Thursday, December 26, 2013

Devyani Khobragade: A life in privilege, corruption and feudalism

Devyani Khobragade is a poster child for everything that is wrong with India's quota based reservation system, a feudal and corrupt bureaucracy and a society that is at large still mired in a feudal outlook.

The Khobragade mess is a teachable moment for all, including the US. It is time the US took a hard look at what passes for its 'arrest procedures'. Modern imaging equipment provides enough clues without resorting to a humiliating strip search or an even more denigrating cavity search (the latter was not done to Devyani). Let alone Devyani, anybody who is found innocent later in trial, would have lived through an emotionally scarring experience. This does not behoove a great country.

Those outside the US need to learn that, for every incident they google and dredge up to show leniency by US law, there are ten more that show the impartial nature of US law. Sitting President Bill Clinton had to answer highly invasive questions regarding 'peculiarities' concerning his private parts during the Paula Jones trial. Senators, rock stars, governors, congressmen, film stars have all felt the sharp end of law in US. This is true of most Western countries. Bestselling author and MP Jeffrey Archer underwent imprisonment in UK. More often than not the common Western citizen loves to see justice being delivered to the high and mighty. Many had pointed to the incident in Kenya when a US diplomat caused a car accident killing a man and was later evacuated with no punishment. Check the comments by Americans under those articles. Almost everyone had commented that this was unfair and the man should stand trial.

US has lot of idiosyncrasies in implementing the law. US attorneys and judges have lot of latitude. There is constant discussion in US over frivolous lawsuits, extortion, harassment by overzealous prosecutors, extremely punitive punishments over trivial offenses and of course race as a factor. No country is free of any blemish. The US has its warts in the justice system. An overzealous attorney accused a group of Duke university students of having raped a black stripper. The entire case fell apart later. And, yes the same happened to the French diplomat too. All that said the US justice system, especially compared to India, delivers for most. Conservative commentator George Will wrote a blistering column on how prosecutors coerce drug offenders to plead guilty (see references). Also when a US attorney general decides to prosecute a case not even the President can stop him/her.

Lot of Indians reacted with disgust against Khobragade but demurred about the strip search. What pained me most was how many reacted indignantly with questions like "is the US holy?", "is the maid a CIA agent?" and the worst being "the maid was given lodging and food. Does she need American wages above that?"

Who is Khobragade? Daughter of an IAS officer she grew up in the lap of luxury and, as her father himself stated, never faced any discrimination on account of her being Dalit. To be blunt she only reaped the benefits of being a Dalit just like K.R.Narayanan's daughter did. India's perverted reservation system (not to be confused with the lesser oppressive American style affirmative action) considers Khobragade as eligible for education and job opportunities on account of her caste. Reports say she owns 11 properties including a flat in the scam tainted Aadarsh flats. Asked why she did not declare prior government allotted home her father indignantly replied that it was not their duty to do so.

It is disgusting to see her fellow bureaucrats rush to her defense with op-eds in Indian and international papers. One bureaucrat said that it is a fact that that all consular officials lied in their visa papers about salaries to the domestic help and he proceeded to ask with anger "by approving such visa is not the US complicit". Another diplomat wrote that now every domestic help will feel emboldened to complain to US authorities just to get a green card and pursue 'dollar dreams'. Yet another diplomat, Prabhu Dayal, who was formerly accused of ill treating his maid in the same consulate took to an oped to rehash his case and cast aspersions on the maid.

I was extremely pained to see questions asking why does a maid need $9 just because she is working in NYC since her lodging and meals were taken care of. Why does Khobragade or any Indian diplomat need US salaries? After all, they too live in the same consulate. This feigned outrage in India against the treatment meted to Devyani is nothing but the preening middle class asking "how dare a maid take one of our own to court and have her arrested". This is nothing to do with protecting India's honor. Rather it is bourgeoise India reacting with feudal impulses against a maid. There have been other instances when Indians have been arrested, sometimes wrongly too, and not a single squeak was heard from India.

Many seem to ignore that Devyani used every lever of power to crush the maid. As any middle class employer of India would do Devyani too registered a case of theft against the maid, in India, not in NYC where the purported theft took place. An Indian court gagged the maid from pursuing a legal option in US where the grievance, underpayment, was taking place. Above all, the maid's 'official passport', not Indian passport, was cancelled and a non-bailable arrest warrant issued against her. Non-bailable warrant. For what? And a case was registered against the maid's husband too? For what.  I am beyond myself for any iota of sympathy for Devyani or the purported outrage to her modesty. Devyani met her match in Preet Bharara. If Bharara did not exist Devyani, in Bollywood film style, would have stamped into the ground the maid and her family. This is not empty conjecture. It is what Devyani set out to do.

A pompous Yale graduate, liberal and leftist, Suchitra Vijayan penned a column for Rediff bemoaning that Devyani's great work on behalf of the downtrodden is now tarnished. Suchitra says that Devyani, 'a doctor, Dalit and a woman in a male dominated career' will not do just 'lip service' but does 'things that are important'. Yet this Ivy League graduate could not point to a single original idea or project of Devyani beyond empty, inane, platitudes like 'paying forward' and 'creating opportunities'.

That India is ruled by the bureaucrats is evident in this mess. The bureaucracy has closed ranks and is shamelessly trying to protect one of their own. They are even brazen about the fact that they are entitled to 'domestic help' though clearly they cannot afford one in a country where most people, including citizens, do not need a 'domestic help'. The suggested remedies by all these bureaucrats include every idea under the sun except paying appropriately or better still doing away with this colonial era entitlement.

We can trust these officials to come up with ideas that adhere to the law but are void of any scruples or morals. An idea floated suggests that the Indian government, not the official, sign the contracts with the maids thereby presenting a conundrum to any overzealous US attorney over arresting a country or a nonentity like the government. India's GDP is $2 Trillion and Indians love to boast of their possible status of overtaking GDP and yet they want to pay a maid $3 per hour. Shame.

The barrage of op-eds and manufactured outrage on behalf of the perpetrator only shows that the voiceless continue to be voiceless in India. How many Indian papers and TV channels interviewed those who are being sent abroad as 'domestic help'? The foreign minister asks with barely controlled rage that the worst that Devyani can be accused of is underpaying and if so does that is it a big deal. Khurshid was not seen with so much anger when Muslims were butchered in Muzarfarpur. And yes, in some parts of the world, not paying an employee properly is considered criminal.

I've been asked if my interest and anger on this issue is because it gives me yet another chance to scold India. Absolutely no. When I first heard the news I ignored it as yet another Indian trying to act Indian in USA. But then it erupted like Vesuvius. Many, many times I've seen indigent Indian employees in restaurants shyly say "sir please give the tips as cash. If you put it on card it does not come to us". Indians are loathe to tip after eating for $100 so I've seen waiters ask "sir please don't forget a tip". At some places waiters cheerlessly say "we don't get any part of the tip". I've been through the H1B grinding mill. I know personally how Indian employers cheat. Paying an employee on time, paying fairly, treating an employee with respect etc are completely alien to most, not all, Indians.

One day a plumber came to my home to do some repair work. He walked around the home, sat comfortably on the sofa, complimented my daughter and talked to me as an equal human being. I thought would an Indian plumber do the same in India? In India it is common for a small child to call an aged domestic help disrespectfully by name and in singular. Children are employed to babysit children.

Many Indians hated the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Time magazine elicited a response from a middle class car driving girl and a rickshaw driver. The girl was irritated about the movie saying "this is what I see everyday should I see it in the theater too". The rickshaw man said "at last a movie that speaks of people like us". Indians were less livid about the fact that children are maimed and forced into beggary than about a cinematic exaggeration of a child jumping into a pit of excreta.

It is the middle class that is fueling the rise of Narendra Modi. Everyone breathlessly speaks of how factories are opened in Gujarat, how roads are laid pronto, how permits can be got easily but I've not heard a single Modi supporter speak of why Gujarat's primary education lags or why no big universities or research centers or primary health centers or state of the art hospitals were opened. Those do not matter to the middle class who have convents and nursing homes to go to.

Supporters of reservation system would have been livid at my calling Devyani as poster child for everything thats wrong with the system. Consider this. The maid's child and Devyani's child are entitled to the same quota. Guess who has a higher chances of enjoying the fruits of the quota? Convent education, US school going Devyani child or a maid's child? Reservation system undoubtedly helped a few generations but it has become a behemoth today that is hogged by the aptly labeled 'creamy layer'. Today's Hindu carries an article about how schools meant for Adi-Dravida children are dilapidated, to put it mildly, lack teachers, lack classrooms and function in something that resembles a building where even dogs would think twice before resting on a hot day. Politicians use reservation system as a soft option to lure vote banks while ignoring the more vital concrete steps.

There are many lessons to be learnt for all. India and Indians need the most learning to do. I hope they spare a moment to learn.


1. Suchitra Vijayan's column in Rediff

2. Non-bailable warrant against the maid Sangeeta Richard

3. Entreprenur's 'Letter to an Indian nanny in New York'

4. Former diplomat Prabhu Dayal's oped

5. Prabhu Dayal case reported in CBS

6. Over 50% of Adi-Dravida schools lack basic facilities - The Hindu

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Grow up India. The law is the law.

It was a day of irony and insanity. Capitalist America came to the defense of a housemaid who was being paid $3.31 per hour as against even prevailing minimum wage of $9.75 in NYC. Socialist India frothed at its mouth in fury and vented its anger, lo behold, against America for arresting a 'consular official' who allegedly committed visa fraud. Indians in social media railed and ranted against imperialist America, vowed to humiliate America in return, political leaders snubbed a visiting US delegation and the Indian government most shamefully scaled down security provided to US embassies. A former minister asked the Indian government to arrest spouses of US consulate members who happen to be homosexuals since the Indian Supreme Court had ruled that homosexuality is a crime.

Grow up India. This is America where the rule of law has a higher respect than one which Indians can readily understand. Dominique Strauss Kahn, head of IMF and possible future PM of France, was hauled from a flight that he was sitting in based on the complaint by a hotel employee who had alleged sexual harassment. Kahn was handcuffed, perp walked, arraigned, kept under house arrest with an ankle collar by New York City Police. Later the case fell apart but Kahn was exposed as a sex addict. His political future crashed. Indians could glumly say "see we told you". The point is not about the case falling apart. If arrests are to be made only when water tight evidence is there most arrests will never be made. Powerful people have ways to change evidences if too much time lapses. Ask the Sankararaman family in Kanchipuram. The point is the police acted on the complaint of a hotel janitor against a very powerful man from a close ally of US.

Check out Rod Blagojevich. Blago, as he was called, was the governor of Illinois. He plotted to sell a vacant senate seat. Note, he just plotted. One morning FBI crashed into his home, pulled him up from his bed and marched him to jail. Jesse Jackson Jr, son of revered civil rights icon and himself a sitting congressman, is serving time for using campaign cash to buy luxury goods for himself and his wife. Jackson Jr's wife too is serving time. Michael Douglas's son is serving time in solitary confinement, not just jail, for drug trafficking. Wesley Snipes was jailed for not paying taxes.

I saw Bill Clinton apologize to the country on live telecast for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. His grand jury testimony was available on videotape in the local library. His accuser was a nobody yet the court compelled him to give testimony. It is common sight to see US Presidents, during vacations, standing in queue to get ice cream or buy a book and even pay for it. Recently Obama bought books at an independent store and was photographed paying for it.

Devyani Khobragade, as consular officer, is entitled, according to Indian government rules, to a domestic help. That person gets a visa thanks to the officer. In the visa documents, it is alleged, Khobragade offered to pay $4000 per month. However upon reaching US the servant was made to sign a different contract of $500 per month.Much of the case is still murky and details are yet to come out fully. Khorbagade filed a lawsuit in India against the maid. Apparently disappointed with the cut in salary the maid wanted to work on weekends outside the consulate for which her visa conditions do not allow. Also the maid had an official passport not a regular Indian passport.One day the maid disappeared and turned up in an immigrant attorney's office in NYC. Consular officials were called in. Meantime, and this is the strange but vital part, the maid's family including a child were held 'taken into custody' alarming her. This is entirely plausible given the high connections of Khobragade whose father was IAS.

Things moved apace in India. An Indian court restricted the maid from filing a case anywhere else except India. Her husband was issued a notice and the maid herself was charged under cheating and extortion.

Rediff article cites two other instances of maids filing lawsuits in US against former diplomats. In one case, again, an Indian court had prohibited the maid from filing a suit in US.

A diplomat wrote indignantly that consul officers are not paid high and that, if at all, they can only afford to pay $12 per hour for a maid. I wonder why do they even need a maid. Thousands of Indians who actually earn more than that officer make do without a maid doing their own laundry, grocery shopping etc. It is high time these babus learned to live like the common man.

Not coincidentally Khobragade had another run in with the law. Even as she owned a government allotted home she purchased another home in the scandal plagued Adarsh society. Her father, Uttam Khobargade, a former IAS, indignantly said its not their duty to inform about the other home. Today he is even more indignant and rails against the arrest as 'barbaric'. The Khobargades have a sense of entitlement but, for once, met their match.

Today CNN clarified that Khobargade was not arrested in front of her children. In fact US Marshals ensured that she was arrested while returning from school after dropping her children. Strip searching is a routine process in any arrest in US. It is usually done for the safety of everyone. It is not like she was stripped in public or something like that. There are procedures for that to be done.

Indians have a way of whining and groaning when their high and mighty are treated like the common man. When Shah Rukh Khan was detained at Newark airport there was a hue and a cry. The issue was India itself has notified interpol that a terrorist was using Shah Rukh as his alias. The poor immigration officer, who probably had no idea of who Shah Rukh Khan was, took him aside for questioning. I've no issues with that. As long as he was not harassed or profiled its perfectly ok. US apologized for frisking Abdul Kalam though. Again, it was an honest mistake by a low ranked employee of the airline.

