Thursday, January 08, 2009

BJP delegation invited by Communist Party of China

China woos saffron parties; Arunachal on agenda

Of all mainstream political parties, it is the BJP that is deemed most 'nationalist' - especially by its supporters. Hence it is interesting that the Communist Party of China has invited a delegation of key BJP/RSS folk led by people such as Ram Madhav and Balbir Punj to China. Though the report (rediff link above) is dated Jan 08, 2009, it mentions December 5th as the date of the trip. Has it been a month now or is it a typo?

This invitation seemed unbelievable in the backdrop of several things like the following:
1. BJP/Sangh folks have always brought attention, to put mildly, to the Chinese "treachery" of 1962. And apparently there was no greater sham than "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai"
2. NDA defence minister, George Fernandes openly naming China as rival no 1
3. That China is widely recognized as the arch rival not just in defense but in most other spheres.
4. That China has helped Pakistan with logistical and arms support over the years. It is quite possible that Pakistan became a nuclear state only because of China.
5. The cause of Tibet
6. China doing other things like claiming suzerainty over Arunachal Pradesh and damming rivers like Brahmaputra - all seen as India threatening.

To their credit, however, the delegation that visited China opined:
"We emphasised that Tibet has a distinct culture and that identity must be preserved. We also gave them an idea about how much Dalai Lama is revered in India. Of course, we have different perspectives but dialogue is important."

Good to read that. This is indeed the first time that there has been any dialog at the party level between India and China. (barring the CPs of India, of course)

I am also sure most of the delegation has read books like "Are we deceiving ourselves again?" by Arun Shourie (and Dalvi's Himalayan Blunder - banned in India - but these guys should have had access to it).

But this seems to be a definite instance where one could repeat Lord Byron's oft quoted words:
'Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction: if it could be told 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sherlock Holmes' s Birthday?

The Curious Case of a Birthday for Sherlock - City Room Blog -

Sherlock Holmes has captured the imagination of the English reading world for well over a century now. It is but natural that several clubs honor and cherish the adventures as much as the first time reader. In fact, even in Bangalore you have a couple of societies or chapters of larger societies celebrating Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle can never be thanked enough for giving us this wonderful detective.

I did not know till I read this interesting post that Sherlock Holmes has a birthday celebration every year. And the date? January 6th or Twelfth night.

Read the interesting post to understand why this date was chosen.

I like the editions illustrated wonderfully by Sidney Paget as published in the Strand Magazine. Others just don't cut it.

And about the actors, I think Jeremy Brett portrayed Holmes best. Did you know that Roger Moore ("My name is Holmes, Sherlock Holmes") and Christopher Lee (and Saruman the white) have played Sherlock Holmes? Basil Rathbone was a favorite of Americans of the black and white generation. There were quite a few non-Conan-Doyle stories that featured Rathbone as Holmes. Personally, I have not read a non-Conan-Doyle Holmes and I don't think I will try to either.

I finish this post with a quiz: Which adventures of Sherlock Holmes have a number in their names? (No cheating...)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nepal's Pashupatinath and de-culturing

Nepal priests to conduct worship at Pashupatinath-South Asia-World-The Times of India

Nepal was the only country in the world that proclaimed Hindu Dharma as its state religion. Soon after Prachanda and his cohorts took up power in Nepal, one of the first things they did was to remove the word "Hindu" from the country's constitution. Hindus the world over felt a twinge of discomfort when they read about it (this blogger included).

Karl Marx had this to say about religion, amongst other things - "It is the opium of the people." Whether his view was more nuanced than what this quote implies is a different topic. But as far as his followers are concerned, this statement pretty much sums it up. Religion and pre-communist tradition are something that have to be shunned. Atheism, nay, a form of nihilism and communism go together, that way.

Back to Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is a very old and sacred centre of religion. Legend has it that Sri Shankaracharya instituted worship in this temple and appointed a lineage of priests (called ravals) from Karnataka. This tradition has gone on for centuries. When monarchy reigned in Nepal, Hindus and Hindu institutions flourished. That the pontiffs of the Kanchi Matha were held in high esteem by the king of Nepal is well known.

Communists, completely supported by the Chinese, started their activities within Nepal long ago. With bloodshed and rivalry within the royal family, their ascent to power accelerated. And finally, Prachanda got democratically elected as the prime minister. He belongs to the Communist Party (Maoist) of Nepal. The fact that he owes much to China can be seen from the name of his party as well as by his act of traveling first to China instead of India, as was the norm. The cold shoulder to India is quite evident here. It may not be long before Indian citizens need a passport and visa to visit Nepal, just like everybody else. India might need to worry about open borders with Nepal - but that is a separate issue.

The ascension to power by Prachanda was marked by the abolition of monarchy. Beginning with that, a systematic change of traditions instituted by the royal family has started. The change of the rawals is but a marker in the process of this "deculturing".

Monolithic religion-ideologies such as Islam, Communism and Christianity have one thing common amongst them. Wherever one of these has risen to power, the clock on history and culture is reset - as if there was no history and culture in these lands before the advent of these ideologies. Pakistan is an example in point. Textbooks are full of glorification of everything Islamic and condemnation of all else. Two generations of readers of such text books are all it takes to obliterate a country's indigenous traditions. Harappa is still in Pakistan, but from those textbooks, its achievements pale in front of those of a Ghauri or a Ghaznavi as Mohenjodaro et al were pre-Islamic sites and therefore jAhil. Mao's cultural revolution is similar.

A similar effort seems to be afoot in Nepal. Textbooks will, in all likelihood, be the next target if not already targeted. And it will be decreed in them that Nepal was under continued oppression till they were "liberated" by Chairman Mao's ideology, whose able representative is Chairman Prachanda. Whatever good remains will be credited to the new ideology and all things bad will be cast as the relics of a forgettable past.

The following quote by an American author sums it up quite well -
“Only when the war propaganda of the victors is entered into the history books of the vanquished, (and this is also believed by succeeding generations), only then will our reeducation have succeeded”