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Response from Prof Harbans Mukhia and Mr Bikramjit De

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  • Ather Farouqui
      Class in the Context of elite Indian Marxists in contemporary context, a debate.   Dear Friends and My Comrades in Arms:   Those of who who are on my
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2013

    Class in the Context of elite Indian Marxists in contemporary context, a debate.
    Dear Friends and My Comrades in Arms:
    Those of who who are on my mailing list may remember my play, Marxmen versus Rajiv Gandhi, which I had shared on the public domain for your consumption. Another website, Arkitect India, run by the alumnus of JNU, my Alma mater, very generously also carried it and on dissemination the play was critiqued and appreciated by many making this whole experience a gratifying one. However, this also led to a heated debate between Comrade Subhashini Ali, a prominent member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and myself. Several others naturally joined the fray. A gentleman, Mr Ravi Kumar, shared an interesting anecdote on the legendary economist, the late Professor Dharma Kumar, and Comrade Ali responded to this as well. DEBATES ARE ESSENTIALLY HEALTHY AS THEY ENCOURAGE THE MULTIPLICITY OF VIEWPOINTS. However, I was forced to withdraw from the debate as the moderator was uncomfortable with my postings and termed them ‘personal’. Since he is a friend, I could not have crossed swords with him and eventually there was no love lost as I could appreciate his position as a moderator which is an extremely sensitive and difficult job. But this does not mean that I am defensive about my play, because it is meant to be personal as it is all about personalities and their weaknesses. I am not generalizing, I am but, like many others before me, turning fact into fiction. Also I do not see the point of politically correct debates; only honest ones, however uncomfortable, make sense. No happy-go-lucky debate or a debate full of jargon will serve any purpose, as in such a case and in the case of my play, the message--double standards of canonized Communists--which is the most important element, will not be conveyed. And we will miss the boat! In the manner that the debate begun and developed by discussing the hypocrisy of elite Communists in leadership roles, certain personal references and criticism to the extent of bitterness were inevitable. That is why I willingly withdrew, just for this present case, from that particular forum.
    So I thought it would be better to feature this debate on my mailing list for further discussion and perspectives. I have also included my last letter to Arkitect India at the outset. This is followed by the complete details of the debate in chronological order to give those not part of Arkitect India a mooring of the debate. Friends who want to respond to this could do so on my FB site and may also send their views to: farouqui@.... Please do send me a friend request on FB if you are not already in my friend list so that your viewpoints can be read and responded to by others. Putting their on FB will ensure their wider dissemination and I earnestly wish to have a meaningful debate on the content of the play and the ideas explored in it.
    Yours ever,
    Ather Farouqui
    31 May, 2013 (Not published by the moderator on Arkitect India)
    Class, Marxism and Subhashini Ali
    Comrade Subhashni Ali Seems to have acquired dexterity in missing the mark which she has done once again in her response of 28 May 2013. In the first place, she did not bother to read the 500-word submission in its entirety. After reading the first paragraph, she rushed to type her scathing reply and when this was pointed out by others, she scripted another reply replete with contradictions. Comrade Ali has denied that she was sipping scotch when we first met, but we certainly met at a lavish do in a five-star hotel. I was not hallucinating and for sure it was a luxurious and essentially capitalist establishment and not headquarters of the CPI (M) or a leftist commune. No, dear comrade, such double standards will not do. You are happy that I am no longer with the communist party; me too for an entirely different reasons. It is a different matter altogether that had I not been in Delhi, crossing swords with an active member in a communist-ruled state—where dissent of any kind can only lead to violence—it would have meant that I would have been left without the wherewithal to draft this reply. That most of the time such discussions lead to the loss of life of disenchanted Marxists who in general are mercilessly killed particularly in CPM-ruled states is a no brainer and not a state secret. 
    Comrade Ali, an articulate Marxist no doubt, has also not responded to the largest question raised related to the exposure that the class which emerges from an exclusive English education and elite institutions is located at the highest level of hierarchy even within communist bastions especially CPI (M). I, of course, did not ask whether she sent the children of her domestic help to English-medium schools akin to what her kids attended, though the language issue and the issue of medium of instruction have always been central to the class system, with the children of leadership going to expensive English-medium schools and the best colleges of India and abroad, while the “lower castes” in Communist parties have no option but to send their children to Government schools. CPI has been no less criminal in this regard, I remember comrade Raj Gaur—whom I respect for not maintaining double standards—accommodated the son of a red guard as a peon in a government office while the children of CPI leadership went to USSR for even curing coughs and colds, let alone for MBBS and other such degrees that were the prerogative of even the loyalists of CPI leaders. 
    May I quote here from an article in Outlook on A.B. Bardhan which clearly reflects the double standards of the left leadership? The paragraph on Mr Bardhan is extremely shameful and reads:
    “There’s a great irony perhaps in the life of this believer in Communism. Bardhan’s own family appears to be well-adjusted members of what he would possibly describe as the bourgeoisie. His wife Padma, a teacher and a Communist, died 24 years ago. His daughter Alka is a doctor in Ahmedabad and her husband, Samir Barua, is the director of the IIM there, the premier institute that churns out would-be managers of capitalism! Their son Sahil runs a business out of Gurgaon. “It’s a very successful business, something to do with logistics that is expanding,” says Bardhan with a smile, adding “they all support my ideology”. The third son, Ashok, researches economics at Berkeley University.” (Saba Naqvi, ‘The forever Revolutionary’, Outlook, May 28, 2012).
    I would like to ask Comrade Ali what she would term this ideology? 
    It is to be noted, moreover, that it was during Comrade Bardhan’s tenure that many coteries in the CPI flourished and the worst example of this was the Progressive Writers' Association (PWA), a bunch of jokers very close to Comrade A.B. Bardhan who ran the PWA along the lines of an unscrupulous, money-churning NGO. Of those days, I have a communication from a prominent CPI member who plainly accuses the party. Though I am quoting the letter, I have chosen to delete the name of the letter writer not out of kindness to the CPI but to spare the letter writer due to my sense of propriety. I am quoting verbatim here:
    “...About PWA: You could spare me from your sarcastic remarks somehow by re framing your arguments. To be in the PWA does not mean I am supporting every wrong thing. I now have serious doubts about the functioning of the CPI leadership and am quite angry at what is happening there. Sectarianism and & favouritism is there. People, like parasites, are there who are using CPI for their personal gains. I am at pain that some of them are in leadership. If fellow comrades in leadership do not realize this and take corrective steps to save the Party from them, the Party would soon be sinking. I am convinced about the down sliding morality and ethics of some of the comrades. It give a lot of pain to see all this.”
    I rest my case...for now!
    21 May, 2013
    Dear Friends:
    Here is the first draft of a piece of India in the form of the play (working title for now) and my humble attempt at play-writing after the success of on which I had collaborated with Salman Khurshid Sahib. Many of you have witnessed being performed and are aware of my involvement with the play, which can be deemed successful judging by any yardstick. This experience has encouraged me to try my own hand at scripting a play with the result of my labours being .. So this play is an analysis from an objective standpoint that is not subject to any pro-Congress loyalty. As a Marxist and an erstwhile Communist, I chose to be more critical instead of being obsequious or kowtowing the official line of a globalized, ‘liberal’ and progressive India to hopefully understand the truth about it and how the policies of our leaders sculpted its current avatar.Marxmen versus Rajiv GandhiSons of BaburSons of BaburMarxmen versus Rajiv GandhiAs you all know, today marks the 22nd death anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the play is also an exploration of his legacy and his role in the formation of India as we know it today
    This play evolved from a two–three page note given to me by Mr Salman Khurshid more than a decade ago, which recorded a rendezvous of an eclectic group of students in his room at Trinity College, Oxford, while teaching law and jurisprudence as well as writing his doctoral dissertation. This meeting took place a few days after the announcement that Rajiv Gandhi would enter Indian politics. I would love to have your impressions about the play before the final draft is prepared for rehearsals, as the play is set to be performed soon. I just want to make a few brief submissions. The play is not against Marxism as a theory, which still is the only cure for most of our political problems and the problems created the world over by the complex web that mindless capitalism continues to spin. The play actually speaks about the outcome of the Raj in the form of a so-called representative democracy which is quite accommodating of every breed of eloquent elitism in turn giving birth to the present set-up in Indian society. It also speaks about the impact of western capitalism, which forced Indian communists to adopt double standards of morality and everything associated with it. Incidentally, most of the people who correspond with the characters in the play, who were present for the discussion in 1980, were at that time much inclined towards a leftist politics and some of them were even extreme left. They have now switched sides and are either fringe right-wingers or totally support the capitalist system—for which, perhaps, they alone cannot be blamed.
    I have like most of the readers of the play as well as theatre buffs had the advantage of encountering these people in day-to-day life. Apart from their ideology, they are so called well-meaning and highly cultured in manners:
    muflisi hissey latafat ko mita detey hai,
    bhook aadaab ke sancho main dhal nahi sakti
    (poverty despoils aesthetic graces,
    hunger ill fits the mould of etiquette)
    —Sahir Ludhianwi
    So they still preserve an elitist image thanks to their exclusive training which is unavailable for most middle class Indians, which was in the past the prerogative of few families only mainly from erstwhile landed aristocracy and their extended political branches in the new scenario. Lastly, when Mr Khurshid’s note was published by , the All India Congress Committee’s organ, no one in the Congress itself took the slightest notice.
    Congress Sandesh more than a decade ago
    A personal clarification: I have never been a Congressman in any sense of the term as I became a member of the Communist Party of India at the age of 15 or so and gave it up after 22 years with the usual disenchantment that comes with the realization that the party has become a votary of status quoist and a coterie of extreme mediocrity but, there is no love lost now. The theme came my way to be converted into a play because of ; so my friends should not try to read too much between the lines.Sons of Babur
    I shall be most grateful for your comments and criticism, particularly from the point of view of its stage performance, however harsh that is! For me, this is just a political play garnering all the skills at my command and fully knowing my limitations vis-à-vis a hyper sensitive subject but…!
    The play is registered under the provisions of Intellectual Property Right as well as the provisions of the Copyright Act 2012 with the relevant authorities and the provisions of both acts are also applicable; so no idea explored in the play can be used even by rephrasing however smart the plagiarist is!
    Hope you shall find the play insightful and engaging and perhaps humorous too. Mostly, it is a labour of love and of years of deliberations on India, its politics, its economy and its alternative futures. Which future materializes is of course in our hands and to build this future we need to revisit our past and avoid making the mistakes which threaten its identity today.
    Looking forward to your feedback and comments,
    Comradely Yours,
    Ather Farouqui
    22 May, 2013
    i have just fnished reading your draft. very curious. there is actually no critique of the rajiv legacy. the communists are all without exception a bunch of nincompoops, hypocrites and criminals. difficult to understand.
    bhupesh gupta, hiren mukherjee, jyoti basu and others of their generation who belonged to the elite, came back to India and had to work with workers and peasants at the grass roots. They spent long years in jail, were tortured and also beaten in lathi charges. Sajjad Zaheer in Lahore jail is another example. So your dismissal of all this is not only bad propoganda but untrue.
    prognosis of the LF govt is just appalling. Sunita is supposed to be interested in agriculture but does not even speak of land reform and does not mention the LF's enormous success in this respect.
    Finally the group itself is completely non-credible. A Marxist going to join Burma Petroleum for a few years before he reforms the Civil Service?
    And why not call the guy serving tea and sherry Salman!
    I think it needs a serious re-drafting and re-thinking. Is it an anti communist diatribe or an analysis of Rajiv Gandhi?? Make up your mind!
    subhashini ali
    22 May, 2013
    Dear Comrade (if I may),
    Thank you for your comments and I value them. Your position, and justifications, are vastly different from mine undoubtedly stemming from our opposite polarities of a party loyalist and an erstwhile Communist such as I. May I point out that the major difference is that you have described what should have been included in the play and I have included what actually transpired among a motley group of flawed people, who may not be the perfect Communists but are undoubtedly a part of India's elite ruling class. I don't know the other party members that you mentioned personally but I did know Sajjad Zaheer, and on one occasion asked one of his daughters why she or her siblings did not follow suit and serve the party and people like their father? She replied that their father was opposed to the idea although they all benefited from his status and connections while rising up the social ladder. I am sure this irony is not lost on you and this is not a stray incident but a story that I have seen repeated many times. Given all this and particularly my own disenchantment, I understand your position as it is from your standpoint and experiences and views of the party. This is the beauty of intellectual dissent that we can all agree to disagree. Last but not the least, for any real change to take place, Communists particularly in India need to shed their elitism and actually work for the wretched of the earth for whom they have long, at least vocally, rallied.
    I wish that apart from the critical evaluation of the play, you would also try and enjoy it just as a piece of fiction that is ultimately always inspired by fact. My attempt although serious in subject was also lighthearted and I hope you get that. You were astute enough to identify one character; the others are also all around us and I hope you know whom I am alluding to.
    I hope to see you at one of the performance soon,
    Ather Farouqui
    22 May, 2013
    My point is something else. U tkd abt evaluating RG but didnt. Its not light hearted anyway. Damning if the communists - thats yr privilege - and uncritical of the congress. Also as i said this motley bunch makes little sense and hardly makes u laugh!! What banney bhais kids have to say is neither here nor there. He suffered for his commitment as did many others. In any the number of yhe elite crowd comimg to the cpim is now miniscule. Subhashini
    22 May, 2013
    i have just fnished reading your draft. very curious. there is actually no critique of the rajiv legacy. the communists are all without exception a bunch of nincompoops, hypocrites and criminals. difficult to understand.
    bhupesh gupta, hiren mukherjee, jyoti basu and others of their generation who belonged to the elite, came back to India and had to work with workers and peasants at the grass roots. They spent long years in jail, were tortured and also beaten in lathi charges. Sajjad Zaheer in Lahore jail is another example. So your dismissal of all this is not only bad propoganda but untrue.
    prognosis of the LF govt is just appalling. Sunita is supposed to be interested in agriculture but does not even speak of land reform and does not mention the LF's enormous success in this respect.
    Finally the group itself is completely non-credible. A Marxist going to join Burma Petroleum for a few years before he reforms the Civil Service?
    And why not call the guy serving tea and sherry Salman!
    I think it needs a serious re-drafting and re-thinking. Is it an anti communist diatribe or an analysis of Rajiv Gandhi?? Make up your mind!
    subhashini ali
    23 May, 2013
    Dear Bhai Athar,
    Thanks for good discussion but it would be greate if we all read the play you have written. I do not know how I can get the copy of the play but before reading we can not participate in the discusion. Hope you will consider my suggestion.
    Faiyaz Ahmed
    Pratham Rseource 
    B 4/58, 2nd floor, 
    Safdarjung Enclave,
    New Delhi-110029
    Tel: 08800521973
    27 May, 2013
    Comrade Subhashini Ali—like most communists who are part of the party canon (canon because the party has become for all intents and purposes an organized religion of sorts)—in her response of 23 May to the play, Marxamen versus Rajiv Gandhi has missed the boat somehow. The basic problem that I wanted to address is this: the communist leadership did not accept the reality—simply because it hurts the leadership itself—that class system within the Left has to stay and the elite will have to be leaders and they cannot be transformed into the declasse. To me none of these points poses a problem in implementing Marxist ideology but their denial has posed a perennial problem for Indian Marxists. This has been their primary contention trapping them in a web of multiple contradictions and exposing them to ridicule. Perhaps this is why they have been unable to harbinger the Revolution in a nation such as India that lives on the edge of poverty but is driven by religion and faith. And my whole play is critical of the Right! By the way, the English-speaking elite in India, to which Comrade Ali belongs, is itself a class. It is in fact the most powerful class in contemporary India with the greatest potential to create class within class—more influential than caste or religion today when both are severely under attack from the highly educated English-speaking elite whether educated in the west or in India by Macaulay’s spiritual followers! Comrade Ali's position, though she may not realize it, is elitist to say the least. It is not a secret that all known leaders of the CPI (M) are English-speaking elite contradicting Ali’s assertion that fewer numbers of elite are joining the CPI (M). She deliberately confuses today’s elite with the erstwhile elite of pre-partition days whose off-spring are still prominent in the party leadership. And I am no saint either. But at least I have the gumption to admit that we are all part of this vicious cycle where we want to speak for the masses but, do not let them articulate their positions and rather act as high priests for them knowing full well that we cannot function without them. Even our personal encounters have been elitist. Permit me to cite an example. I had a chance meeting with Comrade Subhashini Ali (circa 1997) in a five star hotel at a lavish soiree. Everyone at the event, as such events go, was deliberating on intellectual issues; she was clad in attire that is becoming of such places, no doubt expensive, and she was sipping scotch. Such encounters only go to show that we cannot even articulate issues of class without maintaining our own. By mentioning this I do not mean to cast any aspersions even by implication but I certainly have a problem with double standards and the perception that we are masters of rhetoric so nobody can challenge or check us. She may ask and rightly so what I was doing in that hotel. I was with a gentleman since morning that day who in the evening had to attend the party. He is certainly a non-Communist, an elitist in every sense but does not consume alcohol! So a little bit of soul searching on our parts is imperative if we want to honestly find answers to the problems that assail the nation and my work is an attempt to do just that—self-deprecation yes but in order to find true answers even if it means exposing my own inconsistencies and by extension the hypocrisy that surrounds me.
    Ather Farouqui
    27 May, 2013
    Sorry. Your script started with soneone who had a problem with Rajiv Gandhi becoming PM and the hearbreak that certan 'hard core' Marxists have with that. Acc to me that in itself was illogical. Then a lot of Left bashing takes place. Ok fine. Then there is a hint that many yrs later there will be a sort of a post
    mortem of all that has transpired. But that doesnt happen. Theres no analysis of rajiv gandhis term. That is the real problem with the script. The cryptic silence can only be explained by the cooks cryptic silence when he is asked his opinion of Sonia G.You asked for an opinion of yr script and I have given it. I didnt ask for your opinion if the left but thanks anyway!! Subhashini
    27 May, 2013
    I have not read the said play, but I tend to agree with Subhashini Ali that the basic thrust of this play at least partly was supposed to be with Rajiv Gandhi's politics, PM Rajiv's administration in the country
    etc. He was in our age bracket and generation, the generation that wanted to change the odd social and political system of the previous generation. Many of us were disappointed with his often erratic policy thrusts and the compromises that he made. So this play should address that very important topic, rather than focus mostly on the defects of the Communists.
    The fact that some well educated Indians from middleclasses are keen to work on the problem of the powerless/deprived people is a positive. Of necessity the people who speak for and interface with the govt and political parties have to be educated and at a minimum intellectual level. It is a tragedy that so very few from the deprived segments are at that level. Thus until they are brought to a certain level, others have to fill the gap.
    It is an extreme idealistic stance to say that middleclass people who speak for the deprived should take a vow of poverty. Did Lenin or Mao live like that?
    Subhashini Ali is from my hometown of Kanpur and I know a little about her and her family. I do not think she has a double standard in life. Indeed she has done a lot of good under very difficult circumstances.
    Kaleem Kawaja
    28 May, 2013
    i just the whole of ather's reply - had read only the first para earlier till people told me that he had made personal attacks. well, well well - the fangs are bared! i am amazed at the level...anyone who knows will vouch for the fact that they have never seen me sipping scotch - but never mind, it makes a good story! have fun, ather. Not surprising you are not in the Communist Party anymore, if you ever were. Subhashini Ali
    4 June, 2013
    Apropos ‘Marxmen versus Rajiv Gandhi’ by Ather Farouqui, there was a heated debate between the playwright and Subhashini Ali, who is a member of the CPI(M), which has been projected in a none-to-flattering light in the play. Her defence of the indefensible ‘elite Communists’ is part of her job, so there is no need to take her comments seriously. The play is good in every sense of the term, though the outpouring of the playwright has certainly been motivated by his disenchantment with communism, as he candidly confesses.
    The play is in the public domain now and all characters in it, according to the playwright, can be identified with real-life individuals, who offer a good case study on the subject of opportunism. The character of Sunitha Kumar, for instance, is based on Professor Dharma Kumar, a legendary economist associated with the Delhi School of Economics, mother of Radha Kumar, who happened to be a member of the Group of Interlocutors on Kashmir and is an eminent historian in her own right. Dharma Kumar was from the South, so the playwright gives a clue to her identify by spelling the name of the character based on her as ‘Sunitha’ and not as the name would be spelt in the North, i.e., ‘Sunita’. Her husband, Lovraj Kumar, was a Rhodes Scholar, nephew of Mr Dharmavira, ICS (who passed away a few years back) and joined Burmah Shell before becoming a Secretary to the Government of India. The family belongs to the Uttar Pradesh landed aristocracy. So there is no room for doubt as to whom Mr Farouqui is referring when he projects Sunitha Kumar. 
