Editorial 1 / Point of Order
Editorial 2 / Coffins account
A neighbour in danger
Book Review / Women as objects of power
Book Review / The memoirs of a little known soldier
Book Review / A city and its myriad images
Editor’s Choice / Love at sword point
Paperback Pickings / Pronounced Tug, slightly aspirated
Letters to the editor

It is not a question of how many terrorists were killed and how many got away, if any at all. Because dead or alive, the terrorists who struck at Parliament in broad daylight on a day of business were enormously successful. They were able to infiltrate premises under the highest security, cause panic, chaos and death. They may not have been expecting to achieve anything. But they have shaken the nation by striking at the heart of its functioning, and at the symbolic centre of its democratic ideology. The horror of the attack and its aftermath as well as its political and psychological implications are of immeasurable significance. A whole nation has been rendered insecure, frightened and totally confused. The irony is, of course, that terrorism is an old phenomenon in India. Extremist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, earlier in Punjab and now increasing in Andhra Pradesh, has, peculiarly enough, made Indians in other regions insensitive to it. Strangely, the terrorist attacks in the United States of America suddenly put terrorism in a new perspective, and brought home a brutal reality that had long been present.

Almost home, that is, but not close enough. The security of Parliament does not depend on the half-aware populace, but on intelligence and security systems that have presumably been put on high alert recently. There can be no adequate explanation or excuse for such a breach in the system. The prime minister, the home minister and the defence minister are constantly talking about the threat to India, apparently third in line for globally-based terrorist attacks after the US and Israel. Moreover, the operations in Afghanistan concern India closely. The Union government’s worries are best illustrated by the cabinet’s desire to push through the prevention of terrorism ordinance. It is only to be expected that security systems at key spots would have been heightened and sharpened. The terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly is too close in time for comfort, although the attack on Red Fort happened sometime earlier. In this context, a murderous shoot-out within the precincts of Parliament appears all the more incredible.

For Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, however, there is some immediate comfort. Very few of the political parties in opposition will now kick up a fuss about passing POTO. The attack will in all probability also stifle the controversy over the government’s banning of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India and even add a slight fillip to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s position in Uttar Pradesh before the assembly elections. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, will probably reap an advantage too. His prevention of organized crime ordinance will find less opposition within his own party. But ultimately, it is not legislations and ordinances that will do the trick. The only way to defeat terrorism is to strike back with equal force, to leave the opponent in no doubt that the war will be carried through to its intended end, that is, the destruction of those forces which attempt to destroy civic life and democratic institutions.


Mr George Fernandes has not done it again. Brazen defensiveness is becoming his signature tune, as his unassailable innocence turns into an article of faith out of dogged public reiteration. The comptroller and auditor general has again stirred up the defence hornets before they could get a chance to settle in their nest after the Tehelka shake-up. The defence ministry is again the subject of another deeply sordid investigation conducted this time by a constitutional body rather than by the media. But this seems to have made no difference at all to the unshakeable trust Mr Fernandes inspires in his party colleagues and, more crucially, in his political seniors. The prime minister continues to vouch for Mr Fernandes’s lack of taint to the entire nation in terms that seem to banish all ambiguity from the matter, forever. This is not only a question of the murk, and the muck, that seem to evade definition so beautifully every time, but also of what such repeated assaults do to the status of some of the country’s watchdogs of integrity. The general tone of dismissal that has been adopted in referring to the CAG by the prime minister and some members of his cabinet only manages to subvert the credibility of this important constitutional body. The political establishment seems empowered to dismiss peremptorily any attempt at making itself accountable to normal notions of right conduct and to the institutions that ensure their perpetuation in politics.

The CAG’s findings are far-reaching. But the entire matter with the coffins has given the situation a nicely emotive focus, particularly for the opposition. This has, ironically, been rather fortunate for Mr Fernandes and his supporters. A riot in Parliament could only delay matters. But no one had quite bargained for the disruption to Parliament that happened with yesterday’s terrorist attack. This too has been quite timely for a group of politicians who are adept at improvising deflections. But what has suffered most is the notion of ministerial responsibility itself. Irregularities on a colossal scale are being repeatedly attributed to the defence ministry. But Mr Fernandes seems never to have to account for any of these. Meanwhile, as his credibility affirms itself at regular intervals, every other apparatus of vigilance in the state moves towards a complete loss of dignity and trust.


It is six months since Nepal suffered the trauma of regicide. The king, Gyanendra, is still to stabilize his authority and credibility. The tragedies and threats to stability have not just continued but they have increased. India’s focus of attention has been on the global anti-terrorist campaign in recent weeks. Within a month of the assassination of the former king, Birendra, India was concentrating on Indo-Pakistani relations in the context of the impending Musharraf-Vajpayee summit in July. We have perhaps not been attentive to developments in our other neighbouring countries in the process.

The massive attack by Maoist terrorist organizations against Nepal’s security forces and civilian population in the western districts between November 19 and 25 draws our attention back to Nepal because of the threat that terrorism poses to Nepal’s security and stability. It is even more necessary for us to assess and respond to the violence in Nepal, because it has serious implications for India’s internal security.

Recalling more recent developments in Nepal during the last six months would be pertinent. Gyanendra’s ascending the throne was surrounded by feelings of suspicion and uncertainty. Political parties participating in the democratic governmental processes were subject to internal contradictions and factionalism at higher levels after the murder of the former king and his family.

Birendra was removed from the scene at the time when there were rumours of his having initiated some discussions with Maoist extremists with the objective of persuading them to move away from violence and to join the political mainstream. This was the reason the late king did not authorize the operational deployment of the Nepalese army against the Maoists despite recommendations made by the G.P. Koirala government. There were also reports that the present king, Gyanendra, was the main interlocutor designated by the late king to carry out these highly confidential discussions.

The then prime minister, Koirala, was replaced by Sher Bahadur Deuba. Gyanendra and Deuba jointly managed to negotiate a cease-fire with the Maoists in July. But the implementation of the ceasefire has had a chequered pattern of implementation since July and August, 2001. Apparently the Maoist Party of Nepal decided to abandon the ceasefire arrange -ments in the second half of November, which led to largescale and territorially widespread violence in the districts of Dang, Rolpa and Pyuthan between November 19 and 25. Maoist cadre specifically targeted police and army camps, government offices, as well as members of the recognized political parties of Nepal along with civilian government representatives. It must also be recalled that the Maoists were running a parallel government in six to ten districts of southern and western Nepal over the last five to six years. They could do this because of the lack of development and poor economic condition of the people in these areas.

The democratic governments of Nepal perhaps did not attend to this problem effectively since they came back to power in the early Nineties. The other factor which contributed to the hold of the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal in these areas was Birendra’s reluctance to use the Nepalese army against his own people. When the democratic leaders of Nepal failed to negotiate with the Maoists, the king himself tried to intervene in the process during the last months of his life, an effort which was abruptly cut short by his assassination.

The latest bout of violence which resulted in the killing of military and civilian personnel of the government of Nepal compelled the Nepalese government to declare a state of emergency in the country, and the king, Gyanendra, to take the decision to deploy the Nepalese army against Maoist cadre on Monday, November 26. The Nepalese government has also issued an ordinance stipulating life imprisonment and confiscation of properties of anybody who directly or indirectly participates in or supports terrorist activities.

The print media, the mouthpieces of the Maoist Party, Janadesh Weekly, The Daily Janadisha, and the monthly magazine, Dishabodh, have been closed down by the government. Nepalese armed forces have carried out ground operations as well as air strikes in the districts affected by the latest insurgent activities. What is to be noted is that the decision to take decisive action against this terrorist group has been taken reluctantly. The Deuba government is keeping the door open for negotiations. The prime minister issued an official statement which reflects this attitude. He said, “Our country is passing through a grave situation these days. The terrorists in the name of Maoists have terrorized the whole Nepalese public through violence, murder and senseless bloodshed. Efforts are being made to invite them to the negotiating table to seek a peaceful solution to the problems.”

India has announced support for the Nepalese government’s decision. Our foreign office spokesman has stated, “The declaration of emergency is in India’s view a necessary step by the democratic government (of Nepal) to preserve order. We extend our support to the government of Nepal.” That Nepal expects not just political but also some substantive assistance from India is clear in the bilateral interactions since November 26. The Nepalese prime minister, Deuba, spoke to the Indian prime minister on the night of Monday, November 26.

The commander-in-chief of the Nepalese army, General Prajwalla S.J.B. Rana, made an emergency stopover in Delhi on November 25 while travelling back from Vienna to Kathmandu to have discussions with the Indian chief of army staff, General Sunderajan Padmanabhan. Prior to this visit of General Rana, a five-member armed forces team from Nepal led by Lieutenant General Pyarjung Thapa, the chief of staff of the Nepalese army, held discussions in Delhi and the Maoist Communist Council of Bihar. This link poses a continuing threat to security and stability on the Indo-Nepal boarder as well as in the concerned states of India mentioned above.

The macro-level political agenda of the Nepalese Maoist Party is to abolish the constitutional monarchy and the current democratic system in Nepal. It is also categorical in its objection to a close relationship between India and Nepal. At a deeper level, the socio-economic predicament of Nepal has to be noted. Nepal is land-locked, and is amongst the least developed countries in the world. Within Nepal itself there are internal socio-economic disparities of a critical nature. While the Kathmandu valley and portions of eastern Nepal are comparatively developed, western Nepal, nearly half of the country, is underdeveloped and is in need of purposive governance and economic and social development inputs. The objective of the Maoists has been to prevent such policies so that they do not lose their base in this region of Nepal. If there is lack of minimum levels of political stability and continuity, the Maoist insurgents would be able to move forward on the objectives mentioned earlier.

A disturbed and unstable Nepal can create serious political and security concerns for India. The floating Nepalese population between Bhutan, India and Nepal, with indeterminate national identity and in economic want can provide fertile ground for recruitment of Maoists and other terrorist groups on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border.

A Nepal in turmoil which is unstable and subject to fractious politics can get enmeshed in foreign policy and security decisions which can have a detrimental effect not only on Indo-Nepal, but also on Sino-Indian relations. It is in this context that India has been prompt in supporting Deuba in decisions taken by his government to take effective countermeasures against the current phase of Maoist insurgency in that country.

India will also be providing necessary operational and logistical assistance to the Nepalese government to make these counter-insurgency operations successful. This support and cooperation are both necessary and desirable, given the long-term productive potentialities of bilateral cooperation between India and Nepal. Leaving aside the important political and security dimensions of these potentialities, cooperation in the fields of commerce, joint utilization of hydro-electric potential and the joint effort with Nepal to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation are of long-term importance and benefit to the peoples of both countries.

The next summit of the SAARC scheduled to be held in Kathmandu is a more immediate factor necessitating Indian support to Nepal in the efforts underway to control and then eradicate the Maoist insurgency. Indo-Nepalese relations are again at a critical juncture due to developments in that country over the last fortnight. The capacity of Nepal to return to normalcy and stability within a democratic framework and India’s ability to be supportive without being prescriptive are factors which should underpin India’s Nepal policies.

The author is former foreign secretary of India


By Himani Bannerji,
Tulika, Rs 395

The Tarakeshwar scandal of 1873, featured on the cover of Himani Bannerji’s latest offering, Inventing Subjects, is a scene from this narrative series, several of which were painted in the same year. The episode marks a watershed in the genre of Kalighat paintings that flourished in Calcutta between 1830 and 1938. Given the Marxist-feminist perspective of this collection of six essays, each of which attempts to throw light on the different ways in which social subjects and their agencies have been constructed and represented in the context of the development of colonial hegemony and socio-cultural formations in India, the cover illustration is befitting.

The Tarakeshwar incident revolved around Madhab Chandra Giri, the mahant or head priest of a Shivaite shrine at Tarakeshwar, a place of pilgrimage. The mahant was involved in an illicit relationship with Elokeshi, wife of Nabinchandra Banerji, who worked in a printing press in Calcutta.

