On a ceremonious exit
Sir — The resignation of K. Venkataswami, the judge in charge of the Tehelka probe committee, at a time when the inquiry was nearly complete, is an indication of the kind of politics that is being practised by India’s politicians (“Tehelka panel chief steps down”, Nov 24). Granted that it is the duty of the opposition to keep a tab on the functioning of the government and the decisions taken by it. But, in this case, it did not have any conclusive evidence to back its allegation that Venkataswami’s appointment as the chairman of the authority on advance ruling on customs and excise was not based on merit. After all, he had the recommendation of the then chief justice of India, S.P. Bharucha. While Venkataswami’s resignation may or may not remove doubts about his integrity, it has certainly jeopardized the Tehelka investigation. The only way to prevent such unfortunate incidents would be to bring about greater accountability in all government appointments. Further, both the government and the opposition must have their hands clean.
Soma Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — I worked with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for over two decades. Today, I am appalled to see the deterioration in its values and the decline in the quality of leadership. When I left the RSS not too long ago, I had felt that it would continue to play an important role in society. Although the RSS declared publicly that it shunned politics and would concentrate on spreading its influence to all spheres of life, it is clear that the decline which had begun when the Jan Sangh first came to power in 1977, is now complete.
The different constituents of the sangh parivar have presently become volatile and militant. They have no inhibitions about displaying their communal credentials. While the organization under the leadership of M.S. Golwalkar had concentrated on values and purity in life, present-day RSS chiefs and leaders of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are more interested in dictating policy to the Bharatiya Janata Party. What is more disappointing is that money and the political power of the parivar have made it arrogant. It is now lashing out at its adversaries, something it had not done in the past.
Taking a cue from senior leaders who made disparaging remarks about the leader of the opposition, BJP leaders like M. Venkaiah Naidu, Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia have followed suit. Does the sangh parivar think that its adversaries are incapable of retaliating in the same vein' All that the parivar has managed to prove through this behaviour is its hunger to cling on to power, which makes it no different from any other party.
It is ironic that the RSS should pose as the only torch-bearer of the Hindu religion. Its utterances could not be farther away from the liberal Hindu dharma. A Hindu who quietly follows the ideals of “Yama, niyama and dhyana” is as true to his religion as a rashtra bhakta or a swayam sevak. The RSS should realize that liberal Hindus will have by now distanced themselves from its ideology.
K.N. Bhagavaan, Bangalore
Sir — No matter how much the prime minister and his deputy may want to distance themselves from the other constituents of the sangh parivar, they are unlikely to be successful for too long. L.K. Advani for one has always been known as a hardliner. His desire to be prime minister may have forced him to imbibe a more secular outlook for the time being. That is probably why he sprung a surprise on his sangh brothers by coming out in support of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Parliament a few days ago. His assurance that India will not become a Hindu rashtra and that Muslims are “sons of the soil” may have been a sequel to this trend. That however is no guarantee that there has been a permanent shift in policy. A debacle in Gujarat will immediately force both Vajpayee and Advani to switch back to the pro-Hindutva stance.
Sumitra De, Calcutta
Sir — The latest face-off between the two constituents of the sangh parivar, the VHP and the BJP, is nothing more than a replay of the events that occurred in March this year. The VHP had then threatened to perform shiladan at the disputed site in Ayodhya but had to settle for performing puja instead. For the BJP it pays to maintain a working relationship with its sangh sibling, which allows the party to agree and disagree with the VHP at its own convenience. The resulting political buffoonery benefits both. The prime minister gets to polish his secular credentials from time to time, while the VHP is allowed its dose of free publicity. As the general elections in 2004 draw nearer we may get to see more of such stunts.
Meraj Ahmed Mubarki, Calcutta
Sir — I had an unnerving experience while returning to Howrah from Santiniketan via the Shantiniketan Express a few days ago. The train was so crowded that I, my friend and some other passengers boarded the luggage compartment. At Burdwan, 12 hawkers boarded the compartment, closed one of the doors and lit up three stoves. Although we requested them repeatedly to put off the stoves, they did not pay any attention. It was suffocating inside and we were afraid of a fire breaking out. It was clear from the conversation between the hawkers that they did this on a regular basis. The railway authorities should ensure that hawkers, who anyway travel ticketless, do not create such nuisance.
Soumitra Nandi, Batanagar
Sir — While travelling by chair car on the Tata Steel Express from Howrah, I was shocked to discover certain irregularities. Large bundles of different shapes, covered with gunny bags, were placed under the chairs and in front of the toilet doors. However, when I enquired, none of the passengers claimed the goods to be theirs. This seems to be a regular occurrence on many trains. It is strange that this has escaped the notice of the police who come to inspect the compartments. What if the bags carry explosives' The Indian Railways should pay more attention to the safety of passengers.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — Owing to the negligence of the railway authorities at the Howrah Station, porters charge exorbitant amounts from passengers. The latter, who are usually tired after a journey and in a hurry to go home, accede to their demands. Perhaps, the railways should fix a rate depending on the amount of luggage that is being carried by passengers.
Paramesh Chandra Mukherjee, Calcutta
Moles and the floss
Sir — It was pathetic to hear that army personnel have been involved in an espionage racket recently busted in Jalangi (“Embassy link to ‘moles’”, Nov 25). This, however, may only be the tip of the iceberg.
The defence services are meant to protect the country and its citizens. If these men turn out to be traitors, how can a country progress and what security can citizens expect' In India, most of the politicians are criminals who work hand in glove with defence and police personnel. Tehelka has been the largest expose of this nexus so far. But maybe, many others are in the offing.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — The recent terrorist attacks on army personnel in Srinagar as well as the explosion in a bus carrying jawans and their families throw up many questions on the continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir and indicate that the recent release of hardcore terrorists by the chief minister has sent out wrong signals. The state government should review the security arrangements with the help of the Centre, and if necessary, build more military support and intelligence for the security of the people.
R. Sekar, Calcutta