My own way of paying respect to Tagore.
Deity Of The Ruined Temple
Santiniketan, the abode of peace, which is devoted to realization of different aspects of truth from diverse point of views, was perhaps not prepared to face this bizarre truth of a 10-year-old girl forced to lick her own urine as punishment for bedwetting. The universal knowledge centre Visva-Bharati that was conceived by Kobiguru to provide coordinated study of different culture is to-day accused of defending a weird culture that could be appreciated only by a very few godly souls like Swami Agnibesh. The God within the innocent girl of Patha Bhavan died when the hostel warden Ms. Uma Poddar tried the medieval cure on her. Patha-Bhavana, the brainchild of Tagore, was established to stimulating and sustaining the manifold faculties of human personality beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits. The underlying philosophy behind such idea with no stretch of imagination can accommodate the concept of a punishment that exceeds the customary limit of tolerance of any ordinary people.
Evidently, people have forgotten Tagore’s concept. His works have become commodities – traded freely for the purpose of materialistic profit only. People are earning their living by capitalizing on Tagore’s tag. The values, which Tagore had stood for, are far behind us. His message is not touching the soul of our hearts. We have become mindless to the nuances of life, which he had dreamt. The high pitch loudspeaker installed at roadside lampposts playing Tagore’s song in full blast in a hot humid noon announcing festivities of community “Puja” cannot spread his idea. In the early hours of a holiday morning, when people struggle to catch up with sleep, having their ears assaulted even by Tagore’s songs or poems through a loudspeaker publicizing some public events spread a wrong message. Under similar attack, Tagore himself would have been apologetic for his splendid works. However, people of Bengal have become accustomed to witness such offerings of reverence to Tagore in a fashion that actually betrays an arrogant show of respect. The long lasting impression the lyrics can create, if played in a serene environment, gets lost in such routine outburst and becomes a regular source of revulsion to many. Nevertheless, people are oblivious of others’ feelings!
Reports of unpleasant incidents like theft of Tagore’s Nobel medallion in March 2004, molestation of an American student at Kalo Bhavan in February 2008, fortnight long strike demanding an investigation into ‘irregularities’ committed by vice-chancellor in 2010 and many more untoward incidents still haunt public memory. People are now witness to a tragic “reality-serial” that started with a folly – compelling a budding soul to lick her own urine. The episodes of ridiculing the parents with police arrest and thereafter the show of bias by the university authorities followed back to back. The next two episodes displayed insensitivity of the persons in power with delay of 72 hours in enquiring about the wellbeing of the victim and then the expression of regret 5 days after the incident that culminated with a “punch-line” by publicly naming the tormented child, violating section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
The society is yet to come to grips whether to dismiss the happening as stray one or to debate whether Visva-Bharati authorities have strayed. “We Bengalis are too sensitive about Santiniketan and expect it to remain an oasis of high values when the world around is in a state of degeneration and collapse.” A senior teacher reportedly told in defence. May be the torchbearers of Tagore’s legacy are yet to realize that glow of light turns more prominent as darkness becomes more pronounced. Perhaps Tagore’s anguished expression “There is lamp but never a flicker of flame” in Gitanjali (Poem 27) describes the contemporary situation better. Today, his teachings have become more relevant to liberate the society.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Tagore had said, “My object in starting this institution was to give the children of men full freedom of joy, of life and of communion with nature. I myself had suffered when I was young through the impediments which were inflicted upon most boys while they attended school and I have had to go through the machine of education which crushes the joy and freedom of life for which children have such insatiable thirst.” Are we not witnessing today the manifestation of a culture in Visva-Bharati that is exactly opposite to Tagore’s dream?
In another paragraph of the same speech, Tagore had mentioned “…. this university should be a place where Western students might come and meet their Eastern brethren and where they might work together and try to find the treasures that have lain hidden in the East for centuries and work out the spiritual resources of the East, which are necessary for all Humanity.” Can we tell it to the world today, as uttered by a SENIOR teacher, not to “expect it (Visva-Bharati) to remain an oasis of high values when the world around is in a state of degeneration and collapse”? Should we announce that the “Eastern brethren” have failed Tagore?
