Editorial 1 / Defy the bully
Editorial 2 / Growing garden
Diplomacy/ An epistle to Mr Advani
Fifth Column / Our own war against terror
To douse the home fires
Document / Defining the concept of sexual assault
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / DEFY THE BULLY 
 
 
 
 
Fear is the secret of a successful bandh in Calcutta. A general strike is no longer the index of popular support to a cause or a particular party. People are afraid of violence and disruption and, therefore, they stay home. This is a tacit acceptance of the bullying tactics of political parties. Such intimidation was begun by the communists, and is now being followed by the Trinamool Congress and Ms Mamata Banerjee. The success, or otherwise, of Thursday’s bandh called by the Socialist Unity Centre of India will be determined by the extent to which Ms Banerjee and her “boys’’ are able to create a scare in the city by perpetrating violence. An act of intimidation, by definition, has two sides: the bully and the bullied. Intimidation fails when the bullied refuses to accept the terms dictated by the bully. It is time the people of Calcutta refuse to become passive victims of the intimidation imposed by political parties. Today, it is the atmosphere of terror created by Ms Banerjee; in the past it was the left which created successful bandhs through violence and fear. Ms Banerjee’s tactics are no different from those pursued by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the not-so-distant past. There is some irony in the fact that today the CPI(M) stands against the bandh and against the disruption of daily life. The CPI(M), one could say, has seen the light under Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. It knows that a bandh will do severe damage to the image of a state wooing capital and investment.

The issues that have provoked the bandh are very significant indicators of the mindset of those who have called the bandh and of those who are supporting it. The bandh is directed against the rise in hospital and education fees and the hike in power tariff. The bandh is thus against economic reforms and economic logic. It is for the continuation of subsidies to various sectors like health, education and power, even though all studies have shown that such subsidies do not actually help the poorer sections of the people. To show how pro-people they are, the SUCI and the Trinamool Congress will carry out acts of destruction against property. Such acts will create terror among the people who will stay at home; the political parties concerned will declare the bandh to be successful. The bluff involved in this has to be called. This can happen only when people refuse to be scared. The evaporation of fear is predicated upon the determination of the state government to keep things, especially the public transport system, running as per the normal schedule. It must also treat lawbreakers as lawbreakers, irrespective of their political affiliations. This is Mr Bhattacharjee’s chance to prove that he is indeed a new avatar. The flop of a bandh will tell investors that West Bengal is no longer a state where anything goes.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / GROWING GARDEN 
 
 
 
 
The concept of agro economic zones was floated in the exim policy announcement of March 31, and 10 AEZs have received Central approval — pineapples in West Bengal, litchis in Uttaranchal, gherkins in Karnataka, vegetables in Punjab, mangoes and potatoes in Uttar Pradesh, grapes and wines in Maharashtra, flowers in Tamil Nadu and potatoes in Punjab. AEZs are the buzzword now, and states are falling over backwards to submit projects on AEZs for Central approval. Ten more AEZs are likely to receive approval by March 31, 2002. It is true that agricultural reforms are the most important item on the unfinished reform agenda, and there is a substantial global market opening up because of the World Trade Organization agreements, and agriculture is not just about foodgrain. Horticulture and floriculture have enormous potential. An estimated 30 per cent of the present output of fruits and vegetables is wasted because of a lack of cold storage and processing facilities. There is some National Sample Survey evidence to show that consumption patterns are switching from rice and wheat to fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the policy mindset is still obsessed with rice and wheat. There is yet insufficient recognition about the need for agricultural reforms. As the Centre’s abortive attempt to reform the procurement and distribution of the food economy illustrates, states are reluctant to implement reform.

Had these reforms indeed been introduced, the pro-urban and pro-rich perception of reforms would also have disappeared. The substantive point is that the government’s role is best described as one of removing constraints, rather than active intervention. If AEZs indeed develop, they should develop on the basis of commercial principles. What business does the government have in deciding whether pineapples should be grown in West Bengal? More importantly, even if such decisions were important, does the government have any expertise in deciding such matters? The issue of Central approval arises because Central investments are involved. Out of an estimated investment of Rs 200 crore in the 10 approved AEZs, Rs 80 crore is likely to come from such sources. Unfortunately, the commerce ministry (and the government in general) still exhibit the Planning Commission mindset of identifying thrust products, thrust regions and thrust markets, to which, government resources will selectively be allocated. This is the road to disaster. Given the government’s track record on leakage and delivery, government resources are undesirable. Nor are they necessary, provided other agricultural reforms are introduced. The buzz about AEZs is instead predicated on an assumption that general reforms won’t happen. Hence, focus selectively on AEZs.

