Indian genetics, the never-ending argument

I am at this point somewhat fatigued by Indian population genetics. The real results are going to be ancient DNA, and I’m waiting on that. But people keep asking me about an article in Swarajya, Genetics Might Be Settling The Aryan Migration Debate, But Not How Left-Liberals Believe.

First, the article attacks me as being racist. This is not true. The reality is that the people who attack me on the Left would probably attack magazines like Swarajya as highly “problematic” and “Islamophobic.” They would label Hindu nationalism as a Nazi derivative ideology. People should be careful the sort of allies they make, if you dance with snakes they will bite you in the end. Much of the media lies about me, and the Left constantly attacks me. I’m OK with that because I do believe that the day will come with all the ledgers will be balanced. The Far Left is an enemy of civilization of all stripes. I welcome being labeled an enemy of barbarians. My small readership, which is of diverse ideologies and professions, is aware of who I am and what I am, and that is sufficient. Either truth or power will be the ultimate arbiter of justice.

With that out of the way, there this one thing about the piece that I think is important to highlight:

To my surprise, it turned out that that Joseph had contacted Chaubey and sought his opinion for his article. Chaubey further told me he was shocked by the drift of the article that appeared eventually, and was extremely disappointed at the spin Joseph had placed on his work, and that his opinions seemed to have been selectively omitted by Joseph – a fact he let Joseph know immediately after the article was published, but to no avail.

Indeed, this itself would suggest there are very eminent geneticists who do not regard it as settled that the R1a may have entered the subcontinent from outside. Chaubey himself is one such, and is not very pleased that Joseph has not accurately presented the divergent views of scholars on the question, choosing, instead to present it as done and dusted.

I do wish Tony Joseph had quoted Gyaneshwer Chaubey’s response, and I’d like to know his opinions. Science benefits from skepticism. Unfortunately though the equivocation of science is not optimal for journalism, so oftentimes things are presented in a more stark and clear manner than perhaps is warranted. I’ve been in this position myself, when journalists are just looking for a quote that aligns with their own views. It’s frustrating.

There are many aspects of the Swarajya piece I could point out as somewhat weak. For example:

The genetic data at present resolution shows that the R1a branch present in India is a cousin clade of branches present in Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and the Caucasus; it had a common ancestry with these regions which is more than 6000 years old, but to argue that the Indian R1a branch has resulted from a migration from Central Asia, it should be derived from the Central Asian branch, which is not the case, as Chaubey pointed out.

The Srubna culture, the Scythians, and the people of the Altai today, all bear the “Indian” branch of R1a. First, these substantially post-date 6000 years ago. I think that that is likely due to the fact that South Asian R1a1a-Z93 and that of the Sbruna descend from a common ancestor. But in any case, the nature of the phylogeny of Z93 indicates rapid expansion and very little phylogenetic distance between the branches. Something happened 4-5,000 years ago. One could imagine simultaneous expansions in India and Central Asia/Eastern Europe. Or, one could imagine an expansion from a common ancestor around that time. The latter seems more parsimonious.

Additionally, while South Asians share ancestry with people in West Asia and Eastern Europe, these groups do not have distinctive South Asian (Ancestral South Indian) ancestry. This should weight out probabilities as to the direction of migration.

Second, I read some of the papers linked to in the article, such as Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia and Y-chromosomal sequences of diverse Indian populations and the ancestry of the Andamanese. The first paper has good data, but I’ve always been confused by the interpretations. For example:

A few studies on mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation have interpreted their results in favor of the hypothesis,70–72 whereas others have found no genetic evidence to support it.3,6,73,74 However, any nonmarginal migration from Central Asia to South Asia should have also introduced readily apparent signals of East Asian ancestry into India (see Figure 2B). Because this ancestry component is absent from the region, we have to conclude that if such a dispersal event nevertheless took place, it occurred before the East Asian ancestry component reached Central Asia. The demographic history of Central Asia is, however, complex, and although it has been shown that demic diffusion coupled with influx of Turkic speakers during historical times has shaped the genetic makeup of Uzbeks75 (see also the double share of k7 yellow component in Uzbeks as compared to Turkmens and Tajiks in Figure 2B), it is not clear what was the extent of East Asian ancestry in Central Asian populations prior to these events.

Actually the historical and ancient DNA evidence both point to the fact that East Asian ancestry arrived in the last two thousand years. The spread of the first Gokturk Empire, and then the documented shift in the centuries around 1000 A.D. from Iranian to Turkic in what was Turan, signals the shift toward an East Asian genetic influx. Alexander the Great and other Greeks ventured into Central Asia. The people were described as Iranian looking (when Europeans encountered Turkic people like Khazars they did note their distinctive physical appearance).

We have ancient DNA from the Altai, and those individuals initially seemed overwhelmingly West Eurasian. Now that we have Scythian ancient DNA we see that they mixed with East Asians only on the far east of their range.

The second paper is very confused (or confusing):

The time divergence between Indian and European Y-chromosomes, based on the closest neighbour analysis, shows two different distinctive divergence times for J2 and R1a, suggesting that the European ancestry in India is much older (>10 kya) than what would be expected from a recent migration of Indo-European populations into India (~4 to 5 kya). Also the proportions suggest the effect might be less strong than generally assumed for the Indo-European migration. Interestingly, the ANI ancestry was recently suggested to be a mix of ancestries from early farmers of western Iran and people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe (Lazaridis et al. 2016). Our results agree with this suggestion. In addition, we also show that the divergence time of this ancestry is different, suggesting a different time to enter India.

Lazaridis et al. accept a mass migration from the steppe. In fact, the migration is to such a magnitude that I’m even skeptical. Also, there couldn’t have been a European migration to South Asia during the Pleistocene because Europeans as we understand them genetically did not exist then!!!

I assume that many of the dates of coalescence are sensitive to parameter conditions. Additionally, they admit limitations to their sampling.

Ultimately the final story will be more complex than we can imagine. R1a is too widespread to be explained by a simple Indo-Aryan migration in my opinion. But we can’t get to these genuine conundrums if we keep having to rebut ideologically motivated salvos.

Related: Ancient herders from the Pontic-Caspian steppe crashed into India: no ifs or buts. I wish David would be a touch more equivocal. But I have to admit, if the model fits, at some point you have to quit.

Aamir Khan’s Dangal Takes China by Storm

Pakistani academic and ex-diplomat Aamir Khan is an old friend, and he recently wrote a piece on why Dangal is such a hit in China.
What do you think?

Excerpt:

But why did the Chinese fall in love with this movie? Firstly, no country in the world is more sensitive, even obsessed about the achievement of its children than China. The gaokao or university entrance examinations are a case in point. Mothers actually take their offspring to nearby hotels so that the child does not have to travel. They even block adjoining roads so that horn-noise does not distract the examinees. No amount of funds is enough and no level of effort is satisfactory to prepare these children for the future. The movie catches this collective nerve perfectly.
For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body. That this is achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success

At the same time, many Chinese children are being spoilt by the 4-2-1 syndrome. This refers to four grandparents, two parents and one grandchild — the latter has neither siblings nor first cousins. All six parents and grandparents spend money to pamper the “little emperors”. Thus when Aamir Khan cuts his daughters’ hair so that they can fight better, or makes them run for miles, this fits perfectly into the Chinese parental mental grooves. Fed up with Korean soaps, featuring feminized males with long nails, plucked eye-brows and rose-petal lips, Chinese parents have taken their children in droves to Dangal not only to motivate them but also to shame them.

Then, the movie itself is a metaphor for China. Like the future champions but now-penurious village girls who cannot afford to eat even chicken, China has overcome incredible odds to rise from poverty in 1978 to become a politically-stable economic juggernaut that is proud to assume international leadership. Dangal is China itself. No sky is high enough for the Chinese spirit. For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body, achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success.

Pankaj Mishra’s Tendentious Little Book

This was a rolling rant I wrote while reading Pankaj Bhayia’s book in 2012. Edited version follows

After
being told that everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Pakistani Ambassador (and liberal
feminist Jinnahist icon) Sherry Rahman is in love with Pankaj Mishra’s new book I have finally started
reading it.
I have only read 50 pages so far.So I have NOT yet reached the meat of the
book. But the intro is starting to set a certain tone. And its not a very
encouraging one.
I am not impressed. At all. So Far. 
Seeing
how little time I am getting and likely to get in the next few days, I know I
am not going to be a doing a review. But
a blog permits other possibilities. One of them is a “rolling review” (basically a rant in real time). So here
goes. As I go through the book, I will try whenever possible to get online and
say a few words. Quotes
from Pankaj Bhaiya are in italics.
On  page 18: the word Islam, describing the range of Muslim beliefs and
practices, was not used before the 19th century. 

WTF?
This
is then negated on the very next page by Mishra himself.
The
only explanation for this little nugget is that Pankaj knows his audience and
will miss no opportunity to slide in some politically correct lines. There is a
vague sense “out there” in liberal academia that Islam is unfairly maligned as
monolithic. Pankaj will let people know that he has no such incorrect belief. It is a noble impulse and it recurs. A lot.

Pankaj’s summary of colonial history is boilerplate and unimaginative. He
really has nothing new to say. But he does seem to think (and, somewhat
surprisingly, most of his reviewers seem to think) that he is revealing new
information
and (to quote Hamid Dabbashi) jolting our historical
imagination and placing it on the right though deeply repressed axis.
 
This is very surprising. Are we to believe that a professor at Columbia did not know this very basic outline of colonial history and had “deeply repressed it”? Anyone
with any genuine interest in history would know all this in much greater detail
already. 
Muslim power.. had been the biggest losers as the British
East India Company became the major power the subcontinent. 
This
is standard and rather unoriginal and not really accurate. The Sikhs and Marhattas lost more to the British than the remaining Muslim-ruled states in India.  
And anyway, isnt this very un-poco pomo when you think about
it? To label it as “Muslim power”?  I thought the pomo thing was to point
out that this business of dividing Indian history into Hindu, Muslim and British periods was a British colonial reading of Indian history? Did
Pankaj not get the memo?
In actual fact Turko-Afghan power in North India was breaking up and weakening throughout the
18th century and large chunks of the country were in the hands of Hindu
(Marhatta) and Sikh rulers, most of whom had Muslims in their service..and vice
versa in the various principalities headed by Muslims. The British in some
areas got rid of Turko-Afghan rulers, in a few (Mysore comes to mind) they defeated Muslim rulers who were of Indian-convert origin rather than Turko-Afghan origin; and in several  others they got rid of Hindu and Sikh
rulers. And they were by no means as uniformly anti-Muslim as Pankaj implies.
In fact, after 1857, a disproportionately large chunk of their army was Muslim.
And Muslim feudals as well as a large coterie of officially approved ulama and mashaikh (clerics and saints) were dependable and loyal servants of the empire. Pankaj
missed several memos.
He
is also not above sliding in some facts that are less than accurate to make his
story more convincing. Having got on the case of Muslim defeat at the hands of
the British, he says “…finally subduing the great
Muslim-majority lands of the Panjab in 1848″.  


It
cannot be that PM is unaware of the fact that the “Muslim majority lands of
Panjab” were under Sikh rule since 1800 or so and it was a Sikh kingdom and not
a Muslim kingdom that the British conquered in 1848. Why not say Sikh kingdom
instead of “Muslim-majority lands of Panjab”? Minor point, but its a pattern.
The overall propaganda requirements generally take precedence over mere facts
with Pankaj bhai.
Over-running parts of North-West India, the jihadists were finally
suppressed in 1831 at the battle of Balakot in 1831, which was to assume a
tragic aura in South Asian Islamic lore comparable to the martyrdom of Hussain
at karbala in 680 AD. 
The
context in which this is mentioned implies (without explicitly saying so) that
this was all part of the Muslim resistance to British rule. Which is partly true but mostly untrue. Even Pankaj probably knows NO large
areas of British India were liberated by jihadists. The areas “liberated” by Syed
Ahmed were in what is now Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and he did not liberate them from the British, he liberated them from the Sikh ruler of Panjab. And finally it was a Sikh army (an army that included a predominantly Muslim artillery corps) that
destroyed the jihadists at Balakot, after they had already alienated many
Muslims in Peshawar with their harsh rule. NO karbala like mythology attaches
to these people though there has been some attempt to resurrect their memory in
Pakistan after 1947. Its a very small detail, but its telling. Facts will not stand in
Pankaj bhayia’s way. Be on guard.

P-40, para 2. Read it and marvel. Europeans thought Asian were in decline and
stagnation while Asians were actually economically and culturally
dynamic. And of course, PM puts “decline” and “stagnation” in
scare quotes. Then he tells us how Asians really were well
behind the Europeans in science, technology and organization and the Europeans,
because of superior skills many crucial areas, mustered more power than the
wealthiest empires in Asia. .a long list of examples of Europe’s extraordinary
“pulling ahead” then follows.

You have to read the section to get the flavor of Pankaj’s problem here. He
feels its not good to say decline and stagnation.
But the whole book is about relative decline and stagnation and attempts to set
that right.
What gives?



Even the unalloyed boon of modern medicine in the rising
West turned into something darkly ambiguous in Asia when it helped increase
populations in the absence of corresponding economic growth, compounding the
problem of poverty. 

 
Read the above passage a few times. Think about it. Feel the love…

Al-Afghani is barely known in the West today, even though his
influence exceeds that of Herzen and, at least in its longevity, almost matches
Marx. 
“at
least in longevity”? What does that even mean? I can tell you what it means. It means Pankaj is telling his fans that there are great Asian thinkers that they should know about but that they have missed because of their Eurocentric education. And Pankaj will set them right. He knows how popular this kind of thing is among his European and Europeanised Desi audience. He gets them, even if he does not get Afghani. 
 SEPTEMBER 24th
————————————————————————————————————–
For
the Jamaluddin Afghani section, I suggest perusing these links to get an idea
of how he is generally remembered in the region (and in particular in Islamist
circles)> then compare with PM’s version.
p-53 he traveled to India in late 1850s to continue his education, and
spent a considerable part of the next decade there, in among other places,
Bombay, (which had a large community of Persians) and Calcutta. it was during
this time of fierce Indian assaults on the British and the latter’s brutal
backlash that his intellectual heritage of revolt from the babis began to turn
from a local into a global ideology of resistance.


By
now you know the drill; the “large community of Persians” in Bombay was Parsis
(Zorastrians), themselves refugees from Islamist persecution, not people
Afghani would especially associate with, and not people inclined to revolt
against the British (or anyone else at that point in time). 
The “heritage of revolt from the Babis” is
just plain bullshit. There is absolutely no evidence implicating the babis in
anything Afghani did or thought and the babis in any case are not exactly the revolutionary anti-colonial movement of revolt PM is hinting at. See here for details and compare this information
with PM’s casual insertion of babis into his narrative (here and earlier).
 PM, in short, is relying on the ignorance of his Western readers (and
Westoxicated Asian readers) to follow him along this path of anti-colonial struggle
without too much concern for nuance or historical accuracy. (the Babis are the founders of the Bahais. The furthest thing from an anti-imperialist revolutionary movement (and currently maligned in the Islamic world as imperialist agents, not anti-imperialist revolutionaries).

OK,
I read the next few pages and there is so much crap that I cannot bore you with
it. Poets are quoted out of context. Events are selected to fit the
story. Its not frankly untrue, its “not even wrong”. And throughout, the
dominant feeling is of a writer who knows his audience and is carefully
crafting his words to fit their preconceptions. This is not original history or
analysis, but it does fit in perfectly with what his readers seem to expect.
Take
these fairly typical sentences:
Afghani still lived in the old city where Muslims in turbans and
flowing robes still study the Koran and the hadith. But elsewhere turks wore
the Fez ….and an imperial degree issued in 1856 (“a day of weeping and mourning
for the people of Islam” according to some Turkish Muslims) had permitted
church bells to be rung in the city for the first time since the conquest of
Constantinople in 1453. Indeed, churches palaces hospitals, factories schools
and public gardens were advancing relentlessly to the shores of the Golden Horn
and the sea of Marmara, squeezing out traditional Muslim neighborhoods.
The
passages practically drip with tears at the way “traditional life”, so beloved
of truly modern people like PM, was being “squeezed out” by new fangled crap
like allowing church bells to ring and building schools and factories. All the
confusions of modern “large-carbon-footprint” intellectuals are visible in this
and other passages. Modernization was terrible. Modernization was needed.
Modernization was the aim. Modernization was a tragedy. Its all the fault of
perfidious Albion (he uses the term, btw)…
Pankaj is providing red meat to his liberal, anti-colonial, postmodern,
vaguely leftist readers. Up to a point, one can do this sort of thing AND
provide interesting information and original insights, but beyond a point it
is just propaganda with no value beyond rallying the troops. In PM’s case, it quickly degenerates into propaganda.

Oh
Lord. The Ottoman section is so confused that I am surprised anyone gets past
this drivel. The Ottoman empire is sick; its not sick at all; it has fallen
behind; its not really behind; it needs reform; reform is killing it; The
claims are contradictory and confused. That anyone read this and kept going and
then wrote those laudatory reviews can only mean that “anyone” was just dying
to have his or her prejudices massaged and paid no great attention to “mere
details”.

OK,
two things.

1. Some people love Mishra because they think colonialism and imperialism are
bad and he is anti-colonial and anti-imperialist, so he must be good. Let me
put on my revolutionary Marxist hat and say thats just bullshit. I think
he is harmful EVEN to people who, for whatever reason, have made it their
mission in life to destroy Western imperialism or the upper classes or any
other target you think he is targeting standing on your side of “the struggle”.
….Lets take an extreme example, just to make the point…Everybody knows that
Zaid Hamid (Paknationalist propagandist)  hates india and
wants it defeated. But any sensible person should also know that Zaid Hamid is
harmful to to any actual attempt to “defeat India” (forget about whether its
even a good idea to “defeat India’, lets assume we want to do it). Here’s the
thought experiment…what would happen if your strategy for defeating India is
based on Zaid Hamid’s work? You would sink without a trace (or explode in your
toilet) because your guide is an idiot and is frequently misinformed or working
on false premises. Now Pankaj bhayia is certainly not in the Zaid Hamid class. But he and his ilk are objectively harmful to anyone who is
trying to make an Asian country independent or powerful. If the workers of the world unite and follow him, 0.01% of
them will end up making good money in western universities but the other 99.99%
will find that the world has passed them by and their deep and moving arguments
were “not even wrong”.

2.
I am not saying colonialism was good (or bad, for that matter). I am just
saying things were rather different in too many details and HIS framework is a
21st century liberal Westoxicated framework mixed with 10th grade Indian
history textbooks, and its not worth the effort to try and fix it and use it for
some useful argument. 
Which
makes one wonder; whats with liberals? why are they so taken with this book? A
friend on my FB page said its because “he tells us things we didnt know”. Well,
some of them are wrong or out of context or just ever so slightly displaced
from reality, but the parts that are true..why are they news? People didnt know
colonialism involved taking over countries and trying (with varying success) to
exploit them? or they didnt know that colonized countries had multiple strands
of resistance to colonialism? Or that some countries managed to get pretty far
in matching the Europeans in their own game? Whats the “new” revelation here?
The few facts are pretty well known. the commentary is cliched and confused, the three exemplars chosen for the book were not very influential, and
the tying together seems to be mostly imaginary. 
More thoughts on why this particular sophomoric book is being praised by so many
people?

1. Because with 100 safe years between him and actual events,
Pankaj can now play heroic anti-colonial crusader and his elite fans can play
anti-colonial fanboys with absolutely NOTHING at stake. Win-win for everyone.
Britain’s empire is long gone. So is the (frequently subtle, occasionally harsh) pressure
special branch could apply on those misbehaving in the empire. Of course it was
not always
gentle, but ice-pick in Trotsky’s brain was not the usual special branch
style…most of the time a couple of agent provocateurs, a few informants and the
extreme likelihood that Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Mohammed Ali will
embezzle Hijaz funds was enough…that last vignette btw is mentioned in special
branch dispatches…its somewhere in Francis Robinson’s book on Muslim separatism
in North India. A junior functionary reassures his boss not to worry about the
anjuman e khuddam e kaaba (society of servants of the holy Kaaba) because the
Mohammeddans will inevitably have trouble with financial proprieties and that will take them down… Special
branch knew what it was up against.

btw, Pankaj hasnnt yet mentioned the speculation (as poorly
sourced as almost everything else about Afghani’s life) that Afghani himself
was an agent of British intelligence.

2. Because it is
clear that most reviewers have no detailed knowledge about those times. Tagore
specialists may disagree with his Tagore section but find nothing objectionable
about his Afghani stories and vice versa. And all of them know batshit about
the Chinese guy.

some things Panjak forgot to mention in the Islam section:

1. Akbar Ilahabadi, the poet most often quoted in this section,
was a traditionalist shocked by the appearance of women outside of purdah but
not so shocked at being in British service (he spent his whole life in government service,
retiring as a session judge and being given some minor honor as a reward for
his services). His position of honor in PMs book remains dependent on carefully
excluding aspects of his life that dont fit the anti-colonial guerrilla war
Pankaj is waging a hundred years after the fact.

2. The Mahdi in Sudan. PM’s version “in the Sudan in the 1870s, a charismatic leader
calling himself the Mahdi emerged at the head of a millenarian movement to beat
back not only the Egyptian Khedive but also his British allies. Scoring one
brilliant victory after another, he promised to Islamize the entire
world”. 


Wikipedia, as usual, does a better
job of describing the fanatical eruption
and its disastrous results.
Afghani becomes an eager follower of the Mahdi. “he had clearly and vehemently
turned against the kind of accommodation to Western power and tutelage that
many Muslim elites had previously advocated. “
PM clearly approves. Even the craziest and most insane scheme
against the British empire (or its puppets; a long list in which Akbar
Ilahabadi would surely be included by Pankaj if he was not already being used as poster
boy of anti-colonial heroism..Akbar being far more “accommodationist” than most of
the Sudanese who tried to resist the rising millenarian tide) gets his fullest
approval.

To sum up. Afghani opposed Sir Syed, declared himself, falsely,
an acquaintance of the Mahdi, offered his services to Turkey, to Russia, to the
British, to Iran, floated harebrained schemes that few people actually joined,
opportunisticallysupported self-destructive fanatical Islamists,
opportunistically invoked the Vedas in front of a Hindu audience, got carried
away with blasphemous rationalism when debating Renan (and then hid it from his
Muslim audience), and ended his life as an ineffectual guest of the Turkish
Sultan. And has had NO impact on Islamic theology. And Pankaj has fallen in love
with him. 

Thats the key to this book. Pankaj is living out an
anti-colonial (mainly anti-British, he seems untroubled by the Russian empire in Asia, which is also very telling) fantasy and is following Afghani around from one half-baked idea
to the next. Meanwhile, the actual 19th century world carried on, little
affected by Afghani or the time-travelling Pankaj. Until we land again in the
21st century where this book is selling well and the British empire has moved
on, never seriously threatened by either Afghani or his acolyte. Afghani’s tomb in Kabul meanwhile is being repaired with American “war on terror” funds. 
Oh the humanity.

Read Pankaj bhaiya’s attempt to link his story/fantasy to
current events on p-110 and enjoy. “It
is impossible to imagine, for instance, that the recent protests and
revolutions in the Arab world would have been possible without the intellectual
and political foundations laid by Al-Afghani’s assimilation of Western ideas
and his rethinking of Muslim tradition”. (
what assimilation? what
rethinking? I would like to hear about one Arab revolution of recent times that opted to give any credit to Afghani?  but to say so is enough for both Pankaj and his
fans)

Dear Indians, I have good news for you. Pankaj has his hopes set
on Islam as the virile tradition that is now “challenging empire” (in his 19th
century dream avatar AND as he sits in London today). 
but do keep in mind, there is a Tagore section coming up after a
detour through China (its Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist revolution and
Hyper-capitalist industrialization surely forgiven as it prepares to do battle
against “empire”..I can already feel PMs breast beginning to swell with Asian
pride). So dear Indians, I may have spoken too soon. You may not be safe yet.

1. The Chinese and Tagore sections are even weaker than the
Afghani section. The same confusion remains paramount. Thinkers in China and
India are responding to Western dominance. Pankaj describes this domination in
one paragraph and then tries to show it was never really that dominant in the
next. He shows how weak China or India were in the face of Western invaders and
then wants to insist that they were never as weak as portrayed in his favorite
straw-man, “the dominant narrative”. He consistently underplays sectarian and
religious fanaticism and their violent consequences in Asian countries, but
pounces on every example of violence or duplicity in the Europeans. All of this
is perfectly calibrated to suit the tastes of his eager (and forgiving)
audience. As long as ALL their buttons are pressed, it seems they have no
problem with button A being flatly contradictory to button B.
2. The weakest part of the book is its claim (made in large
print on the cover and repeated in every interview and in every favorable
review) that these
were the intellectual who remade Asia. 



How so? Jamaluddin Afghani was a serial impostor who
tried to sell his services to every empire of the day (British, Russian,
Turkish, Persian, Egyptian, etc) and failed in every one of his harebrained
schemes. His efforts had no detectable impact on the rise or fall of the
British empire. His attempts at creating some sort of modern Islam, neither Shia nor Sunni and able to meet
the Western challenge, have NOT become the dominant form of
resistance in the Islamic world. The high-water mark of modern Islamism was around the end of colonial empires. Where is that synthesis
now? Even if we imagine that such a synthesis is ABOUT TO EMERGE, how can that
effort be said to have ALREADY created modern Asia?

Besides, it is a tremendous stretch to say that Afghani was
somehow the prime mover of the Islamic revivalist trend. That trend existed
(and still exists) because the Islamicate world retained a self-image of ideal
unity and worldly power and reacted from day one to “objective conditions” that
did not conform to their self-image. There is a long history of Ottoman
attempts at “catching up”, leaping ahead or falling back on fundamentals in order to match the West.
Mishra himself makes tangential mention of those attempts but seems to
empathize mostly with those who completely rejected Western knowledge and
insisted on an “authentic” response, one that would meet Mishra’s own apparent
need for
justification by faith. 

Similarly there were multiple Persian attempts
at reform and re-invigoration. Afghani would approve of some of them. All of
them would have gone ahead without him. Allama Iqbal attempted an “Islamization
by stealthy Europeanization” by retroactively imposing modern philosophical
categories on Islamic theological debates (with little substantive
success…countless middle class fans in Pakistan think he did something very
original and great, but NONE can ever tell you what his philosophy was in any
concrete detail..try for yourself…ask any PTI supporter what Allama Iqbal’s
vision of modern Islam really was…enjoy the silence), but his admiration of
Afghani came AFTER his own work was well underway…i.e. this trend existed
independent of Afghani and in any case has now petered out after Saudi money pumped up the
more “authentic” return-to-purity version.

Modern China was built on traditional China and big influences include Sun Yat Sen’s nationalism
(explicitly described as an opponent of Liang by Pankaj),  Mao’s
revolution (its debt to Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism acknowledged by his
followers and his detractors, his debt to Liang, imaginary) and Deng’s
counter-revolution (his debt to America to be found in the 100,000 Chinese he
sent there to study, his debt to Liang?).Again, If and when modern capitalism
and nationalism fails in China and if
and when
some sort of Liang-ism (whatever that is, Pankaj has
not yet enlightened us about the new faith that will replace “the dominant
narrative”)  replaces it, maybe we will be forced to say something else.
But for now, how is modern China in any way the creation of Liang Qichao?
Pankaj fails to make that case and yet labels him one of his “intellectuals who
remade Asia”. How so?

Modern India is the product of British empire building, an
earlier Mughal empire, a somewhat mythologised Gupta Charter state, the efforts of
people like Gandhi and Nehru, and modern political parties and modern political
movements (albeit with skilful use of Indian cultural symbols by Gandhi in
particular). How exactly can the last 100 years of Indian history be described
as the fruit of Tagore’s intellectual labors? if Tagore had not even existed,
would India look different? I am sure Tagore was a good man (and in his
gentlemanly way, not even critical of Stalinism, not to speak of gentler
Western models) but how did he “remake Asia”?

Pankaj himself describes the failure of Liang and Tagore to do
much (and their disappointment at the end of their lives). Maybe in his own mind, he
sees their achievement as the fact that they were not impressed with Western
notions of progress and warned that these may include hidden disasters. These hidden dangers have become more manifest today so in retrospect they may seems somewhat prophetic, but they did not CAUSE the current rethinking. Their influence in their own time was not great, their detailed programs were either missing or included as many errors as prescient predictions (Tagore and Stalinism, for example). 

The response offered by all three thinkers to the supposed
“dominant narrative” is different and it needs a lot of selective reading to
make them part of the same trend in anything more substantial than “skeptical
of Western civilization”, but PM’s audience knows even less than he does, so he
gets away with it.

PM also feels that the demise of “Western” notions like the
secular nation state is now imminent, so those intellectuals are about to be
vindicated. Well, even a stuck clock is right once a day. Real vindication
would involve being right in more detail than just some vague notion that “materialistic
Western civilization” was doomed. It would also involve being at least
partially right about what happens if “it” fails. In any case, with nation
states and capitalism still very much alive (and no more unwell than they were
in 1930 or 1960)  how can these brave intellectuals be said to have
“created modern Asia”?? What is un-modern about modern Asia?

To get some idea of his thought process, take a look at these
excerpts from a recent interview with fellow prophet Hamid Dabashi:

Comrade Hamid: “Postcolonialism
is a mode of knowledge production. Colonialism happened, then postcolonial
nation states emerged, and they become conducive to the production of
ideologies – nationalism, third world socialism, Islamism, etc. These
ideologies have exhausted themselves and postcolonialism has ceased to produce
knowledge. This is what I call the end of postcolonialism and the result is
postcolonial leaders running for their lives across North Africa and the Arab
world.”


The world is rather large. Which parts exactly have moved beyond
the ideologies of socialism, nationalism etc? (capitalism is not mentioned;
perhaps sensibly enough).

China is no longer nationalist? India has dissolved the nation
state? Japan is now a multicultural post-national melange of new social
experiments? Sherry Rahman is no longer ambassador of the nation-state of
Pakistan to the nation-state of the USA? WTF does this even mean? A few (VERY
few) dictators in the Arab world, long since past their sell-by date, have been
deposed (3 at last count, out of 30 or so Arab countries, ZERO in the rest of
the world). They have been replaced by new regimes trying to stabilize their
nation-states in ways completely predictable in the modern paradigm. What does
this question even mean?

Here is PM’s humble response:
“I would date my political awakening in many ways to that particular visit (
to
Kashmir), where I was
confronted with the debris of the postcolonial ideology. I saw how a
postcolonial ideology of secular nationalism had turned malign and had become
extremely oppressive for the four million Muslims of Kashmir, who had embodied
at some point – and they still do – a cosmopolitan idea of culture, a
cosmopolitan idea of society. Here they were being asked to conform to a
certain form of postcolonial polity which claimed to be secular but that
actually concealed a very strong Hindu majoritarian element.”


I invite Indian friends to have a go at this one. Start with “postcolonial ideology of secular
nationalism”
(malign) versus the Kashmiri Muslim idea of  ” a cosmopolitan idea
of culture, a cosmopolitan idea of society.”


IF Kashmir had thrown off the Indian yoke and become some sort
of cosmopolitan alternative to the nation-state then we would have had to sit
up and take notice. As it is, it was an armed revolt (one of many that have
occurred in every part of the world before and after “modern” times. It now
seems to be on the verge of failure but even if it had succeeded, it would have
led to a modest enlargement in the size of nationalist Islamist Pakistan at the
expense of nationalist-so-called-secular India. Or maybe it would have
triggered a collapse of modern India (the one Pankaj doesnt like too much) and
been followed by a violent free for all that would probably entail Pankaj
spending much more time in London than in Mashobra. and how would that suddenly negate whatever it is that Pankaj thinks
it negates? The straw-man of peaceful, perfectly secular, perfectly just,
perfectly-formed nation states would go down in flames. The actually existing
world of nation-states indulging in violence, territorial grabs, religious
violence, etc. would remain unsurprised even as parts of it in the Indian
subcontinent are violently rearranged.

Keep in mind that I am NOT saying secular nationalism etc cannot
be malign. But actually existing A needs to be described accurately, then
perhaps replaced by actually possible B. PM’s description of actually existing
A is frequently overpowered by his intense desire to see a modern Western
“materialist” civilizational catastrophe (in his interview: “The old paradigm of “the west” having
reached the summit of human achievement – modernity – with everyone else
catching up, lies exploded due to various crises not just within “the west” but
also the sheer scale of environmental crises that are about to overwhelm large
parts of India and China who have elected to follow that particular path of
development and globalisation”)

Since this apocalyptic vision is
already mainstream in the Western Left (now waiting for global warming to
finally do what years of revolutionary intellectual effort has failed to
accomplish), it is accepted without question by his audience. But out there in
the real world, modern civilization is closer to what Marx predicted it would
be:
“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising
the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and
with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of
production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of
existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of
production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting
uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier
ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable
prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated
before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is
profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real
conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”


This is not necessarily a happy state. Maybe “we” were better
off without it. (thats a big maybe
though, since it has to take into account that most of “us” were peasant serfs
in the good old days). And maybe new ways of social
and communal life will arise from the smoking ruins of the old (or, perhaps in a
few luckier cases, will evolve relatively peacefully from the old). One can certainly make an Ashish Nandy type case against
bourgeouise triumphalism. One can also make an Islamist case or a Hindutvadi
case or one of a thousand other cases that have been made in the past and
continue to be made today…many of them by people who are themselves willing or
unwitting creators of exactly the revolutions they wish were not happening. But
what is Pankaj Bhaiya’s B and how is it superior?  Where
has it replaced the “dominant paradigm” and how did these three intellectuals
create that alternative?

He doesnt have to bother with making that case because his
audience is already eagerly waiting to be told that it is the case. This fact (the
existence of such an audience in the Western and Westernized world elite) may
indeed forewarn us that a huge disaster is about to happen…or it may tell us
that he and his audience are entertaining each other while life goes on. I take
the second view, but am still open to the possibility of the first. In both
cases, these intellectuals did NOT remake Asia.

Btw, an example of how PM Bhaiya creates his straw men and
shoots them down with his super-gun:  ”Someone
like Mughal emperor Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar, nominally a Muslim emperor and
yet incredibly syncretic. Someone who knew he was presiding over a
multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious reality. These are examples of
suppressed histories that we don’t really talk about much or that don’t form
part of the dominant narrative. “


WTF? 
First of all, the view of Akbar the Great as a great syncretic ruler has been around
since the 19th century! British historians described him in exactly those
terms, as did Nehru and many many Indian nationalists. What dominant narrative?
what suppressed history?

PS: another interesting thing about Pankaj: his heroes OUTSIDE India tend to be the same kind of people he cannot stand INSIDE India. Afghani, with his pan-islamist dreams (with a reformed and modernized Islam in place in a Muslim empire that can match the West in scientific and military terms, not just in some airy-fairy spiritual realm) is good, but Savarkar, with similar nationalist-revivalist dreams about Hindu India is not? The same goes for Chinese and Japanese nationalists. It is something to think about…

A preview of Indo-Pak cooperation in Uganda

I received a random salesman call from two brown dudes.

One of them (M) had been calling me the past few days trying to set up a meeting. He had been “sirring” me a fair bit and on the third time they managed to come to our offices.
Turns out even though he’s Gujarati Brahmin (I could tell the surname) he looks like a rather familiar North Indian accountant, the type we get somewhat used to. He was very techie and very solicitous.
As I walk into the meeting I notice the darker chap and assume because of his curly hair he must have been South Indian. Turns out he has a Muslim name (A) and upon my asking how long the company has been in Uganda (5yrs+) I ask if it’s an Indian company.
Turns out to my surprise it’s originally Pakistani (I find it a bit odd that an Indian is working for Pakis, but a job is a job I guess).
At any rate turns out A is of course Pakistani and as I sit in that short meeting it dawns on me the almost perfect illustration of Indo-Pak cooperation and stereotypes. Indian accountant in a suit, obsequious looks techie and money.
The Paki had obviously done something to his hair (in Uganda making those curls is called texturising) and was wearing a River Island shirt (we’re not even in Kampala proper) with a slight American twinge (I doubt he was the son of the founder but an aspiring relative so the American accent is grafted on).
I don’t know if Paks are the cool kids of the subcontinent (apparently the Sri Lankans have the most swag in london) but at a few moments in the meeting I couldn’t keep from smiling as the paki went and on with the sale.
Are Paks the natural salesman of South Asia, are Indians more technically gifted I have no idea but when stereotypes slap you in the face, sometime you have no choice but to smile along.. Oh and we might just buy the product.. 

the 14th Ferozepur Sikh regiment…and some others

Continuing the tradition of posting Dr Hamid Hussain’s occasional emails about Indian military history (and very sad at having lost the previous posts that were in the old Brown Pundits):

Dear All;
A good friend from India asked questions about details of 14 Sikhs in WWI and role of Indian Medical Service (IMS); not much written about IMS.  There were some other questions about Sikh recruitment in British Indian army especially caste issue.  Following piece was consolidation of answers of these queries.  My digging of military archeology is only for those interested in history.  I personally have a lot of fun doing this though quite tiring.  
Hamid
14th Ferozepore Sikhs
Hamid Hussain
14th Ferozepore Sikhs was raised in 1846 after First Anglo-Sikh War from demobilized soldiers of Sikh army.  It was raised by Captain G. Tebbs and recruits came mainly from cis-Sutlej area.  Regiment recruited local Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims.  Initially, Oudh Rajputs from other regiments were posted to the regiment.  In 1852, Tebbs died and Captain T. E. Colebrooke took command.  In 1857 Mutiny, regiment was in Mirzapur.  Few days before the uprising about four hundred men under the dynamic command of Lieutenant Jeremiah Brasyer were sent to Allahabad and few days later they were instrumental in saving the fort.  Brasyer was the founding father of the regiment.  He spoke Punjabi and in 1846, he toured cis-Sutlej area and was instrumental in encouraging Sikhs to join the new regiment.  He was an amazing character.  He was a gardener and enlisted in Bengal artillery.  Few years later he was appointed Sergeant Major of 26th Bengal Native Infantry.  He fought in First Anglo-Afghan War of 1842 and First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846.   He was given commission and appointed Ensign at the age of thirty-three and served as interpreter during the raising of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs.  The regiment was later known by his name as Brasyer’s Sikhs. 
During mutiny, with the breakdown of general order, soldiers of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs got hold of all the liquor from cantonment and city of Allahabad.  They periodically got drunk and discipline was seriously compromised.  British position was still precarious and they have to act tactfully.  They bought all the liquor from Sikhs at asking price and later transferred them from the fort to a nearby building.  During Mutiny, regiment joined Henry Havelock’s relief of Cawnpore and Lucknow. In the hot weather, soldiers discarded their regular uniform and donned red turbans.  British officers including their commander Brasyer also wore red turbans.  In honor of this service, regiment was allowed to wear red turbans and later the whole Sikh regiment adopted the red turban; a tradition still continued in Sikh regiment of Indian army. 

Regiment participated in many expeditions on North West Frontier.  In 1863 Ambela Expedition, regiment under the command of Major Ross and Subedar Major Sikandar Khan participated in some sanguine battles.  In 1877, regiment participated in Jowaki Expedition operating in Bori valley.  In 1878, regiment participated in Second Anglo-Afghan War under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Williams.  Regiment was decimated not by enemy fire but by an epidemic of typhoid fever killing 200 men.  In 1881, regiment participated in Waziristan operation.  In 1884, Lieutenant Colonel George Nicholas Channer V.C. took command of the regiment.  He was originally from 1st Gurkha Rifles.  Channer family had long association with Indian army and especially Sikhs.  His father Colonel George Girdwood Channer served with Bengal Artillery.  His brother Colonel Bernard Channer DSO served with 2nd Native Infantry and Rajput Light Infantry.  Bernard’s three sons served in Indian army.  Guy Channer DSO served with 14th Sikhs and commanded the battalion in 1918, Bernard Gordon with 54th Sikhs (later 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment and now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) and Keith Francis with 30th Jacob’s Horse.  In 1888, regiment fought in Black Mountain expedition under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ellis, Chitral expedition in 1895, Tochi Field Force in 1897 and went to China in 1900 during Boxer rebellion. 
In 1866, Punjabi Muslims were phased out and regiment became a single class regiment of Sikhs.  It is important to understand Sikh recruitment in British Indian army.  Sikh religious and social transformation in nineteenth century resulted in retreat of Khatri and rise of Jat Sikhs.  There is no caste system in Sikh religious doctrine and all are considered equal.  However, in reality there existed a clear class hierarchy in descending order of Jat, Khatri, Arora, Lobana, Ramgarhia and Ahluwalia.  Jats were sitting on the top of the pyramid and didn’t mingle with other classes.  British had to consider this during recruitment therefore only Jat Sikhs were recruited for single class regiments as well as class companies.  Other Sikh castes were recruited in separate regiments. 
Lobana Sikhs were recruited mainly in pioneer regiments (48th Pioneers) as well as some Punjab regiments.  British policy of insisting on strict adherence to Sikh religious code for its military recruits resulted in solidification of Sikh identity.  This also helped in significant conversion of Lobana Hindus to Sikhism with resultant marked reduction of Lobana Hindus in Punjab.  Twin benefits of military service and allotment of agricultural lands helped in upward social mobility of Lobanas.  Due to their first class performance in First World War, in 1922 reorganization, it was decided to have at least one company of Lobana Sikhs in each pioneer battalion.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, Lobana Sikhs were recruited in mountain batteries of artillery as well as constituting machine gun platoons of some infantry regiments.  Some Lobanas from disbanded pioneer regiments were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
Low caste Sikhs called Mazhabi and Ramdasia (M & R) Sikhs were at the bottom ring of the social ladder and they also looked towards army for upward social mobility.  They were mainly recruited in 23rd, 32nd and 34thPioneers.  A very small number served with Royal Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Pioneers were a specialized infantry that was extremely useful in frontier expeditions.  34th Pioneers earned the ‘Royal’ title for their stellar performance in First World War.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, only a very small number of M & R Sikhs remained in army.  About 320 M & R Sikhs were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Initially, all Sikhs were mixed in Sappers & Miners regiments but problems between high and low caste Sikhs especially the tricky issue of M & R Sikhs attending Jat Gurdwaras of the regiments resulted in segregation.  All Jat Sikhs went to Bengal Sappers & Miners while Lobana and M & R Sikhs to Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
In Second World War Mazhabi & Ramdasia (M & R) Regiment was re-raised from elements of earlier disbanded pioneer regiments.  Several old British officers of disbanded pioneer regiments were instrumental in raising M & R regiment.  1st M & R regiment was raised in Jullundur in October 1941 by Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Price.  Price was from 32nd Pioneers and after disbandment went to 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment.  Second in Command Major E. P. F. Pearse was from 34th Pioneers and had gone to 3/2 Punjab Regiment.  Subedar Major Jewan Singh was from 32nd Pioneers.  9/15 Punjab Regiment and 7/17 Dogra Regiment provided initial lot of native officers and other ranks for the raising of the regiment.  1st M & R fought in Burma theatre.  Later two more M & R battalions and some garrison companies were raised.  M & R Regiment was later re-named Sikh Light Infantry (SLI). 
In First World War, 14th Sikhs served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamian theatres where battalion suffered heavy casualties. In Gallipoli, 14th Sikhs was part of 29th Indian Brigade (other battalions were 69th and 89th Punjabis and 1/6th Gurkha Rifles).  Lieutenant Colonel Philip C. Palin was CO, Lieutenant Cremen Adjutant, Lieutenant Meade Quarter Master and Lieutenant Matthew Machine Gun Officer.  Indian officers included Subedar Major Jaswant Singh and Subedars Thakur Singh, Prem Singh and Kartar Singh.  Battalion’s Medical Officer was Cursetjee and sweeper Channi. Battalion suffered heavy casualties in the Third Battle of Krithia in June 1915 with over three hundred and seventy killed and wounded.  At one time, all officers were killed and wounded and only Second Lieutenant Reginald Arthur Savory remained unscathed and took temporary command of the battalion (he was wounded later and at Lt. Colonel rank commanded the battalion by then renamed 1/11 Sikhs and retired as Lieutenant General).  Battalion was reinforced with two double companies of Patiala Imperial Service Infantry, drafts from India and from other Punjabi regimens and Burma police battalions.  Battalion earned the distinction of winning 35 Indian Distinguished Service Medals (IDSMs) in Gallipoli campaign. 
In Mesopotamia, battalion guarded line of communications of I Corps and served with 51st Brigade. Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Earle and Subedar Major Sham Singh.  They were succeeded by Major Guy Channer and Subedar Major Narain Singh.  Battalion suffered 61 killed in action and 250 wounded.  Among the wounded was Captain George Francis Bunbury whose father Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Bunbury (originally from 28th Punjabis) had commanded the battalion from 1902-6.  Influenza epidemic decimated the battalion killing 300 men; a de ja vu of 1878 when Typhoid fever took more toll than enemy’s bullets.  Battalion has a unique distinction of having winners of gallantry awards even among its medical officers.  Battalion’s Medical Officer Captain Cursetjee won a DSO while Sub Assistant Surgeon Bhagwan Singh won Indian Order of Merit (IOM) in Mesopotemia.  Heerajee Jehangir Manockjee Cursetjee was awarded DSO in 1918 for gallantry and devotion to service when he attended to wounded soldiers despite being wounded himself.  He retired as Major General.
Indian Medical Service (IMS) was the first branch of Indian army that opened its doors to Indians as King Commissioned Officers.  One the eve of First World War, many Indian officers were serving with IMS.  In addition to Cursetjee, two other IMS officers; Captain (later Colonel) Phirozshah Byramji Bharucha and Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Nilkanth Shriram Jatar also won DSO in Great War.  Jatar is the most decorated IMS officer.  He won his first DSO in June 1917 in Mesopotamia when serving as medical officer of 16 Cavalry.  He won bar to DSO during Waziristan operation in 1920 when serving as medical officer of 2/76th Punjabis.  He was severely wounded at Kotkai (in 2008 Pakistan army fought battle at the same location.  In fact, Pakistan army and paramilitary scouts fought many battles with militants at almost all previous battlefields of frontier warfare a century ago) during the withdrawal and lost his leg.  IMS officers introduced their young children to military life and children of many of these pioneer officers of IMS joined Indian army.  Jatar’s three sons joined armed forces; Major General Sudhir Jatar, Brigadier Arvind Jatar (Central India Horse) and Air Vice Marshal Jairam Jatar. Children of another IMS officer Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Abdur Rahman also opted for army after their education in England.  Atiq ur Rahman ‘Turk’ joined 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, opted for Pakistan in 1947 and became Lieutenant General in Pakistan army.  Turk’s brother Attaur Rahman after serving with a Frontier Force Regiment battalion joined Indian Foreign Service.  He decided to stay in India and served as Indian ambassador to several countries.
 In 1922 reorganization, 14th Ferozepore Sikhs was designated Ist Battalion of 11th Sikh Regiment.  Ist, 2nd and 3rd battalions of 11th Sikh Regiment were single class Jat Sikh battalions while 4th, 5th and 10th battalions were composed of two Jat Sikh and two Punjabi Muslim companies.  In 1945, Naik Nand Singh of 1/11 Sikh Regiment won Victoria Cross (VC) in Burma.
In 1947, Indian army was divided between India and Pakistan.  Most battalions were composed of class companies or squadrons and they were exchanged between two countries.  Ist Battalion of Ist Punjab Regiment was assigned to Pakistan and it consisted of Sikh A Company, Hazarawal Muslims B company, Punjabi Muslims C Company and Rajput D Company.  Sikh and Rajput companies of the battalion went to India.  Sikh A company was assigned to 1/11 Sikh then stationed at Gurgaon.  In the terrible times of communal hatred when Muslims and Sikhs were killing each other, it is amazing to note that the regimental bond was still vibrant and solid as a rock.  Former Commanding Officer of 1/1 Punjab Colonel Sher Ali Khan Pataudi was in Delhi waiting to go to Pakistan to join Pakistan army.  Battalion’s former Subedar Major Feroz Khan was also in Delhi.  When they came to know that the Sikh company of 1/1 Punjab was in Gurgaon in the process of joining 1/11 Sikh, they decided to visit their former comrades.  While their fellow co-religionists were killing each other Pataudi and Feroz were entertained by Sikhs of 1/1 Punjab with the farewell dinner and karha parsad (a sweet offering to visitors as a sign of hospitality) and many wet eyes.
 1/11 Sikh played crucial role in securing Kashmir for India in 1947-48.  Pakistani tribesmen and some regular troops had captured the town of Baramula and were on the doorsteps of Srinagar.   On October 26, Indian leaders decided to send Indian troops to Kashmir.  1/11 Sikh was the first battalion air lifted to Kashmir.  Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai was informed to bring his troops to Palam air filed in Delhi for air lift on early morning October 27.  Two companies of the battalion were on internal security duties.  Rai took C and D companies along with battalion headquarters with instructions that remaining two companies follow later.  Rai had no idea about the task and at the airfield he was given operational orders.  Ground situation was very fluid with very limited information and no one even knew the extent of Pakistani advance.  Rai was instructed to land at Srinagar airport and secure the airfield.  In case, there was no response from Srinagar tower or if it had already fallen, then he was to go to Jammu and grab any kind of transport and try to go as close to Srinagar by road. 
On landing at Srinagar, Rai sent C company under the command of Captain Karamjit Singh towards Baramula and it reached Mile 32.  D Company under Major Harwant Singh did a flag march in Srinagar and then sent reinforcement to C company.  Rai had no communication with his troops as the plane carrying battalion’s signal platoon developed a problem and had to divert to Jammu (signal platoon joined three days later).  Faced with this dilemma, Rai decided to join his forward troops.  At Mile 32, tribesmen failing to dislodge the Sikhs outflanked them and tried to cut off their rear.  Rai arranged for the extrication of his troops and was killed in action.  Major Harwant Singh took temporary command and later Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Harbkhash Singh (originally from 5/11 Sikhs) took command of the battalion.  Rai was a firs rate officer originally commissioned in 5/11 Sikhs.  He was from the Pakistani town of Gujranwala.  His grandson Shivjit Shergill and great grandson Fareed Shergill served in Indian armored corps (Central India Horse).
 In December 1947, battalion lost its Victoria Cross (VC) winner Jamadar Nand Singh in Kashmir.  His body was never found.  He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously making him the most decorated soldier of Indian army.  1 Sikh was instrumental in saving Srinagar for India and rightfully earned 59 gallantry awards.  Their valor was acknowledged by declaring October 27 as ‘Infantry Day’ for Indian army.  In 1962 Indo-China war, 1 Sikh fought in Towang sector.  Battalion had over 170 casualties including 132 killed in action.  Among the dead included their Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel B. N. Mehta and Subedar Jogindar Singh.  In 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, 1 Sikh was in Titwal sector of Kashmir and involved in some minor operations. 
In 1979, Mechanized Infantry Regiment was raised and many old infantry battalions were converted to mechanized infantry and allotted new numbers.  1 Sikh became 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment.  Mechanized Infantry regiments are mixed class and 1 Sikh lost its all Sikh character on its re-incarnation as 4th Mechanized Infantry.  1 Sikh traded its red turban for black beret in transformation to 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment; however it is carrying on 170 years of traditions. 
Notes:
–        The 14th, King George’s Own Sikhs : the 1st Battalion (K.G.O.) (Ferozepore Sikhs), the 11th Sikh Regiment, 1846-1933 by Colonel F.E.G. Talbot, 1937
–        1st King George V’s Own Battalion, the Sikh Regiment. The 14th King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs. 1846-1946 by Lieutenant-General P. G. Bamford, 1948
–        M & R: A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 1941-1947 by J. D. Hookway. 
–        The Sikh Regiment by D. S. Sandhu, http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE3-6/sandhu.html
–        The Story of Soldiering and Politics in India and Pakistan by Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, 1978
Hamid Hussain
February 28, 2014