History beyond the screaming

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Last night I realized I’m not going to weigh in on history discussions on Twitter if they pertain to the Indian subcontinent. Even people who I know are not 13-year old incels behave totally emotionally and engage in shitposting posturing constantly. It’s really impossible to get a signal out of the discussion.

Indians and Pakistanis seem so intensively invested in various topics that it is literally and seriously impossible to get value out of any exchange, the swell of stupidity and bad faith (on all sides!) is so intense. There is a reality out there. There is a true history. But this is not what most of you really care about it, is it?

For example, reading India in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765 gives a nuanced and fully textured picture in outlines of the subcontinental elite in the premodern period. It aligns in broad sketches with what I know about human psychology and history elsewhere. But attempting to bring nuance seems like a fool’s errand in most of these debates.

Understanding the history of the Indian subcontinent is rewarding to me because there are comments here on the general human condition. I will not turn away from that. But, I do need to reflect on whether that is best done in solitude rather than engaging with the world “out here.”

Note: I don’t mind or care too much if particular truths are leveraged in some ideological manner. Rather, my suggestion is ideological priors are doing all the sifting of which truths are correct or not.

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Revoking 13th Amendment in Sri Lanka and Elections in the US.

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Abstract: A centralized govt in Sri Lanka is necessary maintain Law and order. Devolution of power to provinces may be stepping stone to de facto Federalism and a client Federal state to India. The cautionary example is the US and its separation of Federal and State powers. The separation of US and State power has lead to inconsistent implementation of law and order, including even minor issues, such as wearing of masks.

In 1987 under duress from India under Rajiv Gandhi, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed.  Part of  the accord was the Devolution of land, the police and financial powers to the Provinces.   This pretty much de facto  Federalism was incorporated as the 13th Amendment (13A) into the Sri Lankan  Constitution.

The main issue with de facto Federalism is that it might be either a stepping stone for separate North and East state and or a client state/province of India.  As if to prove that fear in February 2016, the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran sought India’s direct intervention in the complete implementation of the amendment.

There is a call from some of the minority Tamil population (12% of Total) to merge the North and East Provinces creating a province that would encompass 28.78% of Sri Lankas land area and 11.9% of the total population.  The minority Tamil population in this merged province would be 1,597,276 ( 987,692 + 609,584).   That is a 7% Tamil population of all of  Sri Lanka.   The two merged provinces have total population of 2,610,143 (1,058,762+1,551,381), making the Tamil minority 61%.

Land Area and Population North and East Provinces
Northern ProvinceLand Area 8,884 km2 (3,430 sq mi) (13.54% of total area),
Population 1,058,762 ((5.22% of total pop.)
Tamil Population: 987,692 (93.29%)
Eastern Province:Land: 9,996 km2 (3,859 sq mi) (15.24% of total area)
Population:
1,551,381 (7.66% of total pop)
Tamil Population: 609,584 (39.29%)


Cautionary Example: The US

In the US, excess Police Brutality on Black and Hispanics has resulted in protests,  some peaceful and some marred by violence and looting.  There is circumstantial evidence that Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have been co-opted for political purposed.   CIA manual psychological regime change and Color revolution tactics are permeating into US politics.

Prominent opinion makers like David Brooks in a NY Times opinion piece advocates a color revolution if Trump wins. .

It turns out, amid the existential crisis, there really is a group of sober people who are militant about America, who can see reality unblinkered by the lens of partisanship, and who are finally compelled to organize.

If Trump claims a victory that is not rightly his, a few marches in the streets will not be an adequate response. There may have to be a sustained campaign of civic action, as in Hong Kong and Belarus, to rally the majority that wants to preserve democracy, that isolates those who would undo it.

Even some immigrant Sri Lankans, are inciting violence. A Sri Lankan, who works at the Pentagon and should know better as minority Tamil in SL says

against Trump is so high that many of us feel like physically beating up any Trump supporter we come across.
Imagine the energy on the far left then. The Trump enabling mafia is going to learn a painful lesson; for the unpardonable sin of foisting Trump on the country.

Some other Sri Lankans may not advocate violence, but

If people want to be relevant how about striving to  be the largest tax paying ethnicity? Betcha your lives will matter then.

Me: As usual you make supercilious, new immigrant, they as in Black and Hispanic are “looser” type remarks. When were you and yours ever in the forefront defending the US, other than as an armchair warrior.
Me: I guess you dont think Black and Hispanic are part of the “Brave” (as in Land of the Free and Brave) who have been in forefront of the right or wrong wars the US has been fighting.

