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My op-ed in Mail Today: Cultural Liberalism

This was the same piece that was published in Pragati, but enhanced with few hundred words, based on suggestions from Ranjith and Oldtimer. Also thanks to Nitin for first publishing it in Pragati.

Governments usually ban books and movies when they think it has or can upset religious sentiments resulting in a break down in law and order. While that may be the official reason, the ground reality is that it is connected to politics. The Communists became a pot among kettles when they banned Taslima Nasreen’s book Dwikhandito in West Bengal and when Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya ordered the cancellation of the screening of “Taurus”, a film which showed Lenin in a less admirable light. With all these bans, the governments made it clear that they would rather appease than take an honorable stand.

As usual there will be mob violence and selective outrage, but let not the Iranian Ayatollahs and Bangladeshi fundamentalists be our role models. Instead, it is illuminating to read these lines which Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul wrote in the M.F. Hussain verdict, “A liberal tolerance of a different point of view causes no damage. It means only a greater self restraint. Diversity in expression of views whether in writings, paintings or visual media encourages debate. A debate should never be shut out.”[JPG/PDF]

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My Article in Pragati:Towards a cultural liberalism

Governments usually ban books and movies when they think that it has or can upset religious sentiments resulting in a break down in law and order. While that may be the official reason, the ground reality is that it is connected to politics. Thus by banning The Da Vinci Code and The Satanic Verses, the governments made it clear that they can sacrifice liberalism. On finding that James Laine’s Shivaji: Hindu King in Muslim India had remarks that were deemed derogatory to the Maratha hero, the Maharashtra state government banned the book, showing that it is not just minority appeasement at work. Maharashtra’s ban also showed that laws made by local authorities might not be an obvious cure, but opportunities for customised pandering.

Our constitution writers were clear that democracy is meaningless without freedom of speech, and that people should live in a social environment that permits maximum personal and cultural freedom.

Our politicians though, play petty politics with this right. Our governments, independent of their ideology, have indulged in communal and regional politics to satisfy vocal groups. Liberals must oppose such bans and question the judgement behind maintaining such lists

Download Pragati and read the rest.

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My article in Mint: Genetic data refutes theory

In “A battle about history” (Mint,23 May), T.R. Ramaswami said certain dates for the Mahabharat war were suppressed and the Pandavs and Kauravs were outsiders, and even suggested that the Mahabharat and Ramayan took place outside India. Mint has published an article by me which uses genetic evidence to claim that the Aryan Invasion, which even historians like Romila Thapar reject, did not happen.

The article is an edited version of a previous piece published here at varnam.

On the ancestry of Indian populations, research says there is no need to look beyond the borders of South Asia for the paternal heritage of a majority of Indians since the time agriculture began. Also, there is no evidence of people coming through the north-west corridor in massive numbers, indicating a South Asian origin for the Indian caste communities (and not a Central Asian one). And, there is recent shared ancestry between Central Asians and Indians, but it is explained by diffusion of Indian lineages northwards, which means some Indians went to Central Asia and got lucky.[Genetic data refutes theory]

Here are the two papers mentioned in the article

  1. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios by Sanghamitra Sahoo, Anamika Singh et. al.
  2. Deep common ancestry of Indian and western-Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages by T. Kivisild et al.
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