Sir — Since Aung San Suu Kyi was delivering the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi (“Fresh start”, Nov 15), it is only natural that she would reminisce about Jawaharlal Nehru and recall the close ties that her father, General Aung San, had with India’s first prime minister. But she could have taken this opportunity to speak in detail about her father’s relationship with another Indian leader, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
General Aung San had personally welcomed Netaji’s brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, when the latter came to Burma in 1946 to offer his services as a defence lawyer in the trials of the members of the Indian National Army. General Aung San came to know Bose and developed close ties with him during World War II, although he had first met Bose in Calcutta in 1940. While delivering a speech in 1946 to welcome Sarat Chandra Bose, General Aung San had described Netaji as a “sincere friend of Burma and Burmese people”. He also said, “Between him and myself, there was complete mutual trust, and although time was against both of us we could not come to the stage of joint action for the common objective of freedom of our respective nations. We did have an understanding in those days that, in any event and whatever happened, the INA and the BNA should never fight each other.” It is indeed appreciable that the leader kept his word.
Defending the paths chosen by Bose and himself to liberate their respective countries, General Aung San had said that there might be people in both India and Burma who thought that those paths were wrong. “But,” he asked, “who can deny or challenge the patriotism of Netaji or ourselves, who can say definitely that we took the wrong paths? Only history, and none of us, who are too close to events, can definitely give the true verdict.”
It is inconceivable that Aung San Suu Kyi is unaware of her father’s relationship with Bose. Perhaps she thought that speaking in detail about Bose at the Vigyan Bhavan programme would be inappropriate.
Debabrata Mukhjerjee, Calcutta
Sir — Ashok Mitra has given a unique dimension to an ordinary incident — of a Union minister showing his loyalty to the prime minister even though he was shifted from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to the ministry of science and technology, which is apparently of lesser importance — in the recent reshuffle (“That cosy feeling”, Nov 16). At a press conference, the minister refused to comment on the reason behind him being “shunted” to another ministry. The media, and some in the Opposition, suggest that the change of portfolio was because of the minister’s reluctance to comply with the wishes of a particular corporate house.
Mitra feels that the minister has created a “zone of uncertainty” by failing to make his loyalty to the prime minister “a little bit more explicit”. He could have refuted the allegations made by the media. He could have also denied his involvement in all that has gone wrong with the petroleum and natural gas ministry during his tenure. And, finally, he could have ended his comments by stating that his transfer to another department was just a routine exercise and there was not much to read into it.
In not taking any such “thundering pledge”, the minister has refused to compromise with the truth, in spite of being in agony over his inability to come out clean. Apparently, this proves that he is a “moral man”. But as Mitra points out, some questions about his integrity still remain. If the minister’s conscience did not allow him to support the prime minister’s stance that the government was not working under the diktats of a corporate house, one may deduce that his sense of integrity would prevent him from keeping the company of a prime minister whose stand poses a moral challenge to him.
Mitra’s discussion of this incident can enable one to make a broader comment on the present-day political class. Politicians today give in too easily to material temptations. They are mostly indifferent to higher moral ideals. It is this apathy that has made them turn the country into a “grand crooks’ opera”.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta