Editorial 1/ All is not well
Editorial 2/ Minority control
Shall nobody save us?
Fifth Column/ Dignity, life and a freedom to choose
Lessons come home to roost
Document/ Those who unkeep law and order
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ ALL IS NOT WELL 
 
 
 
 
Dignity of parliament is one of the important, but indefinable, ideas in the functioning of a democracy. This dignity is made up of what members of parliament bring to the house in terms of behaviour and the content of their speeches. By this yardstick, the Lok Sabha has very little dignity left. The residual dignity was destroyed during the joint session of Parliament on Tuesday. The perpetrators were none other than the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sonia Gandhi. It is the involvement of these two eminent personalities which makes the coup de grâce on Parliament’s dignity sad, and in a bizarre way, memorable. The joint session was convened to pass the prevention of terrorism ordinance. This, in an ideal situation, should not have taken too long because the government had the numbers to pass the bill. But the fact that the session went on for an inordinately long time was owing to an undignified squabble between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. Whether she likes it or not, Ms Gandhi will have to bear the responsibility of casting the first stone. She made a series of personal attacks on Mr Vajpayee which were in no way related to the issue that was being debated. Mr Vajpayee may or may not be weak, he may or may not be driven by the ideological agenda of the sangh parivar, but all these questions have nothing at all to do with the passing of POTO. Ms Gandhi, in a rare display of bad manners, chose to attack the player rather than the ball.

It was open to Mr Vajpayee to rise above the personal attacks and behave like a prime minister committed to piloting a controversial bill through Parliament. But for Mr Vajpayee, an old parliamentarian warhorse, this was too good an opportunity to be missed. He got his own back at Ms Gandhi simply because in a polemical mood, Mr Vajpayee, despite his age and failing health, is matchless in Parliament. He won the squabble but he might wonder if it was worth it and if his performance was worthy of his august office and worthy of the dignity of Parliament that he is supposed to uphold. For the nation, this battle of words and of personalities was a waste of time and resources. Nowhere in the exchanges were the substantive issues of POTO discussed: its impact on democratic rights, especially on the right of habeas corpus; if at all POTO is required and if the Congress had any grounds to oppose the ordinance since similar laws exist in Congress-run states. A clash of personalities became more important than the issue. Mr Vajpayee may be triumphant and his claque of applauders even more so but for Indian democracy, the joint session on Tuesday was a sad day. Parliament’s dignity went down the well.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ MINORITY CONTROL 
 
 
 
 
Yesterday’s resolution is today’s junk. In January this year, it was decided that the management control of Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd would be vested with the Chatterjee Group. The head of the Chatterjee Group, Mr Purnendu Chatterjee, had then promised that he would bring in more funds and would become the majority stockholder of the company. But this resolution was as shortlived as the hope that the worst phase of HPL is over. On Tuesday, at another board meeting, the previous resolution was overturned, and it was decided to place the company under Indian Oil Corporation. This decision is a volte-face on another count. Earlier talks with the IOC had broken down because the latter had insisted on running the company with a shareholding of only 26 per cent. Mr Chatterjee had then found such a proposal unacceptable. Yet for the nonce, the IOC is bringing in Rs 468 crore to acquire an equity of 26 per cent. It is legitimate to wonder what the earlier fuss was about and what made Mr Chatterjee climb down. It is indeed a paradoxical situation in which a shareholder with only 26 per cent equity will have management control. There are reports that the IOC wishes to become majority shareholders because it believes, quite justifiably, that management will not be viable without holding 51 per cent of the equity. The quicker this happens, the better for HPL. Control over the management with a holding of only 26 per cent runs the risk of a conflict with the more powerful shareholders. HPL cannot afford any further stalemates in its functioning.

The chief minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, will be pleased with the turn of events in HPL as there is nothing he wants more than to get the company out of the doldrums. Mr Bhattacharjee’s dream of a new West Bengal with a buoyant economy is dependent on the success of HPL. He would like nothing better than to showcase HPL and to enjoy the benefits of the demonstration effect. Potential investors in West Bengal need to have their faith fortified by the example of HPL. The decision of the government of West Bengal to part with 26 per cent of its holdings in HPL is the first sign that the government is keen to pull out of business ventures. To move beyond the first sign, Mr Bhattacharjee must ensure that his government relinquishes with alacrity its residual holding in HPL. The West Bengal government’s retreat from HPL will convey the right message to industrialists. The retreat from business will also mark the first major retreat from the mindset of socialism. Mr Bhattacharjee needs to announce this departure if he is eager to witness the arrival of capital in West Bengal. History has bestowed on HPL the burden of being more than a business venture.

