A slightly edited version of the following was published on rediff.com on march 1st, 2012 at http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-social-contract-why-modi-scares-the-usual-suspects/20120301.htm
Social Contract: Why Narendra Modi scares the bejeezus out of the usual suspects
Rajeev Srinivasan on why Narendra Modi is a threat to the establishment because he overturns many of the convenient myths they propagate
It is a predictable a winter ritual: around this time every year it gets into high gear. A bit like Super Bowl season or duck-hunting season: the season to invent, regurgitate and shed crocodile tears over stories about how wicked Narendra Modi is.
There are quite possibly three reasons why there is such widespread and venomous criticism of Modi, apart from the obvious political fact that he has become a viable candidate for national office. Any one of these is good enough reason for Modi-bashing; but given all of them simultaneously, no wonder his detractors are practically apoplectic.
The three reasons, in my opinion, are:
- Modi has created a Social Contract with the people of Gujarat, which seems to work; it has broader national implications as well
- Modi has tamed the corruption monster, by not taking bribes himself, but more importantly, preventing others from doing so
- Modi has shown total contempt for political shysters and media hucksters: this hurts their amour-propre; not to mention their pocket-books
Modi’s greatest achievement has been the fact that he has created a clear social contract with the people of his state. (I am indebted to my friend B Rao of Los Angeles for this insight). Modi promised them development, and he delivered. In return, he asked for just one thing: discipline; and the people delivered. This has become a win-win situation for both parties, and for investors: there is a visible change in Gujarat’s fortunes, right on the ground.
The State GDP growth rate of Gujarat in the recent past has been at a scorching pace of 11.3% in 2005 (see http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-glimpses-of-gujarats-high-growth-story/20120209.htm), considerably greater than that of India as a whole. This does not, alas, satisfy carping critics.
There was a long essay in Caravan magazine: I glanced through it, and one of the points made was that, even though $920 billion in investment had been promised for Gujarat during the last few ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ meets, only about 25% of these have materialized. That, however, is the norm in India: no more than about 25% of the promised investment actually materializes.
But look at the sheer numbers: almost a trillion dollars in investment proposals, and actual investment of, say, $230 billion! That is astonishing. This number can be directly contrasted with another large number: $462 billion. That is the amount estimated by Global Financial Integrity http://india.gfintegrity.org/ as the total amount siphoned out of India through illegal financial flows between 1948 and 2008.
In an intriguing irony, ‘Vibrant Gujarat 2011’ saw MoUs for $462 billion being signed – precisely the same as the amount estimated by Global Financial Integrity as having been spirited away in sixty years of allegedly socialist rule at the Center!
Modi has delivered on his implicit Social Contract: growth in return for order. When you think of social contracts, there are several models to consider, for instance those attributed to Europeans such as Locke, Rousseau and Hobbes, medieval imperialist models, Indian models, and the Confucian ‘Iron Rice Bowl’.
A common thread among all these models is that there is a tradeoff: there are rights, and there are responsibilities. It is necessary that you give away some of your rights in the interest of the greater good of society. The models differ in details, as well as in perspective – for instance is it teleological/utilitarian, preferring the greatest good for the greatest number, or is it deontological, preferring to protect the rights of the very weakest members? In some cases, it is neither, and is meant to be purely exploitative.
It could be argued that Modi has revived a traditional Hindu/Buddhist social contract, which, in return for discipline and hard work, provides the populace with security and righteous order. The population may pursue dharma, artha, kama, or moksha, without interference from the State; but they pay taxes and do their civic duty, and the State guarantees protection from predatory outsiders. This is roughly in line with the American idea of the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
This general Indian principle also evolved into the idea of gentlemanly warfare, wherein non-combatants were spared, with only the kshatriya class involved in bloodshed, battles ended at nightfall, and winners were chivalrous to fallen foes.
This sort of contract is explicit in Emperor Ashoka’s reign, and most vividly in Chanakya’s Arthashastra. Chanakya laid out in detail the kinds of information-gathering and management control that a sovereign needs to institutionalize, and contrary to popular mythology, Ashoka employed thousands of spies to ensure that any unrest was nipped in the bud and malcontents isolated.
This model was what turned India into the most prosperous nation in the world, as detailed in Angus Maddison’s magisterial economic history of the world. It was in fact the world’s leading economic power till roughly 1700 CE.
This model worked for several thousand years, from the earliest known stages of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization roughly five thousand years, up until the arrival of Arab and Turkish hordes in the 1100 CE timeframe, and later, the European hordes circa 1700 CE. This dharma or ‘natural order’ in Locke’s terms has been forgotten by modern Indians, brought up on a steady diet of misinformation.
The models that today’s Indians are more familiar with are Hobbesian, leading to “nasty, brutish and short” lives – those of empire. We have endured three forms of this imperial model: Muslim, Christian, and Communist. And we have barely survived.
The Arab/Turkish Muslim social contract of dhimmitude imposes order by explicitly reducing the rights of certain groups (non-Muslims) while allowing them the minimum possible subsistence to exploit them as productive members of society. However, in India, this was an unstable equilibrium because the Hindus resisted, and resisted continuously, unlike non-Muslims in, say, Iraq, Egypt or Persia.
The European Christian social contract of colonialism imposes order by explicitly pursuing a policy of overseas theft and loot, based on the superiority of “guns, germs and steel”. Interestingly, this social contract is now unraveling, as there are no more subject peoples to loot and steal from: Europe is collapsing into oblivion.
An excellent interview in the Wall Street Journal on February 26th with historian Norman Davies http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203918304577240984211126416.html suggests that the end is nigh for Europe. Why? Its social contract with its citizens has been that they would get prosperity in return for providing the muscle for overseas expeditions. Bereft of empire and forced to fall back on their own (minimal) resources, countries like the UK are rapidly reverting to their natural, Hobbesian state: the riots in several cities last year are indicative of this.
The Communist social contract is a form of fascism and Stalinism. It demands absolute loyalty from the public in return for… well, promises, but not often the reality, of prosperity. There is the stinging criticism that Communism offers you a version of democracy: “one man, one vote, one time”. That’s it. One time.
The incarnations of this contract range from the brutal gulags of the Soviet Union, China and Cambodia to the more mellow socialism in India. But that last, even though less violent in visible ways, has been an economic crime against humanity: it prevented 400 million Indians from climbing out of poverty. After sixty years of it, Manmohan Singh called hunger in India a ‘national shame’. It is indeed a shame, and it indicates the utter failure of the Communist/socialist social contract.
This is why the powers-that-be fear Modi’s obviously successful social contract: much as they try to paint Modi as hell-bent on victimizing Muslims, the latter have voted with their feet. They are willing to stay in Gujarat, eschew violence, and prosper. The Hindus are doing exactly the same thing: they have stayed, eschewed violence, and prospered. Precisely: a real secular state, where you succeed not based on your religion, but on how hard you work.
So clearly there is an alternative to the orthodox Stalinism of the powers-that-be, one that works. How terrible it will be if the rest of the country took notice! Whatever will the purveyors of failed social contracts do? That is reason number one Modi is bad.
Reason number two is related. Endemic corruption, and lack of leadership, are the biggest problems India faces. There are many leaders who are supposedly personally honest, but who allow those around them to indulge in the mass loot of the public treasury. Is that any better than if they were themselves indulging in theft? Probably not: it just adds hypocrisy to their other crimes.
Modi has been able to fix corruption with a singular mantra: not only is he personally not on the take but he doesn’t have offspring on the take either (Bhishma-like, eh?). But what’s more, he doesn’t allow anybody else to be corrupt either. This is most distressing for the neta-babu crowd. The fishes and loaves of office are turning into ashes in their salivating mouths: so what is the point in spending big bucks to get a rentier job or an MLA seat unless your rent-seeking self can recoup the investment in a matter of months? None whatsoever, and that is precisely the point!
It is amusing to note that Narendra Modi is immensely popular everywhere in Gujarat, except in the capital Gandhinagar – his party gets defeated here routinely, while it gets two-thirds majorities elsewhere! The neta-babu log are, understandably, unhappy with him. But I suspect the legendary mango man (aam aadmi) is quite happy.
The third reason is that, just as Modi has tamed the politician-bureaucrat nexus, he has also figured out the way to deal with the loud and self-important media, soi-disant “intelligentsia” and the NGO crowd. He doesn’t pay any attention to their foaming at the mouth; in fact, if I remember right, there was some incident where he simply got up and walked off a live TV interview when the rabid host kept hyperventilating.
India’s media and “intellectuals” have fattened themselves by attaching themselves to the mammaries of the welfare state, and following a simple mantra: “All the news that will get us crumbs from the government or junkets from foreign donors”. In fact, India has some of the most astonishingly biased people in positions of power.
There is, for instance, a statement by an activist immediately after the Sabarmati Express was set on fire, and 59 Hindus, mostly women and children, were burnt alive. This person said: “while I condemn today’s gruesome attack, you cannot pick up an incident in isolation. Let us not forget the provocation. These people were not going for a benign assembly. They were indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilization to build a temple and deliberately provoke the Muslims in India.” (‘Mob attacks Indian train’, Washington Post, Feb 28th, 2002 http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13791-2002Feb27?language=printer).
