Editorial 1 / Article of faith
Editorial 2 / Peace moves
Lies, big and small
Fifth Column / Minority schools of thought
Find your enemy
Document / They lived to tell the world
Letters to the editor

The graph of communal violence continues to run unbroken in Gujarat. It is, therefore, of little consequence that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition should project a picture of perfect concord in the Rajya Sabha by agreeing that the state should come under Article 355. In the first place, the projected harmony was the only option open to the BJP. Voting on a censure motion under Rule 170 would have brought about an embarrassing debacle for the party, since it is badly outnumbered in the Rajya Sabha. Its victory in the Lok Sabha in the voting under Rule 184 has not really given it moral authority; its behaviour with regard to Gujarat and its allies’ and supporters’ motives for voting in its favour have both been exposed as shoddy and shameless excuses for constitutional governance and parliamentary procedure. People may not be able to do anything immediately, but they cannot be fooled all the time. In the Rajya Sabha, therefore, the BJP could only hope to get through without embarrassment by agreeing heartily with the opposition.

Besides this obvious strategic advantage, there is another one. Article 355 is suitably vague, its invocation does not mean that Article 356 will follow, as various BJP leaders have been at great pains to remind Parliament. The Centre will intervene in a state, says Article 355, should the state be threatened by external or internal disruption. The BJP should agree enthusiastically, since the Centre has already intervened. It has shouldered Mr Narendra Modi’s burden. At first sight it would seem that the BJP’s agreement with the opposition would imply the Centre’s condemnation of Mr Modi. But the BJP was never hamstrung by logic. Rather, it revels in creating a fog of mixed signals so that it is easier to sidestep, confuse or outright deny. The prime minister, therefore, has made such noises as are necessary in different places and at different moments, he has stated that removing Mr Modi would mean more violence, therefore it is best he stay. Besides, the Centre has deputed Mr K.P.S. Gill as security adviser to the Gujarat government and Mr Gill, in turn, has called for his “boys” who were so effective in Punjab. Things are being looked after.

It is rather optimistic to see in the show of accord in the Rajya Sabha anything more than another ploy by the BJP to carry on with its plans unhindered. It has quite nakedly thrown out credibility and accountability and is showing a dangerous indifference to principles of governance and ethics, of the growing insecurity among sections of the people, of strongly expressed opinion within and outside the country. It is no longer possible for anyone to fall for any ruse it might create. For the opposition to believe at this late hour, from what happened in the Rajya Sabha, that the BJP might be thinking over things, would be a criminal error. The only reason to play along with the BJP’s games would be for self-interest, as the so-called “secular” partners of the National Democratic Alliance and the BJP’s friends from outside the government have shown. The country is yet to see what the invoking of Article 355 is going to achieve in Gujarat.


Few people understand the futility of guerrilla warfare better than a former insurgent. Mizoram’s insurgent-turned-chief minister, Mr Zoramthanga, will therefore carry the right credentials when he goes to Thailand to mediate between the Union government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim faction led by Mr Isak Swu and Mr Thuingelang Muivah. But the important thing for him to do is to carry the right message for the Naga rebel group. Although Mr Zoramthanga, who had tried to broker peace in Nagaland on three earlier occasions, is not an emissary of New Delhi, that should not detract from his mission. Non-official initiatives, including those involving former rebels, have long been part of governments’ peace deals in India and abroad. Having fought the Indian government in the jungles of Mizoram for twenty years and now ruling his own people as chief minister, he should know that there never was a good war or a bad peace. His efforts at peacemaking with another insurgent group, the National Liberation Front of Tripura, may not have succeeded but he impressed all sides with his sincerity of purpose. He can supplement the efforts that the Centre’s official emissary and former Union home secretary, Mr K. Padmanabhaiah, has been making to narrow down the differences between the two sides.

The NSCN(I-M) should also be happy to negotiate with a non-official emissary as its leaders have complained of carrying on seemingly endless talks with bureaucrats. The negotiations have long been stuck on two basic demands of the rebel group — the “sovereignty” of Nagaland and the creation of a “greater” Nagaland by incorporating the Naga-majority areas of Manipur in the state. New Delhi cannot afford to accept the demand for sovereignty because it will open a Pandora’s box, not just in the Northeast but also in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Zoramthanga should know how to negotiate on the other demand because, when the Mizo insurgency was ended by the Rajiv Gandhi-Landenga accord of 1986, the Mizo leader had also asked for a greater Mizoram. The reorganization of states, on ethnic or linguistic lines, has always been a contentious issue. The important thing is to agree to abjure violence as political means. Once that is achieved, half the battle for peace is won.


The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government dissembled and dissimulated for too long. If it had been more honest in admitting the enormity of what had been going on in Gujarat and intervened with due alacrity, it could have spared the state the trauma of being ravaged by riots for over two months and averted its own loss of face and of the last shreds of moral authority.

That it has belatedly accepted its responsibility for protecting the life and property of the citizens under Article 355 of the Constitution by voting for the opposition motion in the Rajya Sabha shows that good sense has prevailed in the end. Yet, in the light of its dismal showing in the past, its commitment to doing all that is needed to restore peace has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

As a British parliamentarian said some years ago, “Small inconsistencies tend to be part of larger inconsistencies and small lies part of bigger lies”. Both the small discrepancies in official statements and doctored figures regarding casualties and cases of rape have steadily grown larger in the light of both media reports and eyewitness accounts by individuals and groups who have no political axe to grind and whose integrity is above board.

Many government leaders never tire of wondering why the opposition parties and the media are creating such a furore over the Gujarat riots when communal riots disturb the peace of one large city or another every now and then. Surely, they know too well the answer to this question. It is the accumulating evidence, in this case, of police complicity with the rioters and of militants of the sangh parivar stoking the fires of hatred against the minority which has shocked the public far more than in most previous cases of mass rioting. The burning of 58 Ram sevaks at Godhra was undoubtedly a grave provocation. But this was all the more reason for the guardians of peace to put the forces of law and order in the state on the highest alert, and put all cities threatened by riotous mobs immediately under curfew.

What gave a new dimension to the tragedy was not only the mindset of ministers in the traumatized state but also the false optimism of the Centre which claimed that normalcy had been restored in three days. The defence minister’s remark about the rape cases was a stark instance of the government’s callousness. In matters like this what counts is not the exact wording of what is said but the general impression it creates. And the drift of his contention that rapes were a part of most riots was enough to make most women’s organizations throw a fit. It strains credulity to believe that all mediamen present in the Lok Sabha misheard George Fernandes or that they all conspired to distort what he actually said.

When the prime minister, during his visit to Gujarat, said that he was ashamed of what had happened, it was the right kind of response to the situation expected from the head of a civilized government. But the hysterical apologetics of some of his colleagues in answer to the charges of the state government’s partisanship, the communalization of the police force and the refusal of the officials concerned to register many complaints by victims of rape all speak of a planned subversion of both the truth and the law. What is most perturbing is the way entire neighbourhoods have been brutalized and, with threats of dire consequences, are preventing refugees from returning to their homes.

Such besotted behaviour bodes ill for the future peace of the country. In a weak moment, the prime minister told the Rajya Sabha how at one point he had almost made up his mind to sack Narendra Modi but on second thoughts came to the conclusion that this would worsen the situation. What he failed to tell the house was the reasoning behind this surmise. The truth of what happened has to be sought in divisions within the sangh parivar. While the riot victims regard Modi as the main person responsible for their woes, the hardliners in the parivar look upon him as a saviour who rallied the majority behind their concept of Hindutva.

The fact that the prime minister succumbed to pressure from the saffron brigade in this case only confirms the hunch about changed power equations in the sangh parivar which, after the series of reverses suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in many states, attributes these to the blurring of the party’s Hindutva identity. This has weakened the prime minister’s position, particularly in replacing Modi, closer to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh than him. He has had to protect Modi even at the risk of alienating so valued a supporter as Chandrababu Naidu.

There is a lot of other evidence, too, to show that the prime minister is now on the defensive, despite the bluster of some of his more voluble colleagues. He told the Rajya Sabha that the charge made against him that he had attacked only Islamic fundamentalism was unjust and reminded the house how, in an earlier speech, he had spoken against Hindu fundamentalism as well and commended the kind of Hinduism propagated by Swami Vivekananda. Even so, though he chided those advocating a more aggressive variant of Hindutva, he evaded the pertinent question whether the ideas of men like Modi and his backers in the RSS were not more in accord with those of M.S. Golwalkar.

There was a time when compulsions of coalition politics forced the BJP, and particularly Vajpayee, to keep at a safe distance from the more militant front organizations of the RSS. But even then the party took care to reassure its rank and file time and again that not being able to implement its own agenda did not mean that it had given it up for good. In the context of new power equations, the party itself has now drawn closer to the RSS.

This raises some awkward questions about the kind of Hindutva the prime minister criticizes. Hasn’t it something to do with what the sangh pracharaks propagate? Though he has recently repudiated Golwalkar’s commendation of the Nazi way of dealing with the minorities, what has he to say about what the former sarsanghchalak expected from the non-Hindus in the country? Isn’t his considered view that “all non-Hindu people in Hindustan must adopt the Hindu culture…must hold in reverence Hindu religion… and must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of the Hindu race”, a recipe for alienating all religious minorities in the country and for subverting the very basis of a pluralist society?

The 25-party coalition government led by the BJP at the Centre is itself a standing rebuttal of the former RSS mentor’s thesis. In fact, there is no such thing as a monolithic Hindu culture with regard to either metaphysical doctrines, religious beliefs and forms of worship or observation of rites of passage, celebration of festivals and lifestyles. Large parts of Hindu society do not have the barest acquaintance with the Vedic texts which constitute its most authoritative scriptures. The dynamics of a democratic system has only politicized and sharpened caste identities. Though it is perhaps still possible to talk of a Hindu culture, in terms of its folk, elite and half-Westernized hybrid forms, it makes no ethnological sense, in the context of Aryan, Dravidian and numerous other divides, to speak of a Hindu race.

This long digression is meant not to divert attention from the Gujarat tragedy but to spell out the conditions in which alone a pluralist society like India’s, divided by numerous barriers of religion, language, caste and ethnicity can achieve the degree of integration needed for a functioning democracy and a fast developing economy. After the events of the last two months, Gujarat can no longer be left at the mercy of the Modi government. It calls for effective Central intervention to bring the state back to the path of sanity and rebuild as soon as possible the badly damaged relationship between its two major communities.

On any reckoning, the interests of both internal peace and national security ought to supersede calculations of short-term political gains for a particular party or its fears of an eroding support base. The fact is that Modi has become a liability to the state he presides over and an obstacle in the way of restoring the faith of a frightened and alienated minority community in the state government’s bona fides. The Rajya Sabha resolution would turn into a meaningless exercise if it is not followed up by energetic measures to restore peace in the state, bring the guilty to book, speed up the rehabilitation work and prevent partition of mixed neighbourhoods into separate Hindu and Muslim enclaves.

After what has happened, the Centre itself needs to feel more contrite. If nothing else, the danger of a hostile neighbour cashing in on the bad blood created between the two communities to turn Gujarat into a new base for terrorist outfits, should warn it against any complacency or reluctance to take hard decisions.


A n 11-member constitution bench of the Supreme Court has recently been hearing arguments about what constitutes “minorities”. It has also been examining the nature and extent of the rights of minority educational institutions and whether these have the right to fix their own fee structure, selection policy, capitation fee and so on.

According to Article 30(1) of the Constitution, all minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Generally, the term “minorities” is used to denote religious minorities, which in India would include people belonging to faiths other than Hinduism. However, according to B.R. Ambedkar, the term has also been used with reference to cultural and linguistic minorities.

The preamble says that the Constitution has been given to all the “people of India”, it is not meant for a particular community or religious group. Its provisions are intended to protect the minority as well as the majority. But the makers were well aware of the fact that unless the rights of the minorities were safeguarded, they could be curtailed by the majority.

