Category Archives: Current News

Houston, We Have a Problem

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a rally scheduled in Houston this Sunday.  WalMart is one of the sponsors and the President of the United States has promised to attend along with an estimated 50,000 attendees.

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What bright future are we talking about? The Indian economy is in the doldrums, minority populations live in fear, rapists are not arrested if they belong to the ruling party while activists fighting for the rights of the dispossessed languish in jail without a trial. As for dreams, the dream of a Hindutva dominated India where minorities are persecuted and dissenting voices are silenced, sounds more like a nightmare. Where the truth is sacrificed at the altar of political expediency and history is rewritten to service the ideology of hate.

Why is Modi doing this? My guess is for the publicity and for the $$. It’s also a reward for those among the diaspora who opened their wallets for Modi’s reelection. This rally would give the Prime Minister a much needed PR boost internationally after the draconian anti-democratic steps being taken in Kashmir since August 4th.  It will show his fans and supporters back home in India that India has the world’s respect. Getting the US president who routinely demonizes immigrants, to a rally attended mostly by immigrants is definitely a PR coup for team Modi.

I was actually surprised that the White House accepted the invitation. Indian Americans have voted heavily for Democratic candidates  in the recent past, see the figure below.  Some have suggested that the crowd size may have been the irresistible attraction. Besides the fact that the Hindu right has deep pockets.

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In addition to the President, 60 other elected leaders of both parties have promised to attend according to the organizers. Here is the list of those whose names appear in the news dispatch.

  1. Raja Krishnamoorthi
  2. John Cornyn
  3. Ted Cruz
  4. Al Green
  5. Pete Olson
  6. Sheila Jackson Lee
  7. Sylvia Garcia, Greg Abbot
  8. Cindy Hyde-Smith
  9. Ami Bera
  10. Brian Babin
  11. Brad Sherman,
  12. Eliot Engel

Firstpost is reporting that Steny Hoyer is also going to attend.

Check if your representative or senator is on the list and going to  share a podium with a man who presided over a pogrom targeting Muslims in 2002 as the chief executive of Gujarat and is pursuing a  nakedly majoritarian agenda in his second term as the prime minister. Actions in Kashmir being the case in point, where people have been without internet or cell phone access and access to medical care since August 4th.

Check out the BBC for news updates on Kashmir.

Watch this space for more updates on this developing story of the Houston rally. If you have questions leave them in the comments.

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Orange Fever

I am afraid that scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is just the beginning, it has little to do with the development of Kashmir.Prime Minister Modi’s agenda for India in his second term is to change India’s constitution and pave the way for a majoritarian state which is a democracy in name alone. 94 years after its formation the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) is the closest to achieving its goal of the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).

The international media is missing the RSS agenda behind Modi’s actions.  Before he entered politics, Modi was a pracharak or a fulltime evangelist for the RSS. Just like the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee before him. There is no daylight between what the Sangh wants and what the BJP wants. BJP is the political front of the Sangh,  an all male grassroots fraternal organization that has had only one non-brahmin  sarsangchalak (chief of the Sangh)  in its almost hundred years of existence. According to some estimates a group that  makes up  around 5% of the population of India. Also with two exceptions spanning 16 years, all the other sarsangchalaks have been Marathi brahmins. The Sangh still does not admit women. For a group that purports to speak for all Hindus its leadership is drawn from a tiny slice of Hindu male brahmins.

India is as complex as  Europe would be if it were one country.  India is home to two major language families and twenty two official languages. India also has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. The Sangh sees this diversity be it religious or  linguistic as inherently problematic. Their dream India, which they call Bharat is united under the saffron banner of Hindutva speaking as one in one language, Hindi. Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are considered Hindu for the purposes of this classification but Christians and Muslims are not. Sangh ideologues have argued that diversity made India  weaker and an easy prey for the British in the 18th and the 19th centuries  and the first wave of Muslim invaders from Central Asia a thousand years ago and later. The way for India to go back to its former greatness is to unite under a banner of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).