   

 
 
SHALL NOBODY SAVE US? 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
The prime minister has appealed to the opposition leaders to be particularly careful while discussing events in Gujarat; it is, he has added, an extremely sensitive situation. Will the prime minister be prepared to make the same appeal to his henchmen in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its parivar? There is reason for posing this query. Please read on.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of copies of a circular letter, purportedly from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, are being distributed in Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat. A verbatim translation of the leaflet is given below.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad
Satyam Shivam Sundaram!
Jai Shri Ram!
Wake up! Arise! Think! Enforce! Save the country! Save the religion!

Economic boycott is the only solution! The anti-national elements use the money earned from the Hindus to destroy us! They buy arms! They molest our sisters and daughters! The way to break the backbone of these elements is:

An economic non-cooperation movement!

Let us resolve — 1. From now on I will not buy anything from a Muslim shopkeeper!

2. I will not sell anything from my shop to such elements!

3. Neither shall I use the hotels of these anti-nationals nor their garages!

4. I shall give my vehicles only to Hindu garages! From a needle to gold, I shall not buy anything made by Muslims, neither shall we sell them things made by us!

5. I shall boycott wholeheartedly films in which Muslim heroes and heroines act! Throw out films produced by these anti-nationals!

6. We will never work in offices of Muslims! We’ll not hire them!

7. We’ll not let them buy offices in our business premises nor sell or rent out houses to them in our housing societies and colonies.

8. I shall certainly vote, but only for him who will protect the Hindu nation.

9. I shall ensure that our sisters and daughters do not fall into the “love-trap” of Muslim boys at schools, colleges and workplaces.

10. I shall not receive any education or training from a Muslim teacher.

Such a strict economic boycott will throttle these elements! It will break their back-bone! Then it will be difficult for them to live in any corner of this country. Friends, begin this economic boycott from today! Then no Muslim will raise his head before us! Did you read this leaflet? Then make ten photocopies of it and distribute it to our brothers. The curse of Hanumanji be on him who does not implement this and distribute it to others! The curse of Ramchandraji will also be on him! Jai Shri Ram!

— A true Hindu patriot.

N.B. The kites we use on kite-flying day are also made by Muslims. The fireworks are also made by them. We should boycott these too. Jai ShriRam!

There is no end of poetry in the world, so say the goody-goody lyric-lovers. They are wrong. There is actually no end of bestiality in the world, vide the text of the leaflet reproduced above. Till now, no repudiation of the circular has been forthcoming from VHP quarters, so we have to take it as both authorized and authoritative. The contents of the leaflet would have done the Nazis proud in Germany 70 years ago. We know the holocaust that took place in that country and the rest of Europe subsequently.

There has been a recrudescence of trouble, including stabbings and killings in Gujarat, following the circulation of this priceless leaflet. This could be, one is afraid, only the beginning. Much worse things might follow if the administration and the forces of law and order do not bestir themselves. And there are no signs of their bestirring themselves.

The Student’s Islamic Movement of India has been banned in the country, and with great fanfare. Even if all the other crimes of the VHP were overlooked, the text of the circular reproduced above must constitute more than adequate ground to declare it an unlawful organization and suppress mercilessly all its activities.

To be candid, little ground exists for assuming that the state government of Gujarat or the regime at the Centre presided over by the Bharatiya Janata Party will do what is even minimally necessary in the matter. The junior parties in the National Democratic Alliance coalition have their own narrow short-term considerations, they are apparently not overly concerned about the survival of the nation in the long run. This is why a plea needs to be posted directly to the chief justice of India. Given his Broach ancestry, he, one is sure, is reasonably well-versed in Gujarati language, and is therefore in a position to read the leaflet in original. The blood of any sensible Indian patriot, pledged to defending the secular credentials of the nation, cannot but boil after assimilating the message sought to be transported to the Hindu community in Gujarat. It is an invocation to anarchy and civil war. Fire has a contiguous quality, and a conflagration, once started in one corner of the country might spread unbelievingly fast all across the country.

