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...Despite his celebration of science, the deeper metaphysical/spiritual questions fascinated Nehru. True, as he repeatedly argued, the burden of religion has to be lessened. Even though I am not a staunch proponent of the doctrine of unlimited techno-economic progress, my urge to rediscover modernist Jawaharlal Nehru’s “discovery” emanates from a sense of shared wonder — an attempt to understand an old civilisation with love and critique, humility and assertion. And despite my unease with scientism and soulless atheism, I continue to be fascinated by secular Nehru’s openness and philosophic perplexity. Although in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj I do not see what at times Nehru saw — “the praise of poverty and suffering” — it is illuminating to find a discoverer heavily influenced by the likes of Marx, Freud and Darwin to have a sustained engagement with the Mahatma. ...Indian Express on Nov. 14, 2017, 12:30 a.m.
... A deep engagement with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is exceedingly difficult for two reasons. First, the constant bombardment of the image of the “official” Gandhi — appropriated by the ruling forces, circulated through the flow of currency notes, museumised as our lost conscience, reduced into a business proposal for offering special discounts on Khadi products, and objectified as a fetish, causes some sort of repulsion. Second, there is yet another circulation — the image of the “condemned” Gandhi: “Anti-modern”, “Machiavellian”, “savarna” Gandhi dangerous for the emancipation of the Dalits as well as the working class. The spirit of Gandhi, I fear, has been crushed by these two imageries. However, as I believe, the new generation — perplexed by the alliance of global capitalism and militant nationalism, seduced by media simulation and market-induced spectacles, and thrown into a fragmented/violent politico-cultural milieu characterised by exclusionary identities — needs to engage meaningfully with the spiritually subversive, visionary Gandhi. To begin with, let me refer to Gandhi’s religiosity. ...Indian Express on Oct. 2, 2017, 3:18 a.m.
... “Scientists march against unscientific, obscurantist ideas”. News of this kind attracts our attention, primarily for two reasons. First, the cognitive power that modern science is endowed with makes us believe that it is always progressive and emancipatory. Second, in these troubled times when all manner of falsehood is projected as “truth” in the name of faith, science is seen as a saviour — a “true consciousness” of sorts. No wonder, when marches were held in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune and other cities, and scientists from top institutions raised their voice against religious intolerance and the paucity of adequate funds for scientific research, it is regarded as a progressive venture. ...Indian Express on Aug. 12, 2017, 12:01 a.m.
...This is the time for the youngsters who have passed the board examinations to enter the domain of higher learning, and think of their career options and associated life-projects. However, this journey is not smooth because the perplexed young minds confront a social landscape, which through the dynamics of peer pressure, parental expectations, existing knowledge economy and the middle class striving for economic stability, puts enormous pressure on them and causes immense fear of any risk-taking venture. No wonder, it becomes exceedingly difficult to hear one’s inner call and choose what one is truly interested in. Because of this conditioning and restrained horizon, the academic culture of the liberal arts and humanities has suffered a great deal. With the rise of neo-liberal global capitalism, as it is said, nothing remains free from the instrumental rationality of the market. ...Indian Express on July 4, 2017, midnight
... Even though Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) exists as one of India’s finest centres for learning, a deep crisis is haunting the university today. This is manifesting itself in many ways; growing unrest among students, an environment increasingly filled with fear and suspicion, the legitimacy crisis the university administration is facing, with its inability to communicate with students and teachers. The crisis and its depiction, particularly by some television channels, seem to have generated a series of stereotypes about the university. Its “unruly” students propagate “anti-national” feelings, its intellectuals are not in tune with the country’s “religious” ethos, its “permissiveness” has caused huge ethical irresponsibility. But what is the reality around us? ...Indian Express on Nov. 4, 2016, 12:13 a.m.