ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering Javeed Alam


It is not surprising that a multifaceted personality should have attracted a tribute of respect and love from eminent philosophers and social scientists such as Akeel Bilgrami (“A Life of Commitment and Inquiry,” EPW, 31 December 2016), Partha Chatterjee, and Nivedita Menon (Social Scientist, January–February 2017). I also knew Javeed well. He was one of the most upright and lovable human beings I have ever known, which is why I am prompted to write this letter. Unlike many Marxists, Javeed was a firm believer in formal democracy. He was the man who wrote articles like “What Is So Bourgeois about Bourgeois Democracy,” or a book like Who Wants Democracy (2012).

While remaining a totally committed member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) all his life, he was not afraid to question its dogmas. He wrote, for example, critically about the principle of democratic centralism which governs all Leninist parties from the Communist Party of India to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (“Can Democratic Centralism Be Conducive to Democracy?,” EPW, 19 September 2009). For him, of course, formal democracy had to be layered with substantive and communitarian democracy, allowing people to live with dignity with their cherished identities unviolated. That does not mean that he had any romantic illusions about communities as such. He wrote on the problems of caste and religious identities in EPW (“Is Caste Appeal Casteism?,” 27 March 1999; “The Contemporary Muslim Situation in India: A Long-term View,” 12 January 2008). He knew that communities, religious or otherwise, could be horribly oppressive, disallowing any entry into or exit from those ascribed identities (“Public Sphere and Democratic Governance in Contemporary India” in Multiculturalism, Liberalism and Democracy, 1999). For him, of course, the best identity was a constructed identity, an identity he shared with his fellow scholars and fellow activists. But when challenged he would assert his identity as a Muslim, however unbelieving he might have been.

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Updated On : 31st Mar, 2017
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