Afghan Conundrum II

By Omar Ali 6 Comments

From Dr Hamid Hussain. As usual, he gives sensible advice, but it is not going to be heeded. On this issue, I think Major Amin is right, there will be a civil war, Pakistan will take sides, PTM will not be reconciled and will instead be further demonized, things will not get better.
I also hope I am wrong. (Omar Ali)

Dr Hamid Hussain’s post follows:

One can only highlight signposts of a complex issue. Following is one such exercise.


Pakistan’s Afghan Conundrum

Hamid Hussain

“On earth, it’s hard and heaven is far away”.  Afghan proverb.

 Afghanistan is going through another transition with many uncertainties causing hope and fear.  Pakistan has a long history of involvement in Afghan affairs.  President Donald Trump tweeted on 08 October 2020 that all American troops will be home from Afghanistan by Christmas. This surprised everyone in Washington and Pentagon, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials were scratching their heads and contemplating how one single tweet has undermined the bargaining position of United States.  This also sent shock waves in General Head Quarters (GHQ) of Pakistan army.  Prime Minister Imran Khan government is not even pretending to have any role in Afghan affairs and has handed the Afghan file to the army.  Imran Khan wrote an op-ed piece for Washington Post pleading Americans not to leave Afghanistan in haste for Pakistan fears it will face all the negative fallout. 

There will be review of Afghan policy with the arrival of new administration in Washington in January 2021. However, domestic issues will suck all the oxygen and it is not likely that new administration will be able to spend significant economic, military and political capital on a side show in Afghanistan. President Trump is now the wild card before President elect Joe Biden takes oath on 20 January 2021.  He can order complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of the year that can make any course correction for new administration very difficult. Pakistan’s hope is that new administration keeps current level of forces and economic lifeline to Afghan government until meaningful progress is made on intra-negotiations front. Continue reading “Afghan Conundrum II”


Correlating ancestral legends with Genetic data

By srikanth 9 Comments

I stumbled upon an interesting project to collect data on the Y-haplogroup from a section of the Indian population (brAhmaNas), and correlate it with the claims of descent from certain ancient sages by brahmins today.

Link to read up more –

I personally find it to be an intriguing idea. And worth investigating.

Some notes for the uninitiated on Gotra / Pravara

  1. A significant chunk of the Indian population has a Gotra record.
  2. Technically your Gotra records your male line of descent, though the individual after whom the Gotra is named need not necessarily be the earliest male ancestor of yours that you know of.
  3. Gotras are likelier to indicate a specific line of descent in the case of brahmins, where the Gotra/pravara record is more carefully preserved than among the rest of the Indo-Aryan population
  4. Pravaras are a set of 3 or 5 individuals – typically sages who feature in your male line of descent. These individuals may precede the sage mentioned in your Gotra, or succeed him.

Correlating Gotra information with Y-haplogroup data may give insights on whether there exist striking similarities between brahmins who share a certain Gotra.

An example of how Gotra / Pravaras look like –

My Gotra is vādoola. Legend has it that he was likely a sage in the late Vedic period, who cannot be located accurately. He has certain texts of the late Vedic tradition including a Shrauta sutra to his credit.

My Pravara is Bhārgava / vītahavya / savetasa : Among these three, BhRgu is actually not my biological ancestor. The latter two are. Vītahavya was actually a king of the Heiheya dynasty who turned “brahmin” when he was residing in the Ashrama of sage Bhrigu.  So this particular clan that descends from vītahavya are Kshatriya-converts to Brahmin-hood, to put it crudely. Likely this legend dates to the middle Vedic period (1000 BCE) , or maybe earlier.

In this particular case, the Gotra RSi (vādoola) is actually a descendant of Vītahavya. So the gotra is not named after the earliest male ancestor that we know of.

Individuals belonging to this somewhat rare gotra are found largely in Tamil Nadu and Andhra today. Not elsewhere. It would be curious to see if the Y-chromosome data provides any commonalities among those who share this gotra.

Post-script : None of this should be seen as any kind of “supremacist” exercise. It is just one way of possibly validating traditional claims (which may be bogus for all you know) , though it is not likely to yield a conclusive narrative.


Crackers, Air and Feelings

By GauravL 21 Comments


Fair warning – Read this blogpost as a RANT.

This Brilliant Logic seems to have taken over the Hindutva Twitter for the last week or so. A lot of well-known Rightish folks are starting I don’t like firecrackers BUT. As John Snow said in some GOT episode, everything one says before a BUT is horse shit.