   

 
 
DIPLOMACY / AN EPISTLE TO MR ADVANI 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
Dear Advaniji,

You have begun what is unquestionably the most profound and consequential interaction between our country and the United States of America since the two meetings between the then president, Bill Clinton, and the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee — the first in New Delhi in March 2000, the next here in Washington in September last year.

To say that the Americans are treating your visit like that of a head of government in terms of access and scope because you are indisputably Atalji’s successor, is to be naive and simplistic. There are many people of the “Yes, Minister” variety in Washington’s power structure — America’s Sir Humphrey Applebys — who have tracked you for years, indeed, decades. They have reported to their bosses, be it Bill Clinton or his successor, the incumbent president, the clear-headedness of action and the clarity of vision for which you stand out among your peers.

More recently, you have had an unabashed admirer in New Delhi whose every word is taken at its face value in the present White House of George W. Bush. The ambassador, Robert Blackwill, as you very well know, was one of the “Vulcans” who initiated Bush into the ways of the world in foreign policy terms and sustained the external affairs part of the Republican campaign platform in year, 2000.

American ambassadors never become deans of diplomatic corps in any capital in the world — simply because unlike the Kuwaitis or the Saudis or the Senegalese, they seldom stay beyond two, three or, in some cases, four years as the head of a mission. Yet the clout they wield with host governments or with their peers in the diplomatic community must be seen to be believed!

Regrettably, I have seen ambassadors from other countries who are craven in the presence of an American envoy. To illustrate the other side of being an American ambassador, take the case of Pakistan. During General Zia-ul-Haq’s reign, the plenipotentiary of President Ronald Reagan had as much clout in Pakistan as the chief martial law administrator himself. Perhaps more...

In India, we were headed down the same road. During an earlier government led by another prime minister, our foreign secretary of that time bent over backwards to invite the incoming American ambassador for a meal at his Circular Road residence well before the envoy presented his credentials in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Blackwill’s admiration for you, however, has nothing to do with his status as US ambassador to India. As an intellectual and a thinker himself, Blackwill has some clear ideas about the destiny of India and the US — and about what the two countries could do together, how they could shape Asia’s future by working towards common objectives.

The right word is perhaps vision: Blackwill has a vision. If the grapevine in New Delhi is to be believed, you have been considerably impressed by the vision which the current tenant of Roosevelt House in Chanakyapuri has shared with you. And Blackwill, in turn, has let it be known in Washington that he reciprocates similar sentiments about you. He obviously admires the clarity with which you separate black from white and the courage of conviction with which you dispense with grey and get on with the job.

It may surprise you to know that in the run up to your visit, agencies here whose business it is to dig up what is relevant, went to the trouble of finding out what you wrote in the visitors’ book at the Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara, which you visited in June last year. You wrote: “As an Indian, I feel proud to have been given this opportunity of paying homage to one of the greatest men of modern times. In the heart of every Indian, Kemal Ataturk occupies a unique place. He was an embodiment of secularism, democracy and the rule of law, principles and values which bind Turkey and India together in ties of friendship and harmony. I offer my respectful salutations to the great soul.”

Some of your interlocutors here in Washington in the next two days have also found out that when you were discussing Ataturk with the Turkish prime minister, Bulent Ecevit told you that India and Turkey proudly share a fundamental process of decision-making in global affairs: both countries retain their independence.

Ecevit told you that in India, from Panditji to Atalji, total autonomy has been retained in decision-making. All this has been extremely interesting to some of the people you will be meeting in the next two or three days because they see you as being in the vanguard of a nationalist leadership which does what it feels is in the national interest.

That is what makes your visit to the US challenging — far more challenging than that of any other Indian visitor that I can remember. You will speak at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York on Friday about terrorism and about the lofty ideals which make the world a better place. You will probably do the same when you talk to intellectuals and members of Washington think tanks earlier. It is only appropriate that when you were planning your trip here you initially wanted to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to see the Los Alamos National Laboratory which was part of America’s World War II nuclear bomb effort.

