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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saffron Purge Or End of the Right Wing Politics In India

Posted by: danish Ahmed 2:44 AM

My last post began with the question, if the BJP was in its dying throes, and as i note later (or was rather reminded by fellow-blogger Meeta :p ) , the post ends with the same question! Indeed, this question is too big to be answered in one post,especially after Jaswant Singh's paradigm-shattering book and statements. However, the only thing that is clear is that the way the BJP is handling dissent, it seems to have made up its mind to bring in major changes after the poll debacle. As of yet, it has been seen as a clash of personalities with ideology having been relegated to the background.

However, Arun Shourie's latest outburst against the party leadership adds another dimension to the whole hungama (which i think resembles the climax of Kaminey :p) . His contention that the RSS take control of the BJP reminds one of the infamous Communist purges. In fact, purges are not limited to Communist history alone, every large scale socio-political revolution, has been followed up by a counter-revolutionary movement. Its an irony of fate that revolutions must,like Uranus, devour their own children because they threaten to subvert the very objective of the movement. The classical example is Napoleon Bonaparte, the hero of the anti-monarchy French revolution who went on to declare himself as the emperor!

The BJP's Ram Janmabhoomi movement can best be described as a cultural movement that sought to semiticize Hinduism and evolve national identity based on it. The fundamental flaws in the Sangh was its partisanship and its unwillingness to accomodate all sections of the population. After the initial enthusiasm had worn off a lot of its supporters found themselves following a sub-nationalistic agenda. Since then the party has been banking on the charishma and personalities of its leaders and good fortune of its regional allies. Indeed, if the NDA was able to achieve the distinction of being the only non-Congress government to complete a full term, it was largely due to the charismatic leadership of Vajpayee. True, the Congress had not yet recovered from the disarray it had fallen into during the end of the millenium and the BJP was the strongest contendor but it required extraordinary skill to pull along a coalition government like the NDA. Anyway, the NDA government was a positive development from a historical point of view. It forced the Congress to get out of nepotism, corruption and lethargy and almost rebuild itself.

As things stand now, the BJP as we know now, faces existential dilemma. It has had its day under the sun, winding it up would be the only logical conclusion. But that does not imply that the strain of thought that the BJP sought to represent would die with it. Let us not forget that the fountainhead of radical Hindutva ideology is the RSS which would continue to survive as a cultural group. The BJP was the RSS's political face just like the Jan Sangh was before the BJP came into existence. The RSS shouldn't be very keen to ensure the BJP's survival, after all, the former stands firm in favor of strict adherence to the core ideology while within the BJP now, ideology is the farthest thing in the minds of senior leaders squabling for power.If the BJP implodes or diminishes in size, it wouldnt mean the end of right wing politics. Various members of the Sangh Parivar, including the RSS through its various institutions, ABVP as a student union, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc would continue indoctrination at the grass-root level, until the next time.

Posted By danish Ahmed 2:44 AM

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can the BJP survive without Hindutva

Posted by: danish Ahmed 3:50 PM

Has the BJP just pressed the self-destruct button by sacking Jaswant Singh for his book on Jinnah? This is the question i woke up to find in Jug Suraiya's op-ed in ToI in the morning (18th Aug 2009). It was a refreshing point of view but later in the day, the number of naysayers increased and by now ( i.e. 1 AM, 20/08/2009 ) those in India's fourth estate, especially social media have written an orbituary for the BJP.

Even i would love to write one but i have a nagging doubt about it. To begin with, the manner in which Jaswant Singh was expelled is highly deplorable and shocking, but the expulsion itself doesn't come across as a surprise. Most likely even Jaswant Singh himself knew the eventuality when he sat down to write the book. Now coming back to the future of BJP, a number of experts have said that BJP is throwing away a life-saver that Jaswant Singh's book could very well be. Blame the Congress for partition and alienation of Indian Muslims, expose its "pseudo-secularism" and BJP would suddenly become far more acceptable to people who have traditionally opposed it.

The fundamental fallacy that i see in this argument is that the BJP has already made a choice and it is going to be difficult if not impossible to change track now. It squandered the first opportunity during Vajpayee's reign by treating Narendra Modi as a hero instead of dumping him after the Gujarat riots. It paid the price by losing the general election but as the saying goes,"those who do not learn from past mistakes are condemned to repeat it" ! In the run up to the last general election it had again a choice to make and it chose hardcore Hindutva ideology. Advani's infamous Jinnah statement might have been an experiment to gauge the effect of any probable dilution of the party's ideology on the core support base. Projecting Narendra Modi as the future Prime Ministerial candidate during last general election was probably the declaration that the party "think tank" believed that a return to aggressive Hindutva was the only way forward.

