Friday, March 01, 2019

Good, Bad, and Ugly- incidents following Pulwama terror attack shed many lights on Indian society and politics.

It seems that a large section of Indian society, mainly the middle class and the elites, want peace and not war. So there must not be any war and India will get peace simply because these people want it! So let there be peace- Amen!
Composition and nature of Indian society is playing a huge role in opposing war in general- irrespective of whether it's in national interest or not. Sociopolitical evolution of India plays a crucial part in this issue.
The way a kid succeed in Indian society- starting from his schools days, to university and then professional life including those in executive branch, mainly in bureaucracy and law enforcement, can be of huge importance here too. Now many reports suggest that Indian military is also getting affected by the same issue. The issue is "good boy" culture.

These "good boys" are fully protected by their parents, aloof from the society, get a very privileged life to the best of their parents' ability. And all of it with just one goal- to get a lucrative job to have a comfortable life and ensure equally comfortable live for the parents. Their world revolves around this story line. The progression of their career with that single goal start almost immediately the child is born. It gradually  change in shape as the child grows up. In schools, they care only to score as high as possible. Parents bring coconut water, yogurt, fruit and other "healthy snacks" while the "good boy" attend classes- in school or in private tuition. Private tuition and many other "not so harmful" acts of unethical behavior and corruption is not only supported by the parents but also encouraged in many cases. The child care intensifies to the level of torture for such domesticated "good boys" during exams, as parents are equally or, may be more, stressed.

At the end of one's student life, the job they desire are selected based on two main parameters- money and socioeconomic hierarchy. Childhood dream or lounging to join a profession, ability to do the job there, dedication to excel etc. are irrelevant for both the parents and the kid. All concerned parties including the students, their parents, teachers, mentors, and the society as a whole support such "good boys". They always follow orders but love to talk about courage and other such great virtues, mainly in social media. They may watch wrestling matches on TV, war and patriotic movies, and enjoy violent video games. But tend to act totally cowardice when some basic sense of ethics, honesty, or justice arises. They are always asked by their parents to keep themselves away from any conflict or potential conflict, talk only what others want to hear, never argue to authority and so on. Protecting themselves from any harm is inbuilt in such children and almost always remain that way when they grow up. They never interfere in any local or national or social dispute/issue, except in social media, always play safe and never engage in any physical fight even when get formal martial arts training (mainly done for certificates  as an extra-curricular activity- for academic purpose to get admission in some prestigious university or job opportunity). Gradually they even stop giving frank opinions in places where it might matter. Lately I realized that many such people stop drinking alcohol in professional parties and even in social gathering in the fear of talking something that might put them in trouble. In the process they lose their ability to access risks besides many other virtues that are so essential for leadership and some even essential for basic decision making in our offices and homes. 
These people succeed there to occupy the top positions in almost every institutions and also became one of the main export items for India. Indian media, vast majority of middle class Indians, and the 'elites' are also affected. Relatively poor guys from less privileged background, who aspire to climb the socioeconomic ladder, also try its best to adopt that culture. They imitate the "elites", just like in most other countries. This system is in place since long. That's one of the reasons why that farmers' movement, which started in the village of Naxalbari in 1967, failed so miserably when the "good boys" from cities and "elite" universities joined it.

Now these opportunist, highly selfish but very vocal Indian elites and middle class "intellectuals" want peace at any cost. They think it's the noble duty of others, including our enemies, to give that peace to them on a platter. Their otherwise stable boat, as they perceive, must not be rocked by any war or socioeconomic unrest. 

At the same time, many equally vocal middle class Indians are indoctrinated into blind religious and/or political faith. It's just another consequence of India's failing education and sociopolitical system that put too much pressure for compliance of societal norms. These people tend to "support war" but themselves never want to join in it. They surely can offer puja, hold rallies, harassing anyone who dare to oppose their "patriotism". They only can join war if they are given lucrative positions in Indian military as an officer, who are known to enjoy highly feudal and British era luxury at tax payers' expanse. It's generally accepted that hard life of an non-officer army personnel are only for the poorest of the poor who can not be any "good boy" to succeed. These are the people who probably can not even survive with any other decent job in Indian society but to join lower ranking positions.

India's top political class used to be dominated by the "good boys" since long before independence simply because those people were promoted by the British rulers and given (not earned) the privileges to succeed professionally, financially, and also in politics. It would not be wrong to say that both Jawaharlal Nehru and MK Gandhi were among those privileged "good boys". Naturally, they were fine when Pakistan occupied one third of Kashmir. Nehru was also not much opposed to Chinese aggression and never even tried to develop the North Eastern states of India. That time Indian Govt made it the state policy for so many states within India that political leadership thought might be occupied by the Chinese and/or the Pakistanis. Yes, they all wanted peace! That's the start of India's insurgency problems as we see it today.

But that time, immediately after independence, many not-so-good boys, who had a rough childhood; did not have so protective, insecure, and selfish parents; also used to succeed. Such people also used to join executive branch in the Government and also in politics. But that trend gradually declined as social mobility drastically deteriorated in independent India for various reasons. It worsened significantly after globalization of 1991. That situation is again changing for Indian politics lately. Now Indian PM is not any "good boy" guy. He has seen Indian society from the very bottom of it and has a real good grasp over it, understand Indian people better than any one in Gandhi dynasty and other such "good boys" in Indian politics. But he did not seem to learn anything else- either educationally or professionally. It broadly indicate the trend or type of people rising as common man's politicians. Yes, I do not support him in many issues but I must admit the qualities he has, which can be a great asset for the country if used judiciously, guided by wise advisers and honest executives.

In the whole mess, both truth and sense of one's duty got sacrificed. Making logical and sensible decision get harder in today's India. It's equally true for general population who make their decisions based on what others say and what others do. And those "others" are either actual uneducated or poorly educated bad boys  or the so called "good boys".

India is now lost in that cacophony of good, bad, and ugly.  Previously India used to unite when they could manage to crate an external enemy- be it in politics or sports or anything else. It was the only way to make Indians united. Those days seems to be over now.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why should USA and other western countries minimize students from countries like India and China, where education, mainly basic education, is ruined, to allow only talented ones to join higher education and research sector in these western countries?

