Indian Culture, Politics

A shameful day for India

A country that can not welcome writers like Salman Rushdie must not expect high hopes of intellectual achievements coming out of the country. Government’s refusal to provide security to him is very condemnable but totally expected. No government will touch this issue in the election year.


Book: Curfewed night

Curfewed night by Basharat Peer is a well written book about the rise and fall of Kashmiri Militancy in the duration of last two decades. His account is very personal. He describes his experience of the early stages of armed conflict when he was in his early teens. During the later part of the armed conflict, he was out of Kashmir and educated himself in Delhi and he watched his homeland being torn apart.  After the decline of armed conflict, he went back and collected the stories of the conflict. He interviewed the ordinary people who caught up in between equally abusive Militants and Indian Army. He also tried to capture the militants and the army perspectives but I would say that was not fully comprehensive.

As an Indian, I was deeply troubled by the accounts of Human rights abuses by Indian army. Indians often counter these stories by calling them as fabrication or telling another story of militant abuse on Kashmiri pundits or may be on Kashmiri Muslims. The first counterpoint is just state of denial. Answer to the objection is an impartial international investigation. I hope one day Indian government will see some wisdom of conducting investigations on these allegations. But the other counterpoint is the real sinister one.  Two wrongs does not make one right. Such argument gives a license to Indian army to abuse as much as they like with no accountability. We do not really know how much abuse has been done. In a decent society, we can not let slightest of abuse go unpunished. Specially by our own side. We must aim to create a decent society but not an India that is build on top of pile of corpses.

Until Indian population does not developed certain sympathy for Kashmiri people and recognize the abuses against them by Indian army, there will be no solution.

My fellow Indians, Please read this book!

Indian Culture, Politics, Science

History of IITs

Here is an academic article about History of IITs and computing in India. I found this article via blog of Dheeraj Sanghi. This article chronicles the creation of IITs and their subsequent impact on establishment of IT industry in India. IITs were created by direct patronage of US(IITK), Britain(IITD), USSR(IITB), and West Germany(IITM). Indian political elite were able to convince the major powers of the time to contribute in creation of IITs. The article also notes that

Not building the IITs would not necessarily have insured that those resources would have been spent instead on an effective mass education system, but if India’s IT industry is one legacy of Nehru’s policies, so too are its generally low levels of education and persistent poverty.

Indeed, IITs has been acting as an elite and exclusive club that can be joined by seemingly fair process of entrance exam. This club can catapult one into the world of highly skilled professionals.  The destination of such professionals is US. IITs are only good at producing export quality undergraduates, which is by no means a bad thing. The problem is that IITs have failed to do high quality research. In the same time,  public imagined IITs to be like a ‘fairy palace’ that is not accessible to normal human being. IITs can not hope that their status as government funded elite club is sustainable. One day or another, Indian polity will challenge its structure. Given that their research record is ‘international zero’.

Indian government has been attempting to change IITs and sometimes in very foolish ways. Recently, a massive expansion of IITs has been started. Now they are expanded to 14 from 6 IITs. This is very interesting experiments in many ways. No one can deny need for more high quality technology institutes. Yet, there are many objections on this expansion. Many IITians are worried about dilution of their brand name. Some are worried that there will not be enough qualified faculties willing to join IITs, given the salary levels. Quality control of these many IITs will be increasingly hard.

In my opinion, time is ripe for the expansion. Lets hope that the new IITs will succeed.

Indian Culture, Politics

Why British dismantled their empire?

  • Rise of America?
  • Ruins of second world war?
  • Rise of nationalist movements in many colonies?
  • Empire became too big for Britain?
  • Change of British heart ?
  • Empire became unprofitable?

British left their colonies but not thrown out by force. There are many puzzling facts about the last half century of the empire. There were not strong forces inside Britain which were driving towards dismantling of the empire. No nationalist movement was strong enough to over throw the British rule. At the international stage, which was Europe, Japan, and America, there was not much pressure on Britain against the Empire. Americans were looking for to have their own colonies. Europeans were more busy in their own empires and wars.

I just read the book Empire and the English character. This book analyzes the typical thinking of British Colonial Officers of the empire.  The book shows that different officers had different conception of the empire. Each colony was created and run with different objectives. So, each officer can have his own justification of his actions depending upon his circumstances. The officer, who was posted in some outpost in a jungle, thought that he was in a civilizing mission of the natives. Native people need to learn the governing art by watching the great example of British. The officer, who was posted at economic gold mines, thought that his main interest was trading with some necessity to govern.

