Capsule Review: How to Love in Sanskrit

A very nice collection of short Sanskrit poems (and a few short prose pieces) about love, longing, separation, etc. The originals are all in in the footnotes, so those who know sanskrit can comment on the translation. Translations are generally very contemporary (even cell phones make an appearance), but the originals are available if you want to see how they have captured (or failed to capture) the essence of the original. Since I do not know sanskrit, I cannot comment on that, but the collection is a lot of fun and worth a read. As india rises, so will the market for such works (which is a good thing).
Check it out.

available on Kindle. 

Original in devnagri is here

Random samples:



Iranic-origin dynasties of the Christian Caucasus

Saint Shushanik – Ardēan Store

The histories of Armenia and Georgia are intricately intertwined with Greater Iran, as evidenced by several dynasties with Iranian origins. Georgia shares a similar historical profile, indicating close ties between the two regions (I won’t even touch on Azerbaijan, which to my mind is simply Russified Iran). With regards to the North Caucasus, notwithstanding Russian ethnic cleansing & genocide (apparently what inspired Dune), there is heavy Persian-Iranian influence (though of course I don’t know nearly enough of the history of the region).

All three of the Great Houses of the Kingdom of Armenia (331 BC to 428 AD) were Iranian origin.

  • Orontid Dynasty (potential ancestral ties to the Achaemenians): Dating back to the 6th century BCE, the Orontids were influential rulers in ancient Armenia during the Achaemenid Persian Empire’s reign.
  • Artaxiad Dynasty (descendants of the previous Orontids, the clue is in the Iranian-loaded name Arta): Succeeding the Orontids, the Artaxiads governed the Kingdom of Armenia from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE, overseeing its territorial expansion and cultural flourishing.
  • Arsacid Dynasty (Armenia): A branch of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty in Iran, the Armenian Arsacids ruled from the 1st to the 4th century CE, with periods of Roman influence interspersed with periods of independence.

There are many other dynasties like the Chosroid, Mihranids, Bagratid (the clues are so obvious in the names) and then even in the Kingdom of Cilician Armenian (the region & inhabitants suffered genocide under the Young Turks) the RubenidHethumid Dynasty had Iranian-links even in the Middle Ages. There is an exotic dynasty, the Mamikonians, who apparently had Chinese-origins but even they intermarried with Iranian nobility eventually.

However, the case of St. Shushanik (pictured above & below) highlights the tension between Christianity in the Caucasus, with its Eastern roots but “West-facing” orientation, and Iranianism, particularly Zoroastrianism.


Continue reading Iranic-origin dynasties of the Christian Caucasus

Bengalis are all basically very similar (except for Brahmins)

The new paper, 50,000 years of Evolutionary History of India: Insights from ~2,700 Whole Genome Sequences, is very good. It also answers a question that comes up sometimes: how different are West Bengalis from Bangladeshis? We haven’t had a apples to apples comparison until this paper that’s easy to understand.

There are figures in the paper that make the overlap clearer. The main difference is more variance in the West Bengalis, and a greater East Asian shift among Bangladeshis. But the latter is clearly just geography; those whose ancestry is from the east of the Padma (like me) always have more East Asian ancestry than those from the west, while those in the north also seem to have more.

The variance in West Bengal is probably driven by caste. You can see Brahmins, and probably what are Bengali-speaking scheduled castes and tribes. In the Bangladesh Muslim population everyone eventually intermarried.

The Assamese are even more East Asian shifted than the Bangaldeshis. As I said in a previous post, these Indo-Aryan groups look like they mixed with a Khasi-like population at some point.

Finally, the West Bengal population had admixture from an East Asian group between 500 and 600 AD. This is the same date as for the Bangladeshis, meaning they are both the same population with the same origin. The major difference seems likely to be the proportion of East Asian ancestry and lack of caste structure within eastern Bengal.

Hardliner Who Also Liked Going To The Movies

Author’s Note: This is not an academic or objective essay; rather a personalised opinion on the recent Bharat Ratna awardee. 

Lets begin with two excerpts:

First one:

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

“To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his Gods.”