Most of these developing countries destroyed its own education sector, mainly basic school education for various reasons. I’ll discuss the issue mainly in Indian context. Most of the points are equally valid for other developing countries, including China.
1. The most crucial one would be criminalization of politics and politicization of education. Now, success in a country like India depends more on one's ability to exploit the current culture of sycophancy, corruption and crime- than anything else. 

In case of India, it mainly started during Indira Gandhi era around mid 1970s (she was assassinated in 1984). Since then the situation only deteriorated and the rate of destruction only increased so far, valid till today.

Many of these guys, who got western/American education and who became financially successful, open for-profit shops in the name of education there in India- flaunting American connection and attractive Western/American brand names to attract more students- mainly those who are more obsessed with going and/or living in the West or America than getting meaningful education.

It has now became an epidemic and reached its lowest as public education in India is deliberately being destroyed by politicians and almost everyone involved in that sector. Private schools, colleges and universities are mushrooming all over the country. Almost all of them are owned by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, mafia and other criminals like AMITY university owner Ashok Chauhan, who was charged with fraud in the 1990s by authorities in Germany, where he ran a network of companies. He returned to India and was never extradited. A plastics company in the U.S. also sued Chauhan in 1995 for failing to pay $20 million in debts, which led to an ongoing court battle in India. Now AMITY University is "the most successful private university in India". Such rich private universities by corrupt criminals from countries like India are also penetrating American higher education sector. It’s a worrying development for both India and USA.

Now there is absolutely now doubt that education, both basic school education and higher education, is among the top three sectors which is most corrupt and generate most black money there in India. It’s gains more significance considering that fact that illegal black money accounts about 75 percent of Indian GDP. Some credible reports suggest education sector, mostly operate with tax free non-profit or Non Governmental organization (NGO) status, became the most lucrative and most corrupt sector after recent slum in real estate sector. 

2. Private tuition and coaching schools came as a byproduct of politicization and criminalization of that sector. Now most of the schools, colleges, universities and coaching centers are owned by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen who have absolutely no idea and/or connection with education sector before.

Now private tuition and coaching schools have destroying Indian education system to its core. Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Rajasthan type states became the recent hot spots of mass manufacturing of idiots and mediocre students for different professional and other courses including engineering, medical, top civil service positions (e.g. IAS, IPS, IFS etc). Many of us are familiar with Kota, used to be a small town in Rajasthan, which later gained national fame for its high profile and and high pressure coaching schools to enable students to get into various prestigious institutions and lucrative careers in India, and crimes behind it? Another example- 50 Suicides In 60 Days: Dark Reality Of Andhra, Telangana Coaching Centres. Now even a kid in a village have to take private tuition, mostly probably by the same teacher, who is supposed to teach the same syllabus in a (mostly) tuition free government run public school.

About a decade ago, in many states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, parents spend more money on private coaching for their children that all other items including school fees, transport, books, stationary and uniforms. Now that phenomenon has engulfed almost all of the country. Many teachers are known to run private tuition and well-organized businesses of coaching schools, neglecting their teaching duties in schools/colleges/universities. Such coaching schools and private tuition businesses by influential teachers and administrators are involved in almost every examination in India, including entrance/screening tests. They seemingly have mysterious ability to make highly successful ‘suggestions’ (probable questions in the examinations), influence mark scoring ability and ensuring that students perform well in entrance examinations without even covering the syllabus.

Such private tuition and coaching enabled students score very high in standardized tests that have a defined syllabus and exam pattern. They ranks high in various national and international entrance/screening tests including UPSC (that recruit top bureaucrats in India), GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, SAT, etc. These guys succeed at the cost of dedicated and talented students. Most of the successful ones are from rich and powerful families, as outcome of any competition there is decided based on parental money and/or influence, their connection to the institution and its bosses. Available data shows that the quality of vast majority of these professionals are pathetic, to say the least- both as a professional and as a responsible citizen of the society.

Gradually such immigrants become a social liability for the host country, in case they are allowed to permanently live there. These people already started promoting that culture of rote memorization, suggestion based 'education', private tuition and special coaching classes in countries like USA- mainly in big cities, where there is a huge population of such immigrants.

Enabling honest and talented students with dedication and grit from such developing countries like India and China would have far more benefit for both the host and the native country in the long run.

3. Many sources indicate that there has been a significant increase in forged resumes with fake degrees, and false ‘experience’ certificates from students and professionals from India. It’s indicated that about half of resumes from India have fake degrees while about 90 percent contain fake ‘experience’, many with ‘genuine’ fake certificates purchased from corrupt people and/or companies, mainly body shopping agencies, which mostly operate in the lucrative IT sector. Nonetheless, it seriously affect decent and honest Indian students and professionals. 

It’s the byproduct of many issues in Indian society where engaging in corruption is not only socially acceptable but also can be a matter of pride in terms of ‘intelligence and ability’ to be ‘practical’ to succeed. Far too many senior professors, Vice Chancellors, Directors of academic and research institutes and universities are known to be engaged in various issues of professional misconducts like plagiarism in countries like India. These forms of 'minor' corruption and crimes are 'nothing wrong' and accepted among them. That distorted sense of ethics and logic are not something that can go away from the affected individuals when they migrate to other countries or get degrees and jobs abroad. That would invariably affect the society they would be living .

4. Massive migration of foreign student is making it harder for local students, even talented ones, to get admission or afford insanely expensive higher education in American universities. Many, if not most, American universities actually prefer foreign students as those students are more lucrative source to make more money.

These corrupt and/or brain dead idiots already flooded western universities as lucrative customers for the universities. Those graduates naturally became an attractive option for cheaper and easily exploitable manpower for local companies. They are recruited mostly to do mundane routine technician or clerical jobs (including teaching) in universities, IT, R&D and other sectors in countries like USA, UK, Germany etc. That boost profit margin for the company. It’s not much due to shortage of suitable manpower, as the myth of ‘talent shortage’ was and still is being propagated by many companies. Keep in mind that there is a huge glut of underemployed and unemployed American graduates and PhD holders all over the country- The fool’s gold of Ph.D. employment data and Millennial College Graduates: Young, Educated, Jobless

5. Most of the 'successful' students from developing countries are very mediocre student. But most are from rich and powerful families. Increase in number of students from these countries seems to be directly proportional to political and corporate corruption there. They come to western universities mainly to get the stamp of approval from a western university in form of a degree. Many of them would go back to their native countries and occupy powerful positions in either public or private sector companies, that include academia and so called research or R&D industry- due to the same parental money or influence for which they could come to the US/West in the first place. Rich and influential parents would put them in such powerful positions irrespective of merit and other qualities need for the positions. That would put more pressure on local talents to flourish. The cycle of entitlement, culture of corruption and other symptoms of a feudal society strengthens with each passing generation, as we have seen since India got freedom in 1947. Inquisitiveness, intelligence and honesty suffer to prevent local talents and leaders to grow, who could have acted as educational or social or political reformers there.

The possibility for countries like India and China to develop its own talent pool, its own leaders, in real sense, is very low and deteriorating fast.

6. Many of them come only to pass the initial hurdle of immigration and enter the host country. Most of these students have no desire or ability (mostly both) to pursue higher studies or research in any sense of it. But they generally manage a decent job in some local companies as cheaper and easily exploitable manpower to do mostly mundane routine jobs, where critical or independent thinking is not much desired. Such jobs include university faculties and ‘scientists’ in many private and public organizations, besides most IT and managerial jobs in private companies. Keep in mind, most American universities are just another for-profit industry in every practical sense and they too need cheaper manpower as well.

7. These mediocre students from rich or influential families. A large section of these students and professionals harbor very orthodox feudal and racist mentality, believing in caste, gender and other forms of racial discrimination. You may find many Indian or Indian origin people in western countries proudly advertising their association of relationship with white Caucasian people but hardly you can see similar pride advertisement with African origin black or Hispanic- if they at all have it in the first place. It’s consistent with the fact that India is considered ‘the most racist country’ among 70 odd countries surveyed.

It does affect other students in the same group/class- both academically and socially. These kids would be of zero or negative value in the society when they settle in the host country- even though they might be financially successful or productive. It would be more damaging as these students start joining in public policy positions- either directly as a law maker or in a consultant position or individual contributor. In short, they become social liability in the long run. It becomes more problematic as they climb academic or corporate hierarchy and start participating in policy decisions in such organizations, including universities.

8. These students and professionals also have a high tendency to believe and live in a ghetto culture. They feel more comfortable with similar minded people, naturally. They tend to recruit similar type of students/employee when they start climbing employment hierarchy- either as a university faculty or in a private company. That’s not great in terms of promoting merit and equality in the host society. It also erode public trust on those institutions.

9. Many of these ‘highly educated’ Indians, even scientists (by virtue of degree or job hierarchy), are highly conservative and religious fundamentalist. Nature of religion does not seem to make any difference in this regard. The situation got worse in last couple of decades.

It’s assumed that rise of Hindu fundamentalist ‘nationalist’ govt in India got it’s major electoral victory due to its quasi westernized ‘highly educated’ ‘Hindus’- many of them are living abroad- like this Rajiv Malhotra as described in this New York Times article.

Current ‘Hindu nationalist’ Government in India seems to be increasing religious rhetoric and fundamentalism in Indian education and research system and making it ‘increasingly antiscience’ .

There are far too many such Indian origin ‘highly educated’ religious fundamentalists living in USA and other western countries- only to spread religious bigotry in the name of various religions, mainly Hinduism, in its totally distorted interpretation and practice. It’s bad for the host country like USA and India.

10. Such practice creates a very negative image about all Indian students and professionals among a large section of local people. It affect genuinely honest and talented ones too due to stereotyping. Many recruiters flatly refuse to consider otherwise suitable candidates from such minority background while many others hesitate- mainly for influential positions that need decision making, original thinking, trustworthiness and creativity. It does not matter what those companies and people say in public in this era of political and legal correctness. it also becomes a propaganda tool for many white supremacists.

11. USA and other western countries need to attract students, who have the desire and ability (aka, talent) to prosper in the area(s) of their study or work. They should be able to create wealth (not mere wealth management) in form of new technology or product (innovation), develop novel knowledge in their area of study (not mere teaching or publishing, mostly, junk articles that do not have much, even, academic value). Such people generally have self respect and pride for the job they do and life they live. Such students and professionals generally have strong willingness to assimilate and positively contribute to the host society (not just financially by simply paying tax) and have broad agreement with the ideals of secular democracy.

Laws of science and rules of technology, process to groom human creativity does not seem to vary when taught in western universities or for degrees purchased at a huge price. It’s basically the openness of the society, rule of (democratic) laws and trust on public institutions that make the difference. people who do not trust those core principles of (most) western democracies should not come here using education as a excuse or tool. If such people become a majority, then these countries will be like the ones those people were so desperate to leave. American/Western universities need to understand that as well. As we now know that it’s less likely that America/west trained professionals and policy makers would make India and China type countries to become like any productive western democracy or USA either.

USA and other western countries can do a great favor to the developing world by promoting honest talented students and professionals, and not patronizing those corrupt and opportunist people, mostly, rich and powerful elites in countries like India and China, who are actually destroying those countries, making those countries unlivable for decent honest people. Those ‘elite’ people, such corrupt and feudal (increasingly authoritarian) countries are imposing a huge pressure on their own diminishing flock of free spirited, honest and talented people, and also on rest of the world. They are forcing others to clean up the mess they are creating. The cycle of appeasement and corruption need to be stopped if the world need to survive and became a better place to live- for anyone and everyone.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Why it’s so difficult for some immigrants to assimilate?

I was born in India, spent my teenage and early adulthood there. After living in few other countries, I settled in the US like many of us here. During my younger days in India, I used to hear a lot asking me to change, telling me how I misfit there. It’s not always to demean or demoralize or insult me. Many people used the same expression to save me from future failures and other graver miseries that they predicted for me. They thought I ask too many questions, refused to obey many social and religious dictates (or obligations, as others put it), declined to bow down to the socio-economic hierarchy, refuse to bribe and accept corruption in our daily lives as many do, who consider it just another issue of ‘practical sense’.

