Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tamil Nadu after Jayalalitaa: Politcs of uncertainity and despair

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

December 6th 2016 witnessed a political funeral  in Chennai, the like of which remains unprecedented. Jayalalithaa was laid to rest on the sands of Marina Beach along aside her political mentor, M G Ramachandran. A Brahmin woman being buried and not being cremated raised eyebrows and the large presence of the Manargudi Mafia in the ceremonies pertaining to the funeral of the Chief Minister did not go down well with the public. However, the treatment given to Deepa, the daughter of the brother of Ms Jajalalithaa was deplorable. She was made to wait a few hours in the rain outside Apollo Hospital to catch a glimpse of her aunt and was turned away by the security. Funerals are very revealing. The present one has already shown that the ruling didpensation in the AIADMK does not want to share the space with the family of the late Chief Minister.

Jayalalithaa was a cinematic icon before she left the arc lights to join politics under the mentorship of MGR. In the Madurai Conference of the AIADMK in 1983, MGR symbolically handed the torch to Jayalalithaa there by indicating that after him the leadership would pass on to his leading lady. Both had acted in nearly 60 films together and the chemistry between them sizzled on the screen. In 1984, Jaylalithaa was elected to the Rajya Sabha and she spent a full term there. This exposure to National politics stood her in good stead as she acquired a national visibility even before she became the leader of the Party in Tamil Nadu after the death of MGR in December 1987.

Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 when she swept into power on the wave created by the revulsion towards the DMK for its alleged proximity to the LTTE. The DMK has not been able to shke off the perception that it allowed the LTTE to take root in Tamil Nadu and the massacre in Kodambakkam only reinforced that opnion. The subsequent death of Durai who was the DGP at the time of the LTTE killings created an aura of suspicion. Her first term was marred by large scale corruption and disregard to the political consequences flowing from her decisions. The sacking of Government servants who participated in a strike was very unpopular and it ensured the total defeat of the AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections. Being a consummate politician she made tactical alliances even with inveterate opponents like Vai Gopalaswami (Vai Ko) as he is known today, Vijay Kant and others.

In 2011 Jayalalithaa came back to power with a huge majority and in 2016 she was returned to power. And she in the only Tamil politician after MGR who has managed this feat. This term was marked by populist schemes like the AMMA branded schemes, AMMA Canteens, AMMA Cement, Amma Pharmacy, AMMA Water etc., These schemes were hugfely popular and cemented her alliance with the electorate in a manner that had not happened before. In 2014, she was convicted and I believe wrongly, in a dis  proportionate assets case in the trial court at Banglore and spent 21 days in jail. Her health strted taking a tailspin since then and Jayalalithaa never recovered for the treatment meted out to her in Bangalore Jail. It is likely that her health issues were deliberately neglected by the jail authorities at the behest of certain political lobbies. In any event having the Chief Minister of a State being prosecuted by another state government is hardly constitutional.

Jayalalithaa will be remembered as a politician who had a link with the elctorate a magical bond that transcended caste, religion and language.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Revolt of the "Deplorables": Trump's Electoral Victory Analysed

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

Hilary Clinton famously describes Donald Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables". A few years back, in more politically incorrect and honest times the phrase may have been a lot more colourful" Poor White Trash. Surprisingly Trump's supporters took that label as a badge of honour and wore it on their bumper stickers and hats. Unfortunately the irony was lost on Hilary Clinton and her self righteous crew. Donal Trump triumphed not only against the Democratic Party nominee, Hilary Clinton but also against a whole slew of vested interests and institutions arrayed against him. He fought against his own party establishment which did not take kindly to an interloper gate crashing into the Nomination process. He fought against 16 other rivals and except for the elegant and honourable Dr Ben Carson, none of his rivals wholeheartedly endorse or support his candidature. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, was constantly carping about the rise and rise of Donald J Trump. He fought against the White dominated corporate media which projected such a negative image of him, that Donal Trump appeared a caricature to the rest of the world. His statements were viciously torn apart and the debate was more on the language and rhetoric rather than the substance of what he said. The Media in the USA, both Print and Electronic, has not covered itself in glory as the rest of the world sees it as a handmaiden of American political and strategic interests. The complicity of the US media in the Iraq WMD scandal to a large extent dented the image of USA as having a free and fearless press. Negative propaganda, character assassination, innuendo, exaggerated and distorted projection of Donald Trump's alleged character flaws were all dished out and we were expected to lap this up as wisdom from the high table. And it is here that the Revolt of the Deprorables is important.

Hilary Clinton took American Exceptionalism as given. Her public utterances revolved around the messianic goal of USA to transform the whole world after its own image. It is less important to her that the rest of the world does not want to be a split image of USA. Her own incompetence in the chosen arena of foreign policy was apparent in the monumental mishandling of the Libyan Crisis. A prosperous, stable and fairly progressive state was brought to the brink of barbarism by USA and its surrogates operating under the shadow of the Arab League. Her use of the private E mail server even as she worked as Secretary of State violated American Law and in all probability Obama will protect her by issuing a Presidential pardon before he leaves office. Her association  with Clinton Foundation and the contribution raised from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Easter tyrant states shws that she was not above board as all the monies raised were when she was heading Foggy Bottom. a clear case of conflict of interest. Yet the media kept quiet and even when the FBI director told the Press that she was under investigation, the corporate media framed the issue as though the Secret Police was interfering with the democratic process. At the end of the day the "deplorables' saw trough all this and did not endorse her.

Donal Trump on the other hand was faced with an uphill task. He was caricatured from the very start. His business deals were paraded in public as though he had made money the wrong way and his reluctance to open his tax returns to scrutiny was made out as a sinister confirmation of fraud. The rather sad and unpleasant episode of Trump University was given a great deal of play. The Whitewate scandal and the large number of people who were killed investigating Hilary and Bill Clinton was not talked about. Even the sexual escapades of Bill, Clinton's husband, were ignored. Worse, the fact that WikiLeaks clearly exposed the underhand manner in which the candidature of Bernie Sanders was subverted, was not discussed in the press at all. It is now clear as daylight that had Bernie Sanders won the nomination, there was a possibility   of victory. Covert means were used to undermine the democratic process and Julian Assange had exposed the entire tranche of emails from the DNC.

All the problems afflicting the Clinton campaign were laid at the door step of Russia. Instead of asking Hilary Clinton why she was cheating, the Press went after Putin as if he was the cause of the problem. Shooting the messenger has always been the medicine of failed tyrants.

Why did Donald Trump win? The USA of today is tired of wars and foreign adventurism . US intervention in the Middle East has resulted in the destruction of an entire region and more than a million deaths can be attributed directly to US invasion of the region. Trump did address the issue of Islamic Terrorism and he wants to insulate USA from the backlash of American Invasion. Maybe his methods and strategies have not been articulated in a meaningful way but to brand his approach as Islamophobic is suicidal. Islamic Terrorism is a fact of life and USA cannot ignore the elephant in the room. And Hilary Clinon's astute use of Identity Politics also came a cropper. Dividing the entire population into demographic groups, ethnic groups, color coded groups may have been OK thirty years ago. But now with the decline in US economy and  the growing ill effects of globalization on the American Working class, the Economy is in shambles.

Donald Trump was able to connect with the American people because he had his finger on the pulse of America. Jobs, Security and Social Welfare were the main concerns.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Search for the Bones of Queen Ketevan

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

The Ruins of the Agustinian Church

On September 22, 1624, Shah Abbas I, the Safavid ruler of Persia had Queen Ketevan killed and subjecting her to horrific unspeakable torture. She died firm in her belief in her faith, and she was canonized  by the Roman Catholic Church in 1824. Her life and, more importantly, her afterlife is stirring and evokes a sense of awe/ Was her apparent "martyrdom" a political act designed to strengthen her son.s tenuous hold on the throne of Kekhetia, one of the warring principalities of medieval Georgia. Or was it an act of supreme defiance a la Antigone: whose law is supreme--the Law of one Conscience or the Dictates of an earthly ruler. We will never know the answer and probably, the Queen herself may not have been able to answer this question. The fact is that several centuries after her terrible death,an apotheosis is underway and the Queen is emerging as a symbol of Georgian Nation and her death is now being appropriated to push forward a national identity.
The Belfry of the Church
The Tower
Medieval Georgia was a shimmering mirage of quarreling "little kings"and politically ambitious monks and priests. Ketevan herself seems to have been instrumental in using her family to have the reigning king of Kakhetia, Konstantine assasinated and this led to her son Teimuraz I ascending the throne. King Teimuraz I (1589-1663)wrote a poem on his mother.s martyrdom, ThePassion of Queen Ketevanwhich is generally regarded as a National Epic of Georgia. His turbulent reign saw the killing of his two sons at the hands of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) and the execution of his mother and in a sudden unexpected efflorescence of poetic inspiration composed the poem which recounts in great detail and feeling the treatment meted out to his mother. Interestingly, the tone and persona adopted by the King-Poet was one of irony and he does not condemn either the Governor of Shiraz, theImam Quli Khan who carried out the order of the Shah or the Safavid ruler himself. And this absence of rancour has raised this poem to the ranks on one of the great poetical compositions of medieval world literature.

The Tower that I have illustrated on the left is the only standing structure of the Augustinian Church which was constructed in the early seventeenth century in Goa. The last few years of her life, Queen Ketevan  had tqo Augustinian friars who acted as her confessors. It is certain that after her execution these two priests smuggled her relics to Goa and had them interred in the transept next to the Altar on what was referred to as the Epistle side of the Altar.
Goa State and Central Library

The Augustinan Church and its associated complex of buildings were regarded asthe most magnificent buildings in Goa. They were constructed atop the Holy Hill, close to the Office of the Grand Inquisitor who carried out his nefarious work from the Se Cathedral. After the religious orders were disbanded in Goa, the building was abandoned and by 1850 it lay in ruin. The Altar was overlaid with vegetation and the whole building covered with bushes, rubble and fallen masonry. Locating the Altar, the Transept and the Window to the right of the Altar was not easy as there was no plan of the structure. The original building plan and other documents were destroyed in the Great Fire of Lisbon in 1755 after the Earthquake which devastated the Kingdom.

Fortunately a historian called Antonio da Silva Rego had made detailed record of the tombstones in the Cathedral based on two earlier chronicles of the Augustinian Church. The complete set of documents are preserved with great care in the Goa State and Central Library. The Curator of the Portuguese Collection, Dr Carlos Fernandes is a man of great erudition and dedication and he shared the collection with me. In volume XII pg 92, this chronicler of the Salarzarist regime has faiffully recorded that the bones of "Reino Ghatiavanda" were located on the second window to the right of the Altar.

In 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and when Georgia became independent, the then Government approached the Government of India for help in locating the bones of Queen Ketevan. The Archaelogical Survey of India, Goa Circle, under Mohammad Taher conducted the excavations and close to the exact spot mentioned in the records of Sila Rego were found the bones of a woman. A long femur wasuncovered and DNA analysis has shown that the bones belonged to a woman from Central Asia. The exact DNA is shared by less than one percent of the Indian population and more than 35% of the Georgian Population. Of course there can be no 100% identication unless the DNA is matched with that of a living descendant of the Queen.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Twenty Fourth Convocation of Pondicherry University, October 4th 2016

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

Dr Kiran Bedi Delivering the Convocation Address, 4th Oct 2016
 Pondicherry University celebrated in a grand manner the 24th Convocation on 4th October 2016. Dr Kiran Bedi, the Lt Governor of Pondicherry and the Chief Rector of the University, was invited to deliver the Convocation Address. The Vice Chancellor Dr Anisa Basheer Khan, had made all the arrangements for this spectacular event. Since there had been no commencement ceremony in the UNiversity for the past three years, there was ahuge back log of degrees to be awarded and the University had create a special space for the Convocation to be held. The R G Cricket Stadium was converted into the Convocation Hall by erecting a pandal. Fortunately the rain gods were kind and there was no rain.
The venue of the Convocation caption

The pandal had a seating capacity for over three thousand guests and the Hall was packed with parents, students and faculty. On the whole it was a great success. I was rather apprehensive about the whole affair as the event took the whole day. Dr Kiran Bedi was at the venue right on time and she was her charming best. She spoke to the graduates who received their degree certificates from her and smiled for the photograph. This gesture on the part of the Lt Governor was noted and appreciated by the people.

 The Vice Chancellor, Professor Anisa Khan, who took charge of the University at a very critical time steered the UNivesity through a very challenging time and she brought the Academic Calendar back on track. She gave the Report Card of the University and informed us that the University had risen to the eleventh position in the all India ranking established by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Dr Kiran Bedi was at her eloquent best. She stressed the need to create a Clean Pondicherry and used the occasion to drive home the point that the student community and the UNiversity must strike to make Pondicherry or Puducherry as she insisted on calling it, OD free fromOctober 2nd 2017. She extracted the pledge from the assembled graduating
DR Raju, Dr Reddy and Dr Shetty dressed in the Academic Robes
DR Anisha Khan, the VC delivering the welcome Address

Thursday, September 29, 2016


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

The attack on the Indian Army Base at URI in Kashmir on the night of 25th- 26 September 2016 was a blatant violation of the international border and an aggressive act of provocation. India was shocked and this came at the heels of the attack on Pathankot Army Base and a marked escalation in terrorist related violence in Kashmir. The fact is that Kashmir is careening out of control and with the killing of Byrhan Wani the youth in the valley seem to be completely alienated. It will be quite a challenge to bring the youth, if not to the mainstrean, at least to lower the hostility they bear toward India. Professor Rattan Lal Hangloo who gave a Lecture in Pondicherry University stated clearly that the Government of India had ignored infrastructure and its development in Kashmir since Independence and that was one of the main reasons contributing to the problem. Further he stated that as the Cold War receded, the Pakistani establishment started directing the demobilized jehadis towards Kashmir and the growing Islamic terrorism in Pakistan created a climate conducive for militancy. He seemed to agree with Narendra Modi's call for the liberation of Baluchistan and India taking a lead in raising the "atrocities" perpetrated by the Pakistani Army before the court of global opinion.

The attack was meticulously planned. Satellite imagery of the entire area was obtained and the topography studied with the help of local guides. The soldiers from the Special Operations Unit were made aware of the lay of the land and the launch pads for terrorist activity across the lice of control were identified: Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Kepa sectors were the main targets. Around 12:30 the paratroopers were ari dropped over the area and they launched attacks with laser guided missiles on the terrorist training camps. Seven camps were totally destroyed and it is believed that 38 terrorists were killed. The entire operation was over in a couple of hours and the unit returned to base.

What will the the fallout. The strikes were aimed at the domestic audience which was baying for blood and Narendra Modi has shown himself before the people of India that he is decisive aan will not be taken in by nuclear blackmail. He shored up domestic support and obviously like Obama's raid on Bin Laden which gave him the second term, this strike will have an impact on the upcoming elections. All the major powers of the world, including China did not utter a word against the strike as they are all aware of the fact thta Pakistan has become notorious for the export of violence. This mid night attack signals a decisive change in the Rules of Engagement.

India has said quite clearly that it is willing to discard the frail framework of SAARC and deal with its neighbors on bilateral terms.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kiran Bedi launches the Swachch Pakwada in Pondicherry University

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

Kiran Bedi, VC and Chief Secretary
The Lt Governor returned to Pondicherry University on the afternoon of September 26thwith the Chief Secretary of the state in tow. This time the agenda was to work out the modalities of the Swachch Pakwada and the strategies through which the student community can be linked to the overall Government achene to create awareness about ODF. After reviewing the minutes of the earlier meeting the Lt Governor Dr Kiran Bedi quickly got down to business. She is delivering the Convocation Address in Pondicherry University on October 4th and has decided to use the occasion to speak of the hazards of OD in Pondicherry. In Kalapet, there is a slum near the beach called Thidir Nagar and here the residents use the beach as one large open air toilet.Changing the habits of people is not easy and it would require all the skills of an energetic Lt Governor and a whole army of students to change the entrenched mind set.

The Lt Governor has created an large number of BGOs and her association with India Against Corruption which had our revered Baba Ramdev as its leading light in recent history. She insisted on the creation of a Whatts App group with the Dean School of Communication as the Administrator. We had given the telephone numbers of all the participants and we hope that a reasonable number will join the group. The students of Pondicherry University will be provided transport by the Government and taken to the place where they will work.

The idea is good and I hope that it succeeds.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kiran Bedi and her Mission to make Pondicherry Clean

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

Dr Kiran Bedi the Lt Gov of Pondicherry, Dr Anisa Basheer Khan, VC Pondicherry University

Dr Kiran Bedi, the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry came to Pondicherry University with her officers in tow: the Director of Higher Education, Dr Reddy and the Director of Local Administration, Mr Mansur. Both were well prepared and spoke of the need to get involved in the Swachch Bharat Campaign. Kiran Bedi was, as usual, full of energy.  She spoke of her mission to make Pondicherry free from ODF by the next calendar year and she is devoting all her energies visiting places, meeting people and exhorting them to build toilets for themselves and their families. Our great Prime Minister, Shri Narendar Modi spoke of this in his first Independence Day Address from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The previous Lt Governor was totally oblivious to this important charge and we are happy that cleanliness is receiving due attention.

Dr Kiran Bedi spoke about her desire to make this the theme of the Convocation Address which she will deliver on October 4th 2016. She requested the Faculty and Students to get involved and the result was overwhelming. She acknowledged the contribution of each member without the patronizing gestures we had come to associate with Congress appointees. She said that liquor shops will be required to have toilet facilities and directed her officers to act on the suggestion immediately. It was great to see a proactive administrator.

The assembled Faculty and Staff all pledged their support to make Pondicherry clean. The strategy to translate this vision into a reality would perhaps involve the use of students to provide the outreach to the Administration. The Vice Chancellor promised to amend the rules and make it possible for students to get credit for their participation in the Campaign.

I hope that this mission succeeds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


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

The Auditorium was packed and I have not seen such a crowd of students eagerly waiting for a guest like the one that awaited the Lt Governor of Pondicherry, Dr Kiran Bedi.  The moment she waled into the Auditorium one could feel the energy she exuded and it would be no exaggeration to say the she is blessed with a charisma which is natural not cultivated. And she connects very well with the younger generation, a talent that the late A P J Abdul Kalam possessed in ample measure. Maybe there is a future President in Dr Kiran Bedi and we must thank Narendar Modi for having appointed her here. The popularity of Kiran Bedi in Pondicherry is eclipsing the politicians and the Congressmen are livid. She has a very genuine and seemingly natural manner of communicating very very complex ideas and I was really impressed by her message and the effective manner in which she delivered it,

The Vice Chancellor of the UNiversity Professor Anisa Basheer Khan had invited her to declare open the building housing the Electron Microscope which the University purchased during the tenure of Professor J A K Tareen and the costly equipment was lying in crates for more than 5 years. The officiating VC was prompt in securing funds for the building and Dr Kiran Bedi was invited to open it. She took the opportunity to address the students and her message was simple and straight forward. She said that the students was "visualize" their future and must be dedicated to that goal. This she said was the mantra of her life. A few lessons from her own life were recalled to drive home the fact that religious identities are not important and she herself came from a mixed Sikh Hindu background and was educated in a Catholic school. In many ways Dr Kiran represents the inherent diversity of India.

The speech given by Dr Kiran Bedi was rich in detail about her life both as the first woman police officer, as a tennis player and as a public figure. Indeed, when I was a student in the University of Delhi way back in the 1970s, she had earned a place for herself in Delhi folklore by the courage with which she faced the political class. There is a famous incident in whcih she and her sub Inspector Naresh Yadava towed away the car of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. In those pre Mandal days India was more civilized and the young Superintendent of Chanakya Puri did not come to grief. Her life was full of challenges and she faced them with fortitude. She has had her moments of frustration as the days following the Lathi charge on the layers at Tis Hazari Court. There is no doubt in my mind that she is a brave woman with a deeply ingrained sense of public service.

The picture I have place on the left shows the eager crowd waiting for her. The only time I have seen such a huge crowd was when Dr A P J Abdul Kalam visited the Campus several years ago and on the day when the team from MHRD arrived early in August 2015 to study the situation on Campus in the waning days of Chandra Krishnamurthi's regime. Kiran Bedi connected with the students and her message resonated when she said that they must remain focused on their goals. She said that when she was preparing for the UPSC examinations she used to study/work atleast 17 hours a day. And she made a forceful plea for gender equality.

Later she met the senior faculty in a separate meetiong in the EC Hall of the UNiversity. She took questions from several of the Deans and Heads assembled there.

The day was also celebrated as Sanskrit Day and the well know scholar Dr Kutumbha Shastri, the former Vice Chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan gave an address in which he high lighted the contemporary relevance of Sanskrit. He rightly drew the attention of themfact that there is great deal of scientific literature available in the language. The presence of Dr Kiran Bedi added luster to the gathering. I hope that she continues in public service for years to come. Undoubtedly, Kiran Bedi is an inspiration for the youth.

Friday, July 8, 2016

From Orlando to Dallas and Back: Race, Religion and Violence in America Today

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

Anyone reading the Newspaper today will come to the conclusion that an apocalyptic race war is unfolding in USA. Of course, this is an exaggeration. However, the events at they are unfolding before our eyes thanks largely to cell phone footage and  all day TV coverage is bringing home, as never before, the fact that the election of Barack Hussein Obama has made the situation far far worse for the African American (I do not like the term black). And Obama standing on the steps of Air Force one at Warsaw Airport, made things worse with a grin that cynically conveyed to the world that he has successfully created a chasm in American society that will last generations. White America could seriously consider itself cleansed of the original sin of Atlantic Slavery by electing an African American as President. The fact is that on both the shooting at Orlando and at Dallas, the President felt that the issue was Gun Control and tried to score political points at the expense of Mr Donald Trump. That has now horribly backfired.

The shootings at Saint Paul, Minnesota and Falcon Heights are eerily similar. Anton Sterling was shown struggling with a white Police Officer who pulled out a gun from his right and shot the man thrice. In the case of Philando Castile the live video streaming of his encounter with the police officer who shot the young man was both graphic and disturbing. In Orlando, a Moslem immigrant from Afghanistan shot 49 people in a Night Club and the motive as determined by the AFT and the FBI is domestic radicalization. Mr Miach Xavier Johnson who is allegedly the sniper who killed 5 police officer in Dallas was a decorated veteran of the US Army and had served in Afghanistan. One conclusion is obvious: America's senseless  wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan  are  now causing hurt in USA, just as I predicted in a blog I wrote on the Iraq engagement way back in 2005.

Gun Control is a dog whistle for Liberal posturing and does not address the real issues at all. The fact is that African Americans males are incarcerated at a rate hugely disproportionate to their population should be a cause of concern to liberal American scholars whose edgy conscience is hyper active when it comes to India and its myriad social and political issues should reflect and introspect on what is taking place in their own backyard. Kancha Illiah and his breed of pro white Social Scientists even advocated an American model of social engagement for the so called Dalit problems in India. Fortunately this did not happen and India is working out its own solutions. The African American male is seen as a "criminal" and the whites are on the defensive from the world go. The accent, the dress, the social habits and attitudes are all anathema to the dominant whites and the Latino population is imbibing the dominant attitudes. Given the racial democracy that exists in USA, the Democratic Party has perfected the art of crafting a salad bowl of racial and ethnic interest which invariably tip the scales in its favor. Mr Trump has condemned the violence his statement in measured and civil tone addresses the issue in a more honest manner.

The Police Force across USA behaves like an army of occupation and its training is akin to the Military. The tactics used are all military tactics and are actually unsuited for democratic policing. There has been an utter failure on the part of the Department of Justice to prosecute even a single police officer for the use of deadly force and this failure undermines the confidence in the Police. And in Dallas the Police even used an IED to kill the sniper and this itself shows how deep rooted militarization of the police force has become.

USA must retrain its police to act with restraint and behave in a responsible democratic manner. Policing a citizenry is far different from policing a hostile, enemy territory. It will be interesting to compare figures of the use of deadly force by the police during the two decades prior to the Iraq War and the years after. It is my contention that the Police has become too militarized in its training and that has to change and its weaponry needs to be drawn down.

Monday, July 4, 2016


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

On June 24th 2016, a young, educated girl hailing from a middle class brahmin family was brutally murdered in front of a large crowd on the platform of Nughambakkam Railway station. Shockingly not a single one of the onlookers stirred to help her even as a young man took out a billhook (aruval) from the back back that he was carrying and struck three times at her face neck and upper part of her body. The brutality of the crime was in fact a rerun of a typical ISIS operation:brutal, cruel, quick and in full public display. While the killing of Nirbhaya in December 2012 was an event that brought together a large proportion of civil  society and political parties to bring about change in the legal system, this barbaric attack was largely ignored. Does the fact that the victim of this brutal crime happens to be a brahmin girl  and the accused a dalit have anything to do with the cynical indifference with which this crime has been viewed. I have always said that the position of the brahmins in Tamil society today happens to be akin to that of the Jews in Germany during the Nazi era.

The Dravidian Movement, especially the anti brahmin Self Respect Movement made brahmin bashing, brahmin percecution, brhamin marginalization and exclusion an inherent part of South Indian public life. Like the Jews in Germany, brahmins were excluded from university positions and public office and like the victim of this monstrous attack, they had to take up employment in the soft ware industry or immigrate to USA in order to escape the vicious and untrammeled assaults on person and dignity. The public media both the Press and the Electronic media is conditioned to highlight dalit atrocities and ignore similar attacks on brahmins. Indeed, the condition of both the dalits and brahmins are more or less identical in post colonial Tamil Nadu ad scholars like the late M S S Pandian and others have sought to give legitimacy to upper caste domination by invoking the discredited theories of Cauldwell and others.

The attacker, Thiru P Ramkumar is a resident of Ambedkar Nagear in Meenakshipuram near Tirunelveli in the deep South. He had apparently been stalking the victim since May 2016 and the Tamil movies generally portray stalking as an innocent trivial assertion of male interest. The gross infringement of the rights of the girl/woman is not taken into consideration and the Police generally ignore complaints of such behaviour. Since the attacker happens to be a dalit, public discourse has suddenly gone silent and it is likely that in the days and months the crime will get politicized in the manner in which the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. And dalit poltical parties like the CVK and the PT and also sections of the dravidian parties will also start a chorus in favor of the killer. Who can forget the fact that the killer of the Madurai corporator,a dalit woman was pardoned by Karunanidhi when he was in power. Crime in Tamil Nadu walks hand in hand with political parties.