From Horatius by Thomas Babington Macaulay


“Mardania! eh Ajudhia nagari Sri Ramchandra Ji ki hai. So, chal, iska darshan kari ”, which translates to: “Mardana! This Ayodhya city belongs to Sri Ramchandra Ji. So let us go for his darshan.”

From Bhai Man Singh’s Janam Sakhi which states that Guru Nanak visited Ayodhya.

Considering the aforementioned excerpts it is perhaps unsurprising that it was a Nanakapanthi Macaulayputra who charioted the movement to reclaim the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya and rebuild the Ram Temple. Additionally it was his organisational and political manoeuvring skills that shifted the political balance of India from the dominant secular leadership of the Congress party to the widely popular and ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party. It was for all that and many other activities that the current regime awarded him the land’s highest honour the Bharat Ratna. What made the moment more momentous was that it came days after the  consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. 

Though currently, the immensely popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi is synonymous with the BJP’s dominance across India’s political landscape, it was the Lal Krishna Advani who acted as one of the chief characters to shift the political levers of the country. Before proceeding further, it is necessary to give the reason behind his moniker – Nanakapanthi Macaulayputra.

LK Advani belonged to a Sindhi Amil Nanakpanthi family whose religious tradition “used to be Sikh rituals”, the holy book at his home being the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He was educated at St. Patrick’s High School, Karachi, and by his own admission was unfamiliar with Hindi, preferring to speak his mother tongue Sindhi at home, while preferring English as functional language. Even his introduction to the so-called dreaded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was for lack of a better word, bourgeois one, in his own words:

During my vacation and before joining college, I started playing tennis. One of my regular partners on the tennis court was a friend, Murli Mukhi. One day, right in the middle of the game, he said, ‘I am going’. Utterly surprised, I asked him, ‘How can you go like this, without even completing the set?’ He replied, ‘I have joined the RSS a few days ago. I cannot be late for the shakha because punctuality is very important in that organisation’.

A contextual point to mention here would be the view that the RSS also had certain inspirations behind it. Many scholars quote contemporary accounts about how senior political figures of the early 20th Century like Madan Mohan Malviya and Dr Moonje wanted an organisation fashioned after the British boy scout and army, including but not limited to their marching songs. The RSS march as seen today was inspired by that of British voluntary  forces in areas of trouble to warn citizens. Supposedly Sangh leaders borrowed English tunes to train the RSS band. The aforementioned figures, besides celebrating native heroic legends like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Peshwa Baji Rao, also stated that Indians had to develop patriotism the way the British developed theirs. Important wars fought by the British like the Battle of Waterloo and Trafalgar were given as examples. 

Considering this scenario, it is not strange for a moderate Macaulayputra like LK Advani to familiarise himself with the organisation. Thus he joined the RSS in 1942 besides attending discourses on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Ranganathananda the president of the Karachi centre of Ramakrishna Mission.  This shows Advani to be the recipient of the Indian, rather Indo-Anglian renaissance that swept British India from 1850’s to 1930’s. Couple that with his Amil Nanakpanthi family roots which is the recipient of Bhakti movement.

Also lesser known is the fact that he was related to famed Sufi poetess Dadi Ganga , in fact Advani mentions in his memoirs that his wife Kamla along with her sister Sarla published Dadi Ganga’s Sufi poetry. All these make him the ideal reformist as opposed to the Hindu hardliner the media likes to portray him as; or would it be a leap of faith to say in certain cases, Hindu hardliner is the ideal reformist. 

The leap can be taken considering how he organised the political networks connecting the BJP to figures stretching from fiery socialist George Fernandes to Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray.

Besides political networking, what is less spoken about Advani (maybe intentionally) is his penchant for films and the filmmakers. As stated by Vidhu Vinod Chopra whose  An Encounter with Faces was nominated for the Academy Award under Best Documentary Short Film in 1979:

 “When I got nominated for an Oscar I had no money, I had nothing and I read in the paper that I was nominated. He gave me an Air India ticket and $ 20 a day and that I owe it to Mr LK Advani. I want the world to know why he is so special to me. Not because he is a politician but because he is the man who sent me to the Oscars.”

