It is strange that the Government of India did not occupy the Gilgit-Baltistan area, despite the opportunity available during the final days of 1947-48 war. Even now, there has been no effort to reach out to the people of this region, who have been subjugated and exploited

A recent video footage shown on television across the globe, has highlighted the atrocities committed by the brutal Pakistani forces on the residents of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. It reminded one of the gory tales of the atrocities committed in the erstwhile east Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Global community is now evincing a keen interest in this area, its people and their plight. The fact is that the people of this region have been leading a life of subjugation ever since 1947, but received no media coverage that could highlight their miserable plight. The print media occasionally tried to portray their problems, but very little heed was paid by the global community. Even the citizens did not take much notice of the same, despite the fact that the residents of this area were citizens of the Dogra kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir that acceded to the Union of India in October 1947.

During partition, Gilgit and Baltistan were an integral part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In a treacherous conspiracy, Major WA Brown, a British commander of the Gilgit Scouts, mutinied against the Maharaja of Kashmir and brought the area under illegal administrative control of Pakistan in November 1947, after the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession with India.

Many military historians wonder as to why India did not occupy the area, despite the opportunity available during the final days of the war. After the ceasefire, in 1949, Pakistan, in a master stroke, kept Gilgit, Baltistan, Hunza and Nagar under its direct control, rather than include them in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or the so-called Azad Kashmir.

For reasons unknown, the Government of India, turned a blind eye to this legal and historic blunder by Pakistan. Thus, the people of these areas, mainly Shias, were left at the mercy of the Sunni-dominated Pakistan, which has through a well executed plan, changed the demography of the region.

In 1970, the area was named as ‘northern areas’. The nadir was reached in 1974, when ZA Bhutto scrapped the Citizenship Act, allowing outsiders to freely buy property and settle in the region. Terror camps were also established in the area, much against the wishes of the locals.

Pakistan ever since continues to be the illegal occupier of Gilgit-Baltistan, exploiting its mineral and hydraulic wealth and denying the people, basic human and fundamental rights. There are no legal institutions, no medical facilities and no professional colleges. The revenue generated from tourism and other assets in the area is not utilised for the development of the area/welfare of the local residents.

The Government of India made no effort to reach out to the people of this region. Pakistan, on the other hand, played the religion card to its advantage, by creating hatred against Hindus and India, through the state-controlled media and school textbooks. India was portrayed as an enemy of the Muslims and Islam, and Pakistan as a citadel of Islam.

Reality dawned on the people in 1988, when more than one lakh Pakistani troopers and militants, under the command of then Brigadier Pervez Musharraf, brutally attacked them and subjected them to rape, loot, arson and forced conversion. Former President and former Pakistan Army chief Pervez Musharraf was given the title,‘Butcher of Shias’.

This incident compelled the people there to realise the actualities and have a re-think about their adopted country. They were also chary of joining hands with PoK, fearing Kashmiri domination. They continued to live like slaves and subjugated people. The area also became a victim of terrorism. To compound their miseries, the footfall of Chinese soldiers and natives also increased manifold with the active collaboration of Pakistani establishment.

Chinese investment in the area is illegal since the entire area is disputed. In a brazen contempt of international conventions, Pakistan has also illegally ceded a part of the area to China. Senge Sering, a scholar-activist from the area, has expressed surprise that nobody in India talks about Gilgit-Baltistan and Chinese illegal investments there.

Pakistan uses the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as cannon fodder, to achieve its politico-strategic interests in the region, particularly in Kashmir. In 1998, Gen Musharraf once again was the architect of a meaningless Kargil war, that not only led to the loss of about 4,000 innocent natives, but also to the displacement of hundreds and thousands of people, who till date remain internally displaced and economically deprived.

Pakistan continues to hold hostage the innocent people of the region for its economic and strategic reasons. The status of the area, though disputed, has been kept ambiguous by Pakistan. Through a sham ordinance in 2009, the area was re-designated as Gilgit-Baltistan and made a Province of Pakistan, with its own Governor and Chief Minister, but without representation in Pakistan’s highest decision-making elected body.

It was to be headed by a nominated Governor. Gilgit-Baltistan Council, headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was also formed as a supreme body. The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, an elected body, has 24 elected and nine nominated members. It has an elected Chief Minister. The arrangement has been termed by the natives as ‘colonial’. Thus, the subjugation, exploitation, discrimination and federal domination continue unabated on the hapless residents of the area.

People there want freedom from the oppressive Pakistan regime. They look up to India and seek its support. New Delhi must provide moral, psychological and financial support to the residents of the area. After all, they are our people living under illegal Pakistani occupation. People-to-people contact and local trade should be encouraged through the opening of trade routes across the Line of Control. India must object to Chinese investments and presence in the area.

Whenever, Pakistan raises the ‘K’ word, it should be sternly reminded that the Kashmir issue is not confined to the Sunni-dominated Valley that comprises 11 per cent of the geographical area of the State and is inhabited by only 22 per cent of its total population, but also other areas and ethnic groups that form the majority in Jammu & Kashmir State, including Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK. The State Subject Act should be restored and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan must have complete control over their land and resources.

(The writer is a retired Army officer and security & strategic affairs analyst)


Stuck in the Slums of Secularist History

 Sandeep Balakrishna

It is a mathematical certainty that cricket commentator Mr. Ramachandra Guha is only an arm’s length away from jumping in to defend the prolonged tyranny of the dark period of Muslim rule of India. I considered adding “alleged historian” to “cricket commentator” but the wicked Mysorepak fanatic, Anand Ranganathan supplied the world with a delicious new concoction: “regional historian.”

Renaming New Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road to Abdul Kalam Road is the latest occasion for Mr. Guha to re-brandish his Muslim tyranny-defending sword in the pages of Hindustan Times.

In a line, Guha’s piece is a tasteless mix of distorted history, denial of atrocities suffered by Hindus at the hands of Muslims, trivializing the suffering and struggles of Hindus against Muslim tyranny, hatred towards India’s majority, and gratuitous advice to rich businessmen.

The voluminous record of Ramachandra Guha’s writings provides substantial evidence to prove that he clothes his false history of India in Tuxedo. Singular but not limited instances of this Guhan phenomenon are the edification of a mass murderer like Jinnah, a violent society-wrecker like E.V. Ramaswami Naicker, and the Missionary exploiter of underage tribal girls, Verrier Elwin as “Makers” of Modern India.

And so it’s unsurprising when he writes:

“The renaming [of Aurangzeb Road] was greeted with great acclaim on social media, and beyond. The enthusiasm was in part a mark of the esteem in which Abdul Kalam was held; in part an expression of Hindutva hatred for that hateful Muslim ruler Aurangzeb…”

As many have accurately observed, would you find a road named in the honour of Hitler anywhere in Israel?

One finds the clearest proof for Ramachandra Guha’s comprehensive mental colonization—or his application of the standard Marxist template—in “an expression of Hindutva hatred for that hateful Muslim ruler Aurangzeb.” In which case, could we also term this characterization as Guhatva hatred of all things Hindu?

As many have accurately observed, would you find a road named in the honour of Hitler anywhere in Israel? The fact that Mr. Guha nonchalantly avoids even a mention of Aurangzeb’s prolonged record of Islam-inspired destruction of everything Hindu should serve as an additional yardstick for his “view” of Indian history. There’s also a deeper reason for this, to quote the perceptive historian and scholar Koenraad Elst:


“Aurangzeb…was a pious Muslim and harmed his own economic interests when that was necessary to serve Islam. Indeed, his policy of offending the Hindus was costly from the beginning and forced him into unnecessary military campaigns which moreover hurt economic life in his empire. So, he destroyed tens of thousands of Hindu temples (as per his own records) not because he just felt like it, but because that iconoclasm was what Islam dictated…You may direct all your ire at Aurangzeb, and while applauding the Moghuls would be prefered, this is still a kind of ire tolerated by the secularist, because it leaves Islam untouched…Just as the Islamic State’s conduct is a faithful emulation of the Prophet’s behaviour, Aurangzeb’s iconoclasm and jizya were but a faithful application of the Quran and Mohammed’s example. This is not going to make you popular, even supposed extremists seek ways of avoiding an ideological confrontation (i.e. confrontation with an ideology, which they confuse with confrontation with a community).”

More than anything, I suspect that the real reason Guha wrote this piece owes to the anxiety he must have felt when he read Mr. Mohandas Pai’s tweet, which he quotes:

“Are there any roads named after Chatrapathi Shivaji, Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Pratap, who fought to save us, in New Delhi?”

And then proceeds to praise Mohandas Pai and issues him a certificate of good behaviour in which is embedded a veiled warning.

“I know and admire Mohandas Pai. He is a public-spirited philanthropist, who has given much of his wealth to social schemes…Although Pai is himself non-communal…”

This pro bono titbit of supercilious advice should be awarded the champion’s trophy for arrogance. Given how magically Guha reads the minds of the majority community as seeking to “demonise Muslims and to exalt Hindus and Sikhs instead…”and “…to pull down Muslims figures from the past, so as to taunt or provoke Indian Muslims in the present,” it’s only fair to do some Guha-mind reading. And so, when he awards Mr. Pai with that coveted “non-Communal” prize, can we interpret it as “Mr. Pai, the next time you do this, I’ll take it away from you?”

The point is not to defend Mr. Mohandas Pai. I’m sure he can do it far better himself, but the point is to underscore the historically-documented Marxist tactic that Ayn Rand has expounded so well in Fountainhead: condemn wealth, but use the wealthy.

Also one doesn’t fail to notice a glaring characteristic of all of such cricket-commentators cum regional historians, and Nehruvian academics and intellectuals when Guha claims that Pai’s tweet was “widely endorsed, suggesting that many middle class Indians wished these rulers to have their names on roads in New Delhi currently named after Humayun, Babur, Akbar…”

The glaring characteristic is their near-total disconnectedness with the real world, of what millions of Indians—not just the middle class—actually think about these things. I shall let this passage from Dr.S L Bhyrappa’s powerful Aavarna illustrate it:

“Over twenty-five lakh pilgrims visit Varanasi every year. To these pilgrims, Varanasi is that ultimate and dateless spiritual harbour, the earthly berth of an entire way of life symbolized by the Vishwanath temple. This is the kind of fervour and longing every Hindu has for the Vishwanath temple. It is this that makes them visualize a grand mental image of the of the temple.

However, when they actually go there, they’re aghast, and their mental image is shattered. Disappointment doesn’t describe the feeling they experience when they see with their own eyes that the object of their devotion doesn’t exist.  In its place, a huge mosque towers over not just the temple-site—it invades the vision of the entire city, which Hindus consider as their holiest.

Now, these pilgrims return home thoroughly disillusioned and share their disillusionment with family, cousins, relatives, neighbours and friends. When this is the bitter, everyday reality, on what basis do we hope to promote Hindu-Muslim amity? You can rewrite history textbooks and cover up these historical truths. But when the students who’ve read your textbooks go on educational tours to such places and ask uncomfortable questions, what answers should their teachers give? This is not just about Kashi or Ayodhya. Historical research yields us some thirty thousand temples that were destroyed by Muslim kings.”

This is the reality Mr. Guha wants to wish away—or sweep under the carpet. He is after all a contributor to our history textbooks. And also, yes, it is the wish of these millions to preserve the memory of the sacrifices and struggles of their ancestors by naming roads in their honour. And this sentiment has always been there among millions of ordinary Indians. Except that the Internet and social media have enabled them to express it openly now.

So, does Mr. Guha want to deny this civilisational memory to these millions of his own countrymen? If he does, it also means that he’s slandering his own ancestors who were undoubtedly communal in the sense the word is used in the unique Guhan lexicon.

And now we arrive at the reason Anand Ranganathan bestowed the “regional historian” honour upon Mr. Guha.

In a bizarre rebellion against reason, Mr. Guha labels Shivaji and Maharana Pratap “regional figures” (note: only figures, not “rulers,” or even “chieftains”) because…hold your breath: because Mr. Guha’s home town is Dehradun and Mr. Mohandas Pai’s is Mangalore! And that these “expressions of Rajput and Maratha pride respectively make some sense in regional contexts; less so in the capital of our large and diverse country.” In which case why would Akbar who ruled from this “capital of our large and diverse country” spend considerable time and energy fighting to wipe out Maharana Pratap, and why did Aurangzeb do the same with Shivaji?

Mr. Guha takes enormous liberties with history with impunity. Even at the peak of their power, the Mughal Empire did not hold sway over all of India. Second, Shivaji’s Empire at its peak included all of Maharashtra, important parts of Gujarat, parts of Karnataka, parts of Andhra, and Tamil Nadu.
For a mere “regional figure,” Shivaji’s naval power was fearsome and unparalleled. And he lorded over the entire Konkan coast—yes, the same coast where Mr. Guha claims Shivaji was unknown, all the while trying to give phony history lessons to Mr. Mohanas Pai for that unforgivable tweet. It is also understandable that Mr. Guha omits mentioning Shivaji’s naval chief, the formidable Kanhoji Angrey who scared the English, Dutch and Portuguese witless. Perhaps Mr. Guha would like to read an extraordinary account of his exploits in Jaswant Singh’s Defending India.

And I guess we have to go with Mr. Guha regarding the people of Doon Valley: after all, Rajiv Gandhi was not yet born.

And for a mere “regional figure,” Shivaji’s statues and monuments exist in almost every city and town of Maharashtra, and in Goa, Bangalore, Vadodara, Surat,Agra, Arunachal Pradesh, and Delhi. There is a statue of Shivaji inside the premises of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune, which in Mr. Guha’s worldview makes it a centre where majoritarianism is practiced. Equally, the Indian Parliament itself is a majoritarian institution given the presence of an equestrian statue of Shivaji inside the Parliament House complex. So is the Postal department which has released stamps commemorating him, and the Indian Navy, which has the INS Shivaji naval base.

The same more or less applies to Maharana Pratap whose memory is preserved beyond the monuments, parks etc in Udaipur.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Ramachandra Guha does not provide a single shred of evidence to back up his grand, sweeping pontifications related to history.

Indeed, the true reason behind Mr. Guha’s selective and misleading history is not whether Shivaji or Rana Pratap were known in Dehradun or Mangalore but the fact that these heroes relentlessly tormented Guha’s favourite historical Muslim tyrants. Oh, and there’s this bit about how these Hindu kings were “all lords in an age of feudalism.”

To be sure, the application of the word “feudal” in India’s historical context of Hindu kingdoms is of suspicious validity. Hindu kingdoms ruled by the dictum of “dharma” as in “Raja Dharma,” a far cry from the original definition of feudalism which originated and thrived in Europe. Citing Shivaji’s own example, his coronation was considerably delayed because he didn’t originally hail from a Kshatriya lineage. In feudal Europe, a typical robber baron (this was what a typical feudal lord was) would simply butcher his way through said coronation. But this is a discussion for another day.

If anything, the Nehruvian ecosystem is perhaps the true feudalism that continues to exist in India albeit in a severely diminished stature and power now.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.

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Hip yoga literature written by Westerners is leaving India out

Today, modern yoga—once considered the esoteric pursuit of Indian ascetics—has fans all over the world. The global yoga industry is valued at $5.7 billion, with an estimated 15 million devotees in the US alone professing to some sort of yoga practice.
But yoga isn’t important just because it helps practitioners find health, wellness or spiritual depth. Increasingly, yoga also allows people to tell new stories about themselves and how they fit in a globalising present.
In recent decades, a “yoga fiction” genre has begun to crop up in English-language bookstores. As yoga memoirs, also known as “yogoirs”, yoga chick lit, yoga comedies and yoga murder mysteriesflood the literary marketplace in the West, they change the way we think about one of India’s most popular cultural exports. These yoga fictions paradoxically make India both more and less visible in a globalising world.

Yogis were hungry for power. They were fearsome creatures on the border between the human and the supernatural.

Stories about yoga, and yogis, have a long tradition in Indian narrative, folklore and oral culture. In many accounts, the scholarDavid Gordon White shows that yogis were the classic villains of adventure tales. These fictional yogis didn’t spend too much of their time in complicated physical postures or in deep meditative breathing. Instead, they tended to be spies and soul-stealers. They worked close to kings. Yogis were hungry for power. They were fearsome creatures on the border between the human and the supernatural.
In the early 20th century, as yoga began to take the shape familiar to most of us today, influential Indian gurus who wanted to spread yoga around the world decided to start telling their own stories. Spiritual memoirs, they thought, could help them publicise their goals for a broad international audience.
Paramahansa Yogananda was one such guru. After a long period of religious training in India, Yogananda was sent to the US in the early 20th century. In 1946, he published Autobiography of a Guru, which became a hit with spiritual seekers for decades.
In this autobiography, written in English, Yogananda sought to portray the Indian identity as both timelessly spiritual and fully compatible with modernity. For instance, in passages that evoke Indian supernatural stories about yogis, Yogananda liked to call attention to the mind-reading powers of his guru.
But he suggested that these occult powers were really highly sophisticated forms of modern technology. Before the wireless had even made it to his part of India, he argued, his guru was a perfect human radio. Yoga allowed Indians, and India with them, to seem traditional, futuristic and authoritative all at once.
Fast forward to the present moment. In the 21st century, new visions of India are taking form in Western popular fiction about yoga. These new fictions include ironic memoirs, comedies of manners, self-help novels, and searing autobiographies.
Many of these writings conspicuously jettison yoga’s historic roots in South Asia. One popular American yoga murder mystery series, for instance, quite literally seeks to kill off the practice’s associations with the subcontinent. In this series, written by Diana Killian, control over a yoga empire shifts from an Indian-trained American to a heroine who can only teach yoga for dogs.
Yoga chick lit, as in the self-help fiction of Meryl Davids Landau, assures nervous beginners that they won’t have to struggle through any supposedly scary Sanskrit to gain the benefit of the practice.

Yoga allowed Indians, and India with them, to seem traditional, futuristic and authoritative all at once.

Novels like these suggest that India’s authority over yoga is now quite fragile in a Western popular imagination. Such a possibility alarms the Indian state, which has recently embarked on a major campaign to restore India as the primary cultural steward of yoga. Last December, India’s prime minister appointed the country’s first national yoga minister.
Challenging both the idealisation of India and its erasure is a new and increasingly vocal literary presence: the Indian diaspora. The late Indian American poet and essayist Reetika Vazirani, for example, poignantly showed how yoga could illuminate the difficulties of her family’s move to America. The US of Vazirani’s youth, she reveals, both exoticised and distrusted nonwhite immigrants.
Her essay, The Art of Breathing, brings to light the contradictions of globalising yoga. Why can Westerners enthusiastically embrace a cultural practice from the subcontinent, while their societies remain decidedly uncertain about actual people from India? When Vazirani hears Sanskrit mispronounced in her yoga class, it feels like violence. It reminds her of the ways in which she is disconnected from India and treated as a foreigner in her new homeland.
Through these different and competing stories of yoga, India takes on many identities. In some threads, yoga promotes an idealised India that need not choose between tradition and modernity. In others, yoga figures India as eminently dispensable—the nightmare of the Indian state.
And in yet other visions, yoga invites us to question the complex dynamics of power, racism, and even violence that shape globally circulating ideas of India. Yoga’s difficult positions, it turns out, are not just physical.The Conversation
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read theoriginal article. We welcome your comments at

Sanskrit: A Classical Scene

Sneha Bhura

When Arshia Sattar, noted for her English translations of Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Kathasaritsagara, was studying Sanskrit in the US, she remembers watching GV Iyer’s Adi Shankaracharya (1983)–India’s first Sanskrit feature film–as a ‘language exercise’. The movie outing was hardly meant to generate a can’t-wait-to- watch kind of excitement . She and her peers spent most of their time exchanging notes on possible translations of what was being said onscreen. Today, after a hiatus of more than a decade, there are three new Sanskrit films lined up for release in the course of the next year. Will they go beyond a niche audience and help create a well-defined genre of modern Sanskrit cinema in the future? Sattar is sceptical. ‘As for the ‘future’ of Sanskrit films, I can’t see it as terribly bright. Unless in the next few years we are persuaded that Sanskrit is the only language we should be speaking,’ she says over email.

Vinod Mankara, an award-winning filmmaker and writer from Kerala, is more hopeful. He was first exposed to the refined elegance of Sanskrit as a child when he would visit temples in his hometown to watch elaborate Kathakali performances with his grandparents. He was besotted with the richly detailed spectacle of this classical dance-drama rendered in chaste Sanskrit. One particular play stayed with him. What Mankara really liked about Nalacharitham was how the play dealt with flesh-and- blood human figures rather than the gods, goddesses and demons in all the other Kathakali performances he had seen. He later studied the play in college and went on to make a critically-acclaimed documentary on it titled Nalacharitham Anchaam Divasam, which won the Kerala Kalamandalam Award. Today, after five years of working on the script, Mankara is ready to release Priyamanasam, a film that chronicles the agony and ecstasy of the 17th century romantic poet- scholar Unnayi Warrier while he was engaged in the creation of his masterpiece Nalacharitham Athakatha

Once, while filming Priyamanasam, Mankara called some of his crew members to the studio to see snippets of his Sanskrit film. He wanted to gauge their response. He was relieved to find that they understood everything that was going on in the scene, in spite of not knowing the least bit of Sanskrit. That’s when Mankara knew he was on the right track. “I have used Kathakali as the subject of this film. And Kathakali is very colourful and so is my treatment of the subject. The colourful scenes and the acting will aid the comprehension of the language. Also, in the last two Sanskrit movies, the language was used in a very rigid manner. In Priyamanasam, I have used Sanskrit dialogues in a very talkative way, like you would talk in Malayalam or Hindi,” he says, explaining his departure in style from that of the Kannada filmmaker GV Iyer. Interestingly Mankara’s Priyamanasam (‘sweetheart’ in Sanskrit) is fully composed in the ancient language from start to finish, including the credits and names on posters, in a bid to make Sanskrit its real hero.

In the film, when Warrier is seen in the act of writing Nalacharitham in the palace of Travancore–as the king and the queen anxiously await the final draft–the poet swings between acute spasms of hallucination and reality. The characters of his play come alive in his mind. These illusory characters talk and argue with the writer and are cleverly juxtaposed with the appearance of the three female lovers who had influenced the poet’s past. This chimeric intermingling of the past, present and future in the poet’s mind is emblematic of a creative churn common to many, and can be transposed to writers and artists of any age. This aspect of the period drama, Mankara feels, will resonate with a modern audience. Due to release in the first week of September, Priyamanasam will be the third Sanskrit language film in the history of Indian cinema. “Marketing the movie will be a big challenge. I am planning to release it in five to ten cinema halls in many cities in India. But most importantly, I will release it abroad as many universities there are eagerly awaiting the release of the film, especially Germany,” says Mankara who has made more than 600 documentaries so far, including one on the painter Raja Ravi Varma.

While a number of measures have been taken by the current Modi government to foreground the rich contributions of Sanskrit–that ‘repository of wit and wisdom of all the Indian peoples throughout the ages’, the attempt to popularise it as a spoken language is clearly assuming a life of its own. That so many filmmakers should make full- length feature films in the language is perhaps the most credible sign of this. The ‘show, don’t tell’ essence of the visual medium may eventually prove far more useful in giving the language a modern-day lease of life.