    There were sharp ideological differences between a section of the Left and Professor Dharma Kumar on the definition of ‘activism’. She believed only in academic activism and debated with the late Girilal Jain, Editor, ‘The Times of India’, on the subject of the Sikh massacre. She was basically motivated by her conviction that academicians were not active politicians and should not feel the need to be ashamed for a massacre carried out by the Hindus. But apart from her academic position on this issue, she was an upright and blunt person, as her students and colleagues fondly recall. One is at a loss to understand why the playwright chose to portray Professor Dharma Kumar, as she was never a ‘left winger’ in any sense of the term and her husband hailed from the landed aristocracy of western Uttar Pradesh. She made her mark at the Delhi School of Economics and was not a research scholar at Oxford in 1980 like Sunitha in the play who is modelled on her. Maybe the playwright wanted to conceal Sunitha Kumar’s identity as also those of the other actual characters. In the absence of this, there would have been unnecessary debates on an exceptionally good play, which is extremely objective in its assessment of the Marxist ideology and the left-wing political parties.
    Ravi Kumar, New Delhi
    4 June, 2013
    If the lady prof and her bureaucrat fiance are modelled on Dr Dharma Kumar and Shri Lav kumar then its really quite of since neither if them.professed allegiance.to Marxism! Subhashini
    22 June, 2013
    John Samuel is Bobby Poulose in Rajiv Gandhi versus Marxmen
    There is also no doubt that the character of John Samuel in ‘Marxmen versus Rajiv Gandhi’ is based on Bobby Poulose, who was contemporary of Ather Farouqui at JNU. Bobby’s father was a prominent Professor of Disarmament at the School of International Studies and his [father's] brother-in-law (happened to be K.R. Narayanan), who also served at the Vice-Chancellor of JNU before eventually being elected President of India. At that time, there was an exclusive club comprising young members of the Communist Party who used to run the AISF in JNU when I joined the university in 1993. I was in the SFI. The AISF leadership had to bow to the dictates of this group, including Ather Farouqui, whose contemporaries recall his bohemian lifestyle and eccntricities. He was also very reclusive and suffered a lot in his personal life for his criticism of the power reigning at that time. He was a utopian who for the first time convinced the AISF to withdraw from the JNUSU elections at the last minute to teach SFI a lesson. His stand proved to be a body blow for the SFI. It is refreshing therefore, to see that Farouqui has survived, as his behavior during his JNU days convinced all that misfortune would soon cross his path. The play is more apt for the JNU of today than the Oxford of 1980. I hope the JNUites will respond to it befittingly.
    Dr Mohammad Kazim, Senior Assistant Lecturer and Deputy Proctor, Delhi University, Delhi 110007

    24 June, 2013
    Ms. Subhashini Ali's comments about 'Marxmen vs. Rajiv Gandhi' are unjustified. She claims that the diatribe against the communists in the play is tiresome. Indian communists are not the only egalitarians in South Asia. The CPI [M] seems to sincerely believe that egalitarianism and socialism are the personal prerogatives of its card holders. They don't seem to understand that there are scores of people in the Congress who are more conscious of and dedicated to the need for social justice in the subcontinent than the wise old men of a brotherhood called the CPI [M]. If any one party has contributed significantly to the cause of social justice in the region then that is the Congress. If any one party has sent up the most number of women Chief Ministers and other women ministers to the elected cabinets, both at the central and the state levels, then that is the Congress. If any one party has had a women leader as the chairperson of a central alliance, i.e. the UPA, then that is the Congress. The CPI [M], especially in Delhi, and also in a large measure in Calcutta, is a party of extremely fashionable upper middle class intellectuals from the universities and the higher bureaucracy whose sole concern is to build their brilliant careers based on the best possible English medium education. 
    Ms. Subhashini Ali's name has most recently featured in an article written by Professor Prabhat Patnaik, the celebrated Professor Emeritus of JNU in 'The Telegraph'. The article discusses the dangers of mosaic fascism, i.e. extreme examples of fascist terror unleashed by segments of the state in pockets, forming a mosaic of fascist excesses in the sub-continent. Indeed, all secularists should stand resolutely against all forms of fascism. Every Indian should be a partisan of the secular faith. At the same time they should also stand up to all forms of Stalinism. I wonder if Ms. Ali and Prof. Patnaik are at all concerned about the real and present danger of the viral spread of mosaic Stalinism in the sub-continent. As a Bengali, who has now lived in Calcutta for the better part of his life, I do know how Bengal was tuned into an utterly isolated pocket of Stalinist terror for 34 years. Pandit Jawahralal Nehru, commenting on the ideological implications of the Second World War, said that imperialism and fascism are two sides of the same coin. I would seek to suggest that imperialism, fascism and Stalinism are a hydra-headed monster.
    Bikramjit De, B.A. [Presi.], M.A., M.Phil. [JNU], D.Phil. [Oxon]
    [formerly Commonwealth Scholar]
    24 June, 2013
    Dear Ather,
    Many thanks for keeping me in the loop regarding your play and the debate around it. I'm afraid I have avoided getting into the FB/Twitter circuit and am quite happy with the good old email, I can respond only thus. 
    To begin with it is a happy sign that you are branching out into creative writing, whatever one's view of it. I have no access to your play and although for a practiced hand that is not an adequate reason to refrain from commenting on it, I for one would refrain from it, belonging as I do to the old generation.
    However, from the correspondence you have attached, I understand that your play is centred on Rajiv Gandhi and the Marxists and that it is sharply critical of Marxist leadership, though not of Marxism itself, for reasons of its upper class origins, especially its command over polished English. 
    I will open my comment on it with an anecdote: in 1960 I got my Master's and almost immediately got a teaching job in my own KM College where I had met my Guru Dr KM Ashraf whose impact on me professionally and personally has not yet outlived itself. In the College I also joined the then united CPI. After classes, I was asked to go to the DCM workers residences, not far from the College premises and speak to them of CPI, the character of the state, class struggle etc. I did that faithfully. However, before I would go to the workers, I would change into somewhat unwashed khadi kurta pajama in order not to appear one from an alien class. A few days on, one worker said bluntly: Comrade we know you are teaching in a College and getting a good wage and eating and dressing well and you change into these dirty clothes when you come to lecture to us. What can you teach us if you are not even being honest either to yourself or to us? I was stunned and saw his point: Honesty is the touchstone on which your life, politics whatever must be judged. 
    I would therefore have laughed at the crop of Comrades, including Karat Prakash, Sita Ram Yechury and Subhashini Ali, all my old friends, if they had dressed like peasants and workers and, while masters of polished English, deliberately extrapolated faults in it in order to be true representatives of  the class(es) they claim to represent. 
    As an old time CPI and later CPM worker, I believe there is much to criticise the communists; even Marxist theory calls for severe criticism. But criticism arising from the class origins of its leaders seems to me to be least relevant. If that were relevant, I cannot think of anyone as a genuine Marxist starting with Marx himself and the capitalist exploiter Engels, Lenin, Mao, Che, or back home EMS, P. Sundarayya, Jyoti Basu -- name anyone; none of them arose from the working class ranks. This sort of criticism is essentially empiricist, much like the absurd theory propounded by some of the great masters of Urdu literature such as Ralph Russel, Khurshidul Islam and Victor Kiernan that Urdu ghazal celebrates the failure of love because man and woman could not fall in love in medieval India!!! Or that the beloved in this poetry is visualised as a male because of the prevalence of homosexuality !!! Hilarious. Empiricism at its worst. 
    As I said, I have no access to the play itself, but if, as Subhashini has remarked several times, the play is critical of "Marxmen" but not of the Rajiv regime, then I fear I would be on the other side of the fence. One of the most fascinating developments around the world today is the growing criticism of neo-liberal economic and political regimes. The alternative media around the globe, above all in the US, and the massive popular movements also around the globe challenging these regimes is an exhilarating experience and Rajiv was the initiator of such a regime in India which the present GoI is merrily continuing. The upper crust has never had it so good, for sure; but the poor have just been thrown to the gallows by this regime. It hurts. It does hurt.
    Fascinatingly, the challenge to the neo-liberal regime in theory in several places, in practice in several Latin American states and societies, is not along the old Marxian bi-polar class division; it also challenges the Marxism that we have so far inherited from Marx and Engels through Lenin, Stalin, Mao and not least Karat Prakash.
    I hope you will include this piece also in the "debate" and not keep it to yourself.
    With warm regards,
    Harbans Mukhia 


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