Tuesday, December 21, 2010

National Minority Day 2010 observed in Kolkata

The National Minority Day was celebrated in Kolkata on December 18 through seminars and conventions. An organization of Muslim intellectuals, Naya Zamana, called a convention on National Minority Day while All India Muslim Youth Federation organized a seminar.

In the evening at Academy of Fine Arts Seminar Hall, All India Muslim Youth Federation arranged a seminar where Central Minister Mr Sultan Ahmed, Professor of Rabindra Bharati University Suranjan Middey, Trinamul Congress State Secretary Dr M Nuruzzaman, Universal Peace Council Chairman Sukhnandan Singh Ahluwaliah, Bijay Chaturbedi, Father Mandela, Social Worker Md Sahlam delivered speeches. Most of the speakers demanded for political empowerment of the community. They condemned the ruling CPI-M led State Government for failure in improving the condition of Muslims in education, job etc. MYF Secretary Md Kamruzzaman said, if West Bengal Govt does not implement the reservation all the Muslim youth will go against them in the coming Assembly election.

Historian Surajit Dasgupta said, political empowerment can change the lot of the Muslim society. He said, Muslims should get equal opportunity. Dasgupta also condemned the poor political leadership in West Bengal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

60 Years of Secularism

An editorial piece in the Bengali daily, Sakalbela. Click on the image for a larger view.  Please leave your thoughts behind in the comments link below.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Llosa and Xiaobo win the Nobel

Mario Vargas Llosa and Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Prize Winners for Literature and Peace respectively, are both PEN members.

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize for literature as the academy honored one of the Spanish-speaking world's most acclaimed authors and an activist who once ran for Peru's presidency and famously denounced leftist writers and dictators.

We are absolutely delighted that Liu Xiaobo, our Chinese PEN colleague , a literary critic, writer, and political activist who is serving an 11-year sentence in a Chinese prison, is the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
You can read more at Albert Ashok's PEN West Bengal site.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter: A NovelThe Bad Girl: A NovelConversation in the CathedralThe Feast of the Goat: A NovelThe War of the End of the World

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moving with the times

From a non-descript village in the coastal area of the State a group of youths who passed Intermediate prepare reports for doctors across the world. Sitting in the calm environs of the village they are revolutionising the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry where the big guns are talking about starting operations in tier-I and tier-II cities to cut costs.
The rural BPO set up by an enterprising entrepreneur Ramakrishna Tummala in Kavur village of Guntur district with a workforce of just 30 people (now many more in strength – all drawn from the village and nearby -- has not only slashed the costs by nearly 60 per cent but has also fulfilled his ambition of serving his birthplace.

Read the article in The Hindu here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Screening of The Cove halted

From P.E.N., Japan
We are seeing the gradual spread of circumstances that are very regrettable from the standpoint of freedom of speech and expression. Some theaters are moving to exercise self-censorship by not showing The Cove, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. From the time of its completion, there have been arguments for and against the content of this film. In preparation for distribution in Japan, the Japanese distributor worked to resolve legal issues that had been pointed out, and then the company announced plans to show the film nationwide.

However, after protests by certain groups, some movie theaters have already decided to cancel planned showings so our members and the public are being robbed of the opportunity to actually see and think about this film. Furthermore, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that showings have even been cancelled by universities, which are supposed to intrinsically be bastions of free expression.

Just about two years ago, movie showings and lectures were being cancelled because of protests similar to those we are seeing today. At that time, the Japan P.E.N. Club responded by issuing a statement and also holding film showings. Read More by Clicking Here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Upside-down laws of Hobuchandra

 This is from an editorial piece I wrote for the Bengali daily, Sakalbela, dated August 29, 2010.  You can click on the image for a larger print.  For those who have no clue who Hobu and Gobu Chandra are, check with your grandparents, or see Ranajit Goswami's notes here.

I hope someone will come forward to translate it so that it can be shared with those who cannot read Bengali.  You can email me by clicking here.

The Grand DesignDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceStieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Bundle: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A blogpost against religious fundamentalism

This is a post from another blog, reproduced with permission, by my son, Subhorup Dasgupta.

(title unknown): "Fahrenheit 451

I am as apolitical and a-religious as one can be living in society, which is as good as saying nothing, since policy governs each and every breath we take, whether we acknowledge it or not. Religion, patriotism, passion, beliefs are nothing but expressions of our own politics, and as we interface with the rest of existence, these give birth to a complex new animal. Even close relationships are ultimately governed by politics, perhaps very personal ones, but politics all the same.

What happened with WTC on 9/11 is deplorable and is universally condemned by all sane people. The why's and the wherefore's can be debated endlessly and are best left to those who have nothing better to do. What we can do is to determine that we learn from what happened and never let it repeat. We don't have the luxury of adding to our woes as a civilization facing the threats posed by an environment we ourselves have ravaged to the point of being dealt merciless retribution.

