Genesis of Indian National Congress

Recently Indian National Congress has chosen its 98th president. After 24 years, Congress is going to have a non-Gandhi party president. Indian National Congress - a party that was founded on 1885 by a British civil service officer named Allan Octavian Hume; a party that had 6 European born persons who served as its presidents; yet a party that claims to have brought India's freedom. Was it really founded and acted on India's interest? We will try to understand what its founder once said about the party and what it’s one of the presidents, Lala Lajpat Rai, wrote about it.

"It is an undisputed historical fact, that the idea of the Indian National Congress was a product of Lord Dufferin's brain; that he suggested it to Mr. Hume that the latter undertook to work it out."

The safety valve

Yes, Congress was created by the British and for the British. Dufferin was the Viceroy in British India from 1884 to 1888. It was originally not known that Dufferin planned to establish Indian National Congress in order to control the Indian freedom movements so that rein of the movements always remain in British hands. Later it was disclosed in the biography of Mr. Hume written by William Wedderburn. Wedderburn himself was the fifth president of Congress.

British Empire was terribly shaken by our First War of Independence in 1857 that is also known as Sepoy Mutiny. Even after Britain suppressed the revolution with extreme cruelty, the massacre continued for many years after the rebellion was quashed. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. Anyone suspected to have done any anti-British activity was taken out and tortured inhumanly. The Crown in Britain was dreadful of another such independence movement that would let them lose their prized possession called India. That is the reason the Empire wanted to create Congress having close tie with the administration. As William Wedderburn wrote

"Indeed, in initiating the national movement, Mr. Hume took counsel with the Viceroy, Lord was apparently by Lord Dufferin’s advice that he took up the work of political organization...the first Congress was opened with the friendly sympathy of the highest authorities."

Lala Lajpat Rai commented,
"What he (Dufferin) evidently aimed at was a sort of an innocuous association which should serve more as a “safety valve” than as a genuine Nationalist organisation for national purposes...He saw danger to British rule in discontent going underground, and one of his objects in establishing the Congress was to save British rule in India from an impending calamity of the gravest kind which he thought was threatening it at that time."

Hume once explained about the importance of having Congress as the safety-valve to (Sir) Auckland Colvin, Lieutenant-governor to a few Indian provinces,
"A safety valve for the escape of great and growing forces generated by our own action, was urgently needed, and no more efficacious safety-valve than our Congress movement could possibly be devised."

Brewing revolution

By "our own action" Hume clearly meant the despotic governance of British Empire. "growing forces" were the underground discontent and revolutionary movements. In Hume's biography, Mr. Wedderburn wrote that the real danger lies under the surface, arising from material suffering among the masses and resentment among the irreconcilable section of the dissatisfied intellectuals. He continued,

"The danger is enhanced by the fact that the autocratic power is exercised by a handful of foreigners, alien to the population in language, race, and creed, and belonging to a masterful nation singularly regardless of the feelings and prejudices of others. Consequently the mutterings of the storm are unheeded by them, and great disasters, like the Mutiny of 1857, and the tragedies of Cabul, come upon them like a bolt from the blue."

British government felt the imminent danger similar to 1857 and Mr. Hume was presented with seven large volumes of government records collected from various parts of India depicting how dangerous the situation was. Mr. Hume said,

"The jungle is all dry, fire does spread wonderfully in such when the right wind blows, and it is blowing now, and hard...I could not then and I do not now entertain a shadow of a doubt that we were then truly in extreme danger of a most terrible revolution...They(Indians) were going to do something and stand by each other, and that something means violence..a certain small number of educated classes, at the time desperately, perhaps unreasonably, bitter against Government would join the movement, assume here and there the lead, give the outbreak cohesion, and direct it as a national revolt."

Saving the empire

Congress leaders did what they were supposed to do. Save the Empire. Lala Lajpat Rai mentioned that Congress was successful in its objective of maintaining British rule in India. India's independence was never its goal.

"But one thing is clear, that the Congress was started more with the object of saving the British Empire from danger than with that of winning political liberty for India. The interests of the British Empire were primary and those of India only secondary, and no one can say that the Congress has not been true to that ideal. It might be said with justice and reason that the founders of the Indian National Congress considered the maintenance of British rule in India of vital importance to India herself, and therefore were anxious to do everything in their power, not only to save that rule from any danger that threatened it, but even to strengthen it; that with them the redress of political grievances and the political advance of India was only a by-product and of secondary importance. If so, the Congress has been true to its ideal, and no one can find fault with it."

Congress apologists and hypocrisy of the moderates

Some Congress apologists like Gokhale argued that no Indian could have started the Indian National Congress and that if the founder of the Congress had not been an Englishman, it would have been suppressed by the authority. Lala Lajpat Rai countered such arguments squarely.

"First, political agitation did not start with the Congress. It had been started before and no attempt to suppress it had succeeded. Second, the distrust of political agitation in India was not greater in those days than it is now (year 1916) and has been during the life of the Congress."

This was the genesis of Indian National Congress. Shameful indeed. Lala Lajpat Rai wrote how utterly Congress and its leaders failed the nation. He discussed about five key points for its failure. He mentioned how a new Nationalist Movement, outside Congress, of 1905 that started after Bengal division caught people's mind. People rose up rejecting British jobs, clothes, offices. It was a people's movement that started in 1905 under the banner Swadeshi and Swaraj.

"The former (Congress leaders) cared for wines, for children, and for home. The latter (revolutionaries) gave up all, to devote themselves completely to the cause and to the motherland. The former had produced only two full time workers for the cause in the course of 22 years, the latter produced virtually hundreds and thousands in less than two years."

Lala Lajpat Rai mentioned how revolutionaries, who were called 'extremists' and 'terrorists' by British, inspired the mass. Some of the moderate Congress leaders stooped so low that they called the revolutionaries as "good-for-nothing, who could do nothing at the universities, or with their lives; that they are maniacs and men who have lost all sense of right and wrong". Lala Lajpat Rai tore apart those hypocrite elites of Congress,

"But look at the men who have inspired the movement, some of whom are leading it even to-day. Is Arabinda Ghosh a failure? Is Har Dayal a failure? Were the nine deportees from Bengal failures? How many highclass graduates have been hanged; how many are in jail! Look at their university records and look at their prospects, and then say if you can call them “malcontents” or men who have arisen against the Government because they could not prosper under it."

Revolutionaries and Gandhi

He clearly articulated that because of these revolutionary leaders, government was forced to amend existing laws for sedition and different criminal procedures. Fearing a new revolution, new acts like Seditious Meetings Act, Explosive Act, Press Law were enacted. While the Congress moderate leaders were sleeping, and serving their British masters, these revolutionaries shook the base of British Empire.

During the tumultuous time of 1905 to 1915, revolutionaries took up the arms against the Empire. Lal-Bal-Pal trio was arousing the nationalism in Indian mass. Leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Jatin Mukherjee aka Bagha Jatin, Rashbehari Bose, Har Dayal spread the revolution beyond the boundary of India. British regime could feel the heat when Indian nationalists in Europe, America and Canada started actively participating in Indian independence movement. Revolutionaries took active foreign help, especially from Germany during WW1. Readers may watch the video or read an article on Hindu-German Conspiracy for details.

