Threat be not proud
Sir — A few splinters from the American gunfire in Iraq must have hit West Bengal’s transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty too, making him vow that any British or American minister, secretary, diplomat or army official directly involved with the ongoing war in Iraq will not be allowed to visit Calcutta (“Subhas in war vow”, April 8). Such solidarity with the pounded country is all very well, but it does not have to speak so loudly of complete ignorance of matters international. Does Chakraborty think that only a handful of the American and British politicians are in favour of the war' And what exactly does he mean by “direct” involvement' Above all, what gives Chakraborty the confidence that American and British politicians — whatever their degrees of involvement in the war — are dying to come to Calcutta' Isn’t it exactly the other way round' In case this little snippet manages to reach the distant shores, we could soon be hearing a few sighs of relief.
Kankana Roy, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Flag fetish” (April 10), has pinpointed very correctly that people here show their patriotism by inane, ritualistic displays. This is a pity, since our national leaders of the past had never wanted us to do anything of the sort. The true display of love for one’s country is in doing one’s work with utmost sincerity. What has happened today is that the symbols of national honour, meant to instil pride in Indians’ hearts, are now being used frequently to give vent to frustration or aggression. A recent example would be the reaction of cricket fans during the World Cup. If the national flag is burnt every time India loses a cricket match, it can only mean that we have a long way to go before we can become a conscious and responsible society. Democracy may include freedom of expression, but expressions such as burning the national flag can have no justification or rationale.
Ministers who think that national anthems ought to be introduced in schools are mistaken if they think that this would make students respect their national anthem. Instead, the importance and objective of paying a special kind of respect to the national anthem and the flag should be instilled in the young minds. But should we be picking only on students when even the chief minister of West Bengal has been found sitting pretty on his chair while the national anthem was being sung'
Shardul Vikram Singh, Calcutta
Sir — The norms of use of the national tricolour and punishments for its possible misuse have been taken up in Parliament recently. It is apparent that the nation’s law-makers and law-keepers are not very sincere about the issue. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was recently reported to have remained seated while the national anthem played, that too at a police parade. The chief minister had said sorry afterwards, which is probably why the issue did not draw much flak from the opposition.
Also, the price of the cricket craze in India and among Indians has to be paid by the national tricolour. At the peak of the World Cup fever, enormous flags were hung from buildings and lamp-posts. But nobody seemed to object to the fact that in places they were extremely dirty or faded, or even torn. Indians must become more aware of the symbolic significance of this piece of tricoloured cloth.
R.H. Putran, Calcutta
Sir — The government has at last done a worthwhile job by taking the first step to introduce the prevention of insults to national honour (amendment) bill, with the aim of widening the scope of the expression, “insult” (“Tricolour dos and don’ts”, April 9). In this connection, taking note of the serious offence of burning the national flag in public places during protests against the government or a particular political party is especially important. But all the rhetoric will only have some meaning when they are converted into action. We have already had too many cases of disrespect and dishonour to our national symbols.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia
Sir — The report, “Kerala crisis fuels Congress faction feud in Delhi” (April 9), somehow manages to portray K. Karunakaran as a meddling, avaricious and senile person, looking to serve the interests only of himself, with no loyalty to his party, the Congress, or the government of A.K. Antony. .
Things would certainly not have come to such a pass in the state, had Karunakaran been in the chief minister’s chair. During his political career, he elevated a number of relatively unknown individuals to the legislature, Parliament and his cabinet. It is becoming evident now from the ingratitude shown by the beneficiaries of his favours that Karunakaran was often mistaken in his choices.
It cannot be said that Karunakaran’s politics has always been above board, in particular his politics during the Emergency. But his integrity can hardly be questioned. And most of the state’s current politicians owe all their power and glory to him.
And what is so unfair about the old man’s demands' Being kicked out as a result of a shameless conspiracy when he had barely 18 months to go, must still rankle within him. Congress loyalists in Kerala know that E.K. Nayanar would not have come back to power if Karunakaran had been allowed to carry on leading the United Democratic Front. Karunakaran is only demanding to be given his 18 months back. Can you blame him for his occasional wailing to be admitted back'
The Congress would have been consigned to history 35 years ago, had it not been for Karunakaran’s services. A leader like Karunakaran should be allowed to die as the chief minister of his state, if only as a charitable gesture towards him.
R. Sajan, Aluva, Kerala
Sir — The crisis over Rajya Sabha nominations in Kerala only goes to show the poor organizational strength of the Congress and the utter lack of direction of the party. This is a classic case where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing (in this case, Ambika Soni and Arjun Singh), and the head (Sonia Gandhi, of course) does not know what the two hands are up to. The centripetal tendency and coterie culture in the Congress is fast pushing it to the edge.
Sukanya Sinha, Calcutta
Sir — In the report, “Ulfa claims hand in air base attack” (March 3), it has been mentioned that the mortar attack on the air force base at Borjhar was carried out on February 29. But 2003 is not a leap year, so February 2003 could not possibly have 29 days.
S. Ram, Calcutta