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GYANOPROBHA
I'm a fifty-seven year old father of two grown-up sons, a husband, a son, a brother, a grandfather; and professionally, a high school teacher burdened both by an "idealistic" belief in the possibility of a world where freedom is more fairly distributed, as well as by the certainty that we are still far away from it. The title Gyanoprobha may seem rather pretentious, as if I am the source of the "light of knowledge" in "the encircling gloom" of my bye-line. I see myself as a "pessoptimist" (whose coinage was that??) - someone looking for a light - a reason to be hopeful about the future - when so many things point in the opposite direction. I find this reason in some people who are very close to me, in some ideas and events. Gyanoprobha is my attempt to make the gloom bearable and look for reasons for hope.
Interests: music, history, ideas, contemporary politics, the emerging sciences.
Recent Activity
Democracy has suffered recently from the failings of its strongest advocates. I will argue here that its future hope lies in rescuing democracy from faux democrats by strengthening the institutional infrastructure for a populism based on participation, accountability, responsiveness and transparency. Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2014 at GYANOPROBHA
After a nearly three year silence - a hiatus during which I have moved to another job, and the world has moved even closer to war - I have decided to continue to write. For the last few years till 2011, this blog remained focused on Dr. Binayak Sen. From my conversations with him, I sense a weariness with publicity, and a desire to be left alone. He still remains on bail, and still appears publicly, but with diminishing frequency. But his appeal against his sentence remains pending. Out of respect for his desire for privacy, I shall not be... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2014 at GYANOPROBHA
As a teacher and a human being, I struggle to be hopeful about the future. But I am close to giving up. I am beginning to think this insistence that teachers need to be hopeful is also a red herring. Teachers need to be truthful above all, but I find it difficult to be hopeful and truthful at the same time. And here’s what I have noticed about myself: I have lost the capacity to be surprised by anything in politics any more. Each change appears to be for the worse, in absolutely predictable or explicable ways. What does surprise... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2011 at GYANOPROBHA
"How do you fight a rogue state?" asks Ilina, Binayak's wife. On a visit with her mother to Binayak in jail, Ilina discovered that the Chhattisgarh government has filed an appeal before the High Court at Bilaspur to re-instate the charges of which he was acquitted by the sessions court. Furthermore, they merely gave Binayak a copy of the appeal, and didn't even bother to inform his lawyers. Clearly, this appeal is designed to hedge against the "risk" that a Supreme Court bench may allow bail to Binayak. So even if Binayak is released on bail, the reversal of his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2011 at GYANOPROBHA
Some of the right wing chatterati notably Swapan Dasgupta , Joginder Singh, Chandan Mitra and Kanchan Gupta persist in their efforts to label Binayak Sen as a maoist activist, ideologue or sympathizer. Their persistence is partly a response to the immediate, public and generous chorus of outrage that greeted his sentencing to life imprisonment. A few mainstream media outlets had been reporting on the developments in the trial as it progressed, and it was clear even before the judgment appeared that much of the evidence against Binayak Sen was fabricated, and the prosecution witnesses had failed to substantiate the charges.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2011 at GYANOPROBHA
Today, the fourth of January, 2011, is Binayak Sen's sixty-first birthday. He is spending it in solitary confinement in a small cell in Raipur Jail. He is taken out twice a day, each time for a couple of hours. Prolonged solitary confinement is known to break the strongest minds. Binayak spent a month alone during his last incarceration before the Supreme Court granted him bail. He later told me that he felt his mind turning into mush. This is the punishment that a vengeful and vindictive probationary judge has thought fit to bestow on one who has spent the better... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2011 at GYANOPROBHA
Both poems are by Rizvi, as far as I could determine. This one is recited by the Gandhian activist and founder of Vanavasi Chetna Ashram, Himangshu Kumar. The second one is recited by the author himself. Diwaron se vicharon par jo ankush lag gaya hota, to Bapu dar gaya hota. Yazidi zulm ke aage, Hussaini jeet na hoti Krishna janm na leta, Vishnu mar gaya hota Firangi surya na dhalta, Ye Bharat varsh na hota Kabhi bhi satya ki khatir koi sangharsh na hota Jahan par doctoron ki ek jhalak ka naam hai paisa Jahan par zindagi aur maut ka... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2011 at GYANOPROBHA
Here is my very awkward and somewhat literal translation of a song by Rabindranath Tagore that fits Binayak's situation perfectly...or so we hope! If someone can let me know the occasion for which the song was originally written, I would be grateful. Say nothing to those who call you mad. Those who throw dust at you today, thinking ill of you, Will follow you with garlands at tomorrow's dawning Say nothing to those who call you mad. Those who today occupy their seats of power, puffed up in their pride, Will descend from their thrones and bow their heads to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
On December 24, 2010, Dr. Binayak Sen was convicted for sedition and various other charges at the district court in Raipur, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The 92 page judgment - of which I have just received a copy - could not possibly have done justice to the entire range of evidence brought by the prosecution, and the detailed counterarguments that were made by the defence team in the eight or so days before it was delivered. Most of the defence arguments seem to have been ignored altogether. Once again, we are left wondering whether our country is turning into... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
The publicity blitz accompanying the release of Tony Blair's book has several levels of irony. Firstly, it is an ironic comment on the state of international politics that the heads of states of two of the major liberal democracies in the world have waged war with the ostensible purpose of bringing democratic freedoms to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have enjoyed complete immunity for the enormous destruction and mayhem that they have wreaked in both countries (to say nothing of ancillary attacks in other countries like Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia in pursuit of a vague and quixotic "war on terror"). It... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
Here is a good example of the kind of implicit and unqualified faith placed in the state by apparently left-leaning liberals. Sadanand Patwardhan appears to be a blogger with an interest in Chhattisgarh. Recently, he published the following open letter on the Chhattisgarh Net Yahoo group (membership required) from one Arun Agarwal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with an introductory comment of his own. Unfortunately, we are not told what Agarwal's sources of information are. [My inquiries on the internet about Agarwal himself lead me to a PIL activist based in Bangalore, who has filed a petition in the Bangalore... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
No, this is not a little disquisition on human physiology. In his farewell speech in 1961, US President Eisenhower warned against the insidious influence of what he called the "military-industrial complex" (on the advice of his staff, he abandoned his original intention of calling it the "military-industrial-congressional complex"). Not only have his warnings obviously fallen on deaf years in the nearly fifty years that have passed, but the military-industrial complex has now grown in size and scope to include the congress (as Eisenhower already feared), think tanks, universities, media, and now, as the Washington Post has revealed, also the intelligence.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
Here is an interview that Binayak gave to Democracy Now radio today. Binayak also gave the convocation address to the class of 2010 of the Asian College of Journalism at Chennai on 3 May. This is a transcript of his speech, which bore the title Hunger, Dispossession and the Quest for Justice. In 1876, Lord Lytton, who was then Viceroy of India, decided to arrange a massive celebration in Delhi to mark the accession of Queen Victoria as the Kaiser-i-Hind, Empress of India. The feasting, with all rajas & maharajas in attendance, went on for a week, and has been... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2010 at GYANOPROBHA
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Mar 15, 2010
So...why the long silence? Well, two main reasons (apart from sheer fatigue and laziness). Let's start with my hesitation to cast a public light, however dim, on Binayak and his family while they recovered from their two-year ordeal. After the initial flurry of interviews on the mainstream TV channels and newspapers, Binayak and his wife Ilina went into hospital at CMC Vellore, attended by their older daughter Pranhita. The check-ups there revealed that Binayak himself indeed had a heart condition, as was diagnosed while he was in prison, but was not in any imminent danger if he took care of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2009 at GYANOPROBHA
Thanks for your response, Nitin. You seem to have greater confidence in the evolutionary perfectability of political systems than I do. We probably agree on at least some of what constitutes a good political system. But there is little in the Indian experience since 1935 that gives me any confidence that our political systems have improved. Yes, we have a RTI, we have a more or less free national press (that still ignores major issues), and our voting public seems to have acquired the capacity to spring surprises. But one look at the composition of our state and central legislatures will probably convince you that either the overall quality of our system is not getting better, or that the understanding of what constitutes "better" remains problematic. If I were to state my argument more clearly, I would say that voting ALONE does not help. And more people should go out and vote for the "none of the above" option. And we should get rid of our archaic system of the "first past the post", and make our electoral systems more representative of public opinion. Political participation in a democracy cannot simply consist of casting a vote every five years and going to sleep between elections.
Toggle Commented May 5, 2009 on NITIN, ARE YOU READING THIS? at GYANOPROBHA