At 70:Expanding the Idea of India

The Independence that we celebrate today was won by the Indian people through a prolonged and hard struggle of epic dimensions, a larger than life battle in which ordinary men and women performed heroic roles.It was a cumulation of revolutionary movement which forced the rulers of an empire on which the ‘sun never set’ to surrender power to their ‘subjects’ whom they had exploited for two centuries.India became the first colony to throw off the imperial yoke, and its example inspired other countries in Asia and Africa and by 1960s, most countries had became independent.

Throwing light upon duties seems to be the most apt headline this independence amidst all the noises of rights and protection.The framers of the Constitution did not deem it appropriate to incorporate Fundamental Duties in the text of the Constitution, however the post-Constitution civic life, for around a quarter of a century did not portray a rosy picture and therefore it was thought fit to have a framework of duties within Constitution itself which ironically came into life at the time of suspension of rights during emergency.Apart from the 11 Fundamental duties, there is need for addition of several duties as the country has grown 70 yrs but is still very young.

Duty to Vote: One method through which this may be achieved is through developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who remain abstain from performing their duty to vote.A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way

Duty to pay taxes: It will shift the onus onto tax payer to pay taxes rather than tax department to collect them

Duty to help accident victims:Every 60 minutes, 16 people die in India in traffic accidents.With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other

Duty to keep premises clean, Duty to raise voice against injustice, Duty to protect whistle-blowers are some more which can be incorporated. For the people of country who are so knowledgable about their rights , surely these duties would be welcomed and understood equally well

What could be some of the defining images of India at 70? The growing visibility of gestures of Dalit resistance and attempts to regain dignity, how to define nationalism, what should be the protection for and right of minorities, the correct balance of power between institutions, or the cow vigilantism in many parts of the country which says  that it is right to disrespect human life in the name of the cow. These are desperate images but with a common theme: They speak of freedom’s work half done, or undone, while promising that fight for greater freedom is still on.Having said all this ,India’s image globally was never so powerful in the past 70 years whose bold example is when  Mr Prime Minister from the podium of Red Fort gave life to NSA’s words”that offense is the new defence” by taking into account Balochistan and telling our bitter neighbour that India has the answer to Kashmir and now it is not in the mood to sit back. Strong leader and growing powerful allies in the east as well as west are a welcome signal for an emerging economic power who is growing day by day.

Sixty nine years after Independence, we Indians are more free than when the British left, but less free than what the framers of our Constitution hoped us to be.For now, lets celebrate the growing visibility of Dalit resistance and fight for dignity,refusal to dispose of human waste and remove carcasses of dead animals anymore Let’s welcome Candidate Irom Sharmila in Manipur, when she takes the electoral plunge and an election issue called AFSPA.Let’s look forward to the latest bout between judiciary and government yielding hopefully in a finer balance of institutions.To quote Nehru on 15th August 1947,”It is a tryst with Destiny” and hope the coming generations continue with the same feeling and pride


Article 370 done! One Nation, One Flag.

Article 370 done! One Nation, One Flag.

August 5, 2019. Kashmir is finally free. Free to grow, free to make a future. Having visited the kashmir valley more than twice , it is an incredibly  emotional moment for me to see this happening in my lifetime. I can proudly say kashmir belongs only to India and it is part of the same soil that I belong to.

Article 370 never gave Kashmiris freedom. It only created selfish leaders who created a terror filled society and robbed Kashmiri youth of opportunity. It is finally time for it to go. Anyone objects, tell them loudly: One Country, One System


At the time, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had a majority Muslim population, was governed by maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu. Unlike most of the princely states which aligned themselves with one nation or the other, Singh wanted independence for Kashmir. To avert pressure to join either new nation, the maharaja signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan that allowed citizens of Kashmir to continue trade and travel with the new country. India did not sign a similar standstill agreement with the princely state.

As partition-related violence raged across the two new nations, the government of Pakistan pressured Kashmir to join it. Pro-Pakistani rebels, funded by Pakistan, took over much of western Kashmir, and in September 1947, Pashtun tribesmen streamed over the border from Pakistan into Kashmir. Singh asked for India’s help in staving off the invasion, but India responded that, in order to gain military assistance, Kashmir would have to accede to India, thus becoming part of the new country.

Singh agreed and signed the Instrument of Accession, the document that aligned Kashmir with the Dominion of India, in October 1947. Kashmir was later given special status within the Indian constitution—a status which guaranteed that Kashmir would have independence over everything but communications, foreign affairs, and defense.


What is Article 370?

Included in the Constitution on October 17, 1949, Article 370 exempts J&K from the Indian Constitution (except Article 1 and Article 370 itself) and permits the state to draft its own Constitution. It restricts Parliament’s legislative powers in respect of J&K. For extending a central law on subjects included in the Instrument of Accession (IoA), mere “consultation” with the state government is needed. But for extending it to other matters, “concurrence” of the state government is mandatory. The IoA came into play when the Indian Independence Act, 1947 divided British India into India and Pakistan. For some 600 princely states whose sovereignty was restored on Independence, the Act provided for three options: to remain an independent country, join Dominion of India, or join Dominion of Pakistan — and this joining with either of the two countries was to be through an IoA. Thus through IOA , Jammu and Kashmir joined India.


In simple words , the implications of Article 370 before and after are :



Now we come to some of the most complex parts of this historic decision and try to unfold them legally, constitutionally and morally.

First, what is to be taken into consideration here is that Instrument of Accession(IOA) and Article 370 are two different things! If one can understand this difference then the confusion is almost clear.  Through Instrument of Accession , the state of Jammu and kashmir has permanently been integrated as a part of India therefore nobody can take it away from India, not even the elite political families of Kashmir as they have been claiming to do so since a long time and reaping political benefits over false claims and creating fear in the mind of local people over the years. On the other hand Article 370 was drafted few years later after the IOA was signed to give special status to Jammu and kashmir and give special autonomy.

Now this Article 370 has been done with by the presidential order and this “special status’, ‘temporary provision”, “special Autonomy” whatever one might want to call it no longer applies to Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore it must be noted that it is absolutely crystal clear that Jammu and kashmir is, was and will be a part of India through IOA and not Article 370.

Secondly, Whether the consent of Jammu and kashmir Assembly is required  to abolish Article 370? Here is the actual wordings of Article 370:

Article 370 of the Constitution of India

1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution,—

(a) the provisions of article 238 shall not apply now in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir;
(b) the power of Parliament to make laws for the said state shall be limited to—

(i) those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the Government of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession governing the accession of the State to the Dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
(ii) such other matters in the said Lists as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify.

Explanation: For the purpose of this article, the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognized by the President on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly of the State as the Sadr-i-Riyasat (now Governor) of Jammu and Kashmir, acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the State for the time being in office.

(c) the provisions of article 1 and of this article shall apply in relation to that State;
(d) such of the other provisions of this Constitution shall apply in relation to that State subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify:
Provided that no such order which relates to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of the State referred to in paragraph (i) of sub-clause (b) shall be issued except in consultation with the Government of the State:
Provided further that no such order which relates to matters other than those referred to in the last preceding proviso shall be issued except with the concurrence of that Government.

(2) If the concurrence of the Government of the State referred to in paragraph (ii) of sub-clause (b) of clause (1) or in the second provision to sub-clause (d) of that clause be given before the Constituent Assembly for the purpose of framing the Constitution of the State is convened, it shall be placed before such Assembly for such decision as it may take thereon.

(3) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify:
Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.


Now when the Home minister spoke in the Rajya Sabha, he citied the (3) clause of Article 370, thereby making Article 370 more or less null and void via a “Presidential order”. This point is very important as a presidential order is an executive order and not a legislative one. Also as there is currently no state government in Jammu and kashmir, the person who represents the state is the Governor himself via Governor’s rule that is in place. Therefore the Central government merely needed to take the permission of the Governor to imply clause (3) in this place.  This is what you call a political masterstroke.Hence it is completely within the limits of Constitution and totally applicable. Therefore as a conclusion , the concurrence of state assembly is not required.

One more issue that is complicated is the bifurcation of Jammu and kashmir. The earlier state is now divided into two separate Union territories that is one UT of Jammu and Kashmir with legislature (like that of Delhi) and other UT of Ladakh region without a legislature. This is of very much significance especially to the Ladakh region as it has been in the shadows of Kashmir valley region over the years and been facing discriminations in terms of development, representations etc. Also now that Jammu and kashmir will be an UT with legislature, it will have its own MLA’s and also there will be a direct control of central government in the form of Lt Governor. This is also done to further increase the powers of Centre over the region and therefore give it more stability and accountability

To conclude, some of the things that needs to be looked upon on a priority basis now are the reintegration of Kashmiri pandits, bringing Investment and development to Kashmir and most importantly keeping the ‘Kashmiriyat’ alive along with the ‘Insaniyaat’. Jai Hind

Doctors : Superheroes we don’t deserve!

Doctors : Superheroes we don’t deserve!
It was Doctor’s Day on July 1, and it’s only fair that we remember them.

We need to do better. Our ingratitude toward doctors is shameful. Almost all of us were delivered by a doctor in a hospital, but do we even remember their names, or send them a box of sweets on our birthday?

Being born to two incredibly hardworking doctors, I remember there used to be a series of days where I didn’t see my father at home because he used to leave early morning for work when we were peacefully asleep and came back at night when we were again “peacefully” asleep . Leaving in between holidays, vacations, movies, functions , dinners and sacrificing his family time or even individual time for emergencies and call ups to hospitals ( he called it “his duty”, not work). Still today thats a routine for him. Also some of my closest friends being doctors , I feel like I owe this blog to all of them and many more out there doing night duties, studying their eyes out and working at odd hours of the day

When I was in school, many of my friends prepared for entrance exams. For science students back then, and perhaps even now, medicine and engineering were the most popular options. I chose engineering. Today, when I see the state of doctors in my country, I feel thankful I didn’t choose to become one.

In India, we expect doctors to be all this: they should be brilliant, be willing to study for decades, be willing to work in adverse conditions, including far-flung rural areas, feel guilty about making money, take responsibility for anything going wrong, be demonised as greedy and also get beaten up by an angry mob from time to time. Wow, some way to treat people who save our lives, isn’t it?

Ironically, all this is happening at a time when Indian nationalism is running at an all time high, when movies and television programmes are celebrating our soldiers. Well, soldiers deserve respect as they save our lives, but they only do so in times of conflict. Doctors save lives everyday. So why are we beating them up? Why are we making them feel terrible when theirs is actually one of the noblest professions known to man?

There are several reasons for this. One, we need a scapegoat for what is ultimately a poor healthcare system in our country. No matter how jingoistic we get, the fact is we are a third-world country that makes very little money compared to the developed world. Until that changes, we cannot change this reality — for a billion plus people, we don’t have adequate resources for a good healthcare system. Running hospitals, doing tests, treatments, surgeries and medicines cost money; getting quality in all these aspects is expensive; and, most importantly, the people who are treating you need to be of a certain calibre.

This last point means we have to attract the best talent into the profession. It means we have to value this excellence, incentivise it properly and not mix politics into it. However, we are doing exactly the opposite. So, if someone makes the mistake of becoming a doctor in India, we expect them to become a saviour of the world. They should take all the downside, get paid a lot less than people of similar intelligence do in other fields and not even feel safe. If they call it unfair, we morally guilt them and ask them why they became a doctor in the first place. Is it a surprise that our best doctors are running abroad, or even worse, not even becoming doctors in the first place at all?

There is a tendency in India. If something is good, mix some kind of politics in it and destroy it. After all, politics is the will of the people, right? So, if we have good schools, we impose a million regulations on them. If we have a good metro, make its operations unviable by making tickets free for women. In this, we don’t realise a simple fact. If you make school regulations onerous or metros unviable, people will not open schools and more metros will not be made. Similarly, if we screw the doctors, we are simply discouraging the best people from joining the profession.

But doctors are supposed to be selfless, right? They should just suffer and treat people for twenty hours a day and not make money, right? Well, the answer is no. Doctors are doing good for society, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it for profit or ignore your needs and comfort. Yes, there are rare people in this world who do good for society and don’t have any personal gain out of it. Dr Amte and Mother Teresa, for instance. But such people are rare.

There is a second degree of do-gooders in society. The ones that help society but also make money. They are not as noble as Dr Amte and Mother Teresa. But neither are you nor I. Most of us want to do good for society, but also have a good life. And there is nothing wrong in that. In fact, such people are much needed. An entrepreneur who makes money, but also gives jobs and pays taxes is doing good for society; whether he roams in a luxury car earned from his profits is irrelevant. A doctor who treats people, but wants a decent life for himself is also really good for society. This Indian ethos of ‘good people are necessarily poor or have no needs of their own’ simply has to go. It only leads to hypocrisy, unsustainable expectations, and in the case of doctors, a weird hostility towards them.

Please understand. You need the smartest and best people to be doctors. A woefully poor healthcare system also means Indian doctors are under tremendous pressure. Hence, show some respect and compassion for people who quite literally, give you life. Stand with Indian doctors. Keep the people who keep us safe, safe.

Sabarimala, I rest my case.

Sabarimala, I rest my case.

One of the main reasons I wanted to write about this issue was because an impression was being created that this is a fight between the temple and women, and that the temple was a male-dominated bastion, I want to demolish this argument completely. Also I am not discussing this issue as a right-wing activist or conservative, but trying to analyse the diverse nature of this country and how sometimes it is misinterpreted.


