Editorial 1 / Timed action
Editorial 2 / Speech trouble
Disparities in development
Part of the sideshow
Document / What it needs to secure their future
Letters to the editor

The ghastly terrorist attack near Jammu suggests that there is likely to be a further escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir in the weeks to come. It is also clear now that the promises made by the president of Pakistan, Mr Pervez Musharraf, in his January 12 speech, which included a commitment to stop sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, have not translated into reality. The attack, which took place during the visit to India of Ms Christina Rocca, the United States of America assistant secretary of state for south Asia, must signal to the Bush administration that the war against terrorism is far from over. This was one of the most audacious terrorist attacks in recent years in Jammu and Kashmir. The camp attacked is designated a family station and more than 20 women and children, all family members of soldiers posted in the area, were killed. Earlier, the terrorists had also killed 10 passengers in the civilian bus that had brought them near the army camp.

Two terrorist organizations have apparently claimed responsibility for the attacks. One of them, al-Mansoor, is believed to be the new outfit created by the Lashkar-e-Toiba after its designation as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. The other organization is the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, which was formed by a breakaway faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen in the early Nineties. There is, however, little doubt that both organizations have been nurtured and sponsored by elements within the core of Pakistan’s establishment. Therefore, unless the government of India responds with determination and decisiveness, there is little chance of New Delhi succeeding in holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in an atmosphere free of violence. For far too long, India’s responses have been reactive and ad hocist. It is time that New Delhi adopted policies that are proactive, anticipatory and integrated to make sure that no one is left in any doubt about the nation’s firm resolve to fight terrorism and states that back terrorists.

Three steps are particularly necessary. First, it is vital to have a more efficient unified intelligence network throughout the country and in the region that can use human and electronic means to tap and intercept communication between terrorists and attempt to infiltrate terrorist organizations that produce these desperadoes. Only through efficient and systematic intelligence-gathering can suicide missions be anticipated and aborted before the event. Second, it is equally vital that the response to a terrorist attack must have a deterrent effect on the more rational members of the terrorist organization and its backers, particularly if it is a government. Even while the government may carefully time its action, if New Delhi has to take measures to prevent terrorist acts in the future, it must make Pakistan bear substantial costs. Finally, it is critical that India sustain the high-level contact with great powers that have influence and leverage within Pakistan, particularly the US. The battle against terrorism may have to be fought alone, but it is important that the international community be made constantly aware of India’s concerns and compulsions.


Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have missed his vocation as a poet, but equivocation comes to him as naturally as leaves to the trees. His ability to evade and obfuscate through the masterly use of ambiguity has become the hallmark of his oratory as prime minister and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This has been particularly useful for his government and his party with regard to the crisis in Gujarat. The twin achievements of justifying organized communal violence and protecting Mr Narendra Modi through it all are largely a triumph of this rhetoric. But to keep this up, it is also important to protect his words from sustained public scrutiny. The BJP has therefore refused to let out to the media Mr Vajpayee’s address to the parliamentary party, contrary to the usual custom. This is ostensibly to safeguard the prime minister’s words from being twisted out of context by that great enemy of truth (as established by the sangh parivar), the media. The BJP is now keen to portray its leader as a martyr to interpretative mischief. The clarity and innocuousness of his public utterances are now being deliberately undermined by the media to further their own subversive agenda. And this is why Mr Vajpayee’s words on this occasion have to be protected from distortion.

Early in April, the home minister had also publicly asked the media to suppress the whole and ugly truth about Gujarat for the sake of India’s domestic stability and international image. His sermon was all about responsibility, voyeurism and the greater good. Mr L.K. Advani’s advice to journalists had then overturned the principles of transparency, human justice and democracy with breathtaking and dangerous impunity. The BJP’s possessiveness about Mr Vajpayee’s speech is in this tradition of resentment towards the media. There is evidently an undertow of sectarian anxiety beneath all this. Mr Vajpayee cites an instance of journalists misrepresenting him as having said, in an election speech, that the BJP did not want Muslim votes. But he wants to reassure the nation by setting the record straight. He had only said that although the Muslims do not vote for the BJP, it still manages to win. It is shocking that Mr Vajpayee thinks this is more innocuous than what the press had reported.


