Editorial 1/ Honest broker
Editorial 2/ Chair care
Unquiet flows the Narmada
Book Review/ Love and longing among drifting generations
Book Review/ Money is the root of all strategies
Book Review/ Almost there, but not quite
Book Review/ On the track of military adventure
Editor's choice/ Trail of blood and beauty
Paperback pickkings/ When theory bursts into praxis
Letters to the editor

India has won a case against the European Union on the levy of anti-dumping duties on Indian exports of bed linen. With liberalization of tariffs, protectionism surfaces through other guises and the use of anti-dumping or anti-subsidy investigations has been common. This is true not only of developed countries, but also of developing countries like India. As long as import duties were high in India and import licensing existed, anti-dumping was important insofar as such investigations acted as non-tariff barriers in developed country markets. However, with imports liberalized in India, dumping into India has also become an issue and India is one of the largest users of anti-dumping investigations, directed especially at China.

The Uruguay Round version of the anti-dumping agreement is an improvement on the earlier version, but enough loopholes exist for clauses to be exploited. These might be refined in the course of future negotiations. For example, India might argue that special and differential treatment to developing countries, an underlying strand of most World Trade Organization agreements, is absent in the anti-dumping agreement. Pending amendments to the basic agreement, what is legal and what is prohibited is often established through case law, that is adjudication by WTO panels. India has had several problems with EU action in the textiles and garments sector, over and above the unsatisfactory liberalization of quotas that has taken place. Anti-dumping investigations are started against a product and a company, provisional anti-dumping duties are levied, and subsequent investigation establishes there has been no dumping. Instead of the matter being dropped, another anti-dumping investigation is started against the same product and company.

Alternatively, as soon as an anti-dumping investigation is dropped, an anti-subsidy investigation (directed against unwarranted subsidies used by a country rather than against a company), is immediately started. In the present case, anti-dumping duties between 11 and 24 per cent were levied (since 1994) against Indian exporters of bed linen. The WTO panel has found that EU deviated from WTO norms in determining injury and in conducting the investigation. While EU rules must now be brought into conformity, India has demanded a refund. This is unlikely to materialize. Other than EU, the United States is also a major user of anti-dumping investigations and in yet another WTO judgment, there has been a ruling that the 1916 US anti-dumping law violates WTO provisions in that it enables private American companies to obtain compensation from foreign firms that have dumped products. The complainants were EU and Japan. Once it lost the case, the US filed an appeal and it is this appeal that has now been ruled on. The WTO has a system for dispute resolution and this is an improvement on the earlier General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade dispute redressal mechanisms. In a specific sense, these two current rulings are welcome from the point of view of disciplining anti-dumping investigations used as subterfuge for protectionism. But in a more general sense, they are vindication of the system. The system works and those who argue that WTO is a handmaiden of the US or EU need to pepper their critique with some doses of realism. India’s track record in adjudicated disputes is not bad. India has lost disputes against the US and EU, but has also won disputes against the US, EU and Turkey. The WTO is a referee that can be invoked. A country like India does need a strong referee.    

It would seem preservation is the West Bengal government’s reigning passion. That could be the kindest explanation for the absurd fuss over preserving Mr Jyoti Basu’s chair, because any other would be notably unpleasant. Since the unhappy state of West Bengal’s historical sites and buildings does not allow for the first explanation, the earnest effort of the public works department minister, Mr Kshiti Goswami, the irrigation minister, Mr Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, the fisheries minister, Mr Kiranmoy Nanda and others to preserve Mr Basu’s office chair as a “memento” of “a unique phase of Bengal’s political history” smacks of barefaced sycophancy. Too long dependent on Mr Basu’s personality as the trump card in electoral battles, the Left Front, especially the Marxists, seem to have completely forgotten their childhood lessons about the evil of personality cults. The joke, of course, is that the now famous chair has not been enfolding Mr Basu for the length of 24 years. No one remembers where the first swivel chair went, it may by now have been rejuvenated in some other form from the scrap to which it had been reduced. The wooden chair in the limelight is about 11 years old, made specially after Mr Basu developed his bad back. This might be considered symbolic, but not quite in the way the doting ministers seem to think.

