The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sir ' It is both surprising and amusing to find Githa Hariharan admitting at last that Hindutva is not a spent force in tribal Gujarat ('A gift from the fundoos', Feb 12). People adhering to her political ideology rarely admit the truth and are known to be hypocrites who practise the opposite of what they preach. Hariharan is aware that the Dangis are poor tribals who live in heavily forested areas where the scope of agriculture is minimal, but she finds the presence of Hindu voluntary organizations there objectionable because they, according to her, 'terrorize' the minorities. Dangis, she tells us, are doubly unfortunate to be residents of Gujarat. But can she assure us that the plight of tribals in left-ruled West Bengal is any better' In Bengal, for a quarter of a century, the government has systematically persecuted those who have dared to protest against the state policy of denial and repression. The rise of the Maoists, which has been giving the government sleepless nights, is a direct consequence of this politics of neglect.

Hariharan finds the association of Dangis with the Shabri legend a dangerous development, but she is unperturbed by the proselytization of poor and ignorant tribals. As for her doubts regarding the knowledge of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh about Ram and his journeys across the country, she could just read the Ramayana carefully and visit the holy places mentioned there which still exist throughout the country.

Yours faithfully,
Shivaji K. Moitra, Kharagpur

Sir ' It is shocking to find that Dangis in Gujarat are still subject to communal strategies of the Bharatiya Janata Party. There can be no denying the sharp decline in the popularity of the BJP in Gujarat. The party is trying its best to regain a foothold by pacifying the minorities on the one hand and indoctrinating the tribals on the other. And they are using the Hindu texts to their advantage to achieve this. The BJP should remember that the texts they are misusing teach us that stratagems such as theirs can achieve only a temporary victory. In the end, they will further tarnish the image of the party and the sanghis in the public eye. It is quite incredible that a political party can cash in on fundamentalist ideas in this age of science and technology. The Centre and the National Human Rights Commission should do something to ensure the safety of the culture and identity of the marginalized tribals.

Yours faithfully,
Tanmoy Bhattacharjee, Howrah

Sir ' Both the early proselytization drive of the missionaries and the ghar vapasi movement of the BJP in Dangs show how vulnerable the tribals were and still are in India. The Constitution-makers, aware of this fact, left no stone unturned to guarantee tribals the right to preserve their identity, be it through positive discrimination in education and employment or through the granting of autonomy in the management of their educational and cultural associations.

It is shameful that these inbuilt safeguards are being turned on their head by post-independent governments. There have been ghar vapasi programmes elsewhere in India before for so-called 'converts' in Madhya Pradesh and present-day Chhattisgarh. But none were as concerted and as devious as the weaving of the Shabri legend and organization of the Shabri Mela in Dangs. There should be a ruling from the Supreme Court making it mandatory for the administration to dissociate itself from the organization and conduct of religious festivities of all kinds.

Yours faithfully,
J. Sikdar, Calcutta

Visiting hour

Sir ' Anil Ambani's 'personal' meeting with the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, after failing to win the contract for the modernization of airports could be considered a masterstroke ('Anil case lands in CM court', Feb 11). Since Bhattacharjee is supportive of private initiatives, although the Left Front in general is opposed to privatization, Ambani's move was probably intended to initiate a direct deal with the state government. As is obvious by now, Bhattacharjee's zeal, when it comes to the industrialization of West Bengal, is particularly high, and one even his party has found difficult to contain. Liaising directly with the chief minister thus makes infinite sense on Ambani's part. However, taking into account the trade unionism in the state, and the problems increasingly faced by the fledgling IT sector on account of the incessant bandhs, Ambani would be well-advised to think twice before pushing on with his airport privatization bid.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir ' It is heartening to know that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has finally agreed to allow Anil Ambani to set up a university in the state. It is expected that the new IT university, scheduled to come up at Kalyani within a year-and-a-half, will cater to the needs of the burgeoning IT sector in the state.

The Reliance group under the younger Ambani brother needs to be praised for considering it worthwhile to set up such an institution in West Bengal.Although encumbered by left politics, Bengal has the best brains in the industry and has immense potential for the IT sector.

Yours faithfully,
Arjun Chaudhuri, Calcutta

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