Hinduism: is it only sex (and death)?

A critique of Doniger which steers away from the Hindutva-secular fight and asks some pertinent questions, one of which is: does the distinguished professor know (or care) about what is special (or unique) about Hinduism?
Such a shared core may well be close to, among other ideas, the
Upanishadic monism that crystallized in the seventh century CE into the
non-dualistic Vedanta of Shankara who established it both by
interpreting the classical texts and by refuting the competing
philosophical schools of the day. Early evidence of an incipient monism
is mentioned, for example, by Mohanty (2007, p. 24):  While the Vedas contain a myriad of different themes, ranging from
hymns for deities and rules of fire sacrifices to music and magic,
is no doubt that one finds in them an exemplary spirit of inquiry into
“the one being” that underlies the diversity of empirical phenomena, and
into the origin of all things.  

If this core truly pervades popular belief today then it cannot be
easily explained as a late nineteenth and twentieth century product of
colonialism as many on the left try to do.
This is not to deny the
presence of other orthodox and heterodox traditions in this core, only
to say that such a monism’s mass appeal must surely have preceded
colonial times. Doniger and her supporters never acknowledge this wider
humanity in their arguments and so end up attacking a straw man.

For instance, Vamsee Juluri’s essay
articulates an attitude that may be widely shared by modern practicing
Hindus. He clearly differentiates it from militant Hindutva by making
plain the diverse and plural heritage of Hindu thought. But he
simultaneously argues against Doniger by saying her interpretations
flagrantly contradict the lived experience of devout Hindus.
dialectical argument raises many difficulties for both sides, and sets
up a tension between Hinduism seen as an intellectual object and as a
sacred practice. 

Second, however, it may be asked, shouldn’t the lived experience of
religious symbols and myths be part of what is explained by inquiry?
That is, shouldn’t the external, intellectual stance account for the
internal, experiential facts? For example, if one holds that the Shiva
lingam represents Shiva’s erect penis, how does this square with the
interpretive community’s view (e.g. possibly something abstract like
Shiva’s sexual and creative power or just Shiva himself)? In a parallel
situation, is it right to describe the Holy Communion in Christianity as
a cannibalistic rite?
Certainly there is a connection between a penis
and a Shiva lingam as there is between the body and blood of Christ and
the ritual bread and wine, but do these connections involve the literal connotations of “penis” and “cannibalism”? 

Doniger’s book is not about revelatory insights into the Hindus but
generally about completely worldly things like sex, death, and material
While Eros and Thanatos are undoubtedly powerful forces in
human lives and while material pursuits are indispensable to survival,
Doniger succeeds only in clarifying that the Hindus, like other humans,
were and are part of the animal kingdom.

Much of what she says is
probably true—the Brahmins did eat beef early on, for example—
and the
Hindus who have been offended by such facts ought to recognize that
religious values are not eternal but emerge through history. But, for
her part, Doniger fails to make sufficiently salient how unique and
humane the impulse of vegetarianism was as a response to the barbaric
conditions of material life
in all early human civilizations. She passes
up such opportunities over and over again.

For the aims she chose, her cultural history needed to
have been more of an intellectual history. She never explores what the thinkers
of Indian civilization did—whether Brahmins or non-Brahmins, men or
women—when they confronted conceptual problems like the origins of the
world and how we might come to know it.
No logic of inquiry or
argument is described as it would have to be if one wanted to “show the
presence of brilliant and creative thinkers entirely off the track.” 

Indeed, there is hardly any speculation about the metaphysical instincts
of the Hindus at all.
Her materialism, while right in spirit, is
summoned too soon and all one gets is the subterfuges and stratagems of
the ancients. No doubt these existed as they are an inevitable part of
human nature and no doubt they played some role in the worldviews of the
Hindus, but do they constitute what is special and unique about Indian
civilization, or any civilization for that matter?



Harappa in Chattisgarh

Tarighat, Chattisgarh lies amidst the lush Central Indian forests (Gandhians with Guns territory).

