Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A short [and incomplete] history of Kashmir

[This is an attempt to quickly summarize the history of Kashmir without personal opinions or judgment. This note is intended as a starting point for the Open Mike discussion on issues with J&K and potential solutions.

– Vinod.]

Provincial map of Kashmir

Disputed Area map of Kashmir

Pre 1947

  • Kashmir was one of the largest princely states in British India, with a spread out thin population.
  • It primarily composed of five regions -- (a) the Hindu dominated Jammu in the south, bordering Punjab with large arable land; (b) Valley of Kashmir, to the north of Jammu, largely Muslim in demographics; (c) Ladakh, to the east of the Valley, bordering Tibet, largely Buddhist; (d) Gilgit and (e) Baltistan, both west and north of the Valley, mostly Muslim but Shia and Ismaili rather than the Sunni dominated Valley.
  • Many historical texts credit the Mauryan king Ashoka as the founder of the city of Srinagar. Kashmir was definitely under the Mauryan rule in 3rd century B.C. and later the Kushanas.
  • The Gonandiyas ruled Kashmir for many centuries, with a break in the 5th century A.D. when Kashmir was ruled by the invading Huns (Toramana and Mihirakula).
  • After the Gonandiyas, there were the Karkota, Utpala, Kutumbi, Divira, and Lohara, [14] until Muslim rule came into Kashmir in 1349.
  • Then followed 4 centuries of Muslim rule under Durrani (from Afghanistan), the Mughals, and the Afghans.
  • All these Kashmir territories were brought under one kingdom (state) in the mid 1800s by the Dogra Rajputs.
  • Following the two Anglo-Sikh wars [18] and the subsequent cash payment deals with the East India Company, part of Kashmir remains with the Sikhs and part is ceded to the East India Company.


  • The importance of Kashmir in the whole story of independence of India and Pakistan is primarily because of its geographically strategic location.
  • Sharing borders with Afghanistan, China, Tibet, separated by a small piece of land from USSR, and of course wedged between India and Pakistan, Kashmir was of everyone's interest.
  • The story of Kashmir is the story of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah [10].
  • Lowly born Abdullah received his Master of Science degree from Aligarh Muslim University, and led the revolt against Raja Hari Singh's rule in Kashmir.
  • He founded the National Conference (earlier known as All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference) which included Hindus and Sikhs, and fought against the princedom asking for a representative government based on universal suffrage.
  • National Conference closely aligned with Indian National Congress, following close friendship between Abdullah and Nehru
  • In 1946, Hari Singh imprisons Abdullah and plans on keeping Kashmir independent from India and Pakistan
  • 1947, Lord Mountbatten visits Kashmir and tries to convince Hari Singh to accede to one or the other nation, but fails
  • Gandhi visits Kashmir after that, but only meets workers and students who want Abdullah released
  • Come Aug 15, 1947, Kashmir offers a "standstill agreement" to allow free movement of people and trade through the state; Pakistan signs it, India still waiting and watching.
  • Prime Minister Nehru (himself an ethnic Kashmiri) wants Kashmir to accede to India; Home Minister Patel although initially inclined to let Kashmir accede to Pakistan, changes his mind in Sep 1947 when Jinnah accepts the accession of Hindu-majority Junagadh. That instrument of accession was violated, and finally Junagadh reversed its decision. More details on Junagadh in an article by A.G. Noorani at this link [19].
  • End of Sep 1947, Abdullah is released, and he immediately demands a government of the people in Kashmir, in his words, "A popular government, not of any one community; a joint government of the Muslims, the Hindus, and the Sikhs. That is what I am fighting for."
  • Pakistan expects a Muslim-majority Kashmir to naturally join them, while India with its religion-is-irrelevant-secular ideals expects Kashmir to join India due to the closeness between Indian National Congress and the non-sectarian National Conference.
  • In Oct 1947, Hari Singh still wants an independent Kashmir, and the deputy PM of Kashmir is quoted to say "The only thing that will change our mind is if one side or the other decides to use force against us".
  • In two weeks, end of Oct 1947, Pathans from the North Western Province (now part of Pakistan) invade Kashmir from the North.
  • Even today, there is no clear answer to why-they-came, or who-supported-them.
  • Its just called the "tribal invasion of Kashmir" and no historians or anthropologists are able to answer this question.
  • However, at the time, India believed Pakistan had supported this invasion. Pakistan disclaimed all responsibility and said this might be a spontaneous support of the Pathans for fellow Muslims being persecuted in a Hari Singh led Hindu kingdom.
  • In two days the invasion had pushed its way through to the Valley.
  • In Baramula they lost sight of the larger goal, and decided to loot and rape [and lost their standing claim for fighting a holy war]
  • Even strategically that cost the invaders since it delayed their access to Srinagar [capital of maharaja Hari Singh]
  • Hari Singh, in 2 days, asked the Indian government for military assistance.
  • Sheikh Abdullah also urged that the Indian government send troops immediately to push back the invaders.
  • Lord Mountbatten suggested that India should get Kashmir's accession before committing any forces to its defense.
  • This was acted upon and the Instrument of Accession was signed [15].
  • Indian troops [and Air Force] managed to push back the invaders. A more detailed version with step-by-step map of force movements is well documented in a Wikipedia article [17].


  • Upon Nehru and Gandhi's endorsement and insistence, Hari Singh appoints Sheikh Abdullah the Prime Minister of Kashmir.
  • For both Nehru and Gandhi, Abdullah is the face and symbol of secularism and interfaith harmony; not so much for Pakistan and Liaqat Ali Khan who openly denounce Abdullah as a pawn of the Indian government.
  • In 1948 Nehru takes the Kashmir issue to the United Nations.
  • Sir Zafrullah Khan presents a great case for Pakistan and Kashmir is cast as unfinished business of the Partition now
  • The Security Council alters the "Jammu-Kashmir Question" agenda to "India-Pakistan Question" -- a symbolic defeat for India
  • Pakistan demands withdrawal of all armed forces and a plebiscite
  • India agrees to that under National Conference's agenda; only after withdrawal of all armed forces from all parties and the resolution is signed [16].
  • Abdullah's government formalizes the accession to India in 1951.
  • No plebiscite for the people to decide formally if they want to join India, Pakistan, or be independent
  • In all fairness, full withdrawal of armed forces has not occurred either
  • Ramachandra Guha in "India After Gandhi" [1] says this about Abdullah --
    • Whether or not Abdullah was India's man, he certainly was not Pakistan's. In April 1948 he described that country as 'an unscrupulous and savage enemy.' He dismissed Pakistan as a theocratic state and the Muslim League as 'pro-prince' rather than 'pro-people.' In his view, 'Indian and not Pakistani leaders. . . had all along stood for the rights of the States' people.' When a diplomat in Delhi asked Abdullah what he thought of the option of independence, he answered that it would never work, as Kashmir was too small and too poor. (91-92)
  • Although Abdullah accepted the accession to India, he always thought of Kashmir as a Nation. The full text of his speech to the J&K Constituent Assembly [12] (always read Nation as Kashmir here) after his election in 1951 makes a very interesting read and gives an insight into Abdullah's ideas for the Nation of Kashmir.
  • He continues to call for the plebiscite even after 1951.
  • Later in life, when asked what he thought of the option of Independence, Abdullah answered that it would never work, as Kashmir was too small and too poor. Besides, said Abdullah, "Pakistan would swallow us up. They have tried it once. They would do it again." [in Y.D. Gundevia, The testament of Sheikh Abdullah [13]]
  • Abdullah deliberated enough, and even worked with the ambassador from United States on whether the US would support an independent Kashmir.
  • By then, the US had allied itself with Pakistan, given its critical geographical proximity to the USSR, and any openly anti-Pakistan move would not be supported by them.
  • Finally, Abdullah rejected the option of independence as impractical.
  • The option of joining Pakistan as immoral (he called it a "landlord ridden feudal theocracy").
  • But, Kashmir would join India on its own terms -- including retaining its state flag, and the designation of its head as Prime Minister.


  • April 10th 1952, Abdullah in a public speech says his party would accept the Indian constitution "in its entirety once we are satisfied that the grave of communalism has been finally dug. Of that we are not sure yet." He also says that the Kashmiris "fear what will happen to them and their position if, for instance, something happens to Pandit Nehru."
  • The Praja Parishad Party [consisting largely of Hindus from Jammu] opposes the two-flags, two-constitutions, and two-prime-ministers system and vociferously protest.
  • Abdullah saw the Praja Parishad movement as way to force a solution of the entire Kashmir issue on communal lines.
  • Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee leads the Praja Parishad and campaigns heavily for Kashmir to be wholly part of India.
  • In a subsequent arrest, Mookerjee falls ill, and later dies of a heart attack while in jail.
  • This triggers a much larger protest and the Jan Sangh in India heavily oppose the Nehru government's support to Sheikh Abdullah.
  • It is purported that Sheikh Abdullah is seeking independence for Kashmir (not clear which part of Kashmir since Jammu was clearly controlled by the Praja Parishad, and the Northern Areas were already part of Pakistan) and in a move supported by the Indian government, the head of state Karan Singh (son of Maharaja Hari Singh) dismisses Sheikh Abdullah from his Prime Minister's position.
  • He is also arrested within two hours of that, and jailed, while his deputy Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed moves into power. Later biographers explain this as a way by which Abdullah was kept "quiet and safe" in prison, because as a free man he would easily mobilize popular sentiment in his favor. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed starts his role of Prime Minister in a populist style, holding darbars to hear the grievances of the public. Among things he did, he raised the procurement price of paddy; made school education free; approved new state sponsored engineering and medical colleges; and abolished customs barriers between J&K and rest of India.
  • More development in the works, as Rajendra Prasad (then president of India) visits Srinagar to inaugurate a hydroelectric project on the Jhelum river.
  • The State's own Constitution comes into force on January 26, 1957 under which the elections to the State Legislative Assembly are held for the first time on the basis of adult franchise the same year. This Constitution further reiterates the ratification of the State's accession to Union of India.
  • The Sheikh is suddenly released in January 1958, after no charges were brought against him since his arrest in August 1953.
  • He makes his way back to the Kashmir Valley, where he is met with a stunning reception.
  • Within 3 months, in April 1958, he is arrested once more; and this time on the charge of plotting with Pakistan to break up India, create communal ill-feeling and disharmony, and receive secret aid from Pakistan in the form of money and bombs.
  • Although the Sheikh may have contemplated independence for Kashmir, it is clear to all that the charges are easily exaggerated.
  • In his trial, the Sheikh says that he stands for a single objective: the right of self-determination for the people of J&K. Also repeats his commitment to secularism, admiration to Gandhi, and once strong friendship with Nehru, who even now "would not deny the right of the people as the final arbiters of their fate".
  • While the Sheikh is in prison, Nehru personally (financially) takes care of educating the Sheikh's son Farooq Abdullah in Jaipur.


  • Post China war, Nehru's position in the political sphere of India is heavily undermined. Many signs that the man is failing in health as well.
  • In April 1964 Nehru decides to put an end to the matter of the Sheikh, and after obtaining the consent of the Chief Minister of J&K orders the release of Sheikh Abdullah from a decade in the prisons.
  • Sheikh Abdullah in his first speech on the day after his release, says the two pressing problems of communal strife and Kashmir should be solved during Prime Minister Nehru's lifetime; and that after him a solution of these problems would become difficult.
  • Abdullah travels through out the Kashmir valley and is cheered heavily; before traveling to New Delhi to meet with Nehru.
  • The Congress party as well as the Left party (and of course the Jan Sangh) are very concerned about the prospects of talks between Nehru and Abdullah, as they all see Abdullah as one with a design to detach Kashmir from India.
  • Nehru receives support from two unexpected sources – the radical socialist and Sarvodaya movement leader Jayaprakash Narayan; and Nehru's former political opponent and one-time close associate C. Rajagopalachari.
  • Rajaji openly says that the freeing of Abdullah should act as a prelude to allowing the people of Kashmir to exercise their human right to rule themselves as well as they can.
  • Meanwhile in Kashmir, the open corruption of the Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed's government had turned popular sentiments against India.
  • April 29, 1964, Abdullah meets with Nehru for a week and discusses many details of a solution for Kashmir with Nehru and his deputy (officially he was a minister in the Cabinet without any portfolio) Lal Bahadur Shastri (also a fellow Kashmiri).
  • Rajaji writes to Shastri urging that Kashmir be given some kind of autonomous status. Rajaji described the self-determinatino of Kashmir seems to be a lesser issue than reducing Indo-Pak jealousy.
  • Abdullah visits Rajaji on May 5th and after a long meeting and are purported to have come up with an ideal solution for the Kashmir issue. The Hindustan Times carries the headline: "Abdulla, CR, evolve Kashmir formula: Proposal to be discussed with PM".
  • May 6th, Abdullah returns to Delhi and has long discussions with Nehru. It is not clear what exactly this plan was, although there were hints at a possible condominium over Kashmir by both India and Pakistan (along the lines of autonomous Andorra, whose security was guaranteed by both France and Spain).
  • Abdullah openly says he wants to visit Pakistan with more than one alternative.
  • Rajaji in an article writes that asking Field Marshal Ayub Khan to cede Azad Kashmir will scuttle the entire plan; and probably the Sheikh should focus all his attention on Kashmir valley, leaving Jammu as a counterpoise to Azad Kashmir, to be presumed to be integrated to India without question.
  • On May 11, Abdullah openly asserts that despite his weakness (in health), Nehru is the symbol of India, and that after Nehru he did not see anyone else tackling these problems with the same breadth of vision.
  • May 16th, Nehru talks about these alternatives, and says that unless we succeed, India will carry the burden of conflict with Pakistan with all that this [these alternatives] implies.
  • May 22nd, Nehru declines to disclose the details of all the alternatives saying he does not want to prejudice the Sheikh's mission to Pakistan. Just says that his government is prepared to have an agreement with Pakistan on the basis of their holding on to that part of Kashmir occupied by them.
  • May 25th, Sheikh Abdullah meets with Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi for over 3 hours and end of it says he found in Rawalpindi, the same encouraging response as in Delhi; and that there is an equal keenness on both sides to come to a real understanding.
  • May 26th, another long meeting between the Sheikh and Ayub Khan, and the Sheikh is seen coming out beaming. He informs the crowd, that on the basis of these talks, the Pakistani president has agreed to a meeting with the Prime Minister Nehru in the mid-June.
  • Dawn, Pakistan's written forum for its intelligentsia, complains that Abdullah had taken up a role of an apostle of peace and friendship between Pakistan and India, rather than that of the leader of Kashmir, whose prime objective should have been to seek their freedom from India.
  • May 27th, Nehru dies, and with him, these campaigns for peace.
  • Hindustan Times quotes a Pakistani newspaper as, "The death of Nehru meant the end of a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue. Whoever succeeded Nehru would not have the stature, courage and political support necessary to go against the highly emotional tide of public opinion in India favouring a status quo in Kashmir."

1964 – 1982

  • After Nehru's death, the Sheikh is interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 for 18 months. The Plebiscite Front is also banned. This was allegedly done to prevent him and the Plebiscite Front which was supported by him from taking part in Elections in Kashmir.
  • 1965, the Indo-Pak war ends in a stalemate, and following a UN-negotiated ceasefire, the Line of Control is still maintained.
  • 1971, another Indo-Pak war, this time for the freedom of East Pakistan – Bangladesh is formed.
  • Sheikh Abdullah watching the alarming turn of events in the subcontinent realizes that "for the survival of this region there was an urgent need to stop pursuing confrontational politics and promoting solution of issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue rather than confrontation".
  • Abdullah starts a dialogue with the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, being keenly aware of [as he put it] imminent danger of the breakup and balkanisation of both India and Pakistan with disastrous consequences.
  • In 1974, the Sheikh-Indira accord [20] is signed, whereby the Sheikh gives up the demand for a plebiscite in lieu of the people being given the right to self rule by a democratically elected Government rather than the puppet government which till then ruled the State. Following this Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah becomes the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Congress Party withdraws its support and mid-term elections are called again in J&K.
  • Abdullah's National Conference again wins with overwhelming majority, and Sheikh Abdullah becomes the Chief Minister again, and remains the CM until his death in 1982.

Post 1982

  • Dr. Farooq Abdullah, son of the Sheikh, is elected CM after his father's death, and remained CM until 1984.
  • Ghulam Mohammad Shah succeeds Farooq Abdullah as the CM between 1984 and in less than a year, President's rule imposed on J&K.
  • Farooq Abdullah returns as CM in 1986 and remains CM until 1990, when another term of President's rule is imposed, this time for 6 years.
  • Again between 1996 and 2002, Farooq Abdullah returns as CM, after President's rule is lifted for 6 more years.
  • Following the instability after the Kargil conflict of 1999, President's rule returns to Kashmir in 2002, and continues to be in place even as of today.
  • During this post-82 period, much infiltration by jihadis and a lot of atrocities by the army of the Indian Union are documented all over the valley and along the Line of Control.

