I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Friday, December 29, 2006

Three Lives in Student Politics

I discovered that I am on a holiday today. I went through the entire newspaper. Not only today's edition but the last few days. One curious feature got my attention.

Called Three lives in Student Politics, it profiled 3 random student politicians. Why do I say random? Well, the subjects range from an "18-year old, bespectacled, first-year student of Sociology Honours at Janki Devi College" whose biggest achievements in politics were losing the Head Girl election at her school, to the Delhi state unit secretary of ABVP.

The topic was interesting, no doubt, but the treatment from the interns who did the piece was, as expected, bland. Except for the fact that the ABVP woman stating that 'she admires Congress President Sonia Gandhi as a “very strong woman”', there was not much that could not have been written without meeting the people concerned. At least in the first two pieces.

The third, however, is amazing. The web-edition itself is funny. It starts with 'Subhonil Chowdhury’s unkempt hostel room in JNU smells of unwashed clothes and wrinkle-free ideology.' The photograph of his room clearly show the unwashed clothes. The none-too-generous tone that Sutirtho Patranobis adopts shows up through rest of the article as well, and he just stops short of saying "Son, Leftist-Weftist bahut ho gaya, ab kaam kya karoge?". Or he doesn't... 'Subho is aware that there is a world outside the cosy comfort of a tree-lined walk to Ganga Hostel dhaba and the romance of hearing Karat speak of Cuba, Chavez and Left resurrection late at night, huddled with friends in the packed auditorium. But he does not know what he’ll do in that world yet.' (Italics mine)

The punch, though is missing in the web-edition. While the byline for the NSUI article is "The NSUI is the youth's springboard to the Congress Party. But why would anyone want to join it?" and the ABVP is "The ABVP is BJP's student wing. Check out its Delhi State Unit's secretary's worldview.", the "Lal Salaam Land" article has a wicked stance. Just look at what's written just below the photograph. Talk about newspapers trying to maintain an unbiased perspective.

Page 2 (HT Metro) in the Epapers has the 3 articles, in case you want to read them: NSUI, ABVP, SFI.


Blogger Srini said...

Subhanil Choudhury replied to the "biased article", giving concrete answers and clarifications to every point made..

The abridged version of the reply was published in HT:

The full reply is attached here:

This is with regard to the story published in your esteemed daily, as
a part of the series "three lives in student politics", dated
28-12-06, featuring me, Subhanil Chowdhury as a student leader of SFI
in JNU.

At the onset, let me make it very clear that the headline of the
report "He's a university topper but look what the Left has made of
him at JNU: a cliche king" and the caption of the picture,
(indicating that i am wasting tax payers' money for my long stay in
JNU) that has been published, is to put it simply, derogatory to me,
my organization and the ideology that i and millions of others in our
country follow and are proud of. Let me therefore place the following
rejoinder to the report:

1. The very fact, that a story on a left student leader had to be
carried with such a headline, given that I am a topper in my
university speaks of prejudice of the newspaper against the activists
of the left. Unfortunately, while I agreed for the interview, keeping
in mind the goodwill of your esteemed daily, what has actually
transpired is a defamation of myself and my organization, which is
being pointed out by all my well wishers and comrades including senior
faculty members. One can very well then pose this question to your
editorial team, that if topping in a university and doing left
politics is a cliche, then why take the pain of making that story,
there are enough things to be said and reported regarding students'
politics, rather than maligning an individual just because he belongs
to the Left. Such prejudiced and biased notion of the media, vis-a-vis
the role of the left is totally exposed by your maligning report.
Therefore I, as an individual and on behalf of my organization lodge a
strong protest against the report published in your daily.

2. Let me now come to the facts of the matter. In the caption to the
picture it has been implicitly alleged that I am wasting taxpayers'
money by staying for a long time in JNU. I do not know how many of
your colleagues have in fact done a PhD from JNU or any other
university. If they have indeed done that, then it is very easy to
find out from them, that the stipulated time for doing a PhD in our
university is 4+1 years. I am in my fourth year now, which gives me
another year to complete my thesis. To attribute "long stay" to me
for my stay in campus, which is as per the guidelines of the
university, is most improper and speaks of a deep apathy towards
research per se, which cannot be completed in a "short time", whatever
that means. Whether I am not joining the workforce and "rail (ing)
against the productive classes" or doing something useful is for my
university and myself to decide and not by anybody else. But just to
keep the record straight, I would like to mention that I am bound to
give yearly reports regarding my PhD work based on which my
registration is accepted by the authorities. Secondly, for your kind
information I would also like to state that on the basis of my
academics, I have already attended two international economics
seminars, and about to attend another one in Nairobi in the month of
January. Therefore I would like to appeal to you and your colleagues,
not to be under any illusion regarding my commitment to my academics
and my calibre as an academician.

3. Let me now directly come to the issue of wasting taxpayers money.
Let me tell you and your colleagues that I am not even wasting my
father's money leave alone taxpayers. This is because, I am a
recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fellowship, instituted by
the Teenmurti House. This scholarship has been awarded to me, again on
the basis of my academic commitment and rigour, to complete my PhD.
Secondly, politically speaking I believe that indeed a university
should be run by taxpayers money, that is, the Government and not by
private profit seekers and racketeers. The fact that funding education
by taxpayers money has been ridiculed in the report again exposes the
bias of your daily against state funded education and in favour of
privatization of education, which being a left activist cannot be
endorsed by me, on the contrary I am committed against all moves to
curb state's spending on education (elementary knowledge of economics
teaches us that this should be out of tax payers' money).

4. In the preceding paragraphs I wanted to only highlight the point
that it is not cliche to top in a university and be a left activist.
It is however indeed a cliche to attribute the word "cliche" to left
politics and activists. It is unfortunate that your esteemed daily has
succumbed to such cliches and prejudices exposing a deep apathy to
left politics.

5. Let me however reiterate, a point that I mentioned in the course of
the interview as well, that I am whatever I am, whether be it a topper
or a person with a different world outlook because of left politics
and ideology. It has been left politics which has not only motivated
me to stand up against all forms of injustice committed around us, but
also motivated me to be a topper and stay on in my country to do
meaningful research aimed at improving the plight of the marginalized,
unemployed and poor in my country. Instead of highlighting these
attributes of the left and my engagement with it, the manner in which
the headline has been coined has only helped in the malicious campaign
against the left, unfortunately, this time also at the cost of
maligning me as an individual.

I as an individual is deeply hurt by the manner in which the story was
presented with the objectionable headline, which has resulted in
maligning of my personality which is being pointed out by my teachers
as well. I therefore once again protest against the handling of the
story and demand that my rejoinder be published forthwith.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 11:33:00 PM


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