Editorial 1 / Past tense
Editorial 2 / Belated autonomy
Dwindling bounty
Fifth Column / More worries for the coalition
The limits of the Hindu rashtra
Stop thinking along the same old lines
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / PAST TENSE 
 
 
 
 
The use of the verb, “was”, instead of “is”, may have become for the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, something akin to a double-edged sword. He has emphasised that he had said that the Ramjanmabhoomi movement was a manifestation of nationalist campaign. This enables him to clarify to his alliance partners that he is not endorsing the movement in the present political conjuncture. It also enables him to put in place the hardliners in the Bharatiya Janata Party and in the sangh parivar. The prime minister has made it clear that the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, whatever its merits and demerits, is a thing of the past and that his government would not be a passive observer to any attempt to revive the movement to disrupt the status quo. Mr Vajpayee is unwilling to allow any force to short-circuit the due processes of law. This reassurance has been a bit late in coming but it seems to suggest that Mr Vajpayee is not unwilling to enter into a confrontation with the fanatical elements of the sangh parivar. Organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal will not stop at embarrassing Mr Vajpayee’s government if it stands between them and the fulfilment of one of their cherished goals. Such a confrontation, if and when it happens, will be Mr Vajpayee’s real test.

But given Mr Vajpayee’s political skills, he may be the only person who can avoid a confrontation that can jeopardize the career of the government he leads. It is noticeable that Mr Vajpayee has his own inimitable oblique way of saying or suggesting things. Sometimes what he does not say is as important as what he says. Elusiveness is virtually his middle name. It is significant that he has not in any way condemned the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation. On the contrary, he has recognized it as an expression of nationalist feelings. Thus, he has been careful not to alienate Hindu opinion in the heartland of north India, where the BJP is in a tight electoral corner. At the same time, he is concerned about the future of the National Democratic Alliance, which is highly suspicious of any statement from the prime minister that smacks of Hindu fundamentalism and is thus outside the common agenda of the coalition. Most politicians would find walking on this kind of razor’s edge an onerous and an unenviable task. But Mr Vajpayee seems to be born to the kind of ingenuity which the task involves. It is easy to label and write off Mr Vajpayee as nothing more than a leader of a Hindu fundamentalist political formation. What is relevant is to see him as someone trying to hold together a fragile coalition and to ensure electoral success. Mr Vajpayee is caught in the middle of a paradox in which his own popularity is rising but that of the BJP is on the decline.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / BELATED AUTONOMY 
 
 
 
 
When it comes to academic institutions, autonomy and excellence ought to go together. But Calcutta’s Presidency College has suffered enough political ravage to make one wonder about such an assumption. In spite of its distinguished tradition of excellence, the college has sadly come to embody another kind of tradition, of a politicized bureaucracy steadily eroding a meritocratic ethos to near extinction. The recent debate on the granting of autonomy to the college has become part of this political context. The University Grants Commission has renewed its long-standing pressure on the college, together with a few others in the city, to seriously reconsider the feasibility of autonomy. The students are for it, as seems to be the Left Front government. But a significant section of the teachers is lobbying against the proposal. It wants to be clearer on the exact terms of this new status. It also fears that autonomy might produce an elite institution of “pampered” teachers and unfairly privileged students.

This situation is paradoxical. In the Seventies, when the college was superbly confident about taking on the demands of autonomy, it was denied this privilege by the state government, adamant to retain its control on every aspect of its teaching and administration. When this stranglehold has now managed to deplete the college of almost every strength, it is suddenly being made to confront the possibility of self-regulation. The transfer of its best teachers, rampant nepotism and a general petty political cluelessness about the demands and principles of progressive higher education have crippled the college, playing havoc with its standards and priorities. The closing down of the centre for economic studies, once attached to the economics department, is an example of such damage. It is deeply unfortunate that the college must be reduced to diffidence at the prospect of a status it had fought for in its best days. The jargon used by the current anti-autonomy lobby shows the extent to which it remains imbued with the ideology that has reduced the college to what it is today. This lobby’s opposition to what it calls the “commercialization” of higher education is fundamentally at odds with the idea of excellence. If strictly merit-based admissions, appointments, teaching and evaluation, supported by a progressive and enabling infrastructure, amount to “pampering”, and if this pampering produces students whose calibre puts them at an advantage over others in the job market, then this is precisely what the goal of such institutions ought to be. Resenting this in the name of anti-elitism will only end up keeping West Bengal’s colleges and universities in the morass of mediocrity in which most of them seem to be stranded today. Autonomy may not be the instant cure for such deep-rooted ills, but the causes of this crisis must be seen for what they are and not obscured by reactionary ideology.

