Saturday, October 23, 2021

Hindutva: Setting the Record Straight

There is, in my opinion, no other issue in the contemporary world that evokes such controversy as the concept of "Hindutva". It frequently gets confused with religion (Hinduism), which it is not, and it should not be seen as a militant or extremist movement, in the way that Islam tends to be.
While Hinduism is a religion—the oldest religion in the world—Hindutva is a way of life derived from Hinduism. One does not have to be a born Hindu to believe in Hindutva. Hinduism is thousands of years old, and it has guided and shaped the conduct of billions of people born in India through the ages. The West simply does not have the perception and breadth of knowledge to comprehend the plurality and diversity of thought that is the hallmark of Hindutva. One needs to broaden his horizons to grasp the tatva of Hindu philosophy.
At the same time, countless Indian sages have penned down numerous treatises on philosophy, religion, political and social sciences, and mathematics. This body of knowledge has had a profound impact on the lives of Indians and, undoubtedly, will continue to influence the Indian way of life of future generations. There is no other religion in the world that has given humanity so much to think about.
Hindutva does not tell me which God or Goddess I should believe in, nor does it force me against my will to go to a particular place of worship, or to pray x number of times every day. These are personal choices, and Hinduism does not interfere in these things. Hinduism believes in inclusion: it does not exclude entire groups of people based on their beliefs, and it definitely does not believe in genocide to eliminate alternative ways of life and thought. It only guides me to follow my dharma, which is based on my understanding of my duties and responsibilities.
So, what is my dharma? My dharma (as a teacher) is to impart knowledge, and advice my students to have an open mind, because the pursuit of knowledge is endless. In the same way, it is the dharma of a soldier to protect his country and its people from barbarian invaders whose only purpose is to loot, rape, and kill, and to either subjugate hitherto independent societies or to erase their culture and identity through mass murder and genocide. Does the name Adolf Hitler ring a bell? Has the world ever read in a history book about a Hindu ruler’s pleasure trip to a neighboring country to plunder, rape, and kill?
Hinduism does not believe in world domination, there is no record anywhere of an Indian king who wanted to spread his wings to gain money and territory.
“Dismantling Global Hindutva” has been an evil and destructive attempt to belittle and destroy an entire body of enlightened thought. It has been an exercise in futility because you cannot wish away something that represents thousands of years of evolutionary wisdom. Hindutva is a peaceful and mature way of life that is much older and resilient than the 1400 years of Islamic mayhem.
I sometimes wonder at the vulnerability of Western intellectuals and institutions who entertain and accept the twisted thoughts presented by Jihadi groups and their supporters about Hindu extremism. They forget the human and social toll their own societies have had to pay in recent history due to extremist activities of jihadi groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, or their clones. Between 2015 and 2020, in France alone, there were 72 Islamist terrorist attacks including the one in the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, resulting in 274 deaths and 973 injuries. How many of these were planned by Hindu extremists?
Because people’s memories are short, history repeats itself. I would like to conclude by saying, “Do due diligence, don’t forget, and be fair.”

Monday, August 23, 2021

Tolerance: Giving Credit Where Its Due

 In this world of increasing globalization and consequently the movement of people, it is often asked or debated which country is the most tolerant. This is especially so in countries which provide the largest source of migration.

In view of its history as a country of immigrants, the United States has often proclaimed itself as a diverse society. But is it also tolerant as it is diverse? If the white Republicans in Wyoming or Utah can't tolerate the white Democrats in California or Massachusetts, then it is not a very tolerant society.

By contrast, India is more diverse, multilingual, and tolerant than any other country I can think of. In my opinion, I am supported by none other than the most liberal and objective Saudi journalist Khalaf Al-Harbi. In his latest column in 'Saudi Gazette', he describes India as the most tolerant nation on the earth. He must be right because, being a Saudi national, he has seen and experienced parochialism, sectarianism, ban on other religions, and violence towards dissenters, as was clearly manifested by the murder of the famous Saudi journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. The minorities usually have no rights in such societies. Like we study in political theory, the prime minister (of any country) serves at the pleasure of the monarch or the president, the minorities are merely allowed to exist at the pleasure of the intolerant 'state'.

