Editorial 1 / Old hat
Editorial 2 / Talking peace
Duty at a price
Fifth Column / Never play on religious grounds
Prepare or perish
Document / Burning down their present and future
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / OLD HAT 
 
 
 
 
The export-import policy is an annual ritual which has increasingly become irrelevant. Driven by the former commerce secretary’s desire to go down in a blaze of glory, the commerce ministry unveiled a medium term export strategy in January. This spoke of an 11.9 per cent average dollar rate of growth in exports for 2002-03, increasing India’s share of world exports from 0.67 per cent to 1 per cent and increasing absolute exports from $ 46 billion to over $ 80 billion. It may be recalled that in 1996, the commerce ministry projected an export target of $ 100 billion for 2000-01, later scaled down to $ 75 billion. Hence, actual export performance has nothing to do with the commerce ministry’s projections or action. On the latter, supply-side constraints concern domestic economic reforms (or their lack) and the commerce ministry has not been very successful in pushing through the idea of flexible labour laws in special economic zones. While there is no mention of labour laws in SEZs, the present speech does mention differential labour laws for export-oriented units, whatever that expression may mean. Since the hangover of the medium term export strategy is difficult to discard, the present speech also highlights 106 items (in which India has identified comparative advantage) and focuses on Latin America, Africa and the commonwealth of independent states. There are two problems with such identification of thrust products or thrust markets. First, such identification is based on historical comparative advantage and has no relevance for the dynamic comparative advantage that flows out of commercial considerations. Second, having identified thrust products or markets, what does one do to push these in policy terms, since discriminatory fiscal incentives are no longer possible? The commerce ministry will highlight the market access initiative fund, which is World Trade Organization compatible and can be selectively used.

WTO compatibility also raises the issue of export subsidies or incentives. Admitted, rationalization is contingent on indirect tax reform and introduction of value added tax. Since the contours of VAT are known, there was nothing to prevent the commerce ministry from attempting rationalization this year. This has not been done. Unlike last year’s exim policy, this year there is less of obsession with import surges and sensitive items that need to be monitored. However, the adoption of a 8-digit harmonized customs nomenclature is significant. This not only reduces disputes (as the speech argues), but it also enables hikes on duties for some items, since India’s WTO bindings are at the 4-digit level.

The political economy having ruled out general reforms and across the board liberalization, the emphasis is on selectivity through market access initiative, some special sops and vaunted assistance to states for infrastructural development for exports package. This reflects a strategy that might have been successful 20 years ago. Having rationalized export subsidies/ incentives, Mr Murasoli Maran should have announ- ced a decision to wind up the commerce ministry. But this year’s policy only reflects the historical baggage.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / TALKING PEACE 
 
 
 
 
Peace neogtiations are usually tortuous, but that cannot be any reason for avoiding or delaying them. The decision of the Assam chief minister, Mr Tarun Gogoi, to set up a team to negotiate a peace deal with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom is therefore a welcome move. By initiating a dialogue, Mr Gogoi will have redeemed the pledge he had made to the people before last year’s assembly elections in the state. Activities of the ULFA have not only made large parts of Assam insecure for a long time, but have also dealt a deadly blow to prospects of its economic development. Mr Gogoi seems to be on the right track in preferring an independent team comprising of prominent citizens, and not government officials, to begin the peace process. He should, however, take care to ensure that the negotiators have the right credentials and acceptability, not just to the ULFA, but to the people in general. The peacemakers too have to be guided by the principles of general good, rather than by sectarian, ethnic or political interests. The governments in New Delhi and Dispur should provide the negotiating team the logistics to enable it to do its job seriously because the first moves have to be ultimately backed and followed up at the official level.

But the ULFA must give up its rigidity and give peace a chance. Its insistence on the talks being held in a “third” country in the presence of United Nations representatives, and on the question of Assam’s “sovereignty” may be strong rhetoric which helps to hold together its dwindling cadre; but it does not help the peace process. The outfit will be doing a disservice to the Assamese people, in whose name it supposedly carries on its fight against India’s “colonial rule”, if it spurns Mr Gogoi’s offer of a dialogue. The chief minister gave ample evidence of his sincerity of purpose by ordering a judicial inquiry last year into “secret” killings of activists and sympathizers of the ULFA during the previous Asom Gana Parishad regime. He followed it up with his offer of safe passage for ULFA activists wanting to visit their homes during the recent Bihu festival. It is now the ULFA’s turn to reciprocate these gestures.

   

 
 
DUTY AT A PRICE 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
Returning from his visit to Gujarat, the chairman of the national human rights commission and the former chief justice of India, J.S. Verma, told mediapersons he was horrified by what he saw and heard there; not surprising, since there had been butchery on a scale that rivalled, if not exceeded, the brutalities during Partition. He was asked about police officers not acting promptly, or not acting at all, and he said that police officers should do their duty and uphold the law, that they should not wait for orders to do so.

These may not be the exact words used by the good chairman, but they are close enough to what he actually said. And very correct advice it is to all policemen; uphold the law, that is your duty and you must perform it. But we all know that; all policemen know that, and, more to the point, the police officers and men in Gujarat know it. And yet, as many victims of the violence have testified, they did not act; they let rioters kill, loot and rape and looked the other way, or did not show up at all.

It is easy to say that the police in Gujarat have all been co-opted by the Bharatiya Janata Party and are passive, or even active, supporters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. It is not only easy to say it, it’s probably true as well, just as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has co-opted the police force in West Bengal to become — what’s the word they like using? — lackeys, yes, lackeys of the ruling Left Front. But would the ruling Left Front have so shamelessly supported the mass murder of hundreds of people? Even the most bitter critic of the front would agree that they would not. Is it a difference between a mature government and one headed by a cheap, low-level huckster masquerading as a chief minister? If it is, let all those who are, like Verma, horrified by what happened in Gujarat make the most of it; except that they must also understand that it will make absolutely no difference to Narendra Modi, nor to the Union home minister, nor even to the prime minister.

But to come back to the police in Gujarat. It may be easy to write them off as creatures of the VHP, but for one fact. Soon after Verma’s statement, with the insolence of a street goonda drunk with power, Modi transferred some 27 police officers. He then had the brazenness to say that they had actually been promoted, not just transferred. Really? Even if they were, would any chief minister be so idiotic as to promote 27 officers — and incidentally move them around — when his state was still in the hands of marauding murderous gangs? When hatred was being stoked by various statements by the VHP? When, in village after village, and in the crowded mohallas of cities, fires still burned, shops and houses were being looted, and people killed?

But let’s take a look at the facts. One of the officers transferred, or promoted, as Modi would have it, is Vivek Shrivastava. He is a young Indian police services officer and was the superintendent of police, Kutch. While the rest of Gujarat was convulsed by the hatred and the murderous rage of rampaging gangs of the VHP and its supporters, Kutch was kept peaceful by this watchful, firm young officer. One case of arson; one case of damage to property; not one death.

He kept it this way by arresting those he knew would make trouble — rioters and VHP leaders were put behind bars, despite a number of calls from the state home minister, a creature called Gordhan Zadaphiya, who is a former VHP office bearer. “I thought the leaders (arrested by Shrivastava) were innocent,” he bleated to the press. Sitting in Ahmedabad, and doing nothing while people were being slaughtered, he thought these leaders were innocent. His calls did not make Shrivastava waver. Nor did calls which came from the chief minister’s office. So Shrivastava has been duly “promoted” by Modi and the Zadaphiya character to the office of the prohibition commissioner in Ahmedabad. The “innocent” VHP leaders locked up by Shrivastava have, no doubt, been freed and we can now expect some deaths, arson and looting in Kutch, if it hasn’t happened already.

Consider another case. Another young IPS officer, Rahul Sharma, who was superintendent of police, Bhavnagar. In Bhavnagar there were mobs out baying for blood. It has been reported that when inflammatory slogans were shouted by VHP men, this young SP ordered that the Shiv Sena leader, Kishore Bhatt, and 21 VHP activists be arrested. They were, and, without any force being used, no teargas, no lathis, no firing, the situation was brought under control. In the face of his firmness and determination the rioters took to starting incidents all over the city. There were, on the first night of such activity, 220 incidents. Sharma then ordered the police to use force, and they did. The result: on March 2 there were just 30 incidents; on March 3 there was nothing to report.

Nor is this all; 400 children in a hostel are reported to have been saved from a murderous mob by Sharma and his men, and some foreigners rescued from a burning hotel. According to press reports, for 25 days Sharma, like Shrivastava in Kutch, held firm, and refused to give in to the pressure being brought on them from Zadaphiya and his cronies. But he, like Shrivastava, has now been “promoted” as deputy commissioner, police control room, Ahmedabad.

