Editorial 1/ Art of minimum
Editorial 2/ Dying as usual
Bluff and bluster
Fifth Column/ Fear still the key in tribal land
Sanctioning a crippled generation
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ ART OF MINIMUM 
 
 
 
 
Only die hard optimists would expect politicians and political parties to be consistent in their arguments. But the left and their undisputed leader, Mr Jyoti Basu, walk away with the trophy for double standards. Mr Basu and his comrades are vehemently opposed to the use of Article 356 in West Bengal. They interpret even the threat to use this article of the Constitution against them as a glaring example of the Central government’s interference and oppression. Familiar arguments in favour of federalism dance on the tongues of communists. Very conveniently, they gloss over the many instances when leftists have advocated and supported the dismissal of elected governments in states and the promulgation of president’s rule. To this extent, the spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, is justified in asking the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to clarify its position on Article 356. The argument that the use of Article 356 is justified when directed against BJP governments and unjustified when used against leftist state governments cannot be taken seriously. But the left is unashamed in its use of such double standards.

It is significant that Mr Basu and others of his ilk refuse to ground their objections to Article 356 on stronger reasons. Their objections proceed on empirical findings. Facts, as any social scientist knows, mean nothing by themselves. They are endowed with meaning by the person using the facts. Thus, it is impossible to define what constitutes a breakdown of law and order. The death of how many persons actually proves a collapse? Answers to such issues are always subjective and driven by ideology. Law and order, like beauty, might very well lie in the eyes of the beholder. Serious opposition to Article 356 should be based on a principled objection to greater centralization of power in the hands of the Central government. No government should have the power to remove an elected government. Article 356 embodies the tension within the Constitution between federalism and centralization. In this instance, the founding fathers tilted in favour of centralization. This tendency has been aggravated in the hands of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, who tried to concentrate power in their hands and in the prime minister’s office. The communists were, in fact, the first victims of this process when in 1959 an elected communist government was removed in Kerala. United Front governments in West Bengal in the late Sixties suffered similar fates. Despite this the left refuses to argue for a removal of Article 356 because it is ideologically moored to the idea of a centralized state that acts as the supreme arbiter in all matters. It is no surprise that the left’s opposition to the imposition of president’s rule is fragile and fraught with contradictions. Article 356 should be removed because the sphere of state activity should be minimized. The state will never wither away but its wings can be clipped through conscious action.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ DYING AS USUAL 
 
 
 
 
Underprivileged children, in the eyes of the West Bengal government, are dispensable creatures. The state health minister, Mr Partha De, finds “nothing unusual” in the sudden rise in the number of deaths over the last few days in the state-run B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital. His jaded response to this mysteriously grim phenomenon was made in the face of a set of conditions in the hospital that seems to be specially maintained for the welfare of the swine foraging contentedly on its premises. It is the official expression of the pervasive dysfunctionality and callousness that have now become the “normal” character of the health department’s activities. Hence, perhaps, this minister’s sense of everything continuing to be quite alright.

The actual scenario is, of course, inhuman. Therefore the concerted official denial of it is all the more shockingly brutal. The main problem in this hospital is overcrowding. The hospital takes in almost twice the number of patients as there are beds, many of these cases being terminal and highly infectious. Each bed is usually occupied by up to three sick children and their guardians. The wards are therefore a breeding ground for every kind of infection. The government has ruled out the possibility of an outbreak of septicaemia as the cause of these deaths. And with this it seems to have absolved itself of all responsibility. But extremely fragile children with a whole range of infectious diseases are herded together in the wards. Eliminating septicaemia is hardly proof of the absence of other infections. There are, moreover, the abysmally unhygienic condition of the wards, toilets and the surroundings and a chronic shortage of staff. The hospital is run virtually by despairing postgraduate trainees and interns, while nurses, resident medical officers and specialists continue to be severely overworked. Basic paediatric equipment and diagnostic facilities do not exist or work. But this dismal reality disappears under the crude bureaucratic rhetoric emanating from the Writers’ Buildings. The fact that no written complaints were made against the hospital is cited to assert that people are perfectly contented with the quality of its services. Significantly, the only emergency action taken officially — apart from the usual talk of an “investigation” — is to arrange for more police protection from the bereaved protestors. In fact, security is becoming a major problem for the staff of most other state-owned healthcare institutions in the city. By reducing the general crisis to a law and order problem, the government and the hospital authorities seem to indicate that the only solution they can offer the sick children and their helpless families is a combination of suppression, indifference and lethal negligence.    


