Print edition : March 31, 2001
Disinvestment woes

"The rush to disinvest" (March 30) made interesting reading. Disinvestment is the latest buzzword, but what its supporters should realise is the need for discussion, debate and consensus-building. The Balco deal, which has met with opposition from worker s and the State of Chattisgarh, is a case in point.

Disinvestment should not be seen as a target or a scoreboard of success of the Minister concerned, Arun Shourie, and Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. The intentions behind disinvestment may well be good but these should be seen to be so by the majority o f the people, especially workers.

The disinvestment process has created anxiety in the minds of managers and workers of public sector undertakings that are on the chopping block. How can anyone expect them to work with enthusiasm?

We have to proceed cautiously on the disinvestment path. Let the entire process be more transparent. Let the workers and the managers have their say. Nothing is lost if the process takes a little longer. After all, human beings are involved, and not just buildings and machinery.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Taliban's barbarism

This has reference to "Taliban targets" (March 30). Words cannot describe the barbarism and brutality of the Taliban government. The reclusive mullah Mohammad Omar Muhajid is leading Afghanistan to an uncivilised era. The people are compelled to follow h is words.

The effects of Taliban rule on the people have been manifold. In 1998, nearly 1,00,000 women become widows on account of its war. The infant mortality rate is 163 per thousand, the highest for any country. A quarter of the number of children do not live beyond the age of five. The economy has been crippled by the ban on employing women. Before 1996, 70 per cent of the teachers in Kabul, 50 per cent of civil servants and 40 per cent of doctors were women. The freedoms of women have been arrested. The pow er struggle between the moderates and the extremists is leading the nation to starvation.

The whole world, including other Islamic nations, today understands that there is no difference between the Taliban and terrorism. Only three nations - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have recognised the Taliban government. The Orga nisation of Islamic Conference, which has not recognised the Taliban, should urge these three countries to reconsider their decision.

S.A. Sundaramurthy Tirupur * * *

The Taliban's activities seem to stem from some deep-rooted conspiracy to defame Islam since people had started embracing Islam all over the world upon finding the teachings of Islam to be attractive. Knowing that Islam would become the largest religion in the world, they are trying to defame it. They have embarked on a campaign to depict Muslims as ruthless terrorists who indulge in barbaric activities. That is the reason why they promote organisations like the Taliban through extensive media coverage. By highlighting the activities of a few misguided, fanatical Muslims and by giving them undue importance, they are trying to bring disrepute to the entire Muslim community.

According to Islam, it is the moral responsibility of a conquering community to ensure that the rights of the local people are not taken away and that they are given security and the freedom to pursue the religion of their choice.

Examples of religious tolerance can be seen in Iran, Egypt and the other corners of the world where the leadership is branded as extremist-Islamic. The religious institutions of other faiths are secure in these countries.

India itself is a good example. Despite having been under Muslim rule for more than five centuries, the country's cultural inheritance at Ajanta, Ellora, Khajuraho and numerous other places, including temples, has remained intact.

The Muslim intelligentsia should sit together and chalk out a plan to counter this movement. In order to succeed in this, they need to rise above petty differences. The first step in this direction should be to condemn the acts of destruction by the Tali ban. There is no ideological difference between the Taliban fundamentalists and the RSS. If the Taliban is responsible for destroying the 2000-year-old statues, we have the RSS which converted Ayodhya, which was considered to be a Buddhist city initially , into the Hindu-majority one that it is today.

It is imperative that Muslim and Hindu intellectuals of the subcontinent join hands to work against all fanatical forces.

Mohammad Adeeb Delhi Chandrika Kumaratunga

Yours was the only national magazine to cover Chandrika Kumaratunga's visit to India with the importance it deserved (March 16). The most courageous woman on the globe now, she faces threats to her life of a level that is unimaginable. It is unfortunate that even our women's organisations miss her significance.

R. Sajan Desam, Kerala Temple destruction

The two-part article by Richard M. Eaton (December 22, 2000 and January 5, 2001) gave the impression that temple desecrations in medieval India were not directed to convert the Indian population to Islam but were chosen acts whereby the triumphant Muslim rulers tried to engrave their saga of victory by building a house to their god after demolishing the one belonging to the vanquished Hindu ruler. These modificatory efforts were aimed at expressing gratitude to god for granting them victory in the war a gainst the infidels. The author further says that Hindu places of worship had very little spiritual legitimacy in the eyes of the population and were largely temporal in essence and that therefore their destruction should not be taken as an example to be emulated in these times.

Contrary to this, it can be suggested that places of worship or even religion as such had rarely been out of the ambit of the state. And this holds true for nearly all the religions, including the Semitic ones - Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Religion is one among the vital instruments of hegemony and control which comes at little expense and pays great dividend to the dilatory goals of the state. This is particularly relevant for disputed places of worship around the world, be it King Solomon's temp le in Jerusalem or the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

Nearly all grand places of worship bore the outlines of the dominant ideology of the day, which drew a great number of followers, both to the King and his concept of God. It was the same stale game of gaining legitimacy through the backdoor and with litt le help from the Almighty.

Though historically accurate, the analysis provided a shaky ground for saving the disputed Muslim places of worship from right-wing Hindu fundamentalists. The author failed to give a solid critique of religious fundamentalism and nearly re-stated the ba sis, which is often referred to justify the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Eaton's argument is a twin-edged sword that can be used both by the proponents and opponents of religious fundamentalism.

In view of the Taliban's destruction of the invaluable artifacts of Afghanistan's Buddhist past, itself an effort to legitimise its rule among Islamic fundamentalists worldwide, what is more necessary is to condemn all acts of religious intolerance, pa st or present, in no uncertain terms and pledge against a recurrence of such unwanted acts of violence. Our society can ill-afford such an extravagant display of religious chauvinism, given its inflammable nature and vast numbers, which ensures in times of conflict and unrest great loss of human life and property.

Kallol Bhattacherjee Received on email Women's Reservation Bill

The Women's Reservation Bill is the one subject that has been most talked about and the least acted upon. Now, one can easily visualise that the Bill stands the 'brightest' chance of getting drowned in the din and noise of tehalka.com. But the singular d isservice meted out to the women's issue has, unfortunately come from no less a person than Chief Election commissioner, M.S. Gill. (See his interview in Frontline dated March 16, 2001.)

To quote Gill: "My solution is simple. Instead of amending the Constitution every other day with all the negative points it involves, have a simple amendment in the RPA (Representation of Peoples Act) where all you would say is this: all parties that hav e their recognition and privileges of the Commission shall retain these only for so long, at every election they fight in every State they put up X percentage of women candidates."

With this simple solution, Gill wants us to believe that the proportion of women which is only '8 per cent in Parliament and Assemblies over the last 50 years' will overnight jump from 8 to 15 or 20 per cent, even if a little less than 33 per cent of th e ticket is given to women by the political parties.

The Frontline correspondent who interviewed Mr. Gill has chosen to describe his solution as 'unique'. Unique indeed - not as a solution but as a way of scuttling the whole issue.

Gill, at least for the record, asserts that gender justice is certainly his priority but not higher than his loyalty to the Constitution. He does not want the fault of political parties to visit on the Constitution. So he wants the Constitution to be lef t undisturbed by gender considerations. He ascribes the fact of women not being given the ticket to an adequate extent to the fault of political parties. He declares: "The flaw is that women are not getting space in the political parties. Guaranteed spac e. Assured space."

Gill's solution can at best only guarantee party ticket for women in elections. It will certainly not ensure their presence in Parliament or Assemblies unless a specific number of constituencies are mandated to return only a woman as the representative.

We have on hand our own experience with regard to the elections to local bodies. Only the 83rd amendment to the Constitution has given the women the guaranteed and assured space in the local bodies. Not before. Not otherwise than by reservation.

The delay over passing of the Bill is of course a matter of serious concern not only to women, but also to all those who genuinely seek women to be empowered. But, it cannot be an alibi for pushing through a non-serious and frivolous proposal, from which ever quarters it may emanate.

W.R. Varada Rajan Received on email Sundarlal Report

Thank you for publishing A.G. Noorani's "Of a massacre untold" (March 16). Finally, the picture of the 1948 massacres is becoming clearer thanks to his research. However, a few points the author raised need clarification, pertaining to me personally. Fir st, Noorani should have informed his readers what those "inaccuracies" are and what "intemperate language" has been used, in my introduction to Hyderabad: After the Fall, rather than leaving it to imagination.

I do not think that I was "misled" about the Sundarlal Report. The fragments available to me were supplied by the daughter of the principal investigator of the Sundarlal Report. The fragments are both in English and in Urdu, which I still have. Noorani d oes not inform us of the reasons for questioning how the report could be both in English and in Urdu, which was the official language of the State in 1948. In fact, as he himself says: "...The rest is a village by village-wise and district-wise account." What could be more accurate than a detailed village-by-village account?

These comments notwithstanding, I commend and compliment both the writer and Frontline for bringing forth a dark chapter in the history of modern Hyderabad. By doing so, you have strengthened the freedom of the press in India.

Dr. Omar Khalidi Massachusetts A.G. Noorani writes:

I wish Dr. Khalidi had queried me on these points when he called me on March 8. He requested for a copy of the Report and made kind references to my article, which he repeats in his letter. I sent him the Report on March 10, the day he wrote to Frontl ine. I hope he is satisfied with the authenticity and fullness of the text; from the beginning with its address to the Prime Minister to the end with its recommendations and traditional acknowledgements.

As Dr. Khalidi fairly acknowledged in his book, "only a small portion of the Report was available to me" (p. 204). What is reproduced (on pp. 100-109) under the heading "The Report" is a "village and district-wise account of the Report". It does not figu re in the text I sent him.

Evidently, it was raw material collected by the investigative teams for submission "to the delegation". The Report itself says "we were asked by the Government of India to proceed..." Dr. Khalidi quotes Yunus Salim as saying that Nehru "in his personal c apacity" sent a team comprising Pandit Sundarlal, Qazi Abdulghaffar and - but, of course - Salim himself. Both assertions are wrong. Dr. Khalidi says that "the fragments available to me were supplied by the daughter of the principal investigator (sic.) o f the Sundarlal Report" whose identity he is "leaving it to imagination", to use his phrase.

I leave it to Dr. Khalidi himself to discover the "inaccuracies", now that he has the text. It is not unlikely that he might discern a few excesses of phrasing as well. I was concerned to draw the reader's attention to both; not to belittle a scholar lik e Dr. Khalidi whom I respect.

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