The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Their children’s keepers

Sir — The usual take on the Shilpa Shetty tapes is how they reveal Bollywood’s connection with the underworld (“Sequel: Shilpa sari & Shetty tapes”, May 20). But there is another angle that is being overlooked — how the tapes also show the Bollywood stars as the eternal victims of their parents’ greed. With the career of their two younger daughters still not having taken off significantly, and that of their eldest grounded to appearances in “item numbers”, the Shettys probably thought preying on a former client would be the easiest way to earn some extra bucks in difficult times. The attitude would not have been too different in happier times. In Bollywood it is legion how parents serve as secretaries and publicity managers of their star sons and daughters. In the process, they not only feed their sense of self-importance but also their lust for power and money. Remember the lament of the former child actors of Bollywood' The Shettys prove that the sordid tale continues.

Yours faithfully,
M. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Inviting problems

Sir — The invitation to Pervez Musharraf to attend Camp David on June 24 shows the extent to which the United States of America is willing to go to honour a friend. Musharraf now is in the same league as Tony Blair, another of the US’s ally in its so called war against terrorism. France, Germany and Russia need to take note of the swift developments, as much as India. Musharraf has been rewarded despite his dualism. The trend was obvious from the unequivocal stand taken by the US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, who asked India to verify for itself the magnitude of cross-border infiltration.

It is unfortunate that India should have changed its earlier conditionalities and proposed peace talks first. With it, India lost the advantages it had with regard to Kashmir. For one, Kashmiris are now definitely looking for peace with India. The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference has taken a beating internationally, and Pakistan too had been fumbling for words with respect to Kashmir. The Indian government had enough reasons to hold its ground on Pakistan first reducing cross-border infiltration before peace talks could start. Instead it has given away to the pressure tactics of the US. Both Pakistan and the US need to remember that Kashmir does not merely involve the future of Muslims in the valley. Any setback on the Kashmir front for India will adversely tell upon the other Muslims in the country.

Yours faithfully.
Samir Banerjee, New Delhi

Sir — The report, “Pak shuts Azhar out of PoK” (May 15) brings welcome news. Ever since the Pakistan prime minister invited India for peace talks, Pakistan has made positive moves to show its keenness to create conditions conducive to the talks. The banning of Masood Azhar from entering Pakistan occupied Kashmir is another such measure. But India should not read too much into such gimmicks. Pakistan, despite knowing that the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader was the mastermind behind the hijacking of the aeroplane, had provided him shelter for years. Even the US was aware of this fact. Yet the superpower has done nothing to force Pakistan into surrendering Azhar.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The big news was not that Masood Azhar was banned from entering PoK, but that Rashid Qureshi, Pervez Musharraf's spokesperson, was removed from his post. He was considered to be a hawk and an obstacle in the peace process. There is already evidence that both India and Pakistan are willing to scale down Kashmir in its list of priorities. This together with the ban on Azhar and dismissal of Qureshi show that Pakistan is fairly definite about commencing the talks with India. It is only of secondary interest whether it was the US that prompted the nations to come together.

Yours faithfully,
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta

Romila Thapar

Sir — We are shocked at the letter of protest that is circulating on the internet against the appointment of Professor Romila Thapar as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress, US. Professor Thapar has been undoubtedly one of the most eminent Indian historians, whose prolific scholarly contribution has opened up new ways of looking at India’s past.

The petition shows an amazing lack of familiarity with Professor Thapar’s writings. Since the Sixties, Professor Thapar has written powerfully against the colonial stereotypes that India had no past, no sense of time, and no historical consciousness. The petitioners attribute to her precisely those ideas that she has spent a lifetime battling against.

But clearly, the problem is that Professor Thapar’s conception of Indian past is different from that of the petitioners. Professor Thapar has looked at a variety of cultural traditions in the making of ancient India. To the petitioners Indian past is monolithic, unified, and unmistakably only Hindu. Those who disagree with this notion are accused of committing cultural genocide.

This is not just a shocking intolerance of perceptual differences. It is a politics that seeks to silence critique, and battles for a notion of the past that is homogeneously Hindu. It is part of a wider attack that we are witnessing in India today against intellectual and artistic freedom, and against cultural plurality. In a political milieu where dissent is being regularly repressed through intimidation, this petition against Professor Thapar and the hate mails that accompany it, become a particular cause of concern.

We strongly protest against this attack on Professor Thapar.

Yours faithfully,
Ranajit Guha, Stanley J. Tambiah, T.N. Madan, Sumit Sarkar, Partha Chatterjee, Sheldon Pollock, Anthony Grafton, Sunil Khilnani, Sukanta Chaudhuri and many others

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