Running out of steam
Sir — Sonia Gandhi’s quaintly-worded address in Hindi at the Brigade rally of the Congress flogged a horse that has long been dead (“Sonia steam for sluggish party”, Feb 11). No one but she herself, while delivering a speech that covered all issues under the sun — from the economy to the weather — could have known that better. She knows, for example, that the only person who could have effected a change in the Congress’s fortunes in Bengal was Mamata Banerjee. But even that fire has fizzled out. Now she has a rather reluctant and aged lieutenant holding on to a unit that is pulling in all directions, and hardly succeeding in that job. The Congress is a spent force in Bengal. No amount of pep-talk in Hindi one solitary afternoon can breathe life into it. There are no issues (as she made quite evident) and no leaders (she has made sure) to carry the Congress mantle. She should probably take another afternoon off to come down and write its death certificate in Bengal.
S. Mahanta, Calcutta
Sir — From Bantala to Dhantola, the same story is repeating itself in the killing fields of rural Bengal (“CPM leaders held for twin bus loots”, Feb 8). The “molestation”, in more precise terms, rape, of women passengers in two buses in Dhantola carried on till the wee hours of the morning on February 6. Bullets were fired and a bus driver was killed. And like a typical Hindi film, the police arrived well after the crime had been committed. Since all operations of the police are manned by people who are eager to follow the diktats of Alimuddin Street, the main function of the police top brass will now be to cover up the sorry mess created by the left cadre. As usual, the killers and molesters, though booked for now, will ultimately go scot-free.
Absolute power has corrupted the Marxists absolutely. The left does not realize that it may have retained power for the past 26 years, but it has lost all respectability. Slowly, but surely, West Bengal is catching up with Bihar. The only difference is that the latter is ruled by a semi-literate woman in cohorts with her husband. West Bengal is ruled by an apparently “cultured” chief minister, who recites Tagore, Mayakovsky and Pablo Neruda. How does this rare ability reflect on his control over the administration' Very poorly, one must say.
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — The recent bus loot at Dhantola, conducted by two members of the the ruling party, clearly shows the political culture in Bengal. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has always boasted of having a disciplined cadre. That the zonal CPI(M) member of Aranghata and a former pradhan, who is also a party member, are the prime suspects in the crime in Dhantola makes evident what this attribute has come to mean. Expulsion of these members from the party can help salvage its image, though it is doubtful if the party will take action given the forthcoming panchayat elections.
S. Nandi, Rangamati, Midnapore
Sir — Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s “Fall of a benign culture” (Jan 8) is a subtle commentary on the social and administrative culture of the country. Indifference and insensitivity to social issues characterize the present milieu. That is why policemen like Bapi Sen who try to be different are either sidelined by the system or mercilessly beaten up on the streets. However, corruption in the higher orders always sets the standards for the lower order. This holds as true for the bureaucracy as for political parties. Which means the reform has to start right at the top, not the other way round.
Renu Srivastava, Varanasi
Sir — A storm was whipped up by the media over the death of a police sergeant. Now there is little information about how the case is proceeding. The media also asked why the chief witness, the female victim of the marauders on January 1, did not come up with her version of the story. But what about the five eye-witnesses to the murder of Sen' His friends, who watched from a distance' No accusing finger has been pointed at them.
It is wrong to think that the incident concerning Bapi Sen will inspire Bengalis. Sen will continue to be seen as a fool who was a bit too eager to prove how dutiful he was. Sen’s family has been assured financial assistance, but only time will tell how that promise will be kept. Moreover, these measures fail to satisfy us. We need to be assured that stern action has been taken against the five culprits. Only that will do justice to the soul of Bapi Sen, and to the future Bapi Sens who sometimes dare to step forward to protest.
Payal Bhattacharya, Calcutta
Sir — It is indeed unfortunate that Kamla Jaan, a “eunuch” elected as mayor of Katni, had to step down because of a high court ruling that declared her election illegal. Jaan is registered, somewhat arbitrarily, as a male in the electoral rolls but has won in a constituency reserved for women. The hijras constitute a distinct community in India, following a specific Hindu cult. They are mostly born male but perceive themselves as female and are also perceived as such by the society, whether they are castrated or not.
The presence of hijras, who suffer from widespread social ostracism, in the political life of Madhya Pradesh is a remarkable phenomenon, exemplifying their valiant efforts to become a part of mainstream society. Their traditional source of income as performers of dance and music in households which have a newborn child, has been dwindling for a long time all over India. As a result, many of them are taking recourse to male prostitution, smuggling and other criminal activities. So it is highly desirable that their attempts to participate actively in politics is encouraged. The suggestion made by Shabnam Mausi, the first hijra member of parliament, that a hijra should be legally allowed to qualify as both male and female, deserves support.
Moni Nag, New York
Sir — Eunuchs should be freed from the reservation policy or gender systems. They are taken to represent the “third” gender and were once posted by kings to guard their queens. They also find mention in our ancient religious texts and the epics. Which means that their presence has been accepted by society from time immemorial and hence they should be accorded more respect, both politically and socially.
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta