Mr. Modi: Good for Pakistan, Bad for Muslims?

Early on in Ulysses, Joyce has Stpehen Dedalus harking back to Aristotle and thinking the following thoughts:

Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a bedlam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death? They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind.

We are at that momentous point in South Asia where all of a sudden there is a burgeoning of potentialities only one of which will turn into reality – the actuality of the possible as possible in Aristotle’s formulation.

I have no way of knowing which of those possibilities will become the reality we will look back on ten years from now. What I can do is sift through them and palpate the one that, a priori, seems more than likely to oust the rest.

So let me weave and explicate the thesis that Mr. Modi could be good for Pakistan and bad for Muslims.

First, there are the things that Mr. Modi has come to believe about himself: that he is decisive and that he is a manager par excellence. Whether he is or not, whether he has always believed so, or whether he is the victim of his own sustained rhetoric, is now irrelevant. His reputation and his legacy rest on his acting out that role and delivering on his promise of development and economic growth.

This could be good for Pakistan because he will be decisive in bilateral relations but not so decisive that it comes in the way of the economic development of India.

At one level this is obvious enough, at another slightly more nuanced. Why might Mr. Modi’s decisiveness in bilateral relations be good for Pakistan? Look at it from Pakistan where the state is accountable neither to its people nor to anyone else. No amount of carrots, cajoling, or appeals to common sense can make it alter its ways that rest on fooling all the people all the time. It is only the stick that can possibly impose any kind of constraint on its behavior.

Think of the scenario with regard to polio. The Pakistani state has absorbed billions of dollars in aid and advice and yet remains amongst the only sources of the virus in the world. For years it has fudged the figures and laughed its way to the bank. Only when the world has finally imposed restrictions on travel that inconvenience the rulers has there been any acknowledgement of the seriousness of its irresponsibility.

What holds for polio holds just as well for terrorism. No amount of argumentation is likely to come in the way of what has become an integral strategy to prevent a durable peace that would undercut the control of vested interests. Only the threat of a decisive retaliation could force a rethink of this strategy.

This, of course, would call for a very fine balance. Irrationalities in Pakistan have spawned to such an extent and control over violence become so fractured that nothing can be ruled out by way of likely actions. A decisiveness that discourages but does not push over the edge would be good for Pakistan; a misstep could be a disaster for South Asia.

At the same time, the quickest boost to development of at least the western parts of India would come from a quantum increase in trade with Pakistan. Given Mr. Modi’s imperative to deliver development, and that too in short order, this might be one of the pills he would be willing to swallow. And any increase in trade would be disproportionately beneficial for Pakistan by virtue of its much smaller economy and land mass.

But second, and counterweights to the above, are the things about Mr. Modi that are unlikely to change even if he tries to change them. Mr. Modi has a communal and majoritarian perspective and just as the overt promises of development have to be delivered, so have the winks and nods to his core constituency be made good. He would be held equally to both poles of the bargain he has entered into with his supporters.

The concessions to Pakistan that might be necessitated by the imperative of development could well be compensated by the narrowing of space for Indian Muslims, more so because Indian Muslims wield very little countervailing power. Mr. Modi’s party has no representative from the community and the Lok Sabha as a whole the lowest representation ever. Pakistan, of course, would care little for the fate of Indian Muslims; it never has. They will be entirely at the mercy of Mr. Modi and Mr. Modi is not a sympathetic man.

As I said at the outset, I have no way of knowing if it is this particular possibility that would be actualized though it does seem plausible. I can only hope I am right about the first part and wrong about the second.

One might ask what is to be gained by displaying such displeasing weaves and airing such unpalatable thoughts. It is the hope that looking the implications of a possibility square in the face could well lessen the likelihood of its actualization. In the room of infinite possibilities, another, more benign one could take its place. It is up to us to articulate the possibilities and be part of the movement that stands in the way of one and lends a helping hand to the other.

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  • CTMaloney
    Posted at 00:50h, 05 June Reply

    Good thoughts. But the biggest issue for India is not Pakistan, but ENVIRONMENT. North Indian population is increasing 1.5% a year so will double in some 60 years, along with very serious depletion of groundwater in most states, increasing temperature which reduces crop yields, more extreme weather, melting Himalayan glaciers which in future will badly effect agriculture in the Ganga plains, and rising seas along with coastal groundwater salinization. Pak has a faster growing population and even more serious environmental concerns. Not to speak of Bangladesh from which 20-30 million people may try to enter India in a couple decades. I haven’t heard Modi say ANYTHING about these greatest of all issues- like many businessmen he ignores them. So let us see.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:47h, 05 June

      CTMaloney: I agree. The speculation was about what Mr. Modi is likely to focus on rather than what he ought to focus on. Environment is of course the big issue of our times, yet no one seems to be giving it the attention it deserves. This is now a truly common property problem at the global scale and the coordination and cooperation needed seem to be beyond the capacity of those in charge. We might have passed the point of no return already in which case it might be rational to make the most of the remaining time.

  • skynut
    Posted at 12:35h, 05 June Reply

    Starts with a deep thought from Ulysses however ‘ascends rapidly into a shallow analysis…

    It will most likely be the reverse!

    Good for Muslims of India, and bad from Pakistan.

    M is now a national leader whose development agenda needs to res on a stable foundations. His popularity is already at rock bottom among the 13 % or 177,000,000 Muslims. It will be stupid to leave this mass of potential voter alienated and thus unproductive.

    On the other hand, the economic development benefits vs. the potential political fallout cost of operating in favor of Pakistan are too skewed against the economics for him to take the necessary decision in favor of Pakistan. Even if the benefit is indirect.

    On the other hand he will use all overt but mostly covert means to undermine PK, to ensure that it does not have an ability to raise the Kashmir or Water issues…yes..cooperate on a envelopment agenda, but on M’s terms.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:48h, 06 June

      Skynut: The frame of the post was that at this time many different futures are possible and one was outlined as probable. The objective was for readers to critique it and posit other more likely futures in order to generate a discussion from which all could benefit.

      You have done that for which I am grateful. However, I don’t understand why it was necessary to begin by saying that the analysis in the post was shallow. In what way is the analysis you have presented any more profound?

      The pedagogical aim of this blog focuses not on profundity (for which you can read the views of very learned people on a host of websites) but on discussion among those who wish to learn. It is described in the objectives of the blog as follows:

      “Note: The South Asian Idea is a resource for learning, not a source of expert opinion. The posts on the blog are intended as starting points for classroom discussions and the position at the end of the discussion could be completely at odds with the starting point. Thus the blog simulates a learning process and does not offer a final product. The reader is invited to join the process to help improve our understanding of important contemporary issues.”

    • skynut
      Posted at 10:26h, 06 June

      The reason was to provoke and stimulate, SA to deepen an understanding of the future which SA has proposed. I seemed to have provoked..but not stimulate.

