Editorial 1 / Minor lesson
Editorial 2 / Clawing up the ivy
Looking facts in the face
Fifth Column / How to police a virtual world
The lady protests too much
Document / If you don’t like them, set them on fire
Letters to the editor

There is much the Constitution makers left undone. The resulting lacunae sometimes give rise to implicit contradictions that can be used to divide a nation the framers intended to unite. For example, while the framers proposed a set of rights for linguistic and religious “minorities”, they neglected to define the key term. The definition had been left to the wisdom of the Supreme Court for almost ten years, and it is now up again before the judges. It is the interpretation of Article 30, which gives minorities the right to “establish and administer” educational institutions, that has been running into rough weather, especially since 1997. The first step that the bench has taken is to widen the scope of the arguments by adding the issue of administration to the already long list of eight points placed before it. This alone is curious. A basic definition of “minorities” would be enough trouble by itself. It is hardly a question of pure semantics, since politics and history have loaded the term with disruptive potential. That the courts should be sitting on this question at all is an indicator of the anomalies in the system. And such an anomaly is extremely disturbing, since it would suggest that the law accepts the premises of the majority-minority divide.

The protection of the rights of linguistic and religious minorities may be one of the conditions of a secular democracy. But given the grouping of religious and linguistic minorities in Article 30, there can be no majority in India. Each state can be divided up into minorities of one kind or another. The extension of religious minority rights into the secular arena of teaching undermines the project of a forward-looking, equal education. Besides, a modern education is not only ideally independent of religion, it is also geared towards employment and social production. This cannot be achieved without skills in the most-used languages. If minority protection infringes on the fundamental right to equality, then the whole concept of “minority” will have to be reconsidered. The problem was not offered to the Constitution review panel. It has instead been dragged into court in the trail of a specific argument about the administration of minority educational institutions. But now that the judgment has been tied up with the definition of what constitutes minorities, it is to be hoped that a searching and radical examination will be conducted. Because, one of the causes of the deep confusion in the system is the indecision over how a “secular” state should respond to religion. Neutrality and tolerance are not quite the same things. The framers of the Constitution were juggling around with the actual conditions of a newborn, multi-religious, multi-lingual nation. There is no need to perpetuate their confusions.


There is no bigger myth in the world than the notion that academics occupy an ivory tower. The academy is riven by politicking and lobbying, and the apparently absent-minded don is often driven by naked ambition. The loftiness of the intellectual pursuit is frequently matched inversely by the pettiness of their worldly concerns. In India, this general trend has been overlaid by the intervention of politicians in academic appointments. One reason for this is the intimate interface between state and education. Much of higher education in India is state supported and state subsidized either through the University Grants Commission or the human resources development ministry. Political parties and pressure groups have exploited this situation to extend their patronage and to get jobs for the boys. During Indira Gandhi’s pink phase, left intellectuals dominated the scene, manned the committees and took the plum posts. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the sangh parivar have always resented this dominance. Now that it is in power, the BJP has tried to overturn this. This enterprise is spearheaded by Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, the HRD minister. Controversy has thus stalked Mr Joshi’s appointments. Even the appointment of Mr Yogi Deveshwar, a perfect choice for the post of chairman of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, is mired in a peculiar controversy, The previous chairman, Mr Subroto Ganguly, had resigned because the HRD ministry refused to set up a search committee for the selection of the chairman and director. Mr Deveshwar’s appointment deserves to be lauded but unfortunately he comes to the post at the direct behest of Mr Joshi who bypassed the system of a search committee. In this case, Mr Joshi has selected wisely but the destruction of a system opens up appointments to arbitrariness and nepotism.

That Mr Joshi is reluctant to relinquish his personal control over important academic appointments is suggested by the inordinate delay in forwarding to the president, Mr K.R. Narayanan, the panel of names for the vice-chancellorship of Jawaharlal Nehru University. This delay has naturally given rise to suspicions about Mr Joshi’s intentions. This is unfortunate because Mr Joshi has shown that he is capable of rising above party considerations by the appointment of Mr Deepak Nayyar to the vice-chancellorship of Delhi University. This kind of unseemly controversy and suspicions can be easily avoided if the government retreats from the arena of education. Academics can be then left to their own devices. Without the intervention of politicians at least one form of nepotism and patronage distribution will disappear. The rest can be left to human nature.


