Marathas, Mauryas & Moghul

The comments thread talked about the education history of Indian school kids. This is LV’s atlas book that I came across. I found it interesting that India went from Moghul to Maratha to Independence. If only it were so 🙂

On an unrelated topic I have noticed why Desis and third worlders (partially) obsess over skin colour to the extent that we do. People in the third world (generally) have bad complexions in comparison to the West. The skin clarity is poor because of grooming & pollution. So fairness creams are a “hack”‘ to simply improve the “quality” (transparency) of the skin. Also the unfortunate fact remains that colour is correlated with caste & class.

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No such thing as South India

The original article by Mahatma’s grandson is equally intriguing, People of the South constitute an equal and single community: Rajmohan Gandhi.I don’t have too many opinions on this (for a change) but my inclination is that caste (and then creed) have dramatically reduced regional identities in India.

The states that have been most problematic to the Indian Union (East Punjab, Srinagar area, 7 sisters) have more homogenised profiles (and incidentally happen to be on the periphery). Continue reading “No such thing as South India”

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Mother India is Communal

I don’t really know what to say but it’s absurd. I can’t understand what’s so offensive about “Mother India.”

I’m walking around Chennai and so many Muslim ladies are wearing Niqabs (the eyes are only seen).

Continue reading “Mother India is Communal”

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Structural Conflicts between Bharat and India

The Indian Republic has a problem. It is deep and structural and vexing. The wheels of industrialization have brought half the country in conflict with the other.

The country is seemingly convulsed with agrarian distress and farmer unrest. Some have located these issues in climate change, others in the prominence of neo-liberal reform. But the issue is far more structural. Half of India knows only to make a living from farming, and they are seemingly getting better at it every year.

India’s farmers have been outperforming the world in terms of growth quite comfortably.

So if we are having year after year of record agrarian yields and remain a next agro-exporter, whats the problem ? The problem is that the other half wants food at the cheapest prices possible. This other half lacks the decisive political numbers that the rural group does, but lives in the more vocal and wealthier urban areas. Farmers obviously  want better prices for their work, but urbanites are understandably wary of overpaying for food when they know they can spend their hard earned monies on modern goods and services.

But the conflicts dont end there. They extend into the realm of international trade relationships. India’s urbanites want to interact with the industrial world for personal growth and opportunity. India’s IT, pharmaceutical exports and remittances provide valuable foreign exchange for its fuel imports, and investment needed for modernizing its economy. But the industrial world is also super efficient at growing food and sees food as an important export. One American farmer can still produce what 50 Indian farmers can.

The Indian farmer thus requires protection from foreign competition, which is far more advanced technologically and is not constrained to small land holdings like he is. But such protection is not in congruence with the freer trade that its urbanites want and need for industrial growth.

Food inflation and international trade are thus two critical parameters on which rural and urban India face a structural conundrum. It is not that other cultures have not faced this crossroads before. Every country that has industrialized (Germany, Russia and China) has dealt with the question of its unproductive agrarian class. Authoritarian political structures meant that the ‘solution’ pursued by these countries brutalized the rural populace.

India’s democracy is deep and will prevent the urban elites from executing such brutality, despite their cultural and historical obsessions. Gaon tatva might seriously blunt Hindutva.

 

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Some thoughts on Ain-i Akbari

I have been going through the Ain-i Akbari recently, the name traditionally given to the third volume of the Akbarnama, commissioned by the Emperor Akbar of the Moghal dynasty and written by his Grand Vizier, Abu’l Fadl Allami by around ~1600 CE. The third volume is by far the most personal account of India, its geography, culture and people by Abu’l Fadl – himself born and brought up in Agra in an immigrant family of Yemeni Arab origin.

There are two extracts from the Ain that I wanted to write about. One related to linguistics, esp. the interesting reaction of an erudite aristocrat of Yemeni Arab extraction when he first encounters saMskRta. And the second description of the movement of the cArvAka-s[*], the free-thinking atheistic strand of Indic culture that was ridiculed and suppressed even as similar movements arose in the West (esp Britain) just under a century later.

