Editorial 1 / Race of the elect
Editorial 2 / Panic attack
Pressures and promises
Force behind the unholy nexus
Document / The fair sex is fair game
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / RACE OF THE ELECT 
 
 
 
 
It is not like Indian politicians to fight shy of elections. Yet that is exactly what they seem to be doing: they are struggling for a “consensus” for the presidential candidate. It is true that the president of India remains above politics. But the system of his election through an electoral college ensures that the best person is selected for this position through a political process. It may look nice not to have contenders for so exalted and dignified a post, but fairness in politics is not about being nice. The goal of political parties, in all good faith, would be to have the best possible president for the country, and if there is disagreement about candidates the issue should be resolved by vote. Traditionally, the presidential election has been more or less a decorative exercise. This time there is a cha-nce that things might change, that is, if the Bharatiya Janata Party cannot evolve a “consensus” candidate.

The word “consensus” too has come to acquire curious overtones. The BJP’s recent actions and statements regarding the question of a presidential candidate suggest that it is more interested in assuring itself of majority support for its chosen candidate rather than evolving a genuine cross-party agreement. Certain of the Congress and the opposition’s disapproval of its first chosen man, the present Maharashtra governor, Mr P.C. Alexander, the BJP had been feeling quite frankly secure at the thought of the support from the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu. Mr Naidu’s sudden reticence on the issue has thrown the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance off-track, because the NDA has a very thin majority in the electoral college. There are suddenly too many names afloat, the vice-president, Mr Krishan Kant, and Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam being two of them. Most important, the Congress and most of the opposition seems willing to back the president, Mr K.R. Narayanan, should he be willing to consider a second term. Of the many reasons that the Congress has given for its refusal to consent to Mr Alexander’s candidature, one is pragmatic enough. It may be that Mr Alexander’s presidentship could put at risk the chances of Ms Sonia Gandhi becoming prime minister, since a campaign against having two top posts of the country going to the same minority community would be easy to conduct. It would seem that good faith is rather rare at the moment. In this situation, it is healthier to have contenders for the post and thus give the process of selection its due importance. Such is the political climate now that “consensus” can at best be a shoddy cover for majority support. The opposition will have achieved something positive if it manages to demolish this hypocrisy by insisting on its own chosen candidates.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / PANIC ATTACK 
 
 
 
 
Terrorists thrive as much by striking at their targets as by spreading fear and insecurity all around. If the terrorist attack on the United States of America last September showed that no place was absolutely safe from these depredations, the one on policemen outside the American Center in Calcutta last January was proof that the danger could lurk closer than usually assumed. There is enough cause for concern, therefore, in the reported terrorist threat to strike at Writers’ Buildings, the seat of the West Bengal government, in the central business district of the city. The state government took the unprecedented step of warning the people through the news media about the threat after it received an alert from the Central intelligence agencies. It has done well to assure the people at the same time that necessary steps are being taken to foil the plot. The terrorist plan would partly succeed if panic spreads and affects normal life and work, not just at the state secretariat but elsewhere in the city too. The idea should be to alert, but not alarm, the people. It is the primary job of a responsible government to create a sense of security and the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, must not leave anything to chance to ensure this.

The government must use the threat to review its resources to deal with such situations. The terrorist attack outside the American Center had shown that the efficiency of the city police left much to be desired. Security loopholes at Writers’ Buildings allowed agitators in the recent past to storm into corridors along the ministers’ offices. There is a general air of sloppiness about security, be it at Writers’, the police headquarters at Lalbazar, the Assembly House or at the Raj Bhavan, not to speak of less important government buildings. The police and the administration cannot afford to make mistakes or allow security lapses in dealing with terrorist threats which are a different matter altogether from political agitations or mob violence. No time is to be lost in equipping policemen with better weapons and retraining them in their use. There is also a strong case for overhauling the intelligence agencies. The American Center incident underscored the importance of close coordination between Central and state intelligence outfits. Today’s terrorists are networked across countries and the machinery to tackle them must be adequately equipped. That the terrorist plot was unearthed after the arrest of three Pakistanis is ample proof that subversive elements still find it easy to infiltrate into the city and other parts of West Bengal. Mr Bhattacharjee has repeatedly warned against attempts by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to push terrorists into West Bengal across the international borders. But he must seriously look into the lacunae in the intelligence and policing systems.

   

 
 
PRESSURES AND PROMISES 
 
 
BY J.N. DIXIT
 
 
The conference on international cooperation and confidence-building measures in Asia convened by Nursultan Nazarbaev, the president of Kazakhstan, concluded on June 4. What was supposed to be a summit meeting of the major Asian powers focussing on macro-level security issues was overshadowed to some extent by the tensions generated by the current India-Pakistan confrontation and the resulting stand-off.

Nazarbaev’s initiative was primarily to deal with developments related to Asia’s security after the ouster of the taliban from Afghanistan and to chart out a role for Asian countries to deal with problems arising out of international terrorism and the relative political uncertainties affecting most Asian countries. The impact of deliberations at the conference has to be assessed in two dimensions. First, the decisions taken regarding multi-lateral inter-state cooperation in the region in the spheres of security, political interaction and economic efforts. The second dimension is that of examining the manner in which these deliberations and the high-level discussions were held between heads of government on the tense situation in the south Asian subcontinent.

There are reasons for India to be satisfied about the collective decisions taken at the Almaty conference as reflected in the Almaty declaration and agreement. The final documents of the conference clearly acknowledge the threat posed to international security by extremism and terrorist violence. There is also the collective decision to take individual as well as collective initiatives to counter the phenomenon of international terrorism. The Almaty documents stressed the importance of preventing the disintegration of pluralistic societies and the states, of the need to collectively ensure the stability of states in the region, of the relevance of increasing mutual economic and developmental cooperation, and of the need to work together against externally-sponsored subversion. These are points responsive to India’s concerns and interests and are equally supportive of Indian policies on these issues.

It was equally significant that barring the protagonists in the sub-continental crisis, India and Pakistan, none of the other world leaders expressed value judgments on the India-Pakistan stand-off. It was, however, gratifying for India that in the major policy statements, clear opposition was expressed towards cross-border terrorism and subversion of state structures, particularly democratic state structures. It must be mentioned in parenthesis that the outcome of the conference on Asian security organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London and that of the Almaty conference, both reflected an understanding of Indian concerns, and by implication, India’s security predicaments.

It is the second dimension of the Almaty conference mentioned earlier which is of more direct interest to India. Pervez Musharraf, contravening the normal conventions at multi-lateral conferences of not raising specific bilateral issues, raised the issue of Kashmir. His policy stance at the conference was inevitable and unavoidable from his point of view. He had to prove to his domestic constituency that he has not and he will not succumb to the incremental international pressure generated on him to stop being supportive of the phenomenon of terrorism.

Even though the other leaders did not openly state the ground reality that Pakistan remains the refuge for al Qaida and other extremist religious terrorist cadres and organizations, all the other leaders were aware of this fact and in discussions on the margins of the conference, must have urged Musharraf to fall in line with the general orientations of the international community to take decisive steps against terrorism within the framework of assurance which he has given in his public pronouncements on January 12 and May 27 this year. He also had to project Pakistan’s image of being part of the mainstream of international attitudes on this issue.

At the same time, he had to project himself as a reasonable leader willing to negotiate with India without eroding his image as a tough head of government capable of coping with any challenges that he may face from India or due to international pressure. His remarks about a strong and determined reaction if any war is imposed on Pakistan reflected this latter point.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s response was equally firm, clear and categorical. The two main points made by Vajpayee were that India would resume a dialogue with Pakistan only after there is clear and verifiable evidence that Pakistan has stopped supporting cross-border terrorism, and that once this happens India would be willing to have negotiations with Pakistan including on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Vajpayee also implied that if cross-border terrorism did not stop, India retained all relevant options to counter this pernicious phenomenon.