These young officers were doing their duty, upholding the rule of law. But they have paid the price for it. It’s not a small price; they may well have had children in school where they were posted who will now have their education disrupted, they will have to pack their belongings and move — and, as anyone who’s been transferred knows, this inevitably means expenditure which a young officer can ill afford, given the antiquated rules governing transfer allowances — and then hunt for schools for their children, and more important, for a place to stay.

Does anyone bother to consider the tension and misery these transfers, — or promotions, in Gujarat — cause to officers particularly young officers with small children? Today Shrivastava and Sharma, two of the 27 officers “promoted” by Modi have been sent to posts of little consequence. But inevitably they will have to be given posts with greater responsibilities; the state police can’t be manned by the VHP, as even Modi must know. And can any reasonable person then expect the same level of commitment and determination from these 27, or, indeed any officer, when they know what it will mean to their families, apart from what it means to them?

The real and only solution is to get people of some understanding and responsibility as chief ministers and home ministers. Not political schemers like Modi, and his familiar, Zadaphiya. This means the ruling party has to act with a degree of responsibility. Will that ever happen? We know that in some states it can, witness A. K. Antony’s determined stand against the aggressive associations of government employees. But will such leaders as L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee show such statesmanship? One can only hope, and keep at arms length, the foreboding by which one is overwhelmed.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / NEVER PLAY ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS 
 
 
BY RAJU MUKHERJI
 
 
At a time when communalism was actively present in Indian cricket, Bengal and Assam stayed away from the game, refusing to acknowledge distinctions among Indians based on communal grounds. But far from being rewarded, the states actually suffered because of their stance. Policies in Indian cricket have for a long time been decided on communal lines. In the late 19th century, the Parsees were the first to play cricket seriously in the subcontinent. Rather than being attracted to the game, the Parsees realized that cricket could get them close to their colonial masters. They formed a team of their own, toured England twice in the 1880s, and then, in 1895, began to take part in the Presidency matches in Bombay and Pune.

The Hindus were quick to realize that the Parsees, thanks to their close association with the British, were getting away with the lion’s share of trade and business. Hence, the Hindus, in an effort to establish contacts with the rulers, put up their own team in 1907, and the Presidency matches became triangular.

Not to be outdone, the Muslims followed suit in 1912, converting the triangular tournament into a quadrangular one. Other communities — Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and others — had no scope to take part in the premier cricket championship of the country. However, in 1937, these communities got together and joined the championship under the name, “The Rest”.

Many-sided bias

The quadrangular tournament thus became pentangular. During the Congress-led Quit India movement, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s advice to ban the cricket tournament, which he considered communal, was acceded to. In 1945 the curtain came down on the championship. Fifty years of communal behaviour had by then wreaked havoc in Indian cricket. Disgraceful episodes witnessed during this tournament were often repeated in the Ranji Trophy matches.

Bengal has always been a notable exception. Although cricket began in Bengal as early as 1792, with the formation of the Calcutta Cricket Club, locals hardly ever contemplated taking part in the tournaments of Bombay and Pune as well as those of north India. Calcutta’s Eden Gardens was for cricketers. No distinction in caste, creed or colour was allowed to spoil its sanctity.

The locals played their cricket in a healthy environment. Communal prejudice had no place in their scheme of things. The structure of cricket in Bengal was based on inter-club matches. Indian clubs sprouted, especially in Calcutta, Coochbehar, Dhaka and Mymensingh, where players from different communities rubbed shoulders. They played among themselves as well as against the British expatriates on equal terms.

Heroic refusal

In Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh, the first-ever school cricket tournament in India was held in the 1880s. The reason why cricket never became the premier sport in Bengal was because of the steadfast refusal of the people of Bengal to take part in what they considered communal tournaments all over the country, especially in the west and north.

Bengal’s refusal to take part in or host cricket tournaments reveals the heroic refusal to bow down to the dictates of sectarian minds by accepting distinctions on the basis of religious leanings. Ironically however, the adoption of this position made Bengal an outcaste in the higher echelons of Indian cricket. Consequently, the careers of deserving cricketers of the region failed to take off.

