Bharat ki Chhap - Episode 13: Retrospect & Prospect
Director: Chandita Mukherjee; Cinematographer: Ranjan Palit
Duration: 00:58:30; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 273.371; Saturation: 0.061; Lightness: 0.385; Volume: 0.241; Cuts per Minute: 5.776; Words per Minute: 77.022
Summary: Taking from excerpts from past episodes we trace our journey and look at solutions for the future. We meet local organisations training people about afforestation, adult literacy and community health and visit an experimental school where exciting activities and lively discussions move beyond the textbooks. We investigate a city which has repeated cases of communal violence. And finally we discuss some interesting outcomes and possible directions with Professor Yashpal.
Bharat ki Chhap: EPISODE 13
Retrospect and Prospect
Did they, too, sing? -Did they hum?
Did they have...
.... a language?
Surely they named their things
Taught their children what they knew
That's all very well, but...
What language did they speak?
Who were the first Indians?
1. This last episode is a flashback episode, and begins by going back to episode 2 where the characters are singing and dancing in the Bhimbetka caves. We ask again – what was the language of those first Indians, what did they do with that language, did they pass on what they knew to their children in that language, who were the first Indians? Then our characters are shown a couple of years later sitting around in their studio cum research office room, which is our office in Nehru center. They are talking and reviewing this whole journey that they have had through several thousand years of civilization in India.
Raghu: Tired of watching yourself?
Maitreyi: Yes - we
don't get to dance and sing
Ranjan: Fortunately for the viewers!
Amrita: It's not easy to do lip sync, you know
Maitreyi: I know!
Maitreyi: We met the first Indians in the Stone Age where we began our search for the Indian identity - a search that led us to the twentieth century. We spoke last time of post – Independence India. Now it's time to look back, and ahead. We've learnt that we've always had a tradition of science,
Nissim: that exchanges with other cultures have always helped science to grow, that society and science have constantly influence each other.
Maitreyi: This is an age of science and technology. How will they be used in our society? What methods will we adopt?
2. The next scene shows satellite imagery being used to plan the future. We learn about how remote sensing can be used to locate minerals, give weather reports to farmers, look at the changing state of the environment, how desserts are spreading, resources under the sea and ground water and so on. The data collected by satellites can be converted into these photographic images, which anybody including ordinary people can also read. These images give a kind of overview of India. Then this technology, known as remote sensing, was relatively new. There was a lot of pride that these images were made via a satellite that was ‘made in India’. It was not a NASA image, but from the IRS1A satellite, a project of the State that was pro people. It was said that this satellite technology would be used by various scientists to work for the benefit of the people.
Ranjan: Dr. Gupta is studying false colour composites of Sriharikota, taken by the IRS 1A satellite.
Dr. Gupta: The red here shows forests and vegetation. The blue depicts water masses. This is Pulicate Lake and this, the Bay of Bengal. Different colours can show forest types and densities.
Ranjan: Can details be seen?
Dr. Gupta: Yes, we can zoom in or out.
National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad
Remote sensing can help greatly in planning. It can be used to locate minerals, give essential weather reports to farmers, analyse the state of the environment. The spreading of deserts can be monitored, resources under the sea located, flood and drought predicted, ground water sources discovered.
The satellite sends digital signals that the receiving station records on tape. This information is analysed by a computer as required, can be converted into a photographic image of the sort being produced here.
This machine is processing one such enlarged photographic image.
Dr. Madhavan Unni of the National Remote Sensing Agency has been studying the loss of forest cover. Remote sensing can also tell us about changes in one place over a period of time for the satellite regularly scans the same area.
Forest cover monitoring is one example. The Forest Act says the minimum forest cover should be 33%, though between the plains and hills it could vary. Official statistics put our cover at 23%. But satellite images of the 1972-75 period showed it to be less than 17%. And pictures taken during '80-'82 showed that less than 14% remained.
People know of the destruction of forests - but the extent of the loss was a revelation. This report also proved for the first time that remote sensing could give us information about large areas, in a short time.
This technology shall be considered a success only when people demand satellite information, and make it an integral part of their lives - when decisions are made on its basis by farmers, forest officers, politicians.
Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
3. We meet Dr. P.C. Joshi, who was then at the Indian Institute of Economic Growth and he says that the generation of people who lived through the freedom struggle dreamt of a time when there would be scientific culture, and that this culture of rational thinking and science would help realize all our unfulfilled dreams. People would invent and create solutions for their problems on the basis of rational and humanistic understanding. This is the dream that is not fulfilled yet (in 1987) that Dr. P.C. Joshi is talking about, and science is the wealth that we have and we should make it grow.
Dr. PC Joshi teaches at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.
Joshi: Why should the West have a monopoly on science? India can help to create a new scientific culture. This was Nehru's dream -
a dream that is unfulfilled. The people of India will not enter a new age until science enters their lives. Science alone is the wealth of this age.
4. Just like the Baliraja dam in the previous episode we are looking at alternative ways that are being explored by various groups all over the country and here we go down to, a place near Udaipur where women’s groups are working. We explore the literacy movements, women’s rights, people’s afforestation movement and other related movements.
5. By the time we did this episode the program was already on air and we were really being pressured for time. Since it was being shot on film, we needed at least a gap of 2 to 3 weeks to the time of telecast. In actuality, we really did not have the time to think back. This was just really a quick montage of the significant highlights or learnings of past episodes, with the visuals from past episodes.
6. We reiterate that science needs an atmosphere for new ideas to emerge and spread and we’ll say that why didn’t science grow much during Akbar’s rule. It is however inexplicable as to what is needed to make science grow. Is it individuals like Jaisingh and his fervent interest in astronomy that led him to expend time, energy and money to make an accurate and full calendar. There is something to the quality of wonder which is true of all human beings for all times. All these are a series of speculations rather than firm realizations, and with them we reach a conclusion to the BKC series.
Learn, friends, learn
From the basics
Start from the basics
You are to be the pioneers
It isn't too late as yet
For you are to be the pioneers
Udaipur Dist., Rajasthan
Disseminating science is linked to the question of organising people to work together. Such efforts are on in many places. Take Sewa Mandir in Rajasthan, which train villagers to run their own projects - adult education, afforestation, health awareness, nursery schools.
7. We talk about the different modes of education and what the government was doing with the Ekalavya schools at that time. The Ekalavya scene emphasizes learning by doing, learning by asking questions and training teachers according to this. The children then too ask questions and don’t just passively transmit what is in the books.
Ranjan: So it came up at a meeting? What prompted you to take up this work?
Woman: The women's group decided.
Ranjan: And then? Were you trained?
Woman: At Kaya
Ranjan: By Sewa Mandir?
Ranjan: What did the training consist of?
Woman: Teaching poems, games
Woman2: If the women didn't come to literacy class I'd visit them again, explain to them.
Ranjan: How many come now?
Woman2: About fifteen
Ranjan: And how often did you have to go, to convince them?
Woman2: House to house? Often! Slowly, they understood. One must learn to sign one's name.
Ranjan: Why is it different from a thumb print?
Woman2: It's better to write
GROW FORESTS FORESTS BRING RAIN
Ranjan: How many trenches on this plot?
Man: Seven hundred and fifty
Ranjan: And what benefits did all that work bring?
Man: The excess water from trenches higher up percolates down to plants in the lower trenches. So no water is wasted - and the soil retains moisture and grass grows, binding the soil.
LET CLEANLINESS CHASE AWAY DARKNESS
DON'T DIP YOUR HAND IN THE WATER, USE A LADLE
Ranjan: How have people responded to the health campaign?
Man2: A five-member committee was set up and a meeting of villagers held. People agrees to work for this cause and a major change has come about in our homes.
Raghu: Look at these medicine samples and booklets given by drug companies to a doctor friend! Medical practice is full of 'careerism' - doctors in villages are hard to find and the drug industry aims only at profits. Drugs for TB and leprosy are in short supply but useless cough syrups and vitamins are available in plenty.
Amrita: You're talking about the curing
of disease but surely prevention
Raghu: Well, take workers exposed to health hazards - here's a report on Bombay's sewerage workers. Their demands for better equipment and conditions have always fallen on deaf ears. Recently, some lawyers, doctors and others formed the Occupational Health and Safety Centre - and their first study was on these workers.
Amrita: Science, we've seen, can't change society on its own, nor can the people's science movement do so. But it can show us ways we hadn't seen before, or lacked the courage to embark upon. It can play a major role by joining forces with peasant and worker movements, govt projects, school education. And by using the mass media.
Raghu: These films, too, were inspired by the people's science movement. Our attempt to know, and communicate what we learn, about India's scientific past -this, too, is part of the work of people's science. Shall we begin?
-From the very beginning?
Knowledge and science grew, society wore new colours
The sequence of our evolution was roughly the same everywhere. Tool-making techniques also reflect this. The use of a handle saved human energy, and the tool developed as well. And when humans learnt to hurl spears, their tools did the running for them. These light tools with small, sharp blades bring us to the threshold of agriculture.
Agriculture began, and just 3000 years later came the Harappan cities!
A brick is the basic unit of a wall. Walls make a house. A group of houses is a neighbourhood. Streets link these to form a city. Cities can come up haphazardly but the Harappan cities were all well-planned. Fired brick was hardly used in the Vedic Age cities but for their ritual altars, they used kiln-fired bricks. Thus their geometry grew, as the
The Greek proof of this theorem, taught in schools, is based on the triangle. The Shulbasutras
explain it using the rectangle. Take a rectangle. On two adjacent sides, make squares. Draw a diagonal through the rectangle and make a square on it. The sutra
says that the square on the diagonal equals in area the sum of the squares on the sides. We must also remember that the Shulbasutras
give no proofs of theorems. Some scholars hold that proofs existed but were not worked into the sutras
. Yet it's true that because of this lacuna our geometry, unlike Greek geometry, never developed a logical system.
brahmans kept all knowledge to themselves. Women were denied the right to learn, so were the lower castes
Ayurveda was different
In Bastar we met a medicine man, Ganjuaramji. Ayurveda
stresses learning from folk traditions - this made it unique among the disciplines of its time. The Sushrata Samhita
says that to learn about medicinal plants, physicians must seek the help of those who gather forest fruit, leaves, roots - hunters, shepherds etc.
The Charaka Samhita
speaks of three modes of diagnosis – authority, direct observation, logical analysis. But authority must
pass the test of observation and analysis.
Ayurveda called for the close scrutiny of things. Because debate was possible, progress was made. That's how science grows. But where there is no freedom of thought, things gets oppressive - and anti-establishment views emerge
All round was a strange disquiet
A revolution was under way
Someone said -
“Life is an illustion and struggle futile”
Someone said -
“There is no God in this world”
Someone else said -
“It makes no difference
Good deeds or bad – for good is not rewarded
not bad deeds punished”
Why is the colour of this mug brown? And of the sky, blue? Why does this orange smell so sharp? Is there really an orange here at all? Yes, because my senses tell me it exists. These are questions of science, and of philosophy. The materialists believe in their sense, while the idealists denied the reality of this world. And the Lokayatiks – extreme materialists - cared little for wordy debates.
- But when you dream of a well? The well isn't there when you wake up. Our waking life, too, is like a dream and you cannot prove this well really exists.
- Friend, I know the well I dreamt of was illusory, for my senses and reason told me that was a dream. This proves our senses and reason tell us the truth. And when you
call your dream an illusion aren't you, too, relying on your senses and reason? How then can you say that they deceive us? You contradict yourself!
- Right, so the well exists. But is there water in it?
- These Lokayatiks will never allow us any peace!
Shehnaaz: Scholars of the time must have had to put scientific and unscientific matters side by side. Otherwise, we might not have even known of them.
Ranjan: Also, those may have been their beliefs - they, too, were part of that society.
Raghu: That's why I consider Aryabhata unique. Except for an invocation at the start and end the Aryabhatiya
has nothing extra-scientific in it.
Of the metals, gold most impressed the ancients for it never lost its lustre. It began to be thought that partaking of gold in some form would ensure an equally perfect body. Thus alchemy strove to discover two secrets - that of turning base metal into gold and that of immortality. So they experimented with a variety of minerals and plants. This knowledge could have let to modern chemistry but stayed confined to the medicines of Ayurveda
Contact with other lands also helped science
Yes. In alchemy and mathematics the Arab-Sino-Indian exchange was fruitful.
The zero existed not only in India but in other ancient cultures – Babylon, China. Though it was our mathematicians who used the digits 0 to 9 to depict numbers of any size, and made the zero an independent number. Brahmagupta, in the 7th century framed a new set of rules – the operations of zero.
Science needs an atmosphere which allows new ideas to emerge and spread. Then why didn't science grow much in Akbar's time? There was so much cultural exchange, translations of Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit works - an open atmosphere is perhaps not enough.
Take Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur
Yes, what led to
his interest in astronomy?
In his book he wrote:
“The places of the stars, appearances of the new moon, eclipses of the sun and moon, the conjuction of heavenly bodies - when these are computed by this book they shall arrive as near as possible at the truth”
He must have been curious - looking up at the sky and wanting to know more
This quality of wonder is true of everybody who has done major scientific work
It's true of all humans! Without that wonder we'd still be in the Stone Age
The past tell us who we are
'What's past is past' but it brought us here
And here is where we can seize the day
To shape our future in a different way
Hoshangabad Dist., Madhya Pradesh
Today we'll collect plant and soil samples. Later, we'll sit and discuss these. Take care not to injure the plant while plucking leaves etc.
The class will separate into groups.
I visited some schools in Madhya Pradesh, where the Eklavya group works with the local school system. The first experiments were in science teaching.
Now which of these is a dicot root?
-Sir, this one. -And the monocot root?
-Which root does this have? -Monocot
-And what is this plant? -Soyabean
-What root does it have? -Dicot
Can you name a fruit that shows where its flower was?
No? Well. Let's go to the vegetable market
Do you see any vegetables like that?
-Yes, sir -Which ones?
Brinjal, tomato -
-What do you see? - The flower
Gourd, cucumber -
-They bear the flower's ...? -Mark
GOVT MIDDLE SCHOOL, UDAN
By reforming the method of science teaching we hoped to transform ways of thinking - to encourage a scientific outlook which went beyond the things of science, so that people would look at everyday things and at society in a new way, and start asking questions. So we tried to learn from the experience of those who'd been teaching for many years in village schools etc, asked them to join us. They told us what sort of problems they faced and how to present things so children would understand easily.
Earlier, the syllabus was rigid, but now it's more flexible. Children learn by doing things. The parts of a flower used to be explained by a simple drawing. Now children bring various flowers to class, ask many questions, express curiosity. If the teachers don't know all the answers they consult their colleagues.
During training, the teachers do practicals themselves. There is discussion and debate - and this is the method they'll adopt in class, so that children learn to question.
The children had begun to ask questions in other subjects too. But the teaching methods were not geared to cope with questions that went beyond the scope of the syllabus. Then for history, civics and geography new syllabi were developed. In history, the aim has been to understand social contexts of the past and, in their light, to critically examine established values.
8. In a scene at the school child is asked whether he would take a lower caste child home with him for lunch. He says no, my parents would object and wouldn’t allow it. By himself he thinks that education and merit is what is important and not caste. All the children agree with this child. The scene is complicated and real, but rather than take a risk Doordarshan decided to remove the scene. We don’t know the actual reason since these were some of the scenes that were removed without asking or communicating with any of us from BKC, but at the moment of telecast we would realize that a scene has been removed. We can only speculate that some bureaucrats in Doordarshan said you called somebody brahmin and chamar, and just with these words we will incite a riot because someone will not like it. It is better to not refer to existing caste prejudices at all.
9. The objection was that you are encouraging casteism by having a scene in which a child says in public that he would not take another classmate home for lunch. This means he is practicing untouchability, and this is illegal in constitution. As the channel of the State, Doordarshan cannot show these unconstitutional activities going on or appear to promote them. Also this is happening in a government school. This bureaucratic paranoia is probably what led to the scene being chopped off. None of the makers or those involved in BKC even knew this was going to happen, and it was chopped off before it was telecast. Only while watching were we surprised by these scenes cut by the State. The other scene cut in a similar manner, without warning or discussion, were those in which Medha Patkar appears and talks about the Narmada dam.
10. My opinion with regard to the episode of the child and what he says in classroom, is that it is refreshing that such discussions are even happening in a classroom. Hopefully these children continue to talk like this, openly. This conversation should perhaps be viewed without our contemporary understanding of merit, which got much more complicated because of the reservations under the V.P. Singh government and the Mandal commission riots that took place.
“In the time of Buddha and Ashoka occupations were yet to be divided caste-wise. But some castes had emerged – like the brahmans
. They wrote the lawbooks which laid down harsher punishments for the lower castes”
So caste is still a barrier?
Would you take a lower-caste boy home for lunch?
My parents would object
-Why? -Because of his caste
-And what is your caste? -Sir, we're brahmans
want to invite him over?
Yes, sir, but my parents wouldn't allow it.
-Is that so far all? -Yes, sir!
Is it reasonable today to have caste as any kind of basis?
How should we assess a person today?
That's right. Today, the criterion is -?
Discussions about caste or religion can lead to conflict in the classroom, so teachers must use tact. With civics, too, the attempt was to analyse government planning and policy with reference to the local context. “The Green Revolution led to higher yields, but mainly in areas that were fertile anyway. Big and medium farmers benefited most” So our food problem was solved, but the gap between rich and poor grew wider. Poverty is much talked of in this country.
But it doesn't go away.
What's that?! Now why do you say it'll keep increasing?
Sir, poverty increases as population rises
I see! How simple. What else?
How is population linked to poverty?
And when you finish your studies will you join the ranks of the poor, or...
-The rich! -We can't say
Sir, we could go into business
“Greater productivity did not, then, ensure progress. Student demonstrators in Gujarat and Bihar sought a guarantee of employment. Landless farmers in Bihar and Bengal demanded land.”
One moment – yes?
Sir, why did students
agitate for employment?
Think. The students saw their educated seniors roaming jobless, and they wanted to make sure their own future would be different.
For instance, are you sure you'll get jobs?
-No, sir. -Read on. Is that clear?
“What do you think is the reason for poverty in our country? How would you eradicate it, and increases productivity?”
The new syllabus has questions that relate to the students' environment. Thus, children grow more aware of their rights and duties, which is the main aim of civics.
What if India were not to take loans?
Loans force us to submit to external pressures.
Sir, if we don't take loans we can grow what we like in our fields -
True. Self-reliance is a good thing
And what if we give
loans to other nations?
-We'll order them around! -We won't be poor!
A key aspect of this experiment is the attempt to transform attitudes - both, of the teacher, and of the teaching method. And these are no small matters!
Shehnaaz: Those children were wonderful! But I can't help thinking as grown-ups in the outside world, will they still ask questions in this way?
Nissim: Well, some childhood habits do remain.
Ranjan: I don't think society encourages such things - asking questions, looking minutely at everything. And given everyday tensions, economic problems etc. such high-minded ideas stand little chance.
Shehnaaz: A bigger problem, Ranjan, is the social pressure to conform.
Nissim: Stick to orthodox ideas and ask no questions that needn't be asked.
Ranjan: In such an atmosphere, to doubt or ask for proof needs a special resolve.
Nissim: Yet it's possible. In older times, such people would lose caste, or be imprisoned.
Shehnaaz: That still happens in some places. Here, too, medieval thinking coexists with mixers and Marutis!
11. As a director and someone involved throughout BKC series, I have to say that we got away with only minor censorship; only a few cuts were demanded and a couple scene-removals were made in an ad hoc fashion, but this was not that many. Today what we could say would be far more censored, if we did a similar series on history of science and technology in India. And this would not be by the State or government channel like Doordarshan, but even by private media channels if they chose to telecast such a series. In all probability, most private media channels would not even play such programs.
If Europe needed some two centuries to remove inequality, it's possible today, with science to eradicate illiteracy and untouchability in ten years. China did it and so did Vietnam. Many nations less advanced than us scientifically have, based on social awareness, got rid of destitution, if not poverty.
But we have not yet made a common cause with social objectives, so as to use science to fight these ills.
When Vikram Sarabhai was asked why a poor country like India wanted to enter the space age, wasn't it a luxury – he said no, it was a necessity. Time was a constraint for us, distances a problem - so if, in the most remote and backward areas we install community television sets, even the illiterate can watch.
Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
12. In another classroom scene, the children discuss productivity and population and reach the conclusion that productivity needs to be increased and its not merely about reducing population. Such issues were discussed in these classrooms where alternatives to education were being explored.
12. There is also a scene in the classroom where the teacher says what if India did not take loans from the World Bank. What would happen then? There is a discussion amongst the children in the classroom on how these loans force us to submit to external pressures and self-reliance is a good thing. Then the teacher asks about what would happen if we were the ones giving loans, and the children strutted and yelled and said they would demand that those taking loans obey their orders, how we would no longer be poor, and so on. These exercises are probably more revelatory that didactic forms of educating, and that is perhaps what we want to show through this focus on education in the last episode. How can education transform attitudes of children and teachers who practice a different kind of syllabus?
There is a lot of social pressure to conform, to stick to orthodox ideas, to not ask questions that need not be asked. That kind of education is the enemy of science. The point being made is that we may have mixers and drive a Maruti car now, but these are the atitudinal changes that we need.
13. Dr. P.C. Joshi who is the chairman of the Software Committee in 1984, talks about how market forces have free play. Television is not being used for education but for the dreamers and in fact obscurantists who have taken over the television. He says there is a nexus between TV and obscurantism – here he’s referring to Ramayana and Mahabharat being telecast via TV. He is particularly annoyed by this because he is a leftist. You can imagine what he would be saying about obscurantism taking over TV, now that entire channels are dedicated to baba and astrology.
14. The last mile problem was that infrastructure, namely roads and telephone wires reached only so much into the Indian hinterland, and how do you reach across the last mile to a person in a remote village. At that point it was thought that satellite and TV would cross the last mile, but now it seems like it is the mobile phone that has crossed the last mile. It is J.C. Bose, an Indian scientist, who invented the transmitter that is the basis of mobile phone technology, and it uses sound waves that exist in nature to transmit communication.
Many of the scientists, bureaucrats, thinkers, activists and others who were keen on literacy as social reform, assumed that once people read and you put in their hands a book, that enlightenment and critical thinking would follow. It is only much later that we realize that actually literacy is only the beginning of a step. What is then available to you via literature or television is critical in determining the worldview; literacy alone is not going to do that.
Shehnaaz: Your Software Committee Report of '84 made many recommendations about the national TV network. What do you think of the way TV is being used today?
Joshi: Even if we assume there are a crore of TV sets - where are they? In the big cities or in villages close to cities. This is a far cry from Sarabhai's dream. Market forces have free play, so there are films that are irrelevant, and the goods advertised are of the type that only the rich can afford. And its hold is pernicious. When the Committee was set up, Mrs. Gandhi assured us that the report would be used to take TV to the people, to cater to common needs. But this isn't being done. The communications revolution has been overtaken by the obscurantists, who don't want people to emerge from backwardness. There's a clear nexus.
Meerut, Uttar Pradesh
15. In this scene, we talk about communalism. This is the anatomy of a small town that is very prone to flaring up every now and then. We meet some people who worked against communalization and riots, and they talk about how these riots are created by people. We meet individuals who have lived here and suffered from these riots. These riots are not spontaneous but are engineered for political benefit.
Now communal flare-ups are much more likely than in 1987 when we were shooting. Many people were killed in these riots, including one of the family members of a person interviewed for BKC. We are meeting them two years later when cases are going on in court, here they are able to talk about it in a calm and objective manner. At that point it is remarkable but we were able to shoot without having some Hindutva vaadi coming and spearing us with trishuls, even if RSS people knew that we were making this film. It was a different world, we did not sneak around and were open about what we were shooting. A busload of 20 technicians and actors accompanied us everywhere. I feel that now there would be more tension, people would not speak to us and would not let us into their houses.
16. The making of BKC was possible because of the backing of old science establishments that provided us with a safe pen within which we did what we felt we had to. These scenes about communal riots would not conventionally be considered a part of history of science but we had very good people on the advisory committee and particularly Professor Yash Pal, who was supportive of these ‘digressions’.
I came to this town a few days ago. It's a small town – the population is roughly half Hindu, half Muslim. It's an old town, not unlike other old towns Agra, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Srinagar, Ahmedabad and some sections of Delhi and Bombay. It's known as a 'sensitive' town. Communal riots are frequent here. Roaming through its
bazaars and workshops, one sees that their work brings both communities together. There are new and traditional industries - the owner is usually from one community, the workers from another. They depend on each other. Yet the town is increasingly segregated into Hindu and Muslim areas. Reading about riots in the papers, one wonders - why do they happen? How do communal ideas spread? I spoke to several people
Where people come together for work they say they can't do without each other. One senses less alienation in the industrial sector. Well, people have
to work together but the alienation is there at every level. The masjid-mandir
issue is an excuse -
for without a deeper basis, this issue could not have provoked people so much. Besides political reasons there are social and economic reasons as well.
Dr. Harpal Singh and Dr. Savitri Singh are college teachers, known for their secular views. Yet their son Prabhat - a doctor – was killed in the '87 riots. His wife, Alka, is also a doctor. There are two children. In a sense, this is a digression, but perhaps not. In the circumstances, it's not easy to remain secular. Dr. Harpal Singh took me around town to areas where people had lived through riots
I'm Jamaluddin, and have lived here for 25 years. Hashimpura had no Hindu-Muslim trouble in '87 - it was instigated by the PAC, by the administration.
Ranjan: Is this a wholly Muslim locality?
Jamaluddin: Yes, with about a dozen Hindu families. Now is the Muslims had wanted to harm Hindus they could have attacked these
Hindu homes, surely? At 3.30pm on the 22nd, Hashimpura was surrounded. Every male, from 10 to 60 years of age was arrested, and shoved out into the street. I was there too. 42 youngsters were taken to the Muradnagar canal by the Hindon river, shot, and dumped in the water. Six survived. You'll meet one of them, Usman. I've made this register. These boys were 17, 14 and 13 years old - all from one family. This boy was 21, this one was 13, this man was 45. The PAC spared nobody.
Ranjan: I've heard that your son -
Jamaluddin: Yes. My son Kamruddin was also killed. He was 22.
Ranjan: What happened after you were hit by two bullets and thrown in the water?
Survivor: I reached the bank somehow and stopped a motorcycle. They were policemen, who took me to hospital in a jeep. They said -
“You say what you like, but don't mention the PAC!”
So some blamed only the administration, and spoke of police oppression. But those I met later had quite a different version of the riots. A small drain separates Hashimpura and Subhash Nagar. Yet, what a distance!
On the morning of the 19th there was a commotion in Hashimpura, so we too responded. Bricks flew, and also burning tyres. My son went up to the roof, to look for his younger brother and was hit in the stomach by a bullet from across.
Ranjan: But how did the riots start?
There had been tension, which peaked on the 19th.
But riots only lead to greater segregation - how will that help to bring about peace?
I've lived in this town since '55 - and I've never known the Hindus to start the riots. There people there say that if they wanted to kill Hindus, they have Hindu neighbours. Why should they have fired on these houses?
Well- why here, why not there – actually - one can't think of reasons off-hand.
Dr. Savitri Singh: We used to say the British instigated riots. But who's responsible now?
Ranjan: Did the riots influence the Corporation elections?
Dr. Harpal Singh: The Muslim League won 6 of the 58 seats without much campaigning. The BJP won 13 and claims it'd have won more, but for infighting. And I believed secular forces here were strong - which they are, but they're divided.
HINDU UNITY FOR NATIONAL STRENGTH
communalism, violence, riots -
A poet of this town says -
“Who waits these days...
for night to fall?
What does not happen by day?”
