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Saraswati Ignored: Cause or Effect of Indian Decline

October 21, 2012 4 comments

Why are there so few temples to Brahma and Saraswati? Why is the worship of Brahma and Saraswati, divinities of creation and creativity, so rare and hesitant?.

Saraswati sits on the bank of a river, holds a book and beads, and plays music on Veena, as a peacock looks on, in a painting by Raja Ravi Varma  |  Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906); currently housed at the English: Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat.

Saraswati sits on the bank of a river, holds a book and beads, and plays music on Veena, as a peacock looks on, in a painting by Raja Ravi Varma | Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906); currently housed at the English: Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat.

Among all the Indian festivals, celebration of Brahma and Saraswati have clearly taken a back seat. On and off, this question has piqued me for twenty years now.

Was the focus on Lakshmi and Durga, goddesses of war and wealth, a response to historical necessity or a cause of the decline?

From a country that Genghis Khan did not dare to attack, to a country that finally succumbed even to barbarian hordes from the West, is steep fall.

Was India rising to the challenge – or oblivious of its decline?

India’s ignorance today may make us believe that India’s moral decline may be the answer. But, a 1000-year cyclical perspective may yield the opposite answer – war and wealth became a more important in response to Asuric challenge.

Saraswati was concentrated in temples, which were hugely funded – and the rest of the population started focusing on war and wealth.

The Goddess of learning, Saraswati, is one of the ancient deities in the Hindu pantheon. Yet, today, apart from the one obligatory puja every year, she’s largely forgotten,” remarks noted Bharatanatyam exponent Sandhya Purecha, when we catch her on the sidelines of a rehearsal for a Navratri special ballet invoking the Goddess Mahalakshmi at her Central Mumbai dance school.

When we point out that her ballet too invokes Lakshmi, and not Saraswati, she laughs, “In an era when everyone is in a mad rush chasing money, people feel that the blessing of the Goddess of Wealth is all that matters. Perhaps they feel that once you have money, all else will follow.”

She says that there are many beautiful compositions in the Puranas praising Saraswati. “But if not as the wealth-showering Devi, even audiences want to see a goddess as a slayer of demons armed to the teeth, like Durga.” According to Purecha, this is merely a projection of the way society sees women. “If she brings dowry or other material gifts, she gets respect. But if she wants her due otherwise, she has to fight. A mellow woman is often disregarded. Perhaps that’s why, Saraswati, in her white raiments, lost in the notes of her veena, does not have the same resonance as other fiery Goddesses.”

Radheshyam Tiwari, a doctorate in Hindu mythology from Benares, also laments this change. “Knowledge, wisdom and scholarly pursuit were always treated with utmost regard. They were not seen as a means to an end, but as something that people pursued with devotion for the love of it,” he points out.

He also feels that people are uncomfortable talking about Saraswati’s life because of the Matsya Purana. “According to the text, once Brahma created Satarupa (another name of Saraswati) from his own body, he became enamoured by her. To avoid his amorous gaze, she kept shifting, and Brahma created five heads to see her all the time. Finally, she gave in and became his consort. The questions this will raise about incest may be a reason why Saraswati is kept on the margins.”

Tiwari also talks about how Saraswati worship endured the rise and spread of both Buddhism and Jainism. “As Buddhism moved from its earlier Theravada school to Mahayana, many elements from Hinduism were also adopted. In fact, if you see some of the early Buddhist mandalas, you come upon Goddess Saraswati in the south-west of the innermost circle, between Brahma and Vishnu, along with various divinities of Mahayana Buddhism,” he explains. “As the Mahayana Buddhist texts went to Nepal, Tibet, Java, China and eventually Japan, the Goddess finds mention in Buddhist imagery there too. For example in Tibet, she is called Vajra-Sarasvati and wields a thunderbolt. In Japan, she becomes the Goddess Dai-Ben-Zai-Ten or The Great Divinity of Reasoning Faculty.”

While admitting that scriptures, too, talk far more about other Goddesses compared to Saraswati, Hindu religion expert and the father of the iconic Hindu almanac Kalnirnay, Jayraj Salgaonkar, points out how the Goddess almost stops mattering after the first stage of life, brahmacharya. “Later on, from grihastha (family), vanprastha (retired) and sanyas (renunciation), all that people think of is Lakshmi.”

Scoffing at the priorities of today’s materialist world, he underlines how even Adi Shankaracharya, who revived Hinduism around 800 AD, installed the Goddess Saraswati (or Sharada) at the first mutt he established in Sringeri, Karnataka.

Octagenarian Salgaonkar blames patriarchy for the way even Lakshmi is depicted. “It sounds very nice to hear when men talk of their wives as Lakshmi. But even in early Raja Ravi Varma paintings you can see how Lakshmi’s feet are kept well-hidden. Even now people believe that if her feet are free, Lakshmi will move, taking all the prosperity along. This idea came from the desire of men to control women.”

Both Tiwari and Purecha too insist that the “spousification” of Goddesses was “a clever, latter-day masculine ploy” to link the greatness of the Goddesses to their spouses. “In the process, many of our ancient Goddesses of Fertility and Strength were pushed aside to make way for the mainstreaming of the spouses of the triumvirate — Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh,” says Tiwari.

