the fully loaded magazine
Controlled war is such a nice fuse: it can go off anytime the criticism load becomes unbearable.
Anil S, Pune
This refers to Cheating The Reaper, your story on ejection—the last resort of fighter pilots (March 4). It can be said that Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to cheat death twice in a span of minutes. First, he ejected successfully from his aircraft that was shot down by the Pakistani air force. Second, he got out alive after landing in the khajoor—a mob of villagers. The Pakistan army graciously aided the wing Commander in his second escape, a commendable action, even though it seems it is international protocol. They served him a goodwill cup of tea too. That’s surely not international protocol, although in several homes in India as well as Pakistan it probably is. Now, the tea-sipping Abhinandan with the robust moustache has become a symbol—he has featured in a tea adverstisement.
I couldn’t help thinking how a Pakistani pilot would have fared had he fell in Indian territory. Given our reluctance to stop lynchings happening in broad daylight since the past few years, I wouldn’t have had high hopes for a Pakistani flyer. But how very much like a mirror is the LoC between India and Pakistan. Lynchings in broad daylight happen there too. I think the Indian army would have given a Pak pilot equal respect.
Aalok Giri, New Delhi
This is about the story of a former IPS officer driven to his death by the alleged cussedness of the West Bengal government (Heads Change, Cops Roll, Mar 11). Police officers in general and IPS officers in particular are supposed to compulsorily toe the line of the ruling dispensation. Professional qualities of honesty, sincerity and uprightness matter so long as it suits the interests of the ruling party and local politicians. It’s relevant here to recall the tragic case in which a SHO posted in Bulandshahr district in UP was shot dead. It’s an example how servility has grown in the force and emasculated it thoroughly. It’s no secret that top officers are favourites of some politician or the other, so that a chief minister to a state, after assuming office, chooses his nominees for the offices of chief secretary and DGP, men in whom he has full confidence. The IPS leadership has also become ineffectual through its being organised along party lines. The bitter truth is that only officers with a pliable spine can survive in service beyond a point, with upright officers consigned to a life of shameless victimisation. Ultimately, these men, like Gaurav Dutt, have to opt out by taking VRS. Unfortunately, Dutt had to face harassment even after he had retired, forcing him to take his own life. The grave consequences of the police being a handmaiden of the government of the day is being ignored by all political parties, possibly because they all have a lot to gain from this noxious system.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
Refer to A Telegram From 009 (March 11). Ten year challenges are fun. Ten years back, we wouldn’t even be doing a challenge like this. Facebook was limited to college kids and middle-aged nostalgics, WhatsApp wasn’t known of and chirps were still sounds of birds and not rabble rousing 140...sorry, 280 characters.
Sandeep Krishna, On E-Mail
This refers to All You Need Is Radio Ga Ga, your story on podcasts (March 11). The podcast is a thoughtful cozy thing, holding its own in the age of crazy visual excess. It’s comforting to just listen to long conversations and one can end up learning a lot as listening is a very focussed activity. I also feel that several people are more relaxed while having their voices recorded rather than having a video taken, which makes many super conscious. Once upon a time, I found similar comfort in listening to the radio, but these days, the stations are so full of ads and frenzied RJs that it all ends up sounding very intrusive, unless all hope is lost in a traffic jam. Only the government radio channels, the original podcasts, seem to be holding their own.
Nandini Paul, Bangalore
Refer to the interview of P. Chidambaram ‘Confident That NSA For MP Cow Slaughter Will Be Lifted’ (March 4). In it, his views on the issues relating to Kashmir, the opposition alliances, the Rafale deal and cow-vigilantes are commendable. Indian and Pakistani leaders have never been sincere in finding a peaceful solution for Kashmir because politicians on either side have found enough fodder in the Kashmir issue to manipulate their respective publics. The definitions of nationalism and patriotism have been blurred to produce an emotional, deadly mix of jingoism from the common populace. I expect the Congress manifesto being prepared by Chidambaram to focus on saving the constitutional values of India and the autonomous institutions, which are under threat.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This refers to your cover story Kashmir Periscope (March 4). The Valley has over the years witnessed huge demonstrations led by students and other young Kashmiris, including women, against the Indian government—proof enough that where there is a political will, there is always a way. Both India and Pakistan must initiate a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir and with Kashmiri people, especially the young. Their aspirations must be listened to and addressed.
