Editorial 1 / Lie of the Land
Editorial 2 / No nonsense
The English teacher
Fifth Column / After the rain of flesh and blood
To make neighbours envious
Document / A stone’s throw away really
Letters to the editor

There are few things more distasteful than a politician being sanctimonious. Unfortunately, the Union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, is rather good at putting on a self-righteous mantle. In Tirupati on April 6, Mr Advani decided to issue homilies to the media. He decided to teach the media their duty. He told journalists that there are times when speaking the truth is not a responsible act and therefore the media must be careful in their revelation of facts. He held up as an example the newspapers of the United States of America which had not demanded the resignation of the Bush government after the events of September 11. Like in many other things, Mr Advani’s control over his facts is not exactly exemplary. For another, there is no reason why Indian newspapers and television channels should mindlessly ape what is happening in the US. At the back of Mr Advani’s mind was, of course, the violence in Gujarat, the public outrage at the failure of Mr Narendra Modi to prevent and to quell the violence, and the subsequent demand that he should resign or be sacked. The timing of Mr Advani’s mini lecture on the code of ethics to the media is rather significant. It is nothing less than a thinly-veiled defence of Mr Modi, who is known as one of Mr Advani’s proteges.

The question of responsibility and being economical with the truth have occurred to Mr Advani suddenly as his party and the sangh parivar are now under fire because of the part they have played in promoting and perpetrating the killings in Gujarat. He is alarmed since, through the reports in the press and the pictures on television, a considerable section of the population of India and the world is becoming aware of the true character of the sangh parivar and the politics of hatred that it represents. The media are carrying out what they see as their duty, whereas Mr Advani, not for the first time and not for the last time, has failed to do his duty as the country’s home minister. The law and order of the country is without any doubt the responsibility of the home minister. The continuing violence in Gujarat is testimony of not only Mr Modi’s failure but Mr Advani’s as well. Mr Advani would be better off looking after his own responsibilities rather than hectoring the media for their failures.

Mr Advani has clearly stepped out of line by trying to teach the media their own business. The media in India, print or television, are not in any way accountable to Mr Advani. Those who read newspapers and watch television will evaluate the media’s performance in reporting and depicting the violence in Gujarat. Journalism in India is not by any means in its infancy that it requires to be disciplined by a self-styled iron man. The media in India have a record of responsibility, and when the occasion has so demanded, they have exercised a degree of self-censorship. Unfortunately for Mr Advani, in a democracy a pogrom of the kind witnessed in Gujarat does not inspire self-censorship. The media in India are committed to reporting the truth. The sangh parivar is involved in the production of truth. There must be somebody in Mr Advani’s entourage who can explain the difference to him.


Mr A.K. Jaiswal of Varanasi does not like to see Muslims praying in public places. So he petitioned the Supreme Court for a ban on public namaz. The court’s response was sharp. It shot down Mr Jaiswal’s petition as “mischievous”, and fined him Rs 10,000. He tried to argue, at which point the judges threatened to double the fine if his counsel spoke even one more word. It is reassuring to see rabid sectarian prejudice meeting with a resolute reprimand, when non-committal equivocation seems to be the order of the day in the handling of such things. The apex court has told Mr Jaiswal in no uncertain terms that people like him were “causing bloodshed” in the country. His arguments had elaborately invoked constitutional principles, fundamental rights and the meaning of secularism. The court’s judgment has dismissed all that as pernicious balderdash.

Apart from representing the triumph of a beleaguered secularism, this verdict also points up the wastefulness of a system in which the Supreme Court has to expend its time over such nonsense. When the judiciary is severely weighed down with pending cases, the apex court cannot afford to waste time with senseless public interest litigation. A longer tradition of such firm putdowns could perhaps have saved the Indian courts a great deal of time and money. In fact, a case could be made out against the entire PIL system, which could easily jam the courts with frivolous petitions. However, realistically speaking, a summary dismissal of PIL, given the existing judicial infrastructure, could end up depriving many ordinary citizens of their only access to justice. But the proper screening of petitions before they reach the higher courts remains important in this context. For this to happen the entire system has to be revamped. Fast track courts are gradually coming up in most states. But they will have to work more effectively. The various other tribunals would also have to be given more responsibility and statutory powers. The country’s higher and apex courts should not have to deal with the likes of Mr Jaiswal, whose bigotry shows no scruple in venting itself in the country’s highest judicial forum.


