October 20, 2010


[Bholaram Das had his birthday last week - and to mark the occasion enrolled on a PhD course in north-east Assam state.  "If my son can get a PhD at the age of 55, why can't I do it at 100?" said Mr Das, possibly India's oldest student.]

By Amitabha Bhattasali
BBC News, Calcutta
Bholaram Das, 100 years, a PhD student
An Indian man of 100 has gone back to university, saying you are never too old to learn.

Bholaram Das had his birthday last week - and to mark the occasion enrolled on a PhD course in north-east Assam state.  "If my son can get a PhD at the age of 55, why can't I do it at 100?" said Mr Das, possibly India's oldest student.

He was imprisoned for opposing British rule in 1930 and went on to work as a teacher, lawyer and judge in Assam before retiring in 1971.

'Didn't believe it'

Mr Das was 19 when he was jailed for protesting against British rule. He was sentenced to two months hard labour and on his release went on to study commerce and law before joining the Congress party.

He told the BBC he was delighted to return to his studies after so many years. "I have had this in mind since I did my post-graduate in commerce from Calcutta University in the late 1930s, but could not pursue it then.

"I became actively involved in politics, went to jail, then had to take up a job." The doctoral programme he has embarked on involves field trips, interviews and finally writing a thesis.

But the centenarian is not daunted by the challenge - in fact his ambitions have not diminished over the years. He says that he is very keen to have the prefix "Dr" before his name.

His family say his bid to enter Guwahati University - where he registered to study for his two-year PhD - was received coolly.

"The university didn't want to approve the synopsis of his thesis. But he fought it out with the academics. Later they had to review their decision," his son BK Das told the BBC.

"Now that he has started gathering research material, I, my brothers and other family members have taken up the responsibility to help him."

For his doctorate, Mr Das plans to study a subject close to his heart - the spread of neo-Vaishnavism, a liberal stream of Hindu religion credited with breaking down social divisions in Assam.

"We will take our turns to take dad to the Vaishnavite monasteries and on other field trips. That's an essential part of his research," B K Das said.

Grandson Abhinab - a young computer science engineer - said he had been stunned by the news.

"When I first heard about the plan, I simply didn't pay that much attention - because it was so impossible.

"I didn't even bother to inquire about it. But when my dad called up and said grandpa had already got himself registered for a PhD programme, I simply didn't believe it," he told the BBC.
It is India Where Anything can Happen

It is India where anything can happen. India is a country with second largest population only behind China.  Mr. Bholaram Das was a fighter. He fought against British Raj. He was imprisoned for two months. At the age of 19, went to study commerce and law, started carrier  as a teacher, lawyer then retired from becoming a judge. Now at  the age of 100 he has gone to Guwahati University for a PhD ! It should inspire all people aournd the world.

The responsible people of Nepalese education system should learn  from such courageous centenarian.  I wish Mr. Das a good health to acomplish his mission – a mission at the age of 100,  doing a PhD !.

In the meantime, I shall offer an article of mine to  Mr. B.R. Das as he seems to be answering some questions raised  there in relation with the  unsolved problems of Nepal that was not taught in any Professor Sharma's diary or the syllabus on SITTING FOR DEVELOPMENT EXAMINATIONS IN NEPAL available at www.unnepal.org  for any comments please email me.

L B Tapa,
Kathmandu, Nepal
[Many of the photos, whose veracity cannot be verified, are too graphic to publish here. One apparently shows a semi-naked young woman lying, with blood on her face and apparently dead, surrounded by the bodies of trussed-up and blindfolded young men.]

Sri Lanka's foreign minister has cast doubt on newly released photos that are said to show a massacre of Tamils during the country's civil war.

On an official UK visit, G L Peiris said images published by the Global Tamil Forum were a bid by rebel sympathisers to tarnish Sri Lanka's image.

Sri Lanka: could the West do more about human rights and press freedom? Watch Video:

Some of the pictures apparently show the bloodstained bodies of bound and blindfolded young people.

Sri Lanka's long civil war ended in May 2009 with the Tamil Tigers' defeat. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a group which includes former supporters of the separatist insurgents, released the images as the Sri Lankan foreign minister visited London.

Many of the photos, whose veracity cannot be verified, are too graphic to publish here. One apparently shows a semi-naked young woman lying, with blood on her face and apparently dead, surrounded by the bodies of trussed-up and blindfolded young men.

Other photos appear to show dead young men, two of whom lie in pits. The GTF said the images had been passed to them by a Tamil Tiger intelligence official, who said he had got them from within the Sri Lankan army.

The GTF accepted in a statement that the authenticity of the photos could not be vouched for, but said they showed "blatant disregard to humanity".

Calling for an independent inquiry, Father SJ Emmanuel, president of the GTF, said: "If government of Sri Lanka has nothing to hide, why wouldn't they at least now admit to allowing the UN to investigate?"

'Patronising, condescending'

Echoing that call, Amnesty International urged British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who meets Mr Peiris on Wednesday, to demand an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

However, Mr Peiris said during an address to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank, that similar pictures of unproven veracity had been published before by Tamil Tiger sympathisers.

Hundreds of Pro-Tamil protesters gathered outside the building in central London as the Sri Lankan foreign minister gave his speech.

He also labelled as "patronising, condescending and almost colonial" human rights groups who criticised a government-appointed inquiry into claims of war crimes.

Amnesty International was last week among three organisations which accused the panel of a cover-up and refused its offer to give evidence.

But the commission, appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, says it is a credible attempt at reconciliation.

It is not the first time that potential evidence of war crimes relating to Sri Lanka's civil war has emerged.

Video surfaced in August last year apparently showing extra-judicial killings by Sri Lankan troops.

The Sri Lankan government said the footage was fake, but a UN special rapporteur concluded it was genuine.
‘Dividing  Nations’ from United Nations
All races, caste, creed, gender, believers should have equal human rights as enshrined by the local, national and global instruments as a country is a party to that particular. I too am in the favour of Tamil people's human rights. Human rights are country, time and context specific. I strongly condemn the WESTERNERS under the cover of UN agencies who place  unnecessary importance to local issues in the name of human rights and destroy the core values and norms. I feel your livelihood runs easily at the cost of eastern people specially  - the South Asian countries.

You have less access to the Asian Giants. Do not poke and destroy everything of South Asian and African countries. The  UN  is becoming less popular. A high degree of corruption has been cited in the report published from UN itself.

What is the use of being a champion of master for good governance to teach if UN fails to maintain good governance within itself throughout the globe ? It is not only the case in Nepal, while recruiting, hiring and purchasing goods, delay in payment or reimbursement to the vendor. The United Nations Mission in Nepal - UNMIN is inclined to provide job to the westerners. Why would you do so ? Don’t you find some at the local level ?

Very few westerners are useful in the Nepal context. Why to hire an expensive lawyer if justice is available in the various local super/markets in the context of peace in Nepal. The UN has not empowered all its local country offices to utilize its resources. The westerners are the CR and decide everything but do not say the failure of UN projects is due to their failure mechanism at large. As usual everywhere no proof of corruption is available in each of the country's government offices except few exceptional cases. Is UN system ready to accept the PUBLIC AUDIT from local government and concerned stakeholders?

Impractical education does not have any value. UN is like some  physicians or parents who are strict to their patients or children. They prohibit alcohol and smoking but do it themselves in front of those prohibited. What is the use of such prohibition? Is it not the modern education which does not have value education? What has it taught to the entire globe to maintain good governance? Does UN system  submit itself to approve the liquor bill in each of the party that takes place in almost UN agencies and programmes from tomorrow? What sort of good governance that UN has imagined for the entire globe ? Drink as much as you want but do not submit or approve the liquor bills you have from the party that you threw in the name of securing peace for  certain country. 

The UN has lost its credibility. It has lost its integrity. This is  what I have  felt about it. The  UN may change its name into ‘Dividing  Nations’ from United Nations.

L B Tapa,
Kathmandu, Nepal