A four-member fact-finding mission which included, besides myself, Kamal Chenoy, professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, S.P. Shukla (former finance secretary) and K.S. Subramanian (former director-general of police, Tripura) went to Gujarat with specific terms of reference concerning our study. We were to seek the truth of the Godhra incident, the possible use made of it in respect of the carnage that followed, and the issue of whether or not there was state complicity in the post-Godhra violence.

The findings of our study were made public on April 10 and some of the key conclusions are as follows:

The diabolical and tragic burning of bogie S6 in Godhra on February 27 morning fits into the classical and historical pattern of communal rioting in the area and in Gujarat generally, wherein a provocation on one side (in this case assaults on Muslim tea vendors and molestation of a female present at the platform) provided the trigger for a terrible and utterly unjustified over-reaction by members of the other religious community. There is really no basis for the claims that this was a deep-seated conspiracy, either foreign or domestic inspired.

Conscious use was then made of this incident to inflame communal passions leading to the sustained attacks from February 28 onwards on Muslims, carefully targeted throughout the cities and rural areas of Gujarat. The connecting link was provided by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad call for a bandh which, in the circumstances, was clearly aimed at promoting communal hatred. Worst of all, this bandh, instead of being opposed and prevented, was actually supported and endorsed by the Gujarat government. With regard to subsequent violence, the study clearly concludes that this was a state-wide and state-sponsored pogrom against the Muslim minority which reached unparalleled levels of brutality.

The full details and recommendations for punishment of all those guilty are contained in the released “Report to the Nation”. It is not my intention to discuss that report but rather to voice a personal opinion regarding the unique nature of the Gujarat pogrom and how it marks a turning point in the post-independence history of India. This is the first time that we have witnessed a systematic and planned state-organized pogrom on a massive scale, which is then rationalized, justified and minimized by the Central government.

Perhaps the best way of grasping this uniqueness is to see how different Gujarat 2002 is from the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, since these are the two worst examples of large-scale communal killings in post-independence India. Six common criteria will be applied to both situations to arrive at a judgment in this respect. One, the communal character, context and history surrounding the two cases respectively; two, the scale, geographic extent, and duration of communal violence; three, the “quality” of the violence engaged in — the levels of brutality and sadism involved; four, the extent and degree of complicity on the part of the apparatuses of the state, including the issue of their involvement as direct agencies of violence; five, elements of spontaneity and/or pre-planning; and six, the wider political implications.

In regard to the first criterion there is a clear and profound difference between the two cases. The 1984 events must be situated in the twin conjunctural contexts of Congress-Akali Dal political rivalries in Punjab, and of the emergence of a Sikh separatist (Khalistan) movement in the period 1978-86 opposed by the Congress-ruled Central government. While the Khalistan movement never enjoyed more than a weak and limited minority support among Sikhs, there was widespread Sikh resentment at various policies pursued by the Congress-ruled Centre which were considered discriminatory.

Alienation of Sikhs multiplied after Operation Blue Star that preceded Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and was further exacerbated by the anti-Sikh violence that followed it. Hindu-Muslim communal tensions, however, have a much longer history, much greater frequency of eruptions into violence, far stronger institutional and ideological support systems including the existence of “dedicated” communal political forces of considerable strength, especially on the Hindu communal side. The institutionalized structures representative of anti-Muslim communalism are largely absent when it comes to the issue of communal attitudes and practices towards Sikhs.

Thus in respect of the second criterion the 1984 violence was of much shorter duration than the violence in Gujarat 2002. Although the number of deaths in the two cases may be comparable, the geographic extent of violence, looting, arson, and so on is not, being much less widespread in 1984 when violence was essentially restricted to areas of heavy Sikh concentration, and brought to a halt much more rapidly than in the case of Gujarat 2002. In respect of the third criterion, both cases exhibit shocking atrocities — rapes, burnings, and so on — against even women and children in a context of mob violence. But even here, the sheer frequency and scale of such atrocities, and the depths of sadism to which violence in Gujarat has descended, is far greater. The extent and degree of state complicity (criterion four) and pre-planning in the case of Gujarat 2002 is also far greater.