 
 
BLUFF AND BLUSTER 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
The prime minister has given enough hints during his sojourn to the United States: the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is about ready to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty. This, it will be said, is capitulation — capitulation of a comprehensive order. Even so, it is no more ignominious than the abject surrender to the bullying of the sandalwood bandit roaming the wilderness of the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. The last flicker of hope for this nation is the uprightness demonstrated by the Supreme Court. Its intransigence, it is fervently to be hoped, would not weaken. Should that happen, it indeed would be an immensely greater tragedy. There is not the least evidence that the Union government has at all involved itself in the seemingly endless parleys between the Tamil Nadu and the Karnataka governments on the issue, or on the to-ing and fro-ing of their emissary between Chennai, Bangalore and the forest tracts of which the bandit is the indisputable master and king.

The brigand had a long roster of demands, each of which has been conceded to by the two state governments. He wanted money of a specified amount; that money too has been immediately arranged. The cases against the hundred-odd owing allegiance to the robber and convicted by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act were withdrawn forthright. The high court in Karnataka did not see any reason to demur at that decision.

Everything was hunky-dory, and the chief ministers of the two states were looking forward to gala celebrations while according a princely reception to the idol of Kannada films; according to an unconfirmed report, the two state governments were mulling over a suggestion to invite the brigand too for the reception, and preliminary plans were laid out to fly him in by helicopter from his jungle den to Bangalore and back, his security during the round trip solemnly underwritten by the government of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

It is astounding that while all these wild extravaganzas were gathering pace, the Union government did not bother to admonish the state governments. No Union minister had the time or inclination to visit Bangalore and Chennai. Not without reason, the impression has gained currency that the Centre was a willing, even if silent, participant in the shameful proceedings to coddle the bandit, never mind the rule of law. The situation has been partly redeemed by the severe tongue-lashing administered by the Supreme Court judges, who told the two state governments that what they had embarked upon was a slur on the nation’s Constitution and a reflection of their total insensitivity to the sacred duty for which their ministers had taken the oath, to maintain law and order under their jurisdiction.

The Centre on its part has behaved as if Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were no part of India and whatever were happening in these states were extra-terrestrial activities and of no concern to it. It did not feel it necessary to involve itself in the proceedings of either the high court in question or the Supreme Court and to oppose the initiative of the two state governments to throw overboard the nation’s legal structure. On the contrary, the Union government is, according to all accounts, not unreceptive, in the event of the Supreme Court maintaining its intransigence, to the idea of promulgating an ordinance abating the TADA cases, thereby making a fool of the nation’s highest judiciary.

Does New Delhi realize the implications of its well-honed policy of detachment vis-à-vis the happenings in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu? If the TADA convicts are to be released in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, given Article 14 of the Constitution, they have to be released all over the country. And if the sandalwood-cum-ivory poacher achieves thundering success in his kidnapping venture, with all his demands met by the two state administrations and the Centre benignly looking on, it would be a trailblazer. Kidnapping would be the order of the day, and the People’s War Group and suchlike would join the fun and games. The Union government would have neither a legal nor a moral leg to stand on.

Contrast this pusillanimity on the part of the Centre in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka with the bluff and bluster it is indulging in to provoke the state government in West Bengal. The infringement of law and order currently taking place in the two southern states is of a much greater magnitude than the alleged incidents in the eastern state. The very foundation of the rule of law has been demolished in the two states in the south. The state administrations have abdicated responsibility, and effective power has been transferred to an outlaw. What the outlaw decrees is being accepted as oracular pronouncement without the slightest show of disavowal by the state governments. Going by ground reality, citizens of these two states will have every justification to assume that the state as well as Union governments have ceased to matter any more; for the protection of their life and limb, they must transfer their allegiance to a run-of-the-mill bandit-killer.

It is nothing of the sort in West Bengal. In the light of hard facts, the inevitable conclusion one arrives at is that the so-called Panskura Line adopted by one of the partners of the National Democratic Alliance to spread its influence in certain districts has been the genesis of whatever localized disturbance have marred peace and tranquillity in the state. This line can be summed up briefly and simply: chase away by strong arm methods those who had been cultivating the land and raising crops from it by rightful means.

