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Friday, May 14, 2004

Rushdie on Gandhi


No, not his essay taking down the deification of M. K. Gandhi; his essay expressing hope for India's New Era. (I love Rushdie; he writes beautifully, when he's not feeling self-important, and others (like Arundhati Roy) who try to imitate him end up failing miserably.)

Bob shocked me by expressing dismay at the election results; although I've been writing papers and haven't been able to discuss it with him, I assume (I hope, for, if not, our relationship is over) that it's not because he supports the xenophobic and violently Hindu nationalist policies of the BJP and allies, nor because he opposes Congress's drive for secularism and intellectualism. His only comment was that Congress is terrible because Indira Gandhi was a tyrant; I agree on Indira, but I believe the (naively) optimistic efforts of Nehru and the despicable actions of the Sangh serve to balance it out. Plus, the election isn't between people who have been dead for decades (John Kerry's no Calhoun, and he's running against Bush, not Lincoln); it's between a definitely awful bunch of people and a bunch of people who, while more untried, seem pretty decent folks.

Economically, there's no reason to assume Manmohan Singh and Congress's other star economists won't work to make sure that Vajpayee's trickle-down economy flows a bit more than the current trickle (I do believe some socialism is necessary when the alternative is mass starvation, something not a danger when letting the free market run America); they will probably keep the communists in check -- or let them do things the way they've done them in Kerala, the only place I can think of where communism, while not producing great technological advancements, has provided health, education, voluntary population control, peace, and general happiness.

As for Pakistan, while Vajpayee did generally support peace talks and other things of the sort, his band of allies -- and his constituency -- was full of people who encouraged the public to want nothing more than a subjugated and forcibly Hinduised Pakistan. Sonia may not be as friendly with Musharraf (and there are good reasons not to be friendly with Musharraf), but at least Congress is officially (with exceptions, as you'll always get in a country of over a billion people) pro-secularism and rather isolationist. If The Hindu is anything to go by, Congress and its supporters are fairly anti-US, and the reasons often given are the US's refusal to criticise Pakistan and China, its friendliness with Vajpayee, and its interference in other countries' affairs (misguided, to be sure, but this is a country that was a colony sixty years ago). As I've said before, I'll take "anti-Americanism" from a secular, thinking government that seeks to help its people (of course, the jury's still out on how successful they'll be) over "pro-Americanism" from a government that asks to have western scholars who write non-party-line things about India extradited to stand trial, that regularly refuses student visas if the study grants mention studying anyone but acceptable high-caste Hindu groups (this information from the grant-writing workshop here), and that insists there is full economic prosperity while insisting nothing needs to be done about the starving masses.

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