Virat Kohli took to social media to tell his followers to not burn crackers and was made a meal off on the Indian twitter-sphere. Kohli virtue signaling can turn off some people as pointed out here

As someone who opposes Fire-crackers (especially the ones which leave fumes of toxic metal in winters), I would love most crackers to be banned all 365 days of the year including Diwali, New years, weddings, Cricket matches, and political victories. Having said that, QUANTITY/SIZE matters. On New years or even political victories, most of the 135 Crore plus people don’t blow millions of tons of firecrackers. Hunting wild game in a country like the United States is fine to an extent, but if Indians start hunting deer for meat the deer populations would be screwed beyond repair. India shouldn’t act with the irresponsibility with which the United States and other less dense countries can act. Comparing this to supposedly green celebrities and their diesel guzzling SUVs and ACs is stupid, Cars and AC are bad for the air quality, but they are no way close to the toxic fumes from the firecrackers which we breathe. Especially during covid times, avoiding a couple of days of breathing in metallic and toxic fumes seems to be a no brainer – but not for the times we live in.

The way with which governments and NGT have acted against firecrackers on eve of Diwali knee jerk reaction and needs to be called out. Governments as usual have taken the easy low-hanging fruit instead of acting on deeper problems of air pollution in North India. The arbitrariness of the action is bad and heartless but is burning crackers to spite of governments and liberals equally stupid – like the angry husband who hates alcohol but drinks just to spite his wife. Especially for people who don’t like burning crackers, it’s a classic case of putting feelings/politics over principles. While firecrackers are not the primary or even the secondary cause of air pollution in India, they certainly have the capacity to push the AQI from Severe to Hazardous for a couple of days.

Enough ranting, let’s make some pictures do some talking. These pictures are from my terrace in Pune. Unlike North India, there is no stubble burning which causes the annual spike in pollution levels. With that variable out, it’s easier to see the drastic effects of crackers on the air quality

This is a photograph from my terrace around noon today. An unusual turn of weather has meant the air quality today was exceptionally good. There were very few firecrackers today morning.
As a result, the evening started with clear skies and good visibility
Within two hours of moderate crackers, the air is visibly and significantly poorer

If crackers continue with a higher rate for longer, by midnight today this view would be drastically altered with exceedingly poor visibility (a good proxy for poor and toxic air). In all likelihood, the gulf of smoke surrounding the city will remain over the city for a couple of days (depending on wind and weather conditions).

No clear skies, dull polluted air over the city on 15th November – a day after Laxmi puja

On occasions when the city gets caught in the perfect storm (like it did last year), the next couple of days would be incredibly poor viz. air quality.

Last year on 28th October I woke up around 700 to this. Laxmi Pujan was on 27th October. It is a distinct possibility that tomorrow morning will be similar.

I have not been to Delhi during the peak of air pollution however on 28/10/19 a ten-minute walk drastically affected my eyes and throat giving me a taste of what life might be for Delhites. It’s not about the Environment in the abstract, it’s about the air we breathe. Is it worth compromising the already pathetic air quality for a couple of hours of fun? or worse just to spite the other side and make a political point? 


Happy Diwali to everyone – even those who would find this rant unpalatable 🙂



Open Thread, 11/14/2020 – Brown Pundits

By Razib Khan 127 Comments

I don’t know anything about Diwali, but Happy Holdidays! (I found out that it was Diwali this weekend from Twitter and the comments here).

A new podcast on the election results with Josiah Neeley and Richard Hanania. We get kind of spicey by the end, as I make fun of Richard making fun of Peter Turchin, and make a huge prediction about Hunter Biden’s future.


“The Buddhist Age”

By Razib Khan 36 Comments
Civilizational affinities in 700 AD

I made an offhand comment on Twitter that I thought might be worth amplifying and elaborating. You can argue that to a great extent the period between 250 AD and 750 AD can be thought of as the “Buddhist Age” in Asia. The year 750 AD is easy as a cut off point, as the battle of Talas in 751 symbolizes the recession of Tang Chinese influence in Turanian Central Asia, and the inexorable advance of the Muslim Arabs. The year 250 is more vague, but it post-dates the collapse of the Han dynasty, and starts to see the ascension of Buddhism as a Chinese religion par excellence, rather than a marginal Indian cult.

Let’s focus on the year 700. What’s going on? First, let’s acknowledge that Buddhism is in serious decline across the Indian subcontinent, though there are local pockets of strength, with a late Indian summer to come with the Pala Empire of Bengal in 750. Second, it was under threat across its East Iranian heartland. It is often forgotten that Buddhism and Zoroastrianism competed toe-to-toe as the religion of the elites across the East Iranian world, from modern-day Afghanistan to Khorasan and deep into Transoxiana. The book Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road documents this interplay. Lost Enlightenment as well as Christopher I Beckwith’s book argues from the strong role of Turanian Buddhism in shaping Abbassid era Islam (e.g., viharas as models for madrassas and Turanian Buddhist textual culture as the seedbed for hadith).

in Japan Buddhism was taking root, while in Korea and much of China it was the dominant religion in 700 AD. Buddhism also had a thin, but detectable, impact across Southeast Asia, along with Indic culture more generally. Tibet was not as clearly associated with Buddhism in 700, but the religion had already been introduced and was making a cultural impact.

What does this have to do with “Brown Pundits”? Buddhism is the dominant vehicle of clear and obvious Indian cultural influence in the world. It is, arguably, the earliest of the great missionary religions to exist today. Though Buddhism never took root in the West, it was clearly known and a presence in the eastern Mediterranean during the Roman period in cosmopolitan ports such as Alexandria. Though Indian numerals are extremely consequential, they are a more bit-sized cultural element, which has been detached from their Indian matrix. In contrast, Buddha’s Indian origin is well known, and the influence of Buddhism is probably responsible for legends that are hard to explain such as the Indian princess who married into the Korean royal line and gave rise to a modern day Korean clan.


Browncast – Saagar Enjeti: An Indian-American Right Populist

By The Emissary 15 Comments

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

This episode features Mukunda and Akshar talking to Saagar Enjeti, co-host of Rising on The Hill and host of The Realignment Podcast. We talk about Saagar’s come up and his political journey as we delve into the US election results, right populism, and an Indian-American’s place in all this.


Bail, Ahimsa ,Civic Society : Ending Vindictiveness

By Phyecon1 5 Comments

How do we create a more civilized society is a question we in India should consider. The primary political problem in India is one of “vindictiveness” of the state ,politicians and ideologues. In furthering this, they launch cases against the accused. Due to low opportunity environment of the state , many in India get entangled by its laws. We should try to improve on society by trying to bring an end to vindictiveness of state through its powers.

The best way to do that is by giving Bail to the accused in most cases unless they pose danger or can influence the case . The less powers the state possesses to be vindictive against the individual, the better. Since India’s Independence, we have never valued the need to create a more civic society or raise the civic consciousness of citizens. Instead we have been led to believe in the bogeyman villain of other ideologies. These are intended to make people to seek feudal protection instead of seeking to better laws and find refuge in the civic consciousness of the citizens instead and through that find refuge in courts of law.

The aim , the end game of human progress is a conscious civic society that rises above any ideology attempting to hack citizens to further their own ends and protect the rights of citizens . The answer is not to point to hypocrisy of one side or another. The answer is not to explain the new twists and turns in a case. We have had enough data as it is, we dont need explanations of how a case has come about, we dont need to compare with x,y,z of how the people of same ideology are hounding others. The answer is to figure out solutions to better our civic society by giving each other more freedoms and restricting the vindictive powers of the state.

Indian media relishes more in ‘hate’ and ‘adoration’ than it does in raising the awareness of citizens to their rights. That with every arrest, every accusation, every new act of vindictiveness by any political organization, or ideology , their own individual rights are being trampled. That it could be them is the one point they chose not to point out. And why should they? even after 70 yrs of Indian Independence, the news media has never evolved to ever making this point , they stand to benefit more by being substandard by getting people to root or boo one side or the other, by being closer to one political party or the other.

The ideas of enlightenment were never properly translated to Indian electorate by its elites. The purpose of having a vote is to have a means for an individual to curtail the tyrannical nature of the state. It is to reduce himsa, one step at a time.

And since it is BJP that is in power, they can help us in that direction by offering us that .


Putting the Arnab storm in perspective

By GauravL 26 Comments

Yesterday morning Republic TV Host – Arnab Goswami was arrested in the early hours of the morning for a two-year-old suicide case. The arrest and especially the nature of his arrest created a mini storm on Twitter, with Hindutva twitter making it a FOE issue and a reflection “fascist” nature of Maharashtra government and some sections of Liberals seeing this arrest as Karma.

I would highly recommend Shekhar Gupta’s Cut The Clutter on this topic

Some of the criticism of Karma on Arnab appears fair if you look at the way Rhea Chakravarty was hounded by Arnab and journalists on his side of the political spectrum with Arnab as the ringleader. But it’s the Optics of the arrest and high handedness of the Maharashtra government (using encounter specialists for the arrest) needs to be called out. This comes a week or two after the arrest of Sameer Thakkar for “objectionable” tweets about Uddhav Thackeray and his son. That issue created some outrage on social media but nothing compared to the Arnab issue. Personally, I find such arbitrary arrests (Sameer Thakkar) that have been known to happen in India very frequently, more troubling than the arrest of Arnab Goswami. The arrest of Arnab is surprising due to his stature and popularity and not due to the arbitrariness of his arrest (which is actually banal in India).

Within hours the BJP big guns jumped into the fray with condemnations from Smriti Irani to S Jaishankar. Even comparisons of Emergency were made by Devendra Fadanvis. However one must point out that Hindutva twitter was unhappy with BJP’s response. They wanted a more violent defense of Arnab by BJP (what that would entail is best left to the imagination). However, hypocritically though not surprisingly – the same establishment is silent on the arrests of journalists, which have happened regularly for actually doing their job (in all states including a lot of BJP governed states). Hathras was a prime example where some arrests were made by UP police (the exhaustive list would be too damning). Similarly, the famous arrests of so-called “Urban Naxals” – especially Sudha Bharadwaj, are followed by their detainment for over 2 years without any solid proof coming up in the due process comes to mind. Recently, Dhaval Patel from Gujarat was arrested because he wrote a piece alleging Gujarat CM being replaced because of poor handling of the Covid crisis. He was released on bail after an order from the court. I can go on and on and keep on pointing cases of significantly worse handling of journalists by all states under all governments in India. Uttar Pradesh under Yogi is particularly harsh when it comes to handling journalists but no state passes the basic smell test when it comes to protecting freedom of expression.

Taking it to a next level, there are routine deaths of journalists when they report lesser-known criminals and politicians. The Sand Mafia, the Mining Mafia, the other lesser and greater known criminals (and politicians) are famous for threatening, killing, and killing entire families of journalists. I would like some documentation with trends of murders and mysterious deaths of journalists in India over the last 70 years (couldn’t find any on a cursory search).

My aim here is to not indulge in whataboutery but to put the Arnab arrest in perspective. It’s not an extraordinary event in itself, just it grabs so much space (even in NYT) because it is Arnab – the TRP king and apparent favorite of the BJP Regime. Press freedom in India has a long long way to go, but using this particular case to make that point is not a great idea. Where this case may affect a change(or escalation) is the interplay of journalism (or media) and politics in the future. Politically this moment might turn out to be a significant yardstick for future abuse of state power for politics. Shekhar Gupta alludes to it in the video, this may be a slippery slope leading to an escalation in vendetta politics across the country. The central government under BJP has till now troubled NDTV (with Tax fraud etc), the Wire, and all the usual suspects for 6 years now. But in no case was the action OPTICALLY as drastic as the arrest of Arnab. Maybe such drastic optics are where we are leading, whenever someone raises the level it’s fair to expect others to follow. With more and more public figures getting partisan (Kangana Ranaut, Bajaj, etc) could one expect politicians to attack them too? As was the case with Kangana? Probably. But that doesn’t bode well for either the debate or the partisanship.


Learn To Accuse.

By Phyecon1 6 Comments


Figuring things out.

Many Hindus, and nowadays many true liberals in the west fail to comprehend why reason is not valued. This probably has to do with the peculiarities of human brain that once something is framed as dangerous or sinister or dark or bring about the ill motivations of other , everything that they say after that will not stick or will be seen through this frame, what will stick though are the alluded motivations. I presume this method was first applied by the church and perhaps deployed against the pagans. To count sins of your past to dispirit and demoralize you and make you believe there is no light ,reason, redemption or goodness within you. To have any of that you need to convert to their belief.

What made them succeed is that most people are not smart, cannot see the divine or goodness within themselves, cannot see a way to redeem themselves in their own minds or in society. They will not read through a 500 pages book to discover the flaw in the argument. If the first 10 pages or few tidbits make sense, that’s enough.

Indian journalist manu joseph made an interesting observation in one of his articles, on why the woke exist?. It really is about the market place. Bad journalists who cant work hard or the average writers or singers, musicians etc dont have much value on basis of their talent. They cant compete in talent. However, if you go woke and accuse , you gain credit. And in anycase, you need to neutralize their accusations for your work to be respected. That cannot be done by just laying out the arguments, because there is no market for you. why should anyone listen to you when they get to propagate their views and accusations against you and infact teach your kids in schools and universities anyway?. If you remind them and accuse them to be neocolonial , neoconverts, sepoys, racist, bigoted against polytheists in their approach(to true liberals in west, the analogues of these), you get a chance to neutralize the momentum due to inertia of all that and then perhaps have a meaningful exchange .

Until you have a market , you will not be listened to, you have no functional value. We dont live in a polytheist world where truth is discovered by sages and valued by society. We live in a world dominated by evangelical religions where their truth has already been established, all that remains is to annihilate the others. You need to count their sins in front of all of them before you are listened to. Dont let the inner nerd within you cringe at doing that. This needs to be done. Most people are stupid most of the times, even if you are highly intelligent, you too are stupid about many things many of the times, you need to factor in your own stupidity ,insecurities and the stupidity and insecurities of the average joe . Mass stupidity and insecurities have destroyed civilizations.

The straight path is often not the fastest one as seen in this Brachiostochrone curve.