The world has to awaken to the plight of the barhmins in Tamil Nadu,. Their human rights anre being violated on a daily basis and while attacks on dalits are highlighted by the Media, politcal correctness prevents it from highlighting crimes against brahm,ins.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Clinton, Trump and the Circus of American Presidential Politics

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

The American elections are a phenomena well worth watching. Without being unduly judgemental one can say that the campaign is both entertaining as well as infuriating at times. Here we, in India are used to semi literate foul tongued politicians like Mani Shankar Ayer, Manish Tewai, Laloo Prasad Yadava, Nithesh Kumar, Katheria, Khejriwal and others. So the comparison can only be of degree and quality. The Congress breed of dynastic fascists have their own brand of invective to hurl against their opponents. The BJP retaliates by launching a tirade against corruption, "Italian Mafia" etc. So we are used to foul language, insensitive remarks and down right abuse. So what is so surprising that we should even write about the endless stream of abuse and insults spewing out in torrents from the mouths of the two important Presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

The Presidential campaign started  with Mr Trump declaring to the world in general that "Crooked Hilary" is not to be trusted. He raised serious questions about her "ethics" as if ethics has ever been a factor in US politics. The immediate provocation for this rather large charge against Hilary is the ongoing FBI investigation into the use of a private server during the time she occupied, without honor or distinction, the office of the Secretary of State, as the Foreign Minister of US is often termed. Just before leaving office she deleted more than 30,000 emails stating that they were private in nature. Later it was disclosed that she raised more than 100 million dollars for the Clinton Foundation from donors in the Middle East even as she served as the Foreign Minister. Just imagine what would have happened if an Indian Minister had done the same. Salman , the Foreign Minister under the discredited UPA regime is still facing flak for the scandal over his Trust.

Hilary Clinton was not fazed. She breezed through the crisis and the American Media has been extremely kind to her by not raising any awkward question. I always marvel at the utter absence of an adversarial press in US. In India, Freedom of the Press is measure by the adversarial position it takes vis a vis the NDA Government. BJP bashing in general and Narendar Modi trolling in particular have become the bench marks of a free press here in India. Hilary Clinton was not questioned with the same passionate intensity with which Mr Donald Trump is question, over Trump University, for instance. Hilary Clinton thunders against the failed business projects of Trump but does not take any questions over the character, or better still, the lack of it in Mr Bill Clinton. The Monica Lewinsksy Scandal which almost brought the Presidency of BIll Clinton down making him the only President in over a century to be impeached is not brought out to embarrass Hilary Clinton. Imagine the same thing happening here. Impossible. Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowda's son still faces questions over his long term relationship with the starlet, Sandhya.

The two candidates revile each other in a manner that would make bazzar women, exemplars of perfect behaviour. Of  course, I do not mean any disrespect to bazzar women who are certainly better behaved than these two. Crooked Hilary has become the given name of Hilary Rodham Clinton and that has to be said with a vicious smirk. And Clinton cannot be out done: Trump will bankrupt USA like his casinos. The Press does not badger Hilary over her false statement made over the attack on the American Ambassador in Libya but hounds Mr Trump for his Tax Returns and he wards off the searching prying questions by saying that he is under audit, a statement that is at best half true. On the Orlando tragedy Trump has been quite honest even at the cost of political correctness. He has blamed Islamic terrorism for the attack, while Hilary taking her cue from Hussein Obama soft pedals the whole Islamic aspect of the tragedy. Trump has been consistently been saying that immigration from terrorism infested countries needs to be put on hold. And that is certainly a step that cannot be faulted and to make him sound like a dangerous demagogue for stating the obvious is certainly disingenuous.

The American elections are fun to watch. And certainly we hope that the Americans do not vote for another term in which the failed policies of Obama will continue.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

From Orientalism to Academic Hinduphobia: The strange career of the American Approach to Indian Studies

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books American scholars are an intense serious lot. They take their state, their Government, their politics and their society far more seriously than the average Indian scholar. While I disagree with many of them,I retain a lurking sense of admiration for the integrity that they display in their research. I graduated with a Ph D in History from one of the leading Public/State Universities in the US and had the good fortune to be trained by a Historian who is rated as one of the leading scholars of the last century. Having said this, I must reflect on the recent controversy stirred by by Rajiv Malhotra in his various publications particularly his highly polemical book, The Battle for Sanskrit. An attack on Sheldon Pollock for his rather asinine political views is one thing, but a concerted attempt at delegitimizing his valuable contribution to early Indian History is an entirely different issue. I too find the collective petitions by YS based academics on the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi extremely patronizing and an affront to Indias dignity. The political process in India is of concern only to Indians and the American scholars like Martha Nussbaum, Wendy Diniger, Sheldon Pollock and a host of Jewish American scholars are all quiet when it comes to US crimes in different parts of the world. I have not come across the same sort of rant by these scholars on Israels attack on Palestinians, on the illegal War in Iraq and Syria, the large scale use of drone in slaughtering non white non combatants all over the world. My litany can go one. I am putting these facts across only to draw attention to the fact that US academics are often servitors of power and are quite willing to extend their expertise into sensitive areas of national security and espionage. The posture of moral outage adopted by these scholars is misplaced and we will find it more convincing if the Marthas, the Wendys and others direct their ire at US racialist policies in different parts of the world. Having said this I would like to highlight the contribution of one scholar who is the subject of Rajiv Malhotra's attack, Sheldon Pollock. In the Battle for Sanskrit Rajiv Malhotra, an NRI settled in USA has thundered against Sheldon Pollock and has tried to link Language of the Gods in the World of Men to a whole host of poltically sensitive questions. He accuses Pollock of arguing that India is the spiritual home of Nazism. This is quite absurd and nowhere does Pollock make that claim except to suggest that the notion of Aryan was introduced into Europe through the Western Indological scholarship. Pollock is too sophisticated a historian to make such a crude argument: Arya on well born is not the same as Aryan and therefore India is in no way responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. By making this sort of claim, Malhotra undermines his otherwise well researched work. If his argument is that US academics are uncomfortable with the idea of a strong, vibrant India then he is not wrong. And that has to do with US strategic and geo political interests. Is Pollock saying that Sanskrit is irredeemably a language of oppression and exclusion. The answer to this question is far more nuanced than what Malhotra admits. True, like Latin, Sanskrit too was associated with a courtly culture marinated in oppression, caste purity, rituals of power etc. A language is only an instrument and does not carry the burden of sin associated with the speakers of the language. English is the language of slave traders, conquerors and the like but that does not make us reluctant to use it. Nowhere does Pollock make an explicit link between language and social structure. However, a profound question lies at the heart of the book under discussion. Why did Sanskrit reemerge in the sixth century as the language of prasastis, public eulogies and courtly literature at the same moment in time when vernacular cultures became more assertive. This question is important and an analysis of the mutual relationship between marga and desi is an interesting exercise. Now is raising critical questions a form of Hinduphobia. I have left out Wendy Doniger from my discussion as I find her work stupid and trashy. Her publishers rightly decided to pulp her work. However even she has a piece of research that is actually quite good, a study of the problem of evil in Indian thought. If we reject her approach we are left only with David Shulman and his work. I personally feel that while US scholars are rather politically motivated in the way they, at the instigation of Indian Left Liberals started bad mouthing the Hon ble Prime Minister of India, it would be wrong to throw the baby with the bath water. American scholarship is awe inspiring in many significant ways and if US scholars need to retain their legitimacy, it would behove them not to fall victim to the political machinations of third rate Indian scholars in Universities such as Delhi, JNU and others.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Massacre of the Innocents: Killing Animals in Zoos, a crime

See the majestic animal. Can anyone imagine such an animal to die for the negligence of humans. A harrowing tragedy took place in Cincinnati Zoo a few days back when this magnificent creature was shot, six bullets pumped into his back. He was there only because human beings captured him from the rain forests of Africa, shipped him to America where he spent 17 years of his life behind the bars of a Zoo. No fault of his. Just to entertain gawking crowds of men, women and children. Zoo were set up to entertain humans and are symbols of the enslavement of animals to the will of man and in this the incident in Cincinnati Zoo is not different from the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In a similar incident in Chile two African lions were killed because a demented man bent on committing suicide entered their cage and the lions seem to have attacked him. The fact is that the Zoo used unreasonable force to kill the animals when the lions could very easily have been tranquilized and even if that was not possible, who are we to  determine that the life of a demented man is more valuable than
that of animals. The fact is that lions are an endangered species while human beings are not. So when the choice is between a mad man and endangered animals I think we should choose the side of animals. The two lions, like the Gorilla called Hambare who was killed did not do any harm and it was the wilful negligence of the parents which resulted in the 3 year old boy falling into the moat. There have been credible reports that the gorilla did not harm the boy at all and was only attempting to rescue the child from the water. Gorillas are fairly good swimmers. In order to justify the wanton act of killing the magnificent animal the Zoo put out a false statement that the boy/child was seriously injured. The fact is thta the child was sent home immediately after a routine examination. The two incidents need to be probed more deeply in order to highlight certain disturbing features in human interactions with animals. Norway and Japan violate International Law by hunting whales and Japan even has made a national entertainment of trapping and clubbing dolphins to death. A cruel sport that deserves to be condemned. China has the barbaric Yulin festival when animals are trapped and cruelly clubbed to death. Robert Darnton describes the scene in his Great Cat Massacre.Reading cultural meaning in such horrendous acts of inhuman barbarity is wrong. The most tragic part of the Cincinnati episode is that fact that the publci seems to support the putting down of the large harmless animal

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 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.