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Mainstream, VOL L, No 30, July 14, 2012

Ideas, History as Human Agency

Sunday 15 July 2012, by Uttam Sen


The author has gone through the grind of journalism from production and reporting to leader writing. This two-part article is an endeavour to see the world through the prism of the average person like himself.

When the father-figures of the government and allied institutions fall short of providing for the common man, he has to fend for himself. Large organisational structures are characteristi-cally top-heavy and centralised and once the ways of the world assert themselves, common folk tend to fall back on the easiest means of sustenance, for example, as Press reports have it, the distressed in Italy are flocking to the mob.

The irrepressibility of the Indian political class was underscored by the Trinamul Congress Chief Minister exercising her influence to press the other option, of rolling back taxes in the Railway Budget. The case for the poor was being projected by a member of the ruling coalition, often the odd one out at the Centre. Given the prescribed parameters, any govern-ment would have acted the way the existing one did, unless it chose to relinquish power, while a solitary State unit or coalition cons-tituent with an eye to the balancing act would equally have provided the novelty. But when complex issues disqualify simple black-and-white solutions, the challenge arises of finding the means that will suffice. Processes of civic life then supersede the outcome, which sedulous scholarship tells us, is the spontaneous way forward. Human action then includes garnering information and chewing the problem over. There is reason to be hopeful that the conclusions will meet public expectations over time, sometimes even on the run.

The growing transparency of public life, as often by accident as by design, is a reality. It is not just about the temporality of scams, particularly those that evaporate after hitting the headlines. The sneaking congruence in people’s thinking emerges across partisanship even if it has to be read between the lines. For example, a trade union leader tells his television audience that the Budget’s architects seldom represent the poor, the peasantry and the working classes, though the intention in setting the record straight was surely not to enclothe the arriviste in sack cloth and ashes. For that matter, the Minister in charge virtually accepts that his mandate is a limited one. The public sphere contains a searing political economy critique in print, that too in a section of the Press known for an indulgent liberalism rather than outspoken radicalism. Among other things, the graft that is believed to be undermining the country’s institutional foundations is a reminder of the forgotten premise of public entitlement and empowerment, first through the provision of essentials and then their (the people’s) expression in those very establishments, namely, the courts, legislatures, media and so on. Pulling people back by compromising food, health, education etc. could spell long-term trouble, of which the present crises are harbingers. The fact that financial austerity of the governmental kind is not the open-and-shut answer to the global predicament is gaining ground.

But when various spectres are at large, a pluralist outlook, arguably a product of histori-cal circumstance, can avert the blind demoni-sation of public stewardship which is also a catalyst of the country’s finance and technology-led passage, sometimes successfully building business confidence in a competitive market. The poser is the preservation of the down-and-out, still integral to a cherished humanism, apart from defining traditional public policy without which things would fall apart. Political expression at the hustings is inconceivable without it. Somehow the intellectual vanguard is not quite addressing a situation where all other things are not equal. A high tolerance threshold, and the diversity of demand created by uniquely resilient public taste, could be setting the tone for weighing contradictory facts or ideas with a view to resolving differences.

Communications and journalism can be about human security and its myriad linkages. The exchange of thoughts, messages, or infor-mation contains its own nuances, sometimes captured over the wider public sphere of scholar-ship, literature and film. On its part, journalism is evolving from merely representing “note-worthy information of recent events” (news) to the treatment of its substance. Given that this exercise is about understanding the nature of what affects the life of people through the intervening agency of the media, the gist is important. Securing the essence assumes even greater urgency when the progression of occurrences that defines them is irregular, even chaotic.
The change in the journalist’s profile from conceivably self-taught freedom fighter/ writer/ reporter to literature, social science or journalism graduate, could partially explain the trend. But overall, direction and control have manifested a different tendency. The business world under-stands that the financial bottomline and econo-mic environment decide a corporate house’s priorities and logically those journalistic ventures that consider themselves to be in the mercantile league lay down their particular line on the nature of coverage. Such observation can, however, create a void and end up favouring the ephemeral over the enduring, for example, sensationalism and the preferences of the select and their worries rather than presenting people and their problems in a way that arouses interest.

In the wider context, influences that centre on humans and their values, capacities and worth, not excluding interests like trade, business and technology, ought to carry the day. Journalists, particularly of the print variety, are, even as instances of the least common denominator, subconsciously aware of the wider perspective and leave their mark. The determi-nation of the Press Council’s Chairman to drive the point home has come as an unexpected bonus to humanistic grounding,1 but apart from the well-taken point of principle, has wider significance because the idea of an evolving human interest-market template could be the sign of the times.
It goes without saying that conversation (discourse) in one form or another makes the average person’s day. Yet political semantics can leave him more disconnected than organised about the choices he must make. At what point does liberty begin? Are his representatives and government the source of his troubles or are they fellow travellers burdened with a legacy and circumstances that at times get beyond them? Are all rulers conquistadors at the moment of truth rather than preservers? And is the sovereignty constitutionally located in him being appropriated by the sophistry of special interests? Samples of public discourse suggest that the interlocutor can separate the wheat from the chaff only by the exercise of due diligence, at the end of the day his own subtle appreciation in matters of taste. This huge facility devolved on him through the acquisition of unqualified and universal adult suffrage at the time of Constitution-making. The common knowledge that the right is vulnerable is being complemented by earnest activity to widen its scope, embracing the characteristics of several diverse groups.
From the time an English journalist success-fully dared to take on his compatriot and well-regarded Governor-General2 to contemporary reportage and analysis of events, the human condition is increasingly gaining salience. A point of serious contention is the durability of the constitutionally enshrined liberty for people in the dock, innocent till proven guilty. The jury is still out on several important inquisitions. Could they turn out to be red herrings when a residuum of economic symmetry is the buil-ding block of a conceptual structure? Life and work in a democratic plural society are exten-sions of that basic form and can lead to the ability to solve problems by divergent thinking and creative approaches. Yet once the fundamen-tals are recognised, men and women of the world are known to negotiate their spaces, not only for personal, but also social benefit. Perceptive managers can see the point in objective (and comprehensive) coverage for corporate returns.

There have been countless stories on scarcity and want, unemployment and the putative food Bill (not always negative) on the pages of publi-cations known for their editorial championing of high growth to the exclusion of everything else. The fact bears recalling that at the inception of the profession the endeavour was made to cut corners and publish unalloyed advertise-ment. The ploy failed as readers rejected the product. Business and competition are admi-ttedly important factors but news and opinion, on which the reader or consumer stakes a seemingly ineffable value (expressible though as the intangible human urge for information and interaction), are well-nigh inviolable. In addition, the dictates of conscience can creep in imperceptibly.

Furthermore, news can gather a momentum of its own, particularly in turning-points such as the one the world is currently witnessing. There are parallel issues on the transformation of newspaper, and subsequently television, ownership that have to do with economic libera-lisation and the arrival of a new attitude. The condition has been the focus of academic research and soul-searching. But to the extent that “being” is the totality of all things that exist, alienation from the state of things as they actually are in observation and analysis has to go down as an empirical deficit. The gap between reality and its projection would arguably also fit the wider category of an impediment to growth.

The dilemma, when it occurs, has necessarily transported (sections of) journalism and its kindred spirits to being causal agencies of the enhancement of human capability. The passage from mechanical chronicling to doing what an individual values most, or the altruistic enter-prise that is native to the human spirit, is strik-ingly analogous to the tale of Indian journalism itself. As is well-known, the profession (though mostly in the vernacular) won its spurs as the medium for nationalism. The Draconian mea-sures to sort it out was another story, and the elite Press had stayed loyal to the establishment, but the legend that the literati had been nouri-shed on both (the establishment and the radical Press) and handed down an eclectic, if sometimes ambivalent, intellectual tradition, remains persuasive.

The subsequent unravelling of elemental journalistic perceptions is heartening to behold. For example, even while the erstwhile journal-istic lightning rods of sensation and violence were snowballing into a preoccupation with terrorism and its associations, the subject was being absorbed into a wider conundrum of scarcity and want that constitutes risks to the security of the ordinary individual.

The Narrative

AT the height of the post-9/11 introspection, the dearth of interchange and reciprocity between people, both of goods and services and ideas, was nailed down as the origin of insecurity. The subprime crisis represented that gap in the US and the dangers with which such exclusion was fraught. Obama’s election signified the remedy (in some senses universally, because of the urgency of bringing a restive Mainstreet into the frame) but over time the mischief returned, for example, the propaganda that the budget deficit caused by welfare was economically pernicious. But the subterfuge continued.3

India was directly touched by the lethal metaphor of alienation that resulted in 9/11 on 26/11 at Mumbai. The Mumbai terrorist outrage touched public consciousness at many levels and highlighted the vulnerability of people, rich and poor alike; a particular brand of fundamen-talism heightened the distress.
Public debate in the country at that time had reached out to the dynamics of multifaceted social discourse to balance the unholy momen-tum of random destructiveness, sometimes to recast obsessions with singular identities and persuasions that led to bigotry. In India, a libe-ral Constitution and law should have informed freedom of thought and expression along with the acquisition of basic entitlements, among other things, as antidotes to anarchy. In a rela-tive sense extreme situations threatening to engulf state and society were averted. India faced hunger and poverty but also possessed the instrumentalities for their redress, namely, the law of the land, the fundamental principles of justice commensurate with due process and the dissemination of information and public debate to buttress their legitimacy. Discursive interventions placed imminent crises in detailed, sometimes healing, perspective. Identity and religion also found face amidst diversity and challenge. The virtual hijacking of society and state by one-dimensional fanaticism was virtually beyond the pale.

Nonetheless, the subcontinent’s arbitrary political division (namely, the Partition) and its aftermath that never really allowed the dust to settle at the ordinary person’s level, predicated an understanding of developments across the border. The issue was reflected in episodic public debate triggered by events, from controversies on Pakistan’s founding father and Gandhi’s relative equanimity on communal and economic issues, among other reasons because he had made the common weal his unfailing point of reference. A global hot-button like the “Arab Spring” focused on the liberation of the ordinary person against the significant backdrop of universal issues like food scarcity, inflation, unemployment and corruption, and their purportedly organic linkages.4

Nevertheless, the neglect of vast demographic swathes from the time of the colonial British presidencies had come home to roost, not only in Pakistan, but India as well. It was forgotten that colonialism had not bequeathed a uniform heritage but one divided by Westernisation and totally indigenous ways of being. When they were set off in dyads like Westernised/affluent and indigenous/poor, fearsome chemistry could occur. Much of the pathos surrounding the single 9/11 terrorist in Indian custody was focused on an indigent youth of the Kasaab (butcher) community recruited from the small town of Faridkot in Western Punjab and set up for destruction. People deprived of minimal necessities were being exploited as cannon fodder to keep the animosity alive and prove a political point. Though seemingly far-fetched in excitable contexts, education and human deve-lopment promise to make civilised discourse rather than a relapse of atavistic violence the last word. Development reports (if memory serves, the location of the study was in Africa) have warned of the deliberate perpetuation of malnutrition and hunger. The disadvantage of deprivation was being compounded to restrict the mental horizons of the oppressed5 and serve the designs of those bestowed with material wealth and access to a much wider world. When cynically rather than trustfully employed, elitist versatility could erode the consensus it pledged to promote.

Pakistan’s case could be rather more involved with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its chief, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, now famously in the US list of wanted terrorists, totally in cahoots with the military and intelligence establishments, despite the formal denials. Saeed significantly also hails from Punjab but is believed to nurture the grouse of Partition migration in which he claims 36 members of his family were killed. Saeed is an unrepentant fundamentalist and kingpin of the Mumbai attack. Significantly, it was Zia-ul-Haq who had unleashed these forces. Why they were encouraged to simmer and then explode would be the point, and constitute a wholly independent subject, not unrelated to the longing for sovereignty that took a self-destructive turn. The disregard and exploitation of the common man’s insecurities on considerations of statecraft would circumstantially emerge as a compelling explanation. In the same breath, given the law of nature, the humanitarian streak in the coun-try’s people and polity would also be determi-nate, though the generic misinterpretation to the contrary is frequently made. In the early years a secular humanistic approach had anticipated the country’s predicament, but a sometimes brilliant intelligentsia was subverted by the force of circumstances.

Yet pernicious influences have been straigh-tened out in the past.
A literary and intellectual liberal like Tagore had visited such an existential quandary in his work, perforce switching over to emancipatory public welfare and pluralism as the indispen-sable planks of a workable ethical framework amidst complex social surroundings. Harking back to a real or imagined golden age under the constraints of foreign rule was perhaps only too human, but not at the cost of the moment when the oppressed continued to suffer (Tagore was specifically distressed by the plight of the poorer members of a particular community).
Little wonder then that the work on which his conclusions6 were based has been hailed as a nation-founding novel. Pakistan, Afghanistan, even Iraq, had been on the nation’s peripheral vision not only owing to a common strategic thread that stretched from colonial times to the present day, but for the urgency of an appro-priate approach to indemnify the “immanent irrepressibility of popular sovereignty”.7 Nego-tiating global vicissitude, even opportunity, was another kettle of fish. These were partially repre-sented in the horizontal project of new economy czars going ahead with a modern agency like Information Technology (and proficiency in a global lingua franca like English) to create jobs and income, and a basic quality of life, while levelling the many undulations of the socio-political terrain.8,9

The gap translates spontaneously into endemic divisions. For instance, a leading Indian political commentator was quoted in The Economist as broadly dividing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political ingredients (he discerned three shades) into Hindu-revivalism and economic liberalisation.10 The break-up could be extended across the subcontinental spectrum. Common space can be difficult to detect on a rough-and-ready reckoning. But the existence of the breach was equally the ground for going over the bridge, plausibly the well-spring of the common man’s quest. Interestingly, the market rummager (for example, for FDI in retail) also took cognisance of the quintessential socio-economic conflict of interest and agreed with the average partisan who bemoaned the lack of political leadership to plug the rift.

Yet in a scenario where popular aspirations required genuine and sensitive interpretation, the muzzling of one of the vital vehicles of public expression and reception, the Press, through the phenomenon of “paid news”, threatened to disrupt the lifeblood of human exchange. The Press and the media are not the only outlets of information and expression in a subcontinent with composite social institutions and can be substituted by other forms of networking and interaction.
But impediments to the spontaneous flow of information is not only deceptive, it can turn the clock back, by privileging influential choices over those of the “insignificant” whole, applicable as much to questions of subsistence and liveli-hood as identity and religion. The Election Com-mission eventually underlined a code of conduct for coverage preceding the 2011 Assembly elections.
In the same way, indiscriminate financial considerations overriding the traditions of learning and education threatened to upset the tenuous balance of values secured in national life. (In the latter case fierce debate over the media resulted in plans being put on hold.) The liberation of information was a priceless agency for maintaining cherished and functional priorities while absorbing change and necessary material progress, the cornerstones of the national dialectic. Without basic unity of thought and action, the perils of operational disintegra-tion, dangerously emergent in various incarna-tions, could spread further.

Freedom as a Function of Human Communication

FREEDOM is a function of human communication. The wider connotation of the threat to liberty (or security) from deprivation to denial, more than outright physical confrontation (as in war), has constituted an unprompted human preoccu-pation. When deliverance is focused to mean the investment of abilities to meet the usual challenges, the remedy is premised on enduring socio-economic relationships, for which the urgency of communication is easily stated. The media can facilitate the role.

