With Satanic intent again
Sir — The times are not favourable for the followers of ayatollah Khomeini. Ever since Osama bin Laden has become the man most of the world loves to hate, the tables seem to have turned on the people who were, till yesterday, pronouncing fatwas on the rest of the world. Bereft of their major occupation, they cannot but pick on people like Jemima Khan, whose claim to blasphemy seems to be that she has — funnily, without her own knowledge — had her dissertation reviewed by Salman Rushdie, the ayatollah’s “chosen” one (“Satanic smear on Jemima”, Sept 30). If this indeed is a campaign hatched by the section of Pakistan’s political establishment opposed to Imran Khan, Jemima’s husband, then it is a rather weak one. After all, in the ayatollah-free world, Rushdie has more than a little ground beneath his feet. And so has Jemima, who has warded off far graver smear campaigns — including allegations of smuggling heritage tiles out of Pakistan — in the past. The ayatollah’s followers could opt for a breather now.
Fawzia Khatoom, Calcutta
Who started the fire'
Sir — Madhushree C. Bhowmik’s article, “To answer a burning question” (Sept 24), talks of the “flippant attitude” of Babulal Marandi, who has suggested a political solution to the mine fires in Jharia. This is, however, a virtual non-issue. What the article neglects to mention is that Marandi, the chief minister of Jharkhand, is merely repeating what has so far been the Indian state’s position with regard to the dislocation of poor communities — whether physically, often forcibly as elsewhere in the mining areas of Jharkhand, or from their land and traditional occupations — over a period of time without giving them a better alternative.
The real issues lie elsewhere and are rather opaque. It is true that mine fires are often due to spontaneous combustion, but in eastern India, they are more often caused by unauthorized mining by the local poor. The mine fire-unauthorized mining-land subsidence connection needs as much attention as unscientific mining.In fact, in the last 30 years, nationalized mining companies in India have not paid any more attention to the environment than the private companies of the Fifties and Sixties who are as a rule blamed for all the problems of the coal regions.
Sand stowing is hardly done in underground mines, though papers say it has been done and paid for, providing opportunity for locals to break into the abandoned mines and scoop up the leftover coal, including the pillars. Land subsidence too is closely related to unauthorized mining, and eventually may lead to mine fires because of the breathing of oxygen into coal seams through cracks. Above all, a distinct tendency in the last one decade has been for mines to come up on the surface, become “open cut” in the name of profitability. But if environmental and social costs are taken into account, then such mines are no more economic than the underground ones. These open mines are left to locals to scavenge upon at nights or on holidays. Such scavenging activity, commonly called “illegal mining”, is probably the most important reason for mine fires in this part.
The question in the coal mining regions of India is not whether to relocate or not; they are, who does unscientific mining, why do they do so, what exactly are the consequences, who takes the responsibility and who gets the blame' Unless these questions are answered, there is no point in writing about the futility of the government’s vague plans for relocating villages and settlements.
Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Burdwan
Sir — Babulal Marandi does not understand what an explosive situation he is creating for himself and posterity. His domicile policy, which reserves government employment for the “indigenous” people of Jharkhand, has already created enough animosity. The demographic balance in urban areas like Jamshedpur and other towns has been completely unsettled. Generations of settlers, who have forgotten where they came from, are living in constant fear. Add to this the commotion in Jharia, where the entire population is expected to be relocated elsewhere. But where' Jharia’s is also a mixed population, composed mainly of settlers. With Marandi already having given the “indigenous” people the right to uproot settlers, where do these people go'
M. Chaudhuri, Jamshedpur
Sir — The report, “Drive after rape stings eunuchs” (Sept 22), was heart-rending. I still cannot understand why people in general and the police in particular do not try to accept everyone as they are and let each live his own life. The harassment of Manasa and Manisha is yet another act of needless police brutality. The police are there to safeguard the lives of the common people, but they exercise their power the other way round. How can we then trust them'
Eunuchs are human beings and they cannot be blamed for what they are. I pity not the eunuchs but those who stoop to being inhuman because they have forgotten their sense of freedom and the fact that the right to live has been given to one and all. I want to tell the police — stop destroying others’ lives.
Maggie Katharpi, Karbi Anglong, Assam
Sir — The police assault on the two eunuchs makes it obvious that our uniformed men need a lesson in human rights. The two might have been booked on charges of ticketless travel. But the police station had no business stripping them and locking them up with hardened criminals. It is attitude like this that has embittered the community and provoked them to misbehave often in public. If this is the treatment eunuchs get from the keepers of law, what can they expect from the man on the street who sometimes gets a sadistic pleasure from taunting them about their sexuality' Police action of this kind will deter members of the community from trying to find alternative livelihoods.
M. Sur, Calcutta
Sir — After the incident in Mumbai, where two eunuchs were harassed and humiliated by the police, the eunuch community has urged the government to do something about the harassment they face while travelling by train. But my experience is diametrically opposite to what has been projected. Recently, I had been to Lucknow to attend a seminar. From Calcutta, I, together with others, travelled by the Amritsar Mail. In both the journeys in the Lucknow-Varanasi sector, we faced a lot of harassment, humiliation, physical, verbal and visual assault from hordes of eunuchs extorting money from passengers. It was a nightmarish experience. The ticket examiners on duty expressed their helplessness, adding that it was a regular feature on trains in Uttar Pradesh. In these days of gay and lesbian rights activists and non-governmental organizations, eunuchs have plenty of people to support their cause or highlight their plight. But when it is the other way round, they surprisingly keep mum.
Taritwan Pal, Calcutta
Sir — The diary, “Seats reserved” (Sept 15) is untrue, concocted, defamatory and calculated to lower the prestige of Bhai Mahavir, the governor of Madhya Pradesh.
For the breakfast hosted in honour of the president in the Raj Bhavan, buffet arrangements had been made with the approval of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the central portion of the hall, tables were lined up. Sufficient chairs were also kept on the three sides of the tables, mainly on two sides lengthwise and 9 chairs for the VVIPs breadthwise. The president and the chief justice of India occupied the middle of the 9 chairs kept breadthwise and the governor, out of considerations of propriety and courtesy, sat with them. A number of guests, for instance, Uma Bharti, the Bhopal bureau chief of a major national daily and the principal of a local prestigious school came and sat on the chairs beside the VVIPs and exchanged words with them. After some time, the president, the chief justice and the governor also got up and moved among the guests.
The chief minister was also there and there was no reason for anyone to feel that he was ignored. The whole story of denial of a chair to the chief minister is a figment of somebody’s imagination. The diary, which describes how initially there were only two chairs and later on one chair and “only one” was “quickly” ordered with the instruction, “Ek hi chair lana”, for the chief justice of India, is a colourful and mischievous contribution from your correspondent. The chief minister himself has issued a statement to newspapers in which he has denied having been shown any disrespect on the occasion.
Suresh Awatramani, public relations officer to the governor, Madhya Pradesh