Editorial 1 / Out of control
Editorial 2 / Not in tandem
The best for the masses
Fifth Column / Land of darkness and misery
Mani Talk / Futile gestures
Document / Upholding children’s basic rights
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / OUT OF CONTROL 
 
 
 
 
India’s relations with Pakistan have reached a nadir after the recent terrorist attack on an army camp near Jammu. India has asked Islamabad to recall its high commissioner in New Delhi, Mr Ashraf Jehangir Qazi. In addition, the government has decided to place all the paramilitary forces deployed along the border under the command of the army. Similarly, the coast guard will now be under the direct control of the navy. The government has also begun consultations with the opposition leaders in order to build a national consensus, and to ensure that there is unity of purpose and resolve as India faces up to one of the most serious security challenges in recent years. Meanwhile, there has been a rapid escalation in firing across the line of control and a rise of terrorist-inspired violence in Jammu and Kashmir. It is vital, however, that any decision, especially if it includes the use of military force, must be carefully evaluated. The chances that even a limited strike against terrorist camps in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir could escalate into full-blown war are not negligible.

India must also consider the possible adverse impact that overt military action could have on international public opinion. Diplomatic measures that are being considered by New Delhi include the possibility of withdrawing the most favoured nation treatment that New Delhi has unilaterally extended to Pakistan. India may also consider abrogating the Indus water treaty and further downgrade diplomatic relations. A systematic cost-benefit analysis must be carried out before any of these measures is announced. Short-term considerations must not put at risk the possibility of building cooperation and trust in the long term.

There is no doubt, however, that Pakistan’s continued sponsorship of terrorism demands a pro-active response from India. New Delhi had withdrawn its high commissioner from Islamabad and decided to terminate the Amritsar-Lahore Samjhauta Express as well as the Delhi-Lahore bus service after the terrorist attack on Parliament. The Indian armed forces on the border were put on full alert and continue to be mobilized. It is vital now that New Delhi’s policies be carefully calibrated, and reflect the considered response of a responsible country. India must immediately launch a diplomatic offensive and signal to the international community that its patience is exhausted, and that it is being forced to act more decisively and to abandon its policy of restraint because Pakistan has failed to demonstrate that it is taking concrete steps against terrorism. New Delhi must also systematically share evidence of Pakistan’s complicity in acts of terrorism, including the attack near Jammu, with all friendly countries, and persuade them to put pressure on Pakistan. The United States of America must be made to realize that while Pakistan may be an important tactical ally in the fight against terrorism, its long term strategic relationship with India could be undermined if New Delhi perceives a tilt towards Islamabad. Washington must demonstrate to New Delhi that the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies goes beyond the politics of expediency. Military action, if it needs to be taken, must follow a systematic campaign to sensitize the world to India’s concerns and compulsions.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / NOT IN TANDEM 
 
 
 
 
One of the most painful aspects of the Gujarat tragedy was the collapse of the rule of law. New Delhi’s decision to appoint the former director-general of Punjab police, Mr K.P.S. Gill, as “security advisor” to the chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi, was a clear admission of the state government’s failure on this score. Whether Mr Gill actually influenced the process or not, the recent reshuffle of senior police officers in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in the state seems to have been a long awaited move to try and restore public confidence in the law enforcing agencies. Violence has abated, partly owing to belated police initiatives to bring the culprits to book and partly to what has come to be known as “riot fatigue”. But much more needs to be done to make thousands of victims of the two-month-long violence, still sheltered in relief camps, feel secure enough to return to their homes and to normal life. Given the abysmal failure of the police to protect lives and property, Mr Gill has a Herculean job of restoring the sense of law to erring policemen and officers. This is the first, and the most important, step in repairing the damage that the communal carnage wrecked on Gujarat.

