Editorial 1/ Balancing act
Editorial 2/ Civic swivel
Rattling of nuclear sabres
Fifth Column/ Hate quenches a kindly light
The challenge within
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ BALANCING ACT 
 
 
 
 
A new realpolitik has been in evidence in India’s foreign policy for the last few years. If any further evidence was required for this pragmatic shift, it is demonstrated by New Delhi’s policy towards the ongoing crisis in west Asia. Instead of the shrill moral rhetoric that has traditionally characterized India’s policy in west Asia, South Block’s tone, in this instance, has been measured, balanced and prudent. This new realism is not just in India’s national interest, but will bring it greater leverage and influence in west Asia and eventually in the international system.

Consider first India’s position on the west Asian crisis that threatens to permanently derail the peace pro- cess, and in which more than a hundred people have been killed so far. First of all, India condemned the violence in all its forms, including “deliberate acts of provocation, excessive use of force, wanton killings of innocents, including children, desecration and damage to places of worship; taking hostages and retaliation killing of soldiers”, without apportioning blame. New Delhi also sought an end to the anarchy that prevailed and asked all sides to desist from provocative acts, use of indiscriminate force and encouragement to violence. Next, it wanted that the “Middle East peace process” be not permitted to collapse irretrievably and steps be taken to restore peace and normalcy. New Delhi also made it clear that since the sudden escalation of tension and consequent violence, authorities in Israel, in the Palestinian National Authority and from other concerned governments have been in regular contact with the government of India. And, more significantly, prior to these developments, both PNA and Israel had repeatedly sought India’s intervention in the “Middle East peace process”.

Critics of the government — in the opposition parties and elsewhere — have argued that India, by not pointing a finger at Israel, has moved away from its traditional support for the Palestinian cause. And that this will damage New Delhi’s standing, and consequently its interests, within the larger Arab world. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, India’s blind support for the Palestinian cause helped neither these dispossessed people nor did it necessarily further India’s interests in west Asia. Indeed, India’s absolutist stance alienated Israel and made the Arabs and the Palestinians take it for granted. New Delhi’s commitment did not even prevent many of the Arab countries from making common cause with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Today, India’s interests are limited not just to the Arab world, but Israel is an important partner as well. Many countries of the Arab world continue to remain a favoured destination for workers from India, earnings of these expatriates contribute to the foreign exchange reserves, and India continues to be dependent on oil exports from west Asia. Since the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, however, Tel Aviv has emerged as an important partner in agriculture, science and technology, defence and in the war against terrorism. In short, the challenge for a long term Indian policy is to strike a balance. On the one hand, New Delhi must develop a pragmatic policy consistent with its traditional support for the Palestinians. On the other, it must ensure that its policies do not damage its new engagement with Israel. Ultimately, India cannot afford to sacrifice its relationship with Israel on an altar of moral absolutism erected by groups caught in permanent time warp. The very fact, however, that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have asked for Indian mediation demonstrates that New Delhi’s policy is working.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ CIVIC SWIVEL 
 
 
 
 
What motivates the current hawker eviction drive in Calcutta is politics of a particularly debased kind. The swivelling of allegiances of the relevant political parties to the hawkers would have been quite breathtaking if it had not been so utterly shameless and disruptive of civic order. A Trinamool Congress-led Calcutta Municipal Corporation has revived the eviction drive which had begun a few years ago by the then left-dominated CMC. The current CMC opposition leader, Mr Kanti Ganguly, who has taken up the cause of the evicted hawkers together with a number of left trade unions, had been the driving force behind the original “Operation Sunshine”. The Trinamool Congress had then been the opposers, campaigning for the rights of the evicted.

This despicably neat turnaround only goes to show the extent to which this display of civic commitment by the municipal authorities is driven by electoral politics. With a nervous eye to the forthcoming assembly elections, an increasingly insecure Left Front and a newly aggrandized Trinamool Congress are both reducing civic concern to a farce. The mayor’s statements on the matter reflect this absurdity. Calling eviction a “routine affair” and ruling out the possibility of rehabilitation, he points out, in the same breath, that most hawkers do not have a vote and his party would certainly not have initiated the operations if there was any chance of its votes being affected. This leaves Calcuttans caught between three essentially anti-civic and unscrupulously politicized entities — the time-serving municipal authorities, a community of lawless hawkers who have seen through the two-facedness of the authorities too clearly to be governed by them and a police force which has been rendered ineffectual by their own stakes in this situation. What this means for the city is a quicker and surer descent into anarchy.    


