Sunday, 6 August 2017

Corrupt Indians prefer Government jobs, Stupid Academics prefer Junk Social Science

Hanna & Wang, of Harvard & Wharton respectively, have a paper claiming that propensity to corruption is linked to a preference for Public Sector employment in Karnataka, India.
Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs. This paper shows that cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs, while outcomes on an explicit game and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. A screening process that chooses high ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption. The findings imply that differential selection into government may partially contribute to corruption. 
Hanna & Wang didn't survey Arts students- claiming people who study Politics or History or Literature don't end up as Public Sector workers even though, historically, Arts subjects are considered a gateway to Babudom. Instead, their sample is about 80 percent Commerce and 20 percent Sciences. Students of the former receive some instruction in basic concepts of Game Theory and Mechanism Design and this is reinforced by popular articles. It is likely that such students would show different behaviour in a 'lab test' even if they share the same normative values with students who don't understand the importance of the concept of Mechanism Design in modern Social Science. In other words, this methodology is ab ovo flawed.

Do Hanna & Wang have 'a screening process' for high ability applicants? No. Their sample was of students, not applicants for UPSC jobs. If the cost of application for Public Sector jobs is zero, which is what they assume, then, okay, there is likely to be a correlation. However, the actual cost of attempting the UPSC exam in a credible fashion is at least 700 dollars in coaching fees and other expenses plus an enormous opportunity cost in terms of time and effort. It is unlikely that the 80 percent Commerce stream, 60 per cent female, 40 per cent minorities, sample they have used is in any way representative of actual applicants, let alone successful ones.

This is not to say that a survey of actual applicants for UPSC jobs might not yield a similar result. However, our two researchers have not in fact made any such survey. Yet, by a piece of verbal sleight of hand, they substitute 'applicant' for 'student' on the basis of a farcically wrong assumption. Their work does not 'predict' anything- save perhaps that their next paper will be garbage.

Hanna & Wang's methodology was as follows-
 'we asked each student in our sample to roll a standard die 42 times and to report the number of each roll in order to receive a payment that was increasing in the number reported. Thus, while we do not know with certainty if an individual lied, we can observe how far each individual’s distribution of reports is from the uniform distribution. Note that this measure is appealing in that it does not prime the subject on corruption or dishonesty explicitly and allows them to feel comfortable in knowing that no one can say with certainty that they are cheating.                   

' key contribution of our paper is that we then conducted a validation exercise of this measure using a real measure of corruption. Specifically, we conducted the dice task with 165 government nurses who were part of an experiment conducted by Dhaliwal and Hanna (2013), in which they collected detailed measures of absenteeism through the use of random checks over two years. Thus, we can test whether the dice task outcome predicts fraudulent absenteeism. '

So students aiming to crack the IAS are being compared to poorly educated female nurses in the districts who have much lower cognitive ability and who are being paid for their participation in the 'lab test' with candy, not money.

Why? It is because the main job of an IAS officer ( 75 % of whom are likely to be male) is emptying bed pans. Moreover, a young Bureaucrat who is good at his job can easily get a visa to Europe or the Gulf and earn much more money for doing the same work.

What about 'fraudulent absenteeism'? Is that a good measure of propensity for corruption? No. A corrupt staff nurse will show up for work every day and extort bribes from patients by threatening to withdraw vital nursing services. Moreover, absenteeism is high where the posting is undesirable- some rural shithole- but the posting is undesirable only because the nurse doesn't have the money or the connections necessary to pay a bribe for a good posting. Such absenteeism has to be tolerated because of poor working conditions and the fallibility and expense of monitoring.

There is literally no similarity or connection between the two sample populations Hanna & Wang have chosen. The nurses are poor and stupid and what's more they know that aint going to change any time soon. Their fate is sealed. The students are not as poor or as stupid and their life is still before them. They can dream dreams. With hindsight, it will be obvious that a lot of them hadn't a hope of cracking the UPSC exam. Some may end up with MPhils or PhDs but still applying for peon's jobs.

Why are Hanna & Wang pretending that there is some hard-wired trait corresponding to a stable, exogenously given, propensity for corruption? Is there any evidence that the thing exists? If it does, why not study how it can be detected and cured? But, why stop there? Why not subscribe to a wholesale Manichaeism? Why not say that this survey predicts that the evil Demiurge is recruiting Satanically inclined minions to staff the Public Sector in a manner that passes Human Understanding?

For the moment, Hanna & Wang are being modest. Probably, they suspect they aren't 'high ability' and so will be screened out if they start babbling about Gnostic Demiurges or Lizard People from the Planet X. Thus they observe-
 students who had above median dice points (i.e. higher probability of cheating) were 6.2 percent more likely to want a government job. We find no significant difference in the predictive value of the dice task for high-ability students than for low ability students in terms of job preferences. This implies that screening on ability would neither exacerbate nor mitigate the selection problem among government workers in this context. Importantly, we find that nurses with above median dice points were 10.7 percent more likely to be fraudulently absent than those below it. Furthermore, as in the student sample, we do not find any significant heterogeneity in the predictive power of the dice task for nurse absenteeism by ability. This simple fact that the dice task also predicts the corrupt behaviour of the government nurses helps validate the interpretation of the student sample. 
Liars tell more lies than non liars which is why it is meaningful to speak of liars as opposed to non liars. We expect Public Sector workers who lie about one thing to be more likely to lie about another thing. Does this prove that liars are more likely to want to be Public Sector workers? No.

Perhaps it 'validates an interpretation' of a study which shows liars prefer Public Sector jobs? No. Substitute the phrase 'Cat lover' for 'Public Sector'. The fact that Cat loving liars tell more lies than Cat loving non liars does not 'validate an interpretation' of a small sample test where it was found that Cat lovers were 6.2 % more likely to tell lies. On the contrary, it invalidates any interpretation of the academic paper in question as other than Junk Social Science.

Civil servants need to be civil. They slot into a hierarchy. It may well be that telling lies is correlated with a type of 'Social intelligence' which is based on what the Greek Church calls oikonomia as opposed to Akribeia- i.e. flexibility rather than rigid exactitude. Lord Armstrong, a leading Thatcher era British Civil Servant, is credited with popularising the expression ' to be economical with the truth'. There is no suggestion that Armstrong was corrupt. Why not? Well, Armstrong was subject to strong checks and balances. These could only be subverted by a powerful nexus created and sustained by the elected politicians he answered to. Even then, he'd have been caught unless the British Courts had as big a backlog of cases, or were as accommodating in granting extensions, as Indian Courts.

In India- Karnataka specifically- preference for Govt. employment is tied to housing situation and family obligations. Those who are well housed in a good area are also likely to have better educational opportunities and choose high paid private sector employment. The Public Sector is only sought by either dunces or those who are part of a powerful clan- i.e. they are, in effect, being recruited by an existing syndicate. One reason for this is that the first years of Government service are financially strenuous. One needs to pay a lot in bribes to get a good posting, nice housing, a non crazy rapist of a boss etc. At this time, it is the extended family which supports you. Sometimes, it is the in-laws who stipulate that you stay in such and such Govt. job so as to be useful to them when you get promoted on the basis of seniority (the bribes only affect posting, not status).

Hanna & Wang chose to remain blissfully oblivious to any and all considerations of the sort listed here. Why? The answer is that Stupid Academics like telling Stupid Lies. Other Stupid Academics, like the good folk at Marginal Revolution, are happy to quote these Stupid Lies because that's how availability cascade based Junk Social Science operates.


Hanna & Wang are good people.
More sadly, they are smart people.
What they are doing is corrupt.
Not ugly and hateful, like what I am doing- as I said they are actually good & smart.
Still... dunno why precisely
Coz I respect their character- their capacity for metanoia- I must trash their thoughts and work.
Below, I quote their paper and then make comments in bold.

Economic theory predicts that civil servants often shirk or take bribes because it is difficult for central governments and citizens to monitor and subsequently punish these bad behaviors (e.g. Banerjee, 1997; Shleifer and Vishny, 1993, Di Tella and Schargrodsky, 2004; and Olken and Pande, 2012). 

What is wrong with this sentence? It says that Economic theory predicts something that utterly implausible- viz. that civil servants shirk or take bribes when they are likely to be caught and shot in the head if they do so.

That just aint true. 

Anyone, not just a civil servant, is likely to shirk or take bribes if it is difficult for his employer or his clients to monitor and subsequently punish bad behaviour. That's why Econ has an incomplete contract theory. It's also why Harvard/Wharton type Econ is an, adding noise to signal, Availability Cascade productive only of degenerate Research Programs and yet more worthless Virtue Signalling.

