Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pak kids taught 'A' for Allah, 'B' for bandook

Citing stark examples from school curriculum, a prominent Islamabad-based scholar has said that extremely religious and anti-India views fed into children in schools reinforced the cycle of extremism that showed no signs of receding in Pakistan. Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist and prominent commentator on current issues, showed the examples at a lively  seminar held in the King's College on the role of education in combating terrorism, organised by the Democracy Forum. 

The examples showed by Hoodbhoy included images and text from a primer that mentioned the  Urdu equivalent of A as Allah, B as bandook, Te astakrao, J as jehad, H as hijab, Kh as khanjar and Ze as zunoob. Hoodbhoy, whose presentation title was 'How education fuels terrorism in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan', also showed a college which is seen as going up in flames, containing images of things considered sinful: kites, guitar, satellite TV, carrom board, chess, wine bottles and harmonium. Examples cited by Hoodbhoy from another curriculum document for Class V students included tasks such as discussion on: 'Understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan', 'India's evil designs against Pakistan', 'Make speeches on shehadat and jehad'. 

"There has been a sea change in Pakistan in the last six decades. The poison put into education by Gen Zia-ul-Haq was not changed by subsequent regimes. Attitudes have changed over the years, makes my country alien to me," Hoodbhoy said. Recalling his growing up years in Karachi, he said the city was home to Hindus, Parsis and Christians: "They are all gone. The same is true of much of Pakistan. Minorities have no place in Pakistan today," he said. He held madarsas partly responsible for the situation, and regretted that efforts initiated during the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf to reform them did not go far. After the 2007 Lal Masjid incident, liberal voices were also less welcome in Pakistan’s 's news media, he said. 

"Every attempt at education reform has failed to remove the hate material in curriculum, but there is a minority that wants change. The situation will remain in free fall, until something drastic is done to change the situation," he said. Stressing the need for pluralism and secularism in education, former Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy said tensions began when education did not foster respect for diversity and for other religions. There was more to terrorism than education, because some of the recent perpetrators were well educated, he said. 

"The most important part of education is that diversity should be cherished, that unity does not mean uniformity," Hoodbhoy added. Other speakers on the occasion included King's College experts Professor Jack Spence from the Department of War Studies and Shiraz Maher from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Religious Conversion for Marriage: A Message to Dharmics

Summary: The proud Hindu parents and youths need to learn to simply say “NO” to a religious conversion request (Baptism, Bris, Shahadah/Sunat; BBS) for an interfaith marriage involving a Christian, Jew or Muslim. This is a true test to help identify a potential religious fanatic. By saying NO to the BBS request, one will increase chances of a guilt-free and long lasting happy married life even if it is an interfaith marriage.

Proselytism and religious conversion of poor and less fortunate Hindus in India is of major concern to many, however silent religious conversions of most educated and blessed our young adults and their children in the West has not raised eye brows of most.

Thirty eight percent of marriages of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs (Dharmics) in America are to Christians, Jews and Muslims (Abrahamics). Forty five percent of Muslims in America marry to non-Muslims. However, there is a limited tolerance for Hindus and Hindu practices of praying multiple forms of the God in Abrahamics’ exclusivist supremacist monotheist religious beliefs1, 2, 3, 4. For this exact reason they expect conversion by the BBS of the Hindu spouse. It is unbelievable but still true today that many marriages in Christian churches and to a Muslim there is a must requirement for religious conversion of Hindus by Baptism and Shahadah, respectively, to the faith of intended spouse. In some cases, a Christian or Jew may not ask for a religious conversion for marriage but will certainly ask to declare the interfaith child as a Christian by Christening/Baptism or Jew by Bris circumcision ceremony, respectively.

Considering divorce rate in interfaith marriages is estimated up to 70%, why would a Hindu gives up birth religion for some intolerant Abrahamic? If Mahatma Gandhiji has to rewrite his famous statement today, probably he would say…“Your religion is like your mother. Just because your intended spouse is demanding that you adopt your mother-in-law as your dear mother, you are not going to abandon your birth mother!”

