Friday, September 7, 2018

The Idol Thief The True Story of the Looting of India's Temples

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Idol Thief: The True Story of the Looting of India's Temples
S Vijay Kumar
New Delhi: Juggernaut, 2018.

The Idol Thief
The book The Idol Thief is an account of the nefarious, though highly successful crime spree of Subash Kapoor, a New York based art dealer who was responsible for looting and smuggling out of India more than 200 metal and stone sculptures to USA, France UK and other countries. There was a time when the offices of the white world was not complete without a Chola Nataraja standing incongruously in the meeting rooms and board rooms. Display of looted art from the non white world was seen as a mark of Education and refined taste and American multi millionaires like Rockefeller and others paid huge sums of money for the acquisition of plundered Indian art. And in India, there was hardly any awareness or even recognition that large scale smuggling of Indian antiquities was the only growth industry that the country could boast of. The Archaeological Survey of India which is the Government agency mandated to protect, preserve and conserve the cultural heritage of India was often complicit is proving the documents that facilitated such illegal transfer of cultural property. As the legal custodian of Indian antiquities, ASI often certified genuine Chola bronzes as modern imitations and after the antiquities reached the destination, usually a rich white nation, there were experts who re validated the art genuine and Auction Houses like Southey's were in the game of selling such stolen antiques by providing documents of provenance and ownership by which the law could be subverted. This game has been going on for a long time and only after the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the Government of India tightened its mechanism and has succeeded in repatriating no less than 30 pieces of stolen art.

Vijay Kumar is an executive in a shipping company based in Singapore and has written a well researched book on the art smuggling network of Kapoor who is now in jail in India.  The modus operandi of this art smuggler was very simple. He identified ruined Chola temples using S R Balasubramanium's excellent catalogue of Chola temples published in 3 volumes--Early, Middle and Late Chola Temples. Once identified, a set of men were deployed to break into the temple steal the metal utsava murthis stored in the store room and they were sent in containers to Hong Kong or Singapore for onward transport to USA. It is extremely fortunate that an immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who is called Indy to safeguard his identity came on to the seen and he meticulously followed up every clue. It must be said that USA is extremely diligent in tracking down stolen art and if the case of Roxanne Brown is anything to go by, pursues its quarry even to the point of death.

Subash Kapoor lived well and accumulated a large army of angry women who were waiting for an opportunity to turn him in. And when the suspicion that he was involved in the robbery and illegal export of the Nataraja idols from Vriddhachalam hit the headlines one of his jilted lovers alerted the Indian Government and an Iterpol red corner alert was issued and Kapoor was apprehended.

This is a well written and interesting book.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Muthuvel Karunanidhi and his Politics of Hate Identity and Corruption

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Muthuvel Karunanidhi (1924-2018) was a politician par excellence. A gifted orator in what is called medai Tamil (Platform Tamil) he was elected to the State Assembly 13 times and has the record of not being defeated in a single election. He became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the death of C N Annadurai who led the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam to a resounding victory in 1967 after defeating the Congress. In fact even the stalwart Kamaraj faced the humiliation of defeat and Tamil Nadu has remained thankfully Congress Mukth since.  Karunanidhi out maneuvered the chosen successor of Annadurai, Nedunzhelian who was the Finance Minister and the de facto Number 2 in the Cabinet. Karunanidhi was the Public Works Department Minister and was in the fourth position. Deft political moves, timely alliances and a relentless drive for power made Karunanidhi successful in the race. Having acquired the post, Karunanidhi went on to be the Chief Minister for 3 full terms. He was also dismissed, once by Indira Gandhi and again once by the interim Prime Minister, Chandrasekar. Karunanidhi had two very important qualities which saw him through. First, he was not encumbered with moral scruples of any sort. Second, he was an indefatigable worker capable of long hours of arduous work and had a fantastic memory for texts, faces and names. It is said that he remembered the names of all the prominent leaders of the party from across the state.

Karunanidhi was the product of the Non Brahmin Movement which saw the coalition of all intermediate landed castes and kin groups and communities uniting against a minuscule minority, the brahmins. Accusing the brahmins of being Aryan, an absurd and  an absolutely disingenuous assertion, the Justice Party and later the Dravida Kagzhagam launched a vicious campaign of terror against the Brahmins. This was also the time when Fascism was ruling Europe and many of the techniques used by the anti brahmmin Movement were directly copied from the play book of the Nazis. Brahmin women were harassed on the roads when they went around their daily work. Brahmin priests who wore the tuft were forcibly deprived of their tufts and men who were suspected of wearing the janevu (sacred thread) were forcibly made to remove it. Such atrocities had a permanent impact on the brahmin psyche and I dare say it has not healed until this day. Upon, the death of Karunanidhi some commentators asked why there is no visible sense of loss felt among the brhmains. A simple answer to that question is that Israel will not mourn for Hitler. A racist attack against a small insignificant minority in the name of a glorious imagine civilization of the dravidian people was the hallmark of Karunanidhi and his mentor. After the DMK came to power discrimination against Brahmins became institutionalized and public employment became impossible and many families, including mine, just left Tamil Nadu. The Indian liberal who is quick to point out instances of discrimination, is silent when it comes to the systematic exclusion of brahmins from the public sphere in Tamil Nadu. It will be accurate to say that there has been no brahmin MP from Tamil Nadu for the past 50 years except Venkataraman. No brahmin Minister of Vice Chancellor for the past 60 years. Such systematic persecution is a crime against humanity.

Caste politics was buttressed by the meanest kind of rent seeking. Government contracts were given only to persons who would plough back the proceeds to the Party and the first family. Right from the start, the DMK has practiced corruption as an attribute of statecraft. The TNPSC became for all intents and purposes a collection house for the DMK. A fixed sum of money was collected from the aspirants for government posts. A Class I Officers post carried a premium of around 50 lakhs and a constable carried a price tag of around 3 to 5 lakhs. Medical Education and Technological became increasingly privatized. The anti NEET agitation is only a reflection of the staranglehold acquired by politicians on professional education.

Karunanidhi led a very colourful personal life and that does not concern me. As our Lord and Saviour has said: Judge Not, Lest ye be judged. However, the fact that his two sons are openly contesting each other for both the Party and the Moohla that goes with it shows that private decisions can have public consequences. The manner in which his third son, M K Stalin alias Ayyadurai choreographed the public spectacle of Karunanidhi's funeral by completely air brushing his elder brother Alagirio from all public appearances shows that funerals in Dravidianist Tamil Nadu are a political theatre. Stalin received the Prime Minister and was shown in public as the Chief Mourner, accompanying his fathers body to the burial site and this has consolidated the public sympathy in favour of Stalin. I do not know if Alagiri will be able to recover.

Corruption Crime and Communal incitement were not the only arrows in the quiver of Karunanidhi. He flirted with the LTTE and when he was in power in the early 1990s the LTTE had acquired a free run over Tamil Nadu. The Kodambakkam Massacre in Zakharia Garden is proof of the absolute breakdown of law and order in the tenure of Karunanidhi. The assasins were allowed free passage to Vedaranyam from where a waiting dingy took them to Sri Lanka. And to prevent him from talking, the DGP, Durai was silenced.

The end of Karunanidhi brings to a close a dangerous and socially repugnant chapter in the history of India. Identity politics in the name of Race, Language, Caste, Creed were all weapons used for political patronage and power. I do not think Alagiri or Stalin possess the same level of chutzpah.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Vice Chancellor Remembers: J A K Tareen:Man Mission and Autobiography

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Prof Tareen's Autobiography
Professor J A K Tareen is a remarkable man: a great educator, a gifted scientist and a committed builder of Institutions. I have had the honour of serving with him and I can say that he has risen to eminence in his chosen field by dint of determination, hard work and his ability to lead and persevere. In Kashmir University where he served as Vice Chancellor for a full term of three years, he braved the threat of militants and others and by the time he left a non functioning University was transformed into one with "A" Grade accreditation by NAAC.  That in itself is no mean achievement. In Pondicherry University, he is still remembered as a visionary Vice Chancellor whose commitment to the institution is visible in the form of the Silver Jubilee Campus which he envisaged and developed. During his stewardship of the University, the NAAC accorded it the "A" Grade. Institution building, Infrastructure development, building up student enrollment are all the main policy directions that Prof Tareen is known for. Apart from his qualities as a gifted and dynamic administrator he is a warm hearted person and I can say that during his reign in Pondicherry University, and it was a reign in the true sense of the word, he knew each and every employee from a gardening staff to the senior teachers, HoDs and Deans by name. Hard work and a driving energy was behind his success. I enjoyed reading the book and true to his generous nature, he has complimented my contribution to the University during his tenure. Now I move on to his life.

Professor Tareen calls himself a "barefoot" boy. A reference to the fact that he was brought up by his Mother and other well wishers. There are frequent references to the extended network of relatives who flit in and out of Tareen's life. He studies in Mysore University and in the 1960s he, and it is a remarkable admission on the part of Professor J A K Tareen that his entry into the world of High Academia was facilitated by the role played by the non brahmin leader, Professor Naidu who was an "acclaimed non brahmin" leader. A larger question remains to be answered. Does a talented dedicated and undoubtedly motivated scientist like Prof Tareen require the patronage of a non brahmin leader. Similarly he says that his promotion to the rank of a full Professor was cleared by a dalit Vice Chancellor. Unfortunately identity politics has become part of the very fabric of Indian political and institutional life and Tareen quite clearly recognizes that.