In parting, Purecha nails it: “Women don’t want to be treated like Goddesses and kept on a pedestal, or be treated like objects of lust. When that (the change) happens, our Goddesses will also be unshackled from this masculine paradigm and we will perhaps begin giving Saraswati her place again.”

via Why saraswati is ignored – Lifestyle – DNA.


 

Where Do Terrorists Get Their Plastic Explosives from?

October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Tracing back the sources of explosives is muddied by serious and deliberate leakages and clandestine sales.

US, the world's largest arms' exporter, spreads the fertilizer of arms and ammuninution, which creates conflicts - and then US steps in to resolve these conflicts  |  Cartoon by Polyp.

US, the world’s largest arms’ exporter, spreads the fertilizer of arms and ammuninution, which creates conflicts – and then US steps in to resolve these conflicts | Cartoon by Polyp.

Boom & Explosions

Ordinary gunpowder, is no longer a high-tech secret. Mix diesel, common nitrate fertilizer and sulfur, all commonly available items, and you get gunpowder.

Things were different a hundred years ago. India was the largest producer of this high tech product – and the British Empire rested on its ability to exclusively access Indian production of gunpowder elements. Within India, gunpowder was commonly available – and manufactured in the private sector, without State control.

In the last 50 years, we have seen a new explosive. Plastic explosive. Like wet clay or plasticine in texture, and stable, it has much more explosive power compared to ordinary gunpowder. Many terrorist incidents in India reported use of plastic explosives. An item with restricted access and limited manufacture, usage of plastic explosive usually signifies State involvement.

Known by various names like C4, Semtex (a mix of RDX & PETN),  visual identification is easy. C4 leaves off-white traces on the debris and Semtex has a tell-tale brick-red color.

Agents and double agents  |  Cartoon by by Dave Coverly; 31 May, 2012

Agents and double agents | Cartoon by by Dave Coverly; 31 May, 2012

There Goes The Neighborhood

We had David Coleman Headley, a CIA-DEA American agent, who was deeply involved in the Mumbai attacks. US has more troops in Asia than other part of the world – except Europe. While Europe has a 500-year history of wars, to justify this US army role, where is the need in Asia?

Except the imposition of Pax Americana?

US is today at war with Pakistan – next door to India. After deluding Pakistan for 50 years, US the ally has started war with Pakistan. Neither US nor Pakistan has admitted they are at war – yet American drones have been killing Pakistanis for years now.

In Pakistan, this class of explosives are made by Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF)  and Wah Nobel, a 1962-joint venture between Almisehal (Saudi Arabia), Saab (Sweden) and Pakistan Ordnance Factories.

Making The Wheels Go Round

US is the world’s largest arms producer and exporter. These clandestine sales and furtive supplies have been done by arms agents like Viktor Bout or Wilson.

NOTHING about Edwin P. Wilson was quite as it appeared. If you met him at an airport—en route to Geneva, London, New York, on joking terms with the Concorde stewardesses—he looked like any other globetrotting businessman. In fact, he was a spy.

His chief business in the 1970s was shipping arms to Libya, then under Western sanctions. He didn’t advertise it. But then again, he claimed later, it wasn’t what it seemed. He sold Muammar Qaddafi firearms. But that was done to “buddy up” to him, to try to use him like an asset. He offered him plans for making a nuclear bomb, but only to find out how Libya’s own bomb-making was going. The plans were bogus anyway. He recruited ex-Green Berets to train Qaddafi’s intelligence officers, and to teach them to make bombs disguised as bedside lamps and radios. He earned $1m a year from that, but also learned the officers’ identities. It was all done with CIA backing. These were patriotic acts.

Most spectacularly—and disastrously for his cover—in 1977 he shipped to Libya 20 tons of C4 plastic explosives. This was almost the whole of America’s stockpile, flown out of Houston in a DC-8 charter in barrels marked “oil-drilling mud”. Mr Wilson felt no qualms about it. He didn’t believe it had been used for terrorism. He had sent it to ingratiate himself and to get intelligence. The CIA, he said, knew all about it. But the CIA denied it.

He worked actively for the CIA for 15 years, destabilising European labour unions by using anything—Corsican mobsters, plagues of cockroaches—and setting up his front companies. The work was “a hell of a satisfaction” to him. He left, officially, in 1971, but only for Task Force 157 of the Office of Naval Intelligence, another super-secret outfit.

Then, in 1976, he went “freelance”. The CIA contacts, and all the front companies, continued—sending arms to Angola and boats to the Congo, bringing intelligence back—right up to the moment when he stood in a federal court, in 1983, accused among other things of shipping the explosives and sending the guns to Libya without a licence.

The third-highest CIA officer in the land declared then, in a sworn affidavit, that since 1971 the agency had had nothing to do with him. Not directly; not indirectly. Contacts zero.

The CIA’s story was that he had gone rogue. Deniability was part of the deal, of course. But it was sheer success that made him, in the end, “a little hot”. His front companies were also legitimate businesses, and they made real profits—all the more because his books were hardly audited. Asked once to itemise the cost of a trawler stuffed with surveillance gear, sold to the agency for $500,000, he quoted $250,000 for “product” and $250,000 for “service”. Fine and dandy. Kinglike, and worth $23m, he rollicked over a 2,500-acre estate at Mount Airy in Virginia, lavishing jewels on his girlfriends, entertaining congressmen and generals to picnics and hunting parties.

Not bad for a poor farm boy from Idaho. There were “very, very nice” villas, with Pakistani houseboys, in Malta and in Tripoli,

His revenge for his framing came almost too late. In 2003 his conviction for the explosives-shipping was overturned because, wrote the judge, the government had lied. Far from no contacts with the CIA between 1971 and 1978, there had been at least 80. Several ran intriguingly “parallel” to the illegal acts he had been charged with. The next year he was released, white-haired at 76, fighting fit and pumped up with his own righteousness, to spend the rest of his days trying to clear his name.

He knew that would be a tough sell. For many he would always be a traitor and a terrorist as well as an amoral profiteer.

via Edwin P. Wilson | The Economist.

Af-Pak: Is Something Big Cooking?

October 17, 2012 4 comments

Will the first fifteen days of October go down in history as that which changed 21st century?

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with 'spin'  |  Cartoon on Oct  15  2012  titled Unraveling  by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Between policy and propaganda; trying to link reality with ‘spin’ | Cartoon on Oct 15 2012 titled Unraveling by Bob Gorrell; source & courtesy – cagle.com

The last 15 days  has seen some curious diplomacy that spilled over into the public domain.

First was China ratcheting up hostility with Japan over some silly islands – which had some value in the past. And supposedly some value in the future. For now, there is a chance of hostilities (not war) between Japan and China.

Question: Why did China decide to take on the Japan – when it could have more easily taken on Vietnam, Philippines? Maybe even India.

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan  |  Cartoon on Oct  14  2012  titled Triumph of Taliban  by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy - cagle.com

What we have finally after 25 years of American intervention in Afghanistan | Cartoon on Oct 14 2012 titled Triumph of Taliban by Marian Kamensky; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Two. There was Putin’s non-visit to Pakistan for a quadrilateral summit (Oct 2-3) between Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Pakistan visit was to be followed with an India visit by Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defence Minister, on October 4, 2012 – which too was postponed.

In the meantime, Pakistan’s Army Chief, Ashfaq Kayani landed in Moscow. Even as Kayani was in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov was in Pakistan.

Three: In the rest of world, momentous things were happening. Venezuela, which today has bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, has re-elected Hugo Chavez as its President. This will possibly deeply affect global oil equations. Meanwhile, the West continued with its Middle East war plans against Syria and Iran.

Could the answer to this puzzle be Afghanistan?

Why is Afghanistan so important? The Soviet Union spent billions on the Afghan invasion – and the US has spent trillions. The Afghan War is already the longest war the US has fought.

Three reasons why Afghanistan is important.

Why have peace, when you can have war?  |  Cartoon by Cameron Cardow  on Oct  11  2012  titled Opportunity; source & courtesy - cagle.com

Why have peace, when you can have war? | Cartoon by Cameron Cardow on Oct 11 2012 titled Opportunity; source & courtesy – cagle.com

Oil. Oil. Oil.

But Afghanistan has no oil.

The oil is in Central Asia and Russia.

While Asian oil consumption is increasing, Western oil consumption is expected to slightly decline. Shale oil in US, North Sea oil in Europe are likely to account for   increasing share of Western production and consumption. Brazil, Canada, Venezuela can’t ship more oil to US and Europe in the next twenty years. China, India, Japan and Korea are dependent on oil imports. Oil consumption in these markets is growing – unlike the West.

In which case, the Central Asian, Latin American and Russian oil exports will move towards Asia.

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. |  Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch - on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy - cagle.com

While Obama promised one thing, he did another. No different from other US President. | Cartoon titled President Strangelove By RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch – on 4/10/2012 12:00:00 AM; source & courtesy – cagle.com

India’s stakes are really high in Afghanistan, especially once the Western troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What are the likely scenarios that may develop in Afghanistan once the foreign troops leave that country?

With India getting closer to the US, and building on its historic ties with Russia, there are even more opportunities for India, US and Russia to collaborate in stabilising Afghanistan.

India should help Afghanistan become the gateway between South and Central Asia. India is already building close ties with the Central Asian countries, especially given the rising demand for oil and natural gas in India. The historic TAPI gas pipeline, when completed, will bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, which could be a game-changer for the entire region.

via India’s options in the Afghanistan end-game | Russia & India Report.

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster  |  Cartoon on Oct  16  2012  titled Mind Over Monster  by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy - cagle.com

From Reagan to Obama, from Iran to Afghanistan, how US interventions have handcrafted the Islamic monster | Cartoon on Oct 16 2012 titled Mind Over Monster by Cal Grondahl; source & courtesy – cagle.com

With the Middle East in a state of permanent state of instability, India would like to have greater diversity in supply sources. This where the Russian oil comes in.