An extended reading list: [that this document heavily draws upon]

[1] Ramachandra Guha. India after Gandhi – The history of the world's largest democracy. [http://www.amazon.com/India-After-Gandhi-History-Democracy/dp/0060198818]

[2] Romila Thapar, A history of India. [http://www.amazon.com/History-India-Penguin/dp/0140138358]

[3] Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, Bipin Chandra. Communalism and the Writing of Indian History.

[4] A. L. Basham. A cultural history of India.[http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-History-India-L-Basham/dp/0195639219]

[5] Wikipedia article on Kashmir. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir]

[6] BBC News In-Depth – The future of Kashmir. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/south_asia/03/kashmir_future/html/default.stm]

[7] Kashmir Information Network. [http://www.kashmir-information.com/]

[8] Maps of Kashmir. [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/kashmir.html]

[9] Conflict in Kashmir – selected Internet resources. UC Berkeley Libraries. [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/SSEAL/SouthAsia/kashmir.html]

[10] Wikipedia article on Sheikh Abdullah. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Abdullah]

[11] A comprehensive note on Jammu & Kashmir – the Indian government's stance. From the web pages of the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. [http://www.indianembassy.org/policy/Kashmir/Kashmir_MEA/introduction.html]

[12] Full text of Sheikh Abdullah's speech to the J&K Constituent Assembly, 1952. [http://www.kashmir-information.com/LegalDocs/122.html]

[13] Y. D. Gundevia. The testament of Sheikh Abdullah. [http://www.amazon.com/Testament-Sheikh-Abdullah-Y-D-Gundevia/dp/8170174686/]

[14] Kalhana. Rajatarangini – Early history of Kashmir. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajatarangini]

[15] Instrument of Accession executed by Maharajah Hari Singh on October 26, 1947. [http://www.jammu-kashmir.com/documents/instrument_of_accession.html]

[16] Resolution adopted by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan on 13 August 1948.
(Doc No.1100, Para. 75, dated 9th Nov, 1948). [

[17] Wikipedia article on the First Kashmir war. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Kashmir_War]

[18] Wikipedia article on the Anglo-Sikh wars. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Sikh_wars]

[19] A.G.Noorani. Of Jinnah and Junagadh. In the Quaid-e-Azam Papers, Volume 5. [Chronicled in two parts in the Frontline reviews. Part1: http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1820/18200780.htm; Part2: http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1821/18210760.htm]

[20] Wikipedia stub on Sheikh-Indira accord. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1974_Indira-Sheikh_accord]

Links from Austin's Thursday Open Mike discussion list:

[21] Arundhati Roy. Land and Freedom. [http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/18528]

[22] Yogi Sikand. Rethinking Kashmir politics. In The South Asian. [http://www.thesouthasian.org/archives/2008/rethinking_kashmir_politics.html]

[23] BBC News In-Depth – Kashmir Flashpoint. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/south_asia/2002/kashmir_flashpoint/default.stm]

[24] Yogi Sikand. Dangerous portents in Jammu & Kashmir: A view from Doda. In The South Asian. [http://www.thesouthasian.org/archives/2008/dangerous_portents_in_jammu_an.html]

[25] Yogi Sikand. Dreams of Harmony once dreamt. In The South Asian. [http://www.thesouthasian.org/archives/2008/dreams_of_harmony_once_dreamt.html]

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Conservative viewpoint

More articles stating the conservative side.  Again, I am trying to put some stuff here so that we have some better perspective of both the views, otherwise, most of the open mic's are no longer discussions of various view points. 

Auto Crisis
An interesting OpEd by Mitt Romney on the Auto industry crisis. This was of course, soundly criticized by left leaning media outlets.

OR The Video Version:   

Obama was endorsed by the Auto Unions (UAW) who raised money for the campaign, so, is he going to bail out the auto industry to keep them happy? 
Related links below:

More politics as usual? Hope? Change?
Where is the change from the Democratic party? I thought Lieberman was the devil and needed to be ostracized from the party
Also, if Obama is picking most of his cabinet from Clinton's administration, why was Sen. Hillary Clinton ostracized as a "Washington insider" during the primaries? Where is the change?  Tom Daschle is cited to be Sec. for Health and Human services, this may be a conflict of interest.  At issue is Mr. Daschle’s work since leaving the Senate four years ago as a board member of the Mayo Clinic and a highly paid adviser to health care clients at the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird.

The Obama Hype Machine
An article/blog that is not too happy about the Obama hype machine in the media

Does Obama want the crisis to deepen?

Media MIA On Emanuel's Crisis Comment
By Seton Motley
November 21, 2008 - 08:33 ET 

Remember the years of media flak President George W. Bush received for his alleged use for political gain of first the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and then the related Afghanistan and Iraq Wars?

Will the press be as vociferous now? Incoming Obama Administration Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking on Wednesday on and to the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, stated outright his desire to make political hay with the ongoing travails of the U.S. and global economy:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
Wonder why President-elect Obama resigned from the Senate so early (while Vice President-elect Joe Biden remains an active member) and is hanging back, not wading into the debate over bailouts etc, and naming candidates for nearly every Cabinet post save Treasury (the man or woman who will have $350 billion to dispense when he/she walks through the door)?

Based upon what Emanuel is saying, the conclusion one might draw is that the Obama team wants the uncertainty this foments to fester and grow, thereby increasing the gravity of the crisis upon which the Administration then intends to capitalize. 

Chris Matthews and others in the media dreaming of an early coronation, I mean Inauguration, are perhaps missing an important Obama Administration point. The longer the crisis lingers, the more our economy tanks, the better it is for them from their perspective when they finally do take the reins.

