Editorial 1 / Word limit
Editorial 2 / The other kingdom
Story of an appointment
Fifth Column / Handle with special care
Violent families and empowered communities
Letters to the editor

The president has spoken again. This is not to suggest that speechlessness ought to be the presidential norm. Meaningful articulations can certainly emanate from symbolic offices. But the head of state and formal upholder of the Constitution will have to weigh his public utterances with particular care. However, Mr K.R. Narayanan�s speech, while presenting Baba Amte with an international award for social change, seems to have been prompted by other sentiments. The president chose to extend his support, quite eloquently, to those who have been opposing the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam. His public championing of the Narmada Bachao Andolan was part of three larger concerns � ecology, the imperialist tendencies within development and the plight of the tribals and Dalits.

As with all previous instances of his speaking up for the underprivileged, the president�s sentiments are morally impeccable. Development � particularly the Narmada project � is far from being an unproblematic issue. A democracy must be able to accommodate a whole range of conflicting voices on such problems. But the president�s position within a parliamentary democracy will have to be respectful of its special responsibilities and constraints. Mr Narayanan�s critique goes against the Centre�s position on the dam and against the verdict of the Supreme Court. And this could suggest a political bias which is inimical to the neutrality publicly expected from such a figure. This could, perhaps, lead to the larger philosophical issue of the role of the president in the Indian polity, compared to, say, the American government. This would, in turn, bring up questions of how this role should be publicly projected and performed. A popular leader, invested with a more proactive role, could take it upon himself to point up the internal imbalances within a system of governance. He would thereby act as the nation�s moral voice or conscience, vigilantly monitoring how the country is being ruled. But, as the representative of the Indian Constitution outside the judiciary, Mr Narayanan would be overstepping his limits if he assumes, as he often tends to, any of these supervisory roles. Displaying his socialist sensibilities and personal affiliations could amount to signalling an ideological opposition to the country�s ruling party. Choosing a public forum for expressing such opinions or talking directly to the media could also look like a personal inclination to a certain kind of populism which, again, goes against the grain of presidential decorum. Exhibiting dissent � however principled, heroic or empathetic its premises � cannot be part of the presidential identity. Rising above, rather than pitching in, is what the nation expects from its constitutional head.


After prison comes exile for the former prime minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharif. In exchange for freedom in exile, Mr Sharif has been forced to forfeit the major chunk of his accumulated wealth, both money and property. He has also given an undertaking that he will not come back to Pakistan. Unless the wheel of Pakistani politics takes unexpected turns, Mr Sharif�s political career in Pakistan is over. This is nothing new in Pakistan. Military coups, imprisonment of rivals, exile and, in one notorious case, execution are familiar signposts in the vulnerable career of democracy there. Mr Sharif should count himself fortunate that he has at least got back his freedom. This good fortune is obviously related to the pressure the international community, especially the United States, has mounted on General Pervez Musharraf, to be lenient and sympathetic towards the man he deposed. The polity of Pakistan, since the untimely death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has been subject to a perpetual tension between military and civilian rule. The record would suggest the balance in this unhealthy tussle is in favour of the military. Whoever has fallen foul of the army in Pakistan has paid for it by the loss of power. Mr Sharif�s exile strengthens Mr Musharraf�s hand and practically ensures that there is no effective opposition to military rule in Pakistan.

Politics is not possible via remote control. Thus a non-resident leader is by definition a non-starter. The plight of the Pakistan People�s Party, whose leader, Ms Benazir Bhutto, now lives in the United Kingdom, is proof of this generalization. Similarly, the leader of the other big political formation, Mr Altaf Hussain, the Muhajir leader, is discovering the difficulties of leading an agitation from exile. Ms Bhutto, Mr Sharif and Mr Hussain are all civilian leaders who are currently in exile.This,by itself, shows the strength of Mr Musharraf�s position. He is without any credible opposition. There is nothing better a military ruler could ask for. Mr Musharraf may feel smug about this state of things since he has very little respect for Pakistan�s civilian politicians.It is his belief that under civilian rule, Pakistani society and economy has become more and more corrupt; civilian politicians, in Mr Musharraf�s view, have only lined their pockets in the name of serving their country. There is a good measure of truth in all this. But Mr Musharraf has to address more fundamental questions concerning the future of Pakistan under military rule. It is clear that in today�s world, issues relating to freedom and democracy are crucial to progress and modernity. Democracy in Pakistan has been long delayed, it remains to be seen how much longer it can be denied. As long as the army rules Pakistan, there will be a question mark hovering over Pakistan�s membership to a modern community of nations. Army rule has, in fact, exiled Pakistan in all but name.


When Lalit Mansingh, the outgoing foreign secretary, arrives in Washington in a couple of months to present his credentials as India�s next ambassador to the United States, he would have reversed history and marked yet another turning point in Indo-US relations. It is now forgotten that Mansingh�s predecessor, K. Raghunath, was originally the Atal Behari Vajpayee government�s choice to succeed the ambassador, Naresh Chandra, in Washington. It was agreed in the final months of Raghunath�s foreign secretaryship that he would move to America�s capital once he reached the superannuation age of 60. But his nomination never got off the ground, and it is the untold story of Raghunath�s aborted appointment to Washington, which makes Mansingh�s planned departure for the US positive in terms of Indo-US relations.

Raghunath was in Washington for bilateral talks with the Americans just four days before the fateful nuclear tests in Pokhran on May 11, 1998. That was roughly a month after the Americans sent a high level reconnaissance mission to New Delhi led by Bill Richardson, now energy secretary in the Bill Clinton administration. He was then America�s permanent representative to the United Nations. The purpose of the Richardson mission was to sniff out the possibility of India going nuclear under a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. It was also Richardson�s brief to size up the BJP in New Delhi�s driving seat: the official, but unexpressed, opinion in Washington was that it is a Hindu nationalist party.

Richardson was chosen to head the reconnaissance mission after considerable thought in the White House. What finally went in his favour was his proximity to L.K. Advani, whom Washington always considered as the party�s chief strategist. Richardson had got to know Advani fairly well some years earlier, when the latter was the president of the BJP. Richardson, then a Congressman from New Mexico, had gone to India to look for and rescue, if possible, an American national who had been kidnapped in Kashmir by one of the Pakistani-sponsored terrorist outfits operating in the valley.

Richardson had no success in locating the American or in rescuing him, but the trip brought him into close contact with the BJP leader who has a long and uncompromising record of opposing terrorism and Islamic militancy. There was a meeting of minds between the two men, till then rare in any interaction between Indian and US politicians.They shared not only a will to fight terrorism, but also an expertise in organizing and running their respective political parties. If Advani was president of the BJP, Richardson had just given up vice chairmanship of the Democratic party�s national committee.

As Bill Clinton had calculated, Rich- ardson�s visit went off very well. He met the prime minister, Advani and anyone else in New Delhi that he wanted to see. Richardson returned to Washington and reported that the BJP-led government was not going to test the bomb, after all. Just to be one the safe side, like all successful politicians, he added that if at all Vajpayee decided to go nuclear, he would only do so after completing a strategic review of India�s defence needs.

Richardson thought this provided an escape route for him in case the National Democratic Alliance pressed home its agenda � and the BJP�s � of testing the bomb. He concluded that he was safe in his prediction since the new ruling alliance in New Delhi had listed the review in its manifesto as preceding any nuclear test. Karl Inderfurth, the assistant secretary of state for south Asia, who accompanied Richardson to New Delhi, concurred with this view. So did Frank Wisner, former ambassador in New Delhi, whom Clinton thought of both as his administration�s best expert on India and as the most influential American in New Delhi.

All these three men suffered a severe setback to their credibility within the administration when India declared itself a nuclear weapons state on May 11, 1998. Of the three, Richardson was comparatively unfazed: after all, he owes his position in America�s political life only to himself. He is the first Hispanic to become a member of the US cabinet and had won impressively eight times to the house of representatives from his home state of New Mexico. Indeed, three months after the Indian fiasco, Richardson went on to become energy secretary in the Clinton administration.

All the same, these three men decided to lay the collective blame for their wrong judgement on the Indian prime minister. Vajpayee, they chorused in private, had told their delegation that India would not test. A check of the minutes of the payee-Richardson meeting shows that the prime minister never told them any such thing. Indeed, buttressing this is the eyewitness account of one of the participants in the meeting that when Vajpayee was asked point blank about a possible nuclear test, he smiled characteristically and remained silent.

