Book Reviews


  1. Why would anybody want to reinvent a wheel is a question that would puzzle anyone and is beyond one's ken of comprehension. There could be no plausible explanation for such an obviously redundant venture, which would richly merit derision and be scoffed at as a foolhardy person's futile exercise by the mildest of the critics and dismissed as poppycock and balderdash by the harshest. Not unless it is a case of 'wheels within wheels' which, according to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesarus, is "hidden or unknown things that influence a particular situation, making it more complicated than it at first seems." Why would a young man from a poor rural background, whose parents are barely subsisting on their frugal earnings, and yet is studying in a premier educational institution in the capital city, expenses handsomely subsidised by the State, wake up one day and demand "azadi" (freedom) in a random meeting of a group of fellow students in which derogatory, inflammatory and highly objectionable anti-national slogans such as dismemberment of India and use of guns for securing "azadi" by force were raised?

    Since the entire nation sans the vociferous young man and the cluster of his associates who deemed it appropriate to grab media headlines and prime time TV slots by making high decibel "demands," could not have gone into a collective bout of amnesia post-1947 and are, on the contrary, well alive to India being a Sovereign Democratic Republic, free from the yoke of colonialism, one could not be faulted for thinking that the young man had managed to do a bit of time travelling and gone back in time to the days of the British Raj, if not to the medieval times when the blood thirsty warlords of Arabia, Central Asia and Mongolia overwhelmed Hindustan with their unconventional warfare and unimaginable cruel ways of subjugation of the peaceful inhabitants of the country who had never ventured to wage war against any alien country beyond the borders of their own country and had, in fact, considered the whole world their family. In such an event, he should be helped by the law enforcement agencies and the court to return to the here and now expeditiously for his own good. It must be conceded that these august agencies have already covered fair ground in this connection during the course of their interrogation of the young man and his subsequent trial in the court. They would do well to go the whole hog to make sure that the time traveller is firmly grounded to the twenty first century India, the biggest functioning democracy in the world, and does not relapse into the past. Such a course of action is highly recommended for curing the young man and his associates who are burning with a fever of memory loss and self deprecation unless, of course, the youngsters had simply worked themselves up to a feverish pitch to secure "hidden or unknown things that influence a particular situation, making it more complicated than it at first seems."

    In short, "wheels within the wheel" syndrome. It is obvious that there is more to the recent developments than what meets the eye. Apparently, the youngsters who have taken cudgels against their perceived enemies and have been crying hoarse about such vacuous issues like "communalism", "secularism", "black money" etc have not been doing it all without a specific purpose or game plan. They have evidently hitched their ramshackle wagon to a far-from-rising star of the leftist parties.

    The young man of the Jawaharlal Nehru University who donned the war paints as the 'khalnayak' (anti-hero)of the sordid saga of events that panned out on 9 February in the university premises under the aegis of a student’s union of which he was (and is) the President has all the makings of an aspirant of active politics. His demagoguery and choice of issues to shout and scream about bear witness to the lurking political ambition in him.  Expressly forbidden by the university authorities from holding a cultural evening on the anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru, an enemy of the State, who had been accused of being the mastermind of a terror attack on the parliament way back in December 2001 by a gang of Pakistani terrorists, and hanged in February 2013, on the orders of the highest court of the land, Mr.Khalnayak Kumar and his associates went ahead, in open defiance of the instructions of the university authorities, and held their programme which was anything but a "cultural evening". Was this the "azadi" that the young man wanted freedom to hold an unauthorised assembly of students in defiance of the instructions of the university authorities who were responsible for the happenings on their premises? If he and his associates are indeed patriots as they claim, as one is tempted to believe, the question arises as to who raised the most reprehensible and condemnable anti-national slogans on the fateful evening. Who were those men with faces covered, seen in the video recordings of the shameful event organised by Mr.Khalnayak Kumar?

    If those were not students but outside elements as we are persuaded to believe, wasn't Mr.Khalnayak Kumar squarely responsible for the holding of the event without the approval of the competent authority, and allowing it to be infiltrated by anti-national elements? Even if these nationalist students had not anticipated infiltration of their meeting by anti-national elements, shouldn't they have abandoned the meeting which, in any case, was not an authorised event, once it became obvious that the meeting had been compromised? Shouldn't the brave young men and women, who have been challenging the government, have caught hold of the anti-national elements who made the most inflammatory slogans and handed them over to the university authorities, if not directly to the police? How could the peace loving bright-eyed students of a prestigious university let snakes crawl about their Garden of Eden and expect the nation to believe that they had not been seduced to partake the forbidden fruit, let alone harbour and offer their milk of innocence to the snakes?

    On receipt of a complaint about the anti-national activities in JNU, the Delhi police swung into action. After fidgeting for a while, waiting and watching the developments,  they clumsily blundered about taking Mr.Khalnayak Kumar into custody for interrogation. They filed a case of sedition and produced him in a court. Thrown in the high wattage drama that shrouded the escorting of the anti-hero by the police to the court, was the incident of Mr.Khalnayak Kumar being roughed up in the melee by the lawyers at the court who were fretting and fuming over his highly provocative and dubious role in the unsavoury incidents at the university. Eventually, Mr. Khalnayak Kumar was let out by the court on conditional bail but not before he spent nearly three weeks in the prison. The court also had a thing or two to tell him in no uncertain terms about nationalism and how he should conduct himself and be above reproach during the bail period.

    No sooner had he been released on bail, than Mr.Khalnayak Kumar resumed his rabble rousing activities albeit in a somewhat subdued manner. Aside from apprising his associates on camera about his incarceration and interrogation by the police in his flamboyant and fiery style, he has been going about giving interviews to the mainstream media in a somewhat low profile style, proudly wearing a feigned image of a poor victim mauIed by a mighty government, as a badge of honour.

    In the meanwhile, more persons from JNU had been taken in by the police on the charge of sedition. Apparently, the authorities in the Union Home Ministry and Delhi Police seemed to be reconciled to the idea that the malaise of discontent and disaffection which has been plaguing JNU is a deep-rooted malady that calls for a thorough and meticulous investigation and an appropriate follow up action so as to rid JNU of undesirable ultra-political and suspicious anti-national activities and restore a peaceful academic atmosphere. Highly objectionable and incendiary pamphlets in the nature of hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community have been seized. The university authorities have been sending, on their part, notices to the dramatis personae of the unseemly incident, as part of their own investigation. The students, who are on a warpath, have been training their guns on the Prime Minister and the Union HRD Minister in an extremely derisive manner. The incidence of the death of Rohith Vemula of the University of Hyderabad came in handy for the disgruntled students of JNU in their desperate bid to malign the Modi government. Yet another addition to their litany of vacuous demands - justice for Rohith Vemula! Apparently, Mr.Khalnayak Kumar and his band of supporters have been sold on the idea of trouncing the government on the strength of their raucous and vacuous demands on the shoulders of sensationalism.

    JNU's very own Don Quixote, menacingly on his way to tilt at the huge giant of a windmill and his faithful bunch of Sancho Panzas are not without their fair share of support from the Opposition parties, particularly the Communists and the party of the aam aadmi vaiety, which have been wearily eyeing the mighty Modi government and fantasising and drooling over its downfall. The romancing of  Mr.Khalnayak Kumar by the dwindling tribe of the short-statured opposition parties flows by no means from what could be termed as their new-found love for the blue-eyed boy of students politics. The students union of Mr.Khalnayak Kumar is affiliated to the Communist parties. The sudden spurt in the union's off-the-tangent activities is indicative of Mr.Khalnayak Kumar's cutting his political teeth and being groomed by his mentors. The continued successful performance of the Modi government in its second year of existence and the miserable failure of the Congress party, headed by the ineffectual Gandhis, to provide a serious viable alternative at the Centre, as well as the forthcoming State assembly elections, have had the snowballing effect of  giving rise to a desperate bid by the Communist parties which are on the verge of extinction as elsewhere in the world, to promote and pit Mr.Khalnayak Kumar against a formidable Narendra Modi.

    "Give me liberty or give me death!" thundered Patrick Henry in his famous speech at the Virginia Convention in 1775. The portentous speech  swung the balance in convincing the convention to pass a resolution delivering Virginian troops for the Revolutionary War against the Kingdom of Great Britain and declaring the thirteen United Colonies of today's USA independent. Contrast the tide-turning speech of Henry with the speeches of Mr.Khalnayak Kumar which are qualitatively different and fraught with assertions such as "Azadi leke rahenge " (we shall not rest till we get freedom), and exhortations like "Inquilab zindabad" (Victory to revolution), "lal salaam" (red salute) etc. No freedom fighter this, our very own champion of shadow boxing, whose concept of freedom is either a degenerate call for changes in the political system at the best or a heavily loaded ultra-political barb at the worst; his roadmap for securing the ends is littered with blood and gore (red salute). It is one thing to be a puffed up hero with an inflated image courtesy sold-out-sections of the mainstream media; and yet another to be a leader of the masses and classes alike. An artificially puffed up chest has no staying power like the one built like a barn door! Khalnayak Kumars may feel thrilled with the flow of adrenalin while riding the wave of the media-generated publicity and playing to the gallery, cheered and goaded by their own bands of admirers and supporters but would do well to bear in mind that the media soon tires of its own creations. In the media's scheme of things, what was yesterday the flavour of the season becomes yesterday's left overs today a la the Aam Aadmi Party supremo.