27 February 2009

The Spirit of India

'India Today' magazine once ran a series of promos with India as the theme. The first in the series was a beautiful poem on (what I would call) the spirit of India. If memory serves me right it went like this:

In India, to be a complete man, you have to be half a woman.

Opposites are complimentary, not contradictory.
Softness is not weakness. Logic does not conquer love.
Giving is as important as receiving.
And death is merely the beginning of another life...

India has always had a grasp of the immutable Truth.
An all-embracing view of life.
A wisdom that recognises the oneness of man and his universe.
Values that speak not just of a glorious past,
But are also the foundation of an equally resplendent future.
Which, by the way, are one and the same.

14 February 2009

Mission: India Superpower

The RSS's mission is to make India a superpower. This sentiment is beautifully expressed in these lines:

Hum ne use diya tha
Samskrutik uccha simhasan
Maa jis par baiti sukh se
Karti thi jag ka shaasan.
Ab kaal chakra ki gati se
Wah toot gaya simhasan
Apna tan man dhan de kar
Hum kare punah samsthapan.

(From the song "Hum kare rashtra aradhan".)

09 February 2009

Hindu Nationalism and Economic Freedom

I had suggested that Hindu nationalism and economic freedom are (or should be) the two key components of right-wing Indian politics. The first provides the political-cultural agenda, while the second provides the economic agenda. What is the nature of the relationship between the two? Is it just a marriage of convenience between the alternatives to the Nehruvian system (secularism + socialism)? Or is there a more natural and harmonious relationship?

If there is one value that Hinduism has stood for in its 5000 years of history, it is freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of practice and freedom of worship. This freedom was not confined to religion and philosophy. Hinduism being a holistic way of life, this central value of freedom permeated other spheres of human activity as well – including politics and economics. True, the political and economic freedom enjoyed by people in ancient India was very limited by today's standards. But it was the best that could be achieved in the monarchical state of the agricultural era.

Freedom is a central Hindu value. And freedom includes not just political freedom, but also economic freedom. So Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) and economic freedom are perfectly consistent with each other. The two are complimentary ideologies/doctrines. Together they form what should be the core of right-wing politics in India.

Right-wing = Hindu/nationalist/conservative

08 February 2009

Rise of the Indian Right

In 1947 India became free after a thousand years of foreign rule and slavery. It was a golden moment, and an opportunity to reclaim our lost genius and resume our civilisational mission. But it was not to be. Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, was an Indian only in name. Mentally, culturally and intellectually he was a Westerner. So instead of building a modern nation on the foundations of our ancient civilisation, he foisted two alien ideologies on us: socialism and secularism.

Socialism and Nehruvian secularism were the two great frauds perpetrated on Independent India. Socialism denied us our economic freedom, shackled our entrepreneurial energy, and kept us poor. Nehruvian secularism completely disregarded Hinduism's tolerance and universality, deprived Indian nationalism of its positive content, and gradually degenerated into pseudo-secularism (anti-Hinduism).

It took us more than four decades to even begin to get rid of these two plagues. Two cataclysmic events (in two consecutive years) struck decisive blows against the great Nehruvian consensus. The first blow, against Nehruvian secularism, was the rise of Hindu nationalism – expressed in the Ayodhya movement of 1990. The second blow, against socialism, was the economic reforms of 1991. The Ayodhya movement of the late 1980s reached its climax in 1990 with L K Advani's rath yatra. The movement – and the response to it – marked the awakening of a nation. Indians became aware of their identity and proud of their history, culture and heritage.

Together these two events signalled India's shift to the right: the first one politically, and the second one economically. Note that these two developments are independent of the fluctuating political fortunes of the BJP. The BJP will continue to win some elections, and lose some others. But Hindu nationalism and economic freedom are here to stay. Victor Hugo said, "The invasion of an army can be resisted, but not that of an idea whose time has come." Hindutva and economic freedom are ideas whose time has come.

Achin Vanaik wrote an insightful article in 2001 on the rise of the Indian Right. Though it is a Leftist critique, it is still worth reading.

07 February 2009

RSS Pracharak

Job description of an RSS pracharak ~

1. Start new shakhas
2. Improve existing shakhas
3. Bring new people to shakhas
4. Spread RSS's ideology (nationalism)

Salary: Rs Zero

1. Food, clothing, shelter
2. Basic expenses (soap, paste, etc)
3. Travel expenses (bus, train, etc)

Location: Anywhere in India

Duration: As long as you wish

Marital status: Single

(There are currently 2000 RSS pracharaks all over the country)

Pracharak = full-time worker with more than one year's experience
Vistarak = full-time worker with less than one year's experience

05 February 2009

Dr Shivakumar Swamiji

Siddaganga Mutt is a religious institution near Tumkur. Here 8000 children from poor families are fed, clothed, sheltered and educated (all free of cost). These children come from all religions, castes and languages. The Mutt also runs 130 schools and colleges in Karnataka.

The man behind this modern-day miracle is Dr Shivakumar Swamiji. Swamiji became head of the Mutt in 1930. Since then his life has been a saga of struggle, sacrifice and service. Through education he has helped to lift lakhs of people out of poverty in Karnataka (my father is one of them). A silent revolution indeed.

Today Swamiji is 101 years young and still going strong. He is the embodiment of Basavanna's teachings: kAyakavE kailAsa (work is worship) and dayavE dharmakke moolavayya (the source of Dharma is compassion). Saint, scholar and servant of humanity – my humble salutations to this great soul.

04 February 2009

NDTV and Freedom of Speech

On 27 November 2008 an amateur blogger named Chyetanya Kunte wrote a post criticising NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt for her coverage of the Bombay terrorist attacks. The post later disappeared from the blog. On 26 January 2009 an unconditional apology to Barkha Dutt and NDTV appeared on the blog.

What happened? Did NDTV threaten Chyetanya Kunte with legal action? If the matter had gone to court I think the blogger would have won. But the last thing an 'aam aadmi' wants is a long and expensive law suit. So he did what he thought was best for him and his family (he is married with two kids).

Does this look like a case of arm-twisting and goondagiri? Did NDTV resort to the same tactics it accuses far-right groups of using? This is the channel that lectures the Right on freedom of speech.

I am reproducing in full Chyetanya Kunte's original blog post:
(No, I don't have written permission from him. But I doubt if he is in a position to give such a permission; so I'll go ahead anyway.)

Shoddy Journalism

Appalling journalism. Absolute blasphemy! As I watch the news from home, I am dumbfounded to see Barkha Dutt of NDTV break every rule of ethical journalism in reporting the Mumbai mayhem. Take a couple of instances for example:

In one instance she asks a husband about his wife being stuck, or held as a hostage. The poor guy adds in the end about where she was last hiding. Aired! My dear friends with AK-47s, our national news is helping you. Go get those still in. And be sure to thank NDTV for not censoring this bit of information.

In another instance, a General sort of suggests that there were no hostages in Oberoi Trident. (Clever) Then, our heroine of revelations calls the head of Oberoi, and the idiot confirms a possibility of 100 or more people still in the building. Hello! Guys with guns, you've got more goats to slay. But before you do, you've got to love NDTV and more precisely Ms Dutt. She's your official intelligence from ground zero.

You do not need to be a journalist to understand the basic premise of ethics, which starts with protecting victims first; and that is done by avoiding key information from being aired publicly — such as but not limited to revealing the number of possible people still in, the hideouts of hostages and people stuck in buildings.

Imagine you're one of those sorry souls holed-up in one of those bathrooms, or kitchens. A journalist pulls your kin outside and asks about your last contact on national television, and other prying details. In a bout of emotion, if they happen to reveal more details, you are sure going to hell. Remember these are hotels, where in all likelihood, every room has a television. All a terrorist needs to do is listen to Ms Barkha Dutt's latest achievement of extracting information from your relative, based on your last phone-call or SMS. And you're shafted — courtesy NDTV*. If the terrorists don't manage to shove you in to your private hell, the journalists on national television will certainly help you get there. One of the criticisms about Barkha Dutt on Wikipedia reads thus:

During the Kargil conflict, Indian Army sources repeatedly complained to her channel that she was giving away locations in her broadcasts, thus causing Indian casualties.

Looks like the idiot journalist has not learned anything since then. I join a number of bloggers pleading her to shut the f••• up.

Update: In fact, I am willing to believe that Hemant Karkare died because these channels showed him prepare (wear helmet, wear bullet-proof vest) in excruciating detail live on television. And they in turn targeted him where he was unprotected. The brave officer succumbed to bullets in the neck.

Update 2 [28.Nov.2300hrs]: Better sense appears to have prevailed in the latter half of today — either willfully, or by Government coercion**, and live broadcasts are now being limited to non-action zones. Telecast of action troops and strategy is now not being aired live. Thank goodness for that.

Update 3 [30.Nov.1900hrs]: DNA India reports about a UK couple asking media to report carefully:
The terrorists were watching CNN and they came down from where they were in a lift after hearing about us on TV. — Lynne Shaw in an interview.

*Oh, they have a lame excuse pronouncing that the television connections in the hotel has been cut, and therefore it is okay to broadcast. Like hell!

**I'm thinking coercion, since Government has just denied renewing CNN's rights to air video today; must've have surely worked as a rude warning to the Indian domestic channels.

03 February 2009

Right-Wing Commentators (contd)

I had once ranted about the paucity of right-wing commentators in India. In America also the mainstream media (MSM) is predominantly liberal. But they try to do a balancing act (or assuage their guilty conscience) by regularly giving some space to the opposing/conservative viewpoint. New York Times and Washington Post – the two most prominent (and liberal) newspapers in America – have a tradition of featuring a couple of conservative columnists. The New York Times has David Brooks and William Kristol, while the Washington Post has Robert Novak and Charles Krauthammer.

It looks like the Times of India – India's #1 liberal-secular newspaper – was trying to emulate its American cousins when it hired Swapan Dasgupta and Tarun Vijay.