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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#AAP Effect: The Politics Of Denial In Delhi

Denial is not just a river in Egypt,  it is also a strong current of a sentiment flowing in the corridors of the established political class of India. For once we see the Right, Left and Center of India’s traditional political spectrum publicly uniting against motley group of ordinary people who neither have great legacies, wealth nor fame but still believe they can contest elections in a democracy!  The very idea of winning polls without exploiting identity-based issues whether fictitious or real, making hollow rhetoric or bribing, coercing voters would be the height of incredulity.

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:05 AM

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Can AAP's Broom Withstand Assault Of Vacuum Cleaners Of Corrupt Establishment ?

Let me begin this post with a little jingoism. Aam Aadmi Party's success in Delhi Vidhan Sabha polls is indeed victory of the common man and of the idea called new India. It is not a victory because of its seat tally in the state assembly but because of the fact that psephologists, analysts, columnists and even bloggers including, yours truly, could not predict the outcome even after the exit polls. Prior to this election smug educated, urban citizens often displayed antipathy towards political processes, one of the reasons cited is that their stake is diluted by "their claim of" votes are bought by candidates by providing liquor, cash and other freebies, to the poor. Time and again it has been proven that the weaker sections of population exercise their right to vote much more intelligently. After all voting is the only right they actually have, even in practice. Ironically, some of the people who held this view are now part of Aam Aadmi Party !

The cynicism around the impact of AAP on electoral results stemmed from the belief that the party was too idealistic, the electorate is swayed by more emotive issues and identity-based politics rather than less excitable issues such as availability of clean water. Arvind Kejriwal was not just threatening the ruling dispensation but the establishment as a whole. And now that the upstart has upset the establishment, it faces much bigger challenges than a national election. While Rahul Gandhi has gone on to say that he is willing to learn from AAP's approach to politics, other senior Congress leaders as well as leaders of the BJP and most established parties have been far less sporting or gracious in defeat. If at all, they have been far more vindictive. Before even the counting of votes over, a senior Congress leader (Digvijay Singh if I remember correctly), grinning from ear to ear, pointed out that the elected members of AAP would now have to face individual voters and supporters seeking favors such as getting their kids admitted to schools and the like.

As the counting came to close and the question on who would be form the government in Delhi was being discussed and AAP clearly declining to take or lend support to neither contenders, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad seemed livid at the naivety that the TV show host was expecting politics of jugaad live on television. Prasad's body language almost seemed to say, "Doesn't she know that these negotiations take place through back channels ?!" A hung assembly only means more bargaining power of the party that holds the key and the support could be always be bought, if not through money than through concessions and compromises - the two fundamental tenets of coalition dharma. However, as AAP stuck to its commitment to its voters of not aligning with either the BJP or the Congress, the outrage among established political class has become vitriolic. As it became clearer that AAP was not keen to form the government, it was read by opponents not as staying true to the commitment but as fear of being unable to deliver the promises.

However, far from being the new Left, that believes in only protests and not governance, AAP seems to be more pragmatic and result oriented. If the party says that water tariff can be decreased substantially, it also points out that according to Delhi Jal Board more than 200 million gallon water is lost due to leakage per day. If the water from leakage is being soaked in the ground it should raise water table and since this is not the case, that much water should flood Delhi ! Something similar applies to electricity tariffs too, if figures are fudged, just auditing DJB and discoms and taking appropriate steps should bring the tariffs down.  

 But that is not all. Both the Congress and the BJP are so thoroughly convinced that the traditional model is the only model of governance in India that they are not even pretending to take the mandate of Delhi voters seriously. The grins and smirks of Congress and BJP leaders seem to say that it is time Arvind Kejriwal and team do a reality check but perhaps the Old Order needs to do a reality check in the era of information revolution. Their decisions send out the message that they are not in the race to grab power, they seek to bring changes to act as catalysts  of a social transformation that Indian society must undergo at this juncture if it is to emerge as a nation that truly values democracy, human/civil  rights, openness and transparency of it institutions... 

