Editorial 1 / Strategic partner
Editorial 2 / Old times’ sake
Snags and contradictions
Fifth Column / Fatal flaw in the high command
Welcome to the land of the politically unequal
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / STRATEGIC PARTNER 
 
 
 
 
The secretary of state of the United States of America, Mr Colin Powell has performed a balancing act during his visits to India and Pakistan. In the zero-sum world of India-Pakistan relations some of Mr Powell’s statements may strengthen apprehensions in New Delhi of the possibility of a new Islamabad-Washington nexus that could undermine Indian interests. The primary purpose of Mr Powell’s visit to Islamabad was clearly to ensure that the cooperation that Pakistan has provided in the campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan is sustained and furthered. In the last few weeks, the US has secured Pakistan’s collaboration by making unprecedented concessions, including the lifting of nearly all the sanctions that were imposed against Pakistan after the nuclear tests of 1998 and the military coup of 1999. Mr Powell went a step further during his visit. In the joint press conference with Pakistan’s president, the US secretary of state referred explicitly to the centrality of the Kashmiri problem to India-Pakistan relations and the need to resolve it in a manner that would accommodate the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Mr Powell also seemed to agree with Islamabad that there were moderate elements within the taliban that could form part of a broad-based future government in Afghanistan. Even a few years ago, such statements by a US secretary of state in Islamabad would have been enough to throw India-US relations out of gear. It speaks well for the new found maturity of India-US relations that Mr Powell’s visit went off smoothly, and it was only at the joint press conference with the Indian external affairs minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, that an exercise in damage limitation was attempted.

Mr Powell clearly sought to position India-US relations on a higher plane than the tactical relations with Pakistan. Three aspects of his remarks were particularly noteworthy. First, he described the close relationship with India as part of a new US strategic rethink, and sought to convey the impression that the new Republican administration viewed India as a vital partner in every sense of the term. Second, he stated that while the campaign against terrorism was now directed against the al Qaida it would not remain limited to Afghanistan; the war would continue and fight terrorism of the kind that India had been facing. Finally, he delivered a personal invitation from Mr George W. Bush to Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee to visit Washington on November 9.

However, on Kashmir, despite some semantic juggling, Mr Powell restated what he had said in Islamabad, with the proviso that the dispute had to be solved by India and Pakistan. Mr Powell’s visit makes clear that Washington believes Pakistan is central to its fight against the terrorist network in Afghanistan, and Mr Pervez Musharraf’s continuation at the helm is essential to ensure Islamabad’s cooperation. The US administration will, therefore, seek to strengthen the Musharraf regime, and even make concessions that may annoy India. No administration in Washington is, however, likely to abandon the growing partnership with India and the Bush administration will, from time to time, seek to reassure India and hope that New Delhi will understand the difference between a tactical alliance and a strategic partnership.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / OLD TIMES’ SAKE 
 
 
 
 
A new anti-terrorist ordinance to replace the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act inevitably excites nervous speculation. Yet the speculation has remained just that, and has not turned into opposition. It is a sign of the times that the passage of the ordinance has been smooth so far and is likely to remain so. Ever since TADA was withdrawn on the ground of its potential to violate human rights and its instances of abuse, there has been a desire, especially on part of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to put something in its place. The present atmosphere of spiralling insecurity has given the BJP its moment. Unfortunately, it can no longer be said that such an ordinance is gratuitous. Subversion and terror have penetrated so deep into the system, that the situation is now starkly different from that of the time when TADA was withdrawn. The global proportions that cross-border terrorism has acquired makes India a particularly vulnerable target, especially because the fight against terror has its own political compulsions. Democracy and human rights are meaningful when they protect the helpless. It is tragic that a day should have come when the rights of the helpless civilian have to be weighed against the rights of someone who is merely suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. But that is exactly what a draconian law or ordinance does, and there are very few today who would object to such a law.