But Mr Gill’s attempts can succeed only if he and Mr Modi’s government work in tandem. There are disturbing indications that Mr Modi, who did not take too kindly to Mr Gill’s appointment, was putting roadblocks on the latter’s path. There is enough reason to suspect that the three ministers whom Mr Gill invited to a discussion on law and order last week stayed away at the insistence of the chief minister. With Gujarat’s wounds still unhealed, this is certainly no time to split hair on protocol niceties or to engage in games of oneupmanship. Mr Gill’s success in tackling the secessionist menace in Punjab in the Eighties was largely owing to his inspiring leadership that galvanized the entire police force into dedicated and determined action. If restoration of peace and normalcy is Mr Modi’s first priority, he can ill afford to sidestep Mr Gill. On its part, New Delhi too must ensure that Mr Modi does not mess it up again in Gujarat.

   

 
 
THE BEST FOR THE MASSES 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
“Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,/ But he’ll remember with advantages/ What feats he did that day.” Some of the long- retired executives of All India Radio may well be recalling these words, perhaps a little wistfully, as they look back on the years spent by them in calling on the fine musicians of the day, and persuading them to sing or play for AIR. Not just once or twice, but year after year after year, newer artistes were being added continuously to the list of those already performing on radio. Those were the days when grading artistes began — grades like B High, A, and Top — and the classical music coming from AIR through millions of sets was a judicious mix of them all. This is what gradually made classical music so widely loved; this is the reason why vocal and instrumental artistes perform to packed halls of aficionados; this is why the fascinating and complex traditions of classical music have become so firmly fixed in the social landscape of the country.

Perhaps this is too much of a simplification of the process, and perhaps AIR is being given more credit than is its due; but that AIR played a seminal role in the dissemination of classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic, is something few will disagree with. Just by making it accessible; you did not have to go to baithaks, or to some rich patron’s soiree to listen to fine music — you sat back in your own home and listened to it. You bought no tickets, and did not have to find transport back afterwards. It was free, and it was right there.

Even today, classical music recitals on AIR — especially events like their National Programme of Music, or live broadcasts on particular occasions —are listened to by millions. And these, having had their sensibilities sharpened by listening to fine artistes, flock to the concerts held today, eager for more. No radio network — or, for that matter, any electronic medium — can ask for a better testimonial.

And what of television? With the advent of colour, one could surely have expected that Doordarshan, for many years the only TV network, and even now the largest by far, would have done for dance, painting and theatre just such a service. The tragedy is that it has not. The National Programme of Dance is, with very few exceptions, a parade of performers ranging from the patently ludicrous to the excruciatingly dull. By and large, the productions of these programmes are mediocre, with gaudy, often revoltingly loud sets, poor camera-work, and indifferent lighting. There are virtually no programmes on the visual arts, and yet there could have been, done with some discrimination, in a manner that stimulated viewers’ interests.

As for theatre, the less said the better. One remembers just one glorious presentation: Vijaya Mehta’s production of Shakuntala, which she directed for the stage and then put the stage-play on TV. In the process, she retained the continuities of space and time that all plays have, and imbued them with a continuous fascination, in a manner which kept the audience rivetted to their TV sets. She did this using a device which, on the surface, appears disarmingly simple, but must have been terribly difficult to do. She built the set for the play in the round, as it were, inside the studio, had the drama enacted on the set, and then shot it with cameras from different angles and levels in real time, that is, she “covered” the play, if you like, much in the manner that cameras cover a one-day cricket match.

The result was a truly unique presentation of a play on TV, and it has never been done again. Not even by Vijaya Mehta. She did other plays for TV, but sadly lost track of the vital necessity of keeping the continuity of space and time intact; she had location shots, took the camera off the set into the street, or into a marketplace, and produced what the celebrated Czech film maker, Jiri Menzel, once described as the poor man’s film.

I am mentioning theatre at such length because TV would logically be the medium to take it to the masses in a way that would otherwise mean thousands of performances all over the country. And theatre remains a very vital art form, one of the most direct and intense ways of communicating the playwright’s perception and awareness to an audience. But TV has done nothing, apart from the Vijaya Mehta production. There was, some decades ago, a plan worked out to pay theatre groups — who never get enough from staged performances to keep body and soul together. But that is another story altogether — to stage a play, that is, cover the cost of sets, costumes, lighting, rehearsal charges, sound, and the cost of two regular performances. In return, the group would let Doordarshan shoot the play for telecast.

This had two great benefits: theatre groups got to stage plays without having to cut corners in order to save money: they could pay actors reasonably, build sets that were artistically what the designer and director wanted, get the sort of music and costumes they wanted, and hire all the help needed for backstage and front-of-house work. Second, Doordarshan, in return for paying for all this got a good play to present, at a very reasonable price, much less than the price of four half-hour episodes of a commonplace serial. But this plan never got off the ground, thanks to the indifference of some of the executives charged with administering this scheme in Doordarshan. Endless haggling over costs, nit-picking over scripts and a host of other stupid obstacles turned theatre groups away and the scheme — much to the relief of the officials concerned — died.

Add to all this the brazen interference with the selection of dancers for the national programme by virtually every information and broadcasting minister, and sundry senior officials in the ministry and in Doordarshan, and one can see why the dance programmes are, by and large, a mess. And what chance do the visual arts have with so-called TV professionals like the one who once jauntily told the dumbfounded director general of Doordarshan that he knew all about Ser- gei Eisenstein, “the great scientist”?

A valid question might well be asked of your columnist about what he did when he was DG Doordarshan or secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting about all this. The sheepish answer is that he too was one of those who gave up too easily; the theatre project was his, and lasted till he was summarily removed from the post of DG. All he can plead is that he tried. This is no excuse, admittedly; it is not meant to be. It is merely a statement of fact.

Hence these comments are more of an appeal to readers and to the powers that be today to do what lesser people in charge of TV before them could not — wrest TV from the grip of the mediocre and the powerful, and evolve a mechanism to ensure that nothing but the best in the performing arts is presented. Some years of this, and the arts — dance, theatre, the visual arts — will be transformed. As will be the image of public service broadcasting.

The author is former secretary,ministry of information and broadcasting

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / LAND OF DARKNESS AND MISERY 
 
 
BY WALTER FERNANDES
 
 
The proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and the fifth schedule, and the failure of the Central government to finalize a rehabilitation policy have to be viewed in the context of the problems faced by displaced persons and project-affected populations. India does not have a rehabilitation policy or a law for such people. A policy proposed in 1985 was drafted only in 1993 and revised in 1994. These drafts, never made public, took displacement for granted and did not define the circumstances that can lead to it. Under the circumstances, excess land acquisition was inevitable.

Dissatisfied with this document, voluntary organizations and representatives of the displaced people prepared alternatives and presented them to the secretary, ministry of rural development, in October 1995. The new draft of 1998 was an improvement on the previous ones. It recognized that displacement causes “state-induced impoverishment” and that no development project can be justified if a section of society becomes poorer because of it. While asserting that the displaced should be resettled, the draft did not accept that people should not be displaced without their consent.

Nowhere to go

The social activists and the displaced were ready to engage in a dialogue with the ministry, which also drafted amendments to the act. The amendments were contrary to most of the clauses of the 1994 draft, which stated that more land has to be acquired in order to encourage private investment. Social activists protested vehemently when news leaked out in October 1998 that the Union cabinet had accepted this bill but had rejected the idea of a rehabilitation policy because the private sector was unwilling to invest on rehabilitation.

Three years later, the Union government is still non-committal on rehabilitation but seems determined to amend the LAQ without divulging the contents of the proposed amendment to those who would be affected by it. The ministry of mines has suggested that the fifth schedule, which bans the alienation of tribal land, be reformed to facilitate acquisition by the private sector. This is meant to undo a 1997 Supreme Court judgment, which said that only a state undertaking or a tribal cooperative may carry out mining on tribal land, but 20 per cent of the profit should go to the displaced community.

But most Indian states, including those in the Northeast, want to prioritize land acquisition for the private sector in spite of displacement. For example, Orissa has acquired 40, 000 hectares of land for industries between 1951-1995 and plans to acquire more in the next decade.

Private worries

Further, the private sector is attracted to areas with adequate infrastructure. In West Bengal, 200 acres of land close to Kharagpur was acquired because of its proximity to the highway for Tata Metalliks in 1992 and another 96 acres for a proposed Birla firm. As a result, 300 Lodha tribal families were displaced.

Studies have revealed that in most states, an average of six per cent of the land has been acquired between 1951-1995. A quarter of it were forests, whose inhabitants were not paid any compensation.

The proposed amendments to the LAQ will legalize such plunder. This despite the fact that Article 19.1e of the Constitution recognizes every citizen’s right to inhabit any part of the Indian territory, which means that a person cannot be displaced without his consent. But under the LAQ, compensation is meagre even for patta land. It is obvious that constitutional provisions have failed to protect the poor and powerless.

The threat is even greater in the Northeast. It is rich in forests which provide sustenance for its people. The 12 dams that are being planned in this region are mostly in tribal areas that are protected under the sixth schedule of the Constitution. Moreover, the construction of these dams will not generate employment for the people living in these regions but will merely generate electricity that will be sold elsewhere.

Human rights activists have not been campaigning for a law that would protect the victims of development without a reason.

   

 
 
MANI TALK / FUTILE GESTURES 
 
 
BY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
 
 
Pakistan has been asked to withdraw its high commissioner from Delhi. Thus a parity of non-representation has been established with India having earlier withdrawn its high commissioner from Islamabad. The Samjhauta Express between Wagah and Attari on the India-Pakistan border stands cancelled. The bus which Atal Bihari Vajpayee flagged off has been punctured. Pakistan International Airlines is denied overflying rights over India. As Air India is denied overflying rights over Pakistan. Restrictions are placed on Pakistani visitors to India. Indian visitors have long found it more difficult to visit Pakistan.

Pakistan is unfazed. The world is unmoved. At a cost of hundreds of crores a day, our armed forces are mobilized right up to the border. The Pakistanis have matched us. Their finger is on the nuclear hair-trigger. So is ours. It will take approximately five minutes for two million Indians and Pakistanis to perish in a nuclear holocaust on the outbreak of nuclear hostilities. The international community — read the United States of America — is, therefore, urging us to forgo the military option and move to the negotiating table. Pakistan — in a sense — is prepared to do so. We are not. We are instead busy preparing lists of the Most Wanted we want the Pakistanis to return to us. They retaliate by saying they want one Lal Krishna Advani charged with conspiracy to murder Mohammad Ali Jinnah half a century ago. There is no statute of limitations for assassination.

So, who gains? Do futile gestures add up to policy? The US head of the south Asia department who assisted Bill Clinton in his talks with Nawaz Sharif which ended the Kargil incursion tells us that the last straw was Clinton informing the Pak prime minister of what the Pak premier was unaware — that his own army was fitting nuclear warheads on to missiles to make up for its setbacks at Kargil. That is what finally persuaded Nawaz Sharif to call off Kargil — although he seems to have realized in Blair House itself that the last casualty of the Kargil war would be himself.

As Indian terrorists move in to take out Pakistani terrorists (as per Arun Shourie’s advice on television) or shock troops take out a couple of terrorist camps across the border in hot pursuit (a la L.K. Advani) or a counter-Kargil is launched across the line of control (as some armchair strategists have suggested), or a “limited” war (limited by whom? Us? Them? By mutual agreement?) is sparked, or someone (a la Lal Bahadur Shastri) decides that this time we will not only cross the international border and ford the Ichchogil Canal but actually take Lahore as well, how long will it be before a battlefield Pakistani colonel or a mad general at Pak general headquarters decides enough is enough and orders a nuclear missile attack? Or vice versa?

If the purpose is to show the world that India is no Shorab but a Rustom, fine. But if at the end, India is revealed as no Shorab but a Tees Maar Khan, then what? Is it to mask Gujarat that war with Pakistan is being stoked? Or does South Block genuinely believe that rump Pakistan can be taken out as easily as Indira Gandhi wound up East Pakistan? If so, have the master strategists of the war room forgotten that Soviet Union no longer exists and the treaty which bound Moscow to Delhi before General Arora and Brigadier Jacob marched on Dacca (as it was then spelt) is now a dead letter? And how long will it take the Americans to intervene? The US armed forces are not only in Multan and Jacobabad, they are also in Agra. When the Nawab of the Carnatic invited Robert Clive to raise the siege of Arcot, he could not have known that he was opening the road to Plassey. Two hundred and fifty years after Plassey, we can no longer trot out that excuse. Yes, we can launch a war. No, we cannot fight it to the finish. For the Marines are not coming; they are already here.

No politician or political party likes to be left behind when the Gadarene rush to war begins. That is the task of minority opinion in civil society. When Bertrand Russell protested World War I, he was imprisoned. I do not know whether our democratic institutions are strong enough to keep it as gentle as that for Gandhians like myself.

The Central budget for the armed forces this year is in excess of Rs 70,000 crore. The Central budget for agriculture this year is Rs 7,000 crore. Is this the way to defend the country?

Are tanks and MIGs the right substitute for tongues and brains and hearts — and, yes, souls? The choice before us is NOT between destroying Pakistan and preserving ourselves from cross-border terrorism. Short of mutual annihilation, the only choice before us is to talk to Pakistan of our own volition — or talk to them on American insistence. An independent country, an intelligent country, a self-confident country, a non-violent country, a country which believes in satyameva jayate, a Gandhian country, will know instinctively the right answer to our stark options: talk. Engagement with Pakistan is the only viable option. War is a non-option or an option which will not let the country live. With talk as the only viable option, the sub-option is to choose whether we do it on our own or at someone else’s behest.

The chances of the talks leading anywhere are slim. But the chances of their leading to a durable solution when held at outside insistence are nil. Duress will be noted and whoever moves towards understanding and compromise will be held a traitor, as Nawaz Sharif was after Kargil, as Bhutto held Ayub Khan a traitor after Tashkent, as Corporal Hitler held all German generals responsible after Versailles. No Indian or Pakistani government can survive a successful dialogue held under the aegis of a foreign power. Therefore, the sensible thing to do is engagement of our own volition and on terms determined by us of our own will. Then too the dialogue may not succeed. But if it did, peace would then endure. Our negotiators would be heroes, not quislings.

The sanctions we have imposed on Pakistan have hurt us more than they have them. The hurt is bearable. What is less bearable is that the sanctions have violated the fundamental principles we have laid down for half a century in our dealings with Pakistan: that we have no quarrel with the people of Pakistan, it is the government with whom our quarrels are based; that we accept the three-state reality (Pakistan, India, Bangla- desh) even if we do not accept the two-nation theory; that we believe in the Shimla process which eschews war and lays the ground for bilateral dialogue to solve all outstanding disputes, including a “final settlement” of issues related to Jammu and Kashmir.

To go to war would be an act of instant self-gratification. It would not be statesmanship. And it is statesmanship that is the need of the hour. We need to invoke Gandhi and Nehru, not Hedgewar and Savarkar.

The mood in India and Pakistan this mid-summer madness frighteningly resembles that in Europe in August 1914: the self-righteousness; the trust in the barrel of the gun; the belief that a quick military solution is possible; the belief that our aircraft (then as new as the Bomb is for our subcontinent) are better than their aircraft and so we can get through the air (read that we can get from the Big Bang) what we failed to secure on the ground. The Battle of Waterloo lasted from breakfast till tea-time. The next great European war lasted four long years, 1914-18, was renewed in 1939, lasted a further six years, and left 50 million dead altogether. The last India-Pakistan war lasted a fortnight. The next one will leave 50 million dead in 25 nuclear exchanges. I do not know whether 25 nuclear exchanges will take a day or a fortnight.

Far, far better than that disaster would be to talk. If we believe in our cause, we should be able to talk. It is only if we do not trust our own argument, or prefer, like the school bully, to end the argument by fisticuffs that we can march as cheerfully as we are now doing to the drum-beat of the gods of destruction.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / UPHOLDING CHILDREN’S BASIC RIGHTS 
 
 
 
 
Part II — Regional priorities and arrangements: Article IV. Regional priorities: 1. Without prejudice to the indivisibility of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international and national instruments and law, states parties shall place special emphasis on the important areas for child development and well being as regional priorities that can benefit immensely from bilateral and regional cooperation.

2. Recognizing basic services such as education, healthcare, with special attention to the prevention of diseases and malnutrition, as the cornerstone of child survival and development, states parties shall pursue a policy of development and a national programme of action that facilitate the development of the child. The policy shall focus on accelerating the progressive universalization of the child’s access to basic services and conditions.

3. States parties shall ensure that appropriate legal and administrative mechanisms and social safety nets and defences are always in place to: a) Ensure that their national laws protect the child from any form of discrimination, abuse, neglect, exploitation, torture or degrading treatment, trafficking and violence.

b) Discourage entry of children into hazardous and harmful labour and ensure implementation of the ninth SAARC summit decision to eliminate the evil of child labour from the SAARC region. In doing so, states parties shall adopt a multi-pronged strategy including the provision of opportunities at the primary level and supportive social safety nets for families that tend to provide child labourers.

c) Administer juvenile justice in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, and with the primary objective of promoting the child’s reintegration in the family and society. In doing so, states parties shall provide special care and treatment to children in a country other than the country of domicile and expectant women and mothers who are detained along with infants or very young children, and shall promote, to the best possible extent,alternative measures to institutional correction, keeping in mind the best interest of the child. d) States parties shall make civil registration of births, marriages and deaths, in an official registry, compulsory in order to facilitate the effective enforcement of national laws, including the minimum age for employment and marriage.

4. Recognizing the evolving capacities of the child, states parties shall encourage and support administrative and judicial institutions to arrange for suitable mechanisms at appropriate levels and in accordance with local customs and traditions, to provide opportunities and access for the child to: a) Seek and receive information. b) Express views, directly or through a representative, and receive due weight and consideration for them, in accordance with age and maturity, in all matters affecting them. c) Participate fully and without hindrance or discrimination in school, family and community life.

5. States parties shall encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child. They shall also endeavour to give wide publicity to the convention as well as other regional and international instruments having a bearing on the child.

Article V. Regional arrangements: to ensure consistent focus on and pursuance of the regional priorities delineated above, states parties shall promote solidarity, cooperation and collective action between and among SAARC member states in the arena of child rights and development... In pursuance hereof, states parties shall: a) provide opportunities for appropriate bilateral and multilateral sharing of information, experience and expertise. b) facilitate human resource development through planned annual schedule of SAARC advanced training programmes on child rights and development. c) make special arrangements for speedy completion and disposal, on priority basis, of any judicial or administrative inquiry or proceeding involving a child who is a national of another SAARC member state, and for the transfer of children who are nationals of SAARC countries, accused of infringing the penal code, back to their country of legal residence for trial and treatment, provided that the alleged offence has not imperiled the national security of the country where it has been allegedly committed. d) strengthen the relevant SAARC bodies dealing with issues of child welfare to formulate and implement regional strategies and measures for prevention of inter-country abuse and exploitation of the child, including the trafficking of children for sexual, economic and other purposes. e) set up a south Asian nutrition initiative aimed at enhancing knowledge and promoting greater awareness, practice and attainment of higher levels of nutrition, particularly for children and women, through mass education, adequate training and ensuring food security and equitable distribution of food at the family level.

TO BE CONCLUDED

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Mistress Doublespeak

Sales speak Sir — The decision to screen Devdas at Cannes signals not so much the acceptance of Bollywood films abroad as it does the volte-face of the information and broadcasting minister, Sushma Swaraj (“Cannes waits for the queen”, May 19). For someone whose morals are offended by every extra inch of flesh on television, Swaraj seems to be quite comfortable trying to sell and market India as a much sought-after location and that too for the very same foreign films and soap operas she asks to be banned or censored in India. Not only that, she is also offering foreign producers the services of Indian technicians and production teams. Maybe Swaraj is following in the footsteps of Mother Teresa. The diminutive saint of Calcutta, while she did not condone the acts of druglords and criminals, allegedly accepted donations from them. Similarly, Swaraj, while not condoning the “explicit” films from the West seems open to bleeding their makers for all they are worth by asking them to make films and serials in India.

Yours faithfully,
Arjun Mukherjee, Mumbai

First strike

Sir — It is good that Parliament has finally decided to take appropriate action against Pakistan for the inhuman attack on an army camp housing the families of Indian soldiers in Kaluchak (“Parliament authorises action”, May 17). The attack resulted in the death of 33 people, including three members of the suicide squad. One hopes that the government will not stick to its former plan of striking only at the terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and then withdrawing. If this is done, the problem of terrorist attacks will not be solved, since after some time, the camps where these desperados are trained will crop up again. The strategy of destroying the various routes of ingress from PoK to Jammu and Kashmir, while also striking at the terrorist camps, is much better (“Twin objectives in military sight”, May 17).

The Indian government should keep in mind that once it resorts to military action, it must try to resolve the problem of cross-border infiltration and attacks permanently. And perhaps the only way to do so is to re-occupy PoK. This area is included in our map. Many seats in the Kashmir state legislative assembly go vacant as they are meant for representatives from PoK. India has won three wars against Pakistan. Despite all these, it is a pity that the government has let the Kashmir issue, especially the insurgency problem, remain unsolved.

Yours faithfully,
Keshav Garg, Ranchi

Sir — Why does the National Democratic Alliance-led Indian government keep hankering after the United States of America to endorse its decision to take military action against Pakistan? The US has made it blatantly obvious, especially after Christina Rocca’s visit, that Pervez Musharraf is still its blue-eyed boy. To expect support from a country which is so hypocritical as to fight terrorism in one country while backing another which supports terrorism is simply a waste of time and a sign of India’s misguided foreign policy. India needs to take matters into its own hands and be ready to face the brunt of international opinion — after the deed is done.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Sir — After the attack on Kaluchak, India needs to teach Pakistan a lesson (“Militants take death into army homes”, May 15). Pakistan has for long taken advantage of India’s patience in the face of provocation. To shake Pakistan out of this complacence, India might have to take military action against it. Although the US president, George W. Bush, has condemned the attack and described it as “terrible and outrageous”, he needs to take action against Pakistan, instead of claiming it as a partner in the global coalition against terrorism. Merely issuing placatory statements about “understanding India’s concerns” will not do.

By patting Pakistan on the back and giving economic aid to it, the US is only sanctioning its arrogant stance vis a vis India. This is the reason why India must act on its own. With the opposition backing Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the issue of militancy, it remains to be seen whether Vajpayee will adopt the policy of pratiksha (patience) or that of pratikar (reaction).

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — It has not been reported what the Indian government will do or has done with the bodies of the militants who died in the Kaluchak attack. But the best course of action will be to return the bodies to Pakistan. Militants have for long been attacking innocent people, including women and children, in the name of jihad. This is done in the belief that those who die in the process are “martyrs” who go directly to heaven. Such barbarians should not be provided the honour of a burial by the Indian government.

Yours faithfully,
Manish Garg, Noida

Sir — It cannot be denied that the suicide attack by terrorists on the army camp in Jammu would never have succeeded had there not been an information leak about when the camp was least guarded and most full of people. That the attack took place in the morning, when the gates were left open for the children of the camp to go to school, could not have been a coincidence. Of course, the lack of guards at the camp is shocking, since the presence of troops on the border has not led to any let-up in cross-border infiltration or terrorism. The defence establishment cannot afford such slip-ups.

The politicians at the Centre also need to pull up their socks. The contra- ry messages coming out of New Delhi are not helping improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. George Fernandes’s statement that Delhi would not go to war with Islamabad whatever the provocation, until elections in the state were over, has added to this confusion (“George bungles, this time on Pak”, May 16). This statement is in direct contrast to the tough message India is trying to sending out to the world and to Pakistan in particular.

It is sad that while politicians like Fernandes bungle up on foreign policy in an attempt to protect their vote-banks, it is the soldiers and their families who continue to pay the price.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

Sir — I was shocked to notice the use of the words “growl” and “bark” in the headline, “Vajpayee growls but does not bark” (May 16). Growling and barking are sounds made by a dog. Such words should not have been used in a report on an important statement concerning the recent terrorist strike in Jammu, and especially not in connection with the prime minister. To criticize politicians when they are in the wrong is one thing. But to denigrate and mock them when they are actually taking correct decisions, which will help benefit the country, is totally uncalled for.

Yours faithfully,
Pabitra Kumar Das, Calcutta

A correction

Sir — An error has crept into my article, “Tagore liberated” (May 19). The name of the singer, Alpana Bandopadhaya, has been mistakenly given as “Anjali Bandopadhyaya”. I very much regret this, especially as I am a great admirer of the artiste in question.

Yours faithfully,
Amit Chaudhuri, Calcutta

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