Thursday, September 24, 2020

A story about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's Impact

 A man once boarded the wrong train and ended up in Tamil Nadu near Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, a holy pilgrim site that has moved many a seer and saint. He was told by a lot of people to go visit the site and meet a man named Ramana Maharshi. 

The man, an avowed communist and atheist, had always baulked at the idea of religion. However, since he had heard so much by then, he decided to go and meet him. 

The minute he stepped into the ashram of Bhagavan, he could not control his emotions. Something took over him. Meeting Maharshi he did not know what happened to him. Bhagavan said nothing, and yet he was impacted heavily by the meet. His whole outlook to spirituality and religion changed in a minute. 

He took Bahgavan's blessing and returned home to Kerala. Took up Sannyas and started to work for society.

That man later became famous as Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of the Chinmaya Mission.

Friday, September 4, 2020

India’s Pre-emptive moves at Pangong Tso and What Should Be Our Next Steps

Indian Border troops and Chinese troops at Nathu La (Image Courtesy: Brookings)

For two days now, the news cycles have been abuzz about the happenings of the midnight of 31 Aug 2020, when unlike the pre-emptive move of two days back earlier to the chagrin of the Communist China’s People’s LIberation Army (PLA), Indian military pushed in battalions of Special Forces to take over strategic points on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso. This extremely erudite move has literally defanged the PLA’s capabilities to throw a surprise or even use their traditional swarming tactics which need an element of surprise to succeed. While this is not the first time that India has dared to stare back the PLA behemoth in its eye, there are reasons to be cautiously jubilant.

Lessons Learnt from Operation Falcon Applied Truly Well

While experts like Nitin Gokhale will certainly contribute much more to the discourse with their enriched and accurate ground reporting, it would be very important to point out that India has surprised the Chinese through this tactical move to no end. This is perhaps a fitting tribute to the sagacity of the erstwhile Indian Army Chief General Krinshnaswamy Sundarji. In 1986, a much underestimated India had once again thwarted Chinese ambitions of capturing strategic positions along the Sumdorong Chu and Namka Chu streams by airlifting forces to take up positions on Hathung La ridge overlooking Sumdorong Chu along with three other key mountain features. Communist China, bewildered by Operation Falcon, threatened the same kind of bluster as the one being delivered these days about the PLA’s supposed superiority.

The standoff even as it lasted for more than a year, compelled the Chinese to talk peace, eventually leading to the famed Rajiv Gandhi-Li Peng meet in 1988. Interestingly, it was at the same time, India had decided to convert Arunachal, which was a centrally administered territory till then, into a full-fledged state. Similarities to this can be seen in the move to change the status of the Ladakh-Gilgit-Baltistan-Kargil region as well, with it being made a Union Territory that enables the Central government to keep its military guard up. Just as then, the Communist Chinese regime had called the move illegal and even threated repercussions. Clearly, the military and the civilian establishments have learnt their lessons well from the Operation’s success.

Enter the Vikasi – a Nightmare Scenario for Chinese Communist Party

One of the smartest moves that was undertaken place as part of the special force pre-emptive deployment has been the use of Vikas Battalion or the Special Frontier Forces. Raised in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 Sino-India war, it was a covert outfit which recruits primarily Tibetans and falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat. The units that comprise the SFF are known as Vikas battalions. The use of a Tibetan heavy battalion is not just a physical but also a psychological attack on the Communist regime for a host of reasons. It essentially threatens to shred the One China claim of the Communists to pieces, as the visual of Tibetans facing the Chinese embarrasses them to no end. Parsing through the statement of Hua Chunying, one of the spokespersons for the Communist regime’s Foreign Ministry, to Reuters on the question of the Tibetan origin soldier who died in the exercise, one observes the frustration and worry about it behind the words.

You were talking about whether there are Tibetans-in-exile in Indian troops. I’m not aware of that, perhaps you can ask your colleague in India to ask the Indian side….. We need to think about the Tibetan issue, and the ins and outs and role of the United States. China’s position is very clear. We oppose any country, of course that includes India, to provide any facilitation or venue to forces advocating Tibet independence. As to the relationship between Tibetans in-exile and in Indian troops, I am also very curious. If you could get more information with your report, I would appreciate that.”

