Blasphemy and blasphemy laws in Pakistan

This was on old post about blasphemy laws that I wrote in 2015. It is on the site, but hard to search for, so i decided to repost it now that blasphemy is again in the news with protesters in Pakistan demanding the French ambassador be expelled, the country in lockdown and several people including policemen already killed in riots. It is possible that the main driver of this particular episode is something else entirely (for example, cracks in the ruling junta or between GHQ and Imran Khan) but the blasphemy meme-complex provides the fuel for this fire, even if it is being cynically used by some oversmart idiot in the ruling elite/intelligence agencies.

Most of this is picked out of a past post about the cruel blasphemy execution (by being burned alive) of a Christian couple in Pakistan. I am reposting because blasphemy is in the news again and I cannot count the number of times someone has managed to say “colonial era blasphemy laws in Pakistan” in a misleading manner. I wanted to have a post handy where I could direct them, so here it is, a quick overview of the blasphemy issue in Pakistan

A blasphemy law was part of the 19th century Indian Penal code as section 295.. It was not a bad law at all and the lazy habit of blaming it for later blasphemy law crap in the Indian subcontinent is just that: a lazy habit.

Here is section 295 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860:

 Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

The aim of the law was to prevent/punish things like someone throwing a dead pig into a mosque or a cow’s head into a temple. An actual physical desecration is to be punished. This seems like an eminently sensible law  and cannot really be blamed for all the evils that came later. But in the 1920s there was a famous case in Lahore where a Hindu publisher was arrested by the colonial authorities after Muslims agitated against him for having published a book called Rangila Rasul (“merry prophet”). The British colonial authorities tried to prosecute him for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims, but the high court in Lahore (quite properly) found him innocent because there was no law on the books against just publishing a book, no matter how offensive it may be to some religious group. Fearing future communal discord from such provocations, the British then had the legislative assembly add section 295A to the law in order to criminalize deliberate attempts to “outrage the religious feelings of any community”. This section states:

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both. 

But even with this new and expanded article 295A in place, prosecutions for blasphemy were few and far between until, in the 1980s, General Zia added two new sections to the law in Pakistan and really set the ball rolling.  These infamous sections are labelled 295B and 295C.

295-B:  Defiling the copy of Holy Qur’an. Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.

295-C: use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: – who ever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation innuendo, or insinuation, directly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for fine.

Note that the law no longer requires that the offense be malicious in intent. Intent is no longer an issue. Insulting the Quran or the prophet, even unintentionally, is now punishable by death. To seal the deal, in 1991 the Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan struck down the option of life imprisonment and made the death penalty obligatory. 
And of course, the new amendments only apply to blasphemy against Islam, not against all religions (in this sense, the new laws are more “rational” and internally coherent, since all religions blaspheme against all other religions as a matter of course, so the original law was not coherent in principle, though still workable in practice). Between 1984 to 2004, 5,000 cases of blasphemy were registered in Pakistan and 964 people were charged and accused of blasphemy; 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 others. Thirty-two people charged with blasphemy were killed extra-judicially during that time. More have died since. Eighty-six percent of all the cases were reported in Punjab.

Every time the shit hits the fan, many liberal people start hoping that this blasphemy law can be changed to finally stop or slow down this torrent of prosecutions and killings. Others have noted that the law is not the problem, free-lance enforcement of a broader blasphemy meme in the Muslim community is the problem and will likely persist even if the law is repealed. In my view the law is not the only problem, but it IS a very potent symbol of the surrender of state and society in front of the blasphemy meme. Repeal of the law will not kill that meme, but repeal of the law will be an equally powerful signal that things have changed and that state and society no longer approve of the killing of blasphemers. It will not end the problem, but it will be the beginning of the end. Repeal of the law is not a sufficient condition for this nightmare to end, but it is a very important necessary condition.

Unfortunately, I don’t think such repeal or amendment is actually likely in the foreseeable future. My predictions: Continue reading Blasphemy and blasphemy laws in Pakistan

Fringe Harbingers of Enlightenment – Literary Experiment of Ibn Tufayl

Being among the earliest readers and admirers of Brown Pundits, it was an honor when Omar Sahib invited me to write here few months ago. Since I blog about diverse topics (like most of you), I hesitated that something might come across as irrelevant.  I’ll keep sharing my thoughts on various topics from time to time. Just starting with a piece on Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan.

It is hard to imagine a young kid finishing high school without ever coming across The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe?  Written in 1719 by Daniel Dafoe, it is among the claimants of the auspicious stature of first English novel, and widely believed as a true travelogue upon its inception.  However, there is seldom a casual reader who can trace the legend back to the 17th century roots of literary tradition with an autodidact character at its center; and few are aware about the Arab-Spanish mentor of this optimism in human reason and contemplation, Ibn Tufayl (d. 1185).

Almost six hundred years between Dafoe and him, we know very little about the life of Ibn Tufayl, except that he was a polymath, serving as a physician and adviser of Sultan Abu Yaqub Yusuf (d. 1184) of the Almohad dynasty ruling Morocco and Spain. It is unfortunate that his complete interdisciplinary work is lost, except his philosophical experiment involving an isolated autodidact, named Hayy Ibn Yaqzan; literally translated as Alive, Son of the Awake.

It is the story of a boy, the nature of whose existence is shadowy to an extent that there are two completely rivaling accounts of his origins. One account ascribes his origin to spontaneous generation from matter; the other is necessarily a legendary human drama in which a royal infant somehow grows up away from society and culture. Being isolated from all intelligent life, he gradually becomes conscious, thereby discovering shame, jealousy, aspiration, desire, eagerness to possess and practical reasoning. He experiences love through affection of his foster doe, and death, as it ultimately departs.

To know is necessarily an obligation for Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. Desperately seeking meaning, his search guides him to explore various disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, metaphysics and spirituality. He deduces the presence of God through contemplating  the unity of cosmos and its boundedness; and in his ascetic code of conduct, he seeks satisfaction and salvation.

After thirty-five years of isolation, he finally meets Absal, a hermit refugee from a land of conventional religious believers. In Absal, Ibn Tufayl modeled a religious divine who has learnt many languages to gain mastery of scriptural exegesis. Absal’s first reaction is a deep sense of fear for his faith as he encounters an exotic being. As they interact well, Absal endeavors to teach Hayy to speak and communicate, in order to make him aware of knowledge and religion.

However Absal soon discovers that Hayy is already aware of the truth, to envision which, Absal’s own intellect bears nothing except revealed symbols.

Judging Absal’s good intentions and the veracity of his message, Hayy proselytize to this religion and Absal introduces Hayy to his people. As Hayy gets familiarized with civilization, two basic questions continue to puzzle him in great deal. First, why people must need symbols to assimilate and express the knowledge of the ultimate truth; and why can’t they just experience the reality more intimately? Second, being completely oblivious to practical religion, he continued to wonder why there is an obligation to indulge oneself in rituals of prayer and purity.

He keeps on wondering why these people consume more than their body needs, possess and nurture property diligently, neglect truth by purposefully indulging in pass-times and fall an easy prey to their desires. He finally decides to accompany Absal to his land, thinking that it might be through him that people encompass the true vision and experience truth rather than believing it with their seemingly narrow vision.

What follows is a tale of a neophyte philosopher teaching ordinary people to rise above their literalism and open another eye towards reality. His interlocutors on the other hand, recoil in their apprehensions and being intellectual slaves to their prejudices, close their ears. He consequently realizes that these people are unable to go beyond their usual appetites. He also grasps that masses of the world are only capable to receive through symbols and regulatory laws rather than being receptive to unstained and plain truth. Both men eventually return back to their isolated world but this time Hayy as the teacher and Absal as his disciple. They continue searching their ecstasies until they met their ends.

CHT167325 Robinson Crusoe Building his First Dwelling, 1930 (colour litho) by Myrbach-Rheinfeld, Felicien baron de (1853-1940); colour lithograph; Private Collection; (add. info.: Robinson Crusoe construit sa maison); Archives Charmet; German, in copyright until 2011

Ibn Tufayl’s singularly survived legacy extends in diverse dimensions and its canvas is vast. Its theological and philosophical themes were employed and transformed throughout the various phases of European enlightenment.

It isn’t just one curious aspect that many centuries later, the metaphysically preoccupied Hayy Ibn Yaqzan is transformed into a shipwrecked sailor, predominantly occupying himself with inventions and utilitarian exploration of nature. As Malik Bennabi – an acute observer of modern condition – observes, the genius of both the narratives lies in characterizing the solitude of their respective protagonists. In this respect, time for Robinson Crusoe is essentially a concrete cyclic happening of acts, such as work, food, sleep and work again.

Nov. 4. This morning I began to order my times of work, of going out with my gun, time of diversion, viz., every morning I walked out with my gun for two or three hours, if it did not rain; then employed myself to work till about eleven o’clock; then eat what I had to live on; and from twelve to two I lay down to sleep, the weather being excessive hot; and then in the evening to work again. The working parts of this day and of the next were wholly employed in making my table; for I was yet but a complete natural mechanic soon after, as I believe it would do anyone else.[1]

This is pretty much the condition of a modern individual where the void of solitude is filled with work, each of us occupied mechanically with the object at the centre of our world of ideas, diligently busy in constructing our own proverbial tables.

On the other hand, what fills Hayy’s solitude is an overwhelming amazement, the adventure starting by experiencing wonder in the ultimate nature of life and death of his beloved foster-mother, the gazelle.

When she (the gazelle) grew old and feeble, he used to lead her where there was the best pasture, and pluck the sweetest fruits for her, and give her them to eat. Notwithstanding this, she grew lean and continued a while in a languishing condition, till at last she died, and then all her motions and actions ceased. When the boy perceived her in this condition, he was ready to die for grief He called her with the same voice, which she used to answer to, and made what noise he could, but there was no motion, no alteration. Then he began to peep into her ears and eyes, but could perceive no visible defect in either; in like manner he examined all the parts of her body, and found nothing amiss, but everything as it should be. He had a vehement desire to find that part where the defect was, that he may remove it, and she return to her former state. But he was altogether at a loss how to compass his design, nor could he possibly bring it about.[2]

Thus, it is ultimately in the nature of failure to identify this defective part where Ibn Tufayl tries to locate an ineffable reality beyond the material.  

Ibn Tufayl’s philosophical romance has been regarded as one of the pioneer autodidactic works surviving from medieval scholastic tradition [3]. But besides being an influential narrative   with rich literary possibilities and themes such as those transformed by a modernist like Dafoe  it was a precursor to important medieval interactions between the schools of Thomas Aquinas and Averroists, and invited modern appraisals from mathematician rationalists like Gottfried Leibniz [4].

Voltaire and Quakers admired it for its appeal to reason, and Bacon, Newton and Locke were possibly influenced by it to various degrees too. Traces of Ibn Tufayl’s original literary pointers are also found in Rousseau’s Emile, Kant’s Ground of Proof for a Demonstration of God’s Existence, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Darwin’s Origin of Species among others.

Especially in the context of Muslim tradition, its contemporary value lies in rich possibilities to bridge gaps between reason and revelation. It lays down a perpetually self evolving construct where reason and reflection are the essential keys to the doors of  timeless revelation. Ibn Tufayl’s voice still echoes loud, struggling to tell us that rejecting either would imply rejecting a part of truth.

_________________________________________

  1. Daniel Dafoe, Robinson Crusoe, Penguin Classics 2003
  2. Lenn Evan Goodman, Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqzan: a philosophical tale, 1972.
  3. There have been attributions to an earlier work involving similar but limited themes to Avicenna.
  4. Samar Attar, The Vital Roots of European Enlightenment: Ibn Tufayl’s Influence on Modern Western Thought, 2010

To the victors go the glory!

I have written an introductory post (it’s free), Entering Steppelandia: pop. 7.7 billion, to a series of posts (mostly paid) that I will write about the Eurasian steppe. So I’m thinking and reading a lot about this topic. This is relevant to “Brown Pundits” because we subcontinental people have been stamped by the steppe.

First, there were the Indo-Aryans. About 15% of the ancestry of modern South Asians comes from these people (averaged across region and caste). Then there were the Iron Age Iranian pastoralists, Scythians, and assorted other related groups. There is no strong evidence right now of a major genetic impact, but I think the statistical power is not such that I can definitively ignore this possibility.

Finally, there are the Muslims. They had the least impact. But they are most reviled. Why?

They lost.  The lesson is to not lose. The rest is commentary.

Brown Pundits Podcast with teacher Michelle Kerr

https://brownpundits.libsyn.com/teaching-in-the-time-of-covid-19

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/teaching-in-the-time-of-covid-19/id1439007022?i=1000512866865

https://www.stitcher.com/show/brown-pundits-podcast/episode/teaching-in-the-time-of-covid-19-82364378

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the lives of young children, students, and youth. The disruption of societies and economies caused by the pandemic is aggravating the pre-existing global education crisis and is impacting education in unprecedented ways.

Brown Pundits- Shahada, a UK College Lecturer, discusses COVID-19 with Michelle Kerr, a Maths Teacher from  California. They  compare their experiences, concerns  and impact.

Covid-19 has impacted on Education on so many levels and there are many parallels with society in general:

COVID-19 is having a negative impact on young people’s mental health. We are concerned that, with most young people not currently attending school and many young people not having access to resources and materials with which to learn, there will be a subsequent detrimental effect on both academic attainment and wellbeing. Exams have been cancelled in many states and here in the UK. This is having a negative impact on attendance and motivation.

The COVID-19 crisis is likely to have a long-lasting impact on young people’s mental health and the services that support them, including schools and children’s services. The Government must consider this throughout its emergency response and policies to recover from the crisis. Has COVID-19 highlighted pre-existing decline in mental health?

The impact, particularly on groups who are already disadvantaged, is likely to widen existing inequalities and to contribute to a rise in young people looking for mental health support. Is this a reflection and consequence of inequality in education?

Discussions  touched upon the existence of hierarchy in education and its parallels in greater society? For instance, will deprived students disproportionately be disadvantaged? Ultimately is this a reflection of class privilege?

A controversial point discussed was weather Teachers have a professional responsibility to physically go into the classroom. Both expressed very different perspectives!

Its been argued that Standardised tests are not an accurate representation of a student’s abilities and they lack reliability. We touched upon the controversial issue of removing standardised testing in education. Weather standardised testing should be formally put to an end. Has the removal of standardised testing been accelerated as a consequence of COVID-19?  Will this result in a lowering of standards and skills?  And again which group will be disadvantaged and advantaged?

Time will tell, the true long term impact of COVID-19 on Education…….

Beards, Bigotry and Burqas

Growing up in 90s India, one couldn’t avoid the jovial Sardar caricature in the Entertainment industry. Most Sardars one saw on television we either Jaspal Bhatti/Navjot Siddhu or Jaspal Bhatti/ Navjot Sidhu on steroids. It’s been decades since these caricatures made an impression on my mind, but still, the moment I see a Sardar, I tend to start assuming him to be a jovial, funny, and extroverted person – and in my experience, that stereotype has mostly held up in my eyes. So when I read news articles of Sikhs being targetted in the United States in wake of the 9/11 attacks as an 11-year-old, I was extremely confused. In my eyes how someone could confuse a full and rich bearded and turbaned Sardar with a moustacheless Muslim extremist stereotype.

Similarly, the honest Muslim Chacha was surely aimed at creating a positive image for bearded and capped Muslims who had humble professions. But for someone like me who was initially inoculated with even more powerful imagery of the bearded Muslim (as illustrated below), the Bollywood Muslim stereotype wasn’t enough to leave an impact on my subconscious mind.

The image I am talking about is shown below :

Around 1 km from where I stay, an entire wall is painted with this image with the title – “This is how terrorism ought to be tackled” in Marathi. Growing up in Maharashtra, every Ganesh festival, half the pandals (decorations made for celebration ) are about Shivaji – and a significant number of them have either bearded & mustache-less Afzal Khan, Shaista Khan, Aurangzeb. The strong impact this imagery made on my psyche wasn’t countered enough by the various Bollywood chacha’s I grew up seeing.

As a result even at age of 25, I held on to a tiny bit of the initial instinctive negative reaction when encountering bearded moustacheless individuals. Some years ago, I had convinced myself that my reaction was due to the aesthetics of certain styles of facial hair which I do not find appealing. Later reading a novel in which the daughter/son (Thousand splendid suns or Kite Runner or Not without my daughter) was playing with her Abbu’s mustache less beard made me realize the error in my ways. Since then I have made a conscious effort to curtail that initial reaction and have been largely successful Was this reaction bigotry on my part? or something else?

Coming to the recent controversy where the radical atheist author Taslima Nasreen made an off-hand and poor tweet about England cricketer Moeen Ali. Taslima Nasreen is known to fly off the handle – especially with poorly worded tweets – was instantly attacked by Moeen’s England teammates. Irish England captain Eoin Morgan made special mentions after the 2019 world cup of the multicultural atmosphere of the English team – which means bearded (conservative?) Muslims like Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid (or Monty Panesar) don’t stick out like a sore thumb and that is progress of a kind in my opinion.

Similarly, at the age of 16-21 as a radical atheist (when I assume I was a lot more immature than I am today), even the Hindu Tilak invoked a strong reaction in me. But today, like the beards, skull caps (the *out of tribe* symbols of identity/belief) I do not have any reaction to the Hindu religious symbols. It’s a sign of shedding some of my atheistic/judgemental roots. But still, an image remains, even the sight of which troubles me to an unreasonable and illogical extent.

From beards and turbans, we come to the Burqa. Arguably the most controversial garment in the world, no matter how much I try, I cannot empathize or humanize the Burqa. I have observed over the years that whenever I travel (outside my ghetto Pune urban life) – especially in the summers – I grow more Islamophobic. The appearance of the Burqa in the sweltering heat of India sends such a strong and negative emotion in me, I cannot humanize it no matter how much I try. In the end, I feel it’s only the French who have got this issue sorted the way it should be. Of course, it infringes on the freedom of choice but I concede I am not that libertarian. As a wannabee male feminist, I do cringe when I see the North Indian (even Maharashtrian) Purdah or the hijab, but Burqa is definitely a line I believe I can never cross in the 21st century. Does this make me bigoted? I personally don’t think so but I could see the wokesters calling me so.

I have read the passionate defense by Khatija ( AR Rahman’s daughter ) of her choice to wear the Burqa. Having seen an iota of merit in that argument, I still feel for the greater good Burqas ought to be banned. (I don’t see it getting banned anytime soon anywhere in India). However, I have to acknowledge that whenever someone uses the *For the Greater Good* as part of their argument, maybe the argument isn’t watertight.

Post Script:

I understand this is a highly politically incorrect blog post to write. I have wanted to express these thoughts for months now, but something held me back. I have tried to be as honest and rounded in my thoughts as I could. 

Please be constructive and respectful in feedback.

Monkeys and the Indo-Europeans – Revised & Enlarged

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(In view of Ugra’s very useful comment, I had to look deeper and found that the post itself needed revision. So here it is.)

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??????? ??? ??? ?????-????-???????? ??????????? ?? ???? ????, ?? ???? ?????? ? ???? *??? ?? *????, ??????? ?? ‘????? ?? ????? ?? ????’. ???????? ??????????? ?? ???? ???? ??????? ????? ?????? – ‘?????’, ???? – ‘????,??????’, ????? – ‘??????, ???????’, ????? ?????? – ‘????????, ??????, ?????’. ?? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ??????? ????? ‘????’ ??? ‘???????’ ????? ???? ??????.

????? ??? ?????-????-???????? ???? ??? ??? ??????? ???? ?? ?????????? ??????? ??? ??? ?????? ????????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ?????????, ??? ??? ??????? ?? ?? ????? ????????. ???? ??? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ???? *??? – ‘?? ?????, ????’ ?? ???? ?? ??? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ?????. ???????, ????? ???????? ????? ???????, ???? ??? ??????? ?? ????? ?????? ?? ??????? ???? ????? ????????? ??? ???? ????? ??? ???? ???? ????????? ?? ??? ??????? ??????. ???? ??? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???????? ????? ?? ??? ???? ????? ???? ??? ?????, ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ?? ????? ????? ??? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??????.

?? ??? ????????? ?? ?????? ???? ??? ?????-????-???????? ???? ??? ??????, ?? ?????? ?? ??????????? ??? ??????, ?? ??? ? ???? ???? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ???????? ??? ??????? ???? ? ????? ??? ????. ?? ??? ????? ????, ?? ????? ????????? ?????? ??? ??? ???? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ???????? ?????????. ???? ????? ???? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ????-???????? ????????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ?????????.

?? ??????? ????? ??????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ? ???????? ???? ??? ????????(?) ?? ???????? ?? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??? ???? ???? ???? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ????-???????? ??????. ???? ???? ????, ???? ????-???????? ????????? ??? ???? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ?

??? A????????????? E???????


??????? ?? ??? ?????????????? ????????, ??????? ???? ???????? ?? ???????? ??? ????? ??? ???????, ??????????? ???? ????? ????????? ?? ??? ????? ?? ??????? ????? ???? ??? ?????? ???. ??? ??????????? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ??? ?? ??????? ?????????? ?? ???? ???? ???? ?????? ??????? ????? ?? ??? ?????????.

???, ?? ??? ??? ?????? ???????????? ?????, ?? ???? ?????? ????? ?????, ???? ??????? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ?????? ??? ??? ??????? ????????? ?????????? ???????? ????? ??????? ???? ???? ??????? ????? ??? ????, ?????? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ?? ????, ????? ?? ??? ??????? ??????? ?????, ??? ???? ????? ????????????, ??????? ?? ???????? ?????? ???? ??????? ?????.

?? ??? ????? ????, ??????? ???? ??? ???????? ?? ????????? ?????? ?????? ???? ?????? ?????????? ???????? ??????? ?? ??? ??? ?????????? ???.  ?????? ???????? ???? ???? ????? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ?????-?-?????? ?? ????, ??? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ????????. ?????-?-?????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ????? ??? ???????? ?? ???????? ‘???????’ ??????? ???? ????????? ?? ?????????? ?? ??. ????, ???????? ??????? ????? ???? ???? ???? ?????????? ???? ????????? ???? ????? ????? ???????.

????? ??? ????? ????????? ?? ???????? ???????? ???? ??????????? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ????????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????? ?? ? ??? ????????? ???? ??? ????? ???????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??? ?????? ????????? ???? ???? ?????? ????-???? ??.

?? ???? ???? ? ?????????? ??????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?????????? ????? ?????? ?? ???????????/?????????, ??????? ???? ?????, ??????? ? ?????? ?? ? ????? ??? ??????. ????????? ?? ?????? ?????????,

???? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ??????? ?? ?? ?????? ????????? ??????? ?? ??, ???????? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? 3?? ?????????? ?.?., ??????? ???? ??? ?????? ?????????? ?? ? ?????? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ????? ???? ???? ???? ???????, ???????????? ?? ?????????.

????????? ?? ?????,

??? ???????????? ???????? ???? ????????? ???? ????? ?? ?? ??? ????? ??? ?????? ?????????? ??????? ???? ???????? ???? ??? ????, ???????? ???? ??? ????? ??????…  ?? ??? ????? ?????????? ? ????? ?????? ?? ???? ???????? ?????? ???? ?? ?????? ?????? ???? ????? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ??????. ???? ?? ????????? ????? ??? ?? ??? ?????????? ????????. ???? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ?????? ??? ?????? ?? ???????? ?? ?? “?????????? ???? ??? ????????, “???? ??, ???????? ?????? ???? ??? ????... ??? ??? ???-???????? ?????? ????? ?? ??????? ???????? ?? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ?????…

???? ?? ????? ???????????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??????? ?????? ???? ??? ???????? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ?? ????? ????????, ??? ??????? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?????????? ???? ??? ???????? ?? ??? ?????? ????????? ????????????. ???? ????? ???? ???? ??? ???????? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ?????????? ??????? ???? ? ???? ???? ??? ???????? ????????, ??????? ??? ?? ??????? ???????????? ????. ???? ??????? ??????????? ??? ???????? ???? ??? ????-???????? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ??? ?????? ??? ? ???????? ??????.

????? ???????, ?????? ??? ???????? ????? ???? ??? ????? ???????? ?? ??, ??????????? ??? ???? ????, ???? (??????? ????), ????? ??????? ??? ???????? ?? ? ??????? ??????? ??????? ? ?????. ???? ?? ????? ??????? ???? ? ??????? ???????? ????, ?? ????? ???????? ???? ?????????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ??????? ??????.

?????? ?????????, ???????? ???? ??? ????????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ???? ???????????? ,?????? ??? ?? ?????????????? ???????? ?? ????-????????? ????????? ?? ??? ???? ????????????. ?? ???????? ??? ???? ???????????? ?? ?? ????-??????? ???????? ??? ????????? ??????????? ??? ????????? ????-????????? ????????? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ????-??????? ?????????? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ?????? ???? ??????? ????. ??? ???? ???? ?????? ???? ?????? ??? ??????? ????-???????? ?????? ???? ?? ??? ???????, ???????? ??? ?????????? ?????????? ??? ?????????.

????????? ??????????? ??? ????????? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ????? ?? ??? ??????? ???????? ?? ????????? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ????-?????????.

?? ??? ?????????,

?????????? ?? ??????? ??? ????? ?? ????? ???? ???????, ????? ???? ?????????? ??? ? ?????? ????????????…?? ?? ????? ???? ?? ???? ???????? ??? ??????? ??????? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ??????? ?????????? ?? ????????? ?????????? ????????? ?????????. ??????? ???? ??????? ?? ????? ????? ??? ???????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ????????, ?????, ??????????? ??? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ???????? ??? ?????????? ?????? ?? ????? ???? ????? ?? ??????? ?? ????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ??????? ??? ??????? ????????.

????????? ?????? ???? ???? ?? ????? ????????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ????????? ?? ??? ??? ?????????? ??. ?? ???????? ?? ? ????? ?????????? ?? ??? ???? ???????????? ??? ????????? ????? ??????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??????. ????????????, ?? ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???????????? ????? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??? ?.?. ???????? ?? ????? ?????? ??? ????-????????? ????? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ???? ??? ?? ???? ???, ?? ??? ??????? ?????. ?? ??? ???????? ?? ???? ??????? ????-????????? ??????????? ??? ??????? ????? ?????? ??? ???? ???????? ???? ?? ??????? ?????????, ????? ?????? ????????.

??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ??? ????????? ????????? ????? ??????? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ??? ????????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ?????, ???????? ??? ??? ??????, ?? ???? ?? ?????? – ????? ???? ??? ?? ??????? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ????????? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ? ??? ?? ??, ????? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????-????????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ????????? ???? ??? ?????? ? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ????-???????? ???????????? ?

?? ???? ???????, ??? ?????? ??????????? ???? ??????? ????????????. ??? ???? ??????? ????-????????? ?????? ??????????? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ?????????? ??? ???????? ??????????? ?? ???? ????? ??? ???? ????? ???? ?? ??????? ?????? ??? ???? ???????, ??? ???? ??? ?????????? ????? ?? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ????? ??????? ???? ????? ?? ????? ??????? ??????? ??? ?? ?? ??? ???????, ?????? ??? ?????? ???????? ???? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ?? ???? ??? ???????????, ?? ?? ????????? ?? ???? ???? ??? ????????? ????? ???? ??????? ?????? ???? ????????? ??? ??? ????? ?????????? ???? ???????? ?????? ?? ? ????? ??????.

?????????, ?? ?? ???? ?????? ???? ??? ??????? ???? ?? ????????? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ??????????? ?? ??? ???? ?????????? ??? ????-???????? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ?????????? ??? ???? ????. ???? ????????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ??????? ???? ???????? ?? ????????? ??? ?????? ??????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ????-???????? ???? ???? ????? ???????????? ??? ?????????? ???? ??????? ???? ??? ????.

???? ????????, ?????????????? ?? ??? ?????? ?????? ???, ??????? ?? ??????? ? ?????-???????????? ????? ?? ??? ?????? ???????? ????? ???????? ? ???? ?? ?????????????? ??? ???? ?????????? ????????? ?? ???? ???? ??? ??-?????? ???? ??????? ??????? ???????? ?? ???? ?? ????? ???????? ???? ??????? ??????? ?? ?????? ??????.

?? ??? ??????,

??? ???? ????????, ???????????, ??? ???? ??? ??? ???? ????????? ?????????? ???? ???? ??? ??????? ?????? ???? ???????. ???????? ??????? ???? ?? ????? ????? ????? ???????, ???? ??? ??? ?? ??? ???? ???????? ???? ?? ??? ??? (???. 9), ??????? ???? ???????? ??? ????? ????? ?? ? ?????????????? ?- ?? ?-????? (???. 10). ??? ??????? ???????? ??????????? ?? ??? ???????’ ????? ??? ????? ???? ??????? ???????? ????? ?? ??????? ???? ???????, ?? ????. ??????? ??? ???? ???????????? ?????? ???? ???-????? ???????.

??? ????????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ?????? ???????? ?? ???????? ????? ?? ?????? ?? ???????????? ?????? ??? ???????? ???? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ???? ??? ?????? ?????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??????? ???????. ?? ??? ??????,

…?? ????? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ???????? ???????? ?? ???? ?????, ?? ???? ????? ???????? ??????? ????? ?? ?????????? ???????? ?? ????? ?? ?????? ??? ???? ????????. ?????? ??? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ????: ???? ??? ???? ?????? ???????? ??? ????????? ??? ???? ????????? ????! ????? ??????? ??? ???????? ?? ???????????, ?????? ???? ?? ? ?????? ??? ???????? ????? ???? ?? ????? ?? ????????? ??? ???? ?? “??????” (?? ?? ????? ?? ???????? ???????). ?? ???? ????? ???? ????? ??????????? ???? ????????? ?????? ?? ??????? ???? ??????? ????????? ???? ????.

???????????, ??? ??????? ????? ??????? ?? ????????? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ?????? ???????? ??????????? ?? ??? ????????????? ?? ?????? ????????? ??????? ??? ?????????, ??? ???? ???? ???? ??? ??????? ???????. ?? ???? ??????, ? ?????? ????????? ?? ????? ?????? ? ?????? ?? ??? ??????? ?????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?????? ?? ?? ? ?????? ???????.

?????? ?? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ??????? ??? ???? ???????? ?? ???? ????? ??????? ????? ????? ??? ??????? ???? ?? ? ???? ???? ???? ?????????, ? ????? ?? ???????? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ????? ????? ???? ???? ? ??????? ???????? ????? ??? ??????? ?????. ??? ????? ??? ??????? ????? ??????????? ????? ??????? ?? ??? ????????? ?????? ?????? ??? ???? ????????????? ?? ??? ????, ???? ???????????, ?????, ??????, ???????? ??? ?????? ??? ??????.  ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ?? ??????? ??????? ??? ???? ?? ???????? ???? ??????? ????? ????? ???? ???? ????? ???????, ????? ??? ?????? ??????? ??? ????? ??????? ?? ???? ?????????.

?? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ???? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ????????? ??????? ?? ?????? ??? ????????? ??????????? ?? ??? ???? ???????????? ??? ?????? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ???????????? ?? ??? ??????, ????????? ??? ?????? ????? ?? ??? ??? ?????????? ???, ?? ? ?????? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ????????? ?? ??????? ????-???????? ??????. ?? ?? ???? ? ?????? ????????????, ???? ??????? ??? ??????? ?? ???????? ??????, ???? ?? ??? ?????? ???? ??????, ??? ???????, ??? ????????, ?????? ???. ???????????? ?????? ?? ??? ??????.

??????????


?? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????-????????? ???? ?? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ???????? ??? ??? ? ???? ??? ?? ???????? ??????? ???? ? ?????-????-???????? ???? ??? ??? ???????? ???? ??????? ???????? ?????. ???? ????? ???? ???? ??? ?????-????-???????? ???????? ??? ?????? ???????? ???? ??? ??????? ??? ??? ????????? ??? ? ???-????-???????? ?????. ???? ????? ????? ??? ???????? ?? ??????? ?? ?????-????-???????? ????????. ??? ???? ?????? ??? ???????????? ????? ????????? ???????? ???? ??? ??????? ??????? ?? ??????? ??? ??? ????????? ?????? ?? ??? ???????? ???????????? ??? ?? ?? ????????? ???? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ????????? ???? ??? ???????? ???????? ???? ??? ???? ????? ??? ???? ??????? ?????????.

?? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ???? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ?????? ???????? ??? ?????? ?? ????????? ???? ?? ??? ????????? ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ??? ???? ???????????? ??? ??? ???? ??????? ?????????????, ??????? ?? ????? ???? ????-????????? ???? ?? ??? ???????, ???????? ??? ??? ??????????.

?????????, ????? ?? ?????? ???????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ???? ??? ??????? ??? ??? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ????? ?? ??? ?????? ??? ???? ????. ??? ?????? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ???? ???? ??????? ???? ??? ?????????. ?? ?????? ????????, ? ???????? ??????? ??????? ???? ??? ?????? ??? ???????????? ?? ?????????, ??????? ???????? ?? ???? ? ?????? ????????????.

????? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ??????? ?? ????-???????? ??????, ??? ???? ??? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ????-???????? ???????? ??? ??? ???? ???? ??? ????????? ?? ??? ????????? ?????? ???????????? ?

Hindoo History: An Introduction

 

Greetings, Brown Pundits readers! For those of you have been following @HindooHistory on Twitter and Instagram, you may have seen that I now have a Substack where I’ll be posting longer pieces from time to time. I wanted to go ahead and post the introductory piece here for the benefit of the BP audience. Enjoy! 

Welcome, readers! Alas, despite my best efforts I could no longer resist joining the newsletter bandwagon. In the course of my day-to-day research for Hindoo History, I often come across characters and stories that warrant more than an instagram caption or a tweet thread. I’ll be using this newsletter to explore those topics in greater detail. To start, however I wanted to elucidate the idea behind Hindoo History. After all, to this day the most frequent question I get is some variation of “Why ‘Hindoo’ and not ‘Hindu'”? There is a superficial answer— simply that this is how “Hindu” was rendered by colonial-era missionaries and journalists, but there is also a deeper response that goes to the root of the project.

When I started collecting newspaper clips, I didn’t really have an overarching intellectual framework in mind— I would just collect and sort clips that I found interesting. I did however have a general sense that newspapers (as opposed to, say, works of scholarship) offer a more robust sense of what the “average American” thought at the time. Enter Professor Michael Altman. Dr. Altman is a professor of religion at the University of Alabama, and his book “Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893” was and is instrumental in providing the scaffolding for the collected data.

Dr. Altman’s key insight is that the American conversation about Hinduism long pre-dated the arrival of Hindus and Hinduism to American shores. So, rather than asking how Hinduism arrived in America, Dr. Altman asks how “Hinduism became conceivable in America.” This idea of “conceivability” is a key methodological pivot because it shifts the focus away from Hinduism per se, and towards the “genealogy” of a particular set of ideas, themes, and attitudes that shaped the American conception of Hinduism. Dr. Altman defines “genealogy” as follows:

“For my purposes, genealogy means an attention to the powers, identities, forces, constraints, agents, and discourses that form a particular category. It means paying attention to the connection between categories, the ways they overlap, include, and exclude one another. It traces how the formation of one category draws on others and produces yet more”

Whereas the traditional narrative marks Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the World Parliament as the beginning of the story of Hinduism in America, Dr. Altman notes that when Vivekananda entered the stage, “Hinduism as a world religion emerged in the midst of various representations of religion” and although these representations made Hinduism “conceivable” to the average American, “they were not its direct antecedents.” So what’s the take-away here? Many of the newspaper clips I post involve descriptions of Hindoos engaging in widow burning, infant sacrifice, and all sorts of other pagan bloodletting. It is not my intent to analyze the “accuracy” of these claims vis-a-vis the historical practice of Hindus in India, because that’s not what “Hindoo History” is concerned with. Whether these claims were true or not, they were for the most part the only data regarding the “Hindoo” the average American had access to.

This leads us to another key methodological contribution of Dr. Altman’s book, that I rely on in my own posts: The resulting conception was formed against the backdrop of an on-going debate in America regarding what “religion” was, and as a result the debates around Hinduism in America are drawn into broader sociological and theological disputes raging in America contemporaneously. Dr. Altman eloquently observes that “when Americans talked about religion in India, they were not really talking about religion in India. They were talking about themselves.” Focusing on newspaper clips and tracing themes chronologically helps illuminate not just how the American conception of the “Hindoo” changed over time, but also the shifting socio-cultural fabric of the country as a whole.

Monkey see – Monkey Do ?

This is not a well-thought-out piece but a sort of rambling rant of thoughts in my mind for a year.  My previous writing on Covid is here and Ayurveda.

I have no medical/biology/medicine background nor am I am a scientist nor do I claim to understand statistics. Read this as some thoughts of a layman.

It’s been a year since India went hard into the lockdown. And after trying N things for over a year, we are back on the verge of lockdown in Maharashtra. (at least the CM keeps threatening a lockdown). Unlike initial predictions of respite from Covid in warm weather, it appears both Covid spikes in India have occurred in the considerably warmer weather while mysteriously getting low during the winter months. While I am yet to find a convincing argument that explains several strands associated with mechanisms of spread of Covid19, some aspects of the challenge, namely public reaction needs to be assessed as we get into the second year of the pandemic.

A question to ask here is – how different would the global reaction to covid19 have been without the world witnessing the Chinese state response in the first place? Did it act like a guess in an optimization algorithm – which eventually decides the outcome in some cases no matter it’s value? The European nations first chose to ignore and when they acted they acted in echoes of China. While totalitarian states like China or the gulf countries have been able to reign in the pandemic, no significantly sized country has. What would have been the Italian reaction had they First Guess been other than China? This is not to condone any herd immunity strategies – but at least in a country like India, the cost-benefit analysis needs to be done.

Additionally, should we ask if how much did lockdown work? Dr. Watve, a scientist based in Pune has some good blogs on the topic. While I am not convinced by Dr. Watve’s reasoning yet, its opposite doesn’t appear convincing too.

What else (if anything) could we have done differently? especially in India.  Critics of government often talk about the lack of testing as an issue in India. Personally, I feel once we get a critical mass of vectors, testing and tracing becomes merely a placebo exercise. Aping the WHO models on test, trace on Indian scale (at least with the resources we have).

Another thing that continues to bother me is the Fomite transmission theory. Going through the literature, I couldn’t find convincing research to believe it in the first place, let alone taking it to the insane level it was taken to – especially in India. Newspapers and milk delivery was turned off for months. Home deliveries of groceries were turned off initially. Shops were open only for small durations of the day. All these measures together meant that whatever essential services were available were often extremely crowded with people.  How much did these bizarre policies initially aid the transmission of covid?

I still remember vividly the most spectacularly stupid team meeting I have been part of. This meeting took place around 10-15 March 2020 to let the employees know that the company was doing everything they can to stop covid around the company premises (which was mostly a rain of sanitizers). In this meeting, the management called around 30-40 people in a closed room and talked without masks (that was early 2020, and even the scientists and WHO were maskophobic back then). Anthony Fauci who today, parades in “Rand Paul’s words” in two masks after getting two shots of vaccine, was saying a year back that masks are unnecessary (or even counterproductive). It’s perfectly acceptable for humans to make errors and correct those in the course of action – that’s something we should all try to do. But an analysis of what led us to make those mistakes in the first place ought to be done. Or was it just another example of the Sun revolves around the earth?

Local authorities (including society chairmen etc) have been on a different level of insane. After seeing city authorities sanitizing roads, pavements, trees, and even migrant laborers, whenever a patient is found in a building, the staircases, floors, and grounds continue to be sanitized. I am not even a novice on Bacterial evolution, but on my rudimentary understanding- this use of sanitizers scares the shit out of me. It is not that I am totally sure that fomites don’t spread covid, but the focus on fomites has also meant the possible aerosol spread was not focussed on. What’s worse, in my opinion – the focus on fomites and sanitization has lulled large swathes of people into the sense of false security. People wash their hands, sanitize groceries, but when talking to people often take down masks. Almost 95% of the cases I have heard have of contracting covid from a distant family member indoors or at some function. Yet people continue to focus on sanitization while attending public gatherings and religious ceremonies. At one point in my society, deliveries had to be collected at the society gate while members celebrated Diwali, New years, and Republic day inside without masks in large numbers. To this day, servants and handymen are treated with suspicions while friends and family (some of whom may have more exposure) arent. We have a separate lift for non-members – while members don’t mind traveling in lifts with unmasked members.

However, another question posed by this pandemic is, what should be the role of the state? and what should be its Aim?

  • Is the Aim to try and prevent every covid infection – at cost of the economy and livelihood?
  • Is the aim to avoid the overcrowding of medical facilities so as to avoid collateral damage?
  • Is the aim to keep pushing potential cases in the future – so as to reduce potential cases by vaccination?

When it comes to livelihoods, we need to separate two strands – the effect on the economy due to natural fear in people & and lockdown invoked economic downturn.

The mathematics of economic catastrophe is clear enough to follow – while the mechanism of spread seems to allude even the best of the minds. Every time someone comes up with reasons for why Covid stopped spreading rapidly around the end of 2020 in India and began afresh in 2021. The lockdown had ended in October and *new normal* activities had opened by November, but it appears this increased activity didn’t immediately accelerate the pandemic. Intuitively I would guess it takes time to gain a critical mass and a similar time for it to reduce. The momentum of the critical mass of vectors ought to carry on the spread (due to unavoidable contacts) in spite of overall contacts being low. Maybe once the first fuel was exhausted, it took time to gain a similar mass of vectors before it could truly explode. Add to this the new variants and reinfections (especially those who were asymptomatic the first time), then maybe the second wave starts making sense. Or maybe I am just pulling theories out of my ass which has no value – Either way I don’t mind as no one seems to have any deep insight into this.

All well-meaning people have been trying to shield the elderly for over a year. I have myself spent hours convincing older people to stay secure. But at what point does this become unbearable for a 75-year-old? Would it be wrong for an older person to be to think that they might not survive the pandemic (dying naturally amidst it) to live the end of the pandemic? Can they decide to take the risk of living a few months dangerously ahead of being condemned to a year in lockdown. (This equation has changed now with vaccines but the question still carries some weight I reckon)

Maybe this time next year we would have more answers than we have at this point. And hopefully, we would devise better strategies in countering such events in the future than acting like imitating monkeys in an experiment.

Brown Pundits