this was posted by swarajyamag on jul 1, 2015 at with some minor edits.

http://swarajyamag.com/culture/innovation-nation-the-value-of-traditional-and-civilizational-knowledge/

here’s my original submitted content:

Innovation Nation: The value of traditional and civilizational knowledge

Rajeev Srinivasan

After the signal success of #InternationalYogaDay, it would be hard for us to underestimate the true value created by knowledge inherent in society. The value can be both tangible and intangible. The tangible value comes from the fact that yoga is now a global, multi-billion dollar ‘industry’ especially in its purely physical hatha yoga form. The intangible value comes in the soft power that yoga gives to India. Thus, even from a strict definition of being something that has market value or widespread acceptance, yoga is clearly an innovation.

Yoga is just one example. A week after Yoga Day, there was the International Sanskrit Conference. Once again this is an artifact of demonstrably Indian origin, as are some other civilizational assets such as Ayurveda, as well as much early mathematics, for instance the so-called Pythagoras Theorem which was explicated in the Sulbasutras several centuries before Pythagoras himself.

The question, then, is what is India’s claim on these civilizational artifacts? Do they belong to India in a manner that India can (or should) monetize? Are there other artifacts that are based on traditional knowledge that India needs to assert its ownership over, and perhaps demand royalties from others? Is it possible for a nation, rather than individuals or corporations, to own intellectual property?

These are complicated questions, especially as new challenges come to the forefront in these days of rapid changes. I just read an article (“India’s unlikely savior from climate change: the dwarf cow”, Hindustan Times, June 30) http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-s-unlikely-saviour-from-climate-change-the-humble-dwarf-cow/article1-1364290.aspx on the value of genetic traits of heat resistance as climate change may make certain dominant cattle breeds vulnerable. The specific topic was that of a species of dwarf cows, endemic to Kerala, known as the Vechur cow, which are a breed that is fast losing out as imported hybrids based on Jersey and other foreign breeds.

Incidentally, in this context, the traditional Indian Zebu bull, has been exported to the West, which is now using this breed widely, in what some consider an example of biopiracy: the Western Bramah bull is a mix of several Indian varieties. There are also allegations that Indian genetic variants of rice – of which we have had many – have been looted, pirated and expropriated by others during Green Revolution days. This also leads to the fraught area of Genetically Modified crops, which is a major issue of contention between developed and developing countries.

Another possible claim comes from recognition of a Geographic Indication, a product that can be claimed as local to a specific area, and thus in essence an instance of local genius, such as Champagne, which is only applicable to sparkling wine from that area of France. Darjeeling tea, or the Aranmula mirror (a metal mirror polished to high levels of reflectivity using mud from the paddy fields of the area) are examples from India that have benefited from geographical appellations.

Similarly, Indian traditional designs, for instance in Kancheepuram or Banaras fabrics, are valuable assets; but, not knowing that they are monetizable, the creators of these assets often just give them away. Perhaps the most important area where India is not getting full value is in copyrights, where creations such as books, music, films, dance, etc. are often not compensated fairly for the use of their creations by others. In fact, violation of Indian copyright is absolutely endemic, and is a major problem for creators and authors.

Safeguarding intellectual creations

There are interesting, and hard, questions behind the whole issue of intellectual property. First of all, what is the role of the inventor, and, in related manner, of the State? Is it the duty of the State to encourage inventors by giving them protection to their inventions as private property? On the other hand, isn’t it the responsibility of the State to make these inventions available to the public at large so that they may all benefit?

There is also another wretched question, which nobody has a clear, unambiguous answer to: will innovation increase if there are strong intellectual property rights? The evidence about this is quite unclear, although one would think, a priori, that if there are strongly protected IPRs, there would be an explosion of innovation. But scholars have not been able to show strong correlation between the two.

There are intriguing examples of the way that appropriating value has given rise to a slew of invention. The most striking example, of course, is Silicon Valley, which has made many of its inventors, as well as its design experts (consider Apple) immensely rich. Another, historical example, is in Britain. It may not be sheer coincidence that, in the immediate aftermath of the loot from Bengal showing up as ‘venture capital’, there was an explosion in invention (Battle of Plassey 1757, spinning jenny 1764, steam engine 1778), leading to their Industrial Revolution, and subsequently, world domination.

Can traditional knowledge, including yoga and Ayurveda, be protected? For that matter, can traditional cultural artifacts, such as Koodiyattam or Yakshagana? There is the entire category of Traditional Knowledge Systems, including Traditional Expressions of Culture, that is intended for the express purpose of supporting traditions, that may, in the case of Indian and many other developing nations, be in jeopardy of disappearing under the onslaught of ‘modern’, ie. Western, substitutes.

The Indian government has created a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, with the intent of preserving, textually, many of these traditions. One of the peculiarities of the current global system of IPR is the reliance on written references, otherwise known as ‘prior art’. Typically, if one can demonstrate that something has been documented for long, it cannot be patented or copyrighted or otherwise claimed by a fresh claimant. This was the context of the patents on turmeric and neem, which were overturned on appeal based on clear prior art.

A classic work of such prior art is the Hortus Malabaricus, a 12-volume encyclopaedia of the medicinal plants of the Western Ghats, first printed in Latin around 1700. Written originally in Malayalam, Sanskrit and Konkani/Devanagari by vaidyas Itty Achuthan Kollat, Ranga Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit and Appu Bhat based mostly on the palm-leaf manuscripts of the Kollat family of physicians, it is a tour-de-force of traditional knowledge. Sadly, equally impressive palm-leaf manuscripts that are centuries old are rotting away or being eaten by termites every day. At the very least, digitizing and decoding this will add to the immense knowledge that India invented or discovered.

1077 words, 30 June 2015

an edited version of this was published on rediff on the 40th anniversary of the emergency’s declaration, on 25 jun 2015 at http://www.rediff.com/news/column/emergency-why-rajans-story-resonates-with-me/20150625.htm

i was bummed that they took out the pictures i had gone to great trouble to find and include:

1. the aged eachara warrier’s face, marked with the sorrow of a lifetime

2. the young and cherubic face of rajan as a child. such a beautiful child!

here’s my original prose, as i submitted it

The Emergency as the End of Innocence: Rajan and the Predatory State

Rajeev Srinivasan

When I think of the Emergency, it is not the large matters such as the setting aside of the Constitution that I remember, but the ‘disappeareds’, one in particular (see my column from 2000 “Remembering the Emergency” http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/jul/07rajeev.htm ). It was a forceful coming of age for us teenagers: I was a college student at the time. It marked a point of inflexion.

Growing up in middle class comfort, I had never come face to face with the State, except for minor scraps like being hauled the police station for riding my bicycle without a proper lamp. Therefore I had no idea about the Predatory State. And to be honest, insulated as we were in the sylvan surroundings of IIT Madras, the Emergency didn’t affect me all that much to begin with.

I was, in other words, like other college students who were blasé about the Emergency. Like Rajan, the young engineering student at REC, Calicut (the ‘Rajan Case’, and the heartbreaking film “Piravi” based on it). He ‘disappeared’ after he made fun of the Congress Chief Minister of Kerala, who was sitting on the dias at a function – but that was only in the age-old tradition of his story-telling Chakyar jati, who poked fun at the high and mighty in the courts of Travancore. Rajan was (possibly) also a Naxalite, or at least a leftist – in those days, every young man wanted to be a buddhi-jeevi, an intellectual, with a sling-bag and a beard.

But Rajan disappeared forever, and according to his friends who were also detained, he was probably tortured to death, the flesh on his legs destroyed with a wooden roller that policemen stood on while he screamed in pain, and later his body was burned with sugar to leave no trace. His father, the Professor Eachara Warrier, fought a lonely battle for the next thirty years till his own death, demanding that the State be accountable for what it did. Warrier filed a habeas corpus petition, demanding as a citizen that the state produce his son. But he was stonewalled, and the State never //owned up to its guilt; and the Chief Minister lived to a ripe old age, outliving Eachara Warrier. One or two police officers were scapegoated, but their political masters were never touched.

I am strongly affected by Rajan’s story, because it could have been mine. When I saw the staggeringly powerful film “Piravi”, a fictionalized version of Rajan’s case, tears rolled down my cheeks – I have never wept before or after at a film — because of the aged father, who reminded me of my own. I wept because, but for the grace of God, I could have been Rajan. Rajan, Rajeev, how does it matter? Just another ‘disappeared’, some engineering student who dared to cross the line. Piravi

In the story of that one man, there lies the microcosm of the monstrous thing that the Nehru Dynasty did, only to keep itself in power. Here’s a photograph of Rajan: a perfectly ordinary young man. In “Piravi”, he is never shown, only his presence (and his absence) as when his sister goes to clear out his hostel room: there is a single photograph – a large portrait of his father.

eacharawarrier.0

His father was one of my heros, a hero for our times http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/apr/24rajeev.htm when a lone man’s quest for dharma reminds us of how evanescent life is, and often how unfair. Eachara Warrier did not seek revenge, but he wanted justice; which he never got. He is one man I shall never forget. Here is his testament, the shatteringly powerful story he wrote about his son, “Memories of a father” http://ahrchk.net/pub/pdf/mof.pdf . “Why are you making my innocent child stand in the rain even after he’s dead?” he asks, in one of the most moving works I have ever come across. What a beautiful child, and to think what became of him!

Screenshot_2015-06-24-18-12-50

Somehow photographs become testaments; and this is Rajan’s. rajanYears later, I went to Tuol Sleng, the notorious prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge systematically photographed thousands of their victims before executing them. There they are, row after row of them, those who were about to die, staring at the camera in black and white photographs. Each one of them was a Rajan.

I came very close to being another number in that sorry ledger of the disappeared. For, we at IIT Madras did something that, in hindsight, was the height of foolishness, but we were too innocent to know it. In my days, the students were very co-operative with the management. There was even a staff strike that the students helped break, by manning the kitchens and taking over the janitorial and security duties.

But, during the Emergency, a new rule was put into effect: a tightening of the rules related to attendance. Hitherto, we had been required to be in class 66.6% of the time, the rest accounting for everything else, sickness, inter-IIT meets, sports, whatever. That ratio was raised to 75% with immediate effect. The students were shocked, partly because we believed that it was only poor teachers who suffered from bad attendance: so we demanded that a) either it be rolled back to 66.6%, or b) it should be increased to 75% only in conjunction with teacher evaluation by students.

I was one of the elected student representatives, and we went from hostel to hostel trying to convince our peers that this was a reasonable stance. Since the management refused to come to terms, we went on strike, and boycotted exams that were about to take place. The boycott was total: nobody wrote the exams, and it was a humiliating standoff for the management.

Then came a request to us to meet a central government official. About eight of us drove to one of those nondescript concrete blocks that housed government offices in Chennai. I don’t recall the time, but no, it was not that we were marched over there at midnight or terrorized. We were to meet a man who had the sinister title, Emergency Administrator, someone with the last name of Hande or Handa.

Hande was a polite, soft-spoken man, and he listened carefully to what we had to say. Then he sat back in his chair, and told us – I remember being chilled to the bone at what he said — that it would be better for us if we went back to class, and cancelled the strike. Think of your future, he said, he could put us ‘ringleaders’ in jail. Your careers will be ruined, and your friends will simply go back to their studies. He never said anything about our lives being ruined, but that was an unspoken subtext.

The enormity of the situation dawned on us only then. We were silent on the way back to campus. There we had a conclave, and we realized Hande was right: he had the power to destroy us, casually as though we were vermin, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it, considering that we were all anonymous middle-class youths, not the offspring of high officers or industrialists. We knew no judges. We called off the strike.

That is why Rajan’s story resonates with me. I was this close to being him. That was my introduction to the real world. Much later, I went to San Francisco’s Gadar Memorial, and read up on the Nehru Dynasty, and realized that what I had naively assumed was a democracy was indeed a Predatory State, unchanged from British times except for the skin color of the King Emperor.

1250 words

this was published on firstpost on jun 22 at:

http://www.firstpost.com/politics/modi-elbowing-sonia-rahul-congress-indias-cultural-memes-2306426.html

here is my original copy:

Under two flags, or, why did Sonia Gandhi and her kids go West on #YogaDay?

