Cause and effect
Sir — “Jogi takes on trappings of Laloo” (July 28), gives a unidimensional picture of both Ajit Jogi and Laloo Prasad Yadav. Yes, like Laloo Yadav, Jogi has made sure that his state runs on his writ. But the report fails to mention that Jogi is a tribal leader much the same way as Yadav is a leader of the Dalits — that is only by pretension. The RJD chief may have started his political career espousing the cause of the Dalits, but now, firmly saddled in power, he no longer thinks of it except for times when he has to speak at public rallies. The same with Jogi. The only difference is that while Laloo Yadav is well-entrenched in Bihar, Jogi is still in the early stages of the process. Hence his apparently sincere attempts to work for tribal development. There is another difference also. While Laloo Yadav can claim to be a real Dalit, Jogi is allegedly not a true blue tribal. So for all you know, Jogi’s tribal leanings might be more shortlived than Laloo’s love for the Dalits has been.
J. Sarkar, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Daughter turns torchbearer of change, lights father’s pyre” (July 28) was a delightful read. The gesture of the Mahakal temple authorities, which allowed Sandhya Chouhan to go ahead with the last rites of her father, will go a long way in changing attitudes towards women. The present condition of women in society, and related crimes like female foeticide, have their roots in the rights which religion grants to women. According to the Hindu religion, the soul of a deceased person is liberated only when the son performs the last rites. Unfortunately, this myth has had a powerful influence on society and its preference for the male child. Since only sons are desired, female children are either killed before they are born or after birth. If they survive, girls are considered a burden to the family.
The result of this is evident in the lopsided sex ratio in India. The number of females per 1,000 males has only marginally increased from 927 to 933 from 1901 to 2001. What is even more alarming is that the number of girl children in the age group 0-6 years has fallen drastically in some states. The figures are no less dismal in West Bengal, a state which prides itself on its liberalism, its equitable society and mature social outlook.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — Sandhya Chouhan of Ujjain should be commended and congratulated for lighting the pyre of her deceased father. The feelings of a daughter towards her parents is no different from that of a son. Yet, Hindu shastras have no provisions for daughters to perform the last rites of their parents. Chouhan has set a new trend. Girls should not only be encouraged to perform the same rites that boys do, they should also be allowed to retain their maiden name after marriage. A daughter does not become less of a child of her parents after marriage. A country cannot progress with doctrines that discriminate against women.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The right to perform the parikrama around the dead father will give daughters the gateway to enter the all-male world of religious rituals. Formally granted, it could provide women some room in the ritualistic structure of Hinduism that is strictly reserved for men. Classical Hindu tradition, being a blend of highly sophisticated logical systems and primitive practices of heterogeneous cultural groups, maintained a balance between the sexes by letting each maintain its role differentiation. Since the roles and functions of the sexes were regarded as complimentary, the question of grading one group as superior to the other did not arise. Over the years, however, a lot of complications have creeped in, pushing women down the social hierarchy.
Sandhya Chouhan adds a new dimension to the debate on women’s rights. Her action emphasizes on the necessity of women’s active participation in transforming society. Assertive women like Chouhan could lead to the establishment of a non-exploitative religious order, which can make a multiethnic, multi-religious country like India hospitable.
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Sir — Considering the Hindu backlash in the country, will Sandhya Chouhan be allowed to live in peace after having taken the momentous decision' She should be granted protection by the state authorities for some time, given that her state that is going to polls soon and Hindutva is a major issue in these polls.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Matters of the heart
Sir — Why is the medical fraternity in Pakistan getting unduly agitated (“Best in Pakistan, surgery in India”, July 27)' Syed Fazal-e-Hadi, executive director of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, may be right in pointing out that the best in specialized treatment are available in Pakistan. But surely he cannot comment on Pakistani parents’ decision to bring their children in India for treatment' Is the fear of India gaining a few brownie points internationally that is bothering him'
If all the facilities exist in Pakistan and people still want to travel to an “enemy country” to get their children treated, then perhaps Fazal-e-Hadi should look within for answers. It seems quite clear that Pakistanis have more confidence in the experience and expertise of Indian doctors'
But such debates are ultimately pointless. What is important is that the surgeries performed on Noor Fatima and Junaid Khalid have been successful, giving the two countries much to cheer about.
Subhadip Pal, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “An unexpected cure” (July 26), made a very profound observation — “the human factor is overwhelmingly important in any move for peace”. The world of medicine is one without borders. It is a pity that politics is not the same. It is unfair to put political colour to the issue of Pakistani children being brought to India for treatment. Who knows, humane gestures such as these might just help the two countries make a fresh start.
K.R. Rangaswamy, Madison, US