You thereby achieve, simultaneously, two separate objectives. First, you once more economically reestablish those who had to give up their property in the past in deference to land reform laws in order to be distributed amongst the poor and landless peasants. Second, by ensuring total hegemony over the territory and ejecting political adversaries, you are also able to tilt the balance of power in the area in your favour. The outcome in the beginning was spectacular as borne out by the result of the Lok Sabha byelection in the Panskura constituency. In quite a number of polling booths, valid votes cast were 100 per cent of the eligible total votes; votes cast for the candidate of the NDA partner was once more 100 per cent of both total valid votes and valid votes cast; and, what is a tautology, the number of votes cast for the Left Front candidate was nil.

The law of physics takes over — every action evokes an opposite and equal reaction. The events that have subsequently taken place under the jurisdiction of three or four police stations in the district of Midnapore are, by and large, retaliatory action on the part of those who were thrown out by force from their own land. They have done so by applying strong-arm methods analogous to what were applied against them. Those who took the law in their own hands in the first place are now hollering that law and order have broken down in the state. It is possible to comprehend the dilemma confronting the government in New Delhi, although there is no question of sympathizing with its point of view. The particular NDA partner which is the source of trouble has nine votes in the Lok Sabha; just as the Shiv Sena has to be pampered, it too has to be.

The tirade against the Left Front government in West Bengal is therefore a political necessity for the BJP regime. None of this can however justify the pyrotechnics indulged in by the Union defence minister; he visited, for a couple of hours, three — repeat three — out of the 40,000 odd villages in West Bengal, and immediately reached the conclusion that law and order in the state is even worse than in Bihar.

One of his biggest howlers is the claim that the minorities and members of the scheduled tribes are facing persecution in West Bengal. Ask any representative group of the minority communities what it feels. It will vouchsafe that West Bengal is the safest among all the states in the country. And the Union defence minister appears to be unaware of the fact that close to 40 per cent of the membership of the left parties are from the scheduled castes and tribes. One hopes he does a better job while discharging duties in his own ministry.

By encouraging the tantrums of the leader of the alliance partner — who is a cabinet minister as well — the Union government is in grave danger of disgracing the Constitution. Given the strictures of the Supreme Court in the matter, the experience with respect to Bihar and the reportedly firm attitude of the president, the Union government will have to think several times before daring to apply Article 356 in West Bengal.

For identical reasons, it cannot accept without discomfiture the mischievous suggestion to proclaim an ordinance so as to deny the States the prerogative of their prior approval before the army could be deployed in their territories. This kind of ordinance too is likely to be a non-starter.

The Centre knows its limitations. Its empty formulations are intended with the sole objective of appeasing an unreasonable alliance partner. Does it not however realize that, in the process, it is fouling the atmosphere, the consequences of which might be altogether devastating?    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ FEAR STILL THE KEY IN TRIBAL LAND 
 
 
BY JANAK SINGH
 
 
Visiting any tribal village, remote or not so remote, in Jharkhand, one comes across groups of adivasis crouching around vendors selling haria, the local brew. Most of them know haria makes them slothful. But with nothing else to help them cope with their wretched existence, momentary forgetfulness induced by the brew is often preferred. In spite of miserly wages and frequent harassment by forest department officials, there is hardly anyone they can turn to for justice.

Life has not changed for the Jharkhand tribals for generations. Prosperity brought by independence to the rest of Bihar and even in the urban areas of Jharkhand has not only bypassed them but has also imposed further strain. In many places, forests have been denuded to make room for huge industrial plants. But industrialization in Jharkhand has not benefitted the tribals. The beneficiaries are outsiders who have flocked to Jharkhand from north Bihar and other parts of the country.

A drastic transformation in the life of the tribals is not likely even when a separate state has been awarded to them. Instead, they might feel more frustrated when they fail to get relief even after the creation of the long sought state.

Sordid tales

Minerals are now being extracted on a much larger scale than ever before but the chief beneficiaries are politicians, contractors or industrialists. The situation is unlikely to be any different in the new state. Poverty, exploitation — and even starvation in drought-prone districts like Palamau — have been the Jharkhand tribal’s lot.

Jharkhand has being carved out ostensibly for the welfare of tribals but actually it may do nothing to alleviate the poverty and want from which the tribals have been suffering so long. The tribals are grateful to Atal Behari Vajpayee for keeping his electoral promise of creating a separate state for them. But unless monitoring in Jharkhand is backed up by attention from New Delhi, tribals will continue to suffer.

The main reason is that tribals have been outnumbered by outsiders in their own land. Industrial growth in the area has attracted fortune-hunters from afar, who are not only earning much more than they could do in their home states, but are also treating the tribals with contempt and indifference.

Almost all tribals in Bihar live in Jharkhand with Santhals constituting 40 per cent of their population and forming the largest group. They are followed by Oraons (19.46 per cent), Hos (11.81 per cent) and Mundas (10.72 per cent) and a sprinkling of Paharias, Asurs and several other smaller denominations. The total population of tribals in Jharkhand being only 27.67 per cent according to the 1991 census, the non-tribals are clearly the majority in the region.

Magic of forgetting

The tribals are in majority only in three out of the 18 districts which comprise the new state. The tribal majority districts are Gumla (71 per cent), Lohardaga (56 per cent) and Paschimi Singbhum (55 per cent). Originally, tribals were in a majority in Jharkhand but during British rule, a large number of them migrated to tea plantations in Assam and Bengal. With industrialization, large numbers of non-tribals from Bihar and other parts of the country came and usurped new jobs in Jharkhand.

Lest they give the impression that they lust for power, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal are now propping up those tribals who are loyal to them for chief ministership of the new state. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha led by Shibu Soren has been thoroughly discredited, following the corruption charges against him and five other JMM members of parliament during the P.V. Narasimha Rao government. Of the 82 members of legislature in the proposed assembly of the new state, only 12 belong to the JMM. Even if it is joined by the other tribal parties, the strength in the assembly may not exceed that of the BJP’s 32.

It can be safely said in view of the current politics, the new state will have a tribal chief minister, but he will have to abide by the terms of the party that sponsors him. Beyond the small comfort that the chief minister is one of their brethren, the Jharkhandi tribals may have little to look forward to. But then, they have always been led up the garden path. Maybe they will take to haria with new vengeance, as sociologists fear.    


 
 
SANCTIONING A CRIPPLED GENERATION 
 
 
 
 
On September 23, Iraq received a plane from Russia carrying medical supplies. This was the second plane within two days to land in Iraq without the clearance of the United Nations. The earlier flight was from France, carrying doctors, artists and athletes opposed to sanctions imposed on Iraq. The flights indicate that the world is gradually realizing the negative impact of the embargos on Iraq, and also that the United States and the United Kingdom are finding it difficult to isolate Iraq. Despite these sporadic flights to Iraq and the sharp divisions in the UN over continuing with the sanctions, there is, as yet, no indication that the embargo on Iraq will be lifted in the immediate future. The US hold over the UN remains.

It has to be remembered that the US, throughout the Nineties, has used the UN to secure its goals, sometimes by activating it and sometimes by incapacitating it. The Kuwait war gave the US an ideal situation to play the self-styled cop in international politics through the UN. For the war, conducted by the allied forces, was more or less the US’s war against the irrepressible Saddam Hussein, under the aegis of the UN.

Post-war northern and southern Iraq were declared “no fly zones” by the US in the guise of protecting the Kurds and the Shia Muslims from Iraq. The objective was to control Iraq’s skyline. The sanctions which followed played havoc with Iraq’s economy. Although the United Nations special commission, supposed to destroy Iraq’s mass weapons, gave a clean chit to Iraq, the weapons inspection team claimed it was not sure of Iraq’s secret armoury. The sanctions therefore continued. The arms inspection team withdrew in 1998, but air raids by the US and UK forces go on. The sanctions, together with the incessant air attacks, have plunged Iraq into a deep economic crisis. Today, it stands devastated.

There were reasons Iraq initially refused to allow UN weapons inspection. For one, Iraq was suspected of stockpiling chemical and biological weapons inside presidential palaces. There was no way Iraq could have allowed the inspectors entry into the palaces, for this would have imperilled the country’s sovereignty and dignity. Iraq also suspected the composition of the team, which had a majority of American and British inspectors. Iraq consequently expelled six US arms inspectors in November, 1997.

Though the team returned following negotiations with Hussein, the diplomatic tussle did not cease. The palaces remained the bone of contention with the Bill Clinton administration and with the UK supporting the US conventionally. However, the three other members of the security council opposed this. It is, however, ridiculous to believe that the dissenting Russia, China and France opposed the US stand to end Iraq’s misery. They had their own interests, particularly in reconstructing Iraq’s oil industry.

There were other dissenting voices. Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and even Saudi Arabia, the US’s old ally, refused to be party to US action in the Persian Gulf. The Arab League as a whole opposed the US stand. All Gulf Cooperation Council members, except Kuwait and Oman, did not support the US. India and South Africa also opposed the US’s war-mongering against Iraq.

However, the US had the support of Canada and Australia on the use of force. Even the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland supported the US stand. But despite the US congress going with the government on Iraq, the American people refrained from backing it after the Kuwait war. Though the US and the UK claimed to enforce the will of the international community, it was pretty clear that the world opinion was largely against the war.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, was denied a leading role in all this. He was flown into Baghdad much later to defuse the crisis. An agreement was signed with Tariq Aziz, Iraqi deputy prime minister, by which Iraq granted permission to the UN weapons inspectors to enter presidential palaces and buildings, though conditionally.

Annan’s successful initiative restored the dignity of the UN for the time being. However, the Iraq imbroglio continued to be totally monitored by the US. The question of lifting sanctions also depended on the US’s disposition. Bruce Riedel, Clinton’s special assistant, commented that as long as Hussein stayed in power, the sanctions would remain. Herein lies the truth of Washington’s Iraq policy.

From the middle of 1998, a stream of incidents culminated in a deadlock between Iraq and the UN weapons inspectors. The situation deteriorated following allegations that a deadly nerve gas was found in some weapons collected by the UN team. Iraq suspected US handiwork in this and refused compliance with the team. The team withdrew in December, 1998 and since then Iraq has faced showers of air attacks by US and British forces which have bombed both civilian and military targets.

The sanctions have reduced Iraq to a shambles. The “oil for food programme” approved by the UN, which allows Iraq’s trade in oil so that a part of the profits can be used to buy basic necessities, hasn’t been enough to meet the disaster. Since 1991, the US has reportedly dropped 88.5 tonnes of explosives on Iraq. More than 500,000 children have died in Iraq due to malnutrition and lack of medical treatment between 1990 and 1999. The birth of underweight babies confirm the emergence of a “crippled generation”. Iraq complained to the human rights commission against this genocide in 1999. But its demand for immediate withdrawal of sanctions has gone unheard.

On December 1999, the UN security general passed a resolution authorizing a new weapons monitoring team for Iraq. Known as the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission, this replaces the UNSCOM and is supposed to send a new team to Iraq. Baghdad has not welcomed the move.

There was decisive opposition from Russia, France and China on the nomination of the head of the UN team, which gave some hope to Iraq. Hans Blix, the consensus choice, has been appointed, but it is doubtful how far he will be able to act independently without succumbing to US pressures.

There are proposals to introduce “smarter sanctions” which will not target the Iraqi people. Washington’s apathy to a bleeding Iraq, while it actively intervenes in Yugoslavia on humanitarian grounds, exposes the hypocrisy of US policymakers. The hijacking of the UN by international oligarchs and the UN’s controversial role in the destruction of Iraq show the need for the democratization of the UN. There is still a long way to go. The more immediate question is how these states could guarantee security to their civil societies in the future.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Progress is a myth

Sir — The report, “Girl deaths snuff out TN progress myth” (Sept 25) is a giant indication that India can have women as prime ministers, women as puratchi thalaivis and women as medal-winning weightlifters, but the ground realities will continue to remain different from these odd,very odd, success stories. For in the larger Indian psyche, women will continue to live their wretched existence, either as childbearers without any choice in matters concerning the use of their bodies, or as objects of trade whose value is socially determined by the amount of money that exchanges hands at the time of “marriage”. That is why the social evils of foeticide, infanticide and dowry deaths are not restricted only to Bimaru or Bigrao states, or necessarily to backward pockets in forward states like Tamil Nadu. In other words, it would be pointless to localize this so called primitiveness. Amniocentesis, one realizes, is an urban phenomenon, practised by the “modern” residents of Indian cities.
Yours faithfully,
Haimanti Sen, Calcutta

Finishing line

Sir — Karnam Malleswari’s bronze medal-winning performance in weightlifting at the Sydney Olympics has come as a resounding slap to all Indian sportspersons whose primary aim in participating in international meets, specially the Olympics, is to go shopping for themselves and their family (“Malleswari lifts India to glory”, Sept 20). It is also a lesson for the sports officials who do not always select candidates on the basis of individual merit.