What scares them is the fact that unlike the other provinces, Tibet is the one that has seen the most unrest. Coupled with the on-going agitation in Inner Mongolia on the abolition of the official education in Mongolian language and the never-ending protests in Hong Kong against the trampling of democratic values and illegal imposition of the National Security Law and the Communist regime is witnessing what it perceives a slide into anarchy under President Xi Jinping. News of the Tibetan soldiers dying has the potential to become a rallying point for ethnic Tibetans within the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Qinghai to protest and maybe even rebel, as many twitter users have also remarked. Having the Tibetan government-in-exile into the picture and the presence of the Dalai Lama will certainly come in handy when it comes to continued pressure, and may prove to be Xi’s undoing, as he faces challenges from within in a major way.

Looking Ahead – China Should Not be Given a Lifeline

Given the past precedents, it is obvious that Communist China will try to reach out eventually after a few months of more bluster to reach some kind of amicable settlement. China was globally isolated post the Tiananmen Square fiasco, and India gave it a lifeline of sorts by accepting to have some kind of peace and trade deal. However, the similarities between then and now should be seen in some context to take the next step.

At that time, it was the Narasimha Rao government that reached out to the Chinese Communist regime in 1993 and signed deals including military ones. Ironically, the Chinese themselves decided to violate it recently in Galwan valley. This was a strategic mistake, for it let other countries to come forth and start dealing with the Communist regime that had killed ten thousand of its own citizens who were demonstrating for democracy. This time around too, China stands globally isolated, thanks to its absolutely irresponsible behaviour on the COVID-19 pandemic. Using this as a pretext of feeling cornered, it is engaging in bluster to the point of firing missiles into the South China Sea and engaging with India militarily in the Himalayas.

The Communist regime would have collapsed had it not received any acceptability then. This time too, the chances of the evil regime falling remain high, given the inefficacy that people have openly started to talk of President Xi. An open letter to President Xi that called him a ‘big nothing’ and lambasted his handling of the COVID pandemic among other failures has been much popular among the Chinese people. The National Security Law application in Hong Kong also highlights the fear they have of ethnic Chinese rallying behind Hong Kong protestors, even as allegations of China enacting the law because of a bankrupt foreign currency reserve, something vehemently denied. It is therefore wise to question the need to talk at the highest levels and give any kind of legitimacy to the Communist regime from outside, especially at this juncture when the party is burning bridges with possibly every country, even if there are offers to talk. 

Given the tough position that countries like the United States, Japan, Australia, VietNam and the European Union increasingly are taking with the Communist regime of China, it would be adversarial to India’s real interests in giving any legitimacy to this thoroughly corrupt and discredited system. If there were a word of advice that could be put from this end, it would simply be this – ignore, ignore, and ignore the present Communist regime of China. Biding time till the regime change happens or at least President Xi is put out of the way by the Party is our best bet for a medium-term solution. The 1993 consensus died in Galwan valley; however, the new consensus should certainly not be allowed to come up on the shoulder-like ridges of Pangong Tso.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Fraudulence of Intellectualism - Why Liberal Shenanigans on the Padmanabhaswamy Verdict Have No Basis

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Verdict is a Starting Point (Courtest New Indian Express)

Indian Express and Pratap Bhanu Mehta always seems to be obsessed with the moot point of why Hindu community even bothers to seek control or seek reform in any way, or asks the system that be to respect and uphold traditions of the Hindus at large. A new example has turned up in the master ‘commentary’ of Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the Padmanabhaswamy temple verdict of the Supreme Court that Mr Mehta finds distasteful. Anything related to Hindus has always been distasteful for the duo, and one cannot wish that away even if given the magical wand that could grant these wishes. However, his unwieldy language and contorted arguments have once again been thrown up to somehow not only make the waters muddy, but to also defend the institutionalized discrimination and call out the ‘hatred’ of the Hindus of anything that puts savages like them into their place by granting them the privilege of civilization and rule of law that just did not exist in the books of lofty intellectuals who know so little about Indian civilization and heritage. Supplanting everything lazily as an extension of Hindutva is an insult to the legacy of the institutional capacity of Hindu community that has spanned for more than a millennium, and certainly shows how little of Savarkar’s writings have actually been read for what they are in coming to these vacuous positions. Be that as it may, it is important to understand exactly what the problem of the state is when it comes to the issue of temple management and what exactly is being sought.

Quoting Devaraj Urs is convenient, for his understanding of the role temples have played in ‘exclusion’ is a sloppy assessment. Au contraire, it is temples, pithas, mathas, ashramas and other Hindu institutions that have actually been the most inclusive of institutions in India and the ones that have voluntarily sought to reform problems that they have recognized. When temples like the Padmanabhaswamy or the Emara Mutt of Puri or even the Sringeri Saradamba Pitha have come forward during the days of famines to feed the hungry irrespective of caste, community or religion repeatedly, it raises the question of the sanctity of such arguments. With at least thirty castes that were directly linked to temple service and management, nearly all of whom are not Brahmins, one fails to understand where such shoddy research turns up from. Land holdings of temples were not exclusionary as many would baselessly point out – instead, temples raised their own revenues thanks to those lands, and these were compensation often for the people who would be dedicated solely to the service of the presiding deity. The example of their inclusive behaviour has been more than ever on display even during the ongoing COVID pandemic, when traditional sevayats or managers of the these institutions old and new have stepped out to work as much as possible to feed those who were languishing on the streets, something the so called civilizing force of the governments were unable to do so. What many of these temple workers in turn received was a big fat zero from this civilizing force that Mr Mehta is so unusually fond of only in the case of the Hindu community.

Coming to the question of resource management, and one sees arguments that try to be clever by half. Systemization of temple management has perhaps been the biggest joke of the last two centuries that has been played out at the expense of the Hindus. Telling Hindus that they are casteist and exclusionist bigots, Hindu religious were taken over and these takeovers were justified by the elites of the government, press and judiciary in tandem, saying there is a need for a remedy in the actual ground position. Their ‘incomes’ are taken over by the government and what they get in exchange are rates, and the temple sevayats salaries that have been probably not revised for more than seventy to one-twenty years. In the case of the Tamil Nadu HR&CE Board that Mr Mehta has so gleefully quoted, temple priests get salaries of 200 rupees a month, and get 12 rupees a day for doing puja as per the agama shastras that these priests are supposed to uphold. Even these expenses have been nowhere to be found during the COVID pandemic, as the state pleaded bankruptcy and empty coffers, despite taking ALL of the earnings and donations of the institutions. As if that was not enough, the rampant theft of precious temple idols with the connivance of several HR&CE administrators that has surfaced in recent times thanks to the interventions of the Madras High Court and a few motivated individuals at the Idols and Antiquities Wing of Tamil Nadu Police, signals in all senses the actual avarice of the state towards Hindu institutions.

Hindus have been fighting the state with one hand amputated, not even tied behind them. Repeated Constitutional morality thrown at the Hindus fails to highlight exactly under what right Hindus are supposed to be civilized and not the other communities. Christians, Sikhs and Muslims have a say in the way their religious establishments are being run; in contrast, the appointees for Hindu institutions can only be nominated by the State, and does not take into consideration even such underlying assumptions that only Hindus can understand the functioning of such institutions. Hindus have not been allowed to handle Waqf or Gurdwara or Church properties, and therefore it behoves the question as to why the State’s civilizational zeal bordering on evangelism is allowed to operate with such impunity with zero accountability to those whose institutions they are in the first place. Adding insult to injury is the fact that temple deities are treated as living beings who are supposed to pay taxes as well. Which other institution is bullied into paying taxes by the civilizing state? Why this evangelism is only meant for Hindus is a question not clarified upon with sincerity. Have any Hindus ever been asked their opinion on how their institutions are supposed to be run? Has the government ever presented a white paper on what happens to the funds of the temples and other religious institutions? Why is it that there is no compulsion to actually put forth an account of statements on how temple earnings have been used to the public unless someone approaches the judiciary for redress? That is because the laws across several endowment boards clearly specify limits to which money can be spent for activities that would actually allow temples to play similar roles in educating and providing charitable healthcare as say the Church or the Gurdwaras of the country. Usually pegged at a measly amount, the overwhelming share is supposed to fill up the pockets of the State, which then can be used as per their whims and fancies. This modern age jizya system is imposed by a state that virulently hates Hindus for asking for reforms.

Speaking of freeing temples, the premise of the argument started off on an absolutely infantile note. The State had stepped into Hindu establishments’ administration citing certain maladies that plagued these institutions. We are yet to find even a shred of evidence that suggests how the State’s interference has actually remedied those maladies that were purportedly identified. Corruption is at an all-time high, as idols get stolen to be sold on the antiquities market, and earnings get siphoned. Aesthetics and desecration is rampant – looking at the manner in which thousand year old temples are repaired, or that toilets are being opened within the compounds of the temples much like Pakistan converting old temples into public toilets would put anyone to shame except for the greedy officials who are hell-bent on destroying the state. Land property that Mr Mehta so happily quoted remains a subject of dispute, as several cases of the State engaging in corrupt practices to give away land and/or encourage massive property encroachment has increased manifold. Abetment of the State in what would otherwise be deemed as a criminal activity followed by accountability goes on unabated, and the people have no remedy except seeking judicial relief on the daily sledgehammer that is slammed against the beliefs and establishments of the Hindu community. The perfidy however is deep rooted - the state has always thrust upon the Hindus this patently absurd Abrahamic divide of the secular and the religious onto Hindu establishments, where the secular was driven entirely by the religious, to bulldoze itself into an institution where it should not have stepped in the first place unless the people had asked for it. To date, even modern endowment board acts and rules, as they are coming up, have no popular rationale or sentiment to support them – one wonders exactly where knowledge of the devotee interests is sought before taking steps to ‘remedy’ problems through an answer that no one had actually sought.

Coming to the question of a precedent, the judgment is certainly a precedent for it puts in place a starting point of a much needed discussion on how temple administration reform is to be sought in the first place. The so called remedy that the state was supposed to provide has failed to manifest itself, and so the next step needs to be taken forth. Options emerge and serve as models to discuss and deliberate upon, and must be taken up. Of course, there is something I always agree upon with the lawyer J Sai Deepak on the matter – since the state is so obsessed with managing temples for Hindus, it should declare India as a Hindu state. Otherwise, it is time for the state to actually become far more accountable, and give a voice to the devotees.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

India's Space Program - An Honest Analysis

GSLV MK3 (from ISRO)

Under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat reform package, one important step of the Narendra Modi government was the opening up of the Indian space sector to private participants beyond the half open door that was available till then. Several people were very happy, and rightly so – private sector participation has importance in propelling space research in several countries which have significantly developed space programs. However, what it indirectly did was also put a spotlight on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in particular and the Indian space program in general, of which an honest, sobering analysis has been long overdue.

The Indian space program has been an evolution into itself, and has seen several important successes. However, it is also important to have a realistic assessment of where the program today stands compared to other nations in the game. The outlook of the space race is not just about the civilian aspect, but also includes military considerations today. However, this discussion will restrict itself to where the program stands vis-à-vis other nations. While some of this discussion may seem slightly jaded, it sheds light on several aspects where India truly lags behind adversaries, not to even name newly emerged players in the space.


Manned Missions – India Lags Behind China

India is planning to send its first manned mission, Gaganyaan in 2022. To that end, ISRO has also launched successfully the GSLV MK3 in 2014, a crew capsule that will be key to India’s manned mission. Vyommitra, the humanoid for this purpose, is also ready.

However, looking to our north, we see China far ahead on this, in fact having a major lead on even some other space powers like Japan. In 2003, China became the third nation after the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States to independently launch an astronaut into Earth's orbit. In 2008, China made its first spacewalk, and in 2012 it achieved its first manned space docking, an important step in the country's quest to launch a space station by around 2020[1].

Dependence on Foreign Technology for a Long Time

The Geostationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launched successfully in 2001 was the first step toward independent capacity in the heavy launch sector. However, what is often ignored is that the GSLV used a Russian-built upper stage engine since ISRO had yet to develop its own cryogenic capability. It has taken a long time to reach to the point of independence, which happened by 2014[2].

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), a follow-up to the GPS-assisted GAGAN system for civil aviation still does provide full global coverage, which is critical as it is also shared by the military and commercial sectors. The IRNSS is supposed to provide independent navigational support for India’s armed forces, especially in the context of expanding its maritime presence across the IOR. However, there is still distance to be tread.


Commercial Success – Devil is in the detail

Antrix is up against China’s Great Wall Industry Corporation (GWIC) in a battle for market share in the global space economy and outreach among developing nations.

Antrix has a comparative advantage over its rival in the lightweight launch services industry, but GWIC remains ahead in the heavier segment. Even as India’s low-cost launcher gives cost advantages, one should see the fine print. GWIC’s Long March 3B/E is more efficient in delivering satellites to LEO, and the launcher is primarily utilized for heavy geosynchronous orbit (GEO) launches. Until Antrix can field a more competitive heavy launcher, India’s commercial space launch industry will remain limited to catering to a less profitable segment of the market[3].


Technologically Behind China, America, Japan

Only in 2014 did India manage fully indigenous capacity on cryogenic booster technology. China, on the other hand, has utilized the Long March 3B/E, its heavy GEO launch vehicle, since the mid-1990s. Also, the GSLV MkIII is more efficient than China’s light GEO launcher, the Long March 3A, but it still can’t outcompete the Long March 3B/E. Furthermore, the upcoming Long March V could very well be cheaper than the GSLV MkIII once it becomes operational, posing a longer-term commercial threat to India’s heavy launch prospects[4].

Interestingly, India’s Mangalyaan was cheaper because its payload was minimal at 15 kg compared to the 65 kg of complex instrumentation that NASA’s Mars exploration program MAVEN carried[5]Speaking of rocket technology itself, five decades ago, Apollo 11 reached lunar orbit in just 51 hours and 49 minutes time, using a very powerful Saturn V rocket. In contrast, the Indian mission Chandrayaan took 48 days, clearly highlighting the lack of a suitable rocket.

Chandrayaan system was further found fault with, as experts have noted that it was not trained adequately to identify the fault and take corrective measures. This raised questions on the nature and quality of artificial intelligence (AI) involved in entire process of landing of the lander Vikram[6]Interestingly, Japan’s space program has seen as significant leap in recent times, with Japan’s Hayabusa becoming the first to return to Earth in 2010 after a seven-year, 6-billion kilometer journey with samples from an asteroid, and its asteroid missions are continuing with Hayabusa2[7].


Long Development Time Compared to Vietnam?

India and Vietnam both had a lot of official development assistance and foreign collaborations working with their space agencies. India’s space program had started off with U.S. and then moved to USSR/Russia for support. Similarly, Vietnam saw assistance from Japan and French agencies for its programs. Interestingly though, the Vietnamese program is now being put at par with India’s program. This considering the fact that Vietnam’s program started only in the 1980s. Till 2000, Vietnam had no space assets of its own! Rocket technology notwithstanding, that too may not remain a barrier for long, with committed programs to develop assets on this front as well[8].


Research Capabilities Leave Much to Desire

ISRO lags behind other space agencies in the patents it holds, a sign that it needs to ramp up technological prowess[9]Interestingly, of the 23 centres that come under its ambit, it was the Satellite Centres of Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram that have contributed most of the patents, which probably also reflects on the satellite building obsession of ISRO. This also begs the question in a slightly tangential direction - what are the various satellites contributing to Indian research, technology development, or even day to day navigation and communication capabilities? 

Table : Number of patents held by different agencies


DLR (Germany)

JAXA (Japan)

ISRO (India)




178 (270 as per ISRO site claims)


Was Mangalyaan a Vanity Project?

While criticism of the Mangalyaan in 2013 was shouted down on grounds of discrimination, professional jealousy and privilege issues, genuine questions on the objectives behind the program remain[10].

Mangalyaan’s orbiter was meant to beam back data that is already available. Or at best, data with a sub-standard value. Critics have argued that the Mangalyaan project was hastily put together, and instead of the rush, efforts to increase the value associated with the project should have been pursued. More payload, better instruments, collaboration with other agencies could have been pursued, instead of taking up a ‘vanity project’.


With a picture that actually looks quite underwhelming, it is important to qualify that rather than calling it a criticism, this is an analysis only because there are very high expectations from ISRO having set a certain benchmark of performance and quality. With the private sector now entering into a collaborative partnership with ISRO, the synergies otherwise absent due to excessive bureaucracy and red tapism par for the course for any government organization can be overcome. Moreover, the space which already attracts several high tech engineering minds from within India can find opportunities to pursue their aspirations and can stem to an extent the brain drain from India.

[1] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Asian Space Race Accelerates November 06, 2013 By Charles Recknagel

[2] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019


[3] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019

[4] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019

[5] Latha Jishnu, Indian patents make no dent in space, Down to Earth 30 October 2016


[6] Ajay Lele, Chandrayaan 2’s Moon illusion Monday, The Space Review, September 16, 2019


[8] Nandini Sarma, “Southeast Asian Space Programmes: Capabilities, Challenges and Collaborations”, ORF Special Report No. 82, March 2019, Observer Research Foundation.

[9] Latha Jishnu, Indian patents make no dent in space, Down to Earth 30 October 2016


[10] Chandru The Real Problem with India’s Mission to Mars Is Not Poverty, You Idiots. Medium 10 November 2013

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Slicing Through the Chinese High-Tech Economy Propaganda

(Courtesy: India TV)

The Indian government’s decision to put 59 applications originating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has literally sliced through the Chinese economic propaganda of ‘interdependence and harmony’ that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its propaganda arms, especially Global Times has been boasting about since the soldiers’ clash in the Galwan valley. This hits the Chinese where it hurts them the most, since these application developers and software companies represent the high-end Chinese software and hardware prowess that was being used to project CCP’s soft power push of an advanced hi-tech society, an alternative to the democratic virtues and ideals that mean so much to countries like India.

One must bear in mind that this step has not come out in isolation. Concerns about Chinese apps have been doing the rounds for months on a stretch now, with politicos and people alike raising questions on privacy concerns arising from them. Policy experts have noted how several apps need to be pushed out of the Indian market as they are excellent tools of spreading misinformation and have also ended up spreading the propaganda of the Chinese government. People have been arguing that the Chinese apps get economic benefits through Indian money earned by this app owners, while getting away with the propaganda.

In April 2020, a video by United States of America’s Republican Senator Josh Hawley went viral on social media in India. In this video, Senator Hawley said that he planned on introducing a legislation to ban the popular Chinese social media app TikTok, owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, as the permissions sought by the app were highly intrusive and worrisome, and data was essentially being stolen. This was but picking up from where several political representatives, cutting across party lines, had left off some time back - in July 2019, Opposition party MPs in Parliament had called for a ban on some Chinese apps, accusing it of helping to spread fake news and malicious content, and illegally collecting data and sending it to China. Even allies of the Narendra Modi government now coming forth to demand a ban on some of these apps. Moreover, the judiciary was already talking tough on some of these apps to the point of examining some form of regulation to prevent misinformation or even issuing notices in response to petitions seeking a ban.

Many of these Apps are Security Concerns

Intelligence agencies of India had red-flagged several apps, recommending their blockage or discouraging their usage because there were several issues of data and privacy related to them. India has not been the only one to express concerns with the Chinese apps - the United States, Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines observing these concerns among a bevy of nations. Several independent cybersecurity experts and independent think tanks have repeatedly flagged concerns on the Chinese hardware and software players. Even smartphone companies and hardware manufacturers have been repeatedly embroiled in scandals on sharing information without the knowledge of the product/app users to their ‘servers’ in China, with some even being accused of having installed Chinese spy chips in their devices.

Even connections with the Chinese military have been a cause of concern. Further, the links of several companies with the military and government are seen just as concerning. Links of the so-called technology giants of China like Baidu, Weibo and Tencent with the CCP have been well established. Moreover, many of the high-end technology companies of China have been involved with serious violations of freedoms of liberty by participating in the artificial intelligence-based surveillance state projects of the CCP in China, which are particularly active in restive provinces like Xinjiang and Tibet.

Answering the CCP in a Language It Understands
CCP has been given a response in a manner that hurts its interests the most. With their high-end companies being denied access to the world’s largest market, a strong signal has been sent out – India is not to be messed with in any which way.

Chinese technology companies profit from stealing other people’s intellectual property, and are given preference within China with the CCP governance architecture blocking similar platforms and creating a parallel internet architecture to control and regulate the flow of information through the Great Firewall – a modern day Soviet propaganda machinery which no other country, forget democracy has even has attempted to recreate so far. This is a blatant violation of basic human liberties and a violation of market equity that it is supposed to follow, being an apparent adherent to the World Trade Organization. Contrast this with the openness of the Indian market where Indian companies do not enjoy any special privilege or benefit in this space, much to their chagrin. It is also noteworthy that most of the platforms China blocks, like Google, YouTube, Twitter are heavily used by Indian content creators; thus content creators from India are practically denied access to the Chinese market through this Chinese Firewall. 

This ban hurts these companies financially too, the only language that the CCP understands. ByteDance, which owns Tiktok for instance, loses $500,000 every day if it is not available in India, and the Indian market contributes 15-20% of the total global revenue for the Chinese app SHAREit. Similarly, the Indian market forms a significant chunk of Zoom’s growth many other Chinese apps like Helo, UC Browser, PUBG, Shein, Club Factory, Vigo and Beauty Plus, many of whom have been found to seriously violate privacy issues and sharing data without users’ knowledge to servers within China.

India has actually become the only country other than the United States to take actions that hurt the Chinese economic interests and symbolically puts their high-tech companies with ties to the government and military in an uncomfortable spotlight. While some fanatics will continue to shout for blood, nothing less has been drawn from a dispensation that only values the colour of money and not the blood of its people. The real issue is with the government of China, and not its people – with such an incisive cut being inflicted on the malevolent CCP, the government has actually also managed to make that distinction between the people and the government. While the world awaits to see what the Chinese will do next, India certainly has made a bold move to counter the high-handed brashness on display from the Chinese regime. It has been trying to stoke tensions with all its neighbours – China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan – and tried to bully Australis alongside inviting the United States’ ire. India however has hit back hard, and delivered a strong message that national interest is paramount to any and every economic interest. This round has akin to a shock and awe tactic that one would rather see on the battle field, but in today’s world the battle fields are not just on the ground – they are very much in the economic sphere as well, which India has amply leveraged. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perhaps There is a Shekhar in All of Us

Sushant Singh's death has left a void in many people hearts. Even those who vaguely knew him in a personal level feel the loss of Sushant as someone very personal today. As someone whose brilliance could have taken him anywhere to great heights, he had a zeal, a passion for art, and wanted to touch new heights, inspired by the greats of cinema in India and abroad. He did whatever it took to reach the pinnacles of success, only to be denied a seat at the high table by the hoi polloi of a film industry that never really welcomed him, that wanted to have nothing to do with a misfit like him. 

However, what people have perhaps thankfully gotten to talk about since the incident is nepotism.

Nepotism is everywhere. Publishing, cinema, politics, work - you name it, it's there. The pretensions of nepotism's non existence is a charade that has gone on for too long, and perhaps has been mocked at more often than not. The truth is that we don't mind nepotism in India as a rule. "Actor ka beta actor", "doctor ka beta doctor", "engineer ka beta engineer" - replacing a so called caste system that many nepotists claimed to fight all along with another kind of feudalism. Only there is more tools and tricks at their disposal today than ever, as these new societal elites go all out to destroy any potential threat to their interest groups.

It's a ruthless world out there. Matsya nyaya prevails. Dog eats dog world. The number of phrases that talk about the nature of any profession doesn't come to an end. And yet, a large number of them don't do more than cover up nepotism, shield the ineffectual and perpetuate the status quo. If we were animals it would make sense, but aren't we supposed to be humans? Isn't humanity supposed to be different? Or is humanity another club of exclusivity, where the talented shall be profited from till the individual dies in body and spirit, only to be exploited ever more?

I like the melancholy of the movie Pyaasa. Pyaasa was a great movie, and told the story of nepotism, of exploitation and disappointment in the system in a brilliant way, the anguish of which cannot be expressed in a better way. The movie's climax is called one of the most outstanding pieces of world cinema ever. I see more to it - a mirror to the very industry it was produced by. A fatigued poet Shekhar, played fabulously by Guru Dutt himself, sings out his disgust at the manner in which fame is granted to him after he is presumed dead, while everyone who ridiculed him when he was struggling now wanted to milk his name.

A song and a climax where the hero were disgusted to the point that he refuses to identify himself as Shekhar out of sheer disgust, 'killing himself' once again, and choosing to be anonymous.

Such is the disgust of Shekhar with the world of poetry and publishing, and the artificial world propped around it, that he would rather die than continue to be in it.

Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. Perhaps there is a Shekhar in many of us average people with a belief in our abilities and big dreams and plans for life, with the only difference that we choose to exit the scene after crushing our dreams for good, stomp on it and walk away. 

Perhaps, that Shekhar of Pyaasa turned out to be Sushant, only to end up a horrid death.

Or sometimes, we exit the scene by exiting the world we live in in every sense possible, breaking or connections with life.

I'll leave you today with that song that still gives the heart a tug. Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai.

Au revoir Sushant. You were perhaps like Shekhar of Pyaasa, a man who ended up declaring himself dead only to escape the persecutions of the world.

Friday, June 12, 2020

सुखोचक - 3

"एक बात का ध्यान रखना है सभी को। कोई भी बहु बेटी इन मुसलमानों के हाथ जीवित न लगे। अगर हो सके तो पिता उन्हें स्वयं मार दें, भाई अपने हाथों से उनका गला घोंट दे - हमारी लाज को इस तरह हम कतई न हारेंगे, जीते या मरते। जो बाप या भाई न कर सके, तो बेटियां बहुएं अपने आप किसी कुएं में कूद कर जान दे दें, या चाक़ू से अपने आप को रेत कर या घोंप कर अपनी लाज की रक्षा करें।"

सुखमनी रोने लग पड़ी। नौ साल की इस लड़की को मृत्यु से बहुत भय था, पर उस पगली को कौन समझाता के लाज खोने का, नाक काटने से जो मान का नाश होना था, वो उससे भी बढ़कर था? कई महिलाओं ने अपनी सिसकियाँ दबा लीं, कुछ ने कड़वे घूँट पी कर हामी भरी, और सब जत्थे चल पढ़े। ऐसा ही एक जत्था किशोरी लाल और उसके भाई कन्हैया का था, जिनके साथ सरला और सुखमनी और माँ चाची भी थे।

मशाल की रौशनी में गति से चलना थोड़ा कठिन था, और वह भी पीछे की ओर से सुखोचक से निकलना था। हिन्दुओं के इलाके का पलायन पता नहीं कैसे थम सकता था, जब तक के वह जम्मू नहीं पहुँचते, चाहे कोई गाँव ही पहुंचे। शायद शिवजी का आशीर्वाद था, के चुपचाप सारे हिन्दू सुखोचक से निकल सके, और कोई हरकत नहीं हुई थी मुसलमानों की अब तक।

