Print edition : March 27, 1999

This refers to "The return of the RJD" (March 26).

President's Rule can never be a substitute for a democratically elected government that enjoys a clear majority in the Legislative Assembly. So, the reinstallation of the RJD Government is a welcome step.

Social atrocities on and economic exploitation of the poor, mainly Dalits, by upper-caste landlords is the root cause of the massacres. The answer to this lies in land reforms and democratic decentralisation of power through panchayats. Therefore, the State Government must effectively implement land reforms and conduct regular elections to panchayati raj bodies. Dalits are now forced to remain as agricultural workers under exploitative conditions. Industrial development should ensure that more of them are accommodated in industries. One hopes the State Government will correct itself and concentrate on the allround development of Bihar.

Rashmi Kumari Hazaribagh

* * *The BJP-led Government did the right thing by dismissing the Rabri Devi Government in Bihar which failed to protect the lives of innocent Dalits. But it failed to convince the Opposition, particularly, the Congress(I), and garner its support for its action.

What would the Congress(I) have done if it were in power and faced such a peculiar situation? It is easy to humiliate a Prime Minister but it becomes difficult to handle a similar situation in the future. May I ask the opponents of the BJP-led Government to suggest a way to punish a State Government which fails to protect the lives of its citizens? The reinstatement of the Rabri Devi Government means issuing the licence to kill Dalits.

S. Lakshmi Narasimhan Chamarajnagar, Karnataka

* * *

We are disappointed with the manner in which you dealt with the Bihar issue in your editorial "Article 356 fraud-induced crisis"(March 12). I would like to bring to your notice some facts that were overlooked by you.

The Congress(I)'s stand does not stem from any particular respect for the principle of federalism but from its concern for its own political future. This is obvious from the Congress Working Committee (CWC) proceedings where Tariq Anwar and Sitaram Kesri reportedly argued that the prospects of the Congress(I) in Bihar were solely dependent on the support of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The Congress(I)'s performance in the 1991 and 1996 elections (without RJD support) was at best forgettable. Another factor that was considered by the CWC was the gains made by the BJP-led Government recently after a disastrous first nine months in office. The Prime Minister's bus ride, the economic resurgence and the 1999 Budget indicate that things are looking up and some good governance can be expected. If the present Government lasts for some more time and initiates some bold steps, then it may well be curtains for the Congress(I) in the next elections.

As for the recent massacres in Bihar, only one aspect has been presented by the media. Whenever we talk about the Ranvir Sena, we should also pay equal attention to the activities of naxalite groups such as the Maoist Coordination Centre (MCC) and the Communist Party of India(Marxist-Leninist). The Ranvir Sena was formed in 1994 as a reaction to the activities of naxalites. We remember the fear that haunted people belonging to the upper castes (not necessarily landowners). In your article, you have gone to the extent of praising the CPI(M-L) for its efforts to mobilise Dalits. But you forgot to record the killing of innocent peasants belonging to the upper castes by the CPI(M-L).

We recall one incident in 1992 or 1993 in Bara village in Jehanabad district in which 33 people were killed. They were upper-caste people who did not belong to any militant organisation. There are numerous such incidents. The MCC regularly holds court and dispenses justice. This is clearly in violation of the Constitution. It is not that we support the Ranvir Sena, but we want the CPI(M-L) and the MCC, which have been allowed to go scot-free instead of being held accountable for their misdeeds, to be brought to book.

The Centre has mentioned law and order as the main criterion in the decision to impose President's Rule in Bihar. This is a very elementary reason. If you go to Bihar you can see that the economy and the infrastructure (probably everything that falls under the purview of the State Government) have broken down. The High Court itself has declared that jungle raj prevails in Bihar. This is a State where the High Court has to intervene to ensure the smooth conduct of even school-level examinations.

Pankaj Kumar Vishwanath Sharma Guwahati Journey to Lahore

"Lahore and beyond" (March 12) gives voice to the wish of the people that India and Pakistan should walk hand in hand into the 21st century. Pakistan should no longer be afraid of India's superiority in conventional arms because its nuclear status has given it a sort of strategic parity with India. India should not harbour the illusion that Pakistan cannot carry on a nuclear arms race with it. Pakistan's national income is around $70 billion, but its population is only one-seventh of India's. In per capita terms Pakistan's national income needed to be only $54 billion to be level with India. Hence Pakistan can easily afford to set aside about $16 billion for a nuclear arms race and still be level with India in terms of per capita income.

Drawing an analogy between this situation and the arms race between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union resulting in the latter's economic collapse, is not proper because both gross domestic product and per capita income of the Soviet Union were woefully lower than those of the U.S. Moreover, Pakistan can bank on the rich Muslim countries to fund its nuclear programme.

So, pressure must be brought on the governments of the two countries to absorb the realities of the changing situation and reach an understanding on Kashmir. Both A.B. Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif should come together to end the hostility in the region and win the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace jointly.

Prem Behari Lucknow * * *

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's bus journey to Pakistan was the most dramatic step in India-Pakistan relations since the historic peace accord signed in 1972 by Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

There is a new feeling of optimism in both countries as a result of this step. Although the trip was meant as only a friendly gesture, pragmatic steps in the future will help improve bilateral relations. The political leadership in both countries should make efforts to discuss the issues concerning actual circumstances rather than general theories.

Sanjeev Kudesia Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Nuclear safety

Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan's report ("Issues of nuclear safety", March 26) on the functioning (or malfunctioning) of our various nuclear power stations is disturbing, to say the least. How about the fast breeder experimental reactor in Kalpakkam? It is not clear to me why it was not covered. I gather that liquid sodium, a highly toxic substance is used in this reactor to transfer heat to the turbines. I lived in the suburbs of Chennai earlier, just 40 km from Kalpakkam, often worrying about the conventional and fast breeder reactors at Kalpakkam.

The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, with its undemocratic provisions that enable the Department of Atomic Energy to maintain secrecy, especially on the two counts of safety and costs, has outlived its utility. The Act has to be scrapped or amended. The DAE cannot be treated as a sacred cow.

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy Durham, U.S. The Ulema

Praful Bidwai unfairly tries to compare the Ulema with the racist and religious bigots of the Hindutva brigade and others ("Visa as a communal weapon", March 12). The Ulema consist of scholars well versed in religious doctrine. The Ulema in India and elsewhere have never involved themselves in any anti-national activity but were the backbone of the freedom movement. Right from the mutiny of 1857 until 1947, they have contributed to the freedom movement. Prominent among them include Maulana Mehmoodul Hasan, Mufti Kifayatullah, Maulana Azad and Maulana Hasrat Mohani. Their descendants continue the patriotic tradition. Comparing them with the sadhus and sants of the Hindutva brigade is an insult to them.

Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan Chicago Communal politics

"Undermining India" (February 12) gave a vivid account of the communal politics of the BJP and its fraternal organisations. The leaders of the BJP, especially L.K. Advani, must be held responsible for the present state of affairs. Advani led the Sangh Parivar to Ayodhya in order to demolish the Babri mosque. He watched silently when Hindu communalists demolished the mosque. Now he tries to save them by claiming that they had a good reputation in the past.

In the name of religion and cultural nationalism, the Sangh Parivar is trying to impose Brahminism on the masses. Instead of learning from the noble works of missionaries, it wants to eliminate them physically. Though missionaries came to India in order attract people to Christianity, they contributed immensely to the regeneration of India. They acted as a catalyst in the shaping of socio-religious movements and new values, institutions and approaches. In fact, so many Hindu reformers drew inspiration from Christian missionaries.

The Sangh Parivar considers the work of missionaries in the field of education and social service a threat to its social hegemony. The Hindutva forces should identify the root cause of the present problem and try to reform their own religion. Why is one section of the Hindu population (Dalits) not allowed to enter places of worship in many parts of the country? Why does one section of Hindus slay others in the name of caste?

As long as the internal contradictions remain in Hinduism and Hindutva forces seek to keep their social hegemony intact, conversions are bound to occur. In this context, the saying of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has much relevance. "Unfortunately no Brahmin scholar has so far come forward to play the part of a Voltaire who had the intellectual honesty to rise against the doctrines of the Catholic Church in which he was brought up ... a Voltaire among Brahmins would be a positive danger to the maintenance of a civilisation which is contrived to maintain Brahmin supremacy."

M. Ravindranath Visakhapatnam * * *

The recent attacks on minorities have tarnished the country's image and stigmatised its ancient civilisation. The long list of senseless attacks on minorities during the year 1998-99 ("A catalogue of crime", February 12) unfolds a conspiracy to destabilise the country.

The country witnessed in 1990 a rath yatra drama which left a number of cities and towns under curfew. Then came the heinous crime of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, which caused a chain reaction in the neighbouring countries. The next shock was the Mumbai riots. The recent past witnessed attacks on Christians which included the burning of Graham Staines and his two minor sons.

Christian missionaries are being blamed for conversions. A theory of international conspiracy is also circulated to cover up the hidden agenda of the Hindutva forces.

Mahesh Inder Sharma Delhi * * *

As an Indian I hang my head in shame at the gruesome murder of the Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons. We cannot allow people to get away with violence against any citizen - and certainly not against people like Staines who spent years caring for leprosy patients in India. There is no justification for such shocking violence and hate campaign, which have plunged India towards anarchy and chaos. The rule of law must be maintained at all costs.

Onkar Chopra New Delhi * * *

First it was a series of planned attacks on Christians; now it is a headcount of members of a particular community in Gujarat ("An ominous headcount", March 12). What else is needed as proof of the BJP's communal agenda? The Government's duplicity is clear from the fact that it has sought information about Muslims who were involved in communal riots and other offences but not about Hindus who were involved in such cases. Has the time come in India when the crime of a criminal will be decided by his/her religion?

The BJP Government should know that it is trying to destroy the Constitution. It is time that secular people come forward, regardless of their religious affiliation, to protect the integrity of our homeland.

Ahmad Ali (received on e-mail) Singing apes

I read with interest the article on the hoolock gibbon ("The singing apes", February 12) by Kashmira Kakati. In a country where there is not much awareness of the environment and the habitat of several species, the article represents a breath of fresh air.

Her stress on educating people to develop an awareness on matters relating to the preservation of forests and endangered species is a positive one.

Uppili Kannan (received on e-mail)

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