Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Indian Secularism: Is There A Rationale For Defensiveness?

April 30, 2014 2 comments

Does Indian society and polity need to defend itself against random barbs of sectarianism? Any quantitative measure would indicate that no grounds exist for such barbs.

Twitter exchange between - swapan55- and @_sabanaqvi We have agreement ... Screen shot on 2014-04-30 03-35-10 | Click on image to go actual tweet message

Twitter exchange between – swapan55- and @_sabanaqvi We have agreement … Screen shot on 2014-04-30 03-35-10 | Click on image to go actual tweet message

fter having to give away Pakistan and Bangladesh (now), which was about 20% of the Indian land-mass, India by rights could have decided to be a narrow, sectarian country.

End Games

Even before the Indian Partition, Indians in neighbouring countries (e.g. Sri Lanka, Burma) under British influence were expelled, excluded and made into second class citizens.

These were difficult political compromises made by Indian negotiators – to arrive at the outline of current political India. With a broken economy and no military back-up, negotiations with world’s pre-eminent military and economic power were never easy or straight-forward.

In any negotiations, British Raj usually started with an advantage.

Trading Losses

100-years before Independence, in 1840, Britain had already lost Afghanistan – which was a part of the Sikh Empire last ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and founded by Banda Bahadur.

Soon after Independence, Tibet was lost to China – while US made much noise and gave little support. Keeping Communist China with one foot outside the Soviet camp, to US was more important than Tibet or India.

After ceding Pakistan and losing traction in Burma, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet were major blows to India. These were major raw-materials sources for India and markets for Indian output. These countries were also important buffers from land-based military adventurers.

Polity Trends

After these kind of amputations, the modern India that was put together has a vast numbers of ‘minorities – with no singular elitist class. In Bharattantra, Brahmins and banias were excluded from political affairs and the State was excluded from academic and economic affairs.
In this kind of context, the Congress Party, painted as a ‘Hindu’ party, had to make special efforts to be seen as a national party. Above sectarian politics. After 70-years of seeing treatment in the West and in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, the long-term fundamentals of Indian society should be plain.
Especially to Indian Muslims.

Worship vs Religion

Since, worship-practices in India have been so varied, to make that as a political point does not come easily to Indian polity or society. Unlike the West, where  secularism came about due to Napoleonic imposition to curtail excesses by the Church.
In Bharattantra, India’s traditional political philosophy, State intrusion into worship-practices or traditions is alien and unacceptable.
However, in most parts of the world, religion is usually a political weapon – controlled by One Book, One God, One Government, One Currency, One Morality, et al.
Hence, for and in India, wariness about making religion into a political issue is ever-present – which must be dealt with the contempt that it deserves.
Can there be any room for debate or discussion on this?

Can we?

Having granted Pakistan, midwifed Bangladesh, historical agreements are clear. Muslims from the Indian sub-continent, who wish to insert Islam into politics are free to do so.
In Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Ignorant Teaching The Blind: Problem with the Parable

September 7, 2013 3 comments

To rebut shallow readings of Harishchandra story no external logic, data is needed Answers are in the criticism itself.

Advertisement for First Indian movie, ‘Raja Harishchandra’, appeared in Bombay Chronicle on 3rd May, 1913.

Advertisement for First Indian movie, ‘Raja Harishchandra’, appeared in Bombay Chronicle on 3rd May, 1913.


ndian ignorance of Bharattantra (the classical Indian political system that governed India) is so colossal that it only be seen when ‘respected’ writers expound on Indian classics in mainstream media – from a position of total ignorance and bias.

From Darkness

Take this. We have today a post on Raja Harishchandra which is being faulted for all the values that it stands against.

Below is an excerpt.

Fifty generations have been told to emulate the virtuous monarch. In order to keep his word, Harish Chandra was prepared to endure the worst possible misery. The nobility of this is emphasised in every retelling. Gandhiji, for example, loved the story and, certainly, he lived by this principle of accepting extreme personal hardship in the pursuit of his moral principles.

What is not emphasised is that Harish Chandra was also prepared to put other people through equally great misery, without consulting them, in order to keep his word. He ruined his family and humiliated his wife by forcing her to strip in public (that particular theme has always fascinated Indians). Apart from the patriarchal assumption that his wife and son were disposable goods, he thought his word outweighed his responsibilities as a family man.

We are not told what happened to the kingdom’s per capita income in the period between his abdication and the divine intervention. Perhaps the place prospered. Perhaps not. Either way, Harish Chandra handed over executive responsibilities and the state’s resources to someone with unknown competencies when it came to making executive decisions, or managing state finances. As an absolute monarch, he did not, of course, consult his subjects on the regime transfer.

The story also contains a raft-load of caste stereotypes and biases. Brahmins are good; Kshatriyas are good; corpse disposers are dirty, unless they are gods or Kshatriyas in disguise. The biases and assumptions offer fascinating insights into the social structure of ancient India: absolute monarchy, absolute patriarchy, caste rigidities and a twisted code that placed personal honour above the well-being of the family, or of entire kingdoms. In itself, this would be only of historical interest.

The scary thing is that Harish Chandra’s behaviour is cited as being worth emulating in 21st-century school textbooks. The negative externalities of his behaviour are ignored even in the modern versions of the story. Caste and patriarchal prejudices are reinforced, and the concepts of democratic consultation and consensus are conspicuous by their absence.

By contemporary moral standards, Raja Harish Chandra was a monster. He should have broken his word and taken whatever punishment the Maharishi handed out, sooner than cause this sort of harm to his family. Nor should he have disposed of state resources in this irresponsible fashion and placed the lives and fortunes of all his subjects in potential jeopardy.

Moral standards change. When you read an old story, you have to cherry-pick the moral lessons you should imbibe from it. Unfortunately, as a nation, we seem to have internalised all the wrong lessons from Raja Harish Chandra.

His laudable commitment to the truth and to keeping his word has fallen by the wayside. But the monumental self-absorption and absolute indifference to the well-being of others that he displayed characterise both our public and private behaviour.

The parable also supposedly teaches us to rely upon divine intervention. Raja Harish Chandra beggared himself and abdicated responsibility for the state’s resources. Only divine intervention put things right again. We emulate him as best we can, by playing ducks-and-drakes with our public finances. Unfortunately, divine intervention is not that reliable when it comes to fixing fiscal deficits.

via Devangshu Datta: The problem with the parable | Business Standard.

Usual Stuff …

The writer of this post, Devangshu Dutta (DD), makes the usual five points.

  1. Rigid caste system
  2. Absolute monarchy
  3. State-controlled economy
  4. Slavery
  5. Self-absorbed Indians

To see how shallow DD’s reading of Harishchandra story is, no external logic or data is needed. All the answers are in the criticism itself.

Caste System: If Raja Harishchandra could from a king become a chandala to a king again, how rigid was the caste system?

In which society, in the history of the world has a king become a king again after having come down in his life to a lowly status as a chandala?

Rajas & Nawabs: What are the marks of absolute monarchy? Grand palaces, monuments, costly wars, humongous treasuries, over-taxed peasants groaning in misery, oppressive police and soldiery, et al.

How many such elements do we find in Indian history for 4000 years after Raja Harishchandra?

From Indus Valley-Saraswati Basin cities till Mughal India how many monuments do we find? Over-taxed peasants make an entry after Mughal India and the British.

Royal Patronage: It may come as a surprise to DD that the ‘Indispensable’ State was not the engine for Indian economic activity till about 100 years ago.

While economies in the Rest of the World depended on royal patronage, Indians had unfettered right to land and gold. Even currency and coinage were not controlled by the kings. So much for DD’s silly argument of ‘absolute’ Indian monarchs.

This ensured that local and national economy did not depend on royal patronage or initiatives.

Unlike in the ‘modern’ ‘free market’ or socialist economies.

Slavery: Slaves have no control over slavery.

From capture to death, slaves have no control over their destiny – and this loss of liberty has State protection. Indian classics have many stories how kings became ‘dasas’ and later freed themselves from the position of ‘dasas’.

Dasas controlled their servitude – whereas slaves cannot. Indian legal texts expounding Bharattantra have no laws that give State protection to slave-owners. India remains the only society in history that has never given legitimacy to slave owners. It appears that slave owning societies were described as asuric societies.

In fact, there is no Indian word for slaves – except imported words.

Self-absorbed Indians: From Matthew Arnold to Max Muller, we have seen how colonial Britain has painted Indians as inward looking.

Factually, from the Indian woman who was the inn-keeper at Babylon to the Yogi who met Socrates, Indians have travelled the world over. Indians are the second largest diaspora in the world today – after the Chinese. Unlike Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama who were sponsored by the State, the Indian diaspora has spread across the world at their own risk –

Without State sponsorship.

The skeptical and unbelievers, will have counter-arguments – which is a valid position. But DD’s post seems to show that as far as Indian classics go …

In modern India, we have the blind leading the ignorant.


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – Problem? Solution! Irrelevant?!

March 26, 2013 7 comments

It is time that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) went to the BJP for some lessons in ideology.

RSS has been a favorite whipping boy of the Congress  |  November 2010 cartoon by R.Prasad

RSS has been a favorite whipping boy of the Congress | November 2010 cartoon by R.Prasad

Ihave no idea what kind of people Ram Madhav is hanging around with!

Me and the people I hang around with, seem to have no problems with women – and women who know us and deal with us don’t seem to be having a problem.

Who are the men that Ram Madhav thinks, who need to change that he is talking about?


So is Ram Madhav talking about?

  1. His set of people – of whom I know nothing
  2. My set of people – who are not a problem
  3. All Indians – in India, which has a low rape percentage by any world standards.
  4. Rapists – who are a small minority; and unlikely to affected by such silly statements or silly laws made by Lok Sabha.

Why fault an entire society or a gender for the actions by a few deviants?

BjP has built  a comprehensive, consistent agenda  |  August 2009 cartoon by Unny; source & courtesy -

BjP has built a comprehensive, consistent agenda | August 2009 cartoon by Unny; source & courtesy –


Regular 2ndlookers will recall earlier cases of such obscurantism from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

We had Mohan Bhagwat the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)  chief comparing and promoting the British Raj a little over a year ago.

Soon after an ex-editor of Tarun Bharat, the RSS publication, MG Vaidya was pushing Nitin Gadkari as the BJP chief. Why? Because Nitin Gadkari  is a Maharashtrian – and MG Vaidya suspected non-Maharashtrians to be anti-Maharashtrian.

Over the last 3 decades we have had the BJP build an enviable rightist narrative for India – at variance with the rather steamy Congress propaganda – overdone now for 60 years too long.

A geriatric RSS leaderehip with last century's narrative in an post-modern India

A geriatric RSS leaderehip with last century’s narrative in an post-modern India

A Past Dead & Gone

RSS with the Western chuddies, (copied  from Nizamshahi police uniform), their pseudo-martial Western marching music, hand half-raised, open-palm salute are all dated and irrelevant.

It is time that RSS went to the BJP for some lessons in building ideology.

Looking At Mrinalini-Mallika Sarabhai: Progressive, Feminista, Activista

February 19, 2013 6 comments

Using State patronage, Mrinalini Sarabhai emasculated Bharatanatyam, making it sterile and esoteric.

Annie Besant in Cardiff (1924) with two Theosophical Society officials from India greeted by Cardiff Theosophists at Cardiff Central Station. Back Row: (Left to Right) Miss Chambers (looking to right) Miss Wallis (almost hidden), Mrs Freeman, Mr Peter Freeman (General Secretary, Wales), Mrs Graham Pole. Front Row: (Left to Right) Mr Graham Pole, Babu, Dr Annie Besant, The Right Honourable Sastie. Lad presenting flowers is David Freeman, son of Peter Freeman.

Annie Besant in Cardiff (1924) with two Theosophical Society officials from India greeted by Cardiff Theosophists at Cardiff Central Station. Back Row: (Left to Right) Miss Chambers (looking to right) Miss Wallis (almost hidden), Mrs Freeman, Mr Peter Freeman (General Secretary, Wales), Mrs Graham Pole. Front Row: (Left to Right) Mr Graham Pole, Babu, Dr Annie Besant, The Right Honourable Sastie. Lad presenting flowers is David Freeman, son of Peter Freeman.

Over the last ninety years, women from three generations of Sarabhai family have been a significant fixture of the Indian media-elitist press.

Look Down In Anger

Led by Mrinalini – widow of Vikram Sarabhai, the leader-pioneer of India’s successful space program. Looking down at her husband’s traditional Indian family, but hanging onto her revered husband’s coat-tails, Mrinalini Sarabhai inveigled herself into India’s ruling elites.

Using State patronage, Mrinalini Sarabhai emasculated Bharatanatyam, making it sterile and esoteric. So much so, thanks to Mrinalini and her acolytes, Bharatanatyam to an ordinary Indian has become a laughing matter.

In parallel was Rukmini Devi Arundale, married to British Theosophist Dr. George Arundale. Mainly responsible for ‘sanitizing Bharatanatyam by ‘removing the extraneous sringaar and erotic elements from the dance’ to obtain Western respectability. A dance form that was enriched by more than 2000-years of Indian culture, has now become dead in just 75 years.

Following in Mrinalini’s footsteps, is daughter Mallika Sarabhai and grand-daughter, Anahita. Promoting the toxic sludge leftover by the British Raj.

The Arundale-Sarabhai women are a small part of a larger picture. Rukmini Devi Arundale sought to ‘improve’ Bharatanatyam ‘inspired’ by ballerina, Anna Pavlova  – while Mrinalini Sarabhai went to USA, American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Col. Henry Steel Olcott,

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Col. Henry Steel Olcott,

Cogs In A Wheel

Rukmini Devi Arundale was influenced by her own family’s links with the Theosophical Society with its tangled roots and thinking.

From Germany.

The German nation is less than 150 years old. Born out of Napoleonic wars, the idea of Germany depended on Indian historiography for a national narrative. Indic concepts like Aryan values, were distorted by Anglo-German academics into an Aryan tribal identity. Taking this Aryan philosophy further, German thinkers progressed to create a new theology for their new nation – theosophy. From Germany, these ideas travelled to Britain, where Madam Helena Petrovna Blavatsky formed The Theosophical Society.

Theosophists were used by the British Raj to make a flanking attack on Indian society. The British Raj made prominent land grants to The Theosophical Society. Its HQ at Chennai is a landmark even today. Superficially ‘sympathetic’ to an Indian viewpoint, Theosophists subverted Indian history, building a base for the acceptance of trojan ideas like Aryan Invasion Theory. Theosophists promoted the image of ‘reasonable’ Britishers with whom Indians could do business with.

British Theosophists like Annie Besant and Allan Octavian Hume, of the Liberal Progressive kind, promoted the Congress.

Indians soon took over the Congress and made it into a raucous, Independence-demanding, anti-colonial organization. In the Congress, those with Theosophist-linkages were immediately welcome – and given important positions (like George and Rukmini Arundale).

Excerpts from a recent interview with three-generations of the Sarabhai women. Ideas that are toxic-sludge dressed attractively.

Mrinalini: My mother Ammu was a fashionable young lady. She drove her own horse and carriage, and was friendly with many of the women who were at the forefront of society. After my father’s death, my mother made our home, Gilchrist Gardens, a centre for both social and political circles.

Mallika: The legacy I got from my mother was to not have to think in terms of gender, to celebrate being a woman, a feminine feminist.

A flavor of Pre-Independence India

Mrinalini: With the growing unrest in the country and Gandhiji’s call to women to participate in the freedom struggle, she joined the Congress in the late 1930s, became President of the All India Women’s Conference,Sarojini Naidu visited us often, with her sisters Mrinalini and Subhashini and brother Harindranath. My mother was drawn into the women’s movement and became active in the struggle for their rights through them. Subhashini was an ardent communist, an enemy of the British, and once took refuge with us.

On marriage to Vikram Sarabhai

Mrinalini: For me, getting married and moving to Gujarat was a big challenge. Especially since I married into such an overpowering family like the Sarabhais, I felt very alone. Vikram was immediately immersed in the business and his laboratory, and did not have much time to be with me. The whole family was extremely self-contained, and seemingly so confident, which made me feel inadequate. To live up to the high ideals of the family, which were never put into words but very obvious from my mother-in-law’s behaviour, gave me a sense of isolation that has lasted all my life. They conversed in Gujarati, which I did not understand. People do not realise the trauma a girl goes through when she marries into an alien background. Perhaps that is why marriages in India are still arranged by the families whenever possible. Even little things like food suddenly take on enormous proportions. It was as though I did not exist, except when we met at lunch or dinner. It was so overwhelming. Small happenings, but they leave deep scars.

On economic ‘independence’ – and its effects

Mrinalini: I think economic independence is very much required to live the life of your choice. My father’s will was unusual. He had left my mother her own income, and equal shares to each of the four children. So all of us were financially secure.

Mallika: It’s been very, very hard. When I took over Darpana — the institution for performing arts which my mother had set up — in 1977, about 30 percent of its funding came from the government. I decided that if I wanted to chart an independent course, I had to reduce our dependence on the government. By the 1990s, we used to get a fair amount of corporate funding for either individual events or for festivals. But after 2002, and my stand against Narendra Modi and my public interest litigation against him in the Supreme Court, the corporate sponsorships gradually stopped. For instance, we have an amphitheatre space that Amul used to sponsor events at. Post 2002, that stopped. A lot of these CEOs are my classmates from IIM Ahmedabad, and they would say to me: “Mallika, we can sponsor you anywhere outside Gujarat. But in Gujarat we are told in no uncertain terms that we will not be allowed to operate here if we associate with Darpana.”

Mallika: In 2006-07, we were going to do a performance at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute in Gandhinagar. They were very keen to have us. The audience was in place and the show was set to begin at 6:30 PM. At 5:45 PM, the Director, looking very shame-faced, walked up to us and said, “Sorry, I have to cancel the show because I’ve just had a call from Anil Ambani’s office. The Chief Minister’s office called Anil Ambani’s office to say, ‘You will not have Mallika Sarabhai perform.’”

Activista Mallika

Mallika: But I continue the work because I believe it’s important. We’ve just done an outreach project in Jharkhand, in 400 villages. The performance was developed with the local people. It’s about the lives of two families — one has six children with one girl. At one stage, the woman is pregnant for the seventh time and she is brought in through the audience, screaming with pain. You had to see the faces of the women in the audience. Because this is all a nightmare they have lived. The woman goes into a government clinic behind the screen and there is silence. The doctor comes out and says, “We’ve lost her.” One year later, the university that sponsored this programme did a study and found that 85 percent of the people who saw that performance had adopted to family planning methods. It’s the highest they have seen anywhere in the world.

Mrinalini: It was always my desire to address the problems of life through dance. It was only when I came to Ahmedabad that I became aware of the problems of women. I was studying Gujarati and had begun to read the newspapers every morning. There were constant reports of young women who died, who were burnt alive. Slowly the horror of these incidents obsessed me and Memory, the dance drama about these hapless brides, was created. I set the plot in Saurashtra. It was the first time that Bharatanatyam spoke of a social problem. From then on, there was no looking back.

On their ‘brand’ of ‘feminism’

Mallika: I’m going to go back to Draupadi. Because in the Mahabharata, she said to Yudhishtra after he lost the game of dice, “I love you but you are a weak man and what you have done is wrong.” For us, when we say “I love you”, it means taking the whole package. We do not separate the fact that you can love somebody and still say, “you are wrong.” Draupadi also says: “I have a brain and a womb, and I’m proud of both.”

Mallika: I think where India can score is that our feminism does not have to equate with masculinity. I’m empowered because I’m empowered. Not because I’m powerful in relation to somebody else. It’s not a race with somebody else. That is essentially feminine. We were never a monoculture. The same woman could be a trident-wielding Kali and also become Parvati and who could then flow as Ganga. We are losing this.

via ‘Our feminism is not in opposition with masculinity. It’s not a race’.

Errata: Earlier version of this post wrongly linked the families of Rukmini Devi Arundale and Mrinalini Sarabhai families. Reader’s comments are pointers to the error. Suitable corrections made.

Does The State Have A Right To Decide Children Names?

February 17, 2013 2 comments

Talking of names, in parts of the Free World, names are State policy. Progressive, liberal and modern West.


any years ago, on a visit to Odisha, I met a gentleman named Duryodhana Nayak. At that time, to me Mahabharata was not itihaas but mythology. I could not imagine or fathom why any parents would name their child after Duryodhana.

The reason I found later, was that Duryodhana married a princess, the daughter of Chitrangadha, the Kalinga king. Kalinga part of the five eastern kingdoms, that included: Anga (east, central Bihar), Vanga (southern West Bengal and Bangladesh), Kalinga (Sea shore of Odisha), Pundra (western Bangladesh and West Bengal, India), Suhma (north-western Bangladesh and West Bengal).

Subsequent search showed that Odisha has many more Duryodhanas. I could find Duryodhana Rout, Duryodhana Kuanr, Duryodhana Singh, Duryodhana Bisoi, Duryodhana Mangaraj, Duryodhana Biswal, a minister named Duryodhana Majhi, Duryodhana Pradhan, Duryodhana Dehury, Duryodhana Mahapatra, Duryodhana Kanhar, Duryodhana Das, Duryodhana Jena, Duryodhana Roy, Duryodhana Samanata, Duryodhana Behera, Duryodhana Satapathy, Duryodhana Das – and Duryodhana Nayak who I met.

Talking of names, in parts of the Free World, names are State policy. In the Progressive, liberal and modern West.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.”I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.

The board also has veto power over people who want to change their names later in life, rejecting, for instance, middle names like Zeppelin and X.

via Icelandic girl fights for right to her own name.


Akbaruddin Owaisi – Hindus can keep their Ajanata Ellora Nudes

January 20, 2013 13 comments

India probably has the least monuments for each century of history. Most of monuments in India were built by India’s Islamic rulers – and later the British.

On a few things, I agree with Akbaruddin Owaisi.

Indeed, apart from a few monumental temples, what monuments has ‘Hindu’ India built?

Practically none.

India in the Image Of Desert Bloc

Most monuments in India were built by India’s Islamic rulers – and later the British. India probably has the least monuments for each century of history. From 2000-cities of the Saraswati Basin-Indus Valley without monuments – to modern India.

But Islamic and British monuments in India are grandiose, celebrating concentration of wealth. Of diverting attention – away from role that rulers have to play. These monuments are symbols of extortion, of loot and poverty. Of propaganda. Of false prestige.

Probably Pakistan built as many monuments in Pakistan – as India did.

Austere Leaders – Big Actions

‘Hindu’ rulers started monument building in India only in the last 200 years or so. Shivaji had a wooden ‘palace’ – that was burnt down in an accidental fire. Shivaji never built another palace – wooden, or otherwise.

Before Shivaji, was Rana Pratap.

Anyone seen an opulent palace used or built for Rana Pratap?

Owaisi is right

Islamic rulers did build most of Indian monuments. Though I agree with Owaisi, some other Muslims don’t agree with this thinking.

For one there was Chirkan (also spelt as Chirkin), the underground mascot of Hyderabad, a “poet” of dirty ditties.

Chirkan was the irreverent break from the feudal and colonial Indian mindset – before the Indian Republic. His rhymes on Qutub minar (a phallic symbol of feudal /colonial majesty of another era) have been repeated by every school child as his very own.

Chirkan was feted at cultural events – and was a legend in his lifetime. His “sher” on a princess (the Nizam’s daughter) is repeated by adoloscent schoolboys even today.  For his ‘crime’, Chirkan was not persecuted – but banished from Hyderabad.

Forgotten today by the mainstream, Chirkan’s books circulate in the underground. Chirkan’s rhymes and jokes spread to all of India. 75 years later, every teenager makes his rites of passage with Chirkan’s jokes. Most of Mumbai film industry’s dirty jokes are a take-off on Chirkan.

The other memorable anti-monument tirade was composed by Sahir Ludhianvi. A Muslim poet who migrated from a Muslim Pakistan to a ‘secular’ Hindu-majoity India, Sahir’s dismissal of the Taj Mahal (complete work at the bottom) is remembered more than 50-years later.

With Such ‘leaders’ …

An acolyte of Owaisi, Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri went further.

Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri’s for his remarks about Mahatma Gandhi‘s statue inside the state assembly.

