Editorial 1 / Middle kingdom
Editorial 2 /Film noir
The lineage of control
Fifth Column/ Man, woman and the law
Red is the colour of conflict
Driving ahead on its own steam
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / MIDDLE KINGDOM 
 
 
 
 
The visit to India of Mr Li Peng, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress, has undoubtedly given a fillip to bilateral relations. As the second in hierarchy in China’s Communist Party, Mr Li Peng is the highest official to visit New Delhi since the dip in Sino-Indian relations in May 1998, after India conducted a series of nuclear tests. India can now take comfort in the realization that Beijing seems to have reviewed and arguably revised its policies towards South Asia. The Chinese leader’s statements and speeches during the visit seemed to reflect a recognition of the need to substantially improve relations with India. On at least three issues particularly, there seems to be a growing convergence between New Delhi and Beijing. Arguably, the most significant factor accelerating bilateral ties is the desire for a multipolar world order. This was a theme that the Chinese leader brought up consistently during the visit. Although India may not feel as threatened as China by United States’s hegemony, it is clear that New Delhi also seeks a greater balance in the international system. Moreover, both New Delhi and Beijing are deeply apprehensive about the manner in which US foreign policy is increasingly taking recourse to unilateral actions to deal with situations that are thought to be threatening international peace and security.

Similarly, both China and India face a common threat from international terrorism, especially of the kind being spread by radical Islamic groups that derive ideological and material support from forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Beijing has been hesitant about naming Pakistan, a long-standing ally, Mr Li Peng has finally signalled China’s willingness to cooperate with India in combating terrorism. On the contentious border issue too, there seems to have been some progress. Recall that India wants a clear delineation of the line of actual control on the India-China border. This will not mean a settlement of the border dispute, which admittedly is more complex, but merely an agreement on actual positions occupied by the two sides on the ground. It is heartening, therefore, that the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Mr Li Peng expressed satisfaction at the progress made on the clarification of the LAC and hoped the process would be completed at the earliest.

The warming of bilateral ties cannot hide the differences over a number of critical issues and should not prevent a frank dialogue on these areas. New Delhi’s most serious concern remains Beijing’s disturbing record of transfer of nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan. While Mr Li Peng has assured India that “military trade and cooperation between China and Pakistan are conducted in full compliance with international practices and treaties”, New Delhi must continue to guard against the Beijing-Islamabad strategic nexus. New Delhi also wants a recognition and acceptance of India’s status as a state with nuclear weapons. However, China is the only nuclear weapon state that continues to adopt a hard line toward India’s nuclear policy. A healthier and firmer Sino-Indian relationship can only be built if both countries do not shy away from addressing the issues that have derailed ties, time and again. Fortunately, Mr Li Peng’s visit indicates that on reflection, China has come to an understanding that it is vital to forge stronger ties with New Delhi. The time has now come to translate that understanding into a stronger bond.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 /FILM NOIR 
 
 
 
 
The most potent form of power wielded by Hindi commercial cinema is its fantastical grip over a massive audience. Hence, the sensation around the arrest of Mumbai’s film financier and diamond merchant, Bharat Shah. He has been booked for abetting the hawala dealings, within the film industry, of subcontinental mafiosi like Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim. This shadowy nexus also includes a recently arrested producer of Hindi blockbusters, with a few superstars and ultra-right politicians also caught in its penumbra. It is easy to glamourize, and blow out of proportion, this web of corruption, fear and greed in the film industry. The link between industry and the underworld is nothing new in India, particularly in the Mumbai film world. But the phenomenon calls for changes in the economic structure of and governmental attitudes to commercial cinema.

Stricter laws, like the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, are good for trapping the likes of Shah. But the situation calls for more fundamental changes. Big-budget film-making has to become a much less risky commercial venture for its recent industry status to have any legitimizing effect. It is impossible to make a commercial Hindi film today for less than Rs 15 crore and not even 20 per cent of these films break even every year. Such a gamble, entirely dependent on the vagaries of public taste, produces one-shot production companies, an unhealthy reliance on black money and a general atmosphere of insecurity. This, coupled with the government’s puritanical attitude towards such frivolities as the entertainment industry, deprives popular cinema of public sector support. This pitches it towards the underworld, which provides the only financiers willing to take these huge risks. Corporatization of the film industry remains the only way to ensure that its sources of credit are lawful and institutional. Superstars held in thrall to extortionists, and megalomaniac financiers wielding political and economic clout are not simply law and order problems, calling for draconian legislation. The cleansing of the muck will have to reach deeper and wider.

