Taking a break. Matte sigona.

Dear friends,

I would like to inform you that I have decided to take a break from blogging and online social networking in order to focus on a book that I have begun to write.

The first draft of the book, written in English, is expected to take anywhere from 9 to 12 months to complete. The book is about the need for and ways of reforming the increasingly popular Idea of India and putting India back on track in its career as an ethical nation. This, of course, is very much a Karnatique theme.

Karnatique and Hostilu are the only blogs on which I'm active right now, and I will be taking a break from both. I will also be taking a break from the Facebook accounts Kiran Batni, Karnatique Balaga, the Facebook community page Roman Lipiyalli Kannada, and the Twitter accounts @kiranbr and @karnatique.

Too many tools and objects, although they are blameless by themselves, crowd out the human mind. Even the most beautiful flowers and fragrances, however beautiful they are, hold the mind captive and deprive it of leisure and silence. I need both leisure and silence to listen to that Inner Voice of Truth which whispers the same whispers in all of us, if only we listen to it. It is these whispers that I wish to present to the world as a book.

Let's keep in touch. I will be available on kiran at banavasibalaga dot org. I will also be more than happy to meet any of you personally if you wish, and if you are in or around Maisuru (Mysore), where I now live (yes, Bengaluru is around Maisuru). We could then discuss things in more detail instead of exchanging quick and dirty messages online, and build a network of hearts instead of a network of TCP/IP.

Matte sigona (let's meet again),
Kiran Batni

PS: I've dropped the middle 'Rao' in my name, for simplicity.

SHUT UP! Leave the onions and mind your business.

Both share a flawed economic philosophy which is the root cause of the problem, and both have actually faced the problem. One had to pay for it by making itself non-existent, and another is in a similar situation today. But both fail to realize that executing a flawed philosophy flawlessly does not solve the problem created by it.

I'm referring to the BJP and the Congress, and onions. Both parties share a flawed economic philosophy that government can fix commodity prices magically and arbitrarily. In reality, government cannot do anything like that. Altering the demand/supply curve is none of the government's job, and whenever it does that, it only makes matters worse, as we're seeing today.

To anyone following the nonsense closely, every solution that is being proposed now involves asking the government to undo something it had done earlier. But nobody seems to even for a second question the flawed economic philosophy which attaches an undue importance to government, and due to which government did those things in the first place. Why create taps and give them to wrong hands to control?

One blame being placed on the central government is that it allowed export licenses even when internal prices were rising. But nobody seems to realize that the first problem is that there is even a concept of export licenses. The second problem is that if traders want to export in any case, it's none of the government's business to stop that export. If that export is unethical in some sense, the society should rise to the occasion and stop it. Not government - a set of fools at best, and a set of corrupt fools at worst.

Another blame being placed on the central government is that it is treating Congress and BJP ruled states differently in executing the flawed economic philosophy. But those who point that out forget that when executing the flawed philosophy flawlessly itself is a problem, executing it in the presence of vested interests does not lead to a smaller problem. It leads to a bigger problem.

I'm wondering if there are any economists left in this country any more, who can advise to political parties, the public, and the media alike, what Ronald Reagan once advised:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
The best thing any political party can do now is to show the intellectual courage to question the philosophy that government should poke its nose in the onion/tomato/garlic market, or any domestic market for that matter. It's high time voters also realize that there are things which government cannot solve, but can certainly screw up. I'd like to see at least one of the two parties grow up to adolescence and question the shared economic philosophy.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the reason why neither the BJP nor the Congress is able to get over the crucial stage of adolescence when it comes to economic philosophy is simply that both have in them a trace of the colonial mindset. After all, the very concept of a Government of India is British, and our brown Indian masters copy-pasted crucial documents from the white British masters and just changed a few names here and there anyway.

Colonial governments must control the demand/supply curve in order to loot profits from the people and ship them to Her Majesty The Queen or His Majesty the King back home. Perhaps someone should remind both parties that they're already home, and that there's no Her Majesty or His Majesty to send anything to. Perhaps someone should rise to the occasion and ask government - whether it's this party or that forming it - to just shut up and leave the market to the market.

The fate of the lingua franca

A new book titled The Last Lingua Franca by Nicholas Ostler is raising waves across the world. Here's a Penguin review of the book, a must for those who assume a larger-than-life importance for English in the world, and Hindi in India:
'A lingua franca is a language of convenience. When it ceases to be convenient – however widespread it has been – it will be dropped, without ceremony, and with little emotion.' - NICHOLAS OSTLER

The Last Lingua Franca is a fascinating and provocative examination of the rise and coming fall of English as the world's language.

