Thursday, April 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



India beyond Gujarat

Mr Pran Chopra’s articles “India beyond Gujarat-I & II” (April 3 & April 4) are the handiwork of a seasoned craftsman. He has skilfully interwoven texts and subtexts, theoretical reasoning and contestable ‘facts’, in a manner deliberately calculated to confuse the unwary reader.

To reply to each point would require at least two matching articles. I will confine myself to what may be contained in a single letter. The main thrust of Chopra’s arguments are to defend Chief Minister Narendra Modi from demands of dismissal on two grounds: that his government acted promptly and responsibly in dealing with the Hindu rioters, and that such riots are common in India and there is nothing unique about the Gujarat events.

The clean chit given to the state government is on the grounds that the day after the Godhra incident, curfew was imposed and the Army called in the day after. That is factually incorrect. The first day of curfew was quiet, generally reported as one of fact-finding — not so much about what happened at Godhra, but as to where to locate Muslims dwellings, factories, businesses and neighbourhoods. The day the rioting broke out the Army was nowhere present: it did not arrive till a couple of days later. The excuse given was that it would take time for the Army to be redeployed from its positions at the Indo-Pak frontier. Moreover, it is well-known that ministers sat in police control rooms and countermanded orders given by conscientious police officers. Those who resisted political pressure have since been transferred. No Central Minister visited the state — Mr Vajpayee managed it only on April 5. The two Central Ministers who have Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha berths from Gujarat — Arun Jaitley and L.K. Advani — have kept away from the scenes of carnage and the refugee camps, the latter unmoved even in his incarnation as Home Minister.


The comparison with violence in Andhra, Assam, Nagaland and J & K does not hold: what occurred in Gujarat is held by the concerned public to state-engineered genocide of a particular community, to which state retaliation against the organised militancies and terrorists in Assam, Nagaland and Kashmir bear no resemblance. The Gujarat Muslim was not asking for a separate state, for independence from India, for even a change of government. Some Muslims indeed indulged in a despicable act of carnage at Godhra — and the guilty deserve punishment. But it looks as though the Gujarat government is out to polarise society and to exacerbate differences between the communities rather than heal them. Moreover, other state governments use structured police and military force to deal with militants and terrorists. Gujarat has used rampaging mobs against unarmed and innocent civilians. They have matched the barbarism of Godhra with a super barbarism, all in the name of Maryada Purshottam! Their greatest achievement is to bring Hinduism in general and the Ramayana in particular, into the greatest disrepute.

The reason there is a demand for the removal of the Gujarat Chief Minister, who is believed to be the chief law breaker.

Interspersed in Mr Chopra’s seemingly objective and scholarly text are phrases recognisably borrowed from some less salubrious dramatis personae. In Part-I, he says that ‘reactions occur’ — a fact of life. Sounds similar to a recent quote from Newton? He goes on to cite an ‘overlap’ between three disputes (Indo-Pakistan, Kashmir, Hindu-Muslim) which, among other things, shows that “challenging India’s security with subversive communalism can be a costly game”. The logic is quite baffling, but the innuendo is unmistakable. The Gujarat syndrome awaits anyone who might be seen as ‘subversive communalists’ by the powers that be. He warns against the dangers of ‘minorityism’ (apart from majoritarianism): from which political textbook did he pick up that phrase?

The mailed fist is further covered by Chopra’s de rigueur public support to NGOs and his advocacy of the same electoral reforms that Mr Advani has been advocating for more than a decade (and their merits are controvertible enough not to make them the norm in all other democracies).

He is right to look behind current events for the deeper historical and sociological causes of the malaise but wrong to excuse them thereby. Most of this carnage could have been controlled by a sincere and firm administration. It was deliberately subverted to allow the law of the jungle to run its course.

Prof M.L. SONDHI, New Delhi

Deplorable move

Last year, the Union Finance Minister has given the relief of Rs 1000 by raising the limit of standard deduction from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000. Contrary to this concession, the Finance Minister has taken away Rs 8,490-Rs 8,760 from the salaried drawing Rs 1.50 lakh-Rs 2 lakh in the current budget proposals, which is highly deplorable. The minister has really robbed the salaried personnel and the Prime Minister had too branded the budget a bold one and patted him on this account. The Prime Minister, in the absence of acquiring a family, is not in a position to realise the necessities of the poor salaried class.

Will the Prime Minister and Finance Minister be kind enough to at least restore the IT rebate to the original 20 per cent up to an income of Rs 2.50 lakh. Otherwise the salaried will be fully crushed in the years to come as the NDA Government led by the BJP is yet to present two more successive harsh budgets.

MANJIT ES. HANJRA, Shahpurkandi

Interest rates

The Union Finance Minister had announced in Parliament that the interest rates were being reduced by 0.5 per cent for fixed deposits as well as loans taken from banks. But the banks have not received any instructions in this regard. The authorities concerned should kindly do the needful.


Not with us

This has reference to Mr Ravinder Pal Singh’s letter “Graceful exit” (April 6). Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia is not the chairman of Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle as mentioned. He is the chairman of Guru Gobind Singh Institute of Information Technology at Bathinda. Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle is a voluntary organisation. Its head office is at Ludhiana and has no organisational links with Dr Ahluwalia.

AJINDER PAL SINGH, State Secretary (Haryana), Guru Gobind Study Circle, Yamuna Nagar

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