No scope for arm-twisting

THERE is a collective sigh of relief over the lifting of the gherao of the Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University after  fifty hours.  The institution&’s proud boast as a centre of excellence has been severely blighted, and it is difficult to recall such an instance of campus indiscipline even during the stormy phase of Naxalite violence in the 1970s. The portents are direly ominous if engineering students, expelled for ragging, resort to counter-mobilisation to confront the authorities. And if the gherao is followed by a relay hunger-strike, as threatened, the campus disruption  will continue for some time yet. And should the recipe be tried out elsewhere, the virtual anarchy on campuses across West Bengal can only be reinforced.
   No less dangerous is the spin, as novel as it is contrived, that has been accorded by students to the ragging charge. They have drawn a fine distinction between ragging and a “dispute” between freshers and seniors.  Even if it is assumed for a moment that it was a “dispute” and not ragging, the spin will scarcely cover their tracks, still less justify the gherao for more than two days of the VC, Pro VC and Registrar. The virus of campus indiscipline exacerbated since Wednesday with students, cutting across disciplines, joining the demonstration. The allegation of ragging was not a rough-and-ready accusation; two students were expelled on the basis of the investigation conducted by the university&’s anti-ragging committee. This is the perfectly justified and standard response of the authorities, including the IITs and Bengal Engineering and Science University, where ragging was once fairly routine. The authorities of JU have gone strictly by the rule-book, and there is no scope for arm-twisting.
Both the gherao and the “dispute” theory have made the waters murkier still. And the situation will have to be countenanced with the measure of toughness that it deserves. Jadavpur University is no stranger either to ragging or to gherao, if over other issues. The authorities need to stand firm without revoking the punishment order; there is no question of granting the students the benefit of the doubt. On the contrary , by resorting to a gherao for as long as they have, yet more students have made themselves vulnerable to disciplinary action.

Royal Service performed

AS second-in-line to the throne, it was inevitable that the Duke of Cambridge would have only a limited military career. Critics of the British royalty would scoff at the maxim about “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”, and suggest that not every officer would be able to quit soon after the demands of fatherhood were manifest. Yet that cannot detract from Prince William living up to the family tradition of military service, wearing the uniform for seven years and “proving” himself as a helicopter pilot with a SAR (search and rescue) unit, participating in 156 missions that provided relief to 149 persons. He had desired a tour of duty in Afghanistan but his senior officers rejected that ~ protecting a “trophy target” would place an additional burden on his unit. His younger brother, Harry, did fight in those mountains ~ he was not in direct line for the crown. There is truth in the criticism that there is excessive interest in the royal family in the English-speaking world, and William is unlikely to be a major player on the global stage. By George, just try selling that line to the commercially-driven major international news channels that a few months back made massive efforts when covering the arrival of the royal baby. And remember that it was William and his bride Catherine who restored some glory to the monarchy after his mother, the Princess of Hearts, was so shoddily treated. To that extent, William has already performed his Royal Service.
Officially William will now spend a “transitional year” before being tasked with a host of duties that the British monarchy ~ and public, make no mistake about it ~ take very seriously. Kings may be born, they still have to be trained, and the Duke has shifted from the flight-simulator to a regime no less arduous: though he will never again be “one of the boys” as Flt-Lt Wales until recently was. While he and brother Harry have clout of their own they know that they need boosting from elsewhere. Hence they have involved David Beckham in one of their joint ventures to promote wildlife. Wonder if Catherine will be a trifle wary of ‘Posh Spice’, Victoria Beckham, joining that safari?

Two down, two still revered

THAT accolade is rightfully “owned” by their contemporaries ~ those “Long-Haired Lovers from Liverpool” ~ yet the demanding arena of the roped square also had its quality quartet in the 1970s. Perhaps never before, certainly never thereafter have four heavyweight superstars shone in unison, with a few only marginally lesser lights snapping at their heels. Reason to recall the era of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton ~ actually several fans of the fight game have never forgotten it ~ came a couple of days back when the last named followed ‘Smokin’ Joe’ into the ring in the world beyond.
   The obituaries did not do Norton in full justice in hailing him as the man who broke Ali&’s jaw: his record of 42 wins, seven losses and one draw prove that he was no “one-fight wonder”. Yet his sole victory over Ali in 1973 which left the “Lip” with a fractured jawbone was indeed monumental. For it humbled the boastful “Greatest”, taught him to never again treat an opponent casually and train hard for every encounter. Ali “whupped” Norton in both their subsequent meetings, but not for nothing did his authorised biography open with his loss to Norton, whom he went on to describe as “the best man I have ever fought”. Unlike his sustained animosity toward Frazier, Ali and Norton became close friends ~ a rarity on the sock-exchange. Norton was dubbed the Black Hercules, he had unique style that some called “elastic”. He went on to act in some 20 movies, proof that his “elasticity” meant his face had never taken the battering so common to pugilists. No wonder that in his tribute George Foreman lauded Ken as “the fairest of them all”. Of the foursome only two remain: Foreman in relatively fair shape, Alzheimer&’s-stricken Ali a  sad  shadow  of  himself.  That&’s  the  way  it  goes:  still, individually  and collectively they scripted a saga ever memorable.