Thus, the purpose of Article 30 (1) is to guarantee minorities the right to conserve their religion, culture and tradition by establishing educational institutions which would enable them to inculcate these values in their children. This is in consonance with the principles of secularism, liberty and equality which have been guaranteed by the Constitution.


However, the words “establish” and “administer” as used in this article must be read in conjunction with one another. In other words, if minorities have the right to bring an organization into existence, they automatically also have the right to administer it.

In Azeer Shah versus Union of India (1968), the Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Acts of 1951 and 1965 were challenged on the grounds that they had violated the rights of Muslim minorities, guaranteed under Article 30(1). These amendments did take away some of the privileges of the Muslim minorities who were involved in the administration of this university. However, the government maintained that the university had been established not by the Muslim minorities but by the Central legislature in 1920. As a result, the apex court ruled that the rights of the minorities had not been infringed upon in this case.

Educational institutions of minorities can be of three types — those that neither seek aid nor require recognition from the state; those that seek recognition from the state but not aid and those that seek both aid and recognition from the state. While the institutions in the first category enjoy almost complete freedom, those in the other two categories are subject to regulatory measures. The government may interfere in matters such as fixing the syllabus for examinations, courses of study, service conditions for teachers and non-teaching staff and even sanitary arrangements.

Limited freedom

The minorities are normally free to administer the institutions in the first category but that does not mean they have the license to do as they please. This right is subject to regulatory measures that the state may impose to improve the existing educational standards, ensure regular payment of salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff before a particular date each month, determine standards for appointment of teachers and rules for allotment of funds. But, if the government regulations affect the autonomy of the minority institution, they are dee- med a violation of Article 30(I).

The Supreme Court has always tried to strike a balance between preserving the rights of the minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions, and recognizing the power of the state to regulate them in the larger interests of society. In line with this, the apex court recently ruled in the Little Flower School case, that the management could not claim immunity since it had accepted huge amounts of money from parents as “donations”.

This is as it should be in an egalitarian democracy — no right can be absolute, it must always be subject to the interests of the people.


While the pogrom in Gujarat continues to worry people in India and abroad, certain sinister developments in Bangladesh have made policymakers and analysts wonder if this young nation of 130 million, the third most populous in the Muslim world, is also losing its way into a fundamentalist quagmire. If a collapsing economy, political uncertainty and a general state of lawlessness prepare the breeding ground for religious fanatics and their political sympathizers, the situation in Bangladesh gives enough cause for concern.

The attacks on the minority Hindu community in the wake of last October’s general election were initially thought to have been more political than communal. Since the overwhelming majority of Hindus in Bangladesh traditionally support the Awami League, it was clear that the attacks on the Hindus, mostly by supporters of the victorious Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami, were cases of political vendetta. But subsequent events suggest a more pronounced fundamentalist pattern that seems to be targetting leaders of minority groups as well as secular Muslims. Increasingly, the fundamentalist strategy of striking at the country’s secular roots is being exposed.

Terror struck the Hindu community and moderate Muslims when four assassins, believed to have close links with the Jamaat, gunned down Gopal Krishna Muhuri, a leading humanist and principal of a college in Chittagong district, last November. Attacks on the Hindu community followed soon after in different parts of the country, forcing hundreds of the victims to flee to West Bengal and Tripura.

There was another shock wave for the minority community last month when two minority religious heads were murdered in quick succession. On April 25, a Buddhist monk was killed inside his temple by criminals allegedly patronized by a leading light of the BNP’s Chittagong unit. A few days later, a monk of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who was very popular among both Buddhists and Hindus in the area, was killed at Khagrachari in the Chittagong Hill Tracts — also inside his temple.

It was the Awami League which had been crying foul so far over the atrocities on the minorities. There were also voices of protest from the intelligentsia and sections of secular Muslims. But the ruling coalition dismissed the protests as part of the political campaign of the League, which has been boycotting the country’s parliament , charging the ruling coalition with rigging the October polls.

But the government of Begum Khaleda Zia is now getting more jittery. The reason is that in the past two months, Zia has faced an avalanche of criticism from international watchdog bodies, the media and most importantly, the country’s donors, who drive the country’s economy. In March, at their annual meeting in Paris, donors decided to link the future flow of development aid to an improvement in the law and order situation. Before the last general election, the Awami League lost much of its urban support because of the lawlessness that gripped most parts of the country.

