11 May, 2021
Letters | Jul 19, 2004

'There Was No Waiting Mob'

Tell Us Godhra’s Truth

Jul 19, 2004

Thank you for telling us ‘There was no waiting mob’ (July 5). It brings out some of the stark facts behind an ‘operation’ which was so frivolously termed an isi one by the then deputy PM, L.K. Advani, hours after the incident. People like us, who as part of the Citizens’ Initiative have had the opportunity to look at the forensic reports and meet witnesses, have tried explaining to citizens at large that the Gujarat government is trying to pull, not a small piece of wool, but a whole blanket over our eyes on the Godhra incident. But our voice of reason and logic always got drowned in the Modi-fied screams that it was a pre-meditated attack which our pseudo-secular egos couldn’t accept. One hopes this time the media will follow this story to its very end. We want to know what the Gujarat government is trying to hide from its citizens and why.
Stalin K., Ahmedabad

This pathetic display of yellow journalism is what makes our country a soft target for terrorists. They know that they’ll get away with anything because of their religion, and our ‘secular’ media would do anything, literally anything, to help prove them innocent. Outlook’s latest attempt is to try and provide a helping hand to the upa government to lambast the rss and the bjp but it forgets that to score a point in national politics, they are losing several points in the national interest.
Munir Parikh, Ahmedabad

Jai Kali Karachi Wali

Our Better Halves?

Jul 19, 2004

Jai Kali Karachi Wali (July 5) had some interesting vignettes about Hindus in Pakistan. I am curious about certain sacred places in Pakistan such as the Hinglaj and the Sun temple of Multan. What is the state of these temples? Can I, as an Indian, visit these temples? Pakistan, I think, should allow Hindus in India to visit these.
Dharmayudh Singh, Philadelphia, US

When a community has been reduced to the most tiny fragment of its original self—from 28 per cent to 2 per cent—it is easy to treat it with patronising, if not angry, contempt. This is the fate of the better-off Hindus in Pakistan. Even so, accounts in the Pakistani press itself speak of the atrocities on the untouchable Hindu majority who live as serfs on Wadera estates in Sindh.
Rajendran Kumaran, London

I never realised there were so many Hindus in Pakistan! All of them seem fairly happy and in fact they seem to be the ones discriminating against the Muslims by not allowing them entry into temples. ‘Low-caste’ (I hate calling them that) Hindus in Sindh seem to be having a bad time but then they’re treated no better (maybe even worse) in India, if that’s any consolation.
Ranjana Manchanda, on e-mail

In India, Muslims aren’t normally prevented from visiting temples. I have in fact been invited by many friends to join in in pujas. Which makes me wonder if Indian Hindus are more tolerant of Islam than Pakistani Hindus?
S.A. Abbasi, Pondicherry

No Lilies For Ishrat

Their Day Will Come

Jul 19, 2004

Only a court, not a police constable, not Narendra Modi and not the bjp can decide whether a killer (police or not) acted in lawful self-defence (No Lilies for Ishrat, July 5). So fear not, Outlook. Under the law any such killing has to be treated as a potential homicide and the police can make their defence only at a trial. They cannot easily escape scrutiny.
Shankar Gopalakrishnan, London

Our Only Colonial Thinker

Who Cares For Indi-Genes? Not Oxford, Sir...

Jul 19, 2004

Sanjay Subrahmanyam is absolutely correct when he insists that the word secular has entirely different connotation in the West as compared to India (Our Only Colonial Thinker, June 21). In the West, the word implies just the separation between church and state, not an equal treatment of all religions or tolerance of other religions like it does in India. It’s also correct that politicians in the West rarely mention the word secular in their speeches, probably because equality of all religions is implicit. The term secular in the present context was not imported from the West but was probably used by, as Subrahmanyam points out, some of the colonial historians as a euphemism for appeasement of minority communities.
Vikas Chowdhry, Madison, US

Subrahmanyam nitpicks on Nandy’s premise on the origins of secularism in Europe and contests his assertion that the concept of ‘convivencia’ was applied in medieval Spain—both minor points in Nandy’s article. The rest of Subrahmanyam’s piece is vitriol directed at Nandy and a demonstration of his ‘knowledge’. Any discussion on secularism and its relevance to Indian polity is merely incidental.
Prashant Rao, on e-mail

It is unbecoming of Subrahmanyam, an Oxford don, to make personal remarks on Nandy. He might pick holes in Nandy’s reading of history and may be able to hold his ground, but he cannot make a dent in Nandy’s profound thinking.
Jai Ratan, New Delhi

There are so many great things that originated in the western socio-political ferment. What is wrong with adapting these in the South Asian context? Secularism is an ideology, not an analytic framework. As Subrahmanyam emphasises, it’s also beyond simplistic expressions like tolerance.
Maqsood Choudhary, Michigan, US

As much as I disagree with Ashis Nandy (A Billion Gandhis, June 14), Subrahmanyam’s vituperative tone makes his counter-arguments akin to squabbler’s rants.
Amit Sehgal, Lexington, US

Subrahmanyam is just throwing his weight around as a historian, questioning Nandy’s facts. Where is the meat here? Perhaps historians understand only facts, not what to make of them.
P. Chandra, Portland, US

Subrahmanyam hits the nail on the head. The words ‘secularism’ and ‘Hindutva’ have become open to misuse, especially by our politicians who do so to earn political mileage in their constituencies. Their sustained effort has given Hinduism an anti-secularism colour when it is not the case. Religion in India is a rational composite of many faiths, rooted in a strong spirit of tolerance and accommodation evolved over the years. That virtue resides not only in the genes of true followers of Hinduism but is also recognised by people of other faiths.
K.S. Iyer, Mumbai

For heaven’s sake, the President of India is a Muslim, the PM is a Sikh and Sonia Gandhi is a Catholic. How much more secularism do the likes of Kuldip Nayar (Abhor Singularity!, May 31) and Subrahmanyam want? They’d just as soon see the demise of Hinduism altogether and the mass conversion of its followers. Also, as far as the puerile name-calling is concerned, it does no service to a person of Subrahmanyam’s erudition.
Raveesh Varma, Michigan, US

In one of his essays, Nandy describes a person he met in these terms. He was a "mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence—all set within the matrix of clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits." He adds, "I still remember the cool, measured tone in which he elaborated a theory of cosmic conspiracy against India that painted every Muslim as a suspected traitor and a potential terrorist." This is a description of Narendra Modi. But it could fit any Hindutvawadi. Maybe Nandy could next analyse Subrahmanyam.
S. Vishwanathan, Eluru

I’d like to ask Subrahmanyam if he thinks Indian secularism is equally fair to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, or is it more fair to some than to others?
Anant Vijay Joshi, Rahway, US

Why is Subrahmanyam so abusive? What is the use of his Oxford background if he can’t hold his temper in a debate? Read any article written in mainstream western papers and magazine, you never see this kind of hostility that our secular lobby displays against "others".
R. Srivatsan, on e-mail

Amartya Sen in his book Development as Freedom tries to trace the historical origin of the concept. He sees no difference between freedom as discussed by Kautilya in Arthashastra and by his contemporary Greek philosophers. If Kautilya believed in freedom for favoured people (upper castes, etc), the Greeks too clearly wanted freedom to be applied only to free men, not to slaves and women. Would Subrahmanyam regard Sen as a leading thinker or a saffron-tainted one? Should his logic be applied, Dr Sen too would be a Hindu propagandist.
Anima Sarkar, Calcutta

Why is Subrahmanyam resistant to the idea of Indians drawing inspiration, identifying with or simply making references to things and people which could be Hindu (or alternatively Vedic, Sanskritic or Indo-Dravidian)? That’s where their hearts are. You can’t impose an Abu Fazl or any Islamic framework or symbol on Indians, just because he thinks medieval India was the most fruitful phase of Indian history.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto

Reminds me of the old story of the Indian crabs (or whatever) that pull each other down! When will our intellectuals (Subrahmanyam is surely one of our best minds) rise above the petty need to put each other down?
Radhanath Varadan, Hanoi, Vietnam

Has Oxford fallen to such low standards now? A pity.
Rahul Deshpande, Mumbai

Sanjay Subrahmanyam from Oxford University? Sounds like the last slave of the Mughal empire.
Vanya Elangovan, Pune

See You On Saturday

Pros’ Cons

Jul 19, 2004

The Saturday Club at the India International Centre is exclusive, elitist, and comprises mostly of iic members who are bureaucrats, well-known academics or experts in their fields (See You on Saturday, June 21). They meet every Saturday, discuss various issues, educate themselves and go away. Besides talk and soft disputation, this reservoir of experts does nothing. Despite their very intelligent discussions, they never offer their opinion in public on any issue of national importance even if they have an expert understanding on the problem. What use are such intellectuals who are not courageous and cannot lead the society?
H.K. Chowdhury, New Delhi

Shalom, Or Is It Salaam?

Carry On, Up the Tie

Jul 19, 2004

Our booming relations with Israel should continue (Shalom, Or is It Salaam, July 5). They too, like us, are victims of Islamic terrorism and we can learn a lot from their experience. India’s foreign policy should be based on pragmatism, and not be a hangover of the Nehruvian era.
Sandeep Verma, Gorakhpur

How The Cash Will Flow

Cash Won’t Flow Out

Jul 19, 2004

This refers to the article How the Cash Will Flow (June 28). We wish to clarify that the proceeds from the sale of shares by the Tata Trusts in tcs Ltd will enable them to strengthen and expand their charitable activities, and are neither intended nor permitted to be used to increase the shareholding of the trusts in any corporate entity. No benefit flows to any individual trustee. The corporatisation of tcs has no effect on the shareholding status of Tata Sons Ltd, whose shareholding pattern will not undergo any change. In the light of the above, it is quite unfair of you to suggest that the tcs ipo is "nothing more than a part of Ratan Tata’s retirement plans".
Dr Camille Miranda Gonsalves, General Manager, Tata Sons Ltd

Whither, Magic Wand?

Needed, Foreign Hand

Jul 19, 2004

Reading your article Whither, Magic Wand (June 21), I realised that what the Indian hockey team needs is an experienced foreign coach. The players have natural skill, talent and raw aggression. What they lack on the ground is guidance that can help them channelise all that into a proper attacking strategy. Look at what John Wright has done to our cricketing team. Hockey probably should head the same way.
Chaitanya Trivedi, on e-mail

Clay-Pot Dictator!

Smoked Clay

Jul 19, 2004

As one from a truly agriculturist family from a remote corner of Tamil Nadu, I could not agree more with Maneka’s sentiment in Clay-Pot Dictator (June 28). If only she had suggested a solution.
Sumathy Selvaraj, Pattiveeranpatti, Tamil Nadu

Budget In The Time Of CMP

Some Inflation, This

Jul 19, 2004

Your cover story Budget in the Time of cmp (July 5) seems to have been written by a novice. To cite an example, you claim that 3 per cent of the gdp is Rs 4,00,000 crore. That should place India’s gdp at Rs 1,20,000 billion. That translates to a gdp of $2.6 trillion. This is the gdp based on purchasing power parity. The real gdp—actual cash flow—is more like $600 billion. So your numbers are off by a factor of 4 or 400 per cent. If this is the thinking of Chidambaram and Co, and the author got her cue from them, then God save us.
S.S. Ram, Visakhapatnam

Three per cent of the gdp outlay on health is Rs 4 lakh crore? That means our gdp is 33 times that which works out to about $2,400 billion. Well, we must feel great, not just good.
M.N. Subba Rao, on e-mail

Taking the GDP at current levels, the right figure woule be Rs 75,000 crore. We regret the error—Editor

The BJP fought this election on progress and development and lost. The power thus has gone into the hands of corrupt criminals and the anti-national Congress and Left parties. Manmohan Singh knows only the country’s economics, not its politics. He hasn’t even condemned the killings of two railway engineers in Kashmir. We can’t expect much from this Undemocratic Pathetic Alliance.
Mohan Babu, Srinagar

Prem Shankar Jha’s piece Left is a Lame Excuse is a typical liberal (right of centre) rant against protective government policies. That’s nothing new. But there is a nasty undertone, which states "Do not invest in social sector". As a justification, Jha invokes maladministration and says if that’s fixed in the next two years, then one can invest. That may sound okay to the urban middle class, but I think it sounds ominous.
Subir Nag, Mumbai

A Question Of Antiquity


Jul 19, 2004

  • In the article A Question of Antiquity (July 12), Chandrasekara Kambar’s quote was wrongly attributed to U.R. Ananthamurthy in the blurb. We regret the error.

  • In the article A Hard Clay Tablet (Dec 8, 2003), we had inadvertently carried a photograph of the factory premises of Chinar Pharmaceuticals, which hinted that the company was an unlicensed manufacturer. We regret any harm caused to the company because of this mistake.

Our Only Colonial Thinker

Who Cares For Indi-Genes? Not Oxford, Sir...

Jul 19, 2004

Attacks on ‘secularism’ as an ideology in India have, in the past 15-20 years, come from two quarters. One’s the predictable, Hindu majoritarian view that claims that Hindus (especially high-caste ones) have been discriminated against in the name of secularism. Such people, who include the usual roster of shrill, strident, self-pitying Non-Resident Knicker-Dharis (NRKDs)—many of whose letters one finds in response to the recent articles on ‘secularism’ in Outlook—are really beneath contempt, hardly worth arguing with. Let’s leave them to their Modi-worship and pogrom fantasies.

The second attack, with which my essay was concerned, is largely from ‘indigenist’ authors who claim that secularism was inauthentic, un-Indian, a slavish imitation of a model that came from elsewhere. I argued that the Indian idea of secularism does not come from elsewhere. For where could that ‘elsewhere’ be? The model does not fit the UK, or most of the rest of Europe. The US, to my mind, is hardly a secular polity, and no one dares affirm ‘secularism’ as a value there amongst the major political figures. Samuel Huntington has recently laid bare the conservative (and widely-shared) understanding of what America stands for: it is Protestant, English-speaking, intolerant of difference. No wonder the NRKDs can find no place for their political programme there, and so must try and spread it in India. The French Republican ideal of laïcité is an aggressive homogenising model, which has little to do with ‘secularism’ as understood in India. Secularism as discussed and understood in India is in large measure not an imitation, but sui generis. It may not be an old word in India, but it has something profound to do with an older set of practices and even institutions. This secularism is not the same as some wishy-washy idea of ‘tolerance’. No one ever will claim to be intolerant. No doubt even Mr Modi and Mr Togadia will claim to be tolerant. The NRKDs probably believe they are tolerant too. My concern is that the authors of the second type of critique of secularism, whatever their initial motivations, have become increasingly complicit with those who hold the first view. None of this means one has to defend the Congress and its record on secularism, which is pretty abysmal. This is a red herring, and should be treated as such. The real question today is hence whether writers like Ashis Nandy—whose work I have followed with close attention for over 20 years—can be happy that their primary constituency is to be found among aggressive, upper-caste Hindu majoritarian critics of ‘secularism’. Is Modistan really what the indigenists are looking for?
Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Oxford, UK

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