In all most all cases, the Abrahamic love mate will start by telling a Hindu youth that “I don’t care for all these BBS rituals,” “It is only a formality,” and “do it just to please my parents or grandmother” but don’t underestimate the inner desire of this Abrahamic. Don’t be in a wrong impression that the BBS is a hollow ritual devoid of meaning. Further, the religious conversion is not a onetime event; you are setting a new tone for your life. If you feed a shark, it will come back again for more food. Similarly, religious conversion for marriage will be followed by the expectation of a declaration of faith for your children via Baptism, Bris or Sunat. Later, you may be forbidden to practice your own religion so children would not learn and follow it. Also, your spouse or his/her family may not like to be part of a Hindu religious ceremony while at your parent’s home. When your fantasy love period ends and it transformed into a routine married life, then these issues will become sore points in your life.

Consider the BBS as a “tip of iceberg.” Let’s take example of the Bollywood star Sharmila Tagore. She converted to Islam to marry Mansur Ali Khan and changed her name to Begum Ayesha Sultana. All her 3 children have Muslim names and were raised as 100% Muslims. Their son, Saif Ali Khan's wife, Amrita Singh, had the same fate as Sharmila except later she got talak (divorce). Further, if Kareena Kapoor marries to Saif, probably the same saga will continue. For your daughter (or son), do you wish for the same religious fate like Sharmila? Would you not say “no” to the “unintended” BBS and divert the love Titanic away from a major disaster?

If your doctor tells you that you have a high cholesterol or blood pressure, would you not be concerned about future massive heart attack or stroke? A request for the BBS of a Hindu for marriage should be considered as an alarming sign for a major trouble coming 15 years into your marriage life.

If your intended spouse (or in-laws) is expecting the BBS religious conversion, especially for your children, then you have one of two choices: 1) accept his or her Abrahamic faith and be prepared to give up your birth religion and cultural heritage completely or 2) clarify that you have pride in your birth religion and ask for equality by denying the BBS religious labeling request. Promise only what you mean. A married life based on misleading assurances or lies will have serious consequences later for both. The married life is a long journey; do not start in a wrong direction.

Many times, without realizing long term consequences, Hindu youths may opt to accept a new religion just to please their intended spouse and in-laws. Further, in many cases, the Hindu parents allow Hindu children or grand children to convert to the other religion just to please their in-law. There could be 101 reasons to say “no” to Abrahamic’s proselytism tactics, while there is not one good reason for a proud Dharmic parents to say “wonderful son, go for the BBS” other than parent’s lack of courage to speak out.

These days, most Abrahamics are not religious fanatic, are open minded and thus will not expect the BBS from the intended Hindu spouse. But you want to make sure the one you are dealing with is not an intolerant for what you are. Keep in mind that the “tolerance” and “open mindedness” are not measurable characteristics and could change with the wind. However, the denial of BBS is a simple litmus test to find out the “true color” of the intended spouse. So Hindus youths and parents need to learn to ask a simple question: is there any expectation for the children of this marriage to have Baptism, Bris or Sunat?

Love is often not a planned event. Further, love is said to be blind to religion. If so then why only a Hindu is expected to be blind? Check if it is the love of his or her Abrahamic faith or a love for you comes first. It is Dharmic parents’ responsibility to guide their love-blinded children for equally of both faiths. The BBS has no place in an interfaith marriage with equality. 

In many cases, when a Hindu adamantly deny the conversion for marriage and for their progeny; the other party considers and will understand it. When there are other options available, why not ask for it? Bollywood star Rhitik Roshan and Suzanne Khan kept two religions out and got married by a civil wedding, and it is an admirable act. A similar message has been given in Jodhaa Akbar, Gadar and Namastey London movies. If the BBS, which is nothing more than a religious conversion, is an absolute requirement from your potential Abrahamic in-law, why you will want to tolerate some one’s intolerance for what you are? Further, by submitting to the BBS request, you are nurturing and propagating Abrahamic’s intolerance practices against other innocent Hindu youths.

Marriages are made in heaven; however very high percent of interfaith marriages end in divorce. With such a high failure rate, why one would want to give up own birth religion irreversibly? In many cases, a divorce costs lot more than the marriage. The BBS promise will certainly have legal consequences, and after the BBS, Hindu will find difficult to win a child custody case against an Abrahamic. Check with your lawyer and view this video before submitting to the BBS request.

When it comes to college education, Hindu parents will do anything possible to make sure their children have noting but the best. For example, if their son or daughter gives up a high flying medical carrier for a bar tender job and finds a real joy of life, the Hindu parent will sure to give hell till the child changes his or her mind. Similarly, if a Hindu young adult becomes a cocaine addict, the parents will not support it by saying that “we want to see you happy and you decide what ever is right for you.” Contrary to that, when it comes to religious conversion for marriage many Hindu parents have no guts to guide their children or courage to face the Abrahamic in-law. In this Obama’s tolerant America, it is time for a “change.” It is time to say NO to the BBS.

In general Hindu parents are great bargainers when it comes to purchasing a car or a house; why not use the same negotiation skills when your son or daughter selects an Abrahamic interfaith marriage mate? One needs to respectfully deny for conversion by stating that we are Hindus and wish to remain exactly the same after the marriage. More specifically, tell your potential in-laws that we will not tolerate Baptism for a church wedding or Shahadah for Nikaah, the Islamic wedding. Further, proactively tell them that we will not tolerate Baptism, Bris or Sunat religious circumcision label for the grand children, especially when there is no scientific merit to the circumcision. Your tolerant potential in-laws will surely consider your request. At least one should ask just to learn of their “true color.”

If your Hindu daughter found a handsome and well educated Hindu and if that intended spouse later asks for - - $5,000 dowry - - as a pre-condition for the marriage, what would you think of that guy? Probably you may ask your daughter to reconsider her decision with the fear that this junwani (old timer) may bring more troubles later in her life. Similarly, why any one should tolerate if some junwani Abrahamic asks for your - - religious pride as dowry - - for the marriage?

Many parents tolerate the intolerance and accept the thought of religious conversion for their children thinking this is an easy fix to the marital grid-lock. Further, there is no risk to their prestige in the Hindu community since no one will find out. However, time will come when for these proud Hindus, now grandparents, will have a guilt feeling seeing their grand children following a different faith. It will not be pleasant for these proud Hindu grandparents to drive their Abrahamic grand children to a Church or synagogues or Mosque/Madrasas for religious education. This guilt feeling will get worst when time comes to pass your hard earned life estate for the benefit of the believers of the Abrahamic faith. At that time you may wish, instead of this “my way or no ways” BBS deal; the grand children had an option being Hindus.

You may be a Hindu for hundreds of generations. Is your Abrahamic son or daughter in-law worth so much that you are willing to end the Hindu heritage now? Was that the dream you came to the West with?

The BBS is a social evil for interfaith couples. No youth will bring up the talk of BBS in an early dating period with the fear of being labeled an intolerant. To present the BBS demand after years of romantic relationship is an ugly form of proselytism. No honest Abrahamic youth believes in imposing the BBS on their intended interfaith spouse; however they end up doing it because of pressure from their intolerant community and religious institutions. Unfortunately, instead of enjoying the most quality time, the couple has to resolve the BBS issue by uncomfortable discussion just before their marriage. It is hoped that soon there will be an end to the BBS religious conversion practices for interfaith marriages.

Well-informed and well-thought out decisions for selecting a life mate will certainly bring long lasting happiness in a married life, even if it is an interfaith marriage. But most importantly is that one wants to make sure you will have the freedom to follow your traditions and raise your children to do the same without threats to this liberty created by the Abrahamic in-law and his or her religious institutions. One of the most important things a Hindu, Jain, Sikh or Buddhist parents and youths need to do is to pro-actively say “no” to the BBS religious conversion practices of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nothing's sacred: the illegal trade in India's holy cows

Even in the dog days of summer, the quiet paddy fields that mark the border between India and Bangladesh look as supple and green as the soft stems of herbs grown in a window box. But the daytime tranquillity belies a stark reality. This delta region of the Ganges river is a place of often deadly conflict that underpins an activity many in India would rather not discuss. Every year, hundreds of thousands of cows – considered sacred in India, with export of the beasts banned – are illegally smuggled into Bangladesh where they are turned into shoes, belts, bone china crockery and, of course, meat.

"There is smuggling here every day," said Umesh, a member of a three-man Indian Border Security Force (BSF) team on duty at a watchtower near the village of Kaharpara, just a few hundred yards from the Bangladesh border. "The smugglers will take 50, 100 or 200 cattle at a time. We try to create an ambush and surround the smugglers."

The story of the annual smuggling of an estimated 1.5 million cattle says much about modern India – about the sometimes hypocritical treatment of supposedly sacred cows, the political power of right-wing Hinduism and the corruption that allows the £320m illegal trade to flourish. But ultimately this story is about supply and demand. Hindu-majority India has an estimated 280 million cows but killing and eating them is legal in only a handful of states. Meanwhile, Muslim-majority Bangladesh, where beef is eaten with relish, suffers from a shortage of cattle. Half of the beef consumed in Bangladesh comes from its large, western neighbour.