Now imagine that this person sits on the all-powerful National Advisory Council! Let us now further imagine that this person has relentlessly filed petition after petition against Modi; has been accused of serial perjury and witness tampering; and is yet considered a credible spokesperson.
This is just an example of a media/NGO nexus that believes strongly in “truth by repeated assertion”, a successful tactic by the Communists too. That the Indian media is prostituting itself to the highest bidder (when they are not being bigots) is no surprise; no wonder Modi doesn’t care two hoots what they think. But this, of course, annoys the hell out of said media who fancy themselves as judge, jury and executioner put together.
There is a minor cottage industry that is centered on explaining how Hinduism is at the root of all evils in India. The latest is a bunch of misinformed kids at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, who wrote an essay wherein they blamed everything that is wrong in India on the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Arthashastra. There is ample evidence that this sort of ritualized strawman-building-and-knocking-down is a successful imperial tactic.
For instance, the British claimed Ayurveda and kalari payat were evil, banned them, and burned the books. They claimed the ancient practice of smearing cowpox pus as a preventive against smallpox was ‘barbaric’, and banned it. They claimed devadasis were an abomination, but in fact they were, like geishas, cultured women of substance, who often endowed public works like dam-building. They claimed dowry and jati are evil; but dowry, according to Veena Talwar Oldenburg’s remarkable research, was the result of British practices. Jati is the very reason Indian civilization has survived, because its distributed nature makes it hard to eradicate.
Narendra Modi is one person who has figured out the antidote to the venom from the self-proclaimed “intellectuals” and their newspapers and TV. He goes over their heads to a higher-authority: the people. And the people respond, showing said “intellectuals” how superfluous they are. No wonder they are livid.
Thus, by re-creating a viable social contract, by being an ethical leader, and by ignoring the vicious, Modi has shown he has the one thing that India needs: leadership. Not at all good, if you are one of those currently pretending to be leaders.
2200 words, 26th Feb 2012
August 10, 2010
A version of the following appeared in DN&A on Aug 10th, 2010 at http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/comment_britain-needs-to-show-contrition-about-the-raj-s-depredations_1421101.
A pdf of the page is at http://epaper.dnaindia.com/epaperpdf/10082010/9main%20edition-pg10-0.pdf
The Empire strikes back
The Cameron visit reflected realities, but we must not forget imperial barbarity: never again!
The recent India visit of UK’s prime minister David Cameron got less attention than it deserved. Cameron was clear that his intent was to build up business ties, reflecting the relative importance of the UK and India in the global economy. Cameron was explicit that he was speaking to India on equal terms; some might even say, to be dramatic, that he was a supplicant with a begging-bowl.
Cameron also made a statement about Pakistan’s role in terrorism in the Indian subcontinent, which, to any impartial observer, was justified by the evidence, especially the recent uncovering of 92,000 secret US Army documents. Cameron merely observed that Pakistan must be not be allowed to, well, speak with forked tongue, and export terror, which it seems to do quite happily today.
Besides, India refused to even talk of British poverty-reduction aid. But what was more interesting was the reaction of the British media to what they perceived as the humiliation of the British nation when it has to beseech India to increase trade with it.
India is waxing, and the UK waning. India’s economy will overtake the British economy even in nominal (it already has in PPP) terms soon. I have asked a number of Britons what exactly their core competence is – and the inevitable answer is “financial services”. Yes, that makes sense, because after all Britain manufactures practically nothing anybody else wants.
Britain has come full circle in that regard. When they appeared at the imperial Chinese court circa 1750, seeking trade, the Chinese told them they needed nothing of British origin. Of course, thereupon clever Brits introduced opium, which did make the addicted Chinese open up their purse-strings. Which opium (or in Marx’s terminology, opiate), I wonder, do the Brits have in mind now for India?
Intriguingly “financial services” is a euphemism for “the interest earned on the money we looted from your country”. I did a little accounting of the systematic loot by Britain, based on estimates by contemporary scholars such as William Digby and Dadabhai Navroji, and later historians. The number is astronomical, not less than $1 trillion, and possibly as much as $10 trillion in today’s money. For comparison, US GDP is about $13 trillion. They don’t have much else: they have even pawned the East India Company and other family jewels. Hard times, indeed.
Not surprisingly, there was an outburst in the UK Daily Mail titled “Stop saying sorry for our history: For too long our leaders have been crippled by a post-imperial cringe”. This was from an obvious Blimp-type named Dominic Sandbrook who clearly felt peeved that Indians preferred independence.
What apologies? The British have never apologized for empire, nor have they given any reparations. Compare this to the decent Japanese, who, the Chinese have learned, can be made to cough up billions just by jumping up and down and screaming “Rape of Nanking”.
Even if there were no apology, an acknowledgment of mala fide would help. Instead, the visit of the British Queen and her husband a few years ago produced the black comedy of their insensitivity to the horrors of imperial rule. It appears the husband, Prince Phillip, is one of those upper-class people immortalized by PG Wodehouse (think Bertie Wooster, Gussie Fink-Nottle).
Phillip had the audacity to go to Jallianwallah Bagh and declare that there were really not that many casualties there. When asked to substantiate this startling statement, he airily said General Dyer’s son had told him. And who is General Dyer? Why, merely the guy who had ordered the firing at Jallianwallah Bagh. Talk of conflict of interest!
Sandbook’s broadside was followed by another by Nirpal Dhaliwal titled “Britain has no need to make an apology for Empire…”. I beg to differ. Britain, at the very least, needs to apologize for Jallianwallah Bagh – you know, defenseless crowd in a walled garden with no access, 1675 bullets, 1579 casualties?
And how about the horrifying famines circa 1890, which left upto 20 million Indians dead? The classic account of this, “Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World” by Mike Davis should be made compulsory reading in Indian schools. So should “The Raj Syndrome: A Study in Imperial Perceptions” by Suhash Choudhary, a brilliant expose of the belly of the beast.
We need to know that under British rule there were 31 major famines in 200 years, as opposed to 17 in the preceding 2000 years.
We need to know history so the healing can begin. Those wronged deserve apologies. The West is pretty bad at contrition. Every year, on August 5th and August 9th, there is no American repentance about the atomic bombs it dropped. I have been to Nagasaki’s peace park, close to Ground Zero. There are solemn memorials there from many countries, but not the US.
825 words, Aug 8, 2010
Errata: It is Suhash Chakravarti, not Suhash Choudhary, who wrote the outstandingly brilliant ‘The Raj Syndrome’
June 14, 2010
A version of this appeared in DNA on Jun 15th at:
and here’s the pdf for the full page:
The parlous state of Hindu temples in India
Rajeev Srinivasan believes government has no business running temples into the ground
There was shocking news recently about the collapse of the raja-gopuram of the Sri Kalahasti temple near Tirupati. This is no ordinary temple – it hosts one of the five important Saivite jyotir-lingas, each associated with one of the elements (earth, wind, fire, air and ether). The gopuram was built by Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar in 1516 CE, although the shrine itself is a millennium or two older. Most nations would treat such ancient monuments as a treasured part of its cultural heritage, but not India.
The 150-foot tower, a typical Southern-style vimana with intricate carvings, was damaged by lightning some years ago, yet absolutely nothing was done by the authorities. After the collapse, to add insult to injury, a report by a commission said the tower had “outlived its life”. Would this same logic apply to, say, the Taj Mahal – has that outlived its life? It is the business of the State to maintain its cultural heritage and artifacts. There are reports of similar damage to other temple towers, eg. at Srirangapatna near Mysore.
Then there was the news that the Kerala High Court lambasted the Travancore Devaswom Board for being corrupt and inefficient. The Court observed that Hindu temples are struggling“orphanages”, poorly maintained and falling apart; Hindus are orphans.
Furthermore, a Cochin Devaswom Board official got drunk and vomited within the temple precincts at the Siva temple at Vaikom, necessitating elaborate purification ceremonies. This is also no ordinary temple – a major Saivite shrine, it is also historically important. It was the Vaikom Satyagraha in 1924 that led the way to the dramatic Temple Entry Proclamation in Travancore in 1936. And the official’s ‘punishment’? He was promoted to Vigilance Officer!
All these events point to an abomination in the allegedly secular Indian State – there is no separation of Church (meaning religion) and State, as is the norm in modern nations. The State must be indifferent to religion, and it should not allow religious sentiments to color its actions — the true definition of the term ‘secularism’.
A Devaswom Board is an oxymoron. There should be no involvement of the State in religion, which should be left to individuals and religious groups. In fact, that is so with non-Hindu religions in India – they can run their own affairs with no interference from the government, except for largesse – such as Haj subsidies for Muslims, and Andhra’s own subsidies for Christians to travel to Palestine/Israel on pilgrimage.
On the other hand, Hindu temples are under the control of an interfering State, with disastrous results: they are being destroyed systematically by the rapine and pillage of the malign State. On the one hand, temple offerings are expropriated by the State; yet, the State does not even perform basic maintenance. The offerings, amounting to crores, from large shrines such as Tirupati or Sabarimala, are simply treated as general government revenue, and are not recycled to small, poor temples.
Traditionally, temples were the centers of the community, running cultural events, acting as a focal point for efforts such as water conservation, drought relief, famine avoidance, and so forth. This is in the racial memory of Hindus – and so we contribute whatever we can afford to the temple. The State has found it convenient to appropriate these funds. The pittance that a poor believer donates is grabbed and diverted by the Government!
The malice is obvious in Kerala where the State controls most of the temples through the Devaswom Boards, which, it is said, are infiltrated by atheists and anti-Hindus. It can be seen in the difference between Board temples and others. The latter, private temples belonging often a joint family, are thriving, while the Board-controlled temples are impoverished, falling apart, and finding their lands stolen.
I found this to my chagrin at my own family’s centuries-old temple, which we had handed over to the Travancore Devaswom Board about a hundred years ago. On my previous visit, about five years ago, the temple, while old, was thriving. Today, it is on the verge of being abandoned, thanks to indifference and possibly even malice on the part of the Board: an alleged renovation has been totally botched.
This is, amazingly, a continuation of a colonial-era crime – a British Resident named Munro, a missionary bigot, forced the Maharani of Travancore circa 1819 CE to commingle temple lands with government lands, with the result that a lot of those lands, essential to the income and running of temples, were alienated. Consequently, the 10,000+ temples in Travancore then have now been reduced to a mere 2,000.
Governments have no business interfering in religion. It is a crime against the people of India for the government to ruin these cultural treasures, a common heritage of this nation.
815 words, June 12, 2010
May 12, 2010
A version of this appeared on rediff.com at http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/may/12/rajeev-srinivasan-on-why-india-is-so-full-of-charlatans.htm
Accountability, a four-letter word in India: Why India has so many charlatans
Rajeev Srinivasan on why the State must ensure that people will pay for the consequences of their actions, a concept that is sadly unknown in India
“Clawback” – now that is a term in the American financial jargon that must be giving sleepless nights to some of the ex-Masters of the Universe from the fearsome investment banks that have fallen on hard times. This refers to the literal clawing back of benefits gained by those who, in hindsight, turn out not to have deserved them.
For instance, there is a move afoot to seize the multimillion-dollar bonuses awarded to investment bankers while their firms were creating the financial meltdown with their cavalier use of collateralized debt obligations and credit-default swaps. Those who caused billions of dollars-worth of damage couldn’t possibly deserve their fat bonuses.
It is not clear whether proposals to regulate Wall Street will succeed, and whether any ill-gotten gains will actually be clawed back by the taxpayer (who ended up, of course, bailing out said firms). But the very fact that this is being considered is a deterrent to future hanky-panky. That is, people would have to factor in the possibility that their malfeasance will have consequences.
India is refreshingly free of such old-fashioned niceties. In India, there are no consequences to the worst behavior, provided, of course, that you have the right credentials – that you belong to certain privileged categories of people, which include media mavens, film stars, politicians, cricket players, et al.
It goes beyond a lack of concern about delivering results – it has become routine to be cynical; promises are mere expectations. Many contracts are not worth the paper they are written. It has become a national pathology, or national pastime if you prefer, to lie about what one will deliver: you too must be guilty of saying “Consider it done!” when you knew there was no way you were going to do it.
Most Indians work this into their calculations, but it baffles foreigners, thereby adding to the impression that Indians, like Chinese, are inscrutable – a euphemism for “unreliable”. This makes it difficult to do business, because what appears to be an iron-clad guarantee to the outsider is often really only a ‘best-efforts, god-willing’ type of weasel-wording to the Indian. And Indians are accustomed to there being no penalty for lack of performance.
This is seen in every walk of life. On the one hand are the lionized cricket-players who make absolute billions. One would expect that the cricket-consuming (I am tempted to say something about Lotos-Eaters, but shall desist) classes would demand top-notch performances from their stars; but alas, they routinely put in pathetic performances because they know there are no consequences – they will get their millions, win or lose.
I have suggested in the past that there should be some deterrents to poor performance: I understand in soccer-crazy Latin America a player who caused the national team to be eliminated from the World Cup was shot dead on return. The threat of physical harm – say the loss of a finger or two if you screw up badly – would energize team-members wonderfully. Well, if you are squeamish about that, the least one can do is – there again, that wonderful concept – ‘claw back’ their ill-gotten earnings!
Similarly, much has been written about the lavish lifestyles of cricket executives – who, not surprisingly, include a number of politicians. Why not set Income Tax on these folks and claw back the BMWs and private jets and other bling they have accumulated?
Well, perhaps the cricketers are minor villains in comparison to politicians. The naturally cynical voter, accustomed to lavish promises at campaign time, expects nothing to materialize. Experience suggests that this is wise. The elaborate ruses intended to ease rent-seeking are truly creative, a wonder to behold.
A good example is the ongoing saga of the 2G mobile telephony licenses. The circumstantial evidence is damning – an ‘auction’ which was first-come, first served, and also wherein the last date for bidding is arbitrarily shortened by one week without notice. The final ‘winners’ included several players who were totally innocent of any telecom experience before and after. But they were quick to turn around and sell their licenses to telecom companies at 10x profit.
Interestingly, there has been no talk of clawing back these obscene and undeserved profits. The Prime Minister, who is said to be honest and decent and an economist, has maintained a Sphinx-like silence. The latest I heard about this is a detailed memo from the Department of Telecommunications exonerating themselves and their minister from all blame – a ‘clean chit’ in quaint officialese. No penalty for anybody.
Then there is the matter of the nuclear ‘deal’ that India has entered into, after many promises of a wonderful energy future. This was the justification for acceding to many conditions, which, in my opinion, eviscerated India’s nuclear deterrent capability and did nothing more for its energy security than create dependence on uranium-mining nations.
Interestingly enough, Pakistan and China, bellicose nuclear neighbors, have just entered into a deal for which Pakistan did not have to make any concessions whatsoever. China is giving Pakistan two nuclear plants as well as missiles: which, to put it bluntly, is pure proliferation. The United States, which screams “non-proliferation!” whenever India is involved, was strangely silent. In other words, yet another scam has been perpetrated.
Is anybody losing his job, or are they being prosecuted, for misleading the Indian public and walking the country down the garden path? Of course not. Similarly, the country is suffering the worst inflation in decades, and the price of food items in particular have shot through the roof. Has anybody been punished? Of course not.
By not putting in place mechanisms to ensure there is punishment for sinning, India is creating the right environment for ‘moral hazard’. People will take unnecessary risks, secure in the knowledge that if they win, they keep the loot; if they lose, the taxpayer pays. No wonder India is so full of charlatans.
An edited version of this appeared on rediff on May 6th at http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/may/06/rajeev-srinivasan-on-the-banality-of-evil.htm
Why good people do bad things: the ordinariness of evil
Rajeev Srinivasan on why normal people do appalling things in the wrong circumstances
In the aftermath of the Ajmal Kasab trial and the failed bomb attack in New York, the impartial observer would find it hard to conclude that Pakistanis were mild, inoffensive people. But in fact there are a number of people – apart from the professional Wagah candle-holders – who cannot believe that this kind of horror could come from the kind of Pakistanis they know – PLUs (people like us), urbane, sophisticated, great hosts and dinner companions.
There is, of course, the fallacy of rapid generalization: every Pakistani is not like the people you know, who are likely to be the world-traveling sort. There are many dirt-poor, uneducated people who have been brainwashed with strange notions of what Indians are like and what India is like. Given high population growth and a fairly stagnant economy, the number of these “Bottom-of-the-Pyramid” people is much larger than those at the top of the pyramid, the 22 ruling feudal families who own the place.
But apart from the logical fallacy, there is also a more subtle issue, that of how easily evil can take over even perfectly normal, well-adjusted people. It turns out you don’t have to be a sociopath to do the most horrifying things: your random neighbors, such as the kindly old man down the street, the kid who drops off the newspaper, the old lady who is full of religious zeal – any and all of them can turn into monsters under the appropriate circumstances.
This was demonstrated in Cambodia, when under the Khmer Rouge, perfectly ordinary people became mass killers. I have been to Tuol Sleng prison and interrogation center in the middle of Phnom Penh, where thousands of people were tortured, and confessions extracted from them. They were photographed and meticulous dossiers prepared about each of them. They were then taken to the Killing Fields on the outskirts of town and dispatched with a blow to the back of the head with a spade.
But what is most amazing about Tuol Sleng is that it was formerly a school in the middle of a residential neighborhood! It still looks like an inoffensive school from outside, although inside it is the Genocide Museum, with the interrogation cells left as they were, harrowing paintings of inhuman torture, and row after row of black and white photographs of those who were about to die, including some Indians and other foreigners. It is a metaphor for the banality and very ordinariness of evil. The Khmer Rouge were the greatest mass-murderers in the recent past, killing some 15% of their compatriots.
Ordinary Cambodians – farmers, artisans, bicycle-repairers, fishermen – were instruments of civilizational suicide. Similarly, perfectly normal Hutus went on the warpath in Rwanda against embattled Tutsis, attempting genocide. Ordinary Germans did the bidding of the Nazis; ordinary Europeans participated in an orgy of violence on innocent people during the horrifying Inquisition, dispatching thousands, especially women, in the most appalling ways.
And so with the Pakistanis. The young men of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and other terrorist outfits were not monsters to begin with: they were turned into what they are quite deliberately – they have been manufactured by a consciously-created system where they have no choice but to become monsters.
I was reminded of all this when I was listening to an archived podcast from 2007 of an interview with Philip Zimbardo, a retired professor from Stanford, whose celebrated “Stanford Prison Experiment” of 1971 was a startling practical demonstration of how evil is engendered. In 2006, Zimbardo wrote a new book, The Lucifer Effect, because he was struck by similarities between the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq and the Stanford experiment.
The experiment was simple: Zimbardo set up a simulated prison in the basement of one of Stanford’s buildings, and recruited 24 normal male college students for a two-week study of the behavior of prison guards and prisoners. The students were randomly assigned to either role and given uniforms or prison smocks to wear, but no specific instructions on behavior except that there must be no physical contact. Zimbardo himself acted as both ‘jail superindendent’ and research leader.
The results were startling: within 36 hours, the ‘guards’ started misbehaving, exerting their power over the ‘prisoners’. One of the prisoners had a nervous breakdown. Within three days, the guards were exhibiting brutal, sadistic behavior, and the prisoners were increasingly humiliated and oppressed. Several other prisoners also had nervous breakdowns. On the night of day five, sexual torture began: the prisoners were made to expose themselves, and to simulate sodomy with each other.
On the sixth day, a shaken Zimbardo abandoned the experiment, which had been slated to run for two weeks. He was shocked to realize that certain dangerous boundaries were being crossed, and that some of the participants might end up with permanent psychological damage.
The fact that perfectly normal, intelligent college students – they had been screened for any abnormality – could so easily be turned into sadistic monsters is astonishing. Apparently the situation had gotten the better of them:
Perhaps the normal human condition is indeed the Hobbesian “nasty, brutish and short”. Maybe “Lord of the Flies”, the book about a group of boys abandoned on an island evolving into a dictatorial society, is all too true. Perhaps the Law of the Jungle is indeed the right metaphor, much as we like to think of ourselves as civilized beyond fang and claw and might-is-right.
In a related study, the Milgram Experiment at Yale analyzed the willingness of volunteers to administer electric shocks to unseen victims based on orders from authority figures. It turned out that – with no gender differences – people were quite willing to torture people whom they had never met. (The shocks were simulated, and so were the recorded screams of the recipients, but the subjects didn’t know that.)
Zimbardo believes that it is not the individual’s own inherent tendencies, but the social situation around them that drives bad behavior. That can help us understand the pathology of the Pakistani situation. These young men have been told for such a long time that Indians and Hindus are evil and monstrous that they have internalized it. It is the environment that addles them. Therefore, expending a lot of effort on the arrest and prosecution of individual terrorists is not going to have a major impact, because they are expendable – there are many waiting in line, ready to step into their shoes. In that sense, it is immaterial what happens to Ajmal Kasab – he is simply cannon fodder, dispensable.
It is the system that is psychotic, and it is so by intent. That is why Pakistan refuses steadfastedly to move against those who have created the system: for instance, Hafiz Saeed of the Jamaat-ul Dawa (the current nom-de-guerre of the Lashkar-e-Toiba). The Pakistanis have refused again and again to prosecute Saeed, just as they refuse to extradite Dawood Ibrahim. These are strategic assets for the ISI. People like Hamil Gul, ex-ISI eminence-grise, have articulated the grim calculus of this perspective.
The system in Pakistan was put in place by General Zia-ul-Haq, who fundamentalized education, the Army, and the rest of society (it may be remembered that Zia in effect banned the use of the ‘Hindu’ sari, and encouraged the ‘Pakistani’ salwar-kameez). The textbooks were re-written to eulogize Central Asian invaders. History begins with the Arab invasion of Sind in 712 CE. The word ‘Hindu’ is always preceded by ‘cunning baniya’. The idea that a single Mohammedan soldier is worth ten Hindus in valor was put about, notwithstanding considerable evidence to the contrary.
American psychologist Sam Keen suggested in Faces of the Enemy that a major part of warfare lies in dehumanizing the enemy. Every nation has created extraordinary propaganda against its enemies: by internalizing this, young soldiers are able to kill other young men without compunction, because they believe the enemy are sub-human monsters intent on raping ‘our’ women, destroying ‘our’ nation, and so on. The book includes hundreds of posters, cartoons and other material from 20th century propaganda, which Keen calls the “archetype of the hostile imagination”.
Surely, there is Indian propaganda against Pakistan; however, it is on a secular plane, and does not target Pakistanis based on religion. In fact, average Mohammedans are better off in India as compared to anywhere else in the world, including, and especially Pakistan, where only the feudal upper classes (castes) live well. In North India (as seen in Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy”, there is a certain admiration – justified or not – for some alleged nawabi high culture, possibly because using Farsi/Arabic is considered cultured by some.
And the leftists in the media are ever-ready to cry themselves hoarse in the service of poor Mohammedans. Not to mention a government with a Prime Minister who says without irony, “Muslims must have first claim on the nation’s resources”, which is, in passing, strange from someone sworn to uphold the religion-blind Constitution.
But that is not what Pakistanis believe. In encounters with middle-class Pakistanis in America and on the Internet, I have heard how glad they are that there is a homeland for subcontinental Mohammedans who would otherwise have been oppressed by Hindus. They are silent, however, when I point out that there are, in fact, two homelands, and how the one homeland couldn’t keep half of its inhabitants happy and started a genocidal war with them.
This incomprehension about India was seen in the transcripts of the conversations by the 11/26 terrorists with their handlers in Pakistan: the terrorists were obviously confused that India was not a whole lot like what they had been brainwashed into believing.
Thus, it is the environment, of radicalization and mind-games, that is creating a cadre of evil-doers. Any amount of ‘talks’ and ‘goodwill gestures’ and ‘walking the extra mile’ is unlikely to change the situation unless the hate-mongering institutions with a monomanical jihadi agenda are dismantled. So long as India cannot get Pakistan to do this, there will be an endless supply of cannon fodder.
There is another issue – terrorism has now become a job, and quite a lucrative one at that. Zimbardo is of the opinion that a lot of the brutality in the Stanford Experiment and at Abu Ghraib happened because of simple boredom, especially at night, when the guards had nothing better to do and wanted some entertainment – perhaps the ultimate in the banality of evil.
In the case of the Pakistanis, and, alas, in the case of a number of home-grown terrorists in India, terrorism has now become an easy and attractive job, with perks like foreign trips (eg. to Pakistan via Dubai to throw people off the scent), cash (including counterfeit Indian rupees shipped in container-loads), women (who will dare say “no” to an AK-47?) and so on. For an ill-educated youth with poor prospects, this must be like manna from heaven. This has been demonstrated in Kerala where a number of young men were trained and shipped off to J&K as mercenaries/jihadis to kill Indian soldiers.
Thus, the cognitive dissonance between the “they are just like us” ordinary citizens of Pakistan and the ruthless killers is a matter of their environment. Unless it is cleaned up, and the godfathers of the system such as Hamid Gul, Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim forced to stand down, India – and (note to President Obama) the West — will continue to face evil and bleed. It is not the individuals, but the system of propaganda and inducement of hatred that is to blame. And that suits the Pakistani establishment just fine: it sustains their failing State.
November 12, 2009
May 21, 2009
Published by the Pioneer on May 4:
The news and the images coming out of Sri Lanka are horrendous: 100,000 Tamil civilians trapped on a tiny beach, where cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are making their last stand . The LTTE are using the civilians as shields (according to the Sri Lankan government); and government troops have shelled hospitals and killed thousands of non-combatants this year (according to The Economist quoting human-rights groups and the UNHCR).
The photographs of long-suffering Tamil refugees fleeing the war with nothing more than the clothes on their backs remind us of the curse of the Indian subcontinent: religion- and ethnicity-based conflict, generally leading to the genocide of Hindus. We saw this in 1947 and 1971. Millions of Hindus were ethnically cleansed from Pakistan and Bangladesh then, and the handful remaining are now fleeing newly-Talibanized territories; now they are being driven out of Sri Lanka’s Jaffna and the Eastern Provinces at the fag-end of a brutal civil war.
The LTTE certainly did not expect to fade into oblivion, their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran a fugitive. Only a couple of years ago, the Tigers were rampant, scoring victories on land and sea, and terrorizing Colombo with their makeshift air force. What turned things around? Probably much covert aid from governments, including India’s, wary of the Tigers’ penchant for redrawing boundaries by force (and China’s, fishing in troubled waters).
That, and internal dissension. The turning point was the defection in 2004 of ‘Colonel’ Karuna Amman, formerly LTTE commander in the Eastern Province. The LTTE ran a tight ship, and defectors generally were liquidated, but Karuna – as reported by the Wall Street Journal last year — thrived, and has become a minister, although he is at loggerheads with his erstwhile protégé and now-Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Pillaiyan.
After sama (negotiations) and dana (give-aways) failed, bheda (creating dissent) worked, and now the Sri Lankans are applying the last of the four tactics of classical Indian stagecraft, danda (punishment). This is an object lesson for India’s pusillanimous politicians who advocate sweet-talk and appeasement of terrorists; and for Obamistas, advocating land-for-peace (India’s land, that is, to be given to Pakistan, so that the ISI would leave the Americans in peace). Pandering does not work, the iron fist does. Crush the terrorists first, then talk to real people.
There is a startling silence in India about the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils. This has to do with two factors: one is that most of the shrieking banshees in the human-misery cottage-industry do not care about the human rights of Hindus, and Sri Lankan Tamils are about 85% Hindu. Second is that the killing of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, and the incessant noise by the DMK in their favor has genuinely turned off many people. The LTTE’s idea of its Tamil Eelam (they have taken down the maps on their website showing this) consists of north and eastern Lanka, all of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and parts of Karnataka and Andhra: in other words, most of South India. This is comparable to the jihadi wet-dream of a ‘Mughalistan’ consisting of most of North India.
It further appears that this ‘Eelam’ was meant to be a Christian-stan, in fearsome symmetry with ‘Mughalistan’. Let us note in passing that at Partition, missionaries had demanded a Christian-stan consisting of the Northeast, tribal areas of the Central Provinces (Chota Nagpur), and Travancore. Clearly, they have not given up the idea of territorial gains through any means.
The church has a well-known modus operandi. In Rwanda, the church fomented genocide by dividing Hutus and Tutsis – who, to the casual observer, and to the geneticist, appear identical – through claiming that the former were short and dark, and the latter were tall and fair, and that Tutsis were oppressing Hutus. Several Christian godmen and godwomen have been convicted of crimes against humanity for their direct role in massacres of Tutsis.
In India too, the church has fabricated a divide between the alleged ‘Aryans’ and ‘Dravidians’ – tall and fair vs. short and dark, oppressor, oppressed, sound familiar? – which was initially the handiwork of a white padre named Caldwell. It remains an interesting but little-known fact that churchman Max Mueller who invented the entire ‘Aryan’ fiction recanted in later years, admitting he was wrong.
The church has had a dubious role in Sri Lanka too. It is surely curious that most of the famous cadres of the LTTE are Christians (examples include Prabhakaran himself who is a Methodist, Anton Balasingham, the suicide-bomber Dhanu who killed Gandhi). Senior non-Christians in the LTTE, remarkably, have been captured, have died in battle, or been liquidated.
And the LTTE has wiped out all other groups representing the Tamil cause. The very ruthlessness of the LTTE is an indicator of its Semitic thought-process. Buddhists and Hindus have always co-existed peacefully all over Asia – in India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, etc. – until West Asian ideologies appeared. The church, and the LTTE, had no use for moderates or for negotiation.
There is another party with ill-intent in all this: China. As part of their ‘string of pearls’ strategy, they previously supported violent Communist insurgents, but these were wiped out by the Sri Lankan government. Now the Chinese are supplying heavy equipment, including planes and artillery to the army. Their likely objective: the prized deep-water port of Trincomalee, which would help them control shipping in the Indian Ocean, not to mention be a serious problem for India in its own backyard.
But with the apparent demise of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government should be able to negotiate from a position of strength. Tamils can see that militancy and terrorism has achieved nothing but catastrophe for them. The Sinhalese, if they are wise, will deal magnanimously with their Tamil fellow-countrymen and reconcile with them. They must recognize that Tamils have genuine grievances arising from bumiputra-style discrimination against them for decades. They need to appreciate that the LTTE are not synonymous with Tamils. Then Sri Lanka can become the success story of the subcontinent with its superior health and education record.
November 27, 2008
rediff published this with some fairly significant edits at http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/dec/08mumterror-are-we-heading-to-being-a-failed-state.htm — to some extent the piece was rendered toothless — and so here is the original copy I sent them.
Towards a failed State – Ghori, Jaichand and friends redux
Rajeev Srinivasan on the attack on Mumbai
The invasion of Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists – and undoubtedly local collaborators – is but a replay of times past: the periodic and predictable arrival of barbarians over the Khyber Pass, laying waste to the countryside, and wreaking untold damage on a long-suffering populace. The only crime that the average Indian committed was to focus on the creation of wealth; of course, the barbarians came because of the wealth. Today, once again, India is generating capital, and the intention is to thwart its economic rise.
Then, as now, the rulers failed the populace. There is an implicit contract between the rulers and the ruled: you pay the taxes, obey the rules, and we ensure that your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are unhindered. India’s ruling class failed signally to honor this contract – they never did figure out that the simple expedient of defending the Khyber and Bolan passes would be enough to save the plains, because Nature had been kind enough to build the impregnable Himalayas all around India.
I have never got a satisfactory answer to the question as to why we didn’t build the Great Wall of India. The Chinese built a 1,500-mile wall; Indians could surely have built a 15-mile wall and kept the marauders out. But there was clearly a failure in leadership and in strategic thinking. Time after time, the barbarians would pour in through the passes, march to Panipat or Tarain, and there, in a desperate last-ditch battle, the Indians would lose, again and again. The result: disaster.
Furthermore, there were traitors in-house, too. They would collude with the invaders to the detriment of their fellow-Indians. Jaichand, during the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192 CE, turned the tide of the battle by allying with Mahmud of Ghori against Prithviraj Chauhan, with the result that Northern India suffered 700 years of Mohammedan tyranny – it was a clear tipping point. Or take the battle of Talikota that ended the magnificient Vijayanagar empire: it was their own troops that betrayed them.
Fast forward to today. India is under withering attack on all fronts. To the east, there is the demographic invasion by Bangladeshis, including unhindered infiltration by terrorist elements. The entire Northeast is in danger of secession, given both the narrow and hard-to-defend Chicken’s Neck that connects the area to the Gangetic plain, as well as the Christian fundamentalism and terrorism that is on the verge of turning into a move to secede on religious and ethnic grounds, a la East Timor.
The northern frontier is restive, with Nepal, a former ally and buffer state transformed into hostile territory, with its porous borders turned into a way of infiltrating Mohammedan terrorists and Communist terrorists into India, with the declared intent of capturing the “Pasupati-to-Tirupati corridor”, in other words, most of the eastern half of the country.
China is making increasingly belligerent noises about Tawang and all of Arunachal Pradesh. They are gambling that, despite the summit that just took place in Dharmasala, the steam has gone out of the Tibetan resistance movement. They have been emboldened by the fact that Tibetans were not able to disrupt the Olympics, and the more immediate betrayal by the British (International Herald Tribune, “Did Britain Just Sell Tibet?” http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/25/opinion/edbarnet.php) , who declared, contrary to all the historical evidence, that Tibet was always a part of China. Besides, the Chinese fully intend to move forward with the diversion of the Brahmaputra, which is in effect a declaration of war against the lower riparian State, India.
It is likely that the Chinese will march into Tawang – there is a lot of chatter in Chinese circles (see, an analysis by D S Rajan at the Chennai Center for China Studies http://www.c3sindia.org/strategicissues/419) about a “limited India-China war”, a replay of 1962. The Chinese have, in addition to pure geopolitics, another reason to do this, as was pointed out by strategy expert Brahma Chellaney – as in the years preceding 1962, the world is now once again hyphenating India and China. By handing India a sharp conventional military defeat, China would like that hyphenation to be removed decisively, as it surely would be. India will once again be seen as the loser it has been during the entire 1947-2000 period.
In the Northwest, Kashmir burns. The population clearly views India as a colony – they want Indian money, but they are not willing to make the slightest concessions to Hindu sentiments. It is very convenient for them to have the cake and eat it too – there is the little-known fact that J&K has practically nobody under the poverty line (2% and falling), as compared to the average of some 20% in the country as a whole. Kashmiris have prospered mightily despite – or is it because of? – the brutal ethnic cleansing of 400,000 Pundits now languishing in refugee camps.
In the traditionally quiet Peninsula, there is evidence of tremendous terrorist activity. In Kerala, it has been reported widely in the Malayalam media that 300 youths have been hired, trained and dispatched to Kashmir with explicit instructions – kill Indian soldiers and support Pakistani intrusions. Terrorism is just another job. Sleeper cells exist in every town, sometimes in the guise of “Kashmiri emporia”. The Konkan and Malabar coasts are dotted with safe harbors, where weapons, counterfeit currency and contraband are cached. The preferred mechanism – bomb blasts to inflict maximum damage. Logistics, safe houses, surveillance, forged documents, etc. are provided by a wide network.
In the tribal lands of central India, the Northeast and in Orissa, Christian terrorists are joining hands with Communist terrorists. In fact they often are one and the same, as confessed by an alleged Communist leader on TV. Their preferred weapon – liquidation of inconvenient people, as they did in the case of Swami Lakshmananda, the 84-year-old monk that they attacked with AK-47s.
The fact is that all these threats are overwhelming the security apparatus in the country, such as it is. It is quite likely that the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing and the Anti-Terrorism Squad had some inkling of something big being planned, including the movement of small arms on the Ratnagiri coastline, and the logistics-related activities of known suspects. It is unclear why they didn’t take preventive action.
There is a terrifying possibility – that they in fact had no idea this was going on. There is an aphorism that you cannot stop all terrorist activity, but in India the situation is such that no terrorist activity is stopped – they strike at will, and the populace is left to pick up the pieces of broken lives. This is no way to run a country.
The frightening possibility is that the Jaichands have in fact taken over the State. In which case, we can anticipate the total dismemberment of India – possibly preceded by an interregnum where it is failed State – in the near future.
There is one other possibility – that the Army will have to take over. It is a remote possibility, for two reasons – the Indian Army has been determinedly apolitical; and the State has continually striven to weaken it. Someone once made the ridiculous statement that India really didn’t need an army, only a police force, and it appears the entire political class and bureaucracy have internalized this slogan.
From 1962 – as always, on November 18th I silently saluted the martyrs of the Battle of Rezang-La, where C Company, 13th Kumaon died heroically to the last man – when the ill-equipped troops froze to death on the Himalayan heights, to the refusal to increase military salaries when the bureaucrats awarded themselves 300% increases recently, the State has told the military that it doesn’t value them. All the Services are starved of funds. The recent open attack on Lt. Col. Purohit is another signal that the State despises the military . As Ashok Malik pointed out in the Pioneer (“A Hindu Dreyfus Affair?” http://www.dailypioneer.com/135567/A-Hindu-Dreyfus-Affair.html ), this is a near-repeat of the celebrated Dreyfus case in France, and alas, we have no Emile Zola to cry “J’accuse!” .
One possible outcome is that the Indian military forces will gradually wither away and die, thus making the statement about India not needing an army a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is another possibility – that of a military coup d’etat. Normally, the prospect of a military takeover – given that they all end up badly – from a democracy is not something one would welcome. But then India is not a democracy – it is a kakistocracy, rule by the very worst possible people – which has the trappings of a democracy but not the substance, so I wonder if military rule could possibly be any worse.
But the chances are getting increasingly good that the Indian State will collapse, just like Pakistan already has. A recent risk assessment by the World Economic Forum and CII (“India@Risk 2008”) considers the economic, energy, food/agriculture and national security that face India. The report is more concerned about the first three items, assuming that India is secure enough as a nation.
I hope they are right, but this invasion of Mumbai – so daring and audacious – makes me wonder. I have considered a nightmare scenario of Chinese battleships arriving in triumph at the Gateway of India, to be welcomed with marigold garlands by the Jaichands, but I have to admit I never thought a motley crew of Pakistani terrorists would invade. The very future of the Indian State, suddenly, is in question. And it is mostly from self-inflicted, avoidable wounds. The failure of leadership is causing India to cease to exist.
November 2, 2008
Rajeev Srinivasan on the fuss about “Hindu terrorists”
The recent fuss about alleged “Hindu terrorists” has entertained me hugely because all the usual suspects played their expected roles to perfection. The pseudo-secular media had a field day insinuating that Hindu terrorism is as major a problem in India as is Mohammedan and Christist terrorism. The UPA forgot its axiom that “terrorism has no religion”, and joyously crowed about “Hindu terrorists”. The BJP was apoplectic in its attempts to distance itself from the alleged “Hindu terrorists”.
Meanwhile, some actual – not imagined — terrorism activity has been going on in Kerala, where at least 300 people have been recruited by Mohammedan fundamentalists to wage war on the Indian State. Newspaper reports suggest that at least 96 young men from Kerala, who were given military training by SIMI, are at large. 16 of them are in Kashmir, the others in Bangalore or Kerala, according to Intelligence Bureau reports. Apparently there are special instructions in Malayalam in SIMI jungle camps held all over the country, for the poor dears are not so proficient in Urdu/Arabic.
These young men were dispatched to Kashmir with simple instructions: kill Indian soldiers and facilitate infiltration by the Pakistanis. Terrorism has now become just a job. So much so that so-called “spiritual advisers” (“paymaster” may be a more accurate designation) are out there recruiting known gangsters, converting them and sending them off to Kashmir. A particular gang of Christist criminals in Cochin has apparently supplied several converts who made the trek to Kashmir: including one Verghese aka Yasin who took a bullet in his head from the Indian Army and had to be identified from his fingerprints.
All this is ironic: Kerala has long been a supplier of manpower and womanpower – first it was the clerks and petty shopkeepers all over India, as well as a lot of soldiers; then it has been nurses, next construction labor and professionals for the Persian Gulf and America, and most recently, Christist padres and nuns for the conversion industry and as gastarbeiter for the shrinking seminaries of Europe.
I guess it is but a small step to terrorism as a profession. As Adi Sankara said in a slightly different context some centuries ago, “udara nimittam bahu krta vesham” (one wears various roles to satisfy that despotic stomach). It is said that in parts of Malabar, the UAE dirham, the Saudi riyal, and the US dollar are almost as much legal tender as the Indian rupee: there is so much of that stuff floating around. Not to speak of absolutely authentic-looking Pakistani-made Indian rupee notes. A while ago, an entire ocean-going container full of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 counterfeit notes – from Pakistan with love via Dubai – was intercepted in Kerala. That is a boatload of money, indeed.
And then there’s the news about serial blasts in Manipur and – as I write this – in Assam, that have killed large numbers of innocent people. There are all the other blasts – there have been so many we begin to lose count – in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, etc. etc. etc. – where the perpetrators unambiguously let it be known that they were Mohammedans inflamed by religious fundamentalism and jihad.
Christist terrorists have been running rampant in the Northeast for some time: their modus operandi is a little different – they prefer the AK-47 and they generally target specific individuals. They have ethnically-cleansed 45,000 Reang tribals from Mizoram for refusing to convert; they shot respected litterateur and patriot, Bineshwar Brahma in Guwahati; they shot Hindu priest Shanti Tripura in his own temple; and most recently, they shot Swami Lakshmananda in Orissa (let’s not kid around about this: even the alleged Communist terrorist who was trotted out, suitably incognito, on TV to exonerate Christists admitted that most of his flock were Christists).
Not to mention that almost the entire top echelon of the dreaded Tamil Tigers are Christists, and the non-Christists mysteriously suffer “accidents” or are captured by the Sri Lankan Army or “commit suicide”. Velupillai Prabhakaran, Anton Balasingham, et al are all Christists. So was Dhanu, the suicide bomber who blew up Rajiv Nehru Gandhi. There is reason to believe that the so-called Maoists in Nepal are also crypto-Christists, especially some of their top brass.
Of course, none of this qualifies for the “religious terrorism” moniker as far as the lovely English-Language Media and the UPA are concerned. Their sound and fury is reserved for some poor Hindu nun who is, by the power of “truth by repeated assertion”, subjected to an electronic lynch, deemed a terrorist and subjected to tejovadham. This is to be expected, as the ELM and the pseudo-seculars in India have a sworn duty: that of cultural extinction of the native civilization of this country. Once you understand this axiom, their baffling acts are self-consistent in a certain bizarre frame of reference.
Whether the pseudo-seculars do this for money, or they have been brainwashed by the predatory State, is not entirely clear. But then it doesn’t matter, does it, since the end result is the same?
And this deliberate use of nomenclature terrorism – the use of insinuation to demonize and to create defensiveness – is a purely Goebbelsian propaganda tactic. I tried a little experiment on the pseudo-seculars some years ago by returning the favor. I started referring to their ideology as Nehruvian Stalinism. Their immediate knee-jerk reaction was to label me a Hindu fundamentalist, Hindu fascist etc. Which I was prepared for: I told them, fine, maybe I am all that, but you, you are Nehruvian Stalinists.
I got the reaction I expected: when the tables were turned, the pseudo-seculars did exactly what they expect others to do under their attacks. They got defensive, they labored to explain why they were not Stalinists, and how different Nehru was from Stalin. They grew increasingly exasperated as I kept insisting that Nehru was a lot like Stalin: the personality cult, the imperiousness, the purges, the heavy-industry fetish, etc., and how Jawaharlal was merely a little less effective in his ruthlessness.
Happily, I got a few pseudo-seculars into an absolute tizzy denying these allegations; they practically foamed at the mouth. I had succeeded – I had got them to play on my terms, on the playing field I defined; instead of protesting that I was not a fascist, I had changed the terms of reference and forced them to defend their cherished shibboleths. It was good to watch them squirm.
That, I submit, is the way to play this game. Hindus should not bother to try and prove that they are not terrorists. We should say “Yes, there must be Hindu terrorists, just like you guys are Communist terrorists, or Christist terrorists, or Mohammedan terrorists. Any questions?” If they continue to blather, one might hint darkly of caches of AK-47s and RDX.
It is evident that the pseudo-seculars are cowards and bullies, and this will shut them up. Only, gentle reader, I suggest you be careful in your choice of words, just in case somebody has a hidden camera – make veiled threats, where you cannot be pinned down to anything specific. And occasionally mutter knowingly about some atrocity perpetrated by the Christist or Communist or Mohammedan terrorists, and insinuate that you have certain “friends” and you know where the pseudo-seculars live. You know, the kind of thing the Mafioso say in those gangster movies.
Nomenclature terrorism is a game two can play, and the sinister Nehruvian Stalinists can be – as in the quaint phrase they use – hoist on their own petard.
June 10, 2008
This was printed in the New Indian Express dated 10th Jun 08:
Here’s my original copy.
The fallout from the Olympic torch relay
By Rajeev Srinivasan
The Olympic torch relay was completed in China recently. and this was followed by the horrendous earthquake that leveled parts of Szechuan province. Apart from the human tragedies associated with both (including the protests that dogged the torch relay based on the genocide of Tibetans), the way the Chinese State has responded to both show some inklings of the way things work behind the Bamboo Curtain.
