Sunday, 29 March 2015

Response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu"

This is a response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu" that appeared in the Indian Express on 29/March/2014 The criticism of Indian society for some prejudices between communities is well known and Indian's themselves are at the fore front of highlighting it. It is also true that 'datil' communities have been and perhaps continue to be discriminated against today and is well acknowledged.

Having acknowledged that I would just like to point towards some misconceptions that we have. Starting with the question of jati(samaj) and varna. I would not use the term caste because it is a foreign term and does not really describe the social phenomenon that really exists.If we look at our selves from imported constructs then we will only see what the foreigner sees rather than knowing the nuances which our own perspective brings.

The first writer/thinker I would like to mention is late Dharampal. He is often described as a Gandhian. He wrote several books. Many of which are available for free in electronic format.In 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century: Some Contemporary European Accounts' he shows how Indian science and technology was at quite an advanced stage when the Europeans came to India. Several other books have been written on this subject for instance Mr C K Raju has written about how Indian Ganita was of much advanced stage than anything that Europe had and how is was transmitted to Europe via the Arabs and the Jesuits who came to Kerala. He gives example of Calculus which was clearly developed in India and was taken to Europe by the Jesuits. 

Aryabhatta who is credited with trigonometric discoveries, proposing that the earth is round, calculated circumference of earth and also proposed that earth revolves on its axis, was not a Brahmin as his name itself makes clear with the 'bhatt' suffix. He also wrote in Sanskrit. The point I am making without going into to much details here is that while it may be true that reciting of vedas was limited to Brahmins because of the discipline & practice that was required to learn the vedas from a very young age which then became a way of life; knowledge was not exclusive domain of the the Brahmins. The shipbuilders, engineers, surgeons, doctors, architects, sculptors, artists, mathematicians, astronomers, metallurgists, weavers(including technology) of ancient India were clearly not Brahmins. These are all fields of knowledge also and these were with the communities who used this knowledge for productive use. Pursuit of knowledge is and was the primary objective of our civilization that I am convinced of; through practical experience of our values and through reading the works of these authors like Dharmpal, C K Raju,Banwari, and many others. Sanskrit was not an exclusive domain of the Brahmins it should be clear because many of the books on practical sciences used by non Brahmins were also in Sanskrit.

Dharampal has written another book of note 'The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century'. Quoting from the records of the British civil servants he brings to our attention some facts which will forever change our perspective on what the British really did to our education. Noting the kind of education that existed in India before British intervention and before the heavy taxation that the British introduced on our economy he mentions the following in his book:-

William Adam in his first report observed that there exist about 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar around the 1830s. Men like Thomas Munro observed in Madras  residency that ‘every village had a school. For areas of the newly extended Presidency of Bombay around 1820, senior officials like G.L. Prendergast noted ‘that there is hardly a village, great or small, throughout our territories, in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages more.’34 Observations made by Dr G.W. Leitner in 1882 show that the spread of education in the Punjab around 1850 was of a similar extent.   

We had much higher penetration of education than even what existed in England at the time. Regarding the composition of students studying in these pre-British Indian schools this education was not limited to just the Brahmins and Vayshya. In fact the majority of students and also teachers were from other varna's and communities. This is from British records:

For example in tamil-speaking areas the twice-born ranged between 13% in South Arcot to some 23% in Madras, the Muslims form less than 3% in South Arcot and Chingleput to
10% in Salem, while the Soodras and the other castes ranged from about 70% in Salem and Tinnevelly to over 84% in South Arcot. 

I would now like to come to the question of Varna in our dharma shastra. Mr Desai has quoted the Bhagwata Gita. Many people have attacked Gita saying that is justifies the supposed 'caste system'. Although I believe that first there is no Caste(its and imported term) and second there is no System(no one brainstormed and made it). I have read the verses Mr Deais has mentioned. It clearly and repeatedly mentions Svabhava(ones own nature) and Gunah(three modes of material nature Tamas, Rajas, Satva) distinguishing Brahmanas, Khyatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.

Gita in fact lays out a very difficult tasks and expectation of service to society for the Kshatriya and Brahmana by laying out the qualities needed in them like generosity, courage in battle, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance. We all know that Brahmins were the poorest in terms of wealth in our society. Knowledge and high standards of virtue being their only wealth. For Shudra question our society is much maligned. But where does the Gita say that Shudra are lost.It does say that one born with natural tendency of service is Shudra. Now one might say this work is better than the other but is it not the nature of any society(even the western model) today don't we value scientist, scholars, soldiers, entrepreneur etc. So why do we condemn the values of an ancient society for the ills of today. Gita in fact speaks of dignity of labour when it says one should work as per ones natural tendency which is better than imitating what is not your natural tendency. I don't see anything in Gita justifying a class structure that a Brahmin's son has to be a Brahmin and a Shudra's child has to be a Shudra. It says no such thing; that is just an interpretation that modern scholars have done either out of ignorance or deliberately to malign.

Dharmpal in his book Bharatiya Chitta, Manas va Kala gives an explanation of the hierarchy possibly came into being in our society as a result of more value being given to para-vidya (pursued by a Brahman) than to apara-vidya(pursued by a Sudra). Para is knowledge of the sacred and Apara is knowledge of the practical/mundane. I have heard other scholars maintain that there is no hierarchy between Para and Apara. Dharampal does mention that a hierarchy has been formed in our society pertaining to these vidyas and hence lower and higher status of the varnas has developed. 

Below explanation from his book is worth reproducing as is:-
The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either. Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four.

Dharmapal also quotes from the puranas rishi Vedavyasa saying in exuberance 'blessed are the Shudra, blessed are the women because the Kaliyuga is the age of women and shudra.'

Finally I would like to come the reason which prompted Mr Desai to write this article. The RSS Awadh representative's statement about untouchability bias driving people to Christianity & Islam  in the context of his drive of making people aware that these biases should be removed. No doubt people have converted because of discrimination they have faced, that is not the only reason though and if we look at Ambedkar then he did not convert. He adopted Buddhist tradition but he did not convert out of Dharma; consciously knowing the dangers of such conversions to the integrity of our civilization. Dharma traditions are not exclusive you need not convert into only one tradition and be completely removed from the other. In Japan for instance people remain Buddhist and Shinto at the same time. Mazhabi traditions are exclusive, have a truth claim and consider other traditions as false. That perspective and monism gives them imperialistic tendencies. Other cultures are seen as inherently evil worthy of being removed and replaced with Mazhabi tradition. Their holy books also explicitly call out other traditions especially the practices of Dharma tradition as 'demonic'. This is factual. No such thing can be found in any of the Dharma texts, such hate does not exist in Dharma traditions, there is no proselytizing zeal either. This makes Dharma vulnerable to missionary propaganda since there is a rallying call in Mazhab and no such rallying call in other traditions which respect all ways a leading to truth.

