Save our trees

The story of Delhi’s trees is a tale of many cities where the municipal authorities are trying to claim open spaces under the specious euphemism of development. No doubt all this is couched in their unique jargon (“Opinion: Why felling of thousands of trees for South Delhi redevelopment project must be reviewed”). “Development” has brought us to this present state of urban blight and concrete jungles in the place of trees, parks and open spaces.

Open spaces and trees are not obstacles, they need to be included in development plans. They are a part of the landscape and life-saving in their unique ways. Trees act as a natural filter, cleaning the air from pollutants. They have measurable environmental effects – not to mention their psychological effects. New research says the closer you can live to trees, the better off you are.

This tussle shows how urban trees and open spaces are both treasured and in jeopardy like never before. Trees are important, valuable and necessary to our existence. It’s not too hard to believe that without trees we humans would not exist on this beautiful planet. In a bit of natural alchemy called photosynthesis, for example, trees turn one of the most intangible things – sunlight – into food for insects, wildlife and people The little precious space that is still available in our cities should be safeguarded and preserved rather than “developed”. Bengaluru is a prime example of how natural beauty has vanished in the rush for development. – HN Ramakrishna

Emergency memories

After misleading the nation for four years and with bad governance in almost all BJP-ruled states, the only pitch left for saffron party now is Hindutva (“E for Emergency: Is Narendra Modi in the same place Indira Gandhi was in 1974?”). At present, they are busy intimidating the minorities. The next phase will be scaring the majority. The game is still in the hands of the RSS, since the majority of Hindutva believers are more scared about their cultural existence than minorities are scared for their lives. Emergency or not, the country is inching closer to the civil war or an internal divide as polarisation reached to its peak. – Shareef Hafeez


There is a bestseller by Dr Eric Berne, in which he describes a game called “Rapo”, where the protagonist or the player keeps on claiming that she is a victim of an imaginary enemy (“43 years later: ‘We have a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency,’ says Nayantara Sahgal”). Such is the state of affairs of all those who have been living as beneficiaries of the dynasty for the last seven decades. Since Modi came to power, he has been systematically disintegrating the ingratiating society euphemistically called the Lutyens gang. This has created storms in the Lutyens circles, People have been asked to vacate posh bunglows meant for public servants, foreign junkets in the name of press entourage have completely stopped. All this seems worse than the Emergency to them. But is a mouthpiece of these people in the garb of independent journalism. – Anilkumar G Garag


The author could have penned these views as a commentary, rather than an interview with Nayantara Sehgal. He seemed to put words in her mouth or ask questions that were already consented upon. This interview reads like propaganda against the current regime. Writers and journalists should not position themselves as the voice of the people as they are highly biased. – Ravi Rohilla

Caste system

Sumit Guha seems to belong to the list of authors hellbent on creating the image of precolonial India as an egalitarian society against all proof
(“What Europeans contributed to the caste system in India”). While the colonialists, of course, used the existing division of society as a tool to rule, to blame the colonialists for introducing social division in India is utter nonsense.

Parashurama’s famous analogies equating various segments of people to body parts far preceded any European intervention. Similarly, Manusmriti is said to have codified behaviour of societal segments and punishment for violation of the code many centuries before the colonialists arrived.
The unrecorded or unrecognised history of the subalterns is completely ignored as has been done historically since the advent of such societal divisions.

Equivalence of societal segregation based upon the notion of purity may have existed in European society about 500-600 years ago. But to attempt to lay the blame on them is sheer propaganda aiming to show that Indian society was idyllic and egalitarian. The question is: When will we acknowledge evidence and accept reality while attempting to honestly reform ourselves, especially in the face of proof that such segregation has been the cause of repeated invasions due to disunity? – Rajratna Jadhav

Foreign policy concerns

One should be careful of any analysis that pronounces judgment in black and white (“Xi sells Seychelles on the seashore as Modi’s foreign policy lies in tatters”). Something like foreign policy is a very subtle area. One finds it odd that this commentator can only see black and no white. Secondly in a democracy like India, it’s very difficult for one man, even a powerful prime minister like Modi, to decide on everything, and then there are legacy issues. China has not started stringing it’s string of pearls after Modi’s arrival, nor was violence absent in Kashmir before Modi. I honestly don’t understand the value of such analysis, either the writer considers his readers fools who will lap up whatever doomsday scenario he has built about India’s foreign policy or he is writing for a particular constituency that wants to read everything bad about Modi. If it’s the latter, then it is like a blind leading the blind. Good luck to Girish Shahane and to you for publishing such lopsided, meaningless analysis. – Kartik Srinivasan

