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By Anjum Altaf What have we learned from our discussion of the laws of inheritance? First, that laws pertaining to the same issue can differ across societies and over time. Second, that laws need not be divinely ordained and fixed for all times and places. The law of primogeniture was introduced in England in 1066 after the Norman invasion because the Norman knights who were awarded land grants did not wish their estates to be diluted by divisions. Third, laws can have negative and positive effects. The law of primogeniture was unfair because it deprived all heirs except the eldest son from a share in the wealth of the father.

By Anjum Altaf Have you ever wondered why there have been so many traitors in the Indian subcontinent? We can start with the most well known of them all, Mir Jafar, known as Ghaddaar-e-Hind, whose name has become synonymous with treason. In the critical Battle of Plassey...

By Anjum Altaf Picking up on the speculation about the causes of poverty of Indian Muslims, I did some more reading on the subject. The bottom line is that the variations in the laws of inheritance matter in very interesting ways. Let me outline some of basic contours here and hope we can discuss the details in the comments. Where the principal form of property was land, a law favoring equal division amongst all heirs would lead to fragmented holdings while a law decreeing transfer to one heir only would avoid fragmentation.
By Anjum Altaf The success of Slumdog Millionaire has made the slum an image familiar to a lot more people in both East and West. Is it possible to use that image to discover something new about South Asia? It was not the movie that triggered the idea itself but a chapter in a very old book that I happened to be reading. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, first published in 1961, is a classic described by the New York Times Book Review as “perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning… a work of literature.” It contains a fascinating chapter titled ‘Unslumming and Slumming’ that made me realize that while we have overused slums as a descriptive category we have underused it as an analytical one.
Every five years there is an election in India and we interpret the results to conclude what we think the majority of Indians want. But what happens between two elections? How do we know where the majority of Indians stand on the various issues that crop up between elections? Let us take an issue like the relationship of India with any of its neighboring countries that might become salient because of some random incident. What determines the policy response of the Indian government to such an incident? If we are not Indian and are outside India, all we have to go by is the English language media. How representative is this of the voice of the majority of Indians who are rural?

By Anjum Altaf Being a Tribute to Dr. G.M. Mehkri  The 2006 Sachar Committee report on the status of the Muslim community in India found that Muslims were amongst the poorest of the poor in the country. How do we square that with the fact that up until...

By Anjum Altaf Being a Tribute to Dr. G.M. Mehkri  The 2006 Sachar Committee report on the status of the Muslim community in India found that Muslims were amongst the poorest of the poor in the country. How do we square that with the fact that up until...

Can you tell me what is meant by ‘sublimated violence’? I am asking this question to try to answer another that was put to me yesterday. It has left me quite perplexed. A reader wrote and described the following observation. He was attending a serious talk by an American professional. Somewhere in the middle of the talk, the presenter had occasion to mention he was from Pittsburg. All of a sudden, he swiveled from his hip, pumped up his fist, and shouted ‘Go Steelers.’ And then he continued with his serious presentation. The question posed by the reader was whether I could imagine a South Asian doing something like that and if not, why not?
Seen as separate events both the 2004 and the 2009 elections in India surprised the analysts and the political parties as well. But is it possible that seen in tandem the surprise falls away and a perfectly plausible story can be told? Let me attempt such a broad-brush explanation before fleshing out the story: In 2004, there was an anti-incumbency sentiment but no one magnet to which the disaffected were attracted resulting in a scattering of the vote and a fractured outcome. In 2009, there was a pro-incumbency sentiment with a clear recipient of the goodwill yielding a much more consolidated outcome.