Saturday, December 12

A turkey of an Economic System

Fascinating history of the Plymouth Plantation in 1620. An excerpt:

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behaviour. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Go read the full thing, very nice

Friday, December 11

21st Century Discourse on Dalits

I received the email below and this is what I responded. The sad part is that he and those other dolts are doing exactly to those poor benighted dalits what others have done to them. They are the useful idiots. If they were smart and they are getting smarter (otherwise the shrillness coefficient from these idiots will not have gone up), they would realise that their economic well being is more tied to being Indians rather than Dalits. Plus economic development and urbanisation will put paid to these people. Still, sometimes its cringe inducing….

Have people actually read the drivel that Kancha produces in the name of scholarship? Its political ideology rather than history, historiography, sociology, anthropology or even political geography. It is not sociology, it sure as heck isn't spiritual and by no means it is scientific. As for discourse, that shrill outpouring of bile and drivel is as conducive to debate and discourse as a sewer.

And looking at the book launch, it has unfortunately proven the point, none (except Professor Rodriguez who I don’t know) are purely there for either political or commercial purposes. I am also not sure what's the connection with Nagaland, or even Burma as she seems to be heading up some Burmese research centre.

Citing American civil war as an example is frankly bewildering and again shows a very large lack of understanding of the background & reasons of that war. For one people (integrationists) to go to war over somebody totally unrelated (the black population) with their own people (secessionists) has never happened in the history of humankind. Never. And spiritual democracy? And yet again, no religion actually claims that, every religion (if Hinduism can indeed be called as such) has discrimination actively built into it. Every one.

So it is not surprising that given the intellectual vacuity of his argument, one would immediately suspect that this was nothing to do with religion but everything to do with politics.

Curioser and curioser.


> Dalit Freedom NetworkP. O. Box 2174  Secunderabad, Andhra
> Pradesh – 500003, India Email Dr. Joseph D’souza - International > President For Press ReleasePost Hindu India by Kancha Ilaiah
> Released21st Century Discourse on Dalit Bahujan,
> Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution in India New Delhi, 
November 26, 2009 In a historic gathering of campaigners for > Dalit Bahujan (India’s “untouchables” and lower castes) human
> rights, Dr. Alana Golmei, a Rongmei Naga tribal woman from 
North East India released Dr. Kancha Ilaiah’s book last evening > at Gulmohar, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Following a
> short press conference, a panel discussion featured leading
> Dalit-Bahujan thinkers interacting on the themes of the
> book.While congratulating the author, Dr. Alana said, “I am
> delighted to release such profound and revolutionary book,
> which predicts the future of my people and Dalit  Bahujans at
> large, who have been classified as outcastes and untouchable
> by Brahminical hierarchies and kept under socio-political,
> socio-economic, socio-religion and socio-educational
> oppression for last 3000 years. Kancha’s ideology will create
> a welcome debate and discussion in the coming decade on these
> important issues of true freedom for Dalit Bahujans.” 
> Research scholars, students, civil society members, social
> workers, politicians, Dalit activists, and journalists --
> both national and international -- attended the book launch
> and joined the two hour panel discussion. Mr. Yogendra
> Makwana, Former Home Minister of Gujarat state, chaired the
> discussion. Panelists included: Prof. Gail Omvedt, an
> American-born scholar, sociologist, and human rights activist 
who is an Indian citizen; Dr. Joseph D’souza, International > President of the Dalit Freedom Network; Dr. Udit Raj,
> National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST 
> Organisations; Prof. Valerian Rodrigues, School of Social
> Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi; and Mr. Vivek
> Mehra, Managing Director of Sage Publications. Dr. Joseph
> D’souza, in his panel discussion remarks, said, “Kancha’s
> book, “Post-Hindu India” is the greatest 21st century
> challenge to the Brahminical portion of Hindu society. It
> rationally questions and respectfully reveals the caste
> apartheid facing untouchables, outcastes and the oppressed
> majority of India.” In his remarks, Professor Kancha Ilaiah 
said, “Any religion that says all human beings, men and women > are created by God equally is a spiritual democracy. Hinduism
> says all human beings -- men and women -- are not equally
> created. They were born unequal, live unequal, and die
> unequal. I call this spiritual fascism.” Professor Dr. Kancha
> Ilaiah teaches in the Department of Political Science, 
Osmania University, Hyderabad. He won the prestigious London  > Institute of South Asia (LISA) Award for 2008 for his book
> “Why I am Not a Hindu” and has provided expert testimony to
> commissions in India and abroad about the Dalit Bahujan
> struggle. “The oppressive system of spiritual fascism is
> detrimental to the future of religion and the flourishing of
> our great nation. The idea of spiritual justice or
> varnadharma, used to justify the caste system, as rooted in
> spiritual inequality is the main factor that will affect the
> future of Hinduism,” said Prof. Kancha. As Dalit Bahujans
> continue to struggle against spiritual fascism and search for
> equality and liberation, the nation seems to be heading
> toward a civil war, predicted Prof. Kancha. He cited American
> civil war history, “Racism of black and white in America came
> to end but only at the end of civil war. I hope we can avoid
> this.” The event was organised by Dalit Freedom Network in
> partnership with Sage Publications. Dr. Kancha  Ilaiah serves
> on the Advisory Board of the Dalit Freedom Network. The Dalit
> Freedom Network (, is a non-partisan,
> non-government human rights organization founded in 2002 to
> support the Dalit Bahujan quest for religious freedom, social
> justice, and human dignity through projects in education,
> health care, economic advancement, and social justice
> advocacy and intervention. Sage Publications is an
> independent, international publisher of books, journals, and
> electronic media with offices in India, London, and the 
> United States. Known for a commitment to quality and
> innovation, Sage is a world leader in scholarly, educational,
> and professional markets. See excerpt below about the book. 
Released by  Madhu. ChandraMedia In-chargeDFN - Delhi9716004939>  About the Book “Post-Hindu India” by Kancha IlaiahFrom: Kancha > Ilaiah, the author of the best selling  book Why I am Not a
> Hindu, pens a thought-provoking critique of Brahmanism and
> the caste system in India, while anticipating the death of
> Hinduism as a direct consequence of, what he says is, its
> anti-scientific and anti-nationalistic stand. This work
> challenges Hinduism`s interpretation of history, with a
> virulent attack on caste politics, and also takes a
> refreshing look at the necessity of encouraging indigenous
> scientific thought for the sake of national progress. It
> establishes Hinduism as a `backward` religion that suppresses
> the latent scientific and productive potential of the
> Dalit–Bahujan communities. The author says this oppressive
> system of spiritual fascism is detrimental to both the future
> of religion and the nation-state. He thus criticizes the idea
> of spiritual justice or varnadharma, used to justify the
> caste system, as rooted in spiritual inequality. On a
> micro-analytical level, it is based on a thorough study of
> the productive knowledge systems of the Dalit? Bahujan
> communities of Andhra Pradesh, and provides a detailed
> day-to-day analysis of the scientific technological processes
> and events at work in the life of a member of these
> communities. On a macro level, it shows how Hinduism fails to
> negotiate between faith and reason, unlike other major
> religions of the world. Kancha Ilaiah critiques the
> intellectual imagination of the dominant communities and
> inspires the marginalized. In the process of doing so he
> crafts a work of immense socio-political interest which
> appeals to academics, and also to all those who are concerned
> about contemporary India`s polity and social fabric.

Book burning

A photograph from old times showing a pile of books being burnt during Nazi times. For a bibliophile like me, its really painful to watch.


here’s a video.

Hitler’s willing executioners. Never forget that it was the ordinary people who did this, nothing special, nothing ideological. None of the namby pamby excuses of a small minority who did this. The holocaust and this kind of book burning was done, abetted, helped and encouraged by the ordinary people who carried this out. This is why the people like the BNP are dangerous. They are common people, they are normal people, they might just live next to you, perfectly happy but their ideas of asking non white people to leave the country will lead to exactly the situation like the above. And no, i am not violating Godwin’s law, but hope you can see the parallels.

Sighs, what harm did the books do? But interestingly enough, read this story in the economist today. What do you do with Nazi tracts? I quote:

What to do with 4,000 copies of such titles as “The White Man’s Bible”? They didn’t feel comfortable burning books. So they offered them to some artists. The art that resulted—origami peace cranes made from torn-out pages of neo-Nazi drivel, and so forth—is touring the state until next summer.

Here’s a sneak preview:

Thursday, December 10

Hinduism – the history and evolution

For some reason, people are frantic to box and classify Hinduism. Whether it be the Muslim Invaders to the country, or the British who came to rule the country, the missionaries, the academics, or even the current lot of Hindu political leaders. For a variety of purposes, none of which related to the actual adherents of the religion, this forcing of people into this box called as Hinduism continues.

The main reason for this, in my mind, is the nefarious impact of those desert originated religions, namely Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Each of them obviously dealt with a bunch of people who needed some pretty strong medicine, so they came up with a whole panoply of rules, regulations, myths, leaders and the like. And because they were all jostling for space and adherents between each other, they had to have “us and them” as a very strong component in their own theology. Driven by politics and priest/mullahs and what have you, this growth in their religions meant that while they gained a religion with rules, they lost the faith in humanity.

Not so in this wonderful land of South Asia. As it so happens, the original name of Hindu related to a geographical region. To with, the people who live in and to the east of the river Sindhu (Indus). And because at that time, the Persians were the closest large neighbour with a flourishing civilisation and links to the desert and to Europe, guess what everybody started calling them? There is evidence of this name from the inscriptions made in the name of Darius 1, way back in the 6th century AD.

But but but, there have been religious texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, Pruranas and and and for much longer than the 6th century AD. Sure has heck there have been. And you know what? the people who studied this and followed these religious books (collectively known as Dharmashastra) were not that keen on being labelled as such because no such common name exists. What they were more concerned about was to live in a way that Dharma is fulfilled. And because there were multiplicity of Gods and pathways to God and all meeting in the supreme godhead, besides some skirmishes in the temples, nobody really cared to label them or bring them into another fold.

Then comes the entry of trade and missionaries, all gung ho and happy to harvest souls for Jesus or what have you. And their tiny minds were simply unable to comprehend a vast corpus of literature, a different language and a multiplicity of Gods. Hence, they were basically named as Pagans. As one goes through a variety of missionary tracts and memoires, the overwhelming image that pops into my head is this Christian or Muslim desire to try to comprehend this vast philosophical edifice according to their rigid tiny frameworks and failing. Here’s a simple example, this idea of forcing a God framework with a creator (Brahma), preserver (Vishnu) and destroyer (Shiva) is a foreign construct, yes, the individual Gods do exist but to ascribe a framework to them, totally foreign and I suspect emanating from the idea of the trinity.

On the other hand, when the Muslim invaders did pop into this land beyond the Indus, it was the idol worshipping that primarily got their goat, and again, because they were usually driven by religious (and that fairly secular motive of greed) jihad, anybody who had anything to do with idols was summarily labelled as foreign or other. Lets also not forget that from an politico-economic perspective (the imposition of zakat and the religious requirements for treating non-Muslims differently) required the identification of the original inhabitants as a religious unit.

So we end up with two external forces, the Muslim invaders from the 12th century onwards and the European Christian (traders and missionary) entry from the 14th/15th century onwards. Both of which were driven due to different reasons but both very interested in defining and labelling the bunch of people who they found living in the lands to the east of Indus. Check out Al-Biruni’s work on this or the Asiatic Society’s work from the European traders perspective or the various missionary tracts published by the Italians, Spanish and others priests (see the link at the bottom for the article where a good overview is given).

The right way to describe this corpus of knowledge is “Sanatan Dharma” rather than Hinduism because that is how the followers (if that word can be used) describe it and it has theological backing to it. It is classically simple in its meaning. Unlike Christianity which describes itself as a follower of Christ, and like Islam (which stands for peace or surrender to God), Sanatan Dharma simply means, “the way of life” or “the way of truth/righteousness” Be good and live a good life.

And before you think I am taking off on these early Muslim and Christian documenters of my religion, let me also direct my ire at the Hindu leaders themselves. When these people try to claim a consistency and coherence in Hinduism (like claiming that Hinduism doesnt do meat, period), they are doing exactly what the Muslims and Christians did, try to convert Sanatan Dharma into a Christian or a Islamic representation of a religion with rules, regulations, good and bad and something that is totally foreign to Sanatan Dharma. Its pretty clear why they do this, they are doing it for political purposes and wanting to create a political force out of the religious identity of the Sanatani’s. These people are the danger to the religion, not the external forces. But I am confident in the Sanatan Dharma, it has overcome bigger challenges than these contemptible Hindu leaders

I read a fascinating article recently which gave a reasonably good overview of the historical evolution of how Hinduism evolved. It concludes with a great paragraph which I am quoting here:

“this Hinduism wasnt invented by anyone, European or Indian. Like Topsy, it just grow’ed”

Birth of an elephant

This is the first filmed version of an elephant’s birth.

Watch it. It bought a tiny tear to my eyes. You could see the panic in the mother’s eyes when the baby was not breathing. 2 minutes, i would have been an eternity for me. Reminded me of the time when Kannu was born. The midwife wanted to give him a shot of oxygen to kick-start his breathing and the damn oxygen cylinder was empty, it took perhaps 15-20 seconds to switch to the backup cylinder but I was near panicking. I nearly clocked the doctor who asked if everything was all right. Damn hospital not checking oxygen cylinders. As it so happens, the hospital was rated to be the worst in the UK.

Anyway, the first steps of the baby elephant were so cute! :)

Wednesday, December 9

That’s a damn expensive watch!

I was looking for a Christmas present for my friend Luca, on Amazon on the watches section, when I inadvertently clicked on the sort button “highest to lowest price”. this is what showed up:


Its obviously a typo, but I refuse to pay £76.5 million for a Casio! Here’s the entry. Its still up! And only 1 item left in stock, heh.

Difference between Madrassah and Secular School Students

So its pretty well established that generally the madrassah is considered to be not really very good in raising modern students and citizens. The common argument is that they teach medieval stuff at best and obscurantist stuff at worst. So what’s the real truth? Well, here’s one answer from Bangladesh. So what did the researchers do? But before we go there, some points.

In the early 1980’s, the Bangladeshi government made sure that the madrassah’s teach English, Bengali, Science and Mathematics along with the religious subjects in return for government funding for teachers and official registration. This is, of course, in stark contrast with the majority of madrassah’s elsewhere in the Muslim countries where teaching of modern subjects is a tad lacking. God (rather Allah) only knows what their output is but that’s not the point.

So the researchers went and asked questions on attitudes toward working mothers, desired fertility, higher education for boys vis-à-vis girls, and a number of political regimes such as military rule, democracy, and Islamic rule. Interviewing 1280 teachers over 94 madrassahs and 231 public secular schools with each school providing a rough 20 students sample size.

Teacher Responses:

On the question of desired fertility, teacher responses differ significantly: madrasa teachers either favor larger families or are more likely to rely on ‘destiny’ to decide on the desired number of children. Compared to their secular school colleagues, they significantly favor boys over girls for higher education and men over women for political leadership. They are also significantly sympathetic to religious leadership in political affairs. For instance, relative to secular school teachers, they significantly prefer Islamic rule, are at greater ease should religious leaders influence people’s voting choice, like to see more religious people in public offices, and are more likely to support religious leader’s interference in government affairs.

Graduate Responses:

Even after controlling for earlier religious education (maktab schooling), madrasa graduates are 31% more likely to prefer an unspecified number of children.

Female graduates in our sample were interviewed on whether they agreed with the following questions:

1. “Compared to housewives, working mothers are more cordial with children”

2. “A married working woman and a married housewife are equal”

3. “Both, the husband and the wife should contribute towards family income”

On the question of whether housewives, instead of working women, are better mothers, there is no madrasa effect. A negative association with religious school attendance prevails in the other two outcomes. Madrasa graduates do not agree that both husband and wife should contribute to family income

Even after controlling for educational histories (maktab attendance, class rank in grade 6 and grade completed), parental background, and socio-economic conditions, madrasa graduates are 21% more likely to conclude that higher education is a preserve for boys.

Lastly, females in our sample were asked three questions related to the desirability of various regimes for governing the country:

1. Military rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good

2. Democratic rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good

3. Islamic rule as a political regime for ruling the country is good

A large and significant madrasa effect prevails in all three cases: madrasa students are significantly opposed to military rule, support democracy and favor Islamic rule

In sum, the analysis of graduate responses reveals that madrasa attendance is not associated with perverse attitudes toward working women and military rule. They are more likely to support democracy although they have a preference for religious political representation. At the same time, these female madrasa students have a perverse attitude toward higher education for girls and larger family size. Also, our female madrasa respondents are more likely to delegate the choice of desired number of children to destiny.

Well, as you can see, a much more complex and richer set of results are emerging. For one, they are against the military rule which is a great step but then they desire islamic rule which is frankly like jumping from the frying pan into a fire. Surprising coming from females where an islamic state actively drops them in the order of priority on almost every aspect.

Then you have the other problem of fertility. Bangladesh and other Muslim countries are facing a massive problem in feeding, educating and raising their young. As it turns out, the problem is not going to get better but going to become worse if they all leave it up to God. God unfortunately doesnt have anything to do with contraception. All these kids will ruin the women’s lives. And they want this to continue. Bloody strange. But one very positive thing comes out, more female teachers the lower is the madrassah influence. Unfortunately, it conflicts with the other finding that its boys who deserve education more.

Sighs, more complexity….

Tuesday, December 8

You couldn't make this up..Climate Change money lost

This is unbelievable.

Vast sums promised by rich nations including the UK to help developing countries tackle climate change cannot be accounted for, according to a study.

A total of 20 nations pledged up to 410 million dollars (£247 million) a year in 2001, resulting in a pot that should be worth well over 1.6 billion dollars (£963 million).

But only 260 million dollars (£157 million) has been paid into two United Nations funds earmarked for the purpose according to the latest figures, the BBC World Service investigation said.

The EU said the money was collected in "bilateral and multilateral deals", but was unable to provide data to back up the claim.

The sums were pledged in the 2001 Bonn Declaration, which was signed by the 15 countries that then made up the European Union, plus Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

As of the end of September this year, the two UN funds - called the Least Developed Countries and Climate Change Funds - contained 155.4 million dollars (£93.4 million) and 104.1 million dollars (£62.5 million) respectively, the BBC said.

Boni Biagini, who runs the funds, told the broadcaster: "These numbers don't match the 410 million per year. Otherwise, we'd be handling billions of dollars by now."

Artur Runge-Metzger, the senior climate change negotiator for the European Union, said the EU had done what it promised to do.

"We can say we met the promise - climate finance has really been stepped up," he told the BBC. But he admitted the EU was unable to provide data to show it did pay the money. "It's sometimes very hard to say what is the climate bit of this financing," Mr Runge-Metzger added.

Finance for developing countries to tackle global warming will be one of the issues discussed at next month's Copenhagen climate change summit.