Author Archives: Saanya Gulati

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About Saanya Gulati

Saanya Gulati is a senior at Tufts University from India, majoring in International Relations and Sociology.

The Complex Puzzle of Growth in India and China

The discourse on India and China is often seen analysed through different lenses: the democracy versus development lens – we tend to highlight the differences between these two countries in their political systems, economic structures and the different outcomes that we have seen based on these differences. The flip side is to look at what these countries have in common –over 1 billion people, rapidly developing economies, and even a territorial border.

Whether you look at it as an economic race or a political headlock, there are several directions that this debate can take. One approach that is arguably underrepresented in the media’s portrayal of the two big economic powers or political players is how similar these countries have are in terms of their historical circumstances. Both are ancient civilisations, with rich histories and a millennia of culture, knowledge and tradition and ultimately face a common and unique predicament while pursuing economic growth: The challenge of embracing modernity while preserving tradition.

It’s a complex puzzle of growth that two of the world’s most populous nation-states, two of the world’s most ancient civilisations, today pitched as the next big powers face. At SAPAC it’s the topic of our next roundtable, the first of many more to come this semester.

The discussion will be led by Professor Partha Ghosh, a Professor of Practice at the Gordon Institute and teaches at the Fletcher School. Partha Ghosh is a renowned Management Consultant and Policy Advisor with an extensive record of solving strategic, operational and complex organizational issues in technology-based industries. He is currently in an advisory role with multiple organizations worldwide, and runs his own boutique advisory firm Partha S. Ghosh & Associates focused on policy and strategic issues. Previously, Ghosh was a partner at McKinsey & Company. He holds Master’s Degrees in Chemical Engineering from MIT and a Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. Ghosh was a Rotary Foundation Fellow. He earned his Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering with honors at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur, India.

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Reflections from the Tufts Mushaira

On Thursday the 2nd of February 2012, the Association of Pakistani Allies (APA) organized a Mushaira (Urdu Poetry Recital) at Tufts along with support from the Tufts Association of South Asians (TASA) and the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL). [apologies for the excessive nomenclature]. It was a lot of work getting the speakers to come and marketing the event, but the feedback I have gotten was that people really liked the event and learned a lot. It also brought together a lot of Indians and Pakistanis at Tufts. There was also a very decent turnout from the Harvard and MIT campuses.

What was great about the Mushaira was that it allowed people whose Urdu wasn’t that good to participate. A lot of people whose first language was Hindi or another South Asian language, were able to participate. The Indians on campus also actively participated, reading out from Roman Urdu to overcome the textual barriers, which was delightful. I think it gave a lot of people who can sort of speak Urdu really good exposure to the language and hopefully they will go on to improve their diction and language skills.
We read Iqbal, Jalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ghalib, and Khishwar Naheed (which was great because women poets are for some reason always left out) among others. We had some poets from the Boston area as well as one from NYC read their own works. We also had a ‘guest’ recitation of one of the pieces by Nazim Hikmat – a celebrated Turkish poet.

We ended it with the nostalgic lab pe aati hai dua; Iqbal’s classic rhyme that is taught to all Pakistani school children growing up.

We will also put some videos up as soon as they are posted.

Written by Asad Badruddin, a senior at Tufts University from Pakistan. This blog was originally posted on Octagonal Tangents, where he regularly writes.

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Kashmir: the land of many truths

Kashmir, Qasmir or Casmere, the land of many names and far greater narratives. The land of many truths is a place of great beauty, caught in the web of a dysfunctional state government and at the crossroads of an international quest for territory. The immense weight of the Indian-Pakistani equation lies on the beautiful, delicate shoulders of the Himalayas that circle a pristine Dal Lake. The real problems here are perhaps not the political ones (important and all-encompassing as they might be) but of the daily struggles and how the simplest of facilities are considered luxuries here.

The day I landed at the Srinagar airport, one of the only civilian airports inside a military airbase, I was welcomed with snowfall. Children ran around in their long, baggy pherans screaming, “Sheen Mubarak!” or “happy snowfall!” throwing snowballs at each other, rolling around in the soft, powdery white snow. I was told that to be welcomed with snow was a sign of good luck (how I was stranded there for a few extra days because of the snow surely wouldn’t explain that though.) Nestled in an area of dwindling streets and narrow roads, Kashmir Lifeline and Health Center is a stark contrast to its immediate surroundings. In the not-so-posh outskirts of Srinagar is a little building which houses the state’s first toll-free number. Kashmir Lifeline (KLL) provides free mental counseling and also conducts awareness programs and counseling centers in the neighboring villages and towns of Kashmir. While working there, the data suggested that the majority of the patients were male and between the age of 21-30 years. They were unable to work and were suffering a variety of problems such as Depression, PTSD, Agoraphobia, OCD etc. as a result of the long, unresolved conflict. In most other relatively politically stable and peaceful areas, this is the main age group of the youth that is educated, driven, working, prone to new ideas and development, and has the potential to cause change. But this group of people in this case was suffering from a wide variety of mental health problems, stemming from stress over studies, work, relationship problems etc. that did not allow them to carry on with daily life. This is the age when people start earning for their families, get married and start supporting their ageing parents. This is the main earning, positive and optimistic age group of any society but here, they were being distracted from the joys that other people their age have. This has great implications for the coming generations.

The first real snowfall of the winter brought with it one of the harshest moments for the average Kashmiri – electricity was out in the city for almost a week, pipes were starting to freeze stopping regular water supply, internet and phone lines were down and essential supplies like food and gas were scarce. In the summer, Kashmir is a beautiful place – the weather is perfect and pleasant, men and women stroll on the streets, the Dal Lake is afloat with families and couples in shikaras (boats) and people take picnics to the gardens with a view of the mighty Himalayas in the backdrop. Winter however, is far from that. The wealthy Kashmiris (a small number) are able to hibernate aka move to Delhi temporarily, in their comfortable houses in manageable weather while the rural and not-so-wealthy are left to battle the cold by themselves. On the way to an outreach program to the Kangan village right outside Srinagar, we learnt that a village by the name of Govindpore hadn’t had electricity for the past 3 weeks. To protest, they closed off the main road that passed through their village and connected Srinagar to some of the other districts. We were stranded there for what seemed like eternity before a Counsellor who was with us was able to negotiate with them to let us pass. This was their method of peacefully making a point, but imagine if New York, London or even New Delhi didn’t have electricity for three weeks in the bitter cold? This cold doesn’t do much for the already dismal condition of mental health in the state. Suicide numbers have in fact risen in the winter months complemented by an increasing number of calls and visits to the clinic as well.

My experience in Kashmir made me realize how alienated the people of the Valley really are and how detached Kashmir is from India’s growth story that most magazines these days carry. They have been left behind in the larger picture of growth and development. Tourism had been their main form of livelihood, however ever since the militancy began in 1989; tourism has been in a downward spiral. Now it is just a downgraded version of a once-beautiful land that had captured the imaginations of many, almost like a withered away mistress. The blame game has gone on for far too long. The contested claims of India and Pakistan may as well result in another 20 years of difficulty for the people, but the way forward for Indian-administered Kashmir may be to see the real factors of the equation. 18th January marked the 22nd anniversary of the exodus of the Hindu Kashmiri Pandit community from the Valley. Both the Muslims and the Pandits are equal stakeholders in the state and must be considered before moving forward. Despite Pakistan’s contribution to the militancy in Kashmir, it may be useful for India to realize that the way forward is not in dwelling in the past. India has to act in its own independent capacity in alleviating the suffering of the people. In working positively for the growth of Kashmir, we may realize that Pakistan’s cooperation at this stage might very well be irrelevant. Setting up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission may be a positive step in this place where every person has a different story and truth. The infrequent but heartfelt renditions of “Hum kya chaahte? Azaadi” (What do we want? Freedom) may never subside but true reconciliation lies in the power of being able to see your narrative get recognized as the only truth.

“You can’t rule brains only… Sooner or later, you have to realize, you can only win by ruling hearts.”

-  Inshallah, Kashmir

Written by Vasundhara Jolly. Vasundhara is a junior studying at Tufts and the co-chair of SAPAC.

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Happy Republic Day India

Republic Day. It’s a day that is much celebrated in India, but one that we know little about beyond the generic birthday of our constitution. But what does this day really mean, or more importantly what should this day mean to us as Indians, most of who are not familiar with the 500-page document with 395 clauses that define the complex legal and political framework of our country. Of course getting through this constitution is not easy, let alone trying to understand the entire document. First off maybe Republic Day is then an opportunity to appreciate the complexities of our country. Our constitution was born out of the vision of the three founding fathers of our nation, Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar each of whom had a slightly different version for India’s political framework, thus had a complicated birth to begin with.

Since then, the constitution has been amended over 90 times, one of the most significant being the 42nd amendment which introduced the world ‘secular’ in our preamble, making us a sovereign, socialist, democratic as well as secular republic. The basic structure doctrine that was established out of the landmark Kesavananda Barati case is another unique feature of our constitution, a commitment to uphold certain right that can never be denied to any citizen. Fundamental rights, if you will. While this has led to the rise of Public Interest Litigation, another case of judicial activism, what this has done for us in practice remains a more complex reality. From Supreme Court cases that have maintained slum dwellers right to proper shelter, to demanding the freeing of bonded labourers, marginalised groups have been given a place in our justice system through our promising constitution. Yet we continue to see grotesque human right violations, and the denial of fundamental rights for so many groups that continue to plague our country today. Those less privileged lose their homes, and livelihoods because of giant construction projects, which often also pay little to no concern for environmental consequences. While everyone is familiar with the recent hunger strike of Anna Hazare, most are oblivious to the fast of Irom Sharmila who has been fasting for almost 12 years, against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, which the North East has actually been under for longer than Kashmir. At the same time we’re rapidly growing and developing in a world where the economic future is far more uncertain in other countries.

But what happened to the activist India, the country with a socialist vision, the country striving to create equal opportunities for all? It may be unfair to say that that India has been lost, but somewhere amidst the journey we might have misplaced some of our priorities. Are our institutions are designed to favour those that have the means to get ahead, leaving those who do not behind? Or is what’s worse that many of us in the younger generation know little of this activist India the potential that India has. It’s cynicism and apathy that we’re often criticised for.

So for those of you who will be watching the annual parade on television, or mindlessly updating your facebook status to “happy republic day,” think about what this day really means to you as an Indian. Think of the journey that our founding fathers embarked on 63 years ago, writing this constitution, the changes that our country has been through, the good and some bad. Most importantly, think about your own vision for India, the country, the community and society that you want to grow up in, and that you want to lead. Can we work to really foster the values of “justice, liberty, equality and fraternity” that our constitution promises? If so, then I think you are ready to celebrate Republic Day.

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While our team at SAPAC has been off for winter break, we apologise that our blogs have become more infrequent. However we promise to continue updating our site with exciting events, engaging blogs and look forward to hearing from more fellow South Asians as well as people interested in South Asia.

For now we’d like to share with you a video from the Jaipur literary fest where our very own professor Ayesha Jalal speaks about the future of Pakistan, in terms of it’s relations with India and U.S.

Ayesha Jalal and Fatima Bhutto at the Jaipur lit fest on Youtube

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