Some want their faith to be the nation's identity. From under the highway flows the Gangnahar. Here Usman and the others were shot and dumped. Many people must have seen the corpses float by - Why did they keep quiet? After the riots, the same poet wrote -
“In this unfamiliar town, keep making friends
Hearts may not meet, but keep making friends”
For centuries we've gazed at the moon and stars. But to see our own Earth from space has been possible only in our time. This view, a gift of modern science, can transform our thinking. Seen thus, our world seems so closely knit. But a few moments can destroy it all. One country plans a ring of weapons in space. Yet today the work of any country or person in the arts or in science belongs to all humans. After such a vision of the Earth do the fetters of caste, community, language have any meaning?
17. Towards the end of the last episode we have a conversation with Professor Yash Pal. He makes the point that if you import technology without critically thinking about it, then you bring in not just technology but also the way of functioning, the way of life that accompanies it. This could influence your society to be just like theirs. It can also create great segmentation and great divides within society. At that point we were yet to realize that as a nation we could be competent in certain areas, like electronics and software, and these are in fact the core of most technology today and far more flexible that older modes of industry and manufacturing. Then Professor Yash Pal was attempting to make an important point that we have to adopt new technologies and new ways of flexible thinking into our own, not just take the whole factory model and copy yourself into that
18. Professor Yash Pal talks about how decisions are being made to help business rather than help people. Here is gives an example of phone technology that costs Rs. 30,000 and uses copper, and says we can’t afford that. He says we should INSAT satellite technology with receivers and antaennes in each village, so that everyone can have something like a phone. But he says we don’t do that because that is not how it is being done elsewhere. Professor Yash Pal’s concern is with black box technology, or technology whose secrets are kept inside a black box and we don’t solve our own problems unless we learn to do it ourselves. Years later, the open source movement would have similar ideas about the development of software.
Twenty five years later India has gone completely the other way and has totally bought into black box technology – we used to be a nation of people who repaired their own mixies and toasters, and now all that is vanishing, including ordinary electricians and their shops on the road.
19. BKC ends with a few last worlds about thinking, arguing and moving ahead. The agenda is to shape the future of the country, and not shaping it as per the plans of someone else but in our own way. All that emphasis on self-reliance has disappeared and we have turned into one big market place, and have become passive consumers in that market place.
When we look at Earth from afar we know we're all one. And we know that the basic molecules are the same for all life - even for this tree and its leaves.
As the films neared completion we met Prof Yashpal of the UGC, who had been Chairman of our Advisory Committee
Maitreyi: Our attempt in these films has been to understand the role of our history and science in shaping us. So today, what do you think -?
Prof. Yashpal: We saw pictures taken by the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite - few satellites of such quality exist, but we made one. We've launched rockets – Agni, Prithvi, SLV, made strides in atomic energy, electronics. We're known, at home and abroad, for our skill in writing computer software. Our work in material science is highly reputed. But we can't get drinking water to our villages, our light sockets don't work!
Raghu: Could one reason be that we imitate the West?
Prof Yashpal: If big machine come in, they bring not only their technology, but also their way of functioning. This could influence our society to be like theirs. But this can happen in very few places in India - it creates segmentation. We're yet to realise that areas we're competent in – electronics, software -these are the soul of today's technology and more flexible than the old technology.
Amrita: Are there examples of such adaptability?
Prof Yashpal: A phone link is Rs. 30, 00. We can't afford that - yet we can
have today's communication technology. Why don't we choose to have communication for each village,
not each home?
If we install a small antenna in each village, our INSAT is adequate, and ready for the job. We don't do it like that because others don't. It's this thinking about science in a sociological way that we don't do. If we
do, other developing nations will too.
Amrita: We've made rockets and reactors - but do these achievements go beyond their own fields?
Prof Yashpal: If we'd bought
a rocket we'd follow instructions and launch it. It would just be a 'black box'. Doing it yourself means you can take it apart and use your knowledge to make other things you need. So you're in control of technology, not its slave. And this identity - that we're multidimensional, we're from many places, we have many languages, many religions – this is good, not bad. And through our long history, all who came, even the British, we took from them and gave to them. All this formed a nation, which today is ready to move ahead, think, argue, which says that in the future, too, we'll shape this country not by someone else's plan, but in our own way.