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This refers to Three Years for Hardliners (May 14), your story on the ministerial reshuffle in Jammu and Kashmir. The reshuffle was on the cards for months, with both partners in the ruling coalition, the PDP and the BJP, keen to induct new faces. The state can have a maximum of 25 ministers. The rejig of one-third of the ministry suggests this is no ordinary exercise, especially when bulk of the new ministers are from the BJP, which has been trying to contain the fallout of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua. It indicates that the PDP and the BJP have decided that they will complete the remaining three years of the government’s term despite their ideological mismatch. But unless they stop conducting themselves like the adversaries they clearly are, they won’t be able to govern the state together in a proper way, nor use the time they are left with to fulfil any of the promises they have made to the people of J&K.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
This refers to your cover story, The caste of Poll saffron (May 21. The caste of saffron is spreading hatred, animosity and distress among country brethren by targeting marginalised sections of society. If in doubt, one only has to look around to all the resistance building up against the current regime’s oppressive politics, be it the Dalit movements from Una and Saharanpur in the last two years or the solidarities forged after the chilling rape cases of Kathua and Unnao. Now, when poll of the polls is just a year away, and with the BJP stuttering over the warning signals sent from the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections, the saffron party wants to do damage control by splicing up the quotas in UP further. Classic divide and rule even to the casual eye. Seeing that the Dalits have been organising themselves against the grand Hindutva plan. But then, this plan has always been lined with too many laxman rekhas of oppression, for minorities as well as women. And the people have realised this.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
What is the big deal in the proposed quota division in UP when there are enough examples of such a division of backwards castes in southern states? In some states, backward castes are further grouped into categories of A,B,C and D and jobs and seats are distributed as per the backwardness of the castes. These divisions within reservation have existed for long in these states, and they haven’t been challenged thus far. Then why challenge the BJP’s decision to do the same. Since some of the castes among backward groups can be in advantageous positions, this categorisation was thought to be rational. In Karnataka, the categorical division of SC communities was recommended by the Justice Sadashiva committee and in Andhra, the Usha Mehra committee recommended the same. Both these were not BJP-appointed committees. No one complained of ulterior political motives of the non-BJP governments under whom these proposals were floated at those times.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
Reading your cover story made me realise how central caste as an issue has become for Indian politics. But instead of being an issue to address, it has become a product, a mere demographic that needs to be manipulated for votes, particularly among the populist states where illiteracy dominates. One can’t help seeing this as a modern day ‘divide and rule” policy. The latest move again proves that parties aim to influence people from backward groups with appeasement only, giving questions of development the slip. How long this politics can succeed remains an unanswered question.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
Indian elections are dominated by politics of caste and religion and every political party plays tricks to woo caste and religious vote banks. So there is nothing new in the BJP’s trick of dividing up the OBC quota to counter the effect of the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest and most populous state which has always had a decisive role in government formation at the Centre. The SP-BSP alliance was unthinkable until yesterday, but is now a reality and is definitely going to be a big challenge for the BJP in 2019. Of course, if it can survive on seat-sharing. In any case, 2019 is not going to be as smooth and easy for the BJP as 2014 was. The Karnataka verdict has shown that in spite of all the perceived anger against unfulfilled promises of the PM—demonetisation GST—Modi-magic still exists and the people still have faith in the BJP and its policies.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Decoding the caste arithmetic in UP has never been easy. The sheer size of the state, with its complex caste demographic, has even the best of psephologists stuttering so far as predicting poll outcomes is concerned. The BJP was jittery after the drubbing received in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections by the coming together of SP and BSP. It is also wary of the impending alliance between the two for the 2019 elections. So, in a bid to stay in the ‘game’, the BJP is coming up with this ‘game changer’—a three-tier categorisation of the backward classes, to apparently give the most backward among them the benefits of reservation. However, with rampant unemployment all around, such reservation do not have any meaning. The BJP must work towards improving the lot of the OBCs and bring some tangible change to their difficult and poverty ridden lives. To presume that the electorate of today is gullible enough not to understand the politics behind such a move would not only be foolhardy but delusional.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Apropos of Mandal In The Jungle (May 21), The politics of reservation is a nuisance to the public, allows politicians to play votebank politics and causes crores of rupees’ worth of damage to public property. There is a simple solution to these unjust demands: abolish reservation forever from the Constitution. Of course, economically weaker sections of society must be given more opportunities to compete in life, but in no case should there be reservation for anyone. This would be in the national interest, but on this issue, the present government is no better than its predecessor in ruining the country’s future economic development.
Mahesh Kumar, On E-Mail
The BJP can well make the caste chakravyuh but it is bound to get entangled in it eventually.