  • Kabir Altaf
    Posted at 17:16h, 05 June Reply

    Before the Indian election, I attended several events here in DC where the speakers were asked about the potential of a Modi victory and the impact on Indian foreign policy, particularly as it relates to Pakistan. There were two scenarios that emerged consistently. The first was that a BJP victory would actually be good for Pakistan because a right wing government cannot be accused of being soft on national security and thus has room to make peace (This was the “Nixon goes to China” scenario). Conversely, there were fears that a Modi victory would harden India’s position versus Pakistan, particularly on the Kashmir conflict. The evidence since Modi’s inauguration leads me to believe that he is leaning towards the “Nixon in China” scenario. He, like Nawaz Sharif, is a businessman and recognizes that there are immense advantages to increased India-Pakistan trade. The fact that he invited Sharif to his swearing-in and that Sharif accepted hopefully augers well for India-Pak relations.

    On the other hand, there was some discussion about abrogating Article 370. While I don’t want to get into the details of India’s internal constitutional arrangements, I think this step would be viewed very negatively by a large section of Kashmiris. Kashmir is NOT just any other Indian state– was incorporated into the Indian Union in a very specific manner and under a special arrangement giving Kashmiris more local autonomy. From the BJP’s perspective, I can understand wanting to normalize the Kashmir issue and giving J&K the same status as any other state is one way to do that. However, I think it does not take into account the sensitivities of the local people. Also, it seems to reflect a hardening of India’s position on the dispute. If India abandons the special status for J&K, it seems to be continuing to push its claim on the territory. This is partly why Pakistan has not made Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir provinces of Pakistan–the argument against doing so is that it would prejudice a resolution to the Kashmir issue.

    On the issue of what a Modi government means for Indian Muslims, I think that the Modi of 2014 is not the same as the Modi of 2002. Being PM means moderating your positions so that they are acceptable to the national mainstream. I don’t see a PM Modi being able to stand silently by while there are massive pogroms against Muslims. That said, I think there is justifiable fear among the Muslim minority of what the future holds for them.

  • Vinod
    Posted at 10:09h, 06 June Reply

    Modi is not a player of the short term game. He is a test player and not a one dayer. My guess is that Modi will actually hide his communal leanings and work in such a manner so that he gains an even bigger majority in Parliament the next time. Only with that kind of support, he may unleash the venom of his communal ideology in the form of laws and amendments to the constitution that prejudice the muslim community. He will then also unleash/un-muzzle his communal friends to wreak havoc on Indian muslims and thus change India for many decades like the way Zia ul Haque damaged Pakistan.

    • Kabir Altaf
      Posted at 19:47h, 06 June


      I hope that the future you have outlined doesn’t come to pass. It would be very scary for India.

      It seems to me that it would be difficult for Modi to “unleash the venom of his communal ideology.” As Prime Minister, the exigencies of governing are such that he would be forced to moderate his positions. Even during his election campaign, he distanced himself from the RSS. In addition, given the way that the Gujerat riots have permanently impacted Modi’s reputation, the international community would be alert for any signs of communalism. Presumably, this would keep Modi’s government from taking any steps that are overtly hostile to minorities.

      Finally, I think one important difference between Modi and General Zia ul Haque is that Modi was democratically elected while Zia took power in a military coup. Indian democracy is strong enough that if the citizens are displeased with Modi’s performance over the next five years, they can vote him out of power in 2019. Hopefully Parliament is also strong enough to stop him from implementing the kinds of laws that Zia was able to get passed in Pakistan.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 16:12h, 07 June

      Vinod: The comparison of Narendra Modi with Zia ul Haque is a sobering one, if only as a reminder of the lasting damage one person can inflict on the many. That said, I doubt that Modi would have as free a reign as Zia – democracy, moth-eaten as it is, would prevent the worst of the excesses.

      As to your first point, I have two reservations. First, Modi’s margin next time would depend on what he does with the economy and my guess is he won’t be able to do enough to increase his numbers. Second, an ideologically driven person doesn’t really have the patience to wait too long and that too for an uncertain outcome. Whatever Modi is going to do, he will in his first term.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 11:09h, 09 June

      Hitler too was democratically elected, wasn’t he? Germany was democratic, when Hitler was elected, correct?

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 16:08h, 09 June

      Vinod you make the assumption that people don’t change. Vajpei was not considered a liberal before he became foreign minister and the liberal tag confirmed only when he became PM. In between he kept repeating I am a RSS swayamsevak( volunteer). Besides Indians love their freedom they will not lie still if it is trampled. In any case Modi did not get votes for his hard stance on Hindutva, he was voted to power due to miserable congress rule even so their vote share is dismal. I think Modi is more ambitious than a loyal RSS votery he will do what he will consider will leave his footprint in history.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:33h, 10 June

      Anil: The real question here is deciphering what Mr. Modi thinks “will leave his footprint in history.”

      Let’s consider some examples of what some others thought would leave their footprints in history:

      For Hitler (although I agree with Vikram he is best left out of the discussion), it was the demonstration of Aryan supremacy.
      For Zia, it was the Islamization of Pakistan inclusive of flogging, stoning and amputation.
      For Mao, it was the Great Leap Forward.
      For Pol Pot, it was the recovery of some rural utopia.
      For Bush, it was democratizing the Arabs.

      Whether these people succeeded or failed, they inflicted enormous damage, some of it lasting to this day. That is what concerns me. I really don’t have a clue about Mr. Modi’s dreams.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 06:44h, 10 June

      SA it is clear to me as day light that Modi wants to be Lee Kuan Yew of India, nothing else. This is what he has been saying for last one year. Often what is obvious is the right inference.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 10:33h, 10 June

      Anil: I really hope you are right. Even then, keep in mind that what Lee Kuan Yew did was in a tiny island where he had few democratic constraints. I doubt the same can be done in the behemoth that is India. What will Mr. Modi do if or when he finds out he cannot Lee Kuan Yew India and gets frustrated?

    • Vinod
      Posted at 06:46h, 12 June

      Anil, I am relying on the near impossibility of bringing all, or even a significant majority of Indians, under one ideology as the sole barrier to Modi turning India into a “Pakistan”, if you know what I mean.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 10:10h, 12 June

      Vinod: If the ideology is based on religion, it would be statistically impossible because India has a fairly larger religious minority comprised of more than one faith. Unless, of course, it progressively reduces that minority to negligible proportions as has happened in Pakistan. That would comprise the real danger and the German experience you cited would become relevant. Some feel that is impossible in the 21st century.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 04:59h, 10 June

      Vinod, it is true to state that Hitler was elected democratically but incorrect to say that Germany was democratic at that time. This comparison is just way off the mark and prevents a serious discussion of the real problems that might come up.

      I think that is where we really need to start. What is the plausible worst case scenario for the Muslims of India ?