   

 
 
DWINDLING BOUNTY 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
The new Brahmins in Indian society are the tribe who pass as NRIs, the non-resident Indians. They have, as a matter of fact, ceased to be Indians: they have travelled to other shores and taken up citizenship there. Technically they are therefore non-Indians. But, so what? They have, according to legend, made money, piles and piles of money, while pursuing careers abroad. There is a gleam in the eye of our politicians and administrators: if only these former children of the soil would benevolently agree to invest a part of their savings for the development of India, then milk and honey would start flowing in this country.

Foreign investment is, in the view of our policy-makers, the key element in economic development; bounty from external sources will lead us to paradise. And, in this scheme of things, funds contributed by the NRIs would play a crucial role. After all, in China, till very recently, more than three-quarters of direct investment flowing in from overseas were from non-resident Chinese — those from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States, Canada and western Europe. China has now attained a rate of growth of gross national product averaging 10 to 12 per cent per annum largely because of foreign investment, which has of late touched nearly 50 billion dollars.

If China could achieve this miracle, why should we, who have a civilization almost as ancient as China’s and who too have millions and millions of compatriots living abroad, lag behind? Is it not a matter of shame that as against the gigantic inflow of investible funds from the overseas Chinese, in our case the contribution of NRIs is only around two billion dollars annually? The NRIs are no less patriotic than the overseas Chinese. If only we treat them with deference and regard, we ought to be able to achieve the same scale of success, as China has done, with compatriots settled overseas.

This consideration provides the major pretext for the regular annual trek of our ruling politicians — prime minister and chief ministers including — to foreign countries. Of course, we are keen on foreign direct investment from transnational corporations and such like, but we also want this flow to be satisfactorily augmented by generous contributions from our non-resident brethren. They are, after all, flesh of our flesh.

Apart from importunating trips overseas year in and year out, our politicians, civil servants and chambers of commerce organize conferences and seminars in metropolitan cities and elsewhere where NRIs are honoured guests. The latter are pampered and showered with sycophancy of the most lurid description. These celebrities have made it good in foreign lands, they would now kindly see to it that those of us who were not fortunate enough to join them abroad could lead a better life back home; this will be possible only if they bring a part of their money home and invest in this or that development project.

There is near unanimity in the country’s higher counsels that the NRIs must be accorded extra-special treatment, they must be offered industrial sites at low or zero cost, power connections must be arranged for them on a priority basis, the bureaucratic formalities must be curtailed, or, rather, waived in the case of their investment proposals. For example, state governments should acquiesce to grant sales taxation holiday for five or ten years. We have, of course, special bank deposit schemes which permit funds kept by NRIs to be offered fantastically high interest rates and the deposits are also offered full repatriation in foreign exchange at the shortest notice.

These dispensations, tailor-made for them, are apparently still not fully satisfying the NRIs. They are Oliver Twists of a very special genre: those who have more insist on being given even more. A standing demand of the NRIs is that they be accorded the privilege of double citizenship; that is to say, while they might be citizens of the US or some other foreign country — enjoying full civil rights, including voting rights, over there — they must enjoy identical rights in India too.

