Editorial 1/ Small change
Editorial 2/ Rifts in the land
Pulling out of skulduggery
Fifth Column/ Another one bites the dust
Demands based on mythical ideas
Deep in our heart o’Texas
Letters to the Editor

The Reserve Bank of India’s midterm review of monetary and credit policy could not have come at a more critical time since the storm clouds over the Indian economy seem to be becoming darker. Even the RBI is aware of the gloomy circumstances for it has lowered its prediction of gross domestic product growth rate. However, the economy cannot expect any immediate help or relief from the RBI. Mr Bimal Jalan, the RBI governor, has deliberately refrained from announcing any changes in monetary policy, restricting attention to some minor changes which will take financial sector reforms a small step forward. This was not unexpected since the RBI had already revealed that the bank rate and the cash reserve ratio would remain unchanged.

There can be two reasons for the RBI governor’ s reluctance to change monetary policy now. First, the RBI has been quite proactive in protecting the external value of the rupee recently. This has already meant changes in the CRR and bank rate, and it did not make sense to fiddle with them all over again. More important, it is not at all clear whether monetary policy has any role to play in stimulating economic revival at this stage. A typical response to economic slowdown is an expansionary monetary policy. However, the oil crisis has forced the government to effect an across-the-board increase in petroleum prices. This is bound to have some inflationary effect on the economy, although the magnitude of such effects has often been overemphasised. Even without the petroleum price hike, there has been a slight upward movement in the rate of inflation. Mr Jalan must have realized that this is not an appropriate time for expansionary monetary policy. Of course, the refusal to lower interest rates may come as a disappointment to industrialists who have been complaining about the high cost of borrowing. Fortunately, they need not have any fears about the availability of credit, which seems in abundant supply.

As far as financial sector reforms are concerned, the RBI has taken some steps to strengthen the domestic sector. Changes have been made in the prudential norms on income recognition, asset classification and provisioning. These will facilitate the move towards international prudential benchmarks, which has become so important given the gradual integration of international financial markets. Some of the changes introduced by Mr Jalan will improve the financial position of banks. For instance, banks will now be allowed to invest up to five per cent of outstanding credit in the stock market. Some estimates indicate that an extra Rs 10,000 crore may flow into the stock market as a result of this move. Apart from helping banks’ bottomlines, this will also be a great boost to the stock markets. Changes in the asset valuation norms will also favour banks. The corporate sector will be given considerably more flexibility to raise resources through the issue of commercial paper. Moreover, the tradeability of certificates of deposit has also been increased. These measures will facilitate the development of secondary markets for debt instruments. The money market will also benefit with permission to the non-banking financial companies to lend in this market. Mr Jalan has also reversed some of the earlier stringent actions taken against exporters at the height of the rupee crisis. The export earner’s foreign currency account facility has now been restored with some minor changes.    

Massacres in Bihar usually resolve into two familiar vectors. These are caste conflict and disputes over land. But the recent gunning down of 11 members of a Yadav family shows the emergence of a relatively new trend in Bihar. The killings occurred in Mujahidpur village in Siwan district near Patna. The assailants have been identified, by the police and by the village community, with the Rashtriya Janata Dal member of parliament, Mr Mohammed Shahabuddin. What north Bihar seems to be witnessing here should seriously worry Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav. His electoral trump card had been the absence of communal tension in the RJD-dominated areas, even when the rest of the country had spiralled into chaos after Ayodhya. The communal dimension to the Siwan massacre is, in a way, a version of the familiar land dispute scenario. Mr Shahabuddin’s men have been engaged in an ongoing, and occasionally violent, dispute with supporters of the upper-caste gangster backed by the Samata Party, Mr Satish Pandey. The bone of contention is the control of a math situated on more than 200 acres of land in Mujahidpur. The massacre answers the kidnapping and murder of two Muslims by Mr Pandey’s men. This conflict can also be linked to the recent flare-up in another RJD terrain, the continuing tension and violence in Biharsharif town in Nalanda district. Here, too, the dispute is over a piece of land — with an idol of Durga standing on it — which is claimed by both the local Muslim and Hindu communities.