Human development reports are becoming fairly common. There is of course the United Nations Development Programme’s HDR, in existence since 1990. The idea behind HDR is that per capita income (even if it is corrected using purchasing power parity) is an imperfect indicator of development or deprivation. So we move on to other variables, such as those that measure access to education (literacy, enrolment ratios) or health (life expectancy). Splice these with the per capita income variable to obtain an overall human development index. Further refinements are also possible. We can modify the HDI idea to correct for gender disparities, and so on.

While UNDP’s HDRs have been around since 1990, since 1997 we also have the Human Development in South Asia document, brought out by Mahbub ul Haq’s Human Development Centre in Islamabad. This focuses on south Asia. Triggered by the UNDP exercise, several states have begun to bring out their own HDRs, Madhya Pradesh being the first. Unfortunately, all states and union territories do not yet have HDRs, so you do not know what is happening in different states, especially within the states. The National Council of Applied Economic Research has the India Human Development Report document. There are two problems with the NCAER document. First, the data are dated (mostly 1994). Second, it generally provides information on regions, not states.

Therefore, if the planning commission now decides to bring out a national human development report for 2001, that is a welcome idea. Not that this necessarily tells us anything profound. It is not expected to. The NHDR does provide us with a mass of data at the level of the states. In one respect though, the NHDR is slightly premature. Census and other data are not available for several minor states and union territories. Hence, although the NHDR says 2001, large chunks of data are actually for 1991. From the data point of view, the next version of the NHDR should be far more satisfactory. For the moment, let me ignore indices other than the HDI. (The NHDR also computes other indices.) Let me also ignore differences (for data and other reasons) between the UNDP’s definition of the HDI and the NHDR’s definition of the HDI.

How were the states and union territories positioned in 1981? What did India’s map of development and deprivation look like? The maximum possible value of the HDI is 1 and the minimum possible value is 0. So the higher the HDI value, the better. If the HDI value is less than 0.5, the UNDP characterizes that as low human development. If the HDI value is between 0.5 and 0.8, the UNDP characterizes that as medium human development. And if the HDI value is more than 0.8, the UNDP characterizes that as high human development. This classification may not be very appropriate for India, but it will do.

In 1981, India did not have high human development in any state or union territory. Medium human development characterized Kerala and Chandigarh. Nothing else. Goa, Manipur, Mizoram, Punjab, Daman and Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep were approaching medium human development. The situation was especially bad in Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. All of these had HDI values less than 0.260. Chandigarh had a HDI value of 0.550. It was natural to use the acronym BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh) as a synonym for poverty and deprivation. Notice also that there were significant rural/urban differences. For example, other than Kerala and Chandigarh, urban areas in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu and Delhi performed quite well.

By 1991, Chandigarh and Delhi had far surpassed Kerala. This is understandable. Smaller states and union territories are more homogeneous. They lack heterogeneity and therefore, don’t have poor and backward regions that pull down the average. In 1991, Chandigarh and Delhi weren’t in the high human development league. But they did have HDI values more than 0.600. There was also significant improvement in the Eighties. Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry had HDI values more than 0.500. And Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal were inching towards that mark. That is a long list. The problem areas were Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and UP.

The BIMARU description was still valid. But there was not much to distinguish Orissa from the BIMARU category. Even within these backward regions, HDI values in urban areas exceeded 0.400. Poverty and backwardness were essentially rural phenomena. (There can certainly be a debate about the utility of rural/urban definitions.)

We now move to 2001. As I mentioned earlier, the 2001 picture is incomplete. We do not have rural/urban breakups. We do not have data for all states and union territories. Subject to this, backwardness now means Assam, Bihar (undivided), Madhya Pradesh (undivided) and UP (undivided). Rajasthan has disappeared from the truly backward group and Madhya Pradesh is about to. Among major states, the problem areas are Assam, undivided Bihar and undivided UP, with UP a very heterogeneous bag.

It is also possibly true that state boundaries mean very little, they are administrative artifices. Excluding the Northeast, poverty and backwardness are concentrated in a set of geographically contiguous districts located in India’s centre. To check this, one needs HDR-related data for districts. Disparities exist not only between states, but also within states. NHDR does not provide district-level data. But state-level HDRs do.

Measured by the HDI, West Bengal is just about average. In 1981, West Bengal’s HDI value was 100.1 per cent, the national average and 55.5 per cent of the best in the country. In 1991, West Bengal’s HDI value was 106 per cent of the national average and 59.9 per cent of the best in the country. In the Eighties, West Bengal seemed to be inching up. But in 2001, West Bengal’s HDI value was identical to the national average. Complete data for 2001 do not exist yet. But fragmentary data suggest that West Bengal lost a bit of the growth momentum in the Nineties.

If other states are bringing out HDRs, what is happening to West Bengal’s HDR? I have no idea. I have been told that the government does not want official data to be subjected to external scrutiny, as is inevitable in HDR-type exercises. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this statement. Last year, the State Institute of Panchayats and Rural Development brought out a district development index, authored by Biswajit Chatterjee and Dilip Kumar Ghosh. Conceptually, this is similar to the HDI idea. But variables and methodology used for constructing indices are somewhat different. So there is a comparability issue. Subject to this caveat, if you are a citizen in Birbhum, Murshidabad, Dakshin Dinajpur or Coochbehar, you are in some trouble. And if you are a citizen in Uttar Dinajpur or Malda, you’d better get out, if you can.

So what is happening in Uttar Dinajpur and Malda? The problem does not seem to be income growth. There are other districts which have higher percentages of population below the poverty line. But Uttar Dinajpur and Malda perform disastrously on the education indicator. These are the only two districts which have literacy rates lower than 30 per cent. They also perform disastrously on the health indicator. Malda has an infant mortality rate that is as high as 96 per thousand (1991 data). These are social infrastructure indicators. In physical infrastructure categories (such as road connectivity), these two districts do not perform that badly. However, the findings for West Bengal are not something that I want to stress.

I want to stress a different point. Conventional wisdom is that significant inter-state disparities exist in India. True. Conventional wisdom is that post-1991, inter-state disparities have been increasing. Also true. However, I don’t think we sufficiently recognize disparities within states. Coastal Andhra as compared to Telegana say. Or north Karnataka as compared to south Karnataka. This goes back to the earlier point about heterogeneity within large states and the rural/urban dichotomy.

What is rural? There is a census-cum-National-Sample-Survey definition in terms of the number of people who live in that habitation. This seems to be of limited utility from the development or deprivation point of view. A better definition is that rural areas lack physical and social infrastructure. And in this, there is considerable variation across districts, within the same state.

That is the reason there is a sense of deja vu with the NHDR. It confirms what was suspected and there is a wealth of data. But it does not have district-level data, which is what we want. I do not think that the NHDRs are meant to provide district-level data. That should come from state-level HDRs. Why are all states not producing HDRs? Why is West Bengal not producing one? As citizens, we should begin to ask these questions.

The author is director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi


It was sheer desperation that prompted two women — an Israeli and a Palestinian — to approach the United Nations security council last week, seeking a greater role for women in bringing peace to disturbed areas. Terry Greenblatt, director of the Israeli peace organization, Bat Shalom, and Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas of the Palestinian Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling in east Jerusalem were actually voicing the concern of thousands of women in volatile situations the world over.

Patriarchal societies are coming to terms with the fact that a woman’s undermined status is a source of empowerment since she is adept at visualizing innovative solutions in a crisis. Being vulnerably positioned, a woman displays a realistic and dispassionate understanding of core issues that tend to stoke deep fears and violence.

Despite this affinity for cultures of peace, justice and healing, women are marginalized at the onset of the reconciliation process. They are seldom at the negotiating table, scrupulously avoiding participation in meaningful dialogues. Crucial to any healing is the acknowledgment of wrongs committed and suffered, and an effective grief therapy that enables one to move beyond victimization to a spirit of forgiveness. Having borne the brunt, women, activists and homemakers alike provide the first voices of moderation and rapprochement.

As Greenblatt put it, “We have something to add to the conversation and women haven’t been invited to the main show in the past, which is something of a shame. We need to be looking at all kinds of potential solutions, perhaps not just the most conventional.”

Women do act as a valuable interface between the public and security forces in staving off violence. Yet they are reluctant to emerge from the traditional mantle. To take an example closer home, the Naga Hoho secretary, Keviletvo Kiewho, recently encouraged the Naga Mothers’ Association to extend its role into the decision-making, policy-framing spectrum. Rather than jump at the gesture, Khesheli Z. Chishi, NMA secretary who was present on the occasion, prevaricated. She stressed that it was their role as mothers which had catalyzed the necessary change. Yet it is because of this identity that women, cutting across borders and ethnic enclaves, have such a huge investment in the stability of communities. They can propel peace initiatives as well as broker agreements in the neighbourhood.

This month, a consultative meeting was held between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) leadership and representatives of the Naga organization in Thailand. Nongovernmental organizations, the Church, the Hoho (apex tribal council), even the Mizoram chief minister, Pu Zoramthanga, a former hardcore insurgent, were invited to these deliberations on the ongoing peace talks between the Centre and the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN. Yet women were conspicuous by their absence, despite the fact that the NMA is committed to collaborative work for justice and peace. The Naga Students’ Federation boasts of a woman general secretary and the Kohima municipal council has finally got a woman chairperson. What made them dispensable at the truce parleys?

The international women’s rights group, Equality Now, has highlighted a security council resolution, unanimously adopted in October 2000, which calls for women to play a role in the prevention and settling of conflicts and impasses. The need to include women in any conflict framework was also reiterated by Swanee Hunt, founder of Women Waging Peace, in a recent interview. Speaking on Africa, she said, “I asked the United Nations why they keep having these peace talks that are all men. They said ‘The African leaders won’t let women come to peace talks because they are afraid they’ll compromise.’ Obviously, that’s the whole point of a peace negotiation.”

Exceptions to this trend are few, though not entirely missing. In India, the women’s movement in Manipur has continued to evolve ever since the first recorded nupilan (women’s battle) was enacted in 1904. When the house of the British superintendent in Imphal was burnt down, the men were forced to go all the way to Kabaw Valley to fetch wood for a new construction. Outraged at the subjugation of their men by foreigners, the women of Manipur rose in revolt and had the order negated. Similarly, in 1938, after a failed harvest, the women succeeded in ensuring a ban on rice exports, thereby preventing certain starvation.

Today, these women, under the banner of Meira Paibis, continue to be heard in their fight against alcoholism, drug abuse, excesses by security personnel and ethnic clashes. Neither do they hesitate to reprimand militants, as they did over the abduction of the Chandel district deputy commissioner earlier this year. As Imphal-based sociologist, N. Vijaylakshmi Brar, points out, “What we see is the struggle of Manipuri women against aggressive forces of the state as well as private groups that try to shake the edifice of their society.”

Despite such mobilization of women power, participation at the political level has been minimal. The dichotomy is glaringly evident. When a movement gathers momentum, there is visible presence of women. It is their efforts that help tip the scales favourably. Once there is fruition, however, forced withdrawal of women is inevitable.

In Nagaland, or even Gujarat, the need for sustainable peace anticipates a concept of “inclusive security” by focussing on the safety and protection of vulnerable segments of the population. Women are crucial to this approach given their ability to bring about social harmony. The stress here is not on gender equality, it is a concept driven by efficiency. Women have the creative ability to make better bridges to peace. Instead of ignoring them or treating them as victims, they should be made to participate as agents of change.

The pattern is now predictable. Women were not considered when truce was brokered in Bosnia. They were, however, involved in the South African peace process, and this led to a sustainable agreement. The psychological barrier however remains since war and conflict are considered a man’s prerogative.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Women Waging Peace said: “Mediators can and should insist on gender balance among negotiators to ensure a peace plan that is workable at the community level. Cultural barriers can be overcome if high-level visitors require that a critical mass (usually one-third) of local interlocutors be women.” Yet far from implementing such policies, the prime minister’s office in India on May 14 turned away women’s organizations which had sought an audience with Atal Bihari Vajpayee to discuss the Gujarat situation. While groups like the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, Centre for Women’s Development Services, Saheli, Guild of Service, Muslim Women’s Forum and Jagori were trying to meet the prime minister and other political leaders, the National Commission for Women of the government shunned all Gujarat-oriented protests.

Significantly, there has been no synchronized protest by Gujarati women in the state. When thousands of Meitei women took to the streets following the Centre’s extension of territorial limits to the Naga ceasefire, they managed to force a retraction to ensure status quo. Had this kind of unity and bravura existed in Gujarat, violence would certainly not have been fanned to such devastating degree.

There is one way to bring such deadlocks. Take the case of Nagaland. The NSCN(I-M) leaders should visit the state and talk to the women’s groups. With the Nagaland chief minister, S.C. Jamir, having lifted the arrest warrants on Isak Swu and T. Muivah and the Centre offering them safe passage, they have no reason to spend a fortune flying Naga representatives to Bangkok for discussions. This is because stability is a great motivating factor for women, who are sources of powerful influence in difficult situations. It is a pity to let such skills go untapped while the mayhem careens out of control.


The member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation parties to the present convention

NOTING that a quarter of the world’s children live in south Asia and many of them require assistance and protection to secure and fully enjoy their rights, and to develop their full potential and lead a responsible life in family and society;

BEARING IN MIND that parents or legal guardians, as the case may be, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child;

RECOGNIZING, therefore, that the family, as the fundamental unit of society and also as the ideal nurturing environment for the growth and well-being of children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume and fulfil responsibility for its children and community;

RECALLING the common proclamation of their nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance;

REAFFIRMING their adherence to the Declaration of the World Summit for Children and their commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;

RECOGNIZING the efforts of SAARC towards building a regional consensus on priorities, strategies and approaches to meet the changing needs of children, as embodied in the Rawalpindi Resolution on Children of South Asia 1996, and noting the significant progress already made by the member states in the field of child survival and welfare;

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT, the declaration of the years 2001-2010 as the “SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child”;

BEARING IN MIND that the development of the full potential of the south Asian child is a critical concomitant to the region’s collective march towards solidarity, justice, peace and human progress;

ACKNOWLEDGING that regional solidarity and cooperation through sharing of experience, expertise, information and resources are eminently useful in galvanizing the efforts of the south Asian nations to fulfil and protect the rights of children;

REALIZING further that, together, the member states of SAARC can move towards a comprehensive south Asian vision for the well-being of their children;

Hereby agree as follows: Part I — Definitions, purpose and guiding principles

Article I. Definitions: For the purposes of this convention; “Rights of the Child” shall mean the rights of children embodied in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Child” shall mean a national of any member state of the SAARC, below the age of eighteen years unless, under the national law, majority is attained earlier.

Article II. Purposes and objectives: The purposes and objectives of the present convention shall be to:

1. Unite the states parties in their determination of redeeming the promises made by them to the south Asian child at the World Summit for Children and at various other national and international conferences and successive SAARC summits;

2. Work together with commitment and diligence, to facilitate and help in the development and protection of the full potential of the south Asian child, with understanding of the rights, duties and responsibilities as well as that of others;

3. Set up appropriate regional arrangements to assist the member states in facilitating, fulfilling and protecting the rights of the child, taking into account the changing needs of the child.

Article III. Guiding principles: For the establishment of regional arrangements, states parties shall be guided by the following principles:

1. States parties to this convention shall consider survival, protection, development and participatory rights of the child as a vital pre-requisite for: a) Accelerating the process of their peoples’ realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and b) Achieving economic and social development in south Asia.

2. States parties shall reaffirm the right of the child to enjoy all rights and freedoms guaranteed by the national laws and regionally and internationally binding instruments.

3. States parties consider the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a comprehensive international instrument concerning the rights and well-being of the child and shall, therefore, reiterate their commitment to implement it.

4. States parties shall uphold “the best interests of the child” as a principle of paramount importance and shall adhere to the said principle in all actions concerning children.

5. States parties, while recognizing that the primary responsibility of looking after the well-being of the child rests with the parents and family, shall uphold the principle that the state has the right and authority to ensure the protection of the best interests of the child.

6. States parties shall consider this convention as a guiding force for all national laws and bilateral or multilateral agreements that are entered into in the field of child welfare.

7. States parties shall always consider gender justice and equality as key aspirations for children, the realization of which, collectively by the governments, would enhance the progress of south Asia.

To be concluded



Better late than never

Never say die Sir — It has taken close to 40 years for bilateral relations between the United States of America and Cuba to thaw (“Carter in Cuba to end 40-year enmity”, May 13). Jimmy Carter’s gesture of visiting Cuba in order to improve strained relations between the two countries and lend a sympathetic ear to the long-standing grievances of Cubans marks a significant about-turn in US foreign policy. Perhaps, now we will see a similar change in the superpower’s foreign policy towards countries like Iraq and Libya, which have remained defiant towards it. With age, the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, also seems to have mellowed a lot as demonstrated by his willingness to allow human rights activists to meet the former US president, unthinkable few years ago. Castro’s stance seems sensible, if one takes into account how much the Cuban economy has suffered as a result of US sanctions. This change in the attitude of both leaders marks the end of the last remaining legacy of the Cold War. It is nice to see both Castro and Carter realize that it is never too late to start working towards a better and a more peaceful future.

Yours faithfully,
Saheli Sen, Calcutta

Exit route

Sir — The editorial, “Credibility gap” (May 7), says that the incompetence of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, should be reason enough to sack him. But, except for Lal Bahadur Shastri who resigned as the Union railways minister after a major train accident, has any minister ever resigned, accepting responsibility for lapses committed while in office?

Opposition parties have demanded that Modi be sacked for the riots in Gujarat in which thousands of Muslims have died. In 1969, almost 3,000 people died in similar riots in Gujarat during the chief ministership of the Congress’s Hitendra Desai. But Desai did not resign. During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, thousands of innocent Sikhs were murdered even as the police looked on helplessly. But did Rajiv Gandhi step down? On June 2, 1995, there was an attempt on the life of the Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayavati, in Lucknow at the behest of the Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Ramesh Chandra committee report on the incident was tabled in Parliament in 1996 by the then home minister, Indrajit Gupta. Yadav, however, did not resign. Every day one hears of massacres in Bihar, the result of caste-related violence. But no chief minister of the state has ever resigned nor has anyone responsible for the sorry state of affairs ever been dismissed or resigned on their own.

It is apparent that the opposition’s demand for Modi’s scalp is merely a gesture to please Muslims voters. The Bharatiya Janata Party governments at the Centre and in Gujarat came to power on the basis of popular mandates, but the opposition seems to be treating them as if they were enemies in occupation.

Yours faithfully,
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Credibilty gap”, says that the continued violence in Gujarat shows Narendra Modi’s “incompetence”. Actually, the sporadic incidents of violence in the state demonstrate just the opposite: Modi’s “competence” as a follower of the sangh parivar. Post-Godhra, Gujarat has become polarized along religious lines. It is in the BJP’s interests to keep the gulf between Hindus and Muslims intact, and widen it if possible. The party now holds 115 of the 182 seats in the state legislature; it cannot afford to lose even a single seat in the upcoming assembly elections if it is to scotch the impression that the BJP is on the way out politically. Electoral victory in the state will also buttress the BJP’s argument that it played no role in the riots. Violence will continue in Gujarat, at least until the elections later this year.

Yours faithfully,
Ankan Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — The fact that the communal violence in Gujarat shows no signs of abating gives credence to the belief that the mere removal of Narendra Modi will not resolve the crisis. Brute force will not stop the violence, which is the result of decades of distrust between the two communities. Politicians from every party, religious leaders and intellectuals should come together to organize peace marches all over the country. The media should also exercise restraint in reporting events from Gujarat.

