Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Revival of religion in India


For a few decades since its freedom from British in 1947, Indian policymakers and thinkers tried hard to keep religion out of Indian society and politics. India declared itself as secular socialist and its first prime minister – Pandit Nehru, had his own inhibitions against religion. He wanted Indian’s dams and industries rather than temples to be the places of worship. The liberals sold the common people the idea modernism means keeping Hinduism out and faith & development couldn’t go together. It was as though secularism is a virtue by itself. It was as though one cannot enjoy the marvels of technology and religion at the same time – you have to pick and choose only one. They made it fashionable to become atheistic and educated people were abhorred from displaying their faith. Populist leaders broke Hindu idols in public ceremonies and political leaders tried to keep a completely non-religious aka modern outlook.

There were two ironies here. First, International economists call the Indian economic growth between 1947 to 1991 derisively as “Hindu rate of growth”  - for its lean and anemic nature, while during that time Hinduism had its lowest point as policy makers have successfully kept Hinduism out of the society. Second, the Indian liberals equated development with atheism by pointing to the West, where curiously religion had far more status than in India. While Indian populace were made to believe developed nations are completely secular, they were unaware of the fact that American goverment’s official motto is “In God we trust”, Head of British state also heads the Church of England and Shintoism & Buddhism continue to be a central part of Japanese society. Rather Indian liberals were enamored with the Soviet’s failed ideals of anti-religonism.

The liberals also forgot history. Almost every major civilization evolved with a religion at its core. Mesopotamians produced the first recorded religion, Egyptians had their Sun worship, Harappans had their Shiva like god, and Greeks and Romans came with their own pantheon of gods with Zeus and Jupiter as centre. There were no real atheistic civilizations. It was Renaissance in religion in the middle of 16th century in Europe that brought the continent to its central place in world history. In fact religion and cultural development almost always go together. By keeping out religion the liberals attacked the very glue that bonded the society. Faith plays a great role in spread of moral values and can also be a great antidote to urban crime. Without religion’s role in answering deep philosophical questions, societies can quickly unravel. Economic cycles can deeply strain people’s lives, as economies move from expansion to recession to expansion and if people don’t have the faith that there is some good being on top of the things, mayhem can result. A calm, non-violent, philosophical religion is a must for every society.

As the dawn of economic revival started in India in 1991, so did the start of the end of Indian secularism. As people started to get more educated, more of them started to believe in religion. they also came to realize that intellectuals like Einstein, Da Vinci and Gandhi had a faith to back their glorious work. The color of the religion matters less compared to the fact of possessing faith in something.

While Hinduism had taken some bad elements (with the infusion of all those self-professed  Swamiji’s or “holy men”) there are many good elements too in its new flavor. The religion has become more inclusive with people at all levels now included in the new revival, not just the high class urbanistas. Various rural faiths are merged with the mainstream Hinduism that has added color and strength to the mainstream. Village deities like Aiyappan of the southern state of Kerala and Mariamman of the state of Tamilnadu, are now successfully merged with Hindu pantheon. Just like European Renaissance, Hinduism sprang back up – much to the chagrin of Indian socialists, and has slowly started to get official patronage too. Over the past 6000 years, Hinduism had survived many a crisis, and now it has survived one more at the hand of Indian socialists.

Role of media in impacting India’s foreign relationships


These days when I talk to my friends in Pakistan, China, Australia and elsewhere one common theme I see is their complaints on our media. As Internet has brought content around the world to anybody’s home PC, our media is gaining more attention and has become extremely notorious abroad. This attention is increasingly straining our relationships, as the recent Australian incidents have shown. Australians complain about the hysteric reporting of the crimes; Pakistanis, Banglas & Nepalese complain of the “arrogance” when it comes to media description of India’s neighbors; Chinese complain about jingoism and over-extended comparison with their juggernaut economy, and the Americans complain the overstressing the importance of Indian IT players and the ever present talk of the next “superpower”. English are more generous but they too are irked by the neo-Indian attitude.

With my overseas friends, I would often defend that given India’s democracy media is bound to have full freedom in expressing their thoughts. But, I’m myself not satisfied with the reply. USA and UK are also great democracies and I subscribe to UK’s Economist, Financial Times and Guardian and America’s Wall Street Journal, TIME and US News. However I don’t see the journalists there on a sensational spree. They take far less liberties when talking about other nations than when talking about their own. And when they criticize they try to be more sensitive. America’s journalists might slam Federal Reserve, White House or other authorities in strong language, but they talk respectfully about India and other countries. We should extend the similar respect when reporting about other countries.

