It is surprising that despite the deployment of 3,00,000 troops, supported by 20,000 tonnes of munitions, 14,000 precision-guided explosives including hi-tech blasters, and 2,000-odd aircraft, the coalition forces led by the United States failed to locate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons (leave alone killing them), or find any weapons of mass destruction, the issue on which the war was waged.
All that they could do was vent their anger on Saddam's statues and posters and the presidential palaces and other buildings in Iraq. The war resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and caused untold misery to the Iraqi people who went without proper food, drinking water, electricity and sanitation for weeks together. Freedom to Iraqis came in the form of loot and plunder, a free-for-all game to which the coalition forces stood mute spectators. The coalition forces turned their faces as vandals burnt and looted the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad, 13 regional museums at Mosul and elsewhere in that country and the National Library.
However, the Iraqis' hosannas are likely to be short-lived.
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Arundhati Roy has hit the nail on the head (April 25). When America does it, it is done to liberate, when Iraq does it, it is terrorism. How can a country with just 500 years in history understand the meaning of heritage and culture? A country where they teach you to be a shark, to prey on others, where child pornography is the biggest industry and immorality is rampant. It is a shame that the world sits and watches this rape and murder of innocent people by a so-called `liberator'.
Sitaraman Eshwar PrasadToronto, Canada
A telling picture
This is with reference to the photograph used in the Praful Bidwai column (April 11), showing Iraqi children, with utensils in their hands, waiting in a queue at a food distribution centre in Baghdad. Innocence, hunger and fear are writ large on their faces as they hope to reach the distribution centre well in time to get their quota of food. Their expression evokes sympathy and intense emotions even among non-Iraqi people, because children are the same all over the world.
M.L. JulkaNew Delhi
This is with reference to the article "An ally as victim" (April 25). The ban on the LTTE came only after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and not when several people were brutally killed in Tamil Nadu. On August 2, 1984, a powerful bomb blast demolished the arrival lounge at the Chennai airport killing 29 people. A few years later, EPRLF leader E. Padmanabha and 11 others were gunned down by the LTTE in Chennai. Why was the separatist group not considered for a ban then?
Cadres of the LTTE and some other Sri Lankan Tamil groups were given arms training and asylum in India with the consent of the Central government. So it is unbelievable and unacceptable to say that the Sri Lankan rebel groups grew with the support of individuals like Vaiko or P. Nedumaran. POTA is equivalent to the British Rowlatt Act. The kind of explosives that were used by the LTTE to kill Rajiv Gandhi are used by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) too, but the Indian government supports the latter.
The apex court must give a direction to the lower courts to act against any whimsical use of the Act against innocent individuals.The arrest of Vaiko under POTA is a measure of political vindictiveness of the ruling AIADMK.
Changing the mindset
I appreciate Jayanti S. Ravi's article "Making a dent in the mindsets" (April 25). But we need a deeper insight into gender disparities. Why do people prefer a boy baby to a girl baby? Because they feel that the girl would be a liability whereas the boy would support them in old age. The girl is seen as a helpless being who needs to be protected until she is married off. In such a situation, the barrier is the mindset. So the holding of seminars and workshops will not suffice to remove the disparity. Women should be given good education and made financially and socially independent, which the author has missed to mention. She says reservation for women in Parliament and other institutions "will be yet another historical milestone". I live in Delhi, and I have come across the "reserved for handicapped and women" notice in Delhi buses. How will such things change the mindset?
Do not beg for equality, get it forcefully. That is the way to the empowerment of women.
Belur and Halebid
The history and craftsmanship of Belur and Halebid are interesting. One cannot think of a single other magazine in India that would dare to publish such a story.
Haren Pandya murder
It was sad to read about the murder of Haren Pandya (April 25). It is said that those who live on the banks of the crocodile-infested river must not antagonise the crocodiles. Pandya had quite a number of enemies. The removal of his security cover could have been a clear pointer to the move to eliminate him.
Literacy in Tamil country
The excerpts from Iravatham Mahadevan's book ("Orality to literacy: Transition in early Tamil society" April 11), offered an excellent review of early Tamil epigraphy. He clearly and cogently argues about the conditions that prevailed in Tamil country, enabling the rapid spread of literacy. He lists five such facilitating conditions. 1. A strong bardic tradition; 2. Absence of a priestly hierarchy; 3. A tradition of local autonomy; 4. The spread of two non-brahmanical religions, Jainism and Buddhism; and 5. Foreign trade. Regarding the last, it is understandable that with the long sea coast both in the east and in the west, the Tamil country had viable maritime traditions and therefore foreign trade. But upper South India also has a long coast, from close to Chennai to north of Visakhapatnam, and a smaller west coast. Does it mean that upper South India did not have maritime traditions, and, if so, were there any special reasons?
I read with shock and deep sorrow the news of the brutal murder of Dr. I.G. Khan (April 11). He was a front-ranking historian of medieval India. He represented in his work and in his personality the best traditions of Aligarh historians. I was privileged to come into contact with him in Britain and experience his charm and graciousness. His social commitment and his ability to combine a scholarly vocation with trade union work among the rickshaw-pullers were admirable.
I am, however, saddened by the fact that the killing of such an intellectual has not been taken up as a campaign issue by the national media. I hope the CBI inquiry will lead to the early apprehension and conviction of the culprits.
This has reference to "Opportunistic overtures" (April 11). Keeping in view the 2004 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has proposed an alliance with the Republican Party of India. But the RPI is a divided party with four factions, headed by Ramdas Athavale, Prakash Ambedkar, R.S. Gavai and Jogendre Kawade respectively. Dalit leaders have been unable to come together, let alone work together for the welfare of Dalits. Factionalism has been a major hindrance to Dalit consolidation. The leaders must come together to form a united RPI.
An RPI leader, Namdeo Dhasal, had formed an alliance with the Shiv Sena but the experiment failed to achieve its objective. Now the Sena is trying to influence other RPI leaders for the sake of power.
Moreover, the Shiv Sena has been constantly opposed to the RPI and its leaders. The Sena had opposed the renaming of the Marathwada University after Dr. Ambedkar. It banned Dr. Ambedkar's book Riddles in Hinduism, which led to clashes between Sena and RPI activists in Mumbai. Considering all these factors, it would be foolish on the part of the RPI to form an alliance with the Shiv Sena.
This is with respect to the article "A guide to the JPC report" (February 24) by Mani Shankar Aiyar. The author has done well to throw light on the findings of the JPC investigating the stock market scam and the UTI imbroglio. It is indeed shameful that despite monitoring institutions like SEBI, the RBI and the Ministry of Finance, the common man finds himself robbed of his hard-earned money. These institutions failed not once but numerous times during the course of these scams, as is evident from the JPC's observations. What is more shameful (because of the nature of the post he held) is the role Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha played whilst all this was going on.
Sinha must realise that he cannot pass the buck. His statement in the Rajya Sabha that P.S. Subramanium, the then Chairman of the UTI, had repeatedly assured him through the Ministry that everything was hunky-dory at the UTI and with US64 reflects his irresponsible attitude of Sinha. Whatever may be the case, the truth remains that all this has cost the country dear, both in terms of money value and in terms of the faith of millions of investors who feel betrayed. Our judicial system should be geared to take care of all the loopholes that exist in the system. Those who misuse public trust and money must be punished.