      Clearly a Holocaust style extinction, like that in Europe, is not on the cards, it is not even possible.
      A South Africa style apartheid state is also not possible.
      An Idi Amin or Ne Win style expulsion (of Indians, ironically) is also not possible.

      So what is it ? In my opinion, the worst case for Indian Muslims is actually something like the fate of Blacks in the US. If you can get your hands on the book on ‘Muslims in Indian Cities’ by Jaffrelot and Gayer, you will see that this is already happening across India, especially in the North and West. In places like Ahmedabad, this process of Muslim ghettoisation and intense marginalization is in an advanced state, although there is some recent work by Paola Bacchetta which shows that even here the RSS project has eventually failed.

    • Vinod
      Posted at 05:45h, 12 June

      Vikram, thanks for your insightful comments. Why do you say Germany was not democratic then?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 17:31h, 12 June

      Vinod, as per Bernard Crick’s framework democracy consists of three aspects (which have been discussed on the blog earlier)

      1) Regular, free and fair elections
      2) Independent institutions such as the judiciary, media for checks and balances
      3) Democratic behavior in daily lives of citizens

      Clearly, the first was not present in Weimar Republic. Its election commission was weak and was not able to prevent a Nazi takeover, and ensure free and fair elections at regular intervals. There were other institutional issues as well, see here,

      The Weimar Republic’s Constitution also lacked the popular legitimacy that a Constitution needs to be regarded as the supreme law.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 15:02h, 17 June Reply

    “SA it is clear to me as day light that Modi wants to be Lee Kuan Yew of India, nothing else.”

    Lee Kuan Yew is a scary guy.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:05h, 19 June

      Vikram: That was my response as well. I don’t feel the Lee Kuan Yew style would be accepted in India. It’s the wrong model for an Indian leader to adopt.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 03:04h, 21 June

      Vikram whether Lee Kuan Yew is a scary guy or not isn’t the point. The way you quote me gives the impression that I endorse Modi and Yew model of development when in fact I am merely speculating what Modi’s vision is and I believe at the moment it has no focus on Hindutva rather the entire focus is on rapid development of the country, if necessary by trampling on standard norms of democratic behavior. Whether he succeeds or not is also a matter of speculation and only time will tell.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 05:01h, 21 August Reply

    Does this op-ed tend to confirm the scenario described in the post:

    “The message he carried was simple: that once elected, the BJP government would pursue talks and push business engagement with Pakistan. He indicated that an invitation would be sent shortly after Mr. Modi took over, to set the ball rolling. There was, however, a rider. If there was a terror attack, said the RSS envoy, one like Mumbai 26/11 that could be traced back to Pakistan, their hands would be tied. A counter-attack on some part of Pakistan-controlled territory would be inevitable.”

    But will Mr. Modi be able to stay with the grand strategy or give in to his instincts?

  • Vikram
    Posted at 21:14h, 26 June Reply

    SA, I would like to think of myself as someone who respects free speech. However, I cant think of a rationale through which a member of India’s ‘liberal press’ should not be punished, for openly asking foreign governments and violent terror groups to carry out deadly attacks against Indian citizens for perceived ‘anti Muslim policies’.

    “Vigilante violence also tests the bonds of transnational Muslim solidarity. Ordinarily, Pakistan and Pakistan-based terror groups would use violence or the threat of violence as leverage over the Indian government to bargain on Kashmir or relax anti-Muslim policies elsewhere. (The 1993 Mumbai blasts were a reaction to the riots that targeted Muslims in December 1992 and January 1993.) But Congress and BJP governments react very differently to terror attacks. The Congress is weakened by them while Hindu nationalists are bolstered by them. In the current climate attacks can provide the excuse for more bloodletting and subsequent consolidation of Hindu identity. That’s the bind Hindu vigilantes put Islamabad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in.”

    According to Mr. Aaron it seems, terrorist attacks in Mumbai were not cold blooded murders but a ‘reaction’ to ‘build leverage’ and actualize ‘transnational Muslim solidarity’.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 17:22h, 03 July Reply

    SA, what precisely is being debated here ? That lynching is a crime ? That the state should guarantee freedom of cultural/religious expression ?

    I believe that these questions are already answered in Indian law and Constitution. Have the perpetrators of these crimes not been arrested ? Has the government made the practice of a particular religion illegal ?

    Cattle related violence occurs in a specific region of India, which is not even the traditional base of BJP. So is it possible that the reason for this violence is something else ?

    Is there other data that needs to be brought to the table, which will provide a better explanation for recent events ?

    See the links here:

    Western Uttar Pradesh is one of the most criminalized areas in India. There is a sand mining mafia, as well as a cattle mafia active in the area. In the Hindu-Muslim angle, it is the cattle mafia that is more relevant. Due to various reasons, the cattle mafia has a disproportionate number of Muslims involved, and the leaders of that mafia have had a deep relationship with the SP-Congress leaders.

    Needless to say cattle theft is devastating for farmers in the region. So once a government that would seemingly prioritize this issue came into power, some of them have started acting violently themselves.

    So the loss of innocent lives here is rooted in successive dispensations tolerance of criminality for political gain, not in any new policies of the current dispensation.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 17:26h, 03 July Reply

    “But he can’t be accused of being anti-Indian because he is not a DU or JNU alum.”

    No but he, along with many others can be accused of utter hypocrisy. The hyper sensitivity to a particular kind of violence, and the scale of indifference to violence committed by that group against others is astounding.

    Please tell me what Mukherjee, and the other folks from Scroll etc you love to quote said about this violence:

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 18:56h, 03 July

      Vikram: It is not very appetizing to learn that the President of India is an “utter hypocrite.”

      Especially when the PM thinks of him as a “father.”

      Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday showered rich praise on President Pranab Mukherjee, saying that he was “like a father” whose humane side transcended lines drawn by political ideology. Releasing a book dedicated to President Mukherjee, PM Modi said that there was never a meeting between them in the last three years when the Commander in Chief did not treat him like a son.

      “I am saying this from deep within. Like a father caring for his son…,” he said turning emotional, Press Trust of India reported.

      Like father, like son?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:12h, 03 July

      Thats between the PM and the President, maybe Modi is trying to thank Mukherjee with his move to Delhi, maybe he is just being nice. Who can know with these things ?

      But Mukherjee and other so called ‘secularists’ silence on Muslim violence against Hindus and the Indian state is hypocrisy, and you have presented no argument/data to show that it isnt.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:49h, 04 July

      Vikram: So soft on Hindutva, so hard on secularism. For Modi “Who can know with these things”; for Mukherjee (“and other so called secularists”) you know the hypocrisy with absolute certainty. Do you wonder what a social psychologist would say?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 15:59h, 04 July

      SA, a class 11 student has been arrested and put in prison for exercising his freedom of speech. Mobs have burnt shops of Hindus (local minority), in the President’s dear own Bengal. Also, this is the poster child of leftists’s secularism.