More important, it sends out an important message to the media and many so-called “commentators” who do not think twice about making damning statements. It was not too long back that certain mediapersons poured vituperations on Sourav Ganguly, only to swallow their own bitter pills when Ganguly later replied with his bat. Malleswari’s bitterness is evident when she talks of the “stupid reporter” of a prominent weekly who had written her off, saying that she was fit only for guzzling beer and chicken. Her victory has answered all questions decisively.

Yours truly,
Santanu Ganguly, Calcutta

Sir — If Leander Paes did India proud at Atlanta in 1996, Karnam Malleswari has done the same at Sydney. She has also become the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. She has given a momentum to India’s quest for glory in the Olympics. Now it is upto the Indians remaining in the competition to follow her example. Maybe some more medals will come our way.

Yours faithfully,
Chandragupta, via email

Sir — Instead of the tainted indian cricketers, sportspersons like Karnam Malleswari should be asked to endorse products for companies. While the former have brought little but shame to the country, Malleswari has fought against great odds and brought unprecedented glory for her motherland.

Yours faithfully,
Shubhodip Pal Chowdhary, Calcutta

Sir — After morale-boosting wins over Argentina and Spain and a draw with Australia, the Indian hockey team’s hopes were dashed with their tame draw in the last league tie against Poland.

Unlike hockey, athletics has not got the required attention from the sports authorities of the country. The Indian athletes at these Olympics have been conspicuous owing to their lack of training and a decent coaching system. The coaches are themselves not well-trained and when they are, they don’t try their best because they do not receive any special incentives for doing so. The government or the authorities concerned must look into this problem and try to devise sponsorship schemes.

It is difficult to believe that a country of over one billion people cannot produce even a handful of medal-winners. This is why Karnam Malleswari deserves special credit for her win. But India needs to produce more Malleswaris to restore some of the country’s lost pride at international arenas like the Olympics.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Arolkar, Calcutta

Blown out

Sir — The obituary, “Candle in the Wind” (Sept 17), was heartbreaking. Shrabani Basu should be congratulated for her salute to a beautiful life. Nazia Hassan, beautiful, young and popular was brutally used by her husband as a trophy. This is a pointer to the fact that a young and beautiful woman, even if she is a celebrity in her own right, still remains vulnerable and cannot expect any guarantee of a safe and secure marriage. Similar fates have befallen other women like Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and Reena Roy in the past.

In many ways Nazia’s life can be compared with that of Diana, princess of Wales. Both were beautiful and died young. And each one’s life had an intense sadness. But what was touching was the positive attitude that Hassan had till the last days of her life.

Yours faithfully,
Rajeev Bagra, Naihati

Sir — Nazia Hassan has left a world shedding tears both for her life and her death. It is difficult to imagine that a legend like Hassan, who touched millions of hearts with her Aap Jaisa Koi, is no longer with us. She was one of the most talented singers of her time. In fact, her debut album, Disco Deewane, touched gold on the day it was released (a rare feat for any Asian singer).

For those of us who loved songs with Western tunes and arranged with a heavy rhythm section, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle had provided a few chartbusting numbers. For instance, Aa jaane jaa (Inteqam), Dum Maro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) and so on. But when Hassan burst onto the scene she gave Hindi feature film music a fresh lease of life. This must never be forgotten.

Yours faithfully,
Pradip Kumar Das, Jhalda

Sir — The article, “Candle in the Wind”, gave us a glimpse of the grief that afflicted Nazia Hassan during her last years. A moving story of a charming young woman with a beautiful voice. One cannot help but wonder what her crime was that life punished her as harshly as it did.

Yours faithfully,
Sujoy Ghosh, Calcutta

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