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Your story on freedom fighters, the last of a fine generation, was really good (Last of the Nation’s First, February 11). The lives they lead are an example to us, and we are scarcely aware of these proud, self-abnegating men and women who fought so we can be free. They should be brought into focus, for us to heed feelings like one of them expressed—that contemporary India, where money and pelf matter more than law and principles, is not the kind of country they fought for. In Vellalur, near Coimbatore, I met a man aged 102, who gave all his freedom fighter’s pension to a trust. He used to visit the bank every day of the month, clad in a dhoti and with a towel on his shoulder. We should take the cue from them and unite to dispel corruption and greed from our polity. On unity, too, that generation can teach us a thing or two.
Indhu Prakash, Coimbatore
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee raised a huge cry over the CBI team in Calcutta wanting to interrogate police commissioner Rajiv Kumar, because he knew too much about TMC’s involvement in the multi-crore Saradha scam (Centre Stage Esplanade, February 18).
Mamata blocked the CBI team as she feared Kumar would spill the beans about the missing files that conclusively prove the hand of top TMC leaders in cheating lakhs of poor investors. Her actions were not only condemnable, but unlawful as well.
Just by calling it vendetta politics and blaming PM Modi by enacting a high-pitch drama was not proper at all. Instead of cooperating with the CBI, Mamata took refuge in the practices of her street-fighting days. Irony is that the perpetrator of these unconstitutional acts claimed to be doing it to save the Constitution.
The fact that her acts were volubly supported by other opposition parties shows that none of them want the truth to come out.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The item ‘Plenty Problem’ (Deep Throat, February 25) wrongly mentions Krishnagiri as the Lok Sabha constituency represented by deputy speaker M. Thambidurai. He represents Karur. The error is regretted.
This is with reference to your cover story Deccan Can They? (Feb 11). BJP’S north Indian roots, its overwhelmingly Hindutva image, lack of regional leadership down south and the mistrust the party carries among the people of the south are hurdles which will not be easy for the saffron party to surmount, irrespective of its focussed southward push. The only way forward for BJP is to groom leaders, bolster its organisational structure in the south, stitch umbrella alliances with regional parties and, most of all, dilute its strong Hindutva image. A long-term strategy with loads of patience is the need of the hour for this party which has always been in fast forward mode.
Vijai Pant, On E-mail
The BJP, by its very nature, is prone to rub the Tamils the wrong way. The party has failed to read the pulse of the people over a raft of issues such as the Salem-Chennai green corridor project, oil and natural gas exploration and the neutrino project. The common refrain is that PM Modi does not want to give Tamils what they want, but thrusts down their throats what they don’t want. We ask for a halt to Karnataka’s plan to build a new dam across river Cauvery at Meketadu but what we get in return is the neutrino project—a wild goose chase for God’s particle! The political untouchability practised against the saffron outfit by the Dravidian majors and half-a-dozen fringe groups runs so deep that they don’t lose opportunities for blaming the BJP for anything going wrong in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK’s Namadu MGR has blamed the BJP for its failures to act on promises like providing two crore jobs a year or giving Rs15 lakh to each citizen from the black money retrieved from safe havens abroad. BJP’s corruption outcry has few takers because corruption is never a major issue in a state that has gained notoriety for scientific corruption, and where most people sell their ballots for a price. Amid all these conundrums it is surprising how the BJP is pushing for a coalition with strange bed fellows like the AIADMK—T.T.V. Dinakaran or PMK—to fight the Lok Sabha polls.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Political vocabulary is developed over decades and can only be used effectively if those being addressed are in on the words and phrases. The BJP simply hasn’t one for the south. The Ram mandir catchphrase may still stir up an agenda storm in the northern mainlands but speeches down south are nuanced and local. And identities in the southern states are more confident about their origins and evolution, so, a broad-based, flimsy Hindutva bid just doesn’t get you the mandate. Even the carefully crafted cult of Modi finds little resonance here. The BJP needs to visibly change its positions while campaigning in states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But then, that would need them to get rid of the arrogance they have accumulated from an anti-Congress wave in the last five years or so.
Shailesh Kumar, ON E-MAIL
The southern palate is too diverse to be coloured a single shade of coercive saffron.
Anil S., Pune
This refers to The Face For The Other Side Of U.P. (Feb 11). The Congress remains a fringe player in the politics of the most populous state in the country. It seems to be trailing far behind the SP-BSP alliance and BJP in UP. Having said that, by sending Priyanka Gandhi to UP east, the Congress has pitched her directly against both the CM and the PM—both have won from this belt. Though she may not be able to fetch her party their old bastion back, she can definitely put a dent in the hopes of the SP-BSP alliance and ruling BJP in that region. Till date, she has restricted herself to her mother and brother’s constituencies, but now she will have to dig deep into dirty politics and prove that she can be a serious contender in future. And, mind you, she is no small fish.
Bal Govind, Noida
The Congress under Rahul Gandhi is still struggling to come to grips, but Priyanka’s entry into politics should give a fillip to the rank and file of the party and enthuse them to work with greater vigour in UP. As general secretary UP east, she has a tough task cut-out ahead of her. Her oratory skills and mass appeal appear to have a greater edge than Rahul’s.
Indian politics undoubtedly tends to be red in tooth and claw come election time. These days the only debate that is reverberating in the corridors of power concerns is Priyanka Gandhi’s sudden entry into politics. While the BJP, as expected, is busy unleashing a stream of vitriol against the Congress by invoking the dynasty trope, a frisson of hope and euphoria has gripped the Congress.
After being hung out to dry by the SP-BSP alliance, the Congress has had no option but to fall back on the charismatic Priyanka. It is obvious that she has been made to draw the short straw, being asked to take charge of a tough and volatile eastern UP to improve the political fortunes of the party. Priyanka is no babe in the woods in matters political as she has campaigned successfully in previous elections for the party. Now having decided to cross the rubicon, Priyanka has to punch above her weight to take the fight to the opposition led by BJP and SP-BSP alliance. At the same time, while Priyanka is personally incorruptible and enjoys a relatively clean image, her husband Robert Vadra’s involvement in dubious business deals can become an albatross around her neck. Can she turn things around in what looks to be one of the most tough and nerve-wracking election battles of UP in recent times?
Aditya Mukherjee, New Delhi
So, has Congress eventually realised that it will take more than a Rahul Gandhi to revive itself in a state widely believed to hold the key to Raisina Hill. Either way, it is an admission that the party stands virtually decimated in UP, and is so politically distraught that it has been pressured into playing its last “Gandhi card” to ward off being reduced to a marginal player. Whether the Congress president’s “front foot strategy” and Priyanka’s entry actually revives the party’s prospects are the big imponderable of the 2019 election. However, the BJP has certainly been impacted, its revival of the ‘dynasty’ criticism proves precisely that.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
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.
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.
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
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