No silencing those voices of dissent
Sir — We are grateful to the Jairus Danajees who refuse to be silenced either by saffron goons or the glamour of Confederation of Indian Industry meets (“Murder bombshell on Modi”, Jan 19). Danajee’s question is another one of the screams that have escaped from humanity at the bestiality of Gujarat — following that of Devasmita Patnaik and then of Nadira Naipaul. No amount of manhandling or muffling will stifle this scream. Narendra Modi will have to live in the perpetual fear of hearing such voices at every meeting outside his saffron brotherhood. And so will the other members of his fraternity. For example, we can be sure that there will be at least one Danajee in Qatar for L.K. Advani if he proceeds with his visit. What the Ram bhakts might be forced to do eventually is have the guests and their questions screened before each meeting. Much of these congregations are already doctored, anyway — most certainly the ones that are open to Indians. Now even non-resident Indians can expect to being asked to present their questions to the right honourable Modi beforehand.
M. Choudhury, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Naga union chill under bonhomie” (Jan 11), reminds one of previous reports on the issue. Thiungaleng Muivah has often referred to the “unique culture” of the Nagas, which gives him and his party reason to demand autonomy for the Nagas. Ukhrul, inhabited by Thangkul Nagas, will supposedly be a part of the Naga country. But what is so “unique” about this Naga culture' Thangkuls have lived in Ukhrul since time immemorial and have intermarried with the Meiteis. Ukhrul itself has been part of Manipur for eternity. The appearance of a Thangkul warrior is an indispensable part of Lai Haroaba, the ritual prayer performed by Meiteis. Muivah is too young to comprehend the history of Manipur to which the Thangkuls have contributed as much as the Kukis, Kabuis, Maring, Chothe, Purum, Thangal, Anal, Kharam and other tribes. Manipur is a cosmopolitan state where tribals live together with Nepalis, Assamese, Bengalis, Marwaris, Punjabis, Biharis, Tamils, Malayalis and so on. The Meiteis have never claimed that Manipur is for the Meiteis only.
The report should have been more restrained in repeating the controversial statements mouthed by Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu in their “peace” talks with the Centre. Also, it is not true that anti-Naga feelings in Manipur led the Meiteis into arson. If the people of the state set fire to government buildings two years ago, it was in protest against the government’s failure to heed the public mandate. Yes, there has been ethnic violence between the Manipuri Nagas and the Manipuri Kukis, the two main tribes of Manipur. But it was the Meiteis who tried to bring about a peaceful settlement to the problem. The fact that the people of the state believe in democracy and secularism is evident from the fact that a Muslim reigns peacefully as chief minister and that a Thangkul had been chief minister continuously for seven years. It is sad that the media should misrepresent the situation.
A. Ibotombi Singh, Imphal
Sir — All Manipuris will welcome the assurance given by the leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to the Indian government that they will give up arms. Naga militancy has claimed innumerable lives in Manipur, especially that of Kuki women and children who were butchered indiscriminately during the Naga-Kuki clashes. The NSCN(I-M) has also been responsible for the rampant extortion that has drained a poor state like Manipur. Asking for peace is one thing, but it is quite another thing to ask for the break up of several northeastern states so that the Nagas can form a Greater Nagaland. The history of Assam, Tripura and Manipur is more than two thousand years old. The half-a-century long Naga struggle should not be allowed to change that history. If Kashmiri militants now start demanding a new state carved out of the Muslim inhabited areas in and around the region, will the government accede to it'
L.B. Budha, Imphal
Sir — It hurt to see the duo, Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu, accorded a heroes welcome in the country instead of being promptly arrested. The NSCN is still involved in large-scale extortion, kidnappings and killings, particularly of government officials, army personnel and civilians, in Nagaland and the neighbouring states. The army, deployed to maintain peace in the region, is still fighting an open war with the militants. Why should the Indian state give so much respect to these militants' It is unfair to tie the hands of our armymen and let them die while the cause of the terrorists against whom they are fighting is welcomed by the leaders in New Delhi. Will Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani please answer why Swu and Muivah are being shown mercy instead of being lined up in the firing squad'
S.N. Biswas, Durgapur
Sir — The report, “Atal and Naga bosses break ice” (Jan 10), made interesting reading. Kudos to Atal Bihari Vajpayee for breaking the five year old jinx in the Indian state-Naga negotiations. Let us hope that the meeting evolves long-term plans for the return of peace. Such milestones will definitely take the National Democratic Alliance government to a second term in office.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — Only a year ago King Gyanendra of Nepal was trying desperately to recover from the macabre royal palace massacre and to come to terms with his anointment. The metamorphosis now seems complete (“Aimless in Kathmandu”, Jan 16). The king is behaving like a totalitarian patriarch with legislative and administrative powers centralized in his hands, and shoring up pro-monarchy activists. But India’s policy towards Nepal remains as vacuous as ever. While Maoist insurgents are baying for his blood and insurgency continues unabated, Gyanendra seems to have only one agenda — to re-establish an absolutist Himalayan kingdom. Why else would he dismiss a democratically-elected government at the drop of a hat' With a lameduck prime minister officially at the helm of affairs and the palace wielding the rod from behind the curtains, Nepal is at a crossroads again.
The recent royal decree on the rice-eating ceremony of the king’s grandson lends further credence to this view. In a major policy shift, Gyanendra is marginalizing political parties and discreetly putting barriers in the path of the restoration of parliamentary provisions. Even as Nepal gets sucked into the cesspool of a Maoist rebellion, this strengthening of the monarchy aggravates the stand-off between the government and militants. The poverty of the masses will only further incite the Maoists to try to abolish the last vestiges of monarchy, thereby plunging the country into an anarchy more devastating than the current royal mess. The spillover would obviously affect its southern neighbour.
Chiranjib Haldar, Calcutta
Sir — There is no doubt that the experiment with democracy has failed in Nepal. So one should not grudge the monarchy trying to reinstate its control over the state now. King Birendra’s laxity with the politicians was singularly responsible for the widespread corruption and worsening of law and order in Nepal. With King Gyanendra tightening control, it might be easier for the army to combat militancy and for the government to concentrate on improving the situation within Nepal, and outside.
India should extend its hand of friendship to the Nepal monarch for the country is strategically crucial to it. A re-Hinduized monarchy may even suit its own designs.
N. Chatterjee, Calcutta