Letters | Mar 03, 2003
  • Horns for the Pathless
    Mar 03, 2003

    Nehru’s brand of secularism was and remains the appropriate position for a ‘secular’ political party (To Hindutva or Not, February 17). But it needs philosophical clarity coupled with the mass mobilising appeal of socialism. The term ‘ideology’ may appear unpragmatic and outdated to the Congress today, but stop to think: what else is propping up the vhp and bjp other than cleverly articulated dogma? We’re nowhere near the end of history!
    Anuradha Kalhan, Mumbai

    What I understand from your story is that Congressmen do not understand anything, and I’m sure this will dictate their final choice—the one or two sane voices will be sidelined. The difference between old Congressmen and the new breed lies within their heads.
    Vijay, on e-mail

    Why are they so worried about the bjp’s success in Gujarat? It only shows the disarray in the Congress camp. It was their miscalculation, flawed strategy and lack of grassroots support that clinched it. When Gujarat was burning, where was the Congress? To Hindutva or not to...is not the question. It is more like ‘democracy or theocracy?’. Today, fighting polls on its own can be suicidal for the Congress, forget storming New Delhi. Without thinking in Hindutva terms or otherwise, it has to redefine its principles and tactics to achieve them. And yes, form proper alliances.
    A. Jacob Sahayam, Karagiri, TN

    So the wolf in sheep’s skin is out. Hindutva (or is it soft Hindutva) is no longer a dirty word. It’s crystal clear now that all the tall talk about the threat to minorities and Hindu fundamentalism was just that, talk. When it doesn’t fetch results, even a 100-year-old party is ready to recant. If winning is the only barometer, why indeed blame Modi?
    D.V. Madhava Rao, Chennai

    Three horns of a dilemma, that sums up the Congress predicament. The only poll ploy left for them is to offer efficient, honest administration. It did click in Punjab, maybe...
    K.V. Raghuram, Wyanad, Kerala

    Demolishing Nehruvian secularism and defacing the Congress with the ‘soft Hindutva’ tag are the twin objectives of the Sangh. The Congress has to face up to the dilemma of whether to adopt an offensive or defensive approach. But is another five-year term worth the blow to secularism? Forget Diggy raja’s digressions, Jogi’s jugglery, Gehlot’s genuflections. Learn from Shiela Dixit’s dose of plain good sense.
    Mahesh Inder Sharma, Delhi

    I’ve really no problems with Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins but her grasp of India’s diverse problems are another matter. Her stint as Congress president has done nothing to dispel my doubts. Has she set any developmental goals for her CMs? For all his faults, Vajpayee has been visionary—just take the golden quadrilateral project and the Gram Sadak Yojana. The Congress needs to dream up something big like this.
    Raag Bansal, Bhubaneshwar

    Here we go again, yet another freeloading Marxist talking about retaining his freebies (Thoughts for the Pathless). Distracting from the issue can only work so much. Talking about redistribution of wealth is typical socialist nonsense. Why should the taxpayer pay for the nonsense this guy preaches? Maybe we should rethink education funding!
    Ramana Murthy, New York, US

    If Nehru wasn’t a loser, who was? Check his ‘pro-India’ triumphs: the Partition, the mess in Kashmir (all to pamper the Sheikh), the defeat by China, Tibet’s surrender, the lopsided Indus treaty with Pakistan...
    Sanjeev, New Delhi

  • The Unreal Compels
    Mar 03, 2003

    The real issue is not Gandhi’s role or lack thereof in ending the Empire, but Niall Ferguson’s impoverished understanding of what the Empire was (Mohandas Gandhi, Who? February 17). He casually talks of the land tenure system—implying, like generations of Empire apologists, that its ‘stability’ was better than the ‘anarchy’ before it. In reality, its effects were profoundly dislocating and violent for Indian peasantry—a dramatic rise in famines, poverty and sharp drop in production testifies to it. Ferguson, despite himself, is right in saying India didn’t feel like a conquered place—because there is a difference between conquest (like Babar’s, which is intellectually easy to oppose) and the less obvious ways of colonialism. British rule worked by seeking to erase its own violence from the minds of subjects. They created a class of collaborators—called by expertise-oriented, ‘neutral’ terms like ‘civil servants’—whose interests aligned with those of the colonial state. Gandhi’s satyagraha must be understood thus—he used precisely the means that were intended to, and did, reveal a glimpse of the violence of colonialism. This does not just relate to Jalianwala Bagh etc but also to oppressive economic policy.
    Umair Ahmed Muhajir, on e- mail

    It seems the shame of 1947 has not sunk in as yet for the Brits. This is just the latest instance of history rewriting in which conservative authors justify their theories through contorted facts, estimates and presumptions. God forbid any credit going to India for its freedom!
    Varun John, Morganville, US

    Admitted Bapuji did not ‘invent’ satyagraha, but the author should have at least taken the pain to educate himself on satyagraha and ahimsa, which are as ‘old as the hills’ in the Indian psyche. For the delusioned mind, even the unreal can seem compelling. That great contemporary leaders like Suu Kyi and Mandela have resorted to non-violent struggle is proof enough of the power of passive resistance. Maybe a PhD from Oxford is not so good after all.
    Nanjundiah Giridhar, Louisiana, US

