Sunday, June 29, 2008

Role of Media: Impact on various cultures

Imagine it was 1800 AD and a Danish cartoonist depicts Mohammed in his cartoons. Would the Islamic world have known about it? And how long would it have taken to know about it? And if some people got to know about it would they have been able to rally the whole of Islamic world to agitate against this?

Not really.

The present day media, consisting of live reports 24 by 7, detailed documentaries, regular news broadcasted on TV, internet that connects the world, people and their opinions on an unprecedented scale, transparent press, is entering our lives unhindered and uncensored on a daily basis. In an instant, we know if France has banned scarves in their schools and we watch this event as it unfolds on a daily basis. Now, we know if a remote town in Oregon has put up toilet seats with pictures of Hindu Gods. The news is beamed to all homes in India (and elsewhere on the planet) on primetime.

Different civilizations on this planet are exposed to the same media content but in reality each of these civilizations hasn’t matured along the same lines and hence we see different reactions to the same news from different parts of the world. The West which has actually invented the instrument called Press, using it as a potent force for bringing in the first people’s movement in Reformation, and which later on brought in Age of Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, Scientific Revolution, has also used this potent force to mass hypnosis and propaganda during both the World Wars.

Right after WWI, seeing the impact the media and news coverage has on the swaying opinions of the masses, it was clear that this new tool had a very big role to play. America, a constitutional democracy, consistently uses media to manufacture public opinion to wage it wars. However, the long tradition of media with necessary checks and balances in these countries has a maturing effect on its people – not that it is a permanent one.

The populations in the West do not go to streets the minute they see an American flag being burnt in a remote town in Palestine. They do not get onto streets to protest against Da Vinci Code though it targets at the fundamentals of its religion. However, the same movie raises massive protests in other parts of the world, such as in India, Philippines, etc, where the movie is eventually banned. Here, we can see the clear difference in maturities of different civilizations. Not all of us are at the same maturity level when it comes to dealing with international events as they unfold before us.

This particular point, that we have different temperaments and maturity levels, is completely missed out by local media. In an attempt to ape the West and their media, these local media people ignore the maturities and sensibilities of local populations and instead put them through same exposure as the West resulting in completely unexpected reactions from the people.

Indian people were not exposed to this kind of media content on such a massive and transparent scale even few years ago. It all started quite recently and we have already reached the exposure levels of West within a short period of time. While the media has gone an exponential acceleration in this country, the culture and maturity level has not. Indian mindset is still set in 16th Century while being exposed to the information content of the 20th Century.

We have not got our reformations, we have not got our scientific revolutions, we have not got out Age of Reason, Age of Logic, we have not got our Industrial Revolutions, and we have not got our Age of Enlightenment. We are still a superstitious, blind belief-led, orthodox culture set in Middle Ages of Europe, with heavy doses of religious ignorance and antagonism, with feudal mindset and heavy casteist divisions, but watching the events as they unfold in remotest corners of the earth along with much mature civilizations.

The media blindly aping the West is not just suitable to Indians or many other civilizations. Most Indians media play the role of relayer of information but do not take pains to explain it. For example, in a recent episode of hike in fuel prices, the media sounded shenanigans and spelled the doom for the consumer but did not take pains to explain how the soaring prices in the world market could have influenced it. Such irresponsible behavior can cause lot of turmoil.

On a daily basis the untrained Indian audience, which applies to audience in most post-colonial emerging nations, is witnessing the conflicts arising in remote corners as they are relayed without being prepped up. An Indian who is used to considering legs as filthy and impure watching someone in the West wearing sandals with pictures of Indian gods would be completely shocked. Such information does not make his life better. In fact, it had made it worse. He is not used to seeing it in his daily life, and with his limited exposure to his surroundings where legs are given their lowest place in the hierarchy of things, this sacrilege doesn’t go well. However, if the media wants to play a constructive role, it can precede the news items with how cultures differ in their view of feet and why West does not think feet to be impure. That explanation may help. However, it is starkly missing. Instead, jingoism is used while breast-beating young journalists foment hatred by showing the footage in such a light so as to elicit more antagonism and not understanding.

