Moving out of India: The bigger picture

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Economic growth in India has made the question of immigrating to the US vexing for a lot of young Indians. The old attraction of more material prosperity no longer holds, you can buy everything in India. The difference between siblings in the two countries is no longer the car, the modern electronics and superior amenities. In many ways, immigrating to the US has become a more ‘experiential’ move, with terms like ‘job satisfaction’, ‘latest technologies’ being used in addition to the touting of cleaner, safer and more hip environs.

So should you, as a young Indian teen or adult seek American shores? I was in the same situation nearly two decades ago, and took the plane to the US very unthinkingly, almost like an instinct. I always wished someone would have told me what the possible implications of such a big decision would be, the doors it would open as well as close. I seek to do so for any young person interested here. This post is not going to be about details of work and life in the US versus India, but rather the big picture.

Today, the cost of moving out of India is more than the loss of family and ‘culture’. India offers opportunities of its own. It is with this context that we move forwards with our analysis.

Career: Technological Leadership in Prescribed Areas vs Flexibility in a Growing Economic Power

US leadership on the technological front is significant and enduring. America attracts smart people not only from India, but from across the world, including other developed markets. Deliberately or unwittingly, America has been marketed to the world as the place a smart person needs to be in to maximize their potential. This is somewhat like the IPL being the cricket league where a cricketer can compete with the best in the world. There is a reason why America is the only country in the world that has a Google and an Apple.

Log plot of US patent applications by various countries.

However, the last two decades have seen a sea change in India’s economic growth, technological prowess and integration with the world. Consider the number of US patents filed from India. From being four orders of magnitude lower than the US, India is now less than two orders of magnitude lower, with continuing growth. Similar trends are seen in the number of scientific papers published in elite journals, where India has moved from 1/20th of US output in 2000 to 1/3rd of US output in 2018. India today offers more opportunities than ever before.

Add to this the fact that the American work visa is exactly that, a visa. The visa is designed to bring in workers in areas where there is a shortage of Americans, so the bulk of opportunities lie in the computer software/data management sector. The flexibility and freedom to explore different career and life paths is severely constrained. You cannot easily leave your software engineering job in a global mega corporation and join a business development role in a start up. You cannot take two months off and wander away to see the world. Your US work visa needs full time employment, every second of your life.

So the trade off here is the opportunity to get a narrow but a truly world class exposure versus exposing yourself to a spectrum of career and life possibilities in India.

Life: Systems vs Services

If there was a one line summary for the difference between life in the US and India, it would be in America you can rely on systems, in India you can get a lot of services.

In America, systems work. The courts, police, municipal authorities all do their job professionally. You will not see mounds of rubble by the roadside and trash everywhere. The air will be clean, government authorities will be professional and accessible. The contrast with India is stark.

When it comes to services, lets just say this, the middle class homes of my relatives in India are a procession of cooks, drivers, maids, gardeners, electricians etc. We have a huge population whom we can now feed very well and transport cheaply around the country to markets which need them. As an example, in India, the service and variety of food on offer in a 3-star hotel buffet for 5 dollars was impressive. On the other hand, there were no Mexican options and stepping out of the hotel, you could literally smell the chemicals in the air.

Spirit: Continuity vs Renewal

Humans are not merely the work they do and the goods and services they consume, transcending our finite selves is a big part of the human experience. This is where notions of family, ethnicity, religion and nationality come into the picture. The US and India offer you contrasting pathways in this regard as well.

Being in India offers continuity and context. You can remain soaked in the arts, sports and traditions you have been familiar with since you were a child, and there is no need to separately make an effort to ‘access India’. You are the market whom the creative and talented people in the economy seek to serve.

America offers the chance for renewal and rebirth. Indeed, for the majority of its existence as a nation, America has offered the tired and beaten people of this planet a chance at reinventing themselves and starting a ‘new life’. The children of those pushed out by their home countries have achieved miracles in the American meritocracy.

