Saturday 26 April 2014

Impossibility of an Indian Illiberal- or why Modi isn't the Devil- part 1

India is a large country with numerous different languages, textual traditions and political ideologies- some of very ancient derivation. If Liberalism is understood as being constituted by
 1) Freedom of conscience in matters of Religion
 2) Valorisation of Free Enterprise and the legitimacy of private ownership of Wealth where such Wealth has been accumulated by individual effort
3) The principle of non-aggression- i.e. no coercion in matters involving either private choice or public policy debate
then, Indian Liberalism can be shown to have sound textual support in the so called 'Axial Age'- i.e. 800-200 B.C.- during the period when North India was moving from Tribal Republics to Imperialistic dynasties.
 As a matter of fact, not theory, India- being a large country- has always displayed 'Tiebout model' competition- i.e. local 'stationary bandits' providing a more Liberal Public Good mix attract Capital and Enterprise while less Liberal or more intensively rent-seeking regimes lose out or are compelled to launch ruinous military action.
A classic example of this is the migration of Native Capital away from the Peshwa territory to that controlled by John Company in the late Eighteenth Century.  Interestingly, though the Brahminical Peshwa's possessed legitimacy and moral hegemony, nevertheless Hindu traders obeyed the logic of the market despite themselves holding to Casteist orthopraxy in their private life. Mahatma Gandhi, who came from the mercantile 'Banya' caste, often referred to the phenomenon of his own caste's financing India's enslavement. However, during the course of the Napoleonic Wars, Native Capital was frozen out of the financing of British expansion and relegated to a comprador and increasingly subaltern role.
Quite apart from Military exigencies, because of Elite Rent Contestations costs and the coalition instability of what, following Morton Fried and Elmor Service, we might signify as tribe and caste,  Empires tend to have higher rent seeking and so have a shorter half-life (more especially as India is more like a Zomia than a 'No where to Escape' strip of fertility) while mercantile guilds as well as occupational sub-groups evolve methods to gain a countervailing power over the 'Stationary Bandit' of the State. Much of the complexity of caste and Guild based deontics becomes transparent in this light and this has always been understood by the Indian administrative class or 'writer caste'. 
Interestingly- in the light of Amartya's Sen's recent attempt to draw a distinction between 'Nyaya' Substantivist and 'Niti' Procedural or Relationist Theories of Justice- the Indian writer castes, from the earliest period of which we have evidence, subscribe neither to a 'Conflict theory' or an 'Ideal' type 'Contractarian theory regarding the origin of State which they served. On the contrary, though there is an equation between the Rain Cycle and what the Chinese might call the 'Mandate of Heaven', this merely relates to one type of State Office- that of the Brahmin 'Purohit', or Chief Priest, who has every incentive to limit the efficacy of the rituals he himself carries out by proclaiming something else supreme- viz. the mysterious force of causation, karma, which, however, is susceptible to all sorts of clever- even what we may call Moh Tzuist- technocratic fixes or (more often) Kautilian chrematistic ploys, such that the topos of human existence always preserves the quality of being 'apurva'- new, novel, not predetermined yet though the arrow of prarabhda karma is already speeding on its flight..
This is because, by a polite fiction, beloved of the authors of Ind's Epics- and the Lone Ranger comics- an arrow in flight can always be diverted by some quick draw artist who only gallops off into the Sunset after telling us kiddies to like eat our veggies already and straighten up and fly right.
Lord Buddha, it must be said, went one better. His is a one moment Universe- so though everything that is is but the instantiation of  Causality, Path dependence, Hysteresis- yet everything that is is also Ergodic, Economic, entirely Intentional and Intensional because Kala- Time- is itself subject to that 'Chakra' or Wheel which is turned only by that true Chakravartin, the Sakya Muni's  compassionate, albeit 'many fingered' hand.