“The Nizams built the state assembly building in Hyderabad, but see what has happened. They have installed a statue of Mahatma Gandhi there. Who constructed it and who has been installed there,” Quadri, who represents Charminar in the assembly, told a gathering in Karimanagar district’s Jagityal town on Thursday.

He said “we” have built all significant structures in India. “What have you done?” he asked. “We constructed Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Mecca Masjid and Charminar. What have you constructed in Hindustan?”

Analysts said Quadri’s speech was planned and designed to revive memories of Nizam’s rule and the old Hyderabad state that is bound strike a chord with the region’s Muslims. “But his ‘us and them’ rhetoric is dangerous,” an analyst said.

via MIM leader in trouble over remarks on Mahatma Gandhi – The Times of India.

What is Gandhiji’s statue doing in a Nizam Palace, implies Quadri.

An austere saint in a brothel?

Further Quadri went and asked (reports The Indian Express)

“Today whatever there is in India are our signs, you tell us what your achievements are.”

Then again in the midst of slogan shouting he continued his ‘us’ and ‘they’ rhetoric saying, “The colour of Red Fort has been given by us, the height of Qutub given by us, the beauty of Taj Mahal also given by us, historic monuments like Mecca Masjid and Charminar are presented by us… what have you done in Hindustan?”

via BJP furious as Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA says ‘we built Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, what have you done?’ – Indian Express.

भैंस  के सामने बीन!

Many years ago, Owaisi’s predecessors had made similar claims – and demanded Pakistan. Making extravagant claims, Jinnah & Co., demanded and got Pakistan. We all know what is happening in Pakistan.

MIM has been running Hyderabad for more than 5-years now. If at all, Hyderabad has sunk deeper into a quicksand of bureaucracy, stagnation, public-sector sloth.

After Chandrababu Naidu reinvented Hyderabad.

But, I am sure, millions of Indians will join me in taking apart Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Charminar, Mecca Masjid – and send it with Akbaruddin Owaisi and Co., to wherever in the world, they want to go.

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Sahir Ludhianvi, better captures the Indian attitude to slavery, pomp and grandiose designs.

ताज तेरे लीए एक मजहर-ऐ-उल्फत ही सही, तुझको इस वादी-ऐ-रंगीन से अकीदत ही सही

मेरे महबूब कहीं और मीला कर मुझसे, बज्म-ऐ-शाही में गरीबों का गुज़र क्या माने?

सब्त जीस राह पे हो सतावत-ऐ-शाही के नीशान, उस पे उल्फत भरी रूहों का सफर क्या माने?

मेरे महबूब पास-ऐ-परदा-ऐ-ताश हीर-ऐ-वफ़ा, तूने सतावत के निशानों को तो देखा होता

मुर्दा शाहों के मकाबिर से बहलने वाली, अपने तारीक मकानों को तो देखा होता

अन-गिनत लोगों ने दुनिया में मोहब्बत की हैं, कौन कहता है के सादिक न थे जज्बे उनके

लेकिन उनके लीए ताश हीर का समान नहीं, क्योंकि वोह लोग भी अपनी ही तरह मुफ्लीस थे

यह ईमारत-ओ-मकाबिर यह फसीले यह हिसार, मुतल-कुल-हुक्म शाहेंशाहों की अजमत के सुतून

दामन-ऐ-दहर पे उस रंग की गुलकारी है, जिसमे शामिल है तेरे और मेरे अजदाद का खून

मेरे महबूब! उन्हें भी तो मोहब्बत होगी, जीनकी सन्नी ने बक्शी है इसे शक्ल-ऐ-जमील

उनके प्यारों के मकाबिर रहे बे-नाम-ओ-नमूद, आज तक उन पे जलाई न किसी ने कंदील

यह चमनज़ार, यह जमना का किनारा, यह महल, यह मुनाक्काश डर-ओ-दीवार, यह मेहराब, यह ताक

एक शहेंशाह ने दौलत का सहारा लेकर, हम गरीबों के मोहब्बत का ऊडाए है मजाक

मेरे महबूब कहीं और मिला कर मुझसे.

– Abdul Hayee ‘Sahir’ Ludhianvi.

Translation by gyanputra

Even if the Taj for you is a symbol of great love, even though you prefer its pretty colorful setting
My dear, meet me somewhere else, what truck can the poor have with kingly courts?
The paths on which are seared the grandest Royal Arms, how can love-filled hearts journey on them?
My dear, behind the veil of this advertisement of love, had you seen the trappings of royal power and wealth
Instead of being beguiled by the tombs of dead kings, had you seen our dark homes
Uncounted peoples in this world have loved, who says their love was not true
But they did not have the means for advertising love, they were poor like us
This mausoleum, these decorations, these fort parapets, that the arrogance of kings considers symbols of Greatness
On the face of the world this is a decoration of floral vines, that has flowing in it your ancestors’ blood, and mine
My dear! they must have had loves too, those whose art granted this monument its acclaimed form
But those loves’ tombs are unnamed, untraced, no one has ever lit on them even a candle
This garden, this Jamna riverbank, this palace, these picturesque walls and doors, these pulpits, these arabesques
A king of kings aided by all his wealth, has mocked the love of us poor
My dear, meet me somewhere else.

Final Solution of Roma Gypsies: Hungarians Display their Racial Colors

January 12, 2013 1 comment

From Spain, across Italy, in Northern Ireland Europeans are targetting Roma Gypsy as racialism rears its head. Can Europe change?

Jobbik sparked an uproar by calling for Jews in the country to be registered. Jobbik supporters demonstrate outside a housing project with many Roma residents in October 2012.  |  REUTERS image, courtesy Der Spiegel

Jobbik sparked an uproar by calling for Jews in the country to be registered. Jobbik supporters demonstrate outside a housing project with many Roma residents in October 2012. | REUTERS image, courtesy Der Spiegel


t would be a mistake to think that the Roma gypsy will lie down and die just because Europeans have been trying to wipe them out for the last 500 years at least.

A little over 600 years ago, when Europe was under oppressive Catholic Church, it was the Roma Gypsy who probably liberated Europe.

People in modern India have little or no idea about the roots of Europe. A recent visitor from India, on a European holiday, ‘innocent’ of Europe’s past, came across the ‘real’ Europe.

Take a walk in one of the narrow, cobbled alleys that run round in a maze in the heart of the Jewish quarter adjoining the Mezquita. There is a little museum here, somewhat nondescript and often missed by tourists. What it displays stabs at your idea of a wondrous legacy. The Exhibition of Medieval Instruments of Torture is one of the most complete of its kind in Europe. It traces the 700 year history (13th-19th century) of refinement of torture methods used largely, but not exclusively, under the Spanish Inquisition. For the visitor, entering it is a free fall from the sense of grace and peace of the mosque-cathedral, a plunge into a den of madness. A reminder that the Middle Ages were not only about romance, knights and fair maidens, or ballads and religiosity, they were violent and bloodthirsty; that beauty and ugliness went hand in hand; that the most grotesque forms of cruelty lay just under the veneer of some of man’s most amazing deeds.

While torture was pervasive in all of Europe, it held a special place under the Inquisition, this ecclesiastical tribunal that rose in a response to what had been the multi-religious nature of Spanish society. It followed the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims (or Moors — the appellation is used in a general way) who had ruled over large parts of what are today Spain and Portugal (the capital Cordoba fell in 1236, Seville a few years later, while Granada held out till 1492). King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille — under whose patronage began the great discoveries of the world, mariners setting sail for new lands — including the voyage of Christopher Columbus (she ordered a fleet to be fitted out for him) — intended to replace Medieval orthodoxy with their own Catholic orthodoxy. The rule of Catholic Monarchs (as Ferdinand and Isabella are known), called the Golden Age, strove for religious conformity and for the final reunification of Spain. Thus began the story of forced conversions, expulsions, detentions/torture and expulsions. The last Moorish king, Boabdil, it is said, wept and sighed as he surrendered his beloved Alhambra citadel in Granada. His mother’s response to his tears was icy: “Don’t weep like a woman for the city you could not defend like a man!”

