Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Duties of the Majority and the Privileged

There are different kinds of groups in a nation. The extremes are – the majority and the privileged on one side AND the minority and the underprivileged on the other. 

If you see it as a vertical ladder in terms of possession of wealth, access to opportunity, access to education, representation in education, employment, administration and legislatures, and the standard of living, on the bottom rung is the minority and the underprivileged. On the top rung is the majority and the privileged. The other two - minority and privileged, majority and underprivileged come in between.

Majority is numerical strength. A group can be majority across a country, but could be a minority within a State or District. In that case, the politics that dominate their status decides whether they are a majority or minority.

Privileged group has higher representation than its share of population, or has more access to wealth, opportunity, education, employment than its share of population. A group that is numerically small can also be privileged.

Let me give some examples to illustrate the above.

The Whites in USA are the majority and the privileged. The Muslims in India are the minority and the underprivileged. The Jains in India are the minority but the privileged. Same is true of Parsis. The lower caste Hindus in India are the majority but underprivileged.

Hindus are a majority. But one has to go deeper to understand the privileged caste. The upper caste Hindus ride the majority identity and a privileged groups, whereas the lower caste Hindu are also a majority but underprivileged. Brahmins as as a group is numerically small, but they are representative of the majority Hindu group, and a privileged class in the sense that their representation is disproportionately high in education, employment and administration. They are to be compared to Anglo Saxons group in USA whose exclusive percentage may be low but they still represent the Whites in general belonging to the majority group and are a privileged group. Indians living in USA are a minority but a privileged group in the sense that their representation is fairly high in education and employment. Whereas Blacks living in USA are a minority but also underprivileged and therefore are recipients of benefits from affirmative action, which Indians do not avail.

Lot of confusion emanates when we start treating Jains, Brahmins and Parsis as minority alone to be given preferential treatment, because they also happen to be privileged group.

Most of my stand on this blog is the result of my thought process outlined below. This is what I believe in; and this gets reflected in many of my blogs. I have seen myself as majority in India and minority when living in USA. Through some of my experiences I have some insights into what I call 'duties of the majority and the privileged':

Duties of the Majorities and the Privileged

It is the duty of majority in a country to make concessions to the minority and this might mean giving more room to the minority to make them feel secure. Sometimes, one has to dole out extra concessions and reserve opportunities for minorities. We can't apply 'equality' rule here to snub all such concessions. Equality does not mean we don't have subsidies or concessions or quotas to different groups. Equality is extended to a group identity but is applied at an individual level- it means the government and the law will treat an individual the same whether he is a farmer or a billionaire. But as individuals of a group, we are never equal in a country.

Similarly, the privileged have to let go of their monopoly over access to opportunities and education and start making concessions to the underprivileged, pay more taxes to compensate for the underprivileged, and take responsibility to uplift the underprivileged.

What I say may sound idealistic. But it is not. It is actually being selfish. But it is being selfish in the long term, unlike the selfishness of Indians (and many other cultures) which is usually quite myopic.

The majority will not be able to enjoy their fruits if certain minorities are suppressed and marginalized. The sufferings and frustrations of these minorities will come back to haunt the majorities. There will always be friction and that friction will not allow the majorities to enjoy their narrow-term successes. For the majority to see a sustained growth and success, so that there is calm, peace and good standard of living in a country they have to accommodate the minorities as described above.

The same argument can be extended to the privileged groups.

Many majorities and/or privileged communities believe they can perpetuate their dominance by creating little ‘islands of excellence’. They believe they can keep these minorities and underprivileged out of their islands. They create gated communities, gated universities, and gated businesses and believe they can live happily ever after without getting disturbed by the minorities and underprivileged. That is an illusion.

We see privileged classes in India reluctant to extend reservations in education and employment opportunities to the backward castes. We see the majorities reluctant to extend concessions to Muslims in India.

And I think that this myopic selfishness will spell doom for everyone. I believe in the above duties of the majority and the privileged and it gets reflected in many of my blogs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

‘Politically motivated’

In India you can wriggle out of any entanglement, escape any conviction, overturn any evidence, and falsify any logical argument, stultify any rational theory, pooh-pooh any expose, win any argument, calling it ‘politically motivated’.

A politician is caught red-handed taking bribes. The whole episode is caught on a video. Yet, the politician does not blink. His confidence remains atut (intact). He rubbishes all of it saying it was ‘politically motivated’.

A sting operation clearly exposes the involvement of an administration in India behind a sponsored pogrom which targeted and killed hundreds of Muslims. And how do the supporters and perpetrators react to it? Very nonchalantly, without any remorse or guilt, they call it ‘politically motivated’.

The supporters of this administration ask, ‘Why did Tehelka release this expose now? Right before the elections?’ So, the fact that they released the expose right before elections somehow nullifies its content, making it unqualified as evidence, and acquits everyone. Now, nobody discusses the contents. They all discuss the motives of the people who made this expose, completely deviating from the topic in question.

When Sethusamudram Project was being discussed its other detractors, who were not waving an explicit Hindu flag, used a different argument to denounce it. They used the argument that Tamil Nadu Government keen on kickbacks is sponsoring this dredging and is therefore ‘politically motivated’ and hence it needs to be stopped.

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his BJP built long, big and wide roads in India, it was considered ‘polticially motivated’. That means no credit should be taken by him or his government. It means he did not make the roads for the nation but only to win elections.

When reservations are sanctioned to uplift the lower sections in India, the elite dismiss them calling them ‘politically motivated’. That means reservations are not actually meant to uplift the backward, but that they only benefit the politicians.

One can evade almost any incriminating evidence using one sentence – ‘politically motivated’. When confronted on TV with revealing facts accusing of a wrongdoing, the guilty party can wriggle out of any entanglement calling the whole charade ‘politically motivated’.

And the people of India know exactly what it means. Nobody switches side after the incriminating evidence is produced only because the guilty party has used the wild card called ‘politically motivated’. People continue to extend their diehard support to their leaders and parties as they did before the evidence surfaced. Nothing has changed- thanks to the wild card called 'politically motivated'.

When Tehelka sting operation brought forth copious amounts of video and recordings where perpetrators of Gujarat Pogrom talked openly how the government and its allies actually supported and perpetrated the killings and massacres, the supporters of BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS stood steadfast in their loyalty to their parties. They pooh-poohed and rejected the whole expose as just another of those ‘politically motivated’ moves.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What Percentage of India is Gay?

Estimates differ on this controversial topic. Gays in USA have always considered that this percentage is 10% in USA, though many other experiments and studies suggested a number lower than this. Some controversial studies have put this number as low as 1%. Whatever is the number, even the most generous estimates are not above 10% figure.

India seems to rank completely different on this scale. In a recent survey done on Indian males, INDIA TODAY, the magazine which has taken it upon itself to liberate India on sexual issues, and which features (almost) naked women on its front cover regularly on some pretext trying to get its ratings up, has put the number of Indian men having had homosexual experience at a whopping 37%.

That means one guy out of three that I know has had homosexual experience. That sounds far too great a number.

One wonders where they conduct their surveys because there are many other figures in that issue which sound obviously contrary to your gut feel. Its as if India is the most liberated country on the planet. Some of their figures on sex-related topics run higher than those of Scandinavian countries.

May be, the editors at INDIA TODAY seems to believe that’s the only way they can sell their magazine.

National Shame or a Guinness Record?

In a nation that believes talent can be inherited, you will see some bizarre things. Things which would be considered a shame in other nations are considered world records here in India.

For example, it is given that Nehru-Gandhi family members inherit all the required qualifications for ruling this nation forever, till a new dynasty takes over. We had Mughal Empire, then we had British Empire, and now we have a Nehru-Gandhi Empire. Soon, the daughters and sons of Rahul and Priyanka will stake claim for the throne of India, and Indian people will elect them to power.

The same is true for Indian Cinema. Almost 80% of the present leading actors are either son/daughter of an erstwhile actor/director/stunt master. The fact that a person is born to a achiever in movie industry is good enough to be chosen as an actor.

Isn’t it a shame that for many generations members of single family have all become actors? Indian Cinema has accepted many Kapoors just because they belong to an ‘actor family’.

Now a young Kapoor who is fourth-generation in the family is all set to enter Indian Cinema with a big fanfare. And the Indian audience is eagerly waiting to see the scion of this family come onto the screen. They are willing to embrace this new actor with full arms. They are willing to ignore all her flaws and inadequacies. They tell themselves - 'Come on, its only her first movie. Let us give her 10-12 movies. Then see how she acts. They need chances to learn their acting skills'.

A nation which believes in selection only by ‘merit’ when it comes opposing reservations seem to believe that qualifications and talent such as acting and ruling will be inherited from one’s parents. For Indians, Einstein’s son is genius, Mozart’s daughter is a world-class musician, and Lincoln's son is a politician.

Instead of hanging our face in shame for promoting such nepotism, we seem to glorify it.

