The living dead
Sir — Gazi Baba is dead, long live Gazi Baba! That might be the refrain among the militants still ruling the roost in Kashmir (“House ‘plotter’ hit on day of hunt”, August 31). For it is unlikely that the Baba is going to disappear from the minds of these terrorists in a hurry. For one, there is still suspicion if the one killed in Srinagar is really Gazi Baba. Yes, several militants who had worked with him have testified that it is indeed Baba. But there is enough reason why the militants would want to attest to that. Once it is established that Baba has been finished off, the pressure to crack down on the group who planned and carried out the Parliament attack would be over. Once taken as dead, Baba could plan similar attacks in the future. As the report, “Unlucky 39 helps BSF blow Baba’s cover” (August 31) indicates, expert militants work under a thick security cover, making it impossible to verify if names actually tally with faces. We can only hope the Gazi Baba is truly Gazi Baba.
Arpita Sen, Calcutta
Piety, the wrong way
Sir — Risking their lives in death traps seems to have become the most common way for Indians to undergo penance for their sins. Look at the way they fall victims to stampedes, pesticides in drinking water, soft drinks and edibles, and the regular bomb blasts that disrupt life in some cities. Not surprisingly, the police and security forces are callous to the dangers involved and the lives lost on each such occasion. This was amply proved in the way the religious congregation in Nashik was mismanaged (“Death in rush to wash away sins”, August 28). Quite naturally, stampedes and deaths are regular occurences in Kumbh melas.
As always, an inquiry committee has been set up to look into the incident. But how will that help' Will a committee be able to compensate for the loss of lives to the families of the deceased' Time will heal the wounds till it is time again for another catastrophe.
Bijit K. Sarkar, Calcutta
Sir — The illogic of having religious gatherings like the one at Nashik has not yet been realized. There are an ever-increasing number of devotees who take great pains to go on such pilgrimages, risking militant fire and death by stampede. Given modern modes of transport and communication, such journeys should have been made easier. Unfortunately, no amount of vigilance can promise a risk-free congregation. Probably Indians need to think of another means of cleansing their souls.
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
Sir — The loss of lives due to the stampede at the Nashik Kumbh Mela is not a new experience. It is unfortunate that we do not learn from such tragedies. The superstitious belief that having a bath in a particular river on a particular day will help one atone for one’s sins and assure one of a better life after death is the prime cause of this disaster. What needs to be clarified urgently is the meaning of the term punya and the ways of attaining it without resorting to outrageous practices such as these. Concern for life after death is considered more important than one’s present state of existence. Without affecting a change in this outlook, there can be no positive change made with respect to such mass rituals. Gathering of a large number of people at one site automatically carries with it certain incipient dangers. Such mass congregations should thus be discouraged. A lot of resources of the state are wasted in managing such ritual gatherings, something which can be avoided. Perhaps religious leaders would come forward to drill some practical sense into people.
N. Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — Although the Chatur Sampradaya may deny it, sadhus of the order were undoubtedly responsible for the chaos that followed (“Sadhus in their Sumos and with silver coins to throw at Kumbh”, August 29). The custom of throwing silver coins may be standard practice, but the timing was wrong. Apart from their Sumos, the sadhus had taken along elephants and camels, according to witnesses. Why did the authorities allow the sadhus in with their animals' And what about the sadhus' Had they no idea of what could have followed'
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The role of the sadhus in the Kumbh Mela stampede is quite clear. The administration should be more strict with the community of seers who have little social function. Religion is undoubtedly a part of the Indian way of life. But if religion becomes the reason for the death of devotees, what purpose is it serving' Festivities such as the Kumbh are a huge drain on the national exchequer and cause a lot of unnecessary tension. They should be disallowed.
Ribul Hazarika, Guwahati
Sir — There is a great deal of rivalry between the four sects of sadhus — the Chatur Sampradaya being one of them — at Nashik. This bad blood could have been one reason why the sadhus of the sect turned out at an unscheduled hour at the Ram Kund in Nashik, only to set off the stampede. Why should innocent devotees suffer as a result of the sectarian politics among sadhus'
Seema Mondal, Calcutta
Let’s not jump to conclusions
Sir — Anju Bobby George deserves all the adulation she is getting (“Long-leap girl calls home with a gift”, Sept 1). What will matter in the long run, however, are not the words of encouragement, but the support she will get from the government if she is chosen to represent the country in the Athens Olympics. The sports authorities of India must organize better training facilities if Anju George is to keep up her performance. Another thing. She must be left on her own and should not be absorbed in endorsing products or inaugurating functions, as most winners are prone to do. Remember Jyotirmoyee Sikdar of Bengal who won a gold at the Asian Games in Bangkok' Today Sikdar is a forgotten name in India. Let’s hope the same fate does not befall Anju George.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — The victory of Anju Bobby George shows that athletics in India needs to be endorsed more actively by corporate sponsors. Cricket is still the only sport that gets maximum attention in this matter. Although hockey this time has managed to do better in terms of corporate sponsorship, the funds spared for athletics and other track events are still very minuscule.
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta