Issue :   
November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:November' 2018

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Lumpenism in academia

Humra Quraishi

Violence at Allahabad University Ruckus on the campus of the universities in Uttar Pradesh seems ongoing. The latest news reports of violence on the campus of the Allahabad university and before that ruckus in the Benaras Hindu University and the Lucknow University speaks volumes of the political rot intruding into these onceupon- a -time great educational institutions.
Its simply shocking to see young students getting thrashed or rounded up or attacked. A complete failure of the system. What had happened at the Hyderabad Central University campus and also on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University or even at the Delhi University were grim reminders of the level to which the State machinery could be used to crush young rebellious voices.
And exactly a year back goons had wrecked havoc on the campus of BHU , when girl students were molested.
Are we living in a democracy or in the Raj or Raja days! I’m reminded of Professor Mushirul Hasan’s volume - The Avadh Punch: Wit and Humour in Colonial North India ( Niyogi Books ) where he writes of the Raj days when Indians could criticize the Brit rulers only through indirect and discreet ways - through cartoons and verse! The take off for the Lucknow- published ‘The Avadh Punch’ was to lampoon the Brit rulers through ‘safe’ ways. So heady was the outcome and response of the Avadh Punch that within a short span 70 Punches were published in several cities of this country. Don’t tell me we have reached that phase when the Avadh Punch or for that matter the Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh Punch will have to be revived so that students can ‘safely’ relay their anger and disgust and hit out at the political rot.
And no talk connected to students can be complete without the mention of the changes in the very syllabi right at the school levels. Blatantly dangerous onslaught on the very text. Changing of historical facts if not deleting chapters from the syllabi. Pointers to the fact that there is a wellplanned strategy to change the very history.
One news report after another of the Rajasthan government planning to remove an entire chapter from school text books, on the maker of modern India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Also, the Maharashtra government’s plans to remove particular history texts focusing on the Muslims rulers. And the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, headed by Dina Nath Batra, had sent a long list of recommendations to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) demanding a host of changes in its textbooks: to remove English, Urdu, and Arabic words, a poem by the revolutionary poet Pash and a couplet by Mirza Ghalib, the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, extracts from painter MF Husain’s autobiography…
Batra also wants references to the Mughal emperors as “benevolent”, the BJP as a “Hindu” party, the National Conference as “secular”, an apology tendered by former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the 1984 riots, and a sentence that “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002” to be removed… Lurking in the background the fact that the earlier demands of Nyas were fulfilled and these were for the removal of AK Ramanujan’s essay - Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation- from the undergraduate syllabus of the University of Delhi. Yes, Ramanujan’s essay was removed from DU’s reading list.
I’m not being very original in stating that a sarkar that cannot take care of its young is damned. And as the 2019 elections near there’s worry cum apprehension that the educational institutions and with that the students could be used by the political mafia. Setting one group against the other! The administration rendered all too weak and run down to veto the political rulers, hell bent on ruining institutions.

A writer in love with the past

Pran Nevile Last month, diplomat –author Pran Nevile passed away at 96…well, almost close to 96, as he died just few days before his 96th birthday. Nevile wrote till the very end and his latest book was launched this July. He was fascinated by the past and with the characters who had then held sway. This was amply evident from the volumes he has authored. The titles telling enough — Love Stories from the Raj; Nautch Girls of India; Beyond the Veil; Rare Glimpses of the Raj; Stories from the Raj: Sahibs Memsahibs and Others; K.L. Saigal: Immortal Singer; Lahore — A Sentimental Journey. Its those emotions for those bygones that perhaps plodded him on … as one's roots play a definite role in building the personality and perception, so, perhaps, the biggest blow that can come one's way is to be forced to leave one's country or city. As Nevile wrote in his preface to his book on Lahore - "This book on the Lahore of my days was conceived in the lonely dining room of Hotel Astoria in Geneva in November 1963. I was having breakfast when I heard someone calling me in Punjabi, `Motian aleo, Hindustan de o ke Pakistan de?' (Prince of Pearls, are you from India or Pakistan?) I looked back, responding promptly `Bashaoaao baitho, main Lahore da han' (Your Royal Highness, please come and sit down, I hail from Lahore). In no time we became very friendly, a blend as it were, of ghee and khichdhi (clarified butter and curried rice) and talked about our glorious city. The conversation released a flood of memories deeply impressed on my mind for decades. I have tried in these pages to commit them on paper." And what could be termed refreshing and positive is that in the epilogue, written after he re-visited Lahore after several years , in 1997 and again in 1999, he does not come up with any sort of bitterness and nor Pakbashing …in fact, the epilogue seems a furthering or say stretching of his emotional bonding with that city and its people. As though none of the political dents, created by the politicians there and here, had managed to disrupt his bonding with the people of his birthplace. And its through music and those musical geniuses of the past,through those singing stars, that he wanted to connect the people of this sub-continent. As a retired civil servant he could have just about sat back and relaxed with the frills hanging around; but he chose to clutch a pen and write on. No, no computers for him, but with the very basics- with the simplepen - that he wrote on. If one were to move further, from the books he authored, to the musical programmes he hosted, then once again, what hits is the focus on the performers of yesteryears —K.L. Saigal, Suraiyya, Talat Mahmood, Begum Akhtar and so many others who had left a mark. I particularly liked his essay on Noor Jehan. Let me quote him,“ On a personal note I have been an ardent fan of Mallika- e- Tarannum for as long as I can remember. I had the privilege of meeting her in 1978 during her visit to Chicago where I was then the Indian Consul General. There was no Pakistani mission there at that time and the organizers of her concert asked Noor Jehan if she would agree to my being invited as the chief guest. I learnt that she readily agreed to the suggestion when told that I was a great fan of hers and also a Lahoria by birth and upbringing. The concert hall was overflowing. There was a roaring welcome and standing ovation as Mallika-e - Tarannum made her appearance on stage. A thundering applause followed as she began the programme with the eternal melody awaz de kahanhai. I requested her to sing one of my favourite songs lagahaimisarka bazar dekho, and she smilingly responded with the remark that she was thrilled to find an Indian diplomat familiar with her latest film songs.” In fact, his knowledge of the arts and cinema of the subcontinent was remarkable. “We in India first made the film Anarkali and later they in Pakistan made that film with the same title .Then, they in Pakistan first made Pakeezah and UmraoJaan …yes, both these two films with these titles were first made there in Pakistan and then later we made them here. And one particular Pakistani Punjabi film – Naukar Woti Da - was copied it here , totally copied , scene to scene …the only thing is that the title was changed - from the Punjabi to Hindustani. Here it was titled - Naukar Bibi Ka.” When I had asked him, how we ,the masses of this sub -continent could corelate, he’d quipped, “ The bureaucracy doesn’t seem interested in people – to – people connect. After all, what happened to those earlier talks of ‘no visas’ for senior citizens - for all those over 60 years - keen to visit each other’s countries. All those hyped promises of people to people connect failed for the bureaucracy doesn’t seem interested , not really bothered.” He wrote on any given topic, except on politics. There was a sense of determination in his voice as he would say that he never allowed politics to enter his writings.