The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Doing as they please

Sir — Perhaps we should stop thanking our stars and begin thanking the astrologers and numerologists interpreting them for the changes coming over J. Jayalalithaa and her confidante, Sassikala (“Jaya hitches wagon to stars”, Oct 3). It is strange that these men should have emerged the spin doctors for Amma. Yet, there is no doubt that the moves are doing wonders to the puratchi thalaivi’s public image. Apart from her social work inside the state which range from annadaan in temples to rescuing married girls from being extradited, Jayalalithaa’s current politics is shrewdly cut out to raise her national weightage — the anti-Sonia Gandhi tirade, the revival of the Cauvery water issue or the return of the Tansi land. All of it could not have been dictated by astrology. And yet, the fact that one of the most astute politicians in India lends herself to the suggestions of male astrologers, feeds into the popular imagination of the vulnerability of the female politician.

Yours faithfully,
S. Balakrishnan, CalcuttaDangerous choice

Sir — Though urban Indians have voted terrorism as the biggest problem facing the country, the reality is quite different (“Living dangerously”, Sept 29). The evils emanating from unemployment, corruption and poverty outweigh the threat from terrorism. While a single terrorist act may exterminate a dozen lives immediately, the other factors kill millions of Indians everyday, psychologically, if not physically. Cases like Tehmina Khatoon’s, where students get victimized for their religion, or the examiner’s callousness which result in thousands of erroneous marksheets as in this year’s Madhyamik examination, or examples like Bhuvaneswari Devi of Madhya Pradesh, which show how women are subjected to sexual humiliation by local authorities, are more spine-chilling than terrorist acts. Urban middle class, untouched by hunger, and drunk in patriotism, are oblivious to the ills that bother the majority of the populace.

The Indian state, quite cleverly, is giving wide publicity to the Kashmir imbroglio and terrorism in order to divert public attention from its failure to solve the more basic problems. The middle classes may dance to the tune of the government and accuse Pakistan of fomenting trouble in India, but the millions of have-nots are the least perturbed by the so-called threat to internal security. The media, instead of giving in to this hypocrisy of the political class, should expose it.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — People who die in accidents, or from hunger far outnumber those killed by terrorist acts. It is the sensationalist press in India which blows the latter out of proportion. They unknowingly become an auxiliary weapon of the terrorists. As Major General Afsar Karim observes in “Living dangerously”, terrorism has a passion for theatrics. Its main targets are the people who watch others being killed. The media coverage of terrorism is an inseparable part of the whole show. Together, they create an industry of horror. In fact terrorism has proved to be an asset for the media which give them a broad audience, and assure them cash flow. The promotion of terrorism by the mass media of India is no different from their promotion of any popular brand of toothpaste or car.

Today, both the print and the electronic media try to beat each other in the competition to procure information from relatives and neighbours of terrorists (witness the Abu Salem coverage), or to stun the audience with the most graphic shots of the events, (front page picture of the slain terrorist on The Telegraph, Sept 26). All these together make terrorism an inalienable aspect of social life today. But if we can cut out the publicity, we can also cut down a substantial portion of the phenomenon. Unfortunately, the right of the people to know will be most vigorously defended by the media. Hence the more important subjects of roti and kapda will continue to be stifled by the booming guns.

Yours faithfully,
Surajit Basak, Calcutta

Sir — Bishakha De Sarkar writes in “Living dangerously” that the Bollywood villain reflects popular thought. Bollywood is also shaping the mindset of Indians and making them believe that violence alone can bring them justice. The Gallup International-TNS Mode poll also reveals that urban Indians (92 per cent) have more faith in the army than in either the government or Parliament. It is also not surprising that India’s belief in the foreign policy of the United States of America (34 per cent) should outweigh the world percentage (29 per cent) and even that of the United Kingdom (30 per cent). Interestingly, while the Americans are the ones resorting to the military option, around 85 per cent of Indians believe that military force is the most effective way to curb terrorism compared to a meagre 59 per cent Americans.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

Sir — Terrorism is today seen as the biggest threat because the state projects it to be so. The American media for one feeds this fear deliberately in complicity with the state apparatus. It does not take much intelligence to fathom that the root of all evil is the lack of proper education. If fidayeens are the product of perverse education, then the right education taken to the right people can solve the problem.

Yours faithfully,
Ankan Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — The best response to terrorism is aggression. India has been fighting an undeclared war against militants for the last two decades, but has not been aggressive enough in its action. Even now, the state seems to be waiting for some signal to take a bold stand. Yet we are making a big mistake if we wait for the US or the UK to give us the nod. We have to fight our own war ourselves. And now is the time to do some muscle-flexing.

Yours faithfully,
Md Imran Khan, Bokaro

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