Tag Archives: India

Taj Mahal — spoken like a true nationalist: “…we will change this history…”

30 Oct

Taj MahalSome members of India’s ruling Hindu rightwing party claim the Taj Mahal does not reflect Indian culture. Photograph: Pawan Sharma/AP

From the Guardian: Hardline Hindu nationalists step up campaign against Taj Mahal.”

Article doesn’t make clear what BJP nationalists want exactly.  Ban images of the building?  Make people stop looking at it?  Don’t think, الحمد لله, anyone wants it torn down yet.  But the money quotes are priceless:

“Taj Mahal should have no place in Indian history,” he said, claiming Shah Jahan, the emperor who built the mausoleum for his deceased wife, had “wanted to wipe out Hindus”.

“If these people are part of our history, then it is very sad and we will change this history,” he added.

And a cool mad-wacky history narrative almost as funny as that of the Turkish Republic:

Fuelling the controversy are the writings of a fringe historian, PN Oak, whose works were dismissed for decades but are enjoying new prominence among Hindu hardliners.

Oak claims that much of the world was once ruled by an ancient Hindu empire, that the English language is a dialect of Sanskrit, and that Westminster Abbey is, in reality, a temple to the deity Shiva.

The Taj too, he argued, was originally a Shiva temple built by the maharajah of Jaipur, and initially named the “Tejo Mahalaya”.

His theory has been cited by several BJP legislators this month to cast doubt on the provenance of the monument. A dozen students were arrested at the Taj last week for offering prayers to Shiva on its grounds.

Frustrating to me though, that whenever anybody steps up to the plate to take on the myth of “tolerant Islam” it’s always dopes and freaks like these.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

No, not the first Amritsar massacre; Brits apparently played a role in the 1984 massacre as well — from the Guardian

29 Oct

British government ‘covered up’ its role in Amritsar massacre in India

A Sikh group is demanding an inquiry into the SAS’s involvement in the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984

Sikh militants surrender to the Indian army in 1984 in Amritsar.
Sikh militants surrender to the Indian army in 1984 in Amritsar. Photograph: The India Today Group/India Today Group/Getty Images

The government has been accused of covering up the full extent of the UK’s support for India’s bloody crackdown on Sikhs in 1984.

A new report calls for a full inquiry into the role played by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the events leading up to a massacre in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of Sikhs and Indian soldiers died.

In 2014 David Cameron ordered a review after the accidental release of secret documents revealed that a British SAS officer had been drafted in to advise the Indian authorities on removing armed Sikh militants from the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

The documents said the plan, known as Operation Blue Star, was carried out with the full knowledge of the Thatcher government.

A report, Sacrificing Sikhs, published by the Sikh Federation UK, described Cameron’s review, conducted by Sir Jeremy Heywood, as a “whitewash”.

It claims that attempts to expose the full facts have been thwarted by government secrecy rules and conflicts of interest. More than half of the Foreign Office’s files on India from 1984 have been censored in whole or in part.

Some documents suggest the Foreign Office was aware of what was at stake when the Indian authorities approached the UK for help.

A week before the Golden Temple assault, Bruce Cleghorn, a diplomat, wrote that “it would be dangerous” for the UK government “to be identified” with “any attempt to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar”. He was also named in correspondence discussing possible SAS assistance to India immediately after the massacre.

In 2015, Cleghorn became a Foreign Office “sensitivity reviewer” whose job involved censoring documents about the Amritsar massacre before they were released to the National Archives.

Sir John Ramsden, a member of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives, which adjudicates on government censorship applications, was a member of the Foreign Office’s south Asia department in 1984. Ramsden wrote a letter advocating further SAS assistance for India immediately after Operation Blue Star and also argued in favour of equipping India’s paramilitary forces.

The role of the SAS officer in the days before Operation Blue Star are shrouded in secrecy as are the full extent of the fatalities. The Indian government puts the figure at about 400. Sikh groups say it was in the thousands.

According to the Sikh Federation’s report, immediately after the SAS officer carried out his reconnaissance with an Indian special forces unit, the Sikhs pulled out of peace talks believing they had seen a commando unit move into the city. The negotiations never recovered and eventually the Indian army stormed the temple in June 1984. Four months later, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by one of her Sikh bodyguards, prompting reprisals that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Sikhs.

The report suggests the UK was keen to help India because the country was one of its biggest purchasers of military equipment between 1981 and 1990. It also claims that repressive measures against Sikhs were carried out in the UK to appease the Indian government and secure arms deals.

“The government needs to finally come clean about Thatcher’s role in the Amritsar massacre and India’s crackdown on Sikhs,” said the report’s author, Phil Miller. “Whitehall censorship of historical files is like an old boys’ club that prevents the public from ever knowing how taxpayers’ money was spent. This culture of secrecy around Britain’s special forces and intelligence agencies is undemocratic and unsustainable.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “This report casts serious doubts on the adequacy and integrity of the inhouse Heywood review commissioned by Cameron. There has been a massive cover-up and parliament and the public have been disturbingly misled. An independent public inquiry to get to the truth is the only way forward.”

**************************************************************************************

See: Jallianwala Bagh massacre and Operation Blue Star.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Agha Shahid Ali: While I’m on Kashmir again…

23 Oct

…a reposting of one of my oldest posts, with one of the most devastatingly lyrical pieces of his opus.

**************************************************************************************

Agha Shahid Ali: “I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight”

19 May

The Marty's Cemetery, SrinagarThe Martyrs’ Cemetery, Srinagar (click)

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight

Now and in time to be,

                             Wherever green is worn…

                             A terrible beauty is born.

— W. B. Yeats

1

One must wear jeweled ice in dry plains

to will the distant mountains to glass.

The city from where no news can come

Is now so visible in its curfewed nights

that the worst is precise:

                                        From Zero Bridge

a shadow chased by searchlights is running

away to find its body. On the edge

of the Cantonment, where Gupkar Road ends,

it shrinks almost into nothing, is

 

nothing by Interrogation gates

so it can slip, unseen, into the cells:

Drippings from a suspended burning tire

Are falling on the back of a prisoner,

the naked boy screaming, “I know nothing.”

2

The shadow slips out, beckons Console Me,

and somehow there, across five hundred miles,

I’m sheened in moonlight, in emptied Srinagar,

but without any assurance for him.

 

On Residency Road, by Mir Pan House,

unheard we speak: “I know those words by heart

(you once said them by chance): In autumn

when the wind blows sheer ice, the chinar leaves

fall in clusters –

                                 one by one, otherwise.”

“Rizwan, it’s you, Rizwan, it’s you,” I cry out

as he steps closer, the sleeves of his phiren torn.

“Each night put Kashmir in your dreams,” he says,

then touches me, his hands crusted with snow,

whispers, “I have been cold a long, long time.”

 

3

“Don’t tell my father I have died,” he says,

and I follow him through blood on the road

and hundreds of pairs of shoes the mourners

left behind, as they ran from the funeral,

victims of the firing. From windows we hear

grieving mothers, and snow begins to fall

on us, like ash. Black on edges of flames,

it cannot extinguish the neighborhoods,

the homes set ablaze by midnight soldiers.

Kashmir is burning:

 

                                   By that dazzling light

we see men removing statues from temples.

We beg them, “Who will protect us if you leave?”

They don’t answer, they just disappear

on the roads to the plains, clutching the gods.

 

4

I won’t tell your father you have died, Rizwan,

but where has your shadow fallen, like cloth

on the tomb of which saint, or the body

of which unburied boy in the mountains,

bullet-torn, like you, his blood sheer rubies

on Himalayan snow?

 

I’ve tied a knot

with green thread at Shah Hamdan, to be

untied only when the atrocities

are stunned by your jeweled return, but no news

escapes the curfew, nothing of your shadow,

and I’m back, five hundred miles, taking off

my ice, the mountains granite again as I see

men coming from those Abodes of Snow

with gods asleep like children in their arms.

 

(for Molvi Abdul Hai)

 

(See whole post “India’s Blood-stained Democracy…” by Mirza Waheed)

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*  “Don’t tell my mother / my beloved brother / my sister….I’m dead” is also a common stock phrase in Balkan epic poetry of guerrilla fighters, kleftes, haiduci.

*  “By that dazzling light we see men removing statues from temples”…”Who will protect us if you leave?”…”men coming from those Abodes of Snow with gods asleep like children in their arms.”

Shahid Ali’s universalist soul was as hurt by the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) from the region as he was by the brutality of the Indian Army against its innocent Muslim majority.  I can only assume that the men with the gods asleep in their arms is a reference to this exodus.  Shahid suffered from a recurrent nightmare, in fact, that the last Hindu had left Kashmir, and he fought that haunting image through the curious fashion of reproducing their distinctive cuisine as meticulously and often as possible — he was an excellent cook; there are now hardly any Hindus left in the tormented region.  “Who will protect us if you leave?,” directed to the departing Hindu murti, is a line that always breaks my heart, and could only come from a poet of as sophisticated a background and from as beautifully Sufi-syncretic a region as Kashmir.

“I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Night” reprinted from The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems by Agha Shahid Ali. English translation copyright © 2009 by Daniel Hall. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Does India, its world’s largest democracy rhetoric and “marigold p.r.,” get away with shit we would freak about if it were Pakistan?

23 Oct

Some meanwhile-Kashmir p.s. articles…

From today’s Guardian: India to open talks with all parties in disputed Jammu and Kashmir: Former intelligence chief given unrestricted mandate, indicating that even separatist leaders will be consulted.”

And a “long read” by Mirza Waheed from last fall that’s still worth reading, on a conflict we often forget about, despite its up-and-down escalating ugliness:  India’s crackdown in Kashmir: is this the world’s first mass blinding?:

“How did India get here? How is it all right for a constitutionally democratic and secular, modern nation to blind scores of civilians in a region it controls? Not an authoritarian state, not a crackpot dictatorship, not a rogue nation or warlord outside of legal and ethical commitments to international statutes, but a democratic country, a member of the comity of nations. How are India’s leaders, thinkers and its thundering televised custodians of public and private morality, all untroubled by the sight of a child whose heart has been penetrated by metal pellets? This is the kind of cruelty we expect from Assad’s Syria, not the world’s largest democracy…

“Two-and-a-half decades of rebellion in Kashmir have hardened the indifference of India’s political and intellectual classes to the human cost of the country’s repressive tactics in the valley.”

See “more on this story” articles at bottom of Waheed piece.

And a reality check: does India, with its world’s largest democracy rhetoric and “marigold p.r.,” get away with shit we would freak about — or at least make some nominal fuss — if it were Pakistan?

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 6.59.12 PMVictims of police shooting who have been blinded in one or both eyes in hospital in Srinagar. Photograph: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images     

Waheed is author of the best, most disturbing piece of Kashmir fiction I know of: The Collaborator.  Check it out.

Collaborator Mirza Waheed

A follower of William Dalrymple’s suggests he’s in Kashmir doing research on new book.  Anybody have any leads or other knowledge on such project?

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Will Dalrymple in Kashmir

23 Oct

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 11.46.24 AMThe recently restored Pattar Masjid Srinagar, 1623 Built by Nur Jahan for Jahangir

 William Dalrymple ( ) is apparently on vacation in Kashmir, and loading his Twitter account with gorgeous photos.  Check them out.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 12.10.58 PM

Shah-e-Hamedan Srinagar From the Jhelum waterfront

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 12.21.46 PM

Nishat Bagh Srinagar October light

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Diwali photos from the Guardian

19 Oct

Many are gorgeous; these two were real knockouts though.  See all of them in full size:

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.24.22 PMA woman places earthen lamps, or diyas, on the threshold of her home on the eve of Diwali in Hyderabad, India  Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.30.13 PMA devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Shubh Diwali — photo from Will Dalrymple

19 Oct

@DalrympleWill

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.27.08 PM

NikoBako told-you-so prediction: someone’s gonna start b*tching that Bollywood promotes irresponsible drinking…

11 Oct

…someone with no sense of līlā who doesn’t get everything that’s sexy, young and fun about it:

…and doesn’t appreciate that Ranbir Kapoor’s pelvis is jointed in ways different from that of ordinary mortals.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

Lebanese food: September 14th and the Feast of the Holy Cross in Ein Zebde, Shouf

15 Sep

Ein-Zebde-Peach-FieldsEin Zebde peach orchards

This is one of those photos that shore up all literary descriptions you’ve ever read of Lebanon as the land of milk and honey.

Because only that sort of blessed (but unfortunately cursed too) land could produce Lebanese food.  More than the landscape, the mountains, my personal emotional response to a still functioning society of Arab Christians, the post-nightmare joy that even a partly-Resurrected Beirut must offer, and more, even, than the boys — it’s the food that makes Lebanon one of the top entries on my list of must-visits.  The boldness of the Lebanese culinary imagination reflects such care for both the sensuality and sanctity of food that I can’t helped being moved by just reading descriptions of it.  China, India and France (mmm…yeah, ok, Iran too) are the only places that can compete, I think, with this tiny little corner of the Mediterranean in sheer kitchen creativity.

Mansoufe (below), for example: made of pumpkin-and-bulgur balls, cooked with caramelized onions and flavored with sour grape juice.  Where else would people even think of this?  (Though I think “dumplings” or something might have been a better word; “balls” makes it sound like pumpkins have testicles.)

Mansoufe

But just like there’s not really any French food without the produce of France itself, and like I’ve come to believe what most South Asian friends think: that there’s no good regional Indian food outside of India, just Punjabi versions of dumb-downed Doabi-Mughlai food cooked by Sylhetis (though I know two good Bengali places in New York, one in Sunnyside, where you have to convince them you want the real stuff, and one in the Bronx, and an even better secret, a great Sindhi vegetarian place in Jackson Heights…Indian vegetarian is the only vegetarian food I’ll eat, actually the only vegetarian food I’ll honor by calling “food”), so, it seems, that if you want something other than stale felafel or inedible tabbouleh made by a dude who had too many lemons he needed to get rid of and who needs to be told that parsley isn’t a vegetable, then you need to go to Lebanon.

In steps the Food Heritage Foundation to help you get your bearings food-wise once you’ve gotten yourself to Lebanon: a great resource for anything you might want to know about Lebanese cuisine.  Yesterday they posted photos of the Ein Zebde (the Shouf village with the peach orchards at top) celebration of the Feast of the Holy Cross, and the annual potato-kibbe-making event the women there have held for the past twenty-four years.  Check out the page for captions on the pics below:

A Ein-zebde-preps2017

B 20170909_215010

C 20170909_210038

D 20170909_215653

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.30.47 PM

Yesterday I tweeted my kudos to the Food Heritage Foundation (above).  But actually it would have been impossible to hide the fact this is a Maronite community even had they wanted to.  Even if they felt they didn’t have to explain why the women were doing this, the women’s hair and bare arms would have been a giveaway.

Still, I’m just saying this because if certain people like Mlle I___m de M_____i had their way both the entire staff of the Food Heritage Foundation and I would’ve been thrown in jail for fomenting sectarianism, publicly shamed for being Islamophobic and made to wear a Green “I”, and the Ein Zebde post would have had to be mysteriously cleansed of its Christianess.

