Editorial / End of a dispute
Voices from the field
This above All / Writers in their retreat
People / Sankaracharya
Letters to the editor

It will remain one of the ironies of history that it took a religious leader to save the appearance of secularism in India. According to reports, the Kanchi sankaracharya, Swami Jayendra Saraswathi, succeeded in persuading the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to accept the Supreme Court’s judgment on the disputed site in Ayodhya, even if it goes in favour of the Muslims. This, by any reckoning, is a climb down from the VHP’s earlier adamant position. Only the simple-minded will see in this shift a genuine change of heart on the part of the VHP. The VHP is under various kinds of pressure. As a self-professed Hindu body claiming to represent orthodox Hindu opinion, it could scarcely be seen to defy the wishes and fiats of the Kanchi sankaracharya who is regarded as being among the holiest of the holy by orthodox Hindus. The writ of Mr Ashok Singhal, the working president of the VHP, does not run on matters spiritual, and the building of a temple, whatever be its political overtones in the present context, is imbricated with the sacred. It could be argued that as a Hindu leader, Mr Singhal had his options foreclosed once the Kanchi seer decided to negotiate.

There are two other factors to consider. One is the consequences for the VHP if it had decided to disobey the Supreme Court. Such an act would have opened the floodgates of lawlessness and would lead to the complete erosion of the power and prestige of the country’s apex court. Through such a defiance, the VHP would have declared itself to be outside the rule of law. This is not something that the VHP can quite afford to do at the moment. Why they cannot afford to do this is related to the second factor: the presence of a coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi. Whatever its rhetoric, the VHP knows that it would be foolhardy to enter into a confrontation with the BJP government. Such a confrontation could even result in the dissolution of the government. The BJP, already on a declining skid, would further suffer if it were out of office. The sangh parivar, despite all its ideological posturings, knows which side of its bread has the butter and the jam. For the nonce, the VHP has chosen office over ideology; ministry has prevailed over mandir.

Supporters of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee will see in the induction of the Kanchi sankaracharya a masterstroke to end the Ayodhya impasse. A viable solution to the problem will add to Mr Vajpayee’s standing as a national leader at a time when he is hardpressed for success. His success will not please his enemies and rivals within the BJP and the rest of the sangh parivar. His critics are growing in number as they see the decline of the BJP’s popularity as a fallout of Mr Vajpayee’s moderate policy. That policy, many BJP insiders believe, has resulted in the erosion of Hindutva, the BJP’s principal and specific appeal. Such critics assert that the future lies in greater militancy, and not suprisingly, Gujarat has become the model for recovery. The BJP, despite Mr Vajpayee’s leadership, has always had a communal and anti-Muslim undertow. After the debacle in Uttar Pradesh, and in the aftermath of Gujarat, the undertow has become a visible current. Mr Vajpayee, by solving the Ayodhya dispute, might turn the current. He also might earn a breather for himself.


All decent and peace-loving Indians shall be depressed by the recent events in Gujarat, but a historian of Indian nationalism has a right to be more depressed than most. This particular historian had spent the first half of February studying the letters and papers of Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, “Rajaji”, a man who at various times served as chief minister of Madras, home minister of the government of India, and governor general — a philosopher, statesman and writer once described by Mahatma Gandhi as “the keeper of my conscience”.

Amidst a mountain of correspondence between Rajaji and the likes of Gandhi, Patel, Nehru and Ambedkar, I came across a curious exchange of letters with a lesser known patriot named Valji Govind Desai, who was a long time follower of the Mahatma and the translator of some of his works. In the festive season of 1947-48, Rajaji, as governor of West Bengal, had given away the prizes at the horse-races on the Calcutta Maidan. Valji Desai wrote to Gandhi in protest, and after Gandhi was shot dead on January 30, passed on the complaint to the offender himself. “Don’t you think”, asked Desai, “you are making our independence ugly by lending your prestige to an institution which was condemned by Bapu without any reservation?”

Rajaji’s first instinct was self-defence. He too condemned gambling, he said, but considered that the presentation of a cup to the winner of a horse-race was no worse than, or no different from, the presentation of a medal to a student who comes first in an examination. Rajaji then had second thoughts about the exchange, whose pettiness he transcended by saying: “But let us drop the matter in the universal grief. I may be even wrong with regard to horses. Let us unite on the Hindu-Muslim issue”.