The prime minister does not have either the inclination or the clout to restrain the savage ones who constitute the bulwark of support for his party. He has already provided enough evidence of that disability. The president of the republic is hamstrung by Article 74 of the Constitution and cannot take any action without the leave of his council of ministers. The sane overwhelming majority of the nation has therefore little alternative but to approach the highest judiciary in the land as last resort. The Supreme Court needs to act as expeditiously as possible and issue directives to the governments both at the Centre and in Gujarat to stamp out the VHP menace. The luxury of posting a public interest petition with it could be dispensed with in the present instance, for even the shortest delay could mean an irretrievable calamity.

But a substantive problem can still be faced by all concerned. It is a harsh reality that the fanatics out to destroy the nation are no believers in the democratic mandate; they are equally convinced of their competence to browbeat the authorities. They will continue to apply pressure through various intermediaries. That apart, a substantial number of people exist in the country who persist in taking a supercilious view of things. What has happened and is happening in Gujarat, they will argue, is a localized affair and it does not concern the rest of the country. According to some others, the VHP mad-hats are a transient phenomenon; should you look the other way, they will disappear in no time.

For this naïve multitude, one can do no better than remind them of the lament penned by that pastor in Germany, Martin Niemöller, some seven decades ago: “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew./ Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist./ Then they came for the trade unionist, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist./ Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out because I was not a Catholic./ Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Things have come to such a pass that one does not feel confident anymore that even the highest judiciary, unless it strikes immediately, would be in a position to wield its authority for any great stretch of time. The fury of the trishul is about ready to lay the edifice of the nation in total ruin.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ DIGNITY, LIFE AND A FREEDOM TO CHOOSE 
 
 
BY KAMALIKA MUKHERJEE
 
 
The advances made in medical science and technology have provoked a lot of debate and controversy over medical ethics, procedural norms and societal values. One of the issues which has compelled doctors, human rights activists, legal personnel and patients to sit up and think is euthanasia.

This has become particularly relevant in India since there has been much change in social order, societal and medical norms, legal provisions and family structure. Besides, the number of terminally ill patients, suffering from cancer, AIDS and other serious disorders, has been on the rise. This forces us to re-think the issue of euthanasia in the Indian context.

From the Seventies, the joint-family system began to give way to the nuclear family structure. This resulted in a drastic change in the nature of the support system available to an individual who is seriously or terminally ill. The importance of the family is impossible to ignore while dealing with a sensitive issue like euthanasia. For the aged in India, being deprived of adequate care from the immediate family breeds a sense of isolation which leads them to question the quality of life they are living. This brings us to the question whether euthanasia should be legalized or not.

Medical assistance

But the area is ridden with problems. There is a need to understand the different definitions of the term, euthanasia, from passive euthanasia to voluntary euthanasia. Here the complex legal mechanism tends to play a vital role. A better and an objective understanding of the reasons which drive an individual to consider euthanasia as a solution to the existing problem is necessary. But these must be considered along with the ethical question.

As pointed out by A.K. Tharien of the Indian Academy of Social Sciences, medical practitioners today have more power over life and death than they have chosen to have. The point is whether this should be allowed, or whether individual choice should be prioritized. An adult, in a position to take the decision of terminating his life, should be given the right make a choice about his life. The intervention and influence of the doctor is a key factor here. This depends on the nature of interaction and bonding which the patient might share with the doctor.

What needs to be carefully assessed is whether the patient’s choice is an independent one, or influenced by his doctor’s opinions. If the patient is being assisted by his doctor to die with dignity, should the act of the doctor be considered ethically wrong and against medical norms?

Moral of the story

What could be wrong about a patient taking his life if he thinks the act will end his misery? And if the medical practitioner will help in bringing about his end on compassionate grounds, should it be seen as a criminal offence? Every person has the right to decide upon the quality of his life, and therefore, has a right over his life and death. True, such a decision might affect the immediate family. Javes Lavery in a report in The Lancet says, “Our results suggest that an understanding of loss of self, which is a metaphysical phenomenon, is essential to understand desire for euthanasia or assisted suicide.” This provides a very useful insight into the issue.

