A Vegan Hindu

I turned vegan about four years ago. Even though I can’t say I am absolutely 100% vegan since occasionally it happens that an order gets screwed up at a restaurant or we were a little negligent in buying something we thought was vegan and turned out to have like 0.1% milk solids and many such occasions. Many times it’s a judgement call — whether we want to throw away the food or we make an exception and ensure we are more vigilant the next time. I, personally, have learned to not beat myself up for occasional lapses and look at the larger picture where I am at least responsible for bringing down the demand for dairy (I was a vegetarian since birth, so never had meat), at an individual level, by more than 99% I would say.
Mostly, when people talk about adopting a vegan lifestyle, there are generally two reasons – 1) Animal cruelty; 2) Climate Change.

Animal cruelty is largely associated with the meat industry with the direct slaughter of animals as well as their treatment before that. This holds true for any country in the world where ultimately an animal dies — method doesn’t make much difference to the animal. But then there also are other industries such as the dairy industry, the cosmetics industry, the leather industry, and even the pharma industry that engage in some or the other form of cruelty to animals.
The climate change part relates to reducing the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions as it’s a very well established fact that meat products contribute significantly to climate change. It consumes far more water per kilogram of food, contributes significantly to the methaneemissions, and consumes more than 3/4th of the global agricultural land which could otherwise be used for crop production.

Source: Our World In Data
Source: Our World In Data

Reaction to Veganism
While Veganism definitely invites strong reactions from the meat-eaters with the most common reaction being going into the defensive, when it comes to India, such strong reactions, especially in my personal experience, also comes from the vegetarians. A part of the reason is that veganism ditches dairy, something very integral to the vegetarian diet, especially in India. Being the largest producer of milk and a large part of the rural economy centered around cows, it is seen as almost an attack on the Indian economy. Cattle rearing is also a cushion to the Indian farmers against the highly unpredictable monsoons that makes agricultural income very unstable. In addition, other products – dairy products apart from milk, cow dung, cow urine – has its own use in many ways that creates a source of additional income or helps in the activities that generate income for a farmer.

PETA India and Veganism
Unfortunately, when it comes to veganism in India, Peta makes more noise than anyone else. At the same time, Peta India is probably also the worst ambassador of veganism in India. It has been hurting vegans more than helping (if at all). A large part of it comes from Peta’s own record of dealing with animals and the hypocrisy of their messaging which is targeted only towards the communities in India, where they would not receive a violent response.
Peta appears to have absolutely no understanding of the ground realities in India and is simply copy-pasting the tactics they use in the western countries. Otherwise you wouldn’t see them throwing in “This Rakshabandhan, Go Leather-Free” when nobody wears leather rakhis and asking people to treat cows as “sisters” in a country that treats cows as mothers. You also wouldn’t see them giving awards to celebrities who end up celebrating turkey dishes after just a few days of receiving those awards. Not to forget, the mindblowing “fact-checking” that happened on it.

Source: News Meter

It’s also a hypocrisy that Peta targets pretty much all Hindu festivals – Rakshabandhan, Diwali, Holi, Jallikattu, Janmashtami – but then goes “Abba Jabba Dabba” on Bakri Eid. In fact, a Peta website, AnimalsInIslam shows “humane” way of slaughtering animals. Can it be more hypocritical?

Is Veganism Anti-Cow?
India has been struggling for decades against cow smuggling within India as well as outside India (mainly Bangladesh and Pakistan). This doesn’t happen without cattle theft. Even a single cow stolen can wipe out a major source of income for an Indian farmer. Between 2015 and 2017, 56,359 cattle smuggling cases (cases, not cattles) were registered in India. According to data shared by the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF, in the year 2019, 29,720 cattle heads (that’s 81 daily) were seized in 2019 (the numbers that made it through will definitely be higher). And this is just the Bangladesh border. While the number did come down in 2020 but that has to do with COVID lockdowns. And cattle smuggling increases before Eid-ul-Adha as Indian security forces confirm.
It also needs to be noted that these statistics are just for cross-country smuggling. The statistics for smuggling within India is extremely hard to find, if at all they exist. Just the illegal slaughterhouses alone are estimated to be 30,000 across India. There are organizations such as CowConnect Foundation that has saved thousands of cows in Gujarat alone and Agniveer in Delhi-NCR that rescues about 15-20 cows daily.
And remember, as mentioned earlier, even a single cow stolen can wipe out a major source of income for an Indian farmer.
So, to answer the question if Veganism is anti-cow — NO. Animal slaughtering is. And vegans don’t slaughter animals. But do you know who does? Guess!

Adopting Veganism in a Dharmic Manner?
Many Hindus, especially vegetarians, have become resentful of veganism itself because of the dairy angle and Peta has just made that worse. Compound it with the constantly undermined issue of cattle smuggling that is ignored by mainstream media due to “secularism”. Even though wrong, one can understand where the resentment comes from. But then many idiots even allege that veganism will lead to more animals ending up in slaughterhouses which is absolutely ridiculous. Slaughterhouses function because there are people who consume meat. Not because of vegans. 
A big part of the misconception around veganism is that it is a western construct and is not aligned to Dharmic values. While it may be true that the concept of veganism does come from the west, we need not adopt it as it is without applying our own brains. We also don’t need to reject it just because it comes from the West. There is no harm in deconstructing the whole concept and seeing which parts can be adopted and to what extent, which parts can take time to create a suitable ecosystem/atmosphere and which parts don’t make sense at all in the Indian context. All these need to take place keeping in mind the ground realities of India — not just at a country level but as micro as individual level.
Plus, if you believe FitTuber, as he says “Nowhere in the Ayurvedic Scriptures, it has been mentioned that milk should be a mandatory part of diet“. So, veganism is definitely not against Sanatana Dharma.

Veganism is a Rich Class Thing?
Unfortunately, veganism has been portrayed in popular culture as a very South-Bombayish, urban elite culture and an expensive lifestyle – like being vegan means you need to eat only salads and exotic fruits/vegetables like Avocado, Kiwi, Quinoa, Kale etc. and drink Almond Milk. This is highly inaccurate.
When it comes to veganism, what Indians forget is that most of the Indian vegetarian cuisine is inherently vegan, at least the non-Punjabi (non-Paneer) cuisine. I can still enjoy Poha or Upma in the morning with coconut chutney, have an Aloo-Matar sabzi with Parantha in lunch and enjoy Baigan Bharta with Chapati for dinner. Vegan food includes all grains, pulses, beans, oils, fruits and vegetables. Now just imagine the combinations. In fact, some of the sweets like Chikki and Son Papadi are vegan as well. And when one starts looking, they’ll find many more.

Vegan Aloo Palak by Pille R. Priske


In fact, turning vegan can drive down your grocery bill since you’d not be buying that expensive meat, eggs and processed dairy products.
Even when it comes to non-dairy milk, one can be smart about it to find solutions, some of which are already available. It was very convenient for Amul to compare their milk with Almond Milk since that is probably THE MOST EXPENSIVE non-dairy milk. Nut milks are of various types – Soy, Cashew, Coconut, Rice, Oats, Macadamia, Peanut and so on. And a quick look on the Nature’s Basket website reveals that the So Good Unsweetened Soy Milk is Rs.130 a litre. Compare this to Rs.44 to Rs.56 litres that Amul has claimed or Amul Taaza tetra pack that comes at Rs.64 per litre. So, non-dairy milks in India are already close to 2X-3X the price of dairy milk (contrary to the 6X difference Amul is projecting). And the gap decreases further when we talk about A2 Deshi Cow Milk which is typically close to Rs.100 per litre
And let’s not forget that plant-based milks, right now, don’t have the economies of scale that the dairy industry has. As the demand increases and the competition increases, price drops. So, comparing the price of large scale dairy milk with that of small-scale plant-based milk is incorrect. In North America, non-dairy milk used to be expensive but as the demand increased, the wholesale shops such as Costco have started stocking non-dairy milks as well. A carton of 6X946ml (5.67 litres) of organic soy milk costs C$10.69 (~Rs.640), which turns out to be Rs.113 per litre. Compare that to the regular organic 2% milk which is C$8.48 (~Rs.510) for a 4 litres pack, which turns out to be Rs.127.5 per litre.
And if you still want to close your eyes and say “Okay okay but but but…in India, it is still expensive” —- then let’s excuse the people who can’t buy that “expensive” non-dairy milk. What’s the excuse for the ones who can buy?
Maybe they can skip spending 1000 bucks on that shitty Bollywood movie and a popcorn or a third-class overpriced restaurant and instead buy stuff that’s actually helpful to you.

Indian Dairy Industry
It is to be understood that the case against dairy products is due to heavy industrialization (factory farming) in the dairy industry. While it may be less brutal than the beef farming, there is still brutality — be it the practice of injecting antibiotics, injecting hormones, using machines that vacuum the udders (to extract the milk), artificial insemination, the risk of mastitis or the practice of separating calves at birth. Even keeping the emotions out, this is a very unhygienic and potentially harmful (to humans as well eventually) way of running the dairy industry and yet it happens. Now, when it comes to India, a common argument is that factory farming doesn’t happen here. We, as a society (especially the Hindus), have always treated cows as a mother and when you visit our villages, cows are taken care of like a family member (well, almost).
This facilitator guide by ASCI (Agricultural Skill Council of India) for a Dairy Farmer does not discourage insemination. There are also sections on Modern Milking Machines, which are the vacuum pumps. Although, to its credit, it does discourage hormonal injections. This one study clearly mentions the usage of milking machines and one of main responsibilities of a Milk Union as artificial insemination administration. Farmers in Gujarat also use milking machines to extract milk from cows as the article mentions – Take Shirishbhai Vithalbhai Patel from Chikhodra, 4 km from Amul’s Anand dairy. This 47-year-old farmer has 200 cows and 60 heifers, and sells 1,800 litres daily.  His animals are entirely machine-milked at a parlour, operating from 5:30 to 8:30 in the morning and likewise in the evening.
If one is under the impression that the dairy industry in India is still very pristine, then the above information should burst that bubble. Yes, definitely, it is still way less “factory farmed” than the west.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

Amul – The Torchbearer
Now, let us take a look at Amul – that has tried to portray itself as a torch-bearer of the Hindu cow-worshipping culture by invoking Lord Krishna (not Shri Krishna or Prabhu Shri Krishna?) and Holy Cow. While they are 100% right about the cultural part, using that to defend yourselves when, across-India, “Amul Model” is used for machine milking and artificial insemination, and to actually go on to say that “Dairy farming is good for the cattle” is quite a bubble (or self-fulfilling prophecy) they’re living in. 
Now, let us go deeper into Amul’s offering of raw milk. Amul has a very confusing product range in milk alone. They have:

So, Amul has “Amul Deshi A2 Cow Milk” and “Amul Buffalo Milk” (packaging says A2 milk) —– so the question is, what are the rest? A1 milk? Amul needs to print that information very clearly on the pack. 
Amul MD, Rupinder Singh Sodhi, in an interview to The Print’s Shekhar Gupta, provided extremely vague statements. One of them said, “Be assured that in India what you are drinking is A2 milk as all buffalo and indigenous cow milk is 100 percent A2 milk”. Does he mean to say that all of the Amul’s milk is from either buffalos or indigenous cows? If that is true, what is Shirishbhai from Chikhodra village doing with the 15 cross-bred Holsteins from whom Amul picks the milk directly? However, amazingly, the number comes down from 100% (in the form of “be assured”) to 90% in the very next statement as he says, “All HF (Holstein-Friesian) crossbred cows produce 50 per cent A2 milk and 50 per cent A1 milk. So 90 per cent of milk in India is A2 milk,” What he doesn’t mention is how much Amul’s share is from that 10% A1 milk? (assuming that the 90% figure is true). And if the majority of Amul’s milk is A2, why do they have two separate brands – Amul Deshi A2 Cow Milk and Amul Buffalo Milk (with the packaging mentioning A2 milk) – of A2 milk? You can’t have a spin-off from a mainstream product unless that spin-off is a minority. There is Maggi Masala Noodles and then there is Maggi Atta Noodles and Maggi Oats Noodles because the latter two are not 100% Maida. But Maggi can’t come up with Maggi Maida Noodles (apart from the reason that it’d be a marketing disaster) because that’s what Maggi Masala Noodles is.
If we believe this report, where most of the numbers are for the year 2012-13, >50% of the milk produced in the country is from buffalos while cross-breed account for 22% of the total cattle population. Given that cross-breeds have a higher yield, if we assume that the % share in the total milk production will be >22%. So, at most 78% of the total milk production in the country can have A2 milk. And this is at a country level, not Amul. Again, one must read the section “Livestock cross breeding” to understand how the cross-breeding basically destroyed the indegenous species. All for what?

Source: India Water Portal

Also, one must watch this video to see the reality of the Amul (and other brands) milk products.


So?
So, the dairy consumers in India will only make some sense if that dairy comes from a local dairy farmer you know who is raising Desi Cow breeds, isn’t injecting hormones, isn’t using artificial insemination (you don’t artificially inseminate your family members, do you?) and isn’t using machines to milk the cow. You may still want to take some liberty with the last point (but then we can’t be riding on this high horse that dairy is for cattle’s benefit) but I don’t see any reason why Indians should encourage foreign breed cows whose milk is low on nutrition, causes diseases and is difficult to digest.
Also, one also needs to think about how much of the dairy in India is consumed in the purest form? i.e. milk. If your dairy consumption involves processed cheese, mayonnaise, flavored drinks, etc, tall claims of “dairy for nutrition” falls flat.

