Editorial 1 / Border brawls
Editorial 2 / Salt loss
Foundation for the future
Mining the depths of decline
Document / Mutually assisting a greater war
Letters to the editor

India’s expectations from the forthcoming visit of the Chinese prime minister, Mr Zhu Rongji, to New Delhi may well be tempered by some disturbing developments along the India-China border in the east. Reports of large quantities of Chinese-made arms being smuggled into the area to help insurgents in the Northeast can only worsen worries about a fresh impetus to disruptive activities in a sensitive region. It is no secret that earlier generations of northeastern militants not only received arms supplies from the Chinese but also went to the Hunan province and elsewhere in southern China for arms training and logistic support. It was presumed that for many years, direct Chinese support for these insurgents had decreased considerably. A change in the Chinese attitude to the militants will definitely force India to redraw its strategies in the area. Even more disturbing are reports of hostile Chinese moves in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. In Sikkim, Chinese troops are said to have entered about 20 kilometres inside Indian territory to stop some nomads from building temporary huts, disputing India’s claim to the land. In Arunachal Pradesh, flag meetings between local army commanders failed to resolve the disputes after the Chinese went even further to demolish as many as 24 border pillars along the Line of Actual Control in Dibang and Lohit districts. The Chinese moves to claim more territory by resettling large colonies near the border in Arunachal Pradesh can only be viewed by India with suspicion, because about 90,000 square km of Indian territory in the state had been in China’s forcible occupation since the 1962 war. China has not only refused to accept Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as part of India, but also attempted to force its own position in the border disputes.

Such unfriendly actions by China are particularly unfortunate as they come at a time when China wants India to be “restrained” in dealing with the Pakistan-based terrorists responsible for the December 13 attack on Parliament. These also suggest a betrayal of the trust that India had reposed in China following last year’s agreement to launch fresh confidence-building measures. Some analysts would think that the irritants on the eastern border are part of the Chinese strategy to pressure India into compromising its positions on issues relating to the dalai lama and Taiwan. In the face of these provocations, India has no option but to view future Chinese statements with suspicion as well as keep its armed forces on alert in the eastern sector. It is to be hoped, however, that China will restrain itself so that the border brawls do not become skirmishes. Also, Indian doubts of fresh Chinese manouevres with northeastern insurgents need to be allayed. The air must clear sufficiently to create the right atmosphere for Mr Rongji’s visit.


The improvement of public health in India can never be a simple story. The entire issue of iodized salt has now become another one of those unresolved problems. The government of Orissa had banned the sale and manufacture of uniodized edible salt. But the implementation of this ban has affected around 30,000 families surviving on the manufacture of common salt. Four out of six salt-producing centres in the Ganjam district, Balasore and Puri are now closed or closing down. Acres of salt lands are lying waste, and thousands of bags of salt remain unsold. As the local cooperative societies have pointed out, those affected are the poorest villagers, whose monthly salaries will not be coming in during the approaching salt-producing season.

There is a context to, and a history behind, the ban on uniodized salt in India. Iodine, an essential trace element for human development, is mostly absorbed from food. Iodine deficiency disorders, like goitre and mental retardation, continue to be a significant public health problem in many developing countries. In India, an estimated 167 million people are exposed to the risk of iodine deficiency, of which 54 million have goitre. In a survey conducted in 239 districts of 25 states and 4 Union territories, 197 districts were endemic for iodine deficiency disorders. In Orissa, the total goitre rates in several districts are well above the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization. The WHO, UNICEF and the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders have concluded that universal salt iodization is the principal public health measure for eliminating IDD, adopted as a policy by the government of India in 1984. In 1998, the Centre made the iodization of edible salt mandatory for manufacturers, only to lift the ban a couple of years later. The reversal was justified in terms of the undesirability of compulsion in matters of individual choice. But the Centre also had to put up with the reactions of such voices within the sangh parivar as of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, whose skewed logic in the matter did not leave the Centre entirely unpersuaded. About a third of India’s produce of salt comes from the unlicensed sector, which perpetuates a dual market in cheaper uniodized salt. The selling of common salt produced in other states has also been cited in Orissa to point out the unfairness of the ban. Maintaining such regulations within the unorganized sector could be practically impossible. Balancing the actualities of extreme poverty, the demands of electoral politics and the imperatives of development could often lead to a difficult impasse.


