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Doubly anachronistic December 8, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

In a recent address, on the occasion of the rededication of Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai, the Prime Minister claimed that Karna’s birth outside a womb was evidence that ancient Indians knew genetic science, whereas the episode of Lord Ganesh acquiring an elephant’s head showed that they also knew plastic surgery. A few days later, the Home Minister and a senior legislator of the ruling party went a step further and claimed that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle was inspired by Hindu scriptures. As if this was not enough, a historian close to the ruling party suggested that Ancient India had aircrafts and nuclear weapons. While the criticism that followed mostly focused on how the Hindu Right’s sense of history is deeply flawed, this article explores incoherence in the right wing’s use of history.

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Hypocrisy, ignorance or ‘the intellect beyond comprehension’ June 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , comments closed

Richa Awasthy

An open letter to the dissectors of Verdict 2014:

On the 16 May 2014 India ushered in a new era with the BJP winning the historic mandate of a clear majority for a single non-Congress party. Narendra Modi (NaMo)-led NDA alliance scaled new heights with 336 seats, something not predicted by anyone apart from one exit poll by Chanakya.

Never in the history of elections in India have I seen the kind of post-mortem that is circulating these days. I have seen analysis of why a particular party won or lost, but this is the first time I have seen such an effort to prove that the winner has actually not got a mandate. The verdict seems too hard to swallow for some of the elite class of intellectuals and they are trying to bring in all sorts of intriguing parameters to prove that the mandate is not for the winning party/coalition. The flood of posts in this direction inspired me to write this blog.

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SAM recommends June 2, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Doron, Assa, India, Jeffrey, Robin, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

Narendra Modi rides technological wave to power in India

Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey

Technology alone did not win India’s general election for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi. But it played a huge part, and the surprisingly decisive results mark the country’s full-scale embrace of the digital age. Indian elections will never be the same.

Modi and his party used the spinal cord of India’s remarkable mobile phone network, with its more than 900 million connections, and added Facebook, Twitter, live 3-D “hologram” appearances in country towns and a gang of tech-savvy young enthusiasts. Read the full story: The Age, 27 May 2014.

Assa Doron, College of Asian and the Pacific, Australian National University, and Robin Jeffrey, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, are authors of The Great Indian Phone Book.

Landslide victory history in the making

With the election of Narendra Modi, India faces a critical turning point which could see not only greater prosperity but also sectarian violence, writes Ian Hall, a senior fellow in the Department of International Relations, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Read the full story 

The caste of the Modi effect May 30, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

Before this year’s parliamentary election, it was a truism that the national parties of India were led by English/Hindi-speaking upper castes. Even Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh who was the prime minister during 1979-80, did not lead a national party in a parliamentary election. The other side of the glass ceiling erected by the upper castes spawned regional caste-based parties, whose founders saw no future for themselves and their communities within the national parties. Narendra Modi has broken the glass ceiling and joined the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hitherto a bastion of upper castes. Unlike Bangaru Laxman, a Dalit leader from Andhra Pradesh who served as the BJP president during 2000-01, Modi is not a convenient façade for a party otherwise dominated by upper castes. Equally importantly, unlike his prime ministerial predecessors who with the exception of Deve Gowda were primarily based in Delhi, he spent most of his political career in a medium-sized non-Hindi speaking province. His spectacular rise needs to be examined from the perspective of how it reworked caste equations within his party and how caste played a subtle role in his successful campaign.

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A Modi landslide? May 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Babak Moussavi

Narendra Modi’s victory is less impressive than it appears

When the results of the Indian election rolled in, the surprise was not over who was winning, but over the size of the victory margin. No single party had won a majority of the seats in the lower house since Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress victory in 1984, soon after the assassination of his mother, Indira. 30 years on, Narendra Modi has achieved this. He is now set to lead a majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government with 282 seats, but is likely to retain his pre-election coalition grouping, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), giving him 336 seats in a 543-seat parliament.

The scale of the victory is unprecedented in recent decades, and the power that incoming Prime Minister Modi is likely to command is more than most expected. Not only are the anticipated checks of coalition politics largely loosened by his single party majority, but the opposition is so fragmented that a divide and rule policy could allow for total domination of the political agenda. If he can muster a two-thirds majority, the government could even change India’s sacrosanct constitution. The 44 MPs of the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest and once-dominant party, would barely muster a whimper. And if it continues to be led by the notoriously self-restrained Rahul Gandhi, even that might be something.