 
 
RATTLING OF NUCLEAR SABRES 
 
 
BY BRIJESH D. JAYAL
 
 
In a 60 Minutes television interview on CBS, aired recently, General Pervez Musharraf’s response on the use of nuclear weapons was candid. He said “I would never like to use it first of all. But if you ask me a direct question when would I use them... if Pakistan’s security gets jeopardized, then only one would like to think of it.” Asked how secure were Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, Musharraf said, “Very secure. That is my guarantee. The national command authority is in place.” Earlier in July, the Pakistan deputy foreign minister, on the first high-ranking Pakistani official visit to Germany since Pakistan’s nuclear tests, stated, “There is no way Pakistan can hold out any assurance that it will not use any nuclear weapons if its existence is threatened.”

It is well known that Pakistan has received considerable help from China in its nuclear weapons development programme and associated testing. The nuclear delivery missiles in its inventory, though sporting indigenous names, are well-tested designs of Chinese and north Korean origin. As far as operational viability of its nuclear weapons capability is concerned, therefore, Pakistan must have the requisite confidence.

With the chief of staff also wielding the final launch authority, it is certain that there is a clearly defined vertical command and control chain down to the forces that will field, maintain and ultimately launch the nuclear weapons systems. In short, there is no ambiguity or interservice overlap or duplication in Pakistan’s operational nuclear capability. Not surprisingly, Pakistan wants to convey an unambiguous message to India that its nuclear capability is genuinely operational.

Musharraf is a soldier clearly uncomfortable with the complexities of governing Pakistan. Finding himself in a political and diplomatic straitjacket, he feels comfortable in wielding his nuclear toy gun through the common military tactic of psychological operations. He hopes that frequent nuclear noises will soften the Indian government into opening a dialogue with Pakistan, a dialogue that will earn him international respect and space to manoeuvre within the internal polity of his own country.

It would, however, be a mistake to underestimate his guile and it is probable that he believes he has a genuine window of opportunity. It is this mind- set that the Indian security establishment must understand, before casting Pakistan’s nuclear drumbeating to the wind. This calls for deep introspection both in South Block and service head quarters — an approach neither is particularly adept at.

Early in 1999, a draft “Indian nuclear doctrine”, prepared by the national security advisory board was officially released for debate with considerable fanfare. An essential component of the proposed doctrine was a “no first use” declaration backed by a credible nuclear deterrent to convince any potential aggressor that a nuclear attack on India will result in punitive nuclear retaliation to inflict unacceptable damage to the aggressor. To achieve these objectives, a triad of delivery systems consisting of missiles, aircraft and submarines was planned ensuring survivability against first strike. Finally, the doctrine emphasized that unity of command and control of nuclear forces, an integrated operational plan and an effective and survivable command and control system with requisite flexibility and responsiveness were to be the means to implement this doctrine.

While “no first use” and “minimum credible deterrence” have been announced by the prime minister in various fora, there is no news on whether a comprehensive nuclear doctrine stands formulated, what its operative delivery systems will be and what will be its military command, control and field formation structures. Since the very concept of deterrence is to convince potential adversaries of the efficacy of one’s nuclear absorption and retaliatory capability, it follows that much of this should be information in the public domain. By maintaining silence, not just potential adversaries but the nation itself is beginning to wonder.

The requirements of unity of command and control of nuclear forces, of an integrated operational plan and of an effective and survivable command and control system must sound hollow to observers of the Indian military scene who read frequent reports of fierce interservice rivalry, interservice mission encroachments and serious divisions on the concept of a combined defence staff. Had it been otherwise, an air force strategic air command would by now have been operational.

What further aggravates matters in this nuclear environment are recent reports that the Indian navy, as part of the latest defence deal with Russia, will get on lease four TU 22 land-based aircraft capable of missions ranging from maritime reconnaissance to nuclear strike. Whatever maritime missions the navy may have in mind, it is aware that any strikes missions — maritime or otherwise — by shore-based aircraft are the sole designated responsibility of the Indian air force. That the navy has no formal staff requirement for such a weapons system is obvious, or else it would not be following the unconventional route of leasing.

