ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Life of the Intellect in Society

Remembering Ram Bapat

Ramchandra Mahadev Bapat's (18 November 1931 - 2 July 2012) genius was in insisting that one's politics, to be transformative, had to grapple with the three central contradictions of Indian social life, those around caste, class, and the rural/urban divide.

It is not easy to say what Ram Bapat’s passing away means. At the very least, it means that the world of ideas in Maharashtra has lost its brightest star. Bapat was a teacher of political science all his adult life. He began teaching at the H P T College, Nasik. In 1960, he joined the Indian School of International Studies (ISIS) in Delhi. He left ISIS in 1963 to join the department of political science at the University of Pune. His three years at the ISIS did not get him a PhD. He was registered as a research student in West Asian Studies. I still remember him doing his lessons in Arabic with a maulana in Delhi. Anyway it was at the ISIS where I was also registered as a student of Chinese Studies, in that ­distant autumn of 1960, that I got to know him.

It was a mystery how and why we ­became friends. He was an acharya of a kind. I was, in contrast, someone basically interested in vitanda (polemics). Put differently, he was the propounder of theories and commentaries, I a mere ­polemicist. Most unlikely friends would be the correct description of our coming ­together. What was common was the love for the world of discursive writing which has created and sustained the world of ideas in Marathi. You could say that this tradition began with Jyotirao Phule in the mid-19th century. Bapat was part of that tradition, and perhaps its last great representative. My own understanding of the personalities and thought of the late 19th century was ­greatly influen­ced by Bapat’s comprehensive (samagra) ­understanding of this dazzling history.

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