Article 356

Print edition : July 18, 1998

The Cover Story debate on the use and misuse of Article 356 ("Who's afraid of Article 356?", July 17) was exhaustive. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer has pointed out that out of over 100 cases, there has not been a single case of legitimate use of Article 356. The demand of some of the BJP's allies that the constitutional provision be used against State governments run by their rivals is unjustified. The Article deserves to be abrogated.

A. Jacob Sahayam Vellore, Tamil Nadu Kosovo and Kashmir

This is with reference to the article "Balkan dilemmas" (July 3). The violence in Kosovo is purely for religious reasons. Yugoslavia disintegrated on religious lines. Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims are the major religious groups in the region. Roman Catholic Croatia, Greek Orthodox Macedonia and Muslim majority Bosnia are the newly formed states. The Yugoslavia of today, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, has mostly followers of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The case of Kosovo, which is part of Serbia, is similar to that of Kashmir. Islamic Albania supplies arms to the Kosovo Liberation Army just as Pakistan is helping the militant groups in Kashmir. The difference is that the majority of Muslims in Kosovo want to be part of Islamic Albania while Kashmiris, except the fundamentalists, do not like to secede from India.

Sunil Mathew Manalil Tiruvalla, Kerala Nuclear mess

I must congratulate you on providing a comprehensive and fairly critical view of the nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan ("The South Asian nuclear mess," June 19). You brought together a wide range of views, providing space and the freedom for various writers to express their opinions.

The Cover Story, however, seems to have addressed only the fears about and the risks involved in the nuclearisation process triggered by India. Consequently, the focus is on the allround criticism of the Indian Government's decision to go nuclear. Also, your coverage has failed to present the other side of the story, that is, the possibility of the two nations' nulcear capability bringing stability and peace to the subcontinent.

The possession of nuclear weapons may mean that there will be no war between India and Pakistan. This conclusion does not arise just from the theory that possessors of nuclear weapons dread to go to war. First, nuclearisation should remove much of the sense of insecurity Pakistan has vis-a-vis India. It was Pakistan's obsession with its security that largely contributed to the atmosphere of distrust and conflict in the region.

According to M.R. Srinivasan (Frontline, June 19), both India and Pakistan "have not shown the statesmanship to come to terms on our own with our bilateral problems." Now there appears to be a strong possibility that this crude 'military' parity between India and Pakistan will make them realise the necessity to bring peace to their region. With their respective nuclear capabilities cancelling each other out, neither of them would be willing to go over to the brink.

I am not arguing that nuclear weapons by themselves will lead to peace between India and Pakistan. They, however, have brightened the possibility of the two countries taking firm steps towards establishing peace in the region.

Subi Nagpal Swansea, U.K.

The United States has accused India of contributing to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, of upsetting the balance of power in the region and of behaving irresponsibly in the world community. President Clinton has imposed economic sanctions as a punishment for disregarding the diktats of the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states. Most people agree with the U.S. stand. However, if the facts are known, they would think differently.

First, it is the U.S. that has caused the proliferation of nuclear technology. It gave this technology to France and England. Why do France and England need nuclear bombs today? They are now militarily insignificant countries and face no threats from their neighbours.

The U.S. action against India is unjust and discriminatory. China exploded its 45th nuclear device as recently as 1996. France also conducted nuclear tests in recent years. Why were not sanctions imposed on them?

The talk about India upsetting the balance of power in the region is absurd. It is the U.S. that upset the region's balance of power several years ago when it gave advanced rocket technology to China.

The U.S. nuclear policy is blatantly hypocritical. How can the U.S., which has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), ask one of the world's most populous nations to join the treaty? Is India not entitled to protect itself?

Navin J. Gajjar Houston, Texas Swadeshi and science

This is with reference to "Mixing swadeshi with science" (June 19) by Praful Bidwai. The views of Murli Manohar Joshi could best be summed up by the observations of Alberuni, who visited India about a thousand years ago. He wrote: "... the Indians believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs...." His comment is relevant even today.

It is true that India saw scientific progress in fields such as astronomy and mathematics but it is equally true that it had stagnated and even started declining long before Alberuni came.

This decay was largely due to the hostile attitude of the priestly class towards science and technology. Fearing that scientific progress would expose the hollowness of their rituals and affect their livelihood, they invented a variety of ways to stop this progress. The first step in this direction was to reduce all technical workers such as carpenters, blacksmiths and shoemakers to the level of 'sudras' and untouchables. Many even went to the extent of declaring mechanical work a sin.

In the West also, until the second half of the 17th century, religious fanatics were hostile towards all progressive ideas. This prevented Copernicus from publishing his great works in astronomy during his lifetime. Galileo was imprisoned for his 'heretic' ideas. After the 17th century, Europe made tremendous progress in science and technology. In the West, heretical ideas were opposed only when they became a threat to the religious establishment; in such cases they were nipped in the bud. Thus, when the West made a series of discoveries and inventions, we remained content with our traditional knowledge.

Credit must go to Jawaharlal Nehru for having actively promoted science and technology in India. It is an irony that a backward-looking regime is reaping the harvest of his efforts.

It is hypocrisy of the highest order that we enjoy all the benefits of Western scientific achievements and abuse them at the same time. The propagators of swadeshi should first renounce things that were created by the efforts of scientists in the West. They should keep away from air-conditioned cars and instead travel in bullock carts and refuse to take anti-rabies injections when bitten by a dog.

Pramod Kumar Lucknow Nuclear tests

This is with reference to "India defiled, Indians diminished" by Praful Bidwai (June 5). Some of the points raised by the writer reflect his unidirectional approach to the nuclear tests. The author should have given suggestions to deal with the stockpile of nuclear weapons belonging to the Big Five. He has outlined the devastating effect of a nuclear bomb, by citing the number of deaths in Hiroshima, the shock waves, and the after-effects of radiation - facts that the readers are already aware of. He also says that nuclear weapons do not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants and are therefore incompatible with international law. Then I must ask him, "Is the mere possession of a nuclear weapon compatible with international law?"

The author also says that we should not congratulate the scientists behind the nuclear tests. If he does not want to congratulate the scientists, it is left to him. But the people of our country are proud of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Dr. R. Chidambaram.

As for the sanctions, we should remember that the people of India have proved that they are self-sufficient. The Green Revolution and the indigenous development of the supercomputer are examples. I request Bidwai to remember Dr. Chidambaram's statement: "The greatest advantage of recognised strength is that you don't have to use it."

Diptishree Sanargi Hyderabad India-U.S. relations

Praveen Swami brought out well the emerging paradigm of the military relations between India and the United States ("A hawkish line on China", June 5).

Defence Minister George Fernandes is obsessed with his concern about China attacking India. He looks across the Himalayas in the north and is vigilant about the dangers from Pakistan in the west and Myanmar in the east but fails to look to the south. That is why he never talks about the U.S. naval base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This reminds me of what renowned physicist Pyotr Kapitza thought should be an ideal for a scientist. He chose an alligator for a logo at the entrance to his laboratory at Cambridge. Like an alligator, he explained, a scientist should always look ahead and sideways and not behind. George Fernandes seems to have imbibed a similar spirit.

During the Bangladesh war in 1971, a U.S. naval fleet was all set to enter the Bay of Bengal in aid of Pakistan. It was only when the Soviet Union, which detected the U.S. fleet movement through a satellite, threatened counter-action that the U.S. withdrew the fleet. We can surmise that Diego Garcia played a role in the operation.

The present Government seems to be bent on breaking the friendly relations with China. This is bound to make us more dependent on the U.S. We cannot expect Russia to play the same role as the erstwhile Soviet Union did. In the present international condition, China could be a countervailing force against the monopoly of U.S. power.

Deb Kumar Bose Calcutta Politics of crime

A.G.Noorani needs to be congratulated on his analytical article "The politics of crime" (May 22).

This is what Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote about the Congress in 1982: "When the party still does not win a sufficient number of seats to form a government, they form unscrupulous alliances and 'buy' out independent or Opposition party legislators with money or ministerial gaddi" (The Illustrated Weekly of India, August 8, 1982). The Bharatiya Janata Party's offer of ministerial positions to defectors in order to grab power in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh proved that it is no different from the Congress. Vajpayee's assiduously cultivated image of being an incorruptible leader was dented when he formed his Government with the help of corrupt people.However, the most disappointing decision Vajpayee took was the one to give L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi important portfolios in his Ministry. It is surprising that Vajpayee, who regretted the demolition of the Babri Masjid, has changed so much as to accommodate two of the accused in the demolition case.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee Faridabad, Haryana Stable government

The need of the hour is a strong and stable Central government that can tackle the crisis facing the country. Apart from indulging in cross-border terrorism, Pakistan is making ominous noises. China is not friendly. The U.S. has made it clear that it is more interested in befriending China than moving closer to India.

Under these circumstances, the BJP and the Congress should join hands and form a government at the Centre. The National Agenda for Governance shows that the BJP is no longer a communal party and the Congress, after all, is a national party. This is the only possible solution to the problems that the country faces. Fresh elections are not likely to give a decisive mandate and changing over to a presidential form of government will be a time-consuming process.

Such a move will weaken the clout of the regional parties and cut to size leaders of casteist parties.

Ranjan Khastgir Calcutta Disappointing

The unprecedented bias about a political party in Frontline has disappointed many regular readers of the magazine. It is not just because the slant is against the BJP. Frustrated at the failure to get their moderately worded views across to the readers, it is hardly surprising if the pent-up fury explodes as in Ms. Jogi's letter published in the July 3 issue of Frontline. Publicising only such venting of raw emotions has furthered your editorial cause. Just because the Union Home Minister sent fact-finding teams to Chennai, Patna and Calcutta, you seem to have sent your missions to Punjab, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Whose battle are you fighting anyway?

It is time that you veered away from pursuing such policies for a conscientious, national news magazine. We want to see Frontline erect - not leaning on or against any political party. We want to read the once addictive news magazine - not the leaflets of an anti-BJP club.

S. Seshadri Seshadri23@hotmail.com

Correction: In the interview with Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, former Judge of the Supreme Court (July 17, 1998), the sentence in the last paragraph of the answer to the first question should read: "But for the Bommai judgment, it is obvious the High Court could not have set aside the order of the Governor," instead of "...the order of the President."

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