US Senator Claire McCaskill once tweeted about an 'aggressive pat down' she got at an airport. When Senator Rand Paul refused a pat down he had to leave the airport. Post 9/11 a US senator had to drop his pants and show his hip replacement scar because the metal detectors went crazy.

Priyanka Chopra tweeted "Shahrukh is a global icon. Get real". Trust me, if Shah Rukh walked in the streets of NYC except Indians nobody would recognize him. Thats why Rajinikant comes to US. At that time I remember reading Indians tweeting 'let's do the same to Tom Hanks'. What is lost on Indians is that in US most, excepting the President, are treated like commoners. Even the President has his moments.

It is pathetic that not many Indians have spared a thought for the maid whose husband and child are being harassed by the Indian state. Indians, time and again, including those in America, have reacted churlish when it comes to Indians facing the law.

Last year an Indian student was convicted of hate crime for taping a gay student having sex and for attempting to broadcast it. The gay student later committed suicide. The Indian student was given all chances to plead guilty and sign a deal. He refused and wanted to go to trial. The trial went against him. His co-conspirator, a girl, testified against him. The Indian-American community, no friends of homosexuals, was livid and there were posters in support of the boy.

Khobargade's father alleges racism. After all, thats a convenient excuse. The attorney who arrested Devayani is Preet Bharara. Bharara was featured on the cover of Time magazine for taking Wall Street to task. He was instrumental in bringing down billionaire hedge fund owner Raj Rajarathinam and Rajat Gupta, former CEO of McKinsey. Not to be outdone social media critics tar Bharara as 'acting white' by arresting Indians.

The average Indian has an absolute contempt for ethics and rule of law. Step into most Indian shops in New Jersey and you would see that customer satisfaction is a forgotten ethic. Sales tax evasion is prevalent in Indian shops. Talk to any H1B consultant they would tell stories of exploitation. I've heard the most twisted logic for unethical practices from H1B owners.

US consulates in India faces very high security risks. To have placed US consulate personnel at risk as a petulant payback is beyond indecent. I'd like US to close down its consulates, maintaining just a mission for sake of continued relations. In the least all visa processing sections should immediately be closed down. I'd love to see how many Indians will put up with that for more than a week.

Some bravado talk of shutting down US companies in India is spoken of. I welcome the suggestion. I ask Indians to walk out of every job that they owe to USA. As it is US companies have soured on India and the world is wide for US companies. India is more a problem than anything else. If Indians wish to take their economy to stone age I'd get myself a Starbucks cafe latte, a biscotti, a comfortable chair to watch the fun.

Indians would do well to remember what India did to Italian ambassador over the Italian marine shooting incident. The Ambassador was detained in kind of house arrest for what a few trigger happy sailors did. Today an Indian ambassador has been arrested over a very serious complaint and much of India is running around like headless chickens. (Thanks to former Indian Ambassador for that expression).

Over the past decade tens of Tamil fishermen were killed in Sri Lanka over fishing disputes. Many times they were captured and even tortured. Yet, the Indian government and many Indians cared nothing for that despite the fact that Sri Lanka is not even a major military or trading partner unlike the US. Today, to protect a corrupt and venal bureaucrat the media, the people and the political class are competing in grand standing.


I got this link, giving the entire affidavit, as a comment on this blog. Sharing it now,%20Devyani%20Complaint.pdf

1. Timeline of events.

2. New York State Vs Dominique Strauss Kahn

3. Diplomat owns flat in Adarsh society

Monday, December 16, 2013

Aravindan Neelakandan: A McCarthy For Hindus (and Jeyamohan's silence)

What Wahhabism is to Islam and what Ku Klan is to Christianity, Aravindan Neelakandan's Hindutva is to Hinduism. American historian Richard Hofstadter alarmed by the rise of Barry Goldwater wrote "The paranoid style in American politics". Barry Goldwater and Narendra Modi are not dangerous in and of themselves but what made them dangerous, less with Goldwater and more with Modi, is what their followers saw in them, what their voters see as possible to accomplish in their victory. Modi does not scare me. For all practical purposes he might be a disappointment more to his followers than to his detractors. Unlike even the advent of the Vajpayee regime, the first real rule by a party espousing Hindutva, Modi's hoped for victory has brought out militant hinduism more into the open. Social media plays a crucial role in this propagation of hate. In 1998 Aravindan Neelakandan could only speak to a few friends and incite them. Today he has a forum. He is widely read and re-transmitted and hence has to be treated with more caution and, dare I say, respect. Brushing aside Neelakandan as purveyor of nonsense will be a mistake and the price will be too high.

Passages from Hofstadter bear quoting. Who is the 'paranoid', "The paranoid spokesman, sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization... he does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish". "The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will."

Tamil writer Jeyamohan has written a novel based on the Great Famine of Madras 1877. Jeyamohan has spun a tale based on history. Given the fact that he, self confessedly, is busy writing screenplays for many movies I do not expect him to do research in the class of Gore Vidal or Thomas Mann or Tolstoy. He has used a historical event as background to his philosophy of ethics (better put in Tamil as 'Aram'), its failure amongst people in a great cataclysmic event that killed close to 6 million. A holocaust. The novel, reviewers say, revolves around how Dalits were abandoned by upper caste Hindus. The colonial regime, a sympathetic Irishman and others populate the novel. The book was published by a Christian, a theology graduate, and a Hindu.

Aravindan Neelakandan, a staunch Hindutva writer, took umbrage at what he considered insufficient focus on the villainy of the church and a colonial regime that, in his opinion, was the handmaiden of Evangelical christianity which saw in the famine an opportunity to proselytize and 'harvest souls' for Christ. Neelakandan exemplifies the paranoid style with his constant harping of how Muslims and other minorities are molly coddled at the expense of Hindus. That minorities are molly coddled is open for debate but imagining that such coddling happens at the 'expense' of Hindus is beyond decent.

Neelakandan ripped the novel drawing, as usual, selectively, from many sources questioning effectively whether the novel can even be called a 'historical fiction'.

Both Islam and Christianity have committed their fair share of folly in the name of proselytization. That both religions are broadly recognized as 'organized religion' also distinguishes it from the 'seemingly' unorganized Hinduism. William Dalrymple in 'The Last Mughal' establishes that the proselytization zeal of some churches in British India was an important catalyst in breaking with earlier tradition of the British having largely peaceful, irreligious, relationship with Indians that was even marked by inter-marriages.

I am sure that churches saw in the famine an opportunity to make inroads into a deeply rigid society. What Neelakandan intentionally propagandizes is when he clubs the mistakes of the Viceroy Lytton and Richard Temple with the intemperate utterances of missionaries. Neelakandan is an astute student of Goebbels. While Neelakandan correctly and gleefully accuses Temple's policies of causing a holocaust he fails to mention the complex history of how Temple initiated those disastrous policies.

Richard Temple had performed admirably during the previous famine in 1874. He alleviated the suffering by importing millions of tons of rice from Burma. This information is from Mike Davis's 'Late Victorian holocausts'. Neelakandan cites the same book to establish that Lytton was a laissez-faire capitalist and a right wing Christian. Temple's 'extravagance' is frowned upon by his colonial masters. Eager to win another post Temple swung to an extreme espousing laissez faire capitalism at a time it was least needed.

