Rod and Mr Reddy: A natural pairing

Ramachandra Guha

Two intellectual heroes with not a trace of pomposity and a fine sense of humour

In the past decade, I have often visited Cambridge, Massachusetts, and come to like it enormously. The town has fine cafes and bookshops and — as the home of Harvard and MIT—a greater concentration of intellectual talent than any other place in the world. The best time to visit it is in the fall, when the air is crisp and the sky cloudless, and the colours are beginning to change.

I spent the last week of October in Cambridge. I ate at some nice places, rummaged through the shelves and cartons in the Harvard and Raven Bookstores, walked through the streets, met some old friends and made some new ones. I also made a trip to Walden Pond, taking a long parikrama around it, observing the other worshippers, young and old, as well as the glorious foliage that surrounds these holy waters.

For me, among the attractions of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is that it is home to two scholars I enormously admire. One is the great historian of modern China, Roderick MacFarquhar. Rod (as I call him) is of Scottish extraction. He was born in 1930 in Lahore, where his father was a colonial civil servant. He was sent to boarding school in Scotland, and then went up to Oxford. On graduating, he became a journalist, covering Jawaharlal Nehru’s funeral for the BBC and Mao’s Cultural Revolution for The Economist. He then served a term in the UK Parliament as a Labour MP.

Roderick Macfarquhar
Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

In 1960, while still a journalist, Rod MacFarquhar had founded The China Quarterly, which quickly became the leading English-language journal on contemporary China. Before entering politics, the editor had himself written several books on China. After he failed to win re-election to Parliament, Rod chose not to return to journalism but to become an academic instead. In the 1980s, he was appointed to a professorship at Harvard University and, later, became a much admired head of its Government Department. In between his teaching and administrative duties, he authored three landmark volumes on the origins of the Cultural Revolution.

American universities have no retirement age for their professors. Some carry on teaching into their eighties and even into their nineties, determined to have a say in new appointments and curriculum changes even when manifestly out of touch. Like most politicians, most academics also do not know when to retire. Rod MacFarquhar was different. He chose to vacate his prestigious named chair when people would ask ‘Why?’ rather than ‘Why Not?’. A young friend of mine took one of his last classes, a seminar on ‘Political Leadership’, which had its students absolutely enthralled.

In retirement, Rod MacFarquhar continues to write the odd essay in The New York Review of Books, to attend seminars and answer queries from younger academics (when asked). But unlike most other academics and unlike almost all politicians, he has no desire to cling on to the vestiges of the power and the status that past accomplishments have awarded him.

Rod MacFarquhar has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the past three decades. Another scholar I venerate moved there more recently. E.S. (Enuga) Reddy was born in Nellore in 1924; after taking a first degree in Madras (where he was active in student politics), he went to New York for further studies. Thereafter, he joined the United Nations, where he worked for 35 years, ending as Assistant Secretary-General.

Mr Reddy had many different assignments in the UN. However, he was best known for steering the organization’s Special Committee against Apartheid. From the early 1960s to the mid 1980s, he catalyzed world opinion against the racist regime in South Africa. After he retired, he continued the campaign in his personal capacity. When apartheid finally fell, Mr Reddy visited South Africa where he was received like the hero he was, and decorated with a high State honour. Not long afterwards, in Mumbai, I met an activist from Durban who had spent many years in exile. When I mentioned Mr Reddy’s name, he instinctively stood up as a mark of the respect that so many ordinary South Africans have for this extraordinary Indian, and which must surely mean more to the man than the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo that he also possesses.

While working on South Africa, Mr Reddy developed a serious scholarly interest in Gandhi. He now has the largest collection of articles and clippings on the subject outside of the Sabarmati Ashram. These he shares freely with scholars of all nationalities and countless books written by others have been made possible by his generosity.

Mr Reddy and his Turkish wife (a translator of the poet, Nazim Hikmet) lived for more than 50 years in Manhattan. However, a couple of years ago, their daughter persuaded them to move to Cambridge where she was herself based. It was in this town that I saw the Reddys last month, in their new apartment off Western Avenue. We spoke, as always, mostly of the Mahatma.

