Digital Cabinet

Polevaulter Donkeyman's rants, raves musings and flame wars

Posts Tagged ‘chauvinism

Boycotting Republic Day? Why not?

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Over the past 3 weeks in India at large and in Delhi in particular, there have been many large protests to highlight the plight of women in India vis-a-vis the violence and rape perpetrated against them, The proximate cause of these protests was the gang rape in Delhi of a 23 year old women, who later succumbed to her extensive injuries. An in depth discussion of this rape is beyond the scope of this post which would focus on one small tangential aspect and the response of an academic thereof. Please consult Wikipedia for a reasonably extensive summary of the incident.

In the aftermath of the rape, a demand was raised in various corners to boycott India’s Republic Day, which is held on January 26 of every year.

The Republic Day holds a two fold significance for India:

  1. On January 26, 1930 the Indian National Congress, the main political group agitating for Indian independence from British colonial rule, meeting in Lahore (now in Pakistan), promulgated the declaration demanding Purna Swaraj or complete Independence from the UK. Following this January 26 was celebrated as Independence Day.[1]
  2. On 26 January 1950 the Constitution of India was adopted, declaring India to be a sovereign democratic republic. This date was chosen to commemorate the Purna Swaraj Declaration (see above).

The Republic Day Celebrations in Delhi mostly consist of a parade of the different regiments of Armed Forces and the paramilitary forces, trucks towing aircraft, missiles and howitzers, and tanks (not in this exact order), followed by tableaux exhibiting the culture of the different parts of India. The forces salute their commander-in-chief, namely the President. This is replicated in the capitals of the States with the Governor substituting for the President. While the day is meant to celebrate the adoption of the Constitution and refreshing one’s loyalty and fealty to it, it is mostly a celebration of the power of the State as manifested by the guns, rifles, tanks, howitzers, missiles and combat aircraft.

Given the significance of the date, there has been a backlash to the call for boycotting the Republic Day. Given that Kashmiri separatists and Maoist guerrillas have called for similar boycotts in the past, opponents of the boycott call have equated those advocating a boycott this year as ideological bed fellows of the separatists and guerrillas.

This argument is puerile. It is similar to saying that since ISCKON promotes vegetarianism and the Swaminarayan sect also promotes vegetarianism, their adherents are no different from Nazis. There can be many reasons for boycotting the Republic Day Celebrations. One reason may be to not identify with the Indian State and the Indian people. I will not go into the legitimacy or illegitimacy of this reason in this post. Another reason can be to not identify with the Indian State while still pledging one’s loyalty and fealty to the Constitution and one’s identity as a people. As explained above, the formal governmental celebrations are a celebration of the State and its lethal power. It is perfectly reasonable to reject the celebration of this power of the State which is powerless to prevent heinous crime. It is perfectly reasonable, instead, to swear an oath of loyalty to the preamble of the constitution

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC[2] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;


(emphasis mine)

As has been explained in numerous opeds to reduce rapes in India requires not just law and order reform, it requires a change in society, a change in thinking which gives women equal status as men, where little girls are treated the same as little boys, where every individual’s dignity is assured from birth and is honoured and protected by all.

Swearing an oath to uphold the constitution and its guarantees to all people is a more meaningful gesture (and if followed up a more meaningful action) compared to the routine genuflection to the might of the Indian State, a might which is powerless not just to prevent but to even account for the acts of violence and injustice its citizens (or, given the attitude of the State, its subjects).

However trust a historian[3] of Modern Political History to make a knee-jerk accusation that any boycott of the Republic Day celebrations is anti-national. No explanation of why the boycott is anti national or why the boycott strikes at the people rather than the State. One would expect him, being a professor and an intellectual, to engage with the substance of the argument and attempt to educate others, rather than make some inane pun. Such an attitude is not just a reflection on him but on his employer. I would not be surprised if Prof. Habib defends the principle of academic freedom. But the flip side of academic freedom is the duty to communicate ideas or facts, not evade questioning via clever wordplay. Not surprisingly I was subsequently blocked on twitter by the esteemed professor.[4]

Given that January 26,1950 was the day when the Constitution of India was adopted, the words of late Justice Hans Raj Khanna[5] are appropriate