When Bangalore-based Ravishankar V, a 43-year-old techie, attended a 10-day workshop on Sanskrit at Infosys, he was greatly disturbed to learn how Indians feel so ‘apologetic’ about an important part of their own cultural heritage, and how they wait for foreigners to expound the virtues of Sanskrit to realise its merit. “The more I learnt about the language, the more I saw how a lot of people who have reached great heights in science, like Einstein, have appreciated the thoughts that are there in Eastern philosophy,” he says, “So I wanted to do something for this great language for the next generation.” As a passionate writer of children’s books, he had a story to tell. And the workshop inspired him to meld his storytelling and multimedia skills with his newfound love of Sanskrit into a Sanskrit film.

If all goes by plan, next August will see Ravishankar release Punyakoti, the country’s first crowd-funded and crowd-sourced Sanskrit animation feature film. Set to tune by the acclaimed music maestro Ilaiyaraaja himself, the film’s story is derived from the Padma Purana, a Sanskrit text about a beautiful cow called Punyakoti who is an epitome of honesty and truth. In Karnataka, the Kannada version of this story is more popular as a folk song called Govina haadu and is set in the fictional village of Karunaadu. Ravishankar uses the premise of this song to weave another story on man- animal conflict, when Karunaadu is beset with a drought, to show how the ideals of the truthful cow are relevant under the circumstances.

“This project is a big experiment in Indian cinema itself,” says Ravishankar, “The pre-production of the movie has been done in a crowd- sourced manner for the first time ever in the country.” Several studios and animators have collaborated to produce the varied scenes in the film, he elaborates, but to ensure some method to the madness, every shot has been pre-written and there exists a strict style sheet. “One animator is in Brazil. He is Portuguese. All I know is that he loves Sanskrit and is trained in animation. In fact, I have not even seen some of my team members,” says the filmmaker, who hopes to garner his estimated budget of Rs 40 lakh via Wishberry, a crowd-funding website.

“How is a gangster going to curse his enemies in Sanskrit?”

Ravishankar even got his dialogues simplified by Samskrita Bharati, India’s premier institution involved in promoting spoken Sanskrit the world over. Yet, not everyone is convinced that celluloid ventures in the language will find large enough audiences. National Award-winning film critic MK Raghavendra has his reservations, especially since Sanskrit does not lend itself easily to the exploration of unconventional subjects. “Sanskrit takes too much effort to learn, its vocabulary has not been expanded to include contemporary experience and this means that films in Sanskrit will have to use English terms like pizza, mobile phone, AK 47,” says Raghavendra. “Most importantly, we can’t have bad words in Sanskrit. Since cinema is getting more violent and is dealing with crime increasingly, with people constantly swearing, how will Sanskrit accommodate that? How is a gangster going to curse his enemies in Sanskrit?” He believes that Indian audiences may at the most enjoy bits of Sanskrit in a Hindi film: “Say, a film about a peace- loving Sanskrit scholar who is made angry by ruffians and becomes tough.”

Chamu Krishna Shastry, who pioneered the ‘Speak Sanskrit Movement’ through his NGO Samskrita Bharati, counters that view: “As far as vocabulary is concerned , no other language in the world has the kind of word-generating power that Sanskrit has. When a language is used on a daily basis, words automatically come into existence. Current developments can be easily updated in Sanskrit if it is used daily.” Ask Shastry if Sanskrit is really being used beyond academic seminars and conferences, and he confidently reels off a set of numbers. “During the last 34 years,” he says, “Samskrita Bharati has taught more than 10 million people to speak Sanskrit and trained more than 100,000 teachers. Lakhs of people have started using Sanskrit as a medium of communication. Today it is widely used in homes, schools and private conversations.”

“Without Sanskrit, there is no way you can understand anything about Indian culture. The language carries the entire spectrum of the Indian intellectual system,”

Another filmmaker trying to revive Sanskrit on celluloid is the well known Kannada filmmaker KSL Swamy, better known as Ravi. Titled Prabhodha Chandrodayam (‘Rise of the Moon of Intellect’), his film based is based on an 11th century play by Krishna Mishra Yati and is being funded by the Central and Karnataka governments along with some religious mathas. Interestingly, Ravi worked as assistant director to GV Iyer for 30 years, which may explain his own attempt to release a film in Sanskrit. But his film will also have a smattering of Malayalam and other local languages, as Ravi noted in a recent article: ‘Could people like bhajiwalas talk in Sanskrit? At no point in our history did the entire population speak the language.’

Professor Ramesh C Bhardwaj, head of the Sanskrit Department at Delhi University, is clear about the value of the language. “Without Sanskrit, there is no way you can understand anything about Indian culture. The language carries the entire spectrum of the Indian intellectual system,” he says. “The question is not about how many people are speaking Sanskrit, which is hardly more than 1 per cent anyway. So many great Sanskrit scholars I know can hardly speak the language. It is about understanding the root of our culture, to highlight the illustrious tradition of our intellectual thought. Perhaps, this is what these movies are trying to do.”

This article is from Open Magazine

Has China decided the Future of Tibet?


Though it escaped the Indian (and the world) media, a crucial event occurred in Beijing: the Sixth Tibet Work Forum was held on August 24 and 25.
A Tibet Work Forum usually decides the fate of the Roof of the World for the next 5 to 10 years. India should be concerned, as it also defines China’s western borders policies.

The previous Forum was held in Beijing in January 2010. Before that, four Tibet Work Conferences were organised in 1980, 1984, 1994 and 2001.

But what is exactly a Work Forum on Tibet?

It is a conference attended by several hundreds of officials, including the entire Politburo, the People’s Liberation Army, representatives from different ministries, as well as local satraps.

The 6th Tibet Work Forum was presided over by President Xi Jinping, who pleaded for more efforts to promote economic growth and bring about inclusive social progress in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas.
Note that the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan-inhabited areas of four provinces (Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan) have been clubbed together as far as Beijing’s policy for Tibet is concerned.

Xi vowed to take sustainable measures and continue preferential policies for the mountainous region which, “has entered a critical stage toward fulfilling the country’s [China] goal of building a moderately prosperous society in a comprehensive way.”

The Chinese President asserted:

“Development, which aims to improve living conditions for various ethnic groups and beef up social cohesion, should be advanced in a prudent and steady manner, and all measures taken should be sustainable.”
The dual objective of improving the ‘local conditions’ and ‘beefing up social cohesion’ pervaded the speech of the President. Xi also affirmed,

“Efforts should also be made to incorporate education on ‘socialist core values’ into courses in schools at various levels, popularize the national commonly-used language and script, and strive to foster Party-loving and patriotic builders and successors of the socialist cause.”
Will the Tibetans accept these ‘core values’?

Imposition of Chinese language could have severe backlashes on the Tibetan plateau. The unrest in March/April 2008 has already been a sign of rejection of the imposition of a new Tibetan culture with Chinese characteristics.

Premier Li Keqiang was also present at the Forum. He affirmed that “it will be an arduous task for Tibet to build a ‘moderately prosperous’ society over the next five years,” though this is a component of the Chinese Dream, so dear to President Xi.

Li also pledged to increase financial aid to Tibet and build further infrastructure which means more roads, airports, railway lines and dams. For India, it is certainly a cause of worries.

The entire politburo, including the seven members’ Standing Committee, was in attendance.

Behind these promises, the Forum focused on China’s main worry, namely the ‘instability’ of the Land of Snows, or in other words, the ‘nationalist’ aspirations of the people of Tibet.

According to the official news agency, President Xi Jinping mentioned “national and ethnic unity as the key plans for Tibet, vowing a focus on long-term, comprehensive stability and an unswerving anti-separatism battle.”

It is ‘an obligatory task’ said Xi. It shows that China is still trembling, more than 60 years after Tibet was ‘liberated’.

Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’: “governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilising Tibet.”

Tibet’s main border is with India. Does it mean that China is afraid of India?

Xi also urged “the promotion of Marxist values in people’s views on ethnics, religion and culture.” Party’s officials should “keep pace with the CPC Central Committee in their thoughts and deeds, telling them to ‘cherish unity as if it was their eyes’,” said Xi.

Will Tibetans one day cherish unity with Han Chinese as if the latter were their own eyes? It may never happen.

