We the Nation(s) of India

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by chase, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. chase

    chase Tihar Jail Banned

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    [This article should be made a compulsory reading for all the so called public intellectuals and politicians]

    [​IMG]

    THERE IS a buzz about India becoming a superpower. But, are superpowers confused about national identity or inviting others to solve their civilisation’s “backwardness”? Does a superpower allow foreign nexuses to co-opt its citizens as agents? India graciously hosts foreign nexuses that treat it as a collection of disparate parts. Is super - powerdom delusionary?

    The Mumbai massacre painfully exposes flaws in our national character, the central one being the absence of a definitive, purpose-filled identity. Who is that “we” whose interests are represented, internally and internationally? How should Indianness be defined? Where is the Indianness that transcends narrow identities and vested interests, one that is worth sacrificing for? Is it in the popular culture of Bollywood and cricket? Or is it deeper? The national identity project is at once urgent and compelling.

    The need for national identity
    In their pursuit of personal goals, Indians are intensely competitive. But we lack consensus on a shared national essence and hence there is no deep psychological bond between citizen and nation. National identity is to a nation’s well-being what the immune system is to the body’s health. The over-stressed body succumbs to external and internal threats, and eventually death, as its immunity weakens. Similarly, a nation stressed by a vacuum of identity, or multiple conflicting identities, or outright confusion, can break up. Just as the body’s immune system needs constant rejuvenation, so too a nation needs a positive collective psyche for its political cohesion.

    Major nations deliberately pursue nation building through such devices as shared myths, history, heroes, religion, ideology, language and symbolism. Despite internal dissent, Americans have deep pride of heritage, and have constructed awe-inspiring monuments to their founding fathers and heroic wars. Where are Delhi’s monuments honouring the wars of 1857 or 1971, Shivaji, the Vijayanagar Empire, Ashoka, or the peaceful spread of Indian civilisation across Asia for a millennium? Where are the museums that showcase India’s special place in the world?

    Forces that fragment
    Voices of fragmentation drive India’s internal politics — from Raj Thackeray to M Karunanidhi to Mamata Banerjee to the Quota Raj to the agents of foreign proselytising.

    While social injustice, in India and elsewhere, demands effective cures, proper treatments do not follow faulty diagnoses. Since colonial times, influential scholars have propagated that there is no such thing as Indian civilisation. India was “civilised” by successive waves of invaders. The quest for Indianness is futile since India was never a nation. The noted historian Romila Thapar concludes that India’s pluralism has no essence. Like a doughnut, the center is void; only the peripheries have identity.

    Such thinking infects Indian elite. Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, citing western historians, asserts that the Munda tribes are the only true natives and that 95 percent of Indians are immigrants; that all so-called Aryan and Dravidian classical languages are foreign, ruling out anything as pan-Indian in our antiquity; and that worthwhile Indian civilisation begins with Akbar, “the greatest ruler the world has ever seen.”

    This accelerating crescendo, portraying India as an inherently artificial, oppressive nation, is directed by western academics advocating western intervention to bring human rights. It is supported by private foundations, churches and the US government and promotes fragmentation by bolstering regional identities, “backward” castes, and religious minorities. Sadly, our own people, such as many activists and the westernised upper class, have internalised India's “oppression of minorities.” The human catastrophe that would envelope diverse groups — especially the weakest — in the aftermath of India’s break up is blithely ignored.

    Beyond tolerance and assimilation
    Critics worry that national identity promotes fascism. But while many civilisations have used identity for conquest, my vision of Indianness is driven by mutual respect. We respect the other who is different provided the other reciprocates with respect towards us, in rhetoric and in action. The religious “tolerance” of Judaism, Islam and Christianity is a patronising accommodation; it puts up with others’ differences without respecting their right to be different. In contradistinction, Indian civilisation embraces differences reciprocally.

    Movements that eradicate differences span the ideological spectrum. Some religions claim mandates from God to convert the religiously different. Although the European Enlightenment project dispensed with God, it enabled erasing ethnic diversity through genocide of Native Americans and slavery of African-Americans. Asians were luckier, because they could become “less different” via colonisation.

    Today, many Indians erase their distinctiveness by glamorising white identity as the gold standard. Skin lighteners are literal whiteners. Media and pop culture incorporate white aesthetics, body language and attire for social status, careers and marriage. The venerable “namaste” is becoming a marker of the older generations and the servants. Pop Hindu gurus peddle the “everything is the same” mumbojumbo, ignoring even the distinctions between the dharmic and the un-dharmic. Intellectuals adopt white categories of discourse as “universal”.

    Difference eradicating ideologies are hegemonic. Either you (i) assimilate, (ii) oppose and suffer, or (iii) get contained and marginalised.

    But Indian philosophy is built on celebrating diversity — in trees, flowers, matter, human bodies, minds, languages and cultures, spiritualities and traditions — and does not see it as a problem to be dealt with.

    All social groups manifest an affinity for in-group relations but in the ideal Indian ethos, in-group affinity is without external aggression. Before colonial social engineering, traditional Indian castes were fluid, informal containers of identities, interwoven with one another, and not frozen hierarchically. This applied to Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Each caste had its distinct norms and was respected by others. My India is a web of thousands of castes encapsulating diverse genes and memes. This ideal is the exact opposite of fascist ethnocentrism.

    Diversity yes, fragmentation no
    The socially mobile castes that had preserved India's diversity were frozen into castes to serve the British divide-andrule. Independent India adopted caste identities to allocate quotas instead of safeguarding individual rights. When the Congress party failed to integrate a vast mishmash of subidentities, regional vote-banking entrepreneurs captured India’s political fragments. Now, national interests are casually disregarded for fear of offending these fragments.

    Globalisation has opened the floodgates for minority leaders to tie-up with western churches and NGOs, Saudis, Chinese and just about anyone wanting to carve out a slice of the Indian elephant. Such minorities include the Nagas, now serving as a foreign subsidiary of the Texas Southern Baptist Church; Tamils who first got Dravidianised and are now being Christianised through identity engineering; Maoists in over 30 percent of India's districts; and Saudifunded Pan-Islamists expanding across India. These fragmented identities weaken Indianness due to their loyalty to foreign alliances. The leaders depend on foreign headquarters for ideological and financial support.

    Such groups are no longer minorities, but are agents of dominant world majorities. They are franchisees of the global nexuses they serve. They are adversaries of the Indian identity formation. Do they truly help India’s under classes? These global nexuses have a disappointing track record of solving problems in countries where they have operated for generations, including Latin America, Philippines and Africa where most natives have become converted. The imported religion has failed to bring human rights and has often exacerbated problems. Yet, Indian middlemen have mastered the art of begging foreign patronage in exchange for selling the souls of fellow Indians.

    Towards an Indian identity
    Hindutva is a modern political response lacking the elasticity to be the pan-Indian identity. Other popular ideas are equally shallow, such as the Indianness defined by Bollywood and cricket. Ideals like “secular democracy” and “development” do not a distinct national identity make. It is fashionable to blend pop culture with European ideologies and pass it off as Indianness. Such blends cannot bind a complex India together against fissiparous casteism and regionalism coming in the orbits of Islamist jihad and evangelical Christianity.

    Indianness must override fragmented identities, no matter how large the vote bank or how powerful the foreign sponsor. Gandhi articulated a grand narrative for India. Tagore and Aurobindo saw continuity in Indian civilisation. Nehru had a national vision, which Indira Gandhi modified and defended fiercely. The Ashokan, Chola, and Maratha empires had welldefined narratives, each with an idea of India.

    Debating Indianness fearlessly and fairly
    A robust Indianness must become the context in which serious issues get debated. Everyone should be able to participate — be it Advani or Sonia, the Imam of Jama Masjid or Hindu gurus, Thackeray or the underworld — in a free and fair debate on Indianness, and no one should be exempt from criticism.

    But the Indian intellectual mafia, which built careers by importing and franchising foreign doctrines, suppresses debate outside its framework, and brands honest attempts at opposing them as fascism. I offer a few examples.

    A few years before 9/11, the Princeton-based Infinity Foundation proposed to a prestigious Delhi-based centre to research the Taliban and their impact on India. The centre’s intellectuals pronounced the hypothesis an unrealistic conspiracy theory and unworthy of study. Even after 9/11, the American Academy of Religion refused to study the Taliban as a religious phenomenon while persisting with Hindu caste, cows, dowry, mothers-in-law, social oppression, violence and sundry intellectual staples.

    Some analysts hyphenate Islamist terror with Kashmir, imputing that terrorism is a legitimate dispute resolution technique. “The plight of Muslims” is a rationalisation; and Martha Nussbaum, a University of Chicago professor, blames “Hindu fascism” as the leading cause of terrorism and justifies the Mumbai massacre by hyphenating it with Hindu “pogroms,” Hindu “ethnic cleansing against Muslims,” and the Hindu project to “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions.” Her insensitivity to the victims, just two days after 26/11, was given a free pass by the LA Times. Double standards are evident when cartoons lampooning Islam are condemned, whereas serious attacks against Hindu deities, symbols and texts are defended in the name of intellectual freedom.

    Be positive and “live happily ever after”
    The Bollywood grand finale, where the couple lives happily ever after, is de rigueur. Friends insist that my analysis must end with something positive by way of solving the problems I uncover. Hard evidence of dangerous cleavages in India, spinning out of control, is too “negative.” The need to work backwards from a happy ending and only admit evidence that fits such endings is an Indian psychological disorder. But we don’t expect doctors to reject negative diagnoses, analysts to ignore market crashes, or teachers to praise our unruly children. What if there is no “good” alternative?

    It is disturbing that strategic options against Pakistan must subserve the sensitivities of Indian Muslims. This gratuitously assumes that Indian Muslims are less Indian than Muslim. Some fear that strong Indian action will precipitate increased jihad, or even nuclear war. Such fears recapitulate the early campaigns to appease Hitler. Once a violent cancer spreads outside the tumour’s skin, it demands a direct attack. Vitamins, singing, and lamp-lighting are pointless. In sports or warfare, medicine or marketing, you cannot win by only using defence. The offensive option that cannot be exercised is merely a showpiece. If national interests are dominated by minority sentiments, our enemies will exploit our weakness. A paralysed India emboldens predators.

    Games nations play
    After Indians return to psychological normalcy, apathy will be confused as resilience. When each episode is seen in isolation there is short-term thinking, a tolerance of terrorism, and an acceptance that mere survival is adequate. Strategic planning requires connecting the trends clearly.

    Indians must understand the reality of multiple geopolitical board games. Moves on one gameboard trigger consequences on others, making the tradeoffs complex. The South Asia gameboard involves USA-India-Pakistan as well as China-Pakistan stakes. Besides external games with its neighbours, India plays internal games to appease fragments, which are influenced by foreign stakeholders. Religion is used as soft power in the game of Islam versus the West, and India’s fragmentation hastens the harvesting of souls in the world's largest open market. The multinational business gameboard spotlights India as a market, a supplier, a competitor, and an investment destination.

    In another gameboard, scholars of South Asia construct a discourse with Indian intellectuals as their sepoys and affiliated NGOs as paid agents. Following the academic and human rights experts who profited from the Iraq invasion, the players in this game hope that US president designate Barack Obama will budget billions to “engage South Asia.”

    The identity challenges are offset by forces that hold India together. Private enterprises that span the entire country bring cohesion that depends on high economic growth and its trickle down to the lowest strata to outpace population growth and social unrest. Economic prosperity is also required for military spending. More than any other institution, the armed forces unify the nation because they realise that soldiers must identify themselves with the nation they are prepared to die for.