Studies show that a number of people think that euthanasia is needed so patients cannot be forced to remain alive by being “hooked up” to machines. Neither the law, nor medical ethics has any right to keep a patient alive against his wishes when continued attempts to cure or alleviate his pain fail to lessen his suffering. The age-old image of the doctor as a life-saver and not a life-taker needs a second thought.

A lesson may be learnt from a recent landmark case in England, where a woman paralysed from neck down won the right to die “peacefully and with dignity”, thanks to a high court verdict. The question that inevitably follows is: should one prolong the act of dying in a case where death is almost a certainty? Unfortunately, Indian society is too caught up with the moral aspect of euthanasia. It is time to accept that if an individual cannot be provided a life of dignity and comfort, the least he deserves is the freedom to choose death over life.

   

 
 
LESSONS COME HOME TO ROOST 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
 
Neglect hangs like a shroud on the building frayed by time, its illustrious portals frozen in time and space. Bhagalpur University, once the seat of progressive learning and hotbed of student politics, is a pale shadow of its former self, like all other universities in Bihar. Years of complacency and a steady rot in the education system have dulled the free flow of thought and ideas on the campus. So it was surprising when the university erupted in impotent rage, leaving a trail of blood in its wake.

Early last month, the unthinkable happened. Students dared to protest against the arbitrary hike in fees at Bhagalpur University and raise their voice against the politically-backed education mafia which was allegedly running a “parallel education system” on the campus. The misadventure invited the establishment’s ire and the police promptly snubbed out the revolt. A student leader was killed and more than 1,500 courted arrest.

The damage, though minimal, left its mark. The resentment in an otherwise nonchalant student body against pervasive corruption veered out of control and spilled on to the streets. The clarion call to weed out the education mafia cut across party lines. A massive demonstration by student organizations of all hues threatened to assume the overtones of a widespread movement and sent alarm bells ringing in the capital. The groundswell was close to turning into a tide reminiscent of Jayaprakash Nar- ayan’s total revolution of the Seventies.

The Bhagalpur skirmish had all the trappings of a social uprising — a common enemy, unanimity of view, a broad-based agenda and a common action plan. Politics for once took a backseat. The right-wingers braved the baton along with the centrist, secular, democratic, left and ultra-left groups. A combined students’ wing of the People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre joined ranks with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Samata Party youth fronts to stall the quantum leap in fees and the parallel education system.

Statistics cited by the student bodies suggest an alarming trend. The revised fee structure of three major universities in Bihar had shot up almost threefold, with an average increase of Rs 60. The universities justified the hike as a counter-measure to stave off competition from private colleges. They apparently needed the money to upgrade infrastructure.

A joint team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and the state human rights commission visited the university after the police firing. It rapped the authorities and the state government on the knuckles for allowing excesses inside the campus. It also identified the mafia kingpin who was allegedly trying to grab a part of the university land to set up a degree-churning institute or, in other words, a private college. The mastermind, a professor in the university, apparently had strong political links.

Not to be deterred, students made an issue out of the panel report and tried to lobby for support among other universities which were also in the clutches of the degree mafia. But their efforts floundered and lost direction midway, primarily due to the tepid state-wide response. A student organizations’ meeting in Patna to strengthen the fight against corruption in five universities — Magadh University (Gaya), Jai Prakash University (Muzzaffarpur), B.N. Mandal University (Madhepura), Mithila University (Darbhanga) and Bhagalpur University — ended in a whimper. Bhagalpur went back to sleep and the don furthered his interests with a vengeance.

Why did the movement fail to take off? If insiders are to be believed, Patna was caught off guard by the sweeping tide of dissent and reacted fast. For the doyens of secular politics in the state, Bhagalpur was a stark reminder of the Seventies, when students charted the political course of the state. The top rung of this leadership was part of the crusading fraternity which carried the torch of JP’s revolution to the classroom. They foresaw a replay of the past and shuddered to think of the possible consequences.

A motley group of ruling party representatives reportedly went around the colleges, asking students to lay off. In the words of a senior RJD leader, “It was dangerous since all the forces had come together burying their ideological differences. At least, in our time, only the left and the socialist forces rallied behind JP.”

