Keep safe distance
Sir — “Advani show short shrift stings George” (Oct 17) shows what a schemer the deputy prime minister is. He seems intent on stealing each of the thunders of the defence minister. First, he politely sided with George Fernandes on the disinvestment issue so that it did not become a personal show of the latter. Next, he took away the standing committee chairmanship of the inter-state council. And then he spilled the beans about troop withdrawal much before Fernandes could break the news to the nation. Will Advani please stop stepping on others’ shoes, including the prime minister’s'
M. Samanta, Calcutta
Matter of faith
Sir — The Tamil Nadu government’s ordinance against conversions is yet another tear on the brittle secular fabric of India (“Jaya springs decree on conversion”, Oct 7). It perpetuates the growing sense of intolerance against minorities. But how can we forget the selfless acts of charity done by hundreds of Christian missionaries over the years' They were motivated by their single-minded devotion to loving a fellow human being, irrespective of his religion, caste or creed. Untouchables, lepers, social outcastes and the oppressed, found solace and dignity with the missionaries. The latter’s self-lessness is admirable. Graham Staines and his minor sons were ruthlessly burnt alive and yet his widow and daughter have chosen to forgive the guilty and stay back to continue their work among the poverty-stricken villagers of Orissa.
Many of our political leaders have had their education in Christian missionary schools and colleges. In fact, even today, there is a clamour for admitting children into missionary-run schools. Why such double standards' The Tamil Nadu government should reconsider its decision and stop widening the cracks in society.
John Ambat, Calcutta
Sir — I join Arvind D. Tapkire in congratulating J. Jayalalithaa for taking a step in the right direction by banning conversions (“Closing in”, Oct 12). One may recall the nationwide uproar caused by the mass conversion of Hindus in Meenakshipuram in 1981. The poor converts were later abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
Proselytization, by force or by fraudulent means, must be stopped as it is illegal and unethical. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been totally opposed to conversion and had wanted laws enacted against it. He also wrote in 1927 that after an honest study of the Quran he had come to the conclusion that it does not sanction tableekh or conversion. Jayalalithaa is only following the footsteps of this great leader. The Congress should extend her full support and enact similar laws in states ruled by it.
T. Suryatmaj, Nasik
Sir — I do not endorse the view of A.D. Tapkire and B.S. Ganesh when they praise J. Jayalalithaa for banning religious conversion since the adulation seems to arise out of purely communal considerations. Since Tamil Naidu has never been the hotbed of religious conversion, the ban has nothing to do with the eradication of communal conflict or revival of communal harmony, as believed by Tapkire and Ganesh. In fact, Jayalalithaa’s is nothing but a shrewd move to serve her own end.
Jayalalithaa would do well to remember that poverty, hunger and social ostracism are factors that force the lower castes to seek refuge in other religions. Unless the government ensures equal social status for the downtrodden, such ordinances will do more harm than good.
Faiz Ahmad, Calcutta
Sir — I was horrified to see the picture with the caption, “For a cause” (Oct 6), in The Telegraph. It showed two children protesting against Israel in Mumbai. It is surprising that such young children, one about three to four years old and the other around five, are aware of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was even more sickening to see the head of one of the little girls wrapped up in much the same way as an old-fashioned Jewish woman. Perhaps the most offending part was that she was given to carry a poster stating “Jews Murdabad”. I do not know what was written in the other poster as it was either in Urdu or Arabic. How could The Telegraph publish such a blatantly racist photograph that could offend a nation several thousand years old' Or is this a new measure of secularism in India'
Vivek Sahay, Calcutta