The communal breach seems to be cleaving both the party and the electorate over which Mr Yadav had hitherto held undisputed sway. About 33 per cent of this electorate — in which Muslims, Dalits and Yadavs had remained harmoniously united — consists of Muslim voters. The alienation of this significant component of the vote bank will certainly leave Mr Yadav feeling quite seriously insecure, particularly with the imminence of Jharkhand. His secularism plank seems to have gone awry. This new breach in the RJD citadels of Siwan and Nalanda is perhaps opportune for the Bharatiya Janata Party. It now remains to be seen whether a new backwards-minority axis emerges from it.    

Our chief of army staff, Ved Malik, inaugurated a seminar on the United Nations peacekeeping operations on September 13, organized by the United Service Institution of India, a think tank of the armed forces of India which has been in existence for nearly 120 years. General Malik’s keynote address made some important points about the manner in which the credibility and the efficiency of the UN peacekeeping operations can be maintained within the framework of the UN charter. One of the most important points which he made in this speech was that he was opposed to the UN peacekeeping operations being undertaken by regional forces within their own region, because such operations become subject to the political motivations and power play of the countries of the region which affects the integrity and credibility of peacekeeping operations.

The recent decision by the government of India to withdraw the Indian peacekeeping force from Sierra Leone because of pressures generated by west African countries, particularly Nigeria, on the UN, seems to prove that General Malik was clairvoyant in the assessment of regional involvement which he made in his keynote address at the above seminar. The government of India announced the withdrawal of the Indian contingent in the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone in the third week of September after it had served there for just a little less than a year.

The Indian contingent was one of the largest contingents in the UN peacekeeping force, with a strength of over a brigade, including air force and armoured elements, amongst the 32 countries which have contributed military units to the Sierra Leone peacekeeping force. The other Asian countries which contributed military units to this force are Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrghyzstan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand. The official explanation for the withdrawal of the Indian contingent by the Indian government is that this was an exercise in rotation of troops after they had served abroad for a certain period and that the government of India has decided not to replace it. The real reason, however, is quite different. The commander of the Sierra Leone peacekeeping force was Major General V.K. Jetley, a seasoned commander who has served both in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. He was unimpeachably impartial, refused to get involved in the power politics of Sierra Leone or the Economic Commission Of West African States, and was forthright and candid in giving critical assessments of the evolving security and political situation in Sierra Leone. The African troops under his command were profoundly subject to pressures from their parent governments.

Jetley’s deputy as well as political advisers were from Nigeria, who found his impartiality and his frankness unacceptable and unpalatable. They consistently tried to subvert his command and his operational plans, the culmination of which was the Revolutionary United Front, led by Foday Sanko, taking 21 Indian soldiers hostage and disarming them at Padumbu late this summer. Compounding the event was the cadre of this front surrounding 245 Indian soldiers at Kailahum.

Jetley was not given the necessary support from the UN secretariat in the initial stage of this crisis. Nor was he allowed in the beginning to take decisive military action to safeguard the Indian soldiers. Ultimately, good sense prevailed and Jetley was allowed to launch a military operation to rescue the Indian soldiers which was successful.

The government of Liberia was politically supportive while Nigeria and other members of the ECOWAS played ambiguous games. The UN secretary general himself was opaquely critical of General Jetley in the beginning, but backtracked when strongly protested against his unwarranted criticism. Matters, however, did not end there. The discipline, cohesion and efficiency of the UN peacekeeping force continued to be disrupted by the political motivations of the west African states involved in Sierra Leone and equally importantly by the attraction of the large depository of diamonds in that country.

Military commanders of African countries and political figures involved with the peacekeeping operations, according to General Jetley, were getting directly involved in diamond trade and diamond smuggling. He made a public statement about this in August, reportedly bringing all this to the notice of the concerned people at the UN headquarters. His public announcement about the skulduggery going on in Sierra Leone which affected peacekeeping operations was not in conformity with the obfuscatory politeness and diplomatic courtesy which permeate discussions and negotiations at the UN.

Nigerian officials whom he accused were of course up in arms. Their government generated pressure on the UN, and Jetley was asked to come on leave to defuse the tension. Once he reached India, the UN secretariat conveyed a message to the government of India that they do not want him back as commander of the peacekeeping force. As a sop they suggested that Jetley should be replaced by a lieutenant general of the Indian army, an officer of the higher rank and more experienced.

