Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Islamic movements and the Muslim press in Kerala

I am placing below thoughts I expressed in a group discussion in response to a note circulated by John Samuel, Editor of Infochange. He is a person whose perspectives on Kerala, Indian and world affairs merit attention. Kindly see the Infochange website ( and his blog (www.bodhigram.blogspot).

There is a reference in this piece to certain comments made by N. P. Chekkutty, Editor, Thejas daily, Kozhikode during the discussion. He is also a person whose views, in my opinion, deserve special attention. See his blog (

There is also a reference to a comment of Satchi -- the eminent poet N. Satchidanandan.

John Samuel has prepared the ground for a wide-ranging discussion on the developments in the Islamic world. Evidently a multilayered and multifaceted process is at work. It has social, economic, political and cultural dimensions. Muslim communities in various parts of the world are wrestling with various kinds of problems. Even a local or regional problem may be influenced for good or bad by what is happening elsewhere.

We must, therefore, examine the Islamic movements in our region in a wider context. Early Muslim reformers in Kerala and elsewhere in India were influenced by reform movements in the Arab world. There has been a change of direction in some countries to our west. To cite one example, in the last century, Kemal Pasha asked soldiers to stop women and remove the veil. Today in some countries women are stopped and made to cover their faces. The assertion of Islamic identity has social and political significance, which merits serious study.

To do justice to all the issues raised by John, it will be necessary to write a book. Maybe more than one! I shall, therefore, limit myself to just a few points here. If time and energy permit, I may take up some more later.

Before proceeding further, let me to assure Chekkutty that I did not equate RSS with Islamic groups, although I believe there are among them elements whose activities are as pernicious as those of the Sangh Parivar outfits. We must be able to deal with majority communalism and minority communalism on the same footing, because both pose danger to the democratic polity. My poser to Chekkutty was in the context of his statement that Islamic groups are able to provide a sense of security to CPI (M) defectors. I believe we must distinguish between majority/dominant community outfits, which use religion/caste for political mobilization, and minority/disadvantaged groups who come together to air their grievances and seek redress.

Incidentally, I do not subscribe to Satchi's view that today's Muslim League cannot be identified with Jinnah's party. Jawaharlal Nehru had advanced this view to justify the Congress' alliance with ML against the CPI. When Mohammed Ismail and B. V. Abdullah Koya were MPs they did not hide the fact that they were office-bearers of pre-Independence ML. (Please see Who's Who brought out by LS and RS secretariats in those days). Having said this, let me add that I do not consider the pre-partition League leaders a bunch of traitors. How can Allama Iqbal, who sang saare jahaanse accha Hindustan hamara be dubbed a traitor because he presided over the ML? I consider Pakistan an accident of history. A suitable opportunity presented itself, and Jinnah the politician seized it. But, then, many states are accidents of history and the world has learnt to live with them.

To come to the current Kerala scene, all the different strains that John identifies at the global scale -- reformism, renaissance, resistance and fundamentalism – are at work in the Muslim community. Access to resources is a factor that has contributed to the proliferation of Islamic organizations and institutions. External assistance to groups considered conservative or extremist has received much attention but my understanding is that those with progressive outlook are also getting funds.

I do not see any cause for worry in the appearance of the so-called Muslim press. I have pointed out in this group and elsewhere that all Malayalam papers have had sectarian origins. Yet they had always set their eyes on wider horizons. New technology has enabled newspapers to break out of their geographical confines. Yet only Manorama and Mathrubhumi have been able to break through the sectarian walls and reach out to all segments of society. All other newspapers still have narrow bases, the contours of which can be easily made out by a discerning observer. A party, a caste, a religion or a combination of little bits from all of them may constitute the base of an individual newspaper. Mangalam appears to be the exception that proves the rule.

John asks how do we rate a newspaper or journal -- from its content, editorial policy or its ownership or perceived identity? I don't think this is as complex an issue as the question suggests. The owner determines the editorial policy, and that in turn determines the content. Manorama and Mathrubhumi are commercially far more successful but professionally they stand far below some of the so-called Muslim newspapers. As far as I can see, the former's success is the result of carefully formulated and efficiently executed editorial and managerial strategies which bear an uncanny resemblance to the electoral strategies of political parties.

The Gulf Malayalee is (or at any rate was, before the advent of satellite television) an avid newspaper reader. This is understandable, considering that he was a first-time migrant with no exposure even to the rest of India. (During my visits to the region in 1980 to set up UNI presence, I had occasion to meet Malik, the Pakistani who was the largest distributor of Malayalam newspapers in Dubai. He told me: if you can send me more Malayalam papers I can sell more. Malayalam newspapers have a high selling price in the Gulf States. And Muslims constitute a large segment of the Gulf Malayalees. Against this background, Malayalam newspapers starting editions in the Gulf States is understandable. But non-commercial factors are also at work. For many years, Malayalam newspapers were unable to obtain permission to start editions there. Now they seem to adopt a more liberal approach at least in the case of the Muslim newspapers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New land scandal generates feeling of deja vu

EVEN BEFORE the reverberations of the Merchiston estate scandal have died down, another land scandal has surfaced. The deep involvement of political, bureaucratic and business interests in the deal gives rise to a feeling that we have seen it all before.

In the Merchiston deal, a Central government institution, the Indian Space Research Organisation, figured as the buyer and an estate owner, Sevi Mano Mathew, as the seller. In the new scandal, the roles are reversed. A Central Government undertaking, the HMT, is the seller and a business house with real estate interests is the buyer. In both the deals, State ministers and officials figure as accomplices.

The State government had given the Bangalore-based HMT 320 hectares of land at Kalamassery, near Kochi, to set up its unit. About 900 families were evicted at the time of acquisition of the land.

In 1995, the State government found that HMT was holding land in excess of its needs and issued an order for resuming 161 hectares. The company represented that it had expansion plans, for which it would require 40.4 hectares. Thereupon the government issued a fresh order, allowing the company to retain 40.4 hectares for its future needs. The remaining 121.4 hectares were allotted to Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Kinfra), a State government undertaking, to develop an industrial park.

