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Politics of the arts

Sir — Mamata Banerjee used to draw crowds. But now, it seems, she only draws (“She draws, writes & is in politics”, May 31). She must be India’s most famous artist to work with felt pens, markers and highlighters, and still get mentioned alongside Monet, Matisse and Husain. To compare the Trinamool Congress chief’s artistic output with that of these three might be slightly premature, but all three would have every reason to be envious of a budding artist such as didi if they knew about the scrambling among her supporters and aides to be proud possessors of her works. It is strange though that Banerjee’s artistic sensibilities find so little reflection in her politics, which is invariably sensationalist and unrefined. It could, of course, be that she has achieved the near-impossible task of keeping the public and the private separate from each other. There is, however, something quite serious here. Since she has taken up drawing because her synthesizer is out of order, what will happen when it is restored to its working condition again' Will her party have to go out of order then so that didi can carry on with her music and art'

Yours faithfully,
Gopal Bhattacharya, Calcutta


Topping the hate list

Sir — The United Nations has always had the “reputation” of being effectively controlled by the big powers, especially the US. Through its Iraq campaign, the US has proved again that the UN is nothing more than a puppet in its hands. And now, by taking up a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq, the UN has come full circle in proving its futility to the entire world.

The US, leading the coalition of “the bullied and the bought” went ahead with its programme of “conquering” Iraq, completely ignoring Hans Blix’s report that there was no evidence of any extant weapon of mass-destruction in Iraq. At the time, it paid little heed to the world opinion which was strongly against such action. Now, however, by involving the UN, it is making the entire world economy provide funds for reconstructing the country it almost single-handedly destroyed. After giving short shrift to the opinions and sentiments of the world community, the US is now trying to gather the world opinion in its favour by asking the UN member countries to send troops to restore law and order in Iraq and by involving celebrities in various fund-raising programmes.

But the question is, why should the rest of the world bear the burden of the US’s evil designs' Even after the reconstruction, will it not once again be the US who will reap the benefits, since it will control Iraq’s government for as long as it needs to — which will be forever if Bush can help it. In this situation, India’s decision not to send troops to Iraq deserves praise.

Yours faithfully,
Sarit Ray, Calcutta


Sir — Rakhahari Chatterji, like most Bengali academicians, seems to be pro-left, if not a full-blown Marxist (“The power of one”, May 29). But he must be daydreaming if he really thinks that a counter-migration from the US should happen for other nations to be able to deal with this country at par.

Chatterji fails to take stock of the dialectics. US foreign policy has a distinct feature marked by a cycle of introversion and extroversion. F.D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton all followed the policy of introversion, while Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and some others went along the policy of extroversion guided by John Foster Dulles’s state policy of passionate hostility to communism.

As far as the US is concerned, the threat from communism has been replaced by the threat from global terrorism. After Clinton’s policy of introversion, the Bush administration has obviously opened out into the next phase of extroversion. Because of a democratic tradition premised on a strict separation of power, no US president can rule for more than two terms and become a Hitler or a Stalin to force the citizens into fearful submission. Chatterji should try to steer of criticizing the US on any occasion, as is the wont of leftist intellectuals.

Yours faithfully,
Aparna Ganguli, Calcutta


Sir — Ever since the George W. Bush administration waged its “war against terror”, it has done precious little besides propagating terror and tyranny itself. The suicide bombings in Riyadh last month were a reminder of September 11 and merely reiterated the ways in which US autocracy can backfire and create havoc for the American citizens within and outside the United States of America.

But it would be foolish to expect that the Bush administration will learn a lesson from the worldwide opposition to its aggression in Iraq and the subsequent terrorist attacks which it has or is likely to generate. Instead of countering the so-called “Islamic fundamentalism”, the Bush administration has managed to stoke it through its dangerous foreign policy decisions, particularly with respect to the Islamic world. For most Arab Muslims, the US is a hypocritical power because it encourages the use of state terror by Israel against Palestinians.

Yours faithfully,
Preeti Chaturvedi, Calcutta


Peak time

Sir — Mount Everest is much in the news, as celebrations are underway to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first successful attempt to climb the peak. The Nepalese government has made a wonderful gesture by inviting all surviving summiteers to a get-together. This is perhaps also the best time to remember all those who have perished on the slopes of the brooding mountain. Statistically, more than one death has occurred for every ten successful ascents. While their teammates as well as their family and friends would mourn all those who perished in the various expeditions, two incidents stand out for their poignancy. One is the death of the husband-wife duo, Sergei and Francys Arsentiev, who could not make it down safely after summiting together successfully.

But perhaps the most tragic case is that of the Bahuguna brothers whom Everest claimed 14 years apart. There is much on record about the death of the elder brother, Harsh, a member of the ill-fated 1971 international expedition, which made headlines for the personal and national rivalries involved in it. But little information is available about the younger brother, Jai, who perished with three companions during the unsuccessful Indian attempt in October 1985. Perhaps The Telegraph could dig the archives and pay a fitting tribute to all those who have perished trying to tame the Everest.

Yours faithfully,
N.G. Haksi, Ranchi


Sir — Mountaineering today has been made much easier than it was 50 years ago by the latest technology. That is all the more reason to marvel at the grit and hard work of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who had to overcome endless infrastructural bottlenecks to conquer the highest peak on earth (“Parade of death zone conquerors” May 28). And that too without the lure of money and in a world where commercial sponsorship was an unknown concept.

The idea to felicitate the successful climbers was a noble one by the government of Nepal. The moment when Hillary received the honours along with the likes of Reinhold Messner must have been as memorable as the moment when he had planted his country’s flag on the summit.

Yours faithfully,
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia


Don’t jump the gun

Sir — Raj Namdev apparently shot his superior, A.R. Karandikar, and took six colleagues hostage at Mumbai’s international airport because Karandikar had refused him leave to attend his father’s surgery (“Murder and mayhem at Mumbai airport”, May 25). The tragedy throws up many questions regarding the pressures faced by the security forces. Namdev had worked on a 12-hour shift just before the incident. Such a long and rigorous regimen can indeed drive an otherwise normal person to commit such acts. The government should ensure that the jawans get enough relaxation and are allowed to visit their family and friends.

Yours faithfully,
R. Sekar, Angul


Sir — Most of us are not happy with our lot in life, but can do little but resign ourselves to our fate. But there is always one or two among us who has the guts to protest. Raj Namdev is surely one of them, although the way he chose to protest was a drastic one. His act could be classified as a crime, but the real criminal is someone other than Namdev.

Yours faithfully,
Debasmita Chakraborty, Calcutta


Sir — One fails to understand how an educated man, and not a terrorist, could kill another person and take six others hostage at gunpoint. Is it really true that all he wanted in exchange for the hostages was a chance to speak to the media' And why was he stopped, after being rounded, from doing so' Was it because the authorities were afraid he would let out a few deeply uncomfortable truths'

Yours faithfully,
Syeda Kulsum Khan, Chennai


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