a) Game for talks: on the resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas

The prospect of a thaw in relations between North and South Korea, which resume talks after two years, holds out the hope of denuclearisation on the Peninsula. Lending the move diplomatic heft is the U.S.’s consent to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s proposal to delay the controversial joint military exercises between the two allies. These annual operations have traditionally caused consternation in Pyongyang. The significance of the U.S. decision can also be seen in the context of Beijing’s suggestion for a freeze on joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul in exchange for a halt to Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. The demand acquired added impetus ever since Seoul launched the U.S.-backed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, raising fears that its radars could snoop on Chinese security infrastructure. But the idea never received serious consideration from the U.S., as forcing Kim Jong-un, the North Korean autocrat, to completely give up the programme was the singular focus of President Donald Trump’s approach. As for Mr. Kim, he sees recognition of his country as a nuclear power as a vantage point from where he could negotiate a roll-back of crippling international sanctions and a possible reconciliation with Washington. The immediate trigger to the revival of dialogue is the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea next month. North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches and nuclear explosions have raised global alarm over the region’s safety for travel and tourism, not to mention security during the Games. Memories of the downing by North Korea of a civilian aircraft ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics have prompted understandable caution by the host nation. Seoul has apparently determined that the most effective means of allaying those apprehensions is to confirm the participation of North Korean athletes. The deferment of the joint military exercises with the U.S. lends further credibility to Mr. Moon’s overtures to the North, as much as it assuages Chinese concerns. Beijing had imposed an unofficial blockade on South Korean trade, tourism and entertainment following the THAAD missile installation last year. But it was quick to appreciate the needless economic and diplomatic cost of that approach, even if it did not alter its stance on the missile programme. Cumulatively, these developments should boost public patronage in the entire region for the Winter Olympics. Mr. Moon, a former human rights lawyer, has been a staunch advocate of a negotiated resolution of the North Korean nuclear stand-off. A votary of reunification on the Peninsula, he may be expected to seize the momentum generated by these events to foster cooperation with the North. There will no doubt be many obstacles on that ambitious path. But a détente between neighbours is a possibility few leaders can ignore.

b) Memory, myth and memorial: on the Bhima-Koregaon battle

The late Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy once told me a story. His PhD guide and he were discussing an Ingmar Bergman film. Ananthamurthy said when the West needs to access the past, it seems to enter a historical archive. In India we just walk across town because an Indian always lives in simultaneous time periods whereby Copernicus and Einstein share a neighbourhood. One wishes URA had written a story around this idea because he seemed to suggest that India does not need science fiction given what we do to history. One also wishes URA was here to watch the recent battle between Mahars, a Dalit caste, and Marathas. The linearity of history does not quite capture the subtlety of storytelling.

The memorial

It all began with a pillar, a little war memorial commemorating what history books antiseptically called the third Anglo-Maratha war. The British had established it in Bhima-Koregaon village to commemorate the British East India Company soldiers who fell in the battle of January 1, 1818. Along with a few British soldiers, many Mahar soldiers also died. The event can be read Rashomon-like in many ways. But Indians do what Akira Kurosawa did in a more surrealistic way. For the Marathas and for our history textbooks, the narrative was a battle between imperialism and nationalism. But the Mahars read this narrative differently. The history inscribed in textbooks did not take their memories seriously. The Mahars recollect how during the reign of Baji Rao II, they had offered their services as soldiers. The Peshwa spurned them, and this pushed the Mahars to seek out the British in the next war. The Battle of Bhima-Koregaon is thus read differently. It is not seen as a battle in which the British with 834 infantry men, of which over 500 were Mahar, defeated a numerically stronger Peshwa army. It marked not the continuity of the British but the end of Peshwa rule. For Mahar memory, the presence of the British shrinks and it becomes a story of Mahar courage and valour, a testimony to Mahar martial values in their struggle for equality against the Peshwas. The Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar) represents a different kind of memory and a different kind of solidarity. It is now part of a new genealogy, not part of a battle between Indians and the British, but a struggle for equality.

A new memory

In January 1927, Babasaheb Ambedkar visited the site and gave it this new legitimacy. This new memory triggered the formation of new communities. The Bhima-Koregaon Ranstambh Seva Sangh was formed to commemorate the battle of the Dalits for self-respect and equality. Over time this parallel memory acquired power as members of the Mahar regiment visited it to pay homage to Mahar militarism and valour. What was a local source of pilgrimage soon expanded to cover other States such as Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Maratha history competed with Mahar memory over the interpretation of the Stambh. One has to remember what Ananthamurthy said of past, present and future being enacted simultaneously. An Indian storyteller has to capture the magic of simultaneous time. A friend of mine suggested helpfully that one should imagine that one is watching three TV sets tuned to the past, the present and the future. While the Mahars are enacting their memorial to history reasserting their sense of identity and equality in a now immortalised village, the dominant castes are feeling unease with what they sense as re-appropriation of history. Tune to TV-2. For the Brahmins and Marathas watching these rituals, life seemed surreal. Suddenly, violence spreads across Maharashtra as pitched battles take place between Mahars and Marathas, each guarding their identity as if it were a piece of intellectual property. The battle now is not just one of memory, it is a battle for identity and equality. As violence spreads and Maharashtra comes to a standstill, as the metro, the sign of modern civic regularity, threatens to stop, normal life comes to a standstill in Pune, Nagpur, Thane and Kolhapur. The call for the urban shutdown has been given jointly by Dalit and Maratha groups. Both groups in turn see the villainy of the third as they protest against the march of Hindutva by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Hindutva, they feel, has turned this into a casteist controversy.

Other narratives

Hindutva forces, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar felt, were trying to poison society along caste lines. Dalit scholars point to Vadhu Budruk, a village close to Bhima-Koregaon and the controversy around Sambhaji, the eldest son of Shivaji. Legend has it that Sambhaji’s body was mutilated and then thrown into the river. Legend adds to it that Govind Mahar, a Dalit, gathered the body and stitched it together. It was the Mahars who arranged for Sambhaji’s memorial and, when Govind Mahar died, they constructed a tomb for him in the same village. Upper caste Marathas object to this narrative and a battle is being fought over it. It is time to switch on TV-3. The BJP has over the years forged an anti-Muslim meta-narrative around these struggles. Hindutva organisations invoke past Maratha glory to keep the caste within their fold. The recent attempt to link Hindutva battles as a neo-Peshwa enterprise is disturbing to the BJP’s electoral campaign as the party under its national president Amit Shah has been wooing Dalits into its fold. When other Hindutva organisations evoke Maratha glory, Dalit alienation and unease is obvious. Dalit organisations in response have organised a huge conference at what was once the dominant seat of the Peshwas. A caste split now threatens the huge electoral wooing of Dalits as future vote banks. The BJP attempt to consolidate the electoral future is coming apart, ironically through the same caste wars it encouraged before it sought to consolidate an electoral future. What one sees are the scenarios that might change 2019 as an idea of the electoral future. The BJP fear of another Jignesh Mevani appearing and disrupting its carefully quilted electoral strategy is quite obvious. What was a caste war is being secularised into a law and order problem. Cyber elks are warning against any attempt to create caste divides.

Beyond containment

As I researched the archives of newspapers trying to make sense of the Bhima-Koregaon incident, I realised that the narrative cannot be contained or encapsulated in terms of one narrative. It is not a historical controversy alone, it cannot be restricted to a caste war, it is not a battle for identity, it is also a search for equality. It is also an attempt by politicians to go beyond all these fragments and create a more united future. One suddenly senses the many octaves in which politics in India occurs. Suddenly one senses the Proustian quality of such narratives where time redefines the nature of a problem. One realises that memory is a strange, protean, alchemical force in India where linearity does not work, and past, present and future struggle to simultaneously control narratives in India. It’s a reminder of philosopher Ian Hacking’s reading of our time. He claimed politics in the 18th century was about control of the body, in the 19th about the control of populations, and in the 20th about the control of memory. The only thing he forgot to mention is how complex memory in our age has become as it combines myth, memory, history. One trembles as one thinks how easily a fragment of the past can rewrite the future of a democracy, or the dreams of identity and justice.


1) Thaw

Meaning: An increase in friendliness or cordiality.

Example: “a thaw in relations between the USA and the USSR”

Synonyms: Cordiality, Friendliness

2) Denuclearisation

Meaning: To remove nuclear weapons from a place

Example: The documents detailing proposals for denuclearizing the region were leaked to the press.

3) Heft

Meaning: Ability or influence.

Example: “they lacked the political heft to get the formulation banned”

4) Consternation

Meaning: A feeling of anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected.

Example: “to her consternation her car wouldn’t start”

Synonyms: Dismay, Anxiety

Antonyms: Satisfaction

5) Impetus

Meaning: Something that makes a process or activity happen or happen more quickly.

Example: “the ending of the Cold War gave new impetus to idealism”

Synonyms: Motivation, Stimulus

6) Snoop

Meaning: Investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something, especially information about someone’s private affairs.

Example: “your sister might find the ring if she goes snooping about”

Synonyms: Pry, Enquire

7) Vantage point

Meaning: A place or position affording a good view of something.

Example: “from my vantage point I could see into the front garden”

Synonyms: Point of view, Standpoint

8) Roll-back

Meaning: An occasion when the influence of particular laws, rules, etc. is reduced

Example: The telephone company has asked for a roll-back of leasing rules.

9) Crippling

Meaning: Cause a severe and almost insuperable problem for.

Example: “developing countries are crippled by their debts”

Synonyms: Ruin, Destroy

Antonyms: Boost

10) Reconciliation

Meaning: The restoration of friendly relations.

Example: “his reconciliation with your uncle”

Synonyms: Reunion, Conciliation

Antonyms: Estrangement, Alienation

11) Prompted

Meaning: Cause someone to take a course of action.

