Article 356

Print edition : August 01, 1998

The Cover Story ("Who is afraid of Article 356?", July 17) made for thoughtful reading. Given Jayalalitha's public admission of a pre-election "conspiracy", it is now clear that if the BJP ever takes recourse to Article 356 in the case of the M. Karunanidhi Government, the court will have enough space to establish mala fides and restore the status quo ante. But Article 356 is still a draconian measure. The remedy requires explicit constitutional provisions rather than ambiguous assumptions made from judicial pronouncements.

Contingencies where a Ministry defeated in the Legislative Assembly resigns and no other Ministry commanding a majority is available, or where a party in majority declines to form the government and the Governor fails in his efforts to install a coalition Ministry, should all be kept out of the purview of Article 356. Such situations are not impossible, and provisions to deal with them should be provided for in the Constitution. Some sort of a 'State caretaker government' would not be inappropriate here.

Article 356 should be used only to heal wounds inflicted upon the federation by a unit of the federation and not to inflict wounds upon a unit of the federation. It is necessary to modify Article 356 so that it confines itself to dealing with a total breakdown of the constitutional machinery, that is, a virtual impossibility of governance or attempted secession in a State.

Again, besides providing a set of guidelines for Governors, not merely their appointment but their dismissal also should be kept out of the Union Government's discretionary powers. Their integrity will be reinforced if their tenure is substantially, if not absolutely, secured against arbitrary interventions.

Above all, the President has a moral obligation to prevent the misuse of Article 356 - by not committing himself to an illegitimate exercise of Article 356. One may recall the premature death of the Post Office (Amendment) Bill, 1986, even after its passage in Parliament. Widely criticised as severely curtailing the citizen's freedom, it was (taking advantage of the absence of any time limit for returning the bill for reconsideration in Article 111) declared neither assented to nor withheld by the then President, Zail Singh. Let us hope President K.R. Narayanan will, true to his style, act according to his own wisdom and conscience.

Article 356 is not a blunder of our Constitution-makers. Nor is it a blunder to continue to have it. A reformed Article 356 is very vital for our country to preserve the federation - especially to preserve the territorial geography of India.

R. Natarajan Natham, Tamil Nadu Nuclear issues

This refers to the article "From Hiroshima to Pokhran" (July 17).

The feud within the BJP front prompted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to decide on Pokhran-II and pressure from the masses in Pakistan forced Nawaz Sharif to respond to India's action with nuclear tests. Both the educated and the illiterate in the two countries have shown excessive enthusiasm in welcoming these unwise acts. Despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the majority of people in India seem to be unaware of the consequences of a nuclear war.

In this context, the speeches delivered by the three-member delegation from Japan at Pokhran and Khetolai were an eye-opener to all of us. The people of the villages at these places and the organisers of this campaign should be appreciated. I take this opportunity to appreciate Frontline for its bold stand vis-a-vis the nuclear tests.

A.V.K. Moideen Tirurangadi, Kerala

I am a regular reader of your magazine. I have always held it in high esteem for its frank, fair, non-partisan and wide coverage of varied subjects. Its balanced, objective and in-depth analyses have been of immense help to students. Unfortunately, it appears to me that in the last few issues (which focussed on the nuclear tests by India) there has been a marked deviation from the standards you have maintained hitherto.

You seem to have approached the entire issue with a bias. Therefore your articles lack objectivity. It appears that you have approached the matter from a particular ideological perspective rather than national interest and thereby have pursued some political goal. The majority of articles on the nuclear tests were written by people who do not have knowledge about India's strategic requirements.

The Editorial entitled "The perils of nuclear adventurism" (June 5) was objectionable. By no stretch of the imagination can India's tests be termed nuclear adventurism. Similarly, Aijaz Ahmad's article titled "The Hindutva weapon" seems to have ignored the section of public opinion that does not consider India's bomb a 'Hindu weapon'. There are many such examples.

From your coverage a lay reader will draw the conclusion that it is India which is the real 'villain' and that the sole responsibility for the tensions in the region lies with India. The Indian nuclear tests should be seen in the context of the nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan, the test-firing of the Ghauri missile by Pakistan, the pressure on India to sign the NPT and the CTBT and so on.

It is true that the BJP Government acted in haste and that it tried to derive political mileage out of it. But we cannot find fault with its decision to test the nuclear devices. We may sharply disagree with its rhetoric, jingoism and inept handling of the entire affair but to say that it is producing a 'Hindu bomb' to destroy Islamic Pakistan is to distort facts.

Amitendra Nath Sinha Delhi Atomic energy

Indian engineers and scientists may lack state-of-the-art equipment, first-hand experience with the emerging technologies, and luxurious facilities. But they have the intelligence to identify any technological problem and the dexterity to improvise tools. This is evident from the successful revival of two reactors at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station ("Revived reactors," July 17) at a fraction of the cost that was quoted by unwilling foreign agencies.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board faced a similar crisis several years ago. A huge electrical transformer supplied by Canada failed during the warranty period. The Canadians would not agree to have it repaired in India. Perhaps they did not have confidence in local expertise or did not want Indian engineers to pick up the knowhow. They sought nearly a year's time to get the transformer repaired in Canada and to bring it back. It was then decided to repair the unit, which incorporated a highly advanced technology, in India itself. A team took charge of the work. A key member of the team was not even a qualified engineer. His rich experience spanning three decades compensated for the deficiency in academic qualifications. The team completed the daunting task in record time at a fraction of the cost estimated by the foreign agency.