Posted By danish Ahmed 2:24 AM

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Tribute To Sachin

Filled under:
Posted by: danish Ahmed 4:12 AM


I had reserved my 100th post to dedicate it to Sachin Tendulkar on his 100th centuries in International Cricket. But I could never start on it. Being a pucca Sachin fan, the odds are huge that once I start writing, my own admiration for him would lead to exaggeration, yet I wanted my tribute to be as impartial as possible, to try understand the man who changed the game of Cricket forever and the profound impact he had on the psyche of an entire generation of Indians. However, as Sachin bids adieu to Cricket I find no reason to refrain myself from completing it even if it means going overboard with every superlative I can recall. What is it about Sachin that an entire nation turn him into god of Cricket ? Of course, it is his almost supernatural skill with the bat and the game of Cricket but at least for me it is more than just Cricket.

Posted By danish Ahmed 4:12 AM

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hindutva,Hinduism and Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of World Religion 1893

While the spot-light alternates between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi a rather disturbing event has gone under-reported. Swami Vivekananda's  150th birth anniversary was marred by a controversy when Congress for Parliament of World Religion withdrew its participation as it did  not want to be associated with Vishwa Hindu Parishad, whose Chicago chapter was one of the co-organizer.  However the Council for the Parliament of World held a separate event which was addressed by Chicago Vivekananda Vedanta Society's Swami Vardananda, and other Vedanta scholars  Swami Shantarupananda  of Oregon, Swami Ishatmananda of Chicago as well asg academic Gary Tubb.  The event organised by VHP was successful too where "luminaries" such as Dr. Subramanium Swamy, Stephen Knapps and Swami Ramdev spoke about Swami Vivekananda's  life and preaching.

Importance of CPWR

But then why should a single organization's decision deserve any attention at all ?
It was at Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893 that Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech, introducing Vedanta, yoga and ancient Indian philosophy to the western world,which ironically enough led to Hindu revival at home as well.  Swami Vivekananda shattered the image that West like to view India as-  an exotic land of snake charmers,sadhus and fakirs. He shattered that image by revealing the wisdom and richness of Vedic philosophy of  ancient India which left the audience with a changed perspective towards India and Hindu philosophy. 

There was something poetic about Swami Vivekananda introducing Hinduism as a religion that taught the world tolerance and universal acceptance in the Parliament of World Religions which was itself an inter-faith convention. Appreciation of a speaker by members of his/her own community members present is common-place but genuine appreciation by scholars representing other faith is something else, Swami Vivekananda is today acknowledged as the greatest Hindu revivalist and for establishing Hinduism as a major world religion. And it all began in the year 1893, during the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago 

The Council For Parliament of World Religions has clarified why it withdrew from the joint event, the entire text can be read here but it can be summarized as unwillingness of CPWR to be associated with organisations designated "extremists" by US State and parties affiliated  with the BJP led by Narendra Modi who is banned from entering USA. 


How can Swami Vivekananda's followers be fanatics ?

The simple answer is that they are not followers of Swami Vivekananda, to follow implies accepting the teachings and following them. Swami Vivekananda teaching's was all about human soul and its relationship with the  Supreme Being as well as other human beings. Swami Vivekananda's school of thought was taken ahead by Mahatma Gandhi, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and other like minded scholars.
Sangh Parivar has used other non-Congress leaders such as Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, as  mascots even if they were leftists and stood at the opposite end of the political spectrum. In fact, Narendra Modi, swears by RSS ideology but continues to deify Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the most important Congress leaders, even though it was Sardar Patel who for the first time banned RSS, after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, and charged it with anti-national activities.

 In fact, the original Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, lifted the ban only after the RSS gave an undertaking that it would remain a purely cultural organisation and refrain from taking part in politics. But the way the Rashtriya Swoyamsevak Sangh has taken control of BJP today, it is a blatant breach of agreement. However, to me it remains a mystery why Narendra Modi is using Swami Vivekananda's image as mascot and at the same time swearing by RSS ideology.

Undoubtedly, the Hindutva proponents were influenced by Swami Vivekananda's teachings and greatly revered him but so did Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose* but that does not imply that the Congress or the Forward Block can use his posters in their election rallies. The core concept of Hindutva is incompatible with Swami Vivekananda's teachings. In fact it is contradictory. V. D. Savarkar,who coined the term 'Hindutva' was a self-confessed atheist and rationalist and defined 'hindutva' as the way of life of the people living within the territorial limits of the Indian subcontinent. However,  all notable proponents of Hindutva- Savarkar (founder of Hindu Mahasabha), Hedgewar (founder of RSS) and Golwalkar (second head of RSS, ideologue) made it very clear that their definition of Hindutva was a politico-cultural concept and had little to do with the religion Hinduism, it was a collective identity building by bringing Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs . If the real meaning of the term "secularism" had not undergone such drastic change in Indian subcontinent, one could have referred to it as secular concept except it does not include  Muslims and Christian traditions in the "Hindu (not religion but culture)" concept. The frequent reference to Aryan race indicates that Hindutva is mainly a racial concept though efforts have been made to conceal it.