As usual, in moments of darkest folly, it is the light of Mr Basu’s common sense which lights the way. In the face of sentimental defiance, the outgoing chief minister insisted that there was no question of preserving the chair. As a Marxist, he did not believe in icons and personality cults. Fortunately, the deputy chief minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, kept his cool. But no one could avoid the crowning absurdity. The decision to preserve the chair had been actually taken at a cabinet meeting. The decision not to preserve it had to have equal weight. So Mr Bhattacharya has announced this as a government decision. The whole country is welcome to wonder whether the government of West Bengal is run by children playing at kings. Only in such games do wooden chairs turn into magical thrones, to be elevated and kept for the wondering gaze of all.    

In the demonology of market fundamentalism the slim, slight figure of Medha Patkar looms large. It is she who seeks to stop the dams that will power the modern mills, and it is she who opposes the highways that will carry goods and commodities from the producer to the consumer. To the liberalizing Indian, Patkar is a backward-looking reactionary who enjoys an uncomfortably high level of support. Every summer, when the mercury touches 48 degrees Celsius in northern India and the airconditioners break down, prominent columnists in New Delhi blame it all on Medha Patkar.

Back in the old days, when they opposed commercial forestry and nuclear power plants, environmentalists used to be spoken of as “CIA agents”, sent by or at least paid by the West to keep India underdeveloped. Since 1991, however, that line of argument has become anachronistic. The bureaucrats and politicians, once paranoid about foreign investment, have rolled out the red carpet. The greens, and the greens alone, stand in the way of the new factories and the dams and thermal plants that must power them.

Hence the regularly vicious attacks on the environmentalists and their most famous leader. Were a visiting foreigner only to read columnists like Tavleen Singh of India Today, he might conclude that Medha Patkar is the single most important impediment to the successful Singapore-ization of Indian society. Would he believe that this Enemy of Progress, this Anti-National Element, has no job, no bank balance, and no party?

What precisely do Patkar and her movement stand for? They stand, first of all, for the rights of the people whose lands and homes are acquired by new projects. Though this is not commonly known, forced displacement is a subject on which the apostle of truth had himself spoken. In 1942, at the height of World War II, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been alerted by his follower Mira Behn to the moving out of villages in Orissa to make way for a landing strip. As he put it to the journalist, Louis Fischer: “When the British come and say, we must remove these peasants to build an aerodrome here, and the peasants must go today, I say, ‘Why did you not think of that yesterday and give the poor people time to go, and why don’t you find places for them to go?’ ”

As in many other areas, the government of free India followed and furthered colonial precedent. Steel mills, universities, roads, barracks, above all, dams: to allow for the building of these artefacts of modernity countless villagers were made to leave their homes. In 1988, Walter Fernandes and his colleagues at the Indian Social Institute estimated that 18 million people had been forcibly displaced by officially sponsored projects in independent India. Scholars now claim that this was an underestimate, and that the true figure is closer to 30 million.

The statistics shall be disputed, but three facts are clear. First, that the displaced peasants were given no time to go, and no places to go either. Second, that they were paid monetary compensation that was a fraction of the cost of the lands they were dispossessed of. (No allowance was made, of course, for the emotional costs of relocation, for the loss of landscape and cultural memory.) Third, that an overwhelming proportion of those displaced were of adivasi or low caste origin.

This last truth is the most telling. It appears that the First Commandment of planned economic development is: The Rich Shall not be Displaced. What, for the sake of argument, would happen if the home of the present writer came in the way of a new highway? I would first contact my old college friends in the administration, suggesting discreetly that the road be re-routed. Were that to fail, I would ask a lawyer-friend who belongs to the same club to file an anticipatory petition in the court. With luck, the judge might also be a club member. In any case, one could skilfully delay proceedings for years, even decades (that is how the Calcutta Metro was stalled by middle-class home owners). If the road came up anyway, I would depart my home only after extracting a proper monetary compensation for it.

To displace the rich is costly, time-consuming and (most important) against the canons of class solidarity. Far easier to build factories and dams at the expense of the unlettered peasant. It was this game that the Narmada Bachao Andolan sought to bring a halt to. In this respect, the struggle led by Medha Patkar against the Sardar Sarovar project is principally a struggle for self-respect and social justice. It asks the Indian dam-builders the question Gandhi asked the British makers of aerodromes: where will these people go?

The defence of elementary human rights was the basic issue. A subsidiary question, however, related to environmental sustainability. Would not the building of large dams lead to a serious loss of forests and biodiversity? Would not a series of small dams, run-of-the-river schemes, be a less damaging alternative?

There were also questions of empirical economics. In the past, dam-builders have tended to exaggerate the benefits and underestimate the costs. But materials have been more expensive than anticipated. Siltation rates have been higher than predicted, thus reducing the life of the dam. The power generated by past projects has been erratic and unreliable. The benefits of flood control have stayed “on paper”.

To these ecological and economic arguments some would add an ethical one. The peasants threatened with displacement have cultivated a deep relationship with the land, as manifest in their art, their music, their shrines, their myths, legends and poetry. To drown this all out in the name of progress or development is to commit a crime against aesthetic beauty and collective cultural memory. To this planned act of violent forgetting the anthropologists have given a name: “Ethnocide”.

The case against large dams has recently received a setback in the form of the Supreme Court judgment allowing the construction of the Sardar Sarovar project to its full, projected height of 140 metres. The dam has reached an elevation of 80 metres already, and perhaps the court thought it unwise to abandon the project after so many thousand crores had been sunk into it.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan appears to have lost the battle, but it might yet win the war. The injustice of forced displacement is now widely acknowledged. The search for sustainable and cost-effective systems of energy generation and water management is continuing. Meanwhile, the government must declare a moratorium on large dams, pending a thorough inquiry into their past performance by a team of acknowledged experts.    

By Leslie Pietrzyk,
Granta, £ 9.99

When I opened Pears On A Willow Tree, I thought of Joseph Conrad. Like the author of Pears On A Willow Tree, Conrad was a Pole. He joined the British merchant navy when he was 19, not knowing a word of English. When he left the service at the age of 27, he began writing in English and produced some of the greatest writing in the language.

So much so that one reading his work and not knowing his history would not realize that he was not born of English parents. His sensitivity to characters, often not of his own nationality, makes his writing unforgettable.

Leslie Pietrzyk, though a Pole, is very different. It will not be a crime to presume that as with many first novels, this one too is at least partly biographical. In that case, the author is a fourth generation American-Pole.

The plot of the novel covers four generations of the family. The narrator-author’s great grandmother, Rose, was the first one to emigrate and has a difficult time trying to settle in. Helen is the daughter of Rose, and she manages to preserve traditions.

Helen’s daughter, Ginger turns out to be the black sheep of the family. Finding Detroit and the company of numerous aunts too confining for her free spirit, she runs away to Phoenix, Arizona. In Phoenix, she marries, becomes an alcoholic and finally, a divorcee.

The story eventually centres on Ginger’s daughter, Amy. After an agonizing time trying to cope with her alcoholic mother, Amy goes off to Thailand to teach English. She describes with great care and love her life in Thailand and gives a detailed account of her encounter with drug smugglers in the country.

Like Conrad’s, Pietrzyk’s careful prose and loving attention to detail are appealing. These qualities come out best in the description of the preserved traditions in cake-making, marriages, funerals and other domestic activities.

And there is a moral to the novel as well. Can you find pears on a willow tree? Or find humour in a Pole? Or find answers to unanswerable questions? So, the novel seems to say, do what you can with what you have. Do not expect too much from yourself or from others.    

