Friday, March 28, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
THE government of
Dr. Dev was born on January 1, 1907 in the
He completed his BA (Hons) in philosophy with first class from the
His PhD thesis titled "Reason, Intuition and Reality" was later published as a book named Idealism and Progress. He carried out his PhD research under the late Dr. Savapalli Radhakrishnan, one of the most learned philosophers of
Dr. Dev started his academic career as a lecturer in philosophy in
In 1953, Dr. Dev became reader (now known as associate professor) in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology,
Dr. Dev had in-depth understanding of many branches of knowledge. He was an avid reader and great thinker. He was very good at public speaking, and gave scholarly and enlightening speeches, often extempore, on a range of topics that included Sufism and Muslim philosophy.
He was an idealist, and wrote a number of books on idealism. He used to call his philosophy "synthetic idealism," combining idealism, spiritualism and materialism. Some of his books are Idealism & Progress, Idealism: A New Defence and New Applications, Aspiration of the Common Man, Buddha-the Humanist, Parables of the East and My American Experience (the last two were published posthumously from
His understanding and thinking skills were incredibly high. He was also able to do lengthy and complex calculations without paper and pencil. We were often amazed at how quickly he was able to grasp what we had written, point out our mistakes and give his learned comments on what had taken us hours and days to write.
He used to narrate real life experiences to illustrate theory. Some of these narrations were often humorous, and contained practical lessons that I still remember today. He never belittled or ridiculed anyone, and was always respectful of others, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and social status. This was itself a critical value for us to learn and uphold for the rest of our lives.
I will always remember Dr. Dev for his simple, modest and self-effacing nature. I remember how he humorously commented on his own unassuming appearance while giving us an example of how appearance and reality may not always be the same.
During an official trip from Dinajpur to Dhaka, as the principal of the
Dr. Dev used to lead a simple life, residing in the small one-story official residence of the provost of Jagannath Hall. He was a life-long bachelor and lived with his adopted son Jyoti Prakash Datta. He also adopted a Muslim girl as his daughter. Dr. Dev was very non-communal in his outlook and used to love all of us very much. We benefited greatly from his affection and guidance. We never needed prior permission to see him at his office or residence, and could meet him anytime to discuss any matter. He always welcomed us warmly.
As far as I remember, he was a vegetarian. As the provost of Jagannath Hall, he used to be regularly invited to the monthly feasts and dinners in all the halls. I had the privilege of accompanying him to some of the feasts in my hall, Dhaka Hall. As he could not eat many items, he normally had a meal of muri mixed with mustard oil and onion before going to the official dinners. Often, he would make enlightening and humorous after-dinner speeches. The students and teachers of the department used to celebrate his birthday annually, when we used to have a cultural function in which we all participated. He enjoyed spending time with students and teachers very much. He was very much a man of the people -- always there for us.
Like many other teachers of
He was very particular about physical exercise. He used to a walk lot in the university area, and in the open space in front of his residence. We would often walk with him in this place and discuss our thoughts with him. He remained a mentor and guide for me till his untimely death.
Dr. Dev was a very selfless man, who dedicated his life to his university, colleagues and students. He was least interested in wealth. He founded the Bangladesh Philosophical Society and donated the only piece of land that he had in
Most importantly, Dr. Dev was a man of great human qualities. He had always treated students and colleagues in a spirit of equality. He never discriminated against anyone, whether they were from East Pakistan or
Dr. Kazi Kader worked at the
Dr. Dev, my teacher, was a man of simple living and high thinking. He neither had any political involvement nor political ambition. He was a humanist who concentrated on the pursuit and spread of knowledge. The Pakistani forces killed many great intellectuals of
The government's decision to award Dr. Dev the Independence Award posthumously is a praiseworthy and laudable decision. We mourn his death and celebrate the award today to a selfless man who contributed so much to our lives as well academic discipline. It is most unfortunate that he met an untimely death, but the knowledge, values and human qualities that he taught us remain relevant not only in our lives but also for our successive generations. May Allah grant eternal peace to his departed soul.
The author is Professor of Human Resource Management,
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
What was that please? How would GHQ know by itself what the aspirations of the Pakistani nation are, regarding anything at all? What mechanism does GHQ have to ascertain the aspirations of the Pakistani nation other than to follow in letter and spirit the directions and orders of the properly constituted Government of Pakistan?
For is it not a fact that the Pakistani nation has just last month gone to the polls and elected its representatives who will sit in parliament, throw up a government from amongst themselves, and get on with the business of governance? Should the Pakistan Army as just another department of the Government of Pakistan not hold itself at the disposal of the properly constituted government in which the Pakistani nation has reposed confidence and which therefore is the only arbiter of the people’s will and aspirations, no more no less?
The other statement was by the DG of the ISPR who said: “We have lodged a very strong protest with the coalition forces across the border” when asked about the death of two women and two children in an artillery/missile strike on the Pakistani village of Kangrai, North Waziristan.
Who is the “we”, please? Excuse me, but has the Pakistan Army now formally taken over running the country’s foreign relations? Is it not absolutely inappropriate for the army to be doing the protesting to a foreign entity, when the recognised convention is that the country’s government, in its foreign ministry, handles matters of state which have to do with other states?
Who are “coalition forces” anyway if not the US Army and the British Army augmented by barely token participation of some NATO countries? So why weren’t the ambassador of the United States and the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom summoned to the FO and a protest handed over to them?
Indeed, if the mere thought of summoning the American ambassador gives heart attacks to the ‘core-professionals’ who loll about in the Hotel Scheherezade, a third secretary of the American embassy could have been summoned to the FO. The point should have been made. The ‘coalition’, in its turn, should have apologised for the loss of innocent life.
But no; all Major Chris Belcher, its spokesman, had to say was: “We can confirm a precision-guided ammunition strike on March 12 on a compound connected with [the] Haqqani network 1.5 kilometres across the border in Pakistan…. I do not have any information on any casualties that may have occurred … the information I have is that the Government of Pakistan was notified immediately following the strike.” Full stop.
Clinical, cold, arrogant. But why doesn’t the ‘coalition’ understand that this kind of behaviour only makes America more enemies? How, indeed, does contriteness for a wrong committed in America’s name take anything away from it? Does one have to be an Einstein to understand that the Commando is today a much-reviled man for precisely this sort of behaviour?
And now to catastrophe. The Commando said in an interview with The Washington Times, again during the last week, which should go down in the history of the country as a week in which some of the most ludicrous statements were made: “Can you imagine what the effect would be on the business community, both foreign and domestic, or in the capitals of nations allied with us in the war on terror if the first thing they saw after this election was a political war between the presidency and the government? I think it would be catastrophic.”
Strong words, what!? Catastrophic for whom? For the Commando if parliament impeaches him? Or for the country if the Commando dismisses the assemblies if they attempt to impeach him? Does he even know the meaning of the word catastrophic?
Variously: disaster; calamity; upheaval; devastation; ruin; misfortune; tragedy; cataclysm! Is the Commando in such desperate straits that he will lead the country to ruin and misfortune if he is impeached? That he will devastate it? And bring tragedy upon our heads? Well, what about his oft-repeated mantra of ‘Pakistan First’? Or was that a load of nonsense as we always thought it was?
No sirs; if you simply refuse to read the writing on the wall, please look into your Turkish coffee cups more intently. Or read your tea leaves more carefully. Time is up, sirs, surely and truly. Anything you do hence-forwards: try and break up the People’s Party by activating your not so sleepy sleeper cells within it; try to bad-mouth the Sharifs to the Americans; use 58-2(b), nothing’s going to work.
This brings me to the matter of the Americans again, and their quite foolish leaks to the effect that they don’t really trust Nawaz Sharif when it comes to battling terror. Indeed, media organs allied to them are insidiously leaking stories to the effect that Osama bin Laden was known to Nawaz, etcetera.
Well, the bin Ladens were also known to the Bushes, enough for tens of them to be spirited out of the United States just one day after 9/11 despite there being a complete ban on air traffic all across the country. Osama himself was known to every CIA and ISI chief worth his salt. So where’s the problem?
And who was trying to cosy up to the Lal Mosque cleric just prior to the election to solicit his support? Not Nawaz Sharif but Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the Commando’s fellow traveller who, hand in glove with him, misruled this country for well on six very long years during which terrorism went through the roof.
It is also known that they are going about trying to find out what others opposed to the Commando, Aitzaz Ahsan for one, think about the war on terror. Is this a silly question or is it a silly question! What else would any Pakistani think about the need to uproot terrorism from our country but that it should be uprooted yesterday? But not in the foolish and self-defeating ways adopted by the Commando and his tight buddies, the American administration. Terrorism will only be defeated when tackled in an intelligent way, as humanely as possible.
In the end may I ask that the March 23 parade be cancelled? What is the point of holding it, cowering in fear, inside the Sports Complex where last year’s tamasha was also held and held badly? It was a joke, actually, as this one will be, with just some armed forces officers and their families attending. In any case this is a time fraught with suspense and fear and suspicion as the Commando’s dark shadow looms over and out of the President’s Lodge, Rawalpindi Cantt, (once Army House), the Lord only knowing how his knee will jerk the next time round.
Bushism of the Decade: “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda” — President George W. Bush; 2004.
Stop Press: A detailed Pentagon study, reported in the press on March 13, 2008: “confirms there was no direct link between Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda network, debunking a claim President George W Bush’s administration used to justify invading Iraq”. So there! This is our Commando’s ‘tight’ buddy! A liar, through and through.
How we judge the thoughts of others
�We might be seeing dissimilar others as less human.�
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
DRONES, machine and human, have drenched Pakistan with the blood of innocents. On the one side are US-made drones such as the MQ-1B General Dynamics Predator ¡V a remote controlled, self-propelled, missile-bearing aerial system. On the other side are the low-tech human drones, armed with explosive vests stuffed with ball bearings and nails.
These lethal engines of destruction, programmed by remote handlers, are very different. But neither asks why it must kill, nor cares about the death and suffering it causes.
On Jan 13, 2006, a bevy of MQ-1Bs hovering over Damadola launched a barrage of ten Hellfire missiles at the village below. They blew up 18 local people, including five women and five children. Such cold statistics say nothing about the smashed lives of the survivors, or the grief of the bereaved. The blame was put on faulty local intelligence.
Then, on Oct 30, 2006, a Hellfire missile hit a madressah in Bajaur killing between 80-85 people, mostly students. Even if those killed were allegedly training to become Al Qaeda militants, and even if a few key Al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Laith al-Libi have been eliminated, the more usual outcome has been flattened houses, dead and maimed children, and a growing local population that seeks revenge against Pakistan and the US.
The human drone has left a far bloodier trail across Pakistani cities. From six suicide attacks in 2006, the tally went up to 62 in 2007. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, at least 1,523 civilians were killed in terror-related violence in 2007 and more than twice that number injured. The average is now more than one per week ¡V the last week saw three in a row. Those praying in mosques, imambargahs, or at funerals have been no safer than others at political rallies or while crossing a road.
It is possible to imagine how an American soldier or CIA operative controlling a Predator drone can distance himself from the death and destruction it causes in a remote country on the other side of the world that they imagine is full of enemies. For them, it is a job and a way to defend their country. What is harder to understand is how the Pakistani suicide bomber can kill people who are so close to him in so many ways.
A spine-chilling suicide bomber training video, one of the several videos that freely circulate in Pakistan's tribal areas, offers the beginning of an explanation. About 30 masked fighters are filmed in this video, speaking a language that is not any of Pakistan's regional languages, Arabic, or Persian. They are training in some barren, mountainous area. One fighter, randomly selected by their leader, proceeds to climb a huge rock, perhaps 100 feet high. He reaches the highest point, and then stands motionless. His arms are outstretched as though on a diving board. On a signal from the leader below, without hesitation, and without closing his eyes, he hurls himself into the void.
The camera cuts to the body lying on blood-soaked ground. It slowly pans over the faces of the other masked fighters. Their eyes betray no emotion. A second signal from the leader, and they trot military-style to the body, dig a shallow grave, toss their dead comrade into it, and cover it up. Then, amazingly, they march over the grave several times, chanting Quranic verses. This is astonishing, because to trample a grave is the ultimate mark of disrespect in a Muslim culture.
Why sacrifice a human life for a few minutes of footage? English sub-titles reveal that this is obviously a propaganda video. Its message: the group's fighters have overcome the fear of death, and have willingly surrendered their lives to the group leader, and their individual powers to reason and decide.
As troubling as the murders is the response of Pakistanis. While the murder of innocents by the MQ-1B has rightly led to condemnation in Pakistan, the even greater carnage by suicide bombers has provoked less criticism. Some editorials, mostly in English language newspapers, have been forthright. But there are few full-throated denunciations to be found in Urdu newspapers.
On the other hand, implicit justifications abound. In January 2008, 30 leading Deobandi religious scholars, while declaring suicide attacks "haram", rationalised these as a reaction to the government's misguided polices in the tribal areas. They concluded that "a peaceful demand for implementing Shariah was not only rejected but the government was also not willing to give ear to any reasoning based on the Quran and Sunnah in support of the Shariah demand. Apparently, these circumstances led some minds to the frustration that manifested itself in suicide attacks."
What are these ulema telling us? That we should adopt the Shariah to avoid being attacked? This amounts to encouragement and incitement, not condemnation of the suicide bombers' actions. But even civil society activists, who have bravely protested against the dismissal of the Chief Justice by Gen Musharraf, have not held any street protests against these ghastly crimes.
Why do so many Pakistanis who should know better suddenly lose their voice when it comes to condemning suicide bombings? Is it because the bomber kills in the name of Islam? Are people muted in their criticism lest they be regarded as irreligious or even blasphemous?
Or, is the silence political? Many choose to believe that the suicide bomber is a consequence of Pakistan's acquiescence to being America's junior partner in its war against terror. Conversely, there is a widespread opinion that suicide attacks will disappear if Pakistan dissociates itself from this war. But, few admit the brutal fact that even if America retreats or an elected government calls off the army, the terror of 'jihadism' will remain.
It is true that suicide bombings were a rarity in Pakistan until the army acted against Islamic militants in the tribal areas on US prodding. Army action against the Lal Masjid militants was another turning point. But the majority of today's dead and wounded are perfectly ordinary people. Many were pious Muslims, and some were killed in the act of prayer. They had absolutely nothing to do with American or Pakistani forces.
Even with evidence staring them in the face, most Pakistanis seem locked into a state of denial. They refuse to accept the obvious fact that more and more mullahs have created cults around themselves and exercise control over the lives of worshippers. An enabling environment of poverty, deprivation, lack of justice, and extreme differences of wealth is perfect for demagogues.
As the mullah's indoctrination gains strength, the power to reason weakens. The world of the follower becomes increasingly divided into absolute good and absolute evil. Doubt is replaced by certainty, moral sensibilities are blunted. Reduced to a mere instrument for murder, the human drone is left with no room for useless things such as judgment, doubt, or conscience. As other human beings become mere objects rather than people deserving of love and compassion, the metamorphosis from human to drone becomes complete.
The last thoughts of a suicide bomber cannot be known, but remorse or doubt is unlikely. There is no lower depth to which humans can fall to. Except, perhaps, those who control them ¡V and towards whom we still dare not point a finger at.
The writer teaches physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
The right wing inside
From the early days of the “Bolivarian revolution”, Resistance, a socialist youth organisation in
An unfolding revolution gives socialists in
Chavez was originally elected in 1998. At that time he was not talking about a socialist revolution, but was instead campaigning to introduce modest reforms to lift people out of poverty, through providing basic education and improving health care, and combatting corruption. The rigid opposition to this plan from big business, the media and state bureaucrats led Chavez to realise that the Venezuelan capitalist class would never willingly allow these reforms if it meant damaging corporate profits.
This fight to introduce reforms began to radicalise Chavez and other people throughout the country who had been promised change. They came to understand the whole system would have to be transformed if the Bolivarian project was to be realised in full.
