President's Rule in Bihar

Print edition : March 13, 1999

Your superb editorial "Article 356 fraud-induced crisis" (March 12) has substantiated the allegation that the article was once again misused against the Rabri Devi Government of Bihar. If State governments are to be dismissed for incidents of crime, no State government will be safe. With Article 356 hanging over their heads all the time, how can they concentrate on welfare measures?

Since the day the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government assumed office in New Delhi, it has been engaged more in placating the allies of the BJP than in worthwhile governance. And Article 356 has almost always been in the news. Atrocities against minorities and Dalits have been on the increase. Now the repeated misuse of Article 356 makes a mockery of democracy.

President K.R. Narayanan declined to proclaim in the first instance. Now, instead of trying to muster enough support for the decision in the Rajya Sabha or leaving the proclamation to lapse on its own, the Government could restore the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Government in Bihar. There is also the need for action and nationwide mobilisation of public opinion against atrocities on the weaker sections.

A. Jacob Sahayam Vellore, Tamil Nadu To Lahore and back

Was the bus journey a historic event or a political gimmick? Will Pakistan respond to India's sincerity and concern for peace? Or was the mission meant to divert the attention of the people of India, who are fed up with the non-performance of the Vajpayee Government? These are the questions asked, and there are no encouraging replies (March 12).

Pakistan is a creation of hatred towards "Hindus". Both Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru left the Kashmir issue unresolved. Nehru encouraged dynastic rule while Jinnah paved the way for autocracy in Pakistan. Whether peace will get a chance is a contentious point. It is certain that you cannot respect a person whom you hate. Neither Muslim fanatics nor Hindu fundamentalists have any love for enduring peace. They want to keep the ticklish issue of Kashmir alive so that they can glitter in the spurious glare of religious cynicism.

U.S. Iyer Bangalore

A.B. Vajpayee's bus ride to Pakistan is a small step for Vajpayee but a big step for India and Pakistan towards better relations and the subcontinent towards lasting peace.

India and Pakistan need not remain enemies. The line dividing the two nations is an artificial one, drawn by politicians. Both countries are ethnically and culturally the same.

However, the West, led by the United States, will not be happy to see friendship and cooperation grow between India and Pakistan. How can the U.S. sell weapons to Pakistan if Pakistan is friendly with India? Obviously, the U.S. is trying to protect its own economic interests; so we must protect ours.

Intense conciliatory talks between India and Pakistan will be of great benefit to the peoples of both countries. We can reduce our defence expenditure and use the money thus saved for measures to eradicate poverty.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala Punjab politics

The March 12 issue covered the Punjab imbroglio in detail. The feud between Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), has been engaging the attention of not only Punjab but the entire country, as if it is the only problem that the border State faces. Further, this drama over temporal and political authority has caused immense harm to Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular, especially when Punjab is in the midst of the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa Panth. The two stalwarts of Punjab are busy levelling charges against each other and trying to steal the other's thunder during this great event. Perhaps by doing so they have highlighted certain startling aspects of Akali politics. It is now clear that the SAD has been mixing religion with politics, and moderate Akali leadership is a misnomer. And all pressing problems of Punjab's peasantry, such as the completion of the SYL Canal, have been eclipsed by the Badal-Tohra feud.

Lastly, the feud has brought to light their links of yesteryear with terrorists, and that is why there is talk of a return of terrorism during these months of celebrations. Only Badal and Tohra know what the truth is. But their contribution in this regard is certainly not positive.

Gursharan M. Singh New Delhi Samudri

I offer my thanks to Frontline for the coverage given in its March 12 issue to the establishment of the Subbulakshmi-Sadasivam Music and Dance Resources Institute (Samudri), a wing of the Sruti Foundation. I am sure that the report will help promote an understanding of the role of Samudri in the healthy development of Indian music and dance, which has been endorsed by Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi.

A few errors have, however, crept into the otherwise excellent article. Two of these could damage our cause and therefore I would like to correct them. One concerns the quote attributed to me in the opening paragraph, which reflects a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what I had said. I had explained to Asha Krishnakumar that a proper appreciation of the art music of South India (Carnatic classical music) was hindered by the misconception that it was bhakti music, and that art music was affected by commercialisation. This observation somehow got corrupted, although I cannot detect any malice or mischief. I am also baffled by the words attributed to me that "(these forms of art) have been hijacked by Brahmins." I did not say anything of the sort; on the contrary. What I remember having said is that some people accuse Brahmins of taking over Bharatanatyam from devadasis but studies have shown that this accusation, which implies that Brahmins have driven devadasis out of the field, is not true. Possibly I also said - because I often discuss this aspect with others - that the audience for music and dance today, which is declining, is mostly constituted of Brahmins, and that it is necessary to reach out to the wider community in order to arrest and reverse the trend.

The other major error is in the last paragraph in which the author has said that we have already raised the resources needed for Samudri and cited various sources of support to us. In fact, we have so far raised only a very small part of the resources needed for the development of Samudri. The confusion has possibly arisen from the information given in a background paper on the sources of support to Sruti, the magazine; but even then it puzzles me that the author has mentioned the Music Academy as one of the sources of financial support.

N. Pattabhi Raman Director-General, Samudri, Chennai

CIL clarifies

This refers to the article "A joint venture" (Frontline, February 12). The introduction to it is misleading. While it is a fact that Coal India Limited (CIL) is procuring land from the West Bengal Government, no name has yet been given to the project. However, the writer has christened it as 'Koila Nagar'. Again, the feature goes on to describe the project as a joint venture between CIL and the West Bengal Government. This is certainly not a joint venture.

Sudip Ghosh Chief General Manager (Corporate Communications & PR) Coal India Limited Calcutta

Christian fundamentalism

As a regular reader of your magazine, I am impressed with your uncompromising stance against the fascist tactics of Hindu extremists. However, I could not but notice how middle-class Indians are quick to criticise themselves, especially before a Western audience. I have read in India's English language press voluminous critiques of Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism but never of Western Christian fundamentalism. When secular Indians criticise Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism they forget that the most powerful fundamentalist forces in the world today are the various Christian ones, not least because of their financial clout and smiling sophisticated exterior. Never in the Indian media have I come across any criticism of the Vatican's anti-women policies, the Pope's personal closeness with some of the world's worst dictators (even as I write this, he is doing his best to secure Pinochet's release), or of his current penchant for beatifying Second World War Nazis, Bishop Stepinac of the Balkans being the latest example. Seldom have the Indian media mentioned Mother Teresa's obsession that no pregnant woman, including those who have been raped or have been subject to incest or are at risk of death, must undergo abortion. Then there was her visceral opposition to artificial contraception. I can well imagine what the Indian media's reaction would be if a Muslim (or even a Hindu) of the same stature held similar viewpoints.

Two hundred years of colonial rule has left Indians an unsure race with a deep sense of inferiority. The so-called educated Indians smugly denigrate their fellow countrymen before Westerners, thinking somehow that in doing so they would be considered urbane and liberal by their former masters. I feel that the ideals of Gandhiji and Netaji are yet to be realised.

Indian politicians are labelled opportunist and expedient if they speak out for poor Muslims whereas they are hailed as liberals if they defend medieval, obscurantist Christians who have a sinister hidden agenda.

Z. Kittler London Undermining India

The Cover Story "Undermining India" was revealing. (February 12). The nation today is endangered as never before. It is paradoxical that a country that could until recently boast of being the largest democracy with unity in rich diversity should now hang its head in shame.

The seeds of fascism had indeed sprouted long before the demolition of the Babri Masjid. However, its culmination came with the brutal burning to death of the Australian missionary and his two innocent sons, not to mention the rape of nuns, massacres of people belonging to the minorities, and other gruesome atrocities. Now India's soil is tainted with the blood of innocents, and justice has become a farce. The growing atrocities on women, the indignities perpetrated upon the weaker sections and the lower castes, the injuries caused to the minorities - all predict a bleak future for the country. Can we march forward to enter the new millennium proudly with all this barbarism? Has our blood curdled? Have we gone insane? How long will this animalism continue?

In today's politics, it seems as if the corruption scandals are not enough. We have let loose a reign of terror. The growing inflation rate and the rising prices of essential commodities are only increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. The strictures on our freedoms - of expression, speech and worship - have turned us into mute creatures. Indeed, we have paid a heavy price for our independence.

The country longs to be delivered. But will there be a Moses today for this oppressed lot? It is altogether wrong to blame our fate. We should remember what Cassius said: "The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars/But in ourselves that we are underlings." There must be an end to the sufferings of the teeming millions, and our secular character must be restored. It is high time that the Indian people rose to the occasion and faced matters squarely. This is no time to wait for the deliverer.

Shahnaz Begum Darbhanga

Of all the articles on the attacks on Christians, I reckon K.N. Panikkar's as the most illuminating. Panikkar successfully demolished the claims made by the VHP/Bajrang Dal/RSS that Christian missionaries are decimating Hinduism.

