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 

Incidentally, one of the quirks of American colonial policy is that while India is under jurisdiction of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), it is the US Central Command (CENTCOM) that has charge over Pakistan (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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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Silk Sense

....concept of a historic Silk Road by which camel caravans wend among the mountains and deserts of Central Asia ....re-establishing maritime networks...Chinese Admiral Zheng He...naval armada across the Indian Ocean.....China’s leaders promote ancient trade routes...emphasize role as a harbinger of peace and prosperity.....minor problem....history is distorted....
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Who is Professor Sen?...Prof Amartya Kumar Sen of Shanti-niketan, Delhi School of Economics, Cambridge and Harvard represents the old guard in his (sincere) attempts to bring South Asian Hindus and Muslims together. Now is the age of Hindi-Chini shadow boxing, and the man who is best informed about the thought processes of our Chinese overlords is Prof Tansen Sen of Peking University, University of Pennsylvania and Baruch College.
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Tansen Sen is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (University of Hawai'i Press, 2003) and co-author (with Victor H. Mair) of Traditional China in Asian and World History (Association for Asian Studies, 2012). 
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He has edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2014) and guest-edited special issues of China Report ("Kolkata and China," December 2007; and "Studies on India-China Interactions Dedicated to Ji Xianlin," 2012). With Wang Bangwei he has co-edited India and China: Interactions through Buddhism and Diplomacy: A Collection of Essays by Professor Prabodh Chandra Bagchi (Anthem Press, 2011).
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While the scholarship is impressive, we confess to be charmed by the name Tansen Sen.  
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The revolution eats her (girl) child

...Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case against J Jayalalithaa, N Sasikalaa, J Elavarasi, VN Sudhakaran....convicted for offences punishable under Section 120(B) of the IPC (criminal conspiracy), 13(1) of the Prevention Corruption Act (criminal misconduct by public servants) and 109 (abetment)...case was registered by Tamil Nadu police in 1996, after Subramanian Swamy moved courts and obtained necessary directions.....
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They say that the wheels of justice turn slowly (all of 18 years) but they grind exceedingly fine- no less a fine than 100 crores and a jail term of four years. If the Supreme Court does not issue a stay order (unlikely), Jayalalithaa Jayaram, will lose her status as an Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and will be required to dissolve her cabinet with immediate effect.
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JJ famously added an "a" to her name on the advice of astrologers (we hope she gets her money back). Sad to say, she was a top-notch student who could have made an outstanding contribution to society, perhaps as a Mars rocket-woman. But she got corrupted by her mentor MG Ramachandran (MGR) and then, in her role as Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader of the Dravidas) chose to make the whole society corrupt. Her rise and fall mirrors that of Lalu Yadav: first, a sub-altern captain in the army of Jay Prakash (JP) Narayan, then, a new-age Krishna for the Yadavas, and now instrumental in his own deep-dive into ignominy.
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