The snaking border that divides the two countries runs for 1,300 miles. Here in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal, 150 miles north-east of the state capital Calcutta, large sections of it are unfenced. It is a lure both for human traffickers and gangs from both sides of the border smuggling cows.

Villagers, who claimed not to know any smugglers but appeared to know the intricacies of the operation, said cattle were brought by truck from states across eastern India such as Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand. Some may even be brought from further away. Despite the effort involved, the mathematics is persuasive. An animal that might sell for £60-£80 in the country's cow-belt hinterland will here fetch £130. Once inside Bangladesh, they could change hands for £225 or more.

"Those buying the cows always look to see how fat it is. They feed them husks from the paddy," said Mohammed Ashraf, a blacksmith who was hammering into shape a glowing curved sickle that locals use to cut the rice crop that is harvested three times a year.

Yet the trade comes with a deadly price. The BSF has been accused of killing hundreds of cattle smugglers, as well as civilians not involved in the trade. A 2010 report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggested that more than 900 people had been killed with impunity by the BSF over the past 10 years. It also said locals claimed some BSF members were complicit with the smuggling and took bribes. This year, an incident in which an alleged smuggler was badly beaten by the security force personnel was captured on video.

"Over the last decade, they used excessive and indiscriminate force, shooting at villagers on suspicion that they were smugglers," said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW's south Asia director. "While many may have been engaged in cattle rustling, the BSF ignored the most basic principles of protecting the right to life. Instead of arresting suspects, they shot and killed them. The BSF claimed they had to use lethal force as self-defence, an argument hard to believe since the police reports on the weapons recovered usually [refer to] sickles and sticks."

Asked about the allegations, a BSF spokesman said: "The BSF is a disciplined and professional force [and] exercises utmost restraint in the use of any force. The BSF has also an impeccable record of upholding human rights."

Ms Ganguly said that since issuing its report, the BSF had started using rubber bullets which led to a drop in fatalities. But, villagers said their evenings were still sometimes disrupted. "We hear the gunshots at night-time. Sometimes the smugglers get shot. It's mainly people from the other side of the border," said Mr Ashraf. Locals said the smugglers often used teenagers to transport the cattle across the border in the belief the security forces were less likely to shoot a youngster.

There is a clear antagonism between the guards and the villagers. Some locals said the BSF troops retaliated against anyone they could find. Matir Rahaman, a rice farmer who was cycling back from the fields, said he had been badly beaten by BSF personnel. "One night the cows came over the border and the paddy got smashed. I went to the BSF and said, 'Why is this happening'. They said, 'You are smugglers' and they attacked us with [metal-tipped bamboo sticks]," he alleged.

Ashfaqur Rahman, a retired Bangladesh diplomat who now chairs the Dhaka-based Centre for Foreign Affairs Studies, said the matter was sensitive but that legalising the export of cows or beef would put an end to corruption and violence. "There needs to be wise counsel on both sides," he said.

An irony is that India is expected to become the world's largest exporter of beef – from non-sacred buffaloes, rather than cows – by next year. According to an estimate recently published by the US Department of Agriculture, India is likely to export 1.5 million tons of beef in 2012, a 25 per cent increase from last year. Its biggest markets are south-east Asia, the Gulf and Africa.

Cows have been considered sacred in India for centuries, and in only a few states is killing and eating them legal. More recently, a movement by Dalits, or so-called untouchables, demanding the right to eat cows has gathered pace. In 2004, Indian historian DN Jha published the controversial The Myth of the Holy Cow, which argued that during the period when a number of the most important Hindu religious texts were produced, people in India ate cows.

Kancha Ilaiah, a Dalit activist and a professor at Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad, believes Aryan invaders of Hindu promoted the (white) cow over the (black) buffalo. "The buffalo predates the Aryans," he said.

There have been attempts by the Indian authorities to review the ban on cow exports. Earlier this year, a report by the government's central planning committee suggested changing the law to allow the export of beef. The plan was hastily dropped and explained away as a "clerical error" amid an angry backlash from right-wing Hindu organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and so-called "cow protection" groups.

Among those who complained was the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Animal Protection. The group's India director, Naresh Kadyan, said: "It is the fundamental duty of Indians that [everyone] should respect all animals. We strongly opposed the lifting of the ban and the government made a U-turn," he said. "The cow is a very important animal for Hindus."

