Sunday, November 5, 2017

Legacies of British Slave-ownership: A Review

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

Legacies of British Slave-ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain
Cahtherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Katie Domington and Rachel Lang
London: Cambridge University Press 2016

In 2007, on the occasion of the bi-centineal celebration of the Abolition of the  Slave Trade, or at least the Atlantic Ocean segment of the "nefarious trade" England experience on orgy of triumphalism: chest thumping about its great moral decision and a vindication of Christian commitment to Human Dignity. I agree that MPs like William Wilberforce and the great Edmund Burke did display a deep revulsion toward Slavery and the Edinburgh Review was one of the few journals that worked public sentiment against the Slave Trade. It is important to remember this today as Scotland prepares to bolt from the Union of 1707 and Britain will shrink to the boundries of its Roman past.
The book under review is a prosopographical study of slave ownership in Great Britain in the year 1834 when Slavery was officially abolished in the British territories. Ironically the Abolition of Slavery Act passed by the House of Commons in 1833 was the first legal recognition that slavery, as a form of servitude, existed in British territories. 
Legacies of British Slave Ownership

The abolition of Slavery neccesitated the creation of a Commission to pay compensation to the Slave Owners who stood to gain an enormous sum of 20 Million pounds as compensation for around 28,000 slaves who were freed at least on paper. An Apprenticeship Agreement meant that many had to continue on the estates of their masters for another 6 years. And that too did not mean the end of servitude. William Gladstone's family owned nearly 3000 slaves in British Gyanna and Abolition meant economic disaster to John Gladstone. Fortunately for him, India by that time was sufficiently tamed to supply Indentured Servants to work on the very same plantations which had freed its slaves. Hugh Tinker has rightly called Indenture a "New Kind of Slavery".This book is based on the Records of the Slave Compensation Commission and cover the estates in St Kitts, St Vincent, Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, Surinname and a few other places. The transfer of 20 million pounds from the public exchequer to private hands marks an important ship in the social or rather class structure of modern Britain. One can even argue that the social foundation of modern Britain lies in this singular historical event.

The Oxford Dictionary of Nation Biography, the gold standard of British aristocracy and its social legitimacy does not quite reflect the extent to which the ruling political class of England, both of the Victorian Era and of the post World War II Era derived its economic strength from the slave compensation monies. West Indian Merchant Houses, Insurance Companies, Shipping Companies, Trading Houses, Banking Houses were all implicated in this Great Game of slave compensation and the 20 million pounds would be worth nearly 2 billion pounds into todays exchange rate.
The document on the left is a page from the Slave Compensation Commission Records preserved at Kew Archives. From the study of the record of nearly 30,000 compensation paid out the authors estimate that more than 75% of the beneficiaries were from England with Scotland accounting for around 18 to 19% and Ireland a mere 4%. The figures are illustrative of the fact that the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of Britain into Asia, particularly India and other regions was symptomatic of a social order that was changing with the infusion of Capital. Eric Williams did not use these records but his insight into the development of English capitalism as a direct consequence of Slavery seems to be borne out. More interestingly, women figure quite prominently as slave owners who claimed compensation. This was because of the financial insitutions morgating their estates along with slaves and the mortgagee inheriting the property. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Life and Times of Dr Subramanian Swamy: Some Glimpses

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

Evolving with Subramanian Swamy: A Roller Coaster Ride
By Roxna Swamy
New Delhi 2017.                               

Writing the biography of a major political personality is beeset with challenges. And when a spouse pens the biography, it is likely to be dismissed as laudatory, biased and uncritical. Fortunately the biography of Dr Subramanian Swamy by his wife of over 40 years, the noted lawyer Roxna Swamy is not a wide eyed adulatory account of a major political personality of contemporary India. Of course, she is not overly critical of him but Subramanian Swamy emerges from the pages of the book under review as a determined, courageous, unforgiving and at times vengeful man. At the same time, the tenacity with which Dr Swamy has pursued the powerful and the corrupt is ably documented in the book. If India did not have a Subramanian Swamy, I have no hesitation is saying that the goonds politicians would be running the country with impunity, Single handedly he took on the might of the Indian state has has brought to the bar of justice Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Kanimozhi, Raja and scores of other corrupt political figures. It requires immense moral courage to do this and Dr Swamy has demonstrated that.

For persons of my generation, who came of age during the Emergency, Dr Subramanian Swamy will ever remain a Hero. The book gives us details of how he escaped from India during the Emergency and his dramatic reapearance in Parliament disguised as a sardar is legendary. The petty minded Indiara Gandhi and her Congress party expelled Swamy from the Rajya Sabha on patently fraudelent grounds, but Dr Subramanian Swamy reentered the Lok Sabha from the Bombay North East Constituency, the largest Lok Sabha Constituency in India. He had been promised the New Delhi seat, but the machinations of Atal Behari Vajpayee seems to have put paid to the hope of getting that seat. Vajpayee himself contested that seat and I was his booth agent in 1977 in the R K Puram polling booth.  Roxna seems to suggest that Vajpayee was bent on subverting the political carreer of Dr Swamy and ensured his exclusion from the Janata Party Ministry which was formed, The other pet peeve was Rama Krishna Hegde who tried to marginalize Swamy but the great Machiavelian that Swamy is, made Hegde eat crow by getting him to resign following the telephone tapping scandal.

Dr Subramanian Swamy is a towering figure in Indian politics and owes his palce entirely to the splendid intellect that he commands. Indian politics has seen two great intellectuals, Dr Ambedkar and Dr Swamy and both possess a doctorate from US Universities. Dr Swamy was educated at Harvard University from where he received his Ph D under the guidance of Simon Kuznetz. In his political life, Dr Swamy has been faithful to two very important principles: he is a beleiver in Capitalism as an economic system that promises equality and prosperity and he has always advocated a good diplomatic ties with Israel. In the pursuit of these goals he has not sververed during his long years in public life. Dr Swamy has utter contempt for the Nehruvian brand of state socialism which promoted corruption, inequality and mediocrity.

James Joll once wrote a book, Intellectuals in Politics. In India, Dr Swamy is the closest we have ever had of a politician who is highly educated, a power house of ideas, dedicated to the principle of a free society and above all a dogged and determined crusader against the endemic corruption. He is a broad minded individual as his personal life demonstrates his open mindedness.

I enjoyed reading this book.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Frozen Frames by D Vasudeva Rao: Memory and Fulfillment

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

Frozen Frames: A Life of  Fulfillment
D Vasudeva Rao
Chennai: 2017
An interesting read

The author of the book, Frozen Frames: A Life in Fulfillemt, has chosen an apt title. Reflecting on his life, Janus like, two generation before him and forward to two generations after him, Vasudeva Rao has charted his professional journey from a professional Chartered Accountant to a highly challenging and rewarding career in the world of corporate institutions, global competition and one that saw the transition of India form a protected licence and quota raj to the fast changing reality of a global India. The fact that an individual's life is caught in the cusp of  major historical and systemic forces over which he/she has little control and the choices that constitute the frozen frames of memory is the stuff of autobiography and the author has traversed this territory with ease and great aplomb.

On page 18 the author sets out the ethnic and linguistic identity of his family in terms of three terms: Marathi, Deshastha and Madhva. A linguistic, regional and a sectarian (Vaishnava Dwaita) describe the matrix within which the life can be structured and situated. Reading Vasudeva Rao's book makes one wonder how the vast tectonic social transformations in South India, the anti brahmin Movement, the triumph of the Justice Party and its later day incarnation, the DMK led to this small community which numbered around 15,000 in the Census of 1911,lose its elan and today is in the danger of losing its identity as it struggles to keep afloat against the rising tide of political, linguistic and ethnic oppression. He is a Marathi speaker and a descendent of Gyano Pant who migrated into South India when the Maratha Empire was at its height. Deshasta, meaning from the Desh as a contrast to Konkanastha, from the coast was a geographical term referring to the plains south of the Ghats and stretching into Bijapur. Madhva, a sectarian affiliation, underscores the importance the Udipi Mutts have had in shaping the collective identity of this small but vibrant community marooned on the shoals of time. The author pays equal attention to all the three aspects of his individual and social history. As the Maratha empire expanded and as there was need to collect revenue from a fragmented and dispersed land holdings from which the Confederacy drew its fiscal resources, Deshesta revenue managers were appointed in different parts of the empire. Modi remained the language of revenue records until 1834 when it was supplanted by the vernacular.

Vasudeva Rao sketches the social horizon of his own family by an extended foray into kinship, both affinal and agnatic. Family ties played an important role in providing security and opportunity. The Marathi Deshastha who settled in Madras, now Chennai, soon adopted the regal functions of patronage of culture and music and in neighbourhoods like Mylapore, Tyagaraja Nagar and Besant Nagar set up Sabhas for musical performances and theatre groups. The Raj was not the least interested in the fragments of South Indian culture that still lingered and Institutions like Music Academy set up by Shri T V Subba Rao and Vani Mahal played a seminal role in the preservation of culture and identity. The author has rightly drawn our attention to these landmark institutions.

The author has leld several senior positions in the Corporate sector and he has given rich and illuminating details of his life, achievements and personal philosophy. Like the Jews the Deshestas are modernizing while simultaneously retaining their religious rituals and performative texts. I enjoyed reading this book and is a rare document of social history as well.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Politics over Death in India: Anita and Gauri Lankesh victims of politics

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

Tamil Nadu is going through it's periodic bout of politically instigated crisis like the Jallikattu Agitation soon after the killing of Jayalalithaa. Anita's death is a tragedy and the mercilessly heartless Tamil politicians are cooking their rice on the funeral pyre of this girl.

The fact is that Tamil politicians find her more useful dead than alive and so her death must be investigated. We know how people whose death is convenient for the DMK like DGP Durai and Bashs of Emerald Enterprises were found dead. More recently the guards at Jayalalithaa,,:s house were killed; one by alleged robbers at the Konsdu estate and the other on a road accident near Salem. I suspect the involvement of politicians in her death and are now milking the tragedy. None of these thugs ever bothered to protest when do dalit girls were forced to commit suicide due to their inability to pay the fees on a non descript college in Villupuram. So the fact is that politicians involved in running self financing medical colleges are threatened by NEET and hence this Agitation. Anita seems to have been a bright student who secure 1186  marks in her Board Examination. However she was able to get only 86 marks in the All India entrance examination for admission to Medical School. She approached the Supreme Court as a petitioner against NEET on the plea that it discriminated against those who studies in the State Board Scheme and favored the CBSE students. The Supreme Court of India did not find merit in this argument at all and made NEET the sole basis for admission to the MBBS course. It is also binding on Minority Institutions.

There is a thriving racket in Medical Education in India and Tamil Nadu is one state in which politicians are financing their elections through "capitation fees" extorted from students. A seat in a Medical College sells for nearly a crore and only the rich and the corrupt can afford to send their wards to medical schools. The NEET was an attempt to bring about accountability and transparency in the system and this process adversely affected the fortunes of the very politicians who were involved in running the Medical Colleges. A cabal of medical educators and their political supporters started a movement against NEET and like the earlier Jallikkattu Agitation soo went out of hand. Students who did not protest when 6 dalit girls committed suicide when the College extorted money in the form of special feels to the tunme of a few thousand rupees started agitating for the abolition of NEET. The hold of the predatory Tamil politicians on the minds of the stdents is rather disturbing. Fortunately the Supreme Court has directed the state govertnments to take firm steps to control the unseely protests.

Gauri Lankesh was killed two days back and the comments of the Clown Prince of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram, the former General Secretary of the violent and criminal CPM have started a war of words in the Indian Media. The politicians hoping to gain political mileage started the whisper campaignb that the BJP was behind the murder and BJP was quick in its reponse. The fact is that the family of the slain journalist who was convicted for publ;ishing false and slanderous news, has blamed a Naxalite for the killing. It has become fashionable to blame the RSS for everyting. In the earlier muders of Kalburgi and others the RSS was blamed and in one case it was determined that property dispute lay at the root of the crime. A few days back Pankaj Mishra a Hindi journalist was shot for publishing a story on the corruption of Laloo Prasad Yadava and onver the course of the past two years several jouralists have been killed and there was no outrage. The Media in India seems to be embracing selecctive outrage and that is not a good sigh for democracy.

Gauri Lankesh inherited her paper from her father who started the Magazine as a scandal sheet and made a lot of money by practicing the fine art of blackmail, extortion and mixed it with a social agenda of anti brahmanism, Gauri herself was a late advocate of a separate identity for the Lingayats and this may have created ripples. In any event the BJP and RSS had nothing to do with her death and it is upto the state government to investigate and arrst the culprits.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Narendar Modi's Independence Day Address to the Nation

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

On August 15th Narendar Modi addressed the Nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, a ritual that was begun by Jawarlal Nehru. The speech itself, just over fifty five minutes long, was significant for what it said and more significant for want it left out. Cleverly crafted, the speech hit all the right notes: it addressed the pluralistic ethos of India and also underscored the need to reach out to the people of Kashmir. Na Gali se na Goli se, magar gala lagane se: Not with hars rhetoric or bullets but with love can the problem of Kashmir be solved, This is a throwback to the call for Insaniyat made several years back by Atal Behari Vajpayee,

First; let me state what was left out. There was no word on the Agrarian Crisis that is sweeping the country. Everyday more than a dozen farmers are committing suicide all over the country. Modi chose not to address this vital problem. Job creation has not really been addressed. During the run up to the 2014 General Election, Narendar Modi spoke about jobs and development. In thios Speech, three years after coming to power, he remains silent on this vital question. Jobs have all but disappeared and the jobs that have been created are just low skill, low paying jobs in the service sector. With much fan fare Skill India Digital India was launched and the Make in India programme launched a few years back. Today these initiatives reamin just pious hopes, nothing has changed on the ground. Quite wisely, Narendar Modi when he spoke of making a New India wisely kept these initiative out of his discourse. He knows that the ground reality is much different.

On the issue of demonitization, Modi was on firm ground. There is no doubt that the move has led to a vast increase in the tax base and revenue of the Government. The discovery of 300,000 lakh crores of hidden wealth will go a long way in putting an end the the menance of Balck Money. There is no doubt that demoniotization has been a success and the promise of a cash less digital economy has not been realized.

The Government of India under narendar Modi is neglecting the whole Higher Education Sector. I agree that the previous Governm,ents have destroyed the fabric of Indian higher education. However, the present Government has not taken any concrete steps to improve the quality and content of education. It rankels Indian mind that China has atleat 20 Universities in the world's top Universities and India has none. However, the polcies enunciated so far are not conducive to any great change in this arena. The neglected sector of Higher Education is being killed by begeign neglect.

Modi did not mention the tension at the border. This may be a deliberate decision in order to play down the differences with China.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Twenty Fifth Convocation of Pondicherry University

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

This morning Pondicherry University held its 25th Convocation and as usual, it was a grand event. The Lt Governor of Pondicherry and the Chief Minister of the  Union Territory Shri V Narayanaswamy were both present for the occasion. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Anisa Basheer Khan read out the Convocation Report in which the great strides taken by the University were highlighted. Furthermore, the anxious moments of the last few months were momentarily set aside and the dignitaries graced the event with elan. Justice R Mahadevan, High Court of Madras, gave the Convocation Address in
which he stressed the importance of keep an open mind towards learning.

Dr Kiran Bedi had a special message for the teachers and stated very categorically that teachers should be learners first.

Dr Kiran Bedi, Lt Governor of Pondicherry at the 25th Convocation

Dr Kiran Bedi distributing the degree certificates.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Big Data Algorithms, Inequality and World History: Two Books, Two Visions

Writing the History of the Global

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

The two books reviewed in this blog make interesting reading. the Weapons of Math Destruction by Dr Cathy O'Neil, a Ph D in Mathematics from Harvard University is a spell binding account of the misuse of Statistical Big Data in the world today and the consequent rise in income inequality which in turn widens the gulf between the super rich and those struggling to get along in the world. She points out that the growing trend towards using sophisticated algorithms by corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and the like enable advertisers to target their potential clients with a fair amount of precision. There is a fascinating description of the US Educational Ranking system and the calculated manner in which educational ranking is used to extract Federal Educational Loans on the promise that a College Education will increase the chances of getting a secure well paying job. The author also analyses in great detail the smart, highly educated army of Data Analysts sporting fancy degrees from Ivy League Universities who by letting the Algorithms predict the flow of funds and Capital in the highly volatile realm of high finance contributed to the sub prime crisis that engulfed USA in 2008. Even Barack Obama intervention helped only the big companies escape the consequences of their financial profligacy and his bail out package only shifted the burden onto the shoulders of an already weakening Middle Class. This book is an eye opener and for those who believe that technology is a panacea that is creating a safer and a more democratic world. this is a must read text.

Writing the History of the Global by Maxine Berg is an imaginative look at the cross currents of debate in the field of Global History/World History. The fact that Historiography in the modern sense of the term was the out growth of the advent of the Nation State meant that writing the histories of the Nation State was taken to be the real and vital task of the professional Historian. The Nation State dictated its own narrative and Historians had to find justification for their task within the limits set of the Nation State. The contrived debates in India between the Secularists and their opponents is essentially a debate between the political conceits of the Nation State and the Civilizational Ethos of an Old but Wounded Civilization. The disillusionment with the contrived and false pretensions of the Nationalist view of History and the Leftist paradigms led to the rise of the so called Subaltern School. With its marriage of convenience with the post colonial/linguistic approaches to the past, the subalterns lost all credibility leaving behind a wreckage of unreadable prose. The Global History perspective elaborated in this book is an excellent alternative to the procrustean bed of Nation State Histories. Trade, Conquest, Migration have always linked the world and such trend and developments do not adhere to the limits of the present day Nation State.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tamil A Biography by David Shulman

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

The book under review is an account of the Tamil language situated in its historical and linguistic context. It is one of the unfortunate intellectual legacies of the colonial era that many of the discredited theories pertaining to racial origin, evolution of language, scriptal literacy, religion are all wrapped up in the dense fog of ideology that it is today impossible to deal with some of these issues dispassionately. It takes a peace activist from Israel, the well known Indologist and historian, David Shulman to write about these and other issues with integrity and deep commitment to scholarship.

I have not come across a book that captures the complexity of Tamil literary and political history as eloquently and with scholastic depth as the present book. It is quite obvious that the present breed of Tamil "intellectuals" will rail against the account given by Shulman as he completely destroys the self serving myth, perpetuated over two centuries that Tamil has an origin independent of Sanskrit. Until Cauldwell made "Dravidian" into both a linguistic and racial characteristic, the term Dravida was used in Tamil literary works only as a geographical expression.

The nineteenth century which saw the crystallization of racially charged theories, bequeathed to India a toxic legacy in the form of the Aryan/Dravidian Dichotomy, the Aryan Invasion Myth, the conflict between the oldest Tamil language and the upstart Sanskrit language. All these theories, though discredited have traction due to the purchase of identity politics in India. Hence, it is essential to read Shulman very carefully as he has argued effectively that throughout the medieval period, the Age of the Cholas, Sanskrit enjoyed a privileged status in the royal court and that status was neither resented nor did it lead to the sort of shadow boxing we find in the last century when the "Pure Tamil " movement sought to expurgate Sanskrit from the Tamil language altogether.

David Shulman, unlike Asko Parpola and others is a recognized authority on Sanskrit Language and Literature and knows nearly 24 languages including Telugu, Kanada and a host of European and Asian Languages. His own early foray into Tamil history when he wrote Tamil Temple Myths marked him as one who uses literary texts in new and novel ways. The tallapuramam of medieval Tamil region were studies against the general background of history and iconography in this work which was followed by King and Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry a path breaking work on the textual construction of South Indian kingship. More recently, Whitney Cox has added to the thin corpus of historical investigation in his Politics, Kingship and Poetry in Medieval South India (Cambridge University Press, 2016). This line of investigation, a new historicist perspective that melds the fluid poetry of medieval Tamil compositions to the firm foundation of historiography.

Tamil A Biography demolishes three fundamental myths of the dominant political ideology prevalent in Tamil Nadu today and pervades the entire gamut of academic studies on early Tamil Language and Literature. As he says, "In modern South India Tamil has become a major criterion for collective identity, often seen now as forged in opposition to Sanskrit and an invasive north Indian culture and ideology". Shulman goes on to show that the Chola royal court was bilingual with Sanskrit enjoying the same status as Tamil and there is no sign of any conflict, real or imagined during the four centuries of Chola rule. The advent of the anti brahmin movent meant that the South Indian brahmins were represented as agents of the alien culture and that was used as a justification for excluding them form public and cultural life altogether. The scholarship of David Shulman goes a long way in correcting the distortions of the past. His discussion of the enduring presence of the Agasthya Myth, a north Indian therefore a putative Aryan as the founder of Tamil Grammar is both convincing and sound.

The date of the so called Cankam literary works and the presence of the enigmatic Kalabrahs are two vexed issues in early Tamil literary history. Following Tieken, Shulman also argues for a late date for the Cankam works, There is little evidence to show that the puram and akam varieties of poems were contemporaneous with the Roman presence in South India and the graffiti marks found on pot shrds from sites like Arikamedu, Porunthal, Kodumanal and other places do not help in tading the Cankam literary works. There seems to be a close association between Bhakti literature and the redacted bardic poetry of early Tamil region. His disdussion of the Sangam tradition based on the Velvikkudi Copper plate Inscription is interesting.

The work under review is a classic and will remain a reliable introduction to Tamil language and literary history.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Donald Trump Attacks Syria: War on False Pretext

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

Donald Trump was elected President on the promise that he would Put America First, Make America Great Again was the rallying cry which unitied a vast swathe of supporters from white factory workers, to Latinos, to marginalized groups in US society. Almost all sections which sdaw their incomes fall their aspiration erode voted for Trump. The white privileged professional groups in the Academia, Media, Financial Institutions and in the Intelligence Organizations were solodly behind Hialry Clinton. Right from the start there was an attempt to delegitimize the election of Trump by suggesting overtly in the beginning and then it became an avalance of allegations that Russia under Putin had hijacked the Elections. Specifically the allegation was that Russia had hacked into the servers of the Democratic Party and acessed emails which embarassed and compromised the candidature of Clinton. The assumption behind the campaign was that had the misdeed of the leadership of the DNC colluding illegally with Hil;ary Clinton not been exposed, Trump would have been defeated. It is shocking that a sizeble section of the US media maintains this self serving  lie.

After his election there was a sustained campaign of weaning away a good number of pledged delegates from the Electoral College and transfer their votes to Clinton. In the final count, it was Hilary delegates who drifted into the Trump camp. Be taht as it may, Trump in his flamboyantly eloquent Inaugural Speech promised a end to the "American Carnage". And in resposne to a white correspondent who asked about the "killer" Putin, Trump honestly replied that "we are not exactly innocent". The honesty and forthrightness that had marked Trump's initial foray into the rarefied realm of diplomacy was met with utter derision by the White Liberal Media. Calls for his impeachment over the so called links with Russia were getting strident. Some like Fareed Zakharia of the CNN were openly sceptical about the stability of the Trump regime and the defeta of the repeal of Obamacare seem to imply the imminent demise of the Trump Presidency. To top it all, the Intelligency community was openly hostile and there was some speculation of the CIA doing a Kennedy on Trump. The President stood up to all these challenges well and earned the respect of all who felt that Trump no longer stood for American exectionalism and leadership over a unipolar world.

The hard earned respect that Trump had earned was dissipated when he ordered his crusie missiles to strike Syria as retaliation for an alledged "gas attack". The US medcia was quick to balme the Assad Government. It must be said that similar allegations were made in 2013 by John Kerry and the UN had certified that Syria did not possess chemical weapons. By making an issue of the chemical weapons and by stating publically that the use of chemical weapons would draw a quick retaliation from the uS, American policy seemed to encourage its loyal rebels to create a pretext for intervention. It is now apparent that the Free Syrian Army is being trained and fiananced by USA and a faction of the Free Syrian Army which is linked to ISIS is known to have stckpiles of chemical weapons. Strangely the US fights ISISI in Rraq and is supporting ISIS in Syria. The contradiction in this policy is clear to the whole world except to the Deep State that runs the US. It is clear that an influential section of the Media and the Intelligence Community is pushing USA in the direction of war.

It must be said to the credit of Donald Trump that he valiantly resisted yeilding to the pressures from the Deep State and now it is clear as daylight that he has bought peace without honour by launching a savage attack just to appear "Presidential".

Friday, March 31, 2017

G Parthasarathy and Kasturirangan at Pondicherry University

Mrs Janaki Srinivasan Lighting the lamp
A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The School of Social Sciences and International Studies of Pondicherry University invited two remarkable high achievers for talks at the UNiversity. Both of then, Ambassador G Parthasarathy and Professor Kasturi Rangan, former Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization spoke passionately about the areas of their expertise and inspired the University community.
G Parthasarathy addressing the students of Pondicherry University
G Parthasarathy is a seasoned diplomat and is not given to vacuous niceties that do not address the outstanding issues plaguing the two countries, India and Pakistan. He did not seem particularly concerned that the SAARC unity would be a casualty of the estranged relationship between India and Pakistan. Instead he argued that the BIMSTEC grouping could be used to the advantage of India. On Sri Lanka, the diplomat was forthright. He categorically maintained that Indian fishermen with deep sea fishing nets are entering the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and are depleting the marine resources. His address was printed and distributed to the audience. He is a firm advocate of a rethink on the No First Use Policy of India with regard to nuclear weapons. He seemed to suggest that China has helped Pakistan build Plutonium weapons which can be deployed as tactical battle field weapons. It was really amazing to hear G Parthasarathy, a civil engineer by training speak so authoritatively about Indian foreign and security policies. Unlike academics from Indian Universities who spout half digested inanities marinated in the  jargon of post colonial theories, Parthasarahy presented his arguments in a logical manner.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Anisa Khan with Dr Kasturi Rangan

Professor Kasturi Rangan was another visitor who was invited by the CSA Studies, School of Social Sciences and International Studies Pondicherry University to address the students. He spoke for nearly an hour and the J N Auditorium was packed to capacity. He began by tracing the history of Indian Space Programme from Tumba, the Equatorial Rocket Launching Station when India first began sending rockets to measure the atmosphere. The launch of 104 satellites in a single launch makes India a leader in Space technology. He spelt out the uses of such advanced technology by laying emphasis on the inherent real time data that such technologies transmit to the ground station. In hydrology, remote sensing, terrestrial mapping, resource planning are all areas in which satellites have their utility. I drew attention to the racist cartoon in New YorkTimes which questioned the utility of such technology to poorer societies.

It was a rich experience listening to these great men.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

BJP VIctory in Uttar Pradesh: Implications for 2019

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

The BJP sweep in Uttar Pradesh did not come as a surprise to this blogger as he had predicted a tally of 300 seats. In reality, the BJP got well over this number and we have to ask some hard questions which have serious implications for the General Elections of 2019.

THe first question is: Did demonetization play a positive role in galvanizing the poorer sections of society in favour of the BJP. The conventional wisdom emanating from the wooly leftist commentators was that demonetization to prove a disaster and voters would register their protest in the polling booths. This did not happen primarily because the political messaging that accompanied the move was clear: the policy was aimed at unearthing black money and was meant to keep the pledge of rooting out corruption and hoards of hoarded wealth. The Congress and the BSP the most vocal critics of the MOdi initiative have had to bite the dust because they did not understand the baci purpose of the policy and its political implications. Even the small trader and daily wage worker soon adjusted to the new reality of a cashless or less cash economy and there was no major social unrest following the demonetization initiative. At the political level it shifted the focus of politics away from issues of identity to those of class, and employment along with livelihood.

The demonetization policy was effective in breaking the stranglehold of caste and power brokers over the electorate. Even in Muslim majority areas the Party has done extremely well. One obvious and a clear possibility is the Muslim women have voted in favor of the BJP given the stand taken by the party on the contentious triple talaq issue. But this alone does not explain the fact that even in predominantly Muslim areas like Deaband which has nearly 70% Muslim electorate, the bJP quite easily won the seat. Here I postulate a hypothesis that the younger Muslim voters are increasingly getting alienated from the sort of divisive politics that the traditional parties practice in the name of "secularism". Tokenism at best and condescension at worst is the main feature of Indian secularism. Modi's message, Sab Ke Saath, Sab ka Vikas is not a mere statement of intent. It is now emerging as a new contract between State and Civil Society.

