Thursday, March 31, 2005

Panel Discussion on Jihadi Terrorism esp in Kashmir

March 31st

this is one of the few panels on jammu and kashmir that has some balance. usually it is full of separatists and islamists and marxist fell0w-travelers (and, alas, US state department types and 'experts') all of whom have just one agenda: give all of kashmir to pakistan.

a refreshing change.


Name: Ms Vijayakala Vydeeswaran
Title: President, DESI
Telephone # : 240 247 7925

Develop Empower Synergize India (DESI) (, invites you
to a panel discussion titled:


Sunday, April 10, 2005.
2:00 to 4:00 pm, 1212 Tyser Auditorium, Van Munching Hall, UMCP campus.

Since late 1989, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K),
bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, has seen a resurgence of a vicious
movement of religion based terrorism. As many as 40000 lives have been
lost in this conflict over nearly 16 years of a sub-conventional war.
Among the worst victims are the Kashmiri Hindus who have now become
the targets of one of the most successful, though little known,
campaigns of ethnic cleansing of an indigenous minority.

This panel discussion will take a close look at the decade old threat
of 'Jihadi' terrorism in South Asia, of which the recent acts of
terror in other parts of the world seem like echoes. The discussion
also aims to shed light on the politics behind the prevailing
condition and try to find out the role of the international community
in solving the problem.

Panelists include:

Subodh Atal:
Foreign Policy Analyst, affiliated to The CATO Institute.

Peter Bergen:
CNN's terrorism analyst, Adjunct Professor at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University.

Husain Haqqani:
Former advisor to Pakistan Prime Ministers and Visiting Scholar,
Carnegie Peace Endowment.

Subhash Kak:
Delaune distinguished Professor at Louisiana State University.

Sanjay Tiku:
Kashmiri Hindu, University of Maryland.

For further information visit
To share your thoughts visit

The lion in winter: Interview with OV Vijayan 1998

March 31

my interview with OV Vijayan. what an awesome man! he had the wits to see through the fraud that communism is, and to move towards the Empire of the Spirit.

O V Vijayan is without a doubt one of India's finest novelists; his work is noted for its lyrical beauty and distinguished by its many layers of meaning. His debut novel, The Legends Of Khasak, created a sensation in Malayalam, marking the arrival of modernity in a literature that had hitherto been dominated by romanticism. Khasak is arguably the most influential work in Malayalam in the last 50 years, the seminal opus that liberated fiction writing there -- the works that followed were much more willing to take risks in form and content.

O V VijayanLater, The Infinity Of Grace (Gurusagaram) won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award. His 1997 novel Generations (Thalamurakal) is a towering masterpiece, a superb family chronicle, yet to be translated into English.

Several of his works, including The Saga Of Dharmapuri, Khasak, Infinity and the short story collection, After The Hanging And Other Stories, are available in English from Penguin India. Viking Penguin recently brought out an omnibus edition of these works in English, all translated by the author: Selected Fiction.

I met Vijayan at his modest home in Secunderabad. On the gateposts it says simply, 'Theresa' and 'Vijayan' -- one on each post. I was afraid I was disturbing Vijayan and his wife -- they had expected me earlier in the day, and here I was arriving at around 10 pm. But they were most gracious.

Vijayan (OV his wife calls him) is tall and slender and slightly stooped, with a long, white, narrow beard. He tells me, apologetically, that he suffers from Parkinson's disease, which makes his voice weak. And he cannot control a pen. How ironic, I think, for a cartoonist and writer!

He asks me about the US -- his son is in Los Angeles. I ask him if he has visited there; he smiles ruefully and admits that he almost went, he even bought tickets but didn't go in the end. I tell him about San Francisco and Stanford and the Silicon Valley.

He is a charming host: attentive, thoughtful. I ask him about his political cartoons -- and he insists on showing me his portfolio from the 70's and 80's. Bitingly satirical, incisive. And oddly enough, some of them could be published today and would still be meaningful!

You have been writing for many years now and you have written a number of books. Do you have a favorite? For instance, I understand that when you received the Sahitya Akademi award for Infinity, you said you had deserved the honour for Khasak?

I may have been misquoted about this. I didn't exactly say this; but it is true that some members of the academy told me privately that when Khasak first came out, they couldn't relate to it or understand it, but that Infinity was much more acceptable.

Khasak was, of course, the book that I poured myself into. As my first novel, it will always be special to me. I had written a chapter and given it to the editor of Mathrubhoomi (a Malayalam weekly) for his review; but it ended up being printed as a short story in the magazine.

Generations is very close to my heart because it talks about places and people that are no more. I also wrote it with the foreboding -- my health is indifferent -- that I might not be able to complete it.

Weren't you also a journalist during your time in Delhi?

I have been writing for almost 40 years; I spent 35 years in Delhi as a political observer and a cartoonist for The Statesman, The Far Eastern Economic Review and other publications.

In looking at your work, you seem to have metamorphosed from a radical in Khasak to a transcendentalist in Infinity to perhaps a nationalist in Path Of The Prophet; and then you wrote the story of your ancestral family in Generations. What has influenced you and caused these changes?

The influences on me have changed as I myself changed and perhaps grew. When I started, I really didn't know what I was writing about, except that I experienced a great joy in the wild spaces of my native Palakkad and the solitude of the countryside. I was not even particularly conscious of it, but it certainly influenced the language and the very words that I used in Khasak. The sights and sounds were so powerful: the wind whistling through the Palakkad gap in the Western Ghats; the clattering of the black palm trees. As a writer, I was concentrating on the story and not on myself; and I have not analysed it much further.

Among Malayalam readers, a certain group, especially young men, has always been your biggest fan. Do you have a cult following, sort of like The Catcher In The Rye appeals to rebellious young Americans? How has Khasak been a consistent cult classic?

I acknowledge that there might be a similarity in the effect; but then, unlike Catcher, Khasak is not a rebellious book. It may be slightly dangerous to say this in today's charged atmosphere, but it has a subconscious Hindu framework. But the experiences of Khasak also incorporate and ingest the Muslim folk experience of Malabar.

Khasak is a difficult book.

It moves along, if you will, in a deeply emotional mode, in a constant search for cosmic mystery.

In the context of the sacred and the profane, let me ask about another book, not in the present collection: The Path Of The Prophet. The treatment of Sikhs, the story of the Gadar Party, of the Komagatu Maru -- it is stunning in its historicity and its emotional impact.

It became almost a theological essay; but it is transparent and an easier read. I lived through the 1984 riots in Delhi, when Sikhs were targeted. I termed it the lament of the first-born innocents -- they, who have done so much for India! People didn't understand it, branding Sikhs as terrorists.

Was it not a statement of protest? As are your other books?

Not really. In Khasak too, I was an anarchist, but there was no protest; if anything it was a soft and muted anarchy.

But Saga is definitely a novel of protest -- a predetermined offensive about the whole concept of the state, against war, consciously written about a future where the rights of the plant or the vegetable will be upheld. In some ways, it is anti-civilisation. As in some of the short stories, especially the ones about dystopias.

Saga was written before and after the Emergency; it was reacting to the Soviet-Indian left wing and its efforts to prop up both socialist-communist leaders and a political dynasty. My friend S K Nair agreed to serialise it, and started to before it was to be finished in July, 1975; of course, the Emergency was imposed in June, 1975, and the book went into hiding. Not knowing how long the Emergency would last, I meddled with the story a lot. They serialised it after the Emergency ended. When it was to be made into a book, I corrected some of the excesses and restored its aesthetic professionalism.

Saga was written in anger; it was a cleansing and catharctic experience.

You return to the Emergency in many short stories.

Yes, especially in those allegories of power: The Foetus, The Wart, The Examination and Oil. I kept them in cold storage until the end of the Emergency. I looked at tyranny in various forms; one as an organic quantity, as in Oil, then as allegory in The Foetus and The Wart and as comedy in The Examination.

In addition to the allegory, I quite liked the decent protagonist in The Wart, under attack from an implacable and omnipotent evil force in the form of a wart; one of the things I remember is the protagonist's memory of his ancestors and their Ayurvedic knowledge.

It was the story of one who could only resist in the spirit and that had a connection to the satvic past, which is what Dhanvantari indicates. Good triumphs over Evil eventually; The Foetus is redeemed with a lot of love; in The Wart, the triumph is more ambiguous.

The Foetus is a thinly veiled story of the excesses of Sanjay Gandhi and his cronies. Is it fair to say that you object to the Nehru dynasty?