 It may be argued that evidence from Buddhist scriptures for this view is not germane since Buddhism virtually died out in India till its revival in the Twentieth Century by, most notably, Dr. Ambedkar. However, a chapter in the Mahabharata (an epic which has currency in all parts of India) called the 'Vyadha Gita' (Butcher's Gita) carries sacred status for Hindus. In it, we learn that the Meat vendor, who has acquired wealth from his large and well-run business, though not of any exalted 'caste' or lineage, nevertheless has attained the greatest possible felicity. The secrets of the Upanishads are an open book to him. Without being versed in the Vedas, he yet has extracted their essence. He cares nothing for what Kings and Princes get up to. Nor does he give a jot for the strictures of the Priests and Holy Men. Instead, he worships his own parents as his Gods- i.e. he devotes himself to their service- and enjoys all the good things of the Earth while yet being possessed of that Higher Knowledge which is Gnosis. The Vyadha Gita is much less well known than its companion- the Bhagvad Gita. However, the Vyadha was revealed so that King Yuddhishtra's 'vishada' (depression) could be removed- notice, the King was not an Agent but a Principal. He also has to learn statistical Game theory (which he does through the story of Nala) in order to rule as a Just King. By contrast, Arjuna's vishada is that of, not a Principal but an Agent merely He is in the strange position where if he does his duty as a younger brother, he will end up killing his true eldest brother! Yet, it is the wish of his true eldest brother (Karna) that he perform that duty! To complicate matters, though Arjuna is advised by the great Philosopher Krishna Devakiputra, who is also the incarnation of the Supreme Lord, yet, Krishna himself has given his vow to act only as an Agent not a Principal!. In other words, the Bhagvad Gita only deals with the deontics of the Agent- not the Principal. Liberalism, however, is about people acting as Principals, not Agents. Thus only the Vyadha Gita is relevant to Indian Liberalism and, indeed, customary (Vyavahara) Law, which everywhere has supremacy over Revealed (shruti) Law though no doubt the latter has some prescriptive force, reflects this fact- viz. that wealth privately acquired by Free Enterprise can be disposed of as the will and pleasure of the possessor dictates provided his competence is not impaired. This freedom to dispose of property parallels the individual's freedom to choose his own 'ishtadevata' (Deity of Choice) and his own Guru as well as the right to decide what sort of education and upbringing he wishes to give his children. One corollary of this was that a small section of Indian womanhood, at this period, also possessed similar effective liberties- in the sense that they were both sufficiently well educated and had sufficient self-generated means to effectively make choices- including choice of Religion. It is notable that both the major Shraman Religions- Buddhism and Jainism, gained numerous, wealthy, female adherents right from their inception.In this respect, Indian Liberalism of the Axial Age had a profound influence on the European Romantic movement. The simplicity and synthetic quality of Paninian (Classical) Sanskrit made it easy for foreigners not merely to read Indian texts but to acquire a certain autocritas with respect to this imaginary 'Aryan' Golden Age of Liberalism so much at odds with the drunken misgovernment of soon to be Mediatized Princes and the brutal Junker jackboots of the expansionary Prussian Reich. As a case in point, one might mention Karl Krause (founder of Krausismo, which was very influential in Spanish and Latin American Liberal circles) who taught Schopenhauer a little Sanskrit. The influence of Indian and Chinese texts, transmitted through the Jesuits, on Continental thought fed back directly into Portuguese colonies in India- Henry Derozio was typical of his 'caste' (the word comes to Englsh through Portuguese) and illustrates the manner in which Indian Liberalism is quite independent of the accident of English rule in India. This is not to say that all Eurasians were 'Liberals'. Anthony Firinngee became a devout 'Baul' singer. Perhaps, true Indian Liberalism (like that of Tagore) arises from the continuing vernacular minstrel tradition rather than some Credentialist Academic Availability Cascade. In this sense, Dr. Ambedkar's lament for Indian Liberalism- it died before it lived, surrendered before it was challenged- is not misplaced.
One important reason why the vernacular tradition champions Liberal ideas- for e.g. the songs of Kabir, Ravi Das, Mira etc. all condemn priest-craft (and thus the Divine Right of Kings) while showing an easy (sahaja) path to Liberation equally available to women and 'low caste' people- is because Sufi Islam reinforced and elaborated these foundational ideas of Indian Liberalism. The Prophet had praised 'Tijarat' (Commerce) and both heterodox sects as well as Sunni clerics who opposed 'Divine Right' Absolutism found support from the Merchants and Professionals (Doctors, Scribes, etc) in the Bazaar. The Sufi khanqah showed some resemblance to the Shraman Monastery as did the Dargah to the Stupa. In the same way that Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage promoted Commerce, so too did pilgrimages to Sufi shrines. Interestingly, 'Divine Right' had been asserted in India by Emperor Akbar earlier than anything similar happened in England but Religion proved an effective check on this type of Absolutism in India- the country can boast no Archbishop Filmer- and thus the nineteenth century Indian Muslim, reading Macaulay, could congratulate himself on the superior rationality of his Religion and the securer basis that it provided for Liberal ideas. Indeed, one lesson for the Indian reader of Macaulay was that British Liberalism owed much to the new strains put on its Polity by its overseas possessions in the Indies. The Pitt family owed its political ascent to an interloper, afterwards Governor of Madras, who invested his fortune in Rotten Boroughs. 'Nabobs' of this sort took an independent line and, at one time, appeared a force for good. However, Pitt 'the Great Commoner' turned his coat soon enough and took a peerage. Henceforth, English Radicalism would be homegrown or recruited from its Celtic fringes as was shown when the complaints made by Indian compradors against the rapacity and misgovernment of the East India Company found advocates of extraordinary eloquence such as Burke (who said that the East India Company was a worse threat to Liberty than the French Jacobins) and Sheridan. Bentham and James Mill along with a number of other journalists and bureaucrats sought to create a Legitimating ideology that would counter what Burke called 'Indianism' and which Adam Smith had exposed as plutocratic sharp-practice posing as Mercantilist common sense. This created the giant Academic availability Cascade- increasingly Credentialized by an intellectually bankrupt Higher Education system- which poses as Liberalism in Indian Public Discourse. The attempt to turn Indian Liberalism into a Punditry- something we still see in the fringes of the blogosphere- was doomed from the start. Yet that attempt will ever be repeated because against arrogance, stupidity and a specific sort of Academic ignorance, the Gods themselves battle in vain.