This Kapoor family is now seriously thinking of approaching Guinness Book of World Records to enter their name for having contributed to Indian Cinema consistently for sixty years. Should we consider this as our National Shame or celebrate it as a Guinness Record?

In the same vein Nehru-Gandhi family should approach the Guinness Records as well, for ruling India for nearly fifty years. All the dynasties in the world should approach Guinness Records to enter their family names. In the same way, Saddam Hussein and Pervez Musharraf should enter Guinness Records for winning election with more than 90% vote.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Excessive Nationalism and Blurring of Local Identities

Establishing Nationalism

Right after Independence, India has had gone on an overdrive to establish a single identity amongst its citizens- that of a national identity. This program has been going on for a long time before 1947 – it was used as a rallying call to unite all Indians under one banner to create one nation. It was based on an idea borrowed from the alien invaders who saw this big sub-continent as one unit. And it worked.

Never before in history did an Indian, living in Lakshwadeep or Nagaland, think that he was an Indian. This program became successful to a great extent in uniting various cultures, regions, languages, tribes, clans, kingdoms, etc, to create an Indian nation.

At the same time, this attempt suffered a brief setback when a huge chunk of Muslims of this sub-continent wanted a Pakistan under a different rallying call to establish another identity- that of religion. Mahatma Gandhi could never recover from his partially-failed experiment to unify people of this land under one banner.

However, the rest of us who inherited India were quite happy with the results and continued to push and promote one identity- that of an Indian, not knowing we were creating a new ideology called nationalism which would have its own set of drawbacks.

Insecurities of a new nation

The leaders of post-Independent India were overzealous in their attempts to impose this new identity onto the Indians. They feared India might breakup as speculated by many critics of those times. This feeling that India might break anytime was looming large on the minds of all our founding fathers. Actually it was almost a miracle that we created only two nations in this sub-continent. There was a good chance there could have been many more. No one actually thought we could pull it off, that all princes would give up their kingdoms, that British would actually encourage those kingdoms to abdicate to join either India or Pakistan, that Tamils and Punjabis, Marathas and Bengalis, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, would actually sit together to create a single destiny for themselves under one banner.

In the beginning, right after Independence, it was quite important to all these leaders that they promote national identity- one identity above all others. Their attempts created a brand of nationalism that was a mix of ideas borrowed from the West and indigenized elements. Over a period of time, it created a brand of nationalists who considered it a shame to call oneself a Bengali, a Tamil, a Telugu or a Punjabi. It was paramount that everyone called himself an Indian. This notion was instilled into Indians using every mechanism possible.

In the process, we created some symbols- a flag, an anthem, a map, etc, and we created movies, songs, text books, etc, to indoctrinate them. These symbols were heavily used to rally its people under a banner of nationalism. Also important was binding everyone under a common grief- which is so essential to create national identities. We got our share too- when India was invaded by neighboring countries, when its national leaders were assassinated, when we suffered due to natural tragedies, etc. Some other attempts to unify us, such as imposing a national language, failed when certain regional units did not accept imposition of a different language over their own.

On the whole this drive to inculcate nationalism was a huge success. When Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Tamil Nadu, the whole of Tamil Nadu wept as if he was their own man even though the killers were Tamils (from a foreign nation). After his death it was clear that our national identities ran higher compared to some regional ones. Even today many Indians sympathize with many Kashmiris as if they are their own kind (though these sympathies are confined to Hindus alone). Labeling the Muslim Kashmiris as ‘national enemies’ or ‘lovers of a foreign nation’ is enough for most Indians to abandon similar sympathies towards them.

Excessive Nationalism

While India was going on this overdrive to promote nationalism in India to keep it united, Europe was reeling itself out of two World Wars that had resulted due to excessive nationalism. That excessive nationalism which was established in the preceding years in Europe was easily hijacked by certain fascist regimes to rally its people against enemies within and outside national boundaries. They eventually threw the whole world into bloody wars.

Learning their lessons, after WWII, most of Europe rolled back its nationalism and went on a campaign to moderate it. Soon, a person waving a national flag was seen as immature warmonger. It went onto consolidate itself under different nationalities respecting one another without infringing upon others' identities.

India hasn’t witnessed the consequences of such excessive nationalism as yet.

Though there are enough signs to indicate that certain fascist forces are already operating and hijacking it to promote their vested interests, we are too blinded by our newly-found national fervor to see it. Our ignorance of world histories is not helping us either. The incessant doses of nationalism have already reached its peak and it is now spilling over into many spheres of Indian life. We are already brimming with excessive pride over our nation and its achievements. And where there are no achievements, we are ready to invent them (just like what Europe did in the late 19th and early 20th century).