Going back to the latest article by Al-Harbi, I must give him credit for being so honest and straightforward in a country which does not tolerate dissent. But in the end, truth will prevail. We Indians have been definitely tolerant because if we look back in history during the last millennium, we did tolerate the invaders from Mongolia, the central Asian countries, and Afghanistan. We tolerated the uncivilized barbarians who came in from the North to loot, plunder, kill, and burn, and who eventually established dynasties that ruled India for several centuries. We also welcomed the Portuguese, French, and the British and allowed them to set up trading posts which led to political subjugation and 'slavery' lasting more than two hundred years. But we tolerated.

Since we tolerated and forgave all these foreigners for their unforgivable sins and crimes against us, how could we have not given similar treatment to the present-day thugs and adventurers who perfected their skills to usurp power by 'democratic' means. We still tolerate the likes of Rahul, Mayawati, the Yadavs from the lawless states (until recently) of Bihar and U.P., Digvijay Singh, Chautala and sons, and countless more who continue to milk 'Mother India' through their third-generation proxies. They stall debates in parliament by creating a ruckus, or by staging walkouts. We continue to tolerate them.

The recent offer of the Indian government to take in most qualified Afghan refugees irrespective of their religion should be an eye-opener for all obstructionists who staged a lengthy agitation or sit-in protest in and around Shaheen Bagh to voice their discontent against the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR) bills. The protest was started on 15 December 2019 and lasted until 24 March 2020. But we tolerated them--for more than four months, despite massive disruption and badmouthing of the government. Why? I think tolerance has seeped into our genes. More likely, it has always been a part of our DNA.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Living With the Taliban Next Door: The Indian Dilemma

The rapid takeover of Kabul by the Taliban after two decades of political exile signifies a total failure of the American experiment in installing democracy and western-style institutions in a seventh century feudalistic and Islamic society. This experiment cost the American government over two trillion dollars, two thousand five hundred American and NATO lives, and loss of face and identity as the world’s greatest superpower.

The vacuum created by the departure of American forces from Afghanistan was quickly filled up by the advancing fighters of the Taliban leading to schadenfreude in Beijing, Islamabad and Moscow. There were even scenes of celebration and bursting of crackers all over Pakistan accompanying the end of the American moment in Afghanistan. No matter how we look at it, the present situation is a source of extreme jubilation and satisfaction for Pakistan as it signifies the defeat of American intervention in Afghanistan at the hands of Pakistan-aided Taliban.

Pakistan has reaped enormous benefits by agreeing to be a partner to America in its global war on terror after 9/11, and earlier throughout the eighties as a conduit to the Mujahedin and for training other militant groups on Pakistani soil to fight the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan. To milk the American cow, Pakistan adopted the strategy of "running with the hares and hunting with the hounds". When it started to become clear that Pakistan was actually sabotaging the American war on terror by withholding vital information about the Taliban and its leader Osama bin Laden, it began to play the victim card by claiming that so many numbers of Pakistanis had lost their lives due to the ongoing war on terror.

It has been estimated that Pakistan siphoned off at least twenty billion dollars over the years by pretending to be a partner to America in its global war on terror, while the terror groups were all being nurtured and trained on Pakistani soil.

The deception of America by Pakistan still continues by using new tricks and traps. The success of the Taliban in capturing Kabul and other large cities within a matter of nine days, is due largely to the help and material support provided by the Pakistani establishment to the Taliban.

The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 after the Taliban (which was in power in Kabul at that time) refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States for planning the attack on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, costing at least three thousand lives. It was supposed to be a swift operation to eliminate Osama and his Al Qaeda, but morphed into a nation-building exercise against all odds, in a moment of irrational exuberance.

It is not easy to predict what the revived Taliban’s behavior will be in its second avatar, but we can draw some conclusions based on past actions and present pronouncements (whatever they may be worth). The first Taliban rule during 1996-2001 was brutal and full of Islamic rhetoric. Sharia was the pivot on which rested crime and punishment. Reprisals and punishments were swift and cruel, and unimaginable in today’s world. Thieves who were caught stealing would have their hands chopped off, women who were accused (not proven guilty as yet) of adultery faced the death penalty by stoning.

