Thursday, October 18, 2012

We the Punjabis have failed them

 By Rajesh Sharma

Less than a week to go – and it will be a month since Shruti Sachdeva was abducted on September 24. The probe is on. The police is being blamed and ridiculed by turns. The opposition has taken out the whip to thrash the government right and left. True, it is the wretched state of law and order which a minor girl’s abduction by a spoilt brat with ‘criminal’ record has highlighted. But is that all? Is not the crime also a symptom of some deeper, more insidious malaise?
To put it briefly but not sweetly, the girl’s abduction is the ripe fruit of a poisonous tree that has been cultivated over the years by all sorts of people among us. The brand of politics that has established itself as the only viable kind, with its deadly blend of wealth, force and an extremely uncouth disrespect for law, comes first to mind. Next, one thinks of the new economy which treats the spectacle as the only reality. Phrases like ‘reforms with a human face’, ‘the feel-good factor’, the sensex as the mirror of economic health, despite their inbuilt irony, have pushed the substance out of sight. What matters is the appearance, and that too loud, vulgar, immodest appearance. Modesty, restraint, quiet grace are out. Salman Khurshid’s foul and furious vapours are just a side show in the great Indian wedding.
The centre stage of this great wedding is, expectedly, the Punjab – with its unquenchable craving for myths. The land once praised for never letting an invasion pass unresisted has surrendered abjectly to the most pernicious of invasions. A certain dandyism has slowly invaded and settled in our souls. Indeed it has become the trade mark of the Punjabi male self. Popular cinema, pulp journalism, vulgar music videos, obscene jokes with a tadka of sexism and casteism breed more happily in a culture in which SUVs, roadside bars and barbecues, and barber-fresh beards define honour and self-respect. Women, then, will be the natural prey of the male animal that is raving to break free in fantasies of criminal self-glorification. This animal did come out to prowl during the Gurdas Mann Nite in Punjabi University at Patiala recently. I am sure it has not been caged or tamed; it has only retreated into the shadows, and is waiting for the right opportunity to pounce on its prey.
The more I contemplate the scene, the more it fills me with dismay. The sages, the gurus, the bhaktas, the Sufis, the martyrs – they were not of us. They were dissenters. They fought against us, for our sake. We have failed them – in failing to fight against ourselves.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review - Roll of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu

Rupa Publications, 2012
Rs. 275

Rajesh Sharma

Why does Amandeep Sandhu write novels? To release the ghosts knocking under his rib cage? Admittedly. And much else adds up – attracted by the art of story-telling, prompted by the urge to delight his imagined reader, forced by the market’s monstrous hand. Paradoxically, despite a few avoidable, sometimes clichéd, musings on language and literary theory, the stock of additions includes a host of deletions that lurk spectrally under the printed words and make me wish, like a lover in fairy tales, for an undelete button that would be embedded somewhere in the novel. I dream of a publishing utopia in which the writer, like Marcel Proust’s ideal writer, does not have to be anxious about anyone’s approving eye.

            Like his first novel Sepia Leaves (2008), this one too – his second – is a fruit of Sandhu’s struggle to come to terms with a difficult past. “My attempt to write this story,” he muses, “is an attempt to un-name it, flesh it out, maybe finally see it bound in the cover pages of a book" (30). This way of interspersing the narrative with reflection – etched out in the isolation of italics – in which the narrator frequently slips into his authorial self is also carried over from the previous novel. Essentially then, if the word is still usable, the novel, like its predecessor, is autobiographical. The dedication says it is for “the class of 1990” – Sandhu’s batch mates in a school in Kapurthala.  An autobiographical conversation in ink, into which the reader is drawn, to be implicated as a voyeur. The epigraph from Kabir prefigures a grim outcome: the outward voyage of quest turning into an inward revelation of evil deposited in layers in the frail pitcher of the self.  

            The novel is about growing up through teenage years in an all boys’ boarding school and is woven around Appu, the protagonist as the author’s see-through mask (which probably explains his sometimes incredible precociousness). But the personal narrative is caught in the tangle of history – when “the blood-dimmed tide” drowned the Punjab in the 80s. Sandhu’s election of phrases from W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” to bestow poetically fraught titles to the chapters calls forth, in addition to the personal and the historical, a third dimension. This is the dimension of the prophetic, the messianic, the revelatory, which somehow does not unfold its potential. In fact, the historical and the personal too do not meld enough, in spite of the author’s invocation of metaphor to elevate the personal to the plane of the historical: for instance, the description of Operation Blue Star as an act of sodomy and the treatment of the rivalry between the junior and senior batches in school as a metaphor of larger political struggles do not illuminate much. The historical hangs there more like a backdrop, insufficiently animated by human truth whether fictional or historical. For me at least, the breath of fear that blows through Gulzar’s Maachis (1996), chilling your very bones, does not quite ruffle Sandhu’s pages. Perhaps this has something to do with his greater reliance on personal memory and testimony which, for fiction, may have serious limitations. More research and greater invention might have gone a long way to stitch the historical more seamlessly into the personal.

            As for his treatment of a period of recent history that even today stirs great passions, it goes to Sandhu’s credit that he does not take sides even as he takes a clear, ethically defined, stance. Candour, ambiguity, understatement – he deploys each in the service of truth that is his concern in this work of fiction.

However, Sandhu does not quite make good his promise to revisit the scene of his escape with which the novel opens: “I ran away”. When the narrative returns to the moment when Appu had stared into the barrel of a gun, the reader does not sense any pressing urgency in his reactions, much less any terror to compel instant flight. Was the urgency an afterthought sparked by the author’s will to ‘novelise’ memory? Or does the author fail yet again to come to terms with the scene of his flight and would not relive that menacing, unforgettable brush with death? Should the latter be the case, its poignancy would be hard to bear.

The narrative is dipped in evil, and rightly so. But one wishes the introspective author-narrator had hauled his brooding meditations a little farther to lodge them in the human condition. That would have lent them a graver shelter and transported the novel to a different plane. The flashes of innocence in the constricted dark night of violence are also a little too faint to offer hope. Sexuality, when not tainted by evil, is sterile, with all its ‘gaiety’. The novel remains, moreover, too patriarchal, too masculinist.

But then Sandhu’s strength lies partly in facing up to evil. Not many contemporary Indian writers can inspect the corpse of a victim of extra-judicial killings the way Sandhu can:

I had never seen a dead body. Rigor mortis had set in and Joga’s body had bloated. His trousers were torn. The men found it difficult to straighten his broken legs. His naked back had purple welts. His tormentors had broken his fingers. One eye was dangling out of its socket. Caked blood had congealed on his broken nose and torn lips. (20)

One wishes that the courage of detail which the author displays here had been displayed on more occasions in the narrative. After all, one comes to such novels as this to be able to penetrate deeper into darkness.

