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Gagged in the USA

Sir — The suppression of dissent continues in the United States of America. The most famous cases of individual protest to come out of that country have been those of Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks lead singer, Natalie Maines. And now Bruce Springsteen has joined this little group, almost through the back door, by lending his support to the Dixie Chicks (“Bruce backs anti-war chicks”, April 30). But for every Moore or Maines, there are scores of radio stations and media channels which are eager to toe the official line on Iraq and ban airing the Chicks numbers or refuse to give a few sound-bytes to Moore. Springsteen himself has been on the protest mode from a time when the Chicks members were probably wetting their diapers, which is why it appears strange that he should choose to lend a neither-here-nor-there kind of support — that too on his personal website — when he had the popularity and the power to make people give the issue a serious thought.

Yours faithfully,
Sagarika Chatterjee, Calcutta


From hooks to crooks

Sir — The state election commissioner, Ajay Sinha, in reply to a query made by N. Gopalaswamy, the Union home secretary, as to why opposition candidates were being prevented from filing their nominations for the coming panchayat elections, stated that Gopalaswamy had no business interfering in the panchayat elections issue, since it was a state subject. Whatever doubts there were about the Communist Party of India (Marxist) making the election machinery dance to its tune ought to vanish after this. In the meantime, Left Front candidates have won uncontested from nearly 6,000 seats, an absurdity of sorts. If the law of the jungle is allowed to prevail in the panchayat elections, then the Centre must have every right to intervene and restore democratic functioning in the state.

Yours faithfully,
Aniketa Chakraborty, Calcutta


Sir — In the panchayat poll campaign in Patharpratima (April 26), the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, warned the Trinamool Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party combine that he had asked the administration to tackle violence with an iron hand. However, he was silent when his cabinet minister of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Biswanath Chowdhury, and his leaders were forced to call off a rally in South Dinajpur by CPI(M) supporters. Is this not a glaring example of “mobocracy” in place of democracy'

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge


Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee seems to have suddenly woken up to the fact that his party cadre are preventing opposition party candidates from filing their nomination papers for the panchayat election, due early next month. (“CM terror whip on party”, April 13).The chief minister’s stance seems to be hypocritical. What is surprising is his admission of it in a half-hearted manner, as if he is affectionately imparting lessons to unruly children. His mild rebukes are not going to make any difference. Adhir Biswas of Garbeta fame and a standing CPI(M) legislator has shown the way to spreading tentacles into areas where the party’s support is weak. This time, not a single candidate from the opposition could file his nomination at Garbeta, thanks to the atmosphere of terror created by the CPI(M) cadre. The divided opposition looks a helpless lot, faced with a situation in which money and muscle-power count for much.

Yours faithfully,
Jyotish Chandra Samaddar,


Calcutta

Sir — The people of West Bengal deserve a change of guard at the Writers’ Buildings. But it has not been possible so far because of the absence of even a semblance of a unified opposition. If the Trinamool Congress-BJP alliance works sincerely and manages to convince people that it is committed to the welfare of the state, people will easily accept it as an alternative to the Left Front.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta


Sir — What is different about this year’s panchayat elections in West Bengal is that not only the opposition parties — like the Trinamool Congress and the BJP — but also the Left Front allies are trying to wrest seats from the CPI(M). Particularly interesting are the cases involving the Forward Bloc and the RSP in South Dinajpur and Cooch Behar. However, the media made too much of the calling off of the RSP rally in Hilli, which is supposed to have angered two RSP heavyweights (“RSP pullout roar after Hilli shame”, April 27). But there is more to it than meets the eye. The RSP is surely not going to withdraw from the Left Front, because it has got used to enjoying the privileges of power.

Besides, what the RSP is trying desperately to hide from the public is the erosion of its bases in its traditional strongholds, where the CPI(M) has slowly built up its own support base. Biswanath Chowdhury himself will realize how they have let things slip out of hand when his party faces the Balurghat municipal elections in two months’ time.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhushan Saha, Balurghat


Sir — There is every reason to believe that the murder of Chandan Sen, a surgeon at the Ranaghat sub-divisional hospital, was politically motivated and executed by the goons of the ruling party. Although the murder is now being projected as a fallout of hospital politics, the links of the doctor with the Dhantala rape and loot incident makes one suspect that there are murkier details which are evading the public eye.

The ruling Left Front, in particular the CPI(M), is trying to win the panchayat elections by hook or by crook. Hence the murders, rapes and widespread suppression of truth.

Yours faithfully,
Ram Narayan Gupta, Calcutta


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