The painful thoughts of the British empire syndrome

The Raj Syndrome by Suhash Chakravarty,Rupa,2007 pp 400. Revisiting 1857 Myth,Memory,History,Rolli Books,2007 Leonard Woolf A Life by Victoria Glendinning London,2006,pp 526

The thoughts here all raise highly emotional and highly controversial thoughts and throw up conflicting images as I look at India as a country and people who had been badly treated by  the march of history, if I can say so, by enslaving it, all through the last two hundred years and more.

These three  books are in a way inter-connected.

They came into my hands without any planned purchase. They in a surprising manner contributed to enlightening my understanding of an underlying theme that shapes my intellectual beliefs and political outlook today.

First the Moghul conquest, then the British  Empire and the result today is people whose mental make-up, their very national character is yet to  be clearly defined and understood by the people themselves.

The raj syndrome raises an important intellectual issue  that is widely noticed for long by many and yet no one systematic thesis has evolved yet.As far as I know.

The  raj syndrome is about how we Indians came under the occupation of the British traders who came to establish trade links and step by step they went on to conquer the whole continent and established control over the affairs of the left-over Mughal empire.The story is told in so many volumes of writing and for so long that we almost lost control over our own imagination of the whole  deeply-ingrained attitudes and our own mindsets,when it comes to knowing our own Indian identity.

Prof.Chakravarti has done a good job and we all owe something to him for highlighting this particular theme in the form of a book.While Nirad choudhary reading the same I was reminded of another Bengali babu, the more cantankerous Nirad babu, who in his own inimitable way had done the negative job of reminding Indians of everything that is good in us we owed to the British occupation!

I often used to wonder for I have spent some years at Santiniketan, that for every Nirad Choudhury,there must at least be another one hundred unknown Nirad babus, when it comes to learning, the bookworms the average educated Bengali of my generation used to be. I am not sure the situation now, but I should assume that the average middle class Bengali household is at least educated for over three or even four enerations, if we take the Raja Ram Mohan Roy years as the starting point.
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Claims Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh saved farmers!
Parliament adjourned for a day over farmers’ suicides!

Priyarajna Dasmunsi

Yes, there is a farce going on in New Delhi on the eve of the submission of the budget! The two Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have been adjourned over the continuing farmers’s suicides. One national newspaper prominently displayed the exact count of the tragedy, on the very day in front pages! May be that national tragedy must have caught the attention of both the ruling combine as well as the Opposition parties.

Anyway, the fact remains the Opposition parties belonging to the two ideological groupings, BJP-led parties as well as the Samajwadi-Telugu Desam parties showed a rare unity of purpose when they raised the farmers issue. The same type of unity was seen in the Rajya Sabha as well.

The presiding officers of the two Houses were helpless though quoted rules to warn and issue so many threats to suspend or take action against the members who walked into the well of the house. But the whole country knows how helpless they are, how the Parliament is now functioning, there is frustration and helplessness and anger and what not when we witness the government is not able to rise up to the challenges of the day.

Now, farmers’ issues are very critical and the epidemic of farmers’ suicides seem to have no solution whatever from this government.
The irony is that when it comes to point scoring the ruling combine has the audacity of a ruler. Mr.Priyaranjan Dasmunisi, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister has the cheek to say that the government has a bag of tricks in its budget and taking scent of the bag’s content the Opposition wants to take credit for the new concessions announced by the government!

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Puts India lower this year!

India falls to rank 128, two places below than last year!
The UN Human Development index is a clear measurable independent index on any country in the world to look at itself about what is happening in the world.

India has been the source for much of the work to construct this index. Prof.Amartya Sen got the Nobel Prize for this work also.
Yet, we see a paradox of sorts. We have eminent economist Prof. and Doc. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. Amartya Sen is very much active on the India scene. His home state of W.Bengal is in flames on Nandigram!

All these facts and developments have a bearing on why India is slipping on the development front. On the human development front, we mean?

The UPA has been very active on the social sector development, funds allocations are also in place. And yet, why we failed?

ur education, more so the very critical elementary education system, the very special scheme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been our success story so far. SSA provides relevant and useful elementary education to the age group 6-14 years and we are supposed to reach a 100 per cent enrolment by 2010.

During 2006-07 around 242,876 teachers have been recruited taking the total teachers  to a staggering 825,702.There is  still a shortfall of teachers, as much as 18% and the Central government levies 2 % education cess specially to fund the SSA and the midday meals scheme, another new incentive to ensure hundred per cent enrolment. Then, as every educator knows it is a very difficult thing at the bottom level to bring the children from poor strata to the school stream. There are one thousand reasons why some won’t come into the system and also why even those who came in the first place won’t stay on in the system.

