Browncast: Prof Vamsee Juluri on Hindus and Hindophobia

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode Mukunda and I talk to Prof Vamsee Juluri, professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco and the author of several books, including “rearming Hinduism“. We asked him how he defines Hinduism, what is Hinduphobia and why (and how) Hindus should “re-arm” (or not).

Professor Juluri tweets on twitter as @vamseejuluri

This was a joint podcast with Mukunda Raghavan of Meru Media, so for a change we have video (a fact I did not realize when we started recording, so the light and the face are less than ideal 🙂 )

A Light Goes Out in Lahore

Posted on  by  Reposting today because that old post got lost and I recovered this via the wayback machine. 

A light goes out in Lahore

Professor Syed Ali Haider, professor and chairman of ophthalmology at Lahore General Hospital and renowned vitreo-retinal surgeon got up on Monday morning (Feb 18 2013) to take his son to school. His son Murtaza Haider was 11 years old. In front of Forman-Christian college, literally yards from the house of the deputy prime minister of Pakistan, gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on them. Dr Ali Haider and his 11 year old son were shot dead, both with gunshots to the head. There are “no witnesses”. No one took down a description of the killers, much less the make and model of their motorbike. Nobody has been caught. It may be that nobody will be caught. Or it may be that someone will be caught, and as in hundreds of previous cases, will be released. (Killers were later caught in an unrelated case, they were indeed Shiaphobes from the Sipah e Sahaba/lashkar e jhangvi). It is even possible that the government of Punjab will for a few years pay a stipend to the killer’s family just in case they have to lock him up. They have done that in the past. The quality of mercy is not strained in Punjab.

But there is no great mystery about why Professor Ali Haider and his 11 year old innocent child were shot in the head. They were shot because they were Shias and a small but powerful faction of Pakistan’s Sunni majority has declared them “kafir” (infidel). They were also shot because he was a prominent, highly educated, highly esteemed member of the community. What use is a message if it is not heard? The killers wanted to be heard, loud and clear. It will not be a stretch to imagine that they are also proud of their act; satisfied that their op went off without a hitch. At their post-murder celebration they may have told stories and laughed; perhaps some of the laughs and stories were about the boy and how his eyes looked just before he died. It was right in front of the deputy PM sahib’s house, so they probably did not have the time to make a video. But they do that too. They make videos, and then post them on youtube with songs in the background. They are not ashamed. They are looking forward to doing it


So who did they manage to kill this time? Syed Ali Haider was born in Multan, the son of Dr Syed Zafar Haider and Dr Tahira Bokhari. Dr Zafar Haider had then recently returned after more than ten years of training and working in England and was a junior professor of surgery at Nisthar Medical College in Multan. His son went to school at Burn Hall school in Multan. He graduated from Government college Multan and joined King Edward Medical College Lahore in 1981. A shy and unassuming young man, he was serious and studious; he stayed out of the limelight even as his father taught at the same college as an almost legendary professor of surgery (and the country’s most famous specialist in the surgical problems of the thyroid and parathyroid glands), and his mother took over as professor and then head of the department of anatomy at the same institution. After graduation he went to UK and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, home of countless famous surgeons and physicians. He then did a fellowship in vitreo-retinal disorders at Oxford university before returning to Lahore and joining the medical school there. He not only returned to work and teach in Lahore, he tried to convince many others to do the same.

In a very short time he became the head of the ophtalmology department at Lahore General Hospital and transformed it from a backwater into the country’s premier center of retinal disorders. When MNA Jamshed Dasti’s men injured Dr Meher Iqbal in the eye in Muzzafargargh, it was Professor Ali Haider who operated on Dr Iqbal’s injured eye. Hundreds of patients, rich and poor, literally owe their sight to Professor Ali Haider. Each year he went to his village near Pakpattan and set up a free eye camp where he donated his services and one million rupees worth of free medicines, lenses and implants. He also worked at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and operated on retinal tumors, mostly on patients who could not afford to pay him a penny for his services. It is customary to say good things about the recently deceased, but I challenge anyone to find anyone in Lahore (or anywhere else) who does not regard Professor Haider as something of a saint. Dhoondo gey agar mulkon mulkon, milney key nahin nayab hain hum.. (you may search across the globe, you will not find another, he was unique).

And no one was prouder of Ali Haider than his father, professor Syed Zafar Haider. A few months ago a friend asked the legendary professor how his son was doing. With obvious pride Dr Zafar Haider replied “Dr Sahib, hum ney tau sari umar kuch nikala hai..sainkRon thyroid or parathyroid nikaley; per Ali tau aagey nikal gaya. Uss ko dekhiey, woh to sainkRon ko beenaee day raha hai”. (Doctor sahib, we just used to take things out…took out hundreds of thyroids and parathyroids, but Ali has gone beyond us. He has given sight to hundreds”). The hardest heart must shatter when it imagines the feelings of Dr Zafar Haider today.