An important Politburo meeting
Already on July 30, a meeting of the Politburo had discussed Tibet affairs. Xinhua had then announced:

“Chinese leaders met to discuss economic and social development in Tibet, and how to ensure the autonomous region achieve prolonged stability.”
President Xi Jinping said the solution for Tibet was to “maintain national religious policies and promote patriotism in Tibet.”

The July Politburo meeting, 4 weeks before the Forum, raises a serious issue. Why to have a full meeting of the Politburo to ‘prepare’ the Tibet Work Forum?

When people had speculated about the possibility of the Party holding meetings at the summer resort of Beidaihe, Xinhua argued:

“Not long ago, the CCP Central Politburo met twice, on July 20 and on July 30, which was unusual. They have already discussed ‘The Thirteenth Five-Year Plan’, the CCP Fifth Plenary Session, economic strategies, the ‘anti-tiger campaign’, and other important issues.”
The article, though it does not mention the Tibet issue, asked:

“Is it meaningful, necessary, or possible to talk about these issues again in Beidaihe several days or ten days later?”
So why have a Politburo meeting on Tibet (even if ‘Tibet’ was just a topic on the agenda of the July meeting), to discuss the same things 4 weeks later?

A plausible explanation could be that there was some serious disagreement amongst the leaders on the Tibet issue.

The air had to be cleared (or the positions fine-tuned) before calling for the much larger forum which is usually attended by 200 or 300 cadres.

Since the time of the so-called ‘liberation’ in 1950, the leadership has always been sharply divided on the direction to take for the Roof of the World.

The situation seems the same today.

Around the same time, former President Jiang Zemin was targeted.

It was insinuated that ‘a highly positioned cadre’, when he was in power, arranged for his trusted aides to be in the top positions for the purpose of being able to manipulate power in the future. Jiang was asked to stop interfering in China’s affairs.

Could it be that some members of the Jiang faction were trying to derail Xi’s policy of development in Tibet? It is a possibility.

Two high-level visits to the Roof of the World
Following the July Politburo meeting, two members of the over-powerful body were sent to Tibet on ‘inspection’ (a few days before the Forum was held).

Wang Yang, vice-premier of the State Council ‘inspected’ Lhasa and Nagchu between August 13 and 15. Xinhua said that he “investigated relevant work [linked to] poverty alleviation and development, animal husbandry, tourist industry and meteorological services.”

This indicates the direction in which the Forum went a week later.

Wang is said to have concluded:

“We are proud of the great achievements made for the development of Tibet, Tibet has a precious natural and cultural heritage; it should be cherished.”

It was a prelude to the 6th Tibet Work Forum.
On August 13, Xinhua reported that Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), another member of the 25-member Politburo, visited Tibet (and Chongqing). He urged the military forces posted for defense of the border [with India] “to make down-to-earth efforts and build a strong army”.

Xu pleaded for better management and control of the borders “as well as innovation with ideological work at military forces to shore up the morale of servicemen for border defense.”

Xu’s exhortation was reflected in Xi’s speech during the Forum.

Xi reiterated his theory about the ‘border areas’: “governing border areas is the key for governing a country, and stabilising Tibet is a priority for governing border areas.”

In the years to come, the ‘stability’ of Tibet and the borders with India, irrespective of economic and other issues, will remain crucial for the Beijing leadership to survive.

It was perhaps worthwhile to have 2 meetings!

And of course, “the Central Government did not in the past, nor is now and will not in the future accept the [Dalai Lama’s] Middle Way solution to the Tibet issue,” said an article penned by an official the United Front Department after the Forum.

Here too, the hard line has prevailed once again.

A KISS of change

Bibek Debroy
In a popular fairy tale, a kiss turns a frog into a prince. Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), in Bhubaneswar. Most people have heard of KISS and Achyuta Samanta (the founder of KISS and KIIT), or should have. While there is a KIIT International School, with some international students, the core is the regular KISS school and the associated KISS college for higher education. KISS was started in 1993, with 125 tribal students and some financial support from ministry of tribal affairs. Today, there are 25,000 tribal students, from 62 poor tribal communities (13 primitive tribal groups). Most, though not all, are from Odisha. For these students, who are poor and first-generation learners, education is free, from kindergarten to post-graduation. Since schooling is residential, board, lodging and healthcare are also free. Compared to many schools, private as well as public, the KISS track record is rather good—gender ratio, retention rates, pass percentages, integration of vocational education, sports and extra-curricular activities. More specifically, the school has 19,057 students, 9,044 girls and 10,013 boys. The college has 5,994 students, 3,204 girls and 2,790 boys. As news about KISS spread in the deprived and disadvantaged catchment area (Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh), there has been demand for enrolment in KISS. I was told there are around 50,000 applicants, even after filtering for poverty.
But there is a reason for that cap of 25,000. This is primarily a private cum social initiative, with very limited money received from governments, Union or state. While rice is provided by the state government, this is at APL (above poverty line), not BPL (below the poverty line) rates. Most land (80 acres, 1.5 million sq. ft. of built up area) has been privately acquired, from villagers. The only exception seems to be some land given on lease basis to KIIT (one of its wings), not to KISS. This land was part of the Chandaka Industrial Estate. That never took off. There were sick industries and plots of unutilised land lying around. Hence, Odisha’s Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) handed over some of this land to educational institutions, KIIT being one. Since there are no doles and handouts from outside, the KISS model works only if there is internal cross-subsidisation and that happens to be from KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology), set up in 1992 with Rs 5,000. But that expansion of the acronym was in the past. Since 2004,
KIIT has been a university, having first taken the deemed university route.
KIIT University now has eleven different schools, spread over 400 acres and with 20,000 students. Note that all these courses, under-graduate and post-graduate, are “professional”. You won’t go to KIIT University and study liberal arts.
Other than the HRD ministry, UGC and AICTE, assorted newspapers and magazines rate educational institutions. Let’s not get into that. For the same university, ranks can also vary across different schools. KIIT University isn’t at the very top. (It is certainly more difficult to attract good faculty to Bhubaneswar. Any good product from an educational institution is the result of faculty, learning from peers and tight entry criteria.) But it is rapidly moving towards the top, especially in the eastern region, and given its relative youth, the climb up the rankings is remarkable. Without KIIT, there can’t be KISS and that has to do with the innovative way of financing KISS—5% of KIIT’s turnover is mandatorily donated to KISS, like CSR. “Profits” from KIIT are ploughed into KISS. Every employee of KIIT contributes 3% of gross salary towards KISS. Any vendor or contractor who supplies to KIIT has to mandatorily contribute 2-3% of profits to KISS. Vocational products produced in KISS, as outcome of vocational training, fetch some money. (Students retain 50% of profits from sale of such products). Finally, there is the channel of pure charitable donations. These multiple methods are enough to sustain KISS and it works far better than public subsidies, through financing, or even direct public provisioning (think of government schools, colleges and universities).
Why not replicate KISS elsewhere, ignoring the problem of an inability to clone Achyuta Samanta? For the record, KISS does plan to set up branches in all 30 of Odisha’s districts, in 10 states and 10 countries (2 branches in Bangladesh). Since 2013, there has been a KISS school in Delhi (Najafgarh), with 1,200 students, as a JV between KISS and NCT (National Capital Territory) government. A KISS school is about to start in Ranchi. But all these will perforce deviate from the original Bhubaneswar model of using KIIT to cross-subsidise KISS. It isn’t that easy to replicate KIIT everywhere and that isn’t intended either. Therefore, such other KISS initiatives will have to be supported by state (or other) governments, for land, for building infrastructure and for running expenses. None of those requirements are significant, compared to huge sums of money governments spend on education, with limited gains. Nevertheless, that original Bhubaneswar idea appeals to me much more. (I haven’t told you about Achyuta Samanta’s antecedents. It is quite a story.) Someone had the foresight to say—I don’t want to go to the government with a begging bowl. Let me see what I can do, individually and collectively. Let me be the change agent, instead of perpetually asking governments to do something. I don’t expect governments to establish temples to Lakshmi and Sarasvati. That’s the reason KISS is precious.
The author is Member, NITI Aayog. Views are personal

Why Kalam Represents India, And Aurangzeb Does Not

Sanjay Dixit
While reading Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s argument against Aurangzeb being brought to life by this act of renaming Aurangzeb Road after APJ Abdul Kalam, he has fallen into the familiar bogey of the Indian brand of secularism.

What he is saying in effect is that while he completely agrees that Aurangzeb was evil, it is not advisable to discuss him in the open, as the debate would polarise the discourse. Besides, he contends that Aurangzeb’s actions orAurangzebiyat should be disconnected from him. This is rather disingenuous.

So the murderer of his father, brothers, nephew, and sister; the oppressor of the Hindus for their faith, the man who would not honour his words upon Qur’an (Reference: Zaffarnama of Guru Gobind Singh), and who would apply Sharia law in a Hindu majority country, the man who ordered the Sufi saint Sarmad and Guru Tegh Bahdur beheaded, who destroyed the temples of Kashi, Mathura and Somnath to build mosques on the sites; should not be discussed as it brings his ghost alive much to the discomfiture of many who either want to avoid Aurangzeb’s Talibani narrative or secretly wish it to take root again.

People need to know that Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed after being found guilty of blasphemy under Islamic Law. How was he different from the Taliban or Al Qaeda, if not ISIS?

Much though I admire the erudition of Gopal Krishna Gandhi (He was in the Mussoorie Academy last year to deliver a lecture to the common group of Phase V and Foundation Course IAS and Civil Services officers), I find this timidity to tackle an extremist narrative head-on a typical weakness of liberal democratic countries.

It can be seen in Obama’s assertion when he says that what ISIS is doing is not Islam, whereas every follower of ISIS believes that they are doing exactly what is contained in the Islamic scriptures. Even Europe was living in this world of make-believe till Charlie Hebdo happened and they woke up with a rude shock.

India too has to counter the hate narrative contained within post-Quranic Islam with a counter narrative – not only of the syncretic values epitomised by APJ Abdul Kalam and Sarmad but also to emphasize the Indian spiritual thought which considers unquestioning belief the lowest form of spiritual calling, and even that Bhakti Yoga process or path is a completely non-violent one.

This blending of Bhakti Marg and Sufism is what Dara Shikoh (some Persian lovers would prefer it as Dara Shukoh but Dara Shikoh is what India at large knows him as) was attempting when Aurangzeb’s extremist Islam won – not in the heart of Indians or the battlefield of ideas but on the battlefield of war of succession.

For the first time, I am making public a letter written by Muhammad Akbar, the second son of Aurangzeb to Sawai Ram Singh of Jaipur. This is part of the documents andfirmans kept preserved in the State Archives of Bikaner and form part of the extraordinary research of Dr. Mahendra Khadgawat, Director of that Institute. The original letter written in the style of a firman is followed by its Hindi translation. Even his own son avers in this letter that Aurangzeb is biased against Hindus and his father’s actions portray his prejudice.

It is clear as crystal to any impartial observer that the only thing common between APJ Abdul Kalam and Aurangzeb was their love for playing Veena. Even these cultural activities were banned by Aurangzeb as he became more and more radicalised and gave up the more tolerant style of his predecessors.

He decided to bring in the extreme Arabic version of Islam into a country in which Muslims were in a considerable minority. Forced conversions, imposition of a religious tax onkaafirs (infidels or nonbelievers), destruction of holy sites, extreme forms of torture of adversaries all led to a collapse of authority and rebellions broke out everywhere.

He first tried to annex Rajput kingdoms, but that resulted in loss of authority in North India. Then Marathas and his own son, Akbar rose up in revolt and he had to spend last 26 years of his 49 year rule in the Deccan playing a game of roulette with the Marathas and Bahmani sultans. His foolhardy ventures ultimately paved the way for the end of Muslim rule and Sharia Law in India forever.

Even Pakistan hasn’t been able to bring full fledged Sharia Law of the Aurangzeb era.

So both the apologists for Aurangzeb, and those unwilling to confront his ghost have to just take a gulp and adjust to the new realities. The Aurangzeb narrative must be discussed, confronted and defeated. No use evading it on the grounds of a hollow secular argument.

There was nothing secular in what Aurangzeb did nor is there anything secular in the ideology that he sought to impose on India. Kalam, on the other hand, is the very embodiment of India’s secular ethos in the Dara Shikoh mould.

Aurangzeb, therefore, is a ghost which India has to openly exorcise. As the progenitor of Aurangzebiyat, he cannot escape scrutiny on the basis of some phoney differentiation. Aurangzeb and Aurangzebiyat are one. Three fourths has been done by renaming Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road, let the remaining one fourth be done by renaming Aurangzeb Lane as Dara Shikoh lane.

Sanjay Dixit is presently Principal Secretary, Ayush, Rajasthan.

Why I danced when I found out Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road was being renamed after APJ Abdul Kalam

Tarek Fatah
In March, at a lecture in Delhi, I challenged India’s Muslims to stand up and reject the Islamic State and instead start living in a state of Islam; the pursuit of truth above everything else.
And to start that journey I suggested they should demand that the Indian and Delhi governments change the name of the city’s Aurangzeb Road, named after the murderous Mughal Emperor to the pious and poet prince Dara Shikoh who was beheaded by Aurangzeb.
As an Indian Muslim born in Pakistan, I first visited India in 2013 and was shocked to see the name Aurangzeb adorn one of the most majestic streets of India’s capital.
Here was a man who had killed his elder brother to stage a palace coup, who had his own father imprisoned for life and had several Islamic leaders of India hanged to death, among them the spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims of Gujarat. As emperor, Aurangzeb banned music, dance and the consumption of alcohol in the Mughal Empire. In Sindh and Punjab where many Muslims attended discourses by Hindu Brahmins, he ordered the demolition of all schools and the temples where such interaction took place, making it punishable for Muslims who dressed like non-Muslims.
But nothing is more of a testimony to the cruelty and bigotry of Aurangzeb than the executions of the Muslim Sufi mystic Sarmad Kashani and the ninth Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur. He considered the majority Hindus of his realm as ‘Kufaar’ and placed them as second class to Muslims, waged jihad against Shia Muslim rulers and wiped out all traces of the liberal, pluralistic and tolerant Islam introduced by his great-grandfather Emperor Akbar.
Aurangzeb today would be the equivalent of Caliph El-Baghdadi of the Islamic State (ISIS), if not Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar of the Taliban.
Yet, most Indian Muslims are either not aware of Aurangzeb’s crimes or choose to relish the thought that he was the one true king who ruled India in the name of Islam with an iron fist and put Hindus and Sikhs in their rightful place—at the bottom of the heap.
So I told the Muslims in my audience that if they truly wanted to fight ISIS, they should take the lead in demanding the erasing of a murderer’s name and replace it with his brother who is loved by all as the epitome of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
Then came news of the death of India’s most loved president, the Muslim from the country’s deep south who lived in a state of Islam, not the Islamic State, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
On 29 June, I took to Twitter and urged Indians to ask their governments to change the name from Aurangzeb to APJ Abdul Kalam Road.
The idea caught on like wildfire on social media and soon Lok Sabha member from Delhi, Maheish Girri, wrote to Prime Minister Modi to help change the name.
Yesterday, I was woken by phone calls from friends in India with the news that the Delhi government had decided to change the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road. It was 3 am in Toronto and I for a moment thought I must be dreaming, but I was awake so I woke up my wife to share the news.
She shrugged me off, “Buddah pagal ho gaya hai kyaa?’’
But as best as I could do, I did a mix of the lungi dance and bhangra. I couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. (I am now hoping unashamedly that someone in his kindness will invite me to be in Delhi when the formal change in name takes place.)
The change of name, be it a human being or a place carries huge significance. At times such a change is a sign of subservience and servitude to a new master, while at other times it is one of overthrowing the bondage of a former dictator.
Thus Malcolm X dropped his last name and took on X to reject the family name given to him by some past White slave-owner. In the same vein, Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd as a rebuke to the horrors inflicted on the Russian people by Stalin.
In the country of my birth, Pakistan, many names that reminded us of the British Raj were changed. Thus ‘Victoria Road’ and ‘Elphinstone Street’ in Karachi took on names to reflect the new reality of a supposedly independent country. But not all name changes are an act of correcting wrong.
I was born on a quiet street in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949 on what was once known as ‘Lala Lajpat Rai Road’, named after the Punjabi author, politician and one of the leaders of the Indian Independence movement.
Lalaji, who died in 1928 after suffering blows to his head in a clash with the police in Lahore, needs no introduction in India. But in the land where he gave his life, hardly anyone knows him, let alone honours him for his service and sacrifice. His crime? He was Hindu. Therefore, his name needed to be erased from the newly created Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the so-called ‘Land of the Pure.’
Even as a child I could not understand why ‘Guru Mandir’ the neighbourhood where I was born had to undergo a name change and become ‘Sabeel Wali Masjid’.
Already some Islamists inside India are condemning the change in name. They will argue that if changing the name of Lala Lajpat Rai Road in Pakistan is wrong then the same principle should be applied to Aurangzeb Road. Wrong.
Lala Lajpat Rai was a symbol of India’s fight for freedom while Aurangzeb is a symbol of India’s subjugation and the imposition of an Arabized culture of radical Islam on a land that savours pluralism and secularism. Jai Hind!