On one of his periodic visits to Tarakeshwar, Nabin heard about his wife’s involvement with the mahant and confronted Elokeshi, who confessed and pleaded to be pardoned. The couple were reconciled and decided to leave Tarakeshwar but were prevented from doing so by the mahant’s henchmen. On May 27, 1873, a frustrated Nabin killed Elokeshi by severing her head with a fish knife. In the ensuing trial, Nabin was sentenced to life imprisonment while the mahant was fined and sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment.

These essays act as a curtain-raiser to clichéd subjects like power equations, sexual morality of the bhadramahila, and class struggle in a patriarchal hegemonic 19th century setup in Bengal. In the process, the Bengali middle class consciousness comes to the fore.

Bannerji shows how social subjectivity constructed within an epistemological framework is both “inventing” and “invented”. She points out, and rightly so, that as a result, “social subjects can be considered as cultural and ideological objects of others’ invention while pointing to the possibility of inventing themselves as subjects within a given socio-historical context.”

Ranging from the middle class Bengali women’s attempts at self-fashioning to the colonial ideological reflexes within which their projects are articulated, the essays capture the complexity of subject formation. Patriarchy and gender organization are treated in these essays as more than “women’s problems”. They transcend gender differences, and are looked upon as constitutive dimensions of hegemony.

Bannerji’s oeuvre constitutes issues of identity, subjectivity and representation. She proposes that identity must be understood as a reflexive, dialectical concept which incorporates both structures of historical and social organization, as well as a personal self-interaction with the world.

Inventing Subjects contains this ardent belief. The essays, complete in themselves yet sharing a commonality, are well-researched. Excerpts of articles from old Bengali magazines and numerous intertextual references substantiate the author’s contention.

Bannerji does not deviate from her primary focus — the subjective aspects of class formation and consciousness of the Bengali middle class with a special emphasis on women as both objects and subjects of projects of self-making of classes and their political implications. But at the onset there surfaces a glitch in the form of a casual oblique between “Bengal/India” and “Bengali/Indian women.” Homogenizing India, a country known for its heterogeneity and diverse cultural paradigms, by equating Bengal with India or the bhadramahila with the Indian woman nearly tends to subvert the purpose of this otherwise commendable work.


Edited By Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman,
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £ 25

Churchill as a strategist and Montgomery as a battlefield commander cum tactician, are the two figures that dominate British history during the tumultuous times of World War II. Few people know about the chiefs of staff committee that formulated strategies and then implemented them by appointing commanders like Monty and Mountbatten. The chairman of the COS was Field Marshal Alanbrooke. His war diaries, published for the first time, give an insider’s view about how the war was waged from 10, Downing Street.

Alanbrooke was appointed chairman of the COS in the summer of 1940. France had fallen and Germany was triumphant. In “The Second World War”, Churchill writes that he was confident that Britain would be able to defeat the Germans if they invaded in late 1940. Alanbrooke’s entries show that this statement is merely Churchillian rhetoric. The British army was in a mess after Dunkirk and no match for the mighty Wehrmacht. Hence the COS decided to sent reinforcements to start offensive against Italian Libya, that is against Mussolini.

In 1941, the war became global with the entry of Russia and America and thereby started Alanbrooke’s grim struggle against both the powers. As Hitler’s panzers drove East, Molotov started clamouring for invasion of France to tie up German forces.The Americans also supported the proposal. Churchill, wilting under pressure from both, harangued Alanbrooke for ordering invasion of west Europe.

The COS hammered out what Alanbrooke calls the “Mediterranean strategy”. He argued that even with 80 per cent of the Wehrmacht engaged in Russia, a cross-channel operation would invariably fail. It was only in mid-1944, when the German army was seriously weakened in Russia, that the COS authorized the Normandy landings. Even then, writes Alanbrooke, it was a touch and go operation.

The diaries reflect a kind of narcissism. It is not clear what were the contributions of the other members of the COS like Dudley Pound, Cunningham and Portal in planning the operations. Pound and Cunningham were conscious that an invasion of France could not be undertaken before 1944. So the members of the COS delayed the cross-channel invasion in favour of Alanbrooke’s Mediterranean strategy. But Alanbrooke never gives them any credit.