In October 2005, HMT placed advertisements in some national dailies offering for sale 28.3 hectares out of the 40.4 hectares it was allowed to retain. The property was conveyed to Blue Star Realtors, a real estate company, in October 2006 for a consideration of Rs.910 million.

Two contradictory opinions have surfaced on the legality of the transaction. According to one school of thought, the HMT did not have full rights over the land since the government order stipulated that the allotment was conditional. The government had the right to take back the land if it was not used for company's own expansion plans, which was the purpose for which the allotment was made. According to another school of thought, since no conditions were stipulated when land was allotted to the company originally and it had enjoyed full rights on the land from the beginning, there was nothing to prevent it from disposing of the land. The Revenue department, in an official note, is reported to have upheld this view.

Official circles had expressed contradictory opinions on the status of the Merchiston estate land too. While some held that the land in question was part of an area which had been declared ecologically fragile, others said it was not.

The authorities' inability to determine the nature and status of land, without leaving room for ambiguity, is a factor that makes it possible for real estate operators to push through suspicious deals.

Industry Minister Elamaram Karim (CPI-M) and Revenue Minister KP Rajendran (CPI) played a role in facilitating the sale of HMT land to the Blue Star Realtors, who claim to have acquired it to set up an information technology park named Cyber City.

After the sale deed was registered, the local HMT union attempted to put a spoke in the wheel.
In a representation to the Revenue Minister, it said the company was transferring the sale proceeds to Bangalore instead of using it to meet the needs of the Kalamassery unit, and urged him to intervene. The minister thereupon directed the department to keep in abeyance the process of effecting changes in the revenue records on the basis of the sale deed. The Industry Minister stepped in to get the stay removed.

The public got the first indication about the suspicious nature of the deal when Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who was to have laid the foundation stone of Cyber City project, stayed away from the function.

Achuthanandan said later the land deal was being looked into. He said the government would take steps to ensure that unused land in the possession of public undertakings did not end up in the hands of the real estate mafia.

The land deal has become a matter of contention between the two factions in the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Last week party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan sought to turn the needle of suspicion away from his faction by pointing out that HMT is a Central undertaking and it advertised the land for sale when the United Democratic Front was in power. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, January 28, 2008.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Online petition for Govindankutty's unconditional release

People's March editor P. Govindankutty ha been in custody for more than a month without being given bail. He was reported to be on fast. There was also a report about forcible feeding.

According to K A Shaji's report in Tehelka, while opposing his bail application in the Kerala High Court, the police said Govindankutty was providing ideological backing to Maoists of different streams for the last fiveyears and his release would help Naxalism grow in Kerala. Please see

If this is true, the arrest is politically motivated and a wanton attack on freedom of speech and expression.

Those who subscribe to this view may sign an onpetition line demanding his unconditional release.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ministry of Health invites applications for WHO Fellowships

The following is the text of a circular sent out by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, inviting applications for WHO Fellowships.

We have been training doctors and other health professionals under the WHO Fellowship programme. During the biennium 2006-2007, about 550 health professionals were awarded WHO Fellowship in prestigious institutions within the country and in foreign countries such as Thailand and Australia.

2. Building up on the experience of the last two biennium i.e. 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, we propose to send more number of health professionals, nurses, radiologist, laboratory technicians and para-medical staff under the aforesaid fellowships programme, to WHO Collaborating Centres in India for courses in various specialities as enclosed at Annexure - I.

3. There shall also be slots in foreign institutions indicated in the Annexure - II.

4. Kindly send nominations of interested officers especially those in the field of public health. It is our experience that the applicants are generally from big cities. We would like to afford equal opportunities to those who have been serving in rural areas or sub-divisional / district hospitals and have first hand experience of public health issues. Similarly adequate representation should be given to female officers and officers belonging to SC/ST category.

5. Efforts should be made to utilize the additional skills acquired by fellows undergoing WHO sponsored training in their day to day functions to improve the health services in the country.

6.The last date for submission of forms is 10.02.2008. Necessary direction may please be given to the concerned supervisory / controlling authorities so that the applications are forwarded in time. In case of selection, the applicants should be relieved as per the requirements of the course.

7. Copies of application form are available on our web site – www.mohfw.nic. in

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The rationale and politics of small states

An English language newspaper recently carried an article demanding breaking up of Uttar Pradesh on the ground that it is able to command undue influence in national politics because of its size. In the normal course the State leadership’s reaction to such a demand will be negative. Especially so when the proclaimed intention is to reduce the State’s influence at the national level. But Chief Minister Mayawati did not oppose the suggestion. On the contrary, she said the State could be trifurcated.

Ordinarily the Chief Minister of a big State would not like to become the Chief Minister of a small State. After all, every ruler will want to maintain his or her empire in tact. Mayawati is not keen to retain UP in its present form probably because she is thinking not as the State’s Chief Minister but as a future Prime Minister of the country.

Free India began its career with the States that the British had created. Gandhi who reorganized the Congress units on linguistic basis and made it a powerful mass organization wanted the States also to be reorganized on the same basis. But the Central government was not ready for it. The martyrdom of Potti Sriramulu, who went on an indefinite fast to press the demand for a Telugu state, compelled it to change its stand.

Most of the provinces that the British created had no historical or cultural justification. Same was the case of the princely states that were carved out with their help. Jammu and Kashmir is a good example. Until the middle of the 19th century there was no state by that time. The region was part of the empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. The British, who defeated Ranjit Singh, demanded from him Rs.7.5 million by way of war reparations. He did not have the money. Gulab Singh, his commander in charge of the Jammu-Kashmir region, told the British, he was ready to pay the money if he was made the Maharaja. The British agreed. Gulab Singh became Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
When the British left, the state had a history of only 90 years. But if anyone suggests splitting it into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh states, there would be opposition in the name of history and tradition.

Although the States Reorganization Commission, headed by Justice Fazl Ali, recommended extensive reorganization, the Centre refused to break up several States. Its attempts to evade the formation of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab states on one pretext or another resulted in the creation of more martyrs. Eventually all those states had to be conceded. The Centre had argued that the separation of Gujarat would ruin Bombay, the nation’s financial capital, and that if Punjab was removed Haryana would not survive. Time has disproved these arguments.

Nehru was infuriated by the suggestion for division of Uttar Pradesh made by K. M. Panikkar, a member of the Fazl Ali Commission, in a dissenting note. The State had about 80 districts in those days. It was said that the Chief Minister could not even know all the district collectors. But Nehru, who believed in gigantism, could not think of dividing the State. While there were demands from all over for small linguistic states, the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Bihar jointly proposed the integration of the two States to form a bigger, multilingual state. Nehru hailed it as a good suggestion. But it was not acceptable to the people of the States. Within a month the Chief Ministers withdrew the proposal.

Having had to live with big States we in Kerala have a feeling that ours is a small State. We often talk of “little Kerala”. Actually, it is not all that small. In the list of 28 States and seven Union Territories we rank as the 12th. If there are 11 States that are bigger than ours, there are 23 States and UTs that are smaller than ours. If all the units had roughly the same population, they will all more or less be of Kerala’s size. Looked at this way, Kerala is not small, but a state of ‘average’ size.

Quite recently small parts of UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh were separated to create the States of Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgrah. However UP (Population 166 million, Area 240,000 square kilometres), Bihar (Pop. 83 million, Area 90,000 and MP (Pop. 60 million, Area 310,000 are still large States. If UP were an independent country, it would be the world’s sixth most populous nation after China, India (minus UP), USA, Indonesia and Brazil. Russia and Pakistan will come below it.

There is not much substance in the argument that UP must be divided to reduce its influence in national politics. Although it remains the State with the largest contingent in the Lok Sabha, it has lost its prominence as a result of the fragmentation of the polity. So long as no single party is in a position to grab most of the State’s seats, its size need pose no problem nationally. But there are other factors which make small states desirable. In the light of the experience of Gujarat and Haryana, it is reasonable to assume that Vidarbha and Telengana may be able to develop faster if they are separated from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. We have to acquire the capacity to take decisions on such issues on a rational basis.
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When the Rapture happens...

Twenty-three percent of the 208 million adults in America identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians [a.k.a. Rapture-ready], writes Robert Weitzel. He goes on to speculate on what can happen when the Rapture happens.

In the event of the Rapture up to 50 million workers will be leaving their jobs without clocking out. The number of positions vacated will be five times as many needed to wipe out the country’s unemployment, leaving the rest of us in a workers’ paradise. Affirmative action be damned! It’s “trickle up” economics at work here. Read on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

CPI -M silent as media discusses relevance of socialism

AS INDIA strives to find its place under the sun in the era of globalization, the media in Kerala is discussing the continued relevance of socialism. Strange as it may seem, leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist are not active in the debate.

The debate was touched off by CPI-M veteran Jyoti Basu's statement that the State governments led by the party are working within the capitalist system. Without mincing words, he said capitalism was the reality and socialism a distant goal.

Basu's statement came in the context of the difficulties encountered by his successor, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in pursuing plans to set up industrial complexes with the help of domestic and foreign capital. Both national and State media suggested that the statement represented a shift in the CPI-M stand. Party general secretary Prakash Karat clarified that what Basu said had been the party's position since 2000.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the East European regimes had led to introspection by Communist parties the world over two decades ago.
At that time, the CPIM, under the guidance of EMS Namboodiripad, who was its chief ideologue, evaded the issue.

In 2000, two years after Namboodirpad's death, a party conclave at Thiruvananthapuram agreed upon changes in the party programme in the light of new realities. The party congress, held at Hyderabad in 2002, approved the changes. The shift in the party's position did not attract much attention as there was no effort to educate the rank and file on the changes.

The significance of the changes lay in that the party acknowledged that a socialist revolution was not imminent. It set the immediate goal as people's democracy, which was an intermediate stage in the march towards socialism.

The people's democracy concept is not a new one. The East European countries, which had come under Moscow's control at the end of World War II, were all designated as people's democracies. In a sense, it is thus a doomed concept.

The Basu bombshell came as the State party was holding its district conferences in a highly charged atmosphere with the two factions seeking to extend their influence.
But it did not figure in the deliberations.

The only leader of standing in the State to comment on Basu's statement was Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who warned that advocates of the capitalist path would have to flee. His reaction surprised observers as it appeared to pit him against Basu, who has been a source of support to him at the national level. He dropped the subject quickly.

In his long perorations at the district conferences, State party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan invariably covered the whole gamut of regional, national and international issues. However, he did not dwell much on ideology.

Pinarayi Vijayan fully shares the West Bengal leadership's position, which Basu outlined.
In fact, since the party regained power in 2006, his faction has been pushing schemes in keeping with that line. Yet he chose to soft-pedal the issue in his speeches.

There are two explanations for Vijayan's silence on ideology. One is that he realises that open repudiation of the idea of imminent revolution may not go down well with the cadres, who had been fed for long on revolutionary slogans. The other is that as a practical politician he knows that factional loyalties are determined by mundane factors, not by ideology.

P. Govinda Pillai, once billed as the chief ideologue after Namboodiripad, has been silent on the role of socialism in today's context. KEN Kunhahammad, who has lately been projected as the authoritative spokesman on ideology, has also not made any worthwhile contribution to the debate.

The participants in the debate generally fall in two categories: one consists of persons who were associated with the Naxalite movement in its heyday and the other of persons whose sympathies lie with its successors. Both groups regard the CPI-M as essentially a social democratic party with a Marxist label.

Civic Chandran, Naxalite turned social critic, probably voiced the feelings of both groups when he recently wrote: "What right do our Communist parties and party comrades now have on the red flag? Let them kindly put it down."

Away from public gaze, intellectuals with Left leanings are known to be exploring the possibility of an alternative to predatory capitalism and authoritarian socialism. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, January 21, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Guantanamo prison is in its seventh year

Last week the Guantanamo prison in Cuba completed six years of existence.

Ramzy Baroud (, author and editor of, in an article on the notorious prison, notes that in the beginning prisoners were held in open air cages, with nothing but a mat and a bucket for a toilet.

Not many probably know that the cages were built by carpenters who were airlifted to Cuba from Kerala.