Vinod C. Dixit, Ahmedabad
This refers to your cover story Why can’t we Solve Kashmir? (March 4). We have to be realistic about the Kashmir dispute and India-Pakistan relations. Jingoism, bellicosity and sabre-rattling will only make things worse. First of all, we must all agree on avoiding more loss of life, a negotiated resolution of the Kashmir dispute and the need for normalisation of India-Pakistan relations. We need to assert our basic humanity and say that the life of every human being, be it that of a militant or a member of government forces, is equally precious. Steps need to be taken to change the conditions that incubate militancy in the Valley. The deeply disquieting ways used by government forces to eliminate militants from the Valley actually breed more militants. Militancy is better fought by confronting its causes. If the Kashmiri youth line up for recruitment to the army, it has more to do with unemployment and desperation for survival than with any zeal ‘to serve the tricolour’. New Delhi has to seriously consider the demand for the right to more autonomy so as to fulfil the political aspirations of Kashmiri people, and assure them that Kashmir’s distinct identity will be preserved and protected.
The two countries that share a common destiny and need peace to unlock their economic potential should see each other as neighbours and partners, and not as adversaries or enemies. The growing chorus for isolating or boycotting Pakistan is misplaced and unwise. It used to be said that ‘terror and talks don’t go together’ and now it is said that ‘coffins and cricket don’t go together’. We should not let our moral compass be shaken or shrunk by forms of devotion such as nationalism and religion.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
A 21-year-old Kashmiri ‘Indian’ was killed while carrying out the attack that left so many Indian paramilitary men dead. Why are Indian jawans dying for the nation, while young Kashmiri Indians are dying fighting against them? Every death is a loss for our motherland. What is drawing these young people to terrorism? And what was it that ensured there was no actionable intelligence about 300 kg of explosives being collected, transported and used to assemble an IED, or about the recce and rehearsals that must have preceded the attack? What is it that ensured the forces were in the dark about all this happening despite the intense military, intelligence and police deployment in the Valley? There is a big difference between sacrificing our soldiers for the nation and getting them butchered because of this incompetence. Salute to the bravehearts who got no time to display their bravery.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
If you ask me, the solution lies in commerce and economics rather than politics, diplomacy and armed escalations. If dialogue has to take place, it should be between apex bodies of commerce and industry of India and Pakistan. Free trade and regulated movement of citizens across the border, akin to Nepal, would lead to normalised cordial relations between two countries. The port city of Karachi would prosper, business centres will flourish, the trading community will benefit and consumers will be happy. In that event, vested interests and strong public opinion in favour of peace across the border and cordial relations with India would emerge.
It is sad that our leaders have failed to show statesmanship to solve the Kashmir issue. According to journalist and writer Sanjaya Baru (in his book The Accidental Prime Minister), Manmohan Singh had almost resolved the legacy of history where both Indira and Rajiv had failed. Baru felt that Sonia Gandhi wanted to wait till Rahul became PM so that he could claim credit. If so, people of India cannot forgive the grand old party for such narrow mindedness.
Nitin M. Majumdar, On E-Mail
Why do educated youth in Kashmir choose to take arms? It’s the side of the conflict that gets drowned in aggressive TRP-driven coverage by the mainstream media. Ever since the Indian Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani was located and killed, the Indian army has adopted a policy of locating and killing militants as well as those who come to rescue them when cordon and search operations are carried out at several places in Kashmir. Since then, there has been a continuous cycle of violence in the Valley and protests erupt every day with growing support for the militants and the freedom struggle that they represent. The Indian army’s highest officer, General Bipin Rawat, made it clear in 2017 that whosoever appears at sites where militants are trapped and tries to help them escape would be treated as an OGW (Overground worker, a term used for those who come to rescue militants or work for them). The General further stated that any such civilians would be treated the same as any militant holding a gun. Apparently, such stringent public declarations have given Indian forces a free hand to kill people in Kashmir and justify the civilian killings.
The new trend which has been adopted by the armed forces not only goes against the humanitarian ethics and values but also has been prohibited under Rule 113 of Geneva Conventions which clearly states, “Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled. Mutilation of dead bodies is prohibited.”
Yasir Altaf Zargar, Srinagar
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
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