Guest post by HARSH MANDER
Eighty five years ago, on 23 March 1931, Bhagat Singh walked bravely, proudly to the gallows, his two young colleagues Rajguru and Sukhdev by his side. His lustre continues undimmed as an icon for succeeding generations, so that it is easy to forget he was only 23 years old. Subhash Bose spoke then of Bhagat Singh as a ‘symbol of the new awakening among youth’. Nehru saw in him ‘a spark that became a flame in a short time and spread from one end of the country to another dispelling the prevailing darkness everywhere’. His popularity rivalled that of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the decades after his passing, in times of public ferment, despair, confusion and anger, successive generations in India have found their own inheritors of young Bhagat Singh’s mantle, men and women embodying defiant youthful idealism and dissent, young people battling for social and economic equality, for true freedom, sparks that once again set aflame a beleaguered wearied country battling the darkness of the times.
Continue reading Bhagat Singh Then and Now: Harsh Mander
Guest post by HARSH MANDER
Two events altered his life forever. The first was when he witnessed a supervisor disrespectfully berating and kick a junior employee, which transformed a young apolitical physicist, who was passionately devoted to fundamental scientific research, into a tireless trade-unionist. The second – seeing his beloved adopted city Ahmedabad burn with tumultuous hate violence for many weeks in 2002 – thrust him into the heart of many battles against state power malevolently exercised against people of minority faiths. When Mukul Sinha succumbed to a particularly deadly stream of cancer in the summer of 2014, just weeks before Narendra Modi was swept to power, the country lost one if its bravest, most forthright voices for justice.
Raised in the railway enclave of the small district town of Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh where his father served, the young man had clearly worked out his chosen career as a scientist. After graduating in physics from IIT Kanpur, his elected life pathway seemed neatly laid out for him when, in 1973, he was accepted for his doctoral studies in plasma physics in the prestigious Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. Founded in 1947 by the legendary Vikram Sarabhai, this apex space research institute undertakes fundamental research in physics, space and atmospheric sciences, astronomy, solar physics and planetary geo-sciences. This was where India’s first space satellite was born. It was a cloistered intellectual world, separated it seemed by light years from the turbulent life of fighting injustice which Mukul was to ultimately choose. Continue reading We Need You More Than Ever Today – A Tribute to Mukul Sinha: Harsh Mander
Guest post by HARSH MANDER
Among most secular progressive people in India today there is the belief – indeed an article of faith – that India has been, through most of its long history, a diverse, pluralist and tolerant civilization – the land of Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi. It is a culture in which every major faith in the world found through the millennia the space and freedom to flourish and grow, where persecuted faiths have received refuge, where heterodox and sceptical traditions thrived alongside spiritual and mystical traditions, and where ordinary people live and instinctive respect for faith systems different from their own.
All of this is true, and this is why the rise of a narrow, monolithic and intolerant interpretations of Indian culture – what Romila Thapar describes as the right-wing Semitisation of Hinduism – in new India causes us deep disquiet. But what our analysis does not stress often or deeply enough is that all of India, both old and new, has been also built on the edifice of the monumental inequality and oppression of caste, and that this is equally the story of India, old and new. Continue reading Learning from Babasaheb: Harsh Mander
We are publishing below a communication received from Harsh Mander, a former member of the National Advisory Council, regarding misrepresentation of his position and his politics by no less a person than the editor-in-chief of the Indian Express. The misrepresentation could easily have been corrected, had the mistake been really a mistake but by not publishing the letter or even an editorial correction, newspaper and the editor seem to be acknowledging that the error was in fact, intended. In the language of the Cold War, acts such as these were called ‘disinformation’.
Response to Mr Shekhar Gupta’s article ‘The Bleeding Heartless’ in the Indian Express, June 1 2013
In response to an article by Mr Shekhar Gupta ‘The Bleeding Heartless’ in the Indian Express, June 1 2013, I sent the letter reproduced below on 3 June 2013, which has not yet been carried by Indian Express. I try not to respond polemically to articles which disagree with my views on public policy or other issues, as these differences are perfectly legitimate in a democracy. And who is to be sure that I am right, and my critics are wrong? But this was different, because it utterly falsely described my ideological position on Maoism as sympathetic, whereas I have always been passionately and publicly opposed to all forms of violence, including Maoist violence. Moreover it linked this to my membership in the NAC, and through that by implication to the many pro-poor agendas I sought to bring into and support within the NAC in the two years that I was a member. Finally Indian Express did not check with me the full facts reported in the opinion piece. I therefore felt I should respond formally to the report. But since this response has not been carried, and on the other hand it is being publicly referred to by others as well, I felt it would be best to place this reply in the public domain. – Harsh Mander Continue reading Disinformation and Journalistic Ethics: A Letter from Harsh Mander