Maybe they or their parents had once deserted India, maybe they do not consider India to be worth living in; nevertheless, since we Indians fervently hope and pray that they lend us their money, we must, as quid pro quo, offer them dual citizenship. They must enjoy the same rights as Indian citizens do, apart from the prerogatives they enjoy as foreign citizens. To elaborate the point, in addition to other privileges, they must have the right to vote in Indian elections and even contest these elections, which would enable them to become ministers, and prime ministers as well, in this godforsaken land they had once deserted.

Our government is embarrassed. It is aware of the complications involved in allowing dual citizenship to NRIs. Every now and then, the matter is therefore officially stated to be “under active consideration”. Diplomacy comes to the fore; none in authority dares to annoy or alienate the NRIs. They, along with other foreign investors, are our lifeline to blessed, heavenly existence.

Is it not time to prick the NRI bubble? The data, extracted from the Reserve Bank of India Bulletin,November 2000 (see illustration), are revealing. The table is liberal education indeed. After reaching the peak of 3.6 billion dollars in 1997-98, the FDI inflows, it says, have shrunk to barely 2.1 billion dollars in 1999-2000; from the trend for the first five months of the fiscal year, the performance is unlikely to be any better in 2000-01. Even more interestingly, while in 1991-92 — the first year of the so-called “reforms” — NRI investment in total FDI was 48.8 per cent, this proportion has tumbled down in the course of the decade. In the two most recent years, 1998-99 and 1999-2000, the proportion has been 2.6 and 3.9 respectively; for the first five months of 2000-01, it is as low as 3.2 per cent.

The data establish two points. First, the sell-out of the country’s economic policy, lock, stock and barrel, to foreigners has not led to any significant increase in FDI in the country. It is currently wobbling around 2 billion dollars per annum, in contrast to China’s magnitude of close to 50 billion. The second fact is even more telling. Our worship of NRIs has been of little or no avail, the NRI investment is a dwindling particle in a shrivelling corpus. The NRIs are always asking what we can do for them; they are not interested in doing anything for us.

A suspicion looms large. Perhaps in the Nineties, particularly in the years 1991-92 and 1994-95 to 1997-98, the NRI inflows were mostly a reflection of hawala transactions. A certain sum of black money was sent out of the country via the hawala route to foreign lands. This money subsequently returned to the country by the much-applauded NRI route. As direct tax rates within the country were progressively lowered at the urging of the “reforms” enthusiasts, the incentive for taking resort to the hawala-cum-NRI device also withered.

Even more alarming, the authorities are not seemingly at all interested in tracking the end-use of the money that comes in under the garb of NRI investment. A number of projects is approved for NRI funding at the Central level, but once the funds come in, the authorities, including the RBI, claim that they have no way of tracing the destination of these funds; this is equally true for FDI inflows. After their arrival, the funds disappear as investment on the ground in the different states, with regard to which no Central data are reportedly available. The bulk of the NRI money, it is therefore altogether possible, returns to the black market and adds to the circulation of illegal money in the country. Black thou art, to black thou returneth.

The standing parliamentary committee on industry has been imploring the Union government to prepare data on the actual disbursement of FDI and their end-uses. The authorities have continued to prevaricate in the matter. Who does not know that the NRIs comprise some of the best friends of the ruling politicians? They contribute funds in the election season and act as conduits for laundering money dishonestly earned in the country. Therefore, please ask no questions, and you will be told no lies.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / MORE WORRIES FOR THE COALITION 
 
 
BY SURENDRA MOHAN
 
 
With hindsight it is possible to say that some of the decisions taken by the government last year or those that have been implemented will prove to be crucial for India’s political history. These include Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s endorsement of the sangh parivar’s agenda, the steps taken to normalize Indo-Pakistani relations and a more vigorous pursuit of economic reforms. The judgment of the Supreme Court on the Narmada dispute, the ban on aquaculture, the government’s reported move to delete the fifth schedule of the Constitution and proposals to amend other laws relating to the reserved categories point to the anti-poor direction of social development.

Notwithstanding the personal triumph of Vajpayee, the National Democratic Alliance government led by him continues to suffer from internal discord. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamool Congress are sorely disappointed with several government policies. Presumably, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s main focus is now the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Vajpayee’s statements are aimed at tickling old Hindutva sentiments.

There are other worries. The Union minister for communications, Ram Vilas Paswan, has announced that in the forthcoming panchayat elections in Bihar, his new Lok Jan Shakti Party will field its own candidates in all constituencies. In Uttar Pradesh too, the Loktantrik Congress leader, Naresh Agrawal, has threatened to walk out of the coalition. In Kerala, the war between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the BJP can lead to the latter supporting the United Democratic Front led by the Congress.

Plunging economy

It is not yet clear how far the resurgent Hindutva card will take the BJP. The elections to the local bodies have shown that the downslide of the party has started.

However, the economic policies appear the most damaging. They are alienating workers in fields, factories and offices. Also, the government had been forced to remove quantitative restrictions on the import of 1,429 articles from the United States, given its precarious balance of payments position. Even when the BoP position improved, a judgment passed by the World Trade Organization at the behest of the US made it impossible for India to reimpose the restrictions.

The result of this and the unchecked dumping by China have led to the collapse of the prices of agricultural commodities and goods manufactured by the small scale sector. There have been meetings and demonstrations by farmers all over the country. Yet the Centre has failed to draw its lessons. Instead, it has opened both the insurance and the banking sectors to foreign capital. It has allowed foreign companies much larger share of equity in the small scale sector and has decided to scrap the reservations granted to it.

Unhappy allies

There is also disquiet within the government with regard to the economic policies. Nitish Kumar, the minister for agriculture, believes the agreement on agriculture arrived at in the WTO is unfair to India. The government should have ensured that developing countries like India do not have to pay huge subsidies to multinational companies for the export of agricultural goods. Clearly, the limits to globalization has to be defined.

With both the Union and the state governments trimming the existing work force,prospects of additional employment look grim. This has compelled even the most vocal supporters of liberalization to revise their opinion. The Centre has made matters worse for the common people by increasing the price of petroleum products. Power is costlier and the agreements with Enron and other MNCs are proving unpopular. The year might witness more vigorous protests. Tribal communities may also rebel if the Centre tries to delink them from the forests.

It is however not altogether a hopeless situation. The government has taken the initiative to restore peace in Kashmir and normalize relations with Pakistan. For the first time, Pakistan has reacted positively to Indian overtures. US pressure might have motivated the governments, but what would matter is the restoration of peace. However, consultation with the opposition in such matters, as in others, is a must. India must tread with caution to resolve the deadlock.

   

 
 
THE LIMITS OF THE HINDU RASHTRA 
 
 
BY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
 
 
The new year has begun with a kick to our national funny bone. Nepal, the only Hindu rashtra in the world, has turned its pent-up fury on that high priest of the Hindu rashtra, K.R. Malkani. It’s like the Catholics throwing eggs at the Pope for being an apostate. Or red-blood communists desecrating Karl Marx’s grave at Highgate cemetery in London. The short-term lesson is that we must put in order our relations with Nepal. The long-term lesson is that religion has nothing to do with nationhood.

The tone for Indo-Nepal relations was set three centuries ago when Aurangzeb ransacked and smashed the Kashi Viswanath mandir at Varanasi. He had been entrusted with the care of a Nepalese princess, whom he thoughtfully lodged at the Vishwanath mandir when passing through the city. He believed no place to be more suitable for a Hindu princess of royal blood than a Hindu temple of the highest renown. That night, within the sacred precincts of the temple, Hindu priests molested their distinguished Hindu guest and other ladies of her entourage.

Aurangzeb — furious that his honour had been stained at his having failed to save the honour of a Hindu of high honour — unleashed on the temple the full fury of the Emperor of Hindustan. The Gyan Vapi masjid was later built on a part of the site that was demolished. The sanctum sanctorum, the garba griha, was, however, untouched and has never ceased to be a holy place of Hindu worship. The source for my story is the remarkable revisiting of the alleged communalism of Aurangzeb in an Eighties’ lecture delivered in Patna by the great Gandhian historian, Bishambar Nath Pande. I had read about the incident and wrote to him. He graciously sent me the printed text of his lecture.

