Sir — No matter what Jalil Abbas Jilani says now about his humiliation at the manner in which he has had to leave India, he will find no sympathizers (“Jilani gets no time for goodbyes”, Feb 9). He has said that the truth will prevail, but what prevents him from coming out with the truth himself now, when it is most wanted' He has not been able to adequately explain how Anjum Zamarud Habib, an active member of the women’s wing of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, came to have so much money on her person so soon after she came out of the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi. It is a little difficult to put much faith in Jilani’s fine logic about his country being a strong supporter of the cause the Hurriyat was fighting for but not if it came to money. Pakistan is being caught red-handed time and again. Is it because its diplomats are not being sufficiently imaginative and convincing in trying to defend themselves'
Jayati Basu, Ranchi
Sir — This is not the first time innocent people have become the target of politics. In my own constituency, in a riverine southern district of Bangla-desh, 28 per cent of the population which constituted minority voters, was denied voting rights in the last general elections — victims of the senselessness of the victors, post-October 2001.
Bangladesh has always considered India as its great benefactor. The trauma of 1971 and India’s unprecedented help in those trying circumstances make too conspicuous an event for any grateful nation to forget. We remember that period with all humility. Which is why it pains us to watch the grim situation on our western borders where innocent men, women and children are being pushed into the “no-man’s land” on the pretext that they belong to Bangladesh. Possibly, their only fault is that they are Muslims and speak Bengali. Even if one were to accept them as infiltrators, for argument’s sake, it would have been in the fitness of things had some formal talk taken place between the two governments. A permanent and lasting understanding needs to be worked out by the two neighbours. The vast majority of Bangladeshis have no grudge or ill will against India, even today after their sentiments have been brutally hurt. The fanatics will remain, as they are on the other side of the border. But we are not concerned about them.
This is probably our last chance to sit down and thrash out our differences. This is because Bangladeshis consider the prime minister of India a reasonable man. I request Atal Bihari Vajpayee to kindly take the initiative to restore our bonds of friendship and trust which are fast eroding.
A.K. Faezul Huq, former minister of state (jute), government of Bangladesh, Dhaka
Sir — Had it not been for the benevolence of successive governments at the Centre, or in the bordering Indian states, thousands of Bangladeshis would not have felt encouraged to cross the border and settle down here since the Seventies. The latest stand of the Indian government with regard to the odd bunch of 213 Bangladeshis therefore seemed strange (“Mob battle on Bangla border”, Feb 4). The change of heart of the communist government of West Bengal also surprised. Having once vehemently opposed and protested against the deportation of illegal Bangladeshis by the Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra, the left now wants the infiltration into the state to stop completely.
Both governments have failed to handle the immigration problem ably. While the Indian government expressly stated that the families assembled on the no-man’s land on the border did not belong to India, it is also supposed to have directed the Border Security Force to provide them humanitarian assistance. Why' Is it not time we stopped sending such contradictory signals, especially to the 20 million illegal Bangladeshis who, we claim, are still residing in India'
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — Being the mother of a two-month old, I could very well perceive the desperation of the mother in the photograph accompanying the report, “Unfed Shah Rukh in deathly silence” (Feb 5). How can nationality assume more importance than humanity' Don’t these people deserve some help in a condition as pathetic as theirs' Some might argue that these illegal migrants ought to be of no concern to us, but the Indian government need not become inhuman just because the Bangladesh government has chosen to become so.
Chaitali Das, DumDum
Sir — India has so long accepted the immigrants from Bangladesh without much qualm. It is natural that Bangladesh will react vehemently if India now decides to send back these people after all these intervening years.
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
Sir — Given the magnitude of the immigration problem, some international organizations should step in to take care of the families who are being made pawns in this game of oneupmanship between the countries.
S. Choudhury, Jones Lane, US
To make a point
Sir — May I clarify my position with regard to the report, “Writers at war” (Feb 9), by Bishakha De Sarkar and Tirna Ray' Both Mahasweta Devi and Gopichand Narang are formidable candidates for the post of the president, Sahitya Akademi. The election is held inside the closed door hall of the Akademi and only the members of the general council are eligible to vote. So, it is not ethical for the members to announce publicly their preference for any candidate before the election is over. My name has been proposed as a vice-presidential candidate, tagged with Narang, and the election or selection of the vice-president comes only after the presidentship is finalized. If Mahasweta Devi wins, I shall be happy because I admire her and I am a chivalrous person, but that does not mean I want Narang’s defeat. The bringing of politics into this contest by outsiders and reporters is unfortunate and uncalled for.
Sunil Gangopadhyay, Calcutta