Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pakistan and India. The Long View

An awful lot can be said about the India-Pakistan conflict and what is said is heavily dependent on how the writer sees the world and what he or she wants it to become. Now that the latest round of proposed "National Security Adviser Talks" has fizzled, a lot is being said about who is to blame and what to do next. I thought it would be a good idea to just step back a little from the (necessarily and correctly) petty tactical maneuvers behind the talks and their cancellation and look at the (somewhat scary) big picture and then try to see what the possible futures look like. The last section is my personal obsession and can be skipped.
So here goes:

Kashmir is a disputed region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Pakistan holds one chunk of Kashmir (now administered as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) and India hold another. Without going into the details of whose claims are how good and what the UN resolutions really say, let us note one fact: Pakistan wants to change the status quo in Kashmir. India pays lip-service to the notion that it wants the Pakistani part of Kashmir, but in practice India looks like it will go along with keeping the status quo. So as far as Kashmir is concerned, India's interest is to have Pakistan STOP trying to change the status quo (especially via terrorism or military force; India knows that complaints in international forums and human rights clubs are not a significant issue if kinetic actions cease). Pakistan's interest on the other hand is to force India to give up its part of Kashmir, i.e. to CHANGE the current borders and administrative arrangements. In this sense the positions are not symmetrical.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed and Flt Lt Mati ur Rahman Shaheed. Heroes.

Matiur rahman.jpg


On August 20 1971 Flight Lt Mati ur Rahman and Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas died in the crash of a T-33 jet trainer near the Sindh coastline, 32 miles on the Pakistani side of the border with India. BOTH pilots were awarded the highest gallantry award available. Pakistan awarded the Nishan e Haider to Pilot officer Minhas and (2 years later) the newly independent state of Bangladesh awarded Flt Lt Rahman the Bir Sreshto, the highest gallantry award in BD. Educated Pakistanis are likely to know why Rashid Minhas is a hero (though some of the details they learned are less certain than the popular stories imply). Meanwhile it is my impression that even educated Bangladeshis are not as informed about Matiur as we are about Minhas. So here, as a public service, is what we know about this episode.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poetic Perversion



Orya Maqbool Jan, who is one of Pakistan’s best-known right-wing pundits, has turned his attention to the heartbreaking scandal of massive child abuse in the town of Kasur. For those who may not be up on this tragic affair, it has been reported that a local ring in the area south of Lahore has been abducting children, abusing them, and using videos of the abuse to blackmail the parents into silence while selling the videos to consumers of child pornography. There are also allegations about the complicity of the local police and politicians, and at least two police officials have been disciplined so far. After the scandal broke in the media, the furor has led to the government appointing a commission to “investigate” the whole affair, but people are understandably skeptical. Meanwhile, there has been a deluge of social analysis and much national soul-searching about the factors that allowed such an unspeakable horror to go on for years. Of course, this is not the first such incident – the previous one was, if anything, even more chilling – and reports of related evils such as honor killings, bride burning, rape, etc., are all too common across the whole region, not just in Pakistan. But it is natural for decent people to ask: How could this happen in our society? Well, finally the wisdom of Mr. Orya Maqbool Jan has produced an answer: It’s our literature. Oh, not trashy, pulp literature that gets sold on the streets and gets serialized in the papers that pay Mr. Jan’s salary, but the “high literature” of Urdu and Persian, a thousand years in the making and recognized the world over as one of the great creations of the human intellect. That literature, according to Mr. Jan, is so poisoned with pederasty, so steeped in lust for young flesh, that it was but a matter of time before something like the Kasur incidents happened. With uncharacteristic restraint, he does not prescribe a remedy, but there’s a strong implication that book burnings would be a good first step.