Men of God have repeatedly proven themselves to be more desirous of being Gods of Men rather than seeking the divine will (or whatever it is called in your neck of the woods), that of harmonious and creative coexistence. Most Men of God who have not done so have also repeatedly refused to identify themselves as Men of God, choosing instead to do what they perceived to be their task in an intelligent design.

The movement to burn the Quran violates everything that 9/11 violated. It is a classic instance of being compelled to repeat history if we do not learn from it. May the God of these people show them that all of us need to heal and not hurt any one any more. It is sad that an entire community has to carry the shame brought upon it by a few misguided members, just as the perpetrators of 9/11 did for their community.

Let us join our voices to let sanity prevail. You can sign an online petition by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Leading Intellectuals debate reservation for Muslims (April 4, 2010)

From Zaidul Haque for TwoCircles

In a bid to woo West Bengal Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind leader Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury, whose mass movement for Muslim quota preceded the state government decision favoring the demand, and the decisive Muslim votes, a Cabinet Minister of the Left Front Government has invited Chowdhury to form a united Muslim front on the issue and called upon the Muslim community to get united for it.
“In West Bengal, Muslims should get united and make a new platform to pressurize the state government for reservation of Muslims in the state,” state Cabinet Minister of Land & Land Reforms Mr Abdur Rezzak Molla said yesterday here in a conference on “Why reservation necessary for Muslims in West Bengal?” Mr. Molla welcomed the Jamiat leader Maulana Chowdhury to form the front. The program was held at Muslim Institute Auditorium in Kolkata.

Land Reform Minister of West Bengal Govt. Mr. Abdur Razzak Molla,
Dr. M Nuruzzaman, Santosh Rana, Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhuri, 
Surajit Dasgupta, and Sukriti Ranjan Biwas

The conference called by a newspaper and an NGO was attended by intellectuals and politicians of all parties except BJP. The main speakers were Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury and State Minister Abdur Rezzak Molla. Among others who addressed the gathering were Mr. Sukritiranjan Biswas (Republican Party), Mr. Santosh Rana (CPI-ML), Dr. M. Nuruzzaman (State Chairman, Trinamul Congress, Minority Cell), Dr. Raisuddin (Jamat e Islami Hind), Journalist Mr. Ahmad Hasan Imran. The Chairman of this conference was historian Dr. Surajit Dasgupta. The conference offered a rare sight when CPI-M Minister was sharing the dais with ‘rival’ Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury.
Bastions of the Believers: Madrasas and Islamic Education in IndiaThe Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational LinkagesIslam and Muslim History in South Asia (Oxford India Paperbacks)Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India
Trinamul Congress leader and Chairman of West Bengal Trinamul Congress Minority Cell Dr. M. Nuruzzaman said, communist left front in West Bengal should follow the Leftist Kerala that has given reservation to Muslims. He remembered his father late Hasanuzzaman, Muslim League MLA, who was the first to demand reservation for Muslims in West Bengal when he was in the Ministry in the 1970s.
Ahmed Hasan Imran, editor of Bengali language newspaper ‘Kalom’ said, besides the demand of Muslim reservation we should make a movement against the communal elements of West Bengal Govt. He gave the example of Hooghly Madrasa. He condemned Govt of West Bengal for trying to stop Islamic learning and close the historical Hooghly Madrasa. Chairman of the conference Dr. Surajit Dasgupta called upon Muslims to build up political power, only then they can overcome their problems.

To read the whole article, click here.

Rabindra Smriti Purashkar 2010 (May 16, 2010)

A midst the widespread festivities of the internationally celebrated 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Institute of Planning & Management (IIPM) added another exceptional feather. On May 16, 2010, IIPM announced a landmark movement in the area of literature, culture and fine arts – the inaugural ceremony of Rabindra Smriti Puraskar (Rabindranath Memorial Awards), comparable to the Nobel Prizes awarded globally, was organized at the IIPM Kolkata campus at Rajarhat, Kolkata, where awards were handed over to the legendary personalities in the socio-cultural arena. 

The Home and the World (Penguin Classics)Rabindranath Tagore: An AnthologySelected Poems (Tagore, Rabindranath) (Penguin Classics)Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man
To read the whole story, click here.  A brief extract is reproduced in this post from the original story.

Explaining the philosophy behind the ceremony, Dr. Malay Chaudhuri, Founder Director of IIPM and Chairperson, IIPM-Rabindra Smriti Puraskar Selection Committee said, “IIPM has always believed in creating an enhanced consciousness in its students in the areas of art, culture and literature. This helps in creating not only a very different perspective in the young minds but also adds to one’s personality and helps in creating a more intellectual breed of new-age managers. Additionally, IIPM wants to touch the life of every individual around us and extend this consciousness for appreciation of art, culture and literature, which will definitely help in strengthening our social bonds and creating a more evolved society.” Famous Bengali writer and the Chief Guest at the award ceremony, Surajit Das Gupta said, “This award ceremony and the societal contribution of this initiative is highly praiseworthy and truly exceptional. Inspirations like these act as catalysts to spread Tagore’s philosophy amongst the newer generations.” 

Here is a link to an update on the 2011 award ceremony at Delhi scheduled for May 9, 2011.

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