Nuclear option

Print edition : April 25, 1998

This has reference to the Cover Story "The BJP and the bomb" (April 24). Your arguments against India exercising the nuclear option are not convincing. By 1987, many knowledgeable persons, including Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan who is known as the father of the Islamic bomb, had stated that Pakistan did possess atomic bombs. Now that Pakistan has successfully test-fired the Ghauri missile, no place in India is safe. The sooner our political parties decide to go in for the nuclear bomb, the better. The problem cannot be solved by postponing the decision.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha D.K. Pattammal

I read with interest the write-up on the accomplished singer D.K. Pattammal (April 24).

The credit for encouraging Pattammal's talent goes to Ammukutti Amma, the headmistress of the school where she studied. But for the headmistress' efforts the world of Carnatic music may not have gained a talented vocalist.

Incidentally, the article has not mentioned anything about Pattammal carving a niche for herself in the film world with her mellifluous and melodious songs. Who can forget her scintillating "Aaduvome pallu paaduvome" and "Thaayin manikkodi pareer" which she sang for the Tamil film Naam Iruvar?

Mani Natarajan Chennai EMS

The Cover Story on E.M.S. Namboodiripad (April 17) lived up to my expectation.

EMS' life was a saga of transformation - from Vedanta to Marxism, from a janmi landlord to a declassed proletarian, from a Brahmasree (an appellation for Namboodiri Brahmins) to a Comrade. His life was also a unique spectacle of graduation from the social reform movement to the international working class movement via the route of a national liberation movement.

Frontline has focussed on all these aspects of a great life. I do find myself in full agreement with your editorial assessment of the contribution of EMS to shaping the social, political and economic development of modern Kerala. Indeed it was EMS who pioneered the movement for 'Aikya Keralam' which led to the formation of Kerala State and gave a fillip to the development and consolidation of the Malayalee nationality. His contribution was not confined to Kerala. EMS towered over the Indian political arena for the last six decades.

He was the first national leader who drew the nation's attention to the emerging danger of communalism. From 1985, EMS waged a relentless ideological fight against Hindutva. When there was a cry for a 'united opposition' against the Congress(I), it was EMS who advocated the unity of only secular forces against the authoritarian danger. At that time many people raised their eyebrows at this proposition. But he has since been proved right.

One event could have been dealt with in your Cover Story. EMS was fined by the Kerala High Court for contempt of court and the Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court judgment. The Supreme Court judgment said that he had failed to read Marx and Engels properly.

His response was courageous. It expressed his ideological conviction. In a letter to the Editor of Kerala Law Times, EMS summed up his observation in this way: "If such a patently erroneous proposition were made by an ordinary scribe in a newspaper or an ignorant politician one would have taken it lightly. Even if a judge were to make such a statement outside the court, one would take the same view. Here, however, is a judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India, a judgment which enjoins me to see my 'error' about the teachings of Marxism. I hope it would be permissible for me to exclaim: 'No, My Lords, I would rather keep my 'error' than look after the teachings of Marx and Engels through Yours Lordships' eyes.' "

A systematic campaign is on in our country to paint all politicians with the same tainted brush. The present generation should know about the genius and the unbelievable integrity and devotion of a man like EMS.

Purushuttam Roy Barman Agartala, Tripura * * *

EMS! These three letters conjure up before my eyes the vision of an extraordinary person who was fiercely committed to his convictions, sincere to the core, and lived up to his ideals. The man came alive in the superb cover picture of Frontline.

EMS chose to live a simple, frugal life, renouncing all the advantages of his well-to-do background, in keeping with his convictions. At the moment I can think of only one person who lived such an ideal life, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam (Uncle Ho to millions of his countrymen).

S.V. Narayanan Bangalore * * *

The cover photograph reminded me of another history-maker from South India - Andhra Kesari Tangaturi Prakasam. The career and character of both the leaders had many similarities and a few dissimilarities too. Prakasam was born in a poor family whereas EMS was born in a family of landlords. Prakasam believed in destiny and god; EMS was a committed Communist. By dint of hard work Prakasam became a barrister; EMS did not have much formal education.

Though born poor, Prakasam earned a lot of money through his profession as a lawyer. He says in his autobiography, The Journey of My Life: "People gave me money and I donated it to the cause of the motherland".

EMS donated all his money and property to the cause of the principle he espoused. Both had their political baptism in the composite Madras State through the Indian National Congress, reached the top in their respective regions and came out honourably when they thought that their right place was elsewhere. Both led a transparent life, worthy of emulation by anyone who loves his motherland.

Both Prakasam and EMS were admired and adored by their followers and opponents alike.

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh * * *

My 84-year-old father wept on hearing the news of the passing of EMS. My father had never allowed his sons to participate in politics but since we grew up amidst a profusion of Communist periodicals and literature, we were like a horse with blinkers. We knew nothing but Communism. We are non-believers. Nevertheless, we believed in three prophets of God - Lenin, Mao and EMS. I wish you had devoted the whole issue of April 17 to the greatest Indian Communist. The patriarch is dead, long live the patriarch!

Rajan K. Purayil Kannur, Kerala The role of the Left

All well-wishers of the Left and the country cannot but appreciate Praful Bidwai's piece "The Left at a crossroads" (April 17). While generally agreeing with the main thrust of Bidwai's analysis and his suggestions for new strategies, I would like to make some observations.

The Left has not merely been stagnating but declining for quite some time in the country as a whole. If it does not give up its excessive preoccupation with parliamentary politics and devotes its energies mainly to mobilising and organising people to solve the various problems they face, it will face the danger of becoming irrelevant.

Along with the decline in its influence, there has been a certain decline in values also. Gandhiji led a social reform movement along with the struggle for Indian freedom. After Independence, it was the duty of the Left to lead a social reform movement along with economic and political struggles and with the fight for a just society. It has done so very inadequately, if at all. Today many Communists themselves indulge in socially evil practices which they should be fighting against - dowry, gender inequality in families, drinking, casteism.

No doubt, no Communist leader or Minister has ever been involved in scandals like the hawala scandal. Communists can rightly feel proud of this fact. However, there is a good deal of corruption in both the Communist parties. To say that the Left is "incorruptible" as Bidwai does is not correct. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. And in a parliamentary democracy even the Opposition wields some power. The Left has not only to be vigilant against this tendency but it should also have organisational checks to defeat and overcome it. It should have independent and really powerful control commissions within the organisations, for instance.

Bidwai has rightly emphasised the need for the Left to go back to the people and coordinate short-term goals with and, fuse them into, long-term strategies. However, it must not sacrifice the long-term interests of the movement for the sake of immediate gains as it has often done. The tendency to try to get a few more seats in the Assemblies and Parliament by making even unprincipled compromises must go.

Temporary alliances which may be necessary and correct to meet immediate needs must not be confused with the need to build a united front of Left and democratic (centrist) forces (both at the all-India level and at the regional levels) which can change the face of India. Such a front can be built only by conducting prolonged economic, political and ideological struggles on the one hand and doing day-to-day service to the people, taking up constructive work and carrying out social reform movements on the other.

Such a front cannot emerge without the Left itself becoming a strong force. It is necessary that the Left gives up its obsession with the United Front formed in 1996 which has now disintegrated and which is sought to be revived somehow. The type of front that is needed cannot emerge if the Left, in the name of giving priority to the fight against the communalism and fascism of the RSS, neglects the fight for other basic problems such as poverty and illiteracy on the one hand and corruption on the other. Struggles on all these issues have to be coordinated and seen as a part of a big struggle.

Indian Communists must also struggle to renovate Marxism in the light of the actual experiences of the international Communist movement as well as the realities of the Indian situation.

Bidwai believes that it is crucial that the Left parties move towards reunification. I agree with him wholeheartedly. However, I do not think that reunification of trade unions and kisan sabhas will come first.

The proposal to start the reunification process with the trade unions and kisan sabhas was made long ago by the two major Communist parties but did not work at all. As long as there are separate parties with a commitment to their own partisan interests, it is unlikely to work.

The need of the hour is the reunification of the Communist parties. And nothing but vested interests stand in the way. The differences between the two are not bigger than the differences within each. Communist unity is not only a must but is entirely possible.

Satyapal Dang Amritsar Quinacrine

The proposed ban on quinacrine ('Update', April 17) is certainly a victory for the women's groups which had launched a relentless campaign against the drug. It is regrettable that it took such a long time for the authorities to take this decision.

The Supreme Court could have asked the State governments concerned to give adequate compensation to the victims of the 'Q' method. The least the government can do now is to arrange free medical check-up for all those who underwent this method of sterilisation and provide free medical care.

The fear that the globalisation of the economy could lead to an increase in the number of unwanted medical investigations and flood the market with unsafe drugs is not unfounded. The Centre, the States and non-governmental organisations must be vigilant against any drug or medical investigation that might violate safety norms.

With the information flow across the world being rapid, it may not be difficult to keep track of the global trends in health care. Any new formulation or method of investigation must get the clearance of the medical authorities before it is introduced for general use. The World Health Organisation must play a proactive role in safeguarding the health and well-being of the people, especially in Third World countries which do not have powerful regulatory agencies.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Literature

Literature should be made a regular feature in Frontline. You have published in the past stories by R.K. Narayan. The works of other Indo-Anglian writers should also be featured regularly.

Also, when you publish translations of literary works from other languages, the translator should be introduced to the reader. How many readers know that Usha Narayanan, whose translations of Burmese stories appear regularly in Frontline, is the wife of President K.R. Narayanan?

Binod Kumar Mahto Samastipur, Bihar

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