Saturday, November 21, 2015

Killing of the Old and the Aged in Tamil Nadu: Talaikuthal, a savage tradition

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Tamil Nadu is generally regarded as a progressive state with an "empowered" population, thanks to the Dravidian Movement. It is customary in Tamil Nadu to credit the Dravidian Movement for all progressive measures such as nationalization of Temple property, abolition of hereditary priesthood in Hindu Temples, stranglehold of the dominant agrarian castes over the political structure of the state, and the use of Tamil as the official language. Few people, especially the so called liberals and the progressives, do not realize that the Dravidian Movement brought in a highly intolerant society which was anti Hindu and anti Brahmin, in much the same way as the Nazi movement in Germany was ant Semitic. The exclusion of Brahmins from the civil society and cultural life of Tamil Nadu has resulted in a debasement of the very fabric of Tamil society. Today anti Dalit atrocities are particularly rampant in Tamil Nadu and the landed agrarian castes which are essentially the dominant backward castes are seldom punished for the human rights violations that they carry out. Indeed, human rights hardly exists in Tamil Nadu given the preponderance of political and administrative power enjoyed by the backward castes. This weeks nnews magazine called The Week (Nov 22, 2015) has exposed an ugly social practice that prevails in Tamil Nadu and it is time that the Central Government took note of this custom and instituted steps to prevent it. I have always wondered why there are no old people in Tamil Nadu. The c=state is no country for the Old and the infirm. The Week has exposed a horrible practice of talaikutal which prevails in Tami Nadu. According to the news magazine,the old are put to death in Tamil Nadu by the members of their immediate family, especially if they do not have independent means of financial support. A leisurely bath is administered and after that some poison is given in milk or tea and the old person is killed. This practice of talaikuthal seems to have social sacntion as there are no investigations if an old person dies. The magazine highlighted the case of a 92 year old woman from the village of Reddiapatti who was put to death by administering a lethal injection after the more traditional methods failed. Nowadays, pesticides and sleeping pills are used to kill the aged and the infirm. It has been reported that the village quacks willingly participate in such socially accepted and sanctioned senicide. When the English East India Company was battling the scourge of female infanticide in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, they empowered the Collectors to imprison anyone suspected of being involved in the killing of female babies, As a step to contain and discourage the practice of female infanticide the East India Company officers were required to register the pregnancy of women in their jurisdiction and monitor the birth of the child and if the child happened to be a girl child ensure its survival. In a similar manner the old must be regitered in Tamil Naduand if the death happens to be suspicious police invstigation must be launched. Tamil Nadu is fast losing its reputation of being a progressive state.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Harbans Mukia and his Critique of Indian Historiography

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books In the Hindu dated 27th October 2015, Professor Harbans Mukhia published a scathing critique of Indian historiography and with the hyperbole that comes naturally to the Left Liberals he terms the present political situation as a threat to "historiography". Is there any substance to this argument? It has become a fashion to decry the nationalists in and out of season and even if the nationalists are absolutelu quiet, it appears that the liberals would like a dog fight. For the past sixty five years, India has not seen any major shift in the paradigm within which History is debated: Communal versus Secular, Marxist versus the rest. Such contrived debates do little either to the profession of History or to the tasks that Historians have to perform in their societies. As memory keepers, Historians play a vital role in ensuring that the past does not become a victim of Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. In India, we have seen a concerted attempt at rewriting the past keeping the objectives of the Nation State of 1947 in mind and as a consequence Indian Historiography is truncated and distorted. Can we study Kushana History without taking the larger context of Eurasia into consideration. Similarly can one study the Delkhi Sultanate without taking the Mongol context and how can one study the so called "Slave" dynasty without looking at the fact that the same Selujek Turks ruled Persia and Anatolia around the same time. My argument is simple: Indian historians rushed in to manufacture a so called National Secular Historiography and enshrimed that in the portals of the University and any attempt to question it was lampooned as "communal" and "reactionary". Can we forget the manner in which stalwarts ofIndian Historiography like Sir Jadunath Sarkar and R C Majumdhar were deliberately set aside as "Rankean" and "Reactionary". Mercifully Dipesh Chakravorthy has in his Calling of History studied the towering work of Sarkar. The need to satisfy the left of Center regime that came into power with Indiara Gabdhi in 1971 resulted in a virtual moratorium on debate in Indian History. The agenda of Historical Research was now set by the Left which was keen on looking at social and economic history to the exclusion of Political History. R S Sharma's highly original intervention in Indian Feudalism made historians discover feudalism everywhere. The appropriation of Indian Historiography entirely by the Left made meaningful debate impossible. For example, at the theoretical level, one must investigate the notion of feudalism as a metaphor for the medieval period as a whole. It has become passe to invoke James Mill and admonish anyone who seeks to ask searching questions as a blind adherent of the "colonial" school. The Left Liberals captured the UGC through Professor Satish Chnadra, the Ministry of Education through Professor Nurul Hassan and theICHR through Professor R S Sharma and his students. While the House of History has many rooms, Indian Historians stated letting out the rooms only to their shosen tenants and turned the MANSION OF HISTORY into a mere appartment block. The fall of the Congress Government has created the climate for new questions to be asked and these questions have remained ignored for the past several decades. For example is the Arayan/ Dravidian dichotomy a valid premise for early history of India. Similarly, did Sanskrit as a language serve only the instruments of religion and power or was there as Sheldom Pollock points out, there was a Sanskrit Cosmopolis. These question remain unanswered inspite of nearly seventy years of socalled research. The Left Liberals were guily of hounding the dissidents to the point of death. Harbans Mukhia himself was a victim of the intolerance of th Left and he should remember. The manner in which the Bhatariya Vidhya Bhavan series was ridiculed by these scholars goes to prove their intolerance. The Let Liberals have finally realized that sarkari historiography with a post colonial flavour will not wash.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Supreme Court of India and the Judgement on NJAC

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The Indian Constitution envisaged a Parliamentary Democracy in India and over the years, thanks largely to the unmitigated abuse of power and corruption of successive Central Governments, particularly the Congress Party and its Allies, the political system as it presently states is viewed with suspicion by the rest of the country. The decline in the legitimacy of the political institutions has led to un elected elements like the CAG, the EC and quasi autonomous bodies to relegated a degree of freedom to themselves which was not envisaged on desirable in a democratic country. The Judiciary has always been a law unto itself as it does not subject itself to any scrutiny and of late, THE CREDIBILITY OF EVEN THE SUPERIOR judiciary has been called into question. A few years back there was a raging controversy over a Chief Justice, and the matter about his involvement in certain judgments still lingers on. The Constitution states quite clearly that the Executive which is accountable to Parliament must have a major say in the appointment of justices. It was Indira Gandhi's fascist talk of "committed judiciary" that alarmed the Judiciary and as the Central Government became weak under an assortment of non Congress Government. the Collegium System evolved which essentially meant that judges appointed judges. It is this imbalance of giving primacy to the Judiciary in matters relating to appointments that sought to be rectified in the National Judicial Appointments Commission which envisages a role for both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the selection of the Judges. In every democratic country the Executive and the Legislature appoint the higher judiciary. In USA the President nominates and the Senate confirms. Even the USA does not have a Judiciary which perpetuates itself by appointing itself and arrogating to itself the right of appointing judges in the name of Independence of the Judiciary. The concept of Indepemdent Judiciary does not embrace the notion of an unaccountable judiciary which is the situation under the Collegium sysytem. The basic flaws under the judicial collegium system was rectified by the present law which was passed by the Parliament unanimously. The Lok Sabha for all the flaws in our existing Parliamentary system is the representative of the Sovereignty of India and the Supreme Court cannot and should not undermine that. It is likely that some amendment will be made and the role of the Executive in the appointment of Justices will be restored. By striking down the Constitutional Amendment, the Supreme Court has undone the basic structure of the Consitution which makes the Parliament the source of law and the fountainhead of political will.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dadri Killing and the Liberal Reaction