Exactly at this point when situation was going out of British hand again, Mr. M. K. Gandhi came back to India to take charge of Congress led pacifist movements. I went through Mr. Gandhi's life in another video where I have mentioned how irrelevant those movements were. Please watch/read the video and the article. None of the movements of Mr. Gandhi achieved anything at the end. Only thing his 1920-21 movement achieved was that it collected 1 crore of rupees for Congress with a repeated false promise of independence within a year from this man. Only thing his 1930 movement achieved was Indians could get salt from sea water. Not even a single word of freedom, not even dominion status, was there in final Gandhi-Irwin pact. And 1942 movement? Gandhi was arrested on the very first day and moved to Aga Khan Palace - not any ordinary jail. Gandhi himself denounced and distanced himself from 1942 movement as it turned violent.

The real reason behind India's freedom

India got independence as British lost loyalty of the Indian armed forces that was evident during the Naval Mutiny of 1946 and Subhash Bose's INA played a key role there. There were never more than 20,000 British officials in India at a given point of time and they ruled over 200 million Indians using direct help from Indian princely states, landlords and other elites. They used our army men and police forces to dominate over us. They even used our armed forces to wage war in other colonies and in different European wars like WW1 and WW2. All it was needed to throw British out to their Atlantic island was to cause insurrection in the Indian armed forces. That is what revolutionary leaders like Subhash Bose and Bagha Jatin did.

During the Navy Revolt, that was accompanied by Army and Air Force as well, British generals asked Gurkha Regiment to fire on the revolting Indian Navy men in Karachi, and they refused to fire. The same Gurkha Regiment once followed British command and fired on the unarmed civilians in Jallianwala Bagh less than 30 years back. British Empire realized that they have lost control over the armed forces, and their time has come to pack the bags.

Later British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, who signed the Indian Independence Act, 1947 admitted that they left India due to INA's role in raising nationalism in the Indian armed forces. When he was asked about Gandhi's role in freedom movement, he smiled and said "M-I-N-I-M-A-L". Even British High Commissioner John Freeman stated that the Royal Navy Mutiny supported by the Army and the Air Force is the critical factor for British leaving India.

"The British were petrified of a repeat of the 1857 Mutiny, since this time they feared they would be slaughtered to the last man."

Summing it up

Indian National Congress and its top rung leaders were true to their original objective of protecting the British Empire from the violent wrath of revolting Indians and their sympathy continued even after the independence. Otherwise, who in right mind would want a British Union Jack on free India's national flag? Gandhi wished for it in 1947. Congress could have chosen the Irish model of independence where Irish rebels proclaimed their independence in 1919. British did not transfer the power to them. Even in case of Burma, power was relinquished by British, unlike India where power was transferred by the Indian Independence Act passed in British Parliament. But India followed Canadian and Australian model and became a Dominion under the British monarch on 15th August 1947 even though demography and civilizational history of India is completely different from Canada and Australia. Did you know that till 26th January 1950, Indian head of state was King George VI? Which self-respecting organization and its leaders would negotiate with its oppressor, an Empire that looted India for 200 years? Congress did. They even kept Mountbatten as the first Governor General of 'free' India. British Generals were kept as head of Navy and Air Force of 'free' India till late 1950s. As discovered from very recent and accidentally declassified documents that Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) was reporting to British counterpart MI5 till 1968 and was passing information to London on regular basis. An unwritten agreement during the transfer of power in 1947 was the secret positioning of a security liaison officer (SLO) in New Delhi as MI5’s representative. We had St. Geroge's cross in Indian Navy's ensign till 2001. Even after this colonial symbol was removed in 2001, it was brought back in 2004.

No, we cannot change the history. I can only wish that our freedom came through the direct hands of revolutionaries like Bagha Jatin, Rashbehari Bose, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Bose. I am not saying all Congress party members were wrong. I also accept the fact that multiple Congress led governments in the post-independent India brought many positive changes to this country. My objection is to the spineless leadership of this party that collaborated with the oppressors to gain power for themselves. I think India would have been very different having the idealist leaders leading the nation instead of self-serving, political power-driven organization like Indian National Congress that was born only to serve interest of the British Crown.

Watch the video on this article on YouTube:

Bengal Scam | Is the electoral democracy root cause of corruption?

Rs. 50 Crore and 5 kg. gold recovered from Bengal's TMC minister's close aide's house. The minister is allegedly involved in the State School Service Commission (SSC) recruitment scam. National and local news channels are receiving huge viewership. Do you think anything is going to happen to TMC big honchos? Remember the Sarada Chit Fund scam in 2014 and Naroda scam later in Bengal? Sarada scam was worth over Rs. 10,000 Crore. Did anything happen? The ministers who were in jail at that time are again back as the prime faces of the party. Even now many hundreds of crores must have been already converted to untraceable other asset classes.

Watching such news is like watching web series and TV serials. It is a mere form entertainment for us and big money for the TV channels. Then we all forget. We fail to ask the key question. Why it happens? Not just in Bengal. Scams are happening all over India. Only few are unearthed and then covered back due to political compulsions. Most are never unearthed. We don't even see the tip of the iceberg on TV channels and newspapers. Do you think the TMC minister this time or the ministers involved in the Sarada Scam pocketed the money themselves? Let's not fool ourselves. Money collected as part of any scam go to many hands and especially to the party fund.


India spent Rs. 60,000 crores in 2019 to run the Lok Sabha election...and that is just the official amount

Each candidate is allowed to spend Rs. 95 lakhs for campaigning. Again, that is just an official number

USA spent 14.4 billion USD (1,10,000 crores INR) during the 2020 presidential election

Any political party in this multi-party democracy needs money...huge amounts of money. Starting from day-to-day cost of running a party, election campaign to horse trading of MPs/MLAs, employing gundas/thugs - all require lots of money. It is the cost of electoral democracy and somebody has to pay for it. It is partly paid by the big capital holders like industrialists and also paid by running corruption racket like the Sarada Scam. That is why we either see politics-capital nexus where the political class just becomes the puppet of the big corporate houses or we see such corruption starting at the very grassroot level as all such 'dirty' money finally feeds the political system.

We need to change this and the first step to change anything is to accept that we have a problem. If we continue to have fake pride in this 'electoral' democracy, we will never be able to fix it and continue to be manipulated in the hands of political leaders. What is the meaning of democracy? A system where supreme power is vested in the people. A system where the political class is accountable to the people. A system where the political class is evaluated by the people and either get rewarded or punished as part of periodic appraisals. Do you think we have such democracy in India, or as a matter of fact anywhere in the world? A country like India where votes are either bought or coerced can be called anything but a democracy.

What do we actually do in the name of democracy? We vote. That's it. Do we have any other leverage over the political leaders? None. Remember we only 'elect', we do not 'evaluate'. In 2011, the people of Bengal chose Mamata's TMC in place of CPI(M). People may get frustrated with TMC and they may choose BJP in future. After few years, people will get disillusioned with BJP and bring back either CPI(M) or TMC. It is the same set of leaders who will occupy the position of power every few years. Even worse, when CPI(M) lost power, many party members, lower level gundas/thugs and leaders jumped the ship and joined TMC. The same people abandoned TMC to join BJP when they saw BJP's rise in the state. Many shameless ones even came back to TMC right after BJP's loss in the election last year. So, what good are we doing electing these people? Voting seasons have become more like a festival than anything useful.