In Gujarat, communal violence from February 28 onwards involved far deeper and wider levels of complicity than anything that has been seen in India since 1947. These range from the complicity of government structures, civilian and police, as well as of party/front leaderships. In both, the complicity starts at the very top and continues all the way down. Furthermore, the systematic communal suborning of the administrative apparatuses of the Gujarat state government to the structures of the sangh (Bharatiya Janata Party/VHP/Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh/Bajrang Dal) over the preceding years (the BJP came to power in the 1998 state assembly elections) is far greater than in the case of the Congress with respect to the Delhi administration in 1984.

It follows that with regard to the fifth criterion the dimension of pre-planning in Delhi in 1984 was much weaker than it was in Gujarat in 2002. Administrative collaboration to enable selective targeting and attacks on a particular religious community existed in both cases. But the fact that such collaboration was much more regularized and deeper in the case of Gujarat is what enabled that violence to be more widespread, brutal, comprehensive and sustained. In 1984 the short space of time (barely a couple of hours) before the “trigger event” — the assassination — and the outbreak of anti-Sikh violence on the same day contrasts sharply with Gujarat 2002 where the elapsed time between the “trigger event” — the Godhra incident — and the subsequent inauguration of sustained and large-scale anti-Muslim onslaught, is more than 24 hours.

This was more than enough time to take all police and law-and-order measures (including preventive arrests and detentions) to ensure that the outbreak of violence would either not take place or be immediately contained/ended, if it did. That no such measures have been taken emphasizes a level of complicity far in excess of the more “spontaneous collusion” characterizing the 1984 situation.

As for the sixth criterion, again, there is simply no comparison. Nineteen eighty-four clearly has much more of a “one-off” character. The insecurity felt by Sikhs does not bear any serious comparison to that felt by the Muslim minority in India today. Whatever the tensions prevailing during the period 1978-86, Hindu-Sikh relations have been substantially repaired since then. The likelihood of any similar deterioration is much more remote. Congress apology for 1984 has taken place, and there is no equivalent today to the kind of institutionalized communal onslaught that the Muslim minority faces. Neither has anti-Sikh communalism been sought to be publicly legitimized in the way that anti-Muslim communalism has been done. Nor has it ever come close to achieving the same degree of success. The view that anti-Muslim sentiments are but a reaction to a Muslim villainy that has “hurt Hindu sentiments” is one that has been assiduously propagated and widely accepted.

Given all these substantial differences between Delhi 1984 and Gujarat 2002, it is disturbing that they do share one unfortunate similarity. In neither case have the principal culprits responsible for the horrendous massacres and terrible destruction of properties been properly punished by due process of law.

The author has recently co-authored the book, South Asia on a Short Fuse: Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament


The internet has been a truly revolutionary technological breakthrough. The large volumes of information that can be transferred over the net and the simplicity of such operations make it very difficult to protect the rights of ownership or prevent information from being re-used for illicit purposes. Thus it is very easy to spread false and malicious information on the net.

However, only 12 countries in the world have enacted a law to regulate cyberspace. India is the second Asian country, after Singapore, to codify a law dealing with information technology-related crimes such as hacking, publishing false digital certificates, disrupting computer systems by introducing and spreading viruses, and so on.

The Information Technology Act, 2000, provides for several types of penalties for cyber crimes. Anyone who accesses or downloads any data without the permission of the person in charge of the computer system, introduces viruses, or causes denial of access is liable for a penalty of up to one crore rupees.

The IT act defines hackers as all those who tamper with computer source documents and intentionally destroy, delete or alter any data within a computer system, or diminish its value or utility. Such hackers are to be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh, or both.

The punishment for publishing or transmitting pornographic material via the internet is imprisonment for up to five years and a fine extending up to one lakh rupees.

The intangibles

In addition, all relevant provisions of the code of criminal procedure, the Indian penal code and the Evidence Act have been extended to cover cyber crimes. Special provisions have also been made to deal with evidence relating to electronic records.

Intellectual property refers to creations of the human mind, the human intellect. The protection of intellectual property rights has become an important issue the world over with the notion gaining ground that an individual has as much right over the fruits of his intellect and imagination as over other tangible property, and that there should be no infringement of such rights without getting a licence or seeking prior permission. The instruments to protect IPR include copyrights, patents, trademarks, service marks, appellations of origin and geographical indicators.

