Editorial 1/ In it together
Editorial 2/ Divided fight
Moment of parting
Fifth Column/ Watch how the money goes
The past is not another country
Document/ Identifying dangers near and far
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ IN IT TOGETHER 
 
 
 
 
New challenges call for a rethink of old approaches. West Bengal’s chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has done well to realize the importance of close cooperation with Assam in dealing with terrorist and other subversive elements. The attack on policemen outside the American Center in Calcutta may have prompted the idea of such cooperation. Governments in neighbouring states should have woken up to the need for concerted action much earlier. Activists of insurgent groups in India’s Northeast are known to use West Bengal for safe passage or the procurement of arms. The arrest of a senior leader of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom, Mr Pradip Gogoi, in Calcutta some years ago caused a flutter. But that one success story could barely cover up many failures. Some groups based in north Bengal such as the Kamtapur Liberation Organization have had hideouts in Assam. The Bodo extremists of Assam are often provided shelter by their KLO sympathizers. Such networks can work undetected largely because of a lack of coordination among the police and intelligence agencies in the two states. West Bengal and Assam have stronger reasons to build up a working partnership to counter the new threats. While Assam’s fight against the militants is made more difficult because of their training camps and hideouts in the forests of southern Bhutan, West Bengal has to cope with disruptive elements who often use Bangladesh and Nepal as conduits. The investigation into the shootout outside the American Center has once again shown that terrorist or criminal gangs are increasingly using wider networks spread across several states. A regional approach in tackling these has become an imperative no state can ignore any longer. Mr Bhattacharjee actually has to look farther — it is important for both West Bengal and Assam to include Bihar in a new coalition against crime.

Although inter-state cooperation in policing is routinely discussed at the Union home ministry’s annual meetings of state police chiefs, the exercise has clearly proved inadequate in dealing with new challenges symbolized by the killings outside the American Center. The Centre and the states together have to put in place a more efficient system that will ensure not only a regular exchange of intelligence and logistics but also joint monitoring of anti-subversion operations. For instance, West Bengal could benefit from Assam’s experience of fighting militancy by sending out its police and intelligence officials to that state on familiarization missions on a regular basis. Assam, West Bengal and Bihar together could evolve more effective strategies to plug the Bangladesh passage for inter-state criminal gangs. Several states, including West Bengal, opposed New Delhi’s recent proposal to raise a special force to combat terrorism-related crimes across the country on the ground that law and order is a state subject under the Constitution. But a state government can be up to the task only if it works in tandem with the Centre and other states.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ DIVIDED FIGHT 
 
 
 
 
They are out in force, but they find it impossible to come together. These are the “secular” parties in Uttar Pradesh, ranged against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. Except for Mr Kalyan Singh’s Rashtriya Krantikari Party, which was born out of vengefulness towards the BJP, all the others in opposition are displaying the secular card or the backwards card or both. The most successful in combining both is, of course, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. Mr Yadav might prove the most formidable force the BJP will have to tackle, although he is very unlikely to be able to form a government on his own. The recent mumblings of friendliness between Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Yadav may, in the case of a BJP defeat, bear fruit in the form of a coalition government. The Congress, in spite of having ruled the state from independence to the late Eighties, does not seem to have any specific electoral plank. But Mr Yadav is naturally going the whole hog. His survival in state politics hinges on the outcome of the UP elections. Having assured himself of his rural base and Muslim vote bank, he is targeting the floating urban middle class and is also putting up some traders as candidates to eat into the BJP vote bank. Ms Mayavati is playing a similar game. The candidate list of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party is variegated. Certain of her Dalits, she is fielding 91 upper caste candidates, with the rationale that the BSP is against the Manuvadi system and not Manuvadis. She also has 90 Muslim candidates. Animosity towards Mr Yadav obviously has greater priority for Ms Mayavati than defeating the BJP.

The threat to the BJP in western UP is Mr Kalyan Singh, with his substantial Lodh backing and skilful electoral strategy. He has 171 backward classes candidates, placed according to the regional dominance of a particular caste, and has also fielded candidates in other constituencies in the hope of distracting the uncertain voter. The BJP has quite a bit on its plate. Terrorism has done it a deal of good, as the emphasis in its manifesto shows. But the temple issue remains an uncomfortable one, and noises that it might give in, even partly, to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demand, may have unexpected results. The NDA is dealing with 40 rebel candidates anyway. Of course, the BJP has been reiterating that the poll results are not to be seen as a reflection on the Centre in any way. Just in case.

   

 
 
MOMENT OF PARTING 
 
 
BY DIPANKAR GUPTA
 
 
Most historical events have heroes and villains — perhaps more villains than we actually care to record. The Partition, for most Indians, has no heroes, whereas for Pakistan it is heroism itself. From the Indian perspective the Partition story is one where vicious sectarians and communalists prevailed over soft, weak-kneed secularists. Naturally, the Partition, from the Indian side, is largely about victims who came in the way of political manipulations and lost their lives, or property, or both. This is not the way the Partition is viewed across the border.

For most Pakistanis, Partition is a moment of triumph, of a submerged but virile logic that eventually thrust itself into the open and breathed life into the nation of Muslims. Mohammad Ali Jinnah is obviously the supreme hero, but so are a host of other Muslims who from 1857 onwards were working resolutely for the Partition. According to Pakistani history books, Muslims in pre-Partition India kept alive their culture and their distinctiveness in spite of being surrounded by conspiring and crafty Hindus, waiting, perhaps unconsciously, for deliverance day. This argument is strongly, and convincingly, put forward by Krishna Kumar in his latest work, The Past and Prejudice.

Against this background, is there any point at all in trying to write a perfect history, or in attempting to set the record right about the Partition? Would it not be much better for the collective fates of both countries to forget the Partition and move on? Of course, there are sectarians of all description, on both sides of the border, who would not like this to happen. The Partition for them is an important ideological plank without which their existence is at stake.

In this connection it is interesting that in north India there are two quite contrasting visions of Partition, though, unfortunately, only one of these has received prominence. There are those who do not want those blood-soaked memories to die, and then there are others for whom the events of 1947 are dead, gone and over with.

It is true that most urban refugees remember the Partition quite vividly even today. A small number of them even commemorate the day they left their homes in west Punjab to come to India at very great risk to their lives. Similar stories exist in Pakistan as well among those Muslims who left Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to make the long trek in finding a new home. In India, parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh assiduously cultivate these memories for political advantage. Many Arya Samaji organizations are also quite active in this regard, particularly in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.

On the other hand, for a large number of rural Sikh post-Partition migrants, the Partition does not evoke such strong memories. Any researcher on this subject will find it infinitely more difficult to rekindle Partition memories among the Sikh diaspora than it will be for their urban (and largely Hindu) counterparts. The Sikh rural migrants are strangely amnesiac about those fateful days. They too lost property and family and yet, in the main, they are willing to put all that behind them and move into the present and future relatively unencumbered by their past. Why should their reactions be so different?

If Hindu refugees remember and the Sikhs do not, at least not with the same degree of vivacity, it is not so much because Hindu and Sikh cultures are dissimilar, as it is with the different resettlement projects that were in effect with respect to urban and rural migrants. It is also worth keeping in mind that in contrast to Hindu parties, there is not a single Sikh political formation in the Punjab that harps on Partition memories. This does not mean that Sikhs are less committed to Indian territory, and this can be assessed by the number of Sikhs who have died in the many wars with Pakistan. But the Partition is not such a live factor for most of them, and certainly offers very little political mileage to Sikh sectarians.

Even among Hindus who remember the Partition it is important to distinguish between those for whom these memories are inextricably linked to their political and social lives and those for whom Partition memories can be compartmentalized. It is not that the raging anger against Muslims which most Hindu refugees brought with them from across the border translated neatly into political votes for Hindu parties like the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. It was not as if the Partition converted all refugees into professional Hindus.