Rajeev Srinivasan

There is a famous Zen koan: “Why did Bodhidharma go East”? In the manner of Zen koans, there is no (correct) answer, but you are expected to meditate on it to see the insights behind the obvious, superficial facts. Said facts are that, indeed, a monk named Bodhidharma (some say a Pallava prince from Kanchipuram, who he trained in Kalari Payat, and embarked from Kodungalloor/Muziris circa 400CE) did go East, and taught Han monks at Shaolin in China unarmed combat, whence kung-fu.

But that’s not the point. What was behind Bodhidharma’s trip? He not only took Kalari Payat and its science of pressure points, but he also later invented Zen Buddhism itself in Japan, where he is respected as Daruma, the preceptor. So you could say, on some level, that he was a grand ambassador for Indic heritage, including Buddhism and Kalari (and some say the tea plant as well).

I was struck by the irony in that, on #InternationalYogaDay, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were all out of India. I heard they were abroad for a family function. So, following on the Zen koan, I ask: “Why did Sonia Gandhi go West”? Unlike Bodhidharma, I don’t think she went to take the message of Indic heritage to the West, although I may be mistaken. Her family has a business dealing in Indian antiques in Turino, I am told.

So what was the point of the trip? The obvious answer is that they would feel uncomfortable in India when the hoop-la of Yoga Day would be running 24×7 on TV, because the Congress Party was officially boycotting it. It was a great marketing event, and propaganda, and soft power, for India, and also, let’s face it, for the BJP and PM Narendra Modi himself. And the Nehru dynasty people, after having made the decision to boycott yoga, would have felt awkward to hang around in India. They have shown themselves to be graceless and churlish on occasion, but we’ll let that pass.

This dichotomy extends to other @IncIndia people too. Poor Shashi Tharoor appears to be on the horns of a dilemma: on the one hand, he does believe yoga is a good thing, but I suspect has been ordered by his party to ignore it. I started a thread saying that he was hurting his personal standing by ignoring #YogaDay, and he responded to MohanDas Pai, who chided him, with this tweet:

Shashi Tharoor ‏@ShashiTharoor  20h20 hours ago

. @MDPai05 @rajamel2107 @RajeevSrinivasa With respect, I’ve been citing yoga in my “soft power” speeches for more than a decade.

Basically Shashi is saying something that’s as plain as day to most of us: yoga gives India soft power. But with his party’s ‘High Command’ taking the stand that #YogaDay was inappropriate, Shashi is essentially admitting that he’s torn between two pressures, in other words under two flags.

Under Two Flags. That was the name of a rather forgettable Victorian romance novel from the 1860s, but a lot of us suffer from those conflicting loyalties. Jews have famously used passports as flags of convenience, always swearing, through their troubled times, that they would meet “next year in Jerusalem”, their imagined homeland. I think a lot of Indians in the diaspora carry other passports, but in their hearts, they feel very Indian.

I wonder if Sonia Gandhi, similarly, feels subject to two different pulls: one from the Italian past of her formative years, the other acquired via marriage. Most of us are prisoners of childhood experiences, because what we experienced then takes on a roseate glow in our memories. I have read a couple of absolutely stunning books by adults looking back at their childhood. The first by Marcel Pagnol, a French writer and filmmaker: “The days were too short”, from which he made two beautiful films too: “My mother’s castle” and “My father’s glory”, about his childhood summers spent in rural France.

The other is S K Pottekkat’s autobiographical novel “Oru desathinte katha” (The story of a land). Pottekkat won the Jnanpith and this book was cited, though he was known for his travelogues. This portrait of his youth in Kozhikode, including his gang of friends, “the supper circuit sangham”, and the beautiful but doomed Narayani, remains fresh in my memory although I read it as a teenager myself years ago.

These tales affect you in an emotive bay because we are sentimental about our childhoods, and so I would not blame Sonia Gandhi for being attached to her Italian-ness; and perhaps she has conveyed a bit of that to her children as well. But that is no reason why pucca desi Congresswallahs should pine for “cooler climes” as Hari Kumar does in “The Raj Quartet”, unless it’s an acquired second hand taste.