Rajaji was, among other things, a learned and devout Hindu, and the author of celebrated translations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He believed that a unique feature of his religion was “its specific and positive doctrine of catholicity”. “The Hindu tradition”, he once wrote, “prescribes that it is not open to any Hindu, whatever the name and mental image of the Supreme being he may use for his devotional exercises, to deny the Gods that others worship. He...cannot deny the divinity or the truth of the God of other denominations.” It was, indeed, as a positively catholic Hindu that Rajaji worked for inter-religious harmony. Thus his plea to his fellow Gandhians in February 1948; a plea that rings compellingly true in February and March of 2002. For the brutalities in Gujarat have recalled the brutalities and bloodshed of the Partition riots of 1947-48. The same tales of burning and loot, the same animal frenzy, and — despite it and defying it all — the same singular tales of refuge given by exceptional members of one religious community to terrified members of another.

“Let us unite on the Hindu-Muslim issue.” That, at a particularly trying time in our history, was the call of a wise man like Rajaji, and that, now, is the message conveyed in statements recently issued by two of our most respected writers. In a moving letter to the president of India, Mahasweta Devi has appealed to him “to immediately intervene as the constitutional head of the country to protect the lives of innocent citizens and prevent the carnage from spreading any further”. Speaking with characteristic forthrightness of this “hour of national shame”, Mahasweta called upon the president, and the rest of us, to help “put an immediate halt to this needless waste of human life and help restore sanity”. She asked for the banning of extremist religious organizations — whether Hindu or Muslim — and for exemplary legal action to be taken both against those who burnt the train at Godhra and those who instigated the riots in retribution.

No living writer has a record of public service as distinguished as Mahasweta’s. She has undertaken a lifelong struggle on behalf of vulnerable and victimized Indians: be they forest tribes, landless peasants, battered women, tortured prisoners or persecuted minorities. At times, the happenings in Gujarat have depressed even this indomitable woman. “There was once”, she told me over the phone, “a solitary man in a loin-cloth who walked to restore peace between Hindus and Muslims. But were he to walk now in his native Gujarat they would kill him too.” Then, quickly, the will and the character reasserted itself. “Hum maidan nahin chhodenge”, insisted the 78-year old, “hum maidan nahin chhodenge.” We will not leave the field. We will stay, and fight on against the reactionaries and and the fundamentalists.

From Bangalore, Mahasweta’s call has been seconded by a letter to the president by her fellow Jnanpith awardee, U.R. Anantha Murthy. He too calls it a “period of national shame”. Anantha Murthy writes that “ a growing number of Hindus, including myself, feel that no temple that has caused so much blood to be spilt can ever represent the sentiments or the spiritual yearnings of Hindus.” The Ayodhya campaign, he continues, “has only consolidated fundamentalist feelings amongst both Hindus and Muslims and sown deep distrust amongst neighbours and friends. Some politicians seeking to build a Muslim or Hindu vote bank may see in the controversy an opportunity, but for most citizens, the issue of whether a new temple is built or the mosque rebuilt is largely irrelevant to their daily lives. It only impinges on them in adverse ways, as when innocent Indians of all faiths become victims of violence.”

Anantha Murthy has followed up his letter to the president, K.R. Narayanan, with an appeal to theswami of the Pejawar mutt in North Karnataka, a highly respected religious leader who, for reasons not easy to fathom, has supported the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s malevolent activities in Ayodhya. Anantha Murthy has asked the Pejawar swami to reconsider his support. As he points out, “unlike Islam and Christianity, Hinduism is not a historical religion. It… does need to know where or when Rama was born. The Rama for whom thousands of men, women and children have been killed is not the Rama our saints and poets have praised or the Rama whom Gandhiji called out to when he died. I request you not to support this murderous campaign in any way.”

I used the term, “malevolent”, but Anantha Murthy’s appellation, “murderous”, is more accurate and wholly just. For close to 20 years now, the Ayodhya campaign has led to episodic bursts of violence. In 1989, the Ramshila pujan, or brick-worship ceremony, led to a riot in Bhagalpur in which more than 2,000 people lost their lives. The next year, L.K. Advani’s Toyota yatra from Somnath onto Uttar Pradesh left a trail of dead bodies and burnt houses in its wake. Then, in 1992-93, the demolition of the Babri Masjid sparked off a wave of violence and counter-violence in Mumbai and other places. And now we have these horrific incidents in Gujarat. The temple, were it ever to be built, will not be a celebration of divinity but, rather, a chilling testimony to manufactured violence and consciously willed murder. The marble pillars that are currently being made for its construction are each inscribed with the blood of a hundred innocent victims.

