Editorial / What’s in a word?
Return of the native
This above all / May the soul rest in peace
People / Sanjay Agarwal
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL / WHAT’S IN A WORD? 
 
 
 
 
There is something surreal about a scenario in which people’s worst fears start coming true. Even when people know that politicians lie, they do not expect the prime minister of the country to misquote himself in the Lok Sabha. But Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee has acknowledged that this is what he has actually done. He seems to be indifferent to the betrayal of trust that this implies. It is difficult to decide what is more nightmarish, the fact that the prime minister has done this and has openly acknowledged it, or that the newly placed speaker, Mr Manohar Joshi, has disallowed the privilege motion proposed by the opposition on the strength of the prime minister’s “clarification”. The speaker, of course, has his own judgment. But the Bharatiya Janata Party’s reckless insensitivity and brazen manipulation of the political machinery after the killings in Gujarat have made suspect even the simplest procedures regarding its attitude to the minority community.

The prime minister had read out in the Lok Sabha what was presumably the text of his speech in Goa. That earlier speech had attracted horrified criticism because it was perceived to have condemned the minority community for being unable to live in peace anywhere in the world. The prime minister’s office had then issued a clarification, saying that Mr Vajpayee had criticized militant Islam only. In the Lok Sabha, the opposition pointed out that Mr Vajpayee had inserted a single word, which changed the thrust of the speech entirely. Since Mr Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who had pointed this out, also produced tapes of the Goa speech, the addition could not be denied. By saying “such Muslims” instead of only “Muslims”, the prime minister had led the house to believe that he had talked of two different kinds of Islam in the first place. Since Mr Vajpayee brought forth this doctored quotation while the Lok Sabha was debating the vote under Rule 184, the intention behind the insertion cannot be doubted.

Mr Vajpayee, however, has established a tradition of “clarifications”, impolitely called hedging. He has insisted, in line with the clarification issued by the PMO soon after the Goa speech, that he had actually meant to distinguish between tolerant Islam and militant Islam. Therefore, by inserting the word “such”, he had followed the “spirit” of the Goa speech. This clarification has been accepted by the speaker and the privilege motion disallowed. Evidently the prime minister feels he is above all norms of conduct in the house, perhaps even above the simple rules of truth and falsehood. He feels free to enact a falsehood through a game with words in order to bring out a “truth” that he forgot to mention when he spoke in Goa.

Misleading the Lok Sabha is only one aspect of the betrayal of trust that the prime minister’s action represents. Equally — if not more — serious is the fact that his speeches, quotations and clarifications are having a grave impact on the feelings of a huge section of the citizens of the country. Very little has been done so far to remove the insecurity that affects members of the minority community in Gujarat even today. The relief camps might soon be shut down, yet many of their inhabitants are unable to return to their homes. The few positive steps that have been taken — for example, a promise that students from the minority community who were unable to sit for their school-leaving examinations will be given a re-test — have been forced on the state administration by the intervention of the Supreme Court or other institutions. In this atmosphere of vitiated trust, the prime minister needs to be especially careful of the sensibilities of bereaved citizens who feel like refugees in their own country. That he should be playing about with words in order to retain whatever is left of his image borders on the surreal.

   

 
 
RETURN OF THE NATIVE 
 
 
BY RUDRANGSHU MUKHERJEE
 
 
In the early Seventies, Partha Chatterjee wrote an essay, now forgotten, which began with a quotation from Tennyson’s In Memoriam: “Our little systems have their day;/ They have their day and cease to be.” The lines come back because Chatterjee’s new book (A Princely Impostor?: The Strange and Universal History of the Kumar of Bhawal, Princeton, $19.95) is a sure sign that modes of historical analysis which privileged non-narrative forms of history writing over narrative history have had their day. Practitioners of narrative history no longer need to be frightened of being derided for being old-fashioned. Chatterjee’s new book is narrative history tout court. It is also narrative history at its best: lucidly written, and based on solid and voluminous evidence which is incisively and relentlessly analysed. The analysis is very deftly woven into the storytelling and the authorial voice is low-key and invariably meaningful in its rare interventions.

The success of the narrative grows from the subject matter, one of the sensational legal cases of Bengal, and from Chatterjee’s manner of re-telling it. The Bhawal case captured the public attention and imagination through the Thirties and the early Forties as it had moved from the district judge’s court in Dacca to the High Court in Calcutta to the Privy Council in London. Before that, in the Twenties, Dacca had been rocked by the strange sannyasi who had appeared on Buckland Bund and had later declared himself to be the second kumar of Bhawal, one of the biggest zamindari estates in East Bengal.