Religion can clash with law, faith need not. It is natural for an old civilisation like India to have old practices revered by the faithful. In the case of the Sabarimala deity, the faithful have strong arguments in their favour. By choosing not to accept these, the Supreme Court trod a path it need not have. In order to get the right answer, you need to ask the right questions. For understanding purposes lets break down the entire issue into questions and there by analyse its answers.

So the basic question we need to begin with is,  What is the ritual at  Sabarimala Temple and Why women of certain age group are restricted?

The answer to this is, firstly the temple of Sabarimala is dedicated to the celibate deity Lord Ayyappa. He is a Naishtika Brahmachari –  one who undertakes a vow to remain a celibate till his death. It means he will not come in contact with the opposite gender physically or mentally. Hence the basic premise that the restriction is based on Menstruation is absolutely false. It is based on Celibacy (the state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations). Also Celibacy is not directed at women, even women can practise celibacy and refrain from coming in contact with the opposite gender. Therefore to assume that this is a masculine or patriarchal concept would be completely wrong.

Hence we need to ask the question, Is this instance based on gender discrimination? Absolutely not, it is based on the essential religious practise observed by the deity of the temple. So it is not discrimination, it is Exclusion! Coming to restricting women of a particular age group, the tradition does not define age group per say 10-50(that is done by the state), it merely says any women with reproductive capabilities must not enter the temple because it again goes against the essential fundamentals of Naishtika Brahmacharya.

There are other Ayyappa temples where he is not in the Brahmachari form and there are no restrictions on women in those temples. The restrictions in Sabarimala are more on Ayyappa than on women and they are self-imposed because he does not want his penance to be disturbed.

The next question that can be asked is, How does one decide what is essential practise to be followed or How do we decide what is essential? For that the Supreme court had said, primarily there has to be  scriptural evidences about the tradition and also there has to be a nexus between the character of the temple and the tradition that is followed. As far as scriptural evidences are concerned, Bhoothanathopaakhyaanam is the text refered in this case also called as “Sthala Purana”(the text that spells out the history, origin of the temple or deity).Therefore you need to ask yourself if someone just randomly decided to invent this practise out of nowhere and says women should be kept out or is it drawing support from a scripture.  Hence the scripture and the tradition establishes a clear nexus between Lord Ayappa and the temple rituals therefore legally and constitutionally it stands firm ground under Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution(freedom to practise religion)

All the above arguments sound very religious and less logical but as Justice Indu Malhotra, the only judge who ironically happens to be a woman, upheld he temple’s tradition  said in her opening statement of the judgement, “You cannot bring logic and rational into Religion”, that is the reason we have Article 25 and 26 in the Indian Constitution – which also believes in faith and gives it a fundamental right status in our country.

Now let’s try to analyse the faith or religious aspect of this tradition in our country. Some people may say this is basic superstition. Firstly, Who is to decide whether it is a superstition or religion? It is for the devotees or the people who put faith in that tradition to decide.

Think of this, If somebody says I do not believe in “Shahadat” but I still claim to be a Muslim. How can that be true? Because if you do not believe in the basic fundamental concepts of that faith and you do not treat Allah as the only God or Prophet Mohammad as the last messenger then there is no question that you can claim the rights to be a Muslim. As far as Christianity is concerned, the virginity of Mary is one of the essential belief of the religion, but no one has ever asked Why is her virginity so important? It is mentioned in the Bible. That means in order for you to claim access to a particular religious institution you need to follow the rules of that institution so is the case with the rules  of  Sabarimala temple.

Another example can make it more clear. Lets say there is a Ganesh Temple in Pune. Now somebody says I have rights to worship this particular deity in a manner I deem fit and according to my liberty therefore I will offer Non-veg as ” Prasad” today. Can it be acceptable? Hence the important thing to note here is individual rights to practise any faith in any manner are restricted to your own house, when it comes to public places of worship the rules of that temple must be followed.

Next question someone can ask is, If a normal person were to observe Brahmacharya, he/she may go astray and may be susceptible to weakness, but since Lord Ayyappa is a God, How can he lose control or can show weakness?

Here is where Hinduism differs from its fundamental understanding of a deity from other religions. For example If you ask a Christian or a Muslim whether a normal person can become god, that would be unthinkable or sacrilege. But when you ask a Hindu, yes it is possible for a human to attain Godhood. What it also means is Gods in Hinduism have been given human flaws, for example Lord Indra and many others. Therefore again it reiterates the essential practise  of celibacy to be followed by Lord Ayyappa even though he is a God.

Talking about Hinduism, the religion is  diverse and the basic essence of the religion is its diversity. The whole issue of Sabarimala is wrongly portrayed or motivated as- Temple vs Women or impurity attached to menstruation. There are temples in India which worship the process of Menstruation like The kamakhya temple in Assam, therefore to say that this issue is about menstruating women is absolutely false. Also one needs to understand that the Sabarimala temple is based on Tantric philosophy and not Vedic philosophy. In tantric philosophy the force of sexuality is considered to be one of the strongest and hence there is alienation from the opposite gender in case of Lord Ayyappa.

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court ignored the importance of faith in a 5,000-year-old society and delivered a judgment that toppled a revered tradition based on the very concept of the deity concerned. This issue was not about morality, equal rights or emancipation but about a traditional ritual that wasn’t harmful to society as such. Therefore, it should not be mixed up with repressive practices such as Sati and widow abandonment. Those were social evils which needed to be abolished. Sabarimala is a nuanced story about a God, with freedom to follow or not follow. Why demolish a ritual based on belief?
There is a danger that this judgment and misplaced sense of political correctness may be the beginning of a new age of faith-denouncing and faith-asserting litigations.If and when a review petition comes up, the honourable court will have a chance to take these possibilities also into account. India is different from modern democracies of the West. Our society is different. Hence this particular quote sums up the essence of the issue,

“Religion is flawed only because Men/Women are flawed”.


The Anatomy of BJP : Ahead of 2019

The Anatomy of BJP : Ahead of 2019


Disclaimer : I am not writing in support of any political party. These are just my views based on analysis of one party over last 3-4 years trying to give constructive criticism. Shortly I would be coming up with another blog about the opposition party as well.


The BJP has a unique cocktail of voter bases. They are all right wing, but differ in the degree to which they are so. There are three main types. The first is the Extreme Right (ER). This is the hardcore ‘Hindus are the best, screw the rest’ category. These include the Karni Sena types. These voters may secretly say ‘only Modi can keep Muslims in check’ or ‘women should be fully covered’. Some call them ‘The Fringe’. This fringe is a solid chunk of the BJP’s support base. Sure, only a few engage in the actual violence or make loony statements in public. However, the number of people mentally nodding their heads and saying ‘sahi baat hai’ to them runs into millions. The ER is a fantastic set of voters. They don’t think much. They feel. Once voters can be swayed by emotion, they are easier to manipulate. The BJP laps them up as they come in hordes, take Lord Ram’s name and press the lotus button.

The second set of BJP voters are the Liberal Right (LR), or the Aspirational India voter. These are the educated ones, who need jobs, GDP growth, economic activity and opportunities. They want a government that can give them that. They also want modern values like freedom — to date, drink, marry whoever they want. They want an India they can be proud of. More than anything, they want more money in their pocket. The LR are in fact the economically right-wing voters. They can be college students, doctors, lawyers, MBAs and of course, don’t forget the stereotypical ‘software programmer’ type. The coding guys who want to tell their US friends that India is doing well.

The third category is the Middle Right (MR), who lie somewhere in the centre. They harbour a certain sense of Hindu entitlement — Hindus being in majority — but they won’t get violent over it. They also want economic growth, although they aren’t sure about the freedom aspects that younger, educated Indians want. These are the small and medium businessmen and government servants. Many ‘Sanghis’ fall in this category. The MR are somewhat passive, hugely loyal and the biggest chunk of the BJP’s support base.

Here’s the thing. The BJP needs all three to win 2019. If one group slips, BJP loses. During L K Advani’s time, it had the ER and MR, but not the LR. Hence, the BJP lost. In 2014, however, it discovered the perfect glue to bring all three together — Modi.

All of them, from the Karni Sena to the RSS uncle to the software programmer, loved the idea of Hindu resurgence that the new regime promised. The ER, MR and LR live in peace most of the time. Sometimes, they want things the other group doesn’t want, and that’s okay. The software programmer type may love to see Modi in Davos. It doesn’t really matter to the Karni Sena. Similarly, the ER may want a temple in Ayodhya, the LR don’t really care.

However, sometimes there is a problem. Trouble brews when agendas clash between these groups, particularly the ER and LR. That’s when the BJP gets a massive headache. That’s what happened in the Padmaavat drama. The Karni Sena protested against the movie. The BJP, not wanting to annoy its ER base, looked the other way. The Karni Sena went on a rampage, even scaring a bus full of school kids. That’s where the LR began to panic (as would any sane person). After all, software programmers may want Hindu pride, but not mobs scaring their kids. As the LR watched the ER go out of control, and the BJP doing little, they began to get nervous.