Some of us may be stumped to see why a remote town in Lebanon protests Danish Cartoons of Mohammed. How come similar caricatures of Jesus Christ in a town in Bangladesh go unnoticed by the West? How come Indian Hindus run to the nearest deity of Ganesha to see it drink milk, while all such miracles in the West are news items in a tabloid read by a whimsical few?

Danish Cartoons united the whole Muslim world to rally against Danish citizens and it embassies and launch major protests across the world. In near future, we will see more such events which will trigger even massive conflicts, civil wars, local wars, international wars, etc. Unless the media plays a constructive role, it can actually trigger conflicts as is the case in the USA where war is actually brought on by the media.

The idea of this article is not to regulate or control the media, or to accelerate the maturities of civilizations, but to agree that we have an issue at hand, a factor which we should not ignore when we broadcast various conflicts.

Example from Indian Context

Let me give an innocent example on how aping West in does not seem to make sense. During the Da Vinci Code episode, CNN-IBN ran a week long program called ‘Sacred Feminine’. These TV anchors just took the phrase aping the West and started to push it into India not knowing how and where it applies.

Sacred Feminine comes as a challenge to church’s orthodoxy in the West because Abrahamic Gods are all men and the Church has always seen women in poor light. Even now the Church and the religion in the West is dominated by men. However, the current socio-political structure in the West running counter to the religion has liberated its women and made them (almost) equal to men. Their women do not suffer the same ignominy as Indian women. On the other hand, India is quite the opposite. It has always given equal status to women in theology and religion but has not liberated its women in socio-political structure.

Sacred Feminine of Da Vinci Code challenges the theocracy and religion to introduce role of a woman as an equal partner. That has no relevance in India because a woman is already an equal partner in religion. This topic has to be dealt exactly opposite if it has to be applied in India. One has to challenge the existing socio-political structure while celebrating the sacred woman already depicted in Indian Scriptures.

Our media is immature too. Just to create news, so that they can ape the West, CNN-IBN unnecessarily rakes up Sabirmala issue. When all temples do not allow women, it is a case of discrimination, but when only one temple does not allow women then it is a special case. So, why even rile against it?

MF Husain Nudes and Mothers

This is a response to the questions posted on MF Husain and nude paintings. A commenter asks:

“Think if MF Husain has painted your Mother in nude. Can you still support him? If so, it’s ok. But I can't!”

Many commenters had suggested the same line of reasoning. They have asked me what I would do if someone painted my mother in nude. The whole reason why they ask such a question in this episode is the following train of thought:

“Goddess Saraswati is LIKE mother to me; my country India, called Bharat Mata, is also LIKE mother to me. Therefore, portraying Goddess Saraswati or my country in nude is like portraying my biological mother in nude. Since I do not like anyone portraying my biological mother in nude, I do not like to see anyone portraying Saraswati or Bharath Mata in nude”.

At the outset, to those who have not asked enough questions in their life OR to those who did ask these questions but did not wait long enough to listen to a reasonable answer, the above logic may sound sensible. 

One could easily extend this line of thought and come up with the following situation.

A person who is drilling a bore well in his property gets raided by Indian nationalists. They beat him up, ransack his home and break up all the heavy machinery that is being used for drilling. In addition, they go to an Indian court filing a case against this man. The reasons cited for such raiding, beating him up, ransacking his house, breaking up the machinery and then filing a court case against this man are the following:

“Earth is like mother to all of us. We refer to it as Mother Earth. Here is the documentary evidence of all poems and mythologies written in our history which suggest that this Earth is our Mother and that she has come to life in many of our stories to intervene in the matters of men. And drilling a hole with this plunging equipment is equivalent to raping her. Therefore, we charge this man with the crime of raping our mother. He should be arrested and convicted on the charge of rape and inflicting injuries to our mother.” 

Some of you who have been using some portions of your brain during the last many years may find the above argument a little ridiculous. If that is the case, congratulations, you still have the power to reason, you have not lost all of it to the opium called religion and the heroin called nationalism.

To know more about this line of thinking, read People vs Larry Flynt [Part I, Part II] on this blog. The lawyer in that story says that it is matter of personal taste, not about law.

