Quarantine by Rajinder Singh Bedi

translated by C. Christine Fair

Introduction:

Rajinder Singh Bedi’s story written in 1939, is a timeless story of one ordinary man who selflessly worked to save people during the Plague.

Although he was Punjabi, he opted to write his stories in Urdu and later in Hindi because his mother tongue, Punjabi, was not regarded as a literary language. This bias towards Punjabi, unfortunately, endures in much of South Asia even though Punjabi literature dates back to the twelfth century and even though Punjabi culture dominates much of South Asian popular culture. This story, “Quarantine,” was published as a part of Bedi’s first volume of short stories, Daanaa o Daam (Baited Trap), which was published in 1939. It was subsequently published in Hindi decades later as well as Punjabi. The Urdu version has been used as the basis for this translation. Both the Hindi and Punjabi versions significantly differ from the Urdu original.

The story takes on an uncanny resemblance during the current pandemic situation the world faced and from which we as a human race, are just emerging. People’s stories, the problems of middle-class lives, love and pain, inherently remain the same through the ages.

In this wonderfully translated story, we understand this more than ever.

***

Like the fog that spreads out and obscures everything across the plains lying at the feet of the Himalayas, the fear of plague stretched out in four directions. Every child in the city would shudder upon hearing its name. 

While the plague, in fact, was dangerous, the quarantine was even more deadly than the illness. People were not as immiserated by the plague as they were by the quarantine. To save the citizens from the rats, the Health and Safety Department printed up life-sized banners and put them on doors, roads, and avenues emblazoned with the caption “No Rat. No Plague. No Quarantine,” expanding upon the earlier slogan, “No Rat. No Plague.”  

The people were frightened of the quarantine. Given that I am a doctor, you can believe me when I claim that more people in the city died from the quarantine than from the plague.  The quarantine is not a disease; but rather the name of an area where, during the days when the epidemic was spreading through the air, sick people were separated from healthy people by force of law to prevent the disease from further proliferating. Even though there were reasonable numbers of doctors and nurses in the quarantine, it wasn’t enough because patients kept coming in ever-increasing numbers. Patients were not given—and indeed could not be given—personalized care. Because patients’ family members were by their side, I saw many patients lose their mettle. Having watched so many others die, one by one, all around them, many patients died well before death. On many occasions, a person would come in with a minor illness but would die from the pathogens pervasive in quarantine. Because the death toll kept climbing, last rites could only be performed per the special procedures of the quarantine, which is to say, hundreds of corpses were strung out like the carcasses of dead dogs atop a mounting heap. Then, without any religious formalities, petrol would be tossed on the pile and set ablaze. Seeing the flames climbing up towards the evening sky, the remaining patients felt that the entire world was aflame.

The quarantine was the reason for the swelling deaths because, upon seeing the symptoms of the disease, family members of the afflicted began hiding them so that they would not be remanded to the quarantine forcibly. Doctors were instructed to report every person who had been infected to the department. Consequently, people did not seek treatment from doctors. One would come to know that a family had come into the clutches of the epidemic only when corpses were pulled from the house amidst heart-rendering shrieks.

In those days, I was working as a doctor in the quarantine. Fear of the plague consumed my heart and mind too. In the evening, upon reaching home, I would wash my hands with carbolic soap for a long time; or gargle with an antiseptic potion, or drink hot coffee that would give me indigestion or drink brandy. Because of this, I suffered from sleep deprivation and blinding light in my eyes. On several occasions, I would take emetics to induce vomiting to cleanse my body. Whenever I would get indigestion from drinking very hot coffee or brandy, which caused bouts of hot gas to rise and steam my brain, I would fall prey to all sorts of superstitions just like someone who had lost their wits. If there was the slightest pain in my throat, I’d think, “Oh God! I must have caught the murderous disease… Plague! And then… Quarantine!”

In those days, there was a newly converted Christian named William Bhagu. He was the sweeper who cleaned my street. One day, he came up to me and said, “Sir, it’s strange. Today, about twenty-one have been taken from this area in an ambu.”

“Twenty-one? In an ambulance…?” I asked in shock.

“Yes, sir… Fully twenty and one. They have been taken to the kontine. Will those hapless people ever be able to come back?”

I gathered that Bhagu would get up at three in the morning. After quaffing a small bottle of alcohol, he would spread lime powder in the streets and drains under the committee’s jurisdiction, as instructed, to prevent the microbes from spreading. Bhagu told me that he got up every day at three in the morning to collect the corpses strewn about the bazaar.  He also does small chores for those people in the neighborhood where he worked who don’t leave their homes for fear of the disease. Bhagu was not at all afraid of getting the disease. The way he saw it, if death was coming for him, there was nothing he could do to save himself no matter where he was.

In those days, when no one could go near anyone, Bhagu would cover his face and head with his turban cloth and, with great devotion, busy himself helping people. Even though his knowledge was very limited, he could expertly explain to people how to save themselves from the ailment. He instructed them to practice basic hygiene, toss lime powder, and remain inside their homes. One day I saw him counseling people to drink a lot of alcohol. On that day, when he approached me, I asked, “Bhagu, aren’t you afraid of getting the plague?”

“No, sir. Until death comes for me, not even a hair will be askew. You are such a prominent doctor. Thousands have been cured by your hands. But when my time comes, even your medicines will not save me…Sir, I hope you are not offended. I am just saying the plain truth.” Then, to change the subject he asked, “Sir, explain to me what a kontine is… tell me about this kontine.”

“Over there in the quarantine, there are thousands of patients. We treat them to the extent that we can. But how much can we do? The people who work with me are themselves afraid of staying with the patients for a long period of time. Their lips and throats are dry with fear. Unlike you, no one will get close to a patient. Nor will anyone try as hard as you, Bhagu. May God bless you for selfless service to humanity.”

Bhagu bowed his head. Lifting the corner of his scarf and showing me his face, flushed red from drunkenness, he said: “Sir! Of what use am I? I am fortunate if any good comes from my useless body. Sir, L’abe (Reverend Monit L’abe), an important Father who usually comes to my neighborhood to preach, says that the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to do everything to help the ill… I understand….”

I wanted to appreciate Bhagu’s bravery, but I stopped because I was overwhelmed with emotions. I began to feel jealous upon seeing his faith and practical life. That day, I decided then and there that I would make every effort in the quarantine to keep alive as many patients as possible. I would risk my own life to provide them comfort. But there is a huge gap between saying something and doing it. Upon reaching the quarantine and seeing the patients’ perilous condition, I became overwhelmed by the stench emanating from their mouths. My very soul began to quake, and I was unable to summon the courage to serve them as Bhagu did.  

Nonetheless, on that day, I took Bhagu with me and got a lot done in the quarantine. I delegated to Bhagu the varied tasks which required someone to be near a patient; he performed the role without complaint. I remained quite distant from the patients because I was petrified by the thought of death and even more so of the quarantine.

But how is that Bhagu is above both death and the quarantine?

That day, four hundred patients came to the quarantine, and about 250 succumbed to the jaws of death.

I was able to save so many because of Bhagu’s willingness to gamble his own life. There was a graph hanging on the wall of the chief medical officer’s room, which depicted the latest data on patient survival outcomes. It showed that those patients who fared best were those under my care. Every day, I made one excuse or another to take a peek at the chart. It was exhilarating to see that line on its way towards one hundred percent.  

One day, I had drunk more brandy than was necessary. My heart began to pound. My pulse started racing like a horse. I began to run around here and there like a madman. I began to worry that perhaps the plague pathogens had finally grabbed hold of me and that soon the lymph nodes in my neck and thighs would begin to swell. I immediately panicked. That day, I wanted to run away from the quarantine. I was shaking the entire time I was there. On that day, I was able to meet Bhagu just twice.

In the afternoon, I saw him embracing some patient. He was patting him lovingly on the hand. The patient mustered as much strength as required to say “Brother, Allah is the king. God would not even bring an enemy to this place. I have two daughters…”

Bhagu interrupted him to say, “Brother, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, you look just fine.”

“Yes, brother, by god’s grace… I am much better than I was before. If I could… this quarantine….”

And with that word still on his tongue, his veins bulged. He began frothing at the mouth. His eyes became stones. His body jerked several times, and the patient, who just a moment ago before appeared to everyone –even to himself—to be fine, fell quiet forevermore. Bhagu’s tears seemed as if they were tears of blood.  Who else would cry for the dead man? Had any relative been there, they would’ve rendered asunder the earth with their mourning. He only had Bhagu—the relative to everyone. He had pain in his heart for everyone. He cried for everyone and seethed on everyone’s behalf. One day, he humbly offered himself to Lord Jesus Christ in recompense for the sins of mankind.

That day, around evening time, Bhagu ran to see me. He was out of breath. He said in a painful voice, “Sir, this quarantine is hell. Just hell. Father L’abe drew a map of this kind of hell.”

I told him, “Yes, brother, this is even worse than hell. I myself was thinking about making an escape from here. I am feeling very unwell today.”

“Sir, how can hell be worse than this? Today, a patient fainted from fear of the illness. Someone mistaking him for dead tossed him onto a pile of corpses. After dousing the heap with petrol and setting it ablaze, the flames began to consume the corpses. I saw him in the fire, moving his hands and feet. I leapt in and pulled him out. He was so badly burned that my right arm was completely burned while rescuing him.”

I looked at Bhagu’s arm.  The yellow fat tissue of his arm was exposed. I was stunned to see him like this. I asked, “In the end, was that man saved?”

“Sir, he was such a noble man. This world could never appreciate his virtuousness and honesty. Even in that state of sheer agony, he lifted up his scorched face, gazed into my eyes with great frailty and thanked me.”

“And sir,” Bhagu said, continuing his story, “then, after so much agony—so much more agony than I have ever witnessed in a dying patient—he passed. It would’ve been so much better had I not saved him from that inferno. By saving him, I kept him alive to bear yet more misery. Even then, he could not be spared. And then I picked him up with my burnt arms and tossed him on the pile.” 

After this, Bhagu could say no more. With pangs of pain, he said haltingly, “Do you know… from which disease he died? Not from the plague… From the kontine. From the kontine.”

Even though the idea of hell brought some modicum of solace from the brutality, the sky-rendering shrieks of the terrified patients relentlessly echoed in one’s ears throughout the night. Even though the owls hesitated to hoot, the lamentations of mothers, the screams of sisters, the grieving of wives, and the cries of children could be heard across the neighborhood. If this was a heavy burden upon the chests of those who were safe and sound, how did it demoralize those who were ill in their homes who could see only yellow despair dripping from the doors and windows like a jaundiced person. Then there were those patients of the quarantine who, after crossing all limits of despair, were staring down the king of death. Yet they gripped life as if they were clinging to the top of a tree during a great storm. And as the powerful waves of water kept coming at them, they wanted to take the top of that tree with them when they went under.

That day, I didn’t go to the quarantine either due to my fear of the illness. I made an excuse to do some urgent work. Actually, I was experiencing severe psychological distress…Although it was possible that I could help some patients, the fear which seized my heart and mind also shackled my feet. Late that evening, I received news that some five hundred patients had arrived in the quarantine.  

I was about to fall asleep after drinking the scalding coffee, which was still burning in my stomach, when I heard Bhagu’s voice at the door. The servant opened the door, and Bhagu entered panting. He said, “Sir, my wife has fallen ill… her tonsils are swollen… For the love of god, save her… The one and half-year-old child is still nursing. He will die too.”

Instead of mustering even an iota of genuine sympathy, I said angrily “Why didn’t you come sooner? Did the illness begin just now?”

“In the morning, a minor fever… when I went to the kontine…” 

“Okay. So, she was sick at home, and yet you still went to the quarantine?”

“Yes, sir. Yes.”  Bhagu said, trembling. “It was an ordinary illness. I assumed that perhaps her breasts could not express milk. Apart from this, she had no other problems. And both of my brothers were at home. And there were hundreds of helpless patients in the kontine…”

“You, with your excessive generosity and sacrifice, you brought those germs into your own home. I told you that you should not get so close to the patients… Look, this is the very reason I did not go there today. This is all your fault. Now, what can I do? Heroes like you need to suffer a taste of your own heroism. Wherever there are hundreds of patients piled up in the city…”

Bhagu said beseechingly “But for the sake of Jesus Christ…”

“Go. Leave. Who do you think you are? You deliberately put your hand in the fire. Should I pay the price for your imprudence?  Does anything good come from such sacrifices? I can’t help you at all at this hour….”

“But Father L’abe….”

“Leave. Go and see your Father L’abe…”

Bhagu bowed his head and left. Half an hour later, my anger had dissipated, and I regretted my behavior. At least I had enough sense to feel terrible about it afterwards. Without a doubt, my most severe punishment would be trampling upon my pride, begging Bhagu for his forgiveness, and making every conceivable effort to save his wife. I changed my clothes as quickly as possible and ran to Bhagu’s home. Upon arrival, I saw that Bhagu’s younger brothers had laid their sister-in-law on a charpai and were taking her outside….

I asked Bhagu, “Where are they taking her?”

Bhagu said softly, “To the kontine…”

“But don’t you still think the quarantine is a hell, Bhagu?”

“Sir, when you refused to come, what other option was there? I was thinking that we would get the hakeem’s help there, and I could care for her along with the other patients.”

“Put the charpai here… Even now, your brain is still fixated upon other patients…? Fool…”

The bed was taken inside, and I administered to his wife whatever effective medicines I had, and then I began to struggle with my invisible opponent. Bhagu’s wife opened her eyes.

Bhagu said in a trembling voice, “I will never forget your kindness for the rest of my life, sir.”

I said, “Bhagu, I can’t tell you how much I regret how I behaved before… May god repay your service by making your wife healthy.”

In that moment, I saw my invisible foe deploy his last weapon. Bhagu’s wife’s lips began to tremble. Her pulse, which had slowed in my hand, continued to weaken. My invisible enemy, who is regularly victorious, knocked me down on all fours as usual.  I lowered my head remorsefully and said, “Bhagu, ill-fated Bhagu! This is a peculiar reward for all of your sacrifices.”

Bhagu burst into tears. It was difficult to watch as he removed his crying child from his mother and humbly asked me to leave. I had thought that Bhagu, having accepted the darkness of his own life, would no longer care for others…. But the very next day, I saw him helping even more patients than before. He saved the lights of hundreds of homes… And he paid absolutely no heed to his own life. Even I followed Bhagu’s example and began working with enthusiasm. In my spare time—when I was free from my work in the quarantine and hospital—I turned my attention to the homes of the city’s poor, which are epicenters due to their proximity to sewers or filth.  

Now, the atmosphere is completely free of the pathogen that caused the illness. The entire city has been cleansed. There are no signs of rats. In the entire city, there are but a few cases of the disease which, after getting immediate attention, do not spread further.

Throughout the city, business returned to normal. Schools, colleges, and offices began to reopen.

One thing I felt for certain was that people were pointing at me from every direction as I passed through the bazaar. People looked upon me with grateful eyes. My picture was published in the newspaper along with flattering words. I began to feel pretty arrogant after receiving so much praise and compliments wherever I went.

Ultimately, there was a large ceremony to which all of the city’s well-heeled citizens and doctors were invited. The Minister of the Municipality presided over it. I was seated next to the minister because this program had, in fact, been organized in my honor. My neck strained under the weight of the garlands. Feeling honored and looking about, the committee was giving me a token sum of one thousand rupees as recompense for my diligent work on behalf of humanity.

All of the people who were there praised my colleagues generally and me, in particular, and exclaimed that the number of lives that were saved during the plague due to my diligence and dedication were innumerable.  I couldn’t tell you whether it was day or night. I believed that my life was tantamount to the life of the nation and my wealth to be the treasure of society. I entered the homes of the ill and gave the dying patients the elixir of health!

The Minister of the Municipality stood on the left side and picked up a walking stick. Addressing the audience, he used his stick to draw their attention to a black line on the chart, which was hanging on the wall. The line depicted how, throughout the course of the epidemic, the health of the public continuously improved at every moment during the crisis. He concluded by referencing the chart, which also indicated the day when fifty-four patients were remanded to my care, all of whom recovered. In other words, my success rate was one hundred per cent, and the black line reached its zenith.

After this, the minister acknowledged my courage in his speech and said that the people would be pleased to know that Bakhshi was being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in acknowledgment of his service. The hall was filled with the thunderous sound of loud applause.

During the ovation, I raised my head in pride. I thanked the dignitaries and distinguished audience in a lengthy oration. In addition, I also explained that doctors did not just devote their attention to the hospitals and quarantines but also to the homes of the impoverished. Those people had no one to help them, and they generally succumbed to this fatal disease. My colleagues and I searched for—and found—the epicenter of the illness and focused our attention upon eradicating the disease at its source. After finishing up our work in the hospital and quarantine, we would spend the night in those dreadful houses.

That same day, after the ceremony, with my rank of lieutenant colonel, I held my head high with pride, laden with garlands and one thousand rupees—a token gift from the people–stuffed in my pocket. Upon reaching home, I heard a soft voice off to the side.

“Babu Ji… So many congratulations to you!”

And Bhagu, while congratulating me, placed that same old broom on the lid of a filthy, nearby cistern and, with both hands, removed the cloth he had tied around his face. I was startled.

“Is that you?… Bhagu brother!” I barely managed to say… “The world doesn’t know you, Bhagu, and even if it never does, I know you. And I know your Jesus.…L’abe’s great disciple… May god bless you.” At that time, my throat became dry. The image of Bhagu’s dying wife and child flashed before my eyes. My neck felt as if it was snapping from the heft of the garlands, and my pocket was bursting at the seams from the weight of my wallet and. Despite receiving all of these honors, I began to mourn this world that had so much appreciation for a worthless man.

***

About the Translator:

C. Christine Fair is a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the School of Foreign Service.  She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). Her forthcoming book is Lines of Control: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s Militant Piety, with Safina Ustad (Oxford University Press, 2021).  She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Lunch Ticket, Clementine Unbound, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Barzakh Magazine, Bluntly Magazine, Badlands Literary Journal, among others. Her visual work has appeared in Vox Populi, pulpMAG, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The New Southern Fugitives, Glassworks and Existere Journal of Arts. Her translations have appeared in the Bombay Literary Magazine and Bombay Review. She causes trouble in multiple languages.


CATEGORIESTRANSLATIONS

Rajinder Singh Bedi

Rajinder Singh Bedi (1915-1984) was a famed Urdu story writer associated with the Progressive Writers’ Movement in India. He is most renowned for writing short stories that dilated upon the lives of India’s lower middle-class. He was born in the Sialkot district of pre-partition Punjab, which is now in Pakistan. He spent his formative years in Lahore (currently in Pakistan) where he was educated in Urdu.ALL POSTS

This was published in the Bangalore Review in September 2022.

Retraction Statement

C. Christine Fair

  1. Based upon facts revealed during discovery in litigation, I am compelled to believe that I publicized unverified allegations about Professor Rochona Majumdar.  I, Christine Fair, retract them fully and apologize.
  2. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar offensively touched, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed Zain Jamshaid because they are unfounded and false.
  3. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar is a sexual predator because they are unfounded and false.
  4. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar plagiarized Zain Jamshaid, or any other person because they are unfounded and false.
  5. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar discriminated against any student on the basis of sexual orientation, national origin, caste status, religion, or any other basis because they are unfounded and false based on the information I have received. 
  6. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar abused, harassed, or victimized any student because they are unfounded and false based on the information I have received.
  7. I hereby retract any and all statements I [Christine Fair] have made stating or suggesting that Rochona Majumdar was hired or granted tenure by the University of Chicago because her husband influenced or interfered with the process because I had no basis to make the statements.
  8. I learned during discovery that I should have been less ready to believe the statements that had been made to me. I apologize for the lasting damage I have done to Rochona Majumdar’s reputation and the unnecessary pain I have caused thereby.

I Crashed into the Cuckoo’s Nest

In 1954, Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), presciently declared that “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” Some 68 years later, most citizens of the world’s largest and oldest democracies have inadequate access to mental health facilities, much less treatment, which often involves therapy as well as pharmaceutical approaches. In addition to the absence of resources, both countries to varying degrees stigmatize those with mental health problems. It’s a common retort when we are annoyed with someone to say: “Go back on your meds.” Anyone with actual experience with mental illness likely has a lot to say about this offensive quip. Would we ever say “Go back on your insulin” to a diabetic? No. Yet, the brain is like any other organ and sometimes it too requires care.

The statistics are staggering. More than one in four American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Suicide, the most extreme manifestation of mental illness, is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. For adolescents (15,019), it’s the fourth-leading cause of death. In 2019, 47,511 Americans killed themselves in addition to estimated 3.5 million people who planned to do so and 1.4 who attempted suicide but were saved. Overall, the United States has a suicide rate of 13.5 people per 100,000 people.

In India, mental health is also at a crisis point. In 2015–16, the Indian government undertook the Indian Mental Health Survey and concluded that some “150 million persons are in need of mental health interventions and care (both short term and long term) and considering the far-reaching impact of mental health (on all domains of life), in all populations (from children to elderly), in both genders, as well as in urban and rural populations, urgent actions are required.” India’s suicide rate is estimated to be 10.1 per 100,000.

Globally, each year some 800,000 people will take their lives. One person will commits suicide every 40 seconds and for each suicide, there are another 20 attempted suicides. The pandemic has only exacerbated acute mental health crises across the world, failing those citizens who are most in need. In January 2022, I became one of those statistics.

I don’t hide my own struggle with mental illness purposefully. When the social media trolls spanning the political spectrum between dangerously stupid and pathological malignant offer the “Go back on your meds” prescription, I confidently retort with complete sincerity: “Oh no, dumbass. I cannot go off my meds. It requires a lot of meds to keep my jalopy plane in the air.” I am open about my experiences of trying to fix my aircraft while flying it because I know that there are others whose airframes aren’t in tiptop condition either. Those who are spared the ravages of depression will most likely ask in earnest puzzlement: “Who wants to fly a broken plane?” The answer is easy: It’s the only plane we have. But I know that I am not waging war on an injured brain alone.

To give you the elevator introduction to my brain, she’s fifty-three. She’s kept me alive despite more than a decade of childhood sexual abuse, a petting zoo of every imaginable cretin malingering in out of my mother’s life largely for economic reasons, and from my own inept mother, who despite her best efforts, was first unable and then unwilling to protect me. And she was also known to give me a good whooping with any whooping object she could find, in addition to a sharp tongue and no internal filters. One of her common refrains when angry was “Goddamnit you little fucker! Cut me a switch.” And we did indeed cut that switch. So unless she intended to raise a highly educated savage, we may question her parenting skillset.

I first deduced that I could end this nightmare if I could figure out how to make myself die at the age of eight. Since then, I’ve generally managed these urges with medications and therapy until I couldn’t. This past year was the year the urges became too strong and too loud and I succumbed to their call. The last calendar year has been an unending onslaught of major assaults to my central nervous system. My tendentious mother-in-law finally died after three years of dying and my remaining in-laws, who consider me one chromosome short of being a spider inhabiting the reading light in the dining room, have repeatedly assaulted the fundaments of my marriage.

The emotional strain and drain of trying to help the Afghans who sought my help added to the burgeoning intolerable burden. Just when it was clear that the precarious window to help Afghans was closing, the holidays came. The holidays are that special time of year when your loved ones demonstrate how little regard they have for you. These specific challenges further strained my brain chemistry evolving under the ravages of menopause all the while suffering from unending pain from a roller-blading-induced broken wrist. One of the medications (gabapentin) given to me to stem my wrist pain has a regrettable side effect of suicide. One of my physician’s ex-post facto categorically denounced this drug as “dangerous.”

And so, on a lovely Friday afternoon on 7 January, without any compulsions or reservations at all, I drove my car into my garage, tried to run a hose from my exhaust pipe to my window and I hoped for that permanent sleep. Sometime later, the police were breaking into my garage and car and all hell broke loose. What happened next was a horror show.

I was rendered into what is called a “Temporary Detention Order” and I was forcefully admitted into our local hospital in Alexandria. There was one problem: That hospital had no psychiatric care. (As a well-practiced mental health survivor with an unfortunate habit of injuring herself, I know my hospitals.) I explained this to the police who kindly offered not to cuff me (as per protocol) for the short ride and they agreed that I was correct about the lack of psychiatric facility at the Alexandria Hospital. But statutorily they could not take me to the hospital that did have those facilities unless they asked for permission and they didn’t want to do that.

The police took me to the back-most room in the emergency room and cuffed me to the side of the rail, leaving my broken wrist unfettered. I briefly met with a doctor, who was younger than most wines I drink, who did a cursory exam and disappeared. I wouldn’t see her until about 9 or 10 that evening, some seven hours later, when I was begging to see a psychiatrist. The Alexandria Social Worker tasked to evaluate me via an overpriced notepad with ten percent battery remaining for all of ten minutes, announced that I should be remanded to a facility based upon virtually nothing. She refused to contact my therapist who, unlike this Zommed in nincompoop, knew me and my history.

For about nine hours, I was cuffed to that bed. I had been given juice and a turkey sandwich when I came in at about 3 pm. They did not serve me dinner. When I asked for dinner, I was told the service was over. They did not apologize for failing to give me dinner and indignantly complained when I explained I hadn’t had a proper meal since 7 am and needed to eat. At my insistence, they brought another turkey sandwich with the same enthusiasm with which one might dig a communal latrine. There was no privacy for my misery. A cop sat out my door. People wondered in front of me and stared. They thought I was a criminal. My students, colleagues or neighbors could’ve walked by. Why couldn’t the cop have sat inside my room with the curtain pulled for privacy? Why did my agony have to be shown to all who passed? And since my room was right across from the loo, many in fact passed by.

For the entire duration of the stay, which spanned 3 pm to past midnight, I cried nonstop. Without a proper meal, without any medication for my anxiety, or even a sedative to help me sleep, I remained chained to that bed. No one, including my husband, could visit me. I was essentially a prisoner receiving no medical care for my principal illness: PTSD-related depression. The bright lights and constant noise and untreated anxiety meant sleep was impossible. I was denied my phone and had no mental stimulation at all apart from coming up with creative invectives for the various humans whose actions and inactions put me in this situation.

A bit past midnight, I was ‘transferred’ in an unmarked police vehicle to a psychiatric ward about three hours from my home. My husband could not see me off and in fact, I wouldn’t see him until many days later, after my court date.

Once checked into the facility, I realized how bad our mental health facilities are. At one point, I actually considered checking into one of these clinics voluntarily. I now realized how bad that idea was. The ward was unsegregated which meant that I never felt safe the entire time I was there. What stroke of genius was this to put a woman with PTSD with a history of sexual assault on a ward with men? The staff was thin due to Covid-19.

The first doctor who saw me was a creepy older man who was redolent of brill cream and moisturizer for his freakishly pasty skin. He bristled when I introduced myself as “Dr. Fair,” after he introduced himself to me with his own title of “Doctor.” To regain the upper hand in this power dynamic, he casually announced that he “would not do my vaginal exam.” To which I replied, “Great. Because I wouldn’t let you.” This was a needless power move to reassert his control over the situation and remind me of my own helplessness. In the words of my therapist, to whom I later recounted this fiasco, it was “retraumatising.” He also sought to deprive me of medications that I required to manage my menopause symptoms which in large measure are intended to help regulate my mental state. I had to insist upon their reinstatement.

Given that I was remanded to this psychiatric ward on an emergency basis against my will, one would have thought that getting me to see a psychiatrist would be the highest priority. But it wasn’t. I wouldn’t see a psychiatrist until the day before I was allowed to go home, following a court hearing. This was not treatment: It was involuntary incarceration. It was a place they put me in hopes that my misery would pass without medical intervention. It was holding a tank.

I could fill pages with the insanity of that psychiatric ward. For those who have seen (or read) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, let me say that that film is more documentary than fiction. The preposterous group activities were more like babysitting than therapeutic. In fact, I have seen street signs with larger numbers than the IQs of our group wardens.

I had to get out of there. My PTSD made me a very unsuitable candidate for this kind of facility. In truth, I’m not sure who is a good candidate for what was the equivalent of a goldfish bowl for humans. I became very anxious as the court date came. Despite the efforts of my local authority in Alexandria who advocated to the judge via telephone that I should remain detained against my will with zero information, the court-appointed lawyer and my own therapist persuasively and successfully argued that I should be released.

I’ve been home for twelve weeks and the hell of that sequence of events continues to play out. In their efforts to medicate me without understanding me, my trauma, and my needs, they put me on medication (aripiprazole) known for inducing a state of hypomania. Unbeknownst to me, I had been living in an unsustainable state of hypomania for weeks. Eventually, my state became so disturbed that even I could discern it. I was fearful of what would follow when this hypomania ended.

Oddly, the one lesson that I learned from this experience is that if I am going to commit suicide, I must succeed. I will never trust an emergency room again with my suicidal ideation. My experience with the deceit and ruses of the police officers who barged into my garage has added to my previous extant wariness of police. And I know now that psychiatric facilities are not therapeutic either. All of this has made me less trusting of our systems because I know they are flusterclucked. I have frequently reflected upon the fact that I have a PhD, am accustomed to self-advocacy, and am an astute wrangler of bureaucracies in the conduct of my research. Yet I was completely victimized by this system when I was most vulnerable and needing help. How are others treated with far less social and other capital? Perhaps in our derelict health system, it doesn’t matter? But I know this system isn’t just failing me. It’s most likely failing everyone who needs it.

The current task is to find what works to silence the voices in my head without causing yet another set of problems to manage. Knowing that I’ll be under treatment for the rest of my life and am unlikely to ever be cured and thus free of this illness, is itself a source of depression that can be overwhelming. When I think about the decades ahead, I become wary. I don’t want to live like this. Yet much of the treatment for PTSD works for adult trauma. For survivors of childhood trauma — especially incestual sexual trauma — the scientific literature gives little cause for hope.

There is no happy ending to the story or moral. It’s just a glimpse into how one person, who at first blush seems together and successful, manages the darkest of demons. And despite having some of the best health care an American can have, it’s still not enough. I share this deeply personal account because I know right now, someone reading this is going through I what I am going through. In short, the struggle to live continues. Because it has to.

Here’s the final kick in the teeth: Just as I’ve been trying to get over the shock brought by even seeing that hospital up the street, that asinine facility had the temerity to send me a bill for services they did not render. Do prisoners pay the cost of their incarceration? In the United States of America, they just might.

Caste apartheid: India’s Less Salubrious Export to the United States

Until American state and federal laws — and domestic law elsewhere — catch up to the realities of caste apartheid, the most vulnerable of Indian-origin persons will suffer

Source: Equality Lab, “Caste In the United States,” https://www.equalitylabs.org/castesurvey

India exports nearly $20 billion in pearls and precious stones, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronic equipment and textiles. But there’s another export that is increasingly apparent: India’s caste apartheid.

This was first brought to my attention in 2017 when students approached me about alleged caste-based intimidation and harassment they were experiencing in their graduate program. While I was dismayed by their reports, I wasn’t entirely surprised because Silicon Valley firms had already been in the news for similar reasons as the State of California sought to find a legal remedy and came up empty-handed based upon federal or state legal protections, which include the US Equal Employment Discrimination Opportunity (EEOC) enforced American laws which criminalize employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information”. California’s own EEOC protects more classes of persons based upon ancestry, marital status, military/veteran status.”

But where does caste fit within these protections?

Source: Equality Lab, “Caste In the United States,” https://www.equalitylabs.org/castesurvey

Indeed, while such caste-based abuse is sinister and dehumanizing, American law has had difficulty finding a legal remedy for it. Two prominent lawsuits shed light upon this brutal form of discrimination in the United States In July 2020, the state of California sued Cisco Systems over alleged caste-based discrimination towards an Indian engineer by his Indian colleagues; however, the state struggled to argue that caste is protected as a form of religious-based discrimination but ultimately withdrew that case under pressure from Hindu groups which sought to minimize the role of caste in the Hindu religious tradition among other specious arguments including the argument that it violates due process and “uniquely endangers Hindus and Indians.”

In March 2021, a federal lawsuit alleged that a Hindu organization lured some 200 low-caste workers to the United State and forced them to work on building a sprawling temple complex in New Jersey for as little as $1.20 per hour. While lawsuits are battling out these issues, Krishnaswami and Krishnamurthi, in contrast, argue that caste discrimination is cognizable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the United States, it is true that caste is most typically associated with Hindus; Sumitra Badrinathan et al emphasize that caste hierarchies and caste self-identification are prevalent in most, if not all, the major religious traditions in South Asia. This is true in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Given that the vast majority of Muslims in South Asia converted from Hinduism, most Muslims carry with them the caste of their Hindu ancestors.

Additionally, Islam in South Asia has developed its own additional social hierarchies in South Asia, such as the Ashraf and Sayyids (persons who claim to be direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad), the local South Asian converts from Hinduism (Ajlaf) who also still bear the imprimatur of their Hindu caste origins, as well family and other network-based forms of social stratification (e.g. the Biradari System). Equally important one can be religiously secular while still perpetrating caste-based bigotry because it also confers notions of social status.

Two recent empirical studies demonstrate the impacts of India’s less salubrious transplant among its myriad diasporan communities in the United States. The Equality Lab, in its 2016 survey of 1,500 self-identified Hindu Americans, observes that many caste-oppressed migrant communities in the United States are affected by caste discrimination because this caste-apartheid has “replicated itself in South Asian community, religious, and business institutions. This has led to many shocking experiences of caste discrimination in the United States that includes physical assault, verbal slurs, and discrimination in schools, businesses, and workplaces.”

Moreover, they found that 41 percent of those identifying as lower-caste reported caste discrimination in American schools and universities compared to only 3 percent of those who identified as upper-caste Hindus. More than 67 percent of lower-caste respondents indicated that they suffered caste discrimination in the workplace compared to merely one percent of upper-caste respondents. Unsurprisingly, the Hindu American Foundation, lambasted this study perhaps revealing its own proclivities to upholding caste-based apartheid. While pro-caste trolls attacked this study, it is not the only effort to understand this phenomenon in the United States. In 2020, Badrinathan et al of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace oversaw a survey of 1,200 Indian American residents in the United States. They report that more than eight in ten Hindus identify as upper caste with foreign-born respondents being more likely to embrace a caste identity than are those who were born in the United States.

While the vast majority of Americans are likely to be blissfully unaware of this form of discrimination, South Asian Americans are. According to Krishnaswami and Krishnamurthi, in the summer of 2020, “[S]everal employees of large tech firms like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco came forward with harrowing tales of workplace discrimination, including being paid less, denied promotions, and mocked for their caste background. And, undoubtedly, the scourge of caste discrimination extends beyond Big Tech. While caste discrimination is in no sense new, these recent reports should serve as a needed wake-up call. Eradicating caste discrimination demands our immediate collective attention and action.”

There are several scholarly as well as journalistic accounts of caste-based discrimination among diasporan communities in the United States and elsewhere, such as the United Kingdom and other countries with large South Asian diasporan populations.

Another venue that is increasingly emerging as a site of caste-based discrimination in the university system where Indians live in large numbers. Times Higher Education, which studied this phenomenon in the United Kingdom and the United States, concluded that caste is a global problem. Given the so-far undefined legal protections to low-caste South Asians, many American universities are taking action to codify caste as a protected category under its anti-discrimination policy. As of December 2021, the University of California Davis, Maine’s Colby College and Massachusetts’ Brandeis and Harvard universities have done so.

Until American state and federal laws — and domestic law elsewhere — catch up to the realities of caste apartheid, the most vulnerable of Indian-origin persons will suffer. It’s bad enough that black and brown bodies must endure the brunt of American white supremacy, but they seem to be increasingly facing the brunt of a brutal system that they thought they had left behind when they left India.

A version of this essay was published in The Print on 9 February 2022.

Why Pakistan is happy to pay a heavy price this time for strategic depth in Afghanistan

Imran Con: Pakistan’s Selected Prime Minister

For the first time in over 75 years not only are there no Indian advisors in Afghanistan, there are now Pakistani advisors in their stead. This alone may be worth the price that Pakistan will continue to pay for its victory in Afghanistan

C Christine Fair January 24, 2022 11:22:14 IST

For the first time in 20 years, Pakistan believes it has a friendly government in Kabul. All of the pesky nuisances — such as the United States and India — have been vanquished and their embassies shuttered, while the embassies of Pakistan, China and Russia (Pakistan’s newest ally) remain open for business. That business is not salubrious for the international community or most importantly for Afghans. This has come at a steep price: Pakistan’s own Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan has been revivified within Pakistan. Yet, more Afghans are trying to flee the brutality of Pakistan’s puppet regime and Pakistan is the only option as the international efforts to evacuate Afghans have wrapped up. And the Taliban — just like every other regime in Kabul — repudiate the colonial-era Durand Line, which Pakistan recognizes as the rightful border.

Far too many ingénues have been busy drafting lugubrious repines for the troubles faced by Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the seat of the army’s power and that of the ISI and their selected prime minister, Imran Khan, respectively. These are all prices that Pakistan’s real political masters in khaki are happy to pay. It is the ordinary Pakistani who will pay the price. Fortunately for the Khaki Condominium running Pakistan, the country is not a functioning democracy, rather a praetorian state with a democratic patina. This means that while Imran Khan may not be re-elected, it will not be because of Pakistanis’ immiseration. Instead, it will be because the Men in their Pajeros have finally created an alternative to Imran Khan after he’s ceased being a useful idiot. From the points of view of the army and the intelligence agency it controls, the ISI, these are not merely prices but investments for the future. Here, I explain why.

For much of the time period of the Raj, Afghanistan was a fealty of the British. British Indians were very active in Afghanistan. With the onset of World War I (1914–18), Afghans supported Ottoman Turkey against the British. Following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey, the so-called Khilafat Movement (1919–24) would start in earnest in South Asia. Afghan’s ruler, Habibullah Khan, navigated a policy of non-involvement in the war while British Indians were dispatched to fight in it. Habibullah was assassinated in February 1919 by anti-British activists. His son, Amanullah Khan, took the throne and promised complete independence from Britain. Persons. With this declaration, the Third Anglo-Afghan War began in May 1919. War-weary Britain was drained and the British Indian Army was exhausted from the brutal demands of World War I. In August 1919, both sides signed a treaty in Rawalpindi — not Calcutta or Delhi.

After a month of desultory skirmishes, the Afghans had successfully secured their own sovereignty with a caveat. Afghanistan had always been a rentier state, dependent upon the financial support of the British to maintain its military among other important functions. When the British left, they took their coffers with them. Consequently, prior to formalizing the treaty, Amanullah’s government signed a treaty of friendship with the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. In fact, Afghanistan was one of the first states to formally recognize the Soviet Union. Increasingly, the Soviets picked up Afghanistan’s tab, and their involvement culminated in the Christmas Day invasion of the country of 1979.

Until India’s Independence in August 1947, British Indian Muslims played an important role in Afghanistan as advisors. Also, during the Khilafat movement and at the urging of many religious leaders, many Indian movements spontaneously moved to Afghanistan where they could be free of British bondage. The Khyber Pass became choked with those seeking to enter Afghanistan along with their animals and carts festooned with their possessions. Overwhelmed by this migration, Afghanistan blocked their emigration. Unfortunately, their woes were not over: Many of the emigres were robbed by Afghan tribes or died of hunger or heat. Those who did make it back to India were destitute.

With India’s Independence, the Afghan government preferred to work with Indians as the Afghan government repudiated the Durand Line, which was the international and lawfully recognized border with the new state of Pakistan; rejected Pakistan’s admission to the United Nations; launched military incursions along the border; and fanned the flames of Pashtun irredentism. From Pakistan’s point of view, a further irritant was a reliance upon Indians advising the various Afghan regimes from 1947 up until the 1988 Geneva Accords which formally ended the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. During this period, estimates of Indian advisors aiding the various governments in Kabul at any given time vary between several hundred and 1,500. After the Soviets withdrew, Afghanistan entered a long and protracted period of civil war followed by the Taliban regime which terrorized Afghans from 1994–to 2001, when the United States routed them.

For the first time ever, it is Pakistan that is sending advisors to Afghanistan. While the Soviet Union left Afghanistan a large rentier state, the United States and its NATO partners built the largest Afghan government in its history and the largest rentier state in its history. Whereas when the Russians left, they were paying about 35 percent of the government’s recurring cost, the Americans were picking up the lion’s share of the enormous tab to keep the government afloat. The Taliban, which were never terribly interested in governing, are now under pressure to do so. However, they inherited a large rentier state.

Even though the Taliban purported to offer amnesty to the civilians who worked in the government during the last 20 years, many did not trust them, and they left if they could with the international community that was still able to evacuate terrified Afghans. In fact, some 120,000 left Afghanistan over the objection of the Taliban which believed these Afghans should have stayed to “rebuild” their Emirate. Despite earlier Taliban claims that it had the money to pay for the new government including civil servant salaries, it is now clear that the freeze on Afghan sovereign funds and sanctions has made this impossible. Moreover, the Afghan “government” now faces a serious personnel shortage.

Following this reporting, Pakistan announced that it will send “qualified and trained Pakistan manpower to Afghanistan”, specifically those in “medical, IT, finance and accounting”. Pakistan’s selected prime minister also ordered “relevant Pakistani officials to extend cooperation in the fields of railways, minerals, pharmaceuticals, and media to help Afghanistan’s rehabilitation and development”. Afghans understood that the Taliban defeat of their country was actually Pakistan’s victory over Afghanistan via their proxies. Afghans now worry that their colonization is complete.

For Pakistan, this is a dream come true: For the first time in over 75 years not only are there no Indian advisors in Afghanistan but there are also now Pakistani advisors in their stead. This alone may be worth the price that Pakistan will continue to pay for its victory in Afghanistan.

The writer is a professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of ‘In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’ and ‘Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War’. She tweets @cchristinefair. Her website is christinefair.net. Views expressed are personal.

A version of this post first appeared in First Post on 24 January 2022.

The Unfinished Business of the 1971 War

The signing of the Instrument of Surrender

On December 16, 1971, Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, the Commander of the Pakistan Eastern Command, signed the Instrument of Surrender in Ramna Race Course in Dacca which was signed and accepted by  Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of India’s Eastern Command. This formally concluded the military conflict that is usually called the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. However, this nomenclature elides and even eclipses several distinct wars that culminated in Pakistan’s surrender. Oddly, while biographic accounts, which are frequently blatantly self-serving,  there are relatively few empirically robust accounts of this conflict, most of which focus upon the most visible dimension of the war: that between Pakistan and India. 

These lacunae are important because these other battles that culminated in the bilateral conflict continue to cast shadows over the region that are as long as those of the 1971 conflict between India and Pakistan. Notably, Bangladesh has never fulfilled its potential and remains a secular democracy in retreat. Pakistan learned the wrong lessons of the war and concluded that repressing and exploiting disgruntled minorities is a viable tool of domestic statecraft. Despite decisively defeating Pakistan, India was never able to build upon that victory to impose a settlement of the Kashmir issue in line with Delhi’s equities.  In retrospect, while Pakistan may have lost that battle, in many other ways Pakistan and its project of Islamist violence seem to have won the larger and enduring war. Let me explain.

The Wars 

The first conflict was a domestic conflict between Pakistan’s ethnic majority Bengalis, who dominated East Pakistan, and the ruling elite in West Pakistan. This conflict was apparent as early as 1952 when Bengalis began mobilizing to force the state to recognize Bengali as a national language. On February 21 and 22 that year, the Pakistani armed forces murdered several students as well as numerous others in indiscriminate fire. This internal conflict precipitously expanded after the ruling junta of General Yahya Khan refused to convene the parliament following the 1970 elections in which the East Pakistan-based Awami League, led by Mujibur Rahman, decisively defeated Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party. 

The consequences of these elections were monumental because the victors were tasked with writing Pakistan’s third constitution. Mujibur Rahman’s party, under the banner of the Six Points Agenda, had long advocated for greater federalism; separate convertible currencies; fiscal responsibility to be delegated to the federating units; as well as the right to maintain a separate militia. Each of these demands was in response to the west’s cultural, economic, and linguistic oppression; exclusion from the military and bureaucracy; as well as consistent and calibrated efforts to deprive Bengalis of their legitimate share of political power. The political elites in the west, speer-headed by General Yahya and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, wanted a strong federal government and found the Awami League’s Six-Point Agenda to be a thinly veiled demand for outright cessation. 

Despite winning too few seats to veto any constitution offered by the Awami League, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to let his party participate in any convening of the parliament and made absurd demands for a power-sharing agreement. After Mujibur Rehman refused to cede and insisted upon the Awami League’s right to form the government, General Yahya Khan commenced Operation SearchLight, which was a brutal and thuggish military operation to disarm the Bengalis. 

As refugees began fleeing into India, the second phase of the war began: a proxy war between India and Pakistan. With the monsoons looming, India had few military operations at hand. Given the riverine terrain of Bangladesh, any military operations had to wait until the monsoons’ conclusion. To ensure that China would not intervene on its client’s behalf, India would have to wait until winter when snow would preclude Chinese movements through the mountain passes. In addition to these meteorological and geographical constraints, India was ill-equipped to undertake military action in the spring of 1971. India used the summer to reposition forces from the west to the east and construct necessary infrastructure to support military operations while seeking diplomatic support from Russia and imploring the United States to counsel Pakistan to end what was clearly ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan. 

US President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, were unmoved by India’s requests even though the United States did provide a significant amount of aid to subsidize in some measure the enormous and growing cost of caring for the refugees who continued to pour into India. While initially, the refugees were both Hindu and Muslim it soon became evident from the fact that the refugees were increasingly Hindu that the West Pakistani forces were cleansing Hindu Bengalis from the country. At independence, about one in four Pakistanis were non-Muslim minorities, most of whom were Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan.

The Nixon administration was unconcerned about the munting atrocities because it was commencing an unprecedented diplomatic overture to China and it chose Yahya Khan to be its mediator. Despite popular opinion otherwise, the Nixon administration had two other European-based alternatives to Yahya Khan. Gary Bass makes a compelling case that Nixon chose Yahya both because he and Kissinger had a deep personal affection for him– and even compared him to General Grant of the American Civil Wa–and because they had a personal, visceral, and deeply misogynistic hatred for India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. However, even after Nixon had secured a personal connection to China and no longer needed Yahya’s intercession, Nixon refused to make the slightest appeals to Yahya to cease what Archer Blood, the American Counsel in Dhaka, and other dissenting state department officials described as a “genocide.” The Nixon administration even beseeched China to feign intervention in the hopes of deterring Indian involvement in the war.

While India prepared for the larger war, the proxy war continued and intensified. Throughout the summer it trained and equipped the Bengali Resistance while also mentoring the shambolic, disorganized and ineffective Bengali political elites. As India supported this rag-tag collection of non-state actors to challenge Pakistan’s formidable armed forces, Pakistan too worked through a number of Islamist militant organizations, including the notoriously violent student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. By the end of the summer, India was providing artillery support to the Bengali insurgents who battled Pakistani state and non-state combatants. East Pakistan became a killing field.

While it is unpopular to say so: the Bengalis, in and out of the resistance, also victimized non-Bengali and even Bengali “collaborationist” non-combatants in the East. This fact renders any actual assessment of war’s noncombatant casualties impossible with extant data, which is deeply problematic. The Pakistanis wish to undercount the atrocities.  The Bangladeshis wish to overcount them. India for its part does not declassify documents pertaining to the war at all. While one may disagree with some of Sarmila Bose’s conclusions in her book, Dead Reckoning, her critique of extant data and analytical methodologies are insightful.  

The third, conventional, war officially commenced on 3 December when Pakistan’s Air Force conducted preemptive strikes on forward Indian airbases and radar installations. This too was a formality given the growing intensity of the proxy war before the official onset of the bilateral confrontation. 

When the war ended on 16 December 1971, Pakistan was vivisected with East Pakistan emerging as an independent Bangladesh. Some 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian Armed Forces and were taken to India as POWs.  Pakistan lost more than half of its population and about 15% of its territory.  However, 61% of the 54,500 square miles of land lost in the east was arable in contrast to a meager 21 percent of the 310,000 square miles it retained. All said and done, the Pakistan army was reviled for losing the east, which allowed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to ruthlessly rule the west until General Zia ul Haq ousted him in a coup in July 1977.  

Who Won the Forever War?

India successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed the July 1972 Shimla Accord with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. This accord formally concluded the political conclusion of the war.  Despite being the clear victor in the war, India bizarrely acquiesced to most of Pakistan’s demands, including India’s relinquishing of the 5,800 square miles of territory it captured in the west, the repatriation of the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, assurance that Bangladesh would not conduct war crimes trials against Pakistani military personal, and the inviolable viability of its long-standing, if baseless, claims on the disputed disposition of Kashmir.  India and Pakistan respectively retained the territory seized in Kashmir and a new Line of Control was defined where once the Cease Fire Line stood. 

India’s aims at Shimla were modest despite vivisecting the country, most notably securing Pakistan’s commitment to resolving outstanding disputes peacefully and bilaterally. Indian participants aver that Bhutto had agreed to make the Line of the Control the de jure border when times were more propitious to do so. He argued that this would require time given the public outrage of the outcome of the war and that to cede Pakistan’s long-nursed position on Kashmir would be political suicide. Some Indian interlocutors justify India’s appeasement of Pakistan as a strategic decision to not impose a “Treaty of Versailles”-like condition upon Pakistan. India also interpreted the accord as a potential victory because Pakistan’s agreement to settle disputes bilaterally obviated any scope for the United Nations or other bilateral or multilateral involvement.

Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has never honored its commitment to resolve outstanding disputes peacefully nor did it ever move to make the Line of Control the de jure border. In fact, Pakistan now claims that no such agreement was ever considered and continues in an unending effort to change maps in Kashmir through low-intensity conflict, proxy war, and terrorism. 

Not only has Pakistan never abided by this accord, but the Pakistan that emerged from the war ironically was also stronger than it was pre-war despite losing a significant amount of valuable territory and more than half of its population.  The Pakistan that survived was more defensible, more ideologically coherent, had significantly fewer non-Muslim minorities, and strategically positioned to extract rents by collaborating with the United States on occasion while actively furthering its own agenda at the same time. Unfettered by the problematic Bengalis, Pakistan was able to seek financial, diplomatic, and political support from the Gulf State Monarchies which, in turn, enabled Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to fulfill his dream of developing, in his own words, an “Islamic Bomb.”  

Bhutto also began the jihad in Afghanistan in 1973 following the ouster of King Zahir Shah by his cousin, Mohammad Daoud Khan. Khan began an aggressive liberalizing campaign and brutally oppressed any opposition among the Communist and Islamist ranks alike. Bhutto, along with the ISI, deftly organized the Islamists who fled to Pakistan into seven effective guerilla groups. Pakistan did this with its own meager resources because doing so was critical to securing Pakistan’s own enduring interests in Afghanistan. The United States would not become involved in this conflict until many years later, despite Pakistan’s frequent requests for US support.

In fact, in 1979, President Carter sanctioned Pakistan for its progress in nuclear reprocessing thanks in large measure to Bhutto’s perseveration. Once President Reagan was inaugurated in 1981 he began securing waivers for those sanctions, which came through in 1982 after which the United States–along with Saudi Arabia and China–provided massive overt and covert resources to Pakistan. In fact, throughout the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States continued funding Pakistan even though US officials understood it was still advancing its nuclear weapons program. While the United States reimposed sanctions in 1990, Pakistan was once again able to resurrect its strategic importance in the wake of 9/11. While ostensibly working with the United States, it received over $34 billion even while actively supporting myriad terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and working to undermine US efforts in Afghanistan. While benefiting from American assistance, Pakistan became the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile and has likely outgrown that of France while also developing battlefield nuclear weapons. Pakistan remains both able and willing to undermine India’s quest for hegemony in South Asia and beyond. 

During the same period, those who struggled to free the Bengalis of East Pakistan from West Pakistan’s project of subordinating ethnic identity to that of an army-sponsored project of political Islam and establish an independent Bangladesh on the principles of secular democracy failed to create a durable democratic state with a broad consensus on secularism. Within a few years, Mujibur Rehman and most of his family were murdered in a bloody coup. He left a legacy of corruption and authoritarianism that resembled that of Pakistan’s own civilian autocrat, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After a tumultuous power struggle, by 1977 General Ziaur Rahman was in control of the country. He removed secularism from the constitution and began revivifying the Jamaat-e-Islami, which the Awami League had illegalized because of its extensive collaboration with Pakistani forces in committing countless atrocities. By 1988, Bangladesh’s next military leader, General Ershad declared Islam to be the state religion. 

While Bangladesh returned to democracy in 1990, the two main political parties vied for power and the right to rule rather than the privilege of governing. While the right of center Bangladesh National Party, “led” by Khaleda Zia (the widow of Ziaur Rahman) is reviled for its explicit reliance upon the Jamaat-e-Islami among other regressive Islamist parties, the Awami League, “led” by Sheikh Hasina (the daughter of Mujibur) has also courted Islamist parties for the purposes of retaining control. Hasina long ago instituted one-woman rule secured through electoral malfeasance, misuse of legal instruments to harass her opponents, and other oppressive state tactics to silence her growing numbers of increasingly vocal critics across broad swathes of civil society. Even though Bangladesh’s Supreme Court declared the constitutional amendments of previous military dictators illegal and presumably restored the principle of secularism as a fundamental tenant of the Constitution, Hasina has retained Islam as the state religion even as religious minorities continue to suffer persecution under her watch.  India’s desire to create a secular and democratic Bangladesh and forestall an emergence of another “Pakistan on the east,” has not fructified and is unlikely to in any policy-relevant future.  

Is India Any Safer?

Is India safer today than it was before vivisecting Pakistan in December 1971? India now faces a country of uncertain future on the east and a Pakistan that is ever more committed to using violence in pursuit of its policies at home and abroad while enjoying complete immunity from consequences and impunity to continue with its sanguinary tactics to force its will upon Afghans as well as Indians–especially Kashmiris. While British unwillingness to adopt coercive policies towards Pakistan can be explained by the political power of British Pakistanis, the Americans have consistently demonstrated that it has too little political will to consider means of constraining Pakistan even as Pakistan continues to engage in nuclear coercion and proxy warfare under its ever-expanding nuclear umbrella. Thus while India and the United States continue to forge important breakthroughs in their bilateral relationship–inclusive of defense, intelligence, and space cooperation– India has had very little success in weaning the Americans off of its inexplicable belief in Pakistan’s indispensability in managing security in South Asia even though Pakistan is the principal progenitor of this very insecurity.  It seems as if no Pakistani outrage is ever enough to persuade Americans to see Pakistan as the enemy rather than a problematic ally that can be motivated through a magical concoction of inducement. If the discovery of Osama Bin Laden in an Abbattobad safehouse a short distance from the presumably hallowed Pakistan Military Academy wasn’t an adequate motivation, one would have thought that defeating the US-led forces in Afghanistan through its unstinting support for the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network among numerous other terrorist groups should have. Instead of availing of a diminished logical dependence upon Pakistan to maintain the war in Afghanistan and adopting a coercive and punitive approach towards Pakistan–perhaps in line with the US approach to Iran–Washington in fact facilitated the hand over of Afghanistan to Pakistan via its proxies, the Taliban. Moreover, with the American embassy in Kabul closed, the United States seems poised to continue its reliance upon Pakistan’s ostensible expertise in catching the very snakes it continues to farm. 

Pakistan never suffered any punishment of consequence for its relentless persecution of its Bengali population and indeed learned a very important lesson. Namely, it can continue to violently harass, harangue, oppress and even kill its own domestic critics–often with American weaponry. The world is so numb to Pakistan’s barbarism that it no longer registers significant outcry beyond the limited purview of human rights organizations. Moreover, Pakistan long ago learned that not only can it abscond for its domestic bloodshed, but it also continues to enjoy impunity in its brutal interference in the affairs of its neighbors. While Pakistan has learned lessons, the United States has learned nothing. Americans will continue working with Pakistan, motivated by short-term-policy prerogatives. Sadly it will do so even at the expense of long-term American security interests because Pakistan invests the fungible American and international assistance into the very assets its uses to coerce the international community: nuclear weapons and terrorists. 

In turn, India continues to struggle with defense reforms; the deafening silence of nonexistent inter-ministerial debates about what kind of threats India will face; the kinds of defense requirements it needs to manage if not confront those threats; and how to source these systems much less integrate them. China continues its belligerent rise along India’s borders and within India’s near and far strategic environment. Worse yet, China is doing so by working through India’s nemeses: Pakistan and the odious Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

It’s hard to escape the discomfiting conclusion that Pakistan, despite losing the battle for East Pakistan in 1971, continues winning the wars.

A version of this was published in The Print on 14 December 2021.

Black Mango

by Balwant Gargi, translated from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair

I was a bachelor and had been unable to rent a home in Patel Nagar. Wherever I went, the landlord would glower at me and ask, “Where is your wife?”

I would explain “Well, sir, I’m about to get married and that’s why I am searching for a house.”  In the meantime, the landlord’s obese wife or young daughter would come outside for some chore or another and I’d realize that I wouldn’t get the house. The landlord, after rebuking his daughter, would look at me intently and explain “This is a neighborhood for families. Bachelors have no business here.”

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t rent a home. I had one or two recommendations sent over, agreed to pay an advance of three months’ rent, and even provided proof of my monthly salary from my pakka job with the Government of India. Still, I received flat refusals from every landlord.

Finally, an elderly contractor, who had neither a son nor daughter, agreed to rent me a smallish room. The rent was Rs. 70. Opposite was a dirt courtyard in which there was a water tap and a broken bathroom. It also had a low, mud wall. Three refugee families lived on the other side of the wall.

I would get up at the crack of dawn, stand in front of the neighborhood dairyman to get some fresh buffalo milk, prepare a quick breakfast and tea, then, by early morning, I’d lock up and head to the office.  At five o’clock, I’d go to a coffee house, eat some piping hot vadde and dosa, drink some coffee, and listen to the backbiting gossip of Punjabi writers. On my return, without fail, I’d buy a pound of ripe mangoes.

From the time I was a child, my maternal aunt planted this notion in my head that anyone who slurps down a pound of ripe mangoes and drinks buttermilk every day during the summer months would be sanguine and healthy and would never fall ill. As soon as you get down at the Patel Nagar bus stand, there would be several fruit and vegetable shops.  Here there would be some twenty or so cart vendors who decorated their handcarts with various kinds mangoes: Langra, Sandhuri, Malda, Chausa, Safeda, Totapuri, Fazli, Dasheri, Saroli, Tapka and Alphonso of Bombay, which is also called Hafiz ji. The hawkers would compose verses praising their goods and jostle with each other over their prices.

Without even touching a mango I can discern how large its seed is; whether it’s hairy or bald; whether the inside is yellow, saffron-hued, the color of sandalwood, light brown like the color of an almond, or a pale green; whether the pulp is moist or stringy; whether its taste is sweet or bland, bitter or sour.

While studying in college, my childhood friend, Sadhu Singh, and I would go to fairs and weddings. Whenever we saw a young woman or a girl, we would rate their attractiveness.

If an old man were nearby, Sadhu Singh would say “It’s really hot. Let’s get out of here for a while and peek at the bounty of abundant mangoes.” “Mango” was like a secret codeword that we used to communicate with each other. Whenever we’d see women, we would swap notes on our assessments like this: Sadhu Singh would ask “Did you see that chick? Her mangoes have been sucked dry, right down to the seed.” I’d answer, “Didn’t you see that Sandhuri?” Sadhu Singh would ask “Which one?” and I’d respond, “The one standing between the Langra from Benaris and the Chausa.” Sadhu Singh would remark “Your eyes are sharp, Kanjara! I was just drooling over that Fazli, which would probably choke me if I actually bit into it. It’s nothing compared to your Sandhuri. I swear on the Guru Granth Sahib, she’s as sweet as raw sugar.”

We used to take pleasure in describing the beauty of young women and the lusciousness of their young limbs in the vernacular of mangoes as if we were connoisseurs. When we were kids, we would climb mango trees and, as we plucked the red mangoes near the top, the dense green leaves gave off a fragrance which was identical to the scent effused by the body of Rabbo, the mirasan, whenever she’d come into our courtyard and pick me up lovingly.

In our village, I grew up playing in the courtyards of my father’s sisters-in-law. Then my full, black beard came in. Even though I was still a little boy to them, in the neighborhood of Patel Nagar, I was a dangerous bachelor. I had no connection to this neighborhood. I would leave for the office in the morning and return after dark. On hot summer days, the people would sit upon the cots they opened and put out in the alleyways. Embarrassed, I’d lower my eyes and open my courtyard window. I would sit beneath the tap and bathe. Then, I’d sprinkle two or three buckets of water onto the scorched soil of the courtyard which released a musk that rose from the hot ground. I’d unfold the cot in the courtyard, tie a cloth around my nether regions while remaining unclothed from the waist up, and gulp down a chilled mango from the bucket. It was so pleasurable. I’d next drink two glasses of buttermilk and, after this routine, I’d go to sleep.

My reputation as a respectable man spread throughout the neighborhood.

One evening, after completing my routine, I laid down on the bed and saw something hanging from the clothesline in my courtyard.  A small shirt of some kind was dangling. It couldn’t have been my shirt.  Nor could it be my pajamas or underwear. I kept thinking that maybe when I left for the office early in the morning, I hung my scarf to dry and then forgot about it. But I wrung out my scarf and hung it upon a nail to dry. To solve this mystery, I got up and removed the garment from the clothesline. It seemed as if I had a snake in my hand. It was some woman’s bra.

I began to wonder how this bra got into my home. Who left it here? I knew that while I was away during the day, the neighborhood women would come here to fetch water and do their laundry. The neighborhood dairyman told me that whenever he brought water from the tap to wash his water buffalo, several women were always there in the courtyard washing their clothes. I didn’t say anything when I heard this because it meant that my house was safe during the day and because of the accessibility of my courtyard, in their eyes I was a gentleman. So, what did it matter to me? On Sundays, when I was always at home, no one ever came.

In the darkness, I examined the bra by feeling it. It was netted, soft, had round things that were made of chintz and its straps were still damp. Feeling mischievous, I pulled two left-over mangoes out of the water and placed them in the bra’s chintzy cups. I strapped it to my chest and began stroking them.  Then, feeling embarrassed by what I was doing, I burst out laughing. I looked all around. Even though no one had been watching, I nonetheless felt silly about what I did. I removed the bra, tossed the mangoes back in the bucket and hung it back on the clothesline as I found it.

In the morning I went to get milk. When I returned, the bra was gone.

I made tea, had breakfast, and headed to the office. The day passed per the usual routine.

One day, I returned from the office as I was having a headache. On that day, I was immersed in an old file in the office. The officer insisted that I could leave only after I finished the work. In the evening, when I wrapped up my work and left the office, my body felt as if it were breaking. I didn’t even have the strength to stand in the long line for a bus ticket. I grabbed a scooter, went straight home, and laid down on the bed. That day, I did not buy any mangoes.

My head hurt until very late into the night. I couldn’t sleep because it was hot and humid. In the middle of the night, a cool breeze came in and mixed with air, and I could finally doze off.  I slept until the break of dawn. That day, I took leave from the office, brought the bed inside and considered resting for the day. I drank tea, shut the door, turned on the fan and fell asleep.

At about 11 o’clock, I got up drenched in sweat. The power went out unexpectantly and the fan had stopped. I was suffocating in that room. To get a bit of fresh air, I opened the little window. In the courtyard, there was a woman hanging her bra on the clothesline.  From the waist down, she wore a delicate petticoat which, when wet, clung to her body. From the waist up she was naked, her hair was open, and her complexion was perfectly black. She was the young wife of the man who operated the neighborhood tandoor—a mother of two children, who sat in her lap as she baked the bread in the tandoor.

I immediately closed the window and then opened it ever so slightly and began to peer out through the crack.

She had been looking for an opportunity to come here and bathe.  She closed the door to the courtyard, crammed a stick used to clean teeth into the lock, and was enjoying her bath without worry. She shook out the water from her bra then stood on her tiptoes to hang it on the clothesline.

I stood there, holding my breath.

Both of her arms were stretched upwards. I could see the shaved hair of her armpits as well as her firm, black breasts. Upon then were dark areolas, as if someone had painted them with tar and a brush. Purplish nipples swelled up upon the areolas. They reminded me of two black mangoes dangling from a branch, which bent beneath their weight.

In the sunlight, two drops of water were glistening upon them as if they were drops of juice that seep from the mango as you ever-so-slightly squeeze it. I was beholding the beauty of these juice-filled black mangoes when, suddenly, she glanced towards the open window. She dropped her bra and at once turned her back towards the window.

I quickly stepped back from the window. I heard the clanking of the bucket from within the bathroom and the fluttering of footsteps. After some time, there was a banging sound of the door to the courtyard opening then closing. She was gone.

I came back to bed and stretched out. After some time, the electricity returned. The fan began to blow, and I laid in bed, half-asleep, until evening. By the time I got up, the sun had already set behind the walls. My body felt refreshed and in good health. I washed my hands and face and headed out for a walk. Per my usual habit, I went out to buy some mangoes from the fruit carts near the bus stand.

The cart wallah, who has long known me as a regular customer, said “Babu Ji! Fresh Sandhuris came today! Have a taste.”

I tasted the mango. It was flavorless. When he saw me shake my head, he showed me a Banarasi Langra and said “Take this. Take it. It’s very sweet.”

I felt it and bought it as a sample to try. It was absolutely tasteless. After this, he showed me Saroli, Chausa, Dusehri and Maharani varieties. But each struck me as unpalatable and bitter. The fruit seller indignantly asked “Babu Ji, I have shown you all of the very best varieties. What kind of mango do you want?” Impulsively, the words fell from my mouth “Black Mango.”

The fruit seller looked at me in astonishment.  

Acknowledgments: The translator is grateful to Balwant Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, for giving me permission to translate this story as well my various Punjabi instructors over the years, especially Seema Miglani of the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Chandigarh.

This story was originally published by Muse India in November 2021.

The Unwinnable War

A much redacted/trimmed version of this article appeared in The Daily Beast on August 17, 2021. This piece has a more expansive discussion of China and the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on the Indian parliament. It also has a more expansive discussion of the shortcomings of SNTV in producing stable, legitimate political outcomes.

The indelible images of the fall of Saigon featured American helicopters departing from the roof of the US Embassy overflowing with Vietnamese seeking an escape from an uncertain and terrifying future. In 1975, some 125,000 Vietnamese refugees found refuge in the United States as a result of a US-sponsored evacuation program in the wake of the war. The images of the fall of Kabul are darker: Americans occupying the airport in Kabul, focusing upon evacuating their own while terrified Afghans cling to the departing C-17 aircraft. To disperse the crowds of Afghans on the runway, the US army flew attack helicopters lower over their heads. As of August 13, the United States evacuated 1,200 Afghans although that number is likely to rise to 3,500 in coming weeks.

Virtually every American news channel has been focusing upon the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives every day to support the US military and civilian mission. This addition to countless more who worked with NATO and other wester embassies and multi-lateral organizations such as the United Nations. Everyone knows that the Taliban has a list of the so-called collaborators, and they are being hunted down and killed along with their families. However, many Americans are in a conundrum. They hear the figures recited: 2,448 US service members killed through April 2021; an estimated 3,846 contractors for whom there is no official count; another 1,444 other allied service members killed; 444 aid workers murdered; 72 journalists20,660 US soldiers have been injured in action; all at an estimated price tag of 2.3–6.5 trillion. What they are less likely to hear are these figures: at least 111,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since 2009 alone, when the United Nations began systematically recording civilian casualties. The Taliban killed so many members of the Afghan National Defense and Security forces in 2016, the American and Afghan governments decide to maintain their death and casualty figures a secret for fear of further eviscerating their morale. President Ghani said that 45,000 Afghan security forces were killed between the time he took office in 2014 and January 2009. Prior to the last two weeks, US officials estimated that about 30–40 were being killed each day. Obviously, the tolls of the injured are many fold this figure. While the war’s price tag looms large, vast majority of those “allocations” returned to the United States economy as much of the civilian and military activities were farmed out to US contractors with massive amounts of corruption, much of which has been committed by US entities and persons.

Rightly so, many Americans are asking whether massive loss of life treasure was worth it. What if I told you that this war, as the Americans fought it, was winnable in the first place and that we lost this war on the installment plan? Here are perhaps three of the American blunders that ensured this defeat.

Pakistan Was Always the Problem….and it still is

The biggest American blunder was going to war with the one country dedicated to undermining American objectives at every turn even while raking in tens of billions of dollars in the fictive guise of supporting them: Pakistan. Pakistan’s perfidy was evident from the earliest days of the war and it continues now, helping its assets — the Taliban — squeeze the democratic life from Afghanistan wherever and however it can.

On 7 October 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan from Tajikistan under the aegis of “Operation Enduring Freedom” with a small force of special operators. Their goal was to shore up the Northern Alliance after their leader, a murderous warlord known as Ahmad Shah Massoud, was grievously injured in the first suicide attack Afghanistan had ever experienced on 9 September 2001. No American pundit anticipated that the Taliban would fall so quickly. Many Afghan Taliban and their clients anticipated that the United States, furious at the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, would succeed and defected pre-emptively in hopes on being on the winning side. As the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the dedicated Taliban who aimed to fight another day headed south and took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Meanwhile in November 2001 in Kunduz, the Americans granted Pakistan permission to conduct numerous sorties over two days in what is known as the Kunduz airlift or, according to US military personnel on the ground “Operation Evil Airlift.” Pakistani army officers and intelligence advisors who were working with the Taliban and fighting alongside them were trapped in Kunduz following Northern Alliance advances bolstered with US special forces. The United States permitted the Pakistanis to airlift this menagerie of despicables back to Pakistan using US-supplied transport aircraft. Special operators who witnessed this firsthand and with whom I’ve discussed this operation claim that the number of sorties was much larger than was reported. They believe there were dozens of sorties. While the Americans insisted it was supposed to be a limited evacuation of Pakistani military and intelligence operatives, uncountable Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were also ferried out of Kuduz by Pakistan’s “Evil Airlift.” That probably should’ve have been a good signal of what the Pakistanis would do as the conflict progressed. But Pakistan was just warming up.

On October 8, 2001, President Musharraf appointed a close advisor and Taliban sympathizer Lieutenant-General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai to the Peshawar-based XI Crops. Aurakzai, with ostensible ties to the Tribal Agency of Orakzai, would lead the Pakistani forces deployed on the Afghan border to support the Americans who in December 2001 searching for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora cave complex. According to all-source intelligence reports, Bin Laden was in Tora Bora for several days in mid-December. Aurakzai’s forces were supposed to be playing the “anvil” to America’s “hammer,” by catching and/or killing al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaping into Pakistani territory. That effort was short-lived.

On 13 December 2001, Jaish-e-Mohammad launched a suicide attack on India’s parliament in New Delhi. Due in large measure to the incompetence of the attackers, they killed nine and injured 18. The Jaish-e-Mohammad was a creation of the Pakistani state and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, and was a loyal proxy force of the same. Jaish-e-Mohammad, under the leadership of Masood Azhar, was loyal to the Pakistani hands that fed it even though part of the organization defected and regrouped under various names. It is extremely unlikely that the organization would have conducted such an outrageous attack with such tremendous strategic importance without the explicit go ahead of the Pakistani state. Had the attackers not bungled the assault, countless more would have died. India mobilized for war along the border with Pakistan in what was the largest mobilization since the 1971 war. They would remain in place until October of the following year after provincial elections were held in Kashmir.

The Indian army is a large, bulky, non-agile force. Pakistani generals “could see that India was shifting divisions from as far away as Calcutta, in the east, to the western frontier with Pakistan; it looked like the largest military mobilization in Indian history.” Pakistan’s khaki brass informed the Bush administration that it must swing its forces to the Indian border. Subsequently, Pakistan dispatched more than seventy thousand troops and their equipment — two full corps, or four divisions — to the Indian border. Pakistan left mostly Frontier Corps along the Afghan border. Not coincidentally, the Frontier Corps was precisely the organization that had previously trained the Taliban and myriad other militias that Pakistan trained and dispatched back into Afghanistan since 1974. Despite protests from American diplomats, Musharraf did not waiver. Even though the so-called ratlines or trails which wound through the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan are overdetermined by geography and geology and well-known to Aurakzai, they were conveniently unguarded Under General Aurakzai’s watch, Taliban and al Qaeda operatives “slipped” into Pakistan’s tribal areas. Aurakzai. There is a general consensus that by the end of December 2001, bin Laden escaped Tora Bora and fled to Pakistan where he was eventually killed by US special forces in May 2011 in a garish safe house in Abbottabad, a casual one-mile stroll from Pakistan’s Military Academy, its equivalent to the US West Point Military Academy

It’s hard not to draw connections between the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack and the Bin Laden escape. All of these years, I’ve wondered if the very point of the attack was to provide an excuse for Pakistani forces to leave the border unguarded as their proxies made their way back home to roost. This is all the more plausible because Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Taliban were joined at the hips, share Deobandi “theological” leaning and goose step to the tune of the ISI’s kazoo.

Oddly, despite Bin Laden’s escape with at least Pakistani passive if not active facilitation, the United States congratulated itself for its swift defeat of the Taliban. In fact, the Americans had only routed them. Safe again in their Pakistani sanctuaries, the Pakistan state silently helped their allies regroup and prepare for what would be their reinvigorated offensive in 2005 which would persist until Kabul fell this week. The United States was largely indifferent to the Taliban for many years in large measure because the George W. Bush administration was overly focused upon its Iraqi misadventure and because it narrowly focused upon al Qaeda. For all intents and purposes, al Qaeda had evacuated Afghanistan and sought out various safe houses in Pakistan. However, Washington was generally pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against al Qaeda because Pakistan regularly coughed up “Al Qaeda Number Threes” conveniently timed for the visits of Bush administration officials. Maybe Pakistan was helping to catch so many al Qaeda terrorists precisely because there were so many to catch in Pakistan?

While President Bush insisted that Musharraf was a loyal ally (pro tip: he wasn’t), the remaining sentient observers grasped Pakistan’s unending perfidious support to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other groups operating against American forces and their. In 2009, in an effort to stem the losses, the Obama administration was strong-armed by his generals to launch the so-called surge. The surge could never have worked for two reasons. First, the numbers were fictional. If we took Field Manual 3–24 on counterinsurgency seriously (and I did not), you would need about 450,000–500,000 troops in Afghanistan. We never had more than 140,000. Second, the surge misdiagnosed the problem: we were losing because of Pakistan. As the American and allied presence in Afghanistan increased, Pakistan became ever-more central. Even though Iran had been extremely helpful to the US and international efforts early on in Afghanistan and even though Iran continued to offer assistance to Washington first Afghanistan and then in Iraq for more than a year, the Bush administration rebuffed Iran and denounced it as part of an Axis of Evil. With Pakistan being central to sustaining the war in Afghanistan, the United States could not find a way of punishing Pakistan for murdering Americans and their allies despite being an ostensible ally.

No matter what Pakistan did, American officials found reasons to excuse Pakistan rather than treat it like the enemy it clearly was. Many believed that there was some magical combination of allurements that could transform Pakistan from the regional menace was and is, into a state that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. President Trump, despite his numerous other outrages, at least understood was Pakistan was and cut off the aid. But even Trump could not bring himself to do what needed to be done: apply every possible sanction against the Pakistani military, intelligence, and political personalities for which we have intelligence (and we slews of it) of supporting the Taliban and other Islamist terrorist groups which have long been the workhorse of Pakistani foreign policy.

Corruption: We built It

Second, only to our failures to properly handle the problem of Pakistan which had been waging jihad in Pakistan since 1974 (not a typo), the second major blunder was corruption. For those Americans who care enough to know that we have spent at least $2.3 trillion in Afghanistan, very few know that because the United States relied upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry, and aid contractors as much as 80 to 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10–20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife within Afghanistan’s government, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption by American firms and individuals working in Afghanistan. In many cases, American firms even defrauded Afghans. A military member of the International Security Assistance Force, speaking about this under-discussed matter, explained to Carlotta Gall, “Without being too dramatic, American contractors are contributing to fueling the insurgency.”

It’s a story that Americans don’t want to hear: that we contributed to the massive corruption in Afghanistan. In some cases, it happened because USAID didn’t know how to allocate all the money it was expected to allocate and relied upon enormous institutional contractors and a complicated series of sub-contractors, all of whom took their overhead fees for the privilege of being a booking agency. USAID was drinking from a firehose and oddly didn’t seem bothered by the fact that it was effectively transferring US taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of institutional contractors who enriched themselves in the process. By the time the leftovers reached Afghan implementing partners, there was neither interest nor ability to monitor those activities. Much of the funds were stolen or spent on poorly executed projects. This is why Asri Suhrke, for example, strenuously argued that less aid is actually more. She argued that fewer, smaller projects executed with less corruption would produce better results. But this was a fast-moving gravy train and everyone wanted to take a ride. The money just kept pouring in and the corruption kept growing. The US knew that corruption was losing Afghan hearts and minds. Afghans quickly became came to resent public displays of generosity when they understood that most of the money went into the pockets of US firms or dodgy Afghans who had little intention of aiding ordinary people. They also understood that the corruption was giving the Taliban grist for their mill of decrying the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Proponents of the surge steadfastly ignored Pakistan experts and indeed General Stanley McChrystal didn’t even bother having a single competent Pakistan authority on his assessment team that produced the absurd proposal. Unsurprisingly, the surge made the United States more dependent upon Pakistan for ground lines of control (GLOCs) than ever before while doing little to develop genuine alternatives. The Northern Distribution Route could never carry more than 20% of the logistical demands and Russia insisted that it not be used for lethal goods. Given that this route was needed to resupply a war, Russia effectively rendered this route inutile. And even though the United States was perfectly capable of working with Pakistan — despite a well-known history of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation and decades of supporting terrorism — Washington could not palate the idea of finding ways of using Iran’s ports and safe road and rail network to supply the US-led NATO effort in the country.