Residents of Calcutta all know at first or second hand about the great Bengali tradition of the scholar-teacher. They know of minds shaped and lives transformed by economists like Bhabatosh Datta and Dipak Banerjee, by historians like Susobhan Sarkar and (more recently) Rajat Ray, by anthropologists like Nirmal Kumar Bose and political scientists like Buddhadev Bhattacharya. These teacher-scholars have awakened in their wards a search for disinterested knowledge as well as a penchant for disputatious argument. To invoke the dedication of a book by a celebrated former student of Presidency College, these teachers each stoked many a novice’s first doubts.

While cheerfully conceding Calcutta’s precedence in this regard, I want to say that other cities and universities have also had their exemplary figures. And I want also to suggest that in many ways the most effective college guru has generally been a teacher of English literature. For literature embraces the whole of the human universe in a way that the more specialized social sciences do not. Poetry and works of fiction are celebrated in themselves, for how they say what they say, but they are cherished also as a window into the wider world, for their insights into the functioning of family and community, society and the state. Thus one reads Milton and Kipling for the beauty of their language, but also to understand the compulsions that have led one set of humans to dominate or resist another.

Down the decades of the 20th century, the best teachers of English in the best of India’s colleges came to acquire a special halo of their own. Among these English teachers have been — to name names for illustrative purposes only — Amal Bhattacharjee and Sukanta Chaudhuri in Calcutta, Kamal Wood and Homai Shroff in Mumbai, Muriel Wasi and Meenakshi Mukherjee in Delhi, and K. Swaminathan in Chennai.

The celebrated teachers of economics were listened to only by students of economics, but teachers of English counted as their chelas their own students as well as those drawn from other disciplines. Aspiring historians and chemists were drawn to the lectures of K. Swaminathan or Kamal Wood for the elegance of their diction as well as for the deeper understanding of human emotions that their teachings conveyed.

Dignifying this elevated company was T.G. Vaidyanathan, whose death in Bangalore last week marked, for that city at any rate, the end of an era. “TGV” (as he was always known), studied in Madras and taught in Assam and Hyderabad before moving to Bangalore’s Central College in 1966. He taught here for a further 25 years, and maintained an active presence in the city’s intellectual life after his retirement.

TGV left behind three published books: a collection of his essays on film, an anthology of cricket literature, and another anthology on Hinduism and psychoanalysis. But like some of the other names I have mentioned, TGV was a teacher first and a scholar and writer only second. His forte was the spoken word, in the classroom or outside it. Those who came to hear him speak were students of English, of course, but also students of economics and law and business and chemistry. There were also plenty of those, like myself, who were never students of Bangalore University but who had come to take a special delight in listening to TGV speak.

I sometimes felt that TGV was a Bengali intellectual trapped in the body of a Tamil Brahmin. Where Tambrahms are highly security-conscious, checking their bank balance once every other week, TGV lived only for his ideas. And while his caste men tend to speak condescendingly of “idle gossip”, he had the bhadralok’s love for the adda, and especially the adda centred around himself. Even his particular enthusiasms were as often as not Bengali. He wrote with great insight about the films of Satyajit Ray. Six of TGV’s essays on Ray are reprinted in his Hours in the Dark. It is said that the master himself felt that this Tamil from Bangalore understood his craft better than many a Calcutta critic. Another of TGV’s Bengali heroes was the pioneering psychoanalyst, Girindra- sekhar Bose, the dedicatee of his edited collection, Vishnu on Freud’s Desk. He drew the line, however, at Bengali cricketers vastly preferring Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad to their eastern contemporaries.

One of the nicest things about TGV — again, something that is wholly un-Tamil — was the absence of cynicism. He took as fresh and as robust an interest in contemporary films and novels as in the classics about whose virtues he had preached in the past. This, as Bangalore changed and became software- and dollar-obsessed, made him something of an anachronism in the city where he had chosen to make his home. But it made him warmly nostalgic about his visits to to a place he called “Cul-khut-aa”, where (so he liked to believe) new ideas still generated more interest than new fashions or commodities.