What will happen to farmers?
This is a very “sarkaari” argument. Often used whenever there is a discussion on privatisation or FDI in any sector. What will happen to people who are in “this thing” for decades? Or “Oh, so many people will lose their jobs”.
To begin with, let’s not think of our farmers as stupid that they can’t learn anything new. Also, what people forget is that veganism causes a demand shift and not a demand decline. People won’t stop eating the overall amount of food. They will only stop eating a certain type of food and instead eat something else. And in case of veganism, the drop in dairy demand shifts to agricultural products (like lentils and nuts) which are already the occupation of the dairy farmers. India is one of those rare countries that can grow three crops a year. Let’s not blame vegans for the inefficiencies of Indian agriculture (largely because of the government and politics).

0.1% Non-Vegan = 100% Non-Vegan?
Vegetarians might also be able to relate to this since this is a favorite pastime of non-vegetarians to prove that so-and-so product has like 0.00000000000000000000001% of animal product —– “Oh, so you and me, we’re the same, yeah?”. Yes, your half kg chicken is the same as that one brand of beer that used gelatin to clarify the end product. However, the same vegetarians won’t shy away from applying this tactic on vegans.
It needs to be understood that many of the folks who are like 99% vegans are still contributing by bringing down their dairy/meat demand to 1%. That still means something. So, maybe you can ditch cheese, mayonnaise, paneer, ghee, ice cream etc. but can’t ditch your morning tea – that is still not bad. Or maybe you reduce your “mithai” intake and limit it only to festivals and that too when you’re meeting family and extended family – let that be your cheat day. The idea is to minimize the harm to the environment and live in as much harmony with nature as possible.

References:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/978557/cases-of-cattle-smuggling-at-the-border-india/

https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local

http://www.environmentreports.com/can-eat-less-water/

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jan/10/how-much-water-food-production-waste#data

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#methane

https://www.iea.org/reports/methane-tracker-2020

https://www.socalgas.com/stay-safe/methane-emissions/sources-of-methane-emissions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YzjB0thvxY

https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTkVBzV_dDQ

https://www.opindia.com/2021/05/amul-md-slams-peta-india-for-asking-them-to-use-vegan-milk/

https://ourworldindata.org/land-use

http://www.fao.org/india/fao-in-india/india-at-a-glance/en/

https://legaldesire.com/peta-awarded-shilpa-hero-animals-award-days-later-taught-fans-roasting-turkey/

https://www.animalsinislam.com/islam-animal-rights/qurbani/

https://newsmeter.in/fact-check/cops-performing-aarti-of-lockdown-violators-are-from-mp-not-karnataka-679291?infinitescroll=1

https://sentientmedia.org/dairy-farming/

http://www.asci-india.com/BooksPDF/Dairy%20Farmer%20or%20Entrepreneur.pdf

https://veteriankey.com/role-of-dairy-farming-in-rural-development/

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/harish-damodaran/amuls-gen-next-farmers/article20530493.ece

Hakenkreuz = Hooked Cross NOT Swastika

A couple of weeks ago, in an anti-semitic attack, one of Montreal’s largest synagogue was vandalized with a graffiti of what people in the West call “Swastika” – a German hate symbol reminiscent of the massacre of over six million Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. In early December last year, a similar attack happened on Anne Frank memorial in Boise, Idaho.


When I went through the responses on the news of the Montreal synagogue attack, I was quickly able to see some of the accounts suggesting the symbol is not “Swastika” but a Nazi hate symbol. But what was missing in every single post, except one or two, was the explanation of what the Nazi symbol is and what actually is Swastika. Half knowledge doesn’t help. While there is a growing population, including Jews, understanding that the Nazi symbol shouldn’t be called Swastika since the original Swastika is an auspicious symbol of not just Hindus but also Buddhists and Jains, not many have tried to understand what the Nazi symbol is and its origins. I am not going very deep in this post but will provide a brief along with much of the references one can go through (that I went through)

It is very important that when we say that the Nazi symbol is NOT Swastika, we also mention what it is. If we look at the german version of Mein Kampf (like this: https://mk.christogenea.org/_files/Mein_Kampf_German.pdf), the word Swastika appears nowhere. Hakenkreuz, on the other hand, had at least 9 occurrences. Just do a CTRL+F.
While some of the initial translations such as that of E.T.S. Dugdale accurately translates “Hakenkreuz” to “hooked cross”, the translation which became popular was the one by an Irish Catholic Priest James Vincent Murphy who, while avoiding translating many German words with no English equivalents, seemed okay to translate (or mistranslate) the German word “Hakenkreuz” to “Swastika” – especially when “Swastika” isn’t even an English word.

So, what is Swastika (Hindu Symbol)?
The actual Swastika is a sacred symbol for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains around the world. It is a combination of two words – ‘su’ (means ‘good’) and ‘asti’ (means ‘to exist’). It is a symbol of peace, well being and auspiciousness and has symbolized that since thousands of years in the Indian civilization. Indic religions use it on many auspicious occasions like festivals, house warming, havans, puja and so on. Read more about it here. The word is of Indian origin – Sanskrit – and so far there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Hitler knew Sanskrit.

So, what is Hakenkreuz?
Hakenkreuz literally means “Hooked Cross” – a Christian symbol. Plenty of evidence is available of the use of “Hooked Cross” in the churches around the world – be it Benedictine Monastery in Austria (where Hitler grew up), or Byzantine Church in Israel, or Lalibela Church in Ethiopia or Plaosnik Baptistery in Macedonia. Hitler was born and raised Christian. There is plenty of literary evidence also available on the use of the word Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) along with Christenkreuz (Christian cross). Read this for more understanding.
Interestingly, Google has also fallen for this mistranslation. Amusingly, after setting up the translation from German to English – when you type “Christen”, it translates to “Christians”; when you type “Kreuz”, it translates to “Cross”, so when you type “Christenkreuz”, it translates to, as expected, “Christian Cross”. However, when you type “Haken”, it translates to “Hook”; when you type “Kreuz”, it translates to “Cross”, but when you type “Hakenkreuz”, it magically becomes “Swastika”!!

Why mistranslate?
In simple words, to hide the Christian origins of Hitler’s hate symbol. To absolve the Church from one of the largest genocides on the face of the earth of the people who, according to the Church at that time, were Christ-killers. Also, further the anti-paganism by putting on hook the last living ancient civilization and the largest non-Abrahamic religion, even when they were one of the few ones who welcomed Jews who were being persecuted across the world. It was also convenient for the Church to attribute this hate symbol a Hindu name since it further propagated the Aryan Invasion Theory, comprehensively disproved now and abandoned by the colonial Europeans after the horrors of the second world war but continued to be taught in their colonies.

It is important to understand the correct origins of the persecution of Jews in the mid 20th century in Europe. It does take some amount of reading, yes, but it will prevent cases like:

  • European Union attempt to ban all uses of Swastika irrespective of renditions or
  • A random person asking a town in New York state to change its name or
  • The State of New York considered the bill to mandate that the Swastika be taught as a symbol of hatred and intolerance in all New York schools.

At a larger level, it stigmatizes one-sixth of the world’s population for no fault of their own. It creates a hateful atmosphere for Hindu students outside India, especially in the West, for practicing their faith. 

References and Additional Read:

SWASTIKA EDUCATION & AWARENESS CAMPAIGN (SEAC)

Wrongfully Accused: The Swastika Is Not Hitler’s Hakenkreuz

The History of the Swastika – A BBC Documentary

Mein Kampf – German

Mein Kampf (Ford Translation)

Mein Kampf – As Translated by E.T.S. Dugdale

Lost in Mistranslation: Why the Hindu Swastika is nothing like the German Hakenkreuz

Hitler’s Pope

10 Things You Need to Know About the Swastika

Cover Image Source: Vilification of Swastika has to Stop

WHY CAL DFEH’S ATTEMPT TO DEFINE HINDUISM REEKS OF ANTI-PAGANISM?

The recent Cisco case has made quite a headlines in the media recently and brought the discussion on caste-based discrimination among the Hindu community in the US at the forefront. While there is a lot of noise around it, I thought about my own experience around it and whether whatever that is being said, is it as generalized as it is projected or not? And I have my reasons to believe that my experience matters in this case.

One of the assertions that I have seen being made is that one can figure out a caste of a person based on the last name. While it might be true for very specific last names, it doesn’t hold true when you try and test it on a population. There are plenty of last names that are common across these western “caste” constructs created for the Indian society. So, if someone asks an HR department to hand over a list of Indian employees and they’d determine the castes of those employees, the person is full of sh*t.

To begin with, my last name is Mehta. For people who know enough, Mehta is a common (or at least well known) last name, not just in Gujarat but also, apparently, in Punjab and Rajasthan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehta). In fact, within Gujarat itself, this last name is also present in Jains and Banias (the trader caste). I studied briefly in Gurgaon where people often thought I am from Punjab or Rajasthan.

My last name doesn’t give away my caste unless people make assumptions. I don’t wear janeu — so, if someone taps on my shoulder, they would reach a certain conclusion. That inference would be true if I wasn’t a Brahmin and false if I was. And if you say that someone might have done that to check janeu and I just didn’t realize — I could also say that someone might have done that out of affection and the person just assumed that it was to check janeu. If I can be wrong, why can’t others be as well? While I am a vegetarian since birth, in the initial months in the US, I was an eggitarian (also much of my adult life in India) and later turned to vegan (which is again, predominantly non-vegetarians turning into vegans). So, my food habits also won’t clearly identify me as a Brahmin. If they go by my skin color, I may also end up being a Kshatriya but then my last name will create a confusion.

Having said that, was I ever asked about my caste by my Indian colleagues? NO — neither in India, nor in the US, nor in Canada. I don’t recall any conversation around that in my 2 years in the US and the same in Canada. Caste is not the discussion Indians have with each other when they meet, especially these times when there is so much happening around. And outside India, it’s being an Indian that matters and not the caste or the region. This caricature that Indians, when they meet each other, just discuss caste and religion is idiotic, simplistic and stereotypical. It also reeks of anti-paganism.

When Far-LEFT Has No Idea of Life Under Communism

The other day I was reading “A New Idea of India” by Harsh Madhusudan and Rajeev Mantri. And, in one of the sections, they have quoted the great American artist Andy Warhol making an observation on the American-style capitalism:


What’s great about this country is that American started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking


When I see the so-called SJWs being sold out far-left ideas and portraying capitalism as some kind of evil that the humanity needs to be protected, it just begs one question – “Have they ever lived under communism, actually, to experience what it is?” Because I can bet a million dollars (if I ever have any), if they live, they’d not like the indignity – which I think nobody should experience.

While India wasn’t 100% communist but it was a lot like it – maybe we can call it semi-communist – at least till about mid-1990s. But it is important to give an idea of the divide, which perhaps these SJWs aren’t able to understand.

Let me share an example:


Let’s go back to late 1980s (or, for that matter, early 1990s) India.

Let’s say I had to talk to my cousin in the UK – how would that process go?
To begin with, I don’t have a landline at my place because we are very middle class and even if we could afford a landline, it will take forever to get one due to years*, if not months, of wait list. So, I will have to walk down some distance from my house to an PCO-STD-ISD booth which will have only one or two phones – and may be just one with ISD calling facility. So, I wait for my turn. Once available, I go to my booth and dial my cousin’s residence number. If she/he is home, I will get to talk. Assuming, she picks up, we will have the conversation – all the while my sight is monitoring the constantly updating call charge based on the number of seconds I talk. I will be under pressure to articulate my sentences to minimize the time and maximize the message. Once we finish the conversation, she hangs up and goes back to whatever she was doing or wanted to do after the call. Meanwhile, I hang up the phone, pay the booth operator and then walk back to my home and get back to whatever I intended to do after the call.

Now, let’s say if my cousin from the UK had to talk to me – how would that process go?
To begin with, since I don’t have a landline at my place, I would have probably given the phone number of the only neighbor in the building (or one of the very few in our colony) who had the luxury of the landline. So, she has to be very mindful at what hour is she calling because otherwise, it will affect my relations with the neighbor. She dials the number from the landline in the living room of her home. If my neighbor is home, she/he will pick up. She asks for me and says that she’ll call up again in 5-10 minutes. My neighbor sends someone to call me asking that there is a phone call from my cousin. So, I leave whatever I am doing and rush to the neighbor’s place to prevent a missed call (because it’s not like my cousin will hold). So, I wait for the call. Once she calls the second time, we talk. While she is also under pressure to keep it brief to prevent exorbitant ISD charges, it would possibly be comparatively less than what I experience. We speak on whatever we want to speak. She hangs up and gets back to whatever she was doing. I also hang up, thank my neighbor for letting me know about the call and allowing me to use their landline and perhaps even a courtesy apology for the interruption.

COME 2020:

If I have to call the same cousin in the UK – how will that process go?
I pull out my cell phone. I have this application called WhatsApp, which my cousin also has in her cell phone in the UK. I pull out her contact and press the dial button. She picks up. We talk without any consideration for time (at least not due to charges) since I have this unlimited data pack or I am using my home WiFi. We finish our conversation (plus gossip) and hang up. I get back to whatever I wanted to do after the conversation and she gets back to whatever she wanted to do after the conversation.

Let’s say, if my cousin from the UK had to talk to me – how will that process go?

DITTO

And the reason is CAPITALISM

* – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1742766518759794

Is Objective of Atheism to be a Non-Believer?

It took me some time to frame this question and I still don’t think I’ve done a good job of it but something to start with.

I am not religious in a traditional sense. I’ve tried to define religion for myself and the boundaries of it. Luckily, being a Hindu, I’ve got much more liberty to do that and play around with the whole idea of it. I don’t visit temples. I don’t do “pooja”. I haven’t believed in any blind beliefs – at least not the religious ones – as far as I can remember. I don’t have any idols in my house. Although I have a Ganpati badge and a Lakshmi coin in my bag. That too wasn’t kept deliberately but it was kept once for lack of an appropriate place and I never took it out after that.

But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that even if you don’t believe in something, it’s not necessary to criticize or mock people who believe. And this also holds true, the other way around. I always try not to do that. If I end up doing that and realize it later, I try my best to ensure not to do it again.

I find it a bit disturbing when atheists who mock religious beliefs or religious people just for the purpose of doing that. For one thing, it’s definitely not constructive. It may as well be counterproductive. It doesn’t initiate any dialogue or thought. All it promotes is a negative feeling, and in some cases, hatred. It is essentially about asking ourselves a few questions – 1) How much negativity we want to store in ourselves and relay it. 2) If we don’t believe in something, do we want to invest so much time and effort to make others also not believe it or we want to make peace with the status quo as long as it doesn’t affect us. 3) What is our compulsion to criticize or mock others for their belief system?

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you cannot convince (if that’s really your objective) another person by mockery or criticism. That will hardly ever work. It has to be respectful as much as possible and logical.

Faith is very essential to the overall existence of human beings. While atheists may be tagged as “non-believers” or they may like to tag themselves that, the underlying thing is that we all are believers. We may believe or have faith in different things but our lives run on a belief system. We may also have had stupid beliefs in the past and even in the present, may not necessarily be religious. Anything which we believe just on the basis of hearsay is a blind-belief, in a way. Our biases, presumptions, pre-conceived notions – all will fall in the same bucket. But apart from that as well, our lives essentially rely on those millions of occasions when we put faith in total strangers.

When we take public transport, we put faith in the driver of the bus/train to take us to our destination, even when we don’t know her/him. In this case, essentially, we’re putting our lives at stake. In case of airplanes, besides the pilots, we also put faith on those tens or hundreds of technicians and other ground staff who are responsible to ensure that the plane that takes off, lands as well safely. Our lives are in their hands. When we go to a restaurant, we trust the chef, whom we may not even see ever, to give us good quality, non-contaminated food. When we go to a hospital, we trust all the doctors and nurses to diagnose us correctly and cure us well. When we buy house/condo, we put faith in the quality of the structure built by the builder. When we do investments, we put faith in the financial system of the country to do its job properly and give us deserved returns.

The only difference,  a big one, is that when atheists’ belief is broken, there is accountability (whether that actually means anything may still be a separate story).

India Tourism’s Differential Pricing

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Recently, on a coffee break with a colleague, she talked about a video she came across of a Moroccan traveler who was traveling to India and was outraged at high ticket prices for foreigners at some of the important historic sites in India. My colleague too was disgusted with that saying this kind of “discrimination” is bad. She was all the more shocked to see this approach/attitude coming from the government.

It’s true that many countries (or probably most) may not be having this kind of differential pricing but then, for me, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good reason.

While discussing this topic, one needs to understand two things properly:

  1. Differential Pricing
  2. Every Difference is Discrimination

1. Differential Pricing
Differential pricing, as a concept, isn’t new. For the same goods or service, often different charges are levied on different customers. Now, the basis may vary depending on the goods/service in question and many other factors. But everybody getting charged the same for a good/service may not happen every time. It is neither good for customers, nor for business. And screaming “discrimination” at the sight of two price points is really naive.

2. Not Every Difference is Discrimination
One of the principal argument in favor of the same pricing of tickets at all sites is that not all foreigners are rich. Many are average middle class who are on a budget and save the hard earned money for the trip, especially the backpackers. On the other hand, there are Indians who are rich but still pay subsidized rates. Very true.
Via Rail Canada charges discounted fares for senior citizens while regular adult fares for everyone above the age of 12. Will that be called discrimination? Aren’t there rich senior citizens who can actually afford to pay full adult fare? And aren’t there poor or middle-class adults who may not be able to pay the full adult fare? What about the children of rich adults who might be charged the same fare as children from poor or middle-class families.
Also, by that logic, when Indians travel to western countries, they should get subsidized rates at tourist sites. But that doesn’t happen. I’m not even saying that should happen. But this is just the example of the extent to which the logic can be extended.
There will always be exceptions who might be getting an unfair advantage of certain policies and some who might be getting penalized unnecessarily. It is always improvisation.

Also, if this pricing was hurting India, it would have been reflected in India’s tourism figures which say otherwise with an increase of 52% in the last five years.

Many people have compared the ticket prices at historical monuments and heritage sites in India vs the world, citing that even with the so-called extraordinary prices, India is still the cheapest place in USD terms. While that may be true, it is still a bad argument since pricing isn’t to make Indian heritage sites entrance prices at par with the global level. That is not what dictates pricing.

Lastly, we often miss the complete picture or the larger context when trying to analyze things. We need to keep that in mind.

#MeinBhiChowkidar Movement and Dignity of Labor

In April 2015, when our PM Modi visited Canada and addressed the NRIs over there, he spoke about the dignity of labor (the lack of it) in India. From what I read, he has talked about this topic earlier as well but this was the first time I heard about it from him. I ended up writing an article about that at that time as well.

Fast forward to 2019, when I heard about the #MeinBhiChokidar campaign, that speech of his replayed in my mind and this topic was one of the earliest thoughts that occurred to me. A campaign that started as a response to the filthy sloganeering by the Congress Naamdaar, led by the PM himself and seconded by pretty much all of his ministers, received a resounding response from the general public too. It may or may not have been intended as one, but for me, it was a great experiment on the dignity of labor and the change in the mindset of the Indians. They (public) didn’t do it consciously but it was a step in the direction of establishing dignity of labor in the Indian psyche. It was one of those occasions, when a title, that is normally associated with a seemingly low-quality job in the traditional Indian mindset, was adopted by thousands (perhaps millions) of Indian as a part of their identities. People were not hesitant to call themselves a watchman, English equivalent of the word, in its spirit and embraced it wholeheartedly.

While the prime minister clarified that the term “chowkidar” is in the essence of the duty of the security personnel in general, which is that of guarding whatever piece of the entity that they are responsible for, in his case, it was the whole nation. The fact that it was embraced by many was a good example of how, we as a nation, is opening up to the idea of giving respect do any kind of work that is done honestly.

A few years ago, there was a good debate on the “pakodas” where the Prime Minister said that the person selling snacks on the road in an honest manner is equally entitled to the level of respect any other person doing a corporate job is. We, as a nation, should respect the honesty of the person and it’s work irrespective of what that work is as long as it is not harming anybody. This is a very important idea that needs to be included in the mindsets of Indians who generally have inhibitions on a certain type of work based on their own understanding of their identities, mainly social.

The dignity of work is something which I witnessed more in the Western countries (at least compared to India). It was a part of Indian civilization when the society was divided into “varnas” and everybody was free to choose whatever skill they want to acquire and contribute to society. This was before the whole society was divided into classes and castes and races by the Britishers in order to rule India more conveniently using the policy of “Divide and Rule”.

I remember the first glimpse of the dignity of labor when I landed in the US for the first time and was standing in the immigration queue. On the screens placed right above the counters, they were explaining the whole process of immigration and what things people need to take care of during the process. They were also proudly explaining the importance of an immigration officer in ensuring the security of the nation and how they are the first line of defense to ensure that the unwanted people do not enter the country. It was such an important idea, something that doesn’t occur so naturally unless mentioned explicitly. The amount of respect, in daily lives, all these people who made the community safe, clean, and beautiful receive is commendable.

For example, the Indian police which is often at the receiving and of many complaints, we forget that they are the first line of defense whenever any kind of attack happens in the country are any other kind of law and order situation arises. In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Mumbai Police was the first one to respond to the situation and in fact, a brave constable, Tukaram Omble, lost his life while managing to capture the lone live terrorist in the police operation. We take certain things for granted and do not realize and its importance unless it is not there. People who help us in our daily lives like the security guards, people who pick up the garbage, the sanity workers, the firefighters, the traffic police and many more. These unsung heroes who make our lives easy and safe on a daily basis really should get the recognition they deserve. In the western world, some of the critical services like the firefighting, the paramedics, and the police I known as first responders.

Unfortunately, a part of the culprit is also the terminologies used for these people. For example, the person who picks up garbage every day from our houses, we call him or her kachrawala/wali instead of safaaiwala/wali, which is more correct because we are actually throwing the garbage and they are cleaning it up.

Two years ago, on one of the Facebook groups, I came across a post by a lady who shared the summer activity of her two kids who made some money by starting their business in the neighborhood. What was the business? They charged some dollars for picking up the trash from the neighborhood and putting it out in the common bin. It was really amazing to read. This household was not poor. The kids did not really have to do the job that they were doing. However, it was their mother’s way to make them start earning money rather than just having it from the parents. It also inculcated a sense of respect in the kids’ minds for the people who do similar kind of work an understand how hard working these people are who clean up the entire community. In a way, such activity imbibes the dignity of labor in kids.

I guess that’s where it should start. I hope this idea of the dignity of labor spreads well across India and Indians.

Why I Pray the IAF Disclosure Doesn’t Set a Poor Precedent

As I woke up in the morning today, the ritual of checking the phone was the first thing happened. And as I unlocked it, the first Google News flash appeared “Amid Calls For Proof, Air Force Shows Radar Images Of Pak F-16 Encounter” from NDTV. IAF held a press conference where they showed radar images and electronic signatures of the IAF aircraft MiG-21 Bison and the three F-16 aircraft of PAF, one of which went off the radar, indicating it being destroyed. This was further substantiated with the initial claim by the Pakistan armed forces as well as PM Imran Khan himself when they declared that two IAF pilots were captured but it turned out it was only one. The information about the other pilot was suppressed cleverly.

While the junta rejoiced at this news, as I could read from the Twitter reactions, my heart sank a little.

I just hope this doesn’t end up becoming a bad precedent set by IAF because now, for every operation in future, there will be proofs sought and this example will be provided to ensure the proof-giving-exercise happens every time. Information that should not be public, would be made public and that is not a good sign for national security. It pained me to see that we have reduced ourselves to a nation that is seeking proof from our armed forces of their heroism.

It is sad that, within India, we have people who are asking these questions under the pretext of questioning the government but their questions are essentially directed at the armed forces. Their worry is not the national security but ensuring that the slightest benefit of these actions do not end up benefiting the present government, even if it means helping the enemy state. This questioning comes at the cost of national security.

While, to the relevant international/foreign organizations and governments, IAF and the Indian government may still need to provide the proofs, it should still be an administrative and secured communication and not public. We may need to send the proof to Pentagon since the US made aircraft are involved in the whole episode but what is the need to distribute such information through a press conference?

Firstly, this kind of technical information hardly understood in it’s purest forms by the general public. Secondly, such information can expose our capabilities to unwanted entities, which is not good for our security. While, I am pretty sure IAF would take care of the second point, but as a citizen, I would still not want them to waste their time in ensuring only the relevant information is distributed. Thirdly, there is absolutely no need for any kind of information about the military operation specifics to be distributed in the general public. There is a reason why this kind of information is kept secret.

People say that it is their right to question the government. If they really want to question the government, the questions should be regarding the lapse in the internal security that led to Pulwama attack and what the government is doing to prevent it in the future? What did the government do and did not do to prevent the attack? Since when did the government have the information on the Balakot terrorist camp? If it was before the attack itself, what took the government so long to act on it?

Unfortunately, instead, questions that require sensitive information to be disclosed are asked because people know that when they will be refused they can easily mask military secrecy as something fishy which opens the doors for them to create stories that suit their agenda.

I would just want to end this by apologizing to IAF as we, the Indian citizens, failed to uphold our nation’s security to the highest levels. While we give sermons about freedom of speech, we fail miserably at the responsibility of speech.

Featured Image Source: Zee News

Understanding Marriages

A couple of days ago, I received a forward on WhatsApp which talked about the “divorce culture” that’s supposedly growing in India. It was basically venting out frustration on women largely and holding them responsible for the growing situation – not really surprising.

This post is for those who haven’t taken pains to understand the issue. A large part of the perception behind the divorces is based on personal biases, superficial knowledge, and cherry picking incidents that suit the desired conclusion. Like, the forward I received, blamed the entire situation on western influence, women not taking care of the house but going for a job outside, love marriages, live-in relationships and so on. Everything but the actual reasons.

Divorce

It failed to recognize the changing social fabric of society with respect to gender roles and growing equality. However, while the parents have taught daughters to go out and earn, they haven’t taught sons to fulfill their fair share of duties at home. While historically, it was pretty much the set up of India and the idea was not to oppress but distribute responsibilities in a way that men took care of bringing money into the house and women were responsible to manage it in the best manner possible. Things changed eventually as the nature of jobs in the world became less labor intensive because the machines took over that part and it became more intellectual where it was a level playing field for both the genders.

Now, this is my own theory, which might be true, might not be true. But somewhere in between this change in the work nature, the importance of household work started to diminish and because now, within a single gender, we had two more categories – the women who took care of home and the women who went out and did a 9 to 6 job – it created an atmosphere where the women who took care of the house became a subject of ridicule by the other category. In addition, the new competition at the workplace made the men insecure and all the more committed to making sure that women stay at home. How do we do that? By destroying the confidence of these women. This, further, received the stamp of approval from the society who invented reasons why women shouldn’t be out at work – most commonly, child care.

