Over two lakh persons are still housed in relief camps in Dhubri, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts of Lower Assam, in the wake of a series of violent clashes. This is down to about half the peak of nearly five lakh people in camps, making it one of the largest humanitarian emergencies in independent India. All these internally displaced persons fled from their villages in fear of violence, and many because their homes were torched and belongings looted. There is little hope that everyone will be able to return home in the immediate future.
The camps are lodged mostly in schools and college buildings; sometimes a few classrooms and a courtyard house a few thousand people. The Assam state government assumed full responsibility for the camps, and its officials coped with the sudden explosion of the refugees. The state supplied food, some money for utensils and clothes, and ensured primary health protection.
So far the camp residents are only surviving on bare rice and dal everyday. They need at least a plastic sheet to sleep on and mosquito nets. The camps desperately require many more toilets and clean drinking water, the lack of which threatens epidemic outbreaks of cholera, gastro-enteritis and malaria. Children suffer in many ways. There are no arrangements to study in the camps, and most students lost their books to the fires that consumed their homes. Since most camps are housed in schools and colleges, local students also cannot study.
The state and humanitarian agencies — the latter regrettably substantially absent so far — must help people return and rebuild their homes, schools and livelihoods. Children and young people must be assisted to resume their studies and normal life, without fear and dislocation.
The major duty for relief and rehabilitation lies with the central and state governments. But in a humanitarian emergency of this magnitude, it is important for people of goodwill everywhere to reach out to help and heal, to assist in relieving immediate suffering, but also as a gesture of solidarity and caring with the suffering people of both affected communities, the Bodos and Bengali Muslims.
In a very small initiative, humanist young people have decided to work together for relief and reconciliation. This initiative would be in collaboration with TISS Guwahati. Initially joint teams of young Bodo and Bengali Muslims will supply relief materials and services in the camps together. The initial focus is to support children and youth in these camps with textbooks, play things, clothes, etc, and women with clothes, sanitary napkins etc; and also utensils, treated mosquito nets etc.
We reiterate that this is a very small modest effort, and is not suggesting that this is contributing to any solution of a very complex and old problem. It is just intended as a very small gesture of collective caring. We have set a target to raise at least around 20 lakh rupees initially, to make a small tangible contribution.
We appeal to people of goodwill everywhere to contribute to this small effort. The entire money would be transferred to the joint youth group in Assam, to use entirely for purchase and distribution of relief material in both the Bodo and Bengali Muslim camps. The accounts will be managed by the Centre for Equity Studies, which will get these independently audited, and the audited accounts will be placed in the public domain. We would also like to request you to widely circulate this appeal amongst your friends and family.
With best wishes,
Amita Joseph, Amitav Ghosh, Anu Aga, Aruna Roy, Avi Singh, Bela Bhatia, Biraj Patnaik, Dipa Sinha, Harsh Mander, Jean Drèze, Karuna Nundy, Kavita Srivastava, Mathew Cherian, Nandita Das, Nikhil Dey, Pervin Varma, Rahul Bose, Ram Punyani, Reeta Dev Barman, Ritu Priya, Sajjad Hassan, Sejal Dand, Sharmila Tagore, Vandana Prasad, Vijay Pratap and Warisha Farasat
For Aman Biradari
For further details, please contact
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) or Ankita Aggarwal (9818603009,
Details for donations
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(Please mention the purpose of the donation while making the contribution and e mail your PAN card number and postal address
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Highway 39 - Journeys through a fractured land
Citizens for Peace in collaboration with Harper Collins and Kitab Khana held a reading and talk on Sudeep Chakravarti's book Highway 39 - Journey's through a fractured land. The event was held on the 24th of August at Kitab Khana.
The book sees the author take the road that travels 436kms to Assam, Manipur, along the border of Myanmar, and weave around it a narrative that tries to understand the turbulence Nagaland and Manipur.
Dilip D'Souza, author and award-winning columnist moderated the discussion with Sudeep Chakravarti, author, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch, and Samrat Choudhury, author and editor at Asian Age.
Citizens for Peace stands opposed to all forms of violence. We condemn the recent ethnic violence in Assam which has caused tragic loss of life and rendered lakhs of people homeless. In the same spirit we endorse the following statement by various concerned citizens.
Condemnation of Attack on Media in Mumbai
We strongly and unequivocally condemn the attack on media in Mumbai by a section of people gathered at the Azad maidan to protest the violence in Assam and Burma. Using violence in a protest against violence is an insult to the suffering victims in whose support the protest was purportedly organised.
There are many non violent and democratic ways to communicate and protest any grievances, including against the media. This mindless and shameful action by a few misguided individuals discredits protest and becomes a disservice to a cause.
We offer our solidarity with media; sympathy with all those injured and wish for their quick recovery.
We urge the government to take immediate and exemplary action against the guilty. We also appeal to all citizens not to get swayed by this isolated and dastardly incidence and allow the situation to become a cause of conflict. Any communalisation of the situation will be harmful for everyone and totally against the interests of the nation.
Lalita Ramdas- Alibagh
Mazher Hussain – Hyderabad
Admiral L. Ramdas- Alibagh
Mahesh Bhatt- Mumbai
Ram Punyani- Mumbai
Kamla Bhasin- Delhi
Sandeep Panday- Lucknow
Jatin Desai- Mumbai
Assam Riots - A Plea for Help
(Photograph by Daniel Jamang)
As you all know communal Riots in Assam have been a great disaster apart from those killed, there are 4 lakh refugees in various camps and the condition of the camps are abysmal. It is therefore highly necessary to render financial and other help to the victims.
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism has started collecting funds and has donated Rs. 10,000 for the purpose and appeals to all supporters, funding agencies, NGOs as well as charitable organizations and individuals to donate generously for this cause. The cheque may be drawn in favour of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. As it is very urgent, kindly send you donations at your earliest possible time. Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and All India Secular Forum have known contacts that have been working with victims and reporting to us.
Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer
Prof. Ram Puniyani
Adv. Irfan Engineer
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
602 & 603, Silver Star,
6th Floor, Behind BUS Depot,
Mumbai-400 055, India.
Telephone:(Off.)022 26149668, 26102089
(R) 022 26630086.
Media's power is no secret. Its consumption around the world grows every day, for better or for worse. PeaceMedia is a site that provides a vast collection of media resources that we believe help promote peace.
Their database is extensive, and continues to grow every day. Within seconds, you might find a heartfelt documentary on Afghan and Iraq war veterans saved by flyfishing, poignant and telling photos of conflicts across the world, or a challenging game that places you in the role of African subsistence farmer.
There are resources that raise awareness, arouse empathy and inspire action, and help us to better understand the drivers of current conflicts. The goal is to share media that inspires and enables viewers to promote peace and mutual understanding across the globe.
Take a look at their collection here http://peacemedia.usip.org/resources
HYDERABAD: Insulated from the communal score-settling in the Old City are many Muslim traders and artisans who make and sell metal statuettes of Hindu deities for a living. Art and business, they say, are divorced from religion. People in the city are secular and compassionate, these daily-wage earners who are bearing the brunt of the communal conflict point out.
Mohammed Aslam sits in his shop in the City Market complex in Laad Bazaar against the backdrop of scenes of Lord Krishna's Gita sermon to Arjuna and raas leela, all images cast in brass. He has been selling idols from the Hindu faith since he was 10 years old. "Of the 50 shops in Chowk and Laad Bazaar which sell Hindu idols, around 45 are run by Muslims. Everything, from moulding to welding, from filing to polishing, from stocking to selling - is done meticulously by the hands of Muslims. This is my bread and butter and I am quite content," he says. He notes that the tension in the city is the handiwork of powerful individuals keen on disrupting normalcy for political mileage. "They may create trouble for a few days but in the long run will be unsuccessful. A regular Mohan or Mahmood has no time for all this," he observes.
Traders say that they do brisk business during Diwali, Dasara and Vinayaka Chaturthi. Most of their client base comprises tourists, police, government employees and administrators of educational institutions. Depending on the size, each statuette is priced between Rs 100 and Rs 5,000.
In a decrepit workshop in Murghi Chowk, Saleem Khan and Shaikh Khaleel toil relentlessly, filing and polishing statues of various gods including Ganesha and Venkateswara by dipping them in copper salt. Both the men are covered head to toe in iron dust.
"We take our work very seriously," says Khaleel. "Filing is done in Talab Katta and polishing in Fateh Darwaza. I have been in the business for more than 35 years. About 98 per cent of the more than 120 workers in this field are Muslims. There is nothing else we know and our families would starve if we were to look for another vocation. This work pays us between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500 per week. When it comes to feeding the family, the rupee is God." Khaleel says that he was forced to shut his shop early because of the communal discord in the city. He too blames politicians for fuelling the communal fire. "Netas aren't bothered because they have a lot of money. Daily-wage earners like me always suffer because of their misdeeds," he rues.
Syed Ishrat Ali is a wholesale brass figurine seller from Chowk. He says that he has put in years of hard work to set up his establishment. "I was a small-time moulder when I was young. Back in those days, karigars weren't educated and were paid little. Despite the heavy odds, I managed to make a name for myself. The kind of work people do in this market ensures that they harbour no ill will against people of other faiths." Pointing to the array of neatly arranged aluminium statues of Surya, Lord Ganesha, Lord Venkateswara and Guru Nanak on shelves, he continues, "You will find all the tolerance of Hyderabad concentrated here - in this market. Most people in the city are inherently compassionate. It is only a few who give the city a bad name."
Identity related issues and feelings are often discussed in the context of a conflict. Citizens for Peace (CfP) has been working on the premise that this needs to change. We need to air our thoughts, feelings, dilemmas and questions on all matters relating to Identity in a physical and mental space that is calm and conducive for dialog.
So 28 people from diverse backgrounds gathered for a workshop on identity hosted by Citizens for Peace (CfP) at the Study Centre of the Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) in Bangalore on January 31st and February 1st, 2012.
The emphasis in this gathering was on sharing our lived experiences of multiple identities – be it that of Atheist, Buddhist, Brahmin, Christian, Dalit, Hindu, Indian, Man, Muslim, Woman and more.
The first session of the first day was dedicated to introducing ourselves differently. A brief biographical description of each of the participants had been circulated in advance (and is attached here). So rather than describing our work or history of social/ political engagement all of us spoke about the following: “My name is……………”. “My deepest values are……………” and “This………..is what I most intensely seek in life”.
This sharing of our foundational principles brought forth a diversity of approaches but the underlying commonality was a deep longing for peace and mutual well-being. This laid the context for mutual listening.
With this beginning the rest of the day was spent in listening to experiences of identity within a particular community. Each person was invited to speak for about 10 to 15 minutes. This was followed by a brief round of listeners seeking clarifications. Then participants were invited to express what they ‘felt’ as they heard the speaker – the emphasis being on their emotive responses rather than contestation and argumentation. Each of these sessions was moderated by Sudhir Kakar. The list of speakers in these sessions is given below.
Most of these narratives brought forth the pain of being somehow victimized or marked out because of community identity or group affiliation. People from different faiths and caste groups spoke of having similar experiences.
This empathic sharing on the first day allowed for airing of sharp differences and passionate disagreements on the second day. These differences could be openly expressed and explored without rancor in a spirit of collective groping for answers – as fellow travelers. This does not mean that differences were resolved. Nor was there a simplistic ‘agreement to disagree’.
However we took some steps in exploring the fertile ground that lies beyond ‘condemnation’ and ‘justification’ – the polar opposites between which most Identity related conflicts take shape.
This gathering does not claim to be a complete microcosm of Indian society. But since it did bring together a diverse range of individuals whose social and political actions are defined by their sense of Identity, these conversations are hopefully relevant for the society at large.
Above all, these conversations have reaffirmed the power of dialog as a way of a closer understanding of the ‘other’. This, in turn, opens up the potential for co-creating answers and solutions to seemingly intractable problems of Identity related prejudices, discriminations, bitterness and thus conflict. As much of the sharing of experiences showed – there is also mutuality, co-creation and inter-dependence.
Citizens for Peace thanks all the participants for making time to be part of this meeting, and several friends who helped to plan this workshop and the team at the KFI Study Centre for their warm generous hospitality and support.
Mohammad Amir Ahmad Khan (Ali) is from Mahmudabad in UP. He graduatedmagna cum laude from Amherst College (USA) with a double major in History and Political Science.Ali is also the co-founder of TheRubricator.com (www.therubricator.com), which is an opinion website that aims to act as a bridge between academia and journalism.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi hails from Bhilwara District of Rajasthan. As a teenager he joined the RSS and served as a Kar Sevak during the Ayodhya agitation before leaving the RSS. He is a human rights and dalit rights activist and editor of Diamond India, a Hindi bi-monthly published from Bhilwara.
Chandan Gowda is a Professor at the Azim Premji University, Bangalore. One of his areas of study is Kannada language activism – its historical origins and contemporary predicament.
Chattar Singh Jam is a farmer from Ramgarh village in Jaisalmer District of Rajasthan. He is a veteran social activist who has done extensive work on the traditional water harvesting systems of his area.
Farukh Waris is a professor of history and vice principal of Bhurani College, Mumbai. She studied at Aligarh Muslim University and has presented papers at a wide range of conferences in India and abroad.
Hemlata Kansotia is a Delhi based activist working on issues of women, dalits and workers in the unorganized sector, particularly construction and sewage workers.
G. Manivachagam is Bangalore based and associated with the Dalit Chamber of Commerce, Bangalore. He was earlier in the Indian Revenue Service and retired asAdditional Director General (Audit) Customs, Central Excise & Service Tax.
Dr. John Dayal is a journalist, educationist, human rights activist and secretary general of the All India Christian Council. He is a member of the National Integration Council and of the Planning Commission’s Working group on Minorities Empowermen. Secretary General of the All India Christian Council.
Prof.Krishnanath is based at Valley School, Bangalore. He is a socialist, a Buddhist scholar and a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation India. He is a prolific author of Hindi books and his travelogues of Himalayas have been widely acclaimed.
Ovais Sultan Khan is a postgraduate student of social work in the University of Delhi. He has experienced, confronted and questioned different issues of marginalisation in his personal as well as academic and social life.
Pervin Varma is a Bangalore based social activist and a Trustee of CfP. Earlier she worked with Child Rights and You (CRY) and served as its CEO till 2004. Pervin is intensively studying the Bible and was part of a group that offered counseling support to women prisoners.
Priyesha Nair is a Mumbai based poet and artist. She has been the program coordinator at CfP for the last two years.
Rajni Bakshi is a Mumbai based journalist and author. Over the last three decades she has written extensively about struggles for a more humane model of development. Her books include Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom: for a market culture beyond greed and fear and Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Redisovery of Gandhi. She is a Trustee of CfP.
Ravindra Sharma fondly called as “Guruji” is an artist and the founder of Kala ashram, at Adilabad, AP.He is an inspiration for hundreds of artisans and artists from all over the country who come to Kala Ashram to learn more about their art.
Rohini Nilekani is a Bangalore based journalist, author and philanthropist. She is the founder and chairperson of Arghyam, an organization dedicated to supporting endeavors for water security. She is also Chairperson of Pratham Books. She is the author of a novel, Still Born. Her most recent publication, Uncommon Ground: Dialogues between Business and Social Leaders which is based on the television show she anchored on NDTV.
Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche served as the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile from 2001 till 2011. Earlier he was Speaker of the Tibetan parliament, based in Dharamshala. He was the Principal of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarnath, from 1971 to 1988 and its Director till 2001. Rinpocheji is also a Trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation India.
Dr. Sanjeev Kelkar is MD in Internal Medicine from Mumbai University, 1980. He is also the Founder Secretary of the Diabetic Foot Society of India. Sanjeev has a long association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He is the author of Lost Years of the RSS published by SAGE in 2011.
Dr. Satish Inamdar practiced medicine before joining the Krishnamurti Foundation. He is currently Director and Secreatary of the KFI’s Bangalore Education Centre.
Shail Mayaram is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. She is interested in the subaltern pasts of peasant and pastoral communities, cosmopolitanism and secularity in the non-west and in swaraj of ideas – or decolonizing knowledge.
Sudhir Kakar is a psychoanalyst and author based in Goa. Educated in Germany and Austria Sudhir set up a practice as a psychoanalyst in 1975.He has written seventeen books of non-fiction and four of fiction, including The Inner World; Shamans, Mystics and Doctors; Tales of Love, Sex and Danger; The Colors of Violence, Culture and Psyche; The Indians: Portrait of a People; The Crimson Throne. His books have been translated into twenty one languages around the world.
Sushma Pandey served in the Indian army and retired as a Major in 2010. She now works as a project officer with the Ramakrishna Mission, Coimbatore.
Sushma Inamdar is the Director of The Study at Krishnamurti Foundation, Bangalore.
Uma Shankari is a farmer based in Venkatrampuram, a village of Chittoor District. AP. She is closely associated with the farmers movement in AP and has done extensive work on local water systems as well as organic agriculture.
Vanaja is a women’s rights and Dalit rights activist based in Chittoor. She works with Sahanivasa, an NGO working with women and Dalits. Vanaja is an expert in herbal medicine.
Vijay Pratap is a Delhi based social and political activist in the Gandhi-Lohia tradition. An active participant of the JP Students movement in the early 1970s, Vijay spent two years in jail during the Emergency. Vijay has been closely associated with Lokayan and editor of the Lokayan Bulletin for many years. He is currently with the South Asian Dialogs on Ecological Democracy (SADED), a Delhi based initiative.
Virag Pachpore is a Nagpur based writer, journalist and activist. Educated at Nagpur University. He is actively associated with the dialogue process between the Hindus and various other religious groups including Muslims and Christians. He is also Director of the Bhaurao Deoras Human Resources Development and Research Institute, Nagpur. He is a member of the Indian Institute of Peace, Disarmament and Environmental Protection (IIPDEP), Nagpur.
Zafarul-Islam Khan is based in New Delhi. He studied in India, Egypt and UK where he obtained a PhD from Manchester University in Islamic Studies. He is director of the Institute of Islamic & Arab Studies, New Delhi since 1988 and editorof Muslim & Arab Perspectives since 1993 and of the Indian Muslims’ leading English publication The Milli Gazette since January 2000.
Watch this space for more on PT Identity
Art by Hema Upadhyay, February 28, 2002.
(Today it is ten years since the tragic incident in Godhra and the subsequent carnage in many parts of Gujarat. Citizens for Peace mourns all those lost their lives in the senseless violence. We also stand in solidarity with all those who lost their homes and loved ones. We renew our commitment to compassion and justice and good governance that protects everyone from all such violations -- be it riots or other acts of terror.)
A note by Dilip D'Souza, Trustee of CfP.
What is special about a ten-year anniversary of a horrific massacre? After all, it has been 19 years and counting since another horrific massacre (in Mumbai in 1992-93), 27 years and counting since still another horrific massacre (in Delhi in 1984). Ordinary Indians,
slaughtered in their hundreds in each of those cases. What makes this one unusual?
Nothing, really. And somewhere in that is one great truth about the Gujarat massacre of 2002. It's in the realization that there was really nothing special about it. That it was just one more massacre of ordinary Indians. That too many of us who survived want to treat it as just more water under the bridge. That we find innumerably convoluted ways to persuade ourselves that we have "moved on", or at any rate we should "move on".
Someday, it would be interesting to track down the young girl I met in a camp in Juhapura in Ahmedabad, the girl who couldn't speak and so her mother told me that she had watched her best friend being carved to death by a blood-crazed mob. It would be interesting to track down the young man from Gurgaon whom I only ever managed to speak to on the phone, whose sister and brother-in-law were burned to a crisp in that train carriage in Godhra. It would be interesting to track them down and ask them: have you moved on? Should the rest of us move on?
That's about the only value of anniversaries: they remind us of the passage of time, in a time when we choose to do close to nothing about a massacre. How long will we persist like that? 10 years? 19 years? 27 years? Forever? What is the meaning and value of justice – whatever that means -- when it is delayed so long?
And if we choose that path, should we be surprised when the next great episode of murderous violence erupts and kills hundreds and thousands of ordinary Indians?
That's the question to ask, ten years later.
Artists for Sharmila
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.- Nelson Mandela
Over a hundred and fifty people came together in Bombay on Friday the 9th December for a cause, for a courageous soul, Irom Charu Sharmila who has been fasting for 11 years protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
As children we all grew up playing with toy guns, watching action movies, safe in our homes; what about children who grow up waking to the sound of gunshots, dodging tear gas shells on the streets that were supposed to be their playground. What happens when the State implements a law such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act?
The AFSPA gives the armed forces powers to shoot, arrest and search, all in the name of "aiding civil power". The enforcement of this law has resulted in innumerable incidents of torture and rape by the army. The Central govt. has not paid any attention the innumerable requests of the State government or heard the cry of the people who are suffering this act for the past 24 years, maybe more.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign brought together eminent artists from all over the country stood up for the cause through artworks in the form of long vertical flags that were on display and also various other artworks were exhibited in a presentation. The exhibition was followed by a panel discussion where speakers Mihir Desai and Ritu Diwan explained the history of Manipur and the true reasons of the insurgency in the North East.
The eve of International Human Rights Day marked the end of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign with heart wrenching documentaries like Tales from The Margins that unfolded the true story of the North East before the youth of Bombay and maybe marked the beginning of a revolution... leaving behind a desire to stand up for the people, to stand up with Irom Sharmila, for a cause that doesn't concern only the North East, but also Kashmir and who knows maybe, if we don't speak up today the rest of the world too.
PeaceTalks - Preventing Communal Violence
“ India claims an abiding commitment to human rights, but its record is marred by continuing violations by security forces in counterinsurgency operations and by government failure to rigorously implement laws and policies to protect marginalized communities. A vibrant media and civil society continue to press for improvements, but without tangible signs of success.” -- Human Rights Watch.
Justice and proper rehabilitation have eluded most victims of identity based mass violence ever since Independence. In addition, many communities -- most of all dalits and tribals -- continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of both individual and group violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection, but are not being faithfully implemented.
Why does this situation persist even though there is a National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Minorities, and an entire department in the central government for the Welfare of SC/ST, OBC and Minorities?
This session of PeaceTalks was an attempt to explore how communal violence can be prevented. The speakers examined a combination of factors that has led to the outbreaks of mass violence going unchecked. They also shared positive stories about what has worked and how we can build on these signs of hope. Against the backdrop of the Communal Violence Bill, now under consideration, they explored the best way forward.
Harsh Mander spent over two decades as an officer of the Indian Administrative Service. He has spent the last 10 years working through various social organisations on issues of hate, hunger and homelessness. He is currently a member of the National Advisory Council and a part of the team that has drafted the Communal Violence Bill.
Nandita Das is an award-winning film actress and director. She is known for her compelling performances in Fire,Earth, Bawandar, Before the Rains and a number of other significant films in 10 different languages. She was a member of the jury in prestigious festivals like the Cannes.Her directorial debut Firaaq has won several national and international awards. Firaaq is a work of fiction, set a month after the Gujarat carnage in 2002. It is an ensemble film that interweaves multiple stories over a 24 hour period, as the characters from different strata of society grapple with the lingering effects of violence. The film traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people- some of whom were victims, some perpetrators, and some who chose to watch silently. She has been awarded the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France for her work. Nandita advocated issues of social concern through her talks around the world. She is currently the Chairperson of the Children's Film Society.
Shiv Visvanathan is Professor at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Gandhinagar. Earlier he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi and has taught at the Delhi School of Economics. He has held visiting professorships at several universities including Smith, Stanford and Maastrich.