Letters | Jan 21, 2008
  • Divine, But Only In Death
    Jan 21, 2008

    Kudos for the expeditious despatch of a supplement on Benazir Bhutto within two days of her assassination (Democracy’s Martyr, Jan 14). It’s not just the promptness that was striking, the pullout had vital details of the life and times of the slain Pakistan leader. And some of them, I must say, I haven’t come across in any other publication. Sad event, but hearty congrats.
    Balvir S. Sharma, Lucknow
    While Benazir’s assassination is shocking, it has reinforced Pakistan’s reputation as a terrorist hotspot. President Pervez Musharraf has blamed it on Islamic militants, nevertheless authorities can’t escape the fact that they failed to protect the life of one of the country’s beacons of democracy.
    S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

    It has become rather fashionable to blame terrorists for the assassination of any tall leader. In Benazir’s case, I think the prime suspects must have been her political opponents as they would be the ones who would benefit the most by derailing elections in Pakistan. Any probe on the matter, thus, must not skip a possible role of the pro-army PML(Q).
    Sandeep Ghiya, Mumbai

    The death of Benazir is unfortunate, though I feel the Indian media heaped too much praise upon her. Musharraf, for all his vices, is a lesser evil for India than Benazir. His trademark outbursts against India should be taken as grudging acknowledgement of the strength of the neighbour.
    S. Raghunatha Prabhu, Alappuzha, Kerala

    Few would dispute that Benazir was a corrupt ruler. Now we get to learn that her will names son Bilawal as the chairman of the ppp in the event of her death, and her husband Asif Ali Zardari as its co-chairman. This shows she wanted just one thing: to run the party as nothing more than a family affair. And still you call her democracy’s martyr.
    M. Salahuddin, Mumbai

    Bilawal may be callow, but he looks far more intelligent and articulate than our very own Rahul Gandhi. Sure, only Benazir’s death forced him to join politics, yet Bilawal—unlike an uninspiring Rahul—does not seem to be weighed down by his mother’s will.
    Anand Sriram, Mumbai

    Benazir is dead and her political foe Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified from contesting polls. Yet restoration of democracy would have been more convincing an affair if polls had been held as scheduled. The country’s prospects would have been far brighter had Musharraf stepped down as president. It’s high time the US and all other pro-democracy nations took interest in ensuring that Pakistan got a civil regime.
    Anusha Singh Saharan, Delhi

    Musharraf erred chiefly in believing that he was Pakistan’s Kemal Ataturk.
    Tej K. Razdan, Delhi

    Pakistan’s dilemma: life is peaceful only when its anti-India activities gain pace. Once that is on the slump, its people fight among themselves.
    Amit Kishore, Patna

    Decades of tacit patronising of extremism has claimed another victim in Pakistan. Benazir’s death must be a wake-up call for Indian leaders too.
    Salil Gewali, Shillong

    William Dalrymple’s piece was a welcome departure from the usual eulogy that follows a leader’s death (Mohtarma: A Critique). Benazir led a plush life in Dubai during her self-imposed exile that lasted eight long years; her return to Pakistan only meant the triumph of a military-mullah-politician nexus. And more than anything else, it was her lust for power that claimed her life. To call her a martyr of democracy is nothing but exaggeration.
    Ishtyaque Ansari, Bharuch

  • Growing Pains
    Jan 21, 2008

    Wonder what Congressmen see in Rahul Gandhi that others don’t (The Wonder Years, Dec 31). To be frank, this young man has been a big let-down. Neither has he any grasp of serious national issues, nor has he made a mark as a mass leader. Rajiv Gandhi, at least, had an intelligent coterie of advisors, we don’t even know who all guide his son. There’s only one way the Congress can rescue itself if its leaders still want the Nehru-Gandhi family to run the party: bring in Varun Gandhi from the opposition bjp. Intellectually, he is far superior to Rahul.
    Arun Mehra, Mumbai

    Suppose top Congress bosses led by Sonia Gandhi ask their MPs to choose their prime ministerial candidate—without fear or favour. They will still name Rahul. For, sycophancy is so rampant in this impotency-infested grand old party.
    Pravin Desai, Umarsadi, Gujarat

    Rahul will need Leftist crutches if he is to hold power at the Centre. By himself, he is no match for the likes of Narendra Modi. Only Communist members from Kerala and West Bengal can carry him on their shoulders in a coalition.
    N. Maganti, Hyderabad

    Outlook is absolutely right in its observation about the impression the young ‘maharaja’ is making on his party followers and the masses. Rahul not only comes across as a dull neta, he has often become a laughing stock. And this, after years of political tutoring.
    Nutan Thakur, Lucknow

  • Jaded Juggernaut
    Jan 21, 2008

    The shrill anti-Modi campaign has become too predictable and boring. Let the media stop it now, at least for the next five years (A Second Somnath Rath, Jan 14). It’s a shame that it sings praises when thuggish parties like the rjd win in Bihar—despite prolonged misrule—but doubts the Gujarati’s intelligence when he re-elects Narendra Modi as CM.
    Rajeev Sinha, Gurgaon

    All our faltering journalists should jump into the Arabian Sea at the first opportunity.
    Narendra M., on e-mail

    The media may have failed in its pre-poll calculations, but the Gujarat results don’t mean victory for the bjp either. Nor is it a case of Congress defeat. If anything, it’s a triumph of fundamentalism and dictatorship over peaceful coexistence.
    Deepak Joshi, Mumbai

    It is highly worrisome that the people of Gujarat have voted for the leader of a party who engineered one of the worst communal carnages in post-Independence India. If the bjp thinks ‘development’ won them the polls, they should ask the post-Godhra riot victims.
    Sandeep Ghiya, Mumbai

    One crucial point that is overlooked in the heat of the Gujarat-vs-secularism debate: it was in Gujarat that Parsis found refuge after being persecuted by Islamists in Persia. And they haven’t faced any problems there till date.
    Ruchi Mehta, on e-mail

    Overall, a good piece. So much so, it even inspired a leading national daily to replicate parts from it—and publish it in their December 31 issue under the names of two of their staffers.
    Arun Gulati, New Delhi

  • Jan 21, 2008

    Priyamvada Gopal’s riposte Deep Fried in Nani’s Desi Ghee (Dec 31) to Ramachandra Guha’s critique of NRIs was excellent. My own uncle left for the West years ago, and is now one of those who is contributing to the RBI’s foreign exchange reserves. Maybe Guha doesn’t known any NRI personally, but can’t he just reason: why does the government hold a Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas every year?
    P. Paul, Kartarpur

    I spent my childhood laughing at Indian expats and their ‘cocky’ conduct, but am now an NRI myself. That said, I agree more with Guha than with Priyamvada, though both are guilty of exaggerations.
    Nayanika Barat, Toowoomba, Australia

    Priyamvada’s piece was disappointing—she apparently thinks Guha is out to attack all progressive academics and public intellectuals produced outside India. This, when he had included the figure of the Non-Resident Political Radical (NRPR) to add to the already popularised Non-Resident Religious Radical. His point is that both groups suffer from making claims of civic engagement in India while being blissfully alienated from the effects of the actual positions they advocate. It is interesting that Priyamvada doesn’t place herself in Guha’s category of dutiful NRIs, thus giving herself away as a suspected NRPR. It is sad—her reflection has neither resulted in her freeing herself from Guha’s categorisation nor produced even a hint of the self-criticism she advocates. Result: the reader is left with a hollow, ad hominem response.
    Vivekinan Ashok, Chicago

    Priyamvada’s repartee is a splendid exercise in sarcasm. However, its effect is blunted by the barely hidden personal innuendos it bristles with. From her ivory tower, she seems unable to see beyond the outdated stereotypes of the Indian—liberals, politicians, academics, economists—that NRIs build for themselves.
    M.A.S. Rajan, Bangalore

    And this woman teaches English at Cambridge!
    B. Bhattacharya, Morrisville, US

  • Jan 21, 2008

    You are right. Big retailing outlets won’t really pose a threat to the mom-’n-pop stores in rural India (Not Quite Cornered Shops, Dec 31). In any case, kirana shops too are good at sales promotion tactics.
    K.V. Raghuraman, Wayanad

    Your cover was timely as the Indian economy warrants a debate on the pros and cons of an expanding corporate retail sector. I feel government policy on this is rudderless. Agreed, the unorganised trade sector is a powerful engine of growth. But, with a fast-growing middle class and changing consumption patterns in big cities, mega shopping chains do have a niche in India’s future.
    Dr Vitull K. Gupta, Bhatinda

    Come on...there’s nothing to romanticise about local shops that sell outdated, low-quality and often unhygienic items.
    Anand K., Santa Clara, US

    You’ve overlooked one crucial point: pricing models in India and the West differ. In many rich countries, there is no mrp—the price of the same product can vary hugely across shops.
    Naresh Ranvah, Chennai

    It’s strange that people get intimidated by malls. I feel once inside a mall, physical distinctions cease to exist—all of us share its grand ambience in equal measure. To quote an old couplet, "Bazaar mein baitha hoon, kharidar nahin hoon" (I’m sitting in the market, yet I’m not a buyer). Great leveller, isn’t it?
    Harsh Rai Puri, Bhopal

  • In the Doc
    Jan 21, 2008

    I have been following the story behind Dr Binayak Sen’s arrest—through the e-mails circulated by pucl. And now read more of it from your magazine (A Doctored Case, Dec 24). I must say that even if charges against him are true, the state has no right to treat him in this manner. Where is the equality of law?
    Sushil Prasad, on e-mail

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