Obviously, there is potential for color revolution type protests, violence, riots after elections.  Will the federal govt be able to maintain law and order.  From what is happening now in the US now it is extremely doubtful.  Because of the division of power between the Federal Govt and State governments there is no consistent implementation of Law and order, even a simple issue as such as wearing a mask.

Accusations of Democrat vs Republican  Governors and their ability to keep Law and order are flying around.  Post elections in the US, is it the Federal Government or the State Governments that are going to be responsible for  “Law and order”.

I think many are avoiding an issue as to why the current Fed govt is reluctant to get the military out. Because they are not sure which side they (as in the foot soldiers) will decide to support. 40% of the military is minority and very likely much higher at the rank and file level.

Relevance to Sri Lanka: Federal vs State law

My opinion:
Advantages of  Central Govt vs Devolution/Province is going to be very obvious after US elections.

 

*Side Comment:  My great Grandparents converted to Christianity because of of Americans.

References
https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kamala-harris-the-dems-and-sri-lanka/comment-page-1/?unapproved=2357187&moderation-hash=a64098635d4feaf243a934669388d65f#comment-2357187

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/499857-trump-biden-campaigns-mirror-cia/

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The religion of Hindus before Hinduism

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India in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765 is a good read and I recommend it. But the author, Richard Eaton, is not a guru or a sheikh, and should not be taken as such.

A comment Eaton makes offhand several times is that the conflict between Turks and Indians should not be understood in confessional terms. This is a commonly asserted, and on some level, it reflects elements of the truth. Hindu Rajputs served under Muslims, and Turkic soldiers served under Hindus. You can’t reduce everything to confession.

But, it is clear that confession and civilizational identity did exist, and it was robust. Going from the specific to the general.

  1. A great deal of text given over to Man Singh’s glorification of his conquests as an Indian warrior, and his patronage of Indian religion, in particular Vaishnavism.
  2. Eaton highlights the rapid Indianization of practices and hegemonic motifs present among the Turks and Afghans who were born and raised in India. And yet despite the syncretistic tendencies which occurred, ultimately these ashraf elites remained identified as Muslims and often were pulled back to world-normative Islam over the generations.
  3. Vijayanagara persisted as a Hindu polity for three centuries. The cross-cultural analysis shows that recalcitrant pagan powers always convert to the religion of their enemies eventually. The leader of the pagan resistance in Saxony became a Christian. Pagan resistance to Christianity in Sweden, Lithuania, and ancient Rome were only temporary, as resistant lineages eventually were assimilated into the new order. Resistance to Buddhism in Japan and Tibet was initially violent, but futile. In iterative games, paganism is the eternal ‘beatable’ strategy.

The only point to posting this is that there is a common assertion that Hinduism as a religion or identity only emerged in the 19th century. I am now convinced that this confuses the name of the phenomenon for the phenomenon. The Indian religion of the Hindus was clearly bundled together in a way that allowed for their elite deployment as a meta-ethnic identity that separated them from the Turks and Afghans who ruled them. Similarly, the Islam of the Turks and Afghans (and variegated Ethiopians, Arabs, and Persians), separated them from the Indians whom they conquered to prevent full assimilation as an Indian elite with popular roots in early modernity.

There is a major issue where our conception of religion qua religion is conditioned on an intellectual revolution rooted in the Second Reformation of the Calvinists. But, I think it is important not to get carried away with this construct, and assert that Calvinist religion is qualitatively different from pre-Calvinist religion. I don’t think it is. Rather, it simply shifts some of the parameter values within the model. Similarly, the identity of a coherent Hindu Rashtra with a post-caste socio-religious identity is an invention of modernity, but its roots are ancient and indigenous, and not postcolonial fictions.

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Eclipse of the Hindu Shahis

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This is an updated version of an old article of mine on the decline of Hindu Shahis from the Kashmiri POV. The primary source of this account is the rājataraṅgiṇī (lit. river of kings) by kalhaṇa the Sanskrit chronicle of Kashmir’s history written in the mid 12c CE, which also set the standard for all later Sanskrit and Muslim histories of the region.

The events described in this account occurred over a period of 50 years in the first half of the 11th century CE, as Turkic Ghazi hordes started their expansion into the Indian Subcontinent. The backdrop of Kashmiri politics paints a very vivid picture of the pre-Islamic society during this tumultuous time.

