Editorial 1/ Job description
Editorial 2/ Squatters unite
A question of harmony
Scenes from the hearth and home
Fifth Column/ Peace sermons from shillong
Letters to the Editor

Unequal pillars threaten to bring down an edifice. Among the three pillars of the Indian democracy, the judiciary seems to be progressively growing in stature. The subject of a recent Supreme Court ruling is electoral reforms. The purpose of the instructions is to clear the legislature of members with a dubious past. The Election Commission has been trying to do this for the last few years, but it has not been very effective. The number of legislators with criminal charges against their names and unexplained assets in their kitties has grown rather than diminished. The excuse of the political parties fielding these candidates is usually that charges do not make a criminal. Many of these candidates make it to the assemblies and Parliament, and the EC has not been quite sure how to stop it. The Supreme Court�s recent order clears the way. Not only past convictions but also accusations for which charges have been framed six months before filing nominations have to be disclosed to the poll panel. This, together with educational qualifications and a list of assets and dues of the candidates and their families, would, according to the Supreme Court, fulfil the conditions of complete information for the EC and the public. The EC would have firmer grounds to decide whom to disallow, and the voter would make a choice based on full information.

No one would argue that this is not the best and shortest way to begin cleaning up the electoral process. The question however is whether this is any of the judiciary�s business. As a matter of fact, this was the crux brought before the Supreme Court. The Centre had questioned the Delhi high court�s jurisdiction in making the self-same recommendations on the basis of a case brought before it. As long as the legislature has not passed a law, ran the Centre�s argument, a court order cannot be binding on the EC. The question about area of jurisdiction is a valid one. Many recent court orders seem to be walking into administrative spheres. In each case, however, according to the court, the administration has displayed neglect or failure, and the court has had to step in in the public interest. In other words, the judiciary is filling the vacuum left by the executive. This is an unhappy situation. By abdicating responsibility, the executive is strengthening the judiciary, allowing an imbalance to creep into the structure of the polity. At another level, the judiciary is acquiring a disproportionate moral authority that will harm the judicial system, and therefore the public, in the long run. Yet the unpleasant truth the Supreme Court has articulated cannot be evaded. Perhaps legislators should begin taking their jobs seriously. The need to clear their ranks of the unfit would then become their own, legitimate objective.


In Calcutta, the complete collapse of the rule of law is usually declared the victory of the people. And the entire spectacle is fuelled by vote-bank histrionics. The eviction drive organized by the railways along the tracks between Dhakuria and Tollygunge became the setting for the latest, and most bizarre, instance of this phenomenon. Riding the crest of populism this time was Ms Mamata Banerjee, taking up the cause of the evicted with all the energy pent up through being long consigned to a political limbo. The Calcutta high court had wanted the state government to help the railways in evicting squatters who had built their colonies over nearly fifty years along a stretch of tracks. The railways decided to take action, aided by an apparently formidable array of forces � including the Calcutta and railways police and the rapid action force. But in a state with its own august tradition of the people always coming first, such representatives of the law and order machinery as the court and police must succumb to the orchestrated might of everything from bombs to bedposts. Inspired by Ms Banerjee and some of her party colleagues, a highly energized army of squatters used every conceivable form of protest, from violence to arson, to stop the eviction. This turned out to be a successful retaliation. The eviction drive was called off after a long and widely disruptive struggle. Ms Banerjee and her colleagues proclaimed this to be the people�s victory, unlike the unfortunate outcome of the eviction drive along Tolly�s nullah which did eventually succeed in spite of Ms Banerjee�s interventions.