It is well known that the Americans have not been able to live down the fact that a poor country like India, largely illiterate and a mere regional player in international politics, hoodwinked US satellites and intelligence network in successfully carrying out the Pokhran II nuclear tests. The hearings which were scheduled on Capitol Hill about this monumental intelligence failure are testimony to this continuing heartburn. But every situation of this kind requires a suitable whipping boy. It goes without saying that even if Vajpayee had misled Richardson and others, they could not possibly use the prime minister of India as their whipping boy.

Under those circumstances, Raghunath quickly became the whipping boy for the Americans in the aftermath of the nuclear tests. Those in the US administration, who felt that their careers and reputation had been compromised by the BJP-led government�s action, held Raghunath personally responsible for their discomfiture and worse.

He had been in Washington only days before the nuclear tests. The foreign secretary�s spin doctors put out the line that Raghunath was not told about the tests in advance by the prime minister�s office. For a while, the Americans believed this: after all, it is still a popular guessing game in New Delhi as to who exactly knew about Pokhran II and how much in advance.

But this excuse was blown when one of America�s allies convinced Washington that Raghunath did, indeed, know about the tests when he was in the US on May 7. Diplomats from this allied country told their US counterparts that high level meetings between this country and India had been scheduled in New Delhi on May 11. Without any apparent reason, but with absolute stubbornness, Raghunath wanted these meetings to be postponed. The cat was soon out of the bag because the foreign secretary did not seek a postponement of a week or even a couple of days. He just did not want the meetings on May 11 � or on May 13 when the second round of tests took place � but on May 12. The Americans rightly concluded that Raghunath knew about the tests when he was having bilateral talks in the US.

Bitter over what they regarded as a betrayal, the Americans never allowed Raghunath to return to Washington. When gossip about Raghunath�s appointment as ambassador to the US started circulating in New Delhi, the Americans let it be known to South Block and the PMO through very effective back channels that he would be unwelcome in Washington. The appointment never got to the point where the Americans had to officially express any reservations about New Delhi�s choice. South Block got the message; the idea of naming Raghunath as Naresh Chandra�s successor was quietly dropped.

Incidentally, Chandra too nearly became a whipping boy in the aftermath of Pokhran II, but he deftly manoeuvred himself out of a situation which could have otherwise made it difficult for the ambassador to deal with the Americans in the two years that followed.

At a meeting in Washington within hours of the May 11 tests, Robert Einhorn, Clinton�s arms control czar, pointedly asked Chandra about �a series� of nuclear tests which New Delhi had announced. Einhorn was the only one on the US side to grasp the nuances of the English language in the Indian statement, which, interestingly, was drafted by a journalist who is equally trusted by Vajpayee and Advani. Chandra, who has a remarkable skill for throwing his interlocutors off balance, did not answer: he simply changed the subject. The second in the �series� of tests took place on May 13.

India is not trying to make a point by sending another retiring foreign secretary as ambassador after Raghunath was virtually rejected by the Americans. All the same, it is a reminder of how far things have changed between Washington and New Delhi from the days of bitterness and suspicion two years ago. Mansingh, in any case, is no stranger to the US capital. The years which he spent in Washington as the deputy chief of mission under a succession of ambassadors will stand him in good stead at a time when Indo-US relations are poised to grow further.


The parliamentary committee on the welfare of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has recently accused the Supreme Court of practising a kind of �untouchability� with regard to the policy of reservation. Judges, it has been alleged, are not concerned about the constitutional objectives of bringing about social changes. The report comes when the apex court, on several occasions, has ruled out reservations exceeding 50 per cent of the total number of seats available. It has also made clear that no caste-based reservations would be allowed in judicial appointments.

It should be remembered that the apex court has never questioned the efficacy of reservations. It has only imposed certain limitations on the criteria. While accepting the need for the policy, the court has observed that unlimited reservations constitute a gross injustice to other sections of the community.

Moreover, judges have realized that reservations often affect the standard of education and efficiency in service. Last August, the Supreme Court ruled that in admissions to medical and engineering colleges, some parity had to be maintained. While minimum marks required for other candidates was 45 per cent, it would be unfair to fix it at 20 per cent for SC/ST candidates.

Additional clause

There can be no arguments on this point. The said professions are of paramount importance and room has to be made for the best talents. Therefore, the court has not given local authorities the discretionary power of lowering recruitment requirements for the reserved categories. Similarly, the apex court has rightly felt that caste cannot be the criterion for recruitment to the judiciary as this would jeopardize the execution of justice.

Interestingly, the Constitution had made no room originally for reservations as its makers laid supreme emphasis on the principle of equality. Articles 14 to 18 ensure this. In fact, Article 15 stipulates that the state shall not discriminate on grounds of religion, caste, sex, or place of birth. Only clause 2 of this article makes exceptions for women and children.

But soon after, the first amendment of the Constitution added clause 4 to Article 15. This was occasioned by a dispute over the Madras government�s reservations in medical colleges. While the Supreme Court nullified the action as a violation of Article 15, the government argued it conformed to Article 46, a directive principle, which makes it the state�s duty to take special care of the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society.

Making exceptions

The Supreme Court, however, declared in the Champakam Dorairajan vs Madras case that in the name of implementing a directive principle, the government could not infringe on a fundamental right. As a result, the government inserted clause 4 to Article 15 which allows the state to make special provisions for the advancement of SC/ST. So discrimination is now legally permissible.

Some sections of the society undoubtedly need special care. But the unwarranted extension of the provision for reservations cannot be justified. The Supreme Court, on various occasions, has restricted its use. In Pradip Pandey vs UP, it held that reservations for candidates of hill areas in Uttarakhand could be made. But the students of villages could not raise such a claim. Similarly, in Jayasree vs Kerala, it ruled that financial condition also has to be considered while using the provision. Thus a lower caste candidate who is well off cannot claim his rights to reservations.

This is essential, since reservations have already created a privileged class among the backward castes, aggravated group consciousness and encouraged inequality. Votebank politics has further complicated matters. The system of reservations may continue, but it has to cater to the greater interests of the nation.

It has been suggested that Articles 146 and 229 be amended, directing the judiciary to apply the reservation policy in judicial appointments and promotion. But these articles give absolute authority to the chief justice in these matters. The makers of the Constitution knew this was essential to maintain judicial integrity. Before accusing the apex court of playing foul, the implications of the policy of reservation have to be pondered.


�I can�t take it any more,� the young girl sobs. �My mother-in-law abuses me every day and slaps me at the slightest excuse.� One of the older women sitting next to her holds her close, patting her while the rest of us try to communicate our sympathy and support.

We are sitting in a hall in Saswad, headquarters of Purandar taluka, Pune district, witnessing a meeting of female survivors of domestic abuse. There are about 100 women in the large hall when we arrive. Saswad is just 22 kilometres from Pune, but an hour�s car ride on a crazy mix of well-paved and potholed roads.

These women, young and elderly, some illiterate, some educated up to the seventh standard, are from the villages in Purandar taluka where MASUM, a Pune-based voluntary organization working on women�s empowerment, has had a presence for the last 11 years. Most of them look like ordinary rural women. It is only when they stand up to relate their tales that one realizes the difference.

They are angry about the way they were treated by their husbands, their in-laws and even their parents. They have had enough of being submissive, of a society that expects them to suffer in silence.

The meeting is to follow up some 200 cases that this centre has handled over the last two years. All the women � including those who had returned to their husbands � had been contacted by letter or in person by sathis, village-level workers, and invited to this shibir. About 100 women came. A mother or sister-in-law, as chaperone, accompanied many. Most paid for their own bus tickets to the centre and back; the centre paid for those who could not afford the ticket, lodged and fed them in a large hall for the two-day camp.

Tackling domestic violence was far from the concerns of Manisha Gupte and Ramesh Awasthi when they first started working in MASUM, concentrating then on health, income-generating skills and a micro-credit programme. Over the years, they became aware of the extent of wife abuse and murder. Even village women working for MASUM were not immune from abuse.

Then, one of MASUM�s most enthusiastic supporters committed suicide � ironically on March 8, International Women�s Day. �She was lying in Sassoon hospital, burned over 90 per cent of her body, but struggled to ask what was the use of respect from the villagers and the MASUM staff when she could not escape her husband�s abuse,� says Manisha, visibly moved by the memory. The couple knew that they had to do something to stop this violence.

