Women will have to wait
Sir — The Parliament and the cabinet that could pass the Lokpal bill — a bill designed to check corruption in high places and one which does not leave even the prime minister out of its purview — failed to see the women’s reservation bill through (“Cabinet clears Lokpal scanner on PM”, June 29). This is the sad story of Indian democracy and parliamentary practice more than fifty years after independence. It is also a deeply ironic story, for the Lokpal bill would go for the goat of the very people who have legislated it. On the other hand, the women’s reservation bill would merely ensure 33 per cent reservation in all legislative bodies for women, who constitute nearly half of the population. Both the bills make demands on one’s sense of fairness, although the disparity between 33 and 50 still irks. But it is quite clear that male politicians would rather put their fairness on display in supporting the Lokpal bill. Women can wait, there are more important things to deal with.
Paromita Ghosh, Calcutta
Move towards a solution
Sir— This is an extremely important moment for the country, and the prime minister needs the support of the opposition and the people in resolving the Babri Masjid problem amicably (“Still on track”, July 25).
It is true that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was a constituent of the V.P. Singh government, parted ways and adopted the mandir line on V.P. Singh’s acceptance of the Mandal Commission report which posed a threat of division on cast lines in the party’s Hindu vote-bank. However, that alone could not have led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I feel that seeds of the Babri Masjid demolition were sown that day in 1990 when the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, ordered the gunning down of kar sevaks in Ayodhya. Since then, the anti-BJP political parties have exploited the Ayodhya issue in a big way to woo the Muslim vote-bank. Now, when there is some hope for a settlement, this section of politicians are feeling restless.
The main opposition party, the Congress, has declared that it will only pay heed to the Supreme Court’s verdict. But a court verdict is unlikely to satisfy both the communities. The CPI(M) has called the Kanchi shankaracharya’s proposal a “political gimmick” and a “sinister design”, ignoring the fact that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board chairman has described the proposal as “positive and sincere”. It is not difficult to understand why these political parties are being so hostile: in case the issue gets settled at this stage, the credit goes to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. Had any anti-BJP government been at the centre, these same parties would have hailed the shankaracharya’s proposal with great fanfare.
It is for the moderate religious leaders of both the communities to come forward and make the most of the opportunity, without paying any heed to the political and religious forces which have kept the Ayodhya problem hanging for so many years.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Sir — Come election time and Atal Bihari Vajpayee realizes that something needs to be done regarding the Babri Masjid imbroglio. Hence, an SOS to Kanchi’s seer to negotiate a settlement with Muslim leaders.
The real test for the shankaracharya will be to find acceptance with Muslims as an honest broker between them and the Hindus. It must be remembered that the shankaracharya had commended the role of P.V. Narashima Rao in installing the Ram idol at its “rightful place” in Ayodhya. This is unlikely to be forgotten by the Muslims.
The seer has advanced a further bargaining chip, by suggesting that if the Muslims are cooperative on the Babri Masjid issue, the government could be persuaded to allow Muslims to pray in all mosques which have been designated as archaeological sites and not meant for daily prayers. But masjids are not built to serve as monuments but are meant for believers to pray five times a day. To persuade the government to stop an injustice, in exchange of acquiescing to a greater injustice is a strange way to mediate.
The leader of the opposition, Sonia Gandhi, seems to be the new admirer of the Kanchi seer. Her position, however, is fraught with extreme danger, for the slightest tilt towards the seer may rob her party of the few Muslim votes they are still managing to win.
To make the mandir-masjid problem worse, the five accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case have declared that they demolished the masjid on the express orders of L.K. Advani and other top BJP leaders.
No less than a thousand people, most of them being Muslims, died in communal riots following the demolition. Not a single person has been brought to justice till today. Can one really expect justice to be delivered 11 years after the event, no matter how many holy men try'
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Sir — If the hardline parties of the sangh parivar, such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board remain rigid in their stands, then it will be difficult to solve the Ayodhya issue (“Sadhvi steps in, cajoles Singhal to keep open mind on Ayodhya”, June 25). The Sunni Waqf Board should also show a little more flexibility in its claim over the disputed land. Excessive zeal in religious matters has always complicated matters, it certainly cannot bring about a solution to the Ayodhya problem.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The Kanchi shankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, is the liberal face of Hindutva. It is only because of his efforts that a ray of hope can be seen on the Ayodhya horizon. The prime minister too must be lauded for remaining firm and not giving in to the demands of the hardliners. But finally, only a strong public opinion can bring about a lasting solution to the Ayodhya impasse.
J.C. Samaddar, Calcutta
Sir — Policemen in Calcutta never cease to find newer means to harass pedestrians and drivers. Undefined entry and parking rules for vehicles in various places in the city is one of them. There appears to be a separate entrance for VIPs at the Sealdah station, which is blocked by taxis most of the time. On one occasion, I had stopped my car just outside the entry point to drop off my son. The entire exercise would have taken only a few seconds — he was not carrying any luggage — and we had stopped well outside the prohibited area. But we were surrounded by a swarm of policemen in no time who had no intention of listening to us, and every intention of harassing us. Gone are the days when a policeman would have blown a whistle to alert the driver and guided him away from the prohibited site.
Santosh Saraf, Calcutta