Tuesday, May 22, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 18: 71er Rev. Valson Thambu officiates a Principal

I was greatly overjoyed to read that Reverend Valson Thampu had taken over as Officer on Special Duty as Principal of the College on yesterday. He used to serve as the Chairman NCERT Curriculum Review Committee.

Rev. Thampu is detested by the Hindu Fundamentalists as he has an aura of love about him, which irks those who wish to promote hatred between the religious factions in india.

Rev. Thampu and another Stephanian, John Dayal, have been among the greatest spokespeople of the Christians in india, bringing to light that the Christian heritage in India is not one from our Imperialistic past, but that it is an Apostolic Faith.

In a story entitled Homecoming for Thampu at St Stephen’s College, the Delhi Newsline covered this important development.

Rev. Thampu certainly echoed what our college residence was in the 1960's. I feel especially proud that I was President of the JCR at a time when we had [What I think :-)] a great atmosphere in college.

"The founders wanted it to be a residential college so that students from all sections of society could come and stay together and oneness of India could be experienced... I sincerely believe my classroom is India," he said.

This was a note about his first days in the college:

He first joined St Stephen's College in 1971 as a post-graduate student of English from Mabelikara district in Kerala. By the time he passed out, he had decided to stay on. He joined the college's English Department in 1973 as a teacher and continued for the next 30 years.

I wonder whether there is a misspelling of Mabelikara. If it is Mavelikara - it makes him a lot closer to me than I realised.

I must do a check-up to see his relationship with my roots!

And sitting here in Finland, I must put great value to his words:

"It's not important where you are but who you are. Trust me, you can grow wherever you are."

It is sure that the College will grow leaps and bounds under his stewardship. Please join me in wishing Rev. Thambu well.


John Dayal said...

Review of John Dayal’s book in Asian Age by Political Editor Ms Seema Mustafa
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Asian Age, New Delhi Edition

Secularism from a Christian perspective
Seema Mustafa
There are some books that do not make it to the better known list because of the inability of publishers to push it through the crowded and competitive publishing world, but that definitely deserve to be in the spotlights. John Dayal's A Matter of Equity: Freedom of Faith in Secular India is certainly one such book that is an excellent documentation of recent politics concerning the Christian community and the fundamentalist Hindutva organisations in India and even abroad. In the process John, a veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker who is now active in Christian organisations, has tried to prod the conscience of the Christian community by alerting it to the dangers of communalism that have to be countered regardless of who these hit. It is a valuable book because it is probably one of the very few written on secularism from a Christian perspective. At the very onset John Dayal makes it clear that "the Hindu is as peaceful as the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Jew, atheist or animist in this country. The Hindutva ideologue and activist of the RSS and its agencies.....is as much a bigot and terrorist as a member of any other fundamentalist terror group anywhere in the world which believes in violence..."
The book seeks to expose the falsehoods that are used as the basis for communal propaganda against religions, and effectively links the divisive politics within to the politics of the region and the growing power of the United States. The role of the Church is also examined by the author in some detail who uses statistics and facts to shatter many of the myths concerning the minorities in India. It is a well researched and skilfully written book, covering ambitious ground as it seeks to expose the Hindutva brigade and its supposed commitment to religiosity.
A few chapters in the book stand out: The Mythology of Hate that examines and exposes the Pakistan angle as used to whip up hatred within India; Hindutva's Dollar Trail where the author successfully reveals the links between the fanatics and the US and the non resident Indian community; and Stop This Madness in Gujarat that raises some pertinent questions while offering interesting political solutions.
The one fault with the book is that it packs too many facts in short chapters, often not allowing the reader to gain a full perspective of the issue being discussed.
So while the statistics, quotes and reports do add to the legitimacy of the argument, occasionally the argument itself gets clouded under the weight of the facts. However, this probably holds true for those not familiar with the subject and as the author would in all probability argue: it was important to bring in the facts to counter the propaganda, as otherwise the argument for secularism might not have held its own.
It is a good book from a journalist who writes simply, presents the case precisely, and more importantly does not hesitate to speak out. This is particularly refreshing in an age where the honest word is not often spoken, and writers hesitate to call a spade a spade. John Dayal has not done that, and the strength of the book lies in its brutal honesty made all the more stark by the simplicity of style and the depth of information.
It is priced too high at Rs 800 though, and not many who should possess a copy will be able to afford it. Perhaps a paper back edition is called for.

The book can be had from
catholicunion@gmail.com, post paid in India [price Rs 800.oo by DD/ cash}
and in US/UK. Europe USD 60,00

John Dayal said...

John Dayal's Blogs


Karan Singh said...

Bishop puts own Son On St Stephen's Governing Body to appoint Thampu illegally:-

Those who were in College when Valson Thampu was there are shocked that he has been made Officer on Special Duty (read Principal) of St Stephen's College.