The general acceptance of the new ordinance with little demur exposes a failure in civil society, a failure that the members of this society themselves have helped bring about. By abdicating responsibility at crucial moments, they have eroded the base of their own society. This is not to speak of the underprivileged or the outlawed. The jury system in the law courts, for example, had to be discarded because there were not enough citizens willing to do duty as jurors. The elite and their children are wellknown for acting in an irresponsible manner, confident that the law will not treat them the way it does the non-elite. There is, as a result, no solid reassuring structure of a civil society, within which safeguards against invoking draconian laws would be automatic. A society in terror, unsure of its own institutions, will seek shelter in laws and ordinances that guarantee complete safety from within and without. The fear of abuse is just a risk that has to be taken.

   

 
 
SNAGS AND CONTRADICTIONS 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
Never before has America been in the grip of such fear and panic. Every time Osama bin Laden issues a new threat of more attacks on the pattern of what happened on the dreadful morning of September 11, tele-scenes of devastation in New York and Washington come back to haunt its people. And whenever the media report a fresh case of anthrax, the country goes through a shudder at the thought of bio-terror on a large scale. The old feeling of security in the redoubt of its mainland is gone. None of the nation’s think-tanks or policy-planners ever reckoned with the kind of threat that has traumatized it for weeks on end.

The very shock of the discovery that it has no clear strategy to fight this menace explains partly the prevailing confusion about the long-term aims of the war it is now waging to put an end to the taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy the network of camps for training terrorists set up there by Osama bin Laden, who is believed to have master-minded the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. It is too early to say how far the bombing raids of the last ten days have brought the United States of America near to achieving its policy goals in what is supposed to be the first phase of what the Bush administration calls its war on international terrorism.

Ironically, what the few last days have brought into sharp focus are snags and contradictions in the character of the war coalition that has been organized in a hurry by a variety of means, including persuasion, arm-twisting, and offer of sops in terms of both cash and arms. The point that has been brought home to the Bush administration as it was roping in allies was that each of them had their own policy goals and security concerns which did not quite mesh with those of the US. Thus, the primary objective of the Arab states is to use this opportunity to pressure Israel into conceding more territory to Palestine than it has been willing to so far to make the latter what Tony Blair calls a “viable state”.

India’s aim is to make the American establishment see that some of the terrorist groups based in Pakistan, which have been responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people in the Kashmir valley during the last decade, are no different in their mindset from the al Qaida with which some of them have indeed close links. Pervez Musharraf, as a frontline ally, has already managed to get a financial aid package in return for betraying his protégé in Afghanistan, the taliban, and risking growing opposition at home, and wants the US to intervene more vigorously in the Kashmir dispute to secure a settlement favourable to his country. The Russians want Chechnya to be regarded as one of the centres of global terrorism, while the Uzbeks and the Tajiks hope for their due share in the future governance of Afghanistan.

It is no surprise in view of all these conflicting demands on the US that Colin Powell should be spending half his time visiting different capitals, alleviating fears in one place, soothing ruffled tempers in another, making placatory noises in a third and doing some tightrope walking where the choice lies between two or three equally hard options. But no talk, however adroit, can wish away the ramshackle character of the coalition.

The only factor that holds it together is the way all the allies look up to the US for succour. The disparity of power between it and the others is so great that the US administration is not too interested in selling the idea of equal partnership even as a piece of fiction.

This does not mean that it is having its own way on every issue. It may not give its allies much say in formulating the war strategy and refuse to share many of its secrets with them. But it is not so daft as to miss the significance of the swelling tide of anti-American feelings in the Islamic world. The American public relations set-up has been working overtime to convince the world that America’s war is not directed against Islam but only against international terrorism. But its own media polls show that this is not how people in the Islamic world look at it. Why otherwise would such a large percentage in a poll in Pakistan regard bin Laden as a holy warrior?

Such was America’s cynical indifference to the dimensions international terrorism had achieved in the last ten years that it dismissed lightly the warning in writing it received last year about a Hiroshima being enacted in America and, despite the earlier attack on the World Trade Center, failed to keep track of those working in the US itself to stage so horrendous an event. It all flowed from its insensitivity to the suffering of victims of terrorism elsewhere.

It is no accident that fundamentalist terrorism — partly a protest against the permissive society fostered by Western hegemonists among elite groups in poor societies, and partly directed against the corrupt regimes patronized and supported by the West — spread rapidly in the wake of the Kuwait war. The US administration could have done a lot to check this process by persuading its protégés to adopt more liberal policies and relieving the misery of Iraqi children suffering from hunger and disease as a result of its ten-year old economic sanctions against an old protégé turned evil incarnate.

The impotent rage of the Arabs found expression in mindless terrorism. The surprise is that the US administration watched unconcerned the brutalities of the taliban regime and the use of terrorism as an instrument of policy by its Pakistani patrons. It did not even try to make timely amends for unwittingly aiding the very evil it is now fighting. How can it forget that a new generation of terrorists was bred in the madrassahs partly funded by the money it had handed over to the Zia ul-Haq regime?

This is not to berate in any way the war it is waging now. It is meant more to remind it that it can neither evolve a strategy to carry it to a successful conclusion nor get its perspective and priorities right unless it is honest with itself in recognizing its own part in creating the menace, eliminating which will not only take a long time but also call for radical changes in its defence and foreign policies. The problems it faces cannot be tackled effectively unless it brings a less self-centred outlook to bear on issues concerning terrorism everywhere in the world.

The author of an article in The New York Times the other day wrote regretfully of the cynicism and hypocrisy characterizing the US’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The provocation was the way the new emergency had ripped the mask off the face of the Saudi establishment. The writer felt sore over the discovery of how the Saudis had been surreptitiously using some of their charity organizations to divert funds to bin Laden. What about the Pakistan president’s credentials as a partner in the war on terrorism? Since the US needs his services, it feels obliged to buy the story that Pervez Musharraf, though a member of the board of a charity trust in his own country, did not know that it was routing funds to al Qaida. Perhaps the general did not even know that the taliban regime he had patronized was playing host to al Qaida or that Afghanistan was the main base of a vast network of terrorist training camps!

Is not there something weird about patrons of international terrorist outfits joining the US-led war on terrorism? Not at all. Pakistan badly needs American money, arms and such diplomatic aid as it can get from the Bush administration in pushing its Kashmir agenda. The Saudis, feeling vulnerable to potential threats from their bigger neighbours and dissidents at home, need American protection as much as they want to avoid bin Laden’s active hostility.

Even if the ragtag coalition which the US heads wins the war in Afghanistan, though the chances of al Qaida camps being shifted to safer places cannot be ruled out, winning the peace is a remote prospect. The quarrels over the composition of the broad coalition that would replace the taliban, once the present regime is ousted from power, are bringing to the surface the vast reserve of inter-ethnic suspicions, fears and hatreds and making many keen observers wonder whether the new combine will not fall apart like the one formed after the Russians left Afghanistan.

Those in the US who lose heart or nerve in the face of the new policy challenges and dilemmas confronting the Bush administration, barely a decade after the country’s victory in the Cold War and its hegemony well on the way to acquiring a global dimension, can draw some comfort from Francis Fukuyama’s reassertion in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal that what is happening today is a mere diversion and makes no difference to the final triumph of both liberalism and the market. This should lift at least part of the prevailing gloom in America and buck up the country’s think-tanks and war-strategists.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / FATAL FLAW IN THE HIGH COMMAND 
 
 
BY P.K. VASUDEVA
 
 
The attacks on civilians by militants have made the lives of the Kashmiri people insecure. Even the security forces feel the strain of the weak command in Jammu and Kashmir. Almost daily there are sneak attacks and ambushes on the civilians and the security forces. The violence of the recent attack on the state assembly forced the Union home minister, L.K. Advani, to fly to the state in order to review the situation and meet the unified command officers to find a solution to terrorism.

However, the Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, backing the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir told the United States of America, that jihadis should not be equated with terrorists. India implored the US to put Jaish-e-Mohammed on its terrorist list. But Washington declined, out of fear that such an action would undermine the regime of Musharraf and affect US’s goal. It is a delusion to think that the US will go against Pakistan to help India to fight terrorism.

Militants, with many foreign elements, have been dominating the scene after Kargil heights were vacated last year. The militant resurgence and widespread reports of the local people joining their ranks afresh after the announcement of a proactive policy and the formation of a unified command by the Centre is proving that there is a lack of long strategic planning.

Security forces operating in a panicky defensive way under severe stress have started over-reacting to attacks, often killing the civilians. Since violence is directly proportional to the state of human rights, any increase in the militant activity will result in more reports of excesses, and the wrath of the human rights commission.

High-flying plans

On paper, the “proactive package” announced by the government for Kashmir looks effective. But in actual practice, it is only another piece of rhetoric. Without the command and proper co-ordination between the ministries of home, defence and the cabinet secretariat, the unified command headquarters cannot function.

The main features of the new package to combat terrorism in Kashmir are first, to counter terrorist activities. For this, specialized battalions of the Central Reserve Police will be raised. Second, a UHQ will control the three-tier counter-insurgency grid divided into 49 sectors. An additional UHQ will come up north of Zoji La. Special counter-terrorism operations will be launched with the help of ex-servicemen and members of the village defence committees.

Further, village defence committees will get sophisticated arms and modern communication equipment. Also, special funds will be provided to build border roads. New job-generating projects will be in operation.

This is not a proactive package, but only a reactive one, which is not likely to succeed. Musharraf has ambitious long-term strategic plans in Jammu and Kashmir. What action the government would take to eliminate the terrorist camps is not indicated in it.

Questionable package

There is now a warlike situation in the state. In other words, the counter insurgency is on the verge of taking the shape of guerrilla warfare. This cannot be tackled by Centrally administered paramilitary forces because they are neither trained nor equipped for such operations. Therefore, the UHQ has to be headed by a senior army corps commander. It is surprising that high level meetings are held and decisions are taken without the recommendation of the national security council. This shows that enough thought has not been given to this proactive package.

The main cause of the failure of the operations in Kashmir is the lack of co-ordination among the ministries of defence, home and the cabinet secretariat. A tug of war is on between the Centrally administered paramilitary forces and the army on the crucial issue of who will command counter insurgency operations in the state.

The Union government also wants the civilian control to remain firmly in place over the army because an elected government is in power in the state. The UHQ meetings are presided over by the chief minister, but in his absence, the army wants the corps commander to head the UHQ set up, a move not to the liking of the Centre and the CAPFs. If this squabble persists, there can be no hope of ending militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

   

 
 
WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE POLITICALLY UNEQUAL 
 
 
BY SANJAY KUMAR
 
 
There has been a lot of hullabaloo and endless controversy whenever the bill for the reservation of seats for women in the legislature has been introduced in Parliament. How many seats should be reserved for women? What should be the criteria for reserving a seat? For how long should a seat remain reserved for women? These and other questions have invariably cropped up while discussing the issue.

With regard to reserving seats for the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes, the Indian constitution clearly states the provisions. The number of reserved seats should depend on the proportion of the reserved category to the population. The delimitation commission of 1972 also states slightly different criteria for reserving seats for the SCs/STs. The reserved seats should be distributed throughout the state and located as far as practicable in areas where the proportion of the SC/ST population is comparatively large. Seats for the SCs are to be reserved only for those areas where the population of the reserved category is the highest. However, many of the principles which apply for reservation for SCs/STs and other backward classes do not apply in the case of reserving seats for women. This is because women constitute a sizeable section of the population. So it is also difficult to deduce if the seats reserved for women should be rotated.

The issue of rotation of the reserved seats has gained fresh momentum in the event of the forthcoming delimitation of constituencies. When seats are reserved, it implies that people other than the reserved categories are not allowed to contest election from that particular constituency. The issue is, should there be a system of rotation for the reserved seats, or should the seats for SCs and STs be reserved till the next delimitation takes place?

When delimitation takes place, seats for the SCs and STs are reserved in proportion to their population afresh. In some cases, seats which were previously reserved are included, while some new constituencies also get reserved. If delimitation takes place on a routine basis, that is after very 10 years as envisaged in the Constitution, there would have been no problem and the rotation of the reserved seats would have taken place automatically. If some constituencies were reserved and some others made unreserved at the same time, it would have guaranteed a somewhat equal opportunity to contest election to all people.

But now we are going to have delimitation, though partial, after nearly 30 years. As per the provisions of the 91st amendment bill, it is most likely that the next delimitation will take place after another 30 years, that is sometime in 2031. It seems that untimely delimitation has become a permanent feature of our democracy. If the provision of rotation of reserved seats is not incorporated, it would imply that seats reserved for SCs/STs/OBCs by the new delimitation will continue to remain reserved until the next delimitation takes place.

As per the provisions of reserving a constituency, it is likely that some of those constituencies, which were reserved by the 1972 delimitation, would be reserved again. This would result in reserving some constituencies for more than 60 years, which ultimately means that only people belonging to a particular community can contest election from those constituencies for nearly six decades. This results in denying the opportunity to contest election in these reserved constituencies to nearly two generations of a large number of people.

Since there was no system of rotation, the seats reserved during the 1972 delimitation had remained reserved till the last Lok Sabha elections held in 1999. It should be noted that eight Lok Sabha elections and nearly 156 assembly elections have been held since the last delimitation took place in 1972. In all these elections, people other than SCs and STs were not allowed to contest either the Lok Sabha election or the assembly elections from these constituencies, and this was irrespective of how much work a person not a SC or ST had done for any particular constituency. Literally, any political worker, however dedicated, does not have chance to contest election from the constituency he lives in, if the constituency happens to be reserved and if he does not belong to the reserved category. At present, 78 seats are reserved for the SCs and 38 seats for the STs. Of these, nearly 39 Lok Sabha constituencies had remained reserved for the SCs and 28 constituencies reserved for the STs for the last 50 years since the first Lok Sabha of 1952.

On the other hand, there is no bar on a candidate belonging to either SC or ST category from contesting election from a general constituency. Doesn’t this mean denial of equal political opportunity to people belonging to different communities?

At the same time, it is a fact that political parties do no usually give tickets to a person belonging to a reserved category to contest election from an unreserved constituency. This is because they are not usually successful. Even political stalwarts belonging to certain reserved category do not dare contest election from an unreserved constituency. Instances like B.R. Ambedkar winning the 1952 Lok Sabha elections from the unreserved Bombay Northeast constituency, or B.P. Maurya winning the 1962 Lok Sabha election from the Aligarh constituency are few. Recently, Prakash Ambedkar has won the Lok Sabha elections from Akola, an unreserved seat. But this is an exception to the rule. To avoid such situations, it is necessary to have reservation for the weaker sections in proportion to their population.

At the same time, it is imperative to think if it is justified to reserve any constituency for a long period of time and deny the right to contest election to some people for no fault of theirs? Perhaps, the delimitation commission of the past may not have visualized that the next delimitation would take place after such long intervals or that some provision for the rotation of reserved seats would not be introduced. It is true that what has already been done in the past cannot be reverted. But, if India is going to have delimitation after such a long time and defer the next for an equally long time, it would not be wise to have a system of rotating the reserved seats?

The argument put against rotation is that if the sitting representative is aware that the seat he represents will be reserved next time and he may not be allowed to contest the next election, he will have little interest to serve the people. Which means the political representative will be forced to neglect his own constituency. But the Indian electorate should not be belittled. The political representative will not have a chance to neglect the constituency which he represents simply because he may not have the chance to contest the next election from that constituency if people, when mobilized, can put up adequate pressure and force their representative to perform.

There may arise some problems with regard to neglect of the constituency if rotation takes place after every election. In order to minimize this problem, the reservation of seats should be rotated not after every election, but may be after every two elections or, if possible, three elections.

If the present representative has a chance to be elected more than once, he is not likely to neglect his constituency. Further, if a political representative is a serious contender, and is not debarred from contesting election from any other constituency, his track record may influence the people of the other constituency to vote for him. Similarly, if a reserved constituency is unreserved by the process of rotation, it will naturally allow a candidate belonging to a reserved category to contest election from that constituency. Going by the present trend, it may be difficult for a reserved category politician to win from an unreserved constituency. However, if the rotation of reserved seats becomes a routine feature, there might come a day when candidates from the reserved category can win from other constituencies as well. This would take time, but certainly this would signal the maturing of the democracy, as the weaker sections would no longer require legislation to ensure their political representation.

However, this does not mean that rotation of reserved seats should take place between all the constituencies in the state no matter the proportion of the population of a particular community in a constituency. Instead, what is needed is to rotate the reservation of seats only among those constituencies which have a fairly high proportion of the population for whom the constituency is being reserved. Once the total number of seats to be reserved for a particular community is decided, a list of constituencies needs to be drawn up having a certain cut off point for the proportion of the population of that community.

It has to be taken care that the threshold point should be so decided that the list should have more than twice the number of seats needed to be reserved. In the first instance, the constituency having the highest proportion of a certain community should be reserved, and in the next rotation, the constituency having the second largest proportion of population should be reserved, de-reserving the constituency which was reserved earlier. In the process, there would be constituencies which would remain un-reserved forever. But we should not think of reserving all constituencies one by one. The reservation of seats had been done to ensure adequate representation to people belonging to certain deprived communities. It would be sensible to have rotation only among those constituencies which have some concentration of those people for whom the constituency is being reserved.

Although it is not possible to do justice to all, that is to provide absolutely equal political opportunity to all people, it should be seen that those who have remained deprived are supported. It should be done in such a manner that others are not grossly denied equal political opportunities. This rotation of reserved seats may provide a much fairer opportunity for equal political representation to all, as compared to now, when constituencies have remained reserved for several decades.

The author is associate fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

War bimbos

Sir — One of the atom bombs that reduced Hiroshima to dust had on it the picture of the Hollywood rage at the time, Rita Hayworth. During the Kargil conflict, snapshots of Bollywood heroines like Madhuri Dixit would adorn the Indian soldiers’ AK-47 rifles. These are some of the less objectionable ways in which filmdom, in the West and in India, gets involved in a war effort. But when Geri Halliwell has to don specially designed, revealing military fatigues to cheer up the British soldiers going to fight in Afghanistan, then it is evident that everything is not quite right with the world (“How the girls cheered”, Oct 14). So what if this is the way Hollywood and the Western entertainment industry have chosen to boost the morale of soldiers ever since World War I? Why is it that the invaluable contribution of someone like Audrey Hepburn in war-torn regions gets overshadowed by the two-penny performances that a Marilyn Monroe or a Halliwell put up to entertain the troops? Perhaps the media should be asking themselves this question.

Yours faithfully,
Sukanya Sen Sharma, via email

Terror tactics

Sir — It has been the usual practice of the Indian government to warn Pakistan and the terrorist groups after any attack by the Kashmiri militants. The only difference this time is that after the suicide attack outside the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, the warning has been issued through the United States of America. When Bill Clinton visited India earlier this year, the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was criticized in diplomatic circles for requesting the former US president during a luncheon address to take India’s message across to Pakistan following the previous day’s killings of Sikhs in the Kashmir valley.