To add insult to the donors-inflicted injury, Denmark recently decided to withhold a $ 45 million aid for Bangladesh’s shipping industry, publicly accusing one prominent minister of corruption. A congressional caucus on human rights in the United States of America took the Zia government to task on the issue of the minorities barely two weeks after the visiting delegations from the Amnesty International and a Canadian human rights body did the same.

Around the same time, three articles in respected international media — the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Friday Times of Pakistan — rang alarm bells over the rising fundamentalist threats in Bangladesh. Calling Bangladesh a “Cocoon of Terror” in a cover story in the Review last month, Bertil Lintner, one of the best known authorities on Myanmar, complained that “the government (of Zia) seems powerless and unwilling to stem the tide, which includes growing attacks on moderate Muslims and the dwindling Hindu population”. He warned the international community of the “deeper long-term dangers” posed by Islamic terrorist organizations, particularly the Chittagong-based, al Qaida-trained Harkat-ul al Islami, and their overground supporters making headway in Bangladesh under the new dispensation. The article in The Friday Times contained serious allegations of Pakistani attempts to influence the October polls in favour of the BNP by bribing seniormost officers of the Bangladesh army.

The shaken Zia government attributed it all to an international conspiracy to malign the image of the country. It reacted the way all nervous, guilt-ridden governments do in similar situations. It banned the Review issue in question, but not the one of The Friday Times, possibly because the Pakistani paper does not have the former’s international reputation and reach. But the angry zealots were not satisfied with just that; they bombarded Lintner with hate and threat mails.

At home, the government now prepares to do to errant native hacks what it could not do to the foreigner Lintner. A BNP member of parliament has drafted a bill that will restrict press freedom in the country as never before. Sent to parliament’s standing committee for scrutiny, the special privileges and powers bill, 2002, provides for punishment of journalists and watchdog bodies if they publish official documents or even “insult” a parliament member. Without an opposition to fight back, the passage of the bill is as certain as its abuse by members of the ruling coalition. Vincent Brossel, chief of Reporters Sans Frontiers, the Paris-based press freedom watchdog body, was in Dhaka recently and warned that the proposed legislation would signal the end of the free press in the country.

It is not difficult to see why the government wants to muzzle the press. Dhaka can pride itself on a recent burst of vibrant, critical and independent Bengali and English newspapers as well as television channels. In fact, some of these newspapers did a far better job than Indian newspapers of reporting the atrocities on Hindus and the government’s drift . Some journalists had to pay with their lives or near-fatal attacks on them. Barring the rabidly partisan papers loyal to the BNP, League or the Jamaat, the newspaper fraternity in Dhaka and other towns has shown remarkable professional courage and integrity in troubled times.

The press in Bangladesh, along with the country’s secular majority and the huge network of nongovernmental organizations, offers hope that the country’s secular roots will hold out in the face of mounting fundamentalist offensives. For some years now, the Jamaat has been openly supporting the fundamentalist diatribes against women’s massive participation in NGO work. Its founder, Golam Azzam, who sided with Pakistan during the country’s liberation war against Pakistan, accuses foreign donors of upsetting the country’s “Islamic social base” by providing loans to women-run NGOs.

Between the Grameen Bank, which created history by involving rural women in self-employment projects with a micro-credit movement, the Bangladesh rural advancement committee, that runs over 30,000 schools and countless other NGOs, a powerful social engineering has been achieved against the heavy odds of poverty, political chaos and economic mismanagement.

The fundamentalists are hard at work trying to change all this — in the religious schools, hospitals and other institutions they run. For the mainstream Bangladeshi society, they are still pariahs. But this lunatic fringe has thrown up a challenge which the Bangladeshis themselves, not the donors or overseas watchdogs, will have to meet.