You will be surprised, Advaniji, to discover in your next few days here that expectations from you are, indeed, very high. Both from the Americans and from your compatriots in the US. I recall a trip very similar to the one you have now undertaken to the US. Four years ago, Atalji was in the Gulf. He was then leader of the opposition — actually, prime minister-in-waiting. I covered that tour and was told that it was the only visit to have been made by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader to Islamic countries in that region, barring Atalji’s own visit to the United Arab Emirates when he was external affairs minister in the Morarji Desai government.

In Kuwait, Atalji told leaders he met that Hindu expatriates living in that sheikhdom must be allowed to cremate their dead, not just bury them. In Bahrain, Atalji went out to the streets and greeted those who were shouting slogans in praise of Ram Lalla. In Muscat, the Sultanate’s relatively more moderate Islamic rulers volunteered to tell Atalji about a second Hindu temple which they were building for the Indian community. I was told in all three countries by local leaders that it was refreshing to see an Indian leader come visiting and speak out his mind. They said Atalji was the first Indian leader to visit them and not seek to appease them.

Advaniji, if you spend the next couple of days in this country merely talking about the big things — the nuclear bomb, terrorism and other issues which the mandarins of South Block are so fond of — and not look at a broader, realistic picture, your visit will not realize its full potential. After all, it is the first ever visit to the US by an Indian home minister. And the first by you to the US in at least a decade.

There are, as you know, at least 20 Indians in American custody since September 11, who have not been charged with any offence and are, yet, in jail. The only thing that our diplomatic mission has done for them is to wish them away, preoccupied as our officials are, with issues which sound far more grand than the lives of 20 fellow citizens.

You must have read about a Malayalee executive in New York who took his wife out to a Broadway play to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Because he asked for reservations in a crowded theatre and seats which would be popular and full, he was pounced upon when he arrived at the theatre for the show, handcuffed and kept virtually the whole night in the lock-up. All because he had an accent which the clerk who took his reservation thought was a west Asian accent. Day after day incidents as disturbing as this keep pouring in. I am asked every time I go to a bar if I am a Hindu by customers who only want to make sure that I am not a Muslim. These are, however, minor irritants compared to the plight of the Sikhs in the US. Several of them have been killed, beaten up or maimed in hate attacks.

If you do not speak out against these hate crimes forcefully in your meetings here and not mince words in condemning what clearly are human rights violations by the American state, you will not live up to your reputation of always calling a spade a spade. By doing so, you will also uphold the ideals of Ataturk, whose principles you have tried to follow.

K.P. Nayar, Washington

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / OUR OWN WAR AGAINST TERROR 
 
 
BY MOHIT SEN
 
 
The shock of the terrorist attack on Parliament has begun to abate. When it happened, India, quite rightly, expressed its anger and outrage. Then a sense of resignation took over. But it would be a folly to overlook the vulnerabilities of the state and the government that were exposed on December 13.

Some of these vulnerabilities are common to all civil libertarian democratic states. Even with the best intelligence system such states find it quite impossible to anticipate specific terrorist actions. Only totalitarian states which have control over all aspects of its citizens’ lives and whose leaders are themselves under constant surveillance and protection, have managed to ward off terrorist assaults. That is provided they are able to employ instruments of action which match those of the terrorists. But if civil libertarian democratic states were to deal in the same manner, that would in itself mean that the terrorists have triumphed.

It is here that one can draw a crucial distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters. The objective of the former is to terrorize not only their opponents but also the general public. The latter’s objective is to defeat their opponents so as to emancipate the people.

Vulnerable areas

The above mentioned distinction is relevant in the case of India today. The two closely linked vulnerabilities of India are the weakness of its intelligence agencies and the lack of popular participation in the drive against the terrorists. It can be argued that even the most highly developed intelligence had failed to work for the Americans on September 11. But that should be no excuse for the failings of our systems. The comparison between the two situations always ignore a basic fact. The administration in the United States of America never imagined that terrorists would be able to strike at the heart of the country. It was not lack of intelligence capability but lack of proper direction that allowed the terrorist strikes.

India’s position is entirely different. It has been engaged in a proxy war for a pretty long time. Moreover, there have also been claims that the government had received detailed information about the strike in advance. It is however difficult to believe that the government would have known about the assault and not taken preventive measures to avert the strike. The post-strike activities, however, indicate that the government does have some knowledge about the composition and the location of some of the terrorists. But the knowledge appears to be inadequate.