Another blogger had pointed out earlier about the efforts of Buckingham in organizing relief efforts. The most authoritative narrative of the famine is by William Digby in 'The famine campaign in South India' (2 Volumes). Digby and physician W.R.Cornish battled Temple for better rations. Cornish drew upon his studies of prison dieting to argue for more rations. As much as there were missionaries waiting as vultures to harvest souls there were others who performed exemplary charity work. Digby actually commends Indians for a philanthropic spirit and even worries if Christianizing India would destroy that tradition. Interestingly Jeyamohan's novel is about how Indians abandoned fellow Indians.

Not satisfied with his vilification of Temple, Lytton and missionaries Neelakandan then very cynically tramples upon Christ himself. Only a twisted mind like that of Neelakandan can say that Christ supported imperialism. Taking the most beautiful parable in all of New Testament, the parable of Good Samaritan, Neelakandan twists it out shape alleging that Christ while seemingly appreciates the Samaritan he (Christ) argues that a Samaritan, lowly of birth, rises by only his deeds. The parable tells the exact opposite. Christ teaches that irrespective of how 'supposedly' high born a person is, if he does not have humanitarianism he is unworthy of being a neighbor. 'Love your neighbor as you would love yourself'.

Taking issue with Jeyamohan characterizing Jews as oppressed people in the time of Christ Neelakandan spews bile, "Christ, if one such existed, was certainly not from an oppressed community. Jews occupied high positions in the then regime". I've no issues with Neelakandan doubting the factual existence of Christ. But his absolute ignorance of Roman history and the state of Jews is appalling. Just like India the rest of the world had its own stratifications. Christianity, a Semitic religion, had its own iniquities and follies of intolerance. The Bible is a Semitic religious text compiled by human beings over centuries and it bears the imprints of human minds with all its brilliance and prejudices. But such nuances are inconveniences for purveyors of hate.

Christ's conversation with the Samaritan woman has tones of superciliousness seen through the prism of 21st century's political correctness. That the Jews considered themselves, like every other sect, a 'chosen people' is well known. To take part of the conversation and make Christ appear as a race bigot can be achieved only by Neelakandan. By his standards then Mahabharata and Ramayana, two epics I dearly love, are books filled with racist and sexist bigotry.

Seeing the Church become a bazaar Christ scolds the pharisees. He even calls the pharisees 'vipers'. Pharisees, historically, were a more egalitarian sect. Again, the Bible is not written by one person with an agenda. Hindutva brigade celebrates "Valmiki Jeyanthi" on a day they say Valmiki was born. When a mythical writer has a birthday assigned we can understand that they lack the intellectual nuance to appreciate Bible or as for that matter Mahabharatha too. Christ, even seen as a mythical character, is an iconoclast come to earth to resurrect his Father's church, to preach anew, to show a lost sheep the way to the shepherd. When somebody says, that by scolding Pharisees Christ shows support for the established interests that align with the Roman kingdom, then we can be sure that they lack even elementary powers to understand simple text.

William Digby was rewarded for his critical review of British policy. The colonial regime then put in place measures to combat famines. A policy that held good for the next half century plus until the Bengal famine of 1940's. Churchill was driven by pure race hatred, not hatred of religion, in not doing much to alleviate that famine. That the colonial regime saw people dying by the millions as a matter of shame to be corrected with better policy speaks volumes about the complexities of that era. It cannot and should not be straitjacketed into evangelical politics. That's a travesty of truth. Incidentally we know so much of not just this famine but others simply because it was the British themselves that maintained records. I'd love to see the Gujarat records concerning the riots.

The question that remains is "why?"Neelakandan knows only slander. Unfortunately his slanders are being propagated as 'criticisms'. I am appalled and really frightened how many, many Hindus imbibe these nonsenses and regurgitate them with no attempt to even disguise their hatred towards India's minorities. People openly talk of 'population exchange', 'threatened Hindu majority' etc. Subramanian Swamy told a throng of educated Indians in New Jersey that he does not need 'sathvik Hindu' but needs 'viraat Hindu'. To do what? Seeing Indians, now turned Americans, lustily cheer that speech I was left dumbfounded.

Talk to any Hindutva proponent for 5 minutes and the words 'pseudo-secularism', 'minority-appeasement' and 'vote-bank politics' will all tumble in sequence. There will be mention of 'Shah Bano case', 'uniform civil code' etc. Hindu women, especially of the lower castes, faces harassment every day yet the Hindutva brigade only worries about Muslim women getting alimony. Hindus unlike Muslims and Christians are the greatest beneficiaries of reservation system. In fact the reservation system discriminates against other religions. Though Muslims have large joint families it is Hindus who enjoy a tax deduction. Neelakandan and Jatayu talk of Quaid-e-Milleth but maintain studied silence on Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. Ustad Bismillah Khan would play shehnai in front of a Hindu goddess. Show me one Carnatic musician who would sing at a Cathedral or a Dargah? The same Rajiv Gandhi who appeased reactionary Muslim clergy also appeased reactionary Hindus by opening Babri Masjid for shilanyas. Rajiv even roped in Arun Govil, he of the Lord Rama fame in Ramayana, to campaign, dressed as Rama, for Congress in order to defeat V.P.Singh. Taxpayer funded Doordarshan has only made TV serials out of Hindu, oh well Indian, epics. India's highest awards for a sports teacher is named after Dronacharya, the very example of how a teacher should not be.

Neelakandan's beef with Jeyamohan is that the novel, in his opinion, underplays the villainy of Christian missionaries and how much evangelical christians drove government policy. In a recent Tamil movie a Christian missionary would be shown as behaving callous and, of course, proselytizing indentured tea estate laborers. The movie was based on book where the real life character was the exact opposite. But since here the fictionalization made a villain out of the Christian doctor Neelakandan's friend Jatayu found it delicious use of a movie maker's creative independence.

Jeyamohan's attitude to Neelakandan is worthy of comment here. Jeyamohan who is on a spree, like Jhumpa Lahiri, to promote his novel. I've always observed with distaste how Jeyamohan publishes letters from fawning readers, including those who cheerfully say they have no experience of reading literature. In the absence of professional critics Jeyamohan will choose easy targets like Yuvakrishna, a blogger of no significance, and rubbish their criticism dismissively. With no disclaimer or rebuttal Jeyamohan gave a link to Neelakandan's column and that too with an excerpt discrediting the Christian publisher. Only those who read the column realized that the preface was actually an excerpt. Jeyamohan could simply have used quotes. When an avid reader of Jeyamohan asked about the discrediting of Alex he replied back saying "Aravindan Neelakandan is a purveyor of hate". Nothing beyond that.

