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LETTERS

Frontline Volume 17 - Issue 01, Jan. 08 - 21, 2000
India's National Magazine on indiaserver.com
from the publishers of THE HINDU



Table of Contents

LETTERS

Ayodhya

The demolition of the Babri Masjid was indeed a terrorist attack ("Ayodhya Agenda," January 7). The Bharatiya Janata Party must be regretting its decision to put Ram temple construction on its agenda. But what is done cannot be undone. The only way the B JP can hope to sustain the National Democratic Alliance is by disowning all family ties with the other members of the Sangh Parivar.

Samir Mahajan
New Delhi

* * *

The NDA came to power with a common National Agenda for Governance(NAG). In a 24-party alliance there are bound to be strains. Apart from pinpricks from partymen, such as members introducing private member's Bills on controversial issues, allies also wil l create problems for the BJP during Assembly elections in Bihar and Orissa. In Karnataka, the Janata Dal(U) has snapped its ties with the BJP at the State level and decided to go it alone in the zilla panchayat elections. However, so long as the BJP is strong and sticks to the NAG, the government will not face problems. But organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal may not allow it to adhere to the NAG which does not feature issues such as the common civil code and Article 370.

A. Jacob Sahayam
Karigiri, Tamil Nadu

Koyna

This has reference to the story on the Koyna disaster ("Dams and earthquakes," January 7). It is not just the reservoir-induced seismicity (RIS) that is at issue. Forests are infinitely superior to dams and perform all the functions that dams are suppose d to perform and much more. Large dams destroy rich forests, fertile agricultural lands, permanent pastures and other grazing lands.

So far, live storage equivalent to 47.5 Sardar Sarovars has been created by the large and medium dams in India. And 25 of them have already silted up. The remaining will silt up in another 65 years. But forests regenerated on a third of India's land area at a dry biomass density of 20 kg/sq.m. would help recharge as much groundwater as all these dams could do.

Ashok Kumar
Mumbai

Agricultural research

In his interview, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan discusses the state of agricultural research in the country ("For an Evergreen Revolution," January 7).

The Indian agriculture research system has actually been undermined by the menace of inbreeding. Most of the faculty members joined the universities as graduate students and never left them. There is no inflow of new scientific ideas. This is a dangerous trend.

Abishek Upadhyay,
Received on e-mail

Mavoor

The decision of the Grasim Industries to close down the factory at Mavoor is regrettable ("A stand-off in Mavoor," December 24). The factory should not have been run at the cost of local people's health especially when modern technologies are available f or pollution control and waste disposal. The management's statement that it is running a business and not a charity is highly reprehensible.

The company seems to have ignored the need to adopt safety standards for the past many years, thanks to the State administration's lackadaisical approach. It is a relief that trade unionism is not as aggressive as in the past thanks to the high rate of u nemployment in the State.

M.B. Madhu
Kochi

Capitalism and competition

This refers to the article "Global double standards" (December 10). The supporters of globalisation should be aware of the limits of liberalisation. Liberalisation should not impose a disguised form of capitalism on the democratic set-up of India.

In a capitalistic society work gives neither satisfaction nor happiness to workers. What motivates them is the desire to earn a livelihood. Their creative potentials are suppressed because the type of work they perform does not require much thinking or i magination.

Capitalism generates competition not only between the owners of the means of production but also between labourers working under different capitalists.

I support the author's argument that the labour laws prevailing in countries of advanced capitalism cannot be applied to Indian society. If India wants to become a developed country, it must develop small-scale industries.

Sudhakar Prasad
Patna

India and the West

The way in which our leaders and the elite kow-tow to the West is in stark contrast to China's approach. Although China has refused to submit to pressures from Western powers, it is respected by them. While paying lip-sympathy to our democracy the West t reats us with disdain.

Gandhi has warned us that the descendants of those who had sat on the fence during the struggle for Independence would appropriate power and misuse it in the guise of representative democracy. Hence he sought to disband the Congress and advocated a parti cipatory form of democracy in which power would be decentralised to the villages. This, he believed, would enable our people to lead a humane and civilised life. This is in contrast to the aggressive, materialistic European culture which has ruthlessly e xploited the planet's wealth using the power derived from science and technology.

India also had first-hand experience of such exploitation by one of the European powers, which used military power and the strategy of 'divide and rule'. A new strategy for economic domination of Third World countries like India was devised at Bretton Wo ods in 1948. The new methods of domination adopted by advanced capitalism are called globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation.

The struggle is now between survival and extermination. Can India show an alternative path? This alternative can emerge only from the common people, not from leaders who are corrupt and greedy.

Dr. N.H. Antia
Mumbai

Two weddings and a lesson

When I read about the ostentatious wedding of Laloo Prasad Yadav's daughter (Update, January 7), an anecdote came to my mind. When I was a post-graduate student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in the 1970s, one day I saw my P rofessor paying extra attention to a young man who was wearing a slightly torn shirt. After he left, the Professor told us that the young man was the son of the then Chief Minister of Bihar, Karpoori Thakur. He also narrated an experience that the then G overnor of Bihar had with Karpoori Thakur. The Chief Minister gave his son's wedding invitation to the Governor but later requested him not to attend the wedding. The reason: he was a poor man and hence could not afford to entertain many guests.