TGV once told a student that he would want to be reborn in Calcutta. As if in preparation, a map of the city hung on his walls, alongside portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jayaprada and Hazare. His native Madras he found oppressive; Bangalore was better, but Calcutta would be better still. He liked to tell the story of a journey he made in a crowded Chennai train, where he was chastised by a sour fellow-traveller for standing in the way of the passengers coming in and out. “All you have done is talk”, grumbled the man. “Had it been Culkhutaa”, TGV would comment, “the fellow would have joined in the conversation, rather than complain about it.”

One must not romanticize the figure of T.G. Vaidyanathan. He could be controversial in print and overbearing in person. He enjoyed the deference of students and was puzzled or angry when this turned, as it sometimes did, to defiance. He counselled his students on career and marriage, being pleased when his advice was taken, but hostile when it was not. And while he enjoyed intelligent conversation, he enjoyed it best of all when its flow was guided, orchestrated and dominated by himself.

These aspects of his personality will come as no surprise to Bengalis, whose own scholarly mentors did so often share them. Still, when one views TGV’s life and career in the round, one cannot but be struck by its integrity and (it has to be said) nobility. I was never TGV’s student, but I knew him long enough to appreciate how nobly he fulfilled the best traditions of his calling. One illustration of this was the lack of favouritism in how he treated or responded to those who had passed through his classroom. A former student had had a nervous breakdown after being deported from America: disowned by his family, he roamed the streets and cafés of Bangalore, living off the remains of his modest inheritance and from supplements provided by friends. Another student was a Rhodes scholar who had gone on to work for the Ford Foundation and the United Nations, and to move close to the corridors of intellectual and political power. I happened to know both men, thus to know also that TGV always showed an equal concern for each, and was as delighted by a visit from the scholar as from the tramp.

Teachers like T.G. Vaidyanathan are rare in any time or place, but rarer still at the present time and place. For the calling of the college or university teacher has been gravely degraded by the twin pressures of commerce and politics. This is especially so with regard to the humanities, spheres of learning which are sharply scorned in this bottomline-driven age. Once, some of the finest minds came to study and teach subjects like history and literature, subjects which are indispensable to a proper cultivation of the mind. In India, these disciplines have long fought a rearguard action, against parents who questioned what use they had for their wards. Once, one could at least argue back, to claim that they helped equip you for the civil services. Those arguments do not hold water anymore, for fewer people now want to join government, and the civil service syllabus no longer favours the humanities.

With recent changes in the economy and in middle-class mentalities, the case for literature and history has become pretty near hopeless. These changes are, in double quick time, affecting the quality of those who choose to enrol in the humanities, and of those who choose to teach them. Which is why a tribute to T.G. Vaidyanathan must eventually, and regrettably, become an elegy to the calling of the scholar-teacher itself.

[email protected]


Months ago, David Goldberg, a senior rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St. John’s Wood, London said: “I feel it is going to rain flesh and blood for a while, but then a Palestinian state will emerge. It will then be in Palestinian self-interest to live in peace with Israel, and to deal with their own extremists. I have no doubt that will happen.” Well, it’s certainly raining flesh and blood now. How about the rest of Goldberg’s prediction?

Yasser Arafat is trapped in two rooms of his shattered administrative headquarters in Ramallah while Israeli soldiers roam the rest of the building and the Israeli prime minister suggests that Arafat be given a “one-way ticket” into permanent exile. In fact, Ariel Sharon recently said that he regretted having promised the American government not to kill Arafat — and an accident would be quite easy to arrange. Amidst all this violence, what reason is there for hope?

The first reason, paradoxically, is that the extremists are now in the saddle on both sides. The Palestinian “rejectionists” who refuse to accept peace with Israel — both the Islamists of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and their secular allies — are in the course of proving that they cannot defeat Israel even when they deploy their ultimate weapon, suicide-bombers. Their mirror images, Sharon and the religious right, are simultaneously demonstrating that even the huge military resources of Israel cannot crush Palestinian resistance.

Learning the hard way

The bitter lesson is that if ordinary Israelis and Palestinians want peace, Israelis will have to dismantle Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory and Palestinian refugees will have to abandon their “right of return” to their ancestral homes within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It is hard, looking back over the delusional “peace talks”, to imagine how else this lesson might have been learnt, but now both peoples are getting a crash course in reality.

The other reasons for optimism are the enormous shifts outside this confrontation. Last month all the Arab states said for the first time that they would agree to live in peace with Israel if there was justice for the Palestinians, and the United States of America finally dropped its tacit support for the Greater Israel project.

If the Arab League had made Israel the offer it approved at last week’s Beirut summit just after the 1967 war, when the Palestinian territories were freshly occupied, almost every Israeli would have jumped at it: full recognition of Israel’s right to exist and “normal relations” with all 22 Arab states, in return for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories and a “just solution” for the millions of refugees whose ancestral homes were in what is now Israel.

Change of mind

The choice for Israel is still between peace and the 1948 borders, or perpetual war — but at least the Arabs are now ready for the deal Israelis would have welcomed in 1967. Last month’s proposal came from crown prince of Saudi Arabia himself, and was endorsed by “radical” states like Libya and Iraq. If the Israelis want peace, they can have it. They just have to pay the price, “land for peace”, which has not changed a bit since 1967.

The other great change is that the US government has given up supporting Israeli expansionism. It is not trumpeting this fact for fear of the domestic political damage that would ensue and George W. Bush’s public statements are as pro-Israeli as ever. But last month the United Nations security council for the first time passed a resolution endorsing an independent Palestinian state and condemning Israel’s “illegal occupation” of the land on which it would be built.

It was the first time because the US has always vetoed such resolutions in the past. This time it was the US that proposed it. Washington is playing this down to minimize the domestic political damage, but America’s west Asia policy is quietly being brought into alignment with actual US interests in the region: the tail no longer wags the dog. Put all this together, and you have the ingredients for rapid progress to a real peace settlement as soon as the crazies on both sides are discredited. It will rain flesh and blood for a while, and then there will be peace.


More than a month has elapsed since the massacre at Godhra sparked off one of the worst riots in Gujarat, and yet every day we hear news of fresh violence occurring in different parts of the state. About 600 have died so far and nearly 60,000 are staying in rehabilitation camps. The reports coming through a restrained national media are grisly enough to convulse a whole nation. They will remain etched in public memory long after the political bickerings and social theorizings have ceased. For the victims and even witnesses of the riot, though, it is another matter. Their world will no longer be the same.

In the familiar tale of barbarity and betrayal, the incident that stands out is the looting in parts of Ahmedabad on the day the rioting began. While much of the plundering in the old city was plainly communal, the lootings in the posh western part of Ahmedabad was different in the sense that people who took part in it were from the educated upper middle classes. There were middle level executives, housewives and even children. For them, it was plain and simple looting for looting’s sake.

Eyewitness accounts of February 28 speak of well-dressed people using pager and SMS messages to invite friends and family to join them in pillaging upmarket shops and market complexes. A resident of the posh Navranpura area saw cars lined up outside a garments showroom and families, including women and children, looting whatever they could lay their hands on. They left when they could take no more. Some even came back for a second round. At another departmental store, women were seen coming out carrying microwave ovens, imported LPG stoves and crockery items and stacking them in their cars. The scene was repeated in other shops and business establishments. First a mob broke into them, then the looters arrived in cars along with their families. At a footwear store on C.G. Road, the crowd became so thick that some enterprising men began selling shoes outside the premises, at Rs 50 a pair.

Such incidents, reported perfunctorily in the national media, read like a bizarre sideshow to a theatre of murder and mayhem. But they are no less diabolic. They are signs of a mutation taking place in our civil society that is at once distressing and disorienting.

Before trying to find out what went wrong, let us take a quick stock of where Gujarat stands vis a vis other Indian states. Along with Maharashtra, Gujarat, one of the richest and most industrialized states, has taken full advantage of the liberalization started in the Nineties. Its economic growth rate is the fastest, about eight per cent per year, and the state attracts labour and capital from all over the country.

But there is a flip side to this success story. Gujarat shares with Maharastra the dubious distinction of being one of the two most communally sensitive states in our country, states that have recently become laboratories of militant Hindutva. Gujarat has also gained notoriety for its increasing gender bias and cases of female foeticide. The early 2001 census results indicate that the female-male ratio has had a sharp decline in the state during the last ten years.

It would be too simplistic to deduce from the above facts that in India fast economic growth is inversely related to human and social indices. Such an argument often fails to figure out the psyche of the people who burn their neighbours alive, who kill unborn foetuses inside wombs, or who take their families out on a looting spree as the city burns.

What then makes employed, well-off residents of a city loot shops and then take the spoil away to their homes? Surely, the economic factor is an important component of such social behavior. Very recently, market reforms, lifting of import restrictions and fierce competition in the consumer durables sector have given the culture of consumerism a whole new twist. Everywhere, sleek advertisements sing the song of a buyer’s paradise where things are getting cheaper and smarter, where every other product is launched in the market with a free gift or an exchange offer, where one can shop and win fabulous prizes. Products and appliances have long ceased to play a functional role and have become lifestyle statements instead. There is also a new ethos whereby one is not required to work or pay to get something, where the borderline between the real and the magical is blurred. It is a fairytale world of freebies and lucky draw coupons, where a cigarette pack or a biscuit wrapper can give the buyer a scratch-and-win luxury car or a holiday trip to Europe. The huge popularity of lotteries, television game shows with prizes to be won, and the vagaries of the share market are but symptoms of this cultural transformation.

Last year, about the time the commerce minister announced the lifting of import restrictions on a range of items, a mysterious handbill circulated in and around Calcutta and gripped popular fancy: it announced the exhibition-cum-sale of various Chinese goods at incredibly low prices at a city stadium. Such was the power of the rumour that a huge crowd gathered there on the appointed day. A large police contingent and a senior minister had to be deployed to prevent a stampede or violence. The incident uncovered interesting aspects of mob delusion. A man had come all the way from Kakdwip to buy a ceiling fan for a couple of hundred rupees. When it was pointed out to him that he could buy a non-branded fan at about the same price from nearby Chandni Chowk, his reaction was: “But that’s local-made!”

What is the difference between the men who threatened to pull down the gates of a stadium in Calcutta and the looters in Ahmedabad’s Navrangpura who broke into showrooms of international brands of footwear and home appliances? They both manifest the alarming mirage of a consumer utopia where neighbour’s envy ensures the owner’s sense of wellbeing and pride. In a country where the gross national product growth or per capita income does not guarantee a consequent rise in human and social indices, such market mantras are bound to have dangerous consequences.

Even if one tries to focus on the broad cultural forces shaping the mind, one still cannot get far from the market. In a multi-ethnic country like India, culture is a hot commodity. It is no coincidence that while rapid urbanization has forced a breakdown of old mores and ways of life, brand leaders harp on patriarchal joint family values to sell their products. Be it the advertisement of a new icecream or a large car, we always get to see large smiling families, including grandparents and pets. Such images are far removed from the emerging social reality of urban India, one characterized by fragmentation and psychic disorders.

One such leading brand in the garments sector was paid in its own coin during the Gujarat riot. In a sleek television advertisement of the brand, we see three generations of an upper middle class family sitting together for a group photograph. It is a clever attempt by the multinational to Indianize its brand. No one ever thought that the dream families would have their real-life counterparts. On February 28, whole families of upper-middle-class looters broke into one of the showrooms of the company in Ahmedabad, taking away goods worth one crore rupees.

How far is a nightmare from a dream? Not much if the dream is not based on certain basic human values. The dream that is based on neighbours’ envy and hatred, that shows life as a game of fortune where one can become a crorepati by choosing the right answer, has lethal possibilities. Watching that dream night after night with the family gives a vicarious pleasure. Taking the family out to get a real taste of that pleasure, to snatch the dream from the neighbourhood shop, takes only a small effort.