By K. Malla Reddy,
Booklinks, Rs 250

Here is a collection of essays dealing with various aspects of the Indian economy. It covers a wide range of issues, including the need for suitable policy measures consistent with long term development planning in India, national minimum needs programme, Green Revolution and its impact on distribution and employment, credit polices pursued for agricultural development and many others.

K. Malla Reddy has pointed out that the purpose of planning should be to devise effective policy instruments to perform the essential task of development planning. He feels that in India, a development oriented monetary policy is called for to increase the volume of credit. The increase in the supply of money will not cause a price spiral if a balanced allocation ratio between quick yielding and long gestation projects is followed.

For this purpose, Reddy argues, a liberal credit system at low rate of interest should be adopted. This would promote the industries of consumer necessities and also help in shifting the allocation pattern nearer to non-inflationary steady growth.

Reddy also points out that although the Nehru-Mahalanobis heavy industries strategy has given an impetus to the industrial development and laid the foundation for the development of basic capital goods industries in India, the model failed to take sufficient care to remove shortages in the economy which worsened during the operation of the strategy.

The 17 essays written by the author are interesting particularly for the indepth case studies on the Andhra Pradesh economy. The author has concentrated on the agrarian system in this state, examining the structural changes in the distribution of land holdings and area operated in Andhra Pradesh during the period from 1970-71 to 1980-81. He has attempted to probe the factors responsible for the changes and their causal relation.

In the essay, “Regional distribution of agricultural income — a case study of Andhra Pradesh”, Reddy compiles relevant data on the regional distribution of agricultural incomes, both aggregate and per capita. He makes a comparative analysis of relative income distribution among coastal An- dhra Pradesh, Rayalasema and Telengana and shows the regional shares of agricultural income before, during and after the Green Revolution.

Reddy also traces the growth and development of forest areas in Andhra Pradesh and its physical and financial achievements between 1981-82 and 1989-90. He analyses the contribution of social forestry programmes to the development of economic industries of the state.

In this discourse on Indian economy, Reddy also discusses the efficacy of university education in India and focusses on university education through distance education mode, its problems and prospects.

Most of the essays in the book are topical and will prove useful to researchers. However the printing errors could have done with careful proofing.    

By Manjula Padmanabhan,
Picador, Rs 195

Manjula Padmanabhan’s Getting There is a semi-autobiographical account, “based loosely” on the author’s life between 1977 and 1978, “more true than false”. A 25-year-old illustrator and cartoonist, Manjula is still struggling to find her feet in the world, both personal and professional.

At odds with the society she inhabits, she almost revels in her status as a misfit. She has made up her mind that she does not want to live a day beyond 30 and has elaborate visions of how she will end her life with least possible trouble to those around her.

She rejects marriage and child-bearing, though she is in a monogamous relationship with her boy- friend of three years, Prashant. Living as a paying guest in Mumbai, she describes herself as a fitful, pain- staking artist. She seems to spend most of her time waiting for artistic inspiration, or with friends.

Overweight, she joins a diet programme. She seems obsessed with losing weight mainly because she believes that it will transform her into a glamourous successful woman. Her acceptance, though ironic, of the stereotypes of feminine beauty is the first sign that her feminism is a wavering thing.

Two Dutchmen, Piet and Japp, come to stay with her landlord, changing the dynamics of her life. Piet and Japp have travelled thousands of miles in search of their truth, under the guidance of a guru. She connects with Piet, whose self-assured acceptance of the ways of the universe stir Manjula out of complacency long enough for her to reconsider where she is headed and why.

Revealed as reluctantly feminist, reluctantly mystic, reluctantly Indian, and at times, even reluctantly herself, Manjula is a bundle of confused ideals. Her self-image is too dependant on how other people see her.

This recognition causes her to plan a severance of self from her world, “to walk around a bit like that, skinless, waiting to see who I would become and what would happen when there were no constraints upon me”.

She then formulates a strategy by which she can disappear without people asking any questions. She wants to slip out of her life, unnoticed, and then slip back in.

