A View From My Disjointed Laptop


  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 7,007 hits
  • Categories

  • site stats

  • Add to Technorati Favorites

Expect Heavy Mango Showers This Summer

Posted by RB Kollannur on February 25, 2014

It is election time once again at Lok Sabha. The results will not be remarkably different from the last. Neither national party will gain majority on its own and will need to rely on the clot of regional parties to govern the nation. But there will be one minor difference to the whole election story – the beginning of the emergence of a new national party.

Or not.

Entry into the elusive upper echelon of the Indian democracy is a difficult and arduous task. The Indian National Congress needed over six decades to reach a semblance of self rule. The Bharatiya Janatha Party needed close to five decades to achieve power in Delhi. But come this May, we will all be keenly watching for the national success of Arvind Kejriwal and his two year old Aam Aadmi Party.

The idea that Kerjriwal has raised is a remarkable one. The Indian populace is frustrated by the political class of the nation. So, Kerjriwal has given them a new one.

It has reached a stage where even Bharat Matha needs pepper spray to escape the rape of her Parliament. Most of us have been couch coaches in the Indian political ballgame, but now many have stepped on to the ground to engage in scrimmage. People from every walk of life, a writer here, a rickshaw driver there, the list of Indians lining up for candidature for AAP is many.

It is phenomenal the way AAP has raised the expectations of everyday man. It is amusing to see my father, a career Communist, despite being a noted businessman, to rave about a party he is still unlikely to vote for. Despite the support AAP has generated among the people, it can only be of any use if they can get it converted into votes.

It is likely that Kejriwal could win the election, if he competed in every single constituency.

But he cannot.

A nascent party lacks the mechanism of a national party to provide societal leaders needed to run for election in every constituency. It is here Horatius will stop an outsider from ruining the carefree lavish of the Indian Parliament.

Every candidate who is not Arvind Kejriwal will come with their own baggage, which will impact their losability.

For example, the front running candidate for my constituency is a writer of decent repute. But will she be able to fully inculcate the persona of Arvind Kerjriwal whom the electorate will probably be more ready to vote for? Will she be able to inspire people like my father, who have had no qualms for supporting a government against whom he had gone on a hunger strike twice, and get them to vote for AAP?

As for me, there will be only a slight modification this time to my vote in last general election, thanks largely to the Supreme Court of India.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A Dammed (In)Dependence

Posted by RB Kollannur on November 29, 2011

We lost our independence in 1947.

For centuries the southern half of what is now the Indian state of Kerala had remained free from foreign rule. Indeed the same could have been said about the northern half as well, had it not been for the military excesses of the usurpers of Mysore, Hyder and Tipu (The fact that it was the British who reaped the benefits of these excesses is a minor side matter).

This changed in 1947 when the British left our shores. Faced with international isolation and the military might of the Republic of India, the princely states of Travancore and Cochin, that ruled the south Kerala, had no other option but to join the Republic.

And thus we signed away our freedom.

Of course being part of a much larger country does have its advantages. India can provide a much larger employment pool and a large market for our products. However, both have been counterproductive since Kerala has continued to support a huge migrant population, while sending many men and women abroad for work. From a trade point of view, with limited resources available to set up a manufacturing industry at a competitive basis, Kerala has remained a heavy consumer of Indian made goods. This situation becomes worse when you factor in the Indian Excise regime. In essence, the people of Kerala have since 1947 been spending a large chunk of their income paying taxes to other states.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for Kerala being part of India is security. As a fragile small state, Kerala has very limited ability to protect itself from invaders. For centuries the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats did the job, but in a nuclear era these have huge limitations. The availability of the Indian military can provide a sufficient deterrent to anyone wishing to attack this tiny state.

Unfortunately, this military might has not been able to prevent “foreign” invasion from across the state line, from where the custodians of Mullaperiyar dam on Kerala soil came. It is laughable to note that a state is not allowed to even manage a property within its own borders.

There are two parts in the Indian periphery, that most of India has shown complete lack of concern or compassion. The first is the North East, which the Indian map reveals to be a child dragged behind by her mother. The second of course is Kerala. As the smallest of the southern four states not many give attention to any plight in God’s Own Country. It has become almost boring to hear about the recurring complaints regarding long awaited central projects, be it the Palakkad coach factory or the Vallarpadam container terminal so on and so forth.

For most of its existence, the Indian state of Kerala has outperformed the rest of India in most societal indicators and for the past two decades, when the economy of India had something worthwhile to write abroad about, Kerala has managed considerably better. As one of the biggest consumers in the country with a chiefly urban population gobbling up Indian products, Kerala has been one of the silent engines for India’s growing economic powerhouse. This happened mostly when India provided scant attention to the affairs of Kerala or did little to support it.

During the years of British dominance in South Asia, Travancore and Cochin had silently gone about their business building an efficient and progressive society. Travancore, especially, had consistently received laurels for her progressive reforms. Fortunately after 1947, the civilian governments continued the reforms of the monarchies, improved on it and extended it to the Malabar region that was part of the British regime. These reforms were important in bringing Kerala to where she is now.

Perhaps the only significant change that India has been able to bring about in Kerala is the loss of the fertile regions of Nagercoil and Kanyakumari to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in place of the then barren unpopulated wasteland in South Kanara.

So when many of Kerala are complaining about an age old problem called Mullaperiyar run by Tamil Nadu despite being in Kerala, I do not expect India to listen (or care).

We lost our independence in 1947.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

The Unholy Christmas

Posted by RB Kollannur on April 16, 2011

In a week or so, Catholics around the world will celebrate the festival of Easter in memory of the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter used to be the primary event in the Christian calendar in its formative centuries. But it is no longer so. The fall of Easter and its subsequent replacement by Christmas tells the story of the early evolution of Christianity.

The tradition of Easter is almost as old as Christianity. Late in second century AD, Christianity was almost drawn into a split over the date of its celebration. Eusebius, author of “The History of the Church” (V.24), describes the Roman bishop Victor excommunicating Christians who celebrated Easter in-line the Jewish festival of Passover. Many Christians from Anatolia followed this tradition while many others preferred to practise it on a Sunday since Jesus was said to have been resurrected on a Sunday. Eventually the opposing views reached a compromise and apparently the order was rescinded. Perhaps as a lasting legacy of this early controversy, even now Christians around the world are undecided on when to celebrate Easter, with the Orthodox churches following the archaic Julian calendar to choose the date.

Nevertheless, the controversy signifies the role Easter played in early Christianity. Christmas, on the other hand, was a virtual unknown. The third century theologian, Origen (revered by Eusebius in his book), is said to have dismissed celebration of birthdays as a symptom of sinners (or self centred monarchs like Pharaohs). It is only in the fourth century that we see the first indication of Christmas with the “Chronography of 354” making a mention of December 25 as the date of birth of Christ. But celebration of Christmas was still far from being mainstream. Easter was still very much at the centre of things, being one of the main discussions in the Council of Nicaea in 325. In fact it was another festival that gained popularity in the fourth century – Epiphany, though given its similarity with Christmas both can be merged together.

Christmas now has become the most widely celebrated festival in the world after the football world cup and dethroned Easter as the premier event in the Christian calendar. This happened because Christmas adopted many characteristics that preachers like Origen or Eusebius would have deemed heretic.

Christmas initially found favour among the Germanic successors of Rome. Charlemagne chose to be crowned as Emperor on the Christmas Day of 800. William the Conqueror would follow suit later in England in 1066. Origen’s words do indeed seem prophetic seeing the kingly association of Christmas. Practices like Christmas carol and even lesser known ones like Yule log and Christmas ham (Popular in the western world) were borrowed from the Norse winter festival of Yule. The Christmas tree is said to signify a Christian saint cutting down a tree sacred to the Norse to demean its importance among the Norse. But the fact that the tree retained a religious significance indicates that it remains as an allusion to the Donar Oak (The sacred tree of Thor that was cut down) or even Yggdrasil, the world tree of Norse mythology. The most popular of the Christmas symbols, Santa Claus, is a reference to the Norse god, Odin, represented in the form of Sinterklaas, one of the base characters of Santa Claus. All these adoptive characteristics made Christmas more popular among the Germanic and the Norse tribes since it made Christianity a continuation of their earlier traditions, instead of adoption of a new one. It may be worth noting though that among the Orthodox churches, where the Germans and the Norse had little influence, Easter still retains its primary position.

What also needs to be noted is that many of these customs where first adopted by the people themselves and not by the Church. The merger of Yule with Christmas was brought upon by the Norwegian king, Haakon I, who converted Norway to Christianity but realized Yule’s importance among his people. Later these customs spread across the Christian world. Now, the word “Yuletide” has become synonymous with the time of Christmas. The practice of Christmas tree was popularized by traders in the Baltic nations. Santa Claus, in its current form, was created by cartoonist Thomas Nast (also responsible for Uncle Sam) and got later popularized around the world by Coca Cola. Now, Santa is one of the most recognized characters in the world.

None of these movements were initiated by the Church and so were beyond their control. As a result, Christmas flourished as the festival of Christians while Easter dwindled as the festival of the Church.

Though the causes for the rise in popularity of Christmas is fairy evident, the reason for Christmas becoming a Christian festival remains unclear, especially since it is likely to have been condoned by the theologians of early Christianity. This shift of opinion on Christmas can be explained by a singular event in fourth century, an event which changed the character of Christianity as well.

In 313, Roman Emperors Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan allowing Christians to practice their religion. After around three centuries of condemnation by Rome, Christianity was finally allowed a reprieve. The pro Christian stance of Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion among Romans, though it was only in 380 that it became the official Roman religion. But by then, the Empire had become mostly Christian.

Christianity had drawn its earliest followers from the failed states of Syria, Judea and Egypt, which provided the main power centres of early Christianity – Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. All these were conquered by Rome around the life of Jesus (Syria – 63 BC, Judea – 6 BC, Egypt – 30 BC). The Roman defeat brought a religious vacuum to these regions. The development of various Gnostic and Christian sects occurred during this period because of this vacuum. Rome for its part incorporated the customs and traditions of these regions to ease conversion to the Roman cause. It had become a common practice for Rome to incorporate the gods of their conquered regions to their pantheon. The success of this policy can be seen by the popularity of Syrian god Elagabalus and Egyptian goddess Isis within the Roman religion in 3rd century AD.

Having faced a considerable reversal to their nationalistic future, it is likely that Christianity, with its emphasis of salvation and after life, came as an attractive alternative to these people. In addition, Christianity came with the absolution of sins with baptism and the promise of a heavenly after life. Martyrdom was glorified and resurrection after a sacrificial death was celebrated with Easter. For people who had lost everything to the Roman might, Christianity seemed the perfect answer and Easter its cornerstone.

This all changed with the switch by Constantine. It was no longer the religion of the downtrodden, but the religion of the victorious. Christians were now the most powerful people in the world and the Roman Christians had a lot to look forward in life. A religion emphasizing on death and after life would prove to be a dampener. To remain relevant to its new followers, Christianity needed to evolve.

This began with the displacement of Easter and the focus shifting from Christ’s death to his birth. It is likely that the negative sentiment about celebrating birthdays shared by Origen still remained, so it was Epiphany that gained initial popularity. But with memory of pre Constantinian Christianity fading, Christmas became numero uno.

Additionally, the Constantinian shift had another lasting impact on Christianity. As seen earlier, Christmas adopted the customs of its new converts to help conversion. This is an inference to its Roman predecessor. When Constantine made Roman religion Christianity, what he actually did was make Christianity a Roman religion.

PS: I have tried to expand on the impact of Constantine’s decisions and their reasons in my fictional story of the death of Crispus, son of Constantine – The Last Caesar.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Failure of Gandhigiri

Posted by RB Kollannur on April 11, 2011

“Sometimes, a vaccination is just what the good doctor ordered”.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Non Violence / Non Cooperation Movements have received laurels from around the world. But what is left unsaid is that they were also complete failures. That most people have chosen to ignore it may be an indication of the need for humanity to believe such a movement could actually be successful.

Gandhi started his “Gandhigiri” with the Champaran Satyagraha in 1918. He would continue with similar movements for the best part of the next three decades. While Gandhi was laying seeds for his epic struggle for independence, in the farthest corner of Europe another independence movement was underway. Ireland, another British colony, was setting themselves up to throw away their British masters. But unlike Gandhi they chose a more violent method. Though it started disastrously in 1916, by 1919 Michael Collins was organising a successful guerrilla war.

While India, with its massive resources and populace, chose to have a passive three decade long struggle, Ireland chose the aggressive way and became independent in 1921.

The duration of the Gandhi’s movement is an indication of its failure. Still, there would be some relief had it actually managed to gain India its independence. In that also, it failed. Fortunately for Gandhi, events in Europe came to his rescue.

Germany had seen a major fall from power in the nineteenth century. Their desire for former glory led to two world wars and a new world order. Hitler’s forces had so devastated Britain and France that both had to let go off their imperial ambitions for a secure future despite winning the war. Britain no longer had the ability to maintain their vast colonial empire given the economic devastation of its home country. The dissolution gradually began with the people of UK kicking their war leader Winston Churchill out of the Parliament and replacing him with a more progressive minded Attlee. Over the next four decades, the many colonies of Britain around the world gradually received their freedom. The French would follow suit, albeit reluctantly, after their African colonies took to war. The French turned to their WWII leader, Charles de Gaulle, who promptly settled with the colonies.

India, the largest of the British colonies in population, was the first colony to be let go. Though Gandhi struggled for three decades for independence, it was purely fortuitous that India actually became independent. The best legacy of the failure of Gandhi’s movement is the Partition of India. Seeing what they perceived to be differences between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority of India, they decided to divide India into two. Gandhi was, of course, of the counter opinion. But since he had very little role in India receiving independence, he had very little say in what transpired. In Britain’s defence, they did leave India in a far more united and stable state than when they arrived. Their insistence on the princely states to join either of the countries also went a long way in ensuring that unity. States like Kashmir, Hyderabad and Travancore who nursed independent ambitions would not have been able to remain so without British or international support.