In Pondicherry University, Professor Tareen transformed a defeated and demoralized University into a first rate one and it got the "A" grade in the accreditation. One controversy erupted after he left and was probably instigated by a disgruntled member who fancied that such targeting of Tareen would get him kudos from the current dispensation. He was accused of Islamization of the university. The ministry wanted a factual report and I was the Chairman of the Committee along with 2 other members. We studies the issue and presented a Report and there was no further problem after that. Sab ke saat sab ka Vikas is not a mere slogan and is a reality. While it is fashionable to blame the Central Giovernment, I must say that people are often victims of false perception purveyed by the media. We showed quite clearly on the basis of facts and figures that there was no disproportionate appointment of poersons belonging to the identity group of Tareen. And we also proved that no place had been set aside for collective rituals of identity assertion as alleged in the complaint.

One issue rankles Professor Tareen. He says I think with some regret that he is not a member of any of the # Scientific bodies of India, INSA and the other two. One of Tareen's predecessor was a member of all 3 and I can say with certainty that he was a thoroughbred criminal and Tareen spent much of his time cleaning up after that terrible man left the University. I am happy that Professor Tareen is not in the company of contemptible rascals like the one I alluding to.

The book is an interesting read and anyone interested in the challenges faced by higher education in India must read it. I for one for tonnes of respect for Tareen and enjoyed his book. As he enters the twilight of his years I wish him Health and Fortune.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi defeats the vote of No Confidence: Some Implications for 2019

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

 There was never a moment of doubt that the Central Government headed by Narendra Modi would defeat the No Confidence Motion put forward by the Telugu Desam Party and supported by the Indian National Congress. Sonia Gandhis unexpected announcement that she had the numbers brought back memories of 1999 when she made a similar claim and the Prime Minister drew pointed attention to that. Was there a need to introduce a Vote of No Confidence? The Economy is chugging along at a steady clip of around 7.5 to 8%. Unemployment though high there has been a steady growth in the job market. Industrial production is rising and Foreign Direct Investment is also heading northwards. So all in all there is no great urgency to push forward an agenda of "regime change". However, with the Indian National Congress and other dynasty obsessed political factions logic and national interest take a second place to impulsive politically short sighted and, as it is clear from this particular instance, a suicidal race to political disaster, perhaps even extinction. Vote of No Confidence in a Parliamentary Democracy is a serious business and is a weapon that must be deployed only in the gravest of situations.

Rahul Gandhi's speech for nearly an hour was full of sound and fury and it signified nothing except that he exposed his political immaturity before the entire Nation. He made a serious allegation of political corruption against Narendra Modi with regard to the Rafael deal which was refuted by the French Government spokesman  even as the debate raged in the House. Rahul Gandhi alleged that the Government is shying away from disclosing the price of the aircraft as it wants to hide the price escalation. The fact is that the UPA Government itself has signed a no disclosure Agreement and so the Defense Minister was able to prove the falsity of Rahul Gandhis attack.He further made allegations raising questions over the demonetization drive and the surgical strike against terrorist training camps located across the Line of Control in Pakistan held part of Kashmir. Rahul Gandhi used a particularly offensive term. "Jumla".

In the vernacular language the word Jumla is used as sarcastic way of trivializing an accomplishment done with great difficulty and earnestness. Jumla is always associated with a task seriously performed and earnestly executed. Use of the word to denote the heroic efforts of the Indian Army to combat terrorism will not go well with the electorate. After his rambling dis oriented speech, Rahul walked over to the Prime Minister's seat and hugged him, a clear breach of Parliamentary protocol. And after resuming his seat Rahul Gandhi started winking at the Prime Minister another major violation of protocol and parliamentary decorum. The whole nation watched aghast at this awful display of dynastic arrogance and a concerted calculated effort to humiliate the Prime Minister on the floor of the House. In fact, the behavior of Rahul Gandhi will cost the Congress party and its allies votes in the 2019 General Elections.

