Aatish Taseer has the final word (NaMo vs. RaGa)

A masterful article which explains succinctly why elites like Rahul Gandhi lost (and will perhaps never rule India) and what is the exact problem with a man of the masses like Narendrabhai Modi.

‘Then, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s comment the other day—and he only ever refers to him as ‘shahzada’—that
poverty is “a state of mind”, he said: “Now what I want to know is: Is
this poverty that the Prime Minister is asking Obama to alleviate real?
Is it the poverty of our streets and neighbourboods? Is it real poverty?
Or is this also that state-of-mind poverty?”

This election began for me with a Modi rally in Delhi last September.
I was struck at the time by a number of things. These are my
impressions from that day:
…..And then, just as P— and I were getting pretty restless, the
strangest thing happened. The sky darkened. A cool wind began to blow,
and the temperature seemed to drop by several degrees.  

A long narrow
poster of Modi tied to the metal frame of the tent came free and began
to blow in the wind. But in such a way that it seemed—because of the
little ripple that [ran] through the poster—that Modi was waving at us. 
In fact, many people from the press corps—you know how India loves a bit
of magic!—got up and began to photograph this strange phenomenon.
just because on this day of ‘chamchamati dhoop’ it was suddenly
cooler, and the glare from the sky was gone, but because this
apparition of the leader seeming to wave at the press enclosure
coincided exactly with Modi’s arrival on stage!

And when I stood up on
my chair to see the reaction of the crowd, it was not so small. Not
small at all, in fact. 

‘He began in humour. And this is [rare]. This is not a funny country:
there are very few political leaders who can really make people laugh.
“The Prime Minister is in America at the moment,” he said, embarking on a
cruel impression of the PM. “He is grovelling before Obama. He is
telling him that we are a poor country, and that America should help us.
“‘We are,’” he went on, in a weak plaintive voice, “‘a nation of 125
crore, but we are poor. Please help us!’”

‘Then, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s comment the other day—and he only ever refers to him as ‘shahzada’—that
poverty is “a state of mind”, he said: “Now what I want to know is: Is
this poverty that the Prime Minister is asking Obama to alleviate real?
Is it the poverty of our streets and neighbourboods? Is it real poverty?
Or is this also that state-of-mind poverty?”

And for many minutes, this was all that he did. He just made us
laugh, at the expense of the discredited PM, and The Madonna with Child.


‘But then—and one could almost not tell when it happened— all the
humour fell away. And he was angry. Full of this emotion that I now
think of as distinctly his: this mixture of pain and sadness edged with
great anger.

‘… His victory will decimate the opposition. Not just in terms of
numbers, but philosophically too. It will be a long time before the
Congress finds its way again. The [pundits in Delhi] will say I’m wrong.
How will he find the numbers? they ask. But the numbers will come. This is going to be one of those elections when all the old calculations cease to apply.’

And, if I have sympathy for Modi, if I wish to see him
succeed, it is because of my sympathy for the people who support him.

It is this India—clear-headed, restless, hungry—that has energised
this election. It is the India that some of us have been waiting to see
come into being.

It is also my concern for this India that has prejudiced my view of
this election. The reason is that I grew up among a class of
Indians—privileged, exclusively English-speaking, intimately connected
to power and politics—who loathed this other India. They turned their
nose up at their bad English; they complained of their body odour; they
described them, while doing an impression before a hooting drawing room
of people
(I’m thinking now of a large mondaine of Delhi society) as
‘ball-scratchers.’ They hated their beliefs and practices; they held
their religion in contempt; they lived in open terror of their rise.

Only the Poor were beautiful. The people I grew up among had great
reserves of feeling for the rural poor.
And through their many schemes
and yojanas, their fraudulent plans for empowerment, their concern for
tribal art and religion, this crowd of ethnistas and Oxbridge Lefties
worked hard to make sure that the Poor never lost the thing that gave
them their great charm, namely their poverty.
Now while it would be
unfair to say that the members of this class supplied leaders
exclusively to the Congress party—many of them went on to join other
parties, some even to lead large states—it would not be an exaggeration
to say that if one party were to be singled out as sharing the beliefs
and prejudices of this class, it would be the Congress Party under the
leadership of the Gandhi family.

And the decline that was to
be observed between Jawaharlal Nehru’s generation and Rajiv Gandhi’s was
visible everywhere. No one perhaps expected that it would have brought
us so soon to Rahul Gandhi; one might be forgiven for thinking an
intervening stage was needed; but decline itself was inescapable.
It is
not possible for a class to remain vital if it cannot draw cultural
nourishment from the place it inhabits. That class then will produce
people without the means to deal with India; it will produce
Coomaraswamy’s intellectual pariah, ‘the nondescript superficial being’
who is neither of the East nor the West. 

Because the sense I had at that rally in Rohini—then subsequently, in
Kanpur, and then again, here, in Benares— was of a country unbound. A
country coming free of its historical obeisance to the class the Gandhi
family represented. The change was happening not because the new middle
classes sensed the danger the elite posed to their own growth. No: it
was much more basic than that. It was that the cultural gap had finally
grown too wide. And if they turned away from Rahul Gandhi, it was not
because they saw him as a threat to their own interests, it was because
they couldn’t understand a word he was saying. In the past, this might
have produced a feeling of apology in them; it now produced an equal and
corresponding feeling of contempt.

It was there in the voice of a young priest who came to see me the
other day. He was of a grand line of priests belonging to the Kashi
Vishwanath Mandir. He wore jeans and a kurta, pink-stemmed rimless
glasses; his ringtone was: ‘Yada yada hi dharmasya…’ There were
broad streaks of yellow on his forehead, pierced red at the centre, and
he wore a ring of Hessonite, for his Rahu was bad. We had not met to
discuss politics. 