He puts the premise of the case as:

The question you have before you today is whether a public figure's right to protection from emotional distress should outweigh the public interest in allowing every citizen to freely express his views.

Painting someone nude is a matter of taste, something that should be dealt with by the person who has been painted nude. Lots of Hindu gods and goddesses have been depicted nude in our temples. They stand in provocative poses, much provocative than what MF Husain has depicted them. If you go to a French Art Museum, you will see scores of paintings in which many women are depicted nude. Every woman who has gone into those French paintings or those statues in Indian temples is a depiction of some character – real person, mythological figure, or a symbolic figure. Many of those women are mothers to someone or the other. Goddess Parvati sitting nude on Shiva’s lap, depicted in Ellora caves, is a mother to other gods like Vinayaka and Karthikeyan. Many symbolic and real women are also mothers to someone or the other. In spite of that there are many depictions of those mothers in our literature, temples and mythologies where they frolic in nude and participate in sex, adultery, and seduction. 

If we start considering every public icon, every mythological character and every symbolic figure as our mother and thus prohibit all references that can hurt sentiments of people, then every such depiction in literature, paintings, statues, and even in thinking should be shunned and stopped since it is tantamount to depicting and thinking about one’s biological mom in unacceptable ways. With that kind of reasoning, almost every work of fiction, every piece of art, every prose and poetry that has dealt with women in ways that are not appealing to some people should be discarded, opposed and removed, since they deal with a woman who is a mother to at least some people. That spells an end to individual expression as we know it.

If someone out there is saying, “we are not talking about individual’s mom here; we are talking about mom of all people, including me and you”, then you have to decide this first: Are you talking about real moms or symbolic moms? Are symbolic moms same as biological moms? If so, shall we stop all drilling into Mother Earth? If not, why the fuss to start with?

Nobody is depicting your biological mom in nude here and we are referring to symbolic moms who seem to be mom to everyone, not just you in particular. Your mom could be a matter of privacy to you and her, but a symbolic mom is a public figure. Ridiculing the symbolic mom, insulting her, depicting her in nude, deriding her, praising her or worshipping her, are matters that are all outside the purview of individuals and their privacy. It’s akin to deriding a politician, caricaturing a leader, spoofing an actor, and making a parody out of mythology. It’s not a private matter and any ridiculous proposition to link them should be rejected. 

If this kind of thought process prevails and starts entering our system, we are going to end up talibanizing India in less than ten years.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Excellence in India II

[This follows the first part, Excellence in India I]

Pursuit of Excellence

I see the pursuit of excellence in a culture as a three step process. First is recognition of excellence. Second is rewarding excellence. Third is celebration of excellence, making it a part of the culture itself.

1. Recognition of Excellence

I believe we are not trained to recognize excellence. It’s not a part of our culture – if it was indeed a part of us in the remote past, we have already lost it. Instead, we deride and ridicule excellence, belittle it, scandalize it, defame it, and then discard it. In turn, we inculcate a culture of celebrating mediocrity – democratizing it. When everyone has it, we are all equals, that way, we all feel good.

We are not trained to recognize what ‘excellence’ is. We are not looking for it. And we fail to see it even when it is thrown at us.

Once in a while we will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened.

– Winston Churchill

It is the same with stumbling upon ‘excellence’. Most Indians just pick themselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened, to stop over at the next place where mediocrity is being displayed. There they stop and relish in it. Excellence makes them feel small and inferior while the mediocrity makes everyone feel like a king.

Indian Crabs

This attitude reminds me of a fable about Indian Crabs. During an international exhibition showcasing crabs from various countries, Indian crabs are the only ones with no lid on the vessel. When an observer asks, ‘How come you do not have a lid on it, wouldn’t your crabs escape?’ the clever Indian remarks, ‘Don’t worry, these are Indians Crabs. If one guy tries to move up, the others will pull him down’.

In a University in India, a renowned scientist who attracts lot of fame is seen as an unnecessary nuisance. If only he just stopped making news; their inadequacies would not come to light. Hence, a plot is hatched to ensure he does not get his next set of laboratory experiments so that he cannot continue his research. This way, the majority is happy, at the cost of misfortune and disappointment of one single scientist. This is how we curb excellence.

