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মোদি মোহিত নই

April 18, 2013

শিব বিশ্বনাথন, তার লেখায় আমি ভারতের চেহারাটা একটু ভাল দেখতে পাই, তার সহজিয়া ভাবনা আমাকে স্পর্শ করে। আজ মোদি কোথায় তার বিরুদ্ধে দাঁড়িয়েছেন তা তিনি স্পষ্ট দেখিয়ে দেন — তার মূল্যবোধের গণতন্ত্র, সন্ত্রাস নিয়ে তার উদ্বেগের বিপরীতে দাঁড়ায় মোদির নিরাপত্তা, সাফল্য, ব্যবস্থাপনা, চাঞ্চল্য — এখানেই শিব বিশ্বনাথন কারো কারো মোদিকে পছন্দ হলেও তার অপছন্দের কথা জানিয়ে দেন।

বিশ্বের কাছে, বিশেষত এশিয়ার কাছে, আরো ভাল ভাবে বলতে গেলে দক্ষিণএশিয়ার কাছে তার চেয়েও ভাল ভাবে বলতে গেলে ভারতের কাছে চীন এক উদ্বেগের আদর্শ, চীনের সমান হতে হবে, তাই চীনের মতো চালাতে পারবে এরকম লোক খুঁজছে ভারত। কিন্তু এটা ভুল চাওয়া, এটা ভুল পথ, চীনের মতো চলতে গেলে শুধু ভারত নয় পুরো দক্ষিণএশিয়ার অবস্থাই আরো নাজুক হয়ে পড়বে। ভারতের মোদি মন্থিত নিরাপত্তা, সাফল্য, ব্যবস্থাপনা, চাঞ্চল্য পুরো দক্ষিণএশিয়া জুড়ে উদারনৈতিকতার সম্ভাবনার কবর রচনা করবে।

Our forthcoming Lok Sab­ha elections are a bit like the Indian Premier League — both boast of stars and star value.
The three basic stars involved so far are Rahul Gandhi, Naren­dra Modi and Nitish Ku­mar. Each has their bra­nd value, their bevy of cheerleaders and their retinue of fans. Con­tro­versies surround each and create myths. Pro­bably the front leader in terms of media publicity and corporate attention is Modi. I find it difficult to like him.
To someone who has worked for 10 years investigating the Gujarat riots, he seems contaminated. Yet, as a sociologist and a scholar, I am trying to understand why Modi is the flavour of the day. Why is it that people like him?
I have spent hours talking to people. My engineering students adore him. They tell me “he is for security”. He is decisive. He understands the majority. He is for “us”. In fact, they feel that academics like me are short-sighted. Modi, they say, is the future. I asked many of them who were tipping 20 why they did not opt for Rahul. They argued that Rahul was young but he did not represent the youth. The youth loves success; it is aspirational, it is upwardly mobile, and Modi ins­pi­res such attitudes. Rah­ul, they felt, was a young man of 50. He had no achievements of his own. He inherited a job and a position while Mo­di earned it. In an eme­r­ging meritocracy, either as politics or the market, Modi scored high.
Modi has the right personality. He spells confidence and power. He talks of adding value, of empowering through skill. He understands the value of education. Rahul, they add, talks of management but Modi, they said, is managerial. I suggested that he is authoritarian and autocratic, that he does not tolerate dissent. They shrugged it off dismissively. For them, he is decisive. The Congress, they feel, is historical; Modi, they claim, is creating history.
They then add that the Congress is corrupt. Wh­en I referred to Kar­nataka, they claim that Modi is clean. They ar­g­ue that he kept away fr­om his brother, sanitis­ed his relationship with his family, is distant from the MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
I pointed out his closeness to the Adanis, his love for the Tatas. They see this as dynamic and pragmatic. These are words they worship. One of them added that Wipro chairman Azim Premji and Infosys co-founder Narayana Mur­thy also support him. Another asked who got Viswanathan Anand to inaugurate Gujarat as a chess-playing state. I nodded. The youth pre­fers a history of doing to Rahul’s history of just being. One of them added that Bollywood actors, like Ajay Devgn, Sunil Shetty, “Amit Ji”, Anupam Kher, support Modi. I was beginning to look cussed.
I asked them what abo­ut the riots. For them 10 years is a long time in politics. In that politics of equivalence they claim that the Congress has not been punished for 1984. As majoritarian Hindus, they felt I was being unfair and hypocritical. They claimed Modi had a clean chit. I gave them examples of the Bajrang Dal bullying, the rape of women, the status of refugee camps. They said Modi is for development.
“De­ve­lopment” seems to be the magic word. Dev­e­lop­ment is an invitation to the future and by in­viting one to the future, it is inclusive enough. Modi, they claimed, is Mr Development. They added, “He is the only answer for India. He can stand up to China.”
I suddenly realised that history often beco­m­es a baggage to those who want to create history. The young today do not want to be burdened by seniority, or memory. They want to move to the future and Modi celebrates the fu­tu­re. In reply to the ch­ar­ges that he is autocratic, they reply that the Congress is sycophantic. “Give him a chance,” they tell me. “If you can tolerate the Congress, why not Modi?” The Con­gress is seen as a negative force and the Congress’ negativity ad­ds to the positive image of Modi. I also sensed that people admire men of action, men who give a certain sense of physicality to history. Modi, I realised, played and fed on both anxieties and aspirations.
The middle class loves the mainstream and the majoritarian. They want someone who articula­tes this world of mobility. They are tired of concessions to ethnics and minorities, or reservations. They fear failure. Terror ma­kes them insecure. They prefer security to dissent. Modi, they claim, represents this world. He is local, national and global. He can dress in a tribal costume, and he can go to Davos. He has the right values.
Values to them are no longer civilisational. Values today are attitudes that help development. It can be economic development or personality development. For them, development seems wider than any notion of equality. They say pragmatically that life is not a level playing field and claim that Modi provides them an edge. This is a generation that found socialism tiring and bureaucratic. The Congress, they claim, is a residence of that bad dream.
This is a society that dr­eams of India being a global power and sees Modi as leading that process. He is seen as a Patel without Nehru, a Gujarati Bismarck. In fact, they like his bullying hu­mo­ur, his efforts to attack Sonia and the Congress. When I ask them why he is against NGOs, they reply that as the state gets more and more efficient, NGOs become less necessary.
I suddenly realise that my concerns about violence, values and democracy do not make full se­nse. The keywords seem sadly different now. Th­ey are security, success, management, mobility. Modi fits this world better. He seems to be the middle-class list of its own symptoms and anxieties and simultaneously the prescription for su­ccess. I do not understand that but I must acknowledge it. Because I know I have to fight harder to defeat a man who threatens my be­liefs and my way of life.
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4 Comments
  1. Aggression of the ascetic
    Deconstructing Modi’s semiotic war: Is it the end of Nehruvian India?

    I come from a family of scientists who are as Nehruvian as you can imagine. For them, Nehru was a metaphor, a way of life, an intellectual style that was both cosmopolitan and aesthetic. Over the past two decades, one saw attempts to revive and re-articulate the Nehruvian Model. These efforts remained elitist and cosmetic. In reviving Nehru, they did not reinvent him. They created a nostalgia, at most a set of table manners as a form of political correctness. But the real death-blow to the Nehruvian idea came in Amethi this election as Modi stormed the fiefdom to campaign for Smriti Irani. Nehruvianism died a natural death as his epigone oozed mediocrity, confused family and nation, and forgot the axiomatic principles of its perspective. But that was the self-inflicted part of it. India has also seen a symbolic war that has destroyed the Nehruvian imagination and regime. And this we need to understand.

    In writing history, it is the taken-for-granted we often forget. Modi’s semiotic war does not begin with Modi, it begins with the RSS. There is a tendency to be paranoid about the Sangh but deny it as anachronistic or tragicomic. The RSS is a powerful machine, and to achieve its aims, it realised the BJP had to achieve power at the Centre. For this, it was even ready to spring-clean the BJP of its old stalwarts. It also needed a man with the mindset of a pracharak who would magnify the RSS view to form the nation’s imagination. This required not the logic of size, which could be inflationary, but the logic of scale. One had to rebuild the imagination layer by layer and word by word.

    Think of Narendra Modi. A dour, ascetic, almost colourless man, a chaiwala dressed in a dull white. He is the Eliza Doolittle of the RSS. Modi, 30 years ago, reminds me of the little drawings and cut-out dolls my sisters used to have. There were bare outlines to which one could add any costume; colour it, build on it, transform it. The rules were simple but the possibilities infinite.

