Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thought I should post something interesting on the Pope controversy. Its quite disturbing that there is a possibility of a violent confrontation between these two extremist faiths (christianity is still quite moderate, but the Pope's controversial speech could be a prelude to a more radical form)

Pope launches battle for Europe

Pushing the envelope firmly while regretting the 'misunderstanding' caused by his discourse on violence in Islam, Pope Benedict XVI has sounded the battle-cry for Christian domination in Europe. His initiative in a speech supposedly about faith and reason at Germany's University of Regensburg vindicates the Western world's political foresight in making Vatican City independent and giving the Pope the status of a Head of State with membership of the United Nations.

Though in reality a borderless suburb of Rome, formal independence gives the Pope parity with world leaders not available to other eminences, such as the Grand Mufti of Mecca, who is a citizen of the Saudi kingdom. This subterfuge has enabled the West to profess secularism and de-legitimise the role of non-Christian faiths in the public life of nations where these are the dominant traditions, while retaining the political presence of Christianity on the world stage.

It is an admirable arrangement. The secular Italian Government is not obliged to dissociate from the Pope's remarks, yet his statements perfectly suit the political needs of his Western co-religionists. Mr. George Bush has designated jihadi violence as "Islamo-fascism", Mr Tony Blair has lambasted the ideology of evil; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has supported the Panzer Cardinal's critique of a doctrine feared by a Europe softened by post-Second World War prosperity and deculturised by the phony rhetoric of secularism, multiculturalism and the various hues of socialism.

rest of article: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&file_name=jain/jain97.txt&writer=jain

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Posting after quite a while, found a nice interview with VS Naipaul, i've posted some of the relevant points that he makes about how and why our society has come to be the way it is, i guess it takes an outsider to make such shrewd observations, his is an interesting journey in itself, hes an Indian from the carribean whose forefathers migrated a few generations back to work in the sugarcane plantations , and now he has come full circle, returning as a world famous author, revealing to us things about our past that we just like to slide under the carpet or just are completely oblivious to. History is obviously not one of our strongest subjects, even though it should be.

Some excerpts of this brilliant interview:

And then in your next book of travel, a journey through India called An Area of Darkness there are more unacceptable truths. It created a huge stir in India. I must confess that reading it at college was a revelation: it made one aware of things that were hitherto invisible, but right in front of one's eyes. And yet I found it difficult to argue wholeheartedly for the book amongst my friends. My admiration had to be a sly secret. Tell me how you came to write An Area of Darkness. Why India?

Oh, ancestral land. I was close to India in my upbringing. I grew up in a very, very Indian household. That was the world for me. And there was also the independence struggle, which was taking place when I was in my teens. That mattered to me.

And you had kept abreast of it?

Oh absolutely. All our family did.

So India was self-discovery?

Well, the truth was that I was shattered by India, by what I saw. The things I saw just seemed to be repetitive, and I didn't think there was a book there. I felt there wasn't a book in my travels. And for three months afterwards I did nothing. I was faced with the possibility of having to give the £500 advance back to André Deutsch, so I wrote the book. What I did was I opened an exercise book, and put down on two sheets all the things that struck me, with little headings, and I looked at them; and I made a shape, and more or less followed that shape. The book changes in mood and manner. It's now writing about literature, it's now telling about the writer being in Kashmir, it talks about arrival and then talks about visiting ancestral villages - but that was the way it was done.

The book violated our central Indian preserve of nationalism, an uncritical and often mendacious glossing over history, over poverty, prejudice, superstition, caste, cruelty, hypocrisy, filth, etcetera. India didn't want any of that talked about. Didn't that reaction come back to you?

Not really. I was doing my work, I had to keep alive, I had to write another book. And you must remember at a very early stage I stopped reading the critics. I didn't like seeing my name in print, and hurried past it whenever I saw it. That's still true.

Nissim Ezekiel, a well-known poet, edited a collection of essays against An Area of Darkness.

I didn't know. I didn't think of it that way, as an attack on India. I thought of it as a record of my unhappiness. I wasn't knocking anybody, it was a great melancholy experience actually. Mark you, it's full of flaws: what it says about caste is influenced by ideas I had picked up here, British ideas. I think differently about caste now. I understand the clan feeling, the necessity of that in a big country. And the book was bad about Indian art. I should have understood that art depends on patrons, and that in Independent India, with the disappearance of Indian royal courts, the possibility for art had been narrowed - instead of thinking that this was rather terrible, that there was no art. It will nag at me now, it will nag at me for some years.

Years later you return to India and that journey results in A Wounded Civilization, which is much less a travel book. It brings to the surface movements from below that haven't been looked at by Indian writers.

Yes, the book is different. The result of an American commission. The publisher asked me to go and look at the Emergency that had been imposed on the country by Indira Gandhi's government. A modern way of doing that, a cannier way, would have been to go to India, chat to a few dissidents and journalists, and do that kind of report. But I preferred to do this.

The book is unusual. It tries to make sense, in one section, of the Shiv Sena, regarded in India as a provincial, even a fascist movement. You express empathy and see them as the only party who care about hygiene, about health, about the destitution of the slums in which they operate. The main characteristic of the book is its urge to get under the surface of these phenomena with a tremendous sympathy. It is the opposite of ideological. What compelled you to attempt that?

Because of my background I have the most sympathy with these movements coming from below. I don't forget my peasant origins in this way, and that we were unprotected, our family, people like us in Trinidad. We had no voice. And in this way I'm quite different from Indian writers. I'm different from Mr Nehru and people like Indira Gandhi. I don't think those people ever knew the Indian peasantry. I think very few Indian writers know or have a feel for their mentality and their lives even now. They're middle-class chaps. But I came directly from the other. In spite of the transplantation, my ancestors going to Trinidad, and in spite of education, and being a writer and everything else - those are my origins and perhaps this is why my sympathy is there. And I could always understand them, the peasantry, the landless, the people below giving themselves a break for the first time for centuries, perhaps even for a millennium or more.

And that was the book in which I began to understand the nature of the Indian calamity, what had happened to India: and that was when I began to question, where I went against, the teaching of the independence movement that spoke of the two cultures, the two religions being one really - and I saw that India had been crushed by the Muslims. I didn't see this clearly, I saw it later, but that book begins to deal with that idea. And I think this is a book which only someone of my background could write, because middle-class, self-deceiving Indian people wouldn't think like that.

Underlying your observation of India there is the historical perception that the Muslim rule of India which spanned perhaps five or six centuries destroyed much of Hindu India. The wounded civilisation is seen as a society which has been historically mutated, truncated and damaged by proselytising and intolerant Islam. You begin to see this in India: A Wounded Civilization.

In my analysis of Narayan's novel at the beginning of India: A Wounded Civilization, I think it's clearly stated about the invaders. But Narayan speaks about the invaders in this general way, and I suppose I myself was just dealing with the invaders in this general way, not specifying or researching the acts of the Muslim conquerors, the rulers and their governors.

The thing about being an Indian, and it remains true of Indian writing now, is that it seems to work without history, in a vacuum. Indian writers don't know why their country is in such a mess. They can't understand the poverty of India, they don't know why seventeenth- and eighteenth-century travellers talk of a derelict countryside. Very easy to think that it might be because of the British, but much easier in fact to pay no attention to it at all. This lack in Indian writing, even in Narayan's writing, is a fatal flaw.

Narayan grew up a day's journey from Hampi, where there are these extraordinary ruins of the city of Vijayanagar, capital of the ancient Hindu kingdom, which I went to see in 1962. And this destruction had been done in 1565. I think a writer like Narayan should have understood what had happened, especially as he'd written a guidebook to the area. But he didn't respond to that. In a way perhaps the defeat had been too great. How can you write about your setting, your culture, if you can't see what happened 400 years ago? He has a really magical way of writing and looking, but his picture is incomplete.

Because it has no historical perspective?

It stands on no history. It hangs in the air.

But he writes about a place he has created, an imaginary town, Malgudi, like Hardy's Wessex.

Yes, and he thinks it's eternal. In fact, his India is a ruin, he's writing about a ruin. And indeed you should ask, who created the ruin? Why is there this ruin? The ruin wasn't eternal.

You explore the theme in great detail in your last and major work about India, India: A Million Mutinies Now. It has a huge sweep and a powerful underlying theory of the progress of a myriad classes and kinds of people. And the form is startling too. It is virtually a chain of biographies that define the subcontinent, biographies of ordinary and extraordinary but neglected people. Why do you call them mutinies?

It discovers modern India through the revolts, then further revolt, the individual mutinies. And 'mutiny' is a simple word meaning people wishing to assert themselves. People coming up, the wounded people, the wounded civilisation, using these British-given institutions to assert themselves after independence. They have had no voice for so long, but now they are in the process of being someone. To me that's very moving.

It is a very hopeful book. And again embodies the compassion from below. I remember you correcting me when I first asked you about it, telling me they were 'stories' not 'interviews'.

They are stories. In an interview you are getting someone's opinions, and I was very particular in this book, I wanted people's experience, and for the experience to illuminate something. One experience, one illumination, linked to another - it's linked in that way, it makes a pattern. I remember when I began it I spent so many days in the Taj Hotel in Bombay, wondering how to move. Where do you start? Then a reporter, Laxman, a person I had been in touch with, began to understand what I wanted, and he took me to the Shiv Sena, which had now become a political force in Bombay. It was just one of these happy accidents, we began like that. I talked to people who people would not have looked at before. Indian writers wouldn't want the stories: they would do social surveys about the very poor and the very wretched. And then I met a man from the Atomic Energy Commission whose grandfather had been a priest in a temple. So when I went down south I looked for this person, to understand how over a couple of generations one can breed atomic scientists from families steeped in ancient religion. I was interested in that sort of discovery.

It has been said that your historical analysis of the Islamic conquests and destruction in India plays into the hands of divisive politicians, setting Hindus against Muslims today, and gives succour to the Hindu extremist.

People who say that have no wish to understand history, or what is created by history, or the movements that are part of a response to history. They have their own idea of history in this respect. It's - to use this word, which is actually a good word - a construct. It's a construct that came about during the independence movement.

Whose construct? Was it Nehru's, Gandhi's?

I think Nehru had a hand. Gandhi didn't construct it. Gandhi in a way had a pretty good idea of the damage, but he felt that India had survived it all. But he knew what had happened.

What evidence is there that Gandhi knew or shared the idea that the Muslims had destroyed Hindu civilisation?

No, I'm not saying it as boldly as that. I'm thinking of his book about Indian Home Rule, Hind Swaraj, where he talks about the anguish of India, etcetera. I'm assuming he knows a little bit why the anguish is there. He thought the British made it all; the British made it, yes, but it started long before then.

You do understand the argument of the nationalists, like Nehru…

They had to get people together for the independence movement, and they had to tell stories.

Is it dangerous to violate that story? To point at the Muslim past?

I don't think it's dangerous. I think it's necessary to violate that story. Indians wonder why their country is a country of misery. I have some idea of this land trampled over, and why it was trampled over. Every country has a history. Indians live in a country without seeing the history.

So without understanding there is no redemption?
No, I don't think so.

You don't think that knowing the truth about that history would predispose anybody to be anti-Islam or anti-whatever?

I think that the Muslim people of India should know the history too, and in fact just across the border in Pakistan they know the history. They boast of the history. So why should people just across the border in India pretend it doesn't exist? What kind of nonsense is this? In their junior history books it's there. 'We conquered, and looted. And we destroyed. We did away with all the idols, we did away with all the temples. Yes, it was our land'. The Pakistani dream is one day that there'll be a Muslim resurgence and they will lead the prayers in the mosques in Delhi. You can hear that in Pakistan.

Can you? I didn't know that the Pakistanis were about to do that to India.
But it is a kind of dream.

you can read the rest here: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses01/rrtw/vsnaipaul.htm

Friday, August 04, 2006

I really wish Indian journalism could be a little more fearless, both print and television , many of the indian news channels instead of tackling and discussing the hard issues, now have degenerated to sensationalist news reporting, stuff that you would see only in tabloids, maybe its just a reflection of the indian public as a whole, reluctance to talk about something that everyone knows is a problem but no one wants to address, so take the easier escapist route instead, the channels are just meeting a need. The one quality channel that we have, NDTV, is unfortunately a leftist mouthpiece . Well anyways another great article from TR Jawahar, he is able to get to the crux of the matter mainly because he doesn't take the head-in-the-sand ostrich approach, something that most of the rest in the country are adept at doing.

Secularism: Solace or a scourge?

'We have to build a noble mansion of a free India where all her children may dwell': These are words from the famous Tryst with Destiny speech of Jawaharlal Nehru, delivered at the midnight hour when India attained independence. But, unfortunately, that was also the hour when, a few hundred kilometres away, on either side of new India's new border with the new Pakistan, countless Hindus, the children alluded to by Nehru, were butchered in what had till then been their home. And Nehru knew pretty well what was happening.
Cut to a few months later: Mahatma Gandhi goes on a fast demanding that the new government of India immediately pay off the 'amounts due to Pakistan', notwithstanding objections even from Nehru and Patel, apart from the overwhelming national opinion against it. And this when scores of Hindus in Punjab and elsewhere were being systematically deprived of their ancestral and hard earned properties, through destruction or plain usurpation by Muslim mobs with the overt support of Jinnah's establishment. And Gandhi, too, was quite update on their plight.