Improve on it

Together with better intelligence it is equally important to ensure a degree of awareness about how dangerous terrorism actually is. There is some kind of an understanding that terrorism is causing damage in Jammu and Kashmir and in some areas of the Northeast. But this is not enough. The main obstacle is the widespread feeling that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is using the terrorist menace to play its communal card and gain points in the forthcoming elections. To some extent, its opponents are not giving the issue of terrorism the priority it deserves for the same reason.

This is in striking contrast to the situation in 1971. Pakistan was poised to strike India. Yet Indira Gandhi refused to be provoked or bullied into any kind of adventurism. She went about preparing the nation materially and morally for the inevitable clash. She further mobilized world opinion in India’s favour. India has much to learn from that episode.

What the government has to realize is that India is going through a period of preparation, which has a military component to it. It surely includes intense diplomatic activity in all countries and the United Nations. But we must make it clear that while we want the US to live up to its anti-terrorist declarations, we do not expect it to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us. India should not only declare its determination to be self-reliant in the combat against terrorism, but it should also show that it is confident about what it has and that it is improving on it.

   

 
 
TO DOUSE THE HOME FIRES 
 
 
BY KAMALIKA MUKHERJEE
 
 
“It is better to die in one go than a little everyday” had been the last few words recorded in a diary by Vijayalakshmi, a victim of domestic violence in India. There are many more like her who have chosen death as the easy way out. Death relieves these hapless women from the untold misery of physical, emotional and economic abuse by their husbands and often by their in-laws. The incidence of domestic violence is a universal phenomenon, cutting across culture, religion, class, caste and ethnicity.

In the West, thanks to human rights organizations, women’s rights activists and other forms of help, violence within the home is no longer invisible to society. Of course, this has taken years to come by, and the path has been a treacherous and difficult one. With the American Bar Association Commission on domestic violence and the Helsinki Commission briefing surveys on the issue, women in the West have tackled the matter head-on. Not that justice has been done in all the cases taken to court, but the fact that abused women are getting support from their social environment is making a significant difference to them.

In India, where the social, cultural and historical structures are different from the Western framework, an issue like domestic violence has remained in the dark. The rigid, complex patriarchal system prevents both the sexes from giving attention to this social problem. It is common enough for a wife to get battered and emotionally traumatized by the husband. More often than not, she chooses to suffer in silence.

In Indian culture, the sense of privacy of the household is reinforced by old notions of purdah and the inner house. The notion of this private area is very different from the notion of individual privacy. The vestige of the idea of the inner quarters now gives the man unquestioned authority over the family. The legal machinery in India accepts this norm and perceives this as necessary to keep the family structure intact. Thus, any form of violence against the wife and the child is seen as disciplining them. The problem is further aggravated by a lack of comprehensive understanding of what domestic violence means. To evoke a public response, it is first necessary to understand its different aspects.

Take the notion of private space for example. In most cases, domestic violence is considered to be an intra-family affair, which means non-intervention of both the outsider and relatives of the concerned party. Often, the violent relationship between the perpetrator and the abused is seen as an acceptable behavioural norm. The question is whether marital violence should be seen as an interpersonal conflict or a violation of human rights. There has to be both social and legal agreement over where to draw the line between the two. Moreover, the misconceptions about domestic violence also revolve around the battering of the wife. Other forms of violence like sexual, emotional and economic abuse get neglected as a result. In many cases, a barbarous act is justified with the excuse of provocation by the wife. Either the wife is blamed for not being an “ideal” housewife, or for having provided cause for jealousy. What is ignored in this expected barrage of charges is that violence against women is an attempt by men to demonstrate power and superiority. Studies also reveal that the task is made easier for men by their relatives who constantly remind them of their right over the woman’s body and person. The woman is equated with a mere commodity.

Statistics reveal that at least 20 per cent of married women between the age of 15 and 49 experience domestic violence on a continual basis. It is necessary to examine why physical violence gets more coverage than sexual, emotional or economic abuse. For one, physical violence is more obvious, to other inmates of the house, and, more significantly, to neighbours or representatives of the “outside world”. Besides, in India, the media and public opinion are guilty of getting domestic violence mixed up with dowry violence. For example, they often fail to give serious weight to domestic violence against women and children committed by a male alcoholic or a sadist. Here the media does not give the required attention since it does not involve bride-burning. An act of violence by an alcoholic is not considered serious enough because he is under the spell of an intoxicant.