This is an undeniable insult to the integrity and credibility of India’s record as a contributor to UN peacekeeping forces since the Korean war and the conflicts in Gaza in the early Fifties. The government of India has taken the right decision in withdrawing the entire Indian contingent from Sierra Leone. Indian soldiers and commanders need not continue in a thankless job where their integrity, efficiency and impartiality is questioned by arguments rooted in pernicious trends of regional politics.

The withdrawal of our troops from Sierra Leone was a large scale event, so it attracts more attention. But over the last decade, this kind of development has become a pattern. Indian peacekeeping troops in Somalia, though they were more effective and popular in Somalia in early 1990, had to be withdrawn because of the violence to which they were subjected, the violence which was rooted in regional politics. Similarly, the Indian commanding general of the UN peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia in 1992-93 resigned because his impartiality and efficiency did not suit the politics of certain European countries which persuaded the UN secretary general to dilute his command by foisting political advisers from pliable countries on him. He resigned though he still had a long tenure to complete. All this leads to the inescapable conclusion that the post-Cold War UN peacekeeping operations have lost the characteristics of impartiality, strict adherence to the UN charter and the capacity to play a role rising above local and regional politics. The secretariat has become subjected to strategic motivations of important world and regional powers and the narrower political and regional influence of countries in areas of crises.

The secretariat is apparently conscious of its critical predicament and therefore appointed an independent panel to reform the UN peacekeeping operations under the chairmanship of the ambassador, Lakhdar Brahimi, former foreign minister of Algeria and UN undersecretary general. The other nine members of the panel were from the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the Russian federation, Zimbabwe and Switzerland. Their report was published on August 23 and it was submitted to the millennium summit in September.

This addresses the problems, but with excessive politeness, ambiguity and in traditional UN jargon. One hopes that some of its recommendations would be accepted by the UN general assembly and the security council and they would be implemented by the UN secretariat. It is pertinent, however, to point out that apart from Japan, no country from Asia was represented on this panel, and only Trinidad and Tobago and Zimbabwe, two developing countries were represented on the panel. Not a single country which was a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations (in operational terms) was represented in this panel. So much for remedial action being rooted in actual experience. The important lesson for India is that regardless of the cosmetic publicity and economic advantages of participating in UN peacekeeping operations, it is time for India to curb its misplaced enthusiasm to be part of such an exercise. Our armed forces have enough concerns to deal with at home. There is no need for Indian soldiers to die or be embarrassed when none of India’s vital interests is involved.

The author is former foreign secretary of India    

In Pyongyang and Rangoon, in Havana and Beijing, even in Teheran and Algiers, the people in power watched the pictures coming out of Belgrade with a horror grown weary by repetition. They have seen the scenes so often that what once seemed unimaginable has become routine: heavily armed, ruthlessly repressive regimes being overthrown by non-violent revolts. And they know that if it can happen to Slobodan Milosevic, it could happen to them too.

It will happen to them, sooner or later. By now, everybody with access to television knows how to overthrow a dictatorship and not get too badly hurt in the process. Timing is still critical, and the Cubans and Burmese and North Koreans may have to wait a while longer. The Serbs, after all, had to wait for 11 long years. But in the end triumphant protesters will be proclaiming democracy from the balconies of official buildings in those countries, too.

In the real world, of course, nobody lives happily ever after. In Serbia’s case, there’s a great deal of clearing up to do before they can even start to live at all normally. What is to be done about Milosevic? What is to be done about the official archives which (if they didn’t have time to shred them) must contain enough information to bring hundreds of Serbians and Bosnian Serbs before the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague?

You can get it

And above all, what is to be done about Kosovo? Last year the North Atlantic Treaty Organization fought a war to free the province from the savage repression and ethnic cleansing of the Milosevic regime, and most of the Albanian-speaking Muslims who are the overwhelming majority of Kosovo’s two million people would rather fight than return to Serbian rule. But even NATO does not deny that Kosovo is legally part of Serbia.

But there’s no cause to be downhearted about these complications, any more than we should be discouraged because Indonesia is still struggling with the aftermath of a generation-long dictatorship two years after Suharto was finally overthrown. Any more, indeed, than we should be disappointed because South Africa is not a paradise seven years after the end of two generations of apartheid, and Russia is still a bit short of perfection nine years after the end of three generations of communist tyranny.

