Behind the face of India

I am pleased to note your optimism about India (Special Issue, 30 January), and wish that I could share your feelings. But I was born and brought up there, and Indian society is possibly the most hierarchical in the world. It has rigid strata - mostly based on class, but also caste. Indians are intolerant towards those below them, though they fawn over white people. The development of a nation comes through inner strength, not IT outsourcing.

Aroup Chatterjee
Buntingford, Hertfordshire

Thank you for Edward Luce's invigorating reflections ("One land, two planets"). India boasts opportunity, exotic cultures, wisdom, huge business opportunities and striking contrasts (not to forget food). There may be crime, poverty and other problems but, according to a recent survey, Indians are the fourth-happiest people on the planet. No surprise there.

Amit Arora
Hove, East Sussex

The main reason for the popularity of nationalist parties in India ("Haunted by the politics of hate", Ziauddin Sardar) was brought home to me when I realised, during a visit in the 1990s, that my parents, long supporters of socialist parties, had voted BJP for the first time. I asked them why they had done this. They said they feared that militant Islam, driven by Pakistan and indirectly funded (at the time) by the United States, would destroy freedom of religion and speech in India. Only the BJP, in their view, could balance this out. The events of 9/11 turned the tide. Ardent nationalism will lose ground only when the terror tap is fully turned off by Pakistan. As a result of this radicalism, thousands of lives have been lost on the streets of Srinagar, Delhi and Mumbai. I may not agree with

my parents' decision to vote BJP, but I can see where they are coming from.

Somnath Mukhopadhyay

Basharat Peer ("So near and yet so far") talks about India's indifference to the suffering of Kashmiris - yet India not only donated much relief in the form of blankets, food and money but offered helicopters to help deliver supplies. The money (more than $25m) was accepted: the helicopters were refused.

John Mann
Via e-mail

If the western media must take note of Indian cinema (Rachel Dwyer, "Bollywood's new dream") it is the offbeat genres that they should write about. "Bollywood" is a vulgar coinage by the Indian media. A country that produces the world's largest number of feature films should be ashamed of calling its film industry by a back-formation from "Hollywood". It is a colonial mentality which made the British say, "Kalidasa is the Shakespeare of India." Why can't we say that Shakespeare is the Kalidasa of Britain?

Bibekananda Ray
Kalyani, West Bengal, India