    Think of the first image of the man. He exudes aggression. He is a nukkad hero, angry with history and Delhi. He feels history, official history, has been unfair to Gujarat, and that Delhi is merely a secret code of exclusion that makes Central power the preserve of the Nehru-Gandhis. Modi is a colourless soul who needs a touch of colour, of style. He has to be rescued from drabness and his dismal science of politics. Colour him literally. His kurta blossoms as peach, light green; his gamcha is now an angavastram, crafted for the symbols of style and leadership. His bare head holds a turban, dyed red, spectacular and ritually deep, with a touch of the primordial. Now, one must manicure the man. The beard is trimmed, the receding hair fights a valiant and victorious battle. A set of waistcoats and Murari Bapu sleeves completes our designer doll. Till now it is a silent movie. One now needs language—both words and body language.

    Everyone knows a bully is a temporary cameo. Bullying works only in some contexts, and one then realises a leader is more than a bully. Leadership allows for a bigger canvas. This leader internalises every step. The bluster leads to silence, to a habit of listening. Silence sustained becomes an act of patience, a virtue. He still needs a new vocabulary, something that goes beyond the repetitiveness of riots, of accusation, denial and counter-accusation. The contentious history of the 2002 riots and the redundancy around it has to yield to a different narrative, one that opens out to India’s middle-class like a new promissory note, yet signals a new social contract for minorities.

    Development becomes the new ritual of proactive citizenship. It was a secular, technocratic World Bank concept but could also be used as a politically playful dialectic. Thus, one could have the Gujarat or Kerala model of development. On an optimistic day, even the Bihar model. Modi used the halo of development as a disciplinary technocratic term, and then hijacked it politically. Development was now a politician’s game, which economists could join as knight-errants or consultants, secondary characters in the development battle. It was desperately seductive, and the Bhagwatis, Panagariyas, Sens, Nick Sterns and our local pack of social scientists joined in, splitting indices in a ritual reminiscent of the battle over the poverty line after the Green Revolution. Development was now a video game, an object of fixation like PlayStation or X-Box.

    You corner a word and create a turf, a set of rituals, and then outsource it. It is now your game. You could create a new civics out of it. Add a variant called Governance, and you elicit a Pavlovian drool. With two words, you have grabbed the high moral ground; you have created a new discourse that all the volumes of EPW cannot drown.

    Modi is now Mr Development. It is a conceptual coup that combines a word and a world with brilliance.

    Development also performs a few other magical functions. It erases the past and turns one forward-looking; demand for development is a demand for a better future. It erases memory, whether it is a tribal’s past or a Muslim’s view of a land choked in the agony of genocide. Now the past is seen as hypochondria. It is your past and therefore parochial. In a bid to escape the past, Modi invites Muslims to the fair land of development. This is the new civics of citizenship, and erasure, its rite of initiation. It works not so much on minorities but on his constituency— the new middle-class.

    Modi and the RSS were shrewd enough to grasp that to create Modi as a leader, he had to be co-produced; that is, mutually recreated along with his constituency— the new middle-class. This class was not confined to the old bureaucratic class of socialism with a mentality as wide as a ration card. It stemmed from consumerism, desire and entrepreneurship, and its origin owed more to Ambani than Nehru. It was a class proud of money-making and ownership of shares as an intrinsic part of citizenship. Aspirational and mobile, it thought beyond caste and sought to create an urbane image of success. While embedded in tradition, it clutched at certain symbols on the way to modernity, like Linus and his blanket. It adored technology and doted on the nation state. It loved Indian culture as a spectacle and was unapologetic about religion. It was tired of being laughed at by secular intellectuals, and Modi became a champion of this new middle-class. He embraced this majoritarian Hinduism by giving it a consumerist veneer. By linking it to the nation state, he literally created a new political project. Three key terms—‘middle-class’, ‘nation state’ and ‘development’—would provide the nodes of his politics. Ready with costumes and a new vocabulary, our actor now had to initiate the new costume ball.

    The target: Delhi. The object: the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The project: the de-legitimisation of the UPA regime.

    +++

    One begins tentatively with five-finger exercises. Little forays. Little acts of sniping. One adds to the adrenalin as the audience watches. Gujarat has to be built as the New Paradise. The Congress cannot invoke UPA I, but UPA II has to challenge the promise of Gujarat. A developmental contest begins, and Modi inaugurates its Olympics, each indicator prized like a gold medal. It was a brilliant move. Gujarat’s entrepreneurial successes, its urbanisation experience, its spectacular recovery from the Bhuj earthquake were all highlighted, with Modi orchestrating the show. It was a symbolic battle of numbers, and Modi could piously add that not a single riot had taken place since 2002. Gujarat, the new cornucopia, was contrasted to Delhi. Now Delhi as a construct had to fall symbolically.

    For Modi, Delhi was always the Delhi of the Mughals and Nehru-Gandhis, of outsiders who had appropriated history and built a false iconography. Delhi had undermined democracy by undermining federalism. Many states could create alternative societies if Delhi let them; some had already seceded without the Centre knowing it. Supine, Delhi had also failed as a guarantor of security. It had little vision of India as a global power.

    Vertebral Modi, ready to take charge of an absentee State called Delhi, would tie the ignored nationalist history of Patel, Vivekananda and Ambedkar to an India of the future. To achieve this, India had to exorcise Delhi of the dynasty.

    Exorcisms and openings were to follow. It was, however, a waiting game, full of middle moves, each creating a grid of expectations. India had to be trained to think across a semiotic grid. Modi realised that the opposition ‘Gujarat versus Delhi’ was not enough. He had to shrink criticism, reduce the role of opponents. Criticism was read on the insider-outsider grid, as informal sedition stemming from Delhi intellectuals, the outsiders, the old English-speaking elite. Gujaratis knew better. Second, he had to create a new mentality as a confidence-building measure. Gujarat could receive justice from history only if it asserted itself and narrated its achievements. From its asmita to its economics, it became the antithesis of Delhi.

    Yet, symbolism, to be complete, needed characters. Delhi was populated by puppets like Manmohan and Rahul. Their denigration was his next act semiotic destruction. It was an act of baiting and bludgeoning that rendered the Congress effete and its leaders impotent. Of course, Modi had moral luck as his opponents stumbled from scam to scam—their handling of which hurt them more than the scandals themselves. With ‘governance’ becoming a hallowed term, the moral emptiness of the Congress was not difficult to demonstrate. What had to be fastened to its sticking place was Manmohan’s impotence.

    Let us look at Manmohan symbolically. The UPA I was legend and he was seen by many as the economist-hero, literally a philosopher king, a man who put his money where his mouth was. India was proud of its academic Prime Minister. Brahminic India waved him like a flag. One had to deflate this, do what a wag called ‘a Churchill’ on him, portraying him, as Britain’s PM had described Attlee, as ‘a modest man with a lot to be modest about’. By UPA II, Manmohan was literally that. His was a goodness that was correct, functional and clerical. Where square pegs had to fit square holes, the Manmohan regime had everything in place. Yet, when things turned erratic, his goodness, the quiet way he adjusted, proved inadequate. It could not cope with epic corruption under the regime’s watch. Manmohan’s goodness became autistic, regressing to a silence that suited Modi, who treated him with contempt.

    But Manmohan the functionary was easy to neutralise. The real target was the Prince Charming of the regime, the modernist as boy-scout—Rahul Gandhi.

    By UPA II, India had a new generation with no memory of either the Freedom Movement or the Emergency. It was an aspirational generation, globalised and upwardly mobile, open to a new symbolic India of the Information Revolution. To a generation that had microchips as genes, Rahul lacked cybercool. Worse, he treated politics as an avocation, projected an absentmindedness that was disconcerting. He was a successor who acted as third in command. He was almost echolalic in speech, talking of his ‘mummy’ and ‘nani’ when a nation expected assertiveness. For the semiotically hungry Modi, he was a perfect target.

    The play of opposites was fascinating. Modi was focused aggression, while Rahul was quiet reticence. Modi was aspirational, while Rahul recited his family genealogy like a BA certificate. Modi gloated over performance, while Rahul signalled empty promise. Modi offered speed, while Rahul signified delay. Modi was inventive, Rahul correct. Modi was responsive, even as Rahul’s learning curve stayed flat. Modi screamed for attention, Rahul was absence personified. Modi summoned Patel, Vivekananda, Savarkar, Ambedkar and Vajpayee as if he had a full-fledged pantheon of nationalist heroes working for him, while Rahul’s language was simplistic, his invocations limited to family names. One suggested an epic, or at least a soap opera full of myth, the other barely survived as a limerick, too relaxed to convey even a Haiku-like tension.

    The drama of contrasts became an exaggeration of opposites. Modi may have been an acquired taste, but Middle India was making him a habit, like tea. He had the right flavour, the right intensity, a local Wagh Bakri ready to be an orange pekoe—the right brew ready for the politics of the time.

    Yet, Modi was not ready as yet. He had to pass the institutional test, obtain clearances from the Nanavati Commission and SIT. Time slowed symbolically for Modi, but his tactics worked. He realised that dissent was entropic and as critique tended to burn out quickly. It was a waiting game, but wait he could, like a crafty Odysseus, while secular battalions exhausted their script. As memory faded or turned contentiously repetitive, Gujarat signalled a need to move on. The SIT report sanitised him further. With civil society in disarray, Modi was ready for the final battle.

    The battlefield had to change. The ‘Gujarat versus Delhi’ story was too parochial. The war had to be grander. Now it was an idea of India, not just an India of ideas. A new, aggressive idea of India—a match for China, proud to be at Davos—had to be articulated. This needed a mix of symbols both traditional and modern, Swadeshi and technocratic. Problem-solving had to have a touch of machismo. And our boundaries, like our integrity, had to be immaculately clear. By then Brookings and the World Bank had hailed him as the prophet of governance. The Congress, in contrast, sounded dysfunctional.

    One needed that last touch of ruthlessness, a clearing out of the stables only the RSS could achieve. This regime was not to be a gathering of yesterday’s heroes. The RSS knew this was its sole chance. This would not be the regime of a Vajpayee who needed a stabilising double in Advani. Unlike Vajpayee’s inclusive magic, this was science, a semiotic war to put a new regime in place for the next few decades. This was not a battle for popularity, but survival. If the future was a scythe, it had to behead people from both sides. The future was Modi, the RSS and India. No other force was relevant. The semiotic machine had to strike clean. Modi was to be campaign manager and party supremo. The rest did not count. It was clear cut, this RSS decision. The election war had an economy to it.

    +++

    If a week is a long time in politics, 10 years can feel like compressed time. In his capture of symbols, Modi has been ruthless. He has captured history, development and a middle-class imagination in 10 years. As a spectacle, he is impressive. Television’s idolatry of him is awesome. He is seen as the exemplar of his own paradigm. Replaying Patel, squashing Nehru’s epigone, and creating a new chapter of history—but as part of the subconscious. The dramas, though, are of a different order. As Nehruvians shrink, ‘Patel’ arises as a grand archetypal statue, the legend of Indian politics. Remember, small victories will not do. One must pulverise the Congress. Numbers must speak, uttering the epic victory of Modi.

    As the Modi juggernaut reaches Lutyens’ Delhi, one is still left with many questions. How much of India will be Nehruvian, how much Modiesque? Will the RSS, like the CPM, tamper with society? What kind of role will civil society have? Will the State and RSS crush dissent? Will the marginalised have to accept a majoritarian consensus? What is swadesism in a ‘Modified’ society? Will it be a form of technocratic fundamentalism? These are not easy questions to answer, and as one who belongs to the opposition, one must ensure that Modi does not answer them in a facile manner. Democracy as trusteeship cannot be left to Modi alone. This much an opposition should gracefully and forcefully promise to uphold.

    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/voices/aggression-of-the-ascetic

  2. How Modi defeated liberals like me

    On May 17, Narendra Modi revisited Varanasi to witness a pooja performed at the Kashi Vishwanath temple. After the ritual at the temple, he moved to Dashashwamedh ghat where an aarti was performed along the river. The aarti was more than a spectacle. As a ritual, it echoed the great traditions of a city, as a performance it was riveting. As the event was relayed on TV, people messaged requesting that the event be shown in full, without commentary. Others claimed that this was the first time such a ritual was shown openly. With Mr. Modi around, the message claimed “We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion. This could not have happened earlier.”

    At first the message irritated me and then made me thoughtful. A colleague of mine added, “You English speaking secularists have been utterly coercive, making the majority feel ashamed of what was natural.” The comment, though brutal and devastating, was fair. I realised at that moment that liberals like myself may be guilty of something deeper.

    At the same time moment, some Leftists were downloading a complete set of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks fearing that the advent of Mr. Modi may lead to the withdrawal of these books. The panic of some academics made them sound paranoid and brittle, positing a period of McCarthyism in India. It also brought into mind that both Right and Left have appealed to the state to determine what was correct history. With the advent of the Right, there is now a feeling that history will become another revolving door regime where the official and statist masquerade as the truth.

    Secularism as a weapon

    I am raising both sets of fear to understand why Left liberals failed to understand this election. Mr. Modi understood the anxieties of the middle class more acutely than the intellectuals. The Left intellectuals and their liberal siblings behaved as a club, snobbish about secularism, treating religion not as a way of life but as a superstition. It was this same group that tried to inject the idea of the scientific temper into the constitutions as if it would create immunity against religious fears and superstitions. By overemphasising secularism, they created an empty domain, a coercive milieu where ordinary people practising religion were seen as lesser orders of being.

    Secularism became a form of political correctness but sadly, in electoral India it became an invidious weapon. The regime used to placate minorities electorally, violating the majoritarian sense of fairness. In the choice between the parochialism of ethnicity and the secularism of citizenship, they veered toward ethnicity. It was a strange struggle between secularism as a form of piety or political correctness and people’s sense of religiosity, of the cosmic way religion impregnated the everydayness of their lives. The majority felt coerced by secular correctness which they saw either as empty or meaningless. Yet, they correctly felt that their syncretism was a better answer than secularism. Secularism gave one three options. The first was the separation from Church and State. This separation meant an equal distance from all religions or equal involvement in all religions. There was a sense that the constitution could uphold the first but as civilisations, as communities we were syncretic and conversational. One did not need a parliament of religions to be dialogic. Indian religions were perpetually dialogic. The dialogue of medical systems where practitioners compared their theologies, their theories and their therapies was one outstanding and constructive example.

    There was a secondary separation between science and religion in the secular discourse. Yet oddly, it was Christianity that was continuously at odds with science while the great religions were always open to the sciences. Even this created a form of coerciveness, where even scientists open to religion or ritual were asked to distance themselves from it. The fuss made about a scientist coming to office after Rahukalam or even discouraging them from associating themselves with a godman like Sai Baba was like a tantrum. There is a sense of snobbery and poetry but more, there is an illiteracy here because religion, especially Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science. In many ways, Ecology is an attempt to reshape and reinvent that legacy.

    Tapping into a ‘repression’

    What secularism did was it enforced oppositions in a way that the middle class felt apologetic and unconfident about its beliefs, its perspectives. Secularism was portrayed as an upwardly mobile, drawing room discourse they were inept at. Secularism thus became a repression of the middle class. For the secularist, religion per se was taboo, permissible only when taught in a liberal arts or humanities class as poetry or metaphor. The secularist misunderstood religion and by creating a scientific piety, equated the religious with the communal. At one stroke a whole majority became ill at ease within its world views.

    Narendra Modi sensed this unease, showed it was alienating and nursed that alienation. He turned the tables by showing secularism — rather than being a piety or a propriety — was a hypocrisy, or was becoming a staged unfairness which treated minority violations as superior to majoritarian prejudices. He showed that liberal secularism had become an Orwellian club where some prejudices were more equal than others. As the catchment area of the sullen, the coerced, and the repressed became huge, he had a middle class ready to battle the snobbery of the second rate Nehruvian elite. One sensitive case was conversion. The activism of Hindutva groups was treated as sinister but the fundamentalism of other religions was often treated as benign and as a minoritarian privilege. There was a failure of objectivity and fairness and the infelicitous term pseudo-secularism acquired a potency of its own.

    While secularism was a modern theory, it was impatient in understanding the processes of being modern. Ours is a society where religion is simultaneously cosmology, ecology, ritual and metaphor. Most of us think and breathe through it. I remember a time when the epidemics of Ganesha statues were drinking milk. Hundreds of believers went to watch the phenomena and came away convinced. I remember talking to an office colleague who returned thrilled at what she had seen. I laughed cynically. She looked quietly and said, “I believe, I have faith, I saw it. You have no faith so why should the Murti talk to you.” I realised that she felt that I was deprived. She added that the mahant of a temple where the statue had not drank milk had gone into exile and meditation to make up for his inadequacy. I realised at that moment that a lecture on hygroscopy or capillary action (the scientific explanations) would have been inadequate. I could not call her illiterate or superstitious. It was a struggle about different meanings, a juxtaposition of world views where she felt her religion gave her a meaning that my science could not. I was reminded that the great Danish physicist, Niels Bohr had a horseshoe nailed to his door. When Bohr was questioned about it, he commented that it won’t hurt to be there. Bohr had created a Pascalian Wager, content that if the horseshoe brought luck it was a good wager, but equally content that if it was inert it did no harm. I wish I had replied in a similar form to my friend.

    For a pluralism of encounters

    I realise that in many places in Europe, there has been a disenchantment with religion. I have seen beautiful churches in Holland become post offices as the church confronted a sheer lack of attendance. But India faces no such problem and we have to be careful about transplanting mechanical histories.

    Ours is a different culture and it has responded to religion, myth and ritual. The beauty of our science Congress is that it resembles a miniature Kumbh Mela. But more, our religions have never been against science and our state has to work a more pluralistic understanding of these encounters. Secularism cannot be empty space. It has to create a pluralism of encounters and allow for levels of reality and interpretation. Tolerance is a weak form of secularism. In confronting the election, we have to reinvent secularism not as an apologetic or disciplinary space but as a playful dialogue. Only then can we offer an alternative to the resentments that Mr. Modi has thrived on and mobilised. I take hope in the words of one of my favourite scientists, the Dalai Lama. When George Bush was waxing eloquent about Muslims, the Dalai Lama commented on George Bush by saying, “He brings out the Muslim in me.” I think that captures my secular ethic brilliantly and one hopes such insights become a part of our contentious democracy.

    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/how-modi-defeated-liberals-like-me/article6034057.ece

  3. বিস্ফোরক অভিযোগ করলেন নোবেলজয়ী অর্থনীতিবিদ ড. অমর্ত্য সেন৷‌ নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের আচার্যের পদ থেকে কেন তাঁকে সরে যেতে হচ্ছে, সে-ঘটনার বিবরণ দিয়ে অধ্যাপক সেন জানিয়েছেন, তাঁকে আচার্যের পদ থেকে পদত্যাগ করতে বাধ্য করা হচ্ছে৷‌ সরাসরি কেন্দ্রের নরেন্দ্র মোদি সরকারের দিকে আঙুল তুলে ড. সেন বলেছেন, এটা কোনও বিচ্ছিন্ন ঘটনা নয়৷‌ শিক্ষাক্ষেত্র, শিল্প প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলি সম্পূর্ণ নিয়ন্ত্রণে নিয়ে আসার যে পরিকল্পনা করেছে মোদি সরকার, নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের আচার্য পদ থেকে তাঁকে জোর করে সরানোর চেষ্টা তারই একটি অঙ্গ৷‌ নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের আচার্যের পদ থেকে বাধ্য হয়ে কেন তাঁকে সরে যেতে হচ্ছে, তা নিয়ে ৪ হাজার শব্দের একটি নিবন্ধ লিখেছেন অধ্যাপক অমর্ত্য সেন৷‌ সেটি ‘নিউ ইয়র্ক রিভিউ অফ বুকস’ পত্রিকার আগস্ট সংখ্যায় প্রকাশিত হবে৷‌ সেই নিবন্ধটিরই বিষয়ে একটি ইংরেজি দৈনিকে সাক্ষাৎকারে নোবেলজয়ী অর্থনীতিবিদ জানালেন তাঁকে এভাবে অসম্মান করার কথা৷‌ নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় থেকে তাঁকে অপসারণের কথা সক্ষোভে জানিয়ে ড. সেন এ ঘটনাকে শিক্ষাক্ষেত্রে মোদি সরকারের বড় রকম হস্তক্ষেপের অভিযোগ করলেন৷‌ সাক্ষাৎকারে বিস্তৃতভাবে মোদি সরকারের সমালোচনা করে ড. সেন জানিয়েছেন, দেশের অর্থনৈতিক হাল তাঁকে দুশ্চিন্তায় ফেলেছে৷‌ জনস্বাস্হ্য ও শিক্ষাক্ষেত্রে যেভাবে বাজেটে বরাদ্দ হ্রাস করা হয়েছে, তাতে তিনি উদ্বিগ্ন৷‌ ক্ষোভ প্রকাশ করে ড. সেন বলেছেন, তিনি শিল্প-বিরোধী নন৷‌ কিন্তু একটা দেশ কখনই শিল্পসমৃদ্ধ হতে পারে না যদি শ্রমিকেরা শিক্ষার আলোকপ্রাপ্ত না হন, রুগ‍্ণ স্বাস্হ্যের হন৷‌ সরকারি সিদ্ধান্ত হয়েই গেছে৷‌ সামনের ১৭ জুলাই ড. অমর্ত্য সেন নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের আচার্য পদ ছাড়ছেন৷‌ নতুন আচার্যের পদে আসছেন জর্জ ইয়ো, তিনি সিঙ্গাপুরের প্রাক্তন বিদেশমন্ত্রী৷‌ ক্ষুব্ধ অধ্যাপক সেন বলেছেন, পদত্যাগই তিনি করবেন৷‌ ড. সেন জানিয়েছেন, নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বোর্ডের বেশ কিছু সদস্য, বিশেষ: বিদেশিরা তাঁর পাশে দাঁড়িয়েছিলেন, সরকারের সঙ্গে সঙঘাতে যেতে চেয়েছিলেন তাঁরা৷‌ কিন্তু তিনি রাজি হননি, নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের প্রধান হিসেবে কাজকর্মের ক্ষমতা হারিয়ে বসে থাকতে চাননি৷‌ থাকলে, সরকার এই পদের মর্যাদা দিত না, এই বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের জন্য যথাযথ বরাদ্দও করত না৷‌ নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে আন্যান্য ক্ষেত্রে সরকারের হস্তক্ষেপের নানান অভিযোগও করেছেন ড. সেন৷‌ তিনি বলেছেন, টি আই এফ আরে ড. সন্দীপ ত্রিবেদীকে ডিরেক্টর পদে নিয়োগ করা হয়েছিল, কিন্তু সরকার অনুমোদন দেয়নি৷‌ ড. সেন সক্ষোভে বলেছেন, অন্য কোনও প্রধানমন্ত্রীর আমলে এমন হয়নি৷‌ তিনি বলেছেন, এজন্য শুধু মানবসম্পদ বিকাশ মন্ত্রককে দায়ী করা যায় না, গোটা মোদি সরকার এজন্য দায়ী৷‌ নালন্দা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় কেন্দ্রের মানবসম্পদ বিকাশ মন্ত্রকেরই অধীন৷‌ ন্যাশনাল বুক ট্রাস্টের ঘটনার কথা তুলে ড. সেন বলেছেন, বিশিষ্ট লেখক সেতুমাধবন ছিলেন এন বি টি-র প্রধানের পদে৷‌ তাঁকে সরিয়ে বসানো হয়েছে রাষ্ট্রীয় স্বয়ংসেবক সঙেঘর এক তাত্ত্বিককে৷‌ আই সি সি ই আরে আনা হয়েছে ড. লোকেশ চন্দ্রকে, যিনি বিশ্বাস করেন মহাত্মা গান্ধীর চেয়ে নরেন্দ্র মোদি বড় নেতা৷‌ আই সি এইচ আরে প্রধান পদে নিযুক্ত হয়েছেন ইয়েলাপ্রাগাড়া সুদর্শন রাওকে, যিনি ইতিহাস নয়, জাতপাত নিয়ে গবেষণা করেছেন এবং মনে করেন জাতিগত শ্রেণীবিন্যাস যখন অতীতে ছিল, তখন ভারতের উন্নতি ঘটেছে৷‌ ড. সেন জানিয়েছেন, দিল্লির আই আই টি-র ডিরেক্টর রঘুনাথ শোভগাঁওকরকে ইস্তফা দিতে হয়েছে, আই টি আই বোম্বাই বোর্ডের চেয়ারম্যান কাকোদর হতাশ হয়ে বলছেন, ভবিষ্যতে এই সরকারের সঙ্গে কোনও সহযোগিতা তিনি করতে পারবেন না৷‌ দেশের অর্থনীতির সমালোচনা করে ড. সেন বলেছেন, মোট জাতীয় উৎপাদনের মাত্র ১.২ শতাংশ ভারত খরচ করত জনস্বাস্হ্যে, এখন আরও কমিয়ে মাত্র ১ শতাংশ৷‌ চীন খরচ করে ৩ শতাংশ৷‌ ইউ পি এ সরকারের ২০১৩-র জমি অধিগ্রহণ বিলটির উল্লেখ করে অধ্যাপক সেন বলেছেন, ইউ পি এ-র এই বিল ছিল বিভ্রান্তিকর৷‌ আর এন ডি এ সরকারের ভূমি অধিগ্রহণ বিল পুরোপুরি ভুল৷‌
    [http://aajkaal.in/india/%e0%a6%ae%e0%a7%8b%e0%a6%a6%e0%a6%bf%e0%a6%b0-%e0%a6%9a%e0%a6%be%e0%a6%aa%e0%a7%87%e0%a6%87-%e0%a6%a8%e0%a6%be%e0%a6%b2%e0%a6%a8%e0%a7%8d%e0%a6%a6%e0%a6%be-%e0%a6%a5%e0%a7%87%e0%a6%95%e0%a7%87/]

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