Varavara Rao: Speaking Truth to Power

Arup Kumar Sen

In one of his Reith Lectures (1993), Edward Said, the eminent critical intellectual, explored the role of a critical intellectual. In this context, Said reminded us: “Uncompromising freedom of opinion and expression is the secular intellectual’s main bastion. To abandon its defence or to tolerate tamperings with any of its foundations are in effect to betray the intellectual’s calling…Yes, the intellectual’s voice is lonely, but it has resonance only because it associates itself freely with the reality of a movement, the aspirations of a people, the common pursuit of a shared ideal”.

Varavara Rao personifies the critical intellectual imagined by Edward Said. To put it in the words of Surabhi Agarwal and Sandeep Pandey: “Varavara Rao is one of India’s foremost intellectuals who has inspired three generations of activists, writers and students…His poetry – which speaks of the brutality of state and societal repression, and expresses an unwavering commitment to the struggle for social justice – has been translated into all major Indian languages. (, July 17, 2020)

Varavara Rao (80) is a victim of state repression under the BJP rule, and is behind bars for almost two years. Very recently, he tested COVID-19 positive and is in a precarious state of health. His long struggle for social justice comes to our mind in his hour of crisis.

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Jul 26, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

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