Notwithstanding the operational and techno-economic demerits of such a move, it ominously adds one more element into the dubious equation of lowering the nuclear threshold in times of crises. Whether or not Indian strategic planners are aware of such adverse strategic consequences or whether this is an integral part of their plans, is difficult to judge. What is clear, however, is that this clearly conflicts with India’s professed doctrine of unity of command and control and an integrated plan and shows interservice cooperation in a poor light.

Musharraf sees many advantages in this uncoordinated operational scenario. First, the advantage of first strike rests with him. To a military man this is a tactical gift. He not only chooses the time and place, but also determines where the nuclear threshold will lie. Conversely, India will not only be inhibited in using its full conventional offensive capability for fear of provoking a nuclear response but will forever remain on a defensive alert anticipating a first strike and the chaos that will inevitably follow.

Secondly, India’s claim of maintaining peace time capability of a punishing second strike will appear to him to be in the realm of conjecture, because the validity of this assumption has never before been put to test. It is not easy to determine the psychological reaction of a population exposed to a nuclear attack and its impact on the national morale. Will a nation be able to summon the will to retaliate even if its nuclear forces remain unscathed? These are not hypothetical questions. Worse, there are no easy answers. In the face of these inputs, the tactician in Musharraf is tempted take his chances. Nuclear sabre-rattling is the first tentative step.

The key to the logic of deterrence is that all players in the nuclear game abide by its rationality and act accordingly. As Nawaz Sharif must rue from his cell, it is not easy to read Musharraf’s mind, let alone endorse his distorted logic. Indian security planners can expect no better. Having taken the bold political initiative to draw the subcontinent out of the nuclear closet, some stark truths now confront the government. It is easy for scientists to carry out nuclear tests, for advisors to formulate copybook doctrines and for the government to make security commitments that appeal to the international diplomatic community and moralists of various hues. It is far more difficult to manage national security in a nuclear environment with archaic security, organizational and planning mindsets. Sensing an opportunity, Musharraf is attempting to put India squarely on the defensive.

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian air force    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ HATE QUENCHES A KINDLY LIGHT 
 
 
BY AMBROSE PINTO
 
 
Christian institutions, missionaries, churches and anything vaguely Christian is increasingly becoming endangered in this country. Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party has come to power, its fraternal encouragements have allowed the forces of thesangh parivar to wage a hate campaign against the Christian minority. None of those involved in these acts is ever punished. New forms of this violence are emerging against the “forced conversions” conducted by the church.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, K.S. Sudarshan, while delivering the customary inaugural speech at the RSS national meet, accused foreign churches of instigating a political conspiracy to destabilize the nation. He urged Christians to set up swadesh churches emulating China. Those who know the working of fascist governments would easily understand the implications of Sudarshan’s statement. The RSS holds that religion is too dangerous to be left to individuals. The government must have the ultimate authority — even on the beliefs of communities. The RSS has even asked Muslims to Indianize. The objective is to use religion as the defining element of citizenship and to subjugate citizens to the will of the state. This is the way authoritarianism works.

Alien words

The use of the term Hindu as an identity has gained currency only after the 15th century. It was an invention of those who viewed the subcontinent from beyond the Indus. There is a historical continuity in the use of the world since it marks the people as coming from west and central Asia. The origin of the Hindutvawadi in this sense lies not within the country but outside. Of course, in recent days, the Hindutvawadis have been attempting to rewrite history by trying to prove that there was no Aryan invasion and that they are therefore the original inhabitants of the country. There are no serious historians who will back these claims.

On the other hand, the converts to Christianity, Islam and Buddhism for the most part have been people of this country and it is myopic to label them as foreigners. Their conversions to egalitarian religions were protests against the rigid caste system which categorized people on the basis of hierarchy — pure and impure, high and low, touchable and untouchable. By terming Christians and Muslims as foreigners, the Hindutvawadis are not defining an Indian identity for themselves. Religion alone cannot be an individual’s identity. And it certainly should not be coterminous with nationalism.

Various human rights commissions have clearly established the role of the sangh parivar in almost all the attacks on Christians. This can hardly be called patriotic. Moreover, at no other time in the history of the country has foreign capital played such an important role. The country has almost lost its economic sovereignty.

Essentially egalitarian

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund direct virtually all economic policy decisions. The structural adjustment programmes are thrust on the people while the economy remains dependent on foreign borrowing. Patriotism will be better displayed in attending to these ills rather than persecute innocent minorities.

The initiatives of missionaries have resulted in several backward communities receiving education. The Hindutvawadis have repeatedly said that “conversion” is the ulterior motive behind this. No data has been provided to back their claims. Even today, in the remotest corners of the country where there are no doctors and teachers, missionaries run educational and primary healthcare centres. Some of them may be non-Indians but they have made this country their own and provided a sense of dignity to social groups which had never had an identity of their own.

The greatest contribution of the Christian missions is perhaps the democratization of Indian society through a Westernized liberal discourse. Their educational institutions have instilled a value structure that is essentially egalitarian.

The campaign of vilification waged on Christians is convenient because it diverts attention from the real issues like inflation and poverty. The first round of reforms has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Nationalism, without any concern for the weak, cannot go hand in hand with a religious ideology.    


 
 
THE CHALLENGE WITHIN 
 
 
BY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
 
 
Within the week we should know whether there is a challenger to Sonia Gandhi from within the ranks of the Congress. The media has identified the Congress Don Quixote, but the potential candidate remains remarkably coy, preferring the politics of dark hints to that of open confrontation. There is some speculation that the circulation of letters to all and sundry is no more than a ploy for securing something in return for finally not entering the lists. Whether there will be any takers for such a ploy also remains to be seen.

A challenger would add to the excitement of the chase but make no material difference to the outcome. The Congress is usually damned as having no tradition of inner party democracy, but the fact is that in all the party elections of the Nineties there have been challengers. Sharad Pawar took on P.V. Narasimha Rao after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination; Arjun Singh was the target when the Congress working committee elections in Tirupati in 1992 did not go Rao’s way; Sharad Pawar returned to the fray when Sitaram Kesri put in for chairman of the parliamentary party in addition to president of the party in early 1997; later the same year, Rajesh Pilot and Sharad Pawar mounted a somewhat eccentric attempt to dethrone Kesri in the party polls; and Sonia Gandhi became chairperson of the parliamentary party only after she had beaten off Pawar’s determined effort to secure the position for himself.

So, if there is a challenge to Sonia Gandhi later this week, it will be something of a yawn. There is no Sohrab to her Rustom, no David to her Goliath. While a challenger might give an opportunity to the inveterate Nehru/Gandhi-haters to go in for a spot of fantasy, Sonia Gandhi’s own reelection is assured.

What a challenge will do is provide an opportunity for a public discussion of what ails the party — and what does not. This, in the normal course, would be welcome. Yet, I fear, going by Jitendra Prasada’s letter, nothing constructive, nothing imaginative, nothing innovative will come out of a public airing of Prasada’s private grievances. His letter is cliché-ridden. Every point he has made has been addressed in detail in the report of the all India Congress committee’s introspection committee, chaired by everybody’s favourite Congressman, A.K. Antony.

To my eternal regret, the Congress president has chosen to keep the full 300-page report under wraps, but within days of its submission she convened the CWC to discuss the substance of the report. It was probably the longest yet CWC session during her tenure as Congress president. Jitendra Prasada, as the elected (not nominated) member of the CWC with the second largest number of votes (after Ahmed Patel), was an active participant in that discussion. Also, as a CWC member he had the right of full access to the whole or any part of the report, as he chose. For reasons best known to him, he has preferred the route of setting out his grievances rather than redressing them.

Perhaps the problem is that notwithstanding his eminence in Congress politics for all of the past decade, beginning with his induction as political advisor to Congress president, Rajiv Gandhi, in early 1990, Prasada has remained something of a hot-house plant. This had everything to do with the Congress party’s declining fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has plummeted from 84 out of 85 seats in 1984 to single digit figures through the whole of the following decade. At the state level, the Bharatiya Janata Party was initially driven out by the voters in 1993 in reaction to the Babri Masjid outrage of the previous year, but the Congress was not able to glide into the vacated space. On the contrary, it was Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayavati who emerged as the main gladiators on the UP stage.