What is the point of quoting Banerjee 1997 as supporting this view? His paper, when it appeared, wasn't utterly foolish. Or, at least, we didn't know that we would judge it to be foolish twenty years later.

Why not? Well, it did not make absurd claims like 'civil servants shirk or take bribes because, of its nature, performance of ANY civil service job is difficult to monitor.' Suppose there was some problem peculiar to civil service contracts such that the above statement were true. Then, there is an easy solution. Privatise everything. Put everything out to tender. Reclassify each and every Babu as an employee of a Private Sector Enterprise or else an NGO or, worst comes to the worst, just designate the fellow as a urinal or other such public convenience.

This implies that variation in the ability to monitor or incentivise civil servants may drive the observed differences in corruption across countries, across agencies within a country, or even across the types of tasks for which public servants are responsible. 

Not true. The prediction of an Economic theory does not imply- i.e. stipulate- anything about the truth value or likelihood of any conditional. I predict it will rain in 5 minutes time. This prediction does not imply that there will be rain clouds in the sky at that time. Why not? It's because I'm using an Economic theory, not a meteorological one, to make my prediction. I believe the bureaucrats in the Celestial Ministry of Rain production are amenable to bribes of a certain sort because Arrow's Theorem has proved Godel's proof of God is valid in the manner of an 'invisible dictator' and thus monitoring of Celestial Civil Servants is lax or incentive incompatible.

However, not all civil servants engage in the same level of corrupt behavior, even in the same position or role. Besley (2005) and Prendergast (2007) posit that this may be potentially due to different government workers having different preferences over engaging in corruption. As such, it follows that the types of individuals that select into government may help explain variation in corruption levels. 

Or it may not. Besley's paper was okay when it came out. It said 'people don't think Blair is a crook because...urm... well, they just don't okay, and I've written a paper so thank you and good night.' That was 12 years ago. Now everybody thinks Blair was a great big crook and all his vaunted Public/Private Partnership schemes and 'Third Way' 'arms length' Management Organisations were a big fucking swindle from which he and his ilk profited immensely.

Why do Hanna & Wang cite a paper about the likes of Tony Blair in a study about poor students at crap Colleges in Karnataka? Are they mad? Or is this stupidity just par for the course?

Let us see-

The empirical literature has mostly focused on documenting how monitoring and financial incentives affect public service delivery in developing countries (e.g. Fisman and Miguel, 2007; Olken, 2007; Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012; Niehaus and Sukhtankar, 2013).

Fisman & Miguel looked at UN diplomats in New York. Those from highly corrupt countries were less likely to pay their fines. Once enforcement was beefed up, by the confiscation of diplomatic plates, the delinquents toed the line.  Big surprise. Why bring it up in this context? Do Hanna & Wang not understand that diplomats have immunity, save by express waiver by their own Foreign Ministry, and that this is almost never granted? A diplomat only has to fear his own country's laws, not those of the host country. There can be reciprocal agreements- e.g. the Americans and Brits can agree that their respective diplomats pay parking tickets in each other's countries. In their absence, it becomes a matter of punctilio for protocol officers to battle things out. What happened in 2002 which made UN diplomats suddenly amenable to pressure from the host country? Think about it. You know the answer. 9/11. After 9/11, New York could crack down on UN diplomats because... guess what other stuff was going down. America was suddenly in the business of 'boots on the ground' 'regime change' and that sure scared a lot of diplos straight. 

Hanna & Wang aint teenagers. They don't come from rural Karnataka. Why are they quoting a study about diplomats in New York in 2002? 

Are they just stupid and ignorant? Or is this symptomatic of some deeper malaise rendering their profession utterly and hilariously worthless?

Much less is known about the type of individuals who select into civil service, whether opportunities for rents in the government sector attract individuals with a high tolerance for engaging in corrupt activities relative to the private sector, and whether screening methods for civil servants could inadvertently screen in more or less “corrupt” individuals.

Much less is known by whom? The Indian UPSC? The Karnataka Civil Service Board? Are you kidding me? Those guys have built up 'expert cognition'. They can smell it out at a 100 yards. Take my old class-mate, Sanjay Pratap Singh. I made a couple of phone calls and know down to the year and the month, if not the precise day, when he turned rotten. Still, there was another moment, a crossing of a subjective point of no return which can't be precisely stipulated. Graham Greene wrote a great novel about a Civil Servant- Scobie- who passed that point. 'In the lost boyhood of Judas, Christ was betrayed'. Not so with my sometime friend. When I met him again at the Academy in Mussoorie, his eyes blazed with fury when he described the corruption of a UP cadre officer of my caste. It was much later when things went wrong. I have other friends who went to the bad in various All India Services. In one case, it was a rapacious wife- in another an American PhD in crap Econ.

I have also seen people who went in corrupt and came out clean. They paid off their debts to the 'clan' or 'syndicate' and then showed their own families a better path. Mahatma Gandhi, in his letters to his elder brother, is doing the same thing. 

It is not true that some people are born corrupt and others are born innocent. The son of an RSS type honest official is now in jail for utterly brazen and reckless corruption.  The daughter of a Muslim Tax Official, proverbial for his courage and clean hands, is- or was, there is some realignment going on as I write this- the politic face of a worthless bunch of gangsters. These things happen. I don't write off the daughter- though she has behaved abominably to my old friend's widow and robbed her own nephew. But, God alone is great. She was too young to know her father well and then her elder brother also died prematurely. It is easy to blame the in-laws especially if they are 'rural' or 'vernacular medium'. Maybe I am a fool. Okay, I'm definitely a fool but it is not utterly foolish to say that there is something else- some non linear aspect to Time, some cancerous type of concurrency- which both predicts delinquency and permits redemption. 

Ah! I'm an old fool. I see now why Hanna & Wang write as they do. They need to keep a distance, to preserve their ignorance, because, in this context, to seek to know is to fellow suffer. Pathos Mathei- Suffering teaches- what? For the greatest of the Greeks, the Latins, the Teutons, the Celts, or our own Mar Thoma Keralites- nothing but the agonies of Christ's endless crucifixion. 

Corruption is such a malaise of the soul- at least in India, for Indians like those kids in Karnataka who, notwithstanding any 'laboratory result' suggesting the contrary are and will remain so good and so wholesome and true that even if they go the way of Sanjay Pratap, yet they can redeem themselves like the Mahatma. 

Fuck it.
I just heard myself.
Okay, Hanna & Wang aint Junk Social Science
They are just... Social Science.
For Flaubert, Art was a prophylactic.
Worthless Econometrics is now the Soul's used condom.

Perhaps Hanna & Wang's 'lab work' resulted in some human interaction or even a Hawthorne effect.
The fact that this used condom of a 'paper' is all the evidence of it that we see is not germane.

Nothing is, which is not close cousin to 30 pieces of Silver, and an impossible bride price.
Nothing becomes true till it acquires a martyr to this truth.

Has Hanna & Wang's methodological misology become a Religion?
Let us see-
First, is there evidence of selection, wherein individuals who apply for government jobs have a higher propensity for corruption? Second, we ask whether the screening process serves to mitigate or exacerbate this problem.
Sounds reasonable. But, first of all, did Hanna & Wang actually choose a data set of applicants for government jobs? No.  They have a cheap, 'quick and dirty' sample of people unlikely to spend the time and money to actually apply for government jobs, their preferences notwithstanding, because an effective application costs money and time and cognitive resources their adversely selective sample most likely lacked.

Do Hanna & Wang actually evaluate the State's 'screening process'? No. They are too stupid and ignorant to do so or even pretend to have done so. Their screening process was worthless in context. Further, it was one their own sample of 'Government servants' were too stupid and cognitively impoverished to hack. Why are Hanna & Wang telling us such stupid, obvious, lies?
We motivate our empirical exercise by examining the decision to apply for a government position given the returns to different characteristics in the public and private sector. India—like many developing countries—employs civil service examinations primarily aimed to screen potential candidates by cognitive ability. 
Did you just hear that?
Three percent of Muslims crack the Civil Service exams.
That's way below what would one expect- unless Muslims are stupider than Hindus.
They are not.
Hanna & Wang are not Indian.
They are welcome to believe otherwise.
But, if an Indian believes that ANY community in India is less 'cognitively able', then they should just fucking emigrate- and good riddance to bad rubbish is what Eugenics and Scientific Method would say.  Muslims have the same DNA as Hindus or Christians or whatever. I may be as stupid as shit. But, not even I am so stupid as to believe otherwise. 

The truth is well known. If you are of a dominant caste, then a Government job brings you extra perks. If you aint, it is a Cross your family must bear to testify to your Public Spirit.

The framework demonstrates the conditions under which we will observe high-ability individuals who apply for public service jobs also having higher levels of non-wage benefits (such as corrupt payments or utility from public service) in the government. Thus, if screening primarily on ability, one may inadvertently select individuals who possess these other characteristics.
Hanna & Wang went to Harvard and all they got was a lousy T shirt saying-
'India, like every other country, does not practice any Institutional Discrimination whatsoever'.
Fuck is wrong with these retards?
                                                                 The answer soon appears.
They believe there is a 'propensity for corruption' which is individual not Statistical.
So, we now have a new m.p.c- not the stupid Keynesian marginal propensity to consume which gives rise to a delusive 'multiplier'- but a marginal propensity to be corrupt which can act as a multiplier of Junk Social Science.

 our main challenges was devising a meaningful measure of an individual’s propensity for corruption given that individuals may not want to reveal this
That was your major challenge?  Why? Was proving P=NP too easy for you? Why are you two geniuses not claiming the Millennium Prize? After all, you have found a way of defeating an impredicative preference revelation problem, not in the general, or Evolutionarily Stable, case but in the individual case! Wow! You have solved every problem of Mechanism Design and incarnate the Revelation Principle. Why the fuck are you writing stupid illiterate nonsense about kids in Karnataka or poorly paid nurses in the boondocks? Do they really look to you to be so very evil? Shame on you! They are honest and hardworking under very adverse conditions.  What is your excuse for labelling some portion of their number with a 'propensity to corruption?' Are conditions at Harvard or Wharton really so bad? Were you tortured? Were you beaten? 

Narendra Modi said, and the World applauded, 'Harvard Economists are inferior to Hard Working people.' 

Why? The latter can admit the truth. The former live by telling stupid, ignorant, seemingly bien pensant, but actually deeply Racist and Elitist lies. Why were you so lazy as to write in the manner that you have done? Why try to pass off opportunistic, methodologically worthless, work as part of an academic availability cascade? What is your major malfunction?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

South Asian writers reflecting on Partition

For Pankaj Mishra-
To think about partition on its 70th anniversary is to think, unavoidably, about the extraordinary crisis in India today.
Ethnic cleansing killed or displaced tens of millions during Partition. There is no ethnic cleansing- even of Hindus in the Kashmir valley- today. Yet it is unavoidable for Mishra to link the two together. Why? Because he is stupid and has nothing new to say.

Salman Rushdie, expresses pessimism about India's future because
In the land of the sacred cow, people are being lynched for the “crime” of allegedly possessing or eating beef.
It doesn't occur to him that it would only be in a country where the cow is sacred that a beef eater would be in danger of lynching. I might well be lynched if I am suspected of having stolen and eaten a baby in any country where a baby's life is considered sacred. In order to safely chow down on little children, I would need to move to a country where the national dish is fricasseed toddler.

Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani, writes
There was never a reckoning for the violence of partition; that would have got in the way of the narrative of a glorious independence. Instead it became easier to blame the other side for all the violence, and pretend that at the moment of inception both India and Pakistan didn’t wrap mass murder in a flag and hope no one would notice the blood stains.
The Indian National Congress opposed Partition. Its leadership did not instigate or condone ethnic cleansing. The Muslim League did instigate and condone ethnic cleansing to gain power. They never held elections to legitimise what they had done. All the blame goes to Pakistan which has wrapped mass murder in an Islamic flag. None attaches to India.

Mohsin Hamid, also Pakistani, writes-
 India is descending into an intolerant Hindu nationalism, apparently intent on imitating the religious chauvinism and suppression of dissent that have served Pakistan so poorly. In Pakistan, a moment where it seemed that the press might finally become free and elected civilian rulers might regularly complete their terms has passed.
 Does he really believe anyone can have the intention of imitating Pakistan? It didn't institute legislative checks and balances at inception and its judiciary was initially inclined to endorse a 'doctrine of necessity'. That does seem to have changed- the Pakistani Supreme Court showed extraordinary courage in confronting a Military Dictator. However, the Pakistani Press enjoys little protection from the ISI and its minions. Hamid, as a Muslim, is perfectly within his rights to detest Hindu nationalism. However, he must know he is deluding himself if he thinks anyone wants to emulate Pakistan.

Kiran Desai, too, has something to say. Unfortunately, this is the deeply self aggrandising way in which she commences her piece-
Every Saturday I suffer from a depression I call my Saturday depression. The main symptom of this is that when I look in the mirror I don’t see myself, I see a ghost. The sight of this ghost fills me with fear. I know this spectre is merely the cumulative result of one more week in one more year of many years of self-imposed isolation for the sake of a book I have been working on a long while.
I read no further.

In less precious vein, Siddharta Deb writes

How difficult was it, I thought when hearing my family talk about leaving Baniachang, for them to choose one kind of identity over another, in this case religion over language and culture?
Did his family really give up their Bangla language and culture in Shillong? Are they now fluent in Khasi? Have they converted to Christianity- the majority Religion in that city? No.

Deb tells us his family had a choice. They did- stay and get slaughtered or run away. They chose the wiser course.

Why did Deb's family have to run away from Sylhet? This is his answer-
The British and Indian elites making their new nations – men exemplified by the British viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, the future Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his hardline Hindu nationalist deputy, Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian industrialist and Gandhi patron GD Birla – were all in a hurry to force the process through.
Wow! Land hungry Muslim peasants did not kill Hindus. What happened was Birla bribed Patel and Mountbatten whose wife kept raping Nehru till he said 'enough already! Just Partition everything and leave me alone!'

There was no such thing as Suhraward's 'Direct Action Day' which happened before Mountbatten arrived. There was no Pirzada in Naokhali orchestrating ethnic cleaning. It was all the fault of some Hindu billionaire and some Hindu politicians and, of course, Queen Mountbatten.

Is Deb mad? He writes-
Seventy years after Partition, Toba Tek Singh’s defiant madness evokes freedom better than anything achieved by the supposedly rational nations that came out of that bloody process.
Judging by their pensées on Partition, collected by the Guardian here, South Asian writers in English are genuinely committed to outdoing Toba Tek Singh's Gramscian deconstruction of the nomological contradictions of neoliberal hegemonic practice under conditions of Capitalist catachresis.
To wit- 'Opad di gud gud di moong di dal di laltain'. Can South Asian writers- at least those who write in English- ever utter anything as sensible? No. Not if they want to get published or get quoted by the Guardian. Still, they continue to try. How else end the tyranny of Modi's genocidal regime?

Friday, 4 August 2017

A panegyric on Arvind Panagariya

That not Sen-tentious Chronos but Thy Bhagwati's Kairos govern Ind's Oikonomia
The former, a but Navya-Nyaya Availability Cascade of spurious Akribeia
The latter, Aayog's new Niti as univocal, incentive compatible, Riti
Let Vivek praise thy vivek of kshana sampatti Panagariya!

Prince! Chrematistics is heartless, its instance, as Wealth, so fraught a delusion
Work as Force times not Distance is the lonely Heart's only solution.

Christophe Jaffrelot on UK Caste discrimination Law

Christophe Jaffrelot is a Visiting Professor at the King's College India Centre in London. Does he actually know anything about India? Let us find out. Below is an article he published recently in an Indian newspaper. My remarks are in bold.

'Recently, the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) and the Hindu Council UK criticised the British government’s call for a public consultation on caste. UK’s citizens have till September 18 to reflect if caste should be banned by law or not.'

Untrue. Britain is not deciding whether or not to 'ban caste' by law. It is deciding whether it should adopt caste discrimination laws similar to India. Since conditions in Britain are wholly dissimilar to conditions in India, the British Hindu community naturally thinks this is a stupid thing to do. It is like Scotland introducing a 'Food Security Bill' on the Indian model even though Scotland is rich and most of India is very poor. The Scots are pretending that evil Tories are starving wee Scottish bairns. Similarly, in England, we have already seen a suit brought by a Pakistani cook belonging to the Arain caste against his employer who also belonged to the same Muslim Arain caste. The Tribunal decided that the whole case was nonsensical. The cook was fired because customers didn't like his food, not because he was low caste.

 'In a report released by Subramanian Swamy in London, the NCHT ascribed this initiative to a “colonial conspiracy”.' 
Really? Does Swamy believe England still rules India? Nope. He may have a PhD in Econ from Harvard, but even he isn't that stupid. Swamy says some Christian missionaries supported Colonialism and sought to inflame hatred between Hindu communities so as to gain converts whom they themselves discriminated against.  Swamy seeks to tar some elderly Bishop or such like with the same brush. The joke is that it is Pakistani chefs who will be suing their employer under this silly legislation. Hindus, by contrast, are doing well because they are well educated and forward looking.

'This report is in tune with the views of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has declared, “Castes play the same role in Hindu society that furrows play in farms, and help in keeping it organised and orderly”.

Really? Is a Rajput politician really preaching Casteism? Are the OBC and SC voters in U.P really so stupid that they voted for a guy who thinks his people are superior to their people? Wow! What an amazing discovery! This Jafflerot dude must be real bright! Let's look at the evidence-

Fast forward to 1.25 on the video.
Yes, the English translation is as Jafflerot says. But listen to the Hindi. The Yogi uses the word maiD- this is not a furrow but a raised portion of earth demarcating a parcel of land owned by a particular individual. He isn't saying 'caste is like a furrow'- that would be meaningless. He clarifies that he means boundary markers and not anything to do with the practice of agriculture. He goes on to say 'jati' (i.e. endogamous groups notionally linked to a particular occupation as imitatio dei) may be okay but discrimination on the basis of jati or its instrumentalisation for a political purpose is wrong.

Economists believe that endogamous groups devise ways of spreading risk and thus have utility. Obviously, once there is a basic Social safety net and a well developed Insurance market, this utility declines and we are more likely to see assortative mating without endogamy.

 The Yogi hasn't mentioned 'Varna' (i.e. the four fold division of Society into priests, warriors, merchants and labourers) at all. He himself is head of a Sect which can have a leader from any jati. That's why OBC and SC voters plumped for him even though he is a Rajput.

'There is a long tradition behind this argument. Deendayal Upadhyaya, the Sangh Parivar’s influential ideologue, wrote in Integral Humanism (1965), “society is self-born’’ and forms an “organic unity” inherited from a caste-based antiquarian arrangement that should not be disturbed: “In our concept of four castes, they are thought of as an analogous to the different limbs of Virat-Purusha. These limbs are not only complementary to one another, but even further, there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interest, identity of belonging”. Here he refers to the varna system as a social model and regrets that it has lost its fluidity with the multiplication of jatis.

Is this really true? Was Upadhyaya utterly stupid? Did he really think that something which is 'self-born' can also inherit something? How? 

I've just checked. Jafflerot is telling porkies. Upadhyaya, being well versed in Hindu Scripture, knew very well that something which is 'Svayambhu' can't have samskars. Otherwise, Advaita is nonsense. Thus the words Jafflerot has interjected prove only his ignorance of Hinduism. They do not indict the Sangh Parivar. 

Upadhyaya is saying that when we all work together harmoniously to promote Social Welfare, we don't care about our status or the type of work we do. The R.S.S gained in prestige because people said - 'the wealthy Seth takes his turn doing manual work. His superior may be a cobbler, but he takes orders from him. Not only do these people cook and eat together, they actually go as volunteers to do relief work when there is a flood or an earthquake.'

 Gandhi's Ashramites also went to do relief work- for example, during the Bihar famine. But, in the opinion of Kumarappa, a Chartered Accountant, they were useless. Kumarappa refused to pay them from the Relief Fund. Gandhi protested but had to tap some other fund for their benefit. 
I have read no similar story about the RSS volunteers being useless.

The Hindu reformers do want to do away with the notion of hereditary occupations monopolised by endogamous 'jatis'. The cobbler and the priest both want their sons and daughters to have a chance to become Doctors, or IAS officers, or Software engineers. They don't want the traditional Doctor caste, or the traditional administrative caste to monopolise those occupations.

However, Hindu reformers aren't advocating laws which prevent people marrying within their 'jati' if they choose to do so. Nor are the British. Jafflerot was lying when he said the Brits were thinking of banning caste. 

I personally would be delighted if they do. Every time some beautiful Hindu girl gets married within her jati, I could bring a court case saying I'd been discriminated against solely on the grounds of my 'out-caste' Brahminbandhu status. English judges are very polite and would hesitate to throw out the case on the grounds that that I am very old and  ugly and fat and stupid and no woman in her right mind would touch me with a barge-pole. Thus, wealthy families will just pay me a small amount of money to drop my suit so as to avoid a nuisance.

'Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, was the first Hindu reformer who endeavoured to rehabilitate the Vedic caste system by endowing this varnavyavastha with meritocratic dimensions. 

The first? My Arya Samaji friends make no such claim but rather refer reverentially to local precursors like the Parmansa Mandali in Mumbai or the Manav Dharma Sabha in Surat. However, there is an unbroken initiation from Sages behind the Arya Samaj which knits it together with other great traditions across the length and breadth of India. That is why the 'Sangh Parivar' ('family of Congregations') has an ecumenical appeal. We can see that a great Saint of our region is connected by deeksha to the lineage of the great Saint of another region. A South Indian, like myself, can overcome my suspicion of the (numerically preponderant) North Indian when these connections become clear. Nowadays, many of us have learnt some basic Hindi and can see for ourselves that people like Modi or Yogi Adityanath are not promoting 'Aryan' superiority against us Dravidians.

'He maintained that hereditary jatis did not exist in the Vedic times but children were placed in different varnas according to their qualities. Through such reasoning, he legitimised a hierarchy imbued with anti-individualistic values — once in a varna, a man and a woman remained in it.

Was Swami Dayanand Sarasvati ignorant of Sanskrit? Had he not even heard a recitation of the Ramayana or Mahabharata? Did he not know that Visvamitra, one of the greatest Vedic Rishis, changed his Varna? 

What about the Punjabis who became devout followers of the Arya Samaj? The cultivator and the small shop-keeper were delighted to see their sons getting an education and becoming Doctors, Engineers etc. That is why the D.A.V schools started emphasising useful subjects rather than purely Religious studies. Not just men, women were able to rise thanks to the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission and many other similar Sanghas.

I may point out that non-Brahmins took the leading role though in some cases the impetus may have come from Brahmans. 

'Unsurprisingly, the Arya Samajis joined the Sanatanists to form the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915, in spite of the latter’s social conservatism. One of them, M.M. Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 2014-15, aspired to restore the antiquarian system founded on heredity. “Functions assigned to each class as its jati-dharma, were specialised by different families as their kuladharma and were faithfully and efficiently performed for the well-being of the whole society, which was thus served by the classes and families composing it, as an organism is served by its constituent organs,” he argued.

Malaviya was from a traditional priestly Brahman family and it is true that he felt obliged to argue that young Brahmans should keep up their Vedic studies in addition to more useful and remunerative types of education. This was because traditional Brahmins like himself were needed to keep the Religion alive and free from superstitious practices or unscrupulous charlatans. Orthodox Jews similarly encourage their children to attend Hebrew School. This does not mean (except in the case of the Haredis) that they neglect Scientific studies.

However, non-Brahmins did not believe that Malviya really wanted the children of other occupational groups to stick with their ancestral profession. That's why non-Brahmins felt comfortable in financing the Benares Hindu University and sending their own progeny there.

'This discourse reflects an organicist worldview which has informed the Hindutva social project — but it was not confined to the Sangh Parivar and the Hindu Mahasabha (an organisation that was a part of the Congress till the late 1930s). Mahatma Gandhi’s views on caste were very similar in the 1920s. In 1920, he wrote in Young India, “Caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion the better… Interdrinking, interdining, intermarrying, I hold, are not essential for the promotion of the spirit of democracy”.

Jafflerot first says that there was a 'Hindutva Social Project' and that it had 'an organicist world view'. He mentions the 'Sangh Parivar' as though it were coeval with the Hindu Mahasabha. Clearly, this brilliant Professor has gone far beyond Einstein and has discovered that things which happened later actually happened sooner. Wonderful! What a prodigy we have here! Time may indeed be like a Moebius strip. But, as far as the Social Sciences are concerned, Time still has to be linear. If you say there was a Hindutva Social Project and World View and it was the same as the Gandhian Social Project and World View, you are either saying they were the same or else admitting that you have been talking nonsense. You have made a distinction without a difference for no good reason.

