Measure for measure
Sir — Bal Kattis have been the butt of jokes for some time now. Now the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Manohar Joshi, has reduced the entire debate over the women’s reservation bill into a joke (“Quota for women, without unseating men”, July 14). Women activists have been demanding a 33 per cent reservation of the total number of seats in Parliament because no less than that would do justice to India’s women who constitute half the population of the country. There can be arguments over how more women could reach the upper and lower houses, at what stage and how the reservations should be implemented to ensure their percentage in the legislature. But there cannot be any doubts about the veracity of the demand for the division of seats among the genders. Joshi, by suggesting that women be granted their share while assuring that men do not have to part with theirs, has struck at the very roots of gender justice. How can we allow such a speaker to adjudicate in our Parliament'
M. Acharya, Calcutta
Sir — Partha Chatterjee mentions in “Demographic demonology” (July 10), that no less than our deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani, has recommended that the book, Religious Demography of India, be read by all Indians. This is shameful. The least Advani can do now is refrain from flaunting India’s religious pluralism in the international fora. For within India, the Union home minister spews venom at his Muslim and Christian brethren and sows the seeds of hatred in the minds of Hindus by prescribing that they read doctored statistics.
Even if one were to believe the contention of the authors of Religious Demography of India about “Indian religionists” becoming a minority in the future, what is the harm' Is India the sole property of Hindus' Is Advani and his saffron cadre trying to say that people practising “foreign religions” may live in India, but they should not multiply nor dare merge with the mainstream' It is disgusting that a country led by nationalists like Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Subhas Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru should now be led by a bunch of rabid communalists.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — The theory preached in Religious Demography of India that until the coming of Islam, India had an entirely homogeneous religious civilization is not factually correct. St Thomas arrived in India around 52 AD and established the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala with his followers now commonly known as Syrian Christians. The common belief that Christianity was brought to India by the British is not right.
Ranjit Jacob, Calcutta
Sir — Partha Chatterjee shows how a book, recommended by the country’s political leaders, is perpetuating a dangerous myth. This myth has already proved to be the genesis of a carnage as horrible as the Gujarat riots. The book, Religious Demography of India, by A.P. Joshi, M.D. Srinivas and J.K. Bajaj, nurtures the Hindu fear of being outnumbered by the minorities. But the contradictions in their logic, as Chatterjee has pointed out, are far too many. According to the authors, the children per women ratio is 12 times higher among Muslims than that among Hindus. They also argue that there has been a two per cent decline in the population of “Indian religionists” between 1951 and 1991. A mere two per cent drop does not corroborate such a high birth rate among either Muslims or Christians, especially since the growth of the Muslim population between 1971 and 1991 increased by only 0.2 per cent. Muslims constituted 11.2 per cent of the total Indian population in 1971 and 11.4 per cent in 1991, according to the 1991 census figures.
However, it needs to be kept in mind that the authors does not merely talk about population figures in India. They include the figures for the entire subcontinent. But why' Perhaps this is because they have only one agenda, that is to establish a myth. Since the growth of the Muslim population in India is insufficient to prove their argument, they have included the Muslim population figures for Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Muslims are in the majority.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — The contention of Religious Demography of India about the marginalization of Hindus in the subcontinent is not entirely wrong. At the time of Partition, the Hindu population in Pakistan amounted to a crore. Between 1947 and 1995, the population of Pakistan has increased three-fold. But the number of Hindus have dropped sharply to around 17 lakh in Pakistan. Again, Hindus constituted 28 per cent of the population of East Pakistan in 1947. Now the percentile has dropped to 12.1 and Hindus in Bangladesh number around 10.6 million only. Correspondingly, the Muslim population in India has increased to 120 million as per the 2001 Census.
As the authors themselves point out, Hindus have been reduced to a minority in seven states in India. In several other states in the Northeast as also in West Bengal, a steady stream of Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh threaten the predominant Hindu population. If Greece and Turkey, despite their limited resources, have been able to solve the problem of their religious minorities by settling on an exchange of population, why couldn’t such a procedure be followed in India'
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Sir — Call it snobbery or plain jealousy, A.S. Byatt has chosen to write off J.K. Rowling’s talent and blame the astronomical sales figures of her novels on the “the stupidity of the masses” (“A goblet of bile thrown at Potter creator”, July 11).While popularity boost writers’ egos, they also seek critical acclaim. So far Rowling has had a lot of encouragement from fellow writers, but Byatt’s attack has been particularly nasty. For any writer who is popular, it is natural to be branded as “commercial”. Rowling is no different. Byatt has to acknowledge that few authors have as much popular appeal as Rowling. And some among Rowling’s readers may be stupid, not all of them.
Sunil Garodia, Calcutta
Sir — Rudrangshu Mukherjee seems to be in two minds about whether he should pick up a Harry Potter or go back to Ha Ja Ba Ra La (“Pop goes Potter”, June 28). No such dilemmas for us, children. We read books because we are curious to know. Generations after us will also be curious to know what lay in the Harry Potter series and they will come to know about Potter just the way we had come to know about Jane Eyre from our parents.
Mayurika Deb, Tura, Meghalaya