This document (pdf) provides additional insight on urban life in the Mahabharata days (2500 years young).

The truly interesting question: is there any demonstrable link with the Indus valley civilization?

Explorers claim they have evidence of a 2,500-year-old
planned city—complete with water reservoirs, roads, seals and
coins—buried in Chhattisgarh, a discovery that is being billed as the
nation’s biggest archaeological find in at least half a century.

The discoveries were made from Tarighat in Durg district
and spanned five acres of a sparsely inhabited region beside a river,
according to archaeologists from the state’s department of culture and

“As of now, we have four 15ft high mounds around which we
have evidence of pottery, coins and some terracotta figures,” said J.R.
Bhagat, deputy director in the department. “Once we begin, the entire
digging could take at least 5-10 years.”

The 5th and 3rd century BC—to which the Tarighat finds
date—points to a period when the region was ruled by the Kushan and
Satavahana dynasties in central India. While there have been extensive,
previous evidence of urban growth after the first century, such finds
are extremely rare for preceding periods.

“These were among the most interesting times in early
India,” said Abhijit Dandekar, an archaeologist at the Deccan College,
“It was the end of the period of the 16 mahajanapadas
(loosely translated to great kingdoms) when the Mahabharata was
supposedly set, and the beginning of the Maurya empire.
There’s very
little known about urban structures in this period, in regions spanning
modern-day Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.”

Dandekar, who is not involved in these finds, added that
evidence of towns and urbanization spanning five acres was quite
significant in an Indian context, though only excavations and peer
review would throw true light on the import of these findings.

He added that the excavations at Ahichhatra, near
Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, that began in 1960s were the most recent
evidence of large-scale town planning in India for a comparable period
and, if the Chattisgarh findings were as extensive, then it would be a
significant find.

“In an Indian context, an excavation has rarely been
disappointing,” said Dandekar. “If you believed there’s a city, it
usually turns out to be one and bigger than what you first expected.”

To be sure, Bhagat clarified that the finds still haven’t
been dated using methods such as radiocarbon or thermoluminescence
dating—modern, established techniques that measure the amount of carbon
or the relative proportions of other elements from which exact ages of
materials are deduced—but he added that the texture of the pots, the
typical pattern of raised mounds etc all pointed to evidence of an urban

“The kind of pottery called the Red and Black Northern
Pottery, the coins, etc., at the surface of the site itself show very
visible signs of complex urbanization.”

Arun Raj, a Chhattisgarh-based archaeologist with the
Archaeological Survey of India, characterized Chhattisgarh as being an
untapped “gold mine” for archaeology.
“We’ve just given them permission for this dig, and I
think it will be some time before we understand how important this is,”
Raj said. 

“But this region, which has been relatively unexplored due to
Naxalite conflict, could throw up several such finds.”

He added that one strand of Indian archaeological
research sought to find common threads urban lifestyle patterns of the
Indus Valley civilization that declined around 1300 BC, to urban
formations in central India. “This may possibly falsify or add more
credibility to such theories,” he said.

Dark days for Indian Mujahideen

Tehseen Akhtar is the son of a chemist in rural Bihar (Samastipur). He is also a commander (and chief of India operations) in the Indian Mujahideen (IM) aka Bhatkal Brothers Corporation (BBC), led by Yasin, Iqbal and Riyaz Bhatkal who originate from the Bhatkal town in Karnataka.

Yasin was recently arrested, Iqbal and Riyaz are head-quartered in a (not so friendly) neighboring country.

While the chances of disrupting the general elections was always high, Tehsin’s arrest will (perhaps) reduce the threat to limb, life and liberty. Or it may not. Recruitment into IM (especially from Azamgarh, UP) is reportedly strong, however most members are opting for Afghanistan where the Taliban senses victory. After that it is probably Kashmir, though Syria and Caucasus may be considered equally promising.

The arrest of a 23-year-old expert bomb-maker named Tehseen Akhtar has allegedly left the terror group Indian Mujahideen without a head in India.

by the police for months, Tehseen was arrested early this morning from a
village called Panitanki, near the border with Nepal.

The Delhi
police called Tehseen a big catch who had not just planned several
terror attacks, including the blasts targeting Narendra Modi’s rally in
Patna in October, but also helped set up an arms factory in the capital.

had allegedly been running the Indian Mujahideen in India since the
group’s co-founder Yasin Bhatkal was arrested last year, also near the
India-Nepal border.

is suspected to have a played a role in the 2010 bombing in Varanasi, a
cooker bomb blast outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi last year, the 2011
serial blasts in Mumbai, the 2012 low intensity blasts in Pune and the
twin bombings in Hyderabad last year. Almost 45 people were killed in
these attacks and over 200 were injured.

The tech savvy operative, who frequented cyber cafes, had allegedly been tasked with recruiting young men for terror in Bihar.

top Indian Mujahideen operatives – the Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and
Iqbal – and Amir Reza Khan are said to be in Pakistan. The Indian
Mujahideen was allegedly founded by Riyaz, Iqbal and Yasin, all of whom
belong to the Bhatkal town in Karnataka.



Dravidas of the world unite (no brotherly love)

MK Alagiri is the second son of M Karunanidhi (by his second wife Dayalu Ammal). MK Stalin is the third son (MK/DA). In all there are six children from three wives.

As of today Alagiri stands expelled from the primary membership of DMK. Stalin has already been anointed as the Yuvraj.

The eventual demise of dynastic politics in India through brother shedding the blood of brother is well known (example: Aurangzeb vs Dara Shikoh). Less well known is the example of father throwing one son to the wolves so that the other son may reign in peace. This one is truly for the history books.

The point is- it is
not just the current generation that needs protection from the unseen
hand(s) of fate, additional insurance must be purchased so that the
wheels of fortune remain frozen in time.

This is the same logic followed by Duryadhona in Mahabharata when he rebuffed Krishna’s peace settlement – gifting the Pandavas a token amount of 13 villages – he would not even consider giving away land that fits the point of a needle.  

So what happens in Act II? File a criminal case against the “boy” and get him jailed for life (at the present moment DMK is not in favor of death penalty due to its campaign to release the LTTE gangsters)?

A hard-headed and indeed a hard-hearted dad. One thing for sure, this will not end nicely.



Confirmed: MH-370 lost @ sea

Remarkable use of satellite technology, at the end still nothingness, most likely the pilots are culprits (we may never know).

The only good thing that will come out of this is that passengers will be encouraged to send frequent messages indicating where they are. Still if a pilot wants to commit harakiri no technology will stop that.
a British satellite telecommunications provider and the UK Air
Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have concluded that the missing
Malaysian Airlines flight went down in the southern Indian Ocean near
Perth “with no possible landing sites”.

Almost 16 days after MH
370 disappeared, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on
Monday that the London based satellite company Inmarsat had tracked the
final trajectory of the airline and “it is with deep sadness and regret
that I must inform you that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.

The prime minister said that Inmarsat had used the most advanced
technology available to confirm that the airline had been in the air
almost eight hours after it was believed that it had crashed.

Inmarsat had earlier announced that the ill-fated aircraft sent out
“keep-alive messages” establishing that the plane’s communications
system were still switched on — hours after civilian radars lost contact
with it.

Inmarsat said the missing plane was equipped with one
of its signalling systems which actually sent out a barrage of messages
much after it was lost to the world.

Razak said Inmarsat used a “type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort”.

Inmarsat’s calculations concluded that the airline flew along the
southern corridor and its last position was in middle of the Indian
Ocean, west of Perth.

It is believed that the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have also been briefed about the latest finding.

Malaysian Airlines says it now has to assume “beyond any reasonable
doubt” that missing flight has been lost and there are no survivors.



India: most important (future) US ally, really?

The results are not too encouraging (or discouraging if you are Arundhati Roy), if at all the India-focused numbers have gone down from the dizzying heights of the nuclear deal days.

Summary: India is considered a more promising future ally of the USA (ranked above China, Japan, and Europe) by US foreign policy experts. That conclusion seems to be on the money, unless a certain strong-man desires a closer Indo-China link (in preference to the USA).
The US public’s view of India has soured in recent years. In 2008, the year of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement,
63 per cent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a
favourable perception of India.
This year, that positive opinion has
fallen sharply to 46 per cent.

US attitudes toward India vary dramatically by demographic group. About
six-in-10 Americans with a college degree (61 per cent) hold a
favorable view.
But only 36 per cent of those with a high school
education or less see India positively.

The perception of India among some US foreign policy experts is more
favourable. When members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a
grouping of former diplomats, government officials and international
relations specialists
were asked in a separate Pew Research survey about
which countries will be more important to the United States in the
future, 37 per cent named India, while 35 per cent said China
and 25 per cent identified Japan.
Only 20 per cent said the European
Union. Nevertheless, this is a smaller portion of the CFR membership who
named India than just four years ago, when 55 per cent saw India as a
key future ally.

Moreover, 62 per cent of Americans support foreign firms setting up
operations in their country, which should be good news to Indian
investors, who had $7 billion in direct investments in America at the
end of 2012.

There is less good news for Delhi on a neuralgic friction point in
Indo-American relations: access to the US labour market for high-skilled
Indian workers. The US Congress is currently debating immigration
reform, and the US Senate has passed a Bill that would increase the
number of H1B visas often used to bring Indian information technology
workers to the United States for short stays. But it would also make it
harder and more expensive for Indian companies to make use of the
programme. Americans are effectively divided on the issue: 50 per cent
say more people coming to the US to work in high-skilled jobs would
mostly hurt the US economy, while 46 per cent say it would mostly help.

The divisions within American society on high-skilled immigration are
quite illuminating. Men (51 per cent) are more supportive than women (41
per cent). Six-in-10 (60 per cent) people with at least a college
education support high-skilled immigration, but only 38 per cent of
those with a high school education or less are supportive. There is no
major partisan divide on this issue between Republicans and Democrats.

More broadly, on foreign policy issues of concern to Indians, the survey
found that Americans aren’t buying the Obama administration’s pivot to
Asia. They say Europe (50 per cent) is the most important area to the
United States, rather than Asia (35 per cent).  

But this trans-Atlantic
foreign policy focus may not last. It is largely the view of aging baby
boomers. Americans aged 18 to 29, the next generation, share a
trans-Pacific sensibility. They say Asia is the most important, by a
margin of 52 per cent to 37 per cent.

So, while Americans are more open to economic engagement than they have
been in the past, they also continue to exhibit a wariness about
refocusing US policy toward Asia and have misgivings about accepting
more high-skilled immigrants. Deepening and broadening the Indian-US
relationship in the near term may prove an uphill struggle in this



Shias love Modi (for all the wrong reasons)

In India you should always expect the unexpected. If you feel something must be true the opposite will be true as well.

Shias will (may) vote for Modi because they feel oppressed…. by Sunnis!!! 

If petty issues prevent muslims from being united against a common enemy…well that is pretty much the story of India is it not? Hindus have their Jaichand, Muslims have their Mir Jafar, either way Indians have (always) lost out due to in-fighting. This is why people must make an effort to read history (and to learn from history).

Despite the clarion call by Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad to defeat the Congress
and the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi is surprisingly garnering
support from over 35,000-strong Shia community in Varanasi.

Excited by the response, the BJP also asked its minority cell to woo the
Shia Muslims. Varanasi has nearly three lakh Muslims, most of whom are weavers.
Also, the Gujarat riots have taken a back seat with local issues gaining

“There is no doubt that Shia Muslims in Varanasi are supporting Modi. The
support will come mainly from Dosipura, which is a Shia-dominated area,”
Maulana Mohammad Aqeel, Imam-e-Juma Dara Nagar Masjid in Varanasi told The
Indian Express.

He also reminded that in 2009, BJP’s M M Joshi victory margin was only
17,000.Dosipura includes as many as three to four localities, all dominated by
Shias whose number is around 15,000-20,000. Religious acrimony between Sunni
weavers and Shias will tilt the scale in favour of Modi.

