Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Asssembly Polls and the Political Implications

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The BJP led NDA Government was assailed by the Opposition on a number of issues. The Congress led by Rahul Gandhi tried to stir the youth into rebellion by fomenting trouble in different campuses following the suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad Central University. The rise of anti national pro secessionist hoodlums like Kannaiya in JNU stirred the Opposition for some time and men like D Raja, Sitaram, Karat and others could steal National Television exposure in which they could froth for hours on end about Modi. The fact remains that the Economy is picking up and inflation inlow though unemployment still remains a major concern. The Reserve Bank of India under Governor Raguhram Rajan is constantly increasing the interest rates thereby preventing industrial activity from picking up. Except for these minor glitches there seems to be order all around. The just concluded Assembly Elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam West Bengal and Pondicherry marks an important shift in Indian political spectrum. In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front consisting of the two Communist factions and a clutch of local parties has come to power. Significantly the vote share of both alliances has fallen and BJP's O Rajagopalan has won a seat in the Kerala Assembly for the first time. He is a senior leader of the BJP who served in the Vajpayee Cabinet. Even in the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls he led in 4 out of 7 assembly segments in Trvandrum and the Congress Party which fielded Sashi Tharoor who is in the news over the murder of his wife Sunanda, was able to scrape though only with a surge of support from the Catholic Church. The vote share of the BJP has crossed 12% and this means that the final frontier or bastion of anti BJP elements has been breached. In neighboring Tamil Nadu as I predicted in my tweet, AIADMK swept to power or rather proved the pollsters wrong by bucking the anti incumbency wave. The reason for AIADMK's success in spite of the lack luster administrative performance is beacause of the slew of populist measures undertaken by Jayalalithaa. The so called AMMA canteens, pharmacies and other such outfits have evoked a huge response from the electorate. The DMK which is neck deep in Corruption, with karunanidhi's daughter having spent time in jail due to the involvement in the 2G Spectrum Scandal along with A Raja tried to focus on the alleged corruption of Jayalalithaa. This diversionary tactic did not yield results and she romped home with a slightly diminished vote percentage. The triangular fight in Tamil Nadu certainly helped AIADMK as it split the anti incumbency vote and DDMK of Vijay Kanth came a cropper in the election. Stalin shrewdly tried to project the old Geezer as the Chif Ministerial candidate, but the electorate was not impressed with this ploy.And the feud in the dynastic fascist family did not help the DMK either as Azhagiri the elder son of Karunanidhi tacitly worked for the AIADMK. In West Bengal, mamta Banerjee survived the Sharada Chit Fund Scam and all the important names involved in the scam have been returned to the Assembly. This is not to say that the people of West Bengal do not care for the honesty and intergity of the political class. It is just that the memory of the 35 years of fascist Left rule is so terrible that even Mamth's scam tainted regime shines by comparison. The BJP has increased the vote base in West Bengal and has secured 9 seats. The release of the Netaji Files do not seem to have had a major impact in the election. The Alliance with the Congress has hurt the CPM as they now show sighs of terminal decline. Mamtha led a corrupt scam tainted Government but the people of West Bengal have no choice. In Assam, the Congress was playing with fire by encouraging illegal immigration from the neighboring Bangla Desh thereby hoping to create a captive elctoral blck for itself. The BJP campaigned against this subversion of the Constitution and even the local Assamese Muslims have voted for the BJP thereby disproving the theory that Muslims are afraid of voting the BJP. The Congress by fanning the flames of minority identity politics thought that the Muslim population of Assam and the marginalized tribal Bodos will vote for the Party. The fact is that BJP has won the Assemply elections in Assam and thereby acquiring a foothold in the North East. The BJP can now look forward to the Assembly elections in UP and Punjab that are due next year.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Caste and "Honour Killings" in Tamil Nadu: Dravidian Parties are encouraging caste violence

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books One of the many myths surrounding Tamil politics is that the Dravidian Movement launched by the Justice Party and later taken over by E V Ramaswamy Naikkar was a progressive and socially inclusive movement. Nothing is further from the truth. Like the Nazi Movement in Germany, the Dravidian Movement too targeted one ethnic group, the Brahmins for sustained persecution. During the course of nearly a century of Dravidian rule, Brahmins have been virtually eliminated from public life. There is no Brahmin MP elected after R Venkataraman. Even the election of Dr Subramaniam Swamy was due to the support of the AIADMK. The domination of the BC caste which are essentially land owning and socially opposed to SC assertion is reinforced by the politics of Tamil Nadu which is controlled by the Dravidian parties whose social base consists of the Vanniyars, the Mukkolothor, the Yadavas and the like. The Sc communities, the Pariahs and the Pallans do not find space in this coalition. In fact, the SC leaders tend to adopt the same strategy to reach out to their constituents as the mainstream Dravidian parties: adoption of an exaggerated sense of devotion to the imagined community of Tamils and their pristine past and their great classical heritage. By espousing the cause of Tamil Language and its alleged "antiquity"the Dravidian parties succeeded in gaining political legitimacy and electoral acceptance. The same strategy is being adopted by the parties which aim at the protection of SC rights and constitutional status. The killing of the Dalit man, Shankar who had married a Tevar girl has sent shock waves all over Tamil Nadu. This killing comes close on the heels of the murder of Elavarasan who was murdered for marrying a Vanniyar girl in Dharmapuri nearly 2 years back. Another Dalit man, Gokulraj was killed for having an "affair" with a Gounder girl near Tiruchegode in Salem District. After these killings we have the brutal hacking of Shankar by a five member gang which attached the couple after they stepped out of a shopping complex in Tiruppur. the garment capital of Tamil nadu. Apparently the girls family had opposed the marriage but the girl went ahead and married Shankar. In spite of repeated calls to the police no protection was offered to the young couple. There have been several instances of Brahmin girls marrying dalit boys and also other social groups. It is a matter of record that there has not been a single instance of "honour' killing in such cases. While the family m,ay not be very enthusiastic about the marriage, the Brahmin families show much greater tolerance. It is clear that caste violence is generally practiced by the Back ward castes and such acts of violence are generally not investigated. The Dravidian parties by encouraging the ideology of caste are in a state of denial as their politics breeds violence just as the Nazi ideology remained inherently genocidal. Indian liberals are somehow avers to accepting the link between caste based political assertion of identity and honour killing in India.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

JNU Crisis and the "Idea of India" Debate

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Jawaharlal Nehru University has been in the news for the week long student agitaion in which the leaders of the JNUSU, Shri Kannaiya Krishna and others seem to have raised slogans in favour of Afzal Guru who was executed for his role in the Parliament Attack. The electronic media, particularly NDTV and CNN-IBN have been screaming against the Central Government as though a great atrocity has happened in the University. No democratically elected Government can allow a University to glorify terrorists who have been found guilty by the highest court in the land. The video of the Press Club meet also shows a few women students shouting slogans calling for ther "barbadi" of India, destruction of India. Such barbarous attacks are not in any way related the the "Idea of India" or justified under the freedom of expression granted by the Constitution. JNU over the years has morphed into a training ground for extremists who carry their anti India attitude as a badge of honour. Right from the beginning of the University, successive Congress regimes have turned the University into a sanctuary for pro Left and pro Congress academics who justied their patronage by the State on the ground that their politics is "secular" and "anti communal". When the agitation for the Babri Mosque Issue was taking place the Department of History, of JNU issued a "fatwa" to the entire historical community stating that Rama was only a legendary character and there can be no debate on his historicity. As is often the case with JNU historians, they tried to rearrange the terms of the debate to suit their own ideological interests. No one claimed that Rama was a historical character. The debate was only on a historical fact: Did a temple exist at the site of the famous Mosque. There is no doubt now that there was indeed a Mosque and after the destruction of the domes on December 6th 1992, archaeological evidence came to light about the existence of a Vishnu temple at that site. Sir Alexander Cunningham in his Report had also drawn attention to the presence of Hindu temple pillars near the famous mosque. The fact is that JNU has been participating in high decibel controversies without much regard for the truth or evidence. Communalism is invoked as a blanket term to justify any kind of political programme, in much the same manner as the Nazi used the doctrine of racial purity. Considerations of ethics and politics are all brushed aside when an issue is labeled "communal" and the definition of what constitute communal is known only to the high priests of JNU. The ethnic cleansing of Pundits and ther large scale destruction of the life and property of Pundits from Kashmir does not constitute an atrocity in the definition of the Teachers and Students of JNU. Selective outrage and well calibrated attacks is the hall mark of JNU. I have not heard of a single protest in JNU relating to the massacre of the Sikhs organized by the Congress Party in 1984. This double standard itself exposes the hollowness of JNU claim that it represents the voice of the Indian youth. Rahul Gandhi has had some success in instigating the students on Hyderabad Central University and JNU because these"academic spaces" to use the post colonial labels of our fashionable JNU crew are already pro Congress. During the Emergency which the Congress regime under Indira Gandhi imposed, there was not a squeak of protest from JNU. In short, JNU is a pro Congress institution and it is only indulging in political gimmicky now. Unfortunately, the Narendra Modi Government for reasons best know to itself is not acting decisively. The entire Nation is appalled at the anti national activities taking place on the