All in the best interest of our nation, of course. (?!?)
Where oh where has the press's righteous indignation at the use of national hardship for crass political gain gone? That apparently has departed early, so as to make way for the Obama Adminstration they can't wait to see get started.

—Seton Motley is Director of Communications for the Media Research Center

Gay Rights activitsts and media bias - a Fox perspective
For the record, my view is NO on PROP 8.  I think it is an acceptable conservative/libertarian view to NOT change the constitution to define marriage as ONLY between a man and a woman.  I believe that the Government has no business telling me who I can or cannot marry.  I also believe it is acceptable to protest this.  How can the majority legislate, what many gays consider to be, a fundamental right? Gays as a minority should be protected.   Perhaps this should be an interesting topic for open mic. 

The Right side view of Obama's healthcare plan
The interesting paragraph to me here (link above)  was "3) Republicans better earn to competently talk healthcare"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Media Bias

All, we further discussed Media Bias this week.  I wanted to post this interesting segment on TALK OF THE NATION in NPR.  PLease review this at your leisure.  I would strongly encourage you to also read the PDF of a  scientific study on media bias as well. 

The scientific study link is: 

MOST news outlets have a liberal bias, with the Wall Street Journal and  New York Times and CBS being fairly hardcore liberal!!!! Even more liberal leaning than Fox as a conservative leaning media agency! Something to mull over. Even NPR has a score of 66 where the center score = 50!!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Can we stop the hype?

I truly hope Obama will meet at least 10% of the hype he has generated, because in my mind, even if he meets 10% of the hype, he will be a truly great president.  Granted this is a historic moment and one sought long and hard, especially by the African Americans.  However, is it fair to put so much expectation on this one man? Are we setting him up for failure?  I sure hope not.  There is so much to be done.  I am so glad this election is over so that the poor man can get on with governance.  Hopefully the hype will subside. 

I found these articles that discuss this further
Barack Obama lays plans to deaden expectation after election victoryhttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5051118.ece
PRUDEN: A heartfelt toast to Obama

Two Sides of a Story continued

I would encourage you to read the first part of this blog (below) prior to this one. 

SNL - Banned SNL Skit ripping both the Dems and Reps. 

check this out, and see where you stand maybe?

Two Sides of a Story Continued

I would encourage you all to read the first part of this blog below and then come back to this one. 

Please check out the IDEO METER between McCain and Obama.  McCain is much closer to the center and Obama is highly left leaning.  This highlights the point about McCain being more of the person who would "cross the aisle". 
I would like to add, I am not a sore loser, I am merely posting "the other side" of the story.


Heres an example of how that Evil, despot Bush tried to destroy poor people.
Taken from the NYTimes 2003 (NYTimes is fairly left leaning).  the article is meant to criticize Bush for his actions. On hind sight, Bush was right!. Please read and reread the last 2 paragraphs.
I have another article somewhere with specific quotes from Pelosi, Reid etc. I'll send it along when I find it.  It is a much murkier picture. Politically, both democrats and republicans are equally NOBLE, and equally interested in holding onto what all politicians want POWER. 

The top 3 recipients of Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae contributions, 1989-2008:

Chris Dodd ................... $165,400
Barack Obama ............ $126,349
John Kerry .................. $111,000 

Two sides to a story

At the last open mic (A very historic moment in US history - Nov 4th 2008), we were discussing the role of the press.  How biased press organizations are. Since most press organizations are "For-Profit" organizations, the perspective of the top few dictate the content of the organization (due to ad contributors flexing their muscle or some other reason).  Additionally, since sensationalism also sells, facts are replaced by sensational opinions or tag lines, further exacerbating the chasm (the two sides of the chams here are 1: Press = Truth / fact reporting and not Op Ed. 2: Press = OpEd pieces with mainly one side of the story represented). 

It was also discussed there are very few press sources that truly represent all sides of the story. e.g. Both Liberal and Conservative views with regards to US concerns,  or Indian Army vs. Separatists views with regards to Kashmir.  Wouldnt it be nice to see a liberal view on the LHS and conservative view on the RHS of most important topics in a newspaper? 

We also arrived at the conclusion that most people tend to get their facts from one or two sources and seldom see the other side of the coin.  Whether we gravitate towards Bill O'Reilly or Bill Maher, we tend to ONLY view one or the other and establish our world view thus.  This is fairly unfortunate.  Furthermore, the crowd at the open mic, is fairly left leaning with respect to US politics (Obama mania was at its height on Tuesday!) and some suggested that most of the posts in this blog is highly left leaning.  I volunteered myself to try and post some right leaning stuff, just to "stir the liberal pot" as it were.   I will attempt to do that to the best of my ability. On a lighter note and for the record, my political views are probably a shade right of center.  If that makes me a redneck, married to my cousin, bible thumper - so be it.

We were fairly distracted with the election, so the the discussion did not go very far. I think this discussion should be further extended during the next open mic. 

1 of many: 
First, this guy is a fairly conservative blogger. His post on Obama and his decency. 

This is about Rahm Emannuel. There are many fears that he will not be bipartisan (perhaps the Dems do not need to be bipartisan now?). 

the meltdown not due to the republicans alone! Lot of blame to go around!

I have pasted the whole thing here. and Highlghted some key points. 

How Congress set the stage for a fiscal meltdown

WASHINGTON — During last week's presidential debate, John McCain and Barack Obama sparred over what caused the financial crisis.

"The match that lit this fire," McCain said, came from the government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which backed risky home loans "with the encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies … in Washington."

Obama shot back: "The biggest problem was the deregulation of the financial system. … Sen. McCain, as recently as March, bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator."

