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Ramachandra Guha: In the lives of three Gandhians, lessons for today’s India – and for the future
lmage: Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna talks to students during a water conservation awareness programme at a school in Chandigarh in 2008. |
Ajay Verma/Reuters Three remarkable Indians died in a single week in May. All were greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, though each expressed his “Gandhism” in different ways and in different geographical settings. One was in his eighties, the second in his nineties, the third had lived for more than one hundred years on this planet. So while we mourn their deaths we must also celebrate their lives.

The first of these Gandhians to go was Sunderlal Bahuguna of Uttarakhand. When the Chipko movement began in the upper Alaknanda valley in 1973, Bahuguna already had several decades of social work behind him. The initial Chipko protests had been led by Chandi Prasad Bhatt, in Bahuguna’s words the “mukhya sanchalak” (chief organiser) of the movement. Inspired by what women and men had done in the district of Chamoli, Bahuguna brought the idea of Chipko to his own home terrain, the valley of the other great branch of the Ganga, the Bhageerathi. Here he organised protests against the felling of green trees, going on long fasts in the forests.

I first met Sunderlalji in Calcutta in 1981. I was just beginning my doctoral research on Chipko, and he had come to the city to talk on this very subject. He was a captivating, compelling speaker, switching between Hindi and English with ease (doubtless he was even more captivating and compelling in his native Garhwali). Two years later, I did a spell of fieldwork in the Badyar valley, interviewing peasant women who had worked with Bahuguna in a major protest he had led there.

Service and activism
In the course of my research I came to admire both Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna. Journalists and academics in Delhi were quick to take sides, promoting one or the other as the “real” or “true” leader of Chipko. In truth, both had played vital roles in the movement. Besides, their orientations were different, but complementary. After the protests of the 1970s had led to a rapid decline in commercial felling in Uttarakhand, Bahuguna took the message of Chipko across the Himalaya.

Bhatt, on the other hand, focused on grass-roots reconstruction within Uttarakhand, mobilising women and students in successfully reforesting hillsides made barren by what one Chipko activist described to me as “andhadhun katai”, the reckless felling of trees by contractors in collusion with the forest department.

Both Bahuguna and Bhatt inspired many younger Indians to take to a life of service and activism.

Matching Sunderlal Bahuguna in energy, courage, intelligence and charisma was a Gandhian who died five days after him. This was HS Doreswamy of Karnataka. He was a decade older than Bahuguna, and thus had an even longer record of service. As a student, Doreswamy met Gandhi when the Mahatma came to Nandi Hills for a spell of rest and recuperation in the summer of 1936. Six years later, Doreswamy played a leading part in the Quit India movement in the princely state of Mysore, spending a long time in jail as a consequence.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Doreswamy worked in the Sarvodaya movement, focusing on land redistribution. However, when the Emergency was promulgated in 1975, he abandoned social work for activism, which resulted in his now being jailed by the government of independent India as he had once been jailed by its feudal and colonial predecessor. He was released after a few months, and spent the rest of his life working for a more humane social order in his home state.

I first met Doreswamy in the late 1980s, when I took part in demonstrations led by him against the environmental destruction of the Western Ghats by the military-industrial complex. Already in his seventies, he was an impressive presence; tall, erect, always ready to lead a procession or go on hunger-fast. Like Sunderlalji, he had a special way with the young, his accessibility and sense of humour drawing them closer to him.

My most recent meeting with HS Doreswamy was in March last year. In the intervening decades I had, of course, followed his work closely. He was verily the conscience of Karnataka, fearless in taking on land sharks, mining companies and, not least, corrupt politicians. Through his eighties and nineties he retained his zest and commitment, raising his voice against social and economic injustice, all the while refusing to take any favours from the state.

He never owned a car, preferring to use public transport. The photographer, K Bhagya Prakash, seeing a 91-year-old Gandhian waiting at a Bengaluru bus stop, stopped to take – unnoticed by the man himself – a series of quite wonderful snaps of Doreswamy boarding a bus, these reposted on Twitter after his death.

The Hindutva threat
For all its other achievements, the Gandhian movement in independent India has never paid adequate attention to the threat posed to the Republic by the rise of Hindutva majoritarianism. (Sunderlal Bahuguna himself sailed quite close to these murky waters, associating with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on occasion.)

In this regard, Doreswamy was a sterling exception. His last campaign, which he undertook at the age of 101, was against the immoral Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Inspired by the exemplary courage shown by students (particularly female students) at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia in the face of police repression, the centenarian Gandhian decided to make a public statement himself. In March 2020, he placed himself under a shamiana in an open space where, along with thousands of other friends and admirers, I went to meet him and hear him speak.

As The Hindu reported, Doreswamy held the CAA to be grossly discriminatory, “antithetical to the founding principles of our nation”. “The Muslims here chose to be Indians,” he said. “They cannot be asked to prove their citizenship now.” Opposing the regime’s discriminatory policies, observed Doreswamy, “doesn’t make me anti-national. We need to differentiate between the government, the state and the nation.”

Both Sunderlal Bahuguna and HS Doreswamy were activists who were entirely comfortable being in the public eye. They were quite happy to express their thoughts if a microphone were placed before them, and fluently and wittily too. Both were also extremely photogenic. Rather different in character and temperament was a Gandhian who died just after Bahuguna and just before Doreswamy. His name was KM Natarajan. Gentle, self-effacing and hence much less well-known than the other two, he admirably embodied the Gandhian spirit in his own home state, Tamil Nadu.

Natarajanji was more a constructive worker than an activist. Inspired by Gandhi as a student, in 1956-’57, he joined Vinoba Bhave on a long padayatra through Tamil Nadu, promoting the Bhoodan movement. Thereupon he dedicated the rest of his life to rural renewal. He worked on, among other things, the abolition of caste distinctions, the promotion of khadi and of organic agriculture, and the redistribution of land owned by temples to landless labourers.

Among his closest associates in these campaigns were that extraordinary couple, Sankaralingam and Krishnammal Jagannathan, and an American in khadi, Ralph Richard Keithahn.

I first got to know KM Natarajan courtesy the Indian postal service. Back in 1996, I had written a newspaper article on the Gandhian economist, JC Kumarappa, which prompted a most instructive mail from a man in Madurai who had worked closely with Kumarappa himself. Many years later, while researching the life of RR Keithahn, I found Natarajan had known him well too. So I travelled to Madurai to seek his advice.

Over cups of tea in the Sarvodaya office in the Gandhi museum complex, Natarajanji told me many things I did not know about Keithahn’s life. Then he sent me off with introductions to people at the Gandhigram Rural University in Dindigul, who had known Keithahn well too.

Boundless generosity
In the course of our conversations I discovered, to my surprise and joy, that Natarajanji had a keen interest in that decidedly un-Gandhian pursuit, the game of cricket. And his generosity was boundless. After I returned to Bengaluru, I received a steady stream of parcels from him containing original letters written by Keithahn, which he had sourced for me from all over Tamil Nadu. His kindness extended to reading drafts of what I wrote on the subject, with my errors gently pointed out.

As I reflect on these three lives, I see what each of them has to teach those of us who still have time left on this earth.

Bahuguna of Uttarakhand taught us that human beings are not separate from or superior to the natural world, that for our own survival we have to respect the rest of creation.

Doreswamy of Karnataka taught us that discrimination according to caste, class, gender or creed is not just antithetical to the ideals of the Indian Constitution, but to decency and humanity itself. To oppose such discrimination, and non-violently, is the duty of all who claim to have freedom and justice as their ideals.

Natarajan of Tamil Nadu taught us that true self-reliance begins with the individual, working with her family and her community, that local action for rural sustainability is as vital to the future of the planet as international agreements on reducing carbon emissions.
Three lives, each admirable, albeit in different and distinct ways. Yet there was a common thread that bound them. Bahuguna, Doreswamy and Natarajan were deeply rooted in their home districts, their home states, while being keenly interested in India and the world. It was a privilege to have known them all.
Ramachandra Guha’s email address is


Muslim attends the Ram Mandir “Bhumi Pujon” ceremony “: Invited Iqbal Ansari

AYODHYA: Iqbal Ansari, one of the seven litigants from the Muslim side in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, has been invited for the ‘bhoomi pujan’ for the Ram temple at Ayodhya which would be performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has also invited social worker Mohammad Shareef, 82, who was awarded Padma Shree this year for performing last rites of more than 25,000 unclaimed bodies over a three-decade span.

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Ansari, 69, confirmed that he has received the invite. Showing the Trust’s invitation card to media, Ansari said: “I will attend the ceremony. The dispute over the land is now over after the court’s verdict.” He said he would gift a ‘Ramnami’ (sacred stole) and a copy of Ramcharitmanas to the PM when he meets him at the ‘bhoomi pujan’.
Ansari’s father Hashim was the first litigant from the Muslim side in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case. After Hashim died at 95 in 2016, his son was included as a litigant in the case at the Supreme Court.

Ansari hoped that the construction of the temple would change the fate of Ayodhya. “I respect sadhus and sants. I am happy to have received the invitation for the ceremony. I think it is Lord Ram’s will that I attend it.”

When asked what he would have done had the court decided the case in his favour, Ansari said he had wanted a school and a hospital to be built on the disputed land.
Mohammad Shareef, popularly known as Shareef Chacha, may not be able to attend the ceremony because of his old age. His grandson Shabbir said, “We have received the invite, but my grandfather can’t walk or even speak. We are not sure whether he can go for ‘bhoomi pujan’.”
Trust general secretary Champat Rai told TOI that invitations have been sent out to 145 people, including 135 saints of 36 religious orders of India.


Amitabh Bachchan replies to woman who said she’s ‘totally lost respect’ for him: ‘My respectability is not going to be judged by you’

Mumbai: Amitabh Bachchan has responded to a woman on Facebook who accused him of “advertising” for the hospital where he was admitted for Covid-19 treatment and said that she had “totally lost respect” for him. Amitabh was discharged from the Nanavati hospital on Sunday after spending 23 days in the isolation ward of the hospital. His son Abhishek Bachchan is still undergoing treatment for the novel coronavirus at the same hospital.

A woman complained about the hospital in the comments section of one of his posts that her 80-year-old father wrongly tested positive for Covid-19 at the hospital and suffered bed sores as the doctors didn’t take proper care of him. She wrote, “Mr Amitabh its really sad the kind of advertisement you’re doing for a hospital like that who don’t care about human life and only want to make money…Sorry but totally lost respect for you.”

Responding to her comment, Amitabh wrote, “Jhanvi ji .. I am truly sorry to learn of what your dear and respected Father had to go through and the subsequent problems he developed. I have been in and out of Hospitals from a young age and with medical conditions that have all been extremely severe. There is a certain Code of Conduct in the medical profession and I have noticed that the doctors specialists nurses management all put the utmost in the care of the patient on hand.”

He added, “Yes lab tests can go wrong, but there are several other tests and conditions from which the assessment is made of any particular ailment. No hospital or doctor in my limited experience has ever not followed a code of conduct, or deliberately done adverse treatments for any commercial gain. This I shall humbly disagree with.”

“NO .. I do not advertise for the Hospital, I want to thank them for THE care and treatment that I got from Nanavati I shall and have done it for every Hospital that I have been admitted to and SHALL CONTINUE TO DO SO WITH GREAT RESPECT I! You may have lost respect for me but let me tell you Jhanvi ji , I shall never loose respect for the medical profession and the Doctors of my country . And one last thing .. MY RESPECT AND RESPECTABILITY is not going to be judged by you.”
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Chapter On Tipu Sultan Dropped From Class 7 Textbook In Karnataka: Report

Bengaluru: The chapter on controversial 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan and his father Haider Ali are among those that have been dropped from the class 7 social science textbook, following the Karnataka government’s decision to reduce the 2020-21 syllabi due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the chapters on Tipu Sultan have been retained in the class 6 and 10 books, official sources told news agency Press Trust of India.

According to news agency PTI, the revised syllabus uploaded on the Karnataka Text Book Society (KTBS) website shows that in class 7, social science text, chapter 5 that deals with Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, Historical places of Mysore, and Administration of Commissioners have been dropped.

The Department of Public Instructions decided to reduce the syllabus for the year 2020-21 in view of the pandemic and disruption in the academic calendar for the year, that has been brought down to 120 working days.

Responding to a question on dropping the chapter in class 7, officials said it should be noted that the students study about Tipu Sultan from classes 6 and 10.

A couple of months ago, amid the growing clamour from some BJP leaders to remove a chapter in the textbook glorifying Tipu Sultan, the government had constituted an expert committee to look into it.

The committee however had recommended that the ruler cannot be ignored from the school syllabus.

Commenting on the development, Karnataka Congress President DK Shivakumar said that the BJP government was taking such decisions with a political agenda in mind.

Pointing out that Tipu Sultan was a historical figure, Mr Shivakumar had said “History is history…you cannot change history. We will not accept it. Congress will take it seriously by setting up a committee to look into it.”

Soon after coming to power, the BJP government in Karnataka had scrapped the birth anniversary celebrations of Tipu Sultan, an annual government event the party had been opposing since 2015 when it was launched during the Congress rule, led by Siddaramaiah.

The BJP and some other organisations have been strongly opposing Tipu Sultan, calling the erstwhile Mysore king a “religious bigot”.

Tipu Sultan was considered an implacable enemy of the British East India Company. He was killed in May 1799 while defending his fort at Srirangapatnam against the British forces.

Tipu Sultan, however, is a controversial figure in Kodagu district as Kodavas (Coorgis), a martial race, believe that thousands of their men and women were held captive during his occupation and subjected to torture, death and forcible conversion to Islam.

He was also accused of execution of Mandyam Iyengars at the temple town of Melkote in Mandya district on the day of Deepawali as they supported the then Maharaja of Mysuru.

However, the scale of such suppression is disputed by several historians, as they see Tipu Sultan as a ruler who took on the might of the British.

While BJP and some other organisations see Tipu Sultan as a “religious bigot” and a “brutal killer”, a few Kannada outfits call him “anti-Kannada”, saying he had promoted Persian at the cost of the local language


5-Year-Old Telugu Boy from UK Raises Rs 3.7 Lakh for Covid-19 Relief by Cycling for 3,200 Km

Manchester resident Aneeshwar Kunchala started a cycling campaign in May called ‘Little Pedallers Aneesh and friends’ in May. Under the campaign Aneesh, along with 60 other children, embarked on a 3,200 km journey on bicycles.

Not just India, the five-year-old also started a cricket championship to support UK’s National Health Survey (NHS) in fighting the pandemic in Britain, The Times of India reported.

In previous reports, it was revealed that Aneeshwar had been inspired by the 100-year-old British veteran Sir Thomas Moore who helped raise over Rs 3,17,34,32,199 (nearly 40 million) to help the medical fraternity in UK by walking 100 laps of his garden with the help of his walking aid.

READ: 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore Raises $8 Million for NHS with Walk in His Garden

Photos and videos of Aneeshwar have flooded social media since then. Andrew Fleming, the British High Commissioner to AP and Telangana, shared the boy’s amazing feat on Twitter.

The little boy has since become a star in the UK with several British politicians paying Aneeshwar a visit.

Warrington South MP Andy Carter paid the boy, whose parents are from Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor, a visit. MP Charlotte Manager is also set to mee Aneeshwar on august 6.

In a May a six-year-old boy named Tony Hudgell went viral in the UK for similar reasons. The little boy from Kent had had his legs amputated as a baby following horrific abuse by his birth parents. Now six, the boy led a walking campaign to raise Ra 1,39,47,000 for the hospital that saved his life as a baby.


NSCN-IM Retorts to Nagaland Governor, Denies Extortion and Calls it ‘Legitimate Taxation’

The NSCN-IM seems convinced that the Governor was “not the right person to solve the long-standing Indo-Naga problem” if he considered the Naga issue as a ‘law and order’ problem.
UPDATED ON: JUNE 29, 2020, 9:27 AM IST
Karishma Hasnat , CNN-News18
File photo of Nagaland Governor RN Ravi.NSCN-IM Retorts to Nagaland Governor, Denies Extortion and Calls it ‘Legitimate Taxation’
Taking a dig at Nagaland Governor and Naga Accord interlocutor RN Ravi, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) said it did not extort people but levied genuine taxes on them. The NSCN-IM’s statement comes in the backdrop of a letter written by the Governor to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on June 16, slamming the state machinery over its failure to address growing concerns about the state’s law and order, which he claimed had “collapsed”. Ravi said that the state government was being challenged on a daily basis by “armed gangs that question the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.”

The NSCN-IM, on the other hand, seems convinced that the Governor was “not the right person to solve the long-standing Indo-Naga problem” if he considered the Naga issue as a ‘law and order’ problem


Lockdown: Fresh protests in Surat, second such agitation in a week

Gujarat has reported 617 positive coronavirus cases so far. While Ahmedabad has 373 cases, Vadodara has reported 113 such cases. A total of 28 people have lost their lives.

Migrant workers gathered in the Varachha area of Surat and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.
Throwing all lockdown rules to the wind, a sea of migrant workers gathered in Gujarat’s Surat on Tuesday evening as they demanded that arrangements be made to facilitate their return to their native places. The migrants gathered in the Varachha area of the city and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.

Reports suggest migrants resorted to violence and demanded vehicles to go back to their native states. As soon as the administration learned about the gathering, they rushed to the site to control the crowd.

Hours after migrant labourers staged a protest at Mumbai’s Bandra against the authorities amid coronavirus lockdown, hundreds of textile workers in Surat gathered around Varachha area on Tuesday. The workers were demanding that the government should make arrangements so that they could reach their homes. These labourers are mainly from Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Amit Shah had called Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray Over Bandra Incident, Said ‘Such Events Weaken Fight Against Coronavirus’.

“Our senior officials rushed to the spot, and the people were persuaded to return to their homes without any further aggravation,” reported The Economic Times quoting RB Brahmbhatt, Surat Commissioner of Police as saying. Some labourers also complained that their employers are not giving their wages. As per reports, around 12 lakh migrant labourers work in Surat. Lockdown Extended in India Till May 3


Mob Kills One, Injures Eight Over Witchcraft Allegation in Meghalaya

Shillong: A 25-year-old man died after he and his friends were attacked by a mob on the suspicion of practising witchcraft in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, police said on Tuesday.

Eight people suffered injuries in the assault.

A total of 27 people, including two minors, were arrested on Monday night in connection with the incident at Pashang village, when the nine picnickers were attacked with sticks, iron rods and stones while they were returning to Shillong in a vehicle, police said.

Rumours had it that a group of cult worshippers was moving around in the area in a car, they said.

“The group had gone to Syntung for picnic and on their way back to Shillong on Sunday night, they were waylaid by the mob near Pashang area and assaulted,” Assistant Inspector General of Police Gabriel Iangrai said.

One person, hailing from Madanrting area, was declared brought-dead at Shillong Civil Hospital, he said, adding, two others were seriously injured.

Six members of the group had managed to escape to a nearby jungle with minor injuries, from where they were rescued by police on Monday.

Health, Society

‘Stay strong, Wuhan’: Song for coronavirus-hit China from Nagas in Manipur

Participants at Manipur’s Lui Ngai Ni music festival sang expressing their solidarity for the Chinese citizens affected in Wuhan, China by CoVID - 19.Participants at Manipur’s Lui Ngai Ni music festival sang expressing their solidarity for the Chinese citizens affected in Wuhan, China by CoVID – 19. 

The song was performed on Saturday at the annual Lui Ngai Ni festival expresses solidarity with coronavirus affected China.

Songs and dances are an integral part of the annual Lui Ngai Ni festival celebrations in Manipur. But this year along with the usual festivities, something very topical and relevant took centre stage.

On Saturday, Manipur’s popular musician Guru Rewben Mashangva took to the stage and performed a song on coronavirus and urged the people of China and Wuhan city, from where the outbreak spread, to stay strong.

The song written two days earlier by lyricist Ngachonmi Chamroy was hurriedly composed by Mashangva and performed in front of an audience of around 3000 at Ukhrul, the venue of the two-day seed-sowing festival celebrated by the Naga tribes of Manipur.

“A friend of mine, Seth Shatsang, called me up on February 13 and suggested we should use the platform of the festival to convey our concern for the suffering neighbours in China. I wrote the song in just 30 minutes,” said Chamroy.

At least 1662 people have now died from the coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, in December and spiralled into a nationwide epidemic. More than 68,000 people have now been infected, with most deaths occurring in Hubei.

More than 580 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China and four deaths, one each in the Philippines, Hong Kong, France and Japan.

The song ‘China, be strong. Be strong Wuhan’, which mentions fear and despair on the empty streets of Wuhan also has lines in Chinese, Tangkhul and Nagamese languages.

“Video of the song has gone viral through social media and we are getting calls from the US, even China and Tangkhul friends from all over. Some are saying that the festival has been overshadowed by the song,” said Chamroy.

Shatsang, who gave the idea for the song, was also crucial in getting permission from United Naga Council (UNC), the organisers of the festival, to include it as a last-minute entry in the programme list.

“Idea about the song came from the heart. The disease has separated families in Wuhan and people are going through difficult times. As human beings, it is the right time to show our solidarity as it can happen anywhere,” said Shatsang, a former president of All Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM).

While the song was written in a jiffy, Guru Rewben Mashangva also had to hurry with composing the music as there was not much time available to prepare ahead of Saturday’s event.

“I got the lyrics on the morning of February 13. I composed the music the next day and since I had no knowledge of the Chinese words, I took help from my children who used their phones to get the right pronunciation. The music was arranged on the night of February 14,” said Mashangva.

While Mashangva was performing the song, several of those present held placards saying ‘Stay strong Wuhan, we are with you’.

“The response from the audience to the song was very good. Later this month, the Tangkhul Music Association has decided to organise a show particularly highlighting coronavirus at Ukhrul,” said Milan Shimray, general secretary, UNC.

Mashangva and Chamroy are planning to do a proper recording of the song along with a video in the next few days and release it to a wider audience so that the message of solidarity can spread further.