What’s eating Mulayam'
Sir — Why did Mulayam Singh Yadav decide to skip the iftar party hosted by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi (“Loss of appetite for Sonia iftar”, Nov 15)' It couldn’t have been because the spread was not to the liking of the Samajwadi Party chief. Was he settling an old score then' In that case, Sonia Gandhi has more reasons to be displeased with him, since in spite of the Congress support to his party’s government in Uttar Pradesh, he has not got round yet to back her claim to prime ministership. But strictly speaking, neither has an option but to patch up, given their common enemies — the Bharatiya Janata Party and Mayavati: the Samajwadi Party can only gain from an alliance with the Congress, for whom Mulayam Singh Yadav is a better bet than the unpredictable Mayavati. And the best way to patch up, as to a man’s heart, is through the stomach. Since Mulayam has given this iftar a pass, we may have to wait for some other iftar for the differences to be sorted out.
Shonali Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — The Telegraph should have been more prompt in reporting the attacks on trains originating in the Northeast, especially Assam. There have been too many such incidents already. In a recent incident, several people, believed to be Assamese, were beaten up severely and a Mizo girl even paraded naked (“Girl stripped on backlash train”, Nov 16). This is the worst form of human behaviour, but one that is easily associated with the population of Bihar. This despicable act is being aimed at people from the Northeast because of their legitimate protest against the railways recruitment authorities for its favouritism towards Biharis in the Northeast. Over the years, thousands of Biharis have been encouraged to write their railways examinations in Assam. In almost all recruitments, about 80 per cent of those employed happen to be Biharis. This and other factors clearly hint at some form of nepotism being practised by the railways, clearly dominated by Biharis.
The molestation and harassment come at a time when the Northeast is desperately trying to catch up with the rest of India. So long, the people of this region blamed the callousness of successive governments at the Centre and the army for being unable to mix with the national mainstream. Now the unilateralism of Biharis has given them another reason for keeping away.
Pritam Baruah, Los Angeles, US
Sir — Train journey through Bihar is a hazard any time, now more than ever if anyone hails from Assam or anywhere in the Northeast. Most Bihari students and youths are unruly and it is nightmarish to have them as fellow passengers. People from other states have often suffered atrocities on trains passing through Bihar. Complaints to the railway police or Bihar state police have yielded no results. These people board the train, even reserved compartments, without tickets, occupy the upper berths with no consideration of passengers occupying the lower berths, and even jam the floor space. The people of this region possibly get their confidence from the fact that they frequently have Biharis as railways ministers. But it would be important for politicians to remember that such rowdyism is not good for the state, nor for inter-state relations. After all, politicians themselves will have to largely shoulder the blame for the deterioration of the standards of a state and its people.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The incident in Bihar is bound to have horrible repercussions for Bihari settlers in the Northeast where people from the plains have been severely persecuted in the recent years. The larger question that is being missed is if states reserve government employment for “sons of the soil”, would it not further compartmentalize the Indian population which is already having to bear the brunt of heightened communalism'
N. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — On the pretext of halting the alleged cultural invasion of Assam, the United Liberation Front of Asom and National Democratic Front of Boroland have reiterated their decision to impose a ban on the exhibition of Hindi films. However, they have yet to clarify whether this ban is restricted to the screening of Hindi films in cinema halls only, or, whether all other modes of exhibition of Hindi films and programmes, such as through television and video CD vendors and so on, are also included. This clarification is important, as it would be unfair to single out the cinema halls only, which are already in a sorry state, for such harsh treatment. Seventy per cent of the television channels are in the Hindi language and many of them are either regularly beaming Hindi films, not to speak of the cable operators who regularly show Hindi films. So why this partiality' If cultural invasion is the theme of the hour, then much more than cinema halls, satellite TV, videos and CDs are responsible.
Further, the move to ban movies at the theatres lacks sense as everybody owns a video CD player these days, and the discs can be “home-delivered” free of cost. The incomprehensible part is that if the struggle of these activists is against the government of India, will this action of theirs make the powers-that-be in Delhi lose their sleep' If the answer is no, why are these men targetting their own brethren, many of whom will go hungry because of their action. If the ban is sustained, it could close down most halls since it is now impossible to survive on the screening merely of regional films.
Sangram Adhikary, Guwahati
Sir — Driving a car in Guwahati has become very difficult nowadays, particularly at night. The traffic signal system is primitive. The situation is worse at night, during which it is impossible to see the traffic police, let alone see his hands given the paucity of light on the pedestal. The situation is compounded by the traffic, with headlights on, coming from the opposite side. The situation demands an immediate and thorough review of the system. Certain steps can be taken. One, all the busy junctions should be provided with localized traffic lights to be operated manually. The lights could be fixed over the pedestal itself to avoid or minimize the extra cost of posts, connection and maintenance. Two, as seen in other cities, driving without dippers at night is punishable by law. This rule should be enforced. Three, pedestrians find it very difficult to cross over to the other side of the road at some busy areas due to continuous flow of traffic. It is necessary to construct over bridges or underground sub-ways for pedestrians at the Fancy Bazar, Bharalumukh and Bhangagarh bus stops.
Dilip Bhattacharjee, Guwahati