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There’s no spectacle to match the football world cup. Till July 15, it’s going to be a carnival in Moscow, and by extension, the world over. I savoured every moment of the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The tournament’s appeal is so overwhelming that Russia’s strained relations with the West temporarily seem like a thing of the past.
Pardon the eugenic tone of a football lover, but the 736 players participating in the world cup are few of the best of our species—in fitness, skill and determination. History is in the making here, with every deft touch that finds the net. Every world cup, we viewers hope for the epic—the challenge throwing up a Pele or a Maradona among the current soccer stars. As in life, moments of ecstasy and despair are inevitable in the tournament. Sport and life are so intertwined to each other.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
When will India play the football world cup? The Sports Authority of India should leave no stone unturned in getting us to feature in the next cup in Qatar in 2022.
Coming to the current tournament, it’s shocking that Lionel Messi’s Argentine team could not break debutants Iceland’s iceberg on June 16. Messi had half-a-dozen opportunities to score goals but failed miserably. He missed a penalty! Iceland’s team, wonderful to see all their names ending with ‘son’, deserves kudos for its stunning display. It’s all the more heartening that Iceland, the least populated nation among the 32 countries vying for the world cup, could prove its mettle in the very first encounter.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
This refers to The Keeper There Wasn’t’ (June 25) a vivid narrative of cricket shadowing football. Football was played by the lower classes in dusty fields, cricket emerged as a more expensive sport played by the sophisticated class that felt proud of identifying with anything ‘foreign’. Jawaharlal Nehru’s patriotism had a western shade to it—he was, after all, going for ‘modernity’. The Indian princely classes were always eager to get British patronage and no wonder, they patronised Cricket. Aamir Khan’s Lagaan comes to mind—a classic film portraying the political dynamics of the sport under the British Raj.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
As a lover of the beautiful game, I was overjoyed on receiving your 2018 football World Cup special. The article on the Indian audiences of the world cup, Gali Gali Football Shootball, and the book extract titled The Keeper There Wasn’t, were especially interesting reads. Indian football legend P.K. Banerjee’s ‘Football Diary’ reminded me of the time I happened to meet him. I met Mr Banerjee in Calcutta on a July evening in 1961. He was riding cycle at the Red Road (now Gostha Pal road) when I saw him. Later, he talked to me and even gave me an autograph.
I can completely empathise with Mr Banerjee on the sad state of affairs in Indian football. In 1950, as there was just one slot from Asia, the Indian Football team automatically earned a spot at the world cup as Philippines, Indonesia and Burma withdrew before the qualification round. The popular belief is that India did not play in the 1950 football World Cup as they did not want to wear boots. But the late Sailen Manna (one of India’s best defenders who was in the squad at that time) says that it was because the All India Football Federation was not taking the world cup as seriously as the Olympics.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
The world cup has been my excuse to suspend existential boredom for a month since 1998.
Praful Brar, New Delhi
With reference to Nimble of Feet (June 18), if there really is a mystical harmonious place called Shangri-La, it is not likely to be found in India. PM Modi attracted widespread attention with his speech at the dialogue in Singapore, and notably said that the summit showed that when nations stand on the side of principles, not behind one power or the other, they earn the respect of the world community and a voice in international affairs. In a strong message against protectionism, Modi rightly said that countries would find solutions not behind walls of protection but by embracing change, and that India stands for an open and stable international trade regime. In the closing passages of his speech, he said, “We are inheritors of Vedanta philosophy that believes in essential oneness of all, and celebrates unity in diversity. This is the foundation for our civilisational ethos of pluralism, co-existence, openness and dialogue.”
How true and appropriate will those words be if they are addressed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Ram Sena, Hanuman Sena, the anti-Romeo squads and some ministers who reject this ‘path of wisdom’. It will be a great service to our nation if our prime minister delivers his Shangri-La speech in India itself.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
History is not the exclusive proprietor of barbarity Digital Bombs of Mob Violence (June 25). We often throw the word ‘uncivilised’ to mean something not in sync with the modern condition. Look around you—is it really so? The new wave of barbarity that currently holds sway in India will debunk all convenient assumptions. Brutal lynchings spurred by nothing concrete but accumulated and fanned hate have become the order of the day. Murder by mobs functioning under the term ‘gaurakshak’ have already become the norm. They no longer shock the collective conscience. The ‘child abductor’ lynchings stirred something in us because they are a new phenomenon. It won’t be surprising if another similar incident exhausts news value beyond the reportage pages of newspapers. Such is the nature of news, it renders repeated incidents mundane. But nothing gets lost altogether. Only, the violence shifts to the background. And as we continue to build our lives in the foreground, a disturbing hum continues to haunt our existence.