As a matter of fact, it is quite usual for the in-laws to make the wife responsible for the man’s addiction problem. No matter how much a woman might try to take her partner to a counselling or a rehabilitation centre, the alcoholic husband will refuse to see his addiction as a problem. The situation is made worse if the woman is not economically independent and has also preferred to keep her partner’s problem a secret from society. It was once popularly believed that alcoholism is a problem that prevails more among low-income groups. This is no longer true. The Indian middle-class and upper-middle class homes are witnessing a rise in alcohol-induced marital violence. The situation exacerbates if there is no belief in dialogue, negotiation, or the possibility of a mutually responsive solution between the partners.

Domestic violence is especially destructive because it takes place within the most intimate circle of relationships. The effect on children is particularly significant. Children who witness marital violence are prone to emotional and behaviorial problems like anxiety, insecurity, depression, poor academic performance, low self-esteem and hypochondria. As mute spectators and victims of such frightening experiences, they are physically and emotionally scarred for life. Things are worse if the mother, because of societal and economic compulsion, chooses to remain in the marriage. In most cases, helplessness and lack of support from the larger family or friends make it difficult for the victims to deal with the outside world.

The children’s reactions vary according to age, sex and their own survival instincts: they either become aggressive or withdraw from all kinds of social bonding. Marital violence also actually increases the rate of child mortality. In Nicaragua, researchers have found that children of women who are physically and sexually abused by their partners were six times more likely to die before the age of 5 years. Similar studies suggest that this is true of other developing countries as well. Fearing social ostracism, children are scared to confide in anyone, or go public about their trauma. In India, children belonging to the middle-class and upper-class families particularly are tied down by the inherent sense of family values, morality and status. They are taught to display to the world the picture of a perfect, happy family. Expectations from parents that they would keep their experiences a family secret add to their woes. For children, perhaps the most damaging consequence is a loss of belief in dialogue, expression and empathy for others’ points of view. Thus, domestic violence is an assault on the very basis of all the values that go into the making of a community. Besides, the popular belief that domestic violence is usually inflicted on illiterate, economically dependent women is also false, although it is true that the percentage of educated and working women who are victims of this abuse is much lower.

Ties of kinship and the nature of the family structure make it necessary for women to go for a compromise rather than head for divorce or separation. A lack of awareness about rights and the lack of knowledge about sources of help render women more vulnerable to the constant abuse of their husbands.

Under these circumstances, what we need is to sensitize and involve the community/public in various programmes against the social evil of domestic violence. The Indian example clearly shows that our society has failed to evolve strong social sanctions against violent men. But both the abuser and the abused need to be identified by society. Medical personnel, legal activists, NGOs and the media can play a positive role in this regard. The government also has a big role to play in eradicating domestic violence and providing help to those in distress.

A comprehensive law against domestic violence, with a broader definition of the evil, is badly needed. The recent clearing of a pending bill against domestic violence by the Indian cabinet is promising. But it has its set of problems. Not only has the government failed to broaden the definition of domestic violence, it has also ignored a number of effective provisions. The legislation should address women of all ages, irrespective of marital status.

There are also a number of legal and practical barriers to prosecution in such cases. First, proof of violence becomes an obstacle since violence usually takes place in private. The failure of law enforcement agencies and medical officials to record the testimony of the woman is another problem. Moreover, many complaints are not properly followed up. The Indian judicial system, essentially paternalistic, favours a compromise. Thus the perpetrators of this crime are not held accountable. Lengthy court proceedings also result in the acquittal of the defendants. Of the 891 cases pending in the urban sessions courts in January 1999, only eight were heard. What is most horrifying is that the apathy of the law enforcers deters the victim from asking for help. Recently, in a shocking incident near Khardah, a woman who filed a case against her in-laws for mental and physical torture was beaten up and her head was shaved by her relatives. The police preferred to keep away from this incident. In this case the woman was lucky to get coverage from a reputed daily.

That the government has passed a bill on domestic violence is encouraging since it shows an official acknowledgment of the problem. But that is not enough. Implementing its provisions from the level of the complaint, sensitizing the police, and increasing awareness among both men and women in society are necessary corollaries. But the very first step should be a clearer definition of domestic violence and its division into identifiable types.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / DEFINING THE CONCEPT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT 
 
 
 
 
“The ‘precise issues’ submitted by the petitioner before the court and which have been sent to the Law Commission for consideration are divided into three parts. Part I carries the title, “Precise issues submitted for consideration of the Law Commission and the government of India”. Part II carries the heading, “Existing inadequacies”, and Part III is titled “Suggestions for amendment to the Indian penal code”. We shall set out in brief the substance of the submissions made in all the three parts.

