EDWARD SAID OF KARAVALI KARNATAKA
Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Sep 12, 2016, 09.57 PM IST
By: Gauri Lankesh
G Rajashekar responds in both words and actions when communalism and social inequality raise their ugly heads
G Rajashekar is one of the most committed and popular intellectuals of our times. He can write about theatre and cinema with as much depth and clarity as he can hold forth on politics and communalism. He can dissect political ideologies of authors, analyze the writer’s literature and life values and write about it in the most simplest of styles and incredible sensitivity. It’s because of his ‘scholarship’ on a wide range of subjects that Rajashekar has been the guiding force of many budding intellectuals in the state. Unfortunately, not many non Kannadigas know about him since he writes only in Kannada. Additionally, since he prefers not to write for a corporatorised mainstream media, most of his articles are published by small yet self sustaining media.
The diminutive Rajashekar was born to a poor Brahmin family in a small village called Gundmi near Udupi. When he was a young boy, he had thought that either the RSS or the Left movement would provide ‘social opportunities’ to educated youths such as himself. So, he initially joined the RSS. But after a couple of years he was disenchanted with its ideology and stopped attending its ‘shakas’. Later, he was drawn to the Left movement and he became a card holding member of the CPM for a couple of decades. However, Rajashekar is such a man that he could not bear the Left party’s deliberate silence about Stalin’s excesses in Russia, the blood bath in Mao’s China and the magnitude of Pol Pot’s violence in Cambodia. In frustration, he gave up his membership. But to this day has remains a dear and important `comrade’ in many of the struggles led by leftists, liberals and secularists.
Though he worked as a teacher for a while after graduating, he later joined the LIC as a grade four employee. A man of minimum needs and even lesser means Rajashekar, now in his70’s, leads a retired life in Udupi. As his friend K Phaniraj says "Rajashekar became a resident of Udupi because of his livelihood and because of his familial obligations. However, it is Udupi which is his ‘punyabhoomi, karmabhoomi and jnaanabhoomi’. The world opens up to Rajashekar when he spends nearly three hours every afternoon at public libraries in his locality reading newspapers and magazines."
Every time communal violence or an incident occurs in coastal Karnataka, it is Rajashekar who sets off to ‘find facts’. Sometimes, he even goes as a ‘one man committee’. He talks to the victims, the local police and the administration and he writes about the incident with the world view that he has come to hone over the decades. When a young Muslim youth called Kabir was killed by the Anti Naxal Force near Sringeri in 2014, Rajashekar wrote thus: "It is inevitable for farmers of coastal Karnataka to sell their barren cattle. But for those who purchase such cattle and take them to slaughter houses, it is as dangerous as playing with death. Like those who are involved in this form of trade Kabir, too, had pledged his life and taken it up. When he spotted the ANF at Tanikodu check post, he ran to save his life. Because Kabir – who was born and raised in Suratkal – knew well that when it comes to Muslims there is no difference between the forces of the Bajrang Dal and the police. Hatred for Muslims which has occupied our towns, localities, language, even our brains and hearts, has now taken over even those who rule us. The ANF encounter which took place near Sringeri is just the outward sign of this ailment."
A hard core socialist and a democrat, Rajashekar believes in the plurality of the world. But, in his world, this plurality does not mean just faith in different religions, customs or beliefs. "We have to recognise that there are different kinds of pain. While we rightly condemn the attack on the Twin Towers, we should also be able to condemn the mass murder of Chileans by the American government which instigated a military coup and toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. We have to condemn the killings of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanistanis which as much indignation as the killings of innocent Americans," he stresses.
Rajashekar is held in such high esteem that U R Ananthamurthy and P Lankesh had compared him to the British writer George Orwell says noted critic T P Ashok. The tragic thing is that though Rajashekar has been writing copiously for more than four decades he had refused to publish collected works of his articles. It’s only recently that some of his friends have convinced him to allow them to collate some of his articles and publish them in the form of books. One such book is ‘Bahuvachana Bharatha’ published last year. Reviewing this book, Ashok said "Rajashekar’s sensitivity has been formed by Gopalakrishna Adigas’ poetry, Shivarama Karanth’s novels, Brecht’s plays, Camus and Sartre’s thoughts. His knowledge of history and his comprehension of literature form the basis of his writings… ‘Bahavachana Bharatha’ is a wonderful balance of politics and poetics."
Rajashekar is a public intellectual who looks at society through his lived experience of life as an ordinary man, a man who has familial responsibilities, as a man with deep concern for the oppressed and humiliated around him. It is that ‘ordinariness’ of his extraordinary personality which makes him respond in both words and actions when communalism and social inequality raise their ugly heads in coastal Karnataka.
No wonder that another respected social commentator Shivasundar says "What Edward Said was to Palestine, Rajashekar is to Karavali Karnataka!"
The writer is an activist-journalist