The most serious hindrance to bringing Calcutta back into some sort of civil, and civic, order is proving to be this politics of populist misrule. In this instance, the stretch of tracks to be cleared lay in Ms Banerjee�s constituency, and hence this bravura demagoguery using muscle, tears, fainting fits, mobile phones, poetry, songs and dollops of very loud sentiment. The alarming thing about such victories is the way in which they reduce every instrument of law into nothing. In this case, the concerted effort of the railways, the state government and the police got taken up into the manipulation of popular energies to prevent the carrying out of the court order. There is a long history of foiled eviction in this area of the city. And the Trinamool Congress has often taken contradictory positions in this history. In the process, the central issues of civic administration, law and order, and ecology have been obscured by unmanageable rabble-rousing. Ms Banerjee�s surplus energies should be able to distinguish between the rule of law and the legitimate grievances of the exploited. Political sanity and civic scruple are more important than vote-bank populism.


A nation in which many faiths are practised must find ways to live together without conflicts, by eliminating or minimizing opportunities for conflicts. No political leader since Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has tried to reduce them. All have cynically used the fact or potential for communal conflicts to build vote banks. How can we restructure Indian democracy so that legislation and voting power can be used to modernize us while avoiding communal conflict? We cannot force goodwill between religious groups if it does not exist. But we can impose harmony.

The dictionary says secularism is �a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship�. Separation of religion and the state is a relatively new and rarely practised concept. Even the United States senate has from inception had a Christian chaplain. Most countries have a state religion whether Islam, Christian (Roman Catholic or Protestant), Jewish, Buddhist, Shinto, or, as in Nepal, Hinduism. Countries that preach separation of religion from state have little experience of it.

Gandhi realized that a harmony among religions was fundamental for Indian unity. Hindu-Muslim harmony has never been the norm in India. Some great souls preached unity of all religions, but there was no golden age when the two wholly trusted each other and were not on the edge of conflict. An apparent harmony existed because of the tolerance and acceptance that was the Hindu faith. Indira Gandhi brought �secularism� to the front of the political debate, followed by communists and other politicians. It was an opportunity to grab political space. Political leaders have not, by their religious and political practices, given signals as to what were �secular� actions equally applicable to all religions.

What has brought about this visceral fear and distrust of Muslims and resulted in increasingly brutal killings? Aggressive proselytization of Islam over the centuries has made India today the second-largest Muslim nation in the world. Christianity offered the temptation of education and health services not otherwise available to the poor and downtrodden. Many who benefited, converted to Christianity. Some Hindu groups (like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its associates) saw this as a devious way to get converts. The northeast of India is now largely Christian.

Illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh is further changing its demographic religious profile, to the rising anger of the new militant Hindu groups. The Congress, the communists, the Samajwadi Party and so on, label criticism of this illegal immigration and preventing it as �communal�. Similarly any protest at large-scale conversion from Hinduism was regarded as encroaching on the fundamental right to practise Islam and Christianity for whom it is a religious duty to propagate their faiths.

The acceptance by many governments (specially those of the Congress), of the most reactionary minority religious sentiments, as in the attitudes to personal laws, women, education, marriage, inheritance, maintenance and so on, has added to the perception that they got specially favourable treatment, as against the majority community. At the same time, the scheduled and backward caste reservations are being demanded for religions that are not supposed to have caste.

This volatile mixture could be and was used to ignite passions at least among some Hindus. A very large number even of the well-off and educated ones began to be convinced that Muslims were anti-national, that they had appropriated many special privileges and benefits, and that they were outgrowing Hindus in numbers in the population. In fact, numerous surveys show that economically, and in national demographics, this is not so. Muslims are as uneducated and economically backward as Hindus. The anti-national argument is backed by many stories of Muslims in organized crime and their pro-Pakistan stance in sub-continental cricket matches. But the criminal underworld is made up of many religions. The preference of Muslims in cricket crowds for the Pakistan team is no longer as perceptible as it was 20 years or more ago. However, the suspicions remain, stoked by demagogic Hindu leaders. They have created an atmosphere in which hostility is easily transformed into passionate anger and vicious communal rioting.

Communal riots have been endemic in India. Gandhi fasted many times for harmony between religions. There has always been tension between Hindus and Muslims, and especially in the rabbit warrens of urban slums in the big cities. Playing one religion off against another for political advantage was a history lesson well learnt from the British by Indira Gandhi. Others in the Congress, the communists, the Samajwadi Party and so on have built on these experiences. V.P. Singh transferred the learning into caste politics in north India. His disciples have furthered communal and caste disharmony. If this is not to result in periodic riots, local community leaders must be encouraged to meet regularly and overcome the political manipulations that create and then exacerbate tensions.

No political party can escape blame. The worst communal riots took place in Gujarat in 1969 under a Congress government. Then as now, there were allegations of collusion and instigation by the top Congress leadership, as was the case with the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. Non-Congress governments tried to bring the guilty to book but the use of the many ways in which justice can be denied in India prevented it. The same story is repeated with every communal conflagration.

The viciousness of the riots, with rape and looting being indulged in even by the affluent and educated upper classes is a new feature in the recent Gujarat carnage. This is because the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS and their many aggressive fronts like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have succeeded in Gujarat in changing the nature of Hinduism. They have made it, for some, into a publicly practised religion similar to the proselytizing ones; introduced conversion from other religions and re-conversion back to Hinduism; begun rewriting history and introducing instruction that foments hatred; introduced physical and arms training; propagated hate and suspicion. Hindus that they have trained have become clones of the worst fundamentalists among Muslims and Christians. Gujarat was their laboratory, and they will no doubt now extend their work into other parts of India.

What is it that we can do now? Our premise is that the minority religions in India cannot be wished away. There are too many people for a pogrom to work. Genocide is not a practical option for these new militant Hindus. The rest of the world has shown in Bosnia and Rwanda that ultimately, it will intervene. There are no other countries to which the vast numbers among the Indian minorities could be banished from India. Any large and continuing mass killing will doubtless lead to strong reactions within India and from other Muslim countries. It will be the death-knell to our dreams of a united India marching to prosperity for all.

We must be tough on those who engage in fomenting communal discord. We must police our borders to stop illegal immigration. We must set up a commission to recommend and adopt the best practices from progressive Muslim nations on Muslim personal laws. We must ban proselytization and allow religious conversion only under judicial supervision. We must insist that every political party reserve a proportion of its candidates in any election, for representatives from the different religions practised in each constituency, in proportion to their presence in the population. Thus we can give the minorities the political balancing power that can safeguard their lives and property. We must insulate the police and the civil service from communalization. The Rustomji police commission report and other proposals to insulate the civil service are models to implement. We must modernize education for Muslims. Educated Muslim leaders must push for modernizing Islamic practices. Above all, politicians in government and in public life must learn to choose their words so that they do not aggravate communal tensions.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research rao_l@vsnl.net


Although people in Calcutta and elsewhere are aware that important changes have been effected by the new tenancy law, the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act 1997 (�New Act�), which has come into force since July 10, 2001, there is considerable confusion in the popular perception. Landlords and tenants have taken various actions to exercise their rights under changed circumstances. This has primarily been due to lack of awareness of important changes and assurances of amendments by the West Bengal government. It is true that some amendments are being considered, but they are not likely to be substantial because of the reality being faced by the government, the municipalities and the people. The freezing of rent at absurdly low levels has resulted in falling investments in housing, owners keeping a large number of flats locked up and abysmal standards of maintenance all over the state. The loss to the municipalities has also been enormous.

The Central government and other states in the country have responded to the reality much earlier. Finally, West Bengal has also woken up. Amendments, if any, will be marginal in order to address the popular movements led by politicians to preserve their political constituency. It is, therefore, necessary to remove the confusion regarding the changes in vital areas.

The first of the most salient changes introduced by the new act says that tenants under registered leases, whether executed before or after July 10, 2001 have no protection under the new act. On expiry of such leases, the tenants have to vacate, irrespective of the period of lease or location of the premises. On their refusal to do so, the landlords would be entitled to sue for their eviction in a civil court and get them out through legal proceedings. The landlords may now find it advisable to create all tenancies by registered leases.

In other cases, the protection of the new act is extended only to certain �low rent tenancies�, that is tenancies in respect of any residential premises, in Calcutta or Howrah municipal areas, if the monthly rent is Rs 2,000 or less or any such premises elsewhere, if the rent is Rs 1,000 or less. Tenancies of any non-residential premises, in Calcutta or Howrah municipal areas, if the rent is Rs 3,000 or less or any such premises elsewhere, if the rent is Rs 1,500 or less.

In all other cases, a landlord can terminate the tenancy and sue for eviction in civil courts after giving the notice mentioned in the tenancy agreement, and in its absence, by giving 15 days notice expiring with a month of the tenancy, and in case of manufacturing leases, by giving six months notice expiring within the end of a year of the tenancy.

However, in case of a tenancy to which the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956 (�the Old Act�) applied but the new act does not (for example, residential premises in Calcutta fetching a rent of more than Rs 2,000, or non-residential premises with a rent of more than Rs 3,000), the landlord cannot immediately file a suit for eviction and must wait until July 10, 2003. But the ban is only on the immediate filing of a suit for eviction. Even in such cases, the landlord can immediately terminate the tenancy by giving notice and also file a suit for recovery of mesne profits, based on market rent, for the period the tenant occupies the premises after termination of tenancy.

E ven in case of �protected tenancies�, that is tenancies within the rental limits mentioned above, the landlords have been given the facility of increase of rent, but only when the building was constructed before 1984. If a person has been a tenant in such a building for 20 years or more, a landlord can increase the rent by adding to the amount the tenant was paying on July 1, 1976, up to 3 times that amount. Also, if the person has been in such a building for 10 years or more, but for less than 20 years, the landlord can increase the rent by adding to the rent as on July 1, 1986, up to twice that amount. The amount shall be calculated, and also payable in installments in the manner mentioned in Schedule II of the act. However, if the current rent is more than the increased rent calculated as above, the tenant must continue to pay the current rent. If there is already any increase in rent since 1976 or 1986 then the same is to be offset against the above increases.

If the landlord asks the tenant to increase the rent and the tenant refuses, the landlord can approach the controller to fix or revise �fair rent�. Once the controller fixes or revises the fair rent, the tenant shall be bound to pay it from the beginning of the month next to the one in which the controller has been approached. Once fair rent is fixed by the controller, it shall be automatically increased by 5 per cent every 3 years from the date of commencement of the new act, July 10, 2001. The landlord need not give any separate notice for that.

In addition, the tenant must now also pay a maintenance charge of 10 per cent of the fair or agreed rent. Again, no separate notice by the landlord is required to realize this. The landlord can immediately send a bill for the maintenance charges from July 10, 2001, and regularly thereafter, and the tenant shall be obliged to pay.

To get the benefit of protection against eviction a tenant must now deposit with the control under Section 7 not only the amount of agreed or fair rent but also maintenance charges of 10 per cent; otherwise the deposit may be treated as invalid and the defence against delivery of possession may be struck out.

Any deposit by the tenant with the controller because of refusal by the landlord or bonafide doubt as to whom rent is payable, shall include both the fair rent and maintenance charges of 10 per cent. If automatic revision of fair rent falls due when an application for eviction of a tenant is pending, the tenant, to get the benefit of protection against eviction, must deposit the existing fair rent plus 5 per cent to ensure that the deposit is valid in law. Once automatic revision falls due, any deposit of rent on the ground of refusal by the landlord or bonafide doubt, must be of the automatically enhanced rent and not the existing fair rent.

To evict a tenant in case of �protected tenancies�, the landlord has to now apply to the controller on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 6 of the new act, such as the landlord�s own requirement and so on. However, though the civil court�s jurisdiction in eviction matters has been taken away, no controller has been appointed under the new act so far.

To remove the anomalies in the old tenancy law, the new act provides two new grounds of eviction. One of the biggest anomalies of the old act was that even if a tenant acquired, say, a 100 houses in addition to the tenanted premises, he could continue his tenancy indefinitely. So long as the landlord could not prove his own reasonable requirement, he could not dislodge him. This has now been changed: a tenant acquiring, constructing or being allotted a house or flat will be liable to be evicted but will get one year�s time for vacating the premises.

Further, under the old act, the landlord had no freedom to remove a tenant even if he did not use the tenanted premises and kept it under locked. This has now been remedied by providing that if a tenant or his dependent spouse, son, daughter, parent or widow of the predeceased son does not reside in the premises for the most part of a year and the premises are kept locked, he will be liable to eviction.

If, instead of keeping the tenanted premises locked, the tenant allows anyone else to occupy it, he will fall foul of section 6(a) of the new act which now bars the tenant not only from subletting or transferring the tenanted premises but also from parting with its possession.

On the death of a tenant his natural heirs shall not automatically inherit the tenancy or continue indefinitely as tenants. In case of residential tenancies, when a tenant dies his son, daughter, parents and predeceased son�s widow would continue as tenants only for 5 years from the date of death provided they were ordinarily living with him up to the date of death as his dependants and do not own or occupy any residential premises, but his/ her spouse can continue as a tenant until his/her death without the limitation of 5 years. Further, in case of non-residential tenancies, the heirs mentioned above, and living with the tenant in his residence up to the date of his death as his dependants, can continue without any limitation of 5 years.

The new act imposes an obligation on the landlord to keep the tenanted premises in good repair and condition. In case the landlord fails to do so, the controller, on application by the tenant, may permit him to undertake such repairs himself and deduct the cost from the rent, or otherwise recover it from the landlord.

Under the new act, a tenant parting with possession of the tenanted premises without the consent of the landlord will be liable to eviction. A tenant cannot even grant a licence without the landlord�s consent.

Previously, a tenant could not accept any payment in consideration of surrender of his tenancy but there was no bar to receiving any consideration if the tenant assigned the tenancy with the landlord�s consent. Under the new act, he cannot accept any payment in consideration of assigning his tenancy also.

One important aspect of the new legislation is to be carefully noted. If, because of automatic revision of fair rent by 5 per cent or revision of fair or agreed rent upon notice by the landlord, the rent of any premises exceeds the level of the �protected tenancies� as mentioned above, the tenants will lose the protection afforded by the act.

The new act is certainly a piece of forward-looking legislation and should go a long way to removing or reducing various problems. It is likely to release the long-suppressed energies of the real estate market and house-building activity will pick up. Flats will no longer be kept locked up but opened for new tenancies, municipal revenues and income and other taxes will also increase substantially. The government should not dilute the effectiveness of the act through thoughtless amendments for political considerations.

But even after 8 months of bringing the act into force, the government has not appointed anyone as the controller under the act. The controller is vested with substantial powers, including exclusive jurisdiction in the matter of eviction of tenants. As of today, a landlord in urgent need of his house or flat has nowhere to go � the civil court�s jurisdiction has been taken away, and no controller has been appointed under the new act. Evidently the controller, appointed under the old act, is continuing to discharge certain functions like acceptance of deposit of rent from tenants, ostensibly under the new act. But any action of the erstwhile controller purporting to act under the new act will be entirely without jurisdiction, and, therefore, void in law. The situation cries out for immediate intervention by the state government.


Adecade ago, when the Bharatiya Janata Party was a nonentity in the Northeast, Murli Manohar Joshi visited Shillong. It was election time and the country was in flames after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, but Meghalaya appeared unaffected. Joshi was astounded at the utter lack of interest in the raging issue, till a local scribe candidly explained that the Northeast was �so cut-off from mainland India that events in the rest of the country merited little or no attention�.

Over the years, this sense of alienation has only intensified. Yet, the spin-off of the Gujarat violence has found an echo in the region and there are efforts to ensure peace and amity in the otherwise turbulent zone. Curiously however, both the scanty efforts at harmony then (post-1992) and the sundry rallies for integration in Shillong now have been inextricably linked to Vivekananda.

Late last month, the Meghalaya capital commemorated the centenary of Vivekananda�s visit to Shillong. The peace rally began at the house in the Laban locality where he had stayed and ended at Quinton Hall on Thana Road where he had delivered a memorable lecture.

Heritage buildings

Located beyond the shops of the Laban marketplace, the house itself is in a shambles; all that remains of its �heritage� is a black tablet announcing its association with Vivekananda. Had it not been for these centenary celebrations, or the efforts of the local BJP legislator, T.H. Rangad, many local residents would have been unaware of its significance.

Quinton Hall has fared decidedly better. The trustees donated the hall to Ramakrishna Mission in 1992, marking the centenary of Vivekananda�s historic address to the parliament of religions in Chicago. At the end of last week�s amity march, the governor, M.M. Jacob, inaugurated a new wing of the hall to commemorate a hundred years of Vivekananda�s visit to the city.

If this year and 1992 have been a watershed for peace initiatives in Shillong, they have also been significant for Rangad, home minister in the previous coalition. The year 1992 marked Rangad�s political debut. Today the BJP, unceremoniously ousted from the F.A. Khonglam government, has the distinction of being the lone party in the opposition. But with assembly elections due in a few months, the party is carefully orchestrating its campaign. This explains Rangad�s recent plunge into pre-poll exercises.

Advantage BJP

While on his public relations overdrive, perhaps Rangad should also consider another landmark in the vicinity: �Brookeside�, the country house set above the gorge of the Umshyrpi stream. It was here that Rabindranath Tagore lived in the earlier years of the century and penned Shesher Kabita, amid the lush pines and scarlet rhododendrons. The owners retained the bedstead and furnishings used by Tagore; these have been kept on display at the State Institute for Art and Culture after the bungalow was taken over by the Meghalaya government.

However, few tourists know about its existence or venture into Rilbong�s sylvan grove where Brookside nestles half-forgotten. With Tagore�s birth anniversary due this week (May 9), Bah Thrang (as Rangad is popularly known) could well use the occasion to raise his popularity ratings among the cosmopolitan electorate. With the battering its image has received at the national level, his party has nothing to lose. Rather, given the rift in Nationalist Congress Party-Congress relations, it may be back in the reckoning as part of the next rag-tag coalition. Given the political upheavals in the state since the 1998 election, the nature of future alliances is anybody�s guess.

It is a sign of the region�s increasing engagement with events in the rest of the nation that a 25-member group comprising musicians, litterateurs and eminent citizens of the Northeast will be travelling to Gujarat later this month to spread the message of harmony. Cynics who wonder whether such a journey will be a transition from the frying pan to the fire could well refer to recent events in Meghalaya in order to reaffirm their faith in the quest for a �just peace�.



Elected to suffer

Sir � That the persecution of minorities takes place under the aegis of the Bharatiya Janata Party is common knowledge after the Gujarat carnage. That minority religions are not the only ones to be persecuted is not as well known. According to �Jeers drive out eunuch mayor� (May 4), the BJP�s latest victim is India�s first elected eunuch people�s representative and mayor, Kamla Mausi. When Mausi defeated the BJP candidate in the elections, it was too much for the party members to stomach. As a result, the BJP stated that the mayor�s post is reserved for �women� and not �eunuchs�, and filed a petition challenging Mausi�s right to hold office. Taunted by BJP hoodlums, Mausi submitted her resignation and has taken refuge in a slum of eunuchs. This behaviour harks back to times when lepers were made to live in isolated colonies. That the BJP has adopted this stance is not surprising. But what kind of democracy is this in which an elected representative of the people is made to suffer for her gender and give up her rightful position in government?
Yours faithfully,
Ramona Singh, Calcutta

The foreign hand

Sir � I agree with the editorial, �The enemy within� (April 28), which strongly condemns Atal Bihari Vajpayee�s statement that India does not need to learn about secularism from anybody, referring to foreign opinion on the happenings in Gujarat. The prime minister is obviously trying to invoke patriotic feelings to fortify the Bharatiya Janata Party�s standing in the National Democratic Alliance. But the rhetoric is hardly surprising since it comes from a man who has tried to justify the Gujarat carnage by citing Godhra and has identified the entire Muslim community as jihadis and traitors.

Before Vajpayee shuns international involvement in Gujarat, he should recall India�s involvement in various internal problems of other countries � in East Pakistan�s struggle for independence, or India�s intervention in Sri Lanka to solve the impasse with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Such selective amnesia does not befit the prime minister of any country.

Instead of trying to stir up emotions, maybe Vajpayee and the Central government should learn a lesson from the very foreign powers they are ignoring. Remember the way the Bush administration had prevented an anti-Muslim backlash in the United States of America in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks?

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir � The editorial, �The enemy within�, rightly claimed that the BJP is not the representative of the Hindu community. Unfortunately, it seems that no other political party at the national level can claim to represent Hindu sentiments either. Secular parties are so apprehensive of incurring the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists and appearing biased towards Hindus that they would rather criticize Hindus baselessly. This reverse prejudice has for long stoked anti-Islamic feelings among the majority community.

Till the government, politicians and the media manage to strike a balance in their attitude towards the two communities, one cannot hope for an improvement in the current scenario. Partisan speeches made at the national executive of the BJP, followed by hollow statements such as those made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee while condemning criticism of the Gujarat government can only aggravate this situation.

Yours faithfully,
Sunita Gupta, Calcutta

Righting the wrongs

Sir � Monobina Gupta�s article, �VC under fire Left and Right� (April 22) � naming me � describes my appointment to the political science department of Delhi University as a controversial one, and provides both incomplete and incorrect facts about my qualifications. I provide the accurate data below for your perusal. I may add that Gupta did not verify the facts from me. The report has affected me very badly since it gives the impression that I am casually qualified if not actually under- qualified for the job. Also, it has not given relevant information on the nature of the post itself. Let me list the following clarifications:

One, the post was a special, multidisciplinary one sanctioned under Plan IX for which candidates from disciplines other than political science could apply. I was simply one among a number of others who were specialists in disciplines other than political science who had applied and been summoned for the interview. Let me add that similar posts were advertised in other departments.

Two, I applied on the basis of my work in history. I have done my masters and doctorate in the subject. I have published a historical study entitled Carving Blocs: Communal Ideology in Early Twentieth Century Bengal (Oxford, 1999), in addition to many articles. I have also worked on contemporary political history and, in addition to publishing articles, have co-authored (with four others) Khaki Shorts, Saffron Flags: A Study of the Hindu Right. This book has been misleadingly (if my inference is right) referred to as a book on the Babri Masjid demolition that I am supposed to have co-authored with (solely) Tanika Sarkar (although the authorship of Khaki Shorts is normally attributed to Tapan Basu et al). I have also taught history at the post-graduate and MPhil levels in Delhi University.

Three, I was also a reader (not lecturer) at the department of English, Sri Venkateswara College. I have an MA and an MPhil degree in English (and not simply graduated in it as the article would have it) and taught English for close to 25 years at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels � in addition to authoring a number of articles in literary studies. I have edited an inter-disciplinary collection of essays on Rabindranath Tagore�s The Home and the World (forthcoming, Permanent Black).

Yours faithfully,
Pradip Datta, New Delhi

Auto erotic

Sir � While travelling in Hyderabad recently I noticed two motorists collide with each other, simply because both were busy gazing up at an explicit Telugu film poster instead of watching the road. The poster showed a number of scantily clad women. Most public spaces in India are plastered with such posters, which are also harmful viewing for children. Municipal authorities should ban such provocative posters at bus-stops and roadsides.
Yours faithfully,
P.V. Madhu, Secunderabad

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