Every country has problems, but tyrannies actively foster them because acute problems provide a kind of justification for extreme measures. Former Yugoslavia did not go through a decade of war and genocide because its various peoples are more bloodthirsty than other ethnic groups in other places. The region is rife with historical grudges, like many other parts of the world, but without Milosevic’s machinations there would probably have been no wars.

Time runs out

With Milosevic’s removal from power, there is every reason to hope that the killing in the Balkans is now finished. And for those who still cling to pessimism about the prospects for democracy, peace and justice in the world, there is a larger lesson in all this. It is that every nation, without exception, really wants these things, even if some countries can be distracted from them for a time by cynical dictators using lying propaganda — and that every people now has the tools to get them.

The men and women who ended the Milosevic regime in Belgrade last Thursday were following a trail blazed by others in Manila and Seoul and Bangkok, in Berlin and Prague and Bucharest, in Moscow and Pretoria and Jakarta. It’s no longer a trail, but a broad, well-marked route that can be taken by anybody looking for a way out of dictatorship. Disciplined, non-violent revolution works better than violence ever did, and it leaves far less mess to clear up afterwards.

The world’s surviving absolute rulers, who watched the Belgrade events with such dread, are all living on borrowed time. Nobody knows when this wave of democratization will finally sweep west Asia and Africa, the two regions that have been most resistant to the phenomenon so far, but elsewhere dictatorships have become a seriously endangered species.

That is a reason for celebration, because even the worst-run democracy is usually more just, more peaceful and even more prosperous than the best-run dictatorship.    

It was quite some time ago but having lasted 10 years with more than 10,000 innocent people killed, bitter memories linger. People who lived through the nightmare are understandably apprehensive that killings may erupt again. Among the few who stood against the tide of hate that swept over Punjab were Satyapal Dang and his wife Vimal neé Bakaya. They lived in Chheharta, a suburban township near Amritsar, in the heart of the terrorism let loose by the protagonists of Khalistan. Not only did the Dangs refuse to seek sanctuary elsewhere, they made Chheharta an island of peace at a time when most of the state was in turmoil.

I heard of Satyapal Dang during my years in Lahore. He was a product of Government College and very active in the students’ movement. He was elected secretary of the All India Students Federation. He met Vimla Bakaya in his student days, fell in love and married her. They made their home in Chheharta and organized its municipality: Satyapal was its president for 14 years (1953-67). He attracted national attention when he pitched himself against Gurmukh Singh Musafir, the Congress chief minister of the state. He won the election to the Punjab assembly by a decisive margin. He held the assembly seat from Amritsar West till 1980 and for a while served as a government minister in a non-Congress government.

The Dangs remain the most loved and respected couple in central Punjab. They saw terrorism at close quarters. Perhaps it was this closeness to events that deprived them of an objective assessment of how and why religious bigotry and intolerance unleashed by Bhindranwale won so large a following among the Sikhs. Being communists they saw everything through pink-tinted glasses: all evils that befell India were due to the conspiracy of imperialist powers. “Operation Blue Star”, says Dang in his book, “was unfortunate but necessary.” It was not. Operation Blue Thunder, which took place later under almost similar circumstances, and was masterminded by K.P.S. Gill, lost no more than two lives whereas Blue Star resulted in the loss of over 5,000 lives and enormous damage to sacred property. He quotes General K.S. Brar who led Operation Blue Star to prove his point. A more juvenile book to justify the army assault on the Golden Temple does not exist. He ascribes the demand for Khalistan as being instigated by American agents. It was nothing of the sort: there has never been any basis for the demand. To this day none of its protagonists has drawn a map of what their notion of Khalistan is. All they do is to castigate the government of India for practising discrimination against Sikhs. No hard evidence is produced in support of this view: Sikhs remain the most prosperous agricultural community of India. Satyapal Dang’s book, Terrorism in Punjab, is full of details of events of that turbulent decade but is sadly biased in explaining the reasons behind it.

