On the boil
Sir — “Dangerous signs” (Feb 3) by Rudrangshu Mukherjee makes some accurate observations and highlights the realities of Indian society. Mukherjee has aptly pointed out that “conditions in India are ripe for a retreat from democracy”. The numerous agitations by dissatisfied citizens on the streets of Delhi go to show that the masses are increasingly losing faith in the ruling dispensation. The many scams and the alleged involvement of ministers and bureaucrats in nefarious activities have led to severe frustration among the people. Corruption in the top rung of the government has given rise to people like Anna Hazare who want to overturn parliamentary conventions. Ordinary citizens often get swayed by them as they continue to clamour for justice in vain. The treatment meted out to intellectuals and authors like Ashis Nandy and Salman Rushdie is equally unacceptable.
The only ray of hope seems to be Narendra Modi. He is known amongst the masses as a hard task-master and fits the bill of a strong leader who can root out misgovernance. Modi’s “history of intolerance and communal violence” has been overlooked by most people in their search for effective governance.
Corruption is so endemic in India that agencies responsible for curbing the malpractice suffer from the malaise themselves. The multiparty system of governance is unsuitable in a country like ours. India should have only two major political parties. This will increase accountability and heighten the chances of better governance.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta
Sir — There is growing discontent among the people regarding the loopholes in India’s democratic institutions. On the one hand, industrialists are flocking to summits like Vibrant Gujarat to talk about development and growth. On the other, many parts of India remain afflicted with deprivation and intolerance. A successful democracy must respect all kinds of views. It is quite unlike an authoritarian regime in which a leader chooses the destiny of a nation. One must rise above petty interests and work towards the prosperity of the nation.
There seems to be a “challenge to democracy and its institutions” in every part of the world and India is no exception. Securing the lives of citizens is essential in a democracy. Issues such as security, health, education and welfare of the marginalized classes should be addressed urgently. One needs to work together to keep our democracy intact and prevent the takeover by the “the monster of Nazism”. One hopes that our leaders understand this and work towards the improvement of the country and not for their personal gain.
Amlandeep Bhattacharya, Calcutta
Sir — I am writing with reference to the article by Premen Addy on the Battle of Stalingrad (“Remembering an epic battle that decided history”, Feb 5). As the memory of World War II fades, perhaps a reminder of its titanic battles is timely. None of them was more horrific than the one in Stalingrad. Addy has done well to recall the street battles, the civilians caught in the wreckage of the city and the ruthlessly effective generalship of Zhukov and Chuikov, among others.
However, I find the fulsome praise given to Stalin’s role somewhat problematic. While the battle led to the final defeat of Nazi Germany, the reputation of the Eastern Front as the “good fight” between good and evil does not stand scrutiny. It would be better to see the battle, as Antony Beevor has done, as two evil systems battling it out — no matter that one of them was allied to the “forces of right”. Both armies showed a reckless disregard for the lives of soldiers and civilians; in the Red Army the sinister presence of the political commissars caused even generals to look over their shoulders. Stalin led from the front no doubt — but his real role lay in supporting his high command, and in giving them a lot of freedom of command. (It should not be forgotten that in the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Stalin was struck by a sort of command paralysis — while the German army penetrated deep into the Soviet Union.) At first, he did not give Stalingrad much importance. It was Zhukov and Vasilevsky who convinced him that it was an important communication link. Stalin eventually conceded to their views. But Stalin was not immune to the propaganda value of the battle and virtually exiled Zhukov to an obscure command when he felt that the Marshal was stealing his thunder at the victory parade.
As for the “colossus” forged by Stalin, the Soviet Union, while it may have liberated Europe from Hitler, it is well to remember that it condemned much of Eastern and Central Europe to a further four decades of dictatorship from which they are only now emerging. Colossus? It would be well to remember the summer of 1989 which is not that far away in time.
Dayita Datta, Dehra Dun