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The way of all small stars

Sir — The limelight can be truly addictive — or why would Smriti Z. Irani aka Tulsi Virani, want to join politics (“Virani khandan to BJP parivar, Nov 16)' In fact, considering the short time television stars like Irani have in the limelight, one doesn’t even blame her for trying to cash in while the going is good. But why the sanctimonious air' If she had been so interested in working for “women and youth”, surely there are other avenues. Some would even say that politics is the last place anyone wanting to do any serious social work should be in. Obviously, it’s a convenient arrangement whereby the party will supply patronage and Irani, a “strong middle-class appeal”. And, hundreds of poor housewives, hooked on to Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, will hang on to her every word and vote saffron, and Irani will be rewarded with a ticket, perhaps. As for the poor housewives — their lives will continue to be a struggle with rising prices and dwindling means.

Yours faithfully,
Suman Mukherjee, Calcutta


Island of disquiet

Sir — Why did Chandrika Kumaratunga plunge Sri Lanka into the 48 hour “emergency” drama (“Why has she to do all this'”, Nov 7)' Did she not foresee the implications of sending the country into more political turmoil' She might be angry at the new demands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but could Sri Lanka afford a breakdown in the peace talks' And if she felt that the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, had sold out to the LTTE, why did she wait for him to leave the country to take action' The answer to all these questions is not difficult to find. Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga may belong to different parties but when it comes to the unity and integrity of their country, they seem to act in unison — as the ruling and opposition parties do in India with regard to Kashmir. It seems to be a clever manoeuvre to get the upper hand in the peace talks by playing “good cop, bad cop”. The Tigers are bound to give weight to Wickremesinghe’s proposals, or Kumaratunga would wield the stick. No wonder, the LTTE is baffled by the recent developments.

Yours faithfully,
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta


Sir — Political turmoil has become commonplace in Sri Lanka. It is obviously not possible for the government to concede to the power-sharing proposals by the Tigers. But dismissing three ministers in a day and imposing emergency are no solution. An emergency has serious implications for governance, rule of law and human rights. It means the suspension of public scrutiny of legislation and provisions relating to freedom from arbitrary detention, and indiscriminate search and seizure operations. The state of emergency facilitates serious violations of human rights, such as torture, extra-judicial killings, and disappearances. Also, emergency regulations may be changed or amended speedily, without notice. In Sri Lanka, emergency powers have been much abused. It is sad that the country is being pushed into political turmoil, even as it flounders on the road to peace. This presents a tricky problem for India. It must decide whether to sit back and watch, or whether to go ahead and mediate.

Yours faithfully,
Ranjana Das, Calcutta


Sir — The crisis in Sri Lanka stems from the fact that the president and prime minister belong to rival parties. This should be taken as a warning for other democratic countries with similar systems. In India’s other neighbouring country, Pakistan, elected prime ministers have been overthrown many a time by the executive head. Similarly, toppling of elected governments by the monarchy in Nepal is also not uncommon. In India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam became president by an all-party consensus. But in future, such things may be ruled out in India because of the increasing disharmony among the political class.

Yours faithfully,
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi


Sir — Ever since Sri Lanka’s political crisis started hogging the limelight, Nepal went off the radar of the Indian media. The Telegraph has corrected the lacuna with its editorial, “The Himalayan tangle” (Nov 12).

More than the situation in Sri Lanka, the one in Nepal has far greater consequences for India, especially the neighbouring states of West Bengal and Sikkim. The Maoist rebels of Nepal find sanctuary with left extremists in these states. The government of India has done little to crack down on them nullifying, to some extent, the military assistance it provides to the Nepal government. But at issue, as the editorial correctly sums up, is whether a military solution can make the rebels lay down arms and negotiate a peace. Nepal’s monarchy, with its archaic notions of democracy, is compounding the problem. The solution to the Himalayan tangle calls for more democracy, not less. The country is in serious crisis, far worse than in Sri Lanka.

Yours faithfully,
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Madison, US


Cannon fodder

Sir — Swapan Dasgupta overestimates the benefits of sending troops to Iraq (“Damage limitation”, Oct 24). Of course, the United States of America would love Indian troops to replace its own in the line of fire. And India may be richly rewarded in terms of re-construction contracts and possibly the endorsement of its bid for a permanent membership of the security council.

If India were to send troops to Iraq, Pakistan too may be forced to follow suit to counter any possible increase in Indian influence and this will negate much of the presumed gains. Also, India is better off not being a permanent member of the security council, which would only expose its weakness vis a vis the US, when it comes to deciding whether to stand up to or meekly give in to the dictates of the world’s only superpower. Dasgupta also assumes that the US will eventually be successful in Iraq. This is doubtful considering how much the occupation is resented by Iraqis and also the perception in Islamic world that the attack on Iraq is an attack on Islam itself.

This is also good for other sovereign countries of the world, for a US success would have caused it to abandon all norms of international law. Let India stay neutral for now and see how the situation develops, instead of sacrificing its troops for its business interests.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh V. J, Calcutta


Sir — For once, the Central government did the country a favour by refusing to send Indian soldiers to die in Iraq for the US. That this fact has hit home is evident from the silence of even those who were formerly vocal proponents of sending the Indian forces. Even such client states of the US as Japan and Turkey have decided not to send soldiers. This proves that the world realizes that the Iraqis will not tolerate foreigners ruling their country.

Yours faithfully
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong


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