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Jammu and Kashmir

Published : Aug 17, 2002 00:00 IST

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T+T-

"The long haul" (Cover Story, August 16) in has had many twists and turns. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and the 'War on Terrorism' have made the global community understand India's point on cross-border terrorism. The need to end cross-border terrorism on a permanent basis was stressed during U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent visit to Delhi. The need to honour the Line of Control in as an inviolable frontier was firmly established by the Clinton administration, and President Bush has reiterated this. Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inam ul Haque says: "We have to learn to live with each other in peace, in security and in harmony." The announcement of four-phase Assembly elections in offers an opportunity to all the parties concerned to establish their credibility, and for future talks too. The prospect of general elections being held in Pakistan in October kindles hopes of talks with the different groups in Kashmir and also a dialogue with Pakistan in an attempt to find a permanent solution to the problem. Gen. Musharraf's advantage is that he can take decisions on his own. The people of India should give full support to the Prime Minister or whoever may be negotiating. And there should not be any let-down at the last moment, if there is to be a settlement.

A. Jacob Sahayam Karigiri, Tamil NaduDefaulting borrowers

The bid by bankers and their unions to brand all non-performing assets as those caused by wilful defaulters is insincere ("To pursue wilful defaulters", August 16). In fact, almost all the bigger defaults have occurred in the case of loans sanctioned at the Board level where union representatives are also nominated members. It would, therefore, be more appropriate to "come down heavily" on the officials responsible for negligent appraisal, expedient sanction and defective follow-up of such loans, rather than on the defaulters who are mostly victims of the environment and policy shifts of the government. It is not as if all these borrowers just walked into banks and helped themelves to the money, while the managers remained mere onlookers. Confiscation of properties, imprisonment, blacklisting and so on should thus be considered first against the managers and bank directors concerned.

R. Sajan Alwaye, KeralaElectoral reforms

Era Sezhiyan has rightly observed that Parliament should protect its authority and power in the realm of legislation but never use the power just to assert its authority in an arbitrary manner ("Wanted, overall reforms", August 16). Legislators have their responsibilities too. They should understand the dangerous consequences of allowing the authority to become the law. They were chosen by the people to serve the country, not to invest themselves with limitless power to wield authority over ignorant voters.

Ironically, the more India insists on electoral reforms, the more our politicians are intent on misusing and distorting electoral laws. The decision of the all-party meeting to ignore the directives of the Supreme Court and to reject the order of the E.C. shows the political leaders in their true colours.

The call for purity of elections will be reduced to lip-service or a slogan, as the author has pointed out, if the people's representatives dilute the constitutional provision that guards against criminalisation of the electoral arena. Will our sovereign democracy ever survive if voters are allowed no choice but to elect law-breakers as law-makers?

R.R. Sami Tiruvannamalai, Tamil NaduTannery pollution

"An award and despair" (August 16) highlighted the environmental degradation caused by tanneries in the districts of Vellore, Kancheepuram, Tiruchi, Erode, Dindigul and Tiruvallur.

I accompanied the president and secretary of the Vellore District Environment Pollution Control Tannery Effluent Affected Farmers Association on July 15, 2002 during their visit to affected places in Wallajapet, Ranipet, Vaniyambadi, Ambur and nearby villages. Heaps of skin, flesh and other parts of slaughtered animals along with the sludge dumped in huge pits on the banks of the Palar at Girisamudram village made a ghastly sight.

The photographs that accompanied the article speak volumes of the havoc caused by hundreds of tanneries in Vellore district. For a successful fight against tannery pollution that will lead to the reversal of the damage to ecology, all tanneries need to be closed down. Merely monitoring their functioning will not do: experience has shown that the nexus between 'monitoring agencies' and tanners has resulted in the present sorry state of affairs. The best solution, therefore, is to close the tanneries and to provide alternative jobs in eco-friendly industries to tannery workers.

P.S. Subrahmanian Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum Vellore, Tamil Nadu

The monsoon gamble

In view of the delay, or rather the absence, of monsoon rain in the northern, central and eastern parts of India this year ("Chasing the rains and relief", August 16) I am reminded of my student days in the 1950s when my Professor of Indian Economics, while discussing the role of the rains in relation to Indian agriculture, remarked that "Indian agriculture is a gamble in rains". That Indian agriculture remains so even 54 years after Independence, is a telling commentary on the failure of successive governments.

As a corrective measure, I prescribe the much-talked-about thesis of a visionary, Dr. Dastoor. He had put before the nation the concept and plan of the "Great Garland Canal". According to him, all major rivers in India can be connected with one another - from north to south and from east to west. That would have not only freed Indian agriculture from the vagaries of the monsoons but created huge opportunities for employment.

In view of the delay, or rather the absence, of monsoon rain in the northern, central and eastern parts of India this year ("Chasing the rains and relief", August 16) I am reminded of my student days in the 1950s when my Professor of Indian Economics, while discussing the role of the rains in relation to Indian agriculture, remarked that "Indian agriculture is a gamble in rains". That Indian agriculture remains so even 54 years after Independence, is a telling commentary on the failure of succesWhy cannot India emulate the example of China which has converted its "annual sorrows" into boons? One hopes that under the presidency of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam - a scientist and a visionary - the country will restructure its priorities and move in the right direction.