Dr. R. Vishvendra Rao
California, U.S.

Art exhibition

Suneet Chopra's observations do not add credibility to the article, "O Jerusalem" (January 7). We call Mahatma Gandhi the Father of the Nation and it does not follow that we did not exist before Gandhi's time or that we were fatherless. Any good Bible di ctionary anywhere in a Christian bookshop will contain the archaelogical and theological information on the meaning of Jerusalem being the "City of God". This kind of methodology has several parallels in Indian history too. Because we happen to accord ma ndatory status to the Asokan Lion Pillar, we do not obliterate the Harappan and Vedic heritage of the nation.

Rev. Philip K. Mulley
Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Jerusalem

Suneet Chopra decries the recently shown City of David exhibition at the National Museum in New Delhi as "evidence of dubious historicity to proclaim that Jerusalem was the City of David" ("O Jerusalem!", January 7). In the guise of a learned article res ponding to what he implies was a political event, he in fact makes his own political - inaccurate, at that - statements with regard to a world-renowned scientific collection.

Some of what Chopra writes is simply incorrect and misleading. He claims that the exhibition is "largely of copies whose historicity one cannot vouch for". However, every single exhibit except one is an original finding, some dating as much as 5,000 year s back. What, then, are the 240 original exhibits if not historical?

Chopra says that "there is not a scrap of evidence to show that anyone called David ever ruled the area." It is true that there is a scientific debate on the question whether David was in fact as great a king as he is projected to have been, and on the h istorical value of the parts of the Bible. There is a vast range of opinions on this issue, some of which were recently reviewed in the weekly magazine of Ha'aretz, one of Israel's daily newspapers (available in English at www.haaretz.co.i1) whose depth and seriousness do not fall short of those of Frontline. As in every debate, each party is entitled to its opinion, at least until proven wrong. However, Chopra seems to dismiss any opinion which does not conform with his own. Furthermore, Chopra who claims that the Bible as a whole is little more than a collection of myths, suggests that the story of Abraham's non-sacrifice of Isaac indicates the historical end of the practice of human sacrifice. So perhaps even the early parts of the Bib le do offer something beyond myth, even according to Chopra.

In any case, the exhibition does not purport to prove the role of King David in history. Its title is derived from the fact that "the City of David" was the synonym for Jerusalem for over two millennia. Perhaps a misnomer - but a nomer nonetheless. Someo ne once argued that Shakespeare never existed and all his works were written by someone else. Would Chopra claim then that Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest have no literary value?

Most disturbing, though, is Chopra's claim that the exhibition is "Zionist propaganda" aimed at projecting Jerusalem as the City of David and not as that of peoples other than the Jews. This argument requires special attention at a time when delegitimisi ng one community to advance another is high on the agenda all over the world. Again, Chopra not only does not support this claim, but ignores the plain facts:

The excavations unearthed pieces covering 5500 years, from the Chalcolithic period to the Muslim period. For scientific and exhibitory reasons, the exhibition itself is limited to the findings from the settlement of the Eastern hill until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 BCE. This period, lengthy in itself, covers much more than the period of the Jewish civilisation. It covers life under the Canaaties, the Jebusites, the Israelites (the Jews), the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greek s.

Christianity did not emerge until a century later, and Islam, only seven centuries later. The exhibition does not deny the roles of these two religions in Jerusalem (in fact, their role is specifically mentioned in the exhibition's catalogue and is the s ubject of the article quoted by Chopra and provided to the media by the Embassy of Israel). It simply concentrates on some periods in the life of Jerusalem and not on others. Will an exhibition of Indian art under the Rajput kings be condemned for not pr esenting Mughal artefacts? Fortunately for both India and Israel, their heritage is so vast and varied that it cannot be presented all in one go.

Finally, Chopra quotes as affirmation of his position, the dilemma raised by Prof. Werblowsky, who inquires whether we should make use of symbols that draw from a mythological roots (to justify what Chopra calls "Zionist propaganda"). The question of myt h versus reality aside, Chopra fails to mention Prof. Werblowsky's own reply, who says that this is not an easy question, "for symbols cannot always be dismissed with a cavalier wave of the hands as mere slogans or mythological anachronism. Sometimes the y are the repositories of both the conscious and the unconscious life-giving truths of a community." Yes, Jerusalem is the symbol and realisation of the very basic tenets of both Judaism and Zionism. Israel need not apologise for it. We wish to share wit h the Indian public this sentiments, which have kept the Jewish people alive after more than 2,000 years of persecution.

Do not condemn a history of millennia which has created symbols. It is precisely that which constitutes culture.

Yael Ronen,
Spokeswoman,
Embassy of Israel
New Delhi


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