The activities of the Hindu fanatics are condemned by the secular democrat, speaking on behalf of the Constitution of India. They are condemned by the non-denominational patriot who fears that communal violence will besmirch our name in the international community, which will come to regard us as an unstable fundamentalist state: as, indeed, a Hindu Pakistan. They are condemned by the pragmatic economist and businessman who worry that riots will lead to a dramatic dip in India’s investment ratings. (Each day of violence in Gujarat led to an estimated loss of Rs 500 crore.)

These worries are entirely legitimate. But the VHP and its cohorts need also to be condemned by the Hindu middle ground, the millions of thus far silent Indians who have seen their ancestral religion taken over and grossly distorted by a bunch of power-hungry individuals. It is these voices that one now needs to hear, and hear more often. Once, men such as C. Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi were the political voice of Hindus. They stood for catholicity and tolerance and for progress and social reform, building friendships with Muslims and Christians and Sikhs, working to remove the disabilities faced by women and low castes, thus to more effectively and painlessly bring this old faith into the modern world. Their work won wide acceptance and support amongst Indians, but perhaps especially amongst their fellow Hindus. Can it really be that these Hindus are now content with having Ashok Singhal and Giriraj Kishore stand in for Rajaji and Gandhi?

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They talk about themselves. Everyone behaves like prima donna. If they have a towering figure among them, they are deferential towards him, offhand towards others. Last year, when Himachal Som, head of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations told me of his plans to organize the first ever world writers’ conference in Delhi, I thought he was being over-ambitious. He wanted to invite Nobel laureates, winners of Pulitzer, Booker and Commonwealth prizes including Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri and Arundhati Roy. He wanted to put India on the world literary map. However, as things turned out, the assemblage of literary gems was cut down to modest proportions. Other Nobel laureates must have sensed that if Vidia Naipaul was going to be there, few Indians would take notice of them, because he was the latest winner and of Indian ancestry. So it came down to a few outsiders and Indian writers living abroad: Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Anita Rau Badami, Farrukh Dhondy, Pico Iyer and Ved Mehta. They got a free ride home and back. The rest were Indian writers of regional languages and English.

The huge auditorium of Vigyan Bhawan was packed: sitting in the front row were an ex-president, two ex-prime ministers and several cabinet ministers. Naipaul was given a hero’s welcome. Prime minister Vajpayee read out his speech in English. His theme was, as anticipated, taken from the latest issue of the Outlook, which had aired the views of some of the top writers of regional languages. While admitting that writers of English had put India on the literary map of the world, Vajpayee rued that writers of regional languages had been denied both fame and fortune they deserved. He talked of the government’s plan to set up panels of translators and funding publishing houses to get their works wider circulations.

Naipaul, who spoke extempore without a slip of paper before him, demolished the prime minister’s contention. In his genteel English, he hit the nail on the head: the principal reason why regional languages languished was not the quality of writing but the paucity of readers. If there were not enough buyers, publishers would not risk their money on publishing their works. By inference, there was little the government could do in the matter except enhance literacy levels and so create a larger body of readers.

In the Outlook article, almost all the bhasha writers interviewed accused writers of English of not having their hands on the pulses of the Indian masses and catering to foreign readers only. This charge, though repeated ad nauseam, was palpably false: Indian writers of English have their roots deeply embedded in the Indian soil and are as knowledgeable about the country of their origin as those who have never gone out of India. Though repeating many times that they did not envy the success of writers like Naipaul, Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy or the younger lot like Geetha Hariharan, Anita Rau Badami, Anita Nair and others, it was clearly the case of grapes being sour. There is no need for a confrontation between Indians writing in their mother tongues and those writing in English. But confrontation it did become. I looked forward to them facing each other across the table.

So to Neemrana. It is 80 miles from Delhi on the road to Jaipur. On a steep hill covered by bramble and keekara rises an ancient Rajput fortress tracing its ancestry to the times of Prithvi Raj Chauhan. It was falling to pieces till it was bought by an enterprising quartet and converted into a swanky heritage hotel with gardens, conference rooms, auditoriums, a large bathing pool and a cuisine which matches the best available in large cities. It is also the roughest place I’ve been to: tortuous steps, narrow winding passages and sheer drops into space. People above 60 would find it hard to come to terms with it. Neemrana is not for my age group.

For me the most rewarding experience was getting to know Anita Rau Badami from Canada whose novel, The Heroes Walk, I had rated as the best I had read last year. When she introduced herself to me, I was overcome with emotion. Instead of taking the hand she put out, I kissed her all over her face. She blushed in embarrassment. Then forgave me for my audacity. She is a good-looking woman in her thirties, bright-eyed and pleasantly buxom. She lives in Montreal with her husband, a professor of environmental studies, and their son. “Come back to India,” I told her, “otherwise the fount of inspiration in you will dry up.”

In the afternoon, I sat on the ramparts of the fort with Shashi Deshpande and Naipaul’s vivacious ever-gushing wife, Nadira. We heard flocks of parakeets fly to their roosts, the twittering of martins, peacocks crying in the distance and barking dogs in the village below the fort. We watched the sun go down and the soft light of a half-moon take over.

The next hour was dedicated to watching Sonal Mansingh’s Odissi rendering of Gita Govinda. She looked younger than when I first met her 20 years ago. Or may be it was the moonlight and the romantic aura of a haunted fortress which made her look like an apsara.

I was sober but unable to walk down five storeys of badly cobbled footpaths and uneven steps. I had to suffer the indignity of being carried by four men holding my chair. I swore never to allow this to happen again till I am taken by feet first on my last journey to the unknown beyond.

An area of darknessa

Did you know that in the last 18 years that Indian and Pakistani troops have been facing each other across the Siachen glacier, India has lost 3,500 jawans and officers, and retired 10,000 because of injuries? A bare three per cent of them were killed by Pakistani guns; the rest died of exposure to cold (temperature goes down to minus 50 degrees centigrade) and high altitude: no one can stay there for more than a month.

It is not known how many men Pakistan has lost in this meaningless confrontation. It costs us around Rs 5 crore a day; it costs Pakistan less because they have access to the glacier by road while we have to drop all our supplies of arms, food and fuel by helicopters.

There is no human habitation on the glacier. Only wild goats, Ibex, lived there on wild roots. Ibex have disappeared; wild roses that came out in summer have been uprooted to provide pegs for army tents. It is quite clear that Siachen is of no military importance to either India or Pakistan.

My friend, Zafar Futehally, the eminent environmentalist, has come out with a solution which I am sure will be acceptable both to India and Pakistan. He has the support of Generals B.N. Nanda, Kulkarni and Admiral Ramdas. All the three retired officers are of the view that Siachen is of no military importance. I am sure that their view is shared by their counterparts in Pakistan’s defence services.

Zafar Futehally suggests that Siachen be turned into a “trans-frontier peace park”. Dozens of peace parks exist round the globe where two neighbourly countries were confronting each other. So let Ibex return to their habitat and a thousand wild roses bloom.

What goes up must come down

This I have never understood

We chop down trees but chop up wood;
We draw down wrath, we draw up
We run down foes, we run up bills;
We eat food up, we down a drink
Which is a little strange, I think
We turn down offers, turn up noses —
Just one last thought and then
this closes;
We should remember, we poor clowns,
That life is full of ups and downs.
(Contributed by Rekha Ganguly, Silchar)


With god on his side

A spotless white Mercedes Benz waits outside. Inside, the mobile phone rings every other minute reminding you of a busy stockbroker’s office. Scrawny aides, dressed in saffron and smeared with vibhuti, scurry in and out. A lone sentry, rifle in hand, keeps a bored vigil. At New Delhi’s Kamakshi Temple, in a room full of books on vedanta and an empty refrigerator with a Pepsi logo, Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, is surrounded by a fawning group of devotees.

Some fold hands, others fall at his feet. The 67-year-old saint — holding his constant companion, a long, thin danda in hand — smiles beatifically. For the devotees, this is a pristine moment of benediction, a sacred second they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Then the spell breaks. A thick file in hand, Prime Minister’s aide Sudheendra Kulkarni walks in. Over the next 10 minutes the two are closeted in an adjoining room.

For the Sankaracharya, it is a swift change of roles: from the divine to the temporal, or, from the strictly religious to the religio-political. But, in the past few days, even as the nation hangs its head in shame over the Gujarat communal riots coupled with a galloping anxiety over an impasse on the Ayodhya temple dispute, the pontiff from Kanchi leads kindly light.

Like a consummate dealmaker, the Sankaracharya has articulated his way to that magic word in all negotiations: breakthrough. The pontiff — who gets up at 5.30 every morning, takes all his meals without chillies or tamarind and gets his aides to read out the English newspapers to him — has reined in the pugnacious Vishwa Hindu Parishad forcing it to admit that it will abide by the court verdict. From all accounts, his meetings with the leaders of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Babri Masjid Action Committee have been positive. No surprise, for once, the Ayodhya Temple dispute doesn’t appear insoluble. It’s a miracle, his followers might say.

Sankaracharya’s success as an adroit negotiator has baffled many. Some attribute it to his being gifted with the right word for the right occasion, spoken at the right pitch with the right amount of sincerity. “So what if we follow different faiths, we are all Bharatvasis. We must work together,” he told a gathering of Muslim religious clerics in Hindi. His felicity with the northern Indian language coming as a pleasant surprise to many, though he owes it to his proficiency in Sanskrit.

But, more importantly, the Hindu spiritual leader — often referred to as the Political Swamy by his critics — has evinced a keen interest in the Ram Janmabhoomi issue since the ‘90s. Having been consulted by various political leaders from both the communities on this issue for a long time, he is well versed with the hidden nuances of a complex problem.

When the VHP temple campaign first moved into turbo mode, a nervous Vajpayee government got in touch with him because he was seen as the ideal troubleshooter. Sources say that defence minister George Fernandes had spoken to him at least twice recently, before the riots, requesting the pontiff to persuade the VHP to tone down its stance in return for some concessions by the government with regard to the undisputed portion of the land in Ayodhya. However, the move failed to have the desired effect.

But after the Godhra train carnage and the riots, an intensely disturbed Acharya was ready to help bring about a rapproachment through direct involvement in an issue that has largely been in the political and legal domain. The Sankaracharya now saw a more pro-active and interventionist role for himself and his dramatic visit to New Delhi gave the impression of a major one-man mission to solve the 50-year-old dispute. His willingness for a hands-on approach came as a godsend to the Centre desperately needing a mediator who could talk to both the sides and report back. “The Prime Minister trusts him. He invited him to his house twice in three days,” says a Vajpayee aide.

But there is another view attributed to the Sankara-charya’s direct involvement in the issue. His critics believe that the pontiff was worried of being marginalised in a future scenario where VHP leaders such as Ashok Singhal would dictate the country’s religious agenda.

Whatever the truth, there is no denying that over the years, the 69th Acharya of the Kanchi Kamokti Peetam and the carrier of the advaita tradition, has emerged as one of the most public faces of the Hindu spiritual establishment, often displaying an activist zest that sets him apart from his predecessors who were more at home within the monastic and religious confines.

Seeking to give “a Swami Vivekananda type of thrust and dynamism” to the Kanchi Math’s activities, the saint who was born in Thanjavur district’s Irulneeki village, took its public interface more seriously than his more spiritually inclined predecessors. He also stabilised the finances of the math. And his ready wit and uncanny ability to push propositions through with bureaucrats who regularly called on him added to his USP.

“Even in the ‘70s,” says one of his biographers, “the prachar of Hindu dharma formed a key component of his spiritual tour to various parts of the country.” In the mid-’80s, he launched two movements, Jan Kalyan, which included bringing Dalits within the active Hindu-fold and Jan Jagran, aimed at creating a greater awareness about Hinduism.

But his initiatives created a rupture with others in the math. Miffed, he abruptly left the Kanchi peetam one morning, leaving behind his danda and kamandal, signifying his abdicating the peetam. After being persuaded by his predecessor, Guru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathy, he returned to the math. Thereafter, he gave up the Jan Jagran movement but continued with the activities of Jan Kalyan. That apart, his conservative remarks on issues including the ban on cow slaughter and widow remarriage too have provoked fierce controversies.

