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Modi fails the Kalinga test – The Economic Times

April 20, 2009 9 comments

Nothing in our modern democracy, nor anything in our political culture that is over two millennia old, permits the ascendance of a ruler who lacks compassion for the people. In our myths, our history and our practice as citizens of a free and democratic country, there is no warrant for the exercise of unbridled power, or for a leader who fails the Kalinga test. (via Modi fails the Kalinga test- Opinion-The Economic Times).

Ananya Vajpeyi, teaches at the University of Massachusets, Boston. A ‘concerned’ NRI, she is cautioning her unlettered and unsophisticated‘desi brethren’ about the dangers of electing Narendra Modi. The basis of her fears – a highly critical (of Narendra Modi) article in a US magazine The Atlantic, by a influential journalist, Robert D Kaplan (extracted and linked above).

First and foremost, फ़िकर Not! Ananya. The Indian Voter knows what he is doing.

Secondly, and sadly, the hatchet job done by Robert Kaplan suffers from many infirmities – none of which you point out. What Robert Kaplan has done is use Narendra Modi as a human shield to attack India – secure in the belief that ‘no one will dare defend Narendra Modi’.

One – ‘Free’ India made bad and the wrong choices

Look at Kaplan’s statement on India’s post colonial choices “to protect the poor against the ravages of capitalism, which benefits only the majority rather than everyone”

Same difference ...
Same difference …

No one, but no one, in their right minds, (Kaplan excepting) will ever state that Capitalism ‘benefits only the majority’. Capitalism benefited a small minority, who were allowed to concentrate and control the means of production – and enrich themselves; usually through Corporations.

The quid pro quo is that the capitalists will in turn advance the agenda of the ‘rulers’. E.g. The English East India Company. American Socialists may differentiate themselves by calling themselves as Capitalists,  may offer anecdotal evidence of a ‘trickle down effect’ – better than the Eastern European Socialists, but it can hardly be called a benefiting the majority.

Also, India could never have chosen capitalism – as that would have required vast numbers of slaves. Capitalism, which died out in 19th century, as we all know, was built on the pillars of ‘on-shore’ slavery and colonialism. Kaplan either forgets (unlikely) or does not know (surprising) that India has never used slaves – in the last 5000 years of history.

All countries are socialists today ...
All countries are socialists today …

India’s post-colonial choices were a mix of pragmatism, necessity and accepted wisdom of the times – and Western pressures and influences that are responsible for more than a fair share of guilt in these wrong choices.

Kaplan conveniently forgets that economists like JK Gailbraith, Western institutions like World Bank, IMF, stampeded India (and Nehru), into some of these bad choices – which the West now claims were India’s own choices in the first place.

For instance, one of the worst choices made by India, tied to World Bank, IMF and US aid, was to follow the infamous population control policy.

Two -India is a paradox, cannot survive

Kaplan’s ‘deadly ethnic and religious tensions’ bit is again a case of selective amnesia. Would he like to trace the role of US and its client, named Pakistan, in the religious tensions that India manages today? Would he like to account for the US$ 3 billion that Indian NGOs receive each year – mostly from the West. These NGOs mostly, are a cover for proselytization or worse still, some of them are fronts for subverting or influencing Indian public agenda.

French youths face Paris riot police in Clichy-sous-Bois - Oct. 29, 07

French youths face Paris riot police in Clichy-sous-Bois - Oct. 29, '07

Or would he like to posit the fact that the West today has the lowest levels of ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity – and persecutes whatever little is left, like the Roma Gypsies for example. Would he like to mention any other country where such a large minority Muslim population, has greater freedom and opportunity, than in India? Would you like to suggest France instead?

India manages the aspirations of nearly 17 crore Muslims – which is equal to half the population of the entire US of A. Get a minority population of that size, and then Mr.Kaplan, we will talk about the Gujarat riots.

In case you don’t remember, a simple marker for persecution Kaplanbhai, is decline in populations. Has the Muslim population in India declined? Like the Native American population has or the post-bellum African-American population has declined (in comparison to the ante-bellum)? Or the Jewish and and Roma Gypsy populations has (ignoring the limited population recovery of Roma Gypsies in post WW2 West). Or the reduction due to genocide of the poor Congolese by the Belgian emperor.

Did you see such magazine covers in India, Mr.Kaplan?

Did you see such magazine covers in India, Mr.Kaplan?

Post colonial census started with a Indian Muslim population of about 11.2% – which has now crossed 15%. Is that persecution, Mr.Kaplan? Is the ‘perceived’ Muslim backwardness (as defined by the Sachar Committee report) an effect of Indian public policy or are social choices made by Indian Muslims, the cause?

All the “social homogenization that globalization engenders” I have seen in India is how Western culture and content (TV shows, Hollywood, etc.) continues to remain a flop show!

I have no clue where Kaplan gets his data or opinions from?

Three -The argumentative Indian

The Kalinga effect.

I always thought Ashoka’s change in heart was a universal lesson – especially for the war-mongering Desert Bloc killlers – like George Bush! Modi looked away while some (estimated) 2000 Muslims were killed in riots. George Bush was looking, everyday, at more people getting killed in Afghanistan and Iraq (20 lakhs (2 million) at last count) than in Gujarat. What about the various US Governors who looked away as more than 2000 killed in riots at Queens, Bronx and Haarlem?

Is it that only Indians (especially Hindus) are supposed to be moral, Bhai Kaplan? King Ashoka is a lesson in history for all war mongers – and not Indians alone, Mr.Kaplan! Is it that Indians will be always be held to higher standards – while the West (and the Desert Bloc in general) can keep getting away with murder, genocide and massacres?

Four -Kaplan ko kyon gussa aata hai or (If only Narendra Modi would apologize) …

Kaplanbhai has a brilliant idea for Indians!

He is suggesting we let Mr.Modi get away with the Gujarat riots, if he says sorry! By making a proforma apology!

Worry about the West, Kaplanbhai!

Worry about the West, Kaplanbhai!

Like the many false apologies, made or not made, after the genocide of Jews, Native Americans, or the Roma Gypsies or the Australian aborigines, and then get on with life. Ananya, you should know Indians better than Kaplan.

A common derisive Indian response to apologies is अँगरेज़ तो चले गए लेकिन, येह सॉरी शब्द यहीं छोड़ गए (the English have left, but they have left behind this word sorry). Indians will accept a change – complete and total change in behaviour! Satori! The flash! Indians will give a second chance to even criminals and robbers – without an apology!!

But empty apologies? Bad idea! Like Valmiki (the writer of Ramayana) did not apologize – but, instead he reformed! Or the many dacoits (Phoolan Devi et al) in the recent past, who were elected to the Indian Parliament.

Five -Kaplan in knots

Kaplan’s finds “migrants … Muslim, from throughout India have been streaming into Gujarat” and Kaplan also “encountered … alienation from India, evidenced by their withdrawal into their own communities …”

Two comments spaced a few paragraphs apart, and the contradictions become clear. If he cannot understand this anecdotal  ‘inconsistency’ he should either flag it or exclude it. What he is doing, is hiding it!

Six -The best of the trash

Obama and Modi comparison! Now that is interesting!

This is the only bit I liked in that entire article. Leaving his (one-legged, Godhra riots based) commentary aside, I would like to see a second Black person become a President of the USA. Just like there never has been a Catholic President, ever – except once, who was murdered!

Obama is tokenism.

In the last 60  years, in 15 US elections, only one bald US president has been elected – and only 5 bald presidents in the 233 years of Republican US. Seemingly, the US Voter and political system selects people with a headful of hair! And we are not even started on a woman president or a Muslim President! Worry about the prejudices and biases of the American Voter, Mr.Kaplan. India has had numerous Muslims in important positions – Supreme Chief justices,  Presidents (two of them, at last count), many Central Government Ministers!

It has taken nearly 60 years for Narendra Modi’s ‘right-wing’ Indian, ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ party to come to power – and lose it. They have been given opportunities at the states – and been suitably rewarded and punished – based on performance. The Indian Voter has voted the ‘Communists’ and the ‘Fascists’, fundamentalists and liberals, of all shades and colors – in and out of power. Indian Voters are smart enough and know what is good for them.

It is the American Voter, who is the concern, Ananya!

Seven -India – defeated and divided

Kaplan takes a misguided statement of a misinformed (by propaganda as education) Indian, Vijay Chauthaiwale, a molecular biologist that “They (the Muslim) conquered … we lost. The British conquered. We lost. We were a defeated society. We needed to come together as Hindus.” This is so juicy and tempting!

Would Kaplan take the word of an American molecular biologist on history as close-to-truth. If he did, The Atlantic, would throw him out faster than he can spell history.

Is this propaganda or opinion? History, it ain’t, Mr.Kaplan!!

Let us go to the ancient world.

The expansion of the Eyptian Slave Empire, led by their Pharoah Thutmose III,  was stopped at the Battle of Megiddo (1468 BC) – by an Indo-Aryan alliance of Mittanis, Amurrus and Cannanaites. It is the Battle of Megiddo, from which the Biblical Armageddon is derived, meaning, ‘mount of Megiddo’. The alliance led by “king of Kadesh with the support of troops and money from the Mitanni, the great power to the north,” was able to take on the might of the Egytian armies under Pharaoh Thutmose III.

Or the three important battles of the ancient world. Ramesis-II at the Battle of Kadesh!! Semiramis, whose Assyrian Empire, was finally dissolved after WW1, tasted a horrific defeat in her Indian campaign. The resounding defeat of Cyrus The Great at the hands of the Indo-Scythian alliance is rarely recounted in modern history.

More recently, Alexander’s retreat from India (which Kaplan also refers to, in his subsequent post) is too well known for me to repeat. The death of Crassus at the hands of Indo-Parthian General Suren is too grisly for Western tastes – and usually covered up, delicately. As is the defeat of Justinian’s Roman armies, at the Persian borders at the hands of Indo-Persian elephant army is not usually mentioned either.

The first foreign-Islamic ruler in Delhi, Qutubuddin Aibak, was in 1206 by which time large parts of Europe were already under Islamic rule for more than 400 years, from 8th century itself. Within 200 years, by 1400, the Ashvakans (these days known as Afghans) Lodhis and the Moghuls re-took New Delhi from the Khiljis – which ended foreign rule in India. Many Indians are still victims of colonial propaganda – which shows India as  ‘defeated society’. Kaplan is either a (unlikely) victim of this propaganda or a (most probable) part of the problem? Either way, bad job!

And you Ananya, should know better.

Eight -Small things that actually mean big things

He comments on how Narendra Modi wore “traditional paijama pants and a long, elegant brown kurta—ironically, the traditional dress of India imported by the Mughals.”

I got bad news again for you, Mr.Kaplan.

India is the only culture in the world to have unisex clothing. The plainsmen and women wore the 5-yard dhoti and saree – and the hills people wore the tubular top and leggings.  And this is one of the many things that Alexander’s armies learnt in India. Macedonian national dress is the salavaria!

Nine-Where would India be without the British Raj

Kaplan can’t resist crediting the British! His desperation to credit “The British, by contrast, brought tangible development, ports and railways, that created the basis for a modern state. … the British, despite all their flaws, advanced an ideal of Indian greatness”.

His Masters Anticipation - Uncivilized Indians fighting with each other like animals

His Master's Anticipation - 'Uncivilized Indians fighting with each other like animals

At the end of WW2, Britain was a superpower, intact with its huge colonial Empire – apart from the massive debt that it owed the US. With Germany defeated and Hitler dead, Italy in shambles and Mussolini hanged, Britain sat at the head of ‘high tables’ in the post-WW2 world (with the US), deciding the fate of the nations.

On February 18th, the lowly Naval Ratings from the Royal Indian Navy rained on the British parade – by raising the flag of Indian Independence. Britain did not have the stomach to take on the Indian Colonial Army, battle hardened and exposed to warfare in all the global theatres of WW2. They acquiesced and 18 months later the British were out. From then, to …

Britain today, a shell of its former self – with its manufacturing hollowed out, its agriculture in shambles, its economy on the verge of being relegated to the Third World is a huge descent. Much like Spain after Haiti.

In a 100 years after Haiti, Spain flamed out. By 1930, it was in the throes of a Civil War. And in Spain today, prostitution is national industry.

The Masters Glee 2 - Rubbing their colonial hands in anticipation

The Master's Glee 2 - Rubbing their colonial hands in anticipation

India has in the meantime, led by ‘men of straw’, has moved from being a ‘ship-to-mouth’ basket-case, to a significant economic and political success. Yet, the British colonial administrators needed to prove that only they could rule over India. Indians were after all ‘men of straw … of whom no trace will be found after a few years’. And they were led byhalf naked fakir‘. If Britain was indeed so good at its job, why can’t they do anything to save themselves from this terminal decline.

For all this, we owe a debt of gratitude to the British, Mr.Kaplan? Can you make up a better story please, next time!

Next time, Ananya

I could have easily made it ten or even a dozen falsities by Robert Kaplan – but does he deserve so much attention or time, Ananya? Will you rise to any two-bit of writing that denigrates India – using Narendra Modi (or someone else next time) as a human shield?

Are you Ananya, suggesting that international opinion should decide who the Indian Voter will elect?

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