Foreign direct investment is a term usually associated with trade and development in the economic sphere. FDI in human resource development is a relatively uncommon experience, though cooperation among governments of different countries in the social sector has been prevalent for a long time, both under United Nations’ auspices as well as under bilateral cultural agreements. In this context, the new initiative of the Ford Foundation to reach out to the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of society by offering them attractive opportunities for three years of higher education in any part of the globe through the international fellowships programme requires special attention.

Investing nearly 300 million dollars over the next ten years, the foundation expects people otherwise neglected to be enabled to achieve educational excellence and professional capabilities. The idea is to help generate intellectual leaders for the future from marginalized sections who would assist societies generally and their own communities in particular to pursue a just social order. In concept and application it is a profound idea with immense possibilities for advancing the constitutional goal of equality and social justice.

It is said that B.R. Ambedkar became an intellectual giant and constitutional law expert largely because of the support he received to prosecute higher studies in England and America. There are many such talented persons in different low caste groups long suppressed and denied opportunities for intellectual advancement. Unfortunately, their numbers are too many in India so that despite government scholarships and private charitable resources, a large number of deserving persons are unable to blossom to their full intellectual potential. In this regard, the Ford international fellowships are a welcome investment in human resources development in the emerging knowledge society.

The writer was associated in the regional and national selection procedures of the first set of fellows from India in October 2001, and would like to share a few thoughts gathered in the process for the benefit of hundreds of others who may well seek the opportunity in future.

My first reaction was one of great satisfaction and abundant reassurance. The intellectual calibre of the average young men and women belonging to the so-called backward classes graduating from the hundreds of poorly equipped educational institutions in India is not what it is ordinarily presented in educational circles. Despite poor infrastructural facilities and the not-too-attractive job market there is a large pool of talent among these graduates and post-graduates. They will not only shine in their academic performance wherever they go for higher studies, but will also take on the role of change agents in the communities they come from with positive results. This was evident from the work plans they proposed during and after the fellowship programme, and their convincing presentations at the interview session.

The selection procedure was evolved after wide consultation with academics, activists, media persons, educational administrators and political representatives. Given the principal goal of reaching out to the marginalized and disadvantaged groups and of finding the promising talent amongst them, the available methods of advertisement, applications, interviews and so on needed to be supplemented by innovative exercises in identifying competitive talents. As it is a worldwide programme, the selection process has to be country-specific while maintaining universal standards. Being a new initiative which does not depend on intellectual attainment alone for identifying the beneficiaries, the selection criteria had to be diverse and specific to the goals of the programme.

An agreed matrix of socio-cultural disadvantage had to be built into the overall academic and leadership potential/attainment of the candidate in order to reach out to the most deserving among the disadvantaged groups. In this regard a number of parameters were identified and each given a separate value to assess the relative degree of disadvantage/marginalization of the candidate concerned. The parameters settled were gender (women candidates given additional weightage), social background including parent’s education, occupation and income, caste or ethnicity (scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, or other backward classes), geographical and physical disabilities, medium of school or college education, rural or urban environment and academic background and so on.

Each item was given a score out of a total of 10, and the applications received in response to the advertisement were evaluated on the above lines. The applications procedure was itself a two-stage process. Firstly, everyone who felt eligible to seek the fellowship was issued what is called a pre-application form. Those who applied giving the details as above were awarded scores on the basis of the parameters set out above. Bonus points were given to those whose parents are doing manual labour for their livelihood, are female or disabled candidates, possess post-graduate qualifications and have suffered severe hardships while prosecuting studies at the school or graduate levels.

The pre-application forms were thus screened and those with a minimum eligibility score were issued the final application form which sought details of their future ideas for study and career plans. It was reported that over 7100 pre-application forms and 1500 final application forms were issued in the first stage of selection. Out of 1000 final completed forms received, 200 candidates on comparative merit were short-listed for the next stage of selection which consisted of interviews and discussions.

The preliminary round of personal interviews were organized in four different locations, New Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore. The interview boards consisted of five members of whom three were women. They were drawn from the fields of higher education, social action, professions and public service. The boards were briefed on criteria and procedure to be followed in order to strike uniformity in approach and assessment. The procedure involved a one to one discussion with a member of the board, followed by a half an hour long interview before the entire board. The questions generally asked were those relating to past achievements in relation to intellectual and leadership abilities, demonstrated concern for social issues in the place of living/study, ability to prosecute the proposed programme of study in an appropriate institution and the degree of commitment to the goals of the programme.

