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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 6, February 4, 2023

From the Commander of Knowledge | Mohammad Talib

Saturday 4 February 2023


* From the Commander of Knowledge

Olive green judgements.
Brass button reflections.
Thinking tied
around cross belts.
To see or not to see,
that is the question.
Seeing ‘the sea of trouble’**
and suffer its ‘slings
and arrows’,
is banned.
‘Not seeing’ guards the viewers
against the ‘heart-ache
and the thousand natural shocks’.
The runway of thinking
is already mapped.
It bleeds off fruitless thoughts
in the national interest.
The university’s proctors
parade free-thinking
with a thousand about-turns.
The campus air has musical notes
of the clinks of iron heels.
The metal fists orchestrate.
In dreaming of a just world
the academic community wakes up into
a cantonment.

by Mohammad Talib***

* On January 23, 2023, a group of students at Jamia Millia Islamia planned the screening of the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’. The Jamia administration banned the programme with support from the police and paramilitary forces equipped with anti-riot weaponry. For enforcing ‘peace’ on the campus, the university administration left no stone unturned.

** The phrases within single quotes in the poem are cherry-picked from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, monologue in Act 3, Scene I.

*** Dr Mohammad Talib is ‘Senior Associate’, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and Research Affiliate, School of Anthropology, University of Oxford. He taught sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia from 1979 to 2001 followed by fellowship in anthropology of Muslim societies at the University of Oxford until his retirement in 2021.

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