Mazhabi tradition's fundamentalism is exploited by extremists all too often. The very real threat that Indian civilization faces today is from right wing western evangelist(baptist/ lutheran etc). They openly preach hate for Hindus and have a concerted aim of Christianizing India. JosuaProject.net, World Vision, India Gospel League, Samaritan's Purse, Harvest India and innumerable such churches and NGOs have joined hands in the this project. People like Billy Graham known as America's Pastor, his son & others like him have envisioned such projects which have a stated aim to 'demolish Hinduism' and bring true biblical God to 'satan's land'. These efforts are not to be taken lightly. Some people have also written about how US government is perhaps knowingly or unknowingly funding conversions in India.A report appeared in First post recently Uncle Sam funding conversion. Iain Buchanan in his book The Armies of God: Study of militant Christianity has written about this too. Here is his speech describing the result of his research at a university conference in Malaysia. The definition of religious freedom itself is skewed as Sankrant Sanu argues well in his article Re-imagininig Religious Freedom.

Hinduism is not able to respond to this challenge for multiple reasons.
1)  Primarily because it does not believe in proselytizing and does not bad mouth other traditions.
2) Finances being deployed by the global church are huge $50 billion of liquid assets at disposal as per Iain Buchanan.
3) Hindu temples are in government control with the funds being appropriated by the government and not spent on Dharma related activities.Estimated number is 4.5 Lakh all India with 40,000 in Tamil Nadu itself.
4) Dharma has suffered a degradation because of foreign invasion and rule.
5) Some of the clearly biased government policies like the hue and cry for Gharwapsi which is presumed to be forced and people are arrested charges slapped, while conversions of thousands goes on without any check even when they use clearly illegal practices like faith healing, exorcism, fraud, preaching children schools, making Hindu students studying history of Christianity and Christ in schools, bringing up Hindu children in orphanages as Christian even when their parents religion is clearly known. 

This list is long I will not go into this subject further. I would like to say in the end it is not just about the Jati and Varna and it is not merely about discrimination of certain communities. There is discrimination in Christians(closed congregation churches, separate Black/Hispanic/Indian churches,Dalit Christians even buried separately) and Muslims(Ashraf/Ajlaf, Saudi Muslim racism, Shia Sunni fight) also. That is no justification what so ever for religious conversion just because Mazhabi books direct the followers to convert others and bring an end of the world apocalypse once everyone is converted.

Matthew 24:14 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Response to Mr Kancha Ilaiha on his views on Cow Slaughter

This is my response to an interview of Mr Kancha Ilaiha which appeared in Quartz.

http://qz.com/366659/history- says-most-hindus-never-had- any-beef-with-beef


1) It is definitely a cultural imposition— particularly on indigenous groups, such as tribals and Dalits. The question of cultural imposition on Muslims and Christians comes later.
Reply > Cultural value of saving life becomes cultural imperialism? How warped his thinking can be? True fact which we know is that by killing cows the invaders have deliberately undermined one of the cores values of our civilization. The question of calling vanvasis as tribal and calling dalit indigenous is all rehash of the Aryan invasion/immigration mindset. His understanding of history is wrong. The cultural imposition if at all is killing of cows which we have suffered.

2)  Ilaiah-ji speaks about history of Brahmins killing cows, food scarcity. He introduces stories about his own personal experiences
Reply> Concocted history about beef eating by Brahmins is complete nonsense. He is engaging in propaganda of some obscure, doubtful, fringe historical references when the overwhelming facts point otherwise. The vedic view as explained by Srila Prabhupada in an interview was that there are 7 mothers. Adi-mata(original mother), Guru-Patni, Brahman-Patni, Raja's patni, Dhratri(Nurse/Foster mother/wet nurse), Dhenu, Prtihvi. Cow is mother because we drink cows milk. Killing mother is sin. Is that difficult to understand in terms of cultural values? 
The history of massive famines and food scarcity I know of was during the British period when they increased the tax on land from the usual 15% to 75%+. That caused land to go out of production. Why he is insists on saying that 'Dalits' don't consider cow as mother too? All his assumptions rest on his theory that Brahmins are invading Aryans which is as flawed as Nazis conception of Aryans.

3) Muslims/Christians being consumers of beef. 
Reply> Today yes. Historically no. Dharampal had written a book on this. The figures he gave is that before the British perhaps 20000 cattle were killed in an year mostly during Eid. British were primarily responsible for killing cows in large number figure is 30000 per day. The book talks about "India-wide anti-kine-killing movement against the British, between 1880-1894"..  "many prominent Muslims as well as the Parsis and Sikhs actively participated in the movement. The fact that the movement was directed against the British and not against the Muslims, as commonly believed, was very clear to Queen Victoria and her high-ranking officers".

He speaks of choice as if there was no other food left to eat even for meat eater. More and more people realize that beef is bad for health and bad for the environment. It is also bad for our cultural value of not harming nature that provides us sustenance.

4) Shankaracharya developing idea of banning cow slaughter. Buddhists were beef eaters. Shankaracharya turned Brahmins to beef eaters first in south then in north.
Reply> What a concoction. His lying through his teeth. Japan a Buddhist country did not kill cows till 150 years ago when Americans imposed this culture of beef eating to them. The first recorded cow killing was done by American Counsel General Townsend Harris and his Dutch interpreter Hendrick Heusken at the Gyokusen-ji temple in 1856. Hendrick Heusken was later killed by a Samurai. Did Shankaracharya visit Japan? Earlier in the interview he said Buddha banned beef eating then he says Shankaracharya banned it and Buddhist used to eat. Contradictions in the same interview.

6) RSS turning beef into Hindu Muslim issue. South Indian Brahmins remaining culturally embedded in their families so practice untouchability.
Reply> Politics of protecting cows is politics of allowing civilizations values to be respected. Does it unite Hindus, perhaps it does just as Baba Grakhnath did and created the Gorakha community. But why are you after the poor cow? Attack Brahmins and a good argument made because "Brahmins are evil" as the mazhabi preachers like Francis Xavier and the conquering invaders propagated. 

7) Racism in killing buffalo and saving cows. Because buffalo is black animal.
Reply> Save us from his rants. There are no black cows? Are cows not brown? I cant argue on this. His statement is absurd. Killing animals up to buffalo was tolerated for meat eaters that is true but how many Hindus eat buffalo? Cow has a special place in our culture and represents mother earth also he does not get it. 

8) Cows came to India with Aryans.
Reply> His entire life is stuck on the Aryan invasion history. Harappan bull seals and figurines seem to have lost to him even with his AIT this statement does not match.

9) Converting Dalits to Hinduism.
Reply> His work engages in dividing Indian communities against each other. If his kind of people are going to set the discourse then there will be no harmony between communities in India. Perpetual victim hood that the term 'Dalit' creates already makes the task of creating harmony and removing discrimination difficult. He is converting 'Dalits' out of Dharma not the other way round.

10) Cows in rural economy. Sick/old cows if not killed rural economy will suffer.
Reply> When poor cannot take care and let the cow stray, even then the community feeds the cow. In villages and small towns this is the norm. Hindus don't always send cattle to slaughter houses they are stolen by cattle thieves who sell them to slaughter houses. As per national crimes records bureau 8000~ cattle stolen in 2013 &  81000~ stolen in 12 years before that combined. These are just the reported & recorded cases.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Varna Vyavastha explained by Dharmpal

Every Indian knows of the Varna Vyavastha. Today the educated Indians speak of it in terms of Caste.After reading about the Varna Vyavasta in a diagram of Purusha where Shudra are shown in the feet, I like most Indian's was confused why it was so. It is mostly interpreted to mean that some how the Shudra were considered lower. Indeed this is how most contemporary social scientist describe it and that is common perception. I first came to question it after reading the book "Ashwamedha"  by Subhash Kak who gives an explanation that Man is created in the image of the Purusha so each person has all 4 aspects in him.I also could not help but notice that mother earth and Shudra who work in production on earth(in an agricultural society or even otherwise) both are shown as coming from the feet of Purusha. Arthashastra also mentions that when any new area was to be settled, say a cleared forest then Shudra were the first to go and settle. So all this should change the way we look at Varna Vyavastha. But an interesting and perhaps quite complete explanation is found in Dharampal's "Bhartiya Chitta Manas Aur Kaal"

"The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either.

Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four."

Obama's Religious Freedom

Barak Obama President of the United States had during his recent trip to India given Indians a lecture on upholding religious tolerance. He showed us article 25 of our own constitution. For those of us who thought this was a one off comment he repeated his "concern" in the so called National Prayer Breakfast which was started by a Mormon Evangelist Abraham Vereide. He said "Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji [sic], the person who helped to liberate that nation". He did not single out any one faith at least not explicitly. But if anyone wants to know what he really meant in these two speeches one needs to read this press release(Feb 6, 2015) by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The press release after quoting Obama's two speeches goes on to mention this "The President’s concerns come at a time of increasing abuses against India’s minority religious communities.  Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have assaulted these communities and forced community members to convert.  In just the last three months, five churches were attacked in Delhi; Hindu nationalists reportedly forcibly converted Christians and Muslims; and a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked the majority-Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar, killing three Muslims and setting about 25 houses on fire.  In addition, on February 5, police detained hundreds of Christians demonstrating against attacks on churches in New Delhi, including John Dayal, a human rights activist, who testified on April 4, 2014 before the Tom Lantos Commission on 'The Plight of Religious Minorities in India.'"

So while Obama has not singled out any religious community this press release by USCIR which is also incidentally headed by a Mormon Katrina Lantos Swett makes it clear what it was all about. American right wing churches which do not want any breaks to be brought about in their evangelist activities, do single out Hindus, who they intend to convert. Any resistance is pre-empted by pointing out incidents some of which may not even be true to weave a story which is used as persecution propaganda. Indians need to be aware of how the west is an active participant in the religious discord in our country. Barak Obama's lecture to India on religious freedom squarely equates it with freedom to evangelize which is the real concern not religious "Bhai Chara".

Notes:
1) To know about what really happened in Azizpur read this.
2) About the assault and forced conversion by RSS I don't know where this story came from. I presume it refers to the so called 'Ghar Wapsi'. A typical report condemning 'Ghar Wapsi' is here. It says "Clearly, the force involved in conversions across the religious spectrum, need not be physical. It can be psychological, social, and as is often the case, economic."
3) Minority commission of UP report on the 50 so called 'Ghar Wapasi" was covered by India today here. It talks about "lured". Not that luring is in anyway more respectable. But if the commissions recommendation were to be implemented that would put so many evangelists churches in the dock.
4) John Dayal is a more or less discredited figure who appears regularly to testify against India in such forums.

Friday, 2 January 2015

New York Time's version of religious intolerance in India


Recently an editorial appeared in the NYT signed the Editorial Board.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/opinion/religious-intolerance-in-india.html?referrer

Here is my response to it which I am sure wont make it to the readers letters section.


This is in reference to the recent editorial published in NY Times regarding the religious conversion controversy in India. While I find that it correctly mentions several facts about the recent events. It does not cover the whole picture.

Hinduism being a non proselytising religion is under constant assault by western fundamentalist Christian churches which have a stated goal to Christianize India.

Organizations like JoshuaProject, Worldvision, Harvest India and innumerable other missionary churches have in past and at present continue to use allurements like superstitious faith healing, cash, medical services, education etc to "Harvest Souls" & save "poor Indians" from the "darkness" of their "false gods" & "evil spirits". Billions of dollars are directed each year to India for this purpose. Recently a case was registered in Kashmir against a Christian pastor trying to convert Muslim youths in Kashmir by allurement.

Christian missionaries are known to come to India on tourist visas and illegally engage in proselytism of children in their schools.

Christian churches are also known to support terrorist organizations that target local Hindus. Killing of Swami Lakshmanananda in 2008 by left wing extremists supported by Christian organizations which resulted in Kandhamal riots in Orissa and the recent killings of 80 Hindu Vanvasis by NDFB terrorists in Assam are a few examples. One of the stated demands of Christian NDFB terrorists is to replace the traditional Devanagari script of Bodo language with Roman alphabets.

So the issue is not as straightforward as NYTimes seems to suggest, that the so called oppressed Hindus convert to other faiths under their own volition.

I hope in future your paper carries a more balanced story on the real facts on the ground and calls the american churches by name which play a part in generating discord in India through their unethical practices backed by loads of US dollars.

Monday, 13 October 2014

India an artificial construct?

Many people have commented in past on "fragility" of the Idea of Indian Nationhood, or looked at it as a "nation of nations" with various sub-nationalities living in India. Some even consider the British to be responsible for uniting India.

Was the Idea of nation hood born in Europe? At best we can say that the European Idea of nationhood was born in Europe certainly not the Indian Idea of nationhood. I am sure nobody will dispute that Indian Subcontinent is historically one civilization. If we look at pre-Islamic period then perhaps the geographic reach of Indian civilization was no less than from Afghanistan in the west to Indonesia in the east. The Idea of Bharat Vasha predates any foreign colonization of India and geographic extent was well understood to be from the mountains to the seas which pretty much covers the present territorial extent of India. Culturally India was united quite early in History. We have to consider the puranic references for this. Let me state a very common reference which is the story of Sati. When Shiva carried Sati's corpse on his shoulders around the world threatening to destroy the universe, Vishnu in order to save the universe from destruction cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces. Each location of the fallen piece is revered as a Shakti Sthal. Please look at the locations of the 51 Shakti Sthal. That is cultural geography of India. It covers entire subcontinent including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Srilanka. The majority of these sites are of course in India. 

When Adi Shankara traveled across India debating Indian philosophy in 8th century AD he was obviously not prevented from entering at any of the "political" kingdoms from Kashmir to Kanyakumari nor was he ever considered an outsider preaching "local" population. He established the various maths across India and the 4 sacred Dhams in 4 directions. There is no question on the geographical extent of India. 

The British were also not the first to politically unite India. We anglicized Indians conveniently forget the local tradition of a "Chakravarti" emerging time and again to politically unite India which was already geographically, culturally and perhaps economically one. Alexander's invasion of India triggered the revival and establishment of a pan-India Chakravarti. Mauryan empire covered India from frontiers of Afghanistan to almost the deep south of the peninsula. Harsha's empire, Gupta empire,Prithvi Raj Chauhan's failed attempt, Mughal and Maratha empires politically united India much before the British. One must understand that political unity requires communication technology. Which nation in the world as large as India could have been politically one without such communication? 

I would like to submit that the last such political unity of India was achieved when the Integration of Indian states was undertaken in post partition India. Our constitution is the latest indigenous Chakravarti India has seen and serving and protecting this Chakravarti is every Indian's duty.

I wish public figures would shun this illogical Idea of India being an unnatural nation which ignore the achievements of Indian Civilization and culture going back several millennia.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The moral basis of anti-caste legislation by Dr Prakash Shah

Here is an excellent article "The moral basis of anti-caste legislation" by Dr Prakash Shah, arguing why a blind rush to legislate under pressure of lobbies can lead to a risk of introducing social discord where none exists.
A debate around the issues that Dr Shah’s article raises are sadly missing in India itself. The theories of Aryan Invasion and equating caste with race, which have now been discredited, as no evidence exists, have sadly percolated in Indian society, leading to further discord in the society based on a manufactured history.
The issues raised about the motivation of the lobbies in the article are also pertinent. Using caste related problems for showing eastern cultures as ‘immoral’ and using these arguments for proselytizing is nothing short of attack on eastern cultures.

Lastly I am tempted to say that Europe including UK will do well in first removing discrimination against the medieval Indian migrants to Europe which are the Roma people which is a far bigger problem in western societies. Indian immigrants to the UK are sufficiently part of the western mainstream to recognize the evils of social discrimination and do not need paternalistic laws to govern their communities.

Dr Shah's article is very relevant for all Indians to debate on especially in the lite of the kind of destructive caste divisions are being manufactured in our country based on a totally manufactured history and example of which can be found in this news report http://www.indianexpress.com/news/tribals-backwards-seek-own-voices-in-durga-puja-this-year/1182314/

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Afzal Guru's book of letters and Jihadist Propaganda

Today I saw news about a book of compilation of Parliament attack co-conspirator Afzal Guru that has been released in Srinagar. He is being portrayed as a martyr and his letters(real or fictional) are exhorting people to "propagate martyrs' mission, because its the blood of martyrs that has kept resistance movement alive".
Unfortunately the youth of the valley today do not know of 1947, 1965, 1971. 1974 or recognize the violence against the Kashmiri Hindus as the first consequence of this "armed struggle" as it is glorified. They only know of the bloody violence starting 1989 and see everything from the prism of this violence. 

I am of the opinion that separatists survive on violence and international exposure for support. All humans value freedom and separatists appeal for "freedom" seems to get them instant favors in both capitals around the world and among the population of those countries.The voice of Kashmir's refugees is completely drowned out. Only those who have some Idea about the real history of Kashmir'a accession to the Indian Union and those who have a stake in the survival and prosperity of all the people of this union and by extension the entire subcontinent are able to realize the hollowness of these separatist arguments. Plebiscite and right to self determination argument was a non starter even when Nehru mentioned it because you could not have the losers of this so called  plebiscite living as refugees at worst or second class citizens at best in what ever is left of J&K after this plebiscite. This was realized by the leadership in New Delhi even in early 1950's. It is the leadership of J&K which failed to look beyond narrow interests and join the national mainstream without special terms and privileges that has lead to the current situation in the valley.

There is no right to self determination for the people of J&K it applies only to European colonies not to democratic states. But there is a right to return as per the UN principles of Human rights for refugees and Kashmiri Hindus have it.The real worry is the youth of valley for me who are easily radicalized and turned into cannon fodder by the Rawalpindi establishment which has its own axe to grind. The proxy war being fought in the valley has resulted in huge toll for the people of the state and the security forces alike while Rawalpindi can keep the fires burning at very low cost to itself. The task of security forces has been of finding needle in a haystack and the result of their heavy handed actions is that more and more youth are getting radicalized. Even to this day when a Hizbul militant is killed then processions take place in his village and he is hailed as "martyr". Old separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani visit such places and egg the villagers on while continuing to receive favors from Pakistan.When a J&K policeman or an innocent civilian or a public representative is killed by the militants then no protest take place. It is difficult to tell truth from propaganda when every unexplained incident of violence is quickly blamed by the separatists on the security forces and the state and national media plays it out every protest at that moment without following thrugh the entire investigation. I am sure excesses have occurred in the state at the hands of the security forces but in a destabilized environment that exists in the valley our institutions which cannot deliver even in calmer places are bound to fail.

There is no quick solution to this problem because Rawalpindi is secure and smug that no heavy action is possible from Indian security forces because of its Nuclear umbrella hence there is no reason for it to stop the violence. But there a fair bit which can be done to deny space to the separatist ideology in the national and international forums. Some people are doing that part and I appreciate whatever they have done so far. I wish more people come out in open to confront this victim hood perception that the separatists portray and the impossibility of the self determination argument they make.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Zubin is not Nero separatist leadership in valley is

This opinion piece appeared in The Hindu Zubin Mehta and the unequal music.
I was long expecting someone will try to make this Nero analogy. But unfortunately it doesn't stick on Zubin. It does stick on the separatist leaders who have lead the common people of the state to meaningless conflict, death and destruction while accepting diamond studded watches as gifts from Pakistani mentors across the border. Soon someone will argue that the Sindhu festival in Ladakh and the Amarnath yatra should be stopped. Zubin is an artist of world renown, the valley is fortunate to have him perform in Srinagar. Kudos to German embassy for arranging this in spite the terror threat and I salute the artists who came. Get over this separatism. The root of violence is not the Idea of India. It is the destabilization engineered by the ideologues in Pakistan. The same people who destroyed Afghanistan. There is no legitimacy in separatism in valley just as there was no legitimacy in separatism in Tamil Nadu. Get over it.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Fictions of Mirza Wahid

The novelist and Journalist from Jammu and Kashmir Mirza Wahid paints a very one sided picture of Kashmir with the militants and separatists as victims where as the security forces as "evil". May be loss of his family members and seeing death and destruction up close has gotten him to this victim mentality. What is missing from his account though are the atrocities committed by the militants and the silence of the separatist when targeted killings of those who do not agree with separatist ideology takes place at the hands of these Pakistan trained militants. The state of the Kashmiri Pundits who are refugee in their own country is hardly mentioned. His interpretation of Kashmir being separate from India is purely fictional too and reflects the unfortunate identity crisis that the youth in Kashmir are going through. The cause of this identity crisis is the failure of political leaders of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and central  government in 1947 to  bring about a merger with the Union of India without this autonomy provision which has left identity issues in the minds of the youth. Fact is that J&K merged with the Indian union under legal provisions of Indian Independence Act. The decision to merge with India rather than Pakistan was taken by J&K to save itself from destruction and occupation by the Pakistani invaders. That is when the Indian Army first went into the state to liberate not to occupy. There is no question about J&K being separate from India. Even the constitution of J&K recognizes this fact.

