SC/ST Act debate

The dilution of the SC/ST Act by the Supreme Court is the result of the central government’s arguments in the case (“By diluting SC/ST Atrocities Act, Supreme Court undermines Dalit and Adivasi struggles for dignity”). The ruling party wanted to make its traditional voters happy. It did not expect such a response by Dalits. Even though this is a democracy and everybody has the right to free speech and expression, very few people speak up. This gives the powerful castes and classes the opportunity to set a narrative that is in their favour. Those who don’t know of the world outside of Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram fall prey to such narratives and ask nonsense questions like: if everybody is equal before the law then why is there a special law for Dalits and Adivasis?

Influencing people has become easy in the age of social media. The privileged castes and classes have been campaigning against the Atrocities Act and reservation through silly arguments. If you keep saying the same thing consistently, then people start believing it is true. The news media too does not show the plight of Dalits and Adivasis. That makes the tech-savvy youth believe that caste and related problems is the thing of the past. The dominant castes want to continue doing what they have been doing since centuries, this time with the help of a democracy whose masses are ignorant and gullible even with degrees in hand.

To counter the narrative set by a handful, Dalits and Adivasis should use the platform of social media speak up about the humiliations and atrocities they face in their day to day life. The media should give extensive coverage to the atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis, because it is after all a human rights issue. Before believing something, people must cross check the facts. Until we the people speak up, the dominant classes will continue holding our democracy hostage. – Shahul Bhujbal


I think the author of this piece is not living in this country as he is not aware of facts on ground. There is a lot of blackmail involved in the cases filed citing this Act. A willful defaulter uses this act to file a counter FIR when a case is filed against them. Go to any police station and you will know the truth. – Rachit Pragya


False cases
Smitha Nair may not have visited the fifth schedule areas of Chattisgarh, where this barbaric law is widely misused by the ruling class rich tribals and Scheduled Castes (“Interview: ‘It is against logic to say Dalits will file false cases’”). With the help of this Act, many SC/ST people have acquired hectares of land in fifth schedule areas. 99.9% of these cases are false. We general category people are also citizens of the country, so our human rights should also be protected. – Amit Bose


Thousands of false cases are filed and FIRs are registered every year across India. This is done with the connivance of police. So it is foolish to think that certain sections of the Indian population are immune to this malady or will never indulge in wrong-doing. I believe that this article is greatly misplaced and wrong on many counts.

The Supreme Court’s judgement on the SC/ST Act is right. The promotion or regionalism and casteism by different politicians and groups of people is destroying India. – Ashok Bhagat

Valley violence

Killing in any form is abhorring. This article, however, is one-sided (“Opinion: For how long can New Delhi justify the killing of civilians in Kashmir?”). The security forces in Kashmir are meant to safeguard the nation. Time and again it has been seen that the local people side with militants and obstruct their functioning. It is also observed that many militants, on appeal from security forces, have come back to their families. What is appalling is the writer’s claim that if the militants are killed, then more will be turned to militancy and will win minds of people of Kashmir. All governments, from the 1990s onwards, have left no stone unturned in establishing peace and winning the hearts of Kashmiri people despite the campaign against Kashmiri Pandits. But when youths join militancy, attack the security forces, loot banks and abduct people, the locals support militants against security forces. How do you expect peace to return? Anyone who is against the interest of the nation is going to be dealt with sternly irrespective of his caste, creed or religion. Peace will return to Kashmir if you think sensibly and act accordingly. – Vishwas Wadekar


There is no other way to deal with militants. Many Kashmiris do not want to be a part of India. Hence any talk is useless. Security forces open fire at civilians as a last resort. In many other countries, anybody pelting stones at army will be killed right away. – Jasjit Singh


Instead of picking up weapons, the Kashmiri youth should behave peacefully. Things will then improve drastically. After all, Kashmiris should keep in mind that the state is a part of India. They should stop thinking that they are being ruled by enemies. If they want to have good education to come up in life, India is the only country they should be loyal to. – Shriram Bapat


The author has expressed anguish at the fate of militants, but has he spared a thought for the security personnel? He only wants security forces to smile when these militants fire. Peace can be given a chance only if the people want it within the ambit of the Indian constitution. – Navroop

Revisiting history

Thank you for the wonderful article (“Aryan migration: Everything you need to know about the new study on Indian genetics”). I’m a South Asian who lived in the US for 50 years. I came to the same conclusion based on race, language and culture. Brahmins practiced racism in India as the European did in America after Columbus discovered the land. Brahminism is not very different from White supremacy. The varna system and Sanskrit helped superimpose on the original system practiced in India. Indus valley Indians worshiped Kali and her spirits, Brahmins rejected those gods and introduced light-skinned avatars of deities, like Laxmi, Sarasvati, Vishnu and Brahma. – Madhusudhu Reddy

In a name

While this article captures the essence of the Ramji component of Ambedkar’s full name, it fails to bring out the reasons why Ambedkar did not highlight his middle name (“Ramji reduction: Highlighting Ambedkar’s middle name shows how superficially BJP engages with him”). Merely citing events without context or background tends to show Ambedkar as the villain as opposed to the protagonist of progressive thought that he actually is.