  • Illegal Ire
    Mar 03, 2003

    To call L.K. Advani’s efforts at identifying all the illegal Bangladeshi migrants overstaying in India an "absurdity" (Birds on Wires, Feb 17) exposes your bias. You recognise the problem, yet refuse to support the government’s efforts. The real villains of the piece are all the previous governments at the Centre (Congress or Congress-supported) who turned a blind eye to the issue since acting upon it would have eroded their votebanks. I fully share Advani’s frustrations: he has to face flak from the Marxists, the Congress and you, its official publication.
    Vikram Singh Chauhan, Jabalpur, MP

  • Say Cheese and Bye
    Mar 03, 2003

    The bad blood between siblings Amul and nddb (...The Cheese Off, Feb 17) over their mutual cannibalising is only to be expected in this day and age. True, with the changing times, one must revise and revitalise one’s policies. But, in the mad race to imbibe corporate culture, is the ideology of the cooperative movement itself at risk?
    Jinu Mathew, on e-mail

    Kurien’s achievements are spectacular and he can justifiably claim to have fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. But it’s time to bow to the inevitable, come to terms with the utter futility of attempting to stop the mnc behemoths in their tracks. To paraphrase Harold Macmillan, the winds of change have built up, awesome in their power, relentless in their sheer sweep.
    Ranjith Thomas, Bangalore

  • Blunt Needles
    Mar 03, 2003

    Khushwant Singh’s criticism of Aroup Chatterjee’s book is too harsh—a minor error about an interview date doesn’t invalidate all his claims (The Mother Complex, Feb 17). Mother Teresa has been castigated by many for the facilities in the homes run by her order. In ’94, Lancet editor Robert Fox wrote that he was shocked to find that TB patients were not isolated and that syringes were washed in luke-warm water before being used again. Susan Shields, once a member of her order, wrote in the Free Enquirer that frugality in day-to-day operations was taken to such levels that the "sisters used needles until they became blunt. Some volunteers offered to procure new needles but the sisters refused".
    B.K. Bhattacharya, Morrisville, US

    Singh writes biting English but he’s not bothered whether it’s devoid of logic. He can’t find a single factual error, so he goes for personal attacks. The book is critical of the Mother and is thus naturally galling to her sympathisers, including Singh. But that does not mean others have to surrender critical acumen for pious sentiment. My sincere advice to Singh is to stick to his forte (writing about lust, promiscuity etc) instead of dabbling in serious subjects.
    Arvind Singh, Mumbai

  • The Full Treatment
    Mar 03, 2003

    Apropos your February 3 cover story ‘Can you trust your doctor?’, I do not intend to offer an apology on behalf of doctors—only to set the record straighter than you have. Healthcare isn’t the responsibility of doctors alone: it also devolves upon ministers, bureaucrats, pharmacists, even patients. The government is to blame too. For instance, drugs are taxed twice—once when the raw materials are procured by the pharma industry, and later in the form of sales tax. Which raises the cost of health for the poor. Our medical professionals too are lagging in the sense that the science is constantly updating itself. The only way to keep pace with this explosion of information is to have access to the latest concepts and techniques via foreign journals. For a doctor in India, this too is a far cry.
    Dr Samrat Chatterjee, Guwahati

  • The Buck from Under
    Mar 03, 2003

    Anita Pratap is correct about the correlation between corruption and development (The Siphon on Top, Feb 17). But in India, there’s also a tacit acceptance that corruption is a way of life. Take the late Phoolan Devi (ex-dacoit, MP and the liberal media’s poster girl) who left behind crores. There have been reports on the infighting within her family on who inherits the wealth but nobody (including Outlook) sought to question the source of the wealth. In a society where there is no moral outrage against corruption, there can hardly be any development.
    Ashuthosh Tripathi, Tokyo

  • The Sky is Falling Overhead
    Mar 03, 2003

    Khushwant Singh, in his review of my book (Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict), accuses me of getting the year of his interview with her wrong. It’s a minor detail with little material bearing on my argument, the point of which was that despite all her posturing about hating publicity, the Mother fully cooperated with a reporter over a period of days for a feature in the NYT. Singh does not refute that she did.

    My source, Singh’s Book of Unforgettable Women, mentions nothing about The Illustrated Weekly. He says he interviewed the nun c. 1959 ("almost 20 years earlier" than her Nobel); however in his feature he describes the funeral procession of CPI(M) leader Muzaffer Ahmed who died in December 1973. Shall we now presume that all that about party cadre dashing out of the funeral procession to touch her feet was careful prevarication?

    And if indeed the NYT was doing an article on Teresa c. 1959, it proves how far-reaching her international clout was even though she was unknown in Catholic circles.

    I have nothing against Malcolm Muggeridge’s serial philandering, for that was a matter between him and his wife. I can’t however condone his using his influence to stop others from using contraception, a common trait among the Mother’s western followers. Muggeridge’s bigotry and anti-Semitism is quite wellknown in the West, so I don’t know why Singh accuses me of hitting "below the belt".

    Singh’s punchline against me—the bit about spit on my face—he has used before. I shall tell him something I’ve also used before, ‘Truth hurts’.
    Dr Aroup Chatterjee, London, UK

  • A Teeny Bit Tight
    Mar 03, 2003

    Sexy at seven (Li’l Tweenie, Feb 17), what next? Did Maiytrè’s mum ever figure that the poor kid might get people in a fit because she looks so ridiculous in the awful get-up?
    Sarah Nathan, on e-mail

  • A Non-Issue
    Mar 03, 2003

    I went through your World Cup special (Feb 10) in three minutes flat. Any plans to diversify into the popcorn industry?
    Mathew Joseph, Kollam

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