Example: “curiosity prompted him to look inside”

Synonyms: Induce, Motivate

Antonyms: Discourage

12) Apprehensions

Meaning: Anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.

Example: “he felt sick with apprehension”

Synonyms: Anxiety, Alarm

Antonyms: Confidence

13) Overtures

Meaning: An approach or proposal made to someone with the aim of opening negotiations or establishing a relationship.

Example: “he began making overtures to British merchant banks”

Synonyms: Proposal, Approach

14) Assuages

Meaning: Satisfy (an appetite or desire); make (an unpleasant feeling) less intense.

Example: “an opportunity occurred to assuage her desire for knowledge”

Synonyms: Satisfy, Alleviate

Antonyms: Intensify

15) Patronage

Meaning: The support given by a patron.

Example: “the arts could no longer depend on private patronage”

Synonyms: Assistance, Backing

16) Stand-off

Meaning: A deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict.

Example: “the 16-day-old stand-off was no closer to being resolved”

Synonyms: Deadlock, Stalemate

17) Détente

Meaning: The easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries.

Example: “his policy of arms control and detente with the Soviet Union”

18) Seemed

Meaning: Give the impression of being something or having a particular quality.

Example: “Dawn seemed annoyed”

Synonyms: Appear, Look

19) Subtlety

Meaning: The quality or state of being subtle.

Example: “the textural subtlety of Degas”

Synonyms: Delicacy, Softness

Antonyms: Dullness

20) Commemorate

Meaning: Mark or celebrate (an event or person) by doing or producing something.

Example: “the victory was commemorated in songs”

Synonyms: Celebrate, Honour

21) Surrealistic

Meaning: Strange; not seeming real; like a dream

Example: Driving through the total darkness was a slightly surreal experience.

Synonyms: Strange, Suspicious

22) Imperialism

Meaning: A policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means.

Example: “the struggle against imperialism”

23) Spurned

Meaning: Reject with disdain or contempt.

Example: “he spoke gruffly, as if afraid that his invitation would be spurned”

Synonyms: Refuse, Reject

24) Solidarity

Meaning: Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

Example: “factory workers voiced solidarity with the striking students”

Synonyms: Unity, Agreement

25) Genealogy

Meaning: A line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor.

Example: “the genealogies of the kings of Mercia”

Synonyms: Ancestry, Descent

26) Homage

Meaning: Special honour or respect shown publicly.

Example: “many villagers come here to pay homage to the Virgin”

Synonyms: Respect, Recognition

Antonyms: Criticism, Criticize

27) Pilgrimage

Meaning: A journey to a place of particular interest or significance.

Example: “his passion was opera and he made annual pilgrimages to Bayreuth”

Synonyms: Mission, Trip

28) Enacted

Meaning: Make (a bill or other proposal) law.

Example: “legislation was enacted to attract international companies”

Synonyms: Pass, Approve

Antonyms: Repeal

29) Surreal

Meaning: Having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre.

Example: “a surreal mix of fact and fantasy”

30) Pitched

Meaning: Throw roughly or casually; fall heavily, especially headlong.

Example: “he crumpled the page up and pitched it into the fireplace”

Synonyms: Hurl, Cast

31) Standstill

Meaning: A situation or condition in which there is no movement or activity at all.

Example: “the traffic came to a standstill”

Synonyms: Halt, Stop

32) Mutilated

Meaning: Inflict a violent and disfiguring injury on.

Example: “most of the prisoners had been mutilated”

Synonyms: Mangle, Butcher

33) Stitched

Meaning: Manipulate a situation so that someone is placed at a disadvantage or wrongly blamed for something.

Example: “he was stitched up by outsiders and ousted as chairman”

Synonyms: Frame, Set up

34) Glory

Meaning: High renown or honour won by notable achievements.

Example: “to fight and die for the glory of one’s nation”

Synonyms: Fame, Honour

Antonyms: Shame, Obscurity

35) Wooing

Meaning: Seek the favour, support, or custom of.

Example: “pop stars are being wooed by film companies eager to sign them up”

Synonyms: Pursue, Favour of

36) Alienation

Meaning: The state or experience of being alienated.

Example: “a sense of alienation from our environment”

Synonyms: Isolation, Detachment

37) Ironically

Meaning: Used in reference to a paradoxical, unexpected, or coincidental situation.

Example: “ironically, the rescue craft which saved her was the boat she was helping to pay for”

38) Encapsulated

Meaning: Express the essential features of (something) succinctly.

Example: “the conclusion is encapsulated in one sentence”

Synonyms: Summarize, Compress

39) Octaves

Meaning: The last of eight parrying positions; a series of eight notes occupying the interval between (and including) two notes, one having twice or half the frequency of vibration of the other.

40) Trembles

Meaning: Shake involuntarily, typically as a result of anxiety, excitement, or frailty.

Example: “Isobel was trembling with excitement”

Synonyms: Shake, Twitch


Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of December , 2017 :


Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of January , 2018 :