Baroud says Guantanamo is a mere extension of a long list of untold violations practiced by the Bush administration. His article is at site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

US drug authority advises against giving cough syrup to kids

Here is a ruling of the US Federal Drug administration which will be of interest to doctors and others elsewhere too.

The FDA on Thursday urged parents and caregivers not to give over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to children younger than two years because of dangerous side effects.

Charles Ganley, MD, director of FDA's Office of Non-prescription Products said at a news conference that serious and potentially life-threatening side effects could occur from the use of these products on children, according to a report published by WebMD.

The report by Miranda Hitti of WebMD Medical News, which was reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, can be seen at

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kerala society is trapped between feudalism and capitalism

True Marxists have proclaimed that this is the age of capitalism all over India, including West Bengal and Kerala. E. M. S. Namboodiripad, who analyzed the feudal system, which was in vogue in Kerala earlier, had found that it consisted of princely rule, landlordism and caste supremacy. Neither he nor any other theoretician is known to have made a similar analysis of Kerala capitalism.

Under the Congress, princely rule ended. The Communists abolished landlordism. Thus two elements of feudalism disappeared. All that remained of the feudal system was caste supremacy. We still have with us caste and religious supremacy. It can make even non-believers to trek to the mountain shrine and queue up for temple prasad. It can even lead them to a karayogam office for a courtesy call or to the bishop’s palace to kiss his hand. Religion has prospered under both feudalism and capitalism in all parts of the world. Capitalism does not appear to be a problem even for the caste system, which is an exclusive product of Indian feudalism. Note how Indian capitalism, which considers the United States as the model in all other matters, opposes the extension of reservation to the private sector. Leading US companies, while inviting applications for jobs, generally state that they are equal opportunity employers.

When we try to identify the other elements of Kerala capitalism, we find that things are not working out here the way Marx anticipated. He saw ownership and control of the means of production as the source of strength of capitalism. There is little point in asking who controls the means of production in a society where there is hardly any production. In Kerala, often, it is not the capitalist but the political party that controls the means of production. When a party said “no” to computers and tractors, they could not come. When the party gave the nod, they could come. Who then has the decisive role?

Marx and Engels envisaged Communism as the post-capitalist phase. But the Communist movement has not succeeded so far in any country with developed capitalism. It was only in countries which were in the initial phase of industrialization, or had not yet begun the process, that Communist parties could seize power. After the party gained power, the industrialization process was carried forward by the government. That was why critics said that there was state capitalism in the Communist countries.

Kerala came under Communist influence as it was moving from feudalism to capitalism. The leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which took to electoral politics and became a part of the power structure, did not recognize its historical mission. It may be said that they were like students who did not know anything more than what they had committed to heart from the textbook. Their actions obstructed the movement towards capitalism. Kerala society got frozen between dying feudalism and unborn capitalism.

The state of the society is reflected in reports that appear in the newspapers daily. Here are some examples from the last few days’ newspapers:

There was tension as traders of Ambalamukku (in Thiruvananthapuram) obstructed authorities’ efforts to demolish shops on land that the government had acquired for widening of the road.

Popular resentment over the proposed Nagampadam-Kodimatha flyover (in Kottayam).

It has not been possible to remove garbage from the beach or hotels at Kovalam (near Thiruvananthapuram) for four days because there is no place to dump the waste.

A special scheme to find a solution to the complex problem of traffic jams in Kochi has been approved in principle at the Central level.

No ideological issue is involved in these news reports. But they contain a message. Kerala cannot go forward carrying the corpse of feudalism.

Steps to widen the State’s roads must have been taken two or three decades ago. Not that no efforts were made. The CPI (M) was with those who attempted to defeat those steps. The party had opposed the schemes, raising issues like the interests of hawkers and small traders. Now it has changed its approach. In the process, it has invited the charge that it is upholding the interests of big traders and ignoring those of small traders.

One has only to study recent road widening activity in Thiruvananthapuram to understand how not to undertake developmental schemes. When the road between Pattom and Kesavadasapuram was widened, the small shops disappeared. In their place, big stores and showrooms appeared. The customers of the old shops were people who lived near by. They came on foot or on bicycles. The customers of the new shops come in automobiles. The absence of parking facilities creates chaos. The authorities do not seem to have learnt a lesson from this experience. The same kind of road widening is now going on elsewhere in the city.

The state and the people often approach problems in a feudal way. This results in delays in acquisition of land. As project gets delayed, cost escalates. Many of the obstacles will disappear if the government takes the people who are likely to be affected adversely and try to find solutions to their legitimate grievances.
Based on “Nerkkazhcha” column appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated January 17, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anti-Conversion laws pose challenge to religious freedom

Several States in India have adopted laws against religious conversion. The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, which has analyzed the laws, has found that the language is often broad and vague, posing serious challenges to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and enshrined in international human rights instruments.

For details, please see article in the Economic and Political Weekly.

Ravi Nair, Executive Director, SAHRDC, has invited comments on the study, which can be sent to
South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre,
B-6/6, Safdarjung Enclave Extension,
New Delhi 110 029, India
Tel/Fax: +91-11-2619 2717, 2619 2706, 2619 1120

Monday, January 14, 2008

Literary establishment consecrates a new patriarch

LEADING Malayalam writers gathered at the Kerala Sahitya Akademi's headquarters in Thrissur last Thursday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of MT Vasudevan Nair's popular novel Nalukettu.

his was the first time the Sahitya Akademi organised a programme to mark the golden anniversary of a book. Some wondered what prompted the government-funded literary agency to so honour "Nalukettu", or rather its author.

The writer and the work, of course, have impeccable credentials. Vasudevan Nair, known widely by his initials, MT, is one of the seniormost members of the literary establishment. He will be 75 in July.

He started writing at the age of 14. Today he is the State's tallest literary figure. In 1996, he received the Jnanapeeth Award, one of the country's highest literary honours, and an honourary degree of doctor of literature from the Calicut University.

MT was editor of the Mathrubhumi weekly for many years. He is also a noted film-maker and screenplay writer, with many successful movies to his credit.

Nalukettu, which appeared when he was 25, established his reputation as a writer. A novel with pronounced autobiographical elements, it depicts the agony of a boy growing up in a Nair household as feudalism was declining and the joint family breaking up. It is now in its eighteenth edition and has sold about 700,000 copies.

The book has been translated into 14 languages.
An English translation by Gita Krishnankutty, The House around the Courtyard, appeared last year.

N. Sasidharan and N. Prabhakaran, two novelists of a later generation, in articles published last week recalled how they were moved by Nalukettu when they first read it as schoolboys. They had identified themselves with its protagonist, Appunni.

Giving public expression to the feelings of those who took a cynical view of the Thrissur event, MV Devan, artist and writer, said the Akademi was showing signs of sickness when it celebrated the golden jubilee of "a feudal Nair novel" and ignored the birth centenary of Vaikom Mohammad Basheer, which also falls this year.

Basheer, author of several popular novels, was the doyen of Malayalam writers until his death in 1994, at the age of 86. The media crowned him the Sultan of Beypore, where he had settled after his marriage.

Even as the Akademi was celebrating 50 years of Nalukettu, Malayalee institutions in Chennai were marking Basheer's birth centenary with a month-long programme. This added a pungent note to Devan's criticism.

Devan came under sharp attack from Kakkanadan, who inaugurated Nalukettu celebration, and several other writers. However, the Akademi announced a few programmes to blunt the edge of his criticism. Accordingly, the Akademi will celebrate Basheer's centenary in March.
Also, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the appearance of the first novel of some other writers.

The literary establishment has its likes and dislikes. These are reflected in the Sahitya Akademi's decisions from time to time. The Akademi had looked the other way when OV Vijayan took the literary world by storm with his first novel, Khasakinte ithihasam, in 1969.
Critics consider it as his most significant work, but it was his second novel "Gurusagaram" that fetched him Central and State Akademi awards.

When the Akademi picked MP Narayana Pillai's novel Parinamam for an award, he refused to accept the cash prize, since he was opposed to use of taxpayers' money for such purposes.
He offered to go to Thrissur at his own expense and accept the citation. This annoyed the establishment so much that it announced withdrawal of the award.

Akademi president M. Mukundan said the "Nalukettu" celebration was organised in the hope that it would help the candidature of MT, who is seeking the presidentship of the Central Akademi.

Steering clear of claims and criticism, it may be said that with the golden anniversary celebrations of Nalukettu, the Malayalam literary establishment has formally installed MT Vasudevan Nair as the Patriarch of Malayalam literature. The throne had been vacant since Basheer's death.

Another succession struggle is also on in the world of Malayalam literature. This is for the throne vacated by the late M. Krishnan Nair, whose long-running column Sahityavaraphalam had made him the czar of literary criticism. Those in the run include MK Harikumar, S. Jayachandran Nair and Vaikom Murali.
Harikumar, whose column Aksharajalakam appears in Kalakaumudi (he also has a blog under that name) appears to be the frontrunner at this time.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, Januaty 14, 2008.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Responses to Tata’s low-priced car reveal confusion

Tata’s Nano has evoked a mixed response. A confused response, one may say.

The reactions of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and social activist Medha Patkar appear to have been influenced by the Singrur issue. It was acquisition of land for the Tata project that precipitated the agitation at Singrur.

Quite naturally, energy and environmental considerations have influenced the responses of many groups and individuals. Some are opposed to the Nano because it comes as oil supplies are running out. If the motor car becomes more affordable than at present, the demand for oil is bound to go up and the available supplies may be exhausted sooner.

The other side of the picture is that switch to vehicles with greater fuel efficiency may delay that event. The makers of big, oil-guzzling automobiles are not known to be slowing down. As oil wells start drying up, the search for alternatives will intensify.

The worry that the arrival of a cheaper car will clog the already congested roads is real. But then it is not wise to demand that the entrepreneur must wait until the authorities have built enough roads for all the vehicles they hope to sell.

When Henry Ford began mass production of cars, there were no motorable roads and no automobile garages. They came later and filled the need that had arisen.

Alexander Graham Bell linked two small US towns by wire and demonstrated that it was possible for people in one place to talk to those in the other. Mark Twain is said to have asked what did they have to tell each other.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Panchayat model from Karnataka

Nandana Reddy, the social activist, organized a children’s panchayat in a Karnataka village several years ago. It worked very well. Children learnt to use the panchayat to take up matters of interest to them. Elders started listening to them.

Now the Karnataka government has stepped in to provide children a platform all over the State.
By an order, it has made it mandatory for every panchayat to hold children’s gram sabhas, providing children a platform where they can voice their concerns and problems.

For more information, please read "Children Speak Up" by Monideepa Sahu at

Friday, January 11, 2008

How will Tata's Nano affect Kerala?

Ratan Tata with the Nano

Kerala already leads in the sale of motor vehicles in India. A Maruti dealer in the State regularly advertises to convey his gratitude to the people for keeping him in the No. 1 spot in automobile sales in the country.
Tata's Nano, which will sell at Rs.100,000, is labelled as the cheapest motor car in the world. The cheapest cars made in China cost twice as much or more.
How will the arrival of Nano affect Kerala, which is already experiencing serious problems due to poor infrastructure?

Ratan Tata revealed at the unveiling of the Nano that it was the plight of a small family moving in a two-wheeler that prompted him to develop a cheap motor car.

Of the motor vehicles on Kerala's roads, more than half are two-wheelers. Maruti has been trying for several years to persuade the two-wheeler riders to switch to car by offering loans with low instalments. The arrival of Nano will certainly increase the pressure on scooter and motor cycle owners to go in for a car. This will worsen the traffic stiuation. Work is in progress to widen roads and to improve their condition. But there is reason to believe that the government cannot keep pace with the automobile companies.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A turn on the red path

The Soviet Union was swaying. Deng Ziaoping was taking China along a path different from Mao’s. The Communist regimes of East Europe were falling like a house of cards. At that time I spent several weeks in these countries as a newsman to study the situation.

When I met my friend K. Gopalakrishnan, who was translating the complete works of Marx into Malayalam in Moscow, he was hoping to complete the work in a year’s time and return home. He could not hide his anxiety over Soviet interest in Marx would last until then. I assured him that even if the Soviets lost interest in Marx would have a market in Kerala.

Later, when I was in Thiruvananthapuram, M. K. Kumaran, former Communist MP, plied me with searching questions about developments in those countries. The doubts my answers raised in his mind found expression in the form of a question: “Have we squandered away my life chasing it?” I pointed out that it was not right to examine the validity of a decision taken a long time ago by giving retrospective effect to information that became available subsequently. If one was convinced of the rightness of the decision when it was taken, there was no need to repent over it.

I was invited to give a talk on the changes in East Europe at the C. K. Govindan Nair commemoration meeting that year. The Marxist ideologue P. Govindan was also a speaker at that function. He did not question my observations about East European events. He merely said to complete the picture one should take note of the fact that even as the East European regimes were collapsing Communist parties had won elections in Nepal and one or two other places.

The responses of Kumaran and Govinda Pillai show that the Left in Kerala followed the developments in East Europe closely and objectively. But in public debates the leaders of the Left did not display the sincerity and truthfulness that were reflected in their remarks. They sought to assure the people that all was hunky-dory by keeping them in the dark about the problems raised by the crisis in the international Communist movement.

Jyoti Basu’s statement that capitalism is today’s reality and that communism is a distant goal can be seen as marking the beginning of the process of putting an end to the hide-and-seek game the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has been playing for a long time. What Basu and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya are now saying are things that could have been said 20 years back, perhaps even earlier than that. It was delayed so long probably because the cerebral activity is rather slow in the Left camp.

Those who see signs of a change in the party’s policy and influence of globalization in the West Bengal leaders’ argument that they have to rely on capitalism for the investment needed for economic development have poor memory. It was the same policy that prompted E.M.S. Namboodiripad to call on G. D. Birla and V. S. Achuthanandan to invite the Dubai Internet City authorities. The first happened long before globalization.

In explaining Basu’s statement, Prakash Karat indicated that his words had caused confusion in the media and in some Left leaders. The general secretary’s annotation, Achuthanandan’s warning to 'capitalist roaders' and the silence of other leaders all suggest that there is confusion in the party too. But there is no reason to believe that there are differences of opinion on policies and programmes. It appears the differences are over how much truthfulness to maintain with regard to the deviations from ideology that occur while working as part of the system of parliamentary democracy (may read also as bourgeois democracy or capitalist system).

Karat’s claim that in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, the C.P.I. (M), working within the capitalist system, is endeavouring to ensure social justice by pursuing policies different from those of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party stands apart from reality. In social development, West Bengal, which has been continuously under CPI (M) rule for more than 30 years, is leagues behind Kerala, which has not had that good fortune. In Kerala, the CPI (M) and the Congress have been alternating in power for a quarter-century. From experience, the people of the State know that the days when switch from the front led by one to the front led by the other meant a change in policies and programmes are over. Now a change of government does not result in much more than the capture of cooperative societies and transfer of some officials.

The limitation that so long as a party is engaged in parliamentary activities it can only undertake welfare measures that can be taken up within the capitalist framework needs to be recognized. If the CPI (M) has the courage to tell the truth it will have to acknowledge that at this stage it is functioning as a social democratic party. Since the ideologues have made it a dirty name it is not able to say so.

It is not necessary to attach much importance to the name. But it is necessary to ask the party, which is talking of its limitations, one question. Is it doing the most that it can do within these limitations? Hounding the people of Nandigram who refused to part with their land and collapse of the temple administration that was captured show that the CPI (M) governments’ agenda is different from what the general secretary says it is.
Based on column "Nerkkaazhcha" appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated January 10, 2008

Monday, January 7, 2008

Initial response to land policy draft is cool

REVENUE MINISTER KP Rajendran released last week a draft land policy to elicit comments from the public. The initial response has been muted, suggesting political parties are rather cool and the people probably cynical.

Kerala's political establishment, especially the Left stream, has claimed that the land reform completed more than three decades ago was the most progressive measure of its kind undertaken by any State in the country. Lately, however, that measure has come under severe criticism from different quarters.

Leftist critics have pointed out that the reform did not benefit the landless labourers, most of them Dalits and Adivasis. The landless are, in fact, now agitating for land with the active support of extreme leftwing elements. At the other end of the spectrum are people who complain that the reform measure stands in the way of acquisition of land needed for industries and other economic activities.

The Principal Secretary in the Industries Department recently circulated a note demanding scrapping of the law that sets ceilings on holdings. The new policy draft does not provide for scrapping of land ceilings. On the contrary, it pledges to protect land reform.

To check the activities of the land mafia, which has grabbed real estate in different parts of the State, it provides for checks on acquisition of land and fragmentation and sale of plantations.
While recognising the need to find land for industrial purposes, the draft policy stipulates that ownership of land made available to industrial units will vest in the government, and not transferred to them. This stipulation may not be acceptable to industrialists since they often pledge the property to raise funds.

The Revenue Minister said regional meets would be held at Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Kannur to elicit views on the draft. Representatives of various interests, including peasant movements, would be consulted. The question of fixing ceilings on urban holdings would also be taken up during the consultations.

He added that after completing the consultation process, the government would finalise the draft and place it before the State Assembly during the budget session.

The Congress, which heads the opposition United Democratic Front, offered no immediate comment. The Kerala Congress, the only UDF constituent to comment, said the draft contained nothing new.

The Kerala Congress generally champions the cause of landed interests, particularly those who have encroached upon forest land. Its cool response indicates that the ruling Left Democratic Front may not encounter much opposition from the UDF on this issue.

The earlier land reform resulted in the transfer of land from the landlord to the tenant.
By the time the tenant got land he had set his mind on taking his children out of agriculture by giving them an education that will qualify them for respectable jobs. Consequently, the reform, instead of boosting farm production, led to its decline.

This is best illustrated by the state of paddy cultivation. Today only about 250,000 hectares of land is under paddy. This is just about one-fourth of the area under paddy before the reform.

The draft policy does not address the problem of Dalits and Adivasis, who did not benefit from the earlier round of reform. The main weakness of the new reform effort is it has a very narrow focus.

The draft has been prepared without undertaking detailed studies. It is based on political considerations rather than the current needs of the society.

As the State with the highest population density (819 persons per square kilometre), Kerala faces acute land shortage. It is, therefore, necessary to carefully assess the requirements of different sections of the population and different sectors of the economy and apportion the available land in such a way as to yield optimum benefit.

The first requirement is a new land use policy, which will not merely earmark land for agriculture and industry but specify what kind of agricultural or industrial activity will be permitted and where. Efforts to save paddy cultivation will bear fruit only if they ensure that the activity can be carried on profitably.

The government is not right in assuming that plugging the loopholes in the earlier reform measure is all that is needed. Corrupt politicians and officials are the source of strength of the land mafia. Unless the Establishment can summon the courage to act decisively against these elements, the problem will continue to elude solution. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, January 7, 2008.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Human Rights defenders jailed in Bahrain

Front Line, an international foundation for protection of human rights defenders, has drawn attention to the ploght of 11 human rights defenders who were arrested in Bahrain last month.

In a statement, titled Bahrain: Arrest of eleven human rights defenders, Front Line says it is deeply concerned "following the arrest of eleven human rights defenders and the alleged torture and ill-treatment of a number of those arrested".

The arrests took place in the days following demonstrations on 17 December 2007 in Manama and other regions of Bahrain, in which a protester, Ali Jessam Mekki, was killed. The demonstrations were organised by members of the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture to mark the 13th anniversary of the death of two young Shiite men killed by security forces while participating in a demonstration calling for the restoration of democracy.
From the 21st to the 28th December 2007, members of the Special Security Forces (SSF) arrested approximately 50 people.

At its website, Front Line outlines how you can help the cause of the jailed human rights defenders. ACT NOW

Congress party's soft Hindutva is destroying pluralism, says Kuldip Nayar

Up to a point, Sonia Gandhi stuck to her remark of maut ke saudagar and told the Election Commission of India that calling a spade a spade did not violate any code of election. But then she herself watered down her stand. Whoever advised her, did great harm to the party and its cause, says eminent journalist Kuldip Nayar in an article in the Asian Age.

Kuldip Nayar's article is at

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Invisibility of Race and Caste

The victory of Barack Obama in the Democratic caucus in one of the whitest states has been hailed as a sign that the United States is moving beyond the old rhetoric around race. But race may just be becoming invisible, now identified by symbols such as “illegal immigrant,” the cornerstone of the campaign of Iowa’s other winner, Republican Mike Huckabee, says Roberto Lovato in a report distributed by New American Media.

See "Iowa Results: Race Invisibility or Invisible Race?"

The parallel with the role of caste in elections in Kerala and elsewhere in India can hardly be ignored.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Will the party capture the government?

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala has completed more than half the district conferences. For the first time in its history, the party drew up guidelines specifically for the conferences and elections in the State in view of the widespread sectarianism. Both factions have complained of violations of the guidelines. Considering the party’s number of branches and membership, it can be seen that the proceedings have been gone through fairly smoothly. It is now time to think of the next step.

The question that comes up immediately is: what will happen at the State conference, scheduled to be held at Kottayam in February? State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan says sectarianism in the party has lessened and will be completely eliminated with the Kottayam meet. The Communist movement has developed a language of its own to meet its needs. It is that lingo that the Secretary regularly uses. When his words are translated into the language developed by our media, we get something like this: At Kottayam the Pinarayi faction will cut down the VS faction. In our conversational language, it can be rendered as follows: Pinarayi faction will win; VS faction will lose.

The State party is in Pinarayi Vijayan’s grip even now. So the Kottayam conference will not lead to a new situation. However, Pinarayi Vijayan will return from Kottayam with his hands considerably strengthened.

At Kottayam, the delegates will decide who must lead the party. That is the party’s internal matter. The party has a high place in the power structure in Kerala and it is leading the administration at present. This is what prompts others to take an interest in the power struggle in the party. The real question before us therefore is whether Pinarayi Vijayan will capture the government after he captures the party.

What must be the relationship between the organizational wing and parliamentary wing of the ruling party? This is an issue which every democratic society has confronted. Countries with a stable parliamentary system have answered the question more or less satisfactorily. Under the tradition evolved by them, the organizational wing has the right to lay down policies and programmes. The leadership of the parliamentary wing will have the freedom to carry on the administration on the basis of these policies and programmes without day-to-day interference. The precedents established by democratic countries allow the head of the government complete freedom to choose the members of the Cabinet. This is done so as to create conditions necessary for him to discharge the responsibilities the party has entrusted to him.

In India, the Communists are able to come to power in their strongholds through the democratic process. Yet the Communist parties hold fast to the theory that this is not true democracy. In the Communist concept of democracy, the party is above everything else. The party secretary is above the prime minister. A person’s status is determined not by his position in the government but by his position in the party. Pinarayi Vijayan had given up ministership and taken up State party secretaryship, upholding this principle. However, Kerala society considers ministership superior to party posts. That was why most members of the party’s State secretariat scrambled aboard the Cabinet.

It is well-known that the attempt made before the Assembly elections to deny V.S.Achuthanandan the chief ministership failed because of voices of protest from within the party and even more from outside it. The Politburo, which altered the decision not to field him as a candidate, did not create favourable conditions for him to function. What Achuthanandan has been experiencing what no Communist chief minister experienced previously. Ministers belonging to his own party have been defying him. He is forced to carry on with ministers who have proved themselves incompetent and become the butt of ridicule.

New leaders, like the new-rich, come with certain bad habits. There is no better place than Kerala to understand the bad ways of both these groups. The CPI (M), which has been in the parliamentary field for long, must recognize some facts. One of them is that it is not able to provide good ministers. The reasons lie in the party’s current practices. The sooner it corrects them the better – for the party itself.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Orissa: Anti Christian Violence

By Ram Puniyani
02 January,

Gladys Stains is a name etched in our memory for wrong reasons. Her husband and two sons were torched to death around a decade ago in Keonjhar Manoharpur Orissa. She wrote to Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh recently, to ensure that communal peace is restored in Orissa. This she did in the backdrop of the scattered attacks on Christians, over 40 churches torched in Orissa (24 Dec. 2007). In the violence which broke out, many of the people have been severely injured. Some of the priest and laity have run for shelter, leaving their homes and hiding in the forests in the biting cold. All this has happened in the Adivasi area in and around Phulbani and Kandhamal. The timing is around the Christmas celebrations, 2007.