In the November 2006 edition of its magazine, SAlt claimed that what is happening in
Yet it was Chavez who in 2005 called for a national discussion of socialism; prior to this, there had been no mass support for socialism. Chavez went to the polls in the December 2006 elections on an explicitly socialist platform, promising to deepen the revolution. He was subsequently returned with an even bigger majority.
However, by himself Chavez cannot transform the country. To say that the Venezuelan revolution has been made “from above” misses the role that the masses of Venezuelan people have played in creating and defending the revolution.
The social missions have all been carried out by people themselves. The eradication of illiteracy, for example, was achieved through thousands of young people being recruited to go door-to-door in every street to organise classes to teach people how to read and write. The missions facilitate people’s organisation and self-confidence to struggle.
The 2002 US-backed coup failed because the millions of people who voted for Chavez came out onto the streets to demand the return of their government. Chavez has continually encouraged the involvement of the majority of people in politics. The explosion in the number of communal councils is one way doing this. These councils, based on a few hundred families in a particular neighbourhood, have direct access to funding and control of social programs in their area. There are now some 19,000 of them. There are plans to introduce workers’ councils to facilitate workers’ control over production.
It is true that the introduction of free health care and education are not by themselves socialist. A socialist system involves taking the power away from big business, unelected bureaucrats and profit-friendly politicians and putting it directly in the hands of working people, and replacing a profits-first economy with a democratically controlled one that will put the interests of workers and the protection of the environment before the interests of the corporate elite.
People will be able to make decisions about the issues that affect them, whether it is in their neighbourhood, or workplace or school. Socialism will, for example, eliminate the incongruity of a government taking a country to war when the majority of people are opposed.
A socialist society can only be constructed by working people themselves because it is a direct threat to the interests of the super-rich minority that control the big corporations — they aren’t going to give up their privileges without a fight.
SAlt members, who like Chavez claim to support Trotsky’s ideas, should ask themselves: If you wanted to hold back the self-emancipation of working people, as they claim Chavez does, why would you combine calls for workers to take power into their own hands with encouragement to study the ideas that teach workers how to carry this out.
This is a process full of contradictions, like any revolution. SAlt asks how
It is contradictory for SAlt to attack the revolution for being “from above”, but then turn around and attack Chavez for not introducing more radical measures. However, as Chavez has said, “if people want to take control of a factory then constitutionally they don’t have to wait for me to do it”.
There are many challenges for the revolution. The economic and social weight of
Within the revolutionary movement there are real debates at the moment about what “socialism for the 21st century” means for
The Venezuelan revolution does not fit into the pre-arranged idea SAlt has of what a socialist revolution will look like when it happens, so they argue in their November 2006 article that Chavez “will likely act as a brake on workers’ attempts to build socialism from below”. Yet where is the evidence of Chavez holding back the rights or organisation of workers? SAlt has decided in advance that the revolution is bound to fail.
Resistance does not blindly support everything Chavez or his government does. However,
Socialists of India, unite! You have nothing to lose except a few crypto-capitalist super-pragmatic Marxists. You have a creative crimson destiny to gain and a billion-strong have-not humanity to win. Why then, do you, comrades of Marxian vintage, hug capitalist sorceries? With a plethora of Socialists, Communists, Marxists willing to join the long march to "Purna Swaraj," our democratic republic can become self-reliant without alien investment. But this prospect is being debased by tycoons, "Westoxicated" investment-operators and nascent neo-Marxist innovators who have surrendered to consumerism. A dangerous class has thus emerged with the dominant doctrine that money is more than man. The dazzle of globalisation, liberalisation, privatisation matters more to them than the rights of women, children, workers and peasants.
Our culture of Swaraj puts humanity above commodity, sober, enlightened values above greedy glamour. Gandhiji once wrote, "In so far as we have made modern materialistic craze our goal, so far are we going downhill in the path of progress."
The hidden agenda of the capitalist North is to capture the resources of India, debunk its socialistic ambition and turn it into a mere marketplace and banana republic. The founding fathers of our Constitution had on the other hand envisioned an economic democracy, a socialistic polity, a people's sovereignty.
My critique of the Marxist policy-novelty has to be viewed in this background. The CPI(M), which wields state power, participates in elections, sits in the House and tells its cadre to work for a socialist transformation, is destroying its own foundational militancy. India's human capital can outstrip the monetary investments by the capitalist class which wants to rob labour from the jobless have-nots and the deprived sectors. We want radical humanism and revolutionary patriotism to pool all available talent and bring about a social change for the happiness of the lowliest. Imperialism and unbridled foreign investment have undermined the lot of our poor, devalued our Constitution and sapped the very soul of our Swaraj. It is a mistake to think that socialist transformation is an idle dream, and that MNC big business is the only pragmatic strategy without an alternative.
Kerala and West Bengal have had Marxist governments for decades.
Capitalists, native and foreign, have had considerable hold over our
national economy; and for nearly 20 years the American pressure on our
country's governance has pulverised our noble traditions and social
grace. No serious socialist policy has been tried by any state. My
experience as minister, under E.M.S. Namboodiripad in 1957, convinced
me that people, whichever their party (or even if they do not belong
to any party), NGOs and bureaucrats are willing to toil free for
community development. Speaking generally, since 1991, the national
economy has been noxiously contra-Constitutional and anti-people. On
this, let me quote Shashi Tharoor: "India annually gets richer by $200
billion. India's foreign resources have exceeded $140 billion.
Remember, the country had to mortgage its gold in London because the
foreign exchange coffers were dry! In the list of the world's
billionaires, 27 of the world's richest people are Indian, most of
them staying in India. A large portion of the world's poorest people
live in India too and you don't need to go to Davos to meet them. Our
country's poor live below a poverty line that seems to be drawn just
this side of the funeral pyre. 250 million people living in conditions
that are a blot on our individual collective conscience is too grave a
matter to be lightly dismissed (The Tiger Elephant, the Tiger and the
I was taken aback when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, reportedly successful
as West Bengal chief minister, declared that he was running a
capitalist government. He thus ignored the fact that rural West Bengal
had developed as a great paradigm with people's participation and
socialistic perspective that were far removed from a feudal society.
And I was stunned when the great Jyoti Basu ï¿½" the Marxist leader who
for long had inspired his people and many like me by his leftist,
simple genius ï¿½" strangely reversed gear, jettisoned his party
fundamentals and abandoned socialism as impractical. The Indian
Constitution always had a socialist bias and the Planning Commission
had been set up to work out a socialistic pattern of society. Banks
were nationalised, big hydel and irrigation schemes were set up, land
reforms and urban land ceiling laws were enacted, public sector
industries were built. These were not capitalistic moves, but
After all, Nehru, in the Constituent Assembly had asserted, "We have
given the content of democracy in this Resolution and not only the
content of democracy but the content, if I may say so, of economic
democracy. Well, I stand for Socialism, I hope, India will stand for
Socialism and that India will go towards the constitution of a
Many parties and Parliaments have governed the country. The words "We,
the People of India" and "Socialist Secular Democratic" have survived
all these years. Every President or minister ever in power, or judge
on the bench has taken his or her oath of office pledging to uphold
those very words of the Constitution which sustain our Republic. Jyoti
Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took office after taking the oath to
uphold this "Socialist Secular Democratic" state. How can they now
betray it after gaining state power? It was perhaps anticipating such
future deserters, that Karl Marx in his letter to Engels had written:
"All I know is that I am not a Marxist."
Please remember the Marxian mandate: "The philosophers have only
interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."
The only hope the Indian masses have is the socio-economic freedom
from feudal-colonial submissiveness. Will the Marxists renege on this?
I am aware that a crimson economy will not be born tomorrow.
But I am equally aware that a powerful cooperative movement, a
large-scale public sector, a just land ownership with limited ceiling,
a nationalisation policy, workers' organised farm policy and
industrial-marketing economy can today become a reality, given the
will and the vision.
Do you have faith in people's participation? I have. Corruption has
ruined Indian politics. The capitalist alternative is
industrialisation, mafia menace, market racket, hospital terrorism,
hotel "star wars," slum slavery and freebooter robbery.
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer is a former judge of the Supreme Court
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