We think we have chosen our preferred leader. Have we? Remember that a set of candidates are already pre-selected by the parties and in turn by their capitalist masters. We just do selection among those pre-selected ones. In most of the cases, capitalists fund both (or more) the combating sides with more fund going to the party that has more chance of winning. Whoever wins in the process, it is their candidate who wins. So dear readers, please come out of the illusion that you chose your leader.

What should we do then? We must demand a system that works for us, not for a few elites. We must evaluate, not elect. Election of the leaders should be done through a process. Just like IAS/IPS selection, grooming and promotion process, we should have a similar system with strict criteria to elect and train the public representatives in the parliament. Anybody with the right qualification and experience can aspire and participate in it. No one should need to spend 95 lakhs of rupees just to do canvasing of his or her candidacy. Remember that 95 lakhs is just an official limit and we all know what happens in reality. It is the biggest barrier for an honest candidate to even run in the election. Corruption starts right there.


We, the common people, just need to evaluate the representatives in the local constituency, state assembly and in the central parliament. We should evaluate how the local councilor performed in the last one year under a set of parameters like improving educational institutes, local law and order, sanitation system etc. Similarly, we should evaluate how the representatives at the state and central level are performing under a completely different set of parameters like handling of inflation, industrialization of the state, handling of national defense etc. If a representative fails to score the required marks for 3 consecutive years, he or she should be demoted and transferred to another constituency. If he or she cannot perform there in next 3 years, the person should be removed from the public service system altogether. That way we will have accountability, not just mere voting. If someone performs well, the person should be promoted to the regional level and then to the state and central level. This way we will have qualified candidates going up in the ladder and finally there would be the handful aspirants competing to become the Prime Minister of the country. This way we can ensure a Grade 12 pass candidate can never become a HRD minister or as a matter of fact any minister of our country. This way we can ensure that no half-educated gundas with/without criminal background can even come close to the parliament house.

43% of Lok Sabha MPs have criminal records

The BJP has 116 MPs or 39% of its winning candidates with criminal cases

Congress has 29 MPs or 57% of its winning candidates with criminal cases

In 2019, there was an increase of 109% in the number of MPs with declared serious criminal cases since 2009

As I said before, we have to first accept that we have a problem, a very serious problem. Under the present system, political leaders have absolutely no incentive to work for the interest of the people. Our political leaders are busy 365 days of the year to ensure they win the next election and their parties remain in the power. That is why we are still a country with per capita income of a mere $2,000 even after 75 years of independence. We are still a country where elections are fought in the name of religion and caste. Think of Amethi. A constituency from where Congress, specifically Nehru-Gandhi dynastic supremos of Congress, won almost all the elections since independence except the last assembly election. Forget about India. If Gandhis/Congress had an iota of right intention, at least Amethi should have become Singapore of India. Everyone there should have got high quality education and a good amount of skill to prosper in life. It should have been an industrialized modern city long time back. But, no. It is still there where it was before with minimal improvements to satisfy the mass just enough so that they continue to vote for them. In India, elections are bought by doling out free rice or a box of biriyani or 500 rupees per month or a colored television. Politicians have no incentive to educate and train the mass. Because then people will demand more than free rice. They will refuse to serve as their low maintenance minions.


Remember when you challenge this so-called 'electoral' democracy, people who are the direct victim of the system will first attack you by saying that you are promoting dictatorship, authoritarian government. No, I am not. There is a whole universe between the current form of democracy and dictatorship. What I am proposing is anything but dictatorship. Here leaders will be selected, groomed and promoted through a stringent system. They will have a fixed tenure. They will go through a regular evaluation process and will be sacked if they cannot perform. The system will ensure that a person who was dancing/acting in front of a camera or hitting a round ball with a wooden bat till yesterday can never become a parliamentarian tomorrow just because of their so-called 'celebrity' status.

This was my analysis of the current political rot and some remedies to the current problems. It might not be perfect. Someone may have an even better idea. But at least let us not be in a fool's paradise and take pride in getting our index finger inked almost every other year. Let's talk about it. Let's find a better solution. Let's rally. Let's force the parliament to bring the change. Because if we don't then we have absolutely no right to criticize the TMC minister or any other political scamster. We should then continue watching the news channels as a source of entertainment just like any other mindless TV soap.

Some of you might be thinking how a similar system works in 'developed' countries like Europe or America, the great daddies of the democracy proponent. I will talk about it some other day. Let's focus on India first.

Bitter Chocolate | The Loot and The Slavery


Chocolate - A smooth, sweet and creamy texture that satisfies both our mouth and mind.
Children may have a special affinity towards this silky-smooth food item as it brings immense joy to them, but grown-up adults are no less attracted by its charm. The global chocolate confectionary market was sized at 208 billion USD in 2021. Demand of chocolate products shoots up during various global holiday seasons like Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. Belgium is the largest exporter of chocolates. Other European and North American countries like Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, USA and Canada are among the top 10 exporters of the world.

But do we know the real cost of chocolate production? Who actually supplies the main ingredient of chocolate i.e., cocoa? Who toils on the fields and grinds the supply chain to bring the cocoa powder and cocoa butter inside the gates of the ultra-modern chocolate factories of these rich nations? Does it come as a surprise that the poorest of the poor people of mostly West African nations and millions of child labors work as slaves in such cocoa plantations. The pictures below give of a glimpse of the dark reality of the chocolate industry. Does the reality change the feeling of sweetness into bitterness?

Chocolate Production Steps

Chocolate production begins at the cocoa farms. Cocoa beans grow inside the fruits, also called pods, that hang from the cocoa trees. When the pods are ripe its color changes from green to orange. Then these pods are harvested and seeds, also called beans, are taken out from it. The beans are then fermented for five to eight days before these are again sundried. Then these beans are shipped to the factories of the chocolate manufacturers. The more expensive the chocolate, the higher is the percentage of cocoa in it compared to other additives.

Unfortunately, today’s exploitative mercantile system not only pays the cocoa farmers meagre pennies but also disproportionately rewards the stakeholders of the large chocolate manufacturers. It seems that these farmers are treated no different than slave laborers. Do you know the annual income of the CEO of the Mondelez Inc, the parent company of the Cadbury brand? It was $42.4 million in 2017. Now, are you curious about the income of the cocoa farmers? $0.78 a day i.e., $285 a year, well below the extreme poverty line of $1.25 per day.

Cocoa Producing Countries

Over 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from two countries in West Africa – Ivory Coast and Ghana. According to the Global Slavery Index 2018, thousands of children today are trafficked and forced to work on the cocoa farms. It's estimated that 1.56m children work on cocoa farms just in Ivory Coast and Ghana. In a lawsuit, it was found that they are forced to work 12 to 14 hours per day. They are kept under armed guard while they sleep, in order to prevent them from escaping, and are paid little beyond basic food. Children, as young as six or seven years old are given dangerous tools like power saws. They are beaten to work with heavy scars on faces, hands and feet. Studies found that children are forced to work under hazardous conditions; using sharp tools, lifting heavy loads and strenuous work like land clearing.

A large portion of the produce is exported to America and Europe and the farms are contracted under large multi-national giants. The farmers are forced to live in terrible conditions. To make matters worse, when the price of cocoa fluctuates thousands of miles away in London or in the New York Stock Exchange, their earning fluctuates as well. Yes, cocoa is a tradeable commodity. Greed and speculation in such 'legal casinos' determine the livelihood of people living somewhere else. Due to this volatility, farmers in West Africa are likely to earn 21% less in 2022 compared to the last year. Whereas cocoa futures have risen by around 10% between the end of October 2020 and the end of October 2021.

Top Cocoa Importing Countries and Top Chocolate Manufacturers

The exploitation of the African continent for natural resources has been running for decades. It started since the European colonizers set their foot on this vast landmass. In the recent past, when the cocoa prices were high in 1970s, farmers used to get 50% of the final consumer price of a chocolate bar. It fell to 16% in 1980s and now at dismal 6%. Large multinationals have been doing everything at their disposal to continue with this system in the name of free market in order to keep boosting their profit. When authorities in Ivory Coast and Ghana introduced Living Income Differential (LID) in 2019 to pull the farmers above the poverty line, it increased the price of cocoa by $400 per ton. American companies like Mondelez and Hershey took various steps to avoid paying this extra price.

In 2001, some of the chocolate manufacturers have pledged to stop child labor and improve the living conditions of the farmers. But decades have passed. Hardly any change has come. Rather last year, in June, the US Supreme Court blocked child slavery lawsuit against the chocolate firms citing that the case had no standing because the abuse did not happen on the US soil. The judgement said that the American companies, Nestlé USA and Cargill, made no decision in US that led to the men's forced labor in Africa. It is like saying the British Queen and the Prime Minister had no role to play in the exploitation of half of the world as loot and torture were carried out by other people in their colonies! It seems modern day imperialism is no different.

There is also a video on this topic. You are encouraged to watch it and share it, if you like.

Ukraine Crisis through the Lens of American Foreign Policies


People in Ukraine are going through tremendous hardship. People all over the world are saddened by the news of loss of lives and destruction of properties. They are the one facing the brunt right now and probably Russians will face different types of hardships, at least in the near future, through the economic sanctions. Everyone else is, more or less, sitting on the fence or in the gallery, and watching the events unfold.

The question is why all diplomatic negotiations failed and why the war could not be averted? Moreover, where does India stand here? India has already abstained from the UNSC vote on deploring Russia and India has taken the absolutely right step here. When drum beats of war fade a little, there must be someone, who took a neutral stand, to mediate between two waging sides. India can take a crucial part there.

In order to understand how the world landed in this situation, we need to follow some events of the last few decades. Calling Putin, a fascist, a new avatar of Adolf Hitler is just a lazy escapist idea taken directly out of some mainstream media outlets. No, I am not a Putin apologist. There is no doubt Putin has demonstrated enough totalitarian behavior in Russian domestic affairs. Here I will provide a brief and dispassionate description of some of the American foreign policies that will help us to understand both sides better from a neutral standpoint.

Monroe Doctrine and Cuban Missile Crisis

Monroe Doctrine was first brought into effect in 1823 by US President James Monroe. It defines the Western Hemisphere as the area of American influence. Originally it was designed in order to keep the European colonialists away from setting up bases in the Western Hemisphere.

United States of America has been involved in multiple military imbroglios in the Latin America on the basis of this doctrine. In early 1900 during the Venezuelan Crisis, United States locked its horn with three European powers – Britain, Germany and Italy to protect Venezuela from European intervention and retain its own influence. During the Cold War America trained multiple rebel groups in order to fight Soviet friendly government in Nicaragua.

The most famous one was the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought US and Soviet Union very close to a nuclear war. USA wanted to overthrow Soviet friendly Cuban communist government. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), authorized by US President John F. Kennedy, carried out multiple covert operations against Cuba and planned to topple the government by 30th November 1961. The project was named ‘Operation Mongoose’.

In response, Soviet planned to install several nuclear capable missiles in Cuba to deter America from the intervention. Soviet ships carrying the missiles were enroute to Cuba. Once the news reached Whitehouse, America threatened to launch full-blown war if missiles were installed in Cuba. Crisis deepened to a critical level and finally secret negotiations happened between the two parties. Finally, the Soviet ships turned back and America agreed to remove the missiles it had installed in Turkey targeting Soviet. A threat of war, possibly a nuclear war, was avoided.

Now, we need to ponder if America does not allow any adversary to build up military bases near its shore and ready to start wars, why would any other nation be expected to allow it? In the case of Ukraine, if it becomes part of NATO, American missiles will be right beside the Russian border.

What was Putin’s demand before start of the war? Firstly, a legal commitment that Ukraine will not be part of NATO. Secondly, NATO to withdraw forces from Russian borders to where they were stationed in 1997, before the eastward expansion. Were the negotiations so difficult? It could avert a war and the humanitarian crisis that we are seeing today.

New York Times reported on 2nd February that “basic message to Moscow was American and NATO resolve not to bow to Russian demands”. If Russian action today is unjustified and act of aggression, isn’t refusal to achieve a diplomatic solution an act of incitement too?

Wolfowitz Doctrine

It is an unofficial name given to America’s defense planning guidance published in 1992 by US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz. Later it was incorporated into foreign policy principles of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. It was officially called ‘Bush Doctrine’.

It makes clear announcement that after dissolution of Soviet Union, America must “prevent the re-emergence of a new rival” and ensure that it remains the only superpower. Both the doctrines advised to use unilateralism and use of preemptive war to suppress rise of any other nations. It is very unequivocal in this regard, “Finally, we must maintain mechanisms, in concert with our allies, to deter potential aggressors from aspiring to a larger regional or global role”.

The doctrine also mentions the risk of having a resurgent Russia. It states “Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States”.

We might be surprised to see such audacious and inflammatory ideas in official documents of a country. The idea is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of other nations. But if we go by the examples that America has set, especially post-WW2, it is not that surprising. It has been involved in direct wars or in secret missions to topple governments almost all the time in one corner of the globe or another. As per a report by Al Jazeera, USA has established over 750 military bases in 80 countries. Over 173,000 US troops are deployed to different countries.

Is this not naked aggression and incitement to conflict? Possibly, instead of containing Russia, if America tried to cooperate with it at an equal level, Ukraine situation may not have snowballed into today’s crisis.

NATO Expansion

Before the dissolution of Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia was promised that NATO will not expand eastward. NATO started with 12 member countries in 1949 and had already grown into 16 countries before 1990.

When Germany Unification was on the table, US Secretary of State, James Baker met Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev on 9th February 1990. There it was agreed that NATO juggernaut will not move to the east beyond West Germany where NATO was already present.

We understand that not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well, it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction”, James Baker told Gorbachev.

Current Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred to this conversation multiple times recently during his speech. Though American argument, at present, counters it by saying that the commitment was made in terms of not deploying NATO troops in East Germany only and no commitment was given that NATO would not expand to other countries.

In another instance, on 17th May 1990, NATO general Secretary, Manfred Woerner made a speech “The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the federal Republic (West Germany) gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees”.

Would it be really wrong, if Russia now asks the West to keep this promise, asks for this security guarantee? Did America and NATO keep this promise? Absolutely not! Post-Cold war, NATO expanded 5 times and kept on coming closer to the Russian border. Count of member countries increased from 16 in 1990 to 30 at present. Three more (Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina) are in various stages of membership process.

European NATO Countries (in Blue) as on 2022

Russia protested multiple times. President Boris Yeltsin said in 1997, “We believe that eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that”. In 2008, Vladimir Putin objected vehemently, “appearance of a powerful military bloc on Russia’s border would be taken as a direct threat

Not only Russia protested this expansion, many Western experts warned America. “Beginning of a new Cold War. It is a strategic mistake”, said American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan. American secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates warned in 2008 when NATO planned to include Ukraine and Georgia in the alliance. “Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching. This move was a case of recklessly ignoring what Russians considered their own vital national interests”, said Mr. Gates.

NATO expansion only means further expansion of American military bases in even more countries and a threat to others who are not a part of this group. Because, the United States of America is the primary security provider of this alliance. In 2021, USA spent 811 billion dollars in defense. Whereas rest of the 29 countries together in NATO spent 363 billion dollars. It is another way of conforming to the Wolfowitz Doctrine of maintaining American supremacy.

Where Do We Stand?

India has very rightly taken the neutral step. It is not just about our dependence on Russian arms export and its maintenance. It is even more than our decades long strategic partnership with Russia where they helped us numerous times when we needed it badly. We cannot forget Russia’s support with Kashmir issue, Goa liberation, India-Pakistan war during 1971, India’s nuclear test in 1998 or more recent event of Article 370 revocation. America and the West in general took a very different stand almost all the time. We need to remain neutral for even a bigger reason.

American foreign policy of unilateralism and refusal to allow a multi-polar world will only increase its conflict with rising China. India falling into the American lobby will put us in direct conflict with China. Whereas Russia being a close friend of both India and China, may help diffuse Indo-China tensions. Why should we fight somebody else’s battle?

There is a video on this topic. Readers are encouraged to watch it as well.

The Global Polymath

Last year on 7th May, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s 160th birth anniversary was celebrated in India and elsewhere in the planet, but perhaps not with usual fanfare because of COVID-19 restrictions. The influence of this prolific polymath on the post-modern Indian literature is still very much evident even 80 years after his demise, on 7th August 1941.

It is common knowledge that he was a poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, composer, philosopher, and educationist all rolled into one. His versatile genius was manifested in varied forms of literature and also in the original music form created by him – Rabindra Sangeet. That was not all. In his late 60s, he began trying his hand at painting, drawing with earnestness, and twenty years later he was already regarded as a celebrated modern Indian painter.

The first Asian Nobel laureate (in 1913, for his collection of poems titled Gitanjali) was a product of Bengal Renaissance with a pluralistic world view. His seminal writings and other artistic contributions are the products of myriad influences on him, and they, in turn, have influenced successive generations of writers, poets, artists and musicians in India and abroad.

Tagore was perhaps the first to introduce magical realism and open-ended story telling in Indian literature with his celebrated work Kshudhita Pashan (Hungry Stones)

Short Story Teller

Tagore’s literature can be very simply described as a bridge between the nineteenth century Indian literature and the modern Indian literature which began to take shape from 1940s. A bridge you need to cross to get a comprehensive view of the evolution of Indian literature. He can be easily credited with heralding the wave of modern literary trends in India. One of the foremost contributions of Tagore towards Bengali literature was the developing of the short story format.

He can be credited for giving birth to short stories in Bengali literature and grooming this literary form from birth to its full blooming youth through his immense literary inputs, from where many other illustrious modern Bengali litterateurs, of course, took the form to its present maturity.

In fact, Tagore as a world class short story writer can be regarded at par with Anton Chekhov, Maupassant and O Henry. It is not sure whether Tagore was inspired by the west in developing the short story format in Bengali literature but it is interesting to note that three of these maestros of short stories began writing their short stories during the same period that is between late 1870s to early 1880s. O Henry began his short literary career of nine years in 1901.

Feminism and Magical Realism

One can say that thanks to Tagore, short story writing in India was developed and chiseled in the same way as in the west, during more or less the same period. But it can be safely assumed that one of the famous short stories of Tagore titled Streer Patra (The Wife’s Letter), which is perhaps the first short story in Bengali literature written in colloquial Bengali, was inspired by the world renowned drama of Henrik Ibsen titled Doll’s House.

It is also the first literary work of Tagore with a strong feminist perspective, a stance which he took rarely in his long and illustrious literary career. His female protagonist in the story, Mrinal was etched in far more modernist lines than was then conceivable in Indian literature. The story was written in 1914.

Tagore was perhaps the first to introduce magical realism and open-ended story telling in Indian literature with his celebrated work Kshudhita Pashan (Hungry Stones). That was almost seven decades before Gabriel Garcia Marquez amazed the literary world with ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, in 1967, which is perhaps one of the most profound post-modern works of magical realism. Both magical realism and open-ended story telling are among the important elements of western literature. Chekhov can be credited with hugely developing the art of open-ended story telling.

Evolution of Bengali

Tagore also immensely contributed towards evolving Bengali language and literature to its present rich and flexible state by removing its rigid shackles, which in turn helped future writers in Bengali literature to flow their thoughts lucidly.

Another Nobel laureate and world renowned economist Amartya Sen while doing a book review in The New Republic, said, “In many different ways, Tagore’s writings reshaped and reconstructed modern Bengali in a way that only a handful of innovative Bengali writers had done before him, going back all the way, a thousand years earlier, to the authors of Charyapad, the Buddhist literary classics that first established the distinctive features of early modern Bengali.”

Multidimensional Characters

Tagore was one of the firsts to introduce nuanced multidimensional characters with grey shades in the realm of twentieth century Indian literature. His writings (especially his novels) often focus more on deep analysis of the characters’ mind; their conflicts and turmoil, etc. in the backdrop of complex socio-cultural and socio-economic dynamics rather than the plot or the narrative structure. Tagore’s Gora and Ghare Baire can be construed as apt examples of such a form of literary endeavour.

Similar trend began developing in western literature during the mid to late nineteenth century. In fact, this writer found the narrative structure in his novels to be seldom entertaining and almost never racy; almost always demanding careful, introspective reading.

Radical Thoughts

The western influence in Tagore’s writings was more marked in his later years. In his novel Sheseher Kobita, the great literary genius hailed as Kobiguru, Biswakobi put forward the case for open and simultaneous multiple relationships between man and woman through his protagonist Amit Roy’s words. In the rigid and conservative India of those times (the book was published in 1929) such a radical thought was seldom discussed in daily life and never in contemporary literature of those times. In Sesher Kobita, the influence of western liberal thought is very much pronounced. The book can be regarded as modern in appeal even by the European standards of morality.