Shias are supporting BJP because of local issues. Muslims from the Sunni
sect oppose our Taziya procession and Azadari during Moharram in Dosipura.
There is also a dispute over an Imambada land.
BJP openly supports us and now
we will support in return,” Maulana Aqeel said. Another Shia cleric, Baqar
Balliavi, based in Varanasi also admitted that Shias will vote for Modi.

Another Shia cleric Baqar Balliavi based at Varanasi also admitted that
Shias will vote for Modi. “No party supported Shias in their Azadari issues.
BJP openly supported us so Shias will support Modi here,” Baqar stated. He is
also a Pesh-e-Imam of Aurangabad Masjid, another prominent mosque of Shia
Muslims in Varanasi, and also runs a religious school.

Shias are also concentrated in Madanpura, Dal Mandi, Badi Bazar locality. “A
large section of Shias in these locality will also support BJP. It is
surprising for others, but not for us. The proportion of Shia support can
increase if other local clerics are mobilised,” Baqar added.

The BJP has asked its state general secretary (minority cell) Haider Abbas,
who also hails from Varanasi to motivate Shia Muslims. “Local issues are
affecting the polling in favour of BJP. But we are also placing larger issues
like development before them,” said Abbas.




The Guardian verdict: no lotus blossoms ever

The liberal voice of the Empire issues a clear guidance for the benefit of its erstwhile (and uninformed, easily manipulated, prejudiced,…) subject class:

Summary: AAP is still a bachha- cant be trusted to play with the big boys, regional outfits- cant be bothered to know about them and how they may actually hold the balance of power, it is the one and only Congress that must rise like a phoenix and erect a lakshman-rekha around the crown jewels (which are actually locked away in the British Museum).

The liberals (and not so liberals) may still get their wish, if the BJP scores less than 200 seats, and the total count (along with mercenaries) does not rise up to 272. 

If the BJP gets about 230 seats the sun will be setting on another distinguished dynasty. Were they as great as the Mauryas and the Guptas (and of course the Romans)? Only time will tell.

If the first play-book is picked expect quite a bit of turbulence, there will be a coalition of the rough which may soon collapse under its own weight. In the long run it will be difficult to stop BJP because of its reserve strength in the RSS and the serious leadership problems in Congress which the Guardian (understandably) brushes under the carpet.
Living next door to another coming country, China, means India’s arc is often overlooked. Forthcoming elections
in the world’s largest democracy will, however, be an event of global
significance, an awe-inspiring logistical exercise. Voting begins on 7
April and continues for six weeks in nine separate tranches because of
the logistical Everest of balloting an electorate of more than 814

Congress will likely plump for Rahul Gandhi
as its new prime ministerial candidate. At 43, the scion of Rajiv and
Sonia should at least appeal to the young electorate: two-thirds of the
population are under 35 and 150 million are eligible to vote for the
first time. But while Mr Gandhi bears the gift and burden of the family
name, he is inexperienced and, as yet, appears to lack the political
touch of his father, the authority of his grandmother, or the legendary
status of his great-grandfather.
For these reasons and others,
Congress will likely take a pasting. 

Though polling in such a large
country is more alchemy than science, there is a strong possibility that
the BJP will form the next government, probably with Mr Modi as prime
minister. Mr Modi is one of the most polarising politicians to have
walked India’s political stage for many years. He is the candidate of
change, and has established a reputation as an effective manager, which
appeals deeply to voters who spend their lives trying to negotiate
bureaucracy. But he has been repeatedly accused (and cleared) of stoking
anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002, in which a thousand or more
people were killed. It was only in 2012 that the UK decided to end a
boycott of Mr Modi by senior officials. The US has followed suit in
recent weeks.