Later, in the 1996 assembly elections, Pra- sada’s attempt to work in tandem with Ma- yavati ended in an unexpectedly small Congress presence in the assembly. Worse, much worse, the handful of Congress members of legislative assembly then split with many of those most ardently backed by Prasada breaking off to form the Loktantrik Congress and joining hands with the BJP (of all parties) to maintain an uncertain toe-hold in the government of UP. While Prasada happily won back his own Lok Sabha seat in last year’s elections, the Congress in UP remained in the woods. The regional quarrel between him and his successor in UP is of little concern to the rest of the country. Therefore, Prasada jumps into the ring not as a 10,000-burst lari but something of a damp squib.

What amazes me is his assertion that fear grips the party and its workers are being intimidated into silence. This is rubbish. It was only a few months ago that his close political associate, Begum Noor Bano, stood for election to an important parliamentary party post. She almost won. There was no intimidation, no attempt to turn votes away from her, indeed quite a campaign to lure Congress members of parliament into backing her because she was the only woman candidate. If she did not win, it was because she fell short marginally of the required number of votes; that she came so near winning proof positive that 10, Janpath is no Stalinist Kremlin.

In fact the master of intimidation is Prasada himself. That is what made him so invaluable to P.V. Narasimha Rao. When somebody had to be ticked off or brought back to the straight and the narrow, Prasada was the man to do it. He had ample support from Matang Sinh and Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi. After Rao’s fall from grace, Sinh and Chaturvedi were eliminated, leaving the field entirely to Prasada. He always reminded me of John D. Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, the duo who twisted the Republican Party’s arm to get Richard Nixon’s will done.

There is nothing crude or rough about Prasada’s style of intimidation. He is an extremely urbane, sophisticated, well- educated man, perfectly bilingual, aristocratic in bearing, and understated in tenor. Unlike me, he has a studied control over his language and uses words as a stiletto, not a blunderbuss. He had been tasked by Kesri at the August 1997 session of the AICC in the Netaji Indoor Stadium, Calcutta, to eliminate from the list of candidates for the CWC elections those whom Kesri did not favour. I was among them. My chances of winning were remote. I judged it my democratic right to measure my strength by contesting, whether I won or no.

Minutes before the deadline for withdrawal of nominations, I was subjected to the Prasada brand of intimidation. It was made clear to me that the act of contesting would amount to defiance of Kesri and, more to the point, defiance of Prasada, the consequences of which would be terminal to my political ambitions. The atmosphere was like an encounter with “the Godfather”. I did not flinch. I contested. And did unexpectedly well. Let us see how Jitendra Prasada stands up.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Pater familias

Sir — Radhika Ramaseshan has given us a vivid picture of the covert nepotism practised by the former Union minister for information and broadcasting, Pramod Mahajan. A firm owned by Mahajan’s son, Rahul, produced the programme Truck dhina dhin. It was agreed that Rs 35 lakh was to be paid every time this programme was broadcast. However, the payment of the money was deferred until it accumulated to Rs 6.5 crore owed to Prasar Bharati. In her article “BJP defends Mahajan on TV deal” (Oct 22), Ramaseshan describes how Bharatiya Janata Party sources have claimed that favouring one’s kin was a “very minor offence when seen in the overall perspective of corruption deals”. What is interesting in this statement has less to do with the fact that it grossly violates any idea of democracy. The comment is more intriguing because it somehow sanctions the idea of nepotism. Perhaps this is yet another variation on family “values”.
Yours faithfully,
Ranjan Tiwari, via email

History confounded

Sir — The front-page headline, “RSS accuses church of military designs” (Oct 16) was arresting. But the contents were similar to what one was used to reading in the early Fifties and Sixties about Christians in the Northeast revolting and alienating themselves from the mainstream. One would expect the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, K.S. Sudarshan, to have a clearer insight and broader perspective on the historical and political background of India. Instead, he has presented a confused statement of his personal convictions, thus sowing seeds of disunion and discord detrimental to national integrity.

What he has probably forgotten is that Christians have been living in India for nearly 2,000 years, when no “Western army” existed in the land or in any part of the world. Therefore, his statement that “the church was always part of the Western army” is completely baseless. Stray incidents where individual Christians have been involved in unpatriotic acts are not enough to make generalizations. Will it not be ridiculous to brand all Hindus as unpatriotic and treacherous just because Jai Chand betrayed his brother, Prithviraj Chauhan, and abandoned him and his army to the invading forces of Mohammed Ghori?