Continue reading “Eclipse of the Hindu Shahis”

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Book Review: The Era of Bajirao

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Jadunath Sarkar, the preeminent historian of Maratha history states

The place of Bajirao I in India’s history comes home to us with unmistakable force and vividness when we compare the political situation of this country in the 1740 to that in 1720.

In 1720, Marathas were a small state spread over a few districts in western Maharashtra rife with internal divisions, while by the end of 1740 Marathas were the largest power in the country which covered lands from the Tungabhadra to the Yamuna. This was largely due to the unbeaten generalship of Peshwa Bajirao I. Uday Kulkarni, a Doctor by training, has taken to history writing these last few years and his writing has been a refreshing counter to the narrative-focused history popular in recent times. Dr. Kulkarni goes through the original sources as methodically and systemically as a surgeon would and the result is a crisp, tight book grounded in documents and not a narrative/hagiography held together by the whims of the author.

The tale starts with the Maratha-Mughal war of the late 17th century and ends with the death of Bajirao. The river Narmada or Rewa is the voice of the book as Rewa Uwaach, as Bajirao’s life was witnessed by the river Narmada, from his earliest campaigns to his untimely death. A few relationships and characters from this time period stand out in the book, and I got to know some interesting facets of all these characters and their actions in the book.

The Aurangzeb – Shahu relationship, its genesis, and its implications have been well represented in the book. Whether it was due to remorse, realpolitik, or human nature but Aurangzeb had treated Shahu well in captivity and Shahu’s unwillingness to directly attack the legacy of Emperor Aurangzeb is one of the most under-explored parts of Maratha history. This facet of Shahu can be seen as a constraint on the ambitions of the dynamic Peshwa.

Kulkarni presents the Era of Bajirao as a rivalry between two generals, Nizam-Ul-Mulk – one of the last generals from the time of Aurangzeb &Bajirao. Bajirao’s victories over the Nizam, both military and diplomatic are covered very well in the book.

The author also sheds light on a not very known fact about the life of Bajirao – his troubles with debt. The letters exchanged between Bajirao, Chimaji Appa, Brahmendra Swami, and Shahu Maharaj all point to the constant financial pressure under which the Peshwa operated. The strain between the Emperor and his prime minister over various issues, from financial matters to Bajirao’s conquering zeal are all brought forth.

The Konkan campaigns of the Peshwa, against the Siddis and the Portuguese, take up a considerable amount of the book. Chimaji Appa, the hero of the wars with the Portuguese who has often been ignored by popular imagination gets his due. The episode of Mastani is dealt with without unwarranted speculations or folk gossip. The fascinating character of Brahmendra Swami is always present in the background as Bajirao and co’s spiritual mentor.

Kulkarni also differentiates the ethics & morality of the Marathas – especially under Bajirao and Chimaji from their enemies with examples like Bajirao’s decision of not mauling Delhi and Chimaji’s respectful treatment of the Portuguese (especially women).

Bajirao’s singular quality in Kulkarni’s view is

Flight in the face of a strong enemy was not considered an act of cowardice, it was never the intention of the Maratha troops to give battle in an unfavorable situation. Bajirao’s success lay in his ability to choose when to fight, where to fight (and more importantly) when not to.

The only issue a reader might have with the book is arguably also the book’s strongest quality – the author’s unwillingness to speculate beyond a reasonable point. As a reader, at many places, I felt that I wouldn’t mind going a bit deeper into the motivations and implications of the actions of the book. But all these issues are compensated easily by the treasure trove of letters, accurate maps (with military movements), and illustrations offered in the book. On the whole, I would rate the Era of Bajirao 5/5 and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Indian history. It is especially a must-read of every Marathi Manoos – given the profound implications, the life of Bajirao had on Maharashtra. It is quite feasible, that without Bajirao’s and Chimaji’s rescue of North Konkan from the Portuguese, we might have even had a Portuguese governed Konkan (like Goa).

Dr. Kulkarni has also written some more books – including the Solstice of Panipat & and a book on James Wales – the Artist & Antiquarian in the time of Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao. His upcoming book – the Incredible Epoch of Nanasaheb Peshwa starts where he left off in the Era of Bajirao. Sadly none of these books are available in digital format and might be difficult to obtain abroad. For those who can’t get their hands on the book, you might be interested in the following for time being.

