Friday, March 28, 2008

It is an interesting experience being proved right when you'd rather not have been

A friend sends me a message today, referring to a book review that I wrote about 3 years ago (the material in the SINGLE quote marks below was from the book being reviewed, the rest is my comments):

"Just took a look at your review again - esp. the points below:

1. If the U.S.–the engine that drives the global economy at present–stalls, will a global crash occur before India and China have any possibility of taking over hegemony from the U.S.?

2. 'The consequences of the relocation process (of manufacturing and services to countries such as China and Inda) remain unfathomable, momentous.'
So far as I can see, however, the consequences are entirely clear, and they provide our globalizing world with two choices. We can continue down the current path, which will lead to probably irresolvable global crises. Or we can create a sensible financial system based on sound money, and bring in a genuinely level global playing field with minimum common rules for health, safety, pay, environmental care, transparency and corporate governance. That is the only way to build a world society that is more just, sustainable and humane.

Lots here, three years later - esp. on US stalling, irresolvable global crises and the need for sensible, sound money."

I hadn't really thought about my having said all that three years ago (and earlier, in other material).

Feels gratifying to have been proved right; though I would rather have been wrong, for the sake of all those whose pensions and indeed lives have disappeared or are disappearing before their eyes. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Future of Freedom in Canada: The Islamist

A debate seems to be raging in Canada over Muslim attempts to use anti-discrimination legislation against critics of Islam.

Though the legislation was put in place no doubt with the best intentions, the way the case is handled will decide whether free speech, as well as social and political freedoms, continue in Canada.

All I can say is that words are inherently discriminatory, thought is inherently discriminatory - and that can't and shouldn't be targeted by any anti-discrimination legislation.

The original article by Mark Steyn did not advocate discrimination against Muslims, rather it was a call for the West to put its own house in order. In fact, if I was a proper Muslim (rather than one only in a spiritual sense), I would be quite pleased to be told that "the future belongs to Islam" and that, for example, Europe is "too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia".

If someone puts forward a logical argument, even if Steyn's is a rather long, colourful and rambling argument, it can hardly be considered discrimination.

If it is argued that what is discriminatory is not the original article but the Editor's restriction of a right to reply (which would be a fair point), the claim does not stand up to scrutiny, as the Editor claims to have published 27 letters against the point of view taken in the article (I haven't checked that, though I did read the original article in the popular Canadian magazine, Macleans).

So this seems to be a case of a standard tactic used by Islamists - use any excuse to browbeat anyone who makes any case, however logical and reasoned, against any aspect of Islam or any Muslim practice, however abhorrent. Just as well that the vast majority of Muslims are not Islamists.

Mark Steyn's original article used demographics to suggest that the West would succumb to Islamist domination because of the youthfulness of the Muslim world combined with the intensity of their will to impose Islam on the world. He summarised the global advantage of Islamists with the equations:
The West: Age + Welfare = Disaster for you
The Muslim World: Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way.

Steyn's view of the importance of demography is, as far as I can see, only very partially correct. His view of the weakness of the West versus the youth and strength of Islam is also only partially correct. As a student in the 1960s, I remember similar arguments for the inevitable triumph of Marxism.

However, those Muslims who are taking the case to government Commissions and similar bodies are simply demonstrating Steyn's point about "disaster for whoever gets in your way".

Western civilisation will certainly not survive without free speech. And that is what Islamists are targeting, whether in newspapers, radio, TV, internet, or even companies, schools and universities. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 23, 2008

American Serb suspended from the European Swimming Championships for wearing pro-Serb T-shirt

A swimmer who was born to originally Serb parents in California, and trains in Florida, was suspended on Friday for the remainder of the European swimming championships because he wore a T-shirt proclaiming “Kosovo is Serbia” at an official ceremony.

The swimmer wasn't just any swimmer, and the ceremony wasn't just any ceremony. Twenty-three year old Milorad Cavic is the European 50-meter butterfly record holder, and he wore the T-shirt as he collected his gold medal on Wednesday.

The result of the expulsion from the championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands, was that Cavic missed Saturday's 100-meter butterfly, in which he was one of the favorites. He is reported to have said: "I'm really sorry I missed that race. I trained very hard for it".

Apparently, the Dutch organizers were so anti-Serb that they "accidentally" raised the defunct Serbia-Montenegro flag during the podium ceremony rather than the Serb flag.

The interesting thing is that Cavic, a U.S. citizen, is flying in the face of the policy of his country which is single-handedly responsible for the creation of Kosovo - though he is reported to have claimed on Serbian State TV on Saturday, that he "had no political intentions....I had to help my people knowing it could be a big risk for my swimming career. I'm proud of what I did."

Well, he may be proud but is it he who is right for having worn the T-shirt, or is it the authorities who organise the European swimming championships who are right for having expelled him?

My view is that both are right. Everyone has the right to do what s/he thinks is right. Cavic was both brave and right to do what he did. And the authorities are right to do what they did.

However, the authorities really need to re-think their attitude to what athletes wear, whether at the prize-giving ceremonies or while they are competing. It is time the authorities realised that the audience will, even if they consider Cavic wrong, only respect people such as Cavic more because of these silly rules. People are grown up enough to make up their own minds about whether Kosovo is Serbian, or Serbia is Kosovan, or neither.

The only messages or images that should be forbidden on competitors clothing are incitements to violence and (because children often watch these competitions) pornography.

Tags: , , , , ; Europe, Media, News. Sphere: Related Content

Gujarat government agents now violating UN regulations?

Concluding her fact-finding visit to India, Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief of the United Nations Human Rights Council, made a formal statement on 20 March 2008 in Delhi. After the usual politenesses, she said among other things:"I am disturbed that at various meetings with members of the civil society
during my visit in Gujarat, plain-clothed Government agents took names
of all my NGO interlocutors and also made their presence felt afterwards.
On several occasions, I had to insist that police officers leave the room
during my NGO meetings. The terms of reference of fact-finding missions
by Special Rapporteurs (see UN Doc.E/CN.4/1998/45, Appendix V) are very
clear in this regard. These terms of reference guarantee confidential and
unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons as well as
assurance by the Government that no persons, official or private individuals
who have been in contact with the Special Rapporteur in relation to the
mandate will for this reason suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be
subjected to judicial proceedings."

If plain clothes or, alternatively, uniformed government agents were present during the UN Special Rapporteur's investigations, this is both astonishing and alarming.

India is not only a signatory to all the UN treaties, conventions and so on, but is also an aspiring member of the Security Council. We need not only to act at all times in conformity with all UN rules and regulations, but we need also to be SEEN to be conformity with all international norms.

In contrast, we have now been held to account and publicly found wanting.

First, I must point out that the UN Special Rapporteur failed in her duty to ensure that her investigations were actually carried out in line with her terms of reference. She should have insisted on finding out and making a list of the names of the police officers and/ or plain clothes officers who were present, as well as their identification numbers, and then insisted that they be brought to book before proceeding. If this was not possible, she should have issued a press statement before the completion of her visit, stating that the government was not co-operating with her work in spite of assurances to the contrary.

Second, we need to examine ourselves. WHICH plain clothes government agents were doing these things? Were they really government agents? Or members of other, non-government, groups - intent on damaging India's international image for their own interests?

Which POLICE OFFICERS were present during the UN officer's meetings?

On whose orders were these people there?

Such officers, as well as those who ordered the uniformed or plain clothes officers to be present, ought immediately to be brought to book.

The Gujarat government needs to undertake a formal investigation to discover and publicise the facts as well as the punishments that are meted out. If it will not do so, then of course it must be clear to everyone that it is the Gujarat government itself which is involved. If that is the case, then the Central government needs to launch an investigation to find out who is or are the guilty parties so that they are brought to book, including members of the Gujarat government.

India's own Constitution, quite apart from its international reputation, is too important and too precious to be spit upon in this fashion - by anyone, let alone spit upon by the Gujarat government.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Marriage and Caste among Contemporary Indians

I see a spread of arranged-marriage related advertisements in a magazine which serves the Indian diaspora.

There are 89 advertisements.

52 of them put the relevant "caste" as "Brahmin".

27 as "Hindu" (and another as "Hindu (Gujarati)")

7 as "Aggarwal" or "Gupta" or "Bania"

One is down as"Khatri"

Yet another is down simply as "Gujarati", which I take to mean that they are not bothered about the caste provided the other party speaks the language.

Naturally, this listing is only one among many thousands that need to be examined for any proper research on the subject.

But it is striking.... Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 21, 2008

Religious freedom in Turkey

According to this week's Der Spiegel (one of Germany's top newspapers), "In 1920, 20 percent of the Turkish population was Christian. That figure has declined to only 0.1 percent today, and the state and local authorities make life difficult for this small contingent". I am not sure that there are many Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs or representatives of other religions in Turkey.

My understanding is that there is a parallel story in Pakistan, Bangaldesh, Malaysia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran - and, in fact, most countries that are now either Arab or "secular muslim" or "Muslim".

Just as China cannot claim to be a country that is civilised enough for the world to trade with as long as it practices the sorts of human rights abuses that we see in Tibet and other parts of China, so also Turkey and other "Muslim" countries need to show evidence of their willingness to accept international norms if they want to be accepted as civilised countries rather than pariah countries. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How Indian bureaucracy slows down investments by NRIs

A friend of mine has just decided to make an investment in India, which will result in his becoming a Director of this (at present, rather tiny) company.

In order to actually achieve this, however, apparently he has to take the following steps:

1) A colour photocopy of his passport needs to be made.

2) This should be taken to the Indian Embassy for affixing the signature and seal of the concerned officials (even in a small country such as Switzerland, this can take up a whole day or even more if one includes waiting time at the Embassy)

3) The photocopy then needs to be notarized by a local solicitor.

4) This document should then be couriered to the Expat Office in Bangalore where it would be used to apply for his Director Identification Number (DIN).

5) On applying, an application form would be generated and this would be couriered back to him.

6) On receiving this application form by courier you would need to sign at pre-designated places on the form and courier the form back to us at the Bangalore Office.

7) This form would then be submitted to the Registrar of Companies and his DIN would be allotted (on payment of the necessary fees).

In most countries, it would be either step 2 or step 3 (asking for step 3 after step 2 is tantamount to saying that the Indian government does not trust its own Embassies!). Here a simple change, asking for items 2 OR 3, instead of both 2 AND 3, would make life easier for investors.

Sequencing items 5-7 AFTER items 1-4 simply slows down the process. If the form (item 6) were issued at the start of the process, then the whole caboodle would be shortened. That would be a very useful second change in the procedure.

So two simple changes would make life simpler and easier for NRI investors and not change anything in terms of the information required by the government. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Press Release in Response to the report "Caste System" by the Hindu Council of the UK

To provide a befitting response to HCUK’s misleading report on Caste Discrimination
titled: ‘Caste System’ by Dr. Raj Pandit Sharma, a meeting was held at Ambedkar
Centre, Southall, United Kingdom on Sunday 2nd March 2007.

It was attended by members of Valmiki Community, Ravidasi Community, Indian Christians and Indian Buddhists.

To oppose the forthcoming Single Equality Bill in British Parliament and the likely
inclusion of caste based discrimination within it, has triggered this unprecedented alarm
among the Hindu fundamentalists.

To nip the efforts of progressive British Members of Parliament in the bud they have waged shameless onslaught on them and leveled baseless allegations of conversion of marginalized victims of Hindu caste discrimination onto Christianity and other religions.

Their report has been so very prejudiced and full of absurdities that they have
forgotten that the issues they have raised were effectively countered and dispelled by
none other than the Architect of Indian Constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar during his
lifetime. It is the meek effort of HCUK to sell its ideas to the western world hoping that
they would be digested without verification and scrutiny.

Thanks to the Government of Maharashtra’s (India) initiative in publishing the writings and speeches of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar which are available on website wherein every point raised in HCUK’s report has already been countered effectively and successfully. In their report, they have even gone ahead and produced a document in the name of Valimiki Sabha
Southall which supposedly has endorsed HCUK’s view. By doing so, HCUK has exposed
itself and its policy of ‘divide and rule’.

We would neither like to name nor shame the Hindu Council for producing this document
as it has given us an opportunity to present the facts straight across to the British media to
settle the age-old scores against the heinous practices of the caste ridden Hindu religion
which has kept 250 million Indians away from enjoying basic human rights. The report
has ascribed the ill-effects of caste discrimination existing in India unfortunately to
British Raj and the various invasions and foreign rules in India - forgetting that the basic
scriptures of Hindu religion like Rigveda, Gita & Manusmriti pre-date all foreign rules.

It was really not essential for them to have come out with a 30 page document as it could
be reduced to not more than 3 pages; since it only projects their apprehensions on the
proposed Single Equality Bill in the British parliament which could have far reaching
impact of having its place in European Parliament and further in the United Nations as
well. This not only concerns Hindu Council UK but also the Hindu bureaucracy in the
Indian Government which has been consistently denying the caste discrimination existing
in India to the enquiries made by United Nations. Caste has always been projected as the
‘internal’ and ‘cultural’ aspects of Hindu society; thus evading international scrutiny and

Caste discrimination has neither been compared with apartheid by British MP’s nor by
any other international communities but it has been unequivocally expressed by the
present Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh on December 27, 2006. The HCUK
report has mentioned this fact without mentioning the Prime Minister’s name.

HCUK shouldn’t really have gone for mudslinging against various organizations such as Dalit
Solidarity Network UK and Caste Watch UK as these organizations have beyond doubt
been instrumental in providing voice to 250 million people discriminated on the basis of
caste in the Indian sub continent and in the UK.

The HCUK having lived in this civilized country could have frankly accepted the responsibility of Hindu religion for the inhuman creation of caste system and been apologetic about its role in this practice. The meeting at Ambedkar Centre, Southall has constituted a committee which would carry out research and will come out with a full report in due course of time. This full report would inform the world once and for all unambiguously the nefarious designs of spreading
disinformation and hiding facts that Hindu Council UK has employed.

UK government should in fact take an initiative and have implementation of the General
recommendation XXIX of The United Nations CERD’s (Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination) in order to prohibit and eliminate Caste discrimination
effectively. This should be in furtherance of its commitment to elimination of slavery 200
years ago.

We take this opportunity to inform British Parliamentarians that let the good sense
prevail in supporting our cause to include caste discrimination in the forthcoming Single
Equality Bill.

Contact: Mr. C. Chahal Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 08, 2008

multitasking or singletasking: which is Indian?

A young friend writes personally to me as follows:
"From the time that they lined up to fill their plates to the time that they finished their dessert of yogurt made from the milk of the buffalo that lives in the shed out back, these young Indians remained conspicuously silent. Coming from a culture where talking is an important part of any meal, the silence struck me immediately. I wanted to practice speaking Hindi with our young hosts at this shelter home, but I decided to wait until finding out the reason for the solemn meal. For the next few minutes, I awkwardly finished my own meal using my fingers. Later, Charu, one of our guides, explained that the students are forbidden to speak during their meals. She elaborated that it is an important principle in India to do one thing at a time. The rationale is that a person will do a better job of nourishing the body when completely focused on that task. There will always be time to talk after the meal. I admire this Indian aversion to multitasking, and am interested to see how it manifests in other areas of the society. In the sprawling metropolis of Delhi where I spent the first part of the week, I didnt see anyone phoning while driving or reading the newspaper while walking down the street. Multitasking is the norm in American society and in my daily life. While I am here in India, I am going to try doing one thing at a time and see how it goes."

My response:

" I don't know what group you are wtih, but they are fooling you if they want you to believe that there is anything Indian about singletasking! The whole of India lives on multi-tasking from the President of the country to the poorest and least-educated person, and from the richest to the poorest! If you haven't yet seen multi-tasking in India, then you need to open your eyes and look more "innocently" around you.

"Singletasking is good in itself and if you want to see a society that has internalised it, teaches it, practices it and lives on it, you need to visit Continental Europe (not UK)

These Indians are trying to teach something that is good to fellow-Indians (and perhaps foreigners) but are doing so on the basis of a lie - singeltasking is not Indian at all.

The idea of concentration is well accepted in India, but only in relation to one field: meditation – when it is a case of meditating on nothing or nothingness – such as the sound of a meaningless though supposedly powerful word (mantra) or the tip of your nose or the feelings involved in breathing or something like that

However, if you can learn singletasking, whether in India or elsewhere, that will not be a bad thing at all!" Sphere: Related Content