In 2019, the BJP will be able to do well. However by that time, the state Government may have been in power for more than 2 years and hence the strong winds of anti incumbency will be felt. I suggest, though the BJP hot heads may disagree, that the present mandate is not for identity based issues like the Ram Mandir and BJP must resist playing identity politics on the issue except play the occasional tune to the die hard mandir addicts. The social coalition consisting of Brahmins, Rajputs, Trading castes and sections of the OBC and non Jatav SCs is a fragile and rather short sighted. It would be best not to put total faith in the sustainability of this coalition and continue to build up support.

An interesting feature in these Elections has been the substantial increase in the vote share of the BJP. Even in Goa where BJP got less seats than the COngress, the Party has more share of the votes polled and the same in Manipur. Uttarakhand and Punjab did not come as a surprise to anyone and I am sure that the BJP was expecting a poor show. Probably the showing of the AAP may have come as a surprise.

All in all, if this trend continues the BJP will cross 305 to 320 seats in the Lok Sabha Elections of 2019.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Communist Killings in Kerala: Pinarayi Vijayan's Government must be dismissed

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

When there were riots in Gujarat, after 59 passengers returning from Varanasi were burnt alive in Godhra, the Media went to town claiming that the then Chief MInister was responsible for the violence that followed. The Hindu, a left leaning newspaper carried reports from the following day onwards about flag marches that had been organized to check the violence and it was pointed out that several people were killed in police firing against rioting mobs. Not satisfied the dynastic fascists and their leftist allies created an international buzz over Narendra Modi and Hussein Obama obliged them by putting the Hon'ble Chief MInister on the list of people who were to be denied US visa. The general opinion that was advocated was that the Chief Minister by failing to bring the riots under control was abetting in the violence that followed. It was forgotten that after the demise of Indira Gandhi, the dynastic fascists went around killing nearly 4,500 Sikhs in the capital city itself and Rajiv Gandhi justified the attacks by saying famously that the ground shakes when a big tree falls.
In Kannur District of Kerala. over the past one year more than 100 Karyakartas of the RSS have been brutally hacked to death and not a single arrest has taken place. It is clear that the State Government under the notorious Pinarayi Vijayan is actively encouraging its essentially tiya social constituency to hunt and kill sympathizers of the BJP or the RSS. The list of potential victims is vetted by the state secretariat and a hit squad organized with the active assistance of the CPM Kannur District Committee. So far more than 100 young men have been killed and there is not a whimper of protest from the so called defenders of freedom and free speech. Their silence is eloquent. They are only saying that the space for political dissent and freedom is to be occupied only by the leftists and no one else. Such one sided and perverse interpretations of freedom is a sure sign of growing intolerance on the part of the left and creeping fascism, which does not brook any kind of dissent. The Prabhat Patnaik's of the world will be quiet when leftist goondas kill political  opponents.
It is now time for the Central Government to intervene. The State Government is using its considerable police force to protect the cadre of the CPM involved in such systematic killings. Rajnath Singh, the Home MInister is as usual quiet. Hoping that the problem will just slip away and he can take his mind on to more weighty issues like crafting a political future for his son and grandson. We have faith in our Prime MInister. We expect him to act.
There is enough evidence on hand to sdemonstrate that the CPM is actively colluding with the CPM criminals involved insuch killing. We expect the Prime MInister tto dismiss the CPM Government and prosecute Pinarayi Vijayan.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Deep State and Democracy: Something wrong in the way US Democracy is functioning

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

One of the fundamental attributes of a mature democracy is the civilian control over the Military and Intelligence Services. In USA, it is quite clear that President Donald Trump is the elected President. However, what is surprising is that within less than a month of his assumption of the Office of President, he is being dragged into a unholy mess in which the Media, the Academia and the Intelligence Community all seem to be working in tandem. His popularity or unpopularity is not the issue. The viciousness with which he is being attacked and the studies and co ordinated manner in which he is being undermined in less than a month in Office leads me to suspect that there is something more than mere political posturing.

Donald Trump is certainly an obnoxious man. But that does not disqualify him from holding an elected post. President Barack Obama, had poetry on his lips and blood on his hands and the American public was quite exited over him. Perhaps, the fact of being black and sophisticated had something to do with his popularity. Obama was ruthless in his pursuit of the American objectives or where they American objectives. He sustained the Sunni USA Alliance against Iran even though he made a fairly good deal to restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions. He created the ISIS and set it loose against the last progressive state in the Middle East, Syria and turned a blind eye to the atrocities against the Christian and other sectarian populations in Syria. His policy of undermining the fledgling Democracy in Egypt was sold to his subject population by demonising the Muslim Brotherhood and this organization is certainly less of a problem than ISIS. Obama came to India as a guest of the Prime Minister of India, and had the temerity to say some scathing things about Narendra Modi and his Government. Trump has not had the time even to put together his policy platform and all hell is breaking loose.

Russia is not at war with USA and so having conversations over any diplomatic or strategic issue with Russia is not a crime and certainly not any act of treason. Robert Flynn the National Security Advisor, The alleged involvement of Russia in the hacking of the Democratic Party Server is a ruse to create a cloud of illegitimacy over the election of Trump. In fact what the hacked emails of Podesta brought to light was the systematic rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders who if nominated would have defeated Donald Trump. Instead, foreign involvement in the political affairs of USA has become the war cry which is being used to hammer the Presidency of Trump. The American Media went along with the Bush Administration when he used it to create a cloud of suspicion over the Weapons of Mass Destruction allegedly held by Saddam Hussein. We in India were clear that it was a just a ploy. But the Deep State created such a miasma of war and terror over this issue that questioning the narrative from the White House and the theatrics of Colin Powell was considered un American and suspicious. Something similar is happening now. The Deep State is unhappy with Trump and is trying to create hurdles for him and his policies.

Trump has said that he would like to have Russian support in the war against ISIS and why is the Deep State afraid of this. It is now quite certain that ISIS cannot be defeated militarily. It has to be dealt with politically by forging an alliance of like minded countries. USA and its Deep State is willing to allow terrorism to flourish and American security threatened all over the world than to take the logical step toward stability. The ban against immigration from 7 countries is not a Muslim ban as there are 40 muslim countries and this policy was initiated by Barack Obama. Further, it was Barack Obama's policy of wanton and sustained bombing that led to the collapse of these countries. Trump rightly want this "American Carnage" to stop. Why is the Deep State not allowing the American Carnage to be checked if not totally halted.

There are wheels within wheels. One need not be a conspiracy advocate to connect the dots. Obams's record of ruthless and wanton bloodshed is not questioned at all and the cries for revoking the Nobel Peace Prize are still muted. Trump has incurred the hostility of the nebulous and faceless cluster of financial, strategic, academic and military interests whose face, at least in public is the elected President. Trup is the first American President who has confronted what Eisenhower had long feared, "the Military Industrial Complex". At this rate I suspect that he will not be allowed to complete his terms and physical removal is also a possibility as the Intelligence Community has gone rogue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sasikala Convicted and Punished? Nemesis or Retribution

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

The ancient Greeks believed that the jealous gods are ever vigilant to catch an ordinary mortal strutting about as though he was a god himself. Hubris, the quality of immense pride and overweening lust for power, inevitably led to Nemesis, the very destruction of pride and a divine retribution for competing with the Gods. This belief entered western ethical praxis through Christianity with its emphasis on strict separation between the world of God and the World of Mortals, at least since the biblical Fall of Man. Hindu religion, unfortunately, lacks a well defined ethical universe and consequently the religion invariably becomes a web of transactions between human beings and the realm of gods. This lack of an ethical foundation is the real reason for the huge and egregious instances of corruption that crops up from time to time. The idea is share the loot with God and everything is fine. USA has a powerful judiciary and a strong state which is capable of enforcing a modicum of accountability on its public/political class. In India, the election of 2014 is the turning point with the State showing zero tolerance towards corruption and the Judiciary displaying the strength to pronounce harsh judgements.

The "Disproportionate Assets" Case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala and her extended kin is an instance of the sort of wanton corruption that thrives in the kleptocracy called the Indian state. While Jayalalithaa herself came from a well to do background and she herself had a thriving career as a film star, Sasikala came from a lower middle class with a deep sense of insecurity and a lust for property that was not quelled even after 20 years of prosecution for corruption. She has now been found guilty of amassing wealth using her proximity to the then Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa. The later made the huge mistake of allowing this corrupt semi literate woman to live in her house and therefore became a party to all the property deals that transpired during the first term of Jayalalithaa's Chief Ministership. The Supreme Court inits unprecedented 570 page Judgement indicted the late Chief Minister as the Ist accused stating that since her residence was used for making the deals she ought to have known what was happening under her own roof. Jayalalithaa herself may not have been corrupt,but she paid the price for bring this semi literate woman called Sasikala into her household and allowing her the freedom to interfere in official matters. A house maid got transformed into "chinnamma" and even claimed the mantle of Chief Ministership as the anointed successor of Jayalalithaa until nemesis caught up with her in the form of the Supreme Court Judgement.

There are swirling rumours of the possibility of Sasikala being involved in the death of Jayalalithaa. A doctor at Apollo Hospital has made the sensational disclosure that the late Chief Minister was brought to the hospital dead on September 22nd 2016. If this is the case, then the members of Jayalaithaa's household and the authorities of Apollo have a lot of explaining to do do. Ignoring her own dubious role, Sasikala decided to stake her claim to the Chief Ministership barely a week before the Supreme Court was to pronounce the verdict. Inducing all her loyalists to seek refuge in a Holiday Resort at Kuvathur on the East Coast Road, Sasikala unleashed a full blown factional war forcing a reluctant Governor to order a floor test in the Assembly.

With the conviction of Sasikala upheld by the Supreme Court it is curtains for the political future of this woman. The AIADMK will sputter on till the mid tern polls are held and it is quite unlikely that the party will return to power. Hubris led to a huge Nemesis.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tamil Nadu Politics: Sashikala, Paneerselvam and the Ghost of things past

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

The death of Jayalalithaa has created a real storm in Tamil politics. The AIADMK with 134 MLAs in the house is poised to split between the two warring factions:Sasikala and O Paneerselvam. The fact is that the Party and its higher leadership has lost all credibility will make the task of polituical recoverry extremely difficult. Added to the political turmoil unleashed by the death of Jayalalithaa is the mass protest on the issue of jallikkattu. The crowds of young people who protested on the beach of Marina were not displaying their love for the sport of bull taming. They were expressing their anguish at the sudden and disastrous turn in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In fact the restoration of the sport following the promulgation of an Ordinance by the Chief Minister, O Pannerslvam hardly caused a ripple in Chennai, the ground zero of the protests.

O Paneersevam, the acting Chief Minister, was the choice of Jayalalithaa whenever she had to vacte the position due to frequent conviction in corruption cases. In fact, in all the cases in which the late CM was procecuted, the real beneficiary was Sashikala Natrajan and her extended family which goes under the sobriquet, Managudi Mafia. The strangle hold acquired by Sashkala over the party can be gauged from the fact that 129 MLAs have come out in open suppport of her. While O Pannerselvam has the support of a small handful of MLAs, there is no doubt that the rank and file, the cadres of the AIADMK are solidly behind him. The corruption cases against Sashikala are not the only rerasons for her unpopularity in the AIADMK. The real reason is that Jayalalithaa herself had expelled Sashikala from the Party for anti party activities and threw her out of the Poes Garden Residence in 2011 and was admitted back in favor only after giving an abject letter of apology in which Sashikala shook off all ties with her family. Indeed one of the factors that contributed to the defeat of the AIADMK in the 1996 election was the excesses committed during the wedding of Dinakaran, the nephew of Sasikala. The vulgar display of ill gotten wealth was so revolting that AIADMK paid a political price for that mistake. It is rather surprising that even with this legacy, Sashikala was able to seize control over the Party and have herself declared the General Secretary of the AIADMK. In fact her agrteement with Paneerselvam was that he would not be disturbed in his position as Chiel Minister.

The successful manner in which Paneerselvam handles the Jallikkattu crisis and earlier in overseeing the relief work following the Vardha Cyscle that hit Chennai in December 2016 alarmed the Sasikala faction. It became clear as daylight that if he is allowed a free hand, he would get the mandate of the people. From that point onwards effort was made to destabalize Paneerselvam. A section of the senior leaders began asking for the installation of their "Chinamma" as the Chief Minister. And an unlikely rebel was born.

Paneerselvan made a dramtic appearance before the grave of Jayalalithaa on the Marina Beach and "meditated" near her grave for 40 minutes and  announced to the waiting crowd that he had always been the choice of Jayalalithaa to fill her post whenever vacancy arose. It is now clear thta sensing popular anger at the manner in which Sasikala had usurped the post of General Secretary of the AIADMK and her shamless occupation of the poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, Paneerselvan raised the banner of revolt. The Governor Vidyasagar Rao did not exactly cover himself in glory by completely neglecting his constitutional duties during the 72 says Jayalalithaa was kept in Apppollo Hospital. Now questions are being asked about the manner of Jayalalithaa's death and the possible involvement of Sasikala in it. Appollo has not come out clean and still there are questions. The rumours that the late Chief Minister was pushed down the stairs in her residence and was brought dead to the hospital on September 22 are making rounds, O Paneerselvam raised this issue in his press conference and speculated about constituting a Judicial Inquiry. It is now quite obvious that Jayalalithaas death has become a controversy due to the mutual recriminations between the rival factions.

As Paneerselavam hardened his stand and Vidyasagar Rao the Governor not showing any haste is settiling the issues stemming from the resignation of O Paneerselvam, Sasikala took all her MLAs hered them in three luxury buses and sequestered them in an exclisive resort on the East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram.

I venture to speculate that the corruption cases against Sashikala will come back to haunt her. Her faction thought that having the position of Chief Minister will protect her. This is very unlikely. Paneerslevam though much weakened as he rebelled only after his own position had become untenable may continue for some time more. Tamil Nadu is heading for a mid term poll.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Modi's Financial Gamble: Did Demonetization Succeed or was it a Failure

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

On November 8th 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  announced a slew of measures which amounted to a drastic overhaul of the existing financial structure: The demonetization of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes. The legal basis for this policy is certainly questionable as macro economic policy comes squarely under the jurisdiction of the Reserve Bank of India and the RBI may have been consulted. However, the suddenness of the policy and effective manner in which it was implemented took everyone by surprise. What were the objectives of this measure:

First and foremost the unaccounted wealth, called Black Money in India, was becoming alarming huge. Some estimate that the parallel unaccounted economy was almost as large as the legitimate economy and was getting interfaced with high crime, political crime. Since unaccounted wealth was increasing and the tax paying population of India was extremely small, the Central Government had to find new sources of revenue. The upcoming Seventh Pay Commission would impose a huge financial burden on the economy and the One Rank One Pension introduced by the Modi Government would need a huge outlay. With tax revenue constant and expenditure increasing, the Government had necessarily to widen the tax net. The Finance Ministry under Arun Jaitley had imposed a number of measure, including amnesty for tax dodgers, but very little black money was disgorged. With one fell swoop the parallel economy was laid waste and this is a huge gain for India.

Second, the infrastructure projects needed investments and the flow of investment into India by way of foreign investment is not all that encouraging. A number of important projects like the High Speed Railway projects, the Sagar mala por project, the National Highway Scheme need funds and one way of freeing funds for infrastructural investment is to tap into the huge hordes of illegal wealth trapped within the country. It has been estimated that more than 250 lakh crores has now been freed and has flowed into the banking system. The Government wisely allowed hoarders of black money to deposit their illegal wealth in the banks and many did so thinking that once the banks have received the cash, black money is converted to white. Such financial alchemy was not on Modi's mind. The accounts in which monies have been deposited will now be investigated andit is hoped that with the GST rolling out from April this year, the tax base of the Government will also increase as the Government of India has to compensate the loss incurred by the states for a period of 5 years. Therefore, the objective of identifying potential tax payers has also been met.

There has been some criticism, especially the corrupt and criminal dynastic fascist party, the Congress about the demonetization policy. There was a major disruption in the financial sector in the wake of Modi's demonetization. The cash crunch caused a paralysis in the economy. Banks were restricted to a maximum payment of 2,000 rupees per individual. ATMs ran out of cash and many, nearly 59% of the cash machines have not been calibrated  to handle the new 500 and 2000 notes. Even till today cash withdrawal is restricted to 24,000 per account per week. This restriction was sold as an incentive to migrate to a digital economy with e payments and non material payments through credit/debit cards ect. However, the migration to a cashless economy is proving very difficult as internet access and literacy is limited.

The long queues at the banks did lead to needless suffering and at least 140 persons died while standing in bank queues. The opposition raised a hue and cry over this as though the corrupt dynastic fascists have ever been interested in the welfare of people. However, the situation ahs eased and now the queues in the banks is almost nonexistent.

Will this policy yield the desired political benefits. Though there was considerable difficulties, the ordinary India who is tired of the corruption and the venality have applauded the policy of Modi. It is no exaggeration to say that demonetization, though of limited economic success is a resounding political victory