Revered and worshipped: Saintly beasts


In Thailand, the elephant is considered the national animal, and it is also revered in Burma, Cambodia and Laos.

Particularly auspicious is the white elephant – not a distinct species but an albino or elephant with particularly pale skin – which Buddha's mother is said to have dreamt about before the birth of her son. The appearance of a white elephant in the reign of a monarch or leader is meant to signify good fortune and power.


The ancient Egyptians took their worship of animals to artistic heights with statues to honour their feline gods, which frequently featured cats' heads on human bodies.

Cats were prized for their useful rat-catching abilities, and some argue they were first domesticated in the region.

While cats are no longer worshipped as gods in modern Egypt, they are certainly preferred as pets to dogs, which are traditionally considered unclean in Islam.


Their association with the Hindu faith – the monkey god, Hanuman, helped Lord Rama defeat the evil king Ravana – has largely protected India's monkeys in the face of much annoyance at their mischievous and sometimes aggressive ways.

Delhi's tens of thousands of monkeys are a frequent nuisance, stealing food, breaking into homes, and even attacking people. But residents continue to feed them.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Pakistan may wage nuclear war against India: Bangladeshi High Commissioner

The statement given by Bangladeshi High Commissioner to India Ahmed Tariq Karim on Monday that power-struggle between India and Pakistan may increase the tension in whole South Asian region is enough to suggest that the latter may use its nuclear weapons against the former.

Karim has handed over the pamphlet of 19 pages to senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani alarming India against nefarious intensions of Pakistan.  Advani has endorsed the letter in his blog in which Karim has said that Pakistan may wage nuclear war against India.  In the pamphlet, Karim has cited seven reasons which has created political crisis in Pakistan and weakened the democracy there.

Karim has opined that these are the Islamic principles imposed on Hindus. He further alleged that Pakistan is dominating Bangladesh. Strained US-Pak relations and Pakistan’s closeness to Iran and China is the sole reason behind the conflict between both the countries.

While agreeing to the statement given by the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, Advani wrote in his blog that the fierce competition between India and Pakistan to procure missile and nuclear arms and ammunitions is the reason for souring relations between the two countries. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hope floats

Rural and new urban voters will ultimately save India from the venal governing class, avers Gautam Sen.

Structural and sociological factors are major reasons for the far-reaching socio-economic debacle India has ended within its sixty-fifth year of independence. I have argued earlier that the adoption of a parliamentary system of government was a huge error of judgement. A more insulated, presidential form, would have allowed balancing of diverse sectarian demands under the overarching umbrella of a national vote, constraining accentuation of deeply-rooted faultlines in Indian society. The parliamentary system has given full play to every socio-political division and real or imagined grievance instead of allowing them to be addressed with a combination of measured policy assuagement by rulers and accommodation by the ruled.

The attempt to resolve every perceived injustice completely, which must inevitably eventually result in endless bloodshed, is in grave danger of being achieved in India. Its long-suffering, meek people have now developed a taste for wilful truculence and its self-seeking educated has filed for moral and intellectual bankruptcy, forgetting self-restraint and sacrifices are imperative for nationhood. India's ruling national elites themselves are well on the way to abandoning all pretence of governing their fissiparous country and are engaged in shameless personal enrichment. In this hapless melee a deeper dynamic is nevertheless in play and understanding it might provide a better grasp of the likely fate of India.

The political elites of India, including its vast bureaucracy, have become somewhat detached from purposive governance that seeks to achieve national societal goals essentially on their intrinsic merits. Huge spending targets are not evidence of goal-oriented purpose when they are unable to connect effectively with implementation. They indicate a certain inertia and imprisonment by past choices that listlessly and powerfully propel movement without real direction. A clue to this reality is provided by the disjuncture between a Planning Commission, unable to provide direction, and reckless foreign spending by its most senior official. He might have paused to reflect on the dire poverty of most of its citizens, whose interests are supposedly the organization's raison d'etre, since his political bosses constantly resort to Mahatma Gandhi's pious injunctions on self-restraint.

