The naxal challenge

Published : Nov 04, 2005 00:00 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was right in saying that the focus should be on the socio-economic development of the naxalite-affected regions (Cover Story, October 21).

The naxalite groups, which are operating from over 12 States, draw their support from the local people. They make the people believe that they are fighting for them and make the region a den of their wrongful activities against the state.

Satish SinghMumbai

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With the Maoist threat in Nepal and the extremists having regrouped under a single organisation, the naxalite challenge is grave.

Moreover, their area of operation has spread to several States and they have acquired sophisticated arms and training. The country cannot afford to be complacent.

A. Jacob SahayamThiruvananthapuram

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Congratulations to the Frontline team for dealing with the naxalite movement in depth. Every possible angle has a place in the Cover Story.

Dushyant SinghNew Delhi

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The violence perpetrated by the naxalites against the government apparatus has thrust upon it an urgent need to work out an improved strategy against the rebels.

Anti-poverty schemes and economic development alone are not sufficient enough to marginalise the naxalites. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned, there should be no compromise with terror.

R.R. SamiTiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu


The mandarins in the Ministry of External Affairs must read and digest Aijaz Ahmed's essay "Iran - Imperialism's Second Strike" (October 21). However, they may not do so as the political imperialism of the Congress, which subjugates its disunited alliance partners, makes all the difference in the decision-making process.

A.S. Rajreceived on e-mail

Water privatisation

The ongoing struggle against the exploitation of water resources in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu is a continuation of the many other struggles against globalisation ("Bottling Tamaraparani", October 21). It is heartening to note that a trade union, the All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), has taken the initiative in taking up an issue of great concern to the people.

HariVirudhunagar, Tamil Nadu

Andaman islands

It was good to see a photo-feature on one of the remotest parts of the country ("Picking up the threads", October 21). The story was well-written and the pictures were good too.

Sparsh Sinhareceived on e-mail

Hurricane Katrina

The Cover Story feature "America's Shame" made absorbing reading (October 7). The fact is that a good part of the U.S. middle class has, since the invasion of Iraq and the farce surrounding George W. Bush's return to office, entered into a period of honest introspection. They are, for the first time, less sure of their moral credentials and less smug about "the American way of life". This augurs well for the world. The persistent efforts of people such as Noam Chomsky and, more recently, of Michael Moore and others are paying off.

Ganesh KhardikarMumbai

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Turning down the offer of help from Cuba and Germany in the disaster management in New Orleans shows that George Bush has scant interest in the rehabilitation of the affected people. It also reveals his racist attitude towards the region dominated by black people.

Senthil Kumar VedaiyanThanjavur, Tamil Nadu

A.S. Paintal

The tribute sought to highlight the noble principles that guided the efforts of Dr. Paintal in the pursuit of his life-long medical research ("Remembering A.S. Paintal, October 7). Symbolising the Bagvad Gita's "Karma Yogi", he gave his best, unmindful of the response of the scientific community; worked for self-reliance through research that is India-centric and is based on social and ethical values. Following Vivekananda's teachings he was all for welding science with spirituality in all its noble sense.

Ram Krishna TrivediFormer Chief Election CommissionerReceived on e-mail

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I enjoyed reading the article. The writer has given a spirited picture of a top scientist who spoke his mind. I personally admired Paintal so much that I looked up to him as a role model. I even nominated him for the India Science Prize knowing full well that there were other "natural" claimants. For his work, A.S. Paintal truly deserved the Nobel Prize.

M.K. ChandrashekaranJawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research,Bangalore

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It was a fitting tribute to Prof. Paintal. Prof. Paintal would prefer to be remembered for his dedication to Indian science by the Indian people as has been done in Frontline.

Daya Ram VarmaProfessor of Pharmacology,McGill University,Montreal, Canada

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As an aspiring physicist with a "think globally, act locally" worldview, I found the article inspiring. As Prof. Paintal has pointed out, it is important for a scientist to be "first international in his approach to science, but nationally inclined". His endeavours with the Society for Scientific Values are supremely relevant today, with corporations and vested interests sponsoring "research" which attempts to underplay the threat posed to life on earth by environmental ruination.

Rohit ChhiberJaipur, Rajasthan

Science and society

Meera Nanda has done a wonderful job by exposing the current state of Indian science ("Is India a science superpower?", September 23). Her article gave a comprehensive view of what drives the mind of many Indian scientists. India needs free thinkers and a spirit of genuine research.

Gunjan JamindarIndore, Madhya Pradesh

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The author excoriates the Indian scientific community for implicitly supporting, if not actively promoting, obscurantism. This is fair enough. But she should have acknowledged that religiosity, accompanied by obscurantism to a large extent, thrives in the West also.

While delivering his Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship lecture in Cambridge in June, Oxford University Prof. Richard Dawkins encountered rigorous opposition to his atheistic views, grounded in neo-Darwinism, from Prof. Paul Davies, a physicist and science populariser, biologist Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge and physicist John Barrow.

There are philosophers too on the side of obscurantism. A `materialist' philosopher, even without subscribing to the `dualist' view of soul as distinct from the body, believes in the resurrection of Christ.

The late Prof. Stephen Jay Gould, whom the author has cited, proposed the concept of NOMA - Non-Overlapping Magisteria of science and morals, the latter implicitly offered to religion - to brush the debate under the carpet.

Recently, a forum of scientists, convinced of failure in their efforts to oppose "intelligent design", declined to participate in a meeting to fix school curriculum in science in the U.S. State of Kansas.

How do all of us progress? This is the question and to answer it the first step must be to understand the origins of obscurantism and devise a way to shake its foundations. Dr. Meera Nanda's article exhorts us in this direction.

By the way, the Templeton Foundation, in which the author holds the post of a research fellow, is dedicated to finding common grounds between science and religion.

Raghuram EkambaramNew Delhi

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I would like to remind the author that it was the "bunch of superstitious scientists" who developed indigenous space, nuclear and medical technologies for the country. It is just a matter of personal belief and if our scientists get inspiration and motivation from any supernatural power (whether it exists or not), what is the harm?

Gaurav KathuriaThanjavur, Tamil Nadu

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The issues raised in Meera Nanda's article are important as they highlight the malaise in Indian society and the double standards of the science and technology community in the country. In this regard, one should consider the following points: Is trust in the ability of science and technology to solve even the very common problems not waning? Despite great strides in the field, its contributions to peace and coexistence are still doubtful.

Do the science and technology community in India enjoy intellectual freedom, which is a must to be temperamentally scientific in outlook? Our intellectual bondage forces us to live with contradictions of horrifying proportions. The notion of mastery over nature has nurtured, to a great extent, the development of science and technology in the West.

To eliminate double standards, is it not necessary to change this notion first? The question of child marriage in India does not pertain to the field of science and technology. It may be related to a similar inhuman and illegal practice in the United Kingdom where nearly 20,000 children below the age of 13 get an abortion every year. It is essential to get rid of unscientific attitude of Indians if the country aspires to be a science superpower.

Manoj TyagiAllahabad, Uttar Pradesh

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It is not entirely correct to say that Indian scientists do not speak out against superstition and irrational thinking among Indians. Prof. H. Narasimhaiah, former Vice-Chancellor of the Bangalore University, was outspoken in his opposition to irrational, superstitious thinking. He was a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and had repeatedly challenged godmen's "miracles". He was also a president of the Indian Rationalist Association.

Prof. C.V. Raman was another eminent scientist who did not believe in superstitions and rituals. Several scientists came out strong some years ago when idols of Ganesha were believed to be "drinking milk".

Gopi RajagopalBangalore

Corrections:1. In the first part of the Essay by Aijaz Ahmad it was erroneously mentioned that the Shah of Iran had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ("Iran: Imperialism's second strike", October 21). The fact is that Iran did sign the Nuclear Non-Prolilferation Treaty in 1970 and then signed the Additional Protocol in 2003.

2. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammad ElBaradei was elected to a third term in June 2005 and the term itself commenced at the end of September, soon after the Vienna vote, and not as mentioned in the Essay.

3. The portion in italics in the following paragraph (page 28-29) was inadvertently missed out in the printed version. The paragraph should be read as follows:

India's own conduct in this whole affair has been at best paradoxical. India did not sign the NPT on the grounds that the treaty itself is discriminatory, thus avoided international inspections and, under the BJP government, proceeded in a clandestine manner to become a "nuclear power", that is, to test and presumably manufacture nuclear weapons. The other two countries which have done the same are Israel and Pakistan - not a very nice company to keep. Against this backdrop, the Prime Minister himself urged his Iranian counterpart in a telephonic conversation, well before the recent vote in Vienna, that Iran "cooperate" in fulfilling the demands now being made. In other words, India has insisted on a "transparency" in Iran's conduct on the nuclear issue which India itself never offered or observed; India has urged Iran to abide by a treaty that it itself finds discriminatory; and it has urged Iran to meet demands that go far, far beyond the terms of the treaty and are, in the Iranian representative's precise word, "extra-legal". In short, the Prime Minister required Iran to abide by the coercive demands made unilaterally by the E.U.-3, fronting for the United States, which had not been agreed upon by Iran and which have no basis in international law. Having tendered that advice at the highest level of government, India logically proceeded to break ranks with the NAM countries and voted in favour of a resolution pushed through by the E.U.-3 under U.S. guidance.

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