Wednesday, October 1, 2014

22 ways to say (Tame) Kem Cho

Indians are known the world over for their lack of unity (this is natural, a billion people marching in lock-step is possible only in Communist China, and even then we have our doubts). No one except the stoutest patriot believes in that hoary school-yard slogan "unity in diversity."
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But most Indians are united about the need for diversity. This is simply a matter of accepting reality. In a country when there are so many languages, religions, cultures there is not much you can do to privilege any one "thing" over another (you can try hard and fail).   

When in doubt, we usually follow the foot-step of our (ex) British masters and choose partition. Earlier, there was a partition between majority Punjabi speaking (Sikh by religion) Punjab, and Hindi speaking (Hindu by religion) Haryana and Hindi/Pahari speaking (Hindu) Himachal Pradesh. We just experienced a bitter, yet mostly peaceful partition between Telugu speaking (majority Hindu) people in Telangana and Andhra. In the future there may be a Gorkhaland state for (Hindu) Nepalis who propose to be free of (majority Hindu) Bengali imperialism.

Thus when President Obama said: (Tame) Kem Cho (?) Mr Prime Minister we were quietly happy. There is no country on earth who has such diversity to the point that the Constitution notes 22 scheduled languages. Even that list ignores the tens of millions of non-Hindi speaking people in the "Hindi" belt - Maithili from North Bihar is an exception - and Tulu speakers in (Mangalore) the south.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An XY feminist

....Kale sends around 2,000 kits each month - containing one mifepristone and four misoprostol tablets - to women who live in nations where abortion is either banned or restricted.....These are two of the 1,500 compounds that Kale sells, generating an annual revenue of $4.5 million - but no profit with an option for patients to donate 90 euros....And the need is enormous. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives in nations where abortion is banned or restricted making it a major health concern for women....
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Can men be feminists? While the long form answer can get complicated the short form is simple enough. The answer is yes, if men are interested in complete equality between men and women. Thus apart from reproduction in all other functions and aspirations a woman should have the same rights (and responsibilities) as a man (yes we know that there are other genders out there, equality for them as well).

Then again if people feel that as per this definition humanism = feminism (and we agree) then it may be preferable to call ourselves (flawed) humanists.

How about reproduction and the specific question of medical termination of pregnancy (MTP aka abortion)? Again the long form answer is complicated but the short answer is that the final call is the woman's (to pull the trigger or not).


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lions and (are) Christians

....USCIRF @USCIRF Hindu Nationalist Group Seeking to Cleanse Christian Presence From #India Is Not Unlike ISIS, Watchdog Group Warns......David B. Cohen @DavidBCohen1 "Watchdog" group likens BJP to ISIS, proving they've no moral compass. Moral equivalence is not moral, nor is @USCIRF......
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The argument continues about the curious case that was the 2005 US VISA ban imposed on Narendra Modi as directed by the US Commission on Internal Religious Freedom (USCIRF, see tweet above). The ban was quite unique in its application (apart from Nelson Mandela* back in the day and more recently Prabowo Subianto of Indonesia, see link below for details). There have been (naturally) speculations as to how it came about, and what was the specific role of (american, expat) evangelical Christians 

Interestingly enough, American colonial policy makers have chosen to segregate India (under supervision of the US Pacific Command- PACOM) and Pakistan (US Central Command- CENTCOM). Why is that? Well, we think we know.   

The desired impact (of the ban) was to make Modi unacceptable to (and unelectable by) Indians. But that was not how the cookie crumbled. If left alone it was quite likely that Modi would have faded away, similar to how BJP lost in Uttar Pradesh under the pincer attack of Mulayam Yadav and Mayawati. But the humiliation imposed from outside led his own people to see him as a victim. It was Gujarati asmita that helped deliver three in a row victories to the state-house.
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Why democracy?

....PIO (Person of Indian Origin)...will get lifelong visas...thousands of cheering Indians at Madison Square...."Happy?" he asked...chants of "Modi, Modi"....."There is even more to come," he said.... 
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People often ask: what is the point of democracy? It is simple really, it confers legitimacy on the rulers as no other system would. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi is Prime Minister for all of India (even if many Indians did not vote for him, they accept the system which elected him).

This is why as many as 50 senators and congressmen (names?) greeted Modi in the "Garden" on a Sabbath Sunday, while just one year ago he was not even allowed to set foot on American soil.

People will (rightly) complain that democracy is helping legitimize majoritarian rule (if not legitimizing crimes committed in their name). The answer is however not to abandon democracy but to fight for a country with better protection for minorities. In other words India needs to transition from an illiberal democracy to a liberal one. That is a work in progress, and it is true even for ancient regimes (for example, see Ferguson, Missouri, where a police officer was shot on Saturday night...a fallout over the race riots earlier).
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"Vanguards of Khorasan"

.....Khorasan historical region....northeastern  Iran, southern Turkmenistan, northern  Afghanistan.... established by the Sasanian dynasty, the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, in the 3rd century...."The Land of the Sun," a reference to its eastern location.....
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These days people are engaged in branding exercises in order to foster some or other group identity.  
The trick is to build up a platform that has some basis in culture and in history and try to shoe-horn your agenda in a manner that makes it acceptable to a substantial fraction of elites and sub-alterns.

As an example consider the two principal sub-continental politico-social-cultural brands: Hindutva and Islam. For the record, we are not a fan of either brand because we consider religion to be a divisive force and that in our opinion it should be banished from the public square.

What is the Hindutva agenda and how is it helpful towards brand building? Take a specific example:  the movement to protect cows (and as an extension promote vegetarianism). The cow occupies a special place in the Hindu pantheon, especially the association with Krishna and the Yadava clan (even in modern day Mumbai the milk supply chain management in our colony as well as many others is a Yadava monopoly).

For the recent Lok Sabha polls Amit Shah deployed this save the cows strategy to weaken the Muslim-Yadava alliance in Bihar. Perhaps due to this (as well as many other factors), Lalu Yadav lost, big time (he is back on his feet again, having set up a grand alliance with Nitish Kumar and the Congress).
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