Britain has been forgiven but BJP and its sympathizers want Muslim citizens of India to pay for the sins of the central Asian invaders and also for the formation of Pakistan.  Their claims about a Hindu rashtra  are inspired more by the nationalistic fervor sweeping Europe in the early twentieth century than they are by ancient India. Here is what Madhav Golwalkar, the most influential sarsangchalak who held the post for 43 years had to say about Hitler’s Germany in a book published in the 1940s.

…To keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races – the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.

Also the RSS map of Akhand Bharat (Greater India) is suspiciously closer to that of British India.

Akhand_Bharat

Akhand Bharat

British_India

British India

As I explained in my post on Kashmir, Kashmir’s special status given its Muslim majority was something that  Sangh’s leaders could not stand right from the early years of independence.  And before independence, hatred and the fear of Muslims was the foundational capstone of the Sangh and other Hindu right organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha. In their telling tiny Britain was able to subjugate mighty India and because Hindus were cowed down by the Muslim rule of over a thousand years. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Savarkar had this to say about Muslims in an interview to an American journalist in 1945.

Muslims in India should be treated as ‘Negroes’

Savarkar headed the Hindu Mahasabha and inspired among others, Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse. He was indicted in the Gandhi’s assassination but not sentenced. The Mahasabha was currently in the news for reenacting the infamous assassination.

In today’s India Savarkar can count among his fans the current prime minister.

We bow to Veer Savarkar on his Jayanti. Veer Savarkar epitomises courage, patriotism and unflinching commitment to a strong India. He inspired many people to devote themselves towards nation building.

The partition of British India and the formation of Pakistan on the eve of independence is just added another item to their the mile long list of grievances against Indian Muslims. The ones who chose to stay in India believing the promise that the authors of  the Indian Constitution made to all its minorities that India was for all Indians, irrespective of caste, gender, language or religion.

Actions taken in Kashmir this August are just the first steps in the RSS agenda. If you think all this does not affect you, you would be wrong because Hindu Sevak Sangh(HSS), the RSS offshoot in the United States has been propping up Tulsi Gabbard and has chapters all over the US.

A Troubled Paradise

Jammu & Kashmir UT and Ladakh UT

It has been over a week since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right hand man from Gujarat, Amit Shah who is now the home minister changed the constitution of India with little debate in the parliament. Modi government has abrogated Article 370  and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. The state has been under curfew and a strict communication blockade for the last eleven days. Former Kashmiri chief ministers are under arrest.

Article 370  concerns the accession of Kashmir to India, while 35A granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir a degree of autonomy to make laws governing the citizenry of the state. They have been revoked by the government in New Delhi with no input from the citizens of Kashmir. Constitutional scholars can argue about the legalistic validity of these moves, but these actions are undemocratic and unworthy of a constitutional democracy.  They blatantly disregard the will of the people of Kashmir. The central government is acting as a colonial power within its own boundaries. Muslim majority Kashmir has been reduced to little more than a colony of Hindu majority India. You can see the population breakup from the 2011 census in the table that I have included. These were the fears that lead to the partition of India. This move reopens the wounds of partition which in Kashmir’s case were never healed.

What this does in practical terms is it strips  of Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and partitions it into two administrative regions. Jammu and Kashmir being the first region and the Buddhist majority Ladakh being the other.

It also means the death of the Indian Republic as it was conceived by the generation that fought for Indian independence. The ideological ancestors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were nowhere to be found in the freedom struggle. Instead, they were busy criticizing the Indian National Congress and collaborating with the British.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir, independent India’s only Muslim majority state was guaranteed limited autonomy when they agreed to become a part of India instead of Pakistan after the partition of India. This has been an anathema to the Hindu right since India’s inception. A thorn in the side of their dream of a muscular Hindu state where other religions are not equal but merely tolerated.