It also led to a change in the upbringing of daughters who were raised to be submissive and sons were raised to be dominating. And after marriage, the status quo was maintained and there weren’t many divorces due to power in favor of one gender. Ladies knew that they’ll be the victim as well as the culprit, parents doors would be closed for them, social stigma around divorces will make it difficult for them to get on their feet alone (top it up with poor education), social ostracization would be just waiting. Hence, it was obvious that divorce wasn’t really an option when they had nowhere to go. However, as times changed, education and greater financial freedom made women more aware of their rights. And as your awareness increases, your tendency to put up with bullshit decreases.

Secondly, just because marriage hasn’t resulted in a divorce doesn’t mean it’s a success either. So many marriages get dragged for every single reason other than the fact that one of the two or both the people in the marital bond are suffering, mostly silently. While, historically, we have been successful in keeping the marriages from failing, we probably don’t realize that we’ve failed at many levels to make marriages successful. It was only a matter of time before those failures crossed the tolerance levels.

Also, not all failures mean a bad thing. Divorces have been projected as a monster and almost equated to end of life unnecessarily. Not to say that it doesn’t have a devastating effect, especially for the two people separating, but then, as Einstein once said, “There is a great value in disaster”. Sometimes distance and space give people a chance to become a better version of themselves. We, as a civilization, have stressed enough on finding our true selves and the meaning/purpose of life. But sometimes, if there is a toxic environment around us, it just doesn’t allow us the freedom to do that.

Love marriages end up in divorces as well. True, because some (or maybe many) of the marital problems aren’t exclusive to arranged marriage. It’s just that the confidence of success is greater in the case of love marriages. Sure, not all of them would be very thought through but then that happens in arranged marriages as well. Humans make mistakes all the time. While it is true for kids, it is as much true for parents. And human relationships never come with a guarantee. But using those failures to keep scores will not help anybody.

O yes, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian Elections

Dear Hasan Minhaj,

Yes, brother, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian politics! Absolutely not. I totally agree with that but not for the reasons that were portrayed in the first couple of minutes of the show.

During my stay in the US, I did observe a general lack of understanding of India and Indian politics among the majority of Indians who have settled there since decades and your show was just a proof of that. I am not blaming but then somewhere the NRIs refuse to accept that lack of knowledge and feel entitled to speak up just because there are platforms available and there are listeners.
It was just sheer incomplete information, no understanding of the core issues of Indian society + politics and an extremely one-sided view of the issues, organizations, and the leaders.

Through this blog, I am just attempting to bring in some perspective to the topics covered. I am not the epicenter of the knowledge or insights but having closely following Indian politics till date and having witnessed, in person, BJP’s administration and Modi’s leadership while growing up in Gujarat and living in India up until 2015, I guess I do bring in some level of credibility.

1. Balakot Attack
About the Balakot attack, you failed to mention that Indian media has recently provided enough details about how the targets were actually hit as the latest satellite images show (Indian Air Force collates proof of strikes at Balakot camp80% bombs hit target: IAF gives satellite images to govt as proof of Balakot airstrike, Balakot airstrike: 80% bombs hit target, says IAF in proof submitted to govt).
The portrayal of the entire incident as their word vs our word is quite naive. If you follow the news, you would know that Pakistan has continuously denied access to the international media to the site of air strike (Pakistan continues blocking media access to IAF’s air strike site, Why does the media have no real access?, No access to Pakistan religious school that India says it bombed) but just touring them around the forests. Pakistani PM was also caught red-handed lying on television when he said Pakistan had captured two Indian air crafts in the dogfight that followed a few days after the air strike when the fact was the second plane was Pakistan’s F-16 itself and the pilot was badly beaten up by the locals (and is said to have died in the hospital later on). Pakistan has also failed to acknowledge this – which is terrible for a soldier who risked his life for the country.
And saying that the Indian government was exploiting Kashmir for elections is also a totally idiotic. Indian army conducted operations in Myanmar in 2015 and then in PoK in 2016 (in response to Uri attack). Even in 2016, the same excuse was given by the anti-India and anti-BJP folks that due to elections in Uttar Pradesh, this was done. The fact is that, in India, every year some 4-5 (or even more) states go into elections to elect a state government. So, it is common and easy to portray any positive step of the government as an election hoodwink.

2. Jobs
You spoke literally just for 10 seconds on this topic to give out a judgment. The fact of the matter is that this is one topic where there is significant confusion (just read these two articles: The reason India jobs data is not credible and The sharp debate on jobs data shows govt may arrive at a process for understanding India’s labour market) and making any conclusive statement is absolutely naive. There are plenty of data sources giving a variety of information but none of them covering the entire spectrum. Unlike the US, the UK, and many other western countries, India has never had any credible source of employment information. While the larger estimates do not favor the government at all – more confusion in this matter will only be detrimental to the government.

3. Demonetization
You showed a CPI worker (AIKS cap, red t-shirt and CPI flag in the background) criticizing the demonetization – so obvious. If you don’t know what AIKS is and the equation between CPI and BJP – research a bit. You, spending just above 60 seconds on the topic to conclude it as a failure is an absolute injustice to the topic itself because it was a very carefully planned exercise which had other aspects too – which was obviously ignored in the video – like the Jan Dhan Yojana and the closure of shell companies identified due to this exercise. You may want to read the following:
Govt cancelled 2.24 lakh suspected shell companies post demonetisation, disqualified 3.09 lakh directors, 2.09 lakh companies deregistered; directors face action, Black money accounts frozen, 2-3 lakh shell company owners now face up to 10 years jail.

If you really want to know what failure of demonetization looks like – just read about demonetization in Venezuela.
And while you talked about demonetization, you failed to mention the largest financial inclusion exercise carried out before that – the Jan Dhan accounts. While India received independence way back in 1947 and bank nationalizations happened in the 1969 and 1980, it still excluded more than half of the population from the financial system. While the numbers vary slightly from sources to sources, even by 2014, half or less than half of the Indian adults had a bank account. And, from there the number up to 80% and still counting. Yes, there are arguments that many (maybe a majority) of these newly opened accounts are dormant. But one also needs to take into consideration that any behavioral change in society takes persistent efforts and time. People who are habituated to deal in cash for 70 years post independence will not move to transact through their banks overnight.

4. Disenfranchisement of Immigrants
You mentioned the disenfranchisement of immigrants in Assam but failed to mention that these were illegal immigrants. It was also surprising that you missed out on some very basic details on NRC

  1. It was first prepared in 1951 to tackle the issue of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  2. The current NRC exercise is a part of the Assam Accord that was signed by the then Congress PM in 1986, Late Rajiv Gandhi (you should have asked Shashi Tharoor about this) but was never implemented and
  3. The current exercise was mandated by the honorable Supreme Court of India on October 2013 (when Congress government was in power).

