Letters | May 27, 2002
  • Growing Up Was Never Like This Before
    May 27, 2002

    Your cover story Sleep and the Innocent (May 13) was both touching and troubling. Not only have we orphaned and destroyed the future of countless children but also given them enough nightmares to last a lifetime. Will they ever be able to trust their fellow citizens? Will they ever feel safe?
    Raghav Chopra, Delhi

    Your irresponsible cover story could just start a communal war! In that event, will you take it upon yourself to provide protection to all the innocent kids, strangely all from the same community, beautifully photographed in the story? How come the one positive and Hindu voice did not have a face? Do you think such articles will make for friendly communities? Does journalism mean exposing ‘everything’ without sparing a thought to repercussions?
    Mala Kumar, Bangalore

    Outlook’s cover reminded me of the short story Grief by Anton Chekhov. "To whom shall I tell my grief?" Indeed so self-absorbed have we become that our sympathies last but for the moment. Charles Colton was right when he said: "Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; anything but live for it."
    Amritbir Kaur, on e-mail

    A regular reader of Outlook, I am disturbed by the fact that you had just one child from the Hindu community and none from among the Godhra victims in your cover. Why have you not been moved enough to write about the displaced children of the Kashmiris? Everyone knows these riots are politically motivated, had they been communal, they’d have spread to other states. It’s up to you, Mr Mehta, whom you want to deceive—your readers or your conscience?
    Nina Kapasi, on e-mail

    I am a 14-year-old from Bhubaneshwar who did not realise the seriousness of the Gujarat carnage until I picked up the Outlook of May 13. I was shocked to read about the plight of children in relief camps bound by the single thread of fear. To think that these gruesome acts have been committed by the ‘preachers’ of Hindutva makes me ashamed to belong to this religion.
    Uma Balakrishnan, on email

    Being fatherless I understand how utterly irreplaceable a parent is. If our administration needs any inspiration to go after these culprits, I suggest it cut and paste these pictures in their rooms. Hopefully the innocent faces will move them as much as they did me.
    B. Parthsarathy, Chennai

    How does it help to know how exactly a pregnant woman was killed? Sure it serves to shock us, but does it help in stopping the riots?
    Neelabh Mishra, Bhopal

    Do you seriously think that compared to the Muslim families, only one Hindu family suffered or do you not consider the latter important at all?
    Praveen Narang, on e-mail

    After what has happened in Gujarat, do we still expect the Kashmiris to side with India?
    A.S. Lall, on e-mail

    What is the fault of these children who happened to be born in one community or the other to have suffered so? These acts of inhumanity would perhaps shame the devil himself.
    G. Jayan, Thiruvananthapuram

    On reading the testimonies of children about the violence in Gujarat, I, a young Indian Muslim, am deeply angered. India is a country I see as my home and it’s outrageous that I need to reiterate it all the time, be it during an Indo-Pak match or an Indo-Pak war. My sense of belonging stands to be eroded every time it’s put to question and the question imposed on me. I hate it when my Muslim identity becomes a baggage each time a political decision is to be made in this part of the world, when I have to answer, account for, justify or condemn, and now stand to lose my life for somebody else’s bloody political agenda. The fact that I’m Indian is part of everything that I am and try as they may no religious ‘brainwasher’ can take that away from me. India is my land of opportunity, the place I identify with the most and I will not let anyone use her as a weapon against me. She is as much mine as she is theirs.
    Raheema, Bangalore

    Your cover story left me with a sense of frustration and shame at being a member of the "majority community". Umpteen emotions choked my heart while going through the story. If only our leaders could react likewise. Or don’t they have any hearts at all?
    Nilakshi Handique, on e-mail

    I was so distraught reading only the first few paragraphs of your cover story that I couldn’t go on. What’s most disturbing is that these atrocities were not by chance or accident but by design which if unchecked could spread to other states. And Muslims wouldn’t be the sole sufferers in this carnage. The biggest casualty will be democracy.
    Pradeep Bhattacharya, New Delhi

    To a great extent, magazines like yours successfully manage to fuel the fires of communalism by overplaying the views of one community and being ostrich-like in the portrayal of others. Hindus are overly tolerant. Vulgar fun is routinely poked at our priests in Hindi films, but can anyone think of doing it with Prophet Mohammad or the imams? Even Mahatma Gandhi, who at the time of India’s Partition tried to bring the two communities together by reading the Quran in Hindu temples, did not have the courage to read the Bhagwad Gita in any of the mosques. So, what are you talking about?
    Amit Bhowmick, on e-mail

    It’s a pity our progeny will inherit the anguished memories of a carnage they had nothing to do with; the debris of misery and bitterness will breed in them a lure towards terrorism against a system that offered them no protection against the evils of a society gone mad, from a nation which did not have the courage to look a lie in the face and call it a lie.
    Chitra Amarnath, New Delhi

    What our leaders have done no jehad factory could do better—strengthened the resolve of young minds to avenge the unfairness they have meted out to them. Rather than providing solutions, our politicians have sowed the seeds of discontent. For this they’ll be condemned to live with Z-plus security all their life and become an even greater burden on this nation.
    V. Kameswara Rao, Hyderabad

    My only prayer to God, after reading your cover story, is that all its characters turn out to be fiction.
    D. Chakravarthy, Bangalore

  • Partners in Crime
    May 27, 2002

    Apropos Barkha Dutt’s column, The Rape of Reason (May 13), we’re all to blame. Even I, sitting at my computer far away, here in Canada, am complicit. We all, connected to each other as members of the same species, are guilty in our silence. Within our provinces, our cities, our countries and our world, each of us needs to condemn individual and collective abuses of power, to refuse its continual acceptance and to press those equally complicit, particularly those in positions of power, to prevent such abuses.
    Marque, Toronto, Canada

    That was some nice work by Barkha Dutt on the plight of Muslim women in Gujarat. Perhaps she will come of age and I will be able to read her articles on abuses of Hindu women and ethnic cleansing in j&k. Till then she should go to some art show or something to write about. We already have enough post-modern journalists to put up with!
    Baljai Srinivas, on e-mail

    We need more people like Barkha Dutt to report the truth and bring out the horrible situation of women in the times of violence. What kind of monsters do men turn into when they can’t even spare children and kill them before their mother’s eyes? And shame to the police force and the evil corruption they are steeped in.
    Brinda Banerjee, Dallas, US

    Can I ask Ms Dutt to write next about how the survivors of the Godhra massacre are coping, or about the plight of Hindu refugees from j&k or why Sajjan Kumar, H.K.L. Bhagat and Jagdish Tytler are still free and living the good life?
    Kumar Parekh, on e-mail

  • Safety in Ties
    May 27, 2002

    By targeting Sonia, the bjp and the prime minister are creating a larger-than-life image for the leader of the Opposition (Salaam Sonia, May 13). Sonia by herself is nothing; her position is because of her strategic aides, and hardworking leaders and workers. Sonia is dreaming of capturing power on the basis of one-party rule. But regional parties are here to stay. Except for MP, the Congress does not rule any big state and internal fighting in the pccs persists. Sonia, therefore, should concentrate on smart tie-ups with smaller but important parties, unity in all pccs, aggressive exposure of the nda’s misgovernance and translating anti-incumbency into pro-Congress votes.
    Mohammad Abdul Gaffar, Hyderabad

    For once your praise of Sonia Gandhi seems justified. Currently, she comes across as the leader you can believe in and Vajpayee as one who has done nothing, either by word or deed, for Gujarat.
    Meenakshi Purohit, on e-mail

    Sonia can perhaps have a go at the Centre by projecting someone else as a prime ministerial candidate and remaining the Congress president. She may be an Indian citizen but her foreign origin is used to good advantage by her adversaries. This is the reason why the Congress is able to win state elections but loses out when it comes to national politics.
    Sushil Mehra, Bangalore

  • Unfairly Accused
    May 27, 2002

    This is to draw your attention to a reference to the Prime Minister in the essay Gujarat, Democracy & Fascism by Arundhati Roy in the issue dated May 6, 2002.

    "Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping, it took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn’t very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved ‘OM’ on her forehead.

    Precisely which Hindu scripture preaches this?

    Our Prime Minister justified this as part of the retaliation by outraged Hindus against Muslim ‘terrorists’ who burned alive 58 Hindu passengers on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra..."

    The attribution to the Prime Minister in the essay is baseless, scurrilous and mischievous. It appears to be a part of the vicious campaign to malign the Prime Minister. He has not in any way justified either the specific incident described in the essay or any part of the communal violence in Gujarat. Never has he used the term "Muslim terrorists" while speaking on the Godhra incident. He has not condoned the horrific acts of retaliation that took place after the carnage in Godhra; indeed, he has condemned them as barbaric, saying, "Madness cannot be countered with madness. Fire cannot be doused by fire. Water is needed to extinguish fire. Today, a sense of brotherhood is required."
    Ashok Tandon, pmo, New Delhi

  • Clamp the Numbers
    May 27, 2002

    Why is our human development index so low (The Tyranny of Numbers, May 13)? Our population continues to grow at 2 per cent. All efforts to contain population seem to have been given a go-by. Nearly 4 million persons in Delhi are living in slums without electricity, sanitation and drinking water. One needs to visit ‘Molar Band’, 3 km away from Apollo Hospital—a slum housing 20,000—to see for oneself the inhuman conditions in which they fight for survival. Though most persons have now rated, and correctly, corruption as the major issue, we cannot hope to improve the hdi without controlling our numbers.
    Sardari Agarwal, on e-mail

  • May 27, 2002

    Prem Shankar Jha laments that British courts do not advise their citizens to first exhaust the legal remedies in their own country (Policing the Global Cops, May 13). Does he know what the fate of the directions of the nhrc and sundry other reports from other commissions has been? He must also be aware of the results of all the exertions of the Srikrishna Commission enquiring into the Bombay riots. He might also know that in Modi’s Gujarat, the police is refusing to record the names of criminals in firs? Why is it that encroachment of sovereignty is an issue only when a CM in power is threatened with action outside?
    Najmur Rahman, on e-mail

  • Nosy Neighbour
    May 27, 2002

    Apropos ‘I Anoint Me’, He Writ, May 13). Thanks to Gujarat, all national attention has been diverted and our war on terrorism has ended even before it’s begun. Meanwhile, Musharraf is entrenching himself and highlighting Gujarat to deflect attention from his woes at home. And so our people continue to be killed in Kashmir even as our leaders keep busy exploiting the volatile sentiments in Gujarat.
    Amarinder Singh, Patiala

  • Terminal Error
    May 27, 2002

    In your article Death and the Maidens (May 13), you have referred to Kalpana, who committed suicide in 1980, as a Tamil actress. She was, however, a famous Kannada actress and was not from Kollywood.
    Sharada, Bangalore

  • Shadows of Tolerance
    May 27, 2002

    Apropos Vivek Khaitan’s letter (May 13). Proponents of "tolerant Hindutva" are either ignorant or they conveniently forget the massacre and looting of Buddhist shrines by Hindu kings. Had India been secular from ancient ages, as PM Vajpayee would have us believe, Buddhism wouldn’t have been the almost defunct religion in its birthplace as it is today. "Tolerant Hindutva" became possible due to the Bhakti and the Sufi movement, whose proponents were again ridiculed and attacked by mainstream religious leaders, both Hindu and Muslim.
    Baijayanta Chakrabarti, on e-mail

    Khaitan seems hopelessly out of touch with reality. If you really wanted to protest Godhra, imagine the scenario if five lakh people had taken out a silent procession through the streets of Ahmedabad. That is strength and that would have sent the right message. That’s how people in Madrid protest when the eta indulges in savagery. I don’t see any rising Hindu consciousness in a shameless chief minister conducting genocide.
    Dinesh Kumar, on e-mail

  • Eclipsed Don
    May 27, 2002

    In the item Knight of Letters (Glitterati, May 13), you have mentioned only Satyajit Ray and Pandit Ravi Shankar as the recipients of the Chevalier Honour. How about that don of Tamil cinema, the late Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan?
    Arvind Natarajan, on e-mail

  • Where’s She...
    May 27, 2002

    Anil Thakraney’s right when he says It’s Raining Men (May 6). In her desire to assert herself, the urban Indian woman has lost her femininity, the more giving side of her womanhood.
    Georgina Castelino, on e-mail

  • May 27, 2002

    "Life is like a bird perching on a branch. It is gone when the bird flies away." Yes, Madhu, Life Goes On, Cruelly (May 13).
    Iris, Nanjing, China

  • To the Jaffri Family, An Apology
    May 27, 2002

    In a situation like the one that prevails in Gujarat, when the police are reluctant to register firs, when the administration is openly hostile to those trying to gather facts, and when the killings go on unabated—then panic, fear and rumour play a pivotal role. People who have disappeared are presumed dead, people who have been dismembered and burnt cannot be identified, and people who are distraught and traumatised are incoherent.

    So even when those of us who write try and use the most reliable sources, mistakes can happen. But in an atmosphere so charged with violence, grief and mistrust, it’s important to correct mistakes that are pointed out.

    There is a factual error in my essay Democracy: Where’s she when she’s at home? (May 6). In describing the brutal killing of Ehsan Jaffri, I have said that his daughters had been killed along with their father. It has subsequently been pointed out to me that this is not correct. Eyewitness accounts say that Ehsan Jaffri was killed along with his three brothers and two nephews. His daughters were not among the 10 women who were raped and killed in Chamanpura that day.

    I apologise to the Jaffri family for compounding their anguish. I’m truly sorry.

    My information (mis-information, as it turned out) was cross-checked from two sources. Time magazine (March 11) in an article by Meenakshi Ganguly and Anthony Spaeth; and "Gujarat Carnage 2002: A Report to the Nation" by an independent fact-finding mission which included K.S. Subrahmanyam, former igp Tripura, and S.P. Shukla, former finance secretary. I spoke to Mr Subrahmanyam about the error. He said his information at that time came from a senior police official.

    This and other genuine errors in recounting the details of the violence in Gujarat in no way alters the substance of what journalists, fact-finding missions, or writers like myself are saying.
    Arundhati Roy, New Delhi