Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nasik's Ethnic Cleansing

The fragility of India's democratic structure scares me. A functional democracy in one of the world's poorest and most illiterate societies is nothing short of a miracle; It is indeed a bigger miracle that India hasn't fragmented into gazillion little pieces (like Europe has) - so the Recent brand of divisive politics played by Raj Thakeray (and his minions) does not surprise as much as it disappoints me.

National unity, it turns out, is a relatively liberal* ideal. (Any idea that requires people to think beyond their narrow immediate self-interest, is, in my opinion, liberal). And liberalism (as I have noted on numerous occasions) is something that the average poor man just cannot afford the luxury of. Petty regionalism will almost always seem more attractive. And that's why India seems an enigma to me.

I noted (in a sanguine note, it turns out) in my previous post that Mr. Thakeray's campaign in Mumbai would implode against him. Certainly his campaign is pretty impotent in Mumbai (with 4 million North Indains out of 20million people, this whole idea was a non-starter). But there's 76million other people in Maharashtra whose emotions are extremely amenable to manipulation.

I spent 10+ years of my life calling Nasik my Hometown. But Mr. Thakeray's buffoonery has more or less destroyed the city's creidibility: driving out 30,000 North Indians. In my mind this is plain ethnic cleansing. If 30,000 out of Nasik's 1.4 million are kicked out, this scales up to 3 million out of Maharashtra's 100 million. This is nothing short of a Humanitatian Disaster - remember Clinton went to war with Milosevic over 400,000 refugees? This is a humaniatian disaster.

In my book, this is ethnic cleansing - plain and simple. The only thing that separates this downright Lunatic Raj Thakeray from Hitler is a few gas chambers. It is a shame that news media is balking from drawing parallels between these two mad-men.

I might have railed against the follies and inequities of dividing the planet into little nations in previous posts, but here's a concession that I need to make: Nationality is a certainly a more broad minded (and therefore more equitable) notion than regionalism - the lesser evil, if you will. And hence, the necessity of patriotism - though I hate to say it.

Nobody has ever told me that I am not wanted here in the US. Neither implicitly nor explicitly. It turns out that there's a significant likelihood that they (the locals) might cleanse me ethnically if I drop anchor somewhere in India, say, Nasik. (I am not a local to any specific place, having been here, there and everywhere.). How ironic.


* Patriotism would be a liberal ideal in a nation where regionalism is rife, like in India. But patriotism in the developed world is secretly frowned upon by the intellegensia as it is often considered a form of pandering to the more base instincts of the hoi-polloi.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Comment Issues

For some reason beyond logical comprehension, the previous post does not have a comment section.

I request people to leave all pertinent comments on the comments section of this post instead. I am unable to enable comments on that post right now.

I have absolutely no clue why this has happened. I am confounded.

Ethnic Cleasing in Mumbai? Give me a break.

Mumbai is a city of 21 million people; arguably one of the world's most diverse and cosmopolitan cities. It has among the highest population densities on the planet; it has the one of the world's largest slums; approximately 100,000 prostitutes; the world's most over-burdened sub-urban railway system and a film industry that makes more movies than Hollywood in a given year.

And if the developments in the last few days are considered, we realize that there's no shortage of imbeciles in Mumbai either. And I speak of none other than one "Raj Thakeray"; a political cipher trying to emulate his uncle's (Bal Thakeray's) openly racist and divisive politics (with only limited success). His passionate efforts to rid Mumbai of North Indian immigrants are so doomed from day one that it will be extremely enjoyable to see his entire movement implode.

Here's why. Let's consider some numbers now:

With 20% of the population of Mumbai being North Indians, Mr Thakeray has confronting him the unenviable task of deporting 4 million people, (which is half the popluation of Israel if anyone's keeping count). If he manages to do this without much bloodshed, then this would be a first in the history of humanity. And if he does manage to do this, I am sure some American politicians (and Lou Dobbs) would give an arm and a leg to learn how to repeat this feat with Mexican "illegal" immgirants (12 million of whom seem to have set permanent anchor in the US).

So, how would Mr. Thakeray go about this task?

Certainly, the most practical way out of Mumbai would be by train. Mr. Thakeray would have to give away each one of those 4 million people one-way tickets home. Some of those tickets will have to be air-conditioned. I know a few North Indians who would rather die than travel in three tier during the summer. And once the train reaches wherever it is supposed to, he must sabotage its engine such that it never comes back. (But this m.o. involves sacrificing a Marathi Saboteur - a suicide Saboteur, if you will - for an enraged North-Indian public will certainly lynch the gentleman in question.). This venture is unlikely to be financially lucrative either. Mr. Thakeray will have to spend an average of Rs. 500 per ticket - a grand total of 4million x 500 = Rs 2 billion. (The option of advertising on the train will be of little use too, since he does not expect those people to come back to Mumbai).

Clearly, this is not a tenable solution. Even if Mr. Thakeray were to procure the money by begging, borrowing or stealing, (the latter being the most probable) most North Indians would either

(a) Not go, sell the ticket to someone else (and ask them to change their name while traveling)
(b) Go, say Hi to Mum and come back

leaving his scheme doomed, like one of Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge's bizarre capitalistic ventures.

Mr. Thakeray could consider going to each house and weeping in front of the principal bread-winners. He could sob (in Marathi) "You're taking opportunities away from my people. Please, starve your family for my people's sake. Please be humane.". Alas, this scheme would only give him a black eye on lucky days.

He could try putting an economic squeeze by holding businesses in ransom from doing business with North Indians. This again is unlikely to work, since a majority of the businesses are not run by Marathi. This, as a matter of fact is bound to back-fire.

And, finally, one hopes, it will dawn upon Mr. Thakeray that only a simultaneous repeal-ment of the entire Indian constitution and the second law of thermodynamics will allow his fantasy to come true. But given that politics is all about inciting emotions, Mr. Thakeray is doing the rational thing.

The second law of thermodynamics talks about "spontaneity" - whenever there is a disparity, things tend to try to even out. (If they wouldn't try to even out, then there wouldn't have been a disparity in the first place.) That's why Mexicans come by the millions ("illegally") to the US; That's why Bangladeshis come by the millions to India - and people migrate by the millions to Urban Areas like Mumbai.

There is little one can do to stop free will, as Mr Thakeray will no doubt learn.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Corruption, Bird Flu and India

A quick rant (I've got a Dynamical Systems class in 20 minutes):

That corruption is the biggest threat facing the third world is emphasized by the fact that people are shielding infected chicken from culling - and also by the fact the government is just plainly unable to take any significant action.

And when corruption comes with incompetence (children being fed eggs and chicken curry in Bengal) then it is quite evident that society is in a suicidal tailspin, 9% growth rates notwithstanding.

The sooner we convert to a greedy capitalistic society, the better. If everyone really does a good job of looking out for themselves - such blatant incompetence will not proliferate.