    Recent US policy supports India’s sovereignty, but this should be seen in the context of using India as a counterweight against Pan-Islam and China. In the long run, the US would like India not to become another unified superpower like China or to disintegrate into a Pakistan-like menace. It will “manage” India between these two extremes. An elephant cannot put itself up for adoption as someone’s pet. It must learn to fend for itself.

    Lessons for India Although the US is a land of immigrants, pride of place goes to the majority religion. Political candidates for high office are seriously disadvantaged if they are not seen as good Christians. The church-state separation is not a mandate to denounce Christianity or privilege minority religions. America was built on white identity that involved the ethnic cleansing of others. To its credit, India has avoided this.Obama sought a better, unified nation and transcended the minorityism of previous Black leaders. Unlike the Dravidianists, Mayawati, and those Muslim and Christian leaders who undermine India's identity, Obama is unabashedly patriotic and a devout follower of its majority religion. America celebrates its tapestry of hyphenated identities (Indian-American, Irish-American, etc.) but “American” supersedes every sub-identity. Being un-American is a death knell for American leaders.

    In sharp contrast, Mayawati, Indian Muslim leaders, Indian Christian leaders, Dravidianists and other “minority” vote bankers have consolidated power at the expense of India's unified identity. Unlike the promoters of fragmented Indian identities, Obama is closer to Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar, champions of the downtrodden within a unified Indian civilisation.

    India can learn from American mechanisms. Indian billionaires must become major stakeholders in constructing positive discourse on the nation. They must make strategic commitments like those made by the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Fords in building American identity, its sense of history, and in projecting American ideals. American meritocracy in politics, implemented through internal primaries, is vastly superior to the cronyism in Indian politics.

    The area studies programmes in American universities have close links to the government, think tanks and churches, and they examine nations and civilisations from the American perspective. India should establish a network of area studies to study neighboring countries and other regions from India’s viewpoint. India should study China’s establishment of 100 Confucian Studies Chairs worldwide and the civilisational grand narrative of other nations.

    Ideological “camps” with pre-packaged solutions are obsolete. The Indian genius must improvise, innovate, and create a national identity worthy of its name.

    Rajiv Malhotra is the President, Infinity Foundation, who also writes on issues concerning the place of Indian civilisation in the world


    Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine
     
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  3. chase

    chase Tihar Jail Banned

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    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    We really need young people to carry on Rajivji's work.
     
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  5. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Bharatkalyan97: Romila Thapar and the Study of Ancient India -- Dilip K Chakrabarti

    May 31, 2012
    Romila Thapar and the Study of Ancient India

    Dilip K Chakrabarti

    Distinguished Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation, and Emeritus Professor of South Asian Archaeology, Cambridge University

    ‘Nationalism’ or a ‘nationalist approach to history’ has long been used by and large in a pejorative sense by modern India’s historians, especially those who became powerful in the wake of the establishment of Indian Council of Historical Research in the early 1970s. To draw attention to the fact that this attitude to the nationalist Indian historians still persists, one can do no better than cite Romila Thapar’s Lawrence Dana Pinkham memorial lecture in Chennai in May 2012. Thapar, who was a prominent member of the coterie of historians associated with the Indian Council of Historical Research, has long been a Prima Donna of ancient Indian studies both in India and the West, and her admirers go into tantrums at any kind of criticism of her, as they apparently did when her selection as a recipient of the Kleuge prize was questioned by some Americans of Indian origin. She has not done much empirical research but considerably embellished her writings with smooth references to different vignettes of social science literature and suggestions on how they should be incorporated in the study of ancient India. This is the kind of history which is liked by a vast section of India’s English-educated ‘progressive’ middle class and their intellectual parents in the different ‘Indian studies’ establishments of the Western academia who marvel at the sight of this Third World woman who speaks their lingo, knows the etiquette and style of their ‘senior common rooms’ and expresses their ideas with supreme ease and confidence.

    The second paragraph of this lecture on ‘reporting history : early India’ begins with an imagined dichotomy between ‘British colonial historians’ and ‘nationalist historians’. I do not find the idea of such a dichotomy acceptable in the light of the empirical evidence. For instance, there is no attitudinal difference to Indian history and culture between the ‘British colonialist historian’ E.J.Rapson, the Cambridge Sanskritist who was the editor of the Cambridge History of India , Vol. I, Ancient India,(1922) and the Deccan College archaeological guru H.D.Sankalia (1973). Rapson wrote in 1922 that “the migrations and the conquests which provided human energy” with which the Indian civilizations were created had “invariably come into India from the outside”. In 1973 Sankalia wrote that every new innovation in Indian history had come from the West. Examples of this kind may be multiplied ad finitum and underline the unpleasant fact that the basic structural premises of ancient Indian history as formulated in the colonial context continued without change till the modern period.

    Regarding the notion of race, which Thapar mentions in pp.2-3 of this lecture, it may be mentioned that, however unacceptable this may be in the modern context, the idea of a historical correlation between race, language and history was accepted unquestioned by India’s ancient historians including Thapar who, in some of her early publications identifies the Aryans as a distinct group of people speaking a distinct language and bringing horses to India. In an earlier context, R.C.Majumdar not merely accepted the idea in its entirety but also extended it to southeast Asia where the role which was suggested for the Aryans in India went to the Indian immigrants in that region. It is an unfortunate fact and a poor reflection on the way how history is taught in India that the race concept is still a potent force in the perception of the Indian middle class. Otherwise, is there any explanation of the frequently published cases of harassment of the student population from the northeast in Delhi?

    The people who have been dubbed ‘nationalist historians’ by later scholars like Thapar explored only at the peripheries of the historical premises of the colonial period. If some of them argued for the prevalence of a democratic system in the early republics or questioned the importance of Alexander’s invasion or the presence of Indo-Greeks in India, they should be given unqualified credit for what they tried to do. In retrospect, they were not powerful enough or even astute enough to question the overarching frame of historical explanations they inherited from their rulers, and to be fair to them, that frame has been left in place by the historians who came to power in independent India with full government patronage in the early 1970s.

    If that overarching frame came in for criticism from any quarter, that came from a few great students of Indian affairs:for example, Gandhi who does not seem to use the term ‘Aryan’ anywhere in his writings; Vivekananda who was no historian but nonetheless realized that the whole Aryan idea was foisted on the Indians by Western scholars ; Ambedkar whose legal mind perceived that there was no logic behind this idea; Rabindranath who regretted that the history of India, as taught to us, brought about a separation between the land and its people.

    None of the ideas of these true nationalists ever got into the history books written by scholars like Majumdar or Thapar. The so-called nationalist historians or the self-styled enlightened ones had no difficulty in accepting the basic over-arching frame of ancient India as laid down by the old colonial historians. In fact, there should not be any logical distinction between the colonial and nationalist historians. What difference is there between what Rapson thought and what Sankalia thought, although their writings were about fifty years apart?

    Those familiar with the archaeological issues throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s will know that virtually all aspects of Indian archaeological issues were dominated, except some rare exceptions, by what old colonial scholars like D.H.Gordon and Mortimer Wheeler thought. Archaeological research no doubt expanded during this period but the mindset of the Indian scholarship during this period was basically a continuation of the old colonial mindset. Did Thapar herself question any entrenched colonial idea of Indian history in her Penguin version of the history of ancient India ? Her distinction between the colonial and nationalist historians is unacceptable. Whether it is Rapson or Sankalia, or Vincent Smith and Romila Thapar, they are ‘colonialists’ all, if we simply look at the continuity of ideas between the different periods.

    In fact, the only approach which could bring about a complete change in our perception of Indian history was what has to be called an essentially archaeological approach to relate this history to the land. Except some limited attempts on the basis of limited resources, this approach has not witnessed even a proper beginning in modern India, and the fact that archaeological studies on the basis of which the Indian land mass may assume a distinct historical reality have not even significantly caught on in modern India is an ample indication of how generally pointless is the general range of historical quibbles emanating from historians like Thapar.

    The question of periodisation of ancient Indian history, which Thapar writes about, is hardly a matter of great significance, with all the terms currently in use having some logic and relevance. I think that Thapar’s idea that “ancient India was projected as a virtual utopia” is untrue and has to be ignored unless accompanied by incisive historiographical research. Thapar throws in many unwarranted sentences : “if the Census of 1882 had included a column for those who observed a cross-over kind of religion, a mix of Hinduism, Islam and other formal religions, this column would undoubtedly have had the largest number”. We would like to see the premise worked out in detail. Personally I find her reluctance to consider religion as a historical factor in India rather surprising, especially in view of the fact that the cataclysmic event of Partition took place in the name of religion. Thapar writes that the religion of the Harappans is unknown. This is certainly not the case, although I would not put a modern name to it. I would not call it a version of modern Hinduism but a lot of the elements which later became important parts of Hinduism were there. What is the basic problem in accepting this simple proposition which has been staring archaeologically at us for a long time ? What is the virtue in championing the claim that the induction of what has been called the Indo-Aryan language family is post- Indus civilization on the basis of a completely unstable Rigvedic chronology ? Is there any way by which the Rigveda can be dated to anybody’s satisfaction ? What is the reason of showing undue deference to what the comparative philologists write about the language history of India ? There is no reason why archaeology should give a toss about these writings because linguistic reconstructions and their assumed chronology stand entirely on their own, without any independent support for their historicity.

    To come back to the issue of periodisation of Indian history, there cannot be any single answer, nor is such an answer particularly necessary. One need not feel terrified at the prospect of lumping the whole period up to c.1200 AD as ‘ancient’ ; after all, it is the history of only 2000 years, assuming that historical writing began about 800 BC. If one feels happy by coining a separate phrase called ‘early mediaeval’ for the post-Gupta period till the coming of the Muslims, one is entitled to do so. Let us , however, not claim that this is based on detailed studies of socio-economic changes during this period. The concepts of ‘feudalism’, urban decay and an evanescent trade and commerce during this period , although much trumpeted by a particular section of ancient historians, may turn out to be fairly shaky on detailed research. In Europe itself there is no single idea of feudalism, and the less said about the idea of missing cities and trade and commerce in India during this period the better. In any case, the term ‘early mediaeval’ for the post-Gupta period is unlikely to harm anybody as long as one remembers that it is nothing but a term to describe the post-Gupta context. There need not be any objection to the use of the terms Hindu, Muslim and British either, because, for one thing the historical sources get written primarily in the non-Indian languages of Arabic and Farsi in the Muslim period and in English during the rule of the British.

    Thapar’s attempt to paint herself and others of her ilk martyrs in the cause of historical studies is downright amusing :

    “Ancient India was projected as a virtual utopia, starting with the Vedic age and culminating 1500 years later in the so-called “golden age” of the Guptas. It was supposedly a period of unchanging prosperity. Society functioned according to the norms laid down in the Shastras, so historians did not have to investigate the reality.

    “But let me add that this was not a situation typical of India alone. All nationalisms have to have a utopian past, preferably located as far back in time as possible. With limited evidence the imagination is free to conjure up a romantic past. Questioning this ideal picture is treated as an anti-national act, as it happened in India not so long ago. Some of us have been subjected to the slings and arrows of extreme religious nationalist views when we have tried to give a more integrated and reality-based view of the past. Historians began to analyse early Indian society in the 1960s and 1970s to arrive at a more realistic picture. But the opposition to this research was articulated through a range of religious organizations whose main concern was using religion for political mobilisation and for acquiring authority. This has now increased and has become more recognizable.”

    Thapar would not possibly know much about the history of Indian art. She would otherwise have known that the Gupta period symbolises everything that is best in Indian art tradition and is the culmination of a long period of development. This period certainly represented a golden age of Indian art and by implication, a golden phase of India’s historic development as well. There is nothing Prima facie objectionable to this idea. If Thapar had taken care to tabulate the specific points which have been developed by her and others of her group for a ‘more integrated and reality-based view of the past’, we would have been in a better position to appreciate her arguments.

    She also seems to be upset about attempts to use “religion for political mobilisation and for acquiring authority”. Such attempts, especially if they have led to the loss of human lives, are surely unfortunate and have to be condemned, but are such attempts unknown even in the comparatively recent past of the subcontinent ? Was not the entire Pakistan movement based on the Islamic identity of its protagonists?

    When Thapar writes about being “subjected to the slings and arrows of extreme religious nationalist views” one cannot help but feel amused. As usual, the specific details are missing, but the only thing which others could observe was that with the coming of the NDA government at the centre, she and others of her group lost their importance in the power grouping of the government-sponsored Indian Council of Historical Research. Considering that she and others of her historical group were at the helm of the country’s historical affairs since the early 1970s, this loss of power in the government has to be counted as a normal professional hazard which the historians closely tied to the strings of political power of the country like Thapar should take easily in her strides. On the contrary, they should feel very satisfied that for a long uninterrupted stretch since the take-over of the financial and other powers of Indian historical research by their group, they enjoyed the role of a kind of divine pantheon in the firmament of Indian historical studies.

    A significant part of Thapar’s essay (pp 7-10) tries to gloss over the harshness of the Islamic conquest of India. Such attempts are pointless. As is well-known, Islam has not always been kind to ‘infidels’, and there is absolutely no reason to suggest otherwise, as Thapar does. The modern relation between Islam and the infidels in modern India must not be judged by what happened during the Islamic conquest of the land. If she considers that some historians have judged the methods and impact of the Islamic conquest of India harshly without any solid historical reason, she is welcome to write about it in detail, but to be honest, any apology for the conquest is unnecessary.

    Her pontification of the civilizations being products of the intermingling of cultures is uncessary. What she wilfully ignores is the silliness of attempts to explain the basic style and form of a civilization, old or new, in terms of diffusions from elsewhere. In the case of India this unfortunately has been the unchallenged assumption almost since the beginning of ancient Indian studies, and this is precisely what has been challenged in the 1970s and later. May we remind Thapar that a Ph.D thesis on the Indus trade done under her supervision in the late 1960s or early 1970s argued that the role of the Indus civilization was that of a supplier of raw materials to the contemporary Mesoptamia. In a review of the published form of this dissertation in Puratattva, I pointed out this ‘researched’ similarity between the positions held by the Indus civilization and the colonial India in relation to Mesopotamia and Britain respectively. There is a steady continuity between the historical approaches of scholars like Rapson, Sankalia and other scholars of ancient India in modern India, including Thapar and her kind. Nation hardly blips in the intellectual radar of these historians.

    Thapar should realize that languages are always in a state of flux, being subject not merely to cultural intermingling but also to the various nuances of class and cultural background subject in their turn to socio-economic factors of various kinds. But to be used satisfactorily for historical analysis, we have to realize that language studies do not have any chronological parameter of their own and thus whatever one may say about the correlation of language and a particular archaeological stratum devoid of writing is subjective ,and not bound by any independent verification. Language is something which the archaeologists of non-literate contexts may do well without. In fact, trying to combine language with non-literate archaeological groups has been a breeding ground of various ethnic and eventually racist hypotheses in archaeology. Modern First World archaeologists are not unduly bothered by this but that is no reason why Third World archaeologists should not set them aside.

    I am glad that Thapar has eventually admitted that “so far we have no archaeological evidence to prove an invasion by an Aryan race”. I write ‘eventually’ because it is easy to demonstrate with reference to many early writings of Thapar that she was very much a believer in the coming of the Aryans as a group of people bringing in horses. However,in the same breath she writes that the “picture is complicated, because we also do not have the evidence that the language – Old Indo-Aryan/Vedic Sanskrit – was spoken in India prior to 1500 BC. Since this is later than the Harappan cities, the Harappans were not Aryan-speaking. Nor do we know the language spoken by the Harappans. However languages related to Indo-Aryan were used in two areas. One was Old Iranian – the language of the Zorastrians and their text called Avesta – used in northeast Iran and the other was the language of the Hittites in northern Syria”.

    Apart from the opinion that the language of the Harappans is still unknown, everything mentioned in the above-mentioned propositions is liable to questionings. If one takes up the question of ‘the language of the Zorastrians and their text called Avesta ‘ first, one learns that Zorastrianism as a religion was identified in Western scholarship early in the nineteenth century after the details of the religion of the Parsis of Mumbai came to be known. The existence of the religious text Avesta was known earlier. The Avesta has several functional but chronologically disparate categories : Yasna which denotes sacred liturgy and Gathas or hymns of Zarathushtra; Khorda-Avesta or ‘book of common prayer’; Visparad or extensions to the liturgy; Vendidad or myths, code of purifications and religious observances; and Fragments which cannot be put in the rest of the categories. The central portion of the Yasna is the Gatha, supposedly composed by Zarathushtra himself. Alongside the Gathas is the Yasna Haptanghati or ‘seven-chapter Yasna, which is as old as the Gatha itself and a collection of prayers and hymns in honour of Ahura Mazda or the supreme deity, the angels, fire, water and earth. The younger Yasna is written in prose. Visparad is a supplementary text to the Yasna without any unity of its own. Vendidad , which varies widely in its character and chronology, enumerates various manifestations of evil spirits and ways to propitiate them. The Yasht hymns , 21 in number, are addressed to particular divinities or particular divine concepts. Thirty divinities are supposed to preside over thirty days of the month and the Siroza is supposed to be their enumeration and invocation. The final category of Khorda Avesta is a collection of verses from the other collections.

    This body of literature evolved over a long length of time, some of it attributable to the historical periods of the Achaemenids (6th century BC) and the Parthians (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD). The core of the Avesta has been put towards the end of the second millennium BC, but Zarathushtra has also been dated as late as the 7th century BC. There is no doubt a strong element of similarity between the Rigvedic and the Avestan languages, as various historians of the Sanskrit language argue, but whether this implies a similar chronological point cannot be said. The geography of the Avestan literature supposedly extends from Seistan to Merv but is also said to be focused in the central Afghanistan highlands. In a sense, this geographical orbit was not unfamiliar to the Indus civilization, and the persistence of an Indian language tradition was not impossible in this orbit, whatever might have been the basic language of this civilization. The point is that the similarity in the language between the Avesta and the Rigveda cannot be translated in terms of a date for the Rigveda.

    The second issue of ‘the language of the Hittites in north Syria’ is equally problematic and has been expressed clearly by P.Thiemme in his article “the ‘Aryan’ gods of the Mitanni treaties” in 1960 in Journal of the American Oriental Society 80(4): 301-317:

    “The discovery of ‘Aryan’ looking names of (Mitanni) princes on cuneiform documents in Akkadian from the second half of the second millennium BC (chiefly tablets from Bogazkoy and El-Amarna), several doubtlessly Aryan words in Kikkuli’s treatise in Hittite on horse training (numerals : aika- ‘one’, tera- ‘three’, panza- ‘five’, satta – ‘seven’, na(ya) –‘nine’; appellatives : varttana – ‘circuit’, course (in which horses move when being trained),’ aliya –‘horse’ ), and , finally, a series of names of Aryan divinities on a Mitanni-Hatti and a Hatti-Mitanni treaty (14th century BC), poses a number of problems that have been reportedly discussed since the beginning of the century.”

    To Thiemme the problem is whether the terms can be interpreted as “traces of specifically Indo-Aryan speech and religion, or whether they should rather be identified as Proto-Aryan”. He is inclined towards accepting them as ‘proto-Aryan’.

    In addition, in his The Sanskrit Language T. Burrow finds a few traces of the Sanskrit language among the documents of the Kassite dynasty of Babylon:

    “In a list of names of gods with Babylonian equivalents we find a sun-god Suriyas (rendered Samas) which must clearly be identified with Skt Surya. In addition, Maruttas the war-god (rendered En-Urta) has been compared with Skt Marut … Among the kings of this dynasty one has a name which can be interpreted as Aryan : Abhirattas : abhi-ratha – ‘facing chariots in battle’.”

    What emerges on the whole is the presence of a few Sanskritic deities and words in the old Hittite territory or modern Anatolia in about 1400 BC, with margins on either side. The similarity lies only in a few Sanskrit-sounding words in both the Kikkuli horse-training text of c.1400 BC and the treaty between Suppiluliuma, the Hittite king of c.1380-c.1345 BC) and Mattiwaza, the Mitanni ( southeast Anatolia and northern Syria) king of the period. The mention of the Rigvedic gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra and the two Nasatyas occurs as a part of a rather long list of non-Rigvedic gods and goddesses :

    “the Storm-god, Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Moon-god and the Sun-god, the Moon-god of Harran, heaven and earth, the Storm-god, Lord of the kurinnu of Kahat, the Deity of Herds of Kurta, the Storm-god, Lord of Uhušuman, Ea-šarri, Lord of Wisdom, Anu, Antu, Enlil, Ninlil, the Mitra-gods, the Varuna-gods, Indra, the Nasatya-gods, Lord of Waššukanni, the Storm-god, Lord of the Temple Platform (?) of Irrite, Partahi of Šuta, Nabarbi, Šuruhi, Ištar, Evening Star, Šala, Belet-ekalli, Damkina, Išhara, the mountains and rivers, the deities of heaven and the deities of earth.”

    In the case of the Kikkuli text too, it is only certain words which have been used in the context of this Mitanni text. In the Kassite documents cited by Burrow, assuming that the Sanskritic analogies of certain words in those documents are correct, the comparison does not extend to the level of linguistic similarity of the type which is suggested between the Rigveda and the Avesta.

    Whether such similarities in words mark the route of the Indo-European language-speakers to the sub-continent or mark their route out of it is a point which cannot be decided either way. Philological research does not have any historical marker, nor an earlier piece of this kind of philological research gets superseded by newer versions. However, the fact of the presence of Indian words in west Asia may not be as mysterious as it sounds. The Indus seals are known to occur in the Kassite context in Mesopotamia and the Gulf, showing that this civilization remained in contact with west Asia as late as the 14th century BC. The beginning of this contact is dated as early as the Royal Graves of Ur of c.2600 BC. Whatever might be the language or languages of the Indus civilization, it was clearly a contact of more than a thousand years between India and west Asia. If one remembers this simple point, one does not have to be surprised by the presence of admittedly few Indian words in some west Asiatic documents. In the case of the Avesta, it may be noted that the core area of its geography from southeastern Iran to the southern central Asia lies very much within the general orbit of contacts of the Indus civilization. Further, the location of the site of Shortughai in the Kokcha valley north of the Hindukush leaves no doubt about the preeminence of the role of the Indus civilization in this region. Thus, to try to support the overarching frame of Aryan origins and migration from Europe to India with the help of the presence of a few Indian-sounding words in some 14th century west Asiatic documents does not seem to be a valid or logical exercise. It is time Thapar and her kind appreciated the rationale behind this argument.

    One may be somewhat amused by Thapar’s observation that the Rigvedic people “were cattle-herders looking for good pastures” and that “they settled wherever ecology was suitable”. People all through history settled wherever they thought that the ecology was suitable ; so, that is not the point. The point is whether they were ‘cattle-herders’. That they were far more than being ‘cattle-herders’ is clear from RV.III.57 : “May the ploughshares break up our land happily ; may the ploughman go happily with the oxen; may Parjanya (water the earth) with sweet showers happily”.

    Thapar also thinks that “we should get away from meaningless questions like, whether the Aryan-speakers were indigenous to India”. When Indians have been subjected, for more than a hundred years, to the opinion that the Aryan- speakers came to India from outside and laid the basis of the Indian religion of Hinduism and when Thapar’s fellow-travellers like R.S.Sharma write books like “Advent of the Aryans in India” , the question cannot be as meaningless or innocuous as Thapar makes it sound. In her dictionary “the question of indigenous and foreign” may be “a non-question” but this has framed the Indians’ perception of themselves for a very long time, and there is no reason why the macabre arguments that the Indians have lived with so long should not be thoroughly exposed for what they are worth.

    I find Thapar’s emphasis on ‘freedom of expression’ very intriguing. The historical group of which Thapar is an eminent member came into being in the early 1970s “to give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history”, as the web-site of the Indian Council of Historical Research declared. To argue that there was no ‘objective and scientific writing of history” till this group moved into government-sponsored power to control the funding and job-opportunities of historical research in India was distinctly reminiscent of a dictatorial streak in itself. By then historical research in the country had flourished for about a century and to argue that the previous historians were unaware of ‘objective and scientific writing of history’ was a vicious piece of self-aggrandisement on the part of this group. In fact, since the coming of this group to power, the world of Indian historical studies has been largely criminalised. When Thapar preaches in favour of historical tolerance, one does feel amused.

    I find it very curious that with all her pontifications in the field of ancient India Thapar forgets to mention that the study of ancient Indian history and archaeology is only a marginal subject in the frame of Indian historical studies. It is difficult to be certain of this, but certainly not more than twenty university departments offer full courses in the subject. Archaeology is professionally taught in places whose total number does not reach even the double-digit. The large Historical Centre which J.N.University has been running for long and of which Thapar is a precious member does not have any professional archaeology component. Thapar does not even bother to enquire why the study of ancient India remains still marginalised in the Indian university frame and why the historical departments of the Indian universities and colleges are dominantly concerned with ‘modern’ or British India.

    Another of Thapar’s inexplicable silences is about focusing on the socio-politics of the Indian past. Thapar and her group never forget to turn to whatever Western theories are available in a particular area, but as far as the socio-politics of the Indian historical studies is concerned, they seem to be completely indifferent except for shouting against the probable or improbable signs of Hindu fundamentalism. In fact, as I have written in my Fifty Years of Indian Archaeology (1960-2010):

    Journey of a Foot Soldier, by making too much of fundamentalism, Thapar and her fellow travellers have made fundamentalism almost respectable. The fact that they are silent about the fundamentalism of other non-Hindu religious groups throws clear light on what is their attitude to the Indian religious scene. This attitude is also evident in the following formulation of hers : “If the Census of 1882 had included a column for those who observed a cross-over kind of religion, a mix of Hinduism, Islam and other formal religions, this column would undoubtedly have had the largest number”. Was there ever a “cross-over kind of religion, a mix of Hinduism, Islam and other formal religions“? Would believers in Hindu, Islam and Christianity ever admit this ? Is Thapar’s tacit assumption is that Hinduism would not have been shown as the religion of the Indian majority, if only the columns of the 1882 census were framed differently?

    Thapar refers to the formation of different identities in modern India but does not mention that it is important to understand the historical assumptions behind the formations of such identities. For instance, if there is a Dalit version of the history of ancient India we must understand what it is and what is the presence or absence of historical logic behind it. The formation of historical identities cannot be avoided, and it is only by discussing its basis threadbare that one can focus on its true worth. In the case of India Thapar, in an interview to the French paper Le Monde , foresaw ( cf. M.Danino in Dialogue, April-June 2006/vol. 7, no,4) that by the end of the 21st century India would break down into a series of small states federated within a more viable single economic space on the scale of the subcontinent. For those of us who refuse to play the role of a clairvoyant as far as our national fate is concerned, we must try to understand the historical basis of ‘identities’. The study of the socio-politics of the ancient Indian past should play an increasing role in the understanding of the ways in which ancient Indian history has been interpreted.
     
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  6. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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  7. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

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    Long-ass OP, but I found it to be a rambling, directionless, pointless piece. The author on one hand seems to want and love the diversity of India, yet on the other hand, he finds faults with the results of that diversity. You cannot have a diverse society, yet one in which everyone follows the same definition of "Indianness".

    Comparing India with America is fallacy because America was established and expanded by a majority white European people, and non-Europeans have been able to immigrate to the US only in the past few decades. On the other hand, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Tamils, Assamese etc are not immigrants. They do not need to conform to any artificially created "Indianness", unlike immigrants to US which have to conform a totally new "American identity" (which had nothing in common with their own original identity, whether it be Chinese or African or whatever).
     
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  8. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    I think he is concerned how these differences are being hijacked by foreign players to serve their own interests. Don't you agree with him that India's most basic identity is its Dharmic civilization?
     
  9. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

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    You mean like how the Indian-Americans in US fund, sponsor and vote for India-friendly Presidents or Congressmen? Or like Indian "meddling" in Tibet merely because of an excuse of a "Dharmic" leader being persecuted? How about the powerful Israeli lobby in western countries that hijacks any discussion of the Palestinian issue in Israel's favour?

    As the world becomes more and more interconnected, these lobbies are bound to grow stronger, not weaker. These present an outward force against the inward forces of nationalism. There will come a time when the forces of interconnectedness or globalization will become stronger than nationalist forces, and that will be the end of "nationhood", and the beginning of a new phase in human civilization, with the formation of a "One World Government".
     
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  10. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Last time I was aware, there were not any foreign funded ngos in Tibet. Hence India is only giving moral support to Dalai Lama, hell even he does not want to secede from China.

    Why did you say put Dharmic in quotation marks, its a valid identity just like Abhrahamic.

    Supporting a India-friendly US president is not going to affect the integrity of USA, as all US presidents put US above everything.

    Does India support an armed insurgency calling for the overthrow of the Chinese government?

    The Israeli lobby is indeed powerful and does subvert US interests, but that does not mean it is right. BTW, vast majority of US Christian population support Israel overwhelmingly because they think that is where the final armageddon is going to occur and all the Jews who don't believe in Jesus will be killed :shocked:

    Does India support Hindu missionaries who try to convert people to Hinduism and then call for secession from the US. This is not globalization but balkanization.

    Future might mean end of nationalism but will it also mean the end of distinct civilizations' identities? I hope not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012
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  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    India has progressed and of that there is no doubt.

    But this 'superpower' is merely a hype floated by the western nations so that India believe in itself that it is a counterbalance to China in the western image of global security.

    India has a long way to go before it can really aspire to be a superpower.
     
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  12. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    A few points;

    Yes media is quite sycophantic. Recent VS Naipaul and gIRISH kARNAD Controversy is a proof of these critics. Internet Hindu is a term used pejoratively to drive home the point of 'be like sheep'

    Hindus are willing to accept Jesus as one of the gods among the pantheon of 330 million gods. The evangelicals cannot accept the 330 million gods, for them thats heresy.Mutual respect cannot arise in this situation.

    Link

    Leaders of major faiths had gathered at Claremont university in 1990s to propose a proclamation of "religious tolerance." Rajiv Malhotra argued that the word "tolerance" should be replaced with "mutual respect" in the resolution. The following day, Professor Karen Jo Torjesen, the organizer and head of religious studies at Claremont, told me I had caused a "sensation." Not everyone present could easily accept such a radical idea, she said, but added that she herself was in agreement. Clearly, I had hit a raw nerve.

    I then decided to experiment with "mutual respect" as a replacement for the oft-touted "tolerance" in my forthcoming talks and lectures. I found that while most practitioners of dharma religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) readily espouse mutual respect, there is considerable resistance from the Abrahamic faiths.

    Soon afterwards, at the United Nation's Millennium Religion Summit in 2000, the Hindu delegation led by Swami Dayananda Saraswati insisted that in the official draft the term "tolerance" be replaced with "mutual respect." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), who led the Vatican delegation, strongly objected to this. After all, if religions deemed "heathen" were to be officially respected, there would be no justification for converting their adherents to Christianity.

    The matter reached a critical stage and some serious fighting erupted. The Hindu side held firm that the time had come for the non-Abrahamic religions to be formally respected as equals at the table and not just tolerated by the Abrahamic religions. At the very last minute, the Vatican blinked and the final resolution did call for "mutual respect." However, within a month, the Vatican issued a new policy stating that while "followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation." Many liberal Christians condemned this policy, yet it remains the Vatican's official position.


    In the Arab world, all other religions except islam has survived because all the opponents have suffered, then died, assimilated . Like the national symbol of Iran [​IMG] is claimed to have originated from the the 2 axes of Parshurama and some claim this is the origin of the word 'Persia', In India, it did not happen for a long time until Islamic hordes arrived and now its happening again under the guise of 'secularism'

    Even nature prefers diversity - Brownian motion if you may. Even a fractal though appears chaotic, their is an inherent organisation at micro and macro level.
    [​IMG]

    Zomia is the plan so Nagas has to be converted from animistic religions to christianity.

    [​IMG]

    The book Breaking India is pretty much a detail of this plan. Rajiv ji is a visionary and I as an Indian national is thankful for this efforts.
     
  13. chase

    chase Tihar Jail Banned

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    @panduranghari

    That he is.
    But many of the resistance faced is by our lots who are too traditional to change with time.They want to make sanatan dharma abhramized,He has touched on this matter in his "westernized side" article on sulekha
     
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  14. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    A collection or a union of nations cannot be stable. Examples are galore in recent history. Where isSoviet Union? What abouit Yugoslavia, Czekoslvakia. So don't balk at partition in 1947, it was on the cards.

    Only ONE nation can ensure the unity and integerity of a state, and that is Bharat Rashtra.
     
  15. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    Soviet Union might still be alive if they had not ----ed up their economy with Communism. You cant enslave the people indefinitely based on false promises:truestory:

    India is different(atleast for now) and there is still hope for us:hmm:
     
  16. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    In that case the days of the Republic of India are also numbered.
     
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  17. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    Any logical reason.?

    NE India harbours a few christian majority states, already run according to xianity. They can break away, with support from China. Xians. Xians love breaking away, take case E Timor, S. Sudan etc.


    At least 4 border districts of WB have big muslim majorities, with WB having about 25% muslims. Enough for a break away state. Kerala is bound to break away.

    Outlook is gloomy unless some strong measures are taken, and damned with secularism.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
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  18. mikhail

    mikhail Senior Member Senior Member

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    India will never break like Soviet Union or Yugoslavia because though we are a nation of religious and cultural diversity,all of the people of India consider India as their homeland and identify themselves as Indians.actually these cultural diversity is the result of the vast geographic diversity of India,but though there is cultural diversity present here but thats only superficial yet we can easily intermix with each other due to the fact that there are still a lot of cultural similarities between us!the foreigners who visit India are amazed to see that inspite of these religious and cultural diversities we are together as a nation and is marching forward to become one of the major players in the International arena.and this unity is only due to the flexibility and uniqueness of our Constitution.the Fundamental Rights given to us by our Constitutin played a huge role in uniting the entire nation into one single identity!and i don't think this unity will break in the near forseeable future!:thumb:
     
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  19. kayal

    kayal Tihar Jail Banned

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    >> Recent US policy supports India’s sovereignty

    Please read"
    Congressional Record, Page: E1878
     
  20. VatsaOfBhrigus

    VatsaOfBhrigus Tihar Jail Banned

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    I dont see this happening. We have seen from before that the world right now acts as binary, during freedom of India, pretty much only two camps were present 1) socialistic 2) capatilistic , India somehow managed to stay on the fence.

    I think the next big division is going to be between muslims and non muslims. My money is on this division....


    One world is a bogus concept that will never exsist (unless the rich folks of the world decide to create one currency aka bankor ... don't see that happening in near future though).
     
  21. VatsaOfBhrigus

    VatsaOfBhrigus Tihar Jail Banned

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    India needs more federal structure.
     

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