Anil S., Pune
It’s not exactly right to call my letter late, though the write-up (Provoked By The Protege, May 7) I refer to is more than three weeks old. For, it’s only now—after the May 19 exit of B.S. Yeddyurappa as the Karnataka chief minister for barely 56 hours—that the words mouthed by his political rival H.D. Deve Gowda become strikingly comical. The former PM, who is a tall leader of the Janata Dal (Secular), had been into a bitter pre-poll fight with none other than Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who was then the CM. Your story even notes that their duel appears even personal—“at one level”, whatever that means. The 85-year-old neta tells your correspondent that even Congress president Rahul Gandhi was advised to ease up on the JD(S) after calling it the B-team of the BJP. But when Siddaramaiah went on attacking, Gowda was irritated—else he would have ignored him. And now? The JD(S) and Congress have joined hands to form a government. What can be more hypocritical!
Shrikumar Ananda, On E-Mail
Apropos of Humayunpur Diary (May 21), I should like to say that in addition to the new and the old, there are now four Delhis more: Old Old Delhi, new Old Delhi, old New Delhi and new New Delhi. There’s also, a sixth Delhi in the making, where tombs turn into temples. Let’s hope there’s a cure for this too.
Vijay Bhatnagar, On E-Mail
This is with reference to The Party And Its Ex, the story on suspended BJD MP Jay Panda (May 28). Jay Panda has always been focused towards the development of his constituency and his state as a whole. But internal party rivalries have got the better of good governance. In a move to stifle freedom of press, some BJD leaders have boycotted Odisha’s popular TV channel OTV, just because it is managed by Jay Panda’s wife. The BJD should realise that times have changed and the people of the state are mature enough to understand the machinations of politicians.
Nawaz Azhar, On E-Mail
The article Ahimsa For Our Modern Dharma (May 21) is misconceived. M.K. Gandhi preached non-violence because he was pragmatic. He wanted to save the Congress from reprisals by the British who were supported by rajas, zamindars and other Indians aspiring for self-aggrandisement. Ahimsa was never the ethos of Hinduism. Demons and gods were in perpetual fight, and the one who killed the most was worshipped. Even in modern times, the victor is hailed as a hero. The Gita says the death of a person is like a change of garments. Lord Krishna exhorted Arjun to fight and kill, even his near and dear ones. Shri Rama killed extensively and is worshipped for it. Gandhi’s was a self-crafted ideal that was meant only to be convenient and made for great rhetoric. I believe that innate instincts in society always supersede over man-made laws, this applies even today. The sheen of hyped fanciful ideologies is always torn to shreds by the claws of reality and expediency. Gandhi gave the call for Quit India, a movement bound to see some violence. Louis Fischer asked why this ‘violent’ call for was not given earlier, the Mahatma replied honestly, saying he was not so strong earlier, that’s why. I was a student of Banaras Hindu University then and I knew only little of non violence at the time.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
This is with reference to Killing Fields of the Nation (May 14). It is indeed very disturbing and sickening to know that stone pelters attacked 22 year old tourist to Kashmir, who died afterwards. The attempt by the PDP to reform stone pelters in the state has clearly failed. The BJP, who are in coalition with the PDP, doesn’t have an iota of control in the Valley. Earlier, a school bus full of children was attacked. This is unprecedented and cruel even by separatist standards. What will be achieved by these drastic acts of violence? There is no answer. Even the Hurriyat, which has been funded by governments on both sides of the fence, has no control over the rebels. Kashmir has been awaiting a drastic solution for a long time now. The situation will only get worse if nothing concrete is done. Stone pelters have also helped terrorists escape during counter-insurgency operations. All of PM Modi’s policies have failed in Kashmir. I wonder how much the strategy of imploring the UN or the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state will achieve when we ourselves maintain normal trade relations with Pakistan through the Wagah border. If isolating Pakistan is the plan on the international front, India should replicate it on the homefront too—snap all relations with the rogue neighbour, stop the diplomatic bus service, which is mere symbolic vestige, cancel the Indus Valley water treaty. Can that be done? If it is done, Pakistan will be totally isolated and it will not be able to bear it. Hence, the country will have no option left but to mend its ways.
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
It’s more than three decades now and there are still no signs of any respite for the conflict in Kashmir. Our security forces are regularly killed in the line of duty and misguided youths-turned militants consistently shot down in encounters. There is no permanent solution for the ghost town that the Valley has become. The militants often emerge and re-emerge, consolidate and re-consolidate in order to send whatever misconceived message to the government. In the midst of this battle are the stone pelters who have thrown themselves and their fate to the streets. They clash with the security forces, leaving the latter no option but to defend. In the process, scores are injured and lives lost. It looks like a cat-and-mouse game that is played on loop all year round.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This is with reference to Chinese Whispers In Old Janakpur (May 21). India’s heavy-handed interference in Nepal in the past few years soured the relationship between the two nations to an extent that Nepal turned towards China. Fortunately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is realising that his stand towards Nepal will help no one. He made the right decision by visiting the neighbour in an attempt to mend the strained friendship. Modi’s gesture left none in doubt that the two nations wanted to bury the bitterness of the Madhesi blockage and renew the special relationship which India and Nepal have always shared.
