Condemnable though the inclusion of chargesheeted ministers is (The Law vs The Legislator, Jun 21), it would be nice if the media occasionally took note that the crimes of L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi and other Hindutva leaders led to the death of thousands. Narendra Modi is widely believed to be guilty of actions that constitute crimes against humanity, like those of Slobodan Milosevic. Compared to such crimes, corruption scandals and even attempt to murder charges pale. Is the English media’s obsession with Laloo a product of the fact that Hindutva’s victims are mostly poor Muslims, or is it just plain elitism?
S.G. Krishnan, on e-mail
How is it that the "criminalisation of politics" is a hot subject of discussion, but no one’s even talking of ‘defeated’ politicians occupying important posts in the cabinet? When will our politicians learn to respect the people’s verdict?
Sheela Nair, New Delhi
It’s futile to raise the issue of tainted ministers in government once the citizens have given their mandate. People should exercise their franchise responsibly and ensure such personalities don’t come to power in the first place. Else they should be ready to bear the brunt of their own actions.
Rajat Agrawal, Delhi
All we Indians want is a clean government and there can be no justification for bringing tainted people into the government.
Rupam Verma, Bangalore
By blessing criminal MPs with ministerships, the Congress is creating Narakasuras who will not hesitate to destroy their own makers one of these days.
K.S. Iyer, Mumbai
Since Independence, India has been ruled by the Congress most of the time. If at all anyone is to be blamed for the criminalisation of politics, it’s the Congress itself.
Sunil N. Rangaiah, Nanjangud
If power be the sole end of politics, politicians cannot be expected to colour it white. It is a uniquely Indian political phenomenon that her people still choose political leaders with conspicuous criminal records. But this poses no surprise given the fact that once elected, even those with seemingly clean slates turn disproportionately affluent overnight by means no less foul. The continuance of this diabolic trend would in the long run earn nothing for India but the evil epithet of a democracy of the criminals, by the criminals and for the criminals.
Mrinmoy Prasad Goswami, Assam
Going by the trend, we may perhaps see the day when the tally of 100 crosses the figure of 272, Laloo becomes PM, appoints Ram Vilas Paswan as the deputy PM and calls for Veerappan, the cleanest of criminals who has not even been chargesheeted, to take over as home minister.The first constitutional amendment by this government makes criminal credentials a compulsory qualification for contesting any election to Parliament and the state assemblies with 51 per cent seats reserved for undertrials and those convicted in lower courts but having appeals pending in higher courts. And then conforming to the commitment of these rulers for women’s empowerment, Rabri Devi is elected President of the Indian Republic!
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Guilt and crime are not objective. They change from time to time and people to people. If the majority in a constituency choose a criminal, their verdict has to be accepted. His crime ceases to be crime, when so chosen. No critic can sit in judgement over the people’s verdict in such a situation. And why fault only the Laloos? Is Sonia herself not an accused in the Bofors case?
R. Sajan, Kochi
The issue of criminal MPs with cabinet status requires courts to speed up cases against the tainted ministers. It would do Prime Minister Manmohan Singh infinite good to follow the dictates of his conscience rather than fall another prisoner to the compulsions of politics.
R.R. Sami, Tiruvannamalai
What moral right does any political party have to raise the issue of tainted ministers in government? Are not all political parties, barring the Left, guilty of giving tickets to tainted ministers and history-sheeters? And how is it that these tainted people win the elections with such a thumping majority? It’s because 60 per cent of the eligible voters do not exercise their franchise. They are the ones who don’t perform their duty and they cannot turn around to right the wrong.
Abdul Monim, on e-mail
Laloo, Mulayam and Mayawati seemed to have been competing with each other to provide the maximum number of criminals to the Lok Sabha. The rjd might be feeling even prouder for having provided some criminals as Union ministers!
A. Srikantaiah, Bangalore
Everyone knows that many of the criminal MPs have been elected because of the fear they have created within their own electorate. If they hadn’t got the votes, the consequences would have been unimaginable and unbearable for many in their constituency. Is this the democracy the Mahatma fought for?
I.R. Sharma, New Delhi
No amount of legislation can stop a criminal person from getting elected if this what the people want. Any legislation based on chargesheet filing is open to manipulation and will not help. Ultimately, it is the quality of the awareness of people and the quality of the institutions (like the judiciary) which make a democracy successful. These qualities alone can ensure that the sanctity of that other great institution, Parliament, is maintained.
Vivek Gupta, Atlanta, US
Prem Shankar Jha is right on the issue of tainted ministers being The First Cardinal Sin of the new government. A second sin is Sonia’s access to files. If things continue like this, upa could very well begin to stand for the UnPrincipled Alliance.
Ananda Padmanabhan, Chennai
Prem Shankar Jha is a master at chewing his own words. When the nda was trying to impose President’s rule in Bihar because of its lawlessness, writers like him opposed it vehemently. Now he is shedding crocodile tears for lawlessness in Bihar. If politicians like Laloo are guilty of breaking the law, then ‘intellectuals’ like Jha too are guilty of double standards.
Sachin Dixit, Mumbai
So, the Non-Democratic Alliance (NDA) goes out to usher in the Ulta Pulta Alliance (UPA), now to see whether its Callous Monetary Programme (CMP) works.
A.K. Chakraborty, Bongaigaon, Assam
Modi’s exit would be welcome. After making his intentions on Modi clear after "Gujarat", Vajpayee retreated to "fight another day" (A Family Gone Astray, Jun 28)—he has bided his time till circumstances have become "favourable", with the anti-Modi dissidence reaching a crescendo. However, Vajpayee should know that a statesman’s gestures look grand when based on principles, not politics. If he does become PM again, he’d do well to be more "first" than "among equals". In a country where the "intelligentsia" mistakes second-rate dramas for acts of "renunciation", that’s a sure way to stay popular.
Arun Chillara, on e-mail
The Imam Ali shrine is revered by the Shias (Awadh at War, Jun 21) and any attack on any religious symbol anywhere in the world deserves condemnation. I also share the hurt being felt by the Shia community but do not agree with the steps taken to show their anger. Protest by all means, but don’t be ridiculous. Banning American and British tourists from Lucknow’s monuments is unlikely to serve any purpose except tempting more and more people to believe what they actually read about Islam. Before prohibiting Americans and Britishers, they have to realise that some of the biggest anti-war demonstrations have been held in the US and the UK. It was the American media again which brought out the truth of Abu Ghraib. Not all Americans and British are evil or support their government’s policies.
Mohib Uddin Ahmad, Incheon, S. Korea
So, the entire Muslim community condemns the defiling of Shia monuments in Iraq? But wasn’t it Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, who basically prohibited the Shias in Iraq from celebrating their religious festivals and went for a 10-year war with them? Aren’t Shias and Sunnis hurling bombs at each other in Karachi? In Sudan alone, some 3,20,000 native black Muslims have been killed by Arab Muslims. How come there’s been no protest against Sudan? Only because America makes more news?
Vikas Chowdhury, Madison, US
Your article Skill on Skid Row (Jun 21) says that no businessman you spoke to "was pro-reservation on a caste basis. Most were anti any sort of reservations, while some felt if it has to be there, it should be on economic and not caste basis." Really? If your worry is about ‘merit’, reservations on an economic basis are as bad as reservations on a caste basis. So, why the distinction? Could it perhaps have something to do with the fact that these ‘businessmen’ are actually terrified of the prospect of lower-caste individuals gaining advantages (whereas this vague ‘economic’ criterion could allow traditional caste prejudices to continue)? This whole debate is so pro-upper caste, pro-rich that it stinks, and it would be nice if someone among these "business leaders" would acknowledge that India is still a country divided by racism and casteism, where Dalits still can’t get to their water or their land, and lower castes are still denied equal rights.
Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Chennai
The Centre should altogether scrap the classification of people under sc/sts and obcs, and the National Commission for sc/sts should be rechristened as the National Commission for the Welfare of the Economically Backward. The benefit of reservation should go only to this segment, encompassing all religious faiths and be restricted strictly to state/public sector organisations.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Had the poison of reservationism not been planted in India’s politics, society and economy at the time of Independence, we would not have been lagging behind China in terms of development today.
V. Seshadri, Chennai
Vinod Mehta’s vow in his Delhi Diary (Jun 21) to eschew opinion polls and pollsters is wise. Their complete rout suggests that predicting election results is as complex as predicting weather or crowd behaviour or any other (naturally occurring) phenomenon that is mathematically non-periodic and unpredictable. In mathematics these are called non-linear systems and they exhibit what’s called the Butterfly Effect, namely ‘sensitive dependence on initial condition’. Tiny differences in input could become overwhelming differences in output. It’s just impossible for opinion pollsters to accurately and exhaustively factor all input data into a valid mathematical model. No wonder the entire exercise produces the only predictable result—chaos!
B. Krishnamoorthy, Chennai
Apropos the item Project Kalahandi in Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary, I wonder about poverty being defined as earning less than a dollar a day. In June 2001, I talked to a rickshaw puller in Lucknow. He said he made Rs 150 on a good day and his wife earned at least Rs 100 a day doing clothing piecework. That should average out to at least 7 dollars each working day for a family of poor. Besides, purchasing power parity, a better indicator of economic status, should translate that into something better than what a dollar a day would indicate.
Usama Khalidi, Sterling, US
Every truth is like a coin, it has two sides. Going by this notion, many things that Ashis Nandy says in his column A Billion Gandhis (Jun 21) are true of Indian society, which is predominantly Hindu. But we should not forget some historical facts. Like Hindu India, divided on caste lines, never fought ‘people’s wars’ against invaders. We never had our Joans of Arc or William Tells until we embraced secularism as a national policy after Independence. Today our armed forces have a Brahmin rubbing shoulders with a Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra or a ‘mlechcha’, all defending the motherland as sons of the soil. Perhaps some advocates of Hindutva do not know that beginning from the Nehru-Gandhi secular era, an Indian naval ship is launched with the prayer of Aditi, mother of seagod Varuna. In Europe, secularism was forced on the society, while in India it flourishes on the fertile soil of Hinduism, which, strictly speaking, does not need a broker between the individual and the god.
Vinay Shukla, Moscow
Ashis Nandy mentions the medieval Spanish concept of convivencia, a peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians, as a better model for India to follow than secularism. Frankly, I don’t see any difference between the two; both words are indifferent to whether people are religious in their private lives. In the case of the Sandinistas, there is no communal conflict associated with deriving an ideology from Christian liberation theology. Nicaragua is practically 100 per cent Christian.
Peggy Mohan, New Delhi
On reading Kuldip Nayar’s Abhor Singularity! (May31) and Ashis Nandy’s rejoinder to it, I have come to the following conclusion. While it may be true that Nayar underestimates the traditional pluralism of india, Nandy tries passing off Indian tolerance as a sort of homegrown secularism which can do without Enlightenment values. Fortunately, India had no choice but to negotiate with modernity during its post-colonial history. Hence, to comprehend the wonder that is democratic India, the difference between secularism and pluralism must be highlighted. Secularism is the modern political expression of Indian socio-cultural pluralism; this was understood well enough by the makers of our Constitution. If pluralism—Nandy’s favourite—is the essence of Indian civilisation, secularism is historically necessary for India’s political stability and maturity. The combination of state-civic secularism and social pluralism is the sine qua non of India’s future as a united democratic country. If parliamentary democracy is the system most suited to India, secularism is its form and pluralism its content. Comparatively speaking, the task of Ashoka and Akbar was easier. They did not have to contend with the ruptures and legacies the likes of which tormented Nehru, Ambedkar and others in 1947.
Anirudh Deshpande, New Delhi
To those who think that secularism is their right to religious freedom, they’re wrong. It’s about respecting others’ right to religious freedom and living with it. This has been part of Indian culture long before the word secularism was invented. As for those who say that our Constitution mandates a secular India, there’s a lot of difference between secularism as our politicians preach and practise it and secularism as was envisaged in the Constitution. All our Constitution intended was that the state not propagate one religion or another.
Nandy truly demonstrates what the value of a questioning mind is for any society. His is a profound insight on the secularism humbug that has been poisoning the very foundations of whatever has been evolving as a civilisation in much of South Asia and particularly in India. But intellectual cowardice, laziness and plain dishonesty have been the hallmarks of those who have dominated the discourse. Else, how can one explain the coining and usage of such an insidious term as "dharmanirpekshata" and the convenient touting of political dharma and numerous such dharmas by the same secular tyrants often in the same breath. How good to see then that a ‘traitor’ to his ‘own class’ is faithful to the society and India at large that nurtured, cultured and nourished him.
Sanjay Tirdiya, Bhavnagar, Gujarat
People of the ilk of Nayar cannot afford to accept faultlines in the positions they have adhered to all their lives. Hence their pretension to misunderstand the Nandys.
Arindam Sengupta, Calcutta
We are able to make a mockery of just about anything—first, our Parliament, by inducting into it criminals and comedians and now the Olympic torch by including Bollywood starlets instead of great Indian sportspersons like P.T. Usha or Prakash Padukone.
Beena Pandya, on e-mail