Editorial 1/ Democratic duel
Editorial 2/ Tea for terror
Backwards to the future
Fifth Column/ Morality, law and sexual behaviour
Plural, as a matter of fact
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ DEMOCRATIC DUEL 
 
 
 
 
The die is cast. The Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, now has a challenger in Mr Jitendra Prasada. It would not be unfair to conclude from the reactions of Ms Sonia Gandhi’s supporters that Mr Prasada has carried out an act of desecration. In reality, all that he has done is to announce that he has as much right as Ms Gandhi to be the president of the Congress. The refusal to accept this basic premise is an indicator of the deep roots that the culture of sycophancy has within the Congress. The question is not about the merits of Mr Prasada to contest the polls against Ms Gandhi. It revolves around an attitude which sees the Congress party as the fiefdom of a family bearing a particular surname. Ms Gandhi is not the president of the party because she is a seasoned political campaigner. On the contrary, she leads the Congress because she is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi and the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. Indeed, Ms Gandhi always invokes these two leaders and their tragic deaths and has also self-consciously fashioned herself after her mother-in-law. The claim is thus not a political one and hence the refusal to accept that her position and power can be questioned. Mr Prasada’s only sin seems to be the assertion of democratic rights in a party that advocates democracy.

Mr Prasada’s challenge to the “official” candidate is by no means the first instance that such defiance has manifested itself within the Congress. But it is by no means a common occurrence in a party that is more than a century old. This could suggest two things. One is the prevalence of consensus within the Congress and the other is the absence of a proper articulation of dissent. In the history of the Congress, dissent has always equalled departure. There is a line from Subhas Chandra Bose to Mr Sharad Pawar which warrants the above generalization. From the kind of reactions that have followed the announcement of Mr Prasada’s candidature, it is clear that he will not be treated very kindly after the leadership battle is lost and won. It is difficult to understand the brouhaha. If Ms Gandhi is indeed the supreme leader she is projected to be, she should not be too concerned about the outcome of a challenge from a pretender. The actions of her supporters need not necessarily mirror her own insecurity. But it is true that she has not actually welcomed the challenge. Mr Prasada’s challenge grows out of the Congress’s non-performance in the polls and from its declining influence in national life. The Congress party stands in need of blood transfusion to revive it. This cannot happen if democracy — the only source of fresh air in a political organization — is stifled. Congressmen may not realize it, but Mr Prasada may have done the Congress a service.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ TEA FOR TERROR 
 
 
 
 
Secessionism, in north Bengal, is rapidly becoming an unmanageable problem. The Rajbanshis have been demanding a separate Kamtapuri state for a while now, and their demands — founded on familiar ethnic, linguistic and territorial claims — are becoming increasingly violent and disruptive. And the state has so far shown every sign of being inept and evasive in dealing with the situation. There have been several killings recently, apart from many episodes of extortion and abduction. What used to be passed off as sporadic is now amounting to a serious crisis in five districts of north Bengal — Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, parts of Darjeeling and North and South Dinajpur. One sector emerging as particularly vulnerable to this form of violence comprises of the small tea estates near Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. Several features of Kamtapuri terrorism emerge from a consideration of the recent plantation killings here.

First, there is a complete absence of concrete evidence in the aftermath of most of these episodes. This makes it impossible to bring specific charges against the Kamtapur People’s Party or its banned terrorist front, the Kamtapur Liberation Organization, for any of these incidents. Police raids on the committee leaders of these outfits have revealed no weapons, although an examination of the lethal bullets indicate the use of AK-47 rifles. This, in turn, points to the Kamtapuris’ links with the United Liberation Front of Asom, who are known to train and assist Kamtapuri terrorism locally and from Bhutan. Second, the violence directed at the small tea-planters gets taken up into the local corruption that implicates them in irregularities related to real estate promotion. The dubiousness of some of these small plantations makes it difficult for them to claim entitlement to proper protection from the militants. Dipankar Ghosh, a planter killed recently, was also identified with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Kamtapuri movement is often perceived as being hostile to the CPI(M), although many of the former’s cadre are drawn from the latter’s frontline organizations. Finally, and perhaps most urgently, the West Bengal government will have to restore to the region a sense of security and of economic potential, both of which are being gravely compromised because of the intensification of terror among the common people. Tea planters and the Forward Bloc have severally marshalled their own security forces. But this cannot be taken for granted by the government. The police, army and special combat forces will have to get their act together without delay. So must the state government, which has so far made vague suggestions about the involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and then gone on to do very little about it. Meanwhile, the terrorism is getting more systematic (especially with the approaching elections) and West Bengal will have fewer reasons, each day, to be smugly setting itself apart from the escalating violence incapacitating the Northeast.    


 
 
BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE 
 
 
BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN
 
 
Rajnath Singh’s ascendancy to the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh is part of a serious rearguard action by the Bharatiya Janata Party in a crucial state. Whether it will work is unclear. The writing on the wall is clear for all to see: in the run-up to an assembly poll, the ground is shifting from under its feet.

This is the third time in only four years that the party is opting for a change of guard in Lucknow. The key dilemma is that the successes of the saffron combine in the Gangetic plain were crafted when the mantra of the mandir was at its peak. Over the Nineties, the star has waned and caste loyalties are what seem to matter more. Even the switch was aimed at consolidating a solid savarna Hindu vote bank for the party.

Like the Congress in its heyday, the BJP has been reluctant to let a Rajput take the baton. It took the former decades of ascendancy to allow V.P. Singh to be chief minister two decades ago. For the sangh parivar, the first shot at power came on the wings of the Ram temple movement. The success of the upsurge depended on breaking the unity of the backward classes and scheduled castes that Mandal threatened to forge. Except in 1991, it has never won a clear majority, relying on post-poll manoeuvres to reach the seat of power. The BJP does not govern the state on its own but heads a rickety coalition.

Last year, the virtual rebellion of the backward class chief minister, Kalyan Singh, led to his removal from office and then expulsion from the fold. Its shock waves are unlikely to have faded away into the past. The Mandal classes not only comprise over half the electorate, but also are an articulate and highly organized group. Though internally fragmented, they may well coalesce around the premier opposition party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The ruling party’s vulnerability was evident around this time last year. Its tally of seats in the Lok Sabha from the state fell from 57 to 29. More striking was the fact that it led in barely 129 assembly segments. The sangh family itself is a house divided, with caste being a more critical factor than community ever was. The urban development minister, Lalji Tandon, was a strong candidate as was the former state unit chief, Om Prakash Singh. One is from a mercantile caste, still very important within the saffron brotherhood; the other is one of the few state level backward classes leaders in the organization.

The problem is that this is no ordinary state. It has been central to the rise of the party to prominence and power. Securing a clear majority in 1991, in subsequent elections, it has retained the status of the single largest formation. Post-poll alliances with the Bahujan Samaj Party led to short-lived ministries in 1995 and 1997. Since then, the creation of a jumbo cabinet and the fear of another fresh poll alone have kept the coalition in power.

Uttar Pradesh was the litmus test for the sangh’s strategy of supplanting the Congress as the natural party of power. In place of the old social alliance of the upper strata and the under classes, it put together a savarna-led bloc that aimed to isolate Muslims from the mainstream. But loyalties are fluid and identities highly politicized. The party was skating on thin ice even in its heyday. Quite like the Congress, its stunning majorities, especially in three successive Lok Sabha polls, were obtained due to the divisions in the ranks of its opponents.

Those have not vanished. But the real race for the first place already seems to be between Mulayam Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayavati. What has taken place deserves a closer look. Though the parties opposed to saffron have remained divided, huge sections of the voters have simply voted for the candidate best placed to defeat the BJP in their own constituency. This phenomenon first became evident in 1993, when the Samajwadi Party-BSP reaped the harvest. What is remarkable is that it should persist even after they have become bitter adversaries.

In fact, the Dalit and other backward classes led groupings are now at a more advanced stage. Each has a share of bloc votes but these are insufficient to secure power. Both have toned down their rhetoric and are trying to reach out to disgruntled sections of the upper castes. The Samajwadi Party is relying on Amar Singh, not as a leader but as a symbol of what it can offer those members of the twice-born who throw in their lot with it. In fact, the Dalits are the one group it is not appealing to. The BSP’s strategy is exactly the reverse. It is attempting to forge a new united front led by educated and articulate Dalits but including the numerically large number of lower OBC communities. The strong anti-Hindutva campaigns of the party are aimed at pulling in minority voters.

Will either work? In no other region in the country is there such a numerically large section drawn from the upper castes. In every other case where the cultivating communities used the ballot box to come to power, they did not have to contend with such a diverse, complex and significant number of savarna communities. Even as he is a major beneficiary of a forward versus backward classes polarization, the Samajwadi Party leader has to guard against going too far down that road.