'Gandhi’s subsequent views on caste varied, but his initial take on the subject gave conservative Congressmen room to manoeuvre at the expense of progressive minds. In the 1920s, in Gujarat, Vallabhbhai Patel countered Indulal Yagnik when the latter asked Congressmen to work for Dalits. 

Oh! So Patel was Hindutva! Okay. Makes sense. Why mention Yagnik? He was a Nagar Brahman. M.C Rajah, by contrast, was an actual Dalit. He made a pact with B.S Moonje who was Hindu Mahasabha. During the course of the Thirties, even Ambedkar came to appreciate that the RSS was sincere not just in 'inter-dining' but doing socially useful work.

'Another Congress conservative, K.M. Munshi, eulogised the varna system through his Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In 1950, he declared, “We, who are blinded by an admiration of the social apparatus of the West, fail to realise that chaturvarnya was a marvellous social synthesis on a countrywide scale when the rest of the world [was] weltering in a tribal state”.

So, Congress- not the RSS- was casteist. That explains why Dalits suffered under the yoke of the (Brahman) Nehru dynasty. 

'Soon after, C. Rajagopalachari claimed that jati (not varna) was “the most important element in the organisation of our society” and argued that professional mobility would destabilise the complementarity of social functions at the village-level, making economic development more difficult Another contradiction in the legitimation of caste pertains to the untouchability question: It makes the fight against this social curse more difficult. At the Nagpur session of the Congress in December 1920, during which Gandhi seized power over the party, a resolution condemning “the sin of untouchability” was passed for the first time because of the Mahatma’s determination. But no action could be taken because of resistance within the party. The conservative Congressmen did not support Swami Shraddhanand’s ambitious initiative on that front in the 1920s and in 1929, the party gave Malaviya the charge of reflecting upon the issue of untouchability. Three years later, Gandhi had to return to it in reaction to Ambedkar’s growing influence.

Rajaji was originally supposed to be Gandhi's successor. Thus Jafflerot is showing that it was Gandhi and Congress which believed in 'varna'. Swami Shraddhananand was an Arya Samaji. Why is Jafflerot mentioning him in a creditable light here?

'The Mahatma rejected one of the provisions of the 1932 Communal Award that Ambedkar had obtained from the British — a separate electorate for the Dalits. For Gandhi, such a scheme would break the unity of the Hindu society: “[The Harijans] are part of an indivisible family… There is a subtle something, quite indefinable in Hinduism which keeps them in it even in spite of themselves. And this fact makes it imperative for a man like me, with a living experience of it, to resist this contemplated separation, even though this effort should cost life itself,” he said. Gandhi did not ignore that the social integration of the Dalits in the caste system was taking place “in spite of themselves” and was hierarchical, but he saw these dimensions of society as late perversions of an ancient order that could be restored to purity by social reform.

So Gandhi was a casteist. 

'The fact that even Gandhi was not prepared to support Ambedkar’s fight against untouchability is a reflection of his deep attachment to a form of social organicism.

& into 'social organicism'

 'But the poor record of the Congress’s fight against untouchability after the Poona Pact had also much to do with the resistance of the declared conservatives. In 1933, Malaviya fought against a bill on the opening of temples to the so-called untouchables. 

But Malaviya was President of the Congress, not the Mahasabha, when he did this. By this time, the RSS had been formed and was going in a different, more positive, direction in terms of battling hereditary occupational discrimination.

'The text of a bill on temple entry, also submitted in 1933, was never put to vote. Similarly, when Dalit members of the Madras Legislative Council introduced a Temple Entry Bill in 1938, Rajagopalachari, the Congress chief minister, asked them to withdraw it.

Yet Rajaji was appointed Governor General when Mountbatten left. Who appointed him? Was it Congress or the Mahasabha?

'Sixty years later, in spite of the Constitution, democracy and reservations, the hierarchical view of society finds expression in the defence of caste and reassertion of categories like pure and impure. Yogi Adityanath ordered shuddhikaran (purification) of the CM’s office in Lucknow before entering it and Musahar Dalit families of Kushinagar received soap and shampoo to clean themselves before attending one of his meetings. 

The CM's office was a den of corruption. Yes, it was purified. But that has nothing to do with caste. 
The Yogi did not ask Dalit families to 'clean themselves' before attending his meeting. Some government officials did so. But those officials were following a practice established before the BJP took office. How is it the Yogi's fault if a humiliating practice instituted by other parties was kept up after he took office? 

'And 6,000 km away, in London, the Hindu Council UK partly attributed the initiative of the British government mentioned above to the Indian Christian Dalit lobby in the country.'

Quite true. The credit for this initiative does, quite genuinely, go to the Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination and the Voice of Dalit International, UK. Nothing wrong in that. They are raising their profile and showing their effectiveness. The fact is Dalit Christians in India, despite being the majority, are discriminated against by the High Caste Christians who control the Churches and Colleges. Christians of Dalit origin in the UK- some of the smartest, most educated, most entrepreneurial people here- are using this issue to help redress the balance of power for their own people back in India. I don't see why any Hindu should object. Well, actually, that isn't true. There are some gangster types here in the UK and they will find any excuse to harass people- more particularly in the case of 'inter-caste' marriage. Shockingly, even some educated young men act like this. By all means, criminalise hate crimes based on caste because then the Police can take action more easily. Thus, if my neighbour calls me a 'Paki' and punches me, the Police treat the case very seriously because there is a racial motive.
Similarly, if my son marries a Jat or a Yadav or whatever and the girl's brothers decide to beat him up, then a Police complaint will be acted on immediately. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Pindaric Palinode & Ashbery's Misology

A poem is as much a place, as much a time, as it is a feeling
Of distaste mounting to the Summer of Haight-Ashbury
Skias onar anthropos ; our Ariadne's unreeling
 Ivory gated misology or thy john's Ashbery?

 Prince! Paideia palled & the Pindaric palinode failed to thrill 
Phaedrus, entailed an American Dream life by the G.I Bill

Monday, 31 July 2017

Sujatha Gidla's 'Ants among Elephants'

What is the story behind the story Sujatha Gidla tells us in 'Ants among Elephants'?

In order to tell ourselves that story we have to ask about her 'vrata' and therefore 'varna'- her vocation and therefore the colour of her collar. 

Was she a rocket scientist whose wings were clipped by the Wall Street crash?
A budding FinTech maven forced to don the uniform of a subway car conductor?

Is literature- that too the mythologising literature of the emigre seeking to recover a parochial family history already much eroded by the collapsing fabric of an abandoned motherland-  her substitute for something mathematical and arcane which has to do with the book-keeping of giant Corporations operating in Global Markets? 

Or is what we have here a simple, eusebiac, exercise in filial piety?
A touching tribute to the great woman who gave birth to her and brought her up?
Of one thing we can be certain.
Like V.S Naipaul, Sujatha Gidla comes from a very gifted family.
Her theme is similar.

Naipaul, in Trinidad, wondered why the Hindu is inferior to the Brown Christian who in turn is inferior to the urban 'Blacks' whose ancestors, as Sir Edward Cust had noticed, were too smart and solicitous of a better future for their children, to remain as simple cane cutters in the countryside. Cust pays lip service to the High Church notion that Christianity might reconcile the ex-slave to servitude. But he repeatedly lets slip the fact that Black West Indians had a thorough grasp of the  principles of the Christian Religion and were determined to rise up by its lights. Cust is disparaging of the Indian coolie brought in under articles of indenture. Their physique is unimpressive, their features unprepossessing; still, they are merely Hindu and thus incapable of emulating the superior rationality and self-confidence of the African origin ex-slaves who were quitting the plantations in droves.

Gidla, a Telugu speaking Mala Christian, whose parents were lecturers, faced the opposite situation when growing up. To her it seemed that the Hindus were superior to the Christians. However, in reality, this had to do with two quite different things- firstly, Caste prejudice against 'Untouchability', which she mentions openly and secondly something more damaging and invidious which reveals itself over the course of her narrative. The fact is, some of the menfolk in her family, though very bright, had developed some unfortunate habits or predilections of a type once in vogue amongst antinomian 'Dalit Panther' poets and the artistic milieu which sustained them. 

This meant that some women connected to the family may have been exposed to predatory behaviour. The author mentions two of her aunts as both having an irregular connection with the same 'bowlegged, cross-eyed, drooly-mouthed Hindu man'.  For a young girl growing up in a small town, this meant not just humiliation but fear of an every present and existential sort. It is astounding that Sujatha did so well at school as to secure admission at a prestigious Engineering College. Indeed, her scholastic success- she later did Research connected with the Indian Space Program at IIT Madras- would be noteworthy even if she had been born in America or Europe.

