Defending the indefensible
Sir — Uttar Pradesh politics is turning out to be nothing short of a merry circus. With Mayavati, the state’s combative chief minister, now asking the leader of the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, to fall at her feet and beg for forgiveness for having wrongly accused her, the drama seems to be getting even more engrossing (“Mayavati bristles at Mulayam”, March 8). After the fizzling out of the no-confidence vote in the state assembly, Mulayam Yadav seems to have fallen strangely silent for the moment. Mayavati, on the other hand, has found loyal support in Jaya Jaitley, whose reputation is yet to get over the blow it took after the tehelka scandal. Mayavati’s claims of innocence have few buyers anyway and with Jaitley in the picture, these claims have ended up losing all their credibility. Jaitley of course has a lot of practice in refuting charges until she is blue in the face — and she is now using her expertise in brazenly refuting all Mulayam Yadav’s accusations against Mayavati. Surely, the tehelka scandal should have rendered her wiser. But then, politicians never learn, do they'
A. Basu, Kharagpur
Notes from abroad
Sir — K.P. Nayar seems to consider the few mentions of India’s stand on Iraq in the American media a sign that India is gaining mileage among the American people (“Ambivalence is the best policy”, March 6). Nayar has blended the example of the Indian Institutes of Technology, for which the current government cannot claim any credit, with India’s ambivalence on the issue of the United States of America’s war on Iraq. Ironically, the article has also managed to show how unimportant India, and its stand, are to international diplomacy.
Nayar may think ambivalence is the best policy, but ambivalence can also be the result of the privileging of national interest over ideology. By extension, selfishness would also be a good policy and we should stop thinking about the children who will die in the US bombings. If we react by repeating the token rhetoric of “concern” for the victims, but choose to do nothing when the time comes to take action, that perhaps would be deemed as the astute diplomacy of ambivalence.
Nayar should be able to better distinguish between ambivalence and opp-ortunism, genuine concern and partne- rships of convenience.
H.D. Pal, Bongaon
Sir — Questioning the wisdom of the war against Iraq the George W. Bush government seems intent on, K.P. Nayar hails the comment of the New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, that India is “the world’s biggest democracy, the world’s largest Hindu nation and the world’s second-largest Muslim nation”. All very well, but it probably did not occur to Friedman that he was omitting the most crucial definition of the Indian nation — that it is pluralistic and secular.
Unfortunately, divisive religious sentiments have become the cornerstone of the policies of the ruling government in India today. A culturally-rich and diverse nation like ours cannot be identified as being either Hindu or Muslim alone. Friedman should know that there is a larger India that exists beyond these two major religious communities. We must steer clear of the likes of Friedman who flatter even as they drive a wedge into the country. An experienced journalist like Nayar should have done better than to be taken in by such insidious rhetoric.
Tazma Ahmed-Datta, Kansas
Sir — Ramachandra Guha depicts Joseph Stalin in his true colours (“Remembering Uncle Joe”, March 5). The Allied forces have hidden many truths about Stalin because he helped them in the war against Adolf Hitler.
After Hitler defeated the Allies in Poland and France, Stalin first stopped supplies of petroleum and foodgrains to Germany in contravention of the Russo-German Treaty of 1939. Later, he occupied the province of Bessarabia in Rumania, which was an ally of Hitler. In October 1940, he brought his troops to the Rumanian border and demanded that Hitler hand over the Ploesti region of Rumania immediately to Russia. Hitler was stunned at this demand, since Ploesti’s oilfields were the only source of petroleum for Germany and its armed forces. He ordered Luftwaffe pilots to do an aerial survey of Russia to find out its intentions. The pilots brought proof of the westwards march of some 250 Russian divisions.The force was huge enough to crush Germany.
So Hitler gambled with a preemptive attack on Russia. He did not succeed in the end, but managed to inflict terrible damage on Russia, in terms of money and lives lost. Stalin would have truly served communism if, instead of fighting Hitler, he had diverted his army to liberate Asian countries like Iran, Afghanistan and India while Britain and the US were occupied with Hitler. Russia would have become a world power then.
Stalin and Lenin together butchered some 60 million innocent Russians between 1917 and 1953. Stalin stands out as one of the prime ogres of the last century.
Natranjan A. Wala, Chital, Gujarat
Sir — As always, Ram Guha does not shirk from revealing a few uncomfortable truths about Stalin. I remember the time when the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky was brought down from its pedestal outside the KGB headquarters in Moscow by irate Muscovites. Saroj Mukherjee, who was then Left Front chairman in West Bengal, expressed his heartfelt sorrow at this act of lèse-majesté on a television news programme. True to the tradition of Indian Marxists, he informed that the Left Front had registered its protest against the despicable behaviour towards the statue of the “highly respected” Marxist comrade. The extreme right is at least less sanctimonious. None of them expressed sorrow or registered a protest when their icons, Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Fulgencio Batista et al, got their just deserts.
Partho Datta, Calcutta
Schools of thought
Sir — Ayaldas Hemnani’s views on what an ideal daughter-in-law should be like are absolute nonsense (“Bride and prejudice”, Feb 2). It is unfortunate that this self-proclaimed guru and his “school” for girls on the verge of matrimony exist in a country which boasts of some of the world’s most intelligent and talented women. Does Hemnani not know that marital happiness cannot simply be commanded, but needs the understanding and co-operation of the two partners and that of the entire family' Can he explain why educated men and women torture their daughters-in law, even going to the extent of murdering them' Shashi Rai, the principal of Nutan College, is right in fearing that such incidents of violence against women will only rise if Hemnani’s lopsided views on the issue gain greater credence in society. It is because of people like Hemnani that many Westerners still consider India the nation of snake charmers.
B. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — It was rather disturbing to read that it was not the illiterate and poor women among whom Ayaldas Hemnani’s institute was popular, but the educated and professionally-qualified women. Have the so-called “modern” women been brainwashed by the “K-serials”, in which a woman’s sole duty is to look after her husband and in-laws, so that they soon lose all identity of their own'
It is more surprising that women’s organizations have not been more vocal about institutes like Hemnani’s Manju Sanskar Kendra or the poor light in which women are depicted in television serials.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — It is interesting to note how regressive views about women’s emancipation have suddenly become. The small screen and schools like the one run by Ayaldas Hemnani are all set to take India back to the dark days when sati was practised. Take, for example, a character in a popular soap opera who is proud to claim that she has no identity of her own, that her husband and in-laws make her what she is. These medieval views are perhaps doing their bit in turning women into mindless robots.
Interestingly, a recent Hindi movie features a woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. The two characters may be extremely different, but they seem to be delivering the message that women’s liberation lies in abandoning rational thinking and clubbing mind and body together. It is unfortunate that a majority of women today have chosen to become victims of a male-dominated medieval patriarchal order in a market-driven modern world.
Sujit De, Sodepur