Campus. When question, the "intellectuals" of JNU will use post colonial labels like, Nation is only an Imagined Community. Yes, if the nation exists only in the Imagination, then everyone has the right to re imagine the Nation and pursue politics that is in tune with their changed perceptions. However, JNU has been imposing its version of Nationalism on the entire Nation. In Indian Universities, History Departments are dominated by JNU trained historians. These men and women do not allow any debate on crucial aspects of Indian history as their Manichean division between Secular and Communal Historiography is inherently anti intellectual and anti free thought. To give an example: No meaningful debate has yet happened on Partition and the complicity of the Congress in the tragic events of 1947. Similarly, no meaningful debate has happened on Nehru's misguided policy toward China which led to the War of 1962. The freedom stops when searching questions about India's past is raised. Even on the whole issue of the Arya/ Dravidian Dichotomy in India, historians like M S S Pandian who taught in the Center for Historical Studies conveniently drew sustenance from such divisive ideologies. It is time to take stock and prevent JNU from Talibanizing India by imposing its politicall charged and divisive Idea of India.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Death of Rohith Vemula: Post Colonial Angst and the State

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living On the night of January 17th 2016, a young, highly talented student of Hyderabad Central University killed himself leaving behind a note from which I have excerpted the lines given above. The death of Rohit Vemula is the 11 suicide on the Campus of the University and in none of the earlier cases was there any show of concern. In 2008, Senthil Kumar a former student of Pondicherry University who was pursuing his Ph D in Physics killed himself. His complaint was that even after 2 years a Research Supervisor was not allocated to him. In sheer frustration he killed himself. In that instance there was clear and valid grounds for holding the University accountable for neglecting deliberately or otherwise, its academic function. However the Congress was in power then and the whole controversy was hushed up. I am only pointing out to the fact that public outrage in India is getting more and more selective with political parties jumping into the fray and milking the tragedies for their own narrow partisan political ends. Since the tragedy,HCU has seen a steady spate of high profile visitors including the heir apparent of the dynastic fascist party. As someone associated with Higher Education and one who has successfully guided three scholars from the SC community for their Ph D, I think I have something to say. SC people have been discriminated and there is absolutely no feeling in the University circles of harming their interests. In fact, I have had to hold special classes in order to bridge certain shortfall particularly in the skill of academic writing and all the three Ph D scholars are teaching in Universities and colleges. SC students are sensitive and so one must not and should not draw attention to their caste in any manner. Unfortunately in the identity marinated post colonial theoretical formulations that pass off as Social Sciences, Identity is not only valorized and "foregrounded" but students are socialized to believe that there can be no justice and their efforts are doomed. The Academic Community, particularly the post colonial Social Scientists are adept at creating a miasma of hopelessness which SC students find extremely disconcerting and they start embracing identity based politics in the hope that it would deliver a better world. Unfortunately, identity politics as we now know only leads to violence and death and it is unfortunate that Rohit Vemula died and his suicide note rightly draws attention to the futility of identity politics: A man reduced to his immediate identity. The University Administration has mishandled the whole tragic affair. From published Newspaper accounts it is clear that there was a scuffle between Rohit and his Ambedkar Student Association and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The issue at hand was the alleged namaz offered by Rohit and his friends to Yakub Menmon, the terrorist who was executed for his role in the Bombay Blasts that killed 185 people. The constant need to take adversarial positions in the name of fighting "majoritariaism" is a sine qua non of Campus politics of the sort HCU is now acquiring a global reputation. By no stretch of the imagination is protest against the execution of a convicted terrorist a right of a student. Even so, the University could have been more circumspect. Since the Vice Chancellor, one Sharma was laying down office and a new one, Appa Rao was to take charge, the matter was kept pending. In the meanwhile the ABVP student who was allegedly roughed up, underwent a surgery which was probably related to if not triggered by the result of the assault. The Union Labour Minster Shri Datatreya was approached and he wrote a letter in which he drew attention to the protest organized by ASA against the hanging of Yakub. His letter in no way can be construed as an interference in the University as he only sought information about the action taken. If the University had just written saying that an Inquiry was constituted and the guilty were identified and punished, the matter would have ended there. Instead, the University just sat on the letters by not replying and in late September 2015, one Appa Rao, at the behest of Shri Venkaiah Naidu was appointed. If there is anyone individual to be blamed it was this man. Unfortunately, the BJP as a Party and the Central Government are being dragged into this mess because of the stupidity of this one man, Appa Rao. Instead of just saying that the students have been suspended he again sat on the letters from the Ministry. Meanwhile as is routine MHRD kept sending letters and each was escalating the level of official response. Appa Rao constituted yet another Inquiry and decided to rusticate 5 students including Rohit Vemula. The legitimacy for this course of action was given by the so called Proctorial Board. Appa Rao mis handled the situation and has created a huge crisis for the BJP and the Central Government. When earlier the stdents were suspended, now they were thrown out of the Hostle and their fellowship cut. This ignorant vice chancellor did not allow himself any escape route and is now dragging the Hon'ble Minister of Education into the mess he has created. The student Rohit Vemula identified himself as an SC belonging to the Malla caste to which his mother belonged. His father was from another caste. His identity as an SC student is clearly proved by the certificate he produced and so to evade accountability by bringing in the caste of his father is both cruel and unnecessary. His father had deserted the family very early in life and the mother had brought him up. Now the scholarship is important because every SC student that I have taught sends a major chunk of the fellowship to the family back home. Obviously Appa Rao was unaware of the implications of his decisions and he like most University administrators had a thick skin and head. It will not help to muddy the waters by now claiming that Rohit was not an SC. I do not use the term dalit ans it creates more confusion. SC and ST are legal and constitutional terms, not dalit. Dalit identity is a constructed identity not a natural one as Rohit realized just before his death. HCU has had a history of discriminating against SC students and this is clearly established by the fact that out of the 11 suicides over as many years 10 belonged to the SC category and one Muslim. Unfortunately the hegemonic post colonial discourse in Indian Universities will rob SC people of the ability to understand and conceptualize the existential situation they face and even deprive them of the ability to fight back claiming the legal protection given by the State. The post colonial trash bags in the form of social scientists who promote their individual agenda in Universities are essentially to be blamed.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Supreme Court and the antics of the BJP in Tamil Nadu: Why Jallikkattu Ban is lifted

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books More than seven years ago this blogger and several animal rights activists welcome the Suprem Court banning the cruel sport of Jallikkattu, or Bull Taming. The fact that this invented tradition of bull taming has become the symbol of Tamil pride and identity, is unfortunate, but true. There is unanimity across all political parties in Tamil Nadu on this singular issue. There is no unanimity on even important issues like education, medical infrastructure and social reform. But all the political parties have united in welcoming the ban on Jallikkatta being surreptitiously lifted. Seven years back the Supreme Court of India is an extraordinarily detailed and splendid judgement had laid out the case against this inhuman sport and correctly argued that the state had a responsibility to protect animal rights, This enhanced and expanded vision of Rights entered Indian Jurisprudence with this important Judgement. I do not believe in dividing issues on grounds of identity, gender and politics. Animals have rights and I truly believe that it is socially and morally repugnant to harm animals for religious or social purposes and I include the Moslem practice of Bakrid too in this. The Animal Welfare Board of India had filed the original writ against Jallikkattu and the Supreme Court had upheld the ban. It correctly dismissed the argument that the Sport is part of "tradition". It is a fact that Jallikkattu does not find mention in any of the ancient and medeival inscriptions and onlyin the eighteenth century we fins d some stray references to this sport. So the argument that is is an integral part of Tamil Society falls through and tradition cannot be invoked to defend the indefensible. I am of the opinion that the Kallkars and Maravars pastroral groups became the bulwark of the Telugu dominated Nakaka Kingdoms of the region. As these grups transited to state societies in the late sixteenth century a number of new practices were introduced and among them, Jallikkattu. Therefore it is a travesty of historical truth to argue that this senseless and barbaric ritual is a part of "Dravidian" custom. The missionaries of the London Mission Society who were primarily responsible for bringing the word of God to these parts railed against another primitive custom, hook swinging and it was banned. After the victory of the Dravidian parties in 1967 hook swinging has enjoyed a revival and all the important "talaivars" of the Party enjoy hookswinging done in their honour. Therefore given the regressive social climate spawned by the Dravidian movement, it is no great wonder that Jallikkattu is also given so much importance. The real reason for the BJP Minister putting pressure on the Ministry of Forest and Environment to amend the rules for the use of performing animals is political: It wants to create a vote bank among the Mukulothor castes, a cluster of 3 castes, the Maravar, the Kallar and the Agambadiyar which call themselves Thevar today. And in this the BJP is both wrong and mistaken. In fact because of this stupid move, the Nadar vote bank will be lost to the BJP. Though I am quite sympathetic to the BJP, I condemn this regressive move.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Chennai Floods, Water Management and the wisdom of the Madras Presidency Administrators: The Buckingham Canal

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books
The recent devastation caused by the phenomenal floods in the city of Madras caused large scale loss of life and property. The entire city was almost submerged by the surging waters and parts of the city, particularly along the watercourses were significantly inundated. To make matters worse nearly 34,000 cu secs of water was released from the Chennambbakam Tank without prior warning as the storage capacity of the tank was reaching the high-water mark. There was a fear of the tank breaching and so water was released and the nearby Puzhal Tank breached leading to flooding in Madipakkam and Pallikaranai. Only people living in high rise buildings were comparatively safe as the ground floor was completely submerged in large swathes of the city. Out of the nearly 3000 water bodies documented in the City of Chennai, more than half have been encroached by builders and the rapid unplanned urbanization of Chennai has led to the decline of the environment and the recent floods had demonstrated that Chennai was living on borrowed time. It must be clear to everyone that had the Buckingham Canal been allowed to function the large scale floods could have been avoided. The rulers of Independent India deliberately neglected the Buckingham Canal because they were enamored of dams which were considered the "temples of modern India". The blind rush toawrds industrialization resulted in the Buckingham canal being neglected and the 786 km canal has all but disappeared. Even in the 2001 Tsunami the vestige of the one kilometer wide canal which stretched from Markanam to Kakinada in the East Godavari District absorbed the shock of the waves and thereby protected part of the coastline. The worst damage was in the areas south of the canal.The history of the canal began in 1817 when a 11 kilomwter canal was constructed from Madras to Ennore. Gradually the canal was extended to Pulicat and during the devastating famine of 1877-79 the canal was constructed as famine relief work. Historical documents show that in the late 19th century rice was sent from Godavari region to Madras along the canal. As the cost of transportation by water was always cheaper, Madras as Chennai was then known, received its grain due to the canal. The canal was a life line for the people of the region. Independence meant that the administrative jurisdiction of the canal was fragmented and the whole project was allowed to decay. The canal was joined to the Adyar River and thereby a natural system of drainage came into existence. Had the Adyar River been dredged and the flow of water kept without major impediment, the damage in the recent floods could have been avoided. The Buckingham Canal took nearly a century of effort and Independent India as a nation run by corrupt people without wisdom allowed this great feat of engineering to decay.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Donald Trump and his Muslim exclusion comment: Why this fuss?

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomavy and Books Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential candidate, seems to have outrage the liberal public opinion with his comment that people from Muslim countries should be barred from entering the USA until America leadership figure out "what the hell is happening". This comment during the course of an election rally ought not to have created such a huge international controversy. What he says for getting votes from his constituents is of concern only to the US citizens, I am commenting on this statement only to expose the hypocrisy of his opponents. USA has practiced racially profiled exclusion ever since the establishment of the first settlements in New England. There was racially sanctioned slavery for over 300 years and even the Civil War was fought not to liberate the slaves but to defend the Union and the abolition of slavery as a war aim was proclaimed only as a strategic move in order to make the plantation workers/slaves rise in revolt. Generations of White historians have interpreted American History keeping the ideological objectives of USA in mind. During the COld War period USA was the leader of the "free world" as though the rest of the world was "unfree".Now the rhetoric of social inclusion is dominant and yet no one seems concerned that USA follows a policy of excluding the Spanish speaking Mexican from their territories and except for cheap labour the Spanish speaking people are not valued for anything else. No outrage over the proposed legislation which would identify illegal immigrants and repatriate them back to their home countries, breaking up families exactly like the slave laws once did. My purpose is not to suggest that USA IS SOME KIND OF A DEMON. It is only to put some perspective on Trump's remarks. USA has a system in which the Federal Government is the only empowered agency to regulate entry into the US and the adherence to International Law is questionable. We need only to recollect the instances of the "extra ordinary rendition", the attempted assassination of foreign leaders, the trumped up charges against Saddam Hussein and armed intervention in Libya are only some of the more egregious examples of US banditry. To top all this USA had the gall to put our Hon'ble Prime Minster on the exclusion list and ever one kept quiet. What Donald Trump has said comes from the same mind set that led to all the instances I have cited above. Historically too USA has imprisoned its own population in concentration camps on mere suspicion during World War II and still no reparations have been given to the interned population of Hawaii and California. It is sheer madness to condemn Donald Trump. If he is elected he has everyright to exclude whole populations on the grounds of national security and USA has been following this policy.