Kashmir viral photo

After four decades in the Army and years of experience with such operations, I must point out that I am not aware of any standard operating procedure in the Indian Army to drag a body, even if it is of a militant or an enemy (“In Kashmir, a photo of a militant’s body being dragged by security forces sparks outrage”). Therefore, to brand it as such, as quoted in this story, is factually incorrect, because the Indian Army follows the Geneva Conventions.

I do not agree with the contention that this is standard procedure when there is suspicion of the body being booby-trapped. In such a case, the body should be left at the encounter site and monitored from a safe distance. In the meantime, specialised teams can deal with the traps. There are many more methods of dealing with such situations.

In this particular case, only the commander on the spot can explain what prompted his actions. Everyone else is speculating on the basis of pictures. We Indians must avoid making quick inferences only on the basis of pictures, as it affects the image of the Army adversely within the country and internationally. – Major General SB Asthana

From scientist to ‘spy’

A soul filled with truth cannot be subjugated (“‘Give us any Muslim name’: How authorities tried to build a false spy case against Nambi Narayanan”). The methods deployed by the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing or any other intelligence agency must be the same. I think spy wars sometimes result in innocent casualties like real wars. Hats off to the courage and conviction of Nambi Narayanan. – Veer Raju Ayilavarapu


The article on how an Indian Space Research Organisation scientist was labelled a spy and tortured on baseless allegations shows how falsified police investigations in India are. It is a case of trying to frame a stranger if they are unable to catch the real culprit. – Abhishek Reddy

Opium trade

Scholars and students of history have written and known about opium trade, Jamsetjee’s role in it and the opium wars for decades (“Dark history: How Indian opium traders from Bombay helped the British Raj wreck China’s economy”). I read about it as an undergraduate in Delhi University in the 1970s. To say that it is only now coming to public attention because of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy is to suggest something becomes public knowledge when it catches the attention of readers of novels, which I might hazard is not a very large number. – Gyan Prakash


I appreciate your concern that both the British and Indians were so enamoured of the city state of Hong Kong, till its annexation by the People’s Republic of China in 1997, and the relics of Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy’s munificence scattered across the erstwhile Bombay, that allowed the history of the century-long contraband smuggling to China to be pushed into oblivion.

Too little work has been done to get the picture right on how the trade ran, who accounted for the “passes” to move opium chests from Bombay, the identity of bidders at the Calcutta auctions, and of opium proceeds in the Canton net, how much remained with Indian traders and what share went to British and American traders. The involvement of Indians in the opium trade is underrated. Dwarkanath Tagore, the grandfather of poet Rabindranath Tagore, set up a biracial firm, Carr Tagore and Company, and was a regular bidder in Calcutta, apart from being a major supplier to Dent and Company, next only to Jardine and Matheson in the “China trade”. In 1838, when Commissioner Lin destroyed 21,000 chests of opium confiscated by him in Canton, Lancelot Dent was the second biggest loser. Nor was Dwarkanath Tagore the only Indian who collaborated with white smugglers. There are old records of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal Presidency of Indian traders suing British exporters for failing to pay their share of sales proceeds.

Girish Shahane calculates opium’s share in government revenue at 21% in a particular year but, going by his own figures, it should be 44%. Opium smuggling to China was an Indo-British venture and it is doubtful if the British would have found the rationale to continue to rule India for so long if the Qing emperors of China had been sensible enough to allow poppy cultivation in China early in the 19th century.

Historians who have worked on the Britain-China-India trade unfortunately faced a killing paucity of data as no trading company (except Jardine Matheson) maintained balance sheets with clear mention of opium purchase and sale figures. That could be due to the shadowy nature of the business. – Sumit Mitra

Importance of dissent

The house arrest of five human right activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence has been extended till September 17 by the Supreme Court (“Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court adjourns case to Monday, five activists to remain under house arrest”). The whole idea behind the raids and arrests is to silence criticism and dissent beyond parliamentary political spheres. Clearly, the real targets and victims are Dalits and other marginalised communities who need educated voices from within and outside to speak and act for them. While the government and its agencies should be rightly blamed for their vengeful actions, the role of some media communities is also condemnable. It is necessary to highlight the importance of dissent in our democracy for justice to prevail. – Manisha Agrawal

Travesty of the law

It is excruciating to realise the monstrous and absurd use high-ranking police officers are being put to by politicians these days (“Anand Teltumbde: How the police can fabricate evidence to suggest that anyone is an ‘urban Maoist’”). To any detached observer, even one cold to the human misery they cause, this appears to be a mixture of buffoonery and extreme cruelty. Now this demeans the very dignity of the state they think they are upholding.

Maybe eminent persons not yet benumbed by these shocking events should implore the Supreme Court to administer a stern and ringing rebuke to these men in uniform for making a travesty of the law? – Hiren Gohain

Kerala nun rape

It is necessary for the Kerala government to understand the sensitivity of this issue and at least detain Bishop Franco Mulakkal for interrogation (“‘We have lost faith in the Vatican’: Nuns vow to protest till rape accused bishop is arrested”). This is horrible injustice against someone who lives to do good and prays to the almighty. In my view, these protests show how much of a difference political clout makes, and how much effort women have to put in to get justice. There is evidence that Mulakkal was present on the days the rape occurred, according to the visitors’ diary, and yet he has not even been detained. We as a nation must use the powers of social media and become one by raising our voices against the bishop. – Utkarsh Shetti

Sports hero

The transformation of a scrawny village lad from Sant Nagar into a hockey player of legendary international repute is the stuff of fairy tales (“Sardar Singh: A happy coincidence that happened to Indian Hockey”). The rise of Sardar Singh reiterates that hard work and genuine talent alone are enough for anyone to scale the highest peak. The contribution of Sardar Singh’s childhood hero, Dhanraj Pillay, in recognising the genius in him at an early stage is probably one of the most important aspects of this amazing tale.

Eight years as captain of the national hockey team and 350 international appearances is a dream CV for any sportsman. His monumental achievements notwithstanding, Sardar Singh comes across as grounded and humble with high self-esteem. Despite being in top physical condition and showing no signs of decline in his hockey skills, he announced his retirement from international games so as to make way for the next generation – a gesture that truly represents the great “Sardar” of Indian hockey. Even in retirement, Sardar Singh led by example and relinquished his position selflessly, just the way he played the game. India will lovingly remember this stalwart who brought such fame and pride to the country. – Devlina Bhattacharjee

Rafale aircraft deal

This government has now chosen to malign HAL and is getting more hilarious as we hurtle towards the 2019 general elections (“‘Rafale deal under UPA collapsed as Hindustan Aeronautics could not provide guarantee’: Sitharaman”). This is such a letdown. – Rakesh Katarey

Assam citizens’ register

The Assam unit of the BJP is not concerned with “Nepali people” but with Gorkhas (“The BJP in Assam is showing signs of anxiety about citizens’ register – even as Amit Shah defends it”). The state unit says the exclusion of “ethnic Assamese people, Nepalis, Bengalis from India” from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens is a matter of concern. Gorkhas are ethnic Indian citizens and have been living in North East India since pre-historic times. This reality must be highlighted while reporting on a sensitive matter like the National Register of Citizens, which is the sole right of Indian citizens and not of any Nepalese national. – Assam Gorkha Sammelan Udalguri District Committee

Bad loans

The BJP leadership has picked up one remark from former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan’s note to the Parliament Estimates Committee that banks granted loans freely between 2006 and 2008 when economic growth was high and they did so relying on project viability reports submitted by applicants without due digilence (“Raghuram Rajan says he submitted a list of high-profile fraud cases to PMO when he was RBI governor”). Since the loans were given during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s rule, the non-performing assets were their creation.

Does this then mean that this government will take responsibility if the Mudra loans go bad? Under the Mudra scheme, loans worth Rs 6 lakh crore – as Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has said – have been granted. Have these loans been disbursed after proper feasibility reports and with security and guarantees? – Narendra Agarwal

Inflation drop

I am no statistician or economist and find it difficult to understand that retail inflation dropped (“Retail inflation fell to 3.69% in August, industrial production slowed to 6.6% in July”). They say pulses dropped by 7% while retail prices of rice, pulses have increased and not dropped. Such “good” figures will make the government believe that in spite of doing nothing, inflation has gone down. Maybe it is the problem of benchmark prices last year. Can any economist explain? – SN Iyer

Insistance on Aadhaar

Despite the government saying there is no no need to give Aadhar details for any work, government or private, the concerned agencies still demand Aadhaar (“Delhi High Court registers suo motu PIL over misuse of Aadhaar verification system”). The other day, I went to collect my passport from a courier company and they insisted I submit a photocopy of my Aadhar card. I believe this photocopy can be misused. – Ram Kumar

Trump presidency secrets

The focus on allowing public access to anonymous sources and Bob Woodward’s depiction of his sources on deep background miss the salient fact that in this case, we are not talking about a monarchy or even a president being investigated for a probable criminal conspiracy and cover-up but about a democratically elected president and his administration who will get to face the consequences in the next elections (“Bob Woodward and NYT op-ed reiterate what many mental health experts have said: Trump is dangerous”). In this context, it would be appropriate to consider that almost all sources on deep background are probably subject to some version of an Official Secrets Act. If Woodward were to release the tapes or even the fact that he has used such tapes for his book, then the tapes and even the book are evidence of violation of secrecy clauses that may be in place. Such secrecy has been sanctioned to enhance proper functioning and should not be violated without proper justification. Also, a detailed probe by such means is tantamount to spying and probably a good cause for a criminal case against Woodward and his sources. – Nirmal Patel

Back in time in Fiji

This is a great work of history (“A teenager traces her Indian great-great grandmother’s life as an indentured labourer in Fiji”). At times we forget the pain, suffering and fear of the Girmitiya since their departure from India. The citizens of Fiji overlook the immense contributions of the Girmitiya. – Mirgendra Bishwa

Manto and Jinnah

Interesting indeed (“‘Who do we have now?’: Saadat Hasan Manto’s little-known tribute after Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s death”). But I don’t understand the sentence so much emphasised: “This is no time to vanquish the flags, but to glorify them.” What does “vanquish the flags” mean? It would help if the original Urdu was given in transcription. – CM Naim