In a sense, Narendra Modi is presenting Sonia Gandhi and the Congress with an “unbearable lightness of being” (apologies to Milan Kundera). He is, one by one, plucking away the stalwarts of the Congress and making them his own – Sardar Patel, Dr Ambedkar; and he’s also appropriating the cultural memes – Ayurveda, now yoga. In the end, the Congress will be left with nothing to call its own. The essential hollowness of the Congress is being exposed ruthlessly: their empty sloganeering about socialism (which nobody cares about any more) and secularism (which is another word for apartheid against Hindus) are now putting in doubt the very existence of the party. Like the Communists, who are facing oblivion, the Congress is facing irrelevance in 21st century India.

Most companies have a shelf life of a few years as their raison d’etre disappears: we see this in the relentless Schumpeterian turmoil in Silicon Valley. The Congress has been around for some 125 years. The flight of the Gandhi family suggests it’s now reached obsolescence, only it doesn’t know it yet. Microsoft, struggling with an old business model, can sympathize.

1000 words, 22 June 2015

the following was published with minor edits on jun 21, summer solstice, at:

http://m.rediff.com/news/column/yoga-day-is-a-good-beginning-but-only-a-beginning/20150621.htm

here is the original content i sent to them.

The value of propaganda for India: the country needs more for its soft power, though Yoga is a start

Rajeev Srinivasan

I write this on the eve of #InternationalYogaDay, and I have been watching a lot of chatter on my Twitter timeline about it. There seem to be, at least in my limited acquaintance, two distinct camps: one group that is delighted that yoga is getting to be seen as more than mere physical exercise, and the Indian/Hindu connection is being revived. They see India’s soft power rising.

The second group is outraged at what it sees as the Indian government Hindu-izing what is essentially a heritage of mankind, which should have nothing to do with religion or spirituality. They are the ones who point out, with delight, how some pious Muslim nations have opted out of the celebrations. Some go so far as to take umbrage at what they claim is the government forcing certain disciplines down their throats.

There is a third group too: it argues about whether the word is actually yog, yoga, or yogaa. I admit that I participated in a long argument about the effects of languages like Persian on the development of apabhramsa or creolized tongues, and how their impact has or has not affected the Hindi pronunciation. (In case you are wondering, by Sanskrit rules, it is yoga, /ˈjoʊɡə/ phonetically ,with the ə being the ‘schwa’, or half-pronounced semi-vowel, as in about, driver etc. That is, it’s not the abrupt yog, or  the elongated yogaa.)

Going back to the first group, it consists of those who consider themselves patriotic, not surprisingly. Some of them are perhaps a little touchy, partly because they have seen all sorts of Indian cultural artifacts being genericized and claimed by others. They feel that even at this late stage we must protect what is genuine intellectual property and innovation from India.

Alas, India has been robbed of an enormous amount of its intellectual creations because of outright theft and by western prejudice that all civilization must have come from Greece and Rome, and couldn’t possibly have come from India. This list is long, and suffice to mention the infinite series for trigonometric functions discovered by Madhava, which the West has dubbed the Taylor and Maclaurin series. Similarly, astronomy staples such as the constellations were likely Indian concepts, but they have been declared to be of Greek origin by (unconsciously) prejudiced westerners.

The first group are the people, cultural nationalists, who rejoiced the most at Narendra Modi’s emphatic win last year. They are delighted that under this PM, India’s profile has risen, and they see nothing wrong in asserting ownership of what is indubitably ours in origin. The fact is that, in the intellectual property regimen that prevails via WTO, WIPO etc, it is imperative to assert claims lest they be stolen.

This group also sees the value in soft power and propaganda. There is the instructive case of China, which has managed to assert its ownership of things that it has no historical claim to (as in the case of Tibet, and parts of the South China Sea) using dubious and fabricated history. In addition, western collaborators such as Joseph Needham have written large volumes on Chinese science, quite generously ‘awarding’ a lot of Indian science and technology to the Chinese! This has now become ‘truth by repeated assertion’.

What we are seeing is the triumph of propaganda. There is clearly value in a narrative that can be sold to large numbers of people. For instance, there has been a recent spate of articles about the Rohingya boat people, with TheEconomist going so far as to ask if they were the most persecuted people in the world http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21654124-myanmars-muslim-minority-have-been-attacked-impunity-stripped-vote-and-driven. Very fine sentiment about desperate boat people, except that it was a nice tactic to divert attention away from the fact that equally desperate boat people were being turned away from Europe, after suffering horribly mostly as a fallout from Western actions: invasions, and before that, redrawing of boundaries.

Startlingly, on Quartz, a former NYTimes stringer in India wrote an article http://qz.com/406744/the-rohingya-crisis-is-proof-that-xi-and-modi-are-no-global-leaders/  making Modi (and Xi) responsible for rescuing the Rohingyas. This is quite bizarre considering that the Rohingya issue has nothing whatsoever to do with India.

On the other hand, there was nothing in any of the Western media about the truly most oppressed people in the world, such as the #Roma in Europe, the #Yazidi in Iraq/Syria, or the #Tibetans. The Roma have been brutalized for close to a millennium, and here comes this new poll: they are the most hated people in Europe; no wonder they have practically no human rights. There has been practically no comment on it. Let us also note that the top three hated groups are all generally non-white, so that Europe’s vaunted racial tolerance is really just a smoke screen for racism. The fervid publicity for Rohingyas hides their own centuries-old hatred for Roma, people of Indian origin who may well be escapees from the slave trade of Indians in the bazaars of Afghanistan after the invasions of the Ghorids and Gaznavis:

Screenshot_2015-06-20-19-14-06

Similarly, the Western media is very vocal about #InternationalYogaDay, and spares no effort to diminish it. There have been a number of articles in various Western outlets essentially dissing India/Hinduism and yoga, and declaring that there is hardly any connection between the two. Not surprisingly, it is the same memes that we have heard from the Indian group of doubters, so that there’s the likelihood that they’re all singing from the same hymn book. They share similar strategic intents, of course. Here’s a tweet from The Financial Times:

Screenshot_2015-06-20-19-14-46

And exactly what is wrong if India wants to reclaim her heritage? I noticed that the British exerted themselves mightily to celebrate the 800th anniversary of their charter, the Magna Carta, just a few days ago. This is supposed to be a quasi-sacred document that gave the world democracy, although in reality it is no such thing, and, for instance the Uttamerur inscription in Tamil Nadu http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/uttaramerur-model-of-democracy/article243997.ece  show a flourishing village democracy 300 years earlier. Even so, there’s nothing wrong if Brits claim their patrimony, but the FT seems to think it inappropriate for Indians to do so.

This brings us to the whole issue of asserting soft power. India has not done so well at it. But its rivals have huge networks: for instance the Americans have propaganda magazine SPAN and Voice of America, and for all practical purposes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and all of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. All these project a positive image of the US. The BBC and British papers such as The Economist, The Financial Times, The Guardian, etc. go with the US program when it comes to non-white nations, although they may have intra-Anglophone quarrels.

The Soviets used to have Soviet Land etc., now their heirs the Russians run Russia Today, apparently a fairly sophisticated outfit with both web and TV operations.

China, along with the rise of its hard power, has assiduously built up a network, including Global Times, Asia Times, Xinhua and other properties, plus they have bought up a series of editors, including those of what is now ‘China’s national newspaper’ in India.

The Arabs have a slew of newspapers, as well as the rapidly expanding Al-Jazeera, now a formidable operation with outlets in the US as well, and enough money to buy good staff and build up a franchise.

So where is India’s answer to all this? It’s true that we first have to construct a narrative of ‘Indian exceptionalism’ or ‘Hindu exceptionalism’ along the lines of the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ and the ‘Confucian Work Ethic’. I made a small start about the ‘Hindu Work Ethic’ http://www.hindunet.org/alt_hindu/1995_Feb_2/msg00142.html twenty years ago, but the narrative hasn’t taken off, mostly thanks to earlier governments deliberately limiting the hard power needed to support the soft power.

There is Prasar Bharati, of course, under the dynamic Surya Prakash, but it isn’t enough. At the moment, it’s all it can do to keep the malafide MSM in check, but clearly an overseas operation needs to be mounted. An example is Voice of America broadcasting from the Seychelles, and Radio Free Europe blasting away from various places on the periphery of the Soviet Union.