Statistics reveal the high standard of cricket that was played in Bengal in the Thirties, when the Ranji Trophy championship was introduced. In 1934, the inaugural year, Bengal did not take part. But within the next four seasons, Bengal won the championship once, became runner-up once, and twice reached the semi-finals. Yet, not one Bengal player was found to be good enough to represent the country in the Thirties.

Biases and prejudices are still in evidence in Indian cricket, while Bengal continues to stay away from communal and provincial prejudice. Nor has Eden Gardens tolerated any sectarian tendencies. Today, more than ever before, the example of Bengal needs to be highlighted and followed.

   

 
 
PREPARE OR PERISH 
 
 
BY BRIJESH D. JAYAL
 
 
The very basis of India maintaining professional armed forces, as against merely ceremonial ones, is for the nation to be able to call upon them to deliver should the need arise. That call has been made and our armed forces remain in a state of high alert. In plain terms this means that should events dictate, they must be ready to implement their plans, which are clearly spelt out and, as part of regular peacetime training, rehearsed to the last detail.

Of late, some commentators have reflected on the wisdom of such a move. Some caution that such a posture can result in an unintended flare-up, leading to a conflict which may degenerate to an exchange of nuclear weapons. Others wonder whether such a show of force is not counter-productive to modern day diplomacy. Still others reflect on the prohibitive costs of maintaining such a posture for any length of time.

While these are legitimate concerns, it needs to be recognized that we live in a harsh world where not all share our values of tolerance, fair play and forbearance. Having been at the receiving end of a proxy war within our sovereign borders for years, one that is encouraged and fuelled by Pakistan and has cost the nation over fifty thousand lives, any hint of caution conveys national under-confidence.

Fortunately, there appears to be a general consensus on the nation’s resolve to maintain this alert status till evidence was forthcoming that Pakistan is actually putting its money where its mouth was on the day of its president’s much-heralded broadcast in January. While India needs to take heart in its newfound resolve, it is instructive to delve deeper into the current security environment in our neighbourhood and its potential for our security.

Many have wondered at the sudden bonhomie between the United States administration and General Pervez Musharraf. Both George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Colin Powell, never fail to shower praises on him. While countries like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are willing and active supporters of the American anti-terrorist effort in Afghanistan, without having been promoters of the problem in the first place, they find no mention in the US’s high profile political pronouncements. Thereby hangs a tale, which emphasizes why India cannot afford to let its guard down.

A series of articles appearing in the Washington Post will take the reader through the behind-the- scenes activities in the highest echelons of the US administration as they unfolded in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Within two days of the event, Powell had got a green signal from President Bush to put Pakistan “on notice” since any action contemplated in Afghanistan was contingent on Pakistan’s support.

Seven specific demands were listed for Pakistan’s compliance. In essence, they related to Pakistan stopping all support to al Qaida and taliban, stopping Pakistani volunteers from joining the taliban, over flight and landing rights to US forces, provision of intelligence information and curbing domestic expression of support for terrorism against the US, its friends or allies. The crucial one was that should evidence implicate Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida network and should Afghanistan and the taliban continue to harbour them, then Pakistan was to break diplomatic relations with the taliban government and assist the US in destroying them. As the Washington Post concludes, “in so many words the US was telling Pakistan to help destroy what its intelligence service had helped create and maintain: the taliban”.

According to the Washington Post, while putting forward these demands to the Pakistani intelligence chief, General Mahmoud Ahmad, who was in Washington at the time, Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage, warned that they were not negotiable and all seven had to be accepted. Secretary Powell then spoke to Musharraf. “As one general to another”, he said “we need someone on our flank fighting with us. Speaking candidly, the American people would not understand if Pakistan was not in this fight with the United States.” Shorn of diplomatic icing, the ultimatum to Pakistan was unambiguous and General Musharraf got the message.

Thus started the first US tactical operation of its declared war on international terrorism. An operation cloaked under the guise of friendship and diplomacy, uncompromising and bold in its approach, yet one whose torturous route was unpredictable not only to those laying its foundation, but even to the finest of strategic thinkers within the US administration. Today, even as the Afghanistan campaign has achieved notable successes, that unpredictability remains and continues to get more intriguing as more information surfaces.

According to a recent Press Trust of India report, after the US air campaign started, Pakistan evacuated thousands of its military and intelligence advisers who had been working with the taliban. Musharraf won American support by warning that losing a large number of Pakistanis would jeopardize his political survival. Already Musharraf was beginning to feel the weight of Pakistan’s internal contradictions. It has also been reported that while the US approved a limited evacuation, the operation allegedly slipped out of control and an unknown number of taliban and al Qaida fighters managed to join in the exodus. Today many al Qaida and taliban fighters have melted into the thin air along with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Whether the “slipping out of control” was unintended or a clever Pakistani ploy is uncertain. For now, Indian security planners must take seriously reports that many of them have moved into Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

There is little doubt that while the US administration continues to shower praise on Musharraf, actually it has him on a very short leash. Recall media reports that the famous January speech by Musharraf was first cleared with the US state department. With the president himself on a tight leash and having to contain forces that have been surreptitiously created and nurtured by his country over the years, few even in the US administration can at this stage predict the durability of Musharraf and the future course of Pakistan’s internal dynamics. Those looking for stability in the region can only hope that American plans for pulling Pakistan back from the brink of fundamentalist anarchy to a moderate Islamic state will succeed. But responsible nations cannot plan national security on the basis of hope. Moreover, what other periodic rewards will Musharraf demand and when will Kashmir feature on that plate?

The question that we need to ask ourselves is this. Even if the Indian government grants Musharraf the benefit of doubt, how does it judge whether he will be allowed to deliver? How does Musharraf reconcile his newfound moderate and anti-terrorist stance with his “Kashmir in our blood” hype? And since the internal dynamics of Pakistan are too fluid for even Musharraf to predict, what options does India have?

The US is fully aware that without targeting the Pakistan state, its international war on terrorism cannot even take off. Its first few gambles with Musharraf have paid off, albeit with some hiccups. It is also aware that if a fundamentalist of the Zia ul-Haq mould replaced Musharraf, the “general to general” ploy would fall on deaf ears. The US must undoubtedly have alternate plans, should things start to go wrong with their favoured general in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, India cannot remain an idle bystander. With the backbone of al Qaida and the taliban still at large and perhaps closer to us than before, and with Pakistan being forced to rein in many of its illegitimate creations under pressure from abroad, the lack of instant preparedness on India’s part will amount to consigning national security to hope rather than substance. This makes it mandatory for our armed forces to be prepared and on station, whatever the attendant costs or risks.

In the delicate security environment that confronts India, national institutions and the public have a crucial role to play. Confidence in the government, the armed forces and all our institutions must replace the atmosphere of hype, sensationalism and criticism. Such solidarity will convey our resolve to the international community, act as a powerful morale booster to our armed forces and in the final analysis prove to be a powerful deterrent to war. Display of emotion and solidarity once our soldiers’ bodies start returning will be of little use.

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian air force

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / BURNING DOWN THEIR PRESENT AND FUTURE 
 
 
 
 
In some areas, the victims are still scared to venture out to lodge their complaints. Where the police were actively or passively involved in the violence, people are afraid to return to those very people to lodge their complaints...The bias in the police arrests also needs to be highlighted. While Muslims are arrested under several and manifold sections, Hindus are arrested under innocuous sections, such as violating curfew timings. In order to show that Hindus are also arrested in large numbers, the police have resorted to arresting innocent and poor Hindus. In Indira Nagar, Makarpura, on March 17, migrant workers...were dragged away from their homes by the police, whereas those Hindus who were part of mobs on the rampage have yet to be arrested. In contrast to Hindus arrested the next day who were charged only with section 188, Muslims were charged under sections 137, 143, 144, 153, and 188. In addition, we fear POTO will be misused as in all over Gujarat as of date 62 Muslims in connection with the Godhra carnage have been arrested, but none of the 800 arrested for the rest of the violence which has left over 600 dead have been arrested under POTO.

The local electronic media has been used in the most despicable manner by local political leaders. The intentions of the following leaders belonging to the ruling party and its affiliates becomes very clear if one looks at their speeches on local TV channels (namely J-TV, Deep and VNM). The speeches of the following leaders were specially provocative and aimed to incite the crowd: Ajay Dave, Nalin Bhatt, Deepak Kharchikar, Neeraj Jain, Bhartiben Vyas (mayor of Baroda), Jitendra Sukhadia, and others... The mayor of Baroda convened a “shanti samiti” meeting on March 18 that was attended by the police commissioner and the collector and leading political figures... She made appropriate pacifist remarks in this meeting and then on the same day she made inflammatory remarks against the minority community in the VMC council.