बरसात के मौसम में मढ़ियों पर चलना बहुत कठिन हो जाता है, तो खेत की बात ही क्या करें। मौसम भी मक्के और दाल का था, तो मक्के के खेतों का सहारा लेकर सुखमनी और सरला परिवार समेत आड़ लेकर चलते रहे, न जाने किस ओर - बस यह मालूम था के किसी भी तरह पहुंचना था जम्मू। पथ कठिन था और फिसलन अधिक होने के कारण कीचड़ से कपडे भी सन गए थे। परन्तु शिवजी की कृपा थी के रास्ते में कुछ भी नहीं मिल रहा था। एक पल के लिए जब सुखोचक से कुछ दूर हो चले थे तो एकदम से कन्हैया जी रुक गए।

"क्या हुआ भाई साहब?" किशोरी लाल एकाएक पूछ बैठा। उसके स्वर में समस्त मंडली की चिंता का स्वर गूँज रहा था।

कन्हैया जी कुछ बोले नहीं, बस मुड़ कर चुपचाप सुखोचक की ओर देख रहे थे। वह रात के अंधेरे में अपनी स्मृतियों में अपने घर का अंतिम दृश्य शायद कहीं संजो के रखना चाहते थे, जैसे वो मेले वाले फोटो के कैमरे करते थे। पर यह तो कुछ और ही हो रहा था सुखोचक की ओर!

आग की लपटों से रात्रि में मानो दिन सा उजाला हो चला था। दूरी तो हो गयी थी, पर अग्नि की ज्वाला का ताप मानो यहां तक पता चल रही थी। उन्होंने शायद गुस्से में आकर हिन्दू बस्ती में आग लगा थी। कोई भी नहीं रह गया था - सुदर्शना और देवकी फूट फूट कर रोने लगीं, और किशोरी लाल बस मौन रहा - संभवतः उसके मन में एक संतोष था जीवित बच पाने का। पर कन्हैया जी कुछ भी नहीं कह पाए या सुन पाए - बस देखते रहे वह सुखोचक की ओर।

"भाईसाहब, जल्दी चलिए, वरना वो हमें मार डालेंगे!"

मार डालेंगे - यह शब्द बिजली से कौंध गए, और कन्हैया का मौन तोड़ गए। उसे एकाएक ध्यान आया उसके उद्देश्य का, और अपने होश संभल वह चल पड़ा दोबारा टोली की अगुवाही करते हुए।

तीन घंटे हो गए थे चलते चलते, और भगवन की कृपा से कुछ अनहोनी नहीं हुई। पर अब एक छोर आ गया था। नाला का एक किनारा था, और उस पार जम्मू की सीमा आरम्भ होती है।

सबने सांस में सांस भरी, पर सरला अचानक रुक पड़ी।

"क्या हुआ सरला?" सुदर्शना ने पूछ लिया। "जल्दी कर, जान बचानी है हमने!"

सरला एक क्षण के लिए मौन हो गयी, पर उसने मुड़ कर धरती को हाथ लगा अपने माथे से लगा लिया। वह जानती थी के अब उसका यहां आना कभी भी संभव नहीं हो पाएगा। वो भारत में जा रही थी एक जीवन जीने, लेकिन कौनसा भारत? जिस भारत को वह जानती थी उसका अस्तित्व तो मिटा दिया गया था चंद बदनीयतों के हाथों। उसे तो एक अनदेखे, अपरिचित भारत में अपने जीवन को, अपने परिवार संग फिरसे संजोना था। आज अंतिम घड़ी थी के वो इस माटी का एक अंतिम बार स्पर्श कर सकती। जिनकी अस्थियां चेनाब में बहनी थीं, वो जाने कब उसके दर्शन कर सकेंगी।

बस, यहीं तक का साथ था हिन्दुओं का सुखोचक के साथ।

बस इतनी सी थी सरला की सुखोचक वाली कहानी।

उसने एक पोटली निकाली , और सब लोग देख हैरान रह गए। उस पोटली में कुछ मिट्टी पड़ी हुई थी।

"अरे यह क्या है?" देवकी के मूँह से प्रश्न निकल आया।

"सुखोचक की निशानी। बाबा, इसे संभाल के उस पार ले जाओ।"

कन्हैया लाल के आँखों से आंसू छलक गए, और उसने अपनी बेटी को गले लगा लिया।

A story about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's Impact

 A man once boarded the wrong train and ended up in Tamil Nadu near Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, a holy pilgrim site that has moved many a seer...