Yours faithfully,
Purnendu Misra, Calcutta

Sir — Narendra Modi has undoubtedly carved a place for himself in the history of modern India. But how will history judge Modi? Modi is an appallingly incompetent leader who fiddled while Gujarat went up in flames around him. He looked the other way while hapless Muslims were being butchered. Also, he seems to be entirely devoid of any sense of moral accountability. The Centre should ensure that Modi and his goons are not be allowed to get away with their crimes.

Yours faithfully,
Lalgoulian Vaiphei, Shillong

Sir — Instead of reviling Narendra Modi and his henchmen, they should be thanked for having exposed the two faces — one a Dr Jekyll and the other a Mr Hyde — of the Indian prime minister. Take his comments in the Rajya Sabha: “I felt the situation in Gujarat would be more dangerous if I remove Narendra Modi” (“Atal second thought saves Modi”, May 7). Everyone else seems to agree that the violence in Gujarat continues unabated only because of Modi’s active connivance. Perhaps, the shadow of Mr Hyde loomed over him as he made these remarks. But was it Dr Jekyll speaking, when Vajpayee later said that his government would “fulfil” its duty after the Rajya Sabha passed the Congress-sponsored motion seeking Central intervention in Gujarat.

Yours faithfully,
Mrinmoy Goswami, Nagaon

Sir — I wonder why the opposition is demanding Narendra Modi’s resignation. Is it possible for a chief minister to directly instigate or order a carnage? If anyone has any proof why don’t they go to court and charge Modi with inciting violence or for being an accomplice in the massacre? If convicted, or even chargesheeted, he will have to resign and perhaps even go to jail. Since they have not done this (and there is no doubt they would not have given it a second thought if they had hard evidence), serious doubts about their allegations arise. At most, Modi can be accused of inefficiency, arising out of a partisan attitude. Also, no one remembers that a large number of the victims of police firings were Hindus. Of course, no one is denying that more Muslims were killed.

Yours faithfully,
Somorendra Mukherjee Sharma, Imphal

General misrule

Sir — The so-called referendum that has given the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, a “handsome mandate” was nothing but a farce and a fraud on democracy and democratic principles (“Wedding over, voters ask: who’s groom”, May 1). In a bid to legitimize and constitutionalize his military rule and to project himself as the most popular leader of Pakistan, Musharraf mooted the ill-conceived idea of a referendum.

However shrewd and cunning he might be, Musharraf has not been able to hoodwink the world or even discerning citizens of his country. First, the rank and file of every major political party in Pakistan boycotted the referendum. Second, the voter turnout was abysmally low. Third, there have been allegations of widespread electoral malpractices across the country.

Thus, Musharraf’s game plan to project himself as a dignified democratic leader, at home and abroad, has completely fallen apart. By resorting to such a controversial referendum, Musharraf was following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Ayub Khan and Zia ul-Haq. This has exposed Musharraf in the eyes of all democratic-minded people across the globe.

Yours faithfully,
Kavi Vishnu Satpathy, Baripada

Sir — The editorial, “Electoral farce” (May 3), rightly observes that there is little possibility of a return of democracy in Pakistan in the near future. It is clear that autocracy will continue in Pakistan for a long time, as a result of Musharraf’s victory in the April 30 referendum. The Pakistan human rights commission’s allegation that the election process was not free and fair hardly comes as a surprise. It is ironical that in the run-up to the referendum whoever opposed Musharraf was depicted as being against democracy itself.

Yours faithfully,
Pranit Gupta, Malda

Sir — It is incredible that Pervez Musharraf has been tom-tomming the fact that he has won a large mandate in a referendum in which he was the only candidate. He even considers this as a triumph of democracy. Unfortunately, the great exemplar of democracy and freedom, the United States of America, has not only hailed Musharraf as a true democrat and a warrior against global terrorism, but has also chosen to remain silent on the occasion.

Given the outcome of the recent controversial referendum, should one conclude that Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and others who never got more than 40 per cent votes, are no match for Musharraf?

Yours faithfully,
John Abraham, Hyderabad

A correction

The editorial, “All is not well” (May 15), in The Telegraph describes the 50th anniversary of the Lok Sabha as a silver jubilee. It should read golden jubilee. The obvious error is regretted.

— The Editor

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