The other side of Sandhu’s strength lies in casting and turning sentences that shine with a pearly brilliance:

Wet planks of cheap wood smell like fear. (2)

One can nourish the spirit, keep the fire burning. But the fire can also burn the witness. (52)

Together the author’s two sides, complementary to each other, create a visionary chiaroscuro that may survive as a nugget of experience long after the dust of time has fallen upon memory and covered the trail dug by his story’s wheels. The story’s cart, though, moves at just the right tempo, suitably weighed down by the inertia of memory being dredged up and out. At a few places, but too few, it lingers on an object or a scene, such as where the author-narrator watches “rose-ringed parakeets and grey pigeons” that alight on his terrace for a morning feast of millet (2).

The birds return to the story as it comes to an end, but somehow the ending does not seem to alight with the grace of a free bird. It gives a sense of clipped wings, with a closure that appears too arbitrary. I wish it did not do that. But all stories have to come to an end, have to be put out. Maybe I wanted the story to go on and not abandon me so early. Perhaps I wanted to journey farther into the night, to taste the darkness more fully.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Road Ahead

A letter from the teachers to the teachers of Punjabi University

(Part of the Campaign by Teachers for Intervention in Education)

19 September 2012

Dear Friend,
    The PUTA polls are over, and yet not over. The electoral process has been stalled, and on ridiculous alibis - evidence enough that substantial reasons do not exist for doing what has been done. Everyone has witnessed the reluctance of the authorities to read the clear-as-daylight orders of the Honourable Court in the right spirit. The Court has obviously intervened in defence of democracy and the rule of law. That intervention, however, has been wilfully so read as to offend democracy and to assert an excess of arbitrary power.  Anyone can see that much more is stake than just elections.
    But the collective aspirations of the teachers cannot be sealed and silenced in any box. Indeed, those aspirations have been already aired and the message has gone out loud and clear that the night of arbitrariness must now draw to an end. By freely exercising our hard-won right to vote, we the teachers have affirmed our faith in democracy enshrined in the university’s very statute. By participating so ardently in the electoral process, we have raised our collective voice for accountability.
    For what is PUTA if not a democratically elected representative body of the teachers constituted to ensure that the university does not stray from its mandate, that vested interests do not eclipse the university’s and the society’s best interests, and that the rule of law prevails over rabid selfishness parading as arrogant, unquestioned power – the power of a handful of self-serving persons who DO NOT in any way represent the teachers?
    Unless we forget, democracy is the air in which a free intellectual culture finds its breath. A university that cannot protect its democratic spaces must wither and die – sooner than later. And democracy is the best guarantee for the teacher’s dignity.
We have all seen, day in and day out, how arbitrariness eats away the teachers’ dignity, how it corrodes our self-respect. 
    But why, after all, this fear of PUTA? Why all the stratagems to put off endlessly, if possible, the homecoming of democracy?
    First, we were told that the teachers do not need, or even desire, PUTA. Then the notification was delayed for too long for no reason. Then an orchestrated Project Consensus was launched to forge a pseudo-PUTA in which an august ‘magistracy’ of the Eleven would magically mirror the wishes of All. Then the orders of the Court (dated 12 September) were kept wrapped like a dark secret, only to be vaguely invoked – but not publicly read out – after the polling ended. If there was really any doubt about the meaning of the Court’s orders, proper opinion should have been obtained before the polling finished and the matter should have been discussed with all stakeholders forthrightly and sincerely. We all know by now how hard it was that fateful day to obtain even a reproduction of the relevant paragraph of the judicial orders and the Returning Officer’s ‘interpretation’ thereof. The paragraph given to us is again reproduced for your benefit below:

“In the meantime, the petitioners shall be permitted to participate in the election provisionally. However, since the dispute is pending, the result of the election shall be kept in a sealed cover and in the eventuality of the petitioners failing to establish their claim in the writ petition, the result of the election shall be construed after the names of the petitioners have been deleted from the final tally of the ballots in the poll.”

    The Returning Officer's interpretation of the above is as follows:

“In the light of the above cited orders, the ballot boxes of PUTA elections (2012) should be kept sealed and the counting is being postponed.”

Dear friend, we have struggled long and we have come a long way. But a longer way remains to tread. Democracies have never been easy to re-establish or renew: the weeds of vested interests outgrow themselves to choke democracies, often in the form of entrenched aristocracies and oligarchies. We have to work patiently like caring, cautious gardeners to pluck the weeds out and turn the soil. Let’s work to deserve our garden – our beloved university. It shall be what we make of it. It will give to the world what we together give unto it.
    And we thank you all for demonstrating the teachers’ solidarity for a common cause – the restoration of a culture of democracy that is the very soul of any university worth its name!

            From: Teachers for Intervention in Education

Friday, September 14, 2012

The day of judgment is here

"Judge justly, that you too may be judged so."

One day each one of us will be judged.

And each one of us must judge one day. That is the day when we are called upon to stand by that light within us which discerns the truth behind the veil.

That day has arrived today.

There are those who tried to put off that day for ever.

They thought they could sit behind glass walls and ignore us.

They thought they were gods, eternally seated on their thrones.

They isolated us, the independent-minded teachers.

Let us tell them what they have done with the power which is given to humans to make the world more beautiful, more equal, more just, less evil.

Let us tell them the truth with our silent act of judgement.

Let us wield our vote like an instrument of speech. So that bad history does not repeat itself.

Panel of candidates:

Rajesh Kumar (Department of English) – President

Surjit Singh (Department of Punjabi) - Secretary

Indira Bali  (Department of Dance) - Vice President

Jatinder Singh (Department of Political Science) - Joint Secretary

Neeraj Sharma  (Department of Computer Science) - Member of the Executive

Friday, September 7, 2012

Declaration of Objectives of Teachers for Intervention in Education (Punjabi Version)

tIcrz &wr ieMtrvYNnSn ien AYjUkySn


ipCly do dhwikAW dOrwn in`jI munw&y nUM isrmOr mMnx vwlI nvIN ArQ ivvsQw dy ADIn kIqy jw rhy ‘suDwrW’ nUM isry cVHwaux leI is`iKAw dy Kyqr ivc qbdIlIAW kIqIAW jw rhIAW hn[ socI smJI skIm ADIn iv`idAk pRbMD ivc ivgwV pYdw kIqy jw rhy hn[ iek pwsy qW vfyrw ividAwrQI vrg is`iKAw dy h`k qoN vWJw ho irhw hY, dUjy is`iKAw dw imAwr lgwqwr hyTW if`g irhw hY, qIjy AiDAwpkW nUM aunHW dI smwijk izMmyvwrI inBwaux leI loVINdI spys qoN mihrUm kIqw jw irhw hY Aqy aunHW nUM smwijk qOr ‘qy byloVI/ mh`qvhIx hsqI bxwaux dIAW koiSSW kIqIAW jw rhIAW hn[ aunHW dI BrqI dI pRikirAw AijhI bxweI jw rhI hY ik ilAwkq, Xogqw Aqy inAWSIlqw dI koeI pu`C pRqIq nhIN rhI[ ies leI ieh koeI hYrwnI vwlI g`l nhIN ik srkwrW Aqy XUnIvristI pRSwsn AiDAwpkW dIAW mMgW, zrUrqW, svYmwx Aqy Awdr vl koeI qv`jo nhIN idMdy[
nvyN AwriQk inzwm ivc aucyrI is`iKAw dIAW sMsQwvW ivc kMm krn vwlIAW purwxI qrz dIAW AiDAwpk j`QybMdIAW pRBwvkwrI nhIN rhIAW ikauNik aunHW ny nvyN hwlwq muqwbk AwpxI AMdrUnI bxqr, kwrj SYlI Aqy rxnIqI nUM nhIN bdilAw[ ienHW j`QybMdIAW ivc nvyN AiDAwpkW dI BrvIN SmUlIAq nhIN ho rhI[ AijhI sUrq ivc XUnIvristI dI rwjnIqk spys ivc is`iKAw nUM AMqrIvI qOr ‘qy smripq AiDAwpkW nUM rcnwqmk rol Adw krn dw mOkw nhIN imldw[ ies dw suBwivk is`tw ieh in`kldw hY ik XUnIvristI dy Akwdimk mhOl Aqy pRbMD ivc hor ivgwV pYdw huMdy hn[ienHW siQqIAW ivc XUnIvristIAW dI AwriQk ^udmu^qwrI nUM Korw l`igAw hY Aqy aunHW ivc rwjnIqk d^l-AMdwzI dw vwDw hoieAw hY[ XUnIvristIAW smwj nUM bOiDk-nYiqk AgvweI pRdwn krn dI bjwey mihj bzwr dIAW loVW Aqy rwjnIqIvwnW dIAW ingUxIAW ^wihSW dI pUrqI dw mwiDAm bx rhIAW hn[
pMjwbI XUnIvristI ienHW pRikirAwvW dy mwrU pRBwvW qoN ACUqI nhIN hY[ iek ^ws smyN qoN pMjwb srkwr ny XUnIvristI dIAW grWtW au~qy v`fy k`t lwauxy SurU kIqy hn Aqy ies dy ivkws ivc BrvW iv`qI Xogdwn pwaux qoN iknwrwkSI krnI SurU kr id`qI hY[ pr nwl hI dUjy pwsy XUnIvristI ivc hr p`Dr au~qy rwjnIqk d^l-AMdwzI vDw id`qI hY[ nqIjw ieh hoieAw ik AiDAwpkW dIAW inXukqIAW qoN lY ky pUtw dy SkqI sMquln nUM rwjnIqIvwn pRBwivq krn l`gy hn[ smwj dy hr vrg nUM bOiDk AgvweI dyx vwlw XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW dw iek v`fw vrg BRSt, sMvydnhIx Aqy ZYr-izMmyvwr rwjnIqIvwnW dI AgvweI kbUl kr bYTw hY Aqy aunHW dy ieSwirAW dw Zulwm bx igAw hY[
iesy lVI ivc iek idn Aijhw vI AwieAw ik AsIN AiDAwpk AwpxI j`QybMdI pUtw qoN h`Q Do bYTy[ ies dw iek gMBIr is`tw ieh in`kilAw ik rwjnIqIvwnW qON QwpVw pRwpq ku`J AiDAwpkW qoN ielwvw Awm AiDAwpkW dI koeI p`uC pRqIq nhIN rhI[ AiDAwpkW dIAW pRmoSnW ivc Xogqw dI imqI Aqy ArzI dyx dI imqI Anuswr rostr iqAwr krky lVIvwr ieMtrivaUAW krvwaux dI QW ku`J ‘phuMc vwly aumIdvwrW’ dI pihl dy AwDwr ‘qy ieMtrivaU krvwaux dw irvwz SurU ho igAw[ AiDAwpkW nUM zrUrI shUlqW muh`eIAw krvwaux dy mwmly ivc kwxI vMf hox l`gI[ ies nwl Awm AiDAwpk XUnIvristI pRbMD qoN Al`g Ql`g pYx ligAw Aqy Coty Coty kMmW leI d&qrW ivc rulx leI mjbUr kr id`qw igAw[
ies siQqI ivc AsIN ku`J AiDAwpkW ny iS`dq nwl mihsUs kIqw ik pUtw dIAW coxW au~qy rok l`gx auprMq hwlwq Aijhy ho gey hn ik pUtw ivc iksy vkq kwrjSIl AiDAwpk gru`pW ivcoN bhuiqAW ny hOlI hOlI AiDAwpkW dy sWJy ih`qW v`l ip`T kr leI hY[ auh in`ky in`ky in`jI &wieidAW Aqy pujISnW pRwpq krn dI hoV ivc l`g gey hn[ ie`Qy kMm kr rhy keI gru`p XUnIvristI pRSwsn ivc qwkq hwisl krky Awpxy nyVy dy mYNbrW dy in`jI kMm krvwaux Aqy pirvwrW nUM XUnIvristI ivc inXukqIAW idvwaux leI srgrm rihMdy hn[ s`qw nwloN rcnwqmk Alocnw vwlI snmwnXog dUrI r`K ky Akwdimkqw Aqy AiDAwpk