The end of imagination

Published : Aug 15, 1998 00:00 IST

No one has expressed his or her outrage at the recent testing of the nuclear bomb as passionately and vehemently as Arundhati Roy has (August 14). To quote Roy, "There is the unmistakable stench of fascism on the breeze". Fascism is the subordination of the individual to a totalitarian state that controls all aspects of national life. Fascism has not died with Hitler or the Second World War. It will rise again and again in the guise of jingoistic nationalism. Lest people forget, look around and consider the happenings today in India.

* A headline in The Times of India (July 30, 1998) says, "Pokhran II is a turning point in raising national morale."

* The Government manipulates people into believing that the testing of nuclear devices is a singular achievement and a matter of national pride. Will it make a documentary showing the horrors of a nuclear war in India and make compulsory its screening in all cinemas and broadcast on television?

* The Government declares that it will amend the Constitution.

* The Government declares that it will issue identity cards to all citizens to distinguish them from non-citizens. Who will be considered a national? What will be the status of Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, atheists, agnostics and Hindus who do not believe in temple worship? Will the 'non-citizens' have to wear a star as the Jews did in Nazi Germany?

* Intimidation of journalists, artists and intellectuals is on the rise and soon we will be afraid to speak out. The Government encourages stormtroopers to destroy works of art, burn books, burn copies of the Bible, destroy mosques and attack nuns and priests, and boycott musicians, sportspersons and film stars who are arbitrarily labelled anti-national and anti-Hindu.

* Government representatives inquire of schools which history books they are using. Arun Shourie has written an interesting article on school textbooks, especially those used in Pakistan (The Asian Age, June 19). Will someone care to examine what is happening in India with reference to school and university textbooks and make a list of those similar in content to the textbooks used in Pakistan?

* The Delhi Government declares that all girl students should wear salwar-kameez and not skirts and blouses as school uniform. How is this order different from the diktats of the Taliban Government? If we do not watch out, Indian women may be asked to cover their faces with dupattas or sari ends and may not be allowed to enter workplaces.

A whole generation of German youngsters knew nothing of the atrocities committed by the Third Reich in the name of nationalism. Their parents were aware of the happenings but chose to remain quiet. There are many instances to show that fascism is creeping into our society. If we, the people of India, do not protest against it and protect our freedom, we will be the 'willing executioners' of our own hapless, helpless people.

Rohini Oomman* * *

It was magnificent reading, the superb essay by Arundhati Roy. Full power to you and others in your efforts to halt and, most important, retrace the disastrous steps taken so far by the Government. But it is also the responsibility of the Left to accept the virtues of the CTBT and the MTCR (not, I stress, NPT) and educate the "masses" on them.

The ultimate education will be for the Left to accept the situation where there is less of state and more private effort, which would of course amount to throwing out their outdated economic ideology but retaining their secular and global outlook. It is necessary to liberate the country from the clutches of these mad mullahs whose vision does not go beyond their native villages of the cow belt.

Srini Balan* * *

Congratulations to Arundhati Roy on her powerful, intimate, and scholarly essay spelling out the national and international implications of nuclear warfare. Should Arundhati Roy never again write non-fiction, ''The End of Imagination'' will stand as a permanent reminder of an artist's courage to confront global governance when the future of her people, and indeed of humanity, was at stake.

Dr. Lynette J. Dumble

Co-ordinator, Global Sisterhood Network, University of Melbourne, Australia.

* * *

I lived through the 1970s and early 1980s in the United Kingdom. I have attended Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament rallies, read everything that was anti-nuclear and even moved countries in the end, just to feel safer. When India and Pakistan did what they did, I cried. I could not explain my horror. Arundhati Roy has expressed it for me. In all my years of reading, I rate this the best.

V. Krishnan* * *

I was really moved by the article and want to congratulate Arundhati Roy on her boldness in exposing the fanaticism of our politicians. I would also like to congratulate Frontline on publishing this article. As she has said in her article: "We have the power to destroy everything that we have created." I shudder to think what would happen if there were to be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan tomorrow. Does India have the technology that can save it from the after-effects of a nuclear war? A country does not have to show its strength to the world by brandishing the size of the bomb it has; it must do so by strengthening itself economically. We have problems such as poverty, illiteracy and casteism that need immediate attention.

Suresh Byagathvalli* * *

Arundhati Roy's critique is sharp enough, her concern for humanity is deep enough and her cry is loud enough to be heard by all sensible beings. If those politicians and scientists who claim to be the leaders of the nation cannot rethink on the nuclear programme, they do not deserve to be leaders.

Listen to Roy. If we bomb Lahore, Punjab will burn. If we bomb Karachi, then Gujarat and Rajasthan, perhaps even Mumbai, will burn. Any nuclear war with Pakistan will be a war against ourselves. What kind of national security do we get from nuclear bombs? It rather means jumping into problems. How will we overcome the radioactive fallout? How will we salvage our environment - poisoned water, toxic ice, polluted air and so on? If nuclear weapons are for defence, whom are we defending?

Shim. Shimray Bangalore* * *

I totally agree with Arundhati Roy's views. In a country like ours, where poverty, corruption and unemployment are rampant, it is hard to imagine that our Government decided to conduct nuclear tests. It just does not seem to get its priorities right.