We met Rehmunissa, a frail young woman who had a two-day infant lying on the ground in front of her. Rehmunissa told us, “My labour pains started and I delivered my baby while the attacks were taking place on February 28. I was all alone. Most of the people had run away including the midwife. They had been told that some vehicles had been sent to take them away to safety. The midwife returned when this did not happen and she cut the umbilical cord. Immediately after this, I ran to the entrance of my chawl and back seven times in that condition, in the same clothes, clutching my newborn infant because someone would say that the vehicles had come. Finally, the vehicle came and I was brought to the camp.”

Naseem Bano ran for her life with her infant male child that had been born on February 24 while Roshan who was nine months pregnant did the same. Rukhsana, whose child was born on March 5 after she had come to the camp and had been taken for her delivery to the hospital, was also with them. All three of them, along with others from the area, ran to the excise chowki across the road, fell at the feet of the constables there and begged them to save their lives. They told us that, after some time, the constables, moved by their plight...called the police who brought them to the camp.

A seven-year-old boy, Yusuf, was rescued from a garbage heap where he had been left for dead and brought to the camp. A sword had slashed him just above the right eye, which was still bloodshot. His mother, Razia Bano, had been admitted to the hospital with severe burns. His father, Mohammad Ayub Ghani, had been killed but Yusuf had been told that he was in the hospital looking after his mother.

Babloo (real name, Irshad), the 21-year-old son of Mehrunissa and Noor Mohammed, who lives in the Telephone Exchange galli chali and does plastering work, was injured in police firing on the 28th at 4 pm and was reportedly in the Government Hospital, where he was taken from the Al Amin Hospital.

Sahaspur Bathiya: Najma Ayub Quraishi, about 30 years old, arrived in the Shah Alam camp completely naked. She told us that “acid was thrown on me and one of the rioters urinated in my mouth. Because my clothes were sticking to my skin and the burning sensation was unbearable, I tore them off and pieces of my skin also came off. Both my children were killed.”

Haldvara village...is 40 kilometres away from the Bapunagar Aman Chowk camp where 450 of its inhabitants have come. They were brought there by the army after their homes had been attacked. Roshan Bano from this village told us that the men and women of the village lay in the fields with their children for 2 to 3 days without any food. She said that even their animals were burnt alive by the attackers. With her were Haneefa, a physically challenged child, and Ismael Bhai Nanabhai, a blind, old man.

Juhapura: We met Roshanbai Shaikh who lives and runs a women’s patchwork co-operative in this area ...Here we met Farzana, Shahnaz Bano, Manjulaben Patel, and Farhat. Roshanbai talked to us with great dignity and without any bitterness but with great anguish. She said that the 28th was tense with people moving around, shouting slogans and threatening them.

Most of the population in this area is Muslim but there is one row of Hindu hutments in the Jhalah Complex. All the 150 Hindu families left the area and their homes are safe and untouched. They are reported to be in Vejalpur Vistar. We could not visit them but we did see their homes.

On March 1, when the men had gone to the mosque for the Friday prayers and the women and children were in their homes, rioters entered the area and started the attacks. They threw acid and indulged in arson. Ninety homes were burnt. Their inhabitants are mostly in the Al Rahmani camp which we could not visit. The local Hindu inhabitants only joined the outsiders after the police came and taunted them and provoked them. Thinner chemical was used freely in the arson.

Farzana told us that her husband, Haneef, was heartbroken not by the burning of his house and furniture but by the burning of his books which he had collected and spent more than Rs 80,000 on. She is most concerned about the education of her two children and asked us whether we thought that their Hindu teachers would neglect them or deliberately punish them when they eventually went back to their school.

Manjulaben told us that she lives and works in that area among Muslims and does not feel threatened at all. She said, “The government is doing all this. The Bajrang Dal, VHP, Shiv Sena and all these people should be banned.”

Farhat, a 12-year-old boy, asked us how and when he would be able to go back to the Don Bosco school where he studies.