Even the local Gujarati print media, especially Sandesh and the Gujarat Samachar, has shown itself incapable of playing a...responsible role... Sandesh for example carried the following headline on February 28: “About 10 young Hindu girls were pulled out of the railway carriage by a group of religious fanatics” — what the news piece actually reports is that this was a rumour...This clearly shows that all that the newspaper was interested in was presenting something sensational. Going through the newspapers one will find plenty of instances of irresponsible, unverified reports. We would also like to take issue with the national electronic media which dropped the “Gujarat issue” as soon as something more sensational came along. The tragic death of Natasha Singh in Delhi has left the nation wondering about the current situation in Gujarat, and grappling in the dark for further information.

...The strategies that have been put into effect by the anti-social elements during these riots are as alarming as the violence that they have given rise to. Many attacks were pre-planned — for example, in Kishanwadi, the women told us that weeks before the attack people were moving around to make a list of all the Muslim residents and establishments in the area. In Gotri village, they are reported to have been moving around with electoral rolls to identify Muslims...Attacks were also targeted specifically at Muslims where the shop was owned by a Hindu but rented by a Muslim, it was looted, its materials brought out and set on fire, leaving the shop intact. However, when a shop/ house was owned and used by a Muslim, they were simply set on fire. All over the city, one finds among rows of shops only a single one burnt/looted because it belonged to a Muslim.

...The problem continues to simmer under the seemingly calm surface. Bajrang Dal and RSS activists continue to hold meetings in various parts of the city where they are reported to be recruiting people... and training them in the use of arms. They have also indulged in rumour mongering where people were warned of a “Muslim retaliation”, or of approaching Muslim mobs; in some cases, Muslims who were returning to retrieve their belongings were dubbed as an advancing mob thirsty for revenge. The other aspect is continuous scare mongering every night by Hindu extremist militant elements with a situation that not only Muslims but many Hindus in Hindu dominant areas have not slept normally for more than 3 weeks now.

...The use of pamphlets to incite people — these pamphlets have carried a variety of vicious messages... An obituary of one of those killed in the Godhra massacre makes an attempt to make a martyr of him. More dangerous, however, is the use of pamphlets to instigate people to rape Muslim women, use biological warfare against newborns of all the minority communities, etc. In another pamphlet, they are encouraging people to boycott Muslims in all possible ways — not employ them nor work for them; not buy from them or sell to them, boycott movies in which Muslim actors are working etc. One cannot simply dismiss these as an isolated event which does not actually influence people because in Baroda since the past 3 days, one has come across incidents in vegetable markets where vendors refused to sell to Muslims who had come to buy vegetables, or to allow Muslim vendors to conduct their business.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

The hidden agenda

Agenda for domination Sir — The crisis in west Asia demonstrates the utter futility of the “war on terrorism” promoted by George W. Bush and taken up with much alacrity by other ruthless opportunists like the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon (“Arafat under Israel siege”, March 30). The illegal occupation of Palestine, the ritual humiliation of a “check-point society” in which Palestinians are used as a colonized labour force without even the most basic of rights and the brutal suppression of all secular nationalist movements in Palestine, have resulted in a desperate response in the form of a spate of suicide bombings. The more Sharon uses tanks and helicopters against civilians, the more likely is the violence to escalate, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians in Israel as well as in the occupied territories. This may serve the perverse agenda of Sharon and to some extent, the interests of Yasser Arafat, but it is certainly against the interests of Israel as well as Palestine

Yours faithfully,
Ernesto Mukherjee, Calcutta

Changing states

Sir — Sunil Khilnani, in “India is not for Hindus alone” (March 24), very perceptively draws attention to how tragic it is for Gujarat, one of the most advanced states in India, to have become a happy hunting ground for rabid communalists. Of course, this is not to say that communalists have not found support elsewhere in India.

Gujarat today exemplifies how the mere presence of superior infrastructure and a well-developed economy does not lead to modernity. To be progressive, one must rise above caste, community and language barriers. In spite of all the advancements in science and technology, the mindset of people remains primitive in India today, their urge to dominate over other groups on the basis of language, religion, caste and colour as sharp as ever. Nationalist parties have cleverly exploited this and have reaped great benefits from exacerbating such communal divides.

Like other majoritarian parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies fail to appreciate the virtues of “unity in diversity”. They believe that peace and progress can be attained only by appeasing the majority community. But the votaries of Hindutva are sadly mistaken if they think that a Hindu India will be an oasis of peace — it will witness the same chaos and violence that a Muslim Pakistan is witnessing. Look at also how, soon after Pakistan was formed, clashes over language paved the way for the creation of Bangladesh. A Hindu India, free of “alien” Muslims, will face similar linguistic and inter-caste tensions, which may lead to further fragmentation of the country.

Hindus must ensure that the dignity and rights of all communities are adequately protected, that their fellow citizens are not persecuted on the basis of caste or language. The tolerant ideal of Hinduism is totally opposed to the stringent Hindutva of the sangh parivar, which has tainted the image of Hinduism everywhere. If Hindus continue to be guided by the parivar they are destined for doom, and along with them, India.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — Sunil Khilnani sets forth certain facts that peace-loving citizens of India have long denied. It makes the important point, which we frequently forget in today’s communally fraught atmosphere, that it is man who makes religion, in order to promote harmony between different communities.

But the question is, how genuine is our claim to be secular? “Hindustan”, as the land is frequently referred to, indicates that India is a land of Hindus. The man on the streets is hardly concerned about who is a Hindu and who a Muslim, but he is moved by such deliberate acts of terror. India has been accusing Pakistan of setting up terrorist camps along the line of control. But the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other members of the parivar are no less damaging than those of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.

It is common knowledge that the BJP came to power based on an agenda that had Hindutva and the demolition of the Babri Masjid at its heart. Economic growth is not important for it — or instead of wanting to build a temple, it could have built a hospital or a school to be used by both Hindus and Muslims. The recent communal violence in Gujarat has proved to the world that Hinduism is no longer a tolerant religion.

Khilnani mentions only Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, it leaves out countless other Muslims who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country. They are entitled to the same rights granted to the Hindus under the Indian Constitution.

Yours faithfully,
N.R. Venkateswaran, Calcutta

Sir — Words fail to describe the shock one feels on reading about the horrific tales of the Gujarat violence, the new stories that come to light every day. Since two wrongs do not make a right, it is impossible to identify with the Hindu fundamentalists who, crossing all barriers of humanity, have nurtured and unleashed the venom of hatred and perpetrated a barbaric violence on Muslims throughout the state by justifying it as a natural reaction to the Godhra incident. If ethnic cleansing was a natural reaction to Godhra, one shudders to think what might be the reaction to this ethnic cleansing. Have we set off a vicious cycle of revenge and retribution? For the sake of communal harmony the RSS, VHP and the Bajrang Dal should be banned immediately.

Yours faithfully,
Lalita Agarwal, Calcutta

All about numbers

Sir — K.B. Sahay in the article, “Growth without development” (March 25), gives a clear picture of the dangers posed by the unfettered population growth in Uttar Pradesh. The two children norm is a far cry in UP. In 2001, the total fertility rate in the state was 4.4, while the Indian average was 3.2. Sadly, no political party has paid any attention to this grave danger. The belief that development is the cure for a high population growth rate cannot be applied here. UP is one of the most backward states in India and it will take another century to bring down the population growth to desired levels. What UP needs perhaps is a well-conceived policy to tackle the crisis.

Yours faithfully,
Saikat Pandit, Uttarpara

Sir — The article, “Growth without development”, is welcome evidence of the media taking the initiative to highlight a vital problem facing our country today. It is shocking to know that in a state with as high a population growth rate as UP, nothing is being done to bring the figures under control. It is true that the exponentially growing population does not figure on the politicians’ list of priorities — they would rather focus their attention on increasing their captive vote banks. Educated members of society should play a role in this by encouraging the use of contraceptives. They should try to change attitudes and propagate the use of contraceptives. Indians are generally reluctant to use contraceptives — a fallout of their conservative attitude to sexual matters.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Asif Iqbal Tosif, Calcutta

Sir — What comes through very clearly in K.B. Sahay’s article is the utter futility of the government’s family planning programmes. In the circumstances, did not Sanjay Gandhi have the right idea when he enforced sterilization?

Yours faithfully,
Radhika Menon, 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