Monday, September 6, 2010

Clarifying a post on brf

I had posted on brf the following:

You put that left and right with what goes on in what could well be Bangassam, you get the stark contrast of the divide. I could stretch this far and add a gloomy subtext just to seek a counter-point: Maulana Bhasani^1 could be rotfling in his grave given that our internal religious consciousness looks pretty much like how Churchill's position was in 1941 vis-a-vis the liquidation of the British empire.

Sum had asked me to explain what the last line meant. I will be going seriously OT in brf, so I am taking the liberty to ramble away here.

Disclaimer: This is necessarily going to be long-winded and seemingly unconnected, so please hold on. Borrowed liberally from "The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire" by Peter Clarke.

While WWII is generally known as a World War, it was primarily an imperialist war between the satisfied powers (England and France) with empires long established over much of Asia and Africa and the unsatisfied hunger of the Axis powers (the expansion of Germany seeking Lebensraum in Eeastern Europe and the good-old opportunism of Italy seeking colonial glory in North Africa). While the Soviet propagandists initially labelled it an "imperialist war," it overnight transformed into "the Great Patriotic War" when Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941. Same for the Americans, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack they were openly reproaching the Brits over their Empire. After the attack, the criticism was muted in public, but suspicions were wide.

Just to give a flavor of the Empire, the Official Programme of the Victory Day Celebrations in June 1946 looks like this: the order of march is led by the representatives of Britain's Allies, from the fighting French to the gallant Greeks and the doomed Poles to the improbable Mexicans with the massed bands of the US and the USSR at the head. The Empire dominates the Parade. In pride of place comes the Dominions, with bands from Canada, Australia and New Zealand followed by South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Newfoundland. India comes next: not only the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Armoured Corps, the Royal Indian Artillery, the Royal Indian Engineers, and the Indian Signal Corps but also the band of the Royal Garhwal Rifles leading the Indian infantry, the Gurkha Rifles, the Indian State Forces and the Royal Indian Air Force. Then comes Burma, ten West African corps from Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. No fewer than 26 from East and Central Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, Zanzibar and British Somaliland). Then comes Aden, Bermuda, Ceylon, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malaya, the West Indies (Bahamas, Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands), Fiji, Tonga, British Solomon Islands, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Mauritius, North Borneo, Brunei, Labuan, Serawak, Palestine, St. Helena, Seychelles, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland and finally, Malta (uh!!).

The dramatic point being: one of the major consequences of the War was the liquidation and unraveling of the British Empire. There have been many explanations for why this happened. Historians have blamed the USSR for starting the Cold War, the USA for taking unfair advantage of its loyal ally, the Labor Government back at home, etc. etc. and more. However, there is a good reason to believe that Churchill, despite his inspirational skills was the one under whose watch the Grand Liquidation Process made the most progress. Churchill^2 had inspired a resolution in war and defiance in defeat, yet his expectations of magnanimity in victory and goodwill in peace were grandly taken away right before his very eyes.

If Churchill was the architect of British Victory in WWII by his inspirational leading of the masses, he was also the author of Britain's post-war distress. Chruchill's Thousand Year Reich^3 only outlasted that of Hitler's. In short, what we now pithily can call a Pyrrhic victory. In some sense, the internal situation in India resembles Churchill's dilemma during WWII times. We are screwed if we do, and screwed if we dont. The point being Tamil Nadu did what others should have done to Cap Roll-back and Eliminate (CRE) the fissiparous tendencies due to populist political Islamism. In some sense, it was serendipity; in some sense, it was deflection of one fissiparous tendency with another milder one. The Partition Belt responded to populist Islamism in varied ways: rise of the meek defeatism that is the Communist front in the East, tit-for-tat eye-for-eye gore in the West, and sab chalta hai attitude in between. The South essentially put a "dont-care" state on political Islamism because it could afford that, being shielded by the Partition Belt.

But then taking great pride in Tamil Nadu's "achievement" will be nothing but height of folly and misleading in making a decent prognostication of the future. The genie of linguistic chauvinism has no limits if it is "utilized" appropriately -- we saw that in the Mukti Bahini exhibit and we keep seeing it time and again when some loser reignites the "national" language debate. Utter the phrase "Classical Language status" and you will know what I mean. In some sense, Tamil Nadu (and much of India) being a neo-tribalist state in all but name, the vacuum created by absence of one fissiparous tendency can only mean more trouble of yet another unpredictable kind. The Dravidian bogeyman is long past its shelf-life just like its stalwarts are, as much as Communism may be^4 in much of India in a few decades. This vacuum has to be filled by nationalist forces, and I see no hope yet on that front. I can certainly say that both BJP and INC are putting the cart before the horse in understanding what drives Tamil Nadu and Tamils, and if the two leading national parties are a no-show in a big enough state, it is cause enough for gloom. There has been some open talk about healing West Bengal in the post-Communist phase, but what about healing Tamil Nadu in the post-Dravidian phase? Tamil Nadu is not only the land of many a grand temple, but also was foremost in exporting Shaivism to much of South East Asia and was a major cog in the wheel in killing philosophical^5 Buddhism and Jainism from India. Thank goodness for that, I cant begin to ask a polemical "what if" for what would have happened had the Buddhists won over in the battles with Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, etc.

1. Maulana Bhasani was one of the foremost proponents of Bangassam -- an imaginary state where Bengal (both East and West) and Assam would be united even as they separated from India. Convenient in this bogeyman is the poorly hidden motif that the folks in charge would be political Islamists.
2. After bowing out in elections, Churchill wrote six volumes of The Second World War, the motto of which stood as "In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Goodwill."
3. Churchill gave a speech in the House of Commons right during the start of what is now called "Battle of Britain." In it, he called it Britain's finest hour and urged people to fight hard and in british-like fashion to ensure that the Empire lasted a thousand years.
4. There is enough space in India for leftist socialism of various moderate tripes to co-exist with national assertion. But it is hard to visualize and expect (at least for me) a philosophically motivated pan-internationalist Communist doctrine to wield a significant hold in India even as the per-capita income rises above a certain threshold.
5. It is hard to cover up my hatred for philosophical Buddhism especially as the gap between the Theory (as the Buddha preached) and the Practice of Buddhism grows wider and wider in most of the so-called Buddhist countries of today. This calls for a separate post, but I will refrain from that now. My interpretation of the Buddhist dictum is not the absence of self, but realization of self. In this, I am with Stephen Batchelor Linky.
Just for the record, the prequel to this post was as follows:

Statement: The consequences of an anti-Indian Caliphate deep South with neighbours like old Hyderabad, S.Karnataka (Bangalore, the costal regions like Bhatkal and Ramanagaram (which seems to have disproportionate lot of IM population)) and an assertive IM population waiting to explode in TN (just held back by Dravidian movement till now) are really frightening.

Response: I dont know about other places, but in Tamil Nadu, the assertion of the Muslims can only go so far. For that one has to understand the context of "ass"ertion in Tamil Nadu.

Just look at Sri Lanka as an example study. As the Muslims tried to assert, the backlash was violent and even though the Muslims speak the same language, the divide goes very deep even to this day. The only reason that the Muslims have a political voice today is because of demographic play -- the Buddhists used and continue to use the Muslims as a pawn in the chess game between Hindus and Christians (!) on one side and Buddhists on the other side. You take away the politically devious and cunning set (which the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists have been from the pre-1948 days) from this midst, this game can only end in one direction: immense blood-letting on both sides. Since demographics is no issue in Tamil Nadu, the Muslims will end up losing far more than the Hindus. To top that, blood-letting is par for the course in the rural hinterland of TN. The game changer is obviously the slow conversion of the Tamil population to Christianity, especially in the lower Cauvery delta districts of the Southeast -- we have at least 3/40 (including Pondicherry) constituencies where BJP even harbors hope; obviously that cannot happen without the Least Common Multiple (LCM) being Hindu assertion rather than caste assertion which is par for the course in TN so far. But before the critical mass builds up on that side, the contour of civilizational crisis might have just shifted up North and East IMHO -- an allusion to demographic changes in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and UP.

You know, there is quite a segment that takes pride in saying that The Partition Riots had no impact in the South, but for may be the erstwhile Hyderabad Province. There is a lesson there for folks to understand. When many of these language dhaagas open up and loadsa folks rile about why Tamil Nadu is being an ass in terms of the "national" language debate, I cant but rotfl at the ignoramuses. One has to give credit to the old custodians -- however divisive and oiseaulish they were from the point of nation-building as seen today -- who could channel the genie into a language consciousness rather than a religious consciousness. That unity is perhaps more clearer in the case of Kerala, but the godless Communists hijacked the language consciousness in the post-1956 phase and bulldozed their own brand of utter rubbish. Less clear is the case of AP.

Point being: there has been quite a segment in India where despite the best efforts of those trapped in particular circumstances, actions taken for good motives have only resulted in bad consequences. Tamil Nadu is a good example of where actions taken for bad motives have resulted in some good consequences as seen in hindsight today. You put that left and right with what goes on in what could well be Bangassam, you get the stark contrast of the divide. I could stretch this far and add a gloomy subtext just to seek a counter-point: Maulana Bhasani could be rotfling in his grave given that our internal religious consciousness looks pretty much like how Churchill's position was in 1941 vis-a-vis the liquidation of the British Empire.

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