Is there danger of terrorism re-erupting in Punjab? Wherever there are disparities between the rich and the poor, there is always danger of violence. The gulf between the haves and the have nots must be reduced and employment opportunities need to be provided for boys and girls coming out of schools and colleges. If the situation goes out of hand, stern methods must be adopted to restore normalcy. The state government and the people must lend full and unqualified support to law-enforcing agencies. This was done in Punjab when chief minister Beant Singh gave K.P.S. Gill a free hand to deal with terrorists; Gill was able to stamp them out of existence.

Loss of human kindness

Vultures may have disappeared from the plains, but they survive in the mountains. However, they may disappear from the hills as well. Once, in Kasauli, they were poisoning stray dogs. I saw one being administered poisoned food on top of a road which led to the entrance of Central Research Institute which produces sera against rabies. The dog came tumbling down and collapsed near my feet with its legs stiffened in the agony of death. I have not yet been able to get the scene out of my mind. Every time I pass the spot, I am reminded of the dying dog. If their carcasses are thrown away, vultures will devour them and meet the same fate. How long will we humans who call ourselves homo sapiens (who can think) go on on this thoughtless destruction of other living species?

It takes a day or two to get used to the solitude and all-pervading silence of the mountains. It takes an afternoon or two for the locals to know you are back and they can drop in for some gup-shup. As for the total absence of sounds of traffic and loudspeakers, I can only describe it as deafening except for the sound of the wind sloughing through pine trees. Besides, the occasional plane going overhead, the siren from the Solan brewery and the peal of bells from Christ Church are all that I hear in the day. At this time of the year birds seldom sing. The period of courtship is long over, eggs have been hatched, parent birds are busy feeding their hungry chicks.

Two days of absolute solitude with no one to talk to beside the caretaker’s mongrel named Joojoo, I begin to miss human voices and welcome a visitor or two. I had two in succession, neither of whom had I seen before. I was lucky both times. The first was Nagina Singh of the Indian Express, Chandigarh edition. A comely, elegantly dressed young lass with a diamond sparkling in her nose pin. And all of 19. A no-nonsense young lady who came armed with a photographer. It was a business-like interview about the changes I had seen in Kasauli over the 80 years I have been coming here. The interview over, she shut her notebook and departed. The other was Baljit Virk, teaching in Pinegrove School not far from Kasauli. I expected a middle-aged, blue-stockinged, bespectacled person with a school-marmish manner. In walked a statuesque beauty wreathed in smiles. She had been an air-hostess, tired of seeing the world and being a glorified waitress. She decided to be grounded and take on English (she has an MA in literature) and sociology. She wanted me to see the manuscript of the second novel she has written. “Just read a page or two and tell me if it is any good.” I kept the manuscript: “I will read all of it. Give me a week and then collect it.” I did not want to miss the opportunity of another tête-à-tête with the air hostess turned pedagogue. I was surprised with the theme of her novel, Jockstrapped. It is based on a young dipsomaniac who drinks at all hours, gets into scraps, smashes up cars, has affairs with women and does not have to work for a living. I could not understand why Baljit chose to write about a good-for-nothing, foul-mouthed character, when she herself is a strait-laced teetotaller of the type in whose mouth butter would not melt. I’ll find out the truth on my next visit.    

My dear George Dubuluh: I am writing this letter to you in the local newspaper hoping some back-packing Ame- rican citizen will tear it out and send it to you because I do not kn- ow your address but know what it will be on New Year’s day.

After the first debate I knew you were heading for victory. After the second, I think you should ask your wife to go ahead and pick new curtains for the White House and, of course, some new conservative upholstery for Willie’s chair in the Oval Office. On second thoughts, “Willie” has connotations: so I will refrain from using it again.

We would love you to come to India soon. Billy will tell you what a good time we gave him here, although he did not pay us a visit in Calcutta where our hostilility, sorry, but you’d understand, I mean hospitality, is famous throughout the country and the world. We also love shukto and bitter gourd before a sum- ptuous meal and you seem fond of the same in your domestic and foreign policy. Currently we are tiring of shukto and are waiting for the actual meal service to commence with some mamata, which is motherliness. You will also get a chance to try our delicious dolma, which is our expertise at getting good things stuffed before we fry them.