It was a classic example of Washington finger-pointing. McCain and the GOP blame Fannie and Freddie — which were taken over by the government last month — because the troubled mortgage agencies' biggest backers were Democrats who said they wanted to increase access to homeownership.

Meanwhile, Obama and other Democrats highlight Republicans' longtime focus on limiting regulations for the financial industry.

No single government decision sparked the crisis, but collectively the candidates had a point: Both parties in Congress played important roles in setting the stage for the ongoing financial meltdown.

They did so in moves that reflected not just their ideological priorities, but also the wishes of special interests that have spent millions aggressively lobbying Washington and contributing to lawmakers' campaigns.

By not reining in increasingly risky investments made by Fannie and Freddie — and by keeping complex financial instruments known as derivatives free from most government oversight — Congress chose not to impose barriers that economists widely agree could have helped stave off the crisis that continues, even after lawmakers approved a $700 billion emergency bailout package for Wall Street.

Here is a look at how Congress' actions on two key fronts became significant factors in the financial crisis:

1. Not checking derivatives

In 2000, a united financial services industry persuaded Congress to allow a vast, unregulated market in derivatives, which are contracts in which investors essentially bet on the future price of a stock, commodity, mortgage-backed security or other thing of value.

Derivatives — so named because their value derives from something else — also are known as hedges, swaps and futures. They are designed to lower risks for buyers and sellers, but in some cases, economists now say, they gave investors a false sense of security.

Today, derivatives are compounding the risks to a shaky economy because they are tied to complex mortgage securities that have plummeted in value. Instruments called credit default swaps, for example, were supposed to insure investors against default of mortgage-backed securities. With a mass collapse of those bonds, it's not clear how the swaps can pay off.

The ultimate fear, as Fortune magazine put it, is that swaps can cause "a financial Ebola virus radiating out from a failed institution and infecting dozens or hundreds of other companies."

Derivatives are traded privately, and their estimated national value is huge: $531 trillion. Losses from derivatives helped bring down Wall Street powerhouse Lehman Bros., and led the government to spend nearly $123 billion so far bailing out the giant insurer AIG.

The bill barring most regulation of derivative trading was inserted into an 11,000-page budget measure that became law as the nation was focused on the disputed 2000 presidential election. It was sponsored by Republican Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and Richard Lugar of Indiana — with support from Democrats, the Clinton administration and then-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. Few opposed it.

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who help negotiate the bill for Democrats, says he put aside his qualms because Wall Street and Greenspan were adamant that less regulation would help the stock market.

"All of the Wall Street crowd, all of the investment firms, the Morgan Stanleys, the Goldman Sachs … that steamroller just rolled over anything," he says. Wall Street promised to police itself "and Congress bought it."

Better regulation could have provided greater transparency and ensured that enough collateral was in place for derivatives to meet their obligations, says economist Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "It's totally obvious in retrospect that this was not good public policy," she says.

But a decade ago, many saw derivatives as a way to smooth the gears of free-market capitalism. That's why the financial industry was alarmed in March 1998, when a little-known agency called the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sought to regulate derivatives.

Financiers erupted. They feared the plan would invalidate existing contracts, and they argued derivatives often were uniquely tailored hedges against risk that could not abide one-size-fits-all rules. Greenspan, then-Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt and then-Treasury secretary Robert Rubin said in a statement they had "grave concerns" about regulating such agreements.

A report by President Clinton's economic team recommended against regulation. At congressional hearings, Greenspan argued that sophisticated market players would check one another, and if derivatives were regulated here such investments would go overseas.

A bill barring derivatives from being regulated as futures contracts passed the House in October 2000, by a vote of 377-4.

But Gramm, chairman of the banking committee, was not satisfied. Gramm told USA TODAY at the time he wanted language making clear that banking products could not be regulated by the commodities agency. After the fall election, leaders of both parties cut a deal and in December 2000 inserted it in the budget bill.

"The work of this Congress will be seen as a watershed, where we turned away from the outmoded, Depression-era approach to financial regulation," Gramm said then.

The wall against regulation was a watershed in another way. Financial services employees and political action committees made $308.6 million in political donations in 2000, up from $175 million in the previous presidential election year, says the Center for Responsive Politics. Wall Street and the banking, insurance and real estate industries spent $3.2 billion on lobbying in the past decade, the center reports. AIG spent $73 million.

More than a quarter of the $3.9 million in campaign money Gramm raised from 1997 through 2002 came from the financial services sector, and nine of his top 10 donors, grouped by economic interest, were employees of financial companies that use or trade in derivatives, according to election records compiled by the center.

Gramm, who left office in 2003 and went to work for UBS, was a top economic adviser to GOP presidential nominee John McCain until he stepped down in July after saying the USA had become "a nation of whiners" about the economy.

Noting that he has always favored deregulation, Gramm scoffs at the idea he was influenced by campaign money. The derivatives provision didn't cause the credit collapse, he adds.

"The crisis was caused by government," Gramm says. He cites the Community Reinvestment Act, which he says "forced banks to make subprime (mortgage) loans" to people who couldn't afford them.

Democrats, including Harkin, and many economic analysts dispute that. As for what he learned, Harkin says, "Don't pay attention to Wall Street when it comes to issues like this."

2. Protecting Fannie, Freddie

In 2005, Congress rejected a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at curbing risky investments by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thanks to resistance from mostly Democrats. It was the latest in a string of unsuccessful attempts to rein in the two agencies. In this case, Congress ignored Greenspan's warning about the financial risks Fannie and Freddie were taking on.

The agencies were designed to expand homeownership by injecting money into the home mortgage market and encouraging banks to lend more. They buy loans from banks and guarantee them, holding some in their portfolios and selling others as mortgage-backed securities.

With implicit government backing, Fannie and Freddie have been able to borrow money at below-market rates. In recent years, the companies borrowed to buy billions' worth of complex mortgage-backed securities. The investments earned big returns. Fannie and Freddie's stock soared. Their executives were paid tens of millions of dollars.

Republicans sought to reduce the size of the companies' portfolios, arguing they were too risky.

Then the housing bubble burst. Fannie and Freddie didn't cause the financial meltdown, but they fueled it by becoming one of the biggest purchasers of toxic mortgage products, says Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff.

"There was tremendous coddling of Fannie and Freddie in the face of a lot of evidence that they really weren't helping homeowners all that much," Rogoff says. "I think it was very, very clear what was coming, and that they were a huge, huge risk to the American financial system. … It really was criminal neglect."

Fannie and Freddie spent $175 million on lobbying in the last decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The companies' employees and PACs gave nearly $5 million in contributions since 1989, by the center's count.

Until they were taken over, Fannie had 13 lobbying firms on its payroll this year; Freddie had 33. Both packed their boards with politically connected people such as Democrat Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide who joined Freddie's board in 2000 before he became a congressman. Both hired well-connected lobbyists such as Rick Davis, now McCain's campaign manager.

In seeking to crack down on Fannie and Freddie, Republicans were encouraged by banks that didn't want government-subsidized competition. But there also was a chorus of warnings that the highly leveraged corporations could pose a risk to the economy.

In 2003 and 2004, both companies were wracked by accounting scandals that led to the ouster of top managers.

In 2005, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., sponsored legislation to shrink the agencies' portfolios. McCain later added his name as a co-sponsor. The bill passed the Senate Banking Committee, but every panel Democrat voted against it. That signaled that the bill wouldn't get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. Obama was not on the banking panel; there is no record of him doing anything on the bill.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a senior member of the banking committee, is the largest recipient of political contributions from Fannie and Freddie employees and PACs, having received $165,400 since 1989, according to the center.

Dodd said he backed Fannie and Freddie because they encouraged homeownership. "I've never ever in my life been affected by a campaign contribution," he said in an interview. He noted that when he became banking committee chairman, he helped pass a bill restricting mortgage agencies' investment practices in 2007. By then, it was too late to stop the financial disaster.

In the House, Republicans and Democrats agreed on a different bill that passed easily. But the Bush administration opposed it, calling it weak. The effort failed.

The next year, Freddie Mac paid the largest election fine ever, $3.8 million, after regulators found it used corporate funds illegally to pay for fundraisers. From 2000 to 2003, Freddie Mac held 85 events that raised $1.7 million, mostly for Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee, regulators found.

Rep. Barney Frank, then the ranking Democrat on financial services and now the chairman, says he and his colleagues were not soft on Fannie and Freddie. "Yes, they lobbied strongly, but I was one of the most successful ones in challenging them."

Frank had no apologies. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., by contrast, offered a rare Washington mea culpa: "Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie," he said in a statement. "Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit, when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Religion against -- Logic, Science, Morality

Some more links, mostly talking about how religion inhibits moral and scientific progress (past and present). The 'Why I am Not a ...' articles below also talk about the origins of some specific religions (Christianity, Hinduism and Islam).

[1] An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, by Bertrand Russell
This is an absolute classic, including Russell's other essays in 'Why I Am Not A Christian'

[2] The Genius of Charles Darwin, by Richard Dawkins (video)
This is a fairly new TV series on Channel 4 (UK) that mainly talks about Darwin and his ideas on evolution. The interesting parts come when Dawkins talks to various people about Darwin. So for instance, Dawkins goes into a school and asks 14-15 year old kids what they think of evolution: most, from all faiths apparently, say they think evolution is false because their holy books/church etc told them so. So Dawkins then takes them to some beach where they hunt for and find fossils. He explains geological time and how different fossils get to be in different layers etc and the kids can see them in front of their eyes. Despite even all that evidence, there are some who say that they would rather believe what their church told them than what they see with their own eyes and brains. Fascinating how religion not only provides no evidence, but it also teaches children to disbelieve any evidence that contradicts their faith. Some kids though slowly open up to the idea that maybe evolution is right.

[3] The Labeling of Children, by Richard Dawkins and Marcus Brigstocke (video)
Some of it funny, this 8-min video talks about the meaningless labeling of children as a Hindu child or a Christian child etc. And about how some of that could be considered child abuse. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and Marcus is a British comedian.

[4] Why I Am Not a Hindu, by Ramendra Nath
Tries the absolutely impossible task of defining a Hindu person, but using Gandhi's definitions and some history, argues why being a Hindu is both irrational and immoral. Its a good attempt, but I think the approach opens itself to several attacks, and also mixes up arguments about whether God exists with moral issues. I have not seen any modern atheist arguments against Hinduism that I would consider a classic.

[5] Why I Am Not a Muslim, by Ibn Warraq
This book is not available online, though several related articles by Ibn Warraq are available. Ibn Warraq is a pseudonym and his real name is not known publicly - that says quite a bit about freedom and Islam. He wrote his book after the Rushdie affair, which is another atrocious display of religious intolerance and bigotry. (That intolerance though is not unique to Islam, modern Hindutva fanatics are not a whole lot different in their tolerance of criticism). Ibn shows the Koran's texts to be man-made through historical and cultural references, and that of course, brings the whole deck of cards down for Islam. He also talks about how Islam blocks scientific and political progress through mis-education of children.