Blurring local identities

There is a negative side effect to all this which we cannot ignore. In an overzealous attempt to establish a single identity- that of nation, we have consistently led campaigns to blur other identities which are as important to the Indian people and to the very existence of India in the long run.

Nowadays, it is preferable and politically correct to call oneself an Indian but not a Telugu or Bengali. In the movie, Chak De, the coach of the Indian women hockey team exhorts every player to call herself an Indian, as a response, when those players call out their state name. The audience was happy to see him reprimand them. I found that quite ridiculous.

I was told that in a TV show called Voice of India, one contestant protested when each person was referred to the state or region he belonged to. Instead, he wanted everyone to be called an Indian. The audience applauded him and the practice of naming one’s state was discontinued (for a while). I find such attempts foolish and funny.

If it is an ‘Indian’ Hockey team, isn’t it redundant to say one is Indian? If it is voice of ‘India’, isn’t it redundant to say one is Indian? I see this whole charade of calling oneself Indian on such forums nonsensical. If it is a Miss USA contest in USA, it doesn’t make sense for each participant to say she is an American. In its current practice, every contestant clearly tells which state she belongs to. When they indicate their state, they are not accused of being less patriotic.

Miss India contest in India is a different beast altogether. Only in India, do we see only one agency selecting all the candidates to pit them one against the other to select a Miss India. In this ‘Indian’ contest, you may want to see Miss Meghalaya or Miss Orissa but you won’t find any of them. All the candidates are mostly from four or five metros of India.

In our overzealous attempt to promote nationalism, we curb our regional identities, thus reducing the Miss India pageant into a joke, selecting contestants from a small section of population and that too by one agency. In my opinion, it should be called 'Miss Femina' (or something like that) and they should just drop the tag ‘India’.

What is wrong in saying where a person is from, when living in India? When I am traveling in a train in India and I meet another Indian, do I say, ‘I am Sujai, I am from India’, or does it make sense to say, ‘I am Sujai, I am from Warangal’?

In Information Theory we learn that if you transmit a symbol which the other person already knows then the information content is zero. Its better you don’t transmit it. If you tell the other person some information that he already knows, what good is it? If you have to rate Indians on their idiocy, I believe this should rank first.

Nationalism as ideology

In an attempt to promote nationalism India has been trying to blur our local identities, and that is not going well. There are some arrogant people who think their local identity is in fact an Indian identity and therefore they try to impose their local identity onto others using the national flag. In a country where people are brimming with excessive nationalistic pride, any such action under the national flag becomes sacrosanct. All those opposing it are treated as less patriotic, and hence less Indian.

For example, the people of the North, who speak Hindi, think they are more Indian than the people of the South just because they speak Hindi which they think is the national language. All Indians should be told that there is NO such a thing called NATIONAL LANGAUGE in India. Any talk of Rashtriya Basha is a bullshit concept. It was turned down long ago in 1960s itself and the Indian constitution has no mention of that word. Instead we have two official languages for each state and the national capital. An Indian speaking his local language is as Indian as an Indian speaking Hindi.

However, there is arrogance amongst certain Hindi speakers to assume that everyone should be speaking Hindi. Such a false notion arises because of our attempts to blur our regional identities while trying to impose national identities.

In another example, in an ongoing debate on this blog at 'separate Telangana', the detractors always bring in the argument of 'breakup of the nation' to discredit the local movement. Such detractors who equate 'creation of a new state within the legal and constitutional rights of India' with an 'attempt to disunite India' are trying to portray such separation-seekers as traitors.

It has become a practice in all spheres of public debate to take upon oneself a higher moral authority being defenders of national symbols while portraying the opponents as traitors.

In our overzealous attempts to establish nationalism as the highest virtue, we have created a new ideology. And that ideology has now grown strong and has come back to haunt us. In this game of proving oneself better than the other, the highest flag bearer gets the right to impose himself onto others even if he is pursuing his vested interests. The question of patriotism is answered by how smartly you cover your vested interest in the garb of ‘for the sake of nation’ slogans.

Other negatives of excessive nationalism

Excessive nationalism when not really in use sometimes vents itself as other isms- such as regionalism or communalism. As a corollary, certain groups starting out with parochial and radical regionalisms and communalisms get legitimacies when they portray themselves as nationalists. For example, Shiv sainiks who named themselves after Shivaji (who is considered a patriot under a national banner), first targeted Tamils in Mumbai, displaying their excessive regionalism, and later transformed themselves into a group targeting Muslims, displaying their excessive communalism. They get their legitimacies from many educated Hindus when they champion nationalism. Many Hindus laud Bal Thackeray and his Shiv sainiks when he takes a belligerent stand against Pakistan during a cricket season. Shiv sainiks get their legitimacy as true patriots and they use this slogan to cover up many of their other isms.

