Sri Lanka

Published : May 27, 2000 00:00 IST

Sri Lanka

V.R. Raghavan has rightly stated that the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has been converted into a largely military issue owing to the misguided emphasis placed on the means instead of the ends by the two sides to the conflict ("Dangerous portents," May 26 ). India needs to find a better way to deal with this difficult situation than make it more complicated by sending troops. Such a strategy would undermine its friendly relations with other neighbouring countries. New Delhi should work as an impartial med iator and ensure that the impact of the conflict does not affect the Indian polity.

R. RamasamiTiruvannamalai, Tamil NaduClemency

At a time when women demand equal rights there is no point in seeking clemency for Nalini, who was involved in a heinous crime, on the ground that she is a woman. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was not an accidental crime. The State government's recom mendation for the grant of clemency does not warrant any support and a criminal, irrespective of his or her sex, must be punished. If the State government has acted on the grounds of sympathy for Nalini's child, it can adopt the child.

R. SasikumarChennaiMedium of education

The 'Tamil medium controversy' would not have arisen, if the Tamil Nadu government had introduced the three-language formula as had been done by the other States of the Union ("A medium of contention", May 26). This would have ensured that everyone learn t the rich language of Tamil, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

K. RamadossChennaiInternet and privacy

In her column, Jayati Ghosh has dealt with the issues of cyberspace from the angle of 'threat to privacy' ("Getting to know you", May 26.) According to the Block Box Network Industry Survey, eight million man-hours are lost in the United Kingdom each yea r and the 191 largest companies spend nearly $4 million a year as a result of people browsing the Net for non-work related tasks. In the U.S., 89 per cent of people use company e-mail facilities for personal purposes and 70 per cent of them receive 'adul t oriented mail'. A major company suspended 14 and sacked five of its employees for sending pornography around their network. It is not wrong to trap and take action against persons whose activities will have a bad influence on the working environment. B ut it is not correct to trap home Web-users.

S. KarthikeyanChennaiAIDS

The thought-provoking article on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ("Of HIV and hope," May 26) shows that all over the world it is a community problem that demands a community response. It is heartening to note that Uganda is fighting a determined batt le against the pandemic.

An HIV-infected person can live a near-normal social life but he or she has the social obligation not to cause the spread of the virus. AIDS affects women not only as individuals but also as healthcare and income providers, educators, wives and mothers. It is also clear that the impact of HIV-related diseases among women will inevitably worsen the situation everywhere, particularly in the poorer communities, if no action is taken to check the spread of the virus. It is imperative that they are provided with information, skills, knowledge and resources to fight the disease.

Vinod C. DixitAhmedabadGender questions

This refers to the review of Madhu Kishwar's book Off the Beaten Track ("Gender relations in the Indian context," May 12). Madhu Kishwar and women's movement leaders must not overlook the fact that women themselves are no less responsible for perp etuating the problems of their gender. The question is what values women pass on to their sons, husbands and brothers that they become tormentors of other women. Even the most illiterate and poor of women have some emotional hold over their male relative s. Why are those ties not used to check aggression against women both at home and outside? Moreover, why are daughters and sisters not taught to be sensitive towards other women?

Jealousy and obsession with male attention have been the bane of our gender. Even the emancipation brought about by educational, economic, political and social initiatives has not mitigated the narrow-mindedness of some women vis-a-vis their own g ender. A successful man is readily accepted but a successful and talented woman is often resented. Even blood ties are prone to be fragile before envy. It is not just chauvinistic men but manipulative and envious women that a woman has to face in her eff orts to be self-reliant. In the fight within the gender, women use men both as weapons and ladders to upstage one another.

Thus, it is women who must first change their attitudes and conduct. More than gender justice or gender parity, what is needed is gender unity and a sense of dignity.

Jaya PrasadPatnaChild labour

The article "Children still at work" (May 12) correctly portrays the gravity of the problem of child labour at Sivakasi. It is a social crime which deprives a child of its childhood. Some families commit this crime in order to make ends meet. A staggerin g 30 million children in India, about half of the total number of child labourers in the world, are detached from their natural surroundings and deprived of parental love and affection, education and so on.

The achievement of economic parity and universal education are essential to remove this social curse but we are nowhere near achieving these goals. Besides, political leaders do not seem interested in changing the plight of the working children because t hey have no vote.

The revised Geneva Declaration in 1948 announced a 10-point charter to ensure the rights of child labourers and eradicate their misery. More such efforts were initiated by the United Nations on November 20, 1959 and November 20, 1989. Article 24 of the I ndian Constitution states: "No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment." Another constitutional provision aimed at preventing child labour is Article 45, which sa ys: "The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years." Unfortunately, all such declarations ha ve proved futile.

Buddhadev NandiBishnupur, West BengalThe role of madrasas

The proponents of the Uttar Pradesh Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places Bill have assumed that madrasas serve as bases and sanctuaries for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and that Indian Muslims are, therefore, in league with the I SI. They justify the controversial Bill on this ground.

If their assumption is right, why have not the Central and State governments prosecuted the authorities of any madrasa for collaborating with the ISI? How will the proposed law deal with existing madrasas (or masjids) - by demolishing them or by obstruct ing their repair and maintenance till they become ruins? Why cannot the Indian Penal Code and the Act of 1985 against the misuse of religious places be invoked?

Every religious group has institutions to impart religious instruction and train religious functionaries. Hindus have religious institutions such as pathshalas, vidyalayas, gurukuls, maths and "shishu mandirs" all over the country. The VHP itself plans to establish many more institutions to teach Hinduism not only to Hindus but other religious groups. Why should one object only to madrasas? The shishu mandirs, which promote the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's concept of Hindutva, have been k ept out of the purview of the Bill. The RSS advocates a centralised, homogenised society and polity based on the primacy of one community and the disenfranchisement of all others - an idea that runs counter to the basic structure of the Constitution.

Muslims rightly apprehend that although the laws of the land are universally applicable, in the existing social environment and with the growing communalisation of politics the brunt will be borne only by them.

It is a historical fact that madrasas played a considerable role in the freedom struggle. Deobandi ulemas stood shoulder to shoulder with other leading freedom fighters. Maulana Muhammad Ali declared in London right in the face of the British rulers that he demanded freedom for India and that he would not return to a slave country. It did happen, and he died in a free country, though it was not India. Many ulema were close to Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Maulana Azad held views that were close to those of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. There were others like Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi and Maulana Jamaluddin Afghani who travelled widely in Europe soliciting support for the cause of India's freedom. As a result, they invited the wrath of the B ritish rulers. Many of them suffered all kinds of persecution - their properties were confiscated and families annihilated, they were sentenced to long-term imprisonment and some were even exiled to the Andaman Islands.

Unfortunately this part of history has to be narrated time and again. It is in the best interests of the country to see madrasas in their true perspective.

M. Naushad AnsariBangaloreNuclear world

The 187 countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have just met at the United Nations to review the progress of the Treaty. Of these, the 182 nuclear have-nots have strongly criticised the five nuclear weapons states for not doing e nough to attain the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. The U.S. was singled out for censure because the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Pentagon is developing an anti-missile defence system which could lead to another arms race.

True to the Gandhi-Nehru tradition, it was for India to lead the overwhelming number of non-nuclear weapon nations in their fight against the nuclear imperialism of the five. Unfortunately, in its quest to be recognised as a nuclear weapons power, India is neither here nor there. India is dragging Pakistan too into its Trishanku.

It is now two years since Pokhran-II. At the time of Pokhran-I during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's rule, the country was apologetic to the extent of saying that its nuclear devices were meant for peaceful purposes. It was asserted time and again that I ndia had no intention of making nuclear weapons. But this fig-leaf did not cover India's nuclear ambitions.

All through the 24 years after Pokhran-I, rulers, irrespective of their political hue, connived at the plans of the nuclear scientists to build an atomic armoury. They were supported by a group of hawkish defence analysts. In the initial stages, the gove rnment said that what was being pursued was mere research work and not a nuclear weapons programme. Later, the policymakers resorted to subterfuge, saying that our policy to maintain ambiguity on the question of nuclear weapons. As part of its efforts to facilitate the building of nuclear weapons, India did not sign the treaties meant to prevent proliferation, such as the NPT and the CTBT, on the pretext that the treaties were discriminatory and did not spell out a time-frame for the nuclear powers to e liminate their nuclear arms.

The BJP had declared its intention of making India a nuclear power and conducted the Pokhran-II explosions. Unlike the Congress government, it did not say this was a peaceful test. On the other hand, the party and the government flaunted the nuclear swor d to Pakistan's face. Home Minister L.K. Advani warned Pakistan to take note of India's changed global standing and to respect our new nuclear status. India's overconfidence was shortlived, because Pakistan too tested its nuclear weapons at Chagai within days of the Indian tests.

Has Pokhran-II in any way enhanced India's security? Nuclear weapons are not weapons of war and are said to be meant for deterrence. If at all anyone has benefited from nuclear deterrence, it is Pakistan. Our defence analysts theorised that it was not ne cessary to match our nuclear weapons with those of an adversary, say China, to attain deterrence; we should only attain the capacity to inflict damage on the enemy in such a way that it would be afraid of using its weapons. Pakistan took advantage of the theory and occupied our territory in Kargil with impunity.

Our jawans had to fight a war with one hand tied to their back, with the handicap of not crossing the Line of Control and not destroying the enemy's line of supply to the occupied territory.

What is more, Kashmir attracted world attention as the most dangerous place in the world. Now, the argument that Kashmir is a bilateral issue has little credibility. Nuclear war is not just the concern of the contending parties.

N. KunjuDelhi

Correction: In the photograph of the all-party meeting to discuss the Sri Lankan situation ("India's policy dilemma" Frontline), May 26) N.T. Shanmugam, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, pictured third from right, was e rroneously identified as M. Kannappan. The error is regretted.

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