Honestly, we have developed a healthy contempt towards the “work” American Think Tanks do about India. It isn’t honest work by any definition unless you define creating & marketing false propaganda as “honest”. The propaganda is directed towards making India the way they want it to be. There is nothing wrong with this from a limited Brit-inherited American colonial point of view. There is everything wrong with it in terms of preventing hard reasoned analysis of India from an objective historically & societally consistent perspective. A combination of these two has been primarily responsible for the mistakes of American policy about India for the past 70 years.
Those mistakes used to be of and by America’s State Department. Today they are broader & more dispersed via American Think Tanks. These act as creators-distributors of analysis-draped propaganda that fits the narrative of the State Department. This propaganda is now dressed in Indian robes via Indian-origin fellows who are hired to create-deliver it on behalf of the Think Tanks. Naturally, these Indian-origin fellas produce what their masters want, whether the masters are right-wing tanks or left-wing tanks.
Not all Indian-origin tankers are so obviously obedient to their masters. There have to be some who do try to think on their own, to analyze the happenings in Indian Society from an independent & historically culturally insightful view. One such, we used to think, was Milan Vaishnav who works at Carnegie. Milan was a very useful tweeter providing daily links to news and articles about India. We felt he was at least trying to be honest.
We bring up Milan Vaishnav because of an article he co-authored with another fellow named Madhav Khosla. The article titled India at 70 – The World’s Biggest Democracy Celebrates Its Birthday was published in Foreign Affairs. Oh, Milan! How could you stoop to this level of ignorance & stupidity?
1.Leapfrog or Inversion?
A main point of Khosla-Vaishnav is that “India’s democratic journey is an inversion of the standard western process of democratization. ” In western countries, they write ” … a reasonably strong and centralized state was in place before democratic norms and institutions were codified. … democracy was laid atop these foundations, even then, only brick by gradual brick. In the United States, for instance, women waited over a century for even the de jure right to the vote. … India experienced no such gradual sequencing. … This legacy defines India to this day … “.
Guess Khosla-Vaishnav haven’t heard of the term “leapfrog”. In western countries, verbal communication across distances was established step by step by copper wires over short distances then cross country atop first wooden & then metal poles. A wired telephone system managed by telephone exchanges was in place for decades before America & then the west went to wireless communications.
Would Khosla-Vaishnav complain that India didn’t follow this ‘western” sequencing? India simply didn’t have the money, resources or the time to methodically follow “western” sequencing by building a wired telephone infrastructure. What India was able to do was “leapfrog” western sequencing and go directly to wireless communication via cellphones.
The leapfrog to cell phones created a revolution of connectedness through out India. Even the vegetable saleswoman on the streets of Mumbai could afford to get a cell phone. Then came smartphones & WhatsApp. Global telephone bureaucracies & their “roaming charges” still make cell phones too cumbersome & too expensive to use across countries & continents. WhatsApp changed that & today it is a rare Indian who doesn’t use WhatsApp to communicate via video & audio across continents or districts.
Khosla-Vaishnav clearly don’t understand what “leapfrog” means and their “academic” education in Columbia, UPenn, Harvard hasn’t taught them what every science-business student learns in these universities. They clearly don’t understand that India was extremely fortunate to have leapfrogged the past century of struggles of western democracy by building a distributed Electocracy right from the beginning.
That may be why Khosla-Vaishnav actually describe India’s success at leapfrogging western sequencing as “the basis of the first vital threat to its democracy“. Are they stupid or are they just echoing what their masters have taught them to say?
2. Electocracy & Democracy
Frankly, India is not yet a true democracy, not in the sense of the holy trinity – “of the people, by the people & for the people”. We described this first in our article on June 11, 2011 titled Is Today’s India Still Under Colonial Rule Or Is It A Democracy For The Indian People?
We extended this to the first use of our term Electocracy on August 27, 2011 in our article Second Battle for Indian Independence Begins.
- “The Indian ElectoCracy – an all-pervasive apparatus that runs elections, that creates vote banks comprised of groups & communities, that selects so-called leaders to deliver the votes from these vote banks in exchange for money, patronage & power. In the last few years, this apparatus has mutated into a hereditary mechanism in which children of politicians inherit the seats and power of their parents. This is very different from a democracy whose sole purpose is to benefit the people. This is why we call the Indian System as an ElectoCracy and not a Democracy.”
So we are well aware of the faults of Indian Democracy including the Brit-inherited administrative machine and our analysis of the faults transcend the trite statement of Khosla-Vaishnav that reads “democracy between elections is much less robust“.
But Khosla-Vaishnav fail to understand the enormous benefits the Indian Electocracy provides and has provided to India & the Indian people. Actually India would not be today’s India without the Electocracy Indian leaders established in the first 5 years of independence from British occupation.
In their article, Khosla-Vaishnav also demonstrate utter ignorance of the enormous challenges presented by British-constructed partition of India. Heck, they don’t even mention the partition in their article.
3. Partition, Nehru, Patel & Birth of Indian Electocracy
Khosla-Vaishnav show zero understanding of the challenges India’s leaders faced after India’s independence on August 15, 1947. While the Indian people were a part of a national movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, lives of hundreds of millions of Indians were under the of rule of Indian princes who were titular rulers of their princedoms. Each such prince had to agree to be a part of India under the articles of the independence. The only reason they ended up signing the agreement was the steely determination and iron hand of Sardar Vallabh-bhai Patel, the number two man in the Indian Government.
Mere incorporation of these princely states into India was not enough. The people had to buy into this united India. The centrifugal tendencies that had ravaged India over the past 1,000 years had to be tamed and integrated via a national mandate.
Look at the enormity of challenges Prime Minister Nehru & other Indian leaders faced. The two founders of the two partitioned states passed away in 1948, just one year after independence – Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 & Muhammed Ali Jinnah died in 1948. Vallabh-Bhai Patel passed away in 1950 and Jinnah’s successor & prime minister Liyaqat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951.
Within 10 days of Prime Minister Liyaqat Ali’s assassination in Pak-i-stan, Nehru launched the first nationwide election in India. The election ran from October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952. Nehru and his Congress party won in a landslide. Indian Electocracy was born in this election. The success of that nationwide election united India into a cohesive nation as nothing else could have done. The threat of a military takeover of new independent India ended.
All the credit goes to Nehru for this momentous “leapfrog” into a truly free electocracy which every single Indian cherishes & holds dearly. This was proven in new India’s darkest hour – the emergency imposed on India in 1970s by Nehru’s daughter & the best vote winner in India – Indira Gandhi. The opposition to the emergency was so intense that she had no choice but to call an election after two years of emergency. She lost in that election and the Indian Electocracy won.
The Indian Electocracy is not a “threat to democracy” as ignorant and paid voices like Khosla-Vaishnav write. It is the heart and the brain of democratic India. It showed its power, merit as the true representative of the Indian people in June 2014 by throwing out the old corrupt Congress regime and by electing in a landslide a new modern truly “Indian” government under Narendra Modi. As we wrote then, Modi’s victory represents “mental independence” of the Indian people just as August 15, 1947 represented “physical” independence of the Indian people.
4. Majoritarianism or Minoritarianism?
Nehru and his colleagues made a momentous decision during the riots & population exchange that followed the partition of India. Millions of Hindus, Buddhists & other minorities left Pakistan to walk across to India and millions of Muslims left India to walk across to the new Pak-i-stan, the new “homeland” for Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent.
It would have been easy and popular to make India the homeland of Indians & Indians only, or “Hindus” as Iranians-Arabs call Indians. Nehru & all his colleagues rejected falling into this trap and declared India to be a religion-independent country.
But this imposed a corollary on Indian leaders & on Indian governance. To make it a success, they had to demonstrate that Muslims in India did have an equal right in India, something that would have been rejected by Indians had a referendum had taken place. To demonstrate this via action, Nehru and his colleagues deliberately & systematically discriminated against the Indian majority. They built a system of Minoritarianism for the benefit of India’s minority religions, especially Muslims & Christians.
You see this in just about every religious & civil sphere of Indian society – the Indian Government has the power to seize wealth of Indian temples including all religious contributions made by Indians to the temples. But, the Indian Government has no power to seize the wealth of Muslim Mosques or Christian Churches. Muslims & Christians can donate to their mosques & churches without any fear of their contributions being seized by the Indian Government.The Supreme Court of India regularly and systematically discriminates against religious Indians; the Court randomly but deliberately outlaws celebration of Indian festivals while accepting the same practices in Muslim festivals.
Within minorities, Muslims are treated even more specially than Christians. For example, only Muslims have their own social law while all others are governed by a common law. Muslims can have 4 wives while all others are allowed only one wife. So you have the spectacle of Indian Bollywood superstars converting to Islam to marry a second wife. They don’t practice Islam; they continue to practice Indian Dharma but they have to legally convert to Islam to have two wives.
There were valid reasons for this deliberate systematic discrimination of majority religions in India. First, it was necessary to give comfort to Muslims especially in the years immediately following the horrors of the partition. Secondly, it was an easy choice because Indians, or “Hindus” as Muslims call them, thanks to Muslim occupation & rule for the past 1,000 years, remained scared of violent attacks by Muslims. The name of their religion and the social practices they had been forced into by Muslim rulers had instilled an inferiority complex among Indians despite their large majority.
5. “No” to Minoritarianism by the Majority?