      Dont know what social psychologists would say, but fake liberals and hypocrites are going to maintain an absolute silence about this.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 07:38h, 05 July

      Vikram: Are all liberals fake and all conservatives genuine?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:34h, 06 July

      Vikram: At least some fake liberals are covering this news on anti-Indian screeds like and their ilk even though the coverage still seems biased. Things seem to be improving a bit:

    • Vikram
      Posted at 16:07h, 04 July

      And cleverly, when Hindus are arrested and attacked by Muslim mobs, ‘liberal’ media conveniently finds another narrative, ‘BJP governor harasses Bengal CM’.

      Lets see how many people in Bengal get arrested for this violence.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:26h, 05 July

      Vikram: Let us know when you find out. Nothing except a draw should be acceptable.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 14:03h, 06 July Reply

    “At least some fake liberals are covering this news on anti-Indian screeds like and their ilk even though the coverage still seems biased.”

    SA, there seems to be a kind of blindness here. Muslims, on the mere suggestion that a boy made a comment about Mohamed, demanded the boy be handed to them and killed. They burnt shops, threatened lives.

    And the story here is wild speculation about how the BJP must be behind all this ?

    You call this ‘slight bias’ ?

  • Vikram
    Posted at 14:22h, 06 July Reply

    Hindu (most likely Dalit) steps out of home to get medicines. Muslim gang harasses and blows cigarette smoke at her. She protests and runs back to house.
    Her family comes and try to protest.
    Entire Muslim neighborhood surrounds the family’s home and starts stoning it, members of family grievously hurt.

    Possible talking point for fake liberals/secularists:
    How BJP conspired with pharma companies to make Indians repeatedly step out to buy medicines.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 16:44h, 06 July

      Vikram: Terrible. So glad you are alert and keeping the fake liberals accountable.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 13:40h, 11 July

      Vikram: A fake liberal (I label everyone who disagrees with your position a fake liberal) has tried to directly address your accusation of selective outrage. It is not the most lucid articulation of the argument but the gist is quite understandable. Let me know if it responds to your concerns in any way.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 13:56h, 11 July

      It seems Mr. Srivastava doesnt like the status quo, i.e. the Constitution of India.

      Perhaps he has found a more liberal governing philosophy than it. Seems he is trying to bring about a revolution by telling us all how the Indian state is our enemy.

      But a bit strange that this revolutionary wants to destroy the insufficiently liberal Indian Constitution, by backing the violence of violent religious fanatics who have ethnically cleansed a minority, violent mobs who demand the head of a 17 year old boy for a facebook post, ‘revolutionaries’ who bomb/derail trains …

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 08:07h, 12 July

      Vikram: No surprise here – the fake liberal has no chance against the true conservative. In fact, by going against the Constitution, the fake liberal is also exposing his anti-Indian leanings. This surely deserves to be punished. What punishment would you propose?

      In defence of the fake liberals one must point out that this hiding behind the cloak of the Constitution is a red herring. It reflects either a deliberate hypocrisy or a woeful lack of analytical ability.

      The Constitution is not a divine document that is sacrilege to challenge. Almost all Constitutions have been amended. So there is no compulsion to blindly defend the status quo just because it is the status quo.

      At one time Blacks were considered less than full citizens in the American Constitution. Would you rather it had remained that way forever because it was the status quo? Wasn’t it better that it was challenged and the stats quo overturned? (By the way, the lynchings of Blacks actually did take place even if the Blacks were not very nice people themselves.) Today, the American Constitution confers the right to bear arms on all citizens. Many Americans are challenging this provision of the Constitution. Would anyone be so presumptuous as to label them Anti-American?

      In any case, defending the abstract shell of the Constitution while ignoring its application is another grave intellectual blindspot. If the application of the Constitution defends the strong against the weak (as was the case re the Blacks in the US), shouldn’t that be a cause for challenge?

      The fact that Mr. Srivastava doesn’t like the status quo is hardly a point worth making – that is his Constitutional right. One has to engage with his arguments that one has to bother to read. Using McCarthyist code words like ‘revolutionary’ is not going to carry your argument very far.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 12:58h, 13 July

      SA, the Indian Constitution has been amended many times.

      You are wrong about the Blacks in US analogy. In America, African Americans were not considered completely human, and there were Supreme Court rulings that backed this. It is to the great credit of MLK that despite such inhuman treatment, he channelized the Black Rights Movement towards an expansion of the American Constitution, rather than promote righteous violence.

      And where is the application of the Indian Constitution failing ? The perpetrators in almost every incident of anti Muslim violence have been arrested and are in jail. How would you or Mr. Srivastava propose amending it to better protect Muslims ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:15h, 14 July

      Vikram: I also know that Indian Constitution has been amended many times. Therefore, it is not sacrosanct. Therefore, it is not a crime to challenge the Constitution. Therefore, your argument that Mr. Srivastava does not like the Indian Constitution does not carry any weight.

      You now seem to be swerving to the argument that while the US Constitution could be challenged because it was imperfect (treating blacks as less than human), it is not alright to challenge the Indian Constitution because the latter is perfect. This too is a fallacious argument because it is not for you to decree whether the Indian Constitution is perfect or not. Every individual has the constitutional right to decide for himself or herself. Do you not think many whites considered the US constitution to be perfect and felt it was anti-American to challenge the status quo?

      In any case, Mr. Srivastava’s argument is not about what is written in the Constitution but of its implementation. There are many people in India who feel the state is selective in protecting the civil rights of all its citizens as directed by the Constitution. The Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International can weigh in on that topic except for the fact that they are staffed by fake anti-Indian liberals.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 04:18h, 16 July Reply

    These three thoughtful articles provide the opportunity for a meaningful extension of our discussion.

    The first asks if violence is the only thing that unites India today:

    The second deals with the tit-for-tat logic that prevents both an understanding of the causes of the violence and the search for a solution.

    The third, written in 1991, offers a partial explanation for the violence we see today:

    • Vikram
      Posted at 06:38h, 16 July

      Yes, record low levels of violence seem to be uniting India today:

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:35h, 16 July

      Vikram: Heartiest Congratulations – Rest in Peace.

      More seriously: The broad category of murder is not used as an indicator of unity or division in society. More relevant indicators are needed for that purpose. For example, trends in inter-racial violence in the US would be used rather than in total number of murders. It is quite possible for the two to move in opposite directions – hence the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

      The article was concerned with communal and caste violence in India both of which were alleged to be rising. You can look up the statistics to confirm or dispute.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 07:52h, 17 July Reply

    Vikram: Look Sadanand Dhume is making fun of India:

    “India is the only place in the world where someone who writes for The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and works at the American Enterprise Institute, is regularly accused of being a leftist.”–A-conservatives-take-on-India.html

    • Vikram
      Posted at 14:44h, 01 August

      Which of these do you think is worse SA ?

      The two instances above.

      The one instance here:

      Or the instance of Scroll, HT and The Wire and other media completely ignoring such instances.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:40h, 03 August

      Vikram: It was discussed on the blog earlier that it was not useful to indulge in these tit-for-tat comparisons.

      Clearly, your assessment of which is worse is different from that of Scroll, HT, The Wire and other media. You can reflect on why that might be so.

      Also, which is worse at the level of an incident might be different from what is worse for India at a collective level. That is a question of judgement and clearly different people are arriving at different conclusions.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 15:36h, 05 August

      Do these same qualifications apply to historical truths as well ?

      Your leftist/Islamist friends in India have no qualms peddling completely made up narratives ( for which there is absolutely no historical evidence.

      So contemporary events, history, geography, physics all should be reported conditioned on the ‘well being’ and feelings of a particular community ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 07:21h, 06 August

      Vikram: That, at least, is the ruling of the Allahabad High Court:

      “When Hindus believe that the place of birth of Lord Rama was within the disputed site of the Ayodhya temple, such belief partakes the nature of essential part of religion and is protected under Article 25 of the Constitution (right to profess one’s religion), the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has held.”

      No historical evidence is required.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 04:30h, 27 July Reply

    “The second tragedy is that there has never been a robust movement of liberalism within the Muslim community.”

    1) Do you agree ?

    2) If not, details on such a movement, and its consequences.

    3) If yes, why did a movement for liberalism not occur in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which are Muslim majority ?

    Perhaps, some clues in this conversation I had with a Muslim person from India who now lives in the West ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 15:35h, 28 July

      Vikram: Complex questions must be framed with care if they are not to elicit silly statements like the one Guha makes when he concludes that socialists love India but communists do not.

      This sort of sloppiness arises from lazy and sweeping generalities about communities and Guha is headed for the same trap when he speaks of the Muslim community.

      This could be a more useful conversation if you first defined the critical terms – community, movement, robust, and liberalism and then illustrated the argument about something you know well, say, a robust movement of liberalism in any community. Based on that your question could be addressed with greater rigor.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 14:37h, 07 August Reply

    The writer provides a narrative (comparing the BJP of today to the Muslim League of the 1930s) that can give rise to an interesting discussion.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:03h, 07 August

      Intriguing. But there are a few gaps.

      An independent (or semi-sovereign) Pakistan was in the interests of many of the groups that pushed for its creation. Once these interests had become clear, a cultural agenda was not hard to develop and propagate.

      The primary interest axis in India today remains caste groups aligned with political parties to grab power, and secure government jobs and influence. It is not clear how the BJP represents a better vehicle for articulating and achieving these interests, than the already effective regional parties like SP, INLD etc.

      For example, the BJP already has had a tough time keeping Jats within its fold. What helped it in UP 2017 was that UP’s Jat population lives in Muslim heavy West UP. Here, the Hindu security plank of the BJP managed to overcome caste ambitions. The Yadavs of Bihar voted heavily against it in 2015.

      The BJP’s ascent to power is based on its strong presence in Gujarat, MP and Rajasthan. These are 90%+ Hindu majority states. Their situation is not comparable with Muslim minority UP of the 1930s.

      The middle class Hindus, a section of whom are swayed by gimmicks such as changing textbooks, yoga day etc hardly vote and hardly influence the vote of others. Most of them cant even write a coherent article in an Indian language. Their status in Indian politics today cannot be compared with that of the Ashrafi/landlord elites in the Muslim politics of colonial India.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 02:30h, 13 August

      A good piece pointing out how Pakistan animated the dreams of a wide spectrum of groups that would ultimately constitute it,

      Common Muslims -> safe and secure communities

      feudal lords and land owners -> thwarting any attempts for land reform

      Muslim capitalists -> dreams about eliminating competition from non-Muslim capitalists and industrialists

      Muslim civil and military bureaucracy -> no competition from non-Muslim candidates

      Muslim religious leaders -> a country where every aspect of society would be coloured with their own religion and sect

      politicians of the Muslim League -> did not want to compete with secular and liberal political parties

      left-leaning liberal and secular politicians -> an early socialist revolution in Pakistan that would kick start Pakistan’s journey towards communism under the Soviet umbrella

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 16:49h, 18 August

      Vikram: Whoever wrote this article doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. Even from your summary it is so flawed that I won’t waste my time reading it.

      Anyone who believes Muslim religious leaders favored Pakistan has not read history. And the sweeping generalizations remain a problem. All common Muslims, all feudal lords, all Muslim capitalists – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:28h, 18 August

      “Anyone who believes Muslim religious leaders favored Pakistan has not read history. And the sweeping generalizations remain a problem. All common Muslims, all feudal lords, all Muslim capitalists – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari ?”

      Your comment is ironic. You start with a sweeping generalization about Muslim religious leaders not supporting Pakistan, and then chastize me for an alleged generalization.

      First off, a lot of Muslim Ulema did support the Pakistan movement. See for example, Creating a New Medina, Chapter 5 (Ulema at the Forefront of Politics), by Venkat Dhulipala.

      Not only were there Muslim Ulema who supported the Pakistan movement, even among the ones who opposed it, there were different groups with different reasons for doing so.

      Second, by no means am I claiming that *ALL* members of a certain group supported a particular position. We already have data pointing out that half the Muslim women who could vote did not support the League (

      My point here was to point out that large groups of people did have a political, social and economic interest in achieving Pakistan. And since we were comparing the Pakistan Movement to the BJP’s rise, it is important to point out that:

      1) These interests are simply not what drives Indian politics. There were 300,000 Marathas rallying for reservation in Mumbai a few days ago. An equal number of Jats and Patels have been demonstrating in Haryana and Gujarat. Can you point out a single protest of this magnitude for any other issue, apart from the Jalikattu issue in TN ?

      2) Even if the corresponding interests did become prominent, by no means can the BJP claim to monopolize their representation, as the League did in the build up to independence.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:44h, 26 August

      Vikram: This is not a bean-counting exercise in which all ulemas are equal. In that time the major religious icons/leaders, the heavy weights, were Maulana Azad representing independent scholars, Maulana Madani heading Deoband, and Maulana Maudoodi heading the Jamaat-e-Islami. All three were strongly and actively opposed to Pakistan.

      In any case, this (“large groups of people having a political, social and economic interest in achieving Pakistan”) is not a useful way to look at the period. None of these groups supported the League till 1937 which was evident in the results of the elections. Why not, if the scenario you posited had any credibility? Support for the League surged after 1937 mainly because following its 1937 triumph the INC did not come across as offering credible representation for Muslims, particularly in the UP, despite its claim to represent all Indians. The League played on this fear and exacerbated it to build its support.

      The League never had Pakistan as its outstanding demand since its inception – its concern was an acceptable formula for representation in an electoral system – and till the 1920s Jinnah was known as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Unlike the League, the RSS had Hindutva as its aim from its very inception in 1925 as articulated in Essentials of Hindutva by Savarkar published in 1923. In this regard, there is no comparison between the League and the BJP/RSS over their entire histories – the comparison with the League can be drawn only post-1937. Both played negative roles but in different ways and for different reasons.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 20:15h, 07 December

      SA, it seems that CM Naim agrees with me on this point,

      “The chief leaders of the Pakistan movement were not obscurantist mullahs; they were in fact some of the most “modernist” Muslims of their time. They also belonged to an elite section of the community which had its own motive of self-preservation. Their veneer of modernism hid a basically exploitative nature, concerned with obtaining privileges, not equal rights. In a most blatant fashion they used the emotional attachment of the Muslim masses to religion for their own ends. And once Pakistan became a political reality, they sneaked off to collect their share of the booty, leaving behind those they had assiduously claimed to be exclusively their constituents.”

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:00h, 09 December

      Vikram: People who have read the history of the Pakistan movement concur with the observation of CM Naim. Your statement was not very incisive because you had lumped every Muslim of every shade as a supporter of the Pakistan movement (see part of your comment below). CM Naim contradicts you explicitly in the case of the religious leaders. You also missed the nuanced observation of the role Muslim “modernists”.

      Your list of Pakistan supporters (August 13, 2017):

      “Common Muslims -> safe and secure communities

      feudal lords and land owners -> thwarting any attempts for land reform

      Muslim capitalists -> dreams about eliminating competition from non-Muslim capitalists and industrialists

      Muslim civil and military bureaucracy -> no competition from non-Muslim candidates

      Muslim religious leaders -> a country where every aspect of society would be coloured with their own religion and sect

      politicians of the Muslim League -> did not want to compete with secular and liberal political parties

      left-leaning liberal and secular politicians -> an early socialist revolution in Pakistan that would kick start Pakistan’s journey towards communism under the Soviet umbrella.”

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 03:01h, 31 August Reply

    Is this a plausible reading of where India might be headed?

  • Vikram
    Posted at 13:49h, 02 September Reply

    “the heavy weights, were Maulana Azad representing independent scholars, Maulana Madani heading Deoband, and Maulana Maudoodi heading the Jamaat-e-Islami. All three were strongly and actively opposed to Pakistan.”

    It is quite facetious to put Azad, Madani and Maudoodi in the same ‘opposed to Pakistan’ grouping. Their reasons were poles apart. And most importantly, Maudoodi was not opposed to Muslim supremacism, excluvism per se, he just wanted a particular kind of state, and he wanted Muslim rule over the entire subcontinent at least. His reasons were tactical, not principled.

    There were many heavyweight Maulanas who supported Pakistan:

    Like I have said earlier, please read the relevant chapter in Dhulipala’s book to see how influential these Maulanas were in Muslim UP.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:08h, 09 September

      Vikram: You made a sweeping statement about the support of Maulanas for Pakistan. I pointed out that three of the most prominent were opposed to Pakistan. Thus your claim was disproved. You have now digressed into the reasons for the opposition which was not the subject at all.

      The truth value of a statement like “All crows are black” cannot be proved by pointing to another black crow. But it can be disproved by pointing to a single white crow.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 08:41h, 14 October
    • Vikram
      Posted at 20:57h, 16 October

      Actually managed to read the first chapter by Barbara Metcalfe, she referenced some interesting writings by C.M. Naim.

      Hope one of the other chapters sheds light on the anomalous voting figures for Muslim women we discussed in an earlier post.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:38h, 17 October

      Vikram: This is a link to the writings of Professor CM Naim:

  • Vikram
    Posted at 13:50h, 02 September Reply

    “its concern was an acceptable formula for representation in an electoral system”

    The League’s acceptable formula basically meant that each vote of a Muslim counted far more than that of a non-Muslim.

    See a worked out example here:

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:03h, 09 September

      Vikram: This is correct but was not the subject under discussion. The subject was a comparison of the ethos of the ML and RSS/BJP from their inception and an understanding of the key differences and similarities.

  • Arif
    Posted at 16:30h, 17 October Reply

    SA and Vikram -there was a lot of debate, I could go though a part of it, Vikram you want to give a few examples of bad apples in muslim community; but there were actually many more good people, Khan Abdul Gaffar khan and many other muslims were against partition, many muslims in NWFP died due to non-violent movement against British.
    And most importantly decision was not taken based on a referendum,
    I expected Modiji who single handedly won this election to plan for a development based agenda, but it doesn’t seem to be so due to series of issues which happened till date. There is a subtle agenda to deny Muslims their legitimate place, which is not an issue because the community will overcome all these hindrances however what is being overlooked by majority community is that in the long run India will become a mirror to Pakistan. in addition it is not to be forgotten that divisive agenda is like sickness which never heals, after Muslims are done with what would keep Hindus united with in built caste based thousand year old cracks?
    Look at Pakistan today, though it is almost Muslim country it has schisms due to which never ending killings occur.
    What you sow, so shall you reap; if you reach out to minorities today it would repay back enormously in many ways, being myopic doesn’t help.
    Also it would be quite foolish to presume that alienating Indian Muslims would not make India weaker and prone to loss of opportunities to the detriment of my own country. India can grow beyond any one’s imagination if we accept each other and learn to live together wholeheratedly.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:50h, 17 October

      Hello Arif, my intention was not to pick out ‘bad apples’ in any community. The discussion was about which sections of the Muslim community had reasons to support the Pakistan movement, and my contention was that the movement did have a lot of support among Muslim ulema in North India. There is enough scholarly evidence for this claim (Dhulipala’s book, and even the first chapter of the book SA recently linked talk about this extensively).

      After years of engagement and reading, I am mature enough to understand that simply supporting a political movement does not make someone a ‘bad apple’. There were some good reasons for creating Pakistan. More representation/jobs for Muslim elite in government, protection from exposure to Hindu culture (which in many important ways is radically different to Abrahamic traditions), and freedom for a Muslim polity in South Asia to engage with the outside world on its terms.

      In many ways, the geographical regions that comprise today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh have been at the fringes of subcontinental civilization, with the Gangetic region (whether ruled by Hindus or Muslims) playing a hegemonic role. Political independence for Pakistan and Bangladesh meant these regions had an opportunity to figure out their destinies independent of Delhi’s priorities.

      The Pakistani and Bangladeshi polities still represent the chance for a genuine Abrahamic, monotheistic society to be created on the subcontinent for the first time in history. I can see why this can be a strong motivation for many to agitate for it.

      The only issue in this whole process was the population exchange, polytheists/Indics who did not want to live in a monotheistic society, and vice versa should have been allowed to cross over in a peaceful manner. It is the violent manner of this exchange that has led to the continuing conflicts you refer to.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 19:54h, 17 October Reply

    Arif, you say, “There is a subtle agenda to deny Muslims their legitimate place”

    What do you think the legitimate place of Muslims should be in India ? Which specific provisions/rules do you think should be implemented to ensure this legitimate place is secure ?