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Gandhi’s role in India’s Partition

There are about 400 and odd books on Mahatma Gandhi alone. This vast output is besides Gandhi’s own writings and letters that are collected into some one hundred volumes by the Indian government. Every country that had leaders of great national importance, from dictators to democrats, from Lenin, Stalin to Mao and the American and the British leaders has such authorised multi-volume publications.

These authorised, official versions and publications after sometime go out of use and completely junk!

Even Pandit Nehru’s “works” now already in multi-volumes, are falling behind times and it is said by the time the full volumes come out, most  of the contemporaries might have all been dead and forgotten! Along with them the Nehru era romance might also fade.
What would be the fate of the Mahatma?

Why so many books, continue to be written about him? Is he a man or a god, a mahatma or a soul force and what else we can make of this complex personality?

Gandhi stirs our emotions, mostly beneficial, for the obvious reason he is seen as a moral person and he talked often as a spiritual person. One more attraction for Gandhi is his long association with so many Christians and Jews and his claims in his autobiography how he was influenced by his coming into contact with these religious teachings.

But then he always claimed himself to be a religious person and that too as a Hindu. And to complicate matters, he had to work for Indian freedom and that brought him into direct conflict with the Indian Muslims and ultimately India was partitioned and also he died at the hands of a Hindu fanatic.

So, the story makes for an unending charm and complexity and throws in Gandhi’s other many idiosyncracies, eccentricities and a resort to fasting and direct action! All this he did in the name of freedom and also as a disciple of Gokhale, a great believer in constitutional means of agitation and persuasion! So, a series of contradictory acts and beliefs make for Gandhi, the man and his complex character. There are other ingredients as well like sex and sex experiments and the last but not the least the long-suppressed relationship with a high born Bengali lady of the Tagore aristocracy and the long-suppressed letter of Rajaji to Gandhi dissuading him to cut of his further relationship. So, you can have your own take, you are a secularist or a religious person or whatever you are and your inclination. The fascination for Gandhi never seems to die!

There have been several new books on Mahatama Gandhi. Two by his own grandsons, Rajmohan Gandhi (Mohandas: The True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire, pages738) and Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Gandhi in his own words, OUP), who is now West Bengal Governor. I had had a glimpse into these two new books. Both are written with much affection and also much detachment. That is an admirable quality one can surely expect from these two highly gifted grandsons of such a great man. There is also one by his great grand son, Tushar Gandhi whose book is sensationally titled as “Let’s kill Gandhi”!
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Date: December 1, 2007
Place: Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Life and literature of Tamils
As seen from the perspectives of  Tamils living abroad and outside Tamil Nadu in India

1. Introduction:
I am highly grateful for all those who have thought of inviting me to give the keynote address to this assembly of Tamil scholars and all lovers of Tamil language and literature.
This is an exciting theme, happening at an exciting time. The historic  situation of the world today, at the beginning of a new millennium, with globalisation and the rising terrorist violence and the rapid pace of life, a growing migration of people outside of their traditional homes and the consequent identity crisis have all created and given us, in particular, educators, creative writers, thinkers, poets and novelists  a new challenge. The time is certainly here for us to think hard and come up with new ideas and new perspectives.
As I am new to  this assembly of scholars and all those  present here,  I think it is only proper I give a very brief indication of what I think may be my credentials for the role assigned to me  today.
Yes, I have some qualifications and credentials as I see it.
Apart from the fact that I  went to  some of the most universities, India’s most famous university, namely of Visva Bharati at Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, I also had the  privilege of  going up to Oxford University  in UK.I was lucky to study at these universities when there were giants of men who led these portals of learning. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself was the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University when I was there for four years and I had the great good fortune to have come closer to him in my formative years. Of course, this impacted my personality and outlook.
At Oxford in the later Fifties and early Sixties there was an unprecedented intellectual ferment, in fact, a revolution in philosophy that almost changed the course of the modern twentieth century philosophy. Oxford was the hub of this philosophy. Bertrand Russell and his colleagues were very much alive then. At Oxford were all his successors, Prof.A.J.Ayer, Isaiah Berlin, John Plamenetz in philosophy and politics and Sir John Hicks and Sir Roy Harrod in philosophy, A.J.P.Taylor in history, Sir Maurice Bowra in classical and modern literature were all very much there and some of these great minds taught me. I am glad to say and it is worth mentioning, I think, that I was taught by those who won the Nobel Prizes (Sir Hicks for economics) and some of my friends also won the Nobel Prizes (Amartya Sen for economics), when I was there the youngest Indian to won a prestigious literature prize (the Hawthordon prize for poetry) was Dom Moraes, my close friend who won it at age 19! So, you can imagine the ferment in which my intellect was nurtured.
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