In short, Gandhi’s Non Violence / Non Cooperation Movement reaped little dividend to its followers. It remains to be seen whether its emulators will be similarly unsuccessful.

Non violence may seem to be a noble goal to chase, but violence is not without its place in life. The bacteria, which have evolved beyond the antibiotics that have been protecting humanity over the past century, will certainly tell you, that it is the genocide of their kin that made them better living beings. Sometimes, a vaccination is just what the good doctor ordered.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

A Suburb Named Kerala

Posted by RB Kollannur on March 23, 2011

“Albeit the country is but small, yet it is so fulfilled with people, that it may well be called one town from Mount D’ely to Coulam” – Duarte Barbosa, c. 1516.

The land the Portuguese writer is elucidating is the coast line of the Indian state of Kerala, from the town of Kannur in the north to Kollam in the south. If we extend this observation to the entire state of Kerala, we can see that, half a millennia later, Barbosa’s words remain true as ever.

The Early Years

It was the spice trade that brought Barbosa and the Portuguese to Kerala. The Arab traders and the Italian city states held a virtual monopoly in it and the Portuguese intended to break that monopoly. He would later accompany Magellan around the world but die on the way in Philippines. The “town” of Kerala that Barbosa saw was made of four city states – Kannur, Kozhikode, Kochi and Kollam. These city states competed amongst themselves, at times violently, over the lucrative spice trade. These rivalries, however, remained independent of influence from the rest of the subcontinent. The Western Ghats provided a natural barrier to a large scale deployment of force from the other southern states (They did occasionally send, often successful, sorties to Kerala, but a meaningful annexation was difficult).

Insulated from the continuous warfare of the subcontinent and helped by the fertile land of the region, Kerala progressed in numbers and its economy flourished (which probably led Barbosa to make that comment). Indeed it can be said that while the Western Ghats kept Kerala away from rest of the subcontinent, the allure of the spices brought the rest of the world to Kerala further enriching its people, both in culture and economy.

However, the southern states did have considerable influence over the culture of Kerala, especially the Tamil nation, of which the people of Kerala originally were. The unknown author of “The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” (c. 100 AD) talks of two kingdoms in this region – Cerabothra (Cheras) and Pandian (Pandyas) and their main ports of Muziris (Near Kochi) and Nelcynda (Perhaps Kollam). These were ruled from Karur and Madurai both in present day Tamil Nadu. The influence of the Tamil culture was ever present in those days. Silappathikaram, a Tamil epic dated around this time feature the three Tamil nations – Chola, Chera and Pandya, prominently.

But this was a time when the people of Kerala had not yet branched off from the Tamil people. Malayalam, the language of Kerala, is believed to have developed much later, in the sixth century. By eighth century the Chera kingdom had re-formed in Mahodayapuram near Kochi, while in the extreme South the Ay kingdom ruled as feudatories of the Pandya in Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram. Muziris remained as the chief port in the region till it got flooded in 1341 and disappeared from history. Over time the Chera kingdom also disappeared and the city states that Barbosa came across replaced it (Ay kingdom merged with Kollam to form Venad).  The Dutch and the English would soon follow the Portuguese and an uneasy trade alliance was formed between the city states and the mercenary trading companies.

This would be destroyed by the aggression of the usurpers of Mysore, Hyder Ali and Tipu, which eventually resulted in the ouster of the northern kingdoms by the British East India Company. The Southern half however remained independent from British India, but as autonomous princely states within the British Empire.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the current state of Kerala was divided into three; two princely states – Travancore (erstwhile Venad) and Kochi, and the Malabar district of the Madras Presidency of British India*. The society was heavily based in agriculture (and to a lesser extend trade), but it remained thickly populated. The twentieth century would bring considerable change to the region, but in many ways it continued to remain the same.

The Making of an Ideal Development Model

Chart A: Density of Population 1871-2001 (Persons per sq km) **

Kerala has always been a highly populated region. The early twentieth century saw a considerable increase in population making it more populous than even Bengal, perhaps an indication of the improving healthcare of Kerala. This huge increase in population, however, put a tremendous stress on the society and its resources. Fertile land remained the most important resource, but its importance was reduced with the increase of population. As land got divided over generations, its ability to support its owners reduced.

From 1921 to 1941, the population had grown by 50%. The pressure of population on land was such that in early 1940s large communities of people, mainly Christians, migrated out of Travancore and settled in unpopulated tracts of Malabar. Though this provided a temporary release of pressure, there was no escape from the population explosion that happened across the world after WWII. By the 1970s, the population of 1940s had almost doubled. It soon became difficult for the people of Kerala to depend purely on land for their life.

Despite the slowly choking economic growth, this was a period that saw tremendous societal progress. The Kingdom of Travancore led the way in social reforms receiving commendations from British India on its administration. Kochi did not lag far behind. Marthanda Varma (1729-1758), the architect of the Thiruvananthapuram, initiated the reforms in Travancore, while Shakthan Tampuran (1790-1805), the architect of Thrissur, initiated the reforms in Kochi. The latter was responsible for bringing traders to Thrissur to develop the economy of the region. A century and a half later, Thrissur was lauded for its organized banking system. Early in the nineteenth century the then Queen of Travancore, Gowri Lakshmi Bai (1810-1813), took personal initiative to introduce vaccination to her state. Her son, Swathi Thirunal (1813-1846), established many education institutions. Early in the twentieth century, Rajarshi (1895-1914), King of Kochi, invested the Royal Treasury to bring railway to Kochi. This was soon extended to Travancore a decade later.

By the early twentieth century, both the Kingdoms of Travancore and Kochi had developed excellent educational and health infrastructure. However, not all were freely accessible. Racism, like in rest of India, was strong in Kerala as well. Although it would continue to persist to the latter part of the century, the Dalit movement led by Ayyankali ensured that the lower castes received access to education in line with the rest of the society. There was resistance among the Hindu community but this was quickly brought down. The prevalence of Christian missionary backed educational institutes would have also made education accessible to everyone. Kerala always had a substantial Christian community since the arrival of the Portuguese, who came with a specific directive to convert people to Christianity, unlike their English and Dutch counterparts.

When the British chose to leave India in 1947 after the pyrrhic war of WWII, Kochi was the first nation to join India. The then King of Kochi put forward a proposal to have a united state of Malayalam speaking people. The King of Travancore was initially reluctant to join, and for good reason. It is possible that there were apprehensions about the continuance of the societal reforms taken by him and his predecessors. Fortunately and perhaps as a confirmation of those reforms, the new state of Kerala took special interest in continuing the educational and healthcare reforms of the princely states and extend it to the Malabar region as well. The success of the earlier reforms can be inferred by the fact that it could provide the personnel necessary to support such a state wide expansion.