Some of the leading lights in the Congress in those days, several of whom are still around, were also Hindu refugees from Pakistan. Take the situation in Delhi for instance. The population of the capital doubled and quadrupled so rapidly that it was difficult to find adequate shelter for the thousands that teemed into this city. In addition, Delhi was witness to riots and this shook the calm equanimity of long time Delhi residents. Karol Bagh changed character altogether from being a respectable middle-class Muslim residential area to the bustling and quintessentially Punjabi one that it is today. Left trade union leaders were shocked that so many of their partisans were voicing communalist sentiments.

In this situation, the Congress could have easily pandered to sectarian sentiments but it refused to do so. Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru it set out ambitious programmes that would help people forget the Partition, or at least, make the Partition irrelevant to their political and economic lives. Who settled the refugees from Bengali Market, to Nizamuddin, to Mehrauli? The Congress. Who found jobs for refugees in the expanding public sector? The Congress. Who promised an economic future that would be modern and remunerative? The Congress. On none of these issues was the Partition even remotely relevant. Finally, which party won elections after elections from 1952 to 1967 in Delhi? None other than the Congress.

The Congress had a forward looking programme for the future. It thought of land reforms, of the Bhakra Nangal dam, of the Bokaro Steel factory, and of unleashing thousands of trained engineers and professionals into the burgeoning productive sectors of the country. The Hindu parties had only Partition memories to flog and bank upon. Therefore, while many Hindus may have felt a profound sense of resentment against Muslims, may have been unsettled by Nehru’s championing of the Hindu code bill, yet when it came to voting it was always the Congress that won for twenty long years after the Partition.

If Partition memories are being profitably employed today it is not because these memories have an undeniable sway over our minds, but rather because we have no ambitious, far-sighted programmes for the future. Under these circumstances it is natural to look back and derive ideological succour from the past. No secular force can ever hope to draw any encouragement from giving in to this urge, for in the game of recall sectarians can never be outdone. Therefore, instead of combating Partition memories of villains with those of heroes and victims, let us think of policies that would make the unseemly affair of 1947 difficult to recall.

The author is professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ WATCH HOW THE MONEY GOES 
 
 
BY SUMON KUMAR BHAUMIK
 
 
Our generation of financial market-watchers has finally found the mother of all anti-heroes. It is not the eclipse of Enron as a company that has set tongues wagging. In today’s competitive environment, it is not unusual for the mighty to fall. A cursory examination of Ford’s relative market power today and in the Seventies, for example, leaves no room for doubt about the mighty car company’s decline over the years. Veterans of the dotcom era, we are also somewhat blasé about the possibility of a company getting its business model wrong, or being overly optimistic about its future business fortunes.

The importance of the Enron case is that there seems to be prima facie evidence that the investors were knowingly taken for a ride by a company, possibly in connivance with the audit firm which was supposed to act as a buffer against precisely such unethical practice. This is the Machiavellian story of a company’s top executives pushing the boundaries of business ethics to an extreme, perhaps flouting written regulations, with the possible knowledge of its audit firm. Is there anything we can learn from this defining moment in the financial history of the modern world?

To believe it or not

If it is eventually found that the Enron management had deliberately misinformed investors about Enron’s future, and had bailed itself out by offloading its shares while the price was still respectable, no one would be surprised. If true, the Enron management simply did what must have undoubtedly furthered their own interest. The investors, who included Enron’s own employees, were left holding the bag.

Economists, however, have always warned that the management does not always have the interests of the investor-shareholder at heart. Allowing managers to own shares might align their interests with those of the other stakeholders, but it also raises the possibility of managers using their private information about the company to benefit at the expense of the other stakeholders.

That is precisely why agencies like audit firms are needed to force the management to divulge as much and as accurate information about companies as possible. Also needed are analysts in investment banks to take a view about the financial health of companies. But recent history has shown that the advice of analysts in investment banks is often not worth the paper they are written on. And now we have a situation when one would have to take even the audit reports of large and reputed audit firms with a lump of salt.

Small players beware

The question to ask is whether the incentives facing auditors and investment bank analysts are such that a fiasco of this nature is the inevitable outcome. It is clear that if creditors, auditors and senior managements can get away with playing with the investor’s money, their monetary rewards can be substantial. The expected costs at an individual level, on the other hand, are very low. The auditors of Enron face the daunting task of convincing the Securities and Exchange Commission and the American justice department that they have not destroyed information relevant to the Enron investigation. But what if, instead of shredding documents, they had simply said that they had made a mistake, and had left it at that?

If the Enron auditors are found guilty of connivance with Enron’s management, they will doubtless be punished. But the punishment has to be much more than a slap on the wrist. It is important to send out the signal that no matter how small the probability of getting caught, once caught, the penalty can be infinitely large. More important, the households, whose money the banks play with, should note that they can have justice only in special situations, as in the Enron case, rather than as a rule. The hands of agencies like the SEC are tied even if the event is as significant as the dotcom crash because “mistakes” cannot be prosecuted.

Small players in the financial markets should be careful of the bigger players and of where and how they invest their money. Else, the small player will have no one to blame but himself if he falls victim to the schemes of bigger players such as auditors and senior managements.

   

 
 
THE PAST IS NOT ANOTHER COUNTRY 
 
 
BY NANDINI CHATTERJEE
 
 
The furore over moves to rewrite the National Council for Educational Research and Training history textbooks and expunge them of passages that allegedly hurt the sentiments of particular communities raises certain questions about the education imparted at the secondary level. What constitutes knowledge which is worthy of communication? What is the role of knowledge in social action? These questions have not been adequately touched upon in the debates animating the nation.

Much of what passes for education at the secondary level is actually the authoritative imposition of packets of data to be learnt by rote, without questioning their validity or, more important, their relevance. This is especially true of history. Inevitably, history lessons become a painful and, hence, fruitless exercise; the memory of their drudgery lingering on throughout one’s life, even if the contents hardly ever do.

This is not the result of inadequacies in the education system — it is a part of the system of instruction in a society where knowledge is gained through privilege, and is believed to buttress privilege when hoarded. The elitism inherent in this system of knowledge production creates an education system in which questioning is not encouraged.

The ongoing debate on history has emphasized the fact that history-writing is largely an ideological exercise, that our view of the past is designed to lend support to our politics of the present. The sangh parivar’s belief that pointing out the evils of the varna system is detrimental to the image of Hinduism, and that of historians with liberal political leanings that such self-criticism is essential to correct the inequities in present day Indian society, are both obvious in their political prescriptions. But where both groups converge is in their desire to impart historical knowledge to school children as a bundle of unconnected and unquestionable facts.

Having taken the Indian Council of Secondary Education examinations in 1992, I must have studied the so-called “liberal” history text books. But, I cannot recall that any of my education in history (or in any of the social sciences) informed me of the evidence-based argumentative process that produces historical possibilities (not sacrosanct facts). Whether Tegh Bahadur was martyred or executed, his death, as mentioned in my secondary level textbook, was a completely isolated and meaningless piece of information, giving no glimpse of the struggle between empire and growing regional state, and the role of religion in this struggle, let alone its implications for the present.

Little wonder then that few students choose to be historians or social scientists. The education system is designed to churn out “technicians” of a different kind — doctors and engineers being the elite among them. These are “technicians” in the sense that though they are lured into studying “science” by the social reward of enhanced status and economic gains and the intellectual reward of a limited knowledge of the causality of events, there is actually no training in the scientific spirit. Our dealers in “science” are technicians with the knowledge of a limited number of “hows”, with neither the urge nor the right to ask the “whys”.

If one accepts the principle of demonstrable causality as the basis of knowledge and equal communicability as its characteristic, it cannot make for a society that is sustained by irrational hierarchies and inequities. In our present flawed system, those who make it to the heights of knowledge production about society find themselves in positions of privilege, that empowers as well as constrains them. The historian or social scientist — in our country as well as in most others — is allowed the privilege of inquiring into social realities. But this comes at the cost of being forced to conspire with the system of invisible knowledge production and authoritative imparting of “truths”, much like the ancient gurus who claimed to receive their knowledge of the vedas through divine revelation.