For the party, this is worrisome. The last thing BJP wants is to be seen as the BJP under Advani. It needs the ER, but also the LR.
So what is the party to do? It’s always going to be a tightrope walk. However, in the case of Padmaavat, the Karni Sena was given too much slack. From a moral and legal standpoint, it should have been quelled much earlier. Politically, the party came dangerously close to a major blunder. Had the mob violence led to lives being lost or people getting hurt, things could have gone out of control. The BJP should have acted faster. It needs to know which ‘fringe’ act is just empty noise, and which one can become a national-level blowup. It did act finally. The censors cleared the film. The courts supported it too. However, looking back, it could have been handled better.

The BJP’s three bases are still somewhat intact. However, the LR are nervous. The party needs to check the fringe on a war footing. It not only makes India unsafe, but also shakes the BJP’s own foundation. It should remember its base is no longer just the Karni Sena. It is also the software programmers.

Standing up to “Jana-Gana-Mana”

Standing up to “Jana-Gana-Mana”

Let me begin with a simple declaration. I believe that India is a better country when not only the government protects the right of free speech but also the culture values that right. I believe Indians should be tolerant of dissent, even when they believe dissenters are offensive and wrong, and that the best cure for bad speech isn’t censorship but rather better speech.

I absolutely love India’s national anthem and  the hope and pride it triggers when I hear it. Composed by Nobel Laureate (Sir) Rabindranath Tagore, who would later return his knighthood to protest the British Army’s massacre of unarmed Indians in 1919, the anthem was first sung at a convention of the Indian National Congress in pre-independence India. In a multi-religious country that speaks 780 languages, the anthem is a great unifier, which binds the left and the right of India’s incomparably colorful population. We learn how to sing it before we can read the alphabet. And we stand rod straight as a mark of respect when it plays. Above all else, my country’s anthem reminds me that, unlike so many other parts of the world, I am free in India, even if ours is an untidy and argumentative democracy.

That the anthem is now the subject of petty bickering on TV talk shows is a trivialization of what it stands for. The debate first erupted when a Supreme Court judge (now the chief justice) passed an interim order in November 2016 directing that the anthem be played and the Indian flag be compulsorily displayed before any movie is screened in theaters.

Personally, I am very happy to stand in movie halls for the 52 seconds it asks of me. But I am also terribly uncomfortable with labeling fellow citizens who challenge the court’s original diktat as ‘anti-national.’ If you see the anthem like I do, as the song of our hard-won liberty, that freedom encompasses the right of citizens to disagree and dissent. And some of them are also asking — why only  movies?  Why not make the anthem mandatory in government offices, parliament, and the courts?

In 1945, George Orwell warned that “nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism.”   And this is exactly the problem — our ‘nationalism’ is being contorted into hashtags and hate. The cruel judgments we make of those who may challenge inherited wisdom undermine the very republic we claim to be defending.   This streak of violence — in words, thought and action — is the defiling of patriotism.

In an age of populism, nationalism is being peddled like soap. Nativist television anchors encourage a competitive circus in which “experts” fight over who is more ‘nationalist.’ This banal point-scoring reduces love for nation to a chessboard of one-upmanship.

And this totally overlooks those who are quietly patriotic:  the dignified soldier who serves his country in battle, the philanthropists and activists who feed the hungry and fight the corrupt, the honest, hard-working citizen who voluntarily cleans the public beach or the neighborhood park, the high-flying, dollar-earning Wall-Street banker who returns home and never converts the green card into a U.S passport — love for your country is expressed in many ways. But when you need to boast about it or look down on others for not matching up, it’s not patriotism; its jingoism.

Most national anthems are not meant to codify or police our behavior; they are songs of freedom. They are a celebration of what our countries are- or should aspire to be. This is why I admire the take-a-knee campaign by NFL players and other athletes in America. Their contentious decision to kneel whilst the anthem is played is a rights-driven activism that demands an end to the discrimination of people of color. This is not an insult to America; it’s a citizenry that is peacefully engaged in wanting better for their people. What could be more patriotic than that? Many anthems around the world are songs of defiance and resistance in their genesis. The French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” written as a war song against foreign invaders but was adapted in modern times to show the power of a united people.

When we start policing patriotism we are in danger of pushing the sublime to the ridiculous. As one of judges on the Supreme Court bench said: “Next thing will be that people should not wear T-shirts and shorts to movies because it will amount to disrespect for the anthem; where do we stop this moral policing?”