Six quintessentials without which India cannot become a super power

Virender Kapoor

“God gives you nuts but does not crack them for you” – German proverb

Today, Indians are hoping like never before that the country is on the verge of a great turnaround. They are pegging their faith to their new leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been able to motivate the nation with a promise to deliver good governance. The world is looking at us with awe, probably and partially convinced that “Yes, They Can”. Several factors are tilted in our favour for this to happen.

Demographic dividend derived out of 1.25 billion people translates into more than 800 million people below the age of 35 years does not seem to be a rhetoric because these numbers are for real. No one can deny that India is blessed with natural resources, which very few other nations have.

It is also difficult to brush under the carpet a fact that Indians have great brains. We produced great scientists, doctors, filmmakers, engineers and musicians. Therefore, we on our own, could produce an atomic bomb, we are a space power, we created an enormous telecom infrastructure and we made more than a mark in the field of software and this checklist is pretty long and impressive.

If we had all this, then why couldn’t we become a super power till now? Can the prime minister alone change the fortunes of a billion-plus people? Can hope alone make us a great nation, a super power?

No. If India has to change, Indians have to change first. This is going to be the biggest challenge for us, because we ourselves are the biggest challenge. Somebody will have to push us. We will not be able to do it ourselves. This is one area where slogans and rhetoric fail. It is a hard nut to crack, because this requires sheer hard work.

These are a few must-haves, without which India story may not happen.

> Discipline: This is something we don’t have in us. We do not like doing things right and we are fond of breaking rules. We don’t respect law and we don’t care about it. We have yet to learn driving in the right lane, parking at the right place and even parking correctly. We need to be policed always and every time.

This reflects in our work culture, our social behaviour, which eventually affects our productivity quotient. An average Indian does not measure up to Chinese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnams or our brethren from Singapore as far as discipline is concerned. How do we propose to compete with the Chinese who are highly disciplined and extremely hard working?

> Punctuality: When office workers in the central government started coming on time to their office, it became breaking news for the nation. We could not believe that any one can discipline us.

Disrespect for time runs right from top to bottom. Worse is, we are not even ashamed of it, we mock ourselves by ranting and chanting about ‘Indian Stretchable Time’.

We therefore miss our deadlines, deliveries and deliverables. In a competitive world, this won’t do. We start our seminars late, we get into meetings well past the given time and we reach our offices late. We are callous, in short. How do we expect the world to take us seriously?

> Responsiveness: It starts with picking up the phone and answering a call. It begins with responding to a missed call. It is all about responding to your emails on time. It is all about responding to a request or obeying an order.

Do we demonstrate a sense of responsibility through responsiveness? Do project delays worry us? Does it bother us if we miss a deadline? Does it bother us if we have a dozen files on the desk, which need immediate attention?

The problem is, it does not. It does not hurt us if this hurts others. The most dangerously depressive response from us is ‘we are like that only’. Then how do we hope to be a nation to reckon with?

> Sense of ownership and commitment: If you are given a job, then it is your responsibility to ensure that it is done on time and it is well done. Great nations are built by the people and not by leaders alone. Such people demonstrate a deep sense of commitment, they take moral responsibility, and they attach it to their pride, their self-esteem.

The Japanese, Americans, British and several others wear this commitment on their sleeves. Though the managers are responsible to run the show, every supervisor and every worker takes ownership of his task. This needs to be built not only in our work culture, but also as a part of our day-to-day life. This needs to be built into our DNA.

> Perfection and excellence: Excellence and precision are a part of a mindset. Germans, for instance, are hardworking, industrious and demonstrate excellence to the extent of being obsessed with this phenomenon.

It reflects in their etiquette, their personal life and their workplace. It is a 360-degree state of perfection and they take pride in it. To admit inadequacy is incomprehensible to them. Their behaviour is impeccable and their products are faultless.

We need to go a long way to achieve this. Cosmetics won’t do, we need a complete overhaul of our mindset where “Sab Chalta Hai” is at the centre of our social conscience. To many Indians, it is a shortcut to Nirvana, but for a competitive India, which hopes to become a superpower, this mediocrity mantra will not do.

“Man who waits for roasted duck to fly into his mouth must wait, very very long time” -Chinese proverb

> Entitlement attitude: Who minds freebies? We thrive on these and we want more of them, we want our rights, we want our entitlements, we want subsidies, we want reservations, but we shy away from responsibilities. In recent times, new mantra of empowerment is being mixed up with entitlement.

Can we make it without all this?

This seemingly difficult question has a simple answer. How do you beat the world that works twice as hard as you do? We cannot live on the hope that in the next few years, the world will grow old and we will beat them then.

We hope to supply manpower to the world, we dream of exporting teachers when we ourselves face a huge shortage of capable, committed workforce that can deliver. ‘Make in India’ requires makers in India first. Can we become a “competitive” manufacturing hub with ‘zero-defect and zero-effect’, as the Prime Minister thinks we can?

Inherited Incompetence

We make a mistake when we link our achievements and attitude to the date of attaining Independence. Our attitude developed over a long period of time, which could go back several centuries in the past.

The British including the East India Company ruled us for close to two centuries. They could teach us their language, they taught us how to dress up like them, and they taught us to eat with fork and knife. We picked up all this very quickly and easily. They failed to teach us punctuality, responsiveness and good discipline, which they amply demonstrated in their day-to-day work. We didn’t learn these things because they were difficult to imbibe and ingest. In fact, we refused to be disciplined and never ever tried to learn these things.

To demolish this legacy will not be easy. It can only happen if this becomes a national priority. Taming of the crew

Modi is the captain of the ship with a 1.25 billion strong crew. If the crew is not ready to put the sails up, even the strongest winds won’t help. You have a great captain, you have the weather with you. Can you let this opportunity slip out of your hands? If we can have a new ministry for skill development, it may be well worth an effort to have a nodal agency to correct our national attitude. Sounds weird, but this is the most urgent and important need of the hour. All the God’s resources will go down the drain if we can’t set this right.

Where do we begin?

It has to become a national agenda for this to succeed. We need to start right from the bottom of the pyramid as that is the largest and most accessible portion of human resource.

Schools and colleges have to be reined in first. Schools and colleges put together can target almost 300 million Indians. This is not going to be simple, because the teachers themselves badly fall short on these parameters. ‘Teach The Teachers’ programmes have to run for the entire teaching fraternity, with a single-point program of changing their attitude towards, punctuality, discipline, responsiveness and perfection. Ministry of HRD can be a major contributor.

To augment the resources, we need to think out of the box. The government can bank on NGOs. Specialised NGOs to cater to this specific need can be encouraged and mandated by the Government. Retired defence officers can contribute immensely and very effectively in this regard.

NCC should form a part of curriculum for every student in the college. We require “Disciplined Bharat” as much as a swachh one and government must build this as a national campaign through multimedia. This should also become part of the skill development programmes under the aegis of Ministry for skill development. Corporate India too can be asked to start training their people in this regard.

Skill development ministry and the corporates put together will substantially boost this number. If one can begin with a target of disciplining 400 million Indians out of the 800 million BTF (below thirty five), it will be good to go. Instead of well- begun is half done – “half done could be well begun,” and that is not bad at all.

(Virender Kapoor is the former director of a management institute under the Symbiosis umbrella and the founder of Management Institute for Leadership and Excellence. He is also the author of Leadership: The Gandhi Way, A Wonderful Boss: Great People to Work With and Passion Quotient-How it matters more than IQ and Innovation the Einstein Way.)

Freedom From The Congress Dynasty: Sooner The Better For States

Praveen Patil

Despite Indira Gandhi’s popularity even in the early stages of her Prime Ministership, by the 1967 Jabalpur AICC session it was clear that there were 5 major factions within the Congress party.

The first group was the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ of the PM, the second group was the ‘Syndicate’ (a group of regional Congress stalwarts) and then there were 3 other groups made up of followers of powerful union ministers – Deputy PM, Morarji Desai, Y.B. Chavan and Babu Jagjivan Ram respectively. K. Kamaraj, the then president of the Congress party was already reduced to being a “stateless leader” and derived his strength mainly from the Syndicate.

Arguably, K. Kamaraj was the last Congress President who had all three traits of the supposedly Gandhian template of good leadership – democratic mandate (of the party), gravitas and the humility to objectively assess one’s own limitations. Consequently, Kamaraj steadfastly refused another term of Congress presidency despite overwhelming support from most factions of the party.

The 1968 Congress presidential election was the last time when there was clear consultation of rank and file following the well-established democratic procedural practices. The mild-mannered Karnataka Chief Minister, S. Nijalingappa, followed Kamaraj as the compromise candidate of all the factions for party presidency.

It is not coincidental that both Kamaraj and Nijalingappa were South Indians. 1968 was that inflection point in India’s political history when all the prescribed ethical parameters were dissolved forever even as politics acquired its ‘dirty’ dimension.

Whatever Mrs. Gandhi was or was not, she definitely was the first Indian politician who introduced the concept of “take no prisoners” into Indian polity. Her inherent philosophy was based on a linear thought process of power politics without any disruptions of ideology or governance enhancements.

Indira’s naked ambition was new to India then, and the genial South Indian politicians became the first casualty of her linear goals. The post-independent domain of (non-Hindi) language politics too had run its course by the 1970’s and the south Indian states were going through a demographic churning aimed towards a progressive equity dilution of the freedom movement. The rise of communism in Kerala and the Dravidian movement of Tamil Nadu were precursors to the larger change that would come about in the form of Janata-Hegde experiment in Karnataka and TDP’s ascendancy in AP at the beginning of the 80’s.

Thus, the southern hemisphere of India had started to unshackle itself from debilitating central Congress control nearly two decades before the purely caste empowered Mandal churning of north India. In fact, the change was so deep-rooted that even the Congress party was forced to adapt to newer electoral realities beyond the Gandhi dynasty which is why some of the best administrators that the Congress has produced in the last 4 decades have mostly been south Indian leaders – P.V. Narasimha Rao, S.M. Krishna and Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy to name a few.

The impact of breaking out of the clutches of the Nehru-Gandhi family control was life-altering for south India. After Indira Gandhi’s return to power, throughout the 1980’s, Congress party indulged in unbridled communalization of polity along with blatant division of the populace through caste structures like KHAM (Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim).

Throughout these dark years, south Indian political administration kept distancing itself from the Gandhi family control to grow on a different trajectory. Better governance models adopted by the southern states yielded tangentially different results. In fact, data clearly shows that the demographic dividend of southern Indian states was directly proportional to the speed with which they untangled themselves from the dynasty!

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Since the turn of the millennium, north Indian states have slowly started emerging as the new growth geographies, but here too drastic alteration of governance was directly proportional to the distance these states travelled away from the Gandhi dynasty. For instance, Bihar, that ever burgeoning wasteland of 20th century, broke out of the Jungle raj complexities only when Gandhi dynasty loyalist Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD was finally thrown out of power in 2005. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh began its growth trajectory only after getting out of the clutches of Digvijay Singh (another die-hard dynasty sycophant) in 2003.

In fact, Digvijay Singh’s home state Madhya Pradesh is a clear example of what a state can achieve once it goes beyond the dynastic control. Even as the first family of Congress party stalled parliament throughout the monsoon session in the name of Vyapam in July-August this year, the voters of the state reposed full faith on the ruling party last week when BJP won 8 out of 10 local bodies while Congress managed to scrape through in only one Nagarpalika. The reason for this stupendous achievement by BJP lies in the economic realities of the state.

Madhya Pradesh, a once BIMARU state, had a per-capita income of 14471 rupees in 2004-05 (after 10 years of Congress rule) which increased by a mind-boggling 250% during the decade-long non-dynastic BJP rule to 54030 rupees in 2013-14. What is more, from being a total agrarian failure for nearly 6 decades, Madhya Pradesh has been transformed into a wheat bowl of India along the lines of prosperous Punjab. Madhya Pradesh’s GDP Income from farm sector in 2004-05 was 31238.30 crore rupees which had seen a gravity defying 121% jump in 2013-14 to 69249.89 crore rupees in less than a decade.

Indeed Madhya Pradesh’s agricultural miracle provides us with a great contrast of an India which was suffering throughout the decade of decay during the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA 1 and UPA 2 years when India’s agrarian growth always hovered at a pathetic 1-3% range. It was in this same era that Madhya Pradesh achieved the impossible. For instance in 2013-14, MP achieved a whopping agrarian growth of 24.99%! Mind you, this incredible growth in a single year actually came over a huge base, for in 2012-13 this rate was 20.16% and in 2011-12 it was 19.85%.

These successes at the state level are spread out everywhere. In the western hemisphere, Gujarat is another miracle economy because it has shunned the Gandhis for more than 2 decades now. Even in neigbouring Maharashtra, the administrative processes have mostly remained outside the purview of Gandhi family control. Whatever the shortcomings of Sharad Pawar, one of his achievements has been to keep vast swaths of Maharashtra away from the Gandhi total control at least since the 1990’s.

Perhaps the biggest example of India’s potential destiny even when temporarily cured of the Gandhi disease comes from the P.V. Narasimha Rao years. For nearly 4 and a half decades before 1991, India was constantly mocked for its ‘Hindu’ rate of growth, but the moment the national government was liberated of the dynastic control, in five years India took giant steps towards socio-economic nirvana under a visionary Prime Minister who was later shunned by the Gandhi family for altering India’s destiny!

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It is indeed a telling comment on the Gandhi family that they managed to take out the same finance minister Manmohan Singh away from Narasimha Rao’s vision and managed to give us a decade of decay under the careful guidance of Sonia Gandhi. When this very same Sonia Gandhi walks into the well of the parliament and clenches her fist against the Indian electorate for giving a former chaiwala the mandate, it must not worry us as a nation. When the latest dynastic scion, Rahul Gandhi, wants to save “Indians from Modi”, it must relieve us even further. When the Gandhi-pliant Lutyens media constantly wants Modi to fail and Rahul to succeed, the situation must really be good.

The Gandhi situation is indeed pitiable in today’s India. It is a bottom-up resistance to Gandhis that had once begun at the state level and then rose to a national cure in the form of 2014’s Modi victory which has rendered the dynasty virtually into a non-entity. The truth is that the Gandhi disease is fast running out of host states to grow on as state after state rejects Gandhis and everybody associated with them.