The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Impostor in their midst

Sir — Earlier there were doubts whether he was a “tribal”, and now it appears that he might not even be a scheduled caste (“Jogi caste certificate goes missing”, Feb 3). And to say this is not to give in to Ajit Jogi’s carpers — the villains in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Only the very naive would believe Jogi’s defence that his son’s caste certificate had gone “missing” from the Indore collectorate. It is almost as paltry an excuse as the West Bengal government’s claim in the Supreme Court that records of a custodial death case had been eaten by white ants. Jogi’s excuse is so ridden with holes that it seems he didn’t even apply his mind while framing it. This can only be a measure of how confident Jogi feels about getting away with his excuses, not only with his party high command but also with his constituency in Chhattisgarh. In the final analysis, the tribals of the area would perhaps have been better off without a state of their own instead of being saddled with someone like Jogi.

Yours faithfully,
Sumana Ghosh, Calcutta

Cultural politics

Sir — Partha Chatterjee correctly warns that officially supported cultural nationalism will only make India intolerant (“A subtle poison”, Jan 30). Take Pakistan, where the desire of the Urdu-speaking Punjabi lobby to impose on the whole of the country led to the creation of Bangladesh. In fact, whenever and wherever majoritarian parties have risen, their ugly ideologies have been projected as nationalism. Be it Nazi Germany or the Hindutva parties in India, it is the same story. These parties do not believe in unity in diversity — the only unity, for them, is for the entire nation to adopt the culture of the majority community. But ignoring the culture of the minorities only serves to jeopardize a nation’s unity.

We may have become more modern technologically, but we continue to harbour the primitive desire to dominate over others through language, religion, caste or colour. Nationalist parties cleverly exploit this universal human trait. They perpetuate a myth of a national culture in which Hindi is the rashtrabhasha and the Ram mandir issue becomes a matter of “national honour”. But sectarian politics in the guise of nationalism does not augur well for the unity of the country.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — Partha Chatterjee astutely zeroes in on the contradictions in the Bharatiya Janata Party. While it preaches pluralism abroad and wants non-resident Indians to remain “Indian” even though they may have long ago become citizens of another country, it also prescribes a monolithic culture at home and does not mind crushing the diversity in our multi-racial, multi-lingual country. It is sad that we are following in the footsteps of Pakistan, instead of the more prosperous and liberal countries.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

Sir — Partha Chatterjee argues that the Anthropological Survey of India’s finding, there are 4,635 communities in India which do not share cultural characteristics, a language, caste, religion, occupation or marriage norms, is an indication of the impediments to cultural nationalism in India. But surely Chatterjee does not mean that these communities have nothing in common.

One school of thought believes that the words “Hindu” and “Indian” are etymologically similar and are the derivatives of a word, now lost, which referred to the inhabitants of region of the Indus river. They also hold that the name “Hinduism” was one given by the European Orientalists to the complex of religious beliefs and practices they found in the region. Thus to give primacy to the religious content of the word “Hindu” is a little wrong-headed. Also, it is wrong to say that Hindus proselytize. This is a deliberate misunderstanding of the capacity of Hindus to assimilate foreigners and bring about racial synthesis.

Science and technology, and improved means of transport and communication have resulted in the physical meeting of cultures, races, religions. The only attitude in keeping with the present context is one of tolerance and understanding.

Yours faithfully,
Surajit Basak, Calcutta

All that gas

Sir — Mani Shankar Aiyar makes a strong case for Iranian gas to be piped to India through Pakistan (“Destroying a pipe dream”, Jan 28). But a news item in the same day’s edition reported that tribesmen in Pakistan blew up natural gas pipelines, for the second time in a week (“Pak pipelines blown up”, Jan 28). This exposes the inherent dangers in a pipeline such as Aiyar favours.

But what about liquified natural gas' Iran could send the gas by pipeline to its coast and set up liquefaction facilities there at lesser cost. The LPG could then be shipped to our west coast, regasified and piped to consumers.This would eliminate the risk of the disruption of supplies via Pakistan. Also, the facilities could be used to import gas from Qatar in case Iran reneges on its commitments as it did earlier in respect of the import of iron ore concentrate from Kudremukh.

Yours faithfully,
N.G. Haksi, Ranchi

Sir — Surely Syed Mohammed Khatami could not have come all the way from Tehran merely to view the Republic Day parade. More important issues like the oil wars must have been discussed in private — Mani Shankar Aiyar may rest assured. That India’s foreign policy has become more effective under A.B. Vajpayee cannot be dismissed as easily as Aiyar does. But perhaps being in the opposition does hamper objectivity.

Yours faithfully,
R. Sajan, Aluva, Kerala

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