India and Bangladesh: Religious Hardships

The heart wrenching nature of how Muslims regularly get preyed on by Hindus in India, is a very different reality to the peaceful existence, which Muslims and Hindus share on a daily basis in Bangladesh

Religious violence, sometimes even bordering on persecution of people religiously different from the Hindu-majority in India is a decades-old barbaric national story. In neighbouring Bangladesh, there has never been any major problem with religious violence, or the inability of ethnic minorities to get along in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Even when conflicts arose between Hindus and Muslims, it would happen during the darkest phases of Bangladesh’s political history, where the entirely wrong set of people were in power, with their vital connections to terrorism and Pakistan – that political period, which largely aimed to taint Bangladesh’s democracy, no longer prevails. It has been many years since democracy has prevailed instead, since the early nineties in fact and the democratic situation in Bangladesh is a lot better than many countries in the world, such as Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and Cambodia.

It is always the wrong sets of people, wishing to appeal to fundamentalism, who attack Hindus in Bangladesh, and it is so hard to not connect these various sets of people as those reliant on Pakistan, or maybe even Sri Lanka, given the two nations’ very bad track record on dealing with homegrown terrorism or homegrown terrorist groups. For India, however, which has had the fortune of successive governments working in favour of democracy in the country, persecution of Muslims has wrongfully been directed by political parties, such as Shiv Sena or the Bhartiya Janata Party, which helmed by Narendra Modi is in power. It is not just that because the state seemingly also has been unable to do a lot to ease Hindu-Muslim tensions in India – it has heinously occurred plenty of times already.

Whenever communal conflict happens in India between Hindus and Muslims, it is always the Muslims who pay a very heavy price – many people even lose their lives. These episodes of violence have made Muslims in India retreat into a ghetto form of living, which first of all is not helping with integration matters with the rest of the population of India built of numerous religions, from Hinduism to Sikhism. Following that up is the reality that these ghettos have made it simpler for rioting parties to prey on Muslims because it is a known fact that many Muslims live in those particular areas of India.

The only source of comfort in these troubling times is perhaps the fact that the situation in India isn’t as bad as in Pakistan, whose population is mostly built up of Muslims. In Pakistan, ethnic violence, with regards to Hindus is horrific: rising homegrown extremism often persecute Hindus, Christians, etc. in the country; the West has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, an extremist political movement headquartered in Pakistan but the state does nothing but deny involvement. Intolerance and awful prejudice towards Hindus in Pakistan is a reality in Pakistan and it’s particularly widespread – they are often called ‘miserly’. Perhaps this intolerance towards Hindus (in Pakistan) should be looked upon as a lesson on how much a South Asian country can really deteriorate. Meanwhile, the harmonity with which Hindus and Muslims exist in Bangladesh is a part of the nation’s societal fabric: Hindus (in Bangladesh) practice much of the religious customs of Hindus in West Bengal (in India), which aren’t very much different from the religious practices of Hindus across India.

The United Kingdom Should Never Apologize To India

The British Raj’s legacy should be treated no differently from any local power

In recent times, it is often a common sight to find the British Raj criticized heavily because of it’s colonial past in India (and Bangladesh). The criticism has been very unjust and wrong because there is no need to have a heightened response to the legacy that the Raj left in those two countries only because what the British Raj did was something that is so rarely visible in the region: in the middle of bad democracy and even worse governance, filled with extreme poverty and mass corruption, there is also the “positive colonization legacy” left by the Raj. The Raj, is an inherently foreign colonial power – it is a power that is largely external to the whole Indian environment and yet the Raj managed to conquer India and rule when so few can even govern appropriately today. It’s indeed a remarkable question of how few can effectively rule India as the Raj did, or even how governance fares for other countries in the Indian subcontinent in comparison to the Raj’s in decades past, in both India and Bangladesh? Naturally, both India and Bangladesh’s former ruler, the British Raj led a flawed democratic project, which bred poverty but that is simply bad governance and nothing else.

