The Taj is Indian..or is it?

Symbols are very important, often they help define a nation. The students make a convincing case that the Taj is “Pakistani,” they make an even more convincing case that studying history is important.

Yet, in a class of undergraduate students at one of Pakistan’s best
universities, precisely this question was animatedly debated during a session
on Pakistan’s history, with some students stating that the Taj was part of
Pakistan’s history, and others implying that it was ‘Pakistani’.
These students had all taken a course
in Pakistan Studies prior to starting their undergraduate degree…

Pakistani history has been a contentious topic where different sets of
narratives give differing accounts of what Pakistani history is and, hence, how
one imagines Pakistan. Given the eventual partition of British India and the
creation of Pakistan, some historians have claimed that Pakistan was ‘created’
in 712 AD when an Arab invader came to what is now part of Pakistan.

Hence, if the history of Pakistan is the history of Muslims in India, and
just as Mohammad bin Qasim can become part of a certain legacy and heritage and
can be caricatured as the ‘first Pakistani’, so too can the Taj as ‘being’
Pakistani. Pakistani history and a history of Pakistan’s people and their land,
become two conflicting narratives.

As a consequence, ‘Pakistani’ history, ignores the history of the people who
live in what was Pakistan (West and East) and what is left of it. Mohenjodaro,
Harappa, and the history of the people
of Pakistan is dominated by a north Indian (largely Hindustani) Muslim history,
and that too only of kings and their courts.

In the most ingenious and creative recent book to be published on Pakistan’s
emergence as a political idea, historian Faisal
in his Muslim Zion raises
some fascinating and sophisticated arguments which complicate any simplistic
notion of what passes as Pakistani history.

His book is a highly nuanced and multilayered understanding of the ideas
which led to the justification and creation of Pakistan, and while many of
Devji’s conceptualisations need to be contested, for our purposes his statement that Pakistan’s history lies
outside its borders, gives rise to some of the problems of imagining a history
of Pakistan described here, and allows some to claim the Taj Mahal as

Moreover, if this claim that Pakistan’s history lies ‘outside its borders’
is valid, and indeed in many critical ways this is certainly the case, it also
implies, that the country which came into being called Pakistan, in this
hegemonic notion of history, really has no history of its own. The so-called
‘freedom movement’ was fought in a foreign land, the land of the Taj Mahal, not
the land of the people who inherited a country called Pakistan where their
ancestors had lived for millennia.




Dr David

One gun-shy, low-power doctor is standing up against the high-powered National Rifle Association and may even win. Suddenly the second amendment is in danger due to alien beliefs held by people who were (till recently) aliens. First they take away the jobs from deserving natives and now they are after the guns as well.

“Dr Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun
control measures raises significant concerns about his ability to
objectively examine issues pertinent to America’s 100 million firearm
owners and the likelihood that he would use the office of the Surgeon
General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” the
NRA said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, seeking to torpedo the Indian-American’s

“Given Dr Murthy’s lengthy history of hostility
towards the right to keep and bear arms, along with his calls for the
full weight of the federal government’s health apparatus to be used to
target lawful gun ownership, there is little reason to believe that he
would not work to further a gun control agenda if confirmed as Surgeon
General. Simply put, the confirmation of Dr Murthy is a prescription for
disaster for America’s gun owners,” the letter said.
Murthy, who is
only 37, was examined closely about his stand on gun control during his
confirmation hearing. He trod carefully on the hot-button, hair-trigger,
issue in a country that has argued itself hoarse on the right to bear
arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.

Senator Paul has indicated he will use procedural maneuvers to put a
hold on Murthy’s nomination. But Democrats say they have enough votes to
overcome the block. In confirmed, Murthy will become the highest
ranking Indian-American official in the U.S administration, not to speak
of the youngest surgeon-general in 150-plus years the office has been
in existence.



Fashion nightmare

The general thumb-rule is whatever makes conservative rule makers unhappy is good for the society. Now under normal conditions I find the burqua offensive (especially when school kids in Std I are forced to wear it). However it seems the waves of modernity cant be stopped, and change when it comes from within (in small increments) is going to be much more durable and resistant to backlash. All this is ..a nice silver lining.

Muslim women in
Aligarh are increasingly using the traditional burqa as a fashion statement,
embellishing it with designer touches. Burqas inspired by English gowns or
those with Chinese collars, are doing brisk business. So are the modern abayas
from Dubai beautified by laces, pipings and pintex design.