Mayavati’s is an even more challenging task. As the only explicitly Dalit party ever to come to power in any state, albeit through coalition, the BSP has to overcome a more insuperable barrier. The OBCs, who are the main challengers of upper caste dominance, are Mayavati’s adversaries in rural Uttar Pradesh. It is only by complex post-poll manoeuvres that her party can hope to gain power. But in the pre-poll situation, she needs to get every vote and seat that she can.

The last decade has seen the wheel turn full circle in the country’s most populous state. Hindutva promised a new start, but what turned out to be a false dawn. It has not even been able to cobble together a stable social coalition to provide a modicum of stability. But the divisions in society and the body politic run deep affecting every institution in the public sphere. Power may be in the process of passing into Bahujan and Dalit hands, but the new leaderships will have to address the same dilemmas.

Rajnath Singh’s immediate tasks are seemingly mundane. To placate his allies, improve law and order, restore civic amenities in the urban areas and contain the negative impact of the fuel price hike in the hinterland. But the past offers little to be sanguine about. Ruling parties that often change horses mid-stream rarely come up the mark in the polls. But the consequences of a rout in UP will reach out far beyond its borders. They will raise fresh doubts about the party’s coherence, not only in Lucknow but also in New Delhi.

The author is an independent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum Library, New Delhi    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ MORALITY, LAW AND SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR 
 
 
BY DIPANKAR LAHIRI
 
 
The Indian penal code’s treatment of sexual relations needs to be dissociated from Victorian morality to which it continues to be wedded. How a couple would enjoy consensual sex is best left for them to decide and can never be the concern of of a democratic, secular state as long as it does not amount to forcible imposition of personal preferences by one partner on the other.

Which practice, custom or convention of Hinduism can justify the mandatory nature of monogamy for Hindus under the Hindu Marriage Act? Monogamy has never existed as the dominant form of marital relations in Hindu societies prior to the passing of this act in 1955. The liberal sexual mores of Hindu societies over the ages — reflected in the stories of Hindu gods and rishis, apsaras, the sculptures of Konark and Khajuraho and the concept of gandharva vivaha in the Mahabharata — indicate that Hinduism accords sanction to both polygamy and polyandry.

Besides, personal sexual preferences between consenting adults within the confines of an institutional marriage, continue to be tinged with religious precepts and happen to be the unwarranted concern of a supposedly secular state in India. Anal intercourse, for instance, between husband and wife is an offence under the IPC (Section 377) and the Hindu Marriage Act, while marital rape is not. But one only has to take a casual glance at Hindu temple sculpture to see that Hinduism has never been unduly puritanical in matters of sex.

Secular hypocrisy

The essentially Hindu characteristics of the Hindu Marriage Act are difficult to discern. Social institutions in India remain governed by blatantly non-secular laws, some of which are out of tune with the dominant convention of the religion after which they are named.

Secular principles can only be achieved by ensuring a system of jurisprudence divested of religious trappings in any shape and basing it on objectivism and rationality, giving due recognition to the changing social order. No religion can do this because its precepts are static. This is abundantly manifested by the Catholic church’s and Islam’s opposition to abortion and birth control.

There are unending contradictions that the continuation of such legal systems could invite. Thus, on the basis of a perceived religious precept, a Muslim woman could be deprived of the right to maintenance by the state under Section 125 of the criminal procedure code as recently as in 1986. Hindus could also demand the right to practice polygamy under the Hindu Marriage Act in keeping with their traditional and scriptural lores.

Moreover, we have marriage laws based only on four organized religions when there are hundreds of religions in the world — both organized and unorganized.

Marital pluralism

Ideally, we should have as many marriage acts as there are religions in the world irrespective of the number of followers they may have. Alternatively, we can have a simple code for all marriages and the rules governing marriage can be standardized for all citizens.

But, there are no separate sets of laws governing marital relations for the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, who have been made to come under the ambit of the Hindu Marriage Act. The unique features of some of these laws also come in the way of the implementation of progressive judicial decisions.

In the case of the Christian Marriage Act, for example, every decree of dissolution of marriage granted by a district judge is required to be confirmed by a three member bench of the high court for it to become effective and it takes years for the process to be complete. This renders the Supreme Court’s order to ensure disposal of all divorce cases within six months largely meaningless for those coming under this act. Further, there is no provision in the Christian Marriage Act for the dissolution of marriage on the basis of mutual consent unlike in the Hindu Marriage Act.