I like to mention one example. One director of a famous research institute in New Delhi once told me how grossly I misfit in both Indian society and scientific research. He suggested me to get out of India and join some famous British university, where he can manage almost any prestigious scholarship or fellowship for me. He was the selection committee chairman of many such UK bound scholarship and fellowship selection committees. He assured me of my admission there and also great success if I follow his advice. He went one step further by suggesting how I can be greatly benefited by marrying a woman from families like his, who can "put your (my) career and financial success into the right trajectory", as he described during those early days of post-liberalized India of late 1990s. It confused me even more. That big boss of Indian science, who was 'very close' to the ruling party and the greatest political dynasty India ever had, thought that I’m not fit for Indian science and society, yet the same person thought I’m the right candidate not only to succeed but also to marry someone, who he is closed to or related to. All these interactions started when I asked him, what are we supposed to write in the exam for the class, titled ‘protein structure and function’. That powerful director used to take that class, and we were supposed to appear in an external examination (conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University) on that subject. Most of the time that director used to be absent due to his frequent foreign tours. And when he was present, he used to arrive in the class about 15-20 minutes late for a 45-minute class. Then he used to tell stories of great German railway, autumn in Japan, awesome Niagara Falls and such exotic stuff. We hardly got much lesson on protein structure and function. I was more interested to know protein structure and function, and was equally worried about the exam we were about to appear. This example has many issues, which cripple Indian society and science alike, embedded in one- like- how to get ‘prestigious’ foreign scholarships/fellowships, how to get one’s career on the ‘right track’, how to become 'highly successful’ and, most importantly, how to fit in Indian society and science.

Many times, I find myself on the wrong side of people. One good example would be people, who use religion to celebrate and demand donations from rest of the society. Most of such celebrations can be too noisy and disruptive for any civilized society. I was not much fond of religion and do not believe in God. But it added an extra layer of anger when you come back from a day’s hard work or when you have a critically ill relative and there is 24x7 loud music, religious sermons, noisy firecrackers to celebrate, public roads are blocked, face local hooligans demanding donation for ‘cultural’ or religious celebration and so on. You would end up in a hotter soup if you remind them that you never asked money or caused any discomfort to anyone when you feel like celebrating. These hooligans, often supported by political parties and administration, expect everyone to oblige them. There are enough reasons for them to be convinced that terrorism does work in lawless societies. We all know that the consequences for not obeying would be really troubling, to say it politely. It’s equally useless to ask state or central administration for help. That might make the situation even worse.

Our birth to any specific country, society, religion, race etc. is merely coincidental. We do not even choose our parents. It’s neither my fault, nor any great virtue that I was born to a specific parent, a specific country, society, race, religion, mother tongue etc. I have no obligation to defend it if that’s not supported by data/fact and logic. In fact, I think it’s better to highlight negative issues so that more informed public opinion can be created to address the issues more effectively. I do not feel any special joy by criticizing any country, society, race, religion; particularly which I’m associated with. Yes, that does hurt. It always feels better to be able to highlight positive aspects of our parents, native country and issues associated with us. But supporting anyone or any issue for wrong reason or based on wrong data not only affect personal credibility but also hurt the honest efforts to address such issues.

Traditionally, mostly the privileged section of Indian society used to go out of India for higher education and job. They are from the so-called 'upper’ caste or upper-class community. These people first time realized the pain of being a minority when they live abroad. The urge to portray India, which is basically ruled by the same people, as a great country is too tempting for them to resist. They also have obvious personal reasons to do that too- to glorify themselves and their ability as socio-political rulers of the country. They do it while interacting with the host society and people there, who have no or limited information about India. On the other hand, the same people also wrongly portray that living and working abroad itself is a great achievement, recognition for personal and professional excellence. 

Then there is the other class, the so-called ‘lower’ caste or minority section in India. They hardly had any power and privilege, which the previous class take for granted. These people experience freedom, equality and, even, professional recognition for the first time when they migrated to a developed country. Unfortunately, many of them gradually develop the same urge and refuse to assimilate to the host society. Being an Indian bring these two classes together, as they find it easier to twist and deform truth to play the same game to two different audiences- one in India and among Indian community abroad, while the other for the host society and people there. It gradually develops a sense of entitlement that we see among the ‘elite’ immigrants and refugees. These immigrants and refugees play the same game, exploiting same ignorance of their audience- but for very different and often totally opposite and contradicting objectives. The same game will again be played, but with totally reversed goal if the same people are either deported or lose job and forced to leave the host country. Then they will loudly sign the patriotic song and spread all sorts of stories to show how bad American or the western host society was. For non-Indian audience, it’s their ignorance about India and/or the specific religion, culture etc.; while for Indian audience it’s lack of exposure and information about America or the other host society that make this tactics work. Very few can maintain a balance and have the courage to accept reality as it is.

Then, there are those so-called 'rice Christians’. The term was invented to indicate those non-Christian Indians, who convert to Christianity, highlight Christian connections mainly for personal benefits- like, escaping poverty and/or racial abuse by upper caste people in India, getting visa/jobs abroad, fulfilling political ambition, and so on. Now the term is not always associated with converted Christians. It’s more broadly used to indicate a specific trait. These folks almost always blame India and their initial religion, culture etc. to get sympathy and also the network of Christian organizations, churches and more successful Christians abroad. They often forget or conveniently ignore that assimilation does not mean accepting the dominance of Christian fundamentalism or ideology over other religions, or white supremacy. 

My living in a foreign country, my not believing in God, selection of my friends and job are the issues that I personally evaluated before accepting. Those are my conscious decisions. Frankly speaking, I left India as I do not feel much associated with that country and culture, in terms of prevailing socio-political condition. At the same time, India is the country that I’m most familiar with. I know that society, its elites and also the people who barely survive with no or false hope that things will be better for them with grace of God or grace of any specific political party or leader. I do not know any other country so well as I know India- not even USA. But I would give similar or same effort for any other country or society if I know it so intimately. 

Many people feel that it’s imperative to live in a country and become part of the system there to have any meaningful impact towards reforming it. That may be true for many, who have the required ability to navigate such a system, ability to compromise on daily basis yet able to oppose, raise voice against socio-political injustices. I tried that route a couple of times, and, always failed. I felt the limitation of that approach and my inability to adjust there. I realized that some people do not have the ability and/or patience to navigate the system in such a semi-feudal and lawless society. Many people feel suffocated there as they cannot talk openly and act reasonably freely with decent honesty, which they feel very essential to start any reform effort. I feel it’s more useful to make myself free from those, mostly, corrupt and morally bankrupt socio-political elites and the system they are so determined to maintain. Now, I can talk openly and act with more honesty. I can have more positive impact on India by staying abroad. It's imperative for me to let underprivileged people know, let general Indians know the reality. Then, it’s up to them to decide their own course of actions- whether to exploit the current situation to promote their own personal interest, or to act to make the situation better. Such immigrants can also help foreign governments, companies, non-profit organizations to deal with such foreign governments and operations in countries like India in a more meaningful way to bring desired outcome in terms of socio-economic development. 

I personally do not give much importance to religion and other superstitions in the name of culture and tradition. Truth and science is far more important. At the same time, I do recognize that these are great forces for many, if not most, people in most of the countries in the world. People can die or kill to uphold such ideology or ‘ways of life’. My only request to them- please do not come to a foreign country and society when you do not accept or believe the ways of lives in such more democratic and free societies. No one is preventing such people to practice whatever they believe and make their countries/race/religion better, far better than any other, particularly whom they do not like or aggressively oppose. Let them show the rest of the world that their political or religious and cultural faith are compatible with great scientific achievements, compatible with the vision of a peaceful, prosperous developed country and society that they dream of. Ultimately, their development, becoming more prosperous and peaceful, would help everyone else, including USA. 

The first criterion to solve any problem is to acknowledge it. Everything else comes next. All talk of policy and governance would not make much difference if we fail to take that first step. I'm reasonably confident that many Indians like me left India as they associate themselves more closely in more open and secular democracies like USA, without having any hesitation to accept that USA is no way the perfect society. It would be very counterproductive to support or allow such Indians to try to bring all those issues, which many like me left India for, wishing to impose on it on the host society- USA in this case. They are better off in India to help developing India into a better country, better than USA, than trying to convert USA into India.

I'm sure many well-meaning non-resident Indians (NRIs), Indian origin Americans, the citizen of other host countries (by naturalization) and even foreigners would definitely help them in such noble effort- not only because it’s ideologically right and the right thing to do, but also to allow US and such host countries to strengthen/maintain its open society and secular democracy. It’s true for other people too- like those Hindutva forces (which is different from Hinduism that I know), Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists and other religious fanatic or so-called patriotic people. I do not think it’s at all possible to have sharia law, madrasa or gurukul education and other religious rituals and yet build a modern, peaceful and prosperous country. I do not believe that anyone can ban cow slaughter, ban pork or beef eating, imposing public inconveniences due to religious extravaganza, having faith on religious mumbo-jumbo and yet develop a peaceful, prosperous country. If anyone thinks otherwise, then they need to prove that in their native countries than migrating and then trying to impose those practices on few remaining 'civilized' or developed part of the world, which is still livable for many people like me.

It’s for the same reason we are still decades, if not centuries, away from having visa free international travel, open border immigration policy or borderless world. For that we need to understand and accept few core values and definition about truth, justice and democracy. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why did Bengal produce so many socio-political leaders, renaissance originate in Bengal and not anywhere else in India?

I hear a lot and also had to explain a lot why Bengal produced so many socio-political leaders, intellectuals, great writers, artists and so on. Many non-Bengalis refute it as 'Bengal/ Bengali superiority' complex, while others seem to be confused in their search for a rational explanation. But almost everyone agrees that there was a renaissance in Bengal, which was not much present in any other part of India.

Many assign the credit for Bengal renaissance to British education. That is surely a major reason. But not the only or probably the main reason. British and other European powers established many schools, colleges and universities not only in Bengal but also in many other places as well (Annexure- 1).

There are few issues that worked for Bengal, which started long before the Europeans, including the British, arrived there. In fact, the Europeans arrived India via southern or western coast. The first European, Portuguese Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. The first British trading ship, the Hector, commanded by William Hawkins, landed in Surat, Gujarat, in 1608, during the reign of Mughal emperor, Jahangir. But the main impact of European as a whole and British in particular was unfolded in Bengal and not in Southern or Western part of India. 

Here we need to keep in mind that Bengal was not fully under Delhi and Mughal rule at any time in history. People in that part of India never witnessed repeated invasion and war violence that was a regular affair in northern and western India. The drastic socio-political change imposed by Muslim rulers, who came from central and middle east Asia, was restricted to fewer places and was less dominant in Bengal. 

Bengal has a very unique distinction to have among the first democratically elected kings in Asia, Gopala around 755 AD. It traditionally had a very pluralistic, more open society. Had a history of institutionalized education, that include the famous Nalanda University and educational institutions in Gauḍa (currently. Malda), Nabadwip, the place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1553 CE), the spiritual leader of Baishnab sect was born and spent a significant part of his life, and current HQ of globally famous ISKCON. 

Bengal had a vibrant trading history long before the Europeans arrived and the Europeans took advantage of it. Many people there used to be very entrepreneurial risk takers, unlike what we see today. Bengal retained one of the most important trading and business centers during British rule and early part of independent India as well. 

These were among the reasons for which the British, initially East India Company, established its capital in Bengal. But the British was little apprehensive about other European powers, mainly the French, who was a global threat to British empire. We also need to keep in mind that all this was before that famous Paris treaty (1763), which was signed after ‘seven years war’ to settle the its dispute with the French (along with Spain and Portugal) in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. The French had a long history of cooperation with local rulers in India as a whole and Bengal in particular. In case of Bengal it was Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, head quartered in Musheerabad, about hundred miles north of Kolkata (Calcutta). So the British East India Company established Calcutta (by Job Charnock around 1692) and gradually strengthened it. The suspicion against the French was not unfounded. Siraj ud-Daulah, attacked the British to capture its biggest fort, Fort William in Kolkata, at the instigation of the French. This led to the Battle of Plassey (1757). There the British decisively defeated the Nawab and his French allies, resulting in the extension of British power over the entire province of Bengal and, in every practical sense, in India too. 

During British rule, Bengal Presidency included present day West Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, part of Tripura and Burma. Once the Europeans arrived, they initiated concerted efforts to develop local manpower, mainly to do many of the lower grade jobs in administration, judiciary, law enforcement etc. British needed a lot of trained and skilled manpower to rule over this huge colony. One of the places where such effort took its deepest root was Kolkata. Here we need to remember that British gave similar efforts in other parts of India too but its impact was not so profound. Renaissance did not much happen in those places. 

Kolkata was the capital of India till the new capital in New Delhi was inaugurated and became functional in 1931. During this period many Bengali professionals, scholars and thinkers got the opportunity to know British culture, politics, justice system, science, education and, most importantly, modern democracy. We also need to remember that many of the famous Bengali intellectuals who ushered renaissance there got higher education and exposure in Great Britain as well. Not many of the great thinkers and scholars, for which India is still feel proud, originated from Muslim era madrasas or traditional ‘Hindu’ gurukul education. 