Before the regional selection committees, 200 candidates presented themselves, of whom 88 were women, 30 ST, 10 physically disabled and 50 from among the OBC. The regional interviews continued for two days in each location, at the end of which 80 candidates were chosen for the final national selection. The foundation proposed to award 30 fellowships in the first year and desired to have a reserve list of another 10 candidates for possible funding for studies in India or to take the places of those who opt out of the programme.

The chairperson of each of the four regional selection committees along with a few other experts sat in New Delhi for another day to make the final selection of 40 candidates for the Ford international fellowships, 2001. Although the candidates were not called for a second round of interviews, the process of final selection was highly complex and demanding given the fact that all the 80 who qualified for the final selection were more or less equally qualified in all conceivable parameters of selection. By close scrutiny of individual records and detailed discussion of comparative merit/disadvantage a final list of 40 persons was prepared unanimously and recommended to the authorities of the Ford Foundation. Nearly half the selects turned out to be women and over one-fourth belonged to the SC and ST categories. Most of them were from a rural middle class or lower class background.

It was surprising to find that when the fellowships promised adequate funding for three years of study/research anywhere in the world, nearly ten per cent of the candidates finally selected wanted to prosecute their studies only in India. This would not have been the case with urban, middle class, English-educated students. The fields of study related mostly to science, engineering, community development, environment, governance, media, arts and culture, the bulk of candidates going for community development and environmental studies. The average age of selected candidates was 28 and the average educational qualification was a post-graduate degree.

The fellows would receive full financial support not only towards tuition fee and related costs in the university to which they finally decided to go, but would also be provided assistance in international travel for the fellow and upto one dependant. The actual grant amount would be settled according to the needs of the fellow’s study plans. The programme may even provide resources for fellows to conduct research or projects in India after completing the fellowship period. Thus Ford’s IFP is an attractive package for promising young people, particularly from the disadvantaged sections, a means to seek the highest educational attainments one can possibly get in one’s career Truly it is a social justice programme par excellence and governments will be well advised to put in resources to expand the scheme to at least 100 people every year.

Ford Foundation has announced that it proposes to repeat the programme at least for the next 10 years. A few suggestions may be considered for future selections in the context of conditions in India. There is need to publicize the programme through all the 5000 odd colleges and 300 universities, apart from through the media route. Let the rural colleges be identified and let a professor there be trained to counsel promising students to choose an appropriate course of study before seeking the fellowship. Let that professor give a complete bio-data of the student, which may be considered along with the preliminary application.

The system of giving scores on pre-determined parameters requires re-consideration. Perhaps for the initial few years the fellowships may be confined to SCs, STs, women and physically handicapped persons from the rural setting only. If the paperwork for the initial selection can be completed a year in advance, it may even be possible to organize interviews in the campus where they study which will be more effective and convenient to the candidates. Pre-selection counselling is found extremely important in terms of career planning, choice of centre of study and preparing realistic work plans.

A pre-departure orientation training for the fellows is also desirable. The subject for study should be left entirely to the decision of the candidate without being circumscribed by the Ford Foundation programme support agenda. It makes a lot of sense to associate parents of the candidate at some stage in the selection process. The scheme for supporting study in India may be separated and administered independently from the international fellowship programme.

Admittedly the international fellowship programme introduced in 2001 is indeed an admirable addition to the half a century of Ford Foundation support for higher education and social justice.

The author is a member of the Law Commission of India    

The coal sector in India is reported to have been under tremendous pressure during the last one decade or so. A section of economists now firmly holds that the collieries ought to be handed over to private hands if they really want to survive in the changed market scenario. The Union coal and mines minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, known for taking “populist measures” in all the departments he has headed so far, though, firmly maintains that neither shall the collieries be privatized nor the workers retrenched so long as he remained the coal commander. But he also admits that his government has no money for the “proper treatment” of ailing coal companies. Hence the coal industry will have to work out effective survival plans on its own.

Even as speculations spread that the “privatization bill” is all set to be introduced in Parliament, the survival plans submitted by loss-making subsidiaries of the Coal India Limited advocate a greater involvement of private contractors and intorduction of modern equipment on a lease basis. The argument is that the Singrauli collieries rejuvenated themselves by following the same path. Abandoning the projects that give recurring losses is another important proposal of the just-formulated survival plan.

But the question is: if the collieries have reached the point of no return, why will private players get involved with them? If the collieries can run safely in private hands, why were they snatched away by the government during the early Seventies?

Is the government aware that most of the coalfields belonging to the private sector were allowed to develop did not give the desired results? That the underground mine-fire raging in Jharia and adjoining places for the last seven decades is a direct outcome of reckless mining by private colliery owners and coal companies patronized by colonial rulers? Paswan himself has admitted that there was a mafia raj in Bharat Coking Coal Limited, Central Coalfields Limited and Eastern Coalfeilds Limited, — these companies account for two-thirds of the total number of collieries in the country.

A critical look at the records of the BCCL, ECL, and CCL suggests that the losses incurred by these companies have been going up every year despite a considerable fall in their workforce and rise in annual production. For instance, BCCL losses shot up to Rs 692.32 crore in 1999-2000 from Rs 141.91 crore in 1997-98. Its workforce during the corresponding period slid from 142436 to 119978. Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on December 19 last year, the then minister of state for coal, N.T. Shanmugam, had openly admitted that decrease in manpower was not directly attributable to increase in BCCL losses. He added that increase in cost of coal production, increase in the wages of the employees and so on were responsible for the rise in losses.

The coal workers went on a three-day nationwide strike from December 3, to pressurize the government to immediately implement the recommendations of the sixth wage board and pay their arrear dues pending for the last 54 months. The removal of the blanket ban on leave travel concession facilities is another important demand of the agitating coal workers.

In 1973, the Geological Survey of India held that Bihar had a coal reserve of 17365.35 million tonnes. On the first day of the current calender year, the coal reserves of BCCL alone were assessed at 19430 million tonnes. Still the production losses in the BCCL during the financial years 1998-2001 were 30.88 lakh tonnes, 18.07 lakh tonnes and 40.40 lakh tonnes, respectively. The loss during the first quarter of the current financial year was 23.01 lakh tonnes.

Replying to another question in the Lok Sabha in August, the former minister of state for coal, Syed Shanawaz Hussain, had said that power failure, problems of land acquisition, inundation of mines due to rains, breakdown of equipment, the adverse geo-mining conditions in general and so on were mainly responsible for the production losses. The corrective measures being taken by the government, according to Hussain, included, bilateral negotiations with villagers for land acquisition, close liason with the Damodar Valley Corporation to reduce power breakdown and collec- tion of spare equipment from other subsidiaries.

To what extent the private players will manage to sail smoothly through troubled waters is therefore a million dollar question now. As on March 31, 2001, 30 cases of land disputes involving an area of 886.93 acres and an estimated coal reserve of 102.56 million tonnes were pending with the BCCL. In the third week of August this year, Hussain had informed the Lok Sabha that excessive demand for employment, cases pending in the civil courts where judicial review or scrutiny were involved, with the landowners not accepting the compensation and rehablitation packages being offered by the CIL, were causing delay in smooth disposal of these cases.

The minister had also said that for an early disposal of such cases, negotiations as far as practicable were being held with opposite parties in association with the district adminstration and public representatives. A couple of weeks earlier, the CIL director too had visited the coal capital and held a meeting with the senior officers belonging to the BCCL and the district adminstration. At this meeting, the officials were asked to initiate prompt steps to get the BCCL lands freed from the clutches of unauthorized occupants. A noticeable development on this front is yet to surface.

The coal companies ought to get modern equipment on a lease basis, if they are not in a position to buy them on their own. The Union coal ministry has on record admitted that in the BCCL, though all the coal-cutting machines have become obsolete, four among them are still under operation. The poor company spent Rs 393 crore during the last nine years for buying earthmoving equipment. Six hundred and forty-three such machines were operating in the BCCL in August 2001. Seventy-three had broken down. The equipment that had broken down involved an investment of Rs 40 crore. During 2000-01, their depreciation amount was Rs 4.54 crore and the interests accrued by them stood at Rs 2.61 crore. Although the government had given assurances that all this equipment would be pressed into service after repairs, no one knows when that day will come.

It is often being said that water scarcity is another major obstacle coming in the way of development of the collieries. The coal ministry has already admitted that 1873 million gallons of water are available in the mines coming under area X of the BCCL. Estimated water reserves in areas IX and III are 1314 million gallons and 1318 million gallons respectively. No scheme has been formulated as yet to dewater the mines and ensure water supply to the population depending on the Dharmabandh colliery. Will the private owner take care of these things, when the collieries are in their hands once again?