India is an energy deficient country and Russia has an energy surplus and therefore, a mutual interest lies in this sector. India’s policy makers are trying to promote energy cooperation based on political understanding. The Indian side feels that there is a clear compatibility between India’s needs and Russia’s resources. The Indian side is adopting a policy to implement the experience of Sakhalin-1 to other oilfields in Russia.

The Indian side feels that though these two countries are not geographically contiguous it is not a hindrance for cooperation since the international oil and gas trade is not based on contiguity. India’s interest in the Russian energy sector has already been proved by the country’s investment in Sakhalin-1. While public sector energy companies from India have already made considerable investments in Russia, now India is also promoting its private sector companies for investments in downstream petroleum units in Russia in return for a stake in petroleum refineries there. India has proposed an exploration venture with Russian gas majors Gazprom and Rosneft and sought a stake in the Sakhalin-III oil and gas project in the Far East. The Indian side has proposed joint venture to work on gas liquefactions projects in Russian offshore fields for Shipment to India. Indian companies are being welcomed due to Indo-Russian strong strategic ties.

India is also looking for options for transporting Russian crude to India through a pipeline link from Xinjiang to India. But this depends on a joint agreement between Russia-Kazakhstan-China-India. The proposal is such, where crude from Russia could be transported via 1,240 kilometre-long pipeline from Atasu in northwest Kazakhstan to China’s Xinjiang province. Depending on the robustness of multilateral initiatives, a pipeline could be constructed to connect China’s Xinjiang province to India. This pipeline could enter the Xinjiang province in China at Altai, climb the Tian Shan Mountains and extend southward to the Kunlun Mountains in India.

India’s ONGC has proposed another energy highway to construct a Russia-China-India (RCI) pipeline. The RCI is supposed to stretch from Russia through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, to Kashgar in Chinese Xinjiang. It will enter India via Laddakh, crossing the Siachen glaciers and the India-China Line of Control or alternatively through Himachal Pradesh to supply gas to Northern India. According to ONGC (India) officials, the economic and technical aspects of the proposal remain undetermined. The proposed pipeline would extend over an extremely long stretch of varied terrain (construction of the pipeline may cost somewhere up to $15 Billion, or slightly less if connected through already operating pipelines).

The Russia’s energy strategy towards Asia clearly mentions India as one of the important target countries along with Japan, China, and Korea. India is carefully taking note of Russia’s hydrocarbon vision, as now India wants to have a strong presence in Russia’s massive energy sector that can help ensure India’s vital energy security. All these indicate that both the nations can expand the cooperation in the energy sector too as they did in the defence sector. Amidst all these developments there is a hope that India-Russia energy cooperation will scale towards new heights.

via Energy cooperation between India and Russia: Policy and approach | Russia & India Report.

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports  |  Cartoon dated Sep  19  2012  titled Agitator  by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy - cagle.com

For too long, India has been dependent on a unstable Middle East for oil imports | Cartoon dated Sep 19 2012 titled Agitator by Arend van Dam; source & courtesy – cagle.com

In the meantime, Pakistan is seeing a conflict between US Army and Pakistani Army. Facing an unprecedented barrage of drone attacks from US, a ‘so-called’ ally, Pakistan’s civilian population is paying a heavy price.

Is the United States starting a low-intensity war against Pakistan? The signs look ominous. The relentless drone attacks through the recent months are destabilizing Pakistan’s tribal areas, especially the areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan. The US’ excuse is that the drones are hunting down the militants belonging to the so-called Haqqani group. But they are causing a lot of civilian casualties so much so that the United Nations officials begin to wonder if these wanton killings would constitute ‘war crimes’.

Pakistan government keeps protesting to the US about the violation of its territorial integrity but the US ignores the demarches and continues with the drone attacks.

The US would know that the drone attacks do not provide the conducive setting for a normalization of the US-Pakistan relationship. Yet, it is not prepared to give up the drone attacks. There seems to a game plan to systematically destabilize the Waziristan area and to provoke the Pakistani military leadership.

Meanwhile, there has been a concerted attack by assorted militants of dubious backgrounds on Pakistani troops from across the border in Afghanistan. Exactly who they are or who are their mentors no one knows. In a cross-border strike on Monday, the militants used extremely brutal method to behead Pakistani soldiers. Evidently, they were making a point – showing their thumbs up at the Pakistani military leadership.

To add to the tensions, for the first time, the militants have publicly admitted that they do enjoy ‘safe haven’ on Afghan soil. This is something Pakistan has hinted at in recent period but it is now coming into the open. Again, they are taunting the Pakistani military leadership. The former US President George W. Bush would say, “Bring ‘em on!”

This is going to be a cat-and-mouse game. Pakistan is hunkering down and the US is losing patience. The decision in Washington seems to be to carry the war into Pakistani territory and incrementally inflict such unbearable losses that Pakistan finds it impossible to defy the US’ regional strategies.

Quite obviously, the US has concluded it has no alternatives but to step up the pressure and escalate tensions in a calibrated way. The US has been taken by surprise at Pakistan’s ‘strategic defiance’. The fact of the matter is that the present directions of Pakistani foreign policy hold the serious threat of undermining the US’ regional strategies with regard to permanent military presence in Central Asia, US’ containment strategy toward China (and Russia), projection of the NATO as a global security organization and of course the so-called New Silk Road Initiative.