K.R.Srinivasan, On E-mail
For Nepal, having a gargantuan neighbour like India has its consequences. It is like a humongous reality the little Himalayan nation has to live with forever. When the Madhesi blockade happened a couple of decades ago, Nepal was completely dumbfounded, could the giant neighbour be so vicious too? It was around then that Nepal looked over the hills and not that far away—China. Now, as you enter Kathmandu from one end, you see a huge construction area, fenced by coloured tin boards, project name painted in red, Chinese script.
Anurag Bhatnagar, On E-Mail
This is with reference to No Takers For The Maharaja (May 21). The Air India flight I took last week from Kochi to Bangalore gave me the KSRTC (Karnataka’s state bus service) experience. It was a rickety flight which creaked throughout the journey. At first, I thought it was on account of the weather only to look out of the window and stare at a clear day. At times, when the creaking worsened, I felt instinctively alarmed, but the supreme calm on the faces of the air hostesses and flight stewards declared that nothing was amiss, this was the usual affair at the Maharaja’s. It was only when I got back home that I remembered that Air India video, which someone had forwarded not long ago in a WhatsApp group chat, the one I had felt reluctant to download because my smartphone is constantly running out of space. It was about a window flying off mid-flight in an Air India plane. Thank God I hadn’t seen it before the flight!
Shuhab Choudhary, Bangalore
Apropos of Reapers of the Intimate word (May 14), is there anything that doesn’t leak data? More importantly, do we have an alternative? We didn’t even realise when WhatsApp slipped in the forefront, making the SMS system almost redundant. Now, everyone is pushing for digital—online retailers want us to pay by card, banks want us to do digital banking and, most importantly, the government wants to make everything digital. Now, your story claims WhatsApp, where people share their most personal details, can be breached. This comes just week after the Facebook data breach sandal. WhatsApp is also owned by Facebook. It feels like we are in a digital hypercube and the walls are beginning to close in.
Debashish Sengupta, New Delhi
I refer to the cover story, Mind what you type (May 14). First, like the pied piper, social media moguls played an irresistible, subliminal tune to lead the masses of the world into perpetual digital existence. Then, they started sizing up the followers—breaking their lives up into small data packets in order to ‘harvest’ their personal information. For years, this was still taken as covert activity, with only whispers warning us of the dangers of giving out all your details. Now, after the Cambridge Analytica expose, there is hysteria regarding data extraction, almost a non-concern up till now. People should keep in mind that the digital oligarchs of the world are the finest intelligence operators of today. They have ensured that there is very little functionality outside the worlds they have created. We can be paranoid about data theft, but wishing for complete protection against it is impossible. So let’s not just be paranoid and work with the understanding that not just big corporate, but the government itself is hugely interested and invested in mining your data. Absolute surveillance is a default 21st century goal of states. Oddly enough, both governments and tech companies provide the same kind of justification for what they do: that their surveillance is both necessary for national security in the case of governments and for economic viability in the case of corporations. Only institutional and legal routes can help us deal with these things. We can find a good example in the laws that the European Court of Justice has framed around data theft.
Just two days before reading this story, I had sent a money transfer receipt via WhatsApp and was wondering how secure my data was. I’d think twice about sending such info on the app now. Think about the amount of sensitive data being exchanged through various social media platforms by the second. Think about the magnitude of risk. People have come to rely heavily on the app; therefore an immediate stop to its usage may not be possible. However, the service providers are bound to ensure safety of data for their consumers.
I’m taking the advice the last line of the story gives to readers: “The next time your insurance agent asks you to WhatsApp a photo of your Aadhaar card to update the KYC, it may be better to say no”. I hope the same caution is exercised by intelligence agencies, police departments and military personnel who interact on WhataApp apart from, of course, my fellow citizens. We have no clue about who can access and abuse our data, or is doing so. After the Facebook data mega leak and this story, ‘end-to-end-encryption’ and other eyewashes to make our data look safer stand exposed. Digital messenger services have made life tremendously easy and brought people closer than ever, but the consequences of using them only show that every technology comes with an invisible sinister side.
An app made by a company, made available for free; what did we think it was, social service!
Rishi Dutta, New Delhi
The photograph from the Malayalam film, Sudani From Nigeria, in your Glitteratti page shows Nigerian actor Samuel Robinson with his co-star, Soubin Shahir, and not the film’s director, Zakaria Mohammed, as mentioned in your piece (May 14). Please avoid such irritating gaffes in the future!
Shashi Kumar U.V., On E-Mail
This is with reference to Akbar-Anthony Amar Rahe: The Hero 2.0 (May 14). When a 102-year-old protagonist and his 75-year-old son are well received, we can say that our audiences have surely grown up. In the bargain, Big B and Rishi Kapoor reinvent themselves as actors and pave the way, hopefully, for other next-door uncles and dadajis on screen.
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