Hypocrisy is the basic creed of this set of rules. The statutes and practices mentioned here came into being, ostensibly, to ensure a secular social order. But, ironically, these codes have only contributed to an erosion of the credibility of the state to uphold, protect and preserve secular ideals in daily life. The inanity of this scenario is only surpassed by its naïveté.    


 
 
PLURAL, AS A MATTER OF FACT 
 
 
BY CYRIL ARIJIT GHOSH
 
 
The essence of civil society is the freedom — however skewed and inadequate a word it might be — an individual enjoys to be who he is. It is an arena of plurality, the domain of exchange. It is the stage where the egalitarian rules of the market are subjected to a policy of laissez faire. Inasmuch as it is the antithesis to the state of nature, according to social contractualists, civil society is the terrain where individuals realize their innate capacity to coexist peacefully — in a manner that is mutually advantageous and collectively enriching.

In India, civil society is somehow becoming increasingly precarious and indefensible. Pluralism, in free India, has never been as threatened as it has been in recent years. And the reason behind this is the resurgence of the idea of a Hindutva which is committed to the creation of a homogeneous, quasi-utopian, Hindu rashtra.

This is all very well. But what is not all right is the way in which Hindutva unerringly stands in confrontation with the idea of pluralism and thus eclipses democracy. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the chief perpetrator of this Hindutva and the champions of the Hindu rashtra, has been making strange entries into our everyday lives. It is leaving us feeling heady and vertiginous with its fervent Hindu symbolism. We read about it in our morning papers. We get to see different kinds of footage on television.

The prime minister, during his visit to the United States, did a little pirouette on his “globalizing” posture and declared himself an avowed swayamsevak. Union minister for home affairs, Lal Krishna Advani, went to Agra in order to advertise his solidarity with his party’s parent body. Throughout its 75 year old history, the RSS has been a virulently militant organization. It has relentlessly called for the creation of a Hindu rashtra. It has incited communal sentiments and has repeatedly attempted to erode the secular identity of this nation.

When the organization was founded in 1925, it professed the defence of the Hindus, chiefly in Maharashtra. In the aftermath of the noncooperation movement, which, in crucial ways, turned out to be an ineffective mass movement, Nagpur was enmeshed in brutal communal violence.

And, in this milieu, the RSS blossomed. RSS members, at one stage, disbanded a procession of Muslims with their skilful use of the lathi. The local Hindu elite, most of whom were upper class Chitpavan Brahmins, were overjoyed. Their resentment stemmed from the belief that Muslims held a disproportionately large share of government jobs.

The RSS claims that India is a nation exclusively of Hindus. This doctrine developed parallel to, and as a repercussion of, the liberal democratic setup envisaged by the Indian National Congress. The chief ideologues of this Hindutva, the RSS leader, M.S. Golwalkar, and the head of a like-minded communal political party, the Hindu Mahasabha, V.D. Savarkar, have both drawn direct inspiration from Nazi Germany. “Germany has...shown,” writes Golwalkar, “how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole — a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

Their idea of Hindutva is based upon an idea of an inevitable conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus to them are the only members of the Indian polity who can be patriotic in the truest sense. Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindus are viewed as this slightly profane lot who, no matter how Indian they may be in their daily lives, rituals and customs, are somewhat bigoted. Muslims, especially, are viewed as the descendants of marauding, “foreign” tyrants.

Reality, of course, has no bearing on this vision. The fantastic tales of murder, rape and loot by the Muslim invaders have been taken apart by historians. Muslim invaders were as much invaders as the Aryans who came from central Asia and through the northwestern frontiers into the subcontinent. Peasants and artisans have always clashed with zamindars and princes. Whether it was Hindu traders in Punjab, or Hindu landlords in East Bengal and Malabar, or the wealthy Muslim gentry in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling class has always trampled upon the poorer peasants and artisans.

And, when the Muslims formed the considerable majority in the ruling classes, say, during the heyday of the Mughals, a significantly large proportion of Hindus occupied the highest ranks of the administrative and military services. Thus, there has never been any segmentation of “Indian” society into homogeneous blocs. A singularly Muslim ruling class has never concertedly exploited the impoverished, Hindu majority.

This is not to say that India has ever been a “melting pot” where people of different religious allegiances get assimilated into each other’s lives in such a way that it is no longer possible to identify them as separate “communities” or even “beings”. Multiculturalism has always existed in India in a civilized, matter-of-fact way. It has been the “knowledge” Indians grow up with and accept unhesitatingly. A bit like the way one takes for granted the love of one’s parents.