Certain groups move between these various isms very easily. The defenders of Kannada in Bangalore target Tamils on Cauvery issues, and then vent it out on non-Kannadigas during other incidents showing excessive regionalism, but also portray themselves as the defenders of the nation when protesting against Narayana Murthy over his comments on National Anthem. BJP and its affiliations use this card on a regular basis. They are defenders of national prestige and pride on the national arena while targeting Muslims and Christians in their local constituencies.

India should tolerate and respect local identities.

India’s strength lies not in its excessive nationalism, but in its ability to tolerate and respect local identities. And India is losing that strength at a rapid pace. India should now tone down its pursuit of indoctrinating excessive nationalism, and should take a step back, and moderate its campaign.

At the same time, India should encourage its people to be proud of their local identities, allowing them to display it and flaunt it without having to encroach upon other identities. 'Tolerate and Respect' is the need of the hour.

A national identity encroaching upon a local identity is as bad as one local identity encroaching upon the other local identity. We have to learn to live with our identities, be proud of them, and be able to respect other identities of other people. In a previous article on this topic (India: North and South Debate) I argued that the strength of India lies in celebration of its diversity. That means, in addition to being Indian, we have many other identities, which are equally important to all of us.

India derives its strength from allowing such identities to flourish. Long term existence of India is dependent on how well India respects its diversity. These attempts to curb local identities while promoting excessive nationalism runs counter to vision of India’s long term existence. While it may satisfy near term goals of keeping it united, it’s not based in strength of its people, but out of fear of its people.

Only by allowing its people to celebrate their own identities, India will continue to live as one nation. Only then will each Indian feel free to be a part of this nation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Telangana V: Political angle

This follows Telangana – A New State, Telangana II, Telangana III, Telangana IV.

Why did we not get Telangana along with Chattisgarh, Uttarkhand and Jharkhand?

When BJP was in power, they had recommended creation of some new states. In fact, it was part of their manifesto. When they came to power, they set out put their manifesto into actions. They even wrote about nuclear armament in their manifesto and later realized it. There were few issues on their manifesto which they could not deliver on, like Telangana issue, etc, due to political reasons. [There were many other issues which were left out, thanks to coalition governments – like saffronization our history books, etc.]

When BJP was in power at center their opposition parties were holding power in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. Hence, it just went ahead to create new states out of those states without any compunctions or doubts. There was also an incentive for doing that. Since those states were governed by opposition parties, breaking them would create new units who may vote for BJP as a token of thanks. However, when it came to Telangana, which was actually one of the top priorities in any reorganization of states one could conceive of, the state of Andhra Pradesh was being governed by TDP (Telugu Desam Party), a critical ally of BJP. And TDP under Naidu didn’t want to give up Telangana. Therefore, out of political compulsions, BJP refrained from granting us Telangana. The same argument is valid in case of Vidarbha, since Maharashtra was under Shiv Sena, another ally of BJP, who didn’t want to grant Vidrarbha statehood.

Move to the next elections. We have Congress Party at the center and also in the state. Though TRS colluded with Congress Party on the promise that Congress would grant a separate state, it did not since the state headed by Rajasekhara Reddy who is opposed to creation of Telangana. Hence the status quo!

So, when will we get our Telangana?

We may get our Telangana whenever the following scenarios occur:

1. If Congress (with UPA) comes to power and the state posits an opposition party. Separation happens after elections.

2. If BJP (with NDA) comes to power and the state posits an opposition party. Separation happens after elections.

3. We may get Telangana before the elections if Congress at the center, which got infamous in Telangana region for going back on their promise to grant Telangana, feels they may lose out in the state because of this backlash. In such a case they may quickly grant a new state right before the next election whereby they may sweep the polls in the new state. But this scenario is not that simple. If they are confident they can get many seats outside of Telangana, in the rest of AP, they may continue to delay the separation to keep the regional Congress Party happy.

We may not get Telangana even after the polls if Congress comes to power in center and as well in the State. If BJP gets to power in the center, there is a slim chance that BJP or its allies will sweep polls within the state (since BJP is unlikely to ally with TDP -but who knows?) and then there is a better chance for Telangana.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Telangana IV

This follows from the previous three articles, Telangana – A New State, Telangana II, Telangana III.