To be concluded



No one bends it like Bharti

Sir — Bending rules is a common habit with our politicians. But Uma Bharti made headlines recently when she decided to pay a visit to the cockpit on an Indian Airlines flight to Bhopal, supposedly to chat up the crew in an attempt to ease her tension of flying (“Fear takes Uma to cockpit”, May 6). The doddering didi to Shahnawaz Hussain, her stick in hand, thus made her way to the cockpit, leaving the other passengers aghast. But the fact that this journey is routine with her is evident. Neither the pilots nor the cabin crew were surprised by her behaviour and in fact welcomed her into the cockpit. That our ministers give two hoots for rules is well-known, but when there is every chance that such blase behaviour could endanger the lives of others, it can no longer be viewed with equanimity. Bharti should be pulled up for her actions, and to soften the blow maybe her “brother”, the aviation minister himself, should be the one to take her to task.

Yours faithfully,
Anjali Rao, Cochin

Burning questions

Sir — That the violence in Gujarat has had its most damning and damaging impact on children was made evident by the editorial, “Test case” (April 22). The hardest hit are the young who belong to the minority community, many of whom have felt too insecure to appear for the state board examinations. Many have also reportedly lost their admit cards and were not even informed which centre they were to take their examinations in.The low attendance has forced the Supreme Court to intervene and direct the state government to restore normalcy and reschedule examinations for the months of May and June (“Court call for Gujarat re-test”, April 20).

When communal feelings start filtering down to children and start affecting their future, it is probably time to worry. These children who fear for their safety — one was in fact beaten up on his way to the examination centre — stand to lose a year if no re-tests are held this year. No specific date has been fixed for the re-tests as yet. That the matter has not been raised at all in Parliament and received only minimum newsprint shows how unimportant the question of education is to our politicians. But the breakdown in the state’s education system, which is the last hope for secularism, would sound the death knell for Gujarat.

Yours faithfully,
Naren Sen, Howrah

Sir — The unwillingness among students to appear for the board examinations in Gujarat despite the security arrangements made by the government clearly shows the loss of faith in the government (“Modi government flunks trust test”, April 19). Although students know that not appearing for these examinations would result in their not being able to pursue higher studies, they are so scared that they prefer to jeopardize their professional future rather than put their lives at risk. Buses meant for examinees, given police protection, thus came back empty. Students interviewed said that they did not believe the police would protect them if they were attacked by rioters. This was because the police were seen to have done precious little to protect the minorities during the riots. If the authorities who are supposed to protect citizens are mistrusted, where is the hope for the state?

Yours faithfully,
Tarannum Arif, Calcutta

Sir — The English language paper for class XII board examinations in Gujarat has been the subject of a lot of discussion (“ Nazi script shovels fuel into riot fires”, April 24). Students were asked to reconstruct sentences like “If you do not like people, kill them”. They were also asked to join sentences on Nazism into one sentence. Congress leaders, educationists and human rights activists claim that these sentences should not have been allowed in the question papers given the situation in the state.Also that the questions reflect the ideology of the government.

There is no doubt that such questions should not have been included in the examination paper. But it would be wrong to assume that they are part of a bigger plan. The sentences belong to a section of the essay, “Tolerance”, which has been in the syllabus since 1995. The questions were set in September 2001, much before violence had broken out in the state.

Moreover, the papers were set by an autonomous body which is not connected to the government in any way. Thus for once the Narendra Modi government is not in the wrong. While the questions could not have come at a worse time, blaming the Modi government would be carrying the blame game a bit too far.

Yours faithfully,
Manjul Saha, Rourkela

Call rates

Sir — Till recently, the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited used to list STD calls made from a particular number in the MTNL telephone bills. This enabled users to verify if they had been charged for the right number of calls and also if their telephones had been misused. The latest telephone bills no longer list such calls. MTNL should reintroduce this old practice. The calls made to Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited numbers for the internet should also be shown separately so that one can keep a tab on the expenses.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi

Sir — The government is reportedly considering a hike in telephone rentals and an increase in local call charges . The government claims that it cannot continue to subsidize local calls. But what is the logic behind subsidizing STD calls which are made by a minority of telephone users? We should also ask why the government always compares data in terms of the dollar while pushing through hikes. By that comparison, each local call in India should cost ten paise since each local call in America costs a tenth of a dollar.

Yours faithfully,
Vandana Rathi, Calcutta

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