Social function of an intellectual in India

Radhakanta Barik

Today the Multi-National companies are dead against the human right activists who are working with the tribal and dalits of Chattishgarh. One of them leading light is Sudha Bharadwaj, working with them for last three decades have been picked up by the Pune police with other four activists who are working among Dalits and minorities. This brings the fascist phase of Modi rule that are ready to attack anybody who is opposing them. It is because of the intervention of Supreme Court there is a stay order to these arrests. It is interesting to note here that the state does not have any materials with them against these activists. The Court is of the opinion that dissent is the safety valve of democracy. Those who differ from the Hindutva view of society and history have the right to live in democracy. To divert the attention of Hindutva forces where Maharashtra police have arrested the Sanatan Sanstha activists who are involved in the killing of the rationalists and ready to create riots in various towns. This has brought defame to Hindutva forces that Hindutva cannot be terrorists which disprove their own position. These arrests signal the worst phase of fascism of the Modi regime. Those got arrested during the UPA regime specifically Col Purohit and others whose trials were going against them in the courts of the Maharashtra have been released on bail despite there are serious cases against them. This is with assumptions made by the Hindutva forces that Hindus cannot be terrorists as Hinduism is a tolerant religion. These new arrests by the BJP government in the state have disapproved it.

 The way police was giving the press conference on the arrest of the human right activists it seems that their verbiage will not stand in the court of law. Moreover if the Supreme Court does not step in this case there is going to be another freedom movement in India to defend democracy and constitution. All these people are extremely brilliant people in their own fields. Let us examine the case of Sudha Bharadwaj in whose name there is an article written by Prof Ashok Mitra who died recently in Economic and Political Weekly. Her brilliance is being recognized by all. This piece should be shown to the Honorable judges of the Supreme Court as they have already given hints that dissident intelligentsia is the strength of any democracy.  Anand Teltumbde a leading Ambedkaraite scholar which any class room teaching needs to refer these works. He has been teaching in Goa in an Institute of Management and in some Universities of USA. In an article of his personal experiences as being branded as the ‘Urban Naxalite’ makes no sense. It is shocking for him as he writes in Indian Express.  It raises serious ethical questions regarding the role of intellectual in a developing society like ours. Globalisation has pushed many sections of a society to the margins.  Working for deprived community is a part of Gandhian tradition which he initiated while working in Champaran. The District Magistrate wanted to arrest him but in the end he felt embarrassed in arresting him.Gandhi took up the cause of deprived people in his whole political career. He was charged under the Sedition Act also by the Pune police. Today the same police is charging these human right activists under similar act. This concept Urban Naxalite is creation of some fertile mind of the right as the right does not have intelligentsia they think anybody who has a working mind in cities known as the Urban naxalite. It is caricature of Naxalism itself which is originated in rural and tribal belt and people who are working there. Imagine that absence of these human rights activists would have created a precarious situation for tribal, dalit and minorities.

When I was doing a research work into the conditions of Kutia Kandha,Dongaria Kandha and Desia Kandhas are inhabiting in Kalahandi and Raipur district one finds that their fight turned into a mass movement with the help of human right activists. Otherwise they could have not been able to fight the Sterilite company which is MNC and had a plenty of money to buy the civil servants, politicians and journalists. District Collector Mishra played a mischievous role by be fooling the Kutia Kandha and wrote a false report that these villages inhabited by them have given consent to the district administration for selling their land, jungle and water for getting a meager compensation. If one visits the area one finds the water looks reddish and air is polluted and forest is gone. Their health conditions got deteriorated with these factories. This became a lesson for Dongaria Kandha to fight against the Sterilite company. The case went up the Supreme Court which decided to hold village committee meetings to decide their own fate. All these villages decided to go against the Company that changed the balance of forces against the Sterilite company.

After the arrest of five human right activists it raises an important question what is the social function of an intellectual? Do we have any activity left for us? Let me examine the role of an economist who just gives a figure of economic growth of the Modi regime and the UPA regime. Perhaps he or she should leave at that stage no comment please.  Furthermore he or she can add to this the story of demonitisation which can be said that 99.3 percentage of money has come back to the RBI according to their report. They should not go beyond it. A sociologist goes to Saharanpur and finds the children of Dalits are missing, he or she should give the figure regarding the missing dalits. Anthropologist goes to Bastar region and finds their land and forest have been occupied by the Sterilite Company, then no opinion please. A political scientist talks of working of the present regime and its violations according to the principles of liberalism, then no more. A historian can provide the facts of a historical figure like Gandhi or Nehru or Subash.  No more. A linguist finds a new word in local vocabulary that is Mafia or fascubad in Gujarati then leave it there. A literary person writes a romantic story regarding a young college student who loves a girl of a different caste or religion then no more opinion. A poet expresses her or his deep feelings for trees and birds but one day finds those are getting destroyed by the bulldozer then no more. A novelist wants to write a novel that in a village young people postpone their marriages as there are no jobs or no work then no opinion. A political worker writes a letter to another coworker addressing just Comrade then it is opinion he or she should be arrested by the police it is a threat against the present regime. A scientist talks of modern plastic surgery then no talk of lord Ganesh had plastic surgery in ancient times only those doctors had no knowledge of plastic surgery. Let us take an oath on our    Independence Day on 15 August that nobody has any opinion or has right to go for interpretation but state only facts and facts which can talk in its own way.

T B Bottomore a leading sociologist defines that the academic community as the critics of the society will not work in our society.  As they cannot apply theories to interpret the facts and search for the causes of an event they lose their basic function as the critics of a society.  Prof Amartya Sen discusses the role of a scholar in a recent interview to the NDTV that critical analysis is the function of an intellectual. We cannot analyse the social political phenomenon with a critical insight into the whole process. Interrelating with various interest groups such as industrialists, landlords or Military generals in making a public policy then our basic purpose is to provide critical analysis does not hold any more after these arrests.  As Tamil novelist Murugon decided to get an unnatural death as a writer as there were pressures on him from the civil society not to produce a novel as a critical of a society. This is a lesson for all of us that we should declare our deaths as intellectuals.

Sep 21, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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