Rumour mill

Ipsita Chakravarty analyses the Karbi Anglong incident and highlights the socio-systemic causes behind similar events across the country (“The lynching of two men in Assam shows the power of rumours across India”). As she discusses, the xenophobia fuelled by rumours have their basis in traditional myths and folklores (xopadhoras), suspicious attitudes due to actual instances of abductions and trafficking. This is further amplified by the fake news and echo chambers of social media.

The larger question is of crowd taking charge of law and order, and employing violent methods. What drives such behaviour is something to ponder about. Whether it is the lack of faith in the police and justice systems or group prejudices and fears clouding independent judgement or worse, base hatred toward humans of a different group is moot.
Given the multi-ethnic population, migration flux and insurgency, mere anti-superstition awareness programmes, though a good step, will not work. The socio-economic problems of poverty, unemployment, access to welfare benefits and equal opportunities have to be addressed with strong commitment and accountability. Only real development and empowerment can quell the impact of myths (taking the form of fake news) and cases of child trafficking. The governor has to ensure that autonomous councils under the Sixth schedule are supplemented with resources, guidance.

Education, connectivity, infrastructure need to be strengthened. Compassionate and responsible police and security forces and creative internal security paradigms are sina qua non to establish peace and ameliorate the problems of illegal migration and insurgency. Civil society groups, NGOs, educational institutions, students, peasant groups, have a role in ensuring a restrained and peaceful atmosphere, and reducing xenophobia. And finally, whether and how the Frankenstein misuse of social media can be curbed is a Gordian knot to cut through. – Arun G

Voices of dissent

Pathalgadi’ is a new movement arising amidst the political turmoil in Jharkhand . But the history of pathalgadi goes back to before democracy arrived in the country (“The Constitution set in stone: Adivasis in Jharkhand are using an old tradition as a novel protest”).

Pathalgadi, as the name suggest, refers to installation of a stone slab (pathal=stone and gadi = installing). It was a way to commemorate the family’s lineage after the death of the headman. This is also showcases the patrilineal society of the tribe. With no better evidence of its cultural and historical past pathalgadi is a resourceful way to track the Adivasi history.

The recent events are termed anti-government because of the shortcomings of the present administration. The Adivasi populated villages were exploited and rationed out. Due to lack of education and awareness, the Adivasi people suffered more. Rich in natural resources, the land was exploited, which in turn had harmful consequences on the ecology of the area.

This fear among the people had led to quote the Schedule 5 of the Constitution on the stone slab, which the present government, without even paying heed to, has branded as “anti- government”. – Malini Dhan

Citizenship debate

The linguistic and religious fraternities have been broadened by the hungry politicians who only know self interest (“In Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley, the citizenship bill has opened old Assamese-Bengali fissures”). All inhabitants of Assam, irrespective of cast, creed, language and religion, should realise the evil designs of hungry politicians to muddy the sweet and diverse social fabric. Assam is for Assamese. Improvement and development of Assamese language and literature is a must. If Assamese literature and language are not developed or cultivated in Assam, where else will it be? The question is not whether someone is Bengali or Assamese. It is that every person who resides here should be dedicated to the all-round cause of Assamese. In the interest of Assam, every citizen should oppose the citizenship Amendment Bill. The state is already overpopulated and cannot take the risk. – Chitra Kumar Hazarika

Blurred lines

Your writer’s naivete, as with many Indian liberals, is startling and a matter of serious concern in the face of the BJP’s massive lie-smear-hate-divide campaign on all media (“The Daily Fix: As Mamata Banerjee accuses the BJP of intolerance, she may be held guilty of the same”). It has comprehensively been proved by that almost all images of Trinamool Congress violence during the Panchayat elections in BJP media, as well as one leading media group that has made an industry of smearing the TMC using fake news and images, were morphed.

