Dissent Opinion

The Right to Differ is a Right by Birth!

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Raising questions is not to be seen as a division between the conformists and the non-conformists. The conformists abide by the rules and norms because those rules and norms protect them. If all are protected equally on the time-span considered, then perhaps no non-conformism comes, opines Dr. Bhaskar, exclusively in Different Truths.

Something goes terribly wrong when differences in outlook and its expression orally or through pen is seen as hostility or anti-state. What we often forget is the expression in the public domain is a commitment to generations to come. Imagine pre-history when we were helpless to express meaningfully! Now that we have been blessed with that capacity, we misuse that either by telling non-sense often, hiding the truth, and antagonizing what could have shown the decision-makers the right trajectory in human civilisation.

My other point is writing comes from the heart – not only from the brain. Be it Valmiki, Rabindranath Tagore or Amartya Sen. Each one wrote for each one was pained. Pain gave them pen. On the contrary, the knowledge-proof persons know everything – so they may interpret in a way different from what the visionaries think. Of course, there are essentially two types of thinkers – one who expresses through writing and the other who does not write; the second one probably not for the reason that writing is not needed but for the inevitability as they experience. My unparallel teacher in the Department of Economics, Calcutta University, Prof. Arup Mullik had dogged determination not to write. My other teacher Prof. Amiya Kumar Bagchi wrote every hour.

My precise point is for the state decision-makers of which I am an integral component not to allow hostility by extra-legal means even if the writing at present seems anti-state for who knows that may show the future! Yes, I have in mind the latest assassination of Gauri. It does not make sense to make a comment that she was assassinated not for using her pen but for being an activist. One could establish using pen how activism could be a ground enough to be killed.   

What is needed is raising the right question by an individual impersonally. By ‘impersonally’ I do not mean ‘indifference’ but ‘preference-neutrality’. In a broader sense, raising questions is not to be seen as a division between the conformists and the non-conformists. The conformists abide by the rules and norms because those rules and norms protect them. If all are protected equally on the time-span considered, then perhaps no non-conformism comes, unless some individuals take birth ahead of their time. However, all are not affected (protected) equally, and hence non-conformism comes.

This is again not to be understood as ‘we’ and ‘they’. If the common agenda rest on enhancing ‘common benefits’ then it becomes only ‘we’. However, recorded history is full of domination of one section by the other, so that human relations come to be shaped as leader-follower, or victor-victim etc. It is here that social harmony is questioned because of its non-existence and not because of its undesirability to exist.

Take for example any relation in human history or mythology (mythology that a large section of people have accepted as life-support system). Let me quote from the Mahabharata. The great scholars present did not question the disrobing of Draupadi, wife of Pancha Pandava, at that time in the court (public place) of Dhritarashtra. The reason apparently cited was that by following the play of chess between two parties, Kauravas and Pandavas, Draupadi became commoditised at the hands of Kauravas. Let me accept for the sake of simplicity (however, assumptions are not so innocuous) that the rules of the game of chess during that time allowed commoditisation of persons along with inanimate objects. Perhaps because of the ‘instantaneous commoditisation’ of the ‘Pandava’ brothers, Draupadi came to remain unprotected. But then it would have been the task of the scholars at that time to question the very rules of the game, and the follow-up actions. I was told by some when I raised this question in an informal discussion that ‘once you are inside a game, you know the rules of the game. Either you play it, or leave the ground’ (which most of the social scientists do, preferably the second one). My point is that Draupadi was nowhere inside the game. Unless this question is solved, many of the questions that emerged later, and have possibilities to emerge, cannot be suppressed, and perhaps cannot be solved. The silence of A (the social scientist) is not a consolation for B (the victim).

Take, for example, the case of Eklavya, again from the Mahabharata. Since he is from a low caste family, hence he was denied entry as a disciple of great scholars. He learnt on his own, but then committed a mistake by declaring that he accepted Dronacharya, the teacher of the elite (the sons of the king), as his ‘Guru’ (teacher) and hence paid the penalty by cutting the thumb of his right hand, as‘Guru Dakshina’ (the tribute to be paid to the teacher). The same process also ensured the non-competitive environment by Dronacharya for the elite (the king and his successors). The question is not about why Eklavya accepted the elite teacher (or teacher for the elite) as his ‘Guru’, particularly after he was denied access to the learning domain imparted by Dronacharya, but the relevant question centers on the right of Dronacharya to give imperatives to Ekalvya to cut the thumb that would make the latter invalid functionally (on war terms) for life. If for the sake of simplicity of argument, I assume that it is a rule to pay the teacher a price, then the question comes if the price can be life-taking as opposed to life-saving, the latter being the basic purpose of learning.

The power relations are unequal relations. Often the social scientists, after careful study, may have a tendency to shift the burden of social consequence adverse on the victims on the latter. This is where the question comes. And the questions have to come from the victims. It is not that Draupadi remained without any ‘relevant’ question while being undressed at a public place. She, however, failed to get an answer from any scholar present there. It might have been that the scholars failed to see the ‘consequence’ imposed on her. But then non-observation is not an answer to the questions posed at that time. Nor can it be an answer now.

©Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

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#Politics #Economics #Dronacharya #Ekalavya #Conformists #NonConformists #Mahabharata #Pandav #Kaurav #AmartyaSen

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