Letters | Nov 27, 2006
  • Nov 27, 2006

    Thanks for bringing a set of shocking facts to light (Muslims and Sikhs Need Not Apply, Nov 13). One shudders at the thought of the kind of society we are building—one where the state itself engages in religious discrimination. I feel the Supreme Court should suo motu treat the Outlook report as a petition seeking remedy for breach of the fundamental right to equality, and act upon it.
    Jaipat S. Jain, New York

    Well-reasoned and timely article. It took nearly 60 years to appoint a Sikh general as India’s chief of army. This, when all the major battles—in 1948, ’62, ’65 and ’71—were commanded victoriously by Sikh generals. And the Sikh insurgency was maimed by a supercop from the same community. Sad that we just don’t trust our minorities.
    Ashok Aruna Ghai, Mumbai

    Your story is much ado about nothing. The percentage of minority representation in the forces will always be in line with the percentage spread of the country’s population.
    Seema Johri, on e-mail

    Not having Muslims in raw is a failure for both sides. Muslims, in any case, have seldom turned up in droves for army recruitment drives. So, why should one expect them to have a huge presence in the security forces?
    A.D.H. Kiran, Hyderabad

    Now I get why our army top brass made a hue and cry of the Sachar Committee surveying the state of Muslims in India. The bosses sought to stymie the panel’s work by claiming that the headcount would inject communalism into the forces. Their real fear, obviously, was that the poor representation of Muslims in the ranks would be exposed. As for the army’s claim of being the most secular, the infantry regiments even today are organised on the basis of religion, caste and region. The army chief, who was the most vocal against the survey, being a Sikh, would be well aware that the force has, in fact, separate regiments for high-caste Sikhs (Sikh Regiment) and Mazhabi Sikhs (Sikh Light Infantry). So much for the army’s secularism!
    N. Kunju, New Delhi

    It appears Outlook’s pseudo-secularist agenda has now shifted to sowing seeds of discontent between Hindus and Sikhs in India, having done so with Hindus and Muslims. The Sikhs constitute hardly two per cent of the population, but have nearly one-fifth representation in the army. But nowhere did you highlight this fact. Such an omission can only be deliberate.
    N.K. Sircar, Calcutta

    By the way, what about Buddhists, Jains and Parsis? Are they welcome or not?
    Sriram N., Chennai

    As if we are not fractured enough, you come out with stories that do no good to anybody, worse, only work against national interest. Even a child would be able to make out why the government, if at all, is paranoid about recruiting Sikhs and Muslims in the prime minister’s personal security staff. Why don’t we leave the area of national security to people whose job it is to manage it? You would have done well to refrain from this sort of sensationalism, aiming to generate sympathy for some sections. Isn’t it good enough that the head of the Indian state is a Muslim and the PM, the army chief and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission are all Sikhs? I think it was plain foolhardy on the part of Indira Gandhi to go against security bosses who advised her to avoid Sikh bodyguards, courting death in the process. Result: we not just lost a great leader, but allowed a cataclysmic situation to develop that put a veil of suspicion on a community that stayed for years.
    Naveen Tewari, Lucknow

    In case you forgot, the greatest of our leaders was assassinated not by a member of any minority community. It was a Hindu Brahmin who shot dead Mahatma Gandhi.
    Indira Karan, Washington

    The title of the piece, typically of Outlook, is misleading. You club Muslims and Sikhs as victims of discrimination but nowhere make a mention of non-recruitment of the turbaned community. It’s a matter of great satisfaction that our armed forces has a lot of Sikhs and Christians, from among whom the raw and IB get their personnel. While the neglect of Muslims has been going on since 1969, the story highlights only the case of Humayun Kabir’s grandson—one that happened during the nda rule! But then, the present upa government too has done precious little to improve the situation. J.N. Dixit was no different from Brajesh Mishra. Manmohan Singh too is of the same mould as A.B. Vajpayee.
    B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore

    Kabir’s grandson’s case may have been rejected because he was Muslim. That he has an impressive lineage and is Muslim should have been irrelevant. When will we learn to stop the mere circumstances of birth of a person determining his or her fate so much?
    Arun Maheshwari, Bangalore

    I get the impression that you added Sikhs to the case of Muslims in a bid to strengthen the case of the latter. The fact is that 99.99 per cent of Pakistani moles in India’s security set-up turn out to be Muslim. If the army or intelligence wings release this data, Muslims will start crying foul. Sikhs are doing fine in the army, given their population.
    Rahul, New Delhi

    When nations like Britain have an unwritten constitution, what’s the big deal about a tacit practice followed by an organisation like the raw? In my home state of Kerala, recruitment to central government jobs till the early ’80s used to take place only after a police verification on Communist links of candidates.
    K.J. John, Vadodara