In India, the Copyright Act, 1957, was amended in 1985, 1991 and 1999 to bring it in line with the IPR provisions of the World Trade Organization. The act provides for both fines and punishment for copyright infringement and empowers law-enforcing authorities to seize pirated copies.

However authorities in India do not seem to realize how technology has made reproducing original works easy and cheap, as well as difficult to detect or control.

Acts of omission

The IT act is thus inadequate. For example, there is no provision for the proper and timely disposal of cases dealing with IPR violations. The implementing machinery being inadequate, there is very little attempt to enforce IPRs. The high costs and unwarranted delays also hamper the proper implementation of IPR. There is also no mechanism for the review of final administrative decisions and the legal aspects of initial judicial decisions on the merits of cases. The rights and obligations are at times taken on the basis of assumptions and hence, ambiguities and biases remain in the law.

Strangely, the IT act, which deals with all kinds of cyber crimes, has no provisions on cyber-squatting. Instead, cyber-squatting is referred to the World Intellectual Property Organization whose decisions do not carry any legal weight.

Thus, there is need for a separate legal agency to deal with cyber crime. International dispute redressal forums for cyber crimes should also be formed. Such crimes should be brought under the jurisdiction of the international court of justice. Since IPRs are not confined to national boundaries, international law must ensure that the originators of new ideas are effectively protected from harassment or unnecessary litigation.


Even if they change little, rebels and outsiders appeal to our love of the unconventional. It is a different matter, though, when an insider feels like an outsider. Mamata Banerjee’s latest lament is that she has been feeling like an “outsider” inside the ruling National Democratic Alliance. She cribs and cries but neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor any other ally pays her much attention. Never before has she felt so bitterly the unimportance of being Mamata Banerjee. It now seems another age when the NDA convener, George Fernandes, would come running to Bengal, or some mandarin of the prime minister’s office would frantically call her up from Delhi every time she cried foul about something her Marxist foes did in Bengal or some injustice, real or imaginary, done to her by friends in Delhi.

It is pathetic — or is it more bathetic — to see Banerjee crying out off and on against the government of her allies and nobody even caring to listen, let alone react. She opposes almost everything that the government does. She is opposed to the government’s economic reform policies. She spoke on the Union budget as if she were a member of the opposition. Still not reconciled to the loss of the railways ministry, her criticism of the railway budget was almost personal.

On the prevention of terrorism bill in Parliament, the Trinamool Congress was the only NDA ally that abstained from voting. After beating about the bush for a while, she has now joined those demanding the resignation of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, perhaps drawing courage from the stand of the other NDA ally, the Samata Party, on the issue. She makes no secret of her feeling that nothing is going right for this government and nothing probably will hereafter.

There was a time when Banerjee’s rebellious positions with regard to some government decisions and policies earned her accolades. Here was one leader, many thought, who was courageous enough to speak out against her own government. Some even called her, rather expansively, the government’s conscience-keeper. Her protestations may not have changed the government’s positions, but they at least rang true.

Look at the changed perceptions. It is not just that her image seems to have changed from that of a pampered child (Vajpayee’s beti) to an orphan’s in the NDA’s scheme of things. More damaging is the fact that her protests and anti-government antics now look increasingly like desperate shows aimed at finding an audience. Even allowing that coalition politics makes strange bedfellows, Banerjee herself makes her continuation in the NDA more untenable with each passing month. Her rhetoric makes people increasingly wonder what she is doing in the NDA, why she is there at all.

The obvious answer is well known. Having quit the NDA, she allied with the Congress on the eve of the West Bengal assembly polls last May. She lost, and then returned to the Vajpayee brigade. So she has nowhere to go right now. There is a limit to flip-flop politics, unless she is prepared to reduce herself to the level of politicians from Manipur who have shamed the aya ram gaya ram originals of Haryana. So, one would assume that the fire-eating lady from Calcutta has actually got herself into a fine mess in the labyrinth of high politics in Lutyen’s city which has no room for losers.

But that is only half the story. The other half relates to Banerjee’s make- believe world of unabashed faith in Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She always believed, with amazing naivete, that the BJP is bad but Vajpayee is good. Her faith in the prime minister’s abilities, coupled with her aversion to the Congress because of its weakness for the left, pulled her into the NDA more strongly than any agenda, open or hidden. That is why she has criticized almost everyone in the government and the BJP, except the prime minister. Even when she quit the NDA and found an electoral ally in the Congress, she had nothing against Vajpayee.

But even this world of makebelieve is now proving too fragile. You cannot be serious in your demand for Narendra Modi’s resignation and still be enamoured of Vajpayee. Gujarat has exposed, like nothing before it, that Vajpayee is truly the mukhota (mask) of the sangh parivar. Modi is still in his chair simply because Vajpayee wants him there. A myth has been assiduously created to suggest that Vajpayee is actually “willing to wound, but afraid to strike at” the sangh parivar. For all his show of passion at the refugee camps in Ahmedabad, Vajpayee has been completely unmoved by the countrywide demand for Modi’s removal because he, like any other member of the saffron brigade, believes in the political ideology of Hindutva. Banerjee must be extraordinarily dumb — which she is not — not to see the real face of Vajpayee behind the mask after two years of NDA partnership.

And, if she does see it, what really keeps her in the company of a party and its leaders who are not only soaked with the blood of over 800 people of Gujarat but whose political fortunes are also clearly on the downslide. Over the last one year, the BJP and its allies have lost elections almost everywhere. Assuming that politics after all is about power, the unfolding story of the NDA and its government is clearly one of increasing powerlessness.

With such odds against her continuing in the NDA, one suspects that the “outsider” Mamata is still there because she is waiting to be a minister again. She thinks — and most of her party colleagues agree — that a cabinet berth will again give her some leverage in her political campaigns against the Marxists in Bengal. The other argument is that she needs to get back to Vajpayee’s cabinet to keep her party flock together. She can use her ministerial position and resources to mobilize her forces for next year’s panchayat elections.

But a return to the cabinet may actually be the last straw for her political-moral authority. Being an “outsider” may still give her an illusion of not being a party to the sangh parivar’s and the government’s acts of omission and commission. Could she have asked for Modi’s removal, as she has now done, if she was a minister? If she did, could she carry on in the government with Vajpayee ignoring her plea? Also, a ministerial berth will not really make her an important insider in the government’s scheme of things. In fact, in the public eye, she might be reduced even further — from an outsider to a hanger-on.

This seems to be the lowest point in her political career. In retrospect, even her defeat in the assembly elections in West Bengal does not look half as bad as her current predicament. No one knows this better than Banerjee herself. She therefore plans to return to the streets of Calcutta, charging at the Left Front once again. She may still draw crowds and give Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee anxious moments over possible street battles. But the question that will haunt her hereafter is: where were you while Gujarat burnt? That she was in the NDA was bad enough; it would be far worse to return to the cabinet company of the political masters of the butchers of Gujarat. If things are rotten in the state of Gujarat, not only Modi, but everyone in the extended BJP parivar, including Mamata Banerjee, must stink.


A summary of the pamphlets being circulated. Obituary/announcement of “Besna” of one of the Godhra victims: this seeks to make a martyr of one of the victims of the Godhra tragedy, reminding everyone of his sacrifice.

Boycott of Muslims: signed in the name of a “true Hindu patriot” this one urges all Hindus to boycott the entire Muslim population in all possible ways. Some of the suggestions include not hiring them, or working for them in their establishments, not buying from, or selling to, them; not watching films in which Muslim actors/actresses have worked. If they fail to do so, they are threatened in the name of Hanuman and Ram.

Rise! Awaken!: slogans of “Hindustan Zindabad” go along with slogans of “Jai Shri Ram”. It aims at coaxing Hindus to stop bearing “Muslim atrocities” that they have been inflicting on Hindus for long. It’s time to rise up against them. This one is signed in the name of Paramhans.

A highly confidential letter of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: this is the most vicious of them all. It lists 34 ways in which to harm/kill/isolate all minorities. Some of these methods include injecting their newborn with slow poisons by enlisting Hindu doctors, accumulating arms, boycotting all secular programmes, encouraging the use of alcohol and drugs in areas dominated by minorities. It also says that such activities should be reported to the office in Nagpur where they can also obtain further information, if required.

Historical decision regarding the Quran: an order passed by a metropolitan judge. A booklet including a judgment of a Delhi court, misquoting Vivekananda, Quran, Shri Arabindo and M.K. Gandhi in the wrong context to suit their objectives. In order to avoid mentioning rectifications by these great people, they have not indicated the timing of their statement. This is being misused as propaganda against the minority...

Prominent establishments/shops burnt, looted, destroyed and their location with respect to police stations:

Textile shops in Mangal Bazaar, Nyaymandir and Nava Bazaar: At least 70 shops, all belonging to Muslims burnt, looted, destroyed completely, right in front of the police, within 100 to 150 meters from the Nyaymandir Police chowkie and Nava bazaar police chowkie.

Shoe World, Tower shoes, Snow White Laundry, Tower Jeans: within 10 to 25 meters of the Shiyapura Police chowkie in Raopura.

Optic Palace, Sujat Pharmacy: within 50 meters from either police chowkies; Shiyapura Police chowkie and Ahmedabadi Pole police special picket.

Deluxe Optical — right in front of Jubilee Baug special police chowkie.

Indian Boot House, M. G. Road, plus five other Muslim shops: within 100 meters from both the Laheripura Police chowkie and the Mandvi Police Station (Head Quarter).

Optical Palace, Alkapuri and a row of shops next to Optical Palace Raopura: within a stone’s throw (not more than 100 m) of the official residence of the Police Commissioner and the Collector, Vadodara, and the Circuit House.

Shops/factories/garages and other establishments burnt/looted/destroyed:

2 shops in Dandia bazaar; 2 shops in Hazarat Paga; 15 shops belonging to Pratapnagar mosque; 15 factories in Pratapnagar industrial area and one major firecracker godown at Diwalipura (18 kilometres from Vadodara); 3 shops in Alkapuri, one Snowhite Laundry and 2 hardware shops on Productivity Road — one opposite BPC and one opposite SBI; factories in G.I.D.C. Makarpura, Baranpura, Sara 15 shops and 1 bakery Sama 5 shops; 25 garages/factories in Kareli Baug Kabrastan; shops and factories on the National Highway Bypass; 15 shops in Manjalpur, Makarpura and Chhani; 18 factories in Sardar Estate, Ajwa Road; at least 4 shops on Gotri Road/Race Course and one opposite GERI; 3 shops on Ellora Park/High Tension Road area.

Houses: burnt/looted/destroyed:

6 houses in Salatwada, Raopura, 25 houses in Fagvel Nagar, Bhutadi Zhampa; 120 of 125 houses in Kisanwadi, 6 at Kasamala Kabristan; 5 in Bajwada; 185 houses in Noor Park in Tarsali area and 28 in Vishal Nagar, Govind Nagar, and Vijay Nagar, 3 houses in Chippwad; 15 houses in Hujarat Paga; 65 houses in Gotri, Gokul Nagar, Ambika Nagar, Mahinagar, Laxmi Nagar, Ayodhyanagar, Ramdevnagar: 40 houses at Kapurai Highway bypass; 12 houses in front of Best Bakery; 3 houses in Sardar Estate (Ramnagar); 5 houses in Chabukswar Mohalla; 80 houses in Indira Nagar and Adarsh Nagar in Makarpura; 1 house in Dandiya Bazaar and one on Piramitre Road, 8 houses in Sayajipura; Baranpura, Sara 25 houses; Jubilee Baug Sardar Bhavan meeting Khancha, one house; 25 dwellings of poor in Gotri village and 25 hutments in Gorwa area; 30 houses in Bhayli-Laxmipura area on the road to Padra.




Advantage of numbers

Sir — The initiative taken by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to induct a greater number of women in positions of authority in the party is a positive step (“Debut for woman leader on CPM panel”, April 1). So far the CPI(M)’s support for the women’s reservation bill in Parliament has hardly had much currency because it has failed to increase the representation of women in its own rank and file. However, the election of six women to its central committee, among which are activists like Brinda Karat, is not enough for the CPI(M) to rest on its accolades. It should make room for equal representation of both genders in its units both at the state and the Central levels. That there are only six women in the 15 member Central committee goes to show that the party still has a long way to go before it achieves that target. The CPI(M), for a change, has set a good example for the rest to follow. One hopes the party has enough courage to keep up its good work and does not vacillate, as is its wont, before taking the plunge.