So Bhagalpur was potentially more hazardous for the political safety of the present leadership. The similarities between the two movements are uncanny. The Bhagalpur uprising had its roots in the campus as did the JP movement, when universities became the hotbed of socialist politics, spawning firebrands like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ranjan Yadav and Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav.

The intervening years between 1964 and 1978 were Bihar’s baptism by fire. The student rebels brought about a change in the caste order and Brahminism came tumbling down in the state. The seeds of Mandalization were sown with fanfare in 1967 when the Congress was hounded out of power by a socialist-led coalition. The Samyukyta Vidhayak Dal ascended the throne in Patna. The same year, on March 18, police fired on students marching to the assembly, killing many. Laloo Yadav and Nitish Kumar were part of the rally. While Kumar stayed put, Laloo Yadav bolted. Events over the next three decades were threaded in continuity.

When the present is rooted in a familiar past, would it not do Bihar good if it allowed a new line of student leaders to replace the old guard? The answer is yes, but the reality is quite different. If the Rajya Sabha nominations are any pointer, then it should be evident that the Laloo Yadav-Ranjan Yadav generation is still riding high and has no wish to let go. A students’ rebellion at this juncture could very well spell their political doom since all the mainstream parties in Bihar are in a disarray. While the RJD is beset with complacency and fissures (the Laloo Yadav-Ranjan Yadav divide for one), the Congress has virtually been decimated by its myopic alliances in the state. The left is at a crossroads, unable to thrash out a broad-based compromise between its radical and moderate elements. The National Democratic Alliance in Bihar is vertically divided with Ram Vilas Paswan’s breakaway Lok Janshakti. The Samata Party and the BJP, on their own, are players without reckoning. They at best have marginal presence in diverse caste pockets.

Unlike West Bengal, where the Left Front is making an attempt to groom a new line of leadership among the students, in Bihar, students have never been allowed to exercise their choice. University elections are controlled by political parties and the student leaders end up becoming henchmen of leading politicians or anti-social elements in their own right.

A case in point is Mohammad Sahabuddin of Siwan. The charismatic don, once a Laloo Yadav muscleman, is now the uncrowned king of the Siwan underworld. The suave post-graduate in English was once billed a “promising student leader”.

The Patna or Gaya universities have never had the privilege of hogging media limelight like Calcutta’s Presidency College, where the wards of VIPs, including the chief minister’s offspring, led the Students’ Federation of India to victory. Perhaps, Bhagalpur was timed right. Had it fructified, Bihar could have made a fresh bid to re-invent itself. But then there was no Jayaprakash Narayan to lead the disparate group of students towards a greater goal which could have begun by refurbishing education.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT/ THOSE WHO UNKEEP LAW AND ORDER 
 
 
 
 
“The distinguishing” characteristic of these riots which merit the label of an ethnic carnage is the widespread appropriation and misuse of Hindu religious symbols and figures. These include the following: shouting “Jai Shri Ram” as a battle cry by marauding mobs and politicians of the ruling party; forcing Muslims to utter the name of Ram...and in many cases accompanied by the pulling of their beards; projecting the Godhra dead as martyrs to the Hindu extremist cause; organizing frenetic chanting and bhajans in the name of Ram, for example on March 15 in Baroda; mass singing of Hanuman Chalisa organized by the very elements involved in looting and arson (for instance even now, in the Tarsali area this is done by Bajrang Dal elements every evening — those very elements which played a major role in setting to waste 185 houses in Noor Park, Tarsali on February 28).

...We would like to highlight the failure of the police in performing their duty. As has been widely reported in the print and electronic media, the police did not respond to numerous and repeated phone calls by people who were seeking their protection and help. For example, in Indira Nagar of Makarpura, after the Bajrang Dal people had vandalized a mosque, the residents made around 100 phone calls to the police. However, the police showed up only after four hours only to say that they (the people) should make their own arrangements for security...Often incidents took place near police stations and temporary police chowkies. Police and state administration had not taken action in spite of being given details well in advance...of sensitive areas and persons...