After the vapid performance of Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister spoke and he completely ripped apart the false charges made by the insensitive and immature Rahul Gandhi. As usual, the Prime Minister lit into the dynastic scion by flagging the obvious fact that he is holding his office by virtue of his service to the people and not by birth. Calling himself a Kaamdaar not a Naamdaar, Modi mocked the Ganddhis by saying that he dare not see the Gandhis in the eye and he drew attention to the numerous instances when the Congress Party humiliated the Prime Ministers by offering support and then withdrawing it at the last moment: Charan Singh, Deve Gowda and I K Gujral were all victims of the power lust of the Congress party. The stellar performance of the Prime Minster resulted in the No Confidence vote being rejected.
The implications of the Lok Sabha vote need to be examined. 325 votes were cast in favor of the NDA Government and this is 11 vote more than the combined strength of the NDA in the Lok Sabha. I think that the tempo will now pick up for the next elections. Having won the vote of confidence, Narendra Modi may go in for an early elections and I predict that the BJP will get around 305 seats on its own.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin Summit at Helsinki, Finland

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

An extraordinary event happened in Helsinki two days back and the American Media seems to have been caught completely off guard.  The world's two most powerful men met in the Finnish capital Helsinki in order to iron out the differences between them, From Newspaper reports it appears that all the hot spots around the world, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Ukraine were all discussed and Isreal and its security was also discussed. No official communique was issued at the end of the talks so we have to depend only on information from the two sides. The American press and its Academic leaders even went to the extent of terming this meeting and the conclusions that followed as "treason". The establishment Republicans like Jon Mccain and Democrats were quick to denounce the Press Meet that followed as :disgraceful" "cowardly" and Hussein Obama was full of invective against the attempt to bring Russia back into the world system.

The fact is that the Intelligence Community--CIA, NSA --have all been extremely hostile to Donal Trump and have at times even tried to undermine him and his foreign policy. Such acts certainly lead to the suspicion that the Deep State in the US is operating through the Intelligence Media nexus. Trump has sought to lessen the tensions between USA and Russia and there is nothing wrong in this objective. Ukraine where a fascist regime has been propped up by the West is the cause for all the strain. And Crimea was integrated into the Russia state after following internationally accepted norms of self determination. The American Media and its liberal establishment cannot decide the future of world relations and Trump was certainly within his right to set the foreign policy agenda as he is the constitutionally mandated authority, Where does the charge of treason come? And intelligence agencies in no Democracy are allowed to set foreign policy goals. American Media trotted out the so called betrayal of the Intelligence Community. Since when did the Intelligence Agencies get the authority to conduct foreign policy.

The American Intelligence Agencies did not cover themselves with glory as they were responsible for cooking up a false case against Iraq on the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the whole of the Middle East is in a state of crisis following the collapse of the Baath regime in Iraq. I would even say that by concocting a false narrative the American agencies have shown that they are complicit with the Deep State. Second, the 9/11 attacks in September 2001 were carried out by Sunni extremists trained and financed by Saudi Arabia. USA has now sold 100 billion dollars worth of military equipment to the Saudis which is being used to kill people in Yemen. Trump is trying to make peace and the Deep State in the uSA is trying to thwart that effort.

In his Inauguration Address Trump spoke of the American Carnage. The Deep State and its minions were deeply offended by the speech for this explicit reference.  When Hussein Obama was the President the drone warfare and bombings were at the rate of one bomb every four minutes. And Trump for all his less than sensible public statments has not repeated the American Carnage though he has not been able to stop it fully.

I think there is no reason to suggest Trumps desire for some kind of rapprochement with Russia as treason. The American media is doing great disservice to its own people by misinforming them about what is happening on the world stage. THe President's remarks about the hacking of the elections came as a response to an impertinent question from an American reporter about the Hacking of the elctions. Is American democracy so fragile that it can be hijacked by 12 hackers sitting in Russia. Trup rightly said that the FBI has not been able to recover the DNC servers or the 33,000 emails which were deleted from Hilary Clinton's account. Where is the treason in placing facts before the public. The US media has become so partisan that it does not want to face facts.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Recent Political Controversies in India

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Indian political controversies have a flavour of its own. Issues flare up like shooting stars across the evening sky and burn up as attention is focused on them. However,some serious issues have been flagged in the recent past.

First, the involvement of the Missionaries of Charity in child trafficking has led to a huge public outcry. More than 450 babies, born perhaps to unwed mothers in the Jharkand state have gone missing. It is suggested that several of them were "sold" to couples but the Missionaries of Charity has no explanation to offer about the missing children. Due to its iconic status in India public outrage has been muted. What the sister of the Missionaries of Charity did, and in particular, Sister Concelia, is beyond doubt reprehensible. Added to this is the scandal that has now enveloped the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Kerala. A bishop has been accused of raping, yes, a nun and the entire hierarchy seems to have comedown in defense of the priest. In addition, there are crimes of passion including murder that several priests belonging to the Roman Catholic order face. A Jesuit priest allegedly killed another priest over a dispute.

Sashi Tharoor who is now on bail for the murder of his third wife Sunanda Pushkar  made a statement that India is becoming a "Hindu Pakistan". At the face of it, this statement is absurd but the intent behind the statement is clear:the dynastic fascists are seeking to polarize the electorate by consolidating Moslem vote bank while simultaneously making inroads in the BJP support base by encouraging caste based voting. This strategy is dangerous as it would either give the dynastic fascists a huge electoral victory or push the NDA to an unassailable  victory. Such statements have been made by Congress leaders in the past. During the time of Hafiz Syed inspired attack on Mumbai in 2008, the Congress leaders started a campaign that it was a "saffron terror" attack.In other words they tried to deflect the responsibility to the BJP and its allies. This campaign was further bolstered by the deliberate misrepresentation of the Israt Jehan Encounter as a planned murder done at the behest of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat. The fact that was suppressed is that the LeT terrorist David Colemen Headley had clearly indicated to his interlocutors that Israt Jehan was trained as a suicide bomber who had been tasked take out the Chief Minister of Gujarat then. Using identity politics and creating a false narrative around Moslem fears led to the Partition of the country and the dynastic fascists still seem to be innocent of its implications.

Mohammad Ansari, the Vice President nominee of the Congress and its allies has made a statement in which he supported the "triple talaq" and Halala rape indulged by sections of the Moslem society residing in India. The later refers to the practice of women spending a night in the company of a moulvi before she rejoins her husband after a triple talaq. The BJP led Government wants to bring in legislation that would outlaw such practices and Ansari instead of supporting these progressive policies decided to oppose them. Moslem identity politics generally takes the form and shape of a consolidated Moslem population vs an Indian Polulation. In fact, educated Moslems have long given up these practices and even in Muslim counties like Pakistan, such customs have long disappeared. The Muslim community in India is kept in a dark ghetto by its political backers who want only its vote in order to defeat the BJP. Playing on the fears, usually misplaced fears and pandering to the most reactionary and fundamentalist opinion has become the mainstay of Congress electoral strategy.

Will such identity based polarization work.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Vice President, Hon'ble Venkaiah Naidu in Pondicherry University

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Vice President of India, Hon ble Shri Venkaiah Naidu who is also the Chancellor of Pondicherry University visited the University and it was a memorable occasion. The Vice President has earned a place in Indian public life which is unique. With his vast erudition and scintillating wit he kept the audience consisting of the Faculty and Students of the University spell bound for nearly an hour. An excellent orator with a penchant for alliterative expressions the Vice President drove home the message of hard work, honesty and dedicated service to the Motherland with passion as the mantra for success in life. His own life from Nellore exemplifies the path of democracy. It shows that India, in spite of its inherent weakness for dynastic fascism provides the space for grass root politicians like Shri Venkaiah Naidu to reach the second highest constitutional position in India. Humorously the Vice President stated that apart from hard work the factor that helped was his commitment to a single party.
Add captionShri Venkaiah Naidu in the Executive Council Hall
Before the programme began, the Vice Chancellor of the University Professor Gurmeet Singh made a presentation the the Vice President who is also the Chancellor of the University about the progress made by the University. The brief but well prepared presentation highlighted all the important aspects of the University and it is hope that the University will be recognized as an Institution of Eminence. 

The Vice President addressed a packed JN Auditorium which was crammed with students. What was so striking about this eminent personality is his utter simplicity. He made everyone feel at home and he addressed the students in a manner which pleasant and admirable. He urged the students to work had and stressed the demographic dividend due to the fact that more the 50% of the population of India is less than 35 years of age. This young population has opportunities provided it had the skills. He drew attention to the various schemes of the BPJ Government which emphasizes Skill Development and he also mentioned the flagship initiative of Start Up India, Stand Up India. Shri Venkaiah Naidu stressed the importance of education in the Mother tongue.

The University which was the venue of the meeting with Hon ble Vice President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu worked with clockwork precision. The arrangement were all made in a meticulous manner. The Vice President who has a good sense of humor was reminded  that July 1st was his birthday and he said that he had forgotten about it until the Prime Minister's tweet wishing him went viral. The horrible issue of "rapes and violence against women" was referred to by the Vice President and he drew pointed attention to the Nirbhaya Tragedy. He said that such crimes not only bring a bad name to India and is against the very ethos of Indian culture but was also against the tradition of India which always respected women; Durga for Defence, Lakshmi for finance and Saraswathi for education.

I was deeply impressed with the Vice President. He carried himself with poise and elan. There is a distinct radiance about him which attests to the fact that he lives the ideals that he stands for and advocates.