English is the world's lingua franca – the most widely spoken language in human history. But its dominance has so far lasted two centuries at most – far less than the spans of other major languages such as Greek, Latin, Arabic, or Sanskrit. And now, as historian and linguist Nicholas Ostler persuasively argues in his provocative new book, English stands not only to be displaced as the world's language in the not-too distant future, but also to be the last lingua franca, not replaced by another.

The primary causes for the spread of lingua francas over time have been empire (to bind peoples together politically), commerce (to facilitate trade), and religion (reinforcing the power of faith), and Ostler explores each inspiration through the lens of civilizations spanning the globe, from China and India to Russia and Europe. Three trends emerge that suggest the ultimate decline of English, and lingua francas themselves. Throughout the world movements towards democratization in politics or equality in society will downgrade the status of elites-since elites are the prime users of non-native English, the language will gradually retreat to its native-speaking territories. Moreover, the rising wealth of states like Brazil, Russia, India and China will challenge and ultimately overtake the dominance of native-English-speaking nations-thereby shrinking the international preference for English. Simultaneously, new technologies are allowing instant translation among major languages, enhancing the status of mother tongues and lessening the necessity for any future lingua francas.

Ostler predicts a soft landing for English: it will still be widely spoken, if no longer worldwide, sustained by America's continued power on the world stage. But its decline will be symbolic and significant, evidence of grand shifts in the cultural effects of empire.

The Last Lingua Franca is both an insightful examination of the trajectory of our own mother tongue and a fascinating lens through which to view the sweep of history.
As far as the reviews I have read go, the book does not seem to focus on the inherent utility of the world's diverse languages in the education and economic growth of their speakers. That, more than anything political or historical, will be the reason for the decline of the Englishes and Hindis of the world as lingua francas.

Bharatiya Javali Paksha*

With chief minister B S Yeddyurappa leaving his chief-ministerial duties aside to campaign for the upcoming Zilla Panchayat and Taluk Panchayat elections, advertising himself (this time with numbers) behind every bus in Karnataka using public funds, the state is running into huge debts (this time with numbers). Writes the Times of India:
Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa paints a rosy picture of the state's finances. But the numbers tell a dismal story. In the past two years, the government has borrowed over Rs 13,000 crore in the open market by selling securities. And over the years, the debt from external borrowings is approximately Rs 70,000 crore. 
To such attacks, Mr. Yeddyurappa's ultimate weapon is "this is what everybody does". Admittedly, anybody who knows the workings of state politics sees the truth in that stock response.

But the question is, if Mr. Yeddyurappa's party cannot do better than the others where it matters, such as in improving education in the Kannada medium (no, that does not merely mean distributing food or bicycles), ensuring jobs for Kannadigas (no, that does not merely mean getting investment), or in stopping the butchering of unborn Kannadiga lives, what right does it have to squander people's money?

Every new state government has the opportunity to redefine state politics and make it less nauseating, and more worthy of existence. However, every state government till now has thrown that opportunity into the dustbin, and so has Mr. Yeddyurappa's. Just like every other government till now, this government has done nothing more than trying to perpetuate itself using trinklets thrown to people who don't understand that they're being treated as beggars. This time, they're getting Javali. That's the difference.

* Javali (Kannada: ಜವಳಿ): loosely translated as 'cloth'.

Passing off collective selfishness as moral duty

With so much talk of booking people for sedition and curtailing their freedom of speech, here's a passage from an essay of Rabindranath Tagore, titled The Nation:
In former ages, when some particular people became turbulent and tried to rob others of their human rights, they sometimes achieved success and sometimes failed. And it amounted to nothing more than that. But when this idea of the Nation, which has met with universal acceptance in the present day, tries to pass off the cult of collective selfishness as a moral duty, simply because that selfishness is gigantic in stature, it not only commits depredation, but attacks the very vitals of humanity. It unconsciously generates in people's minds an attitude of defiance against moral law. For men are taught by repeated devices the lesson that the Nation is greater than the people, while yet it scatters to the winds the moral law that the people have held sacred.
For the full essay, click here.

Reference to 'the States' in Sec. 124-A IPC

Being used to good documentation, I'm realizing that it's a herculean task to browse through law. Many different versions of each document exist, and it's difficult to date them. The only consolation I have is that I won't catch a dust allergy by browsing these books on the internet!