So there it is, you can think about these three trade offs while making your decision. Do you want to achieve the summit of computer technology ? Or do you want to explore the world of work before diving into a committed career path ? Do you get annoyed and distressed by the dysfunction of the Indian governments ? Or do you appreciate all the services available to make your life easier ? Finally, do you feel India imprisons you and you need fresh air ? Or can you not bear to sever yourself from your gods and greats ?

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Expanding CAA

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Expanding CAA (working evolving draft)

 

Would like to propose expanding CAA to include the following groups of muslims to:

  • get everyone’s feedback on what can practically pass the Indian Lokh Sabha quickly
  • see if several major Indian leaders will publicly endorse this

The following text will be continually edited based on feedback.

Proposing to expand CAA to include the following “AND ONLY THE FOLLOWING” groups of muslims IF AND ONLY IF they can prove persecution inside Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan:

  •  13 classes AND ONLY 13 CLASSES of Muraqabah Sufi muslims:
    • 3 classes of Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
      • Sixer Ishmaeli Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
        • Dawoodi Bohra Sixer Ishmaeli Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
      • Twelver Jafari Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
    • 10 other classes of Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Chisti Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Qadiri Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Nund Rishi Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Shirdi Sai Nath Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Kabir Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Janardhan Swami Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Hazrat Babajan Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Syed Mohammed Baba Tajuddin Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Baba Budan Muraqabah Sufi muslims
  • Agnostic, Atheist and Ex muslims
  • LBGTQ plus muslims
  • Female femnist muslims

 

Any and all Muraqabah Sufi muslims admitted under CAA need to be certified and verified as Muraqabah Sufi muslims by a council of Muraqabah Sufi muslims chaired by Pir Diwan Sahib Syed Zainul Abedin. Pir Diwan Sahib Syed Zainul Abedin will appoint a committee of Muraqabah Sufi muslims at his own discretion to assist him in this task.

 

Any and all Agnostic, Atheist and Ex muslims, LBGTQ plus muslims and female femnist muslims admitted under CAA need to be certified and verified by a council of muslims chaired by Tarek Fatah . Tarek Fatah will appoint a committee of muslims at his own discretion to assist him in this task.

 

In addition to approval by above councils of muslims, any and all muslim CAA applicants are subject to extensive deep background security checks and can be vetoed by the Indian government for any reason.

NO OTHER MUSLIMS will be permitted to apply for CAA. No other aspect of CAA will be affected.

Please provide your suggestions about how to improve the above draft.

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Why did so many BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) voted Tory? (a)

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This is a follow up to:

Why did so many BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) voted Tory?

It appears that Jews, Indian and African Britons abandoned Labour in droves and voted for other political parties. Would be curious to learn who they voted for. Suspect many voted for the Liberal Democrats.

As described by Veedu Vidz in the above previous Brown Pundit post, moderate muslims also appear to have abandoned Labour en mass. Who did moderate muslims vote for?

Are there any English exit polls? [Updated with this exit poll hat trip Ali Choudhury.] Do we know how Pakistani Britons, Bangladeshi Britons, Indian musiim Britons, muslim Britons in general voted?

In the above conversation it was implied that minorities and people of color in USA vote Democrat. My response is that in America Asian Americans and Latino Americans are “swing voters” not wedded to either party. Black African Americans vote overwhelmingly Democrat. However, I think President Trump will likely do a lot better with the Black African American vote in 2020 than he did in 2016.

From page 26 of the exit poll provided by Ali Choudhury, we can see the following:

  • Labour lost only nine percentage points of the BAME vote
  • Conservative Tories gained only one percentage point in additional BAME voters
  • Liberal Democrats gained only six percentage point in additional BAME voters
  • Other political parties gained two percentage points of additional BAME voters

Labour–if these exit polls are not contradicted by other exit polls–did FAR better in 2019 among BAME voters than I thought (and that many political commentators thought). To my surprise the Liberal Democrats only gained six percentage points of BAME voters (for 12% total) and the Conservative Tories only gained one percentage point in additional BAME voters.

My new question is why did the overwhelming vast majority of BAME Britons vote for Jeremy Corbyn? Why did so few BAME Britons vote Liberal Democrat?

Did the moderate muslim Britons almost universally vote for Jeremy Corbyn? If so, why? Would love to hear from Veedu Vidz and Rakib Ehsan.