Ashwani Harnal (received on e-mail)

Your bias against Hindutva in general and the BJP and the Shiv Sena in particular is becoming apparent with every fresh edition. Journalists should remain impartial and present a fair picture lest the readers should punish them by refusing to buy their publications. The adjectives you use to describe every leader and party of the Union Government leave nothing in doubt. Your coverage of Rajiv Gandhi remains one of your best efforts. Why not use your talents in a more incisive manner rather than using unfair, foul and sarcastic language?

P.S. Salvi Pune Bhagwat's dismissal

Your Cover Story on Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat stands in direct contrast to a story by another magazine recently. For the readers of these two magazines it is impossible to find the truth, not because the Government in New Delhi is trying to play its Hindutva agenda, as Frontline would like us to believe, but because Indian journalism is incompetent to cover anything objectively. A glaring example of this is Frontline's failure to recognise that Admiral Bhagwat's successor is a Christian. If Hindutva were to be blamed for Bhagwat's dismissal (who I suppose is a Hindu) how do you do that when a Christian succeeds him? In this triangular controversy there are three officers who belong to three different faiths: a Hindu, a Sikh and a Christian. The Hindu loses and yet you conclude that it was because of Hindutva. A strange conclusion indeed!

Subhash B. Bhagwat Illinois, U.S. Cuba

The article on Cuba ("A revolution lives on", January 29) on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Revolution was inspiring. The author has summed up the happenings in Cuba since Revolution in a compact manner.

First I would like to appreciate Cuba's genuine non-aligned policy; even though it has remained exposed to perpetual threats from a superpower, it did not choose to align itself with any power. Its policy towards the Third World reflects its independent stand. Secondly, Cuba's interest in liberating the oppressed people in Third World countries and the involvement of Che Guevara in this task show the genuine spirit of the Cuban Revolution, which does not see man-made political boundaries to be formidable. This is true internationalism in which one shares the burden of another fellow-being and tries to alleviate his burden by liberating him, whatever his nationality.

India should take Cuba as a model in many respects and derive inspiration from Cuba in order to realise a truly socialist, secular state. Finally, one cannot but salute Cubans for their commendable accomplishments in the past 40 years in the face the draconian U.S. embargo.

C.T. Anand Mohan Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

I like Frontline very much but am slightly disappointed that the stories are too long and that the colour pictures are not many in number. So I would like to suggest that you publish more articles on different subjects instead of writing long pieces on a few subjects.

M. Bunty Jain Chennai Sick airlines

"Questions of control and viability" (February 26) analyses the causes for the sickness of Indian Airlines and Air-India and suggests remedies. Winds of change are blowing with liberalisation and globalisation, but our national airlines have learnt nothing. Their top-heavy managements have failed to anticipate problems and suggest timely remedies. Or is it possible that the political bosses have shot down all suggestions for the revival of the airlines? While some public sector undertakings, such as the Navaratna companies, have proved profitable and able to stand on their own feet, both Indian Airlines and Air-India have been in the red and limping for years.

It is time the Civil Aviation Ministry, which is no fountainhead of airline management expertise, took its hands off the airlines. There is no alternative to disinvestment and participation of private parties who can provide the management skills to run the airlines. As a temporary measure, international airline management consultants can be hired. The Government can provide long-term loans to help the airlines tide over the financial crunch and phase out the ageing aircraft and purchase state-of-the-art ones.

The staff strength in both airlines must be pruned at all levels if the airlines have to come out of the red. Cost-cutting and improvement in working efficiency must get top priority, with the willing participation of the staff; otherwise there is no hope. Some of the restrictive practices followed by the staff must be changed if efficiency and flexibility have to be introduced into the operations. Every staff member must feel that he is working for his airline and so must put in his best. Indian Airlines has become more passenger-friendly thanks to competition but that is not enough. Cosmetic changes will not do. At the same time, the Civil Aviation Minister and his staff must follow a policy of non-interference while dealing with the airlines, except in important policy matters and on the question of raising finance.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Islam and the West

Eqbal Ahmed's "Roots of the religious Right" (March 12) was interesting. Only Muslim rightists and called "fundamentalists" by the Western media because the serious threat to modernity (sponsored by the West) comes from Islam more than from others. It may be interesting to quote Benazir Bhutto here: "The real struggle is between Islam and modernity."

A.M. Rasheed Erattupetta, Kerala

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

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.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

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