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How Far Does Hinduism Mold Indian Politics?

"India Bomb Hits Chord for Hindus" (June 4) is an interesting commentary on the resurgence of Hindu nationalistic influence on the rhetoric of politics, but ignores the still-powerful secular and democratic Indian traditions. The Hindu nationalist party, in collaboration with other parties, has to operate within the parameter of these historic traditions. The dimension of pluralism in Indian politics is ignored in pieces which tend to equate India with Pakistan.

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For example, the scientific advisor to India's Defense Ministry is Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a Muslim expert in nuclear devices. Can you imagine a Hindu in a similar position in Pakistan or a Muslim in Israel? He serves the defense minister, a prominent Socialist who suffered imprisonment in the mid-'70s fighting against the autocratic policies of Indira Gandhi who had curbed civil rights and imprisoned opposition leaders. Her actions led to demonstrations like Tiananmen Square and she had to step down from power.

Another weak point is the interpretation of the quotation from the Indian scripture Bhagavad-Gita which Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, reportedly used after witnessing the first atomic blast. Originally, the quote meant the universe is infinitely diverse, and if a thousand suns flash in the sky at the same time, it may reflect a close picture of the spirit of the infinity of the universe, which is difficult to comprehend.

According to the book, "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" by Robert Jungk, Oppenheimer did quote the metaphor of a thousand suns. "Yet, when the sinister and gigantic cloud rose up in the far distance over Point Zero, he was reminded of another line from that source: I am become Death, the shatterer." The first part of the quote is a kind of philosophical view of the mystery of the universe that a physicist can interpret as a version of the Heisenberg principle of the dynamics of the observer and the observed; the second part is the practical destructive aspect of the scientific discovery.

Robi Chakravorti, PhD

Sacramento, Calif.

Professor Emeritus, Sociology Dept.

California State University

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The article, "India Bomb Hits Chord for Hindus" (June 4), though on the right track could have used a little better research. Trishul is the name of the trident of Shiva, not Vishnu. And to the best of my knowledge, Vishnu never carried a trident.

For those who have a rather romantic view of Gandhian nonviolence I would like to point out that Gandhi supported Indian troops fighting in World War II. The basic notion of nonviolence was not an invention of the Mahatma. It is enshrined in numerous Hindu texts, which state that each individual has a duty as much to destroy evil as to not be violent. The Bhagavad Gita cites that Vishnu would be born again and again if there was evil (adharma) on the Earth. The Bhagavad Gita does not condone killing because the soul is indestructible. Rather, there is a strong philosophy of right and wrong that guides not only such acts, but also every action in life.

Shashi Verma

Cambridge, Mass.

Center for Science and International

Affairs, Harvard University

Delight in city reverie

What a delight it was to read Juniper Remmerde's "City Solace, and a Wish Fulfilled" (June 1), a city reverie and recognition of the home we keep within us. I recall her father's frequent essays of family life on the Oregon ranch. I look forward to further contributions to the Home Forum by daughter and father, for they slow me down, causing me to contemplate and appreciate the simple gifts which surround me - gifts of connection to my family, to the community, and to the land where we make our homes.

Ron Beard

Bar Harbor, Maine

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