We too do not believe in gay marriages but have an eunuch who was elected to a legislative assembly to italicize that those endowed more generously don’t have the galls (did I say that right?) to serve instead of rule over an electorate. In terms of the fuzzy math over healthcare in Texas, you would just love it here where on a national scale, and the micro scale, we consider health services an accessory and supplement to population control. We have as many public hospitals in Calcutta as the British left us with half a century ago and today we have a working population equal to all of Australia. You see in the Sixties, when Elvis went from Nashville to Frankfurt to help rebuild a razed Deutschland and we were rocking and rolling to your new music, we misunderstood what you meant by “baby boomers”, and BOOM went the other way. If you will pardon a sick analogy, our transportation from far out districts to city hospitals is only a step removed from what befell James Byrd in your state, with no one here held accountable.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, you know we will always welcome your bombers refuel- ling in India every time you want to wipe out middle-eastern children, but perhaps it is time to forgive Saddam for wanting to exterminate your father. The poor despot is as confused about Ame- rican foreign policy towards Ir- aq, from the exhilarating Seventies and Eighties to the bombardment of the Nineties, as you were a few months ago about India. Never mind, we are ashamed of not having had as many prime ministers as Italy and to remedy it tried to put a Diva on the chair but saffron just does not blend with Italian cuisine. But by the time you get here, we will have published a new almanac of “WHO’s-who” whose revised editions cannot keep pace with calamitic, sorry, I mean climactic, sorry climatic, changes here. By the way, we will also have an ex-prime minister that you will be able to visit in a jail that practises transcendental meditation and yoga. Poor chap couldn’t redefine “corruption” as some do “sex” and get away with it for their services to the country.

I don’t know how American politics works, but is it too late for you to ask Gore to be your vice-presidential candidate or would that offend Lieberman and Israel? Also, for someone with an eye that history books will not forget in a hurry, Billy sure picked a handful of dumpy females when it came to affairs outside the Oval Office and hotel rooms. When you get to the White House, I was thinking, may be, Britney Spears on an internship to take over from Pam- ela Anderson who can look after defence with her experience as coast guard. We here know that actresses perform marvellously in government and Prince Charles has preserved the lipstick on his collar to prove it.

Oh, lastly, while on the subject, we are an orthodox conservative nation. Don’t let our movies fool you, like it does us sometimes, everyday. They are a cover to distract attention from our spiritual pursuits in a materialistic world. Gore’s admission on David Letterman’s Late Show that his public anacondan entanglement with Tipper was “only a peck” by his standards, is likely to woo many Clintonian interns to him, but you must remember you are from Yale, and Yale made his fortunes in India.

I will send you some roshogollas from Chittaranjan’s, the best in Calcutta, on the 8th of November. Till then, take care. And good luck for the last love fest next week.

Yours sincerely, from a developing economy.

P.S. Do not change the colour of your tie, or your slick hairstyle. Your portrait on the wall at the consulate here would look fabulous just as you are and tenderer than the visage of the visa officer.    


Age of the microchip

Sir — In “Nobel honours trio in e-age awakening” (Oct 11), it has been reported that this year’s Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to three scientists who have invented items that have been incorporated in everyday use. It is difficult to imagine the working of modern life without pocket calculators, digital watches, even mobile phones and certainly computers. The invention of the integrated circuit, the microchip and satellite communication has become so much a constituent part of life that without these things an economy can become crippled in a matter of days. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has finally seen the point and decided that this year the award does not need to be granted for some abstruse or esoteric discovery in quantum physics or for the study of subatomic particles and so on. They are perfectly correct in naming Zhores Alferov, Herbert Kroemer and Jack Kilby as this year’s recipients of the Nobel. In future too, this kind of an attitude should be displayed by the academy.
Yours faithfully,
V. Lakshmi, Calcutta

Faith under attack

Sir — Victor Banerjee, the fine actor from Ghare Baire, should be applauded for his well-written article, “Proud of its calling”, (Oct 13). He is quite correct in stating that the Indian cultural set-up takes the shape of a mosaic. The defence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, however, leaves the reader feeling rather unsettled. Banerjee’s claim that he has several Muslim and Christian friends is all very well. What is most distasteful is the way he sings praises of the RSS’s discipline and dedication. If indeed he is so impressed with the RSS, how can he explain the vicious attack that the karsevaks carried out on the Babri Masjid? This happened in 1992 but it certainly has remained in the public consciousness as a disgraceful event in India’s history. The carnage at Bhagalpur, the steel city of Jamshedpur and thousands of other despicable riots in India since the days of Partition speak for themselves. What was even more surprising was his empathizing tone for Nathuram Godse. It is unthinkable that anyone can talk of Godse’s crime in that manner. These things would have occurred to any thinking person. It is disappointing to note that a man of Banerjee’s stature can make such comments.

