Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Get an idea, please!

Perhaps, Raj Thackeray’s recent address to a rally in Aurangabad was his most restrained speech, though it did use very crude and uncivilised language. A few days ago, the Aurangabad police ruthlessly beat up his party’s legislator Harshawardhan Jadhav who had tried to run over a police van. The media hyped the issue expecting that Raj Thackeray would flare it up further. However, it didn’t happen. Even though his political opponent Uddhav Thakeary, leader of the Shivsena unexpectedly condemned the assault, Raj Thackeary kept calm. He simply called a rally in Aurangabad. After being asked by the media about his reaction to the assault, he told the media to wait until the rally. There was also news that the police warned him to avoid saying something that would incite his followers.

However, the much-hyped rally turned out to be a damp squib for those who had expected a sensational speech. He avoided being provocative, yet he was aggressive. Like an opportunist as he is always, he cleverly used the emotional support that Harshwardhan Jadhav had received from everyone. Calling the assault a conspiracy, he targeted NCP leaders R.R.Patil and Ajit Pawar. Referring directly to the removal of the statue of Dadoji Kondev, he lashed out at NCP for doing caste politics in Maharashtra.

‘Maharashtra is for the Marathi people, not for just the Maratha caste’, this is how he tried to shape his political agenda against the caste based politics. As he has been very successful in creating an image of a saviour of Marathi people, the repackaging of his political ideology in terms of “Marathi, not the Maratha” looks cleverly opportunistic.

He has always tried to make himself appear as a state-level leader. No one looks at him as an Indian leader. Though he has said that he has no intention to separate Maharashtra from India, Maharashtra is rapidly being perceived as a state of intolerant and xenophobic people. Thanks to the Thackeray family’s politics based on language. So it looks strange when Raj Thackeray lashes out at caste based politics. Caste politics polarises society, so does language based politics. India is so diverse that it is always vulnerable to sectarian politics. If Raj Thackeray fears that caste based politics divides Maharashtra, then it should also be noted that his language politics divides India. His criticism of caste politics, therefore, gives a screwed impression that the unity of Maharashtra needs to be achieved at the cost of “India”.

Now it is accepted that he wants to be the messiah of Maharashtra, I want Raj Thackeray to give an idea that should bind the Marathi people together. Can he look at the Marathi society as a whole? No matter however he is criticized for his seatrain politics, he certainly has an edge over other politicians as he has created an image of a leader who can represent the entire Marathi society. Now in order to sustain this image and to gain more credibility, he has to give Marathi people an idea that keeps them together. We hope that he will not follow the path of Hinduism as his uncle did switching from “Marathi” ideology to Hinduism. If he does the same, he will lose credibility as a leader of the entire Marathi society.

One of the eminent political analysts, Pratab Asabe says in an article that Raj Thackeary has created a bigger space for himself in the Maharashtra politics by making the NCP as his main opponent in addition to the Shivsena. But Partat Aasabe doesn’t criticise the manner in which Raj Thackeary has done it. Our journalists are shying away from criticising the crude and uncivilised language that Raj Thakceary uses to attack his opponents.

Pratab Asabe says that if a political party wants to rule the state, then it needs to establish itself a chief opponent of the ruling party. This is insightful. Raj Thackeray has realised that the NCP which is the major party in the coalition government in Maharashtra has to be his chief opponent, not simply the Shivsena. Being an astute politician, Raj Thackeary has understood that the image of the NCP is becoming a party for the Maratha people. That is why he has taken the clear stand to give himself a space in politics by directly attacking its caste based politics. Whether NCP does caste based politics is a different matter, however he has become successful in making that impression in his Aurangabad rally.

However, we need to notice that Raj Thakeray’s politics is established on the same kind of sectarian politics, if not directly caste based politics. His ideology of being the messiah of the Marathi people is, at the moment, his advantage. Thanks to the current political chaos. In Maharashtra, no politician or political party, including the Congress, can directly attack his political ideology, because two major parties, the NCP and the Shivena, are simply local parties, though they try to appear as national parties. Despite being a nataional party, the congress in Maharashtra is not strong enough to take on Raj Thackeary’s sectarian tactics.

However, it does not mean that Raj Thackeary’s political re-packaging in terms of “Marathi, not the Maratha” will work. The Marathi language is not enough to bind Marathi people together. Caste based identities in India are much stronger than the language based identities. Telengana should be a good example of this.

Raj Thackeary needs to give Marathi people a better idea than “Marathi, not the Maratha”. Our politicians do not have imagination power. They do not have ideas. They need to speak well. They need to improve on language skills. They should develop good oratory skills. Raj Thackeary’s recent speech was not civilised.

In order to emerge and to creat a poltical space, our politicians simply become demagogues appealing to the emotions and the prejudices of people. They simple criticise one another. They use a crude language. They present themselves as very bitter and nasty enemies of one another.

Dear Raj, we expect a lot from you. What you need is a better imagination, get an idea please!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Raman Effect: the beginning and the end of Indian science.

Our Prime Minister addressed the 98th Indian Science Congress on 3 January 2011. While I was looking over its text, I stumbled upon a fact that he pointed out: “While C.V.Raman won the Nobel Prize eighty years ago for the Raman Effect, most of the instruments available in India today using this principle are imported. This is not an isolated example and many of our outstanding scientific discoveries have been converted into marketable products by technologies and firms based abroad.”

This is really appalling and shows how backward we are in the matter of science and technology. Prime Minister has also said that we need more Ramans and Ramanujans. Thanks to our Prime Minister. Someone has finally remembered C.V.Raman, the greatest Indian brain ever in the field of science. It is really important to remember them in the days when personalities like Dr. A.P.J. Abul Kalam and others are unnecessarily given the status of great scientists. They are given the status larger than life. Here I do not want to undermine their contribution. They are eminent personalities, but certainly not great scientists.

The point is why we have only C.V.Raman as a home grown Nobel Prize winner in science. Sir C.V. Raman won the Noble Prize in 1930. So in the eighty years we don’t have a single scientific discovery as great as C.V. Raman’s. We boast of I.I.Ts, but nothing great has happened also in the field of technology, which is clear from the fact that most remarkable Indian scientific discoveries are converted into products outside India. On one hand we do not have great scientific discoveries after the Raman Effect; we have not produced any great technology on the other. Our performance in the field of science and technology is extremely lacklustre. If I am not digressing, I must say that even in the field management, we have not discovered a single management theory which is so great that the world has to emulate it.

We generally tend to blame polity, bureaucracy and education system for our mediocre scientific progress. But this is barking up the wrong tree. We should blame ourselves for the fact that we have never given importance to pure science.

Shyam Manohar, noted Marathi writer’s latest novel has a character who is a software engineer, who happens to read an autobiography of his physics teacher. To his surprise, in the autobiography he does not find even a single mention of pleasure that his teacher finds in anything related to physics. This disturbs him. He wonders why his teacher does not have a single pleasurable experience related to physics to mention in his autobiography. He becomes introspective and starts looking back whether he ever had any moment of happiness during the years of his education. He remembers that when he was in 12th standard class, learning polarisation of light was the moment of happiness. He realises that as India always has given more importance to technology than to pure science, doing career in pure science has never occurred to people like him.

He finds that with the arrival of technology in India, achievements and financial growth became important. The fact that no one has realised the importance of pure science in India strikes him. ‘Nehru met Einstein, but Nehru championed technology in stead of pure science.’

However, our progress in the field of technology is also mediocre. The reason lies in our indifference to pure science. Shyam Manohar once said in an interview that we call physics a subject not a branch of knowledge. This clearly shows our indifference to fundamental questions. We have never looked at pure science as a source of knowledge, in turn as a source of technology. This exists everywhere, in all our Indian unversitites and institutions including our elite institues like Indian Institue Of Technology. Remember they are institues of technology not science. Even the goverment does not want institues of pure science. Great ideas are born in the attempts of solving fundamental and abstract questions. Unless and untill we bring about a change in our attitude to fundamental and abstract questions, we may have hunderds of I.I.Ts., nothing will make a difference. They will simply act as PLACEMENT AGENCIES, the way most parents today simply look at them. They hardly want their child to be the Raman of India today. They simply want him or her to be a technocrat who will be a highly paid 'servant' of some American and European and now Chinese multinational company.

C.V. Raman won the Noble Prize, with a simple instrument barely worth Rs. 300. Today very expensive instruments are needed for inventions. We do not have them, because we do not have technology. And we do not have technology, because we have never given importance to pure science.

It was a great beginning for Indian science, when C.V. Raman discovered the great Raman Effect. Sadly it is also becoming the end of Indian science.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sculptures are not statues...........

It was a sad moment for art, when the Pune municipal corporation removed the sculpture of Dadoji Kondev. The sculpture was sadly made the symbol of the perception that it is the conspiracy of one caste to show its supremacy over the other to call Dadoji Kondev the guru of Shavaji Maharaj.

The sculpture of Dadoji Kondev was a sculpture, not a statue. Historians may have a dispute over certain historical facts and perceptions, but art is not history and sculptures are not statues.

This may be true that Dadoji Kondev was not the guru of Shivaji Maharaj. It may be a historical mistake of holding him as the guru of Shivaji Maharaj. But interpreting the historical mistake as a conspiracy of a caste to show its supremacy over the other is a perception but not the fact. And using an artist’s sculpture as the symbol of this perception is not only absurd but also deplorable.

Have we lost the intellectual ability to understand the difference between “perceptions” and “facts”, “art” and “history”? Let us assume for a moment that some historians deliberately cooked up the facts as part of the so called conspiracy. But the artist who had made the sculpture was not a historian. So it can not be said that he made the sculpture to support the conspiracy.

There was no need to use the sculpture to symbolise the perceived conspiracy. Without removing the sculpture, the fact could have been brought out to people. In stead of removing the sculpture, the corporation could have placed a written declaration alongside the sculpture: ‘Dadoji Kondev was not the guru of Shivaji Maharaj, therefore Dadoji’s gesture as shown in the sculpture does not have to represent him as the guru of Shivaji Maharaj.

However, those who opposed the statue were not interested in simply bringing out the fact that Dadoji was not the guru of Shivaji Maharaj. They were also interested in making their perception appear as a fact. In the process, the sculpture was made a scapegoat for historians’ mistake showing disrespect to the artist and his art.