Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shubh Deepawali

Diwali greetings to one and all. शुभ दीपावली!

Image from here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why cries for “no death penalty” are bogus

This post originally appeared here.
President Pratibha Patil confirmed the death sentence awarded to former Prime Minster Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins. The sentence itself came about after a long trial process in our courts. One would think that law being followed to its logical conclusion would be welcomed by all. But this is not the case.
For their own political reasons, Tamil Nadu politicians have asked that the death sentence be commuted. Our human rights activists and liberals do not have to worry about votes, but they have joined the clamour. “No death penalty because it is inhuman” they say. Curiously one sees a sudden rise in such campaigns by human rights activists and liberals only at opportune moments. At all other times such cries are nowhere to be heard. If they were indeed so passionately against capital punishment they would have been more consistent. Needless to say that is not the case.
This concern for human rights is lacking in balance. In the case of a murder or an assassination the first human rights abuse is by the perpetrator who takes life of the victim. The victim suffers loss of life. Any and all human rights of the victim cease to exist with loss of life. It would only be natural to expect that those violating rights of the victim be made to face the full extent of law and suffer any consequences provided by the law. After all, a civilized society is governed by rule of law. And death sentences are handed out by courts after following laws laid out by civilized societies. Yet we seem to have a problem.
The human rights clamour seen for convicts invariably reaches fever pitch but in contrast we hardly hear anything by the same group for victims. Victims are the ones who have lost and suffered the most. They are in need of justice for suffering loss of rights. But one does not see any such campaign worth talking about for the victims. Justice being done to victims following the course of law is being denied by the human rights activists in their opportunistic cry for “no death penalty”. That irony is lost on them.
When one sees this convenient cry for abolishing capital punishment one cannot help but question principles of such rights activists. Sincere intentions would have been evident if campaigns were sustained, consistent which would have resulted in either starting a meaningful debate or having death penalty abolished. Instead we have these intermittent cries at opportune moments.
Looking at the conduct of some of our career human rights activists and liberal opinion makers it seems that their campaigns are designed, calculated with possible benefits in mind. Some of them have indeed succeeded in benefiting from their calibrated campaigns and also have earned patronage from expected quarters. What is lacking is an objective scrutiny of their record as activists. Such a scrutiny is likely to show their failure in bringing about any meaningful change to human rights issues.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Debate or driving a wedge?

This post originally appeared here.
That our TV and newspaper debates have become didactic is increasingly apparent. But are they without any purpose? Without any motive? Why do opinion makers feel compelled to lead people in a certain direction? And does this direction lead people to a certain political choice while steering them away from others? The answer can be found in what transpires in these debates.
Baba Ramdev started a campaign against corruption. This campaign gathered so much momentum that the government sent four union ministers to meet the Baba. Things did not go as the government had hoped. The Baba’s campaign acquired a deeply Saffron character. Soon after that we heard TV studios sing in chorus disparaging the Baba and his campaign. We saw TV studio invitees echoing exactly the same thoughts as that of the anchors who themselves echoed thoughts of the government. Switch to a debate in another TV studio and one could not help but think one was hearing an echo of the debate in the other TV studio. This was in sharp contrast with the almost approving nod Anna Hazare’s campaign received. The difference between the two was that Anna’s campaign was strictly “apolitical” while Baba’s was “political” and not just “political” but “Saffron” too.
Take a more recent example. The Karnataka Lokayukta came out with a report on mining scams. Yeddyurappa of BJP was the Chief Minister heading a majority government. Congress and JDS are the political opposition. Yeddyurappa and his family find mention in the report and every TV studio asked for his ouster. Yeddyurappa resigned. A similar thing happened in Delhi. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress party has a more serious involvement in the Commonwealth Games corruption. The Shunglu Committee and CAG reports have listed the scam in detail and questioned her role in the same. An equivalent level of campaign for her ouster is nowhere to be seen in TV studios or newspaper columns. The reaction has been disproportionately muted. It was said that the BJP would strengthen its moral standing against corruption by making Yeddyurappa resign. Now we hear the CAG had exceeded its mandate in indicting Sheila Dikshit and that its findings are not final but must be put under scrutiny.
These are but two recent and more popular examples. Scores such examples can be witnessed if one go through most of our debates. The resulting narrative of such debates disadvantages a certain political formation and by default this benefits the grand old political formation. The political formation at advantage has been given the highly desirable character of being secular. With secularism being spoken of favourably and rewarded in TV studios and columns, parties associating themselves with secularism enjoy good word of mouth.
With such debates it becomes difficult for anyone to put the favourable political formation under scrutiny and not attract criticism. The result of such debates is to drive a wedge between the fence sitters and political formations not identified with secularism. Such debates consolidate the committed and make it difficult, almost impossible for the uncommitted to choose anything but the secular choice.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why so didactic?

This post originally appeared here.
What is the overwhelming feeling one is left with when one has just experienced yet another primetime TV news debate or has read a column by our star TV journalists? Does one feel having experienced a debate? Does one feel all points of views were expressed? Does one feel the moderator or the columnist was being impartial and trying to keep the debate balanced? Or does one get a feeling that we were being guided in a certain direction. That we were being instructed on what the appropriate questions ought to be and who was really guilty of some wrongdoing.
Surf through almost any of our top national TV news channels and you will witness a rather cagey debate going on shows with grand titles moderated by the leading stars of TV news industry. More often than not these shows are anything but debates. We get to witness some extremely sanctimonious sounding characters imparting lessons on morality to us. Apparently those watching these shows lack sound judgment and lack the capacity to evaluate facts on merits. Therefore the viewers must be helpfully guided in making the correct choices and ask the correct questions. This was on ample display during the Karnataka land mining report debate. If an aam aadmi is left alone he may ask such obvious questions. However they would be inappropriate, incorrect and morally wrong for the extremely sanctimonious characters have already identified where the guilt lies. To help guide the people we are presented with debates fixing responsibilities and lengthy, sermonising columns such as these do the trick. It is of course irrelevant that all this debate and column writing prejudges issues even before full facts are before us or appropriate procedures are carried out.
Curiously all these moral sermons, all these helpful moral instructions are invariably directed at a particular set of set of people while all this is deemed unnecessary when it comes to a certain other set of characters. Take all the recent happenings in our country and revisit the debates and columns around them and one cannot help but think our debates have become very didactic.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Secularists and their fanatical secularism

Secularism is the belief that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.

In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence. Some scholars are now arguing that the very idea of secularism will change. [Link]

That is how Wikipedia describes secularism. There is an India specific section describing secularism as –

The Preamble to the Constitution of India declares that India is a secular state. The original preamble did not mention the word “secular”. It was added later by 42nd amendment in 1976. The term secularism in politics refers to the governmental practice of indifference towards religion. Though such bifurcation is not totally possible, still, secular politics attempt to prevent religious philosophies or bodies from influencing governmental policies. The philosophy that the Indian constitution upholds is a kind of secular humanism made relevant through a historical development of the ideology within the context of religious pluralism in India. [Link]

It is admitted that politics cannot be completely isolated from religion or religious beliefs but secular politics strives to separate government policy making from being influenced by religion. We hear almost every politician and self described secularists swear by this principle. Yet what has transpired since our independence is contrary to this. Secular principles have been abandoned at the slightest hint of threat from religious groups. We saw this in the Shah Bano case where a court verdict based on secular law was subverted by letting religion influence changes in law. We see this principle being jettisoned routinely the moment vote banks revolt on religious pretexts.

If a secular state is supposed to be agnostic on the matters of religion then the Indian state describing itself as such is an anomaly. In fact the Indian state contradicts the Indian Constitution to an extent that necessitates re-evaluating inclusion of the word “secular”.

One could cite the articles for fundamental rights in the constitution allowing freedom and propagation of religion. That is certainly the argument of religious groups. These freedoms have led to varied interpretations by secularists and the courts alike resulting in heated debates between various groups. The continual bowing down of the state on matters of religion and the manner in which this has been done has completely altered the purported meaning and intent of secularism. Secularism in India has been watered down to such an extent that it has now attracted the label “pseudo secularism”. Champions of Indian secularism have had a great part to play in this. On every occasion self described secularists have exploited the concept to further their own narrow agendas. This is evident from the fact that under secular campaigns only one set of groups have benefitted almost always. Having seen this go on for years a feeling of resentment has set in among those adversely affected by secularism. When religious institutions of one group benefit at the expense of the other, when certain institutions enjoy immunity while other institutions are constantly under scrutiny and state interference, when predatory proselytising techniques enjoys secular sanction secularism acquires a fanatical character. The heated disputes and confrontations between the affected parties is an example of how fanatical secularism has driven a wedge between communities.

Wikipedia also says this –

Under feudal system there was no competition between different religious traditions as authority resided in sword and generally there were no inter-religious tensions among the people of different religions. They co-existed in peace and harmony though at times inter-religious controversies did arise. However, there never took place bloodshed in the name of religion.

In a multi-religious society, if politics is not based on issues but on identities, it can prove highly divisive. Politicians are tempted to appeal to primordial identities rather than to solve problems. The former case proves much easier. The medieval society in India was thus more religiously tolerant as it was non-competitive. The modern Indian society, on the other hand, has proved to be more divisive as it is based on competition. [Link]

It is not too difficult to see that predatory proselytisation is seen as a competition and threat by the affected communities. A diverse country like India cannot afford this threat. When fanatical secularism is invariably seen to favour one set of groups and when these groups flourish at the expense of others, discontent brews. When fanatical secularism refuses to address this discontent, it manifests in unpredictable ways, including violence. As you can see from the Wikipedia entry religious competition has threatened peaceful coexistence of various communities in India. Fanatical secularism aids religious competition favouring one set of groups at the expense of other. Fanatical secularism drives a wedge between communities and it is a threat to our national integrity.

This post originally featured in Centre Right India.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some popular myths revisited

This post first featured in Centre Right India.

Manmohan Singh is a paragon of honesty.

That was true in 2004. But boy, does this sound ridiculous now or what! He was a very clever choice for the Congress party high command that could not become the Prime Minister herself. But as the past 7 years have proved, he has worked wonderfully well for his party leaders alone. The incessant scams getting exposed with each passing day under his watch means cheerleaders can no longer chant “Singh is King”.

Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke saath.

This slogan is quite funny. It is also quite brazen. The Congress party’s record on this count is dismal to say the least. It’s fetish for socialism in the early days had driven millions to poverty. And it’s policies are no better now. Millions still continue to suffer. None of it’s “garibi hatao” slogans or programs have actually worked. The only garibi they ever managed to eliminate is that of the partymen. NREGA is the latest name of one such scheme which has wrecked havoc with the rural economy. Thousands have died on account of terror, runaway inflation is robbing food away from the poor and all the party has to show for it’s 7 year rule so far is gargantuan scams. In light of all this and more, the slogan needs to be re-calibrated as Congress ka haath aam aadmi ke gaal par.

Rahul Gandhi is our destiny deliverer.

When Rahul Gandhi first flashed his photogenic dimples for the cameras you had to see the raptures in secular media to believe it. Fawning media coverage and gushing columns continue to this day. And Abhishek Manu Singhvi would have you believe that Rahul Gandhi is indeed divine. But what does the alleged “destiny deliverer” have to show for his 7 years in public life so far? Nothing. Much of this was covered in an earlier post. Not only is Rahul Gandhi not a destiny deliverer but his dangerous cluelessness will cost us dear. And the soundness of his mental faculties too is being questioned as seen through wikileaks.

Sonia Gandhi is the most benevolent leader.

A yet another assiduously crafted image of a person who is anything but that. Please do readearlier post on this topic from the archive and this one by friend S Sudhir Kumar. For an alleged benevolent leader, Sonia Gandhi is surprisingly callous to the sufferings of her aam aadmi voters. She doesn’t even deign to spare a few minutes facing the media and the public.

“Inclusive growth” with a human face.

This is a rather funny coinage. This marketing technique worked very well in 2004. But what has transpired since then is hardly “inclusive growth”. Perhaps the only growth the Congress party has achieved since of that of the UPA coalition itself. Crores of Rupees have made way to the UPA constituents and they still haven’t burped yet. “Inclusive growth” is the mother scam. All other scams are a result of this.

Criticising the Congress party is communalism.

This is one of the funniest ploys the self declared champions of secularism resort to. When you cannot defend your own record, when you find yourself facing inconvenient questions, when you are caught red handed in an inconvenient act, it is always useful to use the “communalism” charge. This allows the Congress party to escape scrutiny of it’s record and deflect all debate to the secular versus communal cacophony. What is missed in this theater is that the Congress party itself is rabidly communal.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tangential journalism

You would think that when a political party assumes power promising inclusive growth with a human face and fails miserably to do so, the media would hold those failing their promises accountable. You would think the media would ask tough questions and demand explanation of the party’s leadership for its failures. But apparently that is not the right way to think. Instead we are lead to believe the entire political class is a failure. The ruling party could not be held accountable because, again, all politicians are bad. What are we to do in such a situation? Apparently we must watch prime time TV news shows disparaging all politicians. We must light candles at national monuments to show our disgust. We must write lengthy columns expressing similar sentiment. But what we must absolutely not do is politicize any issue in an electoral democracy. We must not encourage people to be more aware politically and urge them to participate in the electoral process. This logic is at play in large, influential sections of our mainstream media.

Every time there is a raging issue confronting the nation we find our newsmen asking exactly the wrong questions. Rather than question the ruling party for their failures, political opponents are pitted against each other and we are expected to watch this believing this is serious debate. These scenes are repeated with unfailing regularity each day. A typical scene involves a newsman posing cagey questions to a member from the ruling party. The ruling party member promptly shifts goalposts to the opposite end without losing any time and the opposition party member is left defending himself.

This script works very well in a wide range of situations. It is a template that fits everything. Take terrorism for example. The perpetrators of terror harbor no illusions on what and why they are doing. They are quite upfront and candid about it. But it would be unsecular and inhumane of investigating authorities to carry out any profiling, to carry out any serious investigation simply because it involves a disproportionately large number from a certain religion. It is only a minor inconvenience that perpetrators of terror happen to be in disproportionately large numbers from a certain religion. But prime time TV newsmen tell us it is abominable to carry out logical investigation and that we must feel guilty for doing so. To drive home this point shows are conducted posing such existential questions as “are we unfairly targeting minorities?” or “has the majority failed the minority?”.

Lets take corruption. That the issue has hit the roof is an understatement. And again here a certain political party has a disproportionately large share in it. Now see the questions being posed by our newsmen. See the pattern?

But it should not surprise anyone who has observed the media and our homegrown opinion makers. Over the years a convenient equation has been bandied about. A certain political party by the virtue of a certain type of characters being at the helm are automatically secular. Something very desirable, something young people should aspire for we are led to believe. And then of course what is left is very undesirable. A certain other political party naturally falls in this category. A very communal party, highly undesirable trait, we are told. Now when you have your very desirable, very secular political characters getting caught in seriously compromising cases it becomes well nigh impossible to criticize them squarely having cheered such characters for decades. Thankfully we have the other undesirable party to direct all the public anger at. So we have this strange situation where the secular party - in face of never-before-seen-in-history mismanagement - claim the moral high ground and question the communal party for its failure to check all ills while it was briefly in power. While all this happens almost none on the media puts things straight.

One cannot help but notice that most of our star journalists seem to consistently miss hitting the mark. Instead our media is a willful facilitator helpfully taking viewers and readers on the tangent lest logical questions be asked leading to obvious, inconvenient answers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sonia Gandhi and her carefully crafted saintly aura

Sonia Gandhi entered politics with a touching story of how she could not let herself escape the inevitable responsibility of leading the Congress party. After all it was crying to be led by the only family divinely ordained to do so. The way in which her declaration as party high command came about and what happened to the immediate predecessor is but a matter of fine print.

Her being a rank outsider, both in politics and nationality, a woman, widow of the assassinated Rajiv Gandhi meant she was the proverbial underdog in Indian politics. Thirteen years later she has proved she is no underdog. In fact she is in the top 10 of the world's most powerful list. Nine places ahead of the Prime Minister (PM) of the world's largest democracy. And the political opposition could only be wishing if only it did not make the mistake of underestimating her.

One would think that after having been at the top of the Congress party for over a decade and having manufactured a convenient power center for herself under the United Progressive Coalition (UPA) chairmanship for about 6 years now, our media would take some time to evaluate her leadership, her politics. But try as you might an honest, independent review of her years in public life is impossible to come across. Instead what we have is some fawning soft focus features in mainstream media commemorating such momentous occasions as her 10 years in politics.

The only image of her that is allowed is that of a suffering, reluctant person who was forced to bow to public pressure to lead the nation. Election posters of course follow a carefully crafted image. But what has happened under her command, what has transpired in both the UPA governments is completely ignored by opinion makers. That cronyism, nepotism is prevalent in Congress party culture is not news but one of the identifying characters of the party. Sonia's leadership since 1998 has done nothing to change that. Instead she appointed her son, Rahul Gandhi, to important post in the party. The son too has been lending sound bytes of trying to change the rotten system of ours but little has come of it since his entry into public life seven years ago.

Under Sonia Gandhi's leadership we had the bad precedent of the unelected Manmohan Singh being appointed as our PM. Our democracy is being subverted ever since. Playing with gubernatorial appointments in states ruled by opposition parties, intimidating non-Congress rules states through the federal government, using extra constitutional routes for law making have been happening since 2004. Analysis, scrutiny of such acts however is missing. Instead we have the curious coincidence of only benefits accruing to Sonia Gandhi and all criticism being absorbed by other Congressmen. When the erstwhile "honest" Manmohan Singh was chosen for our PM, Sonia Gandhi was hailed for her sacrifice and excellent choice. Now that Manmohan Singh is being severely criticized for raging scams on his watch no questions are being asked of her. When her appointees like ex Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan get caught in scams, again no questions must be asked of her. When UPA coalition partners are accused and being investigated for severe scams Manmohan Singh should shoulder blame. No blemish should ever reach Sonia Gandhi.

Then we have the case of her being personally involved in scams. Bofors is perhaps the longest running scam story. The brazenness with which Bofors cases were closed was open for all to see. Personal allegations against her may have been in the realm of conspiracy theories in the past but that may no longer be the case. Almost every major scam hitting the headline these days has some link tracing to Sonia Gandhi. The Commonwealth Games scam has a Robert Vadra link. The 2G spectrum scam has links going to her. Yet stories in media on such links are no where to be found.

The other image of Sonia Gandhi is that of a caring, sensitive leader who has the aam aadmi's interests close to her heart. Yet victims of the horrific 2008 attacks on our soverignity on 26/11 are yet to see justice being done to them. PM Manmohan Singh promised that to the nation in his televised address immediately following the attack. But now we have him trying to make peace with the nation that blatantly refuses to take responsibility in face of a mountain of evidence. The UPA power center is unmoved. A nation housing vast numbers of poor people suffers continued price rise burden. Inclusive growth promise that apparently has a human face is not questioned here.

Sonia Gandhi herself and her inner circle seems to have carefully crafted a certain image of her. She has the habit of maintaining complete silence when the going gets tough, instead letting some members of her inner circle do the dirty job of discrediting all criticism. But when there is a slight opportunity for media worthy sound byte we have the benevolent, saintly Congress high command get out of her meditation and let a few words of wisdom out. When more questions are raised she conveniently goes back to her meditation.

No opinion maker worth his/her salt has shown the courage to question and hold Sonia Gandhi accountable of all that is wrong in the Congress party and the UPA government. She is allowed to enjoy leadership without the accountability that should go with it in a constitutional democracy. This continued mismanagement is doing incalculable harm to our nation's interests. But when wanting to be seen on the right side of power holder trumps need for honest scrutiny, such abominable cruelty will go unnoticed.

"Internet hate" label misses the point

Cries of "internet hate, abuse" are being heard again. But such arguments miss the point completely. First of all this "hate phenomenon" is not exclusive in "right wing circles" as is being insinuated. It happens outside such "circles" too, so such convenient label pasting is unimpressive to say the least.

Secondly Twitter, Facebook, blogs, discussion forums and the internet in general is akin to a street corner. All kinds of folks frequent this place, as they should and one hears all kinds of voices here just like one would in a street corner. Including the downright ugly ones. But internet is a place where people should come to listen to voices. If one does not like the abusive ones, and no one does, they must be tuned out if they don't add anything to any debate. Why insist on exercising editorial control over the internet? There are other well established forums for that.

It would be unwise to call for moderation or regulation of voices on the internet. The aam aadmi is not always nuanced or articulate in making his point. Which is exactly why he is not an influential member of opinion makers. But the internet allows him the space and freedom to rave and rant on everything under the sun. Listen to what he has to say. If you don't like it, tune it out. Opinion makers have their pulpits to make their points. Calls for moderation on the internet deny the freedom of voice. It defeats the purpose of an open, free from rigid editorial controls medium.

Opinion makers have their TV studios and column spaces to make their point. Leave the internet free for the aam aadmi to rant.

See earlier post on similar topic here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The nature of scholarship in Indology

"To (William) Jones and to the many other European scholars, India owes a deep debt of gratitude for the rediscovery of her past literature... At last he (William Jones) had seemingly discovered the key to just colonial government in the Orient, for which the Indian people people should forever love and be grateful to Europe."

That was the first Prime Minister of independent modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his book "The Discovery of India" paying tribute to British colonizers who wrote on Indian literature. Nehru, of course, was the product of British education and had famously declared, on more than one occasion, he was more an Englishman than an Indian. Macaulay would have applauded at that for Nehru is a prime example of his success in engineering a class of Indian people who would be completely detached from India (see this post for more on that).

To understand the nature of this scholarship, let us go back in time and try to trace it. Some of the earliest foreign records on India can be found in writings of early Greek ambassadors to India. Writings of Megasthenes (350 – 290 BC) are a rich source of such records from the Hellenistic period. His writings recorded India in great detail during the Maurayan period (see previous post on this). The general nature of writings on India began to change during the 1400-1500s AD. This was the time when Europeans began coming to India. On hearing of the rich trade possibilities, European ships began making way to India. By then Christianity had come to Europe and was in full force. Men on these ships to India were not immune to Christianity. This in evident from the writings of the time.

One of the earliest such Europeans was Filippo Sasetti, a Jesuit missionary from Italy. Upon landing in India he saw people different from his own. Indian culture and way of life too was very different for Sasetti. His letters back to his Church are some of the earliest records of that time. He first noticed some similarities between some Indian words to European words. He also writes of it taking 6-7 years for Indian people to learn the dead language (Sanskrit).

Then came Roberto de Nobili, another Italian Jesuit missionary. He took the duty to spread Christianity seriously. So seriously in fact that he was not above using unscrupulous tactics. He realized the heathens of India were not easy to convert. He struck up a plan to disguise himself as a Bramhan, calling himself "Sanyasi from Rome" to spread the word of his one true lord. He even forged a book called "Azur veda" and tried to sell it as the lost veda to Indians. Thus continued the Jesuit campaign in India with forgery and writing about India despite of lack of proper training in local culture or the language which captured ancient Indian knowledge, Sanskrit.

The European Jesuit missionary began colonizing India from Goa and some south Indian sea ports. The Britishers too took to it. They established East India Company and soon began consolidating their hold over India. Some of the earliest British colonizers too tried to learn ancient Indian languages. The trouble for all these European colonizers was that Sanskrit was no longer spoken. It was only alive in the oral recitations of the Bramhans handed down to successive generations through verbal training. Try as they might they did not have much luck in gaining access to this Indian knowledge. That did not deter them from trying to come up with a dictionary of Sanskrit words. In the absence of proper training and expert guidance, the quality of such dictionaries can only be doubtful. With the help of such imperfect tools, British colonizers tried to copy any ancient Indian knowledge they could. These hand written manuscripts began landing in Europe which gave birth to a lucrative new industry of Oriental studies.

One such student of Oriental studies was William Jones. He came from a humble background and wanted to improve his situation. After much effort managed to get employed by East India Company. In Kolkatta he founded "Asiatic Society" to publish ancient Indian literature. But he never managed to get any native Indian with authority in Sanskrit or ancient Indian knowledge. He simply recruited lower rung from the East India Company and directed them to send dispatches from ground of what they saw, heard from the locals. These dispatches found their way into annual publications of the "Asiatic Society".

Then came Friedrich Max Muller. Like William Jones, he too came from a humble background in Germany. He got employed by the East India Company in London and like Jones, he too took to the lucrative industry of translating Sanskrit manuscripts copied by hand and brought to England by British colonizers. Muller was employed by Thomas Babington Macaulay and would later invent the "Aryan Invasion Theory".

Translating Sanskrit was lucrative because East India Company would print them and pay only those papers that would be published. There was no one of authority to verify these publications. All other ancient languages were already worked upon by earlier scholars. Sanskrit was yet unexplored and each of these Jesuit scholars sensed an opportunity to be the first to do so. Their lack of training, knowledge of the languages they worked on, unfamiliarity of the culture they wrote of, indeed with no one to question, critique them, did not deter them from positioning themselves as foremost scholars in Indology and enjoying all benefits accruing from it. They established an entire industry by writing favourably about each other thus forming an exclusive club of Indologists.

Later scholars, historians eulogised them in writing their biographies, books on them. Through the years quite a few inventions slipped in. And with the passage of time became established truths. The unquestioning adoption of poor scholarship of early European Jesuits on India is evident when modern day scholars, historians rely on their work without scrutiny. This is surprising especially since they insist on "scientific study of history". The Indian History Congress - the largest professional body of it's kind in South Asia consisting of over 9000 members - says it's objective is "promotion and encouragement of the scientific study of Indian history". Some of it's past General Presidents include Romila Thapar and K N Panikkar who insist on "scientific temperament in history scholarship". How then fabrications like "Aryan Invasion Theory" have slipped past this scientific analysis is a mystery. As are curious explanations for Mughal excesses on Indians. Or how can William Jones, Max Muller attain scholarship in Sanskrit when in fact they did not even understand the language? How could they have attained scholarship in Sanskrit when it took Indians 6-7 years of training in the language no longer spoken in India? Why does Romila Thapar's self admitted lack of knowledge in Sanskrit not stop her from perpetuating dubious history? Why does K N Pannikar devise innovative explanations for Mughal excesses? Simply because that is the established norm in Indology. Their sources, the people they greatly admire have themselves devised such questionable ways of scholarship. Their history is based on such questionable construct. And of course there is an even bigger reason for this dubious scholarship. Nehru himself established this practice as seen in the beginning.

(With references from Lies With Long Legs by Prodosh Aich)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sceptical of success expected of Baba Ramdev

There is some excitement about Baba Ramdev's Bharat Swabhiman movement. It is easy to understand this and was articulated recently in this post at Centre Right India. However I am sceptical of this.

One of the reasons for this scepticism, double dip cynicism due to probable failure of Baba Ramdev's movement has been written about by Gaurav again at Centre Right India. Such a failure will be a severe setback and will further disappoint middle India driving it further away from participating in the policial process.

But there are other reasons as well. The Congress party can never be underestimated. It is the oldest political party in India and has seen many ups and down, has gone through many political turmoils and yet has managed to retain it's massive footprint on electoral politics. It may be tempting to dismiss Digvijay Singh's charges against Baba Ramdev's movement. But we must not forget the Congress party knows it's politics in and out. Better than any other party in India.

It senses the futility in taking on Baba Ramdev on his turf. So it may have deployed Digvijay Singh in laying a trap for Baba Ramdev in drawing him into something it is most adept at. Politics and dirty tricks. It may be trying to bury the Baba under an avalanche of controversial charges. If it works, Baba will be left expending most of his energy in fighting these charges just to come out clean, just to retain his credibility among people. If that does not work, Congress will draw him into the world of politics where it fancies will be easy to defeat him. And it will. Like I said, no one knows politics better than the Congress party. The Baba seems to be dangerously unarmed here.

Baba Ramdev is the ace in the Bharat Swabhiman movement. There are risks in exposing your aces in such a high stakes games against such players as the Congress party. A possible defeat will be detrimental to opposing forces, middle India's psyche.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Max Muller a Sanskrit scholar?

Friedrich Max Müller is regarded a great scholar of Sanskrit. Indeed he is revered among scholars in Indology. But if one traces his scholarship and life one cannot help but wonder what made him such an exalted scholar? A brief history of his will tell you he came from a humble background in Germany, raised by his mother who put him in school hoping for better future of her son. He trained in Europe in various oriental languages, sources of this training were often dubious, ones who never set foot in the lands of languages they claimed to be experts in. In fact none of the scholars had ever been to India or had any training in Sanskrit, a language that was no longer spoken in India and was mostly limited to Bramhan scholars. They worked off poor, half baked hand written copies brought to Europe by colonizing Englishmen, attempted to create a dictionary on their own and set to translate these hand copied Sanskrit texts.

The extent of Max Muller's Sanskrit scholarship is betrayed in his own words in this passage from his "Auld Lang Syne" -

So this "scholar of Sanskrit" could not follow Sanskrit when a native Indian came to him speaking in the language.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cultural clones - the engineering

Continuing the cultural clones series of posts, in the previous two posts here and here, we saw the stark difference between the early Greek accounts of India in the BC era and the later Jesuit accounts in the AD era. Where Greek records lacked all the general toxicity associated with Christian writers, the Jesuit records were full of it. When the Jesuits landed on Indian shores they brought with them land grabbing, Bible selling, pagan hatred in plenty. There was power struggle among the various European Jesuits, but eventually the British ones prevailed. Having subjugated enough of the pagans, they soon began to consolidate and plan for their continued hold over the land.

Many British Jesuits tried their hand at further gaining and consolidating their influence over the pagans. They tried selling Christianity in various ways but none had any noteworthy success. Then came Thomas Babington Macaulay who first landed in Calcutta to serve in the "Supreme Council of India" that the East India Company had established. He realised, to successfully indoctrinate the Indians, he needed a much granular program. He needed to come up with a plan to program a class of people who would be from among the Indians but only in physical appearance. In all other respects they would resemble every bit the Englishmen. He came up with a draft program for education in colonised India. It was adopted by the council on March 7, 1835. This plan can be found in his "Minute on Indian Education". The gist of the plan was -

"We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions we govern; a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect."

He carried out this plan with great zeal. We can see it going very well in this letter to his father on Oct 12, 1836 -

"Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it difficult, at some places impossible, to provide instruction for all who want it. At the single town of Hoogley fourteen hunderd boys are learning English. The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo who has received an English education ever continues to be sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy. But many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. The case with Mahometans is very different. The best educated Mahometan continues often to be Mahometan still. The reason is plain. The Hindoo religion is so extravagantly absurd that it is impossible to teach a boy astronomy, geography, natural history, without completely destroying the hold which that religion has on his mind. But the Mahometan religion belongs to a better family. It has very much in common with Christianity; and even where it is more absurd, it is reasonable compared with Hindooism. It is my firm belief that, if our plan of education is followed up, there will not be a single idolater among respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise, without the smallest interference with religious liberty, merely by natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in this prospect." (Emphasis added.)

Thus Thomas Babington Macaulay, a Jesuit British coloniser, laid the foundation to engineer a class of cultural clones from among the Indians that would continue to govern India for their colonial overlords. It is this plan that has effected many a cultural clone we see insisting on dominating all opinion making, indeed anything of significance in India. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Jawaharlal Nehru was a product of this very same cultural cloning program. Having gone through it, Nehru furthered the plan to continue generating more of them. The unwashed masses could not be allowed to have their say in their very own land.

(References also from "Lies With Long Legs" by Prodosh Aich.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Inclusive growth" is a scam

Back in 2004, the Congress led UPA came to power criticizing the NDA's ill fated "India shining" campaign. Upon gaining mandate to govern the nation, the UPA sought to differentiate itself as a government that cared for the people who did not benefit from the economic growth yet. It came up with a common minimum program that purported to carryout out development with a "human face". "Inclusive growth" has been the buzzword since then. And to add credibility to their claims, the Congress party installed Manmohan Singh over us.

To carry out their "inclusive growth", the UPA came up with many social benefits schemes. The mother of them all is the NREGA, their flagship showcase. This scheme aims at providing 100 days of guaranteed employment to the poor. It was launched in Feb-2006. The UPA has been touting the program's success ever since. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, especially the latter, have hardly missed an opportunity to sell the story to us. But audits do not agree with such claims -

NREG fails to deliver [Link] (2008)

Punching a hole in the UPA government's campaign of Bharat Nirman and other flagship schemes, its official auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report released on Friday that the government had been overstating the expenditure [Link] (2009)

A conservative estimate of the disappearance into thin air of money meant for the poor NREGA recipients in 2007-08 is about two-thirds of the money spent on the programme. Disappearance means money not accounted for by receipt, by the poor or the rich. It is unlikely that corruption in the NREGA has decreased in the last three years while having increased in all sectors of the economy. Which means that scam money in the NREGA, in just one year, 2010-11, is upwards of Rs 25,000 crore. [Link] (2011)

So a noble sounding social benefit scheme has quickly degenerated into a giant scam, a hallmark of the Congress party. Many things could be said of this but the fact remains that the Congress party is only continuing it's money making ways at the expense of the same poor it purports to help under a new name, "inclusive growth".

This abominable cruelty is not limited to social schemes. Anywhere there is money to be made, there is a scam to be pulled off. Take the current rage for example, the 2G spectrum scam. First seen here. The monumental scam is now know to one and all. Similar is the case with our highways. Since the regime changed hands from NDA to UPA in 2004, highway development activity has slowed down to a halt. Tall claims were made by UPA ministers. But 6 years later they have nothing to show for those claims. In fact this report will give you a glimpse of the rot that has set in the NHAI. Between 2007 and 2008, there were as many as 5 changes to to the NHAI chief post. And you would think with all the scams hitting the roof, the Congress party would have learnt it's lessons, but to the contrary dubious characters continue to be considered for the NHAI office. The agriculture ministry under Sharad Pawar is another case of gross mismanagement. Poor PDS infrastructure, rotting grains, farmer suicides are rampant under a Maratha strongman who comes from the farming belt in Maharshtra. Apparently, multitasking is not Pawar's forte, what with him heading the ICC as well.

We had to live a horrific nightmare under the incompetent beyond imagination Shivraj Patil. For a party with heavy socialist tendencies, they have failed at almost all human development indices. The story is same everywhere. Railways, 26/11, Pakistan, ISRO, Maoist manace, police reforms, defence, border disputes, Kashmir are no exceptions either. Six years have passed since development with "human face" began but all we have is a cargo load of scams. Each bigger than the other. "Inclusive growth" has a very limited scope than claimed by the Congress party. Only their inner members have grown significantly, others continue to be robbed of their destinies. "Inclusive growth" is a scam.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open medium comes with distractions, don’t fall for it

This piece was written for Centre Right India. Also posting it below -

Veteran counter terror analyst and former head of intelligence agencies B Raman was recently at the receiving end of some unsavory treatment on the internet, especially Twitter. So much so that it led to an entry at his blog and in Outlook lamenting the attack. He labelled his tormentors “The Hindutva Storm-Troopers” because almost all of the abusers were upset with terror being linked to Hindus. Now this is no way to defend anything. Heaping personal abuse on someone can never be a credible defense of anything. Rather than doing any good, it actually harms the defender’s cause.

Questioning popular views, irreverence and occasional abuse has earned a certain band of people on Twitter the moniker “Internet Hindus”. We can thank journalist Sagarika Ghose for that. Leaving the irony of those denouncing label pasting, well, pasting labels on others aside, let us see if all this warrants the importance being given to it.

All of this “Hindutva Storm-Trooping” is taking place on the internet. This wonderful new medium has been a revolution in providing unprecedented access to information, news, entertainment, discussion that was hitherto unavailable or was inconvenient using conventional mediums. It has contributed to the richness of debates infusing some much needed diversity allowing all points of views being expressed. We have seen some excellent blogs and discussion forums emerge. Independent bloggers on the strength of their credible analysis are successfully transitioning into contributing columnists to established news media. Serious think tanks are emerging thanks to the networking capabilities of the internet. These are only some examples of the enormous promise and potential the internet holds.

On the other hand, in the absence of filters, this free-from-control medium finds all kinds of folks frequenting this space. Trolls and abusers are some who are the most disliked. They are given to attempting to derail discussions without adding any value. But they are just that, distractions, mere unwanted noise. If they had anything concrete to successfully derail debates, we would not have seen the growth of all these successful blogs and think tanks. To pay serious attention to them is to allow minor inconveniences distract us.

Some may argue that abuse is not unprovoked. But this is an endless discussion and nothing is likely to come of it. Besides provocation can hardly be an excuse to unparliamentary behaviour, especially when directed at respected personalities or when used in sensitive topics. If this “hate-abuse phenomenon” is such a monster as some think it is then veterans should surely know attention fuels, not defuses, such behaviour. Employing starve-the-beast strategy can be useful here. Works surprisingly well. Eminent journalists, columnists popular on Twitter have been at the receiving end of similar misdirected energy. But they have learned to adapt and are aware of the pitfalls of the new medium. Once this adjustment is made, debate carries on.

The internet seems to have unleashed all the disgruntled energy people had for perceived unidimensional discussions on national television. People seem not to know what do do with the availability of equal opportunity tools like Twitter. This is manifesting in all kinds of behaviour. Once this energy is released, debate here will temper to more serious, reasoned tones.

The internet, while it has been around for a while, is still evolving. For all the impact it has had on our lives, it’s potential is far from being realized and we have still not wrapped our arms around it. While some are coming to terms with it, those getting diverted by this fringe behaviour are either new entrants very much behind the curve or still have not adapted to it. The following B Raman attracts for his blogposts and the wide readership for his columns is a testimony to the respect he commands. Lamenting the minority who resort to personal attacks risks ignoring this fact. Look at the immediate reaction to his laments. Personal abuse directed at him was rightly denounced, support came pouring in which is very encouraging. Like most things in life, there are always different sides to everything. While a majority of people respect B Raman, there are a few who do not. Unless there is serious criticism, why fall for distractions?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rahul Gandhi is no leader

This piece was written for Centre Right India. Also posting it below -

It is impossible to miss the name Rahul Gandhi if you are reading, talking, discussing India . His appointment within the Congress party was not by employing any democratic means, but simply because the Congress president, his mother, chose him. This in the world’s largest democracy and in a party that never tires talking of democratic principles. And now, he is being presented as our future Prime Minister sans any debate. With the Congress chief deciding this, the nation’s talking heads have busied themselves endorsing and selling him as our ‘destiny deliverer’. We are destined to have Rahul Gandhi lord over us and we simply must accept this.

Only in our nation could someone be hoisted over us without merit. We were born that way. Our first Prime Minster was appointed ahead of Sardar Patel who enjoyed the most confidence within the Congress party. From then on the trend has continued and sustained to our current Prime Minister. And all indications are it will in the future. Because our national media will not take the time to examine Rahul Gandhi, we are left to ourselves to size him up. Let us begin with his background.


Rahul Gandhi comes from the most high profile political family yet his personal background is not very well known. He is entitled to his privacy of course, but a potential national leader will attract some scrutiny. His educational background is mired in controversy. So too are his claims on election affidavits. It seems strange that our future leader cannot seem to get his story on education right or is unwilling to set the record straight putting all doubts to rest. Very little is known of his professional life before joining politics.

Political career

Rahul Gandhi was elected to Lok Sabha from Amethi in May 2004. He has not held any political office yet and has mainly concentrated on party building activities, especially the youth wing. His pet project, bringing democracy to Congress, is not yet a success. Internal elections in youth Congress and his youth leader appointees have not exactly been controversy free. He took up party building responsibility in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. While he enjoyed moderate success in UP, he is still far from breaking Bahujan Samaj Party’s hold on the state. His Bihar attempts were a disaster as evidenced in recent elections and his visits to other states, especially Gujarat, have had little impact on his party’s fortunes there.

After having spent over 6 years in domestic politics, travelling overseas, interacting with foreign leaders and having the best political minds within the party to support and mentor him, there is very little Rahul Gandhi espouses or articulates. His sporadic attempts at making political sounds have resulted in more controversies and have done very little to add or give direction to political debates. Rather they come across as manipulative and aimed at exploiting short gains. Leaders he has hand picked have failed to deliver.

For someone who purports to be concerned of the nation’s wellbeing, he is remarkably detached from parliamentary proceedings. He only goes there about half the time and for the limited time he spends there, he almost never participates in debates.

Discovery of India

A couple of years ago, Rahul Gandhi embarked on his very own ‘discovery of India ’ to understand the country better and gain political maturity. When he was touring, not a day went by when a doting national news media did not report his encounters with the unwashed masses, especially during the last general elections. Visiting dalit houses, tea stalls, road side vendors, his jumping the security cordon and shaking hands with the crowds featured fondly in national news space. This discovery phase now seems to have ended. It is only natural for us to expect Rahul Gandhi to list his learnings, summarize them for us, articulate them for the nation. But nothing of the sort has happened yet, which leaves us to wonder if he has learned anything at all. One might cite his speech in the parliament during the Indo-US nuclear deal debate. But that too was a half baked, disappointing attempt. The debt ridden Kalavati he spoke about is still waiting for better days and had to travel to Delhi to remind Rahul Gandhi of his unkept promises.


In an interview to NDTV, Arun Jaitley was asked for his advice to Rahul Gandhi. In his answer Jaitley said, Rahul Gandhi should make constructive political interventions and participate in debates more. Politics could not be “an endless series of photo opportunities”. That was very well put and summarizes Rahul Gandhi’s political life so far. No astute observer will miss this coincidence. Glance through our national media and you will see nothing but favourable coverage of Rahul Gandhi. Critical reports of him are hard to come by. Prominent television news editors have been at the forefront of this. Rahul Gandhi is found missing every time the nation faces crisis but will emerge to exploit any and every convenient photo opportunity.

In the 40 years of his life so far, Rahul Gandhi has not exhibited any leadership traits. Over 6 years of his political stint have only yielded in often banal and sometimes controversial utterances. He has not added to or defined any political debate and still cannot speak extemporaneously. Despite the stage managed, carefully choreographed tours, when faced with unscripted events he has had to beat a hasty retreat on more than one occasion. He is reluctant to face harsh, inconvenient questions without any safety net. There is very little he espouses or articulates. His ‘youth icon’ or the ‘destiny deliverer’ facade is built on the strength of fuzzy op-eds and fuelled by exploiting photo opportunities.