Gujarat

Print edition : August 03, 2002

Reading the articles on in the August 2 issue (Cover story: "Chariots of fear") made me immensely distressed. While the cause of the disturbances and the way in which they originated are well known, a long-term solution seems to defy imagination. I am inclined to conclude that in these trying times there is a desperate need for strong, affirmative action by the truly secular forces, including political parties and non-governmental organisations. These forces should assert themselves and make efforts to be heard above the din caused by communal forces. The steps contemplated should aim at spreading the message of secularism, religious tolerance, universal brotherhood and, above all, the adoption of a humane approach to all issues.

But, disappointingly, no secular political party has done anything more than touching the fringes of various sections of society by organising meetings for those who are already well-informed. I am not aware of any serious and efficiently organised attempts by these parties to touch the hearts of those who are potential communalists, such as the 'unemployed and semi-literate' and the 'restless and disgruntled' youth.

The secular forces should try to reach out to such youth and harness their energies for the fulfilment of constructive endeavours by educating them about the evils of communalism and the dangers of the policies pursued by the State BJP with the tacit approval of its central leadership. They should make the public aware of the dangers of holding 'rath yatras', which should be banned irrespective of the community that organises them.

N.S. Sankararaman Chennai * * *

This refers to the article "Women's initiative for peace" (August 2).

The effort of "women for peace" is praiseworthy. However, I believe that the change, or rather the move for peace, will have to be made from 'within' if peace is to materialise 'outside'.

After seeing the photographs of rampaging youth, one is left to wonder what values were imparted to them by their parents. It is said that "the hand that rocks the cradle shakes the world". Surely the mothers of our country are no less responsible than their sons for the latter going on to become demons.

At the global level, many young Muslim men are joining jehad. At the national level one sees Hindu youth flexing their communal muscles. It is high time women of both the communities realised that for peace to reign, secular values and sympathy for others have to be inculcated in children right from the beginning.

Jaya Prasad Patna * * *

Kudos to Brinda Karat for the services she rendered to humanity by supporting the riot-affected people of both financially and economically ("Reaching out to ", July 19). The fund collected by Left activists under her leadership and the love and sympathy shown by the people of West Bengal in general and Kolkata in particular will be remembered for long.

A. Imran Mandya, Karnataka V.D. Savarkar

I am not an admirer of Hindutva. I agree that the Cellular Jail at Port Blair is a sacred space that should invoke in us the memory of all the revolutionaries who were incarcerated there and not that of Savarkar alone. However, this does not mean that one should vilify Savarkar to glorify other patriots, which is what Ra. Ravishankar's suppurating article "The real Savarkar" (August 2) does.

Savarkar was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment. He spent 16 years in the Cellular Jail and, if I am not mistaken, another 10 years under house arrest in Ratnagiri. He had many faults. Cowardice was not one of them. Had the British got even a hint that he had this trait, they would not have kept him under custody for 26 years. Barring perhaps Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, no other national leader spent as many years in jail as Savarkar did. Moreover, compared to the Cellular Jail, the prisons where Gandhi and Nehru spent their days were cozy retreats. Thus, if Savarkar had made certain friendly overtures to the British government, they should be analysed in the right perspective and not in the supercilious way the author does. His logic is no different from that of those who accuse communists of betraying the Quit India movement.

He derides Savarkar for making a statement during his meeting with Lord Linlinthgow that Hinduism and Great Britain would be friends. This he considers to be a volte-face. October 1939 was the second month of the Second World War and such protestations of friendship were flying around thick and fast. Nehru, for instance, wrote to the same Viceroy how much he desired "that the long conflict of India and England should be ended and that they should cooperate together". He added: "It was a pleasure to meet you for a second time, and whenever chance offers an opportunity for this again, I shall avail myself of it." Laithwaite, the Viceroy's private secretary, assured Devdas Gandhi that "nothing will alter the great mutual understanding between H.E. and your father". Had Gandhi and Nehru committed a volte-face? And how is it that accepting Dominion Status for India makes Savarkar pro-British?

We must not forget that the inter-War years were the laboratory of grand ideologies. Thus we have Subhas Bose suggesting this blend: "In spite of the antithesis between Communism and Fascism, there are certain traits common to both. Both Communism and Fascism believe in the supremacy of the state over the individual. Both denounce parliamentary democracy. Both believe in party rule. Both believe in the dictatorship of the party and in the ruthless suppression of all dissenting minorities... These common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis... It will be India's task to work out this synthesis."

Indian leaders were also confounded by the Hindu-Muslim issue. Savarkar's views on Muslims are of course indefensible. But if he has to be ostracised for this, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has to accompany him. This is what Dr. Ambedkar says about Muslims: "The dominating influence of Muslims is not democracy. The predominant interest of Muslims is Islam, their politics being essentially clerical.

"Among the tenets one that calls notice is the tenet of Islam which says that in a country which is not under Muslim rule wherever there is conflict between Muslim law and the law of the land, the former must prevail over the latter and a Muslim will be justified in obeying the Muslim law and defying the law of the land.