If it is in India and Bangladesh’s history that the British Raj colonized the two states (and the Raj was a rather mighty and very lengthy ruler, it’s important to add) why should the British Raj be treated any differently from other former rulers of India, from Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh? It shouldn’t because that would most certainly be a grave wrong to the legacy of the Raj in the Indian subcontinent. There have been outrageous claims made too that the United Kingdom should consider apologizing to India for having colonized India, but for what? Naturally, India was made to look like a very grand state in response to it because the conclusion was derived that the reason why India does not really need to ask for an apology from the United Kingdom is because India is filled with so much goodness and has such pompous (and well-calculated) localized faith in becoming a great force in the world. What is hard to understand is why this illiterate point of view even prevails in India? The British Empire (of which the British Raj is a faction of) had also colonized Sri Lanka and even gave it the title ‘British Ceylon’.

British Ceylon began as a protectorate so it wouldn’t be tough to connect the dots there that the colony had different roots or different beginnings from India and Bangladesh – these two states began as proper colonies and nothing else. So, arguably, India and Bangladesh are real colonies of the British Raj. In today’s times, the Human Development Index for Sri Lanka is always so much higher than India’s. Since 2010, in fact, Sri Lanka is developing better than India but how is that possible because Sri Lanka is India’s neighbour and a part of the Indian subcontinent, in the end? Sri Lanka, at the moment has high human development, whereas both India and Bangladesh have medium human development. If the British Empire or the British Raj really had made India so poor that an apology should be due by the United Kingdom for it’s colonial legacy in the state, how is Sri Lanka doing so much better for it’s human capital? It cannot, under any circumstance, be assumed that British Ceylon did not suffer because of the United Kingdom’s colonization legacy. Arguably, Ceylon had become the richest state in the region because of certain plantations but Ceylon wasn’t happy with the British, even then.

Just because the British had founded the plantations in Ceylon that still exists today, doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka is still profiting from it. The only argument that can exist in it’s favour is that Sri Lanka might be profiting in the sense that the plantation was founded by the British, as in the plantations had those roots but the whole trade now is entirely an independent venture. So the British had in reality only made it ‘possible’ for Sri Lanka to profit from tea plantations but the whole tea plantation trade-work responsible in Sri Lanka now, which is a beneficial point, is singularly a Sri Lankan effort and nothing else. It is not possible to imagine that Sri Lanka can still be benefiting from those roots of the plantations and doing so well economically simply because it is in the fabrics of their history. India, it is already wrongfully claimed, is still poor because of the horrendous British (Raj) ruling in the state (for which an apology should be in order) but then that argument cannot be stretched and applied in another direction for Sri Lanka too; the mere roots of tea plantations (laid down by the British) is not acting as a profiting venture for Sri Lanka in today’s times, at all.

Colonized India, meanwhile, had many problems of its own like India today: India is, at first, always a challenge to govern, and then because of the British Raj, India (and Bangladesh) experienced the Great Depression (along with the rest of the world), and naturally the British Raj at the time had formulated poor policy responses to all the economic problems that had surfaced in India. But should the United Kingdom apologize to India for it? I don’t think so. It is high time that the understanding prevails that the British Raj should be freely criticized like any other governing power of India. Why does there need to be an apology for it because a former governing power may make it’s own mistakes, whether or not it is colonial, can it not? I have never seen such a point of view flung towards one of the most catastrophic mistakes in Indian history, made by Indira Gandhi during her rule – there is most definitely an Indian hypocrisy at play here. The British Raj, should be constructively criticized but it is still a good and grand force in the world and it’s legacy in India and Bangladesh, should not be treated any differently from local powers.

Bangladesh’s Struggle For Independence

Today is Victory Day in Bangladesh. It is a national holiday and a cause for celebration because Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan on this day

The gulf of misunderstanding between India and Pakistan is unfathomable on most days. But Bangladesh, which became independent on December 16, and counts Bengali as the native language isn’t so much different from it’s amicable neighbour in this regard because relationships with Pakistan also continue to remain unfavourable, for various reasons. It’s tough to pinpoint the arguments against those ideas in the Indian subcontinent but naturally after losing the independence war, Pakistan does exude a friendly-cordialness in some quarters with Bangladesh. Bangladesh has always been the opposite of that: it’s tough to strike a chord in bilateral relations because major trade relations exist with the United States and the European Union, not Pakistan.

There have been sovereign visits from both sides but Bangladesh never engages with Pakistan as much, so it would be safe to assume that all of that cannot be counted as anything more than Bangladesh exhibiting it has ‘civilized bilateral ties’ with Pakistan. Countless leaders from Pakistan visited Bangladesh, after losing the war of independence in 1971. Relations were very strained with the state, right after independence but over the years, from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani figures have highlighted that it was a tragedy that many Bangladeshis lost their lives during the war.

