Jayalalitha's tactics

Print edition : May 23, 1998

Dancing to the political tunes of 'Amma' Jayalalitha, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has indubitably lost his effervescent smile. It is high time that Vajpayee disregarded her offensive and got on with governance (Cover Story, May 22).

K. Chidanand Kumar Bangalore

The lady from Chennai is rocking the boat too hard. If she continues like this, the boat may sink and the lady will also surely sink with the boat. She should know this or someone ought to tell her this, and a few things more.

I suggest that a national opinion poll be conducted by the media to find out what the people think of Jayalalitha's tactics.

N. Krishnankutty Nair Thiruvananthapuram Meddling with high offices

The ease with which ruling parties repeatedly assault the spirit of the Constitution is surprising ("Gubernatorial purge", May 8). The office of the Governor has a dignity of its own and is therefore supposed to be above petty party politics. Nowadays this august institution is at the mercy of the political bosses who use it to exercise their influence over the States.

It is sad to see that all political parties forget their high ideals once they get power. The Congress has done it for years, now it is the BJP's turn. Such actions expose the hollowness of the BJP's idealistic stand. It is a shame that such high offices are handled so whimsically.

Raghvendra Rao Shimla Fundamentalism

This refers to "Assault on art" (May 22). Prabhakar Sanzgiri's statement that the incident involving Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was aimed at whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments by the Hindutva forces seems to take into account only one aspect of this sordid episode. This incident also reveals an attempt to carry the tragedy of 1947 to the point of partitioning the rich cultural heritage of the people of this sub-continent in an irrevocable manner. The votaries of the "civilisational clash" in Indian history among our intellectuals (Anupum Kher being one of them) appear to have taken a benign view of this latest hooliganism of the Hindutva extremists. They apparently share with their Pakistani counterparts, the protagonists of the Two Nations Theory, an instinctive dislike for all that reminds them of the composite nature of the Indian culture before Partition.

Like the hoodlums in Mumbai, Islamic fundamentalists of different hues in Pakistan also target the practitioners of performing arts for their not being in tune with the culture of the religious and racial hatred propagated by them. Musicians like Ghulam Ali may not admit it publicly, but it is well-known that the Pakistani artists come to India so often as they find the cultural scene in their own country stifling for their art. The public humiliation of Ghulam Ali by Hindutva extremists carries a clear message. The performing artists who are harassed by Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan should no longer look to India as a safe retreat; India is now dominated by identical forces.

Iqtidar Alam Khan Aligarh Insightful

As a visitor to India, I have greatly enjoyed reading Frontline. It has given me, I hope, further insights into the India of 1998. Your international coverage is also extremely impressive. I consider the article on the Northern Ireland peace agreement (May 8) to be one of the most incisive and interesting I have read on the subject.

I am perhaps naive in discerning your political bias but your editorial integrity seems to put journals such as The Economist and certainly the Newsweeks of this world in the shade. It is somewhat depressing to read such detailed analyses of the many problems India faces but one cannot help but hope that the existence of a fair and critical press will continue to be a positive force.

Hillary Box London Wrong methods

This is with reference to "Troubling tactics" (May 8). The police in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere in the country assume that all law and order problems can be solved by force. The administration generally accepts the police version and brands the problems as "politically motivated". This happens irrespective of the party in power. The Opposition also readily accepts the official version.

Politicians and the police ignore the root causes of crime and law and order problems. No honest effort has been made to wean criminals away from their methods or naxalites from the path of violence. Nothing has been done to persuade the followers of naxalism to join the mainstream. Little protection is given to honest and hardworking citizens. Deterrent punishment and a tough attitude towards culprits involved in any offence is necessary. At the same time, the repetition of such acts can be stopped through socio-economic and cultural methods too.

Naxalism is primarily a socio-economic problem. Police custody is not the right way in which naxalite youth can be taught the correct approach. Correctional measures and methods can be adopted in schools and factories.

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool Aryans and Harappans

R.S. Sharma exhibited excellent scholarship in the article "The Indus and the Sarasvati" (May 8). There have been constant efforts by some historians to prove the Indian origin of Aryans. This is not surprising because before the discovery of the Harappan civilisation, upper-caste Hindus always declared their cultural tradition to be superior to that of any other culture. They considered the Vedas to be the storehouse of knowledge. According to them, the coming of Muslims corrupted their rich culture. But the discovery of the Harappan civilisation and subsequent research by Western scholars into the foreign origin of Aryans came as a rude shock to upper-caste Hindus. They still cannot digest the fact that Aryans were foreigners, an illiterate, pastoral people who fought for cows, sacrificed cows on numerous occasions and considered the meat of cows a delicacy. Despite all evidence pointing against the Aryan authorship of the Harappan culture, why are some people hell-bent on "proving" it?

R.S. Sharma has written: "In several ancient societies the victorious were culturally conquered by the vanquished, but the Aryan immigrants seem to have been strong and numerous enough to open a new chapter in the history of Indian culture." The Aryans who came to India were inferior to the Harappan people in all cultural aspects except that they were better fighters and had better arms. They uprooted the Harappan culture by destroying the urban centres of the peace-loving Harappans. Although some of the features of Harappan culture, such as phallus worship, which was strongly disliked by Aryans, have been assimilated into Hindu culture, the examples are few. Aryans hijacked the educational system and made Harappan writing to go into extinction. Education was confined to upper-caste Hindus, particularly Brahmins. This phenomenon continued up to recent times. The fundamentalists among them cannot tolerate and accept any truth, which is not convenient to them. Scholars such as R.S. Sharma are not only impartial but bravely counter the efforts of certain historians to spread falsehood.

Pramod Kumar Lucknow EMS

I am a regular reader of Frontline and go through the scholarly output of the various columnists. But my favourite columnist, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, is no more. His vast knowledge was truly remarkable. With the death of EMS, we have lost a socio-political thinker and philosopher. I request your publication to bring out an anthology of his columns published in Frontline as a tribute to the revolutionary intellectual.

Anwar Hussain Guwahati Blaming the police

Apropos "Human bombs and human error" (May 22), the White Paper presented by the Tamil Nadu Government faults a section of the police for dereliction of duty. This is true to some extent. Lapses in tackling Islamic fundamentalism firmly and promptly have proved costly. But there is another side to the coin. When some policemen tried to do their duty impartially in Coimbatore, they were transferred. Political interference in police affairs was evident in Coimbatore before the Lok Sabha elections.

L. Sitalakshmi Tiruppattur IIT, Kharagpur

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, was set up soon after India became independent. The history of the institute epitomises the new directions of engineering education shaped by free India. Jawaharlal Nehru, in his first convocation address in 1956, appropriately articulated a vision for the institute as one "representing India's urges, India's future in the making."

The institute is approaching its golden jubilee, closely following in the footsteps of the nation which celebrated its 50th year of Independence last year. It is proposed to celebrate the golden jubilee year in a fitting manner from August 18, 2001. It is most appropriate that the nearly 30,000 alumni of the institute are involved in the celebrations to be held in different parts of the country and abroad, where they are present in reasonable strength. We want, therefore, to keep our alumni informed of the proposed programmes and also seek their cooperation in making the celebrations a success. We need to have, in this context, an updated address list of our alumni. May I, in my capacity as organising secretary of the golden jubilee celebrations of the institute, request our alumni to let me have their latest contact address.

Prof. R. Bhaskaran Training & Placement Section, IIT, Kharagpur

Depletion of forests

"The vanishing forests" (May 8) makes interesting but sad reading. The trend of forest cover declining all over the country, barring a few States, from year to year is alarming. Neither the State governments nor the Centre display a sense of urgency to tackle this problem, which can have far-reaching consequences. Factors identified as causing forest degradation are population growth, incursion by the local population, mining and wood-based industries.

It takes only a few hours to cut down a mature tree but it takes nature decades to make it grow. The use of minor forest produce in rural areas has gone on for centuries so this cannot be seen as the main reason for the depletion of forest cover. Local residents have a vested interest in preserving their forests. The conflict between conservation and development has not been satisfactorily resolved. For instance, mining for minerals cannot be stopped but at the same time measures must be taken to restore degraded areas. This is done in some countries and India can learn from their conservation measures. Contracting for timber by private contractors must be banned as these people have no interest in conserving forests. They, therefore, leave a trail of destruction that takes years to repair. The Forest Department itself must supervise timber harvesting of mature trees; it must also take steps to plant trees in lieu of trees cut. The pressure on wood for domestic energy needs, especially in villages, can be reduced by the use of biogas, solar energy, improved choolhas and wind energy.

D.B.N.Murthy Bangalore Black hole

George Johnson in his article "Black holes and information" (May 8) credits Giddings with the following statement: "Suppose the earth falls into a black hole. If it is a big hole, to the best of our knowledge, we won't really notice it for a long time and we can live long and productive lives."

The chief feature of a black hole is its intense gravitational field of attraction, which traps all radiation within a certain distance called its horizon. All radiation (by which term we include visible light as well) that enters the horizon will be trapped inside and no radiation can get out. Since no radiation can escape, the black hole cannot be seen and so it is black to all outside the horizon.

Let us say that one falls headlong into a black hole with the head first. We note that apart from the well-known feature of increasing force in a gravity field with decreasing distance, there is another significant feature, not well-known but easily derivable, which is that the rate of change of force with distance is proportional to the gravitational force itself. This means that the rate of change is extremely high in the vicinity of a black hole where gravity is extraordinarily high. This very high rate of change of force will result in more force on the head as compared to the legs. Consequently, the body will be stretched and ultimately torn to pieces. In fact, anybody approaching a black hole will be torn and pulverised into smaller particles and ultimately into electrons, protons and neutrons. And when charged particles accelerate, they will give out radiation, which can be seen when they are outside the black hole horizon. As they enter the horizon and proceed inwards, the radiation will continue to emanate from the particles but cannot be seen as all radiation is totally trapped by intense gravity.

That we will live long and productive lives as we fall into a black hole appears to be wishful thinking on the part of Giddings. That we will be pulverised into a flaming stream of particles seems more of a certainty.

S. Lakshminarayanan Air Vice-Marshal (Retd) Chennai

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