Bharat ki Chhap - Episode 11: The Freedom Struggle & the Scientific Community
Director: Chandita Mukherjee; Cinematographer: Ranjan Palit
Duration: 00:51:10; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 289.173; Saturation: 0.057; Lightness: 0.370; Volume: 0.244; Cuts per Minute: 7.913; Words per Minute: 65.393
Summary: This episode captures the effects of 20th century science and technology. We examine the achievements of JC Bose, Meghnad Saha, PC Ray and Raman, their involvement in the national movement and the importance of science and technology in building an independent India.
Bharat ki Chhap:EPISODE 11
The Freedom Struggle and the Scientific Community (1900 - 1947)
Amrita: India's first telephone exchange opened. In Calcutta in 1881, with only 50 lines.
Ranjan: And Calcutta had the first electric company, in 1899.
Raghu: Electric trams came a year later
Shehnaaz: 1892: The first car 1904: A race with 60 cars!
Amrita: 1903: The Wright brothers flew the first aeroplane. By 1920, we had regular Bombay-Karachi flights.
Raghu: Cinema came in 1896. In 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke made the first feature film - Raja Harishchandra
Ranjan: 1901: Marconi transmits signals across the Atlantic.
Shehnaaz: 1906: the first radio programme.
Amrita: 1928: the first TV programme.
Ranjan: 1902: Rutherford discovers the atomic structure.
Raghu: 1930: The atom is split and its nucleus studied.
Amrita: Then we made computers, supercomputers followed.
Ranjan: We landed on the moon
Raghu: Made our own satellites
Shehnaaz: But more than all those, this century gave us an understanding of freedom, democracy and peace.
1. A song! A trading of trivia facts, where people are exclaiming on arrival of different technologies in India and comparing that with what was happening in the rest of the world. For example, a car race with 60 cars happened in Karachi and Wright Brothers flew their first airplane. Cinema comes internationally – the Lumiere brothers show their invention in 1896. By 1913 we have feature films made in India by entirely Indian cast and crew. The song offers no analysis for the origins or directions of technologies.
The song of the 20th century is set in a printing press where various headlines are being printed out. The characters are dancing around and singing about various headlines of the 20th century.
The twentieth century
A time that shook the world
An age of science and change
When dreams began to come true
The Russian Revolution made us feel
We could be masters of our destiny
In India our hopes surged
Long live the revolution!
A bullet from a gun
triggered a war, upturned the world
People had the radio for news
The end of war brought hopes for lasting peace
But there was yet another war
A kind of war never seen before
Again the sky was a battlefield
Hiroshima, a name etched forever
Science can be used to destroy
But we hoped to use it for progress
We had many dreams when we won freedom
But we speak of what happened before that
History of Mumbai
2. The sequence on Bombay/Mumbai is about the history of the city under colonial rule. Most cities in colonized India were new kinds of assimilations of people - they had people of different castes, regions and religions settling there and away from their villages where the social order was the same as had been for many centuries. In cities they came across new centers, new identities were possible. There were associations of traders from different communities, of working men, trade unions etc. There were also schools and colleges, even cinemas – new places where people of all sorts would come together and have to be together.
The British had a sea fort to store goods for export. Soon, a city came up around the fort.
Bombay. The British developed its deep harbour for commerce. Later, steamships would require big dockyards. And with the Suez Canal, Bombay became very important.
It was now the nearest Indian port from England. Many docks were built on Bombay's eastern coastline and it became a major trade centre.
Many other towns developed similarly -Calcutta, Madras.
These cities attracted many people.
People with varied skills.
Many kinds of craftsmen.
Traders and money lenders too. The city provided many avenues for earning.
By the 1850s, the British exported readymade goods and then machines to India. Thus the age of industry began here.
Traders working as agents invested in factories.
Many mills came up in Bombay, mostly textile mills.
Contrary to rural practice, people of different castes, religions, regions settled down together.
They forged a new identity - the working class.
Their unity led to a new type of organisation - trade unions. They fought not only for their economic demands, but for Independence as well - as in the workers' strike of 1908 demanding Tilak's release.
3. People began working together towards independence. 1857 was not lost on anybody and it was an aborted attempt. The railways and telegraph linked up the country – these means of communication were also useful to others and not just the administration. And because it was all linked up if there was a fall in prices of cotton, if there was a drought or flood it effected everybody. India became unified because of that common administration.
With education and writing, there grew subversive novels, poems, plays which were read by everybody and there were several instances of book and performance banning. The new intellectual class that emerged from the schools and colleges and discussion centers was quite aware of what was happening in the world and they knew that in other countries there were protests against British rule.
In 1885 you have the formation of the Indian National Congress and many other groups like the communists, anarchists, the people who believed in terrorism and many other ideologies, all working for the end of colonial rule.
By the mid-19th century, these cities emerged as centre of trade and power.
The railways and the telegraph linked the country.
Uniform administration led to economic centralisation. Flood or drought in any part began to affect all parts of the country. We began to perceive ourselves as one nation.
The spread of education in cities also brought people closer.
Many people began to acquire higher education.
A new intellectual class emerged that was aware of world affairs. They realised their colonial status, and protested against British rule, spread the spirit of nationalism. Like-minded people came together everywhere.
In Bombay, during December 1885, they formed the Indian National Congress.
Its importance grew at the turn of the century.
These new ideas originated in the cities.
Nissim: The 20th century saw especially rapid changes in all parts of the world - in science, political thought, economy and society. How did it affect India?
Maitreyi: The existing feudal tradition was replaced by a new urban culture - as in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. New classes emerged – millowners, workers, a middle class and an intelligentsia. Though a product of the British economic system, these classes led the fight for independence.
Nissim: They wanted the growth of the domestic economy. This was reflected in the Swadeshi
movement. India needed industries based on Indian capital.
Maitreyi: Scientists and technicians were needed - but such education was hard to get. The control of science was a step towards freedom. No wonder scientists joined the freedom struggle.
Nissim: Technological innovations and science studies were emphasised. The nerve centre was the capital of British India – Calcutta.
Bose Institute, Kolkata
4. J.C. Bose was a polymath. He was not just a nationalist and great teacher interested in science education. He also had very important scientific discoveries to his credit.
He understood microwaves or the potential of microwaves fairly early, and he made the first wireless transmitter. But Marconi got all the credit and patent, and the wealth and fame. J.C. Bose did a public demonstration in 1895 in Calcutta at the town hall, in front of the governor. But he wasn’t given that recognition nor was he interested in turning it into a commercial product; he simply wanted to send a message from one place to other by using wireless transmission using the waves that are found in nature. All this work was of course working on the principle of semi conductors, which were discovered and theorized about 50 years later. Semi conductors are the basis of modern electronics but all that was not appreciated at that time.
Bose is also known for his work/research on the nervous system of plants, and for this he was laughed at by all the important people of the time, even Indians and even in the late 1987 when we made this show.
This was a superficial reading and misinterpretation of his work. Bose wanted to investigate if plants have nervous systems and how do they understand and communicate to one another, do they have memory, and he was doing experiments to investigate this. Western science at the time was very reductionist at the time, and if application of your findings didn’t translate into economic gain then you could only be Einstein and you could then say whatever you liked. But a guy working in India – his original thinking and investigations didn’t really cut much ice and were not received they way they should have been.
Now the work with plant nervous systems is being used to develop sophisticated communication mechanisms, which in fact do rely on this kind of transmission.
Ranjan and Raghu visited the Bose Institute, established in 1917 by Jagdish Chandra Bose.
Dibakar Sen showed them instruments made by Bose.
Sen: Made over 100 years ago, this set has a transmitter and a receiver. When a microwave is generated, there is a deflection in the galvanometer.
Ranjan: This wireless set was demonstrated in 1895 by Bose at Calcutta's Town Hall, two years before Marconi. Bose later showed it at the Royal Society of London. He was the first widely recognised Indian scientist. The most vital part of this instrument is the receiver or coherer,
made by Bose. He realised that there are two types of receivers. 'P' or positive type, in which the current increases,
and 'N' or negative, in which the current decreases. It was not known then that these worked on the semi-conductor principle, discovered 50 years later. Today, it is the basis of modern electronics.
Raghu: JC Bose is best known for his experiments on plants. He was perhaps the first bio-physicist. His major work, though, was in physics, his subject at the University of London. He worked on the properties of electromagnetic waves, and generated wavelengths of 1cm to 5mm - a part of the microwave spectrum today.
Ranjan: At the same time, he began to study plants. Later, he worked on plant responses to stimuli - the effect of electric current on plants, and their nervous systems. To record plant responses, he devised instruments here in his lab, with local craftsmen. Other scientists also had to rely on instruments they made themselves.
5. Bose was the kind of scientist who made all his own instruments. Bose worked with people who made umbrellas, sitar strings, and crafts people who helped build his instruments that had fine understanding of material and mechanisms.
Person who came a little later was Meghnad Saha who was a physicist who also worked on building his own experimental equipment and went to the kabadi bazaars and searched for stuff. It was very difficult at that time, for people to get scientific education and to get access to books and journals, and over and above that to attempt original research by building your own equipment, it was very ambitious. It shows how these men were freethinking and very independent.
Meghand Saha, the nuclear physicist, did the same. In the Palit lab, India's first cyclotron was built. A year after the invention of the electron microscope, Saha and his students made one here.
They searched even the World War II scrap markets for the necessary materials. It was difficult, then, to get a science education, let alone attempt original research.
6. Another person highlighted in this episode is Praful Chandra Ray in the field of science and chemistry. He found even though he had students, they would end up doing clerical jobs in factories and railways. So he started a new company the Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works and it was an industry where workers and researchers shared profits. Ray became famous for making an industrial chemical called mercurous nitrate which had various applications and that earned them the funds to keep the company going and to keep doing their research.
Then he also started something called Calcutta Soapworks, Bengal Enamel, Bengal Pottery, and all these units today are in some kind of decrepit condition and they barely run. Some may have been closed off or sold off because they were taken over by the government.
All these institutions were founded with this kind of thinking of having self-reliant Indian technology.
And research without applications seemed useless. The scientist PC Ray realised that his chemistry graduates often got stuck in clerical jobs. So PC Ray and his students set up the Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical works.
Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Kolkata
It was an industry with a difference - the profits were shared by the workers and researchers. Ray became famous for discovering the process of making mercurous nitrite. He aimed to use science for India's industrial growth.
This drug and chemical plant was followed by Calcutta Soap Works, Bengal Enamels, Bengal Potteries. These units employed Indian scientists and technicians, and Indian capital.
In his last years, PC Ray went back to teaching and active social work.
In 1907, a 19 year old came to Calcutta from Madras One day, from his tram, he saw a signboard. That very evening, he met the secretary, Amritlal Sircar, and asked for research facilities. Sircar readily gave him the keys to the lab. This CV Raman began his scientific career.
Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata
Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata
Raman was born on 7 November, 1888. The Birla Industrial and Technological Museum was the venue for his centenary celebrations. Raman, a brilliant student, was a matriculate at 11. At 18, he published his first scientific paper. Though an accountant, his real interest was science. In his spare time he used to work at the IACS laboratory, conducing many important experiments.
Deeply interested in acoustics, he studied the sounds of musical instruments. Western drums have one piece of leather stretched cross the top. So each drum has only one type of sound. Indian drums are designed differently. They produce multiple tones. Raman inferred that the table
produces more tones because of the leather rings fixed in it skin and this black ring or kali syahi
in the centre.
All scientists are inquisitive. Raman was curious about the smallest detail. During his journey to Europe, he was fascinated by the sea.
Why does the sea seem blue? Till then it was thought the sea reflected the sky. And the sky was blue because of the way light collided with dust particles. Unconvinced, Raman conducted experiments to prove that just as light scatters in air, it also collides with water molecules and scatters. His experiments on light scattering in liquids led to discovery of the 'Raman effect'.
When monochromatic rays pass through a clear liquid, the photons will either pass between the molecules or collide with them. Collision causes an exchange of energy. Whether the energy is given or taken depends on the molecular structure of the liquid. Loss of energy results in a longer wavelength. If the ray gains energy, its wavelength is shorter. These changes in energy affect the colour of the ray. Raman analysed the changes in color through a spectrometer. Molecular structures of different compounds could be determined through the Raman effect, as the nature and degree of change in colour indicated the molecular structure.
This discovery in physics helped solve many problems in chemistry. And, in 1930, Raman was awarded the Nobel prize.
Raghu: That there is an ultimate truth to be discovered - this belief was the basis of Newtonian science.
Maitreyi: By the 1890s it appeared as if all the fundamental work in science was achieved. But new concepts emerged in the next 50 years and altered many old principles. The lesson: there is no ultimate truth in science.
Raghu: Einstein's equation is well-known. Mass and energy, considered as separate, were proved interchangeable – as in nuclear energy. Waves and particles, also considered separate, came to be seen as dual aspects of the same reality. This is the basis of 20th century science. X-rays, semi-conductors, transistors, nuclear plants - all these resulted from the new science.
Nissim: Scientists who came after Bose and Ray studied new developments. The theory of relativity was first translated from German into English in Calcutta by SN Bose. Bose, in collaboration with Einstein, explained the behaviour of sub-atomic particles through the Bose-Einstein statistics. Such particles were termed bosons
Raghu: Fundamental research was possible then without costly instruments or institutional support.
Udaipur Solar Observatory, Udaipur
Such research was done in astronomy too. Scientists studying orbits and planetary positions turned to a basic question: What are stars made of? This quest led to astrophysics. Meghnad Saha became a major contributor. At the solar observatory in Udaipur I met Dr. Arvind Bhatnagar.
We know the concept of colour temperature - as iron is heated, it turns red, orange and then white. This concept helped to classify stars.
Dr. Bhatnagar: Each element has unique properties. A study of the sun's spectrum reveals its temperature and the elements it is made of. These lines indicate sodium.
Amrita: The spectral analysis of light emitted by stars helped detect the presence of many elements. The sun had heavy metals like sodium and calcium, and very little hydrogen. But Sirius had more hydrogen. Does the composition of various stars differ? Meghnad Saha's articles in 1920-21 told us that different spectral lines indicated varying degrees of pressure and temperature.
If an electron is excited through extra energy, it jumps its orbit and leaves the atom - a process called ionisation. Ionisation is the cause of specific spectral lines. The surfaces of the sun and Sirius have similar elements, but different spectral lines, as the surface temperature of Sirius is 10,000K, twice that of the sun. At this temperature, sodium and calcium are already ionised. Further ionisation is impossible. Thus, the sun's spectrum has heavy metal lines, not seen in the Sirius spectrum. Saha's temperature-pressure equation enabled us to study the atmosphere of distant stars.
Dr. Bhatnagar: It would take 2000 billion hydrogen-bombs to release energy equal to that of this solar flare which can encompass 20 planets the size of Earth. Here, magnetic energy is being converted into heat. A complete understanding of this phenomenon could help solve the energy crisis
7. Meghnad Saha’s journal is called Science and Culture, which is quite significant because he is talking about science being an influence in society, and this is also his ambition to make science an important cultural and social influence.
In this episode we talk about the contradiction between two dominant models of development at this point of India’s history, and the apparent contradiction between them. One model wants massive industrialization in India after independence, and those who wanted to have small scale, low impact on environment, highly employment generating craft-based industries. The latter ideals of a village republic, where everything is more or less found within a short distance, were not fashionable in the 1950s and the Planning Commission went ahead with the Soviet model of development. People like Saha were active in the Planning Commission. The previous generation of scientists, like Saha’s teacher P.C. Ray was very much taken up with indigenous ideas, including the then national obsession with charkha and khadi. He was keen on small scale hand made crafts industry rather than industrial manufacturing. But Saha was of the next generation of scientists that wanted to build dams and tame the flow of rivers which would flood villages, to protect them.
In BKC we don’t deal with this contradiction in much depth because of the way the series is structured – we were working in 5 to 7 min sequences in which everything had to be said and one had to move on and not return to topics. We tried to represent different points in this debate equally.
Meghnad Saha appears unique in his awareness of contemporary problems. He was one of the architects of the country's future. When Raghu and I visited Calcutta's Saha Institute, we met the Chatterjees, Saha's biographers. Shantimoy also edits Saha's magazine Science and Culture
Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
Presidency College, Kolkata
Modern science came late to our country. Scientists like PC Ray, JC Bose and Saha were perhaps romantics. They created an atmosphere of research. Saha had a broad vision. He felt the freedom struggle had to complemented by organised scientific progress.
While documents help us understand the past, meeting people from that period gives us an insight. Going through this journal started by Saha, I can sense the ambience of his times. Perhaps because scholars here were his students and his journal's office is still on the same campus.
Raghu: The Planning Commission envisaged industrialisation to combat poverty and unemployment, for national security and economic prosperity.
Santimay: Saha could never accept the philosophy of charkha
although his guru, PC Ray was totally converted it. He believed that large scale industrialisation is extremely important to quickly develop the resources of the country and bring the result to the people of India.
Enakshi: His concept of industrial growth stressed river planning. He came from a Bengal village which was flood-prone. Later he went abroad - he saw the Tennessee Valley Project in America. He wanted to emulate it here, to effectively utilise our river water resources.
Saha's writings reflect this desire.
Addressing the Bengal Youth Congress, he said: “Our religious founders erected walls of superstition and ritual to dominate the lower castes. Instead, foreigners dominated us for years. It will be a mistake to idealise simple living. We must master, not avoid, western machines. I do not negate sacrifice, but action is important. Sacrifice is often incompetence in disguise”
8. Saha’s quote indicates what his frame of mind was and what he was battling with, and that is why it is included in the series. Today if I put a quote like this then I would have to explicate about this outlook, and I wouldn’t agree with this fake contrast between simple living and Western machinery, or with the cultural thinking that creates this contradiction. Now with the environmental global crisis, our concerns have moved on.
All of the scientists were from landed communities, Saha was more middle class than the others but most were privileged. This might explain why they devoted their lives to planned development, if they had to be railway clerks or were from other backgrounds, then such thinking would not have been possible.
We try to show is how these personalities linked up with each othr through the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. Bose and Ray taught at Presidency college, Saha was their student. Sircar’s colleague Ashutosh Mukherjee started the college of science. So they were all close to one another, either contemporaries or students and teachers of one another.
Raghu: His anxieties can be understood in context.
Enakshi: Yes, he had many dreams about independence, about planning, but now things were taking time. He had much to say, but no real forum. In 1952, he contested the parliamentary elections, and won a seat from Calcutta.
Raghu: Didn't he play a major role in setting up the National Planning Committee? The National Planning Committee under the chairmanship of Pandit Nehru collected almost every important scientist from all over India. Saha had an important role in this.
Raghu: These scientists were associated with the IACS. Both Bose and Ray taught at the Presidency College. Saha was their student. ML Sircar's colleague - Ashutosh Mukherjee – started the College of Science, the first post-graduate science college in India. There were many scientists, in different fields, yet they shared a vision.
Ranjan: Those were the times of the Independence struggle. Science, too, became a weapon. They realised that a cause of our colonisation was our backwardness. We had to keep up with scientific advances abroad, develop our science, make our own instruments, become self-reliant.
Raghu: Many scientists delivered lectures here. Setting up research institutes, publishing journals and children's magazines, public demonstrations of their work - for them, all this was a part of science.
Ranjan: This was truly the age of science. Ramanujam did fundamental work in mathematics. Visvervaraya worked in many river-dam projects and started an iron factory in Mysore. Attempts to use foreign technologies began during this period. The links between science and industry became stronger.
Presidency College, Kolkata
Nissim: By 1930, co-operation with the British seemed futile. The demand for total independence grew. After World War I the world faced an economic crisis. Russia coped because of its planned economy, which impressed our leaders, Nehru in particular.
Shehnaaz: In 1938, The National Congress Planning Committee was formed. Industrialists, scientists and leaders came together to discuss various issue. 29 sub-committees were asked to submit reports. These reports reveal their concerns. There were differences too, on issues like family planning, public vs
private sector, priority for agriculture or industry - heavy industry or cottage industry?
Maitreyi: Serious thought was given to industrialisation - the development of various industries, technologies, governmental support, new educational institutions.
Shehnaaz: Each report stressed the need to adopt the latest technology and research. They held that science does not develop in a vacuum; it needs a supportive social base. It was historic that such issues were discussed in detail. These reports influenced independent India's policies.
9. Today we think of coal as being an environmental menace because of the damage of mining coal to the earth, and the carbon and other byproducts that burning coal throws into the atmosphere. But at that time coal was very important and therefore we have made a sequence about the whole effort for improving the quality of coal, beneficiation of coal through washing.
This scene about coal is shot in Dhanbad, which is most environmentally dismal place in the world – it is smoky and there is hardly any oxygen in the air, because all the underground veins of coal that are burning constantly and spewing smoke into the environment. The place is over run by mafia lords. In this scene we show that natural resources were being depleted recklessly and carelessly by colonial authorities. The best veins of coal which would be fuel efficient were allotted to the British companies and railways, and the rest of the lowest grade coal (20%) was allotted to Indian contractors. The highest-grade coal went at cheapest price to the railways because they were the biggest consumers, and they set the pricing.
To maximize profit more and more coal kept on being extracted. The colonial authorities ignored safety precautions, built tunnels and chambers that collapsed. Workers died in those collapses, or rivers got flooded and submerged all the coal veins. Underground fires started and those are still burning. Some of these fires are more than a 100 years old and raging through these underground veins of coal. From time to time the land above just collapses, but it doesn’t collapse so fully as to kill the fire. The fire just keeps on spreading.
Coal is a typical example of an industry of the time. Coal was the main source of energy. Amrita met many experts to find out the story of coal.
In Bihar, near Dhanbad, are vast coal reserves. Bharat Coking Coal Ltd has many mines here that supply coa to the metal industry.
Bharat Coking Coal Limited, Dhanbad, Jharkhand
Amrita: I met KK Malhotra, an environmental engineer.
Malhotra: We call this open-cast mining. Earlier, we had only underground mines.
Amrita: Do they still exist?
Malhotra: Yes, there are some old mines.
Amrita: They produced little good quality coal.
Malhotra: Much of their output could not be marketed. We had no washeries then. Only ready-to-use coal was extracted.
Amrita: Coal for the steel and metal industries must be washed to remove non-combustible substances.
In 1925, a British government report said that the coal here was too impure even for washing. So for years, coal that could have been used for industry served only as railway-engine fuel.
Indian coal washeries finally came up after 1950, like this one at Lodhna. Today, this coal is used in metal industries.
During the freedom struggle, some coal technologists tried to stop the wastage of coal. Better coal-washing techniques were demanded.
The government took no interest, nor did the mine-owners. Surveys were conducted by the British and these lands leased out. Low grade coal mines were allotted to Indians, while 80% of the high-grade mines leased to British companies.
Mines were also leased out to the Railways, the biggest consumers of coal. So they made all decisions about price and quality.
They used high grade coal at the cheapest price! Thus the best quality coal went cheap.
To maximise profits, more and more coal extracted, ignoring future needs as well as safety. The Jharia coal field has many old mines that collapsed, or were submerged.
Malhotra: The mining companies worked unscientifically. Often, mines caved in and so did the buildings above. Fired would start, and spread rapidly.