The possibility that with Russian and/or Chinese participation, Pakistan might proceed with the Iran gas pipeline project infuriates the US to no end. Pakistan’s manifest enthusiasm for Russia’s participation in the TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India] gas pipeline project rubbishes the US’ expectations that American companies could secure lucrative energy contracts via involvement in the project. The US apprehends that during the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in September, the two countries may begin a qualitatively new level of relationship with major projects in the energy sector.

If that happens, the US’ containment strategy toward Iran also begins to unravel.

In sum, the US’ patience is wearing thin. The common wisdom in the international community, historically speaking, has been that the Pakistani elites with their comprador mentality might say a few hot words now and then but would ultimately be loyal foot soldiers of the US agenda. The basis of this supposition is that ultimately the class interests of the Pakistani elites would prevail as the crucial determinant of statecraft. Of course, the US has had to pick up the tab for the services rendered by Pakistan but that was only to be expected.

The US establishment has been attuned to this paradigm characteristic of the cold-war era. That is why the US establishment is shocked to see that the Pakistani elites (military leadership, in particular) are no longer what they were supposed to be – Washington’s hirelings serving the US’ global agenda.

Washington’s wrath will only increase in the coming months. We are witnessing the commencement of a US-inspired low-intensity war against Pakistan being waged by obscure militant groups based in ‘safe havens’ inside Afghanistan. Call it by whatever name one likes, but the project aims at breaking Pakistan’s strategic autonomy.

To be sure, Pakistan comprehends what is going on. But what are its policy options?

via “Bring ’em on!” – US tells Pakistan | Russia & India Report.

And guess what?

Indian paparazzi, chatteratti, twitteratti, bloggeratti, not to forget the literati, glitterati, were busy with ‘corruption-scandals’!


Change Idols – And Continue Withe Killings, Jails, Taxes, Wars

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

When it is so easy to kill in the name of democracy, peace, freedom, progress, why do the Taliban in Af-Pak region kill in the name of religion.

Unable to handle either Islam or Westernization, Pakistan's leadership should think of the people more - and less of the State | Cartoon on March 7, 2004 by Zahoor; source & courtesy - paksir.blogspot.in | Click for image.

Unable to handle either Islam or Westernization, Pakistan’s leadership should think of the people more – and less of the State | Cartoon on March 7, 2004 by Zahoor; source & courtesy – paksir.blogspot.in | Click for image.

The Malala incident is déjà vu times million. You have religious ‘extremists’ manifesting brutality; the ‘educated’ class calls the act heinous, the ‘intellectuals’ label the offenders as beasts, the ‘liberals’ protest against the ‘cowardly act’ and while everyone is condemning the act, they remain shushed about the root cause of it all: the ideology. Throughout the past every single person who has denounced the Taliban has acted as an apologetic, justifying the religious ideology and claiming how those ‘uneducated morons’ have ‘unfortunately’ misinterpreted the teachings of peace and tranquility – no, they haven’t, ‘unfortunately’.

It is so painfully amusing to note how the ‘moderates’ and armchair revolutionaries, would sit there with a glass of vine in their hands, uninhibitedly hanging out with the opposite sex, not having offered a prayer or fasted for ages, claiming how the Taliban – who lead their lives strictly according to the Shariah – are infesting their religion of harmony. The poor chaps are only doing what their scriptures – the ones that the pseudo intellectuals extol, or don’t have the cojones to criticize – tell them to do. When you are being taught, through the scriptures that are universally recognized by the followers as ‘authentic’, that all the non-believers or threats to the grandeur of your ideology should be killed, you will kill them, where is the misinterpretation here?

Finding slaves or slave girls, repulsive; physically assaulting women, disgusting; cutting off hands for theft, inhuman; stoning people to death, beastly and then venerating the ideology that permits this at the same time is hypocrisy of the very highest order. You sit there, criticize and mock the Taliban that follow your religion in its true form while you live in oblivion with your extremely palatable, but simultaneously blatantly fallacious, brand of religion and then claim that the Taliban are misinterpreting and misapprehending your ideology? Oh, the irony.

Let’s stop carving out quasi religions, or defending ideologies that we’ve all grown up blindly following as the truth. Let’s call a spade a spade instead and realize that at the end of the day as much as you might have a cardiac arrest admitting it, the root cause of religious extremism is: religion – especially in its raw crude form, which again is the only ‘authentic’ form.

The fact that groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi exist is because Islam is still traversing its Dark Ages while other religions have gone through Reformation, resulting in a collective Renaissance – and that too half a millennium ago.

Note the deep longing expression in both faces  |  Cartoon by - by Zahoor (May 2012); source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk  |  Click for image.

Note the deep longing expression in both faces | Cartoon by – by Zahoor (May 2012); source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk | Click for image.

via Don’t blame the Taliban | Pakistan Today | Latest news | Breaking news | Pakistan News | World news | Business | Sport and Multimedia.

How to stop religious extremism?

Promote Reformation, Renaissance.

Instead of killing people in the name of Mohammed or Jesus, kill in the name of Progress, Liberty, Freedom, Democracy, Communism.

Simple really.


1971 Bangladesh War: Details Less Known

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The India-Pakistan war of 1971 that has not been understood or explained. Properly, completely or even contextually.

An Indian Army machine gunner fires at Pakistani positions in a village across an open field, 1,500 yards inside the East Pakistan border at Dongarpara on Dec. 7, 1971. Both sides have taken trenchlines position, in an attempt to prevent each other’s moves. This picture was taken about 200-miles North East of Calcutta. |  Source: AP; Courtesy - RIR

An Indian Army machine gunner fires at Pakistani positions in a village across an open field, 1,500 yards inside the East Pakistan border at Dongarpara on Dec. 7, 1971. Both sides have taken trenchlines position, in an attempt to prevent each other’s moves. This picture was taken about 200-miles North East of Calcutta. | Source: AP; Courtesy – RIR

Along the lines of the Quicktake post in June-2011, here is a post that builds on 1971 War – particularly adding parts rarely told.

The 1971 war is considered to be modern India’s finest hour, in military terms. The clinical professionalism of the Indian army, navy and air force; a charismatic brass led by the legendary Sam Maneckshaw; and ceaseless international lobbying by the political leadership worked brilliantly to set up a famous victory. After two weeks of vicious land, air and sea battles, nearly 100,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered before India’s rampaging army, the largest such capitulation since General Paulus’ surrender at Stalingrad in 1943.

However, it could all have come unstuck without help from veto-wielding Moscow, with which New Delhi had the foresight to sign a security treaty in 1970.

As Nixon’s conversations with the wily Kissinger show, the forces arrayed against India were formidable. The Pakistani military was being bolstered by aircraft from Jordan, Iran, Turkey and France. Moral and military support was amply provided by the US, China and the UK.

Though not mentioned in the conversations here, the UAE sent in half a squadron of fighter aircraft and the Indonesians dispatched at least one naval vessel to fight alongside the Pakistani Navy. However, Russia’s entry thwarted a scenario that could have led to multiple pincer movements against India.

via 1971 War: How Russia sank Nixon’s gunboat diplomacy | Russia & India Report.

The Scientist Who Wasn’t A Spy

October 4, 2012 4 comments

Similar to the deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists, were the deaths of Indian nuclear scientists – Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.

For long

It has been whispered for more than four decades now, that the deaths of Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha were not accidents or medical incidents.

These were assassinations.

More recently, in the 90’s as India was struggling with a rampant West and a Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, a ‘scandal’ hit the ISRO. To an India struggling to develop cryogenic technologies for advanced rocketeering, this was a big set back.

More than 15 years later, these ‘spy’ scientists have been exonerated – but India’s space program was slowed down.

They began their scientific careers as the two bright stars of India’s space research programme . Later, of course, APJ Abdul Kalam‘s and S Nambi Narayanan‘s lives would go on separate trajectories and their stories would read very differently.

Kalam, who was working on the solid propulsion system in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), went on to become a much-loved President of India. S Nambi Narayanan, who was working on the liquid propulsion system — the technology was successfully used in many satellite missions — during the same period, was branded a spy and traitor, his brilliant scientific career dented forever even as he fought against an unjust system to prove his innocence.

Narayanan, along with six others, including his Isro colleague D Sasikumar, was arrested on November 30, 1994 on charges of espionage and for selling defence secrets to two Maldivian women, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan.

He spent 50 days in jail after that and lived in anxiety and ignominy until the Supreme Court cleared him of the charges in 1998. But even after that he never got to work in the prestigious cryogenics field at ISRO.

“They framed me in a false case, perhaps to destroy India’s space research program which was moving at a fast pace,” he says in a soft voice, caressing his long, grey beard that shines in the morning sun.  “The state police pressured me to say that even the Isro top brass was involved,” says Narayanan.

The case was later taken over by the CBI which found no evidence, and said it was fabricated. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court. But it may not be closure yet for Narayanan as the identity of key players who fuelled the case still remains in the dark. Also, the question remains unanswered whether it was merely an unfortunate chain of events or if there was a larger game plan.

Narayanan, personally, believes in the role of some external agencies which wanted to halt India’s cryogenic space research programme. “We can now put the jigsaw puzzle together if we can look at what was happening internationally at that time as India was cutting into a billion dollar space industry poised to take off with its cryogenic engine research,” he says.

Police inspector Vijayan, who registered the first case against the two Maldivian women for overstaying, and the vernacular media which printed verbatim what the state police said, were perhaps minor characters in a larger international conspiracy.

India, by the early 1990s, had developed its own solid and liquid fuel and was able to put its satellites in orbits up to 800km. But the ultimate challenge was to develop a cryogenic engine that would propel heavy rockets with payloads of more than three tonnes to the geo-synchronous orbit, 36,000 km away from earth. These satellites would then provide accurate geo-spatial images of earth and would usher in a path-breaking revolution in telecommunication and media.

