Monday, October 27, 2014

Pankaj Mishra and his discontents...

Pankaj has an op-ed in the NY Times. Friend Sardul Minhas prodded me to say something about it, but I was short of time and just gave some general comments about the Pankajist worldview and it's discontents. These comments are quick and off the cuff, so almost as superficial as Pankaj Bhayia's op-ed, but they sort of add to my earlier longer rant about his book, and my earlier article about Pankaj and Arundhati Roy. Read them all and you will start to see what I mean (or at least, where I am coming from). Trust me :) 

Before I go on, let me say that India hypernationalism is at least as real as Pakistani or American or Chinese hypernationalism and can be almost equally crazy. Like those hypernationalisms, it is mostly held in check by real-life constraints and need not trigger world war three, but world war three is not inconceivable. Shit happens. So I do not mean to imply that all is well and will forever remain well in the Indian subcontinent with the BJP in power (and of course anyone who says all was well before the BJP came to power must be joking). But I do think some of the doom and gloom is overdone and a lot of it is just hyperventilation that provides no good analysis as to why this phenomena has grown, what it may become, and what can be done to moderate or counter it's possible excesses...in short, i dont think there is nothing to fear, but I do think that the Pankajist worldview is neither an adequate analysis, nor a rational prescription for it's cure.

Pankaj seems to believe (or knows it is fashionable to believe) that the worship of strength and material progress is a serious mistake and therefore all of recent Western history (with its abundant displays of strength and material/organizational progress, however defined) was a very bad thing. But he also believes the equally fashionable meme that the weak should “stand up for their rights” and fight back and defeat the strong….since I have not seen any evidence to suggest that he has some well-developed theory of Gandhian resistance, how is this circle to be squared? Given belief A, belief B requires the acquisition of strength and at least some material/organizational progress (how else will anyone be able to overcome the amoral West?) but it so happens that the constituency of “strength and material/organizational progress" in India is one that Pankaj cannot afford to be associated with. He has little trouble with non-Indian strength-worshippers like Jamaluddin Afghani (a minor and ineffectual fascist whom he portrayed, historically inaccurately, as one of the great exemplars of Asian resistance to Western domination), but in India his home is in the liberal elite Left, and the "strength and progress" idea, while very much present in the traditional Left, is not one that the postmodern Left is comfortable with...besides, the strength part is now mostlymonopolized by the Hindutvadis, so there are problems with admiring Indian anti-Westernism and strength-worship that do not arise for Pankaj when he is talking about Muslims or Chinese who want to become strong like the West. Incidentally, Japan remains a sore spot of Pankaj; perhaps because of his initial Leftist orientation or because the rise of Japan does not fit his preferred picture of "East tries to Westernize and falls flat on face", he completely skipped Japan when discussing his version of the rise of Asia from the ruins of Empire. Anyway, given these ideological limitations, what is to be done? His options include:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hazara Genocide: Are the police just stupid or is there more to it?

As the systematic genocide against the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan continues unabated, Mohammed Hanif has a good piece on his interactions with "law enforcement" in Quetta.



Some choice quotes:
"“Hazaras, you know, are our ladla babies,” said one of Quetta’s senior most police officer earlier this month. “We’ll do anything to protect them.” He was giving an off the record briefing and went into some detail about the number of security cordons he had thrown around the Hazara community in Quetta, particularly Hazara town. And what about their movement? Students, traders, office workers? Students going to the university, according to the police officer, got a police escort. The problems of food delivery were discussed. “Even the vegetable vendors get police escort,” he said triumphantly. And then like a true philosopher of law and order he went on to explain: “Do you know the basic problem with Hazaras? They look different; because of their features, they are easily identifiable.”

On Thursday, when eight of those pampered babies, with different features, were gunned down while buying fruit and vegetables, Quetta’s police was quick to absolve themselves. “We offered them escort, and they just didn’t tell us.”

Forget about the details, just look at the strategy: a well armed, organized group has declared war on Shias in general and Hazaras in particular (because they are so easy to identify; one reason racism works more effectively than most other forms of discrimination: the enemy is color coded or otherwise easily identifiable). This armed group runs countless madressas in which they teach their anti-Shia ideology. They have an organized militant wing that carries out assassinations and bombings. The police, charged with stopping this campaign and protecting Pakistani citizens, throws up ever higher walls around the Hazara community and wrings their hands when some terrorist either gets across the wall or some Hazara gets slaughtered wandering outside their prison.
Does this make any sense? 


What about tracking down and capturing (or killing) the killers? After all, they do not drop out of the sky and disappear under the earth, they live in and around Quetta. They meet somewhere. They plan their attacks. They make their bombs. They buy guns and ammunition. They have bases and hideouts.
And the police strategy is to build more walls around the Hazaras?
Are the policemen just stupid or is there more to this policy?

What do you think? 
I think they are stupid, but no more than any other subcontinental police force. Mostly "there is more to it"... First and foremost there is a dual government in Balochistan, with the army running it's own regime and the so-called elected provincial govt twiddling their thumbs and looking for ways to make money doing so; Secondly, the army has other priorities when it comes to Jihadists, so an all out operation is inconceivable. Good jihadis must be protected while bad ones are hunted. It has never worked, but hell, this is the army that has been trying the same tricks in Kashmir for 65 years and "it has never worked" is not a problem for them; next year will be different. Armies from Madina Saani will conquer India and Khorasan and together with China we will rule the world, etc etc..you know the drill. 
Is there any way to change this? 
Or do we wait for the Hazaras to either die or leave? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

"we are muslims"

...“We have source besides the (Pakistan) army…people in Kashmir are fighting....just need to incite them....we can fight with the (Indian) army from both the front and back....we are Muslims”.....

....
This is true, there is a hot war going on right now in Kashmir and all the familiar arguments (pro-war, pro-peace) are being re-hashed. It is time to examine them anew.

We have ex President/General Musharraf noting that the path to freedom in Kashmir involves inciting Kashmiri Muslims to launch an intifada. He is confident that the inherent strength in the "we are muslims" argument will (finally) lead to the vanquishing of a half-million strong Indian army.

Short response: Our opinion is that the only feasible way forward in Kashmir is to bring Indian civil society on-side by impressing on the moral arguments about self-rule. For that two things (at the minimum) need to happen. First, there has to be a popular consensus in India that meaningful peace is possible with Pakistan. As of now, only Pranay Sharma (see below) and a few committed leftists believe in this. Any Pak incitement will only lead to more Kashmiri deaths (and a rise in popularity of Modi).

Second, moral arguments are not convincingly made by (or on behalf of) people who do not have any inherent faith in them. Large sections of Kashmiri muslims rejoiced when the Pandits left. The argument is simple: get rid of the people (minorities) and the land is yours to enjoy for all times. As originally battle-tested by the proponents of the two nation theory, this winner-takes-all argument has been a winning one all across South Asia. Today in Hindu majority Telangana, the man in charge compares himself favorably to Hitler (see link below) and wants to chase away all Andhra people (also Hindu majority and Telugu speaking).

Thus to win the argument Kashmiri muslims (and their well-wishers such as Musharraf and a Hindu Brahmin like Vishal Bharadwaj) have to stipulate that suppression of the weak by the strong is wrong. But Musharraf is not making that argument. He is claiming that victory will come from Pak army fighting outside-in, even as the Intifada fights inside out. This "we are muslims" dream helped in the birth of Pakistan and (seemingly) helps hold Pakistan together even now. But it will not help liberate Kashmir.
.................

Thursday, October 16, 2014

High Court Upholds Death Sentence on Aasia Bibi

Setting new records of shamelessness and spinelessness, the Lahore High Court has upheld the death sentence awarded to Aasia bibi for "blasphemy".
 

For years now, the lower courts in Pakistan have taken the route of automatic award of death sentence in blasphemy cases. Lower court judges feel that they have no security and why should they put their life on the line for a Christian or an Ahmedi (and of course, for apostates they themelves almost certainly feel a death sentence is justified, so no conscience issues there)? They expect that the case will go to the High court and high court judges will either keep it in limbo forever or hear it and throw out the death penalty (helped, no doubt, by the transparent lack of due process at the lower court level..so in a way the lower court judge is doing the accused a service by giving zero time to their defence and pronouncing sentence on the flimsiest of grounds).
Well, no more.
Christians and Ahmedis in Pakistan now face a legal situation whose closest parallel may be in the Jim Crow South, where Black defendants were frequently found guilty on the flimsiest of grounds and if acquited, faced mob justice and public lynching. But while the Jim Crow South has moved on (a lot, though not all the way), the situation in Pakistan is headed in the opposite direction.
A poor woman has been in prison for 4 years and now faces the very real prospect of execution for what is basically the crime of being "uppity". 
Sad.
Very sad.
Btw, this does shed light on what is clearly the weakest part of Ben Affleck's ignorant but well-meaning liberal account of the Muslim world: the fact that the core Islamic world (really, everyone except Muslim countries that have been hit hard by communism, as in the Soviet Stans and in Xinjiang) is COMPLETELY illiberal when it comes to apostasy and blasphemy. Illiberal views on these issues are not fringe views in the Muslim world. Blasphemers are to be punished, usually by death. This is a MAJORITY view, supported by ALL major Islamic sects and their theologians. The notion that apostates are to be killed has a little less support, but is still the majority view in many countries and is again the clear consensus among orthodox Sunni theologians (I have little detailed knowledge of Shia theology, so I am leaving them out of it...they may believe exactly this as well). Based on these two memes, criticism of Islamists becomes a problem in all these countries and "reform from above", enforced by Westernized rulers (like Ataturk) is always in danger because the religious establishment has never accepted it and the population continues to honor classical beliefs in principle (without knowing them too well, thanks to secularized education) and so is always available to be "reformed" back to those classical beliefs when circumstances change (as they have been changing in Turkey).
And so on.
Its not as hunky dory as Affleck and his fans may wish to believe.
For more, see this article about blasphemy laws. http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2010/11/blasphemy-law-the-shape-of-things-to-come.html

Also note that while Aasia bibi cannot get out of jail no matter what, this guy apparently had no problem joining the Mujahideen after being imprisoned in Croatia and deported to Pakistan for being a Jihadist


http://www.mediafire.com/view/75piv2l2qtc6s6w/Ahlul%20Azayim%204.mp4
Shoot rushdie


Friday, October 10, 2014