Sensational reporting of the Australian attacks is the perfect example of what is wrong with our media. Our journalists fail to comprehend that assaults and other crimes are pretty common in the West and not always due to racism. When I lived in Baltimore, US I used to frequently see violent crimes in our city in vastly greater proportion than in major Indian cities. You can get mugged or even killed right in sight of Capitol Hill in DC whether you are white, black, brown or yellow. And Australia’s per-capita assault rate is 20 times that of India (UN crime stats 2007) and people in every demographic become victims.

Parts of Melbourne &  Sydney are pretty notorious for crime and given our population size in Australia (250,000) statistically it is expected that some of our guys could be in that victim list. Let us be aware of the statistics and be more sensitive towards the crime there. Nobody wants to be called a racist for no fault of theirs and by continuing to call them as racist would invite more ire & attack on our citizens in the future. Already Indo-Australia relationships are looking at an abyss, thanks to the media.

With respect to Indo-Pakistani affairs, I have often found Dawn to be a fairer observer than Indian newspapers. Our media should be less biased and patriotism should not color its perception of truth. Our journalists should be open to tell Indian people that India was not so innocent in Indo-China war, nor was our wars with Pakistan outright victories. Our soldiers fought bravely with conviction, but so did our opponents. We complain about vicious tactics of our enemies, but when you look impartially so do some our actions.

Part of our problem is that our journalists in top newspapers are significantly younger & inexperienced compared to their counterparts in the US & UK. They are given to more rage than reason. This makes it absolutely important for the media houses to train them on “International sensitivity” and encourage them to temper their language while firmly pushing their viewpoint. Media persons should be more rational than emotional, and facts & statistics should be their fundamental friend and not assumptions and accusations.

Let media be a bridge to build relationships with other societies. Let it not be an impediment to our society’s relationships with others. Let it not damage the hardwork done by our diplomats and non-residents. We fight so hard to build friendships with other nations - please don’t derail all of them with improper reporting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

India: A cop left to die while 2 ministers were showing the height of apathy


A cop was brutally stabbed by a couple of gangsters in a case of mistaken identity, in southern Tamilnadu in India. A government convoy accompanying 2 ministers happen to come that way. However, for the next 20 minutes they showed height of apathy and inaction as the cop pleaded for life and left to die. They claimed that they were waiting for an ambulance (that never came in the end). In the end the district chief took the injured cop to the hospital but it was too late.

Tamilnadu government must immediately fire the two ministers and suspend the cops who were at the scene. Inaction by public servant is as worse as committing the crime itself.

Warning: the video can contain gruesome scenes.

India – Aus: Crime rate comparison – let’s look at stats


Here are UN stats for crimes measured per 1000 people.

1. Assault: India – – 0.2/1000 Aus 7/1000. US – 7.5/1000


2. Burglary: India – 0.1/1000 Aus – 21/1000 US – 7/1000


3. Murder: India – 0.034/1000 US – 0.043/1000 Australia – 0.015/1000


4. Rapes: India – 0.014/1000 US – 0.3/1000 India – 0.77/1000



As the India-Australia relationship getting heated up due to a spate of attacks on Indian students, it  pays to watch the statistics. Australian authorities and media have stated that crimes do happen in India and so there is nothing to be alarmed. Sure, crimes do happen in India and elsewhere. But, that is not an excuse. The reason for the crimes are more important. In LA more people die of murders every month than the September 11 attacks, but you cannot equate them both. In Mumbai more people die in metro trains every week than Nov. 26 attacks but they are not the same. What India is worried is whether the cause for the crime is racist. I’m sure most Australians are not racist, but you need to pursue the criminals to find if there is a small minority who are. You need to assure us that you are capable of arresting these petty criminals and prove without doubt they are not racially motivated.

But, more importantly, Australia’s crime stats are alarming if you measure per-capita. Except for murders, Australia has a worse crime rate stats than India. While it is fashionable to say that third world countries like India are crime-ridden and unsafe, the stats don’t say that. India has a lot lower crimes per capita than most countries and lower than we guys assume just that multiplying by billion makes it look big. Although I agree some of the crimes are not reported in India, still there is a huge difference. I hope you guys take the stats and use the crimes against Indians as an excuse to start a  war on criminals.