In the 1970s, the Kerala society received much praise from the intelligentsia around the world for its societal indicators. These indicators were a result of a century of enlightened rule by the Kings of Travancore and Kochi and their continuation by the Government of Kerala. The rest of India for its part intervened very little in this development. However, economic growth continued to be out of reach and the state faced a worrying future with its main resource, fertile land, not enough to provide for its people. It was the time for the people of Kerala to show their mettle.


For centuries, people from around the world came to Kerala for its spices. But, there is a very limited record of people from Kerala going around the world. Perhaps it was because the people were well supported by the land. With that no longer possible, Malayalis had to search elsewhere for their future.

Gulf Boom and Economic Growth

Kerala has an ancient connection with the Arab world. Arab traders held a monopoly of trade with Kerala for close to a millennium, before the interference of European colonialists. Kerala also has a proud Muslim tradition dating back to the days of the Prophet, much longer than the rest of the country. By the 1970s, propelled by the oil trade, the Arab nations were riding high on economic growth. However, they were sparsely populated and suffered a considerable shortage of manpower. Kerala, on the other hand, had a surplus of educated manpower. The historic trade connection and the Muslim tradition helped meet demand with supply, resulting in the Gulf boom of Kerala. The cost of living differences allowed a person earning in Gulf to provide for a larger family in Kerala. The homeward remittances also trickled down to trade and provided impetus to economic growth.

The Gulf boom had some unintended consequences as well. It had a negative impact on the growth of the manufacturing sector. It was already reeling under trade union activism in the state brought upon by a well aware working force. The opportunity of a much better job abroad (or even being already supported by somebody abroad) did not improve this either. It also took off pressure on fertile land as many former farmers also went abroad. Many took opportunity of this to convert farmland to real estate and gain profits. Many chose to leave their fields fallow and focus away from agriculture (This was eventually reined in by the government enforcing cultivation on agricultural land. If left fallow, it would be taken over by the government). But on the whole, the Gulf boom provided the momentum Kerala  needed. It also meant that Kerala progressed from an agriculture based economy to a service based economy, without going through the manufacturing phase.

The Story Now

Kerala has come a long way since the Gulf boom. In the 1970s, Kerala had excellent educational infrastructure, but it was mainly limited to basic education. Technical and professional studies still lagged behind. This was addressed with the privatization of higher education in the early 2000s, right in time for the children of the Gulf “veterans” made their way into college. Jobs in Kerala were still few, but the economic growth of India provided adequate employment opportunities for the new batch of better educated Keralites, which they gracefully took.

Many still find employment in the Gulf regions, but the cost of living difference has since been corrected. Most, however, find employment within the state or in India. The government still continues to provide employment to large sections of the state, but many are employed in trade, exports and tourism. Agriculture has lost its initial importance, as was seen in a recent uproar in the declassification of rubber, tea and coconut cultivators as farmers because it covered a large chunk of the farmers of the state. Exports continue its historical role in Kerala, while tourism has brought in additional revenue. The relief on land meant that the natural beauty of the region remained unexploited for the welfare of the people. This in turn proved to be a boon for the tourism industry.

Although the economy is not as dependent on homeward remittances like the previous generation, there is still considerable investment by the Malayali Diaspora in the state, in the form of real estate. Trade has grown as well, especially in sarees and gold jewellery, perhaps an indication of husbands working away from home trying to keep their wives happy.

Chart B: Per Capita Income per State (Source: RBI)

Economy of Kerala has mostly grown in-line with the bigwigs of the Indian economy; Maharashtra and Gujarat. States like West Bengal and Bihar which have a comparable density of population to Kerala have fallen behind considerably. For a state with limited resources to continuously outperform its peers is of worthwhile significance. More heartening to see is the poverty numbers which reveal that the spread of wealth is even. There is no accumulation of wealth like in the case of Maharashtra. A curious side note is that Kerala rely on migrants from other state for its low end labour. A generation ago, it was performed by Tamil immigrants. Now, Bihari, Bengali and Oriya migrants monopolize it. Despite having a considerable surplus of people, it is still dependent on migrant labour.

Table A: Poverty Estimates on URP Consumption (Source: Planning Commission of India)










A century ago, fertile land was Kerala’s best resource. Now it is its people. The Kings of Travancore and Kochi laid the foundation for a strong society, which the government of Kerala carried forward. But it still required the people of Kerala to step up to work. And they did. Even then things are not all rosy. There are still very concerning aspects about the Kerala society like the high alcoholism, high suicide rates and well, of course, the antics of Sreesanth (Although high alcoholism can be explained by the tradition of consumption of toddy among the people. Ezhavas, the largest community in Kerala, were traditionally the makers of toddy). Like in 1970s, Kerala still do not have the resources to support its own people. Though the population growth has been reined it, density remains high. Keralites have to rely on themselves to make their own path. All the government can still do is provide the tools for it.

Government of India, for its part, had very little to add to Kerala’s progress. Given the situation of the rest of the country, especially the Hindi states, it is not surprising. However, Keralites still rely on its bigger “city neighbour” for defence and, more importantly, employment.

For most of its history, the people of Kerala have been in control of their destiny. For their sake, it continues to be so. That is the Kerala story.

* The Nagercoil district of Travancore was transferred to Tamil Nadu, while parts of South Kanara district of Madras Presidency were added to Kerala.

** The data for 1871-1911 was taken from Wikipedia, 1911-1941 from Census of India, 1951-2001 from India Budget.  From 1871-1911, Kerala includes the data of its three contingents – Travancore, Kochi and Malabar, but for 1921-1941 the data for Malabar has not been considered. But since there is no remarkable fluctuation between 1941 and 1951 data, it is likely that Malabar grew in correlation with the other parts of Kerala. Pre independence Tamil Nadu is based on Madras Presidency, while Bengal contains Bengal Presidency (With Princely States) before independence and only the West Bengal state post independence. Also, Burma and Aden has been excluded from India given above.


A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to Fall of Vijayanagar – KA Nilakanta Sastri
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea – Translated by Wilfred Schoss

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

A referendum for Kashmir

Posted by RB Kollannur on January 24, 2011

Lord Louis Mountbatten was faced with a difficult job. He had been tasked with giving up an Empire. His great grandmother, Queen Victoria, had proclaimed herself the Empress of India in 1876. Now faced with the pyrrhic victories of two world wars, the “no longer Great” Britain had to let go of its colonial empire to revitalize her society.

United Kingdom no longer had the ability to run a vast colonial empire. The Indian subcontinent, by far the largest colonial chunk before Africa, South East Asia and the Caribbean, had to be the first to be let go.