  • Nov 27, 2006

    Your Brajesh Mishra quote is a good example of selective journalism. It creates the impression that the "unwritten code" was a creation of the NDA (read BJP), thereby completely ignoring the fact that the Congress was in power for most of the years after Independence. If at all this unwritten code existed, it was right under the nose of the Congress regimes.
    Prasanth N., Gurgaon

    If the government machinery is itself fostering such practices, the communal impulse in our country is well-nigh institutionalised. We stand by as more ghettoes are created. What mockery of secularism!
    Shafi I. Kazi, Mumbai

    At least there is one good reason why our intelligence agencies don’t want Muslims: it won’t be that easy for the cbi, IB and raw to set up fake encounters and frame innocent members of the minority community. It’s sad that the Congress hasn’t been able to change this trend that the rss cemented during the nda rule.
    Nasar, Raleigh, US

    Leave alone intelligence agencies, people in general are largely apprehensive while employing Muslims for any job.This is certainly not a trait that behoves a secular nation.
    Chidanand Kumar, Bangalore

    What’s the point you’re trying to drive home? How can you not know that Pakistan can armtwist any Muslim anywhere in the world, and that those in India can’t be an exception? More so, after the rise of pan-Islamism? The views of the high functionaries that you have quoted are only for the record. Thankfully, no one in the establishment, including the PM, is so naive to ignore these realities.
    Navjeevan Khosla, Panchkula

    It’s not just Sikhs and Muslims who are not welcome in raw or IB. It seems citizens from states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and MP are best avoided; they are all grossly under-represented. raw has become parochial since the days of G.C. Saxena. Even then, non-induction of Muslims and Sikhs is no big deal compared to lack of constitutional provisions with regard to SCs and STs.
    V.K. Singh, on e-mail

    One wished we learnt from Britain’s bitter experience (‘Need for Muslim officers in intelligence gathering is acute’).
    Raj, Bowlingbrook, UK

    Seems to be a Communist-planted story!
    Rajeev Mehta, Bath SPA, UK

  • Hook And The Bait
    Nov 27, 2006

    The paedophilia and prostitution in Pentakota that your article (HIV @ Rs 100, Nov 13) highlights is shameful. But it is just one half of the issue. Poverty is the equally relentless reality, the moot cause driving these kids to do what they are. Banning child prostitution or putting them behind bars cannot be a solution in entirety. A crackdown on culprits should be accompanied by simultaneous rehab for the kids, ensuring for them an education and a means of employment. But then that would be asking for too much from the Orissa government, busy as it is in selling the state to steel giants across the globe.
    Ameet Bhuvan, Bhubaneswar

  • Daddy’s Dahlings
    Nov 27, 2006

    For all the "good" deeds of his son (My Dad’s the Law, Nov 13), none but the Karnataka CM is responsible. In an ordinary Indian household, kids get punished for doing wrong. But when papa’s a politician or an influential man, the punishment is, at best, banishment to a foreign university. Of course, a few years and some ‘education’ later, some of these brats para-land as our MPs and mlas, depending on papa’s clout at the time. If at all it’s a saving grace, one at least does not hear of misdemeanours from brats-turned-political cubs, be it Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah, or Jyotiraditya Scindia. It’s the brats left to their own devices who draw parental attention to their future rather belatedly —the sons of Narayan Rane, D.P. Yadav, Venod Sharma or Chhagan Bhujbal’s nephew being some such "shining" examples. My request to the papas of these brats is: please, for our sake, induct them into your parties, arrange for their tickets and victory. At least we won’t have to hear Kumaraswamy say "boys will be boys" or Atalji reason thus: "jawani mein aisi galtiyan to ho hi jaati hain". It’ll also help save friends who’re made the fall guys for the ladlas’ sins. Isn’t it enough that we have political goons flouting the law that we have to suffer their sons as well?
    Pramod K., on e-mail

  • Fleeting Colours
    Nov 27, 2006

    The Brangelina cult duo perhaps means well in setting up a ‘rainbow family’. But as you rightly ask (Choosing My Mama, Nov 13), what’s the future for such children when most of these celeb marriages (or live-in relationships) rest on shaky ground? The answers are not very far to seek if one reads modern teenage fiction emerging from Britain today. A writer like Phil Pullman, in The Broken Bridge, touches upon this issue sensitively. Or, maybe one should turn to "daddy" Woody Allen for some solution!
    Manjira Majumdar, Calcutta

  • The Right Spin
    Nov 27, 2006

    Boycott is spot on (Ooh! Aah! ...Ouch!, Nov 13). In almost every match, it’s the quality spinners who choke the flow of runs in the middle overs and turn the tables for their sides. Had Powar, Kumble or even Murali Karthik been played in addition to Harbhajan, the tournament’s end could have been very different. Boycott is right about Suresh Raina having no skills to justify his inclusion in Team India. Deadwood like Irfan Pathan too should be chucked.
    L.K. Balasubramanian, NJ

  • Forgive Me, Professor, For Trespasses That Aren’t
    Nov 27, 2006

    As a huge admirer of Professor Habib’s work—cited frequently throughout the Last Mughal—I am profoundly flattered that India’s greatest Mughal scholar has seen fit to comment so thoughtfully and at such length on my book. I am however a little surprised that a man famous for his scrupulous use of primary sources has done so without first looking at the text in question. Had he read even the introduction, he would have found that I have not said, written or implied any of the following statements which he seems to attribute to me.

    1. That Indian historians are either ‘lazy’ or ‘lethargic’.

    2. That I am the first person to write the history of 1857 from Urdu and Persian sources.

    3. That the Mutiny Papers in the National Archives are uncatalogued.

    4. That I discovered the collection.

    5. That to use British sources is ‘a sin to be avoided’.

    6. That I compare Muslim sepoys to jehadis.

    What I have said is that I am a little surprised that a collection as astonishingly rich and as beautifully catalogued as the Mutiny Papers, and one located so centrally in the National Archives of the capital city, within sight of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, have been so little consulted. After all, the contents—some 20,000 Urdu and Persian documents—describe in fabulous detail what happened in Delhi, the destination of around 1,00,000 of the total 1,39,000 rebel sepoys. It is a collection which uniquely preserves the actions and thoughts of the courtiers, the soldiers of the different sepoy regiments, and both the elite and the ordinary people of Delhi throughout the largest upheaval to rock Hindustan in the course of the entire 19th century.

    As I acknowledge in the book, several specialist papers and a full-length biography of Zafar in Urdu have previously been written from the contents of the collection. But of the documents studied by myself and my colleague Mahmood Farooqui over four years of intensive research, fully 75 per cent had never before been requisitioned, as was clear both from the absence of any previous stamps or requisition details on the files in question (the archives list on each file the dates and names of everyone who calls them up), and from the comments of the archivists. As the staff of the archives confirmed to me this weekend, over the last two decades several scholars have found the catalogue (which was printed in 1921 and is available in libraries worldwide—my own copy was borrowed from the London Library in St James Square, so is surely also available in that of Prof Habib’s amu) and called up some of the papers, but most have given up after seeing the difficulty of the Shikasta in which the documents are written. For cracking this, I have the skills and amazing perseverance of Mahmood to thank.

    As for Professor Habib’s charge that I make an "unfortunate assumption" that the Muslim sepoys were precursors to the jehadis of today, this is also quite incorrect. The precursors of the jehadis of today were the self-described jehadis of 1857, who were quite separate from the sepoys, and who gathered in some numbers in Delhi from centres such as Tonk, Patna and Gwalior. These ordinary Muslim civilians, whose own petitions to Zafar in the Mutiny Papers describe themselves as jehadis, mujahideen and ghazis, had taken up arms to fight for their faith against the aggressive intrusions of the Christian West, whose representatives they invariably describe using religious language as kafir (infidels) and nasrani (Christians) rather than in more secular terms as angrez, firangis or goras.

    As I describe at some length in my book, during the Id of 1857, these jehadis seriously threatened the intercommunal harmony successfully maintained by both the court and the sepoys, when they announced they wished to slaughter a cow on the steps of the Jama Masjid, something Zafar eventually dissuaded them from doing.Indeed, it is the way Zafar continually fights for Hindu-Muslim unity in the face of the extremists, and his insistence on holding the jehadi spirit at bay, that forms the basis of my admiration both for him and the composite culture he represents. Moreover, it is explicit in the Mutiny Papers that many of the mujahideen took bayats to an amir, just as bin Laden’s followers do today to him; there was even a group of "suicide ghazis" from Gwalior who had vowed never to eat again and to fight until they met death "for those who have come to die have no need for food". Though I dwell on contemporary echoes only in the last two pages of the book, the parallels speak for themselves.

    I have sent Professor Habib a copy of my book, and if he ever finds the time to read it, and gets from it even a fraction of the enjoyment that I have received from his remarkable body of work, I will be more than satisfied.
    William Dalrymple, New Delhi

  • To The Editor...
    Nov 27, 2006

    Apropos the item Sealed with a Hiss in his Delhi Diary (Nov 13), I appreciate Vinod Mehta for what he is doing with Outlook without turning himself into a stuffed shirt like so many of his colleagues in Indian journalism. He will be perfectly all right as long as he doesn’t imagine himself to be the Voice of God.
    Anasuya Boppana, Tenali, AP

    Have you noticed that most of the virulent letters are from the West?
    H.M. Siddhanti, on e-mail

    Two pages of truths and semi-truths vs 78 pages of lies and semi-lies. And yet Vinod Mehta finds the gumption to gloat about it.
    Navdeep Hans, Delhi

  • Just Curious
    Nov 27, 2006

    What now, Ms Roy? Don’t Hang Saddam?
    H.N. Ananda, Bangalore

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