The British long debated and analyzed the right mode and means of governing. They ran the empire impromptu. Just what ever works. Various events shows that they could never figured out the good solution to run the empire and more importantly the moral justification. They knew one clear goal or a dream, that is, they deserve all the economic benefits of the empire and they do not want to harm anyone in the process. They seem to never realize that this goal is almost impossible to achieve.

There were many strains of thought. Some suggested to place an autocratic bureaucracy over the colonies, which will make sure the ‘civilized behavior’ in the colony, and let the day to day matters be handled by a native elected legislature. Another idea was to create a commonwealth (A super nation organization, some thing like EU ). In which, colonies will be sovereign states but their international issues, such as disputes and trading, will be handled by British. There were many other variants for the organization of empire. But, essential feature in all of them was that the British wanted to keep their hands on the pie (economic benefits of the colonies). This lead to many restructurings of the empire during first half of 20th century. Meanwhile, the war was looming over Europe which lead British to be less ambitious over their plans. Some times they are forced to negotiate with the native leaders to gather support for the war. Meanwhile, Americans were getting more and more powerful and they wanted a share in the British empire.

Also the troubles due to the nationalist movements. The most powerful nationalist movement was in India. It was lead by Gandhi and it was very hard for British to call leaders like Gandhi as uncivilized savage. They kept doing concessions with Gandhi and his congress. One day they found that the most of administration was actually Indian and it had became unprofitable to run India(due to some 1920 tax reforms). So, they decided to let India go.

There were series of complex events which finally led to the fall of the empire. I don’t think that one factor can be singled out. The whole lesson to be learned is that to kill beasts, like British empire, one has to do the groundwork to create conditions in which it can not sustain itself.

culture, Politics

Us vs. Them

There are conflicts and there are talks about those conflicts. Both need each other to survive. A conflict needs warring parties to gross generalize the enemies intension, which leads to great misapprehension of the conflict and conflict can go on for ever. A talk of conflict needs misconduct in war by their enemies such that more inflammatory speech can be delivered and enemy can be easily mis-represented. This mutual feed back can be tamed if certain care is taken in both conduct of conflict and talk of conflict. Conflict is messy and hard to monitor but the talk of conflict can be analyzed with relative ease.

The most serious problem about the conversations about conflicts is the “us vs. them” notion. People see their side as not one whole. They see different component in their system working. For example, news media, army, political parities, and bureaucracy. These components may not agree with each other all the time but they loosely fit together to build the whole system. This creates a standard of responsibilities in people’s mind. If any criminal act is done my some component of the system then people say that this crime is committed by this component of the system and it is responsibility of this component and whole system can not be blamed for the crime. For example, some military unit of their country kills some innocent civilian then the responsibility totally lay on the military unit but not on their country. On the other hand when the same people look at other conflicting side. They do not recognize the different components or faction on the other side’s system. They call all the component of the opponent as ‘virtualy same’. This monolithic view of the opponent leads to a different standard of responsibility imposed on the opponent. Any crime committed by anyone in opponent side is the responsibility of the whole opponent side. This different standard of assigning responsibility leads to highly skewed analysis of the conflict which can lead to fertile ground for misunderstanding and disastrous decision making.

For example, India and Pakistan conflict. After any terrorist attack in India, Mr. Modi comes to tv and blames Pakistan. Not the terrorists or Pakistani Army but the whole Pakistan. If Indian army does extra judicial killing then media reports the name of the officers who are responsible for the crime but not whole India. This leads to a perception of squeaky clean image of India, which does nothing wrong. In contrast, Pakistan, the rouge state, which can not be stopped for doing one crime after another. Similar attitude is true in Pakistan. For example, the recent row over not selecting any Pakistani players in IPL auctions. Here is an interview of a Pakistani player, who was not selected. He says at 4:21 to 4:23, “Hinduo ki zehniyat hi aisi hai” . He just blames all the Hindus for the mistreatment in some business event. (Courtesy: RTODM)

Another example, 9/11 attacks in US. For an American, taliban and Al-qaida are virtually same. They all are should be punished for a crime which was planned and executed by a bunch of Al-qaida members in extreme secrecy. The same mistake is done by these Muslim extremists. They assign responsibilities of criminal dealing of American businesses with middle east rulers to the whole country “America”. So, they are out there to kill any American.

I think this grave mistake can be avoided. We have to be vigilant and challenge whenever these gross generalization are made. Specially, when it is made by “us”.

Indian Culture, Politics

Passive Invasion of Goa!

I found following video on youtube. A news report of invasion of unarmed Indians into Portugal occupied Goa. Alas, it didn’t succeed and in this attempt 22 dead and 120 wounded. Later, India invaded Goa militarily and Portuguese surrendered. Start watching from 2m07s

It shows depth of the following of Gandhi then, which is very hard to imagine today.