On multiple occasions other Hindutva icons like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Balasaheb Thackeray have been lauded as poets and artists, but Advani as the admiring film buff has been less talked of. Be that as it may, 2024 can be now seen as honouring a Nanakpanthi Macaulayputra who charioted a saffron trail across India’s political landscape and who also liked going to the movies. 

The essay has been published in the following blog as well.

Podcast explores advances in gender equality in India

I highly recommend checking out this podcast as it delves into gender equality advancements deep in rural India (Bihar- site of an upcoming temple). It sheds light on grassroots efforts, including how the birth of a girl child is perceived differently from a boy child, and the barriers girls and women face in education and beyond. Continue reading Podcast explores advances in gender equality in India

An Electoral Earthquake in Pakistan

As everybody knows by now, Pakistan held a general election on February 8th and the results (such as they are, rigging is still going on as we write, so not all the results are here) are a shock for the army and the parties it had roped in to remove their own creation (Imran Khan).

Imran Khan was brought into power in 2018 as part of a longstanding army project to get rid of bothersome civilian politicians. To arrange that victory the army had used its various levers (pliant judges, ISI pressure, pliant media etc) to remove Mian Nawaz Sharif from power and when the numbers still seemed uncertain after the voting, they delayed results and arranged “positive results”. But Imran Khan proved a disaster at governance and by 2021 the army chief (Bajwa) had lost faith in Khan and in typical army fashion now “arranged” a vote of no confidence against Khan. Somewhat to their surprise, Khan refused to go gentle into that good night and launched a campaign of defiance. Since Bajwa himself was playing double games (probably in the hope of getting another extension as army chief) and was a rank incompetent in any case, the entire saga was shambolic even by Pak army standards. Khan was especially successful in turning the army’s own mildly jihadi paknationalist narrative against them. And he MUST get credit for having the guts to do so. It is not like it was not available to other parties, but outside of fringe leftist or Islamist groups, no major party ever dared to attack the pak army as traitors and american agents. Khan had no such hesitation, he made it the main plank of his resistance, and it worked, spectacularly. He also had the benefit of Bajwa’s rank incompetence and all round goofiness and the terrible economic performance of the coalition the army had put together to overthrow him was the icing on the cake.

When the army finally arrested Khan, his supporters tried to incite a coup against the new army chief (Hafiz Asim Munir) and may have had the sympathy of a couple of senior generals, but the attempt failed and when you go at the king, you best not miss.. once they missed, Hafiz was able to launch a massive crackdown against the PTI and it seemed like they had no future left. But continuing economic crisis meant the public remained unhappy and the caretaker regime’s blatant authoritarian and undemocratic maneuvers REALLY turned off the new educated youth, who were more idealistic than their elders; every unfair means used against Khan increased his support in that demographic.

I have never been a fan of Khan sahib but even I could see that PTI is more popular than anyone in the establishment camp. And being in the establishment camp really hurt the PMLN, who had themselves been victims of establishment shenanigans in the past but now sacrificed their anti-establishment narrative for a short chance to rule followed by establishment support in the election. That proved to be a game changer. Their lethargic campaign and mixed and confused messaging added to their woes. Still, many people (including yours truly) thought that all the pre-poll rigging by the army and the fact that PTI had been denied the chance to run as a single party would be enough to squeeze out a PMLN win (though I also thought the army prefers a hung parliament, so they wont let them win big either). But paradoxically the state’s oppression of PTI removed all the opportunists and charlatans the army itself had gifted to them in 2018 and the young idealists who were left proved up to the task. They managed to get a candidate on almost every seat (running as independents as the party was kept out of the running via undemocratic means) and they managed to use social media to let their voters know who the candidate is in every constituency. This is a major achievement and they deserve FULL credit for doing that. 

Come election day, the establishment allowed mostly free and fair voting. Somehow their own assessment was that this will produce a fractured mandate with PMLN in the lead, but still dependent on them for arranging turncoats and supporters for them to make it to the magic number. They allowed PTI to run all their independents (probably feeling that too much in the hands of PMLN will not be good for them either) (I say “let them run” because considering the undemocratic means at their disposal, they COULD have done more to suppress these people, it was not beyond their abilities) and waited for the voting to end.

The voters then delivered their verdict. PTI having no “ground game” proved irrelevant. The common people of Pakistan (at least in the “Pakistani” zones of Punjab and KPK) came out in droves to “vote out the scoundrels” and there was a PTI  landslide in KPK and in many parts of Punjab. They may even have had a lot support in Karachi, but turnout was lower and (maybe with some rigging) they did not do as well there. They did not make a dent in rural Sindh (where sindhi identity is still strong and Sindhis know that PPP is the only Sindhi party in the game) and there has not been a real election in Balochistan for decades. STill, in most of Pakistan the “independent” candidates put up by the PTI won in large numbers. Having miscalculated and now with massive egg on their face, the establishment was forced to go back to its old shenanigans and they have delayed results on many constituencies, clearly trying to alter the result in close races (eg, i know for a fact that young lawyer Taimur Malik of the PTI upset ex-prime minister Yusuf Gilani in Multan, but that seat’s result was delayed and then announced in Gilani’s favor).

But even after this post-poll rigging, it is now clear that PTI has won KPK by a landslide and has won about half the seats in Punjab. That makes them the biggest single “party” but of course on paper they are not one party, they are 125 independent MNAs (members of the national assembly). That means there is still the possibility (really, probability) that the establishment will cobble together a coalition of some favored parties plus whatever independents they can buy or cajole. Ideally the army would like to make lemonade from the lemons they have gathered together, creating some kind of “national unity govt” that is run by GHQ from behind the scenes, but more likely they will end up with a useless and fractured govt and it will not last too long. Pakistan will have another election within two years (or less), or it will have a military coup. Same old, same old. And all other crises are still bubbling along. “Militancy”, separatist insurgency, economic crisis, poor governance. The show must go on.

Just to be clear, if you think like a democrat the obvious solution is to let PTI constitute its MNAs into one party and let them form governments where they can. But keep in mind that we are talking about Pakistan, where the army has ruled for decades, directly or indirectly, so this is more or less a pipe dream.  The country is run by the army and the apparatus of the Raj (now rusted and decayed, but still the machinery that actually runs the country) and ALL parties are badly compromised. PTI itself runs on vibes and has no serious economic or foreign policy plan (if Khan stays in prison they could conceivably find a competent leader to run the govt but they are a personality based party and will not be able to keep khan on the side.. if they are in power, they have to have Khan in power and khan is an incompetent goof at that job, though one must give him credit for taking a clear stand and fighting back. And of course, FULL CREDIT to the young guns of the PTI who mananged, under very adverse circumstances, to fight back and win. A job well done. Young people in Pakistan are sick of the terrible governance and all the unfair means used by the establishment. They have spoken out against it in this election. Unfortunately, this is pakistan, so Allah will not give us any unalloyed good. Young uns are idealistic and are rejecting the authoritarian and oppressive establishment, but ideologically they are all over the place, the default narrative is PMA-level paknationalist (which is why they are extra angry now, because they think big bad America has kicked out their hero, who was trying to do the Islamic Paknationalist thing and was stopped by anti-islam and anti-pakistan forces). They have done a great thing on February 8th, but all the other realities remain unchanged.
It is what it is. 

If you want to see my pre-election thoughts, i did a podcast:


My podcast when Imran Khan was arrested is here:

My article from 2011 about Imran Khan (I never liked him in politics).

Seat position per as I write this (a bit misleading because they are not showing many independents as PTI when they really are):

Random musings on the interim budget

The following post is contributed by @saiarav from X or Yajnavalkya from Medium

I flooded the TL with tweets on the budget today. Putting it all together in one place for future reference.

1) The big takeaway — a stunningly non-populist budget in an election year

Unlike in 2019, when the government deliberately advanced the budget date by a month so they could announce a major welfare program (Kisan DBT) and tax cuts for middle class, which added up close to Rs.1 trillion of giveaways or roughly 0.5% of GDP, this budget had almost nothing at all for any section of the voters. This is even more remarkable because A) in the last few years, state elections have seen a strong trend of rampant freebie promises and B) the economic scenario is decidedly more mixed compared to 2019 with clear signs of K-shaped recovery and economic stress in the bottom half of the population. I would have thought Modi would go in for freebies at least comparable to 2019 (0.5% of GDP would be Rs.1.7 trillion), him choosing not to do so is a measure of the supreme confidence he has regarding 2024 elections.