The conditions laid down by them for Muslims and Christians to be part of Hindu-culture society tantamount to giving up part of their respective belief systems and violation of a constitutional and human rights. . Even the Hindu population is so culturally heterogeneous in India that a normal practice in a particular region (such as polyandry) would appear abhorrent in another region . This is quite the opposite to Swamy Vivekananda's emphasis on sense of identity being the major impediment to self-realization and salvation. Swami Vivekananda still stands as one of tallest inter-faith teachers, his concept of Hindu nationalism, later adopted by Mahatma Gandhi was that of a nation whose foundation was based on religious philosophy and not "secularism" as in West, where religion was not kept completely outside of the polity but every religion,was accorded an equal status. . This concept is unique as in it even encouraged members of other belief system to adhere to their believes without any restrictions placed before them.

While the West was discovering the values of ancient Hindu philosophy and spiritualism, some of the Hindu radicals were importing political ideology from the West. The middle part of 20th century saw rise of a number of movements across the world such as Nazism, Zionism, Ba'athism and Communalism in Indian subcontinent (Muslim League espousing Muslim nationalism, Hindu Mahasabha going for Hindu nationalism), each a variant of Fascism . Each of these movements espoused radical authoritarian nationalism but in reality, it only meant authoritarianism, the "national identity" in each of these were religious/cultural/racial identity presented as "national identity" to let a small group of people take complete control of the state.

The problem with each of these movements was bereft of morality or other universal principles, these movements have caused massive damage the world has ever seen. Using propaganda mechanism and offering lofty ideals, the far right leaders were able to mobilize masses in their support, in an unprecedented scale. During Hitler's reign, Germany developed in such a pace that it set new standards, no country in the past or in current times has developed as much in such a short span of time. Yet when the war ended no country had been destroyed  in a war as Germany had been. Mussolini's Italy suffered the same fate.  While Savarkar and Golwalkar openly admired Hitler, BS Moonje, mentor of Hegdewar and one of the main coordinators during the formation of RSS during his visit to Italy, visited military schools and met Mussolini who impressed him immensely. After returning to India, he founded the Bhonsala Military School which has lately been under scanner for suspected terrorist attacks. There are enough indications that Moonje was trying to fusion of Fascist experiment and Hindu nationalism  Since these events took place before the Word War II was over and Hitler and Mussolini must have seemed inspiring, no wonder, the RSS uniform, drills and discipline appear more similar to Italian fascist rather than that of an Indian yogi.

This is not all, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, differs with Indians on several aspects, such as the Indian national flag is not hoisted over its headquarters, even on 26th January, which I learnt from the most recent saffron convert, Dr Subrmanium Swamy in a magazine article. Further, for an organization identifying itself as a representatives of Hindus it is strange that images of gods and goddesses,are not put up in RSS offices. Apparently, only images of the first two
VD Savarkar
Sarsanghchalaks Hegdewar,Golwalkar, picture of Bharat Mata and bhagwa dhaj (RSS's saffron flag with two triangles) can only be kept and worshiped in a RSS shakha.   However, the biggest charge against the RSS would be the conceit  it has been carrying out all these decades. By declaring itself an apolitical organization it has in fact been enjoying more political power  than its political faces and with absolutely no accountability. With controversy breaking out over Narendra Modi's projection as BJP's candidate for PM's post, the RSS has been pushed into the spotlight.  It should now adopt at little transparency so that people of India can really know if the allegations such establishment of Hindu Rashtra are no longer part of its central doctrine. And more importantly, does it have moral legality to use Swami Vivekananda's portrait as mascot when its own school of thought is diametrically opposite to that of real Hinduism.

One of the reasons that Savarkar provides for his non-approval of Muslims and Christian having same status of Hindus was-

 "Their [Muslims' and Christians'] holy land is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of foreign origin. Their love is divided [source]

Swami Vivekananda said -

 Vedanta understands that and therefore preaches the one principle and admits various methods. It has nothing to say against anyone—whether you are a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Jew, or a Hindu, whatever mythology you believe, whether you owe allegiance to the prophet of Nazareth, or of Mecca, or of India, or of anywhere else, whether you yourself are a prophet—it has nothing to say. It only preaches the principle which is the background of every religion and of which all the prophets and saints and seers are but illustrations and manifestations...  .[source]

Savarkar said this before Indian independence, but in the present secular Indian state, faith and patriotism are not mutually exclusive. But harboring ideas at conflict with the state's constitution. Narendra Modi says, patriotism has been instiilled in him by the RSS, that may actually conflict with the Indian Constitution and divide love. Further, as is quite well know the Sangh deifies Adolf Hitler, from Savarkar,Golwalkar to Narendra Modi, Hitler has been seen as a role model for these right wing leaders. In recent times, the world has been shocked by the glorification of of Hitler in Gujarat school text books. It is but a mere reflection of the beliefs of RSS stalwarts, Golwalkar (referred to within the the Sangh Parivar as Guruji) has stated

To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic Races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by. [source]

Is it surprising that since 2000 Muslims,Christians and intellectuals and activists have been facing discrimination and state orchestrated violence in Gujarat while its Chief Minister refuses to except even grief at the loss of lives ? If Modi were being true to the Guruji's views he would consider them sub-human, the puppy remark was not inadvertent. Regarding the place of non-Hindus in the future Hindu Rashtra, here is what Guruji had to say

 "The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens' rights."  [source]

This reflects the outlook of Hindutva but not of Hinduism which is best represented by Swami Vivekananda whose vision of India  was rather different


For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope.  I see in my mind's eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body [source]

India today may not be exactly that, but it is not a fascist state that the Sangh aspired for and that is mainly because the majority of Hindus, including religious scholar and priests have embraced Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and several Gurus and Shankaracharyas' doctrine of Hinduism which is inclusive.



* I first came across Swami Vivekananda's portrait in Netaji's bedroom/study (Netaji's birthplace and childhood home is located less than a kilometer from my house). That is when I started reading Swami Vivekananda's writings.   

Posted By danish Ahmed 8:10 PM

Thursday, October 10, 2013

TROPICAL CYCLONE 02B PHAILIN PATH -Updated

Path of Phailin (Cyclone 02B)



Legend
Speed: 1 Knot = 1.852 Km/hr
In 2013101212Z the two digits preceding Z indicate time.

2013101212Z
2013 Year
      10 10th Month
         12 12th Day
            12Z 12 Hours Universal Time
Data Source : http://www.usno.navy.mil

Helplines

Odisha Central Control Room0674-2534177
Puri06752 223237
Ganjam06811 263978
Gajapati 06815 222943
Nayagarh 06753 252978
Mayurbhanj 06792 252759
Keonjhar 06766 255437
Khorda 06755 220002
Jagatsinghpur 06724 220368
Cuttack 0671 2507842
Kendrapara 06727 232803
Dhenkanal 06762 221376
Jajpur 06728 222648
Bhadrak 06784 251881
Balasore 06782 261674

Here is a good resource providing info on #phailin (I will try to update but chances are I will be offline after the landfall !)
 http://aamjanata.com/cyclone-phailin-information-page/

Looking for someone in the region ? try http://google.org/personfinder/2013-phailin/

Posted By danish Ahmed 8:40 PM

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Syrian Crisis: Iraq And The Emergence Of Greater Iran

Ironically, G.W.Bush's infantile prediction that Iraq war and "imposition" of democracy would create a domino effect in the region did come true but in a completely different manner (fool's luck ? ) and the situation has now left his successor red-faced in front of global media. Of course, President Obama has also inherited the repercussions of his predecessor , Bush Jr's decisions and actions (not necessarily in that order).  Since last few decades there has been widespread discontent among the people in the various kingdoms,emirates and dictatorships in West Asia towards the US as well as ruling regimes.  The invasion of Iraq might not have directly led to the uprising, but it did matter in the schemes of things. The immediate effect was that of anger, outrage and hostility towards the US for its intervention and more importantly for propping up the repressive and autocratic regimes in the region but gradually centered around the latter as the US reconciled its policies with the popular mood in the region.

Initially, Syria appeared as yet another domino falling in the wave of Arab Spring movement , popular uprisings against autocratic regimes in West Asia and Northern Africa (Arabian Peninsula, the Maghreb and possibly, a part of the Levant ). Yet, unlike Tunisian revolution or Egyptian revolution against Mubarak regime, the developments in Syria has been quite violent and have now taken the form of a bloody civil war.  After allegation of use of chemical weapon by government forces, a limited, surgical strike to destroy it's stock of chemical weapon  seemed reasonable enough and Obama seemed on the verge of ordering it but then retracted from the position. If this is an unprecedented situation , so is Russia and China's aggressive opposition to it. A weak global economy and probability of an attack on Syria further raising fuel  price may have factored in Obama's change of decision but Russia's opposition  and Putin's message to American people through an article in a leading newspaper is uncommon, perhaps marking a paradigm shift in global politics.

What makes Syrian Crisis different from other recent upheavals in the region is the fact that it is in essence a very complex conflict involving various factors with the Shia and Sunni sectarianism acting only as the common denominators as well motivating sentiments. However, viewing the conflict only as Shia-Sunni conflict, oversimplifies the situation. Fault lines in the region are based not just on religious doctrines but also on racial,ethnic, nationalistic and even secular ideologies. History of last 1400 years, reveals animosity between the two sects but it does not provide us with evidence of Shia-Sunni conflict taking such a massive proportion. The current animosity stems from the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The Iranian Shia supreme leader, Ayotallah Khomeini 's statement on his eagerness to export revolutions to neighboring countries alarmed the Arab states. Apart from being a non-Arab state, Iran also was and is seen as a Shia state capable of fomenting trouble in their regions through minority Shia populations.
 
Historically, this region has seen antagonism not just between religious sects but also tribes,clans race and ethnicity  such as those between Arabs vs Iranians vs Kurds vs Turks to name a few. The Iran-Iraq war of the 80's saw most of the Arab countries in the peninsula cut off ties with Iran and assist Iraq which also received military aid from the West and the US. The only Arab country to ally itself with Iran was Syria whose ruling class belong to the Alawite sect of Shia Islam . But more importantly, Syria was apprehensive of Saddam Hussein's designs and it had major stake in Lebanon where Iran had considerable influence over the militias involved in a civil war. Despite Cold War the mutual hostility didn't escalate to large-scale conflicts because of several reasons including shared hatred for Israel, local insurgencies (Kurdish militants were equal threats to Iraq,Turkey,Iran ) but most likely it was because all of the players were equally matched militarily, making it unlikely for any one side to prevail in a larger conflict.

However, the Iraq invasion upset the apple cart completely. Over the last two decade, two simultaneous processes have been in motion - Iran's nuclear program and spread of Salafist thought among Sunni Muslims. The Western media often associate Salafis only with radicals and terrorist groups such as Al- Qaida but the fact is that only a minuscule section of the group can be called terrorists and they are said to adhere to a more radical school called Qutbism. . Moreover, a few ideas from Salafi school may have influenced global Sunni population even if they are now unaware of it. But comparatively, it has far more influence in Saudi Arabia which is the leader of the Sunni Arab world. The Salafi view places Shias much outside the Muslim fold and this could act as a spark to barrels of gunpowder (or highly inflammable oil) that currently the region sits on . [Update: Mass execution of Shias by ISIS vindicates this view, but unfortunately it is not over yet]

Though the global Shia population within Muslim community constitutes less than 20%, their representation in the West Asia and Armenia is around 30% mostly concentrated in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain.  Despite being a minority, the military strength makes up for the lack in numbers. Iran, the only country in the region to possess at least a rudimentary knowledge required to create nuclear weapons (apart from Israel,of course) is also the only Shiite theocracy in the world. Syria may be a Sunni majority  but the ruling elite belong to the Alawite sect of Shia Islam (however, Syria is a secular state, so it is more  of a strategic alliance than sectarian). Destabilization of Iraq (a Shia majority country ruled by Sunni leaders) led to emergence of several militant groups, also acting as proxies for regional powers. While the Sunni groups were backed by Saudi Arabia, Iraqi Shia militias levitated towards Iran. Caught in a game of shifting loyalties, complex sectarianism, ethnic strife and tribal warfare, the US and all parties involved have taken turns training militant groups. Even Israel was/is a participant, training Kurdish militants.

The realignment of political powers in the region in the last decade have included not only nation-states but also non-state entities and splinter groups. Arguably, the biggest guerrilla force in the world, the Hezbollah had always been an Iranian proxy, in the West Bank, Hamas has been beneficiary of large funds when it's traditional beneficiaries backed out. But Iraq is an asset that the US served to Iran on a platter because of the hugely foolish decision of G.W. Bush. For majority of Iraqi Shias, Iran was a natural ally, even civilian government installed now show strong inclination towards the Iran axis which now includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and non-state entities such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi Shia insurgent groups. The emergence of Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon Axis can also attributed to Cold War politics and the aftermath. As Soviet Union allies, Iran and Syria have had gained much in terms of military. After the collapse of Soviet Union, Russia and China have been arming and training their respective troops.
    
But more importantly,the Sunni Arab states have been existing as client state of the US and the West, their military capability is severely restricted, possessing only those weapons that the US may allow them to possess, of course after Israeli approval. Iran or its allies never had to face a similar handicap. While Russia or China may not have handed over every weapon Iran had asked for, they have nonetheless been provided much better weaponry and training. The greatest irony of all is that though US has always supported Sunni regimes, including that of Saddam Hussein, by invading and destabilizing Iraq, it gave birth to numerous radical Sunni and Shia militant groups. While Sunni groups were supported by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, the Shia militant groups virtually fell into the lap of Iran. The Wikileaks cables revealing Saudi Arabia, Jordan,Bahrain, UAE and Egypt have been repeatedly calling for preemptive strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities and secretive alliance between Arabs and Israel  indicates the insecurity and hostility between Iran and Arabs. Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition has been infiltrated in huge numbers by the jihadi elements, creating fear of Al Qaida affiliated militants taking over the country

On charges of Syrian regime having used chemical weapon on it's own population, the US and France were eager to punish Al-Assad and his regime and would have carried it out had there not been so much opposition by people across the world. The Syrian crisis had already triggered a surge in oil prices affecting the already global market, there was a fear that an attack on Syria would skyrocket oil prices. This may be one of the reasons behind widespread disapproval of any attack on Syria. There was hardly a murmur of dissent when NATO intervened in Libya to ensure a no-fly zone was established which led to Gaddafi's . ouster and execution. Interestingly, Israel had already carried out four air strikes on Syria this year the last one being in July which targeted Syria's newly acquired advanced anti-ship cruise missiles from Russia.

Obama's initial hesitation and subsequent volte face suggests there may have been indication of Iran taking a more aggressive stance,and possible mobilization of the new formation, in case of US intervention. One way or the other, the Syrian crisis marks a turning point in world history. For the first time since the Cold War, the US hegemony has been openly challenged  and forced to take a step back. The first unilateral decision the US took under the leadership of GW Bush has now left it in a situation from which Obama has been unable salvage much. If the US expects a longer ,costlier war then most likely it expects Iranian proxies to be involved .


Update 09-25-2013
According to latest news reports there has been a thaw in the relationship between the USA and Iran after the newly elected President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, a  moderate, issued conciliatory statements calling the US, "a great nation". That is certainly a long way from "Great Satan" that Iranian spiritual heads have often used in reference to the US.

Posted By danish Ahmed 5:52 AM

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Emperor's New Pagdi

The hype, hoopla and media glare around Narendra Modi's coronation as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, seems much like a real-time adaptation of Hans Christen Anderson's short story, The Emperor's New Clothes, but not in a stage drama but in real life.  It is indeed a lofty spot, virtually condensing the power of the entire opposition in one person. So one may expect that the part anointing it's prime ministerial candidate would have number of seats in the Lok Sabha, closer to that of the ruling dispensation and have presence throughout the country. Even to command a simple majority in the People's House a party needs support of at least 272 representatives. However, the BJP actually has 117 seats in the Lok Sabha. Even with all its existing allies,it barely manages to reach even half of the numbers of seats required to command a simple majority !

Then there is the question of pan-India support a PM aspirant and the party should command. In a highly heterogeneous, multicultural and pluralist nation like India, it is imperative that the leader of the nation enjoy support from all communities  and groups which of course  can be verified by looking at the number of seats the party hold across the length and breadth of country. How does Modi's BJP now fare in different parts of the country ?

South India -  In the South, Karntaka is the only state which has seen BJP win seats (has received severe drubbing in Assembly election but I am taking into account Lok Sabha seats only), it draws blank in populous states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

North East - Barring 4 seats in Assam, the party has not won a single seat in any of the other six states of the region. 

East - Except for Darjeeling  held by Jaswant Singh, (not on good terms with the Sangh) the BJP is as conspicuous by its absence in West Bengal and  in Odisha it has been wiped out by its erstwhile ally the BJD. What remains to be seen is, if the JD(U) does the same thing in Bihar or actually becomes the victim. 

North - One might suppose, that the saffron brigade is popular in the North, except Jammu and Kashmir but it has not won a single seat in Delhi and Haryana. It is doing relatively well in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand  but is no longer a major player in UP.wich used to be its bastion.

The BJP draws bulk of its power from the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Undoubtedly. both Gujarat and Madya Pradesh are big states but India is bigger still !  A motley collection 
of parties like the Left Front, SP,JD(U),TMC, BJD can easily cobble up a number greater than that of BJP seats in Lok Sabha now but does that mean they should declare a Prime Ministerial candidate too ?  And I  am not taking into account parties like DMK, AIDMK, BSP,TDP and other regional parties which haven't indicated willingness to join the NDA but there is a low probability. 

The best thing about Indian elections is that  the results are notoriously unpredictable. I won't be as arrogant to say if the equations and seat tally would remain same. But with the current tally of seats and the fact that there are nearly a dozen of states from where BJP hasn't won a single seat, shouldn't the BJP feel embarrassed making such an announcement ? Not really,denial and self-deception are inbuilt defense mechanism of our psyche usually preventing us from falling to depression and despair but in case of over-ambitiousness, it can make us imagine things that are not really there. In BJP's case, the popularity of Modi among the urban middle class, mostly on social media and 24x7 TV news (not even in print media) may have blinded it to the fact that social media represents only a section of a segment of the voter population.In fact some of the most vocal fanboys of Modi are not even based in India. If the number of one's Twitter following reflected eligibility to take the top job ten Shashi  Tharoor should have been Indian Prime Minister few years back (and me, a corporator if not the mayor of my city  :P)

Of course, I haven't said anything which hasn't been said before,so isn't the BJP leadership aware or are they being  over-optimistic ?
The fact  is that Modi enjoys tremendous support among the cadres and the mother organization of the Sangh Parivar- The RSS. As a matter of fact, the loyalty of his acolytes is so great that he has been considered by part of media as more popular than LK Advani or even AB Vajpayee ever were. However, I am inclined to take this with a pinch of realism, Modi's main propaganda platform, the social media, did not exist during Vajpayee's. Further, wind has it that , given track-record of Modi's autocratic ways , senior national leaders are not eager find themselves in a situation with Modi  in absolute power. Sure enough, the senior leaders did not show much enthusiasm during the press conference.

In the beginning I have given the analogy of the short story, "Emperor's New Clothes" but a closer analogy to the ceremony would be that of a gathering of family members and relatives in honor of a senile but billionaire heir-less great grand-uncle whose monetary assistance  helps the family/clan to survive. Since everyone in the room depends on the old man's wealth, everyone just humors him along, regardless of whether his statements make sense or not!  Similarly , Narendra Modi may enjoy huge fan following but that hardly reflects  number of Lok Sabha seats it can capture, but any BJP leader pointing out this flaw in thinking is likely to come under vicious attack from the party's workers as LK Advani appears to have learnt. But that doesn't change the fact that currently there is very little reason to present Modi as "PM-in-waiting", unless of course, they are just feeding Modi's king-size ego, especially when he appears to be in a power trip. Megalomania is not much different from senility   

Posted By danish Ahmed 1:30 AM

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Juvenile Delinquent Or Psychopath Gone Lucky ?