Other such examples of post-March 15 incidents where police were repeatedly given advance notice by us are: Panvad and Kawant of Baroda district; Borsali Apartment in Ajwa Road, and Bahaar colony in Baroda, Rain Basera in Machhipith, Wadi, Nawapura, Patel estate at Pratapnagar, Sardar Estate ...On March 15, in front of the Pani Gate Nawapura Naka Police chowki, three boys burnt a house belonging to the minority community while six policemen stood watching. A shop of a Muslim in full view of the Panigate police station was burnt. Similarly, in front of the Mandvi police control room, one shop was burnt without any police action and on Shastri Baug Road, very close to the police point, Syed Studio was burnt...Even worse, there were many instances of the police taking active part in the violence — in the looting, arson and in the killings. In Navayard (Roshan Nagar and Ashanagar) kerosene was seen in a police vehicle during the riot according to Muslim eye witnesses...

When 32 persons of the minority community were returning to fetch their belongings accompanied by two police vehicles... they were attacked by a reported mob of at least 2,000 in the Makarpura area of Baroda. Two persons of the minority community died on the spot, four are in critical condition in the intensive care unit in the Medical College Hospital and 18 others were injured.

...Over and above this, we would like to point out the atrocities on women committed by the police during the past three weeks. Not only were the women subject to verbal abuse, they were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. In Bahaar colony of Ajwa Road, women went out to request the police to set up a police point as tension had been increasing in the face of violence. The police refused to listen to the women and in fact, laathi charged to force them into their homes. At Rain Basera, Machchipith, under Karelibag police station, several women were assaulted by the police during “combing operations”. Four policemen entered the bustee at around 3 pm on March 16, 2002 and started beating them indiscriminately — Sairaben Shaikh, Faridabanu Shaikh, Hamidabibi Pathan all age between 30 and 45 were among those who were beaten so badly that their wounds are still visible. Faridabibi was hit on her chest by a laathi, and Hamidabibi in her pubic region.

In Bahaar colony, women were pulled out of their homes by dragging them by their breasts. Even 18 year old girls were not spared — they were threatened with swords and sticks by the police. Rukiabibi, a 70 year old woman in Kasamala Kabristan, who went out to prevent the police from taking away her young son, was hit by the laathi so hard that her head split open.

...The problems of the affected population did not end with the halt in the active incidents of violence. These continued in various hidden forms. Many people have fled the areas in which they were living because they no longer feel safe there. However, the FIRs have to be lodged in the area of their permanent residence.

Those who have only just managed to save their lives fear to go back to these areas to lodge their FIRs. Also, there is no guarantee that their FIR will be registered. For example, in Bhutadi Zhampa and Old Padra Road, police refused point blank to lodge FIRs of affected Muslims. When they did admit their complaints, there was an under valuation of the property losses — this happened at the Old Padra Road police station and Indiranagar police stations for instance.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Death and the maiden

Sir — Obviously, Natasha Singh’s death and the unnatural deaths of a number of socialites like her in the capital in recent times indicate some form of social malaise. Especially, since the alleged murderers, who invariably come from influential families themselves, have almost always gotten away. But, the stance taken by the article, “It happens only in Delhi” (March 24), was appalling. The statement, “Power, money and over-the-edge life- styles. The mantra of the capital’s upper classes. No wonder many of them turn up dead”, reeks of inverted snobbery and misplaced morality. To claim that someone’s ultra-yuppie lifestyle is good enough reason for her to “turn up dead” is completely illogical. Whether it be Jessica Lal, Naina Sahni, Nitish Katara or Natasha Singh, all are cases of foul play. Instead of trying to find out why such murders and deaths are becoming common in New Delhi, it is strange that the article takes a high moral stand and writes off the deaths as the just end for a group of people who, according to the article, have no morals.
Yours faithfully,
Sohini Bose, Ranchi

Right to choose

Sir — The British court’s landmark judgment, in which it upheld the right to die of a 43-year-old woman who is paralysed from the neck down, marks a new era in the world of medicine (“Paralysed woman wins right to die”, March 23). The ruling comes at a time when technology is being used to alleviate medical problems. However, despite all the developments in science and technology, we are still miles away from providing a solution for many a medical condition like paralysis and coma.