Cryogenics, the science of extreme low temperatures, has been a tricky one for rocket scientists across the world. “At stake was a 300 billon dollar space research and applications industry which was in the hands of five nations — the US, France, China, Russia, and Japan. Almost every major country wanted to put its own satellites in the orbit and they could do it only with the help of these five nations,” says J Rajashekaran Nair, who authored Spies from Space: The ISRO Frame-up .

In 1992, India signed an agreement with Russia for transfer of technology to develop cryogenic-based fuels. The agreement was signed for Rs 235 crore, when the US and France were offering the same technology for Rs 950 crore and Rs 650 crore respectively. “Documents show that US president George Bush (Sr) wrote to Russia, raising objections against this agreement and even threatening to blacklist the country from the select-five club,” Rajashekaran says. Russia, under Boris Yelstin, succumbed to the pressure and denied cryogenic technology to India.

To bypass this monopoly, India signed a new agreement with Russia to fabricate four cryogenic engines after floating a global tender without a formal transfer of technology.’ Isro had already reached a consensus with Kerala High Tech Industries Limited (Keltch) which would have provided the cheapest tender for fabricating engines . But this did not happen as the spy scandal surfaced in late 1994.

“If you look at the people who were arrested in the case, they were all connected in some way in developing or procuring the technology . We cannot rule out foul play by an external agency,” says Rajashekaran. The plot, says Narayanan, was to tarnish the image of a premier research institution.

“How could we have leaked out cryogenic missile technology when we did not even possess one? But what we lost in the process was years of hard work to revolutionise our space research, and the credibility and morale of our scientific community. And on a personal level, it ruined the lives of six families who were dragged into the case for no fault of theirs.”

via The scientist who wasn’t a spy – Times Of India.

Death of Bhabha

For decades now, there has been a speculation about the death of Homi Bhabha. To my mind, till today, these were ‘conspiracy’ theories – of a weak and poor nation, which probably saw ghosts under their beds.

Bhabha died in mysterious air crash near Mont Blanc in Swiss Alps, when Air India Flight 101, a scheduled Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York, crashed on January 24th, 1966.

Officials investigated bombing that killed an Iranian scientist in January, 2010  |  Source: telegraph.co.uk

Officials investigated bombing that killed an Iranian scientist in January, 2010 | Source: telegraph.co.uk

The pilot did not report any problem with the aircraft, and was preparing to land at Geneva, when without any forewarning the plane crashed. All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed.

A subsequent enquiry concluded that it was pilot error, who had miscalculated his position – and started descent for Geneva, while still in the mountains, only to crash in to the Swiss Alps.

Some other individuals concluded otherwise.

Two deaths in two weeks

Bhabha’s death was 15 days after Shastri died at Tashkent – again by mysterious heart attack.  Before that in 1955, in another Air-India crash, it was suspected that Chou En Lai was the intended victim.

Strangely, Vikram Sarabhai, also died in his sleep at Kovalam, even though he suffered from no signs of any heart disease. Before Pokhran in 1974, Nehru claimed from 1958 onwards, that India could produce a nuclear weapon in a few years time.

Game of Death – In Persia

In an attempt to delay the alleged Iranian development of nuclear weapons, top nuclear scientists from Iran have been assassinated.

In total, 5 Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed since 2007. Another has been wounded and one more has disappeared. In addition, the head of Iran’s ballistic missile programme has been killed and a deputy defence minister disappeared.

via Iran nuclear scientist dead: mysterious recent deaths and disappearances – Telegraph.

Iran claims that this is the handiwork of Israel and USA.

Iran says the attacks are part of a covert campaign by Israel and the West to sabotage its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Iran has blamed Israel’s Mossad as well as the CIA and Britain’s MI6 for the assassinations, with support from some of Iran’s neighbors. The U.S. and Britain and denied involvement in the slayings. Israel has not commented.

The TV said closed circuit cameras in a Tehran street recorded one of the operations, providing clues for Iran’s intelligence agencies to identify and arrest the suspects.

One of the suspects, Behzad Abdoli, claimed that he received training in Israel, along with several others.

via Iran Scientist Assasinations: Confessions In Murder Of Nuclear Scientists Aired On State TV.

Not surprisingly, USA denies and Israel does not reject any involvement in these killings.

Like three previous Iranian scientists ambushed on their morning commute, the latest nuclear expert to die on his way to work was a victim of Israel’s Mossad, Western intelligence sources tell TIME. “Yeah, one more,” a senior Israeli official said with a smile. “I don’t feel sad for him.”

Wednesday’s attack followed the pattern of previous operations planned by Mossad and carried out over the past two years by Iranians trained and paid by Israel’s spy agency, according to intelligence sources. The targets were chosen from the ranks of scientists seen as crucial to Iran’s nuclear effort — the country’s top physicist, Majid Shahriari, was killed by a magnetized bomb in October 2010.

The similarities among the attacks were not lost on Iranian authorities, who immediately blamed both Israel and the U.S. for Wednesday’s attack. “The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists and is the work of the Zionists,” Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safar Ali Baratlou was quoted as saying by the Fars News Agency.

Israel is officially silent on the incident. However, its top spokesman for the country’s military posted this on Facebook: “Don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but for sure I am not shedding a tear.” The Obama Administration insisted it had nothing to do with the attack. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declared. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her denial of U.S. involvement “categorical.”

The contrast in responses reflects the good-cop, bad-cop roles the allies have assumed in the international effort to dissuade Iran from pushing ahead with its nuclear program. While Washington leads the global effort to press economic sanctions on Tehran, Israeli leaders frequently make thinly veiled suggestions that it may not be able to restrain itself from launching military action on Iran; they also never bother to deny a leading role in covert efforts to slow the nuclear program. In addition to the assassination campaign, Western intelligence sources say Israel was responsible for the massive explosion at a missile base outside Tehran in November.

via Who Killed an Iranian Nuclear Expert? Israel Isn’t Telling – TIME.

Most analysts believe as do

A lot of western security experts will say that the Iranians have some justification in their suspicions, at least as far as Israel is concerned. Mossad is expert at carrying out assassinations abroad and Israel has most to lose from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

How effective the assassinations have been remains unclear. Experts generally agree that the most effective covert strike was the deployment of the Stuxnet computer virus, which caused the uranium-enriching centrifuges at Natanz to spin out of control and then blow up. Stuxnet, probably developed in a joint mission by Israel, the United States and Britain, allegedly set back the Iranian nuclear programme by more than 12 months.

via Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist is a familiar story – Telegraph.


 

Inheritance Laws: A Theory Why India’s Muslims Lag

October 3, 2012 1 comment

How ancient marriage and inheritance customs shape modern society.

Hate The Muslim Woman cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Hate The Muslim Woman cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Anomalies

Why are the populations of Saudi Arabia (2.81 crores – 2011), Jordan (0.62 crores – 2011), Syria (o.23 crores – 2011), Iraq (3.3 crores – 2011), Iran (7.48 crores – 2011) so low?

Say, compared to other Islamic countries like Pakistan (17.7 crores – 2011), Bangladesh (15.1 crores – 2011), Indonesia (24.2 crores – 2011) – even Malaysia (28.9 crores – 2011).

To get a perspective, population of Maharashtra is 11.24 crores (2011).

Part of The Answer

The answer is late marriages in the Arab world-Middle East due to meher.

Since meher system is not strictly followed outside the Arab world-Middle East, early marriages are common. Marriage itself as an element is more common outside the Arab world-Middle East. Marriage in the Arab world-Middle East is a sign of rank and status.

Meher also drives the system of multiple wives – ‘If she is worth US$100,000, then I am good for at least US$75,000’ kind of thinking operates among women.

Dowry on the other hand helps to push-start the young to start a family – which improves population growth.

Could it be that the poor performance on economic and social indicators by India’s Muslims today doesn’t just reflect current disadvantage and deprivation, but also has far deeper historical, cultural, and religious roots?

Timur Kuran, an economics professor at Duke University, together with Anantdeep Singh, a researcher at the University of Southern California, in a new study have argued that the roots of Muslims’ lagging performance may be attributed to institutional differences that go back to the British colonial period. In doing so, they discount conventional explanations including the supposed “conservatism and insularity” of Islam, the supposed “demoralization” of the Muslim community after the fall of the Mughal empire, and the supposed animosity of the attitude of British colonizers against the Muslims and in favor of the Hindus.

Instead, Mr. Kuran and Mr. Singh argue that the real culprit is the Islamic inheritance system, which the British codified and enforced after coming to power in India. They suggest that the typical Muslim form of saving across generations, family trusts known as Waqfs, were not well suited for the pooling of capital across families, nor were they well suited to pursuing profit-making enterprises. What they were good at, though, was providing a safe way for an individual family to save its wealth over time.

By contrast, more flexible Hindu inheritance practices were much better suited to capital accumulation within a given family, the pooling of resources within extended family and clan networks, and the preservation and growth of wealth across generations. What is more, Hindus tended to do business within family run enterprises that were able to transition to modern corporate setups in the 20th century, whereas Muslims tended to rely on transitory and short-lived business partnerships with other Muslims that were difficult to translate into the structure of a modern corporation.

While it’s obviously true that Islamic inheritance practices predate British rule, the study documents that these laws were only loosely enforced during the late Mughal period and many Muslims, especially converts, continued to live by non-Islamic customs including inheritance practices. However, the British, who set up common law courts, more rigorously applied the distinct inheritance laws of different communities. Crucially, as Mr. Kuran and Mr. Singh argue, the British, being unfamiliar with Indian traditions, institutionalized a more “classical” or Arabic form of Islamic law than the more flexible practices derived from Persian and other sources that had existed under the Mughals.

The end result was that in practice many more Muslims became subject to a stricter enforcement of Islamic laws. Tellingly, the Muslims who’ve fared best economically come from small ”nonconforming” communities that converted from Hinduism – the Khojas, Bohras, Memons and Girasias – who as it happens were allowed by the British to retain their original inheritance practices. Azim Premji, India’s richest Muslim and the only Indian Muslim on the Forbes list of billionaires, is a Khoja.

via Economics Journal: A Theory Why India’s Muslims Lag – India Real Time – WSJ.


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