[6] Richard Dawkins on the biblical Abrahamic God (Old Testament), from his book The God Delusion
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
Says quite a bit about religion and the evolution of morality over the last 1400 years (since advent of Islam). Also see Elizabeth Anderson's If God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted? for more on morality in both the Old and New Testament.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Concept of universal religion ( Swami Vivekananda)

Swami Vivekananda's Chicago speech - Why we disagree

Swami Vivekananda - Universal acceptance of all religion

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More Links on Religion and Secularism

An interesting discussion on how modernist Western thinking sees the interaction between religion and the law: (click here)

Gandhi on a secular state: (click here)

C.M. Naim on the rank and status of Indian Muslims (click here)

David Brooks on religion and secularism in today's U.S. political scene (click here)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Muslims in Europe (in mp3) (click here)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Origin of religions

More links to what's put up under Secularism. (Mostly all evolutionary.)

[1] Evolution and Religion: Darwin's God. By Robin Henig in the NYT Magazine, on Scott Atran's research on a Darwinian approach to evolution of religions.

[2] Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion:

[3] Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, by David Sloan Wilson.
[4] An interesting discussion and analysis in the Gene Expression science blog.

[5] Richard Dawkins on TED Talks: An Atheist's call to arms

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Hi all,

Last week, we decided to pick secularism as this week's topic. My question is:

What is the origin of various religions? What did they mean when they were formed? Have they changed – evolved/devolved over the period of time? Was various rituals part of the religion on day one? Does religion (and rituals) really mean anything in today’s world?

Here are few links:



Origin and development:








Religious Vs Non religious belief systems:


Pls read thru the various related pages on wiki...

More links:

limited preview book:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday Open Mike 3: Gender Bias continues

Ways to tackle it:

- education
- affirmative action
- change in societal outlook

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday Open Mike 2: Gender Bias

Main items that came about...
- everyone agreed that gender bias exists
- stereotypes are the cause for this bias
- theories about controlled ovulation came about

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More gender links


A few collected links from the Austin Openmike (that Subbu refers to) in his post are at:
[1] Gender bias, stereotypes, and sensitization [India] (links)
[2] More gender links...
[3] More links related to gender discussion
There are more links and posts related to sex education and assessing pornography from a feminist perspective. But those need not be related to this discussion today.


From Sandhya:


From Sabita:


Can you elaborate on his original ideas?

His ideas about women, caste and communism were very original. His ideas on women were far ahead of today's feminists. He said the subordination of women was because they gave birth to babies. He said unlike the man, from the moment the baby started growing inside a woman, her thought process changed. According to him, man and woman become unequal from that point onwards. He spoke about equality even in those days but in a different way.

He also had a strong opinion on thali (mangalsutra).

He said thali should not be worn by a woman at all.

From Deepa:
A bbc article on gender bias:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gender Bias (below) continued

Additional links for the Gender Bias topic below
A person who is transgenderred sees the world with both points of view

A link on harrassment

I would have encouraged a discussion on gender and religion, unfortunately, since the majority attending will be Hindu, i think this may be a skewed discussion.

Gender Bias

Sorry for the really late notice. No excuses for my tardiness, just my humble apologies. Thus, if due to my tardiness, this post does not resonate with you, my regrets in advance.

Since we left off last week talking about Gender Bias as the subject to discuss this week, I found a few links (from the Austin Thu Open mike - thanks! - and elsewhere) which I have listed below

I'd like the discussion to be around gender equality. Are men and women really equal? Can men and women really do what the other can do? If not, are the different skill sets brought to society by men and women thus render the two sexes equal? If they are equal, why the historical bias? Is it only due to Man's strength superiority? If so, is might right? Or, to ask the same question differently, should might be right in a world of survival of the fittest?

Some links are below:

If Men Could Menstruate - by Gloria Steinem

This was the US point of view in the 50s!

"The zeitgeist in which Hillary floundered and “Sex” is now flourishing."; "Striving While Female – if it goes too far and looks too real — is still held to be a crime."
I would also encourage you to read the comments by others on the article above.

Another indian article - Seven Markers for Gender equality

more links coming...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tuesday Open Mike 1: summary of the first meeting

Meeting was attended by 6 people. Logistics and possible topics were discussed. Broadly, this was what was decided:
  • We will create a blog to document the links and learnings of the various topic during this exercise. This blog will be new and separate from Austin's version of Open Mike (http://thursdayopenmike.blogspot.com).
  • We will join the same yahoogroups list as Austin's Open Mike group (thursdayopenmike@yahoogroups.com) [assuming Austin is okay with that].
  • We will continue to meet at Red Rock Cafe on Castro&Villa in Mountain View, every Tuesday evening at 7PM.
  • Some sample topics were suggested and Subbu to send out an email on the first of them later this week. The plan is for everyone to read and send out links ahead of time, so that we can discuss in a more informed and focused manner at the meeting. (More on topics later in this post.)
  • We would like to narrow down the specific question we are trying to answer or get an opinion on before the meeting itself, so that one (albeit small) issue is completely discussed and threshed out, while allowing for discussion to organically move on to other topics. This is to ensure that there is some focussed learning instead of random desultory conversations.
  • We would also like to have a way to review and see if our opinions and thoughts have changed, increased etc. from what they were about any topic prior to the discussion -- this is aimed at a way to track and see if the Open Mike is really working for each of us.
  • The Open Mike is definitely a non-Asha event, and is also definitely not restricted to any geographical region (like India) either in topic or in members.
  • All present to spread the word and invite everyone we know who might be interested in such an activity.
Apart from the above, we discussed possible topics and this is broadly what different folks came up with:
  • Gender bias/perspectives/stereotyping/spousal-abuse(either direction)/affirmative action along gender lines
  • Conservation -- energy/resources/environment
  • Secularism -- why hate? [addendum: Why religion?]
  • Is organic farming a good (economically viable) option for India?
  • Why nation boundaries? why demarcations?
  • Animal rights? why hunting? vegetarianism?

More clarity on topics will be developed as life goes on. For the next meeting, Subbu will formulate a question based on what he has suggested and send it out with a few links. For now, I've listed that topic as "Gender: bias or reverse bias?"