D. Rohan Chennai Jarawas

The article "Jarawa excursions" (July 17) mentioned that the Jarawas had ventured out of the forest into modern settlements with a desire to establish contact with settlers from the mainland. Their diminishing access to traditional food resources has forced them to do this.

It is regrettable that illegal encroachments have come up in the reserve area with political patronage. The rights of the tribal communities to have a homeland and to travel all over the country are to be protected.

Tribal communities are among the most economically backward sections of society. Their fragile life-support systems have been destroyed. Conventional development methods that destroy the traditional socio-economic and cultural structures of the tribal people should be replaced by socially just, ecologically sustainable and economically viable programmes.

T.V. Jayaprakash Palakkad ICHR

"The Hindutva take-over of ICHR" (July 17) was a grim reminder of the influence the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh exercises on the BJP-led Government.

The hurried reconstitution of the Indian Council of Historical Research is an attempt to promote the so-called cultural nationalism of the Sangh Parivar. As part of its project, textbooks have already been rewritten in States such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In a U.P. textbook titled Gaurav Gatha, it is mentioned that the Qutb Minar was built by Samudra Gupta and that its real name is Vishnu Stambha. Another book titled Ithihaas Ga Raha Hai says that invaders came with a sword in one hand and the Koran in the other.

In 1977, Jan Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh drew up a set of guidelines to assess existing textbooks. There was an attempt to ban an NCERT textbook authored by Prof. R.S. Sharma, which provided evidence that people belonging to certain communities in ancient India may have been beef-eaters. In 1992, Ekalvya, a non-governmental organisation in Madhya Pradesh, was repeatedly attacked by the Sangh Parivar for having published textbooks that did not conform to the Parivar's notion of history. The NGO's offices were raided and its textbooks burnt on the streets.

In the book Communalism and the Writing of Indian History, eminent historians Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra show how Indian history can be misused by pseudo-historians under the influence of the Sangh Parivar to sow the seeds of mistrust and communal hatred in young minds.

Ekramul H. Shaikh Hoosna Banu Surat

It is unfortunate that Frontline, from the publishers of The Hindu, is not free and fair. In its opinion, freedom of the press means upholding the cause of the Leftist forces unreservedly. I have been a fan of Frontline ever since the first issue came to the market about 15 years ago. Whenever I got an opportunity I told friends and foes alike to read Frontline. Not merely the articles and the write-ups, the photography, too, used to be superb.

Particular appreciation came for features on nature, wildlife, art and architecture, the environment, heritage and so on. I did not lose an opportunity to tell the student community that they were "fortunate to have magazines of international standard like Frontline and the Discovery Channel, at their disposal."

A sample of your venom against the present establishment in New Delhi is the article "The Hindutva take-over of ICHR" and the interview with Murli Manohar Joshi. Prof. B.B. Lal has replied to a similar version in The Hindu (July 1998). Joshi has reacted very mildly and charitably, "Is this an interview or are you conducting a debate?" In fact, the interview was like the trial of Warren Hastings.

I hope you will make Frontline readable by The (entire) Hindu family, including lakhs of readers.

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool The Left's role

I am a regular reader of Frontline since its launch. After reading the last few issues, I am quite convinced that the future of India lies in the hands of the secular-democratic Left forces. The pity is that they do not understand it. I have no faith in the so-called secular parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, or the regional parties. Even the Janata Dal is no exception. They do not have a national perspective; nor do they have a clear-cut economic policy. The Congress party is still in the doldrums. Groupism and indiscipline are its eternal problems. So, only the Left parties can salvage this great country from the hands of communal forces.

I do not think there is any ideological difference between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India now. Why cannot they reunite and appeal to all other splinter groups on the Left to join their ranks? The toiling masses of India will welcome such a move. The only problem that comes in the way of reunification is the personal egos of some leaders belonging to these parties. If they are ready to shed this for the welfare of this country, there is hope of a bright future. Otherwise India will soon be converted into a theocratic state like Pakistan. If that happens, history will not forgive the Left parties and their leaders.

K.R. Janardhanan Thrissur, Kerala Environment

Thank you for being more environmentally aware than most other publications. As a non-resident Indian, I find that Indian publications tend to focus much too little on environmental problems, which arguably is one of the most pressing problems facing India.

Keep up the good work. We welcome an increase in stories that deal with grassroots efforts to fight corruption and to protect the environment.

Shabnam Merchant New Jersey, U.S.

Corrections: In the article "Jarawa excursions" (July 17), a few errors crept in at the editing stage. In the fourth paragraph , the first sentence should read: "Moreover in February and March... for up to two weeks." The first sentence in the sixth paragraph should read: "Anthropologists explain this as some kind of cultural dilemma faced by Enmey." In the tenth paragraph, the fourth sentence should read: "Today there are only an estimated 250 of them..." The first sentence in the twelfth paragraph should read: "The 340-km Andaman Trunk Road, which slices through the heart of Jarawa territory..." The second sentence in the twentieth paragraph should read: "Just as one of the boatmen... was pushing his boat into the creek..." In the first sentence in the twenty-fourth paragraph, the portion "...made in the Lok Sabha..." should be deleted. The errors are regretted.

A letter from the Editor


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The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

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Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

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