Letters

Civic activism will show whether democracy prevails in Ukraine

The March 7 article, " 'Color Revolutions Wane," discussed the rocky transition in Ukraine and the "failure of popular pressure to effect change in other Soviet satellite states."

What occurs after an autocratic government is removed with the help of a popular nonviolent movement does not lessen the value of replacing that government with one that is genuinely elected by a democratic majority and that honors basic rights.

The Orange Revolution has given inspiration to civic activists in other countries along Russia's periphery, such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan. Moscow's ability to reassert its influence in the region is not the most important, nor the most interesting factor in determining whether people power will prevail in this region. Neither is the US government's democracy agenda.

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The most important factors are the skill and courage of ordinary citizens in using nonviolent resistance, including strikes, boycotts, and mass protests, to assert and defend their rights. Their determination and their strategies will ultimately be decisive.
Maria J. Stephan
Washington Manager, Educational Initiatives, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Most animal advocates shun violence

Regarding the March 7 article, "Crackdown on animal rights activists": The trial of activists convicted of inciting violence against animal researchers and those connected to them exposes the conduct of a handful of individuals whose behavior is reviled by mainstream animal advocates.

Millions of Americans care about the welfare of animals, and also believe harassment, vandalism, and threats are wholly unacceptable and inconsistent with a core ethic of promoting compassion and respect.

The illegal and violent actions of a few individuals result in irreparable harm to the cause of animal protection. We share the view that companies and industries engaging in inhumane practices should be encouraged to change their ways, but we achieve meaningful reform by working within the law rather than resorting to acts of desperation. We ask people to adhere to a code of conduct in how they treat animals, and we should adhere to a civil code of conduct ourselves. The Humane Society of the United States has repeatedly and publicly criticized individuals who promote violence in the name of supposedly protecting animals.
Michael Markarian
Washington Executive vice president, The Humane Society of the United States

Class and caste are not the same

The headline of the Feb. 13 article, "India's lower castes can now go to private schools," is misleading. In this article, the distinction between class, caste, and the privileged and underprivileged has not been clearly made, and this may create some confusion in the minds of readers as to whether "class" is defined on the basis of economic background, or whether it denotes caste, which has been handed down to people throughout the ages.

To be in an upper caste does not guarantee that one will be upper class in terms of the privileges of a higher standard of living, which comes from having more money. Similarly, a lower caste person (for example, a Dalit) may enjoy the benefits and privileges of the highest class and even study at Harvard, if he has the merit coupled with his money. As many as five decades ago, many lower caste persons studied at the best schools and occupied high offices in India.
Nirmal Kumar Mishra
Patna, India

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