The feast of the Holy Cross — I doubt any Catholics remember or even know — commemorates the discovery by the Empress Mother Helen of the Holy Cross on which Christ was crucified, of which Mark Twain famously said there were so many splinters of everywhere that it was apparently a Holy Forest.  She was the mother of Constantine, the emperor who moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the city on the Bosporus called Byzantion, renamed Constantinople (that’s İstanbul for those that don’t know), and who, like a good mother-ridden Greek boy (though he was really from what’s now Niš in in what’s now southern Serbia), unfortunately made what-a-monotheist-drag Christianity the official religion of the Empire to make her happy; though also like a good Greek boy he passive-aggressively wasn’t himself baptized till he was on his death-bed.  The discovery of the Cross and the feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen, “the Equal-to-the-Apostles”, on May 21st, when Athens is paralyzed by traffic for three days because a quarter of the city is named Kosta or Helene and another half is going to visit them for their name-day, is usually commemorated in the Orthodox Church by the same image:

0914elevation0012

But for more fun, more lyrical descriptions of Lebanese food, mixed up with some serious butch conflict-zone reporting and a hilarious Middle Eastern mother-daughter-in-law relationship, see Annia Ciezadlo’s beautiful Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 5.04.38 PM

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

Modi criticism mounts: from the Guardian’s Michael Safi

8 Sep

Narendra Modi criticised over Twitter links to abuse of shot journalist

Indian PM follows accounts that appeared to celebrate Gauri Lankesh’s death, but his party says criticism is ‘mischievous’

A protest in Delhi over the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh
A protest in Delhi over the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

India’s ruling party has defended Narendra Modi’s use of Twitter after a number of users followed by the Indian prime minister appeared to celebrate the fatal shooting of a journalist this week.

Leaders from across Indian politics have condemned the murder of Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru on Tuesday, but a number of Modi supporters appeared to attempt to justify the killing.

One commented: “You reap what you sow.” Another wrote in Hindi: “A bitch died a dog’s death and all of her litter is crying in the same voice.”

Modi, who operates his own Twitter account and follows 1,779 others, has been criticised for continuing to follow accounts that have levelled abuse at Lankesh. He has yet to comment on the killing.

The head of his BJP party’s information unit, Amit Malviya, said the prime minister followed “normal people” and described the controversy as “mischievous and contorted”.

“PM following someone is not a character certificate of a person and is not in any way a guarantee of how a person would conduct himself,” he said in a statement. “[Modi] follows normal people and frequently interacts with them on various issues. He is a rare leader who truly believes in freedom of speech and has never blocked or unfollowed anyone on Twitter.”

Modi is regularly criticised for following users who post offensive content. In July 2015 he invited 150 social media users to his residence for a meet-and-greet, among them Twitter users who had used sexual slurs and levelled other abuse against women.

Malviya said Modi was frequently attacked for the actions of his supporters while abuse by backers of opposition political leaders was ignored. “This debate is not only farcical and fake, but also an exhibit of selective right to freedom of expression,” he said.

India’s information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, condemned the online abuse of Lankesh, tweeting that he “deplore[d] the messages on social media expressing happiness on the dastardly murder”.

Separately, Delhi police have filed a case against a Facebook user who published a “hit list” of journalists, activists and authors including the Man Booker prize-winner Arundhati Roy.

Police have sought the IP details of the user, who identified himself as Vikramaditya Rana, after he made a series of posts including one saying Lankesh’s killing “serves her and her kind right for the damages these so-called journos have caused our nation”.

Lankesh, whose murder is being examined by a specially appointed investigative team, had previously voiced concern about the “rabid hate” that she was subjected to online.

In her speeches and writing, Lankesh, 55, frequently criticised the Hindu nationalist ideology associated with the BJP and worked to rehabilitate guerrillas involved in the country’s five-decade-long Maoist insurgency.

Though police have not commented on the motive for her killing, friends, lawyers and colleagues of the journalist as well as some members of the BJP have speculated that it was in retribution for her work.

On Thursday the hashtag #BlockNarendraModi was used as part of a campaign to block the leader’s account and highlight the abuse that many prominent Indians, particularly women, say has become endemic online.

One prominent journalist, Barkha Dutt, wrote in the Hindustan Times this year that trolling “has become part of my daily life”. “I don’t even notice it any more; that’s how dangerously inured I have become to the gross innuendo and violent and sexually explicit abuse that is heaped on so many women,” she said.

***********************************************************************************

 

%d bloggers like this: