Pakistan Underground Water Arsenic Polluted, Will Run Dry, In India Too

File 20170829 10424 lhq76v
Drilling a groundwater well by hand, near Lahore, July 2017.
A_noina / Shutterstock

Fazilda Nabeel, University of Sussex

More than 50m people in Pakistan are at risk of arsenic poisoning from contaminated groundwater. That’s according to a study recently published in the journal Science Advances, based on samples from 1,200 wells across the country. Arsenic cannot be removed from groundwater through common processes such as boiling or filtration – instead it requires expensive procedures such as reverse osmosis which are beyond the reach of most poor people.

Contamination is particularly worrying in this case as Pakistan is unusually dependant on a single, vast underground natural reservoir known as the Indus basin aquifer. The aquifer covers an area of 160,000km² – making it slightly larger than England – and spans Pakistan’s border with India.

Arsenic contamination may not even be the most alarming thing about the aquifer, however. At current rates of groundwater mining there is considerable risk the wells will eventually run dry.

Around 95% of Pakistan’s population lives in the Indus basin.
nomi887 / wiki, CC BY-SA

Both Pakistan and India have historically subsidised electricity and diesel for running agricultural wells that tap into the aquifer. Groundwater users only pay for the energy used to mine the resource; the water itself is not metered or priced. The aquifer is literally free for anyone to tap into by drilling a well – whether it is for agricultural, industrial or domestic purposes.

Both countries are taking out far more water than is being replenished by rain or rivers. In fact, India extracts more groundwater than any other country in the world (not just from the Indus), and Pakistan is fourth in the list. The Indus aquifer is already the second most “overstressed” groundwater basin in the world and, at current rates of use, reserves like this may be “severely depleted” over the next few decades.

Where the water goes

More than 300m people live in the largely agricultural and extensively irrigated Indus basin. Of the total water used for irrigation about half comes from the aquifer below ground, rather than rainwater or the river itself and its various tributaries. There are irrigation canals, but their flow is concentrated in the summer monsoon period and isn’t as readily available as groundwater.

Lots of ‘virtual water’ at a cattle market in Karachi.
Asianet-Pakistan / shutterstock

Despite increased concerns over groundwater use, governments on both sides of the border have been encouraging farmers to produce and export water-intensive food crops and livestock products. Given lots of water from a fast-diminishing aquifer is needed to produce everything from a grain of rice to a slab of beef, this trade amounts to “virtual water” exports. “Virtual water” refers to water embedded in trade products. A country that exports rice is in effect also exporting the water that is used to grow rice. This is why water-starved countries such as Saudia Arabia have stopped growing products like wheat. Importing food instead essentially means they “import” water rather than using their own scarce reserves.

Key exports from India and Pakistan including rice, sugar, cotton and textiles all require lots of water to produce. In addition, both governments are incentivising the growth of meat exports through the use of various subsidies, without considering the water footprint. Pakistan’s halal meat export trade has grown more than ten-fold in the past decade, for instance – mainly to water-scarce countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Recently sown paddy fields in Sindh, Pakistan.

Growing development pressures and increasing industrialisation in India and Pakistan also contribute to increased groundwater stress and pollution. Though official estimates say industry uses a mere 2% of the groundwater extracted in India, and even less in Pakistan, the reality is likely to be much more. In the Indus region, the aquifer is crucial for water-intensive sectors such as textiles or leather and, in practice, industrial mining of the region’s groundwater is not metered or priced. Most industrial units also discharge untreated effluents in unlined pits, which eventually seep into the ground and has resulted in severe contamination of the water table.

A finite resource

In India, some states where groundwater levels are critical now require a license to drill new wells. In Pakistan, however, unlicensed drilling continues. The current legal framework for groundwater is spread across a variety of instruments both from colonial and post-colonial times, as well as local customs that often conflict with each other. Property rights are largely defined by an archaic piece of colonial legislation, the Easements Act of 1882, which allows landowners to effectively collect and dispose of underground water as long as it is not a part of a public irrigation network.

The ConversationMost of the elaborate state irrigation bureaucracy serves to manage and distribute surface water – not the aquifer. India has recently established a Central Groundwater Board, but in Pakistan monitoring and management still happens in silos, with no particular institution taking responsibility for the conservation of the resource.

Fazilda Nabeel, Doctoral Researcher, Department for International Development, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Joy With Old Hindi Filmi Songs

By Promod Puri

Living in Canada for the past 45 years, my nostalgic window often opens to the blissful sounds of popular Hindi film songs and music. From this retreat, the flights to the past are the pleasures of the present.

In the voyage, tuning in on Aye mere pyaare vatan, aye mere bichhade chaman, tujh pe dil qurabaan, is an emotional joy in self-recreation. Manna Dey, in his masculine and classical voice, creates a melody of mellow submission towards motherland in the film Kabuliwala. Composed by music director Salil Chaudhary, the song literary takes me back to the melodious world of Indian film songs and music.

For me, it has been a fabulous and everlasting journey that began way back in the early ’50s. During my teen years of life, I often spoiled myself listening to the film songs of that era from All India Radio and Radio Ceylon of Binaca Geetmala fame. The early indulgence ever since has become an absorbing and addictive pastime.

I still get stirred up by the grace and pride in the marching beats of Watan ki rah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho, pukarate hai ye zameen o aasamaa shahid ho, by singers Khan Mastana and Mohammad Rafi from the film Shaheed (1948). Raja Mehdi Ali Khan penned the revolutionary wordings with music composed by Ghulam Ali Haider who was credited with initiating the career of well-known playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, a legend who dominated the Hindi film music scene for decades. “Ghulam Haider is truly my godfather. He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent”, Lata once remarked about her mentor.

In my avocational abode, audibly residing forever are Noor Jehan’s renditions of Aawaz de kahan hai (a duet with Surendra); Mere bachman ke sathi muje bhool na jana, dekho dekho hase na zamana; and Jawan hai mohabbat hasin hai zamana, lutaya hai dil ne khoshi ka tarana (film Anmol Ghardi).

Malika-e-tarannum Noorjahan’s distinct and immaculate voice uplifts the spirit and clarity of the lyrics. Her sweet but eloquent and uninhibited style continues to echo eternally across nations’ borders.

It was Naushad Ali (assisted by Ghulam Mohammed) who scored the music for these alluring compositions. He was one of the most talented and creative melodists credited with popularizing folk music especially from the Hindi speaking belt of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, his signature compositions were often based on classical Hindustani music.

The best example of Naushad’s compositions in both classical and folk music reverberates in the songs of Baiju Bawara. There is rhythm, folk and classical mix in them. Door koi gaye, Tu Ganga ki mouj main, Jhoole mein pawan, Bachpan ki mohabbat, O duniya ke rakhwale, and Mohe bhool gaye sanwariya, are ageless all raga-based symphonic creations by musical maestro Naushad for generations to enjoy.

In Naushad’s music, there has always been the subtle sweetness and zest, like enjoying a glass of merlot.  Gaye ja geet milan ke, Dharti ko aakash pukaare, Ye zindagi ke mele (Mela); Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj, Hum aaj kahin dil kho baithe, Tu kahe agar, Uthaye ja unke sitam, Tod diya dil mera ( Andaaz); Murliwale murli baja, Tu mera chand mein teri chandani (Dillagi); Dhadke mera dil, Chhod babul ka ghar, Kisi ke dil mein rahna tha, Lagan more man ki, Mera jeevan saathi bichhad gaya, Milte hi ankhen dil hua diwana (Babul) are some of his early feats reflecting his impeccable mastery to create a delightfully ecstatic mood.

In the treasure trove of Hindi filmi music Suhani raat dhal chuki, na jaane tum kab aoge stands out as one of most adored compositions by Naushad from film Dulari. Mohammad Rafi in his immaculate voice and with perfect breath control did a superb job which launched him as the most loved and one of the most sought after male singers in the industry.

Naushad was an ingenious and versatile composer creating new tunes, as well as rewriting the folk-based ones which were intrinsically popular among amateur and perpetually novice as well.

His celebrated list is adorned with such evergreen numbers: Maan mera ehsan, Dil mein chupake pyar ka, and one of my favourite holi songs Khelo raang hamare sang (Aan), Jaanewaale se mulaaqaat na hone paayi, Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh bhagwan ka ghar hai, Na milta gham to barbadi ke afsane kahan jaate (Amar); Lagan more man ki sajn nahin jane, and my most adorable lullaby Chandan ka palna resham ki dori (Shabaab).

Naushad was one of the most decorated music directors who composed music for about 100 Hindi films. Many of them were silver, golden and diamond jubilee hits simply because of the popularity of the songs in these movies. Na toofan se khelo, Ghar aya mehman koi jaan na pehchan, Mera salam leja, Mohabbat ki rahon mein, and Saiyan ji utrenge paar from the film Uran Khatola still take the listeners to exuberant heights even after 64 years when the movie was released in 1953.

Naushad was at his pinnacle of popularity with his superb compositions in the Oscar- nominated film Mother India (1957). Nagari nagari dware dware, Duniya mein hum aaye hain, O gaadiwale, dukh bhare din beete re, Pi ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali, and another of my most relished Holi songs Holi aayi re kanhai, are among the most popular numbers out of 12 in the movie.

The movie Mughal-e-azam (1960) was perhaps the climax of his success story. The raga-based compositions in this epic drama won instant popularity. I remember the song Pyar kiya to darna kya burst in the number one spot the moment it entered the Binaca Geetmala’s 16-song grading list. Based on the story of love affairs between Mughal Prince Salim and court dancer Anarkali, the music of Naushad in Mughal-e-Azam competed with that of the 1953 musical hit Anarkali.

Anarkali offers a bonanza of most melodious songs with superb poetic depths. C.Ramchandra composed tuneful and forever popular music of the film.  A maestro in musical compositions, he liberally delivered his art in Anarkali.  It was one of the very few films in which all the songs, without exception, were hit numbers for years and years. Even today listening to Anarkali songs offers delightful engagement both in its lyrical reflections and serene music.

Ye zindagi usiki hai, Aaja ab to aaja, Mujhse mat poochh, Dua kar gham-e-dil, Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag, Mohabbat aisi dhadkan hai, Zindagi pyar ki do char ghadi, O aasman wale shikva hai zindagi ka (I love the lyrics of ‘shikva’ meaning complaining to god), Ae baad e saba zara ahista chal and Mohabbat mein aise kadam dagamagae, are the songs which will always remain as crafted jewels with everlasting brilliance.

C. Ramchandra was an accomplished singer himself under the name of Chitalkar. With Lata Mangeshkar, his popular duets were Kitna haseen hai mausam in film Azad or Shola Jo bhadke in Albela.

Aana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday (Shehnai), Mere piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga), Gore gore o banke chore (Samadhi) along with Ina meena dika (Asha), where he introduced the rock-n-roll rhythms in the Indian film music for the first time, were very popular songs because of their hilarious verbal and trendy musical combination. Even today these songs often pop up in the entertaining game of Antakshri.

Dheere se aa ja re akhiyan mein (Albela) is another of my favorite lullaby.  Mehfil mein jal uthi shama (Nirala), Tere phoolon se bhi pyar (Nastik), Dil ki duniya basa ke sawariyan, Dekh Hamen Aavaaz Na Denaa (Amardeep), Katatay hain dukh mein ye din (Parchhaain) and Aadha hai chandrama (Navrang) are the soundtracks where the nostalgic needle usually get struck.

C. Ramchandra enjoyed the distinction of being the composer of non-filmi but one of the most popular patriotic songs, Aye mere watan ke logo, zara ankh mein bhar lo pani. Literally moving the live audience to tears, Lata, in her touching presentation, sang the patriotic composition penned by poet Pradeep after the India-China war in 1962 in honor of the fallen Indian soldiers.

Trump Wall Can Be A No.1 Tourist Attraction

By Promod Puri

img_3324The Trump Wall between the USA and Mexico is not a dead issue as far as Trump’s most promised election agenda is concerned.

In some lighter but brighter thinking, the Trump Wall has some merits in his ambitious project, a legacy which will be lot more wider and taller than any other presidents in the history of America.

Here is a fictional dialogue between Trump and one of his close businessman friend:

Businessman: Can you shed some light on this controversial wall proposal, as many people on both sides of the border ridiculed your fancy.

Trump: It was a political stunt to please my innocent and committed worshippers. It was not meant to secure the border with Mexico either. The reason for putting forward this game plan was purely business.

Businessman: But how it can be a business venture.

Trump: You see, millions of people visit the Great Wall of China every year. And that is from where I picked up the idea. My wall will be much more grandeur in size and architecture. It will be number one tourist attraction in the world. I have built replica of Taj Mahal. But this one will be the real thing.

Businessman: It involves billions or perhaps trillions of dollars. From where the money will come from.

Trump: Come on, you know I am a great salesman, and with my charismatic personality investors worldwide will line up in front of the White House to avail this great opportunity. Moreover, I will be looking for sponsors and advertisers who can buy space to promote their products and services. The space, you can call it Trump’s Wall Street, is unlimited, running into thousands of miles from Pacific to the Atlantic.

Businessman: You are genius. Can I buy spaces on your Wall Street?



Re-evaluating Our Religions & Other Institutions

In our civilized and progressive world, the call of humanity seeks re-evaluating each of our religions, rituals, customs, traditions, social and political institutions, including Left and Right isms, which impart values and behaviors impacting our environments.

This resolution is part of the evolution and management of civil society we live in. Evolution of civilization is natural as well as essential for rational and intelligent creation of environments which influence our thoughts. Read more: THOUGHTS ON THOUGHT


“Perhaps the most important form of patriotism is that which seeks to give dignity to oppressed groups such as Dalits and women while simultaneously seeking to promote tolerance and mutual respect among citizens otherwise divided by language, caste or religion.
Offering puja to the tiranga jhanda ten times a day may or may not make you a better patriot. A more lasting, more constructive, form of patriotism is to endeavour to make your locality, your town, your district, your province and country a more tolerant, inclusive and democratic place. Columnist Ramchandra Guha in The Telegraph. 

Read full article:Multi Aspects of Balraj Puri’s Patriotism

Multi Aspects Of Balraj Puri’s Patriotism

by Ramchandra Guha

(The Telegraph, August 19,2017)19edittop4

Balraj Puri (1928-2014)

I have been thinking a great deal recently about the difference between patriotism and jingoism. The provocation – or inspiration rather – was a visit to Jammu to speak in memory of Balraj Puri – writer, social reformer and political activist – who embodied Indian democracy at its best.

There are a great many hyper-patriots active in India today who spend their days and nights abusing either Pakistan or China, and, sometimes, both. Balraj Puri expressed his love for his country in an altogether different manner. Over the course of a long life, he fought for independence from the British, for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Kashmir maharaja, for the human rights of Kashmiris and for regional autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh as well.

Balraj Puri’s life as an Indian patriot started early, at the age of fourteen, when he started an Urdu weekly inspired by the Quit India movement. He was an active journalist for many decades thereafter, and also wrote many books in English, among them an important study of Indian Muslims, an analysis of the complicated relations between Jammu province and the Kashmir Valley, and an authoritative analysis of the origins of the insurgency in Kashmir.

Balraj Puri was admired for his writings, and for his probity and personal courage. In the 1980s and 1990s, Jammu was prone to bouts of communal violence, provoked on the one side by Hindu militants of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and on the other by the persecution of the Pandits by Islamists in the Valley. Contemporaries carry vivid memories of Puri, then well into his sixties, moving around his home town on a battered old scooter, seeking to calm tempers and prevent anger being converted into violence.

In a state riven by suspicion and discord, Balraj Puri was trusted in all regions and by all communities. When he died in August 2014, one obituarist wrote that “Jammu has lost the champion of its regional identity, Kashmir has lost a crusader for democracy and human rights, the State as a whole has lost a peace activist, and the nation has lost a liberal and progressive voice.” Another compared Puri to India’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri; both men whose small and slight frame “concealed a human dynamo with boundless energy for all constructive causes…”

A large crowd of mourners accompanied Balraj Puri’s body to the crematorium in Jammu. Among them was an elderly man crying loudly while muttering, ‘This person was not up for sale,’ ‘This person was not up for sale.’ Puri’s family and friends had never before seen this grieving Jammu-ite, whose spontaneous tribute was as moving, and as just, as any offered later in print.

Within Jammu and Kashmir, Balraj Puri remains a greatly respected figure. However, outside his home state, his work remains less known than it should be. That is a pity. For now, more than ever, India needs patriots like Balraj Puri. It needs men and women whose patriotism is expressed not in the continuous vilification of some other country, but in words and actions aimed at making our own country more tolerant, more prosperous, less unhappy, and less conflict-ridden. For perhaps the most important form of patriotism is that which seeks to give dignity to oppressed groups such as Dalits and women while simultaneously seeking to promote tolerance and mutual respect among citizens otherwise divided by language, caste or religion.

Unlike the hyper-ventilating hyper-patriots of the present time, Balraj Puri was not consumed by the desire to make India more powerful than its neighbours. Rather, he wanted to make India itself a better and safer place for its citizens. That was the first lesson of Puri’s life. A second lesson is that there is no one singular patriotism; rather, there are multiple and overlapping forms of patriotism.

There is a famous saying, ‘Charity begins at home.’ Patriotism also begins at home. Balraj Puri loved his town and his district, but he loved his state and his country too. He was a Jammu city patriot, a Jammu province patriot, a Jammu and Kashmir patriot and an Indian patriot – all at the same time. He demonstrated by example that love for your locality and for your province could be perfectly consistent with love for your country.

Notably, Balraj Puri devoted a great deal of energy to promoting peace and self-respect in the neighbouring state of Punjab. Among the half-a-dozen languages he himself spoke fluently was Punjabi. He urged the Hindus of Punjab to honour the mother tongue they shared with the Sikhs, rather than succumb to sangh parivar chauvinists who wanted them to promote Hindi instead. At the same time, he unequivocally opposed Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his band of gun-toting Sikh extremists. He was one of the first from outside the state to visit Punjab after Operation Bluestar, speaking out against violence and in favour of reconciliation.

Some would like to reduce patriotism to the worshipping of symbols. However, offering puja to the tiranga jhanda ten times a day may or may not make you a better patriot. A more lasting, more constructive, form of patriotism is to endeavour to make your locality, your town, your district, your province and country a more tolerant, inclusive and democratic place.

Balraj Puri’s own patriotism was substantive rather than symbolic. He did not exhibit his love for the motherland by shouting ‘ Mera Bharat Mahan‘ every now and then, interspersing this with shouts of ‘Pakistan murdabad’. Rather, in how he behaved, what he wrote, and what he struggled about, he tried to make our country more worthy of the ideals of the Indian Constitution by promoting respect, honour, dignity, equality and justice in everyday life.

Balraj Puri was admirable and exemplary, but not, of course, unique. There are many such patriots active in our land, who promote the values of the Constitution while working in village, town, district, state or country. Some of these patriots are written about occasionally in the press. Others remain unknown. Not that they mind. For publicity, or at least an excess of it, can be antithetical to true patriotism and nation-building. The more you crave publicity, the less time you can actually devote to social reform or constructive work.

Balraj Puri was a patriot, not a jingoist. Making his own country a better place was far more important to him than demonizing other countries. He recognized that patriotism begins at home, with the place one is in, yet also understood that one must have a wider view of how one’s locality related to one’s state and one’s nation. In presenting his views, he never resorted to violence, not even to violence in language. And he worked out of passion and conviction, not for honour or reward.

There is one last aspect of Balraj Puri’s life that I would like to recall. Seventy years after Independence, India remains a deeply divided society, this divisiveness stoked and encouraged by power-obsessed politicians and by a TRP-obsessed media. In this atmosphere, one of the hardest jobs in India is reconciliation. But also perhaps one of the most necessary. For India can stay united and democratic only when respect and recognition replace suspicion and animosity in relations among castes, regions, languages and religions. This reconciliation is what Balraj Puri strove for all his life, admirably following in the footsteps of that other great patriot and reconciler, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

 This article is published courtesy of The Telegraph.

Racism Exist Among And Within Ethnic Communities Also

by Promod Puri
Continue reading “Racism Exist Among And Within Ethnic Communities Also”

How British royal’s monumental errors made India’s partition more painful<

File 20170815 27845 qq4xou
Lord Louis Mountbatten, viceroy of India, met with Indian leaders to discuss partition.
Max Desfors/AP

Adil Najam, Boston University

The midnight between August 14 and 15, 1947, was one of history’s truly momentous moments: It marked the birth of Pakistan, an independent India and the beginning of the end of an era of colonialism.

It was hardly a joyous moment: A botched process of partition saw the slaughter of more than a million people; some 15 million were displaced. Untold numbers were maimed, mutilated, dismembered and disfigured. Countless lives were scarred.

Two hundred years of British rule in India ended, as Winston Churchill had feared, in a “shameful flight”; a “premature hurried scuttle” that triggered a most tragic and terrifying carnage.

The bloodbath of partition also left the two nations that were borne out of it – India and Pakistan – deeply scarred by anguish, angst, alienation and animus.

By 1947, the political, social, societal and religious complexities of the Indian subcontinent may have made partition inevitable, but the murderous mayhem that ensued was not.

As a South Asian whose life was affected directly by partition, and as a scholar, it is evident to me that the one man whose job it was, above all else, to avoid the mayhem, ended up inflaming the conditions that made partition the horror it became.

That man was Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India.

How did Mountbatten contribute to the legacy of hatred that still, 70 years later, informs the bitter relationship between India and Pakistan?

A murderous orgy

People crowd onto a train as mass displacement happens during partition.
AP Photo

Let us begin by recognizing the scale of barbarity that was unleashed by the mishandling of partition.

No one has captured this more poignantly than Urdu’s most prominent short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, who according to his grandniece and eminent historian Ayesha Jalal “marveled at the stern calmness with which the British had rent asunder the subcontinent’s unity at the moment of decolonization.”

In “The Pity of Partition,” Jalal channels the content of Manto’s work in Urdu to write:

“Human beings had instituted rules against murder and mayhem in order to distinguish themselves from beasts of prey. None was observed in the murderous orgy that shook India to the core at the dawn of independence.”

As author Nisid Hajari reports in “Midnight’s Furies,” a chilling narrative of the butchery: “some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps, claimed partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies, infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

Indeed, it does not matter which was worse. What is important to understand is that partition is to the psyche of Indians and Pakistanis what the Holocaust is to Jews.

Author William Dalrymple calls this terrible outbreak of sectarian violence – Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other – “a mutual genocide” that was “as unexpected as it was unprecedented.”

Could the genocide have been avoided?

The violence was not, in fact, entirely unexpected. On August 16, 1946, literally a year before actual partition, a glimpse of what was to come was on display: In what came to be called “the week of the long knives,” three days of rioting in Calcutta left more than 4,000 dead and 100,000 homeless.

The hellish proportion of the slaughter that was to come was, however, unnecessary.

Well before the August of 1947, those following the tumultuous political boil in India – including U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman – fully understood that it was time for Britain – now a flailing power made bankrupt by World War II – to leave India.

As 1947 dawned, the task before the British was to find the least worst way to retreat from India: to manage the chaos, to minimize the violence and, if at all possible, to do so with some modicum of grace.

To perform this job, King George VI sent his cousin Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor (“Dickie”) Mountbatten to India as his last viceroy. This great-grandson of Queen Victoria – the first British monarch to be crowned Empress of India – was, ironically, given the task of closing the imperial shop, not just in India but around the world.

In India, he proved to be monumentally unequal to the assignment.

Mountbatten arrived in India in February 1947 and was given until June 1948 – not 1947 – to complete his mission. Impatient to get back to Britain and advance his own naval career, he decided to bring forward the date by 10 months, to August 1947 (he eventually did become first sea lord, a position he coveted because it had been denied to his father).

Lord Mountbatten being received on his arrival to India. In this picture he is shaking hands with Liaquat Ali Khan, who became the first prime minister of Pakistan. Next to him is Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first prime minister of India.
Saktishree DM, CC BY-ND

How crucial were those 10 months?

I would argue, they could have meant the difference between a simply violent partition and a horrifically genocidal partition.

A hurried drawing of border lines

The context for a bloody partition was set with the decision to sever Bengal in the east and Punjab in the west in half – giving Jinnah what he called a “moth-eaten Pakistan.” That killed any hopes of a federated India, which was Jinnah’s preference, if it allowed for power sharing and autonomy to Muslim majority provinces.

To decide the fate of 400 million Indians and draw lines of division on poorly made maps, Mountbatten brought in Cyril Radcliffe, a barrister who had never set foot in India before then, and would never return afterwards. Despite his protestations, Mountbatten gave him just five weeks to complete the job.

All of India, and particularly those in Bengal and Punjab, waited with bated breath to find out how they would be divided. Which village would go where? Which family would be left on which side of the new borders?

Working feverishly, Radcliffe completed the partition maps days before the actual partition. Mountbatten, however, decided to keep them secret. On Mountbatten’s orders, the partition maps were kept under lock and key in the viceregal palace in Delhi. They were not to be shared with Indian leaders and administrators until two days after partition.

Jaswant Singh, who later served as India’s minister of foreign affairs, defense and finance, writes that at their moment of birth neither India nor Pakistan “knew where their borders ran, where was that dividing line across which Hindus and Muslims must now separate?”

He adds that as feared and predicted, this had “disastrous consequences.” The uncertainty of exactly who would end up where fueled confusion, wild rumors, and terror as corpses kept piling up.

As historian Stanley Wolpert writes in “Shameful Flight,” Mountbatten kept the partition maps a closely guarded secret, as he did not want the festivities of British transfer of power to be marred or distracted.

“What a glorious charade of British Imperial largesse and power ‘peacefully’ transferred,” lamented Wolpert as he contemplated the possible implications of Mountbatten’s hubris.

70 years later

As the preeminent biographer of all the major political actors of British India’s last days, Wolpert acknowledges that many – and, most importantly, Indian political leaders themselves – contributed to the chaos that was 1947.

But there is no room for doubt in Wolpert’s mind that “none of them played as tragic or central a role as did Mountbatten.”

By botching the administration of partition in 1947 and leaving critical elements unfinished – including, most disastrously, the still unfinished resolution to Jammu and Kashmir – Mountbatten’s partition plan left the fate of Kashmir undecided.

Mountbatten, thus, bestowed a legacy of acrimony on India and Pakistan.

It was not just rivers and gold and silver that needed to be divided between the two dominions; it was books in libraries, and even paper pins in offices. As Saadat Hasan Manto’s fictional account conveys, the madness was such that even patients in mental hospitals had to be divided.

Yet, Mountbatten, the man who would fret incessantly about what to wear at official ceremonies, made little effort to devise arrangements for how resources would be divided, or shared.

Learning from history

Nowhere does the unfinished business of partition bleed more profusely than in the continuing conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

Would a little more attention and a few more weeks of effort in 1947 have spared the world a nuclear-tipped time bomb that keeps ticking on both sides?

We can never know the answer to this question.

Nor can, or should, I believe, India and Pakistan blame the British and Mountbatten for all their problems. Seventy years on, they have only themselves to blame for missing opportunity after opportunity to fix the troubled relationship they inherited.

The ConversationHowever, maybe, today, on the 70th anniversary of their birth, both India and Pakistan can take a break from simply bashing each other and recognize that at times history can deal you a bad hand in many different ways – in this case, due to the hasty and monumental errors of a British royalty. But also recognize, it is on you to learn from history and fix it.

Adil Najam, Dean, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In Words Obama & Trump Speak Same

Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota and Robert Ralston, University of Minnesota

Six months have passed since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.

His administration remains deeply understaffed. His legislative agenda is stymied. He has been active in issuing executive orders, but many are toothless, others are only in the early stages of undoing Obama policies and some are tied up in the courts. So far, Trump’s leadership has mostly been defined by his rhetoric.

And his rhetoric, the conventional wisdom holds, could not be more different from his predecessor’s.

Barack Obama was, as president, eloquent. His language was sophisticated. He spoke in measured tones and advanced informed, reasoned dialogue.

Donald Trump is inarticulate and brusque. His language is simplistic. He dishes out invective. He shows so little regard for the facts that some say he’s the exemplar of a “bullshit artist.” And he promotes a dialogue of the deaf.

The differences between Trump’s and Obama’s rhetorical styles seem stark. Yet, when we set aside the presidents’ speaking styles and looked more carefully at the specific words Trump employed in his first months in office, we were surprised to discover that, in certain ways, these two presidents are remarkably like each other and unlike their predecessors. Here’s what we found – and why Obama and Trump have more in common than you would think.

How we did our research

Our analysis is based on Trump’s more substantial speeches – which we somewhat arbitrarily define as those longer than 500 words – which were directed primarily at domestic audiences. We scraped from the website of the American Presidency Project all of Trump’s campaign speeches and presidential addresses through July 1 that met these criteria. We ended up with 74 campaign speeches, representing more than 230,000 words, and 56 presidential addresses, which included more than 122,000 words. We compared these bodies of speech to each other and to a separate database of postwar presidential speech that one of us had collected, using these same criteria, for a recently published book.

We ran these speeches through a specialized computerized content analysis program called Diction. Diction contains 33 separate dictionaries tailored to political speech. It searches texts for the words contained in the designated dictionaries and then calculates the number of words from each dictionary that would be present in a typical 500-word sample.

Obama and Trump vs. everyone else

On two key dimensions, Obama and Trump look similar – and stand in marked contrast to all other presidents.

First, their rhetoric is much more self-referential, meaning it uses more first-person pronouns. Obama’s rhetoric is 69 percent more self-referential than the presidential average, and Trump exceeds Obama by another 20 percent.

Trump employs almost 50 percent more first-person pronouns than the second most heavily self-referential president after Obama, Gerald Ford. Trump’s rhetoric is twice as self-referential as the postwar presidential average.

Second, both Trump and Obama rank very high on measures of “tenacity.” This dictionary includes a series of words such as “must” and “need” that call for action and that “connote confidence and totality.” Obama’s rhetoric is around 45 percent more tenacious than the presidential average. Trump’s rhetoric is a bit more tenacious than even Obama’s. They are the only two presidents who substantially exceed the average.

Obama and Trump’s rhetoric suggests that the prime mover of government is not separation of powers, political parties or the bureaucracy – but the will of the president. Its self-referentialism projects an image of strong leadership and of the president as the central pivot of action. Its tenacity expresses confidence that the president will triumph over the many obstacles in his way.

For all their differences, both Obama and Trump consistently presented themselves as the solution to the nation’s problems. Accepting the nomination at the Republican National Convention, Trump assured Americans, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” He regularly cited his own biography as the reason that Americans should “trust” him. The irony is that the predecessor who, on this dimension, most resembles Trump is the very one whom Trump cast as an utter failure and weak leader and as his chief foil. Obama too regularly invoked his unique personal story as the reason that Americans should place their faith in him. Minus Trump’s boastfulness, Obama too portrayed himself as the key agent of national transformation: “I’m the one who brings change. It is my vision. It is my agenda,” he told The Washington Post in January 2009. He saw other government officials as just “good mechanics.”

Yearning for a strong leader

The computerized content analysis of presidential rhetoric sets out a pattern, it does not explain it. However, we believe it likely that Obama and Trump adopted the same rhetorical tack for the same reason: Audiences across the political spectrum have craved a strong leader who will overcome Washington’s paralysis and address the nation’s challenges.

Especially since 9/11, American politics has grown more partisan and polarized, even as Americans’ values have converged. That partisan divide has produced gridlock in the halls of power, and Congress has become a site of minority party obstruction. As a result, Americans have become frustrated with Congress, and their trust in government has plummeted. They have increasingly looked to the president to seize the initiative, conquer Washington’s dysfunction and persuade Congress to act.

In 2007, “honesty” mattered most to Americans in selecting the nation’s next president, with “leadership/strength” a distant second. In 2012, American voters said that “shares my values” was their top consideration in electing a president. By 2016, having a president who was a “strong leader” had easily taken the top spot, across voters of all parties, and was twice as important to them as it had been four years before.

Obama and Trump’s self-referential and tenacious rhetoric – one might even call it authoritarian – seems designed to satisfy that demand for strong leadership centered in the presidency. It is not accidental that their rhetoric, as the linked charts show, also reflects a continued, long-term decline in “cooperative” and “accomplishment” language, as collaboration across party lines has been rare and as there have been few achievements. Ironically, “satisfaction” rhetoric has experienced a corresponding rise – perhaps because there has been less to celebrate and therefore more reason for presidents to proclaim that all is well.

Of course, some of this may be Donald Trump’s inimitable rhetorical style. The figures above reveal that Trump the candidate was somewhat less self-referential and less tenacious than Trump the president has been. Perhaps he was simply restraining himself during the campaign. Once ensconced in the White House, he could become more himself. Trump the president may be Trump unleashed.

But the data suggest that Trump is also a manifestation – albeit an extreme manifestation – of our political age. Obama’s self-centered, self-confident but soaring speeches gave way to his successor’s self-centered, overconfident and vain tweets. Karl Marx knew what he was talking about: History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Progressive Hindu Dialogue Among Top 20 Hindu Websites

ProgressiveHindu Blog 20 transparent_1000px (1) Hindu Dialogue,which was launched only last year, has been selected one of the top 20 Hindu blogs on the web. Thanks all for your support. Following is the letter of recognition:
Hi Promod,
My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.
I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Progressive Hindu Dialogue has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 20 Hindu Blogs on the web.
I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 20 Hindu Blogs on the internet and I’m
honored to have you as part of this!
Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.

Shabad In Gurbani by Bhagat Kabir

Kudrat ke sab bandey

Source: Shabad In Gurbani by Bhagat Kabir

Despite Difference Of Opinion Friends Are Friends

By Promod Puri

In split second, rather much sooner, memories can take us to revisit some interesting spots in our lives.

For me, one of such repeat visits is to the primary class where I graduated myself from grade 5th to grade 6th and started learning English from alphabets to making small sentences. Towards the end of the one-year term, to the surprise of my teacher, I could write cursive English, meaning script writing by joining the letters.

In the English class, our writing assignments included composing “essays” of about 50 to 150 words. And as I remember the assigned topics were writings on the dog as man’s best friend, benefits from cow, and the stories titled “thirsty crow”, “grapes are sour”, “slow and steady wins the race” between tortoise and rabbit, etc. We were also asked to compose applications addressed to the headmaster requesting a leave of absence describing reasons including being sick.
One composition I still recall was to write a portrayal of the best friend.
Writing about a best friend was not that intricate as most of the help came from elder family members, or just through my innocent and naive imaginations. But in this exercise, the concept of thinking about friends or cultivating friendship was mindfully and firmly established.
Over the years I have developed that relationship of having friends, close friends, family friends, and best friends.

They say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. True, but our distress needs are seldom. For most of the time friends take care of our social compulsions to have some informal, happy, and entertaining times together.

In these relaxed occasions, we enjoy each others company of vacationing together, dining together or just having coffee together. We discuss, argue, or debate issues, events, experiences, etc. on a range of subjects depending upon our mutual interests.

Meet My Friend.

From this social aspect of friendship, I would like to bring up here a close long-time family friend. His name is Ramkishen (the real name is concealed for identity reason).

In introducing Ramkishen, I would say he is quite a smart, well-mannered, and well-dressed person. Hard working and actively involved in community affairs, he is always helpful and truly belongs to the friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed class of people.

Ramkishen is selective secular and bends naturally towards the political Right. He belongs to the 2016 batch of Trump Republicans, but lately a bit cynical as well, and a Modi “bhagat” (avid supporter). He is a ritualistically religious person and a devout Hindu. He has a red thread tied on his right wrist, which lately has become a symbol of being Hindu.
Ramkishen is an enjoyable conversationalist with knowledge mostly borrowed from fake news sources. Overall, I would say he is an affable personality.
For some reason(s) Ramkishen is anti-Muslim.
The other day, while as usual jumping from one topic to another, we were having interesting talks. Our friendly discussions ended up in God’s colossal authority, His management or mismanagement concerning the affairs of the universe, especially His handling of the deteriorating world problems. We agreed that we have some genuine “shikwa”, the Urdu word for complaint, against Him including His varied creations. And this is where Ramkishen pointed out that “the biggest mistake God ever made was creating Muslims”.
For a moment, looking at his face, I was completely dumbstruck. On several previous meets, Ramkishen made many derogatory and racist remarks also. But this one seemed to be the climax of his anti-Muslim tirade. Shocked that the guy could go down to that ultra racist level to advocate his hatred towards the entire race of Muslims, that I felt lynching his tainted mindset.
He is a friend. And hoping one day he, along with many more Ramkishens among the bourgeois Hindus, get exposed to true knowledge, discernment, and humaneness, so they would review their bigoted views.
In the meantime, back to the 6th-grade memories, I like to play again in my cursive writings with those little essays on a cow, dog, the thirsty crow, and the best friend.
Promod Puri is a journalist and writer. He is author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions”, a book which explores the rational, secular and progressive nature of Hinduism.
Continue reading “Despite Difference Of Opinion Friends Are Friends”

Rakshabandan’ – the festival that celebrates the brother-sister bond

A sister tying the protective thread.
Vikram Verma, CC BY-ND

Mathew Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross

This year, Monday, August 7 marks one of the most important celebrations for Hindus throughout the world: Rakshabandhan, a ceremony honoring the bond between sisters and brothers. The date of Rakshabandan varies from year to year since Hindus follow a lunar calendar for religious celebrations.

During Rakshabandhan sisters tie a protective thread around the right wrist of their brothers. Brothers give gifts and promise protection to their sisters. The word “rakshabandhan” means “tie of protection.”

The festival affirms the crucial importance of family in the Hindu tradition. But many of my Hindu friends also are quick to add that the festival is also about Hinduism’s openness. For example, one of the most popular legends surrounding Rakshabandhan concerns the connection between a Hindu queen and a Muslim king.

Sisters not only tie their brothers as defined by blood relationship, but also those with whom they have a very close family-like relationship. In fact, as an American Catholic and a scholar of comparative religions, I myself have been “tied the thread” during Rakshabandhan.

Stories of the Rakhi

The “rakhi,” a thread or amulet, is an ancient means of protection in Hindu culture. One of the sacred Hindu books, the Bhavishya Purana, tells the story of Indra, who was fighting a losing battle against demons. When his wife, Indrani, tied a special thread to his wrist, he returned to battle and triumphed.

Today in North India, the most widely repeated legend related to Rakshbandhan concerns Rani Karnavati, a 16th-century queen of the city of Chittorgarh in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, and the Muslim Mughal Emperor Humayun.

The legend goes that Chittorgarh was threatened by a neighboring sultan and Rani Karnavati knew that her troops could not prevail. And so, she sent a rakhi to the even more powerful Mughal emperor. Humayun and Karnavati became brother and sister and he sent troops to defend her.

The historical veracity of this story remains a matter of debate among scholars. But it is still part of popular culture in India, despite the fact that Humayun’s troops did not arrive in time to prevent Karnavati and the rest of Chittorgarh’s female inhabitants from ritually burning themselves alive to avoid capture.

The festival is not limited to blood relationships.

Nonetheless, the festival of Rakshabandhan has been presented as an expression of solidarity between Hindus and Muslims who have a long and tortured history on the subcontinent. For example, India’s Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore advocated that Hindus and Muslims tie a thread on each other during the festival. He also used the image of the rakhi in his poems, such as one where he describes the “shadows and lights” of the Earth as lying like “a rakhi-band on future’s hand.”

The ritual of Rakshabandhan

One of the crucial aspects of the celebration of Rakshabandhan is that it is not limited to the immediate family or to those who have a similar religious identity. Even an American Catholic like me can be honored in the festival.

When I first went to India 30 years ago, I lived with a Hindu family in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. Very quickly, I became accepted as a real member of the family with attendant responsibilities. I was a brother to the three sons, Ajay, Sanjay, and Amit; and also to the two sisters, Hema and Suchita.

Our family relationship has endured over 30 years. And when I am in India during Rakshabandhan, I am “tied” a rakhi by Hema and Suchita as I was all those years ago.

The ceremony would begin with both Suchita and Hema tying a rakhi to my right wrist. Both threads were quite colorful and inset with rhinestones. As they tied the rakhi, they repeated words and phrases in Sanskrit meant to protect me from harm and to reaffirm the brother/sister relationship.

First a red dot, called a “tilak,” was made on my forehead with a powder called “kumkum” and uncooked grains of rice. While the tilak has a number of meanings, Hema and Suchita told me it would “open” the hidden third eye of wisdom in my forehead.

Then I was honored by the clockwise rotation of an oil lamp. This rite of welcoming and honor is called “arati.”

 between brother and sister. I then presented my sisters gifts.

This basic pattern is also found in many forms of Hindu temple worship, called puja, which are, in part, hospitality rites that honor the presence of the deity.

Academic perspectives

Scholars often consider Rakshabandhan in studies of what it means to establish a relationship with someone. For example, they note that brothers are the “givers” in Rakshabandhan. This reverses the dynamic in traditional Indian society, where the woman herself is symbolically “gifted” to her husband during the wedding ceremony. From this anthropological perspective, relationships are established and maintained through establishing clear roles of “giver” and “receiver” as well as “protector” and “protected.”

The ConversationBut what Rakshabandhan also shows is that not all forms of “kinship” are based upon blood descent. And it is here that understandings of Rakshabandhan mirror the famous Hindu phrase: “The cosmos is a family.”

Mathew Schmalz, Associate Professor of Religion, College of the Holy Cross

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Afroz Alam, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian parliament for the first time in June 2014, his inaugural speech focused on integrating and protecting India’s Muslims.

“Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle-repairing job,” he said, referring to one of the many menial jobs to which Indian Muslims are often relegated. “Why does such misfortune continue?”

But instead of “bring[ing] about change in their lives,” as Modi promised, his government has made life harder for India’s Muslims by cracking down on the leather and beef industries.

Impact on Muslim and Dalit livelihoods

Muslims and Dalits (the marginalised group once known as “untouchables” in the Hindu caste system) are among the poorest in India, and they have very little access to property. By tradition and due to a lack of other opportunities, many work in the leather sector, which employs 2.5 million people nationwide.

Over the past three years, this trade has increasingly made Muslims and Dalits the targets of so-called cow vigilantism – attacks perpetrated by Hindus on cow traders in the name of religion. And legislation adopted in May, which amends the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty on Animals Act, is set to victimise these populations economically.

Among other changes, the new rules mandate that cows, camels and buffalo may be sold to farmers only for agricultural purposes, not for slaughter.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, one out of every 1000 work in cow-related industries, including slaughterhouses and the leather industry. The town of Kanpur recently saw several slaughterhouses close down, putting out of work over “400,000 employees linked to leather industries”, according to a Reuters report.

The supply of local hides has declined precipitously, leading to a decrease in Indian sales of leather and leather products. From April 2016 to March 2017, total leather exports dropped 3.23% from the previous year, to US$5.67 billion from US$5.9 billion.

India also does enormous trade in meat. In 2015, the main market for its buffalo meat was Vietnam, which buys up US$1.97 million worth of it, followed by Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Last financial year, annual production was estimated at 6.3 million tonnes and exports totalled US$3.32 billion, according to a report in the Economic Times. That’s down from US$4.15 billion the year before. In Uttar Pradesh alone, attacks on cow related-businesses have already triggered losses of US$601 million on the state’s export business.

Coercive measures

States have also introduced several coercive measures aimed at people in the cow businesses. Uttar Pradesh, whose chief minister is a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist, leads the measures.

Illegal slaughterhouses have been at the core of the debate in recent months following a government crackdown in March 2017, as non-compliant facilities struggle to adapt to complex regulations, including locating shops at specific distances from religious places, getting appropriate documents from several administrations or particular freezers.

On June 6 2017, the state issued a new directive to punish cow slaughter and illegal transport of dairy animals under the National Security Act and Gangsters Act, effectively criminalising traders.

This has encouraged harassment of Muslims and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. Even in the Muslim-majority village of Madora, residents are encouraged to denounce those who engage in slaughtering cows by the promise of a INR50,000 (US$1000) reward.

On the west coast state of Gujarat, cow slaughter is now a non-bailable offence, punishable with life imprisonment, meaning that people who kill a cow will serve the same time as a murderer.

Central Jharkhand and other states ruled by Modi’s BJP party have begun applying similar laws. The national government is also currently considering a petition to give cows an Indian identity card similar to those issued to its citizens.

The legal status of cow slaughter in India in 2012. Today, all yellow regions have turned red.

In the name of the cow

These new rules have reinforced the impunity of criminal groups that burn down Muslim and Dalit businesses, terrorise cow traders and brutally beat or kill people. Rebranding themselves as animal activists, cow vigilantes exploit the sanctity of this animal in Hinduism to commit violence, with the tacit endorsement of state and national governments.

The violence has impacted both legal and illegal traders (bulls and buffalo are not included in new regulations), generating panic among flayers, contractors, truck drivers, traders, daily wage earners, who are now abandoning their posts out of fear. The majority are Dalit or Muslim.

Hindu slaughterhouse owners, on the other hand, have been largely spared by the wrath of cow vigilantes and onerous regulations. Of the country’s 11 largest meat-exporting companies, eight are Hindu-run.

Flourishing and paradoxical beef trade

None of this will help already-tense Hindu-Muslim relations in India, nor does it seem to bode well for Modi’s “Make in India” initiative to boost the country’s economic production.

According to the campaign website, the government hopes to increase leather exports to US$9 billion by 2020, from its present level of US$5.85 billion, and bring the domestic market to US$18 billion, doubling its current value.

‘Make in India’ may make some citizens very rich, but others, not so much.

To do so, the government says it will focus on maintaining India’s comparative advantages in production and labour costs and ensure the availability of skilled manpower for new or existing production units. But that may be hard when Muslim and Dalit workers are being systematically singled out and harassed.

The ConversationCan Modi’s government really afford a crackdown on cow economics?

Afroz Alam, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Maulana Azad National Urdu University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

2+2 = 4, Not 5

One school in Hindu philosophy is called Sankhya, which literary means numbers. So it seeks rationality, like 2+2=4, rejecting 2+2=5. In other words a concept has to go thru rational examination before being accepted or rejected. It is unfortunate that those who now claim to be Hindus and forcing its unrealistic rituals and customs, do not seek truth and rationality in their thinking. And that is damaging to Hinduism.
Progressive Hindu Dialogue
Progressive Hindu Dialogue is an initiative to explore, recognize and advance the rational, liberal and…