It is the “liberation” of this Gyan Vapi masjid that is second only to Ayodhya in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bharatiya Janata Party game-plan for the establishment of the Hindu rashtra in the Union of India. The Hindu rashtra is their understanding of our nation’s true nationhood. Which is why they equate Hindutva with nationality, and “Hindu” with “Indian”.

Thus, Lal Krishna Advani — Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s startling choice for the Union home minister — has repeatedly affirmed that all Indians are Hindus, whatever their religion, and, therefore, an Indian Muslim must acknowledge himself a “Hindu Muslim”, and an Indian Christian a “Hindu Christian”, before the sangh parivar can accept their credentials as reliable Indian nationalists.

Malkani and Advani became communalists together in their early youth in Sindh when, in the late Thirties, the separation of Sindh from the province of Bombay led to a passionate upsurge of Hindu communalism. The socio-religious status of the Hindu community changed from being members of the Hindu-majority composite province of Bombay to a religious minority in the new province of Sindh. The origins of the Partition of India lie in the tortured history of this tangled partition of Bombay.

It is entirely significant that in the sub-committee set up after the Round Table conferences to consider the highly emotional controversy over the administrative separation of Sindh from Bombay, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was pitted against B.S. Moonje of the Hindu Mahasabha as the advocates on either side of the communal divide. The forensic skills of both did nothing to hide the essential communal mindset of these two great legal minds.

For those interested in a more detailed account, I recommend a recent Pakistani publication brought out by Ferozesons of Lahore, the biography of Ayub Khuro by his historian daughter, Hamida Khuro. Brilliant. And for those who want the full documentation of the separation of Sindh from Bombay, they will have to get in touch with Malkani, who has been gifted a set by Hamida Khuro! Malkani has pro- mised to let me have another look at these documents which I first perused when posted in Karachi two decades ago.

Jinnah’s mistake about the basis of nationhood is the same as has led Malkani into the present mess of his own creation. The Muslim League confused the ummah of Islam with nationhood, not asking themselves why, if Islam constituted a nation, there should be a political boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan or Pakistan and Iran. In exactly the same vein, Malkani is unable to understand the passion for a separate nationhood in Nepal when it is more Hindu than India.

In the Malkani view, the Hindu ummah needs Nepal within the embrace of akhand Bharat and, therefore, ferrets out a curious reading of King Tribhuvan’s relations with Jawaharlal Nehru — His Majesty’s liberator from the tyrannical hold of the ranas — to trot out what to the Hindu communalist is the self-evident proposition that since Nepal is a Hindu rashtra it must be part of the Greater Hindu rashtra.

It is from “friends” like these that Nepal seeks to protect its wholly separate identity. As a former Indian foreign service officer, it is my firm conviction that it is the arrogance of most Indian diplomats who have served over the last half-century in Nepal that is at the root of Nepal’s continuing crisis of identity vis-à-vis India. Notwithstanding exceptions of distinction, like K.V. Rajan, our former man in Kathmandu and now secretary in the ministry of external affairs, and Dalip Mehta, now dean of the Foreign Service Institute, the overwhelming majority of our diplomats have been unforgivably arrogant in their dealings with Nepal, albeit faithful to the arrogant instructions they receive from South Block.

Not until the ministry of external affairs liberates itself from the superiority complex engendered on Raisina Hill can there be a fundamental improvement in Nepal’s perceptions of India. And how is that possible when the ministry at the political level is presided over by the very peas raised in the same pod as Malkani and his ilk, the ilk in question spreading down from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Advani to Murli Manohar Joshi and hitting rock-bottom at Uma Bharti?

Do you think one Jaswant Singh, standing alone like the boy on the burning deck, can stop this ship of state from sinking in the communal sea? He cannot. Which is why the “secular” Jaswant Singh sees nothing but the “Muslim votebank” in the rationale of India’s support for the Palestinian cause and lets the Advani-Malkani drum-beat determine the course of India’s relations with our most important neighbour.

   

 
 
STOP THINKING ALONG THE SAME OLD LINES 
 
 
BY S. SUBRAMANYAN
 
 
The ministry of railways is considering entrusting the job of reservation to the private sector. The Indian railways’ own reservation systems will continue to be operated by it. Private sector partners are expected to bear the cost of the investment. A few questions need to be raised for facilitating an informed public debate on the issue.

That the Indian railways has been one of the pioneers in adopting information technology is not widely publicized. It had computerized its reservation operations even before the banking and insurance sectors had made use of the facility. Making railway reservation now takes far less time than it did in the old manual operations. The waiting time depends only upon the length of the queue. Unlike before, one can also make reservations for the return journey at the same time. What is important is that the facilities come with no extra charge. Only lately has the Indian railways started charging Rs 30 per reservation form in case credit cards are used.

What’s on offer?

What are the additional services that a private operator can offer? Would it possess the necessary infrastructure to cater to such a large clientele? What will be the charges for the services rendered to the customer and what exactly will be on offer for the “small extra fee”?

It needs to be stated that both the Indian railways and the private operator would have a common data link because both will offer reservations simultaneously. The charges therefore cannot vary widely. The scenario could be somewhat like the postal services where the “speed post” of the postal department and the private courier services operate simultaneously. Even though the government’s speed post is competitive in price and equally efficient in service, the private courier industry has grown substantially in spite of its higher charges. The situation may repeat itself here.

Extending services

Those who can afford to pay higher rates for services will therefore go to the private operator in case better services like instant reservation are offered. In fact, given the financial crunch, the Indian railways itself could have offered such services for a higher fee and earned additional revenue. The privatization scheme, in all probability, will neither reduce the crowd in front of reservation counters nor save on operational expenditure.

What the railways today need is greater productivity, better all round discipline and pricing the services adequately. Indian railways has the largest rail network and its expertise is globally recognized. It needs also to be remembered that privatization of British Railways has been severely criticised and the German Railways has openly declared that it does not wish to follow the British example. The efforts of the Indian railways should therefore be directed at building on its strengths without aping what at best can be called Western experiments with the private sector in public services.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Animal wrongs

Sir — Maneka Gandhi has been known to kick up a fuss over the smallest of issues involving animals. But not this time (“Maneka, TN govt kick up dust over horses”, Jan 2). In fact, she has brought to light the unspeakable cruelties committed against horses in the name of medical research. The King Institute’s reaction to the Union minister’s allegations is appalling. Not only is it trying to conceal the real reasons behind the death of the horses, it is also assuming that its actions will go unquestioned because it is dedicated to the manufacturing of snake venom serum. From the adverse reaction of the Tamil Nadu health minister, it would not be wrong to presume that the King Institute has the approval and protection of the state government in its ill-treatment of horses. That the institute’s cruelty is directed at non-humans does not make it any less criminal. As long as the political leaders act in collusion with such agents, crusades like Maneka Gandhi’s will remain largely futile.
Yours faithfully,
Mallar Ghosh, via email

Shooting a critic

Sir — Many of us were rather shocked by the review of Buddhadev Dasgupta’s Uttara which recently appeared on the “Etc” page of The Telegraph (“Coming to grips”, Dec 8). As a critic myself, I am very aware that reviews of the arts are necessarily subjective. However, as your transcript of Derek Malcolm’s “Should we shoot the critics?” points out (the first part of which appeared, somewhat ironically, on the covers of the same issue of “Etc”), criticisms should be at the very least well-informed, and made by people who understand the medium they are criticizing (as well as, preferably, some related artistic disciplines).

In particular, the placement of the review of such a major film alongside other commercial releases and filmi gossip, instead of in the “Review Arts” page, seemed to exemplify some of Derek Malcolm’s complaints about the widespread perception of cinema as a necessarily commercial medium. There were factual lapses in the review — the film is set in Purulia, not in Birbhum, the young boy is not the padre’s son, but his ward — which were astonishing, especially for a native Bengali-speaker.

There were errors of omission, to do with the lack of reference to the magic realism which was so clearly Dasgupta’s intention — for example, to do with the folk dancers who “froze” the action of the film with their opera-like recitative, their evocation of the narrator’s role in Greek tragedies. And then there were errors of commission — to liken the gangrape of Uttara to that of the body politic of India, with a specific reference to Jharkhand, represented a flight of fantasy that was based less on the director’s imagination than on the critic’s regrettable lack of it.

Yours faithfully,
Anita Mehta, Calcutta

Bash the bigots

Sir — Ramachandra Guha’s article, “The stamp of ugliness” (Dec 30), leaves a lot to be desired. He begins quite convincingly with the Indian Railways and the postal department. Unfortunately, his later Hindutva-bashing is in bad taste. One does not have to be a supporter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad agenda or of the Bharatiya Janata Party to see that some of Guha’s arguments were unwarranted. The “Sindhu Darshan” stamp that has been referred to may not be to Guha’s liking but that does not justify his diatribe.

Guha has compared the beauty of Indian temples in the different regions of India. But his selective mention of the states of Orissa and Karnataka was a trifle myopic. He has obviously not visited the temples of Tamil Nadu, which are more beautiful and diverse than those in Orissa or Karnataka. If, by aesthetics, we mean that which is pleasant to the senses then the temples of Kerala should be included in this category as well.It is time Guha got rid of his fake secularism and compulsive Hindutva-bashing.

Yours faithfully,
S. Ramakrishnan, via email

Sir — The article, “How to recognize a Hindu pluralist” (Dec 26), by Rakesh Sinha has rightly pointed out the ideological predisposition of the Indian academia. This fascism is compounded by the print media’s criticism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Both project the image of the RSS as a majoritarian organization which is determined to exert its strength by suppressing the minorities. This became obvious during the bomb blasts that targeted Christian organizations in Bangalore in early 2000. Though the Bajrang Dal was initially held responsible, a thorough investigation revealed that the attacks had been masterminded by the Deendar Anjuman, an Islamic organization, allegedly related to the Inter-Services Intelligence. No one apologized to the saffron brotherhood for these unfair accusations. Is it fair to suppress the “other” point of view in a democracy only because the elite who dominates the media perceives the Sangh as a “fascist” organization? The anti-RSS mindset does not allow a healthy and constructive debate on secularism or on Indian nationalism.

Yours faithfully
Pranab Ranjan, via email

Culture and anarchy

Sir — What a way to begin the year. It was fascinating to read Victor Banerjee’s article, “A christening in blood” (Jan 1), about the recent remarks against dacoits by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. It was a passionate and eloquent defence of anarchy and Banerjee has made a valiant attempt to prioritize this anarchy over what we commonly hold to be “civilization”. The people of this city should express a collective sense of gratitude for the publication of such articles. This kind of journalism will surely encourage social change.
Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Roy, Calcutta

Sir — Victor Banerjee’s remarks were commendable. He has identified the inanity of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s comments. How can a chief minister, regarded as a highly educated man talk like this? A person who has been the home (police) minister for as long as Bhattacharjee should comprehend the brutality that the police can unleash. Banerjee has shown that he is a defender of democracy by speaking out against these mindless statements.

Yours faithfully,
Savitri Guha, via email

Sir — Victor Banerjee should realize that he represents a political party that is not half-way democratic. “Misdirected youth”, even if they have been “brainwashed” as he writes, do not necessarily have to resort to crime and go around burgling houses and killing innocent people.

Besides, if indeed they have been brainwashed by leftist thinking, they would be more interested in organizing a revolution or mass mobilization than in robbing people. If Banerjee made such comments anywhere else in the world, even in a deeply conservative set-up, he would not be spared very sharp criticism.

Yours faithfully,
Kishore Mukherjee, via email

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
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Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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