India's governing classes may be grimly rational in behaving with egregiously self-serving abandon, stealing and lying. Offered an uncertain future as rulers, though highly privileged and rewarded, and unable to truly impact on policy outcomes, this was always a likely scenario. Indeed, idealism is driven out quickly and any misguided souls entertaining aspirations to assist the nation advance are likely to fall by the wayside. In time, opportunists and crooks have come to dominate Indian political life and plunder the country, as the shocking statistics on the criminal backgrounds of legislators underline. In the final stages of decay, few upright politicians remain to curb the damage that relentless looting and dishonesty precipitates. And that seems to be the stage India has reached under UPA 2, ironically led by a man initially celebrated for his shining rectitude. The exaggerated analysis above is necessary to illustrate the inference that India has acquired pronounced symptoms of having become, in essence, a predatory state. Such a predilection is usually a matter of degree and the Indian polity has slid dramatically towards the end of the spectrum characterised by predation of late.

The second dimension relates to economic entrepreneurs large and small having two contrasting types of relationships with India's governing elites, on a spectrum that ranges from collusion in joint plunder to obligations to bribe in order to operate as economic agents. Although both relationships can prevail concurrently, the consistent position on the spectrum is likely to depend on size, with the larger conspiring conjointly for mutual gain. Smaller players are consigned to the end that mostly necessitates bribing the governing classes, directly and indirectly (money bribes and excessive charges for services like transportation and energy, etc.), to operate.

Some formally constituted private economic enterprises are in fact owned, indirectly at arms length, by members of the governing class themselves. These profiteer massively by obtaining lucrative government contracts and siphoning off major nationally-owned resources like land and mines. Other essentially private economic operators benefit from similar larceny, but many also position themselves strategically in the marketplace through licensing and other privileges granted by political benefactors. It enables them to extract vast revenues from consumers through entrepreneurial activities, which they share with the governing class. The extent of economic growth is a spin-off from this operational reality and the critical cross-over point that determines its rate is the forbearance of the governing class in plunder because excesses lower the growth rate.

The third dimension of India's political interstices is occupied by external protagonists. They pursue their short and long-term goals with greater freedom as the Indian state atrophies and the governing class is preoccupied with individual political survival and personal enrichment. The external agents within India include a vast number of social NGOs and economic entities. The former are often anything but innocuous charities seeking to relieve poverty and promote empowerment, as they purport. In fact, many engage in cajoling and bribing politicians and the government in order to operate freely and achieve sinister objectives. Their activities range from longer-term goals like religious conversion to create extra-territorial loyalties, of which the Koondankulum episode is one poignant example, to suborning governments to win contracts and influence policy decisions. Manipulating economic policy decisions creates highly profitable opportunities entailing lucrative contracts awarded by state enterprises and policies that allow dubious investment vehicles like Participatory Notes.

More worryingly, in recent years, important national policy perspectives seem inexplicably poised to discard long-held certainties, without adducing compelling arguments for them. There are grounds for suspicion that such puzzling behaviour is a product of the susceptibility of the ruling elite, many of whom harbour criminal backgrounds, to blackmail by well-informed external players and their dedicated Indian associates. Blackmail has become a hugely significant problem in the Indian polity, endangering its very survival.

The hapless majority of India comprises the fourth dimension of its polity, facing awesome impending outcomes of which they are perhaps only vaguely aware. There is nothing to be said of a largely purchased Indian media which foxtrots to the tune of assorted venal paymasters while avowing improbable high purpose and concern for the ordinary citizens of India.

Unfortunately, the vast anonymous masses are vulnerable to mobilization by prize rascals who have developed pushing the right buttons of instinctive prejudice and resentment into an art form. Yet, there are gratifying signs that they do not unfailingly deliver the desired goods. A majority of the criminals who had put themselves forward at the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections were rejected and the crass hate-mongering earlier of Nitish Kumar's opponents in Bihar also suffered ignominious setback. Perhaps the dire necessity of daily survival eventually sanitizes the mind, even if false promises initially confound judgement.

It may also be anticipated that the ordinary voter across the length and breadth of India, struggling to find their daily roti or rice, will deliver a resounding verdict on the serial revelations of incredible corruption that ultimately rob them of the basics of survival. Middle class India itself doesn't yet count, partly because many don't vote though they seem to have a pretty shrewd idea of what is happening to their country. Their numbers are growing rapidly, with India's urban population predicted to exceed 600 million by 2030. The diverse constituents of urban India share an understanding that reasonable governance is essential for tolerable living, as Gujarat's voters have repeatedly reaffirmed by voting for Narendra Modi. They and rural voters, with whom the majority of these recent migrants to urban India have much in common, may be the saving of India. Together, they will be in a position to choose a government they deserve and its genuine nationalist credentials will surely be a pregnant issue.

Dr Gautam Sen taught Political Economy at the London School of Economics and Politics.