General Stanley McChrystal, in his leaked interim commander’s report, also encouraged the United States to do something about the industrial-strength corruption in Afghanistan. But this was too hard and instead, everyone focused upon his surge idea. To win in Afghanistan — by any metric of winning — the international community had to foster better business practices amongst themselves and amongst their Afghan partners.

However, there is a darker side of the corruption fostered by the US government: it wanted to use corruption as a means of control. It secretly paid Afghans working in the government a secret, and often illegal, the second salary so that those officials would be the eyes and ears of the US government inside the palace. It could use such emoluments to induce desired behavior among compliant Afghans. And when that relationship soured, as it so often did, the United States could denounce that person for being a corrupt, bride-taking ne’er-do-well who traded his country in for personal gain.

The Myth of the Legitimate Leader

If the corruption aided the Taliban’s return to power, so did the failure of Afghanistan’s political system to produce a so-called legitimate leader. Biden officials have been busy the last two weeks castigating Afghan political leaders for “failing to come together” in aid of their country. It’s a nice narrative if, in fact, this was the fault of dodgy Afghan leaders. Unfortunately, the United States and its partners foisted upon Afghanistan a political system that would always be characterized by fragmentation and illegitimacy. How? The Afghan constitution itself was never appropriate for the country. US officials use to quip that we “gave the Iraqis the constitution that Afghanistan got, and we gave the Afghans the constitution that Iraq needed.” Part of the problem was that the United States wanted an Afghan government that would rubber-stamp its objectives. The easiest way of achieving this was to have a strong man as president. The Americans thought that Karzai was going to be their man in Kabul. To make sure that he was, they put several of his staffers on those afore-noted illegal salaries.

In 2003, President Karzai banned political parties. The United States went along with this because, in fact, the United States did not want an effective Afghan parliament to get in the way of its big ideas. Political parties function to aggregate interests as a bloc. If there are no political parties, Afghan politicians would have to form coalitions repeatedly. This was one way of keeping the parliament from getting in the way of the United States. Parties are now allowed to function, however, they are very week institutionally and individuals have little incentive to affiliate with any party. Efforts by civil society actors and NGOs to strengthen parties were hobbled by Karzai who strongly opposed them.

The next internationally-backed recipe for illegitimacy was the way in which Afghan elections are carried out. Elections for national and sub-national elections are not held on the same day. This means that each election is an opportunity for fraud, malfeasance in the election rolls, counterfeit ballots, and a raft of election-stealing techniques that the Afghans perfected often with American and international complicity. Elections for the lowest level of elected positions specified in Afghanistan’s constitution never even happened. So Afghans were not governed by elected officials at the provincial level. Instead, they were governed by strong men appointed by the President.

Then there was the electoral method itself that as much as anything ensured that no leader would have genuine legitimacy: the Single Non-Transferrable Vote or SNTV as the elections aficionados call it. Afghanistan is one of four countries that use this shambolic method of ascertaining the will of the people. That alone should have given the masterminds behind this scheme pause if they wanted to produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes. Per this system, voters cast a single vote for individual persons unconstrained by any party structure. Even when parties have been allowed to function, multiple persons from the same weak party can contest the same seat. To an American accustomed to a two-party system and generally, only two candidates from which to choose, this may not seem obviously heinous. However, if anyone were to look at an Afghan ballot, there are often hundreds of persons contesting a single seat. This means that no candidate must secure a majority; rather, he or she need only get more votes than anyone else. And parties, such as they are, can win a majority in a legislative body with a small fraction of the overall votes.

Thomas Johnson provides a good example of the dysfunction of this system. He notes in his analysis of elections in 2014 that there were 664 candidates who competed for the 33 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament (Wolesi Jirga) allocated for Kabul province. A total of 486,111 valid ballots were cast. The chairman of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan and former Vice President and the Minister of Planning in the interim government of Afghanistan, Muhammad Mohaqiq, secured the largest number of votes. Here’s the catch: he only secured 3.6% of the vote! How is it possible that he could legitimately claim to represent the will of Kabul province? Johnson calculated that that 21 of the 33 candidates elected to the Wolesi Jirga from Kabul were elected with less than 1% of the total vote in their district. How can this system produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes? It can’t. And this was why it was adopted in the first place?

Now What?

Last night, during his address to the nation, President Biden doubled down on this criminal retreat that abandoned our Afghan partners to fend for themselves. Callously, he reiterated the same canards: that we couldn’t stay forever, that the Afghans need to fight for themselves, that Afghans need to find unity amidst diversity, and other nauseating bromides meant to serve as a salve on a nation’s heavy conscious. Know this. All of this is a lie. We never gave the Afghans a fighting chance.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here: https://twitter.com/CChristineFair/status/1428003177912324102

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan?ms=fb_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_20210712&initialms=fb_ppc_fy21_20210712&fbclid=IwAR3D03CoODm1ws0EgKNl2WnHj_lHJ32ydcCZp6-Sj0TsPemg5AFCx3gnRuI and https://www.facebook.com/donate/887738608492266/10158417116015003/

3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

America’s Leadership Has Presented False Choices in Afghanistan

Note that an edited, and much-abbreviated version of this appeared in Foreign Policy on 16 August 2021. This extended piece has more details.

U.S. President Biden has abandoned the Afghans to fend for themselves against the Taliban. By following a course of policy established by his ignominious predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, Biden has defiantly asserted that he does not regret his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan even after provincial capitals are falling like dominos to the Taliban and even as Kabul itself expected to fall within weeks. The United States begged the Taliban for assurances that they will not attack the US Embassy as the United States callously scrambles to evacuate US personnel, leaving our long-standing Afghan partners to fend for themselves as the Taliban hunt them down and their families. American officials are busy offering sanctimonious repines that justify America’s exeunt from the country. They have announced to American and international audiences that the time has come for the Afghan national security forces to seize the reins of their nation’s defense; that Afghan leaders must unite and fight for their country; that the United States has done enough. This is rank nonsense and President Biden knows it. The United States did not do enough and even enabled the current onslaught.

What makes this current situation more unforgivable is that Biden did not come to this situation unaware. Unlike President George H. W. Bush, who genuinely was befuddled by the region and historically ignorant, the Obama administration in which Biden served benefited from a raft of experts including the former CIA analyst Bruce Reidell and long-time South Asia watcher Peter Lavoy, who was the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia, among numerous others.  Prior to the 2008 election, there were numerous assessments about the war in Afghanistan and the myriad ways in which Pakistan was undermining US efforts there. Obama’s incoming team, led by Bruce Reidell, spear-headed the so-called assessment of assessments and offered refreshingly blunt insight into the perfidy of Pakistan in aiding and abetting the Taliban and undermining US efforts, despite benefitting handsomely from American emoluments.  Despite this benefit of wisdom and knowledge, Biden continued several courses of policy that has led to the current sanguinary crisis for Afghanistan’s citizenry.

It’s Pakistan: Stupid

President Biden, like the earlier president he served, knows that Pakistan is the major force behind the Taliban. Without Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Taliban, this group would be a nuisance rather than an effective fighting force. The United States, far from doing enough to assist Afghanistan, has steadfastly refused to do the one thing that it could have and, indeed should have, done long ago: apply a raft of targeted sanctions against those in Pakistan’s deep state which have continued to provide every possible amenity to the Taliban, and other brutal Islamist militant organizations, despite receiving billions in American overt assistance 2001. 

It’s hard to imagine a country more perfidious than Pakistan. Despite claiming that Osama Bin Laden was not in Pakistan for over a decade, he was found hiding in plain sight in garish if spartan safehouse in Abbottabad, a leisurely stroll from Pakistan’s premier military academy in Kakul (the equivalent to the US West Point). Mullah Omar, the cycloptic founder of the Taliban movement, likely died in a Pakistani hospital. Pakistan’s ties to the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network have been known and enduring. During the last twenty years, Pakistan has continued to recruit, train, and mission numerous other Islamist terrorist groups operating in India and Afghanistan. It has feted terrorist leaders as national heroes. . Pakistan even requested the United Nations to permit the leader of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hafez Saeed (an UNSC-designated terrorist), to access their frozen accounts for basic expenses. Pakistan was directly responsible for the death of American soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan, along with our NATO and non-NATO allies, and most importantly our Afghan partners and their families.

Rather than accepting the blinding truth that Pakistan was not a friend much less an ally, the United States remained convinced that Pakistan was too dangerous to sanction, too dangerous to punish, too dangerous to hold to account. For decades, Americans have wrung their hands about the Pakistan problem. They rehearsed the fears that Pakistan may collapse, provide nuclear weapons to terrorists, provoke an escalatory war with India that could result in the deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons all the while coddling Pakistan, while aiding and abetting the further development of its nuclear arsenal and militant assets which Pakistan uses to coerce the international community.

In 2009, instead of taking coercive measures against the single most important state to the revivification of the Taliban, the United States launched the so-called surge which resulted in a massive expansion of troops as well as defense contractors (aka “mercenaries”) as well as government and non-government civilians that comprised the so-called “civilian surge.” Without developing viable ground-lines of resupply independent of Pakistan, this surge created an even deeper dependence upon Pakistan at a time when the United States was losing the war precisely because of Pakistan.

Part of the problem was the American failure to understand the perduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan a vassal of Rawalpindi, the real capital of Pakistan.  Americans thought that Pakistan was only responding to India’s presence in the country and, as a result, the United States at times pressured India not to antagonize the Pakistanis in hopes of mollifying the khaki clique in Rawalpindi.  Another myth, which Pakistan itself fosters, is that Pakistan did not begin its forays in Afghan affairs during the Soviet Invasion and at American prompting and funding. In fact, Pakistan had been using Islamist organizations like the Jamaat-e-Islami to influence Afghan affairs since the 1950s. AT the time, Pakistan had legitimate concerns: Afghanistan rejected the legitimacy of the Pakistani state that emerged from Britain’s decolonization of the Raj in 1947; sought to disencumber itself from the 19th century treaty which demarcated the Durand Line as the border between the two states; nursed Pashtun nationalism; and even invaded Pakistan in Balochistan and in several Tribal Agencies in the 1950s. Moreover, Afghanistan supported violent insurgencies in Balochistan for decades.  

Pakistan found the opportunity to retaliate violently in 1973 when President Daoud ousted his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and began an aggressive suite of modernizing reforms under Soviet tutelage and encouragement. Afghanistan’s regressive clergy and associated Islamists resisted Daoud’s efforts to mainstream Afghanistan and Daoud responded to the obdurate Islamists brutally. As Islamists fled into Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established an ISI (Pakistan’s formidable internal and external intelligence agency) cell in 1974 tasked with rendering them into effective militia groups for undertaking operations in Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s third military dictator, General Zia ul Haq continued with this policy after he ousted Bhutto in a coup, which resulted in the latter’s death.  General Arif, who served as President Zia’s Chief of Army Staff and who was familiar with Bhutto’ stratagem observed that “Of her own free will, Pakistan adopted the… option to protect her national interest and to uphold a vital principle” by providing “covert assistance to the Mujahidin.”  Abdul Sattar, who served as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister between 1999 and 2002, similarly opined that because “the Mujahidin would be fighting also for Pakistan’s own security and independence,” Pakistan “continued to support the Afghan resistance…providing it modest assistance out of its own meager resources.” Long before the Russians crossed the Amu Darya on Christmas Day 1979, the ISI, working with the Frontier Corp consolidated more than fifty resistance groups into the seven major so-called mujahedeen groups which would later fight the Soviet forces.

Failing to understand the enduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan subservient to its interests, Americans consistently found expedient reasons to excuse Pakistani malfeasance. Without experiencing significant costs for its persistent efforts to squash Afghanistan’s emergence as a viable and independent state, Pakistan will continue along these efforts. For this reason, long ago, the Americans and the international community needed to impose sanctions upon Pakistani individuals and institutions, just as it did in Iran.

“The US Has Spent More in Afghanistan Than It Did To Rebuild Post-War Europe”

Another popular repine among Americans that despite spending more in Afghanistan than it did during the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War and yet, none of those gains are irreversible.  This has certainly encouraged American bitterness about its commitments to what has been the longest war in American history. However, this understanding too is flawed. First and foremost, the United States and its partners were adamant about building a sprawling Afghan state, despite the lack of human and economic resources to sustain this effort. Under the Soviet Union, Afghanistan was a rentier state nearly completely dependent upon Soviet Aid.  However, the government that the United States build was much larger than that built by the Soviets; however, the Afghan state is capable of paying even fewer of its bills.  Currently, about 80 percent of the Afghan budget is paid for by the United States with little prospects of improvement. One of the lessons of the departure from the Soviet Union was precisely this: the dependence upon Soviet aid. When the Soviet Union could no longer provide that aid, the Afghan government collapsed.

 While government capacity across all of the ministries is low, lack of capacity in the Ministries of Defense which oversees the military forces and the Ministries of Interior, which oversees the police, are perilous. This author has followed US and international efforts to build effective Afghan fighting military and police institutions for much of the last twenty years.  While some will prefer to take refuge in the claims that these inadequacies are due to Afghan shortcomings, this too is unfair. From the beginning, the United States and NATO partners struggled to develop efficacious training programs much of which were executed through contracting firms under the ostensible guidance of American, German or other partner militaries. Training concepts and doctrines changed often as different parts of the recruiting and training mission came under different contractors and national oversight.  The United States consistently sought shortcuts such as opting to train “Afghan local police,” whom Afghans more accurately called militias. Unlike training Afghan police, which was more resource intensive and provided by contractors, training of these militias was less so  but still dependent upon contractors. Americans, risibly, tried to justify equipping militias by applying Afghan names to these militias, such as arbaki, which implied these latest efforts were rooted in Afghan historical practices rather than a quick and dirty effort to make a reliable and accountable police force on the quick.

The United States was adamant that the Afghan military use American weapons rather than Russian weapons, which tend to be easier and far more cost effective to use, maintain and resupply.  Chronic illiteracy and innumeracy plagued these efforts. In contrast, the Soviet Union trained thousands of civilian and military personnel either in the Soviet Union or other Eastern European countries. Ironically, many of our most effective Afghan partners were those who had been trained by the Soviets. As American fighting forces withdrew from ground operations, Americans continued to supply air support and other important missions such as casualty evacuation. If the American and NATO failings are evident in training the Afghan police and army, the failures to build a competent and capable Afghan Air Force is even more so.

The United States insisted upon the security architecture for the country but has been retrenching from its willingness to pay for this architecture. Even though it was widely understood that the efficacy of Afghanistan national defense and security forces was the key to preventing the onslaught currently witnessed, the United States has actually diminished is support for the same. Since 2014, Washington provided about 75% of the $5 billion to $6 billion per year which was needed to fund the Afghanistan national defense and security forces while the remainder of the tab was picked up US partner nations and some modicum from the Afghan government. However, for FY2021, the US Congress appropriated $3 billion for Afghan’s fighting forces, the lowest amount since FY2008. This diminution of US support came even while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said clearly that his government cannot support its army for even six months without American financial aid.

While much of the American expenditures pertained to defense, the United States has ostensibly invested in other sectors of Afghan governance. As of June 30, 2021, the United States has spent about $144.98 billion in funds for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since FY 2002, including: $88.61 billion for security (including $4.60 billion for counternarcotics initiatives); $36.29 billion for governance and development (including $4.37 billion for counternarcotics initiatives);  $4.18 billion for humanitarian aid; and $15.91 billion for agency operations. While these numbers are staggering much of US investment did not stay in Afghanistan. Because of the heavily reliance upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry and aid contractors, between 80 and 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10-20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption in the US system.  The organizations culpable of this corruption strangely yet are allowed to continued receiving US contracts.

The Shambolic Peace Process

Perhaps the third most egregious ensemble of things that the United States did to the Afghan government was strong-arm it into “peace talks” with the Taliban. More than anyone, the Afghan government understood that the Taliban and their handlers in Rawalpindi could not be trusted to honor their commitments, such as they were.  The spectacle of the “peace talks” was important to President Trump and later President Biden as they were essentially a process of negotiated American defeat which would create a fiction of power transition that would cover what would otherwise be depicted as an ignominious American defeat. Those familiar with the process understood that there was genuinely nothing to discuss: the Afghan government is committed to constitutional rule of law including elections, howsoever problematic while the Afghan Taliban was committed to overturning the constitution and it opposed elections as non-Islamic. This was a convenient position to hold as the Taliban could never win significant elections if they did contest them. As the sham peace talks faltered, in March 2020, the Trump administration threated to withhold $2 billion in assistance if the Afghan government didn’t return to the negotiation table.  Equally, appalling, the United States forced the Ghani government to release more than 5,000 hardened Taliban prisoners at the Taliban’s request in recompense for the hundreds of government officials taken captive by the Taliban. Many of those individuals have been leading the current offensive against Afghanistan’s provincial capitals.  The United States also pressurized President Ghani to post-pone or even cancel the 2019 presidential elections in a bid to mollify the demands of the Taliban that the government must be dissolved as a condition of peace and replaced with an interim government in which the Taliban had a stake.  Ghani refused rightly. There was no consensus on what Afghanistan’s future governance system would look like. Even now the Taliban claim that they will relent from their military onslaught if Ghani is removed. Given the American desire to have a more orderly descent to disorder, I would not be surprised if the Americans are currently pressing Ghani to do so instead of pressing Pakistan to call of their hyenas.

Worse yet, the Taliban used the spectacle of the peace process as a recuperative retreat to revivify and emplace their forces while stashing weapons as the awaited the US withdraw and the concomitant opportunity to sequentially assault a garland of Aghan provincial capitals as they prepare for the final assault on Kabul.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The US government has done too little too late to save Afghanistan from an entirely preventable fate.  Many Americans view the events of the last few weeks as a fait accomplis and rationalizing this catastrophe by claiming that the Taliban no longer pose a threat to US interests or those of our friends or allies. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worst has yet to begin. To consolidate their hold on Afghanistan, the Taliban will continue with a blood bath of revenge killing targeting those who have served the country in the national security and defense forces; civilian bureaucrats and politicians who oppose the Taliban; those who worked with the United States, NATO, multilateral organizations and civil society organizations. The fate that awaits Afghanistan’s women and girls is too horrendous to contemplate. The United States has not prioritized providing visas for the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States who are entitled to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). This dereliction of duty of care is staggering. More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have worked to support the US mission over the last two decades. However, a mere, 16,000 Afghan SIVs have been issued since 2014. At present, there are more than 18,000 applications in the pipeline in addition to countless thousands of Afghans who are ineligible for an SIV who are in dire need of protection owing to their association with Americans.

It is never too late to sanction Pakistan. While such coercive measures to impose costs upon Rawalpindi for its relentless support of the Taliban’s killing machinery should’ve been undertaken early in the war effort, such measures are still useful both for punitive reasons but also to curb ongoing support. If the Americans couldn’t muster the   intestinal or other fortitude to sanction Pakistan when its proxies were murdering us, how will it do so when they are primarily murdering Afghans.

Second, the United States should reconsider its hasty withdraw of military forces. There were only a few thousand in place and this figure was sustainable. (Compare the US commitment to Israel or South Korea, by way of contrast.) Without US assets on the ground, drone strikes cannot be effective, even if the bases are found from which to fly sorties outside of Afghanistan or Pakistan.  The United States needs to stay involved in Afghanistan, providing air strikes. It is not too late to pound the Taliban forces.

Third, the United States government must at once stop its efforts to undermine the Ghani government. He is all we have. Instead of treating his government as an obstacle, his government should be seen as a critical partner in staving off the Taliban.

Finally, it does not matter if no credible democracy recognizes a Taliban government forged through the barrel of Pakistan-supplied guns. Threats of withholding aid to a Taliban government are absurd for two reasons. First, the Taliban has what it needs: support from China and Pakistan. China is the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan. But it requires stability to get its investments out of Afghanistan’s soil and into Chinese and other global markets. The Chinese have never had a problem with the Taliban and they still don’t. The Chinese had signed a memo with the Taliban in the weeks preceding 9/11 under which they agreed to provide economic and technical assistance, among other contacts dating back to at least 1998. The only ones who will suffer any such refusals to provide assistance with be the ordinary Afghans, who have already suffered enough.

The United States walked out of Afghanistan in 1990 and made Pakistan the custodian of Afghanistan’s future. We saw the outcome of this horrible decision. However, ever unable or unwilling to internalize the lessons of the past, the United States is yet again handing the Afghans over to Pakistan. When the Taliban once again transform Afghanistan into a a base of operations for a raft of modern Islamist terrorist organizations operating in and beyond the region, Washington will only have itself to blame.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here: https://twitter.com/CChristineFair/status/1428003177912324102

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan?ms=fb_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_20210712&initialms=fb_ppc_fy21_20210712&fbclid=IwAR3D03CoODm1ws0EgKNl2WnHj_lHJ32ydcCZp6-Sj0TsPemg5AFCx3gnRuI and https://www.facebook.com/donate/887738608492266/10158417116015003/


3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

Should I be flattered or irked that my HINDI article was plagiarised…by a HINDI-language journalist?

Jitendra
Photo of Jitendra Bhardwaj, available at https://spiderimg.amarujala.com/assets/images/2021/07/23/jitendra-bhardwaj_1627028623.jpeg.

Spoiler Alert: I’m Furious

I’ve recently resolved that I wanted to make a concerted effort to communicate the findings of my research into political and military affairs of South Asia in the languages of persons who are most affected by the things I study. I have spent years working in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi and thus I have begun to submit work in those languages to vernacular press.

A colleague of mine at the Gateway House passed on my piece to Amar Ujala, a Hindi newspaper to see if they would be interested in running. I would have been happy to modify it as needed.

While they did not publish the piece, one of their “journalists” named Jitendra Bhardwaj (pictured below) lifted it, added additional material to it, then claimed it as his own. I wrote to Mr. Bhardwaj on Facebook, tagging our mutual friends, and asked that he rectify this ethical violation by adding me as a co-author. This was actually a generous request given that I should have been the FIRST author given that most of the prose and intellectual capital in this “article” was mine. Of course, this hubristic individual demurred and even tried to bully me by insisting that I am in error in accusing him of unethical content. He explained that to avoid any controversy, he’s asked that it be pulled. (See the screenshot of this exchange.) Why would he prefer that it be pulled rather than give due credit?

In this post, I demonstrate how he stole my work. This is an object lesson to anyone I catch doing it.

Screenshot of our exchange on Facebook:

What is Plagiarism

According to Oxford University, plagiarism entails:

“presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence.”

In this essay, I demonstrate how Mr. Bhardwaj not only stole he essence of the work (as he has no previous history of writing on this issue), but he also reworded my words without attribution and, in places, even used my exact wording, also without attribution. He does quote me on occasion, but this is not a sufficient acknowledgement of my work and indeed it gives the illusion that he interviewed me, which is a further ethical violation.

Here’s the Analysis that Proves He Plagiarized My Work.

In his opening paragraph, he writes:

“साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर का कहना है कि पाकिस्तान द्वारा खालिस्तानी समूह तैयार किए जा रहे हैं।“

Here he attributes to me my own work but uses the verb ” कहना,” (which means “says”) which implies that he interviewed me. He does this in the first paragraph.

He then goes on to use my language making only one insignificant change.

In his article:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के हवाले से ऐसी खबरें आती रही हैं कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

This is virtually identical to what I wrote:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

In his article, this appears:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी लेते हुए कहा था कि भारत ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा।“

I wrote:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।

He then gives the impression that we spoke. He writes:

“बतौर सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर, भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों की भी यही चिंता है कि क्या ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर तो नहीं बन जाएगा। ऐसी चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं।”

But in fact, he has simply plagiarized from another part of my essay in which I write:

“लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

 Again, he implies that he spoke to me and that I merely augmented his knowledge rather than my writing being the sole source of the same:

“एनआईए द्वारा पंजाब में पन्नू की कई संपत्तियां जब्त की गई हैं। साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के अनुसार, करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है, क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरुनानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी। सिख संगत इस बात को लेकर खुश है कि वह पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर माथा टेकने के लिए जा सकेंगे। भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर बन जाएगा।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized this entire section from my essay, omitting some details:

“करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी |

बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

Again, he cites my name to further the illusion that we spoke:

सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के मुताबिक, पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभग समाप्त हो गई थी। पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है। भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्रीहरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के एतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में भिंडरावाले को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं। लालक़िला पर उपद्रव के बाद अब पन्नू संसद सत्र के दौरान किसानों को उसका रहा है।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized my own words again. He has made negligible revisions to my words. This is what I wrote; however I provided a chart that summarized the results of data my colleagues and I collected and analyzed.

“पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।“

Here again, he plagiarizes my prose with impunity and without shame. In some cases, he changes the wording but in many more cases he just ripped me off. Whereas, I provided a link to the article which formed the basis of my assessment, he does not. Here is what appeared in his article:

“पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की रणनीति का एक हिस्सा है। दरअसल, जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोल कर भारत पर एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है। पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी, जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते। चिंता का दूसरा कारण यह है कि ‘इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आईएसआई, पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी डायस्पोरा) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अकसर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है। यहीं से पाकिस्तान ने एक अन्य जंग भी छेड़ रखी है। यह जंग ड्रग्स को लेकर लड़ी जा रही है।”

This is what I wrote in the article that was sent to his paper:

“इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी ज आंतरिक ब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

                इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है.”

He then continues to plagiarize my work on the Punjab’s drug addiction:

“साल 2015 में अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया था। इसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में क़रीब दो करोड़ अस्सी लाख लोग ड्रग्स के आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एलईटी) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं में सहयोग और सांठ-गांठ जारी है। वहां पर खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाई में अहम सदस्य रहा था। सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर कहती हैं, पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश करने की तैयारी कर रहा है। दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों का पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वह बेहद अहम हो गया है। खासतौर से भारत सरकार को ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ के संदर्भ में गहराई से सोचना होगा।“

This is what I wrote. Note that again, he has simply stolen my verbiage with a few notable differences. Whereas, I provide a link to the source upon which my claim is based, he doesn’t:

2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

                पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|”  

My QuestionS FOR the Editors of Amar Ujala

So what exactly is his contribution to this article? And if my words were worthy of being stolen by him in such measure, why didn’t he simply propose that we co-author the piece and thank me instead of stealing my work?  Surely, his editor saw his piece and knew the similarities to the one I submitted including extended verbiage often with little or not modification. This is straight up plagiarism and I’m sure he’s a dude and because he thought he wouldn’t be caught. Also, what kind of a lousy Hindi journalist STEALS the verbiage of a person who is writing Hindi as a non-native writer?