The printed word was the initial vehicle of that communication, reiterating humanism as the basis of social engineering, a passage that is still incomplete. In India it has meant negotiating space for the disadvantaged, from justice for the impoverished to terms of gender equality. The pluralist ethic has performed the paradox that informs some of the empirical story’s conclusion and is wondrously repre-sented in the role of the elite Press at its incep-tion, in the commitment to address the problems of the people at large. The statement contrary to accepted opinion is the undeniable frame of reference of newspapers established and/or financed by virtual extensions of the establish-ment and the furtherance, alongside its vested interest, of the objective assessment of reality.

Some of the foundational principles that imbued the rise of the mercantile bourgeoisie were inherent in the equation, a veritable complex of variable elements. For the most part, the Indian elite Press played the true-to-life colonial archetype in major political interludes, but still managed to deliver some of the refor-mist goods, for example, The Statesman, then a British-owned newspaper, carried out a power-ful campaign with newspaper reports, photo-graphs and editorial comments on the Bengal famine of 1943, leading to its belated recognition in the British Parliament in October 1943.11 Some of that material was recovered in a docu-mentary featured in the same paper.12

Hindsight suggests that nexuses invariably develop around structures of power and authority but their lapses can be redeemed by the proverbial checks and balances of a respon-sive system. The knowledge also strengthens the rationale for economic pluralism and the coexistence of classes, even when their inheri-tance is a fait accompli. The same assumptions suffuse media vigilance today.
Given that culture can be defined as an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning, it has been amply in evidence after the trauma of the contested “first war of Independence” in 1857. Word and speech and the capability to objectify situations that are very close to the bone help the ordinary person in India and the subconti-nent grapple with the legacy of the colonial arrangement. The destruction of village handi-craft made the rural economy vulnerable, among other things, to natural calamity. The severity of revenue taxation that was passed on to the peasant was one reason for the Mutiny. Revenue demands disturbed the traditional order of inter-dependence between the ruler and the peasant and issues relating to his moral economy. The rebellion itself initially targeted extensions of colonial power, namely, government officials, bankers, mahajans and so on. However, the anger eventually moved on from those associated with governing influence to individuals identified with the internal order of exploitation. For a time the mutineers did endeavour to run the territory under their control through democratic revolutionary councils that developed into a regime of the north Indian peasant farmer who had cast off his redcoat. But then again they had also threatened to grow into a ruthless dicta-torship. For all the infamy acquired by the country’s heartland State over the years, history and politics appear to have retained a certain consistency.

In the integrated pattern of human knowledge, the Press was the agency to the right of expres-sion and civil liberty, and the Mutiny the symbol of independence that arguably culminated in its realisation, though the parallel agenda of sustai-ning a feudal order was a major failing.

The mental trigger of the historic watershed was more important than the events themselves. But the social learning of the modern period occurred through the post-Mutiny institutions and the dissemination of education in English, despite its restrictiveness. The legacy of symbolic thought (though pre-dating the British period in Indian language and speech) finds expression in contemporary discourse on global economics and politics. Debate can be logically traced to the foundational standards of democracy from the time the ownership of land was inclusively reorganised to dissipate clerical and aristocratic privilege (in Europe). The individual and society were provided the rights and hence developed the capability to raise their levels of productivity and quality of life.

Discerning scholarship has provided the contrast with the subcontinent, for example, destruction of the rural industry, the damage to the peasant’s moral economy and later, the corresponding alienation of the agriculturist from his land with the introduction of the Rail-ways to transport raw material from the hinter-land to the ports; introspection also refreshed for a heterogeneous public the exploitative history of development in which the ports grew at the cost of the hinterland, a direction that has not been reversed. Hence the similarity with big industry dispossessing the poor today is conspicuous as is the disconnect between material progress and the public good when the technology and management associated with liberalisation, arguably excellent in themselves, turn counterproductive in a setting where the numerical mainstream is at the receiving end. Western education made contributions. Significantly, it left the masses out in the cold.

However, the tour de force of the legacy was the space for intellectual difference across nationality, community and/or denomination, though at the end of the day the point could boil down to educational attainment and consequen-tial emancipation. Liberal opinion in England was outraged by the East India Company’s pillage and sometimes in empathy with the legitimate aspirations of Indian people. The pre-tentious “security” concerns that drove the colonial administration to appropriate Awadh after “pulverising” local institutions bore the imprint of a primeval force that would arguably not have enjoyed the seal of enlightened (British) opinion. Paradoxically, the attitudinal similarity of Western evangelists and a certain subconti-nental sect in the contentious 19th century interlude, as discerned by a contemporary British author,13 would also establish the case that bigotry can be a frame of mind shared by adversaries just as much as humanitarianism can be shared across divides.

The countervailing humanism of insightful missionaries was borne out by their work among the disadvantaged, particularly in promoting secular elements like language and education. The axiomatic but elusive truth is that the dichotomy between liberalism and bigotry pervades human approaches univer-sally. The manifest deprivation of the major section of people, for instance, could never have been a subject of reasoned consensus, whatever the compulsions of colonial spoliation. The example of an English editor with a Utilitarian background sedulously following the condition of Indian agriculture and writing on the subject can be recalled.14 Equally, time-servers on both sides would have turned a blind eye to the peasant’s plight. The essential part is whether emancipatory values are beginning to gain ascendancy as the operational agency of deliverance not only for the periphery but an increasingly beleaguered global centre.

Post-Independence, the adoption of a liberal Constitution and the introduction of universal adult suffrage created enormous space for public participation in governance and unfinished reform. New publics, one even representing the masses, had sprung up. But the media, inclusive of the national Press, which, like the mass public was a result of political movements for Independence, had gradually fallen away from a concentration on the human condition. In that it reflected the ostensible retreat from huma-nistic substance of what passes for mainstream discourse. The market proved an overpowering influence in addition to significant occurrences within the Press where a mix of government liberalisation and new technology introduced new ownership and economies of scale. The preoccupation with competition, revenue and political patronage reduced discourse on their pages (or television screens in the case of the electronic media) to the received wisdom of the competitive, up-and-coming classes. As in an earlier period, notable exceptions crop up in the narrative. The wider malady could be a sign of the times but not past correction.

Keeping an ear to the ground yields interesting results. Legislators from the small town and countryside can be consummate vernacular orators whose communication with their wards has the unmistakable flavour of the soil. They grope for the wider perspective, not perhaps always very successfully, but their capacity for symbolic thought, through mastery of speech and writing, has the potential of projecting an extensive mental view, an interior prospect, of popular aspirations. Political choices in the 2012 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh apparently reiterated this phenomenon. Though still too early to call, and arguably not the whole apple, the voter’s preference for the local party and candidate over national parties has been interpreted by the foreign observer, with his vantage of objectivity from afar, as the reversal of 200 years of the Raj and its outcome of centralised governance.15 The voter has the knack of reverting to national parties in parliamentary elections. But it is evident that true synergy would transpire with the blend of the local and the national, perhaps even the global. The agency of communication, including language, would be critical in sustaining an integrated system of thought and action. The relative success of the Right to Information Act in the State adds to the potential unfolding of growth.