T.N. Tandon LucknowThe media bazaar

Prof. Prabhat Patnaik's Convocation Address to the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, "Market, Morals and the Media" (August 2) dealt with two related issues for urgent public attention: (1) the steep decline in "the power of the media as an institution" and (2) the diminution of authority of "the entire intellectual community".

Prof. Patnaik relates both of them to the rise of a new type of international finance capital that has acquired a governing role in world economy, and the collapse of the socialist alternative.

According to him, the public is confused about the contours of the basic moral concepts of "right" and "wrong" as the socialist vision of "building a society that is not based on private aggrandisement" has collapsed, leaving the nation-state clueless about its duties and responsibilities to the people or the public.

What Prof. Patnaik has failed to underline (though he cannot be unaware of it) is the crucial role of the nation-state in the contemporary process of ideological re-orientation. The nation-state in India is already reaching out in the field of education with plans to bring about a sea change there. In the field of culture too, which in India is heavily dependent on the state, creative activity is being canalised in such a way as to sideline social issues that are important to the general public.

To put it bluntly, intellectual and artistic communities have remained alienated from such larger social concerns because of direct or indirect dependence on the state. Just as the state represented the interests of classes rather than of the masses, the media too represented the same combine of classes: though at one time they accommodated the "public interest" and older notions of justice and public right and wrong, their general role had been in safeguarding the interests of such classes.

As Prof. Patnaik says, there are "honourable exceptions" both in the media and in the intellectual community. But one can hardly understand their role without recognising an ideological side to that role.

What about the role of the media as moral interlocutors on behalf of the state? If they continue to remain strong advocates of neo-liberalism and at the same time highlight issues of public morality, then the anomaly will eventually degenerate into downright hypocrisy - like deploring poverty and public distress while keeping silent on neo-liberal policies that cause them. A phenomenon that appears as massive, institutionalised hypocrisy in Manufacturing Consent, a book co-authored by Noam Chomsky.

As for fascism being a regressive tendency, there is no pure regression in history. The regression is also a distortion of whatever is human in the feudal ethos and a masked representation of monopoly capitalism.

However, we are grateful to Prof. Patnaik for speaking out on such issues.

Hiren Gohain GuwahatiThe RSS game plan

There are some factual errors in Praveen Swami's article "The RSS game plan" (August 2). The formation that has been working for the reorganisation of 's polity on a regional (not on a religious) basis is the Nationalist Front (JKNF) and not the National Democratic Front (JKNDF).

Similarly, the convener of the JKNF, Tilak Raj Sharma (not Gupta), was at no point of time president of the unit of the BJP. Again, the number of Commissioners and Secretaries to the State government from Jammu is three and not four as the RSS has suggested.

The article conveys the impression that the charge of the RSS that successive Kashmiri-dominated governments in the State have discriminated against the people of Jammu and Ladakh is not well-founded. In this context he has quoted none other than the former State Chief Secretary, Ashok Jaitley, who himself was the architect of such policies, which denied the people of the Jammu and Ladakh regions their legitimate share in the State's administrative, economic and professional institutions.

That the complaints of the people of Jammu and Ladakh, irrespective of their religious denomination and political affiliation, are well-founded can be seen from certain official documents. The study of these documents would help us determine the extent to which the people of Jammu and Ladakh have been ignored by the Valley-centric Kashmiri rulers in vital sectors such as roads and communications, power, tourism, irrigation, technical and professional education, not to mention the political neglect inspite of the fact that Jammu contributed to over 80 per cent of the revenue to the State exchequer.

It would also be desirable to study the Gajendragadkar Commission Report of 1967, the Wazir Commission Report of 1980, and the Singhal Committee Report of 1998. These reports throw sufficient light on the charges the people of Jammu and Ladakh consistently level against the State government.

Democracy demands the support of one and all to the basic political, economic and cultural needs of the people of Jammu and Ladakh. In fact, we must give them the power to legislate; we can do this only if we are prepared to honour the stark realities and trifurcate the State into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh States.

Dr. Hari Om Professor of History and Member, ICHR, New Delhi Jammu

Correspondent Praveen Swami writes:

The substantial portion of Professor Hari Om's letter deals with the proposition that the people of the regions of Jammu and Ladakh are discriminated against. The article on the trifurcation proposal accepts that they have "objective grievances" which need to be addressed.

The issue is whether trifurcation is the answer to these problems. Hari Om provides no fact-specific challenge to the rebuttal of the RSS allegations.

His second point is that the demand for trifurcation is not communal. Hari Om is entitled to his view, but leaders of the movement he supports do not seem to agree with him.

At a recent VHP-organised press conference, for example, the head of the Jammu Mukti Morcha, Virender Gupta, had this to say about the re-division demand: it "would end regional imbalance and allow Kashmiri Hindus to have a safe place for an honourable living, (and) would also allow Kashmiri Muslims to rule as per their wishes and aspirations" (The Tribune, June 25, 2002).

The factual errors are regretted, with the following caveats:

* The head of the Jammu Kashmir National Front is Tilak Raj Sharma, not Tilak Raj Gupta - the confusion in the surname was the result of a mix-up involving Virender Gupta's name. However, Sharma has both led the State VHP (The Times of India, October 7, 2000) and served as general secretary of the State BJP (The Indian Express, November 21, 2000).

* The use of the term National Democratic Front instead of the Nationalist Front was the result of confusion resulting from a briefing given to journalists in Jammu. In fact the error occurred in several newspapers.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Aug 17, 2002.)

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