Interestingly, in the same year of the publication of Sesher Kobita, eminent philosopher Bertrand Russel’s Marriage and Morals, where open marriage is unabashedly advocated and the virtue of sexual fidelity is strongly questioned, created quite a controversy even in the liberal west.

In his short story Laboratory (1941), Tagore even introduced a thoroughly sexually liberated woman protagonist named Sohinee, which clearly indicates influence of western literature and defies the convention of Indian literary trends of those times.

Cigar smoking Neela in the same story also seems to be influenced on western lines and was much ahead of her times. Such sexually liberated and strongly individualistic woman protagonist is seldom found even in today’s Indian literature, which by and large, even today is conformist in its character. However, despite such ambitious attempts, Tagore couldn’t handle his women characters with nuance in Laboratory and to this writer the story seems quite contrived, especially in its ending.

Connecting Thread

Being a true internationalist, Tagore believed in smooth flow of ideas between the east and from the west for the growth of humankind. He not only holistically presented India before the west with all its beauty, ugliness, complexities and nuances through his complex and subtle literary creations, but also gave a novel education system to the world through the platform of his experimental school of Santiniketan, which disseminated learning that was far removed from the regimental system of western education.

He wanted to position Santiniketan as a connecting thread between India and the world, and was moderately successful in such praiseworthy attempt.

“Rabindranath was very much influenced by Indian classical music, Bengali folk songs, kirtan and also western classical and folk music”

Western Musical Influence

The creativity of Tagore is perhaps best manifested through his poetry and Rabindra Sangeet. The latter is a distinct genre of music founded by him. Many of the songs of Rabindra Sangeet genre resonate with universal appeal. Rabindra Sangeet has imbibed varied musical influences, which include influences from Indian classical music, folk music, kirtan, and music from faraway Europe to shape its distinct but diversified musical character.

“Rabindranath was very much influenced by Indian classical music, Bengali folk songs, kirtan and also western classical and folk music,” explains Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, one of the greatest exponents of Rabindra Sangeet of our times. Swagatalakshmi is not only a fascinating and soul-stirring singer of Rabindra Sangeet but she has been a distinguished teacher of Rabindra Sangeet for many decades.

According to Swagatalakshmi, who has the unique and astonishing distinction of recording all the 2,232 songs in Tagore’s celebrated book of songs titled Gitabitan (her collection of rendition of all the Tagore’s songs is termed Ekala Gitabitan), several songs composed by Tagore during 1881-1888 were inspired by western tunes. “Robert Burns’s famous Scotish poem and song Auld Lang Syne inspired Rabindranath in creating his famous song Purano Sei Diner Katha; then the world renowned song Ye Banks and Braes (also written by Burns in 1791) inspired him in creating Phoole Phoole Dhole Dhole”. She goes on to enthusiastically narrate and also sing several more apt examples of western musical inspirations in Rabindra Sangeet while maintaining “In my own opinion, Rabindra Sangeet can be best expressed through piano.”

Thus, we can see that Tagore presented a wonderful synergy of Indian and the modern western traditions in his diversified creative manifestations, which in turn contributed to some extent towards his towering cosmopolitan and global persona. The fact that he kept the windows of his mind open till his last breath helped him to emerge among the very few truly global Indians and a global citizen of his time.

Written by Swarnendu Biswas.

Writer is a New Delhi based veteran journalist. Many of his features have been published in reputed Indian and overseas publications. He is also author of the book Inspiring Indian Women: The Bold and Restless in Pursuit of Passion. In this book comprising a collection of mini biographies he narrated achievements of nine inspiring women of post-modern India.

This feature was first published in

Canadian Truckers Protest: What India Must Learn


Disclaimer: IndicVoices has zero interest in Canadian politics and does not have allegiance with any political parties.

IndicVoices considers truckers' demands are unscientific and Canadian government has taken the right step.

Worldwide, vaccines have been proved to be beneficial against COVID-19 spread and severity. Unvaccinated individuals are not only carrying risks for themselves, they are prolonging the pandemic and increasing risks for others.

Canadian truckers protest has stepped into the third week since the rally blocked Parliament Hill in the capital city of Ottawa on 29th January. Multiple key locations have been blocked, especially the US-Canada borders. The Ambassador Bridge blockade is the biggest news grabbing headline for last few days as this port of entry is the busiest border crossing in North America covering 25% of US-Canada trade.

Why Is This Protest?

The protest was triggered by the new mandate from the Canadian government that requires all truck drivers to be fully vaccinated in order to cross the US border. The government also mandated vaccine passport, a digital or paper document with QR code with COVID-19 vaccination details, for domestic and international travels. This has been made mandatory for many amenities like restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events. Government employees without such proof were sent for unpaid leave.

Ambassador Bridge Blockade: A key bridge connecting USA with Canada

Many citizens protested against it as they did not want to take the vaccines and considered it as an attack on their freedom of choice. Unlike most Indians, many people in USA, Canada and other developed countries have vaccine hesitancy and such people are called anti-vaxxers. These people among the trucking community and outside have now come down on streets to protest against the government mandate. Their primary demand is to withdraw the mandatory vaccine requirements. As a matter of fact, we, Indians, should take pride in the fact that we took a more scientific approach when it came to vaccination and protecting our communities.

What Can We Learn?

But there is a big learning for us from this incident happening almost 12,000 kilometres away. For that we need to understand the response from the Canadian governments to tackle this crisis. The Canadian Federal government, led by Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, criticized the protest vehemently. He said that the truckers and the anti-vaxxers are defying science. He told the protesters to go home or face severe penalties as high as $100,000. He termed it as "illegal" and "unacceptable". Large number of heavily armed police forces have been deployed in order to clear out the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge by force. Finally on 13th February, the bridge reopened after six-day long complete blockade. On 14th February, Prime Minister Trudeau invoked Emergency Act to bring this protest to an end.

On the other side, the government of Ontario, a province in Canada, led by Conservative Party leader and Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, went one step ahead and declared state of emergency on 11th February itself threatening fines and jail for the protesters. He asked the courts to freeze donations to truckers on a crowdfunding site.

Left: Justin Trudeau, Right: Doug Ford

Those who are not familiar about the Canadian politics, Liberal Party and Conservative Party are two arch rivals like our BJP and Congress. Very recently, the Liberal Party defeated the Conservative Party in the central, called Federal in Canada, election. Whereas a reverse situation happened in Ontario in 2018 when the Liberals lost to the Conservatives in the state level election. But see how they have come together on a national cause.

What did our opposition leaders do during the year-long Farmers Protest? Just last year, Rahul Gandhi staged tractor protest and reached parliament on a tractor! Mamata Banerjee met Rakesh Tikait to extend her full support to the protest. What else can you expect from her who destroyed her own state’s industrialization dream for her mere political ambition?

So, what do we learn here? We learn that self-proclamation of 56 inches of chest is not useful. It has to be demonstrated in action. Instead of repealing the laws and in turn canceling hope of any farm reform, ruling government should have taken strong step even if that means losing popularity.

What else do we learn? Opposition parties are not there just for mere opposition. When there is a national cause, parties should set aside their electoral priorities.

What Else We Must Learn, Remember & Never Forget?

There is one more learning in this drama. Note the fact that Canadian government brought police and court actions against a protest that is not even a month long. They invoked Emergency Act to end a protest that entered just its third week. What did the same Justin Trudeau say during the year-long Farmers Protest in India? "We're all very worried about family and friends. We believe in the importance of dialogue", he continued “Canada will always stand up for peaceful protests”. No one asked for his advice. But, he still did it and to the detriment of India's national cause.

Even Biden’s America is now asking Canada to end the protest, in not so democratic way! Last week, the White House urged Trudeau's government to use its 'federal powers' to end this demonstration. Do you know what the American government told us last year? The Biden administration urged the Modi government to resolve farmer protests through ‘dialogue’.

How can we forget how the British ministers debated Indian Farmers protest in their British parliament! Several MPs from the Liberal Democrats, Labour Party and the Scottish National Party had expressed concern about the safety of the protesting farmers.

Hypocrisy Exhibit # 1

We must not forget multiple rallies in all these Western countries supporting farmer's protest last year. There were huge donations from foreign countries for the protesting farmers and that is one of the reasons why they could sustain the agitation for over a year. Many so-called Western celebrities like Greta Thunberg, Rihanna spoke in support of the protesting farmers. Many Western medias like NYT, Washington Post, BBC criticized the Indian government as if there was a holocaust going on here. The same Washington Post is now publishing article with the headline “Auto industry already feeling the pinch from Canadian bridge blockade - More workers could be idled if protests keep car parts gridlocked

Hypocrisy Exhibit # 2

I just wonder if there is an Oscar for hypocrisy! When Canadian truckers defy science, it must be stopped by force. But when Indian farmers defy economics, it is their democratic rights! 

When US-Canada trade is impacted then it is time to invoke the Emergency Act. When Indian central government loses 1.5 lakh crore rupees (20 billion USD) of taxpayer’s money for buying grains at MSP (Minimum support Price) that is already over 2.5 times of stipulated buffer stock norm and the grain that finally rots in the government warehouse, nobody bats an eye.

Now we should know what to do when the West lectures us on democracy and human rights. I have to now find a new dustbin!

Read why Farm Reform was very critical for India: Farm Laws - When Politics Triumphs Over Economics

His Moving Images

Last year we celebrated the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray, regarded by many critics and cinema lovers as the greatest Indian filmmaker to date. Whether such a passionate opinion is rationally founded or not is a matter of debate, but it can safely and dispassionately be said that Ray is among the most important of India’s filmmakers.

Satyajit Ray, besides being a film director of global eminence, was also a wonderful scriptwriter, a fairly competent and extremely popular author in the Bengali literature, a lyricist and composer of music, a magazine editor, and an illustrator and calligrapher. In fact, Ray wrote the screenplay of all the films he made, and composed music for 29 of them. This polymath, born on 2nd May 1921, arrived on the Indian film scene in 1955, with his first directorial venture, Pather Panchali.

Iconic filmmakers like Jean Renoir, Vittorio De Sica and a few old-school Hollywood directors like John Ford, Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch were among his chief influences. Among them perhaps Jean Renoir, regarded by many as one of the greatest filmmakers the world has seen, influenced him the most.

Prolific Maestro

Pather Panchali, whose making was delayed because of severe financial constraints, quickly and justifiably won him global acclaim. The beautifully simple and wonderfully powerful moving images of his maiden directorial venture induced the world of cinema to sit up and take note of his arrival. Pather Panchali went on to garner 11 international awards, including the inaugural Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.

Ray went on to direct 36 films in all — 29 feature films, five documentaries and two short films — during his filmmaking career of 36 years. We can very easily see that besides being brilliant he was also extremely prolific, which is quite surprising in a person who delivered such quality works.

Ray’s passionate but rather systematic journey in filmmaking was studded with 36 Indian National Film Awards and many prestigious awards at several international film festivals (for example, a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival). He was even bestowed with an Academy Honorary Award in 1992, when he was unfortunately inching towards his untimely demise.

Independent Visuals

Over the decades, many filmmakers and film critics have spoken and written about the contributions of Satyajit Ray to cinema. In my modest opinion, his main contribution to Indian cinema lies in his presentation of dialogue and visuals in a complementary manner. He was perhaps the first director in Indian cinema history to show that dialogue and visuals can be complementary and not merely reflect each other.

In most of his films, therefore, we find that there is no more room given to dialogue than is absolutely necessary. Many a time, Ray’s frames convey a wonderful array of emotions entirely without the support of dialogue.

In most of his films, there is no more room for dialogues than what is absolutely necessary. Many a time, Ray’s frames have conveyed a wonderful array of emotions without the support of dialogue.

Some cases in point are the climactic scene of Kanchenjungha (1962), where a perplexed Indranath (brilliantly played by Chhabi Biswas; the way he changed his usual dramatic style of acting to suit Satyajit’s realistic cinematic sensibilities deserves high admiration) in the backdrop of a suddenly sunny Kanchenjungha (a major peak in the Himalayan range) realises a sudden truth regarding the failed relationship between his daughter and her supposed would-be husband; Indir Thakuran’s hungry eyes and her slow moving away from Sarvojaya’s hearth, without getting any food from her; Apu’s throwing away the stolen necklace in the depths of ditch water (Pather Panchali); the frantic take-off of pigeons to symbolise Harihar’s death (Aparajito, 1956); Bijoya being transformed to her widowhood (Ghara Baire, 1984)… One could go on and on. Time and again, Ray has shown that visuals are an independent part of the film’s script; they do not need the crutch of dialogue to move you.

“It is important to note how much information Ray packed into a single frame. This is the secret of his fabled economy. Ray used as little dialogue as possible. This he did consciously and deliberately. In a feature film, one is basically telling a story through images. So, images are of the utmost importance,” points out Aparna Sen, the globally renowned filmmaker and successful actor in Bengali cinema.

“Precision and a sense of balance and proportion are the hallmarks of Satyajit Ray’s cinema,” says Satarupa Sanyal. Sanyal is a noted filmmaker from Bengal whose maiden feature film Anu (1998) earned her the BFJA Film Award for Best Film in 1999.

First Modernist?

According to the great filmmaker Shyam Benegal, Ray was the first to infuse modern thinking in Indian cinema in a comprehensive manner. Conventional Indian cinema, he says, just assimilated India’s classical theatrical traditions and incorporated them into celluloid, and Ray was the first in India to make a significant departure from that tradition, thereby creating his own language of cinema in the process.

According to Benegal, before Ray, in Indian cinema, modernity was there only in terms of technology. The fact that technology brought about the possibility of a new kind of language in cinema was simply ignored by Indian filmmakers.

“He recognised the kind of language that technology of films enables you to use, and how well it can be used, and consequently developed a distinct language of cinema that nobody had done before in India,” Benegal observes, adding that he views Indian cinema as before-Ray and after-Ray.

I do not entirely agree with the views of this great filmmaker. In my view, cinematic language arrived in Indian cinema before Ray’s Pather Panchali, albeit in bits and pieces. It was not so comprehensively evident in most of the frames of a given feature film, as in Pather Panchali.

