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Elections and stability

Print edition : Dec 27, 1997



The editorial "Elections and political evolution" (December 26) rightly observed that no formation, let alone party, would emerge from the twelfth general election with a majority. But all political parties made it clear that they wanted fresh elections, as if elections would provide a way out of the instability at the Centre. What they do not seem to have realised is that fresh elections are not going to produce a decisive verdict.

Efforts should be directed towards reducing the number of political formations from three to two if the coming elections should put an end to the political uncertainty.

The Left parties are vociferously anti-Congress, although they know that no secular government can be formed without Congress support. The non-Communist constituents of the United Front must understand the situation and preclude a repetition of the old deadlock.

K. Kumara Sekhar Eluru, Andhra PradeshArunachal Pradesh

Kudos to Frontline for focussing attention on the developmental problems of Arunachal Pradesh (December 12), with excellent photographs.

Chief Minister Gegong Apang deserves praise for keeping the State free from ethnic as well as separatist strife.

The Central Government should allocate more funds for the development of the north-eastern States.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, KeralaPolitical crisis

Your Cover Story on the tragi-comedy of the Milap Chand Jain Commission (December 12) has given an accurate picture of the state of national politics today. The Commission's interim report, though "a tissue-thin grasp of fact", shook the United Front Government by its root and led to an unprecedented political crisis. This time the electoral harvest for the Congress will be little.

R. Ramasami Tiruvannamalai, Tamil NaduAngioplasty

The interview with Dr. Mathew Samuel Kalarickal (December 12), who is responsible for establishing angioplasty in India was informative and educative. It helps allay fears of those suffering from heart diseases.

K. Ramadoss ChennaiNirad Chaudhuri

This has reference to the article on Nirad Chaudhuri (December 12).

But for Sir John Collins Squire, Nirad Chaudhuri's name would not have been known to the English-speaking world. It was he who first read Nirad Chaudhuri's manuscript of the Autobiography of an Unknown Indian for Macmillan over Christmas in 1950. He wrote to his friend C.R. Reddy on December 5, 1950 about Nirad and suggested that Reddy make his acquaintance with him. This letter is in the archives of the Andhra University Library. Nirad Chaudhuri had sent his manuscript to two other English publishers, but it was Macmillan, London, who published it in 1951.

C.A. Reddi ChennaiFission power

I have read your excellent magazine with much interest. It gives a good insight into life and politics in India.

I was, however, surprised to find that you hail India's achievements in the fast breeder technology without raising any critical questions ("FBTR landmark at Kalpakkam", September 5).

Most industrialised countries (Germany, Britain, the United States and now France) have abandoned this technology because they found electricity production by fast breeders too expensive. Besides, the risks involved were high.

The only fast breeder plant in Germany, at Kalkar, which was constructed at a huge cost, was never connected to the grid because of opposition from the local population and also the realisation that the production of electricity by this plant would be too expensive. The French fast breeder in Creys-Malville operated at full capacity only for 10 months in 12 years. It had to be stopped completely for over 4,000 days.

The plutonium produced by an FBR is extremely dangerous (1/1000000 of a gram of plutonium is lethal for a human being). There is the risk of explosion in the reactor because of contact between sodium (used in the cooling system) and water. "The ensuing sodium-water reaction will damage the reactor," as you put it. "This has to be avoided if the FBTR were to be successful." Yes indeed, if Kalpakkam were not to become another Chernobyl.

Why should this technology be continued to be used in India?

It is true, as the article says, that the high cost of the breeder technology will be brought down by reducing the number of components of the plant. But will this not be to the detriment of reliability and security?

Should India really be proud of being the only developing country with a breeder reactor?

Dirk Esser Les Halles, FranceCoimbatore riots

This has reference to the articles "Confrontation in Coimbatore" and "A trail of bomb blasts" (December 26).