However, it is only recently that the intellectual success of women has brought them security and respect. Even now, in some small towns, it is the conduct of the men of the family which determines status. For reasons I have hinted at, it appears her family did not have the social standing which was their due, by reason of their superior intellect and attainments, within the Christian Community in Andhra Pradesh. That community has risen up over the last two decades by its own efforts. But, it is superior adherence to conventional morality, not some Naxal nostrum, that has enabled these pious and thrifty people to rise up and contribute so much to Society.

Sujatha, following her mother's lead, took pride in her very poetically gifted maternal uncle who was a Maoist and thus spent periods underground. In other words, the family- more especially the girls- would have felt menaced by the Police and Paramilitary outfits as well as by the goons commanded by local bigwigs associated in one way or another with the ruling party. As I say, what Sujatha accomplished, what her mother accomplished, was extraordinary in itself. Yet something more extraordinary yet was to come out of Sujatha's research into this Uncle of hers. We now have a book that we can put on a par with Naipaul's 'House for Mr. Biswas' while being its polar opposite. The two books illumine each other. Do they also cancel each other out? Perhaps. Let us see.

Sujatha, a physics student, comes to the great question of Sociology by way of her encounter with a 'High Caste' Syrian Christian girl, Jessie, from Kerala.

After Regional Engineering College I went to yet another citadel of engineering education. I went to Madras to attend the Indian Institute of Technology. IITs are the most elite, most cosmopolitan technical institutions in India, the Indian equivalents of MIT and Caltech. I was a research associate in the department of applied physics working on a project funded by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
In the ladies’ hostel, my eyes were dazzled by the sight of the other girls. They were all so beautiful, rich, happy, charming, high-class. I felt as if I were surrounded by movie heroines, but with brains. And in the hostel I saw many more of those elusive superior Christians.
One thing I noticed quickly: they all came from the southern state of Kerala. That movie I had seen, I found out later, had been made in Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala, and dubbed into my own native language of Telugu.
These Kerala Christian girls lived in the same wing of the hostel as me.
Jessie’s beauty was otherworldly. She was always flanked by two brahmin girls, her loyal sidekicks.

Supriya Abraham, when she descended to the ground floor to go to the mess, was like a star from the sky deigning to visit the earth.
The brahmin boys who fawned over these Christian girls would look at me in disgust. In my town, Christian girls were called crows, pigs, scavengers. One boy in my neighborhood used to call me and my sister “shit lilies.”
I wanted to make friends with these Keralites. Wasn’t I a Christian like them? But they shunned me just as any Hindu would. I was deeply hurt, more deeply than when it happened with the Hindus.
But I was determined to find out why I was different. Jessie was kind, one of the only girls who would talk to me. Her room and my room were on the same floor. I tagged along with her to church even though by then I already didn’t give a damn about God.
I asked to see photos of Jessie’s family. They were obviously wealthy. I started probing, asking questions. Jessie explained, “We are brahmins.” She told me her family came from a brahmin caste in Kerala called Nambudiris. Nambudiris are so high in rank that they look down on all other brahmins.
“Why did you become Christian?”
She explained that among the Nambudiris, in ancient times, the eldest son inherited all the property, and only he was allowed to marry. The rest of the sons inherited nothing and had to find lower-caste mistresses or remain celibate.
When Jesus’ disciple Thomas traveled to Kerala, some disgruntled younger Nambudiri sons left Hinduism altogether and were baptized by Thomas.
“So we are brahmin Christians,” Jessie told me.
But I refused to believe her. Is that all it took? Some Christians decide to claim brahmin heritage and everyone believes it? It was too far-fetched. When I came to America, I met more Kerala Christians. By this time I was brazen. Every time I met one, my first question would be “How come you have high social status whereas we don’t?” They all told me the same story: they were brahmins converted by Saint Thomas. “When?”

“Fifty-two AD.”
So what is the relation between religion and caste? Between caste and social status? Between social status and wealth? Between wealth and caste? I thought about these things incessantly.
I decided to find out how my family became Christians. I called my mother. That was when she began to tell me the story of our ancestors.
What is happening here? Why does Sujatha not mention the fact that Syrian Christians tend to be fairer skinned & have 'sharper' features than people like me or her whose genes owe more to the 'Ancestral South Indian population' and less to Eurasian pastoralists or iron age agriculturalists?

 Put more simply, migrants have tended to do better than indigenous populations. Those who arrived last- this includes smart people like Sujatha who emigrated to the States quite recently- often work harder or show greater entrepreneurial skill or scope and thus end up as an envied 'upper class'. The travails of Dr. Devyani Khobragade  are a case in point. She, like Sujatha, came from an educated Dalit family- albeit Buddhist, not Christian. Their original castes were commensurable- Khobragade came from the Mahar caste of Dr. Ambedkar while Sujatha was a Mala. These are dominant, ritually higher, castes within the Scheduled Caste fold and tend to monopolise the benefits of affirmative action. Khobragade, a diplomat accredited to the U.N in New York was accused of enslaving a Christian woman of higher caste and subjected to a humiliating strip search by the authorities. India asserted Diplomatic Immunity and kicked up a fuss. Otherwise the lady- a medical doctor- might have faced jail time. This happened four years ago, when Sujatha herself, having been squeezed out of well paid work in Finance by the sub-prime crisis, was more humbly employed on the New York subway system. At the time, the victimisation of Khobragade seemed to play well with indigenous New Yorkers envious of the prosperity of highly educated immigrants from South Asia and elsewhere.

Sujatha's ancestors had moved from one religion to another and, having acquired 'cultural capital' were able to move up the occupational ladder. This by itself made them more likely to migrate geographically. Once they did so, their social status changed for the better- if that is what they wanted. However, migration is not always frictionless. It is an irony of the Telengana movement that it targeted Andhras occupying well paid jobs, like Sujatha's uncle. This pushed him down the path of an even greater, but wholly irreal, radicalism. He might have been shot as many of his ilk were shot. He might have become rich as some of his comrades did. In the end he did neither but simply added noise to signal.

Why did Indian Christians not do particularly well under the British- save in 'first order' professions like Teaching or Medicine? We know the answer to that. India was administered according to immemorial Indian custom. The Raj sought to coopt existing 'elites' so that what Dadhabhai Naoroji called 'shakkar ki churi', the knife of sugar, could cut and cut while everything seemed sweet as sweet.

Socialistic policies did the Dalit Christian no favours. A few of exceptional ability- like Sujatha- did rise up but the mass of the productive populace, more especially in rural areas, saw no corresponding improvement in their own life-chances. Naxalism proved a false God- it turned out to be a Casteist gangsterism. Dalits were expected to do the dirty jobs and supply cannon fodder.  But caste based radicalism of a literary sort- with its dreary distinction between alethic 'crow' poets and hypocritical 'nightingale' poets- did not Épater la bourgeoisie at all but, rather, confirmed middle class stereotypes. Antinomianism is all very well for Aristocrats. A drunken helot is all the more a helot for being drunk. As for sleeping with high caste girls- well, someone has to and perhaps the lower classes are inured to insanitary tasks.

In the end, Sujatha's Uncle said, his life became 'a terrible joke'.

Meanwhile, with economic liberalisation, things began to change for the productive classes. Corrupt caste based Politicians and a gerontocratic 'Left Liberal' Academia fought a rearguard action. For those, like Sujatha, who had emigrated, memory became a barzakh, a limbo populated by phantoms; to try to write the story of how one had come to be meant quitting the world one still shared with one's peers in order to populate an 'antarabhava', a liminal state, suspended between two worlds, one wholly Mythological and Manichean, which couldn't die because it never existed, and one purely Normative or Notional and thus powerless to be born.

Sujatha, wisely, has chosen to write in a naive style. Perhaps she is genuinely naive. But, like Kipling, but, unlike Rushdie or Roy, she 'shows more than she knows'. Why? She is attracted to poetry but poetry is just another word for work. But work is what Physicists study. Forces may be unified by some grand theory, distances may have some hidden and paradoxical metric. While all else abides our question, Work is free.