Jeyamohan revels is disassembling criticisms aimed at him. He gave a free pass to Neelakandan. Jeyamohan often professes a love for the Bible though a distaste for Christianity as an organized religion. He also professes a love for Gandhi. But when Neelakandan dishes dirt Jeyamohan's pen falls silent. As one who literally crusades on behalf of all that he loves and propagates I've wondered at Jeyamohan's silence. I've come to the uncomfortable conclusion that Neelakandan is Jeyamohan's alter ego (or should I say 'evil twin'). Neelakandan says what Jeyamohan wishes he could say without justifying the label 'Hindutva writer'. Jeyamohan owes it to himself to unmask Neelakandan else posterity will assume that silence is, indeed, consent.

Senator Joseph McCarthy lent his name to the English dictionary, 'McCarthyism', to signify scaremongering and vilification. To Americans it was the threat of communism. To Indians it is the threat of minorities. After a shameful hearing a person asked McCarthy, and I echo his words to Neelakandan, 'at long last sir, have you no decency left'.

PS: A reader wrote to Jeyamohan citing William Digby's magisterial 2 volume report and its online resource. I am not sure of what historical sources Jeyamohan used, if any. I'll not be surprised if Jeyamohan had not come across Digby's report. Or maybe he did. If a writer used a major report as one of his principal sources then human instinct is to tell that reader "oh I did read that one". Maybe I could be wrong.


1. Neelakandan's blogs on the novel:

2. Jatayu relishing Bala's perversion of fact 
"நாவலை அப்படியே படமாக்க வேண்டும் என்பது இயக்குனர் பாலாவின் நோக்கம் அல்ல. இந்தப் படத்தின் திரைக்கதை ஒரு கூட்டுக் கலவை என்பதை முன்பே பார்த்தோம். ஆனால் “inspired by” என்று போட்டதற்காகவாவது நாவலை முழுவதுமாக சிதைக்காமல் இருந்திருக்கலாம் என்ற வாதத்தில் கொஞ்சம் நியாயம் இருக்கிறது. ஆனால் கொஞ்சம் நியாயம் தான்......படத்தில் காண்பிக்கப் பட்டது போன்ற “டாக்டர்”களும் அதிகம் பேர் இருந்தனர் என்பதற்கு வரலாற்றுச் சான்றுகள் உள்ளன. இரண்டாவது வகை ஆசாமிகளை மட்டுமே இந்தப் படத்தில் சித்தரிக்க வேண்டி வந்தது துரதிர்ஷ்டம்.. ஆனால் இதை சமன் செய்ய, நல்ல டாக்டர், கெட்ட டாக்டர் என்று இரண்டு பாத்திரங்களை உருவாக்கியிருந்தால் படம் சிடுக்காகி இருந்திருக்கும்."

3. Physician W.R. Cornish

4. William Digby

5. Richard Temple,_1st_Baronet

6. Reader's letter to Jeyamohan citing William Digby

7.Great Famine of 1876-78–78

8. Pharisees

9. Parable of the good Samaritan

10. Samaritans

11. Jesus and the Samaritan woman

12. Richard Hofstadter's 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics"

13. Letter from reader to Jeyamohan disturbed by the excerpt (இருபத்துநான்கு மணிநேரமும் கற்பை நிரூபித்துக்கொண்டிருப்பதுபற்றி…) . "இந்துத்துவ வெறுப்பைக் கக்கும் அரவிந்தன் நீலகண்டன் எழுதிய கட்டுரையில் இருந்து நான் மேற்கோள் காட்டிய வரிகள்."

13.India's Nero -Lytton (This blog is interesting for the exchange between the author and Neelakandan in the comments section.
ஏசுவுக்காக செய்தார்களா உண்மையான மனிதாபிமானத்தில் செய்தார்களா என்பதை விட ஏதாவது செய்தார்கள் என்பது தான் முக்கியம். மிஷனரிகள் பலர் எழுப்பிய குரல் தான் லண்டன் வரை கேட்டது. அவர்களது கடிதங்களும், புகைப்படங்களும் (மேலே உள்ள புகைப்படம் ஒரு சென்னை மிஷனரி எடுத்தது தான்). இந்த சொற்ப நிவாரணத்தை, இந்தியாவுக்கு கிடைக்கச் செய்ததில் மிஷனரி லாபியின் நச்சரிப்பு முக்கிய பங்கு வகித்தது.
அரசின் நிவாரணம் மட்டுமல்லாமல், தனியார் நன்கொடைகளை வசூலித்து வரவழைக்கவும் மிஷனரி கடிதங்கள் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டன. Madras Famine Relief Committee ல் கூட மிஷனரி ஆதிக்கம் இருந்ததாகத் தெரியவில்லை. வில்லியம் டிக்பி, டபுள்யூ. ஆர். கார்நிஷ் போன்றவர்கள் மிஷனரிகள் அல்லர். வேலை முகாம்கள் சென்னை மாகாண நிர்வாகத்தினாலேயே நடத்தப்பட்டதாகத் தெரிகிறது. லிட்டன் மிஷனரிகளின் கையாளாக இருந்தால் மிஷனரி பத்திரிக்கைகள் ஏன் அவரை வசைபாட வேண்டும்? பஞ்ச நிவாரணக் குழு உறுப்பினர் டிக்பியின் புத்தகம் இங்கு இருக்கிறது.
இதில் மிஷனரிகள் நிவாரணப் பணிகளைக் கட்டுப்படுத்தியதாக குறிப்பிடவில்லையே.
பஞ்சத்தின் கடுமையை மதமாற்றம் செய்ய மிஷனரிகள் பயன்படுத்தியிருப்பார்கள் என்பதில் சந்தேகமில்லை. ஆனால் விக்கிரக ஆராதனையாளர்க்ள் அனைவரும் செத்து மடியட்டும் என்று அவர்கள் எழுதியதாக எங்கும் இல்லை. அப்படி சாகவிட்டால் இந்தியாவை எப்படி ஏசுவுக்கு மாற்றுவது?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Janab' Vajpayee: From Kargil to Agra via Kandahar

"The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I shall better the instructions" says Shylock in a poignant monologue. How would Vajpayee's 6 year reign look like in the eyes of Aravindan Neelakandan? Let's do a Shylock on Neelakandan.

Aravindan Neelakandan labeled Nehru as 'Janab' Jawaharlal Nehru for the sin of having dialogues with Liaquat Ali Khan and for signing the much maligned 'Nehru-Liaquat' pact. Neelakandan wrongly claimed that Nehru and Liaquat wined and dined while thousands (counting only the Hindus as Neelakandan would do) died. Nehru clearly wrote that he met the refugees all through the days of discussions. So lets take a measure of Vajpayee using Neelakandan's rhetoric and frame of analyses.

Just the fact that Nehru was the father and grandfather of Indira and Rajiv, Neelakandan ascribed their failures, weaknesses and wrongs to Nehru but he failed to credit Nehru for the war that Indira won. Where Nehru would have waffled Indira showed steely resolve. The dramatic liberation of Bangladesh, achieved against Nixon-Kissinger opposition, earned Indira the sobriquet 'Durga' from A.B.Vajpayee himself.

Vajpayee started his term with Pokharan II which paved the way, not just for India but for Pakistan too, to be 'declared nuclear powers'. In case Neelakandan slept through the Indira era Pokharan I refers to the nuclear blast test carried out by Indira. Wisely she and her son did not go any further. But our fearless Vajpayee rushed were angels would fear to tread. Headed by a Muslim scientist (actually just project manager without a PhD) India's nuclear bomb was born. The Muslim was rewarded with the highest office, the Presidency, by pseudo-secular Janab Vajpayee.

Armed with the nuclear bomb Vajpayee then, Nehru like, decided to make peace and rode a bus to Lahore declaring open a new era in Indo-Pak relationship forgetting that Pakistan had made no concrete actions meriting a peace offer. Janab Vajpayee thought he could win the Nobel peace prize, perhaps.

The bus to Lahore went nowhere and Kargil happened. The intelligence failure leading to Kargil is pardonable and is of lesser relevance here. The only reason that India lost so many precious soldiers, that now Modi vows to protect, was because Vajpayee restrained the army from crossing the LoC (Line of Control). Pakistan was the aggressor and India had every right to retaliate in full force in any means it could have chosen. Vajpayee, like Janab Nehru, sought to stake the high moral ground in international forum by not crossing the LoC even if that meant fewer Indian lives. The patriotic BJP regime then bought over priced coffins from America.(Hint:Christian America that dreams of breaking India every day. Refer Neelakandan and Rajiv Malhotra :-)). By the way why does not Shastri, who humiliatingly defeated Pakistan, and who gave back all that India won by sacrificing blood, earn the sobriquet 'Janab'?

Just when every Neelakandan was walking with their nose in the air and a chip on their shoulder after the victory at Kargil (what victory? just reclaimed what was lost) an Indian airlines flight was hijacked and taken to Kandahar. Vajpayee and the effete administration he headed (and a weak state) did not have the courage to mount an Entebbe. Given the pathetic performance of Indian commandos in Nov 2008 when Mumbai was surrendered to a handful of terrorists for nearly 2 days I am glad that Vajpayee decided to become a Janab rather than indulge in any bravado. Janab Jr Jaswant Singh accompanied a dreaded terrorist to deliver to hijackers in exchange for the hapless passengers.

BJP likes to portray itself the Republican party of India when it comes to defense. Not satisfied with sacrificing Indian lives thanks to their pusillanimity in crossing LoC during a war BJP regime was plagued by scandals related to defense purchases. The famous Tehelka sting exposed the rot within the BJP administration. I am aware that Tehelka's Tejpal is discredited today for a different offense unrelated to that sting operation.

The December 2001 attack by Pakistan funded terrorist on the Indian Parliament was the most brazen and till date the most direct attack on the very foundations of Indian nationhood (dare I say 'manhood'). Vajpayee bristled and mobilized over half a million soldiers in an act of brinkmanship mano-mano at the Pakistan border facing of 400,000 Pakistan soldiers. The standoff resulted in nearly 1800 Indian soldiers dead and loss of $3 billion. Pakistan lost $1.3billion, half that of India's losses. The end gain for India was a trip by Bill Clinton. When Clinton gave an address to the joint session of the Indian parliament he was greeted like Amitabh Bachchan and MP's fell head over heels trying to touch Clinton.

The coup-de-grace was when Vajpayee invited Pervez Musharraf to Agra to literally wine and dine, unlike Janab Nehru, for a peace summit. Musharraf, the architect of Kargil, strutted about visiting the Taj with his wife, taking a photo on the lovers bench and later visiting his ancestral home in Delhi. The summit collapsed and Musharraf gleefully blamed Janab Vajpayee. The disaster was compounded by the PR offensive of Pakistanis led by Musharraf himself while the secretive Indian side led by Vajpayee, a poet, made it easy for Pakistani versions of the collapse do the rounds. Looks like Vajpayee, just like Nehru, renowned for words and knowledge of foreign policy, floundered, like Nehru, where it counted.

Dawood Ibrahim is blamed by India for the Bombay blasts of 1993. Janab Vajpayee in his 6 years of reign never once moved anything to apprehend Ibrahim or kill him a la USA did to Osama bin Laden. After having shamefully sent a very senior minister to accompany a terrorist for hostage exchange Vajpayee did not even bother to do a hot pursuit or kill him.

On lesser serious count is Vajpayee's aligning with notoriously anti-Hindu DMK just to enjoy addressing Bharat Mata on August 15th from the ramparts of Red Fort. By continuing to use Red Fort, a symbol of the invader, as venue for addressing our beloved Bharat Mata Vajpayee proved that he is a Janab indeed. It'd be rich with irony if Modi took Jaya's support. She of the Shankaracharya arrest fame.

I am no Neelakandan so I'll disavow some of what I said above.

Not crossing the LoC was a strategic restraint that, though it cost Indian lives, saved more Indian lives. Imagine the thousands of soldiers who would have died in an all out war. Saddam Hussein lobbed patriot missiles into Tel Aviv seeking to provoke Israel to attack and this splitter the US led alliance in the 1991 Gulf War. The Arab nations, which pleaded USA to stop Saddam Hussein and to liberate Kuwait, had hypocritically insisted that at no stage should Israel enter the war. Though Israel, under international law, could have defended itself after a missile attack on its major city the nation observed restraint in the larger interest.

Anwar Sadat came close to almost destroying Israel in the Yom Kippur war. Yet, Israel pursued a peace accord with Sadat. Arafat was the sworn enemy of Israel yet Israel signed a treaty with him. Yitzhak Rabin, prodded by Bill Clinton, signed an accord with Arafat and even shook his hand. However, Rabin refused to hug Arafat. After Germany brought the world to the brink of ruin under Hitler the US poured money, by the billions, into Germany to stave of Stalin. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor even as the peace talks were underway. Later USA dropped two atom bombs and incinerated Japan. A defeated Japan was under US occupation and compelled to adopt a constitution. Today Japan and US are allies. Khrushchev said he would 'bury' America. When USSR imploded USA helped secure the Soviet nuclear arsenal in global and self interest. America carpet bombed Vietnam and today they are trading partners. This is how the world has to function. Vajpayee's attempts to forge peace with Pakistan were courageous and he should be commended for that.

America can afford to do a hit pursuit of Osama Bin Laden but let's not forget that for over a year Americans, in full view of the world, were held hostage in an Iranian embassy. America, subscribing to international law, had to give visas to Castro, Gaddafi, Chavez to visit the UN. Chavez, standing in NY, called Bush, the sitting US President, a Satan.

Israel, after the stunning swift victory in 1967, expanded its borders well beyond what the UN gave to Israel when Israel was partitioned from Palestine. It begot Israel 4 decades of strife. Neelakandan conveniently blames the 1971 massacre of Hindus (forgetting that thousands of Muslims to were massacred) in Bangladesh on the Nehru-Liaquat pact forgetting that Lal Bahadur Shastri had Pakistan on its knees. Can we blame Shastri for not only failing to re-unify Akhand Bharat but this paving the way for 1971 massacres? No. Not at all. It was and is plainly inconceivable neither Shastri nor Indira though defeating Pakistan in a war could have prevented 1971.

Historian Ramachandra Guha, another person that Neelakandan loathes, wrote an interesting piece on how Vajpayee viewed Nehru. Delivering his eulogy on Nehru Vajpayee waxed eloquent  ‘a dream has remained half-fulfilled, a song has become silent, and a flame has banished into the Unknown. The dream was of a world free of fear and hunger; the song a great epic resonant with the spirit of the Gita and as fragrant as a rose, the flame a candle which burnt all night long, showing us the way’. Vajpayee, when he took over as foreign minister in the Janata regime, insisted on retaining Nehru's picture that was in the office allocated to him as minister.


1. Vajpayee's Nehru -’s-nehru-the-hindu.html

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Great Partition: A Tragedy and A Festering Wound.

Of the many comments I received in response to my previous blog on Nehru the most shocking was "even Ambedkar suggested complete population exchange so that minorities in both countries will live in peace". I've read that Ambedkar's views about Muslims were controversial. He did indeed suggest 'population exchange' because he subscribed to Jinnah's 'two nation theory' and felt Hindus and Muslims, incompatible at the root, cannot live together. When he suggested that the horrors of Partition were yet to unfold. A human tragedy of biblical proportions was yet to consume the subcontinent. The person who left that comment on my blog blissfully refused to learn from the horrors. The words 'population exchange' are used with no idea of how it actually tore apart a subcontinent of one-fifth of humanity. People think such exchanges would have happened peacefully as if millions would pack their bags like going for a picnic, board a train, go some place they have not been to in generations, restart life, get new jobs etc. Yasmin Khan's well researched book "The Great Partition: The making of India and Pakistan" is a compelling read that will help us understand how close India came to exploding into chaos and anarchy. Khan traces how the subcontinent descended into bloodletting that was unprecedented in human history barring the holocaust.

Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in an otherwise well written book "Freedom midnight" fawned over Mountbatten and made him appear as the knight in shining armor. Mountbatten and the colonial regime should be indicted for gross incompetence and shameful abandonment.

Stafford Cripps's cabinet mission floundered on a compromise of a loose federal structure. To the Muslim league it appeared as negation of the promise of 'Pakistan' the country. Let it also be noted that Patel and Ambedkar were not in favor of any loose federation but strongly pushed for a powerful center. That in turn raised the shackles of the Muslim league which feared that Muslim majority states will be under the thumb of Hindu ruled Delhi. Jinnah issued a call for 'direct action' to get Pakistan.

Jinnah's call for 'Direct action' between 16th-18th August 1946 plunged West Bengal into an orgy of violence. Khan quotes the Muslim Mayor, "Oh Kafir! Your doom is not far and the greater massacre will come". Suhrawardy, like Modi in 2000, did not incite personally but gave the distinct impression that the murderous gangs, Khan says, "could act with impunity".

Noakhali followed soon in October. The scale of violence unleashed by Muslims needed '1800 armed police and royal air force planes' to quell the mobs. Into this mayhem of blood lust Gandhi walked in. He would remain at Naokhali for 6 months till March 1947. It is strange that Hindutva people only cite Gandhi's fasts in Calcutta to protect Muslims but ignore that Gandhi stayed in Naokhali at great personal peril for 6 months to be with Hindus. Gandhi stayed in a burnt down hut and trekked miles every day. Collins and Lapierre record that Gandhi's path will be intuitionally soiled with human excreta but Gandhi would patiently wipe away each with a leaf and walk on. The chapter is suitably titled 'penitents progress'. Nirmal Bose in 'My days with Gandhi' records that Gandhi would spend the nights groaning 'kya karoon' (what can I do) trying to find light amidst an enveloping madness. It is easy to ask "well what good did it serve". Let's remember that there were few options available.

Later in November 1946 in Garmuhkteswar Hindu gangs murdered hundreds of Muslims. Khan quotes a Congress minister, an eye witness, "the RSS had carefully laid the plot, marked all Muslim shops which after dusk were burnt according to a plan without doing the least injury to the neighboring shops". When Nehru toured Bihar he was appalled to see Hindu homes painted with slogans like "Hindus, beware of Muslims".

The word 'insane' is often applied in the context of  what looked like mindless killing. Khan disagrees and dispels that myth. She says that the violence was not a random act but "designed purposefully to influence and shape its (constitutional decision making) outcome by enforcing a mono religious state and purging the land of the other'. Khan notes that Partition violence was made worse by modern technology. The press was factionalized and played a role in fanning the flames. Telegrams pleading for help exaggerated atrocities and couched the pleas in offending words of the perpetrators. Once information about a refugee train departing for Pakistan was announced on All India Radio. Information about such trains had to be kept top secret but they always leaked. 'Rations dealers were accused of copying their lists (of customers) and helping rioters to identify occupants of houses'

Clement Attlee presiding over a war weary Britain wanted to wash his hands of this mayhem. He shocked Indian by declaring on February 20th that India will be freed no later than June 1948. the flamboyant and arrogant new Viceroy Mountbatten announced the plan to partition India on 3rd June 1947. Collins and Lapierre have documented how Mountbatten pulled the date of liberation, Aug 15th, out of nowhere. In less than three months a large subcontinent was to be vivisected. Yet no one, not a single soul other than Gandhi, could even have a foreboding of the events to unfold. And, this is the Himalayan failure on all sides. Nobody predicted mass migration. What is worse nobody even foresaw the violence that would accompany any migration. A cursory googling of Margaret Bourke White's pictures of the horrors will send a chill down our spines even today. Khan's book has a picture of tens of vultures literally feasting on an entire street strewn with corpses.

                                                 Vultures waiting to swoop down on corpses. (courtesy

                                  A dying man and grand children - Margaret Bourke White records how pained she was just taking this photograph (Courtesy For more pictures visit

The British in a naked effort to cut their losses took back British soldiers from Indian army at a critical juncture. In an ill advised move, supported by Nehru and Jinnah, the Indian army was divided on communal lines and partitioned. Maulana Azad ruefully records the fatality of such a decision in his autobiography. The one institution that would have been of great support in restoring order was torn apart. Nobody had dissented except Azad. Even intelligence services, a crucial organ, was cut.

When Congress and Muslim League agreed to partition they thought that the minorities in each nation would stay put and a few thousand would migrate. By 1950 nearly 12 million had migrated with a million dead.

A professor wrote to Jinnah about which cities should be included in Pakistan with a 'back of the envelop calculation'. Khan bristled 'the logic of this was t o reduce individuals and communities to crass ratios and statistics which stripped bare the inner complexities of friendship, community and life itself'. The muslim professor and Ambedkar gave little thought to what it meant to rip apart people from societies they were embedded into for centuries. Imagine the horrors of a Muslim exodus from central and South India.

The partition happened just after the world war had ended. The newly minted super powers and erstwhile empires had no concern of this unfolding tragedy. There was no world body to lend help. Even the Red Cross expressed inability to be of any help. Pakistan and India, two nascent countries with fledgling economies, had to deal with this tragedy of a scale unprecedented in human history.

The economic impact, in my opinion, has not even been analyzed in any depth. Khan devotes a few paragraphs. It was the rich and the upper crust of politician in each party that desired for partition more than anybody. The common man was just a tool. G.DBirla favored partition and yearned for a strong center (not a feeble loose federation) that would launch economic schemes. Birla moved all his property out of Pakistan expecting riots and losses. 'Unharvested crops, closure of banks and shops disruption to trade' cost both governments in millions. A refugee tax, in force till 1950s, was enacted. Pakitsan levied a refugee surcharge on train tickets."This was not simply an 'exchange of population or straightforward swap". "Pakistan lost its bankers, merchants, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs and clerks - the wheels came off the machinery of the state". Seeing economic collapse due to fleeing Hindus Jinnah pleaded that 'knifing a Sikh is like knifing Pakistan in the back'. India lost "Muslim railway men, severs, craftsmen, agriculturists and administrators, brought gridlock to production". The  refugees destabilized the labor market in a seismic manner.

Jinnah told a packed audience "make it a matter of our prestige and honor to safeguard the lives of the minority communities". One wonders about the possibilities of Jinnah living longer. A blessing for India was Nehru's longevity, a factor in Gadnhi's decision to make Nehru the PM. Nehru wrote to his chief ministers "we have a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want to, go anywhere else".

Added to the boiling religious tension strikes were crippling the country. "In 1946 there were 1629 industrial disputes involving almost two million workers and a loss of over twelve million man-days". In Delhi and Bihar the police mutinied. Telangana erupted in peasant led riots covering 'three to four thousand villages' stretching well into 1951.

 Hindutva people love to lament on how Gandi, when he undertook his last fast unto death, included in his agenda giving Pakistan the money that was owed to it. Rich Hindus who promoted the idea of partition had bled Pakistan of much needed capital anyway. Refusing to pay Pakistan what was owed to it would only have pushed India into a war. Muslim smiths or craftsmen closed down their shops because Hindu lenders would refuse to lend any more money fearing that the debtors would flee to Pakistan anyway. Yet again, imagine the economic collapse of a thorough 'population exchange' across all of India.

Fearing reprisals and an outbreak of violence Mountbatten did not release the details of how Radcliffe had sliced and diced India until August 17th. Radcliffe, with no familiarity of India, completed his assigned task in just a few weeks. The objective of the secrecy became counterproductive as riots broke out to ensure the outcome was the desired result of the perpetrators. In Lahore Satish Gujral learned that  his city will be in Pakistan through posters on walls, not from radio or the government.

A perpetual grouse of the Hindutva loony bin is "why did not Nehru just accept every Hindu from East Bengal? It would have prevented the wholesale massacre of Hindus in 1971". Managing influx of refugees is an intractable socio-economic problem till today. Refugees gravitate to only cities. The population of Delhi almost doubled. Bombay government tried to refuse any further influx of refugees. Nehru had to tell them it was not an option. Welfare schemes for refugees raised the ire of local population. "The UP state government steadfastly resisted the arrival of refugees in 1947 and attempted to seal the border". The chief minister of Assam threatened 'separatism' if any more refugees from Bengal came into Assam. Add to all the above an acute shortage of food thanks to a devastating war.

In a compelling paragraph that sounds true of US's Iraq imbroglio and partition Khan writes "the idea of partitioning ancient home lands was barely contemplated or understood. as the power of the state to deliver law and order visibly collapsed, other regional aspirations came bubbling to the surface and all sorts of groups made violent bids for their own portion of the land and their own community's sovereignty". Khan quotes historian K.M.Panikkar who said "Hindustan is the elephant..and Pakistan the two ears. The elephant can live without ears". A Hindu school teacher said ""whatever our choice of words, the culture of this part of India could not be otherwise predominantly Hindu". 'Demagogue P.D.Tandon told the youth to arm and take back the lands sliced away'. Later Patel would, just to snub Nehru, make Tandon the president of congress over the objections of Nehru.

Coming to a very late realization that migration is a reality both governments reconciled to facilitating the migration. Ambedkar's 'population exchange' idea was now given sanction albeit limited to the border states. This acceptance of migration and attempt to facilitate fleeing populations inevitably led to 'ethnic cleansing'. "Local administrators now had the chance-either accidentally or explicitly- to help with ethnic cleansing agenda". Penderel Moon was 'shocked to hear that government officials were pushing Muslim out of East Punjab...acting under orders".

Even the idea of a 'passport' was alien to the people of both countries. Neither administration had given a thought of identifying a 'citizen'. But then the very definition of who is a 'citizen' itself was a very contentious one. Gandhi declared that he will walk to Lahore without a passport. Migrant populations did not even understand the need for 'permits'. When families separated many did not envisage that one day they may not even be able to visit the family on the 'other side'. A horror that Berlin will endure nearly two decades later. Pimps and pedophilies prowled refugee camps. In this context we can only imagine the law and order problems.

The only two people who come off looking decent in Khan's analysis are Nehru and Gandhi, the perpetual butt of Hindutva hatred. Nehru and Gandhi, Khan writes, strove to prevent 'the mass ejection of Muslims' from India. Patel was, in Maulana Azad's words, less than willing to be secular. Ambedkar has written extensively on Pakistan and framing a thesis that pretty much makes the same case as that of Hindutva brigade. Ambedkar rejects Golwalkar's solution of a Hindu state with Muslim minority living 'under them as nation within nation'. But Ambedkar accepts Golwalkar's premise that the Hindu and the Mussalman cannot live together as one nation. Yes India continues to have problems but given that India has a historically unique situation of accommodating diverse cultures and many religions, by and large, it has done well by all. Sure there is a long road to go before there is equality. Sure there are mistakes committed in the name of secularism. But India should continue the path of secularism as it is the moral thing to do.

Now, there are few more questions worth answering. Why did Ambedkar subscribe to two nation theory and argue in favor of homogeneity? Ambedkar forgot that in the eyes of many Hindus he and his people were seen pretty much how he saw the Mussalman, 'violent' and 'incompatible'. Secularism is not just a moral thing but a socio-economic necessity. Diversity benefits a society. Above all the biggest beef for Hindutva brigade is 'why should we behave any better than Pakistan'. Could India behave like Pakistan does towards its minorities? The word 'minority' is a misnomer when applied to 170 million people. Thats half of US population today. Strategically India cannot afford to be Pakistan. Nor should it. Thats immoral. The Khilafat agitation, Moplah (or Mapilla) revolt are the most cited controversies when it comes to discussing partition. Both have layers of myths about them. A Dalit like Ambedkar did not understand the economic dimensions behind the Moplah rebellion in which hundreds of Hindus were massacred. Khilafat agitation was not just Muslim appeasement. All of the above need to be studied separately and I shall write about them separately in the days to come.


1. This blog is written almost exclusively based on Yasmin Khan's impressive and compact book 'The Great Partition:The Making of India and Pakistan'. It is a compelling must read.
2. "India wins freedom" by Maulana Azad