And quiet flows the Narmada
Sir — When will our celebrities stop milching the Narmada dam issue to their advantage' After Arundhati Roy, whose social activism as evinced by her pro-active role in the Narmada Bachao Andolan gave her more front-page coverage than her book, it is now the turn of Shabana Azmi to try her luck (“Shabana salute to Digvijay”, July 12). Azmi has been in the Rajya Sabha for the full term of a nominated member to the upper house. Why has she suddenly become concerned about the fate of the displaced people of the Narmada valley' And why is she so sure that the Madhya Pradesh government, which has so long turned a blind eye and ear to the agitators, is genuinely bothered about their plight' Azmi has been known to be extremely keen about retaining her seat in Parliament. Could her faith in the Digvijay Singh government have been dictated by her chances to gain Congress support for her seat in the upper legislature, especially given that the saffronites no longer want her there' Given their commitment, it is no wonder that Narmada’s poor should have little faith in the social activists of the country.
Jyoti Halder, Calcutta
Where to from here'
Sir — In “Change of role”(July 9), Janaki Nair shows how the Kanchi sankaracharya has been reduced to the role of a message-bearer by the sangh parivar, which asserted its right to have the final word on Ayodhya. The fact that “Brahminists” have come to hold sway in India is evident from the fact that the whole world now believes that Hindus of India are bothered most about the construction of a temple on the site of a demolished mosque. Is it not pathetic that Hindus protesting against the Gujarat massacre now feel that they are in the minority in India'
Nair tells us how low caste Hindus have organized themselves in Karnataka and Kerala and cautioned caste members against Brahminism reigning supreme again. The south may be trying to free itself of the yoke of the Brahminists of north India. But what about the rest of India'
Sir — Even while the sankaracharya of Kanchi was brokering the settlement in Ayodhya he knew that Muslims will eventually have to give up the disputed site to Hindus. Adi Sankara, in all his 27 years of life preached advaita, which negates duality of all sorts. It is disturbing to see a follower of that dictum blatantly voicing the concerns of the sangh parivar.
While picking various godmen to solve the Ayodhya dispute, the Centre could also invite the Ramkrishna Mission, whose founder had believed that all religions lead to one goal. The settlement of the problem will require a towering personality who would rise above petty politics, no matter what his status in the Hindu or Muslim religious hierarchy.
Susenjit Guha, Calcutta
Sir — The all India Muslim personal law board’s inability to accept the formula of the seer is not difficult to understand. Conflict resolution involves a process of give and take. But the Kanchi sankaracharya was merely reiterating the demands of the sangh parivar. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s response to the whole episode reveals once again that it is bent upon playing a divisive politics over the issue. It criticized the seer in the initial period when it appeared that Hindus might be asked to give up Kashi and Mathura. The sankaracharya was called a leader of the Shaivites who should not be indulging in the Ayodhya reconciliation process. Now that the AIMPLB has rejected the seer’s proposal, the VHP has interpreted it as an insult to the Hindu leader. The VHP is a blot on the Hindu civilization.
Ram Puniyanim, Mumbai
Sir — The sangh parivar is determined to disrupt communal harmony in the country for their political gains. It is surprising how a handful of people can destabilize such a large democracy, especially given that they hardly enjoy the support of the majority of people in this country. The talk between the muslim personal law board and the seer might have reached a peaceful resolution of the problem had it not been for the intervention of the sangh. There should be a platform where the opinion of the majority of the people of the country can be heard.
Ghulam Rasul, Calcutta
Sir — The breakdown of the peace initiative is very unfortunate. After raising hopes of an amicable settlement to the contentious mandir-masjid dispute, the negotiators have let the country down.
It is not known why matters have to be so complicated. The judiciary could have been allowed to adjudicate over the matter. Instead, the prime minister, his deputy and the sankaracharya seems to have taken it on themselves to find a solution to the problem.
What prompted the sankaracharya to intervene' Was he looking for some cheap publicity' His predecessor never dabbled in politics. He led an ascetic life and took party only in the religious functions of the Kanchi Mutt. The present sankaracharya, too, should restrict himself to the affairs of the mutt. As it is obvious, the sangh parivar has drawn in its breath and is readying to fight a protracted battle on Ayodhya. The sangh parivar commands sufficient clout among Hindus to whip up another passion in the name of Ram.
S. Ram, Calcutta
Sir — Why do we have to be ruled by seers' The Kanchi sankaracharya has taken undue credit for trying to resolve the Ayodhya dispute and has done enough damage to the communal situation. The problem will not be solved peacefully. There might be further communal backlash which will kill the ordinary man on the street and spare those who move around with black cat commandos like Narendra Modi or the seers who sit within the sanctum sanctorum of mutts.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — In a country where millions go without food, water and shelter, it is shameful that our politicians and religious leaders should continue to play games. After all what price is a mosque or a temple at Ayodhya' Can building a temple or a mosque at the disputed site guarantee security to the millions of poor in the country' With the millions of rupees collected for the temple, why don’t we build a hospital for the poor to be treated free of cost' Why don’t we build orphanages or old age homes that may take care of the children of god' We can always leave the spot where Ram was supposedly born and where prayers were offered at the Babri Masjid open so that people from all faiths may offer their prayers.
D.P. Bose, Calcutta
Sir — As Ram Lala’s idol was installed within the makeshift structure at the disputed site just after the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, it is now impossible to remove it and think about constructing any structure other than the Ram temple. If a simple shiladan ceremony could lead to a furore like the one witnessed last year, just imagine what would happen if the Supreme Court passed a ruling in favour of the minority community.
It is unfortunate that the Muslim personal law board has rejected the sankaracharya’s proposal, thus paving the way for hardliners to strike back. The sankaracharya is a practical man and had given a practical solution. One has to remember that the mosque constructed by Babar at the site had been done to slight Hindus. Would any Hindu support any Hindu organization if it were to build a mandir in Mecca'
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The most important factor behind the non-resolution of the Ayodhya dispute is that the ruling party wants to keep the issue alive. The Muslim law board could not have bargained on the site because after the construction of the mosque and after prayers have been offered in it, a mosque becomes the property of Allah.
Muslim organizations have expressed full faith in the judiciary to speak the language of law. Unfortunately, no such hopes can be made about the government. Even while it imposes ban on Muslim fundamental organizations, it makes no effort to curb people like Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal. Since the elections are nearing and the Gujarat experiment cannot be duplicated, the Bharatiya Janata Party is playing the Ayodhya card again.
S.A. Rahman Barkati, Calcutta
Sir — The out of court settlement over Ayodhya is like stabbing someone in the back and then extending a hand of friendship. The sankaracharya’s remark that it is a battle between “faith and prestige” only shows that he mismatches faith with Hindus and prestige with Muslims. The all India Muslim personal law board must give less preference to sankaracharyas than to the more qualified bench of the Supreme Court.
Vivek Vardhan, Bokaro