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For the sins of the father

Sir — Those who commit grave crimes against society should expect no mercy is a credo the medieval world lived by. Surely, it is not one that should apply to our modern world with its numerous international bodies and conventions to protect the rights of every section of mankind. But it seems that the new international consensus is that Islamic terrorists are to be denied even this. If this had not been the case, at least some countries would have protested against the arrest of the two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at least as loudly as they are the imminent attack on Iraq (“CIA uses sons to soften Khalid”, March 9). The two boys, aged nine and seven, are only being “encouraged” to talk about their father, says the CIA. That’s not very reassuring because exactly what forms this “encouragement” is taking has been left unsaid. But howsoever gentle such encouragement, there can be no denying that the interrogators are exploiting the children’s vulnerability and innocence to build a case against their father. However heinous a criminal Mohammed may be, his sons do not deserve such treatment.

Yours faithfully,
Sohini Sikdar, Calcutta


So much rhetoric

Sir — Mani Shankar Aiyar writes wonderfully and is usually very persuasive even when dealing with subjects he knows little about. His hopes of an emphatic victory for the Congress-Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra alliance in the Tripura assembly elections have been proved wildly exaggerated, as I am sure Aiyar himself suspected they were (“Neck and neck in the Northeast”, Feb 25).

In his column, Aiyar tries hard to prove that his electoral ally in the Tripura assembly elections, Bijoy Hrangkhawl, is not what people know him as — someone responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Tripura. Hrangkhawl has had a rather smooth ride — from the militant Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti and then the Tripura National Volunteers, which merged to form the INPT, and now an alliance with the Congress. Hrangkhawl may now attempt to take back his earlier secessionist comments by proclaiming that he is an Indian. But why did he make the statements at all in Geneva' Merely to draw attention to himself' Besides, who funded his trip' Possibly, it is health problems which explains why Hrangkhawl now finds it worthwhile to be a law-abiding citizen. Hilariously, in order to bolster his arguments, Aiyar even brings in Nripen Chakrabarty, who is a political has-been, to say the least.

Aiyar also tries to make out how well-briefed he is on Tripura, but he slips up when he says there is no demarcation between tribal and non-tribal areas in the state. Elsewhere in the article, he says that the Congress was instrumental in granting sixth schedule status to Tripura and establishing an autonomous district council in the tribal areas — a laughable claim. What Aiyar does not know is that the ADC covers more than 85 per cent of the state’s geographical area and a majority of the state’s tribal population.

The Congress had not a single charismatic leader who would take it to victory in Tripura. All Aiyar could pin his hopes on were the unprecedented crowds who waited for Sonia Gandhi at Agartala and Kailashahar. But evidently he had doubts even here, for he says, “it is those who do not come who determine the outcome”. Like all politicians, Aiyar too is only interested in covering his back whatever be the poll outcome.

And the result' The poor people of Tripura have been saddled with yet another non-functional left government led by Manik Sarkar.

Yours faithfully,
Dipak Datta Roy, Bagdogra


Sir — Mani Shankar Aiyar is a politician, and it is too much to expect plain-speaking from him. But it is time he realized why India’s great voters attend political rallies. Most of them are either paid or coerced into filling up the maidans for any politician with the money. They do not listen at all, and even if they listen, they do not trust. As for Sonia Gandhi, no one goes to her rallies to listen to how well she speaks. They go to “see” her — a white woman — as they would to “see” a movie star. That does not mean they will vote for her.

Yours faithfully,
R. Sajan, Aluva


Down in UP

Sir — Akhilesh Singh’s threat that he would strip in Parliament was nothing but rowdyism (“Strip to be heard in the house”, Mar 7). While one understands Singh’s anger at the speaker’s refusal to allow a debate on the allegations against the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayavati, his was no way to register protest. But more important, will he now be allowed to get away with such misbehaviour'

The speaker should realize that if such behaviour is allowed to go unpunished, it will not be long before he himself becomes the victim of assault by any faction that feels it has a grievance, and soon Parliamentarians will throw chairs at each other whenever they are angry. It is such behaviour that gives a bad name to Parliament.

Yours faithfully,
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia


Sir — In a way the courage of the UP chief minister cannot but be admired. This may be the first time one has direct proof of legislators being asked to contribute to the party fund from the contingency development fund allowed them for the uplift of their constituency (“Cassette clash lashes Lucknow” March 5). But there have been rumours of mismanagement of such funds for a long time. In fact, those who are crying foul now should probe their own consciences. The electorate is not so easily fooled.

Yours faithfully,
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur


Sir — UP is as an example of the depths to which our democracy has sunk. From buying members of legislative assembly in order to put up a show of strength in the assembly, to MLAs paying crores for a ministerial berth, to vulgar celebrations of the chief minister’s birthday, and now the revelation of how public money is being diverted for party affairs (“Mayawati over tape & trust hurdle”, March 6). The surprising silence of the Union government, the central vigilance commission and even the judiciary on the issue proves the total failure of our democracy.

Such criminal misuse of power and diversion of funds from the state exchequer must be thoroughly probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. This is the reason the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to seek details of the criminal antecedents and educational qualifications of candidates in elections, to enable voters to make an informed choice. But Parliament threw cold water over the proposal; it probably felt that criminals were needed in the Indian administration.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore


Sir — There is no need for Akhilesh Singh to get so angry about Mayavati’s counter-allegations against Samajwadi Party leaders. He should instead try to find out more about the UP chief minister’s letter to L.K. Advani. Also, B.S. Shekhawat was wrong to say that state matters could not be brought up in the Central legislature — they have been discussed there many times before.

Further, Mayavati questions Amar Singh’s popularity, saying he had never contested elections. But the fact that Mayavati contested from two constituencies in last elections shows that she was not too confident about her own popularity either.

Yours faithfully,
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta


Parting shot

Sir — Jennifer Lopez paid $ 15 million to her ex-husband, Chris Judd, as part of a divorce settlement and now finds herself rescuing a man in a video game, called Jen saves Ben, designed after her. Many nowadays prefer dominating females, perhaps as a counter to the male-domination of society. What these people do not realize perhaps is that a possible female-domination of society in the distant future would not exactly be a bed of roses.

Would it not be infinitely better instead if we rose above the need for alimony after divorce, towards a society where both partners — male and female — would be equally independent economically, and would also respect each other’s individuality and independence.

Yours faithfully,
Aritra Roy, Shyamnagar


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