Father of unkindness
Sir — Put the two pictures side by side. Ali, a 12-year-old Iraqi boy, who has lost both his arms and suffered third-degree burns all over his body, languishing in the hospital. And Tony Blair, the British prime minister, sitting down with his three elder children to explain his stand on the war (“Blair talks of trauma at home”, April 19). The lengths to which the British prime minister and the American president go to project their image as men devoted to their families — remember how the British press went to town with reports of Blair changing little Leo’s nappies — are revolting enough. When we are made to read what a doting father Blair is at a time when he is ensuring that thousands of equally affectionate Iraqi fathers are blown apart, it is positively sickening. Blair’s interview to Sun only show how first-world leaders like him, for all their sympathetic rhetoric, cannot think beyond furthering their own petty interests. It is time someone told the Blair children that.
Sumantra Hazra, Calcutta
Battered and hurt
Sir — The government of Assam led by Tarun Gogoi appears to have adopted the old imperialist policy of “divide and rule” in the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Hmar and Dimasa tribes in the North Cachar Hills district. While Gogoi’s government is trying to act as innocent as a Sunday school preacher, it is actually egging on the Dimasas covertly by blaming the Hmars for the clashes and even branding them as killers. The government has even gone on record saying that they are people from other states, when even media reports have said that the attack on the Dimasas was a last resort act of retaliation. How can a government be so keen on disowning its own people' It is clear that the root of the present trouble lies in the way the Hmars have been treated over a period of time by the Dimasas, and the government of Assam surely is not ignorant of this.
The current stance of the government shows that the tribal people and their welfare feature on its agenda only before the elections. The resources of the government should be used to heal, not to hurt and destroy.
Zarzosang Varte, Shillong
Sir — The ongoing strife between the Hmar and Dimasa tribes of N.C. Hills and Cachar districts of Assam has opened up another sorry chapter in the already tarnished socio-political history of the state. These two tribes have always shared a love-hate relationship, and the recent clashes have exposed their problems to the outside world.
This is perhaps good, because N.C. Hills has been a hotbed of militancy for over a decade now, but it has hardly ever attracted the attention of the national media, or the Centre. The Telegraph must be complimented for running regular reports on the issue. Hopefully, the governments in the state and the Centre will wake up to the crisis at hand.
Tomojit Bhattacharjee, Silchar
Sir — If one goes by media reports, one would think that the Hmars are responsible for instigating ethnic violence in the two districts of Assam. But the media has only echoed the official facts, without reporting the looting and torture faced by the Hmars, and the unfair taxes imposed on them ever since the formation of Dima Halam Daoga. Not only have the majority Dimasas captured most of the government jobs, but they are now trying to change the name of the N.C.Hills autonomous district to Dima Halali. We need to look at things from the correct perspective.
Sir — The Assam government’s policy on rehabilitation and ex-gratia payments to the families displaced in the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Hmars and the Dimasas in N.C.Hills is discriminatory. When people of both the communities have been killed in the conflict, there is no reason why only the Dimasas should be given a compensation package of one lakh rupees. Equal attention should be given to the victims of both communities. Also, is it not possible that the media present the cases of both parties rather than carrying one-sided stories'
Joseph Kamkholien, Shillong
How to be loyal
Sir — It is appalling that the Union minister in charge of minority affairs, Sanjay Paswan, has publicly endorsed the view that Muslims should prove their loyalty to India (“Minister test for minorities”, April 15). The Partition was a bitter pill for both Hindus and Muslims, and it is not in the best interests of the country to evoke those volatile sentiments again. Ramesh Patange, who has written in his book on B.R. Ambedkar that Muslims were “left behind” at the time of Partition, needs to be corrected: most Indian Muslims chose to stay with the Indian Union. India is the second largest Muslim nation in the world, and Muslims have contributed as much as anybody else in India’s development. It is therefore disgusting that even after 50 years of independence, there should be questions about their loyalty.
Would Paswan please tell us how exactly he wants Muslims to prove their loyalty to the nation' One is also tempted to ask him whether — and if yes, how — all Hindus have proved their loyalty to India.
Samidip Basu, Calcutta
Sir — On the one hand, the preamble of the Constitution includes the word “secular”, and on the other, a Union minister wants proof of loyalty from Muslims. Is it the Bharatiya Janata Party’s newest attempt to cosy up to the sangh parivar outfits' Of course, given the precedent the BJP has set in Gujarat a year ago, Sanjay Paswan’s comments do not come as a surprise. The dreams of a secular India may be lost forever.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia