Princess Diana

Print edition : September 20, 1997

This refers to your Cover Story "The Diana tragedy" (September 19).

Princess Diana's post-divorce life was, as pointed out in your editorial, a strange mixture of a "superficial side" reflected in an intimate involvement with "the international circle of super-rich pleasure-seekers" and a serious side of reaching out to the poor, the sick and maimed children. Her tragic death in a car smash has caused deep anguish to millions of people.

There has been widespread anger over the supposed role of the tabloid press in the incident. Paparazzi chasing the glitterati is a global phenomenon, a price that the rich and famous have to pay to stay in the limelight. Celebrities pick and choose media publicity to meet their ends. None of them achieves a larger-than-life public image in a short span without the aid of the press, tabloid or otherwise. By contrast, it took Mother Teresa some half a century of hard toil in the slums of Calcutta before the world took notice of the frail noble soul.

Subbiah Venkataraman Bangalore

The mafiosi and Al Capones are believed to be and picturised as thugs and hoodlums who chase, torture and murder people to control and perpetuate their empires and also in vendetta. They rarely cause the death of an innocent citizen for publicity, as the paparazzi did recently in France.

The paparazzi have only one thing in mind: how to get rich quickly and how to get the maximum mileage out of the photographs they obtain. The fourth estate all over the world is losing a sense of morality, fair play, decency and respect for human life and privacy. It is also losing its sense of proportion and priorities. It does not study nor report the innumerable human rights violations and atrocities taking place all over the world every day. It is time that editors and journalists condemn the hunting of Princess Diana by paparazzi hounds. Diana's death should not go in vain. I salute her spirit.

Prof. M.P.S. Menon Delhi

Chasing the car in the thick of night, what did the paparazzi set out to capture: images more revealing than the ones from St. Tropez and elsewhere? On the face of it, the seeming irrationality of the whole act just means one thing: "circulation-boosting prurience," as your editorial puts it so succinctly.

Though it is the public that laps up news items capturing the lifestyles of celebrities, the role of the media in publishing them is crucial. It is easy for media owners and editors to pander to the basic instincts of the people and increase their circulation to some extent. But they should exercise their discretion before they decide on the contents of their publications and the format in which they appear. If everyone agrees on the need for drawing the line somewhere, there should be no doubt as to who should draw the line.

Diwakar Jha New Delhi Tribute to Nusrat

This has reference to your feature on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (September 19). The sudden death of this maestro has sent shock waves across the music world. He was a celebrity in both India and Pakistan and by his enchanting music used to captivate audiences. May his soul rest in peace.

S. Jagadish Kumar Chennai Ambedkar and the freedom struggle

I am a bit puzzled by Vijay Prashad's review ("The thing about big gods", September 5) of Arun Shourie's book on B.R. Ambedkar. He tells the reader that "most reviews" have addressed the many flaws in the book, but none has "interrogated the basis" of a certain argument. He never clearly spells out what this argument is. He continues with a reference to a "crude dichotomy" that popular works on Indian nationalism effect between political movements and social reform movements. This perception is several years out of date.

The dichotomy may have existed in an earlier phase of Indian historiography, but current works have gone far beyond it. I fear that Prashad himself has fallen prey to a crude dichotomy in his over-neat categorisation of anti-imperialism into the obvious and non-obvious sort.

In casting the young Aurobindo and Tilak as unequivocal anti-imperialists, he surely goes against his own canon. Aurobindo's espousal of a radical Hindu nationalist plank, his failure to attract the substantial Muslim population of Bengal into his nationalist consolidation; Tilak's statement of loyalty of 1914 and his endorsement of a line of "Responsive Cooperation" with the raj - these are all well-documented and well-studied aspects of the freedom movement, though they may be open to conflicting interpretations. But if Ambedkar was anti-imperialist in an unobvious way by virtue of fighting against caste, then surely, Aurobindo was pro-imperialist in an unobvious way by furthering the communal divide between Hindus and Muslims.

I am not sure that the reviewer's conceptual categories work at all in dealing with the complex and dynamic milieu of the freedom struggle.

Sukumar Muralidharan New Delhi 'Towards Freedom' project

In "Controversy hits a project" (September 5), Parvathi Menon gives a fair account of the "Towards Freedom" project of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), which, to one's relief, seems finally close to bearing fruit.

I am troubled, however, by one statement that Parvathi Menon has attributed to me, to the effect that the National Archives of India (NAI) "suppressed" a number of documents. The fact, as I had explained to her, was that, when as the then Chairman of the ICHR I wanted to get work begun on the volumes dealing with the 1940s, I was consistently told by the ICHR's own project director that the NAI's team had not supplied the documents for these years. Yet when this project was reorganised in 1988, these "missing" documents were traced in the ICHR's own cupboards, as the Frontline report has noted. The NAI was, therefore, not at all at fault.

The only withholding of documents known to me was by the Home Ministry, which rejected my request, made at Professor S. Gopal's behest, that the full texts of the pre-1947 intelligence reports be made available to the editors of the "Towards Freedom" volumes. We were asked to be satisfied with the official (and doubtless sanitised) summaries provided to the NAI.

Irfan Habib Former Chairman Indian Council of Historical Research Aligarh

Trade and environment

I was interested to read the article "Standards to keep" (September 5) about trade and environment. While there is justified concern in developing countries that new environmental requirements in the industrialised world may act as a barrier to trade, there is also another side to the story: new trade opportunities for producers of environmentally sound goods and services.

Our recent report, "Unlocking Trade Opportunities," was commissioned by the United Nations for the Earth Summit review meeting in New York in June 1997 and contains 10 case studies of producers in the South that have benefited from moves towards sustainable consumption in their export documents. These include Mumbai-based Century Textiles, which gained both premium prices and enhanced sales by achieving environmental certification of its cotton exports. But, if more companies are to gain from rising environmental expectations in Europe and elsewhere, then conventional trade restrictions (such as the Multi-Fibre Agreement) and discriminatory regulations in the industrialised world will need to be removed.

Furthermore, development assistance will be required to raise standards among smaller producers. Business and environmental groups will also have to work more closely together to incorporate environmental criteria into normal purchasing and sourcing requirements.

Nick Robins Director Sustainable Consumption Initiative International Institute for Environment and Development London, U.K.

U.S. visa cases

The recent announcement by the United States Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) that the numerical cap for H-1B (temporary worker) visas in 1997 had been reached and that new petitions would be post-dated to October 1 has apparently caused a good deal of concern, confusion and speculation about how the Consulate General in Chennai will handle the processing of these cases in South India.

The simple answer is that nothing has changed and the Consulate General will continue to process these visa cases as they are received. Applicants with current approved petitions should apply for their visas in the normal manner. Those who anticipate that their petitions will be dated on or after October 1, 1997 should wait until they have received their approval notice before applying.

The Consulate General would like to assure everyone that the processing of all visa cases will continue in a normal manner. Anyone arriving at the Consulate before 9-00 a.m. will be interviewed that day. Applicants eligible to use the Drop-Box, Business Express or Mail-in services offered by the Consulate are encouraged to do so (these facilities are open to applicants who have reached age 55 or those who have travelled extensively abroad and/or are being sponsored by their "Business Express" member company).

Michele J. Sison Consul General Consulate General of the United States of America Chennai

Kashmir hawala scandals

Your investigative report on secessionism and sleaze in Kashmir (September 5) is extraordinary. The Government must take action immediately and put an end to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Any party or person who does not honour the Indian Constitution has no right to stay in India. I believe that Kashmiris want more respect for their land and culture. The Government must create an atmosphere that is good for the future of Kashmiris.

M.A.H. Farooqui Belgaum Amarnath yatra

I was delighted to read Sudha Mahalingam's travelogue "On the Amarnath Yatra" (September 5). The narration was graphic. The accompanying photographs were excellent.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha India and the U.N.

This has reference to "An active presence" by C.V. Narasimhan (September 19). In the writer's list of Indians associated with the United Nations, there is no mention of K.N. Subramanian, ICS, whose services were placed at the disposal of the Trigvie Lee, the first Secretary-General of the U.N.O., before India became independent..

R. Subrahmanyan Chennai Acharya Narendra Dev

This refers to "A tradition of resistance" by Namwar Singh (August 22).

The names of individuals may not matter in the course of history, but a person of the stature of Acharya Narendra Dev cannot become Acharya Narayan Dev. I clearly remember the events of 1947-48 described by Namwar Singh, but these had a background going back to the mid-1930s.

After the martyrdom of Pandit Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthy during the communal riots in Kanpur, the U.P. Congress movement split into two factions, one led by Acharya Narendra Dev and consisting of young and progressive persons and the other, of conservatives led by Purshottam Das Tandon. The Congress victory in the U.P. Assembly elections in 1936 brought in the question as to who will be the Premier of this most important Province. Both these leaders threw down the gauntlet.

Acharya Narendra Dev, having the backing of the youth and the blessings of Jawaharlal Nehru, gained an edge over Tandon. As this was not to the liking of the conservative group inside the Congress, it somehow influenced Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, but Kidwai did not agree to the elevation of Tandon to premiership. A compromise formula was found. Tandon was coaxed into accepting the Assembly speakership and Govind Ballabh Pant was chosen for the prime ministership of U.P. Since then Pant considered Acharya Narendra Dev as his political rival. This resulted in the 1947-48 events as described by Prof. Namwar Singh and culminated in the shameful Ayodhya tragedy on December 6, 1992.

H.N. Sinha New Delhi

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