vivek's blog

"Build a New Sri Lanka: 'Cuz We've Sure Screwed This One Up, Haven't We?"

By: on 3 May 2007

So concluded Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse in his Labour Day address.

Richard Gere, James Laine, Bal Thackeray and Narendra Modi: JUXTAPOSE!

By: on 3 May 2007

Today's Hindu carries an editorial comparing Richard Gere's arrest warrant and Bal Thackeray's call to burn James Laine's book, whose ban was recently lifted:

There is something wrong with our legal, moral, and social priorities when a court in Jaipur can issue a warrant of arrest against an American actor for planting a kiss on the cheek of a Bollywood actress at a public function — but no law enforcement agency in the country is prepared to take action against Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray for inciting his supporters to indulge in violence. Thanks to a Jaipur magistrate's order, Richard Gere runs the risk of being arrested for his playful, Bollywood-parody of affection. But Mr. Thackeray — who has called for the burning of all copies of Richard Laine's Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (Oxford University Press, 2003) now that the Bombay High Court, following the Supreme Court's quashing of criminal proceedings against the author, has lifted the Maharashtra government's senseless ban on that scholarly book — is sitting pretty (The Hindu).

While I certainly agree with the editorial, I think a much more apt comparison would have been between the Gere incident and another story in the same paper:

Ethnography of an HSC Chapter: "Western University"

By: on 2 May 2007

In a comment here last year, Desi Italiana referred to an article in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography by sociologist Prema A. Kurien of Syracuse University. The article, "Being Young, Brown, and Hindu: The Identity Struggles of Second-Generation Indian Americans" (e-mail me for the full text) is an ethnography of a chapter of the Hindu Students Council (HSC) at an unnamed university in California.

I selected the HSC at Western University since it met regularly and was discussion oriented. I chose a chapter of the HSC rather than an independent campus organization both because the HSC was a national organization and because it was linked with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. Some scholars have argued that many of the Hindu American youth who attended the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America’s youth camps or were part of the HSC were drawn to the organization in their search for “roots” and were unaware of its political agenda (Mathew and Prashad 2000; Mckean 1993; Rajagopal 2000). My goal was to see what Hinduism meant for the second generation and what if any influence the Hindutva movement had on them (pg. 443).

Kurien asked several of the students why they'd founded or joined an HSC chapter, and got responses like these (names made up):

Mukunda, a young man in the HSC who had come up to me after the first meeting to declare that “Hinduism is my passion,” stated that there was a need for a group like the HSC that emphasized pride in Hinduism.“ Many Indian Americans have an inferiority complex and are ashamed or scared to manifest a Hindu identity because they feel that there is a stigma associated with being Hindu. You know how in this society, Hinduism is associated with twelve armed gods and such.” Chandan, the graduate student from India, made a similar point, saying that in his opinion, “Non-Christians in the U.S. are forced to act and behave as if they are white Christians. Because that is the only way you can get accepted in the society here. These people, all their lives, have never had the opportunity to think in public, in school, that they are Hindus. So this is a terrific forum for the resurgence of Hindu pride in them. Now a lot of these people go out and say, hey, you know, I am Hindu. And you can do whatever you want to do about it. I don’t give a f***” (pg. 449).

Most students seemed to be attracted to HSC because of the alienation they felt growing up as members of a minority religion in a society dominated by whiteness and Judeo-Christian values and traditions, and the desire to learn more about Hinduism and their roots without the Judeo-Christian lens. Fair enough.

However, group discussions took on a political edge, and this created two factions within the organization.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

By: on 27 Apr 2007

Introducing the PTR message board! This is a public space for folks to contribute whatever they want in three categories: news, events, and opinion.

Anyone can read it, but you must register to post.

News and events might find their way to the main blog as posts, as might thoughtful and articulate analysis (with the author's permission, of course).

For now, there's only one rule: Don't write anything that'll require the creation of more rules.


Panic on the Streets of Chennai

By: on 25 Apr 2007

From (free subscription required):

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), has introduced a ‘novel system’ – an attempt to introduce uniformity in its catering service across the country, in which only 21 food items have been approved to be served on trains.

Unfortunately, no delicacy from South India makes its entry to the list.

Tidbit: No, They Really Are Criminals

By: on 25 Apr 2007

A friend of mine just showed me the Harper's index from a copy of either the March or April issue of Harper's Magazine. If you're lucky enough to have a subscription, you can verify. If not, you'll have to take my word for this lovely bit of information which I copied down:

Number of the 541 Indian Ministers of Parliament who have been charged with crimes: 125

Number whose alleged crime is murder: 14

CSFH: Hindu Students Council is Another Arm of Sangh Parivar

By: on 19 Apr 2007

In a meticulously-researched and well-documented new report titled Lying Religiously: The Hindu Students Council and the Politics of Deception, the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate has provided solid structural links between the Hindu Students Council (HSC) and the Hindu nationalist Sangh Parivar.

Before proceeding any further, I do want to say two important things:

1) If you are put off by the language/rhetoric

Students Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Grades! Part III

By: on 16 Apr 2007

I want to spend more time on this one, but it's going to have to be a quickie for now:

New York Magazine, in its latest issue, has a feature on radical student organizing at Columbia University. Besides the annoying "radicals-can-be-sexy-too" mugshots and irritating little pokes at the students (though I have to admit, I'm much less sensitive to these than I would have been as an undergrad), I thought the article was spot on in capturing the sort of dynamics which dominate student politics, at least in my experience.

This isn't a good thing.

In the 7-page spread, which consisted of soundbytes from various students on a variety of issues, as well as accounts of the reporter's visits to coalition meetings, THERE WASN'T A SINGLE MENTION OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT IN THE WHOLE FREAKING ARTICLE!!!

Indian Supreme Court: Leave James Laine Alone!

By: on 11 Apr 2007

A follow-up on a previous post (thanks Geeta Amma):

The Supreme Court has given a clean chit to an American scholar being prosecuted by the Maharashtra Police for allegedly promoting animosity between communities through his book on the legendary Maratha warrior Shivaji.

A three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan restrained the state police from proceeding further against Professor James W Laine, the author of “Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India”, which, on its release by publisher Oxford Univers

Multimedia Communalism

By: on 10 Apr 2007

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has withdrawn a campaign VCD intended for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The VCD, featuring blatantly anti-Muslim filth, was withdrawn within a day of release.

Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan has translated some excerpts and posted them on his blog. Please do read his transcript, it's worth a look:

“Hindus will produce two children and Muslims will marry five times and produce 35 dogs each and make this country into an Islamic state”

“If you don’t vote BJP, you will regret it. This country will be enslaved. First it was enslaved by the British, now it will be enslaved by the Muslims. Even earlier it was enslaved by the Muslims. That Aurangzeb earlier cut your choti (tuft of hair) and took off your sacred thread. And now these tikas on your forehead will have to go and in their place you will have to grow beards.”

“Ha ha ha! When Hindu girls get ensnared by us, they scream and shout but sadly there is no one to listen to them and we have great fun. Ha ha ha ha ha!”

“That day is not far away when we will be afraid to even call ourselves Hindu, and you will never be able to find a Sohanlal, Mohanlal, Atmaram or Radhekrishan anywhere. Wherever we look, we will only see Abbas, Naqvi, Rizvi, and Maulvi” (Reality, one bite at a time).

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