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Caught between Ramraj and Swaraj April 1, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

In the run-up to the forthcoming parliamentary election in India, a few political parties initially tried to choose candidates through innovative methods. For instance, the Congress, India’s oldest political party, briefly flirted with the idea of holding elections within the party to select candidates. On the other hand, a key feature of the selection procedure of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), one of the youngest parties, was a nomination form for prospective candidates, which checked among other things if applicants were familiar with the book Swaraj written by the party’s National Convener. Candidates were given eleven lines to share their opinion regarding this “manifesto of the India of tomorrow”. The mini-book reviews were supposedly meant to serve as screening devices. We can use the book for other purposes, though. For instance, it can help us understand the counter-institutional policies of AAP’s short-lived government in Delhi. Here we will use the book to compare the historical narratives that inform BJP’s Ramraj (government fashioned after the epic state ruled by Lord Rama of Ayodhya) and AAP’s Swaraj (self-rule). (more…)

The sanitising power of spoken Sanskrit March 7, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, McCartney, Patrick , comments closed

Patrick McCartney

Revived interest in Sanskrit study in India reveals patriotism and a problematic nationalism.

This extract is from the article in Himāl Southasian magazine, 27 February 2014. Read the full article

Out in north-east Delhi, nestled amidst the industrial, agricultural, and residential suburb of Mandoli, is a small compound where a committed group of Sanskrit enthusiasts live, study, teach, and speak only Sanskrit. Camps are held there year round, run by Samskrita Bharati, an organisation devoted entirely to propagating spoken Sanskrit “in every home and in every village” (grhe grhe graame graame). This motivating ideological force extends to “every city in every nation” as well (nagare nagare deshe deshe).

Samskrita Bharati is a part of the Sangh Parivar, a collection of nationalist, political, social, paramilitary, religious, and cultural organisations devoted to the furthering of its particular version of ‘patriotic’ Hinduism. The Sangh is determined to create an ideal utopian Hindu nation and world with the lingua franca being, of course, Sanskrit. Samskrita Bharati’s role in this movement is linguistic and cultural; however, it is enmeshed in the political, religious, and para-military preoccupations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), respectively. Sanskrit is a symbolic vehicle for the ideology and practices of the Sangh Parivar. Samskrita Bharati’s mandate is to undertake the “Revival of Samskrit as a mass communication language (jaanabhaashaa) and facilitation of common man’s access to its vast knowledge treasure.”

Patrick McCartney is a PhD student at the Australian National University, Canberra. His research focuses on the manufacturing of legitimacy within a conservative Hindu organisation and their relationship to the nationalist project. 

Learning Sanskrit (Flickr/ Avanish Tiwary)

Alliances not leaders will decide 2014 Indian elections February 19, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Arun R. Swamy

Political posturing in India has not changed since 1999, when there was a fascist party posing as a conservative one, and a royalist party posing as a liberal one. The posturing continues, but since then the Indian National Congress (INC) party has embraced coalition politics. And it may now be in a stronger position to attract allies than its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

INC president Sonia Gandhi’s recent decision not to publicly project a prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections has met with disappointment in the party and derision outside. But Gandhi may be shrewder than her colleagues. With the two largest parties typically receiving only a little more than half the votes, the decisive contest between them is for the support of regional parties, not voters. In that contest the INC continues to have an edge — and publicly committing to a prime ministerial candidate would hinder their efforts.

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Diplomatic damage from latest India-Pakistan border clashes August 21, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Stephen Westcott

The recent killing of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops has put the Indian Government under pressure. The incident is likely to cause the suspension of the scheduled dialogue between the two countries.

Background

On 6 August 2013, five Indian soldiers were shot dead in an ambush in Indian-controlled Kashmir, near the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LoC). While it is unclear who was responsible for the attack, blame has been attributed to either militants backed by the Pakistan Army, or the Pakistani Special Forces themselves. Although Pakistan has denied any involvement and its Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has sent his condolences over the killings, tensions have markedly increased. Intermittent exchanges of small arms fire across the LoC have occurred throughout the week, wounding several soldiers and civilians. The most recent incident occurred on 11 August, with both sides using machine guns.

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Chinese “Blue Book” optimistic on Indian future May 27, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Daniel Barnes

The first Chinese “blue book” on the state of India has expressed concern over a government in ‘serious crisis’, but also believes India will emerge stronger after conquering its current obstacles.

Background

Chinese think tanks release “blue books” every year on numerous issues; the books have tacit backing by the Chinese government, even if they do not fully represent its views. The “blue book” on India runs to over 300 pages and was compiled by Yunnan University, which hosts one of China’s biggest South Asia programmes.

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