The subcontinent had a rather unique administrative structure. Ignoring the periphery (Burma and Ceylon), the main part of the subcontinent was divided into two – British India (Ruled by him as the Governor General) and the autonomous princely states (where he represented the Crown of England as the Viceroy). But it was still far lesser than the eighteenth century when the subcontinent was riddled with more kingdoms than Germany. The British had assimilated many of them, building the largest nation in the subcontinent since the time of Asoka, but still many remained. However, they had accepted the suzerainty of the English ruler resulting in a formal political unity across the region.

But with British India gaining independence, allowing the princely states to continue will complicate things, both administratively and politically. Being a princeling of the German House of Hesse, the failure of the German Confederation remained as a grim reminder. The princely states cannot be allowed to become independent, allowing for war and conquest in the future. An ultimatum will have to be given.

Join or else…

India and Pakistan became independent in August 1947. Nominally, still under the rule of the English King George VI (No longer an Emperor), India removed its final colonial shackles on January 26 1950 by becoming a Republic (Pakistan would do the same much later, in 1956, owing to lack of political unity after the death of Jinnah). The princely states faced with isolation from India and Pakistan (and United Kingdom) eventually chose to join either. However, disputes arose about few princely states; Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. Junagadh opted for India after a contentious referendum, while Hyderabad was occupied by Indian forces. Kashmir went to war.

After the war, India and Pakistan controlled parts of Kashmir. Legally, India had a better right over Kashmir as the King of Kashmir had formally acceded to India. However, a similar accession by the ruler of Junagadh was ignored by India. UN, in the meantime, resolved to call for a referendum in Kashmir after Pakistan removes their forces. Neither happened. India, for its part, conducted elections for representatives from the people of Kashmir, who later confirmed the King’s accession to India. However, this was not accepted by the UN since it had called for a referendum on accession under the auspices of the UN.

Sixty years have gone since India became a Republic. The voice of the people of Kashmir on the choice of their country still goes unheard. India has been a stellar example for democracy in the world (despite the bloats of conquest of Portuguese India and the Indira Gandhi dictatorship). But the people of Kashmir are still to choose whether they want to be part of it. Many have died on both sides on the border for Kashmir. But no one knows whether the Kashmiris value those sacrifices or whether they died in vain.

Oddly enough, a political party in India seems adamant in asserting Indian authority over Kashmir without even bothering to ask that question to the people of Kashmir. Yes, they apparently do respect democracy and the rights of minorities.

Internationally, Kashmir still remains disputed.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

From Charles Martel to Barack Obama and George W Bush – A Family Tree

Posted by RB Kollannur on January 18, 2011

It was an odd footnote on a Wikipedia article about the Family of Barack Obama, which I went through after reading Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” couple of years back, that got me working on this little project. It mentioned Obama and his predecessor, George W Bush, were cousins. 10th cousins twice removed, in fact, but cousins still. Looking further, I came across a citation saying both were descended from Edward I who ruled England from 1272 to 1307. Oddly enough, the first thought that came to my mind seeing that was whether Edward I was descended from Charlemagne. It did not take me long enough it find a reference on Wikipedia of the same. One of the ancestors of Edward I was a daughter from the House of Vermandois, which was an illegitimate line that descended from Charlemagne. Going further I decided to look up at the known descendants of Charles Martel, (Charlemagne’s grandfather, which I later extended to Arnulf of Metz, the earliest known patrilineal ancestor of Charlemagne) who had famously stopped the Muslim conquest of Europe near Tours in 732 AD and found that most of the European monarchs and nobility (and a few Persian Shahs) can claim to be his descendants. Of course, the main source of the data is Wikipedia, so the data remains largely unverified and unconfirmed, though I did refer couple of other websites for references as well.

The project today is woefully incomplete, due to the large amount of data to go through. My main focus anyway was to get a better understanding of second millennium Europe. And of course, make the connection from Charles Martel to Obama and Bush. Though I could not find the connection that made Obama and Bush eleventh cousins and descendants of Edward I, I did come across a connection that made them twenty sixth cousins and descendants of Henry I of England (who in turn was the great great great grandfather of Edward I) on Genealogics.

From Arnulf of Metz to Amice Mainwaring

From Amice Mainwaring to Barack Obama & George W Bush

On the whole it gives an idea of how inter-related the world really is, though not unsurprising since there is sufficient commentary about inter breeding royals (especially in the Spanish House of  Trastamara and its successors, the Spanish Habsburgs, who had the habit of marrying cousins and nieces till they died out of impotence, allegedly, after three centuries). On a side note, it reminds of Dan Simmons Ilium series where there is an Earth lived in by clones of the progeny of a demented ruler. Arnulf of Metz, however, was not demented and in fact was given sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church and served as the Bishop of Metz after having sired two sons (One of them became a Bishop of Metz later). It is also just as likely to have similar lines coming from the English king Alfred the Great or the Saxon leader Widukind given the inter marriages amongst their descendants, though I have not checked.

Like I said earlier, the woefully incomplete file in its current form is available here.

You will need Freemind 0.8 to open the file.

Notable Descendants*

Seventh Century (Updated on 2011-05-01)

Arnulf of Metz – Bishop of Metz (614-629)
Pepin Heristal – Mayor of Palace of Austrasia (680-714); Neustria (687-695); Burgundy (687-695)
Clovis III – King of the Franks (691-695)
Childebert III – King of the Franks (695-711)
Drogo – Mayor of Palace of Burgundy (695-708)
Grimoald II – Mayor of Palace of Neustria (695-714); Burgundy (708-714)

Eighth Century (Updated on 2011-05-01)

Dagobert III – King of the Franks (711-715)
Theudoald – Mayor of Palace of Austrasia (714); Neustria (714); Burgundy (714)
Charles Martel – Mayor of Palace of Austrasia (714-741); Neustria (717-741); Burgundy (717-741)
Carloman – Mayor of Palace of Austrasia (741-747)
Pepin the Short – Mayor of Palace of Austrasia (741-751); Neustria (741-751); Burgundy (741-751), King of the Franks (751-768)
Charlemagne – King of the Franks (768-814); Lombards (774-814), Holy Roman Emperor (800-814)
Carloman I – King of the Franks (768-771)
Pepin – King of Italy (781-810)
Louis I the Pious – King of Aquitaine (781-814); Franks (814-840), Holy Roman Emperor (814-840)
William Gellone – Count of Toulouse (790-811)
Charles the Younger – King of the Franks (800-811)

Ninth Century (Updated on 2011-05-01)

Bernard – King of Italy (810-818)
Pepin I – King of Aquitaine (817-838)
Louis the German – King of Bavaria (817-840); Germany (840-876)
Lothair I – King of Italy (818-840); Franks (840-843); Middle Francia (843-855), Holy Roman Emperor (840-855)
Pepin II – King of Aquitaine (838-851)
Charles the Bald – King of France (843-877); Italy (875-877); Aquitaine (851-855), Holy Roman Emperor (875-877)
Louis II – Holy Roman Emperor (855-875), King of Italy (855-875)
Lothair II – King of Lorraine (855-869)
Charles – King of Lower Burgundy (855-863)
Charles the Child – King of Aquitaine (855-866)
Louis the Stammerer – King of Aquitaine (866-879); France (877-879)
Odo – Count of Orleans (866-888), King of France (888-898)
Berengar I – Margrave of Friuli (874-887), King of Italy (887-889); (894-895); (902-923), Holy Roman Emperor (887-889); (894-895); (899-900); (902-924)
Carloman – King of Bavaria (876-880); Italy (877-879), Holy Roman Emperor (877-879)
Louis the Younger – King of Saxony (876-882); Bavaria (880-882); Lorraine (880-882)
Charles the Fat – King of Swabia (876-882); Italy (879-887); France (884-888); Germany (882-887); Lorraine (882-887); Aquitaine (884-888), Holy Roman Emperor (879-887)
Louis III – King of France (879-882)
Carloman II – King of France (879-884); Aquitaine (879-884)
Baldwin II – Count of Flanders (879-918)
Guy III of Spoleto – Margrave of Camerino (880-894), Duke of Spoleto (883-889), King of Italy (889-894), Holy Roman Emperor (889-894)
Pepin – Count of Vermandois (886-893)
Arnulf of Carinthia – King of Germany (887-899); Italy (896-897); Lorraine (887-895), Holy Roman Emperor (896-897); (898-899)
Louis the Blind – King of Lower Burgundy (887-928); Italy (900-902), Holy Roman Emperor (900-902)
Ranulf – King of Aquitaine (888-890)
Robert I – Count of Orleans (888-923), King of France (922-923)
Rudolph I – King of Upper Burgundy (888-912)
Lambert II of Spoleto – King of Italy (891-894); (895-896); (897-898), Holy Roman Emperor (892-894); (895-896); (897-898)
Ratold – King of Italy (896)
Zwentibold – King of Lorraine (898-900)
Charles the Simple – King of France (898-922); Lorraine (911-923)
Louis the Child – King of Germany (899-911); Lorraine (900-911)




The Peerage

* I have made the file with the view to identify the current descendants of Arnulf of Metz / Charles Martel. So I have accepted certain questionable genealogies if I found a better referenced connection later in the hierarchy like the ancestry of Robert I of France has been included since both he and his subsequent generations married into descendants of Arnulf of Metz. For regnal years, I have relied more on de facto rule, especially in post Carolingian Holy Roman Empire.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Auctioning the “uncapped” players

Posted by RB Kollannur on January 12, 2011

The hectic IPL4 Auction is finally over. Lot of money has been spent. Now negotiations are going on to decide on the futures of the “uncapped” players, who form the backbone of an IPL team. They were earlier slated to be auctioned off along with the international players, but a late rule change by the BCCI meant that they will not be part of the IPL 4 Auction. Their reason – there were too many of them; which is a fair point considering the drab ending the auction saw in the latter half of 9 January 2011, when most of the players put on auction were of no interest to the franchisees.

BCCI then set norms for negotiations, with a three slab rate based on experience of the players in domestic cricket. The players would have freedom of choice of team, but no freedom over money. Given the demand for certain domestic players like Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu, there have been concerns that there will be “inducements” to get them to sign for a team. It will be a difficult task for IPL (and perhaps the Income Tax authorities) to monitor and ensure fairness in the process of signing the uncapped players.

Now, how can you ensure that the “uncapped” players will be signed on completely legitimately? Simple. By auctioning them, provided IPL chooses to do so. No. Not the entire block of 1000 odd players that BCCI feels will be eligible for “uncapped” status. Only the ones that elicit offers from multiple franchisees. This is how to go about it.

1)    Request all teams to make their offers. These offers will be limited by the budget remaining with each team post auction, the three tier slab set by BCCI for the “uncapped” players and but not the number of players each team can purchase. This will be a long list, where you can expect some players to be shortlisted to go to other another team, much like a B school short list.
2)    Conduct an auction for the players who have received multiple requests. The ones who have received only one offer are put on hold. During the auction, only the teams that have opted for these players can bid for them. For example, if RCB puts forward Manish Pandey in their “uncapped” list and no Ambati Rayudu, then RCB can bid for the former, but not the latter even if they are both in the auction. Of course, RCB can shortlist both, even if they are looking to keep Rayudu as a backup if they miss out on Pandey.
3)    Once the first round of auction is done, we turn our attention to the players who have received only one offer. If their prospective employers still have money left in their budget to sign all of them, they can do so. Otherwise, invite a second list and repeat the process till the budgets of the teams and the number of players per team are exhausted.

Posted in Cricket | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hindutva and the Romans

Posted by RB Kollannur on September 21, 2009

(Author’s Note: A really long post, Maybe I should have split it up into three or four parts.)

“It is said that God created man in His own form. But what is not said is that man created God in his own.”

A long, long time ago a city was founded. East of the River Tiber flowing through the Italian peninsula. The founders  –  two brothers, princes of the Latin city of Alba Longa, and descendents (as per Virgil’s Aeneid, maybe some retconning of history / mythology (?)) of the Trojan prince, Aeneas. The city would eventually grow on to dominate the affairs of the world for close to two millennia, albeit in different forms – military, governance and religion.

The city, of course, is Rome, founded as per legends in 753 BC, on seven hills east of the aforementioned river.

It was ruled by Romulus and Titus Tatius, the King of the Sabine City of Cures (Wiki “Rape of the Sabines” for details) in its formative years. After their deaths, Numa Pompilius, the son-in-law of Titus Tatius, would be elected king (Yes, kings do get elected now and then, and need not always be dynastic like in India).

He is also credited with having organized the religion of Rome into an institution that would eventually provide the base for the Roman Catholic Church.

Initially, the Roman religion borrowed heavily from the Greek and the Etruscan religions. During the years of Numa Pompilius (717-673 BC), there were three major deities in the Roman Pantheon – Jupiter (God of Sky and Thunder), Mars (God of Agriculture) and Quirinus (God of War). Please note that Mars is mentioned as the God of Agriculture and not of War, which he would later become when he is more closely associated with Ares, the Greek God of War. The Roman Kingdom (753-509 BC) was largely agriculturist in nature and when the city became more militaristic in its Republican era (673-27 BC)., even the Gods changed portfolios.

These three Gods (What is with Gods and the number three?) and some of the lesser deities had priests associated with them – flamines, city officials and a post created by the aforementioned Numa. Numa also created the office of the Pontifex Maximus, who would eventually become the head of the Roman religious institution in the Roman Republic. The College of Pontiffs was also established during this time period and became the authoritative body of the religion.

Included in this College among others were the Pontifex Maximus, the flamines, the Rex Sacrorum, who would be the nominal substitute for the King in the Republic (which of course did not have a monarch and for that matter a solitary head of state, except in exceptional situations) chairing religious sacrifices, and the Vestal Virgins, an office that Numa had “borrowed” from the religion of Alba Longa.

Vestal Virgins were not the only practice that the Roman religion borrowed from other religions. In fact it was a compilation of all the religions it touched.

Rome absorbed the deities and religious customs of the lands just as they adsorbed those lands. With the absorption of the nearby Etruscan cities (The last being the city of Veii in 396 BC), the Roman Triad changed, to mirror the Etruscan one – Jupiter, Juno (Protector of the city and Jupiter’s wife) and Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom) as against Tinia (God of Thunder, among other things), Uni (Patron of the city of Veii and Tinia’s wife) and Menrva (Goddess of War and Wisdom). Juno and Minerva were borrowed from the Etruscan Uni and Menrva, though the latter lost the War portfolio to Mars (Maybe Quirinus, not sure if he was still relevant in 396BC). Later conquests of Greece, Egypt and Syria would induct their Gods to the Roman Pantheon as well. Isis, Egyptian Goddess of fertility and El-Gabal, Syrian Sun God, would have their tryst with fame in the later Roman Empire.

All this Borg like absorption of religions and changes in divinity may tend to be confusing to the layman, had it not been for the organized nature of the religion. The Pontifex Maximus and the College of Pontiffs were around to oversee the nature and order of the religion was preserved.  The Roman religion became a reflection of the nature of affairs in the city of Rome.

One thing that was distinctly smart on the part of the Romans was how they used their religion, especially in the course of a battle, to boost morale. Taking after the Etruscan tradition, Romans consulted their Gods before they went on battle (Or maybe after it, to interpret the results).  It considerably helped matters when the Roman Gods visited their generals in their dreams.

As Scipio was preparing his army for the crucial battle of Cartagena (which would be the turning point in Rome’s defeat of Carthage), he was visited in his dreams by the Sea God Neptune to convey that He would assist Rome to victory. Scipio promptly conveyed his God’s message to his troops. The troops motivated with the God on their side, readied for battle and proceeded to turn the tide in the Roman favour. When Constantine I took on the usurper Maxentius, blockaded within the Roman city walls, he was told in a dream to use the Cross as a standard for his army before going on battle. Maxentius, frustrated by his helplessness on being stuck in the city, ventured out to launch an attack, and was easily defeated by Constantine.

The Roman religion was a full-fledged state run institution. In the Republican era, the College of Pontiffs and the Roman Senate were distinct, though not necessarily mutually exclusive, bodies. It was consistent with one of the principles of the Republic, which held that no single individual will have complete authority in the city (The position of Dictator was an exception, but was used very rarely and only in times of emergencies). This relationship between the religious and the administrative bodies of the state was to change with the coming of the Roman Empire.

Julius Caesar, himself a skilled manipulator of his armies, was the Pontifex Maximus for close to two decades and most of his military career. The office of the Pontifex Maximus would later be integrated with the title of the Roman Emperor during the time of Augustus (13 BC), till it was eventually devolved during the reign of Gratian (375-383). But by that time Christianity had become the official religion of both the Roman Empires (380). The Roman Empire brought with it the custom of God Emperors as well (a custom prevalent in Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid well, wherever they ended up ruling), with most Emperors being deified after their death. This gave the Emperor absolute authority over all the affairs of the state – religious and political, something which Republican Rome had sought to prevent.

All this meant was that the Roman religion mutated along with Rome to become an umbrella of different cultures and people. But it also maintained a definite structure and order, thanks to the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Pontiffs, and was reflective of the nature and stability of the state. It became what can be described as a secular religion for that time period, open to people of any faith while making room for their beliefs as well. There was no imposition of one religion over the other, more a case of both sides accepting each other’s beliefs, with some adjustments here and there. However, refusal to collude with the state religion and still be part of the state was not healthy, which the Christians found out during the reigns of Nero, Domitian and much later, Diocletian (The Jews were the other religion prevalent in the Roman Empire, but they kept largely to their Levantine bases and did not go around looking for converts)

However, like Rome, its religion would also eventually come to a close.

A long, long time ago a book was written. It was a sacred text of an ancient religion. Among other things it talked about Gods – Devas led by Indra and Agni and Asuras led by Varuna and Mitra. There were three followers for this religion – Aryans, Persians and the Mittani. But each of them viewed this religion in a different form. The Mittani disappeared a long time ago, but the other two forms of religion still exist, albeit in a different state. While the Aryans worship the Devas and demonize the Asuras (Though Varuna becomes a Deva), the Persians worship the Ahuras and vilify the Daevas (It has been debated whether Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity of the Zoroastrian faith is Varuna Himself, or a combination of Varuna and Mitra (who is a lesser deity in the Avesta), or something distinct and entirely beyond either of them).

The book, of course, is The Rig Veda, the sacred text of the Vedic religion and origin of which is unknown beyond our reckoning.

A long, long time ago there were few people living on the banks of the River Indus and the neighbouring areas in the Indian subcontinent. They worshipped a deity named Shiva, identified by the archaeological findings of the civilization. It is not clear whether the IVC subscribed to the Vedic texts as well nor is it clear whether the Aryans or the other Vedic people lived among the IVC (That was me trying to steering clear of the Aryan Migration vs Out of India debate).

But given the prominence of Shiva in the excavations and the lack of it for the Vedic deities, it follows that neither Indra nor Varuna had a significant role among the people in IVC.

Sometime later, but still a long time back, the Deva worshipping Aryans and the Shiva worshipping IVC combined to give the predominant form of the Vedic religion that now exists in the Indian subcontinent – Hindutva (or Hinduism if you prefer that nomenclature). Like the Roman religion that integrated the Greek with the Etruscan, Hindutva was a summation of the Aryans and the IVC. However, there were some significant changes in the theological line-up.  Vishnu, a minor God in the Rig Veda, shot into prominence while Indra and his Deva colleagues fell into the backdrop. Also prominent was the IVC Shiva, who was now integrated with the Vedic deity, Rudra (Another minor God in Rig Veda).

Curious nature this religious upheaval is, but clear not the reasons are.

During the reign of the kings of Magadha, Jainism and Buddhism (during the time of Ashoka) dominated the subcontinent. It was only during the rule of the Guptas (240-550) that Hindutva would recover its mantle as the main religion of the subcontinent. However, Jainism and Buddhism would have a lasting effect on this re-jigged form of Hindutva, now in prominence. Diwali, which marks the attainment of Nirvana by Mahavira among Jains, was celebrated by the Hindus to mark the return of Rama to Ayodhya. Whether this is an assimilation of a festival of the former dominant religion (Something the Roman religions are guilty of a lot) or if the Hindus followed Diwali prior to the rise of Jainism is not known.

The Guptas were predominantly a North Indian country. Over the centuries the fluid boundaries of India have been drawn and redrawn many a time, one state has always been left out of these boundaries (till 1947) – Kerala. Perhaps not surprisingly, Kerala do not follow Diwali (Disclaimer: The reason may actually be mythological in nature. Diwali, among other things, celebrates the downfall of Mahabali as well, while Mahabali is revered in Kerala).