It would not be an overstatement to say, nonetheless, that before Ray, by and large, other than very few exceptions like Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946), Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1951), Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen (1953), or the great Mehboob Khan’s Andaz (1949), Indian cinema was not much different from photographed theatre or literature. I think Ray gave the necessary momentum to Indian cinema which helped it to develop a comprehensive cinematic language in subsequent decades.

Finding Beauty in the Commonplace

Another of Ray’s great contribution to Indian cinema is perhaps to reveal the great latent beauty in mundane, commonplace things. His films didn’t so much focus on stunning visuals of great natural beauty or great spectacle, nor have they any lavishly mounted song sequences or great, spectacular, jaw-dropping stunts. Rather, he focused more on the beauty of the many day-to-day, commonplace realities that frequently go unnoticed by us.

For example, he could create great cinematic beauty from two penury-stricken village children’s viewing of a moving train from a field of kans grass (Pather Panchali) and their excitement in the experience. Even at this middle age of mine, whenever I watch this scene, which I have watched innumerable times before, I cannot prevent goosebumps from emerging on my skin. It is pure cinema with no need of any language.

Similarly, in the same film, Durga waking up Apu by opening one of his sleepy eyes, by inserting her fingers deftly through a torn quilt is simply a breathtakingly beautiful piece of cinema, though it depicts a very mundane reality of an impoverished family. The car’s fumes enveloping the zamindar’s elephant in Jalsaghar (1958) and Charulata eyeing her husband through a pair of binoculars (Charulata, 1964) are other examples of great symbolic meaning conveyed through apparently commonplace reality.

According to Sen, “While being deeply rooted in his local soil, Ray’s films are not ethno-specific. His deep humanism and simple storytelling give his films an enduring, universal appeal.”

She also lucidly explained Ray’s shot-taking style. “Unlike Ritwik Ghatak, Ray rarely stunned the audience with a breathtaking wide-angle shot with a character in the foreground. Ray’s method was to seep gradually into your consciousness without any gimmickry, until you identified deeply with the characters he had created. In the hands of a less talented director, this manner of shot-taking may have resulted in a mediocre film. But not with Ray, whose vision had tremendous clarity.”

Ray also gave us, she says, “his brilliant use of leitmotif. He invariably used a character or an object several times in different situations, imbuing it with a different layer of meaning each time. This made his films both dense and nuanced. An example of this is the sundial in Aparajito. It first appears as a symbol of Apu’s inquisitiveness and his opening up to the world of science. When we see it next, it tells the time for Apu to hurry back to his college in the city. It appears again when Sarbajaya, the mother of Apu, is dying, indicating that it is time for her to make her final journey. This use of the same object with different meanings at different times, add layers to his film.”

Amazing Content

However, the Bharat Ratna and Legion d’ Honneur award-winner was not only a trendsetter in form but also a pioneer in terms of content, as far as Indian cinema goes. Before him, who in Indian cinema ever made a film centred on two children in a rural Bengali setting, with no love interests and no typical hero or villain? “At the time, it was virtually inconceivable for Indian filmmakers to think of adopting such a subject into a film,” says Sanyal, speaking of Pather Panchali.

The way Ray combined the genres of comedy and fantasy to make a wonderful film with strong elements of magical realism (Parash Pathar, 1958) can also be perceived as a novel experience in Indian cinema.

Before him, who in the realm of Indian cinema had made a film on 100 minutes (real time) in the life of a wealthy Bengali family on the last day of their visit to Darjeeling, with no proper narrative storyline as such, and drawing corollaries between the moods of characters and moods of nature (Kanchenjungha)?

I do not know of anyone in Indian cinema before Ray to have made a film on a day in the life of a famous cinema star, exposing his pent-up insecurities and sense of guilt behind the façade of glamour (Nayak, 1966).

Or, for that matter, which filmmaker before Ray in India showed the vision of making a musical fairy tale-cum-political satire on two levels; a film that appeals to children and adults differently, with each able to enjoy it at their own level (Hirok Rajar Deshe, 1981)?

Succinctly, one can say that Ray was not only a trendsetter in Indian cinema in terms of form, he also translated a wide variety of novel story ideas to celluloid; topics which perhaps were not attempted before within the by-and-large conventional boundaries of Indian cinema.

Casting, Editing and Child Actors

The auteur’s frequent habit of casting non-professional actors, often in pivotal roles, also deserves exploration. “Ray’s films teach us about casting according to character. That is the reason he often used non-professional actors — simply because they looked the part! If they could act, well and good. If they couldn’t, Ray used them in ways that did not demand too much acting. Whether they looked the part or not was of supreme importance to him,” says Sen.

She also speaks passionately of the quality of Ray’s editing, whose pace varied according to the theme of the film. “The tranquil pace created through editing in the Apu trilogy is vastly different from the pace of Ray’s city films like Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya, which are full of quick cuts that convey the inner restlessness of the protagonist as well as the throbbing pulsation of a metropolis,” observes the eminent filmmaker and actor.

“In Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen, I would watch out for the editing in the scene where several singers from different gharanas are singing in front of the king of Shundi to compete for the post of the court musician. They just sing a phrase, when Ray cuts seamlessly to a completely different style of singing by another aspirant. This again, is like a master class in editing. I have watched this scene countless times and marvelled at the virtuoso’s editing,” says Sen, who has directed many prestigious and award-winning films.

Sanyal points out the remarkable natural acting that Ray brought out from his child actors. “In his films, child actors delivered wonderfully natural performances, shorn of any bombastic elements, which is hardly seen in mainstream Indian cinema,” the filmmaker asserts.

The Musical Link

Sanyal also marvels at the “brilliant song picturisation and background music score of Ray’s films.” “His grasp of film music was simply amazing,” she says. In this regard, however, I totally disagree with her. To me, Ray’s background score may have been appropriate to the scenes but they are highly repetitive in terms of style. And, in my modest opinion, song picturisation is perhaps the weakest element of Ray’s filmmaking. The very few times he used songs in his films — except for Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen (1969) and Hirak Rajar Deshe, which are musical satires — they were picturised in quite a bland manner.

His song picturisation was simply no match for the brilliant song picturisation by some of yesteryears’ Bollywood greats like Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt, or for that matter in comparison to contemporary greats like Rajkumar Hirani. But that, perhaps, is because he didn’t belong to that school of filmmakers who view song as an integral part of film.

Moreover, though his scripts are quite tight and concise, because of the sheer paucity of drama elements or the slow pace of narrative flow in most of his films, often his films fail to engage ordinary viewers at large. That is, viewers who are not trained in cinematic nuances.

Overall, though surely we cannot say that Ray was the greatest Indian filmmaker in all aspects of filmmaking, there is no denying the fact that he made many significant and some pioneering contributions to Indian cinema’s journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Written by Swarnendu Biswas.

Writer is a New Delhi based veteran journalist. Many of his features have been published in reputed Indian and overseas publications. He is also author of the book Inspiring Indian Women: The Bold and Restless in Pursuit of Passion. In this book comprising a collection of mini biographies he narrated achievements of nine inspiring women of post-modern India.

This feature was first published in