  • Vikram
    Posted at 20:18h, 17 October Reply

    SA, I saw that you took note of the fake liberal furore around Sangeet Som’s opinions. Yogi Adityanath has come out with a response, and I am mostly in agreement with his opinion.

    The Taj Mahal is not an Indian monument in any sense, just like the Victoria memorial. It is however, part of Indian history, and was built by the sweat and blood of Indians, with surplus generated by Indians.

    Architecturally, the Taj represents one of the highest achievements of Persian (not Indian) architecture. Functionally it is the tomb and memorial of a king, such memorialization (which is of Roman origin) are not at all encouraged in Indic tradition, where even sculptures of kings are rarely found. Historically, the Mughal dynasty showed little interest in advancing local traditions by investing in Indian centred projects, architectural or otherwise.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:55h, 18 October

      Vikram: That’s fine, but do you have any reaction to Sangeet Som’s specific comments?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 20:04h, 18 October

      SA, I will give my reaction to Sansad Som’s comments.

      But before that, I want your opinion on the following matter:

      84% and 82% of Muslims surveyed in Pakistan and Bangladesh, want Islamic rule (i.e. Sharia law) in their country.

      What do you think the corresponding number for Muslims in India is ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:00h, 19 October

      Vikram: I don’t know but what is the connection? Are you saying that Sansad Som’s statement is based on a scientific analysis of polls by Pew Research?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 13:45h, 19 October

      SA, is it possible that Som and his constituents in Western UP (which is majority Muslim in large pockets) are facing the consequences of the desire for Sharia amongst Muslims ? And that his political positions/statements stem from that experience ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:01h, 20 October

      Vikram: It is indeed possible (anything is) but would reflect very poorly on the IQ of Sansad Som and those offering the explanation. Connecting a modern-day desire for Sharia with Shahjahan being a traitor should invite a doctoral dissertation by a social psychologist.

      And if one is in the wonderful business of connecting things, why not connect the desire for Sharia with the preference of the majority for military rule (according to the same Pew Research)?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 16:28h, 26 October

      SA, here is a more complete and data rich look into the issue of ‘support for autocracy’ in India:

      Would a similar analysis for the Pew survey about Sharia give the same conclusions ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:47h, 27 October

      Vikram: Are Christians also demanding Sharia?

      Why not consider the simpler explanation that the incidence of bigotry has gone up in India since the election of Modi? If one can accept a similar proposition for the US after the election of Trump why is India a scared cow? Why has everything to be defended and explained by recourse to far-fetched examples?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 14:35h, 27 October

      SA, you consider the statement “Hinduism is a deeply hierarchical, oppressive religion.” by Nivedita Menon, as an opinion, and not an example of bigotry.

      But it seems you consider someone holding the opinion that Shah Jahan was not a great person, as an example of bigotry.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:10h, 28 October

      Vikram: “Hinduism is a deeply hierarchical, oppressive religion” is an opinion. Similarly, “Shah Jahan was not a great person” or “Taj Mahal is a blot on Indian culture” are opinions and there is nothing wrong with them or the persons holding them.

      But “Shah Jahan was a traitor” is an example of a bigoted opinion because there is no evidence that Shah Jahan betrayed India.

      Similarly, the opinion that “Maharana Pratap won the battle of Haldighati” is deluded and bordering on bigotry because the historical evidence does not support it.

      I am surprised you are unable to make these distinctions.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 16:51h, 29 October Reply

    “Shah Jahan was a traitor”, is an opinion, just as much as Hinduism being a certain kind of religion is.

    Many would consider lavishing public money on grandiose monuments, unconnected to the ethos and lives of the vast majority of the population, to be an act of treason and betrayal.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:10h, 30 October

      Vikram: Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of a 600 feet high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel costing Rs. 3,000 crores. Of course, Narendra Modi is not a traitor because this grandiose monument is intimately connected to the ethos and lives of the vast majority.

      Also, do send your definition of treason to the Oxford English Dictionary. You might win a prize. Alice would be so proud of you.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:24h, 30 October

      SA, there are a lot of logical fallacies here. Modi is an elected leader, and any expenditure incurred is approved by the democratically elected Indian legislature.

      Are you suggesting that Patel and his life has not had a major impact on the lives of majority of Indians ? Acknowledging his sacrifices and achievements is a very different matter from building tombs for oneself in an architectural form alien to the people from whom you obtained the power and revenue to do so.

      The precise definition of traitor is irrelevant here. The point is that the construction of Taj Mahal, no matter how beautiful the building is, needs to be questioned on a moral and ethical basis.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:32h, 31 October

      Voltaire: “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.”
      Vikram: Precise definitions are irrelevant.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 15:05h, 14 November

      Spending money extracted from a particular community to lavish the culture of another community by an entity that claims sovereign power would be considered an act of betrayal by most. Indian surplus was not the personal property of Shah Jahan.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 15:50h, 14 November Reply

    “Pakistan’s national anthem – Qaumi Tarana – is almost entirely written in Persian language, with hardly a word of Urdu. Persian culture and literature imbues the local culture: Persian poet, Rumi, who settled in Konya and has written Mathnawi (a long poem), is revered all over Pakistan. The national poet of Pakistan, Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s major portion of poetry is also in Persian.”

    SA, this paragraph is from an academic publication.

    Given this context, I wanted to probe what people mean when they assert that India and Pakistan are similar/Aman ki Asha etc.

    1) Is it that Indians are also as Persianized as Pakistanis, but not ready to accept this reality ?

    2) Is it that Pakistanis are not as Persianized as this author suggests, and beneath the veneer of Persianization, it is actually the Indic culture predominates ?

    3) Is it that Pakistanis have a good balance of Persian and Indic culture, and can relate to both ?

    • Kabir Waheed Altaf
      Posted at 19:14h, 19 November


      It is true that the Qaumi Tarana is in highly Persianized Urdu. (It is technically not in Persian because of the phrase “Pak sarzameen ka nizam”. “Ka” doesn’t exist in Farsi.) “Jana Gana Mana” is written in a highly Sanskritized register. I would guess that the average Pakistani understands our national anthem as well as the average Indian understands his.

      Pakistanis and North Indians share a similar culture (what you are calling “Indic”). Urdu is an Indian language. The native language of half of Pakistan’s population–Punjabi– is certainly an Indian language. Shalwar Kameez is an Indian dress. Our food is Indian. Our music is Indian etc. While Pakistani culture does overlap somewhat with Persian culture, we are a South Asian country, not a West Asian one. 70 years of independence cannot negate hundreds of years of shared culture with India.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 22:26h, 19 November

      Hello Kabir. Thanks for responding.

      Jana Gana Mana is not in Sanskrit, it is in literary Bengali. It was sung and recited widely during the independence movement. In fact, most Congress sessions used to begin with it, and Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj used a version of it as its anthem. Most Indians understand its key lines, “Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal, Banga” (pluralism) and Jana Gana Mana (all people’s heart/will). I will argue its comprehensibility is a lot higher than Quami Tarana.