Besides Britain, few other European powers have its impact on Bengal. It includes the French, Portuguese and Dutch. It gave Bengalis a competitive advantage and a separate yardstick to understand British culture and education. A rather large region around Kolkata was known as ‘Little Europe’ and currently being promoted by West Bengal State Government for tourism. 

As British education and socio-cultural evolution gained ground in Bengal, many of its renaissance people were taking shape in almost every field of life- started from education, science and technology, socio-religious reform and most importantly, in freedom struggle, mostly via violent means. Most Bengali freedom fighters, like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, seemingly had far more impact on British rule than even MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, as we are now learning from recently declassified documents by the British government and from other sources in other countries like South Africa. The same sentiment was echoed by many contemporary Indian scholars and freedom fighters like BR Ambedkar. 

Overwhelming majority of the prisoners in the notorious cellular jail in Andaman, where the most violent and feared (by the British rulers) freedom fighters were kept, were Bengalis. One can check the list of names of the prisoners, still maintained there in the jail. 

Formal education in Bengal probably was not that different than many other parts of India, e.g Tamil Nadu (Madras), Maharashtra (Bombay), where students excelled to become clerks or servants for their European masters. But it’s the socio-political evolution that made Bengal the hotspot of leaders in almost every field. We mostly know about Bengal’s politicians, freedom fighters and few rare mixtures of violent freedom fighters who later became great spiritual leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, later known as Sri Aurobindo. After renouncing violence, he established the famous ashram in Pondicherry. 

All the three major national level political parties in today’s India find its roots in Bengal. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee was the first president of Indian National Congress. Syama Prasad Mukherjee was the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Manabendra Nath Roy was the founder of Communist Party of India, which initiated communist movement in India and also abroad. He was also the founder of Mexican Communist Party. 

Bengal had a rich history of religious diversity, rebellion and reform. Buddhism was one of the dominant religions of Bengal since the days of emperor Ashoka (304—232 BC). It continued to thrive till 12th century. It reached the pinnacle around 750 AD and 1150 AD, mainly under the guidance of Pala Kings initiated by Gopala, arguably the among the first democratically elected kings in the world. It started its decline as Hindu Sena dynasty came to power and crushed Buddhism. Surviving Buddhists retreated to the Chittagong area, bordering Myanmar. The Muslim invaders put the death nail by destroying Buddhist monasteries in Bengal, as they did in other parts of India under its rule. 

Religious reformers like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started raising voice against Brahmin and upper caste domination and caste based hatred among Hindus. He is also credited to prevent rampant conversion of Hindus, mainly ‘lower’ caste Hindus to Islam, slowing down the fast spread of Islam in contemporary society. There were many other unorthodox Hindu preachers who denied ‘sanatan Hindu dharma’ and its rituals. 

Traditionally non-Brahmins and non-Kshatriyas dominated Bengal. Sen, Ghosh, Dutta, Bose, Pal (Paul) used to be the major players. The traditional upper caste dominance was almost non-existent in Bengal till very late when Ballal Sen of Sena dynasty imported some Brahmins from Kannauj area in present day Uttar Pradesh. Some think he merely revived, while others think he introduced caste based social hierarchy in Bengal. Here we need to keep in mind that his son, Lakshman Sen (1178-1206 CE) was the last Hindu king of Bengal. He was defeated by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, the same person who destroyed the famous Nalanda University, to start Muslim rule in Bengal. 

Religious (Hindu) preachers like Ramakrishna and his famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda preached against caste division among Hindus. Both had a very different interpretation of Hinduism, in stark contrast to that of Adi Shankara. Swami Vivekananda went one step further and prescribed not only non-veg but also beef eating among Hindus. Vivekananda was quoted saying, “When his disciple Chakravarti asked his opinion about consuming non-vegetarian food, Swami Vivekananda ordered him to eat fish and meat as much possible to become healthy and courageous. He once proudly recalled of ancient Hindu society of beef eating Brahmins and advised the youths of India to be strong so that they could understand Gita better, with biceps". 

Bengal did and still do not have much presence of Kshatriyas, the warrior or the king class, unlike many other parts of India. Folklore and mythology assign that credit to saint Parashuram, who vowed to get rid of Kshatriyas. Such historical facts set the stage for subsequent socio-political leaders to take advantage of with their more educated and liberal mind enriched with western democracy. 

Bengal’s open culture affected religious minorities too, mainly the Muslims, who were mostly the converts from lower caste Hindus. Many Bengali Muslims and Christians were revolutionary in their teaching, writing and vision- e.g Lalon phokirKazi Nazrul IslamMichael Madhusudan Dutta. Attachment towards Bengali language, culture and much liberal interpretation of religion among Bengalis played an important role during liberation war (Mukti Yudha) in East Pakistan around early 1970s, to create independent Bangladesh. Language Movement (Bhasha Andolôn) in East Pakistan during mid 1950s helped making the ground for liberation war later. 

Raja Ram Mohan Roy almost single handedly able to convince the British rulers to legally ban burning of widows and allowing remarriage of Hindu widows. That earned him the title ‘the father of the Indian renaissance’. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (reconstructed the Bengali alphabet, reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet and promoted widow re-marriage), Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and his wife Basanti Devi, parents of BJP founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (for literacy, mainly for local people in local language and for girls), Acharya Prafulla Chandar Roy (against caste division, promoting science education among Hindus and cultivating wealth creation by objective scientific research and entrepreneurship), writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and many more contributed immensely to that cause of breaking socio-religious superstitions, bigotry and socio-political reform to establish a more just and democratic society and wealth creation from within. These are few reasons why Bengali literature is so rich and also equally matured, even in global standard. The only noble prize in literature, in India, went to a Bengali, Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was far more than just a romantic and a critical writer who touched almost every issue of human life there in Bengal. 

Many talented people from other parts of India were also immensely influenced while staying and working in Bengal. The notable example would be CV Raman, the first and so far, the only Indian scientists to get Noble Prize. He got the prize in 1930 while working in Calcutta University with many other equally talented scientists. Then comes the RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. His life and later socio-political activities was hugely influenced by his stay in Kolkata as a medical student, where he got to know and interacted with many Bengali intellectuals and freedom fighters like Pulin Bihari Das, Aurobindo Ghose. 

It’s unfortunate that people who sacrificed the most during freedom struggle, knew the country, its people and its culture much better, were sidelined during the last part of Indian freedom movement and in independent India. That ignorance and immaturity is still continuing and also reflected in many colonial era laws, irrelevant public policy in present day India that include caste based reservation, separate laws for different religion. It would not be unfair to say that we failed to a great extent in our goal to make India a vibrant, prosperous democracy with rule of law, equal and democratic law, for every citizen with unbiased law enforcement. 

We still say 'Bengal renaissance'. It easily could have been 'Indian renaissance which started in Bengal', just like European renaissance started in Italy and then spread almost all over Europe. A society or country develops when it duly acknowledges its past, learn its lesson from its history but do not enjoy living in the past or bask in past glories. Understanding and accepting our past is very important to build more productive future, a better future. And it must be based on facts and logic, not just some manufactured narrative to suit personal or political agenda or other form of utopia of ‘Ram Rajya’. 

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" and most unlikely to prosper in the future. India as a whole and Bengal in particular lost and keep on losing the people who have wisdom and courage to swim against the tide, stand up against the herd mentality that is being perpetuated in the name of culture, tradition, religion, politics or, even, peace. 

Annexure 1
These are the oldest colleges/universities in India- Serampore College (1818), Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (1847), University of Mumbai (1857), University of Madras (1857), University of Calcutta (1857), Aligarh Muslim University (1875), Allahabad University (1875). 

Some of the oldest medical colleges in India are- École de Médicine de Pondichérry (1823, currently known as Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry), Calcutta medical College, Kolkata (1835), Madras Medical College, Chennai (1835), Escola Médico-Cirúrgica de (Nova) Goa (1842, currently known as Goa Medical College), Grant Medical College, Mumbai (1845), Christian Medical College, Vellore (1900), King George's Medical University, Lucknow (1911), Patna Medical College, Patna (1925). 

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Indian history, Islamic terrorism and optimism for a peaceful coexistence

I watched a nice talk in YouTube by the former senior medical officer of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai, titled, “Why Did Muslim Rulers Destroy Hindu Temples? Facts and Myths”. I learned many facts that I did not know before. But few of my friends doubted credibility of some of the facts mentioned there. I am not any historian and cannot vouch for credibility of all the facts. 

It's widely believed in India that almost all the ‘secular’ political parties and its loyalists appease and exploit religious minorities for electoral gain, distort facts to suit its own narrative of history. Misuse of religious sentiments and racial intolerance have worsened after current Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power. But India got the dubious distinction to become the most racially intolerant country in the world, jointly with Bangladesh and Jordan, before Modi led BJP won last general election in 2014.

To me, it does not matter why those Muslim ‘invaders’ came to India, other than wealth and setting up a kingdom of its own, like any other king of that time, how many Hindu temples  were destroyed or how many people were killed by them. We must accept that none can change the past. But we can learn from it, so that we can avoid making the same mistake and build a better future- as a country where all of its citizens can live peacefully with shared prosperity.

In reality, all human came from central Africa. Then they migrated all over the world. There are two alternative theories on when first human arrived in India. One theory says modern human (Homo Sapiens) arrived in India around 70,000 years ago. The other theory postulate arrival of a closely related Homo heidelbergensis, who left Africa about 800,000 years ago, reached India about 250,000 years ago, while modern human (Homo sapiens) evolved in Africa about 190,000 years ago. We do not know if modern human and Homo heidelbergensis interbred and mixed genetically or to what extent. But we do know that Modern humans out competed the Neanderthal natives,so-called hobbits, in western Europe, but they did interbreed and it has huge consequence on subsequent human evolution and spread of civilizations as we see it today.

It will not be unfair to say that Indian Hindus and Muslims, who are mostly converted Hindus, came from abroad. Latest data show that upper caste Indians (mainly North Indians) are genetically closer to West European ancestry (so-called Aryans) than ‘indigenous’ Indian people, mainly the local tribes in north India and distinctive southern Indian population. Most Indian groups descend from a mixture of two genetically divergent populations, Ancestral North Indians (ANI) related to Central Asians, Middle Easterners, Caucasians, and Europeans; and Ancestral South Indians (ASI) not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent. The date of mixture is unknown. One estimate postulate that ANI-ASI mixture dates ranging from about 1,900 to, 4200 years ago.

Violence and hatred in the name of religion or caste or any such issue is basically ignorance, compounded by a very innate human nature to prove its own individual supremacy. People of different faith or religion, race etc are interacting more, live in more multi-cultural societies these days. The consequence of something or fault of someone else is quickly passed onto others very fast these days. Local issues are not so local or limited in its impact. World refugee crisis and global Islamic terrorism, including so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks inspired by extreme religious ideology from abroad, are not so uncommon.

Muslims are the worst victim of sectarian and/or religious violence in the name of IslamThe most favored destinations of refugees displaced due to religions or caste or tribal conflicts worldwide, are western secular democracies like USA and countries in western Europe. Muslims are no exception. Indian history provide an excellent opportunity to understand it. Western world is relatively new in this game, openly acknowledged Islamic terrorism mainly after 9/11 terror attack.

More we learn and analyze, more we realize the need to treat the ignorance and our human desire to prove individual supremacy. We can get a very realistic, practical example during our marriage, when most of us try to defame, demean the in-laws, find fault in others during marriage. For many it become a constant thorn in conjugal relationship in subsequent years. To solve the issues, we need to accept faults of both the sides without being biased. The target is to make that relationship and marriage successful, happy; and not to prove whose family is better, more civilized, more educated, more cultured etc. The same analogy is equally valid for religious intolerance, hatred and terrorism. 

It does not matter much even if Babur or other Muslim kings came and ruled India with a very bad intention of insulting Hindus, destroying ‘Indian’ culture, which does not seem to be true. Most importantly, we cannot undo it. We better target the ideology of supremacy than the people following such irrelevant or distorted ideology. The war on Islamic terrorism can never be won by using only force in India or Europe or America or middle-east or other parts of the world. It will also be counter-productive to ban Muslims from entering USA, as some American politicians are suggesting.

Muslims need to understand that everything written in Quran is not right and cannot be the basis to live one's life, particularly in a multi-cultural, secular democracy. yes, I read Quran (english translation, of course). There are too many  verses in Quran that openly incites hatred and violence, mainly against non-believers. Many more against women and other minorities. Throwing few verses of peace from Quran or loudly chanting, “Islam is the religion of peace” would not help much. It would not erase the fact that there is not a single country in this world with Muslim majority population where religious minorities flourished and its population increased, based on percentage of total population. The rate of decrease of minorities cannot be explained simply by the difference in birth rate. On the other hand, the number of Muslims almost always increased in any secular democracy, including India, USA and UK.

We are yet to understand why so many Muslims in non-Muslim majority or non-Islamic countries think they should be allowed to follow Islamic Sharia law, in totality or selectively. About 
51% Muslims in USA62% in Canada, 40% in UK42% in Russia and 77% in Thailand think that way. 
Generally speaking, support for Sharia among Muslims is very high in most Islamic countries in Africa and Asia, mainly where Quranic study is mandatory and judiciary is based on Sharia. Some secular democracies, like India, partially adopted Sharia for Muslims. It has a huge socio-political consequence. Many Indians are demanding abolishing such religion based laws there.  It's little more baffling considering the fact that support for Sharia law is far lower in many Islamic or Muslim majority countries, e.g. Turkey and Albania 12%, Lebanon 29%, Kazakhstan 10%. Such data from India is not available, as expected. It seems that Indian policy makers rely more on political correctness, personal faith and electoral equation than hard data and logic. 

Here, we need to understand that Sharia law does not come from Quran, but was inspired by Quran and teaching of Prophet Muhammad, as its followers perceive it (this is very crucial). There are only few verses in Quran dealing with legal matters. The classic Sharia law took shape around 900 AD, long after Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632. Islamic specialists in legal matters in Middle Eastern Arab countries assembled handbooks for judges to use in making their decisions. Sharia was not a code of laws, but a body of religious and legal scholarship which continued to develop for the next thousand years. 

The experience of Hamtramck, MI, the Muslim majority city in the USA is not that great for most non-Muslim residents there and rest of America. Once the Muslims got majority in the city, they changed city law and gave permission to broadcast its call to prayer (Azan) from loudspeakers atop its roof. It also started teaching Quran in public schools. If the Muslim residents were so annoyed by church bells, as their leaders claim in the BBC report, they should petition city council to stop or minimize Church bells during weekend prayers, rather than starting their own 7 days a week and 5 times a day loud affair. It must not be allowed in any civilized secular democracy. It raises concern for non-Muslims when Muslims become majority. Such experiences seem to have helped Michigan Governor to be among the first to oppose Syrian refugee resettlement in USA and most importantly in the state of Michigan.

After talking to few educated Muslims from around the world, I realized that people who follow Islam and believe in every word of Quran, do not agree that religion is a personal matter and must remain personal. They also do not agree in the definition of justice, the way we in the western world and other democracies believe, i.e., in short, “greater good for larger number of people”. It's very disturbing.

It seems that many moderate Muslims who were brought up in western societies (e.g. Irshad Manji) are more interested in changing the interpretation of many of the verses of Quran. They do not say that everything written in Quran is not true or right, Quran cannot be the basis for living in modern civilized societies, and, one can remain a devout Muslim despite of not accepting each and every word in Quran.

Many do believe that extremist groups like Islamic State (IS or Daesh), Taliban, Al-Quida etc actually interpret Quran more accurately, accept as it’s written. We hear so much about IS these days, mainly due to its very brutal rule and practice of Islam. All western and even most conservative Islamic countries like wahhabi Sunni Saudi Arab and Shia Iran oppose IS. They are engaged in intense military conflict in Syria and Iraq. All these governments want to establish 'representative government' there. Most of these military powers, except Russia and Iran (who support Syrian regime), bet on non-IS rebel groups. But a recent poll says that about 60% in these Syrian rebel groups support IS ideology.

Perception of Islam by these extremists and terrorists would not change much by the peaceful verses in Quran. They will find enough motivation from many other verses that preach violence, hatred and dominance over others.  

Educated and moderate Muslims need to understand that they have to come out aggressively and assertively, as few rare Muslims are trying. Many educated Muslims living in western countries or other secular democracies do not practice Islam in day-to-day life. But they are reluctant to admit that openly. It can be for several reasons, including fear of being ostracized by their Muslim friends and relatives and fear from the extremists. But they have a bigger responsibility, as they are the people who are more interested to live in prosperous, peaceful secular democracies compared to those who believe in extremism in the name of Islam in middle-east or other parts in Islamic world.

Ultimately, the reform of Islam has to come from within, within the Muslim community. Such change can never be successful or sustainable if imposed from outside or via force. Educated and moderate Muslims have to assert the Muslims from less fortunate background that one can still remain a Muslim by accepting that everything written in Quran is not right. Moreover, they do not need any certificate from anyone else, religious priests or otherwise, to decide how to become or remain a Muslim, so long they are following the law of the land, remain ethical and honest to their duties as a human being. It’s equally applicable to any other issue of racial intolerance to prevent downfall of any society and country. The impact of Quran is more profound on Muslims than Bible over Christians, or Gita over Hindus.

One example is dietary restrictions based on religious belief- like eating pork or beef. Pork is equally banned for Christians (as per Bible- Old Testament) and Jews, for the same reason as in Islam- “it’s unclean, as it has split hooves and do not chew cud”. Many, if not most, Christians and Jews eat pork and openly admit it. Many Hindus do not eat beef thinking that it’s banned by Hindu religion. Then, there are many Hindus who eat beef. The famous Hindu philosopher and social reformer Vivekananda was among them. I wish I could tell the same about Muslims.

For me, it’s not so important why the Muslim rulers came and set up its empire in Hindu India. It’s more important what can we learn from our history to make a better, more prosperous and peaceful future for all of us. Everyone likes to live peacefully and help their children to have a better life. Sustained peace is possible only via justice or righteousness. The educated and moderate Muslims can do it. But it can happen only when they themselves are convinced. Mere lip service or fear would not help. Otherwise, neither Islamic terrorism nor this 'conflict of civilizations' will end peacefully. Chanting the mantra of peace does not guarantee peace, neither wishful thinking is any strategy to solve any issue. At the end of the day, people will get what they deserve. It doesn't matter much if they like the outcome or not.

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