Wednesday, September 23, 2015

MM Kalburgi and the death of rational enquiry?

Can a log which chisel and hammer cannot split
be split with axe and sickle?
Would a mind which
after being chiseled with the nectar of elders’ vachanas …
yield to the axe and sickle of the Veda and aagama?
It will not. 

The 17th century vachana poet, Hemagalla Hampa might well have been writing of the 21st century vachana scholar, M M Kalburgi, who was shot in his home on August 30th. Kalburgi was a Kannada epigrapher, winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection of essays Marga-4, and Vice-Chancellor of Hampi university. Can a clear, penetrating mind ever be vanquished by the petty tyrannies and guns of those who claim to own faith? Kalburgi’s name will live on, while even the police don’t seem to want to know the names of his killers.

Friday, August 14, 2015

It’s High Time We Learned Something From our Students

What did the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) have in mind when it reportedly told the striking students of Pondicherry University that academic violations by their Vice-Chancellor had nothing to do with them and would not affect their degrees? Surely the quality of academic leadership has some bearing on the quality of education an institution provides, and if not, then why waste tax payer money on the salaries and allowances of V-Cs, directors and chairpersons of academic institutions?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A little memory can go a long way

A little memory can go a long way

It is the silences that attend media coverage of Yakub Memon’s impending execution and not the Shiv Sena’s aggressive calls for his hanging that hold a mirror to Indian democracy most clearly. Leading national dailies carry photos of mangled bomb blast sites and interview those affected, as if to justify the imposition of the death penalty; none ask why other victims must continue to suffer silently the indignity of watching their attackers go scot-free.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A journey through the shifting battlegrounds of land and human souls

The road from Jagdalpur to Lohandiguda is a smooth 30 km, turning off into some of the most beautiful and unusual villages in the region. High stone walls fence off large compounds around houses of mud, thatch and shale.  Chind or date palm trees grow along the bunds of the fields, and the tabletop hills rise flat and low in the background. The ravages of a couple of limestone quarries apart, this is fertile agricultural land.

Madhu, one of the men I met in Sirisguda, recounted a conversation he had with a shopkeeper in Jagdalpur, who asked him where he was from. “Lohandiguda”, he replied. “Then you are the maliks of Tata,” the shopkeeper said, “They will give you all the facilities you need, especially since your fields produce nothing.” Madhu replied, “Thanks, but I am earning fine now, and grow three crops a year, and don’t need the Tatas.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Salwa Judum 2.0? What a disaster that will be

In the last ten years, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and his government have been at pains to claim that the 2005 Salwa Judum had nothing to do with the MOUs his government had signed with the Tatas and Essar the same year, and that it was a spontaneous people’s movement. It may have been coincidence the first time, but to proclaim Salwa Judum II just when Prime Minister Modi announced investment plans for Rs 24,000 crore in Bastar suggests that even Salwa Judum I was a made to order product, a ‘people’s movement’ purchased off some corporate shelf. At the very least, it was manufactured in Delhi, Raipur and in the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, and not in some Dantewada village.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Land Acquisition and Modi in Dantewada

Prime Minister Modi must be commended for visiting Dantewada. But while the last visiting PM recognized its unique biodiversity and culture, Mr. Modi wants to get rid of these as fast as possible.

The government has announced Rs 24, 000 crore investment in the region for a ultra mega steel plant at Dilmilli, and the Raoghat-Jagdalpur railway line among other things. The MOUs are with the public sector SAIL, NMDC and IRCON, but as ongoing construction at the NMDC Nagarnar steel plant shows, many private sector companies like the Tatas have contracts to build specific components.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Any attempt to start Salwa Judum II will be clear contempt of court

"The State of Chattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos, that in any manner or form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person. The measures to be taken by the State of Chattisgarh shall include, but not be limited to, investigation of all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, or those popularly known as Koya Commandos, filing of appropriate FIR’s and diligent prosecution."

Judgement of Justice Reddy and Justice Nijjar, Supreme Court of India, July 5, 2011.