      From what you seem to be saying, it seems that the original article I linked is overstating Persian influence on Pakistani culture.

    • Kabir Waheed Altaf
      Posted at 06:34h, 20 November


      I know that “Jana Gana Mana” is not in Sanskrit but it is in highly Sanskritized Bengali. In any case, it is not written in the language of the average man on the street. Similarly, the Quami Tarana is in highly Persianized Urdu– not the Urdu that we speak at home, but literary Urdu. Most Pakistanis probably get the basic idea of it–asking God to bless the land of Pakistan.

      I am not sure that the language of the national anthem really says anything about the cultural identity of the country at large. Persianized Urdu is the literary standard and it is possible the writer of the anthem wanted to use suitably grand language. It is also quite possible that in the immediate post-Partition context, the use of the Persian register was meant to differentiate Pakistan’s Islamic culture from India’s culture. This would be the same impulse that caused Urdu and Hindi to split from the common Hindustani base. Regardless, most people probably only think about the national anthem on Independence Day or during cricket matches. The language used in most other Pakistani songs and dramas is much more colloquial Hindustani.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 04:56h, 21 November

      Kabir, I agree that the language of the national anthem doesnt necessarily say much about the cultural identity of the country at large. I just see this theme of Persianization coming up repeatedly in articles by Pakistanis.

      I remember now that we discussed this issue at length once before, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

      South Asian had pointed out then that the majority of conversions had taken place in the peripheral regions of the British Raj, and were based on politico-economic reasons, rather than theological or cultural reasons.

    • Kabir Waheed Altaf
      Posted at 09:43h, 21 November


      There is no inconvenience. These are important issues to thresh out.

      I’m not quite sure what argument is being made by those Pakistanis who are referring to Persianization. The article you had linked above was about Pakistan-Iran relations and in that context discussing the influence of Persian culture on Pakistan makes sense. But one only has to visit Pakistan to see that it is very much a South Asian country. The heartland of Pakistan is the region east of the Indus (Lahore, Rawalpindi etc.) and that region’s culture is very much “Indic”. 70 years of existence as a sovereign nation is too short a period to really have much of an impact on centuries-old Punjabi and Sindhi culture.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 21:55h, 21 November Reply

    Kabir, you said,

    “There is no inconvenience. These are important issues to thresh out.”

    In some sense they are, but in many ways the fact that Indians like me are still debating such matters highlights a certain failure of the Indian constitutional morality project.

    In a liberal democratic state, the choice of name, religion and culture of any particular individual should not be of any concern to the government and the public in general.

    But in India they do. It is useful to speculate why this is the case, and to me, the answer has to lie in the fact that large groups of Indian are very uncomfortable with liberty and property rights. This is seen in the frequent calls to ‘ban’, ‘prohibit’, censor etc. Our whole model of governance seems to be where the government restricts the freedoms and choices of others on our behalf.

    You might think that this is a tendency of the current dispensation, but the reality is that this has been the norm for a long time. For example, see here,

    Only this time, a new set of groups gets to play the restrictor.

    The question is why is this mentality so prominent among Indians. Whatever the reason, one consequence of this mentality is that cultural and religious choices in India are invariably assumed to have a political corollary.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 06:39h, 27 November Reply

    Frightening but also encouraging:

    Mark the passing reference to Pakistan which reflects the genuine Indian fear of Pakistanization. The fear is becoming justified in an increasing number of areas.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 07:33h, 27 November Reply
  • Vikram
    Posted at 15:36h, 13 December Reply

    “Your statement was not very incisive because you had lumped every Muslim of every shade as a supporter of the Pakistan movement (see part of your comment below).”

    SA, I think you misunderstood me. I did not mean to say that every Muslim of every shade supported the Pakistan movement. Rather, I was looking at the subset of Muslims who supported the Pakistan movement, and looking at the motivations of subgroups within that subset.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 20:12h, 20 December

      Vikram: Your subsets exhausted the entire set. Which subset did you leave out?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 20:44h, 20 December

      Sorry SA. I guess I wasnt clear.

      Within each of the groups I listed, there were people who did not support Pakistan as well. It is actually interesting to think why they did not.

      Common Muslims -> Did not connect safety and freedom to practice religion to political power. Were already in Hindu majority environment without being prevented from practicing Islam. Idea just did not resonate.

      feudal lords and land owners -> Attachment to property and way of life, local culture. No guarantees of same privileges in Pakistan.

      Muslim capitalists -> Would need to move businesses and existing investments to foreign place. Already well connected and assured of safety.

      Muslim civil and military bureaucracy -> I believe most of this group (usually of landlord/aristrocratic origin) supported Pakistan and migrated. But I do know a few Muslim bureaucrats who were close to the Congress and felt secure/committed in India.

      Muslim religious leaders -> Theological argument that division of country contrary to Islam. Potential to gain converts in Hindu majority country.

      politicians of the Muslim League -> By definition, pro Pakistan movement.

      left-leaning liberal and secular politicians -> Not convinced that India would be a Hindu theocratic state and not a secular one. Communist movement stronger in India.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:58h, 29 December

      Vikram: The fact remains that the characterization is not useful. Every possible sub-group of Muslims had some who supported the Pakistan Movement and some who opposed it. So what? What is to be done with that information? It is like saying that in every sub-group of human beings, some like fish and some don’t.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 22:47h, 30 December

      SA, to begin with, we can try and understand if in the last years, the decisions and goals of these groups (14 in all) have been vindicated.

      Common Muslims: I think the pro-India crowd has been vindicated here. The murder rate in India has been lower than Pakistan on a sustained basis for many decades now. Pakistan’s murder rate has been double that of India for nearly a decade now. There has been more suppression of Islamic practices (Ahmadis, Shias, Ismailis) in Pakistan than India.

      Feudal lords and land owners: Here the pro-Pak group achieved part of their objectives. Their lands and properties have been safe from redistribution and they have been able to convert their pre-modern economic strength into a more modern form via politics, entry into the bureaucracy and business. The cost has been the undermining of Punjabi culture and language by North Indian culture and language.

      Muslim capitalists: I think the pro-India crowd has been vindicated here. There are more Muslim billionaires in India than Pakistan.

      Muslim civil and military bureaucracy: Pro-Pak crowd achieved their goals. The Urdu speaking salariat got better jobs in the new Pakistan, and Pakistan is a fortress of Urdu now.

      Muslim religious leaders: Pro-Pak group achieved many of its goals. Pakistan has a Shariat court that can deem legislation unIslamic. This formalizes the power of the clergy, but not gone as far as in Iran.

      left-leaning liberal and secular politicians: Pro-Pak group completely outmaneuvered, no left movement of any consequence left in Pakistan today.

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