Vinod Kumar, Mumbai
This refers to Autumnal Thaw: An Open Script (June 25). It is disheartening to note that Shujaat Bhukari, who was working on bringing peace back to the Valley, was killed. But this is not the first time a journalist has been murdered for fair reporting. Reporting the truth is becoming most dangerous—but this also proves again that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Mahesh Kapasi, On E-Mail
The unilateral ceasefire during the month of Ramzan wreaked havoc in Kashmir. Thankfully, it has been abandoned, but it exposed the inanity of the move for amity in the face of the perpetual hostility of communal marauders in Pakistan and their hirelings in India. The Kashmir government is bereft of moral authority with so many people killed by militants notwithstanding the sacred fast under the ceasefire’s protective cover. But deferring military action—a real possibility—to the eve of the 2019 elections in order to garner votes shows a lack of humaneness and a surfeit of Machiavellianism. We need a bold and straightforward government to deal with the Kashmir issue.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
After the attacks on the eve of Eid, the Centre was justified in not extending the Ramzan ceasefire and having the security forces resume operations. Pakistan-backed militants have hijacked the Kashmir peace agenda and sabotage every effort for peace in the Valley. Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his recent visit said the government was ready for dialogue with anyone and everyone, including the separatists, but the separatists have their own conditions for dialogue that cannot be acceptable to any government in Delhi. The situation is quite murky and the question—will it all end in dialogue?—has no answer for now. However, Kashmir cannot be left at the mercy of jackboots, separatists and militants forever. Firm and decisive action is needed.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to Digital Bombs of Mob violence (June 25). I would like to add a few more words regarding the inhuman, barbaric killings of Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das of Guwahati. Superstition is an omnipresent societal curse in Assam. Assam has seen plenty of deaths of men and women in the name of black magic and witchcraft. Widows and old people are known to be targets of mob violence in Assam after being tagged child lifters and black magic practitioners by people who were after their properties.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
The mad mob violence and the barbarous instant lynching of suspected accused or innocents by unruly mobs has become a day-to-day narrative of Indian society. It is shameful and shocking. The saner people across the country are wondering whether India is returning to the stone age, when anyone could kill anybody. Child-lifting is a serious issue but the absurd nature of the lynchings merely based on social media rumours is crazy. When there is a government and police in place, shouldn’t ‘suspects’ identified by the public be first handed over to police for investigation? Or is there no law and order left in the land? The police cannot just blame social media. It should be held accountable for its inaction, apathy and lackadaisical approach to serious and heinous crimes. There is no use of running after the horse after it has bolted and no use of making arrests long after the precious lives of people have been lost. Unless the police assert themselves, unless people fear and respect the law, nothing can change. It is no wonder that we will continue to hear horrific and spine-chilling news of such unfortunate lynchings in the future too.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This refers to #MeMum (June 11) on the “casting couch” in Bollywood and elsewhere. Female actors are always under the threat of sexual abuse and blackmail. Without mentioning any particular personalities, it can be inferred that many of the now-famous heroines would have had to deal with this culture of abuse.
Rathi Raj, Siliguri
The diverse Opposition parties can unite, but none of its leaders has a pan-India appeal (Finding the Challenger, June 18). The regional leaders are strong enough on their own but their alliance could turn out to be just a poll gimmick. Against such an unconvincing unity, it will be their idiocy if they think they can fool the electorate. If their ‘unity’ wins, every leader will want to be PM. They stand a better chance if the Congress replaces Rahul Gandhi at its helm with an able leader to run the election campaign (like BJP did by floating Narendra Modi in 2014). The Karnataka assembly outcome may not have any bearing on 2019.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
In the article titled An Anti-Modi Puzzle, the writer deftly analyses many aspects of the ‘Modi versus the rest’ question, but a few observations don’t sit well with how things are. Nitish Kumar has been painted in poor taste for joining the BJP. Why? He wouldn’t remain CM if he hadn’t done that. Secondly, Modi’s second term hasn’t been talked about. Wouldn’t that be an interesting insight for the readers? Modi is the only PM till date to make such a definite impact on the global scene. At the global summits he drops in, you can see the kind of respect world leaders have for him.
The insurmountable hoax of Modi has been created by his supporters through the hyper ideological use of social and electronic media. His theatrical extempore speeches seldom have any substance. He tactfully avoids any conflict with his mentors sitting in Nagpur and with communal forces on the ground—like the love jehad and gau raksha brigades. His brand of populism is nothing but a balloon, waiting to be burst. But who will burst it? The “unconditional” united front gets stuck because everyone is selfish. “What is in it for me if Modi gets dislodged?” they think. But it could play out interestingly this time, let us wait and watch. Ten months are left for the general elections, a long enough time period to crystallise any firm trend in a volatile political atmosphere.