It is unfortunate that the State has seen so much violence since 1989 but the cause of this violence is Pakistani military which used a proxy war strategy to engender separatism in J&K. The first victims of this violence were the religious minority population of Kashmiri Hindus who were ethnically cleansed from the valley. 500,000 of these are living as refugees in their own country today this happens no where in the world. But because of the fear of violence from Pakistan sponsored terrorists they are forced to abandon their homes and live in slums in Jammu.

The death and destruction in J&K is heart rendering but what does one expect to happen when terrorists from all around the world driven by violent ideologies are pushed into the state by Pakistan to cause this very death and destruction. The security forces are not robots they are also human and thousands have laid down their lived to prevent the terrorists from running amok the way Taliban did in Afghanistan. For those who are moved by Mr Wahids fictional stories I would recommend read Vidya Bhushan Dhar’s work also to get a view of what really happened to the Kashmiri minorities when the violence in the name of religious ideology started in Kashmir.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Latest controversy on the national song Vande Mataram

Recently we were greeted by the news of a member of parliament walking out from the Lok Sabha while the national song Vande Mataram was being played. The speaker of the house has expressed her disagreement with what the MP did. The MP has justified her walking out for "religious" reasons.
This issue keeps resurfacing over and over again. It has become so politically motivated that one does not know what the real intention of people opposing or supporting singing the national song is. The fact of the matter is that the first two stanzas of Vande Matram is India's national song. The national song of India does not disrespect any religion. Singing it does not make you less in whatever religion you follow. The original song does have reference to Maa Durga but that this not the national song today. The first two stanzas of the original song constitute the national song today. People who make a controversy out of the national song citing history are not really secular in my view they are anti thesis of what it means to be secular. How does one undo the history of our freedom struggle and the part played by the national song just because someone thinks it is not secular?

The crux of the intellectual argument made against Vande Mataram is perhaps present in the often cited article by Mr A G Noorani. http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl1601/16010940.htm. There are other arguments made using terms not so much in the vogue in India regarding cultural nationalism against civic nationalism with an assertion that Vande Mataram represents cultural nationalism where as India only needs civic nationalism. Where as the fact is that any civil nationalism in practice has never subverted the culture of the land, say in a country like France it has meant that the French language has predominated. We cannot in India seek to subvert our own culture so as not to sound anti-secular. Breaking of coconuts and lighting lamps are part of our culture and any government cannot say that we are secular so we won't do this in official functions.

I do not agree with Mr Noorani on several of his other views specially on Kashmir and I do not consider him truly secular either. His article cited above though full of references and historical context failed to impress me. These intellectual positions are probably being used to justify the unjustifiable. The historical context of the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram as a national song should be seen only as the freedom movement(which is why it was made the national son g in the first place) rather than the story in the novel Anand Math and its interpretations. The national song deserves full respect devoid of petty sectarian politics.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Political Decentralization - Panchayati Raj v/s State Autonomy


Abstract: Political decentralization and political autonomy are sometimes used interchangeably in arguments asserting the need for greater devolution of power in India. In this write up I argue that such linkage or casual interpretation is not in favour of healthy political discourse in India. I assert that we need to use the term Panchayati Raj and only that term when talking about grass root democracy which is desirable. But we should not look at state autonomy as a solution to some of our governance problems. State autonomy I assert is of negative consequence and leads to a nation within a nation sort of discourse which I call a kind of Satrap system not suitable for a large diverse democratic nation like ours which is unique in the world.

One of the issues at stake in our national discourse today is that of political decentralization and political autonomy which are sometimes used interchangeably. Mahatma Gandhi was a proponent of political decentralization, what he called Gram Swaraj. I do not claim to know what Gandhiji really meant by all that he said, but herein you find a statement which is revealing “the 7 lakh villages should be self sufficient as village republics”. From this statement one can draw an intuitive understanding of a model of democracy that includes the people in deciding what is best for their immediate needs, rather than one that separates the state from the people and create a situation where people are dependent on a hierarchical system of governance even for their basic needs.  

This idea is what was called Panchayati Raj and strengthening of this institution was made a part of directive principles of state policy in our constitution at the time of framing of the constitution. The 73rd amendment of the constitution changes were made in '92 to overcome some of the reasons why Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRI) were not functioning as expected, like absence of regular elections, insufficient representation SC/ST and women, inadequate devolution of powers and lack of financial resources. As per this amendment a 3 tier system of village, block and district level panchayats are setup.  However more than 20 years after this amendment which was considered historic at that point of time the Prime Minister still had to make a speech recently urging center and states to “strengthen the panchayats” rather than be able to proudly commend them on their achievements in last 20 years. These issues are variously cited as to why the system is still not considered effective:- 

a) State governments are not devolving enough responsibilities and the center cannot force the state governments because these fall is states domain.
b) Members are not sufficiently trained and do not know their powers and responsibilities sufficiently.
c) Elected women are being represented by their husbands.
d) Non cooperation of bureaucracy
e) Major projects are implemented by the state government without involving the PRIs.
This is a short list of issues but I am sure people who are actually involved with PRIs know much better. 

Whenever I hear about the term decentralization of India being uttered especially in foreign academic circles (Sugata Bose et al) I hear it being accompanied with the term ‘autonomy’. This ‘autonomy’ is being pushed as the magic pill that will solve all of India’s problems. So for Jammu and Kashmir there is an autonomy solution, for Nagaland there is an autonomy solution and there is a domino effect of this demand in all the insurgency affected and even some non-insurgency affected states where on and off demand for autonomy are raised. Late Jyoti Basu former CM of West Bengal was a known supporter of ‘greater autonomy’ to the states especially to J&K. The greatest affront which I find in these arguments is a selective use of history to make a sweeping statement that India never had a ‘Unitary’ state and was instead always ruled as autonomous units. There are certain assumptions in this statement. The first assumption, which is incorrect, is that India today has a unitary form of government. The truth is that we are a federal state not unitary. The second assertion that India always had autonomous units is being used as a suggestion that it is good to have autonomy at state level, where the states have internal autonomy for everything and the center is limited to the triad of ‘Foreign Affairs, Defense and Finance(currency)’.  This extreme arrangement is something most people will have serious exception with. Such an arrangement with article 370 like provisions is what I would call division of India into Satraps, since this kind of autonomy is a question of sovereignty rather than governance. This leads to the notion of nation within a nation. It smells of an argument for creating various levels of sovereignty which is logical path to choose only for an outside power ruling over foreign land, the characteristic of which is leaving autocratic governors for the Satraps for indirect rule and extraction of tribute to keep the top most sovereign relevant. But this arrangement is entirely unsuitable for integration of a democratic nation. The sovereignty of the elected government of a democracy has to be absolute no only to be able to serve the interest of the people internationally but also to keep the movement of wheel of progress continuous in the entire nation as per the collective will of all the people of the country. This wheel like our notion of Dharma Chakra includes everything good that people desire in their lives. No one should be deprived of such progress which is something that can never be guaranteed in a structure with such autonomous satraps.

