A guest post by Upendra Baxi in honour of R.P. Anand, former president of the Indian Society of International Law, who recently passed away.
Finitude is a fact that makes us all coequally human; even so, the demise of Professor R. P. Anand constitutes a loss of an entire social world for his students, colleagues, readers, and friends.
He nurtured inaugurally traditions of postcolonial reconstruction of international law. In doing this Ram always interlocuted the ‘Eurocentric’ progress narratives. However, Ram goes beyond a critique of the erstwhile eras; rather, he rigorously addresses thus the international-law- in-the making, the innovative normative regimes of ‘law’ governing the UNCLOS (the Convention on the Law of the Sea.)
The TWAIL (Third World and International Law) movement, while offering a more fully-fledged ideological critique of contemporary international law, relations and organizations, continues to acknowledge Professor Anand’s work (especially concerning the ‘sovereign equality of states.’) In an era of contemporary knowledge-production based on practices of the massacre of ancestors, this TWAIL gesture of gratitude towards Ram’s foundational work signifies a high tribute, also eminently deserved.
Professor Anand nurtured and nourished a fine tradition of Indian teaching and research and international law. Many of his students benefited by the active presence of Ram Anand in the classrooms, conference halls and the theatres of intensive research guidance; a few among them have chosen to remain in the academia and have emerged as leading scholars in their own right and light. Some have contributed, via Foreign Service assignments, to the making and the conduct of India’s foreign policy. And some others have made their mark in the UN system. There can be no greater cause for satisfaction for a teacher than the achievement of his pupils, colleagues, and associates.
Most crucially, Ram nourished, among significant others, the Indian Society of International Law and contributed significantly to its academic presence in the world. In the last two decades, Ram together with Professor Rahamtuallah Khan continued to lead the Society to new heights. Only a few weeks ago, I suggested that we rename it as ‘Ram-Rahmat Indian Society of International Law.’ We all heard the soulful laughter of Ram—an experience that we cherish but also shall now miss for ever.
Ram was a quintessential teacher. Secure in his belief that that international law must remain accessible for intelligent grasp by all, he spoke and wrote in a simple style that resisted the lure of Yale Law School– especially the great Gharana of Myers McDougal and Harold Lasswell. Knowing full well that international law is a mighty arena of power, politics, and policy, Ram believed in the relative autonomy of the discipline.
Doctrinal study/exploration remained thus for him a primary task of pedagogy and scholarship. In so doing, he displayed a virtuoso resistance to reductionist practices of teaching and researching the expanding spheres of international law as a mere handmaiden of power politics. Despite the subsidiary role accorded by the Statute of the International Court of Justice to ‘publicists’ as a ‘source’ of international law, Professor Anand remained committed to the view that juristic expositions and enunciations play a coequal role in shaping, and at times even determining, its future itineraries. And he nurtured this perspective further by his remarkable inaugural, as well as sustained association with the Indian Society of International Law and the Afro-Asian Legal Consultative Committee, amidst other fora.
For him remained crucial the scholarly tasks of understanding international law as fashioning normative restraints on the worlds of sovereign power. Ram was increasingly bewildered by modes of critical and postmodern approaches to international law. As an inaugural figure critiquing the Eurocentric modes of its production, he still resisted these approaches because he believed that the pursuit of ‘demystification’ of the discipline encoded also some new forms of –re-mystification.’
Not that by any means I exemplified some postmodern narrative virtues, in many a conversational moments between us, Ram provoked me by saying in his earthy ways: ‘Yaar, ye meri samaj ki bahar hey!—meaning ‘Dear Friend, all this remains outside my grasp!’ He affectionately reproached on many occasions by saying: ‘tum siddhi bat kui nahi kar sakete ho’ (why can’t you speak simply!)
Siddhi bat is an enormously complicated virtue, which he perfected with luminous eminence. Yet, I used to caution him, even as admiring his unflinching insistence on doctrinal narratives, that these may at best present a part of the story, as TWAIL scholarship now continues to reminds us so fully. Even as I agree that the batchit (talk/discourse) about international law ought to accord a fuller dignity to doctrinal/blackletter lineages, the question always remains about alternate constructions of international law – whether in the metaphor of Wilfred Jenks as a ‘common law of humankind’ or with more contemporary Rawlsian metaphor of the ‘law of peoples.’ These frame some appropriate concerns now– as it sadly turns out– for a posthumous Festschrift for Professor Anand.
My most recent memories of Ram relate to his presiding over my 2010 Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture at the Indian Society of International Law, the Society-sponsored’ refresher course’ for international law teachers, and December 9 JNU critical celebration of Human Rights Day. On each occasion, Ram was seen by all as ‘taking notes.’ For me, at the very least, this recall exemplifies his ceaseless attention to whatever others may have to say—a full testimonial to scholarly life and modes of being.
Beloved Ram, I shall continue to miss your down-to-earth ways of understanding the life of international law. Yet, in what may still remain of my own individual life, I shall stand guided by your friendly and robust critical accent and voice. So will remain other friends touched by the gift of your earthly presence amidst us.
A reluctant Alvida/Adieu, dearest Ram.