Why should Hyderabad be given to Telangana?

You would think that people would not even ask this question. You would think that people have some common sense. But then you are reminded – that in India the common sense is quite uncommon. Here, one guy writes:

U want hyderabad because it is developed… If you guys have guts I challenge u guys take telangana without hyderabad.

…khammam, adilabad, nizamabad etc etc then take them all; leave hyderabad. Telanagana was part of hyderabd but Hyderabad is not a part of telangana.

...I accept telangana movement was since last 50 yrs but everytime, they ask for hyderabad. why u ask for it?

And you know why 'T' state debate is still dragging because u want a very very well developed part into ur state. You leave hyderabad then see. I can confidently say u will get 'T' state in 3 yrs.

During our Independence time, did we even discuss if New Delhi will be part of Pakistan or with India? Was it not a logical conclusion that since it lies inside the borders of India, it should go to India? May be Pakistan should have argued that since they contributed to making of New Delhi, they should get New Delhi or that nobody should get it. Look at this map of Andhra Pradesh, with darkened Telangana region with Hyderabad deep inside its interiors. What stupid fool suggests that Hyderabad cannot be part of Telangana? When Nizam of Hyderabad , in his foolishness wanted to become a part of Pakistan during the time of Independence, didn't we argue that a land inside our interiors could not join Pakistan? How come we display this foolishness now?

Do land-locked states fail economically?

One guy puts his opposition to Telangana because it will be a land-locked state. He writes:

Land-locked ecomonies represents a significant economic handicap and a barrier to growth. Most of the worlds poorest countries are landlocked.

What this guy doesn’t know is that some of the affluent nations are also landlocked. Switzerland and Luxembourg are affluent and landlocked while some of the world’s poorest countries are NOT land-locked. Take Bangladesh, for example. It has two major rivers flowing in and is sitting on a sea and still it is quite poor.

Of the 50 poorest countries in the world, only 16 countries are land-locked. The rest- the 34 countries are poor though they are not land-locked. Actually it looks like you are poor based on where you are- if you are an island or in Africa, the chances that you are poor are quite high.

The countries which rank in the 50 poorest but are NOT land-locked include, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, East Timor, Togo, Tuvalu, Tanzania, Vanuatu, and Yemen.

Even if it made sense that being land-locked provides a handicap, should Switzerland give up its nationhood to join Italy or France?

And for a formation of a state within a nation does it really matter if it is landlocked? Can't one go to a port through another state since they are all part of the same nation? Is Punjab a less prosperous state because it is land-locked?

Do new states take long time to form?

One guy writes:

…separate state takes a long time to form in today's government. It was easier before, now it isn't as easy.

No examples given. On the other hand, we have seen that Chattisgarh, Uttarkhand and Jharkhand came into existence overnight. Was it difficult to form a new state?

Will the new state has to grapple new problems like crime?

The same guy writes:

…The state will be too busy trying to form new rules, so crime, and other factors will incorporate in it. Not to mention Hyderabad is a hot spot for terrorists, so this new state will only trigger more terroristic actions.

Idiocy level in this statement is too much. Can’t answer it now.

Map Source:

Update: The subsequent part of this blog is at Telangana V.

Telangana III

Here I address some more issues. This follows Telangana – A New State, Telangana II.

No Animosity towards Andhra People

Frankly, I don’t hold any animosity towards anyone regarding this issue. Not the government, not the country, not the Andhra people, not the Telangana people, not the Rayalaseema, nor the incompetent politicians.

Many people quickly conclude that this fight for a separate Telangana is against Andhra people. It is not. I have many Andhra people as very good friends. They will continue to be friends the way so many Kashmiris, Bengalis and Tamils continue to be my friends. Just because they are good friends does not mean we have to belong to the same state.

Many States in India have been formed without creating animosity towards the parent state. Chattisgarh came out without creating any overt animosity towards people of Madhya Pradesh. The same was true with Jharkhand and Uttarkhand. Haryana came out of Punjab in 1966 without major conflict.

Sometimes, it makes sense just to separate as a new state before the pent up frustrations of separation-seekers give vent to anger against others whom they believe are obstructing that separation. Here, if we prolong this new state formation, there is a danger that Telangana people may turn their ire towards the nearest and easily available targets - which is quite undesirable. Many colonial empires delayed the eventuality of independence of their colonies only to be booted out unceremoniously.