But the machinations of modern Hindutva do not allow room for this assurance. It has ceaselessly distorted and represented class tensions as communal and sectarian hostility. V.D. Savarkar defined the “Hindu” in 1923 as “a person who regards the land of Bharatvarsha from Indus to the Seas as his Fatherland, as well as his Holy land — that is the cradle land of his religion.”

Savarkar’s nationalistic rhetoric was based on two factors: pitribhumi, the Fatherland, and punyabhumi, the Holy land. In Hindutva/Who is a Hindu, written in the formidable Cellular Jail in the Andaman islands, Savarkar defines patriotism with spectacular panache. He links the idea of the sanctity of the land of one’s birth with the ideas of the pure and the godly.

The convenient exclusion this kind of patriotism invokes is that of the members of those communities who are born here, reside here, but who, owing to their religious affiliation, have holy lands elsewhere. Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam become immediately suspect. Christians and Muslims rapidly turn unpatriotic. Because, for them pitribhumi and punyabhumi can never be coterminous. This is the perverseness of politicized Hindutva.

The RSS’s claims of being a cultural, and not a political, organization is misleading. In its bid to reform the Hindu self and to create a Hindu identity aware of its cultural heritage, its agenda invariably becomes political. Through its shakhas, the RSS attempts to create a fraternal bonding. Its members have regular physical exercises. They have expertise in the use of the lathi. They are trained since childhood onwards to be true swayamsevaks, to obey the will of the elders.

They are indoctrinated with the ideas of discipline, aggressiveness and virility. Many of the swayamsevaks enrol as children. From the beginning they are told stories which are pregnant with communal symbolism and sectarian apartness. They are taught the values of an absolutist, authoritarian ethos where the self is subsumed by the leader.

The structure of the RSS’s discourse, its symbolism and activities, have a symphonic quality. It is orchestrated in tandem with the political elite in this country and has begun entering our daily lives in multifarious, covert and coercive ways.

And, frighteningly, Savarkar’s slogan: “Hinduize politics and militarize Hinduism”, bears the ominous prognosis that this country will soon become a collectivity of innumerable Hindu stereotypes — the ideal swayamsevaks, virile, aggressively communal beings, ethnically cleansed and intolerant of other faiths.

This homogeneity will be the death-knell for Indian pluralism. The richness of the “sense” that is India will be snatched away. The smugness with which we call ourselves the largest democracy in the world will vanish. There has never been any attempt to consolidate the various communities living in India into a single all-encompassing whole.

The polity has existed largely as a conglomeration of different cultures and sub-cultures, of whom it is not required that they get assimilated into the greater, majority (Brahminical) tradition. The beauty of India’s (or any other place’s) secular identity lies in the multicultural nature of its polity. This has always made us proud.

This is the inherent make-up of our nation. The worst hit by the resurgence of this Hindu nationalism will be those individuals who have survived in India and have, till date, never been forced to conform and, yet, done so with grace. Hindu nationalism does not pose any abstract threat. Its powerful force is real and it is going to make real people feel uprooted and irredeemably crushed.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Farewell party

Sir — So Jyoti Basu takes his entourage with him (“Somnath follows the leaders”, Oct 28)? Somnath Chatterjee seems unwilling to spend even a day as chairman of the West Bengal industrial development corporation after his patron quits office. Is it Chatterjee’s loyalty or practicality speaking? The latter, surely. Chatterjee, never accepted as an “insider” by his party leaders, had distanced himself from the headquarters by playing the parliamentary party leader in distant New Delhi. His resignation from the WBIDC will finally sever his connections with the state. But if a leftist leader, as distinguished as Chatterjee, has found it beyond him to find a place in the CPI(M) thinktank, despite Basu’s prodding and his being a member of the all-powerful central committee, there should be little surprising about the fate of the dissidents in the party. The CPI(M) is an undemocratic monolith which remains in control of a coterie that believes in deciding the future of the state. Fools like Chatterjee obviously fear to tread there.
Yours faithfully,
Jyotirmoy Lahiri, Calcutta

Shut up and work

Sir — The uniqueness of Indian society is its imaginary attribution of a relationship to almost every interpersonal contact that its m embers make. And here lies the paradox. This utopian concept of a global family inadvertently dilutes the fundamental features of an employer-employee relationship. In such a peculiar mindset, any attempt to define the rights and duties of a child worker as domestic help through the Indian Child Labour (Regulation and Prevention ) Act,1996, finds no footing at all. All warnings against its violation from the National Human Rights Commission or the fervent appeals made by the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude get dissolved in the vortex of this so-called familiology.

Aveek Sen’s article (“Servant problem”, Oct 15) does an excellent job of trying to understand the socioeconomic milieu that has given rise to this problem. It is extreme poverty coupled with illiteracy, ignorance and the lack of any quality of living that perpetrates this inequality. When people are denied basic amenities like food and shelter, that too in a country that boasts of a 53 year old democracy, they become servants for survival.This familial bond is their only security in a hostile world.

Yours faithfully,
Susanta Kumar Biswas, Calcutta

Sir — In the context of the inhuman treatment meted out to nine year old Mou Mondal by the Banerjee-Chowdhury family, Aveek Sen’s thought-provoking article on the servant problem assumes importance.The indignity of child labour as it exists in our country has been exposed by this incident. Although the United Nations has expressed concern over the number of child labourers in our country, the administration is yet to wake up to this problem. An attitude of empathy and benevolence could go a long way in alleviating the suffering of these children.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

Sir — It is impossible to imagine the three day long nightmare that nine year old Mou Mondal went through without placing oneself in her situation. Being left alone without adequate food and water must have been terrifying for her and can have deep psychological repercussions. The behaviour of her employer was unpardonable, to say the least. The callousness with which the family placed its enjoyment before anything else shows their lack of scruples. This is symptomatic of the decay that has crept into all forms of public life.

Yours faithfully,
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta

International morality

Sir — The editorial “Balancing act” (Oct 24) has hit the nail right on the head. From Nehruvian times, successive Congress governments have shown a pro-Palestinian bias. This was done, ostensibly, to please the Arab world. But, in reality, it was supposed to appease the Muslim vote bank within the country. The Arabs, therefore, have taken us for granted and more often than not, they have supported Islamic Pakistan in matters of vital interest to India.

Islamic terrorism, meanwhile, has reached alarming proportions. India and Israel should come closer because they are natural allies in their fight against organized terrorism emanating from Pakistan and the Afghanistan. Fortunately, powerful nations like the United States, Russia and China have woken up to the inherent dangers of Islamic terrorism and are now willing to join India in fight this growing menace.

The gory images of west Asian violence that we have seen in the media threaten us with reminders of this growing terrorism. The “day of rage”, as Palestinians call it, had a haunting resemblance to the calls of terrorist outfits like the Hizbul Mujahedin and Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Yours faithfully,
Ranjan Khastgir, via email

Sir — In the wake of the “new violence” between Israel and Palestine, both the countries have invited India to act as a mediator. This enhances India’s national prestige no doubt, but at the same time, it throws the country into the unenviable position of taking sides in a murky dispute. Led by the noble values of human dignity and liberation, India would be right in offering her support to the cause of the Palestinians who have been given numerous hopes of a “promised land”.

On the other hand, economic and military consideration and politico-strategic interests compel India to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Regarding the stand on Kashmir, Israel is one of the very few countries which have unambiguously maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.

However, the task of bringing peace in the west Asian region is particularly hard. It involves a serious question of international morality. Who are being victimized? Is it the Palestinian people who were displaced from their homeland by the creation of the states of Israel or is it the Jewish diaspora which has suffered European anti-semitism? Finding an answer to this is going to be a tough task for New Delhi.

Yours faithfully,
Madhubanti Rudra, Calcutta

Long suffering

Sir — The article “Harpreet death case” (Oct 5) has once again brought up the issue of atrocities committed against women in India. It is ironic that there is a surfeit of advertisements in almost all the television channels upholding the ideal of the girl child. Yet, these totally infuriating events keep recurring around us. Unfortunately, although such events happen all the time it requires a cause célèbrefor these events to get attention.

Women have made their presence significant and walked into virtually all male bastions. But they are continuously harassed and humiliated. How long are we going to ignore the fact that women are human beings as much as men are?

Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Banerjee, Durgapur

Sir — The repeated rape of Sonaullah Tantray’s wife, Zarifa, and her 17 year old daughter, Kulsuma, in the Doda district of Kashmir by defence personnel paints a horrifying picture of our corrupt defence administration. (“Seven year jail for rapist captain”, Oct 5.) These personnel are deployed for the protection of innocent people. The way in which they themselves conduct inhuman atrocities on women should be condemned. The people of the Kashmir valley do not need this additional misery to add to the ones that they already have been subjected to.

Yours faithfully,
Md. Ayub Ansari, Jagatdal

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