1757–1947: The effect of British liberal ideas[edit]

As an example of sloppy thinking- the following, quoted from Wikipedia, is quite representative of the shallowness of Indian semi-academic 'Liberal' gibberish- 'The strengthening of British influence in Bengal with the Battle of Plassey in 1757 coincided with significant developments of thought in England (John Locke in the 1680s, Adam Smith with his monumental book in 1776, andEdmund Burke) and in the United States (Thomas JeffersonJohn Adams and Alexander Hamilton, among others). TheEnglish language came to India in 1603 in Akbar's time but there was then no pressing economic reason for Indian peopleto learn English. It was only after the consolidation of Bengal by Robert Clive and the extension of the East India Companyinto the Indian political landscape, that the demand for learning English began to grow. By 1835, Indians were paying serious money to be taught English, as it gave them job openings in the Company. As Thomas Babington Macaulay noted in his famous Minute: “the natives” had become “desirous to be taught English” and were no longer “desirous to be taughtSanscrit or Arabic”. Further, those who wished to, seemed to picked up English very well: "it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos." (see the Minute at [1]).
'Those who learnt English quickly became aware of its literature, including the rapid evolution of Western political thought. This greater awareness of the advances in freedom laid the seeds for the demand for self-rule.
'While people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833) were beginning to articulate elements of these political arguments, no one was in a position to explore and articulate new insights. However they did catch up with key liberal ideas and began implementing some of these advances thought through their new demands for greater freedom in India. While the West was firmly embedding its new political institutions, or contesting the growing forces of socialism (which had overpowered parts of the feudal and aristocratic West), the Indian intelligentsia was grappling with the challenge of the first major task ahead of it, namely independence.
'As well as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, other contributors to political thought on freedom in 19th century India included Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917), Mahadeo Govind Ranade (1842–1901), Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866–1915) and Pherozeshah Mehta (1845–1915). Theory led to an independence movement in IndiaMahatma Gandhi demonstrated through a humane, non-violent, and dignified protest, that all humans were equal and should be treated equally, including their being given the opportunity to govern themselves. This was a major advance in the theory and practice of freedom and can be argued to have had a major effect in ending the age of imperialism and the age of racial discrimination.
'Jawaharlal Nehru, who was very well-educated and fully aware of the history of liberalism, seems to have had surprisingly little faith in an individual’s ability to think and take responsibility for himself or herself. Nehru did not emphasize the importance of each individual undertaking self-reflection and choosing among ethical alternatives. Possibly, in his view, making these ethical choices was too difficult for the common man. He definitely believed that these choices were best directed through state level dictates laid down by governing elites. Through planning. In any event, he veered towardcollectivist and socialist thinking where decision making power is concentrated in the State. Decentralization, where power and freedom vests with people at the lowest levels, was anathema to Nehru. He stated in his Autobiography, "socialism is ... for me not merely an economic doctrine which I favour; it is a vital creed which I hold with all my head and heart.' Indianindustrialists (with their Bombay Plan) also sided with Nehru on a socialist pattern based on the Soviet Five-Year Planmodel.
'Despite the environment in which socialist thought was flourishing, India was fortunate to enjoy at least a few liberties even before independence. The advances made in political institutions in England as a result of liberalism were imported and embedded into India over the decades by British rulers. Things like the right of assembly and protest under reasonable circumstances, the right to property, and freedom of expression - with a relatively free press, became a part and parcel of Indian political landscape before independence.'
Why is the above foolish? Let us go through it point by point
 1) British dominance in Bengal did not 'coincide' with anything. It created a reaction in Britain and Adam Smith's great book was, in part, a condemnation of the East India Company and its corrupt practices- one consequence of which was the loss of the American Colonies.
 2) It is not necessary for a people to learn a particular language to be influenced by books written in that language. Japanese Liberalism of the 1890's did not arise because Japanese people started reading English. Translations certainly helped but the impetus was indigenous wholly.
3) Raja Ramohan Roy was good at English and expressed somewhat dogmatic Benthamite ideas, but he also knew Persian and Arabic and Sanskrit and Hebrew. Neither he nor Dwarkanath Tagore, being compradors whose vehicle to wealth and class power was their association with the East India Company, were associated in any way with the demand for Indian 'self-rule'. On the contrary, they opposed the 'Orientalist' element within John Company and allied with the Evangelicals and Occidentalists because they wanted a 'purified' Hinduism (actually, higher status for their own degraded 'Pirali' type sub-castes) based on Dara Shikoh's Persian translation of the Upanishads. They failed. Even after the British Codified the Laws and removed the Court Pundits and Maulvis, they continued to rule the country based on customary Law- either Codified or on the basis of stare decisis. This in turn meant that Social Reformers had to get involved in Political Lobbying and or Agitation so as bring about needful changes in the Personal and Trust Law pertaining to their Community. The formation of the Indian National Congress by British bureaucrats was meant to facilitate this.
However, both indigenous and European sponsored Liberalism quickly cashed out as an elitism of a 'Spiritual' type. Raja Ramohan Roy's chief claim to fame was as a polemicist useful to the Unitarians. His 'Brahmo Samaj' had the effect of elevating certain Brahmin and Kayastha sub-castes (those previously learned in Persian and therefore opposed to idol worship because of Islamic influence) as more spiritually pure and thus the true inheritors and proper hermeneuts of Upanishadic wisdom. Similarly Ranade, Tilak, Gokhale and the Servants of India advanced the interests of previously dominant Brahmin and Maratha sub-castes by re-clothing them with a Spiritual aura. True, this involved an amelioration of the condition of some (not all)  'untouchable' jatis - like Ambedkars Mahars- but discarding Caste Purity rules had a bigger pay-off for high castes who could then enter highly remunerative professions like Medicine and go abroad to qualify as Barristers and so forth. It was not only Indian sub-castes which sought to use a sort of spiritualized Liberalism (of which Sharad Anantrao Joshi has written in a chapter in the book 'Morality and Markets') to claim a higher and 'purer' identity for themselves through movements like the Prarthana and Arya Samaj; even Westerners like Madam Blavatsky (who was Russian) and Colonel Olcott (American) got in on the act. Britishers involved in the Indian National Congress tended to subscribe to the bizarre Spiritual elitism of the Theosophical Society and hosts of upwardly mobile Indian lawyers and Doctors and Civil Servants eagerly jumped on this bandwagon. Interestingly, P.G. Woodhouse's elder brother was a great Theosophist, though it must be said, not one of its more ridiculous exponents. Annie Beasant- formerly an Atheist and champion of the Women's Trade Union Movement- was an outstanding organizer and public speaker and under her leadership Theosophy and Indian Liberalism became virtually synonymous. Mahatma Gandhi's great service to the Nation was to quietly edge her off the stage by pointing out that she wore silk robes whereas he himself wore nappies made of pure homespun cotton. Gandhi also hammered the last nail into the coffin of elitist Liberalism- of the Servants of India type- by propounding an Epistemology of absolute Suspicion. According to this view, all lawyers were money-grubbing devils, all Doctors spread diseases to profit themselves, all Civil Servants were minions of Satan, all Industrialists (like the one's he took money from) were in the grip of a dangerous addiction and the only cure for them was to go and look after cows in some remote Ashram. Gandhi also frustrated the efforts of the last Gladstonian Liberals to solve the problem of India before it turned into another Ireland- i.e. before it suffered a bloody vivisection- though it must be said Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das- not to mention Jinnah and his rebellious junior, Chaghla- were quite capable of botching the job themselves.