"The third thing that is noticeable is the adoption by the Muslims of the gangster's method in politics. The riots are a sufficient indication that gangsterism has become a settled part of their strategy in politics. They seem to be consciously and deliberately imitating the Sudeten Germans in the means employed by them against the Czechs. So long as the Muslims were the aggressors, the Hindus were passive, and in the conflict they suffered more than the Muslims did. But this is no longer true. The Hindus have learned to retaliate and no longer feel any compunction in knifing a Musalman. This spirit of retaliation bids fair to produce the ugly spectacle of gangsterism against gangsterism."

How does the author say that Savarkar supported the Holocaust? According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the definition of Holocaust is the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis in the years 1939-45. Does Ravishankar possess any evidence that Savarkar supported the Nazi butchery?

There is no doubt that Savarkar had weird ideas of the Indian polity and these ideas are to be stoutly opposed. But to oppose his ideas one need not question his patriotic credentials. Ravishankar speaks of Bhagat Singh's life. Bhagat Singh it was who brought out the third edition of Savarkar's book on 1857. And, if I am not wrong, he also went to Ratnagiri to meet Savarkar. He did not have any doubt about Savarkar's patriotism.

To summarise, the Indian freedom movement was a labyrinth of gigantic proportions. A few, like Gandhi and Nehru, came out of it bloodied and fractured, but come out they did. Many floundered and could not find the way out. Savarkar was one of them. That does not make him a stooge of the British.

P.A. Krishnan New Delhi * * *

The article made unconvincing reading. Extensive quoting from Savarkar's speeches causes more harm than good to the objective of the article; it is especially so since most of the selected speeches deviate from what Ravishankar wants to assert. Apart from Savarkar's letter to Sir Reginald Craddock (November 1913) and to some extent T.N. Chakravarthi's account, there is nothing in the article that diminishes Savarkar's stature as a great patriot. And these are demolished by the author himself when he says that "a clemency appeal per se does not make him any less of a hero".

Even the author's critique of Savarkar's support to the Nazis and the Fascists lacks in substance. Savarkar offers justifications for all his views. It would have made a better case for the author to counter those justifications, rather than those views, as criticism based merely on ideas (rather than objective facts) would always register as "unimpressive" in the minds of readers. The same goes for Savarkar's projections of a nation-state. The author would have done well to establish "why they were wrong" rather than stating that "they were wrong". But kudos to the author for a well-researched article.

Ankur Garg Patiala On the media

Prabhat Patnaik's Convocation Address to the Asian College of Journalism ("Market, morals and the media", August 2) provokes approving thoughts. In particular, Patnaik's aside on Jagdish Bhagwati's warning against casino capitalism (of the Keynesian mould) in the context of the prevailing liberalisation wave, and his alternative view on Amartya Sen's vision on the opportunities that liberalisation provides for the social development sector, compel concerted attention. Patnaik brings out that the media have what he considers the strength of 'moral capital' - a concept innovated by him although Amitai Etzioni has to his credit a book The Moral Dimension (1988) wherein he has expounded the communitarian precept and practice.

In the five decades and more of developmental thought, the relevance of physical capital, human capital, knowledge capital and social capital for development forays has engaged the sequential attention of development visionaries and practitioners. Media-related moral capital can be considered an inalienable adjunct to human capital and social capital, and is a sine qua non for the formation of socially relevant public opinion that can help trigger public action that is development-targeted. However, indices for moral capital formation are difficult to devise.

Contextually, it will be of interest to note that the World Bank's World Development Report-2002 (WDR) has an extended concluding chapter captioned 'The Media', wherein media's role is proffered as supporting marketing development and providing people with access to market opportunities as also information. Expectedly, the WDR is jejune on the role of the media - the Fourth Estate - in the formation of constructive and positive public opinion and as an important instrument for moral capital formation. It provides only a "fraudulent, economics only, vision"! Patnaik missed pointing this out although he has referred to the social sector activism of the Bank's largesse through schemes like the District Primary Education Programme, which are too meagre to be taken seriously.

K. John Mammen Thiruvananthapuram Railway zones

It is said that the salary bill, along with pension, accounts for as much as 60 per cent of the Indian Railways' total expenditure, leaving only 40 per cent of the revenue to take care of all other expenses ("Zones of contention", August 2). When the financial position is perilous, saddling the system with an enormous expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees for additional manpower and infrastructure for the proposed new zones would be an administrative blunder and an operational debacle.

In such circumstances, is it reasonable on the part of the Railway Minister, who has fallen prey to populism, to rush through the proposal, which had been rejected by persons who spent their lives toiling for the Indian Railways during its early years?

G.E.M. Manoharan Coimbatore Dhirubhai Ambani

In the demise of Dhirubhai Ambani, we have lost an eminent industrialist and a humanitarian. The obituary "The Dhirubhai legend" (August 2) highlighted his illustrious career in a comprehensive manner. Ambani was a born genius. His achievements are indeed awe-inspiring. He made Reliance a top-notch company. Ambani also put Indian industry on the world map. He will be fondly remembered as a corporate king.

Abhijeet D. More Nashik

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