Fight for Telangana is NOT new

The movement for Telangana is not new. It has always existed since the time of formation of Andhra Pradesh itself after Indian Independence. When the new state of Andhra Pradesh was formed out of Madras Presidency along linguistic lines, a big chunk of Telangana from erstwhile Nizam state of Hyderabad was added to it against the wishes of many Telangana people who protested in Hyderabad. Later on, the popular 1969 agitation turned into a debacle when its own leaders betrayed the cause. Now, TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samiti) is championing this cause for its own vested interests. Just because its leaders seem to have their own vested interests, one cannot shoo away or dismiss the real concerns of people of Telangana who have aspired a separate state since the time of Indian Independence.

No other state has protested and agitated as much as Telangana did in the recent times. Yet, it remains part of Andhra Pradesh against its wishes. The agitation of 1969 was led by many student bodies of Telangana joined by the common people seeking a separate Telangana. This agitation spawned many leaders from Telangana who have gone ahead to become the Chief Ministers later on. These leaders have betrayed their own people when they called off the agitation in return for small sops for people of Telangana as compensation. These sops were soon struck down by the courts of India. Therefore, this agitation of 1969 became a worthless exercise disillusioning many of its agitators. The status has not changed much for people of Telangana. Their demands were never addressed.

Should we decide on formation of new states based on quality of its leaders?

There is a tendency to discredit a separate Telangana movement by besmirching those who are more vocal about it. Now, a leader in the form of KCR (K Chandrasekhar Rao) has rallied himself and his party TRS, behind one slogan- ‘Separate Telangana’. Many of these leaders have bad reputation and have also been convicted for various frauds. Some people quickly jump to discredit the movement of Telangana by portraying it in the light of leaders of TRS. That is a big mistake. This kind of reasoning was used as a common excuse by colonial powers for NOT granting independence to their colonies. They cited the wrongs in the local leaders to explain why they were better off ruling the colonies compared to the local leaders.

Winston Churchill could not make himself grant independence to India because he could not come to believe that Indian leaders were capable of ruling themselves. Speaking of Indian leaders, he said, "to abandon India to the rule of the Brahmins would be an act of cruel and wicked negligence". According to him, "India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages".

In his speech to the Parliament, he said, “…To transfer that responsibility to this highly artificial and restricted oligarchy of Indian politicians would be a retrograde act. It would be a shameful act. It would be an act of cowardice, desertion and dishonour. It would bring grave material evils, both upon India and Great Britain…”

Look at some of the quotes of the detractors here from the comments on my blog:
…the TRS party, the passport brokers and human traffickers talk about Andhra cheaters. It is very scary what would happen if these guys get control of this region.
TRS has dubious credentials. If those fighting for telangana are truly disinterested, then can someone tell me what made them keep quiet for so long?
And I again repeat, those who propound for seperate state have absolutely no vision for development.
Telengana will just be KCR dominion as he could not rise through TDP ranks as much as he wanted….
Even if telangana intellectual support "Telangana state formation" they won't rule this state because KCR and other political parties will not allow them to rule it.

The detractors of separate Telangana have launched a campaign to discredit the leaders of TRS to sully the movement itself. We all have to understand one thing here - that TRS is NOT Telangana. Many Congress leaders in Telangana support a new state. Many BJP leaders have always supported a new state. I will not be surprised if some other political outfit other than TRS, such as Congress, BJP, or even Telugu Desam comes to power in the new state after its formation. Did we ever check the credentials of future leaders of Uttaranchal, Haryana, Chattisgarh before their formation? Would we have stopped giving them a new state because of their corrupt leaders? Is that a good reason not to grant statehood?

Did Andhras loot Telangana?

I do not believe that anyone has looted Telangana. But we do believe that our resources and opportunities were denied to us. Jharkhand, which has many natural resources, was a supplier of many minerals to the factories of Bihar. Over a period of time, the difference in these two parts was so much, it warranted a separate state so that people of Jharkhand could benefit from the natural resources of their own land. I believe that the administration (that included all political parties) was not caring enough to ensure all sections got their due share. That I believe is the main reason for this ongoing struggle.

If tomorrow whole of North-East states agitates to separate from India, we have to blame ourselves. We continue to neglect those states grossly and blatantly. Not a single industry has come up, not a major project has taken place. We have to bear the consequences of our own policies. Such neglect cannot be done away with some artificial sops later on.


I think it is a case of pragmatism to create a new Telangana. Those who dismiss every idea of separation in India as politically motivated move have not studied history. Those who dismiss the idea of separation as setting trend for many more separations, even that of the country itself, are immature. Those who dismiss the idea of separation as nothing more than a fanciful whim of certain bored people are downright ignorant.

Telangana makes a stronger case than any other new state that was formed recently in India. All objections are flimsy and do not hold ground. Those who are opposing it are making fools of themselves the same way some many detractors who thought an Independent India was a joke were later proved completely wrong.
Update: The later parts of this blog are at Telangana IV.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Guide to Indian Idiocy I

I have come up with this article thanks to Siddhartha Shome. The discussion I had with him recently in California, over a lunch, has triggered few observations that I would like to codify here.

Siddhartha has raised an extremely important and interesting observation. According to him (not in his words), Indians have a peculiar way of looking at pursuit of knowledge. For most Indians, knowledge is directly proportional to one’s age or one’s qualifications. Therefore, it is a given fact for most Indians that a Professor knows more than the student, an older man knows more than the younger man, a boss knows more than the subordinate and so on. There are no arguments about it or doubts about it. This is a cardinal rule applicable to all domains of knowledge.

From this discussion, I come to the first law of Indian Idiocy.

1. Knowledge depletes with each generation.

One can extrapolate the above observation to say that Indians also believe that our older generations knew much more than what we know. For Indians, knowledge keeps depleting with each generation, not increasing as is conventional wisdom in the West. Indians believe that our ancestors, during Vedic times, knew almost everything. They knew how to solve Quantum Physics, knew how to build airplanes, knew how to build an atom bomb. In fact, their knowledge was infinite. As generations went by, our knowledge kept reducing.

In a local sense, a professor will always know more than the student – forever. A parent will know more than the kid – forever. And so on. So each subsequent generation knows lesser compared the older one.

Taking the cue, I wanted to explore few other observations and codify into laws. Here’s the second law of Indian Idiocy.

2. Wisdom is Knowledge.

For most Indians, Wisdom is nothing but Knowledge itself. And knowledge is directly correlated with one’s education. And education is directly correlated with one’s degrees. For most elite and urban Indians, there is no difference between knowledge and wisdom. They are synonymous. Hence, a PhD is supposedly wiser than a Masters Degree holder is wiser than a Bachelor’s Degree holder and so on. At the bottom are the rural (and therefore 'illiterate'). Invariably, all those who went to IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, etc, are all wise for the rest of their lives.

One educated NRI (non-resident Indian) I recently met in US was of the opinion that giving voting rights to Indian illiterate and rural people was one of the worst mistakes India did after getting its Independence. According to him, Indian rural people should not be the decision makers. He opined that Indian urban people (and therefore 'literate') are more qualified in selecting the Indian leaders. He even proposed a model where only literate Indians should be allowed to contest elections, and a literate voter should get more votes- a bachelor’s degree should be given two votes, while a PhD should be given four votes, and so on.

Though I found his idea utterly ridiculous, I described it here for a reason. That’s because the above sentiment is shared by many Indian elite, urban and literate in different shades, may be not so grossly, but may be little subtly. Look at the present campaign by TOI called Lead India. It is nothing but a reflection of this sentiment held by most urban people. All those who got selected are urban, well-educated and comprise mostly upper caste, and Hindu. When describing them, TOI uses many words and sentences to talk about their qualifications, which college they went to, which MNC they worked for, etc. According to me, most of them have completely vacuous opinions on socialism, on caste-issues, on secularism, right to vote, coalition governments, etc. In my opinion they are inane and downright dumb. However they seem to reflect the sentiments of these urban Indians very well that Wisdom = Knowledge = Education = College Degrees.

Here’s the third law of Indian Idiocy.

3. Experience is Age.

Older a person, it is naturally assumed, the more experienced he is. Even if that person has not traveled anywhere outside his city, Even if that person has not met people of different cultures, even if that person has not tasted different cuisines of different lands. Just because he is old, he is considered more experienced.

A friend of mine, to counter this notion, said, ‘it is not experience, it is the capacity to experience that should matter’. Two people going through similar situations can come out quite differently just because one had more 'capacity to experience' than the other.

For most Indians, a person sitting under a tree all his life meditating is vastly experienced and wiser than a person who has sailed oceans and seas. No wonder, we have codified this law into our religion itself- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, before he left for England to study, had to combat this all-pervasive belief that he is going to lose his caste if he sailed the seas. For most part of our history, our opinion on experiences was quite skewed. For Indians, Experience = Age.

A note on methods of learning - as I see it:

A person can learn through three different ways

1. Through books and other sources of education.

2. Through experiences of others- which includes discourse.

3. Through one’s own experiences.

Knowledge is a combination of all the above three. We cannot say which one is better than the other. It is usually sum of all the above three in various proportions.