 4) The Indian Independence Struggle, no matter in what form or where it manifested itself had absolutely nothing to do with English speaking Indians and absolutely everything to do with burgeoning vernacular literature. Not one single Anglophone fought in the 'Sepoy Mutiny' of 1857. The demand to expel the foreigners and restore Native rule scared them to death. They tended to become more 'loyal' and 'Anglophile' over the next fifty years, not less so. However, those young Indians who showed a preference for their own Vernacular literature (which they were required to know in order to get ahead professionally) soon found themselves radicalized because Vernacular poetry has always been protest poetry founded upon Universal principles. Thus, the first young English speaking Indians who turned against the British did so by becoming Revolutionaries closely associated with 'Sadhus' (Holy Men) from the Vernacular tradition. Interestingly, some Revolutionaries who escaped the British- like 'Chatto' and M.K Roy- eventually became Communists, till Stalin either killed them or they ran away.
 5) English speaking lawyers, like Motilal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, gained professional advancement and personal prestige by acting as advocates for Indian interests. At some point, this crossed over into personal identification with that cause. Nothing to do with 'Liberalism' at all.
 6)Jawahar Lal Nehru didn't want to be a barrister so his Dad gave him the job of being his Political Secretary. Nehru had an ascetic streak. On meeting the Mahatma, he wanted to give up his wealth and go to serve Gandhi in his Ashram. But, this was the appeal of the Vernacular tradition and had nothing to do with European Liberalism. Motilal Nehru refused to let his son give up his wealth on the grounds that one should always be financially independent, but did not oppose his son's emergence as key lieutenant of the Mahatma. Later on, Motilal saw the futility of his own brand of politics- which consisted of joining the Legislative Council only so as to frustrate its working so as to demonstrate that it was a sham- and joined Gandhi in his jail cell. After his father's death, Nehru refused to take money from the millionaire Dalmia and earned money for himself by writing books. These were belle lettristic productions- not ideological tomes- and are gracefully written in a style which owes much to Vernacular Romanticism. Nehru gradually moved to the Left- being about as dim as the stupidest Soong sister- and was seen by the Congress Old Guard as a bridge to the younger generation of radicals. However, as he was the first to admit, his Socialism was sentimental merely- i.e. Nehru could be seen as a convenient tabula rasa for some intellectually better endowed ideologue to write what ever he wanted upon and thus sell it to the Indian people. Hilariously, this meant that Nehruvian Socialism was 'Agency Captured' Monopoly Capitalism securing the baser interests of the very plutocracy which had financed Mahatma Gandhi.
One factor in the partition of India which tends to be overlooked is the Muslim League's seeking an alliance with the Communists against the Hindu Merchant class. Iqbal gave an ideological justification for this. He saw that whereas Western Liberalism arose out of the distinct origins and conflicting trajectories of State, Church and Commons- for example, in England, King's Equity based on Norman French was in conflict with both Canon Law (based in Latin and with a separate Court- Doctor's Commons- till the second half of the Nineteenth Century) as well as the Common Law (supposedly based on immemorial Anglo-Saxon traditions)- Islam suffered no such defect. State, Church and Commons come into existence at the same time and every Muslim belongs equally to all three realms. Thus Political Islam had a hysteresis free path to Social Justice since there was no need for all sorts of 'checks and balances' and procedural propriety. Iqbal believed that Nehru's Socialism was doomed to fail because the Hindu Caste system would strangle it at birth. Thus, he urged Jinnah to support the demand for Pakistan as it was the only way that Muslims could free themselves of pernicious Hindu influences. Shurawardy and Liaqat went one step further and proposed an alliance with the Left to tax the Hindu 'Bania' caste (to which Gandhi belonged) out of existence. This was an existential threat to the financiers of the Indian National Congress and a good enough reason for them to endorse Partition. The Communists, under the influence of Stalin's theory of Nationality, endorsed the Pakistan demand and (as happened to the Arab Communists who supported the creation of Israel on orders from Moscow) cut their own throats- a deeply satisfying outcome for all concerned.
6) Unlike Indira, Nehru favored strong leaders in the States. However, dominant castes were unhappy with the borders of these States. Linguistic reorganization wasn't enough to placate local dominant castes and their Tiebout preferences. Since people no longer had a secure idea of what their native state should look like whereas the boundaries of India were not essentially contested- at least for Hindu Indians- the 'idea of India', with Nehru at the Center, provided a psychologically necessary synoecism which contributed to Congress's electoral victories. Indeed, an unforeseen result of this development- one where the Nehru and later Indira were the biggest 'vote catchers'- had the effect of reinforcing bureaucratic centralization and rent-seeking dirigisme which, however, had no strong grass-roots political support and was thus 'apolitical' and had the appearance of being 'technocratic' and informed by current Economic theory and Statistical 'best practice'.
7) India, whether under the British or after Independence, did not enjoy 'things like the right of assembly and protest under reasonable circumstances, the right to property, and freedom of expression - with a relatively free press, became a part and parcel of Indian political landscape before independence.' On the contrary, every passing decade saw some restriction on such rights. Indian Cinema, for example, was more free in the Nineteen Twenties than the Thirties. Films made in the Forties would have been banned in the Fifties. 
However, India- whether under the British or later on- was a 'soft state'. It did not possess the resources to stamp out all protest but had to play a waiting game- only taking punitive action once the agitators had run out of steam and ordinary people were sick and tired of their shenanigans. At that point, the State swooped in and handed out stiff punishment.
Some people may think there was equality under the law under the British. There wasn't. Suppose some guy beats you up and rapes your wife. You take him to Court. It turns out he is a Prince, or else a zamindar who enjoys immunity from arrest while on his own property. You are shit out of luck. The Viceroy might take some discreet action but then again he might not. The scandal of unequal treatment continued till Indira Gandhi cancelled the special prerogatives and Privy Purses of the Aristocracy. By then, however, there was a vast class of people who could beat you up and rape your wife with impunity. Take the Maya Tyagi case. A woman is sitting in her car. A passing policeman, who happens to be drunk, becomes fascinated with her breasts and 'out of a spirit of child like curiosity' (as the official report says) puts hand through the window to fondle her bosom. Her husband comes back and thrashes the policemen. The copper gets his pals and they shoot the husband and his two friends and drag the woman to the Police Station where they beat her and rape her and charge her with being a bandit. Mrs. Gandhi stands by the Police men- saying Maya Tyagi was a woman of dubious character. Even after meeting Maya Tyagi she expressed some reservations. This happened in Nineteen Eighty. Public outcry did eventually, after eight years, lead to some of the culprits being sent to jail. It seems, the public do have some countervailing power over the State but it is a hit and miss affair.
What about the right to property? Surely, the British Raj was a 'nightwatchman state' which enforced property rights? Take a look at Rajendra Prasad's book on the Champaran agitation. The truth is, in rural India, the Magistrates were also the Landlords who employed gangs of muscle-men. The local moneylender- Raj Kumar Shukla, of Champaran fame- a disreputable Shylock, not a 'simple agriculturalist' as Gandhi would have us believe- might have some countervailing power but the lawyers themselves knew that it was pointless to fight court cases based on the letter of the law. The other side would simply file false criminal charges of murder and assault while sending their musclemen to rape and beat all and sundry.
What about a high caste man enjoying his own ancestral property? Surely, he was safe under the British? Nope. Think again. Some distant relative files a court case saying that his grandparents were 'svagotra' and thus their marriage was illegal. The Court upholds the petition. The next twenty or thirty years are spent litigating the matter till no Property is left. Obviously, there was a sort of informal countervailing power available then as now. Whereas Indian Liberals- like Raja Ramohan Roy- campaigned for the separation of the Executive and Judicial function, in practice Indians preferred 'judgement on horse-back' from the Collector who refuses to entertain fraudulent or vexatious cases and reinforces his judgement with the threat of a public flogging.
Part of the reason that Indian Liberalism is an impossible project is because Judicial processes in the greater part of India have always been wholly corrupt. True, the Police often do catch hold of the bad guys. But they rely on torture and then use professional witnesses- i.e. a man paid to lie- to secure convictions. It is an open secret. The concept of telling the truth in a witness statement simply does not exist. Suppose you are foolish enough to tell the truth in a criminal case. Suppose, further, you don't have the means to attend Court when required. The police lock you up so as to be sure of being able to produce you as a witness. But, the criminal's lawyer keeps getting the Court date postponed. Eventually you withdraw your statement and turn hostile simply so as to get your life back.

A Judicial system where telling lies becomes the norm can't work in a Liberal fashion. It can at best be cosmetic. Similarly, Liberal Democracy can only work if there is no widespread preference falsification and strategic behavior. Yet, Indian politics consists of nothing else.

Take the case of Narendra Modi. Like Manmohan Singh his claim to high office arises out of his never having been a politician- not even as a student. Singh was a Government bureaucrat. Modi was a Party worker who never contested an election.
By an accident of fate, Singh came to be seen as a technocratic  'Liberaliser'. He was nothing of the sort. A genuine Economist would insist on proper auction design for the sale of the 2G spectrum. Why? Well, Ken Binmore got a lot of publicity for his clever auction design for the British 3G sale. Indian Economists would want similar write-ups for themselves. But Singh was no longer an Economist but just a loyal servant of the dynasty. He did what he was told.
Similarly Modi- though a far more ambitious man than Singh- was parachuted into the Gujarat Chief Minister's office because Vajpayee and Advani thought of him as a faceless backroom boy who would fix the dysfunctional party machinery and then be happily moved on to troubleshoot elsewhere. Because of Godhra, Modi, quite by accident got the tag of 'Hindu Hitler'- this made his career. But, Modi wasn't a Hitler. The lunatic fringe of his Party hated him because he had called in the Army to shoot rampaging Hindus. His response to the attack on the Akshardham Temple was even more appalling . He didn't permit even a token pogrom but put all the blame on the Pakistani ISI. Yet, the lunatic fringe was powerless because it was in the interests of all the other parties to paint Modi as the Devil. He wasn't. To some extent, he might look like an Indian Liberal of the vernacular Sharad Anantrao Joshi type but he has no bucolic illusions about the Agricultural sector. The fact is, the man isn't a Brahmin. He knows- as do most Indians, including Brahmins- deep down in his bones that Punditry, whether Liberal or Nativist or Leftist or whatever, is simply elitist hot air and hypocrisy. The 'educationally backward castes' don't need the sort of credentialist education which makes Indians stupider than God intended. On the contrary, they do need to be productive of things that people want to buy, not worthless gobshites simply. Getting Murli Manohar Joshi out of Benares is a good first step.But, can Modi really withstand pressures from the 'Heaven Born' bureaucrats in New Delhi? Might the Brahmins not remake him in their own fatuous image?
The first step in doing so is to praise Modi as the incarnation of Indian Liberalism. Since that notion is an oxymoron, should Modi succumb to it, his futility is guaranteed. However, there is one ray of hope. Modi did an M.A in Politics- i.e. he is a moron who doesn't know the difference between Shyamprasad Mookerjee and Shyamji Krishna Verma- thus he may be immune to the siren song of Indian Liberalism and thus too stupid to be the Devil who finally destroys India.

Friday 25 April 2014

Iyer's Pillaitamil- circa 1997

Upstairs, a sickly Moroccan baby cries
& English prosody dies and dies
Such pillaitamil Ebion's domicile
Tears thy chrism to make us smile.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

The regret of Heraclitus- redux

At what she lost in our young divorce
At fifty, this regret prevails perforce
How find in the Lonely Hearts?
The one woman worth my farts

Tuesday 8 April 2014


In this our third year of Trajan, Elchasai
God's Sister, without asking why
Remits Majnun's Layla all but Night
Not our Evil, Ebionite.

Downstream, do thy Mandeans wade?
Those Tigris waters in which we played
 'fore, for Evil may, Elder Sister & I
Quaff the Milky Way, Elchasai!

Its marshes drained, does it yet baptise?
Or sell the tears of El's Akka eyes?
For Light was, let Shiduri cry
In Drink's darkness, I'm Elchasai!

Prince, of thy Third Persecution, the Second Pliny to quote
That we meet 'fore daylight is no crime to report.