   

 
 
THE LINEAGE OF CONTROL 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
Much huffing and puffing on both sides, and, at the time of writing, it is yet to be known whether New Delhi will finally allow the leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference — the full complement — to visit Pakistan. There is in any event a long road ahead. Why beat about the bush? The problem in Kashmir is not on account of Pakistan and its intransigence.

The problem lies in the impossible corner we, the Indians, have played ourselves into. The original sin lies with the Congress, and, one is sad to say, with Jawaharlal Nehru. Sheikh Abdullah was awfully mishandled in the Fifties; those who advised Nehru that Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad could be a suitable person to wean away the Kashmiris from their regard for the Sheikh were nincompoops, or worse, of the first order.

Indira Gandhi tried to correct the blunder committed earlier; she too was soon misguided by the likes of the bumptious Arun Gandhi and the infamous Jagmohan, the latter in particular already equipped with the frame of mind of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The bait of being reinstalled as chief minister won back Farooq Abdullah, but by then the populace of the valley had been irretrievably alienated.

From the mid-Eighties Kashmir has been as good as a terrain occupied by the Indian army; the charade of periodical elections has fooled nobody in international circles. The cost to the nation is not just in the crores and crores of rupees expended to guard the ramparts across the line of control: by now it is more than obvious that it is a porous line, and infiltrators from across the border will keep sneaking in not- withstanding the continuous strengthening of our army, air force and security personnel and of matériel supporting them. It could hardly be otherwise, given the willingness, or, rather, eagerness, of the almost entire Kashmiri population to do an evil turn to India.

Much the greater damage has, however, been rendered to India’s reputation as a nation believing in truth and fairness. We have an extremely bad case to plead on Kashmir and we have pleaded it equally badly. Our refusal to abide by the half-a-century old commitment to the United Nations for a plebiscite in the valley has exposed the extent of our hypocrisy. To dissemble that we did not in fact agree to hold the plebiscite makes the Indian case even worse. We have let several chances to arrive at a denouement with Pakistan go by.

In 1972, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was literally begging at our doors, we could have forced him to agree to a permanent solution on the Kashmir issue by sealing a formal arrangement along the LoC: unfortunately, the ambition of our leaders had by then risen sky-high. We could have, between then and the next 10 years, foisted an agreement on still-wobbly Pakistan whereby the state of Jammu and Kashmir could have been turned into a loose confederation with Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh as separate entities enjoying the prerogative of extensive local self-government. But meanwhile our policymakers had committed themselves too far to the domestic electorate: Kashmir was an integral and inalienable part of India, and no force could snatch it away from us.

The Congress was the first to play the jingo card; the BJP with its ideological moorings and emotional inclines could hardly be blamed if it exploited it to the hilt. Now there is not one political party in the country which dares to do a reverse turn on Kashmir and yet aspire to come to power either at the Centre or in any one state.

Even the left has learnt its lesson and would be doubly chary of abiding by its principles in the matter of Kashmir; self-determination is for the birds. A handful of individuals, who do not mind being ostracized, keep the pot of Kashmiri self-will boiling, but they are by and large considered as madcaps who need not be taken seriously. And there are enough patriots around who suspect them to be part of Pakistan’s fifth column: the ISI to the right of you, the ISI to the left of you, the ISI in front of you.

Our politicians and mandarins will perhaps not admit the fact even to themselves, but Kashmir has been a lost cause for the last 15 years or thereabouts. They are prisoners of circumstances they have themselves created. They are consequently unable to recognize the stream of advantages that could have accrued in case they had agreed to throw in the towel at the right time. A settlement in Kashmir would have straightway released two to three per cent of our gross domestic product which is currently being deployed towards defence and security measures in and around the valley. Such a settlement would also have made it possible for us to go slow, or even totally discard, our efforts at augmenting our nuclear capability; thereby we would have regained some of the international goodwill we have lost over the years.

Once the government of India were able to convince the world that its hands are clean in relation to the valley’s affairs and, at the same time, gained back, at least partially, the trust of the valley’s population, it would have been strategically placed to enjoy vicariously the embarrassment resulting from the friction between the Kashmiris who wanted full independence and those who wanted to merge with Pakistan. Then, once the Kashmir impasse had terminated, that would immediately have led to a refurbishing of India’s secular identity: many of the fissures that impeded the progress of the economy and the stability of the polity would have been automatically removed. Finally, the enhanced respect India could command in the changed situation from the international community would have gone a long way to the re-establishment of her position as natural leader of the developing world.

One has to be realistic. Till as long as the BJP and its cohorts are in control of the system, it would be impossible to conceive of any radical change in the situation; the Hindu fundamentalists would like to ride back into prehistoric darkness on the back of the Kashmir demon. Let there be therefore no mincing of words, to remove the BJP from political power should be the primary objective of those who want the healthy development of Indian society. That is going to be without question an enormously difficult task.

Besides, that would only be the beginning. For the Congress too is also pledged, for the present, to ditto the BJP line on Kashmir. If another election to the Lok Sabha is round the corner — such is the impression created by some of the signals emitted from the prime minister’s house — and the Congress wises up to the reality that it has practically zero chance of recapturing power without both overt and covert assistance from the left and democratic forces, a new possibility could open up. The left could then compel the Congress to follow its own agenda. But, then, it must have the courage of its own conviction.

The going is bound to be rough. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Vishwa Hindu Parishad combine has tasted blood, and it would not easily let its prey be snatched from its mouth; it would resist, resist and resist again. The reassuring factor though is the obtuseness of the Hindutva psyche, itself its own worst enemy. Even if an empirical basis existed for the allegation, was it sagacious to state it openly that the Pakistani hand had instigated the Kathmandu disturbances?

The enemy of my enemy is my friend; in their present mood, the Nepalese youth would only be encouraged by New Delhi’s explicitly stated accusation to greet Pakistan with comradely fervour. And these young people, more likely than not, are going to be the principal determinants of Nepal’s foreign and domestic policies in the immediate period. The Indian electorate would, sooner or later — hopefully sooner than later — realize the consequences of letting the BJP continue in power; no question its agenda is ruinous for the nation.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ MAN, WOMAN AND THE LAW 
 
 
BY ANJANA MAITRA
 
 
It is heartening to learn that in the year of empowerment of women, the government is planning to pass a bill that will make domestic violence a punishable offence. This will undoubtedly be welcomed by thousands of women who suffer violence in silence within the confines of their homes.

Violence against women is a global phenomenon. It is prevalent in most developed countries of the world, including the United States, where the annual cost of domestic violence amounts to billions of dollars. The estimates are based on direct costs — healthcare, loss of income, judicial process — and indirect costs — loss of productivity, mortality, social and psychological costs and reduced child wellbeing.

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. This broad interpretation includes beating, rape, dowry related violence, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment at the work place, forced prostitution and trafficking in women.

Domestic violence cuts across caste, class, religious, age and educational divides. Though abusive relationships are found more frequently among the illiterate, the incidence does not fall below 40 per cent in any group. The violence is not necessarily physical, it may be mental and emotional and this is both insidious and hard to recognize. In fact, violence at home often comes under the guise of protectiveness or idealization.

Social conditioning

Not surprisingly, therefore, a recent survey by the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, found that 56 per cent of the 90,000 Indian women studied justified wife-beating. These women, like many others, have been conditioned to accept violence as a part of their lives. Centuries of oppression and subjugation have hammered into their psyche the notion that they are inferior to men.

The same way, generations of social training condition women to accept marriage as a sacred bond where the husband has to be worshipped. The husband as the punisher of errant wives is also a role sanctioned by social consensus.

Most experts agree on the type of women most likely to be subjected to violence. She generally comes from a male-dominated family which would not take her back if she breaks away from her husband. Her parents are probably violent as well, which too makes her an insecure person. The battered woman avoids her neighbours, has few friends and keeps to herself. The man who indulges in violence often shares his wife’s background. He is also insecure, frustrated and worried about his masculinity. Beating the wife or “taming” her becomes a proof of his virility. However, unemployment and alcoholism could be added reasons for the atrocities inflicted on the wife.

Root of the problem

The battered woman often hesitates in seeking outside help or in leaving home. This is partly because of the fear of social ostracism and ridicule. Also, she is financially and emotionally dependent on the husband. If she has children, she will be worried about their future. Not many have the courage, determination or the resources to fight protracted legal battles. She is also likely to receive little support from her own family. Besides, she might be totally unaware of her own rights guaranteed by the state.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, violence against women is increasing at about six per cent each year. Domestic violence accounts for almost 30 per cent of the registered cases of crime against women.

In this scenario, the proposed bill is sure to break new ground. The offences the bill will cover — extortion by husband, spread of disease, misappropriation of property, defamatory remarks against wife, intimidation and so on, might deter potential offenders.

However, no amount of legal safeguards will be sufficient unless we go to the root of the problem. There has to be a change in the social attitude towards women. They have to be accepted as equal partners in life. Unless community efforts and awareness match government measures, the malaise of domestic violence will continue to stalk homes.

   

 
 
RED IS THE COLOUR OF CONFLICT 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
 
The lights inside the compartment dim further as the passenger train chugs to halt at Jhalida. An obscure railway station fringed by dense forests on the Adra-Muri-Barkakhana section, Jhalida is the gateway to a treacherous path that leads to a terror zone.

The platform is deserted save for two men who clamber up the train in haste and make a dash for the farthest niche, half hidden in darkness. And the journey begins. It is barely a seven-hour train ride across the flat, dull landscape — Purulia, Adra, Bankura, Bishnupur, Garbeta and finally Midnapore.

One of the men fishes out a crumpled ball of paper from his pocket and tosses it over. It is a People’s War pamphlet dismissing claims that the 11 villagers killed in Midnapore’s Chhoto Angaria were Trinamool Congress supporters. According to the scrap of type-written paper, the victims were active members of the Krantikari Kisan Majdoor Samity, the outfit’s legitimate labour front, and they were gunned down in “cold blood’’ by armed Communist Party of India (Marxist) marauders at the end of a working body meeting near Hetalshol.

“The Trinamool Congress is trying to reap political mileage out of the killings and we have nothing to do with the party for it represents the same fascist forces that we are fighting,’’ reads the statement.

The People’s War denial comes in the wake of widespread allegations of an unholy nexus between the Naxalites and village-level workers of the Trinamool Congress who are scouting for aggressive allies to storm the CPI(M) citadel in rural West Bengal.

The Left Front alleges that the Trinamool Congress’s truck with the underground People’s War has resulted in largescale proliferation of arms in districts like Midnapore, Bankura and Hooghly which can be accessed directly from Palamau and Dhanbad via Asansol and Burdwan.

The People’s War, formed in 1998 following the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Party Unity and the Andhra Pradesh-based People’s War Group in the blood-soaked terrain of Bihar’s Jehanabad district, is seeking virgin pastures to keep alive its legacy of terror politics.

With the bifurcation of Bihar and the consequent erosion of base in Palamau, Aurangabad, Gaya and Jehanabad, the outfit is now channelling its resources to West Bengal, an area relatively pristine in terms of extremism.

This time, however, the Naxalites have met an unexpected match in the ruling CPI(M) of West Bengal which is armed to the teeth to protect its rural votebase. As a result, the conflagration in the ricebowl of rural West Bengal is the case of an exclusive charge of the red brigade. It is a left versus the ultra-left conflict but with a slight twist. The internecine feuds between the rival Naxalite outfits have spilled over as well, adding to the chaos.

Though the key players in this theatre of violence are spawned by a common ideological wellspring, the Naxalites accuse the CPI(M) of “revisionism’’. The People’s War believes that the Left Front has compromised on its “ideals” and it is the outfit’s “self-annointed’’ duty to set the score right. Since the middle of 1998, motley bands of People’s War activists have been trekking through the forest corridor of Palamau to infiltrate Purulia and Midnapore, ostensibly to mobilize resistance against the highhanded cadre-politics of the Left Front.

The outfit has been lucky in its endeavours. It has managed to wean away the landless peasants, the marginal farmers and sharecroppers from the CPI(M) fold and trained its guns on the CPI(M)-backed jotedars. In the process, it has presented a viable alternative to a complacent Left Front, apathetic to the plight of the marginal farmer.

Where does the Trinamool Congress figure in the run now that the state is poised for a straight fight between the CPI(M) and the saffron ally at the hustings in May? According to a People’s War spokesperson, the Trinamool Congress at the village level acts as a kind of buffer since the Naxalite outfits harbour no immediate political aspiration. “We are a catalyst of change, we do not represent a system,’’ says a member of the People’s War think tank.

A large number of “disgruntled” farmers, who were deprived of the benefits of Operation Barga, switched allegiance to the Trinamool Congress after the 1998 panchayat polls in the state. “It was a shock absorber of sorts,’’ says the People’s War spokesman. The initial exodus, which peaked after May 1998, was arrested within a year after the Naxalites started making their presence felt.

The aim of the People’s War was simple: transfer of power and rights over land from the powerful jotedars and bargadars to the grassroots kisan organization and breaking the CPI(M) stranglehold at the panchayat level. “But then one has to tag along with a political party in a democracy,’’ reasons a Naxalite leader. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the outfit has held periodic meetings to arbitrate on minimum wages and land disputes.

In the kendu-growing areas of Midnapore, the outfit has taken on the CPI(M) controlled large agricultural multipurpose projects, which monopolized the lucrative trade in kendu leaves, used for making bidis. The outfit has been strident in its demand for an increase in the price of kendu chatta (bundles) from rupees five to Rs 25. The hike, according to the outfit, will benefit the pluckers, who are often denied minimum wages.

All, however, is not as selfless as it sounds. An ulterior motive drives the “do-gooders” into seeking better deals for the kendu pluckers. The cash-strapped outfit is desperate for funds and a stake in the multi-crore kendu trade will ensure swollen coffers for a long time to come. Also, extorting money from cash-flush bargadars and local CPI(M) leaders in the name of “equitable distribution of resources’’ are good means of raising funds.

One of the primary reasons for the People’s War to shift base is funds. Paucity of resources precipitated by the turf war and domination of the kendu trade in Aurangabad and Palamau by the Maoist Communist Centre prompted the organization to set its sights on West Bengal.

But territory has always been the outfit’s Achilles heel. The foray of the People’s War into the kendu trade has pitted it against the MCC once again. The Maoists are crying foul over encroachment of territory. The MCC has a traditional base in West Bengal as the state happens to be its “birthplace.’’ The outfit traces its origin to the Jangal Mahal uprising in Burdwan during the early Seventies.

The MCC, which has long been arbitrating kendu disputes, perceives a threat to its bases in Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, where it claims to have hiked the minimum price per chatta (bundle) to Rs 20. It has even questioned the newly-formed “jungle committees” of the People’s War which aims at village participation in forest management. According to the MCC, the forest committees are a ploy to usurp MCC base and establish a parallel administration of sorts in the forest.

The outfit in its mouthpiece Lal Chingari rues that instead of closing ranks with the MCC, the People’s War has sought to undermine the MCC’s initiatives in rural West Bengal despite harping on the same issues.

The state is perched on a powder keg. Tension mounts as the People’s War, the MCC and the ruling CPI(M) pack in ammunition to fire their salvos amidst the ripening paddy. The Naxalbari wheel seems to have turned a full circle. After 33 years, it is still a clash between the oppressor and the oppressed. Only this time, their political colours are the same — indistinguishable in the riot of electoral politics.

   

 
 
DRIVING AHEAD ON ITS OWN STEAM 
 
 
BY R.C. ACHARYA
 
 
India could never have dreamt that a little-known village of Mihijam in West Bengal would lead the Indian Railways’ massive export drive. The Chittaranjan Locomotive Works has played a crucial role since 1950 when the first steam behemoth chugged out of its factory. Around 2,351 locomotives later and the recent technology transfer from Adtranz, CLW is poised to cater to the export market for state-of-the-art electric locomotives. The South African Railway, which visited the workshop last month, wishes to replace its ageing fleet of about 1,800 electric locomotives with those built by CLW, equipped with ISO-9001 facility and sophisticated, high production machines.

CLW has to its credit a string of newly designed electric locomotives which have been upgraded from 2,600 to 5,000 horsepower, a point noted by its technologically savvy visitors. Recent orders for export of locomotives secured by the Rail India Technical and Economic Services Limited from CLW includes 10 metre gauge diesel locomotives for Tanzania, 10 of the same for Myanmar and 10 broad gauge diesel locomotives for Bangladesh.

Catering abroad

Most of these orders were secured against stiff competition from a number of developed countries and of course India’s closest competitor, China. CLW has a major advantage of having a technical tie up with Adtranz with its cutting edge design capabilities in the area of high horse power electric locomotives.

Starting with CLW in 1950, Indian Railways now boasts of no less than six large production facilities. The others are at Chennai, Kapurthala, Varanasi, Bangalore and Patiala. These are ably assisted by some of the giants in the public sector and some major names in the private sector, who supply thousands of sub-assemblies and components. This vast industrial base has however been catering to a captive market and never made a serious effort to make a mark in the field of exports.

Rouse the giant

Initial forays in the export market were however made by some of the private wagon-builders, independently or through the project equipment corporation, a subsidiary of the state trading corporation.Unfortunately, such export efforts lacked proper direction or sustained follow up action. However, fortunately, railways equipment is often tendered on a global basis and funded by the World Bank and other international bodies which provide a level playing field for manufacturers the world over.

The railways equipment industry in India is a sleeping giant. With the assistance of various public sector units like the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and the Bharat Bhari Udyog Nigam Limited, Indian Railways could provide a major breakthrough with this valued order from the land where M.K. Gandhi honed his strategy for liberating India.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Defence mechanism

Sir — Mohammed Azharuddin has not been hibernating, only planning his strategy. He judges this to be the right moment to hit out against the Board of Control for Cricket in India and various other former cricketers (“Azharuddin takes battle vs BCCI to court”, Jan 13). The pattern is, however, not new. Only a few months ago, pushed to a corner by a series of matchfixing allegations, Azharuddin claimed that he was being victimized because he belonged to a minority community. Were the adulation and gifts he received as a cricketer also showered on him because of this identity? Failing to get a favourable response from the minority card, he has aimed at Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and others. He is forgetting that the charges against these cricketers have to do with unexplained accumulation of wealth. The charges surely deserve to be taken up by the legal authorities; but unfortunately for Azharuddin, he may not have Gavaskar and Shastri for company in the matchfixers’ ranks.
Yours faithfully,
Sabira Mehta, Calcutta

Empowered to displace

Sir — The articles by Arshi Khan, “Cursed region of violence and blood” (Nov 15) and “Painful standoff in west Asia” (Jan 11), raised some relatively unknown issues about the west Asia impasse. The birth of Israel as an independent nation-state was ostensibly meant to create a haven for the Jews who were persecuted during the Holocaust. According to Khan, the wishes of the Palestinian people were not considered before the creation of this state. This was an act conducted under the aegis of the United States and thereby justified.

Going by the same logic, India should have been partitioned along Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal to make way for the Buddhist people suffering in Tibet since Chinese forces walked into it. Again, Turkey, Iran and Iraq should also be fragmented to make way for the Kurds.

If the United States really wants to act as international police then it should at least be unbiased. The US remained a mute spectator when Israeli troops marched into the Golan Heights, south Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But when it came to the Gulf crisis, it unleashed its full force against the Iraqis alleging the occupation of Kuwait.

On the one hand, the US has caused suffering to millions of Iraqi people, especially children, who are dying because of malnutrition brought on by the economic sanctions and the scarcity of essential commodities. On the other hand, it has initiated the Camp David and other peace talks. The US has no hesitation in striking Iraq with missiles for the non-compliance of United Nations security council resolutions. At the same time it turns a blind eye to the case of Israel refusing to withdraw its troops from regions it had occupied in 1967. It passes resolution after resolution against Iraq while it vetoes all resolutions against Israel.

How long will the US, European Union and Russia remain indifferent to the gross violation of human rights? Surprisingly, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Arab League have done nothing to ease the plight of these people.

Yours faithfully,
Asif Ahmed, via email

Sir — The US has made armed interventions in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Iraq, several Latin American states and so on. This was done in the name of humanitarian intervention and the safeguarding of “popular sovereignty”. But a similar step was not taken to liberate the Palestinians. Similarly, the UN security council managed a coalition of the armies of 28 states to bomb Iraq during the Kuwait war. After this severe sanctions were imposed on it. Iraq was forced to provide for compensation to the victims and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

Many of the Palestinian areas (envisaged under the UN partition plan of 1947) were occupied by the Israelis in the 1948 and 1967 wars. Israel also invaded Lebanon and caused heavy casualties and loss of property in 1981. About four million Palestinian refugees are scattered throughout Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Lebanon hosts some 3,50,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly a half of whom live in squalid conditions in a dozen camps around the country.

Neither sanctions nor weapons inspectors were imposed on Israel in the way they were on Iraq. The US and the UN have succeeded in imposing the most severe sanctions against Afghanistan for not surrendering Osama bin Laden. But nothing of this sort was conducted in the case of Israel which has unleashed the most violent terrorism against the Palestinians. An end to the Palestinian problem has to be found in the new century. International sanctions, armed interventions, international protection for the Palestinians are possible ways of doing so.

Yours faithfully,
Arshi Khan, New Delhi

Sir — The Israeli presence in about nine per cent of Palestinian territory displays the utter nonchalance with which the Israelis treat the UN resolutions. On the basis of their military strength, the Israelis are also prohibiting the right of repatriation to hundreds of Palestinian refugees. Under normal circumstances, international intervention would have taken place to rescue the Palestinians. But with the US openly backing the Israelis, this opportunity is closed. Most of the advanced, Western countries come under the collective security umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headed by the US. Naturally, nobody wishes to upset a major ally for the sake of humanitarian concerns.

Yours faithfully,
Arindam Banik, Kharagpur

A lot in a name

Sir — The changing of the name, “Calcutta” — a city which has lived with this name for the last 310 years, exposes the dearth of respect our political leaders have for the people of the city and its founders. But what is the reason for the change? Do we suddenly and collectively want to make a sentimental journey to a past, which is arguably more a construct than a reality? To change the city’s name and have a more Bengali-sounding word as a replacement is silly. It just goes to show that the present government is not confronting the real problems, but wasting its resources on trivialities.

If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is under the impression that this new name will make the state more attractive to investors, then he too is mistaken. The intelligentsia that the city is proud of always refers to it as Calcutta and takes pride in it. Will the degree of pride remain the same with the new name?

Yours faithfully
Dilip Dutta, via email

Sir — At last Calcutta has been renamed as “Kolkata”. This decision ends a long debate. But one does not know if the change is going to be a pleasant one for the people of this city. Imagine “University of Calcutta” being changed to “University of Kolkata” — wouldn’t that sound most odd?

Yours faithfully,
N. Sen, Calcutta

Corrected title

Sir — In the review of the book, Crossing Borders, Stretching Boundaries: the Bose-Einstein Lectures on Science, Technology and Environment, edited by Stephan F. von Welck, the name of the book has been published, quite ironically, as “Closing Borders, Stretching Boundaries: the Bose-Einstein Lectures on Science, Technology and Environment” (Oct 20). As I have been associated with this book as coordinating editor, I considered it a duty to point out the error.
Yours faithfully,
Dagmar Bernstorff, via email

The error is regretted. — The editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company