Similarly, one cannot brand all Muslims as traitors simply because Mir Jafar betrayed Siraj-ud-daula to the East India Company at the battle of Plassey. Would Sudarshan like the Indians to brand all RSS members as traitors because Nathu Ram Godse, an RSS member, killed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? Sudarshan seems to be forgetting that many Muslims, Christians and Sikhs have lost their lives in the Kargil, China and Pakistan wars.

When Sudarshan decries foreign aid to Christian churches, he forgets that there are several churches in India which do not take help from foreign missions. On the other hand, he ignores that many Hindu organizations receive substantial donations from non-resident Indians.

Neither conversion nor reconversion is good. Instead of harping on religious ancestry, we should seek to promote the intrinsic moral values of India’s rich cultural heritage.

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Basu, via email

Sir — I am fully supportive of the efforts of the RSS to bring back swadeshi and Indian traditions to India. The initiative should have been taken by Indians a long time back. A fine example of the insidious Westernization of Indian culture is that the RSS’s stalwarts are themselves Westernized. As a first step, the RSS should immediately banish the shorts, the shirt and the shoes which are part of the uniform. The shorts should be immediately replaced with a dhoti and perhaps, the undergarment should be the traditional langoti. This is the least they can do to establish their swadeshi credentials.

Yours faithfully,
A.V. Iyengar, via email

Sir — The swadeshi call given by the RSS chief seems to have attracted support from unexpected quarters. K.S. Sudarshan, the RSS chief, wants indigenous churches for the Indian Christians. The suggestion has been welcomed by the Dalit Christians. Though surprising, the Marxists too have come forward to give a swadeshi tint to their party conference. For the first time, the members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) did not exhibit the portraits of Josef Stalin and other foreign communists prominently during their national convention.

It will not be such a bad thing if the same spirit is displayed by others too. If there is no dispute over the fact that Babar was an invader, then why should his memorial be allowed to become a matter of national pride? India is capable of accommodating any number of faiths, but for the establishment of a harmonious society, everyone should strive to be an Indian first. The communists can surely show the way better than the RSS.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — Reading “Healing touch” (The Metro, Oct 11) right after reading the editorial, “Agenda of hate” was an eye-opener of sorts. Surely, the leaders of the RSS are not unaware of the selfless service being rendered by the Christian missionaries to alleviate the lot of the underprivileged in India. No amount of praise will be enough for the members of the German Doctors’ Committee who have sacrificed six weeks of their lucrative practice in Germany to serve the slum-dwellers of Calcutta.

Yours faithfully,
C.V.K. Moorthy, via email

Birds, beasts and activists

Sir — The Pakhiralaya sanctuary for migratory birds at Santragachi has been facing difficulties since the time of its inception. First, the water of the jheel was entirely covered by water hyacinths. This was followed by the poachers and the loudspeakers around the jheel which frightened the birds.

Just when it was beginning to look as if things were going to be all right, a new issue has emerged. Landsharks, aided by the local club, have been digging up the soil around the jheel in order to use as landfill elsewhere. This club, located at a corner of the sanctuary has slowly been encroaching into the territory of the sanctuary itself.

Its boundaries have been increased and a recreation centre has been built inside. If this is allowed to continue, it can mean the end of the sanctuary. It won’t be too long before one will find the only reference about Pakhiralaya in the greying pages of the zoological archives.

Yours faithfully,
Dyutiman Bhattacharya, Howrah

Sir — Maneka Gandhi has urged jockeys not to use whips on horses. Unfortunately, Gandhi is not aware that this concern of hers is entirely misplaced. Thoroughbred horses are highly temperamental, sensitive and courageous. They have a mind of their own and in this respect they are individuals beings.

Whips are especially designed for the horses and are not meant to be used as instruments of punishment. They are used as a corrective device to keep the horse from wandering off his given task. Officials and trainers involved with horse racing are usually extremely vigilant and the slightest wrong is examined carefully. Any marks on the horse’s body is usually noticed and the offender is punished.

Gandhi would do better to extend her concern to the area where it is needed. She should attend to the condition of the horses which are used for tongas or for polo. In polo, spurs are used which are far more painful than whips. Besides, this concern should extend to bullocks, camels and donkeys as well which are traditional beasts of burden and therefore on the receiving end of much punishment.

Yours faithfully,
A.W. Khan, Calcutta

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