Enuga Sreenivasulu Reddy

On this last visit, I also saw Rod MacFarquhar in his apartment on Memorial Drive. As I entered, Rod paid me an unexpected compliment; I was, he said, the third Indian he had known who always arrived on time. (I asked for the names of the others; they turned out to be the patriot and liberal parliamentarian, the late Minoo Masani; and the maverick economist-turned-hardline Hindutvavadi, Subramanian Swamy.)

Note that I call one man by his first name and the other by a respectful prefix. This is because I got to know Rod in the informal, relaxed world of the American academy; whereas Mr Reddy is my father’s age and has been, in terms of his influence on my own work on Gandhi, a father-figure.

Roderick MacFarquhar and Enuga Reddy do not know one another. It is very likely that they do not know of each other. Yet, in this writer’s mind, they make for a natural pairing. Both have made major contributions to scholarship and to public life. Both have nurtured institutions and mentored many talented individuals. Both have strong roots in their native country but are greatly admired in a country not their own: China in the case of Roderick MacFarquhar, South Africa in the case of E.S. Reddy. And yet both made their home and carried out their profession in a third country altogether: the United States of America.

Rod and Mr Reddy are also united by attributes of personal character. In their prime, both wore their learning as well as their professional distinction lightly. Now, in retirement, they absolutely do not crave or miss the power or fame they once possessed. Neither has a trace of pomposity; both have a fine sense of humour (often aimed at themselves). Both are generous with their time and their resources; Mr Reddy has donated rare South African materials to Yale and rare Gandhi materials to the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, while Rod is keen to donate his great library of Chinese materials to a university in India.

While in Cambridge in late October, I enjoyed my time in the bookstores around Harvard Square and my walk around Walden Pond. But the highlight of my visit was the darshans I had and the conversations I conducted with Roderick MacFarquhar and Enuga Reddy, two of my personal heroes.

courtesy : "The Telegraph", 10 November 2018


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s idea of nationhood is, as it were, a Xerox copy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was determined that the state he was bringing into being would privilege one religion and one language alone.

Source: Anandabazar Patrika

One of the joys of reading old newspapers on microfilm is the serendipitous discoveries one makes. Looking for reports on Gandhi’s stay in Calcutta in August-September 1947, I came across a remarkable letter written by an unknown Indian. His name was M.S. Ali, he lived in Dum Dum, and his letter, published in The Statesman on August 12, 1947, read as follows: “Sir, — Pakistan State will consist of five provinces — each of which has a distinct language of its own. Of these Bengali is most advanced, its vocabulary is rich and flexible, compared with it the others are poor languages.

“Urdu, though highly advanced and rich, is not a language of the masses of India or of Pakistan. Its use is confined to the educated north-west Indian Muslims. It should not therefore be made Pakistan’s State language, far less, the medium of instruction in the Pakistan universities. If a foreign language, European or Indian, is thrust upon Pakistan’s provinces, a set of people speaking that language will get the upper hand over others. This will greatly hamper the progress of Pakistan as a whole.

“I suggest that each of the five provinces should have a board of specialists in different languages and this board should be put in charge of inter-provincial correspondence and other inter-connected matters. This would solve the linguistic difficulties. The Centre, like the provinces, should also have a board of its own and thereby avoid adoption of any particular language as its own. If a particular language is at all necessary for the Central Government I suggest the use of English.”

The writer was a Bengali-speaking Muslim, who perhaps sought to move to the east of the province once it became part of Pakistan. Yet his letter did not merely express a parochial Bengali sentiment. Ali knew that the other provinces of the soon-to-be-formed state of Pakistan also had their own dominant language, which in each case was not Urdu. The residents of Punjab principally spoke Punjabi, the residents of Sind principally spoke Sindhi, the residents of the North West Frontier Province largely spoke Pashto and the residents of Balochistan largely spoke Baloch. He thus asked for each of these languages to be respected and promoted. And he asked further that a language utterly foreign to the majority of citizens of a future Pakistan, namely Urdu, not be imposed on them.

The sentiments were admirable and far-sighted, but the founder of Pakistan was not listening. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was determined that the state he was bringing into being would privilege one religion and one language alone. Here, Jinnah was deeply influenced by Western models of nation-making, wherein residents of a particular territory had been forcibly brought together and united on the basis of a shared language and a common religion. On the other hand, Jinnah’s great rival and contemporary, M.K. Gandhi, had chosen an altogether different model of nation-making, which respected diversity and difference, and refused to identify citizenship with a single language or a single religion.

Six months after Pakistan was created, its governor-general visited the eastern part of the nation. In a major speech in Dhaka on March 21, 1948, Jinnah said: “There has also lately been a certain amount of excitement over the question whether Bengali or Urdu shall be the state language of this province and of Pakistan. In this latter connection, I hear that some discreditable attempts have been made by political opportunists to make a tool of students in Dacca to embarrass the administration.”

Then Jinnah continued: “Let me warn you in the clearest terms of the dangers that still face Pakistan and your province in particular, as I have done already. Having failed to prevent the establishment of Pakistan, thwarted and frustrated by failure, the enemies of Pakistan have now turned their attention to disrupt[ing] the state by creating a split amongst the Muslims of Pakistan. These attempts have taken the shape principally of encouraging provincialism.”

Speaking further on the question of language, Jinnah remarked: “Whether Bengali should be the official language of this province is a matter for the elected representatives of the people of this province to decide. I have no doubt that this question should be decided solely in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants of this province at the appropriate time. Let me tell you in clearest language that there is no truth [in rumors] that your normal life is to be touched or disturbed, so far as your Bengali language is concerned. But ultimately it is for you, the people of this province, to decide what should be the language of your province.”

This seemed to be a concession to the depth of provincial sentiment, an appreciation of what their language meant to the Bengalis. However, Jinnah continued: “But let me make it clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead [you] is merely the enemy of Pakistan. Without one state language, no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function. Look at the history of other countries. There[fore] so far as the state language is concerned, Pakistan’s language should be Urdu.”

So, in Jinnah’s Pakistan, Bengali would be subordinated to Urdu in such matters as education, employment, government communications, and the like. In insisting that there would be only one State language, Jinnah was exhibiting a certain paranoia. He was nervous that his newly established nation would come apart if it did not adopt certain common criteria of citizenship. Jinnah wanted to make sure that Pakistan would be a Muslim nation, and an Urdu speaking nation as well.

On the other hand, Gandhi and, following him, Nehru, adopted a more capacious idea of citizenship. Here, it was not mandatory for the State to be identified with a single religion, nor indeed for one among India’s many languages to be elevated to a paramount and superior status. India would not be a Hindu nation. Nor would Hindi be forcibly imposed on the south and the east of the country. There would be no official State language, and each province would have the freedom to promote and enhance its own linguistic traditions.

As is well known, the elevation of Urdu over Bengali was a, perhaps the, major reason for the rise of separatist sentiments in East Pakistan, which grew and intensified over the years and resulted eventually in the creation of the independent nation of Bangladesh. Jinnah had claimed: “Without one state language, no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function.” In fact, the situation was the reverse; largely because of the imposition of one State language, Pakistan could not stay together and function, and broke into two. If the founder of Pakistan had the fortune to have read M.S. Ali’s published letter, and the wisdom to implement its suggestions, Bangladesh may never have come into existence.

There is one last point I wish to make. This is that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s idea of nationhood is, as it were, a Xerox copy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s. For them, to be properly Indian is to be a Hindu, and to be truly Indian is to be able to speak Hindi. While the current RSS chief speaks of the primacy of Hinduism over all Indian faiths, his epigones enact his ideas on the streets, by committing acts of violence on those who are not Hindus. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government slyly seeks to promote Hindi at the expense of other Indian languages. Fortunately, there are many Indians who think about their country in the manner that M.S. Ali thought about Pakistan. The majoritarianism of faith and of language shall not come to pass.

e.mail : ramachandraguha@yahoo.in


courtesy : “The Telegraph”, 26 October 2018

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features