Since the early ‘90s, the Acharya began to take a keen interest in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement after the VHP had announced the commencement of kar seva in Ayodhya. While the Sankaracharya has often expressed the view that the courts could not resolve the Ayodhya tangle, he has been consistently maintaining that “politics should be kept out of the issue” and that the Centre should bring together the leaders of the Hindus and Muslim communities who “are capable of resolving it through mutual dialogue and discussion.” He also clearly disapproved of the Babri Masjid demolition.

Now, at a time when the nation’s fabric of peace and amity is stretched to the limit, it is no mean achievement bringing discourse and negotiated settlement back as a political possibility in today’s scenario. In doing so, he has emerged as a national holy figure. If his efforts lead to a permanent solution in Ayodhya, Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi would have earned his place in history.



Intolerance is a vice

Vicious contempt Sir — Arundhati Roy’s conviction in a contempt of court case is yet another example of the judiciary’s growing intolerance of scrutiny or criticism (“To be or not to be in jail for three months”, March 7). In recent times, the Indian judiciary has often been accused of activism because it has tended to ignore the strict separation of powers envisaged in the Constitution. If the judiciary interferes in the executive’s sphere of decision-making, it cannot expect to escape criticism always. Whether in the wah india controversy or in the present case, our increasingly intolerant judiciary is regrettable in an accountable democracy.

Yours faithfully,
Tarunabh Khaitan, Bangalore

Flying high

Sir — Contrary to the report, “Inflight woes” (Feb 27), Air India is actually set to make a net profit of Rs 25-30 crore in the current fiscal year. Ironically, the national carrier’s turnover benefited from the withdrawal of several international airlines in the wake of the September 11 attacks. This is also the first time in six years that the airline is not in the red, largely because of the fall in aviation turbine fuel prices this year from $ 1.116 to $ 11.011 per gallon, leading to savings of about Rs 40 crore.

Indian companies seem to have decided that this is the time to go in for fleet expansion, striking hard bargains in the process. In spite of the bids from Boeing and Airbus Industrie for Indian Airlines having closed in August 2000, the Indian Airlines board has decided to re-invite financial bids from both manufacturers for the purchase of 31 aircraft. Negotiations are expected to be protracted and manufacturers’ margins wafer-thin. Even where aircraft leasing is concerned, Air Sahara has been able to cut rentals from $ 250,000 to $ 200,000 per month for each of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

Yours faithfully,
Philip Elisha, Calcutta

Sir — I am a non-resident Indian living in the United Kingdom. For the past 22 years, I have been visiting India at least once a year. While I enjoy coming to India, I was shocked to find that NRIs have to pay 50 per cent more than resident Indians for air travel within the country. This is an unnecessary strain on my budget. Moreover, if the NRI traveller is above 65, he pays thrice as much as the Indian passenger that age. Such high fares will only drive tourists away. Indian Airlines should thus reconsider its unjust fair structure.

Yours faithfully,
Shibabraata Biswas, Calcutta

Sir — My colleague and I were scheduled to fly by Indian Airlines flight 743 to Agartala on February 7, 2002. We both had confirmed tickets and were on our way to an important meeting. Upon reaching Dum Dum airport well in time, we stood in line at the frequent flyers’ counter. After 20 minutes the authorities told us that the flight was fully booked and that, since my colleague and I had arrived late, we were “no show” passengers. As this was not true, we approached the duty manager who asked the ground staff whether an announcement was made before tickets were given to four passengers on the waiting list. The officers said that although an announcement was made, it was not made on the public address system. Ultimately, we were forced to miss our flight.

I have been flying for the last 40 years but have never had such an unpleasant experience before. Since there is no proof of our time of entry, I cannot prove my claim. But I hope Indian Airlines officials will look into the matter. To avoid a repeat of this incident, the airlines must make all announcements over the PA system.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Ghosh, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Immediately after the 2 pm Hindi news bulletin was telecast on February 10 on Doordarshan I channel, the national anthem was broadcast. But just a line short of the end of the anthem, the English news bulletin started. Obviously, the anthem was intended only as a fill the gap between the Hindi and English bulletins. The programme-in-charge of the national broadcaster should be careful about displaying such callousness with regard to the national anthem.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Moinuddin, Calcutta

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