I tried to find at least one version of Section 124-A somewhere which refers to "Government established by law in the States". It turns out that such a thing exists, and thereby lends support to my analysis in the previous post that the original sedition law was perhaps more decentralized than it is now.

Find below a snapshot of the section from Chapter VI of the IPC from the Bombay High Court's website (for the full document, click here). Going by the foot notes, the text seems to date back to 1950.

As shown in the previous post, "Government established by law in the States" was changed to "Government established by law in India" in 1951, in line with the idea of a strong central polity.

Why is this information interesting? Because it can help trace the slow centralization of the Indian polity from its federal roots under the British. I'm realizing that the sedition law is as faithful a fossil record of that process as any. I'm not trying to argue that sedition laws must be enacted in each state. The very concept is against free speech, and deserves to be eliminated from democracies at all levels of government.

More Majesty than Her Majesty

A few days ago, I had argued that India's sedition law is "clearly a colonial hangover, designed to force public submission to an absolute and 'mathematically supreme' monarch". It turns out that the British themselves probably considered Her Majesty the Queen of England as less 'mathematically supreme' than what the Government of India considers itself.

Section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code has a long history which is partially documented in the change log of the IPC document (download here). Below, I've tried to use the change log to reconstruct the text of the section at different points in history. Note that I haven't found these texts as they appear below anywhere.

Look carefully, since the changes are not very easily visible. In a way, that's part of the problem.

1870: Section 124-A first inserted into IPC.
[Text unknown]
1898: "Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1937: "Her Majesty or the Crown Representative or the Government established by law in the States or British Burma"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Crown Representative or the Government established by law in the States or British Burma, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1948: "Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1950: "the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1951: "the Government established by law in India"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1955: "imprisonment for life"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Readers will note that disaffection against "the Government established by law in the States" was likely a culpable offence under the colonial British rule (during which we think the British could have bulldozed the very idea out), was retained in 1950, but dropped in 1951. Therefore, this could be evidence that British India, run by a colonial power which looted this part of the world, was more decentralized (from as early as 1898) than the Government of India is today.

The dropping of the line in 1951 was probably after, but certainly in line with, the adoption of the Constitution of India which turned the hitherto Federation of States under Her Majesty into a strong central polity under the sovereign Government of India.

Now, I'm not trying to justify the curtailment of free speech by asking for a sedition law at the state level. Everywhere in the world, and at every level of government, free speech is a fundamental human right, and must be respected as such.

I'm only trying to show that the idea of federalism which really existed under the British, was wiped out by independent India, thereby making it more 'mathematically supreme' than Her Majesty the Queen of England was when she ruled over this part of the world. And that seems to show in the career of the sedition law.

Yet another argument for federalism in India.

Oh! She's very, very wrong

Okay, then. Having already argued that it is her right to say what she wants, and that the sedition law should be removed from the IPC since it violates the fundamental human right to free speech, and that any violence should be covered under other applicable laws, I now get to analyzing what Arundhati Roy said in her so-called seditious speech.

Actually, I don't have a long essay to write here, since a little bit of googling showed that she was very, very wrong when she claimed that Kashmir has never been an integral part of India.

What did I hit upon? The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (yes, there is one, and it was adopted on 17/11/1956), which clearly states:
3. Relationship of the State with the Union of India:-The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.
Quod erat demonstrandumArundhati Roy, may I ask you to please get your facts right?

Book all Telangana supporters under 124-A

Can someone tell me why Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao and his friends, who are trying everything possible to break up Andhra Pradesh and form a new Telangana state, are not booked for sedition against the Andhra Pradesh state? Aren't they showing disaffection towards the state?

Shouldn't the entire BJP, then headed by Mr. L.K. Advani, and the Congress under Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, all be put behind bars for the same crime, since all of them have openly supported the breaking up of Andhra Pradesh?

Sure, section 124-A applies only to 'offences against' the Government of India, not state governments, so that's not the question. The question is, why?

If 'exciting disaffection' against the state is a crime punishable with life-imprisonment, why don't the same standards apply at the State level? On what basis has the central government legally assumed the power to alter state boundaries at will, and legally commit sedition, as it were?

Is it simply because the Government of India is a military power whereas the states are not? Or is it because state governments are simply hanging around with no real purpose?