However, the diaries, unaffected by hindsight, is a better guide for reconstructing the past than autobiographies written after the “event”. Hence, Alanbrooke’s account is more honest than the memoirs of Monty and Churchill. Both claim that the defeat of Nazism was inevitable and they had defeated it. Alanbrooke’s diaries show that within the Allied top brass, even in 1944, defeating Hitler remained an uncertainty.


Edited By Khuswant Singh,
Viking, Rs 395

Witness to the twists and turns of India’s tortuous history, the city of Delhi has been compared to the phoenix, rising gloriously from the ashes of its previous self. It is difficult to determine exactly how many cities have existed in and around the present site, but experts agree that there have been at least seven, from the legendary Indraprastha to Lutyens’ creation, aptly named New Delhi.

In each of its avatars, Delhi has had to look on as sultans ordered their harebrained schemes. It has shed silent tears at carnages and expressed its apathy to the rule of today’s babus. It is this fascinating city which pulsates before us in City Improbable, an anthology of writings on Delhi by residents, refugees, invaders and seekers of fortune brought together by Khuswant Singh, who loves and loathes Delhi in equal measure.

The pieces have been chosen with great care. Timur Lane justifies the sack of the city, Mir Taqi Mir looks on with the eyes of a poet and a number of modern scholars write on various aspects of Delhi. Also included is an extract from Khuswant Singh’s own Delhi: A Novel.

Delhi is truly a city improbable. Journalist and poet, Vijay Nambisan, recounts his experience when he asks a paanwallah for a box of matches in Hindi. When the paanwallah finally understands what Nambisan is asking for, he grumbles and asks the poet to learn to speak in Hindi. But, Nambisan says, hardly anyone in Delhi speaks Hindi. There is Punjabi, Urdu, khadi boli or Avadhi, but not really Hindi. Nambisan says Delhi is probably the only state capital which does not have a native tongue and much of this is because it is the country’s capital and because of reasons rooted in Partition.

The essays or extracts on old Delhi bring to life times which do not appear too distant. It seems as if it was only the other day that Ibn Batuta had visited the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

The contemporary contributions for this anthology can be best termed as bitter-sweet. There are a number of these, one by Ruskin Bond, which lets us peep into Delhi’s past lifestyle. While readers are likely to feel quite nostalgic about it all, they should remember that a similar change in lifestyles has taken place in other metros also — a price to be paid for progress.

One of the most notable contributors is Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, who was here as the Mexican ambassador from 1962 to 1968. There are many who remember his literary evenings with particular fondness. His poem “From the balcony” reveals a foreigner’s genuine love for the city. Jan Morris’s “Mrs Gupta Never Rang” shows another side of the city.

Anyone who has ever had anything to do with Delhi, or is interested in the history of cities, should take a look at this collection. In its quaintness and charm, Delhi can still outdo many other cities.


By Arturo Pérez-Reverte,
Harvill, £7.95

Umberto Eco with The Name of the Rose created the genre of the intellectual thriller. He has had many imitators but nobody has quite pulled it off with Eco’s aplomb. Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s The Fencing Master, does not quite possess the intellectual range and the erudition of The Name of the Rose, but is nonetheless a good second to Eco’s duel with Conan Doyle.

At the heart of the intellectual whodunnit is a detailed retelling of a historical context and an ambience. Eco embellished his recreation of a medieval monastery with references to the world of signs and medieval philosophy.

Pérez-Reverte situates his thriller in Spain on the eve of the September Revolution of 1868, when the country was full of rumours and plots were hatched in every Madrid cafe. This lends to the novel an atmosphere that is charged with the politics of transition, of an old world challenged by a different and perhaps a less gracious world. Caught in this whirlpool, and as a representative of the old world of honour and chivalry, is Jaime Astarloa, master of the ancient art of fencing. The fencing master considers himself to be above the vulgarities of plots and politics. As the author of a secret thrust which opponents find impossible to parry, he is obsessed by the order and the honour of fencing and by his quest “for the most perfect thrust conceived by the human mind.’’

Jaime Astarloa’s life changes forever when a beautiful young woman, Adela de Otero, walks into his apartment , desiring to be his pupil. The master’s sense of honour initially refuses to teach a woman how to fence. But through a rigorous cross examination, he realizes that she is an accomplished swordsman who is keen to learn the secret thrust from the master himself. Don Jaime finally agrees because he is impressed by her skills and allured by her beauty. Their fencing lessons are charged with a suppressed eroticism. But the master’s sense of honour stops him from expressing his love for the lady.

Adela de Otero has another agenda. She uses Don Jaime to get at somebody who was informing on her party’s plans to overthrow the monarchy. She kills him in a duelling encounter by using the secret thrust. Don Jaime quite inadvertently finds himself embroiled in this murder and sets out to solve it.

The denouement, quite predictably, is a duel between the fencing master and his pupil. During the duel, the master is at a distinct disadvantage since he has a learner’s foil with a button on the tip. He wins, of course, but in the process he discovers the perfect thrust.

If Eco’s embellishments came from his own expertise in semiotics, Pérez-Reverte brings to his novel the exotic and the arcane art of fencing. The narrative is replete with reference to fencing terms and fencing moves. The training in fencing and the final duel is described in graphic detail.

This is a story of unrequited and credulous love as well as a tale of how human beings manipulate desire and affection. There is suspense and the writing carries with it a dash of class as it evokes an ancien regime.


By Philip Meadows Taylor
(Rupa, Rs 195)

Philip Meadows Taylor ‘s Confessions of a Thug is the reprint of a colonial classic. Taylor’s “faithful portrait” of “the deeds and adventures of Ameer Ali, the Thug” is both an immensely readable picaresque novel and an attempt to understanding an alien social phenomenon. Taylor assumes that for most of his English readers “not conversant with the peculiar construction of Oriental society”, the thug would be a “subject of extreme wonder”. A footnote captures the tone of Taylor’s mediation: “The word Thug means a deceiver, from the Hindee verb Thugna, to deceive; it is pronounced Tug, slightly aspirated.” The first-person narrative — in which Ameer Ali tells his own story to a sahib — is therefore held within a sociological framework, largely derived from the famous work done on “the system of Thuggee” by Colonel Sleeman. In his meticulously researched introduction, Sleeman claims to have met Ali in 1832, when Ali was one of the “approvers or informers who were sent to the Nizam’s territories from Saugor, and whose appalling disclosures caused an excitement in the country which can never be forgotten.” He had murdered 719 persons, but had once confessed to Taylor, “Ah! sir, if I had not been in prison twelve years, the number would have been a thousand.” The main purpose behind Taylor’s first edition was to “awaken public vigilance in the suppression of Thuggee”. But the second edition celebrates the colonial administration’s “effectual suppression of the old crime”: “For this grand result, the untiring energy and humane provisions of the British Government are alone the cause; native States, with some exceptions, were indifferent, and often obstructed operations which might have led to more immediate success.” This is an enduringly fascinating book about imperial terrors, speaking in a voice that accommodates more than one point of view to colonial history.

By Bhisham Sahni
(Penguin, Rs 295)

Bhisham Sahni’s Middle India: Selected Short Stories collects Gillian Wright’s translations of short stories by one of Hindi literature’s most distinguished figures, best known for his novel, Tamas. For Sahni, “a short story is like lodging in a house one night and moving away the next morning, whereas a novel is like coming into a town where you have to bide for months on end”. Many of the stories focus on the urban working and middle classes of partitioned India, seeing them through their transitions into modernity. Wright is anxious to convey the Punjabi flavour of Sahni’s original Hindi, also placing him within a tradition of Hindi fiction going back to Munshi Premchand.

By Sisir Das
(Dronequill, Rs 195)

Sisir Das’s A Bride For Jagannatha is an accomplished English novel by a prominent Oriya writer. This is the story of Rambha, who has been taken into the Jagannath temple at Puri to be transformed into a devadasi. Married to Jagannath, and a scrupulous follower of all the rules of the devadasi tradition, Rambha’s life becomes one of a mysterious submission to ritual devotion, within a religious institution that makes inordinate demands on her body and mind. Das draws from Frederique Apffel-Marglin’s book, Wives of the God-King: The Rituals of the Devadasis of Puri and from treatises from the performative tradition, like the Abhinaya Chandrika and Sangeeta Narayana. But at the heart of the novel are impassioned questions: “Why did she go on being a devadasi? Why didn’t she just run away?...Why should someone like me, who didn’t appreciate any of her decisions, be haunted by her so many years later?”