It is no coincident that the BJP is part of the ruling coalition in Orissa, and those involved in the vandalism are part of some or the other organization directly affiliated with the RSS. The major such are Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bajrang dal and their local variants. While the media reports are sketchy, the Citizens Inquiry team, which was to visit the area has been denied permission to visit the districts and was escorted out of the area. The attacks on minorities and weaker sections is launched for short term or long term political goals, but the care is taken that a pretext is manufactured and then the attacks are unleashed. In this case it has been said that Swami Lakkhanand was attacked by Christians and so the retaliation. One is supposed to believe that a Swami from the majority community, with sizeable following, will be attacked by the section of miniscule minority!

The Christmas season is the chosen time for anti Christian attacks. Earlier also such occasions have been chosen for beating and attacking the Christian community, notably in Dangs in 1998. This time in Phulbani area the declarations being made by the Swami and associates is that the presence of Christians will not be tolerated in the Adivasi areas. The visible attacks on Christian minorities started from 1996. The areas selected for these attacks have spread over from Gujarat, Dangs on the extreme West, to the Orissa on extreme east of the tribal belt. It is in these areas that anti Christian violence have been going on in scattered form since then. Most of these acts of violence have a bit different characteristic, i.e. unlike the anti Muslim violence which is more in the cities and occurs as spurts of killing hundred or thousands in a single go, here the cauldron is kept boiling continuously. The intensity is that of a slow but sustained intimidation and attack.

The most ghastly anti Christian violence was that done by Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh, who instigated the Adivasis and led the burning of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains. He and his organization kept propagating for months that pastor has come from Australia for converting the gullible Adivasis to Christianity, that his work amongst the leprosy patients is just a ploy to do his ?real work? of conversions. The Wadhwa commission, appointed by the NDA Govt. with Advani as the Home minister, in the aftermath of this brutal killing, concluded that the pastor was not involved in any conversion activities and that the percentage of Christian population in the area has remained static despite the Pastor working in the area.

At national level the attacks on Christians have been investigated by different civic groups, compiled in 'The Politics behind Anti Christian Violence' (Media House, Delhi) Most of the reports conclude that the attacks have been deliberately stepped up in the Adivasi areas. The main targets of these attacks are the Christian missionaries working in the area of education. The contrast is very glaring. The city based Christian mission institutions are upheld and respected for their contribution in the area of education, while in the Adivasi areas the same are being hounded out. The reports also observe that the RSS affiliates have been trying to do anti Christian propaganda along with Ghar Vapasi (re-conversion in to Hinduism) campaign. The major work of Ghar Vapasi has been undertaken in the BJP ruled states, or in the states where BJP has been sharing power.

The subtle assistance of the state machinery in the anti Christian tirade is always at the service of RSS affilaites. The Ghar Vapasi asserts that Adivasis are basically Hindus, who had to flee to the forests to escape the conversion by Muslim invaders, so they are 'nationally' Hindus, who have forgotten the Hindu rituals and gods and so have fallen low in the hierarchy of Hindu religion. This ritual of re-conversion is supposed to religiously restore them to their old Hindu glory!

The case of Orissa was specifically investigated by India Peoples Tribunal, led by Justice K.K.Usha (retired) of Kerala High court in 2006 (Communalism in Orissa) This tribunal forewarns about the shape of things to come. " The tribunal assessed the spread of communal organizations in Orissa, which has been accompanied by a series of small and large events and some riots?such violations are utilized to generate the threat and reality of greater violence, and build and infrastructure of fear and intimidation."

It further notes that minorities are being grossly ill treated; there is gross inaction of the state Govt to take action. Outlining the mechanism of the communalization, it points out, "The report also describes in considerable detail how the cadre of majoritarian communal organizations is indoctrinated in hatred and violence against other communities it holds to be inherently inferior. If such communalization is undertaken in Orissa, it is indicative of the future of the nation. The signs are truly ominous for India's democratic future." (p 70)

In these Adivasi areas swamis have made their permanent Ashrams, Lakkhanand, in Orissa, Assemanand in Dangs, and followers of Asaram bapu in Jhabua area to name a few. Also Hindu Samgams, congregations, are being held, the culmination of which was the Shabri Kumbh in Dangs where thousands of Adivasis were brought. In those areas the Hindutva organizations spread the intimidating rumors that those who do not attend these functions will be dealt with in due course.

Interestingly these are precisely the areas which are the poorest; these are the areas where the problem of land, education, water and food is the highest. Anti Christian violence is in the continuation of RSS agenda of Hindu Rasthra, Pehle kasai Phir Isai (First the Muslims then Christians). There is an additional factor in the anti Christian violence.

One concedes that there may be many a Christian groups who might be focusing on the conversion work, within the bounds of Indian constitution, of course. But one has to note that in India, overall population of Christian minorities is declining over a period of last four decades, (1971--2.60%, 1981--2.44% , 1991--2.34%, and 2001--2.30%).

While Christianity is a very old religion here, during last nineteen centuries or so only 2.odd percent have become Christians. The major problem is that the effort of missionaries to reach education to the adivasi areas. Educated Adivasi, empowered Adivasi will be more aware of her rights and that's precisely what RSS combine cannot stand. That the tiny minority can be a threat to the huge majority of Hindus is quiet a concoction. There is a need to deal these violations of human rights firmly, there is a need to curb the hate other propaganda in these areas and of course the need to promote modern education and other welfare schemes in these areas. Christmas which should be a festival of joy is being turned into an annual ritual of violence and mayhem by the RSS combine.

Ram Puniyani is a Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai. Apart from his teaching and research activities, he pursues a parallel track concerned with issues related to social problems, particularly the ones related to preservation of democratic and secular ethos in our life. More information at