My uncle Satyamurthy, who was also known as SM or Satyam, was a principal founder in the early seventies of a Maoist guerrilla group recently declared by the government to be the single greatest threat to India’s security. But the story of his political awakening began much earlier, when India was still under British colonial rule.
In August 1942 Gandhi called on the British to “quit India.” Gandhi had been a principal leader of the nationalist agitation for more than two decades. Never in all that time had he taken such a militant tone.
Now that it seemed as if something was finally going to come of all the talk Satyam, eleven years old at the time, had been hearing, he embraced the nationalist cause. For over two hundred years, the British had ruled his country and stolen its vast wealth. Freedom from that rule would naturally change everything, including his family’s situation. He had heard that the white lords lived in bungalows, ate bread they sliced with knives, and wiped their mouths with cloth. When they left, surely all Indians could live like that.
Gandhi called for “open rebellion” to back up his demand. The Indian people had been waiting for such a call. But they did not heed Gandhi’s strictures to keep the struggle nonviolent. When British troops fired on protesters, they fought back. Young activists attacked police stations, cut telegraph lines, burned post offices, derailed trains carrying war supplies.
He had heard that the white lords lived in bungalows, ate bread they sliced with knives, and wiped their mouths with cloth. When they left, surely all Indians could live like that.

Satyam longed to take part in these acts of rebellion. He searched high and low for those daring heroes. But alas, within twenty-four hours of Gandhi’s speech, all known supporters had been locked up.
Gandhi, in prison himself, deplored the destruction. He relied on the threat of mass resistance to weaken the British hold on power and persuade them to hand it over to native elites. But the last thing he wanted was for the masses to arm themselves and take power in their own hands.
When Gandhi called off the Quit India Movement, Satyam lost respect for him. Satyam dreamed of contributing his own blows against the empire. At times he felt his body had been taken over by the ghost of Bhagat Singh, a revolutionary anti-imperialist martyr hanged by the British. Satyam scrawled “Quit India!” inside abandoned buildings and defiantly walked on railway tracks, which was forbidden in those days out of fear of sabotage.
Despite his disillusionment with Gandhi, Satyam was not drawn to his main rivals, the Communists, because they did not join the Quit India Movement. Satyam asked his Communist neighbor why not. The boy explained,
“We must support the British in the war. They are allies with U.S.S.R.”
“But why should we care about U.S.S.R.?”
“Because it is the country for all poor people in the world.”
Satyam wasn’t convinced. His family was poor and so were all his neighbors. Because of this poverty his mother had died, and his father had gone away. Everyone said it was the white lords who were looting India of its wealth and impoverishing the country.
Satyam supported Congress, the political party allied with Gandhi at the forefront of the nationalist cause, because it opposed the British. But his hero wasn’t Gandhi; it was Subhas Chandra Bose, who had led a militant faction in the Congress. Unlike Gandhi, Bose held that the British could not be pressured to leave India willingly but had to be forced out. To this end, he sought help from Britain’s imperialist rivals: Nazi Germany and Japan. He raised an army in Singapore—the Indian National Army—to liberate the subcontinent. He would later die in a plane crash before his plans could be realized. But he remained an idol to the restive Indian masses.
Satyam bought a cheap, mass-produced portrait of Bose in the bazaar. One night he and Carey snuck into Satyam’s classroom and tacked it on the blackboard. This was Satyam’s act of sedition.
The next morning, the teacher demanded to know who was responsible. Satyam kept quiet. “Whoever it was,” the teacher announced, “I salute you! I am proud to be your teacher.” In those times, even some teachers in government schools were brave enough to express nationalist sympathies.
But the repression of the Quit India Movement meant Congress activists were lying low. It took Satyam a long time to find any. When he finally met them, it was by sheer chance.
Since barber-caste people will not touch untouchable hair, Satyam went to a “Christ barber”: a Christian trained in haircutting by the missionaries to serve their fellow untouchables. But the Christ barbers were not professionals. They cut hair in their spare time, working for free and without proper equipment. Satyam was tired of being ridiculed by his classmates for his poorly cut hair.
A caste friend from school insisted on taking him to his own barber, Veeraswami. Veeraswami, a fervent nationalist, believed all Indians, caste and outcaste, must come together to fight the British. Satyam had finally met a bona fide activist. Veeraswami not only cut Satyam’s hair, he gave him political lessons and kept him supplied with seditious reading material. As young as Satyam was, Veeraswami talked with him seriously and introduced him to the like-minded people who congregated in Veeraswami’s shop.
After World War II ended in 1945, the Labour Party came to power in Britain. The new government recognized that it was no longer possible to maintain direct colonial rule over the subcontinent. The best hope for protecting British interests there lay in transferring power to the Congress Party. The political prisoners rounded up during the Quit India agitation were released (except for Communists), and elections to form native governments in the provinces were announced. The British viceroy would stay in power in the center for the time being.
A short, chubby boy had a strange question for Satyam, one that Satyam had no answer to: “Do you think this independence is for people like you and me?”

In preparation for these elections, Congress held their own elections for party leadership. Satyam, now fourteen years old, was voted treasurer of the Gudivada Youth Congress. He was the only untouchable to hold office on the town committee.
When his Congress friends came to see him in the home his grandmother had recently purchased in the new untouchable colony of Slatter Peta, she proudly referred to him as “ma Jawallalu” (our Nehru). His siblings idolized him, bragged about him to their friends, and made all his ideas their own.
In his final year of high school, Satyam led a student strike. The strike demanded an end to the “detention system” that required graduating students to pass an exam at their own school before they’d be allowed to sit for statewide final exams some two months later. The policy was seen by students and parents alike as unfair and oppressive. When agitation against it broke out across the state, Satyam led the struggle in Gudivada. He gave the strike a political character, turning it into a protest against British rule.
He stole his father’s military shirt to dress up a straw effigy of imperialism that the students set on fire in the center of town. The strike lasted a month before the government gave in and abolished the detention system. It was a sign that the old colonial structure was giving way.

At midnight on August 15, 1947, India’s Independence Day, the day that Satyam had been dreaming of these last five years came at last. He could not sleep that night. In the morning he washed up carefully and put on his best clothes. He left his room early, not wanting to miss anything. Students from colleges all over the district, joined by thousands of municipal workers, thronged to take part in the celebration on his campus. The crowds swelled like a river in monsoon.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, the students and workers sang in one voice:

A different world,
a different world is calling us.
As he joined in the singing, Satyam’s eyes filled with tears. British rule was over, but the real work of independence still lay ahead. “They are leaving,” he thought. “But we will have to build this nation.”
In their speeches the politicians, intellectuals, and trade-union leaders all talked of bhavi bharata pourulu—“future citizens of India.” Who were they? They were him. Young men such as himself.
The celebrations went on all day. As he watched the dances and dramas and competitions, Satyam realized that in all those crowds of students, he knew no one well enough to talk to. They were all dressed in their best, and what a difference there was between his best and everyone else’s. The girls wore fine saris and the boys all had on nice Western shirts and trousers. Beside them, in his white cotton lalchi (a traditional men’s shirt) and pyjama, Satyam looked out of place.
For weeks he had worked side by side with the other students, day and night, to help prepare these celebrations. But the solidarity he had felt was no more. Now that the common enemy was defeated, the differences between him and the other students came to the fore. He noticed he was not included in any of the performances.
The difference between his family and the rest of the untouchable community was small. They were all ants. But now Satyam was an ant among elephants.

The celebrations continued into the evening. The program included a fancy-dress contest. A girl dressed up as a Lambadi—a member of an impoverished tribe in Andhra whose traditional costumes are remarkably colorful and ornate—won the first prize. “Would a real Lambadi woman get this admiration?” Satyam asked himself as the girl—the darling daughter of a rich Hindu family—got up before the applauding crowd to receive her prize.
As he looked on, a short, chubby boy Satyam had never before seen came up to him and introduced himself. He had a strange question for Satyam, one that Satyam had no answer to: “Do you think this independence is for people like you and me?”

Some years later, Satyam began studying at the prestigious A.C. College in Guntur. But when his father’s rising debts sank the family into deep poverty, Satyam no longer had money to pay for college. He was in a painful predicament. He knew no one at A.C. College, no one in the entire city of Guntur, whom he could turn to for help. He did not pay the mess bill for July. He was given a month’s time, but when he failed to pay the following month, the administration added his name to the list of delinquent students posted at the entrance of the mess hall for all the world to see. To avoid running into his classmates he started going to the mess just before it closed, after everyone else had left. Even then, every time he walked in, the manager would look at him as though to say, “You don’t pay bills and you show up to eat?” Satyam skipped meals as often as he could.
Poverty was nothing new to him. All his life he had been poor. In Slatter Peta the difference between his family and the rest of the untouchable community was small. They were all ants. It mattered little if one was a bit bigger than the others. But here at A.C. College, Satyam was an ant among elephants.
No other student was in his situation. He suffered from hunger, but even more from loneliness and shame.
Now Satyam was all alone in a strange town with no one to ask for help. His family had made a mistake in sending him to A.C. College. They had been greedy. They wanted too much for their own good.
Satyam was ashamed that his classmates might have seen his name posted at the entrance of the mess hall. He had no money for books or lab records or term fees or exam fees. He couldn’t afford to dress the way students were supposed to, in shirt and pants. The strap of his thongs was broken and secured by a safety pin that kept coming undone. So he stopped going to classes.
A nation is not the soil. A nation is the people.

