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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

Prof C P Bhambri’s long intellectual journey cames to an end | Radhakanta Barik

Friday 13 November 2020, by Radhakanta Barik


[Prominent Political Scientist Prof CP Bhambri who taught for decades at the Centre for Political Studies in JNU passed way on November 8, 2020. Here is a tribute from a former student of his]

by Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd)

In 1972 when we joined Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Prof Bhambri was an outstanding classroom teacher. Our MA class enjoyed his teaching. He was an articulate and erudite scholar. He could write in English and Hindi. In Dharmyug (the Hindi magazine) his serialized articles on civil service under the pen-name ’Indradev’ made him popular in small towns. His textbook on Public administration brought him a little money. His book Bureaucracy and Politics in India made him a known scholar as for the first time he substantiated with facts and figures. His regular articles on Indian politics made him a known scholar. His book on Foreign policy of the Janata Party brought critical acclaim.

After retirement, he spent more time with young scholars and turned into a public intellectual. Prof Bhambri took farewell from the Department of Political Science two decades back and he taught in three fine institutions of the country. As a young man, he joined as a lecturer in a Meerut College, then moved to Rajasthan University as a Reader and came to JNU as a Professor.

Prof Bhambri remained a Marxist scholar his whole life. He was against feudalism casteism and capitalism. The day Modi won for the second time and he was worried about fascism. He felt that the absence of the Left would help Modi turn into a fascist.

Today he left JNU forever. It was his wish that his dead body be carried from JNU grounds. He was in love with the JNU and involved in the academic and intellectual activities of the campus till the end.

Prof Bhambri a great scholar and a great human being passed away today. Till his last breath, he worked relentlessly. His presence whether in his room in JNU and on the campus breathed life all around. Seemed as if the birds and trees on the campus speak out his ideas and writings. His bold comments on the present political situation kept him an agile thinker. He was everyone’s guru as he would sit with any student to help him or her in their research work. He will be remembered by all who he came in contact with.

JNU as a campus brought a convergence of politics and ideas. In the world of ideas those who are engaged they cannot be far away from politics. It is politics that throw up problems, and social scientists create ideas related to these problems. Only methods are independent of politics. But the research findings are thrown into a cauldron of politics. This is where JNU as a campus cannot be devoid of politics. The history of the campus tells you of the politics of society. In the early phase of JNU, researchers were engaged in political movements such as Kisan, to working class, to tribal movements. They re-examined the history of the national movement and locating these movements in that backdrop. Then came the problems of ethnicity and caste which kept the researchers busy. In the last decade, they engaged with communalism, fascism and democracy.

Hindutva is allergic to rigorous methods that create a sense of history. They are not averse to politics but methods and research findings create irritation in their minds. When Hindutva forces came to power in 1977 they banned history books written by top historians. Then their aversion to historical research made them attack historical methods. They turned history into a political football over the Babri masjid issue. But their fear of methods applied by the scholars exposed their shallowness. They went to all most all universities where their dialogues with students made them worried. This fear of truth has brought the present regime to the conviction that the very existence of JNU with its fine scholars was bad for the Modi government its Hindutva ideology. Prof Bhambri a senior scholar in the campus wrote against these attacks and spoke vigorously against these fascists.

JNU suffers from a problem of elitism which made Prof Bhambri its the victim. His background was the most simple as he was the son of a refugee from Pakistan. He got schooling and college education in UP as his parents settled there. He topped the UP School Board and he topped the university and got the job as a lecturer in Political Science and joined the best college of that time in Meerut. Prof Sood was teaching there and a leading scholar on political thought. He started working over his PhD over the management of public sector units. By coming from Meerut to Delhi on holidays he collected materials for his work. He got a job as a reader in Jaipur University where he with a group of scholars built a Centre of Political Science. His seniors Prof Verma and Iqbal Narain created a centre of excellence. In social sciences, it was difficult to create such space. He was a part of its making. And coming to JNU, he worked hard. He was not deterred by the elitism as JNU used to get students from the best institutions in those days such as St. Stephens and LSR of Delhi and other top colleges. He was very strict in marking the papers which annoyed many students. But as a guide, he sat with his scholars and worked with them. He was the best researcher and scholar in the department of Political science in JNU. He was underestimated by the elites of JNU. But without bothering of them he kept producing knowledge. Till his death, he continued to get scholars from every field to come to discuss with him as he had ideas in each field. He is a real titan in the scholarly world of India. The face of JNU with its old and young scholars create new ideas and enlarge public imagination and the image of JNU stands over it.

Prof Bhambri used to laugh loudly. Such laughter indicated his freedom to express himself. He wouldn’t bother of the authority. He was always an anti-establishment person for which he did not get anything from the State and the UGC.

I was his student and favourite scholar wrote this small poem.

A scholar disappeared in the morning
Morning was cool and bright
Sky was very clean
Earth tolerated a dissident
A pro-people scholar
He is a man of strong opinion
He is a teacher and researcher
He is a scholar
Hindutva was scared of him
His opinion combined with facts
He taught in the best university
He is friendly with trees, birds and hills
He spends time with students
He doesn’t discriminate anybody
He sits with them
He always stands for poor
As an expert, he selects the poor
He encourages them.
He has turned into a bright star in the Eastern sky
Star is going to motivate others
Those seeking knowledge

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