Yours faithfully,
Santanu Ray, Calcutta

Shouldn’t he go?

Sir — As expected, the Bharatiya Janata Party top brass headed by the party president, Jana Krishnamurthi, has sprung to the defence of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi (“BJP mounts save-Modi mission”, April 3). Krishnamurthi went to the extent of observing: “I am sure no other government could have handled it better. If human failures are there, they shall be set right”. Coming from none other than the BJP chief, this observation certifies that Modi is a chief minister par excellence. The compulsions of the BJP leadership in saving Modi’s chair are all too evident. If Modi is made to quit in the wake of his indictment by the National Human Rights Commission, it will lead to turmoil in the state BJP unit, resulting in a revolt in its rank and file. A likely consequence will be the loss of this party stronghold.

What has been most shocking in this episode is that none of the senior BJP leaders paid a visit to the relief camps prior to that of the prime minister. Even the visit of Atal Bihari Vajpayee came too late in the day. While Gujarat burned, Vajpayee was on a vacation with his family at Nainital. Did Vajpayee, like Nero, play the fiddle as well?

Yours faithfully,
Siddhartha Roy, Calcutta

Sir — Continuing disturbances in Ahmedabad demonstrates the Gujarat government’s insincerity in curbing Hindu fundamentalists (“Violence shatters Holi peace”, April 1). It is now clear that the BJP government can no longer swear by a transparent administration. Though the chief minister is trying to regain the confidence of the traumatized victims of the massacre, his attempts to bring back normalcy to the state is open to question. The tradition of secularism and democracy is in serious danger. Narendra Modi needs to show a lot more relief work to assuage negative feelings about his government.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjay Ghosh, Ranaghat

Sir — The immediate responsibility of the Gujarat government is to ensure that law and order is restored even if it has not been able to prevent the deteriorating state of affairs across the state. Narendra Modi appears to have lost valuable time while denying eye-witness reports of the carnage on television news channels. Even now, the government is more interested in contradicting the media than performing its primary task of restoring normalcy and speeding up rehabilitation.

That a tenuous peace was restored within three days after February 27 while the death toll shot up and damages ran into hundreds of crores of rupees is hardly reason for self congratulation. Modi has been shameless in defending himself. The important question the Gujarat government should be asking itself is did it employ all the machinery it had within its possession to give security to all communities within living in the state? If the answer is no then it would not be unfair to say that the government, all along, has been playing politics in the name of governance.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Murshidabad

Sir — The reports, “Two brands of Hindutva”, and “Delhi dressing-down for Modi” (March 28), reflect the predicaments the BJP and the Central government are facing today. The nation wants Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but the people are growing wary of the hardline views of the party and its allies. The party obviously believes that although Vajpayee may be a popular leader, he has murdered the BJP’s chances in the Hindi heartland. Only time will show which of these two arguments is right.

Meanwhile, Vajpayee ought to let the hardliners go in for an early state assembly polls in Gujarat and see the results. On the one hand, if Modi wins, then Vajpayee ought to resign and allow L.K. Advani to take over as the prime minister and steer the party in the next Lok Sabha elections. On the other, if the Congress gains enough strength to come back to power, it should see it as a vindication of its brand of secularism. May the best team be given the chance to lead the nation.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — What the report, “‘Killer screen alarm for parents” (March 28), does not note is that not only do some serials and television programmes play havoc with the impressionable minds of children, advertisements do the same damage. Together with the deaths Shaktiman triggered, also add those which the advertisement for a soft drink prompted. One guideline set out for parents is that they should monitor what their children watch on TV. This may be possible for TV programmes, but not for advertisements which last a few seconds and have no definite time of telecast. Commercial promotion of sanitary napkins come in between the telecast of a cricket match or a programme for children. International studies of the depiction of violence on TV should include advertisements in their scope.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

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Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
All letters [including those via email] should have the full name and full postal address of the sender

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