seats. Palaniswamy has thus bulldozed the BJP into accepting just five seats in constituencies of the BJP’s choice! Surprisingly, a copycat DMK has adopted the same formula vis-à-vis the Congress. EPS’s key strategy is to get the support of all coalition partners for the bypolls to the 21 vacant seats that may be held along with the LS polls, so that he could continue as chief minister for the rest of the term.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This is about the cover story Law Is A Bully (Feb 25). Many writers, journalists, activists and politicians have delineated with arguments their case against the NSA, UAPA and sedition laws. These critics have skewered the above laws by pitting them against freedom of speech and the right to dissent. But then, everyone should be careful that while expressing dissent they don’t cross a limit. If a group of people demands absolute sovereignty, with an intention to create a new nation, what is to be done? It’s undeniable that freedom of speech is important in a democracy, but then laws can be misused too…. Therefore, the way ahead would be to formulate a mechanism without much ado to prevent the abuse of power through draconian laws, instead of just repealing them. This is because a flat repeal of laws would encourage all manner of people to go ahead and speak thoughtlessly, harming the unity of the country.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
The babes of Outlook’s Glitterati—a long-standing tradition of the magazine—is a favourite section of mine, providing relief from the gravitas that usually makes up the rest of the magazine. Take the superbly written ‘item’ on Esha Gupta, for example (Monkey On Her Back, Feb 11). It’s worth drooling over. Long live the brave, bindaas army of bodilicious sirens who make our boring ‘man’s’ world a trifle interesting!
Jyotiranjan Biswal, Durgapur
Refer to The Eternal Rebel Friend (Feb 11), Yashwant Sinha’s tribute to the late George Fernandes. Fernandes was a fiery trade union leader once and would have been irrelevant in these communally charged times.
Giri Raj, Hyderabad
Refer to Laws Unto Their Own (Feb 25). We need to introduce some good laws for the sake of impartial administration. During the British regime, the sedition laws were used to contain the freedom movement. With this power, the administration could keep anybody under custody for a longer period without any trial. Sadly enough, the present National Security Act has been clamped on agitating university students time and again. Alongside, another law has been curtailing citizen freedom in a few Indian states—AFSPA, which gives the security forces unusual powers. This has infuriated the people and the result is widespread agitation and discontent. Since the security forces are protected under AFSPA, no action can be taken against them when atrocities happen. The National Security Act should not be used the way it is being used right now. It is a serious act and should be only applied in the most exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, it will not be taken seriously and will be seen as just another vindictive tool of the State to oppress the dissenting public.
Ranjit Sinha, Pune
The nation in one voice condemns anybody being subjected to harsh punishment for voicing their opinion against the government. However, what the JNU students did at an event on February 9, 2016, was not right. Judging from news reports, they spoke against the nation and supported anti-nationals. The so-called secular parties sided with the disgruntled students, ignoring the sentiments of a common man like me. They did this out of sheer hatred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There have been excesses and innocent lives have been lost in J&K as well as in the Northeast during the regimes of UPA as well as NDA. It is alright for me as a citizen to criticise the government but I should not do it on foreign soil, especially in a country like Pakistan (disclaimer: I have never been to Pakistan).
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
Politicians elected by the people through elections become our lawmakers. They make laws for everyone else but are a law unto themselves. They expect people to follow laws in letter and spirit but break the laws themselves with impunity. When in power, they apply laws according to their political need, be it NSA, sedition or any other oppressive rule. Applying the sedition law for alleged assault on a TV news channel crew or applying the NSA on the victims in cases of cow-related lynching exhibits the limit of lawlessness in governance. Fortunately, we have a powerful and impartial judiciary which keeps under check such abuse of law by the executive. Now, it is time the courts revisited the sedition law.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Laws like the sedition law were enacted during the colonial days to protect the interests of the ruling British. For them, contrarian views were unwelcome and considered treasonable. We were living under colonisation then. Such antiquated laws have no place in a modern democracy. For many who value liberal or progressive ideals, these are laws that limit democracy. We need strong, solid institutions, people committed to putting the interest of their fellow citizens above party and personal interests and following the rules and laws of the land. The way democracy is currently practiced in India is flawed. It is unfortunate that the once-free press is in chains today. Disparaging comments are made against them by the government. Journalism is one of the guardrails of our democracy and without it, we will slide into authoritarianism. Democracy, unfortunately, is no more what Abraham Lincoln described it as: by the people, for the people, and of the people. It is now ‘buy’ the people ‘off’ the people and ‘for’ the lawmakers.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
It says something that India’s governments are so faithful to the spirit of colonial laws.
Anil S, Pune
This refers to Formula Erotica, the article on newer internet TV channels showing erotic themes in abundance to capture the countryside markets (Feb 25). These platforms are out of the framework of TV and theatre censorship, so, it’s only natural that they have gone for the theme that sells best in the visual medium—sex. I have watched a few of the shows mentioned in your story. Almost all of them are thin on content and market themselves on quick titillation in their trailers. They may have an initial good run, as the download numbers mentioned in your story suggest, but will fade away in the long run when people will start identifying the blunt formula on which they are made. Even the provocative acts will lose their sheen as they will get normalised. This is of course not a concern for the producers of such shows, Ekta Kapoor being at the helm even in this space. They operate from a strictly business point of view and will juice out the revenues from this new trend.
Amandeep Singh, New Delhi
The story reminds me of the suggestive crime-sex novels and magazines found at the railway stations across the country. They’re no good content-wise, and everyone knows that, but they are still a hit among passengers as these publications come with a promise of cheap and quick entertainment, enough for a journey. Afterwards, their use value is greatly reduced. I can’t remember the last time I placed a copy of those novels amid my book collection. Yes, I’ve brought a few and dumped most of them after the safar. Courtesy of this parallel I’ve just drawn, I’ll be checking out some of the shows mentioned in your story for my metro rides. Thanks for the info Outlook.
Rajeev Sinha, New Delhi
This refers to your story from Karnataka (Playlist of the Besieged, Feb 25). The BJP wants to bring down the Congress-JD(S) government because it wants to prove that this coalition experiment, which carries within it the idea of a coalition government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha election, is inherently unstable. The party has no qualms in influencing other party members to defect, and this can’t happen without offers of material benefit. While one can charge the BJP with attempting a coup in Karnataka to expose the faultlines of the Congress-JD(S) alliance, can the Congress really afford to be swept up by the poachers and risk getting an image of an auctionable party? The Congress must realise it would lose all credibility and be considered an opportunist if it lets the H.D. Kumaraswamy government sink. The JD(S), seen as a victim, would then be open to other partners. If the Congress cannot even keep its MLAs together and ends up destabilising the government, then it can give up any hope of progressing in the state where a strong Vokkaliga backlash could grind it to the dust.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
Refer to Annual Lifeline Choke (Feb 25). It’s good to see some snow woes making it to a national magazine. Since, for some reasons, our mainstream institutions function from mainland India, I think I can venture to make the assessment that we have a very ‘tropical’ outlook as a nation. In fact, there are a good many regions that see snow—Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand...the Himalayan countryside. It hailed so hard a few weeks back in some areas of Delhi-NCR that it felt like it had snowed after. You’d have noticed life coming to a standstill even in those five selfie-taking minutes just after the hard downpour. Now prolong that to days, with more layers of hail, enough to bury the car tyres. Welcome to Himalayan country.
Gaurav Negi, Shimla
Refer to Summons Versus Summons, your story on the political games played though the CBI and the state police. After the Calcutta police’s clash with the CBI, this local-level skirmish between the central investigation agency and the state police points to disturbing trends within India’s polity. It is clear that the CBI, the country’s top investigative agency, has been compromised. The CBI controversy that became national news late last year gave strong hints of this compromise, and it was made clear in the way the CBI has behaved in both Bengal and Odisha now. The agency has become the Centre’s lapdog, intervening on the central government’s behalf even in state-specific issues. The idea of federalism too appears skewed with state governments making use of their police force to fight back against the CBI’s interventions. The country’s courts have sadly been distanced from these processes. All this only shows that party politics has managed to penetrate deep within the psyche of our law-maintaining institutions. Have we changed into an improv democracy, where political puppeteers pull the strings of institutions that should ideally operate independently? Can we afford our netas giving instructions to democratic bodies of law?
Chandra Kumar Das, On E-Mail
It looks like a teaser of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was being played out in Calcutta. The CBI’s investigation into the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams has snowballed into an all-out slugfest between the Centre and Mamata Banerjee (Centre Stage Esplanade, Feb 18). Of course, if Modi’s apparent decision to send the CBI after Mamata’s government at this juncture couldn’t have been more wrong, the Bengal CM’s decision to put up a fight couldn’t have been more right. However, ordinary voters well know that Mamata is all shrillness and reckless protests on this count, as she knows her party’s involvement in ponzi schemes, which defrauded poor people to the tune of Rs 32,000 crore, cannot be a poll-winner. Seven years back, Mamata knew former Calcutta Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar as an agent of the Left Front regime. Now, he is one of her most trusted officers. He was also the brains behind the secret operation to get Maoist leader Kishenji killed, which got rid of a burgeoning crisis for Mamata.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
The story about the Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and her so-called grand alliance with party leaders from across the spectrum can’t be taken seriously (Centre Stage Esplanade, Feb 18 ). It’s more show than substance, with leaders putting up camera-friendly smiles behind which their vested interests lurk. But that’s politics, innit? It’s Modi’s intimidating image and the lack of a formidable pan-India opposition leader that has made these politicians line up alongside Mamata, perhaps because she’s the most fearless of the lot. But Mamata has her hands tied in chit fund controversies, as evidenced by her reaction to the CBI raid in Calcutta. The public should remember that leaders only look for their own future, not the well-being of the nation.
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
This is in response to an Outlook Spotlight feature about how the Goa Mining Peoples Front want mining restored in the state (Say Yes To Mining, Feb 18). It’s true that people previously employed in the mining sector are greatly distressed by the closing down of many mining operations. But the Supreme Court directive to curb mining is equally necessary and justifiable, as it’s without a doubt that mining does pollute the environment, and pollutes heavily at that. The issue has to be addressed by the government, lease-holders to mines should act accordingly and a strict check implemented. Meanwhile, outstanding dues of employees have to be settled forthwith.
Lt Col (retd) R. Sinha, Pune
This is with reference to your story on the Manipuri journalist languishing in jail after mere Facebook posts (A Journalist As Breaking News, Feb18). I suggest that state governments approach the central government on a workbook of laws that should govern people’s activities on Facebook. It will make things simpler and citizens will know exactly what kind of post can land them in jail and for how long. The government can post the workbook on Facebook itself and tag all Indian facebookers in one giant post. Had this already been done, Kishorechandra Wangkhem would know when the Manipur government could release him. The poor guy is clueless as of now. Also, the first section of the Facebook law workbook should educate us on what all cannot be said about PM Modi. But try not to make that list too long if possible.
Rohin Gautam, Chandigarh
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