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Teaching Pakistan Studies: a relook July 28, 2015

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan Studies is taught as a compulsory subject in schools, colleges and universities in Pakistan. However, teaching of the subject leaves much to be desired. It needs to transcend its present narrow unimaginative and stodgy content and to go beyond the narration of mere facts and events within a repetitive ideological framework. This is especially so if the aim is to build socially conscious, progressive and robust-minded Pakistani youth who are abreast with regional/global developments and needs.

Pakistan Studies, as a subject, cannot be studied in isolation. Pakistan’s recent and past history is inextricably linked with Britain, India, West Asia and Central Asia. Every nation has its own version of history, narratives and heroes to eulogize and romanticize. Although our perspectives and heroes may not be the same as perceived by our neighbours, understanding the counter-narratives offered by others would make us more empathetic to them.

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South Asia Masala recommends… April 23, 2015

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Negotiating the politics of knowledge and re-imagining the university

Meera Ashar in converstion with Ashis Nandy at The Australian National University

Ashis Nandy, preeminent cultural and political theorist, has not hesitated to venture into areas previously unvisited by normal social science. His research interests include the political psychology of violence, cultures of knowledge, utopias and visions, and human potentialities and futures. In this video he talks to Dr Meera Ashar about the modern university system and the challenges that it faces.

Malala and Salam: crusaders for education November 20, 2014

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan has had the distinction of winning two Nobel Prizes in its nearly seven decades of existence: Professor Abdus Salam in science and recently Ms Malala Yusufzai for girl education. Salam had shared his prize with two others while Malala is co-winner with Kailash  Satyarathi – a committed Indian social activist for children education and rights.

Interestingly, both Nobel Laureates hail from humble backgrounds and belong to the lesser developed and remote regions of Pakistan: Swat in KPK and Jhang in Southern Punjab. The parents of both were school teachers but suffused with a passion for giving education to their wards; both prize-winners faced cynical reviews by many of their countrymen when they won the coveted Nobel Prize: Salam, for belonging to the Ahmadiyya community, while Malala for being a tribal, teenage girl – too young with insinuations of being exploited by Western motives. The cynicism has turned morbid that she or her family had allowed her to be deliberately shot at for attracting public attention and sympathy.

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Fatalism, or, where are women in South Asia? October 17, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Adhikari, Mohanraj, India, Nepal , comments closed

Mohanraj Adhikari

The last few months have been really fantastic for me as a wedding enthusiast. On 10 March The Mirror published news about a British divorcee woman aged 46, who wedded her own pet dog in a ‘romantic’ wedding ceremony after her marriage to a man 20 years ago did not work out. This story was followed by a news item in Metro UK, 3 September, about an 18-year-old girl, around 7000 kms away from Britain in Jharkhand state of India, who married a stray dog to please her family, who think that it will pass a curse from her to the animal so that that when she marries her future prince, a real man, the marriage will be blessed with longevity. Though both these stories talk about a woman marrying a dog, the context is quite different. The wedding in the first story shows a woman’s love and connection towards an animal after spending a considerable part of her life with it, whereas the second wedding is done to pass a ‘curse’ to the animal. According to the news, both weddings were fabulously organized. The stories provide evidence of the divide between women in developing countries and industrialized countries: in one place, a woman is free to choose her husband even from a different species; in the other place, a woman believes that a dog husband will free her from a curse and give her a better human husband in later life. This kind of fatalism is very much widespread in South Asia especially in the rural areas of India and its neighbouring country Nepal.

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India’s misguided schools policy shutting out the poor October 16, 2014

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

Ken Schoolland

Millions of children are being shut out of India’s schools by legislation that predated the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the message of a petition by the Centre for Civil Society, which states: ‘Today, 3,494,520 children are out of school, due to the fact that 19,414 private schools across 17 states have been closed’. But few in India are hopeful that this recent shift in power will bring about a liberalisation of education policy in the near term.

In 2009 the government of India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), which mandates criteria for school facilities and teacher employment. In the capital of Bihar — the fastest growing state in India — a study by the India Institute concludes that this will eventually shutter three quarters of the schools that serve 68 per cent of Patna’s mostly poor children.

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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)

Female education in Sindh January 24, 2013

Posted by barbaranelson in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Abdul Razaque Channa

What if you and I are uneducated, have never been to school, do not know how to send and receive text messages and are repeatedly called jahil (illiterate) and andha (blind)? Being illiterate may not kill a person but the feeling of being a jahil does, if not socially, then emotionally for sure. A girl, a sister, a daughter and a wife who may be a part of our family, neighbourhood, city or country may possess such feelings.

When it comes to the crucial question of the provision of education, there seem to be two pivotal forces: the state and its citizens. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that males and females residing in both rural and urban areas are educated through mass literacy programs. Secondly, the 180 million citizens of the state hold the right to receive education, of which 48.1 per cent are females. It seems that little success has been achieved by the state as far as imparting education is concerned. Policies and action plans are routinely produced. However, the reasons behind their failure have not been ascertained.

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Why Pakistan is lagging behind India August 12, 2012

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

Desh Gupta

Before the creation of Bangladesh in 1970-71 the then West Pakistan was economically more vibrant than India. There were a number of reasons for this.

It drew resources from the former East Pakistan to sustain its relatively large army. In addition during that period the Army, which even then determined whether it had direct or indirect control over the political apparatus, allowed its entrepreneurs drawn mostly from the Gujarati immigrants, a free reign and they drove economic growth. Fundamental Islam was weak and, muzzled by the army, Pakistan was politically and economically more liberal. This ensured a greater mobility of labour and capital, leading to greater efficiency in their use.

India’s economy, however, was highly regulated by the state. The government decided what should be produced and directed resources for this purpose. Economic efficiency was poor. This was reflected in the loss of competitiveness of Indian textile mills, which became ‘sick’ in the early 1980s. Even in steel production, which was a priority industry, the rate of increase was slow as it was limited to the public sector, and input of imports was difficult and low because foreign exchange was limited.

The loss of Bangladesh (but more so from 1980 onwards), brought economic change. It meant that Pakistan’s army could not be sustained at its then prevailing level. Cuts created dissatisfaction and were difficult to justify politically after its humiliation by India in the 1970 war. Its defence budget had to be bolstered after India’s explosion of a nuclear device in 1974, as Pakistan devoted resources to gain parity with India in nuclear defence technology. A redirection of defence resources from the army resulted in an alienation of the army that eventually led to the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the elected government.

Had economic growth lifted it would have been easier to raise defence outlays without reducing those for the army. But Bhutto embarked on a nationalisation program. He stymied Pakistan’s economic dynamism by attacking its successful entrepreneurs who slowed investment, leading to a fall in investment and growth rates. Bhutto strengthened the power of the unions, which benefitted a very small segment of the labour aristocracy but created rigidities in the labour market. (more…)

Cartoon controversy July 5, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Nelson, Barbara , comments closed

Barbara Nelson

Textbooks are back in the news in India. The Republican Party of India (RPI) Athavale held a press conference in April to demand the removal of a 1949 Shankar cartoon depicting Ambedkar and Nehru from a Class 11 textbook, Indian Constitution at Work. This led to the government apologising and promising to remove the cartoon. Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, also commissioned a review of the six textbooks in Political Science “to identify educationally inappropriate material”. The report (Report of Committee to Review NCERT Textbooks and Note of Dissent by M. S. S. Pandian) is available from the Kafila website.

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Australia’s view of modern India ‘outdated’ April 23, 2012

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

Richard Iles, Griffith University

Indian life becomes a sluggish stream, living in the past, moving slowly through the accumulation of dead centuries—Pandit Nehru, The discovery of India (1946).

Australia needs to better understand Indian business thinking. Outdated and narrow images of India abound. However, in the world of economic thought and business practice India is dynamic, hard-edged and likely to be the source of renewed economic thought.

However, Australian business and social views of India are sluggish, not having deepened for several decades. This neglect represents decay in real terms. India has developed rapidly over the past two decades, with many other developed countries strongly investing in their relationship with India during this time.

Department of Business Management, University of Calcutta

Australian research activity focused on India, as surveyed by the Australia–India Institute (University of Melbourne), has declined steadily over several decades. The knowledge base from which the Australian business community, students and the wider community can draw to assist their investment in India has withered.

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