Admittedly, the process of modern knowledge production is different. It is scientific in its dependence on demonstrable evidence. However, it requires years of specialized training and institutional corroboration that, ironically, violates the principle of equal communicability of knowledge.

Hindu nationalist politics hits out at such privilege structures and instead, appeals to popular emotions. It appeals to the common desire to make sense of the present in terms of a continuing story from the past, to the desire to read history like a morality play, where the “good” characters are rewarded and the “bad” punished.

Unfortunately, the social goal such politics projects are as, or much more, unequal and hierarchical as the system they seek to replace because they privilege the viewpoints of the traditional elite in society — upper class and upper caste males — and delegitimize and in many cases actually suppress the aspirations of women, Dalits and labourers. The purpose of such politics is to emphasize community identity and create an atmosphere in which dissenting voices that ignore communal boundaries are stifled. For example, the odd Muslim who says that Babur might actually have destroyed a temple in order to build his mosque would be ostracized today.

What recourse is then available to all those whose aspirations have not been safeguarded by the voices of the elite and are equally unable to produce scientific knowledge themselves? Contemporary discourse has picked on subaltern myth-making, as in the creation of a Si- tayana, in which Ram betrays his wife and is far from the ideal being. But myth-making, being an unscientific system of discourse, only attains legitimacy when it is appropriated by those who traditionally have the right to endorse community myths — the Brahmins or mullahs. Women might chant Sitayana in private, but in the public domain it is the Ramayana that everyone, even women, subscribe to.

Of course, the workings of reason are more democratic than the production of a mystically-based knowledge. But the institutional basis on which bourgeois rationality works prevents the majority from participating. This is not to say that the process of acquiring the specialized training that enables one to produce scientific knowledge, in history or in any other discipline, needs to be diluted. What we need is an education system that is premised on the asking of questions. A student might find it more interesting to know why a historian thinks that the Harappan civilization is pre-Aryan. He should also be exposed to this historian’s doubts — and be allowed to voice his own, and every serious academic should be ready to address them.

The authoritative imparting of values in the form of lessons in moral science or ethics goes against the grain of social democracy if the attainment of political modernity be the desired goal of a society. It should be replaced by a debate and discussion on current affairs (not the petrifying general knowledge course — which requires learning unrelated facts). Instead of being concerned about the deterioration of textbooks, liberal academicians should question the nature of the textbooks themselves and take positive action to disseminate the scientific spirit within society.

The noted historian, Irfan Habib, when asked whether Babur did indeed demolish the mosque in Ayodhya, said that there were historical possibilities pointing in that direction. But referring to the alleged responsibility of Muslims in the India of today for an act of a dictator who lived centuries ago, he asked, “By which system of law does a crime pass on?” The simple rationality of the question is astounding, because in today’s political atmosphere, we forget to ask why the past must continue to burden our present. If indeed Aurangzeb was a tyrant who imposed a discriminatory tax on non-Muslims, or if Tegh Bahadur did commit rapine (not “rape” as our erudite human resources minister understood it), why should Muslims and Sikhs today be expected to justify themselves in relation to these acts? Whether a temple was demolished or not, a 500 year old mosque existed in Ayodhya till 1992. Was that not sufficient heritage to treasure?

The problem is not with the histories but with the politics that they are proxy to. Whether Babur demolished a temple or not, Muslims have the right to their places of worship; whether Aryans came first or Dravidians, the caste system is an abomination and all Indians have the right to equality of social opportunity; whether or not the sati was condoned in the scriptures, it is a heinous crime to burn a woman alive.

Historians should be able to envisage a society where rational humanism forms the basis of social action, not an irrational sense of a continuity with the past. What the recent turmoil shows is that the ultimate target of history should be to make itself redundant to social or political action. This would happen only when we become mature enough to bear the knowledge of our complicated pasts, not all of it commendable or even justifiable.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT/ IDENTIFYING DANGERS NEAR AND FAR 
 
 
 
 
Explanation 2. “Women’s or children’s institution” means an institution, whether called an orphanage or a home for neglected women or children or a widows’ home or an institution called by any other name, which is established and maintained for the reception and care of women or children.