True enough, can the BJP really regain its position purely on an anti-Congress plank? In the last 60 years no political party or alliance has been able take on the Congress by focusing on the incumbents' follies alone. Let us not forget that the Congress' popularity had reached an all-time low, during the Emergency. Yet the coalition government that included BJP's precursor,the Jan Sangh, did not last 2 years! Vajpayee-led coalition is the only non-Congress government to have completed its tenure but it has been said to have could survived largely because of the turmoil within the Congress as well as the stature of Vajpayee . These factors helped the government survive but the BJP could emerge as the leading party on the basis of its ideology. No non-Congress, non-BJP party could be an effective political force because they lacked an ideology that could appeal to all sections. In fact for a diverse and heterogenous country like India, with all its contradictions in demographic aspirations, primary loyalties, traditions and culture, any ideology bereft of an all encompassing emotive appeal is unlikely to survive in national political arena for a long time.

If at all the BJP could rise to prominence it was mainly due to its ideology. But the ideology being excluvistic, also worked against the party,alienating segments the vote of which was necessary for it to get elected to power. So the experts opine that the BJP should use Jaswant Singh's books and statements to take the battle to the Congress camp,blaming it for the partition, and dilute its hardcore Hindutva plank.Can the BJP survive with a diluted version of its ideology?

I don't think so!
The original architect of the Hindutva as a political ideology was none other than Mahatma Gandhi himself! Hinduism was never an organized religion, in fact it wasn't even a religion but an ammalgamation of various philosophies and traditions of groups living west of the Sindhu river. I would love to discuss the use of the term during Muslim rule but that would be a digression from the topoic, do it should suffice to say that during Muslim rule, the use of the term was mainly for literary purposes. It was the British themselves who, for adminstrative purposes, brought togather all groups adhering to diverse philosophies and traditions of under an umbrella term Hindu. Reformers like Swami Vivekananda and Dayanandi Saraswati started the process of unifying groups into a cohorent religious entity based on Vedas. However, it was Gandhi who took this motley group and turned them into a formidable political force.

Jaswant Singh recent remark that Jinnah as a secularist who was unhappy at Gandhi for bringing religion into politics may be correct but then Jinnah never understood that bind such heterogeneous groups, a spiritual unifying force was neccesary . For him,truth,non-voilence , satyagraha and self-detachment were political instruments that couldn't be used without adherene to spritualism or religious influence.

Gandhi's Hindutva was all inclusive, a unifying spirit of thousands different religious groups , he used the tolerant ancient Hindu ethos to not only bind them , without threatening other religious groups. Nehru went ahead modernizing it without discarding the basic principles nor touching the distinct traditions and dogma.

Unlike the Sangh's Hindutva, Gandhi's ideology was all inclusive, it played a major role in uniting India. The BJP's ideology too can be traced back to pre-independence period when Savarkar first proposed it. In a nutshell, if Gandhi's soft Hindutva was all inclusive, the Sangh's has always worked towards semiticizing Hinduism The conflict between Gandhi's Hindutva with that of the BJP's has been going on since 7 decades.Can the BJP dilute its ideology and still survive?

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:50 PM

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is SRK's Detention A Big Deal ?

Posted by: danish Ahmed 2:44 AM

Shahrukh Khan detained by authorities in Newark and all hell has broken loose since then! From man in the street to the Minister of External Affairs of State @shasitharoor, most Indians are outraged but some people around me, online as well as offline seem outraged by the outrage!

Of course, holding an opinion that contradicts general percepts is an essential trait of neo-conservative intellectualism. One cannot claim to be an intellectual that if s/he is found to harbour the same opinion that the more common segments of the society do. I myself have been guilty of that often so this is not aimed at anyone specific. Coming back to SRK issue, those apathetic towards it have a couple of very valid points:

  • Thousands of people are facing the same problem everyday, why call foul now that SRK has been subjected to the same treatment?
  • The second point is that SRK is taking advantage of the incident to publicize his forthcoming movie.

I have little doubt that the second allegation has some substance. SRK's initial statement that he was targetted because of his surname "Khan" sounds too conspicous to be a coincidence with the fact that the title of his latest movie is,"My name is Khan." In the age of social media, an incident that helps you your brand name go viral is nothing less than a dream come true. A shrewd buisnessman like SRK would undoubtedly exploit the issue for making loads of money and perhaps that is what he is doing.

However, this does not change the fact that US immigration policy is utterly discriminatory and unjust. Time and again Indian citizens and even Ministers have been subjected to discriminatory treatment. Post-9/11, the US has been following a number of security policies which have been termed as prejudiced, unethical and in some case (like Guantanamo Bay prison) inhumane. There are people who believe that these rules have helped US thwart more terror attacks on its soil but that is not quite true (I have discussed this in one of my previous posts)

All that it has given is a sense of estrangement and humilation among a large section of global population. Forget the common man, the list of Indian celebrities detained/stripped frisked include former President APJ Abul Kalam,the then Cabinet Minister George Fernandez, Wipro Chief Azim Premji, actors Aamir Khan, Kamal Hassan, Mamooty, Irrfan Khan and scores of less popular Indian celebrities. Background information on any of these individuals shouldnt be difficult to access. After all, these people virtually live under the gaze of the public! Let me reiterate the fact that i am not justifying VIP culture, all i am saying is that since all of these people are well-known, collecting background information about them shouldn't be difficult at all. Moreover, it is not just frisking and question-answer sessions, from what earlier victims have described, it is an interrogation which can leave any one distressed

These incidents merely reflect the arrogance that the US officials display when dealing with Asian visitors. Arrogance which has resulted in traumatic experience for people whose only fault consist in carrying a Muslim name. No sovereign nation with even an iota of national pride can afford to allow its citizen being mistreated on regular basis. Brazil in 2004 gave an apt response to US racial profiling policy by implementing a policy of finger-printing US nationals only!
I would conclude with the question which has been it the back of the mind ever since Kalam was frisked. Is Musharraf subject to the same treatment that India's former President and one of its most respected citizen.

Posted By danish Ahmed 2:44 AM

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is Cyber-Warfare on Social Web Same As Terrorism

Posted by: danish Ahmed 5:52 AM

If you are a web user then you must already know that some of the most popular social web sites including Twitter, Facebook,LiveJournal and even Friendfeed were taken down this week by miscreants. It is perhaps one of the largest co-ordinated DDoS attack since the attack was launched simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social media sites. As a consequence Twitter was down for several hours outraging users like me addicted to Twitter. Even a day later the micro-blogging service was running slow and had major connectivity issue with clients. It is not surprising at all, Twitter already has an inherent scalability issue, its far more vulnerable to denial of service attacks.

A typical DoS a(Denial of Service) attack is one of the oldest techniques cyber criminals employ to cause damage to sites. The technique is wickedly simple, a large number of requests are sent to the victim server which, it is unable to handle and thus crashes or slows down considerably. Often this technique has been successful but compared to this the DDoS is far too powerful. In DDoS (Distrbuted Denial of Service) hundreds of thousands of computers are used to send data and flood the network, these computers may be in different parts of the world but all of them would have been infected with a malicious code that allows the attacker to remotely control these computers. A collection of hijacked computers is called a "botnet" which according to latest news are actually availabe for hire at a relatively cheap price.

Coming back to Twitter outage last Thursday, what is really alarming is the fact that it seems to be politically motivated with probable involvement of state-actors! Apparently this highly synchronised attack was not a random anarchist act, it was targeted at one individual, a Georgian blogger, going by the name "Cyxymu," (the name of a town in the Republic of Georgia), who had accounts on Twitter, Facebook,LiveJournal, Blogger and YouTube.[source] As is obvious, fingers have already been pointed at Russia, especially after the last years cyber-warfare between Russia and Georgia.

Only weeks back, there were reports of sustained Denial-of-Service attacks on US and South-Korean websites and most likely these are going to continue sporadically until it breaks out into bigger cyberwar or the political objective is met. Earlier, there have been politically motivated large-scale attacks against Eastonia in May 2007 , Ukraine and Lithunia besides the occasional but highly damaging attacks on US sites by Chinese hackers. China is reported to have been preparing for large-scale cyberwar. Of course, Jihadists can't be far behind! However, as with everything, the earliest politically motivated cyberwar involving DDoS was launched against Serbia under the auspicious of the US. Its another matter that, Serbians were equally successful in counter-attacking the NATO on cyberspace.

But as of yet, there hadn't been as big a collateral damage as has been the case in last weeks outage. The Social Web has become a very important political tool as we learnt very recently from Twitter's role during Iran elections and the massive protests later on. Indeed, web is quintessentially a democratic platform and we can expect far more political activism online but there is also the fear that the involvement of state-actors in disruption of what can be called "essential services on the web" is an alarming trend. If attack on civilians in real world is called terrorism and unacceptable in any manner, an attacks that disrupts Social Web cannot be considered any less than cyber-terrorism. May be we need global treaties or similar legislations to ensure that our social web lives are not held ransom by nation-states' military and intels, cybercriminals or cyberterrorists.

A few hours back, Twitter came under another attack which disrupted the service for 30 minutes. At 12:17 P.M. PT Twitter confirmed the attack on its status blog.

More information....

Posted By danish Ahmed 5:52 AM

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Will Twitter Go Down With The Waves

Posted by: danish Ahmed 1:15 AM

Twitter has been down for more than 2 hours,the last tweets on my time-line reflect panic as one would expect from the passengers of a ship as it goes down with the waves! Well, i haven't got a Google Wave account yet, the analogy is partly coincidental :p

Also read : http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/05/22/twitter-at-scale-will-it-work/

Posted By danish Ahmed 1:15 AM

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The ant and the grasshopper: behavioral implications of an age-old fable

Posted by: danish Ahmed 3:08 AM

Everybody, or at least most of us who have gone to the school have read Aesop's tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper. The grasshopper plays, has fun on a summer day while the ant labors to store up food in its dwelling. He even mocks the ant for slogging instead of having fun. But when the winter sets in the grasshopper finds himself starving and begging at the doorstep of the ant who has enough reserve to last the winter. The moral of the story is clear- there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. In other words, hard work pays and also, if you are idle and are having fun now,you will have to pay for it in the future.

An interesting aspect of this tale is the ant's perspective. While the earliest version has the ant rebuking the grasshopper,later versions have her taking in the dying grasshopper out of kindness. In any case, it can be safely assumed that the ant finally has an almost sadistic pleasure when nature proves her right. We can almost hear her saying,"I told you so!". Indeed, vindication of her stand would not be complete with her having reserve of food only,the grasshopper should suffer too. Without that, her hard work during summer won't be justified!
However,things don't turn out the same all the time, Somerset Maugham's version of the Ant and the Grasshopper has two brothers, the elder brother, George is a hard-worker while Tom the younger one is an idler and a spendthrift. George lives a life of discipline, does all the right things, saves a third of his earnings so that he could retire bit early and live a comfortable life. Tom, on the other hand, lives to enjoy the present, he cares too little for the future and his expenses often have to be borne by the hard-working George.

However, as the narrator of the story finds from George, Tom doesn't really suffer in the end for all waywardness in youth. Just when George thinks that Tom is about to pay for not planning or saving money for the future, the latter goes on to marry a rich lady who dies within a few years leaving her fortune to Tom! George is outraged that his spendthrift brother has actually been rewarded for all his vanities and indulgence! Does George hate his brother? After all, he has, time and again spent his own hard-earned money to keep Tom out of trouble! Yet the narrator finds him unhappy at the good fortune of his younger brother! What has probably annoyed George the irony of fate that his own hard-work pays him far less than his brother's loose ways. It is a feeling all of us have had at some point in time.

This is such an integral part of human emotion that it can be seen in our casual behaviour too. And it doesn't always have to be hard work only, it could be anything which requires a certain amount of dedication, diligence and more importantly self-denial.
Indian society is going through an exciting phase, the traditionally subdued segments are asserting themselves and over-running elite bastions by sheer numerical superiority. It is not surprising to find the upwardly mobile middle class outraged by Rakhi ka Swayamvar or Mallika visiting Twitter headquarters. Rakhi at least, doesn't represent us (yes,i count myself too) in anyway! It takes a lot of hard-work and diligence to develop intellectually, so it is but natural that somebody so uncouth and crass gaining such fame and wealth be considered outrageous!

Which brings us back to the question, would the ant's retribution be complete if the grasshopper does not suffer?

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:08 AM