With a model of consciousness of one’s environment and existence coming into being, not only through the pyrotechnics of the social media but also conventional discourse in the public sphere, people are arguably set to worst the disagreeable residues of the past, however bleak the cut-and-dried diagnoses. The reality as well as perception of deprivation can lead to the classic “false dilemma”, namely, the over-simplification that offers a limited number of options when in fact more are available. Pros-pective outcomes can become unpopular as soon as one side’s gain is construed as the other’s loss. Lateral thinking is suggesting the possibilities of equitable, mutually-beneficial results. (The term is taken as a heuristic, that is, a usually-speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem; the quandary is seen from many angles rather than being tackled head-on.) The applica-tion in real life situations, which demonstrates phenomenal resilience and ingenuity on the part of the performers, is on. The recovery of lapsed prerogatives is discernibly afoot in the temporal discourse over land that has consumed large parts of the country. Variations in time and space notwithstanding, the disadvantaged are generally being heard by default, more for the law and order threat perception they are seen to be posing than for their intrinsic rights. The latter condition should also be accomplished with time. This is not exactly an unbroken litany of success stories. By most accounts, the putative beneficiaries of Singur and Nandigram have become casualties of an unfinished agenda. But if and when the opening gambits are taken to their logical conclusions there could be qualitative change in the lives of people.

(To be continued)

1. Mr Justice Markandey Katju’s statement, headlined “Media must provide the leadership to society” (The Hindu, December 5, 2001), proved to be the proverbial red rag to workaday editors. “The media is not justified in giving 90 per cent of its coverage to entertainment leaving only 10 per cent to real issues which are socio-economic in nature,” he had said.
2. The reference is to James Augustus Hicky who set up the first English newspaper in India (Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advertiser, 1780), and had assailed the administration of Warren Hastings on public policy. Latter-day analysts like K.N. Panniker had discovered in Hicky’s conflict with the State provenance of the critical culture created in public space.
3. Uninhibitedly liberal discourse would consider this a point of view rather than an entirely settled conclusion. The endeavour to glean positives out of the subprime crisis is reflected in evolving models of risk manage-ment. What is subterfuge for one side can be the last stand to the other.
4. Again, discourse over the public sphere tries to grapple with theory and ideology, both of which have a powerful influence over the understanding and interpretation of local and international events. For instance, dispute and violence in West Bengal have been swept under the sweeping rubric of the battle against global capital in its various manifestations but have also been examined as unrelated, isolated expressions of human competition and conflict. The general statement or a body of ideas are definitely employed by non-partisans as sounding-boards for opinion-formation or the starting point of debate, mindful of the substantive ingredients.
5. ”The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” Steve Biko in Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity, Reality Publications, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 1972.
6. The reference is to Tagore’s novel Gora.
7. Partha Chatterjee, ‘Empire after Globalisation’, EPW, September 11-17, 2004.
8. Nandan Nilekeni underlines this project in his book, Imagining India, Penguin/Allen lane, 2008.
9. The importance of this contribution can be derived from the relative conditions in neighbouring Myanmar. The National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, told the author in Yangon (Rangoon) in 1995 that in the absence of education in medicine or technology, (engines of mobility and growth through the “horizontal project”) the average person had no alternative to joining the Army with its inevitable consequences for state and society.
10. See The Economist, March 31, 2012, “Big Joke Party”. As the comment ran: Swapan Dasgupta, a Delhi-based columnist, reckons the party is divided into three competing strands: a traditional, pro-Hindu, religious one; a pragmatic group keen to kick out the Congress; and Right-of-Centre liberalisers. None has the upper hand, but the last two represent the BJP’s best bet for widening its appeal. The trouble is that large bits of the party reject their prescriptions. On whether to let foreigners invest in Indian retailing, for example, liberalisers clash with small urban shopkeepers. It is hard for the party to appeal to people’s aspirations, to promise a roaring economy, and to devolve more power to the regions. Talk of such things might stir enthusiasm, but requires resolving internal clashes. And it is unclear which national leader is prepared to take on that task.
11. The Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze Omnibus, ‘Poverty and Famines’, 1999, pp. 79-80.
12. See ‘In Search of famine’, The Statesman, September 4, 1984, complied by the author.
13. The reference is to William Dalrymple.
14. For a comprehensive account, see Robert Knight, Reforming Editor in Victorian India, Edwin Hirschmann, OUP, 2008.
15. Christophe Jaffrelot, ‘A Blur of Identities’, Outlook, March 19, 2012.
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