Like euthanasia, cloning is an area of medical and scientific study which has attracted much controversy. There are many medical problems to which solutions may be found if experiments which involve cloning are allowed. But with all the controversy surrounding it, the medical world has shunned all research that involves this process. The battle to get cloning and euthanasia legal acceptance should be combined since both have the well-being of the patients at heart.

Yours faithfully,
N.R. Venkateswaran, Calcutta

Sir — The courts in India should draw an example from the British court’s verdict which allowed a paralysed woman the right to ask for her life support system to be switched off. I am paralysed and hence can understand the physical and mental condition of the patient, which led her to take the decision to end her life. The time has come for such verdicts to be taken in underdeveloped countries like India, where governments provide none of the amenities and care the terminally ill require. I have had first hand experience of the lack of social and material support for people like me. When a government cannot provide the infrastructure its disabled citizens need, it has no right to forbid them to take the drastic measure of ending their lives.

Yours faithfully,
Dibendu Dutta, Calcutta

Sir — While one hopes the British court’s decision upholding a patient’s right to decide whether to live will set a precedent in India, there is one aspect of this euthanasia case that is worrying. The report, “Paralysed woman wins right to die”, quotes the chairman of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee as saying that every “competent” adult has the right to refuse medical treatment. But who will decide who is “competent”? As long as the term is open to interpretation, there will be room for the misuse of euthanasia by both doctors and patients. In an earlier case, a doctor was convicted for practising “mercy killings”, even though he claimed that his patients had asked him to end their lives. One hopes the March 22 court ruling will not lead to such dubious cases of euthanasia.

Yours faithfully,
Koel Ray, Lucknow

Sir — Unless the grey area between suicide and euthanasia is cleared and a definite distinction made between the two, euthanasia is open to misuse and should not be legalized.

Yours faithfully,
Maya Mitra, Cochin

On the road

Sir — I would like to draw the attention of the Asansol Municipal Corporation to the deplorable condition of Budha road in ward no. 8, which is the shortest route to Burnpur. All the drains in the area are broken, and water from them flows on to the road. Encroachments along the pavements have led to the originally wide road being reduced to a narrow galli. Three high schools are situated in this area. There is also a licensed wine shop within 50 metres of these schools. This is in violation of regulations which prohibit the location of wine shops in the vicinity of educational institutions. It is to be hoped that the authorities of the AMC will rectify this state of affairs.
Yours faithfully,
O.P. Towari, Asansol

Sir — Weston Street, off Chittaranjan Avenue, is a narrow 16 feet road. Since there is no sidewalk on either side of the street, it is always congested. Parking is also allowed on both sides of this two way street. This makes crossing the road very difficult, especially for children and senior citizens. Authorities should try and improve the condition of this street.

Yours faithfully,
M.R. Sheth, Calcutta

The precursors

Sir — While I agree with the spirit of Amit Chaudhuri’s “A state of commerce” (March 10), I contest his historical narrative as one who teaches the history of Indian literature in English. The earliest Indian writers in English were not all poets, but also authors of non-fiction, and there were at least two contenders other than Toru Dutt for the title of the “first Indian writer in English with a significant artistic achievement”. The “source of this tradition” goes back 50 years before her to Rammohun Roy’s magisterial tracts and Henry Derozio’s poems. Chaudhuri considers translation a fertile input to creativity; both Roy and Derozio fulfil this criterion. Roy knew Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, Bengali and English fluently, while Derozio translated from French and Persian to English. Indeed, Derozio’s Eurasian ancestry genetically embodied “our European inheritance”. What more appropriate ethnicity than Anglo-Indian (more precisely, Portuguese-Indian) to herald Indo-Anglian literature? Dutt’s insertion of tamarind, mango and seemul into the “language of skylarks and nightingales” had been anticipated by 1830 in Derozio’s pale cameeni, sitar and sur- mah, if not Kashiprosad Ghose’s “sandal trees” and “the bulbul sings above”. I don’t think “Dutt’s Baugmaree begins a journey which many others, since, have undertaken”. The journey began with Derozio’s Fakir of Jhungeera in which an outlaw fakir saves a Brahmin widow from sati.
Yours faithfully,
Ananda Lal, 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 postal address of the sender

   
 

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