Or, all of a sudden, are we talking about the right to not just free speech, but also free action of politicians, irrespective of whether it means 'disaffection towards' or 'war against' the people of the state?

Of course, this line of questioning opens up a pandora box full of people in the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti trying to annex parts of Karnataka to Maharashtra, supporters of the Kodava state, those asking for a separate North Karnataka state, those who helped form the new states of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, etc.

In reality, all of them have shown 'disaffection to the state'. If the sedition law is retained in the IPC, it must be expanded in scope to cover all the above, in order for the law to remain consistent. But yes, it would continue to be against free speech, and that's a different story.

'Merely because we find it disagreeable'

Defending free speech, an Oct 26 editorial in the Hindu calls IPC Section 124-A (sedition) an 'archaic section' of law, and urges the Government of India to explicitly deny that it is considering pressing sedition charges against Arundhati Roy and others:
Do we lock up or threaten to silence our writers and thinkers with an archaic section of the law that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, merely because they speak their minds?
Also, here's some learning material from the same editorial, especially for those who are not prepared to apply their minds in these matters:
In his classic defence of free speech, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill laid down what is known as the ‘harm principle.' It postulates that the only justification for silencing a person against his will is to prevent him from causing harm to others. It is to this powerful libertarian mid-19th century principle that we owe the idea that free speech cannot be proscribed merely because we find it disagreeable, and that curbs may be imposed only if such expression constitutes a direct, explicit, and unequivocal incitement to violence.
One half of my heart despairs that there are so many in India who don't understand the basics of democracy, but the other jumps with joy that India is not devoid of those who do.

Show affection to me, or else.

Whether Arundhati Roy is right or wrong on the issue of Kashmir, it is a mockery of democracy that her freedom of speech is not being respected. Many are baying for her blood, and many want her behind bars for sedition. But how right is it to punish someone, just because you don't agree with him or her?

When matters can't be settled using the laws of mathematics, it is natural for people to have different viewpoints. It is their fundamental human right to say what they think, under no compulsion or fear. The beauty of democracy is that it allows things to be settled by dialogue. Anything which prevents dialogue is undemocratic.

As a corollary, if it can be proved that Roy intended to cause violence, or that she uses violence herself, there is no doubt that she should be tried for the crime of inciting violence and disrupting the democratic process (which is, as stated above, one of dialogue). But that is is something completely different, and that is not what she is being accused of.

The Telegraph, from Calcutta, writes the following on this basic problem ailing India:
The right to dissent is one of the prized rights of a democracy. But India has for a time been sliding ludicrously from its chosen path, that of a democratic republic, and confusing dissent with incitement to violence and divisiveness.
Yes, it is very important to distinguish between dissent and violence. The paper goes on to argue that people have the right to have their own interpretation of the word 'patriotism'. Very true, at least here in India if not in China or Burma today.

This whole incident is reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi's 1922 trial in Ahmedabad, where he was charged with sedition, under section 124-A IPC, by the British Government. Readers will note that this is eerily the same section number even today. Another evidence to show that not much changed in 1947, save the skin-colour of those sitting in New Delhi.

Gandhi pleaded guilty in 1922, in line with his concept of non-violent non-cooperation with evil, and made the entire British Empire look small in front of his strong ethical stance:
Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection connot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or thing, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.
Gandhi mocked at the sedition law which required him to show affection to the government, irrespective of what his heart feels about it.

The law, as found in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code today, states:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Explanation 1.- The expression" disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.

Explanation 2.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Explanation 3.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
It is a pity that the above law hasn't been updated in spirit after Gandhi's critique, and that the concept of coercing people to unconditionally shower affection on the Government continues.

If it is a crime to "excite disaffection" towards the Government, aren't all opposition parties in a democracy guilty of sedition? Isn't H.D. Kumaraswamy guilty of trying to "excite disaffection" towards B.S. Yeddyurappa's government? Isn't everyone in the media establishment guilty of sedition whenever they point out the wrongdoings of the government and "excite disaffection"?

The sedition law is clearly a colonial hangover, designed to force public submission to an absolute and 'mathematically supreme' monarch. It simply doesn't apply to a democracy in which the people are supposed to be the real rulers. It is the fundamental right of man to speak his mind, even if it "excites disaffection" towards the Government, as long as it is done in a non-violent way.

It is only man who can rectify mistakes which creep into insentient machines such as governments. Man is above machine. It's time India scraps the sedition law and covers any violence under other applicable laws.