Reacting sharply to a complaint by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Paswan, in the third week of September this year, ordered a probe into the BCCL scandal involving embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 9500 crore. The complainant, Ramashray Singh, has tried to prove on the basis of documentary evidence, that those involved in the scandal have all along been enjoying the patronage of whosoever came into power. Illegal mining goes on unabated. A section of the bureaucracy firmly holds that the explosives meant for mining purposes are getting into the hands of the extremists. Can privatization be an effective cure for such chronic diseases?


The state party in whose territory the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite the person, be obliged, without exception whosesoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution...in accordance with the law of the state. Those authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a grave nature under the law of that state.

Any person who is taken into custody or regarding whom any other measure is taken or proceedings are carried out pursuant to this convention shall be guaranteed fair treatment, including enjoyment of all rights and guarantees in conformity with law of the state in the territory of which that person is present and applicable provisions of international law, including international human rights law.

State parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with investigations or criminal or extradition proceedings...including assistance in obtaining evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.

State parties shall carryout their obligations...in conformity with any treaties or other arrangements on mutual legal assistance that may exist between them. In the absence of such treaties or arrangements, states parties shall afford one another assistance in accordance with their domestic law.

State parties...not bound by a bilateral treaty or arrangement of mutual legal assistance may... apply the procedure set out in Annex II.

None of the offences referred to in article 2 and the acts which constitute an offence...shall be regarded, for the purposes of extradition or mutual legal assistance, as a political offence or as an offence connected with a political offence or as an offence inspired by political motives.

Accordingly, a request for extradition or for mutual legal assistance based on such an offence may not be refused on the sole ground that it concerns a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence or an offence inspired by political motives.

Nothing in this convention shall be interpreted as imposing an obligation to extradite or to afford mutual legal assistance, if the requested state party has substantial grounds for believing that the request for extradition...or for mutual legal assistance ... has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of that person’s race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion or that compliance with the request would cause prejudice to that person’s position for any of these reasons.

A person who is being detained or is serving a sentence in the territory of one state party whose presence in another state party is requested for purposes of identification, testimony or otherwise providing assistance in obtaining evidence for the investigation or prosecution of offences under the convention may be transferred if the following conditions are met,

The person freely gives his or her informed consent, and

The competent authorities of both states parties agree, subject to such conditions as those states parties may deem appropriate.

For the purposes of this article

The state to which the person is transferred shall have the authority and obligation to keep the person transferred in custody, unless otherwise requested...by the state from which the person was transferred.

The state to which the person is transferred shall without delay implement its obligations to return the person to the custody of the state from which the person was transferred as agreed beforehand, or...otherwise agreed...

The state to which the person is transferred shall not require the state from which the person was transferred to initiate extradition proceedings for the return of the person;

The person transferred shall receive credit for service of the sentence being served in the state from which he was transferred for the time spent in the custody of the state to which he was transferred.

To be concluded



Close the net on child abusers

Sir — I would like to congratulate Anuradha Kumar for her article, “Protecting the young” (Dec 26), on reopening the debate about how to stop sexual abuse of children. Such abuse appears to be cross-cultural and trans-national. In a world which is rapidly globalizing under pressure from the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, forums like the Yokohama congress highlight some of the ethical commitments which must serve as a check on free trade. Unfortunately, the meeting in Japan largely demonstrated that despite the existence of global legislation to protect children, such as the convention on the rights of the child, it has not been effectively implemented. Furthermore, the internet, that great symbol of the breaking of territorial boundaries, has facilitated the creation of paedophile rings and international syndicates. Abusing a child can now be done with anonymity and ease from one’s home. One can only hope that the harrowing testimony offered by sexually abused children at the beginning of the Yokohama congress will spur governments to act as ethical watchdogs in the amoral world of the internet.

Yours faithfully,
Soma Das, Calcutta

Confessional mood

Sir — The confession of Mohammad Afzal, the Indian connection in the Parliament attack, presents an interesting situation (“Under big brother’s eyes, Pakistan plot unravels on prime time” Dec 21). His candid admission of various misadventures, directly or indirectly instigated, funded and boosted by the Inter-Services Intelligence has exposed Pakistan in a big way. It is not that any of the parties concerned, including the United States of America, did not know about Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist activities in India. But it was always convenient to look the other way. However, post-September 11, the well-coordinated American onslaught in Afghan-istan has dramatically changed the notion of what should be the appropriate reaction to senseless terrorist acts.

Notwithstanding the fact that the US has made the right noises after the attack on Parliament, the Americans have to realize that there cannot be two sets of rules in the response to terrorism — one which is meant for the US and the other for countries like India.When the US initiated military action against Afghanistan, it was yet to prove the connection between the bombings in New York and Pentagon with al Qaida. Indians, on the contrary, have been asked to produce evidence after being repeatedly attacked by Pakistan backed terrorist outfits. Now that the Pakistan connection has been revealed on television, the entire world will be watching the reactions of those who have proclaimed a “war against terrorism”.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — As the recent statements of George W. Bush show, the US at present is more inclined towards Pakistan than India in this moment of crisis (“Warning shot at Bush”, Dec 22). It is true that Pakistan has helped the US in its war against the taliban, and in return Pakistan has played its cards right. What is strange in this predictable arrangement is the Indian government’s gullibility. Does it need to go on listening to the advice of the US, and this despite the fact that the US failed to directly condemn Pakistan for the Parliament attack? India should go all out against the Pakistan sponsored cross-border terrorism, especially after the solid evidence provided by Mohammad Afzal about the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad in the December 13 attack.

It is true that war should be avoided wherever possible. But the focus should be on how not to allow further penetration of militancy in India. If we think that some solution to this problem will emerge through talks, we will be deluding ourselves. Enough damage has been done to India. It is time to act now.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — Indian leaders are hallucinating if they think Washington will act against Islamabad. One does not have to be a research fellow to understand that George W. Bush needs Pervez Musharraf to mop up the taliban. And until the US special forces have nabbed the civil engineeer turned demolition expert, Osama bin Laden, the American president will do nothing that undermines the military regime of Pakistan. He naturally expects the Indians to exercise “restraint”. American complicity in propping up military dictatorships at the cost of democracies is too well known to need further elaboration.

Yours faithfully,
Meraj Ahmed Mubarki, Calcutta

Passionate hatred

Sir — Gwynne Dyer in “Their love affair with death” (Nov 28), has made an interesting point. Modernization and Westernization are indeed two different processes. Modernization becomes imminent with industrialization and technological advancement. Globalization follows next. Both these phenomena create a common culture which draws from the values of myriad ethnic groups and migrant communities which assemble together in hi-tech societies. The forces of globalization and modernization lead to wonderful assimilation as can be witnessed in the United States of America.

Conversely, Westernization refers to the pure European culture that penetrated the colonies. Sadly, not too many seem to be influenced by that culture any more. How many learn ballet or European classical music today?

It is not just the Orient that has been affected by modernization, the West itself has changed significantly. Again, those living in the West are not the only ones to be affected by modernity. Individuals like Osama bin Laden wrongly assume that the lifestyle and outlook of those living in the US represent white Christianity. It is only a coincidence that Europe and the US were the first to experience modernity.

Yours faithfully
Indrani Bhattacharya, Howrah

Sir — Gwynne Dyer’s article, “Their love affair with death”, failed to establish the reason behind the terrorist activities of some Muslims, and their resentment and contempt for the Western civilization. Dyer accuses Muslim leaders of maintaining silence and exercising restraint in their response to the September 11 attacks. On the contrary, whenever the media approached any Islamic authority, the latter strongly condemned the attacks. It would be unfair to claim that the Muslim clerics’ condemnation of the event was unequivocal. Although many regard the attacks to be a consequence of the unrest the US has encouraged in Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries, it is illogical to claim that this is also the reason behind the unsympathetic response of Muslim leaders.

Dyer continues to say that the leaders of “the Muslims go about proclaiming that Islam is a religion of love and peace… but across… the Muslim world there is a deep hatred for the West”. First, to claim that all Muslims feel a certain hatred for the West is incorrect. Second, the hatred, even if present, has nothing to do with the proclamations of love and peace by the religion. Muslims do not hate the West, but the evils perpetrated by the West.

Dyer displays a certain amount of ignorance when he states that the rejection of modernity is inherent in Islam. Islam has accepted practises like the marriage of widows and remarriage of women that have still not been accepted by many other religions. Islam rejects not modernity but the misuse of modernity, much like any other religion. And it is a fallacy to believe that modernity and Western civilization are synonymous. Dyer states that “Islam is a different religion and a very dangerous one”. Such reckless statements display a poor knowledge of Islam.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammad Tarique Mumtaz, Champdany

Sir — Should we then regard Islam as the most dangerous religion on earth, Gwynne Dyer?

Yours faithfully,
Jyotiska Sen, Calcutta

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