Amrita: Many old fires still raging and have spread over several kilometres.
Amrita: I've read that from 1931-45, the Jharia coal field lost about 300 million tonnes of coal - about 75% was high grade.
Malhotra: The first fire here started in 1916. Much of the coal, in the upper seams, was high-grade. Some 100 fires are still raging, the loss continues.
Amrita: About coal washing - the government made no effort. Big mine-owners could sell anyway. Small ones lacked capital, though they stood to gain. Minor efforts were made sporadically. But technological advance depends on many factors. The coal industry was no exception. Steel and metal industries were expanding gradually. High-grade coal was in demand now. And World War II led to an energy crisis. Coal washing techniques now had to be developed. Now scientists, engineers, Indian mine-owners, British companies and coal consumers came together. They received government support as well. A Fuel Research Committee was formed. Coal-washing studies were conducted, samples collected and testing plants set up. By 1946, the design for a washery was approved. A proven technique, used abroad, took many years to come, but was an immediate success. Was it pressure from the scientists? Scarcity of high grade coal? Or the war-time energy crisis?
10. In the closing scene we show that all the streams in the freedom struggle, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Lohia, Bhagat Singh, all the Meerut conspiracy case guys – all of them, actually believed in rationalism and humanitarian values as the foundation of the future after independence. They thought that science and technology would transform society and rational thinking would be the way out. There were huge challenges to this thinking in 1947, when communal forces were ripping the country apart and making two countries out of one. It was difficult to hang onto rationalism at that time and to continue to insist on humanism and democracy but they all did.
Freedom bought out all the contradictions. At the same time that everyone was celebrating independence at the ramparts of red fort, Gandhiji was fasting in Kolkata and he had really mixed feelings about what had happened. The country as a whole got together under Nehru and looked towards the future and despite all the riots and partition, they celebrated the coming of freedom. Next episode is about that
11. There is one line where we say that how ironic that today there are some people who are trying to divide people and sow discord on the basis of language and religion. In that scene there is a glimpse of a poster of Shivaji in some primary school in that area. The members of the Censor Board (Central Board of Film Certification) objected to this and asked for the removal of that shot. They said that that your film wont be harmed, and it will be fine without that one remark about communal harmony and the shot of Shivaji’s poster. But this scene might cause a lot of trouble.
I went on appeal and argued with them, asking how is this going to cause trouble and what is happening is self censorship for fear of an attack. This is long before ‘Fire’ and other controversies had happened where cinema halls were attacked. The members of CBFC said what if there is a protest outside Doordarshan, and that Bombay is the stronghold of a party named after Shivaji (i.e. Shiv Sena). What if they come and attack government property and then we would be responsible?
This was a long time ago and it sounds funny now. Members appointed in an individual capacity to act on behalf of the public and protect the public by censoring, really saw themselves as the arm of the government. I persuaded them that they were doing self-censorship, and it was just an anxiety they had. They agreed, and withdrew the demand for censorship
Science can be used to destroy
But we hoped to use it for progress
We had many dreams when we won freedom
But we speak of what happened before that
Maitreyi: Science and the freedom struggle combined to give us people like Saha and Nehru. For them, science was not only a weapon, but the very basis of life and thought. They believed in rationalism and humanitarian values.
Nissim: Gandhiji, who preached non-violence, Dr. Ambedkar, Dr. Lohia, the revolutionary Bhagat Singh - despite their ideological differences, they agreed on the need for rationalism, humanism and science.
Maitreyi: They dreamt of a future when science and technology would transform society. The country faced many problems then. Some problems are still to be tackled. By 1947, rationalism and humanism were challenged by communal forces.
Nissim: On 15 August, 1947, freedom brought euphoria and also the misery of Partition. Everyone had mixed feelings - Gandhi and Nehru symbolised these. Gandhi was on a fast in Calcutta, against the riots. Nehru was urging people to look towards new horizons. People responded to his call and despite Partition and the riots, they began celebrating their hard-won freedom.