If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people. Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power.[6]

(emphasis mine)

One, final point. There could, conceivably, be objections that a boycott of the Republic Day is tantamount to disrespecting the sacrifices the Armed Forces have made for India’s security. However such objectors would have to explain how celebrating one day, according to the diktats of the State, amounts to honouring the soldiers who have served and sacrificed much for the nation. One can honour them on other days also e.g. the Army Day (January 15), Navy Day (December 4), Air Force Day (October 8) and Coast Guard Day (October 8). Moreover if one truly wishes to honour the sacrifice and service of the Armed Forces let them truly help the veterans (most of whom come from lower economic classes of society) and the widows and orphaned children of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving them the love and support (both emotional and financial) they are entitled to, not just on one day but over the long term. After all, this is the same State, which while insisting that the Republic Day is a celebration of the sacrifice of the brave soldiers also pays the widow of a decorated army major an insulting Rs 80 (not even US $2) per month in 2010.[7]


[1] This is similar to July 4 which is celebrated as Independence Day in the US but is actually the date when the US Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The American War of Independence formally ceased under the Treaty of Paris while the last hostilities ceased in 1781 with the fall of Yorktown

[2] Initially the preamble did not include the words socialist and secular when the constitution was initially adopted. They were added to the preamble by the Forty-second Amendment. Interestingly this amendment was enacted during The Emergency when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended elections, civil liberties and bestowed on herself the power to rule by decree. Not surprisingly I oppose the inclusion of both words; secular because it is superfluous given the protections under Articles 25-28 and socialist because socialism led to the economic stagnation of India for 45 years after independence. Moreover the very same amendment also introduced, for the first time, Fundamental Duties on the part of every citizen. Trust a State which abrogates the fundamental rights (including habeas corpus) of its citizens to also demand fundamental duties of them.

[3] According to the Times of India, he is the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad chair at Delhi’s National University of Educational Planning and Administration. However at the university’s website he is not listed amongst the faculty. Probably because the website is not up to date.

[4] I had also been previously blocked by Kanchan Gupta. That is a story I may tell some other time.

[5] Notably Justice Khanna was one of the dissenting judges in Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla which shamefully upheld the government’s decision to suspend habeas corpus. His dissent stated

The Constitution and the laws of India do not permit life and liberty to be at the mercy of the absolute power of the Executive . . . . What is at stake is the rule of law. The question is whether the law speaking through the authority of the court shall be absolutely silenced and rendered mute… detention without trial is an anathema to all those who love personal liberty.

[6] Khanna, H. R., Making of India’s Constitution. Eastern Book Co, Lucknow, 1981. ISBN 978-81-7012-108-4

[7] “The petitioner before us in the present case is a widow Pushpa Vanti, whose husband was an army major who had fought in three wars (in 1948, 1962 and 1965) and was decorated with fourteen medals. However, the petitioner is getting only Rs.80/- per month as pension, in these days when a kilogram of arhar dal costs that amount.” Pushpa Vanti vs Union Of India & Ors. (2010).

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

January 4, 2013 at 05:31

An Economic Case Against Immigration? Durka Dur

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Came across this article in @TRISH00L’s twitter feed

The author, Jaideep Prabhu (who also tweets as @orsoraggiante lays out an economic case against immigration to India of unskilled labour in response to an article by Nitin Pai in the Business Standard

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Mr. Gupta, have you met Mr. Gupta?

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Mr. Gupta, have you met Mr. Gupta?


  • Text on the right on green background is from Liberty is not libertinism by Kanchan Gupta, written on February 9, 2009. Text reproduced in the following table in the left-hand column.
  • Text on the left on white background is from Mini skirts, Jamaatis and their dark world by Kanchan Gupta, written on July 8, 2012. Text reproduced in the following table in the right-hand column.