Edited By P.J. Shah
(Centre for Civil Society, Rs 75)

P.J. Shah’s Friedman on India brings together two pieces written by the Chicago economist and advocate of the free market, Milton Friedman, in the Fifties and early Sixties about India’s economic policy. In 1955, the second Five Year plan was being prepared by the government, under strong socialist, Fabian and Soviet influences. Friedman and Neil Jacoby were sent by the Eisenhower administration in response to India’s call for assistance. Friedman spent an “intense month” in India, and wrote one of these essays, to be followed by another called “Indian economic planning” in 1963.



When the stars come down to work

Sir — That Ajay Devgan is entering the election fray in Uttar Pradesh as a Samajwadi Party candidate is a prime example of the desperate condition of political parties in India (“Polls rush to load Devgan and Shotgun”, November 30). The Samajwadi Party is the main opposition to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the UP elections. The BJP itself is not too confident about its achievements in the last five years, and its lack of confidence is displayed in its haphazard actions in the build-up to the elections. Despite the BJP’s ill planned policies, the Samajwadi Party is still not being able to project itself and its policies as a viable alternative to the BJP. Instead of banking on its political programmes and policies, it seems the Samajwadi Party would rather rope in film actors like Devgan to contest elections. It is a pity that after more than fifty years of independence, most political parties have nothing concrete to offer the voters, and would rather resort to cheap gimmicks like using out of work actors to attract votes.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Snapped contact

Sir — The report, “Karnataka cold shoulders Veerappan emissary” (November 26), adds another element of mystery to the various attempts which have been made to capture the sandalwood smuggler, Veerappan. It is obvious that Veerappan could not have managed to escape arrest and survive in the forests for so long without any external assistance. It has been reported on numerous occasions that Veerappan receives support from local villagers, either through coercion or through their loyalty to him. The Central government should play on this support system and use it to gain knowledge of Veerappan’s whereabouts. Why the Centre and the special task force, which has been close on Veerappan’s heels for years, have not been able to tap the local network of villagers remains a mystery.

That politics would start playing a role in the search for Veerappan was not expected. The former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, and his bete noire, J. Jayalalithaa, seem to have found a new arena in which to play against each other. Instead of concentrating on getting back at each other through the arrest and detainment of the Nakkeeran reporter, Sivasubramaniam, the two politicians should realize that Sivasubramaniam is a direct link to Veerappan. It is also known that the editor of Nakkeeran, R. Gopal, has access to Veerappan. Obviously there is a connection between Veerappan and the “outside” world. This connection needs to be exploited. To arrest Sivasubramaniam on the ground that he is in touch with Veerappan is only closing the STFs access to Veerappan. Also the political rivalry between Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa is acting as a stumbling block to Veerappan’s capture. Till this political rivalry is made secondary, the search for Veerappan is bound to remain fruitless.

Yours faithfully,
S. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The recent report about the arrest of the reporter of the magazine, Nakkeeran, is ridiculous to say the least (“Karnataka cold shoulders Veerappan emissary”). It is because of journalists like Peter Bergen, R. Gopal and Sivasubramaniam, to name a few, that we are able to gain an insight into the modus operandi of criminals such as Osama bin Laden and Veerappan.

If the editor of Nakkeeran, R.Gopal, had not established a personal equation with Veerappan he would not have been able to mastermind the release of the actor Rajkumar.

Instead of killing the connection between journalists and criminals, the police and the special task force should let the relationship continue. As long as journalists are not involved in any of the activities of these criminals, the relationship they share could only be beneficial to the country.

Yours faithfully,
Ratnabali Mitra Sarkar, New Delhi

Sir — There should be an immediate impartial investigation to dig out the truth regarding the arrest of the reporter of Nakkeeran (“Karnataka cold shoulders Veerappan emissary”). The special task force needs to be questioned about the arrest as no concrete reason for it has been provided. If R. Gopal or Sivasubramaniam have been involved with the illegal activities of Veerappan it will turn out to be a terrible setback to journalists, who have for long acted as and been protected in their role as go-betweens for criminals and the police.

