Blow hot, blow cold
Sir — Immediately after the overdone warmth and welcome for Ariel Sharon comes a cold spell — at the receiving end this time is the Pakistani foreign minister, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, (“Cold Delhi sends out unwelcome message”, Sept 16). The reason for this coldness to the representative of a difficult neighbouring country is as incomprehensible as was the bonhomie with Sharon. The Indian foreign secretary’s words appear to be nothing but doublespeak. On the one hand, New Delhi claims it is willing to carry forward the peace process. On the other, it does not want to “return to the talks table till Islamabad addresses...cross-border terrorism”. The Indian establishment is not clear about the policy it would like to follow. The supposed “informal” meeting between Kasuri and Yashwant Sinha also goes against the Indian stand of formal talks. The Indian government needs to explain to the people what makes Israel a country of greater strategic importance than Pakistan.
N. Ganguly, Calcutta
Standing in the desert
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, may be the quintessential Bengali bhadralok in his spotless dhoti and panjabi, but he is a true Marxist in the way he attempts to pass off half-truths as the real truth. He forgets that his “oasis of peace” has been taken over by the likes of Dulal Banerjee and that the ammunitions used in the recent Mumbai blasts were probably routed through Calcutta (“Spoilt Oasis”, Sept 5). The huge cache of ammunitions recovered by the city police, the attack on the American Center last year, and the regular arrests of suspected terrorists from the city, all how unsafe the state has become. The state run by the “secular” left has turned into a safe haven for terrorists because its government cares more about vote-bank politics than it does for national security. Taking his cue from his predecessor, Jyoti Basu, Bhattacharjee had strongly opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Act; but he must realize that some unpopular steps have to be taken if one is to run a government. But that is a lesson our Marxist leaders will only learn the hard way.
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — Set aside the seizure of a huge consignment of AK-47 rifles from Calcutta, the 12-hour hostage drama at Siuri general hospital showed that even hospitals in the state are not safe from marauding mafia dons. Its long and porous border with Bangladesh has made West Bengal a happy hunting ground for Muslim extremists, not to speak of the illegal immigrants who are jeopardizing the state’s peace and economy. The state is anything but an “oasis of peace”.
Debal Kumar Chakravarti, Calcutta
Sir — In this age of global terror, when acts of terror may be planned, financed or executed anywhere, how can West Bengal remain “an oasis of peace”' I remember an incident when I was a student in Calcutta in the early Eighties. There was an American invasion of Granada (a small island in the Caribbean with a population of less than fifty thousand) to force out Fidel Castro’s armed rebels. There was a big hullabaloo of protest in West Bengal — posters every where, streetcorner meetings and so on. Now, there are approximately 20 million unauthorized immigrants in the state from across the border (the figure is as per Indrajit Gupta’s statement in Parliament when he was home minister). I am sure, if those 15 white-haired politburo members were asked to show Granada in a map, they would not have been able to do so. The question is, how can they ignore the problem of the Bangladeshis, and instead look at Granada' Sometime ago, I jokingly asked my father, a Marxist of the old school, whether he had reduced his Coke/Pepsi consumption recently. He said he didn’t drink them any more, because of recent reports. I replied that he should stop drinking water as well, because the pesticides in the colas came from the ground water — after all no company would mix pesticides in its product. Typically, he said, “You cannot believe these American companies (Coke-Pepsi). They can very well mix pesticides in their product.” Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s complacency about the state of law and order in the state should be seen in this context. The Marxists don’t understand what is happening, either in West Bengal or anywhere in the world — be it in politics, economics, or any other sphere. That is this state’s real misfortune.
Bhaskar Chatterji, Fairfield, US
Sir — Twenty-six and still going strong. West Bengal will not find it easy to get rid of this party of the criminals, by the criminals and for the criminals ruling it.
Asoke C. Banerjee, Cambridge, US
Sir — The life sentence awarded to Dulal Banerjee is an exemplary judgment that will restore the peoples’ faith in the law and system in the state. However, this incident in no way means an improvement in the government or political machinery. After all, Banerjee was expelled from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) just four days before the verdict. He had also been elected to a responsible position in the hawkers’ union with the help of an important leader of the state ruling party. Not only this, his well-wisher, who should have been punished, was also given an important post in the Calcutta Tramways Corporation. Is this how our chief minister hopes to clean the party of political criminals'
Kanchan Mondal, Kharagpur
Sir — The murder of the Trinamool Congress leader, Samir Nag, adds to the list of political violence in West Bengal. The involvement of a member of the youth wing of the CPI(M) is a pointer to the way in which violence and corruption are tightening their hold on state politics. Bandhs and strikes have become the familiar face of Bengal, no matter how little they achieve. A routine bandh was called in Nadia too, after Nag’s murder. As long as the criminals owe allegiance to the ruling party, they enjoy immunity, no matter what crime they commit. The Centre should step in to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence.
Sunil Kumar Pal, London
Sir — The Indian army’s claim that the search operations in the Ghatti hills of Kathua in Jammu failed to yield any “militants, dead or alive” is open to doubt (“After seven days, army surrenders”, Sept 9).
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The Indian army has been facing a severe manpower crunch. Many are seeking premature retirement. The army needs to plug this problem to avoid operational failures like Kathua in future.
Ranjit Barkakoty, Jharkhand