A third force is the new Aam Admi party,
which has its roots in a broad anti-corruption movement and has made a
point of transparency and accountability. Yet the AAP remains a reaction
to India’s political woes and not, or at least not yet, a solution for

India needs change. It needs reform, infrastructure and jobs
for hundreds of millions of young people. The best hope of resisting
the nationalist BJP, now or in 2019, lies with Congress, the party that
has dominated Indian politics for best part of 70 years.



The al-Bunjabis from al-Bakistan

A commenter claims that Arabic does not do R  (like Rubber), T (Topi), or D (Danda). Also P will be replaced by B (Z with D). Sounds a bit limiting and the accompanied loss of Urdu will certainly be a shame.

That said, if Punjabis prefer to call themselves al-Bunjabis there is not much need for hand-wringing.  
Losing your native culture (or elements of it) is not that bad if substituted by something of equal (or greater) value. In this case it is the language of Gods (Arabic) supplanting the language of poets (Urdu). Or in the eyes of the Taliban pure words replacing impure ones.

This can (may) trigger an identity crisis amongst the older generation, in India the worry is that the youth are becoming Americanized (as seen in the emergence of Hinglish). Even the Tamil-firsters admit that while they fought (and won) the battle against Hindi, they lost the war against English!!! The pull of a more powerful culture will not be denied regardless of how much ever heart-break it inflicts. 

It is undeniable though that the alien licence plates represent one more milestone marking the (mental) distance traveled by the Punjabi middle-class on the road from SAsia to SArabia.

Columnist, analyst, journalist and culture critic Raza Rumi’s take
is: “Nothing is more telling than the literal identity shift of Pakistan
taking place in Punjab. Number plates with Al Bakistan amounts to
changing the name of the country. I would suffer from an identity crisis
if I were to be called Rada instead of Raza.
Intriguing how the
administrative apparatus in charge of issuing number plates and
registration is complicit in the Arabisation process. I also saw a much
higher number of camels during the last Eidul Azha (please note it is
not Adha for most of us but will be soon called that). Allah Hafiz.”

these the first few signs Pakistan is moving towards Arabisation? Is
the land of five rivers slowly giving way to sand dunes, camels and date
trees? Well, maybe not.

“I had gone to Dubai a few years ago
where I saw similar number plates that I liked. They somehow looked
cool. On my return I thought why not get one for my car, but with a
twist. A few months after I got my car’s number plate designed with some
Arabic, I saw a lot of vehicles bearing the same design. I felt good to
be a trendsetter of sorts,” Abuzar Butt, a young car showroom owner,
told us.

Hafiz Muhammad Ali, a bike owner, who also had the same
kind of number plate, said: “I saw so many cars with these fascinating
new number plates. I clicked a photo of one, took it to a plate maker
and got one made for my bike too.”

The number plate makers can’t
be blamed for this for they are merely doing their job. “I’m just a
regular plate maker. I will make a plate according to any design you
provide me. And this is also the case with these Arabic ones. I get the
designs and I make them,” said Niaz, a number plate maker on Jail Road.

But not
everyone is amused by vehicles becoming ‘Arabised’. Rizwan Saleemi, a
businessman, says: “Most of the people who are doing this belong to
upper-middle class Punjabi families based mostly in Lahore and other
cities of Punjab.
They are going through some kind of a paradox. They
want to enjoy everything modern consumerism has to offer; a good car,
preferably modified, mind/ear blowing sound system, giving their
girlfriends a spin in their brand new Corollas and Civics every now and
then. But wait a second, what about the fancy Altima they had when they
used to roam around Riyadh, Dubai or Qatar? They had a nice Arabic plate
on that elegant ride; let’s get made one for my car here in Pakistan.”

The second reason, he says, is the “ridiculous amount of romanticism of Punjabi middle classes with their presumed Arab roots”.

plates, sadly, look fancy to the majority, but I personally despise
them. This is surely one of the signs we are adopting Arabic culture,
and we have seen many already. Basically, culture thrives on middle
classes, and Punjabi middle classes are no more there for their culture
and language. So more Arab culture to see in the coming days,” the angry
young man speaks his heart out. Hold on … how do you say “angry young
man” in Arabic.