Education / 24.03.2009

Vir Sanghvi, an editor at the Hindustan Times, has written an article (The same people? Surely not) in which he has expressed annoyance at the claims “often advanced by well-meaning but wooly-headed liberals to the effect that when it comes to Indian and Pakistan, ‘We’re all the same people, yaar.’” Sanghvi says that “This may have been true once upon a time. Before 1947, Pakistan was part of undivided India and you could claim that Punjabis from West Punjab (what is now Pakistan) were as Indian as, say, Tamils from Madras. But time has a way of moving on [and] the gap between Indians and Pakistanis has now widened to the extent that we are no longer the same people in any significant sense.” This was brought home to Sanghvi by two major events over the last few weeks. “The first of these was the attack on...

Leadership / 22.03.2009

Varun Gandhi is reported to have said some strong things about Muslims in India. So, I am told, did his father. Let me use this as a peg to say something about Varun’s venerable great-grandfather whose maturity Varun seems unlikely to emulate. But beyond that, let me speculate about some neglected dimensions of the political history of the subcontinent. Two remarkable statements made around the time of the partition of British India continue to intrigue me: Here is Mohammad Ali Jinnah, addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in August 1947: You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State. And here is Jawaharlal Nehru, writing to...

Ghalib / 20.03.2009

Last week’s selection is nicely followed up by the following couplet: baaziichah-e atfaal hai dunyaa mire aage hotaa hai shab-o-roz tamaashaa mire aage the world is a game/plaything of children, before me night and day, a spectacle occurs before me From resignation (ho rahega kuchh nah kuchh ghabraayeN kyaa) to equanimity (hotaa hai shab-o-roz tamaashaa mire aage) seems quite appropriate. After all, how seriously can one (or ought one) to take what goes on in the world? Take for example, the current events in Pakistan. Do they have any import? In its over 60 years of existence, how many leaders have come and gone whose names are virtually impossible to recall but who were so incredibly important in their own times? How well Ghalib fuses into Shakespeare: To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way...

India / 19.03.2009

Now that we are engaged with issues of analysis this is a good issue to try our skills on. We have often wondered about the political prominence of film related personalities (NTR, MGR, Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha) in the Indian South without devoting enough attention to come up with a decent hypothesis or explanation. With the emergence of Chiranjeevi in AP as the potential ‘fourth-force’, we are face to face with the questions again. How do we explain the following? The acceptance in South India of movie related personalities as leaders of political parties and as Chief Ministers. The much less prominent profile of equally popular movie stars in North India – there are quite a few members of parliament but no political stars of equal...

India / 18.03.2009

By Dipankar Gupta [Note from The South Asian Idea: This article forms part of the series (Governance in Pakistan) on this blog that deals with issues of analysis. The preamble to this piece by Professor Dipankar Gupta is an article on Narendra Modi by Robert Kaplan in the April 2009 issue of Atlantic Monthly (India’s New Face). The bottom line of Kaplan’s article is that “Under Modi, Gujarat has become an economic dynamo.” Professor Gupta’s op-ed originally appeared in the Times of India on January 31, 2009 under the caption Credit Misplaced. Note how much difference it makes when all the evidence is taken into account and the starting point is not chosen arbitrarily. Note also the varying explanations for the same set of events. Readers are invited to join this discussion and give their opinion on which of these two analyses is more robust.] Gujarat grew...

Pakistan / 18.03.2009

The question left over from the last post was the following: Given that it had become inevitable for Pakistan to have a religious identity (for reasons articulated by Professor Ralph Russell in the previous post) why was the tradition of Islam that was indigenous to the subcontinent ignored in favor of one imported from Saudi Arabia? As we have mentioned, Professor Russell was not a political or religious scholar and he never sat down to explicitly address this question. However, in his essays he left behind numerous astute observations that we can use to begin crafting a plausible answer. Our aim is not to reach a definitive conclusion but to see how the mind of a trained humanist works, how from certain observations a hypothesis is derived, and how facts are linked through a chain of reasoning to arrive at conclusions that can be tested against the outcomes...

Pakistan / 17.03.2009

By Anjum Altaf Let us begin when everything was as it was supposed to be. Before you came, Things were as they should be: The sky was the dead-end of sight, The road was just a road, wine merely wine. It was November 2006. The sun was in the sky, everything was alright with the world, the Enlightened Moderate, everyone’s favorite, was firmly ensconced on the throne, the Chief Justice was still the Chief Justice, and the lawyers were beyond the dead-end of sight. This is what we recommended, based on our analysis of the situation, in a paper presented in Islamabad: So what is to be done beyond the struggle for civilian rule? In the absence of a political coalition to support the demand for improvements in human rights, civil society groups at the present juncture in Pakistan should look for mechanisms to strengthen the instruments of social control over governments, to...

Pakistan / 15.03.2009

In the three preceding posts (Here, Here and Here) we have pointed out pitfalls in analytical reasoning using the situation in Pakistan as case material. Readers are entitled to ask: What is good analysis? What follows is my perspective on what makes for good analysis. It is not original but something I was taught by a teacher I feel I was lucky to encounter. I enrolled for a course in Decision Analysis and this is what the teacher talked about in the first class: The most important concept to understand is that a Decision and an Outcome are two separate things. A Good Outcome is not necessarily the result of a Good Decision. A Bad Outcome is not necessarily the result of a Bad Decision. How can this be so? Because between the Decision and the Outcome there is something called Uncertainty or Randomness, something that you can never know fully in advance...

Pakistan / 15.03.2009

Professor Ralph Russell died on September 14, 2008 at the age on ninety. Known as the British Baba-e-Urdu, he was a leading scholar of the language and was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz for a lifetime of notable contributions. Professor Russell was a scholar of language and literature and never thought of himself as a political analyst. But his training in the humanities endowed him with the ability needed for good analysis. Here I take an extract from his essay (Strands of Muslim Identity in South Asia – first published in the 1980s) to illustrate the attributes of good analysis. It is quite likely that Muslims and Pakistani readers were upset by this analysis. But Professor Russell, a great friend of Urdu, Islam and Pakistan, never let that keep him from saying what he felt needed to be said. It is from him that I picked up the line: Do...


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