These changes may be redefining the garment – observers say some two-piece
burqas have the chutzpah of cholis and the flirty feel of frocks – but the
makeover, expectedly, hasn’t gone down well with the city’s maulanas.
“Women are precious in Islam and the purdah was introduced to protect
them. The new style of wearing fitting burqas, and adding studs and stones to
them attracts attention and emboldens rapists,” says Mufti Shamun Qasmi,
vice president, All India Imaam Council.

Shopkeepers in the city say that demand of the garments is high, despite what
the orthodox voices may say. “Around 60% of my customers come looking for designer
burqas,” says Rehaan, a burqa-seller at the city’s Amir Nisha market.
“They are also viewed as a status symbol since many of the pieces feature
intricate zarkan embroidery. Today, many women are working and they want to
assert their empowerment through these designer abayas.”



Idolatry runs wild

Tamil society led by the Great Man used to take great pride in breaking Ganesha idols  and burning Rama portraits (to symbolize a break with Brahminical hegemony). The Dravida movement was perhaps even more focused on rooting out all Hindu traditions (superstitions) than the communists. Even a few years ago Karunanidhi was calling Hindus thieves.

Now we have this.

The Chief Minister of the state, J Jayalalitha
celebrated her 66th birthday yesterday the 24th February 2014. All over the
state, posters and hoardings of the leader were put up by her enthusiastic
admirers and party workers. One of the posters portrayed the Chief Minister as
Goddess Lakshmi. 
Khushboo landed in trouble recently when she offended a Hindu religious outfit
by wearing a saree with Lord Rama, Krishna and Hanuman printed on it. Also
actor Jai starrer ‘
Saraswathi Sabatham
‘ was in
the fire as the film portrayed God as watching a Kuthu song and being
Last year
when Rajinikanth had a quiet 63rd birthday, one poster put up by a few
overenthusiastic fans had both his fans and the superstar in trouble. The
controversial poster depicted the Superstar standing in a queue to cast his
vote and the Gods Ganesha and Vishnu
standing in the same queue, squeezed among
other people. A religious outfit was outraged by this depiction of Rajinikanth,
and promptly lodged a police complaint.

The same Ganeshas that were being destroyed earlier have now re-incarnated (resuscitated) as Rajnikanth the living God.

As an outsider it appears to me that the symbolic (and not so symbolic) expulsion of Tamil Brahmins has perversely led to the dominant Shudra communities being relaxed about superstitions, image worship and the rest. On top of this you have now Tamil hindus complaining about blasphemy. Karunanidhi is calling Modi a hard worker and a good friend. The whole thing is of course very silly but quite sinister as well.



Copts- elites amongst elites

By Brown Pundits Archive 2 Comments

as per Gregory Clark (The Son Also Rises). Indian Christians merit a separate category (why? they are all Brahmins). Separate Iranian Muslim category (there must be a large count of Iranian non-muslim physicians). Chinese are surprisingly low down in the ranks. Black African is possibly the most meaningless classification (the author would probably like to single out black non-Americans, but then there is also black Haitian).

As far as Indians are concerned it would be of interest to look at data across generations- first generation, second generation,…and so on.



Appeal for personal law reform…in Pakistan

In a South Asian context the fault lies here as much with the (faux) liberals as with the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. These laws more than anything else keep people in their ghettos. Also it points to the huge (sometimes evil) influence that pre-modern Britain had on the sub-continent (not that this excuses the inability of SAsians to repeal discriminatory and stupid laws).

A Pakistani man on Friday challenged the nearly 150-year-old
Christian Divorce Act in a court so that he could separate from his wife without
accusing her of adultery. Ameen Masih, who filed a petition in the Lahore high
court, said, “I want separation but
owing to complications in the Christian Divorce Act of 1869, I have no other
option but to level an allegation of adultery against her.”

He said: “With pain I have to admit that I accused my
wife of adultery, which she never committed, in order to divorce her.” Masih said divorces under the act had been
tarnishing the image of innocent Christian women.

The act enacted during the British Raj has legal lacuna that
should be done away with, he said. Section 10 of the act should be declared
ultra vires and in contravention of the Constitution, he added. “Only
provision of divorce abridges the fundamental rights of Christians,” he
said. Masih asked the court to strike
down the impugned section of the act so that Christian men could divorce their
wives in a “dignified way”.



Fight to the bitter end

How much do we the browns value “clean chits” from our superiors- the whites (of course they are our superiors in every way)? Evidently a lot. Unlike the original Battle of Britain some 60 years ago, the new battle of Britain (and the USA) will be a hand to hand combat experience. The funny thing is that the “visa question” may even benefit Modi (victim status confirmed) more than it hurts him (and it must hurt a lot).

A debate on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s controversial
past sparked a row at a meeting within Britain’s parliament complex.

Human rights groups and organisers of ‘Narendra Modi and the Rise of Hindu
at a committee room in Parliament building on Wednesday claimed they
had been subjected to intense pressure and death threats from Hindu right-wing
groups in the UK to cancel the debate.

“This meeting has been held under extremely difficult conditions, in the
face of death threats. It just highlights the inability of Narendra Modi’s
supporters to tolerate anything other than their narrative and attempts to
suppress free speech,” said Chetan Bhatt, director of the Centre for the Study
of Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE).

The meeting received the backing of a number of British parliamentarians,
led by Labour MP John McDonnell, as well as celebrated India-born British
artist Anish Kapoor. “We are in a moment of great danger and your call to our
sense of justice is much needed,”
Kapoor said in a message read out at the




Understanding the geographic context for Islam

 I hope I’m not sounding too much of a geographic determinist but it does echo what I’d be droning of for years as Islam as predominantly a mercantile and arid faith. Islam’s borders can be pretty much defined by the prevalence of pork in the East, West & South (Uganda is 15% Muslim but pork is a very favoured meat here).

The wonderful story given by the demi-god Mackinder on Lahore is the last paragraph of the top page and continues on. Oh and by the way Russia is not a European power but a North Asian one.


Flat out prejudice

By Brown Pundits Archive 1 Comment
Many people much wiser than me have voiced this thought but it needs repeating, Hindus (and Jains and..) and Muslims of all stripes need to learn to co-exist with each other. Communities (to use a cliche) should learn how to recognize is that the enemy is not the other man (or woman), but the common poverty, illiteracy, and all other social ills. All said and done you dont have to be a hero to get a flat in Mumbai, let alone a muslim one.

In September 1990, Captain Zainul Abidin Juvale, master of a cargo vessel called MV Safeer, became master of the fate of 722 Indians who sailed out with him from Kuwait to Dubai. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s troops had invaded Kuwait and the Indians there were stranded for over a month.

For over a month now, Juvale has been house-hunting in Bandra (W), but he is unable to buy a flat when he likes one. The brokers have frankly told him that the societies where he has shown interest have an unwritten rule: not to rent or sell flats to Muslims.

“Nobody asked me my religion when I risked my life to rescue fellow Indians who faced starvation and death in Kuwait,” says Juvale. “Now I am being made aware of my Muslim identity.” 

PS In response to Zachary, most likely to be societies dominated by veg Hindus/Jains. Non-veg Hindus will also not be welcome.


A world built on Slavery

As late as 1940 under sustained duress by France, Haiti was still spending 80% of its budget paying slave-owners compensation for their 1791 independence and emancipation. Essentially it took Haitians 150yrs to buy their own freedom as a free people and then we have the temerity to ask why is Haiti a poor nation?

I’m interested to consider whether one-drop rule had much to do with the lingering effects of slavery in Anglo-America?
Consider, for example, the way the advancement of medical knowledge waspaid for with the lives of slaves.
The death rate on the trans-Atlantic voyage to the New World was staggeringly high. Slave ships, however, were more than floating tombs. They were floating laboratories, offering researchers a chance to examine the course of diseases in fairly controlled, quarantined environments.  Doctors and medical researchers could take advantage of high mortality rates to identify a bewildering number of symptoms, classify them into diseases, and hypothesize about their causes.
Corps of doctors tended to slave ports up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Some of them were committed to relieving suffering; others were simply looking for ways to make the slave system more profitable. In either case, they identified types of fevers, learned how to decrease mortality and increase fertility, experimented with how much water was needed for optimum numbers of slaves to survive on a diet of salted fish and beef jerky, and identified the best ratio of caloric intake to labor hours. Priceless epidemiological information on a range of diseases — malaria, smallpox, yellow fever, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and so on — was gleaned from the bodies of the dying and the dead.
When slaves couldn’t be kept alive, their autopsied bodies still provided useful information. Of course, as the writer Harriet Washington has demonstrated in her stunning Medical Apartheid, such experimentation continued long after slavery ended: in the 1940s, one doctor said that the “future of the Negro lies more in the research laboratory than in the schools.” As late as the 1960s, another researcher, reminiscing in a speech given at Tulane Medical School, said that it was “cheaper to use Niggers than cats because they were everywhere and cheap experimental animals.”