Indian Universities or government organizations ensure they never promote excellence. The guy who actually delivers is booted out. The guy who pleases everyone though he never does his job is promoted. We want to be surrounded by mediocre people so that we all feel we are all successful.

This attitude is all pervading almost making it a chronic ailment of Indian psyche. Whether it is politics, economics, governance, movie-making, or IT industry, mediocrity is encouraged, Excellence is snubbed. Everyone gets to say about everything, democratizing almost every aspect of our society, including the most specialized fields such as medicine, technology, astronomy, archaeology, and every other field you name it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Secularism Redefined

Secularism forms the bulwark of modern nations where the state is separated from religion. It is a modern idea that came into existence as product of Scientific Revolution (or the Age of Enlightenment). For centuries that preceded the Age of Enlightenment, our world was cloaked in Dark Ages, where religious thoughts held sway, where minds were closed, where thinking was forbidden, where free thought was heresy. People were hunted down and burnt to a stake on the crime called blasphemy. People were flogged for crimes such as voodoo and witch-craft, impaled to death for embracing another faith, maimed, tortured and killed for expressing opinions on workings of the Universe which are now considered absolute facts.

Secularism is an idea embraced by modern nations to protect its people from such irrational ways of inflicting harm onto others who they consider to be different. The only way one can achieve protection of individuals and their rights is by separating religion and its idiosyncratic blind beliefs from the governing state and its polity. This was the realization that came about during Age of Enlightenment and later enshrined in many constitutions throughout the world.

Secularism is originally defined as ‘no importance to any religion’ making state completely agnostic or apathetic to religion. However, Indians have conveniently defined it as ‘equal important to all religions’ making state sympathetic to religions.

This new definition comes as convenience to all Indians – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other religious people. In this definition, religions work as single groups to negotiate with the state to get sops and benefits for their people. Usually those sops and benefits are not universal, and instead have everything to do with satisfying religious egos, which are usually hurt very easily. Most often, they trample on the rights of others, curb individual expression, and curtail our freedoms.

Most Indian Hindus conveniently define Secularism as nothing more than Sanatana Dharma to embrace it, but when the actual definition comes to the forefront, they reject it. In the same way, most Muslims find the second definition convenient when promoting their religious laws to be imposed onto its population, thereby justifying archaic and almost barbaric laws onto its people, but reject it when the actual definition comes to forefront. The same holds true for other religions of India.

So, when it is convenient for everyone, why change the status quo? Why can’t we go live happily ever after redefining it?

The redefinition which provides the apparent comfort zone to everyone is equivalent to allowing people to cross red light at their will. When people are allowed to cross at will each individual who is crossing it welcomes it, but not those who get affected by it. Similarly, when the Indian state embraces Hinduism as its religion, people of other religions get affected by it. Each religion is acting as those individuals who are trying to cross the red light at will. Whenever they get a chance to cross it, they celebrate it as victory. Those who are not able to cross it stand dejected waiting for their next chance. Nobody bothers to think that while someone is jumping the red light there are many accidents happening. People are getting injured and killed. That there are some people are never able to cross this traffic light forever.

The new definition of secularism has replaced the original definition almost completely. According to BJP, a national party which held power at center once and is an aspirant once again, the world secularism should translated to ‘panth nirpeksh’ – being neutral to different religions – rather than the original definition which is ‘dharma nirpeksh’ – being indifferent to religions. They go onto reinterpret the constitution saying that their definition is the right one, and not the original definition.

This particular notion is not only championed by BJP, it is a slogan carried out by all political parties of India, who avowedly embrace religion in their official capacities. In the recently held swearing ceremony of MLAs in Karnataka after the assembly elections, almost every member swore by God. Most members of Parliament, Prime Ministers and Presidents visit religious places on official capacity. Administrators of cities and towns welcome a religious leader as if he holds a constitutional position, using official machine and mechanism to serve him. Most DRDO, ISRO and government agencies carry pictures of Hindu deities and they are prayed to before starting an event. Scientists at ISRO go to Tirupathi to pray before launching rockets into space. Most scientists in India, holding government positions, believe in God, and many of them believe in horoscope, palmistry, astrology and numerology. They resort to these tools when exercising their duties.