Abu’l Fadl pwnage is quite obvious from the above extract, and in fact it is the mark of a truly great man to acknowledge it for posterity. Fadl clearly admits the effort to grasp the complexity of Sanskrit phonetics, morphology, syntax and grammar. However, what’s interesting is that while his account of his intellectual labours is in first-person, he switches to the third when concluding that his prior view of Arabic grammar being peerless is now under question. It is almost as if he stopped short of personally admitting to the pwnage – a little bit of hurt pride maybe – and yet couldn’t stop himself from remarking on the sheer formalism of what he’d just been introduced to. Of course, anyone who knows anything about linguistics would readily admit that pANini‘s Classical Sanskrit grammar, which Fadl describes a mere sliver of above, remained the tour de force in Linguistics from around ~500 BCE to the late 19th century until Saussure.

This brings me to the second extract from the Ain in question, namely the description of the cArvAka-s or nAstika school. To me this passage more than anything else contains the germ of the eventual Moghal ruin. It is amazing and ironic how a fairly erudite gentleman, maybe one of the best educated of his times, could dismiss some of the core ideals of what became known as the European Enlightenment as “unenlightened”. Of course, as it turned out, Isaac Newton, born a mere 50 years after this was written, published the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in the same decade as the English Bill of Rights was passed by the Parliament. A process directly leading to three centuries of unprecedented economic and political growth of Western Europe and to the utter humiliation of the descendants of these same Moghal aristocrats at their hands.

Edit: Since sarpamaugdheya (as “snake charmer” will be known by me henceforth) below questioned whether the original Farsi by Abu’l Fadl speaks of his update of priors in third person, I looked into the original text. And here it is in all its majesty, where the underscored portion states:

پیشتر از آنکه بدین زبان لخت آشنا شود چنان می دانست که ضابطه لغت عرب بیهمتا باشد

Note the third-person verb in “midânest keh zabt-e lughat-e arabi bihamta bâshid”, i.e. he knew/considered the system of grammar of arabic as peerless.

[*] The word literally means sweet (cAri) talker (vAka, cf. Latin vocem).

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Sex and the British-Indian Army

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

Some have asked questions about sexuality during the Raj as related to the army.  Enjoy.

Hamid

When British arrived in India, India was sexually more liberal than Europe. Heterosexual and homosexual relations were common, open and celebrated in poetry and paintings.  Concubines were a common phenomenon practiced by all religious and ethnic groups.  In contrast, there was quite strict sexual repression in Victorian England.  There are two aspects of sexual relations; one relating to British soldiers and second British officers. In eighteenth and nineteenth century India, prostitution was legal and well-regulated in British controlled India.  In 1850s, there were seventy five military districts and in every district prostitution was supervised by authorities.  Doctors of Indian Medical Service (IMS) were responsible for regulating brothels.  All prostitutes were registered, minimum age for prostitutes was fifteen and women were provided with their own living quarters or tents that were regularly inspected.  Some establishments were quite large and brothel in Lucknow had fifty five rooms.  Prostitutes infected with sexually transmitted diseases were removed and not allowed to practice their trade until recovered.  Both native and European soldiers used these bazaars; however sepoys were discouraged to visit those prostitutes preferred by European soldiers.  Most British soldiers were from lower strata of the society and were not held to the standard of a British officer.  British soldiers visited prostitutes more often than sepoys.  One reason was that British soldiers were not married while sepoys were usually married men.   These bazaars were called ‘lal bazaars’ (red streets).  Both heterosexual and homosexual relations were common.  British regiments spent several years in India and many a times children were born of such relationships.  Special houses and schools were assigned as early as eighteenth century for these children.  Continue reading “Sex and the British-Indian Army”

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Indians as Officers in the British Indian Army

From Dr Hamid Hussain. Some random notes about the first generation of Indians to become officers in the British Indian army, this note includes interesting tidbits about the handling of religion, class and caste issues in the Indian army in those times.

