Well, two main reasons (apart from sheer fatigue and laziness).
Let's start with my hesitation to cast a public light, however dim, on Binayak and his family while they recovered from their two-year ordeal. After the initial flurry of interviews on the mainstream TV channels and newspapers, Binayak and his wife Ilina went into hospital at CMC Vellore, attended by their older daughter Pranhita. The check-ups there revealed that Binayak himself indeed had a heart condition, as was diagnosed while he was in prison, but was not in any imminent danger if he took care of his health. The real shocker was the detection of cancer in Ilina, his wife of thirty six years, whose health had been worsening through the two-year ordeal. Since then, she has had a couple of operations, including one to remove the cancerous organ, and has been undergoing chemotherapy for the last few months. Fortunately, the prognosis is said to be good, since the cancer was detected early.
Throughout these months, Binayak has occasionally made public statements on various occasions to draw attention to the need for abjuring violence on both sides of the conflict between the state and the Maoists, and expressing his abhorrence of both Maoist as well as state violence. Predictably, in the context of recently announced security operations to deal with the maoist menace, he, along with other intellectuals with a similar message, is drawing the wrathful ire of various media commentators for maintaining a "moral equivalence" between the "cancer" and its painful "chemotherapy", or for being a secret admirer of the maoists. I hope to write more about these arguments in subsequent posts.
The other reason for the silence has been that there has been too much to write about, but too little time in which to write it. Various professional and personal commitments have left me little time to write as frequently as I would have wished. My computer contains a folder full of comments that I had started on but had to abandon, mostly in the area of politics, but also in education. So let me summarize some of the issues that I would have liked to write about if I had the time.
In the realm of politics, I have observed with a mixture of unease and schadenfreude, and even some faint hope, the collapse of the BJP. It doesn't take a genius to see that on economic matters, there isn't a great deal of difference between the Congress and the BJP. Both are wedded to a development model that is friendly to large corporate business and the "people-like-us" middle (or PLUM) class (blogging, twittering, English-speaking, web 2.0 friendly, with regular jobs paying a decent five-figure monthly income or more - yes, I mean people like me) at the expense of the poor and the destitute who make up about half the population of the country. So it's not surprising that they see eye to eye on the need for responding violently to the resistance to their shared development model among the people on whom development is to be forced. (Maoism/naxalism is irrelevant to this, because the violent suppression of popular resistance to the corporate version of development pre-dates even "maoism 1.0" of the 1967-77 era).
I suspect that the main appeal of the Congress for PLUMmers and "Bleeding Heart Liberals" (a term of abuse from the right for people like me with my views on secularism and tolerance) is a cultural one: I find the shrill and violent majoritarian victimology of the BJP and its so-called "parivar" utterly abhorrent. If the BJP had defined its Hindu identity even partly in terms of a concern for the rights of the poor, the malnourished and the powerless, and looked for common ground with people of other religious communities, I might have looked for some common ground with them. Note that there is no strong positive reason to prefer the Congress, they simply come off better by comparison to the odious BJP. The problem with the Congress, moreoever, is that it has yet to shed its image as a party that is opportunistic and cosmetic in its commitment to secularism - recall November 1984, and its failure to deal firmly with the criminals in the rising rightwing BJP in the late eightiesand early nineties. Its espousal of the Muslims often appeals to the most retrograde sections of the Muslim leadership, and shows little substantial progress in dealing with genuine grievances of Muslims (which in most cases are similar to the grievances of other oppressed sections of the people).
Internationally, the conditions of life for more and more ordinary people in India, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine, Congo, Darfur, Somalia, Ingushetia...I could add half a dozen more countries...have gone steadily from dire to catastrophic. The prospects of economic and political recovery in the US, where a cabal of "banksters" (a richly evocative neologism) appears to have enriched itself at the expense of the taxpayers by taking over the treasury and the central bank, seems more illusory than ever. The US is also the country that now spends more on weapons and war than all other countries in the world collectively. Which leads me to ask: why are so many people paralyzed into apathy and inaction, or consumed by manufactured hatred, or driven to such suicidal extremes of humiliation and despair that they blow themselves up in marketplaces, railway stations and offices? What kind of world can today's young people look forward to as adults?
Such questions have also compelled me to engage once again with what it means to be a teacher when the whole world seems to be headed towards disaster in a few decades. Has there been a time before within the memory of generations still living when hope for the future seemed as illusory as it does now? Most students whom I teach, as well as many of my colleagues, seem to believe that the world should simply be accepted as it is. For most of them, the function of education is to train the next generation for success in the world as it exists, not to clutter their minds with ideas of how to change that world. I remind them that if past generations had accepted the world they found as it was then, the girls among them might not be in school, nor might all people have the right to vote equally. I remind them that if they don't change their world for the better, others will, and in directions that my students may not always seek. Yet already this sounds too simplistic and unconvincing. Recent history as well as current events also tell me that the most significant attempts to change the world for the better amounted to attempts at re-engineering societies to a design conceived by an elite and self-aggrandizing caucus of intellectuals, politicians and business people, and have usually ended in tragedy or farce, but always in horrendous human suffering.
Looking around me now, I wonder what we should tell the generation we are educating. What should we educate them to be and do? And why should they believe us when we tell them not to lie, cheat and steal, and to deal honestly with people, and be compassionate to those who happen to be suffering? Why should they believe us especially when the message from business leaders, politicians and celebrities of various kinds seems to value "success" or "victory" at any price, when almost anything can be justified in the name of the freedom of the market, or of the national interest, or of power, privilege or personal gain?
Part of a reassuring answer is that each generation has always worried about the next in similar ways, yet we have not only survived, but many individuals seem to have managed to do so with their individual moral compasses more or less intact. And this is true not just of individuals, but also occasionally when individuals have acted collectively. Binayak's release on bail is an example of this, but also a reminder that our systems of justice are not working for many others. Another part of the answer is to note that the ongoing wars and conflicts have merely confirmed - more plangently than ever - the need to be truthful and compassionate and honest, and to treat claims of victory and success in these conflicts with the greatest suspicion. What I believe we should educate our students for is to add to the cacophony of voices for change, to help create new models for human flourishing and the affirmation of life, to seek to build peace, conviviality and justice. However many the faults of the United Nations, and whatever the arguments about the means to achieve them, its Millenium Development Goals and Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain almost universally agreed concrete expressions of these aims, and can constitute the driving force for an entire educational curriculum. The increasing rapidity of change, and the dire necessity of confronting it, makes such a curriculum a matter of survival, not some imaginary luxury.
Despite the "encircling gloom" with which I struggle, I find occasional gleams of light, life and laughter. The birth of our granddaughter in January this year has given me many occasions to re-live the pleasures of watching a young life grow in consciousness and awareness, but differently now, in ways too numerous to mention, than when we first became parents. The delights of playing with her and making her acquaintance have also sharpened the inevitable poignancy of separation, though mitigated somewhat by our attempts at conversation on Skype. Also unlike when our own sons were growing up, I am much more troubled now about their future, and so also about the future of our granddaughter. But was it not ever thus?
In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.
(Antoine de St. Exupery)