Conversation with Kushal Mehra on Indic Modernity at The Indic Explorer YouTube Channel

I recently hosted Kushal Mehra from The Carvaka Podcast on my regular weekly podcast ‘The Indic Paradigm’ on The Indic Explorer YouTube Channel.

We looked at modernity from a Western lens and contrasted it against how it was shaped in India. We also explored themes of The Golden Age, the individual vs collective dichotomy, the role of the state, handling of diversity, impact of urbanization & industrialization on Indian society.

The general conclusion was that Indic modernity would take the path of incremental change rather than a sudden transformational change that was seen in the West, which became a complete break from the past.

The Indic Explorer YouTube channel focusses on the interplay of Indic culture with modernity explored through different facets in the socio-cultural sphere.

Do subscribe to the channel at https://www.youtube.com/theindicexplorer

and follow me here

Twitter- https://twitter.com/theindicexplor1

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/theindicexplorer/

Substack-https://digitaldharma.substack.com/

Swell-https://www.swellcast.com/indicexplorer

Clubhouse- http://clubhouse.com/@indicexplorer

The Indic Paradigm Podcast Ep5: Startup Founders Neel & Charu on How to Make Indic Culture Cool

Neelacantan and Charusmitha are founders of Coolture Designs, a Bengaluru based startup focused around products and experiences woven around Indic Culture. Their focus is on how to make different expressions of the Indic culture more contemporary and appealing to people of all ages.

I host them on the Indic Explorer YouTube Channel, on my regular podcast the Indic Paradigm. The channel focusses on the interplay of Indic culture with modernity explored through different facets in the cultural sphere.

Do subscribe to the channel at https://www.youtube.com/theindicexplorer

and follow me here

Twitter- https://twitter.com/theindicexplor1

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/theindicexplorer/

Substack-https://digitaldharma.substack.com/

Swell-https://www.swellcast.com/indicexplorer

Clubhouse- http://clubhouse.com/@indicexplorer

 

Episode 14: The Delhi Sultanate

 

Another BP Podcast 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 of the history podcast, Omar and Jay discuss the period of Delhi Sultanate with Jay and Gaurav. We go over all the major dynasties and also discuss the religious, economic aspects of this time.

As Omar Ali puts it, the legacy of Delhi Sultanate is the legacy of Islam in the subcontinent.

References:-

1. The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 by Sunil Kumar
2. The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 6: The Delhi Sultanate
3. India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard M. Eaton
4. Medieval India – Vol. 1 by Satish Chandra
5. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India: Volume I by J L Mehta
6. A Comprehensive History of India: The Delhi Sultanat (A.D. 1206-1526), ed. by Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami

A confused post-Empire

Truss learns the hard way that Britain isn’t America:

If anti-Americanism was bad, look what its opposite has done. Britain is in trouble because its elite is so engrossed with the US as to confuse it for their own nation. The UK does not issue the world’s reserve currency. It does not have near-limitless demand for its sovereign debt. It can’t, as US Republicans sometimes do, cut taxes on the hunch that lawmakers of the future will trim public spending. Reaganism was a good idea. Reaganism without the dollar isn’t. If UK premier Liz Truss has a programme, though, that is its four-word expression.

So much of what Britain has done and thought in recent years makes sense if you assume it is a country of 330mn people with $20tn annual output. The idea that it could ever look the EU in the eye as an adversarial negotiator, for instance. Or the decision to grow picky about Chinese inward investment at the same time as forfeiting the European market. Or the bet that Washington was going to entertain a meaningful bilateral trade deal. Superpowers get to behave with such presumption.

(if you go to google news, look up the piece, and use incognito mode, you should be able to read it for free)

This is basically what Ed West told me in our podcast. Britain has been culturally swallowed by America and American affairs, and that’s not good for the UK’s social and economic development because the natives don’t pay enough attention to their real station and situation in the world.

For the Right: they need to get over Empire and Britain’s role in the world. Contra James bond they’re a medium-sized nation living off a history of geopolitical relevance. For the Left: get over colonialism. The ghosts of Ninevah haunt the old ruins.

Maj General Tajammal Malik. Very Important Interview

An old piece from Major Amin. A “must read” for anyone trying to understand the Pakistan army. From its peculiar combination of Jihad and British ideals to its performance in 1965 and 1971, to its full politicization under Zia.
Gen Tajammal Hussain Malik was an excellent officer (ie very good at his primary job of training and leading troops into battle), an asset to any army, but also a coup maker and a fanatic with very shallow ideas about nations and how they can (or cannot) function.. A great officer to have on your side in war, but in Pakistan the army does much more than  fight wars, so there you have it… (It is a very long interview, so if you are in a hurry, just jump to the highlighted excerpts, you will get a flavor of the whole thing).

Major General tajammul hussain malik-Hero of Battle of Hilli and twice Coup maker

Agha H Amin
This is the man who was praised by Indians and they established a commission to study his masterpiece Battle of Hilli. He was praised by his Indian battle opponent in his book “Indian Sword penetrates East Pakistan” as a singularly brave man. He was miles above pygmies like Zia, Ayub and Musharraf. When we joined the army we were inspired by his battalion 3rd Baloch’s attempted coup of 23 March 1980 to wipe out despicable clown Zia and his dirty clique!
One good thing that General Beg did immediately after that glorious crash in 1988 was to restore Tajammul’s complete military honors and privileges. Tajammul was serving a sentence of 14 years RI for planning to liquidate all army generals and Zia on 23 March 1980 ,a brilliant scheme indeed!
We had to wait till glorious 17th August 1988 when that plane finally crashed right into the Hindu Shamshan Ghat on Basti Lal Kamal ! Tajammul has thrown light on Zia’s shallow personality in this interview !
 May God Bless His Soul !
Major Agha H Amin (Retired)
Please tell us something about your early life, parents?
I was born on 13th June 1924, in village Thanil Kamal, Tehsil Chakwal, then District Jhelum (now District Chakwal). I spent my childhood in rural atmosphere, which at that time was quite primitive. There was no electricity, no roads, no telephones and as far as I remember no one owned even a bicycle. Radio came much later. Men, women and children wore the same dress as their ancestors put on centuries ago. There was not much difference between the rich and the poor. There were no social barriers and the living style of all the inhabitants was almost alike. A village was a self-sustained compact unit. They produced their own wheat, meat, vegetable, rice, ghee, eggs and almost everything one needs for ones simple living. The village shopkeepers were Hindus or Sikhs. Almost all purchases from the shops were on barter system. The prices of agricultural and dairy products were very low: -Wheat was sold at 1 1/4 rupees a maund. (40 Kilo) Meat 1/4 rupee a seer ( Kilo) Milk – 10 seers for one rupee.Pure desi ghee – 1 1/4 seer for one rupee. Chicken weighing one seer for about four annas (1/4 rupee). These rates compared
favourably with the rates laid down in “Aaeen-i- Akbari” during the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud Din Akbar’s rule, more than four hundred years ago.
Both my father and mother were highly religious. I inherited my religious convictions from my parents.
Please tell us about your school / college days and any decisive influences on your personality formation / development of convictions ?
A common village boy living in rural atmosphere, as mentioned above, could not conceive any high ambitions. I had many relatives in the Army but the highest rank held by any one of them was that of a Subedar, (which was then called Viceroy Commission). In fact, as far as I remember, there was not even a single King’s Commission Officer in the  whole of Tehsil Chakwal at that time. ( First IMA course passed out in 1934/35). From village school, I moved to Government High School Chakwal. Lieut General Abdul Majeed Malik and Maj General Nazar Hussain Shah were a class ahead of me. Brig Amir Gulistan Janjua, whose last appointment was Governor of NWFP, was my class fellow. I think if statistics are taken, that rural area High School produced more Brigadiers and Generals than Aitchison College and Burn Hall combined.
What were your perceptions as young man in pre-1947 India about the prevalent political conditions, Muslim League, Congress etc?
The British Indian army was a mercenary Army. Although occasionally we used to read about the political developments then taking place, yet at that time it never occurred to us that the Indian Army would be divided so soon and a new state of Pakistan would come into being as a homeland for the Muslims. It looked a fantasy. I vividly remember when I was a cadet, I had read an article in one of the magazines, perhaps the Military Digest, wherein, the then Commander-in-Chief Indian Army, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck, while addressing army personal at some station had said, “In ten years time, you would have all Indian Battalion Commanders, in fifteen years time you would have all Indian Division Commanders, and in twenty years time you would have an Indian Commander-in-Chief.” From this statement it would become evident that the division of Army was never visualised even at the highest level of military hierarchy, nor did theBritish officers ever think of vacating their biggest colony so soon. At the most one could say that India might get dominion status in due course of time, but complete independence was still being regarded as a dream.
Any memorable incidents, which left an indelible impression on your personality?
I cannot think of any particular instance, which left an indelible impression on my mind. However, by the time I was a Platoon Commander at PMA in 1954/55, my experiences, observations in life, extensive study of books of history, philosophy and religion particularly Iqbal’s book “Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam” and his Urdu poetry had convinced me of existence of God and all that is laid down in Quran. From then onwards I became a dedicated practicing Muslim and started praying regularly which continues till today. Islam is the guiding force for all my actions and reactions. Whether in peace or in war, I drew my aspirations from Islam. I pray to Almighty Allah that may He continue to guide me for the rest of my life.

Continue reading Maj General Tajammal Malik. Very Important Interview

Book Review: India, Bharat and Pakistan – a Not so Gentle Reminder

Lawyer and author J Sai Deepak is back with the book of his India that is Bharat Quadrology. I had reviewed his first book India that is Bharat almost a year back – you can find my review here.

The Summary: 

J Sai Deepak’s second book dissects the time from the fall of the Mughal empire to the Khilafat movement relying heavily on the tools developed in the first book and a vast number of primary sources. The author also investigates the trail of the Islamic doctrine consolidated during the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri (compiled on orders of Aurangzeb) back to the 13th century Islamic scholar Taymiyyah and Syed Ahmad Sirhindi (a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar).

The two figures covered in detail among the post Mughal Ulema are Shah Wahiullah Dehlawi and Syed Ahmad Baraelvi – the two giants who have shaped the Islamic revivalism in the 18th century. The establishment of Wahhabi power center in Northwest of Punjab, establishment of the various schools of Islam in North India – Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-i-Hadith, Ali-garh and the British crackdown of Wahhabism are all discussed in sufficient detail before jumping off to Syed Ahmad Khan and the modern genesis of the two-nation theory. The author then covers all the important events from the Partition of Bengal to the Khilafat movement – relying heavily on primary sources. The book ends with a summary of the Khilafat riots – especially the Mopla massacre.

My 2 Annas:

It took me 3 weeks to complete the first section of the book. I completed the rest of the book in 2 days. I think this statement itself is a review in a nutshell. If I had to give a one phrase review for book 1 it would be “Overstated yet immensely Consequential“, if I have to do the same for book 2 it would be “About time or Oh My Gods“. This is not to say I don’t have disagreements with the book – especially some of author’s conclusions, but the overwhelming thrust of the book is something I strongly agree with.

Firstly, the book busts all the popular notions of two-nation theory and it being solely a creation of the British. The author effectively traces the modern origins of the two-nation theory to Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh movement at the very least. The book also covers some of the lesser-known events from the 19th century – the Wahhabi movement and the conflict in the Northwestern frontier province. The book makes it abundantly clear that Islamic revivalism was less a reaction to Colonialism and more a reaction to Hindu and Sikh resurgence. The fact that both the British and Muslims saw each other as closer religiously and hence more acceptable/worthy instead of the “Hindu” is driven through via a vast number of primary sources. 

The common trope among the secular (even Hindutva discourse) about the Syncretic nature of Sufis is addressed (though I felt the author didn’t fully go into this question).

Location 528

Pan-Islamism and its proponents – especially Al-Afghani are also covered in the book.

Secondly, the book also goes into origins and progress of “Moderate Nationalism” under Indian National Congress right up to the ascendency of the “Mahatma”. I had expected the author to be slightly unfair to the Indian National congress and especially the role of Gandhiji but to my surprise he hasn’t. Though some conclusions may seem a tad unfair at times but because the author relies heavily on primary references the “judgement” is moderated. Most importantly the support of Khilafat which is put firmly on the shoulders of Gandhiji in Hindutva circles, is clearly shown to be a mainstream view of Indian National Congress years before ascendency of Gandhiji, absolving Gandhiji of some of the blame.

The inability of the “Indian nationalism led by Hindus” in dealing the Islamic exceptionalism both before and during the period of “Hindu-Muslim” harmony is on display in the book. The author compares “Coloniality” of the Hindus to the “Rootedness” and “Intransigence” of Muslims for these defeats. Whereas there can be no doubt that Muslim “Intransigence” was important, I find the blame laid on “Coloniality” not watertight.

Take example of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kemal Pasha “Attaturk”. Both were modernizers who tried to jettison the past of their respective countries. What separated them both wasn’t any rootedness or lack of deracination – but a personal attribute, namely political ruthlessness, incidentally something Mohammad Ali Jinnah shared. Kemal Pasha not only broke the tradition of the Khalifa but also forced the Roman alphabet overnight on the Turks. Similarly, in India the two heads who had the most clear-eyed vision of the thread of Islamic exceptionalism were Dr Ambedkar and Veer Savarkar (both “Modernists”). I would instead put the blame on Hindu naivete which is an unfortunate byproduct of Hindu Pluralism – we simply never understood the other. Most of our ReConquistadors (with notable exceptions) did not pursue Reconversions.

Another thing I found mildly irritating in the book (continued from book one) – is the use of the term Middle eastern coloniality/consciousness. Ironically the term “Middle Eastern” itself reeks of its Western Colonial origins. I would have used the term Islamic or Arabic instead, but this is sematic disagreement which doesn’t matter much.

a Not so Gentle Reminder:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results“.

The disagreements with the author’s conclusions notwithstanding, the book is a not so Gentle Reminder for the India that is Bharat. In retrospect, the compromises Bharatiya nationalism offered, from accepting disproportionate Muslim representation to supporting the fanatical Khilafat movement, may have worked against the Indian civilization itself. While it may be unfair to excessively blame the Bharatiya leaders from the past, it’s imperative to call out those who are flirting with the same approach in the 21st century (incidentally my position a few years ago). Essentially the Hindu leadership made a Faustian bargain and sold their brains. Though Swatyantraveer Savarkar is almost absent from the book, he cast a long shadow in my mind while I read the book.

Another popular trope I felt the author could have busted was the trope that Islamic intransigence in India is largely the legacy of “it having been spread by the sword”. The Mopla carnage was undertaken by descendants of Arab traders who came without any major conflict. Maybe violent intransigence and exclusivity is a feature not a bug.

The book becomes unputdownable after the Lucknow Pact, as the Hindu-Muslim unity discussed here which didn’t even last a decade remains as relevant today as ever. The riots covered in the end of the book – especially the Mopla carnage is almost unbearable to read reminding the reader of Kashmir. The letter by Annie Beasant to Gandhiji stands out. The book also brings into focus some of the lesser-known riots like Kohat. Incidentally the trigger for the Kohat ethnic cleansing was blasphemy, a topic which continues to remain as relevant as ever.

As I write this review a century after Mopla Riots, raids are conducted on Popular Front of India members while the PFI supporters can call for Hartals with partial success in Malabar coast. If the first book was a red pill in a blue jacket (Akshay Alladi (@akshayalladi) / Twitter), this is a केसरी (Saffron) pill in a green jacket.

I have skipped over many topics from the book in this review for brevity, but I would urge the reader of this post to buy and read this book in its entirety and engage with the uncomfortable facts it lays down infront of us.

The book ends with the following quote

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The above line becomes even more relevant especially give the way history is taught in India. I would end this review with a quote (in one of its many forms) most people reading this review would recognize.

अश्वत्थामा हतः इति, नरो वा कुंजरोवा !

Hero and other stories; The short stories of Nadir Ali

As many of our readers know by now, I am Nadir Ali’s son, so this is not an unbiased post 🙂

Nadir Ali (1936-2020) was a well-respected Punjabi poet and fiction writer. Hero and Other Stories is a collection of selected short stories translated from the Punjabi. It was published in 2022 by Weavers Press. The originals are in Punjabi and translation always loses a lot of what was in the original, but people who cannot read or understand Punjabi will still find them interesting. His stories are snapshots of a vanished or vanishing Punjab, but also an attempt to keep it alive. They are usually inspired by real characters that he had met or real events that he had witnessed, so in that sense they are also deeply personal. His politics were mostly left wing but these politics are rarely explicit in his stories; A lingering suspicion that modern life, whether Right wing or Left wing, is fundamentally anti-human, is a more prominent theme, but even that takes second place to accurate portrayal of the life and times his characters. Whatever the topic, the characters are always realistic and their culture is portrayed as it was, not how a political or ideological preference would like it to be. These are the lives of peasants, landlords, lovers, dacoits, wrestlers, murderers and heroes. All except one have been translated by Amna Ali and Moazzam Sheikh (I translated one). The Punjabi language is itself a character in his stories, so translation can never do them full justice, but the husband and wife team has done an admirable job and manage to convey much even in translation. But anyone who can read Punjabi should check out the originals. I hope someday we can also produce audio versions in the original punjabi, as many in Pakistani Punjab cannot read Punjabi with any fluency.  I am posting excerpts from Moazzam Sheikh’s introduction to the book as well as one story. This particular story is fiction, but it is inspired by a real character, the saint of the crows (pir Kaawan aala), who lived (stark naked) in Gujrat in my grandfather’s time and whose shrine still exists there.

To buy the book (and of course, i hope some of you DO buy it) buy from Weaver’s press at this link. This is better for the small press, but if you want to buy from Amazon, click here. 

Excerpt from Moazzam Sheikh’s Introduction to Hero and Other Stories

     It’s widely agreed that all creative work is a result of the creator’s unconscious mind – what and when the unconscious mind unlocks, no one fully understands – Continue reading Hero and other stories; The short stories of Nadir Ali

Episode 13: History of South India from 1100-1400 AD

 

13th Episode of the History Podcast.  Shrikanth, Mukunda and Gaurav speak to Maneesh on all things South India from 1100-1400 AD.

The dynasties that ruled, the zeitgeist of the era and the legacy that thrives.

 

 

 

Sources and References:

1. A History of South India – K.A Nilakantha Sastri
2. Essay on Vedanta Deshika – Elisa Freschi : https://iep.utm.edu/venkatan/
3. Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi – Ziauddin Barani (an early history of Delhi Sultanate)
4. Tarikh-i-Farishta – Mohammad Qasim Farishta
6. A Forgotten Empire : Vijayanagar – By Robert Sewell
7. Futuh-us-Salatin by Abdul-Malik Isamy
8. Tiruvendipuram inscription of Rajaraja III – https://archive.org/details/epigraphiaindica014351mbp/page/n199/mode/2up
9. Travels of Marco Polo – Marco Polo
10. Travels of Ibn Batutah – Ibn Batutah (1325 – 1354)
11. Philosophy of Madhvacharya – BNK Sharma – https://archive.org/details/Philosophy.of.Sri.Madhvacarya

 

 

Brown Pundits