The jungle of torture instruments in the Cordoba Museum have a longer history. They hark back to the early Middle Ages and would be in use until the 19th century. Torture was a normal way of extracting confessions, discouraging dissent and intellectual freedom and persuading Jews, Muslims, Protestants and heretics of all hues to accept the Catholic faith. But it was also inflicted on those practising bigamy, sodomy, superstition and witchcraft. Sex, age or gender made no difference. Women, children and the aged were all its victims. The arrest of an individual, done stealthily, was the first step in a harrowing path. The trial, or a charade rather, took place in a whimsically formed court, propelled as much by differences of creed as gossip and envy. The collection of authentic instruments shows how ingeniously the human mind worked, and how the process of “finding out the truth” was as crafty as it was vile in the extreme.

Among the most famous of these devices was the rack. The victim would be laid on this rectangular frame that had a board. His hand and legs would be tied to the ends of the board while the turning of rollers placed at the ends of the board would yank his body in opposite directions till every joint popped. Guy Fawkes (better known for his ‘gunpowder plot’ in Britain), and the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Kyd suffered the rack before they died. So, I believe, did Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII.

The Water Wheel, set in a pool of water, had the victim tied on its rim. The wheel would be turned, dunking the victim into water with every spin and inhumanly stretching his joints and muscles.

The garrotte was an ancient Roman contraption. Astonishingly, it was around in Spain till as recently as 1974. In an earlier day, the victim would be tied to a pole. This was later replaced by a chair. A cord, a wire or an iron collar with spikes would be tightened round the neck, leading to both strangulation and the breaking of the vertebrae.

The Inquisition devised the sickening Judas Cradle or a seat, atop of which was planted pyramid-like metal device. On this, the victim would be impaled, the pyramid penetrating his/her anus or vagina which would then be turned inside the organ. The word head crusher speaks for itself. As the head got crushed by the bloody instrument, it had the victim’s teeth imploding in their sockets, the jaw bones smashing, the eyes popping out and bits of brain squirting from the ears.

I hesitate to describe more. The museum has an array of torture devices, one more merciless than the other. What, one may ask, is the point of listing them? I realised in Cordoba that the mind is truly unhinged by this sudden plunge from the surrounding glory to a den of perversity. And yet you are trapped in a kind of fascination-revulsion, a deadly thrall, as you might be if you were suddenly pitted against a wild animal. If the aim was to frighten the wits (and life) out of real or fake suspects, these devices certainly did their job. Drowning, starving, whipping, crushing (head crushers were admirably efficient), burning, disfiguring, maiming with as much pain as you could possibly inflict — all this happened

via Sculpting Tools of Death.

From Library of entertaining knowledge, Volume 13  By Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) - 1835 |   This has been particularly the case with the Gunpowder Treason The outlines of the transaction were indeed too notorious to be suppressed or disguised that a design had been formed to blow up the Parliament House with the King the Royal Family the Lords and Commons and that this design was formed by Catholic men and for Catholic purposes could never admit of controversy or concealment but the details of the conspiracy the causes which led to it the motives and objects of the conspirators the extent to which the knowledge of it prevailed amongst Catholics in England and abroad and the degree of encouragement it received from the Catholic clergy have been ever since the date of its occurrence to the present time subjects of doubt and dispute It be expected that the in

From Library of entertaining knowledge, Volume 13
By Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) – 1835

The Hussite Wars broke the back of the Catholic armies –

never to regain their former power. As British power reared its head, in early 17th century, Guy Fawkes decided to blow up the power centre of Britain – the Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey.

In both these cases, the difference was gunpowder. Gunpowder and Roma gypsies.

From at least 12th century till a hundred years ago, for 800 years, the biggest source of gunpowder elements was India. The Roma Gypsies who trace their origin to India were the European experts in gunpowder.

Over the last 10 years there has been a rising tide of violence against the Roma Gypsy. In Northern Ireland, across Italy and now in Hungary.

Zsolt Bayer, a prominent conservative commentator, has sparked outrage in Hungary and abroad for comparing Roma to animals and calling for a ”

final solution to the gypsy question.” Criticism of the remarks is growing, but Prime Minister Orbán will likely keep silent.

Zsolt Bayer always pipes up whenever the Hungarian media mentions that Roma are suspected of involvement in a crime. The influential right-wing commentator then makes suggestions on what, in his words, a “final solution to the Gypsy question” could be. For example, he has written: “Whoever runs over a Gypsy child is acting correctly if he gives no thought to stopping and steps hard on the accelerator.”


Bayer’s most recent hate-filled tirade came last Saturday after a bar fight and stabbing on New Year’s Eve in which some of the attackers were reportedly Roma. Writing in the ultra-right-wing newspaper Magyar Hirlap, which has close ties to the conservative government, Bayer argued for what amounts to genocide. He wrote:

“A significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals. When they meet with resistance, they commit murder. They are incapable of human communication. Inarticulate sounds pour out of their bestial skulls. At the same time, these Gypsies understand how to exploit the ‘achievements’ of the idiotic Western world. But one must retaliate rather than tolerate. These animals shouldn’t be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved — immediately and regardless of the method.”

At the same time, investigators have yet to nail down all the facts surrounding the crime. What is known is this: On New Year’s Eve, a massive brawl broke out in a bar in Szigethalom, a town near Budapest. During the fight, two young athletes — a wrestler and a boxer — suffered serious stabbing wounds. The police arrested one Roma, and another suspect is still being sought.

Bayer isn’t just some random pathological Roma-hater. Instead, the 49-year-old is one of the founding members of the country’s conservative governing Fidesz party and a close friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Although Bayer holds no official position, he is known within the party as someone with the pluck to express uncomfortable truths

Cracks in the Party

In recent years, Bayer’s anti-Roma and anti-Semitic articles have sparked repeated outrage. But no one within the Fidesz party leadership has ever taken public offense at the commentaries of its former chief press officer — until now. Tibor Navracsics, who is both justice minister and deputy prime minister, has joined Roma organizations and Hungary’s Jewish community in condemning Bayer’s most recent column — and called for his ouster from the party. On the private television channel ATV, he said that there is no place in an organization like Fidesz for someone who considers an entire group of people to be animals. In fact, even Tamás Deutsch, a prominent co-founder of Fidesz and member of the European Parliament who has publicly acknowledge being friends with Bayer, called the article “shameful.”

This is already the second time in recent weeks that prominent Fidesz politicians have openly distanced themselves from racial hatred. On Dec. 2, Antal Rogán, the party’s parliamentary floor leader, spoke at a protest against anti-Semitism after Márton Gyöngyösi, a representative of the right-wing extremist Jobbik party, had demanded in parliament that “all Jews living in Hungary be registered” and that “Jews, particularly those in parliament and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to Hungary.” The demonstration against anti-Semitism was noteworthy for marking the first time in two decades that all of the pro-democracy parties in Hungary’s parliament jointly attended a single event.

‘The Party Speaks with Two Tongues’

Nevertheless, critics doubt that Fidesz — and Prime Minister Orbán, in particular — will distance themselves from right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and antiziganism, a term denoting racism toward the Sinti and Roma.

Kristián Ungváry, a historian who has just published a 700-page book on the interwar years of the right-wing extremist Horthy regime, describes the party’s policies as a “sham.”

“The party speaks with two tongues,” Ungváry says. “On the one hand, one distances oneself from right-wing extremism in order to maintain a good reputation abroad and because one notes that the political damage would be too severe. On the other hand, Fidesz pays tribute to anti-Semitic writers of the interwar period, such as Albert Wass and József Nyírö, or expresses right-wing extremist positions in regime-friendly newspapers.”

This is especially the case with Prime Minister Orbán, whose public statements started moving farther and farther toward the right-wing extreme some time ago. This culminated last September, when Orbán delivered a “blood and soil” speech about the values of the Hungarian nation during a dedication ceremony for a monument. “The archetypal image of the Turul bird is the archetypal image of the Hungarians,” he said, referring to the most important bird in the origin myth of ethnic Hungarians. “It is part of blood and homeland. We, the Hungarians of national solidarity, must squeeze all disunity out of Hungarian life. Strong nations stick together; weak ones break apart.”

On the other hand, Orbán refrained from publicly commenting on Jobbik’s call for registering Jews in Hungary. Indeed, it wasn’t until a few days later that Orbán distanced himself in parliament from right-wing extremism, though in very general way. At the same time, a law was passed that permits monetary fines to be levied on parliamentarians who make racist statements.

A Deed Likely to Go Unpunished

György Dalos, a prominent writer and biographer, doesn’t believe that Fidesz will fundamentally alter its two-faced policies. “Voters on the left run away from it on account of its restrictive social policies, so they need the voters on the right,” Dalos says. “And it will continue to attract them with the appropriate rhetoric.”

Attila Nagy, a political scientist at Budapest’s Méltanyosság Institute, admits that there is genuine outrage about right-wing extremism in some parts of Fidesz. “But,” he adds, “this part, which backs a clearer pro-European course, is currently not a decisive one within the party.”This, along with the fact that Justice Minister Navracsics has a reputation for holding little sway within the party, also makes it more likely that his call to have Zsolt Bayer ejected from the party will go unheeded. In any case, Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi made this clear during a televised interview on ATV last Monday. She said that since Bayer had expressed his opinion as a commentator rather than as a Fidesz member in the incriminating article, the party would not take a stance on it.

via Hungarian Journalist Calls for Final Solution of Roma Issue – SPIEGEL ONLINE.


Mahabharata & Modern Science: Babies Start Learning While Still in the Womb

A recent study shows that babies start learning while still in the womb – just like Mahabharata says.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript - probably 18th century.  |  Source wikipedia.

Page from an illustrated Mahabharata manuscript – probably 18th century. | Source wikipedia.

Many thousand years ago, the story of Abhimanyu was written – a moving story of a young prince, who went headlong into a complex battle formation, the chakravyuh. Tragically, without knowing how to extricate himself from the chakravyuh. It was said that Abhimanyu learnt warcraft while still in his mother’s womb. This was always taken to be a metaphor – but a recent study shows that children do start learning, while still in the womb.

Warcraft or otherwise.

From the Mahabharata, Ahimanyu’s remains a popular story, memorable in the death of Abhimanyu. Then there was also the Ashtavakra narrative – the foetus who knew the vedas and upanishads, while still in his mother’s womb. Ashtavakra was so mortified with his father’s ignorance, that each time his father enunciated the vedas and upanishads wrongly, the Ashtavakra foetus corkscrewed in his mother’s womb. Finally born with eight spinal contortions – hence known as Ashtavakra.

In modern India, too, learning in the womb has remained a popular belief. Can such a belief be verified empirically? In any such study, to make statistical observational correlations, will be fraught with the danger of observer bias.

Nevertheless …

Babies start to learn language before they are even born, scientists have discovered.

Previously, it was believed that newborns begin to discriminate between language sounds within their first months of life.

But a new study indicates that babies have the capacity to learn and remember elementary sounds of their language from their mother during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered. The study indicates that babies begin absorbing

‘We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking,’ said Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, who led the research.

‘[But] this is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.’

Forty girls and boys, about 30-hours-old , were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.

The babies heard either Swedish or English vowels

Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, added: ‘We thought infants were ‘born learning’ but now we know they learn even earlier. They are not phonetically naïve at birth.

‘We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot.

‘We can’t waste that early curiosity. The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain.

‘The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.’

via Babies begin learning language from their mothers while they’re still in the womb | Mail Online.

Kargil War: The Forgotten Victory

December 17, 2012 2 comments

Kargil War Forgotten: Fought over 3 months; longer than the three previous India-Pakistan wars (1948, 1965, 1971). Combined.

A battery of Bofors guns in operation during the Kargil War.  |  These 155-mm guns proved to be highly useful.   Image source & courtesy -

A battery of Bofors guns in operation during the Kargil War. | These 155-mm guns proved to be highly useful. Image source & courtesy –


n the Kargil War (May 3-July 26, 1999), Pakistan made an extremely limited military probe, with around 1000 soldiers, to take Kargil heights. The Kargil War dragged on for nearly 3 months – longer than the three previous wars (1948, 1965, 1971) with Pakistan, combined.

It is a war that India has forgotten – but has many important lessons.

The scene of operations in the Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector

The scene of operations in the Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector

Vital Questions

These 1000-odd Pakistani soldiers were sent on a mission without infantry support, or air cover.

Adequately protected by snow-covered Himalayan heights, Pakistan’s probing attack on Kargil tested the importance of nuclear deterrence and the resolve of the BJP Government.

The Kargil War raised some important questions.

  1. Would India start a conventional war against a nuclear Pakistan?
  2. Is it that Pakistan could not get more than 1,000 soldiers to fight against India?
  3. Why did Pakistan not support its soldiers with air-cover?

Probably, Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure points towards Pakistan’s inability to fight any kind of war against India.

Sino-Pak JF-17 fighter  |  Image source & courtesy -

Sino-Pak JF-17 fighter | Image source & courtesy –

PAF’s Slow Degrade

Over the years, especially in the last 25 years, the ability of Pakistan’s Airforce (PAF) to mount any challenge to Indian Airforce (IAF) has been severely degraded.

A combination of global sanctions and Pakistan’s financial situation has stopped Pakistan from buying spares, or replacing obsolete aircraft.

Of the 400-odd aircraft that Pakistan has, more than a 100 are old Mirage aircraft. Many of these were discarded aircraft, bought from Australia and Libya – also from France and Lebanon.

Bofors in action during the Kargil war. Lakhs of artillery rounds were used and guns worked well.  |  AFP PHOTO/TAUSEEF MUSTAFA

Bofors in action during the Kargil war. Lakhs of artillery rounds were used and guns worked well. | AFP PHOTO/TAUSEEF MUSTAFA

PAF Grounded

America will not supply Pakistan with fighters or adequate spares for the F-16 aircraft already in PAF service.

Instead, Pakistan is buying China’s JF-17/FC-1 Thunder fighter-aircraft that needs Russian RD-93 engines to fly (variant of MiG-29’s RD-33 engine). China needs Russian permission to sell Russian engines in the JF-17/FC-1 Thunder. It is unlikely that Russia will pass up a peacetime business opportunity of selling jet-engines to Pakistan.

But in a war situation, Russia is unlikely to supply spares and engines to Pakistan.

When PAF Was In Better Shape

In the 1965 War situation, Pakistan was part of the CENTO and SEATO alliance, armed by the US with the US F-104 Starfighters, F-86 Sabres that were significantly superior to Indian Airforce (IAF).

Comprising of Vampires of WWII vintage, the French Mirage Mysteres, the Anglo-Hawker Hunters and Canberras or the Anglo-Gnats, the IAF went into the 1965 War at a disadvantage. By the 1971 War, the IAF had re-configured tactics, using numbers, altitude to overwhelm the Sabres with inferior Gnats – starting with the airfight at Boyra.

Compared to the nearly 10,000 Sabres that were manufactured world-wide, less than 450 Gnats were built; mostly bought by Indians. The Yugoslavs bought second-hand F-86s in preference to the Gnats. The RAF itself did not buy Gnat for any conflict role – but only for aerobatic, trainer usage.

Indian soldiers in Kashmir; operating the Bofors guns.

Indian soldiers in Kashmir; operating the Bofors guns.

Pulling Away

In the last 25 years, India has steadily drawn ahead of Pakistan, to point of no-comparison.

When US sanctions were imposed in 1990, both the PAF and the Indian Air Force were second-generation air forces. No real-time surveillance capability, no air-to-air refuelling capability, no airborne early warning capability, no beyond-visual-range-capability, no stand-off weapon capability. However, after 13 years of sanctions, India had all the above and Pakistan had none until about three or four years ago. This is the gap (2006 – Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat – in an interview to Jane’s Defence Weekly).

The first proof of Pakistan’s crippled armed forces was on display in the Kargil War. Designed to provoke, the benefit to Pakistan from Kargil was to gauge Indian resolve. The Indian response during the Kargil War, in turn was also limited to evicting this military probe from the heights that overlooked the Srinagar highway.

BM-21 multi-barrel rocket launcher mortar firing at Tiger Hill in the Kargil War

BM-21 multi-barrel rocket launcher mortar firing at Tiger Hill in the Kargil War

War in Himalayas

The Kargil War between India and Pakistan, waged in the disputed and mountainous Kashmir region in mid-1999, rates as the highest-elevation conflict in air war history. The clash lasted 74 days and cost more than 1,000 killed and wounded on each side. Though a blank to most Westerners, the Indian Air Force (IAF) experience was a milestone, providing insights into uses of airpower in extremely demanding combat settings.

The Western profile of this war is low, receding to the vanishing point.