Mr. Jan’s article is in Urdu, and though many readers of this blog cannot read it, I do not find in myself the will to translate it. Rather, having summarized its core theme, I intend to use it as an occasion to comment on the issue it raises as a dedicated consumer of the literature that Mr. Jan excoriates. In particular, he points the finger of blame towards Urdu’s “god of poetry”, Mir Taqi Mir, eighty-six percent of whose work, according to Mr. Jan, is steeped in the evil of pederasty. Others who merit mention by Mr. Jan include the great Persian master, Hafez Shirazi, and with a jump of a few hundred years, the 20th century Urdu poet, Firaq Gorakhpuri, and the great Urdu short-story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. Two pious poets who get praised for avoiding the filth are the great dreamer of geopolitical dreams, Iqbal, and Altaf Hussain Hali, who, despite writing some great romantic poetry himself, also predicted that most poets in his literary tradition were headed to hell. Presumably, he did not wish to include in this list his beloved mentor, Ghalib, on whose death he wrote the most moving elegy in the Urdu canon.

My first reaction upon reading Mr. Jan’s article was to feel sorry for him. Presented with the vast and profoundly beautiful tradition of classical Farsi and Urdu poetry, all he chooses to see in it is filth! However, like all bad analysis based on unwarranted generalization, his article too contains a grain of truth. Once you get past the odious hectoring, the ridiculous conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, the profound misunderstanding of romantic expression in the classical poetic tradition, and just plain ignorance, the author does have a very small point. There is, indeed, a minor thread of pederasty that runs through the cultural traditions underlying our beautiful poetry, and it does occasionally surface in the poetry itself. But contrary to the implication in this article, it is not a central theme - not even a significant marginal theme - in the literature. At most, it is an occasional reference, and that too driven more by convention than actual practice.

Much can be written on the long-standing prevalence of the evil practice of pederasty across the world and about its seepage into literature, but here I will focus on the issue of the poetic and linguistic confusions promoted by the article at hand.

Mr. Jan refers to Hafez' famous couplet

agar an tork-e sheeraazi ba-dast aarad dil-e maa raa
ba-khaal-e hindu-ash bakhsham samarqand o bokhaaraa raa

(If that Turk from Shiraz would take my heart in hand
I would give away Samarqand and Bokhara for the beauty spot on her cheek)

and somehow infers from it that the poet is referring to a young Turkish boy. This inference may reflect Mr. Jan's own psychological compulsions, but has no basis in language. As is well-known, Farsi has no gender at all in terms of pronouns or the handling of verbs and adjectives, which means that the gender of a person being referred to cannot be inferred from text in the absence of other information. Based on anecdotal justification from a few poets, some have used this fact to assume that "the Beloved" in all of Persian poetry is a young male, but that is patently absurd.

First, let it be noted that ghazal poetry in both Farsi and Urdu is rife with lust. Sometimes, this can be sublimated into a metaphorical and mystical "love of God" meaning, sometimes not. When Hafez says:

zolf aashofte o kh(w)ee-karde o khandan-lab o mast
pirhan chaak o ghazalkh(w)aan o soraahee dar dast
nargisesh arbade-jooi o labash afsoos-konan
neem-shab mast be-baaleen-e man aamad binishast

(tresses wild, sweating, smiling, intoxicated,
dress open, singing poetry, flask (of wine) in hand,
eyes flashing combat, lips pouting sorrow,
drunk, she came at midnight to my bedside and sat down)

he clearly refers to a very Earthly personage, and a woman, based on the description. The "tork-e sheeraazi" for whom Hafez was willing to give away Samarqand and Bokhara was similarly unlikely to be male, let alone a young boy!

In Urdu, the issue is complicated further because, when it adopted the Persian idiom, it explicitly chose to refer to the Beloved as masculine - out of a sense of propriety, it is said. But as anyone who reads this poetry with a brain in their head knows, this is just convention. When Ghalib writes:

lay to looN sotay meN us kay paaoN kaa bosaa magar
aesi baatoN say vo mehroo badgumaaN ho jaaye gaa

Literally, it says, “Indeed, I could kiss his foot while he sleeps, but such acts would prejudice that moon-faced one against me”. But clearly, in spite of using the male gender, the poet isn’t referring to some “moon-faced” guy! As Ghalib’s letters bear out - and as other material corroborates extensively - masculine terms for the Beloved, e.g., "yaar", “dost”, "but", "janan", "dildaar", etc., all, in fact, refer by default to women in the poetry of Ghalib and others in his tradition. Sometimes this becomes quite clear and even the gender shifts:

in paree-zaadoN se layN gay khuld mayN ham intiqaam
qudrat-e haq say yehee hoorayN agar vaaN ho gayeeN           (Ghalib)

(We will take revenge upon these fairy-folk in paradise if, by God’s will, they became houris there).

or when in that fantastic poem Ghalib wrote about Calcutta, he says:

vo sabza-zaar haaye mutarraa ke hae ghazab!
vo naazneeN butaan-e khud-aaraa ke haaye, haaye!
sabr-aazmaa vo un ki nigaahayN ke haf-nazar!
taaqat-rubaa vo un ka ishaaraa ke haaye haaye!

(Oh! Those magnificent and verdant parks, and [in them] those haughty, glamorous “idols”! Oh! The anguish caused by their glances – Heaven keep them! – and Oh! Their gestures that induce utter helplessness [in me]!)

Of course, occasionally Ghalib throws out a curveball such as:

aamad-e khat say huaa hae sard jo baazaar-e dost
dood-e sham'-e kushta thaa shaayad khat-e rukhsaar-e dost

which literally means: “Since the emergence of facial hair (or the arrival of a letter) has chilled the market for the Beloved’s favors, perhaps the down on the Beloved’s cheek was like the smoke from a dying flame.” The play here is on the dual meaning of “khat”, which can mean “facial hair” or “letter”, and on the “chilling” in reference to both the end of love and the dying of the flame. This couplet – which sounds much better in Urdu than in any possible translation! – is mainly an exercise in linguistic virtuosity. This unfortunate topic of facial hair is, indeed, something of a recurring theme in both Farsi and Urdu classical poetry, but knowing something of the lives of some of these poets (e.g., Ghalib), one can safely infer that they were more interested in exploiting the double meaning of the word "khat" than in exploiting any beardless youths.

There are some poets about whom there is separate anecdotal evidence regarding their interest in boys. Even in these cases, the implication often is that it represents a Platonic admiration - a worship of Divine Beauty, so to speak - rather than sexual attraction. Many of these anecdotes are associated with famous Sufis - notably Sarmad and the Sufi poet Fakhruddin Iraqi – one of whose most famous ghazals (tirsaa-bache-i shangee, shookhee, shikaristaani) – describes a ravishing young Christian, albeit without specifying gender. But the “Christian youth” (tirsa-bache)– like the “Magian elder” (peer-e moghan) – also had a symbolic meaning within the Sufi poetic tradition. Since Muslims were forbidden to traffic in wine, the tavern keepers in Iran were mainly Magian (Zoroastrian) and many of the wine-servers young Christians (or other non-Muslims). Since wine was used in Sufi poetry as a metaphor for Divine knowledge, the Magian elder came to symbolize the mystical Master, and the wine-server – sometimes represented as a Christian youth or a Magian youth ("moghbache") – acquired significance as the enabler of enlightenment. As such, this symbol is found in the work of many poets, and though it is often accompanied by descriptions of the individual’s beauty, a mystical reading is always possible in these cases. A typical theme is how the youth entices the poet away from the path of orthodoxy (e.g., this ghazal by Attar), which, as any student of Sufi poetry would know, reflects the core idea that traveling the (true) Sufi path of enlightenment requires abandoning the (false) path of ostentatious orthodoxy. To read such poetry as representing love of boys is “not even wrong”!

In India, we find the interesting case of the great poet, musician and mystic, Amir Khusro, who often expressed his love for his mentor, the great Sufi master Nizamuddin Auliya, as the love of a woman for her beloved. Though such gender-bending may seem strange to us today, it is part of the Sufi poets’ recurring attempts to capture the essence of mystical love for the Master and for God in comprehensible metaphors.

In the Urdu tradition, the attributes of the Beloved usually indicate that the reference is to a woman. There are indeed exceptions – some of which Mr. Jan quotes in his diatribe – but these are quite rare. Mir Taqi Mir and a few poets of his time were probably the most serious culprits in this matter, which does reflect a certain moral degeneration in that milieu, but even here this is a very minor theme. Mr. Jan’s method of counting up all verses where the male gender is used and assuming that they all refer to boys indicates either ignorance or willful misrepresentation – probably the latter since Mr. Jan is an educated man and himself a writer. He also does not seem to understand (or acknowledge) that, in this idiom, the term “tifl” (literally: child) and “bacha” (literally: child) do not have to mean little children. Rather, they refer generically to a young person with the implication of innocence. One also finds rather lecherous references to a “kamsin” Beloved, i.e., one of tender age. In a milieu where girls were often married off in their early teens, such references are not surprising – and, indeed, are still encountered in today’s pop culture.

Let it also be said that much of the talk of wine, women and song in classical Farsi and Urdu poetry is, as they say, “baraaye she’r-goftan” (just for the sake of turning a verse). Many great poets indeed led eventful lives that provided the material for their work, and some of these experiences included romance and revelry. But the impression that every poet was perpetually in the throes of unrequited love with remarkably beautiful and bloodthirsty mistresses who specialized in tormenting their lovers and chopping off their heads – well, that is just fiction. We know enough of the lives of many poets to be certain that, for them, all the talk of carnal pleasures was just a heady mix of convention, metaphor and wishful thinking. Even Ghalib, who wrote about both women and wine from personal experience, wrote in the highly romanticized and exaggerated idiom of his tradition, and only someone utterly unfamiliar with that tradition would read his romantic work – or that of other great poets such as Hafez or Khusro or Mir Taqi Mir – in a literal way. To reject a vast, profound literary corpus spanning a thousand years based on the existence of a few – even a few thousand – examples of truly perverted lines is, to say the least, rather perverse.

All this is not to minimize the issue of pederasty as a real problem in the societies of the Middle East and South Asia, or that references to it in literature are meaningless. After all, literature is the mirror of its environment. Both Rumi and Sa'di mention pederasty in their poetry in a matter-of-fact way, which tells us something about Persian society at the time. This declines with later poets from Hafez onwards, but that is probably more because their work turned towards other themes and became much less didactic. Given the implication in Mr. Jan’s article that child abuse is mainly the doing of godless libertines, it is worth recalling that the practice has been widely associated with religious seminaries and schools - from predatory schoolmasters at English public schools to lustful mullahs in madrassas and perverted priests in the Catholic Church (for which we now have plenty of evidence). Unfortunately, like slavery and violence against women, the exploitation and molestation of children is an aspect of "man's inhumanity to man" that has existed in all human societies since time immemorial – and is especially a problem in South Asia, where child marriage is still a burning issue. It is an unspeakable evil that must be combated with every available resource. We are fortunate to live in an age when this is at least recognized as an important imperative rather than the practice being accepted or swept under the rug. But to blame this larger societal evil on literature through selective, misguided and ignorant interpretations is itself a kind of abuse.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quaid e Azam and Iqbal. A meeting of minds..

An Imaginary meeting.. 
By Pakistani-American writer Asif Ismael. 

"Didn't I tell you, sir, this idea of yours: a separate homeland for the Muslims, is a bit fanciful? And you continued to press me to come to Bombay." Jinnah said, arranging the crease of his pants over his knees. Through a slit in the curtains hanging behind his host's back, a sunbeam streamed into the room and fell on the silver base of a hooka placed next to his feet--its reflection distorted in his impeccably shined black shoe. He sat on the rocking chair stiff as a board, for even a slight movement made the chair squeak.

His host, Iqbal, lying down on his side in a four-post bed, had his temple glued to his fist: a man in deep thought--a posture imprinted on the minds of the masses--the bed-sheet crumpled around the point of Iqbal's elbow.

Iqbal, for the last several minutes, had been staring at the floor, lost in thought. Actually he'd been marvelling at Jinnah's shoes, glistening, on his Isfahan, planted firmly, an inch or two apart, one slightly ahead of the other, but not too far ahead, reflecting a certain precision which his poetic sensibility had found challenging to grasp.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Helper Boy

Today's horrific child abuse scandal from Punjab (the exact extent is disputed, with official inquiry reports saying the numbers are smaller and hinting that families in a property dispute may be making up some of the accusations; but of course those inquiries may well be part of the coverup too) reminded me of this short story by Pakistani-American writer Asif Ismael. It was originally published in viewpointonline but seems not to be on their site any more. So I am posting it here..

The Helper Boy 

It's a very cold morning. Rustam wipes the fog off the windshield of the parked truck and looks out. It’s dark except for a thin strip of light on the horizon. Not a soul in sight, except a dog hopping across the GT Road. Keeping one of its hind legs off the ground it lurches toward the parking lot of Hotel Paradise, the truck-drivers hotel. It wobbles across a dozen or so parked trucks, and heads over to the tea-stall located by the hotel’s entrance, where behind the counter a cloaked figure moves in the dark.
It must be Ibrahim, the owner; he sleeps in his shop, in a room at the back. A flame leaps in the air behind the counter, a flickering glow of orange. Ibrahim is hunched over his stove.
Rustam wraps himself in his blanket, quietly unlatches the truck’s door, and slips out into the cold. By the time he gets to the tea-stall his bones feel chilled. The dog, standing by the doorstep, wags its tail as if welcoming Rustam. It's a female dog, its shriveled teats hanging under her belly empty. She is so thin that he can see her ribs through her scarred brown coat.
The door squeaks as Rustam pushes it to enter the shop. Inside, Ibrahim squats by the fire, throwing crumpled papers into the flames. He turns his head, looks at Rustam, and nods with a smile. His face is swollen and wrinkly from sleep, his fingers combing his fist-length, bushy black beard, and his eyes wide and staring, reflecting the fire. Rustam walks over to the stove, sits beside him, and moves the end of a log.
 “It’s good to get up so early,” Ibrahim says, as he winks at Rustam. “Everyone is asleep except the two of us.” The flames have started to die. Rustam bends over, takes a deep breath, and blows on the logs till he runs out of breath. Ash swirls around his head, and gets in his eyes, making them teary. The wood catches fire. As he wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, he feels Ibrahim’s hand on his shoulder. He freezes. The logs crackle, sparks fly out of the earthen stove. "I wish I’ve a boy like you to help me out with my shop,” Ibrahim says, squeezing Rustam’s shoulder. “Your Ustad is so lucky to have you."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The (British) Indian Army's Legacy in India and Pakistan

An old post from Dr Hamid Hussain. Reposting here to save it for future reference.

Lest We Forget
Hamid Hussain

Pakistan and India are now seen through the prism of mutual hostility. However, armies of both countries share a common heritage. During the Raj, an amazing feat was achieved when a fine army consisting of local soldiers and commanded by British officers was built from scratch. Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Gurkha soldiers served together on all battlefields. After First World War, officer rank was opened for Indians and a number of young men joined the army after graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and then Royal Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. A generation which trained together and fought together as comrades in Second World War later served with Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh armies.

First native Commander-in-Chief of Indian army General K. C. Cariappa (nick named Kipper) and first native Chief of Staff (COS) of Pakistan army Lieutenant General Nasir Ali Khan were both from 7 Rajput Regiment (it consisted of 50 percent Punjabi Muslims and 50 percent Hindu Rajputs). In August 1947, when army was divided between the two countries, Muslim element of Rajput Regimental Center at Fatehgarh consisting of four officers and six hundred other ranks was given a cordial farewell. Among the four officers was Tajjamal Hussain who joined 7 Rajput as a young man but later fought against India in 1965 and 1971 wars. His parent regiment was fighting from Indian side. In more recent times, a Pakistani officer deployed along border walked to the Indian sentry who was a Rajput and started a conversation. The Pakistani officer told him that they were also Rajputs. Indian soldier promptly replied that ‘taan Ranghar nain; kyon key taan zamin te daroo donoon chad ditte’ (you are no more Rajput because you have given up both your land and alcohol’.)

In 1927 a young man from Hazara left for Sandhurst to become officer in Indian army. He was in number 5 company. One of his course mates in the same platoon was a Bengali Hindu boy. A picture of the platoon shows both young lads who were commissioned on February 02, 1928. Both served with British Indian army; Muslim boy joining 1/14 Punjab Regiment (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army) and Hindu boy elite 7th Light Cavalry (now an armor regiment of Indian army). In 1947 after partition of India, they joined the armies of newly independent India and Pakistan. In 1965 war, the young Muslim man from Hazara Field Marshal Ayub Khan was President of Pakistan while Bengali Hindu General Jayanto Nath Chaudri (nick named Mucchu Chaudri) was Commander-in-Chief of Indian army.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Patricia Crone. Scholar of Islam

I was away on vacation so this is a bit late. But better late than never. (from friend Robin Khundkar)

Patricia Crone co-authored a controversial work on early Islam called "Hagarism - making of the Islamic World" which she later conceded had serious problems and with drew from publication, Never the less she was a serious scholar and respected by everyone including those who were critical of her conclusions. Below are remembrances of her as well as three outstanding essays she wrote for Open Democracy in the last decade.

May not be of interest to everyone but worth the time of folks interested in Early Islam

Robin



Patricia Crone: Memoir of a superb Islamic scholar
Judith Herrin
12 July 2015  
Open Democracy
https://www.opendemocracy.net/judith-herrin/patricia-crone-brief-memoir

The great historian of early Islam, Patricia Crone, died peacefully on July 11 after a long battle with cancer. This memoir by her friend and colleague was written earlier this year for a volume of essays in her honour and links to her outstanding essay on Mohammed published by openDemocracy.

This essay is the introduction to Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts, Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone, eds. B. Sadeghi, A. Q. Ahmed, A. Silverstein, and R. Hoyland (Brill 2015), xiv-xx, and is republished with thanks.

About the author
Judith Herrin is emeritus professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College, London. Her books include The Formation of Christendom, Women in Purple and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

On the floor of Patricia Crone’s grand study that runs the entire depth of her house in Princeton, and looks out on her lovely garden, lies a very striking Persian carpet, most gloriously woven in red with white patterns on it. Her father had it in his office and I always imagined it had been a tribute by him to her brilliance. But no, he thought that all his four daughters should be fluent in at least two international languages and insisted on them going to finishing school in France and England. So after taking the “forprøve” or preliminary exam at Copenhagen University, Patricia had to go to Paris to learn French and then to London where she determined to get into a university as a pleasant and productive way of becoming fluent in English. She was accepted as an occasional student at King’s College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations. And when she discovered SOAS, where they offered exactly the kind of course she wanted and could not do in Denmark (History branch IV), she wrote to her father and asked him if he would pay for three more years in London. His generous agreement thus sponsored her association with Islamic history. At SOAS she learned Arabic, later adding Persian and Syriac, and got a First, which pleased her father, whom she describes as an academic manqué. She then went on to write her PhD on the maw­ālī in the Umayyad period under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, although he left for America before the thesis was examined in 1974. Then she was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at the Warburg Institute. And that is where we first met in the autumn of 1976.

Assassination attempts on senior Pakistani army officers

From Dr Hamid Hussein.

Marked for Death - Assassination Attempts on Senior Officers of Pakistan Army
Hamid Hussain

Since 2002, Pakistan army is involved in a rapidly evolving struggle against terrorism.  When the first shots of this new war were fired, Pakistan army was neither trained nor prepared for the conflict.  Confusion, complacency and utter incompetence at all levels gave an upper hand to the extremists all over the country.  First, the government lost the control of tribal areas followed by the loss of the large swaths of the settled division of Malakand.  Militants established themselves in tribal regions and from there launched forays into major cities.  They abducted, killed and bombed civilians and soldiers alike all over the country sending the whole nation into a deep depression.

Police and paramilitary forces faced the brunt of the militant onslaught.  Many soldiers and disproportionately large numbers of young officers of army were killed and wounded in clashes with militants.  Militants embarked on a deliberate course of targeting senior officers of security forces including army.  Many senior police, paramilitary and army officers were targeted by militants.  This was a multipronged strategy with objectives of eliminating individual officers to shake morale of officer corps and on psychological plane sending the signal to general public that security forces couldn’t protect them.

On June 10, 2004, the convoy of Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General and VCOAS) Ahsan Saleem Hayat came under attack that resulted in death of eight soldiers.  Ahsan’s driver and co-driver were shot killing co-driver on the spot while driver was seriously wounded and later died.  Driver’s foot remained on the accelerator and car kept moving but in a zigzag fashion.  Ahsan’s ADC seated behind the driver got hold of the steering wheel and got out of the ambush.  Attacker’s plan was to first detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stopping Ahsan’s car and then spray it with bullets to finish the job.  IED failed to explode and attackers hiding near the bridge opened fire killing several guards but Ahsan survived.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do Colored People Exist if There Are No White People to Observe Them?

A post with that title, over at Unz. The final paragraph:
If Dara Shikoh had defeated Aurangzeb and the British had never brought India into their Empire, would history have been different? I would like to hope so, but I doubt so. Akbar had attempted to create a new religion, but it did not last beyond his life. By the 17th century what was becoming Hinduism, and Indian Islam, were already sufficiently developed that they were becoming cultural attractors. Not through cognitive bias, but the weight of inertia of their cultural history and precedent. The transition from Akbar, to Jahangir, to Shah Jahan, and finally Aurangzeb, is one from an individual who brooked the displeasure of Naqsbhandi shiekhs, to one who worked hand in hand with them. An alternative vision is one where the heirs of Akbar turn their back on their dreams of Fergana, and rely upon Rajputs to dominate their lands instead of a mix of Central Asians and native Indians, Hindu and Muslim. Perhaps the Mughals would have become indigenized enough that they would transform into that they would have become fully Indian in their religious identity. Ultimately the answers of history are more complex than can be dreamed in your post-colonial philosophy, and the white man is neither nor the devil, but a subaltern of historical forces.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

India: "Secular"? "Hindu"? or Both?

I had a longish exchange on twitter with a Hindutvadi friend and then just ordered all the tweets by time into this storify story. It's crude, but you get the drift. I am posting it here so that people can comment on it if they wish.
This is twitter, so one can only say so much in 140 characters. And much is assumed or taken for granted in the background. Please go easy :)

And of course, it is a discussion with some more or less Hindutvadi Indians. A discussion with postmarxist Indians would look very different.

The discussion started with reading this article , in which the writer tries to define Hinduism for a young man who is confused (and lives in South India, with it's peculiar history of this question). He classifies Hinduism as an "aggregate religion", hence my first tweet asking if "aggregate" will prevail or Christianity will?

Just in case you are wondering why the discussion starts with me asking whether Hinduism or Christianity will prevail (and not metioning Islam), I think the likely Abrahamic faith for most Hindus to convert to (if they convert) in this day and age is Christianity, not Islam. If you think differently, please comment.

And of course, Hindu and Secular are both in scare quotes, so all arguments about what IS Hinduism and what IS secularism are included in those quotes :)

Last but not the least, my comment about "those with superior asabiya and means will prevail" if the current system is wrecked is, of course, meant to hint that it's collapse will not necessarily (or even likely) lead to Ram-Rajya. Muslim and Sikh Asabiya and means will dominate the Northwest (at least). Something like that.