The expectation that the general objective of this high-level summit of encouraging cooperation and forging meaningful confidence-building measures would generate political pressures on both the leaders, leading to a thaw in the subcontinental situation, was not fulfilled, proving that speculative media anticipations and interpretations were just wishful thinking. Both Vajpayee and Musharraf met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, separately. There were anticipatory assessments that these meetings, particularly the meeting between Putin and the subcontinental leaders, might result in some kind of a break- through. There were reports about Putin extending an invitation to both Musharraf and Vajpayee to come for talks under Russian auspices (like the Tashkent meeting of 37 years ago in 1966) in Moscow. In actual fact, no such formal proposal was made. Putin only offered to help in the matter if both the leaders were agreeable.

Both Putin and Jiang Zemin advised India and Pakistan to act with restraint and de-escalate the situation. Putin, of course, was more direct in underlining to Musharraf that an India-Pakistan dialogue could be resumed meaningfully only if Pakistan stopped supporting cross-border terrorist subversion against India. Jiang Zemin articulated the traditional Chinese stance about the need for India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue, which is an inheritance from the colonial past. But interestingly, he emphasized that terrorist violence is not the means to solve this problem.

There was a suggestion from Musharraf to Putin that an India-Pakistan dialogue may be organized in Moscow with Russia as the go-between, and that he would be willing to come to Moscow. The Indian response to this suggestion was that while India welcomed Russian concerns in resolving the issue, India did not need to go to Moscow for such a meeting. The meeting could be held either in Pakistan or in India. Putin was practical and realistic. While he has agreed to receive Musharraf in Moscow, he was not inclined to pressurize Vajpayee to come to Moscow. In the event, the result was that Musharraf would have discussions in Moscow and Putin could continue the process during his official visit to India later this year.

Given this context, the Almaty conference made only a marginal impact on the current state of India-Pakistan relations. Both Musharraf and Vajpayee acknowledged on their return to Islamabad and New Delhi that the deliberations in and outside the conference in Almaty did not change the India-Pakistan stand-off materially. The results of the Almaty conference from India’s point of view would be summed up as follows:

The decisions of the conference as embodied in its final documents shared India’s concerns and India’s stand on cross-border and external subversion. None of the participants, heads of state or government showed any inclination to mediate between India and Pakistan. They emphasized the importance of India and Pakistan resuming a direct dialogue as early as feasible. There was an agreement among them that such a dialogue could be resumed only if there was tangible proof of Pakistan’s pulling back from its support to cross-border terrorism.

Both in the conference and in bilateral meetings, the advice to India and Pakistan was to rapidly de-escalate the military confrontation because of the danger of such confrontation leading to a military conflict which could escalate into the use of nuclear weapons. The important powers did not take sides on the substantive issue of Kashmir. Even Russia was comparatively impartial, emphasizing that the problem should be resolved by the initiation of and continuation of a political dialogue.

In bilateral discussions Musharraf was given clear enough messages that he had to do something more to fulfil the general assurances,which he has given to the international community, about countering terrorism based in Pakistan.

India’s participation in the Almaty conference has ensured that India will have an active and substantive role to play in future security and confidence building arrangements in central Asia and south Asia. The conference was also significant in that Vajpayee met the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, for the first time in his capacity as the head of the Indian government.

What India should monitor now is the political and diplomatic moves that Russia, the United States of America and China undertake to follow up on the discussions held between Vajpayee and the leaders of these countries. Hopefully, Musharraf may ultimately respond to the pressure of important powers on him to abandon his adversarial stance, at least in terms of sponsoring terrorism, if not on the Kashmir issue. India should also anticipate incremental pressure to de-escalate the military situation and to resume the dialogue with Pakistan.

The coming six weeks to two months would be characterized by critical developments. India has to cope with the challenge of remaining firm about its security interests and territorial integrity while at the same time preventing a war with Pakistan to the extent feasible. Musharraf has a special responsibility in this regard because if he sponsors or connives at further terrorist incidents, India’s option to remain restrained will be decisively diminished.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

   

 
 
FORCE BEHIND THE UNHOLY NEXUS 
 
 
BY BIDYUT CHAKRABARTY
 
 
The complicity of the police with the administration during the Gujarat carnage clearly indicates the growing politicization of an institution that was created to provide security to the people of the country. A critical look at the behaviour of the police in the state in the last few months demonstrates how the colonial history of the Indian police force continues to influence its nature even after fifty years of independence.

There has been little change in the systemic structure of the Indian police, since the promulgation of the 1861 Police Act with the main objective of ensuring imperial rule. Replacing the old daraga system, which was made redundant by the growth of the British empire in India, a new system was introduced with a view to permanently establishing British rule in India. Since the police were perceived to be hand-in-glove with the British administration, the people had no trust in them. The police force owed allegiance only to the rulers, and its deliberately nurtured image was one of being adversarial to society. Notwithstanding a severe indictment by the police commission in 1902, within four decades of the birth of the force, no reform was initiated by the British government. The police, therefore, emerged as a time-tested instrument which was allowed to function without any restriction.

The British government in India preferred the Irish constabulary model to the metropolitan model as the latter emphasized on community policing which resorted to coercion only under exceptional circumstances. Not only was the Irish constabulary model implemented successfully in Ireland, it also seemed the most effective in firmly establishing British rule there. Primarily a coercive instrument, the police did not interact with the people since it was believed that a well-defined distance between the two was necessary to implement imperial rule.

Although the choice of the Irish constabulary by the British was obvious, the continuation of the same model after independence is surprising. Despite being critical of the British police and their oppressive administration, the nationalist leaders, including Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, re-instated the system because of its efficiency in law enforcement. Even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was in favour of retaining the British system. Those who opposed the continuation of the Irish constabulary changed their opinion after the sudden outbreak of communal violence immediately after the transfer of power to India. What was found acceptable during a law and order crisis became a permanent feature of independent India. The political leadership depended increasingly on a partisan police which allowed the government to use a legitimate coercive force as and when a political goal needed to be fulfilled.

The Gujarat carnage shows how the police went berserk to please the political rulers. It also demonstrates the extent to which the local police often reflect the mood of the majority community. By getting involved in the mayhem, either through action or non-action, the Gujarat police force displayed its complicity with the majority in carrying out a pre-planned attack against the Muslims. Although the Gujarat police’s behaviour is the latest example of the police as an active partner in the Hindutva campaign, the most glaring example of a police force becoming communal at the slightest provocation is the provincial armed constabulary in Uttar Pradesh during the Ayodhya riots in 1992. The PAC was reported to have directly participated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The growing communal feeling in the ranks of the police force provides enough reasons to take a fresh look at the 1981 report of the National Police Commission. Before the NPC, several police commissions were appointed by various states, with Kerala leading the way by instituting a Police Reorganization Commission in 1959. Appointed in the aftermath of the Emergency, 1975-77, the NPC made several recommendations for police reforms in its report submitted in 1981. Those who argued strongly for police reform were the ones who suffered most in the hands of police brutality during the Emergency. But many of them now hold positions of power. And yet, there has been complete silence on the document which was supposed to radically alter the approach towards the police and policing in India.

The NPC touched upon a wide range of issues concerning the police in India. Two areas that appear to have bothered the commission most are the misuse of the force and the question of its accountability. For the commission, the Emergency was a reference point, because the bias of the ruling authority at the time was the biggest determinant of the behaviour of the police. The police was used not merely as an instrument of the state, or the government in power, but also to serve the politicians who had lost the legitimacy to rule. Jayprakash Narayan’s appeal to the police to disobey the illegal order of their bosses in the wake of the Chhatra Sangarsh movement in Bihar was perhaps the first articulated signal of the extent of the devastation caused by the complicity of the police.

According to the NPC, the police at the behest of the politicians abused the powers vested in them during the Emergency. There are innumerable examples to show that suppressing and repressing political dissent became a tacitly accepted objective of the police in most of the states. In order to express their loyalty to the ruling party, the police always dealt with law and order problems with an eye towards the prevailing political opinion. To contain the misuse of the police, two major recommendations were made: first, that there should be a tenured office of the chief of police, selected by a panel drawn by a committee comprising the chairman of the Union public service commission, the Union home secretary, the seniormost among the heads of Central police organizations, the chief secretary of the state concerned and the existing police chief of the state; and second, that there should be a six-member permanent state security commission with a fixed term of three years to annually review the performance of the police.