I want to see people stand for the Anthem out of love, not fear, and so long as the fear remains, a decision to stand means nothing but an empty victory in a culture war that will tear this nation apart.

I love my anthem. But I dislike coercion of thought. I think that makes me a patriot.

China: The Awkward Neighbour

China: The Awkward Neighbour


All about understanding the Chinese mind

Just when the stand-off between India and China over the Doklam plateau threatened to go the way of the 1986-1987 incident (Arunachal Pradesh), the two sides agreed to step back and disengage, thus avoiding a confrontation. The Indian side has pulled back its personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary, while China has agreed to make ‘necessary adjustments and deployment’ on its part. It is unclear, however, whether China will patrol the region, which it claims to have been doing earlier. Road construction will not continue for the present.

Behind the scenes, quiet diplomacy by the two sides and ever dominant Indian Foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi, no doubt, led to the defusing of what could have been a serious crisis. Those on either side of the divide currently claiming victory must, hence, pause to think what the future holds.

To savour victory without understanding the factors at work would be a serious mistake. To begin with, China and India have a kind of competitive coexistence. While professing friendship, both sides nurse a mutual suspicion of each other — at times prompting several degrees of alienation. Both countries remain wary of each other’s intentions and actions. Understanding the way the Chinese mind works is, hence, important. The Chinese mind tends to be relational, i.e. dictated by context and relationship. When the Chinese state that they have halted road building in the disputed Doklam area, while adding that they may reconsider the decision after taking into account ‘different factors’, what China means is that it is willing to wait to implement its decision, but at a time of its choosing when an opportunity exists for a settlement suited to its plans. Little finality can, therefore, be attached to any of China’s actions.

Any belief, hence, that China has been deterred by India’s firm position at Doklam could be misplaced. Since the China-Vietnam conflict in 1980, China has avoided getting into any outright conflict. By stepping back from a confrontation with India over a minor issue at this time, what it had in mind were two significant events, viz. the BRICS summit in China in September and the forthcoming 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Also, it possibly believes that this would help China dilute global perceptions about its aggressive designs.


The BRICS summit and the 19th Party Congress both have high priority for China today. Nothing will be permitted to disrupt either event. Extreme factors would not be allowed to affect this situation. For President Xi Jinping, presiding over the BRICS Summit at this juncture will help consolidate his informal leadership of the group. As the undisputed leader of BRICS, China believes it can take a signal step towards global leadership.

China is currently seeking to reshape the regional and international order, and is keen to fine-tune its ‘Great Power diplomacy’. It, hence, needs to be seen as preferring peace over conflict. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a potent instrument in this direction, but needs a peaceful environment to succeed. Limited wars or conflicts, even with the possibility of successful outcomes, would damage China’s peaceful image globally.

The 19th Party Congress is even more important from President Xi’s point of view. It is intended to sustain his legacy and leave his stamp on the Party in the mould of Chairman Mao. To achieve comprehensive success, he needs peace to achieve his target. Till then everything else will need to wait.

This is again a delicate moment for China on the economic planes. China’s growth rate is actually declining, debt levels are dangerously high, and labour is getting more expensive. At this moment, hence, it is more than ever dependent on international trade and global production chains to sustain higher levels of GDP growth. For the present, development, therefore, is the cardinal objective.

The Achilles’ heel of the Chinese economy is the lack of resources, specially oil. Oil from the Gulf region is critical for China’s growth. Peace in Asia is thus vital to ensure uninterrupted supplies of oil. Uncertainties and disruptions across the Asian region would hamper China’s economic progress.

For all the above reasons, China currently leans towards the pragmatic when it comes to relations with countries other than those in its immediate periphery in East Asia. It is not keen to follow a policy adopted by its new-found strategic ally viz. Russia which has paid a high cost for its ‘interventionist’ policies. China tends to take a longer term view of its future and, despite the rising wave of nationalism in China today, is anxious not to upset the international political or economic order. For this reason alone, it would shun a conflict with India in the Doklam area.

China is not a sleeping giant , and aspires to be a Great Power. It is well-positioned to achieve this if it maintains its present course. Any interruption, by indulging in a conflict with nations small or big, would not only damage but derail the levels of progress that are essential to achieve this objective. President Xi’s China dream seems predicated on this belief. It implies support for a rule-based international system, linked to ‘Tianxia’,in the belief that this would help China overtake the U.S. as the dominant world power.It is unlikely to do anything to deviate from this goal.

