AND here are a couple of more comments on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s press conference. We begin with what The Indian Express (May 26) said. It said: “Boring, Boring, Boring”. It picked up what Dr Singh said about India being a land of a billion dollars-er-people”. That, said the Express “was one of the most telltale Freudian slips that a Prime Minister has made in recent memory” and it went on to say: “It is the psychologists, therefore, who may have obtained more material for cogitation than the journalists, whose four-year wait to find a nugget of worthwhile information proved fruitless”. He had been asked about how he related to Sonia Gandhi and his wife. Dr Singh gave an expected reply.
A disappointed Express said: “Those staggering out of his press conference could feel that it might have been better if the Prime Minister’s wife had fielded some of the questions if only to provide some hint as to which of the government’s decisions were influenced by her”. And what is the final decision of the paper? It said: “Since Sonia Gandhi hardly meets the media, Monday’s virtual non-event may persuade conspiracy theorists to detect a devious game plan to foster an atmosphere of deadly boredom where the interaction between the leaders and a section of the led will gradually lose all meaning”. To the paper what Dr Singh said sounded more like “reading out of a government hand-out”.
The Times of India (May 26) dismissed the conference as ‘staid talk’. The Times of India praised the UPA Government’s “realism” in dealing with Pakistan and indeed the “realism” that has been injected into India’s foreign policy. The paper said that the UPA “has walked the extra mile to build good relations with its neighbours” and “if the bonhomie that currently exists between New Delhi and Dhaka is translated into policies and action, it could trigger an economic boon and political stability in the eastern region”. Only, said the paper, “the UPA’s record on fighting terrorism and Maoist violence in patchy”.
On that subject The Free Press Journal (May 19) had earlier made some worthy comments. It had pointed out, for instance, that “leaders of the Congress Party are unwilling and unready to appreciate the real danger the Maoists pose to the unity and integrity of the country”. The state, said the paper “is assailed by self-doubt and confusion” adding “to neutralise the growing threat of the Maoists, the first requisite is for the entire political class to be on the same page”. The paper felt that “it is time the muddle-headed Congress leadership gave the Home Minister a free hand in order to save India from what Manmohan Singh has called its “biggest internal security challenge”. Whatever one might say of Indians, that they are argumentative, that they have no sense of cleanliness (wasn’t that what a Congress Minister said?), that they are impractical etc etc., all remarks that can be easily challenged, one thing can be said of them with a fair degree of accuracy: that they are always willing to learn and to accept new ideas.
Few nations in the world can claim to be so catholic in tastes even if, and let it be admitted, there are enough fundamentalists to give us a bad name. This statement is made in the context of a monthly journal, I received entitled The Radical Humanist. It was first set up way back in 1937 by MN Roy. Born Narendranath Bhattacharya, he had assumed the name of Manavendranath Roy, but to the world at large he was plain and simple MN Roy.
This is no place to discuss his life and times and how, during the last quarter of his turbulent political life he turned away from communism to what he called radical humanism. He even established a new party called Radical Democratic Party which, like so many parties before him and after, had only a brief existence. I had the pleasure of privilege of meeting him and interviewing him at least two times, when he had all but ceased to be a political force. He was opposed to the Quit India Movement on the ground that whether one liked imperialism or not, the worst enemies of the world were Fascism and Nazism which needed first to be eliminated and that once the war was over, an enfeebled Imperialism has to fall in to the demands of Indian Independence. He proved to be cent per cent right. What is fascinating is that his concept of radical humanism is remembered and pressed forward by his devote disciples in The Radical Humanist to this day.
The journal was earlier known as Independent India from 1937 to 1949. In its later form it is as attractive as ever. What is Radical Humanism, by the way? The latest issue has an article from K Pratap Reddy, a senior Advocate of the Andhra Pradesh High Court discussing the tenets of radical humanism. Shri Reddy makes the point that Radical Humanists “cannot be confined to any dogmatic or fundamentalist or a straight-jacketed concept of exclusiveness”. That needs to be said. The trouble with most concepts is that they tend to be fossilised at which point they become irrelevant. One would imagine that Roy himself would have been opposed to fossilising his ideas which remain valid to this day. If only our Maoists would realise that peoples’ welfare is based on humanism and humanism does not permit of imposed suffering, we would have a happier India. As Gomati Desai writes in the current issue: “In India, secular humanism is allied with the formation of non-violent social relationships, a balanced relationship with nature and the right of the hungry to eat, equal rights, education etc in a common struggle against superstition”. She could well have said that Maoism is another form of political superstition.