There has been a sustained but gradual change in India over the past 5 years. As Indians became more prosperous, as Indians became recognized globally for their technological, management & financial skills, they began to lose some of their inferiority complex. As they became more confident, they began to question and protest against the Minoritarianism imposed on them by the Indian Government.
So they changed the Indian Government using the Indian Electocracy. It is not as if Narendra Modi was a new phenomenon. He has been a politician and a Chief Minister for the past 15 years. The Indian majority chose him to be their champion in 2014. And they again elected him in a massive victory in the state elections earlier in 2017. The largest state in India, the state in India that has suffered from Muslim rule for over 1,000 years, finally rose up and said an emphatic No to the Minoritarianism imposed on it by the previous state government.
This is something Khsola-Vaishnav just don’t seem to get. Probably it is their Columbia-UPenn-Harvard indoctrination, probably it is their mandate from those who pay them. The reasons don’t matter. They show their ignorance or their embedded instructions in their article with their line – “… rising Hindu majoritarianism of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party“.
Just as their counterparts in the American left don’t get that the people in the “fly-over states” had become so frustrated in the 8 years of Obama that they chose Donald Trump as their champion in the 2016 election. At least, Narendra Modi had been a successful Chief Minister for 15 years as Ronald Reagan had been a successful governor before running for president. Donald Trump was a complete newcomer to politics with no track record of governing. Yet the long suffering American middle class and the majority in the “fly-over” states chose Donald Trump as their champion and made him the President of America.
The other side of the coin is that President Trump has to deliver for them or at least try very hard to deliver for them. Otherwise they will show him the door. Narendra Modi is in a similar situation. He has to deliver for India’s majority or at least try very hard to do so. Otherwise the Indian majority will find some one else, some one who is more hawkish and even some one without his governing skills.
We are going to see a more determined, a more vocal Indian majority in the years to come. Narendra Modi is merely today’s choice of this majority. He understands this and he is trying to send a message that he gets it while keeping their activism in check.
This is India’s reality – a determined No to the Minoritarianism thrust upon the majority for the past 70 years. This is something that Columbia-UPenn-Harvard indoctrinated Khosla-Vaishnav seem unable to understand let alone feel.
6. Are Khosla-Vaishnav ignorant, stupid or perhaps malignant?
To rule India, foreign rulers have to suppress India’s majority. This has been true for centuries. The Timurid Mongols (glamorized by Persians as Mughals), understood this better than any one before them. They did so with carrots under Jalaal-ud-din (glamorized as Akbar) and succeeded brilliantly. Then they resorted to brutal Bin-laden type coercion & forced conversions under the diabolical tyrant Muhi-ud-din (glamorized as Aurangzeb or jewel of the throne). North India is just beginning to emerge from their mental servility to these Timurid Mongols as they demonstrated in the 2017 state elections.
The British followed the Mughal legacy and enslaved Indians more efficiently and far more brutally. Churchill, a fan of their work, said “Hindus are a beastly people with a beastly religion” and tried to exterminate them. This hate was cultivated and practiced by the British to enable them to practice their brutality on Indians. After all, “beastly people” have to be treated as beasts, right?
Sadly this prejudice, bigotry and a mental framework of contempt towards Hindus has been inherited in & by the American establishment. You see that both in the actions of the State Department over the past 7 decades, in the treatment of Indians in & by the NYT, WashPost and other US media. This has been elevated into a formal system of thinking by US think tanks.
Even more sadly, this Brit-inherited contempt of Indians was accepted and systematized by Nehru & his Congress party over the last seven decades. In this process, a closed-feedback loop as well as an active partnership was created between the US NYT-led media, US think tanks and commentators in India who benefit from serving them.
All this you can see in the Khosla-Vaishnav article in Foreign Affairs. Vaishnav is a product of UPenn & Columbia and works for Carnegie. Khosla is a product of Yale & works for Harvard. Khosla has an association with an Indian favorite of US media named Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Both Khosla and Vaishnav quote a self-described Marxist “historian” & a favorite of NYT & WSJ named Ramchandra Guha who once criticized Mahatma Gandhi for following Indian Dharma instead of Marx-Engels.
And the article is published in Foreign Affairs – a publication of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). Their fellow for the Indian Subcontinent is Alyssa Ayres, a smart & charismatic lady who was chosen to serve in the Obama State Department because of her proficiency in Urdu, the national language of Pak-i-stan. Her boss & president of CFR, Richard Haass, wrote in his recent book that he would ask India to be “more generous to Pakistan“.
With all this, can any one be surprised at the ignorant indoctrination displayed by Khosla-Vaishnav in their article about India’s faults in CFR’s Foreign Affairs? They have to keep doing the bidding of their paymasters, don’t they? But the least Khosla-Vaishnav should do is to learn from Alyssa Ayres. She is so good at concealing her true sentiments from her writings.
Regarding Vaishnav, all we can say is Et Tu Milan? We thought you were different.
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