Explanation 3. “Hospital” means the precincts of the hospital and includes the precincts of any institution for the reception and treatment of persons during convalescence or of persons requiring medical attention or rehabilitation.

7.2.3. Modification in section 376A of the IPC recommended. Section 376A shall read as follows: “Sexual assault by the husband upon his wife during separation: whoever commits sexual assault upon his wife, who is living separately from him under a decree of separation or under any custom or usage, without her consent, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years and which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.”

7.2.4. Amendment of sections 376B, 376C and 376D. — We recommend enhancement of punishment — with a minimum punishment of not less than five years. We have also added an explanation [which] defines “sexual intercourse” to mean any of the acts mentioned in clauses (a) to (e) of section 375. Explanation to section 375 will however apply even in the case of sexual intercourse as defined by the explanation to this section. Accordingly, the modified sections 376B, 376C and 376D of the IPC shall read as follows: “Sexual intercourse by public servant with person in his custody: whoever, being a public servant, takes advantage of his/her official position and induces or seduces any person, who is in his/her custody as such public servant or in the custody of a public servant subordinate to him, to have sexual intercourse with him/her, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of sexual assault, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years and which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine. Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

Explanation: “Sexual intercourse” in this section and sections 376C and 376D shall mean any of the acts mentioned in clauses (a) to (e) of section 375. Explanation to section 375 shall also be applicable.

“Sexual intercourse by superintendent of jail, remand home, etc: whoever, being the superintendent or manager of a jail, remand home or other place of custody established by or under any law for the time being in force or of a women’s or children’s institution takes advantage of his/ her official position and induces or seduces any inmate of such jail, remand home, place or institution to have sexual intercourse with him/ her, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of sexual assault, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years and which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine. Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

Explanation 1. “Superintendent” in relation to a jail, remand home or other place of custody or a women’s or children’s institution includes a person holding any other office in such jail, remand home, place or institution by virtue of which he/ she can exercise any authority or control over its inmates.

Explanation 2. The expression, “women’s or children’s institution” shall have the same meaning as in Explanation 2 to sub-section (2) of section 376.

Sexual intercourse by any member of the management or staff of a hospital with any woman in that hospital: whoever, being on the management of a hospital or being on the staff of a hospital takes advantage of his/her position and has sexual intercourse with any person in that hospital, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of sexual assault, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years and which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine. Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

Explanation. The expression, “hospital”, shall have the same meaning as in Explanation 3 to sub-section (2) of section 376.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Back to the bush

Sir — The editorial, “Us and them” (Jan 31), focussed on the continuing priority being given by the president of the United States of America, George W. Bush, to the “war on terrorism” in his state-of-the-union speech. The conclusion drawn was that the president may yet become a greater internationalist than some of his predecessors. But which predecessors? His speech was full of the misinformed idea of some countries forming an “axis of evil”, threats of war, and the promise to “go it alone”. This is not Woodrow Wilson’s “10 points” that tried to bring about international peace after World War I. If President Bush displayed any internationalism, then it was of a type with Harry Truman’s dropping the bomb on Hiroshima to end World War II, or John F. Kennedy assigning “military advisors” to Vietnam to protect the world from communism. Unfortunately, President Bush, like all too many of his predecessors, is not concerned with a new form of internationalism but the old form of propagating American economic and military objectives abroad.
Yours faithfully,
Meghna Sen, Patna

Devil’s advocate

Sir — Sarmila Bose’s article sadly shows how cavalier some of us are to India’s security concerns (“A tale of two Shahs”, Jan 30). To apply cold logic to the Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio, we need to ask ourselves, “What is India?” There was no such political entity before 1947. Historically, we were a gaggle of disparate principalities relatively unskilled in war, and repeatedly defeated by small groups of invaders. What unites us today is a common sub-culture as well as a realization by the intelligentsia that we either stand together or fall apart.

Bose claims that the 1987 elections in Jammu and Kashmir were rigged. Elections have been, are being, and will be rigged, in every Indian state. A dismal state of affairs indeed, but one that does not justify either terrorism or secession. If Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah rigged the elections and Mohammad Yusuf Shah was a victim, what makes the former an “Indian” and the latter a “Kashmiri”? India is no utopia — but political evils have to be confronted politically, not through terrorism. If that were not true, why should Bihar, or come to think of it, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal, not be justified in demanding “self-determination”?

Bose should remember that, pre-1947, the Muslim League never fought the British; it only fought the Congress. It played a part in inciting communal riots to ensure its goal of a separate Pakistan. I am not questioning its goal, but the means it employed were very questionable indeed. Pakistan has inherited this tradition — India is an adversary to be vanquished by fair means or foul. Anyone who overlooks this aspect while dealing with our neighbour puts this country’s security at grave risk.

Yours faithfully,
G. Ganguli, Calcutta

Sir — Sarmila Bose has written a factual account of the roots of the crisis of confidence in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. It should make every Indian proud that such an article could be freely published in India. However harsh the truth may be, it is necessary to face it squarely.

But there are other facets to the truth Bose articulates. For example, why is a plebiscite being contemplated only in India-occupied Kashmir? The original terms of the plebiscite contemplated a choice between India and Pakistan as the two routes open to Kashmiris. But is this the ground reality today? What about the role that the unresolved Kashmir issue serves in the political firmament of Pakistan? Having said that, there can be no doubting Bose’s central thesis. The Indian political establishment has hardly ever missed an opportunity to put its foot squarely in its mouth.

Yours faithfully,
Partho Datta, Calcutta

Sir — It may be true that the elections in Kashmir were rigged and that India’s claims on Kashmir are fundamentally weak, but has Pakistan done any better? Anyone who has seen television pictures of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will have noticed the complete lack of development there. Also, the rigging of the 1986 election might have tipped the balance in a few constituencies but certainly did not convert a Muslim Front victory into a National Conference one. The question is, why are India and Pakistan so firmly against giving a united Kashmir a chance at independence? Is it because both governments need the Kashmir dispute to cover up their own abysmally incompetent record in governance?

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

After shocks

Sir — The article, “Quake rebuild rush bypasses Bhuj” (Jan 23), is very sympathetic towards the residents of Bhuj. A year after the earthquake, the government and nongovernmental organizations cannot begin reconstruction in the city because no proper assessment has been made. The state government has also not given adequate reasons for this failure. Bhuj residents rightly say this is “discriminatory”, since the areas around Bhuj have been reconstructed and developed.

Are the millions of dollars in donation not enough? The government should set up a committee to immediately look into the matter and also take the plans off the paper and onto the ground as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — Debashis Bhattacharya must be commended for his poignant piece, “Mother returns, every evening” (Jan 26). In relating the after effects of the Gujarat earthquake, Bhattacharya touches upon the pettiness of the quarrel over the location of a memorial, the ugly lobbying by builders, and the ineptitude of politicians. But it is his portrayal of the ineffable agony of a mother who has lost her son that makes the article heart-wrenching, and hopefully, a spur to action.

Yours faithfully
Sanjay Paul De Pere, Wisconsin, US

Wide ball

Sir — Scyld Berry makes a valiant effort at defending the visiting English cricket team (“All in a days play”, Jan 28). But he is not quite correct in saying that England’s complaints started at the nets. Soon after arriving in India, Nasser Hussain displayed his eagerness to join the war of words between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the International Cricket Council, by asserting that if Virendar Sehwag was selected to the final eleven in the first test, his team would not play. Later he did retract this statement, but by then the chairman of English Cricket Council had joined this argument.

Hussain has also not lost any opportunity to criticize the Indian umpires and publicize his intention to report them to the authorities. He may be justified in complaining about the umpiring in the first one day international, but in the third ODI, even the English commentator conceded that it was the umpire’s prerogative to change the ball.

Significantly the only matches against which Hussain has not complained are the second and fifth, both of which England won! Also, Hussain seems to have entirely overlooked Andrew Flintoff’s sledging since the very first test — “an excess of competitive keenness” we can well do without.

Yours faithfully,
J.C. Varma, Calcutta

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