Diwali is one of the many regional inconsistencies that prevail in Hindutva. It is cluttered with regional cults; Of Goddess Durga, Ayyappa and to a certain extent, Ganesha. A deity like Ayyapa, an offspring of two of the three main Gods of Hindutva, has very limited relevance in the northern states of the country, while being one of major Gods in the south. These inconsistencies in festivals and Gods have an interesting bearing on the nature of the religion.

It is more likely that the over the last three millennia, Hindutva evolved across the Indian subcontinent integrating itself with local beliefs, much like the Roman religion as mentioned earlier. However, without a central point of authority, the evolution has been chaotic and inconsistent. Also, the evolution was slow and time consuming.

But in the end, Hindutva is a religion similar in character to the Roman one, with respect to religious belief, though not theology.

Back to Rome.

During the years of 186-284, the Roman Empire fell into chaos. It had become too big to rule by a single individual (but not too big to fail) and after the death of the Marcus Aurelius (The old Emperor who gets killed early in Gladiator), periods of misrule, civil wars, rebellions and usurpations would haunt the Empire. The Empire would be revitalized firstly by the soldier Aurelian who reconquered the breakaway peripheries, then by Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and finally by Constantine I, a masterful spinner like no other in the pages of history.

The Crisis of the Third Century was also reflected on the Roman religion. With Emperors changing favours from one God to another and multiple Pontifex Maximus at the same time, the religious institution that preserved the order of the Roman religion for close to one millennium would fall flat. Aurelian (270-275) would attempt religious reform by strengthening Sol Invictus as the main Roman God in an attempt to form a single God, but he would die before he could complete the reform successfully. The reform would happen eventually during the reign of Constantine I (306-337).

By the time of Constantine I, Christianity had gained ground on its Roman predecessor. It had become the state religion of the neighbouring Kingdom of Armenia (301), while it attracted many followers within the Empire. Indeed, Constantine I’s mother was a Christian and so was Diocletian’s wife. More importantly, it was monotheistic, unlike the quagmire of the Roman Pantheon.

Rome needed a clear religion without ambiguity while also being under Roman control. This was the case of the Roman religion prior to 186 before it went awry. Unfortunately, Christianity was neither. The Donatists, who wanted Christians, who colluded with Diocletian when he persecuted Christians, to be kicked out, fell out of Roman favour after the (First) Council of Arles in 314 and were persecuted by Constantine I for continuing their ways (Yes, Constantine I did persecute Christians). The theology was also inconsistent with opposing views over the divinity of Jesus. So, the (First) Council of Nicaea was called in 325, again by Constantine I, to discuss debate and decide what Christianity should be. Finally, Rome had a clear-cut religion like before (It would take some time for Roman Christianity to be completely in force, but it had become only a matter of eventuality). The Pontifex Maximus would eventually be replaced by the Pontiff or the Bishop of Rome, while the College of Pontiffs would be replaced (much later) by the College of Cardinals.

The Roman religion outlived its usefulness to the State of Rome. It became chaotic and out of State control. Soon, it was replaced by the more tenable Christianity (With a definitive Roman touch after the Council of Nicaea).

The world has come a long way since those ancient times. Roman Christianity has undergone many subsequent changes, without the Roman State to shepherd it.

Now, here in India, we have a religion that is much in the similar vein as the Roman religion before its downfall. A combination of the different cultures and people of the Indian subcontinent, secular in the archaic sense of the word. It survives because it is not a creation of the state. It varies from person to person, carved by their own free will (At least in theory). It also chooses not to interfere with other beliefs that exist in the subcontinent (Again in theory). But, if it becomes a creature of the State looking to devour or control everything it sees, it loses its relevance, just like its Roman counterpart.

The days when the state created its Gods are long gone. But religion still tries to define the state not knowing it was state who created it in the first place. The cycle continues…

Posted in History, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

I voted 49-O

Posted by RB Kollannur on April 16, 2009

This is the first time I had the opportunity to exercise my vote for the country and I chose not to vote, as per the guidelines set by 49-O.

I went to the polling booth around 11:00 today and got my credentials verified by the authorities. I informed the person there I choose not to vote.  He informed me to go to the EVM and press the blue button. Surprised to hear that I went to the EVM to see no separate button for registering my refusal.

After some confusion, it was clear that the election officers did not realize I was refusing to vote, but thought I was not aware of the process and was helping me to vote. The Presiding Officer stepped in and when I informed of my intentions,  he informed the poll officer to write “Refused to Vote” against my name and asked me to sign.

That is the How. This is the why :

What am I voting for?

Representation in the legislature and the selection of the government.

Which is more important?

Selection of the government. It is better to have your say in governance, than none at all.

Anti Defection Act establishes the primacy of the political party over the representative. So, a representative cannot effectively represent his constituency, without his party’s consent.

An independent representative will be limited in his ability to perform effectively in the legislature and the government, given his lack of political affiliation within the legislature.

How do I decide who I want in the government?

By going through the manifestos of each political party and their past performance.

However, given that no political party can come to power on their own (No single party has gained majority in the Lok Sabha since 1984), manifestos are all subject to change and will be based on coalition performance. We do not have a coalition manifesto so far. But then there is no guarantee that a pre-poll coalition will stay true for the tenure of the legislature.

With manifestos subject to change and uncertainty looming over government at all time, it will be difficult to pin accountability on a political party for not meeting their manifesto as well.

How will I then decide whom to vote for?

Take a judgment call on who will serve my interests best in the next five years. Settle for the lesser evil.


Is this how I should decide on my choice of vote?

1) There is a lack of clarity on what the complete policy of the next government will be irrespective for whom I vote.

2) There is a lack of clarity on which set of parties will form the next government.

3) Any government formed will be inherently unstable given the nature of coalitions (Each government post 1989 has had to face many motions of no confidence, which few did not survive).

4) With inherent instability, policy making will be at threat, depending on the whims and fancies of allies.

5) Then there are the clichéd issues of hate politics and divisive politics, which gives smaller parties enough room in the legislature with which they can become king-makers and ensure their political survival.

When the next national elections come, in five years (hopefully) from now, these problems will be as true and valid as they are now. The political parties that form the legislature have a sufficient voter base to ensure their long term survival. Given the fractured nature of verdicts, it is likely that small parties will play a key role in government formation and provide good returns to their voters. However, at a national level this leads to uncertainty and instability.

These problems have now been ingrained into the current electoral system and it is unlikely that we will have a stable and confident government.  EVER.

In the long run, this augurs badly for the nation – to have unstable governments and indecisive leadership follow one after the other. It may seem okay for the next five years. But will you be okay with it for the next 20-30 years when you or your kids will have to bear the heat, as we compete with the rest of the world?

Should I compromise on my long term future by procrastinating electoral reform to make the Indian democracy effective?

By choosing to vote, I will be endorsing the current system of elections. I will be settling to meet my short term objectives sacrificing the long term ones.

So, I choose not to endorse an electoral system which brings unstable governments, indecisive leadership and  regional fragmentation of the nation.

I choose not to vote, till a day where we can have stable, decisive and a united government.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.