First, the Communists in charge of China pay enormous attention to symbols and pride, what East Asians call “face”. The Olympics are clearly their coming-out party, and they intend to impress the entire world with their new-found wealth and their march towards super-power-dom. Just as their neighbors in Japan and Korea announced their arrival on the world stage by staging the Olympics, China wants to host a perfect event, and they will stop at nothing to ensure this.
This is why the Chinese were so keen on ensuring that the torch relays went perfectly everywhere, and this explains their anger at disruptions in France and Britain. Interestingly, the only stop in the US, in San Francisco, was stage-managed through subterfuge: the torch took an unannounced path, so that protesters were fooled.
The Chinese State views the torch relay as the equivalent of an aswamedha yaga, wherein the emperor’s horse is free to wander as it pleases, and anyone who hinders it does so at the peril of facing his wrath. The vassal kings naturally pay obeisance. Thus, all the nations where the torch relay took place without incident are vassals of the Chinese King Emperor.
It is not surprising that the Indian government chose to bend over and kowtow to Chinese imperiousness. But the right thing for India to do once the violence in Tibet had commenced would have been to cancel the torch’s arrival in India altogether, citing security reasons. This would have been a painful snub to China, and quite appropriate to India’s role as the home of the Tibetan nation in exile. That would have got India respect.
Similarly, San Francisco was chosen – not New York, not Los Angeles – for the US appearance for good reason. It is because San Francisco was where the majority of Chinese coolies arrived. They built the railroads, and were discriminated against via the Asian Exclusion Act, which prevented them from owning property, marrying white women, or bringing Chinese brides. Thus the parading of China’s might where they were humiliated once upon a time.
Those who monitor the Chinese newsgroups on the net, or callers to talk shows, know how ultra-jingoistic Chinese people are. They are brought up on a steady diet of myths about great glory and great humiliation (by white imperialists) in the past. They cannot tolerate even the mildest criticism of their State or their country. The Communists are betting that by creating this new idol of nationalism they can stitch a large nation – well, actually an empire – together.
In this mythology, the Chinese State is remarkably similar to the German State between the two world wars. That too had memories of great Prussian glory, and the reality of great humiliation (by the victors in World War I). This led to a national psychosis, especially when mixed up with the idea of the Master Race. The same seems to be happening with China as well, with their vanity of being the Master Race (or Middle Kingdom) and their racist derision for all gwailo, foreign devils.
That brings up an interesting historical parallel: the Berlin Olympiad of 1936, which was intended to be the celebration of the ‘Aryan’ Master Race. Which it didn’t quite turn out to be, thanks to the black American runner Jesse Owens and others. Unless the Chinese win all the gold medals in Beijing, some ultra-nationalists will be upset.
But what is even more interesting is the parallels with both Berlin 1936 and Moscow 1980. Both were held when their respective empires were at their zenith. But by 1945, the Nazi empire was defeated; by 1990, the Russian empire had imploded. One possible future for China’s empire, then, may well be its collapse within the next ten years. After all, 60% of the land currently held in their iron grip by the Han Chinese belongs to Tibetans, Mongols, Uighurs, Manchus et al, who are not enamored of being second-class citizens in a Han-dominated land.
Of course, the other comparison is with Japan and Korea, both of which thrived. But there is a major difference: those other East Asian States had moved much further towards openness and democracy by the time they held their Olympics. China, as a one-party, totalitarian dictatorship is inherently unstable: they are playing a dangerous game encouraging ultra-jingoism, because that may well turn against the dictatorship itself.
But there are encouraging signs of realism on the part of the Chinese Communists. Although they have railed against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, using their customary unparliamentary language against him, nevertheless they are continuing a dialog with him. This is because they realize that there is considerable world opinion in support of the Tibetan cause. China’s modus operandi is to constantly test the limits; as soon as they get some push-back, they withdraw. China is not immune to world pressure.
Similarly, after the earthquake, China been remarkably open about the damage as well as the casualties. They have admitted that 10,000 have died. This is in marked contrast to their past behavior: in the 1970’s a dam burst and killed 100,000 people; the news was suppressed for thirty years. Similarly, they pretended that SARS and avian flu did not exist. There might be two reasons for this new-found candor: the demand for accountability from a more demanding population; and the darker possibility that this is an “Olympics Special”, and they intend to return to regularly scheduled opaqueness later.
If the Chinese State is on the way to becoming a more normal entity, and not a pathological misfit bent on imperialism, then that would be a good thing for all of Asia.
990 words, May 13, 2008
This appeared in the Pioneer of 28th May at
Here is my original copy:
Thrice betrayed: how Maya Nand was executed by an American prison company
Rajeev Srinivasan on human rights violations by Homeland Security in the US
Maya Nand had the misfortune to be on the wrong side of history three times: and so he died, shackled, untreated for diabetes, in a prison cell in Arizona. (“Family struggled in vain to help suffering detainee”, International Herald Tribune, May 5, 2008 http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/05/america/05detainnand.php). He, a legal immigrant or Green Card holder, made the mistake of applying for US citizenship. This was rejected on a technicality (a misdemeanor charge about domestic violence), and he fell into a Twilight Zone of the penal system. Without recourse to due process, he was incarcerated and essentially subjected to judicial murder in a privately-run prison.
This is startling because it seems like a huge miscarriage of justice, which legal immigrants to the most open and free society in the world should not be subject to. But there are three other aspects that stand out: that poor Maya Nand must have been especially cursed to be so violated by history, three times over; that on the fringes of the legal system of the US there are so many dark corners where people can become non-persons, to be brutalized at will; and that, yet again, the Indian State pays no attention to the oppressed amongst its diaspora.
For, Maya Nand’s ancestors were indentured laborers from India taken to work as near-slaves in the sugar-plantations of Fiji by the British. Nand himself must have suffered from serious discrimination from the indigenous Fijians and therefore moved to the US as a refugee. Finally, with no opportunity to defend himself, he was killed. This is an outrage.
But more alarmingly, it appears legal protections US citizens take for granted are not available to legal immigrant and residents. There are gray areas in the US judicial system that take away the fundamental rights of the individual, including habeas corpus, the right to a fair hearing in court. And the famous ‘Miranda’ rules available to even hardened criminals: “You have the right to remain silent, to an attorney, etc.”
The story of Maya Nand, and a related story about European visitors (“Italian’s Detention Illustrates Dangers Foreign Visitors Face”, New York Times, May 15th, 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/us/14visa.html?em&ex=1210996800&en=659393fd425fbf2d&ei=5087%0A ), show there are constructs that put non-citizens into a Kafkaesque No-Man’s Land where they are legally not on US soil even though they physically are; and therefore normal US laws do not apply to them, even those that apply to illegal immigrants! Therefore, they can be held indefinitely without being charged, and there is no way that anxious relatives can even get reliable information about them.
In a strange way, this is the mirror-image of the rationale for the post-9/11 terrorist holding facility in the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That is another fiction where the base is not quite considered to be on US soil, and detainees are not considered either enemy combatants or prisoners of war, whereby the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to them (let me hasten to add that I make no assumptions about the innocence or otherwise of those detained in Gitmo, I am merely observing the legal loophole used).
I must admit being shocked when I first read these stories. Accustomed as most of us are to the frequent proclamations about the US being the “home of the free and the land of the brave”, I could not believe such things could happen to holders of the coveted Green Card. (Although, in passing, I know some people who lied about their existing Communist Party affiliations – a big no-no – in their Green Card applications. I am sure they worry someone will bring this little subterfuge to the attention of those grim Homeland Security types. Green Cards, and citizenship, can, and have been, revoked – ask the Indian immigrants who were stripped of citizenship in the early 1900s for being Caucasian but not white).
To some extent these excesses may be over-reactions to 9/11 and the real threat to America from terrorists abroad. But there is a totalitarian streak in the country, which explains how Japanese-Americans were put into concentration camps during World War II. There is also a tendency to apply the harshest methods to non-whites. But then, America has a violent history, including the genocide and cultural extermination of the Native American.
Why does India does not stand up for the rights of its diaspora and demand that the record be set right on historical wrongs? Four years ago, Indian-origin Sikh priest Khem Singh, 72 years old and crippled, was starved to death in another American prison in Fresno, Calif. Before that, there was Charanjit Singh Aujla, shot to dead by plainclothes policemen in Jefferson, Miss. And Navroze Mody, beaten to death in Hoboken, NJ, by racists chanting “dot-head”, an epithet against Indians.
Then there have been the many incidents of oppression, religious and economic, against Indian-origin people in Fiji; they have had no option but to flee. There was violence against Indians in Uganda, Kenya etc. in East Africa, again turning many into refugees; and even before that, Indians were ejected from Burma.
The Indian government has never raised its voice in support of its diaspora in any of these cases. Perhaps that was acceptable when India was a starving banana republic, holding out a begging bowl. But this is not acceptable when India aspires to be a major power.
Then there was the event that showed Indians that the British imperialists were truly evil: April 13th, 1919, Jallianwallah Bagh. The Indian government has never demanded reparations or even an apology from the British for this crime against humanity: 1650 bullets, 1579 casualties.
The Canadians recently decided to make a belated apology for the shameful Komagata Maru incident of 1914 when they denied Indian refugees succor (“Canada to apologize for Komagata Maru”, The Times of India, 13 May 2008, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/Komagata_Maru_Canada_to_apologise_/articleshow/3034298.cms ). More such apologies must be demanded.
India deserves a government that is proud of the nation and leaves no stone unturned in protecting its citizens and its diaspora.
990 words, 15 May 2008
April 13, 2008
This was printed in the Pioneer, April 8th
Here’s my original, which has been slightly edited by the Pioneer. I made a factual error: Moscow was the 1980 Olympics, not 1984.
Are Tibet and Kashmir the same?
Rajeev Srinivasan on how China’s fifth-columnists are exculpating genocide
There has lately been a slew of articles and editorials in India’s English-language media about China’s inhuman genocide and reign of terror in Tibet. Some of these supported the state-perpetrated terrorism against oppressed Tibetans.
The media is merely reflecting the failings of the self-proclaimed “intelligentsia” in India. Their discourse is so distorted that what would be considered lunatic-fringe leftist in the real world is considered “centrist” in India. A true centrist would be, and is, deemed a lunatic-fringe right-winger, and is instantly demonized as a fascist and Nazi.
Therefore the usual perorations of the media can be taken with a large pinch of salt. A number of them support the Chinese, either out of an exaggerated sense of awe about China, or out of loyalty built up through boondoggle Potemkin trips or cold, hard cash.
But they attempt to intimidate people with a logical fallacy: they suggest that Indians have no right to comment on someone else violating human rights. Wrong. The fact that the Indian government may be violating human rights somewhere does not preclude any Indian individual from commenting on, or condemning, what the Chinese are doing. Evil has to be resisted.
Here are a couple of apt quotations: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”, attributed to Edmund Burke, a Briton.
“First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.,”
attributed to Martin Niemoller, a German, speaking about the Nazis.
Therefore, it is absolutely proper for anyone to speak out against gross human rights violations. Those who use rhetorical devices to try and shut people up are bullying and censoring others. They should be ignored and laughed at.
But I found something a little more outrageous in the perspectives of a few China hands, including the editor of a newspaper infamous for reprinting Xinhua propaganda verbatim, and a retired diplomat.
These worthies made the assertion that India must not say anything about Tibet because Tibet is just like Kashmir. This merits attention. In fact, they are right, amazingly enough, although for entirely the wrong reasons. Consider the analogies:
In Tibet, a bunch of outsiders, Han Chinese, invaded and are oppressing local Tibetans.
In Kashmir, a bunch of outsiders, Mohammedans, invaded and oppress local Hindus.
In Tibet, Han Chinese are murdering and ethnically cleansing Tibetans.
In Kashmir, Mohammedans have been murdering and ethnically cleansing Hindus.
In Tibet, Han Chinese are practicing civilizational genocide.
In Kashmir, Mohammedans are practicing civilizational genocide.
In Tibet, a Semitic belief (Communism) is wiping out an Indic faith (Tibetan Buddhism).
In Kashmir, a Semitic faith (Mohammedanism) is wiping out an Indic faith (Hinduism). Therefore, nobody is bothered, as it is the defined job of Indic faiths to be wiped out by Semitic faiths.
With these parallels, there is an exact match between Tibet and Kashmir. The media mavens are absolutely right. And just as the Congress government stood by and watched the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, the UPA government will stand by and watch the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Tibetans in Tibet. Therefore, on five points out of five, the match is perfect.
There is one difference. Tibetan Buddhism was created in the first place by the few monks who fled Nalanda with their lives when Mohammedan invader Bakhtiar Khilji burned the university to the ground circa 1192 CE (which in itself was a crime against humanity because of the knowledge lost), and beheaded every one of the Buddhist monks he found. Hinduism, specifically Kashmir Shaivism, on the other hand, was the faith of the region from times immemorial.
Ironically, the job was started by Bakhtiar Khilji is being completed by the Han Chinese. This is another example of the Communist/Han-Mohammedan axis, also seen in the A Q Khan Nuclear Wal-Mart. It appears Communists are irresistibly drawn to Mohammedans (although the reverse is not true: the latter liquidate the ‘godless’ Communists as soon as they cease to be ‘useful idiots’). There is an ‘understanding’ between China and Pakistan to keep the lid on Uighur nationalism and separatism.
It is amazing that when it comes to Chinese oppression of Mohammedan Uighurs, Pakistan somehow forgets that it is the owner of the “Mohammedan Bomb”. That, of course, may be because Pakistan’s Bomb is in fact a screwdriver job supplied by China.
Similarly, I look forward to my favorite media mavens’ dilemma when China starts to beat up on Uighurs, who, allegedly, are plotting terrorist attacks the Olympics. Who will said mavens support – Hans or Uighurs, Communists or Mohammedans? Surely they’ll support the hand that feeds them.
The proper solution to both the Kashmir and Tibet problems is the same: the perpetrators of oppression must be made to realize in no uncertain terms that you cannot get away with ethnic cleansing and genocide. Therefore, it must be made clear to the Mohammedans that India will never relinquish Kashmir. Similarly, it must be made clear to the Han Chinese that they will never be able to extinguish the spirit of the Tibetans.
Today, the Chinese look impregnable, and they are using the 2008 Olympics as a coming-out party, just as Japan and Korea did with theirs. But there is a difference: those nations were not oppressive empires at the time, just as India is not. Democracy has a way of dealing with conflict, which is not available to imperialists. It is quite possible that this is in fact the zenith of the Han empire, and that it is downhill from here on.
Let us remember that the historic independent nation of Tibet, which includes the Amdo and Kham regions, accounts for fully one-third of the land-mass controlled by the Han Chinese today. In fact, 60% of that entire land-mass is land that belongs to ethnic minorities. Han Chinese control could collapse, just as the Soviet Union’s Russian domination collapsed.
There are a couple of interesting historical parallels. In 1936, at the height of the self-glorification of the Nazi State, the Berlin Olympics were held. But in ten years, Nazism was dead and buried. In 1984, the Moscow Olympics were held when the Soviet Union looked like an invulnerable empire. In seven years, that empire imploded suddenly. In 2008, when the Han Chinese look, in turn, like masters of the universe, brutalizing others like Manchurians, Mongols, Uighurs and Tibetans. It will be interesting to see where they will be in ten years.
That is another way in which Tibet and Kashmir differ: Tibet may well lead to the unraveling of the Han Communist empire, while Kashmir is not going to affect the fabric of the Indian nation.
1170 words, April 3, 2008
March 27, 2008
This was published recently on Rediff
January 1, 2008
Well, alas, Rediff never bothered to post this even though I sent it to them at the end of 2007, and reminded them several times.
The limits to Hindu tolerance: The story of 2007
Rajeev Srinivasan on how the UPA is out of touch with young India
There is a second reason for why there is a sea-change in the political scenario: the public’s recognition of endemic betrayal of Hindus by the Congress and the Left. There are plenty of other damning reasons why the current the UPA dispensation has proved itself in 2007 to be the very worst government this country has ever seen; I shall list some of them, but then let it pass, for I wish to concentrate on the assault on Hindus:
- raging inflation. The official figures are a magical 3%, but the price of essential goods like vegetables (remember the famous ‘onion crisis’ that the media moaned about?) has gone up by about 20-40%. Real inflation if probably 10+%.
- rampant fascism and oppression. The Communist allies of the UPA have been on the warpath, raping, killing and cremating in unmarked graves hundreds of people in Nandigram. The UPA is unable to protect the famous ‘aam admi’
- virtual loss of sovereignty. One third of the country’s districts are wracked by violent Communist terrorism, and the UPA is playing footsie with this non-State actor surely funded by the Chinese
- loss of buffer State Nepal. Though the good offices of various vested interests, Nepal has been swallowed up by a violent Communist theocracy, and become a safe haven for Mohammedan and Christian terrorist targeting India
- attempt to make India a vassal of the US. The so-called nuclear deal with the US, in its current form, relegates India forever to second-class status in matters nuclear, and rolls back its deterrent capability
- surrender to terrorism. In an apparent attempt to shield its bigwigs from possible Mohammedan terrorist attacks, the Congress has virtually declared an amnesty. Repealing POTA, refusing to obey the Supreme Court ruling regarding hanging Afzal Guru – the signal to terrorists is: you can do anything in India and get away with it. The UPA will support you
- pork-barrel policies. The much-ballyhooed rural employment guarantee program, it turns out, is accomplishing exactly what it was meant to do: transfer money from the State to party cadres and middlemen. Hardly anything is reaching the poor. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/south_asia/7005985.stm The least corrupt in this scheme, as the BBC notes, are BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh! Obviously – fewer UPA middlemen in action there.
May 23, 2007
This is what I actually wrote. Rediff has replaced many of the external links with other links that I am not thrilled with. Also, I specifically said that “political workers posing as relatives of victims” forced a trial by media, and there are particular political workers whom I have named before who were caught on camera doing this. But Rediff chose to drop the “political workers posing as”. Oh well.
The consequences of inaction vs. the human rights of the terrorist
Rajeev Srinivasan on how human rights apply to the victim rather than the perpetrator
Consider the following moral dilemma: If you knew that a friend was planning to commit random mass murder, what would you do? Would you turn him in to the police, or would you let him murder, in cold blood? Most people would in fact alert the authorities, because the massacre of innocents violates our sense of ethics.