M.N. Bhartiya, Porvorim, Goa
Prime Minister Modi has emerged as a Goliath in the arena of Indian politics. That is why the disparate Opposition parties are joining hands to overcome the giant. All of them have suddenly become integrationists. Many leaders in the inchoate coalition have such extreme ambitions that they won’t be able to contain for a long time. This might end up disrupting the current developments of an attempt to form a ‘super’ coalition. And any time in this process; the unnoticeable process of disintegration will spontaneously start. It is a fact that each one of them knows their inherent characteristics, which would lead to ideological inequalities. Further, the volatility will make the future of the coalition iffy. But they are standing hand-in-hand because they are afraid of the disaster lurking. Certainly, they have apprehension that if in 2019, Modi comes to power again, it would force some players’ exit from politics. Recent bypoll results and the formation of the government in Karnataka have given a shot in the arm to the possibility of a coalition for 2019, but the air is full of skepticism. The prevalent view in the realpolitik still remains Modi’s image of a dynamic leader. People know the axiomatic failure of coalitions. The public observes the optics.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
Ask any Opposition leader about the prime ministerial face of the proposed grand alliance, and you would get no answer. They argue there was no face of the anti-Congress Opposition in 1977 and again in 1989, when the PM was decided only after the elections. Both times, the people voted decisively against the party in power—against Indira Gandhi’s Congress for imposing Emergency, and against Rajiv Gandhi’s for the scandals such as Bofors. But can people’s disenchantment with Modi match that? The CSDS survey shows Modi’s popularity has gone down by just two per cent since 2014. In fact, the Opposition has nobody who can stand up to Modi. Rahul Gandhi is being projected as the challenger because he is the leader of the only other pan-Indian party. The findings of the survey indicate that Rahul is more popular than Modi only in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, but trails behind him by huge margins in all other states, including Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal, Naveen Patnaik’s Odisha and Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The nation is really looking forward to a viable Opposition that can end the saffron storm that has taken the country hostage. Considering the political situation in the country, it can be concluded that only a mainstream political party can be an alternative to the BJP at the Centre. The regional parties do not have the bandwidth to capture the national imagination for obvious reasons. But if all Opposition parties come together, they can change the stale, oft-repetitive political script into a more dynamic and flexible narrative. The only issue is the conflict of political interests that has the inevitable capacity to spoil such a coalition dream.
J. Kishore, Hyderabad
“Abki baar: bhay-mukt (fearless) sarkar” should be the slogan for the 2019 general elections.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refer’s to A Hundred and One Nights on the Edge, the story on Jammu’s border villages (June 18). The Line of Control (LoC) should indeed be christened the “Line of Misery”, as your slug suggests. The LoC is among the borders that have remained unsettled for the longest while. Settlement of borders didn’t take this long even after the World Wars or the Korean War. One can argue that politicians of both India and Pakistan are not willing to settle the issue due to their vested interests. Instead, their efforts have been directed towards strengthening their war machines rather than enhancing their respective people’s living standards. The people of both countries are made to feel enmity towards each other in spite of cultural and linguistic similarities. Friendship between the two countries would make them powerful geopolitical entities working in tandem instead of undercutting each other’s global influence, while the resources they now waste on their war machines could be diverted towards people’s welfare.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
‘Couch culture’ pervades the entire film industry, not Bollywood alone (#MeMum, June 11). As long as actresses refuse to oblige and speak out, it can be tackled. But power is an ugly game, with its own sinister sedatives—the promise of fame, the fear of not getting work.
George Jacob, Kochi
Apropos of Guzzle Grain, Go Hungry (June 11), the government’s new policy of using grains to produce biofuel has invited adverse comment from both Dr Swaminathan and the UN. The concerned authorities must realise that in a country where it is very difficult to arrange adequate food grains for the people, using up these scarce resources in ethanol production cannot be justified.
Lt Col (Retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
This is apropos the photo essay The Elephant in the Alley (June 11). Human-wildlife conflict is on a rise across the country; Elephants and tigers are becoming scapegoats of the callousness of forest officials. Ironically, your piece focuses largely on the devastation that elephants are causing to man and not the other way round. Authorities fail to realise how they destroy habitats. For instance, the conversion of a 162 km metre gauge, from New Jalpaiguri to the Alipurduar, to a broad gauge in the year 2000 in north Bengal resulted in victimising many elephants. More than 200 elephants lost their lives on this eponymous ‘death railway’.
Unfortunately, like the Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) in Odisha, officials in other states are also not taking wildlife conservation seriously. The funds for the environment sector are not being allocated commensurately. Political parties show very little concern in protecting wildlife because animals are not voters.
Nelson Petrie, On E-Mail
With reference to Tales From the 4G Rumour Mill (June 11), a solution must be found to combat fake news and rumours spread through social media before others lose their lives in this bizzarre wave of fear. The government must implement strict regulation and take legal action against the crazed transmitters of such messages, while mainstream media should take action to counter fake news whenever it raises its ugly head.
Mahesh Kumar, On E-Mail
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