No, that would not be accurate. The story should not to be reduced to the level of personal animosity towards anybody. It is only a take-off point to indicate human evil, evil in the state, evil in negating nature. There is no calling for retribution.

Speaking of evil and weapons of mass destruction, how do you react to India's entry into the nuclear club?

It baffles me; and I am neither for nor against. One cannot react to a Hiroshima, because the magnitude of the evil is so great that one's reaction inevitably comes across as false. In India's case, one could possibly say that the bomb has come to implement a certain part of one's destiny. Somewhat beyond the scope of one's understanding -- powers that we are not able to comprehend. Not necessarily divine, but great, unseen forces. I sometimes also wonder if the rich nations would like to incite atomic warfare amongst the poor nations: it would be a bizarre ethnic cleansing; easier and cleaner and more final the nuclear way.

Infinity, and some of the short stories of transcendence (such as Airport, Little Ones), surprised me because this is not what I expected from the author of Khasak. Did it surprise other people too?

Not many (laughs). Only those obsessed with ideology. You see, I was once a card-carrying Marxist, a candidate member, a coffeehouse type.

What caused you to break away from the left?

It's a long story; it began with the experiences in Hungary and Imre Nagy. I had always been a little uneasy about Stalin. And Czechoslovakia completed my disillusionment. That also made it difficult for me, as a writer, because my very words were associated with my left wing self-image. A brief period of stasis and then it was a simple act to walk into the realm of the spirit: it happened naturally and I have stuck to it ever since.

You moved into your transcendental mode before you wrote Infinity. Was this the influence of Karunakara Guru, whom you dedicate the book to? In Infinity, I expected that Kunjunni would find a guru, but he finds it in surprising places and in himself. It is a happy ending to a long quest.

There are elements that I am not able to understand fully -- in the search and in the transcendence there are elements of bhakti that cover and overcome the element of ideology in fiction. It is not necessary that I have become a religious person, but I have experienced in my own life things that must be termed magical, for want of a better word. My own search for a guru was perhaps effect, not cause: as my views changed, I felt the need for a guru to guide me.

You have written some of the most surprising short stories, such as The Little Ones, about invisible beings, benign spirits.

This was based on a dream I had, where I saw thousands of cowrie shells, illuminated as it were from inside. I believe there is magic around us; we just have to look for it.

Is Malabar magical, with its theyyams (folk dances with mystical connotations) and odiyans (shape-shifting wizards)?

We didn't actually have theyyams in Palakkad, but certainly there were odiyans who, it was believed widely, could cast spells on you.

I hate to even bring this up, because it is sort of the kiss of death, but have you been influenced by Latin American magical realism?

I wrote the surreal story of Appukkili (the retarded man in Khasak) in 1958, long before Gabriel Garcia Marquez was even published in English, which was in 1975. People have the tendency to suggest derivative work, so it makes writers defensive when you make such statements.

In reading your short stories, occasionally with the English and Malayalam versions side by side, I have sometimes thought they were actually better in English.

I am not sure they are better in English -- wouldn't you miss something of the background? Perhaps since you are already familiar with Kerala's cultural background, you find the English version appealing. It might be less so for others from outside the culture.

Are any of your books being made into films?

Some have been; I am willing to work with a director if we could really see eye to eye, and the essence of the work can be captured.

Someone like an Adoor Gopalakrishnan or an Aravindan, perhaps?

I worked with Adoor on one of the Film Festival committes; a very great artiste, one who is fully in control of his material. I knew Aravindan, of course, as a fellow-cartoonist. But we never actually worked towards filming one of my books.

I am astonished that you live in Hyderabad. Why did you move here from Delhi, and why aren't you in Kerala?

We moved here because my wife has family property -- this house. I felt Delhi was becoming meaningless; and, in Hyderabad, I feel out of place. I am seriously thinking of moving to Kerala. There is a problem -- I do get mobbed in Kerala, but it is home. Or it is one of my two homes, to be precise: Delhi being the other. But even when I was in Delhi, I wrote about Palakkad, remembering the dry Palakkadan wind whistling through the pass in the Ghats.

I have some problems of privacy in Kerala. People come up to me constantly -- it's sort of a celebrity status that is hard for me to deal with. But it's a humbling experience too. I find all kinds of people come and talk to me -- not just the middle class. Even when I travel by train, people come and tell me, 'Vijayan saar', how much they enjoy my work. It is gratifying that people in all walks of life are reading my books.

You were bereaved recently.

My sister passed away; and I could only go there to see her dead body. I cannot travel much. She was more than a sister, a playmate. We were very intimate. Her death affected me very much.

How about your work as a cartoonist?

I am thinking of publishing my old cartoons in book form; I am not doing any more at this time.

Perhaps you can recycle your old cartoons from the 1970s -- the things you said about Sonia Gandhi then seem to be coming true.

I must have been prescient (laughs).

What are you working on now?

A sequel, perhaps, to Generations; and I have begun the effort of translation into English. Unfortunately, given my inability to physically hold a pen, I must dictate my writing. I used to have a secretary who did this well, but he has left. This makes it very difficult and my progress is very slow. I am sort of struggling with the technology -- my son suggests I should get a dictaphone to do my dictation, but I am a bit of a technophobe.

How was Generations received in Kerala?

With very high regard: I read a number of appreciative reviews and the reading public liked it too, not only the critics. Although it was considered a little heavy, and some of the Marxists didn't like me poking a little fun at them. There were underlying levels and it was a multi-layered narrative, although structurally it was a very simple story.

How much of your own life and your ancestral family are in Generations?

There is a certain element of autobiography, including some stories that are family legends, but there is a significant element of fiction and imagination. The House Of Ponmudi is based on my ancestral family, the tharavad. Even when I was a child, the family home had been alienated. It was a magical house. But I remember how I found the deity from the family temple, a non-anthromorphic deity, shaped like an inverted pyramid, sort of thrown in the trash.

One of the primary themes in Generations seems to be caste.

I was not even aware of caste and prejudices until I went to college, because I had a privileged, upper middle class upbringing even though I belong to the 'backward caste' Ezhava community. But caste is still a major part of our lives: I have come to that realisation. It certainly was a major factor in the lives of my ancestors.

Moreover, I think caste will persist; not the rigid, inflexible system we have had, which is really casteism. But, because of inherent differences among people, we will always have these differences which become institutionalised in caste.

You sort of gave the book a happy ending, even though it is a tragic story.

It was not a contrived happy ending; it made me feel good. It was a vision of a non-racial and compassionate future. It was optimistic and pessimistic at the same time.

I wrote in a review of Generations that you deserved the Jnanpith for the body of your work. How do you react to that?

(Laughs) I accept all statements that are nice to me. But U R Ananthamurthy said recently that the literary establishment had not been quite fair to Vijayan. So maybe there is hope...

How about the Nobel Prize?

Well, I haven't lobbied for it. Do you know how one goes about lobbying for the Prize (laughs)? I know Vaikom Mohammed Basheer got nominated for it, but I also understand there were many derogatory comments made about him at the time.

And Vijayan indicated the interview was over. As a parting gift, he gives me two of his books -- Khasak and Prophet in Malayalam. He inscribes them, with obvious difficulty in holding his pen, "To Rajeev, with love." I am touched by his kindness and I leave, wishing I could somehow help him with his problem of transcription. I intend to return to Hyderabad to speak some more with this charming and extraordinarily interesting man, one of the greatest living masters of Indian fiction.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

O V Vijayan: the best novelist of a generation

March 30th

here's a review i wrote of his last book, Thalamurakal (Generations) a while back. i interviewed him too, but i dont have a copy of that with me now.

ps. in the time since i wrote this in 1998, i have become convinced that 'dravidian' is a big hoax, so please ignore that term/idea below.

The Great Malabar Novel

With this tour de force of a book, a sweeping family saga reaching back centuries, O V Vijayan reinforces his claim to being one of India's foremost novelists. It is a remarkable, if flawed, masterpiece, and a compelling read that is so engaging that it is almost unputdownable. This is the Great Malabar Novel, expansive in scope and elegiac in tone, almost the antithesis of Vijayan's debut novel, the tightly focused and existentialist Legends of Khasak.

I have been a fan of Vijayan's work for years, especially his powerful short stories. His collection, After the Hanging and Other Stories is a must-read, in particular for the extraordinarily lyrical language -- it appears the author is equally at home in English and Malayalam, and his own translations of his work, especially when there is a Victorian sense of doom -- are sometimes better than the originals.

In Thalamurakal, the author reaches back to his roots in Malabar, to his own Ezhava community, and fictionalises the real life story -- or so it appears to me -- of his landed-aristocracy ancestors. The Ezhavas need an introduction --Kerala's single-largest community, they are considered OBCs, and have been severely discriminated against based on caste. Yet many have been landlords, pundits, ayurvedic doctors, etc, and the religious and social reformer Sri Narayana Guru was one of them.

Ezhavas also have a martial past -- they were the heroes of the Vadakkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads), the brave Chekavars of myth and legend. By the Ezhavas's own reckoning, they were Buddhists converted to Hinduism somewhere in the vicinity of the 6th century CE, and 'demoted' in caste; they form the backbone of the peasant classes in Kerala, although there are many aristocratic landed families amongst them.

Thalamurakal traces the decline of the House of Ponmudi, apparently loosely based on the author's own ancestral family. Ponmudi definitely has a 'past' by turns sordid and heroic. Despite its great wealth, it is doomed by the weight of its sins: sins of hubris, sins against women. The central character is the compellingly human anti-hero and patriarch, Chamiarappan, sometimes seen through the eyes of his grandson Chandran, the author's alter-ego.

This must be Vijayan's magnum opus; there is an outpouring of a lifetime of memories and stories: enough material here for three or four books. Because of the lush vividness of the author's language -- invoking the claustrophobia of the landscape and of the declining household -- and his ability to evoke a time and aplace with great power, this is also one of the best books in Malayalam in years. Vijayan deserves a Jnanpith for his body of work; this might be the epic that finally gets the Akademi's attention.

Without in any way suggesting that the work is derivative, I am reminded of the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, insofar as there is a plethora of stories and characters; nothing is as it looks: there is the enchanted just beneath the surface of the seemingly mundane; and there is indeed sorcery, and spells, in the Theyyam and Odiyans, shape-shifting magicians, of Malabar. The disembodied flying head of the ancient magician Kandath Nair, which foretells the decline of Ponmudi, seems entirely in keeping with the flavor of mysterious Malabar.

Further, I am reminded of the epic Yoknapatawpha tales of William Faulkner, for here too some of the major themes are manumittance, miscegenation, the decline of the aristocracy. The Ponmudi landlords -- and everyone else in medieval Malabar -- are obsessed with caste, as well as with the conflicts between their Aryan and Dravidian pasts. The ancestral deities of Ponmudi, the Adi Dravidas, ensconced in ancient family shrines, haunt their descendants.

Some of the deep, dark secrets of Hindu culture are explored here. The Ezhava landlords bid for brahminhood through various means, both fair and foul -- one of them, the intriguing ancestor Krishnan Somayagi, borrows a sacred thread from his Namboodiri friend, and goes to medieval Benares and becomes a scholar; early one morning, he finds himself on one of Benares's famous ghats, consigning his palm-leaf copy of the Manusmrti to the waters of the Ganga.

Other Ponmudi ancestors, less intellectually inclined, purchase Brahmin women for mistresses; through humiliating and impregnating them, they try to indulge in what sociologist M N Srinivas calls 'sanskritisation'. As in the blurb, "the minute differences and conflicts between castes are explored in three stages: the fight to gain brahminhood; but when acquired, the sheer uselessness of it; and then the disdain for the brahminhood achieved through so much struggle..."

There is much more on caste and religion: with the backdrop of the Temple Entry struggle in Travancore in the 1930s, Chamiarappan leads a march to a temple in Palakkad, demanding entry for himself and his peers. Severely beaten, he converts to Christianity and becomes Theodore; but he really is an agnostic rationalist, who doesn't find Christianity particularly meaningful either. He keeps the name Theodore, though.

His nephew Gopalan goes to England to study. He too follows the path of conversion, to escape the tyranny of caste: he becomes Imtiaz Hassan. He marries a Jewish woman named Jessica Bloom; and far from escaping from caste, he is jailed, and presumably executed, by Nazi Germans for refusing to denounce his wife.

The author seems to be pointing out the utter uselessness of external acts like conversion to get the better of casteism; it really needs an act of will, an internal act, to develop the self-respect to combat casteism. Somewhat along the same lines, there are episodes that trace burgeoning trade union movements, particularly an incident at the Golden Rock railway yard in Tiruchirapalli.

But above all, there is the struggle for independence, and, alas, the subsequent moral decay. Here is an excerpt:

  • Velappan, son-in-law of Chamiarappan, is a commandant in the Malabar Special Police. His moral dilemma is thus -- as an officer of the British Crown, he has gained status and respect; but that very Crown orders him to do things that are against his conscience.

    A few months ago, Indian National Congress leader Satyamurthy spoke in Malappuram, Velappan remembered. He had been dispatched to the meeting site with orders to arrest Satyamurthy.

    There were but ten steps to climb up to the dais; but it seemed like an insurmountable height to him. He gathered all his strength and climbed the first stair; he stopped. On both sides of the steps there were volunteers, girls. They sang:

    "Vande mataram Sujalam, suphalam, malayaja seetalam..."

    Vande mataram. Its maternal tone seemed to pervade the very air. Velappan climbed one more step.

    "... Sasya syamalam..."

    Velappan climbed another step.

    "...Shubhra jyotsna pulakita yaminim Phulla kusumita drumadala shobhinim..."

    He could not look up at all. The remaining stairs seemed like a climb up a mountainside. Velappan felt buffeted by ancient sorrows.

    "...Suhasinim Sumadhura bhashinim..."

    The moment the gandheeva fell from Arjuna's hands.

    "Sukhadam varadam mataram--"

    When Velappan finally reached the dais, Satyamurthy was awaiting him. When he handcuffed the leader, Velappan's eyes overflowed. Through the haze of his tears, Velappan saw Satyamurthy's smile.

Alas, the Independence thus gained is a disappointment for Velappan -- and clearly for the author, too. The degradation of the Indian enterprise is paralleled by the decline of the House of Ponmudi. And there is the rise of the rootless Fourth Worlder: one of the formerly colonised who has neither home nor scruples, exemplified by the journalist Chandran who becomes an arms trader.

Yet, there is the story of Ratnavelu, for whom independence would have meant something. Chamiarappan asks his friend Sivaramakrishna Iyer:

  • "... Have you heard anything about Ratnavelu Pillai?"


    "We owe Ratnavelu a great deal. He was from a previous generation. One of the pillars of the Empire, an ICS officer. One of the first Indian Collectors in Palghat. I have heard he was a very large man; the color of ebony. One day he invited two of his white colleagues and their wives to lunch. While eating, one of the white women said: 'Four swans, one crow.'"

    She was attempting a joke. After lunch, the visitors left. The servants, who stood quietly in the long corridors of his large house. Ratnavelu asked them to leave. He went upstairs to his bedroom. There he shot himself.

    "This is the story of all of us oppressed ones, Sivaramakrishnan... We must build a memorial to him... In some junction, for instance at the junction near the Fort, let us install a five-way street lamp. Four guests and one host."

There are other threads: the story of those doomed to failure, waiting, as for Godot, for the 'coming of the Russians' and the 'coming of the Chinese'. There is a gently mocking rejection of the gods of Vijayan's youth: rationalism and Marxism, and an acceptance of the Empire of the Spirit: that which marks Vijayan's transition from the anarchist of The Legends of Khasak to the transcendentalist of The Infinity of Grace.

The narrator's alter-ego, Chandran, ends up in Hong Kong; fittingly so, because it is the most rootless city in the world; and his Dravidian consciousness meets the Aryan memories of a Teutonic woman, Rosemary Wagner, whom he impregnates in perhaps a symbolic reconciliation.

Because of its breadth, different readers will view this book differently: nationalists will see the intense love of the motherland; the religious will see the defeat of those without faith; Marxists will see the historical dialectic of the end of the feudal landlord; feminists will see how the assorted sins against women finally destroy the family; those with subaltern leanings will identify with the yearning to 'sanskritise'.

Yet, this is a flawed masterpiece, flawed because of the untidy loose ends: there is no closure to the stories of Krishnan Somayagi or Imtiaz Hassan, for example. Flawed because in the end, the novelist seems to be in a hurry to finish off the protagonists -- who are dispatched in summary fashion. Flawed because the ending, the arrival in Kerala of Chandran's and Rosemary's child, Theodore Vel Wagner, a supposed synthesis of the Aryan and Dravidian, is unsatisfying.

Nevertheless, these are mere nits: Thalamurakal is a towering novel of immense merit. I have never come across anything in the regional literatures that has the scope in time and space of this work: from the remote past to the eighteenth century to the present, and ranging from Kerala to Benares to Europe to Hong Kong.

I look forward to O V Vijayan himself translating the work into English. This deeply poetic and atmospheric work is both a dirge for something that has vanished, as well as a warning against the mechanical rationalisation of modern-day life. Ponmudi, where wealth is sin and knowledge is hubris, is a metaphor for what middle-class India has become, bereft of the simple faith of the past.

Thalamurakal (Generations)
By O V Vijayan
DC Books, Kottayam, Aug 97
Pages 346, Rs 100

O V Vijayan passes away

March 30th

Arguably India's greatest novelist of the recent past, O V Vijayan
passed away today.

I was lucky enough to meet him in person twice. He was a charming and
interesting man, who inscribed a couple of his books, 'To Rajeev, with
love'. I cherish them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Zahira Sheikh accuses Teesta Setalvad, NHRC

March 29th

how come there is a thunderous silence on the part of the indian english language media in the wake of these dramatic accusations?


Probe Setalvad, Zahira urges Supreme Court

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Zahira Sheikh, a key witness in the case
relating to the 2002 massacre in a Gujarat bakery, Tuesday urged the
Supreme Court to probe the assets of rights activist Teesta Setalvad,
who had been pressing for a retrial of the case outside the state in
the interests of justice.

In an affidavit filed before an inquiry committee of the Supreme
Court, Zahira also questioned the basis on which the National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC) had asked for 12 cases relating to the case
to be transferred outside the state.

Fourteen people were torched to death in the ovens of the Best Bakery
in Vadodara on March 1, 2002, during the Gujarat riots.

Zahira alleged in the affidavit that Setalvad and her husband had
amassed huge wealth through dubious means and that their Mumbai-based
NGO Communalism Combat was a business venture of a company known as
Sabrang Publications Private Ltd.

The NGO was a mere device to avoid the provisions of Foreign
Contributions Regulations Act that required every NGO to disclose the
contributions it received from abroad, she said.

Zahira also questioned US State Department reports for 2003-04
presenting Best Bakery as a notorious case depicting a communalised

"The US State Department has set aside several lakhs (millions) of
dollars for funding litigation aimed at bringing legal redress to
Muslims in Gujarat. I am applying to this programme for aid and
assistance so that I may be able to explain to the world at large the
exploitation in the name of secularism and protection of Muslims by
persons like Setalvad," Zahira maintained.

She also enclosed documents relating to her bank accounts to disprove
the allegation that she was bribed to change her stand.

Zahira said NHRC records should be summoned to ascertain what she had
said and what the commission had stated in an affidavit filed before
the court.

Zahira was asked to give all the details of bank accounts to the
inquiry committee since Setalvad had accused her of having accepted a
bribe to change her stand.

Stating that the NHRC chairman and two members were present during the
recording of her statement, she said: "I would like my lawyer to
examine the chairman of the NHRC in respect of her statement, which
formed part of the affidavit filed on behalf of the human rights

According to her, what the commission had recorded and what was filed
in the Supreme Court by the NHRC was completely different.

Setalvad had filed an application in the Supreme Court Nov 6, 2004,
demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the
circumstances that led Zahira to reverse her statement in Vadodara Nov
3 that she was not pressurised into turning hostile in the court that
was trying the Best Bakery case.

With Zahira and other witnesses turning hostile, the trial court had
acquitted all the 21 accused in the case.

The case is now being retried in a Mumbai court after Zahira
petitioned the Supreme Court against the acquittals.

The Supreme Court had Jan 10 constituted a committee headed by its
Registrar General B.M. Gupta, who had co-opted Delhi's Joint
Commissioner of Police Kanwaljeet Deol as the other member. The
committee was asked to find out whether Zahira's statement that she
had not filed any affidavit in the case before the apex court and her
allegations against Setalvad that she had coerced her were correct or


The corruption of the judiciary

March 29th

this is original, unpublished content licensed under the creative commons license on the sidebar.

The corruption of the judiciary

Rajeev Srinivasan

All of us have an image of the judiciary as uncorrupt and morally upright. The scintillating performance of Jean-Louis Trintignant as the judge in the Costa-Gavras classic Z, quite possibly the best political film of all time, comes to mind. Then there are the legendary judges of the US Supreme Court, such as Learned Hand and Brandeis, handing out opinions with gravity and dignity. Landmark cases in the last fifty years in the US, such as Roe v. Wade on abortion rights, and Brown v. Board of Education on civil rights, stand out for their imposing authority.

There haven’t been such sensational or precedent-setting cases in India; nor do the names of exceptional judges in India leap to mind. That may simply be because the media do not make stars out of India's judges, who quietly go about their business. The general impression is that India's judges are competent, incorruptible, and honorable.

But recent events call this into question. Is the Indian judiciary becoming a reflection of the society itself? That would be a disaster, because the other pillars of the establishment have shown themselves to be brutal, predatory and dishonest: the executive branch, the legislature, the police, the media and academia. The courts, and the Army, have been seen as the last refuges of decency and honesty in India.

Corruption has become endemic in middle-class India. In most societies the upper classes are manipulative and decadent; the lower classes often unrefined and brutish. It is the middle-class, the bourgeois, that tends to be the honest, if rather boring, segment of society. It appears, alas, that moral corruption has eaten into the soul of the Indian middle-class.

So maybe it is not surprising that the judiciary reflects the same values. I hasten to clarify that this is not a blanket indictment, only some individuals are corrupted. But it is saddening, nevertheless.

There were instances during the Emergency when the Supreme Court did what the government told it to; but it is perhaps unfair to expect the court to not be intimidated by a government that assumes vast punitive and coercive powers.

More recently, there has been a rash of 'commissions' to investigate various things, many of which provide employment for retired judges. The job of a 'commission' supposedly to arrive at the objective truth of the matter, but there is also an alternative dictionary meaning for the word: 'a fee for an agent for services rendered'. Some ‘commissions' do give the impression of being instruments to provide post-facto justification for a conclusion that has been arrived at a priori: hardly something that inspires trust.

The first Commission whose results I looked at askance was the Jain Commission of some time ago, which cast aspersions on the patriotism of Tamils, and didn't really enlighten us all a great deal about the conspiracies behind Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.

The most recent errant Commission is the Banerjee Commission, which has produced with an uncanny sense of timing an interim report on the Godhra incident. It suggests that the incident wherein 59 women and children were burned to death in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on that fateful February day was merely an unfortunate accident, and not caused by malafide intent.

There is quasi-scientific evidence – or at least an urban legend – to support the Banerjee Commission's findings. This is the strange phenomenon known as 'spontaneous human combustion'. A human being, hitherto normal, allegedly starts burning for reasons unknown, and is soon reduced to ashes. Doubtless, there were several simultaneous acts of spontaneous combustion inside coach S-6. Surely, this is an unfortunate accident. Act of God, if you are a believer.

Incidentally that would explain the Best Bakery incident too. There must have been spontaneous combustion of a person there, and the gas cylinders stored in the bakery must have caught fire and incinerated other people. I am sure Justice Banerjee will soon produce an opinion on spontaneous combustion in the Best Bakery case, so that it can be closed as an unfortunate accident, and the nation spared further agony.

The Best Bakery case, regardless of Justice Banerjee's erudite forensic science, is another example of the bizarreness of the Indian judicial system. In any nation other than one that deserves to be called a banana republic, this case would long ago have been declared a mistrial.

Consider the facts: a case that has been tried repeatedly, to accommodate a persistent individual, Teesta Setalvad, who managed to get it moved to a court where she believes she has an advantage. The principal witness, Zahira Sheikh, has reversed herself so many times that it is utterly unclear what the truth is. And Sheikh has claimed intimidation, fraud and forgery by Setalvad, who was up until recently her apparent savior. If proved, witness intimidation is a serious offense, and should automatically lead to a mistrial.

In particular, as of March 29th, Sheikh has petitioned the Supreme Court to probe Setalvad's assets, alleging that the latter's NGO Communalism Combat is actually a profit-making front for her company Sabrang, and is intended to subvert government regulations on the transfer of funds from abroad. Further, Sheikh said that the US had set aside millions of dollars for funding litigation in Gujarat (why, one surely wonders), and that she wanted to "explain to the world at large the exploitation in the name of secularism and protection of Muslims by persons like Setalvad."

Since the principal witness’s testimony has proved unreliable, there are sufficient grounds for declaring a mistrial. In fact, in a fair court system, both Setalvad and Sheikh would be hauled up for contempt of court, and ordered to repay the costs to the State of having spent a lot of time and energy on this obviously improperly handled case.

It is apparent that the Best Bakery case is politically motivated, and that the objective is not quite to arrive at the truth behind what actually happened there. Indeed, in a flagrant breach of judicial propriety, a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court publicly offered his political opinion on the case, which is improper in something that is sub judice.

The whole business of sub judice is handled rather oddly by the Indian media and establishment. If a case is under legal consideration, the judiciary must not opine: that is the law and the custom, lest they influence those involved in the case. That does not mean the common man or the journalist must be silent. On the contrary, they have every right to discuss the publicly known facts, provide opinions, and debate it to death. But in India, nobody outside the court system talks about it ("mustn't invite contempt of court") yet judges feel free to air their opinions.

The actions of the Tamil Nadu High Court in the Kanchi case have not been particularly upstanding. Nor were the media's, and this was highlighted by an opinion in the Andhra High Court, which, not surprisingly, did not get much airplay, except for an article by S. Gurumurthy (“Will the ‘secular’ media heed Justice Reddy’s warning?”, New Indian Express, January 14, 2005). Here was a judge doing what he is supposed to do: provide a powerful opinion on a case that came to his court. But Justice Narasimha Reddy got no kudos for his pains.

In addition, there is a tendency in India to use the Supreme Court to decide on matters in which the court has no technical competency. For instance, why on earth is the Supreme Court supposed to decide on the height of the Narmada Dam at exactly so many meters? The business of the courts is strategic: it is to determine if there is constitutional or legal precedent or reason to allow the dam to be built. The details, the tactics, must necessary be the role of the executive branch.

The argument, of course, is that the executive branch is weak or incapable. But that should be no reason for the court to not lob the ball back into the government's court. With a staggeringly backlogged case load that will take thirty years to clear even if no new cases were filed, the judiciary should firmly refuse to get caught up in executive matters.

Finallly, the Indian Supreme Court is burdened with the pettiest of cases. The US Supreme Court is only called upon to decide the weightiest cases, after due consideration by a series of lower courts and only after the exhaustion of all other avenues. For instance District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled on the Microsoft anti-trust case, a significant trial. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco too has ruled on some major cases.

Why isn't India’s Supreme Court strictly the apex body? Even trivial cases, for instance certain Public Interest Lawsuits of no merit whatsoever, are routinely brought before it; this is appalling. De minimus cases like the petition by Kuldip Nayar and Praful Bidwai about the ‘human rights’ of Pakistani terrorists shot in Delhi go direct to the Supreme Court. Why?

The Indian judiciary is not quite the fine, upstanding entity we would like it to be; this is unfortunate, as this entity of last resort should be something that the man on the street can always trust to be impartial and just.

Besides, the comparison of contemporary India with the Greece of Z is not out of place: there is a fascist left-wing establishment in India that is, in effect, sabotaging democracy. To quote Judge Learned Hand, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice”. Is the Indian judiciary rationing justice only to a chosen few?

Written February 2005, updated March 2005, 1600 words

Kanchan Gupta: US tells India, drop dead


US tells India, drop dead

Kanchan Gupta

A friend, usually upbeat about India-US relations, sent me an angry
mail over the weekend after President George Bush called up Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday evening to inform him that the USA
had decided to supply F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan and Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview to The Washington Post,
"dismissed concerns" about the fallout of the American decision. The
mail reads:

"lovely easter gift to india from the us.

moral: proliferate nukes, threaten us interests everywhere, be terror
hub, and get rewarded for it. this has been north korea's experience,
china's experience, saudi arabia's experience, and pakistan's

suck up to the us, desperately crave its goodwill, allow its odious
conversion machine to dictate terms to you, and get slapped on the
face. this is india's experience.

simple solution for india: proliferate nuke and missile technology to
anybody who wants it, especially taiwan and japan. this will
immediately get american respect, much as pokhran-ii did."

The issues that arise of the USA's decision to strengthen Pakistan's
strike power, I feel, are much larger than merely seeking or getting
"American respect". A nation whose civilisational history stretches
back to 5,000 years, that is more than Americans can count without a
Texas Instruments TI-83, and whose billion plus population is not
dependent on American wheat surplus of the PL 480 variety, can do
without "American respect". Thank you very much, but America is
welcome to stuff its "respect" in a hot dog.

The larger concerns are two-fold. First, Washington's mollycoddling of
Pakistan, a rogue state that has not only proliferated cross-border
jehadi terrorism but also spawned an underground bazaar where it has
been hawking weapons of mass destruction technology to other rogue
states. Second, the arms race that will follow America's dubious deal,
with both India and Pakistan upping their defence expenditure at the
cost of social welfare spending.

A third aspect that merits comment is the glib manner in which Ms
Rice, during the joint press conference she addressed along with
Minister for External Affairs Natwar Singh during her brief stopover
in New Delhi earlier this month, waved away any "announcement" of an
American deal on F-16s for Pakistan in the immediate future. Perhaps
time and space are extremely elastic for those who wax eloquent on
"absent morals" of others.

It is immaterial whether or not Pakistan has been assisting the USA in
pursuing its "war against terror" – ask those who are involved in the
war, including intelligence operatives, and they will tell you
Islamabad has been leading Washington down the garden path – what is
material is that India must protect its own national interest. There
is little evidence to show that Pakistan has given up the path of
terror; nor is there reason to believe that Islamabad is genuinely
interested in peace.

If you have any doubts, look at the daily acts of terror in Jammu &
Kashmir; the insidious growth of ISI modules in the North-East; and,
the export of jehadi fundamentalism to India via Nepal. Nothing has
changed in the last one year, never mind peaceniks who are making
silly asses of themselves.

The absurd claim put out by un-named sources in the US State
Department that the F-16s form part of American assistance to Pakistan
to wage war on terrorism is as laughable as the lollypop of advanced
fighter jets (F-18s, no less) and nuclear power reactors that has been
offered to India. "What the Americans have announced is the actual,
physical delivery of F-16s to Pakistan and a bunch of nice promises
for India," a foreign office official in New Delhi has said
underscoring the absurdity.

No less absurd is the claim made by "senior administration officials"
at a background briefing for "select journalists" that the military
assistance to Pakistan's military rule General Pervez Musharraf was
aimed at ensuring "a fully democratic, economically promising
Pakistan, that feels secure and is thus at peace with its neighbours."

The officials might as well have added that it is inconsequential the
USA's favourite tin pot dictator is to blame for the runaway basement
bomb programmes in North Korea, Iran and Libya, among others. Boys
will be boys, you see, naughty and mischievous; what's a component
here and a blueprint there?

Those nations that have committed the mistake of trusting the USA have
come to grief, and how. It will be disastrous if India makes a similar
mistake. If the UPA Government believes in what it says, that India is
a sovereign nation free to make its own choices, then it should not
touch the American promise with a bargepole.

The Pakistanis can seek satisfaction in saving 5,000 jobs at Lockheed
Martin Corp, Indians need not lose sleep over the plight of unemployed
workers in Texas. In fact, it will be fun to watch Mr Bush and Ms Rice
squirm, which they shall, if Mr Manmohan Singh and his team look
through their alleged offer and go ahead with selecting the next
generation, multi-purpose jets from what has been offered by the
French, the Swedes and the Russians.

If they choose to be charmed by the Americans, then India might as
well say goodbye to its sovereign identity and become another client
state of the USA like
Pakistan has become.

PS: At the launch of journalist Wilson John's book Pakistan's Nuclear
Underworld: An Investigation, a devastating expose of how A.Q. Khan
and his bosses in khaki went around hawking nuclear know-how for a
fistful of dollars, in New Delhi last week, a former Foreign
Secretary, mindful of the presence of two diplomats from the US
mission in the audience, charged the Americans with "doubletalk and
duplicity" on illicit nuclear proliferation by the Pakistanis.

Later, one of the American diplomats, fuming over being shown up so
bluntly, accosted him and told him that he had been "offensive and
insulting to my country" and "you could have been more nuanced without
being inaccurate". Retorted the former diplomat: "We are a free
country. We can say what we want…. I couldn't care less for
pretensions of the American empire."

Let's order a second hot dog!


Monday, March 28, 2005

URGENT: Earthquake in Sumatra! Tsunami warning!

March 28th

9:39 p.m. India time MAGNITUDE 8.5 earthquake near NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA

PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER issued a bulletin that states:

Kathakali program on April 16th in SF Bay Area

March 28th

from a friend:

I would like to inform you of a Kathakali program coming to Berkeley
on April 16, Saturday. Ten master artists from the Kalamandalam,
Maargi and Sadanam companies in Kerala--dancers, chutti artists and
musicians, including the incomparable Kalamandalam Hyder Ali, are
undertaking a US tour and we have been able to get them to perform in
the Bay Area. Their tour starts with a performance on Broadway on
April 1st, and Hollywood is set to make a movie on them, called "Gods
with Green Faces."

Please visit the website:

I hope you will pass this information along to anyone who you know
might be interested.

Dawn: some home truths about pakistani 'history'

March 28th

thanks to reader CS, about the myths of pakistani history. i heard
recently that there are certain sections in the re-toxified NCERT
textbooks that are lifted verbatim from pakistani textbooks.

we shouldn't be in the least bit surprised.

praise be to arjun
'i-will-become-prime-minister-of-india-someday-before-i-die' singh


Hi Rajeev,

I just read something which might interest you. This is today's
article in Dawn titled:

"The Myth of History: Prof.Shahida Kazi" and its URL is:

This talks about some of this historical myths propogated by Pakistan
to their young minds and how it is being questioned by their own set
of thinkers. Some of them are:

Myth 1

Our history begins from 712AD, when Mohammad bin Qasim arrived in the
subcontinent and conquered the port of Debal.

Myth 2

Mohammad Bin Qasim came to India to help oppressed widows and orphan girls.

Myth 3

The myth of the idol-breaker.

Myth 4

The myth of the cap-stitcher.
Myth 5

It was the Muslims who were responsible for the war of 1857; and it
was the Muslims who bore the brunt of persecution in the aftermath of
the war, while the Hindus were natural collaborators of the British.

Myth 6

The Muslims were in the forefront of the struggle against the British
and were singled out for unfair treatment by the latter.

Myth 7

The Muslim League was the only representative body of the Muslims.

Myth 8

Allama Iqbal was the first person to come up with the idea of a
separate Muslim state.

Myth 9

The Pakistan Resolution envisaged a single Muslim state.

Myth 10

March 23, 1940 is celebrated because the Pakistan Resolution was
adopted on that day.The fact of the matter is that the Pakistan
Resolution was only introduced on March 23 and was finally adopted on
March 24 (the second and final day of the session).

And in the same edition of Dawn: Irfan Husain asks the questions why
Muslims expect others to be tolerant to them when do not allow others
to construct temples let alone in Mecca but anywhere in S.Arabia

Enjoy reading the adage Heads you win and Tails I lose


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Arabnews: Mani Shankar Aiyer cozies up to the Saudis

March 27th

the deal may include the funding of 4,500 new madrassas in india as
rumored. nice work, aiyar: pipeline for pakistan's benefit, creation
of many new wahabis in india. all in a good cause of course -- now
that the evangelists are doing so well in india, can the islamists
afford to be left behind in the land-grab, convert-numbers games?


Aiyar Keen to Take Indo-Saudi Ties to New Levels
Nilofar Suhrawardy, Arab News

Mani Shankar Aiyar

NEW DELHI, 27 March 2005 — Saudi Arabia has come to recognize India as
a significant power and begun to take the country seriously, according
to Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who begins a three-day
landmark visit to the Kingdom tomorrow.

Crediting Saudi Arabia with taking the initiative to put Indo-Saudi
relations on firmer ground, Aiyar said: "I have received signals from
Saudi Arabia that they regard us as a significant power. I have been
happy to reciprocate."

"Why do they (Saudi Arabia) take us so seriously?"

Choosing to answer his own question, Aiyar highlighted the increasing
importance of India's requirements for oil. He said: "India is a
significant importer of petroleum. We are going to become more so.
Saudi Arabia recognizes this fact."

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Aiyar expressed optimism
that Indo-Saudi ties would touch a new high in the coming days when
Crown Prince Abdullah visits India. "He has accepted the invitation to
visit India," Aiyar said. The dates need to be finalized....

South Asian Bleeding Hearts Association Report

March 27th

SABHA strikes again :-)

SABHA - 4M Report Arvind Kumar, 18 Mar, 2005

Your regular dose of pseudosecularism

  1. Amartya Sen: Mao would have made Chinese live for 140 years!

    According to former Communist student leader and "economist" Amartya Sen, the life-expectancy of Chinese would have been 140 years if China had pursued Maoist policies. Wall Street Journal reported that Sen made the claim about the end of "Cultural Revolution" in China bringing down the growth rate of life-expectancy.

    To back up his remarkable claim, Mr. Sen said that the rate of growth in life expectancy in China was slowing down.
    We checked up the statistics. Reports vary, but here is one source that mentions figures quoted by supporters of Mao. Apparently, the average life span in China in 1949 was 35 years and it was at least 70 years in 1976 when Mao died (curiously, he did not increase his own life span to 140 years!) making it grow by 100% in 27 years. Had it doubled again in 27 years, the average longevity of the Chinese would have been 140 years by 2003!

    Amartya Sen who is married to Emma Rothschild of the powerful Rothschild family received the Nobel Prize for Economics. Yasser Arafat, who achieved fame using terrorism, received the Nobel Prize for peace.

  2. Another "South Asia expert" in the making

    "South Asia experts" in North America beware! You now face competition!

    Elizabeth Hurley is taking Hindi lessons to impress her Indian boyfriend's family, sparking speculation the pair will marry.
    Even her reason for learning Hindi is the same as that of "South Asia experts" in leading Western universities.

  3. No takers for JNU even in Bangladesh

    According to the Feb 7 issue of the Hindustan Times, there are no takers for the seats offered by the Marxist bastion, Jawaharlal Nehru University, even in backward countries like Bangladesh.
    The university scrapped the Dhaka exam centre last year because there weren't many candidates.
    This is not surprising, as JNU has never been known for academic excellence. Recently, JNU Teachers' Association opposed the Indian tradition of respecting education. In 1989-90, JNU Students Union demanded that the minimum eligibility criteria for the junior research fellowship/lectureship examinations should be lowered from 55 percent to a level that would accommodate their intelligence.

  4. Help! Bourgeoisie conspiracy to help India advance!

    Communist leader A.B. Bardhan exposed a conspiracy by the bourgeoisie to help India actually develop into a superpower instead of making it a socialist paradise by building labor camps where Indians can be sent to toil for the state.
    A.B. Bardhan of Communist Party of India said during a visit to Pakistan that Washington was pretending to be serious in helping India and Pakistan resolve their differences, but it was encouraging New Delhi on the side to become the next superpower.

  5. Outlook explains a compelling conspiracy theory

    According to Outlook, when the disused mosque at Ayodhya that was built after demolishing a temple in order to insult Hindus was pulled down, the sequence of events was as follows:

    The BJP leaders knew that they would end up in legal trouble after the disused mosque that was built after demolishing a temple in order to insult Hindus was pulled down. They also knew that they would win the elections in 1998 and they would not be able to get someone who was embroiled in a legal battle to become the Prime Minister. So they sent one of their leaders to New Delhi on the day that the disused mosque that was built after demolishing a temple in order to insult Hindus was pulled down. That leader happened to be AB Vajpayee. A few years later, when BJP formed the government, they "chose" Vajpayee as the Prime Minister!

    According to the authors, one of whom is a Muslim and the other a possible Communist (last name Mukerjee),

    It is a compulsive conspiracy theory.

  6. Economics 101 by Chidambaram

    Finance Minister Chidambaram claimed in his budget speech that he was unlucky man when he was the Finance Minister in the 1990s and then his successor just got lucky! Wait, that is not all. Just when he takes charge again, some disturbing trends come to light! Aw, shucks.
    I had then commented that my immediate predecessor was a very lucky man, even while his predecessor was not! Notwithstanding the high growth rate, there were several disturbing trends which came to notice in May 2004.
    Bad luck never prevented him from increasing the Jizya. From his speech in July 2004 -
    Particular attention will be paid to the welfare, especially education, of the minorities. Hence, an additional allocation of Rs.50 crore has been made for the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation.
    Meanwhile, the policy of reinvention of the wheel continued in Sonia Gandhi's Manmohan Singh government.

  7. Congress wants democracy in Nepal

    Congress Party, which is led by the self-proclaimed Cambridge scholar Sonia Gandhi, wants Nepal to restore democracy. But Nepal does have a democracy like Goa and Jharkhand did for a brief period when Congress recently installed its governments in these states. Why the confusing message?

South Asian Bleeding Hearts Association welcomes comments, suggestions and leads for items published here. Please send your comments to If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, click here.

Guardian (UK): the future is china's

March 27th

interesting thought: there are chinese equivalents to india's p-secs.

but watch out, the young in china, subject to the greatest amount of
jingoistic brain-washing, are more into china uber alles. this is
ominous, as there are 30 million surplus chinese young men, who will
never find a wife (because of all the female fetuses that have been
aborted). they will be violent thugs (just think 'a clockwork
orange'): it is an established fact that woman-less young men are
prone to be testosterone-crazed. china will have to go to war to kill
these 30 million. most convenient, isn't it?

also, this fellow martin jacques once wrote to me when i accused him
of being pro-chinese, that his wife, an indian, had died in a chinese
hospital in a clear case of racism: they had ignored her because she
was, after all, a mere indian. yet, he seems overawed by china. i
wonder if some of you in europe know something more about him.,7369,1445560,00.html

The future is China's

Although his combative opinions got him the sack from the university
of Beijing, Wang Xiaodong remains an outspoken champion of the Chinese
nationalist movement. He tells Martin Jacques why his country must not
trust the US

Friday March 25, 2005
The Guardian

Our knowledge of China is being transformed with each passing day.
Five years ago, virtually the only subject on people's minds was
Tiananmen Square. Now nearly everyone knows that the country has
undergone a huge economic transformation, and that the future belongs
to it in a way that was previously inconceivable. But knowledge about
China still remains of the broadest brush. There is little or no
perception, for example, of the political and intellectual debates
that shape the attitudes of either the Chinese elite or the population
at large. Indeed, there is still an underlying assumption that this is
an autocracy in which there are no real debates, just fiats handed
down from on high.

Article continues
This is a misconception or, at best, a half-truth. The extraordinary
success of China over the past quarter of a century is the product of
a sophisticated political leadership, highly attuned to the problems
and possibilities that it faces and informed by a plethora of debates
and arguments. Those arguments, however, take place within strict
parameters, are largely confined to elite circles and are often highly
coded. The most important recent such debate has concerned
nationalism, and one of its key figures is Wang Xiaodong, a Chinese
intellectual in his late 40s. Largely as a result of his book Chinese
Nationalism Under the Shadow of Globalisation, which was published in
1999 (just after the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade,
which led to angry demonstrations in Beijing), Wang is now widely seen
as a leading thinker of the nationalist movement.

His main target has been what he calls "reverse racism", or the
widespread attitude among Chinese intellectuals that denigrates China
and looks to the west for the country's future and salvation. In fact,
this kind of attitude is far from unusual in the Asian tiger
countries: as they have exploded into economic growth, they have
invariably looked to the west, at least initially, as their model and
their vision. ...

the terri schiavo case

March 27th

i am sick and tired of hearing about terri schiavo. so please excuse
this tirade.

the godawful media fuss about this one woman is an excellent
indication of one of the following in North American (yes, including
the canadians) society:

1. stalinism. remember stalin's adage that the death of one man is a
tragedy, but that of a thousand men is a statistic. the us media and
public act as though this were true. 100,000 iraqis have died, but
that's fine. *one* woman in a coma, brain-dead, exercises everyone's
imagination. how lop-sided can you get?

2. racism. the deaths of iraqis is fine because they are not white
americans. just as the deaths of all those indians on board the air
india kanishka flight blown up in the sky. they *exonerated* the
accused. but the pan am lockerbie flight, they made much noise about
it because it was white people who died; and libyans are paying what
$3 million per head?

3. lack of medical sense. exactly what is the point in keeping this
poor woman in a state of suspended animation? this is one of those
futile medical spectacles on which so much money is wasted in the us.
nobody expects terri schiavo to rise from the dead, so to speak (this
being easter and all). so what is the point in keeping her body alive
while she is in a coma? this sort of medical heroics is what is
causing the us health care system to gobble up and more and more of
the gdp, while the average american is obese and unfit. the money
spent on terri schiavo would be enough to fund the medical insurance
of a hundred poor street people.

i am also sick and tired of hearing about michael jackson.

IHT: wave of corruption in china

March 27th

some small comfort: the chinese are even more corrupt than indians.
talk of ugly capitalism! off-the-wall thought: if indians can come up
with some cold cash, it will be possible to bribe the chinese to do
things that are against their national interest.

interestingly, the american investment bank goldman sachs (or was it
morgan stanley? can't remember) recently paid a *legal* bribe of $100
million to the chinese government to be able to start an office in
china! this of course is ok as far as the ultra-puritan americans are


Wave of Corruption Tarnishes China's Extraordinary Growth

By David Barboza The New York Times

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

SHANGHAI China has been shaken by a series of large-scale bank
robberies in recent years, but they are not the Bonnie-and-Clyde type.

These are inside jobs: top executives, branch managers, loan officers
and thousands of everyday employees have been running off with
billions of dollars of customers' money.

Consider what has happened in just the first two months of 2005.
First, a branch manager at the Bank of China disappeared with more
than $100 million in cash. A few weeks later, dozens of employees of
another commercial bank were arrested and charged with conspiring to
steal nearly $1 billion in funds. And then midlevel officials of China
Construction Bank apparently fled the country with about $8 million in

There is no word yet on whether any of the money has been recovered.
But the chain of events underlines an ugly byproduct of China's
aggressive embrace of a get-rich-quick form of capitalism: a
long-running wave of corporate and government corruption scandals....

a few blogs and sites i have been reading

March 27th

the blog conversion agenda
the blog vivekajyoti
the blog pseudosecularism
the blog secular-right india

the site vigil online

Tsunami relief concert under Mata Amritanandamayi Matham auspices

March 27th

forwarded from a friend:

Hi friends-
The organizers of this concert wanted me to help get the word out. Neyveli Santhanagopalan & Bay Area artists are performing as part of a benefit concert for Mata Amritanandamayee's Tsunami Fundraiser.

Please distribute if you know others who might be interested.

Friday, March 25, 2005

High tech conference at Stanford Business School

March 25th

High Tech Conference 2005, Wednesday, April 6, 1:30 - 6:00 pm,
Stanford Graduate School of Business (South Building)

Don't miss the 2005 High Tech Conference on Wednesday, April 6th!
More than 30 distinguished guest speakers have graciously accepted our
invitation to engage in lively discussions across a wide range of
pertinent topics, including "Exploiting Technology: The CIO's
Perspective", "India or China? Outsource or Offshore?", "Innovative
Business Models in Technology", "The Mobile Data Revolution", and
"Digital Home: The Battle for Control of the Living Room". This year's
conference will feature two outstanding and thought-provoking keynote
speakers whom you won't want to miss:

o Jonathan Schwartz, COO and President of Sun Microsystems
o Ray Lane, former President of Oracle and currently General
Partner at Kleiner Perkins

Last year's tickets sold out quickly. For more information and to
purchase your discounted alumni ticket, go to
. US to India: Drop Dead

March 25th

lovely easter gift to india from the us.

moral: proliferate nukes, threaten us interests everywhere, be terror
hub, and get rewarded for it. this has been north korea's experience,
china's experience, saudi arabia's experience, and pakistan's

suck up to the us, desperately crave its goodwill, allow its odious
conversion machine to dictate terms to you, and get slapped on the
face. this is india's experience.

simple solution for india: proliferate nuke and missile technology to
anybody who wants it, especially taiwan and japan. this will
immediately get american respect, much as pokhran-ii did.

U.S. Moves to Sell F-16's to Pakistan Over Indian Objections

Published: March 25, 2005

The Bush administration agreed today to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter
planes in a major policy shift that was meant to reward Pakistan for
its help in combating terrorism but was also certain to deeply
antagonize Pakistan's longtime adversary India.... the discreet demise of the dollar

March 25th

the dollar is dying. even the economist, the voice of nato, says so.

we're seeing the slow erosion of american power.

i am ambivalent about this, as my own dollars are depreciating: $2 to 1 pound, for example. i guess i should be investing in the indian stock market, but that has also been volatile, losing a lot of ground recently, although that may be a good 'buy' signal.

but on the other hand, the erosion of american economic power means the erosion of american military power too, which is good and bad as the americans may not be as bad as some of the other imperial powers around.

positively good is the erosion of the ability of those noxious christian fundamentalists to carry out conversion activities.

so i am conflicted. sigh.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

india as number 1

march 24th

i have been traveling (typing this on the road).

a number of people have responded to my column on india as creative superpower. you are welcome to post comments as responses to this post. you can also send email to if you wish.

reader h singh chided me for not mentioning the martyrdom of sukhdev, rajguru and bhagat singh on march 23, in 1921. mea culpa, i am at fault. but i do stand up and salute these patriots. they had a vision of india as no. 1

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sandeep Pandey's ratha-yatra: where's the money going?

March 21st

got the following comment from a friend. 100,000 rupees for 'fuel', indeed. this is some jaitya-yatra (triumphant march)! the asvamedha yagas of old probably cost less in constant rupees.

foil used to be the forum of indian leftists, now it's transmuted to 'inquilabi' leftists.

i used to wonder why foil was 'forum of indian leftists' and not 'forum of "South Asian" leftists'.

i came up with two reasons.

1. foil would have been 'fosal', which is too close to 'fossil' when pronounced, although that is a pretty accurate description of the species

2. there are no marxists in "South Asia" other than in india and nepal. ever wondered why all the bengali marxists are in *west* bengal, not in *east* bengal? i think they were all lined up and shot in bangladesh after liberation or maybe after partition. similarly, it was most entertaining to see surjeet and bardhan go to pakistan and reminisce about the good old days when there were commies in pakistan. what happened to them? a good bet is that they were all er... encouraged to recant, with a knife to their carotid arteries for serious encouragement.

oh, and it's very obvious that ASHA and AID are distancing themselves from this expression of "development" and "education". yes, indeed, funding a quixotic march (aka boondoggle) is the very epitome of the stated objectives of these two organizations. your tax-exempt donations at work. that is, along with the AK47s being bought by naveen in the electrical and computer engineering department (asha volunteer for 3 years) and by his self-righteous anonymous friend and their 'high-level professional' friends who don't even spend money on a donut during their strategy sessions.

=== quote ====

Check out this mail where he solicits funds. He needs Rs. 1 lakh for
fuel (for 2 vehicles) and this is just for the indian leg of the

The distance between Delhi and Wagah is approximately 450 kilometres.
So the round trip is 900 kilometres and for two vehicles it works out
to the amount of fuel needed for 1800 kilometres. Even at a poor rate
of 10 kilometres to the litre, you need just Rs 7200 (assuming 40
rupees per litre)

Guess where the remaining 92,800 goes! That is 92.8% overheads


From: akhila raman
To: <>
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2005 23:29:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: [foil] URGENT: Funds for 23rd Peace March!
dear all,

Sandeep Pandey is short of funds by about 5 lakhs and
the Peace March starts March 23rd! Could you please
forward to your elists and help towards this effort?
address to mail checks is enclosed in the end.

thanks, akhila

--- asha wrote:

> dear akhila,
> the preparations for the march are in final stages.
> also, see if you can raise some funds from other sources. we have
received a
> commitment of about rs. 3.5 lakhs till now. the budget is attached at
> bottom of this message.
> sandeep
> ---------------------
11th MAY,
> 2005
> Our region has a long history and a rich tradition of peaceful
> between peoples of diverse faiths and creeds, built on enduring human
> of love and compassion, respect and tolerance for each other.
> this valuable aspect of shared heritage between India and Pakistan
has had
> been undermined since independence due to political conflicts. But
the tide
> is changing and the emerging geo-political and economic realities of
the 21st
> century calls for reiteration of human values that form the core of
> civilization. The changing times also demand greater regional
cooperation and
> solidarity.
> Hence there is an increasing need to combat the menace of religious
> intolerance and its various manifestations leading to immense damage
> social fabric and causing rift at national, regional and
> levels. In this time of global upheaval and social turmoil, it
> crucial to highlight the values of tolerance, peace, love and
compassion that
> are common to all religions and faiths practiced in our countries.
> The present leadership of the two countries has very ably and wisely
> responded to the challenge and official initiatives on both sides are
> way to open up for dialogue and consultation and to create spaces for
> and economic cooperation between the peoples.
> With a view to further strengthen these initiatives, and to sensitize
> on the need to build on the shared heritage of humane values of
> peace and love, preached and transmitted by the Sufis of the
Subcontinent, we
> plan to organize a people's Peace March between India and Pakistan
> from march 23, 2005 and ending on may 11, 2005. The Peace March is
> to originate from the tomb of the revered Sufi, Khwaja Nizamuddin
Aulia, at
> Delhi, and to culminate at the tomb of venerated Bahauddin Zakaria,
> Multan.
> The proposed Peach March will provide a unique opportunity to
> people-to-people contact, to inter-mingle, to reflect on and negate
> destructive tendencies of distrust, hatred, and enmity, and spread
> message of peace and harmony. It is proposed that about 100 persons
> India and Pakistan will form the core marchers who will be joined
> thousands of people at different villages, towns and cities enroute.
> request the two governments to issue requisite visas to these
individuals, as
> well as extend other facilities, including security on the way.
> We are sure that the government will facilitate this unique people's
> initiative as it aims to strengthen and build on the numerous
> initiatives leading towa
> rds regional cooperation, peace and prosperity.
> Karamat Ali, PILER, ST-001, Sector X, Sub-Sector V, Gulshan-e-Maymar,
> Karachi-75340, Pakistan, Tel: (9221) 6351145/46/47, Fax: (9221)
> 6350919, e-mail:
> Sandeep Pandey, NAPM, A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016, U.P.,
India, Tel:
> (0522) 2347365, Cell: 9839073355, Fax: (0522) 2353020, e-mail:
> Please visit our website at and subscribe to
> to receive regular information
about the
> peace march or send mail to moderator at
> Endorsing organizations:
> Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, Pakistan India People's
> for Peace and Democracy, National Alliance of People's Movements,
> for India's Development, Asha, South Asian Women's Forum, Society For
> People's Action Change And Enforcement
> ====================================
> Date Place Distance from previous place (in km)
> 23rd March, 2005 Delhi
> 24th March Kingsway Camp 18
> 25th March Kundli Border 17
> 26th March Sonepat 20
> 27th March Ganaur 18
> 28th March Samalkha 12
> 29th March Panipat 18
> 30th March Gharaunda 17
> 31st March Karnal 20
> 1st April Nilokheri 20
> 2nd April Kurukshetra 20
> 3rd April Shahabad Markanda
> 4th April Ambala 21
> 5th April Rajpura 20
> 6th April Sarhind 26
> 7th April Khanna 18
> 8th April Duraha 23
> 9th April Ludhiana 20
> 10th April Phillaur 15
> 11th April Phagwara 21
> 12th April Jhallandhar 21
> 13th April Kartarpur 17
> 14th April Beas 21
> 15th April Jhandiala Guru 24
> 16th -17th April Amritsar
> 18th April Wagha 27
> 19th -20th April Lahore 30
> 21st April Manga Mandi
> 22nd April Bhai Pharo
> 23rd April Pattoki
> 24th April Renala Khurd
> 25th-26th April Okara
> 27th April Qadirabad
> 28th April Sahiwal
> 29th April Harrapa
> 30th April- 1st May Chinchawatani
> 2nd May Kasowal
> 3rd May Mian Chunnu
> 4th May Mohsin Wal
> 5th May Kacha Khu
> 6th May Khanewal
> 9th May Qadirpur Rawan
> 10th May Multan
> 11th May Multan
> Budget
> India Pakistan Peace March
> 23 March to 11 May, 2005, Delhi to Multan

Item - Estimated Requirement in Indian Rupees

Poster and Publicity Material (in 4 languages - Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu
English) - Rs. 2,00,000

Fuel for 2 vehicles - Rs. 1,00,000

(This is for the Indian leg of the march)

Travel - Rs. 2,50,000

Telephone/ Fax/ E-mail - Rs. 50,000

Inaugral Programme - Rs. 1,00,000

Material with yatra (microphone, solar light)- Rs. 30,000

Miscellaneous - Rs. 1,00,000

TOTAL - Rs. 8,30,000

Assistance needed in kind

Vehicles - 2 (Multi Utility Vehicles)


Donations (cheques and drafts) in the name of ASHA may be sent to the

Foreign donations - Payable at Varanasi, India

'Asha' c/o Vallabhacharya,

Village Bhandahan Kalan, P.O. Kaithi,

Dist. Varanasi, PIN 221116

Uttar Pradesh, India

Mobile: +91 - 9415256848 (Vallabhacharya)

Ph: +91- 542-2618201/301/401, email:,

Indian donations payable at Lucknow

'Asha' c/o Sandeep

A-893, Indira Nagar,

Lucknow -226016

Uttar Pradesh

Ph: +91 - 522- 2347365

Mobile: +91 - 9838546900 (Mahesh)