India is very religious in nature and its state apparatus is completely hijacked by people of majority religion. The minority religions, instead of fighting for the application of original definition of secularism, try to get their share of the pie by forming their own groups to negotiate a similar status for their own people.

The problems occur when the interests of the religions conflict with interests of the state. In the ongoing Ram Sethu Controversy, a petition was filed against dredging Adam’s Bridge citing Ram Charita Manas and Ramayana as historical documents as evidence, where some parties have contested that Ram existed 1.75 Million years ago before Proto Humans existed on planet Earth, and that Ram build this bridge using monkeys. They have successfully stalled all activities.

In other episodes, a sports players was unnecessarily tormented by legal actions for putting up her feet next to the Indian flag, a very famous painter was forced to move out of the country, his house ransacked, just because he painted some Indian goddesses in nude, an author was forced to move from one city to another for criticizing her religion, and so on.

Indian definition for its secularism spells doom for its future generations. India is consciously trying to lose its enshrined freedoms. A future, where thought police will arrest you for your free thoughts, where a judge will sentence you to death for original opinions is not far away. And one of the first steps towards that is redefining secularism.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Will BJP go ahead with its Hindutva agenda?

When BJP took power in Karnataka, this is what I commented:

BJP can once again anticipate coming to power at Center in the next elections. Not only that, they can now be aggressive on their Hindutva agenda- because it is clear that they don’t need to succumb to their allies in their NDA. They can be less dependent on their partners – unlike in the past during Vajpayee Government.

A week later, BJP has this to announce:

With its confidence reinforced by the Karnataka victory, the Bharatiya Janata Party has given a clear signal that it wants to bring back on its active agenda the old Hindutva issues of implementing a uniform civil code and abrogating Article 370 that confers a special status on Jammu and Kashmir…


It promised to bring back the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) or a similar law if it came back to power at the Centre.

Another week later, BJP has this to say when Nepal embraced democracy by toppling the monarchy.

The declaration of Nepal as a secular state is a “negative development…” says the Bharatiya Janata Party.


Responding to the question, “Was the BJP happy about Nepal becoming a secular state,” Mr. Singh said, “As an Indian and a believer in ‘sanatan dharma’ [Hinduism], I feel diminished. … There are four ‘dhams’ [pilgrimage centres] in India and the fifth, Pashupati Nath, is in Nepal. There is nothing more secular than ‘sanatan dharma’. … This is a negative development [in Nepal].”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Decline of Science in India III

Role of God

In my previous two articles [1],[2], I discussed how Science is on the decline in India. The message is clear from all quarters- either it is the number of publications, quality of research, the number of PhDs or the scientific output of the country, Science is on the decline.

This decline has affected all spheres of our life. Rationalism is kicked out of the door. Decisions are made on blind belief, irrationality and superstition. For example, look at the way we have been handling Ram Sethu episode - we posit religious fables and mythologies as concrete proof of evidence in the court of law.

The quality of the debate, either in the Parliament, on TV, or at dinner table, is quite irrational, downright illogical, where mythology and legends mix with scientific theories and facts, where irrationality is just another choice, where superstition is a fashion, and pseudo-science is hyper-science.

I attribute this decline in Science to our growing religiosity. I see a strong correlation between the two.

In Decline of Science in India II, I write:

Many technologists and academicians in India are abandoning the scientific temperament. This trend may not reflect in statistics, but can be perceived indirectly.


Vaastu Shastra is in fashion- more and more engineers, doctors, professors, educated, well-to-do families, seem to take this up while they construct their house or an office.


Many educated and literate people refer to horoscope to choose their partners, and seek an astrologer to plan the wedding, or for that matter any ‘auspicious’ event. We are not talking of illiterate or ignorant people here. All these people have been to top schools of India and graduated in technology, business, medicine, etc.

Scientific temperament is out of the door, irrationality, superstition is the in-thing. Hobbies and crafts are now touted as legitimate science!

Now a survey has cleared the remaining doubts.

Study on Indian Scientists

Now, a study shows that Indians scientists are firm believers in God. A whopping 41% of the Indian scientists profess belief in a personal God. Of these, 26% actually ‘know that God really exists and have no doubts about it’. Science may be on the decline, but looks like the confidence level in belief in God seems to be on the rise. Around 30% believe in a higher power but not a personal God.

Contrast this with the members of Royal Society of England where only 3.3% believe in God in a country where 68.5% are believers. Only 7% of members of American National Academy of Sciences believe in God in a country where nearly 90% are believers.

While most scientists in the Rest of the World tend to be non-believers, which seem to make sense knowing how Scientific Revolution went in hand in hand with separation of church from the state, Indian Scientists consists of many believers. These believers also believe in all hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.

Miracles

Yes, Indian Scientists believe in miracles. Instead of working hard in a laboratory, they spend their energies invoking the blessing of sky gods. No wonder there is negligible scientific output. 38% of Indian Scientists believe that ‘God works miracles’. And 24% believe that ‘holy men perform miracles’.

Witch-hunting is still practiced in India. Scientists come onto the stage to explain how witch-hunting is a real phenomenon.

Supernatural and After-life

Looks like, instead of subscribing to science magazines our scientists regularly read National Enquirer. 26% of them accept the principle of life after death, a notion that is almost considered ridiculous amongst scientists in the rest of the world. And hear this, 7% believed in ghosts. Next time our rockets take a nose dive, we know who the culprit is.

Taking God’s blessing before firing rockets

41% of the Indian scientists approved of ‘space scientists going to Tirupati to seek the blessing of Lord Venkateswara before launching the rocket and satellite in 2005’. [Is it the same 41% which professed belief in God? Just curious]

Other Pseudo-sciences

While the world scientists have debunked homeopathy as a pseudo-science, 50% of the Indian scientists believe that homeopathy is effective as a therapy and technology for healing. 49% of them believe that prayer is also an effective tool for healing.

14% of them believe in Vaastu, and an equal 14% believe in Astrology. 12% of them believe in predictions based in horoscope. That’s why they run to check horoscopes each time they have run a scientific experiment.

10% believe in palmistry, 7% believe in gem and stone therapy.

Caste System

6% of the Indian scientists believe in caste system. I don’t know what that means.

Conclusion

Religion, religious beliefs, and with it the orthodoxy, superstition, blind belief is seeping into the Indian scientific community. The new generation of Indian scientists is irrational in their outlook which seems to believe more in miracles than verification of scientific theories. 23% of them believe that scientists should NOT confront religious practices even if they contradict scientific theories. And 33% believe that they should confront them ‘sometimes’.

I recognize religion as Biggest Threat to India, I write:

Religion is on the rise with increase in education and upward mobility of the masses. Belief in superstition, blind belief and irrationality is getting institutionalized with increase in prosperity and with better access to opportunity.

I write, as conclusion, in Decline of Science in India II:

By shunning the pursuit of science, we are curbing the free thought, creativity, and the ability to question and reason. By treating our ancient texts as alternate science, we are bringing in sanctity, orthodoxy, to justify ignominious rituals and practices of this country.


As a post-modern rejection of universal values, we will only pave the way for hijacking of our intelligentsia by those who have vested interests in showcasing Indian hegemony. It will lead to academic and sophisticated justification of caste based discrimination, ill-treatment of women, lack of dignity of work, persecution and ostracism of alien religions, child labor, etc, all under the glorious names of Indian Science, Indian Culture and Indian Philosophy.


Science and Education are the only weapons Indian masses possess to (extricate) themselves out of the stranglehold of casteism, poverty, religious persecution and discrimination. It is the only liberating force for women, underprivileged, and homosexuals. As much as religion is important to different people to carry their personal faith and belief system, science and its pursuit as career and temperament are necessary as the balancing forces. They need to be inculcated and nurtured to combat the forces that tend to bring in irrationality, orthodoxy, and sanctity through the backdoor all in the name of sanctity, tradition and culture.

Related Topics: Decline of Science in India I, Decline of Science in India II, Biggest Threat to India, Where are the Indian Scientists?, India low on Vitamin S, Astrology Vs Science I, Pseudo-science: Vaastu Shastra, Sethusamudram Project, ABC of Ram Sethu

Saturday, June 14, 2008

History of Telangana I


Hyderabad Princely State

For centuries, Hyderabad Princely state was under Nizam Rule. Unlike most other parts of India, it was never a part of British India. During the time of Indian Independence in 1947, it consisted of 16 Districts – 8 from Telangana, 5 from Marathwada, and 3 from Karnataka. There were three main languages spoken – Telugu in Telangana districts, Marathi in Marathwada districts, Kannada in Karnataka districts. The kingdom was divided into four administrative divisions – Aurangabad Division (consisting of Marathi speaking people), Gulbarga Division (consisting of Kannada speaking people), Gulshanabad/Medak Division (consisting of Telangana people, including Hyderabad), and Warangal Division (consisting of Telangana people).

Telangana region was under Nizam Rule from 1724 till 1948 spanning 224 years. During Indian Independence and Partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947, the Nizam (king) of Hyderabad Princely State, the largest princely state in the Indian Empire, decided against joining Indian Dominion. India launched a military takeover of the state in 1948, called Operation Polo, resulting in annexation of Hyderabad Princely state into Indian Union.

Life under Nizam

During Nizam Rule, unlike in British India where local languages along with English were given the due importance, only the state language Urdu was the medium of instruction in schools, administration and all official proceedings. The local languages, viz. Telugu, Marathi and Kannada, were suppressed, marginalized and discouraged. By using Urdu as the only officially recognized language, Nizam was able to appease his Muslim subjects, who considered themselves to be belonging to ruler-clan, and thus many elite Muslims were able to obtain jobs and opportunities that were available. Many Hindus and converted Muslims began to get education in Urdu to avail the opportunities. Many people belonging to these regions fought for official recognition of their languages and laid their lives.

Nizam was an autocrat who fleeced people of their wealth. He amassed so much wealth, that he was rated as one of the world’s richest men. Hyderabad state was steeped in extreme forms of subordination, enslavement, bonded labor, where very few jagirdars or zamindars (the landlords) held sway. Nehru described Hyderabad state as ‘an almost perfect feudal relic.’

Indian Independence

The whole country was celebrating the Indian Independence obtained on August 15, 1947. The people of Andhra, who were part of Madras Presidency of British India, were also participants in those celebrations. However, the people of Telangana and other regions under the Nizam Rule hadn’t seen the light of freedom. They were still under Nizam and their future was uncertain.

After Indian Independence, Nizam of Hyderabad, who gave allegiance to British Crown and none else, was contemplating various options- which included a new nation for himself, or a merger with Pakistan – but he was not ready to join India. Though majority of his subjects (90%) were Hindus, he being a Muslim, he showed affinity towards Pakistan. Some of his Muslim subjects were ready to join Pakistan though the majority of the people wanted to join Indian Union. There were many revolts in the region. Nizam of Hyderabad cracked down on his subjects with utmost cruelty.

Qasim Razvi and his Razakars

Pakistan was quite interested in the events unfolding in Hyderabad Princely State. Qasim Razvi, a strong proponent of Pro-Pakistan lobby, and his militia, called Razakars, was supported by Pakistan to create unrest in the region.

The Communist Party of India took arms and created a rebellion of peasants against Nizam Rule and the landlords. It was the first of its kind in India where peasants revolted against landlords (called Zamindars) and kicked them out. The land was seized from the landlords and distributed to the landless. Nizam took the help of Razakars to crackdown on rebellion. The infamous Razakar Movement has results in many deaths. Razakars resorted to robbery, rape, murder and arson. Many people escaped to nearby districts in Maharashtra during this time.

Annexation of Hyderabad

Sardar Vallabhai Patel under Nehru Government decided to intervene. The police action, called Operation Polo, was launched on 13th September, 1948. Within four days, Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam, surrendered. So, the people of living in Hyderabad State obtained Independence after one year, on 17th September, 1948.

What followed next is an extremely sad episode of Hyderabad State. 27,000 Muslims or more were killed as a reaction against Razakar Movement. The worst affected regions were rural areas where Muslims were in minority. The badly affected regions were Osmanabad, Gulbarga, Bidar and Nanded. Many Muslims poured into Hyderabad city to escape from Hindu backlash.

From 1948 to 1952, the state remained under civil administrators, during which a spate of Andhra immigration took place to occupy the new positions – as school and college teachers, as bankers, as government officials, etc. Since the new administration required English or Telugu, and since the people of Telangana were not educated in either, it was deemed that the people of Andhra were more qualified for such positions. The learning in Urdu did not come to their aid. Even the Muslims who comprised the ruling clan were now at a disadvantage.

(With inputs from the booklet released by Telangana Development Forum)

Excellence in India I

What Indians lacks is an ability to pursue excellence. It is not inculcated into us either by our parents or by our teachers. Nor is it inculcated into us by the society or the media. Many Indians grow up not knowing what excellence is. Instead, they learn the art of ridiculing excellence. And to cover up their inadequacies they get into a habit of celebrating mediocrity.

What is Excellence?

Excellence is not just about scoring high scores in an exam, or getting a top rank in an entrance; it is not about copying another painting exactly like its creator.

Just take a look at our roads. When we build our roads in India, we don’t to an excellent job. We just don’t know what it means to build excellent roads. One rain- and the entire road network of Bangalore get its potholes making it a terrain for a car rally. Each year, we go back to fixing the problem, but it never gets fixed. A population not used to experiencing the best roads does not demand better roads. We do not know how to make them better. Even if someone suggests a better way to improve roads, those ideas are not taken up.

Look at the quality of Indian movies. Though they have had more than fifty years of experience, they still do not know how to make an excellent movie (barring few exceptions). They don’t need to because the audience doesn’t demand it. The Indian audiences is quite OK watching any movie, even a crappy one, to give the producers huge profits. Even the promos do not reveal much expect some dance sequences. Most Indians watch those crappy movies anyway – they don’t care what it is about. Indian movies lack the finesse, the finishing, the tight script, the good editing that make a good movie. They lack in all the essential ingredients which make an excellent movie. They are always half-done, half-baked, loosely scripted, an eclectic collection of unconnected pieces. Indian audience which is not trained to appreciate excellence does not see the difference between a good one and bad one. Instead, we continue to celebrate mediocrity. Any award ceremony is going to illustrate this where even a crappy movie gets the best movie award.

Indian technology products are not the finest either. Many of the products are the run-of-the-mill, clich├ęd, and copies of products already made in the west. For example, take Tally, the most popular finance software sold in the market. It has been hailed as one of the best Indian software products. It is indeed ubiquitous in India, used by many CAs and finance people. The company which makes it has good revenues and is profitable for quite a long time. Though they continue to serve many customers with a product which is cheap and continue to increase their market share, they have not really gone all the way to make the product an excellent one. Just look at the GUI and look at the usability of this product. They are crappy. Look at the extremely unaesthetic display and downright ugly colors. They have never gone onto make it user-friendly and they have never made it look beautiful. We just don’t know what it means to make an excellent product.

Another example is the Ambassador car. For many years it was the most selling car in India, and yet, there were no improvements. There were no new releases. The shape, the model, the engine, the gear system, and everything else remained almost the same for decades. Only recently, when other cars were imported did we see some changes. Some people say, 'when it is perfect, why improve?' I say, that’s a good excuse for being lazy.

So, what is excellence anyway?

Excellence is about doing something the best, giving it your best, with a thorough dedication, passion and perseverance to achieve it. It is about dreaming something fine and something better each time and then going about realizing it.

It is a road that doesn’t break down every monsoon. It is a system which works efficiently, again and again, and on time, being convenient to all its users. It is a product which solves the users’ problem in the best possible manner. It is a process that continues to better the system. It is an airplane that realizes the dreams of the users and its inventors. It is a shaving blade that never cuts your skin and yet gives you clean shave every time. It is a printer that prints the best pictures at the best quality again and again. It is a government that continues to take care of its people’s concerns, solving their issues, and constantly providing better means and better methods to address people’s aspirations and needs.

You will know what ‘excellence’ is when you see it, provided you are trained to appreciate it.