Modi and Shah’s actions betray India’s founding principles, and undermine both federalism, religious freedom. The intellectual heirs of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassins are enacting their vision of India. That the BJP did this after getting a brute majority in the elections held earlier this year is not surprising. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS)’s  agenda on this issue has been clear since India’s independence when their political arm was called the Jan Sangh.

What has been rather disappointing and sad is the feeble to non-existent opposition response and sycophancy of India’s prestige media like the Times of India, the Hindu and India Today. Most of the Indian media is either not covering this major story or giving cover to the government in New Delhi.

One has to go the web-only outlet,  The Wire to find Kashmir covered in detail.  This story is still developing and I will post updates.

Table I : Population Breakup of the Jammu and Kashmir from the 2011 census

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Source: Wikipedia

India Decides

5/23 Update: The Election Commission has started counting the votes and Modi seems to be headed for a second term.

This is a brief primer to help you make sense of the main players on the Indian political scene.  Ther Bharatiya Janata Party  (Indian People’s Party)  is currently in power, its main opposition, is the Indian National Congress. Then there is a third mostly left of center grouping which calls itself Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) and advocates for the rights of Bahujans (common people, a short hand term for the alliance of Other Backward Castes and Dalits*).

The key to understanding Indian politics is caste, region and ideology, in that order. Most of the analyses I see in the western media and much of the English language media in India misses that point, by focusing solely on ideology and the two main parties. They also ignore India’s linguistic diversity, and regional politics which vary greatly. Most importantly, they ignore caste which plays roughly the same role that race plays in US politics.

In this post I will focus on the BJP and its leader, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Bharatiya Janata Party: Is the party in power at the center (federal level) right now. It won an outright majority during the last Loksabha elections in 2014. It was the  first time a party other than the Congress had managed this feat. The previous BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed a coalition government.

Before 2014, Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. On the national stage he was credited with the economic growth the state had achieved  and the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad, precipitated by the events in Godhra.

Since his election in 2014, Mr. Modi’s government has delivered on the items on hard right agenda.  Banning the slaughter of cows had been a long stated goal of the Hindutva hardliners. Twenty states out of twenty nine now have restrictions on the slaughter of cows. It may come as a surprise to many that majority of  Hindus are not vegetarian and some even eat beef. These cattle slaughter bans have hit the poor and lower caste Hindus as well as Muslims the hardest. Roving bands of vigilantes who call themselves cow protectors have used these bans to intimidate and sometimes  lynch people.

Modi’s  record on the economic front has been questionable.  The much touted demonetization scheme  aimed at removing high denomination currency out of the economy to combat corruption missed all of its stated goals. India’s suffering farmers have seen no respite and the unemployment numbers have been the worst in forty years.

BJP purports to speak on the behalf of all Hindus but their agenda and their saffron roving bands make many  Hindus, let alone religious minorities, who don’t share its  dogma, nervous. They are not being paranoid because many activists agitating on the behalf of those in tribal areas and lower castes sit in jail under trumped up charges. Journalists have died for speaking out as have academics like M. M Kalburgi.

BJP is the political arm of the all male Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) modeled after Europe’s Fascist movements of the early twentieth century. RSS seeks to unite Hindus separated by caste, language and region into militant nationalism called Hindutva.  RSS was formed in British India in 1925 by K. B. Hedgewar, a Brahmin physician from Maharashtra and has its head quarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra. They were largely absent during India’s freedom struggle against the British, spent most of their time attacking Congress and complaining about their tactics. Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse had RSS links.

BJP and  its earlier incarnation, the Jan Sangh never achieved much in the way of electoral success until the late 80s.  Their electoral fortunes changed when they adopted building a Ram Temple in Ayodhya in place of Mughal emperor Babur’s mosque as their core issue.

The most important project of  RSS and other Hindutva idealogues has been to rewrite history to further their own agenda. The last 5 years has seen the  mainstreaming  of previously fringe RSS propaganda into the political discourse. We have seen the lionization of Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, vilification of Jawarhlal Nehru, India’s first Prime minister and to a lesser extent of Mohandas Gandhi.  Orwell’s 1984 seems to be their Bible, or should I say Gita?

The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

Ultimately what is stake in this election is the truth, we will see if India lives up to its motto,

सत्यमेव जयते ( Satyameva Jayate)

 

And if the truth ultimately triumphs.

In part two of this series I will discuss and analyze the results and the other two other major political  groupings contesting the elections.

(*Dalit = downtrodden, these are mostly castes considered to be at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and many are considered ritually impure. Many of these taboos still persist in parts of India. Prejudice against these castes by those in power is commonplace).

Some Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

If President Obama was Martin Luther King’s dream come true then the current president is that dream curdled into a nightmare. The latest pointless debate over whether his disparaging remarks calling countries with predominantly black populations shitholes makes him a racist, misses the point. The daily random insult generator in the White House has a one point agenda of hate.

During the Obama years, everything that happened anywhere in the world, was all Obama’s fault. From the genocide in Syria to the leak in British Petroleum’s oil well. For this President, nothing is ever his fault, he is not to be held responsible even for the words coming out of his mouth. Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour actually praised the President for his performance during a televised bipartisan meeting about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), where he seemed to have no idea what he was talking about.  She was by far not the only one.The prestigious old media continues give the Republicans cover as they continue to destroy one democratic norm after another.

The sad thing is not that the President is a racist but that millions voted for him despite that or may be even because of that. Though they knew that  he was the most ill prepared and ill suited candidate to ever run on a major party’s ticket. Even sadder is the fact that the party of Lincoln condones the  bile he spews on a daily basis. It is they who made his rise possible and have given him the institutional support to thrive. They couldn’t care less that he  pisses away our international prestige one outrageous statement and one discriminatory policy at a time.

They may make soaring speeches praising Dr. King now but Republicans have been single minded in their quest to overturn his legacy, the civil rights legislation. The Republican led Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act  in 2013. Tom Cotton and David Perdue’s goal is to do the same to the Immigration and the Nationalities Act. To them, the man in the White House is a means to an end. Now more than ever we need to do everything to preserve Dr. King’s legacy. Our very lives and what kind of country we want to be depends on it. Our enemies are formidable but we shall overcome.

Cheezburger Image 9115677696

By two_kittehs

Register to Vote, Its for the Kittehs

Protect Your Kitties, Vote Hillary

By two_kittehs

False Equivalence, New York Times edition

New York Times has failed as a newspaper this election season. The big scoops about Trump are coming from Washington Post and Newsweek, while the  hometown newspaper is asleep at the switch.  Even today, NYT is on the both-sides-do-it wagon soft pedaling of Trump’s hate and bigotry. It happened after the immigration speech and it happened again this morning. Their headline this morning reads:

Bitter, Personal Tone Marks 2nd Trump Clinton Debate

 

Sounds like a bickering match of he said, she said with both parties equally to blame doesn’t it? That’s not what I saw, this is what I saw when I made myself watch yesterday’s debate.

* Trump stalked Hillary Clinton throughout the debate

* Said bragging about sexual assault is OK because ISIS

* He had no clue about what he was talking about be it Syria or healthcare or Russia.

* He admitted as much in so many words about Russia

* He wants give Putin a complete free rein in Syria and elsewhere

* He promised to jail Hillary Clinton like his idol Putin does to his political opponents

* Tried to relitigate Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a negative against Hillary

*Repeated what do black people have to lose by voting for him, line

*Demonized ordinary Muslim citizens and Syrian refugees fleeing war

*Called Hillary Clinton, the devil

*Did not answer a single question, just repeated his fact-free bilious stump speech replete with conspiracy theories

Compared to the toddler tantrum that Trump threw on the debate stage for an hour and half, Hillary Clinton was a model of restraint and civility. She has nerves of steel, I was sputtering with rage at Trump’s indecent and ignorant behavior in my living room. No matter how low Trump goes, New York Times normalizes his behavior and enables him. Paper of record, indeed.

 

Don't turn around!

By chech1965

* Thanks to chech 1965 for letting me use his lol.

Shame On You New York Times

For soft pedaling Trump’s hate and bigotry and your mealy mouthed coverage of Trump’s full on fascist speech. This is their headline about Trump’s immigration speech from yesterday.

Donald Trump Gambles on Immigration but Sends Conflicting Signals

Really, Patrick Healy? Is that what you got out of Trump’s white nationalist speech? The focus of the undocumented immigrants is just a prelude  to a far more radical agenda, overturning the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Make America Great Again is code for Make America White Again.

These are his policies goals:

1. Deport the undocumented by a deportation task force (on the day he takes office)

2. Ban Muslims and any other undesirables as determined by Trump from entering the country on temporary visas (visitor, student, work visas etc)

4. Give local law enforcement jurisdiction over immigration matters which is currently strictly under Federal jurisdiction

3.Overturn the immigration and naturalization act of 1965

5. Get rid of birthright citizenship (remember his rant about anchor babies)

And the final solution, not articulated but can be inferred from the hate he has been spewing for the last one year. Or before, if you take into account his entire birther campaign against President Obama.

6. Impose loyalty tests on naturalized citizens, legal immigrants and children of immigrants for being insufficiently American (you know like Judge Curiel). He doesn’t say what he plans to do with those found not sufficiently loyal but we have history as our guide for this one.

She Is the Champion, My Friends

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, became the first woman to clinch the nomination of a major party for the President of the United States. I was an Obot in 2008 and was not completely taken in by Hillary Clinton when the primary season started even this time around. I was hoping that some one else would emerge on the scene like Barack Obama had 8 years earlier. However, as the primary season went on I slowly drifted into Hillary’s corner, mainly because her competition was pathetic. Maryland governor O’Malley looked good on paper but failed to make any impression, Jim Webb seemed like he had wandered into the wrong primary contest, I just could not see the  appeal of his Scots-Irish shtick to the Democratic electorate.  I was always skeptical of Bernie Sanders because his record in office did not match his soaring rhetoric. When it came to issues like immigration and gun control Bernie Sanders positions as a Congressman and then a Senator had not been particularly progressive.

As the contest went on it became increasingly obvious that Sanders policy expertise was tissue thin and besides rhetoric he had little to offer. At this stage of the campaign he has proved himself no better than a toddler throwing a tantrum because he did not get his way.

Hillary Clinton is a survivor and a champion fighter. She has had more brickbats than bouquets thrown at her  and she still soldiers on. I salute her resilience and spirit. I envy the energy she brings to the fight day in and day out, no matter what.

So to celebrate her  historic win after a hard fought and a long battle I offer you, We are the Champions, by Queen for the Queen. The lyrics could have been written by Hillary  herself!

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I’ve come through

 

Trump, the Republican Nominee

I never thought I would type these words but Trump, the insult comic with a distinctive hairstyle, is the Republican nominee after his win in yesterday’s Indiana primary. We all knew this moment was coming but were hoping against hope that sanity would prevail among the insane. No such luck for us. We are stuck with the bastard child of the GOP and the so-called liberal media, at least until November. I believe congratulations are in order to the proud parents.

First of all congratulations to the Republican party. Your party’s descent into hell is now complete. You are  now the party of Trump. No longer can you hide behind the fig leaf of plausible deniability. Your eight years of relentless Obama hate has reached its logical conclusion. You built it and now there is no running away from it. He embodies your demonization of the Obama coalition in flesh. Good job!

Also congratulations are in order to the brave defenders of truth in the press, especially the  both-sides-do-it Pundit class. After grading Bush II on a curve and giving him a pass on all his fuck-ups till a major American city drowned on his watch, you descended like a pack of hyenas on President Obama,  5 minutes after he was sworn in. You gave Trump a platform for his noxious birther nonsense against the President. You aired his every noxious combustible utterance. You must be as proud as Prof. Frankenstein of your creation, now that he has gone on to win the nomination of the Republican party.

Party of Lincoln now the Party of Trump

By two_kittehs