Thampu was HOD of English Department some years ago. In 1995 the entire English Department boycotted his classes throughout the year due to his communal remarks in class which were intolerable. Due to this he was sacked from the post of HOD and subsequently he left college because of the resulting stink.

He is only an M.A whereas for the post of Principal the qualification now is Ph.D. To overcome this situation the Bishop appointed Thampu “Officer on Special Duty”. However, this is against the College Constitution that does not have any such position. All these years College has been giving sworn affidavits in court that it stands by its own Constitution only and not by the Delhi University rules. The appointment of OSD is direct violation of the College Constitution.

Delhi university rules have provision for OSD but this appointment is made by VC from a panel of 3 names to be sent by the Governing Body. College Governing Body did not send any panel. One name was sent by the Bishop on behalf of another unofficial college body called “supreme council”. Supreme Council is not Governing Body by any stretch.

So this appointment is against College Constitution as well as DU rules.

This is not enough. Justice Vikramjit Sen, a highly respected Judge of Delhi high Court and Stephanian was member of the Governing Body. He was not in favour of the Bishop’s way of functioning. So he was eased out and in his place the Bishop brought HIS OWN SON on the Governing body.

Thampu’s mandate is to change the character of the College from being a secular place to becoming a Christian compound. He is widely known for his fundamentalist views.

Karan Singh (Stephanian 85-88)

Jacob Matthan said...

I am afraid the being 7000 km away I cannot check the veracity of Karan Singh's statement. Maybe Karan Singh has an axe to grind.

The way it has been done on my blog is out of character of a "Stephanian" of our era (1960-1962).

I have found virulent attacks on many Christians on various Hindu Fundamentalist web sites, totally out of character of the people that I know personally.

If Karan Singh is a Stephanian (as he claims), then he would have taken up in this issue as a true Stephanian, with character and dignity.

I do not think one person, even as powerful as Rev. Valson Thambu, can change the secular character of St. Stephen's College. The reputation of the College and its principles are far more powerful than any single person who may be its Principal.

That itself shows that Karan Singh is a person with an agenda and does not understand Stephania!

As is said in the Bible, let the person who is guiltless cast the first stone! Karan Singh?

Sanjay said...

Mr. Matthan,

I recently came across a reference to your blog in the context of Rev. Thampu's appointment, and I've just finished going over the Stephens-related entires, down to the was-he-or-wasn't-he-Stephanian Mr. Pander. Thank you for doing an exhaustive job of collecting and commenting on issues to great interest to Stephanians worldwide.

Re Rev. Thampu: He taught at College when I attended (81-84), but since I was in Maths, my knowledge of his fitness for the job is second-hand and out of date. So I will suspend judgment on his competence. Time will tell. And indeed, since like you, dilli door ast from me, I'm ignorant of the specifics of Mr Karan singh's criticism of Rev. Thampu's installation. However, I do have two observations:

1. Principal Wilson's final few days and his departure represent a black eye for College. The media storm unleashed by his confrontation with the governing body, and sometime before that, with the Bishop, cast an unhealthily communal tinge to a center of secular accomplishment. Anyone taking over the reigns in this fraught situation is likely to be attacked, deserved or not.

2. As a well-intentioned, but otherwise detached observer, I find curious your reflexive association of Mr Singh's anti-Thampu screed with a supposed communal agenda. Certainly, anti-Christian feelings exist among supposedly enlightened Stephanians. It's even possible that Mr. Singh has an axe to grind. But apart from his obvious passionate subjectivity, I see nothing in his comment meriting your ad hominem riposte. To my eye, he is being a "true Stephanian" by arguing forefully, using (what he presumably believes are) facts, against an irregularity. It's hard to accept your bland claim that he doesn't "understand Stephania". Shades of a certain "you're with us or with the terrorists" President.

All of the above is just an opinion, of course. Thank you for keeping alive a channel to discuss an important aspect of my identity.


Jacob Matthan said...

It is way past my bed time but this discussion must continue while I sleep.

I am clueless as to how the college has functioned since I left in 1963. I have visited college just two or maybe three times since. I am clueless as to the issues being discussed.

All my comments relate to the college as it existed during my time there.

It was a Christian Institution and the Principal, and many senior staff were highly qualified Christians as that was the mandate of the way the college was to be run.

But the majority of the total staff were non-Christians. Many of them, although being non-Christian, held Christian values.

Further, the number of Christian students in college was miniscule. In my class of about 20 students - we were probably 2 Christians. in our hostel, Mukerji Court, we were prbably 5 Christians out of about 45 residents!

Hence, there could be no Christian agenda among the staff and the students.

It was secular as there was no discussion as to it being Christian or non-Christian!

When I was elected as President of the JCR - there was no question as to my being a Christian or non-Christian. That was never an issue.

The only issues that made me stand apart as a Christian in college was that IF I attended church on Sunday, the Principal, Mr. Sircar, would entertain me to breakfast in his home!

Was that to change the character of the College from being a secular place to becoming a Christian compound?

