Games leaders play
Sir — With both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf visiting the United States of America at the same time, it is only expected that the two leaders will try their best to outdo each other in trying to grab America’s attention. By questioning the validity of the elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Musharraf seems to have fired the first salvo at his Indian counterpart (“Kashmir poll & murder plot in Pervez bag”, Sept 10). The announcement of the arrest of Islamic militants, allegedly involved in a plot to assassinate Musharraf, is nothing but a clever ploy to extract US sympathy for the Pakistan leader. Musharraf is well aware of the fact that the US needs Pakistan’s support now more than ever, given George W. Bush’s determination to oust Saddam Hussein. This will make things difficult for Vajpayee, who has to not only reassure the Americans that there will be no repeat of the Gujarat pogrom, but also convince them about India’s commitment to secularism. An entirely win-win situation for Pakistan then'
Apurva Sharma, Calcutta
Making an exception
Sir — Ashok Mitra has rightly exposed the Central government’s unwillingness to punish or even tame “terrorists” like Veerappan and Bal Thackeray (“Article 14 is no joke”, September 6). Sadly, the government and the people of this country are more concerned about terrorist activities across the border than the havoc created by its internal enemies within the borders. Instead of arresting the Shiv Sena chief for his proven role in the 1992 Mumbai riots and his continuous provocative remarks against a particular community, or nabbing Veerappan, who is allegedly smuggling out national treasures, the Indian political establishment continues to blame Pakistan for most of India’s crises. It is shocking that despite the employment of an elite task force, the wily Veerappan has continued to elude the dragnet of successive governments. It is astonishing that India has never considered the possibility of utilizing satellite technology to track the movements of the smuggler. After all, technological advance does not mean much unless it can be utilized for the welfare of the country.
The indifference and complicity of our political leaders have allowed Veerappan to dictate terms to the government on more than one occasion and allowed Thackeray to remote control Shiv Sena ministers in the Union cabinet. Only an internally strong and united India will be able to combat hostile neighbours. For this to happen however, the government must first deal with the unruly elements in its own backyard.
K. Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — Ashok Mitra’ s article, “Article 14 is no joke”, made for interesting reading. But one should remember that the Shiv Sena is no different from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Having lived the better part of my life in Mumbai, I have seen the organization of the Shiv Sena — with every locality having a sakha pramukh, a prac-harak and so on. Surely that sounds familiar to most Calcuttans who have been living in Marxist Bengal for 25 years' One remembers the hooliganism of the CPI(M) cadre who heckled Ajoy Mukherjee when he was on a hunger strike at Curzon Park in the late Sixties.
It is imperative that efforts are made to clean up the political process. As a veteran politician, Mitra could take the lead in this direction. But that would require Mitra to be fearless of the local Thackerays, though one would not hold it against him if he were not. After all, Mitra is no Nikhil Chakraborty, who drastically gave up politics in his later life and never looked back. If he is not, Mitra should refrain from pontificating in such a grand manner.
Sir — Ashok Mitra’s “Article 14 is no joke” contains a gross factual error. Article 19(f), which bestows on citizens the “right to acquire, hold and dispose of property” is no longer a provision of the Constitution, since it was abolished by the 44th amendment. The remaining six clauses, as mentioned by Mitra, however, have been left undisturbed.
Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — It is indeed unfortunate that Ashok Mitra has branded the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, as a terrorist par excellence. In doing so, Mitra has also distorted the actual meaning of the word “terrorist”. Thackeray cannot be branded a terrorist simply because he is not known to have masterminded the assassination of any political leader, hijacked aeroplanes, taken over foreign embassies, raided the country’s military bases, sabotaged electrical lines, blocked transport or committed other equally heinous acts that could have merited the epithet. If Thackeray is a terrorist, so are the leaders of other political parties. By the same logic that Mitra uses against Thackeray, Narendra Modi can be called a terrorist for his pogrom against the minority community in Gujarat, or the Congress named a terrorist organization for the anti-Sikh carnage after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Moreover, Thackeray has done nothing exceptionable. During every election, most political parties create an environment of fear to limit the electorate’s democratic right to vote. Shiv Sena is not an isolated case in such matters. Politicians, much like Thackeray, also pass their own diktats for the population to follow. The call for bandhs despite the Supreme Court orders is one such instance.
Veerappan’s case is different. He is not really a terrorist but a pathological criminal. His actions are not dictated by his ideology but by his desire to make money, and sometimes, headlines.
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Sir — When the Bihar police declared that Barmeswar Nath Singh was evading them, one wondered about the truth of the statement. It was possible that the Ranbir Sena mukhia was proving to be as elusive as the absconding politicians or criminals who, because of their enormous clout, are never arrested (“Massacre mastermind in net”, Aug 30). Even now that the mukhia has been arrested, the Bihar police need not bask in the glory of its achievement. There are chances that he is serving as proxy for the actual culprit. In any case, where is the substantive evidence of Singh really masterminding the killings' It is unbelievable that this frail man, who does not speak or look like a leader, has been behind all these killings. The Indian penal code, known for its numerous loopholes, will find it really difficult to hold a man like Singh within its net.
Arta Mishra, Cuttack
Sir — The animosity between the land-owning Ranabir Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which had taken up the cause of the landless Dalits, has cost more than 400 people in central Bihar their lives since 1994. It is heartening to know that the founder of the Ranbir Sena, Barmeswar Nath Singh, and five of his aides, were nabbed in Patna.
However, despite the breakthrough it will still be difficult to implement the Land Ceiling Act in Bihar as easily as it was done in Bengal. One cannot solve the problem merely by putting the Ranabir Sena supremo behind bars. It will not be surprising if his lieutenants continue with the massacres.
Manoranjan Das, Jamsedpur
Mind your language
Sir — Being the mother of a 10-year old and a 9-year old, teaching my children good behaviour is part of my routine. The worst part of this is to stop them from using abusive language. The way words like “stupid”, “idiot” and “silly” are used in commercials and by children everywhere is appalling. Has our language degenerated in the name of modernity' If we, as also the media, take note of this anomaly, I’m sure the language used by us will be more sensitive towards other’s feelings.
Vinita Rabbi, Calcutta
Sir — Children learn from whatever they see. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar learnt his numbers from milestones. This means children also learn from the misspelt words displayed by advertisers boldly in order to push sales. For example, “cake” being spelt as “kake” or “you” being made into “U”. I appeal to advertisers to refrain from such practices and to stop confusing our children further.
Victor Ambett, Calcutta