For instance, his disgust with the Hindu Right over the Hindu code bills came from, among other reasons, the fact that there was opposition even to rights of women as equal inheritors of property and assets and the right to work that he had proposed. Such regressive resistance disturbed him. He was way ahead of his times and the others were not ready for such thoughts that were radical to them. The article should have brought out such aspects that are now reality in any case. The author has treated Ambedkar unfairly. – Rajratna Jadhav

Reservation debate

The petition filed by Samta Andolan Samiti to exclude the ‘creamy layer’ from accessing reservation benefits may not stand its ground in relation to the Article 335, read with Article 14 of the Constitution (“Centre says it is against excluding ‘creamy layer’ of SC/ST communities from reservations”). Scheduled Castes and Tribes are classified on account of social bias and backwardness meted to them over centuries and not on thebasis of economic status. Since it’s also true today that the more well-off sections of SC/ST communities snatch away most of the benefits given to the community, a sub-classification within the quota can be tried. For example, 50% of the seats within the SC/ST quota can be reserved for families with an annual income below less than Rs 4.5 lakh , 25% for those between Rs 4.5 lakh and 8 lakh and remaining 25% for those above Rs 8 lakh.

In the event that a suitable candidate is not found from the low and middle income groups, the seats can be transferred to the higher income group. Similar sub-classification should be done for providing fee scholarships in educational institutions. This would help in bringing equitable distribution of the benefits among the SC/ST groups. – Divyam Garg

Aadhaar days

As the article says, the original objective of the Aadhaar scheme was to to provide identity proofs to a sizeable population living in remote and inaccessible areas of the country, people who had no access to government documents and in many cases lacked even a valid birth certificate (“Living with the incoming tide: Aadhaar, Facebook and the end of privacy”). The irony is that the BJP, in the run-up to the last Lok Sabha elections, had promised to scrap the Aadhaar scheme as it was a “waste of money and resources”.

The identity programme is now being used as a powerful mode of surveillance on the population like in totalitarian regimes in other parts of the world where it is presumed that the State is supreme. It is well known that the State is ultimately run by individuals who may be more imperfect and corrupt than the populations they seek to control. – R Joseph

Copyrights and wrongs

I am concerned over the way copyright has been covered in this article (“Amitabh Bachchan isn’t the only one who is unhappy about the 60-year cap on copyright”). One perspective is that a literary work arises out of a society, not from a person. In The Death of the Author, Barthes argues: “Narrative is never undertaken by a person, but by a mediator, shaman, or speaker, whose ‘performance’ may be admired (that is, his mastery of the narrative code), but not his ‘genius’.” If this argument is to be taken at face value, the author is simply retelling stories from the context in which he grew up in. Therefore, for the author to profit at the expense of society would be profiteering off a collective tradition. Society, not the author, should be recompensed for the work, because it is the product of the collective.

The other, opposing view would be the assignment of copyright for eternity. The right to publish a book would not rest on any assumptions of societal authorship; rather, the individual would be the source of all the work that goes into the creation of the book, therefore, he has created property. Rights to property do not expire and can be sold easily with the previous claimant losing all rights over the property itself.

The current copyright system that we enjoy is the result of a compromise between the two models. While it is far from perfect, it guarantees the right of the author-creator to limit the reproduction of the work they toiled so hard to produce. However, the life+60 years that copyright is now largely standardized to is troubling, for it allows almost three generations of the authors’ offspring to profit off the work of their forbearers. The public domain is a repository of knowledge, one that is crucial to understanding and defining the historical texts of the generations that came before, and to allow access to previous thought so current thought and work can build over it, instead of trying to reach the same conclusions.

As a publisher, I find myself yearning to expand the boundaries of knowledge through the ways we work with older texts that form the canons and line literary and societal hallways. Amitabh Bachchan’s view is lacks nuance, for he did not write the very works he claims to want to protect. The way that the article sets up the dichotomy, suggesting ever-so-subtly that works in the public domain are ignored in some sense reflects in the poor state of institutions in India that have the ambit of preserving and restoring our collective culture and heritage.