Pakistani general perception that somehow British favored non-Muslims as far as army was concerned is incorrect:   In view of anti-British attitude of Hindu dominated Congress, British had more sympathetic view of Muslims.  Congress had refused to endorse war effort while Muslim League wholeheartedly supported war effort.

British support applied to all classes of Muslims; including politicians (many Muslim League leaders would meet regularly with Deputy Commissioners to get directions), British senior civil servants giving instructions directly to Muslim junior Indian Civil Service (ICS) officers regarding law and order bypassing senior Hindu ICS officers fearing that later may pass on information to Congress (Police especially CID files of that time period are a very interesting read in this regard).   Same was true for army officers.  Many senior officers especially Auk helped to push many Muslim officers.  Ayub Khan (1 Assam Reg.), Sher Ali Khan Pataudi (1/1 Punjab) and Habibullah Khan Khattak (I Bihar Reg.) were given battalion commands during the war by direct intervention of Auk.

The issue of DSO has another angle.  It is usually given to the rank of Lt. Colonel and above.  A lucky major may bag it if really good.  Very few Indian officers were at Lt. Colonel rank during the war and those commanding battalions in combat theatres were very few.  Non-Muslim officers being senior got appointments and hence got the opportunity to get awards.  Many pioneer Muslim officers had left the army early for more prestigious Indian Political Service (IPS) and the list include Sahabzada Khurshid, Sikandar Mirza, ABS Shah, MAO Beg etc.  If they had stayed in the army, they would have been senior enough to get battalion commands and hence a shot at gallantry awards in combat.

Most Muslim officers were Captains. I don’t have the whole list but I think disproportionately more Muslim officers got Military Cross (MC); an award for which they were eligible.

I agree with you that maintaining loyalty of Indian officers was crucial during the war especially in view of nationalist campaign by Congress with large scale protests as well as emergence of Indian National Army (INA) from Indian POWs in Japanese POW camps.  Many benefits such as equal pay, important postings and possibly more liberal gallantry awards were part of this effort.

We need not to forget the attitude of Indian officers; both Muslim & non-Muslim.  Almost all Indian officers had deep antipathy towards politicians and saw them as rabble rousers. Overwhelming majority considered INA as cowards who broke their oath while in captivity and accused them of taking an easy way out of a harsh imprisonment.  This attitude was maintained right up to the eve of independence in August 1947.  All officers were against the division of Indian army.  To understand this phenomenon, we need to look beyond the post-independence revisionist statements of some officers i.e. LG B.M. Kaul, General Ayub Khan, MG Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, MG Tajjammul Hussain.  We need to look at the files of that time period and actual statements of officers that are very well preserved in archives.

A small number of ambitious officers tried to hob nob with politicians at the very near end when they saw that British were going.  I’ll put B Kaul and JN Chaudhuri of India in this category.  MG Akbar Khan of 1951 conspiracy fame of Pakistan army was also ambitious but made the mistake of opening his mouth in front of Jinnah.  He complained that they hoped to get rapid promotions but in view of Jinnah’s decision to keep senior British officers, this process will be delayed.  Jinnah promptly rebuked him.

Racial & Class Bias: In general, British conquered India and naturally like any dominant group had no high regard for anything Indian.  They saw their own culture, religion and society superior.  In Victorian era, British army officers were exclusively from aristocracy.  Purchase of commission meant that only affluent could afford an officer commission.  Commoners were only to serve in the ranks and hope to become Sergeant as the ultimate professional ceiling.  If a British aristocrat officer was not allowing even a British commoner to enter the elite officer club, how he could allow an Indian?  After First World War, changes in English and Indian societies opened new avenues.  British encouraged traditional Indian elites including landlords, members of civil service, police and army to educate their children so that they could qualify for commission.  These classes were in service of the government for a long time and in return prospered under Imperial patronage.  Members of these classes joining army as officers ensured continued loyalty of the Indian officer corps.  This also diminished chances of subversion by newly emerging nationalist politics.

The bias was not simply a one way street between English and Indians.  Both English and Indian societies were riddled with social and class distinctions and outright bigotry. An English aristocrat had nothing in common with a peasant from highlands.  Similarly, Hindu Rajput would not allow a low caste Hindu to touch his food.  A Pathan Muslim had no affinity nor respect for a Bengali Muslim.  The problem went all the way down even in small and distinct communities.  Two examples will suffice;  High caste Jat Sikhs would not serve in a regiment with non-Jat Sikhs (Lobanas) let alone low caste Mazhabi & Ramdasia Sikhs. Hence these different groups of Sikhs were recruited in different regiments.  Dogras were Hindus but Rajput and Brahman Dogras would not eat together.  5th Probyn Horse traditionally had Dogra Rajput squadron.In Second World war, due to increased manpower needs that could not be met from traditional classes, Dogra Brahmans were recruited. This added to administrative headache as in Probyn’s Horse instead of squadron mess for a single class, troop messing had to be implemented as Brahman Dogra would not eat with Rajput Dogra. It is no mean achievement that a first class army was created despite these administrative nightmares.

In 1932, it was decided to start an Indian Military Academy to train officers in India and in December 1932, first batch of 40 cadets started their training. The first batches of Indian Commissioned Officers (ICOs) faced discrimination even from fellow Indian officers who attended Sandhurst and known as King Commissioned Indian Officers (KCIOs).  In 1934, when two Sikh ICOs joined 3rd Cavalry there was a debate whether they should be allowed to eat in the mess.  3rd Cavalry was Indianized in 1932 and several KCIOs (Iftikhar Khan, Shahid Hamid, K. P. Dhargalkar, P. C. Banerjee, P. S. Nair, K. K. Varma and Nawabzada Agha Raza) were already serving in the regiment.

On the other end of the spectrum, the world of officer corps was opened to the least educated and very conservative class of India.  One example will show the enormous adjustment problem for both the Indian officers and their spouses of this class.  Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon enlisted as soldier and spent three years in an infantry battalion (4/14 Punjab Regiment).  Light machine gun section of infantry battalions had mules for transport and every soldier was rotated to take care of the mules.  Gurbaksh on his turn also performed this duty while his wife Basant helped him in polishing the mule saddle.  Gurbaksh qualified for Dehra Dun and after successfully completing his training was commissioned as an officer in 1/14 Punjab Regiment.  One can easily imagine the psychological barrier that Gurbaksh and his wife had to cross as the worlds of sepoy and officer were poles apart.  Even an Indian officer of aristocratic background (LG Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, MG Sher Ali Khan Pataudi) or highly educated (General JN Chaudhri and LG Atiq ur Rahman were educated in England) would have found it very difficult to see Gurbaksh as brother officer. There is plenty of evidence that many Indian KCIOs from Sandhurst didn’t consider fellow Indian officers from Dehra Dun as equal.  They called them ‘Dun Pansies’.  Some Indian officers completely identified with British ethos and were called ‘Brindians’.  General JN Chaudhri when instructor at Staff College Quetta deliberately kept away from Indian officers and only interacted with British officers.  This attitude reached to a point where all other Indian officers at staff college rebuked him with social boycott. MG Iftikhar Khan ‘Ifti’ was also a ‘Brindian’.

This lingered on even after independence in India and Pakistan.  In early 1950s, ‘martial class’ senior Indian officers (Rajput & Sikh) used to whisper that Indian army would not accept a ‘dhoti parshad’ to be appointed army chief using a derogatory term for Hindu non-martial races.   In Pakistan army, contempt was shown for Bengalis and General Ayub Khan refused to expand Bengali recruitment stating that he could not take risk with classes who have not been tried in combat.

There was another problem with second generation of officers.  Officers whose fathers were commissioned officers vs those whose fathers were VCOs belonged to two different social classes.  Former were educated in missionary schools in line with English public school system, had good command of English, brought up in cities and their female family members educated and outgoing. Later, mainly from rural and conservative backgrounds, educated at village schools or special schools set up for sons of VCOs (King George Military Colleges), less command of English language and females mainly in ‘purdah’ and generally not educated.

Surprisingly, combat experience of Second World War where young British and Indian officers fought together broke many barriers. Professional conduct and acts of bravery of young Indian officers showed to British colleagues that Indians were no inferior in the profession of arms.  On the other hand, urban educated British youth raised in more liberal environment were not of the same old ‘Imperial mold’.  The color bar of clubs in India was broken by some of these British officers.  They refused membership of clubs that would not allow Indian officers and some cavalry regiments refused to lend their horses to such clubs for equestarian activities.  This comradeship is born by the fact that decades after independence, these officers kept in touch with each other attending regimental re-unions.

Subedar Major Prabhat Chand Katoch:  He won his MC in 1914 in France.  When all British officers of the battalion became casualty, he took over the command of the battalion.

6/13 FFR suffered heavy casualties in Great War in western theatre and probably highest number of casualty rate as far as British officers are concerned.  Battalion landed in France with 13 British officers, 18 Indian officers and 810 other ranks.  A year later, no British officers, 4 Indian officers and 75 ORs remained of the original contingent. Ten British officers were killed including their CO Lt. Colonel P. C. Elliott-Lockhart; originally from Guides and 19 wounded.  The only officer not wounded was Captain Inskip who was shell shocked and not present. Subedar Major Prabhat Chand of 6/13th FFR was the first Indian who was awarded Military Cross (MC) for his conduct and battalion command when all British officers became casualty.  Battalion used to have a tradition where Subedar Major would parade off the battalion on ceremonial occasions remembering Prabhat Chand’s bravery.

 

Three brothers had illustrious career (see picture below).  Prabhat’s valor already known.  Col Bakshi Chand Katoch was awarded an IDSM in Mesopotamia when he was the Subedar Major of the 56th FFR. He was subsequently commissioned with the first batch of KCIOs from the Cadet College, Indore in Dec 1919. Honorary Captain Bidhi Chand was Subedar Major of 38thDogra; a post I think he held for 18 years.

 

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Post Modernism (c)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDrRkDmoET0

Camille Paglia says (as Jordan Peterson nods along) that Post Modernism is a rejection of:

  • 1960s radicalism (few radicals have gone to graduate school)
  • India, Hinduism, consciousness, psychedelics
  • genuine multiculturalism
  • the body and sensory experience

What are everyone’s thoughts on the psychological basis of Post Modernism?

Post Modernism (b)

Post Modernism (a)

Intellectual Dark Web (a)

Intellectual Dark Web

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (a)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white.” Please also read Razib’s  Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action.

This panel brought up the issue of affirmative action benefiting caucasians at the expense of people of Asian heritage. According to a 2004 analysis of 1990s data Asians on average needed 140 points more on the SAT (out of 1600) than caucasians all else being equal to have the same probability of admission to elite universities.

Do any readers support race base affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry? If so, can you please share why? I have rarely met Asians who give a strong intellectual case for race based  affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry other than the following arguments:

  • We don’t want to be personally called fascist, nazi, a supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist (not joking, Asians are frequently called white supremacist . . . I don’t understand why) etc.
  • We don’t want Asians as a group being called fascist, nazi, supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist etc.
  • We want to reduce the “evil eye” or jealousy towards Asians
  • We are guilty because of Asian privilege and Asian oppression of blacks and poor people (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • This is our punishment because Asians are very fascist, nazi, supportive of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, white supremacist etc. (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • Xenophobic caucasians might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.
  • Blacks might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.

 

In the above discussion Asian Americans seemed afraid to share their actual views. Why are Asian Americans so scared?

To repeat, please share any other reasons you might have for supporting race based affirmative action that discriminates against Asians.

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