BAJIRAO PESHWA – THE EMPIRE BUILDER

 

 

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Hello, Nurse!

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Aloha! Wassup? Kaisay ho yaar?

My name’s TheseLongWars, TLW for short, known for twitter.com/TheseLongWars, currently from these-long-wars.blogspot.com, formerly of theselongwars.blogspot.com (RIP: 2010-2020).

It is an absolute Goddamn pleasure and honour to have been invited to be here as a writer and opinion-ator at BrownPundits.com!

As you may have seen my tweets, I have been commenting in-depth about my native Pakistan for a decade now. I’m from the city by the sea, Karachi, and I am a happy partisan for that over-grown beach-hole. I’m not a big genetics or phrenology fan. However, I love talking politics, I love talking some culture, I love history, and I enjoy getting the chance to write.

But let’s not make this intro long-winded. Snappy posts are fine, but some effort later at longer posts, will come later.

For now, here’s where the catch-phrase my title is based on is from. Do read what I write; you’ll always learn something worth knowing 😉

Ciao!

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Broken Illusions And Enlightenment

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I see one of the main differences between India and west is of breaking down of the illusion of religious harmony in the west. The inter christian violence between catholics and protestants in 30 yr war led to westphalian peace. It was here that leaders in west accepted that there was no choice but to accept the reality of heresy/bigotry .It also meant over time that they realized no stable peace could be built on religion but only by transcending it through effective political and civic institutions. There is a strange argument nowadays where values gained from transcending religion is also being credited to religion. This reminds me of “everything comes from India” man in the comedy series of Goodness Gracious me.

In India , because among dharmic religions, the degree of violence was low without full scale wars with millions dead, the belief among Indian and Hindu elites has been to continue to pursue this path of compromise among various communities under the goal of religious harmony. Even now, many use slogans of “sarv dharma sambhav” , all these create illusions that brings much heartache and sense of betrayal among people when they dont come true now with evangelical monotheism. One hence feels cheated by the elites rhetoric and it is here congress has to break away from this. Had one been realistic about this, much of the violence during partition could have been avoided . This illusion needs to be broken. In the west it took violence in large numbers to get over the idea that solution could be found within Christianity itself . In India one must get over this before much violence happens and that can only happen if people move away from naive Gandhian view of religious harmony so that it would become embarrassing to even say that.

Much of the problem I see in Indian religions ,society and civilization to me is merely the willingness to compromise or to solve issues through syncretism to avoid larger violence. This leads to low optimal solution at local level rather than to scaling the powers of state and political institutions and upgrading the civics of the people and their understanding of it. The same is true for caste violence as well. I dont believe there ever was large scale mobilized caste wars. Had this happened the society would have no choice but to address it as well. The illusion now is carried over by Hindu atheists as well, a willingness to just let things be.Here is where I think even atheists are going wrong as well. Their belief that answer to problem of religion lies in atheism.Their denial of the religious nature of man is the issue. This is a reality irrespective of whether they be theistic religions or atheistic ones like marxism. They too are better off insisting on good polity,civic institutions as a solution. A model in order to work must work for extreme cases and not merely local ones where compromise is possible. Until this illusion of compromise remains there is no value placed on political realism and India will remain under threat of significant violence in its future. It is important therefore to make the case for impossibility of religious harmony and compromise and let people know there is no getting around the issue of religious bigotry on all sides. No answer to the issues of religious bigotry can be found inside dharma. And in general I think it is true that we forge ahead better in a sure footed way when our idealistic illusions are seen to be broken. Indian liberals,left and atheists must abandon the denial of religious bigotry and simply accept that there are bound to be religious bigots even among minorities and constitution protects that as well. They need to make this absolutely clear for otherwise they are seen to be either cheating the people with false illusions of harmony or engaging in what is termed as minority appeasement. To me, the most charitable view of their behavior is idealistic delusion. Enlightenment ensues as a result of breaking down of such illusions.

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Are Hindu Atheists more Plural ?

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Most Hindu believers don’t have problems with bowing down before the next idol/guru in addition to their existing ones. One only has to visit Goan Churches to see devout and traditional Hindus praying to Jesus with all their devotion without any dichotomy. There appears to be no conflict between going back to their traditional lives while asking favors/ paying respects to the supposed Son of God. The violent history of how Christianity got into Goa has very little bearing on how Hindus interact with Christian pockets of Goa in contrast with the case with Islam. (This may not be the case in other areas where there is more active proselytization). While this pluralism which is a salient part of Hinduism is often traced to the Rgvedic “एकम सत विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति” form the First Mandala. However, as Michael Witzel points out in his analysis of Rgveda, pluralism can be found even in the Rgvedic family books (mandala 2-7 which is often to be earlier texts, with scholars putting them as at least 1500BCE), especially the 7th Mandala attributed to Vashishta. Thus it’s safe to argue that Plurality is a quintessential attribute of Hinduism.

From ages 22-25 I was hooked with the New Atheism worldview – which rarely had the representation of Ex-Hindus or Hindu-Atheists. Even then I could not fully agree with New Atheist criticism of Eastern Faith systems (I found the chapter in Hitchens book to be a strawman). More reading of history and politics since then has meant that I have come out of what Razib Khan calls the Nerd understanding of Religion. While the number of Ex-Muslims in the New-Atheist movement was low in the early 2010s, by 2020 the Ex-Muslim movement has gained a lot of momentum with many names becoming popular. I had avoided the whole Ex-Muslim internet sphere which seems to have exploded these last few years as I did not want to enforce my own confirmation bias about the ills of Islam. However, this Armin- KaliMaa fracas has meant that I have followed the works of these Ex-Muslims a lot over the last week.

Having read and listened to these guys, I can’t ignore the glaring differences between Hindu Atheists like myself and Ex-Muslim or Ex-Christian atheists. While surveys point to less than 1% of Indians self designating as atheists, I really doubt the number as most Hindu atheists continue to identify as Hindu unlike atheists coming from other faiths. In my experience, Hindu atheists spend less time arguing in the abstract about belief in the supernatural or the validity of scriptures and are more focused on concrete problems – viz rituals/traditions which they find illogical or abhorrent. This may be a function of Hinduism, which is less scriptural and much more ritualistic (at least this is true for the Brahminism which I am most familiar with). Over these particular issues, there is only a minor difference between the positions of the Reformist yet believing Hindus and Hindu Atheists. On the other hand, the New-Atheist position is glaringly similar to the Monotheistic position – with all the certainty and condescension but no coercion and violence.

This difference could be for two reasons:

  • For most Hindus being atheist is not a big deal. There is very little penalty on being non-conformist as long as atheism isn’t confrontational. As a result, Hindu atheists don’t feel like aggravated victims and are reciprocally less confrontational. This neutral feedback cycle keeps most Atheists in the larger Hindu fold.
  • Being exposed to numerous faiths and worship systems since childhood, Hindu atheists like Hindus don’t find it tough to respect the behaviors of other believers (however ridiculous) which New Atheists condescend at much more polemically.

That being said, a lot of unnecessary condescension at Hindu practices does exist in India – particularly on the left. But even that doesn’t necessarily overlap with Atheism but with the Indian “Secular” framework. I don’t mean to imply that all Hindu atheists are plural or even liberal. But for most Hindus, atheism is an epistemological position and not an absolutist belief system. Finding a Hindu atheist being as confrontational as an atheist from Monotheism is rare thought there must be numerically significant exceptions.

I personally would rather spend most of my energies fighting Homeopathy than religion. IMO both are demonstrably false but only one of them pretends to be scientific.

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The anxieties behind narrative of “Love Jihad”

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I finally completed Dr Ambedkar’s fascinating book on Pakistan after reading it on and off for years. Though he comes across as an essentialist in some of his arguments, many fault-lines Dr. Ambedkar points out hold true even 70 years after the publication of the book.

(I plan to write about that book sometime later – but especially for those who don’t identify with Hindutva I will highly recommend that book)

Dr. Ambedkar says the following in this book PAKISTAN OR THE PARTITION OF INDIA during his polemic against Purdah.

The evil consequences of purdah are not confined to the Muslim community only. It is responsible for the social segregation of Hindus from Muslims which is the bane of public life in India. This argument may appear far fetched and one is inclined to attribute this segregation to the unsociability of the Hindus rather than to purdah among the Muslims. But the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other

This is the core motivation that has lead to the popularization of term Love-Jihad. The anxieties of Hindus are not motivated largely by the fear that “Muslims will abduct their daughters and sisters and forcibly convert them”. That exists largely in the straw-man.

Their anxieties stem from the following

Continue reading “The anxieties behind narrative of “Love Jihad””

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