She decides to sleep with Piet, to get close enough to him, so he will invite her to visit him in Holland. She goes to the United States, with Prashant, to visit her sister. Then on to Germany, supposedly to visit a friend. Finally, she disappears into Holland where she stays with Piet for three months.

As a stranger to everyone in the country, apart from the undemanding Piet, she hopes to be freed from the expectations which restrict her at home.

This agenda is, as she admits, completely selfish. She deceives Prashant, letting him believe that everything is normal, until he confronts her with the truth of her relationship with Piet. But she is unable to fully open up to him.

Manjula’s search for the truth is methodical and free from anguish. She is matter-of-fact about Piet: “I am looking for cosmic truth. I think he can help me find it.” But such statements are not wholly convincing. Her confusion seems to be of her own making, and her self-discovery can only occur if she chooses to effect it.

What jars is her attempt at a pragmatic approach to a spiritual quest. The idea that one can so clinically plan a path towards higher truth does not sit well.

Manjula discovers this only at the end of the novel. If this was the moment of epiphany for a weaker person, it may have been more acceptable. But she has the eye of an artist, an eye that can stun with its unique vision and mesmerise with its attention to detail.

Her language is quirky and her perception sharp. Her reluctance to shed her sense of reality seems more of stubborn self-indulgence than a sincere belief in closely-held convictions.    

BEATO’S DELHI 1857, 1997
By Jim Masselos and Narayani Gupta
(Ravi Dayal, Rs 1,000)

Jim Masselos and Narayani Gupta's Beato's Delhi 1857, 1997 is an exciting essay in pictures, which images forth the Delhi of 1858 through the photographs of Felice A. Beato, contrasted with photographs of the same sites taken by Jim Masselos in 1997. The primary interest of the volume lies in the record of Beato’s vision of Delhi, subdued by the British after the mutiny of 1857. The personality of Beato is an outstanding one, and the biography by Masselos is particularly valuable. A pioneer photographer with a special interest in military arenas, Beato had a life as fascinating as the pictures he took. Narayani Gupta provides the historical context. The extra in the book is the contrast with modern Delhi. Both greener and more built up, the perspectives on famous sites show striking changes. And where the subject is an ordinary house in an everyday street, Delhi is unrecognizable.    

By Serena Vitale,
4th Estate, £ 3.95

Pushkin was the darling of the literary world in 19th century Russia. He died in January 1837 of an injury sustained in a duel. The duel and his death became a cause célèbre in Russia not only because it saw the death of Russia’s greatest poet, but also because there was more than a whiff of scandal in the events that led to shots being fired on a snow-ridden avenue.

Serena Vitale creates a unique genre to tell the story of the duel and the deep background to the event. The only comparable book is Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. She delves into the available documentation to unearth every possible angle to the duel and the series of incidents that led upto it.

She uses her imagination and her psychological insight to piece together evidence so as to give to her narrative a degree of coherence. Motives, links between causes and their effects remain blurred. She retains the ambiguity and suggests possibilities and forces the reader to use his own intelligence, imagination and judgment.

One of the epigraphs to the book is from Marina Tsvetayeva; it reads, “The critic: investigator and lover...”. Serena Vitale, professor of Russian language and literature at the University of Pavia, Italy, is all three in one. She analyses like a critic, pursues clues like an investigator and is as engaging and engaged as a lover.

One way of looking at Pushkin’s death is to look at it as a love affair that went awry. Pushkin was a celebrated writer, much sought after in the salons of Petersburg. His wife, Natalya Nikolaevna, was a young beauty who charmed everyone in the ballrooms and the court in the City of Peter by her beauty and her grace on the dance floor. The third side of the triangle was a Frenchman, Georges d’Anthes, who was adopted by the Dutch ambassador, Jacob van Heeckeren. D’Anthes, dashing and debonair, pursued and won the hearts of numerous Petersburg beauties. Natalya was one of those who lost her heart to d’Anthes. The attraction was mutual and Natalya flirted provocatively with the young guard’s officer.

Pushkin was jealous and even suspected that he was being cuckolded. But it wasn’t this suspicion which drove him to challenge his rival to a duel. Only when a certificate of cuckoldry for him was circulated in the city was Pushkin aroused to defend his honour. The duel killed him but d’Anthes was unhurt because the bullet ricocheted off his uniform button.

Pushkin’s death set off alarm bells in Petersburg. Everyone, including the Tsar himself, speculated on who had actually circulated the certificate that had set in train the tragic events. The mystery has continued to haunt literary Russia.

Vitale offers her own version. But she is not certain that she has solved the mystery. She writes, “With his death Pushkin lures us to a place where everything we know and feel sure of suddenly seems decayed beyond recognition, like goods long stored in a crumbling warehouse. A place where the margin dividing cause and effect, once believed to be narrow and richly explored, becomes a boundless desert of inscrutable hieroglyphs, deceptive shadows, indistinct presences, mirages and traps. Poetry’s lesson. Mystery’s lesson. Lesson of the sacred.”    

By V. I. Lenin
(LeftWord, Rs 85)

V.I. Lenin's Imperialism, The Highest Stage Of Capitalism: A Popular Outline is an impressively designed new edition of a 20th century classic. In his preface, Lenin describes how he wrote his tract, in Zürich in 1916, “with an eye to the tsarist censorship”. This led him to write in “that accursed Aesopian language to which tsarism compelled all revolutionaries to have recourse”.Prabhat Patnaik’s introduction puts this language in historical context, although his agenda turns out to be more political than scholarly. Patnaik reads Lenin as providing “the steel-frame for a grand reconstruction of Marxism...which becomes the basis for the rest of the 20th century”. The terminal note in that sentence is perhaps unintentional. Lenin identifies monopoly capitalism as the “economic essence” of imperialism. And this vision sets him off to fill the “theoretical void” with a series of analyses culminating in what must be the book’s most interesting chapter for contemporary Indian readers, “Division of the world among the great powers”. Lenin extends here the scope of revolutionary praxis to cover the oppressed colonies. Patnaik could have dwelt a little more, perhaps, on Indian Leninism from the point of view of an intellectual historian.


Translated by J. C. Mardrus
(Rupa, price not mentioned)
J.C. Mardrus's The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night is a thoroughly delightful reprint of an old English translation of these entrancing stories. E. Powys Mathers had prepared the original edition from Mardrus’s translation, dedicating it to the author of The Psychology of Sex, the “learned, jovial, tolerant, youthful, modern, great and generous” Havelock Ellis. The tales and the framework that holds them together are quite sublime in their political incorrectness. Brutality, amoral cunning, unabashed priapism and every kind of bigotry are the stuff of these stories. But there is a thread of erotic melancholy running through them, whose flavour is “oriental” and quite distinct from the atmosphere of the otherwise comparable collections by Chaucer and Boccaccio. Shahrazade embodies this curious combination of cunning, eroticism and melancholy, which the Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov, exquisitely portrays in his orchestral tone poem, Shahrazade. What this beautiful girl stands for is the human ability to use storytelling in order to arouse, beguile and survive.


By Peter G. Brown
(Edinburgh, price not mentioned)

Peter G. Brown's Ethics, Economics And International Relations: Transparent Sovereignty In The Commonwealth Of Life is written “to chart a new direction for the human future” through a “new global ethic”. Brown offers a critique of the growth model of mainstream economics and envisions an economics “built around stewardship, governments dedicated to trusteeship, and civil societies capable of sustaining human and natural communities”. This results in a pragmatic rethinking and regrounding of the institutions of markets, government and civil society. Brown concludes with the argument that nation states need to be transparent to enforceable international standards concerning human rights and the “commonwealth of life”.


By Maria Teresa Menezes
(Penguin, Rs 295)

Maria Teresa Menezes's The Essential Goa Cookbook is a collection of over two hundred recipes from one of India’s most interesting coastal cuisines. The combination of Indian and Portuguese traditions produces such curiosities as Lobster Xeq Xeq, Mutton Xacuti, Sorpotel, Galantine of Chicken and Tiger Prawns in Feni. Mario de Miranda’s illustrations are a bonus.


By Meena Arora Nayak
(Penguin, Rs 250)

Meena Arora Nayak's About Daddy quotes Rilke on death as epigraph, acknowledges the author’s parents “for reliving their painful past for me” and starts with the eponymous Daddy’s words: “Sprinkle my ashes on the border so that my soul can feel the wound I helped inflict as long as it bleeds.” The border is between India and Pakistan, and the book abounds in the “metaphors of barbed wire”. These set the tone of this journey into the past, via parents and Partition, and with American fiancé and Indian journalist. This is a lugubrious novel, full of unmodulated elegizing, bordering on the morbid: “...my blood has erased the imprint of Daddy’s teardrop. I wonder if the drops of blood I spilled on the soil of India would extract any promises of their own.”    


Vanishing Orient

Sir — It is pleasantly surprising to see that the mayor of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Subrata Mukherjee, is taking an interest in the preservation of heritage buildings. These buildings, despite being colonial legacies, embody our past and are genuinely beautiful structures. Several such buildings were also built by the Chinese settlers in Calcutta. One of the oldest among these is the Nam Hsun temple in Damzen Lane. It is a fascinating example of traditional Chinese architecture. Some other such buildings are the Ssu Yip temple on CIT road, the Yung Fat temple of Blackburn Lane and the building that housed the Nanking restaurant nearby. The deities in these temples are exquisitely crafted stone figurines. Unfortunately, most of these buildings are in advanced stages of decay. They need to be preserved as national treasures under official patronage. Unless we have that, these wonderful buildings will soon vanish and this loss will never be compensated.
Yours faithfully,
Anil Baran Chakraborty, Calcutta,

A touch of Hinduism

Sir — Meenakshi Jain in “Ideological somersault” (Oct 18) derides the abandonment of Hindutva ideals by the Bharatiya Janata Party after it assumed power. Jain’s arguments seem farfetched. If the party has changed tack it is because the BJP, after coming to power, has realized the folly of excluding 30 per cent of the population.The BJP is the primary ruling party and the government is not for Hindus alone.

India has been the melting pot of cultures since ancient times. To think that it was necessary to align the Indian state with the ancient ethos of the land through the Ayodhya movement is to negate history. The uniqueness of India is that it has assimilated all types of cultures since the coming of the Aryans, through the arrival of Muslims to that of Christians. Those who did not assimilate themselves into the mainstream were rejected by the people.The Hindutva brigade, by going against the wishes of the people, runs the risk of being treated in the same way. To say that the Ayodhya movement did not impinge on the rights and space of the minorities is a grave distortion of fact. Many riots took place where Muslims were at the receiving end. Jain denigrates ancient Indian civilization by linking it with only one temple.To me ancient India is much more than the right to worship in one temple.

It is fashionable now to blame the Inter-Services Intelligence for all crimes. To me the ISI is a bogey conjured up by the authorities to cover up their inefficiency. The inability of the government to come out with a white paper on ISI activities in India is not because L.K. Advani has had a change of heart towards Indian Muslims but because his department had no proof of ISI activities. Has Jain ever paused to think that India cannot be so weak as to have one organization wreak havoc in the country?

Yours faithfully,
K.Z. Choudhury, via email

Sir — Cyril Arijit Ghosh’s article, “Plural, as a matter of fact”(Oct 31), aptly summarizes the misconceptions that the “pseudo-secularists” of this country suffer from. They raise a big hue and cry when the “minorities” are “oppressed” by the majority Hindus but remain silent when in the Northeast, as in states like Tripura, Hindu festivals are banned.This is not to defend religious persecution of any kind, but are “Hindus” not being victimized too?

It is a fact that India is one of the most tolerant societies in the world. The amount of religious freedom enjoyed here is much greater than that in neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. There should be no problem with the prime minister and home minister identifying themselves as “swayamsevaks” unless it interferes with their official duty.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been called a militant organization but its contribution to the country has been forgotten in the article. The same “lathi-wielding swayamsevaks” are in the forefront whenever natural calamities strike helpless people, much before the government and self-professed “secularists” reach the scene. It will be foolish to suggest that they do so to help only their “Hindu” brothers.

The article says that Muslim rulers never targeted an exclusive Hindu majority while history suggests otherwise. No Hindu ruler ever imposed a tax of the nature of jizya while on the other hand the Mughals went on a temple breaking spree.

However, it is time to look beyond all this and stop criticizing so called “Hindu organizations” just for the sake of being called “secularists”. It won’t be surprising if tomorrow someone calls Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a “communalist” because he dreamt of making India a “Ram rajya”.

Yours faithfully,
Shobhit Gupta, Rishra

Sir — The repeated inflammatory remarks of the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, against the minorities, first Muslims and now Christians, to “Indianize” themselves is yet to be understood by many. What does he mean when he speaks of the “indigenous mosque and church”? Should Muslims and Christians attend mosques and churches respectively to recite the hymns of the Ramayana and Mahabharata instead of the Quran and the Bible? Why does the RSS have such an antipathy towards the minorities and look upon them as anti-Indians? Obviously, Indian Muslims are culturally, linguistically and behaviourally different from Muslims of other countries. And faith cannot be branded as pro-Pakistani or Afghani. Perhaps it is a cry of frustration prompted by the failure of the RSS dream of a Hindu rashtra.

Yours faithfully,
Md. Ayub Ansari, Jagatdal

Sir — It is distressing to see the raging controversy about the statement of K.S. Sudarshan, sarsangchalak of the RSS. Has he really committed such a mortal sin by calling upon Indian Muslims to acknowledge that the blood of Ram and Krishna flows through their veins?

I have no doubt that had Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said this, the so-called secularists of India would be repeating it like parrots. Surely, Gandhi also stated in the same vein — “Ishwar Allah tero nam”.

We must keep in mind that India is not a country, it is a civilization. Hinduism is not merely a religion, it is a philosophy and a culture. As K.B. Hedgewar, who founded the RSS in 1925, said: “Anyone who in his heart feels that India is his motherland, is qualified to be known as a Hindu.”

Let us admit that our philosophy and culture, our art and literature, our music and dance are nothing if not Hindu. As we know, the very name of India is a derivation from Sindhu which the Arabs pronounced Hindu and the Greeks Indus. Though I am a Buddhist, I am proud to acknowledge my Hindu roots.

Yours faithfully,
Mukur K. Khisha, via email

Darkness of understanding

Sir — In the editorial, “Danseuse macabre” (Oct 28), The Telegraph’s resident “intellectual” has used pretty harsh words like “a goddess gone amok”, “goddess of licence and lawlessness”, “bizarre” and “grotesque” to describe goddess Kali revered by 800 million Hindus. One cannot of course expect an editorial writer tutored in an English-medium “public” or missionary school to understand the subtleties of or appreciate the breadth of Hindu philosophy or spirituality.

But I wonder if the same pen-pusher would have used similar terminology to describe a certain self-appointed prophet who killed thousands of his countrymen to “prove” that he was indeed a messenger of god and another psychopath who claimed to be the son of god and in whose name millions of poor “animists” died terrible deaths?

Yours faithfully,
Pankaj Anand, via email

Sir — The concept of Kali embodies an awareness of contraries — good and bad, the righteous and the wrong. It would be foolish to call the deity the “goddess of licence and lawlessness”. The soul-stirring shakti mantras exhort us to rise above the dark seductions of the materialistic world. Restraint and not licence is the keynote of the prayer.

Yours faithfully,
Debal Kumar Chakravarti, Calcutta

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