Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Why India has not seen a military dictatorship *yet*...

tl;dr summary: Prime Minister Nehru put a stop to it on day one... now who knows what will happen.

tweet: Prime Minister Nehru created a kind of "democratic dictatorship" that effectively crushed any military aspirations of power. The large cult of personality worship that supported the Nehru-Gandhi family's leadership has kept the military juntas at bay. In this fashion India's "democracy" deflected the onset of military rule. With the Nehru-Gandhi clan's decline, the likelihood of a military takeover and other nastier departures from democratic values gain momentum.

Full Post:

The credit for creating a massive power structure that kept the military in its barracks in India rests almost entirely with Prime Minister Nehru.

It is said that President George Washington could have appointed himself Emperor of the United States, but instead he chose to be its first elected president. This enshrined democracy as the guiding principle of the US nation. Similarly in India Prime Minister Nehru chose to be Prime Minister instead of "el Dictator for life". By repeatedly throwing himself into electoral politics and forcing himself to communicate with the most ordinary of Indians, he setup an accountability principle that holds sway over India to this day. Jinnah by contrast was a poor communicator and never cared about accountability to a wide mass of people. That is why he failed to create a persistent democracy in Pakistan.

Given his extraordinary communication skills, inside the Congress party, Prime Minister Nehru gathered universal support. This support increasingly took on the appearance of a personality cult to outsiders. For his supporters, Prime Minister Nehru could do no wrong. Prime Minister Nehru went to great lengths to show that he was as ordinary any other Indian. He would never shy away from picking up the shovel and digging at a major national project. He would not shy away from interacting with anyone regardless of caste and religion. He would seamlessly move across cultural and ethnic boundaries. This fluidity endeared him to large sections of India and as his extremely persuasive tone was heard and copied throughout India, he became directly identified with India itself. His supporters filled the ranks of the civilian government, the intelligence agencies and the military. His vision of a diverse but integrated and constitutional sense of nationalism became pervasive. Given the sheer size of his following, all other political forces including those inclined towards military dictatorship were reduced to a minority.

His daughter Prime Minister Indira Gandhi inherited his support base and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was born. The supporters of Nehru effectively switched their loyalty to the next in line for the throne. All members of the dynasty experimented or flirted with dictatorship in some way but the wiser counsel prevailed in each case and all the descendants eventually fell back on the Nehruvian formula of direct contact with the Indian masses even if it meant losing your life (such as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi).

The Nehru-Gandhi cult was never able to stamp its will on all Indians as there were simply too many Indians. They were however able to maintain a stranglehold on national debate and ensure that corrosive tendencies like sectarian thought, ethnic chauvinism, radical Marxism, etc... were kept away from the major government organs. The ensured that principles of accountability enshrined by Prime Minister Nehru continued to operate.

As the Indian population has grown and the cost of maintaining a direct relationship with the Indian people has become quite high. This has led to Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka losing touch with the people of India. The direct consequences of this is that many traditional support bases have lost interest in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. This weakness in the Nehru-Gandhi cult has presented itself as a kind of paralysis in the parliament. It seems that the houses of the legislature have become rubber stamps or inconvenient hurdles for the executive branch. Absent checks and balances the executive branch (both the babudom and their fauji cousins) have become steadily infiltrated by people with extreme agendas. This decay is slowly taking its toll on the organs of government.

In this climate the forces opposed to the dynasty - including those of a Hindu-Nazi variety and military dictatorship variety - have strengthened significantly. And so the future of Indian democracy has become quite uncertain.

India's democracy has always battled state failure in sizable pockets of the country. Despite its overtly democratic wrappings, India has fought several bloody civil wars over the last 60 years. These matters have made a mark on India. Society is much more militarized now then it ever was before.

As an old friend once put it - the "militarisation of Mother India" is almost complete
- look at the innumerable legions of CPMFs, see how much better armed and trained they are,
- look at the numbers of RR battalions,
- look at the rising number of private security agencies and their armed staff, and
- look again at the ease with which each state maintains "India Reserve Battalions" IRBs that can be quickly re-badged as CPMF battalions.

These security units are a double edged sword. They can act as a barrier to criminal behavior or they can feed authoritarianism. A strong civilian leadership is critical to resisting the onset of anti-democratic behavior.

If Prime Minister Modi wants to keep India democratic - he will have to reconnect with its Nehruvian past. In his association with organizations like the RSS and other Hindu-uber-allez entities, he has become estranged from Indian democracy's Nehruvian founding principles.

It is not enough to simply dress like Prime Minister Nehru. One has to actually behave like Prime Minister Nehru - for example - when someone offers you a kufi - wear it! don't refuse it.

14 Comments:

At 6:04 AM, Blogger maverick said...

http://news.yahoo.com/kenyan-connection-drug-bust-exposes-heroin-route-080330700.html

The Akasha sting began in March last year with a DEA agent posing as a member of a Colombian drugs cartel eager to source heroin for the US market. According to a 21-page US indictment, Ibrahim Akasha personally delivered 99 kilos of heroin and two kilos of methamphetamine to undercover agents. Meetings and conversations were recorded.

The indictment describes Baktash Akasha as "the leader of an organised crime family in Kenya", his younger brother Ibrahim as his "deputy" and Gulam 'Old Man' Hussein as "the head of a transportation network that distributes massive quantities of narcotics throughout the Middle East and Africa" while Vijaygiri 'Vicky' Goswami "manages the Akasha Organisation's drug business".

(** my comment ** this name 'Vicky' Goswami, I have heard it before in an old India today article describing a mandrax trafficking operation. Vicky was described as a kingpin in the mandrax trade in the IOR. His known whereabouts per the article were in the Durban area of South Africa)

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Vicky-Goswami-wanted-to-be-a-pilot/articleshow/45142369.cms

(*** my comment*** It appears he was married to Mamta Kulkarni, this finally answers my question "whatever happened to Mamta Kulkarni?" )

https://bollywoodjournalist.com/2013/09/19/the-untold-story-of-vicky-goswami/

(*** my comment *** there are more details in this above article.

One of Vicky's partners was the head of the South African FIFA organization. He was instrumental in bringing the World Cup match to South Africa (all those damn vuvuzelas...)

There is another South African connection going back to the days when the ANC was driven to exile by SAP operations. During this time in Zambia, the ANC people supported themselves via dipping into Mandrax trafficking related operations. )

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

In all honesty, it would be very hard for a sitting US president to wear a kufi even offered in ceremony.

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear Ralphy,

Yes that may be true, but I would be more concerned about that if 20% of all Americans were Muslims and if the US had been once part of a country that was had the largest Muslim population in the world.

Turning away from a kufi in India is more like refusing to shake hands with black people in the US. That kind of social exclusivity is out of date. In modern India if someone offers you a religiously themed gift - you treat it with respect. There is no ifs-and-buts it is simple courtesy.

Gone are the days of my grandfather where one could spurn such gestures and still be thought of as civilized. This kind of thing went out of fashion decades ago, even my grandfather moved away from this kind of thinking. To see this kind of inward looking behavior emerge on India's national stage is a huge step backwards.

I think what you are saying is the argument advanced by a lot of US resident pro-Modi/pro-Hindutva types. They want India to be a mirror image of the US with its hyper vocal Christian right wing elements and their "in-your-face" attitudes.

Unfortunately this formula is not one that breeds success in a place like India. India is a very different land, with a very complex cultural memory.

During India's long engagement with the Soviet Union, a lot of Indians felt that India should be more like Russia. Unfortunately interpretations of Marxism that worked in Russia during the Soviet period didn't work in India and finally the Communist Party of India had to abandon several of its "core principles" and work within the framework of Indian democracy.

This is another unheralded success of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that people seem to forget. India was able to get close to Russia without becoming a communist satellite.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Pax-Indica said...

>> Turning away from a kufi in India is more like refusing to shake hands with black people in the US.

The equivalent to refusing to shake hands with black people is to refuse to shake hands with Indian Muslims. Not to wear a topi and act like you are one of them. By the same yardstick, the equivalent to not wearing a Muslim topi is to not wear bling and practice ball. Logic fail, my dear sir!

>> In modern India if someone offers you a religiously themed gift - you treat it with respect.

It is ok if that kinda sentiment is what makes you what you are. Why should that be the yardstick for everyone and why should YOU get to judge someone who does nt fit that bill and expect to be considered seriously? By the same yardstick, I will want you to do ganja with me because I am a Rastafarian and if you refuse, I will call you whatever I like?

More than useless stunts, actions speak louder. This kinda drama has been what has been running and ruining the world over for god knows how many decades.

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger Pax-Indica said...

*** Not to wear a topi and act like you are one of them. --> Not to wear a topi and act like you empathize with them when you probably do not care much or if it is hard to figure whether you care or not anyway.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger Pax-Indica said...

Or you can talk abt frikken southern style, collard greens and biscuits. What if you dont like animals on your plate? Are you offending blacks by refusing when someone offers you a frikken because fill in the blank [you had a coronary bypass, you have high cholesterol, you hate frikken and you like only bikken, you like only eggs but no *kken, you have philosophical qualms in the Mahavira mould, you think frying a chicken is unusual cruelty to animals, ...]?

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Pax-Indica said...

>> Similarly in India Prime Minister Nehru chose to be Prime Minister instead of "el Dictator for life".

Lemme call bs on this right away in terms of semantics. Nehru is neither a saint that he should be canonized nor is he a charlatan who should be pilloried. Like all self-adjudicated righteous men and women, he is a mixed bag of emotions, behavioral tendencies and actions. Some of the things he did ended up right, some ended up wrong. And not all of his so-called successes ended up so because he had a deep insight that his actions would have ended up well.

Whatever one sees as a success is often a success in the short-term. Its ability to succeed in the long-term is not a reflection of its success in the short-term. For example, take IITs. Are they successes? You can argue that they are, I might argue that they are. But we are both bound to argue based on our immediate understanding of prior histories of the world and not because we have a deep insight into how the future trajectories could look like.

What if we had an enormous global catastrophe that kills billions aka a new microbe with no cure or not a good antidote till it runs its course? What if we had a sudden environmental disaster that we could not predict and that took away all our insurance policy (demographic bulge) in one fell swoop? What if we had a disaster in terms of economic non-preparedness in a changing world where we are slow to catch up and that makes us wither away in time slowly but steadily?

If any of these happened, would the IITs, the concomitant brain drain, the focus on engineering primarily, lack of commensurate S*EM prospects, a rat race that leads to coasting as much as it also engenders the confidence to take all the beasts and slay them be short-term successes or long-term fails?

The short answer is we dont know. And the same short answer is what we could use for Nehru and his actions. Counterfactual history is fun, except that it is nt. Philosophically, if Nehru could have been [xyz], would have been [xyz], he already would have been. We would nt be hypothetically talking about things that one is or is not, unless it means little. Nehru did what he did, because that is pretty much what he knew. That is pretty much what people around him knew. That is pretty much what any other average man (in a statistical sense) of his stature could have probably done. His actions are there, and he belonged to a certain day and time. Just because he chose to wore a topi does nt make him a beauty. Just because someone refuses to wear one does nt make them a beast.

And this drama about dictatorship etc., makes even little sense. If he was such a democratic patriot, he and the then Speaker GV Mavlankar would have set the stage up to have a leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha who would have then had veto rights into important bureaucratic appointments. He would nt have got so scared when the Communists won in KL in 1956. He would nt have been so scared of his buddy Sk. Abdullah. He would nt have been so scared of the DMK dudes. He would nt have bulldozed a 100 things and made love fests of hedging the bets with fellow commissars (all democratic paragons of virtue that too) like Tito, Nasser and Sukarno.

See, the point is for every action, there are equal opposite reactions of infamy. Which brings us back to the broad point: Nehru is neither a saint that he should be canonized nor is he a charlatan who should be pilloried. Like all self-adjudicated righteous men and women, he is a mixed bag of emotions, behavioral tendencies and actions. Sitting in 2015 and casting a judgmental stone at Nehru who sat in the pre- and post-1947 world when things were under flux and his decisions had to be taken with that background only make it a more empathizing call to arms. Like for some, DGB will always be the greatest. I am not here to change your emotions about Nehru or DGB. I am just making a point for those who could be at the center, admittedly a shrinking tribe.

 
At 5:00 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear Pax Indica,

> The equivalent to refusing to shake hands with black people is to refuse to shake hands with Indian Muslims. Not to wear a topi and act like you are one of them. By the same yardstick, the equivalent to not wearing a Muslim topi is to not wear bling and practice ball. Logic fail, my dear sir!

I don't think this is a logical fail. I think you are missing the point of what I am saying.

I am pointing to a form of social ostracism that has been practiced in various ways in different societies in the world. Refusing shake hands, refusing to wear clothes, more generally - rejecting entirely or in some element "their way of life".

This kind of social exclusion is okay for private citizens. It is inappropriate for a public servant. It is deeply saddening to see that in a major elected officials.

Seeing such a public display of social ostracism brings back memories of days gone by when a Dalit would be refused food at the house of an upper caste or refused access to a public fountain.

Social ostracism is one of the major barriers to the success of India's democracy. In matters of real estate and housing, non-Hindus face significant barriers to entry into affordable and livable spaces. Having been denied entry into the swank new high rises, they are forced to live in poorer shantytowns. This denial effectively limits their social mobility and lends credence to the Hindu-Right assertion that non-Hindus are basically "a bunch of losers who can never get it up".

Feeding that beast by public displays of social ostracism is not a positive thing.

One can't be Prime Minister of India and refuse a religious garment offered in good faith.

 
At 5:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...

contd from above.

> It is ok if that kinda sentiment is what makes you what you are. Why should that be the yardstick for everyone and why should YOU get to judge someone who does nt fit that bill and expect to be considered seriously? By the same yardstick, I will want you to do ganja with me because I am a Rastafarian and if you refuse, I will call you whatever I like?

If I was a Prime Minister of Jamaica, I wouldn't be able to refuse your offer of Ganja. You would be within your right to take offense at my refusal of your religious offering. I am .. after all.. your PM and I should be deferential to your value system.

As an ordinary citizen, I would be able to refuse your offer on personal grounds and you would overstepping your bounds to take offense to that.

> More than useless stunts, actions speak louder. This kinda drama has been what has been running and ruining the world over for god knows how many decades.

Again - there is a different yard stick for private citizens and public servants. It is important to recognize that in all aspects of conduct.

Even the Great and Good, Maryada Purushottam Raja Ramchandra knew that fact. That is why Sita was exiled ... after all the Lanka burning business.

 
At 5:17 AM, Blogger maverick said...

contd. from above.

>> Or you can talk abt frikken southern style, collard greens and biscuits. What if you dont like animals on your plate? Are you offending blacks by refusing when someone offers you a frikken because fill in the blank [you had a coronary bypass, you have high cholesterol, you hate frikken and you like only bikken, you like only eggs but no *kken, you have philosophical qualms in the Mahavira mould, you think frying a chicken is unusual cruelty to animals, ...]?

If the Prime Minister is a practicing Jain or a strict vegetarian (such as the late Sri. Morarji Desai), then on religious grounds they can refuse to eat meat offered by others regardless of the context. There is a precedent for this.

The first President of India Sri. S. Radhakrishnan had his staff request ahead of time that all food presented to him fit the requirements of his religious preferences. This practice is also followed by Sri. Modi and like others who held the office, he will be able to dictate the menu served at the annual Iftar party. He can ask that it be entirely vegetarian and no one will object - he is the host and it is his choice.

In India no one will complain about the PM's desire to eat only certain foods.

The only thing that people in India have come to expect - again as a result of certain practices institutionalized by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty - is that if there is a famine in the country or a natural disaster, or a meal the PM and his staff will forgo a meal per day as a way of expressing solidarity with the people enmeshed in the suffering. This practice afaik is unique to India and its fundamentally Gandhian guided democracy.

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear Pax,

> Lemme call bs on this right away in terms of semantics. Nehru is neither a saint that he should be canonized nor is he a charlatan who should be pilloried. Like all self-adjudicated righteous men and women, he is a mixed bag of emotions, behavioral tendencies and actions. Some of the things he did ended up right, some ended up wrong. And not all of his so-called successes ended up so because he had a deep insight that his actions would have ended up well.

I don't know if you have any reason to "call bs" on this, because I completely agree with you.

I am merely recognizing some of the good things he did. A lot of people forget those good things and focus on the Subramaniam Swamy inspired negative narratives.

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Sorry there is a typo in one of the above posts

>> The only thing that people in India have come to expect - again as a result of certain practices institutionalized by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty - is that if there is a famine in the country or a natural disaster, or a meal the PM and his staff will forgo a meal per day as a way of expressing solidarity with the people enmeshed in the suffering. This practice afaik is unique to India and its fundamentally Gandhian guided democracy.

should read

The only thing that people in India have come to expect - again as a result of certain practices institutionalized by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty - is that if there is a famine in the country or a natural disaster, or a war, the PM and his staff will forgo a meal per day as a way of expressing solidarity with the people enmeshed in the suffering. This practice afaik is unique to India and its fundamentally Gandhian guided democracy.

 
At 7:12 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

Chinese expat community does very well in foreign countries....

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/china/money-laundering-investigation-stymied-china-italy-says-n370341

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger maverick said...

from Ralphy's article:

"What do they do with the money?" said Pietro Suchan, then deputy public prosecutor in Florence. "Do they eat it?""

No Pietro... they don't eat it. They reinvest it in real estate either in the Chinese hinterland or in Africa. That is why the same players are now financing over a dozen PMCs in Africa.

Every major brand name item you buy contains a fraction of its revenue being diverted into this gold seam that runs via the Compania region of Italy. An uneasy criminal alliance between the Chinese gangsters and the Camorra.

 

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