Interview with Amit Basole

by Juliana Brunello

Are you a Wikipedian yourself?

No. I am mostly a “Wikipedia consumer,” and not a “Wikipedia producer.” But an organization that I am a member of, an alternative online media outlet from India ( was once involved in what I believe is called a “wiki war” over an entry on a government sponsored, anti-people miltia in India (called the “Salwa Judum”). At that time I got to see how wikipedia handles controversial topics.

Have you contributed to any Wikipedia articles? Which one(s)?

No, I have not.

Do you believe popular knowledge should be put together with scientific knowledge or should it be kept apart? Why?

Not only should scientific and popular knowledge *not* be kept apart, in fact they cannot be. Science arises from knowledge in society (“popular knowledge” if you will). If Science attempts to separate itself from its source, as it has tried to do, it turns against the people. Historically we see that scientific knowledge has accorded to itself the status of the best or true knowledge (or “knowledge” without any qualifications). Other types of knowledge then became qualified in some way, such as “popular knowledge, ” “folk knowledge,” “traditional knowledge,” and so on. On the other hand we speak of “knowledge” (without qualifications) located in different places in society. We also speak of the necessity of a dialog among people from these different locations. We are currently working on the concept of “Gyan Panchayat” which roughly translated means “Public Hearing on Knowledge.” I will elaborate on this concept during my presentation.

Nowadays there is a hierarchy upon knowledge; some knowledge is considered more valuable than others. The same thing happens with knowledge coming from certain persons in the society. You, on the other hand, speak of the ideal of equality. Do you see this ideal in Wikipedia?

Continuing from the answer to the previous question, our political goal is precisely to challenge the hierarchies that you speak of. From our perspective the hierarchies can be challenged effectively if a knowledge movement takes shape in society at large (i.e. outside the universities and other recognized institutions of knowledge). The wiki movement, the FLOSS movement, the movement against patents, copyrights, the movements against the corporatization of the University in Europe, all appear to us to be working towards this goal in their own ways.

Is this ideal a utopia? Can it be put into practice in the ‘real world’?

This is not a utopian vision. We consider it a necessary condition for the emancipation of vast sections of oppressed humanity. However to make any progress on it requires robust political movements.