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American Caste (b)

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America has a national crisis in math capacity, competence and merit. American students sharply underperform students in many countries all over the world. Including Vietnam, which is a poorer country than India per capita. We will heavily refer to the 2018 OECD PISA report in below paragraphs, but the below chart graphic is from the 2015 OECD PISA scores report because math scores are reported for more countries in the 2015 report. Perhaps the 2018 report will be revised to add more countries in the future:

In my view  a level 5 PISA score is the minimum requirement for a person to be considered a high school graduate who is literate in math, able to function in the modern global economy, or be qualified to attend college. The PISA report defines a level 5 PISA score or better as a fifteen year old that “can model complex situations mathematically, and can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with them.” How does America perform in the 2018 PISA report?:

  • United States: 8% of students scored at Level 5 or higher in mathematics
  • OECD average: 11%
  • Six Asian countries and economies had the largest shares of students who did so:
    • Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China): 44%
    • Singapore: 37%
    • Hong Kong (China): 29%
    • Macao (China): 28%
    • Chinese Taipei: 23%
    • Korea: 21%

Note that these six countries were among the poorest countries in the world in the 1950s, far poorer than poor Americans or poor Europeans or poor Chileans can even imagine. In 1979 China was unbelievably poor. Much of the population of China–perhaps as many as 100 million–had starved to death because of extreme poverty in the 1970s. Poor children around the world are outperforming American children in mathematics despite extremely low education spending per student and very low socio-economic level of their legal guardians, where socio-economic level is defined as:

  • income
  • wealth
  • formal education of parents

Do any American high school student subgroups perform well in Mathematics? Yes, “people of color” or “minority” Americans perform well in Mathematics. America’s “people of color” or “minority” students are orders of magnitude more likely to get an 800 on the mathematics SAT than European Americans. If we assume this is an extreme tail end distribution issue related to European Americans having a lower standard deviation and non standard distribution in mathematics performance relative to “people of color” or “minority” Americans, we can explore the breakdown of Americans who score between 750 and 800 on the Mathematics SAT. Here European Americans perform far better relative to “people of color” or “minority” Americans.  In 2015 16,000 European Americans scored 750 or higher. 33,000 “people of color” and “minority” Americans scored 750 or higher. We further know that 51% of SAT test takers were European Americans and 49% were “people of color” or “minority” Americans.  “People of color” or “minority” Americans are [33,000/16,000]*[51%/49%] or 2.15 times as likely to score 750 or higher on the mathematics SAT compared to European Americans.  If we examine the 107,900 test takers who got SAT math scores of 700 or higher; 59,900 are “people of color” or “minority” Americans, versus 48,000 European Americans. “People of color” or “minority” Americans are [59,900/48,000]*[51%/49%] or 1.30 times as likely to score 700 or higher on the mathematics SAT compared to European Americans. For data junkie geeks like me there is a lot more data on SAT math score distributions here and here. The Greta Anderson article’s comment section in particular has some very intelligent commentators who have studied the American SAT score distribution. This is likely to be the subject of many future blog posts and Brown Pundits Podcasts.

What about this is worrying?:

  1. European Americans in particular are sharply under-performing both very poor children around the world and “people of color” and “minority” Americans in mathematics.
  2. American mathematics SAT scores have fallen between 1972 and 2016. 1972 is the earliest year for which I could find comparable SAT mathematics scores. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the SAT mathematics exam was completely restructured to make scores no longer comparable to SAT mathematics scores between 1972 and 2016.
  3. 90% or more of current jobs and businesses are likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI), brain electro-therapy (meditation . . . practiced by civilizations around the world for over 5,000 years), brain sound therapy (naad or mantra yoga and their equivalents in Native American, Egyptian, Sumerian, Taoist and other civilizations around the world for over 5,000 years), bio-engineering tissue, genetic editing, and fused AI-brain interface synthesis intelligence. Almost all of these future disciplines are complementary to mathematics.

Future articles and podcasts are planned all six of these future disciplines. If you are curious about fused AI-brain interface synthesis intelligence, please watch my main man Elon Musk:

Some say that the tension and relationship challenges between America’s four big castes–European Americans, European “Latino” Americans, Black Americans and Asian American–are driving low math scores for European Americans “AND” other Americans. One example is where thought leader Mark J Perry explores the possibility that tension between the European American caste and the Asian American caste are lowering American  mathematics performance. Excerpts of his article are reproduced below:

Continue reading “American Caste (b)”

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Why did so many BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) voted Tory?

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Another amazing podcast from Veedu Vidz–heartthrob of England. {Sisters, he is already owned by Mimzy and unavailable. Sorry.}

Start watching from 25 minutes in. Some take-aways:

  • Chinese earn the most per hour of any group in Britain.
  • Indians earn the second most of any group in Britain. {Chinese continue to economically outperform Indians globally and in Britain.}
    • Do Chinese and Indians really earn more per hour than English Jews? I am skeptical. What is beyond all doubt is that British caucasians are massively academically and socio-economically under performing Jews, Chinese and Indians.
  • The sample sizes for Chinese and Indian Britons is too small to know how they voted for certain. But it is possible that Chinese, Indian, Sikh Buddhist Hindu and moderate muslim Indians voted against Jeremy Corbyn in part because of Corbyn’s close alliance with conservative Sunni and Islamist groups.
  • Before 2019, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Britons  use to heavily vote for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.
    • Brown Pundit favorite Sajid Javid has received a lot of abuse for being a muslim Tory.
  • Tory Priti Patel (who I just heard about for the first time) has also received a lot of abuse.
    • (Is part of the English anger at Priti Patel jealousy over the socio-economic success of Indians? Given how many Indian Britons vote Tory, how can it be because of that?)
    • Priti Patel wants a point based (merit based) immigration system. (Why is this controversial among caucasian English people?)
  • There is a great deal of diversity among the British muslim population
  • Veedu Vidz says that Boris Johnson is anti everyone who is not Boris Johnson.
  • 38 minutes in discusses deep anti Jewish bigotry on the part of English caucasians, the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.
    • comes from the far left
    • comes from the far right
    • need to focus a lot more on muslim anti Jewish bigotry
  • 43 minutes in, many working class caucasian and BAME voters probably are voting Tory in part because they are so scared of being accused of racism by their representatives for asking questions.
  • 46 minutes in, Labour has lost its moral legitimacy on racism, bigotry and sectarianism. Labour and the BMP are the only two parties in English history to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights commission for misconduct.
  • 58 minutes in, many poor and working class caucasian britons have suffered from globalization and have no privilege at all. Labour should stop accusing them of having non-existent privilege.
  • 60 minutes, many Labour try to blame the world’s social ills on Britain. (I am stunned that this still happens. England has been falling apart for generations and is in many ways more backwards than many of her former colonies. Talk about delusions of grandeur.)
  • 63 minutes in Veedu asks if Hindus have an advantage over muslims in Britain.

My questions:

  • I get why many Britons felt they could not vote for Corbyn and Labour. Why didn’t more vote Liberal Democrat?
  • Can anyone send me an exit poll with granular detail on 2019 UK voting patterns?

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Update 1:

Maajid Nawaz Gob-smacks Corbyn and says Corbyn beat Corbyn.

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Update 2:

Katie Hopkins is a Member of the Tory party and is trying hard to create an alliance between the UK and India (and presumably the Dharmic world more generally). The alliance would focus on resisting:

  • Globalism (which she mostly defines as post modernist wokeness, perhaps combined with pro business free markets to a lesser degree)
  • Islamism
  • Feminism (by which I think she means third wave woke post modernist intersectional femnism)

To simplify, I think she mostly means post modernism and Islamism. She appears to think the Europe will divide into Islamist hamlets and non Islamist hamlets. And that Europe and the world as a whole needs India’s and America’s help to survive.

Could the UK government pursue an alliance with India focused on post modernism and Islamism? Could this end any remaining Indian sensitivity about being colonized by the UK? Is this being facilitated by Indian Britons and perhaps muslim Indian Britons leaving the Labour party?

Sham Sharma has speculated that Indian Americans could wholesale flip to the Republican Party similar to the flip of Indian Britons between 2017 and 2019? Could this really happen?

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Update 3:

It is possible that British Asian, African, ethnic minority, poor and lower middle class European ancestry voters were scared about anti Jewish bigotry:

As a side note, the UK has very different issues than the USA. For example UK students perform far better in math than Americans. 13% scored 5 or higher in the 2018 OECD PISA test, compared to 8% of Americans.  Immigrants appear to slightly academically underperform non-immigrant Brits across reading, science and math, although mathematical performance  was not provided. The definition of “disadvantaged students” in the report was unclear.  Between 2009 and 2018 the number of immigrant students has risen from 11% to 20%. One third of immigrant students are “disadvantaged students.” Math results for England have been rising over time and girls sharply outscored boys in mathematics, science and reading.

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Update 4:

According to Nimco Ali (patriotic Briton who happens to have Somali muslim ancestry) most African Britons vote Tory. She is a leading campaigner against female genetic mutilation and says that Tory leaders, Tory moderate muslims and Tory Indians (Priti Patel ) are backing her. Nimco also fights for muslim woman to have the right not to wear the hijab, and again says that she gets support from many Tory leaders, Tory moderate muslims and Tory Indians (Priti Patel ). She is very aspirational. She says that in Britain the aspirational BAME are African Britons and Indian Britons. Both back the Tories. The less aspirational Britons are Pakistanis and they tend to support Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. I am guessing that Bangladeshis are in the middle.

I wonder why more African Britons don’t vote Liberal Democrat. My main man Maajid Nawaz is Liberal Democrat. I get why African Britons don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.

Nimco Ali says that Briton has recently prosecuted several muslim Britons for female genetic mutilation of children. Until recently no Briton was prosecuted for female genetic mutilation. About a tenth of mothers giving birth to children in many British hospitals have had FGM. Kudos to Boris Johnson, Brown Pundit favorite Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and other Britons for trying to end FGM!

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The CAB Battle – Who Is An Indian (Citizen)?

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The feverish pitch over the Citizenship Amendment Bill has reached a crescendo. The Indian lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly passed it with it now reaching the upper house. Most likely, it will pass with the support of “neutral” parties pushing the bill over majority.

Safe But Betrayed: Pakistani Hindu Refugees in India
Pakistani Hindu Refugee Camp in Delhi. Formalization of CAB may aid these currently destitute conditions.

Under the CAB – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians (basically persecuted communities of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh) will receive asylum and an accelerated path to citizenship.

Critics label this bill as anti-Muslim and rhetoric from certain BJP members does not help in the  defense against this accusation.

But again consistent with the common theme of international coverage of India, we are missing context (or more accurately, outlets are leaving it out purposefully).

What’s A Partition?

Not the Beyoncé song. If you have an inkling of knowledge about subcontinental history, you know about the partition and the Two Nation Theory (TNT). TNT was proposed by an Islamist ideologue named Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh Muslim University in the late 1800s. Muhammed Ali Jinnah ran with the idea and eventually convinced enough Muslims to vote for partition (Hindus, Sikhs, etc… were not polled for their vote). In the midst of continued violence (much of it encouraged by Jinnah’s Muslim League), the Indian National Congress would acquiesce to partition. Massive violence followed with millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs dead.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan – First proponent of the Two Nation Theory

However, while Pakistan became an Islamic state, India remained secular (though its minority appeasement down the line really pushes that definition).

India had given up 1/3 of its land to satisfy (separatist) Muslims yet still had 9% of its population as Muslims post-partition. The Muslim population in India would grow to around 15% today while a trident of partition, Pakistani civil war, and persistent persecution would annihilate the Hindu population in Pakistan and Bangladesh (From 1941 to present, the land containing current day Bangladesh’s Hindu population dropped from 28% to 9% while Pakistan’s Hindu population dropped from 14% to 2%.)

It is the shadow of partition that looms large over the CAB.

The Entry Rules?

Defenders of the CAB say it gives refuge to persecuted minorities in true Indian tradition (Baghdadi Jews, Syrian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, and Tibetan Buddhists have all received refuge in India over thousands of years). However it brings to point the case of Islamic minorities (Shias, Ahmediyas, Ex-Muslims, etc…). Many of these minorities face horrid persecution in the Islamic subcontinental states. Why should India also turn them back?

Now is where the acceptance of partition arrives. CAB critics say by rejecting persecuted Muslims, India validates Jinnah and the TNT. I can honestly understand this perspective. Why should these Muslims pay for the sins and mistakes of their ancestors?

Portrait of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad – India’s first Education Minister and lauded Indian Muslim freedom fighter.

On the flip side, CAB supporters return with saying they are merely accepting realities. Threats of national security, demographic change, as well as a cold hard perspective that India owes nothing to those related to its partition (non-Indian Muslims) are valid reasoning no matter how un-PC they are. In addition, the CAB has no bearing on Indian Muslims.

Even deeper, CAB supporters see this as India fulfilling its duty as a refuge of Dharma in the case of Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. The near complete obliteration of Dharmic religion from these lands is not forgotten and won’t be any time soon.

Perceptions

The legalese with regards to the bill seems iffy on its constitutionality. The Indian constitution bars discrimination based on religion within India. However it doesn’t bar discrimination with regards to non-Indian citizens.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah (and probably next Prime Minister), has foreseen this. During a firebrand speech recently, Shah pointed out the litany of laws favoring minorities in India thereby showing a mirror to the Indian state’s institutional religious discrimination. This poses a major problem for the opposition. Add to the fact that the BJP has massive political capital after the Kashmir and Ram Mandir episodes, the centre possesses an insurmountable high ground over its opponents.

The dichotomy between the West’s seething hatred and doomsaying of Modi-Shah versus their ascension as India’s most powerful and popular political figures in decades is fascinating.

But what about a moral high ground?

Western media laments at how India has degenerated to fascism these days. Is this perception reality? Probably not in my opinion.

I think what irks many of these outlets is an assertive India that no longer looks for the approval of the West (or a deracinated brown sahib/a in their place).

What has caught my mind recently is how Western coverage of India is affecting perceptions of India abroad. While some saw Modi as an aberration of a “secular, democratic, and liberal” Indian ethos, now they are beginning to realize Modi and Hindutva are here to stay. Does that mean India will slide into fascism?

On the other hand, many domestic Modi supporters would say that Modi is fulfilling a “secular, democratic, and liberal” ethos that India lacked for so long under Congress rule! Of course in both of these scenarios, I am speaking of white collar middle class folks’ perspectives. Other demographics would say Modi is fulfilling his role as  a Hindu leader giving refuge to the persecuted Hindus in lost lands (this may honestly be the biggest vote catcher for the CAB and primary driver of the BJP’s push).

Then comes the thought – how will policy towards India be affected? While Western foreign policy hasn’t been egregiously affected by bipartisan slants, we are now entering a highly polarized era. The latest incarnation of Western right wing governments seem to favor India, but future demographics are hilariously skewed in favor of the left wing across a number of Western countries.

As the world becomes more globalized, it will be interesting how influential Western media outlets will be on the increasingly connected youth of developing nations including India (the caveat is India’s youth are more pro BJP than older generations). 

Yes, opinions can change as we age but it is fairly apparent that your average millennial takes the word of BBC/NYT/Wash Post as gospel.  We will have to see how a Western left wing government reacts to India, especially one whose constituency is in congruence with this “India = Fascist” narrative. Throwing in the wrench of India’s rising economic clout, these parties will have a bit of a conundrum.

Though it must be said, do that many Westerners even really care about India?

Official Indian justification and response to recent criticism from the USCRIF over the CAB

Find more about Indian, American, and Geopolitics at my blog – The Emissary. Thanks again to the Brown Pundits!

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Film Review: What Will People Say?

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**Caution: Spoilers Ahead**

Image result for what will people say film

I was watching the film ‘What will people say’ (courtesy, Kanopy), an official selection at the Toronto film festival in 2018. It is a story familiar to anyone who grew up in Pakistan or in a desi family abroad. A young, second-generation Pakistani teenage girl (Nisha) in Norway wants to live her life like any other teenager in her peer group but is restricted by her parents. Like most rebellious teenagers anywhere in the world, she finds ways to do what she wants to do (go out partying with a friend in the middle of the night) but stops just shy of having physical relations with one of her guy friends. One such day, she gets caught by her father who finds one of her male Norwegian friends in her room and starts beating him and then turns his fury on her. A neighbor calls the police and Nisha is escorted to a safe place by Norway’s version of the CPS.

After spending a night at CPS, Nisha’s mother calls her to tell her that everything will be okay and that her father will pick her up from CPS in a few minutes. Nisha, being a teenager, falls for this trap. She ends up on a flight to Pakistan with her father. Her father leaves her at his sister’s house and returns to Norway the next day. Nisha tries to contact someone in Norway but she has no access to international calling or internet. Her first night, she tries to run away in the streets but comes back to find her aunt at the door telling her that the nearest airports in 350 Kilometers away. At another instance, she tries to send a message to one of her Norwegian friends via facebook through a net cafe but is caught and her Norwegian passport is burned. She spends eight months at that place. While she is there, she falls for one of her male cousins living in the same house.

One night, they are caught kissing at night by local police who beat him mercilessly and ask her to strip at gunpoint. The police then ask the guy to fondle her in front of them, all while taking photos of them. The couple is then dragged to their house and police demand money in exchange for deleting those photos. Nisha’s father is summoned from Norway by the Pakistani relatives and she is sent back. While Nisha’s father is in Pakistan, he spits at her face and then takes her in a taxi to the top of a mountain and orders her to jump from there. She tries to plead with him while he throttles her and tries to push her. He is unable to, and they end up back in Norway.

There is a family meal and her mother tells her that they are giving her a final chance. The prospect of her becoming a doctor is brought up and that it would be one way in which the honor of family can be redeemed. Some of the dialogues used by her mother upon her return are,

People don’t even invite is to weddings anymore.
I wish you were stillborn”.

Within a few days of her return, she comes back from school to find that there is a ‘match’ ready to happen. The boy (Adnan) is a doctor in Canada and from a Pakistani family. Adnan’s aunt is visiting Nisha’s house and he is present via Skype.

Her father muses out loud that she can study and later work once she is in Canada. The boy’s aunt says ‘No, there is no need for studies or work. Adnan earns plenty of money. She’ll later be busy enough with children and the house”.

Nisha’s mother agrees with this statement.

After a brief chat, the ‘match’ is finalized and they are officially “engaged”. Sweets are consumed by everybody present (they are Pakistani, after all). The boy’s aunt then says, “Nisha, we are doing it only for your wellbeing”. The following night, Nisha, who had been rooming with her younger sister, decides to run away from the house again. It is snowing outside and before she leaves, her younger sister (who is about 6-9 years old) wakes up and sees her leave but doesn’t say a word. Once she has climbed down from her third story apartment, she walks towards the street outside their apartment complex and looks back. Her father is standing in the window, looking at her. Their eyes meet for a few moments and then Nisha takes off in the snow, running far away from the house. The End.

I thought the movie was generally well-made. There is some exoticization of Pakistan, as one expects in most films for a primarily western audience. The narrow streets, old houses, mountains in the background and a dilapidated bus, with Khawaja-siras (transgender people) selling boiled eggs to passengers, the old school vegetable and fruit market, classrooms without whiteboards and households without domestic servants. I read later that the story is loosely based on the life of its director, Iram Haq.

The premise, as I said earlier, is familiar to a Pakistani or a Pakistani-origin person. The rank hypocrisy of Pakistani society, the guilt-trapping (Pakistani parents’ favorite sport), violence in the name of honor and efforts to ‘save face’ in the community are daily realities of a desi household. While honor killings get splashed as headlines (deservedly), there is a lot of ‘micro-violence’ that happens every day in a middle-class Pakistani household with young girls (I’m talking about a representative sample). Some of the statements that I have bolded and put in quotation marks in the synopsis are familiar tropes of Pakistani parents, once they find out that the human being they created is not a robot that they can program. The situation, however, is much more dire for girls than it is for boys. Particularly when it happens abroad. One of my mentors used to say that Pakistanis in the diaspora tend to be normal people until their daughters start growing up. If it were up to Pakistani parents, they would bottle up puberty of their children and throw it away in the trash, instead of dealing with it like people everywhere else.

I write this not just as a commentator but as a witness. Both of my sisters, at different times in their lives, were ‘disciplined’ when they developed an interest in men that my parents had not chosen for them to marry. Sister number one was a teenager and had a crush on one of her teachers (which is the most teenager thing that I can think of). The guy in question used to visit our house for coaching (a normal occurrence for our household, to be clear) and he belonged to a lower-middle-class background. Once the ‘crush’ was discovered, he was banished from our house and my sister was warned never to mention his name again, or there would be dire consequences. She was 16 at the time. Around the time that she turned 17, she was engaged to a cousin who was studying abroad at the time. She got married at 18 and has lived abroad ever since. She has always been an obedient and slightly-passive child and has done okay in life, despite the obvious disadvantage.

Sister number 2 has always been a more outwardly emotional and strong character. Her first ‘issue’ arose during teenage years when she was found talking too many times with one of the male cousins. She would also ‘dress up’ (as much as one could in a provincial Punjabi town) when she went to coaching centers in the city during her high school years. Later, when she was in college, she needed some help with coursework and an acquaintance who worked in that profession was asked to help. The acquaintance deputed one of his juniors to help my sister. Fast forwards a few years and they were romantically involved. My parents were having none of that. They tried to ‘arrange’ her marriage at different places but she would stage some sort of stunt (act cold/be sarcastic/or just being rude) to get out of it. She tried to kill herself at least twice during this period. She was probably physically beaten more than once as well (I was at boarding school between 2000-2006 and in med school for 5 years after that so I only heard these things second-hand). I had met the dude in question and found him to be okay, nothing too spectacular or bad. As the firstborn male, I held a certain role in the family so I first cajoled my mother (who hated the guy partially because he was 10-12 years older than my sister and partially because he came from a lower-middle-class family and my sister has always had ‘high’ ambitions) and later my father (who felt guilty for having introduced the couple in the first place) and sister number 2 finally got married to him.

Were my parents monsters or merely representing the middle class, small-town, religious morality that they themselves grew up in? I don’t know the answer to that question. They are otherwise very decent, educated, ‘honorable’, pious people and a neutral observer meeting them for the first time won’t be able to see anything wrong outwardly. The pathos inflicting my parents is not restricted to them, it is shared by everyone around them, most of the society is rotten. And it’s not getting any better with time.

P.S A book that deals with issues of ‘honor’ in the Pakistani diaspora, particularly in Britain, is ‘Maps for lost lovers’ by Nadeem Aslam. One can also glean some knowledge about this from certain portions of the movie ‘Blinded by the Light’.

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DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

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It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

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It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

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It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

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That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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Generations don’t exist, and neither do “immigrants”

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Don’t mess with Razib

I have heard it stated by some scholars that generations don’t exist, but cohorts do. That is, our bracketing of ranges of people into particular generations is artificial and bins what is truly a more continuous variable into a few categories. The same criticism applies to the Myers-Briggs typology in personality (the main reason psychologists prefer the “Big Five”).

But the flip side of this issue is that to talk reasonably about some phenomenon you have to bin and categorize continuous variables. Human races may not have hard and fast boundaries, but human genetic variation is difficult to talk about unless you use some categorical shorthand.

Some of the same applies to the term immigrant and native-born. The reason I’m putting up this post is that there was a discussion online about whether there can be something called a “second generation immigrant.” That is, someone whose parents were born abroad, but they themselves were born in the country of their citizenship. Myself, I think the term immigrant should only apply to those who were born abroad. Native-born and immigrant are disjoint distributions.

But, there are more than a few categories here within the dichotomy. When you arrive in your life, and where you arrive, matters a great deal.

Continue reading “Generations don’t exist, and neither do “immigrants””

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