The Juvenile Board’s decision of sending one of the key accused in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, to a reform house for 3 years, has left overwhelming majority of Indians outraged. The brutality, with which the victim was violated shook the nation's conscience, with this juvenile being the most violent of all, according to media reports. One cannot imagine how the family members of the victim would feel to first having seen the intense agony one's daughter goes through and then see the perpetrator go to a reform home for 3 years. In this case, justice itself becomes casualty as the outcome has been determined not by the merit or demerit of the case but by a mere technicality.

Posted By danish Ahmed 7:07 AM

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Illogic Of Right-Wing Rhetoric

I have often wondered if there is a scientific answer as to why right-wing politician and their supporters have a standard of behavioral responses Those Left in the Center would agree that right wing rhetoric is  mostly emotive to the point of aggression, reactionism, traditionalism and many more things but the common thread in all of these is the gross disregard of the  rules of logic even when participating in discourses and debates.
to any given situation. 

If you don't belong to the Right, you already know what I am talking about ;) if you are a rightist ... well, you will not believe it anyway! You are always so "right" !

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:11 AM

Sunday, June 30, 2013

India's Turn In Afghan Chessboard

The pieces have been re-positioned on the Afghanistan chessboard, there are too many indications that a new round of game may have already started.  NATO handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces signaled the transition but Taliban setting up its “embassy/office” in Qatar and US attempt at having direct talks with Taliban representatives has left many state actors  apprehensive.  The US move does indicate the fact that the US and its Western allies are determined about quitting Afghanistan. It eerily reminds one of an identical situation in the region when Soviet forces withdrew and Afghanistan plunged into a bloody civil war. If US exit can be a cause of concern for India, it may also offer a window of opportunity to reshape its Afghanistan policy maturely.  This time it remains to be seen what approach Pakistan would take in the rapidly changing scenario. Most likely, Pakistan would like to maintain its military domination to consolidate its geostrategic depth, a core element of its defense policy. But this time, it wouldn't be as easy.

Posted By danish Ahmed 5:30 PM

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jungle Follows Its Law, Beasts Among Us Don't


The expression law of the jungle is often used to describe the unjust, chaotic world of violence where the weak perish and the stronger survive and thrive. It particularly refers to what happens in the wild, every animal has to kill something smaller than itself to survive. My favorite contemporary Indian author Devdutt Pattnaik uses  the Sanskrit phrase matsya nayaya to describe this, his illustration makes the concept a lot more clear to understand.  In human society this phrase is used mostly pejoratively to mean absence of law from the society. Yet recent event forces one to question if it at all we can condemn it anymore.


Posted By danish Ahmed 12:00 AM

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Herding Proles The Only Hope ?


Recently, Chetan Bhagat published an Open Letter to Indian Change Seekers on his Times of India column which I found quite out of sync with reality and to be brutally honest, completely absurd and insensitive if not diabolic. I did comment there but character limit prevented me to actually refute his "theory" though I had written it. What I ended up doing is criticizing without giving appropriate reasons which is not very mature thing to do. Further, attacking a person instead of his argument violates the rules of rhetorical logic so I am not even writing a reply,only refuting his argument.

Posted By danish Ahmed 2:00 AM

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook Takes The Next Step With Graph Search #in

Graph Search Icon
Few hours back Facebook introduced Graph Search which could truly be the biggest innovation Facebook has introduced since its inception. Graph Search will provide a unique way to find information on people, places, photos etc. What excites me is the fact that it doesn't seem to challenge Google in a big way. Of course, the feature was introduced only few hours back and is not available to general users so it may be too early to make such statements but it is the respective motto of both the Internet giants that suggests it. While Google has always said its aim is to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful" Facebook says its mission is to make the world more open and connected. Of course neither is being truthful but the fact remains that Google has always wanted to organize information, Facebook wants to connect people, their interests, places.

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:00 AM

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Introspection On Gender-Equality In India

The mindset has to change,this has been repeated almost ritualistically after the heinous crime in Delhi that has left the nation ashamed. But how does it begin ? The underlying cause is the growing intolerance of independent women among a large section of people. From passing lewd comments,harassment in public place/transport/at work, the obnoxious custom of dowry, domestic violence and instances of honor killings are some of the other misdeeds and offenses arising out of the this misogynistic mindset prevalent which in worst cases leads to rape and brutalization of women. To ensure that such gruesome acts are never repeated it is necessary to find out the reason for the intolerance and a feasible solution to end it.

Posted By danish Ahmed 1:30 AM