About an hour after the mob had gathered outside the house, a police jeep and van arrived. The mob dispersed in the neighbourhood, while J.S. Bandukwala and his daughter were escorted to safety by the police. When the fire brigade arrived to put out the fire, they were prevented from doing so by the mob which had regrouped there. The Hindu neighbours of Bandukwala, who had sheltered the people trapped in his house, went into hiding for 3 or 4 days, fearing an attack for having sheltered their Muslim neighbour.

One shop, Dua Opticals, was also threatened by the mob because there was a Muslim employee working there; shop-owners from the Amar Shopping Complex pleaded with the mob that the shop was owned by non-Muslims, and it was spared.

On March 1 and 2, ... mutton shops in Sanjaynagar were completely demolished... The area occupied by three of the shops in the lane leading to the Sanjaynagar slum was converted into a Hanuman temple...

In addition to the above incidents, the residence of a Muslim businessman, Mr Safary (married to a Hindu), was completely burnt in the Swati area. Another house was attacked near Chhani... On the night of March 1, a rumour went around that 3 trucks full of Muslims had gathered and were preparing to attack. Housing societies were rung up and warned to be prepared for the attack. The source of the rumour and the phone calls to societies appears to be the ward councillor, Pradip Joshi.

People were unable to say where the mobs had come from, although Abhiyan members residing in the area did see several groups emerging from the Sanjaynagar slum on the first and second day of rioting. People in Shuklanagar said that the mob came from Swati. Abhiyan members have not been able to confirm the number of arrests made in the area. Sama did not see any incidents on March 15 or later. We spoke to several people in the area. While some shopkeepers and rickshaw-drivers did condemn the attacks, we also met people who justified them, as well as one rickshaw-driver who told us that he participated in the attacks.

Curfew was on in the area since March 4; by March 2, Sama area seemed to have reverted more or less to its normal routine, barring the very meagre presence of rickshaws on the roads. However, a certain level of tension remains, especially at night, by persistent rumours about impending attacks by Muslims.

…Mosques and dargahs destroyed/ burnt/ damaged right in front of the police presence: location and distance from the nearest police station/chowkie/picket:

Mir Bakarali mosque (Raopura), Dandiya Bazar — within 250 metres from two police chowkies (Shiyapura and Dandia Bazar); Salatwada mosque — less than 150 m; Jaliwala Pir’s Dargah, near Sayaji Hospital —right in front of Nagarwada police chowkie (ladies’ cell); Haji Hamja mosque (Chhipwad) — immediately behind city police station, Mandvi; Begam saheb’s mosque (Navabazar) — less than 200 m, Rokadnath police chowkie; Dargah near Bajwada Naka — less than 200 m; Madina Mosque at Tajgira Kabrastan, Kareli Baug Road — about 300 m from Kareli Baug chowkie, Navi Dharti; Bade Hazarat Saheb’s Dargah, Kareli Baug — about 1km from Bahucharaji police chowkie, Navi Dharti; Baranpura mosque — within 150 m from the Wadi police station; Mosque under the overbridge at Pratap Nagar — within 100 m from the Pratap Nagar police training college; Tarsali mosque — about 1 km from the police chowkie; Makarpura mosque — near police parade ground; Dargah near Udyog Nagar, Ayurvedic Hospital, Panigate — less than 200 m; mosque in Kisanwadi — 1 km?; mosque/madrasah in Nava Yard-Chhani Rd — 2 kms from Fatehganj police; Noor Park, Tarsali Waghodia Chowkdi Dargah — 2 kms.

To be Concluded



Peace under attack

Sir — I wonder why the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress activists were so incensed at Medha Patkar’s presence at the peace meeting at the Sabarmati Ashrama (“Mob defiles ashram”, April 8). Not only did these unruly ruffians manhandle her, but they also roughed up everyone in sight. The meeting was open to all and Patkar was not disrupting law and order. One can understand that the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan is not too popular in Gujarat. But Patkar’s presence in Ahmedabad had nothing to do with the NBA — she was there as an ordinary citizen, eager to do her bit to bring peace to a communally-ravaged state. Is it that these political goondas did not like Patkar’s face? Or is it that they wanted to pick on someone famous enough who would ensure them instant passport to page one? Whatever be the answer, the attack on Patkar speaks volumes about the malaise that has gripped Indian politics of late. Surely, it is time for us to say enough is enough?