Cut again, now to the present: Home Minister Shivraj Patil, addressing a symposium on Madrasas, says ' Madrasas are not centres of terrorism. They are seats of social service, where knowledge of humanism is being imparted and human values are taught'. The blood spilled by the Mumbai blasts have not dried. World over Madrasas have come under close scrutiny and there is not just a clamour for their reform but even a clampdown on them for their bigoted religious education even in rank Islamic countries. Yet, our Home Minister, who is in charge of internal security, offers a post haste clean chit and certification for the Madarasas in India, en masse.

Now what signal is the Home Minister sending to the investigating authorities who report to him, the enemies they purportedly target and the teeming multitudes of India, whom those enemies are now targetting? Well, the message is no different from what Nehru and Gandhi were delivering to the nation and its tormentors during those fateful days: That Indians are suckers, will see or hear no evil and have enough cheek, only to show and offer to as many bullies for them to slap and slam!'

rest of article here: http://newstodaynet.com/point/2907ss1.htm

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Finally, I found the right article on the mumbai blasts to post on this blog. This editor really puts things in crystal clear perspective echoing many of our own thoughts on the current state of affairs.

Suicidal silence of the lambs

As I write this, the Israeli military is relentlessly bombarding the airport of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The reason for the rain of hell fire is the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese terror outfit, Hezbollah. So, is Israel overreacting? Apparently yes. But given the history of Islamic violence that Israel had to contend with particularly in the context of its vulnerable geography too, surrounded as it is by Islamic nations with their legendary hatred for anything Jewish, its actions reveals a stern wisdom borne out of experience: the only language Islamic terror understands is counter terror, preferably pre-emptive! Nip it in the bud, before they turn you into a corpse, which is not a possibility but an eventuality. Little surprise, therefore, that the jehadis deem Israel a tough nut to crack, a small nation of a David holding out against violent Islamist Goliaths all around.
This prelude is presented out of both frustration and inspiration; frustration because of the way Indians have been rendered sitting ducks by a combination of factors, mostly self-inflicted, to the bombs of Islamic terrorists: inspiration, because if India has the will, Israel has already shown the way. If the holding of just two soldiers warrants a war, what should be India's payback to the Islamists for the gallons of 'kafir' Indian blood that they have spilled over the years in the name of their religion? But alas, Bharat somehow still seems to love its blissful confinement to the negotiating table, even as the battlefield beckons. The 'will' to take on the terrorists is nowhere in sight and hence it is frustration that finally overwhelms inspiration, unless you are an incurable dreamer or a fan of Vijayakanth, who has killed more terrorists on screen than have our forces.

rest of article here: http://newstodaynet.com/point/1507ss1.htm

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Just a few thoughts on the Mumbai Bombings:

I am not even sure what India's response to the Mumbai bombings could possibly be, the incompetence of our indian intelligence is matched by the accompanying lack of political will on the part of our rulers. The Indian political leadership has never been very strong except when it comes to holding onto their seats, but this one takes the cake. This prime minister is officially the worst leader India has ever had, he is weak and spineless, and he overtly demonstrates this when he attempts to make statesman like speeches, he neither inspires nor assures. Every word that he utters, has the tone of a man who is nothing but weak and helpless, as if he needs constant pitying. His address to the nation after the blasts, far from assuaging the pain of the people and assuring them that the state will act decisively, actually tells us why the terrorists will strike again. They know, the consequences won't be very severe with such an impotent leadership at the helm of affairs. As for the spirit of the common man, the mumbaikar, for being able to tide over this, it is no doubt admirable but, with more such attacks, it is going to start to look more like cold indifference towards the death and suffering of the victims of such attacks and less as an ability to move on. There has to be some response from the people, the govt comes from the people and reflects their attitude, this kind of tolerance of any kind of dastardly act is only going to encourage the terorists to carry out even more horrific acts in the future. Indians can obviously start by throwing out this govt next elections, the BJP isn't exactly awe inspiring, but at least they have a little more conviction and nationalistic feeling unlike this power hungry bunch of scoundrels who for votes will goto the extent of appeasing a minority that is increasingly turning its back on India. Most of this community has pretty much decided that its future is an Islamic one, not an Indian one and this is the other major reason why such bomb blasts will continue to take place in our trains(Mumbai), markets(Delhi), workplaces (Bangalore), temples(Varanasi) and wherever else fear can be spread. The truth is, many of us haven't quiet understood the real meaning of tolerance, for many it is just a clever way of disguising our inability to take action, this is the manmohan singh brand of tolerance. Rajeev Srinivasan put this brilliantly on his blog when he talks about our tolerance, it is "an example of the tolerance of the weak. the weak *have* to tolerate oppression -- they have no choice; and there is nothing noble about it. " One thing is for sure, our inability to act and respond strongly looks even more shameful when contrasted with the response of the Israelis towards extremists and those who support them and their cause, they are a beacon, showing the way to the rest of the world, showing exactly how states should be dealing with this menace to society.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This one I really liked, talks about our cultural heritage in south east asia, something that doesn't get much prominence in our school textbooks. The article has some nice pictures in it too, must say, this is quite an unusual article, some beautiful illustrations accompanied by some stinging food for thought!

Greater India's magnificent heritage

Rajeev Srinivasan on India's cultural empire

The earthquake that struck Indonesia's Java island late in May was especially tragic. Not only in terms of the many victims of the quake, but also in the damage done to the temples at Prambanan.

In the vicinity of Java's cultural capital, Jogjakarta, stand two of the greatest treasures of Indonesia's Indic heritage, the temples at Borobudur and Prambanan. I visited them both about fifteen years ago, so I was anxious about any potential damage to them from the quake, and alas, there was quite a bit.

Borobudur is the Buddhist temple built 1300 years ago; and Prambanan, originally Brahma-vana, is the Hindu temple built 1,100 years ago. The two could not be more different, architecturally speaking. Borobudur is squat, hulking, powerful, a giant stupa that is a man-made mountain; in fact, it is the largest structure in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Prambanan is tall, slender and ethereal.

Prambanan consisted originally of three slender towers reminiscent of the North Indian style, as well as over a hundred smaller, subsidiary temples which are generally in ruins. The three major towers were dedicated to each of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; only the central temple, the one for Siva, was mostly intact even before the quake. It was also known as Lorojonggrang ('slender maiden' in Bahasa Indonesian). Now it too is apparently badly damaged in the quake.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

The article definitely raises some interesting points, earlier i probably would have dismissed this article, now i think it is well worth a think over

Think it over

Patriot or Nationalist: What are you?
By M.S.N. Menon

Do we Hindus know the difference between patriotism and nationalism? More often, we do not. We ask in surprise: “What is the difference?”

Let me illustrate: Tagore was a nationalist. Jinnah was a patriot. Nehru was a nationalist. Iqbal was a patriot. To Tagore, India was a “living mother”. So she was to Vivekananda. But to Jinnah, she could be no “mother” of any kind.

Tagore wanted to be born in India “again and again.” That would be blasphemy in Islam. “With all her poverty, misery and wretchedness,” Tagore says, “I love India most.” Why? Because “it has been the haunt of our gods, the hermitage of our rishis, the nourishing mother of our forefathers.” Jinnah would have been horrified at these thoughts.

Yes, we Hindus have a special relation with India —with everything Indian. Which explains why we were nationalists ready to make the greatest sacrifices to liberate the country from foreign invaders. The minorities in this country may be good patriots, but they certainly have no “special” relation with India.

And we Hindus are bound together by an inner unity. This was not geographical unity or political unity, but cultural unity, says Nehru. Which is why it could not be broken up in a thousand years by foreign invaders. Hindu nationalism grew out of this seed-bed.

And this cultural unity was set by none other than Shankara, the greatest philosopher of Hinduism. In his brief but strenuous life, he demonstrated what constituted the culture of India and the cultural boundary of India.

Geographically, India is more or less of a unity. Politically, she has often been split, “but right from the beginning, culturally,” says Nehru, “she has been one because she had the same background, the same traditions, the same religion, the same heroes and heroines, the same old mythologies, the same learned language (Sanskrit), the same places of worship spread out all over the country. To the average Indian, the whole of India was a kind of punya bhoomi, a holy land.” Thus, says Nehru, the agnostic. According to him, “there arose a common Indian consciousness, which triumphed over and partly ignored the political division of the country.”

In choosing the four corners of India for this mutts—for his order of Sanyasins—Shankara set the cultural boundary of India. The political boundary of the Hindus had waxed and waned, but never the cultural boundary.

rest of article here: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=137&page=14

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