Yours faithfully,
Asghari Khanam, Calcutta

Sir — The report, “Sangh in swadeshi church cry” (Oct 8), was shocking. Apparently, the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, has asked Christians to get Christian missionaries deported from the country. This will ostensibly prove their patriotism. But what he ignores are the immense commitment and loyalty which most of these missionaries feel towards this country. Graham Staines brought his entire family to this place and had evidently made India his home. Christian priests have done enormous good to this country. One of them translated the Ramcharitmanas, others compiled standard Hindi to English and other dictionaries. Mother Teresa is another case in point. Can anyone in his right mind say that her dedication to India was not genuine?

Moreover, the RSS’s idea of the swadeshi church is also not very clear. Doesn’t Sudarshan realize that Indian Christians are by no means less Indian simply on the basis of religion? Don’t they speak Indian languages and aren’t their lives embedded in all kinds of Indian traditions?

Yours faithfully,
Lancy D’Souza, Asansol

Sir — While The Telegraph must be congratulated for the editorial, “Agenda of hate” (Oct 11), which highlighted the campaign of hatred that the RSS is waging against Islam and Christianity, it has glossed over one very important point: is it even theoretically possible for secularism to blossom in India unless the ambitious expansionism of Islam and Christianity is checked? The editorial mentions that “the Vatican believes that it represents the only path of salvation”. When the church is not ready to admit, even theoretically, that there may be another path to salvation, where is the scope for pluralism? Moreover, the church has openly called for the evangelization of Asia as its immediate objective. In this scenario, the editorial seems a bit harsh on the RSS and the Hindus.

Yours faithfully,
Barun Sahu, via email

Sir — The editorial, “Agenda of hate”, diagnoses a fallacy in the RSS’s belief that “India is the land for Hindus”. If this belief is indeed fallacious, then the question is: which is the homeland of the Hindus? Do Hindus have no homeland?

According to rough estimates, about one-third of Hindu Bengalis settled in West Bengal and three-fourths in Tripura are from present day Bangladesh. If India was not the homeland of Hindus, why did they migrate to India? Why did the Hindus living in Pakistan leave the country en masse and come to India after Partition? It is worth noting that the secular governments of India never resisted the migration of Hindus to the Indian side. If India were not the homeland of Hindus, this migration would have been resisted by the secular governments.

Moreover, problems of national integration have cropped up mainly in the areas where Muslims or Christians are in the majority. Many secular intellectuals try to diagnose the origins of the Kashmir problem in corruption, rigged elections, unemployment and so on. If it were true, then even Hindu Kashmiris were equally affected and should have logically joined terrorist groups too. But this has not happened.

In Tripura, as also elsewhere in the Northeast, it is primarily the tribal groups converted to Christianity who are leading insurgency. Notably, the Buddhist Chakmas have been the most ardent supporters of Indian nationalism.

We are still to define our nationalism candidly. Whereas Pakistan has defined its nationalism based on Islam and opposition to India, and Bangladesh has defined its nationalism based on Bangla language and Islam, Indian nationalism is still at best vague. Indians tend to trace their nationalism to anti-Raj sentiments. But this is too old a basis for defining a nationalism. It might be a better idea to define our nationalism based on a Hindu past, if not a Hindu present or future. If Partition were ever to be undone, this would be wide enough to include Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Yours faithfully,
Robin Kumar, via email

Parting shot

Sir — Learning about the plight of P.E. Usha was a nightmarish experience (“Right and left of sex abuse” Oct 13). It is shameful that instead of taking a humane stand on the issue, the All India Democratic Women’s Association is taking advantage of the situation by pointing a finger at Usha. Is this the treatment a woman, who has been victimized by such disgusting men, deserves? And how can members of parliament like M.A. Baby turn their backs on the common people they represent? Should they not stop dancing to the tune of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)?

Yours faithfully,
Antara Deychoudhury, via email

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