Yours faithfully,
Mira Dutta, Calcutta

Necessary review

Sir — Given the increasing criminalization of politics and the decline of ethical standards in public life, it is good that the Constitution review commission has concentrated on reforming the electoral process (“House to elect PM or CM: Statute panel”, April 1). The recommendation that political parties submit a dossier on electoral candidates to the Election Commission will help weed out candidates with a criminal record. The other recommendation regarding the “block method” of voting in legislatures will act as a deterrent to horse-trading and prevent the misuse of the anti-defection law.

The panel’s rejection of the move to bar persons of foreign origin from holding high office is also welcome. As is its statement that the basic tenets of the Constitution — parliamentary democracy, rule of law, secularism — cannot be altered. This will allay the fears of those who had thought that the Bharatiya Janata Party would use this opportunity to effect drastic changes in the Constitution.

But it is disappointing that the panel has suggested that the use of Article 356 be limited to extraordinary circumstances like “secession”. Though parties in power at the Centre have at times misused Article 356, such occurrences are rare. It is also sad that the panel refused to recommend the dilution of Article 370 which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir. India is a democracy and the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be treated the same as those from other states. Also, by dithering on the issue of a universal civil code, the commission has shown that, like the politicians, it too is unwilling to antagonize the minority community.

Of course, in all likelihood, many of the recommendations of the review panel may never be implemented. The panel’s suggestions need to be ratified by our legislators, most of whom are too corrupt, inefficient and preoccupied with petty politics to appreciate their significance.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — At a time when the country is witnessing large-scale communal and sectarian violence, the Constitution review panel’s concern over the small numbers of Muslims legislators in Parliament is welcome. Another good suggestion is the one regarding reservation of jobs for scheduled castes and tribes in the private sector.

But the idea of separate schools for children from the backward classes, SCs and STs, though well-intentioned, may lead to further segregation. While such special schools might help these children by bringing them at par with those from privileged sections of society, they will also have the effect of further alienating them from the mainstream. Moreover given that secularism is enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution, the panel should have deliberated on formulating a uniform civil code. By skirting around the issue, the commission has only demonstrated a lack of sincerity.

Yours faithfully,
Rama Saha, Ranchi

Visiting consul

Sir — This has reference to the report, “Yen for capital, not probe” (April 4), by Sunando Sarkar, on the Calcutta visit of Hideo Fujita, political counsellor, embassy of Japan, Dhaka, Bangla- desh. According to the report, it was a highly secret mission to gauge the plight of Bangladeshi refugees of the minority community in West Bengal as well as in Calcutta.

But, as a matter of fact, it was a routine visit by Fujita. It was not at all a highly secret mission with a motive of gathering sensitive secret information. Fujita was posted in the Calcutta consulate during 1976-79. This visit, though an official one, was also like a walk down memory lane for him. He has studied Bengali in the Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. His short visit has been successful because he could revive old memories of the city of which he was once a part. Hence, the report is truly misleading and affects the image of the embassy of Japan in Bangladesh and also that of our consulate office in Calcutta.

The reporter should have consulted our office before writing this erroneous report.

Yours faithfully,
M. Kawaguchi, senior consul, Consulate General of Japan, Calcutta

Sunando Sarkar replies:

My report was not concerned with the nostalgia part of Hideo Fujita’s visit. I was focussing on the official aspect. My report was written after extensive consultations with senior Union and state government officials. Besides, the persons he visited during the course of his three-day stay were spoken to and each source corroborated the other unknowingly. I have refrained from giving the exact course of the conversation that took place inside the offices of the organizations Fujita visited in Calcutta, one of them in the Bhowanipore area. I have also refrained from giving the identity of the official who declined the Japanese consulate’s request for a meeting between Fujita and the state home secretary, Amit Kiran Deb; saying that the consulate is still in possession of the written refusal — signed by a state home department under-secretary — should suffice as evidence that more than adequately backs up what went in print.

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