The decline in South Asian poverty

It has long been asserted that South Asia may make average strides economically, but it is still in absolute terms the locus of most of the world’s grinding poverty. This may not be true much longer. In particular, some estimates now suggest that India is no longer the world’s “leader” in extreme poverty in absolute terms. From Brookings, The start of a new poverty narrative:

According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number 2 spot (Figure 1 below). At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall. In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today.

Bangladesh has been making progress as well, from the World Bank:

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty, supported by sustained economic growth. Based on the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day, it reduced poverty from 44.2 percent in 1991 to 13.8 percent in 2016/17. In parallel, life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production have increased significantly. Progress was underpinned by 6 percent plus growth over the decade and reaching to 7.3 percent in 2016/2017, according to official estimates. Rapid growth enabled Bangladesh to reach the lower middle-income country status in 2015. In 2018, Bangladesh fulfilled all three eligibility criteria for graduation from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list for the first time and is on track for graduation in 2024.

Here’s GDP for South Asian countries in 2005 dollars:

I left Bangladesh in 1980. Not too long after I was born. I went back to visit in 1989 and 2004. In relation to 1980, per capita GDP was 1.15x. in 2004 it was 1.6x. In 2016 it was 2.9x. So over the past 14 years there’s been a 2x increase in GDP per capita in Bangladesh! The equivalent figure in the United States is 1.1x.

Why not Persian for the pre-1971 Pakistan ?

Update: I’ve undeleted this since Zach has admitted that he overreacted below. If you want me to trash this post again Vikram just leave a comment below and I’ll do so. -Razib

I understand the nostalgia and desire for an Islamicate language among the Ashraf elite of British North India. After all, Hindus have a similar desire to live in the house of classical Indian languages, and the vast majority of Hindus give their children names from these languages.

But what baffles me is the the Ashraf insistence on Urdu. Choosing Persian as the national language of Muslim South Asia would have had many benefits:

  1. Just like Hindus, whether Kashmiri or Marathi, have a reverence for their classical languages (currently mainly Sanskrit for North Indian Hindutva types, but with a bit of maturity this sentiment also extends to other Indian classical languages), Muslims whether Sindhi or Bengali see Persian and Arabic as their classical language. This would have dramatically reduced the internecine conflicts amongst South Asian Muslims due to language.
  2. Persian as a national language would cement Pakistan’s relation with the Iranic world (and thus the core Muslim world), which is the ancestral land of much of the Muslim Ashrafi in South Asia. South Asian Muslims would come into deeper contact with a sophisticated and highly cultured Muslim population.
  3. Muslims of South Asia would have access to a true, expansive classical literature (including heroic epics, not just romantic poetry) dating back to antiquity, much like Indians have access to classical literatures in Sanskrit, Pali and classical Dravidian. This would diminish the need for extreme religiosity as the glue for holding the Muslim nation together, and produce a far larger, self confident cultural output.

On the other hand, the choice of Urdu created quite a few issues for the preservation and growth of Islamicate culture in South Asia:

  1. At the end of day, Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language with Sanskrit grammar and substantial Sanskrit vocabulary. Even the most Arabo-Persianized version of Urdu (Pakistan’s official Urdu) has at least 40% Sanskrit and Prakrit vocabulary. More so, since Hindus speak Hindi, which has the same grammar, but a steadily increasing Sanskrit vocabulary, it leaves Urdu perpetually vulnerable to an increase of Sanskrit vocabulary.
  2. Some key words in Urdu like aap and sakna have roots in Hindu concepts (aap comes from aatma, the higher self) and sakna derives from Sanskrit shakt, which has a higher meaning in Shakti, the feminine divinity of Hinduism, walla from pal, which means protector.
  3. Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh, already have their own languages and literatures, especially the Pashtun, Bengalis and Sindhis. No wonder the imposition has led to substantial conflicts instead of synergy towards the ultimate goal of a sophisticated, modern Muslim culture in South Asia, which is also shared by these populations.

All this leaves me baffled as to why the Muslim Ashrafi were so insistent on Urdu. My best guess is that they mistakenly felt that Urdu was a variant of Arabic and Persian, with no real Sanskrit influence. This is quite possible since the different language families would not have been widely known then, and since Urdu was written in the Arabic script, which is dramatically different from Indian ones.

In any case, the Ashrafi insisted on Urdu. This led to a breakdown of Muslim nationalism when Bangladesh separated. Bangladesh now uses an Indic script, and speaks a language with mainly Sanskrit vocabulary. On the other side of the subcontinent, for the first time in more than two millennia Pashtuns could be under more Indic influence than Iranic (this might change as Iran rises again). Within India, Urdu has declined dramatically, as Muslim families in UP and elsewhere have reconciled themselves to Hindi[1]. Knowing Urdu leaves Pakistani Muslims vulnerable to a substantial amount of Hindu literature and concepts via television shows and Hindi movies.

None of these could have been the goals of the Ashrafi when they demanded a Muslim homeland.

[1] – Urdu is the only scheduled language in India that registered a decrease in the absolute number of speakers between 2001 and 2011. Its proportion of first language speakers has decreased from 5.22% in 1971 to 4.19% in 2011, despite an increase in Muslim population percentage.

Revolution in the Bronx – the Browning of America

The major news in American politics is the upset victory in the Democratic primary by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. I’m sharing her video here without comments since I think this is a huge advance for “brown” people worldwide. I read somewhere that the classical world had a penchant for a variety of colours (maybe related to paganism – India is very colourful and Roman sculptures were painted, perhaps even garishly) but that the modern Anglo-Western scheme is very black and white.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Millennial beats veteran Democrat

In some ways that reflects our current Anglo-discourse where things are very binary. I remember in the London Olympic Opening Ceremony, there was so much attention dedicated to the Black experience in Britain (Windrush etc) and none given to the Asian one. When we think diversity in Britain we still think Black rather than Asian, especially in the entertainment sector.

It’s a rather striking phenomenon that in the finance industry a huge array of the junior recruits will be diverse and Asian but as they climb towards seniority they start to become stale, pale and male. It’s not to say that Asians are underrepresented, in fact they may very well be overrepresented, but the rate of attrition in the rise to seniority is quite noticeable. This is because the top ranks like to replicate themselves (subconsciously) and you would rather go for a drink with someone who looks and feels like you.

I echo Ms. Ocasio-Cortez that it’s not about identity politics but more about getting a seat in the table. Good job and Good luck.

One designer’s brave decision to feature darker skinned modelst

Representation is so important and Mr Kejirwal should be applauded for his bold & unorthodox decision.

South Asia is probably the most diverse society when it comes to skin tones since every range is pretty much featured. However the systematic colour bias will only come undone when we reflect the society at large.

I’m reminded of my cousin who wanted to buy some cream in South East Asia. Every cream there had skin lightening formulas so it proved impossible in the end.

Clear and tanned complexion is the optimal type for any race; that look emerges in LA a fair bit since there is so much sun and it’s a prosperous society with lots of focus on aesthetics.

Of course Miss India this year is noticeably dustier than the previous ones so the aesthetic is definitely changing.


Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (a)?

Two of the world’s greatest and most beloved muslim leaders and scholars discuss the holy Koran, Hadiths, Pakistan. They discuss what being a muslim means.

34 minutes in, they discuss how Imam Ali went to Usman (also written Othman or Uthman) and presented him Ali’s copy of the holy Koran, also called the book of Ali or book of Fatimah. These were Imam Ali’s and Fatimah’s notes on the Koranic versus as they were revealed. As an aside Dr. James White and Jay Smith discusses how the holy Koran was composed:

Quietly Islamic scholars discuss this frequently but are afraid to discuss this in public for fear of retaliation at the hands of Islamist extremists. Please also watch the exceptional Islamic scholars Abdullah Gondal and Abdullah Sameer discuss the formation of the holy Quran:

After discussing the holy Quran, Imam Tawidi and Tarek Fatah discuss how and why Raswa Hind was written right after the holy prophet Mohammed pbuh passed away; which called for the conquest of Arya varsha (Iran, Turan, SAARC and related civilizations in South East Asia) and Asia. Tarek Fatah’s next book–“The Hindu is Not My Enemy”–elaborates on this. Many muslims believed that Pakistan was prophesied  in the holy Koran and by Mohammed pbuh because of Raswa Hind. Pakistani psychosis is discussed.

They mention how the numbering system of the Koran comes from India and how several of the Hadiths were written by muslims long after Mohammed pbuh passed away when muslims came to India–including the Hadith on how male monkeys stoned a female monkey for engaging in physical relations without formalizing her wedding with a male monkey  (at that time monkeys only lived in greater India).

They discuss the nexus of soft Islamists and their nonmuslim collaborators that now greatly influence and control America, Europe and much of the world. They often intimidate, oppress and harm patriotic good muslims. One of the ways they do this by accusing good muslims such as Tarek, Imam Tawhidi and Maajid Nawaz of being Islamaphobes. They are banned from many networks, publications, newspapers; and are on no fly lists. But despite this attempt by nonmuslims and Islamists to stifle them; their popularity and legitimacy among muslims continues to soar.

After watching this video, please see this very interesting discussion between the wise compassionate Jaʿfari jurisprudence extraordinaire Imam Tawhidi and the great atheist Bengali Islamish scholar Mufassil Islam moderated by Lebanese Canadian heart throb Gad Saad:

Continue reading Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (a)?

Is Erdogan the Turkish Modi?

Erdogan has consolidated his power in yesterday’s election. This post was sparked by a Facebook friend’s (Indian Muslim) comment “why do Muslims in India hate Modi but love Erdogan.” Shashi provides some context here:

Comparisons are generally invidious, especially when they involve political leaders from different countries. But, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to power 11 years before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is much about their personal and professional trajectories that makes comparison irresistible.

Both Erdogan and Modi come from humble, small-town backgrounds: Erdogan sold lemonade and pastries in the streets of Rize; Modi helped his father and brother run a tea stall on a railway platform in Vadnagar. They are self-made men, energetic and physically fit – Erdogan was a professional soccer player before becoming a politician; Modi has bragged about his 56-inch (142-centimeter) chest – not to mention effective orators.

Both Erdogan and Modi were raised with religious convictions that ultimately shaped their political careers. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have both promoted a religiously infused, nationalist creed that they argue is more authentic than the Western-inspired secular ideologies that previously guided their countries’ development.

History has definitely not come to an end; Turkey and India (Israel/Hungary) seem to be on the vanguage of nationalistic revivals. Thankfully none of these countries border each other.

Related: Modi believed Vajpayee’s wooing of Muslims in 2004 was a fruitless exercise

Ps: All comments welcome except abusive or overwrought ones. Tone and tenor of any conversation (on my posts at least) must be calm and measured.

Africa’s only Hindu island

I’m pretty sure that Mauritius is a secular democracy but it is 52% Hindu.

As an aside it would be interesting to study the evolution of Hindu island diaspora culture around the world (Suriname, Guiana, Fiji, Mauritius etc).

There doesn’t seem to have been much Brahmin migration and it was mainly done by farmers/labourers. The early 20th century into East Africa seems to have had much Gujarati merchant castes but if memory serves me right they also served as labourers for the railways so it’s all a bit complicated and understudied.

Disregarding the Out of India migration theory (but there must have been a pulse with the Mitanni in the Levant); India has periodically pushed out waves of migrants to spread its culture, script and religion. To my mind though the only Hindu society, outside of core South Asia, to have a strong Brahmin presence is Bali.

It’s brings a further observation is that can Vedic and Hindu be separated. The reason I suggest this is that the Hinduicisation of South India seems to have primarily mediated by Brahmin migrants from the north. They seem to have found local hierarchies and adapted it to the caste system (the Reddys seem to be indigenous Dravidians).

I’m still unclear what the original nucleus of Hindu society would have been. After the collapse of the IVC culture it seems that Indian/Hindu civilisation (I’m treating them as equivalent since we are talking about BC) was continually shifting towards Haryana than Western UP and then Bihar. It’s only the Islamic incursions in first millennia AD that shifted it back towards Delhi and plugged India back into the Turkic network.

Of course the Buddhist interruption can’t be ignored but the role of Brahmins in the coherence of Hindu civilisation simply can’t be ignored. What is interest is that all the Hindu islands sans Brahmins seem to become very relaxed creole island cultures that resemble Sri Lanka. All of sudden the pulsating sensuality and tropical sexuality that is so repressed in North India/Pakistan emerges and the hidden matriarchy also peaks through.

Much as the Muslim invaders were very obviously symbols of patriarchy and a stern nomadic culture; its not unreasonable to supposed that the Aryans represented much of the same stream and applied that to a relatively relaxed pagan Dravidian/AASI South Asia. It would make sense that Indra, a masculine thunder god, is Aryan but Lingala worship is an indigenous feature.

The model we would be looking at is Mother Goddess worshipping AASI with naturistic pagan beliefs being coopted by Dravidian farmers. It would be a classic case of farmers and hunter gatherers coexisting in the same spaces; most of the farmer culture and genes winning out over the generations. Then come the Aryans with their migration/invasion but progressively Sanskritise the rest of South Asia with a much more masculine pantheon.

A question comes to mind that if Malaysia/Indonesia had a strong and resilient Brahmin network, would they have become Muslim? Had the spread of Buddhism undermined Brahminism as it seems to have done in the northern Punjab/Bengal peripheries of the Subcontinent.

Ps: Smart comments welcome (as in the Climate Change thread) – I’m simply speculating. I’ll delete anything overwrought; everyone featured in this post (except the Mauritians) are long gone.

Why Climate Change is a cult-

I really enjoy the tweets from the Aerogram since they provide well-curated content. However this third-party article on Monsoon dispersion of pollution is simply rife with generalities and polemicism, high by even BP’s well-worn standards.

The article starts off on a fascinating note:

As South Asia burns fossil fuels, researchers from Germany say the clockwise-spinning storm pulls the emissions high into the troposphere. There, lightning-fueled chemical reactions transform the pollutants into more stable forms, which fall to earth as harmless rain.

A paen to Mother India cleaning up after her messy spawn. However before we could take any consolation in the good news:

By combining these measurements with computer models of air circulation, the researchers tracked the path of the contaminants and how they changed as they reached higher altitudes.

As expected, at lower altitudes, the South Asian monsoon did disperse pollutants over a wide region, including distant areas like Tibet. However, the scientists also found that the monsoon pulled the polluted air from the atmosphere into the much higher troposphere, where with the assistance of the storm’s lightning, it reacted with other gases, and could be washed out by the rain.

Note they use simulated models to track the pollutants so in a way this isn’t verified or empirical based science. It would have been good to actually validate pollution levels in places like Tibet etc. And then for the final piece de resistance:

Unfortunately, Lelieveld told VOA, “the monsoon is weakening, which can reduce the cleaning mechanism. We also believe that the air pollution contributes to a weakening of the monsoon.” He added, “Intuitively, if the monsoon weakens, the pollution will stay more near the ground rather than being transported upward.”

This is a comment that wouldn’t have even passed muster in our own threads. How do we know the Monsoon is weakening and how do know that air pollution is weakening the Monsoon.

I do think it’s fairly straightforward and uncontroversial to state that we should pollute less but it’s increasingly evident that anthropogenic pollution isn’t as clear-cut a topic as we think it is. The Earth does seem to have some feedback mechanisms and it’s also worth reflect if the human scale of pollution can match natural events (like a volcano eruption etc).

We live in a liberal-defined shibboleth and these new orthodoxies are sometimes even more pernicious than the ones of yore since these are draped in the values and ideals of the enlightenment. Please note I’m not necessarily espousing one view over the other but we as learnt in BP; argument from authority (experts) is a logical fallacy and the article above reeks of it.

Brown Pundits