Ditto for the few specific claims of BJP workers killed, where, in at least two cases that were investigated, the workers that the BJP claimed as their own were actually Trinamool workers killed by the BJP’s multi-pronged murder and violence machine. You should therefore also give very little credence to the figure of 50 BJP workers killed, especially at a time when the entire state is under massive threat from the BJP’s hydra-headed machine of violence, smear and riot creation, including rumour mongering and divide and rule. Fingers should instead be pointed at these genuine threats to the social fabric and all democratic institutions which, if not stopped, will actually take the state back to pre-Rammohun Roy times.
Sudipto Roy Choudhury

Language exchange

This is a very enjoyable article and makes you wish to be in the company of Dilip Kumar (“How a Gujarati-speaking writer in Chennai became an acclaimed Tamil anthologist and bookseller”). I am a Kashmiri but have been brought up in Punjab and I love Punjabi, which I know very well. Being student of science, I translated some science books into Punjabi for the Punjab State Text Book board. I have also learnt Kashmiri quite well. A few of my short poems were published by Koshur Samachar, an ethnic Kashmiri cultural magazine. The Gujarati-Tamil combination is beautiful! – Ashok Kumar Dhar

Poetry corner

I am really touched by Naran’s poetry (“‘I believe in being the fringe. It helps keep my poetry alive’: How Naran is redefining Tamil poetry”). I thought not voting was a great folly. Now I know there are like-minded people.I hope the writer inspires change in our society in these deranged times.Wishing him and his poetry an abundance of good will. – Mallika Seshadri

Revisiting Salinger

I am a Salinger scholar of sorts and there are a few things in this article that are misleading or incorrect (“Will we get to read the unpublished work of JD Salinger, or will it be ‘Catcher In The Rye’ forever?”). In particular, I’d like to respond to the following excerpt:

“A story of Salinger’s titled This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise appeared in Esquire in 1945. In the contributor’s note, Salinger had written: ‘I am a dash man and not a miler, and it is probable that I will never write a novel.’ However, he did write a brilliant first novel featuring the now legendary character of Holden Caulfield, who first appeared in his brother’s thoughts in this story – perhaps he was already dead. In the story, Holden’s brother is on his way to a dance in an Army truck in the Georgia rain. He is fretting over the fact that there are thirty-four men in the truck and only thirty are supposed to go the dance. Amidst his plans ‘to knife the first four on the right’, he can’t stop thinking about Holden, who is ‘missing-in-action’ in the war, according to the Government. He recollects the things that happened before Catcher, which implies that the events in the story took place after the end of the novel.”

This summary of the short story is not necessarily wholly incorrect, but it does not accurately reflect the story’s plot. Vincent Caulfield, the narrator, is responsible for ensuring “four men must go.” He is not on his way to a dance, as the author suggests.

This is not the first time Holden Caulfield appears in a published story. Last Day of the Last Furlough (The Saturday Evening Post, July 1944) is one of several Babe Gladwaller stories. Babe and Vincent Caulfield are Army buddies, and Vincent visits Babe’s family home in Valdosta, NY, while both men are on furlough (hence the story’s title). It is in this story that Vincent reveals to babe that he has received word that his younger brother, Holden, is MIA in the Pacific Theatre. This is the first published mention of Holden, and it precedes what the author claims by over one year.

It is important to note that the plot of Sandwich, while certainly relevant to assessments and critical understandings of Catcher, does not fall into some sort of linear Caulfield chronology that leads up to the 1951 novel. The author of this article has made a massive oversight here. The events Holden recollects throughout Catcher take place in December 1948 (if you do a bit of math using information in the novel). Vincent Caulfield doesn’t exist in the novel’s world (he is killed off in Second World War [see The Stranger]. Salinger swaps Vincent for DB Caulfield, Holden’s new big brother DB is a screenwriter who lives in Hollywood. From his narrative vantage point, Holden is 17 years old; however, he is 16 during the story’s action. In Furlough, Vincent mentions his MIA brother Holden is 19. This age is consistent with other War-era Caulfield stories, like The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls (although, this story is unpublished).

In short, I don’t know why this article was published. It is extremely clear that, no, the events in Sandwich did not take place after the end of The Catcher in the Rye. While I am happy any time I see someone take interest in Salinger, I cannot help but write an email about the misinformation this article provides. – Miranda Carter