Part I: Precise issues submitted for consideration of the Law Commission and the government of India — (1) having regard to the widespread prevalence of child sexual abuse, would it not be appropriate to include all forms of penetration such as penile/vaginal penetration, penile/oral penetration, penile/anal penetration, finger/vagina and finger/anal penetration and object/vaginal penetration within the meaning of the expression “penetration” in the explanation to section 375 of the IPC. The restrictive interpretation of “penetration” in the explanation to section 375 defeats the very purpose and object underlying section 376(2)(f);

(2) Is it not wrong to classify the penetrative abuse of a child below the age of 12 as unnatural offence under section 377 IPC or as outraging the modesty of a woman under section 354, depending upon the “type” of penetration, ignoring the “impact” on such a child.

(3) Is it not wrong to continue to treat non-consensual penetration upon such a child as offence under section 377 IPC on par with certain forms of consensual penetration (e.g. consensual homosexual sex) where the consenting party can be held liable as an abettor or otherwise.

Appendix A appended to Part I contains three notes, which we shall refer to in seriatum: Note 1: The explanation to sections 375 and 376 says that “penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape”. By the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1983, raping of a woman under 12 years of age was made punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years but which may be for life in addition to fine. In such a situation, it would be appropriate to broaden the meaning of penetration to include not only vaginal penetration but also anal and oral penetration as well as penetration by any part of the body or by any object.

Note 2: In a vast majority of child sexual abuse cases, the penetration is other than penile-vaginal. Such penetration causes lasting psychic damage to the child. In such a situation, a restrictive meaning attached to penetration is likely to prove inadequate.

Note 3(a): The 156th report of the Law Commission has recommended that penile/oral penetration and penile/anal penetration be covered by section 377 IPC and that finger penetration and object penetration into vagina or anus can be adequately covered under section 354 with a more severe punishment. This recommendation requires reconsideration. Such a restrictive view fails to take into consideration several forms of child abuse and the further fact, that very often the sexual abuse of children is by persons known to them. As a matter of fact, rape is really intended to humiliate, violate or degrade a woman sexually. It adversely affects the sexual integrity and autonomy of women and children. The aforesaid recommendation of the Law Commission therefore defeats the very object underlying the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983 which inserted sub-section (2) and in particular clause (f) thereof in section 376. The above recommendation also does not take into account the fact that a child of tender years cannot discern the degree of difference in terms of which orifice of hers is penetrated. Certain instances are then set out to illustrate the aforesaid point.

Note 3(b): Under this note, the petitioner has sought to argue in the light of the instances mentioned under Note 3(a) that the 156th report of the Law Commission requires reconsideration.

Part II:...Various instances set out in Appendix-B to Annexure-A ... to this part, the petitioner argues, would not amount to rape and perhaps not even to natural offence under section 377 or to outraging the modesty of a woman under section 354, in view of the existing law. They might just be a limited form of assault or criminal force, if at all, though all the said instances are of a grave nature and extremely disturbing. It is therefore necessary that there should be a rethinking on this issue and the offence of “sexual assault” should be more precisely defined and its parameters indicated.

Part III: Suggestions for amendment to IPC. This part sets out the several amendments proposed by the petitioner. Suffice it to say that they seek to substitute the definition of “rape” with the definition of “sexual assault” and make it gender neutral. The object is to widen the scope of the offence. The expression “consent” is also sought to be defined. A new section, section 375A with the heading, “Aggravated sexual assault” is sought to be created. This new offence seeks to synthesize the offences now categorized under sub-section (2) of section 376 as well as sections 376B to 376D.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

For art’s sake

Sir — The Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has finally done something worthwhile in the realm of culture (“Atal lifeline for Roerich heritage”, Jan 4). For sometime now, the issue of the maintenance of the Roerich museum, which harbours a rich collection of the works of the famous Russian painter, Nicholas Roerich, was getting lost in the tussle between Russia and India. In spite of a number of media reports that sought to attract the attention of the authorities to the museum’s urgent need for refurbishing and the theft of priceless paintings, the ministry of culture did nothing to improve the situation. Both the Indian and the Russian governments continued to pass the buck . Fortunately, mounting pressure from Indian artists and art lovers seems to have compelled the ministry of culture in India to take note of the seriousness of the matter. It is good to see that Rs 50 lakh has been released and that Vajpayee has been the man behind it all.

Yours faithfully,
Sudeshna Bose, Calcutta

Aligned in error

Sir — Chandrashekhar Dasgupta’s article on non-alignment is both interesting and thought provoking (“Independent thinking”, Jan 3). Instead of furthering the cause of the non-aligned movement, Dasgupta only ends up exposing the duplicity of the term. Non-alignment didn’t come to convey “independent thinking” as he would have us believe, rather it unmasked the political hypocrisy of its adherents. Pakistan and Egypt were part of the Western military blocs, and India, a founding member, was for all practical purposes an aide of the former Soviet Union. Adhering to and furthering one’s national interest is “real-politik”and not a virtue as Dasgupta is making it out to be. Jawaharlal Nehru’s refusal to comment upon the Soviet intervention in east Europe exposed what the high sounding “right to individual judgment” meant for the pseudo-non-aligned leaders. It’s time to bury the leg- acy of the NAM. India can do without further doublespeak.

Yours faithfully,
Meraj Ahmed Mubarki, Calcutta

Sir — Chandrashekhar Dasgupta has been successful in holding up the true picture of what the NAM was all about both before and after the Cold War. The changing international environment compelled most members of the NAM to keep redefining their foreign policies and India was no exception to this phenomenon. In fact, the Indian government sensibly dealt with the other members, keeping the national interest in mind.

Critics might find this form of diplomacy not quite what the principles of the NAM required. Their longstanding criticism of the Nehruvian government was that India’s foreign policy was opportunistic. But it should be borne in mind that none of the member countries followed an independent policy and they suited their respective policies to the exigencies of time. This is particularly relevant to the post-Seventies era, when there occurred a dramatic turn in Chinese-American relations, with the Americans siding with the Chinese to keep the Soviet Union at bay. Naturally, India had no choice but to sign a treaty with the Russians, keeping future prospects in mind. Therefore, merely blaming the Indian government’s stand on the NAM is inconsistent and ill-founded. Dasgupta has done a brilliant job in explaining the intricacies involved in the NAM from the Cold War to the present time.

Yours faithfully,
Karen Sema, New Delhi

Fund of misery

Sir — The West Bengal minister of finance, Asim Dasgupta, deserves praise for his decision to introduce an ordinance against erring non-banking financial companies which use the hard-earned savings invested in them by ordinary people (“Bengal law against cheat funds”, December 8). With the fall in the interest rates of small savings in post offices and the recent debacle of the United Trust of India’s US-64, investors, particularly senior citizens, are falling prey to schemes with comparatively higher returns given by several non-banking finance companies. The hapless investors are being ruined and a few have even taken their own lives. The state government should take this matter seriously and ensure that the corrupt owners of such NBFCs are brought to justice.

Yours faithfully,
Srikanta Banik, Malda

Sir — Of late many NBFCs have played havoc with small investors’ savings. The news of an investor’s suicide is disturbing (“Suicide over chit fund scam”, Dec 7). The stringent measures proposed by the West Bengal government are unlikely to be successful given past records. A few years ago, an official of Prudential Capital was arrested on charges of fraud. He managed to get his release and is reportedly doing roaring business in Bangalore. This proves that regulatory authorities have failed to deal with the problem. It is time the Central and state governments took other steps. No bail for the accused and confiscation of the assets of the guilty are two such. The last may be sold off to pay the victims.

Yours faithfully,
Sunita Wadhwani, Calcutta

Stop it

Sir — In the past week or so, there has bee much talk and press reports about a proposed Calcutta bandh being sponsored by some political parties. Only a few days prior to this there was a bank strike. I hope our various political and trade union leaders are at least aware of the extremely tense and difficult position that is being faced by our country. Apart from our longstanding economic and other difficulties, right now we are skating on thin ice. Some pundits may even suggest that we are close to a war-like situation. The tension generated by the terrorist activities is, of course, well known.

In the midst of so many national problems, I am shocked to see the narrow-minded approach of these parties which are willing to waste their time and energy on “non-issues”. I hope better sense prevails.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Birla, Calcutta

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
All letters [including those via email] should have the full name and full postal address of the sender
   
 

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