Here is my analytical piece Which my colleague sent to his paper

खालिस्तान की वापसी?

सी. क्रिस्टीन फ़ैर

            करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, गुरु नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी।

            बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं| 

            पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।

लेख-चित्र १: जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच प्रति वर्ष पुष्टि की गई घटनाएं (संदिग्धों को छोड़कर)

            इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

            चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

            इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है. 2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

            पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|  

THE VERDICT

Fiction by C. Christine Fair

He could have taken their dilapidated car to the co-op. It would’ve been quicker, but he rather savored the idea of an excuse to be outside for an extra 40 minutes. It was one of those six days in Chicago when one could enjoy walking a few blocks. At any moment, the city could bloom into a humid heat that made even a short stroll unbearable.         

With his partially full jute tote in hand, his feet grew heavier as he neared their building. He dreaded walking through their door. No matter what he did or did not do, she would greet him with that minacious grimace. She would, as always, insist he got her requested items wrong. Even when he wrote them down and read them back to her, she still insisted that he scribbled them incorrectly either because he didn’t care anymore or, worse, he deliberately wanted to demonstrate his disregard for her.           

He sat on the stoop staring at the bag and its pathetic contents watching a young couple make out at the bus stop across the street. They too were once young and hungry for each other. He felt the need to smoke. Just one, he thought. He forced himself to remember his dad, stented and dying in that hospital bed as his lung cancer ravaged him. Halfway through his Camel, he heaved an anxious sigh, rubbed it out and put a stick of gum in his mouth. He considered taking the elevator but taking the stairs would buy a few more moments of peace. He felt as if he were hauling his own corpse up the four floors.           

He muttered perhaps out loud “Why don’t I leave her? What the hell is wrong with me for staying?” He turned his head to see if anyone had heard. This simple question stumped him. Maybe it was their shared loss of that first pregnancy. That day, she took the Number 6 bus home because he could not think to drive their then-new car to pick her up from the office. She didn’t bother calling him when she lost the second. He was self-absorbed and distant when she needed him, when she dreamt of sinking into the filthy depths of Lake Michigan like a rock.         

How do you walk away from a shared grief that runs deep in your bones? When even you are ashamed for letting her take the bus home after feeling your baby slip out of her body and into that toilet. Twice. What did she think as she looked at those ethereal mass of bloody flesh before she flushed them away with her dreams of motherhood? How did she manage to return to her desk, collect her things and board the bus with her soiled pants? How could she forgive him when he couldn’t?  She must hate him as much as he loathes himself.         

He reached their floor and turned left towards their flat. The wood floors of the hallway groaned beneath his weight. He put his ear to the door to listen for her. Had she fallen asleep with her magazine? He wanted to flit inside, offload the groceries into the fridge and sneak off to his office and lock the door and open the bottle of scotch he hid in his file cabinet for such days.         

He tentatively inserted and turned the key and opened the door as inaudibly as possible before softly closing it. As he slowly turned around, he saw her standing there, with her legs akimbo and arms crossed. He felt absurd. She surely watched him trying to slink in without her notice. She had been crying. Her blurred mascara rendered her a rabid racoon. Her swollen eyes were a transparent ice blue, which made them simultaneously exquisite and haunting.         

Her tongue coiled up like an asp, preparing to strike.  “Where were you all this time?”         

He put his hands in his pockets and looked uneasily towards their wizened cat basking in the last remnants of the afternoon sun. He explained that he went to the grocery store, as she had requested.         

“Well. Isn’t that interesting? You went to the store. What did you buy…at the store?” She lowered her voice menacingly as she articulated “at the store.”         

His gut churned as he explained that he bought those apples and oranges she wanted. This was her “fetch me a rock” exercise, which she used to torment him. She’d tell him “Get me a rock.” When returned with a rock in hand, she’d grouse that the rock wasn’t igneous or she’d gripe that it was, in fact, igneous. It was either too smooth or too rough; too big or too small. And so, he waited for the questions about the kind of apples he bought. Did he buy the Fuji apples she had been craving all week or the tasteless, mealy Red Delicious apples which were ubiquitous and cheap these days? Were the oranges those uninspiring navel oranges she detested as of Wednesday evening or did he procure the juicy clementines she enthusiastically mentioned this morning?”

So, you didn’t buy my bananas?” she asked almost sinisterly, as if she had caught him in some nefarious plot.           

Thinking on his feet, he wondered to himself whether she asked him to buy bananas. “Is she fucking with me again? For fuck’s sake, I cannot keep track.”         

Looking back at the cat, he stammered, “So, um… about those bananas. I didn’t forget. Not at all. But can you believe those assholes were out of bananas? What grocery store is out of god-damned bananas?”         

“No. Actually. I cannot believe they were out of bananas,” she said as she walked towards the phone and picked it up. Glowering at him, she asked 411 to connect her to the 55th Street Co-Op.         

He stood there terrified as he awaited the verdict and the miserable night that awaited them both.

This was first published in Sandstone Journal in June 2021.

Prime Minister Modi’s Demonetization Policy Exacerbated Violence in Kashmir

 C. Christine FairDigvijay Ghotane and Parina Patel

There have been many reported links between protesters pelting stones at security forces in Kashmir and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with Indian intelligence reports that stone-pelters were paid money by the ISI, and often went on to become militants. This was an important motivation behind the demonetisation of currency notes by the Indian government in 2016. However, this raises the question: has demonetisation really curbed stone-pelting?

On 9 April 2017, Major Gogoi, an Indian Army officer with the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, stationed in Srinagar, garnered accolades at home and criticism abroad when he bound a young Muslim Kashmir man, Farooq Ahmed Dar, to his jeep to shield his forces from stone-pelting protestors. According to Gogoi, he received a distress call from an Indo-Tibetan Police (ITBP) team alerting him that some 1,200 persons had surrounded the ITBP personnel as well as polling staff in the Utligam polling station (40 km from Srinagar) during the violence-marred by polls for the Lok Sabha. The incident again cast a dubious light upon India’s handling of the terrorism and insurgency plaguing the Union Territory (then a State) and gave its state and non-state foes alike fodder for their anti-India information operations.

Stone pelting has become an iconographic means to protest the Indian government in Kashmir since 2008.[1] While scholars and activists often characterise stone-throwing as a form of non-violent protest,[2] the tactic has killed and injured many civilians as well as security forces in Kashmir.[3] One popular explanation for the increasing stone-throwing tactic by Kashmiri youth has been financial support from Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). In 2016, after the death of a young and popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, Indian intelligence claimed that Pakistan was paying Kashmiri youth Rs. 500 to throw stones as part of the Rs. 100 crore ($13.6 million) that the organisation expended in the past year to fuel violence in Jammu and Kashmir.[4] In 2017, captured stone-pelters confessed that the ISI paid them some Rs. 5,000 to 7,000 ($68-$95) per month in addition to clothes to throw stones at security forces.[5] Moreover, the Indian Army asserted that “83% of all youth who become militants start with throwing stones for Rs. 500 and therefore needed to be stopped.”[6]

Motivated in considerable measure by these narratives about Pakistani-sponsored violence in Kashmir, on 8 November 2016, the Indian government rendered 86% of the nation’s currency valueless overnight in what was known as demonetisation.[7] The government defended this move on several grounds including a desire to nudge the country towards greater digitisation, to enervate the black market, and to disable Pakistan-supported violence. The government oddly claimed success in the latter objective despite robust evidence against it: 2018 was in fact the deadliest year in a decade.[8]

Even more puzzling is that many Indians, who otherwise denounce the policy, believe that it curbed violence in Kashmir despite evidence to the contrary. A nationally-representative survey of 2,100 respondents found that more than 70% believed that demonetisation “played an important role in curbing terrorism as it has dealt a huge blow to the funding of terror in states like Jammu & Kashmir as well as left-wing extremist violence across several states’ even while the same survey evinced respondent doubts that the policy achieved its other objectives.[9]

There is very little room for doubt that Pakistan sponsors various kinds of violence in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, and it is most likely true that some stone-throwers are compensated. But it is unlikely that all do so because of Pakistani remuneration or that these payments are their only or primary motivation.[10] While the truth lies somewhere between India’s maximalist claims of Pakistani culpability and Pakistan’s blanket claims of innocence, Kashmiris are caught in the middle.

To assess Delhi’s assertion that demonetisation curbed stone-throwing in Kashmir, we assembled a novel district-level dataset of daily stone-pelting events between 1 August 2013 and 31 December 2017, along with other explanatory variables that may account for stone-pelting, such as: opportunity costs, weather factors, whether the day is Friday or whether the day occurs during Ramazan, whether the district is rural or urban, and whether the district is comprised mostly of Muslims or non-Muslims.

Because of the enduring nature of this conflict, we limited our scope of inquiry to 1 August 2013 through 31 December 2017. Expanding this timeline would necessitate controlling for major events in India and Pakistan bilateral relations as well as significant developments in relations between J&K and the central government. We also sought to limit our scope of inquiry to one year after demonetisation because we presume that Pakistan—sooner rather than later—developed counter-measures to thwart the demonetisation policy even though we are dubious about India’s claims on the salience of this factor.

Since our extensive efforts to find extant data – which included filing multiple Right to Information requests – foundered, per force, we assembled a novel dataset of stone-pelting events for this study using three different sources including: data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) which included 603 stone-pelting incidents over 532 observations; the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) included 357 stone-pelting incidents spanning 239 observations; as well as a manual search of four Kashmir-based, English-language dailies (i.e. Daily ExcelsiorGreater KashmirKashmir Observer and Kashmir Times) for stone-pelting occurrences, which yielded 126 observations of stone-pelting. Note that we ensured that no event was double counted. Our final dataset contained 797 observations of stone-throwing from August 1, 2013 until December 31, 2017 which we depict timewise in Figure 1 and district-wise in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting Source: In-house tabulation of data
Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting
Source: In-house tabulation of data
ChristineFair_Picture 2
Figure 2. Stone-pelting Incidents by District
Source: In-house tabulation of data

While one may be tempted to simply analyse the trend lines in Figure 1 and look at the quantum of stone-pelting events before and after the policy of demonetisation, such an exercise would not be adequate. After all, increases or decreases in stone pelting could be caused by unusual weather trends (temperature and precipitation), the occurrence of Ramazan, features of the districts (urban/rural, population composition), economic opportunity costs imposed by stone pelting and possible subsequent arrest, or a combination of some or all of these variables. Thus, to accurately discern the impact of this policy upon stone-pelting we must also control for other factors that likely influence the occurrence of stone pelting. The best methodology for this is regression analyses wherein our dependent variable is the occurrence of stone pelting on a given day in a given district and our control variables include whether or not the data on stone pelting falls before or after demonetisation as well as district averages for the aforenoted controls. We also ran similar models wherein we controlled for the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016 which catalysed considerable unrest.[11]

Additionally, because we could not estimate the binary variables for demonetisation and Wani’s death simultaneously, we estimated the same model (Equation 3) using three different time periods to disentangle the effects of demonetisation policy and Wani’s death. The first period is before Wani’s killing (1 August 2013 until 8 July 2016). The second period is after his death but before demonetisation was enacted (9 July 2016 until 9 November 2016). The third period is after the demonetisation policy was enacted (10 November 2016 to 31 December 2017).[12]

In none of these models do we find any empirical support for the Indian government’s claim that demonetisation reduced stone-pelting; rather, we found that stone-pelting increased after demonetisation even after controlling for other confounding factors such as temperature, precipitation, economic opportunity costs, and demographics of the district among other variables.  Stone pelting also increased after Wani’s demise, all other variables held constant. We also found that stone-pelting was most common in urban, more densely populated, Muslim-dominant districts; on Fridays and during Ramazan; and on warmer days, all else constant. This is generally consistent with expectations about target density and the roles of Friday prayer and possibly Ramazan in both decreasing the organisational cost of mobilisation but also the opportunity costs of doing so.

The most illuminating variable is our proxy for economic opportunity costs of stone-pelting (the price of onions). The Indian government justified demonetisation by the assertion that Pakistan instigated unrest by paying stone-throwers daily and monthly sums as well as clothes and other in-kind goods. Prior to Wani’s killing, people seemed sensitive to opportunity costs. If the Pakistanis were inundating the region with significant amounts of cash, we should not expect to observe this sensitivity. After Wani’s death and prior to the onset of demonetisation, opportunity costs correlate with stone-pelting consistent with the possibility that people are so enraged that they simply do not care about the economic repercussions of protesting.

As noted above, we also ran regressions having divided the sample into the three periods. In the third period, corresponding to the post-demonetisation period which lasted 13 months, we find no relationship between opportunity costs and stone-pelting with other variables accounting for the observed variation in stone pelting. In this period, if the government’s claims about Pakistani support were valid on a large scale, we should have seen a negative correlation between onion prices and stone-pelting because the large notes purportedly supplied by Pakistan were now useless.

Understanding the real impact of demonetisation upon stone pelting is important for several reasons. Indians who believe this narrative that all disturbances in the troubled state are an artifact of Pakistani manipulation necessarily view Kashmiri discontent as illegitimate despite the various sources of data that attest to sustained grievances among Kashmiri Muslims, particularly in the valley.[13] The official discourse depicts Kashmiris as “misguided youth” who are “guided by remote control from across the border” and “working under a well-thought-out long-term plan of Pakistan to create a situation where people would not participate in any election in the future.”[14] Prime Minister Modi himself, while addressing an audience in Srinagar in November 2019, has described the stone pelters as “misguided youths who are under the influence of false propaganda from a foreign power” and elaborated that “every stone or weapon picked up by the youth of this state is only meant to destabilise their own state.”[15]

Such characterisations render the stone-pelters the primary obstacle to development and democratisation in the state rather than state failures and as such there is no concomitant moral requisite to engage Kashmiris on the sources of their disaffection.  Consequently, this characterisation of the stone pelters and their motivations shrinks any political space throughout India to consider their grievances within any constitutional or political framework.

This piece was published on June 22, 2021 by Gateway House India.

References:

[1] Parthasarathy, Malini. 2010. “Understanding Kashmir’s Stone-pelters.” The Hindu, August 4. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Understanding-Kashmirs-stone-pelters/article16120870.ece.

[2] Pressman, Jeremy. “Throwing stones in social science: Non-violence, unarmed violence, and the first intifada.” Cooperation and Conflict 52, no. 4(2017): 519-536. doi.org/10.1177/0010836717701967.

[3] There are no comprehensive and/or reliable estimates available. In 2018, the Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informed the upper house (Rajya Sabha) that between 2015-2017, there were 4,799 stone-pelting incidents in which 17 protestors and two security personnel were killed. However, this report doesn’t indicate whether the protestors were killed by the stone-pelting or by the security forces themselves (Rajya Sabha, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. “Unstarred Question No-556.” Answered on February 7, 2018. https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/Questions/QResult.aspx; “4,799 stone- pelting incidents in J-K in 2015-17; 19 killed.” 2018. Financial Express,   February 7. https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/4799-stone-pelting-incidents-in-j-k-in-2015-17-19-killed/1056631/.

[4] Bhalla, Abhishek. 2016. “Pakistan funded terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.” India Today, July 15. https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/pakistan-funds-terror-jammu-and-kashmir-isi-hafiz-saeed-329312-2016-07-15.

[5] Pathak, Sushant and Jamshed Adil Khan. 2017.“Stone-pelters on Hire in Kashmir.” India Today, March 29. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jammu-and-kashmir-stone-pelters-hizbul-mujahideen-burhan-wani-968402-2017-03-29.

[6]“‘Stone-pelters today, terrorists tomorrow’: Army’s grim message to J-K.” 2019. Hindustan Times, August 2. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/stone-pelters-of-today-terrorists-of-tomorrow-army-s-message-to-j-k-moms/story-GIIaco5YGjqx7Tus9rllEL.html.

[7] Doshi, Vidhi. 2016.“Cash for queues: people paid to stand in line amid India’s bank note crisis.” The Guardian, November 27. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/28/india-bank-lines-controversy-cash-for-queuing.

[8] Slater, Joanna and Ishfaq Naseem. 2018. “2018 is the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir.” The Washington Post, December 23. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/2018-is-the-deadliest-year-in-a-decade-in-kashmir-next-year-could-be-worse/2018/12/22/493ff2e4-03bb-11e9-958c-0a601226ff6b_story.html.

[9] Das, Prajanma. 2019.“De-mon-niversary: 70% Indians think demonetisation helped control terror, says study.” Edex Live, November 8. https://www.edexlive.com/news/2019/nov/08/demonetization-anniversary-digital-india-jk-terror-fund-8982.html.

[10] Ganie, Mohd Tahir. “‘All I got is stones in my hand’: youth-led stone pelting protests in Indian-administered Kashmir.” Social Movement Studies 20, no. 1 (2021): 115-123.

[11] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09592318.2021.1915678.

[12] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09592318.2021.1915678.

[13] International Crisis Group. “Raising the Stakes in Jammu and Kashmir, Report 310.” August 5, 2020. https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-asia/kashmir/310-raising-stakes-jammu-and-kashmir.

[14] Sahay, Mohan. 2017. “Kashmir politics: Not a stone’s throw away.” Economic Times, May 5. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/kashmir-politics-not-a-stones-throw-away/

[15] “Modi in Srinagar: Every stone picked by misguided youth hurts Kashmir.” 2019. Business Standard, November 21, 2019. https://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/modi-in-srinagar-every-stone-picked-by-misguided-youth-hurts-kashmir-118051900607_1.html.

The Revenge of Farkhunda

C. Christine Fair


There was nothing notable about the Afghan woman known as Farkhunda Malikzada while she was alive. No one would have read about her in local or international papers. She wasn’t a politician, a grass-roots organizer, or one of few liberal activists demanding more rights for women and children in a country that has steadily marched back in time since the 1970s when women in Kabul sported miniskirts, sipped wine and pursued their professional and personal dreams in a beautiful city surrounded by snow-kissed mountains.

Instead, Farkhunda was a devout Muslim who was disquieted by superstitious accretions she observed in the Islam practiced by most Afghans. She wore a black hejab covering her head and a long black coat which would have been more common in an Arab country than in Afghanistan where women tend to wear the ubiquitous blue burqa.

But, in death, Farkhunda became a stark reminder of American failures to cultivate robust democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in Afghanistan despite: occupying the country since late 2001; spending more money, in purchasing power parity, on this country of 37 million than it did rebuilding post-World War II Europe; fighting the longest war in American history; and losing thousands of American and allied soldiers, civilians and contractors and more than 157,000 Afghans. Despite the squander of life and treasure, the dark influence of the Taliban endures undaunted.

Few Americans had heard of the Taliban or its reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar before the terror attack of 11 September 2001. Despite continuous military action by the United States and its NATO allies in the country searching for him, Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan from complications related to hepatitis. He was likely sixty years old at the time of death. He founded the Afghan Taliban in 1994 as a movement of students who were studying in Deobandi (a South Asian Islamic interpretative tradition) seminaries in Pakistan. In fact, the name “Taliban” means students. There are few confirmed photos of Mullah Omar. The most common image is that from 1993 which depicts his missing right eye. He lost it while fighting the Soviet Union, which had occupied Afghanistan between December 1979 and February 1989. He required this photographic evidence of injury to claim compensation from the Afghan government. At the time, he was an American ally as the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supported the so-called mujahideen’s effort to oust the Russians from the country.

After founding the Taliban in 1994, the movement swiftly seized control of most of Afghanistan by 1998, with the unstinting financial, military, and political support of Pakistan. By 1998, the world increasingly became aware of the Taliban’s unusual cruelties and crimes against humanity. Men were threatened with death if they did not grow their beards. They were severely punished if they failed to ensure “their women’s” compliance with the Taliban’s strictures. Girls were no longer allowed to study. Women were forbidden from working, which immiserated countless widowed mothers whose menfolk had died in the decades of warfare. When the Taliban adjudged that a woman or girl had violated any of their draconian diktats, the Taliban stoned them to death in soccer stadiums where crowds were encouraged to attend the gruesome spectacle.

Farkhanda is just one victim from among countless others and deserves no more or less pity. Perhaps it was the public nature of her inhuman murder that garnered international attention and prompted many to wonder whether Afghanistan would escape its own past. Perhaps it was just a fluke of timing or the result of particular hue and cry from critical diplomats that made her lynching seem uniquely cruel.

Whatever the reason, we know that on 19 March 2015, the 28-year-old woman had an altercation with a mullah (a Muslim preacher). In Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, mullahs rarely have completed the religious education required by curriculum (Dars-e-Nizami) in the seminaries (madrassahs). Thus, all too often they propound local superstitions rather than the prescription and proscription in the Quran. Indeed, few of these uneducated ulema can read the Quran with understanding as it is written in early seventh-century Arabic. According to the woman’s father, Farkhunda quarreled with the mullah over the common-place practice of exploiting unlettered woman by selling them, often expensive, amulets at shrines. Heterodox Islam frowns upon such rituals and some devout Muslims even believe they constitute shirk (apostasy) as they ascribe mystical powers to inert objects and to those who distribute them when Allah alone has such attributes.

During the argument, the mullah falsely accused her of burning a Quran. It was a common but deadly tactic to silence critics. Those who overheard the allegation immediately decided that she must be killed. She was beaten with bats, stomped upon, and driven over by a car after which her body was dragged by a car and then immolated. 

Her real crime? She had the temerity as a woman to challenge superstitious practices propounded by ignorant male clerics. The trial that ensued against the police that failed to protect her as well as the participants in the murderous frenzy was galvanized by domestic and international outrage and sought to protect Afghanistan’s image rather than obtain justice for the atrocity. Her family repined that the true culprits, including the one who ran her over with his car, were never charged.

There are several ironies in this tale of Farkhanda. On the one hand, it was the tenure of the Taliban which empowered these “lumpen mullahs” to deploy the religion they so poorly understood as a weapon to silence detractors, especially women. But Farkhanda was no “Gloria Steinem of the Hindu Kush.” In fact, her interpretation of orthodox Islam was much closer to that of the Taliban than the amulet-hawking mullahs who are often criticized by the very Deobandi clergy which produced the Taliban’s ideology. However, even though her arguments against useless talismans would have pleased Mullah Omar, the temerity of a woman to speak to a mullah, a man, and impugn him would have signed her death warrant.

Mullah Omar’s followers believe that upon arrival in heaven, he would enjoy the endless pleasures of the celestial maidens who have been untouched by man or djinn.

In this piece titled “Farkhanda’s Revenge,” I instead imagine Farkhanda waiting for him at the doorstep of heaven and quarrelling with him just as she did the other mullah. I take solace imagining that brave woman insisting that Mullah Omar justify her heinous slaughter for defending orthodox Islam against its defilers. If she could, this is exactly what she would have done. Maybe this is Farkhanda’s legacy?


Carol Christine Fair is an American artist and scholar. She is professor in the Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her work is primarily focused on counter-terrorism and South Asian topics.

Text and art copyright 2020 Christine Fair

A version of this essay was published by Vox Populi on December 19, 2020.

Bob’s Bass Turd

C. Christine Fair

In the recovery room, I was groggy but anxious for Dr. Hurley to come in and tell me what he found or didn’t find in this most recent invasive and humiliating exam. I had lost count of the myriad barium studies, endoscopies, colonoscopies, and the exotic and costly drugs that came onto the market for this inscrutable disease called “irritable bowel syndrome.” “Syndrome,” I learned, is a weasel word that was invented to placate insurance companies demanding a diagnosis howsoever useless. It’s a clinical confession that while there are a bunch of symptoms, there is no meaningful explanation for them and no effective treatment for the underlying, unidentified cause. It’s the medical equivalent of throwing turds on the wall to see which ones stick. My chest clenched as I heard him speaking around the corner in not-exactly hushed tones. When he finally pulled back the curtain and offered a milquetoast greeting, I concluded from his rumpling forehead that he had nothing useful to offer this time either.

“Lucy, we’ve done every possible test. Repeatedly. Frankly, in my view, we’re treating the wrong end of your problem. The symptoms are in your gut. But the problem, in my opinion, is in your brain. You present with an extensive, well-documented experience of several kinds of childhood trauma. We are increasingly learning that what you’re experiencing is extremely common among adults with your history. I’m sorry. I really am, but I can’t help you. You need to see a psychiatrist, perhaps a behavioralist. I strongly recommend that you find someone who specializes in PTSD. I can keep throwing drugs at your gut. I can make you have bowel movements. I can control your acid reflux. I can mitigate the nausea. But fixing this problem requires the skill of someone who can fix your brain and you will probably need meds for that too.”

“So, Dr. Hurley, do you have any suggestions or referrals for such a shrink? Preferably, a doc who will accept my insurance…” Dr. Hurley curtly interrupted. No doubt he had rehearsed this many times before with other patients like me. “No. No one. Given my burgeoning patient base with these problems, I should.” I glowered at him with my best “What-the-Actual-Fuck” face and left. I long ago concluded that doctors suck. My dogs have better healthcare and better coordination across their varied providers. Physicians are basically lesser talented veterinarians who get away with specializing in one organ system of one species. It’s absurd how little they get away with knowing about entire human bodies.

Driving home, I was steeping in rage. Partly, I felt helpless in the assigned task of finding someone to fix my brain. But also because there is a cast of characters—many of whom are dead now—whose grotesque cruelties apparently haunt my body like somatic poltergeists. How the fuck am I supposed to exorcise these assholes lurking about my guts and head?

When I got home, I crawled into bed straightaway. My dogs followed suit. My agile girls leapt upon the bed and packed around me like insulation from a world against which I have long waged war. My old girl, Saphy, curled up on her dog bed at the foot of mine. This was the singular place where I felt safe from the present and my past and these wretched shits lurking around my body as unwanted now as they were then. And in that space between being awake and asleep, Bob floated into my mind. Ordinarily, I would stop my brain right then and there. But this time, I let Bob’s bullshit wash over me.

*     *     *

Bob was my first non-memory. I knew his absence without ever knowing his presence. In the negative space he occupied, my life slowly piled up, one angry and confused ossifying sediment at a time until, finally, I grew into the image of his nonexistence. At times, his non-memory lingered in the background like quietly spewing elevator music. But at times, like now, it roared like an eardrum-shattering cacophony.

The first time I acutely felt his nonmemory occurred at John’s General Electric family picnic sometime after he became a journeyman. John was my mother’s husband and he worked on GE’s factory floor, which required steel-toed shoes. He preferred dark brown wing tips, which disguised the industrial nature of his enormous footwear. At size thirteen, his feet in those shoes reminded me of the sleek speedboats I sometimes saw on Sylvan Lake. In the oddly verdant park in Fort Wayne, the employees’ kids raced in burlap potato sacks, struggled to push their siblings along in wheelbarrow races, and raucously tossed bean bags into their cornhole targets. The adults played croquet or stood around drinking. Most gulped Pabst Blue Ribbon from steel cans with pull tabs, which, despite the well-known dangers, they wrenched off and deposited into their cans before drinking. How many times had I wished that John would choke on one of those tabs? He never did.

Things became awkward when John’s colleagues expected an introduction to his motley miserable ensemble. After exchanging the manly gestures of reciprocal head nods and random gesturing with their cans of beer in the air, John would pick up Joey, my little brother, and run his calloused hands through his impossibly blond hair. When his co-worker lingered awkwardly while looking in the direction of my mom and me, I instinctively clung to mom’s legs hoping she’d protect me from what would come next. I felt my stomach seize up with cramps. I imagined becoming a wizened dandelion whose feathery seeds floated away on the breeze unnoticed before I had to hear it. Again. John would stumble onward with a bit of a stutter “Um…. Well… This is my wife Sandy. That’s her kid.” Reduced to a “that,” I didn’t even merit a female pronoun. Breaking into the conversation, Mom offered cheerfully, “Her name is Lucy.”

When the young, miserable couple fought—and that was often—John frequently hollered about a certain “Bob’s bass turd” and accused her of marrying him for a “meal ticket to pay for Bob’s bass turd.”

I wasn’t too sure about what a “bass turd” was. Grandpa Austin liked to fish for bass and he’d often take me with him. In my little mind, I presumed it had something to do with those bass that Grandpa liked to catch with me by his side and their small fish turds. I comforted myself with the knowledge that my family deployed toilet humor lovingly. John had nicknamed Joey “the pot licker” because he lapped up the cool condensation from the toilet bowl.

I furiously tried to stitch together the words, the sounds, the feelings and unfeelings from these various interactions with these people and the world they—and I—inhabited. I knew that I had a mother named Sandy, a brother named Joey, and that Joey and I had the same mom. We also shared Grandma and Grandpa Austin, who were our mom’s parents. Mom also had a sister and two brothers who were our aunt and uncles.

But John’s family was murkier, harder to parse. There was no love for me among his clan. No one kissed me or hugged me goodbye. Rarely did anyone ask how I was or how school was going. They always and only cared about Joey.

And, of course, there was John and the unmemory of that unseen Bob who had a mysterious bass turd, whom I eventually discerned was me.

I was pretty confident that I didn’t have a father. There was no one I called “dad” and there was no one who called me “my daughter” or even “my kid.” Whereas Joey called John “dad,” I addressed him as “John.” Frankly, I avoided going near him because he was a mean son-of-bitch who usually didn’t hide his disdain for me. As a grown woman, I learned that my mere existence reminded him that another man knew my mother’s body before he had and that he knew this “Bob” from childhood and detested him for more reasons than I would ever understand.

My last first-grade assignment pulled everything into horrendous clarity. At the fag-end of the school year, Father’s Day loomed. This holiday was as enigmatic to me as Ramazan or Diwali. As the heat soared in our fan-less, un-airconditioned classroom at Abbot Kinney Elementary School on the South side of Fort Wayne, our teacher giddily heralded an exciting end-of-year project: “You are going to make a Father’s Day Card!”

My heart sunk. I felt the pang of diarrhea sweep over me as often happened in moments of such terror.

I approached Mrs. Bentley to go the bathroom. I made it just in time. As my tiny body emptied itself into the toilet like one of those frightened sea cucumbers that I learned about from an afterschool television show, I deliberated upon my dilemma. As a diligent student who took all tasks big and small with great earnestness, what would I do? What could I do?

I returned to the classroom and stood by Ms. Bentley’s desk and waited for her to ask what I needed. With tears of shame and indignity pooling in my eyes and my stomach loudly hollering, I sheepishly whispered “Mrs. Bentley, I don’t have a father. What do I do?”

In 1974, Mrs. Bentley could probably be forgiven for her presumptuousness. And, in her defense, she did seem a bit flummoxed as if this problem had not previously arisen. She queried somewhat plaintively, “Well, Lucy, can’t you make a nice card for your mother’s husband, John? Isn’t he your stepfather?”

This confused me even more. “Mrs. Bentley, what are stepfathers and what do they do?”

Growing exasperated with this unanticipated challenge, Mrs. Bentley offered several bromidic suggestions. “Well, Lucy, they love you. They hold you when you’re sad. They take you to the doctor when you’re sick. They help your mom raise you. So, they are basically a dad.” She said all of this with smug confidence as if she had resolved this impasse. “Um, Mrs. Bentley… Well, John isn’t like that. He hits me. Yanks me by my hair. Also, he calls me names and kicks me with his big shoes. Is John still my stepfather?”

Mrs. Bentley gave me a faint and unpersuasive smile. She said, with gentle encouragement, “Just do your best, Lucy. You always do.”

On those words, I set about the assignment. I selected a brown piece of construction paper and a picture from a magazine of what appeared to be a loving and dashingly handsome man holding who was likely his own toe-headed daughter on his lap. They both smiled with perfect teeth and with matching sky-blue eyes. They were impeccably dressed. They looked absurdly happy as the photographer snapped them mid-laugh. I took a modest collection of gold stick-on stars, some gold glitter, and a small bottle of glue.

Back at my desk, I wondered what a picture of John and me would look like. I was chubby, with wild mouse-brown hair, bespectacled, and wore boys’ hand-me-down clothes and shoes. I stood around like Winnie the Pooh with my potbelly protruding. On special occasions like Easter, mom sewed me dresses that were inspired by Little House on The Prairie. John was tall and lanky. His spindling arms and legs seemed oversized. He reminded me of an emaciated gorilla. His glasses never stayed on his flat nose and his butt crack frequently peaked out of his pants that struggled to catch hold of his narrow, bony hips. I couldn’t imagine plopping my chubby self on his rangy lap like the father and daughter in that picture.

Pushing that impossible image out of my mind, I tried to focus on the task at hand. I folded the paper horizontally and made a near-perfect crease. I wielded my scissors to cut out the man and girl precisely. I applied just the right amount of glue that would hold the enviable father-daughter duo in place without unsightly glue squishing out onto the paper and spoiling the front of the card. I thoughtfully placed a small number of stars over their heads as a sure sign that someone in heaven thought highly of these two because they were impossibly beautiful, happy, and loved.

Inside, I drew a thin heart in glue and deftly, yet abstemiously, cast the glitter upon the glue. I waited patiently for my glittery heart to dry. Then, I removed my Crayola sixty-four count pack from my desk and pondered the colors that went best with the brown card and gold stars and faint gold heart. I withdrew the rarely used gold crayon and, as best as I could in my still largely unlettered hand, wrote:

Dear John

Happy Stepfather’s Day.

Bob’s Bass Turd,

Lucy

Mrs. Bentley made her usual rounds to check on our progress. She congratulated me on the care with which I folded and decorated the front of the card. Encouraged, I enthusiastically and with an open face, proffered her the card to examine. My innards ached for her approval.

Mrs. Bentley was nonplussed. She nodded her head noncommittally and moved onto Ronald Oliver’s desk. Ronald could never do anything right. He had a dad and had no reasonable excuse to be making such a hash over there. He spilled glitter all over the place and gave himself a dusting of glitter on his gray polyester pants. He couldn’t cut straight. Hell, he couldn’t even fold the damned paper properly. He even managed to get glue all over his glasses, which resembled boogers streaking across both lenses. While I was annoyed with him, I was even more jealous. I wanted a dad too.

At the end of class, I began trudging home with that card in my bookbag with the plan that I would toss it in a dumpster. I took the longest possible route home. I circled superfluous blocks and I stopped to greet the various dogs behind their fences. I dallied about looking for flowers that were in bloom to smell. Eventually, I turned down the alley behind our backyard with the dumpster in sight. Suddenly, mom bolted out of nowhere like a banshee, in a crazed fit of rage. She hurtled towards me with wrath in her amber eyes and grabbed me before I could reach the gate. I felt her nails digging into the flesh of my arm. My arms were covered in scabbed-over or scarred half-moons from past episodes.

“Goddamnit, you little fucker! Why can’t you just be normal? Why do you always have to embarrass me? Go get me a switch. Now,” she thundered.

I dreaded those moments when she became a monster.

While I wasn’t sure what I had done to deserve this, I suspected it had something to do with the card and I knew not to give her lip or even ask why I was in such trouble in moments like this. I also appreciated the peculiar predicament of obtaining a switch for her. If it was too small, she’d furiously whip me with whatever she found lying around, be it a hairbrush, a shoe, some random pipe, or sometimes she’d just wail on me with her fists until she was exhausted. If I picked an unnecessarily big branch, then I was inviting excessive punishment when a smaller one would have sufficed. I brought her what I assessed to be the Goldilocks stick and she did her needful.

After she had her catharsis and let go of my bleeding arm, I ran straight to my room and clambered into the upper bunk in the bed I shared with Joey, who slept below. I curled up with my blue baby doll and whimpered. I asked an increasingly useless god why I was alive given that no one wanted me. I prayed that I’d fall asleep and never wake up. I didn’t come down for dinner and no one came to get me.

At some point in the night, mom softened and maybe even felt remorse for thrashing her hapless, wretched daughter who understood so little of their shared fuckery. She approached the bunk. Her eyes softened and she stroked my tear-soaked, tangled hair. I thought perhaps she too had been crying. She explained that Mrs. Bentley called to discuss her concerns and that this was very, very embarrassing for her. Then, she too began to sob loudly. “Lucy, I’m doing my best. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t make John love you. But you had no goddamned right to tell Mrs. Bentley anything about our home. You have no respect for me or the sacrifices I make for you.”

Even as a young girl, I knew that she was trying to make me feel sorry for her. And it worked. I felt bad that my existence imposed this hardship on her. If only I had died like baby Johnny, she’d be happier. I tried to look at her. But I couldn’t see her clearly. My eyes were swollen from crying and my glasses were smeared from tears and sweat and my mother’s fingerprints from the whooping as she tried to get a firmer grasp on me. I pleaded with her to explain, “Why am I Bob’s bass turd? What is a bass turd and what did I do to be that? And who is Bob anyway?” My bones thirsted for these truths.

In an empty gesture, she patted my head and warily uttered in a hushed voice as she walked out of the room, “I don’t know, Lucy. I just don’t know.”

*     *     *

Lying in bed, I drew Daisy pup to my chest and held her tightly as my stomach contracted and its contents burst up like a volcano in the back of my throat. I waited for it to pass and drifted back to an uneasy sleep, fearing that I would never be able drive these devils from my entrails.

This was originally published in Lunch Ticket, Issue 18: Winter/Spring 2021.

Budreaux The Conqueror

By C. Christine Fair, August 2019

In the summer’s weary end is when

I most miss my brindled, piebald boy

After the sunflowers’ faces, upturned

Reaching towards the sky

Become parched and resigned to die

When he’d uproot and seize

Their crusty stalks like a lance

In his magnificent jaws

And charge across the yard

Like a triumphant conqueror

Vanquishing the last glint of a retreating sun

Originally published in The Bark.

America’s Unrelenting War on Women

As a young feminist studying South Asia in 1990 America, it was de rigueur, for American feminists to decry the “barbaric” abuses from which “third world women” needed to be liberated.  Sati, which became resurgent in Rajasthan briefly, along with female feticide and infanticide and dowry deaths were their cause célèbre as were the Taliban’s use of death by stoning to execute Afghan women for various crimes real and imagined.  The enforced hijab in Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the latter’s ban on female drivers all drove American feminists over the edge as did—and does—female genital mutilation (FGM) practices by some Muslim communities “in Africa.” (Apparently no one can be bothered with specifying a particular country when it comes to Africa.)

This  hot wash in “white saviorism” never sat well with me because American women have never been as liberated as they imagined.  White feminism was always imbued with the class, race and geographical entitlements of its proponents which prevented them from knowing that even in America, many of the practices they decried as the problems of “over there” were in fact practiced within the United States. Few Americans know today that child marriage is practiced in the United States, that is not criminalized by federal law and is permitted in many states. In fact, according to data from 41 states, between 2000 and 2015, more than 200,000 minors were married.

Coming from a blue-color family in rural and peri-rural Indiana, I was annoyed by the “overthereism” of white feminism. For one thing, two of my cousins (by marriage) were child brides. Lean, one of these cousins, was more or less my age and we spent the summers swimming and doing girl stuff. Then in the summer in 1983, Lean was married, with court permission, to a man well into his twenties. She was from a town called “Mongo,” Indiana which was essentially a village where a high school education was an accomplishment she would not achieve. Her sister followed suit several years later. No one in my family seemed terribly aghast by this, except my mother and me.  Throughout Lean’s wedding, I wanted to vomit. My mom kept jabbing me to stop making faces during the ceremony. In any circumstances this would have been statutory rape. But when legitimized by a pastor, child rape becomes matrimony.

Nor did I have the luxury of presuming that boy preference was a curious practice of exotic countries. Afterall, my stepmonster routinely opined that he had no intention of saving money to send me to college so that I could “find a husband.” He furthered that since we were poor and could only afford to educate one of the kids, “it made sense to educate the boy.” My mother fought long and hard to educate me.  My mother saw that I had no other prospects for a happy life than education. Unlike my brother, I was unattractive, overweight and bespectacled. I preferred books to boys and I revolted against the abusive patriarchy that was firmly rooted in our rural Indiana culture and which claimed the happiness and physical safety of every woman I knew who was married. My grandmother was elated when my abusive grandfather died. My mother used to tell how she fantasized about castrating my first stepmonster and she was constantly in tears over the boorish behavior of my second. Mom stayed married for the reason my grandmother did: economic dependency upon lousy men. And my aunt, after whom I am named, stayed married to her violent and alcoholic husband for the same reason. When she finally left him, he murdered her. I had enough evidence in hand that nothing good would come from matrimony.

This worried my mother. There was no precedent for a woman existing in our family without a man taking care of her. And the suffering that went with matrimony was part of that price. But to her credit, my mom fought hard for the only future I demanded—one in which I made my own future independent of any man. But mom never shied from telling me the truth: she never wanted a girl.  Raising girls were precarious and risky. Their success in life was too indeterminate unless they were popular and pretty and I was neither. Boys’ futures, she felt, were more predictable. She was not cruel. She was forthright and pragmatic. Just as I am today. There was no place in that horrible archipelago of rural hellholes from which I escaped to be the woman I wanted to be. And this was not India or “Africa.” It was Indiana. The same state from which our current Vice President hails along with five others.

While the United States has long been a terrible place to be a woman for many women, it’s getting worse not better. In contrast, many countries I study –including Pakistan—is making strides to make lives for women better. But in the not in the United States. American legislators refuse to pass laws that make it illegal to pay women less for the same work. And once again our basic right to decide whether and when to have children is being taken away. 

The right to abortion is one that I hold dear because of personal reasons.  My biological father impregnated my mother under false pretenses and unmarried in 1967.  Abortion was illegal and thus the exclusive privilege of wealthy women who could travel abroad or pay someone to provide a safe, but still illegal, abortion in the United States. Poor women who had illegal abortion risked their lives and many died from sepsis or blood loss. So my mother ran away, by bus, to Arizona where she lived with my aunt Carol—after whom I am named. Had abortion been legal, my mother could have imagined a different life than that inscribed for women with “illegitimate” children.  There may have been a future for her that didn’t rely upon being married to a “meal ticket.” She may have been a more capable provider for her future children. In this statement I am reaffirming the value of my mother’s life rather than undervaluing my own.

While Roe V. Wade,the landmark supreme court case from 1973, conferred upon women the right to choose, proponents of traditional while-male-dominant patriarchy fought tooth and nail to squash this  right as soon as we got it. The ability to plan our fertility has been the cornerstone of our ability to pursue higher education, gainful employment, and marriage by choice rather than compulsion. And it is this access to economic justice that has enabled women to walk out from abusive or unhappy marriages or not marry at all.

While the racism of the contemporary Republican party is much appreciated abroad because it is so gobsmackingly obvious, it is also waging a war on women and our bodies. While the white male Republicans fear ethnographic change and the loss of their race privilege, they also fear women and the erosion of their gender privileges despite the facts that women consistently earn less than men for the same work and that white men still occupy the most lucrative and important positions in the public and private sectors.  The fear that white men will one day be unable to run roughshod over everyone else is the same fear that Trump both stoked and exploited to become the president. While it may seem paradoxical that white women have allied with white men to protect their own race privileges and cruel power that conservative orthodoxy bestows upon women who happily police other women and people of color, this has always been the inherently non-intersectional character of white American feminism.

To eviscerate our hard-fought gains, the Republican party has endeavored to roll back access to affordable birth control as well as pharmaceutical and surgical abortion. It has stacked our courts with misogynistic conservatives in hopes that a court dominated by such rubes will over-turn Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, Republicans hollowed out abortion access by terrorizing physicians who perform the procedure. They waged legal cases throughout the country to endow fetuses with rights at the expense of women’s civil liberties. They made every possible effort to restrict how, when, and where abortion is provided. They have imposed waiting periods and, in some states, they force women to pay for expensive trans-vaginal ultrasounds in hopes that after seeing their snowy fetus, they will change their minds. They have sought impose absurd standards upon the clinics themselves and distance to hospitals and have argued that doctors must have surgical rights at hospitals even if here is no hospital nearby that will afford those rights and even though the procedure is safer than many other procedures. (Many hospitals in the United States are Catholic and they do not permit abortion. Thus this requirement is a back door means of eroding access to surgical abortion.) Indiana has passed a law that requires the products of conception to be buried or incinerated separately from other surgical waste, which is merely intended to increase the cost of an increasingly costly procedure.

Due to the concatenating impacts of these varied efforts, today, there are many states in which surgical abortion, for all intents and purposes, is unavailable. In such states, there are so few abortion providers that women must undertake lengthy and expensive journeys—sometimes to other states—and endure the commonly-imposed three-day waiting period and other burdens such as the trans-vaginal ultrasound. This in addition to several hundreds of dollars to pay for the procedure, which cannot be subsidized with federal monies. All of this requires days of missed work and arranging childcare. Such restrictions disproportionately affect America’s most vulnerable women who tend to be poor and/or persons of color.

Recently, some nine states have passed legislation to further restrict access. Several of these have passed so-called “heartbeat” bills that criminalize abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, after most women even know they are pregnant. In most circumstances, these laws cruelly and deliberately exclude exceptions for rape and incest. The penalty for securing an illegal abortion under these laws actually exceeds the penalty for rape and incest or even actual murder of a human being. The laws themselves reflect an asinine lack of scientific understanding of the chemical process that gives the illusion of a “heartbeat” as there is no fetal heart at six weeks.

Despite prosecuting this relentless war on our body agency in the name of “life,” other Republican policies bely any genuine interest in either increasing the quality or quantity of Americans’ lives. They oppose universal and affordable health care for the same fetuses they fetishize and the mothers who care for them as well as their families. Republicans nearly universally oppose education budgets that would provide for quality education at all levels, which is the most effective way of ensuring equal access to opportunities and outcomes. They reject efforts to expand civil liberties and are actively rolling back those already attained. Whereas the Republican party of the past freed American slaves, the party of today is most known for its racism and bigotry. Most cynically, they smother even the most modest restrictions upon the ability purchase military-grade weapons and munitions, even though on a near-weekly basis America’s children are butchered in school shootings. They support the death penalty without any effort to reconcile this with their “pro-life” positions and they do so despite the well-known fact that the use of the death penalty is driven by racism and that many African American men have been framed for crimes they did not commit resulting in the execution of innocent men. Poor people in general are more likely to get the death penalty because they cannot afford competent legal representation.  

In short: once that fetus becomes a child, it is on its own. Its odds are best if it’s a white, Cis-male. While that demographic comprises only 30 percent of the population, it command the best access to opportunities and outcomes.

More galling yet, some protect the parental rights of rapists when their victim becomes impregnated from their criminal conduct.  In other circumstances, sex offenders are not permitted to be around children. Recently, in Alabama—one of the most backwards states in the Union which has passed the most draconian law essentially outlawing abortion—ordered a woman to permit her rapist visitation of the child that resulted from his assault on her. She will be ordered to spend forty-eight hours in jail for every visitation she declines.

Given Republicans’ discernable lack of interest in life-saving or life-improving policies in any other policy domain, it is fairly clear that their interest in denying women the ability to plan our fertility is abjectly not about life rather about denying us the right to live our lives fully and to our potential with dignity.

In 2015, before the “Trumpocalypse,” the United Nations sent a fact-finding team to investigate the state of American women and were horrified by what they found. The “myth-shattering” mission noted that American women are lagging in rights.  More recently, UN  Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore did not mince her words when she declared the onslaught against abortion rights as “extremist hate” and “torture.”

As other countries in the world, like India, continue to make strides in empowering women, perhaps the disempowered American Woman, reduced to fetal incubators, will become the next posterchild of feminist movements that are steaming ahead elsewhere. I look forward to the day when crowds of “third world” women gather outside of American embassies and consulates demanding that that the US government stop its relentless war on women and children.

A shorter, better edited version of this essay appeared in The Print on June 18, 2019.

Hindi Blog Post #1: Discussing My Latest Book on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here I discuss LeT and my newest book, In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba with Pranay Kotasthane, Head, Research The Takshashila Institution.

प्रणय कोटस्थाने के साथ मेरा साक्षात्कार , जिसमें, हम लश्कर-ए-तैयबा पर अपनी नई किताब की चर्चा करते हैं।

प्रतिलिपि:

आपकी नयी किताब  In their Own Words, लश्कर जसै आतंकवादी संगठन  का घरेलू राजनीति में क्या स्थान है, इस पर चर्चा  करती है | तो इस एपिसोड में हम LeT को एक संगठन (organisation) के रूप में गहराई से समझने की कोशिश करते है|

१. हर संगठन  का एक vision, mission statement होता है – LeT का क्या है?

लश्कर-ए-तैयबा का एक पुस्तिका है  जिस में  वह् वर्णन  करता है कि वह् क्या करता है और क्यों।

ईस पुस्तिका  का नाम  है “हम क्यों जिहाद कर रहे हैं।”

इस पुस्तिका में, कई सिद्धांत/ उसूल  प्रस्तुत किए गए हैं, खास तौर  पर, यह दो:

२. हर हाल में, पाकिस्तान के भीतर, किसी भी प्रकार की हिंसा (या आतंक) सख्त़ मना (निषेध) है।

इससे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता अगर कोई मुजाहिद समझता है कि कोई  व्यक्ति “खराब मुस्लिम” है , और कुफ़्र और मशरिक (यानी जो शिर्क करता है) और मुनफ़िक़ (यानी जो खिलफ़त करता है) या कलह फैलाता है।

३. जिहाद सभी मुसलमानों के लिए अनिवार्य है, यानी फर्ज़्। यह आवश्यक (जरूरी) है कि हर एक मुसलमान जिहाद में शरक़त (Bhag lena) करने के लिए तैयार हो।

इसका मतलब नहीं है कि कोई बंदूक उठाकर कश्मीर  सीधे चला जाए। शायद एक भाई घर पर रहे पारिवारिक व्यवसाय की देखभाल के लिए ताकि दूसरा भाई कश्मीर जाकर काफिरों से लड़ सके।  लश्कर ए तैयबा के अनुसार दोनों जिहाद में हिस्सा ले रहे हैं।

लश्कर का मानना (तर्क/ख़्याल) है कि जब पाकिस्तानी बाहरी दुश्मन से लड़ना बंद कर देंगे, तो वे एक-दूसरे पर हमला करना शुरू कर देंगे और इसी तरह पाकिस्तान को तबाह करेंगे।

४. इस संगठन  की शुरुआत कब और कैसे हुई?

यह संगठन  १९८० के दशक के अंत में शुरू हुआ,सोवियत संघ के अफ़ग़ानिस्तान   को  छोड़ने से पहले।

लश्कर से पहले, दो अलग-अलग संगठन  थे। एक संगठन , ज़कि-उर्-रेह्मान लखवी  का, दूसरा हाफ़िज़ साईद का। १९८४ (1984) में, लखवी ने  सेनानियों का एक समूह इकट्ठा किया, जो सब अहल-ए-हदीस थे।

तकरीबन  एक साल के बाद्, लाहौर में, लाहौर इंजीनियरिंग विश्वविद्यालय के इस्लामिक अध्ययन विभाग के दो प्रोफेसरों ने जमात उद दावा स्थापित किया।

ये दो प्रोफेसर हाफ़िज़  मुहम्मद साईद और जफ़र इकबाल थे। जमात उद दावा, मूलभूत रूप से, तब्लीघ  और दावाह पर ध्यान करते थे।

लगभग १९८६ (1986) में, लखवी का मिलिशिया और साईद  का JUF विलय हो गया और इस नये तन्ज़ीम का नाम मार्कज़्-उद-दावा-वाल-इरशाद (एम.डी.आई)था।

एम.डी.आई. के तीन कार्य थे: जिहाद , तब्लीघ, दावाह (यानी मुसलमानों को अहल-ए-हदीस पंथ में परिवर्तित करना)।

२००२ में, जैश-ए-मोहम्मद के संसद पर हमला करने के बाद, लश्कर और अन्य आतंकवादी समूहों को “प्रतिबंधित” कर दिया गया था।

मगर , प्रतिबंध प्रभावी होने से पहले, आई. एस. आई. ने (यानी पाकिस्तान की सबसे ख़तरनाक ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी ने) समूहों को उन्नत चेतावनी दी थी, जिस से वे नए नामों के तहत फिर से अस्तित्व में आये ।  २००२ से, लश्कर को “जमात उद दावाह” कहा जाता है ।

. इसके sponsor/shareholders कौन है?

उस प्रश्न (prashna/ सवाल ) का आसान उत्तर (जवाब) है: पाकिस्तानी  सेना और इस की ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी आई. एस.आई।

६. इसमें भर्ती (recruitment) कहाँ  से और कैसे होती है? क्यों नौजवान इस कररयर को चुनते  है?

ज़्यादातर लश्कर के रंगरूट (या नए  सेनानियों) पंजाब के लगभग १० जिलों से ताल्लुक  रखते हैं।

वे अलग-अलग कारणों से जुड़ते हैं ।  कुछ ऊब चुके हैं और साहसिक कारनामे की तलाश कर रहे हैं।

कुछ बेहद धार्मिक हैं और मानते हैं कि जिहाद जरूरी है।

दूसरे  कश्मीर में मुसलमानों की मदद करना चाहते हैं, क्योंकि  वे विश्वास करते हैं कि वे मज़लूम हैं।

कई मामलों में, उनके माता-पिता उन्हें जिहाद के लिए जाने पर  हौसला बढ़ा देते हैं क्योंकि जब उनका बेटा शहीद हो कर अल्लाह से मिलता है,  वह अल्लाह से अनुरोध कर सकता है कि  मरने के बाद उन्हें स्वर्ग  (या जन्नत) में जाने दे।

इस के अलावा, जब उनका  बेटा शहीद हो जाता है, तो समाज में परिवारों की स्थिति बढ़ जाती है।

७. इस संगठन का समाज में वजूद क्या है?

“जमात उद दावाह” और “फ़िलाह इन्सानियत फाउंडेशन ” के नामों के तहत, वे पाकिस्तान के भीतर बहुत सारे सामाजिक कार्य करते हैं। उदाहरण के लिए,  वे सामान्य स्कूलों का निर्माण करते हैं (मदरसे नहीं,हालांकि मदरसे भी बनवाए), चिकित्सा सेवाएं प्रदान करते हैं, कुओं को खोदते हैं और भूकंप (ज़लज़ला), बाढ़ (सैलाब), चक्रवात (साइक्लोन), सूखा (खुश्क) दौरान और बाद में राहत सेवाएं उपलब्ध करते हैं।

८. इस संगठन  को कैसे निपटाया जाए? क्या पाकिस्तान में ऐसी ताकतें हैं जो इस तरह के संगठनों का ख़ात्मा करना चाहती हैं?

दो कारणों से, इससे निपटाना  असंभव है।

सबसे पहले, पाकिस्तानी सेना को बाहरी और आंतरिक सुरक्षा के लिए इसकी आवश्यकता (सख़त ज़रूरी) है।

दूसरा, अगरपाकिस्तानी सेना इससे प्रयोग में न लाना चाहती हो, तो भी ऐसा करना बहुत मुश्किल होगा और शायद नामुमकिन।

भारत के पास दो विकल्प (चुनाव) हैं। सबसे पहले, इसे सहन करना जारी रखें।  

दूसरा, इसकी क्षमताओं को कम करने के लिए गुप्त संचालन कर सकते हैं, मगर अगर भारत ऐसे करे, तोयह बिल्कुल महत्वपूर्ण है कि यह गुप्त रहे ।यदि सरकार इन कार्यों के बारे में बहुत शोर करती है, तो  पाकिस्तान को जवाब देने पर मजबूर हो जायेगी और भारत एक युद्ध शुरू होने का जोखिम बुलाता है परमाणु युद्ध के जोखिम के साथ।

It’s Out! In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here’s an amuse-bouche of  In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Hurst, OUP). As always, I am grateful to Saira Wasim for her exquisite work that graces this cover. Check out her other inspiring paintings here:  http://www.sairawasim.com/.

Please note that I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

Copies may be purchased here:

Via Hurst: https://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/in-their-own-words/

Via Oxford University Press: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/in-their-own-words-9780190909482?cc=us&lang=en&

Via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Their-Words-Understanding-Lashkar-Tayyaba/dp/1849045720/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542211028&sr=8-1&keywords=In+Their+Own+Words+Understanding+Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

The South Asia and US editions will be coming out shortly.

Potential Reviewers: If you would like to review this volume, please email me at c_christine_fair@yahoo.com with the Subject Header: “I’d like to review In Their Own Words.”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This project is the culmination of research I unwittingly began in Lahore in 1995 when I was a doctoral student studying Urdu as well as Punjabi through the renowned BULPIP (Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, currently known as the Berkeley-AIPS Urdu Language Program in Pakistan). As a student of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, I frequented Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, where I first encountered booksellers purveying the propaganda of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), which now operates mostly under the name of Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD). I began collecting their materials that year and continued to do so during subsequent visits over the next couple of decades until I was ultimately deemed persona non-grata by the country’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

Due to the ISI’s assessment that I am a “nasty woman,” I have been unable to return to Pakistan since August 2013, but astonishingly, I was able to continue gathering materials for this effort through inter-library loan. Since 1962, American libraries have procured books from South Asia through the so-called PL-480 program, named after the eponymous public law which allowed the US Library of Congress to use rupees from Indian purchases of American agricultural products to buy Indian books. In 1965, a field office was opened in Karachi to oversee the acquisition of Pakistani publications. While the PL-480 program was long since discontinued, The Library of Congress continues to use the same institutional infrastructure to purchase these publications under the guise of a new program called the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Project.

I am deeply indebted to the Library of Congress and the other libraries across the United States which purchased these publications through this program and made them available to scholars through their institutions’ inter-library loan programs. I am particularly beholden to Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library, which never failed to produce a book I requested. The University of Chicago and the Library of Congress were the primary sources of these books and I am grateful that they continue to obtain and lend terrorist publications. As one US government official wryly noted when I explained my new sources of materials, “there is no better way to keep terrorist literature out of the hands of would-be terrorists than putting it in a library.”

I am also extremely indebted to Georgetown University, which has supported my work unstintingly since I joined the Security Studies Program in the fall of 2009. The University and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University subsidized the writing of this book through a year-long leave through sabbatical and a senior research leave. Moreover, the School of Foreign Service provided invaluable financial support that enabled me to collaborate with Safina Ustaad, who did most of the translations used in this volume. (Ustaad and I are publishing a subsequent volume that contains these translations via Oxford University Press, entitled A Call to War: The Literature of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.) The School of Foreign Service also subsidized a related and ongoing project in which I am studying the battle-field motivations of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba fighters. Through that funding, Ali Hamza translated a 10 percent random sample of the over 900 fighter biographies I collected, the analyses of which I present in this book. I am also grateful to the Security Studies Program, my home program within the School of Foreign Service, for generously subsidizing other aspects of this project, such as my work with Abbas Haider and other ongoing collaborations with Ali Hamza. Both Haider and Hamza translated some materials (under my guidance and quality assurance) which I have analyzed herein. Ali Hamza has been a superb colleague and collaborator over numerous years on several quantitative and qualitative projects alike. I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a gracious and talented colleague.

I also benefited tremendously from fellowships with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, which hosted me as a senior fellow in the summer of 2016, the Gateway House in Mumbai during the summer of 2015, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, which hosted me as a fellow in the summer of 2017. I remain obliged to Jayant Prasad, Rumel Dahiya, and Ashok Behuria at IDSA, and Sally Blair at the NED. Don Rassler and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point also provided important resources for the quantitative aspects of this project while I was a fellow at the CTC. It was a privilege to work with Don and the other members of that team including Anirban Ghosh, Nadia Shoeb, and Arif Jamal to whom I am deeply beholden. I would also like to express my gratitude to Oxford University Press which graciously allowed me to compress, update and draw upon significant portions of Fighting to the End: The Pakistani Army’s Way of War (2014) as well as Taylor and Francis which granted me permission to draw heavily from a 2014 article in the The Journal of Strategic Studies (“Insights from a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 37, 2 (2014), pp. 259–290.)

As this volume is the culmination of years of research and consultation, it would be remiss were I not to mention the superb community of scholars with whom I have discussed this project and data. Those who have been generous with their time and insights include: Daniel Byman, Bruce Hoffman, Jacob Shapiro, Praveen Swami, Ashley Tellis, Arif Jamal, Maryum Alam, the late Mariam Abou Zahab, Jaideep and his colleagues, and numerous others who met with me over the years in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Seth Oldmixon deserves a special mention. Oldmixon is one of the most under-valued assets in the community of South Asia analysts. He has a hawk’s eye for details as he has scoured social media feeds and publications of militant organizations, reads the South Asian press more diligently than most intelligence analysts I know and has an extraordinary ability to recall events, identify persons and their associations.

I am also profoundly indebted to my husband, Jeffrey Dresser Kelley and our ever-evolving pack of canine associates, who have patiently, and at times, less patiently, abided my months away from home with grace and aplomb. They also endured long periods of my inattention as I sought first to comprehend the huge number of sources I processed for this volume and then drafted this book, which took much longer than I ever anticipated. They have foregone vacations and grown tufts of gray hair wondering when—or if—it would ever conclude.

Michael Dwyer at Hurst has been equally patient and supportive of this project. Without his belief in this project, there would be no project at all. Saira Wasim, one of the most intrepid and dauntless artists I have had the privilege of knowing, deserves extraordinary mention. Wasim has generously lent her courageous art to this cover and to that of my last two books. Wasim, masterfully subverting the tradition of the Mughal miniature painting, valorously confronts and interrogates the perversions and defeasances in Pakistani and international politics alike as well as the culpable dastards. When I have writer’s block, I peruse her body of work for inspiration. Her work is literally worth a million words.

Finally, I am aware that most readers who will buy this book will do so because of the hideous crimes this organization has perpetrated, mostly against Indian citizens. Thousands of Indians have been murdered by LeT, and if not for the group’s lethal effectiveness, no one would care about it. The biographies of the martyrs weighed heavily upon my conscience as I studied their declared intentions to slaughter an enemy about which they knew nothing but lies propagated by the organization and the Pakistani state, leavened with rare fragments of truth. Because my ethical commitments preclude me from profiting from the deaths of thousands, I will donate any personal proceeds from this book to charitable organizations that assist victims of terrorism. Because Lashkar-e-Tayyaba mostly murders Indians, I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

Short Story: The Rat Vs. Me by Harishankar Parsai -Translated from Hindi (Chua aur Main) by Christine Fair

6 min read

EDITOR’S PICK OF THE WEEK

(As the editor’s pick for this week, this article will be available for free reading for a week)

This story has nothing to do with Steinbeck’s novel “Of Men and Mice.”

I wanted to give this story the title of “Me Versus the Rat” but the rat has devastated my self-esteem. This rat in my house has already accomplished what I could never manage. This rat has accomplished what no ordinary man could and then, he talked about it.

There was a fat rat in this house. When the wife of my little brother was around, food was prepared in this house. Since then, due to some family tragedies—such as the death of my brother-in-law among others—we had been residing elsewhere.

This rat came to understand that it was his right that I should bring food into the house for him. To date, even men have not managed to understand their rights as this rat did.

For some 45 days, the house was locked up. When I returned alone and opened up the house, I saw that the rat had knocked down and smashed up quite a bit of crockery. He must have been trashing the place looking for food. He must have been looking inside the crockery and containers for something to eat. He would not have found anything and must have gone to the neighbors to find something to eat to stay alive. But he did not leave the house. He understood this house to be his own.

When I burst in on him, the light was on, but I could see that he was happily squeaking and running here and there. Maybe he thought that now, food will be made in this house, that he’ll open up the containers and get one of the rations.

All-day he happily roamed the house. I watched him and I enjoyed his joy.

But food production in the house did not resume. I was alone. In the afternoon, I would have lunch at my sister’s place nearby.  I eat late at night so my sister would send a tiffin over for me. Having eaten, I would close the tiffin and store it. Rat lord must have felt despair. He must have been thinking, “What kind of house is this? The human has returned. There’s even electricity. But no one is making food. If food was prepared, I would at least get some scattered grains or pieces of bread.”

Then I had an altogether new experience. At night, time and again, the rat would fidget with the mosquito net up by my head.  Throughout the night he’d disrupt my sleep. I would chase him off. But a bit later, he would come right back and begin making a racket near my head.

He was starving. But how did he come to figure out the difference between my head and my feet? He hadn’t been mucking about near my feet. One time, he came right into the mosquito net.

I was very worried. What should I do? If I hit him and he scurried underneath an armoire and died, then he’d start to rot, and the entire house would be filled with stench. Then I’d have to move the heavy armoire and remove him.

The rat would make a ruckus in the house all day long and would irritate me at night. I’d fall asleep, but Rat Lord would begin making a nuisance of himself near my head.  

Finally, one day, I finally figured out the problem: the rat needed to eat. He believes this house is his. He is quite aware of a rat’s rights. At night maybe he would come to my pillow and say this, “Brother! What’s going on with you! You eat until your belly is full. But I am starving. I am a member of this household. I have my rights. I am going to wreck your sleep.” Then I hatched a plan to fulfill his demands.

At night, I left the tiffin open and put a few pieces of papadum here and there. The rat came out from wherever, picked up a piece, sat under the armoire, and began to eat. After finishing my meal, I scattered some pieces of bread on the floor for him. In the morning I saw that he had eaten it all.

One day, my sister sent over rice papadums. I left three or four pieces for him. The rat came, sniffed, and went away. He did not like rice papadums. I was astonished by the rat’s preference. I gave him some pieces of bread. He would come and take each piece one by one.

This became routine. I would leave the tiffin open, and the rat would come out and begin looking it over. I’d put a few pieces down for him on the floor. At night, he’d eat it and go to sleep.

For my part, I too slept peacefully. The rat wasn’t getting up to nonsense by my head.

Then one day he showed up with one of his brothers. He must have said something like, “Dude, come over to this house with me. I irritated this guy with bread, terrorized him, and made him give me food. Come, both of us will eat. He damned well better feed us if he knows what’s good for him. Otherwise, we will fuck up his sleep good and proper. It’s our right.”

Now both Rat Lords were eating at the table.

But I got to thinking. Has a human become less worthy than a rat? This rat is all up in my face asserting his right to eat. He wrecks my sleep for it!

When will the men of this country begin acting up like this rat?


About the Author

Harishankar Parsai (1924-1995) was a modern Indian Hindi writer best known for his satirical and humorous writings delivered in a simple and direct style. His body of work includes novels and short stories. He was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award in 1982 for his satirical essay Viklang Shraddha Ka Daur.

Parsai is renowned for raising challenging questions about society and the daily social and political challenges faced by the middle class. While this story is marketed as “children’s literature,” the themes presented are adult and salient for contemporary audiences.


About the Translator

Christine Fair is a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the School of Foreign Service where she studies political and military events of South Asia. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008).

Her forthcoming book is Lines of Control: Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s Militant Piety, with Safina Ustad (Oxford University Press, 2021). She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Furious Gazelle, Hypertext, Lunch Ticket, Clementine Unbound, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Barzakh Magazine, Bluntly Magazine, Badlands Literary Journal, among others. Her visual work has appeared in Vox Populi, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The New Southern Fugitives, Glassworks and Existere Journal of Arts. Her translations have appeared in the Bombay Literary Magazine, Bombay Review, Muse India and Punch The Magazine. She causes trouble in multiple languages.

This was originally published by Kitaab on July 2, 2022.

How Imran Khan has become the Donald Trump of Pakistan

With so many Pakistanis believing Imran Khan’s ‘Great Steal’, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will have little peace in office.

President Donald Trump began to delegitimise the 2020 presidential poll months before the first vote was cast, just as he did the 2016 election. He told his supporters that in 2016, fraudulent votes snatched from him the popular vote he claimed he won. We now know that there was foreign interference in the 2016 presidential elections; however, it was to help — not hinder — Trump’s electoral victory. Going into the 2020 elections, a majority of Americans (60 per cent) did not have confidence in the honesty of elections. Trump began building his “Big Lie” about the theft of his victory before, during and after America went to the polls.

On 23 September, Trump said of mail-in ballots that they were “out of control.” That American armed service personnel and diplomats have been voting through mail-in ballots without problem did not deter the then president. That Americans every year safely mail their tax payments did not deter him. For Trump, they would contribute to election theft. He raised questions about the voting machines being used and accused the democrats of using the electronic voting machines to steal his election. After the ballots were cast and counted, he demanded recount after recount. Where he was winning, he wanted the count to end. Where he was losing, he demanded recounts. The end result of his painstaking erection of the “Big Lie”? Only one in five Republicans believe Joe Biden is the legitimate president. It seems Imran Khan has taken a page out of Trump’s playbook and created a fictive Big Steal of his own.

As is well-known, former prime minister Imran Khan, was the favoured boy in the real capital of Pakistan: Rawalpindi. The army secured his prime ministership before the election and through massive rigging and they did so by forging a coalition of the billing which Khan would lead. Like the prime ministers before him, he too came to believe that he was too beloved by the people and Pakistan’s allies alike to be ousted. Like all prime ministers before him, he too learned that he is as expendable as the army wants.

Imran’s mistakes were numerous. First and foremost was that he failed in even the limited remit that the army grants the prime minister. Pakistan’s shambolic economy and flailing governance began to reflect poorly on the army because everyone understood he served as the pleasure of Pindi. Consequently, Pakistan’s all-powerful Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, began to have concerns about his acolyte. Khan also committed the deadly sin of interfering in the army’s internal affairs when Bajwa wanted to replace General Faiz Hameed as the head of the ISI. Khan baulked because it was Hameed who emplaced Khan through the electoral shenanigans the ISI had perfected. But Khan also publicly disagreed with Bajwa on a range of foreign policy matters as well whether it was Pakistan’s policy towards the United States, India or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As Islamabad was rife with rumours that Khan had lost the army’s support, Khan’s foes smelled blood in the water. While the ragtag band of disgruntled opponents that formed the Opposition began to organise for a no-confidence vote, Khan was busy preparing the fundament of his own big lie. Khan claimed that the United States had threatened him. He told his followers that America wants him out of power because he alone has the gonadal fortitude to oppose the imperial hubris of the Greatest Satan. The army notably rubbished this conspiracy. His paltan of social media soldiers took to the interwebs to declare the assault on Imran Khan and Pakistan’s sovereignty itself.

This was originally published in Firstpost on 1 June 2022.

The Problems of Panoptic Invigilation Programs as Evidence of Cheating

Abstract: During the pandemic, many faculty have turned to online programs to invigilate online exams. The consequences of finding a student in violation of honor code strictures can have devastating impacts on a student’s career. Therefore, it is urgent that honor councils in universities that have adopted these panoptic surveillance programs understand not only the limitations of these programs but the dangerous biases that are built into them and their usage. In this essay, I briefly review the german literature on this subject in hopes of advancing this debate. In this essay, I argue that gaze aversion cannot be the sole basis upon which to decide an honor council violation has been made.

Gaze Aversion: What Is It Good For?

The demand for online exam supervision technologies was already expanding concomitant with the burgeoning demand for online courses in higher education prior to the pandemic. However, this surge in global demand further ballooned with the sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the swift movement of universities to online education. It seems that for the foreseeable future, online education and online invigilation programs are here to stay (Flaherty, 2020; Ginder et al. 2019; Goghlan et al. 2021).

Given the perduring nature of this demand, it is imperative that those who are availing of these programs understand the foundational problems with the algorithms they use and biases that inhere in these algorithms as well as the biases that undergird faculty assumptions about what constitutes cheating. One of the key elements flagged by these programs as “suspicious” is gaze aversion. In other words, if the program detects that a student’s gaze is not persistently aimed at the screen, the program assumes that the averted gaze is searching for material that may permit the student to cheat. Gaze aversion is then produced as evidence of malfeasance to academic integrity programs.

This fundamental assumption about the correlation of gaze aversion and academic impropriety is fundamentally flawed and cannot be taken as dispositive evidence of cheating because there is a large literature on the use of “gaze aversion” during problem-solving and information recall. In fact, gaze aversion is a natural brain function during problem-solving, especially when one doesn’t know the answers immediately. Depending upon the kind of problem being solved and the kind of information being retrieved, one may avert their gaze in one direction or the other depending upon the hemispheric allocation of that information in the brain. Salvi and Boden (2015) note that “More frequent movements of the eyes are found when people are engaged in tasks that require a search of long-term memory than when they are engaged in tasks that do not require long-term memory search, even when the tasks do not seem to have any visual component” (Salvi and Boden, 2015: 2). In other words, gaze aversion is more frequent when we are struggling to recall the answer. Similarly, Bergstrom and Hiscock (1988), report that gaze perseverance is correlated with the memory demands of different kinds of questions while Glenberg et al. (1998) report that individuals avert their gaze when they are trying to respond to different questions. Ehrlichman and Weinberger (1978) found that participants were more likely to have gaze persistence (or stare) when they were answering visuospatial questions rather than verbal questions.

Kocel et al. (1972) found that the direction of lateral eye movements was strongly correlated with the type of question, with verbal and arithmetical questions eliciting more rightward eye movements than did spatial and musical questions.” Other scholars (inter alia Ellis et al.) actually use eye movements exhibited while a person is solving a problem (anagrams) to understand how they solve problems. Susac et al. (2014) monitor eye movements during mathematical problem solving to derive insights into the cognitive processes and contend that such eye movement “may be used for exploring problem difficulty, student expertise, and metacognitive processes.” Benedek et al (2017) observe of eye movement and cognition that “Gaze aversion refers to the aversion of one’s eyes (or even brief eye closure) during demanding processes requiring internal attention. There is strong evidence that gaze aversion serves the function of reducing cognitive load during demanding cognitive activities (e.g., mental arithmetic) by avoiding the processing of potentially distracting external stimuli in order to shield internal processes” (Benedek et al, 2017: p. 2. See also Doherty-Sheddon and Phelps, 2005; Markson and Paterson, 2009). Benedek et al. also note that gaze aversion enhances visual imagination (Vredeveldt et al., 2011; Buchanan et al., 2014) as well as information retrieval (Glenberg et al., 1998), particularly during face-to-face interactions (Benedek et al, 2017). They also cite an eye-tracking study according to which “insight solutions are preceded by longer blink durations and gazing away from the stimulus, which was interpreted as a shutting out or interruption of visual input in moments of insight” (Benedek et al, 2017: 2. See also Salvi et al., 2015; Salvi and Bowden, 2016). Benedek et al, 2017 conclude from these varied studies that indicate that ocular motion supports internally directed recall by diminishing distracting sensory stimulation. These observations are all germane to cases in which gaze aversion detected by online invigilation programs is presented as evidence of academic dishonesty because they demonstrate that gaze aversion is a fundamental element of information recall.

Not only is gaze aversion a natural activity associated with cognitive recall, but there are also biological bases for the observed variation in gaze aversion. Notably, Alexander and Son (2007) attribute gender differences in eye movements during problem-solving to differential levels of androgens. This is extremely important because it may imply that using such a measure as “gaze aversion” or “gaze persistence” absent other information will disproportionately and adversely affect women who are more likely to avert their gaze during recall. Alexander and Son (2007) also observe that there is as much variation among women as there is between men and women. They report that women with “higher circulating testosterone levels” were more likely to engage in gaze persistence during problem-solving.

Biased Technology Hurts Students

In addition to the gendered nature of gaze aversion (Alexander and Son 2007), there is a large body of literature that makes it clear that commercial panoptical surveillance programs and facial recognition programs have significant race and gender bias (Leslie 2020; Castelvecchi 2020). Buolamwini, who is black, studied facial analysis software that is used in a variety of applications. When she submitted photos of herself to several commercial facial-recognition programs, the programs often failed to recognize her photos as depicting a human face and, when they did, the programs consistently incorrectly assessed her gender (Hardesty 2018).

Gebru and Buolamwini (2018) in their study of commercial facial recognition systems observed:

substantial disparities in the accuracy of classifying darker females, lighter females, darker males, and lighter males in gender classification systems” and argue that these algorithms and packages “require urgent attention if commercial companies are to build genuinely fair, transparent and accountable facial analysis algorithms” (Gebru and Buolamwini, 2018: 1). These studies of facial recognition programs matter because they are at the basis of the panoptic surveillance used in commercial proctoring programs.

Swauger (2020) dilates upon these issues at length:

While racist technology calibrated for white skin isn’t new (everything from photography to soap dispensers do this), we see it deployed through face detection and facial recognition used by algorithmic proctoring systems. Students with black or brown skin have been asked to shine more light on themselves when verifying their identities for a test, a combination of both embedded computer video cameras and facial recognition being designed by and for white people. A Black student at my university reported being unable to use Proctorio because the system had trouble detecting their face, but could detect the faces of their white peers. While some test proctoring companies develop their own facial recognition software, most purchase software developed by other companies, but these technologies generally function similarly and have shown a consistent inability to identify people with darker skin or even tell the difference between Chinese people. Facial recognition literally encodes the invisibility of Black people and the racist stereotype that all Asian people look the same.

Swauger’s entire essay should be required reading of faculty reporting or investigating suspected academic misconduct and arguably, it should be included in any anti-racism training or curriculum required by faculty.

Other Forms of Biases Inherent in Online Proctoring

There are other biases that should be evident in the reliance upon such programs. First, they have significant technological demands. They presume access to a quality laptop with a quality camera and uninterruptable and reliable internet connections. Second, they also expect students to have a private space, free of distractions, with good lighting. Clearly, not all students have such technology or facilities and the variation in that access is to be deeply dependent upon economic class, race, gender, and age (Goldberg 2021). Poorer students may not have access to a private space or quality technology. Women who have dependents or live-in partners frequently report that their personal space is violated when husbands or children barge into the room to ask questions or make other demands (Hall 2021). Some people live in congested urban environments where ambient noise is loud no matter where you are in your residence. Third, these technologies are deeply ableist (Goldberg 2021). In short, students may be falsely accused of academic dishonesty include those students: who are, more often than not, women with family duties whose attention is drawn away from the screen; who have physical and/or neurological disabilities who may find it physically difficult or impossible to do what these programs require; poorer students who lack the ability to purchase a computer with a high-quality camera or other recording requirements; and women and racial minorities whose faces are less likely to be recognized as human.

Conclusions and Recommendations

As this cursory literature review demonstrates, gaze aversion is an inaccessible metric for academic dishonesty as it is literally a physical activity associated with cognitive recall. There are gender differences in gaze aversion, with women being more likely to do so. And there is variation among individuals based upon biological factors such as individual levels of various hormones. Moreover, the technologies used to detect such cheating are riven with race, gender, socio-economic status, and other kinds of biases that are simply orthogonal to any university’s commitment to anti-racism and creating a university that is more accessible and equitable to all. Given that these allegations of cheating can have career-wrecking implications, reporting faculty should be able to marshal actual evidence of cheating rather than vague concerns about “gaze aversion.” Universities should revisit any and all cases wherein students have been found guilty of academic misconduct and ex post facto absolve students of such accusations where gaze aversion is the sole evidence provided for misconduct. Prospectively, academic integrity councils should demure from using such evidence as dispositive evidence of malfeasance and require other, supporting evidence for such a finding. Students’ lives are at stake. If we don’t take our obligations seriously, who will?

References:

Alexander, Gerianne M., and Troy Son. “Androgens and eye movements in women and men during a test of mental rotation ability.” Hormones and Behavior 52.2 (2007): 197–204.

Benedek, Mathias, et al. “Eye behavior associated with internally versus externally directed cognition.” Frontiers in psychology 8 (2017): 1092.

Bergstrom,K.J., andHiscock,M.(1988).Factorsinfluencingocularmotilityduring the performance of cognitive tasks. Can. J. Psychol. 42:1. doi: 10.1037/h0084174

Buolamwini, Joy, and Timnit Gebru. “Gender shades: Intersectional accuracy disparities in commercial gender classification.” Conference on fairness, accountability and transparency. 2018.

Buchanan, H., Markson, L., Bertrand, E., Greaves, S., Parmar, R., and Paterson, K. B. (2014). Effects of social gaze on visual-spatial imagination. Front. Psychol. 5:671. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00671.

Castelvecchi, Davide (2020). “Is facial recognition too biased to be let loose?,” Nature, 18 November 2020. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03186-4.

Coghlan, Simon, Tim Miller, and Jeannie Paterson. “Good proctor or “big brother”? Ethics of online exam supervision technologies.” Philosophy & Technology 34.4 (2021): 1581–1606.

Doherty-Sheddon, G., and Phelps, F. G. (2005). Gaze aversion: a response to cognitive or social difficulty? Mem. Cogn. 33, 727–733. doi: 10.3758/BF03195338

Ehrlichman, Howard, and Arthur Weinberger. “Lateral eye movements and hemispheric asymmetry: a critical review.” Psychological Bulletin 85.5 (1978): 1080.

Ehrlichman, Howard, and Dragana Micic. “Why do people move their eyes when they think?.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 21.2 (2012): 96–100.

Ellis, Jessica J., Mackenzie G. Glaholt, and Eyal M. Reingold. “Eye movements reveal solution knowledge prior to insight.” Consciousness and cognition 20.3 (2011): 768–776.

Flaherty, C. (2020). Online proctoring is surging during COVID-19. https://www.insidehighered.com/ news/2020/05/11/online-proctoring-surging-during-covid-19.

Ginder, Scott A., Janice E. Kelly-Reid, and Farrah B. Mann. “Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2017: First Look (Provisional Data). NCES 2019–021Rev.” National Center for Education Statistics (2019).

Glenberg, A. M., Schroeder, J. L., and Robertson, D. A. (1998). Averting the gaze disengages the environment and facilitates remembering. Mem. Cogn. 26, 651–658. doi: 10.3758/BF03211385.

Goldberg, Suzanne B. “Education in a pandemic: the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on America’s students.” USA: Department of Education (2021).

Hall, Claire. 2021. “Women Are Facing Greater Interruption Challenges with Remote Work Than Their Male Colleagues,” UConn Today, December 13. https://today.uconn.edu/2021/12/women-are-facing-greater-interruption-challenges-with-remote-work-than-their-male-colleagues/

Hardesty, Larry. 2018. “Study finds gender and skin-type bias in commercial artificialintelligence systems,” MIT News, https://news.mit.edu/2018/study-finds-gender-skin-type-biasartificial-intelligence-systems-0212.

Kocel, Katherine, et al. “Lateral eye movement and cognitive mode.” Psychonomic Science 27.4 (1972): 223–224. Leslie, D. (2020). Understanding bias in facial recognition technologies: an explainer. The Alan Turing Institute. https://www.turing.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2020- 10/understanding_bias_in_facial_recognition_technology.pdf.

Markson, L., and Paterson, K. B. (2009). Effects of gaze-aversion on visual-spatial imagination. Br. J. Psychol. 100, 553–563. doi: 10.1348/000712608X371762

Salvi, Carola, and Edward M. Bowden. “Looking for creativity: Where do we look when we look for new ideas?.” Frontiers in psychology 7 (2016): 161.

Salvi, C., Bricolo, E., Fronconeri, S. L., Kounios, J., and Beeman, M. (2015). Sudden insight is associated with shutting out visual inputs. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 22, 1814–1819. doi: 10.3758/s13423–015–0845–0

Smallwood, Jonathan, et al. “Going AWOL in the brain: Mind wandering reduces cortical analysis of external events.” Journal of cognitive neuroscience 20.3 (2008): 458–469.

Susac, Ana NA, et al. “EYE MOVEMENTS REVEAL STUDENTS’STRATEGIES IN SIMPLE EQUATION SOLVING.” International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 12.3 (2014): 555–577.

Swauger, Shea. “Our bodies encoded: Algorithmic test proctoring in higher education.” Critical Digital Pedagogy (2020).

Vredeveldt, A., Hitch, G. J., and Baddeley, A. D. (2011). Eye closure helps memory by reducing cognitive load and enhancing visualization. Mem. Cogn. 39, 1253–1263. doi: 10.3758/s13421- 011–0098–8

Walcher, Sonja, Christof Körner, and Mathias Benedek. “Data on eye behavior during idea generation and letter-by-letter reading.” Data in brief 15 (2017): 18–24.

Why I am Running for the Faculty Chair of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

C. Christine Fair


Date: 14 February 2022
To: SFS Faculty
From: C. Christine Fair
Re: Fair’s Statement on the Incoming Faculty Chair’s Priorities


Dear Esteemed Colleagues:
I am writing to you today to seek your support for my bid to become faculty chair. I recognize I
am not the most obvious choice for this important post; however, I believe am the right person
to represent you due to my commitment to transparency, accountability, and integrity. For many
years, our faculty was collaborative and our governance transparent. Regrettably, over the last
several years, I have watched with dismay as our transparent governance retrenched and our
once cordial and collegial faculty became fractious and contentious to the detriment of the
school and the students we teach.
Below, I identify several issues that require immediate redress that I resolve to tackle as faculty
chair:

  1. Opacity of Governance: The governance of this body has become increasingly
    opaque and unaccountable to faculty members. Concomitantly, we are requested to
    endorse decisions and processes that have already been initiated. This is orthogonal
    to legitimate faculty governance wherein faculty are responsible for debating both the
    outcomes and the decision-making processes. Much of the current discord among
    our faculty stems from these suboptimal governance practices.
  2. Equal Access to Opportunities and Outcomes: In recent years, opportunities
    for service have not been equitably distributed despite claims to the contrary.
    (Analysis of historical SFS faculty minutes buttress this assertion.) While some
    faculty appear repeatedly in important committee assignments others are never
    afforded the opportunity despite demonstrable interest and explicit requests. For the
    last several years, this has been justified by the chair’s various prerogatives, which
    have never been elucidated. Consequently, important committees are simply
    announced and constituted without any discussion or debate. This opacity fosters
    distrust and resentment amongst the faculty.
  3. Diversifying this Faculty. There is an urgent need to diversify this faculty not
    only demographically, but ideologically and intellectually. If we wish to continue
    attracting promising undergraduate and graduate students, our faculty must
    resemble the student body we seek to attract.
  4. Commitment to Pedagogical Inclusion: Many faculty members have
    expressed reservations about the manner in which the SFS undergraduate program
    is administered. The absence of transparency and deliberation referenced above is
    often cited specifically as a reason why some faculty members feel excluded from participating meaningfully in BSFS deliberations even when their professional equities are at stake.
    I proffer that faculty governance that embraces transparency, inclusivity, and diversity is a
    necessary first step to restoring the amiability that previously characterized this body.

In this memo I introduce myself and articulate my vision for ameliorating the pressing challenges
that face our faculty.

About Me
I am an interdisciplinary scholar. I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of South Asian
Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Prior to that, I received an MA in
Public Policy, an MA in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and a BS in biological
chemistry, also from the University of Chicago. I read and translate stories and write editorials in
Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. While I am moored in the study of South Asian languages, I have
become conversant in the tools of political science, which animate my work and my commitment
to the study of South Asian literature.


As a scholar, I have worked with an array of colleagues from the social sciences and
humanities, as my CV attests. (My scholarship is available at http://www.christinefair.net.) As such, I
do not privilege one discipline over another, and I understand and value the importance of
interdisciplinary research in scholarship and faculty bodies such as ours. As SFS faculty chair, I
commit to treating all disciplines and subjects of scholarly inquiry with equal dignity and regard,
consistent with my personal ethics and empirical commitments as a scholar. Scholars of all
disciplinary training should feel equally at home in the SFS and equally supported in tenure and
promotion procedures.


Owing to the University of Chicago’s notoriously hostile environment for students, I am
extremely sensitive to the needs of our students and ensuring that they feel safe and supported
in their academic, personal, and professional journeys. Nothing makes one appreciate
Georgetown’s commitment to cura personalis like being at an institution that does not hold
similar values. As a faculty member, I have demonstrated my personal dedication to the
development of our students. I have a long and demonstrable history of working with students
and ensuring that their efforts are reflected in author bylines on journal articles and edited
volumes.


I also have a long history of service at Georgetown. Since 2010, I have had the privilege of
serving on the honor council as both an investigating officer and hearing board member on
innumerable cases. I have also served on the Honor Council Executive Committee several
times. While many faculty may view the honor council as a punitive body, I long ago came to
appreciate it as an opportunity to help students in most need of help. As a member of the honor
council, I have also worked strenuously to help protect students from biased detection
technologies and ensure that they are fairly represented in a process that can have grave
outcomes.

Since 2016, I have been the field chair for the undergraduate international politics (IPOL)
concentration, the largest in the BSFS. In my capacity as IPOL field chair, I employed innovative
marketing strategies to recruit a more diverse pool of adjunct faculty. I am also currently serving
on the SFS executive council and have served on numerous hiring and promotion committees. I
am proud of my record of service at Georgetown. However, like many of my fellow faculty
members, I would have liked to participate in other committees, but opportunities were not
forthcoming.


Opacity of Governance
When I first joined this faculty in August 2009, important initiatives were discussed prior to
implementation. Faculty were given the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of important
initiatives, whether it was the choice of Blackboard over Canvas or the development of a new
MA program. Increasingly, opportunities to discuss important decisions that affect our abilities to
execute our obligations to our students, colleagues and community, ab initio, have been
curtailed. It is now the norm that the faculty chair presents decisions as a fait accompli. As such,
our votes are meaningless as we are left with the options of either acquiescing pro forma or
rejecting it as a form of procedural objection.


This approach is not the way this body functioned in the past and there is no reason why it must
continue to do so. As a self-governing faculty, we cannot merely ratify a singular choice
presented. It is the responsibility of this faculty to be engaged in processes from beginning to
end. The degradation of this basic norm of governance has had necrotic impacts upon the
morale and competence of this body. Equally important, failing to engage and mentor capable
and interested members of this faculty in important governance processes deprives the body of
capable future leadership. There is nearly always an absence of competition among competent
and willing members to serve as the chair of this body following the completion of the chair’s
tenure.


As faculty chair, I will work with all of you to provide transparent governance that maximizes
opportunities for creative disruption and allows for healthy debate. For example, I will form and
staff hiring committees with faculty input. I will ensure that the expertise of the committee aligns
with the intellectual and other criteria required for a successful search. It is my hope that by
seeking greater initial buy-in from the faculty, we can better identify consensus candidates
through a collaborative process. In doing so, we can shape this faculty in ways that best serve the
interests of our students.


Hiring colleagues is perhaps the most important thing we do. It shapes the priorities of this body
for decades and the opportunities of our current and future students. While I respect the
academic calendar and the need for recuperative summer breaks, I resolve to reach out to
faculty over the summer to ensure the participation of those who desire to do so.
I also pledge to help restore the affability of this body and its members by rigorously enforcing
individual commitments to honor the confidentiality of this body’s deliberation on issues such as
tenure and promotion. Failures to honor confidentially in such proceedings erodes trust among
our faculty. As faculty chair, I will not demure from pursuing available remedies as identified by
our faculty handbook to disincentivize individuals from violating this fundamental value.


Equal Access to Opportunities and Outcomes:
One of the most obvious indicators of the decline of transparent governance has been the
empirically demonstrable unequal access to committee assignments both big and small. A
striking example of this deficit is this very process to identify the next SFS chair. Even as a
candidate, the committee has not communicated timelines, expectations or even articulated a
process by which voting faculty can fairly evaluate all candidates. Many faculty with whom I
have spoken believe that committees tip the scales in favor of a preferred candidate who better
satisfices the equities of select faculty. The non-transparent practices employed only serve to
heighten this perception of malfeasance in the committee selection process.
As faculty chair, I resolve to revert to historical and equitable practices of first announcing the
intent to constitute required committees before soliciting volunteers. I will ensure that all faculty
have equal opportunity to influence the future composition of this faculty through participation on
hiring and other committees that give faculty critical opportunities to develop institutional capital
in SFS. We must have equitable access to opportunities and outcomes to promote collegiality
among our diverse faculty.


Diversifying this Faculty
It is incumbent upon the SFS chair and all of the mainline faculty to remain steadfastly
committed to achieving Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals in order to remain a beacon of
intellectual and ethical leadership in this country. While it is difficult to rapidly change the
composition of tenure-line faculty, both non-tenure line (NTL) and adjunct hires present
opportunities for more expeditious and positive evolution. Due to the overwhelming reliance
upon adjuncts and NTL faculty in the School of Foreign Service, most of our undergraduate and
graduate students will encounter many such faculty throughout the course of their studies. In
many cases, NTL hires are not competitively hired. Furthermore, in nearly all cases adjuncts are
hired due to their relationship with members of this faculty. The result of these uncompetitive
processes has been an adjunct pool that is overwhelmingly Caucasian and male.
There are enormous opportunities to reshape the student experience and ensure the diversity of
the faculty reflects that of the student body by standardizing the quality and methods of
identifying and hiring NTL and adjunct faculty. One way of doing this efficiently is by
consolidating several adjunct positions into more manageable NTL-hires, which are more
comprehensively advertised and evaluated. Candidates for such consolidation are adjuncts
teaching courses that could or should be taught by mainline faculty. To identify such potential
consolidation of adjunct positions into NTLs, I will form a committee to evaluate adjuncts across
SFS. Per my commitment to transparency in governance, I will consult with this body about its
formation and size. I aim to collaborate with the Dean, field chairs, and program heads to
establish standardized business practices that will govern all aspects of hiring adjuncts across
the SFS including advertising and vetting.

All faculty, particularly the SFS chair, have an obligation to work with SFS DEI to continue to
identify new professional and academic organizations with whom we can partner to identify all
qualified persons. This may include cultivating relationships with Historically Black Colleges and
Universities to identify potential students and create mentoring opportunities for them. As SFS
chair, I will work with the Dean to identify sources of funding to create post-doctoral positions for
underrepresented scholars to further demonstrate SFS’ commitment to expanding the pool of
qualified potential faculty hires.


I wish to acknowledge much progress has been made since I joined this faculty over a decade
ago. We still have much work to do. As the IPOL field chair, I have undertaken similar efforts to
identify adjuncts that will offer our students pedagogical opportunities that align more
consistently with their identities and aspirations. I know firsthand that this is a difficult and timeconsuming process, but the results justify these commitments. It is important to recognize that this is not a process that has an expiration date but rather it is a set of evolving habits that should animate all our faculty searches at all levels.
As SFS chair, I pledge to remain committed to ensuring that we set tangible goals in creating a
body of faculty that aligns better with the needs and aspirations of all our students.


Commitment to Inclusive Pedagogy


Many of the concerns expressed by faculty members at our Faculty Council meetings pertain to
the manner in which the SFS undergraduate program is administered. This has generated
grievances among some faculty who believe decisions are undertaken without adequate
understanding of their pedagogical and programmatic equities. Recent examples include the
promulgation of minors without requisite due diligence in understanding the impact of these new
minors on current certificate programs. Faculty associated with these certificate programs were
particularly aggrieved that they were not even given the opportunity to discuss these changes
with the curriculum committee. In my capacity as IPOL field chair, I serve as a member of the
BSFS curricular committee that created these minors. I agree with the aggrieved faculty that the
committee has made decisions about minors and certificate programs, for example, without
adequate consultation with faculty whose students are most directly affected by them. This has
caused needless rancor and disappointment among the aggrieved faculty.


Some faculty have also raised specific questions of expertise as experts are often left out of
curricular and hiring decisions that will affect them and the work they conduct with their
students. I can attest to this firsthand: I have never studied international political economy, yet I
am the IPOL field chair. While I have done my best given my limitations, I am hardly a suitable
person to provide high-level guidance on matters related to the curriculum. This is also an issue
faculty members’ willingness to serve. Members of our faculty with appropriate backgrounds
should step up and embrace such service opportunities to the betterment of our programs and
students we seek to attract.

Lastly, there is an urgent need to dedicate attention and other resources to updating the BSFS
curriculum which has not been revised holistically in decades. We must continually strive to
connect curriculum content and pedagogy to evolving student needs.


Concluding Thoughts
While it is impossible to comprehensively address each of the important above issues within a
reasonable length constraint, I hope that I have provided you with sufficient information about
me and the issues I will prioritize as faculty chair.


I look forward to engaging with the other candidates for this position on these and other
important issues, hopefully in a public forum with all of our colleagues present prior to the vote.
I hope you find my candidacy compelling and support my effort to represent you as SFS faculty
chair and work with you to restore the trust we once had in each other and in the institutions that
guide us.


Should you have any specific questions and wish to have a personal discussion, please feel
free to email me at ccf33@georetown.edu or +1 202 460 9295.
Regards
C. Christine Fair

We asked why Pakistanis support Lashkar-e-Taiba. Results will surprise you

The Pakistani deep state prefers the Lashkar-e-Taiba over others. At home, the brutal terrorist group is quite the opposite.

C. CHRISTINE FAIR

24 January 2022 09:23 am IST

Lashkar-e-Taiba, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, remains Pakistan’s most virulent export. It remains the most effective and brutal terrorist group operating in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and possibly elsewhere. Understanding who supports this nefarious organization remains an important scholarly and policy analytic question. To cast light on which Pakistanis support this group, my colleague, Karl Kaltenthaler and I, fielded a novel, nationally-representative survey of 7,656 Pakistanis in the country’s four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Our results may surprise you.

Ideology matters

The Lashkar-e-Taiba (and other various noms de guerre it has used and uses) differs from many of the Islamist terrorist groups operating in the region that hail from the Deobandi religious interpretive tradition, in that the LeT draws from the Ahl-e-Hadees tradition. In fact, the organization has a considerable conflict with these Deobandi groups in large measure because most of the Deobandis engage in a practice of takfir, or declaring Pakistanis to be non-Muslim, which then render them subject to lethal violence. Moreover, the Islamic State in Pakistan draws from Deobandi militant organizations because the madrassas and the terrorist organizations the Deobandis support are deeply sectarian with a rich history of targeting non-Muslims, Shia, Ahmadi and increasingly Barelvis over the last decade.

More than anything, Pakistan’s deep state values the Lashkar-e-Taiba precisely because it preaches non-violence within the country. As I discuss elsewhere, the organization does not even publicly advocate death for Ahmadis, which puts it in stark contrast with Pakistan’s Deobandis and even Barelvis, who view Ahmadis as the worst perpetrators of shirk(apostasy). Moreover, Lashkar believes that it provides the only ideological competitor to the Islamic State in Pakistan.

Despite the organization’s claims to be Ahl-e-Hadees, most of Pakistan’s Ahl-e-Hadees ulema and institutions reject Lashkar’s primary claims that waging military jihad is an inescapable obligation of all Muslims and that it can be waged only by non-state actors. Instead, most Ahl-e-Hadees ulema believe that only an Islami Riyasit (Islamic State) can wage jihad. While the LeT preaches nonviolence towards anyone who recognizes the supremacy of Allah, it has real ideological differences with virtually all other Muslim sects in Pakistan. It accuses Barelvis (likely the largest market share in Pakistan) of committing idolatry for their cult-like adoration for the Prophet, who in Islam is merely a human being. Barelvis not only ascribe attributes to the Prophet that are reserved for Allah alone, but they also engage in practices – wearing amulets, worship of pirs, erection of elaborate graves, etc. – that the Lashkar believes to be apostasy.

Lashkar, like Deobandi militant groups, also take issue with Shias because they reject the succession of the Prophet. Unlike Deobandis, who believe that Shia are wajib-ul-qatil, worthy of being killed, Lashkar believes that they should be educated and converted.

Despite significant ideological differences with mainstream Ahl-e-Hadees institutions in Pakistan, according to our study, Lashkar-e-Taiba still draws support from Ahle-e-Hadees adherents. Notably, we find that Barelvi, Shia, and Deobandi oppose the organization, which is consistent with the LeT’s proselytization efforts (dawa and tabligh) to convert such persons to the Lashkar’s understanding of the Ahl-e-Hadees interpretative tradition.

But ethnicity matters more

Lashkar has long claimed to be a Kashmiri Tanzeem, comprising Kashmiris fighting for Kashmiris and dying in Kashmir. But it has long been suspected and recent data somewhat demonstrates that only the latter claim is true (See Figure 1). Whereas some 90 percent die in India, and over 90 percent of its cadres come from a mere ten districts in Pakistan’sPunjab. A meagre 1 percent comes from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Irrespective of the LeT’s claim to be a “Kashmiri” organization, it is by all measure a Punjabi organization.

This raises an interesting question: Do Pakistanis support the organization because of its religious or ethnic bona fides? It turns out that while ideology matters, ethnicity is the strongest predictor of support. It is far more important than ideology. At the same time, the Baloch are significantly more likely than others to oppose the Lashkar-e-Taiba whereas Sindhis are weak in their response. This also tracks with reality: Pakistan’s deep state has used the Lashkar in Balochistan for various reasons.

First, it is expected that Lashkar can persuade Baloch to abandon their ethnonationalist aspirations and embrace the State-sponsored notions of Islam propounded by Lashkar. To advance this agenda, when natural disasters hit Balochistan, as they often do, Pakistan only lets “humanitarian” organizations in to do relief, which are tied to Lashkar. Equally important, the Lashkar is explicitly pro-China and endorses the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Given that Pakistan will fight to the last Baloch to make the resource-rich province safe for Chinese exploitation, the Baloch rightly view the Lashkar to be another guise of Punjabi domination working in concert with the Punjabi-dominated army, which many Baloch believe has immiserated Baloch in their own province.

Support of the Army-led status quo in Pakistan

While the Lashkar is an important and violent disruptor abroad, at home in Pakistan, it is an explicitly status quo power. While LeT advocates killing kuffars (nonbelievers) in India, within Pakistan, it insists upon converting them through social services, humanitarian relief, and lived examples of pious Muslims. LeT’s staunch opposition to sectarian violence pits it against the Islamic State and many of the Deobandi militant groups, such as the anti‐Shia Lashkar‐e‐Jhangvi (LeJ, which also operates under the names Sipah‐e‐Sahaba‐e‐Pakistan and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) or the Tehreek‐e‐Taliban (TTP or the Pakistani Taliban), which draws many of its commanders and cadres from the LeJ.

Moreover, Lashkar argues against any kind of protest of the State—irrespective of its leadership—and is a staunch supporter of the current domestic, political and economic system in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s unaffordable friendship with China. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the third-strongest predictor of support for the Lashkar was satisfaction with the status quo. Our results should put to rest any thinking that Lashkar is a revolutionary organization.


Mothers of brutes

While very little work has been done to explicate whether and why women support Islamist terrorism, women in Pakistan are much more likely to support the Lashkar than are men. As I describe elsewhere, the organization dedicates significant resources to recruit women to the organization’s goals to ensure that they support the LeT by encouraging their sons and other male family members to join it either as militants or in supporting roles.

The LeT empowers women to promote the organization’s creed, which empowers them and frees them to move about without hindrance. To ensure that mothers are not disenchanted with the organization, the Lashkar-e-Taiba requires the mother’s explicit blessings for every mission in which her son may meet so-called martyrdom. The organization dispatches senior personnel to notify the parents of their sons’ death and it oversees the important ghaib-e-janaza, or funerary prayers in absence of a body.

None of this is good news

So, what does one do with this information? These results continue to show that it is very likely that there is a viable non-kinetic strategy to deal with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Given the extensive State support for the organization and the stronghold that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies have in the country, there is little scope to conduct information offensives that would undermine any of the sources of support we find.

The only options to deter the LeT—absent capabilities to impose India’s will over Pakistan decisively through overt military operations—are covert and kinetic. As I have shown elsewhere, the pyramidal and open leadership structure in Pakistan make it vulnerable to leadership decapitation. While this option is challenging and difficult to execute, other options seem elusive.

C. Christine Fair is a professor within Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh school of foreign service. She is the author of In their own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. She tweets at @cchristinefair. Views are personal.

A version of this piece first appeared in The Print, on 24, January 2022.