Although the Taliban spokesmen have been saying recently that they will declare amnesty for all, and that they seek no vengeance against anybody, including Afghans who worked for the American forces such as translators and those who worked for the Afghan army, it is doubtful if they will keep their word.

As regards the equality of women, the Taliban spokesmen have been saying that women in Afghanistan will have rights “within Islamic law”, girls can go to girls’ school, and women can do jobs such as teaching girls, etc. At the same time, their spokesmen have also clarified that women will have to wear the burqa which covers their face completely. They will also not be allowed to come out of their homes without a male member of the family, such as their father or brother. Gender equality, eh?

Old proverbs and ageless quotations have the habit and strength to survive through good times and bad. The American withdrawal has led to the validation of an old cliché which describes Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires. The Americans forgot this old saying even though the Soviet Union had already suffered a similar fate back in 1988 after being in Afghanistan for ten years. In a way, Americans took over where the Soviets had left, after a gap of thirteen years.

The new Taliban regime means different things for different countries in the region. For China, Afghanistan’s fall is proof of American hubris. But the Taliban’s return to power raises the risk of extremist threats on its own doorstep. The Uighur minority in the South-west of China, and only a few hundred kilometers north of Afghanistan, might be emboldened by the Taliban’s return to power.

For Pakistan, the return of Taliban is a matter of extreme pride. It has visions of becoming a regional power in South Asia and dreams of bringing Afghanistan under its own sphere of influence through the Afghani Taliban, and with the active support and connivance of its all-weather ally, China. But it forgets that the Pakistani Taliban could derive strength from their Afghani counterparts and pose a serious threat to the government in Islamabad. Which way the Taliban will move—Pakistani government or Pakistani Taliban—is anybody’s guess. Moreover, Pakistan would like to use the Taliban to create disturbance and instability in Kashmir.

The country which has the most to worry from the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan is India. It now has three enemies forming an “Axis of Evil” from the West to North-East. There can be no convergence of interests and warmth between a radical Islamic Taliban and a nationalist BJP government in India. Despite the great PR offensive launched by the Taliban to seek acceptance from the community of nations in the last few days, there is no doubt among governments that this is just an eyewash, and that the Taliban would go back to its old ways of fomenting unrest and terror. A moderate Taliban is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

India has been able to invest in Afghanistan’s future partially because of the presence of U.S.-led troops and the relative stability it brought. With that stability now gone and Taliban back in power, India needs to urgently reposition its priorities. Indian assets in Afghanistan have been targeted by the Haqqani group, a major Taliban faction in the past and there is no assurance that it would not happen again.

In my opinion, the Taliban’s reliance on Pakistan is unlikely to change anytime in the near future. Nevertheless, the cost to India of remaining distant from the new dispensation in Kabul would likely be much higher than the cost of engaging with them. Being more involved in international negotiations, and even agreeing to talk to certain sections of the Taliban as part of a broader diplomatic initiative, are options that India can no longer afford to disregard.

In conclusion, we can be sure that the Taliban coming back into power will definitely energize and embolden the hundreds of Islamic terror groups from Indonesia to Kashmir, and Somalia to Nigeria, even if the new regime in Kabul does not get involved directly in international terrorist activities for the time being.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Consequences of American Withdrawal from Afghanistan

 As the American and NATO forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, there is an air of impending apocalypse now.  The return of foreign powers will be accompanied by an almost immediate meltdown of the civilian Afghan regime and by the end of this year we could see a regime change in Kabul. The new Taliban regime would be more extremist, more repressive, and more fundamentalist than their earlier regimes two decades ago. The Afghan army, trained and equipped by America, is no match for the battle-hardened Taliban forces who do not operate under any moral, ethical, or Geneva-type conventions. The Afghan army will burn their uniforms and go hiding in the mountain passes, Tajikistan, or another neighboring country. The American government should seriously consider the fate of their Afghan “collaborators” who will be quickly exterminated by Taliban. It is the moral obligation of America to save as many of these people as it can.

