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Bush and Basaveshvara

Bush and Basaveshvara

Letters

Corporate Greed and People’s Livelihood

T
hanks to the fragmented perspective of capitalism, the environment has become a separate sector, almost a global sanctuary of precious plants and animals, benignly supported by charitable MNCs. But man and environment belong together, each reacting on the other. The polarised nature of capitalism (imperialism) has forced the working people into a posture of desperate defence of the environment as their livelihood is intimately connected with it. On the other hand corporate interests make sustained attacks on the same environment under various disguises for the sake of profit.

Assam and the north-east are particularly vulnerable to such attacks with their still pristine environment and their insulation from capitalist development. As in the Narmada Bachao Movement, defence of livelihood and defence of land and nature have coalesced. The government of Assam has sought to evict peasant villagers near Lapetkota village in Dibrugarh district of Assam in order to gift the land to Reliance Industries to set up a gas-cracker unit for production of naphtha, etc, from natural gas. Faced with stiff resistance, they now have offered to buy land from the villagers at a subsidised rate, while asking the peasants to buy land elsewhere at market rates!

Again, helped by an environmental impact assessment report prepared by a group of scientifically tempered university teachers, the Oil India Limited authorities are planning to set off explosions under the bed of the Brahmaputra river in a seismic survey for oil. The Krishak-Mukti Sangram Samiti, several nature-conservation groups and many intellectuals have pointed out that the survey may have unforeseen consequences for the environment, especially as the relatively young river is volatile and is in the process of changing its course, as evidenced by massive erosion in the north bank.

Further, the sedimentary bedrock in an earthquake-prone river may be vulnerable to shock-waves. The endangered Gangetic river dolphin, native to the river, may have its hearing permanently damaged leading to extinction. Other forms of aquatic life will also not be safe.

It is obvious that immediate support to the indigenous people, including 3.35 lakh fishermen whose fate had been called bleak even by the pro-OIL report, is needed from progressive democratic forces all over the country.

HIREN GOHAIN

Guwahati

Caste Punishment

A
propos your editorial on ‘Caste Violence’ (November 11, 2006), incidents such as in Kherlanji on September 29, unfortunately, are neither unique nor isolated, but are a part of a pattern in our society. These incidents are not just due to some inhuman individuals alone, but result invariably from group support to caste prejudice and violence against dalits. It is not, therefore, enough to apprehend and bring to justice the individual cuplrits directly and indirectly involved. It is equally or even more necessary to deal with the caste group behind such incidents. This is where our present approach has a serious lacuna.

It is high time we provide for the imposition of a collective punitive fine on the whole caste group responsible for such incidents through necessary legislation. The fine should be high enough to act as an effective deterrent, and any refusal to comply should attract confiscation of property of the leaders of the caste group to

(Continued on p 5012)

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Economic and Political Weekly December 2, 2006

Letters

(Continued from p 4926)

realise the fine amount. While it may take months and years to book the individual culprits and bring them to justice, the imposition of the collective fine should be prompt. I believe that providing for such a deterrent measure to deal with groups, which otherwise escape from any responsibility, is consistent with the basic spirit of our Constitution.

At another level, we should strive to spread the awareness that Hinduism does not approve of inequality, injustice and even the caste system, and that caste discrimination is immoral in terms of the basic values of Hinduism.

M V NADKARNI

Bangalore

Bush and Basaveshvara

G
PD’s commentary on the activities of the non-resident Kannadigas (NRKs) in the US to organise so-called cultural events to spread the message of 12th century social reformer Basaveshvara is timely and appropriate (September 9, 2006). Although a jamboree of ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats from Karnataka made a beeline in Baltimore to have a darshan of Bush and his war advisors through the Kannadigas festival, the event was, as per an eyewitness account, a mere get-together of friends and acquaintances near Washington, although some Karnataka ministers, in keeping with their rhetoric, issued press releases on the foreign direct investment (FDI) that is likely to come as a result of this event. Whether Bush or Basava brought this FDI nobody can tell! The fact however remains that the 12th century message of Basava is still relevant in this 21st century and Kannadigas should have made this clear not just to the US politicians but to the entire world threatened by insecurity, terrorism and social upheavals. Basava was not just a social reformer but was also a progressive politician, and prime minister to king Bijjala, he stood for secularism, a casteless society and a social and political order where people were at the centre stage. Respect for women and gender equality in a society was his creed.

MANU N KULKARNI

Bangalore

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