Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Letters to the Editor


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Uniform at St. Anthony’s college

It is really intriguing that a progressive and highly-rated college such as St. Anthony’s College has thought it necessary to introduce uniform for its students from the current academic year. I consider it a highly regressive and undemocratic decision. The logic of imposing uniforms in a college which is inhabited by people endowed with critical and reflexive thinking stems from a certain worldview which wishes to homogenise and standardise. Of course, such a worldview is in perfect sync with the current socio-cultural and political climate which speaks of one language, one culture and one religion which we all know has serious implications for the very idea of India as embodied in our Constitution. This worldview justifies growing restrictions on the food we take, the dress we wear and the way we want to express ourselves stifling creativity and diversity.
While imposition of uniform clearly involves huge financial implications for students, many of whom may not be in a position to afford it, what is equally important to understand is that it constitutes an attack on the very idea of democracy which celebrates diversity and multiple forms of expressing oneself. The college is the space where critical imagination and questioning spirit need to be promoted. Higher educational institutions should be liberating and empowering ones and not seeking to restrict choices of the students in terms of what they wear and what they eat. Energies should not be wasted in unimaginative and unproductive steps such as imposing uniforms.
In fact, from a larger perspective, the very idea of uniformity in uniform in higher educational should be questioned. Uniformity should be in terms of ensuring high uniform academic standards across different colleges and universities. Instead of focussing our attention on that, it is unfortunate some of our colleges and universities are focussing on uniformity in uniform.
Yours etc.,
Prof. D. V. Kumar, (Dept of Sociology, NEHU)
Via email



Sri Aurobindo the visionary

On December 5, 1950, Sri Aurobindo left his body in Pondicherry. He lived in Pondicherry from April 1910 to December 1950. During those forty years, he engaged in a new system of spiritual development which he called the Integral Yoga. As evolutionary progress being central to his philosophy, he let his spiritual force work for it and categorically stated his opinion on many national and international issues.
His far-sighted views on many issues are still relevant and deserve our attention. Now, let us focus on two of them where not only did he declare his stand clearly but also worked for what he viewed would help evolutionary progress.
He had the foresight about the necessity of socialist revolution for our evolutionary progress. He wrote, “There is to be equality of opportunity for all, but also of status for all, for without the last the first cannot be secured; even if it were established, it could not endure (The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development – page 201). On October Revolution he said to AB Purani that he was one of the influences that worked to make it a success (Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo – Page 474).
We cannot deny the contribution of October Revolution towards human evolution. That brute capitalism made poor children die young after working as chimney sweepers, gives us enough reason to tip our hats to his foresight. Let us recall a line of William Blake’s poem, “The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died, I was very young”, “So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.”
As a result of the October revolution many socialist states emerged to take care of the potentialities in every human being. Human evolution again discarded dictatorship of the proletariat of socialism as it had earlier thrown out laissez-faire liberty of market players. But contribution of socialism in human evolution can never be denied as modern welfare states have come to balance between liberty of capitalism and equality of socialism.
All modern welfare states including the United States of America have accepted the ideas of socialism in their policy of giving social security to people like health care and handsome allowance for the unemployed. As a matter of fact, a truly welfare state is more inclined to socialism than far right capitalism. The Indian Constitution has embraced the spirit of socialism in the Preamble and in the Directive Principles of State Policy, “to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.”
Again Sri Aurobindo did not restrict himself by expressing his views against the Nazis but also used his force against it in the Second World War much to the dislike of many people in Pondicherry Ashram in particular and in India in general. They failed to understand why Sri Aurobindo who once suffered at the hands of the British, was opposing an enemy of the British and the Allies. As a matter of fact, many Indians at that time were happy that England was attacked because of their hatred of British domination.
But he clearly wrote in a letter, “Avowedly and openly, Nazi Germany today stands for the reversal of this evolutionary tendency, for the destruction of the new international outlook, the new Dharma, for a reversion not only to the past, but to a far-back primitive and barbaric ideal (Letters on Himself and the Ashram, Page – 215). He followed the second world war in every possible detail from reading newspapers to listening to the news bulletins of the BBC. He did whatever he could spiritually to defeat the Axis Powers. That Nazis used a phobia called antisemitism to kill 6 million Jews in the Holocaust was one of the many reasons to admire his foresight about the dangers of Nazism.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote in his long poem, Namaskar, “Aurobindo, take the salute of Rabindra.” Tagore went on to describe him in the poem as the saviour with the lamp of God. That he really was!
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,

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