Kanchan Gupta on[1] the Pink Chaddi Campaign Kanchan Gupta on[2] the dress code[3] called for by Jamaat
A … point that merits elaboration is the disdain which the charlatans who pose as emancipators of women … have for local community sensitivities, which are often casually referred to as local culture and tradition No less telling is the implicit worldview of the Jamaatis. The world they crave for is not splattered with colours and cultural diversity; it’s a joyless world where women are made to disappear …
There really is no need to fashion our lifestyle after Sex and the City. Recall … how faces were blackened of women who refused to don the burqa.
Just because … lip-locking …raises no eyebrows in the West does not mean the East must ape the mating game. Frivolities apart, there’s something darkly and deeply sinister about the Jamaat’s attempt to impose a dress code …
What is material and important is whether those around the individuals … are comfortable with it; if they feel discomfited or outraged, then their sensitivities must over-ride the presumed right to make a spectacle of yourself in public. … what is being sought is to titillate the imagination of the lowest common denominator of Kashmiri society, the rage boys of Islam … in the guise of protecting faith-based, culture-centric sensitivities.
By idolising deracinated men and women who have scant regard for moral values … we are promoting everything that is antithetical to our culture, our tradition. In the absence of that resistance[4], time will come when Jamaatis – whatever their organisational loyalty and affiliation – will demand that women be barred from wearing “mini skirts and other objectionable dresses” anywhere in the country as it hurts Muslim sensitivities


Alternative titles considered for this post:

  • That was then, this is now
  • Gupta vs. Gupta
  • On Miniskirts and Pink Chaddis

Note: I am, in no way, implying that Mr. Gupta supported the Sri Ram Sena. He in fact refers to them as “a bunch of goons masquerading as soldiers of Sri Ram Sena” and states that he does not defend “Pramod Muthalik’s hooliganism”. The question however remains: why give more importance to one community’s sensitivities compared to another community’s sensitivities? Of course, it could be that his opinions on the issue of personal liberty vis a vis community sensitivities have evolved. However I received no answer when I asked him that.

  1. PolvolterDnkymn
    @KanchanGupta Great post. Have you repudiated “What is material … is whether those around … are comfortable”
    Sun, Jul 08 2012 11:52:14



[1] Gupta, K., Liberty is not libertinism, Feb 9, 2009

[2] Gupta, K., Mini skirts, Jamaatis and their dark world, Jul 8, 2012

[3] “Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen wandering in mini skirts and other objectionable dresses which is quite against the local ethos and culture. We have simply requested foreign tourists moving around to respect Kashmiri culture.” — Jamaat spokesman Zahid Ali said (emphasis mine).

[4] … the political will and courage to call [the Jamaat’s] bluff and stand up to [the Jamaat’s] bullying …

Spot the Difference

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  1. In 2012:
  2. In 1990:
  3. Context:

    Helms ran for reelection in a nationally publicized and rancorous campaign against the former mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt, in his “bid to become the nation’s only black Senator” and “the first black elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction”. In the primary, Helms had two opponents, George Wimbish (as in 1984) and another; Helms won with 84.3% of the vote.

    Helms aired a late-running television commercial that showed a white man’s hands ripping up a rejection notice from a company that gave the job to a “less qualified minority”; some critics claimed the ad utilized subliminal racist themes. The advertisement was produced by Alex Castellanos, whom Helms would employ until his company was dropped in April 1996 after running an unusually hard-hitting ad.

  4. Answer:

    The Indians and Chinese are not asking for any special treatment. They are only asking to be treated equally (This is not to say that affirmative action is all bad; after all, blacks were treated horrendously in the past).

    Why does President Obama not think of Indians and Chinese as worthy of equal treatment?

  5. Take it away Prof. Landsburg

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 28, 2012 at 00:18

Should a democratically elected representative necessarily be fluent in the language of the people who have chosen her to represent them?

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I have been, for sometime, following the “classical liberal” blog “Sanjeev Sabhlok’s Revolutionary Blog”  by a former IAS officer who is now an Aussie civil servant. While most of the time he is quite reasonable and forceful in representing the classical liberal philosophy he sometimes lapses into nativism (regrettably). One such incident was his criticism of Sonia Gandhi for writing her Hindi speeches using the Roman script (which he extrapolated to her utter lack of any Indian language — though logically the proof offered has no bearing on whether she can understand and speak Hindi or not, she may understand and speak enough to get by though she may fail to write a Madhushala) According to Sanjeev this shows —

  1. EXTREME SHAME for India, that we couldn’t find ONE PERSON who knows an Indian language, to govern India. (capitalization his)
  2. This is the manifestation of a foreigner ruling independent India
  3. The entire Sikh religion being besmirched by some Sikh dude’s actions

As a libertarian (minarchist trying to get to grips with David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism) I find his criticism offensive and contrary to classical liberal philosophy

  1. Sonia Gandhi may have been a foreigner when she married Rajiv Gandhi but she did affirmatively acquire Indian citizenship. She is no longer a foreigner. How is being tied to the citizenship of the state one was born in (or one’s parents’) for life (which lest one forgets is not a matter of choice) without being able to disclaim it or being unable to choose to be a citizen of another state be compatible with the basic tenet of classical liberalism viz. individual liberty?
  2. How is the action of one Sikh (I pass no judgement on what he did) besmirch the entire Sikh religion? Wikipedia tells me that there are 25.8 M sikhs in the world. Can one person have so much power?
  3. Under the Indian constitution India is a federal entity with powers divided between the federal govt and state (provincial) govts. The Union list enumerates areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction and the Concurrent list which lists areas where both the federal govt and the state govts can make laws. The Union list contains matters such banking, insurance, mining, saltmovies, opium, estate duty.
    • Given that the federal govt can affect the lives of every Indian (from J&K to Tamil Nadu and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh), Sanjeev’s argument should be that if one wants to lead India and all Indians then one must be fluent in all Indian languages . Why should a Tamilian consent to being governed by a PM who does not know how to speak, read, write or otherwise communicate in Tamil? (As an aside I am not a Tamilian). Sanjeev replies that an Indian leader should know atleast one Indian language. He also asks whether  a square peg represent a billion round pegs? But he has no answer to the question that if said leader want to, say, lead Tamilians, should said leader know Tamil? By that logic Muslims can be represented only by a Muslim, Dalits, by a Dalit etc … (does that also mean that men can be represented by only men and women by only women?). Sanjeev, however chose not answer such inconvenient questions.
    • Note: the State list enumerates areas of (near) exclusive state jurisdiction (if this gives anybody the erroneous impression that Indian federalism is similar to US federalism, it is not; the federal govt in India is vastly more powerful vis-a-vis the state govts compared to the United States — in fact the powers of the state govts is enumerated and anything not under their jurisdiction is under the jurisdiction of the federal govt — an exact opposite to the Tenth Amendment to the US constitution)

4. Finally my most important point — Sonia Gandhi is a freely elected member from her constituency of Rae Bareilly. The people living in the constituency chose her to represent them. Why they chose her (she belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi family, she is Fair & Lovely etc) is not relevant. That they believe her to be the best representative for their interests is the only relevant metric.

5. If one wants to criticise Sonia, criticise her on her policies not whether she is fluent in Hindi (her fluency has no relevance to her policies)

Ultimately Sanjeev may personally feel ashamed that an Italian-born non-Hindi reading person is the leader of the governing party of a nation with a large number of Hindi speaking people. I don’t see why India should be ashamed.

And a point Bhagwad Jal Park made

 Coming to the British, if the British gave everyone equal rights, established democracy, treated everyone equally, and maintained proper law and order, why would you or anyone for that matter have a problem? What is the goal here? The goal is to live peacefully without oppression and with freedom and rule of law. The goal is not to have a person speaking a particular language at the top.

Hear! Hear! Ultimately government is there to serve the people not lead, govern, rule.  If the British can provide democracy, law and order and guarantee rights and equal treatment in a better fashion than any Indian speaking group then what is wrong with letting the British form the government? What would one say if the Afrikaners in South Africa tomorrow say that the only govt they would consider would be a white government? This is equivalent to insisting that only people fluent in “Indian” languages can form government in India. Ultimately what matters is whether the government can enable one’s enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And one final point — Nothing above should be construed as implying that Sanjeev is not a classical liberal. He and I have the same goals — small government and free markets. I do believe that sometimes he leads himself astray by focusing on irrelevancies. I have great respect for his writings even when I disagree with him and I encourage all to read his wonderful blog. He is a forceful exponent for liberty in the Indian context.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

January 29, 2012 at 23:38