In her essay, Roy talks about the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre official who advised people to take iodine pills in case nuclear war breaks out! How bizarre and foolish can one get!

Omar Shariff Bangalore* * *

Frontline has upheld the glory of humanity by publishing the photographs of those tragic events of August, 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and an essay by Arundhati Roy. The essay is an excellent analysis of the misdeeds of our so-called leaders. At this point, I am proud to cite a Kannada weekly, Lankesh Patrike, which has conducted a similar crusade.

Dr. T.S. Hanumanthe Gowda Kanakapura, Karnataka

* * *

Arundhati Roy's brilliant piece deserves to be translated into all Indian languages and widely circulated. Hers is a poetic and powerful appeal against the voices of madness and intolerance. All right-thinking people must support her appeal for a non-nuclear, peaceful world. She has given a graphic account of the horrors of a nuclear war which our nuclear bomb enthusiasts must read.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore* * *

The article by Arundhati Roy does express the feelings of a lot of people. But I would like to assure her of two things: the earth will not be destroyed, but the world as we know it will be destroyed; and the earth will not be destroyed by nuclear bombs, but the world as we know will be destroyed - by the earth itself (or should I say by the sun?).

The destruction of the world has happened a countless number of times. Every 5,000 years or so, to be more exact. The present cycle of 5,000 years is coming to an end in the next 20 years or so. This has happened countless times in the past, and has been recorded in our fables of 'Pralaya'.

So Arundhati, do not despair about the nuclear bomb; a bigger calamity awaits us.

Pullat Devadas Menon Thrissur, Kerala* * *

As indicated by Arundhati, the whole problem of the God-created earth is its division with boundaries created artificially in the name of nations. It is high time that the borders were thrown open. Like birds and animals, human beings also need no boundaries. Governments should take care of only law and order.

Only when the peoples interact (particularly when we talk of "one world, one environment") will mutual trust grow and one can think of achieving permanent peace. Any number of meetings of officials will never take us to that goal.

Bhuwan Mohan Delhi* * *

The effort of a Booker Prize-winning author, who is also popular, in coming forward to protest against nuclear weapons and their testing might bring in a lot of attention to the anti-nuclear lobby. But it is a pity that the author they have chosen has produced one more piece of emotional fiction. Winning a Booker alone does not qualify Arundhati Roy to be a master in any subject. If she is a citizen of the world let her go and campaign in the five nuclear super powers. She has not even spared the media which have given so much publicity to "The End of Imagination".

M.C. Vaijayanthi* * *

Arundhati Roy's article on the nuclear bomb has many commendable sentiments, which almost - but not quite - makes the reader overlook her overwrought and self-indulgent prose. In a way, "The End of Imagination" reminded me of her overrated novel, The God of Small Things.

Dr. Satadru Sen Seattle, U.S.Nuclear tests

An overwhelming majority of articulate opinion in India has evidently supported the decision of the BJP-led Government to detonate nuclear bombs at Pokhran on May 11 and 13. Only a handful of people (of whom I happen to be one) have expressed disapproval. One would therefore have expected the matter to be left there.

Still, at a recent meeting in Bangalore, President K.R. Narayanan has chosen to reinforce the rationale of the decision by quoting a statement of Jawaharlal Nehru made on June 26, 1946:

"As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest scientific devices for its protection. I have no doubt that India will develop its scientific research and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic power for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal. I hope India, in common with other countries, will prevent the use of atomic bombs" (The Hindu, July 29, 1998). The operative words here are "if India is threatened". So the question that arises is who threatened India, and when, to precipitate the decision taken in May.

That Pakistan did not pose a threat is evident from a variety of sources. The latest confirmation comes from "Visit to Pakistan" by Kuldip Nayar, published prominently in The Hindu of July 16, 1998. He writes: "... there is no doubting Pakistan's decision not to conduct the tests if India had not. Everyone confirmed it: political leaders, editors, intellectuals and human rights activists. Islamabad, with all its hostility towards New Delhi, could not have afforded to provoke India with the resources it has. The BJP's argument that Pakistan was already preparing to detonate the bomb is fallacious. The responsibility of exposing the subcontinent to nuclear warfare rests squarely on the BJP's shoulders".

There have also been other similar reports, such as the one from the Far Eastern Economic Review of June 25, 1998; the same journal, in a more recent issue dated July 23, 1998, has indicated at some length the "symbiotic relationship between the BJP and the shadowy RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)" and how the "May nuclear explosions... satisfied a long-time wish of the RSS for India to go nuclear."

So, instead of implying that the BJP-ruled Central Government was only responding to threats from Pakistan, what needs to be honestly investigated in India are the internal linkages within the Sangh Parivar and to what extent, if any, they account for he decision to explode the bomb. Those concerned with the proclivities of this communal organisation have considered it a greater threat to India's political and social stability than any nuclear threat from outside.

K.N. Raj Thiruvananthapuram

Correction: In the article "Buckling under U.S. pressure" (Frontline, August 14), the reference to the need for parliamentary ratification of any move by the Indian Government to sign the CTBT was erroneous. Accession to international treaties remains an executive privilege. The error is regretted.

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