Seems quite ridiculous to make such an accusation as it shows the commenter does not understand the character of the Institution!

It is easy to make an accusation that someone is a "fundamentalist". But is such an accusation valid without providing a single factual reason in arriving at this conclusion?

Just because I may say Mr. Karan Singh is a fundamentalist does not make him one. Such a libelous accusation demands that the accuser provide hard proof which can stand up in a court of law!

Till then I insist that I have the right to wish the Officer-in-charge of my alma mater well in running the Institution he has been charged to run.

Sanjay said...

Indeed, Mr. Singh's assertion that "Thampu’s mandate is to change the character of the College from being a secular place to becoming a Christian compound" is unsupported and inflammatory. And you certainly have the right to wish the Officer-in-charge of [your] alma mater well in running the Institution he has been charged to run.

You clearly have a very positive association with your College experience. No surprise, so do I. And so do thousands of other Stephanians. However, institutions evolve constantly. As a regular visitor to College since leaving in 1984, I am quite aware that the Stephens of today isn't the Stephens of my time. So I'm cautious about ascribing too many static, transcendentally noble values to, what is after all, a human-run institution.

While I have no reason to believe that Rev Thampu has been tasked with a regressive religious agenda, there is circumstantial evidence that something is rotten in the state of Stephens. It would be interesting to learn why exactly Mr. Singh believes that Rev. Thampu is the angel of doom. (He always seemed like a mild, though perhaps ambitious, person to me.)

Ascribing covert motives or nefarious intent to otherwise civil comments is not conducive to dialog. That was my (very small) point.


Jacob Matthan said...

Back after a good sleep and my early morning long walk in a beautiful sunlit day. We now have almost 24 hours glorious daylight with marvelous sunsets at 11 pm and sunrises at 3 am!

"Ascribing covert motives or nefarious intent to otherwise civil comments is not conducive to dialog. That was my (very small) point."

This may appear to be a small point, but in my opinion it is a very important one.

Mr. Karan Singh was pointing fingers all around, at the Bishop, his son, the Delhi University VC before he made two assertions - and that there is much evidence of the fundamentalist attitude of Rev. Thambu and that he is there to change the secularism of the Stephen's campus!

I do not know the Bishop, his son, the Stephania rules, the DU rules, how the VC acts.

Mine is a blog of my views of 60-63er Stephania and hoping that the values that we learned during our time in college can be relived by us old folks.

If younger folk can live in harmony with others without pointing fingers at others, then the objective of our generation has been achieved.

I always remember the saying that when one points a finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at one!

Padma said...

Gentlemen, gentlemen. I was one of the second batch of girls and read English from 76-79. Rev. Thampu taught me and I will never forget his invaluable contribution towards my understanding of Jonathan Swift and Charles Dickens, not to mention a number of other works he took us through. As my name will imply, I am not Christian and/but I don't give two hoots about what pseudo-secularists and fundamentalists of all hues think or want to see in a principal. I want a brilliant academic, and dare I say - preferably a Christian. REason? NOt because I hate all else, only because nearing 50, I KNOW that it is India's Christian community that laid the foundation for India's educational system and what an excellent job they did! Sadly and as my son now tries valiantly to get into a college -0 any college, given the cut-offs at DU and the overall deterioration of education - yes, in the hands of us majority Hindus (please flashback to what the VHP-BJP combine did to textbooks in this country), I bemoan the shrinking of Christian institutions and I laud the return of Rev. Thampu to college. I am sure Dr. Wilson too did an admirable job - it was way after my time - but for now, rejoice and relax, gentleman and - hey, Ad dei Gloriam..

John Dayal said...

Thank you, Padma, for restoring some sanity in the hysterics triggered by my friend Valson's return to the College, albiet not as a full principal.
I particularly like what you say about the role of Christian educationists in the shrinking shpere of wholesome education in india. Government medicrity is illmatched with the high octane, big money education industry now ovewhelming the country.
Whatever it takes, howsoever deep we need to search for a princial, st stephen's and its sibling instituions need to remain alive for a future india. I allmost said, for the future of India
God bless you Padma
John Dayal

Anonymous said...

--"If Karan Singh is a Stephanian (as he claims), then he would have taken up in this issue as a true Stephanian, with character and dignity. "--

--"That itself shows that Karan Singh is a person with an agenda and does not understand Stephania!"--

Those who don't agree with "Jacob" are people with agenda and does not understand Stephania! Wow.

Stephens has been a secular place, where people from all background and religion enjoyed themselves, but unfortunately people like you want it to be a christian institution Thank god you are not in India...atleast we have got one less fundamentalist here.

Jacob Matthan said...

Wow! Me, a person who does not visit any religious institution or even subscribe to any religious sect - a Christian fundamentalist!

Thanks for your great reading of the subject.

Why do you stay anonymous - scared of someone 7000 km away from India?

Anonymous said...

A phool by any name would be still a phool

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