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a monstrous problem for both, West Bengal and Assam. It is being portrayed as Muslim immigrants (as if a particular religion is targeted) but they fail to mention that the immigrants come from Bangladesh which is 90% Islamic. Many governments, including this one, have been trying to arrive at a solution and a part of the solution is to send the illegal immigrants back to Bangladesh.

Yes, when the first list of National Register for Citizens was created, it did include some actual citizens as well but that was due to lack of documental evidence and there was a time period provided to such citizens to submit the relevant documents. Ironically, this whole infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh (and Rohingyas from Myanmar) totally contradicts the perception that minorities are not safe in India 🙂

5. Hindu Nationalism is not anti-Muslim
BJP talks about Hindu nationalism but that speaks of Hinduism as a value system – not religion. Every single scheme of the present government has been targeted to every single Indian irrespective of religion or caste – be it Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Aayushman Bharat, Make in India, Awaas Yojana and many others. This government is also the first one to introduce reservations based on economic status, rather than social status.
So, calling the current government as communal or anti-Muslim is highly ironic especially when compared to the previous Congress government that stated that a certain community has the first right on India’s resources. Some of the most perceived right-wing leaders like Subramanian Swamy has a Muslim son-in-law. He himself is married to a Parsi. The PM, in his addresses, always iterates 1.3 billion Indians instead of using a collective of religion or caste or anything else that divides India. Unfortunately, he and BJP often gets targeted and accused as anti-Muslim because, unlike other parties, they are not in the practice of appeasing minorities for votes. You may want to read this:
PMO intervenes to end Kerala disabled boy’s fight for education.

6. Affiliation with RSS
Regarding his affiliation with RSS, if you know about the RSS in detail as most of the Indians do, it becomes a source of confidence and not a source of concern. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) pretty much translates to National Volunteers Group – no reference to any particular religion or caste etc. Yes, the organization is primarily focused on the Hindu way of life and incorporating discipline into the Indian youth (the video that you showed of the physical exercises is essentially a part of inculcating the discipline). Having said that, RSS has been always forefront in carrying out relief work in any natural or man-made disasters – be it in Kashmir or Kerala. The organization has given some of the greatest and the most respected leaders India has seen post-Independence.
You might be surprised to know that RSS has many members from Muslims, Christian, and Sikh community and they understand the true philosophy of RSS. It also has a Muslim wing itself called RMM (Rashtriya Muslim Manch), a Sikh wing called Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (What brings Muslims, Christians and Sikhs to RSS? Why do they join the organization that is considered to be the antithesis of secular politics in India).
Time and again, the western media and public in general, has always failed to understand the Hinduism because they tend to see Hinduism from an Abrahamic lens. You should read the book “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines” by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

7. Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination
Regarding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi – I know, for western media, Mahatma Gandhi is pretty much next to God – but research is required in understanding the background of the whole thing which the majority of Indian media and almost the entire of western media never took interest in and always talked about it in a superficial manner. I am not justifying the assassination – it was definitely wrong – but the reason for condemnation of assassination also matters as much as condemnation itself. I would suggest you watch this and try to get some perspective

8. Monk with a Gun
You mentioned “Monk with a Gun” but one needs to go back to understanding the history of India where this (weapons) was actually the part of the education. This is not something new. I have mentioned more about it here.
Regarding changing the names, it is not a change of the name per se. It is restoring the original names (not sure why nobody told you that). And it is not anti-Muslim for sure. It is anti-Mughal – the dark era in the history of India that was marred by systematic destruction of India’s vast natural resources, forced religious conversions, destruction of India’s agricultural strength, unjust and high taxes (including jizya), and many other atrocities by the Mughal invaders. Similar exercises have happened time and again. Just read here – Renaming of Cities in India. Again, it requires some good reading.

9. Lynchings
Regarding the lynchings, there are two major points. The narrative that it has been increasing since 2014 is wrong because 1) There is no credible data available that suggests that since 2014 there is an increase; 2) NCRB started reporting communal riots only after 2014 – so obviously there were no reported lynchings before 2014 since nobody was actually recording it; and 3) Mob lynching has been talked more since 2014 and has caught media attention but just because we come to know more about it now and not before doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist at the same scale earlier. Mob lynching is a result of a challenge that India faces in terms of law enforcement which is being tried to overcome since decades. I would suggest you watch this

You may also want to read this: Can Data Tell Us Whether Lynchings Have Gone Up Under Modi, And Should It Matter?

10. Democracy in Danger
When you say that Indians also feel that the “democracy is backsliding” – you show Yogendra Yadav who has been a classic anti-Modi person who will obviously say those things. If you don’t know the history of Yogendra Yadav, please read about him. Since 2014, there have been regular attempts to project that the Indian democracy is in danger under the present government (completely ignoring the fact that this is the government elected by citizens of India with a landslide victory – the first time in three decades. I would actually not consider 1984 because that landslide was driven by emotions rather than performance). Be it the award wapasi show, tukde tukde gang, intolerance debate or EVM drama. If you do not know about these terms, please read.

Again, I sincerely hope there wasn’t any agenda behind this episode. 29 minutes is a too short a time considering the breadth of the topics covered – which essentially meant quantity was prioritized over quality – and in this case misinformation or half-information was prioritized over a genuine talk.

If true, it’s sad that nobody from BJP opted to speak to you and you only received one-sided biased Leftist view of the Indian politics from Shashi Tharoor. He is a great orator but it was very sad to hear that he obviated corruption. But then it is nothing new – that has been the mentality of the Congress and many other parties since ages. When Rahul Gandhi was asked about dynastic politics at University of California, Berkeley, he just said “that’s the way India works” – in spite of having a present government that has not only opposed dynastic politics in words but also in practice. Just follow the news around the list of candidates they released for the upcoming general elections in India and the whole logic behind identifying the right candidate for the right constituency. They are demonstrating how democracy should actually work.

While talking about all other things, within one minute, you could have also covered this bullet point list:

  • India is the 6th largest economy (10th in 2012-2015) by nominal GDP (3rd by PPP) – World Bank
  • India jumped 57 places (134 to 77) in ease of doing business in just 4 years – Tradingeconomics.com | World Bank
  • The government went on to simplify the indirect taxation system by bringing everything under GST (Centre and State) and categorizing items to make some very essential items under 0% taxation.
  • The Indian PM received the Champion of the Earth from the United Nations for his bold environmental leadership on the global stage – United Nations Environment Programme
  • International Yoga Day was one resolution that received massive support (co-sponsorship) of 177 countries out of 193.
  • Sushma Swaraj was invited as a Chief Guest at OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) States – the first time since its inception in 1969 – and in spite of opposition from Pakistan – so much for the anti-Muslim government and the party.

Again, here, I may not have been able to cover everything in detail. I am not even sure if I spending so much time on writing this was even worth it. But this is something that ought to be done.

P.S. I also came across this video which has some brilliant points debunking myths spread around the western world about India. Great work by The Sham Sharma Show: