Raking up Ramanujan

03 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

How intriguing that several weeks after other newspapers have debated the removal of AK Ramanujan’s essay on India’s many Ramayanas from the Delhi University history course, that The Times of India should not only pick up on it but give it front page treatment. Nothing new has happened on the issue this week and the article reads more like an overview rather than a news story. Many years ago when Mumbai was Bombay and TOI had very little competition in the city, the newspaper’s arrogance seemingly declared that something was not news till TOI carried it, sometimes a week after it happened.

 

However, it is good that the Times has given so much coverage to the subject, which so far has been largely restricted to edit pages. Ramanujan’s essay upset the Hindutva brigade which pressured the university to drop it. The BVP also apparently targeted the prime minister’s daughter Upinder Singh since she was on the committee which picked the essay. Ramanujan’s academic credentials are impeccable and the essay has been there for four years. The politics of the protesters and those who gave in to them seems to have won the day and this is one more death knell for free thought in India. Now how about a TV discussion on this, with all our usual suspects?

 

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NDTV’s Politically Incorrect between Mani Shankar Aiyar and Swapan Dasgupta had an interesting discussion on FDI in retail. In keeping with the programme’s format, Aiyar and Dasgupta batted for opposing sides. That is, Aiyar (Congress) was against FDI while Dasgupta (BJP) was for it. In some sense, that matches the positions which one would expect these two parties to take. It also demonstrates how difficult it is to maintain strict ideological positions in today’s politics – 20th century divisions are now passé and we need new definitions perhaps.

 

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Meanwhile on Times Now, it is evident that even the great champion of Anna Hazare, Arnab Goswami, is getting a little tired of this anti-corruption movement’s obstinacy. As the discussion on the Lopkal bill went round and round, the viewer knows this much: Although Team Anna’s desire for an anti-corruption bill is commendable, this constant desire to go on hunger strikes when anyone disagrees with them is getting tiresome.

 

Medha Patkar, an old hand at such movements, was actually quite honest when she admitted that stridency and supposed stubbornness is a well thought out strategy to keep the issue alive.

 

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If you can catch the BBC documentary Secret Pakistan, please don’t miss it.

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