The seeds of war were planted in March 1999, when units of the Pakistani Army’s Northern Light Infantry (NLI) crossed the so-called line of control (LOC) into India’s portion of contested Kashmir in the Himalayas. From this new vantage point, Pakistani troops overlooked the Indian town of Kargil.

The LOC that separates the Indian- and Pakistani-held portions of Kashmir bisects some of the world’s highest and most forbidding terrain. Because of dangerous weather, the Indian Army, in harsh winter months, routinely vacated inhospitable forward outposts that it normally manned.

Too Much Jawboning

When the Indians withdrew in the late winter months of 1999, however, Pakistan mounted an infiltration that sought to make the most of this opportunity.

As many as 1,000 troops of the NLI, moving by foot and helicopter, crossed the line. It was a stealthy success; the NLI troops managed to unobtrusively establish a new forward line six miles deep into Indian-controlled territory. On May 3, they were finally spotted by local shepherds.

Then, in the first week of May 1999, the Indian Army units that had formerly manned the outposts began returning to their stations. It was at that point that they came face-to-face with the fact that NLI troops had moved in and were prepared to fight.

At first, embarrassed Indian Army leaders were bound and determined to turn back the Pakistan incursion all by themselves. Thus commenced several exchanges of fire. However, there was no change in the situation on the ground.

Checked for days by Pakistani forces, Indian Army leaders on May 11 finally approached the IAF for help. The Indian Army wanted the IAF to provide close air support with its armed helicopters. The IAF responded that the high terrain over which the requested support was to be provided lay well above the effective operating envelope of its attack helicopters and that the use of fixed wing fighters would be required if the Army really needed assistance.

The Army for days persisted in demanding use of attack helicopters alone. The IAF no less adamantly declined to accede to that demand.

Because of this back and forth jawboning, some later complained the IAF had refused to cooperate and, in the end, was forced into the campaign against its will.

In fact, the IAF at the early date of May 10 had begun conducting reconnaissance missions over the Kargil heights. It also at that time forward deployed IAF combat aircraft in numbers sufficient to support any likely tasking, established a rudimentary air defense control arrangement, and began practicing air-to-ground weapon deliveries at Himalayan elevations.

On May 12, as interservice deliberations to establish an agreed campaign plan continued, an IAF helicopter was fired upon near the most forward based of the NLI positions. That hostile act was enough to prompt the IAF to place Western Air Command on alert and establish quick-reaction aircraft launch facilities at the IAF’s most northern operating locations.

The next day, IAF Jaguar fighter aircraft launched on a tactical reconnaissance mission to gather target information. At the same time, the IAF established a direction center for the tactical control of combat aircraft; it was located at Leh, the IAF’s highest-elevation airfield.

Concurrently, Canberra PR57 and MiG-25R reconnaissance aircraft were pressed into service, and electronic intelligence missions started in the vicinity of the NLI intrusion.

The IAF sent a Canberra to conduct reconnaissance of the area overlooking Kargil. It descended to 22,000 feet and entered a racetrack pattern that put the aircraft as low as 4,000 feet above the ridgelines. The Canberra was hit in its right engine by a Chinese-made Anza infrared surface-to-air missile. The Indian pilot brought the airplane in for a safe emergency landing.

On May 14, the IAF activated its air operations center for Kashmir and mobilized its fighter units in that sector for an all-out air counteroffensive. Such activities attested to the IAF’s clear expectation that it would engage the intruders to the fullest once its final role was settled upon.

After much back and forth between the IAF and Indian Army over the character and extent of air support IAF would provide, the Army finally acceded to the IAF’s insistence on using fixed wing fighters. This cleared the way for the air force to enter the fight.

In a key May 25 meeting chaired by Indian Prime Minister Atal B. Vajpayee, the Indian Army Chief outlined the seriousness of the situation and the need for the IAF to step in without further delay. At that, the Prime Minister said: “OK, get started tomorrow at dawn.”

The Air Chief agreed that the IAF would attack only those Pakistani targets that were dug in on India’s side of the line of control. However, he requested permission for his aircraft, in the course of its operations, to fly across the LOC. Vajpayee said no; there would be no crossing of the LOC.

With that rule of engagement firmly stipulated by the civilian leadership, the die was finally cast for full-scale IAF involvement. The stage was set for Operation Vijay (Hindi for “victory”), as the joint campaign was code-named.

Kinetic air operations began at 6:30 a.m. on May 26, three weeks after the infiltration into Indian-controlled territory was detected. The opening salvo comprised six attacks by MiG-21s, MiG-23s, and MiG-27s against NLI targets. It was the first time IAF pilots had dropped bombs in anger since its Vampire fighters destroyed Pakistani bunkers in the same Kargil area 28 years earlier, in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

Pakistan chose to keep its F-16s out of the fight.

Deadly Lessons Learned Quickly

Nearly all targets attacked were on or near Himalayan ridgelines at elevations ranging from 16,000 to 18,000 feet. The stark backdrop of rocks and snow complicated target acquisition, already made difficult by the small size of the NLI positions in a vast and undifferentiated snow background. That unique terrain feature, as seen from a cockpit, inspired the code name given to the IAF’s campaign—Operation Safed Sagar, or “White Sea.”

In the second day of air operations, the IAF lost two fighters. One, a MiG-27, suffered engine failure while coming off a target. After two unsuccessful attempts at an airstart, the pilot ejected, only to be captured. He was repatriated on June 3.

The second, a MiG-21, sustained an infrared SAM hit while its pilot was flying over the terrain at low level, assisting in the search for the downed MiG-27 pilot. Its pilot also ejected, but he was not as lucky as the first pilot. He was captured, then reportedly brutalized and executed.

On the third day of operations, an armed Mi-17 helicopter, introduced to the fight reluctantly by the IAF to placate India’s Army leaders, was downed by a shoulder-fired SAM while providing low-level fire support. The crash killed all four crew members.

In conducting these early attacks, IAF officers quickly relearned what the Israelis had learned at great cost during the October 1973 War, when Egyptian and Syrian SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery had downed nearly a third of the Israeli Air Force’s fighter inventory (102 aircraft in all) before Israel managed to pull out a victory in the war’s latter stages.

Badly bloodied, the Indian Air Force called a halt to further use of armed helicopters and directed that future fighter attacks would be conducted from above the lethal envelopes of enemy man-portable SAMs. Afterward, not a single Indian fixed wing aircraft was lost to enemy fire.

Whenever ground attack operations were under way, Western Air Command put MiG-29s on combat air patrol stations to keep the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) out of the fray. Pakistan’s F-16As typically maintained their CAP stations at a safe distance, 10 to 20 miles away from the line of control.

By the time air operations reached full swing, the IAF had forward deployed some 60 of its best fighters to support the campaign. As they awaited tasking, committed squadrons initiated special training aimed at better acclimating their pilots to night attacks under moonlit conditions. Such combat operations over high mountainous terrain at night had never before been attempted by the IAF.

Because of the rudimentary bomb sights on their MiG-21, MiG-23, and MiG-27 aircraft, IAF pilots typically achieved only limited effectiveness when attempting to provide close air support.

Accordingly, India’s Air Chief decided on May 30, just four days into the campaign, to enlist Mirage 2000H fighters capable of delivering laser guided bombs. By June 12, the Mirages were ready to commence precision strike operations.

On June 17, the clash reached a turning point. A strike package of Mirage 2000Hs destroyed the NLI’s main logistics camp with unguided 1,000-pound bombs delivered in high-angle dive attacks using the aircrafts’ computer-assisted weapon aiming capability.

The war reached a second milestone on June 24, when an element of Mirage 2000Hs, in the IAF’s first-ever combat use of LGBs, destroyed the NLI’s command bunkers on Tiger Hill with two 1,000-pound Paveway II LGBs. In these attacks, the target was acquired through the Litening pod’s electro-optical imaging sensor at about nine miles out, with weapons release occurring at a slant range of about five miles and the aircraft then turning away while continuing to mark the target with a laser spot.

On June 29, the Indian Army captured two vital posts on the high ridgelines. On July 2, it launched a massive attack. It finally recaptured the important NLI outpost on Tiger Hill on July 4, after an exhausting 11-hour battle in which the attackers climbed fixed ropes at night and in freezing rain to scale vertical mountain faces 1,000 feet high.

By July 26, Indian forces had reclaimed a majority of their seized outposts and driven NLI occupiers back to their own side of the LOC.

The IAF’s contribution to Operation Vijay lasted two months. IAF fighters had flown more than 1,700 sorties, including about 40 at night during the campaign’s last weeks. In the final tally, the Indian Army suffered 527 troops killed in action and 1,363 soldiers wounded. The NLI losses were not announced, but they were at least equal to India’s.

The Indian Army and IAF were both key players in a joint campaign; it would be hard to select one as the pivotal force. From a simple weight-of-effort perspective, artillery was the main source of fire support. The Army fired more than 250,000 rounds. One assessment said that this sustained laydown of fire was the most intense seen anywhere since World War II.

In contrast to this “profligacy in the use of artillery in a carpet-bombing mode,” as the campaign’s air component commander later called it, the IAF dropped only around 500 bombs. Most were effective against their assigned targets.

Close air support was a source of frustration for the IAF. The small and well-concealed NLI positions in the Himalayas were nothing like conventional targets that fighters typically engage in supporting friendly ground operations.

The IAF’s CAS efforts were hampered by numerous constraints on their freedom of action. New Delhi’s refusal to countenance crossings of the LOC was a limiting factor. Fighters were forced to use tactics featuring ingress and egress headings that were not optimal or, in many cases, even safe.

Man-portable SAMs used by Pakistan had a slant range sufficient to require the IAF’s pilots to remain 6,000 to 8,000 feet above the ridgelines to remain safely outside their threat envelopes. This degraded weapon delivery accuracies.

At such extreme elevations, the IAF’s munitions did not perform as they did at lower release altitudes. The reduced air temperature and density altered drag indices and other performance parameters that had never before been calculated for such conditions. Weapons did not guide as predicted. IAF pilots had to adapt through real-time improvisation.

The stark terrain folds tended to obscure the enemy from aerial observation and to mask the effects of bomb detonations, rendering even near misses all but ineffective. They further served to canalize aerial approaches to targets, dictating ingress and egress headings and, in the process, rendering IAF fighters more predictable and susceptible to ground fire.

NLI positions in deep ravines were often immune to effective attacks by pilots attempting dive deliveries when their LOC-driven roll-in points were not tactically ideal.

The IAF rode a steep learning curve as pilots adapted to unfamiliar conditions. MiG-21 pilots lacking sophisticated onboard avionics suites resorted to the use of stopwatches and Global Positioning System receivers to conduct night interdiction bombing.

Another example: The IAF took to choosing weapon impact points that would create avalanches over NLI supply lines.

The IAF pioneered what has since come to be called nontraditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It was the first to use electro-optical and infrared imaging targeting pods for high-resolution aerial reconnaissance.

The Kargil Experience

The IAF expended only two LGBs because it had so few in stock and because few targets merited use of such an important and costly munition. Still, even this limited use dramatically altered the campaign’s dynamics.

After the successful LGB attacks, targeting pod imagery showed enemy troops abandoning their positions at the very sound of approaching fighters. Troop diaries later recovered by Indian Army units attested to the demoralization caused by the IAF’s attacks, especially when precision munitions were introduced.

Much of the IAF’s improved combat effectiveness over time resulted from replacing classic manual dive bombing by MiG-23s and MiG-27s with more accurate GPS-aided level bombing from safer altitudes. Once the Mirage 2000H was introduced, the accuracy of unguided bomb deliveries increased even further, thanks to the aircraft’s much-improved onboard avionics suite.

A major joint-arena shortcoming highlighted by the Kargil experience was the total absence of candid communication between the Indian Army and IAF immediately following the initial detection of the NLI incursion. That failure was a remarkable foreshadowing of US Central Command’s similarly flawed Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan three years later, in which the land component likewise sought to go it alone at first, with the air component having been brought in just in time to help ensure a satisfactory outcome in the end.

Once the Indian Army and IAF resolved their disagreements, harmony prevailed.

In the going-in front-line fighter balance, India enjoyed a marked 750-to-350 advantage over Pakistan. Pakistan’s fleet of some 30 F-16s was greatly outclassed by the IAF’s 145 high-performance aircraft (MiG-29s, Mirage 2000Hs, and Su-30s). That asymmetry may well have been decisive in keeping the PAF out of the fight.

However, Pakistan maintained the initiative for most of the Kargil War. Both the nature of the challenge the IAF faced in the Himalayan heights and the targeting requirements that ensued from it dictated a suboptimal use of India’s air weapon.

The IAF’s combat experience showed that innovation and adaptability under the stress of confining rules of engagement is a hallmark of modern airmanship. It attested to the fact that professionalism in campaign planning, presentation of forces, and accommodating to new and unique tactical challenges is scarcely a monopoly of more familiar Western air arms.

The experience demonstrated yet again that effective use of air-delivered firepower can generate success in a conflict that might otherwise have persisted indefinitely with less conclusive results.

Ben Lambeth is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He is the author of The Transformation of American Air Power (2000), which won the Air Force Association’s Gil Robb Wilson Award for Arts and Letters in 2001. His most recent article for Air Force Magazine was “Behind Israel’s 2006 War with Hezbollah,” in September 2011.

Air War at the Top of the World.

Indian Elites: Stuck With Nostalgia; In Love With The Raj

December 15, 2012 2 comments

While learning English is important, must we develop bhakti and loyalty to English?


he Anglo-Saxon Bloc (Britain, America, Australia, Canada) have been the dominant power for the last 200 years. Behind the rise of the Anglo-Saxon Bloc was India’s traditional gunpowder production system – the world’s largest gunpowder manufactory system. The Anglo-Saxon position has been challenged by France, Germany, Soviet Union – and now China proposes to do the same.

In such a situation, learning English is important. This is something that India has done – but in some parts of the Indian Mind, there is bhakti, even loyalty to the English – and their empty ‘heritage’.

Wonder why Indi'a English-using elites so love the Raj?  |  Old cartoon by Mario Miranda on the Bombay to Mumbai makeover in Mumbai Mirror published on December 15, 2012 again.

Wonder why Indi’a English-using elites so love the Raj? | Old cartoon by Mario Miranda on the Bombay to Mumbai makeover in Mumbai Mirror published on December 15, 2012 again.

Back from Mumbai’s (which I always prefer to call Bombay) literary carnival, I have trouble with my hearing. There’s Axl Rose’s growling vocals in my left ear, Anita Desai’s gentle, precise whispers in my right.

In my admittedly warped book lover’s memory, Bombay had always been as much a city of books as of film. Friends who were writers themselves – Jerry Pinto, Naresh Fernandes – took me around the city’s bookstores on my first few visits to Bombay.

Bombay used to have a formidable set of bookstores — Strand, ruled by the intelligent taste of the late T N Shanbhag; Lotus Book House (above that petrol pump in Bandra), which had an unmatched selection of arthouse and aantel books; and Smoker’s Corner, a cross between bookstore and lending library.

The last few years were dark ones for Bombay’s bookstores. The 525 bookstores listed by TISS sounds like a healthy number, but it’s misleading — many of those “bookstores” are stationery shops, or textbook specialists who carry either no fiction or limited quantities of fiction. The chain bookstores are depressing places — you expect them to be commercial, but they are dully, boringly commercial, stocking only the most conservative of bestsellers. Lotus closed down in the mid-2000s; Strand and Smoker’s Corner remain, but Strand doesn’t have the range it once did.

The author Ann Patchett started her own large independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville some years ago. She built it to recreate the stores that she missed, where “the people who worked there remembered who you were and what you read, even if you were 10”. In an essay for The Atlantic, she defined the kind of bookstore she wanted: “…One that valued books and readers above muffins and adorable plastic watering cans, a store that recognised it could not possibly stock every single book that every single person might be looking for, and so stocked the books the staff had read and liked and could recommend.”

Bombay has a bookstore like that — Kitabkhana in Fort runs according to the Patchett Principle. Like her store, it also functions as a community centre, a place where people will bring their children for book readings, and where authors can do their readings in the pleasant, cosy company of books. If you could combine the two and bring Kitabkhana to Mehboob Studios, where the literary carnival is held, you’d have the best of both worlds.

via Nilanjana S Roy: Cappuccino festivals.

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