Friday, March 18, 2016
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
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
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
A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books http://creative.sulekha.com/the-jallikkattu-ban-is-welcome_324413_blog 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
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
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.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
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.