Print edition : May 08, 1999

India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU


At last, the hue and cry over the Opposition pulling down the so-called nationalist government is over. It is now clear that political parties except the Communists do not believe in the secular structure of our country and that they define secularism in their own terms. For instance, Janata Dal leader Ram Vilas Paswan says that communalism will not be an issue in the coming elections in Bihar because there were no communal riots in the State for several years now. According to him, Laloo Prasad Yadav is more dangerous than communalism. Who are the losers? The minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.

Muslims have suffered equally at the hands of all political parties except the Communists. Mulayam Singh Yadav betrayed Muslims at a crucial moment. He is the one who strengthened the BJP by switching his loyalties from the Janata Dal and joining hands with the Congress(I).

Noises are made now about changing the country's political structure. The presidential form of government is said to be the most preferred system in the country. Is it not better to adopt the proportional representation system, which will ensure that minorities get representation in Parliament in proportion to their numerical strength?

Aftab Mahmood Khan Riyadh, Saudi Arabia * * *

Political parties in India are busy drawing up their "war strategy" in order to stay afloat. Barring a few exceptions, politicians are desperate to cling to power and enjoy the privileges of power.

Have you ever heard of any political party announcing a strategy to curb population growth, uplift the poor, educate the masses, improve the supply of water and electricity, lay good roads and stamp out corruption?

Lt. Col. S.K. Mushran (retd.) Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh

* * *

Your Editorial ("The end of a benighted phase", May 7) described Jayalalitha's decision to leave the BJP-led coalition as an "expression of the realisation that the saffron cause was in headlong retreat in the national political arena and, therefore, continuing to ally with it would be a self-damaging course." Frontline, which has carried several articles explaining how the BJP-led Government had to keep this temperamental politician in good humour for its survival, now says that her continued support to the BJP would have caused electoral losses for her. If this is the case, why have the AIADMK's other allies in Tamil Nadu chosen to remain in the BJP-led coalition?

What spelled doom for the Government was not its chauvinistic nature but Jayalalitha's covert and overt demands. Just as the BJP faced defeat in Rajasthan and other States in the Assembly elections last year for having carried out a divisive agenda and misgovernance, Jayalalitha will be defeated in the coming elections for having held the Vajpayee Government to ransom.

Sanjeev Khonkhar Agra, Uttar Pradesh Agni-II

This has reference to the exhaustive coverage of the test-firing of Agni-II ("The arms race", May 7). The successful test-firing has certainly brought credit to the team of scientists and engineers and others involved in the project. It has been proved that they are competent not merely in the area of science and technology but in the managerial aspect of forming a cohesive team and coordinating work among people drawn from diverse fields. The crucial role played by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, over the years in achieving a high level of team-work has to be specially commended.

While our scientists and engineers have legitimately earned the gratitude of the nation, we should consider whether our politicians deserve the credit they claim for themselves for the success of the test. Let us for a moment ignore the political mileage the erstwhile ruling coalition is believed to be getting out of the timing of the test. The delay or dithering that preceded the test gave rise to doubts that the Government was indeed succumbing to political and diplomatic pressures from abroad. At one time it was rumoured, as pointed out by John Cherian, that it was in deference to the wishes of the visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary, Strobe Talbott, that the test was postponed. Contrast this with what the Chinese did when President R. Venkataraman visited their country. They conducted an underground nuclear test. The reason they gave was that they had planned the test some months earlier and any postponement was out of the question. To the Chinese, their own strategic considerations had the highest priority.

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy Pennsylvania, U.S. The Onges

The article on the Onge community of the Andamans ("A people in peril", May 7) and the pictures helped me learn a great deal about Little Andaman, its people and the problems faced by the Onge community.

That the Onges are on the verge of extinction is a matter of grave concern. The Government should formulate and implement plans to ensure the welfare of the Onges.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala The Niyogi report

The article "An old debate in a new context" (April 23) was biased. It appeared to pardon every crime of people belonging to the minority community and try to justify their deeds. It blamed even the judicial inquiry conducted by M. Bhawani Shankar Niyogi, whose report is an authentic document on the issue.

You have presented the views of Christians without giving a single view against the activities of Christian missionaries. Even the most secular and liberal sections have spoken against missionary activities. But you appear to portray them as victims of majority fundamentalism. The humanitarian work of missionaries is praiseworthy but it does not give them the right to convert people.

Prashant K. Baranwal Dumka, Bihar Military and the media

I found it odd that your April 23 issue should have carried both incisive coverage of NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia and a puff piece on the Indian Air Force show at Pokhran (by the same author, no less). The fetishisation of military hardware in the latter piece (which carried numerous photographs) was no better than that routinely served up by the U.S. media. It was disappointing to see that nationalistic techno-machismo, which one associates with Tom Clancy novels, infected the pages of Frontline.

Ian Petrie Calcutta Burmese stories

I take pleasure in reading Frontline and am particularly interested in the literature section which does not seem to be a regular feature. The Burmese stories by Thein Pe Myint, translated by Usha Narayanan, are wonderful. But in the past one year Frontline carried only three Burmese stories. I request you to include the literature section in every issue.

Fareena Hyderabad Kashmir

Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan for over 50 years now. The dispute has proved to be a drain on the resources of both countires. However, it is heartening to note that sabre-rattling and rhetoric are being gradually replaced by a process of dialogue. There is no harm if India moves towards disengagement along the Line of Control where frequent flare-ups have caused losses of life and property on both sides.

The hardships Indian soldiers undergo at the Siachen Glacier are mindboggling. The huge cost of defending this mount of ice (estimated to be Rs.1 crore a day) could very well be used for development.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Thackeray's politics

A decade ago Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was asked to differentiate between the Bharatiya Janata Party's version of Hinduism and his own. He said that while the BJP believed in Gandhian Hinduism he followed a narrower definition. According to him, Muslims who do not agree with the ideology of Hinduism are traitors. He added that he did not believe in democracy and nonviolence. He said: "I am raising a Hindu militant body and a bloodbath cannot be avoided in future" (The Indian Post, May 8, 1988).

His statement shows the dark side of Indian politics.

Iqbal Akhtar Delhi

Correction: In the May 7 issue, a photograph of Dr. R.N. Agarwal, Mission Director of the Agni Project directing the launch at the Mission Control Centre in the new missile test range on Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast, was errorneously carried on page 122 along with a story on INSAT-2E with a caption that identified the location as the "Mission Control Room in Hassan..." The photograph should have appeared with the feature on the missile launch that started on page 23 of the issue. The error is regretted.

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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