It’s still not enough because it does not even take those two leaders to change their colours within an instant – if it’s not disrespectful glee for the former, it’s an ill-informed idea of Bangladesh’s role in the independence war for the latter; Musharraf once stated that he feels India played a pretty significant role in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence from Pakistan but that simply is not true at all because what India had done was simply support Bangladesh in it’s efforts to become independent from Pakistan, when the United Nations could do absolutely nothing more than denounce the human rights violations conducted by Pakistan in Bangladesh during the war.

India had chosen to train Bangladeshi freedom fighters and it was just that because the whole war was fought by Bangladesh and only during the last hours of a very long war did India have the possibility (because of Bangladesh’s freedom fighters’ great liberating work) to conduct an intervention in the state to support Bangladesh’s demand for independence. India’s role in Bangladesh’s Liberation War is not an isolated example of support. It is a well-known fact that there were corners of support in the Democratic Party at the time for Bangladesh’s Liberation War, but recently when John Kerry visited Bangladesh he highlighted that he (along with the state of Massachusetts) had supported Bangladesh’s Liberation War, in favour of Bangladesh winning the war.

Naturally, it’s so tough to comprehend how bilateral relations with Pakistan will ever grow positive there both for India and Bangladesh so it really is better to treat all of this cautiousness as a singular norm; India has many reasons to have difficult relations with Pakistan, as well, and one of the primary ones is the Kashmir dispute it has with Pakistan, which is always proving to be very diplomatically unjust for India.

The Many Faces Of Anushka Sharma

Winner of a Filmfare Award, the 28-year-old actress is igniting Bollywood by breaking the female archtype and portraying characters with depth and a diverse range of emotions

Anushka Sharma and her films

One of the qualities which strike me about Anushka Sharma is her ability to be inquisitive about the most difficult of life’s questions as an actress in Bollywood: gender pay gaps, not enough space to be choosy over roles, and how seasoned actresses aren’t in demand after a point in time. While the first two can still be compartmentalised as feminist and “lack of creativity” issues, the latter is really a sordid state of affairs in the industry because the thought train for seasoned actresses runs in an entirely opposite direction in Hollywood. It’s something I have struggled to understand about Bollywood too because I cannot imagine why seasoned actresses cannot be looked upon as Indian beauties, still very comfortable with drama at the same level as glamour.

Anushka made her debut with a bang in 2008: in the Aditya Chopra film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi she was cast opposite Shahrukh Khan, and it was a part of a three film contract with Yash Raj Films which concluded in 2010. Given her appetite for varied roles, it was tough to spot a lot of it during the earliest phases of her career except for a minor role later with the same banner, which I must say ended up less memorable than I had expected it to be – Sharma’s role in Jab Tak Hain Jaan (2012) was a serious clash with the deeply romantic story of the Yash Chopra film since it was all motorbikes and documentaries but still such a good sign of bravery in essaying a pretty one-of-a-kind role in a traditional Bollywood love story.

However, it did prop up later on in her work: Anushka refused Disney-UTV’s Tamasha (opposite Ranbir Kapoor) because the script was heavily crafted around the male protagonist and chose to portray a sixties’ jazz singer (with her gorgeously elaborate costumes) in the Fox Star Studios Bombay Velvet, released in mid-May last year, which proved to be a commercial muck up. Some of her biggest releases till date always reveal a different kind of heroine: in the Fox Star Studios Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Anushka is already emotionally entangled with the wrong man before coming across the right one but even that (despite the strongest desires that it does) doesn’t really go smoothly by any means, and for the Disney-UTV PK (where she starred opposite Aamir Khan), the young actress played a really good friend of a lost human-like alien.

Anushka, it was surprising to learn, is from an army background. Her life revolved around subjects like an army cantonment, the Kargil war and special services provided to army families, which had managed to open up lots of inexpensive recreation facilities, which otherwise wouldn’t have been so, for her. It was interesting how growing up in that environment had influenced Anushka because it’s such a distant (and not-to-mention different) culture really; she spent a good portion of her childhood in Bangalore, and actually harboured alternative professional inklings: Anushka wanted to be a model and even walked the ramp for Wendell Rodricks in 2007, before pursuing an acting career, with which she is always attaching a greater priority tag to her values, than simply a superb/formulaic, stereotypical female role in a romantic Bollywood film.