When the custodians of Tagore’s dream falter in their task of protecting the poet’s precious collections, others in Bengal cannot be expected to do better. Common people always look up to the intellectuals to show the right path. That is the reason why the parents had left their 10-year-old girl in the custody of Visva-Bharati with hope that the child would be moulded in the vision of Tagore. However, the manner in which the authorities have failed the child is inexplicable. The ruthless act has attacked the inherent idea behind starting the institution and the bias has shaken its foundation. The “God” within the innocent girl was murdered at Patha Bhavan, her dream was shattered in the Tagore’s dream house and she had to go back home carrying a nightmare. The poor child will never return to Visva-Bharati – “where the whole world forms its one single nest” – even as a day boarder, because she is too afraid! To-day, she is searching a shelter “Where the mind is without fear and head is held high; where knowledge is free”.
A fantasy called Kashmir
People are talking of referendum to resolve the Kashmir crisis once and for all. Do they know India’s experience was referendum? What price the country and its people had to pay for the farce? Let us recall – in 1947, how almost all of erstwhile Hindu majority Sylhet District of Assam became a part East Pakistan, now Bangladesh – following a referendum! The real dirty politics behind that exercise is not known to many. The Pakistani authorities wanted that part of the prosperous land for themselves and the political authorities in Assam did not want this thickly populated Bengali dominated district to be a part of Assam lest the Assamese people would loose their majority status. In that political push – pull situation, the inevitable manipulation took place. Barring the (then) Karimganj sub division which was incorporated into the Indian state of Assam, India lost the major portion to Pakistan forcing thousands of Bengali Hindus to flee their homeland and take refuge in India. Their suffering still continues. How can India forget that mass human tragedy? It will be even worse if the proposed solution of another referendum to resolve the Kashmir crisis is accepted. On the other hand, let us recall how Goa, Hydrabad and Pondichery had become part of India. Such no-nonsense approach must be adopted towards Kashmir. The continuing plight of the displaced Kashmiri Pundits must also be addressed.
Let us not be misled by the fact that Burhan Wani’s funeral attracted thousands. It was not spontaneous. We have seen how “spontaneous” strikes are “arranged” in our country. There is no spontaneity. Today, anyone who looked pro-India is a suspect and eligible for elimination in Kashmir. Let us not be misled by the gruesome pictures of youths with eye injury flooding the social media. The youths are not voluntarily participating in the demonstrations to act as a shield to the separatists’ violent protests. They have no choice – they are being brainwashed and forced by the enemy of our country and Pakistani agents. Let us not be deceived by the news that father of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani has emerged as the rallying face of protests in the Valley. Had it been his voluntary action, he would have come forward immediately after death of his son – not after a gap of all these days. It is obvious that he has been tricked and forced by the same miscreants who are behind the disturbances in Kashmir.
We have been blowing hot and cold with the Kashmir issue for too long and had been asking the Kashmiris from time to time “what they want”. It was a blunder to allow them special privilege and follow a soft approach. Our appeasement policy towards the separatists and conciliatory strategy towards Pakistan for last seventy years have landed us on the ongoing trauma of Kashmir – which we are staring at today. The day of cajoling is over now.
When your house is on fire, you do not sit down to analyze the cause but rush to the nearest fire extinguishers. When anti India / pro Pakistan / Jehadi slogans are raised from the loudspeakers atop Mosques in Indian soil, it is nothing but invasion to our secular democracy. We must liberate that part of our country from the foreigners and their agents, with all our might. Once we do that, we may think of finding out from the Kashmiris “what they really want”. Once peace is restored, we may take steps “to win the hearts of the people of the state” as the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad’s open letter to the Prime Minister reads. But, not now when a Kashmiri Muslim cannot dare to call himself an Indian in Kashmir lest he would be killed.
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