The other serious recommendation involved measures to ascertain the accountability of police personnel while discharging their duties. There are three types of inter-linked accountability — accountability to the people, to law, and organizational accountability — that the police should seek to ensure. Over the years, it has been observed that the police have become completely alienated from the people. It is not surprising, therefore, that the use of third-degree methods and custodial deaths have been on the rise. The police seem to be the most easily available agents of coercion to the elected representatives, since they come in handy when mass agitations require to be forcibly put down to protect politicians’ interests. The NPC noted that on a number of occasions, the police acted in a mercenary manner ignoring their societal role in defending the people, irrespective of their religion, clan and creed.

There is no doubt that these recommendations, if ever implemented, will radically alter not only the image of the police but also their functioning in a multi-religious society like India’s. But given the reluctance of even those who have been at the receiving end of police atrocities in the past to implement these recommendations once they are in power, hope does not float too readily on this count. The reason behind this reluctance is quite obvious, though. But, with reference to Gujarat, if an anti-Muslim bias was translated into violent action at the slightest provocation, the police must not be the only ones to be blamed.

Although directly linked with the functioning of the police, the NPC recommendations provide a good reference point to deal with those fundamental socio-political issues which contributed to the mass hysteria in Godhra and its immediate aftermath. If these issues are taken up for consideration, prior to a revamp of the police force, a good enough start will have been made.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / THE FAIR SEX IS FAIR GAME 
 
 
 
 
This one false story about the rape and brutalizing of Hindu women has spread like wildfire across Gujarat, almost assuming proportions of folklore. It now rests easily in the annals of undisputed common knowledge and cannot be dislodged. Wherever the fact-finding team went, we heard some version of this story, spreading through word of mouth, through the channels of overworked rumour mills — sometimes it was 10 Hindu women raped, sometimes it was 6 Hindu women, but the essential contours remained the same. In one place we heard details like “The Muslims took the Hindu women to their madrasah and gang-raped them there”. Because the madrasah is the site of learning, raping women there projects the perpetrators as truly bestial men to whom nothing is sacred. In another village, “Hindu women” had been replaced by “adivasi women” and this was given as the justification for adivasi partici- pation in the attacks on Muslims.

When the fact-finding team met Aziz Tankarvi, editor of Gujarat Today, known to represent the Muslim voice, he said clearly, “Murder ho jata hai, chot lagti hai, to aadmi chup sahan kar leta hai, lekin agar maa, behen, beti ke saath ziyadti hoti hai to voh jawaab dega, badla lega” (When someone is murdered or hurt, man can bear it quietly; but it is when mothers and daughters are violated that he will definitely respond, take revenge). The fact that rape is perceived in this manner (as violating the honour of men, and not the integrity of women) is problematic in and of itself. What is particularly heinous is the fact that the Sandesh newspaper should fabricate stories of sexual violence and use images of brutalized women’s bodies as a weapon of war, in terrible ways, deliberately designed to provoke real violence against women from the Muslim community. What provocative lies, a la Sandesh, do is to provide justification for the carnage — both in the minds of the mobs who carry out the violence, and in the minds of the general “Hindu” public which may be far removed from the site of the violence.

Ironically, while false stories about the rape of Hindu women have done the rounds, there has been virtual silence in the media, including in the English language papers, about the real stories of sexual violence against Muslim women. Barring Gujarat Today, none of the Gujarati papers has carried stories about the brutal, bestial ways in which Muslim women were raped and burnt. Even Gujarat Today, despite being sympathetic to the Muslim experience, could only supply us with one clipping where the brutal experience of rape had been written about....

When members of the fact-finding team spoke to senior journalists in Ahmedabad, their explanation was that rape stories are provocative and that in the early days of the violence, they had to play a socially responsible role and not incite more violence. But in the weeks that followed, the press has continued to exercise self-censorship about rape stories.

We find...Muslim women are being victimized twice over. They have suffered the most unimaginable forms of sexual abuse during the Gujarat carnage. And yet, there is no one willing to tell their stories to the world. Women’s bodies have been employed as weapons in this war — either through grotesque image-making or as the site through which to dishonour men, and yet they are being asked to bear all this silently. Women do not want more communal violence. But peace cannot be bought at the expense of the truth, or at the expense of women’s right to tell the world what they have suffered in Gujarat.

Role of the police: This time round in Gujarat, far more than in previous episodes of communal violence, women have been fair game. Forced out of burning homes, running for their lives on the streets, they have been targetted not only by rampaging mobs hell bent on hurting every Muslim woman, man and child in sight, but far worse, also by the police, whose job it was to protect them. Just as the mobs sought revenge on behalf of Hindu women, so too it appears did the police. This we have on the word of Gujarat’s chief minister — “Police are human beings as well,” he said, shortly after the carnage began, “and not inured to the sentiments of society”. Everywhere the fact-finding team went, women narrated graphic, first-hand tales of police complicity.

Several accounts speak of policemen actively aiding, abetting, and in some cases leading the mobs. Video footage seen by the fact-finding team showed slogans like, Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai (The inside story is that the police is on our side) — written boldly on the walls of gutted Muslim homes. An oft-repeated pattern was that the police would open fire at the Muslims rather than at the mob which was attacking them.

In other cases, the police turned a deaf ear to cries of help, or simply told women, in so many words, that they did not have “orders from above” to help them. Women and children were repeatedly turned away from police chowkis and stations and told to fend for themselves.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Getting away with murder

Look the other way

Sir — Instead of doing all he can to restore the confidence of the riot victims in Gujarat and helping them deal with the psychological trauma they have experienced during the last three months, the chief minister, Narendra Modi, has dealt them yet another blow. He has rejected the demand, made by a Muslim delegation, that the riot victims be provided alternative rehabilitation sites and has refused to sanction state funds for rebuilding places of worship that were destroyed in the riots (“Modi stuns minority leaders with volte-face”, June 9). With the situation in Gujarat slowly limping back to normal, Modi has conveniently forgotten that he had agreed to both these demands of the minority community only a month ago. In a sense, the current face-off between India and Pakistan comes at an opportune moment. It has taken the heat off him, diverted the attention of national and international audiences from the atrocities in Gujarat and provided the state government with an escape route. One is not sure what is more shocking though — Modi’s failure as chief minister and his complete indifference to the plight of the minority community in the state, or the fact that he will probably be able to get away with his latest act of betrayal.

Yours faithfully,
Mitul Ganguli, Calcutta

Summit of hope

Sir — Even though the international community has been keeping a close watch on both India and Pakistan in the last few days, this did not stop the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, from blaming India for its failure to solve the Kashmir dispute at Almaty (“Almaty summit chants anti-terrorism mantra”, June 5). Despite his belligerent posturing, Musharraf ended up with egg on his face with the 16-nation Asian summit at Almaty adopting a “Declaration on eliminating terrorism and promoting dialogue among civilizations”, which enjoined all its signatories against supporting separatist movements. The declaration also identified terrorism as one of the main threats to the security and stability of the region and also rejected the use of religion as a ruse by terrorists and separatists to achieve their objectives.

Yet again, Musharraf tried to mislead Asian leaders by claiming that “Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorism within or outside its borders”. A statement promptly rebutted by the Indian prime minister who pointed out that in fact, cross-border infiltration was on the rise. Atal Bihari Vajpayee also stonewalled Musharraf’s attempts to impress the international audience with the offer “unconditional” talks and reiterated that there could be no talks without action. Indeed, how can India take Musharraf at face value, when there is heavy shelling along the border and Pakistan continues to be a haven for anti-India terrorists?

In yet another setback, the Pakistani president’s attempts to project terrorist activities in Kashmir as a “freedom struggle” were rejected outright at the summit. Musharraf’s claim that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had offered to host India-Pakistan bilateral talks in Moscow was also exposed for the falsehood it was. The Pakistani president’s response to Vajpayee’s proposal that the two countries take part in a joint patrolling exercise along the line of control was not very encouraging. Probably, Pakistan fears that such an exercise would put an end to cross-border terrorism.

Although the summit provided Musharraf with a platform to internationalize the Kashmir issue, he was unsuccessful in including the distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters in the text of the final draft of the declaration.

India has, until now, heed the advice of the international community to exercise restraint. But only time will tell whether the Pakistani general will keep his promise to the American deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, about putting an end to infiltration along the LoC. However, given his track record, it seems very unlikely. India may then have no choice but to defy Uncle Sam and exercise the military option.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — Contrary to what the report, “Patrol plan with eye on LoC status” (June 9), suggests, India’s decision to take steps to de-escalate tension along the LoC may not be a good idea. Pervez Musharraf’s “pledge” to end infiltration could well be nothing more than a ploy to create a false sense of security among India’s political leadership. India has always maintained that it is opposed to war. But, past experiences demonstrate that Pakistan is not to be trusted.

India must not let its guard down under the circumstances. The suggestion made in the editorial, “Border Country” (June 7), that India could invite a multinational observer force to monitor the LoC is shocking. Not only would such a move mean inviting foreign intervention, but it might also help Pakistan armtwist the United States of America into agreeing to its demands. The west Asia crisis has shown that third party intervention is not always the best way to resolve a knotty affair like Kashmir.

Yours faithfully,
Urmila Haldar, Calcutta

Sir — Strangely, one sees very little discussion in the Indian media about the consequences of a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan. It is astonishing how educated Indians still labour under the mistaken belief that India, unlike Pakistan, will miraculously bounce back from a possible Pakistani nuclear strike.

The current faceoff between the two countries has already had a detrimental impact on India’s image. Several foreign nations have advised their diplomats to leave India. Indians should realize that war will have serious consequences, especially on the future of foreign investments.

Perhaps, ordinary citizens should pressurize New Delhi into pursuing non-military and diplomatic measures that would force Pakistan to reciprocate. Every act of cross-border terrorism merely undermines Pakistan’s credibility in the eyes of the international community and India should try to obtain the maximum diplomatic and political mileage from any such incident in the future.

India has everything to lose if war breaks out. Pakistan is already reeling under political and economic instability. Its leaders would love to drag India into a similar path of self-destruction, especially if forced into a corner.

Yours faithfully,
Tarasankar Chaudhuri, New Jersey

Wrong diagnosis

Sir — Instead of letting off the two Calcutta doctors, convicted of medical negligence by the Alipore court in the Anuradha Saha case, with a three months’ sentence and a meagre fine of Rs 5,000, their licenses should have been revoked (“Doctor duo sentenced to imprisonment for death due to negligence”, May 30). One can only hope that this judgment will serve as a warning to doctors and medical clinics.

It is unfortunate that doctors nowadays are more preoccupied with earning money than they are with their primary duty — treating patients. A visit to the doctor usually means innumerable tests for the hapless patients. Most of the time doctors insist that the tests be conducted at a particular diagnostic centre with which he has an “arrangement” —that is, he is paid a hefty commission for every patient he recommends.

The government should try to regulate the fees charged by doctors who have a private practice so as to bring about some parity between private and public healthcare.

Yours faithfully,
N.R. Venkateswaran, Calcutta

Sir — The allegation by the president of the Indian Medical Association, Sudipto Roy, that Kunal Saha’s legal battle against the two city doctors was an exercise masterminded by foreign medical insurance companies to humiliate the medical fraternity in India, comes a little too late in the day. Why didn’t Roy voice his suspicions while the case was going on?

Instead of taking their case to the people or to the media, the doctors should approach the high court. Isn’t it ironic that the doctors in the city are now talking of how this case will affect doctor-patient trust? Such trust has been on the decline for very long time now. It is not unusual for doctors to mislead patients by asking them to undergo a series of tests. Perhaps, the president of the IMA does not know that doctors have started recommending expensive tests like a CT scan for even a headache!

Saha’s victory has set a precedent which will encourage other victims of malpractice to come forward and seek legal redressal. Rather than becoming defensive, the IMA would have done better to take action against the erring doctors so that the medical fraternity can regain the respect of the people.

Yours faithfully,
Saikat Hazra, Howrah

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