The entry of American forces in Afghanistan twenty years ago was not an altruistic action. It was a strategic move, in furtherance of American national interests, to defend America, to hunt down Osama bin Laden and to destroy ISIS, and it incorporated the collateral benefits of being able to keep one eye on (nuclear) Iran and the other on deception-filled Pakistan. The presence of Americans in the region has produced only one long-term success—the killing of Osama bin Laden inside the territory of Pakistan, its treacherous buddy. The withdrawal of America will result in the rebirth of ISIS, the Taliban, and a host of other extremist and terrorist groups. They will be able to freely roam through both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and pose a serious threat to Kashmir, as well as to India as a whole. India would need all its resources, luck, and new relationships such as The Quad to fight these forces of evil.

 The vacuum created by the departure of American and allied forces will suck in China, a country that is always ready to swoop down and take advantage of any opportunity that comes its way. By the end of this year, we can expect to see the birth of a new Axis-of-Evil comprising of China, the failed state of Pakistan, and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. This is not a far-fetched scenario, we will definitely see this regressive development in the coming months. What can India do to safeguard its interests? “Buckle Up” and prepare for the worst. The Islamic forces that are now beginning to gather at our doorstep to the northwest comprise of the extremists, terrorists, and jihadi groups. And then we have China which will now be able to threaten us from two fronts.  India will need to use all its political and diplomatic prowess to divert the aggression of terrorist and Jihadi groups in Afghanistan towards China, that would before the yearend be ensconced in Afghanistan, for the persecution of its Uighur minority suffering a few hundred miles to the north.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Election Commission of India to manage American Elections

While the world waits with a bated breath for an official announcement anointing Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, the government-in-waiting is seriously considering to outsource the job of conducting the U.S. elections to the Election Commission of India (ECI). The ECI, it was noted, has been extremely successful in conducting elections in the world's most populous democracy, India, with an electorate of close to a billion people. The last time the ECI conducted national elections in India was in 2019, which returned the ruling BJP and its allies to power with a huge mandate and majority. The elections were conducted very professionally and efficiently, and there were no complaints or lawsuits, challenging election results. And this, despite the participation of hundreds of criminals and rogues, who all consider themselves PM-material in their self-assessment.

On the other hand, the recent American elections have resulted in lawsuits challenging not only the results but also the validity of its democratic processes. This has already happened before in the 2000 presidential elections resulting in the Bush vs. Gore lawsuit.

In view of the above, the American government-in-waiting as mentioned earlier, is thinking of outsourcing the job of election management to the Election Commission of India. The basis for this is not only the perceived mismanagement of elections in America, but also a realization that in order to compete globally, certain things must be left to those who can do them best. The success of globalization during the last three decades is in no small means due to the implementation of division of labor by global companies. A good example of putting this principle into practice is visible in the fact that major corporations and governments worldwide outsource their IT-related jobs and services to Indian IT companies.

I think the next American government realizes that if it wants to convert the Trumpian slogan "Make America Great Again" into reality, it will have to forget about another Trumpian promise of bringing back jobs to America, and outsource the thousands of jobs being done by Americans to the Election Commission of India.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

You are fired, Donald Trump!

 "I'm not losing, I 'm being cheated."

As they say, "Every dog has his day." And, the day of reckoning has finally come for the greatest CONMAN of this century. He is not only a loser, he's a very angry and sore loser. He won't mind taking his country through another civil war, if he could. I can't help comparing him to Senator John McCain whom he called a 'loser' because he allowed himself to be captured during the Vietnam War. Trump can't bear to see anybody being respected because he himself doesn't respect anyone.
We all have our heroes. Have you ever heard Trump talk about his hero or idol? He has none. He is the ultimate hero. He is the greatest.
Mr. President, you're now fired. You have been certified by the American public as a 'loser'. You labelled John McCain, a real American hero, as a "loser". Your words will now come back to haunt you during your retirement, after being a one-term president.