Their efforts resulted in Samvad, a counselling centre in Saswad for victims of domestic abuse. When a woman comes in with a complaint, MASUM staff, trained in mediation, elicit details of the case. They may contact the in-laws, the neighbours and other villagers to understand the dimensions of the problem. Whenever possible, they try to bring about a reconciliation.

However, when the abuse has been life-threatening and has shown a consistent pattern of escalation, they do not hesitate to help the woman file a police complaint or a legal case. But few women have the resources or the freedom to make the long journey from their village to the counselling centre. So MASUM has started a new village-level programme. Village women, trained as para-legals or sathis provide counselling and information on legal rights, and build local support groups for abused women, who often do not get much help even from their natal families. When appropriate, sathis refer the woman to Samvad. The sathi training has been well received; 30 women have signed up for a three days per month training programme that extends over two years. There is already a waiting list for the next batch.

The women�s commitment to Samvad compete with family pressures to tolerate domestic violence. Those who return to their husbands often hesitate to threaten a renewed relationship by maintaining contacts with those who helped them during times of stress. �Since we cannot offer abused women a safe haven, we must encourage reconciliation,� says Manisha. �But we make it clear to the man that stronger measures will follow if the physical abuse does not end.�

There are other obstacles as well. Even MASUM activists find the lawyers difficult to deal with. Lawyers demand exorbitant fees before accepting a case. Some refuse to give an estimate of the costs involved in a legal battle. They are often willing to make deals with the other side, and often let cases drag on endlessly with scant regard for the psychological and financial cost to the woman.

Manisha�s message is clear: domestic arguments are inevitable; what is completely unacceptable is physical abuse. Abuse can come from anyone � in-laws as much as natal families. Unless women learn to resist at the first instance of violence, it will escalate, not recede. Finally, when violence is suspected or witnessed, it cannot be dismissed as a private family matter. It is a public event in which bystanders must get involved and give whatever assistance they can.

A recent case of sexual harassment is discussed at length. A young Dalit woman, abandoned by her husband, had to work as a wage labourer in the field of a farmer who made sexual advances. Despite the risk of losing her livelihood, she picked up the courage to publicize the harassment.

The intricacies of local conflicts come into play. Manisha whispers that the village would be more than happy to teach this man a lesson as he is a landowning Dalit. Manisha carefully explains to the assembled women why this incident should not be used by the village to condemn Dalits in general.

One woman in her sixties, in a traditional nine-yard sari and a huge tikka on her forehead confidently speaks from the dais. �Women are invariably the responsible wage earners in their families; husbands fritter away their earnings on liquor,� she declares. �Women should have faith in their own abilities.�

�This ajjibai (grandmother) was abandoned by her husband 30 years ago,� Manisha whispers. She not only raised her own three children with her labours, but also helped a foster son. Two years ago, her husband turned up in the village. �When the villagers came running to tell her to receive him, she sent a message saying that if he did not take the next bus out of the village, she would come and kill him and wipe off her tikka,� says Manisha.

�She said her youth had been wasted by this man�s irresponsible behaviour; now he had come back expecting her to care for him in his old age.� Needless to say, the man vanished from the scene as quickly as he had come. There are many such stories, some heartening, some heart-breaking. The long conversations are interspersed with songs set to catchy tunes.

Things are changing for Indian women � rural and urban � today. They now dare to come forward after just months of abuse, not years as in the past. There are organizations like MASUM in every state, and there are young women who are willing to risk the wrath of the village to obtain paralegal training. These brave women need more support from the state, with simplified procedures to file complaints of domestic abuse, with women-friendly police stations, and an efficient and transparent court system. Organizations like Samvad have made the beginning; it is up to the public to take the movement forward.



Not to be silenced

Sir � It was interesting to read about the recent election of a eunuch as the mayor of Gorakhpur (�Eunuch elected mayor in the heartland�, Nov 27). That Asha Devi was elected by a margin of over 65,000 votes, thereby forcing both her rivals, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, to forfeit their deposits, is good news. The election of Asha Devi in Gorakhpur has been followed by that of a eunuch councillor in Varanasi and of Shabnam Mausi to the state assembly in Madhya Pradesh. However, one has to wonder what to make of all this. Eunuchs have, for a very long time, been marginalized and looked down upon by society. They have been denied almost all basic human rights including the right to vote. That Asha Devi and others like her have decided to step out of the shadows, is a clear indication that they are ready to take their rightful place in society. It remains to be seen whether we are able to shed our age old prejudices and extend our support to them.
Yours faithfully,
Mandira Guha Neogi, Calcutta

Demolition men

Sir � Several working days in both houses of Parliament have been lost because of the unruly and disruptive behaviour of Congress members of Parliament in the first week of December (�Atal steam for Ram temple�, Dec 7). The Congress has no other aim but to attract the Muslim vote bank by highlighting the issue of the Babri Masjid demolition on the occasion of its eighth anniversary. They also have the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in mind. Interestingly, members of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and the Left Front were conspicuously silent during the Congress tirade.

The Congress was no less responsible than the Bharatiya Janata Party for the destruction of the 500 year old structure. P.V. Narasimha Rao was at the head of the government at the Centre when the demolition took place, and it was Rajiv Gandhi who had unlocked the Babri Masjid complex and helped to establish the Ramlala deity, which finally led to the demolition on December 6, 1992.

The Congress has kept up its tradition of contradicting its own words. It wants the resignations of three Union ministers, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, who have been chargesheeted in the Ayodhya issue. On the other hand, it has lent its support to the the parties of J. Jayalalitha and Laloo Prasad Yadav, who have been chargesheeted several times. The time spent by Congressmen in disrupting Parliament proceedings should be spent in introspection.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir � The Congress, with some support from the left parties and certain others eager to pose as secular, have been paralysing Parliament recently, demanding the resignation of the three BJP ministers charged with instigating the demolition of the Babri Masjid structure in Ayodhya. In 1984, following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Congress instigated the mass killing of Sikhs in Delhi. Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister, said that the killings were inevitable just as it was inevitable that the earth would shake when a big tree fell. Many of the persons charged with being involved in this incident went on to become MPs and even cabinet ministers. All of them are still at large. In Indian politics, it is not uncommon for people with criminal records to attain posts of power. There is no need to raise a hue and cry about this. A party which has been known to aid and abet criminals should not stall Parliament on these grounds.

Yours faithfully,
P. Parijatha, Hyderabad

Sir � Whatever be the demand of the Congress, it is wasting national resources by stalling Parliament proceedings. Since such disruption has become a trend, electors should make sure before voting that their representatives would behave in a manner that befits the dignity of the house.

Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir � The opposition parties may have disrupted the functioning of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha for some time now, but the BJP and the prime minister himself, have added enough fuel to the fire. The BJP has made it a ritual to issue some provocative statement or the other every year on the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. In a multiparty democracy, the opposition is expected to attack the ruling party or coalition at the first opportunity. And if such an opportunity is afforded them, can they be blamed for taking it up?

Yours faithfully,
Geeti Sharma, Patna

Law in their hands

Sir � West Bengal�s new chief minister stated that, if required, the police will have to shoot down criminals and do whatever is required, for the �nonsense� could not be tolerated any longer. This was after more than hundred criminals raided Kanpur village under Usthi police station in the South 24 Parganas, looted houses and tortured innocent people. After the visit of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who ordered the police authorities to do �what is required�, the police are raiding the area every day. Almost 30 people have been arrested from the locality and these have never been involved in any criminal activity. More than thousand people visited the local police station to rescue these innocent villagers without any result. Can the police prove their guilt? In case they cannot, will the police be punished for the trauma they have caused to these men and their families? If the police turn torturers could young men be blamed for turning into troublemakers?
Yours faithfully,
Sushanta Mandal, Kanpur

Sir � While partisan clashes increase, sloganeering by different political parties goes on unabated (�Atal asks Buddha to rein in clash�, Dec 1). It goes without saying that neither of these will bring down the menace of political violence. As respective party leaders seek out their recrimination, they do not stop to realize that they are turning West Bengal into a killing field.

Criminals who are behind this violence and who often force even sincere politicians to give in to them should be identified and brought to book. The answer to this dismal situation lies with the common people, who have been forced to suffer the histrionics of the politicians for far too long. They should come forward to take control of things.

Yours faithfully
Samir Chakraborty, Howrah

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