Of course, Modi can still surprise all of us with an unexpected 8 PM announcement with a slew of welfare measures, in which case it will very likely include a large fuel price cut.

2) The fiscal glide path looks very promising; immense possibilities

The budget estimates for 2024–25 are extremely conservative, with some of it to the point of being ridiculous. Take the 2023–24 RE for corporate taxes for example — the underestimate of growth is silly, with just two months left for year-end, it kinda makes the budgeting exercise meaningless.

Apart from tax revenue figures, I see huge potential for large divestments in 2024–25 (budgeted to be just 50K cr) given how hot the markets are.

Further, nominal growth estimates are conservative as well… a larger denominator will also support a lower fiscal deficit.

Overall, I see higher direct tax collections and divestments resulting in at least a 20–30 bps beat over the 5.1% fiscal deficit target for 2024–25. And then we get to 4.0% by 2025–26. This is all very important for the economy — a potential upgrade in our sovereign credit ratings amidst expectation of greater FII investments in the domestic bond market, in turn leading lower interest rates.

The fact that we appeared to have dodged a new freebie program which will be a permanent burden on the resources drives immense possibilities. As the fiscal deficit comes under control, the government will have much greater resources to fund new priorities, beyond road and rail.

3) Capex spend continues to be solid

The 2023–24 RE for capex spend came in lighter than BE but this is, in large part, because the government shelved the plan for equity infusion into oil OMCs.

The IEBR RE figures were sharply below estimates but this is due to FCI borrowing less funds for its operations (which is a good thing).

One sizeable miss was lower railway IEBR capex — much lower spend on the DFC…apparently because part of the project got shelved.

Meanwhile, Gadkari seems to have no problem handling any amount of capex thrown at his department, solid execution.

For 2024–25, the capex budget is a 10% increase which is pretty good considering its coming off a very strong capex allocation in 2023–24.

4) Huge capital infusion into BSNL — strategic or a waste of taxpayer’s money?

Close to Rs.2 trillion will be infused into BSNL between 2022–23 and 2024–25. This is on top the spectrum it will get for free which as an opportunity cost, if my understanding is right. My initial take was that this was a waste of money into a loss-making, inefficient PSU but then I was told …

…that the capital infusion had a major strategic objective.

5) Defense capex continues to be weak

6) Postal department — yet another case of a broken public sector biz

7) Railway finances continues to be in shambles

I wrote, perhaps two dozen tweets on railways, so I will put that up as a separate blogpost…but the key takeaway, railway finances continue to be in shambles.

8) The difficult job of fiscal management — limited spending discretion

Most of the spend is just completely non-discretionary, minimal ability to cut cost, either for political or administrative reasons.

9) Energy sector capex — disappointing

The IEBR spend by Oil PSUs or capex for atomic energy is modest — remember there was a recent announcement of significant expansion plans in nuclear capacity thru 2030. Well, the money is not forthcoming.

10) What is going on with defense pensions?!? — very low allocation

11) Hits and misses on government spending estimates for 2023–24

Indian Muslims and the partition vote

The following post is contributed by @saiarav from X or Yajnavalkya from Medium

The 1946 vote and the Muslim mandate for partition

The 1946 elections remains inarguably the most consequential election within the Indian Subcontinent. Jinnah’s Muslim League (ML)went into the polls with a single-point agenda of partition and the Muslim voters responded with feverish enthusiasm, delivering a crushing victory for ML across all provinces, thereby paving the way for partition. The party won an overwhelming 75% of the Muslim votes and 87% of the Muslim seats, and except for NWFP, its minimum seat share was 82% (see table below). Of note, provinces from current day India -places like Bombay and Madras, which had zero chance of being part of a future Pakistan – gave a 100% mandate to Jinnah.

(for those who are not aware, we had a communal electorate at that time which meant Muslim voters would vote exclusively for Muslim seats)

Ayesha Jalal’s Jinnah The Sole Spokesman, P.172

Facts belie claims of Muslim society non-representation in mandate

As regarding the role (culpability?) of the Indian Muslim society in facilitating partition, establishment historians put forth two arguments. One, Jinnah had kept the Pakistan promise deliberately vague and hence the voters did not realise what they were voting for. Two, the overwhelming mandate from the voters cannot be taken as representative of the sentiments the whole society as only a tiny proportion of Muslims had the right to vote. The first one is a qualitative debate and can be debated endlessly. But the second assertion is easier to examine since we have actual voting and demographic data and that is what I will endeavour to do in this post. I reference one specific claim which is quite popular in social media — that the mandate was only from 14% Muslim adult population, based on an article written by a leading X handle, Rupa Subramanya, who has a rather interesting history with respect to her ideological leanings.

The analysis that follow will show that at least one adult member (mostly male) from close to 40% of the Muslim households in British Indian provinces and at least 25% of Muslim adults were eligible to vote .

I cannot emphasize enough that this is not something which should be used to question Indian Muslims of today. The founding fathers of the modern Indian nation made a solemn promise to Muslims that they will be equal citizens of this nation and that should be unconditionally honoured. But as a society, we should have the courage and honesty to acknowledge historical facts rather than seek to build communal peace on a foundation of lies, as the left historians have done; Noble intentions are not an excuse. Talking of fake history, one cannot but marvel at the sheer degree of control over the narrative of the establishment historians that they have managed to perpetrate the claim about the 1946 vote for more than seven decades when there is hard quantitative data available on number of voters, the country’s adult population etc. One can only imagine the kind of distortions they would have done to medieval history where obfuscation would have been infinitely easier.

Some basic facts about the 1946 elections

I will start off with some facts and estimates which are broadly indisputable.

A) The 1946 provincial elections was limited only to British Indian provinces

The 1946 elections was limited to provinces directly ruled by the British which accounted for roughly 3/4 of British India’s population. While the provincial representatives in turn elected 296 members of the Constituent Assembly, the princely states nominated 93 members the constituent assembly, i.e in proportion to their respective population. With ML bagging 73 of the 78 Muslim seats in CA, the partition debate was as good as sealed.

B) 28% of the adult population of the provinces was eligible to vote

The total strength of the electorate was 41.1 million voters while the total population of Indian provinces was 299 million. Taking into account only the adult population (age of 20+, ~50% of the population), it implied 28% of the population were eligible to vote.

(data is sourced from Kuwajima, Sho, , Manohar, New Delhi, 1998, p. 47.)

C) An estimated 25% of the adult Muslim population of the provinces were eligible to vote

While I am unable to source the actual data for the percent of eligible voters within Muslim community, there is no reason to think it would be an order of magnitude lower than the overall 28% number. As I show in the Appendix, voter and turnout data indicates the number should be in the 25% range, if not higher; i.e. about 9 million Muslims out of 37 million adult Muslim population in the provinces were enfranchised.

D) Close to 40% of Muslim households had members eligible to vote

The 28%/25% voter ratio discussed above is skewed by the fact that very few women were allowed to vote. Only 9% of adult females had voting rights which in turn implied that 46% of adult males had voting rights. (Source: Kuwajima, Sho). If we assume the same proportion for Muslim females, that would imply little over 40% of Muslim adult males were enfranchised.

E) 75% of the 6 million Muslim votes went to ML

4.5 million Muslims voted for Muslim League out of a total 6 million Muslim votes cast from an electorate size of 9.2 million. Of note, there is no major urban-rural divide — the figure for rural areas is 74% vs 79% for urban areas.

Muslim mandate way more broadbased than projected in mainstream narrative

Based on the above data, at the very least, one has to concede that 25% of the Muslim society had a say on the issue of Pakistan and three-quarters of that group did vote for creation of an independent Muslim State. This severely undercuts the claim that only a tiny elite voted for Pakistan — Rupa’s 14% figure, for example, is clearly wrong **. But even the argument that the bottom 75% had no say on the issue is inaccurate because the voting rights were not just based on class, but also on gender. As noted above, close to 40% of adult male Muslims were enfranchised — in other words, 40% of Muslim households had an adult member who could vote. And of this 40%, three-fourths or 30% chose to vote for Pakistan. That clearly means that a much larger cross-section of the Muslim society had a say than just a tiny elite or the educated middle classes (or the salariat class as Ayesha Jalal calls it). This appears to be a more reasonable interpretation of a mandate given the context of the time when universal for women was still a new or evolving concept in many advanced democracies.

** The error that Rupa makes in arriving at the 14% figure is two-fold. One, she takes the adult Muslim population for entire British India (~44 million) whereas the elections were held only for provinces (~37 million). Second, she uses actual voter turnout (6 million) instead of the total size of the Muslim electorate (~9.2 million).

What are some of the counterarguments to the above interpretation?

A) What about the fact that the Muslims in princely states had no vote?

This argument, on the face of it, is not without merit. But one needs to be honest about framing it — this is not a case of a vertical class divide in enfranchisement but a horizontal regional divide. Therefore, the proponents of the non-representative nature of the mandate will have to make the case that the Muslim subjects of the princely states would have taken a significantly different view on Pakistan versus the ones in the provinces, just harping on the class divide will just not cut it.

Let us look at what the data can tell us. The adult Muslim population from the princely states would be another 8 million. Based on 1941 census data nearly 60% would be from three large states — Hyderabad (17%), Punjab (18%) and Kashmir (24%). Is there any reason to believe that the Muslims of Hyderabad or Punjab would have voted very differently versus their neighbor provinces of Madras Presidency or Punjab province? A debate on this issue is beyond the scope of this post but I would say that the burden is on those making the “non-representative mandate” argument to make that case.

For the record, if we take total Muslim population figure, then the proportion of adult and male adult enfranchisement of Muslim community would go down to 21% and 34% respectively

B) Muslim women were largely excluded

As noted earlier only about 9% of adult women were enfranchised. Assuming a similar (or lower) figure for Muslim women, indeed they had little say on the matter. One interesting aspect is that even among the Muslim women eligible to vote, very few seem to have turned up to vote. Only 15K of them voted which would be a turnout in the low single digits at best! But among those who did vote, more than 50% voted for ML, which is admittedly well below the overall support of 75%. But still, the fact is that a slim majority of Muslim women too voted for Pakistan. Also, electoral mandates need to be interpreted based on the context of that time and broadbased women suffrage was still at a relatively early stage even in more advanced democracies.

C) Hey! only 4.5 million out 37 million Muslim adults voted for ML

This would mean only 12% of adult Muslims expressed support for Pakistan. In a very narrow mathematical sense, this is, of course. right. But this is just not how electoral mandates are interpreted in any democracy. If one uses this yardstick, it would mean Presidents in one of the world’s oldest democracies, have been consistently elected with support of just a quarter of the electorate because voter turnout in US has generally been around 50%. The ones who had the right to vote but chose not to exercise it will need to be excluded from any interpretation of the mandate.

Conclusion — acknowledge history and move on

Partition has a cast a long shadow on Hindu-Muslim relationship and perhaps it was a wise decision in the immediate aftermath to underplay the Indian Muslim community’s role in it. But a fiction cannot be the basis for a permanent peace. At some point, we will all have to collectively acknowledge the historical facts and have the maturity to move on. One additional problem also is that this fictional narrative about the mandate further feeds into the Muslim victimhood that they had chosen a secular India over a Islamic Pakistan and have been betrayed by rising Hindu majoritarianism. A honest appraisal of history might perhaps lead to a more constructive political strategy.

Appendix — estimate of eligible voter percent within Muslim community

A) The Muslim population in the provinces was 79.4 million. Given higher birth rate among Muslims, the adult population is lower than the national average — using Pakistan’s 1951 census data as a proxy, I estimate the adult Muslim population to be 47% or 37 million.

B) Total number of Muslim votes cast was 6 million (Ayesha Jalal)

C) Average turnout across communities was around 65%

D) If one assumes a similar turnout for Muslims, then the total electoral size for Muslims comes to 9.2 million which implies 25% of adult Muslim population was eligible to vote. It is quite likely that the turnout was much lower because the turnout amongst Muslim women was abysmally low (Ayesha Jalal)

So it is reasonable to conclude that at least 25% of the adult Muslim population living in the provinces were enfranchised in 1946.

Brown Pundits