AEP 62: Kashmir and Xinjiang, with Carl Zha

Kashmir and Xinjiang

Another one in the Kung Fu Yoga series, with Carl Zha. 

This time we’re comparing the situations in Kashmir and Xinjiang, reporting what we’ve studied about state violence, censorship, economy, freedom of religion, popular agendas and state agendas of India and China in Kashmir and in Xinjiang.

The future of India’s conflict zones: Q/A July 25, 2013 at Hart House

For those in Toronto, I will be doing a little Q/A session at the University of Toronto’s Hart House South Dining Room from 6-8pm on Thursday, July 25, 2013. Here’s the description:

The Future of India’s Conflict Zones – Q/A with Justin Podur
July 25, 2013, 6-8pm
Hart House South Dining Room
University of Toronto

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The deities we create

Published by The Hindu, Nov 6 2010.

I recall remarking once to a colleague that if we as citizens were given a choice of belonging only to one or the other theocratic state, my vote would be for a Hindu Rashtra.

And for the simple reason that whereas a Christian or Islamic State would give me no more than a handful of holidays a year, a Hindu Rashtra would give me many more. Indeed, the Hindu archive being chokeful of gods and goddesses, even a full working year may not do justice to them all.

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The Mumbai attacks

The scale of the attacks is incredible: the Taj, the Oberoi Trident, a major train station (CST), a major hospital (Cama), a cafe that’s favoured by tourists (Cafe Leopold), the Jewish centre, all in different parts of the city. Some attackers came by sea, others set off bombs, others just entered buildings or public areas and started shooting. The people of India’s cities, like Pakistan’s and many others, have suffered many bombings in recent months and years. There have also been major raids against targets in India, like the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi. But so many simultaneous attacks on so many different parts of the city, with gunmen taking hostages in some places, setting off bombs in others, settling in to fight commandos for days in others, is something new, and terrifying. The death toll is already well over 100, and will probably be higher before the end.

The military sophistication is matched by political incomprehensibility. Very little that is credible is known about who the attackers are and what their motivations could be. This will continue to be the case for some time, and it is still the case for many of the attacks and bombings of civilians that have occurred in India in recent years. But if the “Deccan Mujahadeen” whose emails have been released to the public are a real group and are responsible, they will not win themselves any political points with India’s Muslims, who are moving in the opposite direction. Delhi-based commentator (and friend of mine) Badri Raina earlier this week contrasted the changes happening in the Indian Muslim community with the posture of India’s Hindu chauvinists in the Sangh Parivar:

“A remarkable dynamic counter to the re-centralizing, purity-oriented turmoil within the Sangh Parivar is currently at work among India’s Muslims. A dynamic that I venture bears the promise of defeating the renewed fascistic call of the Parivar more conclusively than anything else in view.”

That dynamic, Raina says, has two parts. On the one hand, a questioning of “social practices supposedly ordained by one clerical authority or the other”, a “condemning the killing of innocents especially as un-Islamic”, and on the other, the participation of Muslims “increasingly and in great numbers” in “civil rights activities that seek… to reinforce the non-discriminatory exercise of the rule of law.”

While India’s Muslims may be trying to move in one direction, what follows this attack could be dangerous for that community. After the February 2002 Gujarat pogroms and Godhra massacre, Arundhati Roy wrote about what could happen to India’s Muslims:

“Under this relentless pressure, what will most likely happen is that the majority of the Muslim community will resign itself to living in ghettos as second-class citizens, in constant fear, with no civil rights and no recourse to justice. What will daily life be like for them? Any little thing, an altercation in a cinema queue or a fracas at a traffic light, could turn lethal. So they will learn to keep very quiet, to accept their lot, to creep around the edges of the society in which they live. Their fear will transmit itself to other minorities. Many, particularly the young, will probably turn to militancy. They will do terrible things. Civil society will be called upon to condemn them.”

During those Gujarat massacres of 2002, people resisted the police and the mobs that were doing the killing. In 2004, the BJP were out of power nationally because people did not vote on chauvinist lines. Some citizens of Mumbai have already said that they will stay together and not allow these attacks to destroy their community. The political forces that will seek to benefit from this are those who want violence between India and Pakistan and between Hindus and Muslims in India. The trap these forces have set will fail if these attacks fail to derail the positive movement in South Asia for detente between India and Pakistan, and fail to strengthen communalism in India. That Pakistan is publicly cooperating with India will help, as will the fact that the BJP is not in power today.

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s Response to my report and commentary

A couple of posts ago I reported on a talk by Pervez Hoodbhoy (who I will now call “my friend Pervez Hoodbhoy”) that he gave at the University of Toronto on October 6. I sent my post to him to elicit reactions and corrections. He made a correction and posted a response in the comments section – but I want to make sure everyone sees it, so I am putting it here as well.

Below is Pervez Hoodbhoy’s response:


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Can the Taliban Win? Pervez Hoodbhoy in Toronto (back on Oct 6)

On October 6 I was lucky enough to finally meet Pervez Hoodbhoy, the Pakistani activist and physicist, who I have long admired and corresponded with a little. He was going to be in Ottawa and on short notice people at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre managed to organize a talk for him. The talk was called “Can the Taliban Win?” As usual with these blogs, I will summarize what he said, and follow with my reactions.

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Musharraf Resigns!

So, it looks like Musharraf got the message and resigned. The message, probably, having come from the US. Authoritarian regimes might be useful to imperial patrons, but individual dictators are usually dispensable. Because he is resigning, he will get off easy, not be tried for any crimes, and probably be allowed to leave the country. Tariq Ali argued in the Guardian that he can’t stay in Pakistan because of the risk of assassination.

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