I have been living in this city for more than 40 years and I have not witnessed before such an orgy of violence involving arson, looting and loss of human lives. Even the violence that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid did not result in so much loss of life and property. The city was at the mercy of hooligans who were encouraged by communal elements, with the police tacitly winking at these atrocities.

Generally the first killing that triggers a communal flare-up takes place for reasons other than communal. When the unfortunate victim happens to be a Hindu, Muslims are suspected to have killed him, and vice versa. Subsequent rioting is mainly to settle old scores.

In the Coimbatore incident, the killing of a constable belonging to the majority community came in handy for communal elements to whip up passions. The statement of the Director-General of Police that "when the policeman puts on his uniform he is a policeman and does not belong to any group" has sadly been shown wrong. In the past few years the police, generally at the lower levels but in some cases at higher levels as well, have become communal-minded. An Uttar Pradesh type of situation was developing and the Coimbatore incidents remind one of the Moradabad killings of the 1980s.

The murder of the traffic constable, who was on duty, is to be condemned and the culprits have to be brought to book. However, the police allowed themselves to be used by communal elements who exploited the situation.

Even the posh area of R.S. Puram, which is normally free from such incidents, did not escape this time. A mosque on the Mettupalayam Road was ransacked. I narrowly escaped in (and with) my car minutes before the hooligans entered the premises, burnt down vehicles and attacked the mosque.

The explanation of the police that the release of TADA detenus, the removal of check-posts in the Kottaimedu area and political interference contributed to the situation cannot be accepted. How TADA was misused by State Governments against the minority community is well known. The Human Rights Commission and secular parties have condemned it. That TADA was a reincarnation of the Rowlatt Act, which was vehemently opposed by Mahatma Gandhi, is not known to many.

The establishment of checkposts in the area dominated by a minority community is also a biased action. If the police had been fair, they should have established checkposts in other areas also to control anti-social and communal outfits. One is reminded of the colonial government which notified a particular community in Tamil Nadu and banned its members from government service.

Another complaint, which is voiced often, is that politicians interfere in the work of the police when they arrest terrorists belonging to the "minority community". Can the police claim honestly that they do not yield to pressure when it comes to arresting terrorists belonging to other communities?

The basic cause of ill-feeling is business rivalry. Coimbatore in the 1950s was a small town. Muslims established businesses in the now busy Oppanakkara Street, Big Bazar Street and the Ukkadam area and now dominate business in consumer articles. The new entrants are not able to break their monopoly. Small vendors too are mostly from this community.

Muslims, educationally backward, are not in a position to compete with others for government jobs; for them small business is the only means of earning a livelihood. Fundamentalist organisations of the majority community, encouraged by their business financiers, gave a call to the people to boycott shops owned by Muslims, but the public response was poor.

It is gratifying that during the violence in Coimbatore, many Muslim families were sheltered by their Hindu brethren.

It is high time the Government took steps to check the communal tension in Coimbatore. Secular, non-political organisations such as 'Harmony India' can play a leading role in maintaining communal amity, which should not be allowed to be broken by fanatics on either side.

I will be failing in my duty if I do not appreciate the good work of the police on another occasion. On December 6, I was travelling by Cheran Express on which a bomb went off. Passengers were stranded in a rocky area. It was dark and there was a drizzle. The police arrived on the scene promptly and helped the passengers, especially the aged, to alight and walk to the road from where buses took them to their destinations.

These are two faces of the police - one ugly and the other bright. One hopes that the bright face prevails always.

A.K. Anwar Batcha Superintending Engineer (retd) PWD Coimbatore

* * *

The carnage in Jehanabad, the blasts in Delhi, the violence in Coimbatore, the explosions on trains running through Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the attacks on Dalits in several places - all these point to an atmosphere of hatred and violence in the country.

If political parties return to the old path of social work and make efforts to maintain peace and harmony in society, others will follow. And only by ensuring protection to the minorities and the poorer sections of society can the country enhance its prestige in the world.

A. Jacob Sahayam Vellore, Tamil Nadu



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