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Caesar Basu (1975–2018)

We, the undersigned, condole the demise of Caesar Basu on the afternoon of 31 March 2018 in a hospital in Kolkata. Caesar was diagnosed with lung cancer, which was already at an advanced stage when his treatment began. Caesar, a research scholar and an intellectual, meant many things to many people: mostly students, teachers, and activists among whom he cultivated deep friendships.

We, the undersigned, condole the demise of Caesar Basu on the afternoon of 31 March 2018 in a hospital in Kolkata. Caesar was diagnosed with lung cancer, which was already at an advanced stage when his treatment began. Caesar, a research scholar and an intellectual, meant many things to many people: mostly students, teachers, and activists among whom he cultivated deep friendships.

To us, the class of 2004 from master’s programme at various centres in Jawaharlal Nehru University, he will be remembered as a comrade, a teacher, and a mentor. Exceptionally erudite, humble, and well read, Caesar was a thoroughbred scholar in political philosophy and was admired by his teachers at the Centre for Political Studies.

Caesar’s primary interests encompassed the project of social justice; his philosophical moorings and methodological pursuits were in classical Marxism, but his engagements and intellectual pursuits were boundless. He barely published anything as his academic endeavours were mostly dialogic and inspired other students and academicians. However, after finishing his master’s in political science in 2006, he submitted his MPhil dissertation on “Recognition or Redistribution—Dynamics of the National Question in India: A Preliminary Exploration,” supervised by
Valerian Rodrigues in 2008.

As evident from his dissertation, the question of social justice in an increasingly class-divided society was at the centre of Caesar’s intellectual pursuits. His quest to understand the ways and functioning of caste in India brought him to a bitter realisation of its overarching presence. He had once mentioned to one of us, “I try to avoid reading the books whose index does not have the word caste in it.” For him, any serious reading or engagement with India’s history and politics ought to have a caste analysis, the absence of which defied India’s reality.

Caesar always suggested that the methodology of his enquiries were rooted in Marxism and in the dialectical method. But, they also resembled the Socratic traditions of arriving at the truth through dialogue and deliberation. Caesar was the living example of a Habermasian “communicative reflexivity;” he deeply believed in understanding the world and its political reality through knowing the people who inhabited it. An avid listener who queried people of various backgrounds and engaged in dialogue with them, he left a profound impact on many of us as he inspired us to become informed academics, activists, and journalists who should both be “with the people” and “ahead of them” as intellectuals.

His enquiries led him, for example, to visit Nepal which was in the throes of giving up monarchy, and helping one of us to write a political diary in EPW (June 2008) His ideas helped activists such as trade unionists and student leaders firm up strategies and policies. He helped doctoral students find their way into their research, nudging them to complete their theses.

Caesarda, as he was fondly called, left a deep impression on many of us. It is impossible to fill the void that his demise has created. For, the loss is not merely personal, but also political: as the world is now devoid of a beautiful mind.

Aparajay, Srinivasan Ramani, Chennai,
Moggallan Bharti, New Delhi

Updated On : 13th Apr, 2018

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