Dr Zafar Haider’s father, Syed Mohammed Shah, was a lawyer in Pakpattan. Hailing from the nearby village of Chak Haiderabad (named after the same illustrious family), he was a successful lawyer who made sure his younger brothers and his three sons recieved the best education Pakistan had to offer. Abbas Haider became a dentist, Zafar Haider a doctor and Afzal Haider a lawyer. Dr Zafar Haider went to UK to do his FRCS and then stayed on to specialize in the surgery of the thyroid gland. On his return he became a professor of surgery at Nishtar Medical College in Multan and then at King Edward Medical College in Lahore. Professor Zafar Haider was a man of great learning, highly cultured, erudite and witty. He did not suffer fools gladly and could be intimidating to his students and juniors, but anyone who managed to hang around became his devotee for life. He was our teacher in medical school and I had the honor to spend a few months as a house surgeon in his unit. A few anecdotes may help to bring his multifaceted character into better focus.

One day, when he was still a young professor, Dr Zafar was delivering a lecture when the ringing of a bell was heard in the hallway outside. An irritated and obviously angry Dr Zafar Haider opened the door sharply to reprimand the perpetrator only to see a junior lab attendant merrily riding his bicycle down the hall on his way out of the building. Softening immediately, Dr Zafar stepped back in with a smile and quoted the verse “Har zara apni jagah aftab hai” (even the tiniest atom is a sun in its own place). He had an endless supply of urdu verses for every occasion and could more than hold his own in “bait bazi” (matching verse to verse in competition). He was a stickler for form and expected to be treated like a god in his unit, but unlike many fake divinities who filled the halls in medical school, he was the real article. He could stop at the bedside of a patient and suddenly launch into lecture on some arcane surgical topic, complete with its history and anecdotes about famous luminaries in that field. One day we were making rounds and had walked by ten patients in ten minutes when we came to a patient with a foot injury and for some reason Dr Zafar stopped and started talking about amputations. For the next 30 minutes, without any preparation or planning, we were treated to a history of amputations, from ancient times to the 20th century, complete with anecdotes including one that has somehow stuck in my mind about Symes performing his new amputation and promising the patient that he will walk to London on this foot. Dr Zafar taught generations of doctors and treated generations of patients, thousands of them operated upon for free in Nishtar hospital and Mayo hospital. And yesterday he buried his only son in the same town.

An extremely honest and hardworking man, he was briefly appointed medical superintendent of Mayo Hospital Lahore. Almost overnight, the hospital was transformed in appearance as well as function. Dozens of tiny well tended gardens bloomed where there had only been patches of brown scrub. Medicines magically appeared in the wards and poor patients were getting life saving medicines from the hospital store; the same hospital store that had never seemed to have most medications in stock. Just to make sure he also had a sign put up in the country’s busiest emergency department saying “Please do not bring medicines from outside; the hospital will supply all essential medicines”. One day the child of the chief secretary punjab suffered a minor burn on his hand and Professor Zafar Haider admitted him to the ward. People wondered why he had been admitted for such a minor injury. Professor sahib said “you have one night, order burn medicines we can never get, the Punjab government will deliver instantly; keep them safe, some poor people will get saved in the days to come”. The day he was replaced he personally ordered the staff to carry hundreds of intravenous bags to the children’s ward so that they would have life-saving drips on hand when children with diarrhea came in. He was afraid that after he left charge, the store would no longer supply the said drips. He said “Dr sahib, hum Hussein key ghulam hain, paani kaisey rok saktey hain”. (“Dr sahib, we are followers/slaves of Hussain, how can we refuse water to someone?”)  Sadly that slavery cost him his son and his grandson last Monday. What an awful tragedy. What a crying shame.



Continue reading A Light Goes Out in Lahore

The Tribes of Israel

From Dr Hamid Hussain

16 September 2023

I’m doing a series of risk analysis reports about Israeli state and society in the context of Abraham Accord. My own view is that people to people interactions at various forums will create the firm foundation for a long-term sustained effort for social and economic normalcy in the region despite differences.

This is second of the series of about half a dozen reports.


New Tribes of Israel

Hamid Hussain

“Our future does not depend on what the gentiles will say but on what the Jews will do.”           David ben Gurion; Israel’s founding father.

Israel is a diverse society and individual identities include religion, ethnicity, ideological and political views. Despite this diversity, Israel born amid existential security threat emerged as a strong country built on a firm democratic foundation.  State accommodated different perspectives and allowed autonomy in personal and religious spheres.  Crisis of governance and starkly contrasting positions not only on political but also many public policy questions, including marriage, divorce, religious conversion, military conscription, and gender segregation is polarizing Israeli society. Continue reading The Tribes of Israel

The 100th Browncast with Amey the Maratha

Well, here we are. Razib and Amey talk about Sri Lankan genetics, casteism or lack thereof in the USA, the FUBAR of American immigration and finally how William Dalrymple triggers Amey’s Maratha pride.

Since I haven’t asked in a while, please review positively on Apple and Spotify.

Also, if you want to support the hosting fees for the podcast as well as recording software, please consider joining the Patreon.

Review: Anarchy -A Highly skilled jester playing to the gallery- Dalrymple’s Jaundiced Revisionism about British East India Company

The following review is from Major Amin. Formatting issues remain, but I think readers will find it interesting. (By the way, Major sahib did not say it outright, but I personally think Dalrymple has found the secret sauce of what sells in anglicized “South Asians” (i.e. blame the Brits, bless the Mughals (this is supposed to indicate how great India was before the evil company), pretend all would have been great if “a commercial company” had not ruined India) and his books massage that segment (and since the Anglo elite, no longer running a colony, itself finds this attitude very congenial, the books also do well in the Metropolitan market)

From Major Agha Humayun Amin: 

Dalyrymple is a man who cannot be taken seriously because he writes to please the gallery. For example, Dalrymple totally misses the fact that Nadir Shah of Persia had agreed to spare Delhi , and accept a ransom amount , but was persuaded to sack and plunder Delhi , by Saadat Ali Khan the Mughal governor of Avadh. How serious historians can evade and omit such basic facts is mind boggling. Dalyrmple totally misses the greatest betrayal in Indian history at Karnal where Nadir Shah of Persia on prompting of Nawab of Avadh Saadat Khan decided to pillage and plunder Delhi after an initial agreement to return to Persia after being paid a relatively small fine.

An Indian author (Page-v- AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL ALBUM THE EAJAS AND TAALUQDAES OE OUDH- Daroghah Haji Abbas Ali-Printed by Northwestern Provinces and Oudh Government Press- Allahabad-1880.) had thus defined it as the greatest treachery in Indian Muslim history , which this most intellectually dishonest man omitted as below:–

Saadat Khan eventually, by paying two crores of rupees, obtained the appointment he had all along quietly coveted, viz., that of Amir-ul-issa, Vizier of Delhi. But the attainment of his ambition brought out his worst qualities, though fortunately for his former reputation and for those brought under his influence, his career of oppression and cruelty did not last long. His treasonable advice to Nadir Shah mainly led to Nadir’s disgraceful work of spoliation at Delhi” All the treasure and jewels of the Imperial Court were taken, and everyone who did not make a clean breast of his wealth was tortured most unmercifully.”

Another eminent Indian author (Page-21-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE NAWABS OF LUCKNOW- Ravi Bhatt- Published by Rupa Publication -New Delhi-2006)

described Indian Muslim treachery of Saadat Ali Khan as below:–

He tempted Nadir Shah with a promise to extort about Rupees 20 crores from Delhi. Nadir Shah decided to take a chance. He appointed Saadat Khan as the vakil-i-mutlaq and asked him to take the charge of Delhi. Later on, Delhi was completely destroyed by Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah had gone with his army to Delhi to collect money. In Delhi, a rumour suddenly spread that Nadir Shah had died, so a mob attacked one of his troops of 3,000 people. A bullet narrowly missed Nadir Shah himself when he was going to the mosque to pray. Nadir Shah retaliated by ordering a general massacre in which several thousands of innocent people were killed and large-scale proper-ties were destroyed. Nadir Shah also sent his men to Awadh to bring Sadat Khan’s money. Humiliated by Nadir Shah, Saadat Khan committed suicide on 20 March 1739.” 2

Dalrymple is master in spinning exaggerated yarns about British treachery but has no time for Indian Muslim treachery which far exceeded British treachery!

Strangely Dalrymple misses even inserting a biographical note on Nawab Saadat Ali Khan , whose treachery and low character far outmatched any British actor , including Clive.

Dalrymple spents great energy on famine of Bengal of 1770 and vilifying the company but fails to reconcile the fact that a far greater famine broke out in Bengal under the British crown. His treatment of events reeks with extreme polemics and subjectivism.

On page 12 there is a small typing error placing third Mysore war victory of Cornwallis in 1782 rather than 1792.

In describing Aurangzeb on page 13 Dalrymple misses the most essential fact that it was the Hindu Mahratta Insurgency that laid foundations of decline and fall of Mughal Empire. In this regard Rajputs etc. were mickey mouse players and the real hero of Hindu resurgence was Sivaji.

Degradingly describes Mohammad Shah but fails to note that under his tenure Mughals defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali at Sirhind in 1748

Battle of Buxar took place in 1764 and not in 1765 as Mr Dalrymple states on page-16.

Dalrymple is addicted to false fantasies. Thus he projects the Mughals as the height of civilization while these so called civilized Mughals in 1719 publicly tortured Banda Sahibs five year old son, gouging out his heart while the child was alive and shoving it in his fathers mouth !

Nadir Shah did not invade Afghanistan in 1739 but in 1738 via Helmand as it was a long way from Delhi but our brilliant and careless writer states he did so in 1739; worst is his treatment of military events like in describing First Anglo Mysore war he glorifies Hyder Ali but fails to note that he lost in various pitched battles to Colonel Smith and won only because of lack of cavalry by the company as well as extreme corruption of company’s officials.

Dalrymple’s treatment of military history is atrocious. Like in discussing Second Anglo-Mysore War he only discusses one battle Pollilore. whereas totally ignores the fact that Hyder Ali was repeatedly defeated at Porto Novo , Sholingur etc by Sir Eyre Coote. Dalrymple totally forgets the fact that while the company lost one battle in 1780 the war continued till 1784 and was inconclusive.

Dalyrmple’s use of historical facts is one sided and extremely biased.

Ahmad Shah Abdali never went to Delhi in 1762 so Dalrymples claim that he ousted Imad ul Mulk in 1762 is incorrect (page- 259 ).

By and large the book is a repetition of well known facts of British Indian history. However Dalrymple has wasted a book in vain as it brings out nothing new. His whole conclusion about the company and the title of the book “Anarchy” is extremely questionable and debatable. Firstly English East India Company did not cause anarchy in India as Dalrymple repeatedly tries to prove. India was in complete anarchy when the British company became a serious player. Delhi was sacked more than 40 times between 1737 and 1800 by non British but Dalrymple is blind to this hard fact. All the bad things he sees are only to be found in English East India Company.

His military knowledge is myopic and he constantly distorts military history and uses bits and pieces to prove or disprove as he wills at whim.

As a matter of fact the company restored order in India .First three universities in Indian history were founded at Calcutta ,Madras and Bombay in 1856-57. Outmoded customs like widow burning , infanticide etc were abolished by the company. A hereditary class of feudal was created by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 as a result of which political stability was introduced and strengthened in India.

The company had many reformers, philanthropists and utilitarians but Dalrymple in his irrational hatred is blind to all these people. To Dalrymple all that British East India Company did was bad and he has an extremely jaundiced and twisted vision. Dalrymple gives no weightage to the fact that British parliament and system prosecuted Clive and Warren Hastings and tried to regulate India. Above all Dalrymple forgets that without the driving spirit of corporate enterprise of the company the British would never have conquered India.

While personal interest has constantly dominated human conduct in history,  whether it was a company or a state , Dalrymple wears colored glasses and his perception is cloudy as well as confused.

Lastly my most serious issue with Dalrymple is his overly simplistic sweeping judgements. Mughals were as big opportunists as the company. They were a small group kicked out of central Asia and captured India or north India just like the British company because of superior military tactics. If you look at Mughal contributions you find only Taj Mahal or Shalimar Bagh in Lahore ! Whereas the British company gave India , irrigation , universities, a sound military system , a system of governance and social classes like feudal who made the system more stable.

Another point that Dalrymple totally misses is that the company saved the Indian Muslims from total political extinction . The Muslims were nobodies by 1800. Delhi was Mahratta ruled, Badshahi mosque of Lahore was a horse stable and a powder magazine! The Mahrattas and Sikhs totally dominated north India! But a knight in shining armor comes and saves the Indian Muslims. Lake saves Delhi Muslims ! Hugh Goughs saves Lahore and Peshawar Muslims ! But Dalrymple misses out all these things.

Dalrymples most serious failure is that greed and avarice is not a British company failing but a human failing and all Indian rulers were guilty of this .


Dalrymple fails to appreciate that Indians gladly fought against Indians under the company because the company paid salaries in time !

Dalyrmple fails to note that British company’s triumphs were triumphs of organization where Lieutenant Flint repeatedly defeated Tipu Sultan with a 100 % Indian force at Wandewash. Dalrymple fails to appreciate that India was conquered by an organizationally superior company using 80 % Indian manpower ! Why Indians followed them if they were so evil as Dalrymple believes or wants us to believe !

Today what we are seeing in Pakistan is far worst than what any British company could have done to this region. No one is safe in Pakistan, anyone who dares to speak the truth can be abducted by state security agencies. This scribe who retired as a major is getting less than 100 USD per month pension , which is good only for starvation and death.

But intellectually dishonest characters like Dalrymple can exaggerate and paint false pictures , just to sell his books ! And lastly Dalrymple fails to relate to what happened after the British left. Pakistan where I live is the most corrupt state in the world. Pakistan’s tax officials of the so called FBR are 1 billion times more corrupt than English East India Company could be in their wildest dreams. Parochialism is such that in todays Pakistan entire establishment consists of few districts and few castes of North Punjab and small parts of Sindh !

Characters like Dalrymple thrive on emotional manipulation which is why Dalrymple needs to be questioned and refuted !

The creation of Homo General Category

This Politic piece on caste in America is pretty balanced. But one thing that this “Indian Americans are so casteist” discourse misses is that 85% of Indian American Hindus are “General Category”, with a few percent being Dalits or Scheduled Tribes (the remainder are OBC). There aren’t many low caste people to discriminate against, but secondarily, America is a caste shredder.

The latest surveys suggest that for Indian Americans born in the USA, 30% of their spouses are non-Indian, 30% of their spouses are US-born Indians, and 40% of their spouses are Indian-born Indians. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of the the 30% who marry other US-born Indians are marrying outside of their jati-varna. I suspect that perhaps a majority of the remaining 40% who have Indian-born Indian spouses are jati-varna endogamous because of arranged marriages, but I know a substantial number of US-born Indian Americans, men and women, who met and married Indian-born Indian immigrants, usually meeting them through work or social contexts. I am pretty sure that the majority of US-born Indians are marrying outside of their jati, often outside of their region.

You can test this proposition at the high socioeconomic status groups by looking at the NY Times Wedding Announcements.

Look under some very distinctive names, and look who they are marrying.

– Mukerhjee
– Iyer
– Sen
– Mehta
– Patel
– Arora
– Reddy
– Singh
– Deshmukh
– Kulkarni

Fear of a Bihari nation

I’ve fascinated by regions that border each other and have very different fertilities. For example, Saudi Arabia has a TFR of 2.2 and Yemen one of 4. Today it looks like Bihar has a fertility of around 3.0 and West Bengal 1.6. Bihar surpassed West Bengal in the late 1990’s, and is still more populous even without Jharkhand. But the data below suggest to me that West Bengal experienced a “windfall” population growth with the arrival of Hindus from East Pakistan and Bangladesh in the decades after partition, and we’re sort of reverting back to the mean…

Jatitva: When Caste Becomes a Cancer

Caste is the basic building block of Indian society and democracy. It decentralizes India and creates a fractal overlay across society enveloping every facet of life. Much can be said about its origins and heterodoxies, but today I want to explore how it influences politics and modern society. While caste’s impact on Indian society is mixed, I believe caste politics is the single most corrosive and destructive element in Indian democracy today. So many policy problems can be traced to the dizzying devilry that results from the lunacy of caste tribalism.

But why is caste so important to Indians in the first place? Caste serves multiple functions. Caste is a community. A sense of belonging and asabiyyah when times get tough. When the riots hit, it is your caste kin who will take and throw punches for you. It gives you your rituals, your traditions, your ways of worship, and so much more. Many castes have a divine origin story or a tale where their caste bravely overcame injustices from that caste. Caste is a polity. When election time comes, the candidate from your caste ensures your castemen will occupy government positions, be forgiven of crimes, and have a seat at the roundtable of power, perhaps even the throne itself. Caste is an economy. It can be a financial safety net, a business network, or a source of credit and capital. It can be the cornering of a market or government seats. Caste is all-encompassing, as real and essential as air and water for so many Indians.

So what separates run-of-the-mill 1990s Mandal-type caste politics from Jatitva? Jatitva is the political expression of Critical Caste Theory. Jatitva is Mandalism taken to its logical conclusions. It is the view that the Indian state should exist to be beholden to one’s caste. If Hindutva means a Hindu Rashtra, Jatitva means Jati Rashtras, where one’s caste must be the most powerful demographic group in their locale; if this isn’t achieved, then India must be decentralized heavily or even break. Jatitva means caste should define India. It claims one’s caste is more important than an overarching Hinduism, if not the rejection of mainstream Hinduism itself. Jatitva presents Hinduism as a societal ruse of ruin, Hindutva as a political conspiracy, and the Indian state as an economic oppressor.

Continue reading Jatitva: When Caste Becomes a Cancer

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