Sunday, December 18, 2016

Memorial Meeting to Commemorate the Life and Works of Prof Javeed Alam (1943-2016)

Sundarayya Vignana Kendram
Alam Khundmiri Foundation

Invite you to a Memorial Meeting to Commemorate the Life and Works of

Javeed Alam

Professor of Politics and Philosophy (retired)
English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

Who passed away on 5 December 2016

Monday 19 December 2016 from 6:00 pm

Doddi Komaraiah Hall
Sundarayya Vignana Kendram

Javeed Alam: An Obituary
Javeed Alam was born in August 1943 to Khadija and Alam Khundmiri in Hyderabad, the capital of the then Nizam state. His father was a founding member of the communist party and an active trade unionist, even as he pursued his studies and went on to become a professor of philosophy. His mother would, in the years he was growing up, become a prominent political and cultural activist of the city, chiselling out an identity independent of her husband. His childhood was spent in a family which was deeply involved in the Telangana armed struggle led by the communist party against the feudal oppression of the Nizam state and for land distribution to the peasantry.

Javeed Alam studied in Alia School and then finished his BA and MA from the Arts College of Osmania University, winning a gold medal for academic excellence. In 1966 he went to Delhi to pursue his PhD from the Indian School of International Studies, which later became one of the founding schools of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He met Jayanti Guha there, who was also pursuing her PhD, they fell in love and got married on 19 September 1970 under the Special Marriages Act.

It is necessary to mention this, because this marriage not just politicised both of them, but also perhaps an entire generation. Javeed Alam was teaching at Salwan College at that time, a college registered under Delhi University and run by a private trust. The chairman of its governing body objected to a Muslim marrying a Hindu and promptly dismissed Javeed Alam from service. In what became a characteristic feature of his personality, Javeed Alam did not go to the courts to seek legal redress; he went to the Delhi University Teachers’ Association and asked for support to fight the college’s vindictive order. It became a major political fight between the forces of progress and those of reaction. The RSS and the Jana Sangh organised their cadre saying a Muslim man had “ensnared” a Hindu girl, holding meetings, blocking roads and shouting in Parliament. The progressive forces – the communist and socialist parties, the media and large number of ordinary people came out in support organising counter demonstrations and forcing the government of the day to take a stand. 

Finally, Salwan College had to rescind its order of dismissal and take Javeed Alam back. This was also the movement when he became formally associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), an association which stayed with him till his last day.

Soon after this, in 1973, Javeed Alam joined Himachal Pradesh University, which had recently been started in the new state, as a lecturer of Political Science. In 1975, he was in the forefront of organising students, teachers and employees of HPU to protest Emergency. This movement soon spread to other colleges of the State and through that to all parts of Himachal Pradesh drawing government employees, workers and peasants to it. This also helped lay the foundation for building the CPI(M) in Himachal. He also helped organise trade unions among government employees, casual labourers in Shimla, and among municipal and hotel workers.

In HPU,Javeed Alam became the nucleus for a large group of radical students and teachers, engaging in academic and political activity in one seamless manner. His students went on to become political activists, not just in the CPI(M) but also in other political parties, became social workers, administrators or businessmen but in hundreds of condolence messages received since his death, they have all remembered how he opened their minds and helped them make sense of the world.

There were personal costs to be paid for this. He was denied “promotion” for years and Jayanti could never get an academic job in Himachal. In the mid-1980s the chief minister of Himachal was also reported to have said that he wanted to drive “this troublemaker” out of the state!

This was also the time when he was growing as a scholar. His first book – Domination and Dissent – was published in the early 1980s when he was at the Centre for the Study of Social Sciences, Calcutta. It was based on field work he had done among Himachal’s peasantry between 1975 and 1981. In 1984, he was invited by the University of York to be a lecturer in Politics. He returned within a year to HPU wanting to remain embedded in the political and academic life in India. He published two other books. India: Living With Modernity was published in the late 1990s based on a five year UGC national fellowship, and Who Wants Democracy? Was published in the early years of this century which combined election data at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies’ LokNiti project with political theory. He has also authored about 77 research articles and mentored scores of students many of whom went on to become scholars in their own right.

In 2000, Javeed Alam shifted to Hyderabad and joined the then Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, which is now the English and Foreign Languages University teaching political theory and Marxism. He retired in 2005 but remained active in the academic life of the city and the country, participating in various seminars, workshops, committees and also organising various events under the Alam Khundmiri Foundation which he helped set up in the memory of his father. He was instrumental in formulating a report to the Government of India on an Equal Opportunity Commissionand was Chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research from 2008 to 2011. 

He is remembered for having substantially increased government funding for social science research and for protecting the autonomy of social science research institutions under the ICSSR. In his last days, he was battling Alzheimer’s and some other physical ailments. Jayanti Alam’s tragic death last year also seems to have affected him deeply. He passed away in the early hours of 5 Dec 2016 in his sleep, coincidentally on the same bed on which he had been born 73 years ago.

Javeed Alam was a renowned scholar of politics, philosophy and Indian society. He brought in a rigorous Marxist approach to the study of social sciences and was an active participant in academic debates, defending Marxism and communist politics. He was a committed teacher and mentor for young people, both within the university and outside. He was a devoted husband and a doting grandfather. One of the most democratic, open hearted and ethical people, he set an example for all of us in the way he lived his life.

Aniket Alam