In Europe, for example, lawmakers rose up in revolt at the suggestion that Anne Franke’s diary did not enter the public domain 70 years after her passing because of exploitation of copyright laws by Otto Frank. A French lawmaker even released the original, unedited Dutch version online for all to read and edit and translate, gratis. When will our lawmakers think like this? – Ishaan H Jajodia

Thorny issue

This article about the spikes and stones in Pali Hill speaks volumes about the way our rich and famous think (“HDFC spikes: Mumbai’s tony Pali Hill also uses hostile design to deter workers, hawkers from sitting”). Thank you for the very well written article. I hope the Pali Hill resident’s association takes note. – BP Samal

Getting schooled

It appears strange that some of the supposedly famous institutions of higher learning in India, many of which have even claimed in the past that they could have done better had they enjoyed more freedom in their functioning, should now be complaining about autonomy being granted to them without having formally sought such a status (“The Union government has granted autonomy to universities that say they did not apply for it”).

It is time the education fraternity in the country stepped out of their comfort zones and realised that even as ensuring equitable financial access to schooling should always remain a responsibility of the government, public-private partnership is the way forward in the spheres of higher and professional education in India, as is the case in several developed countries.

These institutions may be doing both themselves and the country a huge favor by viewing the autonomy conferred on them as an opportunity to emerge as truly global education providers, ones that the best and brightest students from all over the world would vie to get into. – Sumali Moitra

Gun control debate

Unlike in the past, American Universities have now become places that proscribe free speech, so the mainstream media can’t credibly portray them as the beacons of change (“March for Our Lives reawakens the spirit of student-led media activism of the 1960s”). So they are using the school children to push their gun control agenda while using these children as a shield to blunt any logical opposition that the gun rights supporters would have. This raises several troubling questions as the people who have not yet turned adults and who have recently witnessed a tragedy may not be good precriptors of the law.

The children’s inability to engage in a balanced debate was evident when David Hogg said he felt should have been selected by top universities that he applied for. He further exhibited that when he called for advertiser boycott of Fox News’ Laura Ingraham when she ridiculed him on his sense of entitlement.

Contrary to its portrayal, this march wasn’t a grassroot movement of the school students, they were supported by prominent left leaning organisations and personalities including Michael Bloomberg, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Planned Parenthood and Women’s March.

The attendance, unlike what many assume, was probably not comprised mostly of students. Several videos on social media show that a large number of adults turned up to make the 200k attendance that the main event had.
Several gun control advocates do not understand the nuances of the debate. This is because they often call for a ban on semi-automatic rifles (which they mistakenly call “assault rifles”) while the vast majority of gun related deaths in the US are caused by handguns. What’s also perplexing is that the gun control advocates are not truly asking for a ban on guns but rather that the guns should only be the hands of the government, which will need to use them to take away those guns that are in private hands. This was also evident when the anti-gun march in several areas was heavily protected by the armed guards. – Dhruwat Bhagat

Plastic ban

The government notification banning plastics in Maharashtra is a rather retrograde step (“Why have laws to completely ban plastic bags failed in India?”). This would hurt common consumers and citizens. Numerous scientific studies have shown that the environmental footprint of materials like paper and cloth, that are proposed as alternatives to plastic, are multiple times higher. There will also be higher demand for water and various chemicals that go into the production of paper, cloth or jute bags.

The consumer’s would be burdened not just because of additional costs but also by questions of functionality and hygiene. Carrying wet food products like leafy vegetables, fish and meat in paper, jute or cloth bags would be a challenge. The hefty penalty proposed would give rise to rampant corruption and harassment.

Our failure to implement a sound solid waste management system should not be the reason to ban the product that is functionally superior and better for the environment. Most developed countries have efficiently managed their solid wastes and have benefited from the use of plastics. It is foolhardy to cherry pick few plastic products in our attempt to manage all wastes.

It is unfortunate that we are banning a product that the common man needs, particularly someone from the poorer strata of the society. It is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. – SK Ray

Sikh extremism

As early as 1960s and 1970s, Sikh radicalism including was quite significant and incidents of violence were in the news regularly (“Is Sikh extremism really active in Canada?”). I recall thousands of Hindus fleeing Punjab during this period, resulting in the upswing in property prices in Delhi, Faridabad etc. Some educated Sikhs I spoke to during that period defended this extremist behavior, as they believed that they deserved better. Also, can the writer explain the slogan “Raj Karega Khalsa”?

Jasjit Singh’s article seems agenda-oriented and does not reflect the truth. He is trying to offer a rationale for extremism. Pakistani intellectuals have been propagating similar type of arguments justifying the terrorism that ruined that country! – Ram Gupta