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books In Dadri, a suburb of New Delhi, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh a murder took place. A man suspected of killing a calf and eating its flesh was set upon by a furious mob and killed. This unfortunate incident took place when the state was ruled by the Samajwadi Party and the ruling Party at the Center, the BJP has nothing to do with the event. Yet, Azam Khan, better known for the alacrity with which the police of UP traced his missing buffaloes, made it a point to politisize the killing and insinuate that the BJP is general and one particular leader was responsible for the crime. The fact is that the Law and Order situation in UP is appalling and no one but the state Government can be blamed. First Azam Khan wrote a letter to the United Nations complaining of this incident. When India is trying to deal with the terror network sponsored by Pakistan, it is highly condemnable that a politician from the troubled state of UP should chose to write to the UN.The killing of the man was unfortunate. However instead of identifying the ral culprits, the state police sought to give a political spin and pin the blame on the BJP. Such mindless politicization of essentially criminal acts result in the real culprits escaping the long arms of the law as the police are more keen to help their political masters by providing fodder for the internecine wars between the so called "secular" alliance and the nationalists. Then the cry went out: Modi should speak. It defies logic to demand a statement from the Prime Minister whenever a petty crime takes place. Narendar Modi, like the US President made a routine statment condeming the killing. Whenever there is a white on black killing or there is mass shooting deaths in USA, President Barack Obama comes out with a statement. Do such statements reduce the number of killing. Apparently not. In the last decade or so there have been 18 reported instances of mass shootings in USA. Nobody demands the resignation of the President as if he is responsible for the crimes. Here the liberal Media,immediately gets into hyperactive mode and the Barkha Dutts and the Rajdeep Sardesais and the Karan Thapars come out of the woodwork to link the BJP with the crime. A few months back there were a spate of attacks on Christian religious institutions and the White countries lined up to condemn India as if the Government was responsbible for encouraging the attacks. It turned out that Bangladesh immigrants were responsible for the crimes and the liberal media did not report the facts. There is a law in place banning Cow Slaughter. Now the liberals encouraged by the white world are using this law to paint a picture of India as if the ban on cow slaughter is a symptom of religious fanaticism. We may say that all over the world the vegan movement is gaining strength and in India, beef consumption is taken as a sign of how "secular" one is. Rightly then gropus of people, armed and ready to protect Cattle from being slaughtered are gaining strength all over North India. Cow Protection Leagues are sprouting all over North India and cattle transporting trucks are stopped and the cattle freed. There is a law in place against the illegal killing of cows and that law is not being enforced. Therefore, people are taking the responsibility of enforcing the law into their own hands. One unfortunate fallout of the Dadri killing is that some octogenarian writers have started surrendering their state awards. Nyantara Sehgal who received the award 2 years after the biggest killing os Sikhs in 1984 by the goons associated with the Congress Party has suddenly found the virtue of secularism. Similarly another poet, Ashok Vajpayee has given up his award. It is time for the state to stop giving awards and later such awards become the basis for propaganda. Wriers have a right to dissent, but political correctness cannot be the basis of dissent.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mecca As an International City: Time to ask for "Vatican" status

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The horrific tragedies that have taken place in the Holy City of Mecca has led people all over the world to ask the question: Are the Saudi authorities at all capable of dealing with the huge crowds that come on the annual pilgrimage, the Haj rituals. In a space of less than two weeks, three horrible accidents have happened at Mecca and our hearts are are full of grief. However, it is time to think of the status of Mecca. Mecca belongs to the entire Muslim fraternity and not to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom which legitimizes its brazen dependence on Wahhabi Islam, has taken charge of the two holy cities and the key component of the Saudi kingship is the fact that the Kingdom is the "protector of the holy cities". It is obvious that the Saudi authorities are doing a poor job. The stoning of Satan, a ritual at Mina draws a crowd of nearly 2 million and unfortunately, the Saudi authorities seem to have not learnt any lessons from the mistakes of the past. Each Haj season there are accidents due to the inefficiency of the Saudi crowd management techniques. India manages the Khumb Mela which draws huge crowds of more than 3 to 4 million without major mishaps. Crowd management is needed. It is also surprising that cranes with heavy booms were at the site of the pilgrimage. The collapse of a single crane cause nearly 400 deaths. Of course, the belief that a death in Mecca assures a safe passage to Heaven is not very comforting to the bereaved families. The inability of the Saudi authorities to provide for the security of the pilgrimage necessitates a rethink on the status of the Holy City. Mecca is holy to both the Sunnis and the Shias and the Iranian authorities have always been critical of the manner in which the Saudis manage the pilgrimage. A few years back there was an unfortunate tragedy at Mecca when Iranians dressed as pilgrims fired in the Grand Mosque killing nearly 300 pilgrims. Given the importance the site has for people of Islamic faith and the frequency with which accidents are happening it is necessay to liberate Mecca from the clutches of Wahabi Islam. Like Vatican, Mecca can be made into a Sate under the control of all the important denominations of Islam and this body should undertake to regulate the Pilgrimage. Ithink this is the best solution for the ever recurring problem.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bihar Elections: Why the BJP will do well

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Bihar, like Tamil Nadu, is a state with clearly defined dominant castes that are concentrated in geographical zones which enables the dominant castes to turn local influence into political power in the form of seats in the Assembly or Lok Sabha. The BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls swept the state gathering all but 4 of the seats. This in effect meant that the traditional caste equations had collapsed and the development wave of Narendar Modi took everything in its wake. Old alliances were swept aside and Laloo Prasad Yadava who tried to send his daughter to the Lok Sabha was completely defeated. Misa Bharathi lost and lost badly and that too in a Yadava dominated area. This time around the BJP, though sure of a victory, is having to fight for every seat. The alliance of SP,RJD and Congress may look formidable but in reality there is little strength for this Alliance. With the SP marching out, the going has gotten tougher for Nithish Kumar and his JD(U). The BJP has stitched up a loose alliance of intermediate castes and influential sections of the Dalit castes particularly the Paswans and the Mahadalits. The inclusion of Manji in the alliance is undoubtedly a masterstroke as it creates a very broad spectrum of support for the BJP which can count on the Brahmins, Rajput and Bhumiar votes to a substantial degree. The BJP Alliance has now gained traction and Modi's announcement of a special package for Bihar has made the BJP more or less secure. The real challenge for the BJP lies in the rural pockets. Nitish Kumar tried to make this electoral battle into a personal fight between him and Modi. This strategy has failed because the alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadava has raised people's fear of the return of the Jungle Raj. Given this state, it is certain that our of 243 seats the BJP will win around 157 seats.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hardik Patel and the Anti Reservation Stir

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Another political star is rising in Gujarat and this has the potential of halting the BJP Juggernaut. The Pattidars of Gujarat are essentially an agricultural community which transformed itself into a trading and entrepreneurial class in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and with the onset of Independence the Patels became a dominant political class with tremendous social and economic power. In the Mandalized world of Indian politics and employment opportunities, the tag of "backwardness" helps in getting jobs, admission in professional colleges and even in getting services from the Government. The implementation of the Mandal Report which was based on the Census of 1931, is best with huge empirical and theoretical problems. The criteria on which "backward" status was granted was never spelled out and dominant landed communities like the Yadavas and the cluster of Lagrangian castes like the Ahirs, Kurmis and the like were given backward class status. By giving the dominant caste the benefit of reservation, the poorer sections of the so called forward castes were very deeply affected. Given the social churning that has taken place since Independence, inter marriages have taken place and the children of such marriages bear the brunt of the Mandal discrimination as they are largely set aside by the social groups on both sides of the families. Even if "honour killings" are rare, the fact is that inter caste children are doubly discriminated. The Mandal Reservation has set back the clock as far as social progress is concerned and the rise of honour killings is directly related to the caste resentment engendered by Mandal. Gujart has always been at the forefront of the anti Reservation struggle as the huge economy of the state could provide employment without too much ado. However, the Madal Reservation tilted the balance in favor of the backward castes and the Patels though constituting 17% of the population were the main targets of Mandal Reservation. Though politically very powerful, the Patels began to lose out on the job front and educational opportunities. It is against this background that the agitation for Reservation has to be seen. It is certainly not politically feasible to extend reservation to Patels and by making that demand, Hardik is basically drawing attention to the discriminatory and arbitrary manner in which reservation policy is being implemented. I think Indian social scientists have played a negative role in all this when they embraced the post colonial identity based therms of Inquiry rather than looking at Indian society from the prism of political economy. It is necessary to determine the hard matrix of backwardness and not hinge definitions to identity. An economic criteria is necessary as India has changed a great deal in the last 70 years and old theories do not make sense any more. The violence during the Rally addressed by this 22 year old student leader was unfortunate. The Chief Minister of Gujarat did not handle the issue in a sensible manner partly because being a Patel she took her community for granted. It is unlikely that the Patels will desert the BJP but the economic issues of scial backwardness cannot be wished away.