Monthly Archives: September 2015
The most heartwarming picture from the Syrian refugee saga. This man could not bear to leave his kitteh behind when he set out to make his perilous journey from Syria. The kitten looks so comfy in the sling. I wonder how my boss cat would react if put him in a sling like that. I will let you know if I survive the attempt.
By two_kittehs ( Picture by: cvf (cua via facebook)
What’s your favorite murder mystery by Agatha Christie?
Last year the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power at both the federal level and many states in India, on the promises of economic development for all. Amongst their very first actions as the ruling party in several states was taking up the divisive issue of banning cow slaughter in those states. It turns out that the beef bans were not enough to satisfy the hyper pious. Now the governments of Haryana and Mumbai and some of its suburbs (Mira-Bhayandar), ostensibly out of respect to Jains have banned the sale of all meat for the next few days. Jains are currently in the midst of 8-10 day long period of abstinence and fasting called Paryushan. Jains are a tiny (<1% of India’s population) but prosperous minority in many Indian states including Maharashtra and Haryana.
There have been bans on slaughter of animals in place apparently since 1964 in deference to Paryushan. However the Jains have been trying to push the envelope by increasing the days of the ban and the activities involving the sale of meat that they want the ban to encompass. Does the increasing Jain belligerence and their intolerant vegetarian diktats have something to with BJP’s rising electoral fortunes since the late 90s?
On paper, Jainism sounds like a noble religion with tenets like respecting all life no matter how insignificant. However this does not translate to respect and tolerance of fellow humans, especially the ones who may not adhere to strict dietary code that Jains do. Some Jains and other militant vegetarians have discriminated against meat-eaters by refusing to rent or sell housing to them. Recognizing that these incidents are not isolated but systemic, Bombay’s Municipal corporation passed a resolution in 2014 against discrimination in housing based on dietary habits. Jains have also used their financial muscle to empty grocery store shelves of items they find offensive, which can include anything from eggs to spices. The veggies Nazis in Bombay have been emboldened even more off late as they now have fellow travelers in high political office in the form of current BJP chief minister of Maharashtra, the Prime Minister of India and his national party chief.
I have a personal anecdote from my last trip. I could not buy a tandoori spice mix from a grocery store in South Bombay, that also caters to Jains. The store owner did not sell the same because his Jain clientele objected to its sale. Mind you the spice mix has no meat or meat products, but what offended the holier-than-thou Jains was the picture of the tandoori chicken on the tiny spice box. Dear Jains, no one is asking you to eat meat, but stop being the self appointed food police telling others what to eat in their own homes.
Ultimately this fight is not about food at all but foisting a very upper caste Gujarati/BJP version of piety on everyone else. They should be careful since this stance can easily backfire, strict vegetarianism of the Jain variety is not the creed of majority of Indians or even Hindu Indians for that matter.
ETA: Sanity prevails in the end, the High Court stays the meat ban.
India’s partition, or the last bloody gift of the not so benevolent British rule, is one of those events that echo through history and haunt the present. You cannot understand the geopolitics of the region without understanding the precipitating event that lead to the birth of the two countries.
I started reading Nisid Hajari’s Midnight’s Furies on the partition of India, because of the glowing reviews it had received. I have made it up to a hundred pages so far. To say that it is flawed doesn’t even begin to cover my annoyance with Hajari’s narration. My critique is based on the first 100 pages of Furies and his essay on India’s partition. Here are the reasons why:
1. The moral equivalence between the case for a pluralistic India vs. an exclusionary Pakistan based solely on religion.
2. Gossipy narration worthy of supermarket tabloids, to wit, Nehru liked buxom women, well him and a majority of the male populace. This hardly counts as an insight or even an interesting factoid.
4. Getting the basics wrong, like the meaning of Satyagraha.
Satyagraha is literally soul force.
It is literally not. “satya” = truth “agraha” = insistence. In other words, Satyagraha is the insistence on truth no matter the consequences. I can almost imagine Yoda-Gandhi saying to Skywalker-Nehru,
May the soul force be with you.
BTW. what is RSSS? Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is usually abbreviated as RSS not RSSS
5. Flowery language, top heavy with adjectives.
Several of the Muslim conquerors who had dominated India before the British had brutalized their defeated Hindu foes, massacring thousands and demolishing their flower-strewn temples.
What does this even mean? I have been to several temples, they are seldom flower strewn, the only flowers one usually finds are on the deity behind the altar.
6. Criticizing leaders of the past based on their followers in the present.
Equally troubling was the moral cover the Mahatma granted his longtime followers Nehru and “Sardar” Vallabhbhai Patel — a Gujarati strongman much admired by Modi, who also hails from Gujarat and who served as the state’s chief minister for over a decade. Echoing Gandhi’s injunction against pushing anyone into Pakistan against their wishes, Nehru and Patel insisted that the huge provinces of Punjab and Bengal be split into Muslim and non-Muslim halves, with the latter areas remaining with India.
Considering what happened to East Pakistan in 1971 and the travails of Pakistan’s other minorities, Patel and Nehru’s actions seem particularly prescient. I also have no idea what Narendra Modi has to do with any of this.
7. Too much focus on personalities, too little on the events and imperatives, not to speak of the history, that lead to the partition. Some background into the formation of the Muslim League would have been helpful. Shorter Hajari, If the main personalities in the conflict got along better, everything would have been fine. This approach strikes me as ahistorical and wrong. You cannot expect to understand the events of 1946-47 if you have no idea what went on before. Jinnah’s personal history including the difficult relationship with the Congress leaders, is not enough to understand the demand for Pakistan.
8. I have saved the best or should I say worst of all, leaps of logic that leave you scratching your head, like blaming the leaders of the Indian Independence Movement for the mess that Pakistan is currently in.
But however exaggerated Pakistan’s fears may be now, Indian leaders bear great responsibility for creating them in the first place.
So are the ghosts of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel compelling Pakistan to perform self destructive deeds from beyond their grave?
However, I do have to give Hajari’s book credit for making me want to dig deeper about the history of the partition and case for Pakistan. While doing that I came across a better narrator, B. R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution. Ambedkar like Jinnah had locked horns with Gandhi on several occasions and they did not see eye to eye on many an issue. So, Ambedkar is as close to a neutral party as one can get in this saga, who was also an eye witness and a participant to the major political struggles that ultimately led to the division of India.
B. R. Ambedkar’s remarkable commentary on the case for Pakistan written was written in 1940, it is hosted on Columbia University’s website. Ambedkar, an alumnus of Columbia besides being a prolific writer was an economist and a lawyer by profession. My thoughts on Ambedkar and his commentary has to wait for another post.
In the Republican fight for the Presidential nomination, its all immigrant bashing all the time. Demonizing immigrants from Mexico is what has propelled Donald Trump to the front of the pack. So after anchor babies, building a wall on the Canadian border and tracking all visitors to the United States like FedEx packages, what’s next on the menu of the immigrant hate fest?
According to many conservative intellectuals and I am using this term loosely, the real problem with immigration is the legal variety. Number of legal permanent residents admitted every year is too damn high, for the likes of Mark Krikorian, the National Review contributor and a frequent guest expert on immigration for the PBS News Hour. This is what he has to say about legal immigration,
Downsizing the federal immigration program would give us a breather, improving the job prospects and reducing welfare dependency, not only of the native-born but also the immigrants already here. Republican efforts at recruiting in immigrant communities might have a chance of catching up to the rapid growth that will take place even without immigration. Note that better control over illegal immigration — walls, mass deportations, whatever — isn’t going to fix this. Most immigration is legal immigration, and that’s where change is most needed.
The current numbers for legal immigration are about 1 million per year. A quick look at the data shows, that about half of the green cards granted from years 2011-2013 went to direct relatives of United States citizens. These relatives include spouses, parents and children. The number of green cards that went to employment related categories was less than 15% from 2012-2013 and 16% in 2011. So even if all the employment based legal immigration was slowed down to a trickle, it wouldn’t make a dent in the overall numbers, for that you would have to get rid of family sponsored green cards or greatly reduce their numbers. In 2013, 68% of the family sponsored green cards went to the immediate relatives of US citizens of which 39% went to spouses.
So I am wondering, which of the presidential candidates of the party of limited government will first present a plan to deal with this scourge, by decreeing who you can get married to? This is not as far fetched as its sounds. The idea of ending birthright citizenship had been doing rounds in conservative circles before it ended up in the Trump plan and the national conversation. Here, is an article in Slate advocating the same, written by Reihan Salam.
What is ironic is that Krikorian and Salam who have somewhat recent immigrant roots (namely being a grandchild and a child of immigrants) want to pull up the draw bridge now that they are in and let the riff raff drown in the moat. They may try to dress their objections in more intellectual clothing but their ideology smacks of double standards and the philosophy of FYGM. According to Krikorian and Salam, the current crop of immigrants are a net drain. If they don’t work (because they are either children or the elderly) they are a burden to the society, if they work they are stealing jobs from hard working Americans. The only good immigrants, according to these two are the ones who came in generations past, like their parents or grandparents.