Yours faithfully,
Ashutosh Nayak, Hyderabad

Text for trouble

Sir — I was appalled to see the extent to which history text books meant for schoolchildren are being doctored and monitored by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-run Vidya Bharati schools. The prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, should take the necessary steps to avoid the “saffronization” of education. Teaching children that Muslims go to the Kabbah to worship a “Shivalinga”, as written in Sang-e-Aswad; that Christians were responsible for the partition of India; and that Christian missionaries are fostering anti-national tendencies in various parts of India could not be more incorrect or preposterous.

Instead of spreading communal hatred and disharmony in the guise of education, the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and other so-called “Hindu” organizations should try and stop television commercials which depict Hindu gods and other mythological characters in poor taste. Whether it is Yama taking centre-stage in the Nerolac Paints advertisement or Karna in the Clinic Plus Shampoo commercial, the end result is that the Hindu pantheon of gods is being ridiculed.

It is also because of inadequate education regarding Hindu “sanskriti” that the murderers of Graham Staines and Arul Doss refuse to understand that Hinduism does not preach religious hatred, but is based on the cardinal principle of sarva panth samabhav or the respect for all religions. The Vidya Bharati schools should concentrate on improving and correcting the available information on Hinduism and other religions, instead of imparting incorrect information.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — The RSS in its decision to rewrite history obviously did not expect the ruckus that would be kicked up by the authors of the history books under question. Authors like Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra and others are outraged at the recent decision to change and delete portions from the books they have written.

Recently the NCERT has withdrawn some controversial portions from certain textbooks in an attempt to respect the sentiments of minority communities. Sikh leaders objected to Guru Teg Bahadur being described as a plunderer and rapist in one textbook and the NCERT deleted the offending portions. The authors of the book have claimed a breach of contract. The media and pseudo-secular forces are alleging that the deletion of controversial portions is against the principle of “freedom of expression” and is a calculated attempt to saffronize education.

A pro-left outfit, Sahamat, organized a meeting of the authors concerned. The authors claimed that, according to the contract, the NCERT should have consulted them before deleting portions from the textbooks. Before claiming breach of contract, the authors need to realize that they hold a position of responsibility as writers of history. Is it really necessary to introduce Guru Teg Bahudur as a plunderer simply because a Persian scholar had once described him as such? Is it also necessary to imply an illicit relationship between Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru in a textbook for schoolchildren? It is sad that freedom of expression is being upheld by imparting unnecessary, inappropriate and inaccurate education.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Last act

Sir — The death of Ashok Kumar is a great shock to all his fans and friends. He will always be remembered for his distinctive acting. He added a certain respectability to the acting profession. Ashok Kumar was one of the few actors who stole the limelight even when he had switched to character roles. The handsome hero of the Forties and Fifties became an adorable grand-father with consummate ease in the Seventies and Eighties. Ashok Kumar’s talent was not confined to acting alone. He was a good painter, a homoeopath and a collector of cars as well.

Yours faithfully,
D.V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar

Sir — The death of Ashok Kumar is the death of yet another Kumar brother. Much like the Mangeshkar sisters, the Kumar brothers, Anup, Kishore and Ashok, were part of the Hindi film industry for many years. In Ashok Kumar’s case it was for more than sixty years. Sadly, talented siblings like the Mangeshkars, Kumars and Kapoors are few and far between in the entertainment industry, and this is what makes the death of Ashok Kumar a greater loss.

Yours faithfully,
Chayan Saha, Thiruvananthapuram

Parting shot

Sir — I have recently noticed that the central railway reservation charts are being printed only in Hindi. While Hindi might be the national language, it is illogical to have reservation charts and other important information printed only in Hindi. In a state like West Bengal, while many people might be able to understand and read Hindi, there are many who cannot. The least that can be done is to print forms in the local language as well as the national.

Yours faithfully,
R. Ghosh, Calcutta

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