It is hypocrisy of the first order if India still maintains that third party mediation is unacceptable in finding a solution to the Kashmir problem. As for Pakistan, it has never concealed its desire for American intervention, since it always assumed that the US was on its side. The US is an extremely selfish nation. If it had backed India to the hilt during the hijacking of IC-814 to Kandahar, the attack on the World Trade Center might never have happened.

Besides, knowing full well that Pakistan provides a safe haven for subversive outfits, the US has not taken a principled stand against soliciting Pakistan’s support. At the same time, it is using Indian intelligence resources to nab terrorists. It will not bat an eyelid before acting against India under pressure from Pakistan if Pakistani help is required at that given moment. Given all this, India should at the very least be guarded in its approach to the US.

Yours faithfully,
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Dariba

Sir — The attack by the fidayeen squad on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly destroys the notion that the terrorists operating in the Kashmir valley would now cross over to join the war in Afghanistan (“Terror revisited”, Oct 3). It also cautions India against putting too simplistic a spin on what is clearly a complicated problem, made more complex by the September 11 attacks on the US.

That the Jaish-e Mohammed is based in Pakistan and at least one of the dead assailants was a Pakistani national only confirms the long-held view about Pakistan exporting terrorism to India. But the Pakistani president is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma after he pledged support to the US in its fight against terrorism. In fact, the recent attacks on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly might have stemmed from this.

Yours faithfully,
Ajmal Hussain, Titagarh

Sir — The recent attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly building actually vindicates the stand taken by Pervez Musharraf during his visit to India. He made a clear distinction between terrorists and what he called “freedom fighters” in his question-answer session with Indian journalists. Hence, organizations like the Jaish-e-Mohammed can continue their subversive activities, smug in the knowledge that their actions will be recognized as freedom struggle by their parent country, Pakistan.

Pakistan’s double-talk on the issue of terrorism should alert India all the more to the menace of terrorism in the Kashmir valley.

Yours faithfully,
Snehashis Sanyal, Calcutta

A red under every bed

Sir — In “Crusading is the idea” (Oct 12), Ashok Mitra laments that “the Soviet Union chose to liquidate itself’” and thereby “betrayed their own people”. This reminds me of the contention of Nirad C. Chaudhuri in Thy Hands Great Anarch that the British empire did not do its solemn duty by leaving India. Mitra also feels that communism’s continuity would have edified the Soviet Union.

Equally interesting is the author’s assertion about the need for a bipolar world where the Soviets would have offset the American tyranny. Mitra had better remember that the Americans might have imagined a red under every bed, but in the Soviet Union of the Cold War, there was a bug under every bed. Thank god we are in a unipolar world and do not have to worry constantly of Gulags and “midnight knocks”.Mitra’s America-baiting is truly muddle-headed.

Yours faithfully,
Mala Shelley, viaemail

Sir — Ashok Mitra defines jihad as “a holy war fought by Muslims as a religious duty”. But the Webster Comprehensive Dictionary defines the word as “a religious war of the Muslims against the enemies of their faith”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines jihad as “a holy war undertaken by Muslims against unbelievers”. It appears that parts of the globe will witness the perils of this until the jurisdiction of religion can be limited within the private realm.

Yours faithfully,
D. Mukhopadhyay, Barasat

Sir — Just as the Americans imagined a red under every bed, elder communists of Bengal like Ashok Mitra imagine a Central Intelligence Agency spy in every action of the West that goes against Indian interests.

Yours faithfully,
Sujata Ghosh, Calcutta

Uprooted

Sir — The callousness of our new breed of councillors is evident from the fact that old and invaluable trees are being hacked down in the New Alipore area under the guise of “pruning and clearing the road sides”. Incidentally, this pruning is being done to huge branches (8 to 10 inches thick) from their base and on the roadside, so that the trees can topple over. The operation, evidently, is for commercial gain. The pruning should be done by experts from the forest department.

Yours faithfully,
S. Mehta, Calcutta

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