The basic facts of the case Chatterjee discloses in the first chapter. On May 8, 1909, the second kumar of Bhawal, Ramendra Narayan Roy, was reported to be dead in Darjeeling. He was cremated there and his wife and the entourage that had travelled with him returned to the ancestral home in Jaidebpur. There were rumours around that the kumar’s body had not been properly cremated and that he was alive, living as a sannyasi. Sometime in December 1920 or January 1921, a sadhu appeared on Buckland Bund. For four months, he just sat there come rain, come sunshine. After that, events moved fast. People began to notice a similarity between the sadhu and the second kumar. He was sent to Jaidebpur. There, Ramendra’s second sister, Jyotirmayi, noted that the sannyasi did have strong resemblances to her dead brother. On being shown a picture of Ramendra, the sadhu wept. This was followed by a declaration by the sadhu that he was, in fact, Ramendra. He passed most of the tests of memory and most people who had known the kumar noted the almost unbelievable physical similarities. A public meeting was held in the palace grounds and a huge crowd hailed the return of the kumar. In the public mind, there were no doubts about the identification. But the district administration declared the sannyasi to be an impostor and asked the tenants not to pay their rents to him. The wife of the kumar in Calcutta and her brother, her principal advisor, refused to accept the identification. In their minds, Ramendra was dead and had been cremated, a dead man could not come back. But the return of the Bhawal raja had become a household word in the whole of Bengal.

It was inevitable, given that property and money were involved, that the matter would go to court. In 1930, a suit was filed in which the plaintiff, Ramendra Narayan Roy, asked the court to declare that he was Kumar Ramendra Narayan Roy and was entitled to a one-third share in the properties of the Bhawal raj. The hearing opened in 1933 in the court of Pannalal Basu, subordinate judge of Dacca district. If the kumar-sannyasi is the protagonist of this narrative, its real hero is Judge Basu. In a remarkable judgment which stood up to the scrutiny of the High Court and the Privy Council, Basu upheld the claims of the plaintiff. Nobody reading Chatterjee’s book can fail to be impressed by the quiet dignity and integrity of this man.

Chatterjee re-tells the case as it unwound itself in Basu’s court and then in the High Court and the Privy Council. This recounting is detailed and Chatterjee draws upon the legal records, newspaper reports and the popular pamphlets and verses that had appeared as the case progressed. This, in a sense, is the meat of the book. If this were all, then Chatterjee’s book would be no different from the run-of-the mill narrative that passes as history. Chatterjee introduces unobtrusively a number of other elements which take the book from story to history, from narrative to historical narrative.

One of these is obviously context. The appearance of the sannyasi, the subsequent legal case and its ultimate disposition in the Privy Council all took place in an extremely significant period, turmoil-ridden like any period of transition. The sannyasi’s appearance and his declaration that he was the second kumar coincided with the Non-cooperation and the Khilafat movement. The ambience of that movement enabled Hindu and Muslim tenants to act together to support the sannyasi’s claims. This may have forced the district administration to see the sannyasi as a potential troublemaker. The Thirties, when the case was actually heard in the two courts in India, was the high noon of Indian nationalism. There was already in place a group of professionals, especially lawyers and judges, who were prepared to provide the leadership to a sovereign and modern nation state. Basu, C.C. Biswas (the only Indian in the High Court bench that heard the appeal) and B.C. Chatterjee (who appeared for the plaintiff) were all informed by this new consciousness. Chatterjee discerns in the interstices of the Bhawal sannyasi case a “secret history of Indian nationalism”. There was a general perception, Chatterjee says, that the Bhawal sannyasi case was a fight between the colonial government and the people. The leadership in this fight was provided by functionaries within the system who, as Chatterjee points out, were telling their colonial masters, “We now know the universal principles of law…we understand the cultural peculiarities of this country much better. Leave it to us to run the system.” The British side of this was the recognition of decolonization, and it was evident in the judgment of L.W.J. Costello written during the war in England where he was on furlough. His verdict turned the case in favour of the plaintiff in the High Court.The production of judicial truth was determined by the historical conditions in which the judges found themselves.

Chatterjee draws special attention to the women involved in the case. They were behind the scenes, given their status as orthodox Hindu women, but they “propelled the course of events”. Jyotirmayi interrogated the sadhu before she accepted him as her brother. Having done this, she became his chief supporter in court and in the family. She withstood cross-examination and allowed the High Court to inspect her physical features to see if they resembled those of the plaintiff. The first rani, Sarajubala, supported the plaintiff financially and otherwise and faced slander. The third rani whose adopted son was the heir to the Bhawal estate opposed the plaintiff and lied in court to establish her claims. Finally, there was Bibhabati, the second rani. She consistently refused to accept the sannyasi as her husband. She retained her dignity and remained unfazed under hostile questioning in court. She withstood public vilification and took her case to the Privy Council. After she lost her case and following the death of the second kumar, she refused to accept Rs 800,000 from the Court of Wards as settlement of the estate of Kumar Ramendra Narayan. She said, “If I take the money, will I not be accepting what I know to be false?” The day the Privy Council judgment reached Calcutta by telegram, the kumar had a stroke on the steps of the Thanthania Kali temple where he had gone to offer puja. He died two days later. Bibhabati believed that she had lost the legal battle but had won in the highest court. An impostor had not been allowed to enjoy the property; the deity had not allowed him to offer puja in the name of a dead man.

At the heart of the matter was the question of identity and truth. Both extraordinarily elusive, in court, in history and in life. The curtain came down on the Bhawal drama more than five decades ago, and the evidence collected was enormous. But even now, as Minerva’s owl spreads its wings, the historian cannot be sure, as Chatterjee confesses, about the truth of the matter. Was the sannyasi really the second kumar? One cannot be certain. This perhaps is the aporia inherent in the craft and practice of the historian. No amount of evidence and distance in time allows him an access to Truth.

The Bhawal sannyasi case is a poignant reminder of this because it revolved around the question of identity. Chatterjee in the only non-narrative exegesis in the book analyses the philosophical, Western and Indian, understanding of identity. Modern regimes of power have an obsession with identity and this leads Chatterjee to state a general truth: “modern governmental regimes must presume every individual to be an impostor until he or she is able to prove the contrary”. The apparent provocativeness of this is lost when set beside the experience of anyone who has been questioned by immigration officials in an international airport. Identity cannot be taken for granted: the onus of proof is always on the person, the interrogator is forever sceptical. Foucault has shown that the disciplinary systems of modern governments produced the individual as an entity but those same systems in the 20th century require that an individual for the exercise of his freedom demonstrate legitimate proofs of his identity. “Now that the People have taken the place of the Prince,” Chatterjee comments, “everyone is an impostor until the Prince-that-stands-for-the-People is satisfied to the contrary.”

This is where the Bhawal sannyasi case, caught in a transition from a dependent colonial to a sovereign postcolonial state, acquires a universal dimension. But the case perhaps touches even profounder depths of universality. What constitutes the identity of a human being? Do we know our own identity? Do we have a fixed and one identity? Can identity ever be proved? Do we know ourselves? In writing history and in our daily lives, we function by “believing where we cannot prove.” The quoted words are from Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

   

 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL / MAY THE SOUL REST IN PEACE 
 
 
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 
S. Prasher, retired commissioner of income tax, the moving spirit behind Save Kasauli Society has this disturbing habit of tossing questions at me to which I have no answers. This was the second time, he asked me “Have you ever thought about death?”

“Indeed I have,” I replied. “I think about it all the time. I’ve read as much about it as I could. I found no answers. “I quoted my favourite lines on the subject:

There was a door to which I found
no key,
There was a veil beyond I could not see;
Talk awhile of thee and Me there was
Then no more of Thee or me.

“Omar Khayyam!” he said triumphantly. “But surely there is more to it than just admitting that you do not know. The body goes, perhaps with it the mind as well. Your memory remains in some people’s minds while they are alive. After them even that is gone. You may leave charitable trusts in your name, you may write books that may be read after you are gone. That is not what I mean. What about consciousness?

“Consciousness of what?” I asked. “Where does it survive? It has to be something more tangible than the notion of consciousness.

He proceeded to explain at great length. Most of it was beyond my comprehension. I tried to bring him down to earth. “Most thinkers play with words, some talk of death as an integral part of life. I agree. Some compare life as a journey on a train; Some get off at one station, others continue a little further. Bhola Nathji in his The Secret of Death writes “One can deny the existence of God, but one cannot deny the existence of death…Life is that which must go, and death, that which must come.” I entirely agree, but does that tell us where we go when we die? Does anything of us remain when we are gone?”

Most people who have written on the subject have dwelt more on the inherent fear of dying rather than death. They give false assurance that death is nothing to be scared of, for example, John Donne (1573-1631) describes it as “merely a form of rest and sleep”:

Death, be not proud, though some have
called the
Mighty and dreadful, for than art not so;
For those whom thou thinkest
than dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death; not yet
canst thou kill me.
For Donne, Death was, “One
short sleep past, we wake eter-
nally.
And death shall be no more:
Death thou shalt die.”

John Keats (1795-1821) who died at the young age of 26 had no such illusions of something surviving after he “ceased to be”. He knew that he had a lot more to give but felt he was “fair creature of an hour” after which love and fame would sink to nothingness.”

The key word, I told Prasher, is nothingness. Death erases our bodies, minds and everything our bodies or minds may have achieved in our lives. Prasher is not satisfied with my answer. But he has no answers to offer besides conjecturing that consciousness remains. He exhorts me to think more deeply on the subject. I promise to do so fully aware of the fact it will get me nowhere. Have readers of this column any idea of what remains of us after death? I will welcome their ideas. But more of rebirth in another form nor the Day of Judgment. They are old stuff with no rational basis to them.

Of vintage flavour

My earliest recollection of England during my first year in college was being taken to see the Old Crocks Race from London to Brighton. The people who took me were an elderly Scottish couple Mr and Mrs Dansmuir. A friend of theirs was participating in the race. The couple got in their Sunday best; he in a black top hat cravat, black-coat, grey-black striped trousers and spats; she in a fancy bonnet tied with ribbons and floral dress. We turned up along the road leading to Brighton. A succession of jalopies, the likes of which I had not seen since my childhood, came chugging down the road, cheered by bystanders. Most of the cars were of the first war vintage with bulb horns and foot boards. They could have been thrown on a scrap heap but age had given them respectability.

I have seen odd vintage models in India mostly belonging to the erstwhile princely families. The Statesman of Calcutta was the first to revive interest in vintage cars. Interest in Old Crocks has been revived by a band of enthusiasts led by Diljit Titus of Titus & Co. of Delhi and Tarun Thukral, GM, Le Meridien Hotel. The Heritage Motoring Club organized a race of vintage cars starting from Le Meridien to Jaipur and back to Delhi. Prizes were given for the best maintenance and performance as well as to the most tastefully dressed drivers and their companions. The eldest in this was a Minerva 1924, a Bentley 1929, followed by Ford and Railey (1934). At one time, vintage Rolls Royces were only owned by princes. Today it is the liquor baron, Vijay Mallya ,of Bangalore who owns 260 old cars including a 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

Isn’t it ironical that if you want to sell your three-year old car, you will be lucky if you get more than half its original price; if you hang on to it for another 50 years, you may get 10 times more than the sum you bought it for.

Out of humour

Shashi Tharoor, a senior officer in the United Nations and author of several first-rate books like the Great Indian Novel and Riot, while reviewing Stanley Wolpert’s biography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi rues that most Indian leaders were singularly lacking in sense of humour. About Gandhi he could quote only two examples: “Asked once what he thought of Western civilization, the Mahatma replied: “It would be a good idea.”

“Upbraided for going to Buckingham Palace in London in his loincloth for an audience with the king-emperor, Gandhi retorted, “His Majesty had on enough clothes for the both of us.” Neither remark figures in a book that averages half a dozen quotations per page.

Nehru is given credit for only one witty remark. In 1949 when he was due to visit the United States of America, he remarked “one should never visit America for the first time.” (Whatever that meant?)” Indira Gandhi was no better. Her comment on her refusal to meet Yahya Khan on the eve of Bangladesh’s war of independence was “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” We Indians take ourselves far too seriously.

In my dealings with Indian politicians, two men stand out as exemplars of ready wit and the ability to give back as good as they got. One was the late Piloo Mody of the Swatantra Party. And today we have Laloo Prasad Yadav. You cannot find his match in earthy, rustic humour anywhere else in India. Atal Bihari Vajpayee does at times inject a little humour in his speeches but he does not dare to take on Laloo Yadav at the game.

   

 
 
PEOPLE / SANJAY AGARWAL 
 
 
 
 

At home with ambition

Sanjay Agarwal always wanted to put a million miles between himself and his Burrabazar dal-trader family background. A desire that was much in evidence during the shortlived glory days of Home Trade — his now bust company stuck neck-deep in a cooperative bank scam of close to Rs 300 crore. For lay people, Home Trade’s only instant recall factor is an over-the-top ad campaign featuring Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan and a new-look Sachin Tendulkar, that dominated billboards in metros across the country last year.

But going back to the short-lived glory days which were at their peak early last year, a former employee of Home Trade says: “Sanjay was on a roll — he was extremely savvy and confident — he was also blowing up huge amounts of money on Home Trade’s publicity campaign and on recruiting top professionals for the firm.”

As far as the ad campaign went, the idea behind using Hrithik, Sachin and Shah Rukh was Agarwal’s. “He was very glamour-struck and at the same time very sharp, he felt using the three reigning icons would help sell his product,” adds the former employee. It would also give him several opportunities to meet his favourite heroes. One of those opportunities was when Agarwal flew the three brand ambassadors and the entire Home Trade core team, and their families, to Australia for the ad shoot.

Another indicator of his desire to get as far away from the dal-trading crowd as possible, was his obsession with recruiting ‘top professionals’, which for Agarwal meant only IIM and IIT alumni. He was offering great pay packets and as a result he managed to recruit an outstanding team — people from big MNCs like TCS and Citibank,” says the former employee. Agarwal especially liked getting former Citibank employees into Home Trade — largely out of nostalgia for his former employers. After completing his education from a local school in Kidderpore, Agarwal studied management in Mumbai before joining Citibank for about a year or two.

At Home Trade’s regional offices, all of which were located in five-star hotels, the atmosphere in the early days was buoyant. “Sanjay was a very warm person, he was really cool and easy-going. He also made for an extremely generous employer.”

The official story Agarwal gave out to would-be employees during interviews was that Home Trade was being funded by a Mauritius-based venture capital fund called Euro Discover Technology Ventures. He also spoke about some NRI partners. “It was easy to buy his story initially — the last thing Home Trade seemed short of at the time was money,” recalls an associate.

What it was short of was ideas. The original idea of the firm was e-broking. Sanjay had enough experience in broking. Soon after he finished his studies in Mumbai he joined a Mumbai broking firm called SSKI. Later he took over Lloyds Brokerage, a part of the Llyods Group. “That company also went bust...and Agarwal took it over, calling the new entity Euro Asia,” explains the former employee. “In that sense actually Home Trade, which was also a broking firm was simply a change of name,” he adds. But the e-broking never took off. Despite Agarwal’s flamboyant claims of the early days.

Back then sitting with his team at one of the swish Home Trade offices surrounded by a state-of-the-art systems network, Agarwal spoke enthusiastically about “creating history” and “making 100 crore rupees in the first year.” His words had the desired effect, everybody was gung-ho and ready to be part of a team that would make history.

But it didn’t take too long for employees to guess that everything wasn’t hunky-dory with Home Trade.

What employees knew was that Agarwal had three brothers, two in Calcutta and one in the United States. The two in Calcutta had nothing to do with him or his business; the brother in the US was supposedly one of Sanjay’s funders. But then there were rumours that he was also being funded by the underworld. At one point of time, some employees even asked him about this particular rumour and Sanjay had replied: “No, no. I have a VC in Mauritius... nothing to do with the underworld.” Characteristically, rather than let the rumour annoy him, he laughed it off.

When the e-broking failed miserably, an ever ebullient Agrawal said Home Trade would ‘diversify’. He charted out ambitious plans in an attempt to convince his team that the future was still bright. The plans revolved around his three stars — he planned to launch a book with Hrithik, Shah Rukh and Sachin. Another related plan was to sell Sachin and Hrithik memorabilia. If the plans were becoming ridiculous it was only because Agarwal probably knew he was running out of time. And as nothing moved at Home Trade even six months after its launch, Agarwal’s ‘top professional’ staff began falling away fast.

