Sir — In the article ,“In a harsh new light” (May 7), Ananya Vajpeyi has downplayed Narendra Modi’s positive role in the Gujarat riots. Perhaps the learned writer is unaware that Modi’s efficient handling of the riots reportedly resulted in less people dying in the Gujarat unrest than in the Sikh or the Bhagalpur riots. In the Gujarat riots, both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives whereas in the anti-Sikh riots, not a single Hindu death was reported. Calling Modi communal amounts to a travesty of the truth. Modi always swears by the “6 crore Gujaratis” and never divides the state on the basis of communal considerations.
The case of Qutubuddin Ansari amply demonstrates the way in which communalism is made into an issue in India. Ansari’s photograph, in which he was seen begging for life with tears rolling down his cheeks, was much publicized after the Gujarat riots. He was helped by Mohammed Salim and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to settle in West Bengal, and a tailoring shop was set up for him. Ansari’s picture was widely used by Salim in his election campaign to woo Muslim voters. It is ironic for the CPI(M) that he returned to Gujarat after a while.
Asoke C. Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — One must congratulate Ananya Vajpeyi for her well-written article. It is sad to see Narendra Modi being projected as a progressive chief minister even after his failure in preventing the pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat. Modi has ensured economic prosperity for the state and that has helped him garner the support of the people. But the riots have rendered many people homeless and the families of the deceased are still awaiting justice. However, a few of the perpetrators have been convicted, thanks to the proactiveness of the judiciary.
The much-hyped ‘economic success’ of Gujarat is nothing but a myth. Hundreds of people have been uprooted from their homes because of the Narmada project, and the Mahuva cement plant now threatens the livelihood of many. What is the difference between Modi’s Gujarat and West Bengal under the Left Front’s rule? In the process of ‘developing’ society — which often translates into ensuring luxuries for the elite — the welfare of the rural poor always gets neglected.
Leaving aside the brutal pictures of ‘development’, Gujarat is still plagued by poverty, unemployment and hunger. The percentage of underweight children in Gujarat is around 45 per cent. In the hunger index, the state ranks 13th among the major Indian states, with Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam faring better than Modi’s ‘advanced’ Gujarat. Economic growth in Gujarat has helped the rich and the upper-middle classes to prosper further while the condition of the poor has remained the same. Instead of flattering Modi, the media and the public should measure him solely by the yardsticks of humanity. Only then can there be a slim chance of Modi modulating his policies for the benefit of the minorities, the poor and the homeless.
However, I would like to disagree with Vajpeyi’s view that we cannot “account for our modernity” without taking into account the contributions of Gujaratis like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and K.M. Munshi. Jinnah’s call for a Direct Action Day provoked the Great Calcutta Killings, which culminated in the partition of the sub-continent, rendering millions dead or homeless overnight. Even today, thousands of innocent people find themselves in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi prisons just because they had stepped on the wrong side of the international borders, which are often not properly demarcated. Jinnah may have acted piously after achieving his dream of a Muslim State by promising equal status to all Pakistanis, but that is certainly not enough to absolve him of the crimes he perpetrated against humanity.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — Devi Kar’s article, “Questioning the answers” (May 10), rightly points to the shortcomings of the present-day education system. All reputed schools are driven towards fulfilling the expectations of parents. They offer the possibility of a lucrative job and a successful career for their children. But not much is done to shape the children’s value systems. One tends to overlook the nature of a person if he becomes successful. Earning money has become the sole objective of life. Is that what a good education is all about? It is high time educationists and parents think seriously about this. Devi Kar rightly says, “Education is most certainly not about learning to outdo others but to make the most of one’s potential in terms of cognitive, emotional and creative capacities.” But how many ‘good’ schools adhere to this ideal?
Basudeb Bhattacharya, Calcutta
Sir — The article by Devi Kar was thought-provoking. Lack of innovation in our education system and unhealthy habits like cramming and memorizing before examinations leave the children with no confidence in their abilities. It is unfortunate that policy-makers copy Western models and try to fit them into the Indian structure.
The education system in India must be revamped so that students become more knowledgeable and analytical. One hopes that Kapil Sibal, the minister of human resource development, would change the education policy to adapt it to the changing needs of students.
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta