JNU has been in the forefront of articulating themes of protest against most anti-people policies in its own and well considered perceptions. It is also true that some of the most talked about and oft quoted visiting professors, teachers and students have been associated with this institution namely Sarvepalli Gopal, Romila Thapar,Sitaram Yechury,Prakash Karat the Pattnaik husband and wife duo,among many others.Quite recently at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) there have been meetings (true to tradition) held by a section of the the students protesting the high handedness of the present government and its intolerance of dissent.This led to a chain of events culminating to the arrest of the elected President of the JNU Student Union, Kanhaiya Kumar . It has since come to hold centre-stage in the national imagination. Contentious issues of what is Nationalism, Fascism and Freedom of Speech seem to be agitating young minds and increasingly threatening the future prospects of the democratic process in the University and the country at large. Into this confusing and heated cauldron the Air Force Association, a registered NGO,which runs a web blog on Facebook (created for the purposes of taking care of the interests of the veterans) has taken up cudgels to define and interpret as to what such tongue or mind teasers may mean,their limits and the unsavoury consequences thereof should the veterans be found wanting.( even though they do not wear the uniform in a manner of speaking).
Air Marshal Vir Narain is a free man. And a brave man, too.I dare say ! His perspective is respected by me and I would imagine many others too. I quite agree to what he says ever so briefly but firmly. There is no question of AFA to be apologetic or defensive since he sat at the very top some time ago. The AFA seems to have a point of view to which he has another. The democratic spirit of letting a hundred flowers and thoughts to bloom is reflected in the dissent. In this kind of ‘vivad’ lies the process to cognition of a different truth… That is why a certain Indian Nobel winner celebrated the Argumentative Indian. For the moment it would be fair to say I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. I also notice now that the Air Marshal has only reposted something that he agrees to and urges others to reflect upon.The AFA has jumped into a domain, which by its own admission, is politics. (That it actually pleases me is not part of argument, here).Then,it makes me wonder why the hyper- stridency by AFA and to push a very “sarkari’ definition of nationalism and what amounts to acceptable student affairs( which uncomfortably resembles and seems aligned to the government of the day) ? Was there an urgent order from the three Army Chiefs at the behest of the Ministry of Home and Defence, I shall never know(but inclined to surmise). Is it the ideology of AFA? To pretend or to be ignorant of the politics that it represents thereby concurrently would be patently naive.There is nothing wrong to appear friendly or subservient to a kind of thinking.But to seek comfort behind a fictitious world of being apolitical and to be the flag bearer of military version of nationalism is at best wishful thinking and at worst to be champion of the government and its politics ! That the AFA is finding it difficult to see the sagacious urgings of the Air Marshal in its proper light and instead wishes to take a high moral ground on the shoulders of some FB enthusiasts, albeit military, unfortunately highlights the problems involved in a surrogate association two-timing the serving IAF to promote the interests of the latter and also hoist the flag for the totally free and unencumbered ‘veterans” as its chosen and its legitimate voice and platform. Air Force Association (AFA)would purportedly like to also tell us all ( the veterans) of what is the limit. To quote : Any friend of the AFA on this page indulging in anti India activities or appearing to be supportive of anti India elements will be first Unfriended and then blocked from this page.Please be careful in whom you support.
Unfortunately you forget, you are because of us the bloggers and not otherwise. To feel otherwise is to miss the wood from the trees and trippily imagine the player to be bigger than the game.Blogging is not a military standard Operating Procedure. The Blogosphere is a free world made to express one’s ideas without fear or favour.AFA has chosen to tread this very dangerous territory of its own accord.I’m afraid you hold the rights limited to the blog,and for that you decide the parameters . To quote again the aggressive and rather ill advised missive of AFA so that the readers get to see the correct picture.(Friends, A very special and endowed individual only can have the honor of wearing any Rank connected with the Indian Armed Forces. These stripes on our arms or our shoulders come to us with tremendous responsibility. The responsibility stays with us till our last breath because we, as leaders of our men, convinced our juniors to fight for the cause that is India.
We can, at no stage, be seen to be supportive of anything or have a thought against this nation and claim that the opinion is our personal and thus doesn’t influence anyone.
Our loyalty to the Nation lasts even as a private citizen and no one in or out of the uniform can claim exemption and support anti India elements in the garb of freedom of speech.
The AFA will continue objecting to any such expression and will expose all such individuals who misguide the gullible in the name of freedom of speech.
We’re all subject to that lakshman Rekha where the idea of India is supreme.)
But did you not set out to test the waters of independence and a certain free wheel of ideas just to see how contemporary you are or growing to be ? You always knew the path was tricky. To decide upon what is freedom of expression,military propriety,honest criticism, the Constitutional provisions, the role of Supreme Commander, the government of the day, its bureaucrats etc you have exposed the faultlines in your feebleness of heart. I wonder whether it ever occurred to you that you may stand to be accused of authoritative trolling in a medium that ostensibly is contrary to that kind of sensibility.Yes we are expected to be civil and not obscene.Your proposition or may I say, the whispered threat would have then successfully created a large band of yes men, servile and mentally challenged with compulsory “likes” on Facebook ! the nay sayers would have switched happily and found other online social media platforms anyways ! Did we not have enough of it already while in Uniform ? Most seem to speak out only when out of it.It is a sad but, true.But, by trying to say “either with us or nothing,” I’m afraid you would have lost the larger battle of the Information Warfare that you should seek to take control of and be in command.(but with greater tolerance, caution and vision,perhaps).
I, seriously wonder, when most veterans of the Vietnam War turned against the employers, USA,the politicians and government on their way back home questioning why and who sent them there to fight no war that was theirs does history define them as traitors today ? It would be a great test of internal cleansing to hear from AFA how does it record that kind of its very own past and does it see in that , some unfortunate resemblances.
They aren’t very pretty,anyways. I am sorry to say .
But, that would be another story.For another day !
I remember you, Sir.
The Class of 75 at Delhi University, (undergoing Masters in Political Science) hearing you rapt on the Political Thought of Marx. I used to hear of you having leftist sympathies.But, when I used to look around at my fellow students in the class :they were mostly girls and some boys who could not get enrolled into any other Masters programme.They chose to be there. And yes,there were some careerists students too, who wanted to appear for the Civil Services who had travelled all the way from Orissa and Bihar. I used to be one of them.None seemed to me to be interested in anything more serious than that.At least, that is how I recollect those days. Whether you did manage to inspire this lot (of mostly defaults) is not known to me for sure ! But, I would seriously, speculate in the negative. That said, however,yes Sir,I remember: those fervent articulations of great quotes in defence of Marx and his poetry of humanity from the Communist Manifesto,On Religion and the Theory of Alienation.That, I shall not forget. religion among other things was about the anguished sigh in an oppressive world;the heart of a heartless world;Alienation, simply understood,was to be able to fish and love reading books without being a fisherman or an author;to be a carpenter and fall in love with what you create-a table perhaps…
Marxism was a frame of reference, a scientific tool to understand society and change it. It was about moving from the particular to the general and vice versa. It was in a manner of seeing the world in a grain of sand. I remember that simple illustration that you used to provide to make us understand which otherwise would be a mumbo-jumbo of philosophy. You talked of a social scientist who came to investigate a death of an unknown discovered on a normal morning in the streets. He went on to opine that it was a case of death due to inadequate medical attention. Whereas, the same case on examination by another, had reported that the individual was poor and unable to support his family of six which included his aged and dependent parents.He had not succeeded to find a job despite having the right qualifications.There were not sufficient openings for employment and they owned no land of their own. A drought had thrown many labourers too, out of work.There was a general state of deprivation and destitution in that area. Most of the land was owned by a few and the small factory employed only a handful. The death, therefore was a larger reflection of the state of the society.This analysis was possible because of the Marxian methodology and praxis. This is how I remember after almost 40 years.
Yes, that was a window to a world,you did, ever so gently ,open for those who were willing to see. I am grateful to have been there:to have seen and heard you. Whether I do carry any of the seeds that you spread within me,today, I have no idea. But, I do feel, anguished, when I cannot rise, on my two feet,to fight,much less protest against injustice and inequality that I see or witness in much of my daily life.In that recognition, of my inadequacy, I shall always remain indebted to you.
Sir,Fare Thee Well ! May you sleep ever so peacefully.
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget..”
This is the season of the brave !
Many today would be proud to know that it was in these infamous “cells”great sons of India preferred to perish unknown and unsung,to court a ghastlier form of slow death in fighting for the flag and a nation- yet-to-be. Some of our very revered got scared too and preferred to sign documents praying to be released and never to fight again : the British.They became collaborators.But, before you wonder of how shameful it was, pause and reflect ;fear of death and love of life is dear, to most of us.The whole of Europe is pondering on how to record the role of those that joined hands with the Nazis.Mitterand, the former President of France was known to be one of the prominent personalities to have done so.Just like Sir Shobha Singh,Class 1 Contractor for Lutyens Delhi, father of Khuswant Singh signing off on Bhagat Singh and Veer Savarkar whose portrait adorns the Parliament and an acknowledged mentor of the current party in power,pleading for forgiveness from the British and vowing to become a better citizen !(whatever that meant)
We in our daily lives are confronted with little moments of dilemma and challenge of what is right and wrong.Invariably,howsoever small, we prefer the wrong one for it is popular, common and comfortable or convenient.Therefore those that gave their all for nothing and won everything for the people not their own blood or kin must have been made of sterner stuff.
For my part,I hesitate, to call the collaborators”desha-drohi” while unequivocally,to bend and bow before the Martyrs: yesterday,now and after ! And in silent pranam, bugle the “the Last Post,”for they, deserve to rest in Peace while we live on:our little lives.
“Cellular Jail, located at Port Blair, stood mute witness to the tortures meted out to the freedom fighters, who were incarcerated in this jail. The jail, completed in the year 1906 acquired the name ‘Cellular’ because it is entirely made up of individual cells for the solitary confinement. It originally was a seven prolonged, puce-coloured building with central-tower acting as its fulcrum and a massive structure comprising honeycomb like corridors. The building was subsequently damaged and presently three out of the seven prongs are intact. The Jail, now a place of pilgrimage for all freedom loving people, has been declared a National Memorial “.
Much abused. Much misunderstood. Much revered.
Someone said, it is, yet, too early to understand the lessons of the French revolution. So I think is also true about Netaji.His United Front Tactics of having joined hands with Nazi Germany and Japan much like Mao and Chang Kai Shek,Stalin and Hitler and many others to believe : my enemy’s enemy is my Friend was very tactically sound and also radical. He correctly assessed colonial India’s weakness and saw in the Second Great War an immense opportunity and not as a threat as most incorrectly judged . The Communists, got confused, kowtowed the Soviet Line of joining the Allies and supporting them while the Indian National Congress, on its part, followed a policy of appeasement.RSS, the backbone of the present day BJP was quite happy abusing and spoiling with the Muslim brothers while cosying up to the British.
Please do not liken the present day mad rush for shaking hands and political alignments in a similar vein.At best it would be a disservice and at worst blasphemy-which it shall be !Netaji loved his India, his people and died fighting.Not many would know ( it is being grumblingly conceded, today, by historians) that the sacrificial role of the Indian National Army and the Royal Indian Navy Rating’s Mutiny of 1946 hastened the handing over and transfer of power to India by the English.
That Gandhi and Nehru were not quite his friends is little matter.Netaji’s daughter Ms Anita Pfaff remembers and very fondly, that both he and Nehru , were secular and non-communal and extremely tolerant.She ventures however, to suggest, if not anything else, India and Pakistan would have been friendlier;had he been alive.
I shall ,however,always, in a very silly way feel proud to have studied in the same school as he did.And I am not in a bit embarrassed for trying to bask or steal some of that blazing bright !
May you inspire all for justice, freedom and dignity forever !
Happy Birthday !
“Netaji” Subash Chandra Bose and Stewart School, Cuttack
Easily the most illustrious alumni of Stewart School, Cuttack, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose was admitted to the school on 8th January 1902, when he was about 5 years old. As per authentic records in possession of school, he was born on 23rd January 1897. Stewart School was the place where Netaji began his elementary education and spent his early formative childhood.
Netaji received six years of elementary education in this institution, which was, then, known as the Protestant European School. Interestingly, the school, which started as an Orphanage School in November 1882, came to be known as Protestant European School in 1891 and in the same year, it opened its doors to Indian students. It was re-christened Stewart School, in 1919, after its founder, civil surgeon William Day Stewart.
Besides Netaji, his brother Sailesh Chandra Bose, other brothers and sisters also attended the school.
The school records indicate that “he had attended no other school” and in his case “exemption from religious instruction” was “not claimed”. He continued his education till he was promoted to Class VII.
When Netaji left the school after completing the academic session in Class VI on 31st December 1908, his character was certified as “very good”, as per authentic school records. Mr. J. Young was the principal of the school when he was undergoing his stint at Stewart School.
Increasingly the role of the leadership in the Armed Forces shall come under the lens and public gaze. The opening up of the media helps it happen for good and bad reasons, together, like most things. .
Importantly, the so called make-believe, colonial and mechanical understanding of the apolitical role of the military is at the bottom of it all. We have chosen to be commanded willingly by the government of the day in the name of democracy( for the rank and file) while the aspirational commanders were befriending politicians,bureaucrats and parties. This too is in public domain : what was an open secret, otherwise. Most people in uniform in their understanding saw the Congress or the BJP as per their political naivete as nationalistic. nay militaristic.. at different periods of history. Now, the ripped chickens come scurrying home to roost. They pay for their obsequiousness by standing behind in the long pecking order after,being effaced, to become anonymous and unrecognisable having made all the necessary arrangements. That is our station today: lowly paid Event Managers.
As to what is tradition,what is military and what is Indian and pristine and what be the new way forward has become the new crosshairs of military debate.And I am sure the brass would do well not to weigh in with their erstwhile ranks to add value when in sooth, they are passe.This is not to disregard their past contributions.One has the most respects.Let that never be in question ! It is only ,because, there has been a dramatic change in thinking,practices, politics in the civil world that is affecting the prevalent ethos and ideology of the military. The latter have to agree that they are after all a part of the society at large which dominates and determines the soldier and soldiering.And in that ,it is the new and young with other ideas.Seldom too,they have time,inclination or reverence for tired traditions or ideas.What is Indian and Indianisation has to be understood by them.It is they, to be given the sword and sceptre for equally dramatic changes, if at all, to be brought home into the now ossified Armed Forces.An Independent India needs to move on and away from matters British.
It is sad that post retirement all generals become wiser and courageous.The Official Secrets Act was always quoted as the shut-up-document :our Upanishads for producing finished morons who like “Kumbhakaran” wake up when out of the Uniform suddenly brave, far sighted and holier-than -thou. My question is when arms purchases are made, aid to civil power actions taken, aerial bombing done on your own people, the generals scamper around at the mere hint of a moving politician’s finger. why do celebrate? are all deaths caused in the line of duty worthwhile?Memorials, a few ranks,foreign jaunts,overdone parties of the latest in single malt or colours in wine backgrounded with some stale and long forgotten chamber or lounge music are the freebies that the clinking heels, clipped moustaches and twinkling brass is seduced with. We have been jumping jacks for a time longer than I can remember, sir. Cherry picking and self righteousness has served its purpose. Introspection has to be severe and brutal to remain relevant. It is very easy to settle for a place in the sun bargaining for improved status or salaries.At another remove I shall never recommend a gung-ho and macho military.Like someone who is so often misquoted said ” Power comes out of the barrel of a gun.But, politics in Command !” Regrettably,there are substantial issues and more serious, not so easily left to the Generals.