Wednesday, May 21, 2014

(USA-Indus) man to (Mango-Ganga) man (and back)

Amad Shaikh is part of the new generation SAsian elite in the USA who also own the means of production (like many folks that we know @ BP) and has the experience of hiring mango-class working-class people (like us) so we have a rough idea of the background and where the author is coming from.

The letter that Amad has written - please read it first (in green) before coming back to our response (in pink) - carries our personal recommendation (in strongest terms) with some important caveats. We love (sincerely) people who do not hold back their thoughts and want to engage politely and positively even with (what they would consider) evil people.

That is a big big plus in today's (online) world (where participants are only there to shout). This is in particular a problem with Desis and in this context we are always reminded of the famous, original BP saying from the one and only Sahar: SAsians are all on the short bus (meaning we have achieved very little, given our undeniable potential).

(1) Generally agreed that India-Pak is of great interest to many people but on the overall geo-politics scale we feel it is not so important. The fact that both sides are nuclear armed actually contributes to a lot of stability. Even in the worst case scenario of another Mumbai like attack, India is not able to do much except crying Uncle Sam (same as last time). As far as USA is concerned, East Asia (China vs. the rest), East Europe (Russia vs. the rest) and Middle East North Africa (MENA, Benghazi anyone?) are of much greater (and immediate) interest.

(2) Right now things look terrible for Pak vis-a-vis India, but in (not-so) earlier decades the boot was on the other foot, Pakistan was ahead by a mile, and that wheel can turn once more in the future.

(3) We strenuously disagree. (mis)Treatment of minorities is always a concern, it cannot be de-registered as an actions item simply because the country is going through a crisis. 

(4) It is always great news when people hire other people, also biased selections (muslims only) usually do not work out, the person you may be short-charging the most is yourself.

(5-9) Excellent, but with (very long and tedious) caveats. While Godhra should never, ever be used as a pretext it should not be brushed under the carpet as well. The complete back-story of Hindu-Muslim enmity must be honestly discussed as well. Many (millions) more Hindus and Muslims have been killed over the last few decades than in Gujarat 2002, for the sole reason that SAsian elites (Ummah-first, Dharma-first) have not figured out a just and fair way to co-exist. 

It is our humble but considered opinion that ideologies are more poisonous than events. And one of  the most pernicious ideologies that both U-F and D-F elites hold on strongly to is the two nation theory, which says in effect that Hindus and Muslims cant ever co-exist. One line which summarizes (for us) the power of TNT is the famous dictum: the heroes of one community are the villains of the other. On the face of it that charge is true enough. 

The TNT tinted fault-line in history becomes apparent if you consider the case of Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh (there are a million other examples). It is our personal (fantasy) belief that if the line of Dara Shikoh was not terminated so brutally, India would have stayed for-ever under Muslim rule, and approximate to something like Indonesia today. Again it does not matter that Aurangzeb employed many Hindus (non-Muslims!!!) who even fought against other Hindus, in today's lingo, Hindus see him as a hater while Muslims consider him as a savior. No amount of marxist re-interpretations (by Romila Thapar, Sumit Sarkar, Ayesha Jalal and others) will change this basic and deeply held conviction.

Today in Bangladesh we have muslims who are separated by their version of TNT. Mujib is a hero for half the country, villain for the other half. There is no end to misery because of theory.

We dont pretend to have a vaccine for TNT, but there should have been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission taking entire South Asia in its ambit and solved this problem to the satisfaction of the respective majorities. We believe, if Gandhi and Jinnah were alive this may have been possible. The next generation politicians have been all pygmies and the lobbies for eating grass and fighting for 1000 years in both countries are too powerful. All peace initiatives are doomed before they start. This is the challenge in SAsia going forward.

Speaking just for India, as long as there is a cold war with Pakistan (because that is what it really is, except on the LOC where there is a hot war) and a perceived bleed by a thousand cuts strategy deployed by Pakistan, Indian muslims will always be viewed by Hindus (and others) with suspicion. If that is an unpleasant thought, consider the case of an advanced nation like Northern Ireland (UK) and tell us why they have not been able to move beyond ghettos and hating and violence.

If we really believe that TNT is self-evident and unchangeable (and even something to be applauded) then BJP's case for a Hindu India becomes unanswerable. The only thing that has till now protected muslims was the full faith and belief in their role as king-makers. This is why this election was so crucial. Muslims gave it their best shot and the majority still united to crush them (electorally). This is why Pankaj Mishra is so angry about the neo-Hindus, the OBC-shudras in urban and semi-rural areas who swung the election to the BJP. 

There will be no more high crimes like 2002 (of this we are almost sure). Indeed there may be less violence now that a Hindu party is in the ruling chair. But there will be a million ways that the minority community will be squeezed.

Take one important example. Given the dire economic situation of Indian (non-Ashraf) muslims, it is most desirable to have targeted reservations for muslims in education and in jobs. Affirmative action has done wonders for Dalits and Shudras, if nothing else it gives hope to the hope-less. However in this polarized atmosphere it will just not happen. Muslims will keep sliding backwards vis-a-vis all other communities.Riots are visible beasts, it is the invisible stuff (acts of omission) that is so bothersome.

(10) Modi ban: Please read the background by Zahir Janmohammed as well as the coverage in the Wall Street Journal. The ban on Modi was an unique event. It happened because it was considered a smart way to pacify muslims (human rights lobby as well as the GWB administration) and it also appealed to the much more powerful Christian lobby which worried greatly about Hindutva. 

(10a) That said, we dont question Modi's role in the riots and in the aftermath, only a (morally) blind person can. It is the old question: were you criminally negligent or were you horribly incompetent (or both)? That question answers itself. The Supreme Court should have simply barred Modi from holding high office pending clearance of all charges. Then we would have all been better off.

(11) Godhra: ruled as an accident. Now you face the same charge as above (10a) and we mean it. It has been (mis)reported in a similar manner in many media outlets and by (biased) journalists who certainly know better than to propagate false-hoods. This is Wiki: 

The commission set up by the Government of Gujarat to investigate the train burning spent 6 years going over the details of the case, and concluded that the fire was arson committed by a mob of 1000-2000 people, A commission appointed by the central government, whose appointment was later held to be unconstitutional, stated that the fire had been an accident. A court convicted 31 Muslims for the incident and the conspiracy for the crime, although the actual causes of the fire have yet to be proven conclusively.

It is an ugly, ugly story but basically the Gujarat Govt and the (then) Central Govt both played politics with the commissions. The truth was pre-determined before a single word was penned down. However the courts are a different matter altogether. If people say that the court judgement was biased (and they are within their rights to say so) then they should be making that argument, not a false/malicious/ignorant one that "it was ruled an accident."

(11a) Having said that we are in complete agreement with you that Godhra does not justify anything. I am sure if the powers that be gave an ultimatum to the local leaders (and the stakes made clear) the murderers would have surrendered on their own.

(12) Agree whole-heartedly with every word. But remember what we said in (5-9). Why do you expect Hindus to show empathy when the Pakistan National Assembly states that every year 5000 Hindus are leaving Pakistan and the rest face forcible conversion or death. To a lesser extent the same thing is happening in Bangladesh. For sure, Indian muslims are not responsible for the plight of Pakistani Hindus. But the violence and the misery will only stop when both sides stop clapping. To demand one-sided empathy from Hindus is an immoral demand. For sure.

respectfully yours and with regards,

(a mango man in a banana republic)
Dear Friend,
Let this Pakistani-American first congratulate you on what went right in the Indian Elections 2014— clean and fair voting in the world's largest democracy. I wish and pray that democracies in neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and newer ones around the globe can emulate this achievement one day.
Now let me address some of the things that may bother you about me writing this:
  • That this is an Indian matter, who are you to talk about it?
  • Why don't you focus on Pakistan, where minorities are far worse off and there is so much extremism and turmoil there?
  • You are biased against Indians and/or non-Muslim Indians.
(1) In today's age of globalization, the leader of India is as important as the leader of other global super-powers. His economic policies will directly impact global growth, and his political policies will directly impact his neighbors, including Pakistan (note: my parents live only a few miles away from the Indian border). I hope we can agree that this isn't just an Indian matter.
(2) On the second point, I agree with you that Pakistan is far behind on most aspects of a successful nation. To be honest, this is not much of a competition anymore; India is in a different league now.
(3) As for minorities in Pakistan, no doubt that the treatment of minorities is atrocious, but for a country teetering on the edge of failure, you must agree that this is hardly the highest priority. Most importantly, do you really want your country to be measured against the failures of others? On a “Pakistan sucks more” scale?
(4) Thirdly, while prejudice against Indians has been rooted deeply in most Pakistanis (and vice-versa), I hope and pray that we are moving beyond the political roots of such hatred, especially those of us who have lived in Western democracies and have befriended many Indians. And I tend to walk the talk. When given the opportunity, I hired two Indians to work for me, not both Muslims.
(5) I hope we can now focus on the message. You must admit that there are wide-ranging concerns about BJP, and about Narendra Modi specifically. As a member of the global community first, I would be concerned about the rise of political right, be it in USA, Europe or India. Just as Le Pen concerns me in France, similarly a party whose election manifesto included building a temple on a disputed site in India concerns me deeply. Not just for the Muslim minority in India, but also for what the party's impact could be on the global scene.
(6) I understand that you are really excited about the rise of Modi, and that you believe he will take the country in a new economic direction. I am sure that like many fair-minded Indian supporters of BJP, your interest is not the subjugation of the Muslim minority.

(7) But there is a reason that so many Muslims are concerned about Modi. It is not that all these Muslims hate India, it just cannot be. I am sure that you have known enough Muslims in your life to know that the vast majority of Indian Muslims love their country.
(8) We must address the elephant in the room—the Gujarat massacres, although that is only the tip of the iceberg. You might think it has been a long time since this horrible event, but do you believe it is a long time for those who were torched alive and the families that they left behind? Please see this documentary to be reminded of the horror. (Click here and continue seeing rest by going to this channel)
(9) Now you might say that the Supreme Court exonerated Modi and while you would not be callous enough to bring up “Muslims burned passengers in Godhra first”, I know that is something many others are indeed bringing up.

(10) As for the Supreme Court decision, I admit Modi was given a clean chit. However, where there is smoke, there is likely fire (read this report from Tehelka). It could not be that USA/UK barred Modi simply on whims, especially since the Muslim lobby is hardly a force in the West. Even the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, observed on 7 May 2012 that Modi could be prosecuted for promoting enmity among different groups during the 2002 Gujarat riots. At the least, most observers note that Modi could have done more, and at least not inflamed emotions further by not bringing back charred bodies of Hindu passengers from Godhra.
(11) As for the massacres being simply an act of vengeance, then you must agree that that is a disgusting response. First of all, the Godhra fire was ruled as an accident. Even if it wasn't, no fair-minded individual would allow killing of one set of people for the crimes of others, even in vengeance! This sort of mentality is no different from Al-Qaeda terrorists, who feel that they are justified in killing all Americans because some Americans killed some other Muslims.
Moving past 2002 massacres, had Modi simply done more to promote communal harmony and not created a system of apartheid in areas of Gujarat, one might be tempted to forgive him in the name of larger interest. But he didn't do much at all. He only visited the camps of Muslims displaced by the Gujarat violence once. In this election, of the nearly 450 BJP candidates, only 8, less than 2% are Muslims (vs. 15% in the population) were Muslims, and the astronomic economic growth in Gujarat seems to have escaped Muslim residents. As Basharat Peer's article in NY Times illustrates:
But Ahmedabad ceases to swagger in Juhapura, a southwestern neighborhood and the city's largest Muslim ghetto, with about 400,000 people…Mr. Modi's engines of growth seem to have stalled on The Border. His acclaimed bus network ends a few miles before Juhapura.
And many Muslims are forced to live in Juhapura because separation of Muslim/Hindus is systemized by the “Disturbed Areas Act”, which restricts Muslims and Hindus from selling property to each other in “sensitive” areas, areas that have been extended further and further as a form of social engineering. My friend, can you imagine such a law in any Western democracy?
Another article quotes the former editor of The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper,
“Many of the things that are evil about India are not going to find their solution with Mr. Modi,” Mr. Varadarajan said. “If anything, they'll get worse.”
(12) You might dismiss all these aforementioned reasons as Western or worse Muslim propaganda. Or you might have good reasons to believe that Modi as a national leader will move past communal biases.
However, I would like you to take a moment to empathize with those who are concerned.
Empathy is indeed very difficult as you will have to put yourself in the shoes of concerned Indian Muslims, concerned liberals (Muslims and non-Muslims) around the world and feel what they are feeling. Many of us have nothing but good wishes for India as a strong India is good for the world, not just for Indians.
So please spare us some benefit of doubt for what are real and valid concerns and remember that the oppression by the majority is just as bad as the usurpation of the majority.

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