China is definitely not a ‘Pakistan’ that, it would show its emotions  in a defeat or a victory. The Chinese don’t fire bullets and there is no cross border insurgency but more effective than that, is the Chinese policy of ambiguity and unresolved tensions, for what it is, the Chinese are made of nerves of steel and are ever comfortable with the awkwardness that surrounds its neighbours. The Chinese would never show their cards not even in a crisis or in a state of dominance.

While this attitude cannot be taken for granted for all time, the current Chinese leadership seems comfortable in following this prescription. It appears to believe in the ideal that ‘the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward’.

For China this is a game of Chess and not that of a T20, for that they are ready to play the long waiting game and sacrifice some of its pawns.

MSD- The Destiny

“Dhoniiiiiiii….finishes off in style….a magnificent strike in to the crowd…India lift the Worldcup after 28 years…the party starts in the dressing room…and its the Indian captain who has been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final”.

No Indian can forget these words which echoed throughout the country on 2nd April 2011 and continue to do so whenever we think of that day.“The history of the world,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, “is but the biography of great men.” Carlyle held that history is determined by the actions of a handful of heroes. And if his ideas have been discredited since, in sport, at least, they’ve still some truth to them. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was and is such Hero to 125 crore Indians and their  Religion, that is Cricket. He may not be the next Sachin Tendulkar , but he surely was the only one who came close.

In a nation that is obsessed with being centre-stage, I am not sure he ever sought it. Remember the long-haired new captain who had just won India the first World T20? He had given away his match shirt to someone in the crowd and was walking away quietly. The more mature captain who had won India the World Cup of 2011? Spot him in any of the pictures? He let it be Sachin Tendulkar’s moment. He let it be about Indian cricket. It wasn’t about him and he didn’t force himself into every frame. It was, actually, his evening but he looked at it from afar.
I thought it was cool. The sign of a confident man. He made a statement by not being there. I don’t know if that is cool today but he rose in my eyes.

Dhoni was not only a calm captain himself, he was the cause for calmness in others.

He smiled, he showed displeasure, he chatted to bowlers, but while his immediate message was clear, no one could bet on what his thinking was.

Dhoni read the one-day game better than he did Test cricket, and was India’s finest captain in the shorter formats.

He could experiment, even gamble, trusting his finely honed sense of time and place to bring him success. What people also forget is about MSD’s wicketkeeping skills, they are as good as Ronaldo’s flicks and Messi’s tricks.He perhaps is one of the finest we have seen if not THE best of all time when it comes to being behind the wickets.

He led India to victory in three tournaments – World Twenty20 (2007), World Cup (2011) and Champions Trophy (2013) – so the record matched his reputation

When he handed the ball to rookie Joginder Sharma in the final of the inaugural World T20 a decade ago, there might have been a collective gasp around the country.

Yet Sharma claimed the last Pakistan wicket, and as an unintended consequence, the face of cricket was changed forever. The IPL was born, as India, Twenty20 deniers became Twenty20 obsessed.

Dhoni’s place in history is assured, and not just as a player and captain.He was leader of a talented group of players which emerged from non-traditional areas.Dhoni’s arrival was a testimony to the reach of televised cricket.

The legacy Dhoni bestowed upon Virat Kohli is a team secure in its skin, certain it can win from any position. There was no better captain in the game’s shorter forms than Dhoni during his time. He is the only skipper to have won all three major trophies — the World Cup, the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy. Michael Clarke and Brendon McCullum had greater attacking verve. They were certainly superior Test captains. But in the art of managing a finite innings, reading a contest’s rhythm and its tactics, Dhoni had no equal. He had an intuitive feel for what could happen and the ability to get the best out of his resources, however bare( I always felt he can achieve great things if he enters Politics). His greatest strength was his nerve. Where others tried to finish things quickly to pre-empt panicking, he took games deep. He raised the stakes, knowing he would not blink before his opponent. Remarkably, he managed to transmit this sense of composure to his team. He asked his bowlers to relax and stick to the plan; the responsibility of the result was his to bear. Few cricketers have stayed in the present as successfully as he has. Fortunately for Indian cricket, his successor is every bit as impressive. Kohli, moreover, will have access, should he choose, to all of Dhoni’s considerable powers.

What Dhoni achieved though, goes way beyond the numbers he produced. He told young Indians in small towns that they could conquer the world. To them he was the beacon, he was the dream that maybe they could achieve too. He showed the way. It is a substantial, and wonderful, thing in life to do.

“I don’t think anyone knew Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I don’t think anyone was meant to.”-Harsha Bhogle