Even the swift management exodus didn’t faze Agarwal. Initially he mildly tried to persuade the management guys to stay on — he offered them a bit more money — but then didn’t try too hard. Actually at that stage, somehow or the other, Home Trade was still attracting quality professionals. So even as some of his regional managers quit in rapid succession, he was getting in people from companies like Hindustan Lever, a fact that must have made him feel secure. In any case, Agarwal was also the sort of person who wasn’t about to allow anything to get under his skin.

Brokers in Calcutta who knew him well but have distanced themselves now, remember Agarwal as “a sharp guy, good at his work, but one who never looked capable of a scam of this order.” But people who worked with him at Home Trade, have realised in retrospect, that Agarwal moved extremely shrewdly. “He organised Home Trade with a very lean structure — it didn’t seem out of the ordinary then but looking back things somewhat fall into place — apart from the five regional heads all other staff were put on to some other rolls. As a result, on paper Home Trade was a small lean outfit, operating more like a DSA (direct selling agent) than a full-fledged company,” says the former employee.

And all that shrewdness paid off — at least for a while. When the net closed in on Agarwal, preliminary investigations revealed that the company had siphoned off close to Rs 300 crore from around ten cooperative banks in Gujarat and Maharashtra, simply by not delivering the securities they were paid to buy on their behalf. An associate firm Giltedge Management robbed provident funds. Home Trade and Giltedge worked in tandem.

One Indraneel De represented both the companies in Calcutta. After Home Trade went bust, De ran away from the city along with his family, closing the office on Pretoria Street from which he operated.

Being no Indraneel De, Agarwal surrendered to the police earlier this week. And, displaying the old flamboyance, he accompanied his surrender with a statement that said his “company will continue its business despite the setback due to media reports and investigations...”

As they say, it pays to have a tough hide.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Pressing for favourable views

Sir — It was disgusting to read that the Narendra Modi government has asked the news agencies to publish positive stories about the various development projects of the government, to whitewash its tainted image (“Modi tries to set a bad press right”, May 16). Rather than apologizing and trying to improve conditions in the state, Modi is trying to garner the support of the media through unscrupulous means. The only way to deal with this shameless manipulation of the media is a collective refusal of all newspapers to carry any such reports. Else, Modi will manage to get away yet again with playing foul.

Yours faithfully,
Aparajita Dasgupta, Calcutta

All gassed up

Sir — The recent Supreme Court directive to the Centre that the use of compressed natural gas must be made mandatory in metropolitan cities other than New Delhi is laudable. So is the court’s declaration that the recent hike in CNG prices is unwarranted (“CNG reach to widen”, May 10). Owing to the lack of automobile pollution control centres in the major cities, millions of people are at risk from outdoor pollution. These cities also happen to be densely populated. The main contributors to this pollution are trucks, buses, cars and uncontrolled industrial emissions. In the face of these problems such a directive was long overdue for the improvement of living conditions in India. But given the West Bengal government’s lackadaisical attitude, the introduction of CNG in Calcutta seems a distant prospect.

Yours faithfully,
Mohanlal Sarkar, Budge Budge

Sir — The latest Supreme Court directive has made certain that CNG becomes part of urban Indian life. One wonders whom the government is trying to please by adding 200 CNG buses to the New Delhi roads while stopping the movement of 800 diesel-run carriers. The court did not consider that the lack of 600 buses is going to cause over-crowding in those on the road and great inconvenience to regular commuters. Why are only 200 CNG buses being introduced when manufacturers of CNG buses like Ashok Leyland and Telco claim to have nearly 1,000 buses ready for delivery? Why do they still have to wait for orders to be placed?

Yours faithfully,
Risha Bhargava, New Delhi

No horsing around

n Sir — The decision to introduce non-shock-absorbing whips for jockeys will go a long way towards the protection of racehorses (“Whip for jockeys, not for horse”, May 16). Maneka Gandhi, by crusading to bring the order into effect, has done a great service to the creatures, who are subjected to routine whipping. But why are the Indian jockeys refusing to use these whips which are being successfully used by their counterparts in England for several years now? Such directives are particularly needed at a time when celebrities get away with murdering endangered animals.

Yours faithfully,
Nandini Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — For a change, Maneka Gandhi has decided to fight for a worthwhile cause by introducing non-shock-absorbing whips in the racing circuit. Her previous “causes” included the closure of McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets and the confiscation of Kapil Dev’s daughter’s pet turtle, which she claimed was an endangered animal. Maybe she is trying to put her influence to good use now.

Yours faithfully,
Trina Halder, Khapoli

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