Ms Irani — wrong, again

Today it seems that politics makes strange bedfellows. Sugata Bose delivered a speech, that was academically very good. I applaud to such speeches. Soniaji and Rahulji were compelled. We all should compliment each other.  Shook his hands. I only wished that Dr Bose was to gift them a book called The Dead Reckoning by Sharmila Bose, Dr Bose’s sister. A renowned historian. In the book, she writes that the Bangladesh liberation war was a fallacy. That the Pakistani army did nothing to Bangladeshis that Indira Gandhi went to support. The question that rises now – [Satta to Indira Gandhi ne bhi khoyi thi lekin unke bete ne Bharat ki barbadi ke naaro ka samarthan nahi kiya tha]. Even Indira Gandhi lost power, was out of power, but his son never supported slogans of India’s destruction.

That clip, from HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s much-applauded speech in the Lok Sabha on February 24. Turns out, though, that she was making that stuff up. Or someone was making it up on her behalf. Here is the author, Sarmila Bose, on what her book is really about:

Unfortunately, what Minister Irani attributed to my book is incorrect. She claimed I wrote that “the Bangladesh liberation war was a fallacy”. Whether India’s intervention by means of invasion in Pakistan’s self-destructive crisis was a fallacy or not is an important question, but not one addressed in my book. The book is not about India. It is an investigation, based on extensive field research, of what happened in particular incidents of violence during a little over a year of conflict in what was then East Pakistan. Irani is also mistaken in claiming that I wrote that “the Pakistan army never did anything to the Bangladeshis that Indira Gandhi went to support”. The book is something of a catalogue of horrors: describing the atrocities committed by the Pakistan army to crush a movement for “azaadi” in one of their provinces, as well as those committed by Bangladeshi nationalists against non-Bengalis in the name of Bengali nationalism.

Ms Bose has more to say about the contents of the book, about JNU, and related matters. She ends with this pointed aside:

I realise the minister is busy and perhaps did not have the time to read my book, but whoever briefed her on me is probably unreliable on other matters as well. Quite apart from misrepresenting my work, was it right or fair to try to use me to attack my brother, an opposition MP, who made a speech the day before? Irani thought he should present my book to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. That is a very good idea, as long as they take the trouble to read the book of course, before opining on it. However, it is far more important for the people of India to have access to a wide range of evidence-based publications and the freedom to engage in debate on difficult issues, including the dark side of “nationalism”.


Achievement unlocked

Oof. I’d seen truncated versions of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata, but never managed to catch the whole thing. Done. Here, watch – five hours and 24 minutes of compelling storytelling:

PS: Over and out for the day.

What IS a university for?

In a routine school exam, we were once asked to write an essay on the topic: Examine the characters of Brutus and Cassius and say which in your opinion is better.

Cassius, I concluded in my essay. I was a teenager then; I saw the world in black and white terms. And from that worldview, I preferred the clarity of motive of the staunch Republican, Cassius, to the fence-straddling vacillation of Brutus and his “Not that I loved Caesar less…”. (There were other reasons, but they are not relevant here.)

When the answer papers were returned to us, I found that mine had a big red slash right across it. And a 0/10 mark. My father was appalled. First, because I had gotten 0 in an English exam. Then, after he had read the essay, he was just appalled, period.

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Hamam mein sab…

TMC goons in Burdwan University the other day. Congress goons in Kanpur yesterday, pelting stones and eggs at Subramanian Swamy’s car. As reprehensible, as worthy of condemnation, as the BJP’s various groupings of goons creating mayhem in various trouble spots.

This is why I believe — and keep repeating — that the students of JNU and of the other universities that have come out in support of Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohit Vemula should keep politicians of all stripes at a distance.

A thought for our times


Armies and the Man

The army is increasingly coopted into a BJP-led bait and switch. The ploy is simple, and effective: tack on the army to any and all rants about JNU, nationalism and related tropes; contrast the “free-loading”, slogan-shouting students with the army that is fighting terrorism on a daily basis on our borders and demand that you take sides: students, or army? A recent Rajesh Sinha piece in The Wire examined this tactic in some depth.

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