Wear your greens
Sir — On being pulled up by the Supreme Court for failing to make environment studies a compulsory subject in its schools, the government of West Bengal is supposed to have defended itself by saying that it was against introducing the said subject till the higher secondary level to reduce academic pressure on students (“Green syllabus fine on 10 states”, Sept 23). True, the pressure on students is enormous, but it is in balancing purely academic subjects with awareness-creating ones such as environmental studies that the effectiveness of an education system lies. And there is no denying that the West Bengal government has not tried as it should have to strike such a balance. It is hardly a consolation that nine other states are keeping West Bengal company in the Supreme Court’s reprimand list. Without forwarding lame excuses, the least our “conscientious” government can do is incorporate environment studies without adding to the burden of the schoolbags.
Mayank Kajaria, Calcutta
Sir — In “Digging in the dark” (Sept 17), Tapati Guha-Thakurta betrays exactly the same malaise that she decries — a preconceived opinion on the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India. It may be that many of the claims made by those regarded as the champions of Hindutva are exaggerated or even baseless. But a rebuttal of the claims must have the same ring of authenticity that is demanded of the Hindutvavadis. Guha-Thakurta doubts the possibility of the existence of a temple by claiming that no evidence is ever going to be considered as “incontrovertible”. But she fails to underline what can be considered as “inconvertible” proof.
Second, Guha-Thakurta terms ASI’s method of excavation as “dubious” although her own grounds of dismissing it remain slippery. Finally, her claim that the ASI report was contested by a team of “independent” archaeological experts is arguable as some of the scholars mentioned by her have well-established left leanings.
Binapani Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — In her article, Tapati Guha-Thakurta exposes the hypocrisy of successive Indian governments which have allowed the Ayodhya dispute to attain such mammoth proportions. What is worse, the Indian judiciary and the academia have worsened the situation. And now precious resources that should have gone into preserving our rich cultural heritage are now being pumped into furthering a selfish political agenda. The saffronization of the ASI holds out an evil portent for the future.
Jyoti Haldar, Calcutta
Sir — Tapati Guha-Thakurta mentions certain specific dates in history when law should have taken its course in controlling the Ayodhya dispute — 1934, 1947 and some others. She also questions the rationale of the court orders on Ayodhya. But as a student of ancient history and law, I think Guha-Thakurta should concentrate on educating her students than question judicial wisdom.
Sir — India needs to think ahead instead of remaining bogged down in a controversy that refuses to die. What is particularly sad is that now even academicians like Tapati Guha-Thakurta seem to be fishing in the political whirlpool. Shouldn’t academics and politics remain separate'
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir— Tapati Guha-Thakurta’s article raises an interesting question. Pseudo-secular historians like her would have remained silent had the excavations found no traces of a Hindu temple beneath the mosque. The moment the excavations have revealed the ruins of a temple, scholars like her have started questioning the credentials of a hallowed institution like the ASI. All arguments forwarded by her school of thought against the findings are covert attempts to ensure that the Ayodhya problem continues to fester.
Sadanand Thakur, Sivasagar, Assam
Sir — It is heartening to see leading academicians speaking out against the blatant distortion of history by rightwing organizations and supposedly “secular” institutions like the ASI. Tapati Guha-Thakurta’s observations expose the existing loopholes in the theories propagated by the Hindu hawks on the Ayodhya issue. More historians and social scientists should join forces to stop such blatant prostitution of history.
Sohini Sensharma, Calcutta
Bag of tricks
Sir — The followers of astrology, palmistry, vaastu and include not only the illiterate population but also numerous educated Indians. In “Injurious to the mind’s health” (Sept 20), Khushwant Singh correctly observes that unchecked propaganda of astrology can do a lot of damage to a country in which a large section of the population remain uneducated and hence prone to superstition. Some time before the cricket world cup last year, astrologers had predicted that India would win the tournament. I wonder what explanation these tricksters gave to their followers when Australia steamrolled the Indian challenge.
Dilip Bhattacharjee, Guwahati
Sir — The fact that Murli Manohar Joshi attended the felicitation of B.K. Madan, the editor of a notorious magazine on astrology, came as a shock. At a time India is striving to make its presence felt in the world, such indiscretion from the minister of human resources and development is unexpected.
Prateek Sen, Calcutta
Sir — Khushwant Singh’s view that television programmes propagating astrology cannot be banned because India “is a free country” and there are far too many followers of the discipline is debatable. Going by such a logic, even tantriks should be allowed to practice human sacrifices since many still believe in the rites.
Asit Kumar Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — The Diary, “Trouble in her backyard” (Sept 14), reports that I am going to join the Congress. This is far from the truth. I contradict the news. The report has caused much disappointment to the people of my constituency.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay, member of parliament, Lok Sabha, Calcutta