#InternationalYogaDay is a very good beginning – but it is only a beginning. India needs to build its Grand Narrative, and its cultural power, which conquered all of ASEAN (then known as Indo-China), needs to be forcefully projected while simultaneously hard economic and military power are also emphasized. The Germans have their Goethe Institutes, the French their Alliances Francaise, the British their libraries, the Americans their lavish consulates, and the Chinese the Confucian Institutes. India needs to create its Patanjali Yoga Institutes as well to maintain the momentum.

1450 words, 20 Jun 2015

a slightly edited version of this was published by firstpost at:

http://www.firstpost.com/politics/lalitmodigate-is-a-red-herring-govt-should-ignore-it-with-the-contempt-it-deserves-2304548.html

here’s the original content i sent:

#LalitModiGate is a red herring, the Indian government should ignore it with the contempt it deserves

Rajeev Srinivasan

There has been a god-awful fuss about from the usual suspects about the allegation that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went out of her way to help Lalit Modi, the scam-tainted erstwhile cricket honcho. Moral indignation has been flying thick and fast, and all those pure-as-the-driven-snow people in the MSM and in the Congress have been beside themselves with schadenfreude. It’s as though they have just discovered a way in which a shamefaced Prime Minister will resign and seek vanaprastham.

I have news for the usual suspects: the Prime Minister doesn’t give a damn. (No, he didn’t confide in me, but I am conjecturing from first principles). He’s used to the media, assorted lefties and other malcontents manufacturing wild allegations against him, and he’s generally treated them with the contempt they deserve. I am pretty sure that’s what’s happening here as well.

There are several interesting meta-questions about this non-issue; but, in my opinion, instead of getting rattled by it, the government should just sail on, and brazen it out. The professional agitators will latch on to another pet issue next week – remember last week’s holy fury about the “shouldn’t have done cross-border raid” meme, which has totally become passe – and it’s best to simply ignore them.

I am sure this advice is hard for people to accept: our instinct is to justify what we’ve done, and to convince others that we have done nothing wrong. For instance, the Minister took to defending herself on Twitter; her followers warned that in responding to trolls, she was bringing herself down to their level. The fact that the Minister herself is tweeting is good, but she should remember how easy it is to get bogged down arguing with anonymous trolls with time and motivation.

This is symptomatic of the BJP’s general syndrome of wanting to explain themselves to their critics and to prove that they are innocent. The fact of the matter is that the accusers are not looking for truth or ethics: the accusation is but one of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that has been popularized by certain military planners. There is no way you are going to convince the accusers – for they have no wish to be convinced, as they have already made up their minds, no doubt with some lubrication.

The best thing is to sail on through this as though you were an imperturbable battleship (eyes on the prize) facing a minor skirmish with a few nuisance-value pirate boats, or to mix metaphors wildly, to repose faith in the Arab proverb: “Dogs bark, but the caravan keeps moving”. It works. Just to give an example, remember how the UPA government stonewalled every allegation of Electronic Voting Machine fraud (which I continue to believe contributed greatly to their surprise 2009 win), knowing full well that the accusers would eventually get tired and move on to something else?

And indeed, contrary to conventional wisdom, foreign affairs has been one of the signal success stories of this administration – and the prize is large, getting the nation’s profile to match its potential. Sushma Swaraj has been an able deputy to the Prime Minister, and indeed, whatever else has been done or not done, India has arrived on the world stage, emphatically. Thus, it is in the interests of India’s enemies to attack it and reduce its ability to build up appropriate relationships, as seen in the antics of global media that are propaganda arms for various powers. And indeed, the momentum behind #InternationalYogaDay – a remarkable assertion of Indian soft power — may be contributing to the need to put down India’s government right now.

A second reason is that Sushma Swaraj is a woman, and #despitebeingawoman, she’s holding an important position. Another woman in the Cabinet, Smriti Irani, has been the victim of much griping and grumbling, and so has, to a lesser extent, Sadhvi Niranjan. Let us note that no male minister in the NDA-2 regime has been dragged over the coals so far. CM Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan is being dragged in as well.

I saw some speculation on Twitter by @bdutt that either Swaraj or Raje will be sacked by the BJP. Shame, is it? Coming from the MSM, this is rich: they are famous for their thick skin when it’s demonstrated beyond doubt that they are working to certain #deepstate http://www.firstpost.com/india/us-deep-state-indias-daughter-india-now-part-new-axis-evil-2152087.html  agendas – the latest is the hiring of a hideously racist and bigoted journalist by a famous NGO as their India head.

Note that the MSM is targeting women. Misogyny is the birthright of Leftists in India. Periodically, ‘Maoist’ cadre women exit citing sexual slavery. Greenpeace, laughably, ‘apologized’ for rape and sexual harassment, and weasel-worded why they had not taken action against the serial rapist senior manager http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/greenpeace-india-apologises-for-sexual-assault-of-staff-says-action-taken-772594 . The silence from the usually indignant MSM is deafening.

The MSM is particularly bad about women’s rights. The sorry saga of Tarun Tejpal’s infamous fingertips (in case you have forgotten, he introduced them forcibly into the private parts of a resisting young woman who was his daughter’s close friend, and then bragged about it in an SMS to her) shows how the MSM deals with women. Another woman reporter was recently arrested in Bengal for orally ‘servicing’ a superior in his car, which presumably was the price of continuing to be employed.

In politics, it remains unfathomable that with all their feminist rhetoric, Kerala communists sidelined their tallest leader, K R Gowri, never allowing her to become Chief Minister. It is clear that women are in the gunsights of assorted lefties, especially if they are OBCs or SC/ST.

A third reason is that, laughably enough, the media and Congress might think that any mud that sticks to the Modi (Lalit) name will indirectly hurt Modi (Narendra). After all, the Congress has made an entire career out of using the Gandhi name to imply that the Mahatma (the real Gandhi) has somehow blessed the Nehru-Gandhis (the #fekuGandhis, who should actually be the Ghandys, after Feroze Jehangir Ghandy).

I have called this “nomenclature terrorism” in the past https://rajeev2007.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/nomenclature-terrorism/  : the Left is adept at using insinuation to demonize. For instance, the term “liberal” which appears to be a positive, in fact now means a hate-filled, anti-national, person who may be a poster-boy or poster-girl for raw, unreasoning dogma and blind faith. Through constant repetition, lefties have successfully made “Hindutva”, for instance, and “RSS”, words that strike terror into the hearts of half the middle-class people in India.

Collective brainwashing works. In Japan, the “pacifist” Constitution imposed by occupying Americans forbids the creation of any offensive military capability. So much so that now, even when faced with an existential threat by the Chinese, the Japanese refuse to countenance dropping this nonsense. Similarly, in India, the meaningless-in-our-context words like “secularism”, “minority” have been used to devastating effect to mean things that are the exact opposite of their dictionary meanings. George Orwell would be proud of them. Yes, war is peace, too, especially if it emanates from Pakistan.

Fourth, there is the motive of ‘revenge’ of sorts. There was the fuss a few weeks ago about giving an Indian passport to a Kashmiri separatist named Syed Ali Geelani. He declared that he would not fill in his nationality as “Indian”, but let it be known that he expected that the passport would be issued nevertheless. That became the cause-celebre du jour for the MSM. In the end, the MEA (or MHA) decided that, going by the book, it would not be possible to issue Geelani the passport.

So this is the MSM’s revenge on the government.

The funny thing though is that all this may backfire badly on the Congress and the MSM. They have skeletons aplenty in their closets. There is the way Rajiv Gandhi’s childhood friend Adil Shahryar was bailed out by the Congress in 1985 as the NYTimes reported http://www.nytimes.com/1985/08/15/us/briefing-of-clemency.html ; how Warren Anderson (of Union Carbide) was smuggled out after the Bhopal disaster in 1984; how Quatrocchi (of Bofors fame) escaped in 1993; and how Kim Davy (of Purulia arms drop fame) was allowed to leave in 1995. Those who live in glass houses had better be careful with the stones they chuck around casually.

1400 words, 18 Jun 2015

this was published on jun 10th at: http://www.rediff.com/news/column/nestle-and-the-billa-ranga-syndrome/20150610.htm

this was published on firstpost on jun 10th at http://www.firstpost.com/india/done-being-a-soft-state-indian-army-playing-avenger-in-myanmar-is-a-message-to-china-pakistan-2288004.html

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