With nothing better to do, he started reading newspapers at the college library. After finishing the papers, he would wander into the stacks.
The A.C. College library, located above the lecture hall, had a large collection of Telugu literature. Satyam had never been particularly interested in Telugu literature. What he had seen of it in his high school textbooks had bored him. Classical Telugu poetry was of two kinds: puranas (mythological poems in praise of the gods) and prabandhas (courtly poems in praise of the rulers). They were written in a highly formal dialect that borrowed heavily from Sanskrit. To most Telugu speakers, including Satyam, it was all but unintelligible.
While looking through the stacks in A.C. College library, Satyam discovered a new kind of poetry that took as its subject matter neither gods nor rulers. It was about ordinary people and contemporary life. The verse, Satyam found, was free of the strict and complicated metrical rules that marked the older forms. The language was modern colloquial Telugu, easy to understand and yet beautiful. Satyam read the Navayuga Vythalikulu (Harbingers of the New Era) anthology of Muddu Krishnudu. It was the first anthology he had ever seen, a selection of modern Telugu verse.
Much of it was love poetry. Reading it, Satyam felt new sensations stir inside him.
He went on to read every modern poem in the library. Poems by Joshua, Devulapalli, Nandoori, Duvvoori, Thripuraneni, Karunasree, Gurajada. These were pioneers of navya sahityam, “new literature,” as the movement he had chanced upon was called. While on the floor beneath him lecturers lectured and students studied, Satyam read. He read eda-peda (left and right). He learned to hide in the library when it closed at night and even slept there sometimes.
The father of navya sahityam was Gurajada. His most famous poem was one he wrote in 1910 called “Love Thy Country.” Two lines in this poem had a great impact on the political consciousness of Telugu speakers:

A nation is not the soil.
A nation is the people.
Two simple lines and yet so powerful. It was as though Gurajada was explaining what a nation was to the many for whom this was a modern and abstract notion. These two lines followed Satyam wherever he went.
I don't know if Sujatha is a good writer or a bad writer. Since she is writing in English, that question is not for me to decide. However, this is good 'Indglish'- because the Telugu behind it is good Telugu. Well, at least, for older people like me. Actually, that isn't true. Mahakavi Sri Sri shat that bed when I was still in short pants. Still, there was a time when, as Sujatha says, Gurazada's works were actually appropriable by workers so a new type of Work might commence.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Audrey Truschke on Section 295a

Audrey Truschke is an Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers. She has had an expensive education and has access to Wikipedia. Yet she writes this-

Section 295A is a broad and highly subjective law.
Is Audrey right? Let us look at what 295 A actually says-

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India], by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.

This does not seem over broad. There has to be a deliberate and malicious intention. There is nothing subjective about it. Either you intend hurt and act with deliberation or you don't. This is a matter of fact, not opinion. It does not matter whether there is any actual insult to anybody. Furthermore, no subjective element enters the definition of 'insult' whereas there is a subjective element in the, public order related, notion of 'outrage'.
All that matters is whether a malicious intention against a definable class existed and whether it was accompanied by an overt act.

Audrey disagrees- she writes
In a nation of more than 1.3 billion people, anyone who finds offence against their religious tradition can invoke the act. Moreover, the law is based on personal sentiments and so it is open to wide interpretation – and abuse.
This isn't true. I may feel offended by something you have written but I have to prove you acted maliciously and deliberately in order to target a particular class of people who share a particular religious belief. My personal sentiments are not germane. The only thing that matters is the motivation for your action.

Why does Audrey mention India's population? Presumably she means that India is a diverse country and thus what causes offence to one sect may not do so to another.  Suppose you write 'I like cats'. Perhaps this offends some sect which views cats as emissaries of the Devil. Could you be successfully  prosecuted? No, provided you had no such malicious intention towards that sect.

Audrey has a curious view of Colonial Law which severely punished any offence against an official or Institution of the Empire under the rubric of 'seditious libel'. However, no action was taken against such officials or other citizens of the Imperial power who maligned or maliciously insulted any or all of the colonised people on the basis of Religion or Race.

Audrey writes-
Section 295A, like many of the country’s laws, is a colonial  hangover. In the late 1920s, the British enacted the law in order to calm a violent Hindu/ Muslim conflict sparked by a Hindu-authored tract about the Prophet Muhammad’s personal life. The law rested, in part, on the colonial idea that Indians were more like children than adults and so were unable to handle the freedoms enjoyed by Europeans. Despite these colonial origins, independent India has retained this law and the state has been banning books ever since.
Did the British enact 295A? Nope. They would have had to prosecute a lot of Christian missionaries as well of British journalists and writers in India if they had done so.

India was moving towards self-rule in the Twenties. 295 A was mooted by Indians for Indians and thoroughly discussed in the National Assembly by the likes of Lajpat Rai and Jinnah. It wasn't a 'Colonial hangover' at all.  Had the law 'rested, in part, on the colonial idea that Indians were more like children than adults' then there would have been no Indians in the National Assembly. The entire direction of British policy would have been different. Instead of moving towards representative institutions and dyarchy, it should have been going in the reverse direction- reducing the representation and influence of Indians in Government.

Many Indian politicians expressed reservations about 295a. An Indian Law Professor writes-
Various amendments meant to circumscribe the scope of Section 295A were discussed, but ultimately it was thought that the requirement of “deliberate and malicious intent” which was an ingredient of the offence under Section 295A was enough to allay all the fears. Jinnah, who served on the select committee, believed this was enough to protect an “honest man.” The Home Member, J. Crerar, argued that the kind of individual most likely to be prosecuted under Section 295A would be “some obscure and scurrilous scribbler writing from some obscure den or pot-house in a bazaar.”

It is noteworthy that Britain rejected reform of the blasphemy law in 1930. Why did it do so? Was it a 'colonial hangover' from the Norman era? More recently, the British Parliament has considered legislation to protect all Faiths on the lines of Section 295A. Why? Do British Members of Parliament now take the view that British people have suddenly become 'more like children than adults and are thus unable to handle the freedoms enjoyed by Europeans?' Perhaps, this is also the reason for Brexit.

In 1972, the British Colonial Government of Indira Gandhi (real name Ingrid Godwin) beefed up Section 153. Why did she do so? It was because Indians are like children. Audrey knows this because she has visited India. She wrote a nice story book about Aurangazeb but those nasty Indian kiddies thought she was an idiot. Narendra Modi (real name Nicholas Maugham) should take action. He must confess that the entire Indian political establishment is actually pukka Angrez. English people understood that they had to disguise themselves as Indians so as to continue to rule India without being accused of Colonialism. Still, they had to continually beef up 'hate speech' laws because...urm... well Audrey says so.

Should we believe Audrey? Is she an honest and diligent researcher who publishes truthful statements? Speaking of a recent court case, she says-
(Dina Nath) Batra alleged, for instance, that Doniger’s book defamed Swami Vivekananda, a 19th-century Hindu monk, by accurately quoting him as once saying ‘give me beef ’. Batra argued that, while Vivekananda did in fact say this, repeating the historically accurate statement is nonetheless offensive to modern Hindu sentiments and hence illegal.
A Christian Missionary is the source for the supposed beef eating of Vivekananda- a practice the Swami considered to be incompatible with present day Hinduism. Did Batra really argue that Vivekananda ate beef? Nope. He says the Swami did not eat beef.

Why is Audrey telling us such a stupid lie?
I suppose the answer is that History attracts only the stupidest students.
Truth, even historical truth, repels stupidity.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Modu's whistling arrowhead

Must Hegelian Irony yet, Merlin's Monstrous Debt, us thus manciple? 
Or a bad Actuarial bet underlie our Revelation Principle?
Time was, Touman's infinite Empire of the Xiongnu
Time is, a whistling arrowhead from Modu