Autonomy has been variously proposed in the past, say with the cabinet mission plan of 1946 which was in my view rightly rejected, in J&K where we have seen the result and is being demanded today by NSCN/IM insurgents. It is considered by some as the root cause of alienation in J&K rather than the other way round as proposed by some others. It is logical to see that when such an arrangement is made, then the first thing the state government tries to do, is to limit migration to the state and turns itself into more of what I call a ‘hermit state’ within the Indian union. Citizens of the country can migrate to another country and become legal foreign nationals but can never migrate to such states within the country itself. Economic and cultural delinking of the state with the rest of the country then follows. In J&K for example the residents of the other states were referred to as Indians while the Kashmiri’s would give their regional identities more importance long before any whiff of insurgency was felt in J&K.  We have seen an incomplete integration of J&K or rather gradual separation since independence which has lead to such identity issues as we see among some Kashmirs today. There are few other states where various degrees of state subject laws apply like Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim. I do not think any such migration restrictions applied to India in historical times otherwise we would not have such a diverse culture and diverse population which exist in the country today. You can find many ethnic minorities in each and every state of the country which have been living in that state for centuries, where as, they may be represented as ethnic majority in some other state. This is true even in these autonomous or semi-autonomous states that we have today.

The kind of political autonomy to the states which is being talked about increasingly in foreign and also Indian ‘intellectual circles’ as a way to go forward in my view will not lead to better governance for the people. What it will lead to is autocratic state governments, regional identity politics at the cost of nationalism and national interest, marginalization of and attacks on ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minorities of the state as has happened in J&K, strong feeling of separatism, opportunity for foreign intervention and perhaps a complete balkanization as happened to a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. India of course is not Yugoslavia we are certainly hugely better integrated. Our integration is civilizational not just political and has occurred over several millennia. There are several threads that tie the various beads of India together; perhaps the beads themselves are made of the thread that ties them.  Using a term which Rajiv Malhotra has made famous I would say that we perhaps truly have what will be called an Integral Unity. In my view it is not possible to separate the beads without completely changing the character of India itself. Trying to break down India is a never ending exercise because there can be no two views which will match on what would constitute a truly independent and separate or autonomous part of India. You can literally break down into thousands of separate identities not just 10-15 hence balkanizing India is not going to bring any peace or prosperity for the people of the nation. Autonomy similarly will not bring any lasting peace or prosperity to the people. Even in a state like Sikkim which does not have any outside migration and has been largely successfully integrated into the Indian union we have elements of majority minority tensions existing though not very pronounced, certainly not like the kind which exists in J&K.

The political integration of India after independence done by the states ministry under Sardar Patel was the single most important political exercise in the history of post partition India. In modern times this exercise and the enactment of the constitution is what would be termed as the emergence of a Chakravartin in India. The Dharma Chakra in the tricolor is not bereft of the symbolic importance of this Chakravartin for our national integration and rule of law within our nation’s boundaries. For me the Ashoka Chakra has always been the most important symbol in our tricolor. The constitution is what guarantees that the wheel of law can move freely without interruption in our great country. This is why changes to the constitution which will make our savior and protector weaker is something we should always guard against. I am all for Panchayti Raj which I would say is a non translatable term for our kind of decentralization but I am certainly not in favour of state autonomy which will perhaps lead us back to the time of Western and Northern Satraps of historic times and the wheel of law will be found wanting in the country and leave us vulnerable to outside intervention and control.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Personal Tragedy V/S National Tragedy

When a man commits an illegal act and gets caught, it is no doubt a personal tragedy for him and his family. I am sure most people regret that they erred in their judgement. They would certainly not like to be in jail and would wish that the past act would never have taken place. Unfortunately the legal process in our country has its own pace. The under trial has to go through a long trial in the courts. For an innocent person such a trial can itself be the punishment on the other hand for the guilty it may even be an act of buying time. The Bombay blast case has gone one for 20 years. The victims of the blast have waited 20 years for justice which is still elusive because the masterminds of the blast are still beyond the reach of law.

Sanjay Dutt was convicted by the supreme court for illegal possession of banned weapons and sentenced to the minimum sentence prescribed by law. Then he along with some other accused punished for similar crime were given 1 month to surrender. Today Sanjay Dutt got another reprieve to surrender after another 4 weeks. He wanted to finish his films before going to jail to serve his sentence for which he wanted 6 months reprieve. So the court in supposedly "humanitarian grounds" gave him 4 weeks with no further extension and he accepted. All in all this whole episode gives the appearance of a bargain for delay rather than humane gesture. If the producers have money locked in on Sanjay Dutt then the question here is of money not of "humanitarian grounds". A mother who has a child appearing for his school exams probably deserves more humanitarian gesture for month delay rather than a movie actor who wants to finish his films so that he and his producers do not suffer a loss.

Whatever be the real truth, in the end this case gives an impression of deliberate delay to keep a rich, politically connected celebrity out of jail for as long as possible, rather than one of delivering justice where justice is due. Mr Dutt's claiming suffering due to inordinate delay does not cut the bill; after all Mr Dutt did not spend his years out of jail, since he was first arrested, doing national or social service to deserve a reprieve. He was busy making money, living the good life and working for entertainment of his movie loving fans. It does not quite cover for the loss that the victims of the 93' Bombay blast had to suffer. Given the circumstances under which he has been found in illegal possession of banned weapons, he has knowingly or otherwise been linked with the entire bombing episode which he should have certainly avoided.

Whatever be Sanjay's personal tragedy it does not cover for the national tragedy which people of India have collectively suffered. The court seems to have erred, but people are not pleased and the politicians along with the government of Maharashtra should be forewarned, not to act on Sanjay's mercy plea in a way which will lead to dissatisfaction among the people of Bombay, because they are in no mood to forgive.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

On Sanskrit and Urdu

Sanskrit is already being taught as a compulsory subject in many schools and was also compulsory in Central Schools until last year when it was made optional "like any other Foreign language" if one goes by the text of the article that was published in TOI last year. The difficulty is not that many students have not studied Sanskrit in schools, the difficulty is with the way it was taught. In many schools in India students have studied Sanskrit for 5 Years and yet have gotten very little out of it. So making Sanskrit compulsory is only a question of teacher training and curriculum and is apolitical decision in that sense. 

Unfortunately Sanskrit-Urdu debate has been politicized and divides people on communal lines. In my view Sanskrit Urdu debate is not even worthy of a debate. I don't think it is logical to have Urdu as compulsory all over India and it is important to assert that Urdu is not a language of Muslims. So Kashmiri, Malayali, Telugu etc Muslims should be studying their mother tongue, so that the local communities do not break apart. In Kashmir for example the Muslims students used to study Urdu and the Kashmiri Pundits would study Koshur. Perhaps politicians in J&K did not want young Kashmir Muslim students to study Kashur(their mother tongue) in Devnagari script(my speculation). The effect of dividing the people(along with other reasons) has been very real and the Kashmiri Pundits are today living in refugee camps.

No doubt Urdu is a rich language since it has words from several languages but the fact is that Urdu developed from a common language of the Mughal armies and developed to language of poetry in the Mughal courts in Delhi along with Persian. It is primarily a North Indian language not pan-Indian. Making it compulsory all over India is illogical. Sanskrit on the other hand is Pan-Indian, as all Major Indian languages including Urdu have influence of Sanskrit so I don't think there is any debate between learning Sanskrit and Urdu in that sense. Sanskrit is the mother (or at least sister :-) ) of most Indian languages including Urdu. Unfortunately Sanskrit has suffered in India due to neglect. While the world is adopting it we are neglecting it. Where as the fact is that our knowledge of Sanskrit will not only make our local languages richer, it but will link us with the roots of our culture going back thousands of years.

Muslim league went to newly created Pakistan and look Urdu with it. A language which was spoken by approx 5% of the population of Pakistan then, was made the national language. India on the other hand does not have a national language but 2 official languages(for center) and 22 scheduled languages, and perhaps rightly so. Urdu is also well represented as one of the official languages in several states. So that is where things rest. 

In the light of all this Mr Katju's recent remark on making Urdu compulsory seems like a political gimmick. Sanskrit-Urdu debate should not be communalized and Muslim students in Hindi speaking states should be learning Standard Hindi(which has many Urdu and other language words) in school so that communities do not break apart like it happened in Kashmir. In other states too Muslim students should study their regional mother tongue along with optional Urdu or which ever language they want to learn. This is my view is a logical way forward. We have 1600 languages and dialects in India, forcing a language on people in India is a stupid thing to do. Hence making Urdu compulsory is not logical.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Is autonomy the solution to separatism in Kashmir?


Recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after Afzal Guru’s hanging have brought back attention to the interlocutors report in the media. The murder of 5 CRPF jawans in the terror attack in the valley in March invited panic reaction about doing something to solve the Kashmir issue. No doubt continued violence in Jammu and Kashmir is of great concern to all citizens of the country but can this violence really be brought to an end without ever considering how to address the source of this violence with exists across the border? India it seems has all but conceded that it can do nothing about the infrastructure of terror that exists across the border. We seem to have been lulled into believing that since the violence has been reduced relative to its peak, the will to inflict violence has also been reduced across the border too and we seem to have come to a conclusion that somehow ignoring Pakistan’s real intentions will make the problem go away. Without having done anything meaningful to coerce Pakistan to give up its desire to continue support of terrorism against our country especially in J&K, we hope to address the separatist question in Kashmir through negotiations or through promise of more autonomy in the state.

A lot has been said about alienation of the population especially the youth in the valley. No doubt there has been alienation of the people in the valley from the Idea of India and especially the views of the youth in Kashmir are of utmost importance. Any counter insurgency action as has been mentioned time and again by experts requires winning back the trust of the people and disassociating the support base of the insurgents and separatists among the general population. But questions need to be asked as to the effect that implementing suggestions in interlocutors report is going to have on the long term interest of the country and whether or not it will have any effect on the permanent end to violence and secessionist politics in the state. Several aspects of the interlocutors report have been discussed in the public domain but the primary questions remains, will offering more autonomy make the secessionists permanently quit the demand for secession and will no further separatist movement will ever emerge in J&K after that?

Before we address this question we need to be first clear about the nature of the demand from the separatists. It is insisted by the separatists especially in front of the international audience that their demand is of freedom and of independence. I would argue this is not what their demand really is and it is easy to logically derive why this is not true. Independence is what the Indian subcontinent got in 1947 from colonial occupation thanks to the Indian Independence movement. The movement for creation of Pakistan was not an Independence or freedom movement it was a communal movement for separation from India based on the so called two nation theory. The result of that movement was an unprecedented violence in the form of communal riots which claimed 1.5 million lives in the subcontinent and lead to a refugee crisis of over 14 million people which had never been seen in human history before. The region which was formed as Pakistan had at the time of partition close to 30% non Muslim religious minority population which is today reduced to closer to 1%, thanks to that very event. The movement in Kashmir which centers around the so called “right to self determination” is also in similar lines not a freedom movement it is a communal movement for separation and the first victims of this movement were the people belonging to the minority community of Kashmir.

In the book “Integration of Indian States” written by VP Menon he has mentioned that when Jammu and Kashmir merged with India in 1947 it was Lord Mountbatten’s strong opinion that given the special nature of the ethnic and religious composition of the population in the state there should be a plebiscite held in the state to confirm its accession to the dominion of India, after law and order had been restored, and the state had been cleared of the Pakistani raiders which had attacked the state to occupy it by force. This argument was agreed to by the government of India he was heading and formed the basis of India’s policy during negotiations with the Pakistan government to make them desist from trying to takeover the state by force. This policy was pursued in the negotiations that took place both before and after India approached the UN to seek peaceful withdrawal of Pakistan’s national and military personnel from the state of Jammu and Kashmir but was rejected first by Jinnah who wanted to claim the entire state based on the simplistic argument that it was Muslim majority and hence should go to Pakistan in its entirety and later by subsequent Prime Ministers of Pakistan who never agreed to the withdrawal of their forces from the state.

The fact that Pakistan was never really clearly recognized as an aggressor by UN thanks to perhaps a mistake by the team representing India under Sir Girija Bajpai in filing the appeal to the UN under chapter 6 of the UN charter which calls for bringing to the attention of the UN an event of a nature of dispute rather under chapter 7 which calls upon a to the UN’s attention to an event of the nature of external aggression. American diplomat Vincent Sheean in his book “Nehru: The years of Power” has mentioned that in his opinion it was a technical error on the part of India which lead to the situation where western diplomats in the UN sticky about matters of letter rather than substance used this to treat the matter as a dispute between two morally equal parties rather than a matter of aggression by Pakistan as it really was. It also provided Pakistan with an excellent opportunity to draw parity with India and introduce all sorts of matters including the communal riots of 47 under the pretext of genocide by India to the debate.

For India, perhaps going to the UN under any provision was a lose-lose proposition. Going under chapter 7 would probably have meant that UN Security Council intervention in the form of military presence would have become inevitable and this would also not have been acceptable to India. In hindsight taking the matter to the UN only ensured that Kashmir got dragged into the international cold war politics in which Pakistan was seen as a more reliable partner by the victors of world war rather than India. Hence in India’s view there was always a bias in the UN’s proceedings in favour of Pakistan which was clearly the guilty party. Later on this internationalization also lead to the situation where Shekh Abdullah was courted by the Americans and even the Chinese. The Americans planted and encouraged the idea of “Independence” with Shekh Abdullah and for the government of India the possibility of an American base in Kashmir became a real possibility, something which went against the non aligned foreign policy which India wanted to pursue. This is precisely the reason why India has been wary of approaching the UN for any such matter ever since 1948. We did not approach the UN during any subsequent aggression by Pakistan or during the China war. This is also the reason why we do not encourage any third party intervention in Indo Pakistan relations.

India today disowns the UN resolution 47 which asked for plebiscite in J&K. The reasons are that Pakistan never exited the area under its control, the negotiations held with Pakistan in the 50’s failed to arrive at an acceptable formula under which plebiscite could be held, Pakistan over the years changed the demographics of the regions of J&K under its control and the Shimla accord signed with Pakistan in 1974 made the UN resolution irrelevant. But the real reason why any resolution based on plebiscite could not be arrived at and I will assert will never be arrived at is the realization on part of any subsequent responsible Indian government that the very nature of the population mix of J&K which was sighted by Mountbatten as the reason why plebiscite should be held in J&K makes it impossible to make a just decision based on plebiscite. The fact of the matter is that the population of J&K is ethnically, linguistically and religiously a very diverse population living together in that state for centuries and for that reason any referendum which is really a communal question of separation will only be voted on communal lines, leading to complete destruction of the social fabric of the society of J&K. The scenarios of partition in ’47 will be repeated and will be followed by population movement and communal riots of the worst kind in the entire country. It will essentially change the complete nature of India as it exists today. We will never be a secular, democratic, republic where all diversity of population can live together and balkanization and radicalization will follow. Such a nightmare scenario is so gross and the human tragedy that might follow so unimaginable that no responsible person in India can ever agree to it.

The question of plebiscite having been dealt with as rejected in my understanding by a majority of public opinion in the country and my arguments about the communal nature of separatist demands having been made I would like to address the more difficult question of autonomy which has perhaps a more divided opinion within the country. Several people have been arguing including some political parties in J&K, that autonomy is the solution to the separatist problem. The interlocutors have in fact recommended making article 370 a special provision as against a temporary provision of constitution as it exists today also they have asked for review of all laws extended to J&K since 1953. The assembly of J&K had also passed a resolution to that effect for even reverting to the designation of Prime Minister and President of the state rather than the designation of CM and Governor.  They would like the IAS and IPS officers in the state to be replaced with the state service officers and removing the powers of national election commission, CAG and the Supreme Court in matters of the state.

All such moves to revert the status of government in J&K to the pre ‘53 status or close to pre ‘53 status in various degrees will in any logical person’s opinion lead to less integration of the state with the rest of India rather than more integration. Any such move will not weaken the separatist demand. The core separatist demand is not autonomy they have never asked for it and they will never be satisfied only with it. This will only play in the hands of the separatist and extremists who will see it as a step closer to eventual separation rather than settlement of their concerns. This move will also lead to more complications in dealing with other cases of insurgency in the rest of the country especially in the north east where it will be seen that extremist violence eventually does pay and demand for such a settlement in Nagaland and Manipur will gather steam. The fact of the matter is that more autonomy and provisions like article 370 and separate constitution for a state as exists in J&K is not a solution to problems of alienation of population it is in fact is a slow poison which over a period of time leads to degeneration of the state to a communal and identity politics of the worst kind. It also leads to bad laws and persecution of the minority population of the state. We have ended up creating a North Korea like hermit state within the Union of India where people of the state are deprived of progressive laws and progressive political movements of the rest of the country. It has lead to a situation that the government sector is seen as the only credible employer and lack of employment opportunities has lead to disaffection of the people from the government. The politics of the state as we have seen in J&K since 1947 is forever hostage to corruption, autocratic government, petty power politics and manipulation of the people based on ethnicity and religion. Today J&K is more ethnically and communally divided than it was at any point in its history and the persecution of minority population of Kashmir which is living as refugees in its own state is not hidden from anyone. Mr Balraj Puri and Praveen Swami in a series of articles for the frontline magazine had between 1999 and 2001 written extensively about these issues. Autonomy of the kind the state has been given has been seen as the main cause of such divide.

India exists because of the Idea of India which is centered on the diversity of its population and the values of tolerance, secularism, respect for others traditions and cultures, intermingling of populations and economic integration. This is what has lead to the cultural and political evolution of India. I would like to make another assertion that a person may be born an Indian citizen but no one is truly born an Indian. We are raised as Indians, just as anyone is never born into a particular religion, that person has to be raised as a follower of that particular religion. The virtues of Indian-ness of the kind I have mentioned have to be experienced. They cannot be imposed from the outside or by laws. They are experienced and learned in the environment of a child’s neighborhood, schools, colleges and work places before he or she can truly imbibe them. Unfortunately the identity politics of J&K and the retrograde state subject laws of J&K which have disallowed the population of Kashmir valley to ever experience this Idea of India, is today alienated from the population of rest of the country. I can’t imagine how any logical person will propose the same conditions which lead to the primary alienation of the population of the state as a solution to the current separatist problem in the state.

Having made my case against autonomy or conversion of article 370 which in my view is the root of the difficult situation in J&K into a permanent provision in the constitution  I would like to assert that I am in no way against decentralization of powers to the people at the local level. Local body elections and strengthening of the Panchayats are perhaps a more robust solution to delivering the experience of freedom to the masses of the state as has been argued by Mr Wajahat Habibullah. But economic development of the state is not possible without allowing economic migration of professional, workers and businessmen from other states to J&K. The cities in J&K can never become engines of economic growth unless they become cosmopolitan like any small or big city of the country.

In order to imagine what solution exists for the current problems of J&K one needs to look at the ways which will lead to the eventual peaceful return of the Kashmiri minority population to their homes and their being able to live in a peaceful environment where they are not deprived of any economic activity. The separatist movement and separatist propaganda survives on the oxygen of violence and international support including the primary source of violence and propaganda in Pakistan. Unless these two things are addressed and unless the freedom to local population in form of a well functioning local democracy and uncorrupted administration is delivered to the common people of the state in my view any other solution will only serve the purpose of appeasing the separatists and eventually serve the cause of destructive elements. Hopefully the government of India will not take any decision in panic which will lead to a situation that can only be described as consumption of the slow poison of arsenic out of an unfounded fear that the only alternative is consumption of cyanide.