vrg dI BlweI bwry kMm krn dw eyjMfw ienHW ny icrW dw iqAwg id`qw hoieAw hY[ A`j dI kOVI hkIkq ieh hY ik XUnIvristI s`qw ivc koAwpt hox jW nw hox nwl hI qYA huMdw hY ik koeI irvwieqI gru`p kdoN s`qw-p`KI hovy Aqy kdoN s`qw-ivroDI hox dw AYlwn kr dyvy[ swfI smJ hY ik pMjwbI XUnIvristI ivc A`j-k`lH s`qw-p`KI Aqy s`qw-ivroDI gru`pW dy inKyVy dw koeI ivSyS ArQ nhIN rih igAw hY[ ies g`l dw pRmwx hY ik ienHW gru`pW ny ipCly lMmy smyN dOrwn Awpxy sIimq dwieirAW qoN suqMqr ivcrdy Aqy ienHW dI srpRsqI nUM kbUl nw krn vwly AiDAwpkW dIAW h`kI mMgW nUM lY ky kdy vI s`qw dw ivroD krn dI zuA`rq nhIN kIqI[
Aijhy ^lwA ivc AiDAwpkW dIAW jwiez mMgW Aqy aunHW dy h`kW dI Awvwz bulMd krn leI AiDAwpkW dI iek nvIN sMsQw bxwaux dI loV mihsUs kIqI jw rhI sI[ so AsIN ku`J AiDAwpkW ny iml ky ‘tIcrz &wr ieMtrvYNnSn ien AYjUkySn (Teachers for Intervention in Education - TIE) nwm dI sMsQw dw gTn kIqw ijhVI pRmwixk rUp ivc lokqMqrI kwrj SYlI vwlI, Drm-inrp`K, pRgqISIl smwijk jvwbdyhI vwly is`iKAw-pRbMD Aqy aus ivc bOiDk rwjnIqk AgvweI pRdwn krn vwly AiDAwpk vrg dy gOrv dI bhwlI leI kwrjSIL hovygI[ ies pirpyK ivc AsIN Awpxy Awp nUM XUnIvristI-p`KI, AiDAwpk-p`KI, is`iKAw-p`KI Aqy ividAwrQI-p`KI AiDAwpkW dy smUh dy rUp ivc pirBwiSq krdy hW Aqy ieh Aihd krdy hW ik ijhVw AiDkwrI XUnIvristI dy aucyry iv`idAk imAwrW, AiDAwpkW dy ih`qW, AiDkwrW Aqy gOrvSwlI ruqby dy i^lw& hY AsIN aus dw ivroD krWgy[ swfw ieh gru`p mihj pUtw dIAW coxW ivc Bwg lYx leI bxwieAw igAw gru`p nhIN hY[ AsIN ipCly smyN qoN XUnivristI AiDAwpkW dy h`kW, aucyrI is`iKAw dy imAwrW dI bhwlI Aqy nvyN inzwm ivc aucyrI is`iKAw dy AdwirAW nUM pyS muSiklW bwry AiDAwpk vrg ivc cyqnW dw pwswr krn leI lgwqwr kMm kr rhy hW[ ieh vI ik pUtw coxW dy nqIjy jo vI hox AsIN Awpxy isDWqW Aqy mnorQW dI pUrqI leI inrMqr kwrjSIl rhWgy[
AsIN vfyry pirpyK ivc XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW dI AgvweI vwlI BUimkw nUM smJdy hoey mihsus krdy hW ik swnUM is`iKAw dy Kyqr ivc &Ylwey jw rhy v`Kvwd (divisiveness), inKyVwvwd (differentiation) , ivKMfnvwd (segmentation) bwry sucyq hox dI loV hY[ AsIN ipCly smyN ivc AwpxI XUnIvristI ivc ijhVIAW pRmuK Aqy pRq`K sm`isAwvW bwry soicAw ivcwirAw hY Aqy ijnHW nUM h`l krn leI AsIN Awp sB dy sihXog dI mMg Aqy aumId krdy hW aunHW dw sMKyp ibErw hyTW id`qw jw irhw hY:
  1. XUnIvristI dI ^udmu^qwrI (Autonomy) nUM bhwl krnw: bwzwr dI mMg dI QW smwijk izMmyvwrI vwlw iv`idAk-pRbMD auswrn leI, aucyrI Akwdimk pRwpqI vwly Xog AiDAwpkW nUM ies XUnIvristI vl AwkriSq krn leI Aqy kwrjSIl AiDAwpkW nUM vwijb shUlqW muh`eIAw krn leI ^udmu^qwrI dw bhwl hoxw zrUrI hY[ ies nwl hI XUnIvristI ivc AiDAwpkW dI inXukqI ivc aucyrI Akwdimk pRwpqI nUM ie`ko ie`k pYmwnw bxwieAw jw skdw hY[ srkwrI A&srSwhI Aqy rwjnIqIvwnW dI d^l-AMdwzI qoN mukq hoey ibnw XUnIvristI Aqy ies dy AiDAwpkW dy ih`qW dI pUrqI bwry soicAw nhIN jw skdw[
  2. XUnIvristI ivc auplbD shUlqW dI inAWSIl vMf: ivBwgW Aqy AiDAwpkW nUM loV muqwbk shUlqW, QW Awid auplbD hox Aqy ivBwgW ivc swry AiDAwpkW nUM aunHW dI sInIErtI muqwbk vwijb shUlqW id`qIAW jwx Aqy mOjUd shUlqW dI inAWSIl vMf kIqI jwvy[ ieh nw hovy ik kuJ AiDAwpk qW jgIrdwrW vWg XUnIvristI dy kmirAW, syvwvW Aqy shUlqW au~qy sQweI kbzw jmweI r`Kx Aqy bwkI AiDAwpk in`kIAW in`kIAW shUlqW, loVW qoN vWJy hox
  3. XUnIvristI dy pRSwsink pRbMD ivc hr vrg dy AiDAwpkW dI SmUlIAq nUM XkInI bxwauxw: kyvl kuJ iek AiDAwpkW nUM hI swrIAW izMmyvwrIAW dyx dI bjwey hr vrg dy AiDAwpkW nUM aunHW dy Ahudy muqwbk pirBwiSq pRSwsink pujISnW au~qy inXukq kIqw jwvy qW jo v`D qoN v`D AiDAwpk pRSwsink &YsilAW ivc BwgIdwrI kr skx[ ipCly lMmy smyN qoN XUnIvristI pRSwsn ivc AiDAwpkwvW nUM FukvIN ih`sydwrI nhIN id`qI jw rhI[ XUnIvristI dy hr Ahudy au~qy inXukqI smyN AiDAwpkwvW nUM brwbrI dy pYmwny Anuswr ivcwirAw jwvy[ AsIN pRSwsink AhuidAW ivc mrd-p`KI ivhwr dw ivroD krdy hW[
  4. AiDAwpkW dIAW ArzIAW Aqy p`qrW dw smWb`D inptwrw: pMjwbI XUnIvristI dy iviBMn ivBwgW, sYNtrW Aqy nybrh`uf kYNpsW, kWstIcuAYNt kwljW dy AiDAwpkW dIAW ArzIAW Aqy p`qrW dw smWb`D inptwrw krn dw pwrdrSI Aqy jvwbdyhI vwlw pRbMD hoNd ivc ilAwauxw zrUrI hY qW ik aunHW dw AiDAwpn Aqy Koj ivc sr& hox vwlw smW brbwd nw hovy[
  5. pRmoSnW leI ieMtrivaU krvwaux leI p`Kpwq rihq kYlMfr: kYrIAr AYfvWsmYNt skIm ADIn AiDAwpkW nUM qr`kI dyx leI ieMtrivaU krvwaux leI smWb`D Aqy inAWauic`q isstm bxwieAw jwvy[ AiDAwpkW dI pRmoSn dI imqI Aqy aunHW duAwrw ArzI dyx dI imqI dy AwDwr ‘qy ieMtrivaU krvweI jwieAw kry[ ieh nw hovy ik koeI AiDAwpk Awpxw rwjsI jW in`jI Asr-rsU^ vrq ky ieMtrivaU pihlW krvw jwvy Aqy bwkI AiDAwpk ies leI mhIinAW swlW b`DI aufIkdy rihx[
  6. XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW ivc Koj nUM auqSwihq krn leI Koj pRojYktW nUM iv`qI grWt pRdwn krnI: XUnIvristI mihj klws-rUm AiDAwpn dI sMsQw nhIN sgo igAwn auqpwdn dw au`cqm kyNdr huMdI hY[ ies leI lwzmI hY ik aucyrI Koj ivc idlcspI r`Kx vwly AidAwpkW dy Koj pRojYktW nUM iv`qI grWtW dyx leI rIsrc &Mf dI sQwpnw kIqI jwxI loVINdI hY[ ies dy nwl hI Koj-ividAwrQIAW leI vI v`fy p`Dr au~qy XUnIvristI &YloiSp sQwipq krny loVINdy hn Aqy aunHW nUM iv`qI shwieqw dyx leI vI v`Krw rIsrc &Mf loVINdw hY[
  7. XUnIvristI ivc AiDAwpkW dI BrqI dI pRikirAw nUM Xogqw AwDwirq Aqy pwrdrSI bxwauxw: XUnIvristI ivc iv`idAw dy aucyry imAwr nUM kwiem r`Kx Aqy au`c p`drI Koj dIAW sMBwvnwvW nUM swkwr krn leI AiDAwpkW dI BrqI pRikirAw ivc aumIdvwrW dI ivid`Ak Xogqw, qjurby Aqy Koj-rucI nUM AwDwr bxwauxw inhwieq zrUrI hY[ ieh qW hI sMBv hY jy ieh cox pRikirAw bwhrmuKI Aqy pwrdrSI hovy Aqy ies ivc rwjnIqIvwnW Aqy A&srSwhI dw d^l bMd kIqw jwvy[
  8. AiDAwpkW dy iv`qI msilAW nUM &OrI qOr ‘qy h`l krvwauxw: XUnIvristI dy bhuq swry AiDAwpkW dIAW pRmoSnW, pRmoSnW dy iv`qI lwB jwrI krnw, qr`kI leI ipClI syvw dw lwB pRdwn krnw, nvyN skylW ivc aunHW dI TIk plysmYNt krnw, slwnw Aqy aucyrI iv`idAw dIAW ieMkrImYNtW dyx vrgy ikMny hI msly lgwqwr ltkwau dI AvsQw ivc hn[ ies nwl AiDAwpkW dI iek v`fI igxqI nUM prySwnI Aqy inrwSw dw swhmxw krnw pY irhw hY[ ienHW lwBW dI pRwpqI leI aunHW v`loN id`qIAW ArzIAW au~qy koeI pRBwvSwlI kwrvweI nhIN huMdI[ d&qr Aqy A&sr ibnw iksy jvwbdyhI dy inAWSIlqw qoN s`Kxy &Ysly krdy hn[ ies siQqI nUM bdlx leI inrMqr XqnW Aqy AiDAwpk sMgTn dy dbwA dI zrUrq hY[
  9. vweIko, nybrhu`f kYNpsW Aqy kWstIcuAYNt kwljW nUM pRkwrjI ^udmu^qwrI (functional autonomy) Aqy buinAwdI shUlqW pRdwn krvwauxIAW: XUnIvristI duAwrw sQwipq Aqy kYNps qoN bwhr c`l rhy iviBMn kwljW dy AiDAwpkW nUM Anyk muSiklW dw swhmxw krnw pY irhw hY[ aunHW nUM rozwnw dy kMmW leI XUnIvristI kYNps ivc Awauxw pYNdw hY[ ies leI au~Qy AijhI pRSwsink ivvsQw bxweI jwxI loVINdI hY ijs kol zrUrI &Ysly lYx dw AiDkwr Aqy pRkwrjI ^udmu^qwrI hovy[ aunHW AiDAwpkW leI vwijb irhwieS dw pRbMD kIqw jwvy, Adwry dIAW loVW Anuswr lwiebryrI, kYNtIn Aqy hor shUlqW id`qIAW jwx[
  10. XUnIvristI duAwrw inXukq qmwm AiDAwpkW ivc brwbrI sQwipq krnw: ipCly kuJ smyN ivc XUnIvristI dw kw&I ivsqwr hoieAw hY[ XUnIvristI ny kuJ kwljW nUM Awpxy pRSwsn ADIn lY ky aunHW nUM kWstIcuAYNt kwljW, nybrhu`f kYNpsW Aqy ivBwgW dw ruqbw id`qw hY Aqy keI nvyN kWstIcuAYNt kwlj, nybrhu`f kYNps Aqy ivBwg SurU kIqy hn[ ienHW ivc kMm krdy AiDAwpkW nUM XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW vwly qmwm AiDkwr brwbrI dy AwDwr ‘qy id`qy jwxy bxdy hn[ AiDAwpkW dI sWJI j`QybMdI ivc aunHW dy Swiml hox nwl AiDAwpkW dI SkqI ivc vwDw hI huMdw hY[ ies dI ZYrhwzrI ivc auh lokqMqrI AiDkwr qoN vI vWJy rihMdy hn Aqy auh iksy vI AiDAwpkW dI j`QybMdI dy mYNbr nhIN ho skdy ikauNik auh pRweIvyt Aqy srkwrI kwljW dIAW j`QybMdIAW pI.sI.sI.tI.XU. Aqy jI.sI.tI.ey. dy mYNbr vI nhIN bx skdy[ ienHW kwljW nUM ivBwg dw drzw dyx nwl aunHW ivc kMm krdy AiDAwpkW nUM XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW nUM pRwpq AiDkwr vI pRwpq ho jwxgy Aqy auh pUtw dy mYNbr vI bx skdy hoxgy[ AsIN ies idSw vl XQwsMBv Xqn krWgy[
  11. ivBwgW dI kwrj-pRxwlI nUM kYlMfr dI inXmWvlI ADIn ivhwrk qOr ‘qy lokqMqrI Aqy pwrdrSI bxwauxw: Aijhw krnw ies leI zrUrI hY ik ivBwg dy pRSwsink &YsilAW ivc AiDAwpkW dI brwbr dI SmUlIAq ho sky Aqy iksy vI AiDAwpk dy Awqm-snmwn nUM Tys nw phuMcy[ swry ivBwgW ivc ey.sI.fI. dI BUimkw Aqy gOrv nUM bhwl kIqw jwxw bxdw hY[
  12. ivBwg dw muKI bxn leI AYsosIeyt po&Ysr nUM iqMn swl dw qjurbw hox dI Srq htweI jwvy: XUnIvristI AiDAwpkW leI ivBwg dw muKI bxn dIAW pihlW lwgU SrqW Anuswr rIfr iqMn swl dw qjurbw pUrw hox auprMq hI muKI bxn dy Xog huMdy sn[ CyvyN qn^wh kimSn dIAW is&wirSW Anuswr hux rIfr jW islYkSn skyl ivc iqMn swl pUry krn auprMq hI koeI AiDAwpk AYsosIeyt pRo&ysr bx skdw hY[ ies leI AYsosIeyt pRo&Ysr dy muKI bxn leI leI iqMn swl dy qjurby dI Srq lgwauxW inAWauic`q nhIN hY[ ieh vI ik ies Srq dw is`Dw mqlb ieh inkldw hY ik hux pRo&Ysr bxn leI loVINdw iqMn swl dw AYsosIeyt pRo&Ysr dw qjurbw r`Kx vwly hI muKI bx skdy hoxgy[ ieh Srq ivhwrk Aqy inAW dy qkwizAW muqwibk nhIN hY ies leI ieh Srq htweI jwxI bxdI hY[
  13. XUnIvristI dy vwqwvrx dI sMBwl Aqy Bvn inrmwxkwrI dIAW zrUrqW dw sMquln: ipCly ku`J smyN qoN XUnIvristI kYNps ivc dUridRStI vwlI XojnwbMdI dy ibnW hI Bvn inrmwxkwrI zorW ‘qy hY[ies nwl kYNps dI mwstr plwn Aqy grIn bYlt dI AxdyKI kIqI jw rhI hY Aqy vwqwvrx ivgwiVAw jw irhw hY[ ies nUM rokx leI XUnIvristI ivc Bvn-inrmwxkwrI Aqy ies nwl ivgV rhy vwqwvrx dI imAwdI pVqwl (environmental auditing) krnI zrUrI hY[
  14. XUnIvristI ivc vwhnW dI AwvwjweI nUM inXMqirq krn dw pRbMD bxwauxw: ipCly smyN ivc XUnIvristI ivc vwhnw dI AwvwjweI ies kdr vDI hY ik ie`k ividAk Adwry vwlI SWqI dI QW bzwr vrgI gihmw gihmI Aqy DunI prdUSx vDyry hY[ ies dw Asr ieh huMdw hY ik XUnIvristI ivc AiDAwpkW Aqy ividAwrQIAW dI SrIrk sur`iKAw Aqy mwnisk skUn nUM ^qrw bixAw rihMdw hY[ ivSyS qOr ‘qy AiDAwpkwvW Aqy ividAwrQI lVkIAW dy ih`q ivc bwhrly vwhnW dy XUnIvristI ivc dw^ly nUM inXMqirq krnw byh`d zrUrI hY[
  15. CyvyN qn^wh kimSn dIAw is&wirSW nUM pUrn rUp ivc lwgU krnw: ijvyN ik syvw mukqI dI aumr 65 swl krnI, syvw mukqI auprMq kwrjkwl ivc vwDy dI aumr 70 swl krnw, qn^wh dy bkwey Aqy B`iqAW dI AdwiegI krnw Awid[
AsIN auprokq mnorQW dI pUrqI dy kwj nUM smripq Aqy pRiqb`D smUh AiDAwpkW Aqy aunHW dy qmwm gru`pW nUM ApIl krdy hW ik auh Ajoky XUnIvristI isstm ivc ie`iCq qbdIlIAW ilAwaux leI iek pRgqISIl, Akwdimkqw nUM smripq Aqy AiDAwpk ih`qw nwl pRiqb`D j`QybMdk bdl iqAwr krn ivc Xogdwn pwaux[ AsIN mihsUs krdy hW ik hr AiDAwpk iek suKwvW mhOl, inAWSIl pRbMD, isrjxwqmk suqMqrqw Aqy mwxXog ruqbw cwhuMdw hY[ ies swrw kuJ pRwpq krn leI Xqn Aqy ikirAwSIlqw dI zrUrq hY[ Awp sB dy sihXog Aqy swQ nwl XUnIvristI ivc hWmuKI qbdIlIAW ilAWdIAW jw skdIAW hn[

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Declaration of Objectives of Teachers for Intervention in Education

Punjabi University, Patiala 

Declaration of Objectives

During the last two decades changes have been underway in education which aim at making the economic ‘reforms’ a success. This is part of a larger agenda of treating private and corporate profits as the highest good under the so-called new economic order. Education is being subjected to deep-rooted and widespread perversions in a systematic and studied manner. Vast numbers of students are being deprived of any opportunity for meaningful education. The overall standards of education are dropping. Teachers are being robbed of the space in which they can respond ably to the call of their vocation; they are being reduced to insignificant appendages of a dehumanizing system that treats profits as more important than human beings. The system of recruitment of the faculty has been slowly distorted so much that competence, scholarship and legitimate claims to employment no longer have any value. It surprises no one, therefore, when neither the governments nor the university authorities bother to pay any attention to the teachers’ genuine needs and demands, and even to their self-respect and social position.
It is obvious to everyone that the teachers’ organizations/unions active in the institutions of higher education have not responded adequately and effectively to the changing pressures of the system emerging under the new economic order. They have largely failed to suitably transform their organizational structures, styles of functioning and strategies of struggle. New teachers do not get deserved opportunities to participate equally in these organizations. In this situation the teachers wedded to academics and a life of the intellect are discouraged from performing a pro-actively constructive and positive role in the university. The academic atmosphere of the university thus enters a cycle of degeneration. These worrying developments have to be viewed against the context of a broader scenario in which the financial autonomy of the university has been systematically and steadily eroded, even as political interference in its internal affairs has grown proportionately.
The universities are meant to provide fearless and free-minded intellectual and moral leadership to society. In the prevailing circumstances, they are being turned into factories for profits and instruments for the unholy aspirations of some unscrupulous and myopic politicians.
          Punjabi University has not remained uninfected by these vile winds. At a certain historically significant point of time, the state government started imposing substantial cuts on its grants and gradually retreated from its social obligation to fund higher education. At the same time, however, political interference into the university’s internal affairs has grown monstrously. Right from the appointments of the faculty to the balance of power in PUTA - everything has come to be influenced by politicians. Worse, instead of following their vocation of providing intellectual leadership to society, a sizeable section of the university teachers has sold itself to certain irresponsible, insensitive and corrupt politicians.
          And so a time came when we the teachers lost even our last citadel, PUTA. In the absence of PUTA, a small number of ‘teachers’ personally prospered (and did so unchecked, unquestioned) because they had the blessings of some politicians. The ordinary, independent-minded teachers, who were in a majority, were left to fend individually for themselves and were driven into the wilderness, a sort of exile in their own university. Instead of a proper schedule for interviews for promotions on the basis of the date of eligibility and the date of application, an abnormal system of patronage and sifarish evolved in which those who had the right connections always managed to get their interviews fixed on a priority. The basic facilities given to teachers came to be marked by pure bias and discrimination. The teacher as such - the ordinary teacher who enjoyed no one’s blessings, had no office, and enjoyed no proximity to ‘those in power’ - was thus increasingly isolated. She/he was left to run alone from pillar to post to get even their routine files moved.
          Observing the situation and enduring its consequences, we were able to see clearly that during the period the university was without PUTA, most of the teachers’ groups had turned their backs on the collective interests of teachers. The teacher as teacher had ceased to exist in their eyes covered under ‘power glasses’. We noticed that they had unfortunately joined a rat race for trivial personal benefits and un-academic official positions. Who can deny that several groups had obtained positions of power in the university administration only to promote the personal interests of their own members and to get members of their own families appointed on various posts? Such teachers’ groups have thrown into the dustbin the very last scraps of the agenda that once guided the teachers’ groups – the agenda of working solely for academics, for the academic fraternity and for the society at large, while keeping from power a distance of dissent and unsparing constructive criticism. The bitter truth today is that what determines a group’s pro-establishment or anti-establishment position is merely their co-optation or not into convenient arrangements with power. In our view, the distinction between pro-establishment and anti-establishment does not make much sense in our university today. This is proved beyond doubt by the fact that for a long time now these groups have not stood up for the genuine issues raised by those teachers who are independent-minded, who move outside their narrow and exclusive circles and who refuse to submit to their domination.
          In this vacuum, it was felt that such independent teachers needed to organize themselves in order to raise their collective voice in defense of their legitimate demands and rights. Consequently, some of us came together to form an association which we thoughtfully decided to call Teachers for Intervention in Education (TIE). We decided that this organization would be authentically democratic, secular, and forward-looking. It would work for a system of socially relevant and responsible education. And it would strive to redeem and enhance the honour and dignity of teachers committed to providing intellectual-political leadership to society. We therefore define our association as pro-university, pro-teacher, pro-education and pro-student. We pledge that we will challenge and resist any force that undermines academic standards and that operates against the teachers’ interests, their rights and their dignity. This organization has been constituted for a purpose far larger than participation in PUTA polls. In the past we have accordingly worked consistently for the university teachers’ rights, for the restoration of the highest academic standards and for spreading awareness about challenges confronting higher education under the so-called new economic regime. We declare that irrespective of the results of PUTA polls, we will continue to work for the realization of our objectives and that we will not betray the principles on which our association is founded.
          Against the larger backdrop of the role of leadership that the university teachers are today called upon to take up at this historical juncture, we all need to be alert to the economics and politics of divisiveness, differentiation and segmentation being officially propagated and practiced in the sphere of education against the traditions of solidarity of all teachers. We have accordingly considered the problems and issues confronting us in this university. To find long-lasting solutions to these we seek your cooperation and support.
1.     Restoring the autonomy of the university: It is essential that the university should regain its autonomy if a socially responsible education system is to be raised as against the demands imposed by the blind and insensible market, if educators with outstanding academic credentials are to be attracted and if the sincerely devoted teachers are to be provided necessary facilities and good working conditions required for serious academic pursuits. Political and bureaucratic interference must be eliminated for autonomy to be realized. Academic accomplishment must be the sole criterion for selection of the faculty.
2.     A fair and just distribution of required facilities among the faculty and the departments: The teachers and the departments should be given the required facilities on the basis of their needs, work and seniority. The currently prevailing feudal kind of arrangement should be put to an end under which a handful of teachers take away the lion’s share of the university’s scarce resources, facilities and spaces, while other teachers remain deprived of even the basic needs and amenities. Campus accommodation in particular needs to be allotted on a rational, not arbitrary, basis.
3.     Ensuring the participation of all categories of teachers in the university administration: Administrative authority should not be concentrated and circulated among a small number of teachers only. Instead, teachers of all categories should be appointed on administrative positions as appropriate to their designation and rank so that the widest representation can be ensured in the decision-making. Women teachers have not received their deserved representation in the university administration for a long time. Gender discrimination against women must be entirely eliminated in the matter of appointments to positions of authority and responsibility in the university.
4.     Time-bound disposal of the faculty’s representations, applications, letters and grievances: A transparent, accountable and time-bound system, with inbuilt monitoring, needs to put in place for this purpose so that the teachers are not compelled to waste their valuable time in chasing files from office to office.
5.     Making an unbiased schedule for interviews under CAS: The interviews under Career Advancement Scheme should be systematized leaving no scope for interference and exercise of prejudice. The schedule should be based on the date of eligibility and the date of application submitted for promotion under CAS. The current arrangement encourages patronage and recommendation and compromises the self-respect of teachers who do not wish to approach anyone to get what the university owes to them as a matter of their right.
6.     University-level funding for the faculty’s research work: The University should establish a research corpus for funding the research projects of the faculty. At the same time, liberal research fellowships should be provided to deserving research scholars in order to promote the production of socially relevant knowledge.  
7.     Ensuring merit-based and transparent recruitment of faculty: If the university is to fulfill its mandate, utmost care must be taken to ensure that faculty recruitment does not suffer from any distortions. Academic achievements merit and research should be duly respected. For this purpose, a fair, fool-proof and transparent method of recruitment should be adopted and strictly followed.            
8.     Immediate disposal of all pending financial issues of the faculty: A larger number of financial issues have remained unresolved because of the apathy of the university administration. These include promotions, the financial benefits accruing from promotions, increments, the dues on account of delayed counting of past service, etc. A very large number of teachers face unmerited harassment and frustration as a result of the attitude of the authorities towards these issues. It is essential to dispose of all such matters regularly, justly and within fixed time frames.
9.     Functional autonomy and basic facilities to UCOE, YCOE, neighbourhood campuses and constituent colleges: The faculty working in these organic parts of Punjabi University has to face avoidable harassment and difficulties in the course of routine work. The teachers often have to interrupt their teaching and research in order to visit the main university campus for things which should be dealt with automatically. What is needed is an administrative arrangement which would ensure functional autonomy to these colleges and give to them the authority to take routine decisions at their own level. Moreover these colleges need to be equipped with proper facilities of faculty residence, library, canteen, etc.
10.                        Ensuring effective equality among all teachers employed by the university: In recent years the university has expanded enormously, establishing neighbourhood campuses, constituent colleges, etc. The teachers working in these places should be accorded an equal status. They should also be made members of PUTA as this will only strengthen the collective power of all teachers. Their democratic rights should be respected, particularly when it is clear that they cannot become members of GCTA or PCCTU. If these colleges are all given the status of departments, the teachers working in them can automatically get their political rights.
11.                        Making the functioning departments democratic and transparent in practice: This is necessary for ensuring equal participation of all teachers iin decision-making at the level of the department. This will also enable equal voice of and respect for all teachers. The ACDs must be given back their statutory role, autonomy and authority as laid down in the university calendar.
12.                        The eligibility condition of three years of Associate Professorship be removed for appointment as Head of the Department: Under the previous rules, a reader with three years of service in that capacity was eligible to be appointed as head of the department. Under the current rules, one becomes an Associate Professor after completing three years as Reader or Lecturer (Selection Grade). Hence it is unfair to impose the eligibility condition of three years of Associate Professorship for becoming head of the department. This is an unreasonable, unfair and arbitrary rule, and so it must be rescinded.
13.                        Striking a balance between the university’s environment and the compulsion for new constructions: The enviably planned Punjabi University campus is admired for its excellent balance between concrete structures and green spaces. However, this balance has recently come under a mindless assault as huge buildings are being raised without giving sufficient though to give overall viability and impact. A regular environmental audit should be initiated and nothing should be done that damages the university’s  master plan and greenery in a serious way.
14.                        Regulation of traffic in the university Campus: Excessive volume and movement of traffic in the campus has ruined the peace that an institution of learning requires. In place of it there is unbearable sound pollution and the rush of a bazaar. The physical safety and peace of mind of teachers and students stand seriously endangered. Women teachers and students have been rendered particularly vulnerable because of unchecked entry of outsiders in their vehicles.
15.                        Implementation of all recommendations of the 6th pay commission: The recommendation must be implemented without dilution and in toto, including the payment of arrears, the allowances, increase in the retirement age to 65, reemployment until 70 years, etc.    

We appeal to all teachers and the teachers’ groups dedicated to these objectives that they should come forward to contribute wholeheartedly to the consolidation of a forward-looking collective alternative committed to academics and the interests of the academic fraternity. We believe that every teacher aspires for a cordial and work-friendly atmosphere, for a fair and just administrative dispensation, for freedom of creative scholarship and expression, and for self-respect and dignity. But the achievement of these things demands continuous endeavours and everybody’s participation. With your help and cooperation, it is possible to do this.

Rajesh Sharma (Convener, TIE) 7837960942
Surjit Singh (Co-convener, TIE)     9356462593

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Rajesh Khanna

By Asad Zaidi
(Asad Zaidi's note on the superstar is so insightful that I could not resist the temptation to steal it from facebook and post it here.)
One often forgets the political backdrop to important changes in popular culture and trends in mass entertainment media. The fading of Rajesh Khanna as a superstar in the mid-1970s and the remarkable rise of Amitabh Bachchan as the new hero ran parallel to the rise of Sanjay Gandhi in Indian politics. The romantic-idealist and often vulnerable screen persona of Rajesh Khanna didn't fit in the emerging new India of पाँच सूत्री कार्यक्रम (5-Point Programme).

It is said that the real social engineers of Bombay cinema in that era, the loutish duo of script and dialogue writers Salim-Javed, had offered an 'image makeover' to Rajesh Khanna but he wasn't interested. Amitabh Bachchan then famously underwent the 'transformation' to become the proto-fascist 'angry young man' of Indian cinema.

This new construct/makeover wasn't a response to any evolutionary impulse specific to film aesthetic or audience expectation; it was rather a form of mobilization creating a force of its own. This phenomenon wasn't confined to Salim-Javed written, Amitabh Bachchan-starrers like Zanjeer, Deewaar, and Kader Khan-written Inquilaab. Even the 'more sensible' names of middle cinema were not immune to its appeal: one is reminded of certain films of Govind Nihalani and Mahesh Bhatt which dangerously flirted with neo-Nazi sentiments. For some reason, the very thought of the character type developed in these films brings to mind not just the subaltern outlaws, underworld dons, Sanjayite or Shiv Sena goons, but also the much valorised establishment guys -- those encounter specialists, Rajbir Singh, SS Rathi and Daya Nayak.

What happened to female characters in cinema in Salim-Javed (or, alternately, Sanjay-Amitabh) era is indicative of the nature of the counter-revolution: the heroine of Rajesh Khanna films simply evaporated. She became a peripheral figure -- a suffering mom, a bhabhi, an adoring sister, or just an 'item' girl in dramas mainly focused on the avenging hero, waiting for him to dispense 'justice'. Even the eternal femme fatale went missing. Female counterparts of our 'angry young man' were found more in public life: Maneka Gandhi, Rukhsana Sultana, Kiran Bedi, Ambica Soni from Sanjay Gandhi stable (along with their male counterparts: Jagmohan, Arjun Das, Kamal Nath, Jagdish Tytler, PS Bhinder, Dumpy Ahmad). One wonders why Salim-Javed didn't feel inspired enough to script these real life women into their films to share the glory with Inspector Vijay or Kaalia or whoever Amitabh B was masquerading as.

Rajesh Khanna, although active in this period, was reduced to a 'has been', because the industry has decided to dump that kind of cinema that propelled him to stardom. Nobody in Bombay industry wanted a decent hero, and a romantic one at that. An era was coming to a close, and the reasons had nothing to do with his "mediocrity" or the cluelessness as some would like to believe.

Ironically, it was perhaps his destiny to join the Congress party in the interesting times of Narasimha Rao, and then face in three consecutive Lok Sabha elections three eminent representatives of the (same) new era as adversaries: LK Advani, Shatrughan Sinha and Jagmohan. He managed to defeat one of these and sit in Lok Sabha for four years. I still salute to that memory, and that of Sunil Dutt who was given a very rough time by his own party during those years.

Rajesh Khanna was of course a charming actor, always ready to play roles combining romantic vulnerability and pure joy, but that was not his limit. He was quiet good at several things, especially the non-visual parts of an actor's craft. His speech -- the dialogue delivery, soliloquies and mumbling with its modulation and weight and intelligent pauses -- would do things his eyes, face or body movement didn't, and he employed it as an independent force. In Rajesh Khanna the Bombay cinema had two actors at the price of one. He also happened to be there when the number of female cinema-goers (and film magazine readers) was rising. It was an active audience and Rajesh Khanna had its vote. This among other things made him a superstar.