But the young priest, after making apologies for being
apolitical, as men of God frequently do, could talk of nothing else. Of
Modi, he said: “Rahul Gandhi se toh zyaada sincere hain. Kam se kam unko bataana toh nahi padhha ke yeh Vishwanath hain. Rahul Gandhi ko bataana padhha ke yeh Vishwanath hain.”
Then, as if coming to the heart of the difference between the two men,
he said Modi knew how to perform all the rites at the temple. “Rahul
Gandhi,” the priest added cruelly, “toh sona-chaandi dekh rahe thhe. Unko toh Vishwanath se koi matlab hi nahi thha.”

This was what was new this election. In another time, Rahul Gandhi
would not only have been forgiven his deracination; he would have been
admired for it.

But cultural rootedness came with problems of its own; in fact, it
came with the problems of that culture. And, likeable as the priest was,
he was an effortless bigot.
He lamented the fact that all of India’s
Muslims had not been sent to Pakistan in 1947; he spoke of the need,
when Modi came to power, for one decisive riot that would show Muslims
their place. To hear him speak was to be reminded of how dangerous it
was to romanticise one India over another. It was also to be reminded of
the man the priest supported this election, the man from whom such a
wide range of things were expected.

Modi, that day in Rohini, when I first heard him speak, had said a
few things that worried me very much. He said that at that same
breakfast in New York where our Prime Minister had been insulted, some
Indian journalists had been present. Would they, he thundered,
those journalists, be answerable to the people of India for why they
had been eating Nawaz Sharif’s breakfast
while their Prime Minister was
being insulted?
….No press freedoms would need to be reeled in; the change of air
was often threat enough. But, more than all this, what really worried me
about what Modi said that day was that it suggested a certain kind of
man. Whose principal crime, in my eyes, is not so much that he is a
bigot, but a provincial.

The provincial is a problem not because you can’t have a glass of
wine with him, though that would be nice too. Nor is it simply that he
is not a man of the intellect—not a reader, not someone of subtle mind.
The provincial is a problem because his plan for Development, on which
his entire fame rests, often ends up being too shallow a plan. Too
limited in its scope. 

Modi, if he is to bring profound change, must not go the Erdogan or
Rajapaksa route. Because the conditions for the emergence of that kind
of leader do exist in India.
There is the malaise left behind by the
previous government; there is a loud majoritarian feeling; there is
disgust with the elite; and there are people baying for a strong leader.
It is very easy to imagine an India in which Modi, if he delivers on
Development, will be forgiven everything else.
And anyone with a harsh
word to say about him will be driven out of town. It would be terrible
if that atmosphere were allowed to grow in India. 

Link: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/voices/the-light-of-benares



Kamila Shamsie pro-community, anti-nation

Kamila is standing up for free speech (or to be precise, the right to remain silent). This is, on the face of it, a noble cause. However as a member of the elite, she needs to check her privilege and fully appreciate the benefits of having one foot in the West and one in the East. Dual citizenship brings many material benefits yet appears to be problematic in many other ways (only one of which is to turn up one’s nose at old-fashioned concepts such as nationalism and patriotism).

If immigrants are only to subscribe to the (liberal) religion of community spirit and ignore the national treasures of their adopted nation (yes, the Queen is one), then what is the purpose of getting an UK citizenship anyway? Are there no communities to be built in Pakistan? We know the answer to that: people are seeking shelter from the evil Taliban (which itself was spawned by evil Amrika).

Of course, in this day and age immigrants are not expected to be grateful for having escaped a fate worse than death, rather the host country must be grateful because diversity has gone up and large groups of people do not speak English in public (in the UK). It seems to us however that Kamila is actually encouraging trickle-down of elite thought processes which will make integration of working class immigrants more difficult. Isolated from the mainstream, such people are likely to turn angry, frustrated and resentful (especially when financial success eludes them and cultural domination of the secular West terrifies them). What will all this anger do for fostering true community spirit, Kamila?

I have had reason to think about national
anthems recently myself. Last year I became a British citizen, and
during the citizenship ceremony found myself merely moving my lips
during most of God Save the Queen. 

The only national anthem I have ever
sung in the UK is Pakistan’s – but before anyone leaps to conclusions
about what this might reveal about my attitudes towards the two nations
of which I am a citizen, let me explain.

In 2012, a theatrical
group from Pakistan performed at the Globe theatre, kicking off with a
rendition of the anthem. My first response was embarrassment.
But there
is something deeper in me than a thought-out response, developed in my
adult life, towards the symbols of nationalism: nostalgia.
Every week at
school we sang Pakistan’s national anthem, and my friend Zerxes,
playing the piano accompaniment, would add a humorous flourish between
I always hear those extra notes when I listen to the national
anthem, and it still makes me smile as I sing.
There is also this to be
said for Pakistan’s national anthem: the lyrics are in Persian, which
renders a good portion of it unintelligible to almost everyone in the
We can all therefore impose our own meaning on them: “Rise up,
it’s time for a Revolution!” or “More TV channels now!”

British national anthem, on the other hand, is problematic because it is
impossible for anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of
English to ignore what it is saying: God Save the Queen. I wish the
Queen no harm, but if you want me to sing something with feeling make it
“Prime minister, save our libraries”.
The truth is, you can probably
get me to sing along to most things if the musical arrangement is
attractive enough and the words don’t simultaneously
demand a
wholehearted appreciation of God, Queen and nation – really, it’s too

I’ve never given the appearance of not singing the British
anthem when those around me are doing so. Instead, I move my lips
meaninglessly, and only sing out such bits as “men should brothers be”.
I’m conscious, you see, that my failure to sing might be seen as a
churlish rejection of the country in which I’ve chosen to live. I am
aware of a whole freighted business of the migrant’s relationship to
their adopted nation each time I encounter the national anthem.

expect I would sing La Marseillaise if I were in France. However, I
would do so not as a national anthem, but as a revolutionary song
(expect for bits such as “mâles accents”). We should each have the right
to decide what a song means to us, and what singing it at a particular
moment might symbolise. The underlying problem with all national
anthems, regardless of their lyrics, is that too much is assumed when
certain people choose not to sing them, and the assumptions are related
to how “true” a citizen of the state you are deemed to be.

Pakistani from the widely persecuted Ahmadiyya community not singing
Pakistan’s anthem would face greater hostility than I would, even though
I’m now living outside Pakistan. A French minister born in French
Guiana who remains silent during La Marseillaise at a public ceremony to
commemorate the abolition of slavery will face hostility even though
other ministers routinely don’t sing along. This is true even though –
or perhaps because – the minister in question was instrumental in
bringing about a law that recognised slavery as a crime.

nationalism, patriotism, community spirit. I would immediately look
askance at anyone who lacks the last and possesses the first. The two
words in between are more complicated. The national anthem can represent
any one of those four terms – or none – to the citizens of a state. But
everyone in a nation should have the equal right to sing or not sing.
And surely, we should care more about the laws politicians propose than
what they do when a band strikes up. Or where they were born. Or their
skin colour.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/14/dont-sing-national-anthem-if-you-dont-want-to



Jobs in religious engineering (5 Lakhs/month)

With India getting all set for Hindu/Hindutva rule new promising opportunities are on the horizon.

The economy is suffering and there are very few good jobs. Now the Supreme Court is ready to step in and contribute towards (very high-end) job creation. We need urgently programs/majors such as Religious Engineering and Religious Management. Will the Indian Institutes of Technology and Management (and many others) pay any attention?
best graduates from IITs and IIMs dream of the salary amicus curiae
Gopal Subramaniam has recommended for head priests of Sree
Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

In his report to
the Supreme Court on management of the temple, which shot into the
limelight after wealth estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore was discovered,
Subramaniam listed the hierarchy of priests with thantris at the top
followed by periyanambi, panchakavyathunambi, thakkadam and thiruvambadi
nambis. He said the thantris should be paid Rs 5 lakh per month.

Starting with the thantris, the amicus said none of the four main
priests reside within the temple complex. This is because their earnings
from conducting rituals in the temple were meagre which forced them to
perform rituals outside. He said their residential quarters too were in
dilapidated condition.

“It is submitted that an amount that is
proportional to the stature of the thantris should be fixed by the
temple authorities, preferably a sum of Rs 5 lakh per month, to be paid
according to the directions of the (head) thantri,” the report said.

On their living quarters, the amicus said, “The temple authorities
should suitably renovate the residences of thantris. The thantris should
also be provided with two assistants (Brahmins) according to their
choice who can cook, clean and follow the ‘majhar’.”

Subramaniam said the salaries of the four periyanambis, the high priests
who maintain celibacy during their tenure in the temple to perform
archana and offer worship to the deity, was worse.

salaries of nambis are very low, around Rs 12,500 per month and they are
not entitled to emoluments being temporary staff,” he said and provided
a graded salary structure for them as per their status in the conduct
of rituals in the temple.

The amicus recommended to the apex
court that “archana commission can be fixed at 7% after consultation
with the temple authorities and the salary of the periyanambi should be
around Rs 90,000 per month”. “The panchakavyathunambi should be
paid Rs 80,000 per month as salary while thakkadam and thiruvambadi
nambis should receive Rs 60,000 per month,” he said.

Apart from
steep hike in salary and renovation of their residential quarters, the
amicus curiae recommended examination of the feasibility of having an
adequate cooling system in the sanctum sanctorum.

“If feasible,
such a cooling system should be installed at the earliest. This will
help in protecting the health of the nambis, protect the deity from harm
and also ensure hygiene inside the temple,” he said.

nambis should also be provided with security, he suggested. “The nambis
are also concerned about their security as they feel news has spread
that the keys to the kallaras (vaults where the wealth is stored) are
kept with them. Consequently, the nambis believe that it has become
dangerous for them to step out without police security,” he said.

Subramaniam said, “Security concerns of the priests should be addressed
adequately. Policemen wearing traditional attire may accompany them.”

Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pay-Padmanabhaswamy-temple-priests-Rs-5-lakh-per-month-Amicus-tells-SC/articleshow/35127605.cms



Russians are losers

History of Russia- as an American sees it.

For all the sneerings there was a time when the Americans were scared shit about communism. Millions of people (including Bangladeshis, majority Hindus) were killed because America either stood by its bastards or actively participated in the tortures and massacres. And yes, the only people to launch a nuclear attack of dubious purpose was the Americans. Perhaps PJ can find time to write a funny article about that. History always sounds better when it is written by the victors.
The original Russian state, “Old Russia,” was established at Novgorod in
A.D. 862 by marauding Vikings.
They’d set off to discover Iceland, Greenland,
and America, took a wrong turn, and wound up with their dragon boat stuck on a
mud bar in the Dnieper. (Historians have their own theories, involving trade
and colonization, but this sounds more likely.)

The first ruler of Old Russia was the Viking Prince Ryurik. Imagine being so
disorganized that you need marauding Vikings to found your nation—them with
their battle axes, crazed pillaging, riotous Meade Hall feasts, and horns on
their helmets. (Actually, Vikings didn’t wear horns on their helmets—but they
would have if they’d thought of it, just like they would have worn meade
helmets if they’d thought of it.) Some government it must have been.

Viking Prince Ryurik: “Yah, let’s build Novgorod!”

Viking Chieftain Sven: “Yah, so we can burn it down and loot!”

The Russians weren’t converted to Christianity until A.D. 988—a thousand
years late to “Peace be unto you” party, the basic principles of which still
haven’t sunk in. (And maybe never had a chance to. Russia’s conversion came at
the hands of St. Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev, who was reputed to maintain a
harem of 800 concubines.)

The death of St. Vladimir, and every other ruler of Old Russia, was followed
by assassinations, mayhem, civil strife, and the other hallmarks of change in
Russian leadership evident to the present day. Oxford historian Ronald Hingley
notes that “the first and only Russian ruler to fashion an effective law of
succession” was Tsar Paul I (1796-1801). Tsar Paul was assassinated.

Anyway, things went along pretty well for almost 400 years. (Pretty well by
Russian standards—a free peasant was known as a smerd, meaning
“stinker.”) Then, in 1237, when the rest of the West was having a High Middle
Ages and getting fecund for cultural rebirth, a Tatar horde invaded Russia.

The Tatars were part of the Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan. They had
a two-pronged invasion strategy: Kill everybody and steal everything.
Kiev, Moscow, and most of Russia’s towns were obliterated. Tatar
control—part occupation and part suzerainty over impotent, tribute-paying
Russian principalities—lasted more than 200 years.

The Russians have heroic stories about fighting off the Tatars, but in fact
it seems like the Tatars gradually lost interest in the place and went off in a
horde back to where they came from.

Professor Hingley says the “Tatar Yoke” left Russia with “a model of extreme
authoritarian rule combined with control through terror.” It also left Russia
with a model of leadership best summarized by a passage from John Keegan’s A
History of Warfare:

“Genghis Khan, questioning his Mongol comrades-in-arms about life’s sweetest
pleasure and being told it lay in falconry, replied, ‘You are mistaken. Man’s
greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total
possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding
[and] use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt and support.’”

Why Putin wants Angela Merkel for a nightshirt is beyond me. But that’s a
Russian dictator for you.

Around the time Europe was getting a New World, Russia was getting tsars.
Several were named Ivan, one more terrible than the next until we arrive at
Ivan the Terrible in 1533.

Ivan created a private force of five or six thousand thugs, the oprichnina,
who wore black, rode black horses, and carried, as emblems of authority, a
dog’s head and a broom. (The hammer and sickle of the day, presumably.)

Oprichniks were entitled to rob and kill anyone, and did so with a
will. Ivan suspected Novgorod of disloyalty, and the oprichnina spent
five weeks in the city slaughtering thousands and driving thousands more into

Ivan presided over and sometimes personally performed the roasting,
dismembering, and boiling alive of enemies and people who, left unboiled, might
possibly become enemies.

He killed his own son and heir by whacking him over the head with the
monarchal staff in a tsar-ish fit of temper.

He conducted a 24-year-long war against Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, and the
Teutonic Knights, and lost.

Russia’s economy was destroyed. Drought, famine, and plague beset the

But Ivan put Russia on the map as an international player. He defeated what was
left of the Tatars, mostly by conniving with leaders of what was left of the
Tatars. He expanded Russian rule into Siberia, his success due to almost nobody
being there. And, draw what parallels you will, Ivan the Terrible’s popularity
rating was very high among the smerds.

After his reign, Russia, if you can believe it, got worse. “The Time of
Troubles” featured more drought, more famine, more plague, foreign invasions,
massacres, the occupation and sacking of Moscow, and tsars with names like
False Dmitry I and False Dmitry II. The population of Russia may have been
reduced by as much as one-third.

The remaining two-thirds reacted to increasing anarchy in traditional
Russian fashion, by increasing autocracy. The Russians aren’t stupid. We’re
talking about a country where chess is a spectator sport. Autocracy is just a
Russian bad habit, like smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and drinking a
liter of vodka.

In 1613 the Romanov dynasty was installed, providing Russia with a range of
talents from “Great” (Peter I, Catherine II) to “Late” (Ivan VI, Peter III, and
Paul I killed in palace intrigues; Alexander II blown to bits by a terrorist
bomb, and Nicholas II murdered with his family by the Bolsheviks).

The Romanovs adhered to what Harvard historian Richard Pipes calls a
“patrimonial” doctrine, meaning they owned Russia the way we own our house
(except to hell with the mortgage). They owned everything. And everybody. The
Romanov tsars imposed rigid serfdom just as that woeful institution was fading
almost everywhere else.

Russia never had a Renaissance, a Protestant Reformation, an Enlightenment,
or much of an Industrial Revolution until the Soviet Union. Soviet
industrialization produced such benefits to humanity as concrete worker housing
built without level or plumb bob, the AK-47, MiG fighter jets, and
proliferating nukes. (Although the only people the Soviets ever killed with a
nuclear device was themselves at Chernobyl, located, perhaps not
coincidentally, in what’s now Ukraine, for the time being at least.)

Russia was out in the sticks of civilization, in a trailer park without
knowledge of how to build a trailer. But Russia kept getting bigger, mostly by
killing, oppressing, and annoying Russians.

Peter the Great (1682-1725) led a military expedition against the Turkish
fort of Azov that was a disaster. But Peter came right back and, getting more
Russians killed, overwhelmed the Turks. The same thing happened in the Northern
War against Sweden. Although it took 21 years after Peter ran away at the battle
of Narva, Russia finally got a Baltic coastline. Which Peter didn’t know what
to do with, so he built St. Petersburg in a swamp with conscripted serf labor.
The number of Russian serfs who died building things in the swamp equaled the
number Russian soldiers who died in the Northern War.

Peter the Great raised taxes, made the Russian nobles shave their beards,
and caused the death of his recalcitrant son and heir, like Ivan the Terrible
did, but on purpose.

Catherine the Great (1762-1796) doubled taxes on the Jews and declared they
weren’t Russians, as if anyone would want to be. She was the first but not last
leader of Russia to annex Crimea. NATO member alert, code red—she won two wars
against Turkey and partitioned Poland. (Like Peter the Great on the Baltic, she
got the swampy part.)

Under Catherine, Russian settlements pushed all the way east into Alaska,
the most valuable land Russia has occupied. (Annual GDP per capita, Alaska:
$61,156. Annual GDP per capita, Russia: $14,037.) But—E.U. shame alert—when
Russia was facing financial difficulties and geopolitical conflict, Tsar
Alexander II was forced to sell Alaska to the United States in 1867 for 2 cents
an acre. Later, as mentioned, Alexander got blown to bits.

And that’s pretty much it for Russia’s Golden Age. After the 18th century,
Russia devoted itself mostly to being big fat loserland, losing pace with the
modern world, wars, Alaska, a communist utopia, a million victims of Stalin’s
purges, 6 million victims of the famine of 1921, 8 million victims of the
famine of 1932-33, a “Kitchen Debate” between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard
Nixon, ICBMs in Cuba, the space race, the arms race, the Cold War, and finally,
14 independent countries that were once in the USSR.

Napoleon actually won the war part of his war with Russia. If “General
Winter” and the general tendency of Moscow to be periodically destroyed hadn’t,
for once, sided with the Russian people, you’d be able to get a good bottle of
Côte de Volga and a baguette in Smolensk today.

Russia began a series of wars in the Caucasus that it has yet to win.

In 1825, the Decembrists, a reform-minded group of military officers, staged
a demonstration in favor of constitutional monarchy and were hanged for taking
the trouble.

Political oppression, censorship, spying, and secret police activity reached
such a level of crime and punishment that Dostoyevsky himself was sentenced to
death for belonging to a discussion group. He was standing in front of the
firing squad when his sentence was commuted to exile in Siberia. (Whether to
thank Tsar Nicolas I depends upon how weighty a summer reading list you’ve been

“Exiled to Siberia” says everything about Russian economic and social
development in that land of mountains, lakes, and forests with a climate, in
its lower latitudes, no worse than the rest of Russia’s. I’ve been across it on
the Trans-Siberian Railroad. If this were America, the route from Irkutsk to
Vladivostok would be lined with vacation homes and trendy shops, and “exiled to
Siberia” would be translated as “exiled to Aspen.”

Russia lost the 1853-56 Crimean War. NATO member alert, code green—Russia
lost to Britain, France, and Turkey.

In 1861 Tsar Alexander II freed 50 million serfs. If “freed” is the word
that’s wanted. The serfs had no place to go except the land they were already
farming, and if they wanted any of that, they had to buy it with the nothing
they made as serfs. Later, as mentioned twice already, Alexander got blown to

Russia lost the Jews. Being robbed, beaten, and killed in pogroms was not a
sufficient incentive to stay. 

More than a million Jews emigrated, taking what
common sense the country had with them.

Russia lost the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War in the best Russian loser fashion
at the naval battle of Tsushima.

Japanese Admiral Togo Heihachiro “crossed the T” of the Russian fleet, a
rare execution of a tactic where you get your ships in a horizontal line so
that your guns can be aimed at the enemy, whose ships are in a vertical line so
that their guns can’t be aimed at you.

The Russian fleet was demolished. Eight battleships and most of the smaller
ships were sunk. More than 5,000 Russian sailors died. Just three of 38 Russian
vessels escaped to Vladivostok.

Russia lost World War I, not an easy thing to do when you’re on the winning
side. After the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Russia was too much of a
mess to keep fighting Germany. The Soviet government signed the Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk surrendering Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russian Poland, and
Ukraine—containing in total a quarter of the population of Imperial Russia—to
the Central Powers just eight months before the Central Powers had to surrender
to everybody.

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/11/russian-history-is-on-our-side-putin-will-surely-screw-himself.html



The honorable Maulana is a traitor

Maulana Fazlur Rahman is a good man who can be persuaded to change his beliefs by suitable application of green wax. Tariq Ali fondly calls him Maulana Diesel based on his past dealings with the powers that be.

So, the remarkable news is that JUI-F knows about an “ISI within ISI.” It is one sense a dangerous comment to make and the honorable Maulana and his compatriots may suffer at the hand of true patriots. OTOH this frank talk may have been at the direction of Mian Nawaz Sharif who wants to grab the bull by the horns and finish off the deep state actors (before they finish him).

Also the following is a most profound statement. Can someone wise enough decode it for the rest of us?

“It was not decided since the independence (of Pakistan) that
who will rule the country … either it will be the Parliament or those
institutions whose employees get pays from the taxes of the nation,” he

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) on Tuesday alleged
that there is an “Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) within the ISI”
which is involved in kidnapping and killings of innocent people across

Commenting on a motion in the Senate regarding
ongoing political situation in the country, JUI-F Senator Hafiz
Hamdullah said the ISI was behind the incidents of missing persons and
mass graves in Balochistan.

Former military ruler Gen (retd)
Pervez Musharraf had said that there were some people within the ISI
ranks who were not under the control of its chief while former chief
justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also said in his verdicts that the
ISI was involved in the cases of missing persons, the JUI-F senator

“It was not decide since the independence (of Pakistan) that
who will rule the country … either it will be the Parliament or those
institutions whose employees get pays from the taxes of the nation,” he

Hamdullah said it was an alarming situation that the
violators of Constitution were being considered as faithful and those
who introduced the Constitution of 1973 were being considered as traitor
in the country.

He also criticised the leadership of Pakistan
Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which was protesting against the alleged rigging
in the May 11 elections.

“Imran Khan is dangling between the Parliament and the establishment,” he added.
JUI-F senator said that the survival of Pakistan was only in prevalence
of justice and supremacy of Parliament, adding that the JUI-F will only
support democracy in the country.

Link: http://www.dawn.com/news/1107531/jui-f-blames-isi-within-isi-for-kidnappings-killings



Geo TV ordered off air by ISI (not yet)

Who ordered these private members – Israr Abbassi, Mian Shams and Fareeha
– to take illegal decisions in such haste?
It appears that there is a tussle going on between Nawaz Sharif and Deep State and Mian Sahib intends to win this battle. The GEO vs ISI boxing match will be watched with intense interest. Our bet is that GEO will die but will come back stronger after the pause. The reason is that while people may worship the army (just like in India they worshipped the Nehru family), secret power centers will eventually fade away. The army will one day return to its rightful place- within the barracks. We can hope.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on
Tuesday disowned the decisions announced by its three members regarding
cancellation of licences of three television channels owned by the Geo
TV network.

In a press statement
issued here, the media regulatory body referred to the media talks held
by three private members – Israr Abbassi, Mian Shams and Fareeha
Iftikhar – in front of Pamra headquarters earlier today.

The members of the committee had announced the suspension and also ordered that Geo TV offices be sealed down.

spokesman for the regulatory body had also said in a statement that the
meeting called today had no legal validity “since it was not called
officially in spirit of Rule 3(4) of Pemra Rules 2009.”

According to the Pemra rules listed on its website, a meeting of the regulatory body can be convened on the request of at least one half of its total membership.

The press release issued by Pemra said the majority of authority
members in 95th meeting held on May 9 had decided to refer the case to
the ministry of law for legal opinion.

“The decision of seeking
opinion from the Law Division was taken in all fairness to avoid any
future legal consequences in such a critical issue.” The complaint against Geo Entertainment was already referred to the Council of Complaints (CoC) Sindh.

CoC in its meeting called on Tuesday had already recommended about the
status of Geo’s licence. The minutes of the CoC were awaited and the
Authority would consider this matter in the next scheduled meeting,” the
press release added.

The Pamra clarified that Tuesday’s meeting was called without following the laid down procedures and thus had no legal standing. According
to Rule 3(4) of PEMRA Rules 2009, the Chairman or as the case may be
more than half of the total members can call the meeting i.e. out of
twelve members at least seven members can call a meeting. This was an informal meeting attended by five members, said the regulatory body.

Executive Member was not even asked to officially convene the meeting
and notify it through the Secretary to the Authority, which was the set
procedure,” the release said.

The meeting convened by these
members was without any official intimation or invitation to other
members in accordance with the procedure, it added.

Authority’s committee was functioning and was exercising the power of
Chairman in day to day affairs and taking decisions with requisite
quorum,” it said.

Speaking at the press conference, private Pemra member Israr Abbasi,
who attended the meeting, had said that one-third members were present
today, which he claimed was enough to complete the quorum.

Abbasi said government members did not attend the meeting.
their announcement, the members said that a final decision on the
revocation of the licences will be announced following a meeting on May
28, which will also be attended by government representatives.

committee formed by Pemra was tasked to review the Ministry of
Defence’s application filed against Geo TV network for leveling
allegations against an intelligence agency of Pakistan.

“All members (present) today unanimously decided that the licence for
Geo News be cancelled. However, due to a legal formality that could not
be completed, we have sent our recommendations to the Council of
Complaints, advising that they respond before May 28, the date for our
next meeting,” said Mian Shamsur Rehman, a member of the committee.

suspension is to stay in effect until May 28, when another session of
the committee will be called to decide on the final decision regarding
cancellation of the licences, they said.

“On May 28 during our
next meeting, we will give a final decision on (cancelling licences of)
Geo News, Geo Tez and Geo Entertainment,” said Shamsur Rehman.

said there were members representing the public and the provinces at
the meeting which resulted in the suspension of Geo News, Geo Tez and
Geo Entertainment.

Speaking to a private TV channel, Abbasi added
that in the next meeting the legal process against Geo would be decided
upon, and until then, the group’s licenses will remain suspended.

said that there was no need to refer this decision to the law division
as Pemra has been given the authority to take such a decision.

Link: http://www.dawn.com/news/1107528/pemra-disowns-members-decision-to-suspend-geo-licences



History of modern India (without scare quotes)

Pankaj Mishra knows all this stuff very well but will never write it (because of monetary not ideological reasons- as Omar points out) so the task goes to Chandrahas Choudhury do pen it down. Excellent precis. Well done.

The only thing that could have improved the article is to point out that majoritarian impulse will always be a danger (and remains so) till minorities gain enough strength in enough pockets. 
It would be incorrect to think of muslims as the only minorities that are at risk. Manipuris (Metei tribe) are Hindu and the culture is just as rich as any mainstream Hindu one. Yet they are threatened with laws just as brutal as in Kashmir. 

Today the greatest resistance against Modi/Hindutva will come from Bengal/Kerala (unchanged pattern since at least 50 years).  
The counter challenge for Modi will be to establish enduring relationships with Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and Jayalalitha Jayaram (Tamil Nadu) at par with the current alliance members: Nara Chandrababa Naidu (Andhra), Ram Vilas Paswan (Bihar) and Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab). If he can keep things simple and keep these alliances in place there is no reason why BJP cannot rule India for a good majority of the next few decades before a left-secular alternative is strong enough to challenge it.

In August, Indian
democracy will turn a weather-beaten 67 — an astonishing validation of
the leap of faith made by the nation’s founding fathers in 1947, when
they decided that the logical follow-up to colonial rule was a secular
democratic republic and universal adult suffrage. But just as a
67-year-old person remembers many stages of his or her life, so, too,
Indian democracy has had many phases and progressions on its long march.

then, is a short, splintered history of Indian democracy. Let’s start
with the smallest meaningful unit in our frame: the five years since the last election cycle.

at that small remove, it’s clear that Indian democracy is vastly more
networked than it used to be. The widening reach of cable television and
the Internet, as well as the revolution in personal communications
brought about by mobile phones, have made for “imagined communities.”
It’s not just young people who speak to one another on social media.
Politicians are suddenly much more accessible, too — and targetable.

Ten years ago,
Indian democracy was younger, but the electorate was less youthful, its
expectations more modest. For the 2014 election, more than 100 million
voters were eligible to vote for the first time, greatly recasting the
tenor and themes of the election. This infusion of new blood has been
good for Indian democracy.

These first-time voters are no older
than 23 — all born after the liberalization of the Indian economy in
1991. Their material expectations are worlds away from those of their
parents’ generation, which often decries their worldliness and cynicism.
But the youths of India are also more impervious to the temptations of
stridently religious politics, which had a long run in the ’80s and
’90s. Their eagerness to vote is one of the reasons voter turnout in
this election was more than 68 percent (the highest in any Indian
election). This “demographic dividend”
is also what will present the next government with a headache bigger
than any other, as it strives to integrate nearly 1 million new entrants
into the workforce every month.

As compared to 20 years ago, Indian democracy seems more resistant today to the virus of religious provocation and majoritarianism.

1994, it had just been badly unbalanced by religious tensions and
political apathy. When a mob of belligerent Hindu rioters brought down
the Babri Masjid mosque in the north Indian city of Ayodhya —
considered by Hindus to be the birthplace of Rama, the legendary king —
in 1992, the secular cast of Indian democracy was knocked out of shape.
The use of inflammatory religious rhetoric turned the right-wing BJP
from a fringe group to the main opposition party in the ’80s and early
’90s, a position it then consolidated to win a majority in Parliament
for the first time in 1999.

It seemed that India might take a
permanent majoritarian turn, dividing its citizens into first and second
classes, as some of the other, smaller nation-states of south Asia had
already done. Today, it would seem that India has ridden out that phase.
Even Modi, once an unapologetic chauvinist who frequently made jeering remarks about Muslims
in election speeches, has recognized that the politics of religious
incitement only go so far, and he is trying to win this election on a development plank.

Looking back 30 years,
Indian democracy might see itself as much more sentimental and naive
than it is today. In 1984, the country was thrown into crisis when Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi was suddenly assassinated by her bodyguards. In
the election that followed, the ruling Congress party put up as its next
prime ministerial candidate her son, the political novice Rajiv Gandhi.
The sympathy wave for Rajiv among voters resulted in a landslide,
with the Congress winning 401 out of 508 seats. That effectively
cemented the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, leading to Rajiv’s wife, Sonia,
eventually leading the party. Their son Rahul is being projected as the
party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Today’s Indian voter is much
more resistant to democracy’s idea of the divine right to rule. When
Rahul speaks earnestly of “women’s empowerment,” he’s mocked mercilessly
because people see it as one of India’s most powerful men trying to
cast himself as an outsider trying to fight “the system.” To them, Rahul
is the system, which is one of the reasons the Congress party — which
continues to be excessively dependent on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty — is likely to be booted out of power this week.

Speaking of systems, 40 years ago,
India had a most unusual democratic system that has disappeared
forever. In an influential essay written in 1964, the political
scientist Rajni Kothari called it the “Congress system.”
For more than three decades, starting in 1947, the Congress party was
so far ahead of its competitors in national elections that all other
parties were reduced to pressure groups, and genuine opposition to the
policies of the day came from factions within the party.

In those
40 years since, Indian democracy has become vastly more diverse,
especially as lower-caste groups, historically never close to political
power, have gradually tuned in to the music of democracy and used the
ballot box to bring about what the scholar Christophe Jaffrelot calls “India’s silent revolution.” Simultaneously, the BJP has become a national party whose power and influence now rival that of the Congress.

From 1989 onward, every government in New Delhi has been a coalition, with many smaller parties
shoring up a larger one. This has fragmented Indian democracy, making
it hard for governments to frame a clear agenda. But 50 years from now,
voters might see these years as a necessary phase in the evolution of
Indian democracy.

And finally, looking back from today to its point of origin,
Indian democracy seems so much more … well, so much more real. Then,
there was something of the miracle about it: a newly decolonized country
of a few hundred million people, most of them poor and illiterate.
influential voices in the West were confident that the experiment
wouldn’t last long. They were probably greatly amused when more than 2
million newly enfranchised female voters could not be listed on the
electoral rolls for the first national election simply because they
refused to supply any identity other than that of their husbands or
fathers. This was a democracy?

The first Indian election in 1952, the historian Ramachandra Guha writes,
was described by some as the biggest gamble in the history of
democracy. The current one is merely the biggest in the history of
democracy. And that shows how far democracy has taken India — and
India, democracy — in just under seven decades.

Link: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-15/india-s-democracy-is-all-grown-up



Shudra is king!!!!!!!!!!!

OK this is an emotional moment for us. We never thought this day would come. 

A Brahmin president (who could have been PM if only the fucking dynasty did not interfere) hands over the baton to a Shudra- representing majority India (yes, this is one of the privileges of democracy). It is no less a moment than Obama ascending the throne, except that there is some unfinished business. A Dalit PM should happen (fairly soon) and a Muslim PM as well. Why not? All Indians should be allowed to dream.

Narendra Modi, generally perceived as a ‘strong’ leader, turned
emotional and broke down on Tuesday as he welcomed his election as the
leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party. He choked and had to take water
before regaining his posture.

To PM-elect Modi we have only  two requests – we are not amongst his supporters (but we wish him all the best) so we count for very little – please stay focused on economics and please break down the wall that exists between you and muslims. You are the strong-man in spite of your tears on the stage, you need to be gracious in victory. 
Link: http://indianexpress.com/photos/picture-gallery-others/narendra-modi-breaks-down-during-emotional-speech-at-central-hall/#modi-157

PS Advani’s expression as he witnesses Modi’s emotions running over is an all-time classic  


Modi Sarkar Predictions

I am no expert on Indian politics and am in no position to seriously make predictions based on detailed knowledge. So this is just about “general principles”.

1. The latent potential for capitalist development in India must be HUGE. No matter how messy, how ugly and how corrupt it turns out to be (and it will probably be all three), if there is no war and no civil war and a “capitalism friendly” government, some people will make a LOT of money. And by some, I mean a lot of people (which still leaves many many more who wont make much). Neither war nor civil war seem very likely (though neither is ruled out), so this one is easy: there will be money. Lots of it. (and that is not always a good thing, but whatever…its coming). If you own a decrepit house in some big city in India and its not already worth a ridiculous amount, hold on to it and sell it for BIG bucks in a couple of years.

2. Having a man with real power and the willingness to use it in charge (instead of the lovely Dr Manmohan Singh, of whom I am a most devoted fan, but whose lack of power was rather obvious) will mean that dozens and dozens of projects and initiatives that are already set to go or inching along will accelerate dramatically. That means the sarkar will be able to show LOTS of fancy shmancy projects in relatively short time (and will probably forget to say “Thank you” to Dr sahib).

3. Relations with Pakistan will not be good. Not just because the Hindu Right has a really hard time with that one, but because poor Nawaz Sharif is being put in his place as we speak and may not be able to hold up his end of the table in spite of the best intentions.

4. Finally, this is India. This is the BJP. This is the RSS. Is it really likely that they are so incredibly disciplined and far-sighted and sagacious that they will not do anything self-destructive or stupid? Just on general principles, that seems unlikely. So the question, dear pundits, is this: what will be the first really bad decision that needlessly sets off a chain reaction of bat shit craziness from all sides? and who will be responsible for it? And will Modi be able to tamp it down (or will he actually be the one to start it!)?

Inquiring minds want to know…


William Dalrymple: Afghanistan > India

His view has some merit, the problem is we just finished with an Oxford qualified top-notch Prime Minister who had no vote-base and thus no authority. What is happening in Afghanistan is similar to that of 1950s India, elites being imposed top-down on the electorate. Eventually some Imran Khan like charismatic, hardline person will rise up from  the ranks, thus disappointing Dalrymple once more. OTOH a much more likely scenario is that the Taliban will force out democracy and we will have a Caliphate/Emirate once more.
winning author William Dalrymple has said that the top three electoral
candidates in Afghanistan during their recent general elections are far
superior intellectually to India’s three leading political figures –
Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.

In an
exclusive interview to TOI at the Scottish Parliament on the sidelines
of the inaugural conference of the Edinburgh India Institute, Dalrymple
expressed his “deep apprehension” about Modi and said he finds Modi
“frightening” and a “big mystery”.

Dalrymple said that
Afghanistan’s three leading contenders, Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah
and Zalamai Rassoul were all doctorates and had hugely cosmopolitan CVs.

“The three front runners in Afghanistan were deeply
sophisticated men. All of them were highly educated and held doctorates.
Ghani is a former World Bank official, a PhD from Columbia, a finance
minister, and an ex-university chancellor. Compare that to the
intellectual level of three of India’s top candidates,” Dalrymple said.

He further said, “I consider India my first home and the love and
adoration I feel for the country is immense. But India, a country of
heaving beauty and filled with youth and talent, with majority of its
diaspora dominating the world can’t produce impressive and intellectual
politicians. India is a country alive with geniuses but it is
unfortunate that the best talents don’t go into politics.”

According to him, Gandhi – the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru is “a
complete disappointment who is dim and concerted in public debate and a
complete washout. Congress has some young talents in its ranks and
should find a new leader”. Dalrymple said he found Kejriwal “hugely

He added, “I hoped he would be effective and
given a choice, I would still vote for him with a heavy heart. But his
49 days in office is a missed opportunity. He missed his chance.”

Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Dalrymple-ranks-Afghan-leaders-over-Indian-ones/articleshow/35176161.cms